D&D 5E In Search Of: The 5e Dungeon Master's Guide

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This is the kind of fear I’m talking about. Why are people so afraid of prescriptive guidance? There’s a ton of it in the books.
Guidance is a suggestion or idea. Something that is prescriptive tells you what you should do. This is the one way it should be done. I haven't seen any prescriptive guidance in the DMG.
 

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Micah Sweet

Legend
This is the kind of fear I’m talking about. Why are people so afraid of prescriptive guidance? There’s a ton of it in the books.

How can play styles even be identified if they don’t have qualities that are unique to them? Once we establish what those are, can’t we make suggestions on how to bring that about?

It seems this is fear of “one true wayism” but that’s not what I’m suggesting. Like to be honest, I'd be all for the books saying "If you fudge dice, you're bad and you should feel bad" but I'm not advocating for that. I don't expect it, and as much as I'd love it, I don't think the books should say that given their goal.

The books can say "Here's how to do this, or here's how you can do that" without presenting these suggestions or ideas as the only way to do so. I mean, they actually already do this, just not always with consistency or clarity.



But referencing these different styles, or at least suggesting that there are different styles, without defining them… that’s helpful? How? To whom?



And if it was called the World Builder’s Guide, I’d agree. But not all DMs need or want to build a world of the scope that the book goes into. I’d be brutal on editing this section. I’d argue it’s among the least applicable info in the book, especially Chapter 2 about building a multiverse. I mean, the advice they give is to "Start Small", so you'd think this would be how they would start.

I doubt that you (or any other long time DM) need that section of the DMG to craft a setting. Might it help inspire a bit? Sure. But would we flounder about without it? No, not by any means.

This is information most needed by new DMs… but only those who are not using a published setting or who want to expand their world beyond a geographic region.

There are absolutely parts I'd keep, but I’d say it could be edited down significantly. Especially the cosmology stuff.



I’m just saying to connect lessons that are related in an overt way. Show how the many tasks the DM performs are related and how to design things with that in mind. The books tells DMs to think about the play style they want, and to consider a bunch of factors to help them decide.

Funny enough, however you answer the questions, the two styles of "Hack and Slash" and "Immersive Storytelling" can both apply, so it's unclear how these choices affect the style; they seem more about tone; is tone the same as style? Who knows?




Well, reordering the chapters would have no impact on the page count. Adding new material could potentially do so, but only if you didn’t recover that space by editing other areas.



It's done a little. It's infrequent enough that I'd almost say it's accidental when it happens. Very often topics will overlap onto other pages, and then end in the middle of that page, then go on for two more pages, interspersed with some oddly placed art.

So what I'm suggesting is condense that info and tighten it up by category and stick to individual pages and two page spreads as much as possible. So for example, a page about traps and their purpose, when to use them and when not to, and then all the sample traps and related charts on the following two page spread. Minimal page turning, related information condensed.

Basically, look at many other RPG books produced over the last few years. There has been a real shift to focus on layout and design. To clearly present the material with as little searching as possible. There's a book for the Mothership RPG called "Pound of Flesh" that's a 50 page zine and it arguably presents more adventure material than any of WotC's adventure books. And it's incredibly useful at the table during actual play.



Both, depending on the circumstances. I'm not necessarily against the double column when it works. But there's no need to use it on every page. Depending on what the topic is, I'd love to see more bullet lists, or perhaps a pair of related tables at the top of the page, and then a summary beneath them that's full page. Whatever is the best tool for the specific job at hand.




Why? Who's ignoring page count? Cut down on a lot of cruft and you save a ton of pages that can be used for this stuff. Concision is possible.



As I said above, make overt references to connected ideas. If it's a section about designing a town, describe what are some elements to include in the region, and why to include them... by referencing play style or player type or character type and so on.



But the book already does that. They're not afraid of classifying seven types of players and what their goals are. So why be afraid to reference that?

Again, this fear of prescription. The books have rules and processes that are prescriptive. No one complains "don't tell me how fireball works, dadgummit".

But there's also not reason to portray these suggestions as the totality of what's possible, or that they are all universal. I just think if the book is going to bother to identify the seven types of players... as early in the book as page 6, even... then they should use those player types throughout as they discuss how and why to do things.



Like I said, they can use Phandelver or an online freebie if space is a consideration. But I'm thinking this is pretty easy to incorporate. In the settlement section, they can explain how and why they made Phandalin the way they did, and what is the purpose of Crackmaw Castle and Venomfang and the Lost Mines themselves, and so on. Behind the scenes type stuff about actual design choices in creating an actual adventure.

Again, I think the pushback is largely fear. In your case, fear of prescription... of someone else defining something for you. And although I get it, I also know you are free to define things for yourself however you'd like. If the 1D&D DMG is radically different and you don't like it, you can keep right on with your 5E DMG.

The other fear is about what will be lost if something else is added. I don't really think this has to be the case, or if it does happen, that it needs to be severe.
Different gamers are going to have radically different ideas about what is considered "cruft" and needs to be edited down. I know I would not appreciate all the world-building information that you want removed to add in more talk about playstyles, for example. You are directly suggesting removing parts of the book I like and replacing them with parts I don't need. That fear, but a well-founded one if you got your way.

WotC will make their decisions regardless of what you or I say. The existing book with a bit of reorganization and better-realized optional rules would suit me, and what  I can use at my table is what matters to me. Why would I advocate for them changing the book to make it worse for me?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Moving toward more prescriptiveness will do that. It's not an irrational fear. It's literally a consequence of perscriptiveness.
There's a reason that dictatorial, authoritarian, tyrannical, despotic and oppressive are all synonyms of prescriptive. Prescriptive is forced upon you. Even fireball, which is a rule, is not truly prescriptive for the DM since the PHB and DMG both say to everyone that the DM can add, remove and/or alter rules.

The DMG is entirely non-prescriptive guidance. The PHB is entirely non-prescriptive rules for the DM, prescriptive rules for the players.
 


FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Let me add this.
  • If the suggestion was to add 2 pages of non-prescriptive DMing advice to chapter 1 of the book without removing anything then I'm 100% on board with that.
  • If the suggestion is to add 20 pages of prescriptive DMing advice to chapter 1 while removing most all pages on cosmology then I'm 100% against that.
But here's the issue, those proposing changes don't want to stop at 2 pages on non-prescriptive DMing advice. They view the DMG as fundamentally poor/bad and want major overhauls. Thus, the scope of the proposed changes is more like the 2nd example and I'm not for anything remotely similar to that.

It's not that I'm against change altogether. It's I'm just not for the changes they want.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Let me add this.
  • If the suggestion was to add 2 pages of non-prescriptive DMing advice to chapter 1 of the book without removing anything then I'm 100% on board with that.
  • If the suggestion is to add 20 pages of prescriptive DMing advice to chapter 1 while removing most all pages on cosmology then I'm 100% against that.
The bolded words are mutually exclusive. Something cannot be both prescriptive(forced rule) and advice(optional). The same goes for prescriptive and guidance.
 

Imaro

Legend
So the DMG shouldn't teach new people how to DM? So the first page of it should go, "This book is not for teaching people the art of DMing. If you don't know how to DM, go to YouTube." ?
Or... If you're new to D&D we recommend you begin by picking up the starter set, these sets have been designed to walk a brand new DM and players through their first adventure and teach the basics of the game...
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I wonder if this conversation would be different if the names of the posters were randomized in each thread. Right now when they see that it is some of the posters who commonly want to label what they are doing as bad wrong fun in other threads push for reorganizing, my guess is the two become tied together mentally.

I'm sure who's saying what can sometimes matter more than what's being said. But there's nothing I can do about that other than to take posts in good faith and hope that others take mine the same way.

As in, I wonder if it's bleed over from politics, where now a politician on one side suggests a compromise, to move from A to half-way between A and B and everyone just assumes it's a first step in going all the way to B and past it to C.

And so the group who likes A doesn't really see all of the great ideas you have on organizing the book <snipped from here, but I agree with entirely> as anything but a rhetorical ploy to nuke A and move to C.

This is possible. And to me is the kind of fear I'm talking about, for two reasons.

First, these are just my ideas and I'm not Chris Perkins, and he's not reading this thread.

Second, it's a reaction to things I am not saying.

And so the great ideas in the post are undone and they're back to having the view that the person posting the ideas just doesn't get their concern at all and are trying to dismiss it as entirely unreasonable.

Why? I used that example to provide a preference I have that I don't expect to see in the book and that I don't think should be in the book. I think fudging is bad. I don't think D&D needs to take as hard a stance on that.

I think they should talk about the pros and cons of fudging in an honest way. If someone who reads it can't take a bit of criticism in the form of "the cons of fudging", then too bad for them.

Or fear of the way some on here come across in posts and that the designers think the same way and will run with it - like where someone literally says they want DMs who fudge dice labeled bad in the book so much so that they bring it up in a thread where they're trying to convince folks they don't need to worry that the folks changing the game will label things they like as bad.

Let's imagine that happened. Let's imagine a world where the 1D&D DMG took a hard stance and said "You should never fudge dice rolls".

What horror will happen?

People who think there's value to fudging will continue to do so just as they have when they've heard that said a million times before.

Some people may take it to heart and consider not fudging anymore, and may adjust how they DM.

Now, having said that, I don't think the book should actually come out and say that. 5E is all about the curated experience, and I don't see that changing with 1D&D. But the book should address the reasons for fudging, and the reasons against it honestly and without sugarcoating.

The things I snipped from my last reply that I totally agree with! I wonder if we had a + thread on this topic with something like this as the first post if there really wouldn't be much to add.

Plus threads have their place. But I don't think that this kind of discussion would benefit from that. I certainly disagree with the OP and many others in this thread. Obviously, there are people who disagree with me. I think that's necessary if we're actually going to analyze the purpose of the DMG and what it should be doing.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Labeling my thoughts and preferences as irrational fear (they are not) isn't going to be conducive to good conversation. Nor is it going to diminish my point. I think it only strengthens my point because before it was claims that what was being advocated for wasn't prescription. Now that's morphed into 'only fear keeps you from prescription'. I'm glad we've moved toward agreeing that what is desired is prescription.

There are many areas in the books (especially the PHB) where things are prescribed. In general I believe most prescription there is necessary and necessary prescription I don't have an issue with. It's the unnecessary stuff that I would take issue with.

I didn't say they were irrational. I said that I understand where they come from. I think we can rationalize them.

I think they are unfounded.

See your acceptance of prescription in some ways but not others.

Everything you are saying is that you want the DMG to deliver the content you want it to. This is perfectly understandable as a preference. But if we're talking about the DMG and what it should do... what its purpose is... I don't think "To deliver what Frogreaver wants" is a reasonable expectation.

As I've shared... there are things I'd honestly love to see in the DMG but which I don't expect nor do I really think they should be, as much as I may agree with them.

I would say it's desire to not have our playstyles impugned. Something 5e as a whole has been very careful not to do. And something that added prescriptiveness will result in.

And why would that happen? I'm saying they should continue that. They should just be able to discuss different methods and styles openly. Keep the multiple approaches to play. Hell, I'm saying to build on that as a foundational strength of the game.

I think you can define styles, you just cannot say what brings them about.

I don't think that makes any kind of sense.

Honestly though, worldbuilding is the biggest and most challenging DM endeavor. The DMG should be focusing on that more than any other DMing topic IMO. I think the 5e book is solid on the world building side and that seems to be most of the content others want to rip out for 'new to DMing' advice. I don't think that's a good direction.

I would argue that it is not. The reason being.... Westeros. There, I just built my world for my next game with one word.

There are so many settings that people play in, published by WotC or other publishers or existing in fiction. Worldbuilding at that level is just not a need that all DMs have.

Now, that doesn't mean there's not good advice to be had about how to portray a world. Or that guidance on building your own setting is a bad thing. It's just not the most important because it's not necessary for every DM.

Using judgment during play, how to pose interesting challenges to the players... all of that stuff is required.

Reordering the chapters would impact DM's that want to use the book for worldbuilding.

Why? You telling me if they reordered the chapters, you wouldn't be able to look at the ToC and say "Huh the worldbuilding stuff's on page 196 now. Odd." and then flip to that page.

Experienced DMs need the book as a reference, and for that purpose, it doesn't need to be presented in a specific order.

But it's also meant to be a guide. And for that, the order of topics matters.

And this goes right back to prescriptiveness. A prescriptive RPG book can cover alot of ground in 50 pages. A non-prescriptive book will need tons more pages to cover the same ground on the same topic. Now I don't know the book cited but I'm willing to bet that it's very prescriptive and that's why that layout works for it.

What? How is Pound of Flesh prescriptive? Have you read it? Doesn't sound like it.

It's already very concise.

I don't really see how you can draw that conclusion.

Please reconsider the labeling of valid points as irrational fears.

Again, I didn't say they were irrational. But they are clearly fears as you have articulated perfectly well on your own.
 
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hawkeyefan

Legend
Guidance is a suggestion or idea. Something that is prescriptive tells you what you should do. This is the one way it should be done.

If you're providing multiple paths to playing, and describing these paths and how to use them and when, then what's the problem? The DMG already does what I'm suggesting, just in limited ways.

I haven't seen any prescriptive guidance in the DMG.

Chapter 9 is nothing but. If you want a game that does this, then try that!

Tyranny!!!!!

Different gamers are going to have radically different ideas about what is considered "cruft" and needs to be edited down. I know I would not appreciate all the world-building information that you want removed to add in more talk about playstyles, for example. You are directly suggesting removing parts of the book I like and replacing them with parts I don't need. That fear, but a well-founded one if you got your way.

I'm not really saying to remove things. I'm saying to refocus. Keep the worldbuilding stuff if that's what you're talking about, but slim it down. Find the optimal way to present these ideas. I think the 30 pages of "A world of your own" and the 25 pages on "building a multiverse" can be slimmed down. So can many of the other sections.

WotC will make their decisions regardless of what you or I say. The existing book with a bit of reorganization and better-realized optional rules would suit me, and what  I can use at my table is what matters to me. Why would I advocate for them changing the book to make it worse for me?

Because the book isn't just for you?

Or... If you're new to D&D we recommend you begin by picking up the starter set, these sets have been designed to walk a brand new DM and players through their first adventure and teach the basics of the game...

Or... if you're not new to D&D we recommend the many previous books that have been published with tons more material on worldbuilding and the planes! Oh, and also you can find a whole lot of information online for free!
 

Voadam

Legend
There's a reason that dictatorial, authoritarian, tyrannical, despotic and oppressive are all synonyms of prescriptive. Prescriptive is forced upon you.

I don't really find those synonyms under prescriptive in thesaurus.com or MerriamWebster.

Most definitions I find are simply setting down rules or norms, sometimes with a connotation of being based on tradition. The others you list generally have an oppression element different from general rule or norm making.
 



Micah Sweet

Legend
The book isn't just for you either. And your desires for it are no more valid than mine.
If you're providing multiple paths to playing, and describing these paths and how to use them and when, then what's the problem? The DMG already does what I'm suggesting, just in limited ways.



Chapter 9 is nothing but. If you want a game that does this, then try that!

Tyranny!!!!!



I'm not really saying to remove things. I'm saying to refocus. Keep the worldbuilding stuff if that's what you're talking about, but slim it down. Find the optimal way to present these ideas. I think the 30 pages of "A world of your own" and the 25 pages on "building a multiverse" can be slimmed down. So can many of the other sections.



Because the book isn't just for you?



Or... if you're not new to D&D we recommend the many previous books that have been published with tons more material on worldbuilding and the planes! Oh, and also you can find a whole lot of information online for free!
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
If you're providing multiple paths to playing, and describing these paths and how to use them and when, then what's the problem? The DMG already does what I'm suggesting, just in limited ways.



Chapter 9 is nothing but. If you want a game that does this, then try that!

Tyranny!!!!!



I'm not really saying to remove things. I'm saying to refocus. Keep the worldbuilding stuff if that's what you're talking about, but slim it down. Find the optimal way to present these ideas. I think the 30 pages of "A world of your own" and the 25 pages on "building a multiverse" can be slimmed down. So can many of the other sections.



Because the book isn't just for you?



Or... if you're not new to D&D we recommend the many previous books that have been published with tons more material on worldbuilding and the planes! Oh, and also you can find a whole lot of information online for free!
I didn't say why would WotC change it, I asked why would I advocate for them to do? If the choices are between no changes and the changes you want, I vote* for no changes.

*of course neither of us actually gets a vote.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
If you're providing multiple paths to playing, and describing these paths and how to use them and when, then what's the problem? The DMG already does what I'm suggesting, just in limited ways.
Options are the opposite of prescriptive. If you are providing multiple paths and how to use them, there's no problem because there is no prescription.
Chapter 9 is nothing but. If you want a game that does this, then try that!
Yes. It's nothing but non-prescriptive options. I agree. The entire DMG is nothing but non-prescriptive options. The PHB on the other hand is prescriptive for the players, but not the DM who has the option to add, remove or change any rule in it.
 

I think the only reason to want the 5E DMG to remain as is... to deny that it can be improved as a reference book and also as a guide to new DMs... is fear.

People don't want D&D to exclude their preferences.

And while that's a reasonable concern, I think it gets applied unreasonably.
This is why I can't see the resistance to improving the DMG as anything other than a gut reaction of "NO DON'T CHANGE MY STUFF". And while I understand that instinct, it makes for a bizarre conversation.
The OP jokes that no one reads the DMG... but does not want it to become a book that people would actually read. It's remarkable, really.
Again, this fear of prescription. The books have rules and processes that are prescriptive. No one complains "don't tell me how fireball works, dadgummit".
I didn't say they were irrational. I said that I understand where they come from. I think we can rationalize them.

I think the dungeon master's guide could be improved considerably in terms of advice, layout, and content. But this line of argumentation about 'fear' that you are pursuing comes off as very condescending. It suggests that there are people making rational arguments, on the one hand, and people clinging to their 5e dmg, full of primal emotions and not thinking clearly, on the other. Further, I just don't think 'fear' applies to people finding the "rolling the dice" subsection to be sufficient or not. The stakes of the latter are just so small that to suggest that people have that reaction to the text out of fear is infantilizing.
 

Imaro

Legend
Or... if you're not new to D&D we recommend the many previous books that have been published with tons more material on worldbuilding and the planes! Oh, and also you can find a whole lot of information online for free!
So then what is the purpose of the "STARTER" set if not to be where a totally new player starts.

Also... which books for 5e are you referring to for worldbuilding and the planes for those not new to D&D?
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
So then what is the purpose of the "STARTER" set if not to be where a totally new player starts.

I didn’t comment on the starter set or its purpose in my post. Earlier in the thread, I said that it was an inexpensive way for a person or group to give the game a try.

I’d think that seems pretty accurate.

I wouldn’t expect those who played or ran through Lost Mines of Phandelver to then need no more guidance.

Also... which books for 5e are you referring to for worldbuilding and the planes for those not new to D&D?

I didn’t say they were for 5e. I said there are tons of books from previous editions and from third parties and videos and many, many other resources available to an experienced DM who needs advice on worldbuilding.

My point being that folks have repeatedly pointed to things beyond the actual books for newbies to learn to play. But we can also point experienced DMs to materials beyond the books.

Like, do we need 25 pages for very basic material about the planes? There are entire wikis with tons of information about them available. So why do we need those 25 pages?

It just seems odd to expect people new to the game to find alternate resources easier than experienced people.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I didn't say they were irrational. I said that I understand where they come from. I think we can rationalize them.

I think they are unfounded.

And why would that happen? I'm saying they should continue that. They should just be able to discuss different methods and styles openly. Keep the multiple approaches to play. Hell, I'm saying to build on that as a foundational strength of the game.

I don't think that makes any kind of sense.

What? How is Pound of Flesh prescriptive? Have you read it? Doesn't sound like it.

Again, I didn't say they were irrational. But they are clearly fears as you have articulated perfectly well on your own.

It seems to me our discussion is over.

The underlined is self-contradictory. The bolded are all comments I elaborated on the very post you were responding to with additional detail and answers to the very questions you went on to ask. Thankfully @Malmuria already eloquently addressed the 'fear' aspect.

IMO. There's no point to continue when things get to this level.
 

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