D&D 5E Regarding DMG, Starter Set and Essentials kit: Are they good for the starting DMs?

Alby87

Adventurer
Hi! I'm writing this thread because in this forum I'm noticing several thread speaking on the role of the DMG: For some people it's a good reference book but not a starter book. For others the Starters and Essential Kits should be the real "starting" DM guide, for other the PHB, except for the missing magic obejcts list, is as good as is.

I wish to collect more about your tought about this question: "Is the official printed material available for D&D enough for starting playing the game as it is devised?".

Let's, for this example, imagine people which never had contact to RPG or D&D before, no access to external world or third parties book, nor Internet, Youtube and the stuff. Only the three starter and essential boxes, the core book slipcase (PHB, MM, DMG) and the core expansion slipcase (XGE,TCOE and MMOM).
How they will play?

My idea is that, WotC materials alone, the LMOP and DOIP will teach you how to DM, (no access to Stormwreck, don't have it) because they teach you the base of the game. The main cycle, the skills checks, the saving throws, and so on. Hiding and Vision might be explained better in the boxes than in the PHB!
The combat I think has a problem: they rely on the theater of the mind, but a lot of usefull information on how to adjudicate spells range are not tell (there is that sweet table on the DMG that tells how much peple is affected by cones and so on).
I think that is a conseguence of the 4e "you must use a battlegrid" fiasco. The starters give little advice on how to run a Thatre of the Mind combat but at the same time don't tell anything on battlegrid. This might be confusing.

Another problem is the how mapping is handled: they say to use it to explain or to draw for them, but no advice of "player could draw map too". This could have been a good advice, something that the old OD&D/BD&D boxes stressed a lot.

The adventure part (the town, the NPCs) advices are good... better than I remembered. There is even a small part of Wilderness trecking (but not resource management).
What the boxes and the PHB are missing is a good character sheet rundown. It's not a super complicated sheet, but it would have been nice to have something to explaine to complete new gamers how to use it.

So... the boxes really helps new DM to run published adventures. The DMG gave this information for granted, so the Core book trilogy is not helping completely new people. PHB was designed for new gamers, but the game core books was not designed for new DMs. And, this is what I think is the source of the most of the discussion: it takes for granted a skill a lot of DM want to have but no official materials, 5e, is giving them: how to create adventures. There are really a lot of tables and inspiration ideas on the DMG, but nothing like a tutorial, boxes style, to tell how to create a good dungeon map, how to populate it, how to put traps and so on. Same for Wilderness: terrain, cities, roads... If you have this skills from other sources, then the DMG is a mine of information.

TCOE recognised a Session Zero guide was missing everywhere, so they made it. XGE recognised the missing wilderness random encounter tables (in the DMG were spoken of but not presented), and they made it in that book.

So... rearraging the DMG in OneD&D will sure be a goal, but what Wizards shoul publish should be an "Beginner's DM" box, with a lot of tutorials, like B1-B2-X1-CM1 modules: tells the DM how to create not stories, backgrounds, NPCs (that's the DMG area), but playing pieces like maps, traps, areas. To better explain what's missing, from me, is:
Totally newBasicMediumAdvanced
PlayersLMOIP/StormwreckDOIPPHBPHB
DMs
LMOIP/Stormwreck
DOIPMISSINGDMG


Yes, outside of WotC are there a zilion of those books (like Lazy DM's trilogy) and many blogs, I recognize that.
I hope you found this reading interesting, naturally those are only my 2 CPs.
 

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My experience and perception has been that the materials are fine if the DM is new to Fifth Edition but otherwise has some experience with running D&D. Where they fall flat is if the DM has never run a game before. Where they absolutely implode is if the person who wants to DM hasn't ever played a TRPG before and has no mental model for how play is supposed to happen. When 5e was written most new DMs were in the first category. As time has moved on more new DMs are in the second and now the third categories and the materials need to be written or rewritten with those people more in mind.
 
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Oofta

Legend
My experience and perception has been that the materials are fine if the DM is new to Fifth Edition but otherwise has some experience with running D&D. Where they fall flat is if the DM has never run a game before. Where they absolutely implode is if the person who wants to DM hasn't ever played a TRPG before and has no mental model for how play is supposed to happen. When 5e was written most new DMs were in the first category. As time has moved on more new DMS are in the second and now the third categories and the materials need to be written or rewritten with those people more in mind.

How many people starting D&D have never actually seen it being played either in person or on a stream? It's not like people live in a cave only to stumble upon the holy books.

I don't think starter kits will work for everyone but they're the best we can do. Seriously, expecting one tool to work for every possible situation (unless that tool is a sonic screwdriver of course) is always going to end in disappointment. That's why they're experimenting with other things like a sample encounter with associated video for example. Give people different options.

But the number available at people's fingertips for learning how to play is vastly more than we've ever had in the history of the game, I assume it's one of the reasons for continuous double digit growth. We picked it up from awful Gygaxian prose back in the day, I assume most people can muddle through running a game. They'll make mistakes, learn and get better, make more mistakes, rinse and repeat.
 

How many people starting D&D have never actually seen it being played either in person or on a stream? It's not like people live in a cave only to stumble upon the holy books.

I don't think starter kits will work for everyone but they're the best we can do. Seriously, expecting one tool to work for every possible situation (unless that tool is a sonic screwdriver of course) is always going to end in disappointment. That's why they're experimenting with other things like a sample encounter with associated video for example. Give people different options.

But the number available at people's fingertips for learning how to play is vastly more than we've ever had in the history of the game, I assume it's one of the reasons for continuous double digit growth. We picked it up from awful Gygaxian prose back in the day, I assume most people can muddle through running a game. They'll make mistakes, learn and get better, make more mistakes, rinse and repeat.
I'm sure there are people coming to D&D without good mental models of play. I've interacted with some of them. Why should people new to the game now make the same mistakes we did thirty or more years ago? Why should WotC offload actual DM assistance and instruction to Sly Flourish or The Angry GM or Matt Mercer? Death of the Author not withstanding it seems to me as though the people in the best position to teach people how to play or run the game would likely be the people who wrote it. I gather that happens all the time in indie-game spaces.
 

Imaro

Legend
I'm sure there are people coming to D&D without good mental models of play. I've interacted with some of them. Why should people new to the game now make the same mistakes we did thirty or more years ago? Why should WotC offload actual DM assistance and instruction to Sly Flourish or The Angry GM or Matt Mercer? Death of the Author not withstanding it seems to me as though the people in the best position to teach people how to play or run the game would likely be the people who wrote it. I gather that happens all the time in indie-game spaces.

Honestly... because it's one of the greatest strengths of being the market leader and vastly more popular than any other ttrpg. You're literally asking why they should leverage one of their greatest advantages for having the D&D brand... I guess my question would be why would they not want to use those externalities to their advantage?
 

Honestly... because it's one of the greatest strengths of being the market leader and vastly more popular than any other ttrpg. You're literally asking why they should leverage one of their greatest advantages for having the D&D brand... I guess my question would be why would they not want to use those externalities to their advantage?
Because if they actually help people figure out how to play the game people will stick with the game longer and plausibly exchange more of their hard-earned money for WotC's goods and/or services? And the more people stick with the game the more they'll recruit more people?

The approach in the 5e DMG is absolutely the right approach if you're focused on retaining players or recapturing players who've drifted away. It's pretty much the worst possible approach once you start attracting more people new to the game overall. The old players you could count on their ability to fill in the gaps in the instructions with their memories of past play. The new players cannot do that.
 

Imaro

Legend
Because if they actually help people figure out how to play the game people will stick with the game longer and plausibly exchange more of their hard-earned money for WotC's goods and/or services? And the more people stick with the game the more they'll recruit more people?

Is WotC struggling with this? I don't see any evidence that players introduced to D&D via external means leave the game quicker or spend less money...

The approach in the 5e DMG is absolutely the right approach if you're focused on retaining players or recapturing players who've drifted away. It's pretty much the worst possible approach once you start attracting more people new to the game overall. The old players you could count on their ability to fill in the gaps in the instructions with their memories of past play. The new players cannot do that.

Starter set...Starter set...even better because
1. The buy in is magnitudes smaller than the core books for a game you've never played and aren't sure you will enjoy.
2. They are more willing to stock them in mass market retailers because they come in boxes and can be marketed like boardgames.
 

Oofta

Legend
I'm sure there are people coming to D&D without good mental models of play. I've interacted with some of them. Why should people new to the game now make the same mistakes we did thirty or more years ago? Why should WotC offload actual DM assistance and instruction to Sly Flourish or The Angry GM or Matt Mercer? Death of the Author not withstanding it seems to me as though the people in the best position to teach people how to play or run the game would likely be the people who wrote it. I gather that happens all the time in indie-game spaces.
Why would they ignore the fact that people are offering this advice at no cost to them? Plenty of benefits with minimal risk.

Indie games have to provide stuff because no on else is going to. WOTC did have a stream run by Crawford, but for a variety of reasons things like Critical Role was a huge hit (along with others) so the WOTC version is no longer required

There are also plenty of advice postings on DndBeyond which is now part of WOTC. They just published a free encounter with associated video, not to mention multiple starter sets. Not sure why you ignore all of those.
 

Is WotC struggling with this? I don't see any evidence that players introduced to D&D via external means leave the game quicker or spend less money...



Starter set...Starter set...even better because
1. The buy in is magnitudes smaller than the core books for a game you've never played and aren't sure you will enjoy.
2. They are more willing to stock them in mass market retailers because they come in boxes and can be marketed like boardgames.
The people I know who tried to pick up the game from a Starter Set without any prior experience quit and so far as I know haven't tried again. Anecdotes are of course not evidence and neither is just one.

Yes but the Starter Set doesn't teach people how to DM any more than the DMG does. The Starter and Beginner Sets can be shelved like boardgames and among the boardgames but I haven't seen any evidence they're being marketed like boardgames. Given D&D isn't a boardgame I don't think that'd be a great approach anyway.
 

Why would they ignore the fact that people are offering this advice at no cost to them? Plenty of benefits with minimal risk.

Indie games have to provide stuff because no on else is going to. WOTC did have a stream run by Crawford, but for a variety of reasons things like Critical Role was a huge hit (along with others) so the WOTC version is no longer required

There are also plenty of advice postings on DndBeyond which is now part of WOTC. They just published a free encounter with associated video, not to mention multiple starter sets. Not sure why you ignore all of those.
So the top-listed piece of putative advice on D&D Beyond is "5 Tips to Making Your Dragons Funny with Improv." I'm sure that's excellent advice and something new DMs should focus on before learning anything about the game.

Sarcasm aside the top-listed New DM advice is for Stormwrack Isle which I have not read. The advice on Beyond doesn't not inspire much desire in me to read or run it. On the other hand there's an article by Mike Shea which is likely to be quite helpful but it gets back to the outsourcing of such basic instruction.

It is easy for me to see the prevalence of outside advice as reflecting the game being poorly written or at least written without any thought to people new to the game or the hobby trying to figure it out. It seems to me that all the advice available on the Interwebz will serve only to sow further confusion. But perhaps I am dim or at least easily confused.
 

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