Friday, December 2, 2016

Meditating on Playing 5e

The group that I am currently playing 5e with have a number of short (90-120 min.) sessions under our belts, and I thought I should be take the time to reflect on actual game play:

Firstly, this game does well with short sessions. Combat is short enough that the players have had plenty of time to interact with NPCs and gather information to their heart’s content.

Secondly, (and quite surprisingly) the experience system hasn’t really shown itself to be an issue yet. The players have enjoyed roleplaying so much that they haven’t yet focused on charging through a bunch of monsters to gain levels yet. In fact, all of the PCs are still 1st level. Although I believe this to be an artifact of the way the players are choosing to play the game and not something systemic to 5e, it has still produced an old-school feel in terms of sessions-per-leveling-up.

Finally, when 5e was first announced, one of the stated goals of the design team was to create a game that would allow D&D players of every game-generation to sit at the table at the same time and play according to the rules with which they most enjoyed. At the time, I dismissed this as a clever bit of marketing to try and rope in as many customers as possible.

Upon reflection, I do believe that they have succeeded to a limited extent. My players approach the game with 5e expectations and I approach the game as if I am running a Labyrinth Lord campaign and the two really don’t get in each other’s way. If someone from my old campaign showed up and played one of their characters according to LL rules, I don’t think anyone would readily notice.

In all seriousness, I quickly gave up on trying to makes heads or tails of the 5e rulebooks because the layout, editing, and organization is crap. As such, beyond the first session, I realized that I could just use Swords & Wizardry stats for monsters (because of the AAC) and wing it. No one was the wiser.

As long as the players know what their powers are and the mechanics behind them, the game runs smoothly despite the fact that I run LL/S&W and they are playing 5e. The only time our expectations collide is when a PC hits 0 hp. This has happened twice. Once was actually my fault because I had forgotten to let the player know about the Fighter ability Second Wind which he could have used to avoid hitting 0 hp.

My usual expectation is that a PC dies. Their’s is that they have a chance to cheat death. This is the only place where negotiation is necessary and since these guys are newer to the game and since I played with a house rule “up to -10 hp is unconscious” for years before I experimented with 0 hp = death and loved it, I had no problem adjusting to the new (old) expectation.

As such, this campaign doesn’t feel like I am running 5e. It feels like I am running a typical LL/S&W game with a group of players that have PCs with a few more options at their fingertips than usual. I gotta say, that’s pretty cool.