D&D 5E Randomness and D&D

payn

Legend
The ones I played in that were ... OK, were OK to play in, in groups that were gaming together primarily as an excuse to hang out (if that makes sense). There were some that were ... OK, at least for a while, if a GM insisted on running them instead of trying to come up with their own material. There was some overlap in those.

An adventure or a campaign about the PCs and their interests and goals feels different to me, as a player and as a GM. I don't remember any instances of any such adventure I was involved with feeling like a time-filler to me, but it's possible there was at least one I don't remember.

In my experience, playing a published adventure is almost never about the PCs or their interests or their goals, precisely because the adventures are written to be dropped into play at just about any table. I've found that the longer the adventure (or series of), the more likely this is to be a problem.
I've noticed this with some GMs as well. To be fair, the material doesn't always give clear and concise direction on how to tailor the campaign to the PCs. Paizo's adventure paths come with a players guide that gives traits and other items that sets up PCs for the campaign. It varies greatly between APs if those items are carried through in the material. Sometimes a burden is left on the GM to add it. I dont mind that though, as I find it key to any successful campaign and one of my favorite GM prep practices.

If I'm playing in a game and the material feels very disconnected form the players and their characters, I tend to blame the GM first. Though, many a published adventure does nothing in their favor as well.
 

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prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
I've noticed this with some GMs as well. To be fair, the material doesn't always give clear and concise direction on how to tailor the campaign to the PCs. Paizo's adventure paths come with a players guide that gives traits and other items that sets up PCs for the campaign. It varies greatly between APs if those items are carried through in the material. Sometimes a burden is left on the GM to add it. I dont mind that though, as I find it key to any successful campaign and one of my favorite GM prep practices.

If I'm playing in a game and the material feels very disconnected form the players and their characters, I tend to blame the GM first. Though, many a published adventure does nothing in their favor as well.
The Paizo APs I've played in, it didn't feel at all as though they were meant to be tailored to the PCs. Honestly, at least some of them didn't really feel as though they were meant to be played, but some of that might be that I really do not get along with published adventures.
 

Because the bonus to the roll is rarely more important than the d20 roll, they're not really important.
I see. In order to get a bonus of, say, +10 to a d20 roll, which has an average of 10*, requires extreme level and attribute scores. It is unlikely in 5e to get that kind of bonus in the typical range of play. You are looking for a point where in the typical range of play the skill of the character eventually shifts the result of the d20 roll that, in certain circumstances, the chance for failure is minimized. Or, allows the opportunity for spectacular success.

I have a similar preference, although I want the character attributes to matter mostly at low level and the level of the character becomes the dominant factor in the die roll. Thanks for the reply!

* Close enough
 


leonardozg

Because I'm the DM
5e is the edition I've seen most of the players wanting to play pre-made adventures. I just don't get it. When DMing I love when something unpredictable happens and I have to deal with it, using my creativity to keep the flow, keeping the story or coming up with a new plot, a new branch or a side quest. That's my job as DM. And my players love to know they can go everywhere and do whatever they want, they don't need to followa pre-made story. And randomness plays an important part in it. Too much and player choices are irrelevant because their influence in outcome is minimal, leading to frustration, too few and players choices are equal to the outcome, leading to boredom.
A great part of my preparation is having pre-made NPCs, small side quests, monsters and locations to use when appropriate.
May sound arrogant, but IMO this is RPG at its finest, premade adventures are at best a tutorial.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
For those who really like randomness, here are two goodies.

The Net Libram of Random Magical Effects v2. A d10,000 list of random and wild magical mishaps. Originally written for WFRP.

Winds of Chaos Expanded Critical Hits. Several critical hit charts written by physicians that go into some graphic detail about what massive trauma to particular parts of the body would actually look like. Originally written for WFRP.
 

payn

Legend
The Paizo APs I've played in, it didn't feel at all as though they were meant to be tailored to the PCs. Honestly, at least some of them didn't really feel as though they were meant to be played, but some of that might be that I really do not get along with published adventures.
Did you use the players guides? How much session zero info was conveyed to you by the GM? Im just curious.
 

payn

Legend
5e is the edition I've seen most of the players wanting to play pre-made adventures. I just don't get it. When DMing I love when something unpredictable happens and I have to deal with it, using my creativity to keep the flow, keeping the story or coming up with a new plot, a new branch or a side quest. That's my job as DM. And my players love to know they can go everywhere and do whatever they want, they don't need to followa pre-made story. And randomness plays an important part in it. Too much and player choices are irrelevant because their influence in outcome is minimal, leading to frustration, too few and players choices are equal to the outcome, leading to boredom.
A great part of my preparation is having pre-made NPCs, small side quests, monsters and locations to use when appropriate.
May sound arrogant, but IMO this is RPG at its finest, premade adventures are at best a tutorial.
While many published adventures tend to be a succession of elements independent of the PCs, some of them (successful IMO) provide a map and toolbox to react and be proactive to the players agency for the GM. There is a little blame to place at the GMs feet as well. Many assume all the work is done, and all they have to do is toss it on the table and the adventure will proceed. I think it takes more work than that. Obviously, some GMs will take greater care of adventures they are writing themselves in this instance.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Did you use the players guides? How much session zero info was conveyed to you by the GM? Im just curious.
We used the player guides at least for Mummy's Mask--that's the one I remember, which doesn't mean we didn't use others--and the broad premises of the campaigns were conveyed by the GMs.

Keep in mind, I didn't much enjoy Rise of the Runelords--which is generally considered a high point of Paizo's APs. They really just don't work for me.
 

payn

Legend
We used the player guides at least for Mummy's Mask--that's the one I remember, which doesn't mean we didn't use others--and the broad premises of the campaigns were conveyed by the GMs.

Keep in mind, I didn't much enjoy Rise of the Runelords--which is generally considered a high point of Paizo's APs. They really just don't work for me.
Fair enough. What are the differences with the games that do work for you?
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Fair enough. What are the differences with the games that do work for you?
The games that work for me ...

At some point, the things the PCs are going after need to arise from their interests, their goals, their backstories. The story that emerges from play needs to feel as though it is about them. That is not a feel published adventures do well, even if the GM is working hard to shape them some (and our GM was).

Part of that is my strong feeling that once you start a long adventure/adventure path, play at the table becomes about finishing that adventure, not ... about what the characters want, or about what the players really would prefer. If you look at what the players actually put on their character sheets--and even more so if you talk to them about what they put on their character sheets--you can get a good sense for what the players are looking for from the game, and you can shape play around that. That sort of player-responsiveness is also not a strength of published adventures, IME.
 

payn

Legend
The games that work for me ...

At some point, the things the PCs are going after need to arise from their interests, their goals, their backstories. The story that emerges from play needs to feel as though it is about them. That is not a feel published adventures do well, even if the GM is working hard to shape them some (and our GM was).

Part of that is my strong feeling that once you start a long adventure/adventure path, play at the table becomes about finishing that adventure, not ... about what the characters want, or about what the players really would prefer. If you look at what the players actually put on their character sheets--and even more so if you talk to them about what they put on their character sheets--you can get a good sense for what the players are looking for from the game, and you can shape play around that. That sort of player-responsiveness is also not a strength of published adventures, IME.
Gotcha, as a player I always dive into the campaign material and make my character fit from conception. I want to discover the secrets, bust the conspiracies, save the world as the material intends. I can see how doing the opposite works for many groups, though my experience is most players just simply dont care as much as I tend to for the former.
 

Clint_L

Hero
I hate random tables during play. For me, it takes away a lot of the fun of being a GM, as I love to improvise and riff of my players actions and choices in-game. And my players are very good at building suboptimal characters on their own, focusing on roleplaying and interesting concepts, rather than "winning" by rolling 18/00 in STR.

For me, randomness in the roll-the-dice sense is a gamey way of playing, while we focus more on letting the roleplaying take us where it may. It's more social pillar, drama, webs within webs of intrigue, rather than rolling dice on treasure tables.

But different strokes etc.
I have the opposite experience, and we also prioritize role-play and story. I love when a random roll adds an unexpected story element because that's when players have to change plans on the fly and really improvise, and that's when we get some of our most creative moments. And the omnipresent chance of failure adds real stakes to the story.

One of my favourite RPGs is Dread, where you simply pull jenga blocks to see if you live or die, basically, and that random element takes the dramatic tension off the charts.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
Gotcha, as a player I always dive into the campaign material and make my character fit from conception. I want to discover the secrets, bust the conspiracies, save the world as the material intends. I can see how doing the opposite works for many groups, though my experience is most players just simply dont care as much as I tend to for the former.
I'm perfectly happy to dive into setting details as a player, and I'm a strong believer that the PCs should fit into the setting (both as player and as GM). I'm somewhat less OK with the campaign establishing goals for the PCs. As GM, after I instigate something to start, I look to the PCs' backstories for things to weave in, or at least for an idea of the sorts of things they'll be interested in. Ideally, I can get them to the point that if/when they wrap a thing up, they have several choices for what to pursue next.
 

Randomness usually don’t fit with optimizer, balancer and challenger.
it fits well with unexpected ending and opportunities for open story.
 

HaroldTheHobbit

Adventurer
I have the opposite experience, and we also prioritize role-play and story. I love when a random roll adds an unexpected story element because that's when players have to change plans on the fly and really improvise, and that's when we get some of our most creative moments. And the omnipresent chance of failure adds real stakes to the story.

One of my favourite RPGs is Dread, where you simply pull jenga blocks to see if you live or die, basically, and that random element takes the dramatic tension off the charts.
Fun is fun however you come by it. But I use myself for those random story elements. I'm definitely not mathematically exact in my randomness if that is what one look for, but like to think I can create more interesting options on the spot from unlimited situational inputs than a static table.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
At some point, the things the PCs are going after need to arise from their interests, their goals, their backstories. The story that emerges from play needs to feel as though it is about them. That is not a feel published adventures do well, even if the GM is working hard to shape them some (and our GM was).
I'm sympathetic to this point of view. To my mind, the major issue with adventure paths is that they presume that the PCs are reactive in what they do, rather than proactive. It's never about achieving personal goals and ambitions, it's about stopping some looming threat to the region/world/multiverse, which can absolutely be interesting and dramatic, but tends to be one-size-fits-all in terms of motivation, since no one wants their home to be devastated.
 

In hindsight, it took one of the fighter's strengths in old editions, having the largest number of weapon proficiencies, and made it not matter as much. Because other than being able to hit certain enemies that couldn't otherwise be damaged, you weren't going to get as big of a bump from a magic weapon (barring the very powerful) as you would the one you specialized in, with its bonuses to attack and damage and greater attack rate.

Incidentally also why I'm not a fan of weapon specialization. If the fighter finds a weapon, I want him to be able to pick it up and use it effectively whether it's an axe, a sword or a bec-de-corbin.

Back to the randomness discuss, one thing I've found with 5e is that even if you don't want to use them at the table itself, there's a whole bunch of tables to inspire you in adventure and character creation. I love using the random quirks and qualities for magic items, for example, as it gives them so much more flavor. And when I'm stuck on a section of an adventure, rolling on this or that table is one of my go-to tricks.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
5e, from the very beginning, however, catered to a "less random" approach to the game. Monsters were presented with average damage totals to speed play. Players could opt to not roll hit dice, instead taking a set amount of hit points on level up.

Didn't those things come in with 4e?
4E gave fixed damage values for Minions only. 5E gives average damage as an option for every monster, as far as I've seen.

4E had every class give a fixed amount of additional HP per level. 5E gives the player the option to roll or take the high average value (so 6, say, or a d10). I think the 5E rule may have been an option in 3.x as well, though may have originated earlier, in late 2E.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Incidentally also why I'm not a fan of weapon specialization. If the fighter finds a weapon, I want him to be able to pick it up and use it effectively whether it's an axe, a sword or a bec-de-corbin.
Not a fan. Gage Infernus, the Great Harvest, whose prowess with his horrifying scythe is the heart of his legend... should not be reduced to using a dopey cavalry saber because the dice said so.
 

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