Author Topic: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition  (Read 3224 times)

sparkletwist

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An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« on: November 22, 2016, 05:33:03 PM »
So, I've flipped through the books and looked into D&D 5e before, but my play experiences had been short and unsatisfactory. That changed this weekend, when I got to delve deeper and play quite a bit of it. I actually had a pretty good time, in the sense that the adventure was interesting and the DM was good. My observations on the system itself are much more mixed. Here's a short(ish) summary of what I took away from my D&D 5e play experience.

The simplifications are good and bad. I like some of the simplifications, honestly, although sometimes it feels like the game is "simplified" by simply removing the crunch for something. I do like how wizards and sorcerers work now, and how they managed to make metamagic a whole lot more interesting. That said, I'm not nearly as excited about what they did for (or perhaps to) martial characters. A lot of combat maneuvers are now things only battle masters can do, or something? The only general combat maneuvers I found are grapple and shove. And apparently battle master maneuvers work differently than the other combat maneuvers, too-- a save vs. a DC rather than an opposed check-- just to keep things especially messy. I've noticed that in general, there are fewer decisions to be made when building a 5e character. In Pathfinder, you get a feat every odd level, and most classes have a "grab bag" class feature, too, while in 5e, you generally just have to make one big decision around level 3 and then you only get feats every four levels (or a bit more for fighters) and you're basically on your way. It's simpler, but I sort of wish there were more ways to customize a character.

Casters still rule the school. This one was disappointing to me, but perhaps not a very big surprise. Due to the way concentration works, it makes it slightly easier for a fighter to take on a wizard in combat, but all that really means is that the battle with the wizard BBEG will be more interesting for the party fighter. Just because the wizard can't be flying and invisible and polymorphed and summon hordes of nasties doesn't change the fact that the wizard can still do all of these things individually and the fighter still just... is stuck swinging a sword. I mean, it seems like they even realized this which is why the eldritch knight subclass exists, so fighters can finally have nice things. I'm also not sure how to feel about the battle master, who seems like a heavily nerfed version of a warblade. I get the idea that a battle master is probably pretty badass at level 3 but starts to fall off really quick as wizards get more and more impressive.

Bounded accuracy is still stupid. A d20 is still a d20, so all smaller modifiers ultimately do is make things more prone to randomness, and that makes it really hard to feel like an epic hero because random lucky idiots can ruin your day. A level 20 fighter (proficiency +6 + strength +5 = +11) loses to a level 1 fighter (proficiency +2 + strength +3 = +6) at a test of strength 22.75% of the time. He even loses to a peasant nobody (total bonus +0) 9% of the time. I mean, the game says that level 20 is supposed to be where "the fate of the world or even the fundamental order of the multiverse might hang in the balance" and you can't even be assured of winning 10 out of 10 arm wrestling matches against peasants. So... yeah. The fate of the world. I mean, unless you're a caster, of course. Level 9 spells are still awesome.


Steerpike

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2016, 06:04:02 PM »
That was a really great review, and one which kinda surprised me.

I think 5th edition is aware that its non-casters suck, and basically tries to fix this by making everyone a caster. Which is not a great fix, but it's something at least.

I have mixed feelings on bounded accuracy. I totally agree that it undermines the ability to feel like an epic hero. However, right now I am kinda into the idea of this at least a bit. So I think it's possibly a matter of taste rather than a bug in the system. It's probably the part of 5th that I'm most ambivalent about.

sparkletwist

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2016, 07:13:27 PM »
Quote from: Steerpike
I think 5th edition is aware that its non-casters suck, and basically tries to fix this by making everyone a caster. Which is not a great fix, but it's something at least.
Yeah, I guess. More classes definitely have the option to get magic, depending on the class archetype, but there are archetypes that don't grant it, too. And they generally suck, because non-casters suck.

I'm especially disappointed in the battle master, which seemed like an attempt to put some Bo9S/PoW-style martial maneuvers into the core rules, but they didn't give him anything really fantastic, even when casters were doing plenty of fantastic things... probably because people would complain he was "too anime" or something, and for whatever reason they keep clinging to the untenable premise that magic can and should be 'magical' but fighters can't and shouldn't become overtly and profoundly superhuman.

Quote from: Steerpike
I have mixed feelings on bounded accuracy. I totally agree that it undermines the ability to feel like an epic hero. However, right now I am kinda into the idea of this at least a bit. So I think it's possibly a matter of taste rather than a bug in the system. It's probably the part of 5th that I'm most ambivalent about.
I feel like it's a bug in the system because of claims like "the fate of the world or even the fundamental order of the multiverse might hang in the balance" in the rules, and awesometastic 9th-level spells like gate, true polymorph and of course wish seem to back up that assertion. So, if you're a wizard, you can play that game. Meanwhile, fighters still suck, in fact, they suck even more than ever, because at least in the old days a level 20 fighter at least had stratospheric strength and a BAB of +20 so he could win mundane fights all day long without breaking a sweat. He can't even do that anymore!

Steerpike

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2016, 10:46:29 PM »
Quote from: sparkletwist
I'm especially disappointed in the battle master, which seemed like an attempt to put some Bo9S/PoW-style martial maneuvers into the core rules, but they didn't give him anything really fantastic, even when casters were doing plenty of fantastic things... probably because people would complain he was "too anime" or something, and for whatever reason they keep clinging to the untenable premise that magic can and should be 'magical' but fighters can't and shouldn't become overtly and profoundly superhuman.

Yeah, the battlemaster kinda sucks, at least relative to a lot of other archetypes.

In my 5th edition game I ended up setting everything in a magical city full of wizards for basically this exact reason. My rogue player has gone with arcane trickster, and I'm pretty sure even the fighter is thinking of multi-classing or going eldritch knight. We do have a monk, but monks get at least some cool stuff.

Quote from: sparkletwist
I feel like it's a bug in the system because of claims like "the fate of the world or even the fundamental order of the multiverse might hang in the balance" in the rules, and awesometastic 9th-level spells like gate, true polymorph and of course wish seem to back up that assertion. So, if you're a wizard, you can play that game. Meanwhile, fighters still suck, in fact, they suck even more than ever, because at least in the old days a level 20 fighter at least had stratospheric strength and a BAB of +20 so he could win mundane fights all day long without breaking a sweat. He can't even do that anymore!

Yeah, the fighter is basically the casualty of bounded accuracy in some ways. I like some aspects of bounded accuracy in the sense that it keeps everyone somewhat vulnerable, but it does exacerbate the problem of non-casters.

Steerpike

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2016, 07:24:27 PM »
Question: were there any house rules or optional rules incorporated into the session, and if so, how did you find they worked in practice?

Part of the reason I think a lot of people have been drawn to older editions as opposed to 3.X-4th was they seemed more amenable to hacking and house-ruling, since there weren't delicate webs of balance to disrupt. Even though those editions often had objectively bad rules in many places, their simplicity and even their imperfection made them more easily adjustable (you could "add on" to 3.X easily, I think, but not change the rules without more unintended consequences). It seemed like a design goal of 5th to try and capture some of the amorphousness of the earlier editions with its relative minimalism and general lack of emphasis on "builds," system mastery, and balance as a whole. These all struck me as welcome changes I didn't fully appreciate until actually playing, but I'm curious as to your thoughts. I don't think 5th delivered on its promise of a fully modular, hyper-customizable D&D, but it does seem less fragile than 3.X/Pathfinder when it comes to house-ruling.

sparkletwist

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2016, 10:33:55 PM »
Quote from: Steerpike
Question: were there any house rules or optional rules incorporated into the session, and if so, how did you find they worked in practice?
I used a variant human, which is an optional version that gives a +1 bonus to two stats, a bonus skill proficiency, and a feat; rather than the standard human bonus of +1 to every stat.

We also used inspiration, which I think is probably the sort of thing that disappoints almost everyone. Grognards who like their D&D somewhere between "gamism" and "simulationism" don't want any of this fluffy meta-point nonsense getting in their way, and they'll find it annoying. On the other hand, people like me who love Fate find it weak and inadequate.

Quote from: Steerpike
I don't think 5th delivered on its promise of a fully modular, hyper-customizable D&D, but it does seem less fragile than 3.X/Pathfinder when it comes to house-ruling.
You're right. There's really very little in the way of modularity. I mean, I've ranted enough on the impossibility of what they were supposedly promising, so you probably know how I feel about this. I'm not at all surprised they wised up and decided not to bother with that mess.

I think the main reason that 5th edition seems more resilient to hacking around is that it more or less throws all of the complexities of scaling numbers out the window and is basically built around being 3rd level forever. There is not much attention paid to numerical scaling because the actual numbers are so unimpressive. A level 20 character with a bonus of +11 (stat +5, proficiency +6) will fail at a DC 15 task 15% of the time. This is the same DC 15 task that a random nobody (total bonus 0) will succeed at 30% of the time. So the difference between the epic hero and the peasant is... succeeding 85% of the time where a commoner would succeed 30% of the time. Oh, and you also get 9th-level spells, if you're a caster. One of these is significantly more impressive!

Aside from spells, the only way characters really gain is, as you've already observed, ever-increasing amounts of HP. So you can bumble around and fail at a lot of things random peasants might succeed at but since you have massive amounts of HP you won't die from all of your mishaps. This kind of seems like it'd be an excellent paradigm for a game based on slapstick comedy, but perhaps not so much a fantasy adventure.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2016, 10:35:28 PM by sparkletwist »

Steerpike

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2016, 10:54:28 PM »
Quote from: sparkletwist
We also used inspiration, which I think is probably the sort of thing that disappoints almost everyone. Grognards who like their D&D somewhere between "gamism" and "simulationism" don't want any of this fluffy meta-point nonsense getting in their way, and they'll find it annoying. On the other hand, people like me who love Fate find it weak and inadequate.

I find it gets forgotten a lot by players at my table unless I remind people, and I generally forget. It's come in handy a few times but I think it needs modification to be really useful. There's a variant where players award each other inspiration that I think could be interesting.

I think you're dead on about numerical scaling.

Quote from: sparkletwist
This kind of seems like it'd be an excellent paradigm for a game based on slapstick comedy, but perhaps not so much a fantasy adventure.

Depends what kind of fantasy adventure - it's a very big genre. What I think it's bad at simulating is epic/high, heroic fantasy: the characters don't gain enough, and even high level spells don't make casters into deities. It's really terrible if you want to play a game that feels like The Chronicles of Amber or The Wheel of Time or something, where "high level" characters reshape reality and the fate of worlds hangs regularly in the balance. Characters can still die pretty easily, and aren't generally as outrageously equipped as Pathfinder types. And I also think it'd be bad at doing a grim & gritty Song of Ice and Fire type world where you need a system that can properly model gangrene and most people don't even believe magic exists. Just too many casters.

But I think 5th is pretty good at simulating various other sorts of fantasy - settings like Discworld, Bas-Lag, Newhon, Lyonesse or the Dying Earth, kind of low fantasy or urban fantasy or picaresque stuff. Fantasy where there's plenty of magic around, but for the most part the "heroes" are pretty ordinary mortals rather than chosen ones or demigods.

sparkletwist

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #7 on: November 25, 2016, 04:00:00 PM »
Quote from: Steerpike
Depends what kind of fantasy adventure - it's a very big genre.
True, I was talking about the kind of fantasy adventure that 5th level D&D promises compared to what it delivers, at least at high levels. For example, here is what the Dungeon Master's Guide has to say on the topic of levels 17-20:

IC: The 5e DMG
By 17th level, characters have superheroic capabilities, and their deeds and adventures are the stuff of legend. Ordinary people can hardly dream of such heights of power-- or such terrible dangers. Dedicated spellcasters at this tier wield earthshaking 9th-level spells such as wish, gate, storm of vengeance, and astral projection. Characters have several rare and very rare magic items at their disposal, and begin discovering legendary items such as a vorpal sword or a staff of the magi.
You'll notice that all of their examples of the power that these superheroic characters can achieve are spells and magic items. Given the way that supposedly epic heroes can't consistently beat modest DCs, and how most high-level abilities for non-casters don't come anywhere close to high level magic, it doesn't surprise me that magic is really all they have to lean on.

Quote from: Steerpike
But I think 5th is pretty good at simulating various other sorts of fantasy - settings like Discworld, Bas-Lag, Newhon, Lyonesse or the Dying Earth, kind of low fantasy or urban fantasy or picaresque stuff. Fantasy where there's plenty of magic around, but for the most part the "heroes" are pretty ordinary mortals rather than chosen ones or demigods.
This is probably true, but it seems like that's as much a function of level as system. Like I said, everything feels like it's balanced around being 3rd level, so if you play close to that level, you'll probably do fine. A version of E6 for 5th edition or something like that would probably work just fine, but E6 works in PF, too. It doesn't change the fact that they supposedly offer this whole high level play experience that's basically illusory because the system more or less stops making any mathematical sense as you keep gaining levels.


Steerpike

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2016, 05:10:39 PM »
Quote from: sparkletwist
This is probably true, but it seems like that's as much a function of level as system. Like I said, everything feels like it's balanced around being 3rd level, so if you play close to that level, you'll probably do fine. A version of E6 for 5th edition or something like that would probably work just fine, but E6 works in PF, too. It doesn't change the fact that they supposedly offer this whole high level play experience that's basically illusory because the system more or less stops making any mathematical sense as you keep gaining levels.

It's hard for me to say since I haven't played high level 5th. For a low-fantasy or Vancian fantasy game - which, sure, isn't exactly what the book promises - I think it's a good thing to somewhat minimize power disparities. But I feel like I'd need to play it to tell how well it works.

I do think that 5th probably puts more emphasis on requiring a good DM than Pathfinder. Not that a good DM isn't useful in Pathfinder, but there is much more of a "standard" way of play proscribed and more of a rule for everything. In 5th it feels like the game's quality depends more on the DM - it could go fantastically well or be a total trainwreck more easily. The rules often seem to demand more interpretation, and it feels much less like a wargame.

sparkletwist

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2016, 02:19:04 PM »
Quote from: Steerpike
I think it's a good thing to somewhat minimize power disparities.
Even if this is the game you were going for, 5th edition doesn't actually do this, either. High-level characters are supernaturally tough thanks to everyone ending up with a pile of HP, and, if they are casters, they have amazing magical power at their disposal, and that does absolutely nothing to "minimize power disparities." But they routinely fail at common tasks due to bonuses hardly increasing at all.

Quote from: Steerpike
I do think that 5th probably puts more emphasis on requiring a good DM than Pathfinder.
No. This is just a restated Oberoni fallacy. The system's math is broken and game balance is way off so the play experience generated by the mechanics very often doesn't match the fluff. You're right that not every DM is good enough to make stuff up out of the air in order to fix this at the table... but that's the DM going above and beyond. That shouldn't be the DM's responsibility anyway. I reject any argument that make 5th edition's considerable problems seem like a failing of the DM rather than of the system.

Steerpike

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #10 on: November 27, 2016, 08:43:12 PM »
Quote from: sparkletwist
High-level characters are supernaturally tough thanks to everyone ending up with a pile of HP, and, if they are casters, they have amazing magical power at their disposal, and that does absolutely nothing to "minimize power disparities.

AC doesn't scale in the same way, though, so if you amass sufficient numbers you can still cut through even the big HP of casters. Obviously casters do have enormous magical power, but they remain dependent on resting/studying/praying and have a limited number of spells, so they're not totally god-like.

Quote from: sparkletwist
No. This is just a restated Oberoni fallacy.

My argument isn't that 5th edition's rules aren't broken because they can be house-ruled or ignored, but rather that there are fewer of them and they are more flexible and open to interpretation by design, which thus puts more pressure on the DM to be a good DM - i.e. make rulings and judgments using the rules as broad guidelines, while focusing on concocting scenarios and settings that will be a source of fun and intrigue rather than relying on a per-ordained encounter and treasure structures following a semi-official format.

Rather than talking about whether 5th edition's (or any other edition's) rules are objectively good, I would rather ask whether they're good  for certain groups, the way they suit particular ludic/aesthetic preferences. That is to say: some styles of play or sorts of games are facilitated by 5th edition, just as other games and editions bring with them other styles.

So, for example, we can talk forever about how Fate is an objectively good system (for example), but because of my own preferences, I would consider it a bad fit for my own campaigns - I'd use it for one-shots, but never for an ongoing game.

Likewise with Pathfinder - Pathfinder is good for certain groups and styles of play, but its assumptions and rules make it harder to execute other styles of play. This is sort of the issue that cropped up in the thread about house-ruling Pathfinder, where I was straining against the bounds of Pathfinder to make it something it really isn't at its core.

I think 5th encourages a style of play that's pretty distinct from previous editions of D&D - it's more than a retroclone of earlier editions, but there are also some things it can do that 3.X or 4th could not, or at least, discouraged.

Quote from: sparkletwist
The system's math is broken and game balance is way off so the play experience generated by the mechanics very often doesn't match the fluff

I guess I'm putting very little emphasis on 5th edition's fluff at all. It might well be that the mechanics are a lousy fit for the fluff in the handbooks - not that there's much of it anyway - but I make up my own fluff anyway, so this is sort of a moot point for me. Like, I really don't care much as to whether 5th edition lives up to the promise in the preface of the Player's Handbook or something.

EDIT: It might be interesting to a have a side-debate about the Oberoni fallacy in a separate thread, if the prospect doesn't exhaust you just to think about it, as I imagine we have very different feelings about it. I don't reject the fallacy per se but I tend to think that the DM just making things up is sort of the baseline, as opposed, say, to the worst of all possible worlds; rules aren't useful in and of themselves but rather make some things easier for the DM and players to do and make other things harder for the players and DM to do. Moreover, I'd draw a fairly big distinction between an open-ended rule requiring interpretation and a broken rule that has to be ignored. I think you tend to be more demanding of a rules-set than I am, which could make for an interesting discussion (or not?).

sparkletwist

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #11 on: November 27, 2016, 10:19:36 PM »
Quote from: Steerpike
AC doesn't scale in the same way, though, so if you amass sufficient numbers you can still cut through even the big HP of casters. Obviously casters do have enormous magical power, but they remain dependent on resting/studying/praying and have a limited number of spells, so they're not totally god-like.
Well, sure. Just about everything can eventually get beat down by a mob of nobodies. So, on that level, sure, there's less disparity in power. However, all I'm saying is that, within that context, there's still a huge power disparity between someone who has high level spells and someone who doesn't. I mean, to go with your point, the spellcaster can use summoning or necromancy to get their mob, while the non-spellcaster has to... recruit peasants, or something, I guess. And for that matter the caster can probably even recruit peasants better because of stuff like geas, too.

Quote from: Steerpike
My argument isn't that 5th edition's rules aren't broken because they can be house-ruled or ignored, but rather that there are fewer of them and they are more flexible and open to interpretation by design, which thus puts more pressure on the DM to be a good DM
There's more pressure on the DM because the system is weaker, so the DM's skills have to make up for shortcomings in the system. If there were a rule written, the DM could evaluate that rule and either use it or not, but very often in 5e there's just nothing written, even for common tasks! So, yeah, that puts more pressure on the DM to be a good DM, but I think it's pretty unfair to imply that someone who can't handle this is a "bad DM" because they mistakenly thought that the rules they were using would actually tell them how to play the game.

For example, if I'm running a Pathfinder game, and the question comes up "How does X work?" there is probably a rule for it. In Fate, there's unlikely to be a hard rule, but Fate has a set of guidelines for how to use aspects, compels, and the fate point economy to make something up that feels fair to everyone. 5th edition just... leaves a lot of this up to the DM. Even if the DM would rather have more guidance. And your solution to this is just "be a better DM?" No, I'd rather play a better system.

Quote from: Steerpike
I guess I'm putting very little emphasis on 5th edition's fluff at all. It might well be that the mechanics are a lousy fit for the fluff in the handbooks - not that there's much of it anyway - but I make up my own fluff anyway, so this is sort of a moot point for me. Like, I really don't care much as to whether 5th edition lives up to the promise in the preface of the Player's Handbook or something.
It matters because a lot of players are going to go into it thinking they can trust the PHB and the DMG to describe the sort of game world the outcomes of the rules actually generate, and they're going to end up disappointed and confused when it becomes evident that they can't. If you hadn't analyzed the math (or read my analysis of it, or whatever) you wouldn't know that 5e couldn't run certain sorts of epic, high-powered games, and the books certainly act like it can.

Quote from: Steerpike
It might be interesting to a have a side-debate about the Oberoni fallacy in a separate thread
I think I've had my fill of gaming debates for the time being. :P
« Last Edit: November 27, 2016, 10:21:30 PM by sparkletwist »

Steerpike

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2016, 10:44:24 PM »
Quote from: sparkletwist
However, all I'm saying is that, within that context, there's still a huge power disparity between someone who has high level spells and someone who doesn't.

Yeah, I'll totally grant this.

Quote from: sparkletwist
I mean, to go with your point, the spellcaster can use summoning or necromancy to get their mob, while the non-spellcaster has to... recruit peasants, or something, I guess.

For sure. I personally would have liked to see more stronghold/army options built into non-caster fighter archetypes for just this reason.

Quote from: sparkletwist
If there were a rule written, the DM could evaluate that rule and either use it or not, but very often in 5e there's just nothing written, even for common tasks!

Without necessarily defending all omissions in 5th, I think I somewhat disagree with the principle here. There are times when I feel like rules can become constraints in situations where otherwise the DM could handwave something or make a quick ruling without the formality of a house rule. Ignoring or actively rejecting a rule can be more "difficult" than glossing over some actions because the rules are vague.

I take your point that weaknesses in the rules that force a DM to "compensate" shouldn't be taken as evidence of bad DMing. I don't think 5th always does this, though it might in some circumstances.

Quote from: sparkletwist
For example, if I'm running a Pathfinder game, and the question comes up "How does X work?" there is probably a rule for it. In Fate, there's unlikely to be a hard rule, but Fate has a set of guidelines for how to use aspects, compels, and the fate point economy to make something up that feels fair to everyone. 5th edition just... leaves a lot of this up to the DM. Even if the DM would rather have more guidance. And your solution to this is just "be a better DM?" No, I'd rather play a better system.

I'd argue that 5th edition has a reasonably good set of guidelines for ad-hoc rulings, which rely on reasonably good DM judgment without supplying a rule-for-everything. Pretty much every single sort of action comes down to the following:

1) Make an ability check with a d20. Figure out which of 6 broad abilities this falls under.
2) Is a proficiency bonus applicable?
3) Is there reason to impose advantage/disadvantage?

So the DM has to make a few choices - a difficulty class (generally 10-20, since skills don't change that much), which ability to choose, whether someone has a case for a proficiency bonus, and whether advantage/disadvantage is in effect.

In guess arguably 0) could be "does this even need a roll?"

There aren't too many things of consequence in the game that can't be modeled with this. It's really not all that drastically less comprehensive than Fate's aspects/compels/Fate points, and arguably more intuitive to some players (well, to me anyway).

Quote from: sparkletwist
It matters because a lot of players are going to go into it thinking they can trust the PHB and the DMG to describe the sort of game world the outcomes of the rules actually generate, and they're going to end up disappointed and confused when it becomes evident that they can't. If you hadn't analyzed the math (or read my analysis of it, or whatever) you wouldn't know that 5e couldn't run certain sorts of epic, high-powered games, and the books certainly act like it can.

That's a fair criticism of the books as a whole, sure. I doesn't really change my views of 5th much personally.

Quote from: sparkletwist
I think I've had my fill of gaming debates for the time being.

 :grin:

sparkletwist

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2016, 04:06:42 PM »
Quote from: Steerpike
There are times when I feel like rules can become constraints in situations where otherwise the DM could handwave something or make a quick ruling without the formality of a house rule. Ignoring or actively rejecting a rule can be more "difficult" than glossing over some actions because the rules are vague.
I guess it's more difficult in the sense that it forces conscious action. That is, it forces the DM to think through the ramifications of that ruling and explain it in a way that the players can understand so that it can be applied consistently as needed... but I don't see this as a bad thing at all.

Quote from: Steerpike
I'd argue that 5th edition has a reasonably good set of guidelines for ad-hoc rulings
Where are they? All I found were some vague instructions on p. 238 of the DMG that don't even really give you any actual numbers or probabilities. I mean, all it says for DC 15 is "requires a higher score or proficiency for success." Maybe they figure they don't have to tell you because it's sort of obvious from looking at the numbers that a character with stat of 14 or 15 (+2 modifier) and a +2 proficiency bonus has a 50-50 shot at a DC 15 check, but if they're dismissing that as obvious, then everything they actually have written can be dismissed as even more obvious, so I don't know what the point of this section even is.

To contrast, in Pathfinder, if you want to climb something, it has these DCs, if you want to run and jump, look here, and so on. If you want to talk to someone, these rules exist but they're crap so yeah throw them out... but in all these cases having a rule means that if you're the DM you can choose to use that rule (like you probably will for physical skills) or make something up (like you probably will for diplomacy). Not having a rule simply means you have to make something up. Of course, ideally, I'd prefer that game developers didn't write rules that are better off ignored, but that's me wanting them to come up with better rules, not just leave bad ones out.

Quote from: Steerpike
It's really not all that drastically less comprehensive than Fate's aspects/compels/Fate points
First of all, I'd dispute that. The Fate SRD has a pretty good explanation of what difficulties mean what vs. particular skill levels of PCs, and even more information on capabilities for NPCs, which are pretty broadly relevant in Fate due to the Fate fractal. The books go into even more detail.

Second of all, I'd say it doesn't even really matter because you're comparing apples to oranges. The goal of the Fate resolution system is to drive the narrative, so it's going to be less specific because its outcomes always bend to the needs of the story. It's a narrative engine, not a physics simulator, and it's got a whole system of invoking aspects and spending meta-currency designed to help drive that narrative. D&D does not work like that. Inspiration is there, but it's kind of weak and easily forgotten anyway. For the most part, D&D is focused on events, not narrative. The rules are not there to help structure a narrative, rather, they're there to help determine what actually happens. This is more appealing to players who like a crunchier game, a more tactical game, a more "simulationist" game, or whatever, but this only works if the rules actually go into the level of detail that sort of game needs. Otherwise, way too much of it falls to the DM making ad hoc rulings about how the world works, which is stressful on the DM, potentially disempowering to the players, and more than likely confusing to everybody.

Steerpike

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Re: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition
« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2016, 01:19:44 PM »
Quote from: sparkletwist
I guess it's more difficult in the sense that it forces conscious action. That is, it forces the DM to think through the ramifications of that ruling and explain it in a way that the players can understand so that it can be applied consistently as needed... but I don't see this as a bad thing at all.

It seems to me to do the opposite - if the rule's there, even if it's bad, you're more likely to use it without thinking about it, whereas if things are a bit more amorphous but there's a guideline for resolving actions generally, you have to think things through. It can be onerous, though.

Quote from: sparkletwist
Where are they? All I found were some vague instructions on p. 238 of the DMG that don't even really give you any actual numbers or probabilities. I mean, all it says for DC 15 is "requires a higher score or proficiency for success." Maybe they figure they don't have to tell you because it's sort of obvious from looking at the numbers that a character with stat of 14 or 15 (+2 modifier) and a +2 proficiency bonus has a 50-50 shot at a DC 15 check, but if they're dismissing that as obvious, then everything they actually have written can be dismissed as even more obvious, so I don't know what the point of this section even is.

Sure, so page 173 to 175 of the PHB essentially outlines the core mechanics of the game. There's a list of DCs from 5-30 roughly ranking difficulties - so, like, a medium-difficulty task is DC 15. This section outlines how ability checks work, how contests work, how skills work, how passive skills work, how people can work together, and how advantage works. It's a simple but fairly elegant core mechanic, I think, and one that's very intuitive to use at the table. This is what I was describing as "a reasonably good set of guidelines for ad-hoc rulings," because while there aren't specific rulings spelled out, the framework and core mechanic for doing something is quite clear and easy to keep in your head.

Now, could it use some more specific DCs, like a list similar to the ones Pathfinder provides? Sure, but those are details, not the core mechanic. Even looking at the climb list DCs in Pathfinder and just looking at the descriptions in the right hand column, the right DCs more or less reveal themselves if you ignore the left hand column. Like how hard does "A surface with ledges to hold on to and stand on, such as a very rough wall or a ship’s rigging" sound to climb? Probably pretty Easy, right? Ok, so DC 10... and, yep, there it is, DC 10 in Pathfinder too. How about "an uneven surface with some narrow handholds and footholds, such as a typical wall in a dungeon." Well that sounds sort of medium - to - hard difficulty, so maybe 15 or 20. It's 20 in Pathfinder, though of course character shave higher skill bonuses there.

I don't think assigning DCs is DM fiat, for example, but rather, like, a core part of DMing - estimating difficulty, and describing things in the game-world sufficiently to make that difficulty clear, and answering questions if it's unclear. A list of DCs in a book can be useful, but they're not rules, they're sample rulings. And if someone thinks they should have advantage on a roll or something, I tend to be pretty open to hearing them out.

Quote from: sparkletwist
First of all, I'd dispute that. The Fate SRD has a pretty good explanation of what difficulties mean what vs. particular skill levels of PCs, and even more information on capabilities for NPCs, which are pretty broadly relevant in Fate due to the Fate fractal. The books go into even more detail.

I just really don't find the PHB guidelines confusing or difficult to use in theory or practice. Can you give me an example where it would be really challenging to use 5th's rules framework to ad-hoc something?

Quote from: sparkletwist
For the most part, D&D is focused on events, not narrative. The rules are not there to help structure a narrative, rather, they're there to help determine what actually happens. This is more appealing to players who like a crunchier game, a more tactical game, a more "simulationist" game, or whatever, but this only works if the rules actually go into the level of detail that sort of game needs. Otherwise, way too much of it falls to the DM making ad hoc rulings about how the world works, which is stressful on the DM, potentially disempowering to the players, and more than likely confusing to everybody.

I'd argue 5th edition is actually quite good at simulating events and then using those events to craft an organic narrative, and it is also probably the least stressful game I've run or played in, while also being more narratively "empowering" than Pathfinder/4th/3.X or indeed old editions (I won't claim it's more empowering than Fate).

I find Fate very stressful to play or run because of its core metafictional assumptions about how the game gets shaped. It's a very fun game, but I find it exhausting. Even just looking at the rules and remembering that there are Challenges and Contests and Conflicts and that those all work subtly differently and there are also "Situational Aspects" that can get involved and that you sometimes need to keep track of something called "victories" (and sometimes don't) and that the rules may require me to come up with an unexpected twist, and that there are both "Zones" and "Sides" to take into account, potentially, and there are multiple ways of mitigating hits... I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it.

Pathfinder/3.X are good, but often far more stressful to run than 5th. Looking up grappling rules and bogging down the game and trying to tease out exact math and spending 30 minutes to level up a character are stressful. Making an ad-hoc ruling for a DC is not stressful at all, at least for me. It's a skill, sure, and 5th could provide some more specific DCs than it does, but it's really no big deal. Quick, improvisational rulings aren't harrowing for me, and they also don't tend to lead to frustrated players for the most part - though maybe that could be different for a different DM.

I also find I tend to "say yes" more in 5th than in Pathfinder. When someone tries something, instead of cracking out the long skills list and consulting all the relevant DCs and thinking through every nuance of tactical positioning in combat and trying to keep track of how many attacks of opportunity the kobold with combat reflexes should get and all the other status-tracking stuff that tended to slow combats down in previous editions I'm much more inclined to let players roll, give them advantage if it feels right, make a quick ruling as DM using the framework 5th provides, and generally being generous. I often ended up doing this in Pathfinder anyway, but I would often feel bad for consciously deviating from the RAW, often simply to avoid spending minutes flipping through pages.