Dungeons and Dragons future? Ray Winninger gives a nod to Mike Shea's proposed changes.

Micah Sweet

Legend
Game books are manuals. They need to be referenced as such.

If it were up to me, each D&D rulebook or adventure would come in a slipcase. There would be a big robust hardcover with all that juicy, lovely prose, but the other book would be a reference manual that had far more in common with a complex board game rulebook.

Just an aside so it's clear where I'm coming from: I am an RPG freelance writer that gets paid by the word. I get why RPG books look the way they do. But thay are by and large terrible for reference. Runing a Paizo AP or big WotC 5E adventure is a nightmare of preparation. Important details are buried in walls of text and no one gives any thought to infographic design.
See, I think RPG books are meant to be read and enjoyed. That's always been how I consumed them. If they did what you propose, people would ignore the prose because they need the rules to play, and soon enough folks would be clamoring for them to be sold separately. When the rules sales outstrip the prose, WotC would conclude its not worth producing and discontinue it.
 

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Reynard

Legend
See, I think RPG books are meant to be read and enjoyed. That's always been how I consumed them. If they did what you propose, people would ignore the prose because they need the rules to play, and soon enough folks would be clamoring for them to be sold separately. When the rules sales outstrip the prose, WotC would conclude its not worth producing and discontinue it.
So, you don't want clear rules so you can have something to read?
 

So here's a thought: I think accessibility is going to be a goal. Separately, we have seen WotC hire based on the goal of inclusivity. Is it possible that WotC would hire some of the teams-- such as the Old School Essentials folks, but also others -- that have shown real talent in thinking outside the "walls of text" visual design box that has dominated most of the industry for 40 years? That would be pretty cool. They could not change a single rule and trim the books to half length of referencable, readable text and I'd buy new copies.

Of course some folks would scream "money grab" if they dared reduce word count, no matter how necessary.
I don't know what Gavin Norman's background is, but afaik he is not a graphic designer or layout editor by trade. He's just a guy who figured out how to do amazing layout by himself. Same with so many other indie creators. So I don't see that there is any excuse for a big corporation to not be able to hire good layout editors and writers to make their products more usable

In what way is it necessary to reduce word count?

Changing the format of the books to the degree you describe would be extremely jarring not only to veteran players, but also all the newer players that have purchased the core books over the last few years. About the only people it would potentially serve are 4e fans and people who might, in the future, buy D&D books, but don't own any now.

Take a look at this review of the new starter set at about 12:07. The point of brevity is to convey the information in a succinct, easy to reference way. The 5e PHB is not the worst in this regard outside of some spells that are way too long. But the DMG is very verbose for the amount of information communicated.

They could also use visual design to help communicate information. For example, warlock innovations are basically feat trees with specific prerequisites--a one page diagram showing players how that tree fits together so they can think about which innovations to take would be very helpful (here's the eldrich blast tree, here;s the pact of __ tree, etc).
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
See, I think RPG books are meant to be read and enjoyed. That's always been how I consumed them. If they did what you propose, people would ignore the prose because they need the rules to play, and soon enough folks would be clamoring for them to be sold separately. When the rules sales outstrip the prose, WotC would conclude its not worth producing and discontinue it.
That’s a huge slippery slope you just went down.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Maybe it's an issue of perception. Maybe the book itself implies who will be the one to decide the rules within are included. If the players get to decide which rules are used and which ones aren't (by not choosing feats for their characters, or not choosing to play a variant human, etc.), then I'd expect all optional rules to be printed in the Player's Handbook. But they're not.

And if the DM is the one who decides which rules are included and which ones aren't, then those rules should be printed in the Dungeon Master's Guide, then I'd expect all optional rules to be printed in the Dungeon Master's Guide. But they're not.

Instead, we currently have some optional rules in the PHB and others in the DMG, and it causes a lot of unnecessary conflict at my table. The players aren't clear about which "options" are actually options, and the DM--that's me!--has to endure a lot of push-back and arguments from the players whenever he wants to add stuff from the DMG (or remove stuff from the PHB).

All I ask is that they make a clear distinction. Whether they are in the Dungeon Master's Guide or the Player's Handbook, I hope they put them in their own chapter named "Optional Rules: Check With Your DM First!" I think it would make things a lot easier, especially for newcomers to the game. Having them sprinkled around in several places, and in different books, isn't as helpful as it could be.
Worse there's a dramatic split between the ones in the PHB & dmg.

Almost all of the PHB ones are MOAR power while aside from flanking the DMG ones tend to be unfinished or nerfs
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I don't know what Gavin Norman's background is, but afaik he is not a graphic designer or layout editor by trade. He's just a guy who figured out how to do amazing layout by himself. Same with so many other indie creators. So I don't see that there is any excuse for a big corporation to not be able to hire good layout editors and writers to make their products more usable.
That’s part of the problem. Some of the pros think of design as a way to show off while others think it needs to be flashy with lots of art, fill the page to bursting, etc. Very few seem to think of book layout in the sense of utility, as Norman seems to. Source: was a book layout & design pro.
Take a look at this review of the new starter set at about 12:07. The point of brevity is to convey the information in a succinct, easy to reference way. The 5e PHB is not the worst in this regard outside of some spells that are way too long. But the DMG is very verbose for the amount of information communicated.
When you need to fill a certain number of pages and/or get paid by the word, you tend to get long winded.
They could also use visual design to help communicate information. For example, warlock innovations are basically feat trees with specific prerequisites--a one page diagram showing players how that tree fits together so they can think about which innovations to take would be very helpful (here's the eldrich blast tree, here;s the pact of __ tree, etc).
Or at least list them together instead of alphabetically.
 
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Reynard

Legend
When you need to fill a certain number of pages and/or get paid by the word, you tend to get long winded.
Yup. It's an easy trap.

But I'm not even advocating fewer words. In a way, I'm advocating more. Do your prose thing. Give your audience reading material. But also provide accessible, concise, easily referenced material to use in play -- whether it is player facing or GM facing
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Yup. It's an easy trap.

But I'm not even advocating fewer words. In a way, I'm advocating more. Do your prose thing. Give your audience reading material. But also provide accessible, concise, easily referenced material to use in play -- whether it is player facing or GM facing
Oh, I agree. Whatever people think of 4E, it knocked a lot things out of the park re: layout & design, ease of reference, and concise rules.
 

Reynard

Legend
Oh, I agree. Whatever people think of 4E, it knocked a lot things out of the park re: layout & design, ease of reference, and concise rules.
There are 2 things I liked about 4E even though I went Pathfinder: the rulebook were actual manuals, and they abandoned the super frustrating "build NPCs like PCs" process. MFer if I wanted to do that I'd play HERO.
 







It's really not an either/or between simple quality of life layout and editing and text that is a pleasure to read. In fact, the whole point of good layout and editing is to make a book (any book) easier to read! Good writing is not sheer volume: in some cases (like a rulebook) clarity and brevity make writing good, in other cases (an adventure) writing should be evocative, dramatic, and sensory. Again, take a look at the Young Adventurer's Guides: every topic on a two page spread, visual design that aids in understanding, sidebars with short but evocative descriptions.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Strictly speaking, they are quite equivalent in game terms. Mostly what I've seen is people glaze over and ignore Feats because they discover that they are optional well before they begin to make sense if them. The Background Feat regime will change a lot about how most people approach Feats, I think.
I don't see the equivalence. Half the +1s won't even do anything because the secondary stat will be even. The rest will add a trivial amount of increase as you will get a +1 bonus to something you probably aren't using all that often. Compare that to a feat that does lots of stuff that will be used frequently and a skill proficiency that will be used frequently, and both generally to good effect. The latter just seems much better to me.

I do get that some people don't want the added complexity of feats. That doesn't make the two equivalent, though.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Instead, we currently have some optional rules in the PHB and others in the DMG, and it causes a lot of unnecessary conflict at my table. The players aren't informed about which "options" are actually options, and the DM--that's me!--has to endure a lot of push-back and arguments from the players whenever he wants to add stuff from the DMG (or remove stuff from the PHB).
Refer them to the PHB, page 6.

"Your DM might set the campaign on one of these worlds or on one that he or she created. Because there is so much diversity among the worlds of D&D, you should check with your DM about any house rules that will affect your play of the game. Ultimately, the Dungeon Master is the authority on the campaign and its setting, even if the setting is a published world."
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I am addressing a possible issue where a popular style is somehow believed to be more valid than a less popular one. Don't tell me you've never seen that one.
Unless I say it, don’t shove it into my face like I have, please.

Some people like their make-believe silly, others like it dramatic. Both are fun in my experience.
Even my dramatic games aren’t super serious.
It can't be anything else. The change to racial ASIs and ability to invent races whole cloth are enough to make a significant change to the default game.
It can't be anything else. The change to racial ASIs and ability to invent races whole cloth are enough to make a significant change to the default game.
Hardly. Those are quite small changes. Changing how dual wielding works with the action economy would be bigger.

They didn’t make races more or less powerful, or change how they interact with the rest of the game.
 

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