D&D 5E The problem with 5e

I have issues with 5E. Of the somewhat limited amount I've played it was definitely... not challenging. The DM of one campaign even admitted at one point that he was throwing stuff at us that was WILDLY beyond what our characters were supposed to be able to handle and we weren't even breathing hard at the end of it. We DID, strangely, end up with a TPK encounter because there was an effect (charm of some kind IIRC) that hit everyone and NOBODY made a save, but I think that was a complete freak of odds and probably couldn't be replicated if we tried. But a set of rules that gets to the point where the DM is just blowing the lid off the safety caps and the PC's aren't breaking a sweat, and that happens in TWO different campaigns, sure suggest to me that 5E is not what I want out of D&D. I mean I don't HATE it. In fact, despite the noted concerns I have enjoyed playing it. But from day 1 that it came down the road it has also failed to really get me interested and excited to run IT, as opposed to some other edition or even a different game entirely.

And NO, I don't want to go tweaking it a dozen ways from Sunday. I've done that with other editions and I have come to greatly dislike it. I spent many years house ruling 1E until it was just right - but then I have to hand players 60 pages of house rules so that they know what the hell the rules they're playing under really are. The PH became largely a paperweight and I myself keep forgetting how I decided to change things because I'd changed so much, and changed it again, and then again, and then changed a bunch of other stuff trying to improve things. And it DID improve, but it was freakin' exhausting and STILL had problems I wanted to solve that I simply had to ignore anyway.

It took me a couple of years to REALLY learn 3E to the point where I felt I understood it and where I needed to make changes to THAT system. And decided that the amount of work THAT was taking wasn't ultimately worth it either. 5E I've never run as a DM and still don't really want to because my experience with it as a player leaves something to be desired and I feel like it would be the same cycle of a heavy period of in-depth analysis of what it REALLY was about it that I liked or dislike, and then another period of TOO MANY CHANGES.

I don't want to change 5E to be more like 1E. If I wanted 1E I'd f'n PLAY 1E. And if 5E itself wants so bad to be more like 1E - wtf isn't it more like 1E? But I'm feeling like I don't even want to play 1E anymore because it has too many issues that need fixing. I sure as hell don't want to play 5E if it's just going to be one big supplement after the other coming along and changing rules and classes and unbalancing things just when I'm starting to get a grip on how to make it really work well. As a DM, I NEED STABILITY in the rules.

The most interesting concept regarding D&D rules I've seen in the last decade has been E6 for 3E. I still haven't managed to get a game of that going but I'm pretty dang sure it'll be the next campaign I run. I think I can run that - with MINIMAL changes not just out of the box but in keeping it going forward - and be content that the bulk of my concerns have been met. I sure hope so, because otherwise I may be waiting for 6E...
 

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Raith5

Adventurer
I started with Basic D&D in 1982 but I have no desire to emulate that playstyle. But I agree with the OP that there is a danger problem in 5e. The game needs to push players a bit more. I personally feel that there is a need to make monsters a bit more dangerous and unpredictable, and also just increase the CR of some encounters. For instance, in my campaign (Descent into Avernus) we had a combat with 4 Fire Giants in close proximity and the DM thought we had leveled up when we had not (I think we were level 8). The resulting fight had 1 PC dead and two knocked unconscious. It was the most fun fight in the adventure so far.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
Thing is though, the way they approached the caster disparity issue, by balancing around a greater number of combats, was always going to run into issues of modularity no matter what else they added on.

There were other ways the problem could be approached.
- one way would be to delay the caster progression somewhat. Push back the levels at which primary casters get higher level spells by about 1 per tier after the first (This would reduce the impact and availabilty of long rest resources while still keeping them relevant.) Just by doing this you can maintain the viability of balance in a 3.X game for longer - until at least about level 12 anyway - at which point most games would come to an end anyway.

- Depart a little further from the Vancian routes (but not really that much) by simply reducing the number of spell slots that the casters have, but then making them recharge on short rests) - This would make balance between classes easier and make many other types of adventure function much more easily but dramatically reduce the strategic choices involved in the traditional dungeon crawling experience.

- Tellingly both the latter two changes would represent a more obvious departure from player expectations of what a caster should look like. People would whine if they had to wait until level 6 for Fireball and level 11 for 5th level spells and god knows what kind of pushback you would get from making spell slots recharge on short rests. WotC came up with the solution that best preseved traditon as 5E was very much (at least in the early stages) a return to tradition edition.
they also nerfed the snot out of a ton of the old bread & butter spells (directly for some & with overuse of concentration for an absurd chunk) before they "intentionally overtuned" others to make spellselection choices a very narrow path for each class. the moving of levels
 

they also nerfed the snot out of a ton of the old bread & butter spells (directly for some & with overuse of concentration for an absurd chunk) before they "intentionally overtuned" others to make spellselection choices a very narrow path for each class. the moving of levels
This was mostly necessary though, although I agree they did go overboard on concentration. Still the flying, invisible wizard needed to go (I would have less of an issue if the wizard picked up the abiltiy to concentrate on two spells at once as a late game feature, but it was definitely never something you should have been able to do at low levels).

The big issue is that they left a few spells so clearly superior to others as to make the game somewhat dull (Bless, Shield etc).
 

I started with Basic D&D in 1982 but I have no desire to emulate that playstyle. But I agree with the OP that there is a danger problem in 5e. The game needs to push players a bit more. I personally feel that there is a need to make monsters a bit more dangerous and unpredictable, and also just increase the CR of some encounters. For instance, in my campaign (Descent into Avernus) we had a combat with 4 Fire Giants in close proximity and the DM thought we had leveled up when we had not (I think we were level 8). The resulting fight had 1 PC dead and two knocked unconscious. It was the most fun fight in the adventure so far.
You have the tools to do that though. It's just the CR system doesn't do it for you. You need to think about what you can add. In my last session I had two PCs down and the fight got very tense. I had a bandit captian, three spies and a spell caster against 5 level 3 characters. What made a difference is that the spellcaster had a scroll of animate objects (and I went easy on them and only used about half the possible objects). When the bandit captain looked to be about to go down (he was overlevelled for the party but they were taking him down easily), I had him pull out dust of coughing and sneezing and nuke the whole room.

Consumable magic items are your friend here. So is using terrain that puts the PCs at a disavantage.

Tweet and Heinsoo have good advice on this in 13th Age

The advice in the "Building Battles section above is what you use to make your encounters fair. But where's the fun of that?

We've provided balanced monsters so you can choose interesting ways to make most all battles unfair, one way or another. The monsters are balanced to give you room to get creative. In each encounter the monsters should get some sort of advantage.

Treat the CR not as something to stick to, but as a relatively safe baseline to build from.

4 goblin archers are a medium encounter? Fine. Put them on ledges high above the party with pillars they can move out from and then back behind at the end of their turn. And then if the PCs start killing them from the ground have the survivors retreat and then reappear in the next battle.

Or have them shoot at the pcs from the end of a corridor and then when they approach have an Indiana Jones boulder trap trigger.
 
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Good post. With regards to healing, one of my favorite things about 4E were healing surges - they were a revelation and fit well with the concept of HP as an abstraction. They were thankfully mostly ported over into 5E with HD.

But yes, they make the game less deadly. But my suggestion would be to address that issue from the other end: more dangerous encounters. HD allows for PCs to re-up and continue playing, without needing healing potions and/or extended down-time. It serves an important in-game purpose, and it also makes sense with the concept of HP. Meaning, you don't need to adjust the rules to increase the danger - just increase the danger (e.g. increasing the challenge rating by +1 relative to what the rules recommend).
Saying Healing Surges made the game less deadly (at least compared to 3e) is disingenuous.

Sure, they allowed people to recover HP during short rests without magical aid, but on the other hand, they also limited the amount of total healing someone could get in the course of a day, regardless of the origin of the hearing effect.

Cleric healed you? Spend a Healing Surge. Chugged a potion? Spend a Healing Surge.

Back in 4e, parties had to be really careful to not take unnecessary damage since they could only get healed as long as they had surges.
 

Oofta

Legend
I have issues with 5E. Of the somewhat limited amount I've played it was definitely... not challenging. The DM of one campaign even admitted at one point that he was throwing stuff at us that was WILDLY beyond what our characters were supposed to be able to handle and we weren't even breathing hard at the end of it. We DID, strangely, end up with a TPK encounter because there was an effect (charm of some kind IIRC) that hit everyone and NOBODY made a save, but I think that was a complete freak of odds and probably couldn't be replicated if we tried. But a set of rules that gets to the point where the DM is just blowing the lid off the safety caps and the PC's aren't breaking a sweat, and that happens in TWO different campaigns, sure suggest to me that 5E is not what I want out of D&D. I mean I don't HATE it. In fact, despite the noted concerns I have enjoyed playing it. But from day 1 that it came down the road it has also failed to really get me interested and excited to run IT, as opposed to some other edition or even a different game entirely.

And NO, I don't want to go tweaking it a dozen ways from Sunday. I've done that with other editions and I have come to greatly dislike it. I spent many years house ruling 1E until it was just right - but then I have to hand players 60 pages of house rules so that they know what the hell the rules they're playing under really are. The PH became largely a paperweight and I myself keep forgetting how I decided to change things because I'd changed so much, and changed it again, and then again, and then changed a bunch of other stuff trying to improve things. And it DID improve, but it was freakin' exhausting and STILL had problems I wanted to solve that I simply had to ignore anyway.

It took me a couple of years to REALLY learn 3E to the point where I felt I understood it and where I needed to make changes to THAT system. And decided that the amount of work THAT was taking wasn't ultimately worth it either. 5E I've never run as a DM and still don't really want to because my experience with it as a player leaves something to be desired and I feel like it would be the same cycle of a heavy period of in-depth analysis of what it REALLY was about it that I liked or dislike, and then another period of TOO MANY CHANGES.

I don't want to change 5E to be more like 1E. If I wanted 1E I'd f'n PLAY 1E. And if 5E itself wants so bad to be more like 1E - wtf isn't it more like 1E? But I'm feeling like I don't even want to play 1E anymore because it has too many issues that need fixing. I sure as hell don't want to play 5E if it's just going to be one big supplement after the other coming along and changing rules and classes and unbalancing things just when I'm starting to get a grip on how to make it really work well. As a DM, I NEED STABILITY in the rules.

The most interesting concept regarding D&D rules I've seen in the last decade has been E6 for 3E. I still haven't managed to get a game of that going but I'm pretty dang sure it'll be the next campaign I run. I think I can run that - with MINIMAL changes not just out of the box but in keeping it going forward - and be content that the bulk of my concerns have been met. I sure hope so, because otherwise I may be waiting for 6E...
I don't have many house rules and most of them are there to help the PCs.

Yet I regularly have to hold back to not have multiple PC deaths. If the game is too easy it's the DM not the system.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
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.
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.
Possibly what people look for in RPGs (and gaming generally) has shifted over time, but FWIW I share your feelings.

I've instituted longer rests (breather of 1 hour to spend HD, 1 day short, 3 day long) and character generation using a deck of cards (draw, no replacement, assign as drawn) and together these mechanics have fixed level of danger.

Regarding logistics, I use a VTT and indeed do find ammo supplies and such really helpful in achieving the gritty feel I'm after (and limiting the power of ranged attacks to dominate combat).

Amazingly (for me at least) I now find that the difficulty prediction of Kobold Fightclub is now roughly the experienced difficulty of the combat, instead of woefully overstated!
 

Mercurius

Legend
Saying Healing Surges made the game less deadly (at least compared to 3e) is disingenuous.

Sure, they allowed people to recover HP during short rests without magical aid, but on the other hand, they also limited the amount of total healing someone could get in the course of a day, regardless of the origin of the hearing effect.

Cleric healed you? Spend a Healing Surge. Chugged a potion? Spend a Healing Surge.

Back in 4e, parties had to be really careful to not take unnecessary damage since they could only get healed as long as they had surges.
First, a nitpick. "Disingenuous" is the wrong word, it implies deliberate deceit on my part, as if I'm being insincere. I'm guessing you're not suggesting that.

That aside, what healing surges did is it gave PCs a mechanism to self-heal, thus diminishing reliance upon outside sources of healing. Whether or not they make the game less deadly depends upon other factors - namely, what threats the DM puts in front of the PCs, and whether they are "layered thickly" (i.e. one encounter after another).

My point was mainly to say that a DM can increase deadliness by dialing up challenge rating.
 

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