D&D 5E Does/Should D&D Have the Player's Game Experience as a goal?

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
What I’ve been saying is that if the game doesn’t provide the actual mechanics for a given play experience and expects the participants to add the necessary elements themselves, then it should provide guidance on how to do so.

Games, of course, are non-sentient beings, and have no expectations. Game designers have expectations. Players and GMs have expectations. Those will not be the same thing.

Then, there comes a question of what we mean by "expect". Like, if I put together a potluck BBQ, I expect folks to bring food - it is bound in the nature of "potluck", that I actively tell you is part of the deal. But there's also how I expect a couple of people to drink too much at the BBQ - it isn't something I specifically tell folks will happen, but past experience makes it seem very likely.

If they are building a game that is explicitly a toolbox - like GURPS, Fate, Cortex, and Cypher systems, then this is like the potluck - they actively tell you that crafting what you want is part of the exercise.

But D&D isn't explicitly such a toolbox, but they know folks are going to muck with it anyway, because it is seen happening all the darned time.

Then we have questions as to how supplements and 3pp fit into these expectations, and how much are core designers supposed to cover for them until a 3pp covers a topic.

People have historically done a whole lot with D&D. You say you want transparency, but if they give that transparency on everything folks often do with the game, the book would break your foot if you dropped it. And, why enable 3pp with open licensing if you are just going to do development enough to advise on everything yourself anyway?
 

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EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
What can I say. I don't think this is necessary, form follows function and all that. I can't think of much of anything in the book that would be particularly confusing.
Because, as I have said many times, 5e was a system written for old hands. It was not a system written for the young, the inexperienced, the unsure, or the only middling-skilled. It is, in general, unwise to write your fundamental guidebooks specifically for people who already know what to do. It is, in general, better to write your fundamental guidebooks for people who have no idea what they're doing and thus significantly benefit from having things explained to them.

That doesn't mean you can afford to ignore the old hands. They're your long-time customers, you need to speak to them too. But for the core books? No. Those need to be for the folks who don't yet know what they're doing.

Books like the Rules Compendium, on the other hand, are great if they're written for old hands. Because then they can just be lean, mean rules machines, unadorned and easily-referenced.

Again, I think the subsystems pretty much speak for themselves.
I assure you, they do not.

Not sure why you need to state this any more than it already is. There's a fair amount in the DMG on how to run the game. The Role of the Dice goes into it for example. They discuss, for example, that PCs shouldn't have rare items until at least 5th level but it's just a suggestion. There should be more, it goes along with the wealth table.
"But it's just a suggestion" is exactly the problem. It is barely anything at all, and certainly not the kind of useful advice that helps fresh DMs get into the process quickly and smoothly. Or fresh players, for that matter.

If all the hooting and hollering about 5e's dramatic success is to be taken seriously, something like 90% of current D&D players are brand-new to the game. I think it would be significantly better if the books were written for that 90% of players, and not the 10% who already know what they're doing and thus barely even need books to begin with.

The price list back in old school DM? It was just numbers thrown in with little to no logic. There has never been a very coherent price or rarity system in D&D. On the other hand between the DMG and XGtE we have it.
Ah, that word, "never." Such a curious thing, isn't it? Rather depends on how you view the subject. I certainly don't agree with you that it has never been done.

Everyone knows the DMG needs to be redone, the devs have stated it multiple times. We'll see what we get later this year.
Not at all. I still to this day see people asserting that the 5e DMG is one of the best ever written. It took literally ~7 years before people even remotely took seriously the idea that the 5e DMG was badly written. Voicing any criticism of it at all was met with incredulity at best and outright laughter at worst. I was very specifically told, on this very forum, that a book labelled "Dungeon Master's Guide" did not need to have any "guidance" in it whatsoever for dungeon masters. Multiple people agreed with this assessment.

So yeah. It's nowhere near the universal agreement you claim it is, and people have been burying their heads in the sand about it for most of the past decade. I am, as a result, extremely skeptical that the 5.5e DMG will be meaningfully different. Would be nice to be surprised, though.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
People have historically done a whole lot with D&D. You say you want transparency, but if they give that transparency on everything folks often do with the game, the book would break your foot if you dropped it. And, why enable 3pp with open licensing if you are just going to do development enough to advise on everything yourself anyway?
13th Age does it with its core book. And that's one book, covering both player options and DM options in a single volume.

I'm pretty sure D&D can manage with three books. It'd just require a little editing to cut down on the bloated spell list, or some of the rather profligate page-wasting in the DMG. (Seriously, I do not understand how they managed to fill literally hundreds of pages with so much nothing.)
 

Oofta

Legend
Okay... according to the books, should a DM announce all DCs to players ahead of a roll? Some? Or none?

What are the advantages to each approach?

This is a pretty fundamental element of play, and one of the prime functions of the DM in play. As such, it likely deserves explicit instruction, no?
It should be left up to the DM and group preference. There's no reason to have one true way.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The price list back in old school DM? It was just numbers thrown in with little to no logic. There has never been a very coherent price or rarity system in D&D.
Other than a couple of famous typos, the price list in the 1e DMG is surprisingly good as a starting point.

Also, that the 1e DMG has tables to roll on to randomly determine items in treasure hoards also by extension gives an idea of their intended relative rarity vs each other on a fairly granular level (it's up to each DM to determine the overall rarity of magic items in the campaign); and one can easily adjust those tables to make, say, swords less common and other weapons more so.

Trying to shoehorn all the thousands of items into a simplistic M:tG-like common-uncommon-rare-mythic framework is a fool's errand.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
It should be left up to the DM and group preference. There's no reason to have one true way.
But there is a lot of reason to tell people what the costs and benefits of each are. Which is what actual transparency (for DM-facing rules) is. It's also what an actual toolkit does, as opposed to merely a sack of nondescript wrenches and screwdrivers.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Other than a couple of famous typos, the price list in the 1e DMG is surprisingly good as a starting point.

Also, that the 1e DMG has tables to roll on to randomly determine items in treasure hoards also by extension gives an idea of their intended relative rarity vs each other on a fairly granular level (it's up to each DM to determine the overall rarity of magic items in the campaign); and one can easily adjust those tables to make, say, swords less common and other weapons more so.

Trying to shoehorn all the thousands of items into a simplistic M:tG-like common-uncommon-rare-mythic framework is a fool's errand.
Indeed, this is one of the areas that was actually very well-designed in early-edition D&D. It was just, you'd better believe it, extremely NOT transparent, which meant that the books which came after, written by other hands, failed to account for the design involved. Gary Gygax was, by all accounts, both an excellent DM and an excellent game designer (just with preferences that maybe aren't widely shared)--but he was absolutely terrible at organizing his work and explaining those systems. This meant that a lot of folks who didn't learn the game from his social group simply never knew the purpose or meaning behind most of 1e's game design. E.g., the item tables were effectively a Fighter class feature, heavy armor was an XP penalty you could wear for added survivability (trading fewer, very risky delves for more, moderately risky delves), etc.

I would go so far as to say that around a third of all the balance problems in 3e arose specifically from the creators having no idea why 1e did what it did design-wise. (Another third came from foolish and usually unquestioned assumptions, and the remaining third came from emergent effects that couldn't have been foreseen without extensive testing.)

This is one of the prices you pay with opaque design. It's why presuming that the subsystems speak for themselves is simply not correct; all too often, they do not. If you want to make a book that is purely a reference manual and nothing else, then sure, keep it lean and focused. But if it's meant to be a guide, meant to teach and introduce, then opaque design is a bad choice.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
But D&D isn't explicitly such a toolbox, but they know folks are going to muck with it anyway, because it is seen happening all the darned time.

Not that I disagree with what you're saying, but there are many folks who consider D&D to be exactly that... a toolbox. It's widely claimed, and has been mentioned in this very thread, and is one of the things to which I have been responding.

If a game (meaning the designers) is designed to deliver a specific experience, then it should provide the means to deliver that experience.

If instead, it's designed to empower the participants to create their own play experiences, then it needs to provide the means to do so. The tools, to fit with the metaphor.

Then we have questions as to how supplements and 3pp fit into these expectations, and how much are core designers supposed to cover for them until a 3pp covers a topic.

Sure, those are largely the questions I'm getting at. How much is enough? Obviously, it will vary... I tend to think more can be done for many games, but I'm not trying to push my opinion on that so much as the idea that the effort should be made.

People have historically done a whole lot with D&D. You say you want transparency, but if they give that transparency on everything folks often do with the game, the book would break your foot if you dropped it. And, why enable 3pp with open licensing if you are just going to do development enough to advise on everything yourself anyway?

I don't expect everything. I'm saying that whatever the game's designers sell it as being able to do, it should be able to do.

So if a game's designers bill a game as a dungeon crawler, then I expect it to include the means for delivering a dungeon crawly play experience. If a game is billed as one of player led courtly intrigue, then I expect the means for delivering that kind of play experience. If a game is supposed to be a toolbox, then it should provide the tools needed so the participants can construct the play experience they want.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
It should be left up to the DM and group preference. There's no reason to have one true way.

I didn't advocate for one true way. I asked you what the books say on this topic. You said you didn't think anything in the books was all that unclear. So, what are the rules on this topic?

You don't have an answer. Know why?

BECAUSE THERE'S NO CLEAR ANSWER. They don't provide explicit rules for this basic and fundamental element of play.

Now, before you start with the "one true way" nonsense again... I'm not saying they only should describe it one way. I am suggesting they describe all three ways... all of the time, some of the time, and never... and share with folks the pros and cons of each.

And given the wasted word count in this section of the book, I'm not at all convinced that they can't offer such detailed advice, and still come out with words to spare.
 

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
subsystems may speak for themselves but sometimes they say something other than what you intended for them to say or the message gets misinterpreted, which is why it's always beneficial to be able to clearly state your intentions in your choices and your expectations for how they were meant to work, so that even if they don't turn out to work that way the recipients can better adapt things on their own end, even if they decide to adapt things in a different direction to your own choices.
 

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