D&D 5E Why Don't We Simplify 5e?

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I think that's a valid concern. BUT I do think 5e, particularly the DMG, could be MUCH better organized and explained.

The system isn't THAT complicated but you wouldn't know it by the way the DMG is organized! If you don't know what you're looking for, good luck finding it!

Better organization, better examples of the play loop and overall better presentation in the DMG would essentially simply the game by showing it's not as complicated as it appears.
The light/vision/stealth/darkness/invisibility interactions certainly could be better explained...
 

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One way to reduce the at-the-table complexity of spells would be to limit horizontal growth: basically, without even changing the spells much, you could make wizards a lot easier to play if they aren't prepping 30 spells out of 49 and casting up to 29 each day... okay that's at 20th but it's still a lot.

I think the upper limit of broad choices without causing issues is somewhere in the mid-teens, based on how many classes people seem to able to work through without getting confused. Which means that a max-level full caster, between spells prepped, subclass features and magic items shouldn't go past 15 or so 'spells' to pick from during play.
I'd like a maximum of 20 character features (that is, racial traits, background features, class features, skill, feats, and spells...20 altogether). And a maximum of 20 encumbrance slots (=STR score; can temporarily carry double that, with Disadvantage on all checks, a la The Black Hack). So a maximum of 40 actionable things on the character sheet.

Even at epic levels, the 20 character features just get boosted and boosted.
 
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Horwath

Hero
I'd like a maximum of 20 character features (that is, racial traits, background features, class features, skill, feats, and spells...20 altogether). And a maximum of 20 encumbrance slots (=STR score; can temporarily carry double that, with Disadvantage on all checks, a la The Black Hack). So a maximum of 40 actionable things on the character sheet.

Even at epic levels, the 20 character features just get boosted and boosted.
there is character for that, it's called; Human, Fighter(champion).
or, if you want spellcaster that is simple, take Human, Sorcerer(draconic)

some of us want to play Drow elf clerics with Shadow touched, Fey touched, Telekinetic, Telepathic and Magic initiate feats
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I think that's a valid concern. BUT I do think 5e, particularly the DMG, could be MUCH better organized and explained.

The system isn't THAT complicated but you wouldn't know it by the way the DMG is organized! If you don't know what you're looking for, good luck finding it!

Better organization, better examples of the play loop and overall better presentation in the DMG would essentially simply the game by showing it's not as complicated as it appears.
Unfortunately... I have the strong feeling that WotC is again too focused on updating the rules and the narrative of the game for the 50th year edition, and they aren't talking much about improving the organization/explanation of the books. If you ask them, sure they'll say it's very important but I would bet anything that the next version of core books will still have 90% of the issues related to presentation.

Back to your older comment, complexity is not only in character choices.

(1) Surely, the more choices at character building and levelling up are part of the complexity, but these are supposed to be a matter of concern only once every few sessions, and can be dealt with all the time you have between sessions to avoid sluggish.

(2) Definitely of bigger concern are in-game character's choices. Having 20 different possible actions (abilities, spells etc) to choose from makes the game clearly more complex than having 2-3 only.

(3) There is finally action resolution which plays IMO the biggest part in increasing complexity. This includes abilities that have intrinsically long rules, such as spells with many variables to choose before even casting and/or details to check before figuring out how they went. And it also includes exception-based mechanics...

Think for example of bonus actions. They are an exception to the default "1 action + 1 move" per turn. Not everyone has bonus actions to do, technically everyone can do 2WF but it is not worth without some dedicated ability, however a character with a free hand could start thinking why not just popping out a dagger for an extra attack and put it back by exploiting the one-free-object-interaction rule (which is supposed to be a kind of "green card rule" and is already likely to trigger some discussion... see how complexity is already creeping in?). Then you need to actually know how light, regular and heavy weapons work or not with 2WF, and what (exceptional) abilities you might have that modify the situation. But let's say you instead have a bonus action spell you cast, then you could think you're able to cast another with your regular action but it can only cast a cantrip. So you have a mechanic that works as an exception with a built-in exception-of-an-exception, or whatever you want to call it.

---

The game could be better, but instead of trying to change the mechanics (which is... complicated!) I still stand for my previous opinion that it is easier to IGNORE options or rules.

An obvious way to lessen problems 1 and 2 is play the game at lower levels. Don't go to higher levels until everyone is comfortable with more complexity.

Then, I find that PHB races have too much baggage at once. I don't like that Human is the only low-complexity option, but since I normally play with casuals I always let them narratively play any race while using human stats (variant or not) to stay simple. But it is still missing something more unique for each non-human so at least I am allowing Xanathar racial feats to be taken with this option, and I'm thinking of also letting them choose one of their race core PHB trait in place of the feat, and swap the bonus skill with darkvision if appropriate. The result is simpler than the PHB version of each race but the price to pay is more time spent at character creation.

Then for everything else, the best a DM can do is figuring out herself what are the low-complexity options and suggest them to players who are afraid of complexity. Compile a list of simplest spells by class, identify the simplest class/subclasse features choice (when they have to be selected) etc and only show these to that kind of players so that they both have a more limited set of choices, and they will be the easiest ones during play.
 

Of course that assumes all of those things could be converted into a simpler system and still maintain their distinction. I am, shall we say, dubious.
Im sure all the races, classes, monsters and spells could be converted. Because TBH and ICRPG have all of those.

Certain weapons might have the same stats, and just be cosmetic options. But this is true in 5E too.

Skills and feats tho might not be included.
 

there is character for that, it's called; Human, Fighter(champion).
right, and in Simple DnD all classes would have that same format.
some of us want to play Drow elf clerics with Shadow touched, Fey touched, Telekinetic, Telepathic and Magic initiate feats
Just make the character free to multi class and multi race. And also free to substitute feats for class features and racial traits. But still have only 20 slots total for a 20th+ level character.
 

Horwath

Hero
Just make the character free to multi class and multi race. And also free to substitute feats for class features and racial traits. But still have only 20 slots total for a 20th+ level character.
but I want a character with 9 cantrips and 43 prepared/known spells.
Plus and additional non spellcasting features that 20th level character has.
 

but I want a character with 9 cantrips and 43 prepared/known spells.
Plus and additional non spellcasting features that 20th level character has.
Well, I hope I don't sound too cheeky when I lovingly say: there's another thread for that...it's called D&D 5E! Your wants are fulfilled!
 

I think that's a valid concern. BUT I do think 5e, particularly the DMG, could be MUCH better organized and explained.

Could be. I'm only passingly familiar with 5e.

But I am familiar with PF2e (which he included in his suggestion), and most of the Ancestries and the like are not complicated for the hell of it there, but to make the actual distinctions that are desired for their being separate to mean something.

This is the general reaction I have to a lot of OSR and, honestly, lightweight games in the first place; at some point if you want distinctions to be anything but color, there has to be some mechanical overhead on that (or largely arbitrary GM management, which I know is considered a virtue in some parts of that sphere, but not to me). That doesn't mean a lot of games couldn't do a better job, at least in places, in how they arrange or explain things, but the idea that there's lots of pointless complication just doesn't seem to pass the sniff test from where I sit.
 

Im sure all the races, classes, monsters and spells could be converted. Because TBH and ICRPG have all of those.

Certain weapons might have the same stats, and just be cosmetic options. But this is true in 5E too.

Skills and feats tho might not be included.

Since that wouldn't have been clear from my response, I'm primarily talking about how trying to simplify PF2e material would work. And the key isn't "could they be converted" but "would the conversion be worthwhile when you were done." The only way that works if you assume the mechanical overhead on the current versions is pointless in places. That's not a view I share.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Could be. I'm only passingly familiar with 5e.

But I am familiar with PF2e (which he included in his suggestion), and most of the Ancestries and the like are not complicated for the hell of it there, but to make the actual distinctions that are desired for their being separate to mean something.

This is the general reaction I have to a lot of OSR and, honestly, lightweight games in the first place; at some point if you want distinctions to be anything but color, there has to be some mechanical overhead on that (or largely arbitrary GM management, which I know is considered a virtue in some parts of that sphere, but not to me). That doesn't mean a lot of games couldn't do a better job, at least in places, in how they arrange or explain things, but the idea that there's lots of pointless complication just doesn't seem to pass the sniff test from where I sit.

It's not pointless complication.

It's complication without adequate explanation, a different issue.
 


Mort

Legend
Supporter
No, I've seen people outright say its pointless in a lot of cases. Which usually added up to "Its making a distinction I don't care about."

Ok,

but you quoted my post about how proper cataloging, indexing and explanation can reduce the perceived complexity of 5e. That's what my post was talking about.
 

No, I've seen people outright say its pointless in a lot of cases. Which usually added up to "Its making a distinction I don't care about."

I care about and respect PF2's nitty gritty distinctions in the context of a PF2 game. I own the game, though haven't played it. The closest thing I've played or DMed was 3.0, back in the day. I think PF2 is a great game--the most complex but thoroughly though-out iteration of D&D ever. I like it a lot. And I can see why those distinctions are there for the audience that Paizo is aiming for. And why those mechanical distinctions are there, in the context of the evolution from 3.5 to 3.75 to PF2. Well done.

Yet, I'm simply not that audience. Nor are most of the folks who I game with. I don't have the brain-space / time-space to master the game. Also, I have no interest in needing a laptop at the table to run the game. I'm not very computer oriented.

Despite the quality of the PF2 game, and of Paizo as a company, I'm not planning to pick up further PF products, unless I happen to buy an adventure to convert to whatever system I'm using. I've heard good things about the PF adventure arcs.

Here are my interests:

I began DMing BECMI when I was 9 years old. Then switched to 2E and 3.0. We've been playing 5E for a couple years. But honestly, it's too complicated for my table, at this time in my life. With a new job, co-conducting two choirs, etc.

It's true: I don't care about about the fiddly bits. Who cares about GP, XP, encumbrance, etc? I don't care. It's not wrong that some people care. But I don't. There is quite a lot about 5E that I don't care about. That stuff is just in my way. It bogs down our play, and fries our brains, and, in the past, has stoked arguments.

Here's what I do care about:

I love running groups through classic D&D adventures: Isle of Dread, Sanctuary of Elwyn the Ardent, Caves of Chaos, Palace of the Silver Princess, etc. In my experience, even playing a freeform LARP version of these adventures using only a deck of cards, feels like D&D.

I love the D&D Multiverse, as a multi-world setting. All the different worlds, from Mystara to Nerath to Krynn. And my/our homebrew world: The Shared World.

I love the character options -- races and classes -- as roleplaying handles. My PCs include a frogfolk, a half-ogre, a halfling shade, an awakened cat, and part-leprechaun/part-human. Also, in our world, you can "multi-race" at any time: "Hey, I just realized I have a leprechaun ancestor!" I honestly don't care much about the mechanics. Only a little bit.

I also love adventures, of all sorts. Besides the classic D&D modules, I bring in whatever I find, and place it on the ever expanding map of our homebrew world. The Shared World is a patchwork of all the modules we've played, and thereby includes everything from Phandolin to the Duchy of Berghof from the UK series to the Grand Duchy of Karameikos from the B series, to pieces of Faerun, to third-party regional maps from Goodman Games and Kobold Press. If we played it, it's on the map.

I'm adventure oriented: I value the adventure stories more than I do the particular ruleset. In the same campaign, we've run 5E, BX, Heroes & Monsters, and White Hack...and especially freeform LARP. The latter involves traipsing through fields and wood with only a deck of cards. But it's all in the same D&D world.

So that's what I do care about.

I'm especially interested in this thread because I'm prepping to run some open/public D&D at the local food co-op. And the folks who are signing up may have no technical interest. I want to provide an enjoyable experience. A "D&D-like" experience. That may not require much more than 6 ability scores.

So, I'm really enjoying the topic of this thread. People have made some great comments and ideas.
 
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Yet, I'm simply not that audience. Nor are most of the folks who I game with. I don't have the brain-space / time-space to master the game. Also, I have no interest in needing a laptop at the table to run the game. I'm not very computer oriented.

That's entirely reasonable. I'm just noting two things in regard to it:

1. There are absolutely people (and apparently a fair number of them) both generally among rules-light gamers and specifically among some parts of OS gamers, who clearly think there is no useful point to increased complexity, and either disregard people for whom there is, think they're kidding themselves, or think they don't matter; and

2. Sometimes the pieces of rope don't meet in the middle. A particular ancestry, class or other construct can sometimes only work or at least have any point because of fine distinctions or complexities that cannot be simplified out and still have there be a point in them.
 

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