5E Why does 5E SUCK?

And if that's how 4E was presented, and actually played, then I would have significantly fewer problems with it. Really, I only ever had three or four issues (and only one or two dealbreakers) when it came to 4E, but the guarantee that there must be exactly one mechanical representation of any fictional element was right at the top of the list.

If you got rid of monsters that changed stats depending on your level, and the different math for PCs and NPCs - I don't mind if NPCs are simpler, as long as they have the same HP and bonuses - then I would consider the game almost playable.
Likewise. The single biggest thing that turned me off was that I had a DM who halved all the monster HP and doubled their damage to "speed up combat." That's partly a DM issue but it was apparently common advice for 4E DMs, encouraged partly by 4E already having divergent rules for PCs and monsters.

Consistent, coherent game physics are a must for me.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Yes, this is exactly what I was trying to convey upthread (post 841). Progression in 4e is not about bigger bonuses, but about a combination of mechanical minutiae (the balrog's aura, etc) and the fiction that accompanies and is generated by that.


I think the game's mechanics make a huge difference.

I mentioned upthread that every Rolemaster table has a tale of how a double-open-ended roll saved the party's bacon. One that I remember is when the PCs were all down but for one, the martial artist, who was at huge penalties (-70-ish?) inside a fire storm confronting the largely uninjured bad guy. The martial artist's initiative comes up, the player rolls, double-open-ended and so overcomes his penalties and hits the bad guy for an 'E' crit, and then rolls 80+ on the crit: the bad guy is dead, and the PCs saved!

This is a fiction that can't be achieved in any version of D&D, because they don't have the death spiral penalties, nor the crit-rather-than-hit-point mechanics, to make it possible. Part of the appeal of Rolemaster (and similar games - Burning Wheel has some commonalities here, and HARP is a deliberate RM derivative) is that this sort of thing is possible.

The fiction of 4e combat, and especially paragon an epic combat, is something that I think is intimately tied to its mechanics, and hard to emulate in other systems. Especially the sense of digging deep, deep and drawing on everything you've got. The way player resources are allocated and their use rationed is a huge part of this, for instance.

Playing AD&D, for instance, when the fighter player rolls a 19 and hits and kills the Type VI demon the GM can narrate that the fighter drew deep on his/her reserves and won: but the player won't have actually lived that experience. Whereas a 4e player who is invested in the resource management elements of the game will have.

So I can see where AbdulAlhazred is coming from. This also, to me at least, seems to fit with what [MENTION=996]Tony Vargas[/MENTION] has posted upthread about the affinity between 5e and classic adventures like Hommlet, Barrier Peaks, etc, which I feel don't push the fiction in the sort of way that paragon and epic 4e does.
I didn't claim the mechanics have no relation to the fiction... I claimed "awesome" fiction could be attached to the mechanics of almost any game... Now if we're speaking to a particular definition or opinion of awesome then cool, but that needs to be defined and stated upfront, and is then in the realm of pure subjectivity... as I said earlier in the thread, some of the "awesome" of 4e struck me and my players as gonzo silly or so over the top it became cartoony...
 

Imaro

Adventurer
I don't think there's anything horribly wrong with the way 5e does things, it just focuses much more on numbers. Everything seems to be about whether or not you can get the hard DC. I don't think the story in our game is bad, but mostly I just miss the way in the 4e game we could pull crazy stuff that I wouldn't dare to even try now.

Perhaps you should discuss the tone of your campaign with your DM... since he sets the DC's for any particular action... isn't it him determining whether the crazy stuff that you want to pull off is viabe or not? Maybe he doesn't want to run a gonzo campaign... maybe he doesn't know you all want a gonzo campaign, either way I'm missing why it's a function of the 5e rules that you aren't trying to pull off the things you want to...
 
And if that's how 4E was presented, and actually played, then I would have significantly fewer problems with it.
It's a little late for you to be realizing it now, but, yes to both. The encounter guidelines in 4e did include creatures of higher or lower level. Conservatively, no more than level +4 or less than level -2, but when you're talking a party at 4th, and the same party at 9th, yeah, no problem. A monster on the high end of what the party could handle at 4th is at the low end of what's appropriate to challenge them at 9th. I've had it happen many times that players encounter the same sort of monster - even the same enemy, if it escaped past encounters - again at higher level.

Really, I only ever had three or four issues (and only one or two dealbreakers) when it came to 4E, but the guarantee that there must be exactly one mechanical representation of any fictional element was right at the top of the list.
Yeah, 4e was never going to give you that one. It's just too limiting. Really, few games are that badly designed.

If you got rid of monsters that changed stats depending on your level, and the different math for PCs and NPCs - I don't mind if NPCs are simpler, as long as they have the same HP and bonuses - then I would consider the game almost playable.
Yeah, /getting rid/ of options other people use because they offend your narrow sensibilities, not a great idea. Not for 4e, which was trying to broaden and grow the market, not even for 5e which is trying to be inclusive. You can take a game like 4e or 5e, that presents options you don't want, and not use those options. You really can. You won't go to hell. Well, for that.
 

EthanSental

Explorer
Like many have already said, nothing to me sucks outright. A few things I've house ruled for personal and group flavor is all.
 

Denys

Visitor
Can I just go on record and state that I really, really hate the title of this thread. Frames the conversation for 5e bashing and if I wanted that I'd go to rpg.net.
 

Nifft

Penguin Herder
I mentioned upthread that every Rolemaster table has a tale of how a double-open-ended roll saved the party's bacon. One that I remember is when the PCs were all down but for one, the martial artist, who was at huge penalties (-70-ish?) inside a fire storm confronting the largely uninjured bad guy. The martial artist's initiative comes up, the player rolls, double-open-ended and so overcomes his penalties and hits the bad guy for an 'E' crit, and then rolls 80+ on the crit: the bad guy is dead, and the PCs saved!

(...)

Playing AD&D, for instance, when the fighter player rolls a 19 and hits and kills the Type VI demon the GM can narrate that the fighter drew deep on his/her reserves and won: but the player won't have actually lived that experience.
Just noting the incongruity here: from a mechanical perspective, in your Rolemaster example, a player rolled dice twice and one-hit-killed a boss monster. You think that's good and that the player "lived that experience".

Your second example is a player rolling dice once, and one-hit-killing a (boss?) monster. You think that's bad and this player did not "live that experience".

The mechanics in the first (good) example were: get two unusually lucky rolls.
The mechanics in the second (bad) example were: get one unusually lucky roll.

I suspect that the differences which cause you to think the "good" experience was good are not only the mechanics.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
I have some trouble following this.

I mean, if you strip all the fiction off the mechanics, yes, they are nothing more than minutiae. But that seems equally true of 5e.
Speaking in terms of default modes...

A DC 20 obstacle has an inherent meaning in the fiction of 5e, across levels and adventures, that stays the same - it is always a Hard obstacle, in terms of the world. That means that if you have a 95% chance to beat that DC, then you are a MASTER at that task because you have reduced Hard actions to mere trivialities. Meanwhile, if you have a 5% chance to do it, then you have a long way to go before you can call yourself skilled at that task, son.

In 4e, a DC 20 obstacle doesn't have an inherent meaning in the world, it is assigned meaning by the DM based on the circumstances it's encountered in. It might be hard for level 1 characters (DM: "Oh, it's an insidious dwarven design made from adamantium!"). It might be easy for a level 10 character (DM: "Oh, it's some rusty tin thing.") It might also have the same meaning (In both cases, the DM describes it as adamantium and dwarven), but that's only by fiat, according to what the DM wants, not inherent to the mechanics. It might also have wildly inappropriate meanings that are nonetheless relevant to the challenge (4e had examples of high-level "guards" and low-level "threats to the entire world" in its run).

The latter design is greatly flexible, because its fiction is largely irrelevant - what matters to the game is the maths. The former design is not quite as flexible, but it grants that achievement-juice much more directly and with less reliance on individual DMs to patch it up. And it can be turned into the latter system with very little effort.

I mean, how is "Roll with your +3 bonus; you need a total of 12 to succeed" turning into "Roll with your +9 bonus; you need a total of 12 to succeed" some dramatic experience, if no fiction is attached?
I'm not sure how seriously to take this. Even in a fictionless system, that movement - from +3 to +9 against the same target number - shows at the very least that the player has done some action to move that bonus and has thus given their chance for success a meaningful boost. If a player cares about success (it's a game, roll more than 12), then that's going to be a reward for whatever action they've done, a feeling of accomplishment.

It's a bit Skinner Box at that level (especially with the undefined action), but it is absolutely tied to ideas of flow and achievement and reward and success and all of that can be pretty dramatic. I mean, if they had to, I dunno, eat increasingly gross things to get that six-point movement, it would be an approval of their gastronomical bravery and their intestinal fortitude.

It seems kind of baldly obvious to me that fiction isn't directly relevant for that emotional goal of achievement.

4e is not very lottery-focused, but that doesn't mean that unexpectedness is not an important part of the game!
IMXP, its systems as presented in the rulebooks rarely tolerate much of the unexpected. Indeed, I find more than a bit of a "tournament" mentality in a lot of 4e: make everything level and equal and remove many of the variables, keep everything smooth, all of those oddities are distractions.

AbdulAlhazred said:
Its not a 'wash', its a genuine change in the narrative fiction.
A change in narrative fiction can feel hollow and meaningless absent a mechanical relevance. And the change in narrative fiction between a balor and an orc has little mechanical relevance (more complex, but the same balance).

AbdulAlhazred said:
If this is 'a wash' then it was just as much a wash when you did it in 1e or in 5e because in every edition all that happens is you get some bigger numbers and slightly different powers. That's how the game works! 4e just wasn't shy about it.
That's not how the game works anymore.

In 5e, you could take that balor on at level 10 and come away with your lives if you're clever about it. In 4e (and most earlier e's), you lack the prerequisites for that encounter, so it will simply crush you.

That's one of the significant changes bounded accuracy brings in - it's not just bigger numbers and different powers, it's a true change relative to the campaign world according to the RAW.

AbdulAlhazred said:
I think you know what I mean. The mechanics ARE there supporting you, they're just not dictating how the game has to develop. There are many different fictions which the same basic mechanics support
I don't think I do know what you mean. If the mechanics fall away, then they don't do much support, they just disappear and are subsumed into the fiction and thus become pretty meaningless. Mechanics that are generic to the point of supporting "many different fictions" are not good at evoking one specific fiction (and vice-versa).

AbdulAlhazred said:
I class this sort of thing in the same category as the old "all 4e characters are the same, they're all wizards" nonsense. It betrays an inability or unwillingness to engage with the qualitative differences in the fiction between, in this case, high and low levels. There really are quite different elements that come into play.
Fiction differences without significant mechanical relevance are at risk of being irrelevant to the players. If all the balor's aura is doing is making sure I'm of a requisite level to have a regen effect that counteracts it, it's a "different element" that doesn't actually do anything. +15 * 2 will counteract -30 and is different than +2 and -4+2, but if it's always going to come out to be zero regardless, that's just pointless fiddling.

Not everyone experiences this (especially more narrative-focused tables), but you'd be wrong to assert that this kind of criticism is "nonsense" just because you're personally ignorant of it.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Yeah, 4e was never going to give you that one. It's just too limiting. Really, few games are that badly designed.
Shadowrun, GURPS, Rifts, the entire d20 line...

It's taking a pretty radical stance for a game to consciously decide to include multiple methods for representing the same reality. Honestly, I agree that few games are that badly designed.

Yeah, /getting rid/ of options other people use because they offend your narrow sensibilities, not a great idea.
Presentation matters. The PC rules were so far off from the NPC rules in 4E that trying to reconcile them was impractical. To contrast, 5E presents the changes as a mere simplifications of the same underlying reality. One way is easy to ignore, and the other caused a major schism in the player base.

That's off-topic, though. This thread is about things that are bad in 5E, and easily-reconciled rules are not a bad thing.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Likewise. The single biggest thing that turned me off was that I had a DM who halved all the monster HP and doubled their damage to "speed up combat." That's partly a DM issue but it was apparently common advice for 4E DMs, encouraged partly by 4E already having divergent rules for PCs and monsters.
I recently started listening to Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, and they endorsed that house rule for the duration of their 4E campaign. It's fun because you can follow the common arc of 4E players: Starting out with optimism, then growing frustrated with the slow combats, to implementing house rules, and eventually moving on to another game around the time they would hit Paragon level.

As far as house rules go, though, I understand that this was a common one.
 

tyrlaan

Visitor
Shadowrun, GURPS, Rifts, the entire d20 line...

It's taking a pretty radical stance for a game to consciously decide to include multiple methods for representing the same reality. Honestly, I agree that few games are that badly designed.
I'd say that it's not bad design, just design you didn't care for.

Personally, I eked miles upon miles of use out of the 4e monster/NPC rules. I found them incredibly flexible to make whatever I wanted to present to my players. I didn't need one set of stats for "Joe Ogre", I just knew where ogres fell on the overall power curve of the campaign and went from there.

Presentation matters. The PC rules were so far off from the NPC rules in 4E that trying to reconcile them was impractical. To contrast, 5E presents the changes as a mere simplifications of the same underlying reality. One way is easy to ignore, and the other caused a major schism in the player base.

That's off-topic, though. This thread is about things that are bad in 5E, and easily-reconciled rules are not a bad thing.
You know it was by design that PC and NPCs used different rules to build them, right? I can understand if you didn't like that about 4e, but knowing that they used different mechanics to build, I'm no sure why you'd ever try to reconcile them.
 

tyrlaan

Visitor
I've done a whole lot of replying but I don't think I've ever posted in here the things I don't like about 5e. And while the current conversation, which is a lot of game philosophy chat, is interesting, I thought I'd provide something a bit more on topic.

Here's my list of dislikes:
  • Incompleteness. Example, the available domains for clerics
  • Spell Descriptions. After playing casters in 3e, or others playing casters in games I was in, I got very tired of the whole looking up spells process. Granted the intricacies of spells are way less now than they were then, but I like when game rules can be fit on a card (in a reasonable font) and don't require flipping through books to refer to.
  • Return of the Fighter/Mage "dynamic"
  • Inconsistent resource regeneration across the classes and races. Example, the bard (pre 5th at least) has to wait for a long rest for everything to recharge. A warlock gets their spells back after a short rest. A tiefling has to wait for a long rest to reuse hellish rebuke, while a dragonborn can breath fire again after a short rest. Variation of resource regeneration times is fine, but if you're the one guy in a party that has to wait for a long rest and the remainder of the group is good after a short rest, you're in for some boring encounters or everyone's going to just go for the long rest....and enters the 15 minute adventuring day.
  • Spells in monster stat blocks. Ties back to my distaste for referring to spell descriptions.
  • CR calculation process. Maybe it works, I've had no need to use it, but it seems like a dramatic hit to GM prep time.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
You know it was by design that PC and NPCs used different rules to build them, right? I can understand if you didn't like that about 4e, but knowing that they used different mechanics to build, I'm no sure why you'd ever try to reconcile them.
Because I liked D&D, and this was D&D, and I felt that I could force the round peg into the square hole if I tried hard enough.

For those of us who weren't used to such a massive revision to the rules, we could have benefited more from them screaming loudly that this version was a radical departure from everything that came before it, and that my kind was no longer welcome here.
 

Bluenose

Adventurer
I don't see how creating amazing fiction around mechanics is a component of the particular game (especially a game where the fiction is called out as being mutable)... Any good DM can do this with nearly any game
I'm with Gaius Julius Caesar, "Let the dice fly". If that creates stories - fiction - that I want to tell afterwards then I'll do that, but it will be based on what happened in the game. As such, what the game does or doesn't do largely determines the sort of fiction that I could make of it. Which means that the mechanics and the probability curve they create of a particular game is exactly what determines the type of fiction I create and how "amazing" it can be. The fiction, after all, has to maintain a sense of plausibility just as much as the game.
 
Shadowrun, GURPS, Rifts, the entire d20 line...
Not so much, no. What you're asking for is an absolute 1:1 correspondence. As long as you stick to a list, you might be OK, but the moment you set foot on ground not completely, precisely covered by the rules, you're in trouble. 5e starts out on that ground, because the alternative is just too limiting and rules-heavy.

The PC rules were so far off from the NPC rules in 4E that trying to reconcile them was impractical.
It would be impractical to try to reconcile rules for jet aircraft and pasta makers, too. There's nothing to reconcile, they're different, they have entirely different functions in the context of the game. 5e, fortunately also recognizes that difference.


Speaking in terms of default modes...

A DC 20 obstacle has an inherent meaning in the fiction of 5e, across levels and adventures, that stays the same - it is always a Hard obstacle, in terms of the world. That means that if you have a 95% chance to beat that DC, then you are a MASTER at that task because you have reduced Hard actions to mere trivialities.
Yet, he somehow says "wow, that was hard?" No, it was easy for him, routine.


In 4e, a DC 20 obstacle doesn't have an inherent meaning in the world, it is assigned meaning by the DM based on the circumstances it's encountered in. It might be hard for level 1 characters (DM: "Oh, it's an insidious dwarven design made from adamantium!"). It might be easy for a level 10 character (DM: "Oh, it's some rusty tin thing.")
'Easy' for a 10th level character, means easy /for a 10th level character/. Hard for a level 1 character means only that, in the context of the typical skill levels at 1st level. DC 20 is DC 20, regardless. It might represent any of a variety of equally-difficult locks, of course, but that's because d20 (3e, 4e, 5e, whatever) simply doesn't have the granularity to give every possible lock in the universe a unique DC.

It might also have the same meaning (In both cases, the DM describes it as adamantium and dwarven)
Very likely. Well, probably not adamantine, that material shows itself at higher levels. It might be the same lock. Two identical locks. Or two comparable locks of identical (to the level of granularity allowed in d20) difficulty.

Here's another example.

It is /easy/ to see that a DC 20 lock may be hard for a low-level character to open, easy for a high level one, and difficult for untrained persons in general to open. Yet, to the willfully ignorant, it may be /hard/ to admit that. The difficulty varies with the context of the person attempting the task.

Person with an ounce of common sense trying to understand this concept: easy.

Person with no sense of proportion desperately trying to find fault where none exists: hard.

The latter design is greatly flexible, because its fiction is largely irrelevant - what matters to the game is the maths. The former design is not quite as flexible, but it grants that achievement-juice much more directly and with less reliance on individual DMs to patch it up.
The is, in fact, no difference. Both systems are d20 vs a target number. Both depend on the DM to choose that target number.

And it can be turned into the latter system with very little effort.
And vice-versa, because they're both just d20.




IMXP, its systems as presented in the rulebooks rarely tolerate much of the unexpected. Indeed, I find more than a bit of a "tournament" mentality in a lot of 4e: make everything level and equal and remove many of the variables, keep everything smooth, all of those oddities are distractions.
You find what you go looking for. If you look long enough, hard enough, and ignore all contrary evidence.


A change in narrative fiction can feel hollow and meaningless absent a mechanical relevance. And the change in narrative fiction between a balor and an orc has little mechanical relevance (more complex, but the same balance).
Nonsense.

There are going to be roughly equivalent relative challenges in any system. A 1st level 5e fighter and a 10th level one will hit different ACs with the same natural roll. That doesn't make those different ACs 'the same.' That holds true whether you're on the Bounded Accuracy reservation, or running on the treadmill, or using THAC0 or BAB.

Balor and ordinary orc are not among them in any edition of D&D, regardless of the the relative power of the PCs, or the natural die roll they hit them on. Orcs just effing hit things. They're like 5e fighters, that way. Balors have a laundry list of special abilities - they have more laundry (90% of which don't matter when it's banished or annihilated in one round) in some eds than others, but there's always a lot more to it than an orc.

In 5e, you could take that balor on at level 10 and come away with your lives if you're clever about it. In 4e (and most earlier e's), you lack the prerequisites for that encounter, so it will simply crush you.
Yes. There is much more room for meaningful advancement in 4e. It's a downside of bounded accuracy. 30 levels vs 20 will do that, too. It's unfortunate that you can't have a Balor in 5e that lives up to it's fearsome rep, but can be ganked by a large enough number of lower-level attackers fairly efficiently. It's up to the DM to cover that particular system weakness.

Oh, or 5e gives so much more advancement because characters gain twice as many hps over 2/3rds as many levels and their damage balloons similarly.

Take your pick.

That's one of the significant changes bounded accuracy brings in - it's not just bigger numbers and different powers, it's a true change relative to the campaign world according to the RAW.
Again, you're spouting nonsense. For one thing, 5e 'RAW' is just a starting point, you're expected to deviate from it all the time, so 'true change according to the RAW' is pretty thoroughly meaningless. For another, pretending that gaining a +20 over 20 level is less of a change than gaining +4 over 20 levels, because the DM in the former case has better tools to design challenges, is just pretending.

Not everyone experiences this (especially more narrative-focused tables), but you'd be wrong to assert that this kind of criticism is "nonsense" just because you're personally ignorant of it.
It's nonsense because it makes no sense. It's not a matter of ignorance on anyone's part - the d20 rules are simply not that obscure.

You can pretend that a game where the fighter hits an orc on a natural 8 and, many levels latter a balor on a natural 8, is totally different from a game in which a fighter hits an orc an a natural 9, and, many levels later, hits a balor on a natural 9, and that one is therefor 'better' than the other, but that's all you're doing: pretending.


The reality is that 5e and 4e do basically the same thing: they advance all characters trained skills, and proficient attacks at the same steady rate, regardless of class. That's different from 3.x, and earlier eds, where your class made a big difference to the rate at which your attacks and skills (if you had any) advanced. 4e has more rapid numerical advancement over a wider level range, 5e's is much slower over somewhat fewer levels. That's little more than cosmetic, though it does have some consequences when it comes to designing encounters.
 
Can I just go on record and state that I really, really hate the title of this thread. Frames the conversation for 5e bashing and if I wanted that I'd go to rpg.net.
Of course it does! The thread was started by a guy who's been an infamous (nay, legendary) troll at least since the days of Usenet, in the late 1990s.
 
I recently started listening to Happy Jacks RPG Podcast, and they endorsed that house rule for the duration of their 4E campaign. It's fun because you can follow the common arc of 4E players: Starting out with optimism, then growing frustrated with the slow combats, to implementing house rules, and eventually moving on to another game around the time they would hit Paragon level.

As far as house rules go, though, I understand that this was a common one.
I understand too that it was a common one, and it was dreadful. It would have been smarter of the DM to tell us to double all our damage but halve our HP--psychologically that would make players feel tough compared to the puny monsters dealing weak damage. Instead, low-level monsters would shoot us with crossbows and I would be like, "Whoa! That monster just did twice as much damage with a single shot as any of us can do! Clearly we are outmatched." and then later the monster would turn out to be a glass cannon. It was a bad experience, and it has other effects too: I remember there was an ability which some races had to reduce damage taken by IIRC 5 HP every encounter or so by expending a minor action (I think?). The damage-doubling rule made that ability a pointless waste of the action economy. It was also quite obvious that mind-controlling monsters into killing each other would be a much better use of our resources than fighting them directly. In short, that quiet, barely-announced house rule was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back for me: nothing about the world was consistent or made sense. I'm simulationist at heart, and that game at that table was definitely not well-suited for simulationists. So I went back to GURPS and non-RPG activities, until 5E.
 
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Not so much, no. What you're asking for is an absolute 1:1 correspondence. As long as you stick to a list, you might be OK, but the moment you set foot on ground not completely, precisely covered by the rules, you're in trouble. 5e starts out on that ground, because the alternative is just too limiting and rules-heavy.
I think you missed Saelorn's point. He said that a given fictional element should have only one mechanical representation. That doesn't mean that it couldn't have had other representations, only that it doesn't. In short, there's an objective game-world reality there and not a Schrodinger's Ogre which re-stats itself depending on who is looking at it. That is absolutely how GURPS and Shadowrun work. A Shadowrun Force-7 air spirit is a Force-7 air spirit. The DM could have created a Force-7 spirit of Man instead and made it play largely the same role, but he didn't.

From the way you respond it sounds as if you're discussing ambiguity from the DM's perspective: "which mechanical representation of my concept should I choose?" That's not what Saelorn is talking about.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
It would be impractical to try to reconcile rules for jet aircraft and pasta makers, too. There's nothing to reconcile, they're different, they have entirely different functions in the context of the game.
A wizard PC is fundamentally the same entity as a wizard NPC. There is nothing within the game world to distinguish them. It would be like trying to reconcile one brand of pasta maker with another brand of pasta maker; the differences are based entirely on things that exist within reality.

Unless you're playing in some weird world, where the PCs literally are different - something like Exalted, perhaps - but that's nothing to do with D&D. In D&D, a wizard is a wizard.
 
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pemerton

Legend
My response would be to hit him with a physics textbook and tell him to come back when he understand the concepts and not just the jargon.

It's not an edition difference, it's about tolerance for technobabble.
I'm not so interested in the details of the physics - obviously it's all nonsense - but in the question of how that sort of thing, using powerful magic for improvisational purposes, is handled in 5e.

Another example would be using a Cyclonic Vortex to suck in the energy radiating from a dead fire drake to turn a finely crafted horn into a Fire Horn; or using a possession spell to read a target's mind and thereby learn a password.

I think there are some system differences that matter - such as 5e's approach to DCs, and its approach to spells (and perhaps class abilities?) but I'm not sure exactly what difference they make and would be interested in thoughts/experiences.
 

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