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

Manitou

Emperor of the Americas
Validated User
if you figure out who initiative works, can you explain it to me? I've never really gotten just how it goes...
How initiative works in 5e is simple. Everyrone rolls a d20. Add your dexterity modifier(take your Dex score and subtract 10, then divide by half, rounding down, keep in mind that if it's negative that means it gets bigger, not smaller. Ie -2.5 becomes -3, not -2. )
There might be some feats or subclass features that give you a bonus to initiative, but those are rare. In a case of a tie the person with the higher dex score goes first, if they are equal they can roll another d20 to break the the tie, or PC's can let one another go first. The DM might decide to roll one initiative for all the bad guys, or separately for some groups or all of them, depending on the number of bad guys and the DM.

Now you have everyone's initiative for that combat. Every round in a combat people take their turns in order of highest initiative to lowest. This is called the initiative order. You can't change when your turn is. However, on your turn you can "Ready" an action or movement. Players with previous edition experience often call this "holding an action" but the 5e turn is technically "readying" one. So you pick someone specific you want to do, casting a spell, running away, making a specific attack(I swing my sword at whomever come through the door first" is acceptable, anything vaguer isn't,) You have to state something that will trigger your readied action to go off. If it doesn't happen before you next turn you can do something else. If you readied a spell and the trigger hasn't occurred by your next turn then that spell is lost and the spell slot wasted. HOWEVER your initiative stays the same.

Does that help?

It occurs to me that there is a lot of help on the web for D&D.
Notably youtube has a lot of fancier stuff.
Plus this:
WHich I love, and is actually pretty good at getting the basic across, their class advice isn't bad either.
 
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GetterBurai

Toyetic Fiend
Validated User
if you figure out who initiative works, can you explain it to me? I've never really gotten just how it goes...
How initiative works in 5e is simple. Everyone rolls a d20. Add your dexterity modifier [...] There might be some feats or subclass features that give you a bonus to initiative, but those are rare. In a case of a tie the person with the higher dex score goes first, if they are equal they can roll another d20 to break the the tie, or PC's can let one another go first. The DM might decide to roll one initiative for all the bad guys, or seperately for some groups or all of them, depending on the number of bad guys and the DM.

Now you have everyone's initiative for that combat. Every round in a combat people take their turns in order of highest initiative to lowest. This is called the initiative order. You can't change when your turn is. However, on your turn you can "Ready" an action or movement. Players with previous edition experience often call this "holding an action" but the 5e turn is technically "readying" one. So you pick someone specific you want to do, casting a spell, running away, making a specific attack(I swing my sword at whomever come through the door first" is acceptable, anything vaguer isn't,) You have to state something that will trigger your readied action to go off. If it doesn't happen before you next turn you can do something else. If you readied a spell and the trigger hasn't occured by your next turn then that spell is lost and the spell slot wasted. HOWEVER your initiative stays the same.
Honestly, 5e initiative is almost exactly like taking a number at a restaurant. Strictly speaking, the "initiative system" itself boils down to just the two bolded statements.

It's when other mechanics start interacting with initiative that it gets tricky. For instance, note that the initiative roll is explicitly "a Dexterity check". That means that modifiers to generic Dexterity checks affect it -- hence, bards add their Jack of All Trades bonus to initiative, and the enhance ability: cat's grace spell would give you advantage on initiative rolls. Then there's the timing issues involved with the surprise condition (which is one of the more notorious gotchas compared to prior editions: there is no such thing as "surprise rounds" in 5e), the aforementioned weirdness with the Ready action (and reactions in general)...
 

DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
Generally each player rolls their own individual initiative and the DM rolls once for the monsters. The monsters all act together on the same initiative score. this is mostly for simplicity and a smoother pace. You can roll individually for each monster if you want to.

I have made a set of initiative tiles, little cardboard rectangles, one for each character and a couple for monsters. After initiative is rolled I lay these out in order. It makes it easy for everybody to follow the order of initiative in combat.
 

Daz Florp Lebam

Registered User
Validated User
My first thoughts:

Technically, you don't need the Monster Manual. I ran a weekly game for 2+ years (with some shared DMing) and still don't own one. Granted, I have a DM's D&D Beyond account that includes the MM as shared content, but you can find so many stat blocks online, official and otherwise - and the "otherwise" cases are great for surprising your players!

D&D Beyond is totally worth it, if you expect to play a fair amount of D&D 5E.

Take a good, solid look at all the variant and optional rules, in both the PHB and the DMG - and in Xanathar's for that matter. There's no one right way to run the game. For instance, I think there's three different ways to use (or not use) skills and skill checks.

Xanathar's is totally worth the price, if you want more character options and things for the PCs to do with their time.

Combats tends to come down to AC and HP. It can get to be a bit of a slog if you're not careful. Sometimes, instead of having a critical hit do extra damage, I will disable one of a monster's powers instead. It gives the combat a dramatic turn rather than just ticking off another chunk of HP. Encounter locations can play a big part in keeping things from seeming to same-y.
 

Knaight

Registered User
Validated User
Generally each player rolls their own individual initiative and the DM rolls once for the monsters. The monsters all act together on the same initiative score. this is mostly for simplicity and a smoother pace. You can roll individually for each monster if you want to.
I'd put a caveat here about how this assumes a group of largely similar monsters. If you've got The Black Knight, a half dozen soldiers, and an angry bulette they've riled up there's probably 3 enemy initiatives there, with the soldier group all bundled together.
 

Skaorn

Registered User
Validated User
I haven't gotten to play much 5e but what I have, I've really enjoyed. The one thing I would warn about is that somethings seemed like they weren't play tested as well as they could have been and the main 3 books do feel a bit rushed. Somethings might be subjective, like the Tinker Gnome's ability to get advantage on any Int, Wis, and Cha based skills, which seemed rather excessive to my group (we make a lot of use of skills even though we only roll when something is at stake). Other things, like the Ranger class, are a good examples that our Ranger player did have problems with.

The problem I most had with this was from monsters in the book not really matching up with their challenge rating that well. An encounter with a mummy at low levels probably would have led to a TPK if I'd used it at full strength, even though the CR was within their range. We did get a TPK from some giant owls (reskinned as Magic Tomes, if you are familiar with Castlevania Symphony of the Night, but no mechanical changes) as they dealt what was effectively greatsword damage (rolling 2d6), which seemed rather high to us for their CR. We were able to walk the TPK back as they were in a university library and the "tomes" were more of a trap for people looking for a book. My suggestion would be don't be afraid to low ball a monster if things about it look a bit too good.
 

J. Roberts

Bit Pusher
Validated User
I have made a set of initiative tiles, little cardboard rectangles, one for each character and a couple for monsters. After initiative is rolled I lay these out in order. It makes it easy for everybody to follow the order of initiative in combat.
Same here, but with a magnetic strips on a dry-erase board and a round magnet to show who's currently acting. Even better if you can get a player to handle it for you!
 

Manitou

Emperor of the Americas
Validated User
CRitical Role uses a little flagpole with their names on little flags.
 
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Hituro

Eager Critmouse
Validated User
Things I've not seen mentioned here that are worth remembering:

Inspiration: Inspiration is the main source of Advantage that players can reliably get, and that can be a huge bonus. Players get Inspiration from roleplaying their Bonds, Ideals, Flaws and Personality Traits — and any other time you (the DM or the group) think they should. The PHB is quite light on how often people should be inspired. You can hand it out like a precious resource once every few sessions, or you can have people get and spend it every couple of rounds. I prefer the later, since it doubles-down on the narrative aspects of the game and rewards people for living their characters. Depending how much you like FATE, or other meta-currency games you may feel differently.

Backgrounds: backgrounds do a big deal to try and capture something like 13th Age's "One Unique Thing", giving you an excuse to add proficiency to particular rolls. For example you might allow a Soldier to add proficiency to a History check when trying to remember details of a military campaign. Again, this is a dial you can turn, but it helps to bring the otherwise scanty skill list to life it you do.

Tool Proficiencies: probably one of the least well defined aspects of the skill system in the PHB, a tool proficiency is really the equivalent of a Craft or Career skill from another system. If you have Proficiency in Carpenter's Tools — for example, you are a carpenter, and can do all the things a carpenter can do. The PHB rather loosely says "can add proficiency when the tools are relevant", and leaves it to you. My instinct is to treat them as I treat background, and allow the bonus whenever it seems like it make sense (e.g. a carpenter spotting a false bottom in a chest), or even sometimes expertise. Xanathar's Guide (as ever) has more rules on tools.

Stealth: Stealth and hiding is a hot mess (or so says I). When 5E came out the majority of rules threads had some variant of "how does stealth work anyway" especially in combat (when can you hide, how far do you have to move to be both unseen and of 'unknown location'). After running 5E weekly since Phandelver came out I'm still not 100% clear on all the edge cases — I'd recommend making your own assessment of how it works before you start and sticking with it.

Morale and Social Interaction: rules for both these things exist, but they are in the DMG towards the back, where you might not notice them (p273 for morale, pp. 244-245 for social interaction). Morale checks are based on a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw made by the leader of an enemy group when they take casualties, or lose half their number, rather like earlier editions. Social Interaction — or specifically negotiation — is based on the DM determining an initial attitude for NPCs (one of hostile, indifferent or friendly), then letting the players explain what they want, then making a Charisma based roll against a variable DC to see if they get it. Before they roll players can use Insight to find out what the NPCs want, and roleplay, which may or may not alter the DC. One of the things you can do is try to alter their attitude.

Magic Items: As mentioned above, 5E goes light on magic items, especially on weapons and armour with bonuses (though these do exist). To further limit powerful items, most require Attunement, and you can only attune 3 items at once. It takes a short rest to switch attuned items, so most players won't be loaded out with magic items most of the time.
 
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