5e - why you think it sucks, and why you're wrong


Should be playing D&D instead
Ok controversial title right out of the gate. Got you here reading the thread, so I suppose it worked, right? Advertising!

This place generally echoes the sentiments of Bryce, so I'll let Bryce speak to the problems he has with 5e:

"36 rooms in seven pages is a decent density for 5e. The rooms generally don’t overstay their welcome with excessive trivia and background and read-aloud. Skill checks are done better than in most 5e, with logic and common sense coming in to play at numerous opportunities."

"Tactical mini’s. This is it. This is what people think D&D is. No wonder. No exploration. No roleplay. No interactivity. Just this."

"NPC’s get about a column each in 5e format. Appearance, Voice, Wants, Morality, Intelligence, Status, paragraph. Better, I think, to put together a sentence or two and then move on with life? Then they would all fit on the same page. Mindlessly following a script (or format) is never a good thing."

"There’s advice on not killing the party (in 5e, imagine …) and instructions to run things tough … but also on how to not kill the party. The contradictions are ripe and they all stem from The Story."

"It’s laid out and organized well, easy to scan … and has The Sandbox Problem. Still, great for 5e." ... "The major issue with the adventure though, is The Sandbox Problem. IE: why do the players care? In an older D&D it might be just for the loot, for XP. In modern versions though there tend to need to be other motivations to gain XP."

"Yeah, ok, I fucked up. I saw the cover and “Forgotten Realms” and thought I was buying OSR. It’s DMSGuild so it’s 5e. Not that there are any stats provided in the adventure. Not that it matter anyway; the opponents include a Gibbering Mouther, three wights, a basilisk, and an ancient legendary werewolf. At level one? Yes, at level one."

"While _I_ expect those things it’s clear that most designers don’t. They write dreck after dreck with shitty ass formatting that fights your attempt to use it in actual play. Even the major publishers, WOTC & Paizo, do this (so it’s no wonder people imitate them.)"

If you're following along, the gist of the issues Bryce has with all these 5e adventures are apparent: THE WRITING USUALLY SUCKS. Every time there's a 5e mechanic he doesn't like in the adventure, it's because the writer is USING IT WRONG (succeed on DC12 lockpick on the main dungeon door or no adventure for you, why aren't the stat blocks more condensed, etc.). I for one think it strange to condemn a whole system because apparently nobody competent has yet to write a 5e adventure. Yet that's exactly what the OSR community seems to do - they believe 5e is inferior because "it fosters the wrong motivations" or "the adventures are all so linear" or whatever thing is entirely isolated to a writer and his bad design choices.

Here's the crux of what I'm getting at: just because only a few good 5e products exists, it doesn't mean that all 5e products will be inherently bad. In Bryce's words, the three pillars of good adventure design are "usability, interactivity, and evocativeness" - Usability is a layout/editing issue. Interactivity is a creativity issue. Evocativeness is a vocabulary issue. Notice how none of those have anything to do with rules and game mechanics? Nothing about what XP system is being used, nothing about ascending vs. descending AC, nothing about the d20 system. It's almost as if the rule system doesn't dictate the quality of the writing in the adventure module.

Even Bryce has echoed this sentiment before:

"My belief is that designers don’t know what a good adventure looks like, a good published adventure anyway. They are flooded with bad examples, from WOTC, from PAIZO, through the marketplaces. These drown out any good examples that may be hiding."

Here's where people are making the mistake - It's the pool of 5e writers in the game right now that are coloring your opinions. They're generally shit. Sometimes they hit the mark, mostly they don't. But then, that's the case for everything. For every The Dark Knight, there's a Transformers 3. For every Led Zepplin, there's a Cardi B. For every Maze of the Blue Medusa, there's a Gemsting Caves. I don't assume all movies are bad, I don't assume all bands are bad, and I don't assume all adventures are bad. So why do you, simply because it was written for 5e?

"5e fosters bad player habits, based on monster-killing being the only incentive for party action!" you might say, incorrectly, and probably without ever having touched 5e in your life. But no, GP=XP retro-clones apparently don't foster party motivations... he says sarcastically. To that I leave a Bryce quote again:

"As an aside, the quest-giver offers you 500gp each for each shard of artifact. I’d go hire a village of around 500 people, for 1gp each, and collect 499gp*500 villagers in reward. But, I’m now a nice guy on the weekends so I won’t say that"

Every system has a few drawbacks. I'm not here to say 5e is perfect or even better than other systems. I am here to defend it against allegations that are entirely independent of the system though, like accusations about how 5e adventures are all linear, or the statblocks are too long, or the NPCs aren't fleshed-out or whatever. That's all entirely subjective to the author. Some get it right, some don't. But if you're going to criticize a system, criticize the system: PHB, DMG, MM - those are SYSTEM BOOKS. Adventures published independently are not. Stop using them as ammo for why a system is bad, and think for yourself about something (and ffs, if you have an opinion on a system, at least come into the argument having ACTUALLY USED the system at one point).

Anyways, that's my piece. If you can come with system criticism which relates directly to the system and not some nobody's writing habits, then I'm all ears. Otherwise, I think you're just talking out of your ass.


i fucking hate writing ...
Staff member
I'd yell J'Acuse! but you're essentially correct. Your position, I believe, is that condemnation of an adventure does not condemn the system. Which is correct. Tangentially, I would say that the official adventures, and the adventure glut, is teaching people the wrong lessons on how to write an adventure and what's important in one.

(I would note also that I almost never touch on the DESIGN of an adventure. I sometimes mention positive things, like a motivation, etc, but I leave the actual holistic design out almost always.)

There's this guy I run across sometimes at parties. Talking to him once we came to games. He noted he was a big time gamer and loved Cards Against Humanity and Munchkin. To a hardcore Dune, Duel of Ages 2, Federation & Empire and Die Macher fan that would fall under the category of "Filthy Casual", to borrow a term from video games.

"I love D&D!" has a lot of room. Tactical Mini's with Rules Mastery? Story based Pathfinder/5e? OSR meta-gaming? We're comparing apples to oranges. Or Fuji apples to Gala apples, maybe.

One day I'm gonna write a book about how old D&D works. You can see some collected resourced in my unsorted "Design" sub-board.

In short, I believe that old D&D is more boardgamey and victory-driven than modern versions, and that the rules of both support their styles. Modern versions are, I think, closer to Fiasco than older versions are.


Should be playing D&D instead
In short, I believe that old D&D is more boardgamey and victory-driven than modern versions, and that the rules of both support their styles. Modern versions are, I think, closer to Fiasco than older versions are.

I'm curious as to how you've arrived at this basis... that is to say, what about old D&D makes it especially more "boardgamey" than modern D&D?

Likewise, in what way do you believe modern D&D comparable to Fiasco? Fiasco has no GM/DM, and is very clearly a story-telling game, which is weird because usually the comparison goes the other way ("modern D&D emphasizes combat too much at the expense of storytelling" -someone who is not me), so I'm not sure I get the connection.


i fucking hate writing ...
Staff member
If there's a spectrum with Chess on one end and Fiasco on the other then 5e is closer to Fiasco than older D&D. If we accept the premise that older D&D is more board-gamey then that would be, logically, a true statement.

We can look at the rules as written, How you're supposed to interpret those rules (the intent) and then What you can do with those rules.

CanDo: Many people played older D&D the way they play 5e today, with the mechanics I'm going to (eventually) talk about minimized or non-existent. Further, we know that you can, to a certain extent, play older D&D in the modern manner and play modern D&D in a way in the older manner. At some point though you have to ask yourself "Why the fuck am I making all these changes? Why don't I just play system Y?" You drop enough sub-systems in older D&D or tweak 5e enough that you might as well play something else that supports your playstyle better. (And the answer is: because recruiting for the "current" system is fucking easier. :)

Intent: We know Mearls thinks thinks you should milestone after every session and we can interpret from the many official published adventures how the publisher thinks we should be playing. Further, we know from many AS reports (Monads are particularly easy to find) that older D&D WAS played in a board-gamey style.

Rules: The crux. I'm going to examine 5e by what it does NOT do, mostly. The older version has many subsystems that all work together to provide a play style larger than the sum of its parts. Accepting the treasure extraction game (Gold=XP) We immediately see that the players are much more in control vs a storytelling game. Where the DM tells a story. Which is the Intent of modern D&D. Where you do what the DM wants you to do. There are certainly shades here, but I think it's obvious that's how things go. Further, a closer examination sees a major push your luck mechanism in older D&D: the resource game. Sleep or Speak Languages? Are you fighting or exploring? Cure or Bless? Is the spell user combat support or exploration support? Resource management in HP, light, food, supplies. TIME. (You can't have a meaningful campaign ...) [I would not assert that the mechanics are perfect here; the resource mini-game is better implemented by several more modern OSR games. But the impact is the same] Looking now at the modern game, everyone has healing, light, magic item ID, spell memorization flexibility, abstracting away the "tedious" resource mini-games ... these all lead to a system in which these aspects are trivialized. And without push your luck then we're back to the DM telling a story again. Or the players trying to figure out what the DM wants them to do.

I think its possible (CanDo) to have a 5e game that has, say, hex exploration =XP, or some such. Some system that puts more control in the players hands and drags the game back away from Storyteller mode. But then you have to look at ALL of the subsystems and understand how they relate to your Exploration=XP. Are the spell lists correct? Is healing correct? Etc. Why not instead pick a system that supports that directly?

The unsorted resource post has a lot of links that describe the mini-games and how they work together.


Should be playing D&D instead
I can see the intent of your argument; that 5e as designed by Mearls is intended to quick-level characters (because leveling-up is exciting for players), and that certain rules (mostly spells and the Survival skill) have been added to the system to alleviate some of what many would consider the "tedious" tasks of D&D - tracking food and torches and whatnot (what you're calling "subsystems"). If I understand right, you're saying that older styles are better options for the people who like the nitpicky stuff because they don't have those shortcuts, yes?

If I could address the Mearls thing first: though he has said it would be the ideal for characters to level every session, I can tell you 5e is far from that, especially at higher levels where leveling is a rarity. If you leveled every session, then no campaign would last beyond 19 sessions. Obviously not the case, as I can attest to my present weekly 5e campaign which has been running for easily 100 sessions, yet the highest level character is at level 11... and that's with a combination of combat XP and quest XP. Same goes for published stuff. Dungeon of the Mad Mage (which I'm also running) expects you to level after each dungeon level - well, I don't know about you guys, but my group does about 8 rooms a session, and each level is around 40-50 rooms. That's a level every five or six sessions. So while Mearls may say he's designed the game to level characters after each session, it's not the reality of the game. I find the leveling rate to be somewhat on-par with older systems (obviously depending on the variant - there's so many retro-clones it's absurd; everyone and their dog has "invented" a ruleset).

As to the other stuff: there's nothing about DMing 5e that precludes resource management from the game. Sad that players can just cast Light instead of buying torches? "Hey guys, just a heads up before we begin this campaign, I've made some tweaks. Specifically, the spell Light is not in my campaign. Adjust character creation accordingly please." Solved. People forget the first rule of being a DM: you're allowed to change the rules. For the 5% of players who actually give a shit about counting torches, it's an easy fix.

Want some food-tracking minigame in 5e? "Guys, this campaign is set in an arid wasteland/underground dungeon/blighted hellscape - you won't be able to scavenge food using a Survival check, because there's just nothing edible to be found naturally"

There's also no real way to nix ammo tracking and encumbrance unless you homebrew the rules out of the game, so the party still has a logistics mini-game built into the system which isn't so easily bypassed as the food/water/light situation. "Bag of holding" you say? Yeah, you're the DM - don't give them one. Easiest solve ever.

I suppose the incredulousness of what I experience here comes down to this: the game is what's at the table, not what's in the books. The DM decides how things are going to play out, hopefully in the way that best fits what his players want to include. When someone says 5e sucks because it has this or doesn't have that, I just have to say "then fucking change it!". But nobody seems to understand that. They see 5e and think "not OSR; enemy system". And that's just sad to me, because I have tons of fun with 5e (as do literally millions of people), yet the grognards are so dismissive/elitist about using some niche OSR system that they'll inherently write 5e off without even having tried it.

"But I shouldn't have to change the system!" you might say... to that, I again point to the literally hundreds of variant rule systems in the OSR. If you're going to bitch about changing the system, you'd better be playing whitebox OD&D, because everything after that has been a change to the system. No system is perfect. There's no excuse not to change the stuff about the game that you/your players don't like.
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8, 8, I forget what is for
DP: I admire your tenacity in defending your favorite edition. There seems to have been quite a bit of shade thrown 5e's way recently, and I was wondering when it would trigger a response from you. I happy to see you rising to the challenge.

This post made me go back and read (skim) through the 5e SRD in order to add some meat onto the skeleton of my growing suspicion that this is a variant of the game I remember---but not the one I chose to play.

Your reaction to Bryce's (and others, including myself) who frequently mention that one method of playing OD&D was about survival, resources, risk, and rewards is typically dismissive ("nitpicky stuff", etc.). Players were heavily challenged, initially very weak, and the environment was quite dangerous and usually over-powering. Remember this was a "brain-y nerd hobby" whose participants prided themselves on being able to "think" their way of out seemingly hopeless situations.

Note: I said one method of playing OD&D.

Even during the 1e era, lots of folks eschewed this play style. Challenge-adverse players were allowed to have their way at many, many tables. Characters power-ups became ubiquitous---as did the player's character becoming an avatar for the player themselves---the hero they always wanted to be. Many players also "rules lawyer-ed" the DM to to achieve a status-quo of Victory Without Set-Backs.

You know I played both ways back them---and I can say personally the latter struck me as boring, distasteful and self-indulgent. However, it was only after playing in a more challenging context that I was able to arrive at this state-of-mind. Hind sight revealed what the problem had been.

Fifth edition has that stink of catering to player's wishes all over it. From the asinine "dragon born" races as a standard option, to a plenitude of magic-user sub-class (yeah, I don't even like 1e illusionists) all of which start out with effectively 5-6 spells because cantrips have undergone power-creep. Special "abilities" (skills/feats/DCs/Legendary Actions/etc.) out the yin-yang. Everybody get attribute score bonus (with almost no negatives). Everyone can heal. All sort of endemic "re-do's" if you don't like the dice result. Quick level advancement at low-levels. The list goes on and on.

What's more, throughout all the indexing and mechanization of abilities---all the magic and wonder has been sucked out of what should be a bizarre and quirky D&D that serves as a launchpad for your imagination. No wonder folks are having such a hard time getting a decent adventure module groove going. Everything in the tone of the rules feels flat.

DP, you clearly don't feel like you play "standard 5e", and that you've struck out in your own direction---modifying "on the fly". Back when I was a player, we didn't feel like we played "standard (1e) D&D" either. It was something we were quite pleased about---feeling that we had independently discovered a vein of pure gold. Why then put so much effort into defending 5e, since you clearly don't play it "out of the box"? What I am surprised you are not doing is shouting from a mountain top what you have discovered that goes beyond the "packageed product"---that's what most other folks tend to do. "Look what I found! It's awesome!".

At this point, I'm going to insert a recent quote from Patrick Stewart's False Machine blog. I'm never sure with Patrick if what he says resonates so strongly because of the ideas he's expounding, or just due to the power of his prose---doubt I'll ever know.

Patrick Stewart said:
Inherent to D&D is a powerful and unavoidable polarity in role-playing between centralised systematisation and individual creation. This is a Faultline Gygax found himself sitting right on top of but versions of it may have existed right back to Reiswitz.

Once a handful of people have played a few games of D&D, they really don't need to buy a lot of extra crap, or even more copies of the rules. It calls out to be modified and added to and people start doing this immediately on its publication, some of them after only hearing about the existence of the game.

So this is one end of the polarity - D&D as a form of folk art, made by individuals and social groups for those particular individuals and social groups. Independent, anarchistic and freeeeeee.

At the other end is D&D as both a product and a coherent system of rules, owned, distributed and publicised by a central authority.

The game as it exists in reality, continually draws energy from both ends of this irresolvable polarity.

In terms of Capital; by managing to turn D&D into a product something which could be owned, Gygax almost certainly added a huge amount of energy and drive to its existence and growth.

The money D&D makes goes into paying Gygax & Co, and it also goes back into printing more D&D, advertising it, spreading it, evangelising and proselytising it. This feedback loop acts as a kind of cultural amplifier. Once there is a corporate entity with a direct interest in maximising the growth of the product, it’s like having a tiger draw your chariot. It may be terrifying and destructive and occasionally eat people but holy fuck it goes fast.
To summarize, I do admire your gumption. Despite your claims to the contrary, I persist in thinking you are much younger than me because you haven't lost that youthful drive (and belief in yourself). But, unfortunately, as much as I would like to say 5e is an adequate substitution for the the D&D I like to play (honestly, it would make life simplier to be "with it" and not a relic from the past)---as the Magic Eight Ball would say---"All signs point to No".

That said, I really should just play it with a good DM and experience it first hand. After all, I've had some fun with RPG video games over the years too. 5e might be something different and good in it's own right.


(P.S. Yeah, the post is long. Bite me.)
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Well said Squeen. Here's the executive summary for those on a tight schedule.

"Fifth edition has that stink of catering to player's wishes all over it. From the asinine "dragon born" races as a standard option, to a plenitude of magic-user sub-class (yeah, I don't even like 1e illusionists) all of which start out with effectively 5-6 spells because cantrips have undergone power-creep. Special "abilities" (skills/feats/DCs/Legendary Actions/etc.) out the yin-yang. Everybody get attribute score bonus (with almost no negatives). Everyone can heal. All sort of endemic "re-do's" if you don't like the result. Quick level advancement at low-levels. The list goes on an on."

I call it "options overload." I once played a cleric who cast thunderbolts (on first or second level) and used a halberd; that's after I decided against making a cleric that was essentially a druid. Given the plethora of options for every player the once clear class distinctions have blurred to the point where one has to question the use of class at all.


Should be playing D&D instead
If I'm hearing right, people's problems are now with "too many options". I think people forget that "option" means "at your choosing" - that is to say, "optional". What's nice about 5e's "options" is that the rules for them exist, which means that if you're changing something, odds are that material is being omitted rather than invented. This is a key thing I don't think people are grasping.

Fun fact: D&D 5e was designed to be inclusive, much more so than older editions. Hence why it's generally considered much more newbie-friendly. Yes, you could argue that's just Hasbro trying to maximize profit by capturing a bigger market, but honestly bringing more players to the hobby will never be a bad thing in my eyes. The rules exist for players who want goofy characters, or legendary characters, or edgelord characters, or barebones characters. It's inclusive of as many playstyles as can possibly be included. When you say "it's got too much", all I hear is "it's not tailored specifically to the way I, and only I, like to play".

But WotC can only do so much for you - they've given the means to make rulings and structured the framework around being as inclusive as possible. It's up to you to choose the parts of 5e you'd want to omit, much as it was up to the DM of old-school systems to invent their own rules for fortress sieges or aerial battles or whatever. But if you dig away to the absolute core of the 5e rule mechanics, it boils down to "roll a die, add this thing, compare to a target number for the result", whereas with retro-clones you've got to compare things to tables all the time, make AC equivalencies, apply weirdly esoteric scores invented for the system like Luck Points or Wizardry Scores or whatever - most systems have very jumbled mechanics under the hood that go well beyond the simplification that came with the d20 system (roll a number, add another number, compare).

Thing is, these esoteric concepts have been added to retro-clones because they are all built around one simple, very janky bit of logic: making a D&D game without it being too much like actual D&D. Actual D&D doesn't need to worry about coming off as "too D&D-like", so they don't need to differentiate the system with weird concepts and arbitrary rules.

I suppose what I'm getting at is this analogy: there may be fewer MegaBlock sets than Lego sets out there, but that doesn't mean that Lego sucks. What sucks is MegaBlock's weird way of copying Lego while adamantly insisting that it is totally different from Lego. Sure, there's a lot of very specific Lego pieces out there designed to be used with very specific Lego sets, but unless you're following instructions that require them, you can get by without those pieces and just tool around with what you've got to build some nifty shit. The situation I now find myself in comparatively is that I'm on a forum filled with MegaBlock enthusiasts whose main reason for liking MegaBlocks so much is that there aren't as many sets to choose from when compared to Lego. Maybe I'm the only one feeling this kind of analogy, but surely you can see how someone in my position would find it a bit silly.

FYI squeen, to slake your curiosity: I'm 34.
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Unfortunately, 5e's options are imbedded in the system so taking them out is more trouble than it's worth, although a product called Dungeonesque tries to do just that. I gave 5e an honest shot, but found everything "pre-3" more engrossing.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess is the best answer. It's old school reconfigured with some hindsight/common sense so armor class ascends and you routinely use the same mechanism (d6) for non-combat resolution. It achieves an ideal combination of simplicity and flexibility by giving you the four standard classes and demi-humans without all the usual stipulations and substitutes logic instead. For example, there's no explicit prohibition against MUs wearing armor, but they cannot cast if more than "lightly" encumbered so wearing heavy armor negates their spell use. And LotFP has great (concise) weapon specific rules that provide the same effect as the dreaded 1e armor class adjustments for weapons, but without that massive table that bogged play and discouraged use.

On writing/presentation, 1e classics (and their 2e remakes) are full of terrible text; so there's plenty of that to go around.


8, 8, I forget what is for
Speaking solely for myself, "Too many options" is not quite what I'm saying---although I do think Simple is Beautiful in most cases. To wit,
Antoine de Saint-Experey said:
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Inclusiveness (i.e. welcoming anyone to play and making it understandable to a novice) is very different from pandering to the players (i.e. you can do anything you want). WoTC seems to be leaning towards the latter. Rules are meant to be broken---but not in the rulebook. They are there to form a fundamental structure that lends itself towards a certain experience. The rules are the limits that define the game. I fear the overly permissive rule-set that seems to (in my experience) inevitably lead to a very different sort of game.

As Bryce said much more succinctly, "The older version has many subsystems that all work together to provide a play style larger than the sum of its parts."

Honestly, how can you sit down with a group of 5e players and say, "Ok guys---no feats or special skills, and spell-caster only get 1 spell at first level. Sound good?" NO PLAYER IS GOING TO CHOOSE THE WEAKER OPTION. Their "job" at the table it to seek personal power. A DMs "job" at the table is to provide reasonable obstacles that check individual power (or at least compete for it). The longer you can "tease" out that dichotomy, the longer the game lasts and remains fun. Where you set the "difficulty" knob is a matter of group taste. My problem with 5e, is that it has already turned the knob to "1" before the game has even started. How the hell am I support to work with that? It's crazy to have to, as you said, "take things away" that are expected. It's much more rational to go "outside the rules" with home-brewed additions.

I think all of your "retro-clone" asides are strangely off topic. No one (I think) is talking about retro-clones other than just as obtainable copies of the original rules (e.g. S&W = 0e, OSRIC = 1e, LL = B/X). They are D&D, straight-up. Also, I believe almost every D&D edition boils down to "roll a number, add another number, compare". I don't think that is in anyway unique to 5e or d20.

With regards to your analogy---there is NO WAY 5e gets to be Legos, and all other editions are stuck with MegaBlock! That just plain sucks. I want a do-over!

Also, I am patting myself figuratively (OK, maybe literally too) on the back for guessing your age as "no older than 35". Of course, it would seem much more impressive if I had actually VOCALIZED (published) my guess---but you should take my word for it. Really. I mean, the internet is famous for how it fosters miscommunication through lack of non-written cues...but I still was able to recognize a young man's swagger through intelligent discourse. Since you were kind enough to satisfy my curiosity, it will reciprocate and reveal I am (rumpelstiltskin) years old. Surprised? Though older, I'm increasing suspicions of my own self-serving chains of logic---and don't claim any particular wisdom on this topic or any other. I don't actually have a beard---so there's no way it can be gray.

Anyway. Was pretty quiet here. That's for the provocation. Also, its been fun having Byrce take a few swings recently on his own Field of Dreams.


Should be playing D&D instead
You two (three) are I think getting too far into the meta of the system, challenging the balance of the game mechanics by virtue of there being other game mechanics, seeing additions to the game like other races as being "pandering" instead of just "stuff they added because a significant number of people would like more race options", and so on. You've legit used the phrase "tease out the dichotomy", which I gotta say is getting a little too far into the grit than you ought to be.

Did you know that Feats in 5e are entirely optional? They're literally called "Variant: Feats" and are introduced as a sidebar in the PHB. They are not an expected base part of the game, by design. Yet here we stand, the system being accused of turning characters into super heroes because Wizards bothered to write up the feat rules for anyone who wants to use them. No consideration given that they're optional - people just see "Polearm Mastery? Ah! Too much stuff!". I think you grossly overestimate how interconnected the rules are to one another, or underestimated the unimportance of some of the game's mechanics.

Is it the skills that scare you? If you can think of a better way for a character to be specifically good at certain things, I'm all ears. In 5e, if you have a high DEX, it's doesn't mean you're automatically as good at picking locks at you are at summersaulting over a fence. Those are two distinctly different skills. If I have +4 in Thieves Tools and +1 in Acrobatics, is my character some kind of Mary-Sue super character? Heck no. It's just a simple system for knowing which things your character is best at, beyond just "I'm good at dexterity stuff" of older editions.

Do the spells scare you? None of the game is balanced around spells - it would be dumb to balance the game around them, because there's just too many damn combinations to ever be able to intertwine with the rest of the system. Instead, spells are balanced to the system, not the other way around (ie. you can remove spells from the game with little consequence). Obviously done with a deft hand so you don't end up with a Wizard who can do one freaking piddly Magic Missile and nothing else, but it can be done easily.

Races are even more easily omitted - they're literally independent of one another. Oh sure, half-orcs are more suited for melee fighting classes, but it's not like being a Fighter or Barbarian is pointless if you don't get to be a half-orc one. All it takes is a DM who says "half-orcs aren't a thing here" and you'd have some really petty players if anyone makes a kerfuffle over it.

At worst you could argue there's more class abilities than you're comfortable with, but come on - each class has, like, six abilities. Not especially complicated... which is ironic, because there's so much "I like to manage every individual torch and arrow and 10' pole" around here, while at the same time I'm reading complaints about there being too many things being in 5e.

Man: How many of you kids would like Itchy & Scratchy to deal with real-life problems, like the ones you face every day?
Kids: [clamoring] Oh, yeah! I would! Great idea! Yeah, that's it!
Man: And who would like to see them do just the opposite -- getting into far-out situations involving robots and magic powers?
Kids: [clamoring] Me! Yeah! Oh, cool! Yeah, that's what I want!
Man: So, you want a realistic, down-to-earth show... that's completely off-the-wall and swarming with magic robots?

Also, OSR is most definitely the MegaBlocks to D&D's Legos. I mean, come on... it's so obvious.


So ... slow work day? Every day?
The draw of a current edition is almost always based on only a couple of things:

1) It does XYZ differently than before
2) It's the current edition, and so is both well supported and easy to find players for

Both of these things work against using a new edition in a way materially different than published. Yes, I can do that. I can make 5E play very much like 1E by cutting out sections of the rules and houseruling the rest. But if I like 1E then what is the point of investing the time and effort to obviate reason #1 and ever adopting 5E in the first place?

Usually to achieve #2, but then if you're slapping 5E on a campaign and advertising it as 5E then players often don't want the hassle of learning and internalizing all the ways it is not-5E. Unlike DMs, players are less often focused on system comparisons; they play games they already like and know how to play. WOTC opening up 5E to non-RPG gearheads means the rules knowledge depth and capacity to handle variants goes down not up. So if I like 1E but am using 5E to get players, this tension between player expectation and my desire to redirect them while still using the current label directly hinders my ability to modify 5E in any meaningful way. Better to just go with the flow if #2 is my goal. If I had DM credibility with a player pool then what I chose to run would be irrelevant.

These dynamics usually (and unnecessarily) results in a lot of sniping towards games, or themes in games,that we don't want to remain or become popular. Once someone has decided 5E/4E/OSR/storygames isn't for them, the only cost in disparaging it and levying whatever influence one has against it - is the time it takes to do so. Same with any of the competing themes in RPGs such as railroad vs sandbox, gold=XP vs something else, vancian spellcasting vs spell points, level drain vs attribute drain, level limits vs other modifiers, balance vs learn to run, or a dozen other polemics that will never cease until D&D goes the way of snooker and the remaining adherents are simply desperately happy to find another who has a vague idea of what they're talking about.

"You try to limit the argument while mischaracterizing the thing that I love". Of course. We all do when that tactic is to our rhetorical advantage. The goal isn't to obtain someone's agreement or permission when saying a thing sucks, it is to dissuade its further adoption by some third party not visible to either person in the conversation, who is unsure of a course and seeking guidance.

It would be much better to simply evangelize the hell out of what we like to undecided people, but that's harder to do on your phone while waiting for an appt to start.


8, 8, I forget what is for
It would be much better to simply evangelize the hell out of what we like to undecided people, but that's harder to do on your phone while waiting for an appt to start.
The whole back-and-forth it worth the time (to me) just to shake out priceless phrases like these.


i fucking hate writing ...
Staff member
1) It does XYZ differently than before
2) It's the current edition, and so is both well supported and easy to find players for

Both of these things work against using a new edition in a way materially different than published. Yes, I can do that. I can make 5E play very much like 1E by cutting out sections of the rules and houseruling the rest. But if I like 1E then what is the point of investing the time and effort to obviate reason #1 and ever adopting 5E in the first place?
Yeah, DP is not wrong, you CAN make 5e work like B/X. But then, why not play B/X? Plus, with B/X you get the game balance/tuning already done for you. Because you want to have players in your game, of course. :) You can make Fiasco play like B/X, but why?
(I know, I know, I'm a bad person for continuing to use Fiasco, but I did some thinking once during a Fiasco game and came away feeling empty. The same emptiness I feel during other story games, like default 5e. My choices are meaningless.)

Two orcs

Officially better than you, according to PoN
DP from your earlier posts and comments you don't seem to understand or appreciate the point of the old D&D design so I don't think you understand the criticism of 5E either. 5E is at once more "game" than B/X in that it tries to cover a bunch of "options" but in a way it's less "game" than OSR assumptions in that it's assumptions are not open ended challenges. Look at early play examples, like when Gygax tested some dungeon of his and a player just kept herding orc minions into traps, obviously kosher but obviously against the spirit of the game in 5E.
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8, 8, I forget what is for
@DP: There's a lot missing from the SRD (v5.1)---like an index, and how to play the game.

Also, regarding Feats, the SRD makes no mention of them being optional.

I think you would be hard-pressed getting by with just the SRD for 5e. I think buying the books is required.


Should be playing D&D instead
DP from your earlier posts and comments you don't seem to understand or appreciate the point of the old D&D design so I don't think you understand the criticism of 5E either. 5E is at once more "game" than B/X in that it tries to cover a bunch of "options" but in a way it's less "game" than OSR assumptions in that it's assumptions are not open ended challenges. Look at early play examples, like when Gygax tested some dungeon of his and a player just kept herding orc minions into traps, obviously kosher but obviously against the spirit of the game in 5E.
If we circle around back to my original point though, hopefully you can come to see why these statements are disagreeable to me. My original point being "5e adventure writers aren't good".

Options (as in, what a character can do in a given situation) are at the heart of all this. You folk are maintaining that 5e limits options, or encourages specific options, or demands certain options be mandatory (or somehow has TOO MANY options)... I maintain that this poor writing is wrongly being attributed to the SYSTEM, when in actuality it is a problem of whatever ADVENTURE you've used to judge 5e (or if not using pre-made adventures, then it's a DM problem).

All of these things you highlight as problems with the system (or as benefits of the older systems) are situational one-offs, not universal truths. I know this, because I've been running 5e since it came out, and literally do not have these problems that you've been insisting are inherent in the system. You can hopefully understand my frustration, like if I were to say "I don't like B/X because the enemies I fight are always way too strong, so obviously the system encourages a DM versus Player mentality"... no, the system doesn't; the DM was just using the wrong monsters. This is how I am perceiving the problems you guys are airing with 5e: they are SUBJECTIVE to your own experience, not a universality of the system!

"Open-ended challenges" are a prime example of this misattribution fallacy. I've thrown LOADS of scenarios at my players that can be solved in a thousand different ways (and are). You're telling me it's snowing outside when I'm out on the grass in the sun at a picnic. I am literally doing the things with 5e which you claim can't/aren't done with 5e. I don't know how much more I can convince you that, no, what you're saying isn't the reality of the situation because I'm LITERALLY DOING WHAT YOU SAY CAN'T BE DONE, RIGHT NOW.

Comparatively 5e is different from OSR system; I'm not saying it's not. Yes, the game slants towards certain outcomes sometimes, but not always, and in fact I'd argue not even very often.

I'll use an in-play example. "You come across a locked door": players can pick the lock, knock the door down, use knock spell, use passwall, find magic item that transmutes door material to paper, go invisible and wait for someone to enter the door, shrink down and crawl through the keyhole, blackmail the keyholder, etc. Yes, there's a lockpicking skill that most people would try first because it's the easy solution, and in doing so you could say the system skews the option towards that choice most of the time (though I'd point out all systems have lockpicking as an option that most people choose first, so again, not a 5e exclusive problem). So you conclude that the 5e system is encouraging that sort of "solve your complex problems with one simple skill check bypass" gameplay. What you failed to notice is that the reason for this skew is the shitty writing of the original scenario.

"You come across a locked door" <- bad, simplistic writing that encourages simplistic solutions.

"You come across a door with a pair of star-shaped keyholes, a knocker in the shape of a fish head, and no knob to speak of" <- good, detailed scenario writing that encourages many solutions.

Player A tries to pick the lock, but it fails because the door needs two star-shaped keys to be turned simultaneously to open. Player B suggests trying a star-shaped key found earlier in the dungeon, and it fits one of the locks. Maybe they decide to turn one key while simultaneously picking the other lock. Maybe they decide that the fish people they encountered earlier might have the right keys. Maybe they try to knock on the knocker. Maybe they use acid to melt the hinges. Maybe they hilariously realize the door wasn't locked to begin with, they had just assumed it was locked all along when I mentioned keyholes. Etc.

Open-ended solutions, not because the system does/doesn't encourage it, but because THE WRITING DOESN'T SUCK! It has nothing to do with the system. This scenario could happen equally in either 5e or B/X. This is what I mean when I say it's possible to write system-neutral adventures. This is what I mean when I say the rules used to determine action outcome are independent of what actions the players are going to take. This is what I mean when I say people aren't grasping what I'm talking about, instead telling me I don't "understand the point old D&D design" or whatever. It's contingent on the writing NOT SUCKING, not on what feats or races or whatever are or aren't in the base game.

Am I clearing things up at all?
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A FreshHell to Contend With
I mostly agree with DP that it isn't 5E (The System), it's the adventures. The system itself is skub, basically inert until someone does something with it. Compared to 3.5 and 4th Edition, it's incredibly lightweight. I still prefer my own hacky system(s) for a hundred myriad reasons, but no individual issue with the 5E system is a deal breaker.

That said, 5E the product doesn't offer much in the way of procedures of play for the DM other than running combat, and its published adventures set bad examples. A DM with experience can use their understanding of other procedures of play (x-crawling, domain play, etc.), but the game itself doesn't give you much to help with; this is something B/X and 1st Edition did better. Neophyte DMs are left to either run a railroad or puzzle out how to run a game without much in the way of guidance. This is shameful (Not that editions 2E-4E did much better).

5E (the product, not the system) also has the nasty modern tendencies of having rules come down from designers when edge cases pop up, as well as the player facing splatbook. With those things come a certain range of expected playstyles, the kind of "let-the-players-have-their-toys-dms-follow-the-rules-combat-as-sport-balanced-encounters-adventure-paths(railroads)" that people attack 5E for, even though the system at worst only slightly skews towards that. It's 5E the complete package that's getting attacked, not necessarily 5E the system.

I'd gladly run something like Hot Springs Island with 5E with only a few tweaks to the rules, since 5E doesn't get in the way anywhere near as much as 4E or 3.5. I'd not be playing 5E the product or 5E the culture, but the system isn't telling me I can't do that. 5E doesn't have PDFs of the core rulebooks though, so it's unplayable dogshit.