I played 4e with a 3rd edition player the other day and she said, “I thought 4e combat was supposed to be simpler.”
It’s true that, while 4e did some great streamlining, it added a bunch of new complications. Here are my suggestions for simplifying Fifth Edition combat:
- Get rid of the Marked condition and similar defender abilities.
- Get rid of opportunity attacks – or, more precisely, make opportunity attacks a class feature belonging to fighters and similar defender types. (Taking a general rule and making it a class feature is a great way to hide complexity – the way 4e First Strike, a rogue feature, replaces 3e’s rule that everyone is flat-footed until their first combat turn.)
- Take away Shifts. All they are is a way to avoid opportunity attacks anyway.
Now people can move around with impunity in combat, except around close-combat-trained defenders/soldiers, who are sticky. And instead of adding rules, we’ve cut out a giant block of rules with a scalpel.
I’d use these as 4e house rules except that so many exceptions-based rules key off every rules element. Exceptions-based rule design is great, but it does mean that house-ruling is always slightly more involved than you’d like.