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D&D 5E What does 5E do well?

overgeeked

B/X Known World
It's a deceptively simple question, but there's not an easy answer. I picked this up from Matt Colville by way of @Aldarc.


For those who cannot see the tweet:

"I said 4E is great for Heroic Fantasy: you're already a hero at level 1 with several dope powers! And it's not super good for dungeon crawling or survival? But it is great for "Save the world" adventures! Someone asked "What is 5E good for?" And...I did not have...a good answer?"

And this video, around the 1:35 mark.

I'm phrasing the question a bit softer than Matt did, but I still think it's a good question.

What I'm looking for is a playstyle answer. What style of play does D&D5E do best? Or even better than other editions. This isn't an edition war thread, it's an honest question.

5E doesn't do survival well because there are several class features, background features, and spells that completely negate the challenges of survival. It doesn't really do exploration well because again, there are several class features, background features, and spells that completely negate the challenges of exploration. It doesn't handle dungeon crawling particularly well without a few hacked in rules. It doesn't do roleplaying any better than any other edition of D&D. Combat? Whatever you think of 4E, it had better balance in combat. Some say to the point of blandness, but it was better balanced. Monster design? Again 4E had far more interesting monster design. Fast combat? Any TSR edition had faster combat. Character options? Again nope. 2E, 3x, and 4E all had more character options. It's not the best for character optimization, charop people say that left, right, and center. It's not the easiest to learn. Basic would be easier to learn, 2E would be easier to learn...and arguably 4E is easier to learn.

So what does 5E do really well as a game? What playstyle or area of play is its strong suit?

(I know the urge to say some variation of "it's popular" or "it brings in new players" will be nigh overwhelming, but for the sake of conversation, do resist as none of those are actual answers to the question.)
 

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Having played every edition of D&D, though admittedly decades ago, I think a lot of your statements are just wrong. I certainly don't remember combat being faster in Basic, but I certainly haven't timed combats. Not easier to learn? 4E was certainly more effort for me than 5E. But all your comparisons to editions are... well, they don't answer your question either and only serve to start an edition debate.

As you point out, 5E is exceptional at growing the customer base. Part of that no doubt is culture, marketing and just timing. But it's also because this edition so clearly fills the sweet spot for a vast majority. Easy enough to learn, quick enough to resolve conflict, adaptable enough to various play styles, enough player options, easy enough to adapt monsters, not too rule burdened, not too many options, enough options, meaningful choices in character selection, and enough combat options to give enough variety.

So, it's just enough of everything. The right blend of spicy, sweet, and sour!
 

ECMO3

Adventurer
It's a deceptively simple question, but there's not an easy answer. I picked this up from Matt Colville by way of @Aldarc.


For those who cannot see the tweet:

"I said 4E is great for Heroic Fantasy: you're already a hero at level 1 with several dope powers! And it's not super good for dungeon crawling or survival? But it is great for "Save the world" adventures! Someone asked "What is 5E good for?" And...I did not have...a good answer?"

And this video, around the 1:35 mark.

I'm phrasing the question a bit softer than Matt did, but I still think it's a good question.

What I'm looking for is a playstyle answer. What style of play does D&D5E do best? Or even better than other editions. This isn't an edition war thread, it's an honest question.

5E doesn't do survival well because there are several class features, background features, and spells that completely negate the challenges of survival. It doesn't really do exploration well because again, there are several class features, background features, and spells that completely negate the challenges of exploration. It doesn't handle dungeon crawling particularly well without a few hacked in rules. It doesn't do roleplaying any better than any other edition of D&D. Combat? Whatever you think of 4E, it had better balance in combat. Some say to the point of blandness, but it was better balanced. Monster design? Again 4E had far more interesting monster design. Fast combat? Any TSR edition had faster combat. Character options? Again nope. 2E, 3x, and 4E all had more character options. It's not the best for character optimization, charop people say that left, right, and center. It's not the easiest to learn. Basic would be easier to learn, 2E would be easier to learn...and arguably 4E is easier to learn.

So what does 5E do really well as a game? What playstyle or area of play is its strong suit?

(I know the urge to say some variation of "it's popular" or "it brings in new players" will be nigh overwhelming, but for the sake of conversation, do resist as none of those are actual answers to the question.)
skills, classes, races and combat. 5E does all those better than other editions.
 

jeffh

Adventurer
It does most things well enough. It's kind of a "second-best at everything" edition.

One big factor is the whole "gateway drug" aspect of it, but you're somewhat right to dismiss that because that's not really because of any merit of its own. It's more good fortune in being around at the time things like Critical Role are raising the hobby's profile; whatever edition happened to be around now could likely say the same.

But, it's easy enough to pick up, gives just enough options to feel like you've got interesting choices to make (at least early on), the combat can be made tactical and interesting without much difficulty, it plays fast enough to keep things moving. Though I don't agree with every statement in the op, it's somewhat true that 5E doesn't look particularly good if you're single-mindedly optimizing for just one of the things you listed. But why would you want to do that? For a campaign that's going to include all of them, as most do, it's the edition that doesn't fall on its face at anything.
 
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Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
5e adapts to different playstyles better than any other edition (probably because it explicitly draws from all of them and for that specific purpose).

I don't think 5e does any of a previous edition's specialities better than the previous edition did, but you can make most anything from a previous edition work in 5e with relatively little effort. Often, you can actually just lift stuff from earlier editions wholesale and plop them in.
 

Sithlord

Adventurer
5e adapts to different playstyles better than any other edition (probably because it explicitly draws from all of them and for that specific purpose).

I don't think 5e does any of a previous edition's specialities better than the previous edition did, but you can make most anything from a previous edition work in 5e with relatively little effort. Often, you can actually just lift stuff from earlier editions wholesale and plop them in.
I agree. One of the long term groups I play with, definitely not at the flgs, are rules are a mixture of 5E and 2E
 

Dausuul

Legend
This is the Forge Fallacy: A game should zero in on a single purpose, be good at one thing, and forget everything else. In fact, an RPG needs to be good at many things.

5E isn't as good at combat as 4E. But it's better than the other editions, and it beats 4E in verisimilitude and integration of mechanics with fiction.

5E isn't as easy to learn as Basic. But it's easier than the other editions, and it beats Basic in character options and balance.

5E offers less scope for charop than 3E. I missed the part where that was a point in 3E's favor.

And so on. I don't think 5E is the best possible edition of D&D; there's still plenty of room for improvement. But, considering all the elements instead of just one, I think it is the best edition so far.
 

I've only played a little 5e, and I got the impression that it does boss battles really well. The rules for lair actions and legendary actions are something 2E and 3.x never had. As I still play 3.x all the time, I've ported those rules over from 5e.

It also seems to do action resolution really well. I personally prefer the focus on action declaration over skill declaration, which 3.x seems to encourage.

What I mean by this, is that 3.x often suggested that if you had a skill for something, you could declare to your DM that you wanted to use it, often with dice in hand ("I use my climb skill!"). I prefer 5e's hands-off-the-dice approach, where you state what action you want to take ("I try to climb the wall with my bare hands!"), and the DM then tells you if and what you need to roll for.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
This is the Forge Fallacy: A game should zero in on a single purpose, be good at one thing, and forget everything else. In fact, an RPG needs to be good at many things.
I don't really think that Matt Colville is committing the Forge fallacy since he is not claiming or even implying that it should be good at one thing. He's simply asking what it's good at in terms of its game play. If asking a basic question about a product, such as what a game is good at, is a fallacy, then it's a pretty hollow fallacy.
 

Arilyn

Hero
I'd say the appeal is a fun mix of player abilities that don't bog the game play down. The game has lots of minor problems, but I have found it the most enjoyable D&D edition. I guess fun isn't really a play style, but it does seem to be 5e's strong suit.
 


Parmandur

Book-Friend
This is the Forge Fallacy: A game should zero in on a single purpose, be good at one thing, and forget everything else. In fact, an RPG needs to be good at many things.

5E isn't as good at combat as 4E. But it's better than the other editions, and it beats 4E in verisimilitude and integration of mechanics with fiction.

5E isn't as easy to learn as Basic. But it's easier than the other editions, and it beats Basic in character options and balance.

5E offers less scope for charop than 3E. I missed the part where that was a point in 3E's favor.

And so on. I don't think 5E is the best possible edition of D&D; there's still plenty of room for improvement. But, considering all the elements instead of just one, I think it is the best edition so far.
O think this gets to the heart of the matter.
 


darjr

I crit!
I believe that as Matt would say, that's not a style of play. ;)
No, it does however give us a clue. 5e was meant to cover a lot of D&D styles of play. And that is, imho, inviting. And it also makes it hard to pin down 5e like he can pin down 4e style of play.
If you ask me his question is the wrong question anyway. 4e answered it really well and 5e did not and we see directly what the consequences have been. One game is mothballed and the other has been doubling (sales? Or players? Or both?).
 


5e is “the best D&D” at the most common form of D&D:

* Adventure Path/metaplot/setting tourist play

* which enables GMs to use Force/Illusionism + heavy content curation + spotlight tailoring/management to (a) keep the pace up, (b) keep a compelling story “online”, and (c) enable players’ Power Fantasies.

* where players don’t have to aggressively drive the trajectory of play (which is extremely demanding) but can toggle cognitive load/passivity on/off while being tourists to their favorite settings, experiencing a compelling story + power fantasy, expressing some skillfulness of play, engage in performative theatrics/characterization at their discretion.

* being extremely hygienic for talented characterization/theatrics + high-production live-streaming.

* being inoffensive


That collection of attributes is a recipe for D&D going mainstream as a media cash cow.
 

Aldarc

Legend
No, it does however give us a clue. 5e was meant to cover a lot of D&D styles of play. And that is, imho, inviting. And it also makes it hard to pin down 5e like he can pin down 4e style of play.
I disagree, because I don't think that it particularly does OSR styles of play well per the default. Wilderness exploration, hex crawling, and Gygaxian skilled dungeon play or B/X dungeon-crawling aren't really what 5e is about.

If you ask me his question is the wrong question anyway. 4e answered it really well and 5e did not and we see directly what the consequences have been. One game is mothballed and the other has been doubling (sales? Or players? Or both?).
All too often I have seen people try to reduce the complex situation around 4e's failure to sell a highly narrow argument. It always raises my red flags, just like it does here.

And frankly 5e is just as good at Save the World adventures, I’ve run a fair few.
Sounds like someone has a chip on his shoulders.

IMHO, I think that 5e does curated-story play well. I think that the "rulings not rules," increased GM authority/force, fudging, adventure paths rather than modules, etc. and the GM advice seem to land pretty solidly in the idea that the GM is there to help deliver a cool story for the players.

Edit: beaten to the punch by @Manbearcat.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
No, it does however give us a clue. 5e was meant to cover a lot of D&D styles of play. And that is, imho, inviting. And it also makes it hard to pin down 5e like he can pin down 4e style of play.
If you ask me his question is the wrong question anyway. 4e answered it really well and 5e did not and we see directly what the consequences have been. One game is mothballed and the other has been doubling (sales? Or players? Or both?).
Yeah, exactly this: 4E was a polished, focused game, but that focus cut too many people out of the frame.
 

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