I had the chance to run a D&D 5E Planescape game yesterday, and I did a few things right and/or a few things turned out well.
- 5th level seemed to provide each character with a good set of options without overwhelming players with too many choices.
- I pre-made most of the PCs but took some player input on what options they'd like.
- I gave a pre-game speech so that the players knew that none of their characters would necessarily know each other but that my conceit for the game was that they'd all be tied to a central NPC and learn to work together on the fly. While there was at one point a pivotal encounter where each of the 6 PCs kinda came up with their own conflicting or complimentary plans, we did avoid any real out and out intra-party fighting.
- Since part of the plot involved figuring out some mysteries, I gave each PC three contacts, each described by a sentence. This worked out really well because the players could glance at the background sheet I provided and quickly figure out who their PC might know who could assist instead of trying to come up with a way to solve the mystery from scratch without much context.
- I let Thomas talk me into picking up the Arcane spell cards (and he grabbed the Druid spell pack). They definitely resulted in less of the players flipping through the books for spells, but I can't quite give them top marks because they don't have any notation on the cards to indicate which spells require Concentration, which is a Big Fucken' Deal for 5E spellcasters.
For the game I'm going to use 13th Age style backgrounds instead of the D&D 5E skill list. What this means is instead of having proficiency in a bunch of skills, you'll have a background associated with your race, your class, your faction and two more since you're playing a half-elf. Then when you want to make a skill check, to apply your proficiency modifier to the roll you just need to explain why your background would give you skill for the check.
For example, my 13th Age character is a Rogue with the background of "Former Lieutenant of a group of Forest Bandits" so when I'm tracking a wounded foe through the forest, instead of rolling a perception skill check like in D&D, my GM has me roll a Wisdom check and then I say that I'm adding my background as a Forest Bandit because it would have given me experience tracking in the woods. But later when we assemble a group of low-level thugs to help with a raid on an enemy camp, I could also use my "Former Lieutenant of a group of Forest Bandits" background to add to a Charisma check to inspire them.Hopefully that makes sense? So instead of choosing from a list, you tell me what you want your character to do and I tell you what ability score to roll and then you can tell me which of your backgrounds applies and why and I'll probably allow it because it's easier to apply a broad background than a skill and so if you can briefly say why it would make sense it probably does.
- A background covering Race/Upbringing, such as "Grew up in a Githzerai colony in Limbo as a Leather worker's child" (so it would cover topics like Limbo or the Githzerai or their enemies, as well as leather working and proficiency with leather working tools).
- A background covering Class, such as "Apprenticed as a wizard with a Hag in the Grey Waste" (not only covering "Arcana" but also Hags, the Grey Waste, its inhabitants, etc)
- A background covering the PC's Faction, as I wanted Factions to be emphasized, like "Fated namer and clerk in the Hall of Records"
- A background covering what the backgrounds in the PHB would cover, that is a general 'background' background, like "Appraised and fenced jewelry in the City of Brass"