[Tell me about] Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition


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For most of my time in the roleplaying hobby I've avoided class-and-level based systems. Something about the restrictiveness of classes and step-like progression of levels just sat badly with me.

However I have played plenty of videogames based on various versions of D&D: the Baldur's Gate series, Icewind Dale, Neverwinter Nights, etc. I always felt that the systems worked better for video games as all of that experience point crunching and armour class stacking rules (Natural, Attribute Modifier, Armour, Magical, Shield...) etc. would be handled by the computer.

But then I came across Stars Without Number and its various sibling games: Other Dust, Godbound, Scarlet Heroes, (and the revised edition, of course) etc. I've run some very succesful and enjoyable games with those rules and it got me thinking that maybe levels and classes aren't so bad.

My understanding of 5th edition is that it streamlined and simplified away a lot of the junk that had started to clutter up D&D and Pathfinder over the years. And that has got me a bit interested, because it was exactly the presence of so many options (tons of classes, prestige classes, races, subraces and bazillions of magic items) and edge rules that turned me off.

So with all of this background out of the way, (and hoping this is the right sub-forum for this!) please tell me about D&D 5th edition! What would somebody a little skeptical about class-and-level systems and very skeptical about bloated rules think about it?


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Well, a lot of the rules bloat has been stripped out of it, but I wouldn’t call it rules-light. As someone who has been running DnD for 25 years, I found it very easy to grasp, but everyone’s threshold for that sort of thing is different.

It’s very much a class based system, but there’s much lass chargen fiddliness than 3.X/PF.


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The basic mechanics are obviously very simple; Roll d20, add ability modifier, if proficient with the weapon/skill/tool then add proficiency bonus (which is a flat number based on level). Advantage/disadvantage replace a lot of fiddly modifiers. The basic rules are free online, and the starter set has all the rules needed to run a fun game, in a little booklet.

Feats and multiclassing are explicitly optional, as are many other rules like the ones for flanking, disarming, etc.

The game doesn't assume you have any books outside of the core 3.


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The game doesn't assume you have any books outside of the core 3.
You can even play with only the basic version, which you can expand with the spells and monsters in the SRD, if you don't mind having only 4 classes with limited choices.


Bunny With a Glock
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I used to play a lot of 3/3.5/Pathfinder, and I thought I needed all that crunch, but I honestly have found that the stripped down, streamlined approach that 5E takes has let me focus more on the story and characters. Running 5E is by far the most fun D&D edition I've ever run, and as a player I find I don't miss a lot of the crunch that went away. Feats are optional (we use them), but they are meaningful. Skills are simplified, so they too are more meaningful. Basically across the board, the streamlining and consolidation of millions of choices into a few has meant that those choices are more meaningful.

Plumy Namesake

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In my experience, it's everyone's second favorite (at worst) edition of the game. It has a few nods to everything, and is deliberately loose so you can interpret the rules towards your preference without feeling like you're building your own rules.

RE: stacking armor rules. This is a good example of the mechanics being less detailed than before. If you drop Unconscious, your AC stays the same as when you were actively defending yourself. Attackers get "advantage", meaning they roll two dice and keep the best one, but that's it.

Of course, this can seem unrealistic since things like your dexterity bonus or haste effect "in fiction" relies on movement. In previous editions you might want be had a hybrid AC of baseline+armor+some magic, but not here. 5e asks you to set that aside for the sake of expediency. Resolve the attack, apply a description if you like, and move on.

One of my absolute favorite things about 5e is how few books with character options have been launched.

3.x and 4e absolutely swam in doodads you could build your character towards. The upsides are many, but bloat just hits my FOMO buttons.

If you exclude multiclassing, you basically get a very good sense of how a character works by learning the level and subclass choice.

David Howery

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I haven't been involved with D&D since 2E days and it's not likely I'll ever play again, but I kept hearing all these good things about 5E, so I got the PH just out of curiosity. I find it to be pretty well written and organized. There are a few things I don't get because I haven't actually played it (combat is kinda mystifying), but I would guess that actually playing it would solve some of that. While I generally like the idea of removing all those limits and barriers imposed by 1E and 2E, I have to admit that I don't get some of the alignment allowances.... basically, how a paladin can be evil or a monk can be non-lawful. Still, it's a pretty smooth system overall...


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Well, your post has made me re-evaluate my stance on Stars without Numbers. I actually avoided that system because it has classes. But if it makes you feel that way, then maybe this is a class system that works.

Though usually it's not the classes that bug me so much as it is the leveling.

So D&D5 pretty much has all the same things that can annoy you about classes. You advance in areas whether you want to or not, and you cannot train extra hard to make a weak trait stronger. Multiclassing can break these habits, but that means choosing a class that maybe you didn't want in the first place.

Hit points balloon to the point that it just becomes a numbers game (like many of the video games that have spawned as a result of D&D). D&D5 does have bounded accuracy, so it's not as large of a gap between levels. For example, in D&D3, a level 1 might be +8 in a skill, but a level 18 might be +27 or higher. The level gap is just really large. In D&D5, at least, your level 1 who is +5 in a skill is at least able to luck into something closer to the level 18 with +12 or higher.

The bounded accuracy works better than D&D4's attempt of scaling all of the challenges.

I hate what they call Vancian magic, but it's fairly reasonable in D&D5. You can cast a memorized spell multiple times as long as you have the slots. Still limited by what you memorize but much more flexible in dishing them out.

But D&D5 is still just D&D. If you weren't impressed by it before, this edition won't do much for you. But if you were disgusted only with 20th-century D&D and haven't had a chance to try anything newer, then it's worth checking out for sure.


Bunny With a Glock
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basically, how a paladin can be evil or a monk can be non-lawful. Still, it's a pretty smooth system overall...
To flip that around, why can't they be? Other than "because 1E said so". Nothing about monk screams "lawful". And if you abstract paladins to be "dedicated warriors of a set of ideals" as opposed to "dedicated warriors of good", you are allowing for more varied characters. So I don't need to have a special "blackguard" class now, I can just be a paladin dedicated to a set of tyrannical virtues.


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In my experience, it's everyone's second favorite (at worst) edition of the game.
That's a common take, but I don't think it's quite true. I haven't delved as deeply into 5e as I have some other editions, but from what I've seen, it may very well be my second least-favorite of all the editions. It axes many of my favorite things from my favorite edition, and has design philosophies that rub me entirely the wrong way. I won't go too deeply into criticism about it, because I know I don't have all the details and in any case I don't want to rain on the people who do like it, but for me, if it came down to a choice between playing 5e or playing nearly anything else, 5e would lose. Heck, probably even if it was a choice between 5e and no roleplaying at all.
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