D&D 5E Active Perception Check: 5e and Me

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Yeah. They’re part of being a DM. That’s why they come up all the time. I can’t stress enough… they aren’t important. The outcome doesn’t fundamentally matter in almost every case.
Anxiety does not work that way. If logic could solve the problem, it would not be a problem in the first place. (One of the wisest things any of my co-players have ever said over the years.)

Slapped down by who? Your players. Tell them it’s the best you can do and get over it.
Other forum users.

It’s not personal
Yes, it is. You literally spoke, to me, about my beliefs being irrelevant. That is, by definition, personal.

I’m sorry but you have unreasonable expectations. You’ve set a bar that’s higher than anyone else is able to match and then you are demanding that this company meets it.
Not at all. Several other games meet it handily.

It is not possible to have a complex system of interlocking rules and processes without there being conflicts.
Yes, it is. Well, sort of. Your use of the word "complex" covers too many things.

The problem is, you are speaking of a complex system of singular, finite rules which are meant to cover the nigh-infinite possibility space. And yes, if we narrowly restrict ourselves to exclusively singular, finite rules, we're stuck. We'll always eventually end up with something at least as unwieldy as 3e was.

But the false dichotomy hidden in the use of the word "complex" here is that "singular, finite rule" is not the only type of rule that one can make. My term for one of the alternatives (there may be others) is "extensible framework rules." These are rules that take advantage of abstraction to catch a whole category of situations, rather than needing to address singular, specific cases individually. The price paid for this--as there must always be a price paid for any given design--is that abstraction means you can no longer have a perfect 1:1 correspondence of rules to situations. An extensible framework rule treats multiple different situations the same. Hence, a mixed ruleset--one containing a reasonable, practical set of singular-finite rules coupled with a set of extensible-framework rules--can actually achieve both goals. It can cover a trans-finite set of possible actions with consistent and effective results, while still furnishing useful, well-made singular and finite rules for all but relatively unlikely stuff.

Video games that include truly open-ended content often exploit things like this. It really isn't that hard to port the same concepts (obviously implemented quite differently) into the TTRPG space.

None of the things I’ve put in bold that you say are driving you up the wall are actually worth getting worked up about.
They are to me, and they are to several people I've actually played with. Far from the usual attitude on forums these days--where "balance" is treated as a four-letter word, unless some new book has just come out and needs to be decried for being overpowered--my experience is that a lot of people actually do care about playing a relatively well-balanced game. Some of that comes from the video game space, unbalanced video games are usually not very fun and tend to have major problems as a result. But some of it also just comes from players wanting to have a reasonable, stimulating challenge without fears of trivializing things or, conversely, getting completely curbstomped for light and transient causes. For DMs, as with the OP, it comes from wanting to have a game that just...works, and doesn't need constant minding to make sure it doesn't shake itself apart. Tools that actually do the job they're designed to do, reasonably consistently, across time and advancement. Advice that is actually practical, functional, constructive, rather than wishy-washy nothing like "Some DMs do <X>, and some DMs don't do <X>, you'll have to decide what is best for you." (I went looking once to see how many times I saw phrasing like that in the 5e DMG. It's in the dozens at least, I lost count.)
 

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TheSword

Legend
Yes, it is. You literally spoke, to me, about my beliefs being irrelevant. That is, by definition, personal.
It’s not personal when it’s a comment about people in general. Your belief isn’t irrelevant. It is however the same as every other DM. Because all of us think these things matter more the players do.
Not at all. Several other games meet it handily.
Not games at the complexity level of modern D&D and it’s clones
Yes, it is. Well, sort of. Your use of the word "complex" covers too many things.

The problem is, you are speaking of a complex system of singular, finite rules which are meant to cover the nigh-infinite possibility space. And yes, if we narrowly restrict ourselves to exclusively singular, finite rules, we're stuck. We'll always eventually end up with something at least as unwieldy as 3e was.

But the false dichotomy hidden in the use of the word "complex" here is that "singular, finite rule" is not the only type of rule that one can make. My term for one of the alternatives (there may be others) is "extensible framework rules." These are rules that take advantage of abstraction to catch a whole category of situations, rather than needing to address singular, specific cases individually. The price paid for this--as there must always be a price paid for any given design--is that abstraction means you can no longer have a perfect 1:1 correspondence of rules to situations. An extensible framework rule treats multiple different situations the same. Hence, a mixed ruleset--one containing a reasonable, practical set of singular-finite rules coupled with a set of extensible-framework rules--can actually achieve both goals. It can cover a trans-finite set of possible actions with consistent and effective results, while still furnishing useful, well-made singular and finite rules for all but relatively unlikely stuff.

Video games that include truly open-ended content often exploit things like this. It really isn't that hard to port the same concepts (obviously implemented quite differently) into the TTRPG space.
As I said simplification. Deeply unsatisfying to many people. If we wanted our outcomes to be based on a D6 then we’d play other games. Resolving the problems in complex systems by removing all the nuance is not a miracle winning formula.

Despite all that, D&D 5e clearly is not too arcane or fundamentally broken because millions of new players are getting into it every year. It’s clearly far more accessible and playable that you are giving it credit for.
They are to me, and they are to several people I've actually played with. Far from the usual attitude on forums these days--where "balance" is treated as a four-letter word, unless some new book has just come out and needs to be decried for being overpowered--my experience is that a lot of people actually do care about playing a relatively well-balanced game. Some of that comes from the video game space, unbalanced video games are usually not very fun and tend to have major problems as a result. But some of it also just comes from players wanting to have a reasonable, stimulating challenge without fears of trivializing things or, conversely, getting completely curbstomped for light and transient causes. For DMs, as with the OP, it comes from wanting to have a game that just...works, and doesn't need constant minding to make sure it doesn't shake itself apart. Tools that actually do the job they're designed to do, reasonably consistently, across time and advancement. Advice that is actually practical, functional, constructive, rather than wishy-washy nothing like "Some DMs do <X>, and some DMs don't do <X>, you'll have to decide what is best for you." (I went looking once to see how many times I saw phrasing like that in the 5e DMG. It's in the dozens at least, I lost count.)
Yes it’s because DMs are different and players are different and what difficult to your group may not be difficult to my group. The problem is that folks start saying X product is bad because it’s too easy. When in truth you just mean you want a tougher game because it’s fits your style.

My response to that is - it’s your issue - own the issue and come up with solutions for it. Don’t attack the product for not being to your particular taste.

The game does ‘just work’ if you’re willing to be flexible about your expectations. If you expect it to work the way you personally think it should with all the baggage you carry from your own previous experiences and irrespective of what everyone else thinks… well then you’re gonna have problems.

To be clear. I don’t think 5e is perfect. I do think making it perfect is impossible because perfection for me means something different to perfection for you. How the Venn diagram falls now is pretty damn good though and looking better with 5.5
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
@Retreater Sorry for your loss.

As for the games, my advice is to stop and take a break. Social Contract be damned, no one reasonable expects you to soldier on if the experience is causing mental distress.
Play boardgames for a while and let someone else step up to run a game.
If you go back to running game, run the system you enjoy, explain to people that you find no joy in 5e, and this is what you are willing to run.
I have given all the advice I am going to give on other threads you stared on related topics regarding running 5e. If you do not enjoy running it, despite the fact that many have no issues or manageable issues running it out of the box. Don't worry about it, that happens, it does not make your issues go away or that you are a bad person for having them.
Just because other people run 5e and published adventures fine, does not invalidate your experience nor does it oblige you to run that game or those adventures if you get no joy out of it.
Run what gives you joy but take a break first.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
It’s not personal when it’s a comment about people in general. Your belief isn’t irrelevant. It is however the same as every other DM. Because all of us think these things matter more the players do.
You literally said:
I guarantee you nobody really cares about the little things as much as you do,
You were not talking about other people. You were talking about me.

Not games at the complexity level of modern D&D and it’s clones
Um. That's literally what 4e did. So no, you are incorrect.

As I said simplification
Not at all. Skill challenges are an example of an extensible framework rule. So are the rules for damage and such on Page 42. These things are not simplifications. They are abstractions. There is a difference--again, too many things bundled together into a false dichotomy of "simplification" or "complexity." There are intermediate states.

Despite all that, D&D 5e clearly is not too arcane or fundamentally broken because millions of new players are getting into it every year. It’s clearly far more accessible and playable that you are giving it credit for.
And here you, too, make exactly the same argument. Because it has sold, it can't have any problems. I am, yet again, slapped down for criticizing.

The game does ‘just work’ if you’re willing to be flexible about your expectations.
I don't feel that "an encounter math system that actually works" is a form of inflexible expectation. Nor "rules for non-combat activities that are more than 'eyeball multiple one-off skill checks.'"

To be clear. I don’t think 5e is perfect. I do think making it perfect is impossible because perfection for me means something different to perfection for you. How the Venn diagram falls now is pretty damn good though and looking better with 5.5
It really isn't as good as you make it sound, and when you respond to criticism with, "Well, people bought it, so it must be good," you actually are making an argument that equates to "it's already perfect as it is, stop rocking the boat."
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
With luck, "One D&D" will actually give us halfway-decent tools and advice, so it isn't almost exclusively boiling down to "you're the DM, you figure it out." But I'm rather pessimistic. They can't contradict much of anything in the original books because they're bending over backwards to emphasize that it isn't 5.5e, we pinky-swear, it's JUST the "2024" version of the books.
WotC won't likely contradict anything, but there are a lot of gaps that can be filled. With tables. Oh, so exciting, wait while I look up, tables.

. . . I feel that I basically need to design rules on the fly, and whilst I can do it, I don't think I should have to do it, at least for rather basic stuff. For example various action stunts; jumping over enemies, sliding under them, tossing an enemy into another enemy, etc. There is basically no guidance on how to handle most of this and I really think there should.
Isn't this what Advantage is for? Also, how is tossing an enemy into another enemy "basic stuff?" Anyway:

" I toss the goblin into the goblin-mage, to disrupt its spell. "
Deadpan stare. "You'll need two hands, and it's trying to kill you, by the way. So you'll have disadvantage."
" That's fine. I use my Inspiration. " Rolls.
DM looks up grappling, contest, range, and spellcasting rules while player gets bored out of his mind.
"Just give me a DC. It's fine."
" DC 20. What did you roll? "
"19. But I have Guidance."
"Of course you do . . . "
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
An important skill to learn in my view is when and how to say "No." People who don't do that often become exhausted, bitter, and resentful in my experience. It sort of comes with being too agreeable.

So just say "No" to running these extra games. Or any games at all, if that's what you need to do. Whatever momentary discomfort you have to endure for saying "No" will ultimately be better than whatever follows from not doing it.
 

Isn't this what Advantage is for?
No. How would it be relevant?

Also, how is tossing an enemy into another enemy "basic stuff?"
Pretty common action hero thing. And in D&D there are quite a few small foes that seem pretty tossable.

Anyway:

" I toss the goblin into the goblin-mage, to disrupt its spell. "
Deadpan stare. "You'll need two hands, and it's trying to kill you, by the way. So you'll have disadvantage."
" That's fine. I use my Inspiration. " Rolls.
DM looks up grappling, contest, range, and spellcasting rules while player gets bored out of his mind.
"Just give me a DC. It's fine."
" DC 20. What did you roll? "
"19. But I have Guidance."
"Of course you do . . . "
This doesn't seem terribly smooth to me.
 

TheSword

Legend
You literally said:
You were not talking about other people. You were talking about me.
I was using you as a plural. To refer to all DMs. I’ve made that pretty clear. But please, do go on instructing me as to what I was talking about.
Um. That's literally what 4e did. So no, you are incorrect.
Please tell me you aren’t using D&D’s most contentious, divisive edition of all time as the benchmark for what great looks like. That ship has sailed.
Not at all. Skill challenges are an example of an extensible framework rule. So are the rules for damage and such on Page 42. These things are not simplifications. They are abstractions. There is a difference--again, too many things bundled together into a false dichotomy of "simplification" or "complexity." There are intermediate states.
As was me saying just chose DC 12 and move on… when it doesn’t matter. You have rules for things that matter and for the rest - good enough suffices.
And here you, too, make exactly the same argument. Because it has sold, it can't have any problems. I am, yet again, slapped down for criticizing.

I don't feel that "an encounter math system that actually works" is a form of inflexible expectation. Nor "rules for non-combat activities that are more than 'eyeball multiple one-off skill checks.'"

It really isn't as good as you make it sound, and when you respond to criticism with, "Well, people bought it, so it must be good," you actually are making an argument that equates to "it's already perfect as it is, stop rocking the boat."
I never said it was perfect - that’s the whole point of me saying that perfect is the enemy of good. I never said it couldn’t be improved. I’m really looking forward to 5.5 and will adopt it wholeheartedly.

I simply push back hard on the suggestion you made that the game is somehow fundamentally unplayable and that is why folks can’t get on with it. Rather than it being that they are just getting bogged down in fairly trivial details that most players can simply wave off.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I do enjoy playing/running games, just as I enjoy reading a variety of gaming books and spending time on forums such as ENWorld. The assistance I seek to help me run these games are pre-published adventures and robust rules-sets so I don’t have to memorize potentially three different sets of table rules, engage in rules debates with fifteen different players, and worry about how to tweak the perfect balance of encounter difficulty and treasure to make thrilling adventures that aren’t too easy or deadly.

I know this is rambling and it seems that I should try to pull this together into something coherent. I guess my thesis is I would be fine to create original, artisanally crafted gaming experiences if I had one group every one or two weeks. I don’t feel like I have that luxury with the demands on me to run so many games for so many players. I need a system with strong support and rules that can withstand a lot of activity without a) boring the players; b) leaving me to experiment through trial and error with magic item awards and encounter balancing; and c) opening up the potential for arguments as I scroll through X (formerly Twitter) for posts made by Jeremy Crawford what the rules actually are.

I wish D&D was that game. It sure used to be.
From a lot of your postings it seems like life has been a series of falling in and out of love with D&D. I understand that, but I also dont fully get it as never being a D&D "brand" guy. I have played D&D for some time now, but my games are less attached to the settings as perhaps a lot of others. I like D&D monsters and places, but I dont need them to be on brand to also enjoy a fantasy RPG game. I suppose thats why its been easy for me to really be into D&D at times, and to stray away from it at others. I love Golarion and was sold for PF1, but I've strayed from PF2 and its not really slowed me down. I know others are much more attached to their brands, systems, and editions.

I am also curious about your emphasis on mechanics and their responsibility for your players and your own experience. I know bad and/or missing mechanics can dampen the fun, but I have also had fun despite that because of the group I'm playing with. It has never been the responsibility entirely of the mechanics to have a good time, in my experience. I wonder where you fit into all this? Maybe, this fixation on mechanics and system is misplaced for some other hurdle or obstacle for your fun? Im not saying you are doing anything wrong, just maybe a deeper dive into what's missing could help?

Finally, I lost my father back in May, so I understand what that is like. My sincerest condolences to you for losing your Father.
 

Retreater

Legend
Thanks for all the support.
I'd love to encourage others to DM for the group, but there haven't been any takers thus far. Our group is too large for any boardgames I can think of, so it would require un-inviting players. As someone who was not included in a lot of social activities in my youth, I'd hate to do that (especially to the teenagers in my neighborhood - they're not the most popular kids.)
I think the goal is to reframe my expectations, using resources like Lazy GM's guide by Sly Flourish to save my mental strength and enthusiasm.
I am still at a loss about why 5e isn't connecting with me. Maybe there are ideas in A5e and MCDM books that I can use to salvage it.
I have been collecting a lot of different systems. For instance, I was reading through Symboroum last night - but I have a hard time imagining it (or any others) can "solve" my problems. The work likely has to come from me, and not a "perfectly designed" system ideal.
 

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