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D&D General Can we talk about best practices?

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The character sheets stay with the GM, because the GM won't forget to bring all the notes to every game. If you want to look at your character sheet at home, take a photo.
Absolutely. That's been our rule here forever; and on the rare occasions a player takes a sheet home and forgets to bring it back next session, it's a given that said player will miss part of that session due to going home right then to get it.

When I said "keep the old [sheet]" I meant clip it to the back of the new one rather than crumple it up and throw it away, which I've seen done. (online or digitized sheets are even worse for this, as it's too easy to just edit what's there rather than create a duplicate file and edit that so as to preserve the old one).
 

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Fanaelialae

Legend
Is it, though?

I mean, for a "heavily narrative" game, using 5E isn't that different from playing slovesochka, the game of "the GM will tell you what happens" and for an oldschool dungeoncrawler you'll need to backport (or invent) turn-based exploration, reaction rolls, wandering monsters tables... A ton of stuff.

I certainly understand the appeal of a multitool, but I don't think 5E really is one. GURPS is a multitool alright. Fate, too.

What 5E really provides is absence of tools outside of it's sweet spot, so, yeah, it doesn't get in the way of whatever you're trying to run, but it also doesn't really help.
GURPS is flexible, but it wouldn't be my first choice to run either a narratively focused fantasy game, or an old school dungeon crawl. It might be a better choice than 5e for certain concepts, but not those IMO.

Fate might be great for the narratively focused game, but IMO it is not well suited for running an old school dungeon crawl.

I've seen narratively focused games run in 5e out of the box. Same for dungeon crawls. You don't have to invent new mechanics, though it could enhance the experience. When I ran my players through ToH (just for the fun of saying we'd done it), rather than turn-based, I just kept a running tally of their time. Using turns might have been more convenient, but I certainly didn't NEED them. (Also, 5e already has wandering monster tables.)

There are also a ton of great 3P products out there that let you customize your 5e game the way you like. For an old school dungeon crawl (just off the top of my head) you have The King of Dungeons, Five Torches Deep, and Into the Unknown. I'm not as familiar with the narratively oriented products, because they're not my cup of tea, but they are out there.

Finally, if you do want to customize the experience by designing bespoke mechanics for your 5e game and style of play, you can. As you say, it doesn't get in your way, which is a big plus in my book, and I think for plenty of others as well.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
Know the rules.
Know when to tell Jasper to BEEP off.
Know to send jasper 9.99 each month so HE can tell what are the best for practices.
Know your comfort level, and your players comfort level
Know every one on the internet is a goober if you disagree with their post.
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
I've seen narratively focused games run in 5e out of the box.
I've seen these too. I've played in one for a year and a half.

I don't think it's really a proff of 5E's ability to handle narratively focused games, though -- it's a proof that the DM can handle one. I mean, the difference between using 5E in such fashion and not using any system at all is pretty negligible.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Again, it isn't either/or - but without being grounded in the Rule of Fun, you divorce yourself from the bottom line of what matters: which is the enjoyment of those at the table.

Specifically, if you don't ground in the Rule of Fun, and check regularly that you are following it, you run the risk of following "best practices" for the sake of them being "best", as doctrine. And don't you have enough people telling you to follow rules for the sake of the rules?
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I've seen these too. I've played in one for a year and a half.

I don't think it's really a proff of 5E's ability to handle narratively focused games, though -- it's a proof that the DM can handle one. I mean, the difference between using 5E in such fashion and not using any system at all is pretty negligible.
I think that arguing that it needs a DM to work is a fairly weak criticism.

I never made any claim that 5e is the ideal game for running a narratively focused game. I said that it was capable of running either a narratively focused game or an old school dungeon crawl. Not that it was the best at either. Heck, you could have a game where you do both (delve deep tombs in an old school manner, but also have segments that ditch the procedure and focus on the narrative). Not every game can do both, IMO.

Yes, some of that comes down to leveraging the GM, which is something that most games do. Maybe 5e relies on the GM more heavily than some other games, but (as in all things) there are trade-offs in game design. A flexible design is likely to rely more on the GM than a more focused design, much like a sandbox adventure is likely to expect more of the GM than a linear adventure. Assuming that the players engage with the linear adventure, the DM can read the box text and move from A to B to C. Whereas the sandbox is naturally going to expect the GM to need to improvise, and is simply going to provide aids to that end, because the players' engagement is open ended (within the scope of the sandbox).
 

Stalker0

Legend
We have to first understand that there is no one "best practices" for all of RPGs. Or even all of D&D.
Though I believe such a list is small, it does exist, and the exercise is to find them.

i think the best one offered so far is about communication and the setting of expectations at session 0. I cannot fathom a dnd game that would not be well served (or at least neutrally served) by a bit of communication.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I think that arguing that it needs a DM to work is a fairly weak criticism.

First, let's make sure we agree on what is being criticized.

If you see a movie, it may be good. But, you can realize that the movie was carried not by the strength of the script, or special effects, but by the sheer talent of the actors. The movie is still good, but the script lacks interesting structure, has some plot holes, and the dialogue is dull - this is a criticism of the script, rather than the movie as a whole. Similarly, we can make criticism of any given ruleset, wihout criticizing the D&D zeitgeist, so to speak.

There's also a question as to whether "fails to deliver an experience it wasn't designed to deliver" is proper criticism, but I think that's a bit pedantic - the point that the rules give very little support for narrative play is a proper statement about the ruleset, even if it fails to be criticism, that folks would do well to know.

So, maybe "weak criticism" is itself a weak criticism?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Though I believe such a list is small, it does exist, and the exercise is to find them.

i think the best one offered so far is about communication and the setting of expectations at session 0. I cannot fathom a dnd game that would not be well served (or at least neutrally served) by a bit of communication.

Perhaps I suffered from some presumption of expectations, after reading some of the OP's difficulties in another thread. I took it, with that context, to be referring to best practices during a session of play.

But even then, you're at risk of giving the advice of "you should have a session 0" but having little agreement upon content for that session.
 

Helpful NPC Thom

Adventurer
I hope we can*, otherwise we’re doomed to never get better at...whatever it is we’re doing.

So simple question: how can we talk about best practices without being told it’s badwrongfun or onetruewayism?

EDIT: Changed the title without changing the first line.
Best practices:

1. 3d6 down the line, no rerolls.
2. Human only.
3. Players must have been playing for at least three editions before joining the game.
4. Final destination.

Anything less than this is incorrect and an abysmal failure. More seriously, here are my best practices for gaming:

1. Players don't touch the dice until the GM says so.
2. Clarify task/intent when calling for a roll.
3. Set stakes prior to rolling the dice so everyone knows what's at stake.
4. Roll dice and have fun.
 

meltdownpass

Explorer
The only best practice I can think of that is true for all groups and all styles of play is:
  • Ask the players what aspects of the game they liked, and what aspects of the game they didn't like
  • Iteratively try to improve your performance. Repeat asking your players if they felt it was an improvement.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
First, let's make sure we agree on what is being criticized.

If you see a movie, it may be good. But, you can realize that the movie was carried not by the strength of the script, or special effects, but by the sheer talent of the actors. The movie is still good, but the script lacks interesting structure, has some plot holes, and the dialogue is dull - this is a criticism of the script, rather than the movie as a whole. Similarly, we can make criticism of any given ruleset, wihout criticizing the D&D zeitgeist, so to speak.

There's also a question as to whether "fails to deliver an experience it wasn't designed to deliver" is proper criticism, but I think that's a bit pedantic - the point that the rules give very little support for narrative play is a proper statement about the ruleset, even if it fails to be criticism, that folks would do well to know.

So, maybe "weak criticism" is itself a weak criticism?
Personally, I think it makes more sense to look at D&D holistically. If all someone wants to do is criticize the lack of narrative rules in the ruleset, okay. It hasn't stopped people from running narratively focused games and enjoying the experience.

Sure, a different game might be a better "script". I never suggested otherwise.

In an earlier post, I compared D&D to a multi tool and bespoke games to a set of screwdrivers. If what you want to do is drive a bunch of different screws, then obviously the screwdrivers are the way to go. However, if you want to carry a tool around with you that's good, but not ideal, for a lot of different jobs, you take the multi tool. The multi tool has different utility than the set of screwdrivers. Criticizing it as not being a good screwdriver might technically be accurate, but I would say it's missing the forest for the trees.
 

Stalker0

Legend
But even then, you're at risk of giving the advice of "you should have a session 0" but having little agreement upon content for that session.
Or you can simple phrase it as “during the first session it’s good to discuss the following:”

while I think creating a comprehensive all encompassing best practice document might be daunting, I think creating a short list is in no ways difficult.

here’s a simple one: “discuss which books the players can use to make their characters”

Is there anyone out there that thinks thst would be a bad thing to discuss?
 

So simple question: how can we talk about best practices without being told it’s badwrongfun or onetruewayism?
The difficulty is that defining "best practices" in other arenas, such as business, pretty much necessarily involves what is called "onetruewayism" in RPG circles, which is to say, you pick a specific approach and say "this is best". This works better though because the goals of businesses tend to be pretty aligned (i.e. make money, don't upset people, don't rock the boat, don't break the law, etc.). Even then there is often considerable debate, and if they had access to the term "onetruewayism", I'm sure it would get deployed.

I think the only way to do this with RPGs would be to define play-approaches first, then, within each play-approach you might be able to look at best practices for that play approach. But the best practices for some meatgrinder OSR approach are unlikely to the same as the best practices for an RP-heavy modern approach, nor the best practices for a highly tactically-oriented optimization-friendly game, or the like.

There might be some crossover, but I think you'd need to define this all first and THEN look for crossover, rather than trying to start with assuming the crossover or w/e.
 

Is there anyone out there that thinks thst would be a bad thing to discuss?
I think it would be an unnecessary thing for many groups. Particularly those using DNDBeyond. It also might cause unnecessary work for the DM, and indeed, going by something as hugely granular as "books" is likely to be a bad approach for a lot of groups. I know I've almost never seen a book where I'd ban everything in it (apart from 3PPs), but equally there are few where I'd be 100% happy with absolutely everything in it as a DM.

I think the best practices for an entirely new group of players will necessarily be different from a group who have played together before.

So yeah, I think there are problems with that - the "granular" nature of it is a huge problem frankly, as it doesn't address how a lot of DMs or groups approach things. I certainly think it can't qualify as a "best practice" because of that.
 

Well, if YouTube says it!
To be fair Morrus, YouTube is no better/worse than the DM/GM/Storyteller guides of the 1990s, and in fact, are kind of more open to peer review, as it were, because people can give them the thumbs up/down, leave comments, and so on. In the 1990s and so on, it was essentially a "bully pulpit" situation, in that anyone who could get a GM advice book published could talk whatever smack they wanted, whereas everyone else had to put up a dodgy website and hope people visited, or post on a forum.

YouTube is a bit of a bully pulpit too but it's more democratic and with the feedback likely less unreasonable.

I mean, GM advice books in the 1990s and '00s really wildly varied in quality, from extremist one-true-way tracts, to just outright bad advice, to extremely good and well-considered advice, to "some wacky stuff we used to do in college and it seemed cool". It was all over the place, and a glossy high-production value GM book often had terrible advice in it, where some relatively low-production value near-pamphlet might be full of gold. Sometimes the same book would contain a mix of gold and trash too - I think of Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads! from Mike Pondsmith, which had some great ideas, some weird ideas, and some bad ideas, all just sort of mixed in together. White Wolf ones often had some serious one-true-way stuff going on, which often boiled down to "ARGH!!! Why do you damn normies even play our RPG for Cool Refined Goths - anyway here's how you should be playing!". Gary Gygax himself published the single worst collection of DM advice I've ever seen outside of parody, advice which ran directly counter to every single thing he's ever said about how he runs his home game, note - but the book came out long before the internet and Gary actually talking about how he actually ran stuff. The only universally helpful one I can think of off the top of my head (though there were probably others) was Robin D Laws' one (the internet has this not coming out until 2002 and in a fairly glossy form, but I would swear I had something on GMing by him in the mid-90s in a considerably less glossy format).
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I would start by acknowledging that there are no best practices, and that the actual concept is badwrongfun and onetruewayism.

Then we can move on to talk about what works for us individually, and our personal preferences when it comes to gaming.
I would like to respectfully disagree.

You are 100% right that there is a real danger of "badwrongfun". BUUUT... I think there can be things we all can agree upon are best practices. For example, here are some player best practices:

1: Show up at the game on time, and if you can't make it, advise the DM as soon as possible.
2: Do not threaten the DM with a knife.

Surely, this is not "onetruwayism"...

And no, these are not joking, "this never happens" examples... they come from personal experience.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Personally, I think it makes more sense to look at D&D holistically.

But, no particular use of it is "holistic". So, while you, in a seat of looking out at the vista of games, may find it makes sense to look that way, that mode is of little use when considering actual use for one table.

In an earlier post, I compared D&D to a multi tool and bespoke games to a set of screwdrivers.

Sure. But that means it takes the place of the multi-tool - the thing you use when you don't have your full toolbox at hand.
 

Stalker0

Legend
I think it would be an unnecessary thing for many groups.
Unnecessary doesn’t invalidate a best practice, in fact thats exactly the point…you take the wisdom of veterans who “know it already” and translate it into guidelines for newer players thst don’t.

and you could shift the language from “books” to “rules content” to work better with online tools, as I agree that’s better in our more online centric gaming styles.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I know it's a little controversial, but here's a best practice I've found useful since 3rd Edition...

When rolling dice, roll the highest number possible.

It might not work for every table, but I've found it's worked pretty consistently for me as both a player and DM.
In several games, you need to roll under, not over. so ;)
 

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