log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D General Can we talk about best practices?

Yes and no. The previous two editions really tried to lock things down into a specific style of play. There were rules for how to stealth, what DC it was to climb specific types of walls, rules for ... well they tried to make a rule for just about everything. So as a player you could always say "here on page XX is says that YY so you have to play that way". While the intent may have been admirable, it never really seemed to work very well.

Maybe there could be some kind of compromise, maybe not. That, and maybe I'm understanding what you're trying to say and maybe it's just been a long day and just ignore what I said. :)
In terms of 'flexibility' IMHO what I find is that people who are saying that 5e is flexible then give a list of ways they find it flexible which is VERY narrow! That is, sure, within a narrow range of styles of play, you can go out online and find enough advice to fix the issues you ran into because you didn't play bog standard 5e. Outside of that, you're pretty much out of luck. I mean, obviously you can rebuild the game, but it is not particularly transparent and there is a strong 'baked in' set of assumptions about the core processes of play.

I don't think that last bit is atypical of RPGs, but many ARE more transparent.

I feel like this all was kind of a major goal in designing 5e. The idea almost seems like "well, we will duck a lot of issues and make the core mechanical design decisions a bit opaque, and that will damp down all the debate we had with the last edition." It was a business decision, seems to have worked to a degree.

I do think it makes sense to mostly just play the game that is appropriate to what you're trying to do. THAT might be a great 'best practice', though it might seem a bit obvious to many...
 

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.


Or from the rules text! 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, Holmes Basic was a bit thin there too. I think Moldvay pretty much just looked at it and was clever enough to understand what you are saying and did it. Sadly the lesson wasn't passed on somehow.
Conversely, one reason I found Classic Traveller so hard to grasp when I first read it (c 1979) is that it doesn't set out the structure for play. It assumes the reader already knows what to do. Coming back to it now with decades of experience I can see the structure in there, and how to use the random patron table, and the soft move/hard move structure of manoeuvring-in-vacc-suit resolution, and the function of Streetwise checks to generate not just in-fiction outcomes but backstory as well. But it doesn't spell all this out with the sort of clarity that Moldvay does.
Yeah, but Classic Traveller does have a lot of strengths in this department. If you go through the standard 3BB character 'lifepath' system there is a VERY high chance that the party will end up with either a Scout ship or a Free Trader. These are HUGE benefits that are really obvious to shoot for (orders of magnitude more valuable than anything else you can earn in a career, literally). Then there are clear hooks, Scout ships are described as often being sent on unofficial missions, and a Free Trader has a mortgage to pay every month. Then they give you a system to roll up new systems, and one to do trade. That's on top of the patron and streetwise stuff, and the TAS, which is an adventure hook generator if you need one.

I seem to recall that our first Traveller campaign ran pretty much identically to the next N iterations. Maybe this is not ENTIRELY a strength, lol! Certainly there are enough clearly picked out subsystems and procedures that the referee SHOULD be able to at least present the PCs with a crisis situation pretty quickly, if nothing else (IE failed to fill out the right paperwork in the law level A system due to a blown Bureaucracy check, being chased by a revenue cruiser).
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!
Because D&D was written to do one thing really well, dungeon crawls. 1e is written almost more as a reference system, but it does have a pretty good chapter in the PHB about how and what to do as players, and thus what the DM is likely to need to prep, though it is definitely not as utterly clear and up front as Red Box Basic.

Once the decision to try to pretend that D&D and its process could do 'stories' well, then clarity and coherence of purpose were out the window. I mean, look at what people are saying here! Really the only types of adventures that can be coherently articulated as having a clear process in 5e are 'crawls' in some sense. The problem is pretending all this other stuff works. Mearles insisted on 'three pillars' but he cannot even articulate how the game works for 2 of them. How would you write such a game? I don't even know! Mike sure doesn't.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
In terms of 'flexibility' IMHO what I find is that people who are saying that 5e is flexible then give a list of ways they find it flexible which is VERY narrow! That is, sure, within a narrow range of styles of play, you can go out online and find enough advice to fix the issues you ran into because you didn't play bog standard 5e. Outside of that, you're pretty much out of luck. I mean, obviously you can rebuild the game, but it is not particularly transparent and there is a strong 'baked in' set of assumptions about the core processes of play.

I don't think that last bit is atypical of RPGs, but many ARE more transparent.

I feel like this all was kind of a major goal in designing 5e. The idea almost seems like "well, we will duck a lot of issues and make the core mechanical design decisions a bit opaque, and that will damp down all the debate we had with the last edition." It was a business decision, seems to have worked to a degree.

I do think it makes sense to mostly just play the game that is appropriate to what you're trying to do. THAT might be a great 'best practice', though it might seem a bit obvious to many...
So, I've come to the recent conclusion that the flexibility isn't actually in ways to play, but in ways to GM and direct play. That the claims aren't about the player experience, but the GM experience -- do I prep, how do I prep, do I run linear, how do I run linear, do I call for checks this way or that way, do I prioritize this or that in my decision making, etc. It's still about the GM deciding, even when it's claimed it's about giving players more choices, because that's a decision to loan the GM's authority usually with how it will be yanked back if it's disagrees too much with the GM's vision (or on rather inconsequential things).

The flexibility of 5e is exactly what it says it is -- the GM can change whatever they want. It just rarely reaches down to changing how the game actually plays.
 

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.
Yeah, I think most of those people either never played, forgot, or just never READ classic early D&D, which did exactly the same thing, pretty much (as @pemerton has pointed out). I started with Holmes Basic and OD&D, and I read them all carefully, and 1e as it came out too. 4e most reminds me of them in its explicitness. I think a lot of people were not used to that and didn't read it carefully and understand what was supposed to happen.

Although I also think that the writers of 4e were a bit afraid to be TOO explicit and never put the whole thing right there in the front of the book like they should have.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
In terms of 'flexibility' IMHO what I find is that people who are saying that 5e is flexible then give a list of ways they find it flexible which is VERY narrow! That is, sure, within a narrow range of styles of play, you can go out online and find enough advice to fix the issues you ran into because you didn't play bog standard 5e. Outside of that, you're pretty much out of luck. I mean, obviously you can rebuild the game, but it is not particularly transparent and there is a strong 'baked in' set of assumptions about the core processes of play.

I don't think that last bit is atypical of RPGs, but many ARE more transparent.

I feel like this all was kind of a major goal in designing 5e. The idea almost seems like "well, we will duck a lot of issues and make the core mechanical design decisions a bit opaque, and that will damp down all the debate we had with the last edition." It was a business decision, seems to have worked to a degree.

I do think it makes sense to mostly just play the game that is appropriate to what you're trying to do. THAT might be a great 'best practice', though it might seem a bit obvious to many...
I have experienced a great many systems, and I really don't experience the faults you describe here with 5e. Possibly that is because I have always had a good idea how I want to approach each game I run. Direction comes naturally to me :)

It's true 5e is tightly knit (and that was also true of 3e) so when you decide to rebuild part you can run into concerns that you might not have predicted. There are advantages and disadvantages in that. 5e manages to be a very sophisticated system, that most people are also able to grasp and play.

I've been doing some work lately for a 5e campaign I intend to run after ToA. One consequence of discussion here and elsewhere is that I am thinking more about my processes of play. I am aiming for a melding of WWN rennaissance play with ideas of my own regarding immersive play (world-immersion) and trad (albeit elevating player roles and at odds with trad in significant ways.) I've no idea what others would call my hybrid! It fits what I think of as open-world where players drive how narratives unfold, as a product of their interaction with actors and elements that I have seeded.

I'll be drawing much on what you and others have said in this and related threads. At some point I will post some PDFs dealing with approach (principles and guidelines, or practices), rules and rulings, and setting. They're well underway.
 

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.


It was directionless. Nothing happened.

My daughter is a teenager. She's seen RPG play going on (ie mine) since she was a baby. She's seen people play Rolemaster, 4e D&D, Classic Traveller, Prince Valiant, Burning Wheel, MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic, and a few other one-shots on top of that. She knows that RPGing involves talking about what is going on in the fiction, and getting excited about dice rolls.

She's also done a little bit of playing as opposed to observing - eg a solo Classic Traveller session last year. She was really looking forward to playing in her own game with her friends. And as I said, she's been disappointed.

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. But what has struck me is how little structure D&D 5e has to avoid this sort of nonsense. For instance:

* There is no structure for bringing the PCs together into a party (and I think in my daughter's game this took two sessions = 3+ hours to achieve);​
* There is no structure for telling the players what they should be doing, leading to "hunting for the plot";​
* There is no structure to tell that GM what to do if the PCs say "we spend the night in the woods" and then don't declare watches (as happened in this game) - eg there's no articulated framework for saying "time passes" nor one for saying "make a sleeping-in-peril check".​

I hope that conveys the gist of it.

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).

Now from my point of view the main take away was a reminder of my lack of interest in classic D&D play. And the only real "action" was one PC falling down a pit - the Halfling, and I'd forgotten to put rope on her gear lists (crack Sam Gamgee jokes here - we did). I asked my daughter how she gets out. It took a while. I had thought the Fighter's scabbarded two-handed sword would be the solution, but she didn't think of that; instead she asked how big a large sack is - and I allowed it to be long enough for a Halfling to grab hold of and be pulled up with (maybe I called for DEX checks, with a failed one adding a turn to the clock). From my daughter's point of view working out how to get through the pool of water in one of the rooms probably also counted as action - the Fighter waded through carrying the Halfling on his shoulders (as per the room description, the water itself is 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.

And all that structure is provided by the published rulebook, some of it express (the turn structure, the rules for doors, the principles around mapping, etc) and some of it implicit in what the GM and players are told to do - the GM is told to draw up a dungeon (or pick one off the shelf, as I did) and the players are told (i) that their adventure will begin with their PCs at the dungeon entrance, and (ii) that their goal is to explore the dungeon for treasure. (The sample dungeon also has a backstory about finding and rescuing prisoners, but that's a veneer whose thinness no one tries to conceal!)

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. Which I think can probably be more rewarding than the dragonborn bard putting the drunk goblin fighter into a sack.
Whilst this was an interesting story, and you might even have a point, I still have to say that I wouldn't draw any far reaching conclusions about the quality of a system or its presentation from the fact that the first games run by teenagers were way worse than games run by a veteran GM with decades (?) of experience.
 
Last edited:

Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
I have a number of "best practices" but as so many people pointed out, there is no such thing as everyone's game is different, at least in their viewpoint. Everything is ok! Do whatever! There is no answer, right?

For me, here are best practices for my game, with players that have been with me since the 20th century:
  • Encouraging backstories that tie into the lore of my game
  • Reducing powergaming in various ways (house rules, removal of some optional rules, making sure players know nerfs can happen midgame)
  • Encouraging role-play instead of roll-play
  • Tamping down the increasing power creep
  • Removing "teen themes"
  • Reducing the absurd ease of survival via removing death saves and stopping the up and down at 1hp
  • Making sure I am ready to handle anything players throw at me via improv
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I have a number of "best practices" but as so many people pointed out, there is no such thing as everyone's game is different, at least in their viewpoint. Everything is ok! Do whatever! There is no answer, right?

For me, here are best practices for my game, with players that have been with me since the 20th century:
  • Encouraging backstories that tie into the lore of my game
  • Reducing powergaming in various ways (house rules, removal of some optional rules, making sure players know nerfs can happen midgame)
  • Encouraging role-play instead of roll-play
  • Tamping down the increasing power creep
  • Removing "teen themes"
  • Reducing the absurd ease of survival via removing death saves and stopping the up and down at 1hp
  • Making sure I am ready to handle anything players throw at me via improv
Dare I ask what you mean by "teen themes"?
 


Dragonsbane

Proud Grognard
Dare I ask what you mean by "teen themes"?
For my table, this means players playing a furry, wanting pokemonish pets, avoiding the Harry Potter-MTG book coming out, PCs having death immunity for the plot, etc. One particular book for Cypher System (our current system) is about teens in the 80s being superheroes, not our cup of tea.

I guess a better way to say it would be "focus on mature themes". Our games are more Game of Thrones than Harry Potter.

Nothing wrong with teens and teen themes (I'm a teacher lol), just not for my games. I am sure I offended someone, sorry about that.
 



Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Yeah, Monte IMHO is simply way behind the times, lol. We are certainly on completely different wavelengths about game design and GMing.
You mean you'd rather see rollplay than roleplay? That doesn't sound like you, which means you're getting at something else here which I'm missing.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
For my table, this means players playing a furry, wanting pokemonish pets, avoiding the Harry Potter-MTG book coming out, PCs having death immunity for the plot, etc. One particular book for Cypher System (our current system) is about teens in the 80s being superheroes, not our cup of tea.

I guess a better way to say it would be "focus on mature themes". Our games are more Game of Thrones than Harry Potter.
Gotcha.

Mine are - ideally - a mix of GoT, Xena, and LotR; and sometimes not for the faint of heart. :)
 

You mean you'd rather see rollplay than roleplay? That doesn't sound like you, which means you're getting at something else here which I'm missing.
Oh, well, there was a thread someone put up asking about Cypher System, and I was saying there that my reading of it is that it is a very trad system. He just doesn't 'get' or is not interested in, Story Now type systems. I'm not sure exactly what he's saying is 'rollplay', but overall I just see Monte as being 'not with the times'.
 

Oh, well, there was a thread someone put up asking about Cypher System, and I was saying there that my reading of it is that it is a very trad system. He just doesn't 'get' or is not interested in, Story Now type systems. I'm not sure exactly what he's saying is 'rollplay', but overall I just see Monte as being 'not with the times'.
How is 'story now' keeping up with the times? Kids play D&D, 'story now' is RPG hipster stuff.
 




An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top