I was a player recently in a D&D 5th edition game. We started the Mines of Phandelver module, all level 1. It was very nice : combats were fast, action options were meaningful and as a wizard, the feeling of danger was high enough that I really needed to use terrain features (i.e cover!) to survive. Then, I played a higher-level level character (around level 10) in another 5th edition game. It was not awful, but it was way less interesting. We spent maybe 45 minutes fighting a couple of easy monsters that were not even close to being a threat (if I remember correctly, no PC lost any HP) but were long to kill (after one of them went down, the GM narratively waived the remainder of the combat by saying that we were going to kill them anyway).
Some would say that this is the problem in any D&D high level game : as you level up, players and GMs have more options (so need more time to choose what to do or to look up the rules to do it correctly), monsters and PC have more HP, etc. I know someone that conclude a campain when PC level reaches the low 10s because the time combat takes is “too damned high!” Can’t we give everyone at the table more options without making combats move along like a slug?
I think so : by removing HP scaling (like Dungeon World do), or at least by curtailing it (like E6 did with D&D 3.5.) Doing that also means doing the same for damage, unless you want PC one-shotting monsters (and vice-versa). Mechanics-wise, D&D 5th edition probably cannot go the E6 way (since feats are much more rare and powerful), but I think that with little modifications, a PC could continue to gain access to higher level powers normally (the biggest issue, I think, is going to be spell-heavy classes). I’ll probably dig a bit deeper in a future post.