D&D 5E Is the Default Playstyle of 5E "Monty Haul?"


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Thomas Shey

Legend
:🤷: If they all want to heroically die instead of only having one heroically die so the others can esacpe, that's up to them. EDIT to add: And even the one left behind as the slowest runner is still heroically dying...or so the Bards will say later, anyway. :)

To me, though, survival of the party - as in, that there's at least one survivor such that the same party/story/quest/etc. can continue - is more important than survival of any one character.

That's your choice, but expecting others to share it just because its what you think is reasonable, is not, in fact, reasonable.
 



Vaalingrade

Legend
"So let me get this straight, you have already lost 13 folks to hazards on this quest? Where do I sign up?"
"And you're all continuing the quest where the last person in the group to had accepted it died six years ago? How? Oh. to shreds you say. How's his wife holding up? To shreds you say?"
 

Redneckomancer

Explorer
Maybe part of the problem I'm running into with my 5e group is that we have short sessions. I regularly run for 2-3 hours on a VTT, just to fit everyone's schedules on a weeknight (since weekends aren't possible). That means that if I follow the guidelines for how many encounters in a day I'm supposed to have (according to the RAW), it can take us 4+ sessions to get through a single adventuring day. That severely bogs down play. It spaces out story beats in the campaign. It creates a long time IRL to recharge your character's cool abilities.
So I prefer more intense, concentrated battles than the fights that don't really matter to the campaign overall. A pack of giant rats that can nibble off 10% of the party's HP and other resources is not satisfying because it ends up expending around 50% of the players' time for the weekly session (after you account for placing tokens, putting things on a battlegrid, rolling and ordering Initiative, and managing "cleanup" among the characters after the fight.)
If I were playing weekly for 4-5 hours a session like I did when I was a college student - then yeah, I could run that kind of game. Now, it's more of a chore of meaningless tasks. I'd rather get into the story, exploration, and encounters that challenge the players and their characters while doing the double duty of advancing the plot or enriching their discovery of the campaign world.
So I need something more like an average of 3 fights per day.
Games that focus on resource attrition aren't fun when our real life most precious resource (time) erodes more quickly than the characters' spells, torches, and hit points.
So after 10 pages of people getting tripped in the semantics of incorrect gamer slang and the same "but CAN you retreat tho?" argument that's as old as usenet, we get to the actual issue.
So yeah, 5e is explicitly designed around 5-8 'war of attrition' fights, per day with 2 short rests. Or something like that. If you want a story focused game that still has a big dramatic fight per session and you only get 2~3 hours a session, it is incompatible with your needs.
And you need to let your players know that.
Forget the time wasted on pulling up tokens or whatever, how much precious real human mortality are you wasting tying yourself into a knot every week trying to balance an encounter for 3 hours you aren't even enjoying? Is that really worth it? Probably not!
So just talk o your friends, man. They are your friends, right? So you can just let them know, plainly, "This game is not fun for me, we need to find a new game or a new gm because I am having a Bad Time trying to get 5e to work." Well, maybe not quite so hard an ultimatum, but yeah just talk about it, assert your feelings and boundaries and problems and whatnot.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
That's your choice, but expecting others to share it just because its what you think is reasonable, is not, in fact, reasonable.

It's sort of been a pattern that whenever I get insight into how @Lanefan runs games, or believes games should be run, my reaction is, "That's...um....interesting."

What's cool about RPGs is that all ways are valid.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
What's cool about RPGs is that all ways are valid.
With the, fairly large, caveat that not all ways will work for any given table of players, or even specific players at the table!

I know I've had (mercifully few) times where the DM and everyone else at the table seemed to be having a GREAT time and I wanted to be ANYWHERE else. Made some excuse and fled the game at a run.

I can also think of 2 players (of the top of my head and over decades) who were just not a fit when I was DMing. They disapeared and I wasn't sorry to see them go.
 
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Quartz

Hero
Ah, Disjunction. The spells that reveals about a dozen gaping flaws in 3e design -- including its own presence.

We've had several threads on this. I found it particularly valuable in 3E for getting rid of old gear. Otherwise magic items just accumulated - the Christmas Tree effect. You just need to forewarn players that it will happen and then get them used to it. Any time from 8th level on you could expect the boss (12th level) to have a Disjunction in a Ring of Spell Storing.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
A GM drawing on past editions to bring back disjunction as a solution to one of 5e's problems came up earlier but that's not so simple. I've opened a session by casting the spell that must not be named on a PC and had things go great but have never seen disjunction go over well when it was part of the system. I've considered disjunction several times over the last 8 years or so & can't see a bunch of players who never played those editions finding "it used to be a spell but not in 5e" making that pill any easier to swallow in the environment of 5e's " magic items are completely optional wink wink nudge nudge". The fact that 3.x was will save & 2e was save vrs spell is going to cause no end of gnashing of teeth or rules lawyering if Alice loses her magic doodad when neither of those cleanly map to 5e. What amounts to "just use out of print past edition tools to fix 5e" isn't exactly selling the idea that the situation is anything but a mess thrown at an unsupported gm to fix. The fact that 5e magic items are dramatically more powerful as well as fewer in number ensures that Alice are going to be even more upset when she loses her doodad but bob keeps his two or three.
 
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Vaalingrade

Legend
We've had several threads on this. I found it particularly valuable in 3E for getting rid of old gear. Otherwise magic items just accumulated - the Christmas Tree effect. You just need to forewarn players that it will happen and then get them used to it. Any time from 8th level on you could expect the boss (12th level) to have a Disjunction in a Ring of Spell Storing.
Or just let them sell magic items for better ones and not leave it up to Chaos Roulette to see if the fighter is (more) useless now while the monk and wizard fail to care.

The spell's just an antimagic field, which is another thing that exists because of bad design from multiple layers only it can be aimed and it's designed so PCs with sense can and will never use it for maximum unfairness.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
It's sort of been a pattern that whenever I get insight into how @Lanefan runs games, or believes games should be run, my reaction is, "That's...um....interesting."

What's cool about RPGs is that all ways are valid.

Sure. In many ways his approach is one that's "classical" in a sense, if you look at how some of the early Gygax-adjacent people ran D&D.

What's off is his surprise and/or disbelief that no one has left that train in the last four decades, especially since people were doing so damn near when it left the station.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
With the, fairly large, caveat that not all ways will work for any given table of players, or even specific players at the table!

I know I've had (mercifully few) times where the DM and everyone else at the table seemed to be having a GREAT time and I wanted to be ANYWHERE else. Made some excuse and fled the game at a run.

I can also think of 2 playes (of the top of my head and over decades) who were just not a fit when I was DMing. They disapeared and I wasn't sorry to see them go.

If there's a single thing besides lack of communication that causes failures of campaigns, its the assumption that a game can be made to work for any given collection of 4-6 players + GM, when the simple truth is sometimes some people just shouldn't be playing together, and the attempt to do so will leave some or all of them miserable.

Acknowledging that is not a moral judgment on any of the people involved.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Maybe part of the problem I'm running into with my 5e group is that we have short sessions. I regularly run for 2-3 hours on a VTT, just to fit everyone's schedules on a weeknight (since weekends aren't possible). That means that if I follow the guidelines for how many encounters in a day I'm supposed to have (according to the RAW), it can take us 4+ sessions to get through a single adventuring day. That severely bogs down play. It spaces out story beats in the campaign. It creates a long time IRL to recharge your character's cool abilities.
My group at about 2 hours per week to play online using FantasyGrounds and it takes us weeks to get an adventuring day done.
So I prefer more intense, concentrated battles than the fights that don't really matter to the campaign overall. A pack of giant rats that can nibble off 10% of the party's HP and other resources is not satisfying because it ends up expending around 50% of the players' time for the weekly session (after you account for placing tokens, putting things on a battlegrid, rolling and ordering Initiative, and managing "cleanup" among the characters after the fight.)
If I were playing weekly for 4-5 hours a session like I did when I was a college student - then yeah, I could run that kind of game. Now, it's more of a chore of meaningless tasks. I'd rather get into the story, exploration, and encounters that challenge the players and their characters while doing the double duty of advancing the plot or enriching their discovery of the campaign world.
So I need something more like an average of 3 fights per day.
Make at least 2 of then deadly and maybe even double deadly. I spotted in one of your earlier posts about using a marilith against a 7th level party. This is, (IMHO) a mistaken approach. A solo monster needs legendary actions. The opposition must match the action economy of the party. Go Wide before you go Tall. That is add more monsters before you add stronger monsters, though that must take into account casters. If the party has a lot of casters have some of the fight escalate in wave.

One thing that I do is have 3 or 4 moderate encounters near each other. If anyone encounter is triggered then the others also trigger, arriving at intervals one to two turns apart about 1 to 3 turns after the trigger event.
Games that focus on resource attrition aren't fun when our real life most precious resource (time) erodes more quickly than the characters' spells, torches, and hit points.
Then you really need to have a chat with your players about the fact that you are not having fun and consider changing systems. You are burning out and will come to a grinding halt if you are not having fun.

I would also recommend to give a look at some online DMs. I have started Watching Critical Role thing year and it was an eye opener. Matt Mercer can push a party hard even with only one encounter per long rest. you do not have to watch it all, just look for the episodes where the big set piece fights are, and the episodes are timestamped in the comments so you should be able to get to the battle.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Heh heh... I think what you say here is the exact fulcrum upon which both sides get separated.

In your case... characters that can't die shatter the believability of the game and thus the game is wrecked. Whereas on my side... all characters dying all the time wreck any sort of cohesive longterm narrative and story and thus the game is wrecked.
Even though individual characters die off all the time, as long as there's not a TPK I've found the narrative of The Party always carries on somehow; and looking at game continuity from the DM side, that's the only narrative that really matters.

TPKs, however, are very bad for continuity - I'll quickly concede that! :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
A lot - almost all it seems - of DMs seem to think every battle needs to be a life and death struggle that the PCs barely win.
Agreed. And, as I noted way upthread, it's nigh-impossible to pull this off.
In the end, your PCs are the heroes of the story. They're supposed to keep like heroes that can do amazing things.
Ah, now there you're making assumptions that might not always hold up.

The PCs in play at the moment are the centre of the story at the moment, but that's as far as it goes. Assuming those PCs to be heroes rather than villains, or neutrals? Not always correct. Assuming they're supposed to act like heroes? Definitely not always correct! :)
It should not be a problem if they're powerful - because we eat up stories about powerful heroes, right? Marvel movies seem to think we do.
And were I running a supers game I'd be 100% on board with this. But D&D at its best ain't a supers game, despite WotC's best attempts otherwise.
All that being said, here are some ideas to make items feel more special (which can contribute to them feeling more appreciated and earned):

1.) Homebrew items. Half of the magic items I hand out do not originate in WotC books. Those homebrew are the most appreciated items, usually, because they're iconic to the PC.
2.) Intelligent items. A little intelligence on an otherwise plain magic item can be very intriguing for players, but only if the DM remembers it is there.
3.) Quest items. The item is broken and needs to be fixed, or to activate it you need to bring it somewhere ... these feel more earned as well.
Excellent ideas! Homebrew items in particular, in that they're both a) appreciated (as you note) and b) help give a campaign its own unique "flavour" and-or memorability.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It's really weird IMO to talk about 'the story continuing' with so much character churn. Okay, one guy lived this time, by next time what's the chances they and any sense of continuity will survive the next?
That's exactly how my current campaign started. :)

One guy made it through the first adventure. Every other character turned over at least twice. (I should note this was also probably the most gonzo adventure I've ever run; the adventure itself was bog-standard B2 with a bit more added to the neighbourhood, but the players went nuts on it - we spent many a session roaring with laughter at what the PCs got up to, and still tell the tales to this day).

The survivor of the first adventure died in the second one. The continuity did not, however, as that wonderful Ship of Theseus party just kept on a-truckin' along.

This was in spring-summer 2008. That [campaign/setting/game - pick yer preferred term] is still going today, and a few late entrants to that very first party are still out there (though they mostly no longer have players attached due to much-slower player turnover, and have sailed off into the sunset).
 


I do think the game got easier. It's more of a collaborative entertainment than a sport now, I think. Back in the 1e days they used to have tournaments and standings.

I also think there may be some influence of anime--look at how powerful Goku gets over the years. I mean, what does the scouter say about his XP total? ;)
 

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