When I previously taught D&D 5e to my group, I had a few players who were confused about specific terms.

Which terms in the rules tend to confuse people because they get it mixed up with something from a previous edition? What seemingly-similar terms will trip up players with expectations based on other editions?

I'm not asking about concepts, but game terms*. The situation is as follows, I am explaining/teaching the rules to people who played previous versions of D&D (2nd, 3rd or 4th) but whom have not read the rules at all. It's important when going over the rules, to be able to notice and catch which terms might cause confusion if not further explained.

5th edition uses something like Vancian magic but it isn't, and it will be using 'challenge rating' to mean something different than in 3rd edition. However since they are not used in the basic rules, and Vancian magic is not a term, they would not fit answers to my question.

However, something like Saving throws, Critical hits, or condition/state of Stable (if it was different), would be good examples.

Experience based answers are preferred.

*Game terms are key words or phrases that appear in bold in the manual. They are words which have meaning to the rules themselves, and not only the normal meaning of the word in english.

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    \$\begingroup\$ VTC - this is way to broad. Looking at the only answer so far, this can and is being interpreted as asking for a list of mechanical changes relating to the use of different terms. If that's the case you may as well ask for a list of all the changes between the new edition and any older editions \$\endgroup\$
    – Wibbs
    Jul 4 '14 at 15:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Those people need to read the rules, not this question. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 7 '14 at 9:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I'm not aware of any quite like this, but my main issue with this one is it's not clear enough with how it defines 'new', and what that means for how much stuff it includes, and the fact I'm not clear on what it doesn't mean. This is both unclear / too broad. If you want to take it to meta, I suggest you do, since you're aware of the examples and can respond in context. (I'm sleeping soon and would rather not have to write an entire response just now anyway.) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 7 '14 at 12:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, this question is way too vague. No term ever means exactly what it does in other editions even if it's used for the same general purpose, so saying this "solves the problem of stuff I could just assume vs stuff I need to actually read" is specious. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jul 9 '14 at 12:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMNoob I suspect what you're looking for is something like "what seemingly-similar terms will trip up players with expectations based on other editions." That's not exactly clear in the question. Right now it's getting all mixed up with non-essential ideas of "differences" and "changes", when that's not actually the problem you're trying to solve, right? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 10 '14 at 6:39

There are a few key terms which have changed their meaning from all previous editions.

Saving Throws: (Or Saves) These correspond to one of your 6 ability scores, rather than special categories.

Proficiency: You may use any item or weapon without proficiency. However, there will be drawbacks or a lack of bonus. When you do have proficiency in an item or skill or saving throw, you add your proficiency bonus to the related die roll which determines success or failure. Proficiency scales by level from +2 - +6.

The following are a collection of related terms whose combined usage is different from all previous editions:

Lightly Obscured: Areas can be lightly obscured based on available lighting, or coverage. Any attempt to use Wisdom(perception) into an lightly obscured area has disadvantage.

Heavily Obscured: Areas which are heavily obscured are treated as if the person looking into the area is blinded.

Blinded: From the Appendix of the Basic D&D rules:

• A blinded creature can’t see and automatically fails any ability check that requires sight.

• Attack rolls against the creature have advantage, and the creature’s attack rolls have disadvantage.

Similarly, all of the conditions found in the appendix of the Basic Rules have meanings which are mechanically very different from all previous editions of D&D because of the (dis)advantage mechanic.

Material Component: In spell casting, material components can be replaced by a component pouch (like in other editions) but also by a spellcasting focus. (such as a wand, orb, or staff)

Another grouping of terms that all need to be closely read, due to the changes with advantage and bounded accuracy are Combat actions. Namely, Dodge, and Hide

Critical hits: Unlike in previous versions of the game, a critical hit allows the player to roll all damage dice twice and then add the modifier. So a 1d8+4 attack from a fighter becomes 2d8+4. For a rogue with 2 sneak attack dice, 1d8+3+2d6 becomes 2d8+3+4d6

Opportunity Attacks: Unlike in previous versions of the game, opportunity attacks have been simplified. They only apply when a creature you can see moves out of your reach. And you must have your Reaction available to do so.

Grappling: Grappling was removed in 4e, and 5e differs from previous versions greatly. It also has been simplified. You use the attack action to make a contested Strength(Athletics) check vs the opponents Strength(Athletics) or Dexterity(Acrobatics) check. Success grants the grappled condition, which restricts movement to 0.


Short answer:

5e is a new edition, a new system. Players shouldn't assume the same terms mean the same thing as any previous editions, and they should read the rules carefully.

Long answer:

Please understand that I think the question is too broad, and I'll try to show why in this answer.

First, many same terms have meant many different things in 2/3/4e. Example: AC and saving throws. So you can always find some differences with some editions.

  • High level fighting characters get multiple attacks, like 2e/3e, but don't need to spend the full turn, unlike 3e.

Second, anyone who assume anything from previous editions, have got a lot more then terms to worry about.

For example, just with actions:

  • Reaction is not 4e interrupt action, as you can take it on your turn.
  • Grapple, Disengage (Retreat), Dodge etc. are, again, different from previous editions.
  • Even the Attack action is arguably different from previous editions.

So if you assume anything, you chance of getting it right is pretty slim.

The reverse is the same; I can only think of very few things where previous editions everything applies.

  • Nine alignments. (don't take it for granted; in Basic D&D 5e you have 10 (unaligned is the default option for animals). And as aramis poited out I forgot 4e had 5!)
  • Armours go from padded to (full) plate.
  • Damage reduces your hp. Even the hp where you drop varies by version.
  • Fighters fight, clerics heal, wizards do arcane things, and rogues walk around.
  • Elves live long, dwarves are tough, halfings are small, and humans are good at every class.
  • Players are supposed to do one thing per round, but some players can do a lot in one round.

Hope you get the idea. It is just too broad to be answered accurately.

  • \$\begingroup\$ 4E only had 5 alignments, and Original, BX, BECMI, and Cyclopedia are 3 alignments. So alignment doesn't cross editions. \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Jul 4 '14 at 19:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @aramis: Good catch. GMNoob asked for compare with 2/3/4e, but I did forget that 4e had only 5 alignments, since we never use it in game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sheepy
    Jul 5 '14 at 0:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have greatly modified the question. This answer is no longer relevant. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Jul 6 '14 at 5:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is that a fact correction or actually relevant to the difference? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 7 '14 at 5:49

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