5E Too many choices? (Options Paralysis)

Salthorae

Imperial Mountain Dew Taster
That has only been an issue for the power gamer in my group as he tries to eek out every last shred of power he can from...whatever it is he’s trying to do.

For the rest of my crew we usually either know what we’re going to do or the story pushes us to something for our characters naturally. shrug
 

dnd4vr

Hero
Too many choices? In my opinion, 5e doesn’t have enough. You get one choice of subclass and 0-4 ability score improvement/feat levels depending on how long the campaign goes, and that’s pretty much it. I guess multiclassing kind of opens up more choices, but you still follow the exact same progression as any other member of whatever classes you have. 5e has very, very little that distinguishes one character from any other of the same class.
Multiclassing opens up a lot of choices IMO. Consider about 6 subclasses for each class, with 12 classes, and by the time you are a 6th level character you have well over 2000 possibilities. Add to that all the feats and ASI choices, even if you only get to level 8, that increases the number drastically to somewhere around 1 million. Now, will many of those choices be optimal or even "good" for your character? Definitely not! But they are there if you want the variety.

That has only been an issue for the power gamer in my group as he tries to eek out every last shred of power he can from...whatever it is he’s trying to do.

For the rest of my crew we usually either know what we’re going to do or the story pushes us to something for our characters naturally. shrug
I don't think it is so much the power-gamer in him but that there is so much he wants to do as a player because he never gets to just play!

I don't know. It's interesting how some people think there are a good number of choices and others want even more...
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Multiclassing opens up a lot of choices IMO. Consider about 6 subclasses for each class, with 12 classes, and by the time you are a 6th level character you have well over 2000 possibilities. Add to that all the feats and ASI choices, even if you only get to level 8, that increases the number drastically to somewhere around 1 million. Now, will many of those choices be optimal or even "good" for your character? Definitely not! But they are there if you want the variety.
Again, kind of. But when you take a level in another class, you still get exactly the same feature as any other character of that class does at that level. The sheer number of options may be high, but there is very little room to actually make the character your own. A mile wide and an inch deep, as it were.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
I was just speaking for my group.

But if that’s his problem, then you need to let that man play a PC more often!!
LOL That would be nice! The player running CoS needs some time to prep the next stuff he is doing, so we are going back to the other campaign for a while. Another player wants to run something as well, but with both the other games going, and we only play 1-2 times per month, it will be probably 2 years before he runs anything at all. I would even do it myself, but same issue.

I think, if he has time given how rarely we play, I'll suggest he might want to try to find a group he can just play in and not DM for. :)
 

dnd4vr

Hero
Again, kind of. But when you take a level in another class, you still get exactly the same feature as any other character of that class does at that level. The sheer number of options may be high, but there is very little room to actually make the character your own. A mile wide and an inch deep, as it were.
I see your point. I think it goes in line with the point about lots of "options" but how many would be any good for your character? For example, you could take Savage Attacker for your Abjuration Wizard... but how much would it help you???
 

Jdvn1

Adventurer
I was just speaking for my group.

But if that’s his problem, then you need to let that man play a PC more often!!
This.

I've definitely run into this: as a GM, I get ideas for characters I will rarely/never have an opportunity to actually play. So when the rare playing opportunity comes up, choosing between the various compiled ideas is tough.

Playing an NPC just isn't the same, y'know?
 

Ashrym

Hero
Too many choices? In my opinion, 5e doesn’t have enough. You get one choice of subclass and 0-4 ability score improvement/feat levels depending on how long the campaign goes, and that’s pretty much it. I guess multiclassing kind of opens up more choices, but you still follow the exact same progression as any other member of whatever classes you have. 5e has very, very little that distinguishes one character from any other of the same class.
I disagree a bit here.

I think there's some truth in that mechanically, but not necessarily aesthetically, and not for all classes. Cleric domains change spells prepped, armor worn, other domain powers, and the bonus applying to weapons or spells but not both makes for quite a bit of difference from one to the other for example. A valor bard doesn't really play the same as a lore bard, and spells known as a mechanic can make one character significantly different than another of the same class depending on any thematics in those spells known. A hexblade blade pact is quite a bit different from a GOO tome pact warlock.

If I play a STR great weapon master HAM champion with a noble background fighter I find it quite a bit different from an DEX archer sharpshooter prodigy battle master with a spy background. A fighter starts with decision points at 1st level with DEX vs STR, and background, and skill proficiencies, and fighting style. At 3rd level it's a decision point on subclass and some subclasses add additional decision points as well. Battle masters select from from maneuvers at 4 different levels and a tool proficiency (which is one of the minor decisions). Then they also have up to 7 ASI / feat decision points along the way. Adding in a race and there's a fair bit going on even before multiclassing.

There's not a lot of specific customization within the classes if a person is avoiding feats outside of the subclasses but I think there is some variety in what those archetypes can produce.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Yeah, there are options galore. That said, I'm never in a position where I don't have a pretty firm idea what I'm doing from level to level. I put a lot of stock into concept when I build a character, and as part of developing that concept I always have a map for where the character is going, whether that's a MC choice, feats, ASI's, spell choices, whatever. It's not written in stone mind you, but I generally have the choices down to a key few and that helps with the decision making load. That's just me though.
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
I just know I don’t want the pathfinder nightmare again with options. That game is still out there with alot of very good support for people that want alot options. I play d&d because they went really overboard for my tastes. I don’t criticize them. Many like that playstyle, just not what I am looking for. And I think their adventures are better than what d&d does.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I disagree a bit here.

I think there's some truth in that mechanically, but not necessarily aesthetically, and not for all classes. Cleric domains change spells prepped, armor worn, other domain powers, and the bonus applying to weapons or spells but not both makes for quite a bit of difference from one to the other for example. A valor bard doesn't really play the same as a lore bard, and spells known as a mechanic can make one character significantly different than another of the same class depending on any thematics in those spells known.
Those choices can make a significant difference in gameplay, which I appreciate. But they're still just ONE choice. (Well. Lore Bard gets a few extra choices due to Magical Secrets, so point taken there.) What I look for in a system is the ability to make multiple choices throughout my character's career to differentiate them from other characters of the same category.

A hexblade blade pact is quite a bit different from a GOO tome pact warlock.
I separated this part out because Warlocks are one of a very few places I think WotC hit the sweet spot for me in terms of character customizability. Patron, Boon, the specific weapon/familiar/spells for your Boon, 8 Invocations, 4 Cantrips, and 15 spells, and 4 ASIs/Feats across 20 levels is great. I could play nothing but Warlocks for years and never play two characters that felt the same. I just wish the same could be said about the other classes. I love rogues, but one rogue feels pretty much the same as another, the only real stand-out being the Arcane Trickster.

If I play a STR great weapon master HAM champion with a noble background fighter I find it quite a bit different from an DEX archer sharpshooter prodigy battle master with a spy background. A fighter starts with decision points at 1st level with DEX vs STR, and background, and skill proficiencies, and fighting style. At 3rd level it's a decision point on subclass and some subclasses add additional decision points as well. Battle masters select from from maneuvers at 4 different levels and a tool proficiency (which is one of the minor decisions). Then they also have up to 7 ASI / feat decision points along the way. Adding in a race and there's a fair bit going on even before multiclassing.
Battlemasters are OK in terms of customizability. You get a few extra choices in the form of extra ASI/feat levels and the choices of Maneuvers, and the additional Maneuvers and Fighting Styles in the recent UA help quite a bit as well. They still feel lacking to me, largely because they don't get many interesting choices turn-to-turn. But for the most part I'm pretty satisfied with the Battlemaster's build variety. The same cannot be said of pretty much any other Fighter subclass, except maybe the Arcane Archer.

There's not a lot of specific customization within the classes if a person is avoiding feats outside of the subclasses but I think there is some variety in what those archetypes can produce.
Yeah, for sure. The relatively small number of choices you do get to make have a good amount of impact. But I don't want to make one big choice in the first few levels that locks in my character's progression path for the rest of their career. I want to build my character up as I go.

3.5 and Pathfinder swing too far in the other direction. There are plenty of choices to be made, but there are so many options, and many of them so interdependent due to prerequisites, that you pretty much have to decide your full 1-20 build at character creation or risk accidentally screwing yourself over. Having my character's advancement path already figured out from 1st level is the exact thing I want to avoid by including these decision points. I like getting to a new level and getting to choose what upgrade I want next, instead of just consulting the rulebook (or a build guide, or my own notes...) and writing down the thing it says I get.

EDIT: Most CRPGs nail this for me. Every time you level up in an Elder Scrolls or a Dragon Age or whatever, you get to pick a new Perk or upgrade or power or whatever from a nice, curated list. Upgrade trees usually mean your early choices influence your later choices, but each level you get a small handful of options. I love the Warlock so much because that’s exactly how it feels. Some levels I pick a new spell, some levels I pick a new Invocation, and my Patron or Pact Boon help narrow down which options I’m likely to consider, but there’s always two or three good ones I get to choose from.
 
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Sabathius42

Explorer
OP: It sounds like your group creates and levels characters in a powergaming mindset. This might be leading to the difficult choices

I usually design my character concept as a story, then fill in race, class, and background as what best fits the concept. Optimization isn't a step in the crunch choices....

Character 1: I wanted to play a small statured, no armored, no magic using fighter type who is a native defending their village in ToA. I look through the classes and figure that Monk best fits this concept. I look at the different subclasses and decide that kensai is the most non-wacky-fighter style of monk. Background is local hero, they are going off to save the village after all, and race can be anything as there could be any race of humanoid tribe in Chult. Wild Elf seems to be a good choice.

Character 2: I wanted to play a con man. Ruleswise I want expertise in Deception. Bard or Rogue would fit, but once again I prefer no magic for the concept. Rogue it is. Lacking a out of combat focused rogue subclass (at the time) I just go with the standard pick. As the character found himself lost and hunted in the Underdark (OotA) his desperation caused him to make a last minute deal to trade his soul for rescue. Now he is multiclass Warlock.

Character 3: In the aftermath of ToA my native character returns to their village. The party decides to hit the seas pirate hunting. New character is going to be the ships captain who uses magic to gain the upperhand in Sea battles. Lizardman (Marine Iguanaman really) Storm Sorcerer with NO fire spells...because fire=bad on any ship. Very unoptimized when he goes ashore but a terror on the seas.
 
2. Too many subclasses don't appeal to us, so choosing one is difficult.

To #2, Paladin's are a problem. The current adventure has the 2nd paladin our group has seen since we started a year ago. And in both cases, we homebrewed the oath because none of the ones we had "fit".

For my own character, at reaching 3rd level, I had to decide between 1st level Fighter, or picking my subclass.
Nope. The problem is in your mind. In fact, you started by saying you have "too many options" and then you said the above... too many subclasses don't appeal to you, so actually that means you have LESS subclasses to choose from; none of the oaths "fit" with your game, so you actually don't have ENOUGH options; you had to decide between only TWO options and you were stuck, so that's clearly not because there are too many (less than two, and you would have no choice to make) but only because you had something else in mind that blocked your choice.

5e does NOT have too many options. If you get stuck at character creation or level up, that's probably because you are overthinking or overestimating the importance of those choices. You might be thinking too much about what is the "optimal" choice, and in most case it doesn't matter. The randomness of the game (not just the dice, but the sheer variance and unpredictability of what you will encounter in the adventures) will make "optimality" be an advantage only on the very long term, and probably even 20 levels won't be long enough to notice a serious difference.

In addition, IMO it's a bad habit for players to think that their PC must be "perfect" as if it was the one and only PC they will even play... most PCs don't last more than a few levels anyway before the game wraps up and you join another campaign, but even if you do have good reasons to believe it will last years, you'll have other games to join and other PCs to create.
 
How much is options paralysis an issue for your group? Is it just new players, or do experienced players have to take time to decide what direction they will go?
I don't believe analysis paralysis is a thing that genuinely "new" players experience at all. In thirty years I've never, ever seen a player genuinely new to RPGs do any kind of "analysis paralysis"-type dithering. Why? Because new players don't analyse in that way. They just hear a cool-sounding thing and go "yeah, that!". Other players sometimes cause a problem by constantly suggesting other options but a good DM tells them to zip it.

Long-time DMs who become players are absolutely the worst for analysis paralysis. I have never seen as much dithering, chopping, changing and obscure class/race considering as when a DM is suddenly a player I include myself in this!

Next-worst are very experienced players, who often get stuck considering a wide variety of powerful combinations and can chop and change a fair bit. Or overanalyse things and end up with something they don't actually enjoy.

The third group who actually do this are what I'd call armchair players, for lack of a better term. The sort of people who actually don't get to play D&D or RPGs in general for years and years, but keep following it (either having played when younger or having always wanted to). When they finally do get to play they do often get stuck even with limited choices because they want the choice to be perfect.

But genuinely new players? Nah. Also 5E is way less bad for this than 4E which was in turn way less bad than the apex game for analysis paralysis, which was 3.5E (specifically, not just 3.XE - PF1E is also dreadful for it).

(Edit and if we go well outside D&D nothing causes this kind of paralysis like GURPS with say 300-400 points and access to a ton of source books, like a wide-open GURPS Supers game. Of course least analysis ever was also a supers game, the old FASERIP Marvel game, people were just like "Wait I can be Spider-Man? Ok I'm Spider-Man!)
 
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toucanbuzz

Explorer
My two cents: not an issue and probably because I don't allow multi-classing. After having played 3rd edition and Pathfinder, I'm somewhat glad to leave behind the insanity of "building" the perfect 6-class character so-you-can-dip-a-feature behind and instead encouraging people to play something that sounds interesting. Character creation was a slog in those days.

Obviously we're talking player preference. There's nothing wrong with liking to crunch numbers and combos or to prefer a story-based character, so long as we're all having fun. My return to D&D from Pathfinder years ago involved the split of a large group. The numbers folk wanted Pathfinder and my story folks wanted something less crazy.
 
Two issues (for us) any way with options paralysis:
1. Multiclassing expands choices by 5-10 fold depending on the classes you qualify for.

2. Too many subclasses don't appeal to us, so choosing one is difficult.
Well, at least those are only at-level-up choices. In play choices, like, what spells to prepare, which spell to cast, etc, can have an even more chilling effect.

But, to address them (1) is optional, don't opt in, problem solved; (2) OK, there's 40 sub-classes just in the PH, and they've been adding them pretty rapidly. But, it's a choice you only make once, at low level, and it's over. Usually, it should be dictated by concept. Some concepts simply aren't covered by a class, yet, let alone a sub-class, and a big part of the problem isn't so much the number of choices as the lack of flexibility or the excessive specificity of many of them. If your concept is perfectly handled by a specific (sub-)class, you're fine, off you go. If not, you're stuck weighing the pros and cons of two or more un-satisfying options, and tinkering around with builds to try to finagle what you're after.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
I'm similarly a DM that really only gets to be a player at cons these days, but yeah, when I do play, there's generally only one or two options that feel right for my character.

For the rest of my crew we usually either know what we’re going to do or the story pushes us to something for our characters naturally. shrug
 

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