DEATH! As I start to wrap up my journey through 5E Players handbook (PHB) I can say that I have one LEAST favorite part about 5E that I will certainly be house-ruling in my games.
This post continues my journey to learn and adopt 5E into my work and life. My first impressions are here. My journey part 2 is here. It is my hope that my friends from the OSR will be able to take in my account of what happens when an old BECMI/1E fart takes on 5E. Here lay my challenges and enjoyment of it, what I like and what I don’t.
Death in 5E is something that is EXTREMELY soft in my humble opinion, unless you are a monster. Monsters get no breaks, at zero hit points they are dead. 5E makes character death something akin to a cartoon for me, and will require house ruling for my personal tastes. In the 1E days you might go to -10 to be dead. anything below zero, you trickle downward every round until you are stabilized.
For 5e death, it takes a lot of work to file that character sheet away. Characters can go to negative their maximum HP! So if Balfor the rugged has 110 HP, he will need to be at -110 to die. But really the negative number allowed is secondary. Every round below zero a character makes a death save. A death save doesn’t mean death, you have to fail three death saves in order to die. Death saves are like rungs on a ladder. successful saves means a step up, fail means a step down. A natural 20 gets you to 1 HP, and there is debate around whether you can get up and run at that 1 hp in the same round.
I have watched this scenario played out in various youtube videos and skyped into a game at this point. Watching the death process happen is a little painful when compared to the rest of the streamlining of the 5e system. I have already begun penning my own house-ruled death for PC’s section.
In my games, to sum up; A character is dead at negative their maximum first level HP (Max single HD + con bonus). One death save to stabilize below zero or die.
I enjoy death being a risk of dangerous activities in gaming. Having gamed with a few of the old school writers of BECMI and AD&D, I have always enjoyed the need to be cautious and thoughtful. Knowing that I might die on the spot adds a tangible element to the risk of dungeon delving.
Knowing that I might enter into an never-ending series of saving throws and a dozen “One more chance” scenarios removes a LOT of risk factors for me.
If this is the one section requiring a house-rule from me for the game, that is a damn good over-all score. Folks are telling me there are some alternate suggestions in the DMG (I have yet to read fully).
Many of the OSR folks are not too excited about a character healing up to full after an 8 hour rest. There is an alternate version of this in the DMG that makes a “long rest” a week. I am still considering how this will play out, and I have decided to stay my house-rules hand on it until I have gamed through it more. A Leomund’s hut could certainly be troublesome for DMs who want to challenge parties over a series of encounters (Saw this in action when I skyped in).
I do recall a number of old school games where I secretly wished, as the DM, that the party could heal up or finagled an ill-fitting way to get some healing into the game. Pumping in copious numbers of healing potions can pull from the story line or world setting as well.
“Magic in this setting is rare!…. ok here’s 15 healing potions, let’s go!”
In my first 5e writings, I am entering text that explicitly states “Long rests are not possible in this area due to X” and “Long rest here is possible”.
Moving on – Who first?
90% of the mechanics (Just a loose number I’m tossing out) are contained in the PHB . The Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG) contains a mountain of information on writing worlds, creating adventures, balancing encounters and what not. I like this a GREAT deal and I am very eager to pile into it. I am ALWAYS eager to learn more about how people approach adventure writing and creation. It feels like it might be the dessert after dinner.
Initiative seems to have been streamlined and turned into strictly “Who goes first” rule. In previous editions simultaneous initiative happened all the time. 1E used a d6, 2E a d10. It was to determine at what point your damage was dealt more than turn order.
5E goes straight for turn order, I think this might end the possibility of two opponents killing each other at the same time, but I also think I like it a little better. In 1E it could get confusing. Players roll for monsters, monsters roll for players.
5E initiative is a Dex check with modifiers. Players each roll their own (alt house rule: Larger groups do party initiative). Monsters roll by type. So if there are goblins and ogres in the same battle, they roll for their own number. DM decides order if monsters tie, players decide order if players tie, DM decides or high/low D20 roll for monster and player tie.
Monsters and Treasure
Looking through the Monster Manual (MM) I noticed something was missing: The Treasure Type entry.
Let’s be honest, not many of us really memorized the treasure type table. (A, C, X, V) didn’t really tell us much about what was in the treasure until we got to the random % tables. The treasure tables for 5e are contained in the DMG and they are listed by monster Challenge rating. I really like this upgrade, it makes treasure assignment to encounters smarter and easier to sort out.
What I think is really missing from the MM is the # appearing entry. It would be nice if there were an ‘at a glance’ typical number for lair/tribe/flock and typical wandering encounter. I suppose the Challenge rating might suffice, but I am not overly keen on only presenting encounters my party can win. I always saw this number as a population range to form a lair, tribe etc. It was a societal or organizational guidepost that told me something about the creatures.
I have noticed also that there are far fewer entries in the monster descriptions on organization and societal behavior. For instance, in the Goblin entry, there is very little in the way of what a goblin chieftain is or does. No mention of guards, or other social operation.
I rather enjoyed the guidelines for lairs suggesting how many sub-chiefs and shaman per numbers of population. There is a 6d6 monster for a ‘goblin boss’, but not as refined as the old description of goblin chief that just added (4 HD).
I am still giving 5e a very good rating, and I am eager to use it. I feel I am reasonably versed in the system (For a new comer) and will be diving into the DMG with commentary from that book for my next post / entry into this journey. I still bumble through character creation a little bit. I get lost on the order of entries, but I am sure it will wring itself out. (Video in part 2 helped a LOT)
I have started penning my first 5e adventure. I am starting small and simple to get the ball rolling. Just a short side-quest covering a handful of pages.
Using the DC and stat saves for things is lovely, I keep running back to some of the skills to remember the terms. For the most part, I believe creating adventures in 5e will be pretty slick.
One last note –
Book binding and layout.
The quality of the binding is… weird. I have been a little afraid to open the books right up. Feeling like the glue will pop off or something. The paper in all three books tends to get ‘wavy’ like it was wet, but it isn’t or hasn’t been. Some googling around shows that I am not the first to notice this. If you get a drop of liquid, any liquid on the paper and wipe it off quickly, it will smear. (I had a soup noodle slurping incident). Old school bindings in some cases had their issues as well. WOTC will apparently replace your copy if the binding fails you. You will be required to contact them and ship your copy to them if it happens.
Layout. The color pages throughout is rather nice. It is illustration heavy. As an illustrator, I’m ok with that, but sometimes I wish there were one or two less pictures (or novel quotes) in the book and some bigger text. I mentioned before the text was one point small for me.
I have come to like the colored, texture background with a watercolor wash feel. Makes me sure that they were reading Pathfinder books :)
More to come