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

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Our group is too large for any boardgames I can think of, so it would require un-inviting players.

When we've had too large a group for board game night we break up into two sub groups playing different games and then swap players for the second round so you get a mix. You can also try party games like Code Names or The Resistance (the latter of which accommodates up to 10 people), which are a lot of fun and while they will never take the place of an RPG can be good for a night when you need a break but still want to hang with friends and play or when a couple of people can't make it. Or if you ever want to have a meet up where people from different groups interact.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
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.
The Lazy DMs guide is very good and I would highly recommend it. I, personally, strongly suspect that your issues do result from mechanics but not playing in your game I cannot be sure of that. I think that you need a break and at least try for a con, if there is one nearby and sit in in a couple of games as a player. I would not be surprised if you are being overly harsh on your own performance in combat and holding yourself up to an impossible standard for tension and suspense.
In my experience, combat is never all that suspenseful from the DMs chair. The DM has too much information.
 

OB1

Jedi Master
First @Retreater I'm so sorry for you loss. It's been almost six years since I lost my dad, and I feel for you.

I too have found 5e to be the spiritual successor to 2e rather than 3 or 4 (though with great elements from both incorporated) and for me, that's a positive, as it gives me the mental space to focus on the players, rather than the game.

I don't know if this will help, but if you have three groups playing weekly with you, then you are doing a great job as a DM!

Keep that in mind when you're prepping or in session. You are doing a great job as a DM!

As for advice, I'd say this, Chance is a critical part of 5e. The d20 is fickle. Learn to embrace it in all it's factors. That means that sometimes the PCs will curbstomp an encounter that you hoped would be monumentally epic, and other times what was meant to be a simple challenge will result in the PCs barely escaping with their lives. The dice will often times determine the 'best' moments of a campaign, and they are out of your control. Embrace Chance, focus on Fate (everything you describe for the players to react to) and respect the players Choice (how the PCs react to Fate).

Trying to control Chance in 5e, trying to make an encounter play how you want before those dice are rolled, is a near impossibility with 5e, and I can see how trying to do so would lead to burn out.
 

Retreater

Legend
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?
I'll give a few examples of how I've stumbled because of missing mechanics.

1) Rewards. Published adventures rarely use XP anymore - just milestones. Which is okay, but what do you use to motivate your players? Treasure? It's awarded randomly, inconsistently across adventures. Magic items don't really matter anymore, yet players want them. And if you award them, the already straining encounter building system gets more fragile.
2) Encounters. Players streamroll encounters. Or it's a TPK. Neither is fun. I want a dynamic experience where everyone is leaning over the table, cheering over a critical hit, high-fiving another player whose Bless spell made it happen. I understand that this can't be every die roll - or even every encounter or even every session - but to have no energy or enthusiasm for weeks/months on end is disheartening.
3) Attention. Care about the story/plot/NPCs - at least a little. Get scared when you encounter Strahd. Feel a little solemn when the beloved NPC sacrifices his life for you. Just ... care a little, you know? [I think some of this is actually connected to the first two points. There's just no stakes, nothing to care about, when the game is easy and doesn't have rewards.]
4) Learn the system. I've run for a variety of 5e groups. Many of the players aren't motivated to learn the rules or their characters. Some of this is that the system isn't (IMO) designed to be especially intuitive.
 

Pedantic

Legend
4) Learn the system. I've run for a variety of 5e groups. Many of the players aren't motivated to learn the rules or their characters. Some of this is that the system isn't (IMO) designed to be especially intuitive.
I don't know if this was ever a thing, really. I play with board gamers and Netrunner players, people who regularly learn new rules systems for games from scratch, and somehow I still go every session with a player giving me the number they rolled and not their check total, or asking me if a spell does something. Something about the RPG experience breaks otherwise skilled people, and I don't know why, or what I've done to be spared.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
I'll give a few examples of how I've stumbled because of missing mechanics.

1) Rewards. Published adventures rarely use XP anymore - just milestones. Which is okay, but what do you use to motivate your players? Treasure? It's awarded randomly, inconsistently across adventures. Magic items don't really matter anymore, yet players want them. And if you award them, the already straining encounter building system gets more fragile.
Don't give out plussed items. Or stuff that give more damage. Take a leaf from Baldur's Gate and give items that give an alternative action once per long rest or something like that.
2) Encounters. Players streamroll encounters. Or it's a TPK. Neither is fun. I want a dynamic experience where everyone is leaning over the table, cheering over a critical hit, high-fiving another player whose Bless spell made it happen. I understand that this can't be every die roll - or even every encounter or even every session - but to have no energy or enthusiasm for weeks/months on end is disheartening.
This cannot be done reliably in D&D or you will kill the party. One thing that I have never suggested is to use average damage for the bad guys, it will reduce the variance and make the fights a little more predictable. But a succession of deadly fights will result in TPKs and the like. That is the vagaries of the D20.
3) Attention. Care about the story/plot/NPCs - at least a little. Get scared when you encounter Strahd. Feel a little solemn when the beloved NPC sacrifices his life for you. Just ... care a little, you know? [I think some of this is actually connected to the first two points. There's just no stakes, nothing to care about, when the game is easy and doesn't have rewards.]
Hmm, your players seem casual and if they are there is little you can do about it except get new players.
4) Learn the system. I've run for a variety of 5e groups. Many of the players aren't motivated to learn the rules or their characters. Some of this is that the system isn't (IMO) designed to be especially intuitive.
Casual players again, it may not be that intuitive but it is not super hard either.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I'll give a few examples of how I've stumbled because of missing mechanics.

1) Rewards. Published adventures rarely use XP anymore - just milestones. Which is okay, but what do you use to motivate your players? Treasure? It's awarded randomly, inconsistently across adventures. Magic items don't really matter anymore, yet players want them. And if you award them, the already straining encounter building system gets more fragile.
2) Encounters. Players streamroll encounters. Or it's a TPK. Neither is fun. I want a dynamic experience where everyone is leaning over the table, cheering over a critical hit, high-fiving another player whose Bless spell made it happen. I understand that this can't be every die roll - or even every encounter or even every session - but to have no energy or enthusiasm for weeks/months on end is disheartening.
3) Attention. Care about the story/plot/NPCs - at least a little. Get scared when you encounter Strahd. Feel a little solemn when the beloved NPC sacrifices his life for you. Just ... care a little, you know? [I think some of this is actually connected to the first two points. There's just no stakes, nothing to care about, when the game is easy and doesn't have rewards.]
4) Learn the system. I've run for a variety of 5e groups. Many of the players aren't motivated to learn the rules or their characters. Some of this is that the system isn't (IMO) designed to be especially intuitive.
How about social rewards? Medals from the local lord, the accolades of the townsfolk, local hero status? Might also help with point #3, for which there has rarely much in the way of mechanics anyway.
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
Some or all of my answers will be less mechanical and more philosophical.
1) Rewards. Published adventures rarely use XP anymore - just milestones. Which is okay, but what do you use to motivate your players? Treasure? It's awarded randomly, inconsistently across adventures. Magic items don't really matter anymore, yet players want them. And if you award them, the already straining encounter building system gets more fragile.
An intriguing mystery to solve with interesting encounters all along the way is its own reward. The game has moved into adventure based motivation. Thats a change up that old school players and those perhaps more familiar with video games may struggle with. My suggestions are either as GM try and make the game more interesting in exploration and social pillar, or use a system that built to play more old school skill play dungeon crawler.

The longer answer is 5E would have added a module to the game to allow folks to apply an old school reward system. Magic item economy, more experience point depth, etc... 5E ended being too popular to need any modularity leaving folks to figure it out themselves. Im not excusing it, im just explaining it. This isnt just a you and your group problem either.
2) Encounters. Players streamroll encounters. Or it's a TPK. Neither is fun. I want a dynamic experience where everyone is leaning over the table, cheering over a critical hit, high-fiving another player whose Bless spell made it happen. I understand that this can't be every die roll - or even every encounter or even every session - but to have no energy or enthusiasm for weeks/months on end is disheartening.
In my experience the place and the stakes of the encounter can help here. If the encounters are straight up "enter room; roll initiative" then its entirely on the mechanics of those fights to be interesting. 5E harkens back to a more strategic style of play, where the interesting bits happen before battle. Where are you fighting? Did you bring the right spells and weapons? Do you have a viable exit? Its not a tactical piece that makes combats themselves an interesting puzzle.

Longer answer, there is a lot of shenanigans involved in short and daily rests existing in the same system. Advice says 6-8 encounters a day for a balanced party. That could be spot on, but I think its off for many folks. The CR is a guideline because combats are a bit less predictable than folks would like. PF2 has a solid and predictable encounter guideline for tactical combats. Some folks might prefer a less fast and furious, yet team dependent experience.
3) Attention. Care about the story/plot/NPCs - at least a little. Get scared when you encounter Strahd. Feel a little solemn when the beloved NPC sacrifices his life for you. Just ... care a little, you know? [I think some of this is actually connected to the first two points. There's just no stakes, nothing to care about, when the game is easy and doesn't have rewards.]
Do you think the players would care more if they knew Strahd was worth X amount of XP? Would they be more concerned about the NPC if keeping them alive gave them magic item rewards? My experience says no, its entirely why I stopped using XP. Organic play is only going to happen between you and the players. You cannot carrot and stick them into it. My advice would be to give them more RP time with NPCs. Take note of any interaction or interest of the players. Feed into that. Give them time to discover the world and the situations so they can react accordingly. Or, they might nor care and just want beer and pretzel dungeon delving. Takes time to figure out one way or the other.
4) Learn the system. I've run for a variety of 5e groups. Many of the players aren't motivated to learn the rules or their characters. Some of this is that the system isn't (IMO) designed to be especially intuitive.
What system is? A serious question. Most RPGs are complex and nuanced, and whats worse, is they compete with video games that off load all that cognitive load. In my GM experience, you have to be ready to lead and sometimes carry that part of the game for certain players. Especially, younger ones that don't have decades of TTRPG experience. Eventually, folks come around and start wanting to know and understand the system. That, or they just want to kill a few hours with the friends and dont really care about the game all that much. You need to invest the time to tell which is which. No rule system, no matter how intuitive, is going to help the latter.
 

The social contract.
That goes both ways. Your social contract with your players should help them understand that your well being has value. That exhausting yourself for their benefit is not part of the social contract.

For example, we play every 2 weeks because that is the time the DM needs. We get it and allow them the time they need - social contract at work
 
Last edited:

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
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.
Tables would be the worst effort to fill in those gaps. Actually effective advice, with examples and analysis, while encouraging DMs to think for themselves and showing them ways to do that, would be far preferable. I just don't expect them to actually do...any of that.

Isn't this what Advantage is for?
No. Because Advantage is already handed out like candy by the rule system itself. Because it is simultaneously the weapon of first and last resort, and neither stacks nor in any other way improves (outside the brokenly OP Elven Accuracy), handing out Advantage is now all too often worthless as a DM tool. Something I predicted back before 5e was published, much to my chagrin.

Also, how is tossing an enemy into another enemy "basic stuff?"
...how is it not? That's barely a step up from Shove, and that is a pre-defined thing present in the rules. Throwing enemies around is a common thing in action stories (especially film), so a player approaching things from outside the D&D milieu--which is most 5e players today--would quite reasonably think in such terms.

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 . . . "
We can duel biased, "let's make this sound the worst it possibly can" examples all day. It's exactly the problem with the Quick Primer for Old-School Gaming. Doing so is unproductive, as all it shows is that it is possible to portray something negatively.

Personally, if a DM responded to a request like that with instantly turning to "you'll have disadvantage," on top of the rather condescending "and it's trying to kill you, by the way" comment, that would be a massive red flag to me.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top