Are TTRPGs Even a "Good" Hobby?

GrimCo

Adventurer
Because there’s no such thing as a perfect game that is a perfect fit for your table out of the box. That mindset is likely why you seem to think investigating a dozen games to find “the one” is a better prospect than finding a “close enough” game and tweaking it.
Exactly. You can't get tailor made out of box. It's like fitted shirt. You find one that fits best and then take it to the tailor for final fitting to your body.
Again, if the only problem with a game you already have is the lethality, house rule it. That’s one house rule that takes one sentence to convey. “We’re playing Shadowdark but starting at 3rd level.” It’s that easy.
Or he can just buff up characters. Give them more hp, better to hit, stronger weapons, easier opponents.
Sounds like 5E with more tactical play. There’s probably a tactical combat 3PP book out there somewhere.

It’s also worth noting that tactical play is something you can just choose to do. You don’t need heavy rules for it. Read up on tactics and use them. “The Monsters Know What They’re Doing” series is a great place to start.
Agree. I ran very tactical combat heavy game using 5e. Had a group of wargamers who liked combat as a challenge. I like it too, we agreed it would be adversarial, as in, i would actively try to get them. I'm not really wargamer and generally like more casual fast and loose combats, but ok, why not(to be fair, i did spent 4 years as junior officer in mechanized infantry so i had some practical experience). There are good manuals on tactics on the internet. You can use them. Out comes grid, minis and scenarios. Terrain, cover, fields of fire, choke points, traps, pincer maneuvers, concentrated fire, whole shebang. They were 5 lv 5 characters, optimized for combat vs CR 1/2 human warriors without any special abilities. I just played them as very well trained and rehearsed small unit. After 4 encounters (none of which were deadly), they were almost tpk-ed.

Play monsters smart. Play them to make most of any advantage they can get. Go for the weakest opponents. Make monsters retreat, regroup, raise alarms, have backup incoming.

Pardon the phrase, but as I said, this is a fool’s errand. There is no perfect game. Find one that’s close enough and tweak it.
Yup. Chances of finding perfect game out of the box, that caters 100% to everyone's taste is close to 0.
To turn this productive, what is your table’s sweet spot as you see it? You have part of a list there, so expand on it.
Yes, make a list. Maybe we here can spitball some house rules to get that tailor made experience out of something that you already play.
 

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Retreater

Legend
To turn this productive, what is your table’s sweet spot as you see it? You have part of a list there, so expand on it.
  • You can flank or otherwise help give a bonus to an ally.
  • You have more than 1 option of an attack you can do.
  • You won't drop in a single hit.
  • Everybody has basically the same number of actions they can try. (Like, people hate not having Bonus actions in 5e when other people can make extra moves, attacks, spells, etc.)
  • Some degree of character customization would be cool.
  • Can have more than 1-2 fights in a 3+ hour session with time for exploration and roleplaying.
  • Something that is easy enough for me to modify as GM (or has lots of supplemental adventure material to use.)
  • Personally, for me, I really dislike tracking multiple kinds of metacurrency. Just let the dice land where they may. I don't want to track Fortune, Fate, Hero, Luck Points, etc. (Maybe one is okay.)
  • Unified mechanics are good. Don't use like a d20 to attack, d% for some skills, d6 for other feats. (Looking at most OSR games.)
  • I feel like it might need more mechanical heft than something like Dungeon World - but maybe I'm wrong.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
  • You can flank or otherwise help give a bonus to an ally.
  • You have more than 1 option of an attack you can do.
  • You won't drop in a single hit.
  • Everybody has basically the same number of actions they can try. (Like, people hate not having Bonus actions in 5e when other people can make extra moves, attacks, spells, etc.)
  • Some degree of character customization would be cool.
  • Can have more than 1-2 fights in a 3+ hour session with time for exploration and roleplaying.
  • Something that is easy enough for me to modify as GM (or has lots of supplemental adventure material to use.)
  • Personally, for me, I really dislike tracking multiple kinds of metacurrency. Just let the dice land where they may. I don't want to track Fortune, Fate, Hero, Luck Points, etc. (Maybe one is okay.)
  • Unified mechanics are good. Don't use like a d20 to attack, d% for some skills, d6 for other feats. (Looking at most OSR games.)
  • I feel like it might need more mechanical heft than something like Dungeon World - but maybe I'm wrong.
Other than this one bolded bit, you're describing D&D 5E. So fix that one bolded bit and you're set. Talk to the players and have them either all build characters with bonus action stuff or none of them build characters with bonus action stuff. Or home brew some interesting bonus action stuff for the non-bonus action PCs to do.
 

Retreater

Legend
Other than this one bolded bit, you're describing D&D 5E. So fix that one bolded bit and you're set. Talk to the players and have them either all build characters with bonus action stuff or none of them build characters with bonus action stuff. Or home brew some interesting bonus action stuff for the non-bonus action PCs to do.
I'd have to learn 5e. I've really struggled with running the system in a balanced way. Most of the encounters just didn't work. I think it's largely the encounters per day assumption built into the game.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I'd have to learn 5e. I've really struggled with running the system in a balanced way. Most of the encounters just didn't work. I think it's largely the encounters per day assumption built into the game.

Do you ever let yourself fudge things midstream if the encounter math seems way off (decide to up or down hp, for example)?
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I'd have to learn 5e. I've really struggled with running the system in a balanced way. Most of the encounters just didn't work. I think it's largely the encounters per day assumption built into the game.
Yeah. It's balanced around the idea of 18 rounds of combat between long rests, with 2 short rests between, and each fight is against 3+ enemies. That's not the style of game most people run, so the resources available to PCs far outstrips the enemies they face in combat. There are all kinds of rest variants in the DMG and you can find more online to help with that imbalance.

The 5E monster & encounter creation guidelines are also trash. Check out Blog of Holding and/or Forge of Foes for better monster design. Matt Colville's Flee Mortals! is 4E monster design ported into 5E.
 

My advice, as always, is to record/stream your game so we can see your table in action. We'll simply never be able to give advice that is precise enough to help you if all we have is your words. If the four previous topics about your game didn't provide help, I don't think a fifth topic will change things too much.

Also consider uploading pictures of all your prep and stuff to give us additional context.
 

Retreater

Legend
Do you ever let yourself fudge things midstream if the encounter math seems way off (decide to up or down hp, for example)?
Old me (as new DM circa 1990-2000): Yes. I would track the AC and HP of heroes behind the screen. I would roll behind the screen. I would let all damage be done for dramatic purpose - to get the heroes get damaged "just enough." Everything was fudged. The only deaths that would happen would be things like failed saving throws that the players did in the open.

Mid me (experienced DM circa 2000-2010): No. I was writing for publication in the 3E/PF era. My encounters had to be playtested by strict RAW. All rolls in the open ... "if he dies - he dies." No fudging anything.

Current me (older but not wiser DM circa 2011-present): I roll everything in the open because that is what the Internet demands. Trust in the game system, right? What else am I going to do - play favorites? With certain systems like 5e, I don't know if the encounter math has ever seemed correct in an encounter. So do I just let the players roll dice until I feel like enough damage has been done? Or we're bored?

In short, I don't know when it's appropriate to fudge, but I've been on both extremes.
 


UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Not going to lie, I'm going through a hobby crisis right now. I'm wondering if I should stick with it.
I'm listing my problem areas, which I seem to face weekly (if not more frequently). Do your brains work like this? If so, how can you continue to enjoy this hobby?

I. Players
Are they engaged? Do you have enough? Where can you find more? Do you have too many? If so, how can you shrink the group? Can you find the right gaming system to accommodate an atypical sized group? Are they causing issues with you or other players (cheating, arguing, inappropriate topics, disruption?) Do you get along okay? Do you consider them friends? Do they connect well with the other players? What about the style of game you're playing? Do they come consistently? How can you make the game better liked by the guy who isn't engaged enough? Is someone spotlight hogging or more effective than other characters?

II. Systems
What genre are you going to play? You're familiar with fantasy, but maybe it's getting tiresome? Are you going to stick with System A because your group is familiar and owns the books? Do you encourage them to try System B - even though you could be wrong? What has the right level of depth? What would be fun? Are the books affordable? Do you really like most parts of System C, but there's some dealbreaker component? How many books have you purchased, anyway? Have you gone over budget? Do you have room on your shelves? Can you even keep them straight anymore?

III. Larger Community
Do other hobbies look down on their participants? Should we care about corporate decisions? What about problematic past content? Should we try to promote diverse creators at our tables? Do people who go fishing or participate in bowling leagues worry about this stuff? Gee, aren't there a lot of people who get really fired up and will yell at you if you don't TTRPG the same way they do? Are other communities better?

IV. Work
How many hours is enough prep? What do I do with wasted prep? Will I ever have free time to do anything besides plan sessions? What's the use in planning, anyway? Are there shortcuts - because running published adventures has proven more difficult than just writing my own? Can you use shortcuts in complex systems? Back to point 2 - if you use a less complex system and the players complain - is it still worth it?
I am going to respond to this because I want to give my response with out being influenced by other comments.
Now, before I get into the questions posed in your post I want to make some general observations based on this and other post and threads you have made on this site over the last couple of years.
You seem to have some very strong ideas about this hobby and to take it very seriously and also you clearly do not appear to be having any fun. This is supposed to be fun and if you are not having fun then perhaps stop and take a break.

Now to your questions:
1. Players; boy that is a lot of questions. a lot of these questions are not really your responsibility.

Are they engaged? if you do not know the answer then does it really matter to you, why should it? If it is bothering you why are you running a game for these people? You are not a dancing monkey and have no obligation to entertain anyone. Are the players complaining? or you holding you and your table to some mythical standard?
And mostly importantly are you having fun?

2: Systems do not really matter if you do not enjoy the game. No system will make the game fun if you are burned out and any system can be fun if you are having fun and are engaged. There is no perfect system.

3: the larger community; why do you care about the opinion of strangers on the internet? As for corporates, they are human collectives and their flaws are reflective of the society that spawns them. To change that one need to change the society and its value system, and I will not say more than that on this forum. Except to add I think it is ok to buy the stuff you like and think you will use and are under no obligation to provide anyone with a paycheck.

4. Work. it is not a job, you are not being paid (unless you are) How much prep do you really need? Why do you have "wasted" prep? Why can you not recycle the "wasted " prep as building blocks to other things? Have you read the Lazy DM books?

I really wonder, are you chasing a phantom and idea of the perfect session that cannot be achieved?

My advice, take a break, run the system you enjoy. If your players do not like it tell them that you do not like the other system but would be happy to play a game of that if they run it. If that is unacceptable to them then they are free to go elsewhere.
 

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