Too unfocused?

Again tight on the clock, so I’ve to stay a bit brief, even though I already get some work done with my longer posts, since I can use my traveling time to write them bit by bit. But being able to post once a day as long as I can is simply awesome.

I got my hands of the first part of Tyranny of Dragons (Hoard of the Dragon Queen) and I saw soon, that a lot of monsters were missing. Actually there is a pdf as free Supplement online, which you’ll use in combination with the hardcopy. So now I have a hardcopy, and a pdf, additionally to my other rulebooks. So the question remains: Isn’t this unfocused?

For running the adventure itself, it doesn’t bother me too much personally, since I keep track of most things with my notebook anyway and having monsters inside a pdf is practical, since you can just use the Search Tool to find them quickly. But it slightly annoys me, that I have some enemies in the hardcover and others in another document alltogether, so I’ve to have 2 sources of information ready. And if I were a diehard oldschool DM (or somewhere without electrical outlet), I would be pretty pissed about the fact, that I had to print the supplement and got too much paper behind my screen.

But there are upsides. First, it’s for free and meant less pages for the hardcover, so less dollars/euro too pay. Second: The monsters and magic items there aren’t only for Tyranny of Dragons, but for anything. There are even some entries, which weren’t in the Base DMG, so even if you don’t run these adventures, you can still use their supplements well.

The great down: You have to be up to date, if you want to get most of the free options available (but seriously: Just buy the books!), the great up the fact, that if WotC is continuing this, you practically have always the right enemies and items in one document, so you don’t have to search for them endlessly in your MM and DMG hardcover. Instead you have to think, if they were in the supplement or the actual adventure, so it’s pretty much the same. Damn it!

Let’s see if my players are able to prevent Tiamat on rising to the Forgotten Realms. … I’d better practice my curtsey.

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We don’t like humans! Be different and play variant!

Since my weekend is full, I’m just posting small posts for those days, even though I’m writing about a big theme behind the scenes, which analyses the strength and weakness of a certain class compared to another. And a second one, which I accidentally posted, since I missed the Draft button, so sorry for the trouble, my few followers… it’s still not time to conquer the world! We need more!!! 😉

For now, we make it simple and talk about a single little thing: How the normal human is endangered by the human variant!

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Most players will choose the variant, since +1 on all ability scores are less impressive than +1 to two abilities, an additional skill proficiency and a feat (which could get you another +1 bonus to an ability). And they’re mostly right to do so, since most classes needs only some ability points, it reminds more of the human in 3e and 4e, the fact that, since humans are considered as the standard, other races seems to be under the line more dumb/weak/ugly than normal, etc.

 

The normal human is the result of wanting to have the option of a simple game for those who wants and especially for starters. Most of the new 5e players are already used to at least one edition of the game, more complicity doesn’t matter.
But it doesn’t have to mean, that the normal human is less good. In D&D 5e more acceptable abilities have more weight, since you won’t be hopelessly outclassed by another character in these regards and anything could become a save and then you want to use every modifier you have.
Sadly the modifier is the most important thing about a score, so to get more bonuses, so we need as much odd values as possible, so we either roll or point-buy to make a normal human strong. Since rolling is too variant, let’s go point-buy, in this case I’d use this basic: 15, 13, 13, 12, 11, 9. The reason: Every class should be good at one ability and a 13 can be more useful than an 11 (if you upgrade the 9 to 10). So you have one good ability score, 2 secondary, two acceptable and one moderate.

As a fighter it could be: 16, 14, 14, 13, 10, 12 and that statline could be a 1st level Roy Greenhilt of Order of the Stick, a not all brute fighter, who knows a bit of tactics, but tends to do some rash decisions, when things becomes chaotic and sometimes not for the better.
Serious good artwork!

Will this be better as the variant? It’s about point of view, because it won’t make you better at your class at all. To be a better fighter (or wizard or anything else), specialization always beats generalization. But these aren’t the only things important, because maybe you want to have your fighter be the leader of the party or have a more believable hero/person, etc.
And of course you’re less depended on other characters outside combat and have above average chances in most saves, since proficiency often goes to saves which are you main and secondary abilities.

Would I play a normal human myself? Fighter: Definitely, 7 ability score improvements means that I can actually get more than enough feats during the game and that’d be a knight, so I’ll need some more ability scores in everything! Other classes? As long they benefit with multiple abilities, like the Ranger or the Monk.

The normal human is less customizable and the strength of feats is the real deal, so it shouldn’t be that strange that most gaming-groups will dismiss the normal human. But remember, that sometimes an unusual choice will bring unlikely happiness.

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How to make a character back-story

For now no pictures, since I’m on the clock, but won’t be back until late in my timezone, maybe I’ll edit some later.

Sometimes you have a DM, who actually wants a character back-story and often only one player in the gaming group will be delighted. You might think, that you only write some lines out of cheesy, classic stuff and your DM will be delighted, but then you notice that he reads it, frowned and just says: ‘It’s OK.’

Since I’m about to start my first 5e campaign and I’m one of the DMs which want a back-story, I’ll tell the world how to do it. Here a some simple advices toward that goal:

1.) Start with the back-story, not the personality

In most cases, human’s personality is derived from their background, even if it works the other way around, too, the personality can change while the back-story can’t. It’s easier to focus on the actual back-story instead of bringing an well-shaped personality in the game, which will warp a natural storyline into a unnatural one. A cynic character wasn’t necessarily cynic as a child, most likely he was even naive.

2.) Choose your background from your back-story, not otherwise

If possible, don’t let your back-story be bounded and especially the background-rule will do it greatly. In most cases, reading backgrounds will grand you inspiration, but maybe the journey on writing a back-story will take you to another background before you realize.

3.) Start with some cornerstones

Typically your back-story should have an answer to following questions, if you can answer them, you’re already half done, if any one of these is answered in 1-4 sentences:

  1. Where and how grew your character up?
  2. How did he learn to be his class?
  3. Was he happy with his life?
  4. When and how did he decided to be an adventurer/mercenary/whatever your campaign says?
  5. What is he looking for in that occupation?
  6. If he gets a lot of money, how will he spend it?
  7. When do he actually plan to retire?

In Question 4 you lay the most important aspect, which is why it got italic. This is a great turning point and you shouldn’t stop at 2 sentences, just throw in any twist you like and this is the part, were you can easily shape your final personality, just using all those things, you learned from the media.

These cornerstones will explain the how and ensure that the character is not finished, a character with no goals, bonds and other things that have great influence on his future, is pretty boring after all. Because he’s just lacking something which drives him.

Here I just write an example, how it could look for a half-elven wild magic sorcerer:

Theron was always an outsider, he and his human mother lived about at the village’s edge, his father was an adventurer, but Theron couldn’t care less about it, since he had his own problems. For the other kids he always seemed otherworldly from appearance, but every time he got emotional, he let cows fly and burned trees, his mother always told him, that it was his magical blood. He tried to suppress it, but after a village boy got hurt by a wave of thunder, the villagers went into a frenzy and burned his house down, banning him and his mother.
To survive long enough to reach the next form of civilization, Theron had to use his magic, so he and his mother wouldn’t be eaten by ankhegs or murdered by orcs. After a long journey, he and his mother got to Baldur’s Gate and to survive there, his mother had to get into debts, while working at a tavern for a living. Theron looked for work himself, but since his magic wasn’t still stable, he would do more harm than good. But he was scouted as an adventurer, an occupation where his talents are useful.
The one who scouted him is also an half-elf, a fighter called Benning. Benning was like a big brother for Theron and taught him everything from the start. But after Theron’s mother found out about Theron’s adventurer’s life (he lied to her, that he found work as a laborer), she made him an ultimatum to either stop that dangerous career or to be on his own for now. He decided for the latter, partly because his friendship with Benning, partly because of his further goals.
He dreams about getting enough treasures in one adventure to pay the debts back and ensure his mother a lifetime worth of money. And maybe for himself, too, but being an adventurer is the only time he felt accepted, so maybe he might spend some more time in that occupation than planned.

Theron has to have a lack of confidence, a strong feeling of responsibility and the feeling to be an outsider everywhere he goes. Benning would be a great friend, villain or even drive, depending how to use him. Maybe Benning could be a PC-party-member himself, then you’d actually had to adapt a thing or two, but this works out as well.

4.) Get friends and enemies

Most people have friends, so your character should at least have one person he can trust, even though it don’t need to be fully. Enemies, rivals or siblings (a bit of both) are great assesses for a DM.

In Theron’s case, he trusts his mother and Benning most and have a whole village against him. Maybe the word spread and some mage hunters will come after him or maybe the boy he hurt will get a career outside the village, even may want to learn the way of the magic himself, since he felt too overpowered. Or the debt collectors might collect his mother at some point, trying to squeeze more money from her now adventuring son. Or maybe Benning will turn out to be a real bad deal, since he needed Theron for some schemes. These little details may be made up by you or your DM, as long as (s)he understand his work.

5.) Consider family bonds

Often further details of the family are obscured in shadows, but they’re a vital part of the character, since they’re still family.

6.) Don’t be afraid to play an archetype

First of all: A lot of psychologists believed that the human brain is incapable of creating new stuff and can only adapt, combine and carry on memories, perceptions and other things it already knows. That’s one of the reasons, why many scientifically theories are only approaches, not actually the real deal. So you aren’t able to create a whole new story.

Being the sole survivor of a village, being chosen by prophecy, needing money for the sick sister, which can only be cured by greater magic, all of it are pretty common back-stories in the media and pretty popular. An archetype is easier to play, since everyone knows what to expect, you won’t need 3 game sessions to realize what a brawny, stupid barbarian would do, you just need the courage to actually do it. The same with back-stories, since they’re well known, everyone knows what to expect.

But don’t copy blindly stuff everyone already knows. Copying a mainstream media in your gaming-group will most often provokes a snarl or a snicker, just adapt some major parts or combine it with another, so it becomes a bit more original.

7.) Leave room, embrace the conflict

A DM will hate you, if your back-story is long, too detailed and with no room to wriggle, Don’t expect, that your flawless back-story won’t get flawed, you have to be prepared that your whole character story might be like the hangman’s rope around your neck and just enjoy it.

And don’t write too much, it’s pretty annoying to read ten pages, when you as an DM awaits only one.

8.) Ask your DM

Since a DM will know more or less what’s going to happen, you can simply ask him, if he have something useful. If he says: Actually I’ve an ongoing antagonist, ask him if your character might be bonded by that antagonist already. Then you can work around that and the story will be even greater.

After those pointers, maybe you’ll have less trouble in making a back-story. If you’re still not sure, maybe it helps when I’m telling you, what I as a DM am looking for:

  • Something in the past which follows a character
  • Something he actually has his hands ful
  • A goal he tries to achieve

And if this all don’t work: Play Theron, he already got plenty of those. 😉

The three parts of D&D

This topic came up while writing about the shifted balance in 5e.

The three parts of D&D were always exploration, social interaction and combat. Depending on the rule-set, some parts are more underlined than others, like 4e got so much into combat, that exploration got kinda short, something which was tried to fix later and social interactions was worse. The reasons were obvious: The fact that you had limited powers and that you run out of powers fast in the early game, which warped the perception of the player, that he should better not get any powers, which were useless in combat. In 3e on the other hands you got so many spell resources, that actual exploration became kinda boring at some point, because you could fly over most stuff (who needs to storm the gates of a fortress, if you can fly above the walls), Passwalls to avoid dangerous rooms, whatsoever (some would call it clever, I call it too cheap). But even in this edition, a lot of players used a lot of resources (like feats, skill points, etc) to actually make their characters better in combat.

Why is that so? There are some reasons, why combat seems more vital at the first glance.

  1. Combat is the time every player has her/his turn, at the other times there are always players which aren’t either interested, or thinking to be in the way, or decided not to participate
  2. In combat most players get the feeling, that a single mistake will end their characters life
  3. A bunch of dice rolling for different things and using a lot more of stats makes players believe, that a system is more about combat than anything else
  4. In every rulebook in most systems you’ll find a whole combat chapter
  5. Combats are the things, the DM is most likely best prepared for
  6. The fact, that even small encounters will use up a decent amount of time

In contrast, exploration is more like incrementalism, making one careful decision after another to finally get into combat and social interaction is pretty often about how to go to the dungeon and from there to the combat or happens inside a dungeon by a foe you’re about to kill.

Even if any rule is felt as too powerful it’s more likely to be about combat but anything else (like having +40 for Bluff while the standard DC is 22 couldn’t possibly a problem).

 

So the question stays, how can you, as a DM, makes the other parts more interesting, so players won’t be too focused on combat and might come with strange ideas like creating a real character background & personality, using words instead of swords for conflicts or just staying awake during the game outside combat.

Here are some hints, that might come in handy:

 

Combat:

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  • Use more simple combat encounters more often. If they want to sneak around the forest to kill the bandits, let them find the guard post instead the whole camp. If combat only needs 2-3 rounds to be solved, it will be less impressive and serves for more focus on other parts.
  • Let Exploration and Social Interaction change the final combat situation. I know, if you are a DM, you don’t want to give your players surprise rounds, when they’re storming an important place. But if they did only minor mistakes in exploration, then let the party be on the surprising side. Don’t use small mistakes to let the enemy muster full strength, if the PCs succeed there, they’ll see that the hard work paid off and the exploration got a tad more important. Or in Social Interaction, if the PCs got new enemies, they might consider an alliance with the PCs other enemies or just hire someone to make their life miserable. If you enter a dungeon and after some exploration sees that the entrance caved in intentionally, you might consider if some outsider might pull a trick.
  • Reward avoiding combat: Give the players full XP reward, if they actually avoided the combat in a way that makes sense. Items and other treasures are much harder to dismiss for most player’s, so you could give them a special item, which wouldn’t be findable, when slaying those people. Like because they now a rumor (information) or because they’re thankful enough to pay them back later.

 

Exploration:

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  • Don’t be a dick and put a death trap in every room. This will only create paranoia in the long run and most player’s want to solve puzzles every room. Every second room has to be sufficient.
  • Tell a story! Most dungeons have a theme, but not a story. How comes that they’re abandoned, who lived there, who are the undead which are going to eat the PCs’ brains? If you shouldn’t use too many puzzles in death traps, you could use them more often in your dungeons. Let the players find piece a piece and let it be a useful information, opening new possibilities (like talking to the Wraith when called by his name as a person, which would change the combat encounter to a social one) or helping to find clues for weaknesses or treasures. Diaries, ‘crime scenes’, gibberish words of monsters, all of that can make an exploration experience more intense. This works outside of dungeons, too, but needs more care, depending on the environment.
  • Take some time to narrate the place. In most commercial adventure’s and campaigns, there is a small description to every room. Those are the conclusion of some decades of gaming, that players wants to hear some information, but not too much. Copy it and let vital information flow, while only list some minor details.
  • Be creative or at least know sources of creativity. Unusual rooms are more interesting than a lot of well-known clichés. You don’t need to be creative on your own, just read or watch stuff your player’s don’t and adapt it to your means. ‘Why is there a room with crystal pillars which are only about one meter tall?’ Oh, the crystals are for bending the light for a laser-themed death trap… It’s the second room, guys!
  • Give players some minor achievements during the exploration outside loot. Seeing a mid-boss character of a previous encounter being caught in a situation and needing help from the PCs or getting a magic item which they may see, but not reach without solving a puzzle are minor to medium achievements, which doesn’t hurt the storyline. If the players feel some refreshing triumph after all the painstaking and grinding exploration, they’re more willing to endure some more.

 

Social Interaction:

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  • Use less ability checks, unless your PC(s) are especially socially awkward. Some PCs aren’t just able to make a proper ingame conversation, but don’t let those who are get away by a bonus on a skill. If someone says: “I’ll tell him, that he should go to the south gate, to see if someone opened it.” you should answer: “Then say it.” It’s most likely even shorter, like “Check the south gate! Maybe it’s open.”
  • If a roll is really needed, grant Advantage for good ingame role-play. Try to avoid Disadvantage if a weaker role-player tried to talk ingame but did some major blunders. Only if said player did something which is so dumb, that normally no roll could save it, use Disadvantage. Don’t discourage your players if they want to talk ingame, this improves the confidence and fun of Social Interaction.
  • Don’t use Social Interactions only as exposition devices. Like a famous admiral said: It’s a trap!!! If you look back into Social Interaction, how much was about explaining what’s going on, why are the PCs here, how they get to the next plot-point, etc. It’s kinda natural to use Social Interaction for this, but don’t forget that there’s more to RPG than quests, plots and evil wizards which are conquering the world. Let some normal or even known people come by, throwing useless side quests around (‘If you go to the city, I’m looking for a imp’s tooth, they shall ward evil and I could pay you some gold for it’), player’s tends to actually care more about the side quest, instead the main one. Use a tavern as a chance to let some rumors reach the PCs ears, to prepare them a bit beforehand or tell them information, they could never get another way, like the name of the bandit’s leader and how he was as a kid, while telling them how to flirt with the other or even the same gender. Unlike ‘The Last Airbender’, ‘The Dark Knight Saga’ or ‘Man of Steel’ tried to teach us, friends and strangers don’t only tell important stuff.
  • Let your villains have a threatening advantage. If people do bad stuff, PCs will crush their heads with their weapons and spells. If said evil (or their middlemen) people comes into town, having enough back-up to kill the adventurers if needed or targeting something the PCs are actually caring about (normally I’d say the citizens, but somehow only the magic stuff shop comes into mind) than it’s time to talk. Even villains often don’t want useless bloodshed, let the lawful evil ones first try to talk it out, while having all power in hand. The chaotic evil might want to humiliate them first and afterwards break his promise and kill the people/burn down the magic shop anyway. If your PCs can kill the villain too swiftly, let a middleman do the talking, because they’ll try to persuade you, that the henchmen won’t do any bad stuff without the boss.
  • Let Social Interaction be corner-points. No part but Social Interaction can be more defining, how a adventure can unfold. Combats are more like yes/no-options and exploration is too random to actually tie the plot with a clear conscience to it. Social Interactions on the other way are not random and handles the biggest conflicts possible with about unlimited solutions: Dealing with people. If your goal is to let the PCs arrive at DungeonX, they’ll first start the preparation to get there and might come to the idea, that they could take a caravan for part of the way, while getting some money at the same time. If they handle the conversation poorly, don’t just dismiss the attempt: Make it, that the caravan leader gets interest what the adventurers are really after and how it benefits the merchants, it may end in a horde of mercenaries waiting in ambush for the tired party, which just finished and left DungeonX. Or if the prince of a kingdom is needed to fulfill a prophecy, maybe the way they treated the prince may be the key if he’ll really fulfills this prophecy (be it good or bad). Players love the feeling that their decisions makes a difference and if you tie it to Social Interaction, they’ll begin to care more about it.

 

There are way more ways, but this might actually help you for the time being. The most important thing is: Let have Exploration and Social Interactions don’t just be necessaries, but important aspects which defines either combat or the whole campaign. Even though plot twists may arrive, when the party do combat, like creating their own archenemy by killing his family (be it human or goblin… or pet), seeking more and more power driven by revenge, which is normally a heroes origin story.

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New feature: Characon

Characon or Character Conversions are added at the page list. It’s more like a feature which I’ll use to relive my old characters and how I’d make them new in 5e. For my first Characon I chose the character which pretty much started my whole P&P career, since I never played for real before (more like 1-2 sessions with a forgettable character, which was dumped for various reasons and that various times).

 

Maybe some of you might like it, but I’ll try to make an actual post as well, let’s see how it fares.

Gold – Too much gained, too less to spend it on?

(This post is pre-DMG)

One of the concerns in the 5e is how to spend your gold. Since magic items aren’t for sale for now, dozens of adventurers are now sitting on enough gold to live their whole life in luxury, never needing to go out to adventure again. How could it happen, if one of the main reasons to become an adventurer is to get a lot of money in a short amount of time?!

LOOT!

Isn’t it much more natural to spend all the money in magic items, to get into even more dangerous dungeons to get even more valuable goods and sell them for even more money, so you can spend more lifetimes in luxury, even though you only have one… OK, I’ll stop being sarcastic, but everyone should consider, if the first thing a character would do with a lot of money would be buying magic weapons or other stuff.

Yes, after some adventuring your character may be lucky enough to call some treasures his/her own (especially after backstabbing his/her party members) and after life expenses, replenishment and one or two nights in a tavern (or more adult place) you (as the player) might wonder, what you can actually do with all this gold.

But after getting a hundred healing potions, enough material components to revive a whole village and other expenses, which are kinda useful or preventing, options will run dry. Even with downtime activities like Training, you won’t spend enough in time to balance out your incoming treasures.

So what to do?

Normally most characters would just retire, get a more safe job as a hobby (like pub owner for a tavern targeting adventurers) and start a new life. But that can’t work, since then the campaign would be over… or is that so? As a DM I wouldn’t generally make a campaign stop, just because the PCs got a new life, let the party reassemble again to fight a new evil, this time because they have a life to protect.

Other adventurers could seek nobility/titles or an own property, this will cost a lot of gold and these could be great adventure hooks, some adventures in the past would make the PCs to landowners, just to bring their land and people in danger.

A third way would be setting a goal, which will take humongous amount of money and other resources. Like building and support an orphanage in every town in your home country. Or to build a big organization which should be able to act over a whole continent. Or maybe you just want to support an organization you already belong to (like the Harpers), so they can expand their influence or at least break even.

The last way would be a very obvious choice: Have fun! Buy a house/villa, instead selling these art objects, shelve them or set them on display, hire some guardians and take the rest to taverns, partying every night, spend it on (wo)men, gamble and see how fast the bailiff will take your art objects and house away, while you still have debts to pay and need a fast way to get money again. Well, time to use the rest of your adventure gear, hoping that you could hide your vital items in time.

And if your character is just an adventure-junkie, seeking the excitement? He won’t need magic items, since they make dungeons less exciting (obviously!) and spend their money for information about the next adventure and the new episode may begin after spending a bit of time and a lot of money for it.
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But even those who are adamant about buying those magic swords, armors and other stuff: Don’t worry, this state of not being able to spend money on items won’t be permanent. The Dungeon Master Guide will come out and there will be advanced rules for magic items, those who played the playtest already know some of them. There were rules to sell items, so even if in the DMG won’t be any to buy them, you can still make your own basing on selling.

And I think the Eberron Campaign Setting will be the latest end, since Eberron is a world, where a lot of magic items exists and in the big cities magic is about everywhere you look.
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Personally, I like the fact, that magic items in normal campaigns are rare again. Somehow it just felt wrong to have a great among of those and a real market system, which considers those. Of course a magic sword could be on sell, but would a non-expert on magic items even know its value? Or just tag a price which seems higher than reasonable and smooth-talk adventurers into buying this Longsword +1 for 10.000gp, selling it for the most powerful weapon in existence?

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So for players: There are more ways to spend money but to gain more power. And DMs, just let your players see ways to spend their money on. Some players won’t be as happy with a character, who gets an actual life and want just the power of personal gear, instead military might, politic connections and other ways to get real power. Those player’s characters are sad people, which are small-minded, short-sighted and without a real drive.

But for now, you get a lot of money and only a few magic items, which means:
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Like good old times.

Shifted Balance

OK, here comes my post about the shifted balance in 5e. To understand those things, it’d be better if you played 3e, 4e or both, because about everything in this post will either take the one or the other edition into account.

If you compare your bonuses between those editions, 5e will see much less powerful. While you could almost everytime start with an ability of 18 (or 4e point-by/houseruled 20) and reached 28 without real trouble, the ability cap now is at 20 (except 20th level barbarian, which gets his ability and cap increased for strength and constitution) and your start more like 16-17.

While your start attack bonus from class starts higher than before (+2 instead +1/+0), you don’t get easy access to hit even more accurately or damage boost, so for most cases you’re stuck with ability&proficiency for hit and ability for damage at the start, unless you’re a fighter or a variant human. Afterwards it won’t get that much better for most, means that you won’t see a bonus of +14 or higher (without magical weapon or spell buff) at 7th level, more like +8.

Since the system is actually made to handle those lower bonuses, there is no reason to worry about game-balance. But since the bonuses are harder to get, magic items becomes much more powerful, since it’ll make a bigger difference, if you have a +1 weapon, if your final attack score without would be +11.

But responding to lower attack rolls, the AC of most monsters and even player characters got lower, too. But not only to response them, but even further, so while in 3e you tried to get not hit (which was easy, too) and 4e where you’ll have at least 1 almost unhittable defense if you’re decently careful, you’ll surely lose hit points in encounters and even worse: Since it’s hard to raise your AC, too, you might get overwhelmed by low-level monsters.

Logically speaking you shouldn’t be able to say, that you don’t have to worry about 100 normal goblins, since only 5 will hit you per round (in 4e sadly critically) as long as you have some levels. In 5e they’ll hit you on 18 if you have the unlikely AC 22, which is possible for some classes, so 15 will hit you per round, 5 of them critically.

Of course even in 3e or 4e you shouldn’t regard hit points, but even normal AC attacks got more serious, while most spells have a lesser damage output than in previous editions. Especially since your caster level doesn’t effect spells, only attack-cantrips gets stronger by having a higher character level.

In 5e you get less spells than in 3e, while most of them are initially stronger, but won’t be affected by the fact, that you got more levels, you need to cast them at a higher level or otherwise (like feats or class traits). And there are less ways to regain them at the moment, so every spell is more valuable, while the new system of preparing spells make place to prepare more spells that only might come in handy.

Further: Now any ability might make you a saving throw, even though the mains remain DEX, CON and WIS, any dumping stat could you make regret your decision. Since basically your only bonus will be proficiency, you will never really outgrow an enemy spellcaster, even a DC of 10 can be risky, if it falls to a non-proficient save. So you better don’t attack a temple of an evil god(dess) without serious preparation.

But even though 5e favors the weaker masses, you get some way to fight the masses better, like the base rule, that you can use your action between your move or can split up multiple attacks and moving freely.

Since bonuses are sparse, Advantages and Disadvantages are your best friends. Spells, traits and other ways to ensure Advantage for yourself or your party member, while imposing Disadvantage to your enemy will be more crucial and important during the game.

Another way are buffs to magic items or spells. Since most powerful buff-spells are concentration spells, the amount of possible buffs for one character will be often 1 per spellcaster.

Not the best weapon, but still magical!

 

So, you might ask, where is that shifted balance now? Everywhere. Instead of nice additions or ways to make one or two scores impossibly high, magic items are much more than just a bonus on a sheet of paper: You’ll feel their handiness. Instead of spell slinging damage, buffs, etc. every spell should be well thought, especially the concentrating ones and those you cast will have a great weight at that moment. Every trait which grants flat bonuses will be more worth, while there are less ways to actually get them. Instead of hording a lot of AC and complaining the fact, that your DM will hit you another way, you should be prepared to get hit regularly. And any dump will hit harder, since there are less ways to ignore them.

 

The balance shifted outside combat, too. The same procedure for skills, the fact that you can either choose an ability score improvement, which will come in handy at all situations or a feat, which will cover specific features (mainly combat). The fact that there is the Inspiration-Rule, which rewards good role-playing and some soft-bonuses from the background, which get much more work and love than in previous editions.

 

If I had to express the shifted balance in one sentences it’d be: Power-gamers, rules-lawyers and naggers be beware: Your pastime will be a lot harder!