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D&D 5E D&D is Not RAW: The Importance of Custom, Culture, and Mods in 5e

ad_hoc

Hero
This reminds me of a conversation in a thread recently that went like this:

Poster: "My table plays RAW only. How does stealth work?"
Response: "The rule is that the DM makes a ruling based on the specifics of the situation."
Poster: "That's stupid. 5e is broken."
Response: "If you don't like it then change the rule."
Poster: "No we play RAW only."

And so it goes.
 

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Lyxen

Great Old One
This reminds me of a conversation in a thread recently that went like this:

Poster: "My table plays RAW only. How does stealth work?"
Response: "The rule is that the DM makes a ruling based on the specifics of the situation."
Poster: "That's stupid. 5e is broken."
Response: "If you don't like it then change the rule."
Poster: "No we play RAW only."

And so it goes.

I have seen this one so many times in various forms, thanks for extracting the archetype. I suggest that henceforth, when someone asks a similar question, they are automatically redirected to this.

As an aside, I have a fairly bad quality (automatic transcript, but still readable) text version of the podcast on stealth, which is very enlightening about the spirit of the rules and rulings, if anyone's interested.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
Can you house rule 5e? Uh yes, yes you can.

Its pretty common to see people's house rules come up in their posts (alt resting rules are common). With it transparent and straight forward core rules, and more relaxed approach to DM control, I actually think 5e is a pretty hackable edition.

But there has also always been resistance to house rules. There has always been those who just assume the designers got it all right in the first place, and others that don't trust the DM's agenda.

One difference is that 5e seems to have more "casual" play, and then norms do shift a bit. If you want to do something a little more...unique...trust will be required.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Can you house rule 5e? Uh yes, yes you can.

Its pretty common to see people's house rules come up in their posts (alt resting rules are common). With it transparent and straight forward core rules, and more relaxed approach to DM control, I actually think 5e is a pretty hackable edition.

But there has also always been resistance to house rules. There has always been those who just assume the designers got it all right in the first place, and others that don't trust the DM's agenda.

One difference is that 5e seems to have more "casual" play, and then norms do shift a bit. If you want to do something a little more...unique...trust will be required.

On that, I think that this is the result of a massive cultural shift.

OD&D isn't playable without "house rules." It just isn't.
AD&D (1e) isn't playable by RAW.
2e is ... well, it's not as bad as 1e, but it's still very much mix & match and house rule things.

That didn't mean there weren't rule lawyers back then. But house rules were common and accepted for nearly three decades. It was certainly part of the D&D culture.

It was only with 3e that there was a serious attempt to make the ruleset complete, and provide so much of it in a player-facing manner (building on 2e). I think that the demand for RAW and resistance to house rules primarily (not completely, but primarily) dates to that.
 

ad_hoc

Hero
I have seen this one so many times in various forms, thanks for extracting the archetype. I suggest that henceforth, when someone asks a similar question, they are automatically redirected to this.

As an aside, I have a fairly bad quality (automatic transcript, but still readable) text version of the podcast on stealth, which is very enlightening about the spirit of the rules and rulings, if anyone's interested.

It's the fundamental goal of the rules that they have trouble grasping. Then instead of coming to the conclusion that maybe they're not reading them correctly they declare the game broken. Hubris. Unfortunately I've found that for the most stubborn no matter how many videos like that you show them they will refuse to budge. And for those new to the game they don't need the video as they tend to just get it.

On that, I think that this is the result of a massive cultural shift.

OD&D isn't playable without "house rules." It just isn't.
AD&D (1e) isn't playable by RAW.
2e is ... well, it's not as bad as 1e, but it's still very much mix & match and house rule things.

That didn't mean there weren't rule lawyers back then. But house rules were common and accepted for nearly three decades. It was certainly part of the D&D culture.

It was only with 3e that there was a serious attempt to make the ruleset complete, and provide so much of it in a player-facing manner (building on 2e). I think that the demand for RAW and resistance to house rules primarily (not completely, but primarily) dates to that.

This tracks with my experience. From what I've seen the people who have the hardest time learning and understanding 5e are 3e players.

I started with 2nd and then played a heavily house ruled 3e for quite some time. 5e was a return to form for me. I felt right at home. I find that brand new players to the hobby tend to pick up the general idea of it with ease. Takes them a few sessions to learn their abilities of course.

I see 3e players banging their heads against the wall about it 7 years in. They often have the hubris that the game is fundamentally broken and the 10s of millions of people who get along with it just fine are in fact oblivious to this fact rather than that they are playing it wrong.
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
On that, I think that this is the result of a massive cultural shift.

OD&D isn't playable without "house rules." It just isn't.
AD&D (1e) isn't playable by RAW.
2e is ... well, it's not as bad as 1e, but it's still very much mix & match and house rule things.

That didn't mean there weren't rule lawyers back then. But house rules were common and accepted for nearly three decades. It was certainly part of the D&D culture.

It was only with 3e that there was a serious attempt to make the ruleset complete, and provide so much of it in a player-facing manner (building on 2e). I think that the demand for RAW and resistance to house rules primarily (not completely, but primarily) dates to that.

I get it, but I feel that massive "cultural shift" is strong.

One trick is undeclared DM side house rules. In 1e, for example, the DM would just ignore certain parts of the DMG . Other DM side changes would be things like, in 4e, jacking up monster damage and reducing monster HP (fight would go to long otherwise). You can still do some of that in 5e.

But in terms of explicit house rules, that players need to be more aware of, I do think they endure. And they always require some player trust.
 

And from this observation, I circle all the way back to the original quote:
Other games do that. D&D doesn't. Could you houserule D&D to be like that? Sure. But it wouldn't be D&D anymore, so why? Just play that other game.

The essential nature of D&D is that D&D is a game that is houseruled. There is nothing that is "more D&D" than a houseruled version. D&D doesn't just expect that you alter it- D&D DEMANDS IT.

In fact, I would say that the only game of D&D that isn't very D&D is a game that is entirely RAW.

I fundamentally disagree with the bolded part. It's actually quite possible to play D&D without houserules. Or, at least, with an extreme minimum of house rules. For the last few editions (3.x, 4, 5, possibly Rules Cyclopedia version of 2) you could sit down with just the core rules and make a very playable game. Even more so once you add in expansions. House rules smooth over some of the edges and allow you to do extra things, but they aren't required to have a fun and complete game.

The players and the community are the ones who keep demanding more: "Give me simplified this" "Give me more detailed that" "Decouple X from Y" "Give Y unique abilities". That's largely because it's the biggest game on the market; people ask it to be everything. ENWorld, as a community, is especially guilty of this.

Niche games need less house rules because no one asks them to be more. No one asks for a rules-lite version of Rolemaster or a version of the My Little Pony RPG that has more realistic rules delineating hand guns from rifles.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I fundamentally disagree with the bolded part. It's actually quite possible to play D&D without houserules. Or, at least, with an extreme minimum of house rules. For the last few editions (3.x, 4, 5, possibly Rules Cyclopedia version of 2) you could sit down with just the core rules and make a very playable game. Even more so once you add in expansions. House rules smooth over some of the edges and allow you to do extra things, but they aren't required to have a fun and complete game.

The players and the community are the ones who keep demanding more: "Give me simplified this" "Give me more detailed that" "Decouple X from Y" "Give Y unique abilities". That's largely because it's the biggest game on the market; people ask it to be everything. ENWorld, as a community, is especially guilty of this.

Niche games need less house rules because no one asks them to be more. No one asks for a rules-lite version of Rolemaster or a version of the My Little Pony RPG that has more realistic rules delineating hand guns from rifles.

You know, for someone who fundamentally disagreed with me, I'm pretty sure you just re-stated what I wrote. Because I absolutely agree with you. Because the D&D community is so large, because they are so diverse, and because people demand that it do everything ... the game itself is constantly houseruled and filled with optional rules, even down to the core (ToTM or Grid).

I'm not saying that to say, "Ooh, look, I win!" I'm just saying that the parts I bolded in what you wrote were the points I was making in the OP.

In other words, we agree! Always a good thing. :)
 

loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff
It's the fundamental goal of the rules that they have trouble grasping. Then instead of coming to the conclusion that maybe they're not reading them correctly they declare the game broken. Hubris. Unfortunately I've found that for the most stubborn no matter how many videos like that you show them they will refuse to budge. And for those new to the game they don't need the video as they tend to just get it.
When people say that some kind of rule is "broken" it means "it doesn't match my expectations". Sometimes the expectations are just stupid and there are no grounds for having such expectations.

Sometimes, well, they are pretty reasonable. Stealth is one of them -- if I can build a sneaky character, I generally expect to have some more reproducible and reliable rules that govern sneaking around. Well, to be honest, there are such rules but they are spread so thinly all over the PHB (and maybe the DMG, I don't really remember) and figuring them out requires some effort. But I've very rarely seen people who call 5e stealth rules "broken", in my experience, people more often just find them confusing.

Another example would be yo-yo healing pattern. It's pretty reasonable within the design of the game (healing is purposefully weak, so there can be no healbots), but at the same time, it's kind of stupid. It doesn't really make sense "on screen", so I can certainly see some people thinking that it's broken.

As of new players better getting the rules -- it also comes down to expectations and is apparent pretty much everywhere. There's a point where people can't just grasp that something may work differently than what they're accustomed to. New programmers "get" functional programming faster than those who are accustomed to OOP, but slower than those who know enough to know when to leave their expectations at the door; when I was learning my second language I had a really hard time, but now I know that there's no reason to expect Finnish work the same way as any of them I already speak; new players get 5e faster than 3.5e players who can't figure out why the hell standing up doesn't provoke AoOs; etc; etc; etc.

It's even more apparent outside of D&D, but I talk about other systems on this board way too much, so I'll shut up.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
But in terms of explicit house rules, that players need to be more aware of, I do think they endure. And they always require some player trust.
There's also an expenditure of the DM's social capital involved in creating player-facing houserules, one that scales with the length of one's houserule document. (At least if you expect players to read it and learn it!)
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
There's also an expenditure of the DM's social capital involved in creating player-facing houserules, one that scales with the length of one's houserule document. (At least if you expect players to read it and learn it!)

Given that you're usually pretty lucky when all the players have read the PHB, asking them to read a long houserule document that modifies books that they haven't read is usually a bridge too far.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
One trick is undeclared DM side house rules. In 1e, for example, the DM would just ignore certain parts of the DMG .
That's a big factor, and especially for someone who's played a lot of versions of D&D. It's not hard to use an old rule and fool oneself into thinking that the old rule is also the new rule. I may have a list of 3-5 houserules, but the actual list may be much longer...
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
There's also an expenditure of the DM's social capital involved in creating player-facing houserules, one that scales with the length of one's houserule document. (At least if you expect players to read it and learn it!)
I think this gets right to the heart of the issue. Even how you format and present your house rules can even be an issue.

And it could even create tradeoffs, between say presenting more houserules, versus say homebrew setting details which are not actually houserules.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
When people say that some kind of rule is "broken" it means "it doesn't match my expectations". Sometimes the expectations are just stupid and there are no grounds for having such expectations.

Sometimes, well, they are pretty reasonable. Stealth is one of them -- if I can build a sneaky character, I generally expect to have some more reproducible and reliable rules that govern sneaking around. Well, to be honest, there are such rules but they are spread so thinly all over the PHB (and maybe the DMG, I don't really remember) and figuring them out requires some effort. But I've very rarely seen people who call 5e stealth rules "broken", in my experience, people more often just find them confusing.

And for these people who don't understand out of the box that stealth has so many edge cases that it cannot be reasonably covered by rules, there is a podcast that spells out exactly that: trust your DM, he is not playing against you, and he will be the only one who actually knows everything that needs to be known in these situations, so he will tell you. Your character is stealthy, so he has a very high chance to succeed, but it's not foolproof as there are things that he will not know as this is a roleplaying game and not Skyrim.

Another example would be yo-yo healing pattern. It's pretty reasonable within the design of the game (healing is purposefully weak, so there can be no healbots), but at the same time, it's kind of stupid. It doesn't really make sense "on screen", so I can certainly see some people thinking that it's broken.

Where I'me with you here is that it's because people don't understand or like the principle that they call it broken, but it mirrors fairly well a lot of shows or books where people go down but are still not really out of the fight. I agree that this is more due to 5e wanting to be fun as no-one wants to spend a long time unconscious while others are having fun, but with the totally abstract nature of hit points and healing, there are ways to make it work narratively.

As of new players better getting the rules -- it also comes down to expectations and is apparent pretty much everywhere. There's a point where people can't just grasp that something may work differently than what they're accustomed to. New programmers "get" functional programming faster than those who are accustomed to OOP, but slower than those who know enough to know when to leave their expectations at the door; when I was learning my second language I had a really hard time, but now I know that there's no reason to expect Finnish work the same way as any of them I already speak; new players get 5e faster than 3.5e players who can't figure out why the hell standing up doesn't provoke AoOs; etc; etc; etc.

It's even more apparent outside of D&D, but I talk about other systems on this board way too much, so I'll shut up.

I agree, it's a generalised behaviour...
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Where I'me with you here is that it's because people don't understand or like the principle that they call it broken, but it mirrors fairly well a lot of shows or books where people go down but are still not really out of the fight. I agree that this is more due to 5e wanting to be fun as no-one wants to spend a long time unconscious while others are having fun, but with the totally abstract nature of hit points and healing, there are ways to make it work narratively.
Solid agreement with you on that this is both service to a trope in fantastic/heroic action fiction and service to fun. I think this amounts to "working as intended"
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Solid agreement with you on that this is both service to a trope in fantastic/heroic action fiction and service to fun. I think this amounts to "working as intended"

Indeed, the difficulty being that some people want more "realism", others want a "harder" game, or a "challenging game", or maybe "lower fantasy", etc.

YCMV of course, and preferences are absolutely natural, but it would still be nice for people who want different views to apply to their game to be a bit fairer in their assessment, especially since they can of course modify it as needed for the ambiance that they want.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I started with 2nd and then played a heavily house ruled 3e for quite some time. 5e was a return to form for me. I felt right at home. I find that brand new players to the hobby tend to pick up the general idea of it with ease. Takes them a few sessions to learn their abilities of course.

I see 3e players banging their heads against the wall about it 7 years in. They often have the hubris that the game is fundamentally broken and the 10s of millions of people who get along with it just fine are in fact oblivious to this fact rather than that they are playing it wrong.

My situation is very similar to yours. I started with 2nd ed, switched to 3e after maybe 10 years of that and at first I was very impressed with 3e. But I grew weary of it.

And when I started looking into 5e (a few years late ha) it felt really comfortable. Even though the "engine" is probably closer to 3e than 2nd ed, the "feel" felt pretty natural to me because I see these echoes of 2nd ed a lot.
 

Greg K

Hero
No one asks for a rules-lite version of Rolemaster
People may not have asked for rules-lite, but they have asked for lighter versions of Rolemaster which is how HARP (and I believe also Rolemaster Express) came along and also why some people prefer MERP and Against the Darkmaster to full blown Rolemaster.
 

Greg K

Hero
I started with Holmes Basic and moved to 1E, then 2e, and then 3e. I also have played some OD&D and B/X. I "need" house rules to run (and play) each of those editions. Having looked over 5e, the same holds true for it as well.
 


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