D&D 5E Why my friends hate talking to me about 5e.

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Wait, who said you’ll lose characters more often than not?
If you won't actually lose your character to a fight, how can it be considered such a serious fail state? How can it be a "death spiral" if there isn't, y'know, death at the end of it?

By the proposed exhaustion rule, for example, you literally only need to be reduced to 0 HP six times in a single day in order to instantly die. Due to the amount of damage opponents can pump out (particularly at levels 1-3 when characters are fragile and the swingingy distribution is turned up to 11), you are nearly guaranteed to get multiple levels of exhaustion each day that combat occurs. The first level of exhaustion (essentially) guarantees you will always lose Initiative (because Initiative is a Dexterity check, so you have disadvantage on it). The second guarantees you won't be able to run away fast enough to escape any enemies hunting you down--and you'll need two whole days of rest to get back to normal. Three levels essentially guarantees you won't hit with attack rolls, and four halves your maximum HP, making death essentially guaranteed if you try to fight an opponent that can hit you with attacks or spells.

Realistically, one you hit exhaustion 5, it's game over because your speed is 0. Healing in 5e cannot keep up with incoming damage (as I mentioned before), so if you actually manage to get 5 levels of exhaustion, you're dead as soon as something can hit you. And because of that halved maximum HP, they need to drop you even less in order to kill you outright regardless of death saves. E.g. a level 1 Barbarian with 20 Con (rolled 18 for stat + taking Custom Lineage and the Tough feat) has 12+5+2 = 19 hit points. Half of that, even rounded up, is 10 (and IIRC the rule is actually that we should round down). That means an attack which deals 10 damage more than whatever your current HP is will kill the toughest possible level 1 character outright if they're already at 4 levels of exhaustion. Instant death, no saves, and there isn't even revivify available yet to fix it. For the vast majority of characters, that number is going to be closer to 5-6. That's not even going to require a crit; for many low-level creatures, all that they'd need is one solid hit while you're at less than full HP.

So...yeah. I said what I meant. Most combats are very likely to cost the party at least one member in the early game with these rules. And every party member you lose accelerates your own demise.

Under the premise of these rules, what's the point of the Fighter class? You're made for doing a thing that gets you killed. A lot. Like, getting into more than one or two fights in a single day is openly suicidal.
 

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James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Really the point of this thread wasn't to engage in the house rule itself, but more to demonstrate how my playgroup feels about the way I analyze the rules. They'll say "wouldn't X be cool" and I'll be like "mmm, not a good idea."

But rather than leave it at that, they press me for my reasons, I go on this long-winded explanation (I blame reading the 1e DMG cover to cover a couple hundred times), and when I'm done, they're like "ugh. couldn't you just say you didn't like it?".

Even thought that's exactly what I did!

Anyways, back to my opinions.

One of the things I always disliked about older D&D was it's need to make death and dying extra punitive. It was present in AD&D, but I never gave it much thought. It wasn't until the 3.x/PF1e era that it really struck me.

In combat, you hide behind a number called "Armor Class". You have a limited amount of ways to increase it. Maybe you can wear armor. Maybe you can wear a shield. Maybe there's a spell you can cast, or you can take a huge penalty to hit for more AC, or maybe there's a Feat. Magic items exist, but each table has a different approach to how players can acquire them, if at all (it's been my experience that most DM's seem to have less idea what magic items the characters need than the players themselves, but quite a few chafe at the idea of letting players select items for themselves).

So ok, you do what you can to increase AC. You ignore half the armor types in the game, because there's always a "best" armor for you (seriously, whoever really wore padded, hide, ring mail, and chain mail?). Now you enter combat, where unless you're super cautious (and sometimes even that can't help you), you pray that enemies don't roll high enough to hit this number.

But they will, fairly often, and you'll take damage. It's all random amounts, and you have no control over how many hit points you have, beyond what Constitution score you were able to give your character, and maybe a Feat like Toughness, which competes with every other possible Feat you could take.

And inevitably, these random amounts of damage you most likely can't do anything about it, will knock you down and now you can no longer play the game.

That's bad enough, but then you get rules about slowly bleeding out and inching closer to death unless some other person can manage to get to you with a healing spell, and then you can play again.

Some DM's feel this is to "unrealistic" (you know, despite the fact that healing spells in of themselves are unrealistic...or hit points in general) and want to tag you with some kind of negative effect on top of this.

But if you actually die, the game continues to want to punish you. Spells that revive you are expensive and drain party or personal resources. They require high level casters who may need to be persuaded to use them in the first place.

Then they often come with penalties for being revived- depending on the edition, maybe you lose permanent Constitution. Or lose levels permanently. Or can get those levels back, but it costs more gold after the fact!

And the whole time this is going on, the player can't even play their character. So I lost count of how many times someone would die and say "you know, the heck with it, I'll just make a new character, it's less of a hassle, and I can get back to playing faster."

Which is the exact opposite of what I wanted to have happen. Not to mention the party then divvying up the loot of the dead character to add to their own resources, which I now had to adjust for, even as a new character with new resources was coming into the game...

So I just find the idea that punishing the player for having the nerve to die is the wrong approach. What did they do wrong, exactly? You could say they were too reckless, perhaps, but ultimately, nobody really wants to go to 0 hit points and then hope the Cleric can get them back up. Nobody wants to be stuck not playing the game.

That's already punishment, if you ask me. Tacking on more penalties will just result in players becoming less willing to take risks. Who will chafe at long adventures without being able to rest frequently. Who won't ever want to press on and enter combats with less than maximum hit points.

If you want "pop up healing" to stop being a thing, you need to give players the ability to do something to prevent it. In 4e, everyone could take an action to Second Wind, for example, once a combat, letting them increase their AC and recover 25% of their hit points.

Now, only a Fighter can do that, and the amount of hit points recovered starts off pretty good, but eventually turns into a band-aid against the increasing damage potential of their enemies.

TLDR: being dropped to 0 hit points is bad. Being healed for a pittance so you just fall over again is bad. Players have no real ability to get healed for enough to matter, nor do they have many tools to prevent being dropped to 0 hit points in the first place. Adding insult to injury doesn't solve these problems.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
If you won't actually lose your character to a fight, how can it be considered such a serious fail state? How can it be a "death spiral" if there isn't, y'know, death at the end of it?
Obviously you can lose a character in a fight, you just aren’t more likely to than not.
By the proposed exhaustion rule, for example, you literally only need to be reduced to 0 HP six times in a single day in order to instantly die. Due to the amount of damage opponents can pump out (particularly at levels 1-3 when characters are fragile and the swingingy distribution is turned up to 11), you are nearly guaranteed to get multiple levels of exhaustion each day that combat occurs. The first level of exhaustion (essentially) guarantees you will always lose Initiative (because Initiative is a Dexterity check, so you have disadvantage on it). The second guarantees you won't be able to run away fast enough to escape any enemies hunting you down--and you'll need two whole days of rest to get back to normal. Three levels essentially guarantees you won't hit with attack rolls, and four halves your maximum HP, making death essentially guaranteed if you try to fight an opponent that can hit you with attacks or spells.
Right, so the first time you gain a level of exhaustion, the smart play is to retreat to a safe location to rest.
Realistically, one you hit exhaustion 5, it's game over because your speed is 0. Healing in 5e cannot keep up with incoming damage (as I mentioned before), so if you actually manage to get 5 levels of exhaustion, you're dead as soon as something can hit you. And because of that halved maximum HP, they need to drop you even less in order to kill you outright regardless of death saves. E.g. a level 1 Barbarian with 20 Con (rolled 18 for stat + taking Custom Lineage and the Tough feat) has 12+5+2 = 19 hit points. Half of that, even rounded up, is 10 (and IIRC the rule is actually that we should round down). That means an attack which deals 10 damage more than whatever your current HP is will kill the toughest possible level 1 character outright if they're already at 4 levels of exhaustion. Instant death, no saves, and there isn't even revivify available yet to fix it. For the vast majority of characters, that number is going to be closer to 5-6. That's not even going to require a crit; for many low-level creatures, all that they'd need is one solid hit while you're at less than full HP.
Yeah, gaining multiple levels of exhaustion is very likely to be deadly. That’s why you want to avoid combat whenever possible, and if you do get into combat, try to keep above 0. If you do fall to 0, you want to get to a safe place to recover as quickly as possible. These are all the intended outcomes of such a rule.
So...yeah. I said what I meant. Most combats are very likely to cost the party at least one member in the early game with these rules. And every party member you lose accelerates your own demise.
Only in the early levels. And if you’re gaining XP for something other than combat or levels for something other than XP (which I would argue you definitely should be in this kind of campaign), the smart play is to avoid combat and seek out whatever will get you levels so you can survive combat more easily.
Under the premise of these rules, what's the point of the Fighter class? You're made for doing a thing that gets you killed. A lot. Like, getting into more than one or two fights in a single day is openly suicidal.
I told you, the fighter is a fail safe. While combat is a dangerous thing to be avoided, it’s also pretty much inevitable, so when it does happen you want someone who’s very good at it in the party to help insure your survival.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Really the point of this thread wasn't to engage in the house rule itself, but more to demonstrate how my playgroup feels about the way I analyze the rules. They'll say "wouldn't X be cool" and I'll be like "mmm, not a good idea."

But rather than leave it at that, they press me for my reasons, I go on this long-winded explanation (I blame reading the 1e DMG cover to cover a couple hundred times), and when I'm done, they're like "ugh. couldn't you just say you didn't like it?".

Even thought that's exactly what I did!

Anyways, back to my opinions.

One of the things I always disliked about older D&D was it's need to make death and dying extra punitive. It was present in AD&D, but I never gave it much thought. It wasn't until the 3.x/PF1e era that it really struck me.

In combat, you hide behind a number called "Armor Class". You have a limited amount of ways to increase it. Maybe you can wear armor. Maybe you can wear a shield. Maybe there's a spell you can cast, or you can take a huge penalty to hit for more AC, or maybe there's a Feat. Magic items exist, but each table has a different approach to how players can acquire them, if at all (it's been my experience that most DM's seem to have less idea what magic items the characters need than the players themselves, but quite a few chafe at the idea of letting players select items for themselves).

So ok, you do what you can to increase AC. You ignore half the armor types in the game, because there's always a "best" armor for you (seriously, whoever really wore padded, hide, ring mail, and chain mail?). Now you enter combat, where unless you're super cautious (and sometimes even that can't help you), you pray that enemies don't roll high enough to hit this number.

But they will, fairly often, and you'll take damage. It's all random amounts, and you have no control over how many hit points you have, beyond what Constitution score you were able to give your character, and maybe a Feat like Toughness, which competes with every other possible Feat you could take.

And inevitably, these random amounts of damage you most likely can't do anything about it, will knock you down and now you can no longer play the game.

That's bad enough, but then you get rules about slowly bleeding out and inching closer to death unless some other person can manage to get to you with a healing spell, and then you can play again.

Some DM's feel this is to "unrealistic" (you know, despite the fact that healing spells in of themselves are unrealistic...or hit points in general) and want to tag you with some kind of negative effect on top of this.

But if you actually die, the game continues to want to punish you. Spells that revive you are expensive and drain party or personal resources. They require high level casters who may need to be persuaded to use them in the first place.

Then they often come with penalties for being revived- depending on the edition, maybe you lose permanent Constitution. Or lose levels permanently. Or can get those levels back, but it costs more gold after the fact!

And the whole time this is going on, the player can't even play their character. So I lost count of how many times someone would die and say "you know, the heck with it, I'll just make a new character, it's less of a hassle, and I can get back to playing faster."

Which is the exact opposite of what I wanted to have happen. Not to mention the party then divvying up the loot of the dead character to add to their own resources, which I now had to adjust for, even as a new character with new resources was coming into the game...

So I just find the idea that punishing the player for having the nerve to die is the wrong approach. What did they do wrong, exactly? You could say they were too reckless, perhaps, but ultimately, nobody really wants to go to 0 hit points and then hope the Cleric can get them back up. Nobody wants to be stuck not playing the game.

That's already punishment, if you ask me. Tacking on more penalties will just result in players becoming less willing to take risks. Who will chafe at long adventures without being able to rest frequently. Who won't ever want to press on and enter combats with less than maximum hit points.

If you want "pop up healing" to stop being a thing, you need to give players the ability to do something to prevent it. In 4e, everyone could take an action to Second Wind, for example, once a combat, letting them increase their AC and recover 25% of their hit points.

Now, only a Fighter can do that, and the amount of hit points recovered starts off pretty good, but eventually turns into a band-aid against the increasing damage potential of their enemies.

TLDR: being dropped to 0 hit points is bad. Being healed for a pittance so you just fall over again is bad. Players have no real ability to get healed for enough to matter, nor do they have many tools to prevent being dropped to 0 hit points in the first place. Adding insult to injury doesn't solve these problems.
Obviously this sort of house rule isn’t for you, and that’s fine. But I would encourage you to try to understand where people who do want such a rule are coming from. The fact that punishing players for having the nerve to die seems so self-evidently awful to you is a good sign that the people who want a rule like this aren’t looking at it that way. They’re not trying to punish players, they’re trying to create a different play dynamic. One that’s based on risk-management rather than heroic action.
 

pemerton

Legend
One of the things I always disliked about older D&D was it's need to make death and dying extra punitive. It was present in AD&D, but I never gave it much thought. It wasn't until the 3.x/PF1e era that it really struck me.

<snip critical analysis of rules for AC and damage>

if you actually die, the game continues to want to punish you. Spells that revive you are expensive and drain party or personal resources. They require high level casters who may need to be persuaded to use them in the first place.

Then they often come with penalties for being revived- depending on the edition, maybe you lose permanent Constitution. Or lose levels permanently. Or can get those levels back, but it costs more gold after the fact!

And the whole time this is going on, the player can't even play their character. So I lost count of how many times someone would die and say "you know, the heck with it, I'll just make a new character, it's less of a hassle, and I can get back to playing faster."

Which is the exact opposite of what I wanted to have happen. Not to mention the party then divvying up the loot of the dead character to add to their own resources, which I now had to adjust for, even as a new character with new resources was coming into the game...

So I just find the idea that punishing the player for having the nerve to die is the wrong approach. What did they do wrong, exactly?
To me, this seems to present a pretty profound criticism of standard D&D: it puts combat at the centre of play, makes dropping to zero hp in combat (and the resulting risk of death) a real thing, and doesn't have a particularly clear or coherent way to respond to this failure condition.

The two editions that seem to escape the criticism are AD&D (and similar versions eg B/X), which emphasise gold for XP and, while having combat, do not put it at the centre of play in the same way as more contemporary versions; and 4e, which (in virtue of its resource management aspect, and its emphasis on positioning and conditions) situates the tension in combat in a range of places other than just the risk of dropping to zero hp.

But neither of those editions, and the approaches they bring, is particularly mainstream in the contemporary D&D scene, at least as best I can tell.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Really the point of this thread wasn't to engage in the house rule itself, but more to demonstrate how my playgroup feels about the way I analyze the rules. They'll say "wouldn't X be cool" and I'll be like "mmm, not a good idea."

But rather than leave it at that, they press me for my reasons, I go on this long-winded explanation (I blame reading the 1e DMG cover to cover a couple hundred times), and when I'm done, they're like "ugh. couldn't you just say you didn't like it?".

Even thought that's exactly what I did!

Anyways, back to my opinions.

One of the things I always disliked about older D&D was it's need to make death and dying extra punitive. It was present in AD&D, but I never gave it much thought. It wasn't until the 3.x/PF1e era that it really struck me.

In combat, you hide behind a number called "Armor Class". You have a limited amount of ways to increase it. Maybe you can wear armor. Maybe you can wear a shield. Maybe there's a spell you can cast, or you can take a huge penalty to hit for more AC, or maybe there's a Feat. Magic items exist, but each table has a different approach to how players can acquire them, if at all (it's been my experience that most DM's seem to have less idea what magic items the characters need than the players themselves, but quite a few chafe at the idea of letting players select items for themselves).

So ok, you do what you can to increase AC. You ignore half the armor types in the game, because there's always a "best" armor for you (seriously, whoever really wore padded, hide, ring mail, and chain mail?). Now you enter combat, where unless you're super cautious (and sometimes even that can't help you), you pray that enemies don't roll high enough to hit this number.

But they will, fairly often, and you'll take damage. It's all random amounts, and you have no control over how many hit points you have, beyond what Constitution score you were able to give your character, and maybe a Feat like Toughness, which competes with every other possible Feat you could take.

And inevitably, these random amounts of damage you most likely can't do anything about it, will knock you down and now you can no longer play the game.

That's bad enough, but then you get rules about slowly bleeding out and inching closer to death unless some other person can manage to get to you with a healing spell, and then you can play again.

Some DM's feel this is to "unrealistic" (you know, despite the fact that healing spells in of themselves are unrealistic...or hit points in general) and want to tag you with some kind of negative effect on top of this.

But if you actually die, the game continues to want to punish you. Spells that revive you are expensive and drain party or personal resources. They require high level casters who may need to be persuaded to use them in the first place.

Then they often come with penalties for being revived- depending on the edition, maybe you lose permanent Constitution. Or lose levels permanently. Or can get those levels back, but it costs more gold after the fact!

And the whole time this is going on, the player can't even play their character. So I lost count of how many times someone would die and say "you know, the heck with it, I'll just make a new character, it's less of a hassle, and I can get back to playing faster."

Which is the exact opposite of what I wanted to have happen. Not to mention the party then divvying up the loot of the dead character to add to their own resources, which I now had to adjust for, even as a new character with new resources was coming into the game...

So I just find the idea that punishing the player for having the nerve to die is the wrong approach. What did they do wrong, exactly? You could say they were too reckless, perhaps, but ultimately, nobody really wants to go to 0 hit points and then hope the Cleric can get them back up. Nobody wants to be stuck not playing the game.

That's already punishment, if you ask me. Tacking on more penalties will just result in players becoming less willing to take risks. Who will chafe at long adventures without being able to rest frequently. Who won't ever want to press on and enter combats with less than maximum hit points.

If you want "pop up healing" to stop being a thing, you need to give players the ability to do something to prevent it. In 4e, everyone could take an action to Second Wind, for example, once a combat, letting them increase their AC and recover 25% of their hit points.

Now, only a Fighter can do that, and the amount of hit points recovered starts off pretty good, but eventually turns into a band-aid against the increasing damage potential of their enemies.

TLDR: being dropped to 0 hit points is bad. Being healed for a pittance so you just fall over again is bad. Players have no real ability to get healed for enough to matter, nor do they have many tools to prevent being dropped to 0 hit points in the first place. Adding insult to injury doesn't solve these problems.
All I can say is our experiences are vastly different. 🤷‍♂️

Still, what do you want it to be then? This is what it is. Penalties at 0 hit points are often house-ruled because of whack-a-mole and groups, especially DMs admittedly, being tired of PCs functioning at 1 hp as well as 100 hp. The effect of compounding exhaustion levels makes this more of hinderance in performance where none exists at present.

The punishment of death isn't the player not playing, it is the character dying. But perhaps the player was reckless or over-confident, perhaps they misunderstood the rules or their character's capabilities? I've seen a lot of reasons, personally. At such times, the player can take over an NPC, work on a new character while others continue the adventure, or do any number of other things.

Anyway, you prevent pop-up healing by preventing PCs from going to 0. The BIGGEST issue IME is players wait too long before they start in-combat healing. When was the last time you saw a PC disengage and pull back? It rarely happens IME and I emphasize to my players that they should approach combat with two goals:

1. SURVIVE
2. WIN

In that order.

While exhaustion at 0 hp isn't for you, if your players want to try it, let them IMO. We've been using it for years and enjoy the sense of danger and increased difficulty it brings. However, we are exploring new alternatives and with them will likely drop the house-rule because otherwise we are doubling down on 0 hp, and that is too punishing--even for our group. ;)

Another issue IMO with 5E is hitting (i.e. the successful attack) is TOO EASY, averaging 60-70%, but that is a different issue...

Anyway, I hope you find something that works for you--or use what is there already if you're happy with it. Good luck.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
I've never really understood why DM's want characters to die at all, to be honest. Almost every time someone has died in a game I was running, it led to a complete disaster. The party suddenly realizes they no longer have the ability to continue the adventure now that they are missing a tentpole of the group, and we go from having fun to "let's get out of here".

The difficulties of reviving the fallen character are such that the player generally just wants to make a new character (likely a "better" character, that they feel wouldn't have died the way their current one did), which means now any sort of narrative built around them is done, and we have to integrate this new person into the game.

I've never made rules to make the game easier, other than my insistence on transparency (rolling in the open, trying to give players as much information as possible so that they can make strategic decisions), but I am never in any way looking forward to someone being locked out of the game for an extended period of time, nor do I want the current adventure I've planned out for the players to implode because a character took massive damage with no way to respond to it.
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I think if the problem is whack-a-mole healing, the easier, more direct solution is just to say you don’t regain consciousness when you regain HP. Gotta wait the 1d4 hours or whatever it is. Exhaustion at 0 HP is, in my opinion, about more than avoiding the whack-a-mole healing thing. It’s about making a party member falling unconscious into a legitimate emergency state. It’s about making that moment someone falls to 0 into the moment you shift gears away from pushing deeper into the dungeon and towards returning safely to town. It’s about making dungeon delving into a push-your-luck game where getting knocked out is the unlucky outcome you’re trying to avoid as long as possible.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
All I can say is our experiences are vastly different. 🤷‍♂️

Still, what do you want it to be then? This is what it is. Penalties at 0 hit points are often house-ruled because of whack-a-mole and groups, especially DMs admittedly, being tired of PCs functioning at 1 hp as well as 100 hp. The effect of compounding exhaustion levels makes this more of hinderance in performance where none exists at present.

The punishment of death isn't the player not playing, it is the character dying. But perhaps the player was reckless or over-confident, perhaps they misunderstood the rules or their character's capabilities? I've seen a lot of reasons, personally. At such times, the player can take over an NPC, work on a new character while others continue the adventure, or do any number of other things.

Anyway, you prevent pop-up healing by preventing PCs from going to 0. The BIGGEST issue IME is players wait too long before they start in-combat healing. When was the last time you saw a PC disengage and pull back? It rarely happens IME and I emphasize to my players that they should approach combat with two goals:

1. SURVIVE
2. WIN

In that order.

While exhaustion at 0 hp isn't for you, if your players want to try it, let them IMO. We've been using it for years and enjoy the sense of danger and increased difficulty it brings. However, we are exploring new alternatives and with them will likely drop the house-rule because otherwise we are doubling down on 0 hp, and that is too punishing--even for our group. ;)

Another issue IMO with 5E is hitting (i.e. the successful attack) is TOO EASY, averaging 60-70%, but that is a different issue...

Anyway, I hope you find something that works for you--or use what is there already if you're happy with it. Good luck.
Players don't disengage because there's no clear "we're in a combat"/"we are not in a combat" scenario. If you run, nothing really stops enemies from following, being much more likely to want to finish you off rather than risk you coming back later.

Especially since, if you're running, your enemy is in a position of strength. Also, gauging how many hits you can take before you drop to 0 is difficult, and in-combat healing is both costly in resources and inefficient.

Better to power on, hope you can get just enough healing to be kept up, then find a way to rest and use up all those juicy out of combat options. When I gripe about how bad combat healing is, and how unrewarding it is as a player to try and keep everyone healed, I get told "lol, 5e is easy, players are immortal, out of combat healing is super good".

To which I'm like, maybe it's easy for you, but I've been in difficult fights where I struggle to keep players alive as a healer, and doing so drains away all my ability to do anything useful for the day after a handful of encounters. If I'm looking at an upcast level 3 healing spell doing 3d8+Wis, for an average of 16 hit points, when should I cast it?

When a player has taken 16 hit points? That could be one turn from a monster. So now I just used my best spell to cancel out one turn of attacks, what do I do next turn?

What do I do if we're fighting more than one enemy and I got two people taking damage at once?
 

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