log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D General Can we talk about best practices?


log in or register to remove this ad

Agreed. I assumed this is what they would be playing, but as far as I can tell it's not. Does Phandelver have gricks? I think in one of her latest sessions something happened with gricks.

I don't have my copy handy, but I feel like maybe there are some gricks? I don't recall entirely, but I think in one of the earlier adventure areas there may indeed be some gricks.

Or from the rules text!

You're a madman.

When friends and I started playing Moldvay Basic our dungeons were pretty bad, and our play pretty unskilled, but we were at least doing what we were meant to be doing! Because Moldvay sets it out, in simple steps.

Yeah, for sure. My early play was likely similar in that we had the whole map and key and associated processes as the default mode of play, even if we were not applying it all correctly or consistently.

5E lacks that central play mode that is the expected approach. And while many will often cite that as a strength....and it may be in one way although I think it gets wildly overstated....it's not exactly a great approach from a design standpoint. There is no central process on which to focus, and the books make that pretty clear.

So many folks have enough experience playing different editions or other games that they kind of gloss over this flaw and fill in the blanks themselves, and so the game works. But get a bunch of kids who lack that experience and you get the kind of game your daughter had with her friends.

I can't remember how long ago I last posted this - maybe as much as a decade ago - but I still find it bizarre that D&D rulebook writing peaked about 40 years ago!

They are inconsistent, for sure. But that will happen when you have so many people contributing to the franchise over multiple editions spread across decades. Also I think the Moldvay books (I assume these are the ones you're citing) benefited from having a tighter focus both in content and in expectations of the players.
 

Malmuria

Adventurer
The game has all the typical pathologies of schoolkid play - a goblin fighter who gets drunk; silly PvP about nothing that matters; a tendency to think that a 1 on a check must mean some sort of comical disaster; and a general inability to actually get on with things.
What a wonderful description of teen/pre-teen dnd play!

Yes, given the goal of play as you identify it. But it's incomplete. It doesn't actually describe processes of play. The first list is some tips to help decide what to say as GM, but doesn't say anything about when to say stuff, or how this relates to the shared fiction or what anyone else has said. The second bundle of lists are checklists for prep. Apocalypse World has those, but it also talks about how to actually play the game when sitting around the table with your friends.
I'm not arguing that 5e D&D should be a dungeon crawl game. I'm arguing that, however exactly it is meant to be played, it should be possible to state processes and principles that - if followed - will bring it about that the participants will have that sort of experience.

I wonder what that would look like for a neo-trad/OC style of play. I'm imagining that it would look something like the CoC starter set. It works in CoC because the game is so tightly themed, whereas dnd is such a self-referential cultural mashup at this point. But I imagine the best practices for that kind of game would actually include principles that are distasteful to classic/osr players. For example, if the goal is to create a semi-scripted heroic fantasy story with lots of tactical combat, the dm will need to railroad direct players to the prepared plot while convincing them it was their idea. The dm in that style of game sort of is an entertainer and all-knowing world builder. The dungeon is a mechanism for pacing encounters (usually combat) rather than a virtual space to be explored. The advice I've seen for running the campaign-length modules suggest all of this, in essence, but for a dmg-style book to come out and say it would be controversial because of the investments some have in other styles of play that, honestly, 5e does not do a good job of supporting.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
What a wonderful description of teen/pre-teen dnd play!




I wonder what that would look like for a neo-trad/OC style of play. I'm imagining that it would look something like the CoC starter set. It works in CoC because the game is so tightly themed, whereas dnd is such a self-referential cultural mashup at this point. But I imagine the best practices for that kind of game would actually include principles that are distasteful to classic/osr players. For example, if the goal is to create a semi-scripted heroic fantasy story with lots of tactical combat, the dm will need to railroad direct players to the prepared plot while convincing them it was their idea. The dm in that style of game sort of is an entertainer and all-knowing world builder. The dungeon is a mechanism for pacing encounters (usually combat) rather than a virtual space to be explored. The advice I've seen for running the campaign-length modules suggest all of this, in essence, but for a dmg-style book to come out and say it would be controversial because of the investments some have in other styles of play that, honestly, 5e does not do a good job of supporting.
Or, you could just get the players onboard to start with and have character creation such that characters are motivated by the primary plot idea. That seems less manipulative and Illusionary.
 

pemerton

Legend
I don't have my copy handy, but I feel like maybe there are some gricks? I don't recall entirely, but I think in one of the earlier adventure areas there may indeed be some gricks.
I've never read or played it but have seen it discussed online, and I had the same vague recollection.

You're a madman.
There's little doubt about that!

My early play was likely similar in that we had the whole map and key and associated processes as the default mode of play, even if we were not applying it all correctly or consistently.
Yep.

5E lacks that central play mode that is the expected approach. And while many will often cite that as a strength....and it may be in one way although I think it gets wildly overstated....it's not exactly a great approach from a design standpoint. There is no central process on which to focus, and the books make that pretty clear.

So many folks have enough experience playing different editions or other games that they kind of gloss over this flaw and fill in the blanks themselves, and so the game works. But get a bunch of kids who lack that experience and you get the kind of game your daughter had with her friends.

<snip

I think the Moldvay books (I assume these are the ones you're citing) benefited from having a tighter focus both in content and in expectations of the players.
I'm using citing the one Moldvay book. If you're thinking of plural Basic D&D Books that might be post-Moldvay Mentzer - I've seen it back in the day but never played it. To the extent that it and Moldvay differ, I incline towards Moldvay, but that's a different story!

Anyway, I think you're right in what you say here. I think writing 5e as a "compromise" (those scare quotes are doing a lot of work there) and "recovery" edition had something to do with it - there was a lot of hostility from existing D&D players towards the instructional-type text in 4e. And avoiding that hostility was seen - rightly, I would say - as a necessary condition of getting any broader traction including among new players.

I don't think that's the only explanation. AD&D 2nd ed wasn't produced under quite the same sorts of pressures, but it also is weak in instructional text compared to Gygax's version, I think - and Gygax's AD&D is itself weak compared to Moldvay. So I think Moldvay benefited both from there being no wider context of aversion to advice plus someone who knew how to write game instructions well.

Anyway, you probably know as well as anyone else who posts on these boards that I've got fairly strong preferences in RPGing and being railroaded through Phandelver isn't central to them - but I'd still prefer the books come out and at least set out a "typical" approach to play which is not just the GM describes the environment - what do you do? but that the GM will tell you where you are, what you're there for and what makes sense as your next step so that beginners have somewhere to start. Given that I still think there's a bit of "hunting for the plot" in non-beginner play as well (I certainly saw plenty of it back when I was a club player, and I don't get the feeling the world has changed that much) that sort of advice might be helpful for non-beginners also.
 

pemerton

Legend
I imagine the best practices for that kind of game would actually include principles that are distasteful to classic/osr players. For example, if the goal is to create a semi-scripted heroic fantasy story with lots of tactical combat, the dm will need to railroad direct players to the prepared plot while convincing them it was their idea. The dm in that style of game sort of is an entertainer and all-knowing world builder. The dungeon is a mechanism for pacing encounters (usually combat) rather than a virtual space to be explored. The advice I've seen for running the campaign-length modules suggest all of this, in essence, but for a dmg-style book to come out and say it would be controversial because of the investments some have in other styles of play that, honestly, 5e does not do a good job of supporting.
Or, you could just get the players onboard to start with and have character creation such that characters are motivated by the primary plot idea. That seems less manipulative and Illusionary.
I read Ovinomancer here as responding to what I've bolded in Malmuria's post. I tend to agree with Ovinomancer, in that I frankly don't think it's necessary to convince the players that it was there idea. If you tell them Today we're playing Lost Mines of Phandelver and what you're trying to do is XYZ . . . then I think there's no reason to think the players won't go along with it.

When I started my brief Moldvay session the other day I dutifully read out the backstory, which is three paragraphs on page B55 and includes the following:

Recently, a tribe of goblins has been raiding the countryside. On their last raid they captured a dozen prisoners. . . [T]he player characters . . . have banded together to rescue their relatives. The party has tracked the goblins to the Keep . . .​

Now that's pretty thin stuff, and it didn't have any actual effect on our play. You can see variants on it in all the adventures that were published around this time (eg look at Albie Fiore's regular mini-adventures in White Dwarf, which are really just excuses to showcase new monsters; but also look at a classic White Dwarf adventure like The Lichway, which Ragi then seems to have further developed as Death Frost Doom). It's just a veneer of story to get things moving; I think even the Donkey Kong games I played as a kid had something similar to "explain" why there's this giant ape throwing barrels down at you.

In the context of a simple neo/trad game - one that at least beginning kids aren't going to object to - I don't think the motivating premise probably has to be much more developed than that. It's basic function is to lampshade (did I use that word right?) the party starting together as a group; to notionally motivate their entry into the first scene of the adventure; and to foreshadow some possible upcoming scenes. In Moldvay Basic that first scene is the entry into the Keep, where my daughter's Halfling fell into the pit but didn't die (the damage is d6, the starting hit die for a Halfling is d6, but she had rolled 3 whereas I rolled a 2). In a neo/trad game I'd expect something a bit different for the first scene, given the underlying principles of play - but the goal of advice, and of design that reflects that advice, would be for each scene to have a fairly clear reason for why the PCs are coming into it, a fairly clear sense of how they're going to transition out of it, and some thoughts about what will happen during it. A more subtle sort of scene (eg one involving duplicity by a NPC) might not be transparent to the players about how the PCs are meant to move through and out of it, but - especially in a beginner context - that would need to be handled with a high degree of deftness, and given the deftness won't be coming from the GM you'd want the advice on how to run it to be top-notch!

Now I agree that this sort of advice is going to be controversial in the sense that it's not universally accepted as the best way to play D&D. But that can be handled in a number of ways. Here are two I can think of:

(1) Put the advice in a module, like Mike Carr's advice in B1 or Gygax's advice in B2, rather than in the rulebook itself.

(2) Include, in the rulebook, advice for two or three standard approaches - Typical play which is also recommended for beginners; Old-school play which is overtly about beating the dungeon and includes explanations of exploration turns, the use of wandering monster dice as a clock, and the warning that it is possible to play in this fashion and have the players lose and get frustrated, just as might happen the first time they try a new and hard video game; and Exploration play which is about some form of sandboxing and/or setting tourism depending on what their market research suggests is the best way to set it out. This one would also be a chance to plug all those old setting books for sale on DriveThruRPG.

I don't think, in marketing terms, that it's feasible for a D&D book to have advice on how to use contemporary D&D to play a "story now"-type game. Putting to one side whether or not 5e D&D actually has the resources (actual or even potential) to do this - I tend to think it doesn't, which is one reason why I don't play it - I think it is going to be very hard to frame advice for how to do that which doesn't come into some sort of direct conflict with the advice on how to do (what I have called) "Typical" (ie neo/trad) play. Even with a "plot point" type option, you would want to present that as integrating into one of the three main modes: in Old-school play a plot point is simply a do-over for when you get ganked (like a save point in a video game); in Exploration play its about getting an auto-success on your desire to meet someone or to find something, or maybe getting an auto-success on a reaction roll, so you're still engaging with the GM's material but it has to happen now and on the player's terms; and in Typical play maybe it's as simple as allowing it to be used in any of these fashions.
 

Malmuria

Adventurer
Or, you could just get the players onboard to start with and have character creation such that characters are motivated by the primary plot idea. That seems less manipulative and Illusionary.
Yes, but more broadly to run this kind of game the dm probably needs to participate in some illusionism. Not necessarily for the premise of the campaign, but there will be small and big moments in this style of play when the dm wants x, y, and z thing to happen but doesn't want the players to feel forced. And players will suspend disbelief and sort of go along to the 'content' the dm has prepared. It's just that this type of practice would be made explicit, and everyone could give up the ghost of sandboxes when what they want is something else.
 

pemerton

Legend
Yes, but more broadly to run this kind of game the dm probably needs to participate in some illusionism. Not necessarily for the premise of the campaign, but there will be small and big moments in this style of play when the dm wants x, y, and z thing to happen but doesn't want the players to feel forced. And players will suspend disbelief and sort of go along to the 'content' the dm has prepared. It's just that this type of practice would be made explicit, and everyone could give up the ghost of sandboxes when what they want is something else.
I don't think it's necessarily creating the illusion that choices mattered when they didn't. I think it's more about concealing the precise movement at which the GM tilts the table. It's a bit like a card trick - the audience knows there's a point at which the legerdemain was performed, they don't really think it was magic, but they don't know quite when it happened.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Here are my suggested best practices for 5E D&D. These are all just based on the general game itself, and not toward trying to run it a specific way, or trying to give it a specific vibe. These are just my opinion, of course.

Players:
  • Remember that this is a group activity, and that the thrust of play will be about the group
  • Don't try and make a character that will "win"- make a character that will be interesting, make a character you'd like to learn more about
  • Be willing to engage with ideas offered by others, particularly the GM- the GM will establish a lot of the fiction in the game and will present most of the conflicts- be willing to engage with these ideas
  • Hold on loosely to your preconceived ideas about your character- don't over commit to every detail before play even begins- allow space for discovery through play and adapting to what gets established
  • Expect that sometimes the GM may make a ruling that may override the rules

GMs:
  • Remember that this is a group activity and allow players to have as much input on how the game goes as possible
  • Don't try to tell a specific story- create scenarios that you feel would be interesting, and then watch what the players have the characters do, and then build on that
  • Be willing to engage with ideas offered by the players- try to never override or render meaningless any decision made by the players
  • Be a fan of the PCs- the game is about them, not about your setting- keep that in mind and hold on lightly to your setting and NPCs as they exist only to see how they interact with the PCs
  • Be cautious with making rulings that override the rules; when it does happen, be clear about your reasoning for doing so

I've come up with this list quickly and off the top of my head, thinking about my recent games of 5E as both player and GM. I'm sure I can could come up with more, or that I could expand and/or clarify these. And although I don't think everyone would agree with them all, I don't think any of them is all that controversial. But even so, I imagine there are plenty of other ideas out there that folks could offer along these lines.
You've put forward quite a good list and I had one or two thoughts about it on the GM side. The fourth point is what I am interested in.

  • Be a fan of the PCs- the game is about them, not about your setting- keep that in mind and hold on lightly to your setting and NPCs as they exist only to see how they interact with the PCs
While I don't see this as exactly wrong, I feel it also might not be the best practice for 5e D&D. Rather I believe the DM must understand themselves. They must make the game about that which can come from within them, which they can weave fluidly and naturally. To any question, any line of exploration, they will know what must lie there. The players should be a fan of the DM: that is why they will join that DM's games. In my experience and observation, the greatest D&D RPG experiences required a DM who understood what they wanted to and could do, and thus were able to fulfil their role confidently and naturally.

Whether one agrees with that, however, is not what I most want to call attention to. The practice proposed is likely more relevant to efforts at elevated RPG, rather than casual gaming. It makes an assumption that a group will not be content with less than the most unique and interesting play that they can engage in. If that is right, then on top of other considerations already laid out in this thread for what will identify best practices, there is the consideration of the seriousness or quality of RPG a group intends to be involved in. In another thread we talked about Bushido, which to my mind is most successful with this sort of elevated intent.

Coming back to a point I made earlier, it seems
  1. There are ways to play (modes, and hybrids of modes)
  2. There are qualities of play (what we decide to count as good)
  3. There are game rulesets (e.g. the designed artifacts of D&D) under cultures of interpretation (e.g. rulings not rules versus COWTRA)
  4. At each step down this hierarchy (i.e. 1-3), for each combination up to that step, there can be a set of best practices
If that is so, then identifying a set of practices as '5e D&D' cannot be enough because that is too far down the hierarchy. It cannot be right to say that

These are all just based on the general game itself, and not toward trying to run it a specific way, or trying to give it a specific vibe. These are just my opinion, of course.
Because the practices put forward are based on trying to run D&D in a specific way. That's not a criticism of your practices! More an attempt to understand what is going on when we put forward any view of practices. What I'm suggesting is that the hierarchy must be respected: to say "5e D&D" will require commitments on modes, qualities and cultures.
 

I've never read or played it but have seen it discussed online, and I had the same vague recollection.

It's actually a pretty good adventure, overall. It's basic set up is very much like the old modules like Keep on the Borderlands, where you have a town, and a few nearby adventure sites, and some minimal motivation to act.

I'm using citing the one Moldvay book. If you're thinking of plural Basic D&D Books that might be post-Moldvay Mentzer - I've seen it back in the day but never played it. To the extent that it and Moldvay differ, I incline towards Moldvay, but that's a different story!

Yeah, my bad....I was kind of conflating the two. I didn't have the Moldvay Basic set as a kid....my intro to Basic D&D, which was pretty much simultaneous with AD&D, was the Mentzer Red Box. I remember not even realizing that the two weren't compatible for the first couple of years of playing them.

Anyway, I think you're right in what you say here. I think writing 5e as a "compromise" (those scare quotes are doing a lot of work there) and "recovery" edition had something to do with it - there was a lot of hostility from existing D&D players towards the instructional-type text in 4e. And avoiding that hostility was seen - rightly, I would say - as a necessary condition of getting any broader traction including among new players.

Right, following so many different iterations of the game and all the expectation that goes along with that, as well as a few decades of development for the hobby overall, the 5E team kind of had its work cut out for them. Their approach....and I agree it was probably necessary....was to try and keep as many folks happy as possible. And that has resulted in a very popular game, but it isn't always the most coherent or consistent version.

I don't think that's the only explanation. AD&D 2nd ed wasn't produced under quite the same sorts of pressures, but it also is weak in instructional text compared to Gygax's version, I think - and Gygax's AD&D is itself weak compared to Moldvay. So I think Moldvay benefited both from there being no wider context of aversion to advice plus someone who knew how to write game instructions well.

Anyway, you probably know as well as anyone else who posts on these boards that I've got fairly strong preferences in RPGing and being railroaded through Phandelver isn't central to them - but I'd still prefer the books come out and at least set out a "typical" approach to play which is not just the GM describes the environment - what do you do? but that the GM will tell you where you are, what you're there for and what makes sense as your next step so that beginners have somewhere to start. Given that I still think there's a bit of "hunting for the plot" in non-beginner play as well (I certainly saw plenty of it back when I was a club player, and I don't get the feeling the world has changed that much) that sort of advice might be helpful for non-beginners also.

This is why I think your daughter's game (or any group of beginners) would benefit from a published adventure (although if the gricks are evidence that they are in fact playing one, then perhaps it isn't any different); the actual advice on how to run the game tends to be in the adventure books themselves more so than the core books. What's in the core books is very broad and loose. The adventure books have specific scenarios, and so the advice gets more specific.

Phandelver does indeed start with the GM telling the players that the PCs are on the road outside of Phandelver, and that they've come seeking a friend and then find out that friend is missing due to recent goblin raids. So it has that "you're here, and this is why" element and then the rest of the module is similar; there are locations, and then prompts to investigate other areas, and get involved in other scenarios.
 

You've put forward quite a good list and I had one or two thoughts about it on the GM side. The fourth point is what I am interested in.

While I don't see this as exactly wrong, I feel it also might not be the best practice for 5e D&D. Rather I believe the DM must understand themselves. They must make the game about that which can come from within them, which they can weave fluidly and naturally. To any question, any line of exploration, they will know what must lie there. The players should be a fan of the DM: that is why they will join that DM's games. In my experience and observation, the greatest D&D RPG experiences required a DM who understood what they wanted to and could do, and thus were able to fulfil their role confidently and naturally.

Sure, this one is an area I figured might see some disagreement. There are plenty of folks who would say no this idea and would maintain that the DM must be a neutral arbiter and should remain impartial at all times.

I disagree with that. I think the game must be about the PCs; without them there is no game, so they are the protagonists and that should be acknowledged. They are more important than the NPCs or lore that I craft as a DM.

I don't think that idea needs to conflict with your idea of the players being a fan of the DM, although that's hard to have in place at the start of a new game with new people. A player can keep that in mind....and I think that's what I was kind of getting at with players being willing to engage with the GM's ideas.....but being a fan of the GM or trusting the GM is something that may need some time to develop. I think it may be a best practice to suggest to players "Trust that your GM will try and enable fun and engaging play, and accept their rulings with that in mind"; that's likely a good default position for a player to take until they see evidence that they should not do so.

I think that's a bit different than the GM being a fan of the PCs.....those are the characters in the game. All the participants getting along is more of a social matter. A GM being a fan of the characters is about the fiction of the game, not the social dynamic of the table.

Whether one agrees with that, however, is not what I most want to call attention to. The practice proposed is likely more relevant to efforts at elevated RPG, rather than casual gaming. It makes an assumption that a group will not be content with less than the most unique and interesting play that they can engage in. If that is right, then on top of other considerations already laid out in this thread for what will identify best practices, there is the consideration of the seriousness or quality of RPG a group intends to be involved in. In another thread we talked about Bushido, which to my mind is most successful with this sort of elevated intent.

Coming back to a point I made earlier, it seems
  1. There are ways to play (modes, and hybrids of modes)
  2. There are qualities of play (what we decide to count as good)
  3. There are game rulesets (e.g. the designed artifacts of D&D) under cultures of interpretation (e.g. rulings not rules versus COWTRA)
  4. At each step down this hierarchy (i.e. 1-3), for each combination up to that step, there can be a set of best practices
If that is so, then identifying a set of practices as '5e D&D' cannot be enough because that is too far down the hierarchy. It cannot be right to say that


Because the practices put forward are based on trying to run D&D in a specific way. That's not a criticism of your practices! More an attempt to understand what is going on when we put forward any view of practices. What I'm suggesting is that the hierarchy must be respected: to say "5e D&D" will require commitments on modes, qualities and cultures.

I think you're breaking it out in a way that does make sense, but I don't think that we need to hold back at any stage. We can offer best practices.....or rather our take on best practices...at any level of your hierarchy. I would agree that the further you move along what you've laid out, the more specific things will get. And sure, at the top level, something like "Decide what style you want to play" is probably a good suggestion for a best practice.

However, my concern would be in establishing all those different tiers and styles and so forth. I mean, as a group we can't agree on any terms, and even just the idea of best practices has been met with resistance. The level and scope of definition that you're describing would take a miracle.
 

TheAlkaizer

Game Designer
This is interesting because there is so much gm advice out there. Youtube is full of do this, don't do this, top 10 things you should do, etc. Similarly, what makes a good "gm advice" section in a game? Does the dmg, for example, suggest that a particular style of play is best (and if not, does it make the dmg more generic and less useful?)?
I don't consider myself the best GM, but I honestly rolled my eyes are almost nearly every video or advice for DMs that I've been on YouTube. I've even watched some YouTube creators recorded campaigns and found them, in my perspective, to be really mediocre GM that wouldn't follow their own advice.

One exception to this has been Matt Colville. His videos are fantastic. They don't always try and give you a clear advice on how to run things, but will make you ponder on a subject until you come to your own conclusion.
 

Jaeger

That someone better.
5e is in a weird place, because the official materials arguably don't do a great job at teaching new players/dms how to play the game, but because of its popularity, there is no shortage of unofficial advice and examples of play.

5e is relying entirely on its network effect to fill in the gaps of how-to knowledge for new players.

As the market leader it can get away with such things...


My daughter and I had a spare 40 or so minutes last Friday and I pulled out Moldvay Basic. She rolled up 2 PCs. I helped her choose classes (a Halfling and a Fighter) and equipment. Then we did about three rooms of The Haunted Keep (the example dungeon at the back of the book): she drew a map, made checks to open doors, put out her lantern to save oil while resting; I rolled wandering monster checks and got some fire beetles but the reaction roll showed they were friendly (which I took to mean inquisitive and harmless).
...

But my other take away was that my daughter noticed the effects of structure, in the sense that she knew what to do (make her way through the dungeon, looking for treasure), things were happening (opening doors, finding pits and pools of water, encountering fire beetles on the other side of a door) and she had tangible indicators of progress (checking out rooms, making her map, having the inquisitive fire beetles leave her PCs alone as they walked among them). It wasn't exactly exciting but it wasn't directionless and silly either.

Because Moldvay placed the correct emphasis for the way the game is meant to be played when he wrote the rules.

The Game as a whole First.
The Campaign Second
Players Third

Structure is important. As you and your daughter re-discovered.


'm not arguing that 5e D&D should be a dungeon crawl game. I'm arguing that, however exactly it is meant to be played, it should be possible to state processes and principles that - if followed - will bring it about that the participants will have that sort of experience.

And Earlier editions of the game did this. And they were not all about the dungeon crawl either.

Keep on the borderlands - In Search of the unknown - The village of Hommlet. Those are all still considered foundational because of the variety of play offered at an introductory level. Yes plenty of exploring dungeons, but also interacting with residents of the Keep, town, and roaming around the wilderness in search of gold and glory.

That is why the mines of phandelver is regarded so well, it echoes what worked that came before it.


I can't remember how long ago I last posted this - maybe as much as a decade ago - but I still find it bizarre that D&D rulebook writing peaked about 40 years ago!

It is because they didn't shy away from the fact that RPG's are Wargame derivatives.

And while they weren't perfect people; When it came to running the Game, Gygax and co actually knew what they were doing.

I have the Modvay basic and expert rules right next to me. That is a functional game. It is not broken. The rules work. And as you have found out they work better for a raw beginner than if they were to dive straight into 5e.

And in my opinion with a few house rules they will align fine with current player mindsets that prefers a little more starting competence and survivability.

For attributes: roll 4d6, drop lowest, arrange to suit.
For HP: Max HP + Con bonus at level 1, then average after that. (If you really want to pad the numbers add half Con at level 1)
Want to play with ascending AC? Done for you already:

In fact you could do a whole lot worse than to buy or give your daughter Keep on the borderlands, In Search of the unknown, and The village of Hommlet as a package for her starting campaign, with a little guidance from you to tie things together.

She just needs the players to create PC's with he idea that they have come together as a group of adventurers to seek their fortunes.

You don't need some involved set-up, or anything more than 1-2 sentences for PC backstories. So long as all the players approach things with a team mindset, all their individual characters personalities will emerge during play.

The OSR is largely based around B/X rules for a reason. The rules and concepts behind them just plain worked.
 



pemerton

Legend
It doesn't matter.

Moldvay didn't write B/X in isolation. I would find it utterly incredulous that Moldvay wasn't fully aware of how the game should be played when he wrote it.
I think he knew how the game should be played! I was just pointing out that he doesn't actually state that ranking, and I don't think he endorses it either. I think he puts the players front-and-centre. He puts them front-and-centre in a clear statement of the processes of play. At this abstract level of description, his rulebook can be compared to John Harper's Agon 2nd ed. (Of course the games are different, with different processes, once we drill down to any greater level of detail.)
 

Jaeger

That someone better.
I think he knew how the game should be played! I was just pointing out that he doesn't actually state that ranking, and I don't think he endorses it either. I think he puts the players front-and-centre. He puts them front-and-centre in a clear statement of the processes of play. At this abstract level of description, his rulebook can be compared to John Harper's Agon 2nd ed. (Of course the games are different, with different processes, once we drill down to any greater level of detail.)

I completely disagree. Impossible for an employee at 1980 TSR.

All the processes of play he lays out in B/X endorse it. Yes it is more abstract than AD&D, but B/X is absolutely done from the same principles because it is based on rules Gygax wrote in the first place.

B/X is a simpler rules set than AD&D, it is not a paradigm shift of play.

Pg. B3 in his How To Use This Book section, he explains the importance of following the game structure when running and playing the game. And even writes about how if you change rules you should first think about how the changes will affect the game.

The Game as a whole must come first because it structures how the players will interact with the campaign world.

The Campaign is second because it defines the virtual world that the Player Characters are in.

The Players come third because they cannot create characters that fit into the game world in a meaningful fashion until the rules and campaign are firmly established.

All three of these interact at once during gameplay to form a tripod of support for the gaming session.

The overwhelming majority of my RPG experience has been playing everything except D&D.

But D&D is foundational, and Gygax's 'Ordering things as they should be' is RPG 101.

If anything, John Harper's Agon 2nd ed has an even more a more structured set of procedures than 5e D&D to facilitate its gameplay.
 

The Game as a whole must come first because it structures how the players will interact with the campaign world.

The Campaign is second because it defines the virtual world that the Player Characters are in.

The Players come third because they cannot create characters that fit into the game world in a meaningful fashion until the rules and campaign are firmly established.

I have to note that OD&D was often run in such a fashion that there was little point in waiting to find out the campaign specifics to make characters. There weren't any meaningful decisions in character gen that were going to be impacted by the campaign setting, unless you were outright excluding races or classes (and I'm not sure in many cases what that would even mean with the common transition of characters from game to game).
 

Yeah, sure, 5e could certainly benefit from a more in depth explanation of the design and implications thereof. Although I'm not sure how much it would help. I suspect the people who complain without first taking the time to understand the design, would be the same people who complain without first taking the time to read the explanation of the design. I guess everyone who had read it could quote chapter and verse in response to those complaints.
IMHO the key issue with 5e is simply a lack of transparency. As @Ovinomancer said, there's a specific set of design elements that go together with 5e in terms of encounter budget, adventure day length, rests, etc. but the design of 5e is pretty deliberately obfuscatory. OF COURSE people don't understand it, because it isn't spelled out, and there are specific choices of how things are allocated to mechanics, that make it less visible. Then you add on top of that the admonitions about GM's being 'in charge of the rules', what did the designers expect would happen? Not only do the writers of adventures not understand this stuff, most tables are completely at sea on it.

What I'm saying is, it isn't simply a matter of there being some area where explanation was a bit thin, the game was deliberately designed NOT to be self-explanatory. Compare it with 4e, you can see instantly what I mean. Nobody had these problems in 4e. If they did, they knew right off the top of their head WHY, because they were going against what was spelled out in the DMG. In fact IMHO 4e was MORE flexible this way exactly because of this, you clearly could see what had to change if you modified your assumptions, and there wasn't a 'balance point' that you had to hit, there was just a sliding scale.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
IMHO the key issue with 5e is simply a lack of transparency. As @Ovinomancer said, there's a specific set of design elements that go together with 5e in terms of encounter budget, adventure day length, rests, etc. but the design of 5e is pretty deliberately obfuscatory. OF COURSE people don't understand it, because it isn't spelled out, and there are specific choices of how things are allocated to mechanics, that make it less visible. Then you add on top of that the admonitions about GM's being 'in charge of the rules', what did the designers expect would happen? Not only do the writers of adventures not understand this stuff, most tables are completely at sea on it.

What I'm saying is, it isn't simply a matter of there being some area where explanation was a bit thin, the game was deliberately designed NOT to be self-explanatory. Compare it with 4e, you can see instantly what I mean. Nobody had these problems in 4e. If they did, they knew right off the top of their head WHY, because they were going against what was spelled out in the DMG. In fact IMHO 4e was MORE flexible this way exactly because of this, you clearly could see what had to change if you modified your assumptions, and there wasn't a 'balance point' that you had to hit, there was just a sliding scale.
Actually, that's a great example of what I was saying. As I recall, there were plenty of people who made various complaints about 4e because they didn't read the DMG. Others (myself included) would quote chapter and verse from the DMG and they'd still rarely accept it. It happened on these boards quite regularly back then, IIRC.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top