[D&D 5e] First Thoughts after Playtest

edited July 2014 in Actual Play
So I played three sessions of 5e this weekend spanning about 13 hours. I'll talk about it without any obvious spoilers.

Game 1: Tanja, Lisa. Old friends.
Game 2: Tanja, Daniel, Jen & Joe (married), Melissa, Laura. Melissa is an old friend who had played an old playtest version (with other folks) over a year ago, about 3-4 sessions. Daniel is an experienced indie games player. Laura has some indie game experience with me. All are experienced D&D players except Jen, who had never played an RPG before.
Game 3: Tanja, Daniel, Steven. Steven is a hardcore D&D guy, and he'd played in several of my 4e campaigns.

Everyone used a pre-gen except Daniel and Melissa. Daniel made up a character before he arrived, using the PDF that's available. He played different characters in the two games. Melissa had her old character from way back in the playtest days. She revised it when she got to the house to bring it up to speed with the PDF rules.

First impressions

Combat is fast! It moves about as fast as old Basic D&D (I am most familiar with Moldvay). I used the fixed monster damage option to speed things up from the DM side. All I had to remember was that a goblin has AC 14 and does 5 damage (melee and ranged)--done!

Initiative is still a bit of a pain. I'm not really convinced of its value outside the tactical arena of 4e or even 3e. 5e combat is simple enough that there's seemingly not much value to tracking initiative order. Really, all you care about is who gets to attack before the monster on the first round, right? Then it's back and forth between monsters and PCs. Maybe with multiple monsters at different initiative times, that doesn't apply exactly, but I'd just use the boss for initiative and let everyone else attack at that time. Haven't tried it in actual play. I am pretty sure it'd make combat a lot faster. What happens now is that players sit there, waiting for the DM to say, "Okay, Laura, what do you do?" If they knew it was the "player turn" for combat, they'd all just coordinate their attacks and shout them out, and no one would have to maintain the order. I use index cards with names on them to manage order and that takes a minute or two to set up at the top of the combat, which is sorta excitement-destroying. It's easier for me to roll monster initiative once, say, "If you beat a 16, then you're first," let them go, handle monster attacks, then go into alternating PC-monster combat for the rest of the fight.

The rules for surprise were--well, pleasantly surprising. Basically, anyone who is surprised doesn't get actions on the first round of combat. There's no special surprise phase. This means that two PCs might be surprised but the rest won't be. Or two of the goblins are surprised but the rest are not. Easy to handle.

Advantage and disadvantage are brilliant and fun. If you have advantage, you roll an extra d20 and keep the best. If you have disadvantage, you roll an extra d20 and keep the worst. Advantage and disadvantage cancel each other. Everyone loves rolling an extra d20! Disadvantage doesn't come up much, since players always seem to find ways to avoid it or cancel it out with Inspiration. Inspiration is the role-playing mechanic. Play to your specific personality traits (codified through Bonds and some other things), and the DM can award you Inspiration. I gave them a red gemstone to mark it. You only have one Inspiration point at any time. Spend it to earn advantage. I let players spend their Inspiration for advantage /after/ they rolled the first d20 (and failed). Probably not what the rule intends, but it makes them use Inspiration more often, which gets them to role-play to /earn/ Inspiration more often. I'd rather they were role-playing more than playing the tactical game of "should I use Inspiration on this roll?"

(more in a bit)
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Comments

  • Y'know, the way that Inspiration works is really, really nifty. I like how it encourages spending Inspiration and roleplaying constantly.
  • Nice!

    What are your feelings on D&D 5E vs. OSR (e.g. Moldvay) D&D? They sound pretty compatible/similar from your write-up.

    If you were going to run a straight-up, old-school dungeon crawl tomorrow, which would you grab from you shelf right now?
  • Having also played through the starter adventure, I really like 5th edition. It 'feels' more like OSR D&D than any other edition so far. (But then again, I liked 3rd Edition when it was just the PHB too).

    It reminds me of Sword and Sorcery's White Box; old school feel but with more streamlined sensical rules, and some nice nods to narrative gaming (the inspiration rules, for example).

    I LOVE the class + background combos. Sage Fighter, Criminal Mage, Folk Hero Cleric, etc.

    As it stands I can see this edition becoming by 'go to' for fantasy adventure gaming.
  • What are your feelings on D&D 5E vs. OSR (e.g. Moldvay) D&D? They sound pretty compatible/similar from your write-up.

    If you were going to run a straight-up, old-school dungeon crawl tomorrow, which would you grab from you shelf right now?
    I'd totally play 5e over Moldvay unless I was aiming for nostalgia. 5e is Moldvay with all the rough edges file off, and with modern design sensibilities.

    And you know, a lot of the stuff in the Phandalin adventures included in the starter kit are dungeon crawls without being actual dungeons. There's a wilderness encounter. There's a cave. There's an basement under an old mansion. The later stuff is more dungeony, but I haven't played through it yet.

  • Was anyone dissapointed of their character's class mechanics? Did they get to do things that make them feel clerical, roguey, wizardian or fighteristic?
  • edited July 2014
    So, more impressions.

    Classes are pretty well designed. They have different mechanics, more akin to 2e than 3e or 4e. However, they've borrowed ideas from 3rd and 4th. For example, where every character in 4th could use Second Wind to recover some hit points during combat, now only the Fighter can do it. At 2nd level, the rogue gets access to an ability that lets them hide as a free action. Our halfling rogue used it to great effect: she'd move ten feet or so to her opponent, attack, move ten feet away back into the woods (you're allowed to split your movement that way), then hide as a free action. Her enemies couldn't touch her, as long as she rolled a strong Dexterity (Stealth) check.

    Spell slots are handled differently than before. You have access to a certain number of spells. You prepare (memorize) some of them. Then you get a certain number of slots to cast spells. For example, a 1st level cleric with Wisdom 14 (+2) knows 3 cantrips and all the 1st level cleric spells. Cantrips don't require memorization. The cleric prepares (cleric level + Wisdom modifier) spells, so 1+2=3 spells, say Detect Magic, Healing Word, and Sanctuary. The cleric can cast 2 of those at 1st level. She could cast Cure Wounds twice, or Healing Word twice, or whatever. The cleric also gets some domain spells, which are considered "always prepared" for free. A cleric in the Life domain gets Bless and Cure Wounds as prepared spells for free, so that'd be three prepared spells a day.

    Wizards are similar. At 1st level, a wizard has 6 spells in her spellbook, prepares (wizard level + Intelligence modifier) spells every day, and casts two 1st level spells per day. Note that for wizards and clerics, there is no restriction about which levels of spells you prepare. A 3rd level wizard with Intelligence 16(+3) can cast four 1st level spells and two 2nd level spells, but prepares 2+3=5 spells of 1st or 2nd level.

    Spells that have the "ritual" tag can be cast without being prepared, but it takes 10 minutes longer. This means you don't have to prepare Detect Magic as an "adventurer tax." As long as you have access to that spell, you can cast it as a ritual, but it will take at least ten minutes. Probably not a problem, and something you can do while the fighter meatshield takes a short rest to get some hit points back.

    Characters are pretty durable. Characters get hit dice (cleric d8, fighter d10, rogue d8, wizard d6) and roll these per level for hit points. At 0 hit points or below, characters fall unconscious. Damage that would reduce hit points to less than 0 is cut off, so hit points stick at 0, not -5 or whatever. However, if you have N hp and damage would reduce you to -N hp, you die. At 0 hp, you start making death saves--basically a 50/50 roll that earns you a success or failure (3 successes brings you back to 1 hp, 3 failures kills you). Another PC can stabilize an unconscious character with a Medicine skill check (DC 10); stabilized means no more death saves, but you're still at 0 hp. Natural healing is very limited (only heal 1 hp after 1-4 hours, no more after that). You can, though, always spend your hit dice, roll them, and regain that many hit points. Spent hit dice return after a long rest (8 hours/day). In play at my table, PCs dropped to 0 hp regularly, but the cleric revived them quickly (and no one died).

    (ETA: Also, max hit points at first level.)

    The skill system is uninspiring. It's the usual skills with a few changes. Spot is replaced with Perception. Bluff is replaced with Deception. Diplomacy is replaced with Persuasion. There are separate skills for Arcana, History, Nature, and Religion, all of which describe your ability to recall lore about the subject. Investigation is a new Int-based skill that replaces Search--well, sorta. Investigation is basically the "solve deductive reasoning problems with my character's smarts" skill. You have access to all skills as unmodified ability checks. You have proficiency in a handful of these, and that adds your proficiency bonus to them (+2 at 1st level). You can still play a cleric that isn't specially trained in Religion, and there's no context to these skills (knowing Religion means you know about all religions, not just yours). 13th Age's backgrounds, despite their problems, at least nicely handle the context part. Inspiration applies to skill checks, too, so you can gain advantage on a skill roll. There's no sign of a "skill challenge" system. There are rules for working together (one person rolls, with advantage) and rolls for group checks (everyone rolls, but at least half must succeed).

  • Was anyone dissapointed of their character's class mechanics? Did they get to do things that make them feel clerical, roguey, wizardian or fighteristic?
    Everyone seemed to love their classes. I heard a few exclamations of, "oh, this is cooler than I thought it was." The fighter was a great meat shield because of his Second Wind. The halfling rogue loved leaping out and attacking with extra backstab damage then hiding (though getting extra damage but not an attack bonus for backstab felt strange to them, but they figured out how to get advantage anyway). The wizard liked how the sleep spell worked (5d8-ish hit points of creatures fall asleep, based on current hit points, starting with the lowest current hp value). The dwarven cleric did healing things but also got to smash people in the face with a warhammer and turned two skeletons.
  • I like the fact that they finally renamed Diplomacy to what its actual function is. Did anyone use it for anything other than persuading someone to do something?
  • So, in the How to Play section of the new Basic Rules, it basically says play goes like this:

    1. The DM describes the environment.
    2. The players describe what they want to do.
    3. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions. Return to #1.

    Fine, right?

    Except those six paragraphs don't mention dice, except once: "In those cases, the DM decides what happens, often relying on the roll of a die to determine the results of an action." If you were learning this game from scratch, you'd probably assume the DM rolled all the dice for the players.

    You'd probably also assume that players never got to describe the effects of their actions themselves.

    I remember playing in some DM's 4e game, and I'd say what I wanted to do, and he'd describe exactly what my character did as a result of my actions. I hated it. I sat quietly and dealt with it, but was fuming inside. I wanted to describe in glorious detail how my spell worked. Worse, sometimes the DM would step into territory I considered to be role-playing my character. How my wizard reacted to falling, for example. Not cool.

    But this procedure basically makes that the way you play.


    I think the IIEE stuff is fuzzy here, too. It looks like the DM gets to block at effect, maybe sometimes at execution, but never at intent or initiation. If you try to throw the goblin off the building, the DM probably tells you to roll to hit, and if the roll succeeds, describes the goblin falling off, and someone rolls falling damage and the DM applies it to the goblin. It's possible that the DM could interpret your to-hit roll as a failure of execution, though: "You can't even grab the squirmy little guy."
  • Other annoying bits in the text:

    "The Dungeons & Dragons game consists of a group
    of characters embarking on an adventure that the
    Dungeon Master presents to them."

    plus

    "The adventure is the heart of the game, a story with
    a beginning, a middle, and an end. An adventure might
    be created by the Dungeon Master or purchased off
    the shelf, tweaked and modified to suit the DM’s needs
    and desires."

    equals

    "D&D consists of characters in a story created by the DM."

    Add

    "It features a rich cast of characters: the adventurers
    created and played by the other players at the table"

    and you basically get The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.


    I don't think the authors even really mean this. I don't think they mean to say that the DM creates the whole story: beginning, middle, and end. I don't think they mean to suggest that a purchased adventure meets the DM's needs and desires instead of the players' needs and desires. I think it's just sloppy writing. I suspect this kind of "what is role-playing" crap gets written at the last minute as filler and people just fall back on what they think they're supposed to say rather than what they really mean. It's a pet peeve of mine, which is why I'm whining about it here.

    I realize it's not a big deal. People are going to figure out how to play D&D without this stuff being written better. It's just, the rules here aren't really gonna help them.
  • The character creation section opens with a paragraph (par. 2) that hearkens back to old school Simulationist (Right to Dream / RTD) play.

    Before you dive into step 1 below, think about the
    kind of adventurer you want to play. You might be a
    courageous fighter, a skulking rogue, a fervent cleric, or
    a flamboyant wizard. Or you might be more interested
    in an unconventional character, such as a brawny rogue
    who likes hand-to-hand combat, or a sharpshooter who
    picks off enemies from afar. Do you like fantasy fiction
    featuring dwarves or elves? Try building a character
    of one of those races. Do you want your character to
    be the toughest adventurer at the table? Consider the
    fighter class. If you don’t know where else to begin,
    take a look at the illustrations in this book to see what
    catches your interest.

    . . .

    What’s important
    is that you come to the table with a character you’re
    excited to play.
    Nowhere does this talk about building an effective character. In fact, it basically says that's not important by suggesting some unusual choices. What's important is that you are excited to play a certain role.

    In general, I think the rest of the rules--especially backgrounds and such--support a RTD agenda pretty well. I'm not sure how well it holds up under increasing opportunity / pressure to tune character effectiveness as the character levels up.
  • So there's this thing called Proficiency Bonus. It goes up at a slow rate relative to level (+2 at 1st, +3 at 5th, +4 at 9th, +5 at 13th, +6 at 17th), laid out in the Character Advancement chart. It seems to me to be inelegant.

    13th Age does something similar, except Proficiency Bonus is equal to your level exactly. They also add +5 to middle-tier challenges and +10 to upper-tier challenges. 13th Age has only 10 levels compared to D&D 5e's 20 levels, but the effect is basically similar to what 5e did, except prettier.

    5e seems to have broken away from the three-tier model and now has a four-tier model. These don't have catchy names yet, but are called "first tier," "second tier," and so on.
  • Excellent writeup, Adam. You're selling me on this edition! (Although I agree with your frustration at the "advice" bits. Ugh. They read like they were written 20 years ago.)
  • Saving Throws are different in 5e. Saves now sit on top of the abilities, so you have a Strength save, a Dexterity save, Con save, Int save, Wis save, and Cha save. (Hey, by the way, I think this is the first edition in a long time that hasn't changed the order of the abilities!) I called for a Charisma save in one of the games I ran this weekend, when the rogue shouted, "We killed Klaarg! We will kill all of you now!" and made an Intimidation check. In this case, the goblins all had to make a Charisma saving throw against the rogue's modified Intimidation roll.

    I have no idea when I'd ask a player to make an Intelligence save and how this is different than a standard Intelligence check. Each class gains proficiency in two different saving throws (and thus applies the +2 proficiency bonus to those saves at 1st level), so there's one difference, I guess.
  • By the way, 4e's distinction of at-will, encounter, and daily powers still exists, but those names are not used. Now certain abilities just can't be used again until the character takes a short rest--that's an encounter power. Some need a long rest--that's a daily power.

  • So I mentioned the fighter's Second Wind ability. That makes them better meat shields. They also get a fighting style which reminds me a ton of the old fighter options in 1e's Unearthed Arcana (choose: +2 ranged, +1 AC, +2 damage with single-weapon style, reroll low damage for two-handed weapons, use a shield to disadvantage an attack vs. an adjacent ally, add damage to two-weapon attacks).

    Also, 2nd level fighters get an Action Surge, which is basically an extra action/attack. It's an encounter power (requires short rest to use again). At 5th level, they get Extra Attack, which makes every attack two attack rolls. That increases to three attacks at 11th and four at 20th. Yowza! On an action surge round once per encounter, that's eight attack rolls!

    It looks like they did away with Prestige Classes and replaced them with Archetypes. For example, a fighter can choose the Champion archetype at 3rd level, and gain Improved Critical immediately and four other powers through 18th level. It's hard to know for sure, but it appears that each archetype is like a specific subclass--really, as I think Rob Donoghue pointed out--more like a Kit from the old 2e Player's Options books. I can't imagine why a player would fail to choose an archetype, since it adds significant abilities. It's not an optional thing, but I guess a DM could ban them.
  • As I alluded earlier, the rogue's sneak attack is tricky. Here's how it works.

    Sneak Attack grants +1d6 damage with a finesse weapon or ranged weapon. It does not grant an attack bonus or advantage on the attack. In fact, you must have advantage on the attack to apply the extra damage. The exception to this rule is what makes it work like 4e's flanking sneak attack: You don't need advantage when there's an ally* adjacent to the target (but if you have disadvantage to the attack or the target is incapacitated already, forget it).

    Basically, as long as you have an ally nearby the enemy, you get your sneak attack extra damage on the attack.

    At 2nd level, the rogue gets Cunning Action, which lets them take one free Dash, Disengage, or Hide action per combat turn. Disengage basically is the "5-foot step" rule that gets you out of Opportunity Attacks. Dash is a double move. Hide is the Stealth check that I talked about earlier. It wouldn't work for a melee fight, but in the bow vs. crossbow "gun battle" I described earlier, it was perfect. She moved out of the woods, shot her bow, then used her free action to Hide back in the trees where she couldn't be seen. The brigands that were trying to shoot her had to make Perception checks to beat her Stealth roll, or they didn't know where to shoot.

    Epic Spit Take

    Incidentally, those rules produced the most epic spit-take I have ever encountered. After the second or third time that the halfling managed to pop out and nail the brigands with her bow, then hide where they couldn't spot her, I-as-DM-playing-the-brigand yelled, "Fucking halflings!" For some reason, this caught Lisa totally off guard and tickled her funny bone in a big way. She'd just taken a big gulp of Coke, which she summarily sprayed over a range I'd liken to that of the Burning Hands spell, catching me and Tanja in her Area of Effect. It didn't end there, though. Our stunned reaction and laughter made her unable to bring her mouthful of soda under control, and she sprayed us not once more, but TWICE more. It was EPIC. And hilarious.

    * The rules specifically say "another enemy of the target," which isn't quite the same as "an ally," I realize.
  • edited July 2014
    Fun to hear that combat is fast.
    Initiative is still a bit of a pain. /.../ What happens now is that players sit there, waiting for the DM to say, "Okay, Laura, what do you do?" If they knew it was the "player turn" for combat, they'd all just coordinate their attacks and shout them out,
    Use an initiative stick, numbered from 1 to 30. Let everybody roll their initiative and place their tokens on the stick. It's then easy to see who goes next each time. If you prepare the oppositions turns while the player before the monsters act, you can get a nice flow in combat.

    I never leave home without my initiative board for games that has initiatives like this.

    http://erebaltor.se/rickard/initiativbrade2.gif (It's from my own game.)
  • In the B/X D&D/IRC game we've had going, I've enjoyed Eero's take on B/X initiative - 1d6 per side, with the margin of difference representing how long the "exchange" will be. After the "exchange" is over, roll initiative again.

    As GM, I use the outcome of this roll to establish a lot of Colour details (which, in B/X, feed into tactics and positioning quite directly) about the fight that's happening and who might have the upper hand. Initiative winners have much more scope to position themselves and use tactical features of the environment than the losers.

    I find this much more interesting (if quite a bit looser) than a simple "who goes first" kind of initiative.
  • Yeah, the advice is bad. :-( I disagree with you about the math behind Prof Bonus, though, Adam. I think it looks great! The truncation of the overall difficulty scale is possibly *the* mechanical innovation behind 5E.
  • Other annoying bits in the text:

    "The Dungeons & Dragons game consists of a group
    of characters embarking on an adventure that the
    Dungeon Master presents to them."

    plus

    "The adventure is the heart of the game, a story with
    a beginning, a middle, and an end. An adventure might
    be created by the Dungeon Master or purchased off
    the shelf, tweaked and modified to suit the DM’s needs
    and desires."

    equals

    "D&D consists of characters in a story created by the DM."

    Add

    "It features a rich cast of characters: the adventurers
    created and played by the other players at the table"

    and you basically get The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast.


    I don't think the authors even really mean this. I don't think they mean to say that the DM creates the whole story: beginning, middle, and end. I don't think they mean to suggest that a purchased adventure meets the DM's needs and desires instead of the players' needs and desires. I think it's just sloppy writing. I suspect this kind of "what is role-playing" crap gets written at the last minute as filler and people just fall back on what they think they're supposed to say rather than what they really mean. It's a pet peeve of mine, which is why I'm whining about it here.

    I realize it's not a big deal. People are going to figure out how to play D&D without this stuff being written better. It's just, the rules here aren't really gonna help them.
    Not only do I see no issues with what they say, it's how nearly every gaming session I've ever seen has been done (including my own). In other words, that IS how vast quantities of people do play D&D, or anything else.

    I think they would be better served by mentioning that this is only one way to go about it, and providing alternative text for these other styles, but as you said its a minor point as people will adapt things to fit them over time anyway.
  • I get a little worried when I see dramatic increase in hit points, even while the `Bounded Accuracy` and lack of `super-builds` keeps the range of ability within a reasonable realm.

    Is there any danger of weirdnesss from this? Why put bounds on abilities and rolls, etc, but not hit points?
  • It's true that combats will last longer at higher levels... probably. But... Look at the higher-level spells. A lot of the late game is going to consist of beating on monsters until they are vulnerable to takedown spells. Now *that's* interesting. (I'm a bit concerned about transparency, of course. My personal opinion would be to bring back Bloodied from 4E.)

    Also, HP will increase but so will damage, even if it not as quickly for non-arcane classes (so as to avoid 4E's treadmill effect). But my point is that HP is not, necessarily, a linear combat slowness indicator.
  • So, in the How to Play section of the new Basic Rules, it basically says play goes like this:

    1. The DM describes the environment.
    2. The players describe what they want to do.
    3. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions. Return to #1.

    Fine, right?

    Except those six paragraphs don't mention dice, except once: "In those cases, the DM decides what happens, often relying on the roll of a die to determine the results of an action." If you were learning this game from scratch, you'd probably assume the DM rolled all the dice for the players.
    Following this section are Game Dice, D20, Advantange/Disadvantage, and General beats Specific. These sections particularly the d20 section, detail how and you roll dice to determine the results of an action.
    You'd probably also assume that players never got to describe the effects of their actions themselves.

    I remember playing in some DM's 4e game, and I'd say what I wanted to do, and he'd describe exactly what my character did as a result of my actions. I hated it. I sat quietly and dealt with it, but was fuming inside. I wanted to describe in glorious detail how my spell worked. Worse, sometimes the DM would step into territory I considered to be role-playing my character. How my wizard reacted to falling, for example. Not cool.
    Describing the effects of their actions within the world is what the dungeon master is supposed to do. In real life if you touched a stove you get burned. Physics ensure that. You talk rudely to a waitress, she may choose to give you poor service. That her choice. In both cases the Dungeons & Dragons equivalent handled by the Dungeon Masters acting as a referee. However the 4e referee was not doing his job especially when dictated how your character acted for example how you reacted after a long fall. However how the spell worked is part of the "physics" although as a skilled wizard controlling arcane forces it is logical that you have some control over the precise effect of your spell. If it was just color I would not have of problem with a player narrating how it worked. If it did have a mechanical effect, say a specific hit location, I may have the caster attempt a check (skill, ability, etc) to see if his skill can pull it off. If it a extensive alteration of how the spell works I will disallowed it because it just not how the spell works in the setting.
    But this procedure basically makes that the way you play.

    I think the IIEE stuff is fuzzy here, too. It looks like the DM gets to block at effect, maybe sometimes at execution, but never at intent or initiation. If you try to throw the goblin off the building, the DM probably tells you to roll to hit, and if the roll succeeds, describes the goblin falling off, and someone rolls falling damage and the DM applies it to the goblin. It's possible that the DM could interpret your to-hit roll as a failure of execution, though: "You can't even grab the squirmy little guy."
    The point is that the setting exist independently of the referee and players. It is defined before the campaign and in the absence of specifics things are assumed to work as they do in real-life. A dropped clay mug will likely shatter on the floor and so on. A fair referee would not make stuff up out of whole cloth but rather acts a adjudicator of what already there. Again assuming in the absence of specific that things work or are as they are in real life. The fairest thing to do in the absence of something written down is to roll on a table of likely results. Want to know what plants are in the area, roll on a table.

    The referee's creativity comes from deciding which of the possible outcomes of a player's actions is the most interesting and fun for the campaign.

    If written detail, random tables, and similar tools are not being used by the referee then there is a good chance that is rulings are arbitrary and unfair.
  • Yeah, the advice is bad. :-( I disagree with you about the math behind Prof Bonus, though, Adam. I think it looks great! The truncation of the overall difficulty scale is possibly *the* mechanical innovation behind 5E.
    No, no, I'm not saying the math is bad. I'm saying that the 13th Age math is basically equivalent, without being as fiddly.

    5e: Keep DCs steady. Increase PC bonuses by +1 every 3-5 levels.
    13a: Increase DCs by +5 every 3-5 levels. Increase PC bonuses by +1 every level.

    I just find 13a to be really clean in that regard. Maybe the math isn't perfectly equivalent. Haven't really run the numbers.
  • Well, I do find 10 levels to be a more natural capping point than 20, but, you know, "Tradition! Tradition!" Seriously, I think that'd be an interesting alternate way to play a quicker campaign of 5E, essentially collapsing levels 1 and 2 together, then 3 and 4, then 5 and 6, etc. 10th level would basically be "save the world" and then retire / become gods / whatever.

    Way more realistic with people's schedules and desire to play other games.
  • Kristin and Robert,

    Yeah, all that stuff.
    Not only do I see no issues with what they say, it's how nearly every gaming session I've ever seen has been done (including my own). In other words, that IS how vast quantities of people do play D&D, or anything else.

    I think they would be better served by mentioning that this is only one way to go about it, and providing alternative text for these other styles, but as you said its a minor point as people will adapt things to fit them over time anyway.
    I'm pretty sure that Mike Mearls doesn't play that way, though, having followed his LiveJournal, Facebook, G+, Wizards blogs, etc. for the better part of ten or fifteen years, so I'm a bit confused that this is portrayed as the default way to play.

    Kristin, are you saying that as DM, you tell a story and the players just go along for the ride and provide color, because that's the way that paragraph reads. My issue is that it states that an adventure is a story (so far, so good) that has a beginning, middle, and end (so far, so good), and that the DM provides it all (ack). The DM can provide the beginning and, in my opinion, should mostly leave the middle and end to the actions of the players. To do otherwise makes it less of a game and more like just being told a story. Some people might play that way, sure, but from my convention experience, I don't get the feeling that most people play that way. Some? sure.

    Following this section are Game Dice, D20, Advantange/Disadvantage, and General beats Specific. These sections particularly the d20 section, detail how and you roll dice to determine the results of an action.
    "Specific Beats General," yes.

    My issue is that the rules don't make it clear who rolls the dice. It looks like they want the DM to roll all the dice. Do they? The rules never say who rolls the dice, but "How to Play" (section 2, para 2.) strongly implies that the DM does the rolling ("In those cases, the DM decides what happens, often relying on the roll of a die to determine the results of an action"). Again, the vast majority of the world already plays D&D and has their own dice and knows how everyone does it, but the rules don't help here. Not a big deal; just weird.
    Describing the effects of their actions within the world is what the dungeon master is supposed to do.
    That's all well and good to say, but the rules don't say that. They say "3. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers’ actions" (and the supporting paragraphs and later text don't clarify at all).

    If you look at the How to Play section in IIEE terms, the players get to describe Intent ("2. The players describe what they want to do," emphasis added), not even Initiation, which would be "the players describe what their characters do."

    The play procedure in that section is pretty clear how you're supposed to play:

    1. DM describes environment.
    2. Players declare their intent for their characters.
    3. DM narrates the results.

    It doesn't say that the DM can't narrate results that show how the PCs react, though I'm pretty sure they don't intend that meaning.

    The usual caveats: This is in the free PDF, not the final Player's Handbook or the Dungeon Master's Guide. Everyone who has played D&D probably already knows how to play. The PDF probably isn't intended for novice players, etc. In reality, none of this is a huge deal, probably.
    The point is that the setting exist independently of the referee and players. It is defined before the campaign and in the absence of specifics things are assumed to work as they do in real-life.
    I'm not sure if you're trying to educate me (I understand this stuff after 30+ years, I really do) or what. I agree with the things you're saying, basically. My problem is that the rules don't actually say these things.

  • My issue is that the rules don't make it clear who rolls the dice. It looks like they want the DM to roll all the dice. Do they? The rules never say who rolls the dice, but "How to Play" (section 2, para 2.) strongly implies that the DM does the rolling ("In those cases, the DM decides what happens, often relying on the roll of a die to determine the results of an action"). Again, the vast majority of the world already plays D&D and has their own dice and knows how everyone does it, but the rules don't help here. Not a big deal; just weird.
    I see, I think it is spelled out in the previous section of Using these Rules. Specifically in Part 2
    That part covers the kinds of die rolls you make to determine success or failure at the tasks your character attempts....



    That's all well and good to say, but the rules don't say that. They say "3. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers’ actions" (and the supporting paragraphs and later text don't clarify at all).
    No the rules do not say that specifically that the general impression one is left with after reading the entire PDF. I do see your point. The How to Play is a summary, the details of what you are talking about are found in Chapter 8 Adventuring. Specifically page 66 under Social Interactions and Roleplaying. For the referee what he should be doing is following section "Results of Roleplaying." Something that 4e referee you ran into needs to read.
    If you look at the How to Play section in IIEE terms, the players get to describe Intent ("2. The players describe what they want to do," emphasis added), not even Initiation, which would be "the players describe what their characters do."
    I think it is fine the way it is given the other sections of the PDF. To me it is obviously a general summary where I have wait to learn the specifics later. But also I think you may have a case that some of the stuff in later sections should be moved forward and consolidated.
    I'm not sure if you're trying to educate me (I understand this stuff after 30+ years, I really do) or what. I agree with the things you're saying, basically. My problem is that the rules don't actually say these things.
    Now I know, thanks for sharing that. Like you I been playing a long time, since 1978.
  • After taking a look at the Roleplaying section on pages 66-67, I'd say that doesn't really cut it either. It tells you how, as a player, you can role-play. It doesn't say that the DM shouldn't role-play your character when describing the results of actions you take.

    Maybe this is the kind of thing every group needs to decide for themselves. I don't think so, personally. I think the game is way less fun that way, and I suspect that everyone involved in the design of the 5e game thinks so, too, and just didn't write a very good section of the rules. The rest of the game rocks, though, so I'm not condemning the whole thing or anything silly like that.
  • edited July 2014
    After taking a look at the Roleplaying section on pages 66-67, I'd say that doesn't really cut it either. It tells you how, as a player, you can role-play. It doesn't say that the DM shouldn't role-play your character when describing the results of actions you take.

    Maybe this is the kind of thing every group needs to decide for themselves. I don't think so, personally. I think the game is way less fun that way, and I suspect that everyone involved in the design of the 5e game thinks so, too, and just didn't write a very good section of the rules. The rest of the game rocks, though, so I'm not condemning the whole thing or anything silly like that.
    You are correct it does not says that the referee should not roleplay a player character. However, the tone, amount, and examples are such it would be a stretch to conclude that how it played. The PDF is free and folks can judge for themselves.

    I will add that one of the problems of 4e was the mocking tone it took to prior editions and the way you should play. Throughout the development of 5e Mearls has avoided advising THE way of playing. There is a recommended method when you read through it but it largely avoids saying anything is the wrong way. In fact points out alternatives in some places. Perhaps that what you are picking up on.
  • edited July 2014
    Well, I do find 10 levels to be a more natural capping point than 20, but, you know, "Tradition! Tradition!" Seriously, I think that'd be an interesting alternate way to play a quicker campaign of 5E, essentially collapsing levels 1 and 2 together, then 3 and 4, then 5 and 6, etc. 10th level would basically be "save the world" and then retire / become gods / whatever.

    Way more realistic with people's schedules and desire to play other games.
    It'd be nice to have options for everyone, since I'm the exact opposite. We tend to prefer 30-36 levels to cap, and starting lower power for several levels. We also prefer really immersing into one game for an extended time, and only switch between games when necessary or after having our fill.

    Heck, in high school we started a weekly game one April that grew to be three days a week in June-August, with each session going 8-12 hours. When school started again we went back to once a week until wrapping it up in October or November. During that time the group never even thought of playing anything else (though some of us were in other games playing other things on the side).

    Obviously most of us can't do that as adults, but it's still the ideal for many.
  • Kristin and Robert,

    Yeah, all that stuff.
    Not only do I see no issues with what they say, it's how nearly every gaming session I've ever seen has been done (including my own). In other words, that IS how vast quantities of people do play D&D, or anything else.

    I think they would be better served by mentioning that this is only one way to go about it, and providing alternative text for these other styles, but as you said its a minor point as people will adapt things to fit them over time anyway.
    I'm pretty sure that Mike Mearls doesn't play that way, though, having followed his LiveJournal, Facebook, G+, Wizards blogs, etc. for the better part of ten or fifteen years, so I'm a bit confused that this is portrayed as the default way to play.

    Kristin, are you saying that as DM, you tell a story and the players just go along for the ride and provide color, because that's the way that paragraph reads. My issue is that it states that an adventure is a story (so far, so good) that has a beginning, middle, and end (so far, so good), and that the DM provides it all (ack). The DM can provide the beginning and, in my opinion, should mostly leave the middle and end to the actions of the players. To do otherwise makes it less of a game and more like just being told a story. Some people might play that way, sure, but from my convention experience, I don't get the feeling that most people play that way. Some? sure.

    I have no idea how Mearls plays, but I can tell you that's how most of the old guard played, at least for the first twenty or so years. I've read the interviews, listened to the podcasts, etc. Heck, even more modern games simply go that way by default for most people (watch the AI broadcasts from PAX for instance). It's also how nearly every group I've ever seen for thirty years played. Not that personal experiences indicates objective reality, but given the vast number neither is it totally dismissible.

    No, I'm saying I DM the game, and the players are players...or one of them DMs the game while I play, or whatever combo we're doing right then. As DM I (or they) craft the environment, plots, storylines, etc (though as I mentioned in the other thread I get player input to do so). The players play while the story is going on around/behind them, taking it in some unforeseen directions quite often, while they evolve the stories of their own characters within this world. However the role of the DM is to fit those new directions and personal stories into the overall story being told which was already designed before they ever came to the table. In that respect he has still crafted the middle and end. It's just that the things that happen along the way are dynamic and chance may intervene to change things (kill characters, alter situations, etc).

    In most cases in the history of pen and paper RPGs (again, at least up til say 2000 or so) the stories came from purchased modules or the DM as mentioned above. There's no ack there, it's basic fact supportable from a vast number of sources (books, interviews, podcasts, personal accounts, etc).

    Now, some people don't prefer that style, and looked for alternatives. Fortunately there are games that cater specifically to them, or they've found ways to adapt other games to their needs, as the hobby has grown to encompass these additional styles. I LOVE that this happens. It doesn't change the fact that the bulk of RPGs were designed around the storyteller/participants dichotomy, nor that it continues to be a VERY common and equally valid playstyle.
  • I'd argue that the trend to railroaded storytelling in D&D was a movement that started when TSR started writing stories into modules. It wasn't a universal constant in gaming back in the early 80's (I can't talk about much personal experience from the 70's). If OSR stuff is any indication of truth, then sandboxing is more common than railroading story, too. I just don't think that style of play is as common as you think it is.

    Maybe it's half of the games I've experienced under other DMs at conventions or game stores or other people's tables. Maybe half. Probably more like 20-25%. The vast majority was more like a sandbox: here's what I prepped, make of it what you will. No pre-planned outcome.

    Anyway, it's interesting if 5e is actually encouraging that one particular style of play!
  • So much of the answer to that question—the "real" playstyle of 5E—will depend on both what is in the DMG and how well spelled-out it is. I mean, 4E had p. 42 of the DMG, but there's an interesting discussion of why it wasn't used more frequently.
  • Ok, but if it was 20-25% for you, and 80-95% for me...then the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. 8-) Rather it's 35% or 65%, it's enough of a following and a big enough tradition to warrant inclusion as a possible playstyle. That's why I said it should be one of many options offered.

    I don't think it's a preplanned outcome...having a storyline (or module) isn't the same as knowing the outcome. Having an adventure planned isn't necessarily railroading (at least not entirely). What's more, if the party WANTS to do what you have planned, well then frankly that's not really railroading either, even if they stick to it exactly. I have a feeling that when most people say 'railroading' they're talking about extreme worst-cast scenarios where I'd agree it wasn't my cup of tea. But there's a middle ground.

    For instance, if I write a dungeon delve culminating in a showdown with an evil wizard to take his magic toad to cure a sick child there's nothing that says the party will actually do that. If they get the frog the kid certainly lives, but maybe clever adventurers steal it and so skip the showdown part. That's great for me, because now there's an evil wizard with a grudge hunting the party in later adventures, and if things get too easy he can turn up at the worst possible instant heightening the intensity and (if they overcome it) the fun. Of course, my groups know I'll do this, so most likely even if they steal the toad they'll just send it back with the sick and injured and the rest of the party will plot a dastardly ambush/assassination of the wizard on their own terms to give them the advantage. So in the end they kill the wizard and get the toad, but I had no way to know it'd go down like that.

    For us it's that back and forth that's half the fun of roleplaying. Sometimes my plots (or random chance) beat the group, and sometimes they best me. Most often its somewhere in the middle...a 'win' with consequences. All are equally fun outcomes for us.
  • If that's how you're defining pre-planned story and railroading, then we've been in agreement all along! It sounds like you're not scripting outcomes or even using hidden DM force to make planned outcomes happen most of the time, right?

    That's not what the 5e rules are saying though. They're telling the DM to create a story/adventure with a beginning, middle, and end, which could teach some DMs to totally script the whole thing and force players into an outcome. That's not a play style I enjoy at all, and I think it makes for crappy gaming for most people (emphasis on "gaming").

    Again, I'm pretty sure the authors don't even mean that. I just don't think the text is particularly clear on the matter, and it's actually pretty easy to get this stuff right these days.
  • We're in agreement then, that's just not how I took what they wrote. So if it can be taken so differently by long term players sounds like it really isn't well written, regardless of intent.
  • How you use the rules of 5e not meant to be clear and etched in stone. One of the prime marketing poles of 5e is play D&D the way you want it. The example Mearls and crew cites is prior editions D&D but it obvious that they were inspired by other RPGs like Fate and Savage Worlds.

    If Adam you took away the possibility of having the DM roll everything and do some of the player's roleplaying. Phoenix took it to mean a return to a classic style of play. That probably how Mearls and crew intended D&D to be interpreted. That it is flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of play styles. One method the rules accomplish this is a straightforward and minimal core. Another is the tone of the writing. Encouraging options at every turn and not taking a strong tone on how the game ought to be played.

    This is the first article where he talks about it.
    http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4ll/20120130
  • How was balancing encounters/rewards like? Does it rest on the GM's shoulders?
  • Ricardo,

    I've only seen the PDF and the Basic starter kit. Neither really gets into encounter balancing. There are no monsters at all in the PDF, let alone rules for creating encounters. The starter kit has a handful of monsters that are used by the Phandelver module. Those monster write-ups include XP reward totals and some kind of encounter score, presumably for encounter balancing.

    The module uses two kinds of rewards. For the first two sections, it used milestones. The first milestone was basically one little encounter and it was worth 75 XP to all participants. The second milestone was clearing out a small lair and defeating a boss. It was worth 225 XP each. PCs need 300 XP to advance to level 2, so it was designed specifically to get players to 2nd level by the end of the lair, in one solid session of play. From then on, the adventure goes to per-encounter XP.
  • Robert,

    I get everything you're saying. I read Mearls' article when it came out two-three years ago. However, I am not reading the same things you and Phoenix are reading in the rules. What I'm reading does leave some things open-ended, but I feel like it's pretty strongly suggesting one type of play. Where you see a lack of direction as license to do what you want, I'm seeing specific language suggesting that people play a certain way.

    Where you see "Encouraging options at every turn," I don't see that as incompatible with what I'm saying. I feel like players can have lots of options at every turn, yet the DM could be plotting the outcomes of His Story in classic illusionist style. It's just that the DM will secretly make those player options not change His Story. Where you see "not taking a strong tone on how the game ought to be played," I see a three-point procedure that tells the DM, straight-up, to narrate everything that happens, with nary a word about not stepping into the territory that is traditionally the players'.

    You guys don't see what I see, so we're going to have to agree to disagree, I guess.

    For the millionth time--because this will get forgotten if I don't repeat it--I am sure that the game will be fine, and that players will figure out how to play it (probably from oral tradition and seeing others play, but maybe just from working it out at their own tables).

    I wonder, if I were to try to write a set of D&D game procedures that left all of these style decisions to each gaming group, how would I do it?

    Maybe D&D Next is the Rorschach test of gaming.

  • Rorschach test, eh? "I'm not trapped in this edition with you, you're trapped in it with me!"

    In seriousness, it's very hard to avoid one's ingrained assumptions after decades of gaming, no matter what camp one falls into. It'd be interesting to try out 5E on groups of complete newbs, including the GM.
  • "I see classic illusionism."
    "I see my mother's vagina."
    "Hrm. Tell me more about that."
  • made me go "lol".
  • edited July 2014
    "Where you see "Encouraging options at every turn," I don't see that as incompatible with what I'm saying. I feel like players can have lots of options at every turn, yet the DM could be plotting the outcomes of His Story in classic illusionist style. It's just that the DM will secretly make those player options not change His Story. Where you see "not taking a strong tone on how the game ought to be played," I see a three-point procedure that tells the DM, straight-up, to narrate everything that happens, with nary a word about not stepping into the territory that is traditionally the players'.
    Throughout the history of our hobby, gamers been told they are doing the wrong thing about some aspect of what they are doing in a game. To much treasure, not enough treasure, you need to be more active in roleplaying, do many dungeons, not enough dungeons, and the list goes on.

    The Basic D&D PDF largely avoids that sort of thing. What I should have said is that they don't discourage any option. Allowing people to read into the rule it is OK to plot the outcome of the story in illusionist style.

    My opinion is that illusionism is NOT something that would make for a successful campaign. But also these days, I would also say, "Well if you make it work and everybody has fun more power to you." And that the attitude written into the Basic PDF. Mostly because they don't discourage anything.
    Maybe D&D Next is the Rorschach test of gaming.
    I think that about simple of a summary that could be made on the topic.

  • It'll be interesting to see what they do in the actual books.

    Meanwhile, what's up with spot checks? We ran into this during our game and I was reminded of it in someone's G+ post this morning.

    The Phandelver module calls for a variety of different "notice stuff" checks. Some use Passive Perception. Some use active Perception checks. Some use Investigation checks. It feels pretty inconsistent. When we read the rules, THEY felt pretty inconsistent -- at least between Perception and Investigation. Basically, I'm curious about what a DM should do when a player asks for her character to "search the box for traps."

    I can make a ruling, sure (and I did). But I didn't feel like the intent of the rules was clear there.
  • Is Passive Perception used for anything more than spotting hidden enemies? I'll probably use "Passive X" as a Gumshoe-like criterion for handing out clues and lore.

    The last public playtest packet had a section in GM Guidelines about when to make Ability and skill checks, contests, and the like. I expect it'll appear more or less unchanged in the DMG.
  • The module uses it to spot hidden enemies and hidden traps automatically. The free PDF and the module materials do have guides for using skill checks, but I found it confusing when to apply Investigation vs. Perception for certain tasks like detecting traps on a chest.
  • Rorschach test, eh? "I'm not trapped in this edition with you, you're trapped in it with me!"
    +1

  • Adam, I'm curious about one thing, can you check me on this?

    It sounds from the class powers that this is classic combat strategy roleplay. You get in fights so you can use all your nifty special abilities, and if you use them wisely that ups your odds of winning without major costs, etc. As you advance, you get new things you can do, adding new options to the menu. Sure, there's plenty of play outside combat, but combat strategy is kind of where it's at, right?

    If that is true, then the Inspiration mechanic seems unwelcome and beside the point to me. Here we've got this formal system to master, and then poof, we get a drastic boost to our odds just for entertaining the GM. What? Now the wisdom of my powers-use is an even smaller percentage of the equation than it already was.

    What do you think? Do these aspects of the game work together, or is there tension between them?
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