Sunday, October 5, 2014

A few annoying things about 5E

While I'm for the most part positive about the new edition, there are a few things in it I'm not sure I like.  I'm withholding judgment until I get more time playing the game.  For now, though, I'd like to point out a few things that annoy me when I read the game.

First is something I picked up on in the Basic Rules .pdf (or maybe it was in the final playtest stuff even), and just read again in the PHB yesterday.  In the section describing spell levels, we get this fluffy text:

Every spell has a level from 0 to 9. A spell’s level is a
general indicator of how powerful it is, with the lowly
(but still impressive) magic missile at 1st level and
the incredible time stop at 9th. Cantrips—simple but
spells that characters can cast almost by rote—
are level 0. The higher a spell’s level, the higher level a
spellcaster must be to use that spell.
 (from Basic Rules pdf page 78, but it's the same in the PHB)
Emphasis added.

Looks like someone has a bit of a problem deciding how to describe spells to new players.  Us old hands know what levels of spells are all about, so this is for the new player.  What does this tell us?  A 1st level spell is both lowly and impressive?  Oxymoron alert.  And 0 level cantrips are simple and powerful.  While linguistically inoffensive unlike the magic missile description, I'm not sure if I like the idea of cantrips being powerful. 

Anyway, whoever wrote that passage must have been thinking something along the lines of: "I need to describe how higher level spells have greater effect than low level ones, but we can't let players of spellcasters feel like they're weak and ineffective at low levels.  It might hurt their feelings."

Another annoyance is how it describes movement as if it's some accounting procedure (or maybe that Common Core Math I keep hearing about?). 

Every foot of movement in difficult terrain costs 1
extra foot. This rule is true even if multiple things in
a space count as difficult terrain.
 (from Basic Rules pdf page 70)
Is it so hard to say that movement through difficult terrain is at half speed?  I just said it.  See, that was easy.  There are a few other lingering "tactical board game" phrases like that in the rules that sort of bug me, especially since this edition is making a determined effort to show that "theater of the mind" play is appropriate and encouraged.

At least it does lead to some interesting effects, like a double penalty reducing speed by 2/3 rather than 3/4. 

So, nothing wrong with the rules per se, more the presentation that I don't like.


  1. I call it "padding the word count." And you're not the only one who finds it annoying.

  2. The movement thing is actually important - there can be other factors that affect movement speed and "half movement" would have a different result in the equation that "one extra foot".

    I'm loving the new addition but yes there are minor (very minor) niggles here and there. My biggest niggle right now is adjudicating the "attacking while hidden" advantage for missile weapons - especially with a sneaky rogue who wants to re-hide most rounds, the rules are just a little too ambiguous in this instance. I'm letting the player get the benefit of the doubt right now but it doesn't sit entirely right with me and I don't want the rogue's tactics to get too repetitive. I think I'm leaning to "you can't hide in the same place twice once the enemy knows you are there" (see here for reasoning: ).At the very least this will force the rogue to move around the terrain looking for new hiding places.

    1. I seem to remember the 'shoot and re-hide' tactic from the very first D&D next playtest; it felt extremely broken. As a player, I would absolutely side with your concept of movement from one hiding place to another.

      Also, thank you for using niggle. I have to google it every time I think about talking about 'niggling issues' I have with things, to make sure I'm not slurring.

  3. The 'extra foot per foot' thing is probably to short circuit the rules lawyers who want to say that if movement in difficult terrain reduces your move to 1/2, you won't be able to enter the terrain from more than 1/2 your move distance away.