D&D 5E What would 5E be like if the playtest's modularity promise was kept?

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
But 5E just gave up on modularity.
Or is it they just didn't go far enough with the modularity you specifically wanted?

You basically said they have Flanking, but its too powerful. So the 4E module is there... but it just didn't match the numbers you felt it should have to be good. You needed the book to have written down as an option "Flanking is a +2 to attack" in addition to the Advantage/Disadvantage version. Likewise, you needed the book to specifically state a module of something like "A Short Rest can be 5 minutes and a Long Rest be 8 hours" so that it could match your desired preferences, rather than only the 1 hour / 8 hour base version or 8 hour / 1 week variant that it says.

That specificity though to me is just matters of degrees. The module to add in those 4E-isms is there... but they just don't match 4E exactly and instead use 5E-isms in their place (like Adv/Disad instead of small numeric bonuses.) The essence of the edition is there, it just doesn't go far enough for your tastes. Which is cool... I have no issue with that. You want what you want and it is what it is. I would just disagree that a module that doesn't far enough is the same as a module that doesn't exist.
 

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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Alternatively, all the options on this front being outright crap at doing Warlord-like things kinda getting in the way?
As I said in my post above this one, that's just a matter of degrees. For some it was fine... for others not enough. I won't argue otherwise. But then again, the module would not be able to satisfy everyone no matter what they did, because even if they managed to include a Warlord that gave you the four things you mentioned in your list... someone else would have another list with even more Warlord stuff that they felt had to be in the class for it to be a Warlord. There are people out there who probably would only want a Warlord that exactly matched the 4E version (down to maneuver names and such) for the 5E Warlord to be valid. So a Warlord module in 5E will always fail at least somebody.

Again, I have no issue with you wanting what you want... and don't disagree with that want. I just am unwilling to wipe the entirety of 4E-isms in 5E away just because they don't match. And even if they don't, I personally do not have any problem with adding in my own adjustments to those modules to get them closer to matching if I feel my game could benefit from it (and I don't need it written down in any of the books to justify it.)
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Mod Note:
Folks,

This thread is not about whether WotC lied in saying they were going to try a modular design.


This thread is also not about how WotC's current design is really good, with the implication that folks shouldn't bother to talk about modular design.

And it certainly isn't about attacking each other over this stuff.

If you aren't going to talk about what the OP asks - what would the game look like if they did try to deliver on that goal - then please find another discussion. Thanks.
 

Oofta

Legend
...
Join the club. Sales aren't quality and never will be. If you stop conflating them, this argument will go away.
...

So I don't want to derail the thread further, but I gotta say this hatred of a concept that one way to judge quality is whether or not a product meets it's goals just baffles me. What is a better judgment? Personal opinion? Well, 5E happens to work really well for me. While nothing is ever perfect , for me it's a quality product. The fact that it sells well is an indication that millions of people agree. Many people will tell you that a Rolex is a higher quality than your department store Timex because of what they value, what they consider important. But objectively? The Timex is just as accurate, if not more so. Likely less fragile, typically comes with more functionality. Objectively the Timex is a higher quality product.

How else we're supposed to judge quality of a product? Your personal opinion?


EDIT: I may move this over to a different thread if I have time later, didn't see the moderation when I posted.
 
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An AD&D game is intended to span over a long career of players constantly facing new challenges. You cut your teeth on orcs and goblins, progress to bugbears, maybe ogres, then trolls, eventually you're facing bulettes and wyverns, then various species of giant, dragons, and by this point, you're world-beaters ready to hit the outer planes and tackle fiends and potentially demigods.

You will amass a great many magic items in this time, granting you powers and abilities beyond those of your character class, with only Wizards continuing to gain new powers until the high teens.

You might have crazy multiclass schemes, be dual classed Fighter/Wizards, have ability scores in the 20+ range, and possibly even wield artifacts.

At this level of play, the numbers are so inflated that combat becomes more about tactics and tricks than die rolls; a high level warrior isn't going to miss anything save for a roll of 1, and will be all but invulnerable due to super good saving throws, the lowest AC allowed, and various magical enhancements- your cloak of displacement will protect you from the first attack of the day, no matter what it is, your scarab of protection will let you save against effects that normally don't allow saving throws at all, and you have a double fistful of Ioun stones orbiting you at all times.

And unlike modern gaming, there are several good adventures for this tier of play, where you foil the schemes of demon princes and gods, and become legendary heroes...

Or maybe you died in a pool of your own blood at level 1 to a lucky goblin arrow. AD&D is a game of majestic mountains and seemingly endless chasms.

It's not easy to play. It's not easy to run, but it has it's own strange allure, like the sirens of myth.

As much as each edition since has promised to maintain that incredible endgame experience, something was lost in the translation. 3e shifted to being more about personal power, and most high level magic items are devoted to giving you immunities, big numbers, and mobility options- the real meat was in a plethora of strange abilities and feats which combined to create a sort of infernal Rube's Goldberg machine; when everything aligned just so, you were unstoppable. But often these builds proved delicate, and could be foiled rather trivially, much to the chagrin of their creators.

Organic development was shunted to the wayside; you now needed to plan out your character from levels 1-20, because deviation had a serious cost.

4e offered a taste of truly epic game play, but due to it's linear curve of development, combat felt mostly the same at every level- I love 4e, but it seemed like every new power was only a little stronger than the one it replaced, and the monsters had strange, bizarre abilities from the very earliest levels.

So by the time you get a Daily that lets you attack an enemy three times and leave them dazed until the end of the next turn, dazed (save ends) and stunned (save ends), enemies could have multiple hit point pools, transformations, and auras that prevented you from regaining hit points, along with immediate interrupts to teleport 10 squares away and stun you (save ends) for attempting to do anything so foolish as to attack them in melee.

With it's flattened math, feats, multiclassing, and magic items declared optional (and even beyond this, suggestion to limit magic items to a small amount), 5e characters may be fighting enemies with the same names as their nemeses of yore, but they won't feel anywhere near as powerful as those 20th-level AD&D heroes.
I think 5E has this end game experience, but only in 3rd party material. Your description of high level AD&D, though, is very enchanting, and is very much the goal I have in mind for when I run games that go high level. The dice rolls are just there as formality in part; tactics will be king.
 

There were several attempts early to add modular rules to the game: psionics, mass combat, "Grayhawk" initiative, prestige classes. They always got rejected. Even now there is significant pushback to the background feats in Dragonlance. I don't blame WotC for scaling back on optional modular rules to occasional character creation options: the larger D&D community says it wants options but then blanches at every one that doesn't look like the PHB.
This is exactly it. Early UA for WotC had many different ideas, from those you mentioned to even urban fantasy games and the ability to represent a region with a stat block with exploration actions and more so. Every attempt got rejected by the community, and in the eyes of WotC, if it isn't 70 percent satisfaction, it isn't worth developing more of. Except for the Hexblade.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I think 5E has this end game experience, but only in 3rd party material. Your description of high level AD&D, though, is very enchanting, and is very much the goal I have in mind for when I run games that go high level. The dice rolls are just there as formality in part; tactics will be king.
You have to remember though, while AD&D offers the promise of reaching Valhalla, very few people ever see it. Majestic peaks and endless chasms. Over time, D&D has flattened out. It went from mountains to plateaus and chasms to ravines. These days, it feels to me more like hills and 10' pits (though the pits might have some spikes or snakes in them!).

You can still fail, you can still die, but you're more likely to get to the top of that hill. But it's not nearly as breathtaking a vista.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
This is exactly it. Early UA for WotC had many different ideas, from those you mentioned to even urban fantasy games and the ability to represent a region with a stat block with exploration actions and more so. Every attempt got rejected by the community, and in the eyes of WotC, if it isn't 70 percent satisfaction, it isn't worth developing more of. Except for the Hexblade.
Oh did people not want the Hexblade? Everyone I knew seemed very excited by it when it was released.

And it's true, a lot of their UA's for optional rules has fallen flat, but there is something to consider.

Optional rules are DM country. Only DM's are interested in them. Players want Feats and Sub (Classes).

70% of D&D 5e players aren't DM's.
 

Oh did people not want the Hexblade? Everyone I knew seemed very excited by it when it was released.

And it's true, a lot of their UA's for optional rules has fallen flat, but there is something to consider.

Optional rules are DM country. Only DM's are interested in them. Players want Feats and Sub (Classes).

70% of D&D 5e players aren't DM's.
I agree with you completely on all of your assessments.

As for the Hexblade, Mearls talked about how the Hexblade was the lowest percentage thing they published, just barely reaching 70 percent after everything was said and done.

On line, such as on Reddit, Facebook, and even here on Enworld, there was much chatter about how the Hexblade was broken, was a sloppy fix to the pact of the blade problem, and had very hard to grok lore. The lore changed by the time it was published, but only slightly, and other words the class was printed as before, which a lot of people were surprised by.

Personally, I have no problem with the Hexblade. The warlock PHB subclasses are all either very passive or very situational, with some stand outs like the Archfey's reaction misty step. So, having a subclass that was actually strong and flexed what a warlock could do is something I very much appreciate.
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I agree with you completely on all of your assessments.

As for the Hexblade, Mearls talked about how the Hexblade was the lowest percentage thing they published, just barely reaching 70 percent after everything was said and done.

On line, such as on Reddit, Facebook, and even here on Enworld, there was much chatter about how the Hexblade was broken, was a sloppy fix to the pact of the blade problem, and had very hard to grok lore. The lore changed by the time it was published, but only slightly, and other words the class was printed as before, which a lot of people were surprised by.

Personally, I have no problem with the Hexblade. The warlock PHB subclasses are all either very passive or very situational, with some stand outs like the Archfey's reaction misty step. So, having a subclass that was actually strong and flexed what a warlock could do is something I very much appreciate.
Ok, I just got the impression from your post that people were going "No, don't print that, it will ruin the game!" and WotC did it anyways.

I think the Hexblade's only problem is that it's easily dippable to get a shillelagh style effect for classes that might not need it. If you invest in Hexblade, there's some good benefits down the road that make it nice on it's own.

But Hexadins and Hexa...Bards? (I'm not sure of the community name for such builds) seem to be pushing it a little.

At low levels, I saw a Hexblade/Swashbuckler and felt that was a lot of bonus damage front loaded, but I had nothing really to compare it to at the time so I let it be (I too, have knee-jerk reactions, but I try not to act on them, lol).
 

That specificity though to me is just matters of degrees. The module to add in those 4E-isms is there... but they just don't match 4E exactly and instead use 5E-isms in their place (like Adv/Disad instead of small numeric bonuses.) The essence of the edition is there, it just doesn't go far enough for your tastes.
So, just to be clear, you're genuinely saying the essence of 4E boils down to:

A) Flanking, which appeared in multiple editions.
B) Disarms, did not appear in 4E.
C) Marking, which did appear in 4E.

That's it? That's enough to be the "essence" of 4E? Because that's a bold claim, to put it very mildly! I wouldn't have said any of those were top points in the "essence of 4E" myself, I have to say. But I guess YMMV pretty wildly.

Re: the OP's point, I think we can reference this to see what an actual 4E module that attempted to make 5E 4E-like might look like.

1) You'd want to make it so forced movement was much more of a thing. Probably make it so you can sacrifice Attacks after the fact to make a Shove push someone further, or can push further if you're giving up more base damage.

2) OAs need to be more significant, so you probably need to make it so certain classes get like a "free Reaction" to do an OA on top of their Reaction.

3) Make healing spells eat HD by default but also be Bonus actions when they do (and probably heal for less when they don't).

4) Create a "Page 42" equivalent for 5E - i.e. table expected damages/difficulties etc. for stunts. That would be very important.

5) Add Marking to certain classes, Flanking to add, but probably do Flanking as +1d4 or +1d6 instead of Advantage - 5E wasn't imaginative enough to do that at launch, but would.

6) 10 minute short rest.

7) Start at level 3.

8) Let long-rest casters refresh some of their spells on a short rest - 5E actually addresses this briefly in another half-considered option, and suggests limit it to spells below level 5. I think you'd probably want a table, myself, showing what level and what you can refresh.

9) Suggest excluding/including certain classes.

I think that sort of modularity would be more like what people were looking for, and you could probably fit most/all of it on one page.
 



James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
So, just to be clear, you're genuinely saying the essence of 4E boils down to:

A) Flanking, which appeared in multiple editions.
B) Disarms, did not appear in 4E.
C) Marking, which did appear in 4E.

That's it? That's enough to be the "essence" of 4E? Because that's a bold claim, to put it very mildly! I wouldn't have said any of those were top points in the "essence of 4E" myself, I have to say. But I guess YMMV pretty wildly.

Re: the OP's point, I think we can reference this to see what an actual 4E module that attempted to make 5E 4E-like might look like.

1) You'd want to make it so forced movement was much more of a thing. Probably make it so you can sacrifice Attacks after the fact to make a Shove push someone further, or can push further if you're giving up more base damage.

2) OAs need to be more significant, so you probably need to make it so certain classes get like a "free Reaction" to do an OA on top of their Reaction.

3) Make healing spells eat HD by default but also be Bonus actions when they do (and probably heal for less when they don't).

4) Create a "Page 42" equivalent for 5E - i.e. table expected damages/difficulties etc. for stunts. That would be very important.

5) Add Marking to certain classes, Flanking to add, but probably do Flanking as +1d4 or +1d6 instead of Advantage - 5E wasn't imaginative enough to do that at launch, but would.

6) 10 minute short rest.

7) Start at level 3.

8) Let long-rest casters refresh some of their spells on a short rest - 5E actually addresses this briefly in another half-considered option, and suggests limit it to spells below level 5. I think you'd probably want a table, myself, showing what level and what you can refresh.

9) Suggest excluding/including certain classes.

I think that sort of modularity would be more like what people were looking for, and you could probably fit most/all of it on one page.
Not to disparage any of your points, but there was, in fact, one power in 4e that could disarm, the level 17 Fighter Power Exorcism of Steel.

EDIT: also, Fighters had some of best names for powers in 4e. "Exorcism of Steel"? Amazing. Even lackluster powers could have names like VORPAL TORNADO!!!!

Sorry, it's the kind of thing that makes my inner geek want to stand on a chair and scream as I use it on my foes. : )
 

There were several attempts early to add modular rules to the game: psionics, mass combat, "Grayhawk" initiative, prestige classes. They always got rejected. Even now there is significant pushback to the background feats in Dragonlance. I don't blame WotC for scaling back on optional modular rules to occasional character creation options: the larger D&D community says it wants options but then blanches at every one that doesn't look like the PHB.
I think there's a question as to whether "the larger D&D community" is represented by the surveys, esp. as WotC no longer seems to run the "70% rule", but rather uses its own judgement. I strongly suspect WotC's market research shows the sort of people who fill in the surveys are not a close match for the people who actually buy their books. I'm particularly skeptical because whilst the number of people playing D&D has increased by hundreds of percent, many of them new, and who display very different preferences re: classes, races, etc. to the previous crowd, the general attitudes of people answering the surveys don't seem to have changed a huge amount.

But it is valid to say a lot of earlier attempts to make good on modularity were frustrated.

I mean, we'd probably see the Mystic or something very like it in a modular D&D.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I think there's a question as to whether "the larger D&D community" is represented by the surveys, esp. as WotC no longer seems to run the "70% rule", but rather uses its own judgement. I strongly suspect WotC's market research shows the sort of people who fill in the surveys are not a close match for the people who actually buy their books. I'm particularly skeptical because whilst the number of people playing D&D has increased by hundreds of percent, many of them new, and who display very different preferences re: classes, races, etc. to the previous crowd, the general attitudes of people answering the surveys don't seem to have changed a huge amount.

But it is valid to say a lot of earlier attempts to make good on modularity were frustrated.

I mean, we'd probably see the Mystic or something very like it in a modular D&D.
I mean, they don't really share as much as they used to about survey results and such, though Crawford does give some indications in his Sage Advise interviews (the Moon Sorcerer was well received and didn't need a second run, for instance).
 

I mean, they don't really share as much as they used to about survey results and such, though Crawford does give some indications in his Sage Advise interviews (the Moon Sorcerer was well received and didn't need a second run, for instance).
Yeah exactly, earlier on they were all but oversharing with the results of the surveys (though less so in the playtests before that), and then more recently, after 5E "went huge", they've stopped sharing many details beyond the odd tidbit like that, because I don't think holding yourself to a bizarre faux-democratic "70% standard" (what is this, the Senate and the Constitution lol?) of an arbitrary self-selecting group of people was necessarily the best possible business strategy long-term.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Yeah exactly, earlier on they were all but oversharing with the results of the surveys (though less so in the playtests before that), and then more recently, after 5E "went huge", they've stopped sharing many details beyond the odd tidbit like that, because I don't think holding yourself to a bizarre faux-democratic "70% standard" (what is this, the Senate and the Constitution lol?) of an arbitrary self-selecting group of people was necessarily the best possible business strategy long-term.
Yeah, for sure. They are still adjusting course based on the Surveys, as seen by how they 86'd the Strixhaveb Subclasses and rewrote the Kender and Dragonlance Feats for a second go. But I think for most of their UA last year they just received very, very good feedback (Monsters of the Multiverse changes to Hobgoblins and Kobolds, new Dragonborn, Owlin, Harengon, and Fairy options). I recall Crawford saying the survey response to Fey-ified Hobgolins was very positive.
 

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