For example, in Basic/Expert, monster hit dice are d8, without a corresponding increase in player hit dice, causing player death to be exceptionally common. Experience is mainly given for treasure, not slaying monsters. This contributes to characters of higher scores being more survivable, retreating from combat and finding ways around the monsters become what the game is "about".
In 3rd edition, the game was about character builds, trap build options, non-multiclassed caster mastery, 5-foot steps, and killing monsters.
4th edition was about dynamic battlefields, unique opponents, timing and triggering your healing surges, striker dominance yet controller necessity, and tactical challenges.
Well, I think I've finally played enough 5th edition to really find out what the game is about.
The Defining Characteristic of 5th Edition5th edition is a good edition of Dungeons & Dragons. I've run it for characters up to level 8, and played in several games as a character.
Why is it a good edition?
- Like all the best editions of Dungeons and Dragons, it doesn't tie you down into a mathematical model. It encourages you to be creative and focused on (and forgive me here, I'll shower afterwards. . .) the fiction.
- There are no (or ridiculously few) trap options. Multi-classing works. Spellcasting works. Fighting works. There's a few odd peaks and valleys in the power spike, but there is a far greater equity between classes not seen in a long time. Play what you like!
- Combats are, in general threatening. Characters are resilient enough to survive while still feeling threatened.
- Spells, and their many limitations, allow spellcasters to do great things—but in a very limited way, without overshadowing the other classes.
Which brings us to what 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons is really all about.
Like most versions of Dungeons & Dragons, it isn't until mid to high level play until this becomes apparent.
The first, and most notable change is in the available combat actions.
There is no delay action.
You take your turn on your turn. Not only does this speed up play, it specifically limits when characters can do something. The only time you can do something outside of your turn, as a player, is by using your reaction. You have to use your reaction to "delay". Your reaction is also tied into certain abilities that define play.
You can only ever, ever, have one reaction.
This turns mid (and expectedly high) level play into a bluffing game of rock/paper/scissors. All of the following are reactions, and are noted because of their powerful utility. Reactions that do a few points of damage or other minor effects aren't listed.
Let's look at some reaction abilities in 5th edition, and why they are so game defining:
- Cutting Words (Bard): Reduce an Attack Roll, Ability Check, or Damage Roll, by a bardic die value (d6-d12)
- Warding Flare (Cleric: Light): Impose disadvantage on an attack roll, Wisdom Modifier times per long rest.
- Dampen Elements (Cleric: Nature): Grant resistance (1/2 damage) to elements.
- War God's Blessing (Cleric: War): Grant +10 to an attack.
- Riposte (Battle Master): Use your reaction to attack, adding a superiority die to damage. Powerful because it doubles the attacks at low levels, and adds and additional 1 to the two per round at mid levels. Drops off in utility as you increase in power.
- Deflect Missiles (Monk): Not powerful, but very very fun for monk players. They all giggle when using this. I've never seen anyone not spend the ki point to throw the missile back.
- Uncanny Dodge (Rogue, others): Halve the damage of an attack. (not melee, not missile, not spell, attack)
- Misty Escape (Warlock:Fey): !! Use your reaction to turn invisible and teleport 60 feet!
- Projected Ward would go here, but doesn't, because abjurers have much much more important things to do with their reactions.
- Instinctive Charm (Wizard:Enchantment): Wisdom save (low on brutes) nullifies an attack against you and directs that attack against an enemy.
- Defensive Duelist: Add Proficiency bonus to AC.
- Mage Slayer: Attack Spellcasters casting spells, forcing a saving throw.
- Sentinel: Attack someone who makes an attack not targeting you, (also can attack when a creature uses the disengage action and negates movement on disengage if the attack hits!)
- War Caster: Cast a spell instead of a melee attack as an opportunity attack.
- Counterspell: COUNTERSPELL. Use a reaction to nullify 3rd level and lower spells. 4th level, you must roll your spellcasting ability, versus 10+spell level. Because it's an ability check, bards even add 1/2 their proficiency bonus to this roll, making them the best counterspellers in the game (outside of Abjuration specialists after level 10.) You can use higher level spell slots to nullify higher level spells. Casters teleporting or flying away? Anyone casting a spell within 60 feet? Nope, nope, nope!
- Shield: +5 AC till your next turn. Eldritch knight, Plate (+8), Shield (+2), Defense (+1) Means, as long as he has a spell slot, his AC is 26 without magical bonuses. At 3rd level, if they can steal a suit of plate.
What this means, is, that high level encounters involving tanks and wizards, involve trying to eliminate reactions, bait reactions out, or get within range of creatures to use your reactions. Any encounter where one side is using their reactions to nullify the actions of the other, and the other side isn't has a huge advantage.
What I mean, is that a party that ignores this, and goes against a wizard (who isn't an idiot and took counterspell) and any kind of fighter designed to protect his companions (High AC+Sentinel+Shield) and instead just goes in, a blasting/hitting is going to lose. Reactions will cancel their spells, disarm their opponents, and deflect their attacks. Place the party against two spellcasters with counterspell and watch only one side have spell superiority.
Take a look at this erroneous discussion (correctly answered by Chris Perkins) about if you can counterspell a counterspell. You absolutely can, of course. But to use your own reaction to cast a counterspell, you'd have to stop casting your original spell and lose it.
Of course, this is addressed directly in the design, with high monster hit points and damage, along with legendary actions, allowing things like dragons to actually have a chance to escape against sentinel/counterspell lockdown tactics.
Welcome to 5th edition play.
Hack & Slash
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