Saturday, September 6, 2014

Right in the Heals - 5th Edition Review

So, 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons is out.

And to be honest, its a good read. And I'm saying that as a devout OD&D fan. I'm generally a Labyrinth Lord-style 'Save versus Death" kind of guy, hwever, I have to admit there are some things I like about the new book. The art, for instance. Its pretty good. Also I do like the addition in D&D for any race to play any character class ever since 3rd edition. If I want to play a game with you and you take the time to come to my gaming table, then if you want to play an half-gnomish warlock ninja, well then who am I to judge?

But this post isn't about the things I like about 5th edition. No, its about the one thing I dislike the most about it, and my ingenious fix to that problem. That's right, I already fixed it, so everyone can rest easy.

But first...the complaints!

My gripes are all about the healing, and the unintended consequences of making it too available. There's just too darn much of it. Ever since 4th edition the options for healing have gotten way out of hand for Wizards of the Coast. That 'Healing Surges" business was complete poppycock. Every character class having a bunch of options for spontaneous healing that doesn't require magic or resting? Talk about dumbing down the game. An adventuring party that doesn't need a cleric? What?

First, most obviously its coddling the players and de-valuing their injuries. "Oh boo hoo, you got hit by an orc. Why don't you just ask the Warlord for an invigorating speech and I'll kiss your boo boo and you'll be all better!" No need to consider the later implications of your actions, you'll be fine either way so you might as well do something ridiculous all the time (making things that otherwise would be totally daring and cool be just 'ho-hum' thanks to the prevalence of Healing Surges).

Who needs potions when you have inspiring speeches?
But that's not the worst of it. Its actually worse coddling for the Dungeon Master. "How can it be coddling the Dungeon Master, doesn't it make their work more difficult?" you ask? Well, it allows the Dungeon Master to not even worry about the pacing of his game, and just string together a bunch of bullshit encounters without worrying whether the PCs will be at full health or not when they encounter it. Because they'll basically ALWAYS start encounters at full health! So as a DM you can just pop the top on some pre-written "D&D Encounters" vanilla combat setups and call your game prep done.

CODDLING! This is the travesty of modern role-playing. Having that assurance that the PCs will always be at full health makes every combat just a measure of "Average Party Level vs. Monster XP Challenge Rating" math. Bo-ring! Encounters early in the adventure will then have no impact on the survivability of the following encounters. And in fact, based on the likelihood of new magic items won from previous combats, it means that from the beginning of game night to the end, the later encounters could conceivably GET EASIER than the combats earlier in the evening. Why? Because the DM built (calculated?) all the encounters before the players got there, and so they are all at the same level before the game starts. But then the PCs get potions and weapons from those early combats to use in the later combats, making those combats easier because the PCs have a built-in ability to just be at full health at the beginning of almost every combat anyway.

BAH! A night of adventure should be the culmulative effects of an entire evening of combats and encounters. That gibberling trap at the beginning of the night that did 5 points of damage to the careless rogue should factor into the final battle against the Half-Demon Minotaur Mage in the center of the Labyrinth of Eternal Hellfires. How would it impact that? Well, did the cleric use up a precious cure light wounds to heal the rogue before the combat, so they won't have that to use to save the dying Ranger? Or did the rogue tough it out and now is in a weakened state at the final combat, making them reconsider that risky 'leap-and-backstab' attempt they were considering. In 4th edition its "always-do-the-risky-move-all-the-time" because you're probably already at full health. So who cares that the Rogue did a backflip into the middle of the Lemur horde? Of course he did, its one of his "Dailies"... *yawn*

I think you get it. Well, that's the one issue I have with 5th edition. The free healing.  For those who haven't read the new book yet, the new healing/resting rules are on page 186. Here's the gist of 5th edition healing (which admittedly is toned down from 4e, but still overly-generous):

Short rest: This is a rest of at least 1 hour. The character can spend one or more of their 'Hit Dice' at the end of a short rest to 'fast heal' that many die rolls (plus Con mod) of hit points. A character has a number of Hit Dice equal to their level. So a 3rd level Rogue has 3d6(+Con mod) they can spontaneously heal when they take a 'breather.'

Long rest: This is a rest of at least 8 hours (so...basically every night). At the end of a long rest the character regains all lost hit points, and they regain their spent Hit Dice they might've used in any Short Rests that day. Yes, that's right. So an 8d6 Fireball Hit on Monday is fully healed by breakfast on Tuesday.
Just sleep it off, Boromir.
So no one ever has any wounds that last more than one night? Every day they wake up at 100%? Are you kidding me? Has anyone ever had a hangover in this new 5th edition D&D world? Cripes.

But I like a lot of the rest of the game, so so here's the fix I propose as a change to 5th Edition that minimizes the coddling of this healing without disregarding this new healing system entirely:

5e Vorpal Chainsword "Breather" = 1 hour rest. No special benefits. Take a breather, plan your next move, whatever.

5e Vorpal Chainsword "Overnighter" = 8 hour rest. Character can spend hit dice up to their level to 'fast heal' their hit points, as the 5th Edition 'Short Rest' rules above. If the player doesn't spend any of these magic hit dice then they regain hit points equal to their level. Just like Tymora intended.

Oh yeah, and I think characters shouldn't regain these magic healing Hit Dice back UNTIL THEY LEVEL. So yes, the 5th level Fighter can 'quick heal' up to 5d6(+Con mod) hit points if they lay low overnight, but they won't get those back for magic re-healing until they hit 6th level. So they've really got to think about using them. Now whether or not they use them has a real impact on the party, and all decisions aren't automatically 'reset' upon a good nights rest. And Clerics become important again.

So there you have it. My Grognardian change to the new 5th Edition D&D rules. I think we all can agree that the old ways are the best ways... you kids get off my porch!

In my day we didn't have ten fancy subraces of elf. There was just one kind of elf. And we liked it that way.

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