Tuesday, June 5, 2012

More 5e Playtest Thoughts

We played through some combat scenarios tonight and mixed the dice rolling with discussion of the 5e rules.

Here are some of our observations in no particular order.

If you are taking stock at home, we have two players in their 20s and two in their 30s:

*We don't like the HP bloat for PCs or for monsters.
*We don't like the bonus bloat either.
*We understand that bonus bloat requires HP bloat
*The laser cleric needs to go. The cleric player just stood back like Cyclops from the X-Men and blasted monsters. That wasn't fun.
*The dwarven fighter never missed.
*The frost ray of the mage player was particularly effective given the amount and volume of damage the party could deal in one round.
*We don't like the advantage/disadvantage rules. Why? It kills the sanctity of the dice. It doesn't allow the dice to play their part in the development of the game. It prioritizes the rules over the dice. We really dislike that.
*Is the gameplay fast? Yes, but that's because the bonuses are outlandish. You'd expect combat to end quickly given the bonuses and advantage/disadvantage rules.
*There needs to be a happy medium between AoO and no AoO. Unless we missed something (which is entirely possible) monsters can move unhindered right through a party to get at the spell-casters and vice versa.
*The cleric player wasn't really sold on the at-wills, but the mage player seemed to like them. They suggested getting rid of at-wills in favour of more spells that you could cast once per day.
*We felt it would be very difficult for a PC to die in this edition.

In sum, quick painful death must be a part of the game to make it meaningful. The randomness of the dice are a highlight of D&D, not something to get bracketed with rules. The combat plays fast, but that's the direct result of the buffy characters. Too buff for our taste. We like resource management, and the current playtest rules do not allow us to emphasize that aspect of the game (to the degree that we prefer). D&D is not a supers game, and this playtest felt like a supers game with first level characters.


  1. I hear you on the resource management! One of the things that I would like to push during my next playtest (this Friday) is tracking torches, tracking rations, and generally tracking time. The unfortunate part is that the playtest doesn't include wandering monsters, so it's up to me when to spring an orc patrol or whatnot.

    I have to admit feeling a bit strange when arbitrarily deciding to have a couple of orcs carrying a captive in a sack from one cave to another while the PCs explored. It felt a bit forced, especially when the players interpreted it as "good guy captive" and went off to rescue him.

    It was a goblin.

    I'm also really curious to see if death can actually happen. The next session is going to open with an Ogre, so it'll be interesting to see what happens... I know that the Wizard was down to 2-3 hit points after taking a couple of good hits--funny, considering that a M-U with 2-3 hit points would be at full strength normally. :)

  2. How much have you played 3.X or 4E? I ask innocently, not snarkily, to gauge our mutual experiences related to bonuses. In my experiences, skill bonuses are much more under control in 5E, than the previous 2 editions. I also like that Weapon bonuses are in line with skills bonuses. But to each their own and as always, I enjoy hearing your perspective.

    As to the laser cleric, I'm not sure I've seen a Cleric, at least since 2E that didn't make it at least slightly overpowered. I think I'd prefer a bonus to weapon damage over the laser beam.

  3. Well, I gotta say, I haven't had a chance to run a session yet but I am working on it with some of my gaming groups. That said, I have read the rules several times and nothing overtly offends me. Sure there are plenty of things I dont care for right off the bat:

    "Healing surges", instant magic on the fly, and the inflation of hit points. I think they really should handle the "healing surges" and maybe even the instant cantrip spells more as a side OPTION ( maybe listed on a half page) but it should NOT be included as canon.

    I like the saving throws against the stats ( this is a rule right out of castles and crusades rpg- although they divide monsters into two simple saving throws- physical and mental),

    I dont mind the Advantage/Disadvantage- this is very similar to Barbarians of Lemuria. I actually like this approach since I dont have to come up with a number that I feel is relative to their action.

    I like that they are trying to put more emphises on roll playing and DM discretion, and less on Gamist approach and using a die to solve everything. Id like if they got away from the DC checks, but at least they made them simpler ( if you have a skill- it just adds +3 to the attribute roll- simple).

    I dont mind the Background and Themes- as long as it doesnt become too much like a Paragon Path or Prestige Class ( unless their idea is to add these options as splat books later on- fine I wont use them).

    Taking the Playtest at face value, nothing really makes me HATE it. It feels like they are cherry picking rules, mechanics and playstyles from various editions and craming them to create some aborrant amalgam.

    I can kind of see where they are trying to go with all of this BUT as I see it now- it doesnt look like "ONE GAME TO RULE THEM ALL" instead it looks more like "LET THEM EAT CAKE!!!!"

  4. I am not really interested in trying 5e. However, this past week I went to the Origins game fair in Columbus, Ohio. I watched a group play and, while they seemed to be having fun, it irritated me. The adventure being presented for playtest was the Caves of Chaos from The Keep on the Borderlands. I tried 4e and hated the use of old school art and the red box. Now the 5e playtest using the iconic Caves of Chaos maps... There is more to old school gaming than the packaging.

  5. I played a year and a half of 3.5 before I realized it wasn't the type of D&D I really wanted to play. I have played 4e a handful of times. Enough to know it wasn't D&D but a new game with the brand name.

    Yes, if WotC wants lapsed players to buy in they need to do more than print blue maps. They need to have discussions about cake, not the icing on the outside.

    1. Fine. I'll be that guy.


      The cake is a lie.

      *Hides head in shame*

  6. "Now the 5e playtest using the iconic Caves of Chaos maps... There is more to old school gaming than the packaging."

    Part of the point of using it, is to see how it handles the "iconic old school" thing. *shrug*

    And to address the original post it's interesting to me to see how divergent peoples opinions can be of the same material.

    *Hp bloat (as you call it), is something mentioned as being looked at.
    *Bonuses... first off don't seem that bloated to me, but more importantly to keep in mind is that as you level your bonuses will not be going up very much.
    *The laser cleric, had a lot of fun in our play test... not sure why it's not fun for your group.
    *As the dwarven fighter I missed quite a few times...
    *mage didn't cast ray of frost, so can't comment
    *I don't really understand "sanctity of the dice"... but, that's probably because I don't hold much sacred...
    *I agree that AoO need to be addressed, somehow. Because yeah there's no way to stop people moving around...
    *We had one PC die, and 3 go unconscious in one fight with skeletons and zombies in the "cult area"... so it's definitely possible.

    1. Quote: "Now the 5e playtest using the iconic Caves of Chaos maps... There is more to old school gaming than the packaging."

      Quote: Part of the point of using it, is to see how it handles the "iconic old school" thing. *shrug*

      The only "old-school" thing they handled during the playtest was the map. What I watched them play was not.

    2. And having played it I'd say you were wrong... *Shrug* Is it 100% full on old school? No... Part of what you saw as not old school may well have been the people not approaching it that way it hat way. But 5e's style has more old school to it than "just a blue map".

  7. - In my play test, the fighter was played by a person who rolls notoriously badly, and true to form, he rarely hit.
    - Agree strongly on the laser cleric. Maybe it's just where I've come from, but it just seemed to be a blaster class with no flavor at all.
    - Also agree regarding AoO. Simple engagement and disengagement rules would fix this and not require a grid.

    I'm uncertain what you mean by "the sanctity of the dice," as there is no reduction of randomness. I really like the advantage and disadvantage rules, and the primary strength is mathematical: the set of possible values is still capped at 20 (or the high value of whatever die you are using). So it works well with the stated goal of reigning in bonus inflation. It actually feels very old school to me too:


  8. There's actually a pretty great article about what they're trying to do with the power curve, bonuses, and all that junk on the D&D blog: Bounded Accuracy.

  9. That article is a big load of shite.

    D&D doesn't need more quantification, it needs less quantification.

    If you want to teach DMs to be good DMs write a manual about it with examples. Don't over quantify the game to make up for it.

  10. @anon, you obviouslymprefer WotC D&D. That's fine and good on you.

    I have an appreciation for the origins of the game and want to play Gygax inspired versions.

    From that point of view the HP bloat and bonus bloat really isn't tolerable.

    1. I still don't see bonus bloat as a thing in 5e, really, unless you feel that characters shouldn't have any bonuses really. The Hp thing I can see, even if I disagree, so it's not something I'll argue with since the designers have said that HPs are one of the things they are going to be fiddling with.

      But yes, I do prefer a less "house cats are a serious threat" ascetic to my characters. But at times I find it interesting to read just how different peoples views can be when they look at the same thing.

  11. The sanctity of the dice means that you allow the dice to play their part in the outcome of the game. That you as DM use randomness to add to the story that emerges from play. Allowing two dice and taking the highest when you have a +6 attack bonus against an AC of 12 seems like overkill. That's why I noted that the combats are short because the bonuses are so high. That isn't really challenging or threatening for PCs.

    1. That's not a property of advantage or disadvantage though, that's a property of excessive bonuses (a criticism which I agree with, especially for first level characters). I think if it is a question between situational bonuses and penalties or the two dice take highest method, I prefer the second (though I have only used it in the D&D Next play test for things like attack rolls, so I can't really comment yet on how it would feel through a more extended campaign).

      I did briefly play around with distinguishing between two-weapon fighting and two-handed weapons by 2DTH on the attack roll for dual weapons (but still only one damage roll) and 2DTH on the damage roll for two-handed weapons with only one attack roll, but I never tried it in play because I figured it might be too much of a min/max lure to just calculate expected damage value.

    2. Sure it is, you are discarding the roll of a die.

  12. I agree with most of the other criticisms, but I also rather like 2DTH as a mechanism. In some ways I think it protects "the dice" better than unbounded modifiers. With unbounded modifiers, you can walk certain possibilities right off the distribution curve and lose part of your table. I'd rather see a distribution skewed toward one side, but still have the possibility of an occasional unexpected failure (or success). Excessively large bonuses (anything beyond +/-4 or so) seem much more like an attempt to just throw away the "bad end" of the table and only use the good end.

    It also feels very "old school" to me, partly because I'm a big fan of Avalon Hill's Magic Realm (1979) where it's the default method for every d6 table in the game.

  13. @Brendan,

    No matter how you stack it up, rolling two dice doubles your chances of success.

    1. Expected value of 2d20 take highest is 13.82.

      See here:


      (For comparison, expected value of 1d20 is 10.5.)

      This is, statistically, less effective than the Moldvay +4 to backstab attacks.

      Whether it doubles your chances of success or not depends on what your target number is. For example, consider the you need to roll a 13 to hit. That's a 40% chance with 1d20. With 2d20 take highest, 64% of the result set is a success.

      Say you need to roll a 6 or higher. That is a 75% chance of success with 1d20. On 2d20 take highest, you have a 93.75% chance of success, which is a difference of 18.75% in success rates.

    2. Let me restate - it doubles your opportunities for success :p

      I'm glad you posted those numbers, because I'm really uncomfortable with them.

  14. Has anyone read this: Dungeons and Dragons: could the Next version end the edition wars?


    1. Here's the article for people who don't facebook or use FB apps:

  15. My playtest report for tonight touches on some of the observations the Yaksman makes:

    Something I didn't mention because it slipped my mind was that the stats feel quite inflated for someone who has been playing B/X for a few years. The Cleric with a 9 Strength who has a -1 penalty in 5e would be a totally decent fighter in B/X D&D. That's sort of a bummer for me. Rather than "ordinary people in extraordinary situations" it's more like "Olympic athletes (or Rhodes Scholars) versus surprisingly competent Bad Guys".