Pick-up games in 5E

September 5, 2014 at 10:00 am
filed under Roleplaying
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I realized something else. Pick-up games for 5E are way easier.

First, it’s a lot easier to create a character. A level 1 character has relatively little going on, yet not so little that they’re completely uninteresting.

It’s also super quick to create a character. That means it’s feasible to crank out a host of pregens without much effort, especially if you know what you’re doing.

The other piece is that higher-level pregens are easier. Except for spellcasters, classes are relatively simple while still looking pretty interesting.

Take the fighter, one of my biggest concerns about 5E. In 2E, fighters were left to the mercy of the combat system. In 3E, the situation is only a little different. The combat system is more complex than it was in 2E, which meant more options. Attacks of opportunity were a big buff for fighters, in a way. They also got feats and some of them were powerful.

But let’s be honest: your average spellcaster, even a cleric, can crank out bigger and fancier effects. 3E fighters powered up linearly but casters powered up quadratically, as a coworker put it. In 4E, fighters had the option of going defensive or offensive, and got various cool reactionary bits, like marks and such. This was a really big win in my opinion.

It came at a cost of complexity: when everyone has spells, you need to track them. Timing was arguably one of the most difficult parts of 4E, tracking effects across ends of turns, beginnings of turns, next turns, and others’ turns.

And, as much as I enjoyed playing 4E, I agree with people who said it didn’t feel like D&D.

In 5E, a fighter’s choice of fighting style informs your playstyle. No, you may not have as much going on as in 4E, and that’s disappointing. Even so, I felt a thrill when I saw that “archery” was a viable style for fighters— at +7 to hit! Or big honkin’ weapon. Or defender. Or simply hardened bastard— AC 17 is no joke when monsters are only rocking +5.

So I didn’t like this at first, the idea that a fighter had to be boring to accommodate people. Even though I just talked it up, it bugs me a little that many of these options are passive. But it’s hard to dispute that they’re powerful. Fighters have a schtick rather than relying on core combat mechanics.

Anyway, this topic brings me to pick-up games in 4E. More specifically, high-level pick-up games were nearly impossible to run a timely manner. It’s certainly possible that doing this with a new class in 5E wouldn’t be any easier. Certainly understanding a massive spell list is just as hard in 3E as it is in 5E as it would be in 4E.

But again we come back to a lot of the core mechanics being simpler. Bonus progressions are relatively flat. Archetypes for any class have mostly canned abilities, meaning it’s a matter of fill in the blanks more than multiplicative complexity to choose and use.

I want to test out these hypotheses, ideally by running high-level one-shots. I can’t decide about pregens— I think it would be fun to give people level 1 characters and just have them pick shit up, to bootstrap some understanding of the system before moving on to harder stuff. This is exactly how we did the 4E pre-release stuff, and I expect this will make it easier to explain the rules before we ask anybody to dive in and make a character.

All right, blog. It’s time for bed.

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