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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Dungeons & Dragons 5e Just Ain't for me...

One interesting thing about my twitter feed...alot of folks are playing 5e.  New players are flocking to it (for reasons I can't fathom, but I'm always glad when new folks start playing D&D), and old players are turning on to it and calling it good, even great.  Sometimes they refer to it as 'the best yet'.
Several years ago I was running a PC with Windows XP.  It had been running with that OS for a very long time, and it was stable as hell.  It worked great, and Vista, riddled with issues and poor reviews, was certainly no reason to upgrade.  When Windows 7 hit the shelves, the tune turned quickly and the new OS was revered as the next best thing.  I'm a voracious skeptic, and had seen early-adopters eat their words and lose their dollars before, so I held off.  Reviews focused in their scopes, but they like it and the reviews were solid,  companies switched platforms and upgraded clients.  It seemed like the new OS was solid and stable, but still, I held off.  XP was still running on my desktop and there was no reason to switch.  It was stable and reliable, and those are factors I can always use more of in my life.  It took major software and hardware requirement changes for me to finally bite the bullet and upgrade.

Now, With Win8 and now Win10 in circulation, I'm still a Win7 guy.  It's stable and reliable, things in high demand in my world still.

What does this have to do with Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition?  You see, I still play OSR Retro Clones meant to mimic the systems and play of Basic and AD&D1e.  I had heard all about the great new things in 5e, how much attention it was attracting, and that old gamers and new were flocking to it in droves.  I remember playing in a few 2e games.  Hated em.  Too much system.  It was the same with every other subsequent system...too much.  I didn't need it. "Crunchy".  It's a word I dislike, and a word that really doesn't feel good when I say it.  "Crunchy".  It's not a bag of chips, it's a game.

With all things rpg,  eventually there came a time where I gave in.  A time where I needed to have a look at the books, crack em open and peer inside and see what all the fuss was about.  I even broke down and joined a game so I could play through.  It was eye opening.  There's no denying that the new system has appeal, the chatter all around me proves it, and after spending some time in the 5e trenches, I certainly understand why.

They pulled alot of the 'crunch' out of the game, much of the combat mess that made 4e such a chore to play (yeah, I know some folks loved this tactical combat approach but I'm not one), and replaced it with a much smoother experience for both the player and the DM. Game-play is smoother all around, and new players to the entire genre of game can now much more easily understand what is happening technically, making the fun part of the game quicker and easier to access.  The books look spectacular, and the entire package is well presented.  As an experienced player I only had a few flubs before sliding into a comfortable place with my character and getting to the Role Playing, which is what I enjoy about the game.

Here's the thing.  It's not for me.  I mean, it's ok.  I can play if asked to join a game, and I might enjoy doing so with the right group, but there are still too many things I dislike about 5e, and so it will never be my first choice.  If all the OSR content went away, and the original and advanced versions of the game were swept into the annals of time, I think I would be done with the hobby.  "But why," you ask, "isn't 5e good enough to get you that gaming 'fix' you crave, you need?"


There are issues I have that cannot be overcome.  I dislike the skill system.  I don't like healing surges or death saving throws.  I'm not a fan of how clerics are presented.  I think many of the classes and races are poorly built or don't even need to exist.

"Holy Shit!" you exclaim.  "Is that all?"

Nope.  Magic seems like a mess to me.  It's all over the place and crossing boundaries that don't need to exist.  Everyone talks about 'character builds', which is not a concept I'm buying into, instead preferring to create my character.  There are too many options for 'builds' that could and should be handled IMHO by the DM and Player as part of a background, which, btw, there doesn't need to be a goddamned table for, or a kit for, or features for.  The entire process of making a character in 5e is so... so organized, managed, and streamlined that it makes me wanna puke.  Who needs all that shit?  Where is the part where I imagine all that stuff and then write it all down.

Oh yeah...and a skill check for every action on a table listing skills?  It's a total waste of time and space.  Need an Arcana or History check?  That's what INT is for.  How about a Perception check.  Wisdom.  Can I break that door?  Strength.  Anyway, it's all bloat to me.

Whew...sorry.  I got a bit worked up there.  You weren't looking for a rant.  Sorry you found one.

I think my biggest issue is that once again, the game is replacing Rulings with rules, or worse yet, rolls.  That's my #1 complaint with 5e and the reason I'm not likely to adopt it.

Remain calm.  I'm not suggesting that you are playing a bad game, or an unplayable one.  It's fine.  Really.  It's just not for me.  It's out to capture a new audience, and that group of new gamers doesn't have the trappings of the old world.  These new folks are picking up a new game, a game new to them.  They don't come to the table with preconceived notions or biases.   Instead they come from a world that has been dominated by video games (which I enjoy as well), and cell phones, and computers.  I predate most of that stuff, and it definitely impacts what I think about role-playing games, and how I want to play them.

I'm not trying to shit on your fun.  Honestly.  I want you to enjoy this new game.  You see, for me, that's what it is.  It's a new game.  It's not the Dungeons & Dragons I played, and it's not played the same way.  That's fine.  I can handle the change, even if I'm not really willing to adopt it.  Not gonna lie, it's a little annoying all these folks chattering about something I'm not a fan of, but I'll live.

I think it's great that there is renewed interest in the hobby, and the 5e push has only bolstered the OSR movement, so it's all good.

In the meantime, if you feel like understanding some of the differences between the 'old' way and this new way of playing, you might want to check out the Old School Primer which you can get on LULU for free.  It's a quick read and worth your attention if you have any interest in gaming the 'old school' way.


  1. Really good post. I feel the same way, but today the players are playing 5e - especially new players.

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  3. I am a old school D&D although AD&D was my main. Moded a bit to make more playable and enjoyable. Especially low level playing. Modified death rules, etc.

    I get what you are saying, but theryles are idea generators and starting points. I quite like feats and the magic system is better. To each their own.

  4. I agree. It's not for me, either. Well said, Howard.

    I was going to learn the 5e game for a gaming store, to run games for birthday parties and the like, but the store closed earlier this year. I am still thinking of doing it, but with no "employer" to dictate the rule set in order to sell the latest iteration, I am free to offer what I would want to run: AD&D, AS&SH, B/X D&D, OSRIC, C&C, or d6 Star Wars RPG.

  5. I've been playing 5e with a fella I've DM'd for for ages. Part of my problem is his DM style (he's really into mechanics and rules) but playing the game it seems pretty much 3e with some tweaks. I mean it might as well be 3e.75. I didn't like 3e for all the reasons I don't like 5e and that centers around multiclassing (I prefer AD&D style) and several of the items you mentioned in your blod.

    To each their own. I'll still with basic/1e/2e era.

  6. Seems like everything has gone sterile. Unbalanced? NEVER! All races are politically correct now. Fun is Dead, order reigns. Munchkin to become better!

  7. I stopped running and playing AD&D in 1995. That's when I bought Mage: The Ascension 1st Ed. From the time I finished reading the book I have been on the StoryTeller bandwagon. 5 or 6 pages of basic rules to play the game, and the rest is window dressing. It's the most playable -- and player-friendly -- system I've every encountered, and I've been playing RPGs since 1980.

  8. I started playing in 1977. I've played every edition. I have played retroclones. 1st had its charms, and was a very good start. But it's unbalanced classes limited it. To play a magic user was to cast a few spells and then hide for the rest of the day until fifth level or higher. The cleric was basically a medic. 2e didn't fix this, and introduced a lot of strained mechanics (Thac0 anyone?). 3e tried to fix all this, but imo went too far in specialization. It was still DnD but people spent too much time building builds and not enough playing the game. 4e tried to fix all this, but by doing so, made the tactical too much a part of the game, slowed combat waaaaaay down, which stole from the role playing. Frustrated by that, I turned to retroclones and 1e again, but was reminded about how limited they were. Then 5e came along. Is it perfect, no. Death is very rare. Healing is too easy. But the wizard is more a part of the game, as is the cleric. I wish the thief was more a thief, but DC and skil checks do it just as fast as Pick pocket percentage rolls did. The game is open again, and we can role play, and not just roll play, as we were stuck doing in 3e, 3.5e, and 4e. Obviously, play whatever system you like. Enjoy. But imo, 5e was the fix I always wished 3e had been, and that's why it is so successful, with no end in site.

  9. Really amazed by the pageviews and comments this blog post has drawn. I guess I hadn't realized how many folks felt the same way, especially since the overwhelming waves of Pro-5e posts and tweets etc. were so abundant. Thanks to you all for your comments, one way or the other.

    I'm especially interested in those older gamers who started playing in the early days, and who are enjoying 5e much more than I am. They've all made some good points, though no one has hit me with anything that changes my mind.

    I should say that I do very much like advantage/'s a simple way to resolve a complex issue, and in its simplicity lies its elegance. While I'm not likely to adopt it for my current LL game, it's a mechanic I might adopt at some time int he future.

  10. I think that if advantage/ disadvantage had been written into Holmes Basic, very few grognards would have a problem with it, and indeed, many would likely champion it as alternative to needless crunch.

    1. I agree. I've found myself using it in various game systems. It's a quick/dirty way to resolve a bit of a bonus/minus without involving any creative algorithm building