Running pretty much by the book 5e D&D (the only house rule I announced I was using and was conscious of incorporating is the GM Intrusion for Inspiration) highlighted a lot of the fiddliness of 5e for me, both bad and good.
First the bad... with busy schedules and a limited playing time, I decided to have the players choose from some pre-made characters. I found a site (that I won't name and shame, but if you're looking for pre-made 5e characters let me know and I'll offer my advice) that offered pre-made characters for all the sub-classes in the Player's Handbook for levels 1-20 and on casual examination they seemed good. They had equipment, spells, class and race features all in a single 3pg PDF. At first I was considering having all the PCs choose "sneaky" characters and doing some stealth based stuff, so I concentrated on trying to pick out sheets that would work for that. I ditched the sneaky idea after recalling how sneaky games can quickly get bogged down into minute and detailed planning and decided to just let players choose from any of the 40ish options, at which point I stopped looking at the pre-made sheets unfortunately. As the players looked over their sheets we then discovered just how fiddly 5e PCs can be and how this can cause trouble if you're not paying attention when putting together a character or picking a pre-made.
- The Barbarian had 62 HP when a barbarian with the same CON using the average HP roll per level would end up with 65 HP. Not as fiddly as the other stuff, but a bit baffling why you'd make a pre-made character sheet and not give them at least the minimum end of average. For a little perspective, the max HPs for the barbarian with that level and CON was 90, so there was quite a bit of room.
- Not everything on the sheet was calculated... For the Barbarian the AC on the sheet included the Unarmored Defense feature, but the barbarian movement speed right next to it did not include the Fast Movement feature. The player asked about her AC, and I double-checked the math quick but did not notice the movement discrepancy (bad GM), but then I think the player figured that she only had 30' of movement because I had verified that other things on the sheet were correctly calculated.
- The Bard with the College of Valor option did not have any melee weapon, but did have a shield, which they could not have used when attack with the long bow that was the only weapon on the sheet. Nor did the Bard have any melee cantrip (not that Bards have one on their list, but still). So during the first combat I did a little GM hand-waving and told the Bard to add a rapier to his sheet, because, seriously? That's D&D 101, every PC has a melee attack and a ranged attack.
- The Necromancer Wizard had only a single Necromantic attack spell of 1st level or higher (3rd level Vampiric Touch) severely limiting the utility of the Grim Harvest School of Necromancy feature that rewards Necromantic attack spells adding to the HPs regained when an enemy is reduced to 0hp. Especially baffling since there are Ray of Sickness for a 1st level option and Ray of Enfeeblement for a 2nd level option. Fortunately the player realized this and adjusted his spell list before we started, but if a less attentive player picked up that sheet and went with it as written they would have missed out on using one of the defining features of their sub-class.
- Chill Touch is a ranged spell with no melee or close option... Maybe I haven't played enough 5e, but I had not realized this and... just kinda assumed that ya know, Chill Touch, touch attack, but apparently not? So that means there's one melee range attack cantrip, Shocking Grasp and 7 ranged attack cantrips in the PHB. If you add in the Elemental Evil Player's companion you get Thunderclap as a close attack cantrip but looking at that spell, it's not ideal since it calls out that it can be heard 100' away and affects every creature within 5', meaning the fighter who just came up to help your sorcerer out of a jam could also get hit. I mean, as a GM I'd be good with a PC re-flavoring some of the ranged attack cantrips to a touch attack, but it'd be nice to have another option in the "official" material.
- Spells that have attack rolls vs. spells that let things save. So, there came a point in the night where the PCs were fighting the Adult Black Dragon boss fight and they managed to hit the dragon with Faerie Fire and since I rolled a nat '1' on the save I decided the dragon couldn't use its Legendary Resistance to succeed on a failed save. This meant that all attacks, including the spell attacks, more likely to hit than for the dragon to fail a saving throw with massive bonuses. Perhaps because it was a bit fiddly, perhaps because beverages of an alcoholic nature were imbibed, but I kept reminding players that attack rolls had advantage but the dragon was making normal saving throws, but they still shot off spells with saving throws. Perhaps it's just that casting Lightning Bolt for 8d6 damage sounds awesomer than casting Scorching Ray as a 3rd level spell for 4 attacks that could do 2d6 each, but even if you only hit with 2 of the 4 rays, you're doing 4d6 damage, while that Black dragon has a +7 to its DEX save so you're probably only doing have damage with that Lightning Bolt anyway... So do you chance it on 1 roll, or do you roll 4 attacks with advantage? I guess I'd take the attack rolls, but then I don't have this pathological feeling that my dice hate me and want me to fail the way many of my players seem to...
- Easy-ish battle with Gnolls
- Non-combat encounter with Dao, with possibility of a quick combat if they needed a clue for the riddle (the didn't, the Birthday Man, figured it out much quicker than I expected, and even with several beers in him.
- Easy-ish battle with Winged Kobolds and Troglodytes (to be swapped out/trimmed down if they had to battle Otyughs for a Dao riddle clue)
- Nearly deadly battle with Adult Black Dragon (rated as "Deadly"), swapping in a Young Black Dragon (Medium Challenge) with the HP of an adult to make it tougher if the PCs were struggling.
- Hard battle with Gnolls
- PCs take long rest, recover all spells and HP
- Non-combat encounter with Dao
- Easy battle with Kobolds and Troglodytes
"When you butcher the giant two-headed snake you've just slain, Roll + DEX to see how much useable meat you get." #DungeonWorldCustomMove— Mr. Zack (@thatwordyguy) December 8, 2014