Monday, September 15, 2014

5E and Pathfinder Back to Back

I played D&D 5E for the first time on Saturday, then had another session of an ongoing Pathfinder game (Kingmaker) on Sunday, and I thought I'd share some notes from the combined experience.

Like any first run with a new set of rules, there was some clunkiness at first. We had a DM and three of us playing so we had time to focus in on each character. I ran a wizard (necromancer), and there was also a monk (elemental) and a fighter (eldritch knight). We started at 3rd level. This was a homebrew adventure, not a published one, so we spent time getting acquainted and figuring out how we wanted to proceed as we picked up new information about the area we were in. We ended up sneaking in to a ruined city that was mostly populated by goblins and undead. There was plenty left to explore so hopefully we get to go back to it at some point and play some more. Afterwards we talked about the game and the high points were:
  • Making a character is pretty easy and does not really feel like it needs a generator tool like HeroLab. 
  • Backgrounds added more in the flavor department than I expected, given their limited mechanical impact
  • Characters feel a lot less detailed/special mechanically than in Pathfinder and 4E. Sure, an Eldritch Knight feels at least a little different than a Champion, but I suspect two Eldritch Knights in the same party would play very much the same. Pathfinder and 4E have enough mechanical options that this is far less of a problem. Of course they also have so many classes that it's less likely to happen in the first place. I suspect time and expansion books will mitigate this for 5th as well but right now it feels smaller.
  • There is a lot less to keep track of as there are not a bunch of conditions and modifiers flying around. The universe is pretty much the proficiency bonus, a stat bonus, and advantage/disadvantage and that's the biggest part of nearly any roll.
  • It certainly felt like D&D, probably 2E D&D the most. 
Biggest insight: I suspect the battle-cry for 5th edition games will be "don't I get advantage on that?"

Character-wise Pathfinder also still feels like D&D : ) Sure, the modifiers are composed of more elements but once they're on your sheet it's not that different from 5E - d20 + your normal mods (found on your sheet) and possible situational mods like cover and concealment. Interestingly enough we just hit 3rd level in the PF game too so this was a pretty direct comparison. The PF characters just felt like they could do more when it came to game mechanics. Not in power level, but in being able to do something that would affect a situation in some mechanical way, not just handwaving or adding color. It's tricky to pin down but that's how it felt.

The other big note on 5E was from the DM who has run/played a lot of 3E/4E, mainly 4E for the last 5 years or so, and he said "The monsters are boring" - and I can't help but agree. I've been running Pathfinder and 4E the last few years and the 5E monster statblocks seem so ... mundane. Compare the stats for the manticore from all 3 games:

So the 5E manticore can fly but other than that it really just has melee and ranged attacks.

Pathfinder's manticore has flyby attack which is a normal part of the rules in 5E but not in PF. It also has the ability to track fairly well which could be interesting.

The 4E manticore has similar ranged and melee options but has a built-in shift on each of its attacks increasing its mobility beyond normal movement and it also has a reactive attack where it can throw spikes when hit. That action-reaction option does make fighting one a little more dangerous.

All of them fulfill a similar role in their editions of flying spike-flinger, no radical differences there.

  • The 4E version does "more" as written and there are options to add templates and similar changes within those rules. 
  • The Pathfinder version has a universe of options from advancement to templates to class levels to gear. 
  • The 5E version is pretty plain but I'm hoping that changes with the release of the Monster Manual and the DMG and possibly down the road even more options will come to light.  

It holds true with goblins, too:

5E is pretty simple, but they do get the nifty extra move which was pretty frustrating to our fighter over the weekend.

4E actually had six different types of goblins in the first Monster Manual so there are a lot of options when populating a goblin lair. I do see some carryover of theme with the better-than-average mobility of these things. The minion is probably the closest to the new version. The other 4E versions though add some sneak-attack type options and even more interesting movement abilities. I'd really like to see some options to liven up the monsters of 5th edition in a similar way.

In the end I'd call our first run "successful" but I don't know that it's going to bump our ongoing fantasy games. In the long run it has potential but right now it's just not quite there.


WQRobb said...

I always enjoyed the different options available to 4E monsters, particularly given the focus on combat. I think that if you want diversity from 5E, it'll have to come from colorful illustrations and narrative rather than gameplay.

Barking Alien said...

I liked 5E the one time I ran it, largely because of the lack of option glut that I feel the other editions, and certainly Pathfinder, suffer from.

Also, 5E seems like you could make the character you want and it will be fun to play. In Pathfinder, I always feel like I'm playing an MMO raid. If I didn't get my 'build right' I'm going to be less effective at everything I do.

Since I run and play for the story and not how many heads I busted, I feel like 5E would be my go to game should I ever need to go to D&D.

Hahaha! Imagine that.


Blacksteel said...

Robb - I can use narrative and descriptions regardless of the mechanics. I'd like to have both : )

BA - I think 5E vs. Pathfinder is akin to Last Unicorn Trek compared to FASA Trek. The stories you tell about the game will end up largely the same regardless but one has more crunch and one has more narrative support. I can use either one - as long as we get to play.