5E Requiring players to know their character

kyuss

Explorer
Not to bury the lede: Is it okay as DM to put pressure on some players to know their character enough not to slow the game unnecessarily by delaying super-rapid advancement from the party.
Absolutely. As the DM, you put more time and effort into running the game than the players do running their characters. The absolute least a player can do is be competent at the game/running their character. I would find it extremely disrespectful towards me as a person and the time and effort that i put into running the game if, after 2 YEARS!, of 'playing' that a person still didn't know how to calculate a hit bonus or figure out their damage. I would go so far as to stop inviting these people to the game.

but i can be prickly and don't tolerate people wasting my time...
 

5atbu

Explorer
I am relaxed.
Bit crumbly meself as a player.
It's all about the fun for me.
Apply the same tolerance to others.
 

Jaeger

Explorer
...One group I play with has been asking for me to run for them. Everyone is a lot of fun to game with and comes up with interesting characters that they roleplay well. Except in the case of two players who regularly need help with their characters.

Anyway, we've done Tier 1 several times as a group, ...

...But I don't want to lose them by going to fast, ...
Actually, you do want to lose them.

Especially as they have played several times already with the group.

You may not want the drama, but may need to go through it anyway, because but you do want to lose them.

Why?

Here's why:

...it is perfectly reasonable for the DM to set the expectation for the players to understand their own characters and abilities well enough to run them without slowing down play. After all, the expectation is on the DM to know literally everything else about the game world and rules well enough to run the game at a reasonable pace, so I’d say it’s a relatively small ask. ...
... I understand and try to be patient with newer players, but I've played with veterans that just don't bother, which I feel is disrespectful to me and the rest of the players who do put the time into the game.
Those two players are being incredibly disrespectful.

Life is too short to be disrespected.

Also, no Phone apps or otherwise for actual play.

Everyone has a physical paper character sheet at the table.

Use whatever phone/tablet app PC generator to make you character. But print it out, record it on paper!

I have found this to make a big difference in speed of play at the table.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
While I would talk to someone I thought was not playing in good faith. I do have some players that are giving their all, but are slow. I encourage them to play simple characters but sometimes they want to be a druid. So we let them figure out which animals they want to conjure, and pull them up, and run them.

It takes a while, but a little exercise in patience is sometimes good for the soul.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Actually, you do want to lose them.

Especially as they have played several times already with the group.

You may not want the drama, but may need to go through it anyway, because but you do want to lose them.
Both are excellent roleplayers. No, I really don't want to lose them.

Yes, they slow down combat. They bring joy to the table at other times.

Those two players are being incredibly disrespectful.

Life is too short to be disrespected.
The most disrespectful thing here is your suggestion that I toss players for being slow at mechanics.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I do not expect you to know exactly what every spell you can cast does off the top of your head, but I expect you to learn how spells work and have a general idea of the options available. Same goes if you are playing a martial character. I expect you to take an active interest in learning, but do not expect perfect knowledge.
 

Warforged DK

Explorer
Have you seen the alternate Character sheets, specific for each class?
Here's the link on DM's Guild: Class Character Sheets - The Bundle - Dungeon Masters Guild | Dungeon Masters Guild They are form-fillable PDF's, and most of the magic classes have a section for most often used spells, so the to hit calculations are already there.
I second the use of paper sheets over Tablet or phone access for character sheet. Having it on paper is really helpful and use your own shorthand when needed.
I'm teaching 2 newer players myself, and for one, I'm seriously considering writing up some small index cards that he can play- with each type of action he can use. Color coded for Move, Action and Bonus.
For a spell caster, I'd differentiate Cantrip Action spells from leveled spells, because of the action economy. For spell slots, you could use tokens. I also have a giant d20 that I use for inspiration. you know when you have it, roll it and hand it back when done. That's worked well so far.
 

Jaeger

Explorer
Both are excellent roleplayers. No, I really don't want to lose them.

Yes, they slow down combat. They bring joy to the table at other times.

The most disrespectful thing here is your suggestion that I toss players for being slow at mechanics.
Slow at mechanics?

Two Players, who have been through more than one campaign, and can still not be tossed to learn the basics about their PC's abilities and basic combat rules.

That's disrespectful to the table. And the GM. Any table; any GM.

As long as you are willing to put up with that; nothing anyone can say here will help you.

Because you seem unwilling to address the real problem.

Those two will just keep doing what they are doing, and you're just gonna keep taking it.

Have you even tried being straight-up with them?

"Hey dudes, ya' know single digit math, and the basics of your PC's abilities really shouldn't be a constant thing by now. Can you get on top of it? It's impacting the game."

Or some variation. See what they say.

If the answer is anything less than some version of this:

"Sorry bro, yeah it's a bit embarrassing, my bad. I'm on it dude, no worries next session. Can I borrow the players guide to brush up?"

You should see immediate change - with the players making an honest effort to be better.

If you don't, then FYI: All those two players are seeing is that one is born every minute. And you're it.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Slow at mechanics?

Two Players, who have been through more than one campaign, and can still not be tossed to learn the basics about their PC's abilities and basic combat rules.

That's disrespectful to the table. And the GM. Any table; any GM.

As long as you are willing to put up with that; nothing anyone can say here will help you.

Because you seem unwilling to address the real problem.

Those two will just keep doing what they are doing, and you're just gonna keep taking it.

Have you even tried being straight-up with them?

"Hey dudes, ya' know single digit math, and the basics of your PC's abilities really shouldn't be a constant thing by now. Can you get on top of it? It's impacting the game."

Or some variation. See what they say.

If the answer is anything less than some version of this:

"Sorry bro, yeah it's a bit embarrassing, my bad. I'm on it dude, no worries next session. Can I borrow the players guide to brush up?"

You should see immediate change - with the players making an honest effort to be better.

If you don't, then FYI: All those two players are seeing is that one is born every minute. And you're it.
This ain’t it.

This sort of cynical suspicion of everyone and constant worry about ever seeming to be open to anyone getting one over on you is...not especially insightful or helpful.

OP has two friends who have a hard time with the mechanics of the game. That’s it. Stop trying to make a mountain out of it.
 

Jaeger

Explorer
This sort of cynical suspicion of everyone...

OP has two friends who have a hard time with the mechanics of the game. That’s it. Stop trying to make a mountain out of it.
The OP is not talking about new players...

Dude, it's probably not even intentional on their part. They're probably just lazy and are not self-conscious enough to see how it is effecting others.

Single digit math and the basics of combat is not hard. Especially for 5e.

We are talking about grown adults here, right?

.
 
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Don't play 5e
Come on, don't be too dramatic :) 5e is one of the best systems so far to bring differently complex PCs at the same table, it was designed with that in mind (although they could have taken it farther ). Anyway if the OP changes to another system, the OTHER players may not like it. I think it makes sense to strive for a solution within 5e before totally change game.
 
Not to bury the lede: Is it okay as DM to put pressure on some players to know their character enough not to slow the game unnecessarily by delaying super-rapid advancement from the party.

...

So I was planning on starting at 1st and just advancing quickly - leveling every session until 3rd, then almost as fast up to 5th. (This group has been exclusively milestone based levelling under the various DMs, levelling when the DM says so is part of our social contract.)

But I don't want to lose them by going to fast, so I was thinking of advancing as long as everyone seemed to have a good familiarity on the mechanics of their character.

...

On reflection though, other players may see that as those players denying them their level up. And if over this much time the players who are slow seem to have indicated through their actions that the mechanics aren't their priority so this may be unfun for them on that side as well. But the goal is to speed up play at the table, which I think is a reasonable goal.
If I were in your game, I would end up among the players who know a lot about their PC, but I would not mind AT ALL a slow advancement. In fact I am most often annoyed by fast advancement because I want to know my PC abilities well! I can't speak for your players however, but make sure how they all feel about advancement speed, maybe they want to skip low levels but are fine with slowing down around 5th?

For your problematic players, I would definitely try to encourage them to get into enjoying learning the rules better, but obviously you have to find a way to make it sound an encouragement, not a duty, so don't go too far.

OTOH you can really help them with props. Consider at least alternate character sheets, spell/action cards, and tokens/counters.

I run D&D for my children since they were ~7 and I have gradually designed our own stuff, starting with better character sheets. You can find them in the download section but I don't think they are right for you: one of my purposes was to encourage my kids to rely on simple calculations on the fly, so I removed the skills section, but I left the room for precalculating weapons and cantrips attacks (I wanted them to do simple additions every now and them, but not every single round! ). Your case is different but you can figure out better character sheets by eliminating everything that's not useful on a regular basis, try to end up with the smallest possible character sheet for them.

Second, I designed and printed out action cards (spells, special abilities and some common abilities like 2wf), and color-coded them by action type. Having cards in front of you of what you can do on your turn is a lot better than a list on the character sheet, especially when sheets are too often designed for optimising character creation instead of character usage in game... see how many sheets organize abilities depending on source (separate sections for racial abilities, class abilities, feats...) instead of when you can use them (combat, exploration, downtime...)? This is the same mistake as organising your tens of thousands of Lego bricks by colour instead of shape: makes it easy to store them the first time, and a nightmare later to find what you need :D

You can also use colorful counters like poker chips for spells slots or limited resources, to help remember how many they still have.

Just keep in mind to focus on the players in need. These ideas require some work, so don't embark on a quest to design e.g. spell cards for every class and level... just make those you need NOW for those players only otherwise you'll be overwhelmed by work...
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Slow at mechanics?

Two Players, who have been through more than one campaign, and can still not be tossed to learn the basics about their PC's abilities and basic combat rules.

That's disrespectful to the table. And the GM. Any table; any GM.

As long as you are willing to put up with that; nothing anyone can say here will help you.

Because you seem unwilling to address the real problem.

Those two will just keep doing what they are doing, and you're just gonna keep taking it.

Have you even tried being straight-up with them?

"Hey dudes, ya' know single digit math, and the basics of your PC's abilities really shouldn't be a constant thing by now. Can you get on top of it? It's impacting the game."

Or some variation. See what they say.

If the answer is anything less than some version of this:

"Sorry bro, yeah it's a bit embarrassing, my bad. I'm on it dude, no worries next session. Can I borrow the players guide to brush up?"

You should see immediate change - with the players making an honest effort to be better.

If you don't, then FYI: All those two players are seeing is that one is born every minute. And you're it.
Disrespect requires intent. They don't have that. You, it seems, do. Even after hearing they are an asset tot he table you want to toss them for an imagined slight. Have fun doing that are your table if you are that thin-skinned.

Then the personal attacks - that definitely makes your point.

We've talked before. They don't have an issue with math, they have an issue remembering what numbers to use. Examples have been given. Forgetting to add in Hunter's Mark or Colossus Slayer, or adding on Colossus Slayer more than once per turn just like they are adding in their Hunter's Mark. Not realizing when they took the +1 longsword that the weapon they had before was finesse and that when add DEX they are adding in the wrong numbers.

I'll continue to enjoy them as great roleplayers who are lots of fun at the table even if there are ways for them, as for anyone else, to improve.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
We often have players slow down things because they don't know their characters well enough. Making a simple attack roll or ability check even. I have emphasized to them to do the math ON THEIR CHARACTER SHEET! Under Weapons, there is a reason why we have a column for Attack and Damage. An ability check is just ability modifier + proficiency bonus if you have it... how difficult is that? Honestly?

Yes, I would even implement a rule that if the character wants to do something and the player doesn't know how it works, I skip over them and move on. When they are ready, then they can act. If I finish the round and they aren't ready, maybe next round. As a DM, when my turn comes up I am ready and keep the action moving. Especially if a player knows their turn is coming, they should be prepared.
 

kyuss

Explorer
Disrespect requires intent. They don't have that. You, it seems, do. Even after hearing they are an asset tot he table you want to toss them for an imagined slight. Have fun doing that are your table if you are that thin-skinned.

Then the personal attacks - that definitely makes your point.

We've talked before. They don't have an issue with math, they have an issue remembering what numbers to use. Examples have been given. Forgetting to add in Hunter's Mark or Colossus Slayer, or adding on Colossus Slayer more than once per turn just like they are adding in their Hunter's Mark. Not realizing when they took the +1 longsword that the weapon they had before was finesse and that when add DEX they are adding in the wrong numbers.

I'll continue to enjoy them as great roleplayers who are lots of fun at the table even if there are ways for them, as for anyone else, to improve.
So, if all you want is people to tell you that you're doing just fine, why the original post? You said yourself " I've been playing with this group 1-2 years now, I don't see a lot of change."

Buddies, pals, bros or not - if a player can't be arsed to learn HOW to play the game after 1-2 years of playing, they're bad players and you should stop playing with them. Or just put up with it and stop complaining as THEY AREN'T GOING TO CHANGE.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
So, if all you want is people to tell you that you're doing just fine, why the original post? You said yourself " I've been playing with this group 1-2 years now, I don't see a lot of change."

Buddies, pals, bros or not - if a player can't be arsed to learn HOW to play the game after 1-2 years of playing, they're bad players and you should stop playing with them. Or just put up with it and stop complaining as THEY AREN'T GOING TO CHANGE.
First, I don't at all want people to say what I'm doing is fine, I'm soliciting their feedback. The only thing I argued about - before this response - was the person who kept on telling me to throw them out of the group. That this one flaw is worth tossing them regardless if they are net positive and a lot of fun to play with. They also assumed that as one DM among many in a shared group I had the unilateral power to toss people from the group, but I didn't even get into that with them.

So I really don't get in the slightest where you're getting that I just want people to tell me what I was thinking was fine. You may want to actually read my posts before making up my motivations, since that's explicitly against what I said in the first post and there is no evidence anywhere else that I feel that way.

As to why I was thinking about this, different people get motivated in different ways. We've tried many times helping them, and we've talked to them about getting up to speed. This, on the other hand, is a bit of both carrot and stick - they get rapid advancement from it, and peer pressure from others if they are the ones holding the group back. If you ever have to deal with people as a manager, or ever have kids, you'll learn that how people respond differs. (Or if you don't, you'll suck at it.)

But with the number of mixed responses from those who actually read my points, I've already decided not to go through with it. It might work, or it might foster ill will. And I'd rather not risk that. And there are a great number of other suggestions how to help them that other posters have contributed.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Those two players are being incredibly disrespectful.

Life is too short to be disrespected.
That last cuts both ways.

It is only disrespectful if there's not some underlying reason for the behavior. It isn't necessarily all about you - they have a life and their own stuff going on that may need to be considered. And if you aren't considering that... well, then you aren't being respectful of them.

In addition, you probably need to think about how big a piece of their life your game is. They are only going to put into it to the degree that it makes sense in the rest of their life. That's not disrespect, that's simply balancing their priorities.

If you want a certain level of system mastery from your players, you really ought to say that up front - "Folks, I'd like to run a fast-paced game here, especially in the combats, and that'll mean you probably need to really know the rules relevant for your character to play." That sets proper expectations.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
I'd suggest borrowing the M&M quick stat block section is has:
  • The first one or two primary attacks iwth attack bonus, followed by damage (or other function) under normal conditions.
  • Total defenses under normal conditions. This would include AC, Saves, and Resistance if any
  • Finally the most relevant Skill proficiencies such as a rogue's Expertise abilities
 

dnd4vr

Hero
I'd suggest borrowing the M&M quick stat block section is has:
  • The first one or two primary attacks iwth attack bonus, followed by damage (or other function) under normal conditions.
  • Total defenses under normal conditions. This would include AC, Saves, and Resistance if any
  • Finally the most relevant Skill proficiencies such as a rogue's Expertise abilities
Sure, something like this NPC I am playing now:

1571001858280.png


I actually tried making a "character sheet" using this format, but there is too much variability to make it really work. :(
 

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