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

Reynard

Legend
That's why I feel they should just jump in and play (no chargen, no rules lecture). They can pick up the rules as they go along. Once they've got a few sessions under them, reading the rules might actually make some sense to them. As should making a character.
Those people are fine. The ones who have been playing for a couple years or decades who don't want to learn the rules get under my skin, tho.
 

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Andvari

Explorer
"Should" depends on the target audience. If you want players to have lots of options for "building" their character, with subclasses, feats, skills and more, then it's going to be harder to learn.

It's a trade-off, and the answer depends on the individual's preference.

They could try a modular approach. A "Basic" Player's Handbook without backgrounds, subclasses and feats. At character creation, players just roll stats, then pick a race and a class from a limited selection. No other decisions. Perhaps there are no skills, or skills are determined by class choice. Then you can have an "Advanced" Player's Handbook that has optional features you can add on, such as feats, customizable skill selection, subclasses, more classes and races etc.
 
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South by Southwest

Incorrigible Daydreamer
At the risk of sounding like a snob or a jerk, I don't want D&D to be simpler to learn.
I do. I have some twelve-year-old students getting way into this thing, and it'd be great for them to have a Moldvay-like beginners' system that made it easy.

Per your worries, though, what I'm suggesting is not simplifying 5e further: I suggest bifurcating the game into a chopped-down basic version and a full advanced version much like we had during 1e. I don't know if the Starter Set darjr linked works like that (haven't studied it), but I would think doing this should be a natural progression for WotC in the current environment. They want more new, young players, the game is white hot, and more books and modules to sell along with growing the customer base--well, that looks financially inescapable to me. I imagine conversations about this have already happened somewhere in WotC's offices, no?
 



beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
Having a fun collaborative storytelling experience with friends?

I'm an old player and that's the thing I want too.

My point was the emphasis on RP vs combat.

Most of the guys in my group want to focus on fighting monsters and completing the objective (which is in fact a collaborative story telling experience, btw)

Whereas there is one guy who wants to spend most of his time on RP monologs and/or talking with the shopkeepers and other NPCs.
 

beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
I do. I have some twelve-year-old students getting way into this thing, and it'd be great for them to have a Moldvay-like beginners' system that made it easy.

Per your worries, though, what I'm suggesting is not simplifying 5e further: I suggest bifurcating the game into a chopped-down basic version and a full advanced version much like we had during 1e. I don't know if the Starter Set darjr linked works like that (haven't studied it), but I would think doing this should be a natural progression for WotC in the current environment. They want more new, young players, the game is white hot, and more books and modules to sell along with growing the customer base--well, that looks financially inescapable to me. I imagine conversations about this have already happened somewhere in WotC's offices, no?

Well, I did learn 1E when I was 12....

And I also walked 3 miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways.;)
 


Argyle King

Legend
Not to beat a dead horse, but coherent layout of information is a big part of the learning experience.

•improve the indices of the books
•things such as a list of monsters by CR shouldn't be limited to an online extra -it should be in the book
•tropes and cliches can be a helpful shorthand for getting across information; there's a reason why those literary concepts exist
•if you're going to use "natural language," have other people (outside of your immediate circle) read it to make sure your intended meaning is clear
•"natural language" is easier to achieve if the game rules are built in a coherent and intuitive way (there are some weird ambiguities when comparing unarmed attacks; melee attacks; and melee weapon attacks)
•jargon isn't necessarily the opposite of natural language; it's okay to have game-specific terms if they are highlighted and defined
 



But all that stuff will make it not feel like D&D. D&D is gygaxain prose that endorses opposing principles at the same time.
Not to beat a dead horse, but coherent layout of information is a big part of the learning experience.

•improve the indices of the books
•things such as a list of monsters by CR shouldn't be limited to an online extra -it should be in the book
•tropes and cliches can be a helpful shorthand for getting across information; there's a reason why those literary concepts exist
•if you're going to use "natural language," have other people (outside of your immediate circle) read it to make sure your intended meaning is clear
•"natural language" is easier to achieve if the game rules are built in a coherent and intuitive way (there are some weird ambiguities when comparing unarmed attacks; melee attacks; and melee weapon attacks)
•jargon isn't necessarily the opposite of natural language; it's okay to have game-specific terms if they are highlighted and defined
 

Rules need to crossreference each other, rather than make it a "memorize it all and figure out the connections" test.

To me a lot of the problem with how D&D books are laid out came clear the other day in a discussion of how attacks on dying characters cause two failed death saves. Now we all figured this out at some point, and it logically follows from the rule that melee attacks on the unconscious characters are automatic crits, combined with the rule that crits on unconscious characters are two failed death saves, that melee attacks are 2 failed death saves. But asking players and DMs to immediately put this two and two together on their own while they are in the process of digesting a whole vast rule system is unreasonable and unnecessary, and I would hazard to say that most people only learn that melee attacks on the dying are 2 failed saves when they see it actually come together that way in play, often as a DM accidentally killing a character.

Lets read the passage on the latter rule from the SRD:

Damage at 0 Hit Points. If you take any damage while you have 0 hit points, you suffer a death saving throw failure. If the damage is from a critical hit, you suffer two failures instead. If the damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum, you suffer instant death.​

Think how much clearer this would be if they were willing to put in a parenthetical reminding us of the other major rule this is interacting with:

Damage at 0 Hit Points. If you take any damage while you have 0 hit points, you suffer a death saving throw failure. If the damage is from a critical hit, you suffer two failures instead (NOTE: All successful melee attacks on a dying, unconscious character are automatically critical hits, see page XXX for details). If the damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum, you suffer instant death.​

And that's probably all you need to do, though having a further note cautioning DMs about declaring multiple attacks against a low HP PC at once being likely to cause death because of the above rules might be prudent and helpful. For my tastes it would actually be best handled by footnotes, though I find many people never read footnotes.
 


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.

I didn't listen to the podcast but this is not a great solution to the types of complexity that I've seen new players struggle with. The thing that's easiest to hold onto is some idea of an archetype, and here class (and race) is really useful. Players can look at "rogue" or "wizard" and use their existing knowledge to figure out what their character is like.

The things I've seen new players struggle with: ability scores vs ability modifiers, what a proficiency bonus is and when to add it, what a saving throw is, how to calculate spell save dc, knowing how many spells you have memorized, spell level vs character level, choosing spells. Those are rather basic mechanics: if you are playing 5e, these are things will come up from the start, so either the DM needs to help players calculate them, or players need to figure it out on their own. I've seen players after years of playing still not understand how to calculate spell save dc. Now, I think what they identify as level 1 could work if that was basically the whole game. But the base mechanics of 5e have a certain level of built-in complexity.

The designers could help here by including things like flowcharts in the books to help players navigate it, or by organizing spells by level, or indicating the page numbers in the spell lists, or especially by designing a character sheet that visually taught players how to play. This last one would be very helpful if it could just take new players through making different kinds of "d20 tests." (hopefully in saying that I'm not hurting the poor designers' feelings).

edit: and by the way, the proposed changes would reduce the power of low level characters further. I'm guessing the standard solution would just be for the DM to fudge things so that characters don't die and everyone has a fun time. Then at 3rd level the advanced railroading can start! ;)
 

Reynard

Legend
I have no idea how any of that connect to what I was talking about.
It connects to what I said, which the post you responded to was related to.
In case I am being unclear: players should learn the game. They shouldn't be expected to walk in knowing the rules, but if they want to do "fun collaborative storytelling" in a format that includes rules, it is rude not to learn those rules.
 

Better writing.

The PHB is not well layed out or indexed. Furthermore, there are a number of spells, powers etc where the title, even the first line of fluff, doesn't match what the power/spell actually does. Like detect evil doesn't detect evil.
I agree. If we're giving Alignment the barest of lipservice, the we need Detect Enemy / Detect Wrath, Protective Ward, Identify Outsider, &c. Commit to the bit.
 

We all know the power of TTRPGs comes not from books or rules but from the skill of the DM.

Therefore, instead of encouraging newbies to buy a starter set or something like that, they should be steered towards a
professional Dungeon Master that is skilled in running games for newbies.
 

aco175

Legend
Make them watch Peter Jackson's Return of the King and Monty Python's Holy Grail.

Download the basic rules and stick to the 4 races and 5 classes for the first campaign.
 

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