Monday, August 13, 2018

PC Complexity in 5e

So one of my players asked, "What's a good class for beginners?" This is 5e, with lots of classes, so the game ramps slowly to keep you from being swamped with options. That said:

Fighters are still the best if you want simplicity. You'll have a few bonuses to keep track of that apply under certain conditions, but mostly what you get is lots of hit points.

Monks probably come next in complexity. You'll acquire points that you can spend on one-shot cool abilities, like making extra attacks or movement.

Rogues are probably next in complexity. Rogues have the ability to take extra actions and get bonuses to their attacks under certain conditions. If you're prone to analysis paralysis, you might find rogues easier than monks. On the other hand, if you have trouble keeping track of what's going on around your character, or remembering that under certain conditions you get special goodies, you might find the monk simpler.

Barbarians have a few abilities, like rage, that trigger a number of bonuses all at once. They also have some cool abilities that, like rogue abilities, only trigger under certain circumstances. That said, if you can keep on top of range of things that change when you turn you abilities off and on, the barbarian class can feel pretty simple to play. For organized people they can be even simpler than the monk and rogue.

Rangers, like rogues and barbarians, have conditional powers that kick in when the situation is right (like when facing a favored enemy or in a favored terrain). They also have a few spells.

Warlocks are probably the simplest of the spell-slinging classes to play, especially if you build them right. It's easy to create a warlock whose abilities are always on (for instance, always being able to read any writing, or always being able to detect the presence of magic). They also have much shorter spell lists. You might even be able to build a warlock who's less complex than a barbarian.

Paladins are more complex than warlocks. You've got your martial abilities, your spells, your divine powers, plus abilities that are always on. Since some powers are just like others with small tweaks, paladins are not for people who hate paying attention to details.

Sorcerers are a big jump up in complexity. They have shorter spell lists, but they also have points they can use to modify their spells; increasing the range and duration, for instance.

I think bards come next. Bards come with lots of options for cool things they can do. Do you inspire your friends, cast a spell, distract the enemy, or heal the wounded? On the other hand, you'll always have something cool you can do. Not recommended for folks who suffer from analysis paralysis, they are perfect for people who like a wide menu of options to pick from.

Wizards are technically less complex mechanically than paladins, in my estimation, but the range of spells you can cast is the broadest of any class. Wizards are a great choice for players who have excellent memories or who don't mind flipping through the books to check on the details of a spell.

Finally, the class I consider the most complex is the cleric. You've got the largest number of spells to pick from (especially at lower levels), plus additional abilities dictated by your pantheon. There's a lot of accounting with the cleric since you're tracking not just your spells but also your "channel divinity" powers. And your more likely to run across spells that are cast as reactions or bonus actions.

The druid is like unto the cleric, especially once you start picking from among the various beasts you can turn into. Do you want the wolf who gets a bonus to attack when beside an ally, or giant spider who can climb walls, or the tiger who gets a special pounce attack?

All that said, one of 5e's virtues is that it ramps up slowly. It dribbles out the complexity over time, allowing you to digest each piece before adding another. So if you really want to play one of the more complicated classes, I say go for it. It might require a bit more effort on your part to create tools to help you get the most out of your PC, but better that, I think, than a character that bores you. :)


Black Vulmea said...

I'm running 5e - I threw out most of character creation beyond attributes, class, and equipment the moment I saw the players' eyes glaze over when I started talking about skills and backgrounds.

The best beginner class? A B/X fighter.

trollsmyth said...

Black Vulmea: Totally agree. Have you considered just running B/X with 5e's action economy and advantage/disadvantage? You might need to tweak a few spells, but there are not that many to begin with, so it's not a insurmountable challenge.

Anonymous said...
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Plant said...

I agree (dis)advantage and combat actions are 5e's strengths. But +-5 modifier due to dis/advantage is pretty steep for b/x. And b/x lacks skill and ability checks and conditions where (dis)advantage is most likely to be used.

So where would you apply (dis)advantage in b/x ?

I only take combat actions from 5e and add some more.

trollsmyth said...

Plant: I use them in combat and saving throws, mostly. On occasion I'll have the players roll a WotC-era check (d20 + stat bonus to hit a target number), but those are extremely few and far between.

Plant said...

BX ability checks don't blend well (d20 roll under).

Instead I use the Open Doors mechanic for ability checks: x in 6 chance depending on ability score. That is more in line with how other checks work.

3-8 = 1 in 6
9-12 = 2 in 6
13-15 = 3 in 6
16-17 = 4 in 6
18 = 5 in 6

To make this work with thief skills, I've reassigned an x in 6 chance for every thief skill instead of %. 6 in 6 fails if you roll double 6 on 2d6. Non-thieves have 1 in 6 chance on any skill. Got that from lamentations ot flame princess.

1 = 2 in 6
3 = 3 in 6
6 = 4 in 6
9 = 5 in 6
12 = 6 in 6

Plant said...

Still, ability checks don't mesh well in bx and I think it's best to ignore them.

If I'm wrong, enlighten me :)

trollsmyth said...

Sticking with the d6 roll certainly fits better with B/X's existing mechanics. (I assume that's one of the reasons Raggi went that route in LotFP for skills.)

Mostly I use the ability checks when three conditions are true:

1 - this is a one-shot sort of situation, or a limited campaign of a handful of sessions.
2 - the players are not familiar with B/X and fairly familiar with 5e.
3 - there's something fun that can happen on both success and failure.

Otherwise, I'll do it when it "feels right" which, honestly, is pretty rare. For the longest time I just stole the checks like bend bars/lift gates and such from 1e when needed. Or do a roll-under the stat.

I do like advantage/disadvantage for combat and saving throws, however. It allows me to quickly give the players credit for a clever idea that tilts the odds in their favor (or against them if things have gone sideways) without changing the arithmetic they're already used to doing for their characters. It increases the likelihood of extreme rolls (which can be fun if I'm using some sort of fumble or extreme success house rules). And rolling more dice is fun. And all this at the very minimal cost of taking a bit more time to read two dice instead of just one.

Plant said...
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Plant said...

Advantage is indeed a very fine method of ruling tactical superiority or clever ideas. However, advantage is tied to a d20.

Do you also roll 2d6 to adjucate hunting, foraging, listening or surprise? All of these and other skills use x i 6.

The issue I have with ability checks in OSE is that 1d20 roll below ability score gives 50% success on average but roll 1 in 6 is only 16%. So a non-thief attempting to climb, sneak, disarm traps etc. would succeed 50% on 1d20, which is higher than a starting thief (!) but only 16% on 1d6. It's also confusing to roll low on 1d20 when you're always rolling high 1d20 for attacks and saves.

trollsmyth said...

Plant: Yeah, advantage/disadvantage is pretty much tied to d20 rolls. Not if we're rolling a d6.

Do you also roll 2d6 to adjucate hunting, foraging, listening or surprise? All of these and other skills use x i 6.

Outside LotFP, I'm not familiar with using a d6 for hunting and foraging. Is that a something I've managed to overlook? I've typically been using a variation on a wandering encounter table.

I'll also admit to not being much of a fan of the way thief abilities work in B/X, and I typically toss the class in exchange for something more Gray Mouser. In my experience, the numbers at even mid-levels encourage players to just avoid touching the dice entirely, making everything but the "hear noises" abilities wasted space.

Plant said...
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Plant said...
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