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

Oofta

Legend
So if the design aspect being a DM was new to you, you'd not have found discussion about design choices to be useful?
No, I don't think it would have been. 🤷‍♂️

If I'm explaining how to (picking random subject) write an SQL query I probably don't discuss how the data is stored on physical pages, why they do it the way they do it or the history of databases. It's not particularly relevant.

D&D, especially current edition, is not just 1 or 2 people sitting down and deciding what's best. It's a committee that proposes ideas, sends those ideas out to a relatively large playtest group and then does a broad based survey. It's a different process than most TTRPGs.

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.

The book doesn't exist in a vacuum though so it's not a relevant assumption. It's not like ye olden days when a significant percentage of new players just found the game while browsing in B Daltons.

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.
While I think the books are there for them. Starter sets if you don't understand the basics, there's a fair amount in the core books for brand new DMs.
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.



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.



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

I've been DMing for decades now, I'm still not a fully competent DM. ;)

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

I think the DMG is already useful to anyone who has a decent grasp of the rules.
 

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pointofyou

Adventurer
No, I don't think it would have been. 🤷‍♂️

If I'm explaining how to (picking random subject) write an SQL query I probably don't discuss how the data is stored on physical pages, why they do it the way they do it or the history of databases. It's not particularly relevant.

D&D, especially current edition, is not just 1 or 2 people sitting down and deciding what's best. It's a committee that proposes ideas, sends those ideas out to a relatively large playtest group and then does a broad based survey. It's a different process than most TTRPGs.



The book doesn't exist in a vacuum though so it's not a relevant assumption. It's not like ye olden days when a significant percentage of new players just found the game while browsing in B Daltons.


While I think the books are there for them. Starter sets if you don't understand the basics, there's a fair amount in the core books for brand new DMs.


I've been DMing for decades now, I'm still not a fully competent DM. ;)



I think the DMG is already useful to anyone who has a decent grasp of the rules.
A couple of things.

My disagreement with you does not mean I doubt your competence. I gather you've had the same group coming back for years which is not something to belittle. Do not sell yourself short on that account.

It sounds as though you are saying the DMG is useful to people who know how to DM already but the general theme seems to be that people who know how to DM don't read the DMG. If that's the case maybe writing it more for people who are newer to DMing will result in the book at least being read. Pity the poor DMG sitting on a shelf with the spine barely bent.
 

Micah Sweet

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.
13A is a game with a far more specific playstyle than non-4e D&D has ever advocated. Indeed, i bought and read the book and it seemed to me to be designed for fans of that edition. History tells us that's not going to work for everybody.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
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.


...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.


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!


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.
Because the 5e DMG doesn't assume Y wouldn't be fun, so we chose X.
 

Oofta

Legend
A couple of things.

My disagreement with you does not mean I doubt your competence. I gather you've had the same group coming back for years which is not something to belittle. Do not sell yourself short on that account.

It sounds as though you are saying the DMG is useful to people who know how to DM already but the general theme seems to be that people who know how to DM don't read the DMG. If that's the case maybe writing it more for people who are newer to DMing will result in the book at least being read. Pity the poor DMG sitting on a shelf with the spine barely bent.
I think the DMG is useful for people who already play the game. It could, of course, be better.
 


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?
I don't think the Starter Set

that you have to pay extra money for

should be an

outright mandatory additional purchase on top of an already expensive game

for anyone who wants to actually get instruction on effective DMing skills.

Hopefully, this point, which is literally one of the two I have been consistently making since before this thread started, is now completely and totally clear? The existence of a Starter Set as an extra option for someone who wants to go above and beyond the basic introduction is perfectly acceptable, and it is further quite proper for such above and beyond efforts to cost money, because books don't write themselves and WotC is a business. But if the Starter Set does cost money, it should not, under any circumstances, be mandatory for getting instruction. It simply shouldn't.

(The other point being "new players should not ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO depend on third-party content to get such instruction." It is 110% fine for such third-party content to exist and to contribute to the overall palette of learning resources. Such resources should not be effectively mandatory.)
 
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Oofta

Legend
I don't think the Starter Set

that you have to pay extra money for

should be an

outright mandatory additional purchase on top of an already expensive game

for anyone who wants to actually get instruction on effective DMing skills.

Hopefully, this point, which is literally one of the two I have been consistently making since before this thread started, is now completely and totally clear? The existence of a Starter Set as an extra option for someone who wants to go above and beyond the basic introduction is perfectly acceptable, and it is further quite proper for such above and beyond efforts to cost money, because books don't write themselves and WotC is a business. But if the Starter Set does cost money, it should not, under any circumstances, be mandatory for getting instruction. It simply shouldn't.

(The other point being "new players should not ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO depend on third-party content to get such instruction." It is 110% fine for such third-party content to exist and to contribute to the overall palette of learning resources. Such resources should not be effectively mandatory.)

We get it. No need to shout. I just disagree, I think the starter set is a great way to dip your toe into the game with minimal expense. Get the starter set, the free PDFs and you could run campaigns forever. So for under $20 you get to figure out if the game is for you and enough to play around. That's cheap.

If you then want to buy the rest of the books, they're available on Amazon for a combined price of $80. Split that with the group and it's less than a lot of people spend on going out for lunch for each individual.

If you can't afford that there are plenty of free or very low cost options and resources out there. If you add the starter set to the DMG you will either have to raise the price of the DMG to include things a lot of people won't need or you need to cut something else out. WOTC isn't a charity.
 

Micah Sweet

Legend
I don't think the Starter Set

that you have to pay extra money for

should be an

outright mandatory additional purchase on top of an already expensive game

for anyone who wants to actually get instruction on effective DMing skills.

Hopefully, this point, which is literally one of the two I have been consistently making since before this thread started, is now completely and totally clear? The existence of a Starter Set as an extra option for someone who wants to go above and beyond the basic introduction is perfectly acceptable, and it is further quite proper for such above and beyond efforts to cost money, because books don't write themselves and WotC is a business. But if the Starter Set does cost money, it should not, under any circumstances, be mandatory for getting instruction. It simply shouldn't.

(The other point being "new players should not ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO depend on third-party content to get such instruction." It is 110% fine for such third-party content to exist and to contribute to the overall palette of learning resources. Such resources should not be effectively mandatory.)
I think you go with the starter set of your choice, then maybe the free rules for basic character options. Pretty cheap. You don't really even need to buy the DMG at all if you don't want to create content.
 


pemerton

Legend
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?
I've already posted upthread that both Moldvay Basic and Gygax's DMG have many worked examples. The examples in Moldvay enabled me to learn how to play and run the game. Gygax's DMG is not as good as a teaching tool, for various reasons - the main but not sole one being its lack of clear organisation - but it's not wanting for examples.

I think in this thread I noted one way in which the 4e DMG lacked explanation connected to clear examples - namely, of how to factor condition-infliction into the p 42 framework - and this was something that the book was criticised for back in its day. I've also been a prominent critic of the lack of good explanation accompanying some of the skill challenge examples in the 4e DMG and Rules Compendium, which illustrate without explanation how narration of failure can be decoupled from causal/process reasoning about the player's declared action (ie they are examples but not worked examples).

As I think I've also mentioned, the lack of examples in Classic Traveller for play (as opposed to PC gen, which has a terrific example) was one of the reasons why I wasn't able to work out how to play it until after I'd read and played Moldvay Basic, even though I owned and read Traveller first.
 

pemerton

Legend
13A is a game with a far more specific playstyle than non-4e D&D has ever advocated.
I think Gygax's AD&D books advocate a very specific playstyle. The core of it is found in the discussion of class functions (PHB pp 18, 106; DMG p 86) and of "successful adventures" (PHB pp 107-9), reinforced by the example of play (DMG pp 97-100).

It's very "prescriptive" (to use a term that's occurred in this thread).

Many RPGers disregarded those prescriptions and turned some aspects of the game - especially its core PC build and action resolution mechanics - to other sorts of play. I don't think that modern RPGers are incapable of doing something similar in relation to D&D rulebooks.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I think the DMG is useful for people who already play the game. It could, of course, be better.
If you feel that the DMG could be better and WotC believes that it could be improved for newbie DMs, why have you spent pages arguing against improving it for new players and newbie DMs? Maybe you aren't arguing that, but that's how it reads to me. I'm not sure why there is so much reluctance to improve the DMG if you and WotC earnestly believe that it can be improved. The main difference is that WotC has declared with respect to what that they believe that it can be improved.

So you may feel that the DMG should not be new player friendly or provide guidance for new DMs, but how might WotC see it differently since they have announced the what they did about Chris Perkins rewriting the upcoming One D&D DMG?

Do you think that WotC's desire to improve, reorganize, and rewrite the 5e DMG for the greater benefit of newbie DMs going forward in One D&D is a bad decision?
 

If you feel that the DMG could be better and WotC believes that it could be improved for newbie DMs, why have you spent pages arguing against improving it for new players and newbie DMs
It's not a case of arguing against "could the DMG be better?". Of course it could, it's rubbish.

The argument is "the DMG is not a good way to teach new players to be DMs". That's irrespective of how good, bad, or indifferent it is, it's the wrong format for teaching new players how to be DMs.
 

Aldarc

Legend
It's not a case of arguing against "could the DMG be better?". Of course it could, it's rubbish.

The argument is "the DMG is not a good way to teach new players to be DMs". That's irrespective of how good, bad, or indifferent it is, it's the wrong format for teaching new players how to be DMs.
So what does WotC hope to achieve by improving the One D&D DMG for the sake of new DMs?

Consider that a lot of press releases and articles that came out about One D&D repeated variations of this line:
Perkins, whose primary focus is on the Dungeon Master’s Guide, says that the goal is to make DMing more accessible for newcomers,...
 

So what does WotC hope to achieve by improving the One D&D DMG for the sake of new DMs?

Consider that a lot of press releases and articles that came out about One D&D repeated variations of this line:
I don't think anyone is saying WotC always makes good decisions.

Game designers are not educators, they don't necessarily have the expertise to make good teaching tools. The Lost Mines of Phandelver starter set was excellent, but a lot of the people who made that have moved on.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I don't think anyone is saying WotC always makes good decisions.

Game designers are not educators, they don't necessarily have the expertise to make good teaching tools. The Lost Mines of Phandelver starter set was excellent, but a lot of the people who made that have moved on.
IMO, none of this addresses my question. Could you directly answer my question below please?

So what does WotC hope to achieve by improving the One D&D DMG for the sake of new DMs?
 

I do too, but I do not see design notes as a teaching tool for new DMs.

I gotta say. The ideas that the questions and answers around “what is the concept behind this play/idea/technique/move/rule” and “how does it fit into the whole framework” aren’t (a) natural for aspiring practitioners and (b) helpful (if not outright imperative in most cases) to their facility and growth in whatever the enterprise might be seems to be exclusive to D&D GMing.

I can hardly think of a single other discipline (from martial arts to varying sports to driving a car/motorcycle to academic study to drawing to understanding people/myself so I can be a better friend/partner/son/citizen) in my life where this is true. And it definitely wasn’t true when I was 7 and learning to run games nor is it at 45 where I’m still learning!

Why do you (and others) feel like this is true for D&D? Maybe frame your answer around these questions:

* Do you feel like those two questions above are not natural outgrowths of humans trying to learn a thing (even if they do not articulate the questions)?

* Do you feel like those questions and their answers are not helpful (or worse…somehow distractions) to skill/facility acquisition and growth?
 

IMO, none of this addresses my question. Could you directly answer my question below please?
To uphold tradition, because D&D has to have a book called the DMG, irrespective of it being a good idea or not.
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Aldarc

Legend
To uphold tradition, because D&D has to have a book called the DMG, irrespective of it being a good idea or not.
This still seems like a non-answer to me. Maybe it would help if I rephrase what you are telling me in the context of my question.

Despite what WotC has said, you believe that WotC does not genuinely hope to achieve anything for new DMs with regards to these changes to the One D&D? But instead, you believe that they are simply printing a DMG because "tradition"?

This argument is essentially a bad faith take about One D&D and WotC. And none of this actually addresses the question of what you think that WotC hopes to achieve by making these changes. You are repeating your belief that the DMG is not a good way to teach new players. But please note, Paul, that I am not asking whether it is or not. My actual question that keeps getting glided over is below:
So what does WotC hope to achieve by improving the One D&D DMG for the sake of new DMs?
I am asking you to speculate here, but addressing the actual question would be appreciated on my end.
 

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