RPPR Episode 109: 5E Dungeons and Dragons Breakdown

lich-dmgNews: RPPR B-Sides volume 2 is coming soon. Volume 1 is free, so check that out, if you haven’t already.

Synopsis: A new edition of Dungeons and Dragons has been released and Bill, Sean, and I have played enough to have opinions that are more than just knee-jerk reactions. In this episode, we talk about the merits of 5E compared to the previous edition, what we like, what we don’t and more. Tom isn’t in this episode, so no letter. We do have shout outs and anecdotes though!

Shout Outs

Song: Dragon by David Thornton

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  1. – Mornington Crescent is from “I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue.”

    – David Mitchell does “The Unbelievable Truth”

    – QI is hosted by Stephen Fry.

    – They are all BBC panel shows.

    If you like any of these… you might also like

    – Have I got news for you

    – Never mind the buzzcocks

    – Mock the week

  2. Sean and Bill were great cohost choices here. the newbie and the encyclopedia. interesting that Sean’s new to D&D–something I was thinking about on the actual play, can’t remember if I said it or not, was that I doubted if anyone without nostalgia for D&D would be likely to pick it up, which is clearly not the case.

    I’m still not sure what D&D is for, exactly, though. feel like you guys didn’t really go into why you’d pick D&D over any other system. it’s particularly odd for the RPPR crew, who never really seem that invested in tactical combat.

  3. I like 5th ed so far. However, as stated by you guys, I feel like it is a step back in some ways compared to 4th, especially in terms of encounter building and class balance.

    One of the things I loved the most about 4th ed was how easy it was to make cool and engaging battles. Since the game WAS supposed to be played with a map grid and tokens, there were TONS of tactics you could use and each could work better than other depending on the battle terrain. I had the good fortune of playing the game with others who learned the rules and what their character can do, and just like Ross said, it felt like there was synergy in action and combat felt really, really great.

    Also, the Monster Manual had monster classifications which made things extremely easy. It was easy to differentiate the type of monster such as what a Minion was, compared to an Elite Brute, or a Solo Controller, and how each type would generally behave in combat. You also had the so, so, so useful Encounter Groups which gave you a balanced encounter with two or three types of monsters, and the XP gain for that fight. THAT is probably the thing that I wish 5th had more in terms of DM help, pre-built encounters you can easily drag and drop into your game.(here’s an image of what I mean, sorry for my potato camera http://i.imgur.com/AunHHiI.jpg )

    Now how does 5th ed do better? I think it plays more to mind’s eye than 4th, though with the use of the DMG I can totally see tactical grid-based combat being implemented right back. There’s also less stuff to worry about, as Sean and Anne showed. I like the Advantage-Disadvantage system, and it does feel in some ways like a bridging gap between 3.5 and 4. However, it drags too much of the 3.5 burden such as the over-complicated spell lists and being easier to play and run on low-level.

    I dunno, I will have to play with it a bit more to really get a better feel for it, but so far I like it though I feel it taxes me as the DM more than 4th ed did.

  4. Bill, could you find a link for that Robin Laws article you referred to?

  5. About talking to the monsters:

    For an actual Play podcast talking to the monsters rather then fighting with them makes for a far better listen. So in my opinion it was very fortunate that Tom couldn’t be bothered to learn all the rules and just decided to talk to things in the New World campaign. It’s probably one of the reasons that that campaign ended up getting so much traction with the listeners.

    There are very few things that are more boring to listen to then: ” * Role sound* I hit AC 23. Do I hit? Wait…Yes you did. *Role sounds* I do 5 points of damage. Is it dead? No, ok, Bob your turn. * Role sound* I hit AC… “

  6. I agree, Fridrik. There are some styles of RPG that just work better for AP recordings. It’s fun to listen to people debate, argue, and negotiate; less fun to listen to people add numbers together.

    While I run Pathfinder, I agree with just about every criticism of 3.5/PF that you guys brought up. The absolute worst, as you bring up, is monsters with spells. The one HUGE saving grace of Pathfinder, though, is d20pfsrd.com, which puts all the rules in Wiki form and hyperlinks everything together. If that didn’t exist, I don’t think I would have the patience to GM it. Thank you, OGL.

    By the way, I heard a rumor that Chris Perkins said that they’re eventually planning to OGL 5th Edition. If that’s true, I’ll most likely switch systems as soon as there are good free online tools for it. Everything I’ve read and listened to indicates that it’s a huge improvement over PF as a system.

  7. Author

    We play D&D because it’s kind of a lingua franca for RPGs. I feel like part of our job here at RPPR is to provide a wide variety of AP experiences and I would feel we would be remiss if we failed to include D&D. I’ve had more fun with D&D over the years than any other system so there’s that as well. We will try some alternate fantasy systems in the future, but we have more 5E games recorded that will be posted. I’ll run it myself sooner or later. First idea: level 1 characters wake up in a dungeon with a customized Deck of Many Things. That’s the entire plot.

  8. The disparaging comments about the starter set in this episode make me think that perhaps it’s not that the starter set was poorly made but that it wasn’t really made for experienced players. I’ve seen a lot of criticisms being leveled at the starter set for it not being something it was never really intended to be.

  9. I’m only through the first few minutes here but I have to applaud Bill’s analysis of 3rd, 4th and 5th. Clear, concise and I think accurate.

  10. The analogy I use is no one who wants to play a board game plays chess. You play chess to play chess. Similarly people play D&D because they want that specific experience because everyone finds the tropes comfortable.

    I’m running Hoard at the moment (noob gm!) As my first time behind the screen. The main problem I have is that I’m at the point is that it would be less prep work to be doing my own thing.

    As an Englishman I think I should reccomend: 8 out of 10 cats as another panel show. Though it may be a bit of an aquired taste.

  11. Great show guys as was curious on the new D&D after you guys have played some of the new system. Another good AD&D to recommend that I still enjoy using even though not fond of the d20 systems anymore, is the blue cover Campaign Sourcebook & Catacomb Guide as it has a lot of good world building stuff, covered some in the RPPR podcasts on a variety of topics but if anyone spies it as a pdf or a used bookstore, grab it as it’s quite useful.

  12. This was a good episode. I will join the masses and say having Bill and Sean address 5E from different angles was a nice move.

    I agree with most people I think when I say 4E had the best monster statblocks when it came to crunchy systems. Over all I find 5E enjoyable. Making someone choose a Feat or a stat increase was a nice design decision I think. I also like incorporation of backgrounds and addressing ‘off screen’/between scene actions. Lair Actions are something I’m going to steal for other systems. 🙂

    Personally I won’t be playing beyond one-shots because I like other systems more but I think its a good design direction and plenty of stuff for me to lift for other games.

    In regards to Tom ‘not learning rules’ and instead ‘talking to everything’, that was a god send to a new GM like myself at that time. The New World campaign taught tactical combat, improvisation and planning for at a broad spectrum of potential character actions.

  13. In the pathfinder art case, they had explicitly requested a heavy woman. So they got a skinny woman with big breasts. And the back and forth went just as you presented it.

    Another early “diversity in pathfinder art problem was asking for asian character art. They got a klingon, with brow ridges. They nixed the art, but it was still on their server, so it ended up as a possible forum avatar.

    I’ll say, Pathfinder has a fair amount of cheese cake art, but they also have a bunch of non-cheese cake, and they make sure there is a balance between cheesecake and not, and the characters who are cheesecakey have reasons for it.

    (Their in module gender balance is incredible too, at least in the last few years. No modules where the only females are undead prostitutes,

  14. You’re mistaken, WoW never allowed murderhoboing. You can’t even attack friendly NPCs or players without their consent.

  15. I’m liking 5E quite a bit right now. As a dissenting 4E viewpoint- I hated the 2 to 4 page spreads about each combat: printing out the entire monster block for 1 or more creatures, using half a page for the tactical combat map and where the monsters start and where the players start, and another half a page for monster tactics. I much prefer a sentence or two about monster tactics and letting the DM decide how combat starts and where the characters will be.

    As a caveat- I played/ran mostly in the “Living Forgotten Realms”(LFR) Organized play setup, not having alot of time to set up a campaign, whereas I got to run and play an equal amount, with a wide group of fellow players. I really hated it when they shoehorned a skill challenge into every 3-4 hour adventure. I liked the concept of skill challenges at first, but sometimes I just wanted to roll one diplomacy or stealth check to get past something.

    I really got into 3/3.5E when they were out, and the maths did fall apart the more books that were released. I believe the idea for 5E settings/supplements is, the player *should* pick one book to use new stats/feats/paths, along with the PHB, so as to limit the broken rules combos(along with the bound accuracy system).

    I feel for Sean and his murderhoboing players. I think you have to either plan for and accept evil/dickish PCs or lay down the law from the start and *not* tolerate that behavior, depending on the DM and/or setting.

  16. I cast Raise Thread.

    Ethan, I *finally* tracked down that blog post for you. On reflection, I went somewhere a little different with the thesis than Robin did, but I think both points hold up.


    I’d heartily recommend the entire series this is part of. Hopefully someday soon I’ll have a surge of communication energy and respond to the other comments above.

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