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

Imaro

Legend
Alright. You want an example? I'll quote an example. This is something I'm pretty reluctant to do, because while rules text is unambiguously something you can clearly share, developer commentary is...a lot more questionable. But you've been so strident in your requests, and made rather a lot of silence or refusal to provide such things. So here you go.

First example is rules text, so I can post that without much difficulty. These come from 13th Age, a game which I think has an excellent core book. It's for the Linguist feat. Though the whole feat is good, the relevant part is underlined (which is not in the original; all other emphasis is.)


Second example: the developer commentary about the One Unique Thing feature. TL;DR: Every character gets some thing which makes them unique in all the world. It can't have combat applications, but it can be whatever the DM and player agree on.


Finally, a bit simply from Rob Heinsoo, discussing why they went with average damage for monster attacks.


Each of these demonstrates an actual delving into the how and why, a discussion of the interaction between players and DM, ideas on the act and process of running. It's conversational, which might not necessarily be the right tone for every part of the DMG, but it helps make it feel like amiable instruction from a person. I find it extremely helpful for thinking about how I could run the game, and in helping me make my own decisions about how I will run my game.

I always thought this was meant for those concerned with the design behind the game... not practical advice and direction for beginners. How does stating make it up if you want an epic linguist feat (with no examples of what that might encompass) help a new DM or player? Is the point there shouldn't be one... then just say that, if not give some examples (That's been one of the major points in this thread, right?)

They also don't discuss how the different variations of OUT actually affect gameplay, narrative, or give many if any examples of them. It boils down to I like these and you like these... but how do these actually change the tone, theme, etc. of the game? What are some examples of them? These are all things the DMG guide is being taken to task for and are not present in this advice being praised.

Again how does telling me why you made a design choice to use average damage translate to actually helping a beginning DM run the game? It's great you're explaining design choices but I just don't see the value of this to someone totally new to ttrpg's.

All of these examples seem, IMO, to be something for someone who has experienced the game, gotten comfortable with it and now wants to understand the why's of it (perhaps to modify and change it or to gain a deeper understanding of it). In other words someone who is intermediate to advanced in running games not a totally new DM. You honestly believe these excerpts provide greater value to a starting DM than what is in the starter sets and DMG?? I just don't see it.
 

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Oofta

Legend
Sure I can. The "guidance" it provides is crap. Woefully inadequate for actually supporting the kinds of decisions and evaluations DMs need to make. The quotes I gave from the 13A core book (which is PHB, DMG, and MM all in one) give clear, concise, effective descriptions of how things could be done, of places where the DM needs to make decisions for themselves. They explain decisions, and show how two different people (the game's two lead designers) can implement a single rule in very different ways, sometimes based on context, sometimes based on preference, etc.

Just throwing a pile of rules options at people does not actually help them figure out how to use them. Telling them why a rule is what it is, telling them how different people can view the exact same rule differently, explaining why alternatives weren't used, etc. THAT is guidance.

We all know you don't like or actually play the game. I find some of the advice useful and think it's a decent book. It does give options and advice on why you would choose one over the other. Something anyone who actually reads the book (if anyone actually does) would know.

Saying the book doesn't have guidance because you don't like the guidance doesn't make your proclamation true.
 

One thing I am noticing is that there doesn't seem to be many if any examples when something is introduced.


I always thought this was meant for those concerned with the design behind the game... not practical advice and direction for beginners. How does stating make it up if you want an epic linguist feat (with no examples of what that might encompass) help a new DM or player? Is the point there shouldn't be one... then just say that, if not give some examples (That's been one of the major points in this thread, right?)
It is an explicit statement that the player (and DM) needs to make a decision for themselves, and that the book cannot even in principle meet their needs.

They also don't discuss how the different variations of OUT actually affect gameplay, narrative, or give many if any examples of them. It boils down to I like these and you like these... but how do these actually change the tone, theme, etc. of the game? What are some examples of them? These are all things the DMG guide is being taken to task for and are not present in this advice being praised.
...yes, because I didn't quote the entire chapter wherein all of that stuff is given. There are literally dozens of examples, and multiple paragraphs of actual text discussing it. I couldn't post all of that because, y'know, that would literally be stealing their rulebook. I quoted the part that did the most work with the smallest word count.

Again how does telling me why you made a design choice to use average damage translate to actually helping a beginning DM run the game? It's great you're explaining design choices but I just don't see the value of this to someone totally new to ttrpg's.
Because it explains why...? I don't understand how that's not revelatory. "We did X because it has Y useful properties. You can do Z instead, but you should know that has consequences. We made the game so X would be fun. Tread lightly" is WAY better than simply saying, "The game currently does X, but you can do Z instead," which is what the current 5e DMG does. Repeatedly!

All of these examples seem, IMO, to be something for someone who has experienced the game, gotten comfortable with it and now wants to understand the why's of it (perhaps to modify and change it or to gain a deeper understanding of it. In other words someone who is intermediate to advanced in running games not a totally new DM. You honestly believe these excerpts provide greater value to a starting DM than what is in the starter sets and DMG?? I just don't see it.
Again, absolutely not. Explaining to people the reason you do something is incredibly important. It's much easier to learn things when you understand why they're valuable and what things are relevant. That's what all of these discussions do.
 

pointofyou

Adventurer
We all know you don't like or actually play the game. I find some of the advice useful and think it's a decent book. It does give options and advice on why you would choose one over the other. Something anyone who actually reads the book (if anyone actually does) would know.

Saying the book doesn't have guidance because you don't like the guidance doesn't make your proclamation true.
You probably won't believe it but I don't think the book is much less horrible than you do. I think it's written much more for people with experience of past editions and could be changed to better suit the majority of new DMs coming to the game without that experience. I think much of the guidance in it is weak and wishy-washy and could be stronger in the sense of helping a new DM decide without telling them what to decide. I think it could be organized so running the game was first not last.

Much of what has happened here I think is people disagreeing and drifting further apart as they do so. Not all. Much.
 

Imaro

Legend
Let me just say this... any time we've reached the point where actual design notes are being cited as the "guidance" needed to be provided for absolute beginners to start running a ttrpg... I just... yeah I don't even know what to say to that.
 

Oofta

Legend
You probably won't believe it but I don't think the book is much less horrible than you do. I think it's written much more for people with experience of past editions and could be changed to better suit the majority of new DMs coming to the game without that experience. I think much of the guidance in it is weak and wishy-washy and could be stronger in the sense of helping a new DM decide without telling them what to decide. I think it could be organized so running the game was first not last.

Much of what has happened here I think is people disagreeing and drifting further apart as they do so. Not all. Much.

I think everyone agrees that the book could be improved. I've given a few thoughts myself. On the other thread I mentioned how I'd reorganize it (I agree running the game should be in the front, building a campaign world goes towards the back). Add in examples that are in both the PHB and the DMG from the different perspectives - I mentioned combat but it could also be in the ability check/skills section.

Whether the guidance is wishy-washy is harder and more of a preference. The previous 2.5 editions tried to lock down a specific game style, the idea that if you want to a convention everyone would be running the same game. I prefer more open ended and less prescriptive.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Let me just say this... any time we've reached the point where actual design notes are being cited as the "guidance" needed to be provided for absolute beginners to start running a ttrpg... I just... yeah I don't even know what to say to that.

Also, not to make a hash out of this exciting debate, but a "Guide" (in terms of a book) is not the same thing as a guidance.

If I purchase a Guide to Birds of Eastern Atlantic Seaboard, I do not expect the book to provide me with step-by-step instructions on what I need to do to be a birder. I do expect it to provide information about the subject (the Birds of the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard).
 

pointofyou

Adventurer
I think everyone agrees that the book could be improved. I've given a few thoughts myself. On the other thread I mentioned how I'd reorganize it (I agree running the game should be in the front, building a campaign world goes towards the back). Add in examples that are in both the PHB and the DMG from the different perspectives - I mentioned combat but it could also be in the ability check/skills section.

Whether the guidance is wishy-washy is harder and more of a preference. The previous 2.5 editions tried to lock down a specific game style, the idea that if you want to a convention everyone would be running the same game. I prefer more open ended and less prescriptive.
How prescriptive prior editions were might be debatable but having a default expectation as to style has the advantage that instruction is possible. I might like the new book to pick one or two most-popular approaches and give how-tos for those. Then talk about how to get from those to other approaches.

It is certain and clear however that there is no way to best please everyone.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Also, not to make a hash out of this exciting debate, but a "Guide" (in terms of a book) is not the same thing as a guidance.

If I purchase a Guide to Birds of Eastern Atlantic Seaboard, I do not expect the book to provide me with step-by-step instructions on what I need to do to be a birder. I do expect it to provide information about the subject (the Birds of the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard).
Only a bard would purchase such a book. Your a bardocrite!
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Only a bard would purchase such a book. Your a bardocrite!

f470116c-dfc7-4e32-8a5a-b02e81a912b3_text.gif
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Alright. You want an example? I'll quote an example. This is something I'm pretty reluctant to do, because while rules text is unambiguously something you can clearly share, developer commentary is...a lot more questionable. But you've been so strident in your requests, and made rather a lot of silence or refusal to provide such things. So here you go.

First example is rules text, so I can post that without much difficulty. These come from 13th Age, a game which I think has an excellent core book. It's for the Linguist feat. Though the whole feat is good, the relevant part is underlined (which is not in the original; all other emphasis is.)


Second example: the developer commentary about the One Unique Thing feature. TL;DR: Every character gets some thing which makes them unique in all the world. It can't have combat applications, but it can be whatever the DM and player agree on.


Finally, a bit simply from Rob Heinsoo, discussing why they went with average damage for monster attacks.


Each of these demonstrates an actual delving into the how and why, a discussion of the interaction between players and DM, ideas on the act and process of running. It's conversational, which might not necessarily be the right tone for every part of the DMG, but it helps make it feel like amiable instruction from a person. I find it extremely helpful for thinking about how I could run the game, and in helping me make my own decisions about how I will run my game.
Thank you. I’ll give my thoughts later.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Mod Note:
Folks,

Taking your vehemence out on each other is not going to be constructive, and will likely come to more pointed red text and people being removed from the discussion.

There's some folks who are busy declaring what is and isn't there, and it sure looks like you are reading to respond, and prove the other person wrongity-wrong with wrong sauce, rather than to understand the other person's point of view.

You may find it much more useful to accept that getting others to accede that you are correct is not going to happen. What, then, do you want to do with your next post in the thread? Think on that before you click "Post reply."
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Let me just say this... any time we've reached the point where actual design notes are being cited as the "guidance" needed to be provided for absolute beginners to start running a ttrpg... I just... yeah I don't even know what to say to that.

I think that explaining design decisions is useful to all levels of experience of DMs.

That's honestly something I'd like to see more of. It's kind of a request for "show, don't tell". I think the DMG tells a lot more than it shows.
 

Let me just say this... any time we've reached the point where actual design notes are being cited as the "guidance" needed to be provided for absolute beginners to start running a ttrpg... I just... yeah I don't even know what to say to that.
Have you had math or science classes, where you were just given some random formula to plug-n-chug, without any explanation as to where it came from or why it mattered?

I've dealt with classes like that. Thankfully, I avoided most of them, but there were a couple I simply couldn't avoid. Those classes are often worse than useless for actually getting students to learn, as opposed to briefly memorizing something solely to complete tests.

Now, I grant that some of the time, an actual, full-throated, rigorous explanation of why a particular thing is the way it is could go over someone's head, or require things they don't know yet. One of my go-to examples is the logistic function (the "sigmoid" curve, which we have all become so frustratingly acquainted with as a result of the pandemic.) That's the one that looks like a squashed S, and represents a population growing from an initial state up to a maximum carrying capacity. To truly understand why that function exists--and why it must be what it is, and that no other thing would do--you have to take differential equations. That is what I would call "designer's notes."

But you don't need to take four years of calculus in order to get the fundamental idea of why it works the way it does. You can, instead, give practical and physically-rooted explanations. You can have students work through in an investigative kind of way, and then show them in practical terms how this function does the job.(Briefly, it grows both based on how many things there are, and how much more "space" there is for more things to grow. If there are few things, it grows slow; if there is almost no "space" left for new things, it grows slow. It only grows fast when there are lots of things and lots of space left for new things.)

That's how I see Heinsoo's and Tweet's commentaries here, as well as their "Game Master" asides and such. Particularly the third example. They aren't teaching game design. But they are giving people a reason for why this specific design was chosen, as opposed to some other design. That reason is given with practical grounding, so that the GM can understand what effects it had.
 

Oofta

Legend
I think that explaining design decisions is useful to all levels of experience of DMs.

That's honestly something I'd like to see more of. It's kind of a request for "show, don't tell". I think the DMG tells a lot more than it shows.
There are videos that go over some of the design decisions and why they made them if you care. You just have to look for them.

I found them interesting but not particularly useful as far as running or playing the game.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
There are videos that go over some of the design decisions and why they made them if you care. You just have to look for them.

I found them interesting but not particularly useful as far as running or playing the game.

Right. There are videos for everything if you look. I don't think that the existence of videos on a topic precludes it from being included in the DMG.

Why do you think you didn't find them very useful? Do you think that is generally the case, or more a product of the fact that you've been DMing for many years? Something else?

Generally, I think the more they talk about the nuts and bolts of design... because being a DM involves a good amount of design... the better. I don't want them to present it like some kind of magical process. There are skills involved that can be taught, they can be honed and improved. There are mistakes that have already been made, and can be avoided by new folks, if they're given warning about them.
 


Oofta

Legend
Right. There are videos for everything if you look. I don't think that the existence of videos on a topic precludes it from being included in the DMG.

Why do you think you didn't find them very useful? Do you think that is generally the case, or more a product of the fact that you've been DMing for many years? Something else?

Generally, I think the more they talk about the nuts and bolts of design... because being a DM involves a good amount of design... the better. I don't want them to present it like some kind of magical process. There are skills involved that can be taught, they can be honed and improved. There are mistakes that have already been made, and can be avoided by new folks, if they're given warning about them.

I found them interesting from a "how do you design a game" point of view but it didn't have any real impact on how I ran the game. I can't divorce myself from experience of course, but I don't think I would have found them useful even if I had never played the game.

The only way to figure out what works for me and my group is to actually try things out. As an example I thought inspiration was a cool idea. But when it came to actual play it's slowly faded away and I rarely, if ever use it because it didn't add to the game enough for me. No amount of the developers talking about why they included it (and continue to push it with the UA articles) is going to change that. Experience is the best teacher.
 


Imaro

Legend
Have you had math or science classes, where you were just given some random formula to plug-n-chug, without any explanation as to where it came from or why it mattered?

I've dealt with classes like that. Thankfully, I avoided most of them, but there were a couple I simply couldn't avoid. Those classes are often worse than useless for actually getting students to learn, as opposed to briefly memorizing something solely to complete tests.

Now, I grant that some of the time, an actual, full-throated, rigorous explanation of why a particular thing is the way it is could go over someone's head, or require things they don't know yet. One of my go-to examples is the logistic function (the "sigmoid" curve, which we have all become so frustratingly acquainted with as a result of the pandemic.) That's the one that looks like a squashed S, and represents a population growing from an initial state up to a maximum carrying capacity. To truly understand why that function exists--and why it must be what it is, and that no other thing would do--you have to take differential equations. That is what I would call "designer's notes."

But you don't need to take four years of calculus in order to get the fundamental idea of why it works the way it does. You can, instead, give practical and physically-rooted explanations. You can have students work through in an investigative kind of way, and then show them in practical terms how this function does the job.(Briefly, it grows both based on how many things there are, and how much more "space" there is for more things to grow. If there are few things, it grows slow; if there is almost no "space" left for new things, it grows slow. It only grows fast when there are lots of things and lots of space left for new things.)

That's how I see Heinsoo's and Tweet's commentaries here, as well as their "Game Master" asides and such. Particularly the third example. They aren't teaching game design. But they are giving people a reason for why this specific design was chosen, as opposed to some other design. That reason is given with practical grounding, so that the GM can understand what effects it had.
My point is I'm not saying they are a bad thing, I enjoyed them when I read them but I was an experienced GM/DM at that point (With the experience to actually put their design choices into some context). However if our goal is to provide what a brand new DM needs without scaring them off with bloat, and unnecessary increases in pagecount... I'm not seeing this as essential or really all that practical to include at all.

Do we explain the history and construction of addition to children when they are first learning it? Or do we provide the practical know how along with examples they have the context to understand and relate to?
 

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