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

Retreater

Legend
@OP, do you use DnDBeyond? I have a busy full-time job, a family life, and am currently running three campaigns, two for mostly beginners. So, much like you. I don’t think I could do it without DDB. It saves me hours each week, and makes it much, much easier to track characters and campaigns, and for new players to learn the game.
No. I've used DnDBeyond only as a player several years ago when another DM invited me to his game (which lasted for a few sessions.) I didn't find the UI to my liking, so I never invested in the technology (like buying the online resources or subscribing). I had already purchased so many physical books and bought in with Roll20 for my pandemic play. I didn't want to buy stuff for a third time in an electronic format I didn't like.

Nowadays I'm running PF2 for one group and 4e for another. I still have 5e for another group, but that group meets very erratically (if we're lucky, once a month). While both PF2 and 4e have their challenges, I've found the online tools helpful enough. (PF2 - Foundry VTT's automation and Archives of Nethys; 4e - the old character builder and the online database.)

When I was running 5e regularly, I did use online tools - including Encounter Builders. However, I think that even with online tools, the game doesn't provide the core rules needed to balance it in the same way PF2 or 4e (or 3.x/PF1) does. It makes me hesitant to try to run 5e again, and I'm doubtful that 2024's revision will help.
 

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nevin

Hero
So, this is something that I can attest to as well. For, example, my spouse, who is a highly educated upper level professional, has been playing in my home campaign for years, and understands the rules well enough to play their character, but doesn't much know or care how they apply to other classes, and so on. They need reminding all the time, sometimes even which die is which.

Edit: Critical Role is a wonderful example. Those guys have thousands of hours of experience and are talented, successful professionals, but only Matt Mercer has a true "DM mind." Liam O'Brien and Taliesen Jaffe come close, and the rest are various degrees of hopeless when it comes to memorizing rules, or sometimes even basic math. Yet they are all fantastic D&D players that any DM would love to have in their campaign.

I think those of us who are drawn to DMing mostly have minds that are very copacetic with grokking complicated game rules, and so we don't understand that it is a fairly specialized kind of intelligence, as well as a fairly unusual interest.

One thing I have learned after decades of teaching is that every mind is unique, and folks can been brilliant in some areas and not so much in others. For example, I spent lunch yesterday working with a student who simply could not wrap her head around certain aspects of conventional argument structure, but when I shifted to a verbal question and response format suddenly relaxed and was able to express herself at length and with great eloquence.

One thing we have to be careful about as teachers, and often struggle with, is projecting our own model of the mind onto others. I think it is very much the same for DMs. Just as no two students are exactly the same, neither are any two players, so we have to have different strategies in our pockets and be patient and flexible. I ran a D&D summer camp for neurodivergent kids, and that was a huge learning experience.

Edit: I also think the age at which we start playing is significantly important, but I don't have research to back that up or anything. Anecdotally, a high proportion of DMs seem to have started playing very young and stuck with it, and I wonder if we sort of embedded certain aspects of game comprehension at a time when our brains were more plastic.
I'd also point out that the players tend to do a fairly predictable and repeatable course of actions most of the time and the stuff they ask about are the things they rarely do. DM's are always using many, many mechanics and planning for the possible player mechanics so when running a game we tend to keep it all well researched, and in the easily accessable memory. DM's getting frustrated that players don't spend as much time burning in details has been a thing since the beginning , I doubt it will ever change regardless of how simple the game gets.
 

nevin

Hero
I think the problem here is that an old school reward system doesn’t really address what a lot of gamers less than 30, and particularly teenagers, find rewarding.


Yup. Set up an non-combat aspect of the encounter that has to be addressed at the same time. The dungeon requires two keys to be turned at the same time in different rooms. How does the party split up?
I've taught my kids to play and have played with old and young players and i find that old stuff works fine if the individual players want it. I have never found young people to want different rewards or to be unhappy because they got the same kind of rewards old players got. I have seen many an old DM try to recreate some crawl over broken glass dungeon crawl from thier youth and it not been a big hit. The older players tend to be a bit more forgiving and less likely to bash them for the unfun session. But they don't generally have more fun than the more verbal young one's. that I think makes some DM's think it's old vs new. But It's generally fun vs unfun. And a lot of old school mechanics that were fun in the day when we had no other choice, in gaming groups, DM's, and no internet and netflix to fall back on, just don't cut it anymore. Interrupts, one shots kills, spending 9 months or longer trying to get any information that puts what's going on in game in context, getting piles of random magic items that no one wanted but the DM was willing to give, or being stuck in a never ending time crunch to drive home the risk and danger of what you are doing just arent' fun. They can be fun as limited use mechanics but as gamestyles and normal day to day activities they all suck.
 

Retreater

Legend
I've taught my kids to play and have played with old and young players and i find that old stuff works fine if the individual players want it. I have never found young people to want different rewards or to be unhappy because they got the same kind of rewards old players got. I have seen many an old DM try to recreate some crawl over broken glass dungeon crawl from thier youth and it not been a big hit. The older players tend to be a bit more forgiving and less likely to bash them for the unfun session. But they don't generally have more fun than the more verbal young one's. that I think makes some DM's think it's old vs new. But It's generally fun vs unfun. And a lot of old school mechanics that were fun in the day when we had no other choice, in gaming groups, DM's, and no internet and netflix to fall back on, just don't cut it anymore. Interrupts, one shots kills, spending 9 months or longer trying to get any information that puts what's going on in game in context, getting piles of random magic items that no one wanted but the DM was willing to give, or being stuck in a never ending time crunch to drive home the risk and danger of what you are doing just arent' fun. They can be fun as limited use mechanics but as gamestyles and normal day to day activities they all suck.
In my experience (only), I've found that some of the traditions of the game translate well to my current group of younger players, while others don't.

What they like...
1) Magic items and gold rewards (even if there's nothing to spend the gold on)
2) Fighting monsters
3) Levelling up
4) Big spells ("overpowered" wizards)
5) Class-based design

Not so much...
1) Slow, cautious dungeon crawling (including player dungeon mapping)
2) Random traps and secret doors
3) Resource tracking (food, arrows, torches, etc.)
4) Enemies they're not supposed to fight (it's not that they hate roleplaying or problem solving - they just want combat to be an option)
5) "Weak" characters (like, if you can die to a kobold)
 

nevin

Hero
Ok to be fair almost none of my players back in the 70's and 80's liked

1) Slow, cautious dungeon crawling (including player dungeon mapping)
2) Random traps and secret doors
3) Resource tracking (food, arrows, torches, etc.)

5) "Weak" characters (like, if you can die to a kobold)

In fact they hated anything that slowed the game down. Old school dm's that like that stuff as the meat of the game just had more captive audiences. Even in Con games most of that stuff was not focused on because other things were more fun.
 

Retreater

Legend
Ok to be fair almost none of my players back in the 70's and 80's liked
I think a lot of the people who engage in OSR chatter online had a very different experience than I did.
We never liked the game that way. I think it's hoisted up as some ideal of play by people who don't actually play it.
 

nevin

Hero
I think a lot of the people who engage in OSR chatter online had a very different experience than I did.
We never liked the game that way. I think it's hoisted up as some ideal of play by people who don't actually play it.
I know people that still play that way today I wouldn't play that game regularly but they love it. I do think most people think back on those days and think everyone played like the people that they knew did. We didn't have internet back then so it was easy enough to think that you were just like everyone else in your hobby.
 

Clint_L

Legend
Agreed - back in the day we were doing whatever we could to minimize the "boring stuff." I know some folks love that aspect of the game, and more power to them, but it's not for everyone.
 

nevin

Hero
I remember introducing Grimtooth traps to my campaign. Worst thing I ever did. I didn't use those awesome traps that often but it turned every dungeon style encounter into a paranoid horror of the party checking everything, everywhere, all the time if they could. I almost wiped the party because they were more afraid of running away down an unknown corridor, than dieing fighting a horde of orcs. That broke what little fun i had from dungeon crawls.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
I think this is great advice for someone suffering burnout running multiple different level groups. But if you so beholden to 5e use 5e in E& format.

Couple this with @jasper's running AL or at the very least run the same module/adventure for 2 or all the groups. It makes it so much easier running the same campaign with different players - cuts down on prep, you can compare results, you get better with every time you run the same scenarios - fleshing out NPCs more, improving on monsters etc
True I have ran the same module for two or more groups. I have found out the second or third run is the best for me because, I have seen what worked and didnt work in the first run thru. Like last night, the first monster had 2 attacks so all the monsters had 2 attacks. It wasn't until to the last 10 minutes of combat I noticed one had 3 attacks. Which I ignored for the rest of the night.
 

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