What do I need to know about D&D 5e?

StreetBushido

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A while back I made a [Tell me about] thread about D&D 5e. My conclusion in the end was that the game was probably not for me.

However, things have changed and having written up a few different game ideas for my group they're leaning towards a high fantasy game using the D&D 5e system.

Now I'm wondering what I as the GM need to know about the game before going in. And I mean besides the obvious things like having a grip on the rules, etc. I'm thinking about less visible stuff. Edge-cases that seem to crop up surprisingly often; Quirks of the system that are easily missed on a first readthrough; Traps for inexperienced players and GMs (I've heard that the Ranger class isn't particularly "good"?).

I've got a good decade and a half of GMing under my belt at this point, but my only contact with D&D has really only been through videogames. The closest I've got is through the Sine Nomine Publishing games like Stars Without Number.

So, in short, what do I need to know going into D&D 5e? What advice can you give me?
 

Sark

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It probably isn't quite what you'd call a trap, but the party composition can be very important in one particular divide: Classes tend to be split between those that regain abilities on a short rest and those that regain most of their main ones only after a long rest. This means encounter pacing can differ wildly between parties (not helped by the official 'expected' rate of encounters being significantly higher than most tables would decide on organically) and the balance between characters can depend heavily on this - if you're only doing one or two fights per long rest, expect the alpha-strike type classes to overperform and the grinders to underperform. Switch that if the party is going through a lot of encounters but still getting their short rests.

Not every class is equally dependent on this but it's something to keep in mind.
 

Jürgen Hubert

aka "Herr Doktor Hubert"
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Parties are no longer as dependent on clerics as the designated healers. For one thing, characters can heal rather quickly on their own if you give them time to rest. For another, beyond druids you can also have bards as healers, and there are warlock and sorcerer builds that can heal as well.

The 5e rules have a very large range of options, and while you should probably have a decent range of skills in the party, this is not solely dependent on their classes. As such, party compositions can vary widely without pigeonholing characters into specific roles.
 

Manitou

Emperor of the Americas
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5e is very big on what is actually written in the book being the actual, only rule. They occasionally clarify things online with Sage Advice, in that event they try really hard to stand by what is actually written down.

Going by the book cats lack Darkvision for some unexplained reason.

I am not the one to say why but the by the book ranger class isn't considered good mostly it doesn't level well. And is considerd kinda meh compared to other classes, They did release a UA ranger, with the two PHB subclasses revised. It's considered pretty good. Notably trying to play a PHB ranger with an animal companion gets harder as you go up as it doesn't really level. At all. The revised ranger's does{basically it's hit points increase} and you can rez it with an 8 hour ritual.
 
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Stattick

Electronic Thing
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Because there are so few bonuses in the game, and the bonuses are so small, it makes high attributes very important. If you have a player with a sub-optimal build, or one that ends up with one through play, you might want to consider letting them find a magical item that will make up the difference, or at least partially make up the difference.

For instance, I have an Aasimar Warlock (Celestial Patron/Tome Pact). Due to reasons partially involving an artifact sword, she needs to be able to step into the front lines as a fighter. My attributes could not support that. There's no way, I already have a multiple attribute dependent build. I'd have been alright if the artifact was finessable, but it wasn't. So the GM allowed me to have Gauntlets of Ogre Strength. It still leaves our true front line fighters a little better than my character, both in terms of HP and their bonus to hit, but I'm competitive when I step into the front lines.
 

Manitou

Emperor of the Americas
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In 5e, AC is not useful to avoid good/high attack rolls, just bad ones. A high AC is also good against mediocre rolls.

Your healers won't be outhealing damage, their job is to keep the party alive, use healing word to get the party back to awake. I have talked with some experienced healer/cleric players who said Healing Word in combat is a better than Cure Wounds for that reason[also HW is a bonus action to case and has a range while CW requires an action and getting into dangerous melee].

If someone wants to be a druid, have them play a Circle of the Moon. Even if they don't want to be a WoW style tank it will help keep them alive.

The exception, and this would be the edge case you asked about, would a Life Cleric who "dips" into druid[just taking 3 levels] to get Healing Spirit. That guy should take the Circle of the Shepard to use the unicorn spirit to further buff his healing. But even that guy will likely not be outpacing damage dealt to your party.

If your players have been looking around the intarwebs they might have a very specific build in mind, you might talk with them about if you think they will ever get to level 20 or not.

Also, I don't know your players, but if you want to cut down on some players building Maximized/Awesome characters, and others being OK, you might ban multiclassing and feats to start with, until you better know the system. OTOH your players might be fine and not need that sort of thing.
 

WistfulD

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I've got a good decade and a half of GMing under my belt at this point, but my only contact with D&D has really only been through videogames. The closest I've got is through the Sine Nomine Publishing games like Stars Without Number.
The plus side here is that you will not treat 5e like a 2e, 3e, or 4e re-do, which is where I think a lot of people end up overturning their cart on their first go-through.

As others have said, controlling the pacing/rest frequencies is important (enough that if it isn't working, you should look at the alternate rest mechanics listed in the DMG).

If you have played D&D videogames (perhaps especially D&D videogames, in fact), you might have gotten used to the idea of going through dungeons collecting minor magic item trinkets every few rooms or passageways. 5e works best with much fewer magic items than previous editions.

The Advantage/Disadvantage system does its purported job of simplifying the math. It does so by removing all the little +1 and -2 modifiers to every action that most other games tend to use to represent minor situational benefit or difficulty (trying to pick a lock in acceptable-but-poor lighting, trying to sneak up on someone while slightly burdened). As much as apparently people complained about all those charts of small modifiers, the complete removal of them is also somewhat frustrating.

The Skill System is extremely loose -- difficulty target numbers are deliberately vague, and the general DM advice is to not even require a roll unless you specifically want the outcome to be fairly uncertain (most skills, by the mechanics, most of the time, will have % success chances in the 20-80% range if you roll the dice at all). The skill system at least kind of assumes that you are an experienced DM and can make these calls.

There is some imbalance. Charisma-based classes multiclass together entirely too well (compared to others). Most people find Rangers underwhelming. Wild magic sorcerers, Four elements monks, and berserker barbarians are generally considered poorly thought out as well. There is one outright broken thing that you just have to disallow (the negative consequences of the Wish spell can be made irrelevant if the spell is cast by a simulacrum of the wizard). Most other things are simply slightly more/less powerful than other things, or occasionally really goofy (the best way to wield a quarterstaff is one-handed, with a shield. Why? Accidental rules confluence is my best guess).
 

Terhali

Weird and pissed off
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Link to the revised Ranger. The biggest change was to the Beastmaster, which didn't scale for higher levels, but there are other changes that help out the class. The most significant is that the Ranger can now take Humanoid as their favored enemy; because that's such a broad class of opponents, it may be overpowered for some campaigns. I played a revised Ranger for a few levels before deciding it pulled in different directions and had fiddly bits that made it kind of incoherent for me. Not a big fan of either iteration for 5e.
 

DavetheLost

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Be aware that by the book a roll of a natural 20 in combat is now officially a critical hit and will double damage. Some monsters also do extra damage if the strike with surprise. I had a character one shot killed by a bugbear who rolled a critical hit on a strike with surprise. This despite how tough it is to actually kill a 5e character with a single blow.

5e characters are harder to kill than characters in previous editions, but it can happen.
 

Stattick

Electronic Thing
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RAW for critical hits can be underwhelming. You're supposed to double the damage die of the attack. So, if you hit with a longsword (1d8 dmg) and you have a +3 to damage, you can roll a 1, double it to 2, add the damage modifier of 3, and do a mere 5 points of damage on a crit. The games I'm in have all adopted 4e's rules for critical hits: You do maximum damage, as if you'd rolled it. Then you add the normal die roll (without any bonuses to damage). So for the same weapon attack, you'd do 1d8+3 (11 points) plus 1d8. So even if you roll minimum damage on a crit, you still do more damage with it than the best of your normal hits.
 
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