How to make sure D&D 5e isn't too easy

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alphaEmpathy
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12 Dec 2020, 6:24 pm

I'm a player currently, but I've been considering running a campaign eventually. My group kind of shrunk after school and I'm playing with people from my old group but with a different DM and while I like some aspects of his game, his campaign is a story based one with no emphasis on combat whatsoever. He makes it way too easy to level up and combat is never a challenge. I often find myself forgetting what level I am because I never feel like I've earned that level or that I was able to truly experiment with my character's abilities. The rare amount of big battles we have are always cut short by NPCs saving the day, and we mostly fight low level monsters like bats and rats even though we're supposed to be above level 10. It's gotten me kind of irritated and wanting to run something of my own, but I don't want to go too overboard in the opposite direction either. I also don't want to make him mad that I've gotten a little restless in the game, so if I do start my own game I don't want it to be obvious that it's an attempt to experience something different from the way he does it.



jimmy m
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12 Dec 2020, 8:52 pm

I played some D&D around 50 years ago. What made the campaigns interesting was the unknowns, the things you never find in any book. The DM generates something strange and inserts it into the game and it takes on a life of its own.

For example a magical sword that is only an average weapon. But it has one unique property. If you push it slowly into something, it will cut right through, like a knife cutting through butter. No one ever explained this to the players. They had to discover this unique property themselves. But once discovered they found that they could access any room, cut through any door or wall. Locks no longer had any power. They could surprise the monsters lying in wait on the other side of the door.

I once obtained a sword of invisibility. When I picked up the sword, it immediately fused into my arm. It had a mighty strong ego. It ordered me to kill my companions. What to do? I ordered my companions to leave the room and then I immediately bolted the door shut. On one side of the room there was a deep shaft. So deep that if one fell into the shaft, they would break their neck and die. So I told the sword that I was going to jump. The sword said "You're kidding!" I said "No, very serious. And when I die and my flesh rots away and I turn to dust, the sword will remain in this desolate location for decades, no centuries to come!."

So we made a pact, me and the sword. I agreed that if the sword unfused from my arm, I would place it on the ground and leave the room. The sword agreed. So if you every walk into a room and find a magic sword, be a little cautions before you pick it up.


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Fnord
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12 Dec 2020, 9:03 pm

jimmy m wrote:
I played some D&D around 50 years ago. What made the campaigns interesting was the unknowns, the things you never find in any book...
5e has tried to remedy that -- every possible situation is likely to be covered in the books.

Back in the 80s, however, there was only Basic, 1e, and 2e.  2e tried to cover all aspects without filling in the gaps, but the trend had already started.  By the time TSR was sold to WoC, just about everything anyone could think of had been covered in either a rulebook, an official sourcebook, or Dragon Magazine.

So for a creative mind, keeping to the earlier editions seems to work best.  This works for AD&D, Paranoia, Star Wars, Traveller, and just about every other RPG that came out in the 70s or 80s.

Hence, I suggest to the OP that he fall back on one of the earlier editions, and learn to "wing it" when there is no rule to cover what he or the players may do.  Some of the most entertaining sessions occurred when the players "sailed off the edge of the map".


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funeralxempire
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12 Dec 2020, 10:40 pm

Personally I'd just stick with 3.5e and Pathfinder based rules. :nerdy:


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Bradleigh
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16 Dec 2020, 12:12 am

Pretty sure that 5e books specifically mention to dungeon masters that everything in there is a recommendation, and are encouraged to alter things to make it fun. A lot of homebrew stuff is out there that can change things up.

As for the being too easy, I think you might have to talk to the DM and explain that you want more difficult fights that try abilities out and that you want consequences to these fights, not be saved by some outside party all the time. You might have to explain that it is not just meant to be some sort of railroad. The DM should probably take some time to look up what the combined challenge rating should be. I believe starting around page 82 of the Dungeon Masters Guide shows how to organise encounters to difficulty based on what the combined XP would be, multiplied depending on how many monsters there are compared to combined level of player characters, with a slight adjustment if there is less than 3 characters or more than 5. I created myself a spreadsheet that I could easily figure out what an encounter would be under these rules.

As for problems forgetting what level you are and what abilities you have, with the DM's focus on story I think that he might need to be encouraged to change style a bit. If he wants levels to increase with story, maybe he should be encouraged to actually include it as part of a story. A wizard needs to spend time studying magic to create new spells, a fighter is doing training that creates new techniques, a druid connects with what their circle is, a cleric talks with an aspect of their god. It could help if what abilities gained are explained by the story, and if he does not know all of that himself, he could let the reigns drop a bit to encourage the players to explain how they got their new abilities, the DM setting an in game day aside to explain the new abilities. Another example element can be that Sorcerers have physical alterations to their body as they level up, like a draconic sorcerer gaining features like a dragon's.

I think that the DM might also need to be reminded what the tiers are meant to be if you are fighting rats when above level 10. Levels 1-4: Local Heroes, levels 5-10: Heroes of the Realm, levels 11-16: Masters of the Realm, levels 17-20: Masters of the World. Above levels 10 players are meant to not just be able to leave a mark on a region but perhaps the world. It shouldn't be odd to fight a couple black puddings, or even an elder Oblex. But rather than just come up with a bunch of criticisms, but that you want to have a bit of an increase of difficulty to level and feel invested.


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16 Dec 2020, 9:23 am

I was part of an on-line AD&D 5e game a few months ago, and most of the time was spent either looking up obscure rules or arguing about the meaning and application of those rules once they were found.

Back in the 2e days, games were quickly brought back on track with a simple phrase...

"Because I am the DM and I said so, that's why!"

Back then, we had the DMG, the PHB, and the MM -- that's it.  The rest was based on imagination, and we liked it!


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08 Apr 2021, 2:13 am

alphaEmpathy wrote:
How to make sure D&D 5e isn't too easy

Ehhh, I don't know, you'd have to re-write a LOT of the rules =)

I get what you're saying, though. I wouldn't worry about making things too difficult, that's really hard to do in 5E, especially once the players reach level 5 or so.

Your first few games are not going to go very smoothly, it takes a while to get used to it. Sometimes I get ideas from watching YouTube videos or Twitch streams of really good DMs.

It would probably help to run a pre-made adventure, also. I like those because, if things go sour, I'm not too upset because the players didn't miss out on something I spent a lot of time building (because someone else built it!). The Lost Mines of Phandelver adventure is pretty decent, if your players don't groan and tell you that they've already played through it five times.

It was available for free, but looks like it isn't anymore.


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