Characters divorced from the story?

Hi there,

Something I've noticed in 5e is that characters (and by extension, the players) seem to be divorced from the story that is told around the table.

Here is why I think this is the case. Please note this is for lower level characters (and presumably the level that new players will try):
- Classes tend to be fairly mechanically similar doing about the same damage and accuracy. Having mechanically similar classes makes me feel like it doesn't really matter whether I'm a crazed barbarian, a stoic monk or a vicious backstabber. What is in my head bears little resemblance to what my character is doing. My individual doesn't have specializations in combat or social situations, so my individual is fairly meaningless.
- Frequent character death. When my character dies every session or two, it means me as a player is being told by the system "don't get attached or care about your character." As a DM it means you can't let the player be important to a story because they'll be dead soon.

In the current edition the story seems to be focused on the players. What they do, how they do it, and their consequences seem important and frequently crucial to what will happen in the next session, unless they are in the middle of a dungeon to get to the big boss at the end there.

There is the notion of "session zero" to set the tone and figure out character motivations, to make an interesting character that he player wants to see grow and succeed. Between mechanical blandness & frequent character negation this seems kinda pointless in 5e. Instead, the "session zero" in 5e would be setting out what the DM wants to do, and what the excuse will be why there is a constrant stream of new people appearing the moment one dies that the party should probably trust so the entire session isn't repeatedly roleplaying the same situation over and over again ("I'm suspicious of this new person - why should I trust you?")

Finally - is this all an unforseen extension of "battle should end in 3 rounds, and battles should be measured in quantity not quality"?

Am I misunderstanding the goal of 5e, or do the rules just not match the intentions?
I think your analysis of what the rules do may be correct but your interpretation of the effect is really just a matter of your own preferences.


As for battle length,  I find the shorter battles a blast of fresh air.   I don't see though why the big battle necessarily has to be short.   I just like the idea that every battle is not a good fight and that it should end fairly quickly while still mattering.   This is why daily design is important.  With encounter focused design small battles don't matter.

 

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I agree entirely that short battles were really fun, and that the gave me a better sense of the story. Sometimes in 4e it was hard to keep track of the story, because there'd be 20 minutes of story then 2 hours of combat.

What I don't like is the high rate of mortality, or that "short battle" means "use the same 'at will' attack until everything is dead or fled or surrended" at times, and one combat is much like the next. It doesn't matter if I fought undead zombies or wolves, they do 1d6 damage and I do 1d6+4 then they do 1d6 damage then I do 1d6+4 then they die or I die by that second round.
Mortality rate is a factor of two things.  Player skill and lethality of game.  

Once you are hit the first time what do you do?  Do you always seek favorable terrain like narrow hallways versus big open rooms?  A lot of this tactical thinking is what makes the game fun.  Just standing and swinging generally isn't.   This is probably why 4e people hailed the advent of powers.  Because before they were just swinging.   I never had that issue.

My players are hyper skilled so I want a game that makes them afraid for their characters.  But I can see where for a lot of people this is too much.  Would just starting a bit higher level help?

 

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If you want your characters to die less, make the game easier.  The DM has complete and total control over this.  For example, if the first fight involves an ambush by 100 kobolds, the game will be lethal.  If the first fight involves the PCs ambushing a group of 2 kobolds, less so.

In terms of characters feeling the same, I feel the complete opposite of you.  Here is what characters have at level 1 (not counting differences like HP, armor, and weapons, which go a long way toward differentiating characters):

Barbarian: Rage, Reckless Attack, Thick Hide
Cleric: Channel Divinity, Spellcasting (including at-will spells), Deity
Druid: Circle Initiate, Spellcasting, Wild Shape
Fighter: Feat, Expertise, Death Dealer, Superior Defense
Monk: Ki, Martial Arts, Mindful Defense, Monastic Tradition
Paladin: Channel Divinity, Divine Grace, Divine Sense, Oath, Spellcasting
Ranger: Favored Enemy, Spellcasting, Track
Rogue: Sneak Attack, Scheme (giving you 2 skills, 3 feats, a way of gaining advantage, and skill mastery)
Wizard: Arcane Recovery, Spellcasting (including at-will spells), Tradition of Wizardy

To me, these are all very different and all feel like the class from level 1.
I agree entirely that short battles were really fun, and that the gave me a better sense of the story. Sometimes in 4e it was hard to keep track of the story, because there'd be 20 minutes of story then 2 hours of combat.

What I don't like is the high rate of mortality, or that "short battle" means "use the same 'at will' attack until everything is dead or fled or surrended" at times, and one combat is much like the next. It doesn't matter if I fought undead zombies or wolves, they do 1d6 damage and I do 1d6+4 then they do 1d6 damage then I do 1d6+4 then they die or I die by that second round.



I came across this too. This led me to think that the HP system for D&D:Next isn't my cup of tea. I had a few ideas on making 1st level characters a bit more tough. 

Idea 1.) Use the Wound/Vitality system of 3E Revised. What this does is give characters a little bit extra cushion after their vitality wears away thought it does make Crits FAR more lethal (as it should be, IMO).

Idea 2.) Characters start off at Con score + rolled Hit Die or fixed. So a Fighter with a Con of 17 can start with 17 + 1d10 rolled or 23 HP.      
Once you are hit the first time what do you do?  Do you always seek favorable terrain like narrow hallways versus big open rooms?  A lot of this tactical thinking is what makes the game fun.  Just standing and swinging generally isn't.   This is probably why 4e people hailed the advent of powers.  Because before they were just swinging.   I never had that issue.


The DM has complete and total control over this.  For example, if the first fight involves an ambush by 100 kobolds, the game will be lethal.  If the first fight involves the PCs ambushing a group of 2 kobolds, less so.



These are both really good points - the only problem is that they seem to rely on the DM not the player. The DM needs to go out of their way to create the 'safe' or 'tactical' zones for the players to find or retreat to for the former, or the DM needs to homebrew the game. Even with less enemies, or tactical zones the rules seem to favour the dice over the character sheet. By this I mean a character who specialises in something (be that a roleplay concept, a battle concept or a relationship concept) relies more on the dice than on their character - as such a survivable character is not significantly more survivable, the damage dealer is not more damage'y, and the socialite is not much more social.


Here is my version, based on my own limited experience with 5e (2 sesions of playtesting, so admittedly not a huge amount, but first impressions are important as well as the fine-tuned analysis I think. I'll be talking about what the player gets to do in combat:
Barbarian: 9-12 HP. Roll 2d20, do a d12+4. For 1 battle each day you take less damage.
Monk: 9-12 HP.Roll 2d20, do 2d6+4. Fly for 6 seconds or try to stun on 1 attack per day.
Fighter: 9-12 HP. Roll 1d20 for 1d10+1d6+4.
Ranger: 9-12 HP.Roll 1d20 for 1d10+4.
Paladin: . 9-12 HP. Roll 1d20 for 1d10+4. Do quite a few cool spell stuffs per day! (Yay cool stuff)



I imagine at high levels this changes, and characters are both more survivable and more unique - but why do low levels have to be 'boring' now? Anyway - I'm getting off topic. From experiences as either a DM or a player, what are your thoughts on characters making an impact on the story being told? Are characters the ones reliably driving the story forward in 5e, or have they been made less central for the DM NPCs to be the ones doing this?

ie: Would the 'improvised' or 'Yes, and' DMing approach be viable in 5e where the players and DM both generate world content and the story is generally solely character driven, rather than NPC reliant?
You aren't necessarily a legendary hero with a great destiny right out of character generation at the lethal low levels.

You become a legendary hero precisely BECAUSE YOU SURVIVED the lethal low levels. The fact that you are one of the lucky ones who made it that far instead of dying on a Kobolds spear at the entrance to the cave is what starts you on your journey to a great destiny.

If you don't want that "life is cheap" start, just start at a higher level or give all the PCs an extra 20 hit points at first level (which amounts to the same thing really).
You aren't necessarily a legendary hero with a great destiny right out of character generation at the lethal low levels.

You become a legendary hero precisely BECAUSE YOU SURVIVED the lethal low levels. The fact that you are one of the lucky ones who made it that far instead of dying on a Kobolds spear at the entrance to the cave is what starts you on your journey to a great destiny.

If you don't want that "life is cheap" start, just start at a higher level or give all the PCs an extra 20 hit points at first level (which amounts to the same thing really).

For me that doesn't really work unless every new character starts at level 1.

Otherwise you have Korg the Barbarian who struggled trough the first levels, did many heroic things and with whom you became very familliar, only to see him die at level 7 with Zord the Unknown, a new hero whom you have no bond with and know nothing about.

And characters can die at any level, at least in past editions, I didn't have the feeling the game became less lethal as you levelled up.

It's one of the things I like least about D&D, that a character that you've invested in for 10 or more levels can die to one unlucky die roll fighting a random zombie, never to be seen or heard from again.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

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Once you are hit the first time what do you do?  Do you always seek favorable terrain like narrow hallways versus big open rooms?  A lot of this tactical thinking is what makes the game fun.  Just standing and swinging generally isn't.   This is probably why 4e people hailed the advent of powers.  Because before they were just swinging.   I never had that issue.


The DM has complete and total control over this.  For example, if the first fight involves an ambush by 100 kobolds, the game will be lethal.  If the first fight involves the PCs ambushing a group of 2 kobolds, less so.



These are both really good points - the only problem is that they seem to rely on the DM not the player. The DM needs to go out of their way to create the 'safe' or 'tactical' zones for the players to find or retreat to for the former, or the DM needs to homebrew the game. Even with less enemies, or tactical zones the rules seem to favour the dice over the character sheet. By this I mean a character who specialises in something (be that a roleplay concept, a battle concept or a relationship concept) relies more on the dice than on their character - as such a survivable character is not significantly more survivable, the damage dealer is not more damage'y, and the socialite is not much more social.



It's always been DM reliant.  And it always will be, no matter the lv of the characters, how specialized they are, or the edition your playing.  It's the DMs job.... 
And the only thing that happens when you've got bigger #s/powers & get involved in an encounter beyond your ability?  Is how many extra rounds it'll take you to fail.
    


Here is my version, based on my own limited experience with 5e (2 sesions of playtesting, so admittedly not a huge amount, but first impressions are important as well as the fine-tuned analysis I think. I'll be talking about what the player gets to do in combat:
Barbarian: 9-12 HP. Roll 2d20, do a d12+4. For 1 battle each day you take less damage.
Monk: 9-12 HP.Roll 2d20, do 2d6+4. Fly for 6 seconds or try to stun on 1 attack per day.
Fighter: 9-12 HP. Roll 1d20 for 1d10+1d6+4.
Ranger: 9-12 HP.Roll 1d20 for 1d10+4.
Paladin: . 9-12 HP. Roll 1d20 for 1d10+4. Do quite a few cool spell stuffs per day! (Yay cool stuff)

I imagine at high levels this changes, and characters are both more survivable and more unique - but why do low levels have to be 'boring' now?



At this lv?  (looks like 1st) Combats tend to be short affairs because wichever class you've picked, you're a novice.  There's not enough time for things to get "interesting" before someone ends up bleeding in the dirt.
You need to survive a few of these skirmishes, racking up some xp & getting some more HPs.... 


Anyway - I'm getting off topic. From experiences as either a DM or a player, what are your thoughts on characters making an impact on the story being told? Are characters the ones reliably driving the story forward in 5e, or have they been made less central for the DM NPCs to be the ones doing this?



It depends entirely upon how you play.  5e hasn't, won't, & can't change that at all.

Over the decades I've been in games where the PCs were all but irrelivant (no matter the lv/class/race/alignment/edition) to the story.  You could've replaced the entire party almost weekly & it wouldn't have really mattered.
{EX: Last year one of our players finally took a turn acting as the DM.  The party consisted of: a LG DROW paladin, a partially insane ORC pirate - complete with a hook hand, a GOBLIN alchemist, an ELF ranger(?) and me - an LE sorceror - who was a PARROT!(partner to the orc).
The stories/adventures?  Had nothing whatsoever to do with us.  Not one NPC ever reacted to the fact that there was a strange mix-o-monsters going from town to town.  Nor did it matter at all that I, the evil spell casting parrot, was actively doing evil things right in front of the paladin - who simply turned a blind eye.}

And I've been in games that were 100% oppisite.  Where the characters (not their stats/powers) were vital to the story from day #1, xp point #1....  What was being told was the story of those characters. 
At least one of those being an '80s Basic edition game (far less options & way more lethal than even 5e) 

ie: Would the 'improvised' or 'Yes, and' DMing approach be viable in 5e where the players and DM both generate world content and the story is generally solely character driven, rather than NPC reliant?



Absolutely it'll work.
It's been working since the dawn of the game in fact.
Frequent character death. When my character dies every session or two, it means me as a player is being told by the system "don't get attached or care about your character." As a DM it means you can't let the player be important to a story because they'll be dead soon.



This is what is happening in my game. As DM, I really am pulling all the punches just not to get the party killed.

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And characters can die at any level, at least in past editions, I didn't have the feeling the game became less lethal as you levelled up.



If anything it became more lethal.  You know, beholders & giant dragons & journies to the Abyss & all.... 

But the more crazy stuff your character survives?  The more his legend grows.



It's one of the things I like least about D&D, that a character that you've invested in for 10 or more levels can die to one unlucky die roll fighting a random zombie, never to be seen or heard from again.



That's all dependant upon how you play. 
We've already had this arguement many times about low level characters getting killed too easily.

I'm absolutely sure that it is playing style and DM style.

We experienced DM's know how to play monsters. We know all the tricks such as ganging up on one character at a time until they die and then ganging up on the next character.

We know the best way to use monster spells. DM's are supposed to use the tactical information given in the monster description, but it really depends on their mood.

So all of you who pride yourselves on your characters surviving, how easy is a veteran DM going on you?

If you dare to sit at my table and tell me not to pull any punches, I can kill your entire party in one encounter. I can even kill your party with low level monsters. I can set traps that will kill your party.

In other words, you need high starting hit points.

It is a shame you spent an entire hour creating a 1st level character with 8 hit points.
It is a shame because 5th edition is an edition where attackers get an attack bonus but defenders don't. They only get AC. Or they get a 1d20+ability mod save versus 10+spellcasting bonus+ability mod.

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We've already had this arguement many times about low level characters getting killed too easily.

I'm absolutely sure that it is playing style and DM style.

We experienced DM's know how to play monsters. We know all the tricks such as ganging up on one character at a time until they die and then ganging up on the next character.

We know the best way to use monster spells. DM's are supposed to use the tactical information given in the monster description, but it really depends on their mood.

So all of you who pride yourselves on your characters surviving, how easy is a veteran DM going on you?

If you dare to sit at my table and tell me not to pull any punches, I can kill your entire party in one encounter. I can even kill your party with low level monsters. I can set traps that will kill your party.

In other words, you need high starting hit points.

It is a shame you spent an entire hour creating a 1st level character with 8 hit points.
It is a shame because 5th edition is an edition where attackers get an attack bonus but defenders don't. They only get AC. Or they get a 1d20+ability mod save versus 10+spellcasting bonus+ability mod.




Monsters and NPCs do not get a casting bonus,they get straight cast stat modifier +10 as their spell casting DC.  The Non spell casting DC's coming from monsters and NPCs are way lower.  Seriously this is an 'I don't understand how the game works' complaint.  Like I grasp where the misconception comes from but unfortunately it is just patently untrue.  Literally nothing swinging at your players is going to have a casting bonus other than the players themselves.  SO yeah watch your friendly fire that's about it...oh no there are tactical decisions to be made you can't just ground zero giant fire storms on top of your allies without a good chance of hurting them...sorry.  You know except for the evocationist who can just straight remove allies from the effects of the spell therfore meaning that with an evocationist in the party your character will never be making a save against something that has a casting modifier.

yeah you get your ac which in and of itself is a combination of bonuses: 10+dex mod+armor+shield+misc vs their attack roll which at best will have a bonus of +10.  There are literally like 2 monsters that have an attack bonus of 10.  Most monsters fall into the +4 to +6 range for their bonus to hit. 
I think this is why Meals and co are moving towards levels 1 & 2 being neophyte characters while level 3 will become experienced heroes. Or 4e level 1, if you will. I'm not a huge fan of this solution, but it should solve the problem of level 1 being an intense game of "rocket tag" (1-2 round combat with high lethality). Level 1 will probably become tutorial mode (or survive by the seat of your pants if you dig that play style), and level 3 will be the level I start every game at. My reasoning is that, to me, frequent character death trivializes death--even if their is a mechanical penalty.
To explain a possible contradiction you might see, in 4e at low levels I gave death a serious narrative burden (owing a deity a favor type of thing).
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I think houseruling extra hp at first level pretty much solves it. Constitution + full hit die or just double the starting value. I tend to.do that in my pathfinder games.

Those that like fragile firsties can just play as is. Houseruling is a DMs best friend.
Hi there,

Something I've noticed in 5e is that characters (and by extension, the players) seem to be divorced from the story that is told around the table.

Here is why I think this is the case. Please note this is for lower level characters (and presumably the level that new players will try):
- Classes tend to be fairly mechanically similar doing about the same damage and accuracy. Having mechanically similar classes makes me feel like it doesn't really matter whether I'm a crazed barbarian, a stoic monk or a vicious backstabber. What is in my head bears little resemblance to what my character is doing. My individual doesn't have specializations in combat or social situations, so my individual is fairly meaningless.
- Frequent character death. When my character dies every session or two, it means me as a player is being told by the system "don't get attached or care about your character." As a DM it means you can't let the player be important to a story because they'll be dead soon.

In the current edition the story seems to be focused on the players. What they do, how they do it, and their consequences seem important and frequently crucial to what will happen in the next session, unless they are in the middle of a dungeon to get to the big boss at the end there.

There is the notion of "session zero" to set the tone and figure out character motivations, to make an interesting character that he player wants to see grow and succeed. Between mechanical blandness & frequent character negation this seems kinda pointless in 5e. Instead, the "session zero" in 5e would be setting out what the DM wants to do, and what the excuse will be why there is a constrant stream of new people appearing the moment one dies that the party should probably trust so the entire session isn't repeatedly roleplaying the same situation over and over again ("I'm suspicious of this new person - why should I trust you?")

Finally - is this all an unforseen extension of "battle should end in 3 rounds, and battles should be measured in quantity not quality"?

Am I misunderstanding the goal of 5e, or do the rules just not match the intentions?



This is really a table/person view.

At my table, filled with 4E players, non-4E players, and non-D&D players, the simple rule system with easy&fast combat have worked great since the first packet.
There is some mecanical playing that occure from time to time, since at least one of my players is that kind of RPG player, and also one another that is never satisfied about how the stealth/assassin mecanics work. But for the story players, they seem to find the mecanic of the game not too predominating to hinder roleplaying or storytelling.

None of them characters died since the beginning. Mainly because we like to tell stories about heros. They never tend to let anyone behind. When a TPK is occuring, I never make the monsters outright kill the players, but instead capture them, torture them, tell them their secret plans while laughing maniacally, take their time in order to let those pesky heros take their second wind or make a rescue party. Like in any piece of bad written fantasy fiction, I maintain the artifice that heros always get a second chance when they fail and that they learn everything from overconfident ennemies or rightfully placed NPC when the story needs to move on. I just make it somewhat subtle enough through the gritty system that the false decors do not show too much.
I blame a lot of the lethality on the overpowered nature of healing magic which more or less removes the unconsciuos state from the game.

With cleric healing, especially swift action healing, the only way for a monster to remove a PC from combat is by straight up killing him. So you're going to have a lot of deaths simply because the default style is a battle to the death.

Compare this to real life, where most fights end with one participant being too wounded to continue, as opposed to being straight up dead. This doesn't happen in D&DN, becuase a cleric can just swift action to bring a wounded guy back into the fight, and he can do that an infinite amount of times.
"With cleric healing, especially swift action healing, the only way for a monster to remove a PC from combat is by straight up killing him."

Or by killing the cleric first, assuming the monsters are intelligent.

Which kind of sucks for the cleric player unless they like having all the aggro.
In the Storm Over Neverwinter conversion, all the monsters have spell casting and attack bonuses though not specifically stated. They are somewhat arbitrary. Dominated Mage for example. I know this from actually play-testing and not speculating about character deaths. Nor do I just say the party is captured rather than killed. I would do that.

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- Frequent character death. When my character dies every session or two, it means me as a player is being told by the system "don't get attached or care about your character." As a DM it means you can't let the player be important to a story because they'll be dead soon.

Why is character death more frequent in Next? Does it have to do with the playstyle of the DM, or players? I haven't noticed anything particularly out of line with AD&D, at least.

The metagame is not the game.

one thing i think that is happening alot is inappropiate encounter design for the low level character. players are feeling out their characters at low levels, so i usually go very combat light till like level 3. there is so many well made adventures and ideas to just run a group thru a meatgrinder makes no sense. for an experienced group with a good dm who have played an edition for a long time, its easy to know what will work and what wont. this is a new constantly changing beta test, and we dont have even close to the amount of rules and stuff we would need to run this stuff well. so i would wait till we see more before i would worry about anything.
In the Storm Over Neverwinter conversion, all the monsters have spell casting and attack bonuses though not specifically stated. They are somewhat arbitrary. Dominated Mage for example. I know this from actually play-testing and not speculating about character deaths. Nor do I just say the party is captured rather than killed. I would do that.



Yep. That's a known issue and it is also the case in the bestiary. I think MM stated that the monsters were placeholders, I think that may be why their numbers don't make sense and seem disconnected. But this is only a sensation perceived by the DM logically, since players should not really realise that when playing.

When I use a cheap trick to allow the story to continue, I keep noted the kills and the TPK to make an appropriate repport. Lethality is certainly very swingy, but however I think this is not always a bad thing. It keeps the thrills. We play like that because that's what we like, and we gather to have fun primordially.

On a separate note, I noticed that my 3E and 4E players are paying somewhat more attention to details and environnement opportunities than they used to, but I should also be factoring the presence of non-D&D players and the ToTM play. I used ToTM not as successfully with 3E and 4E than with 2E, Next and other non-D&D games, but I really can't figure out completely why because I played all those game with more or less the same players... It seems like some players just put themselves in a different mindset when playing D&D when I pull out a grid map, like if it was now a board game and not an TTRPG any more. It is not quite problematic with my group since it occurs only for combat encounters but this is worth mentioning.
We use the grid to keep track of the game but it is fun to stand up and act out what they are doing.

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I don't think being a 'vicious back stabber' someone 'connects' you to story.

The most common pattern of GM'ing is that the GM simply writes an A to B, B to C, C to D linear path adventure.

Even if you were a vicious back stabber in that linear path, you're not tied to story. The vicious back stabber idea is just an attitude - like a hair do.

If you're constricted to a fixed path story, you're always gunna be disconnected from story.

Also in regard to player deaths, you'd have to describe the encounter budget and number of PC's.

It's not as if the rules restrict the DM from using extreme budgets - and if he is, perhaps it's more a reason to put a ceiling on what XP budget a DM can use.

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I blame a lot of the lethality on the overpowered nature of healing magic which more or less removes the unconsciuos state from the game.

With cleric healing, especially swift action healing, the only way for a monster to remove a PC from combat is by straight up killing him. So you're going to have a lot of deaths simply because the default style is a battle to the death.


Has this happened in actual play? Or are you just reading the rules and guessing how it'll play out?

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Only got words in my copy.

 

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I blame a lot of the lethality on the overpowered nature of healing magic which more or less removes the unconsciuos state from the game.

With cleric healing, especially swift action healing, the only way for a monster to remove a PC from combat is by straight up killing him. So you're going to have a lot of deaths simply because the default style is a battle to the death.


Has this happened in actual play? Or are you just reading the rules and guessing how it'll play out?



before the martial class nerf my monk had the feat and pretty much stood in one spot using iron root defense and minor wounds to get the party threw a huge goblin ambush. we were level 3 and I believe there were 30-35 goblins which i believe was appropriate xp budget for 6 level 3s at the time. The cleric didnt have the cantrip and blew threw all his remaining healing spells in the first 3 rounds. If not for cure wounds and the damage reduction it would have been have tpked and not even a close battle.

FluxPoint dm'd the huge fight so he can probably give exact numbers if he still has them. 

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I blame a lot of the lethality on the overpowered nature of healing magic which more or less removes the unconsciuos state from the game.

With cleric healing, especially swift action healing, the only way for a monster to remove a PC from combat is by straight up killing him. So you're going to have a lot of deaths simply because the default style is a battle to the death.


Has this happened in actual play? Or are you just reading the rules and guessing how it'll play out?




Yeah that has happened in play, well anytime the PCs take a cleric. Pretty much what happens is the meat shields get in front to protect the cleric, as they should, and eveytime they drop the cleric tosses out a healing spell. Since it basically costs you nothing to stand back up, you can fight basically indefinitely until the monsters start doing attacking downed heroes to kill them.
I blame a lot of the lethality on the overpowered nature of healing magic which more or less removes the unconsciuos state from the game.

With cleric healing, especially swift action healing, the only way for a monster to remove a PC from combat is by straight up killing him. So you're going to have a lot of deaths simply because the default style is a battle to the death.

Compare this to real life, where most fights end with one participant being too wounded to continue, as opposed to being straight up dead. This doesn't happen in D&DN, becuase a cleric can just swift action to bring a wounded guy back into the fight, and he can do that an infinite amount of times.

The problem here is that almost no enemies would leave a wounded/dying hero on the ground. Why would a merciless orc raider not finish his enemy? Why would a slavering monster not take the final bite out of its enemy? It surely isn't going to take anyone hostage. And unless the orcs are specifically looking for prisoners, then they aren't going to be interested in taking PCs prisoner. Why should kobolds leave the heroes alive after beating them since the heroes are just going to come back (and in greater numbers)?

There are times when it make sense for enemies to attempt to capture PCs, but honestly that's very rare and every time a DM has monsters randomly disengage or let the PCS flee actually makes it feel worse since you know that you should have died, but the DM took pity on you.

I will note, however, that I am a greater fan of less damage per attack (at least on the players) and less healing per heal, so that heals can help keep someone up, but unconciousness/death would occur more as attrition than oh-god-the-dice-killed-me-healz-plz! If things were tuned well enough, you could even split thinks into - for example - a 4e like model where the encounter healing ala Healing Word restored HP, but only stabilized a dying character, didn't bring them back up; then the big daily resource could bring back a downed ally.
It's one of the things I like least about D&D, that a character that you've invested in for 10 or more levels can die to one unlucky die roll fighting a random zombie, never to be seen or heard from again.

In what game is your 10th level character dying to one unlucky die roll?

That unlucky die roll must be the last unlucky die roll in a series of unlucky die rolls, if your character is level 10; or maybe to an unlucky roll of a mass of dice (such as a dragon's breath weapon).

We've already had this arguement many times about low level characters getting killed too easily.

I'm absolutely sure that it is playing style and DM style.

We experienced DM's know how to play monsters. We know all the tricks such as ganging up on one character at a time until they die and then ganging up on the next character.

We experienced DMs know when to use these tricks and when not to use them; in order to give the PCs the chance of survival or to give the PCs a message about foolhardiness.

We know the best way to use monster spells. DM's are supposed to use the tactical information given in the monster description, but it really depends on their mood.

DMs are supposed to keep the game fun and interesting for the players, at all cost.

So all of you who pride yourselves on your characters surviving, how easy is a veteran DM going on you?

How well are they playing the game? Why does it have to be the DM "going easy on them"? 

If you dare to sit at my table and tell me not to pull any punches, I can kill your entire party in one encounter. I can even kill your party with low level monsters. I can set traps that will kill your party.

There's a difference between not pulling any punches and altering an encounter to be overly lethal.

In other words, you need high starting hit points.

In other words, you need a DM who is interested in making the game enjoyable for all.

It is a shame you spent an entire hour creating a 1st level character with 8 hit points.

It's a shame that you actually feel that way.
 
It is a shame because 5th edition is an edition where attackers get an attack bonus but defenders don't. They only get AC. Or they get a 1d20+ability mod save versus 10+spellcasting bonus+ability mod.

I don't have a problem with these facets of the current playtest rules. I think they work well, as written.

I blame a lot of the lethality on the overpowered nature of healing magic which more or less removes the unconsciuos state from the game.

With cleric healing, especially swift action healing, the only way for a monster to remove a PC from combat is by straight up killing him. So you're going to have a lot of deaths simply because the default style is a battle to the death.

Compare this to real life, where most fights end with one participant being too wounded to continue, as opposed to being straight up dead. This doesn't happen in D&DN, becuase a cleric can just swift action to bring a wounded guy back into the fight, and he can do that an infinite amount of times.

The problem here is that almost no enemies would leave a wounded/dying hero on the ground. Why would a merciless orc raider not finish his enemy? Why would a slavering monster not take the final bite out of its enemy? It surely isn't going to take anyone hostage. And unless the orcs are specifically looking for prisoners, then they aren't going to be interested in taking PCs prisoner. Why should kobolds leave the heroes alive after beating them since the heroes are just going to come back (and in greater numbers)?

There are times when it make sense for enemies to attempt to capture PCs, but honestly that's very rare and every time a DM has monsters randomly disengage or let the PCS flee actually makes it feel worse since you know that you should have died, but the DM took pity on you.

I will note, however, that I am a greater fan of less damage per attack (at least on the players) and less healing per heal, so that heals can help keep someone up, but unconciousness/death would occur more as attrition than oh-god-the-dice-killed-me-healz-plz! If things were tuned well enough, you could even split thinks into - for example - a 4e like model where the encounter healing ala Healing Word restored HP, but only stabilized a dying character, didn't bring them back up; then the big daily resource could bring back a downed ally.



Well, the way ennemies are treating heroes is just a way to tell a story.

You probably don't scream irrationnality when Arachne is not outright killing Frodo and eating him with the One Ring. Nor even the fact that the orcs are capturing him and not killing him outright. The first point of telling a story is to not kill your heroes (at least not in a mundane way), but to find plausible reason why on the fly - using your world's plots.

My take, and probably the one of a lot of DMs, is that characters' failure is an opportunity to tell the story differently, not just to begin again from the get go like in a video game. You can tell a lot about your monsters, and give them a lot of depth, if you think of their actions outside the killing for killing process. But don't see any judgment in this statement, this is just an explanation to what can be considered as fun when not just killing the characters because it would make sense outside a story.

Take your example of the orcs raiders. They probably have their own agenda outside of killing people for sports. This would be a perfect fit to put the characters in a situation where they are used for a purpose that enlights them about the differents aspects of politics and society of the raiders clans...
You aren't necessarily a legendary hero with a great destiny right out of character generation at the lethal low levels.

You become a legendary hero precisely BECAUSE YOU SURVIVED the lethal low levels. The fact that you are one of the lucky ones who made it that far instead of dying on a Kobolds spear at the entrance to the cave is what starts you on your journey to a great destiny.

If you don't want that "life is cheap" start, just start at a higher level or give all the PCs an extra 20 hit points at first level (which amounts to the same thing really).

I think this is why Meals and co are moving towards levels 1 & 2 being neophyte characters while level 3 will become experienced heroes. Or 4e level 1, if you will. I'm not a huge fan of this solution, but it should solve the problem of level 1 being an intense game of "rocket tag" (1-2 round combat with high lethality).


A great idea! I hope when the official rules come out it is suggested that new players start at these levels (bit disappointing for your first DnD experience to be wasting an hour making a character and its personality - just like if you spent an hour making a cool LEGO/minecraft thing you wanted to keep and someone destroys it within a few minutes).

At this lv?  (looks like 1st) Combats tend to be short affairs because wichever class you've picked, you're a novice.  There's not enough time for things to get "interesting" before someone ends up bleeding in the dirt.
You need to survive a few of these skirmishes, racking up some xp & getting some more HPs....


I'll try to keep on track with the original question, but it might be worth asking yourself - why do you need to start as a novice when you're going out into the world, and not studying/learning? Generally speaking engineers don't start building homes while they are in high-school.

It depends entirely upon how you play.  5e hasn't, won't, & can't change that at all.
[...]
And I've been in games that were 100% oppisite.  Where the characters (not their stats/powers) were vital to the story from day #1, xp point #1....  What was being told was the story of those characters. 
At least one of those being an '80s Basic edition game (far less options & way more lethal than even 5e)


Absolutely it'll work.
It's been working since the dawn of the game in fact.


Excellent - you sound like a great person to ask then. In high mortality games, did the characters (personality and backstory in particular) make meaningful choices, and if they frequently did, how did the DM roll with frequent character death & certain characters being required for the story? Was it that death was negated when Bob died and was replaced by his twin Bob II, or did the DM have tricks up his sleeve? It would have been a very different story if Hermoine died before she got to Hogsworth, or Harry Potter died playing in his first quidditch match!

It's one of the things I like least about D&D, that a character that you've invested in for 10 or more levels can die to one unlucky die roll fighting a random zombie, never to be seen or heard from again.


That's all dependant upon how you play. 


Is it dependant upon how you play when one random number determines if your character is dead (such as petrification)? I would say no myself, it frequently doesn't matter how you play. If it was dependent on how you play, I'd be happy, because it means it means player & character can easily interact with the story.

None of them characters died since the beginning. Mainly because we like to tell stories about heros. They never tend to let anyone behind. When a TPK is occuring, I never make the monsters outright kill the players, but instead ...


So when the game it TPKing, you as the DM 'fix' the death to be non-fatal? I can see that working, but that seems to be the DM 'fixing' the game by houserules. I'm hoping the game itself will be fixed through either optional rules or standard rules. I assume that for the fatal traps, or permantly turning to stone (looking at you, level 2 cockatrice) that you would let the heroes find an antidote of some variety. As the DM you've let the characters be important again and integrated into the story by removing the game's 'fatal flaws' ;P

I don't think being a 'vicious back stabber' someone 'connects' you to story.

The most common pattern of GM'ing is that the GM simply writes an A to B, B to C, C to D linear path adventure.

Even if you were a vicious back stabber in that linear path, you're not tied to story. The vicious back stabber idea is just an attitude - like a hair do.


What I am proposing is that the 'A to B' DMing can now no longer include the character in that A to B. It can't be 'save the rogue's boss so he can get a promotion' because the rogue has a significant risk of dying, especially if the player decides that the rogue will be more risk taking to get this position or save his boss out of loyalty.

The first point of telling a story is to not kill your heroes (at least not in a mundane way), but to find plausible reason why on the fly - using your world's plots.


I like this idea- both as a player who gets to see my hero progress through challenges (not as a player who likes to try a new character every 3 weeks unless I appease the dice gods) and as a DM who can now make stories about the heroes, or the events they encounter (not just the latter).


So when the game it TPKing, you as the DM 'fix' the death to be non-fatal? I can see that working, but that seems to be the DM 'fixing' the game by houserules. I'm hoping the game itself will be fixed through either optional rules or standard rules. I assume that for the fatal traps, or permantly turning to stone (looking at you, level 2 cockatrice) that you would let the heroes find an antidote of some variety. As the DM you've let the characters be important again and integrated into the story by removing the game's 'fatal flaws' ;P



It is not really a "fix". I use what the system tell me about combat encounters but I just don't consider that dead is dead until the player really choose so. I mean, why do concepts like spell resurection exist in the first place if this is not to be used, not only by players but also by the DM, if the story needs it?

At least one of my players is playing that way, tearing appart his character sheet when death strike, and making another one on the fly. That's the way he likes to play - and also he can wrap up great character concepts and bring them to life in about 2 minutes.

Now, any roleplaying game lethality doesn't require any fix at all unless the DM wants an absolute control over the course of events in a mecanical way - which is not needed because we already have that power in a storytelling way. I don't, my players don't. We are inclined to use every opportunities the system provide to bounce back with story ideas. A game with no mortality/danger would just be boring, but mortality in a story about heroes is somewhat in a perpetual delaying mist until the player finds the moment is right for his hero to die...

Take the example of the stabbing of Frodo by the morgul blade in the first book of LOTR. In D&D terms we would say he died in the encounter, having a mortal wound, but not really because he was heroically brought to the elves that have the knowledge to heal him. See? Story enhancement of a "death happens" fact.

In our mind, the very purpose of an imagination game like D&D is to find how to mesh the story with what happens with the game system. And to use the game system and its randomness to enhance the story, not impede it.

PS: regarding the cockatrix matter, it really depends on the setting and the feeling I want to instill. Last time I used them, I just defined that turning things to stone is their way to keep their food from rotting (I made them really big and flying monsters), so that it was not really permanent. They took two of the adventurers turned to stone into their nest and it became a quest to save them. Another setting, another time, I stated that they were too small to turn a full person to stone, and half my players got a stoned limb before the end of the day. It was a lot of fun. Even when you just look at what the bestiary read about them, you see that their feathers are the base component for making stone to flesh ritual or potion.
In the Storm Over Neverwinter conversion, all the monsters have spell casting and attack bonuses though not specifically stated. They are somewhat arbitrary. Dominated Mage for example. I know this from actually play-testing and not speculating about character deaths. Nor do I just say the party is captured rather than killed. I would do that.



Yep. That's a known issue and it is also the case in the bestiary. I think MM stated that the monsters were placeholders, I think that may be why their numbers don't make sense and seem disconnected. But this is only a sensation perceived by the DM logically, since players should not really realise that when playing.

When I use a cheap trick to allow the story to continue, I keep noted the kills and the TPK to make an appropriate repport. Lethality is certainly very swingy, but however I think this is not always a bad thing. It keeps the thrills. We play like that because that's what we like, and we gather to have fun primordially.

On a separate note, I noticed that my 3E and 4E players are paying somewhat more attention to details and environnement opportunities than they used to, but I should also be factoring the presence of non-D&D players and the ToTM play. I used ToTM not as successfully with 3E and 4E than with 2E, Next and other non-D&D games, but I really can't figure out completely why because I played all those game with more or less the same players... It seems like some players just put themselves in a different mindset when playing D&D when I pull out a grid map, like if it was now a board game and not an TTRPG any more. It is not quite problematic with my group since it occurs only for combat encounters but this is worth mentioning.




In the main beastiary all spell casters have a spell save DC of 10 + relevant mod and mostly tell you what mod is their casting mod (just incase you have some way of reducing said mod).  This is true for all 11 monsters that are casters in the main beastiary.

In the Storm Over Neverwinter all of the casters seem to have a random +2 that is entirely unaccounted for (deduced via all the mages having +3 int mod but dc 15 saves, and the cleric type guy having a wis mod of +2 but a spell save of 14).  In this case I'd say look at the original document and see what the probabilities there look like.  there may be a chance that converting 4e material to 5e includes some different steps thus that the probabilities are different. 

The casters in against the cult of chaos are completely different, seemingly relying on the spell design from a packet or two ago having inflicts be attacks instead of forcing saves.  The saves also have some strange bonuses to them as well.

Dungeons of Dread conversions seemingly follow with the beastiary style of 10 + relevant mod for spellcasting DCs.   Meaning there are no casting bonuses.

 
This is a problem with the disconnect between simulation and storytelling.

The thing with storytelling is that there are several rules that guide and dictate rules for storytelling that takes place in novels, movies, tv shows, comics, etc.

1) The hero can never die during any point during the entire narrative except maybe at the very end or if there is a group of heroes and one dies to demonstrate a point. If one does die they will not be replaced unless it is very, very, very early in the narrative. But in such cases they were designed to die from the get-go. But the main hero is immune to death regardless of anything else (again, unless the story is ending.) In a serial, recurring side characters are also immune to death. Literally immune-- it doesn't matter what insane and crazy thing one attempts to do to them or the level of threat they face.

2) Stories tend to focus on a single character. Even with groups of heroes, one is always THE main character. Other characters are peripheral and will generally only be active in seens where they are needed. Virtually everything on serious importance will be done by the main.

3) The  hero will always win and the villain will always lose. ALWAYS. It really doesn't matter what the villain throws at the hero or what impossible obstacle there is to overcome, in the end the hero will win and the villain will lose. As a caveat-- the hero cannot win until the climax of the story either and if they attempt to end things too early, they will lose.

4) Most important-- it doesn't matter if you are told that the hero's chance for success or survival is 10 million to 1, if it is at all important for the hero to succeed... they will succeed. The hero will never fail at anything of any real importance.


There are more rules one could make to go into more detail... but the point is that if one were to create a game that attempted to codify these rules into some sort of system.... well, to begin with, it wouldn't use dice. You could maybe have a point system where character receive points for roleplaying well and contributing to the narrative and then could spend those points to perform more heroic actions or something...

At all. Second... anyone who saw this system would immediately come to the conclusion that it was stupid, pointless and not fun at all. Furthermore, it would be difficult to write it in such a way that any but the most serious players would feel at all encouraged to act like the hero of a narrative would... because they would be all too aware of their character's immortality and general omnipotence and that knowledge would transfer itself into the character.

 D&D is created more to be simulationist than anything else. But the chances of you coming up with anything even close to a popular heroic narrative using a simulationist system is literally millions to one-- because a typical heroic narrative tends to have all too many situations where the hero needs to roll extraordinarily high numbers all too often.

before the martial class nerf my monk had the feat and pretty much stood in one spot using iron root defense and minor wounds to get the party threw a huge goblin ambush. we were level 3 and I believe there were 30-35 goblins which i believe was appropriate xp budget for 6 level 3s at the time. The cleric didnt have the cantrip and blew threw all his remaining healing spells in the first 3 rounds. If not for cure wounds and the damage reduction it would have been have tpked and not even a close battle.

FluxPoint dm'd the huge fight so he can probably give exact numbers if he still has them. 


I don't understand - if the fighters were blocking the way to the cleric, why didn't the monsters pour through the gap when he goes unconcious? Or is there some rule that you can't even pass through the square of an unconcious PC?

"In the game there is magic" - Orethalion

 

Only got words in my copy.

 

Philosopher Gamer

Oh, and here's an actual play account of frequent character deaths and yet people still form an emotional attachment to the characters.

"In the game there is magic" - Orethalion

 

Only got words in my copy.

 

Philosopher Gamer

Oh, and here's an actual play account of frequent character deaths and yet people still form an emotional attachment to the characters.

Great. Anecdotal, but great.
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before the martial class nerf my monk had the feat and pretty much stood in one spot using iron root defense and minor wounds to get the party threw a huge goblin ambush. we were level 3 and I believe there were 30-35 goblins which i believe was appropriate xp budget for 6 level 3s at the time. The cleric didnt have the cantrip and blew threw all his remaining healing spells in the first 3 rounds. If not for cure wounds and the damage reduction it would have been have tpked and not even a close battle.

FluxPoint dm'd the huge fight so he can probably give exact numbers if he still has them. 


I don't understand - if the fighters were blocking the way to the cleric, why didn't the monsters pour through the gap when he goes unconcious? Or is there some rule that you can't even pass through the square of an unconcious PC?



It wasn't a dungeon it was a raid on a caravan. There were goblins attacking everyone and that included the cleric. The only people, going down were the monk and and the wizards. The cleric was able to keep the fighter up barely due to parry and turn refresh of expertise dice. I got alot of the attension because I was casting heals that were bring people that were out of the fight back in. I don't right the player report because a new packet released. I don't know if its worth while to post the report for an old packet, but next time we are in a situation that dire I will make sure to post it.

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Once one goblin had downed a PC, why didn't the remaining goblins on that PC shift target to take down another PC? Or were the other PC's already surrounded?

I'm not used to fights where there are 6 monsters for every PC. It seems like an extreme situation, unless 5E is supposed to be handling mass battles.

"In the game there is magic" - Orethalion

 

Only got words in my copy.

 

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