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


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Imaro

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

I think without the context of having ever experienced or ran a game they serve little to no purpose.

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.

It's not something I would advocate for products specifically aimed at brand new players or GM's but more experienced ones or in the core rules that would be used throughout the lifetime of a game... sure.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
The issue, from my point of view, is that (B) is so implausible it's hard to take it seriously. Is there any other field of instruction in which examples aren't useful? There are certainly many other RPGs where examples are useful. Why would D&D be so atypical?
Good question: why would it be? Has any DMG had enough examples to suit you (other than 4e, which I assume is a yes for you)? If not, why do you think D&D hasn't gone to this supposed "industry standard" after nearly 50 years?
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Given its prominence and centrality, wouldn't it be better to accept that that is a purpose it is going to be used for and thus write it accordingly, rather than doggedly insisting that it wasn't meant for that despite the name?
Who uses the DMG as a teaching tool? Seriously, who are these people? Its a $50 book (for now), that you still need other books to play the game with.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
It's not something I would advocate for products specifically aimed at brand new players or GM's but more experienced ones or in the core rules that would be used throughout the lifetime of a game... sure.
my initial takeaway was that reading alternate takes from 2 designers was very interesting.

If that technique could be useful to the DMG and add value I’d be all aboard. Im not sure it would add that much value though. 5e was primarily a synthesis of user surveys. Designing that way means they are a bit more limited on the whys.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Okay so...

Why not make a "Content Creator's Handbook," as a separate thing for DMs looking to expand their horizons...

And then instead of publishing this "CCH" as one of the three core books, publish it a month or two after the core books, which can include a Player's Handbook (which contains all the rules and guidance needed on the purely player-facing side to prepare for playing the game), a Monster Manual (which contains all the rules and guidance needed to make use of creatures in the game), and a Dungeon Master's Guide (which would contain all the rules and guidance needed to act as a Dungeon Master)...?

Your argument seems to be strengthened by abandoning the "that's not what the DMG is for" stance, and instead switching to "okay, that can be what the DMG is for, and it gets followed up by a Content Creator's Handbook later on for folks that want to tinker."
There is no chance they're going to rename the DMG, and vanishingly little that they're going to repurpose it. Some reorganization is really all you can realistically hope for.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
No. You do not need to create content to be the DM. There is plenty of content available. DMing is about running the game. That's quite enough for new players to take in.

Once they are no longer newbies they can, if they like, start to learn how to create content, but it is not an essential skill for a DM.
Not being necessary isn't the same thing as not being a DMing topic.
 

Imaro

Legend
my initial takeaway was that reading alternate takes from 2 designers was very interesting.

If that technique could be useful to the DMG and add value I’d be all aboard. Im not sure it would add that much value though. 5e was primarily a synthesis of user surveys. Designing that way means they are a bit more limited on the whys.

Oh I agree they were interesting but again because I had the knowledge and context to relate and understand them. Do you think they would hold much value for someone who had never played or seen a ttrpg played? That's the use case we are discussing.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Well it would help if that wasn't literally what was being said.

We are straight-up being told "that's not what the book is for." As in, it would not be useful to add it to this book, because however useful examples might be, they don't belong in the book that claims to guide dungeon masters.

So yes. I completely believe that we are being told that examples are not useful. And while I don't think absolutely everything ever needs an example, I certainly think new DMs need such things, and that the book purporting to be the guide for dungeon masters should have lots and lots of them.

I think the DMG should actually live up to its name. Because that's kind of really REALLY important for getting more DMs, which are absolutely essential for growth in the hobby!
I don't see how the starter sets don't accomplish this goal, heavily supplemented by third party material on line and in print. Doing more would for WotC be a waste of effort and money.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
.....

No, they don't.

They publish the DMG. Which doesn't actually guide DMs.

And then they charge you $20 to actually get instructions. In something that doesn't actually bill itself as being an instruction manual, but rather as a totally optional side content thing.

That is my problem, right there. Everyone knows you're supposed to get all three core books. That's why they sell them in boxed sets and such. The core books are SUPPOSED to be where you start. The DMG fails to live up to that design, that title, that role. I consider this an extremely foolish choice--essentially shooting yourself in the foot, as far as actually getting people into the hobby.

You keep saying we should ignore the title. Why? Why shouldn't we actually expect to get what's being sold to us?
For something who puts a lot of emphasis on titles, you don't think a product called "Starter Set" is meant to be where one starts?
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Can't say I think much of the both-sides-ist take @FrogReaver. It's hard to strawman an argument that suggests adding in a handful of examples of what would reasonably be "progress with a setback" is unnecessary/bad/excessive because twelve-year-olds can read a dictionary - which is in fact an actual argument that has been put forth in this thread.

Not to mention that despite bemoaning strawmen, we're treated to...

One doesn't get much more straw-filled than that. If that wasn't meant to be sarcasm, I for one would appreciate a direct quote of someone saying examples need to be so abundant.



I think we can take it as fact that whether or not WotC intends for the DMG to be a teaching tool (and they do not at present; well and good), new DMs and experienced DMs alike are going to use it (edit to add - in fact, are meant to use it, else it wouldn't be a core book). That means that it ought to be able to cater to the needs of both categories of DM. What's more, DMs don't all have the same gameplay preferences or preferences with respect to running a game. The DMG ought also to be able to cater to the needs of multiple types of DM.

For my part, I'm assuming the DMG is, or at least ought to be, intended to function as a reference manual. To my mind the implications are as follows:
(1) There is no expectation that anyone will read the whole thing cover-to-cover or be obliged to memorise all its contents. (It's a reference manual, you refer to it at need.)
(2) It ought to be structured such that the most important and mission-critical tasks of being a DM (running a game session) are placed first, with less mission-critical tasks placed later. (I would go so far as to also say that mission-critical tasks should also be given a more comprehensive treatment.)
(3) It ought to be written and structured with a view to wider publishing industry standards for reference manuals, such as they are. Certainly if anyone can afford to have consultants or editors familiar with such things brought on board, it's WotC. I'm not aware of there being any compelling reason to think that being a Dungeon Master is such a unique and idiosyncratic thing to do that its primary reference manual wouldn't benefit from more closely resembling reference manuals for other hobbies.

If page count is a concern, I'm happy to point out that there is a 25-page chapter on various planes of existence that could easily be condensed (down to a few pages describing some alternate cosmologies and... wait for it... two or three examples of individual planes), and I am quite confident in saying that a more fulsome editing of the DMG would free up space to enable it to do a better job of being a more-or-less-one-stop reference for DMs.
Worldbuilding is the best part of DMing to me. If they cut parts of that out to insert unnecessary instruction for new DMs (unnecessary because of the existing starter sets and other resources) I am less likely to buy it.
 

Clint_L

Hero
I don't see them getting rid of the DM's Guide (or renaming it; it's iconic). But that said...it is probably my least consulted sourcebook. Aside from magic items, it mostly seems like a place for optional rules, and not even the optional rules I would actually use.

So I would love to see WotC reimagine the DM's Guide and turn it into something more useful. Because right now, if you were a new DM it is about the last sourcebook I would recommend. Which is ironic. I just recommend "Lost Mine of Phandelver."
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
The argument to keep the DMG as is seems to me like gatekeeping at its finest.

“This should be for me! Not for anyone else but MEEEEEEE!”
I don't want the DMG to become a different kind of book for no valid purpose in my opinion. I'm sorry if you see that as an example of the bogeyman of role-playing.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
At the very least, if people want an excellent reference manual, we already have a name for that book too.

It's the Rules Compendium. Multiple editions have published such a book, usually 2-3 years after launch so that both updates (new content) and errata (edits to existing content) can be folded in. It's very useful to have an organized, focused, no-nonsense reference manual.

When an edition is brand-new, you don't need a book that is for old hands, because there are no old hands. Everyone is new to it. Sure, people may have familiarity, but if someone tries to DM 5e fresh without having ever looked at the 5e rules, they're gonna run into a LOT of issues because a ton of really basic things no longer work the same way (movement being the most obvious example), even though the overall structure is damn-near identical.

Hence, if the DMG is to be published as one of the very first books--that is, at a time when by definition literally all players are new to said edition--it should be written for the inexperienced. That doesn't mean it CANNOT also be written for experienced players, and ideally it should do what it can to support them too. But it should teach, because literally everyone needs some teaching at that point. If they didn't, there wouldn't be a need for a new edition!
The vast majority of new rules in any given edition are in the PH.  That book should teach. The DMG is a reference work.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
Is there any reason they should not explicitly include someone who has never played the game in the target audience for the DMG? Is there any reason there should not be any tutorial in the book at all? After all the book does say it includes everything the DM needs. It does not say it includes everything an experienced DM needs.
Page count. There are betters uses for it.
 


FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Oh I agree they were interesting but again because I had the knowledge and context to relate and understand them. Do you think they would hold much value for someone who had never played or seen a ttrpg played? That's the use case we are discussing.
No. I don’t think for a brand new DM that’s valuable. But while this may not support changing the dmg for that reason, it could still stand on its own as a good suggestion for change. There’s no need to compartmentalize so much.

I’m not totally sold o the approach for 5e as I explained above, but it is an approach I like in general.
 

Oofta

Legend
I don't see them getting rid of the DM's Guide (or renaming it; it's iconic). But that said...it is probably my least consulted sourcebook. Aside from magic items, it mostly seems like a place for optional rules, and not even the optional rules I would actually use.

So I would love to see WotC reimagine the DM's Guide and turn it into something more useful. Because right now, if you were a new DM it is about the last sourcebook I would recommend. Which is ironic. I just recommend "Lost Mine of Phandelver."
Why is it ironic that someone new to DMing would begin with a starter set? That's what this whole topic is about - where do you start? Because a lot of people that DM have significant experience with D&D already, they know how the game works and understand the mechanics.

I think running a module (or just download some of the AL modules) is a good place to start for someone who hasn't DMed so you don't have to both create a world while simultaneously figuring out your DMing style and gaining experience. But it will vary by individual to individual, I think the DMG is good enough for a lot of people. DMing is a skill and one that can always be improved but also it's not rocket science.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
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.

So if the design aspect being a DM was new to you, you'd not have found discussion about design choices to be useful?

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.

Sure, you try things out. I'm not talking about just the book in a vacuum. Yes, play things and try them out... and I'm all for people diving in and trying to GM games as soon as they can, and to not be afraid to do so.

But I think that the books should be there to assist them with his. Not to be saved for some future time when they're experienced enough to be a "real DM" or whatever.

I think without the context of having ever experienced or ran a game they serve little to no purpose.

I mentioned DMs of all experience levels. Sure, the full context of a specific bit of design advice may not be apparent to a new DM, while being insightful to an intermediate DM, and perhaps a good reminder for an experienced one. But there's no reason that such advice can't say this along with the advice.

It's not something I would advocate for products specifically aimed at brand new players or GM's but more experienced ones or in the core rules that would be used throughout the lifetime of a game... sure.

As with any instruction, you start with the basics. I think basic design advice would absolutely suit the starter set or essentials kit. That product is specifically designed for less experienced folks, so of course it makes sense to cater to intended audience.

Then, build on those things in the DMG.

For something who puts a lot of emphasis on titles, you don't think a product called "Starter Set" is meant to be where one starts?

And when one is done with the starter set, one is then a fully competent DM?

Like, at what point do you think the DMG should be useful to someone DMing?
 


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