[RPG] Is 5th Edition D&D combat faster than in 3.5 at low levels


I am trying to get a group together, and we cannot agree on an edition of D&D. An argument being made by the pro-5e side is that 5th edition D&D goes faster than in revised 3rd edition, all other things being equal. I know that 3.5 can get crazy in the high levels, but since the game will be low level (starting at 3rd, running until maybe 6th) I don't expect God wizard mega-turns, 20-roll full attacks, and 'zilla buff routines.

What mechanical differences from D&D 3.5e result in 5e having faster combat at level 6 and below, if any? If there are only small differences at those levels, at what level range does the difference become noticeable?

Please disregard things like players' level of experience with each game, using grids, etc, since those have nothing to do with the system. Also I don't expect anyone to roll up with d2 crusader, Jacob's Ladder, or any other theoretical optimization builds, so don't worry about balance.

Best Answer

5th Edition

Let's look at the main things that "take time" during a turn.

  1. Math!
  2. Deciding which thing to do.
  3. Doing the thing you decided to do.
  4. Looking up the rules for the thing you're doing (spells, maybe?).

Now, let's compare each point.


In 3.X, The numbers being thrown around are higher. You can get attack bonus nearly to twenty by 6th level, especially because magical gear is considered a part of your leveling scale and circumstance bonuses. 5e uses a bounded accuracy; the maximum bonus you can realistically get by 6th level is 7 or 8. And almost all of the circumstantial bonuses that would apply in 3.X are simply advantage/disadvantage in 5e. Big numbers and circumstance bonuses are harder to add together than static smaller numbers (added to one die, or adv/disadv).


3.X has several types of actions and turn components and ways to convert each one into different things: Standard Action, Move Action, Free Action, Immediate Action (each of which has a large number of equivalencies). 5e has movement (which has mostly no conversion) and an Action; a bonus action is sometimes possible under certain circumstances.


(of decision)

I feel that on paper, 3.x ties with 5e in this category. But in my experience, 3.x has a lot of "oh, but I get this extra bonus!" or "hey, did you add the plus one from the bard song?!" or whatever, slightly drawing out each turn.


Again, I feel like on paper, these are the same. Personally, I didn't like the layout of the 3.x books and it always took me forever to find anything. But your mileage may vary. I will say that with 5e having fewer options like exotic weapons, racial bonuses, extraneous feats, etc, there are fewer reasons to go to the book, which could be inferred that the overall time checking the book goes down, compared to 3.X

With all that said, it seems that 5th edition is the clear winner in terms of "In which edition can a player complete a combat turn faster?".