D&D 5e. Do others play this way?

Charles Lowry

Explorer
For context, I played D&D throughtout the 80s and early to mid 90s before moving onto other games. Our D&D games evolved from playing whatever adventure written for the appropriate level we could find to trying to be as immersive as possible within the Forgotten Realms after its release.

Over the summer, my two children, ages 15 and 17, wanted to learn to play D&D. They knew their old man played many years ago and I was more than willing to share the experience with them.

Ultimately, I ran LMoP and linked Into the Abyss to it. Personally, I did not like running Into the Abyss. This entire 'campaign' in a single book was a bit overwhelming and felt like everything was being thrown into a book. It was very difficult finding information and flipping back and forth. Then, the maps, while cool in a book seemed less exciting when drawn out on a dry/erase mat. As they played further into the campaign, more and more homebrew took place which sped up the pace and seemed more, well, entertaining. This campaign ended about 1/3 through the book where the PCs successfully reached the surface again. Granted, I should have broken down game sessions with better notes to help the game flow, but this seems like a lot of additional work after purchasing the campaign book. Modules of old, which was what I grew up on, simply did not seem as dense; though this could be me wearing 'rose tinted glasses' of yesteryear.

Fast forward to our second campaign. Largely homebrew and more focussed on character background/motiviation while able to keep track of the 'larger' story. I write 'outlines', utilize monster cards for quick reference, and adapt all encounters that match preprinted maps (the kids were enamored with them opposed to my drawing skills, haha). The games appear smoother and more engaging. After each session, I make notes of what occurred and start thinking about secondary and tertiary impacts. It feels like there is less 'page flipping' and more 'playing'.

In a long winded way of asking: do others play how I described the second campaign in D&D 5E?
 

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payn

Legend
Yes and no. Firstly, I really enjoy some adventure paths (not necessarily WotC ones). The conceit of them captures my interest. I do much better as a GM when I take a skeleton and/or foundation that has been laid for me, and then make it my own. Can be much more difficult to do in a campaign sized resource than a module sized one for certain. Secondly, using printed campaign books at the table is terribly inefficient, IMO. I use a laptop now and PDFs. My space is conserved, and more importantly, no page flipping as every thing is a simple key stroke away.

It sounds like your preference on homebrew lies better with your interest and GM operating practices then anything inherent with campaign materials.
 

Cruentus

Adventurer
Yes. I played in a 5e "campaign" (Dragon Queen/Storm King) for a couple of years and found it, meh. I ran a campaign for over a year set in the Moonshaes 500 years before the "current" timeline in the Realms, homebrew, stealing ideas and lore from various sources, pulling interesting monsters, threads, plots, hooks from all over and weaving it together. It was so much more interesting.

I get the 5e paradigm of "everything in one book" and "from 1st to 15th or 20th" in one "adventure", but I find it too limiting if you just follow the book. And, as a DM, if you do use the book, and the party makes a left turn at Albuquerque, then what? You either have to steer it back into the adventure, or make it up anyway.

So, to sum up, I absolutely play more like your second campaign, but I also jettisoned 5e and moved to Advanced Old School Essentials. Its become more about character development and story, and less about finding the answers on your character sheet. Not to mention "simpler" on the player side. We still have a blast: stories are fun, fights are always tense, there is a palpable risk, and approaches other than "rush in and blast/stab it" are often rewarded.
 


Charles Lowry

Explorer
Yes and no. Firstly, I really enjoy some adventure paths (not necessarily WotC ones). The conceit of them captures my interest. I do much better as a GM when I take a skeleton and/or foundation that has been laid for me, and then make it my own. Can be much more difficult to do in a campaign sized resource than a module sized one for certain. Secondly, using printed campaign books at the table is terribly inefficient, IMO. I use a laptop now and PDFs. My space is conserved, and more importantly, no page flipping as every thing is a simple key stroke away.

It sounds like your preference on homebrew lies better with your interest and GM operating practices then anything inherent with campaign materials.
Fair points.

I've not played RPGs in quite a long time (decades, in fact), so the level of integrated technology within the game is vastly different. This is an area I'm behind on and working on options. I suppose using Google Drive as a location for my game notes is a start, haha. Though, I do like DnD Beyond Character generator, but not the fact it wants me to buy a digital Player's Handbook to add Feats to the character; I already own two Player Handbooks.

Granted, it is limited experience on my part, but I felt I should have done a LOT more work to make Out of the Abyss run smoother, or the book should have included some of these.

Operating practices is a fair statement: I think I underestimated how much time going through the physical book would take. I should have taken better care to develope more 'game aids' to help me navigate that campaign book, assuming I don't try out digital media.

Skeletons/bones of an idea is something I definitely utilize. As Cruentus also elaborates, I do something very similar. I like to mine for ideas and mold into my own, so to speak. I really enjoy the concepts Eberron laid forth (post war, corporations, and magic is technology). However, I love the concept of Xanathar as a crimelord and enjoy fitting this all together. PCs in its employ (several echelons below and never met the mysterious Xanathar) while two nations emerges from a decade long war was something I was intrigued by. By no means is it original (Han Solo and Jabba the Hut post Clone Wars sprang to mind), but the players are loving the concept without really identifying what it is 'derived' from. For myself, this makes it super easy to keep the flow of the story going as I am much more familiar with the story (as opposed to reading/learning a campaign book).

I appreciate the input.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Fast forward to our second campaign. Largely homebrew and more focussed on character background/motiviation while able to keep track of the 'larger' story. I write 'outlines', utilize monster cards for quick reference, and adapt all encounters that match preprinted maps (the kids were enamored with them opposed to my drawing skills, haha). The games appear smoother and more engaging. After each session, I make notes of what occurred and start thinking about secondary and tertiary impacts. It feels like there is less 'page flipping' and more 'playing'.
Homebrewing and stealing from incorporating elements of published settings, mix-and-matching various stuff together was the way I typically run D&D in the 3ed era. And yes sometimes it also meant to find a cool map and just adapt or make something up only to use that particular map at any cost.

I don't like that much the 5e standard of "adventures" that take the PCs party from very low to very high level all at once, my ideal "shelf life" for characters is many many adventures, some small some big. I like the idea that the first thought about a 20th level PC would be "wow, you must have seen a lot of adventures!", not "you must have completed... one whole 5e book". I think the 5e standard works a bit like seeing an adventure as a movie: you finish it, hopefully you like it, but then you close it. For my PCs I want something more like a soap opera that never ends :love:

Nice you mentioned monster cards... one of my own pet peeves is "no books at the table", or well at least not MY books because I certainly don't like flipping pages to search for stuff. I always have printouts of my own PC's abilities when I'm a player, and when I DM I have similar for the monsters.

As for "technology", I sometimes DM the game from behind a laptop instead of the traditional DM's screen, mainly when I also want to provide some background music or ambient sounds (I really really recommend to check out the free www.tabletopaudio.com), but otherwise I am a lot more of a fan of traditional "analog" props and especially making my own: I use custom character sheets, action/spell cards of my own designs, Lego instead of minis and also for dungeon and environment elements, but for instance I never used D&DBeyond.
 

kronovan

Explorer
I've been playing and DMing 5e since its debut in the Fall of 2014 and many sessions were for my kids and their friends. That said, for the past year I've been taking a leave from 5e, playing and GMing mostly Savage Worlds, CoC and Travallers. Other than Eberron, Dark Sun and World of Greyhawk (mostly nostalgia as my 1st was AD&D1e/WoH in 1980), I don't care much for Wizard of the Coast settings. Most of my 5e DMing has been with Kobold Presses' Midgard World setting for 5e, which I also ran previously with Pathfinder 1e and AGE. My preference is to homebrew my own adventures and prefer settings that provide a quality gazetteer/setting book and short adventures for the times I can't find the time to create. I also prefer PDFs, so WotC is far from my ideal publisher.

I dislike big campaign books too and for the way my brain works, I find I often have to dedicate too much time familiarizing how locations, background, adventures and encounters are presented in them. I also can no longer manage with fumbling around with a big print book and prefer PDFs on my tablet. I really like that Midgard having evolved out of an Open Design consortium, allows many writers to publish short adventures through their Warlock series. Those tend to work better for me when I'm looking for some filler. Kobold's various Lair (Book of Lairs, Eldritch Lairs, Creature Codex Lairs) adventure series, have also worked for me, as those are compilations of adventures that aren't connected.

I've also done a fair amount of DMing Adventures in Middle Earth for 5e, which is a significantly different take on the rules. With much less magic and classes that are more similar to the character archetypes presented in the books (to some extent the movies too), my kids really took to it. Some of my other 5e groups have enjoyed it to.
 

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