One of the problems people sometimes have with a new edition of a game is the tendency to just “skim” the rules and making assumptions based on how the previous editions did things. This can negatively impact your game in two ways. First, you may miss an important rule that is critical to the game working as designed. Second, you may become unsatisfied with a character because of choices you’ve made based on false assumptions about the game. In the newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons there are a few important rules and subtle nuances that can impact the game in a number of significant ways.
No More “Dump Stats”
In previous editions almost every character had at least one stat they could afford to have a terrible score in. Rolling with that stat either never came up for the character or in some editions your level bonus would still apply even if it did come up. Two elements in 5th Edition render the idea of a “dump stat” obsolete. First off there are six different saving throws, one per ability. So yeah, your fighter may be forced to occasionally make a Charisma save. And secondly, the only modifiers you add to virtually any roll is your ability score and proficiency bonus. That may not seem like a big deal at lower levels but it also means your 20th level fighter with the 8 Charisma has a net -1 on all Charisma saves, and the things you encounter at 20th level have some serious save DC’s!
Feats are Cool, but Ability Scores…
The optional rule for allowing players to select a feat in place of an increase to ability scores may at first seem like a no-brainer because feats in 5th edition are bad-ass, being the equivalent of two or three related feats in 3rd or 4th edition. However as mentioned above, bonuses are few and far between in this edition. So if you don’t want your 15th level wizard to be forced to continually make Strength saving throws at -1 you might want to bump strength up eventually. Although feats are really cool…
One Bonus Action
Many classes have a number of features that can give them a bonus action. However, regardless of the number of bonus actions your character has you may still only take one on your turn. This is one of those rules that keeps turns in 5th Edition moving quickly, but it can be easy for a player to miss.
Advantage / Disadvantage
Another thing that keeps turns and rounds moving quickly is that Advantage doesn’t stack. Regardless of the number of things that might be currently granting you advantage you only gain the benefit once. For players that are used to fishing around for every possible +1 this is a bit of a change but it does wonders for speeding up combat. Related to that, Advantage and Disadvantage always cancel each other out regardless of the number of things granting either. Advantage from four sources, Disadvantage from one; cancelled. Some players may have a problem with this but the silver lining is that even if you have all sorts of Disadvantage all you need to do is find some sort of Advantage to cancel it out. Have an ally help you or perhaps spend Inspiration and your good to go.
One Reaction in a Round
Gone are the days of the tooled-up character making opportunity attack after opportunity attack. From the start of your turn to the start of you turn in the next round you may only take one reaction, and opportunity attacks are reactions. Even if you have class features that grant several kinds of reactions you still only get one per round. This is another one of those rules that keeps combat flowing at a brisk pace.
These are just a few things that our gaming group has noticed over the past few weeks of playing. Feel free to comment with more!