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So, Target Number (DR) for armor sucks, but opposed dice rolls isn't any better?

So, what is better trying to staying within the basic parameters of D&D?

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2019/11/08 21:39:02


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 Easy E wrote:
So, Target Number (DR) for armor sucks, but opposed dice rolls isn't any better?

So, what is better trying to staying within the basic parameters of D&D?


Well opposed rolls certainly don't stay in the parameters of D&D, and don't work well in a d20 system (for a lot of reasons, as people tend to learn when they do arm wrestling competitions and the weaker character wins).

The odds change when you go from level based target numbers to random rolls on both sides, and the actual play experience gets a bit bitter. Missing because the player rolled low tends to go over better than the DM getting a streak on defensive rolls. Predictability as to what to expect when they attack makes for a better player experience than an extra layer of random.

The basic problem is these are solutions that have been tried at various times over the last thirty years, and don't stick because they're really unsatisfying, take up more table time, and don't produce better (or even consistent) results.


What's better is have an array of tactical options within the current ruleset that actually accomplishes things. Don't lock them behind feats, skills or whatever, and don't make them stupidly complicated (see 1st and 2nd edition grappling rules). Basically fighters and rogues need to not be punished for wanting to do something other than HP damage. (Or both damage and control)

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We're about 40 sessions into my campaign, and I have to agree with the general point of the OP, that 5e combat does tend to be rather bland and repetitive.

To counter that, I started to try and introduce other elements into the combat - trying to get the players to move around to avoid getting flanked, forcing them to react to environmental hazards/conditions and so on, but I do have to agree that the default slugfests can be very dull.

Playing around with giving enemies interesting abilities can help change things up, but it's not easy to change that if all your players do is "I walk up. I attack it with my sword", so there's some collaboration needed there, I think.

I also think part of the problem can be down to a lack of goals in the fight beyond "Kill em all", so changing that can help too - maybe they need to fight a running battle, or defend an area, or something like that. Again though, that's more work for the DM, and frankly sometimes I don't have the prep time to come up with gimmicks for each and every encounter.

Personally, as a Player, this is part of why I always want to play a spellcaster - I find (for example) the basic fighter and barbarian very dull, and always prefer the versatility of a caster class.


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 Easy E wrote:
Yes, no doubt it will "slow" things down BUT also make combat worth something. D&D combat all ready takes forever AND is boring! At least we can make it take forever and NOT be boring.
...
D&D combat is boring because there are very few choices, and a lot of downtime before you get to make any choices. Think about your last session, how much was combat where you sat around and waited for your turn? Last time for me it was about 50 minutes of a 1 hour combat.


The part of this I find odd is the idea that just because you're not rolling dice during that downtime (and for me at least, with 4-5 players at a high-ish level it's more like 30mins a round at the very most, not 50) you're somehow not engaged with the game. But really, you are. You're watching what your allies are doing, investing in their failures and successes. You're watching the enemy, reacting to them potentially, and you're taking in that information to have your next turn ready. Now, sure, you could instead spend those 30 minutes talking amongst yourselves and falling out of the game until it's back round to you, but I'd argue that's a player investment issue rather than a system one.

Speed is not the ultimate concern, but for me at least simplicity is definitely up there as a major draw of 5e I by and large want just enough depth that my decisions matter (rather than just the tabletop equivalent of setting an MMO character to auto-attack) but ultimately I want the mechanics to be very small and very quiet, so that they help us tell the story but don't distract from it. I don't want to have to break out of a character's headspace every turn to figure out the optimal move, or on the DM side, having the dramatic reveal of a villain's power bogged down in 5 minutes of dice rolling ('Power Word Kill is the ultimate example here, you cast the spell and something dies, and that's about as shocking and dramatic as it gets). If I wanted a tactical wargame, I'd play one, and if I wanted an RPG with deeper combat, I'd play one, but 5e is built on an ethos of simplicity and accessibility and its combat is a big part of this.



More broadly though, the key ingredients to any combat scenario being interesting and engaging, regardless of system or edition or anything, are context and stakes. Rolling more dice isn't going to make stomping some goblins you find at random by the roadside any more dramatic, and likewise, it's not going to make a desperate battle against an ascending god any less epic. In practical terms, this is why I never bother with combat scenarios that don't serve a narrative purpose; any battle should move the story along, offer information or illustrate something to the players, or be structured in such a way that it represents a culmination of dramatic tension.

Action sequences in books or movies or TV are exciting because of their place in a narrative; the Battle of Helm's Deep isn't exciting because it's a Big Fight, it's exciting because of what it represents; the release of a tension that has been building for the last two hours, the culmination of many characters' arcs and journeys over the course of the story, the thematic parallel of the death of the Elves and the victory of Men, the return of Gandalf at his most powerful and important. What's more, there are stakes. Rohan could fall and Saruman would then be free to take vast swathes of Middle Earth, but more immediately, you have Eowyn, a character we've grown attached to, sheltering behind the citadel; if the heroes lose their battle, she and all of Rohan's women and children are put to the sword with no escape. An hour of men hitting Uruks with swords is visually impressive, but it's all just sound and fury without that narrative behind it.

Which isn't to say that every battle in your game needs to be epic or grandiose in that way, but they should all have a purpose (this is why I despite random encounters). Someone or something beyond the PCs should be at threat if they fail, or they should have the chance to achieve something more than the victory itself if they win the battle. It should demonstrate how a new area they've entered is full of dangers, or grant space for an antagonist to reveal their power or enact their plot. The post-battle looting should reveal information that prompts further adventure, or changes the context of what just went down. It should be about more than 'kill monsters before they kill you', because as part of a narrative that simply doesn't work. It's a fine setup for a competitive game, but RPGs ain't that, or at least, they shouldn't be.

Ultimately, it's about making people 'feel'. Those are the fights that stick with you. The one where a heroic companion stayed behind to hold off the enemy in a sacrifice that will haunt the PCs for days and weeks to come. The one where a tactical slip-up spurred on by overconfidence and panic gave the enemy a chance to complete their plan and move their plot one step closer to completion. The one where your the hero finally slays the enemy that bested him before, achieving a vengeance long denied. The one where a campaign's worth of tension, betrayal and rivalry concludes in 24 seconds of unbridled violence. (all real examples from recent sessions, incidentally, and all things I'll remember long after I've forgotten 'that time I did an Action Surge and scored 2 Crits against That Troll We Fought')

And that, I'd argue, is something that's achieved through design by the DM rather than any changes in mechanics. Rolling opposed dice or having a dynamic initiative tracker or handing out 3 different ways to respond to an attack doesn't help there, whereas considering encounter design as an extension of drama is something that the rules fully equip you to do (or at least, definitely don't hinder you in doing). A great combat encounter, I reckon, can be played out with 5e, 3e, Pathfinder, One-page Dungeon or whatever system you want and still be exciting, engaging and dramatic. Sure, it's a lot of work for DMs over just picking some monsters and throwing a few terrain pieces out, but it's also part of their role and frankly, part of the fun.

This message was edited 3 times. Last update was at 2019/11/09 16:11:28


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@Paradigm

Yes, the DM can turn encounters into memorable engaging conflicts with story and stakes.

But is it not ALSO possible to have engaging mechanics?

The 2 are not mutually exclusive. The one (the dm) can help cover for the failings of the mechanics. Or it can be enhanced by the mechanics themselves being good and engaging.

Arguing that crap mechanics can be overcome by well crafted story telling doesn't actually address the underlying point that the mechanics fail to be engaging. You can have both! Why would you not want to have both?


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I'm just not sure what 'engaging' mechanics means or how 5e is somehow unengaging? Is it just making more choices or rolling more frequently that would make things more interesting? Is it having a less rigid turn structure?

I might be missing the point here, but I just don't think there's any form of mechanic that could excite or engage me without context. Being able to choose how I deal with a hit or exactly how I swing a sword doesn't appeal to me as inherently more interesting, and the more complex things get, the more I have to divert part of my attention away from the storytelling to handle the mechanics, which personally I'd rather not do as I'm not here for the tactical exercise.

I just can't think of a time in my experience with 5e where I've felt bored or restricted on account of the rules. There have been some encounters on both sides of the screen that have become slogs, but due to bad design rather than anything stemming from the actual rules. I've been in fights that were really dull to get through, but almost always due to bad design rather than a lack of engagement, and I don't think 'better' mechanics would have helped.

I'm not saying that 5e is perfect by any means, but it is specifically designed to be lighter on mechanics than, say, Pathfinder. Of course. that's not for everyone, but I don't really think that changing the way the dice work or adding more options on how to attack or defend is going to help it be any more engaging if you're looking for a more thorough or tactical game. If you find 5e shallow or uninteresting, I'm not sure that's something that can be patched over because ultimately, that simplicity is built into the very bones of the system.

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 Paradigm wrote:
I'm just not sure what 'engaging' mechanics means or how 5e is somehow unengaging? Is it just making more choices or rolling more frequently that would make things more interesting? Is it having a less rigid turn structure?


It's having agency and choices with consequence first and foremost.

For instance, In the Unisystem turn order is not determined by initiative set at the beginning of the combat. Turn order is determined by the players and DM with a few guidelines. Each round the DM asks "What are your intentions?" And you go around the table with each person saying what they plan to do this round of combat (first, this clears up any waiting for someone to decide what to do nonsense which makes combat faster, second it's your first interesting choice).

Generally speaking magic that can be cast as an action goes first since spells happen at the speed of spoken syllables or words or thoughts. Then ranged combat. Then people in melee now (lighter faster weapons before bigger slower ones, but a pole arm keeping a guy at range would probably act first since hes already in range while a greatsword in the polearm dudes face will go first because the poleguy is now out of his element. DM discretion here.) then people moving to engage in melee. A dude with a bow might declare, I will use this round to aim at BLANK. Well that means he makes a aim roll on his turn and the number of successes becomes a bonus to his single shoot action at the end of the turn. He looses his initiative place for a bonus to his roll. Just an example.

See how the actions you choose could have consequences? Not just pure mechanical benefits?

Then when someone does attack you, you have choices in how you deal with it. You can do nothing, hoping your armor eats the hit, or dodge or parry or take cover. You have a set amount of actions each turn you can take for free (generally 2) each additional action is a cumulative -2 penalty. So attack and dodge, but there are more enemies, so dodge again -2 parry -4 etc etc...

Again, the actions you choose up top may have consequences that bite you in the ass in the long run. Maybe you should have gone full defensive while surrounded and gotten no offensive actions but a +3 bonus to all defensive actions.


Just one example of a system that is more engaging. The system itself helps tell the story and offers constant choice and consequence for the players instead of it just being left up to the DM to make a 14 on a dice roll into some kind of story.

I might be missing the point here, but I just don't think there's any form of mechanic that could excite or engage me without context. Being able to choose how I deal with a hit or exactly how I swing a sword doesn't appeal to me as inherently more interesting, and the more complex things get, the more I have to divert part of my attention away from the storytelling to handle the mechanics, which personally I'd rather not do as I'm not here for the tactical exercise.


The mechanics are arguably MORE complex in DnD because they are trying to factor in all these elements into a target number on a page. The systems can be simple. It's as easy as presenting the players with a single choice for any action. All the combat maneuvers fit in a single column on a landscape page on my GM screen. Someone says, I want to tackle him onto, and try to smash through, that table.

In dnd 5e how would you do that?

And after you figure that out, tell me why anyone ever would?


In the Unisystem I would have him make a trip combat manuever using Strength + Brawling or Athletics instead of the normal Dex + (whichever fighting skill they want) a trip normally is. The opponent would oppose with a simple strength test (str x 2) or their own Str + brawl depending on which is better) or may choose to try to get out of the way doing a dex + dodge or acrobatics. If he succeeds he will deal 2 base damage x strength. There is a brief table on my GM screen for objects/materials armor/HP per inch of thickness. I determine a table in this bar has blah armor (soak of damage - the table will take the same damage as the person being slammed into it) and blah HP. If the damage meets or exceeds the HP of the table the guy goes straight through it and I will add in a bonus damage per success on his initial attack roll.

In summary, "Intentions!"

"I want to tackle that guy and slam him through the table behind him"

"Okay, make a str + brawl or athletics roll"

"3 successes"

::rolls opponents::

"You succeed. The table buckles under him being slammed into it and splits down the middle. You deal a bonus 3 damage."

The system is versatile, reactive, quick, and leaves a ton of options for the players both in what they want to do and how they react to what happens to them. If he failed that trip maneuver the other guy now has him directly in front of him and could get a bonus to punching him in the back of the head (normally a penalty to hit for a multiplier to damage and a chance to knock him unconscious, but the now bonus might negate that penalty all together). On the other hand, the guy who gets put through the table is now suffering penalties to all manuevers for being on the ground and instead of just being able to use an action to get back up would probably need to make a simple roll to get himself out of the rubble of the table and get to his feet. Easy enough to pass but with the chance of failure.

I just can't think of a time in my experience with 5e where I've felt bored or restricted on account of the rules. There have been some encounters on both sides of the screen that have become slogs, but due to bad design rather than anything stemming from the actual rules. I've been in fights that were really dull to get through, but almost always due to bad design rather than a lack of engagement, and I don't think 'better' mechanics would have helped.

I'm not saying that 5e is perfect by any means, but it is specifically designed to be lighter on mechanics than, say, Pathfinder. Of course. that's not for everyone, but I don't really think that changing the way the dice work or adding more options on how to attack or defend is going to help it be any more engaging if you're looking for a more thorough or tactical game. If you find 5e shallow or uninteresting, I'm not sure that's something that can be patched over because ultimately, that simplicity is built into the very bones of the system.


I agree with you here. The problems are built into the bones of 5e. You can't patch over it. The DC mechanic at the core of the D20 system is the problem. DnD can't get better until it gets over it's 50 year old mechanics and starts doing newer gak

This message was edited 4 times. Last update was at 2019/11/10 16:34:04



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 Lance845 wrote:


The mechanics are arguably MORE complex in DnD because they are trying to factor in all these elements into a target number on a page. The systems can be simple. It's as easy as presenting the players with a single choice for any action. All the combat maneuvers fit in a single column on a landscape page on my GM screen. Someone says, I want to tackle him onto, and try to smash through, that table.

In dnd 5e how would you do that?

"Make an opposed Athletics roll." Done. Treat it as an Improvised Weapon for a d4 plus Strength, and maybe have the enemy knocked prone if the roll is good. One step, moves fast. the player gets to do what they want, the DM only has to make a couple of small decisions on how it plays out, and then we move on. Yes, you're not following a specific rule, but the whole design of 5e is that you don't need those when you can have simple resolution mechanics plus DM adjudicating. And the actual play process is basically identical to the one you describe, just with a different dice roll.

And yes, you could say that requires the DM to decide on the spot where other systems will have specific rules for that, but again, that's what 5e is built on. If there doesn't need to be a rule, there isn't, and for me at least, that trumps the 400 word block of text for grappling, ans another 400 for escaping a grapple and another 400 for exceptions to those of older editions.

And after you figure that out, tell me why anyone ever would?

Because it's cool and in character? Because it might offer an ally a big advantage to knock the enemy prone? Because that enemy might be trying to escape or reach a location and your attack might stop and pin them? All derived from context. Otherwise, we'd all just work out the best weapon and the most damage we can do and do that for eternity or until we find a better one.


I just can't think of a time in my experience with 5e where I've felt bored or restricted on account of the rules. There have been some encounters on both sides of the screen that have become slogs, but due to bad design rather than anything stemming from the actual rules. I've been in fights that were really dull to get through, but almost always due to bad design rather than a lack of engagement, and I don't think 'better' mechanics would have helped.

I'm not saying that 5e is perfect by any means, but it is specifically designed to be lighter on mechanics than, say, Pathfinder. Of course. that's not for everyone, but I don't really think that changing the way the dice work or adding more options on how to attack or defend is going to help it be any more engaging if you're looking for a more thorough or tactical game. If you find 5e shallow or uninteresting, I'm not sure that's something that can be patched over because ultimately, that simplicity is built into the very bones of the system.


I agree with you here. The problems are built into the bones of 5e. You can't patch over it. The DC mechanic at the core of the D20 system is the problem. DnD can't get better until it gets over it's 50 year old mechanics and starts doing newer gak


If DnD dropped the D20 DC system, would it even be DnD any more? I'm not sure it would, everything else has changed over its history but that has been the core of the game since its inception and if a hypothetical future edition ditched it for dice pools or success vs failures, I think it'd be met with a huge backlash. I think the system (or any system) has no inherent merit or demerit beyond its ease of use, you think it's outdated and flawed, but I'd be willing to bet that it'd be the last thing Wizards would ever consider abandoning. Regardless of the fact that vast amounts of people enjoy it and find it perfectly adequate, it's integral to the identity of the brand and the game.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2019/11/10 16:55:16


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 Paradigm wrote:
 Lance845 wrote:


The mechanics are arguably MORE complex in DnD because they are trying to factor in all these elements into a target number on a page. The systems can be simple. It's as easy as presenting the players with a single choice for any action. All the combat maneuvers fit in a single column on a landscape page on my GM screen. Someone says, I want to tackle him onto, and try to smash through, that table.

In dnd 5e how would you do that?

"Make an opposed Athletics roll." Done. Treat it as an Improvised Weapon for a d4 plus Strength, and maybe have the enemy knocked prone if the roll is good. One step, moves fast. the player gets to do what they want, the DM only has to make a couple of small decisions on how it plays out, and then we move on. Yes, you're not following a specific rule, but the whole design of 5e is that you don't need those when you can have simple resolution mechanics plus DM adjudicating. And the actual play process is basically identical to the one you describe, just with a different dice roll.

And yes, you could say that requires the DM to decide on the spot where other systems will have specific rules for that, but again, that's what 5e is built on. If there doesn't need to be a rule, there isn't, and for me at least, that trumps the 400 word block of text for grappling, ans another 400 for escaping a grapple and another 400 for exceptions to those of older editions.


Why would ANYONE do this instead of throwing a fireball or swinging a sword? Which goes back to why it's boring in the OPs first post. There is a optimal thing to do and no consequences for doing it. So they will. The opposed athletics roll does not allow for the gnome/halfling/rogue to simply try to get out of the way either.


I just can't think of a time in my experience with 5e where I've felt bored or restricted on account of the rules. There have been some encounters on both sides of the screen that have become slogs, but due to bad design rather than anything stemming from the actual rules. I've been in fights that were really dull to get through, but almost always due to bad design rather than a lack of engagement, and I don't think 'better' mechanics would have helped.

I'm not saying that 5e is perfect by any means, but it is specifically designed to be lighter on mechanics than, say, Pathfinder. Of course. that's not for everyone, but I don't really think that changing the way the dice work or adding more options on how to attack or defend is going to help it be any more engaging if you're looking for a more thorough or tactical game. If you find 5e shallow or uninteresting, I'm not sure that's something that can be patched over because ultimately, that simplicity is built into the very bones of the system.


I agree with you here. The problems are built into the bones of 5e. You can't patch over it. The DC mechanic at the core of the D20 system is the problem. DnD can't get better until it gets over it's 50 year old mechanics and starts doing newer gak


If DnD dropped the D20 DC system, would it even be DnD any more? I'm not sure it would, everything else has changed over its history but that has been the core of the game since its inception and if a hypothetical future edition ditched it for dice pools or success vs failures, I think it'd be met with a huge backlash. I think the system (or any system) has no inherent merit or demerit beyond its ease of use, you think it's outdated and flawed, but I'd be willing to bet that it'd be the last thing Wizards would ever consider abandoning. Regardless of the fact that vast amounts of people enjoy it and find it perfectly adequate, it's integral to the identity of the brand and the game.


If dnd is only it's mechanics then DnD is already dying. Final Fantasy games took forever to adapt to new mechanics but they have because 3-4 people standing in a line waiting to click the fight button is boring as feth and a series of mechanics invented not too long after DnD. Many other games in many other genres have survived adapting to new systems to get with modern game design conventions and better game play. DnD is a hold out. Pathfinder is the same.

DnD is a series of settings. A general tone. A type of adventure at it's core that is also supposed to be versatile enough to run other kinds of adventures. I use the unisystem to play DnD. It's a dnd world with DnD things going on. I just don't bother with any of DnDs crap mechanics.


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There will always be an optimal choice whenever there are choices, but if you're only playing an RPG to always do the best possible thing then you're missing the point. Whatever system you're playing, there will at any given moment be the ideal thing to do, and yet that may only rarely line up with what is appropriate from a narrative or contextual standpoint.

I am currently playing a character that literally uses a wooden sword until she has completed her training to use a real one. In the same campaign we have a Cleric who spent several turns refusing to battle an Owlbear and instead tried unsuccessfully to tame it for several rounds while another party member tried to jump on its back and knocked themselves out after a fluffed Acrobatics roll. If they had wanted to kill it they could have done so in a matter of seconds, but it was more characterful and more fun to try this alternative approach. We'll remember that failed attempt to tame and ride an owlbear far longer than we would if we had just fought it for a couple of rounds and 'won'.

The point being that the existence of an optimal solution should not be taken as an imperative to use it, and any game (under any system) where that wasn't true would be as boring as watching paint dry.

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There is not always an optimal choice when every choice has risk along with it's reward. DnD does not. Optimal choices come about primarily when you suffer no risk no matter what you do. It costs you nothing to swing your sword so you should.

It is very easy to go to "Well my group does X because story trumps mechanics" type arguments. I have just been avoiding them because the discussion is not about how at the DnD table you can actually do anything the DM allows and the DM could allow anything. Any discussion on the pros and cons of the d20 system is made pointless by those kinds of statements. Argue the system.

d20 5th has no mechanic for handling throwing someone through a table. Or feints. Or disarms. Or targeting specific body parts. Or tripping people.

And a DM could choose to do an opposed skill roll of athletics + str mod for handling 2 people grappling about it but again, what skill are you using for the small fast guy getting out of the way? Is this eating up their action for the turn? How do you handle the table?

And those questions don't need to be handled with pages and pages of rules like D20 3.x did with each instance of a thing having it's own bespoke rules that are slight variations of other rules and incredibly complex. They can be handled easily with systems that have more robust and adaptable core rules to begin with.

Again, engagement in the mechanics is an issue. From the way initiative is handled to actions being taken dnd is mostly a dull slog with the hard work of the over worked DM propping it up into being any kind of interesting. It's nice that the DM and players can make a boring dull thing interesting. But again, they could get support from the systems they are using to do that also. It doesn't have to be one or the other.


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@ OP:

D&D combat was never exciting and this comes from a person who started playing during the AD&D era and was a Ravenloft DM for ten years. If you want meaningful options in melee grab the Martial Arts book and play GURPS. There you have different fighting styles and a ton of maneuvers which let your alter ego snap the neck, knee the groin, head butt, judo throw, jump kick, etc.

D&D is good for kicking in the dungeon door and grabbing the loot while the stuff in the middle, actual combat, is a rather bland affair.
   
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 Lance845 wrote:
There is not always an optimal choice when every choice has risk along with it's reward. DnD does not. Optimal choices come about primarily when you suffer no risk no matter what you do. It costs you nothing to swing your sword so you should.

It is very easy to go to "Well my group does X because story trumps mechanics" type arguments. I have just been avoiding them because the discussion is not about how at the DnD table you can actually do anything the DM allows and the DM could allow anything. Any discussion on the pros and cons of the d20 system is made pointless by those kinds of statements. Argue the system.


I admit, all the 'evidence' I'm putting forward is anecdotal, and just by the nature of RPGs the game I play will be observably different from any other game. However, I do think I am still arguing the system to some extent, because relying on the DM to make judgement calls in the absence of specific rules is the system, for better or worse. I love that, you don't but it is core to the way 5e works compared to its previous editions or Pathfinder.

Though to dig further into that, I will come out to bat for that way of doing things for one very important reason which is, by my reckoning, the greatest achievement of 5e: You can explain three rules(D20+Mod vs DC, Advantage and Disadvantage, Abilties and Proficiency) to people who have never touched a tabletop game before and be playing inside 5 minutes. It might seem overly simplistic to a long-time player, but the fact that that simple process can govern any action a player might want to take is a huge boon to the inexperienced, and I think that's borne out in how many people are picking up 5e in recent years compared to 4th or other contemporary games.

Of course, there are other factors (loss of the social stigma, rise of streaming/online content ect) and I'm sure there will be plenty who play 5e for a bit then move on to something more complex, but equally there are hundreds of people to whom this accessibility has been crucial into them stepping into the hobby at all.

Frankly, I'm one of them; I honestly don't think I'd have ever bothered to start out as DM has I had much more to juggle than 5e has at its core, and it's a big part of why I have no real interest in expanding into other systems as my main game (at least for fantasy gaming). I take the simplicity as freedom, and ultimately I see it that the less effort I have to spend learning expansive rules for called shots or grappling or chases or whatever is more effort I can put into worldbuilding, character concepts, encounter design ect, and I can trust that whatever comes up on either of the DM screen, a single mechanic+ a little improvisation can cover it. You say it's a crippling flaw, I think it's a wonderful safety net for creativity.

So again, I'm not saying 5e is perfect or the right game for everyone, but I do think the areas you perceive as shortcomings are a) very deliberately a part of the design and b) a genuinely good thing for a specific type of game. To torture a simile a bit, I'd say it's like drybrushing. It's very easy to pick up and at a bare minimum, means you'll see people painting who otherwise wouldn't, while at the same time it can be refined to be used at the highest levels of painting as an art form. There are those who eschew drybrushing once they learn layering, but there are just as many who keep using it, either as another tool in an expanded skillset to achieve advanced results or because they just like the simple, basic level of quality it offers.

I can't say with any crediblity whatsoever that 5e is the best RPG in the world, but at the minute it's by far the most popular, and I think the reasons I've outlined above are a big part of the reason for that.




d20 5th has no mechanic for handling throwing someone through a table. Or feints. Or disarms. Or targeting specific body parts. Or tripping people.

And a DM could choose to do an opposed skill roll of athletics + str mod for handling 2 people grappling about it but again, what skill are you using for the small fast guy getting out of the way? Is this eating up their action for the turn? How do you handle the table?

And those questions don't need to be handled with pages and pages of rules like D20 3.x did with each instance of a thing having it's own bespoke rules that are slight variations of other rules and incredibly complex. They can be handled easily with systems that have more robust and adaptable core rules to begin with.


Honestly, the tools for most of those things are there in the rules. Grappling explicitly allows Acrobatics as a defence instead of Athletics if that's better. Feints, disarming strikes and trip attacks are there as part of the Battlemaster subclass, and anyone can Shove as an attack to knock an enemy prone or attempt to disarm a target (DMG p.271, yes, it's an optional rule but it's there, and handles exactly how you'd guess it would anyway, with Athletics vs Athletics or Acrobatics, so the chances are even if your DM isn't using that rule explicitly, that's how it's going to be handled if you try it).


Again, engagement in the mechanics is an issue. From the way initiative is handled to actions being taken dnd is mostly a dull slog with the hard work of the over worked DM propping it up into being any kind of interesting. It's nice that the DM and players can make a boring dull thing interesting. But again, they could get support from the systems they are using to do that also. It doesn't have to be one or the other.


Yes, you can have a system that covers all this in more detail without slowing things down or getting more complicated, but the point I'm trying to make is that it's a feature, not a bug. The lack of detail and variety isn't something you have to fight, it's something that you can embrace to take in whatever direction you want. It's not inherently a dull slog; it can feel that way if you're wanting more depth or active participation but for just as many, it's every bit as exciting and engaging as they need it to be.

Not all games can be for all players, and it's not trying to be, but it seems to be that basically, you want a different game altogether rather than any possible better version of 5e. Which is great, because there are tons of them out there, we're in the golden age of variety for RPGs (and by the sound of it, you've already got a system you find does the job). All I'm trying to say is that 5e is not inadequate or flawed, simply different.

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You are covering 3 core mechanics for dnd.

To go back to the unisystem as a comparison the core mechanic is task: stat + skill + 1d10. Or test: simple: stat doubled +d10 difficult: stat alone +d10. Ties go to the defender. The character sheet has a big box for you to write out and add up all your most common stat + skills so its 1d10+total.


Its basically one resolution method for everything and it covers more ground than what the d20 system is capable of with greater simplicity.


Explaining it to a new player is easy.

You wanna swing a sword? Dex + sword. Your chasing someone? Dex + athletics for a sprint, con + athletics for long distance endurance. Trying to lift some rubble off a friend simple str test. Pinned under some rubble and trying to lift it off your own leg? Difficult strength.


I do think d20 is flawed. If for no other reason then it has waste from its outdated mechanics. Modifiers are over co.plication. why do you have 2 numbers to express how strong you are if you only ever use one of them? Why isnt your strength just a 3 instead of a 16 with a modifier of +3? The 16 does nothing. And explaining THAT to a new player is unnecessarily confusing.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2019/11/11 17:17:54



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I'm honestly not seeing how that's any different? You're using a D10 instead of a D20, but otherwise, isn't stat plus skill functionally identical to ability plus proficiency? And then you remove those bonuses where 5e would raise the DC? It's a different way of generating numbers, and maybe less swingy due to the smaller range of a D10, but unless I'm missing something, I'm not seeing how it's any more engaging or deep?

Ok, you've got the freedom to mix and match stats and skills, but 5e also specifically allows you to do that if it's appropriate (such as Strength for Intimidation instead of Charisma if you've just torn someone in half and want to terrify his mates). And you seem to have opposed rolls, though again, 5e has that where appropriate (such as two individuals directly competing in the same task, or performing opposing activities). It's possible I'm misunderstanding how it works, but it seems like the same process of actual gameplay with different numbers. Best I can tell from what you're saying is that it boasts more specific uses for a larger number of skills, whereas 5e assumes you can make a judgement for the appropriate skill for a given situation? Apologies if I've got that wrong.

Derived modifiers from ability scores are admittedly baggage that could happily be ditched, but ultimately the system itself would remain unchanged (as presumably stats would still be derived the same way, it'd just be hidden behind a table which tells you what your 4d6 roll total corresponds to). Dropping them would make the character sheet neater, but not do much else to allay your criticisms of the system..

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 Paradigm wrote:
I'm honestly not seeing how that's any different? You're using a D10 instead of a D20, but otherwise, isn't stat plus skill functionally identical to ability plus proficiency? And then you remove those bonuses where 5e would raise the DC? It's a different way of generating numbers, and maybe less swingy due to the smaller range of a D10, but unless I'm missing something, I'm not seeing how it's any more engaging or deep?

Ok, you've got the freedom to mix and match stats and skills, but 5e also specifically allows you to do that if it's appropriate (such as Strength for Intimidation instead of Charisma if you've just torn someone in half and want to terrify his mates). And you seem to have opposed rolls, though again, 5e has that where appropriate (such as two individuals directly competing in the same task, or performing opposing activities). It's possible I'm misunderstanding how it works, but it seems like the same process of actual gameplay with different numbers. Best I can tell from what you're saying is that it boasts more specific uses for a larger number of skills, whereas 5e assumes you can make a judgement for the appropriate skill for a given situation? Apologies if I've got that wrong.

Derived modifiers from ability scores are admittedly baggage that could happily be ditched, but ultimately the system itself would remain unchanged (as presumably stats would still be derived the same way, it'd just be hidden behind a table which tells you what your 4d6 roll total corresponds to). Dropping them would make the character sheet neater, but not do much else to allay your criticisms of the system..


Dnd isn't stat plus skill. Its a bonus from level plus a modifier derived from attribute plus modifiers from class abilities, "feats" if your dm chooses to use them and other variables. And then, unless the dm is telling everyone the dcs/acs, the player rolls his die and doesnt even know what the number they rolled means. They have to wait for the dm to translate. With the uni system you know immidiately how well you did. X number of siccesses or not. You might not know how well the enemy did yet. But you can at least gauge your own success.

Your ability to use a given weapon or a cast magic isnt derived from a list of skills you buy into. They are class features granted to you be prebuilt boxes of features you gain in fits and starts as you level up. (Uni system is point buy, not level/class). Your every action in the unisystem has degrees of success. Picking a lock often just requires 1 vs no opposing roll. While in d20 the MOST competitive thing should be combat and its very specifically NOT a opposed roll. Its a specialized DC that takes at minimum 3 numbers to calculate. (Dex mod, armor bonus, proficiency) unless the armor caps or subtracts from dex mod at which point start adjusting that calculation.

A dnd character sheet reads like a series of simple math problems. Other simpler systems dont. Because they dont have to be. Its not simpler or easier to explain to new players to get through dnds archaic math. And yes, 5th is miles better and easier then it was in the past. But better doesnt mean those problems are gone. They have just been made so much more tolerable that you feel like their burden has been lifted because they dont weigh as much.


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Voss wrote:
 Easy E wrote:
So, Target Number (DR) for armor sucks, but opposed dice rolls isn't any better?

So, what is better trying to staying within the basic parameters of D&D?


Well opposed rolls certainly don't stay in the parameters of D&D, and don't work well in a d20 system (for a lot of reasons, as people tend to learn when they do arm wrestling competitions and the weaker character wins).

The odds change when you go from level based target numbers to random rolls on both sides, and the actual play experience gets a bit bitter. Missing because the player rolled low tends to go over better than the DM getting a streak on defensive rolls. Predictability as to what to expect when they attack makes for a better player experience than an extra layer of random.

The basic problem is these are solutions that have been tried at various times over the last thirty years, and don't stick because they're really unsatisfying, take up more table time, and don't produce better (or even consistent) results.


What's better is have an array of tactical options within the current ruleset that actually accomplishes things. Don't lock them behind feats, skills or whatever, and don't make them stupidly complicated (see 1st and 2nd edition grappling rules). Basically fighters and rogues need to not be punished for wanting to do something other than HP damage. (Or both damage and control)


I do not disagree, which is usually why I use a different system completely. However, when one is a player and not the GM you do not always get your system choice.

Therefore, that is the challenge in my mind. The opportunities have to come from opposed rolls, modifiers, situational modifiers, bonuses to HP reduction, or saving throw effects in a D&D style system.

Not ideal at all, but sometimes as a designer you have to work within the parameters assigned to you.

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