Surprising similarities between 4e and 5e

September 4, 2014 at 10:00 am
filed under Roleplaying
Tagged , , ,

This post refuses to come together, so I’m going to FORCE IT OUT.

As I intimated earlier, I thought 5E was going to read as a repudiation of 4E. While I was pleasantly surprised by how wrong I was, there are drastic differences. For instance, the 5E class system jettisons the idea of “spell lists” for every class. Classes accrue benefits and spell slots at predefined levels much like in 3E.

In some cases, however, the similarities with 3E are skin deep. Many mechanics are identical to, similar to, or even simpler than their 4E counterparts.

Just as a note, I debated as to the format. Expository paragraphs for each concept? A bulleted list? A mix? Which is the least tedious? I decided to go with a list.

There’s probably more, but this is enough to illustrate the idea.

If you ask me, the core of many D&D concepts such as skills, what spells and abilities should do, and what what makes a class interesting were all explored in 4E. It was dialed way up, perhaps beyond the point of reason. You had so many choices, it was a bitch to make high level characters. And abilities were so interesting that it became impossible to track all of the interesting pieces.

But when you dial it back down— not all the way down, just a bunch— you get something like 5E.

  • mbeacom

    Lots of good points. I’ve been saying this since the early playtests. One thing, I think you may overlook though, is that while this game does have a lot of 4E DNA, it’s still generally a repudiation of that system. Just not in the way we might expect. It’s in presentation and marketing. 4E was marketed in a way that lampooned the deficits of earlier editions. “Haha look how dumb we were!” 5E, while embracing many of the fixes of 4E has been presented as being friendly to earlier editions, writing those fixes into the game in a way that doesn’t insult fans sensibilities. I have a group that I’ve transitioned from 4E to 5E and they have liked both systems but feel like 5E is more “old school”. They noted that lack of encounter powers. I explained to one of them, “Hey you see all those abilities and feats that only come back after a short or long rest? Well, those are encounter powers. they still exist in 5E”. The only difference is that the wording and presentation doesn’t sound like WoW. It sounds like D&D. I think they learned alot about 4E and realized that a lot of what people disliked was really only surface stuff. And that many people who hated it had never really played it. They read the book and then after puking in the corner, went online to rage against how bad it was. Most people I know, who played it, very much liked it, even if they admitted it didn’t “feel” like D&D. The main thing they had to do was get rid of the martial spellcasting and tone down the uber power/healing.

  • Matthew

    Thanks for leaving a comment! This is a really good point.

    I didn’t notice that it might be offensive at the outset because, well, it was stuff I agreed with. The example which springs to mind is “the five minute adventuring day,” the problem of scarce resources (HP & healing, spells) at low level. Why would anyone think wizards with crossbows are worthwhile? And it didn’t help that when people characterized it as an MMO, it was disdainful and elitist, as if it’s self-evident that MMO == bad. That’s at odds with the reality that video games are no longer niche and anyone who plays TTRPGs has probably enjoyed at least one MMO.

    And I think DNA is fairly apt. Maybe there’s a genotype/phenotype analogy to be made. 4E and 5E actually have very similar genotypes, but phenotypically they appear quite different, as you say with “encounter” vs “short rest.”

    Finally, I suspect you’re right that not very many people played it. If they did, I’d expect to have heard substantive criticism more often, like how hard it is to play a pick-up game; how hard it is to track all the conditions, marks, etc; how powers are hard to tinker with; and so on.

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