D&D 5E People don't read the 5E DMG for a reason

log in or register to remove this ad

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Even if players were telling WotC that they shouldn't worry about on-boarding new DMs, WotC should have known better. The core books need to be in the business of creating new lifelong players, in addition to any other jobs they might have.
No, the starter sets are in the business of creating new lifelong players. The DMG should be better organized, and the optional rules in it could definitely be better written, but they're on the right track.


One of the first things they published for it was Lost Mine of Phandelver, which is widely considered the best starter set they've made for any edition. The updated DM's Guide could have more stuff like that - little adventures that gradually get a bit more complex and explore different styles of play.

Edit: I would argue that "Lost Mine" is a much better DM's Guide than the actual DM's Guide. Certainly for new players!
Which begs the question - should they primarily focus on starter kits and adventures for new DMs? Most people in my experience, which may not be universal, start DMing after having a decent grasp of the game. They've played some already and just need some advice on how to make the next step. The DMG should be better at providing that next step, but should a person absolutely new to the game even be looking at a DMG?

Whether we think the DMG could be expanded to the page count of War and Peace if it would have useful information, WOTC has pretty much decided on a page count for their books. Add info to the DMG on how to build a world, different styles of creating campaigns but leave modules like LMoP for the absolute newbies. LMoP is good for teaching people how to run the game and a module, not so great on teaching people how to prep for a home campaign.

Do we expect too much from the DMG? Expecting more, sure. I think it can be improved. But it can only do so much.


I think I should have posted this from another thread here, so moving it over...

Is the idea of the big three PHB, DMG, and MM just sub-optimal these days (except for tradition)?

How would the 1e DMG, for example have been viewed if it didn't have all the rules for running the game in it (combat, saves, etc...) too? Would people also have "never read" it? And so with the base rules rightfully there for everyone, is the DMG adrift?

How would the classic B/X have been viewed if they were in three books instead of one each?

How much would the DnD web explode if there was a DMG that had the basics of running things and a bunch of monsters, and then a Campaign Masters Guide and a Monster Manual with the rest? How much could you fit in a 128 page cheaper hard cover?

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Also, if really people don't play after level 10, they should get rid of planar information. Planar hopping campaign are usually high level, because before players seldom have the means to do to that, and if they are visiting a plane, it's through a GM device, reducing their agency. So... why keep it if it doesn't serve? It shouldn't necessarily be "player-facing" but at least useful for starting parties.
Never going to be in favor of just removing content.


Then write a new book for them. That isn't what the DMG is for.
As I tried to get at in the post that came in as you were typing yours, I'm not sure what the DMG is really for anymore. In 1e it had a lot of roles since many things were hidden from the players -- and so everyone had to read it. Does the way it is actually put together today make something that's worth calling a core book? Would putting in some monsters and removing some of the more in depth campaign building make an actual core book that was more useful to more people? Is there any reason besides tradition to have the core PHB, DMG, MM? Would a "Campaign Masters Guide" allow for a lot of new things?


Loves Your Favorite Game
I'm not going to rehash my full points from the prior threads, but as someone who used LMoP for my first full game, after having read the PHB and DMG, the goal of those starter sets isn't to teach you how to DM, it's to get you and your friends at the table and playing with minimal hassle. It offers support, but not a whole lot of instruction.

There's room for and value in a teaching text, and videos do not serve as a 1-1 replacement.


Which begs the question - should they primarily focus on starter kits and adventures for new DMs?

IMO, yes. Lost Mine is actually a really good example to follow - it starts with a very basic dungeon crawl that a new DM can run cold, then expands to a base village (introducing the interaction pillar), then a larger wilderness area (with several quests and introducing the exploration pillar), before coming to a conclusion. And in that final part, once the DM has been exposed to all the key topics, it advises them to give the players "a map to an adventure of your own devising". It's a really good intro to running the game.

Whether we think the DMG could be expanded to the page count of War and Peace if it would have useful information, WOTC has pretty much decided on a page count for their books. Add info to the DMG on how to build a world, different styles of creating campaigns but leave modules like LMoP for the absolute newbies. LMoP is good for teaching people how to run the game and a module, not so great on teaching people how to prep for a home campaign.

I'd pitch the DMG mostly (though not exclusively) to DMs of middling experience and expertise. So fill it with discussions of different types of players and DMs and different game styles. Provide detailed descriptions of different types of adventure (dungeon crawl, heist, mystery...), along with step-by-step tools and tutorials to help DMs reliably put together decent adventures of various types. (And do the same for encounters, campaigns, and settings.)

By and large, though, don't pitch your 300+ page book to newbie DMs (who'll be overwhelmed) or to hugely experience DMs (who "know it all" anyway, and almost certainly won't read it anyway).

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
If they knock the 1D&D DMG out of the park -- seriously, just rip off the best stuff from the 4E DMG and freshen it up as needed, and that would go a long way -- then they could probably generate the enthusiasm for a DMG 2 at some point.
Of course, you're assuming that the 4e DMG was some kind of Platonic Ideal.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I think one very useful topic to cover would be how to tailor the game to the style of game you want to play and give it a lot more of a prominent presentation. This could also help deal with the questions boiling in a couple of other threads right now about pushing the game to the dungeon or to more story. I'd want them to be specific about some elements that might be worth emphasizing or cutting out - such as removing spells like goodberry or the camping spells (Leomund's tiny hut/Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion) to push resource management and risking rests or tailoring adventure hooks to PC backstories to emphasize getting the PCs to get into plots and central conflicts to the stories of the campaign, as well as how to mine PC backstory for ideas for the campaign.
That's the first idea about improving the DMG I've read here I agree with.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I don't need think the game necessarily needs to be made more new user friendly. But I think reserving the first few chapters of the DMG to help give the world more DMs is absolutely doable and, frankly, the right move for the game's long-term health, which should be part of their agenda.

But yes, 2014 was a very different time and it wasn't clear to everyone that D&D would ever be able to come back. (It certainly wasn't clear to me, as I had converted our campaign from 3E to C&C.) New DMs were much less important than reconciling with folks who had left.
And now that they have come back, and so many others have shown up, apparently WotC doesn't need them anymore.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
It’s fine. Lots of useful tidbits. The best dungeon I ever made was from the random generator near the back end of the book.

I think calling it a “core” book is a mistake. Core implies it is essential for running/playing the game, and the only book you need for 5E is the PHB.
The MM is also helpful.


This is a ridiculous expectation. The reason there are not more DMs is not because it's difficult. It's not.
Quite right. It's not literally as difficult as brain surgery, right? If you want to do something difficult, try landing a jet on an aircraft carrier! I'm with you, Paul.
The reason there are not more DMs is because it's a heck of a lot more work (and cost) than playing.
And, as we've already established, it's not more difficult to do more work than less, since DMing isn't difficult. I think we can all agree that doing a "heck of a lot more work" is no more difficult than doing less work.
And without changing the fundamental nature of the game (e.g. to be more like Blades in the Dark) there is absolutely nothing that can be done about that. If it was something that could be fixed it would have been fixed over thirty years ago.
What fools we are to believe that a body of best practices could be built in support of a system designed by mere human beings. Let's not try to improve things. If the Albert Einsteins and Isaac Newtons of D&D failed to unravel this dilemma in 1984, then I fear the solution will lie forever beyond our reach.
Given that 4e is the only edition I completely bounced off, one thing I'm dead sure of is it is not a good way to present D&D.
The problem was how they where communicated. So if you are putting forward 4e as an example of how D&D rules should be communicated, then I'm afraid an edition war is unavoidable.
I don't know how we shifted from taking about DMing advice to the rules of 4e, but you seem to want to make it unavoidable, Paul, so I won't stand in your way.

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
...resulting in it being the weakest core book. This does not need to be an either/or situation, and there is no need to be confrontational about this.

The 4e DMG draws awarenes to multiple styles, including play preferences of players. This approach could be expanded further. It seems useful to cover many of the most popular styles, including the pros and cons of each. It need not be a massive treatise. Sometimes basic overviews of styles and highlighting some DMG rules options that may help cultivate said style are helpful enough for starting out.

I believe you got this all wrong, both explicit text and implicit subtext. It's definitely not in-character for @Whizbang Dustyboots. I don't think that the desire is to stamp out the "BadWrongFun." I think the ultimate desire is to increase the longterm pool of DMs in the hobby who are comfortable in the role.

When people complain about the DMG "not teaching," IMHO, it is more about wanting to help new DMs grow into the basics of running the game as the DM: e.g., role expectations, guidelines for prepping encounters and adventures, how to make rulings, DM principles, etc. It's about making sure that the new DM has some easy-to-reference guidelines they can fall back on. It's about easing new DMs into the role so they don't bite off more than they can chew when starting out. New DMs may discover what they and their groups find more fun later (e.g., grim 'n' gritty, epic heroes, adventures, sandboxes, etc.), but the aim of people advocating for improving the DMG as a tool for teaching new DMs is about providing them with a solid foundation for the role.

Sure, but the point being made here is not that it shouldn't be in the book, but, rather, that it's so close to the start of the book before more pertinent sections. Again, the 4e DMG organizes the book as a funnel from the smaller basics to the bigger aspects, and ends by providing a sample setting and adventure to get the DM started. The World itself, however, is Chapter 9. Look at everything that the DMG conveys to the reader prior to getting to the point of detailing the world.

  • Chapter 1: How to be a DM
  • Chapter 2: Running the Game
  • Chapter 3: Combat Encounters
  • Chapter 4: Building Encounters
  • Chapter 5: Non-Combat Encounters
  • Chapter 6: Adventures
  • Chapter 7: Rewards
  • Chapter 8: Campaigns
* Chapter 9: The World
  • Chapter 10: The GM Toolbox
  • Chapter 11: Fallcrest & The Nentir Vale
The first thing I do when I start a totally new campaign is create the world. Adventures comes after, and then encounters. The 5e DMG is the right order for me.

An Advertisement