D&D 5E Play Ananlysis

One of the things I like about 5th Edition D&D is how well the rules scale both in power level and in scope of play. Power level is easy to talk about. All the classes are well balanced, none of them out shine any other particularly and this is true at virtually all levels. Scope on the other hand is is a bit more complex to talk about. When we talk about scope, I am talking about complexity of and depth of play.

Basic: At its most basic level, 5th edition is a fairly simple game, the only allowed rules are those presented in the free downloadable basic PDF. Only 4 classes and 4 races are allowed along with a very narrow field of additional background crunch. Characters are easy to roll up and virtually all of depth is provided by the players.

Intermediary: This type of game uses only the core three hardbound books. There are 9 races and 12 classes available, along with several customization options for each class. Character generation is more difficult and the different niches can be filled in interesting ways by a couple of different classes.

High: This game includes, in addition to the core books, the Players Companion, the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Basically everything published by Wizards of the Coast as a D&D supplement is fair game, including Unearthed Arcana articles. The options available to players and DM’s is mind boggling. The first two levels are static and never change, at this level, something new is available every couple of months. The only things not allowed are rules produced by 3rd parties.

Very High: This is where things go nuclear. This type of game can include virtually anything available from the DM’s Guild. All manner of classes and races are available and I doubt any group could or would even want to allow all of it, but it is in the realm of possibility. Niches are almost non existent at this level as virtually any class can fill any niche with just a little customization. DM’s have to be very careful at this level as to not allow anything unbalancing or disruptive to play. Of course at this level, it probably does not matter if something is unbalancing or disruptive, because everyone will have access to things that are unbalancing or disruptive. The problem with this level of play is, it is difficult to move characters from one campaign to another.

My game falls pretty squarely in the Intermediary level, although we do poke into High here and there. I can also see the utility in running a Basic game, in fact I think at least one of my players, Bruce, sticks to the basic form of the game, for all I know, he may not even own a Players Handbook. I think most published adventure modules are designed for the Basic level of play, but the best ones scale to Very High. At the Basic level all the work to make an interesting character is on the player, a fighter is pretty much a fighter when you look at him on paper. It is the other things that define the character; Who he is, is defined by what he did, where he came from, how he got here and why it all matters to him.

Did I say D&D 5E scales well? What I meant is, it scales well upwards. A character made for a campaign at the Basic or Intermediary level can easily play in the other two categories, the reverse is not true, especially at the Very High level. Some of the variant Ranger Classes I have seen are ridiculous in their power, even at the lowest levels and don’t get me started on the various near godlike spell casters that abound. So if anyone wants to play a Werelion Witch Hunter in your game, be very wary, even if he is only 1st level.

Comments are closed.