D&D 5E Should D&D be easier to learn? If so, how would you do it?

CrashFiend82

Explorer
I was recently listening to a Podcast by Mastering Dungeons about the Playtest and they had a few interesting points. The one that got me thinking was in regards to new players and character creation. They pointed out the confusion of having a new player pick a Class, a Race, and then build a background (including choosing a Feat). They discussed the idea of choosing each as a feature of the first three levels.

Level 1 - make a simple background (2 skills, a language, and some starting equipment) along with your race, focusing on the narrative over mechanics.

Level 2 - pick a Class and ASI. This could look like a current Level 1 character.

Level 3 - pick a subclass and a Feat. You have a fully realized character, returning/advanced players start here.

At first I laughed the idea off it sounded so weird but upon reflection it makes it far easier to explain to new players. Keep the choices fewer for those first levels and let them grow into the rules (allowing swapping) of each until they hit level 4. It feels similar to level 0 characters of yesteryears and makes teaching the game simpler.

What are your thoughts? How have you streamlined character creation for new players? I am introducing a new group of young teens and an always interested in ideas.
 

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
The easiest way to do it is pre-gens or build the characters for the players. They don’t need to know the rules and math up front, if ever. Just the know the play loop and vaguely how to RP a character. Roll when asked to and the referee will take it from there.
 


First - I never expect NEWBS to simply pick up any book of 300 F'ING pages of rules and just... LEARN IT by next week.
Second - Present to them SIMPLE rules. Rules that are readily understood and exercised by those new to the game - especially combat rules which they are going to deal with more than any other aspect of the game. Letting them know that there are MASSIVE amounts of rules to know - or at least be reasonably familiar with - but also teaching it to them, slowly, over time, letting them learn at their own pace, letting them READ the rules at their own pace at home (letting them know that more than strictly superficial involvement in the game means a HELLUVA lot of reading they'll be doing), letting them do it wrong without expecting them to face the same consequences as someone who's been actively playing for years, advising them of the many pitfalls faced by players yet permitting them to still make their own inevitable mistakes WITHOUT the same consequences as more experienced players, etc. There are A THOUSAND choices for players to make in any reasonably complex edition of D&D. Some choices you can skip over to start, some you can even ignore for a LONG time, others obviously need to be made right away and you will just have to GUIDE them through those choices as much as you can and as much as they need, or just say, "To get you started we're just going to make this choice for you, but it ultimately is something you would need to choose as a player. DETAILS about that we'll get to later. For now just go with it because we don't want to overwhelm you - even though the amount of stuff to learn can be overwhelming."

I do expect new players to LEARN all these many rules we play by, as long as their interest in continuing to learn holds up. They just don't have to learn it all at once. They'll similarly never have to take a written rules-knowledge test, nor have to MEMORIZE more than the bare essentials of rules, but I do expect them to continually increase their understanding and facility with the rules (shy of being children or having learning disabilities). Otherwise players need to ACTIVELY participate in the game and that means ultimately knowing the rules. I just don't hold them to the same expectations IMMEDIATELY as I would those who aren't still learning the game.

D&D doesn't necessarily need to be easier to learn - but the ways in which people new to the game go about learning it and having it taught to them can often be handled better. If nothing else, choose to use a SIMPLE edition of rules. Not a hacked-down set of more complex rules, but a set of rules that is genuinely SIMPLE. This is sure to mean a much older set of rules or even a retroclone of older rules. If you want newbs to just jump right into the deep waters of 5E you're setting them up to simply be overwhelmed and thus turned off of D&D entirely. EASE them into the game, but don't BABY them if it's unnecessary. They will learn by READING; they will learn by DOING; they will learn by observing YOU (that is both DM's and other players). Just teach them.
 


Smackpixi

Adventurer
A two to three page guide on maintaining, and updating as you level, character sheets is sorely lacking. If a fresh noob, how everything interacts is not intuitive. Also the sheet is hot garbage for tracking day/rest limited abilities.

I think selecting spells to learn or prepare is pretty daunting. I pretty much offer 5 or 10 top picks from Treatmonk or Ozwick lists. While I hate steering Them to powergamer options, a condensed list of what is most useful in most situations and why short circuits a lot of analysis paralaysis. Not sure how WoTC would replicate that helpfulness other than like a menu, putting stars next to chef and/or customer favorites.

For character creation, I ask, what do you want to do? And then more pointed questions and then translate that into race/class/subclass options for them. The Young Adventurers Guides have some pretty simplistic choice trees on finding your class, something more complicated and dynamic not necessarily in the books, but also not gatekept on Beyond, freely available to give 20 flavor questions and produce a 1-10 level character plan would be cool.
 
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Smackpixi

Adventurer
DMing is what needs to be easier to learn. A good DM makes learning much easier no matter the system.
I feel like the starter set(s) do a pretty decent job of teaching that there’s a lot of rules but half assing it is ok. The transition from a 30 page book to the 1k page 3 book set needs work. Honestly, this is where they could do something amazing with DMs guild.

Imagine if paying for say a subscription to unlock all rules, or a flat fee for cor rule books or whatever, but the site had two views, in the bottom right a link to open everything you’ve paid for if needed, but a main view only of everything you’ve to date needed and explored so the vastness was shielded from you. And an AI of sorts helping you to slowly unlock rules and options as they came up in your game or as players needed options at advancement. Would go a long way to allowing a DM to obliquely get through the books as in game stuff came up w/o overwhemilng with stuff they really don’t yet need to know, esp if playing official adventures.
 
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The cited proposal seems like serious overkill, but I am someone who teaches a lot of new players (often young children) the game and I have made a few moves to simplify things. For equipment I just have them start with the basic things central to their function (weapons, armor, wand, etc.), and give them 50 gold. The set background items and class equipment packs are nice character building tools for players who have plenty of time to sit with the book and pour over the list, but for a new player they add a solid 10 minutes of crossreferrencing the PHB to put a bunch of random items on your character sheet that probably won't actually matter. Obviously if a player wants to obsess over starting equipment that's fine, but I'd rather get them in the game.

I usually skip writing down "background feature" abilities. I have, when rolling up characters for young children, sometimes purposefully ommited more minor racial features (like Fey Ancestry) unlikely to come up in the first few sessions.

If I was designing the game I would cull or simplify a lot of racial or other first level features only applicable to certain narrow circumstances, because they just get forgotten by people without system mastery and make for one more thing to learn right at the outset. Flavorful "ribbon" features are awesome, but dumping them on someone rolling up a new character and starting a new campaign who, whether new to the game or not, has more important things on their mind, is a poor design choice. Save the minor ribbon abilities for levels 3+.

Anything that streamlines character creation reduces the time a new player is stuck trying to digest the PHB and gets them to actually playing, at which point they are learning by doing and learning things that are immediately applicable, which is generally much easier for humans than trying to learn a system abstractly from the book.
 
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beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
At the risk of sounding like a snob or a jerk, I don't want D&D to be simpler to learn.

5E is the easiest edition to learn in the games history, and if it's made any simpler, I'm concerned that gameplay will be impacted.

I've joked in the past about WoTC turning D&D into a card game eventually, but it certainly seems like they are heading down the path of PC games in terms of character creation.

First race (species really) will become nothing more than a skin, and then class will become irrelevant because you'll be able to choose random, unrelated abilities with a pool of points.
 
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Vaalingrade

Legend
I don't think 'easy to learn' has to mean 'simplified'.

I think the game could be much better written and organized, DMS could use more tools and advice on teaching the game, an we could probably make it more accessible by not looking down on newbies and thinking they can't handle having an ability or two.
 


CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
I feel like there needs to be two core things to enhance clarity:

A clear annotated visual of the character sheet that tells you what each part represents and how to find what goes there
‘these are your skills, they mostly come from your class, race and background, use the modifier of the stat they are listed under, if you have proficiency in the skill add your proficiency bonus, if you have expertise in the skill double your proficiency bonus’
‘this is your passive perception, is 8 + your WIS mod, if you have proficiency in the Perception skill add your Proficiency bonus too’

Similarly, a clear glossary of rules terms and index of where to find the associated rules of each ‘spell components, page:xxx, the three types of spell components are verbal, somatic and material’
 


Stormonu

Legend
I’d rather that the PHB, MM and DMG be more of a reference work - pretty much like they are now. I don’t want to end up losing content that‘s being taken up with explaining every detail. Though I sure want a better index!

Save the extended breakdowns, hand-holding and how-to’s for things like the starter set, or “getting started” with D&D flyers. As long as its clear that beginners should start with an introductory set, I think for the most part the books are fine as they are.
 


Starter sets are the best way of getting into ANY game. Jumping in feet first with 3+ books is insanity. Frankly, the PHB, MM & DMG are the advanced versions. If you're starting and don't have someone to guide you, you SHOULD be aiming for the starter set. And I think D&D's starter set is fantastic.
Well, PLAYERS have no reason to jump in with 3 books - they only SHOULD need 1 as someone new to the game, and that's daunting enough as it is. They should NEVER need to have a MM or DMG unless they are actually going to run games themselves. Doesn't mean they should be DENIED those books, just that we're talking about teaching them to PLAY the game, and that happens one step at a time. You don't NEED starter sets that simplify and omit rules. You just need to teach newbs only what they need to know AS they need to know it. Actively keeping rules away from them doesn't help them ultimately learn the rules - and in order to be full and proper participants in the game they DO need to learn the rules. Not MEMORIZE mind you, but learn them nonetheless.
 

Crimson Terrain

Explorer
Publisher
I always just try to keep things simple and make sure to provide tools like combat reference sheets and quick reference printouts for common character abilities.
 


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