D&D 5E The problem with 5e


Good thing you aren't limited to the rules if it's what you and your players want.

The rules are the starting point, not the be-all end-all. They work well enough for most people, but if you want long lasting penalties add them. I don't want long term penalties often, but when I do they're custom designed for the story and my players get a big kick out of them.
Make enough changes in a system that fights you tooth & nail to preserve leeeeeeeerooooooooyyyyy & you aren't playing that system soon enough.

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Yes there are a few save or suck effects still in place, but the vast majority of them are self nullifying.

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Unless you are playing AL, NPCs needn't be limited by the spell descriptions that are intended for player characters. Not to mention curses can come from other sources besides Bestow Curse (e.g. Vistani Curses from CoS or several monsters in the Kobold Press monster books). The possibilities are truly endless if you want.

Remember how terrifying wraiths were?... Not only is it dramatically harder for the wraith to hit, it now damages max hp instead of con (nearly any character capable of surviving more than on or two hits has more hp than con & it doesn't affect the save) but it also clears before the hangover from drinking that keg of vodka before starting that long rest last night
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so many other Save or suck & save or lose effects are just nowhere near enough to even make a party of leroy jenkins so much as hesitate

If you need to or prefer to stick to MAW (WotC Monsters as Written), just go higher up in CR. Bodaks are just 1 CR higher than wraiths and have a devastating save or suck effect:

Death Gaze.
When a creature that can see the bodak's eyes starts its turn within 30 feet of the bodak, the bodak can force it to make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw if the bodak isn't incapacitated and can see the creature. If the saving throw fails by 5 or more, the creature is reduced to 0 hit points, unless it is immune to the frightened condition. Otherwise, a creature takes 16 (3d10) psychic damage on a failed save.
It's easy enough to find other examples of creatures with terrifying save effects in 5e.

Point is, while you are correct in that Wraiths in older versions were demonstrably more terrifying it can be noted, to state the obvious, that the 1e Wraith and the 5e Wraith exist in different games. It's not really apples to apples.


Make enough changes in a system that fights you tooth & nail to preserve leeeeeeeerooooooooyyyyy & you aren't playing that system soon enough.
We've made 5e fairly lethal with less than a page of house-rules. It hardly needs a bunch of changes.

EDIT: To be clear, our house rules were not designed to be more lethal, but to create a style of game that we prefer. One of the results is more lethality.
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The High Aldwin
I wouldn't say there's nothing wrong with 5E. I'd say there's nothing deeply wrong with 5E.
That's fair: "wrong" is subjective. IMO, there is nothing at all wrong with it because you can open the books and starting play without a single house-rule and it plays perfectly fine. It is fairly simple, and if anything is "wrong" it would be the lack of clarity due to the "rulings and not rules" game design--but even that is a personal preference I suppose. shrug


In 2020 I had a lot of free time because of Covid-19. I had this nagging feeling of missing something during my 5e games.

I re-read my B/X books, re-read some parts of 1e and 2e. After that I read BlueHolmes and Old School Essentials. It was a rabbit hole. My conclusion is that I'm burned out of D&D, regardless of edition.

The only part I still really care about is The World of Greyhawk. I'm currently using it as the setting for my Fantasy AGE campaign. It's a new game with new players. That is what I like. To boldly role-play a game I've not played before!
Game system burnout is a real thing. I have to take a break from D&D to play other RPGs and then I can come back to D&D later.


No rule is inviolate
I played a little redbox as a kid with the older kids on the street and later my lifelong pal. And by Jr High, we started playing some AD&D.
Pretty close to how I got started. But taking off my nostalgia glasses, DM fiat (as you note), came into play quite a bit to keep players from quitting (e.g. getting hit with 6 permanent level drains in 1 session), wherein I circumvented the "merciless" part of the rules. D&D designers took note that I wasn't the only one.

I was far from home but my mind was blown when I saw half-orc paladins. Fresh from 1e, this was a revelation.
Same. We went from predetermined roles (an elf is always a fighter-wizard) to "an elf is whatever you make of it." Doesn't mean you can't thematically homebrew a world that says dwarves can't be arcane casters. They abhor magic and actually can't make it work. Some feel D&D is immutable. It's never been that way.
My problem comes in with occasional dissatisfaction about the level of danger in the game. It seems like people are healed quickly and unless it’s a TPK, it’s not as dangerous and getting beat down lasts a round or two max.
Easily fixed with a homebrew. Our solution has been "Vitality" (actual damage your body can take) to replace Death Saves (rules linked). This eliminates "whack a mole" and gives us a more desperate dynamic. Healing Vitality is difficult. Otherwise, I view HP, as it was in AD&D and always has been, as an abstract way to avoid actual damage. I don't care if you're a 20th level warrior, if a giant's club actually hits your body, you're dead. I'm okay with HP recovering quickly because of this, but death saves had to go in my game due to the absurdity it created.

I also have some nostalgia for the logistics of old….worrying about running out of things like torches and food. Some things just seem easier now.
Another homebrew. We use "slot encumbrance," which makes a simple visual of where everything is that you have on you using D&D's optional encumbrance rules. Easy to track, adds a strategic element. Makes a huge difference. For example, the prefab Ranger from the PHB with scale mail is already encumbered to start the game, if played by the rules.
The other thing that can at times be frustrating is the power of missile weapons.
AD&D's rule was brutal (50/50 hit your ally depending on size), but another homebrew resolution could be reached. Off top of my head, if miss, maybe roll an attack against random adjacent target. Will slow your game down with another roll, but reflects risk and reward of melee fire (great if you're firing into a crowd of enemies).
Ultimately the problem with my enjoyment at times (not too frequent) I think is due to nostalgia and fairy tales I tell myself about older editions. Having said this “out loud” I am very ready to get back to playing with less negative self-talk to get in the way. Our characters are probably going to survive. And its OK.
Absolutely agree, nostalgia is a gloss. And, years down the road, the same talk will be had by 5E players when they ruminate how much fun they had and how 10th Edition just doesn't seem to capture that.


Mod Squad
Staff member
Absolutely agree, nostalgia is a gloss. And, years down the road, the same talk will be had by 5E players when they ruminate how much fun they had and how 10th Edition just doesn't seem to capture that.

And, the really funny thing is... it isn't like any of the players are the same people as they were decades ago. We are changed people, our lives are differently shaped, and so on - there is no solid reason to expect "the same thing as decades ago" is actually going to be as much fun as we'd think.

Look at your other entertainments - if they were giving you the same thing today as back in the 80s.. how often would you actually be pleased by that?

The trick with nostalgia is not to replicate the original experience itself, but to replicate the feeling of the experience, and that can be trickier than just making a good game.


As others have mentioned, there are a billion and one ways to make 5E harder. Houserules can be really easy, as 5E has a fairly flexible chassis. One of the most common problems is not using enough combat encounters per day, because even fewer harder encounters is easier than numerous medium encounters. Something I do is that I don't design "encounters,"
rather locations where things should be; if the player stumble along blindly, they're going to struggle or die.

No edition will be as good as the edition you played the crap out of.
Not necessarily. I played way more 3E than I ever did 1E, simply due to the length of edition (I started 1E late). I always felt that 1E was better, I just felt that 3E was easier.

It is not 5ed.
It is the culture of Dnd that changed,
long time ago in 1ed, we were not thinking of xp budget, or number of encounter per day.
We didn’t have review and rating for all classes, spells, builds.
Most of the game mechanic were hidden for us, and we were really afraid of what was going to happen next.
Today we have been DM ourself, we know the odds, we know all the little tricks, so when our character die it is a kind of amusing or sometime ridiculous,
While knowing the rules isn't necessarily a bad thing, I agree that since 3E there's been a move towards making "encounters" rather than adventures. One of the most notable moments was during the playtest as I ran an old AD&D adventure, one of my players who had only played 4E said "oh wow! I honestly don't know if we can win." They'd blithe-fully walked into the den of goblins, with no attempt at stealth or planning. Their first area they went to was the common area, where they "bust in the door." There were a lot there, but mostly non-combatants... who went and got the rest of the lair, causing a massive battle against every goblin in 1 room. A PC had to sacrifice himself so the rest could flee. They resupplied, gained a new PC, and returned with a much stronger sense of caution.

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