Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why I abandoned 3.5e for 5e in one session

So my normal Dungeons and Dragons gaming group has been on hiatus for over a month now, and it's looking like we'll finally be getting together again this weekend to play. Needless to say, I'm stoked!

As such, it seemed like since D&D is the only thing on my brain right now, I should also make a blog post about it. So here you go! Why it took only 1 session to sell me on 5e and drop 3.5e like a hot rock.

I'll set the stage.

If you'll recall my post of when and where it all began, I'd been playing strictly D&D 3.5e for about a decade when 5e was getting announced as finally ready to ship. I was a 3.5e diehard at the time; you know the kind. 4e sucks! 3.5e has customization! 3.5e is the way to go! Yeah, one of those people. So when one of the guys in our gaming group says casually, "Hey, I'm thinking about checking into 5e," my first reaction was, "Dude, no. I'm not learning another version of this game." We had all the 3.5e books, we knew all the rules (well, most of them; 3.5e is complicated as shit and no one could ever know all the rules of that version, ever), had all the spells, understood it; just no! No interest in 5e.

Only that was a lie.

I'm an information addict. If I could draw a picture of myself demonstrating what I mean by that, it'd be a picture of me strung out in the streets with a needle in my arm that read "Wikipedia," eyes rolled back into my head, drool running down my trembling lips. When I hit info dumps, I mainline it until my head hurts and I go comatose for a little while. So, when my friend said he wanted to look into 5e, I said I didn't want to play, but I most certainly wanted to read about it.

So read about it I did. I pulled up articles, webpages, forums, jabbing the needle around into my calloused armed and shot long and hard. Rather than quench my thirst, what I read instead piqued my interest, and slowly over the next couple of gaming sessions, I agreed to give 5e a try, if for nothing else but curiosity's sake.

We played one session with only the Player's Handbook and within 15 minutes, I was ready to take every 3.5e book we'd collected over the past 10 years and burn it. I had never realized just how many problems 3.5e had until I played 5e. So, so many that I'm only going to go over each one of them briefly.

  1. Too many numbers - 3.5e has way too many numbers. You have all these bonus and negatives constantly adding and subtracting from every single roll in halves, doubles, triples and more that you spend most of combat doing basic arithmetic instead of playing the game! 5e cuts way down on that and brings players back to the fun.
  2. Ineffective numbers - As if that wasn't enough, 3.5e gets way out of balance in the higher levels. A +2 flanking bonus is amazing at low levels and near worthless at higher levels. At higher levels, with Base Attack bonus, a fighter's first attack always hits and his last attack always misses. It takes away the fun of chance when you're adding +25 to your first hit but only +5 on your last hit. 5e normalizes all of this in a simple way and makes the game way more enjoyable by keeping "chance" alive throughout the game.
  3. Different numbers per class - In 3.5e, each class could have had its own book. Touch attacks, ranged attacks, one-hand, two-hand, light weapons; each weapon with it's own set of rules. So so so much to remember and calculate that we had to have individual experts on each class to remember how they function. Some players could (and would) lie to me about how their class played, I wouldn't know until I took the time to sit down and read over their class line by line to work through the math. 5e simplifies the bullshit and cuts to the heart of the game: playing, not making, characters.
  4. Imbalance - in 3.5e, magic reigned king. Only a min/max barbarian could hope to pale in comparison to the might of spellcasting. As you can probably guess, 5e doesn't have this issue. It balances things out immensely and makes melee finally come into its own (mostly by cutting down on just how powerful magic was). Even though I'm a magic user, I love this.
  5. Less complicated spells - 3.5e's spell lists and descriptions were about as complicated as classes themselves sometimes. Some spells were so complex and varied that I outright ignored them. 5e simplifies spells and streamlines them into practical necessity.
I could go on but I won't . . . but I could. Basically, at it's heart, I realized within 15 minutes that all the work I had to do as a DM, adding and subtracting so many numbers, accounting for players imbalances, went away when we played 5e. I realized that I loved none of that work, and in fact, I almost hated it. 5e cuts the crap, the bullshit, the agony and leaves the fun. 5e is 3.5e without the clutter. Classes are still customization, roleplay still encouraged, and encounters still varied and interesting. It is very much the game I would have loved to play for all those past years and I will be playing for quick a long time to come.

In brief, 5e rocks!

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