5E Interview with Wolfgang Baur and Steve Winter about their 5E adventures.

You're right, of course, but there is another angle here. More codified systems create a barrier to entry for DMing. Yes it helps, but its a lot to digest for new DMs. In addition, more codified systems can "hide" bad DMs from themselves and players. Its hard to improve if you don't know whats broken. With more immediate, personal, feedback, DM skills can improve quickly, even for novices.
Less codified systems can also create a barrier to entry for DMs. This barrier involves the DM flailing wildly when the PCs do something odd in the first couple of sessions, then crashing and burning and not going back to DMing. Good rules assist DMs, pointing them in the right direction, rather than hiding them. Something both 4E's later versions of skill challenges and especially Apocalypse World do.
 
And when I play a character I don't want to have to negotiate with the DM for anything I try to do that's not either a basic attack or a spell. If spells were held to the same standard you hold other approaches to I wouldn't mind this.

...

Again, this isn't about lightness of systems, it's about predictability. As a player I'm pretty damn sure how Fate challenges are going to be resolved, and that's lighter than any known version of D&D.
QFT - this is something that gets overlooked in the discussion of light vs. heavy. Thank you for phrasing it so clearly. Some great games have a very well defined system, and the fuzziness is more about how we apply that system than how we reach a particular outcome - like 4E skill challenges. Hopefully 5E will do this well but I have to see the final rules to make that call myself.
 

Ruin Explorer

Adventurer
And when I play a character I don't want to have to negotiate with the DM for anything I try to do that's not either a basic attack or a spell. If spells were held to the same standard you hold other approaches to I wouldn't mind this. But playing a non-caster in pre-4E D&D feels very disempowering to me.

To me 4e feels lighter than D&D Next. I can get the rules onto a double sided trifold, with everything else being either monster statblocks (with large ones being about the size of an index card) or on the character sheet.

Again, this isn't about lightness of systems, it's about predictability. As a player I'm pretty damn sure how Fate challenges are going to be resolved, and that's lighter than any known version of D&D.
"You must spread some Experience Points around before giving it to Neonchameleon again."

You said it better than I could!
 

Cybit

Villager
Less codified systems can also create a barrier to entry for DMs. This barrier involves the DM flailing wildly when the PCs do something odd in the first couple of sessions, then crashing and burning and not going back to DMing. Good rules assist DMs, pointing them in the right direction, rather than hiding them. Something both 4E's later versions of skill challenges and especially Apocalypse World do.
FWIW, 5E seems fairly easy to pick up and DM; especially if my players are any indication (very young players who never played prior to this).
 

jrowland

Villager
Less codified systems can also create a barrier to entry for DMs. This barrier involves the DM flailing wildly when the PCs do something odd in the first couple of sessions, then crashing and burning and not going back to DMing. Good rules assist DMs, pointing them in the right direction, rather than hiding them. Something both 4E's later versions of skill challenges and especially Apocalypse World do.
with all due respect, "DM flailing wildly" is not a barrier to entry. The DM got in easily and then failed as a DM, sure, but it wasn't a barrier to entry.

I agree 4E has a low barrier for DM entry.
 
However, therein lies the biggest potential problem 5E is going to encounter... because as you say, "if the DM is good..."

Less rules means more freedom... but it also means more responsibility on the part of the DM to make smart, fair, and interesting decisions. And if you DON'T have a good one, the game is more likely to be less than you want it to be.

The advantage of "more rules" or "codification" is that a DM can be just a "rules arbiter" if that's all they're capable of... and the game can still turn out okay. Even a not-so-great DM can still run pretty okay games.

But in 5E, we're going to ask more of our DMs. And we have to hope that after all this time of playing two editions that allowed DMs more of a security blanket in how they performed... that they've absorbed enough to now move onto a role that requires more responsibility and that they can accomplish it.

Because if not... we're going to hear a lot of stories of bad games because of bad DMs.
I have a lot of those from prior edition days....I've found that no matter how comprehensive the rules system, a bad DM is still a bad DM.
 
Less codified systems can also create a barrier to entry for DMs. This barrier involves the DM flailing wildly when the PCs do something odd in the first couple of sessions, then crashing and burning and not going back to DMing. Good rules assist DMs, pointing them in the right direction, rather than hiding them. Something both 4E's later versions of skill challenges and especially Apocalypse World do.
Well the good news is I think 5th edition, based on the last playtest design, was headed down the path of "good comprehensive tools and easy rules of thumb" for DMs both new and old.

The 4E conundrum I often ran into was when players did something unexpected the rules mostly just stopped the DM cold: they want to do this, but the rules don't talk about or seem to allow it....so it must not be possible no matter how odd it is to say such. This was a very common DM newb problem I ran into during the times I got to play 4E; only the old vet DMs who ran 4E (such as myself) could work beyond the rules to handle players going off the rails.

The best middle ground is to have a ruleset that provides good guidance but an even better rule of thumb for how to handle the unusual and unexpected. I think 5E has some great mechanics for that. 4E had certain mechanics that worked in that direction, but the actual implementatio (i.e. skill challenges) fell far short of target.
 

Cybit

Villager
The 5E guidance is heavy on examples as well, to give players baselines of what would fall under a given attribute (STR vs DEX, or Int vs Wis). That has helped tremendously as well.

5E was the easiest edition I ever had to DM, currently its tied with 4E. The rules are easier in 5E (and are far more intuitive to me, as someone who started playing during 3E but primarily DM'd 4E), but the lack of all inclusive stat blocks does make monsters slightly more of a PITA when they have lots of spells. (Thankfully not many creatures have more than a couple of spells from the public playtest IIRC).

Also, I'm very confident 5E can handle going off the rails, seeing as one of my 12 year old players homebrewed his 4E Gamma World book into a 5E session. :D
 
Well the good news is I think 5th edition, based on the last playtest design, was headed down the path of "good comprehensive tools and easy rules of thumb" for DMs both new and old.

The 4E conundrum I often ran into was when players did something unexpected the rules mostly just stopped the DM cold: they want to do this, but the rules don't talk about or seem to allow it....so it must not be possible no matter how odd it is to say such. This was a very common DM newb problem I ran into during the times I got to play 4E; only the old vet DMs who ran 4E (such as myself) could work beyond the rules to handle players going off the rails.

The best middle ground is to have a ruleset that provides good guidance but an even better rule of thumb for how to handle the unusual and unexpected. I think 5E has some great mechanics for that. 4E had certain mechanics that worked in that direction, but the actual implementatio (i.e. skill challenges) fell far short of target.
This wasn't my experience - but I went in with an attitude of "Assume that everything's possible" and some improv drama experience, and I found it easier than just about any other system I'd read to that point. Possibly I'm just a special case.

The 5E guidance is heavy on examples as well, to give players baselines of what would fall under a given attribute (STR vs DEX, or Int vs Wis). That has helped tremendously as well.

5E was the easiest edition I ever had to DM, currently its tied with 4E. The rules are easier in 5E (and are far more intuitive to me, as someone who started playing during 3E but primarily DM'd 4E), but the lack of all inclusive stat blocks does make monsters slightly more of a PITA when they have lots of spells. (Thankfully not many creatures have more than a couple of spells from the public playtest IIRC).

Also, I'm very confident 5E can handle going off the rails, seeing as one of my 12 year old players homebrewed his 4E Gamma World book into a 5E session. :D
I've only ever DM'd some of the early playtest packets (and if I ever see 21 separate rats all rolling 2 dice again I'm going to force feed the designer their own rules). And Next on the latest draft I've read feels as if it slides into my top three D&D versions - 4E for Action Adventure, Rules Cyclopaedia for Dungeon Crawling, and Next for drifted D&D. I just have problems thinking of a reason I'd want drifted D&D rather than to pick a system that does what I actually want to do this time.
 

Cybit

Villager
I've only ever DM'd some of the early playtest packets (and if I ever see 21 separate rats all rolling 2 dice again I'm going to force feed the designer their own rules). And Next on the latest draft I've read feels as if it slides into my top three D&D versions - 4E for Action Adventure, Rules Cyclopaedia for Dungeon Crawling, and Next for drifted D&D. I just have problems thinking of a reason I'd want drifted D&D rather than to pick a system that does what I actually want to do this time.
For me, it's because I can drift between versions of the game in between sessions; which is helpful for what I'm testing / running currently. Also, in my perspective, they have cleaned up a lot of the issues with DM'ing in the latest packet. It's nice having a single edition that does 90% of what I want in each aspect rather than having to commit to a single type of game (especially as someone who has terribad ADD). From what I can tell, you and I are both very big fans of 4E DM'ing, so I have been pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoy 5E.
 
Less codified systems can also create a barrier to entry for DMs. This barrier involves the DM flailing wildly when the PCs do something odd in the first couple of sessions, then crashing and burning and not going back to DMing. Good rules assist DMs, pointing them in the right direction, rather than hiding them. Something both 4E's later versions of skill challenges and especially Apocalypse World do.
So all those DMs who bought the 1983 Red Box set flailed wildly, crashed, and never DMed again? How DID people ever play prior to 2008?
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
So all those DMs who bought the 1983 Red Box set flailed wildly, crashed, and never DMed again? How DID people ever play prior to 2008?
I think the key there is the phrase can also. Wild flailing and stumbling through vague rules can certainly cause a lot of DM burnout, and can simultaneously cause player burnout. The DM makes a call that leads to a bad experience because the game didn't bother to make that call and then everyone has a sour taste in their mouth.

I think the fact is different DMs have different strengths, and what's good for some might not be good for all. A good DMG needs to support an individual DM where they're weak, and to enhance an individual DM's strengths. Some DMs are fair arbiters, talented at making judgement calls. Some DMs are natural storytellers. Some DMs are living libraries. Some are talented worldbuilders. Some DMs are just good hosts. The DMGs of various e's have a tendency of presuming all DMs share a given trait and lack other traits, which is part of why the DMGs tend to be the weakest of the basic rulebooks -- those hard-coded assumptions are hard to shake.

Like, I grated against 4e's idea of knowing what your NPC's are for in a narrative sense before you deploy them. One of my strengths as a DM is spontaneity, so the assumption that I would know what an NPC was for before they entered the scene and we found out was bonkers. But 3e's town generation was something of a godsend in that respect. -- what, I can spend a bit of prep time and then have this righteous hive of bees ready to toss a PC party into and see what shakes out? AWESOME.

That doesn't make the 4e perspective bad, though -- just not great for me. There's plenty of folks with a clearer idea of narrative that this works wonders for. It likewise doesn't make the 3e town gen rules objectively good, just good for me. It sucks for anyone who doesn't see the point in whipping up 98 low-level NPC statblocks that will likely never get interacted with.

Gygax's advice didn't work for everyone. Neither did Wyatt's, or Monte's, or Zeb's. Styles differ, and there's no One True Way to be a DM, so there's no One True Way to guide people in their DMing. DMGs are hard to write. 4e did perhaps the best job to date, but there's plenty of room for growth.
 

mach1.9pants

Adventurer
The biggest problem I had with DMing 4E, which I never got with 2E (bearing in mind I probably ignored heaps AD&D rules BITD) and earlier or OSR games, is getting my damn players to not look at the character sheets/power cards/battle map grid. (3E I just found hard with too many rules, full stop). A failing on my part and theirs, but also the codified nature of the rules. It was easy to run but hard to role play, for my geeky IT bound ex gaming group anyway! Now that I am just DMing for my kids 5E seems pretty good, like some OS stuff with a lot of rough edges filed off, they can engage in the fiction. Dungeon World works well too, tho I a struggle with the fronts and all that other stuff, the core of play is easy as to DM.
 
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Hussar

Legend
Yeah, talking to the top of your player's heads is never a good thing. And it tends to be a thing moreso in a rules heavier system than a lighter one, IMO.

But, then again, I'm a huge fan of something like Savage Worlds where you have a small amount of rules that are applied very broadly rather than a large amount of specific rules.
 

Mistwell

Hero
Ack you know what, my own response was too long, wouldn't read. A sure sign I need to delete it.
 
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mach1.9pants

Adventurer
Internet says NO to your answer :D

Still, rules aside, I am really looking forward to what the Kobolds bring to the table. I love their other stuff.
 
So all those DMs who bought the 1983 Red Box set flailed wildly, crashed, and never DMed again? How DID people ever play prior to 2008?
Some did. Some didn't. And one of the things dungeons do is sharply limit the available options on the demand side because they are a restricted and artificial environment, making it easier for the DM.
 

Ruin Explorer

Adventurer
So all those DMs who bought the 1983 Red Box set flailed wildly, crashed, and never DMed again? How DID people ever play prior to 2008?
Given that D&D peaked in those years, and people fell away from the game in very large numbers, it might be a reasonable conjecture to suggest that, yes, a lot of groups eventually crashed and burned, in part because the DMs didn't know how to run a good game that everyone enjoyed. Perhaps if more people had understood how to keep things going, RPGs would be a bigger hobby today.

It's all conjecture, though, either way.

Speaking from personal experience, I can say that the main reason I am a good DM is that I was taught by a good DM (and a female DM, at that, in 1989), who impressed upon me something that the DM advice of the period generally didn't - that the DM wasn't god, and the goal was for everyone to have fun. She also left me with an awesome hand-written adventure (that she never had time to finish running) that stood as a good template for adventures in general (a non-dungeon, to boot - I didn't run any conventional dungeon-type adventure for a year or so into my D&D career).

Later I read really good DM advice, but I also read a lot of really rotten stuff before that. Even Gary himself gave out absolutely appalling advice (and advice that contradicted how he ran his home campaign, eyewitnesses say!) in books like his Role-Playing Mastery book (what a horrible book - even at 14 I knew it was horrible).
[MENTION=55946]mach1.9pants[/MENTION] - Re: staring at the sheet - this was a problem even back in 2E, for some players who had a enough spells/magic items that they began to think the solution to any given problem was on the sheet. Strangely, it wasn't a problem for my 4E group at all, prior to Paragon tier - but at higher levels, when you get truly overwhelming amount of items and powers, it begins to become more of one.

Actually there was one player who always had the problem (not a regular, sadly), my brother - who in 2E and 3E always played Wizards (and thus always relied on "what's on my sheet, how can I use it?" to solve problems) - he had real difficulties engaging with 4E - everyone else, including IT people, lawyers, bankers, etc. was fine. I'm finding the solution post-Paragon is more exciting combat environments - gets them thinking outside the powers box very quickly.
 
Some did. Some didn't. And one of the things dungeons do is sharply limit the available options on the demand side because they are a restricted and artificial environment, making it easier for the DM.
Thank God the Expert set had wilderness rules then! I mean, compare those restricted and artificial dungeons to the brilliance of Keep on the Shadowfell. Oh. Wait.

Given that D&D peaked in those years, and people fell away from the game in very large numbers, it might be a reasonable conjecture to suggest that, yes, a lot of groups eventually crashed and burned, in part because the DMs didn't know how to run a good game that everyone enjoyed. Perhaps if more people had understood how to keep things going, RPGs would be a bigger hobby today.

It's all conjecture, though, either way.
That is a metric crapton of salt to swallow that with.

People quit playing D&D because of a lot of reasons: the rise of video/computer games, people outgrowing the hobby, groups of friends splitting up after schooling or when family demands override it. TSR's insane policies in late 80s and 90s. I seriously doubt bad DM advice in the 1983 rule book was the cause. I certainly don't think the superior advice in the 4e DMG is what lead its dissolution in 2012.

But you said it yourself: the best way to become a good DM is to learn from a good DM. DMing is best when its a mentored position; no amount of rules or rulebooks can replace a learning the tricks from watching a master.
 

Mistwell

Hero
Some did. Some didn't. And one of the things dungeons do is sharply limit the available options on the demand side because they are a restricted and artificial environment, making it easier for the DM.
Woah now hold on a second. You don't get to casually imply there is some roughly equal share of people who simply didn't play D&D on buying and reading it back then, to those who did go on to play it. That's a ridiculous and unsubstantiated claim. Sales of the initial set were followed by very strong sales of other associated materials later, so we know people bought it and played it. Surveys were done at the time and we know people went on to play it.
 

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