5 and 5 for D&D 5e

jar of dice

The newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons may not have that new game scent anymore, but over a year of regular play has done a lot to display its virtues and vices to me. Before we get to the five things I like most and least about the game, I’ll provide a bit of background.

I was all set to ignore 5e (still being called D&D Next at the time), and paid no attention to the public playtest. My fantasy RPG itch was being scratched by Pathfinder, after all, and really, could any game dethrone Second Edition AD&D as my favourite fantasy RPG of all time? But 5e was released, and it got a lot of positive attention… and my mother, the person that got me the Mentzer Basic Set for my eighth birthday and set off a lifetime love of RPGs, gifted me with the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual… so I gave it a shot. And I’m glad I did.

That out of the way, let’s get to five things I really like about 5e:

  1. Advantage/Disadvantage. More than anything, I love advantage and disadvantage, and their lack of absolute codification. Replacing the horde of small bonuses, and especially bonus types, used in D&D 3rd edition (and its derivatives) and 4th edition with this simple rule was genius.
  2. Spellcasting. Spells that scale based on the level of spell slot being used is a thing that should have been done several editions ago. Thankfully it’s a thing now. Further, rituals are back from 4th edition. This is a good thing.
  3. Concentration. More to the point, that many buffing spells require concentration, meaning that a caster can only have one in effect at a time. Gone are the suites of buffs players cast before every encounter. Good riddance.
  4. Return of the horde. The so-called “bounded accuracy” that 5e is based around means that low challenge threats are still threats far into a character’s adventuring career. My players, with 6th level characters, are still struggling against the mobs of low challenge mooks that amass around the big bad guys and gals. That’s right, mobs. I can use tons of enemies because of…
  5. Quick combat. Combat is resolved relatively quickly in 5e. Much more quickly than in 3rd or 4th edition, certainly. I like this, it means I can run two or even three combats in a three to four hour session but still have time for exploration and role-play. Wins all around.Paizo goblin

Lots to like, right? All is not sunshine and unicorns however, as the next five points will detail. Without further ado, five things I dislike about 5th edition…

  1. Tieflings, and drow, and dragonborn… Oh my! Call me stodgy, but I don’t think these three races… well, two races and a subrace… should be part of the core game. Of course, if my players would let me, I would disallow every non-human race in my games…
  2. Short adventures. Where are they? The campaign length hardbacks are nice, for the most part, but 5e suffers from a dearth of short adventures. Sure, I can and do convert adventures from previous editions, but come on, The Lost Mine of Phandelver from the Basic Game is a fantastic, sandboxy short adventure… I’d like to see more in that vein.
  3. Dying. By the gods it’s difficult to kill a character in 5e. But the characters get dropped to death saves, often multiple times in an encounter as their companions bring them back to consciousness. It’s silly.
  4. Encounter design. One of the best aspects of 4th edition was the ease with which a DM could put together an encounter. With 5e’s lighter engine, I was expecting that it would be even easier to design exciting encounters. My expectations were in vain; 5e is more difficult to generate encounters for than both 3rd and 4th editions. This is exacerbated by…
  5. Creature creation. Unlike the previous two editions, 5e doesn’t do a very able job of explaining how to create monsters, and more importantly in my opinion, npcs. There’s a table of benchmarks creatures should meet… but special features are not addressed in any meaningful way. Please, design team, give us something better.

So there they are: five and five. Have you been playing D&D 5e? Why or why not? What are your likes and dislikes?

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