D&D 5E [+] What can D&D 5E learn from video games?

That's a pretty solid list in the OP.

Telegraphing: this is something I only got to implement for a little before handing over the DM reins. Having boss monsters use an action, bonus action, reaction, etc to telegraph their next turn's action is something video games do way better than 5e. For dragons I made it a bonus action to build up for a big breath attack on their next turn. This gave the players time to react as they saw fit. I would tell the players roughly where the dragon was aiming too. To compensate I made their breath weapons deal even more damage.

Weapon type weakness: video games have the benefit of being able to use percentages and secondary defenses (along with fast math) to handle these things that 5e isn't built for. Resistance and vulnerability are represented well enough for elemental damage. Weapon damage on the other hand is severely lacking.
Imo the reason for this is because resistance and especially vulnerability are game breaking on weapons. Elemental damage often comes with resource depletion or the use of cantrips and mostly use your whole action for one instance of damage (way to break the mold, Scorching Ray). Weapons on the other hand don't have to worry about limited resources and have the benefit of multiple attacks. Any creature with a vulnerability to slashing, bludgeoning, or piercing (doubly so for piercing with all the ranged weapons) would get crushed so fast.
It's an untested idea, but adding two new categories, Min 1/2 and Max 1/2, alongside resistance and vulnerability might help. Min 1/2 means the damage dice you roll below half the die's max are treated as half the die's max instead. Flip it around for Max 1/2. You would never combine them so no Min 1/2 and vulnerable to the same type of damage. Even if that mechanic gets booted into the sun for being awful I still think there needs to be some change to make weapon damage types more meaningful.

Multi-directional advancement: a non-combat idea for 5e. There aren't a ton of games that I've seen this in. Often it's tied to minigames. A character "levels up" outside of their normal leveling progression. Usually in a way that is at best indirectly related to the normal path of advancement. Examples include: base building in Fallout 4, blitzball in FFX, decorating armor/weapons in many games, buying/building homes in Skyrim, etc.

I can see this being used to flesh out backgrounds and professions in 5e. A rogue 3/sailor 5, bard 8/noble 2, or wizard 5/mayor 1 sound like interesting characters to me. The trick is to make them interesting, but optional. You can potentially lose those levels or have them replaced based on what you do if you want.

For 5e minigames, Strixhaven has a garbage one that is supposed to be their equivalent of quidditch. Letting players spend time learning new plays or formations in their downtime to get better at the game could be really fun. It certainly couldn't be any worse.
 

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EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Balance.

Because the vast, vast majority of video game designers who offer multiple valid paths to achieve things in a multiplayer setting understand that if you make something that allows a degenerate strategy, people WILL use that degenerate strategy, and it will generally result in worse, less-fun gameplay. The player is always strongly incentivized to pick the options which perform best.

For all the talk that it's impossible to achieve balance while preserving distinctiveness, multiple companies have shown that it is not only possible, but possible to do it long-term despite making major changes over time.
 




Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Discovery. Not sure how to implement that, as I’m sure many will say it’s on the DM to paint a good picture or set up a grid map or something, but many video games have a sense of discovery as a major feature, both in environments and secrets. I think that having some kind of system that encourages both within the core books and not just in DMG or adventure modules would be great. Put some words to it so people can understand that’s it not all combat or rolling your Perception.
I have a theory that this feeling comes from having a goal in mind, and then putting that goal on hold to do something else that caught your fancy in the moment. The best-designed open world video games are excellent at achieving this, by giving you big, obvious objectives, and then sprinkling the critical path to those objective with tons of little things to distract the player from the obvious objective. That’s something I think can definitely be incorporated into best DMing practices, although obviously it’s a bit trickier to pull off without the advantage of visuals.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I have a theory that this feeling comes from having a goal in mind, and then putting that goal on hold to do something else that caught your fancy in the moment. The best-designed open world video games are excellent at achieving this, by giving you big, obvious objectives, and then sprinkling the critical path to those objective with tons of little things to distract the player from the obvious objective. That’s something I think can definitely be incorporated into best DMing practices, although obviously it’s a bit trickier to pull off without the advantage of visuals.

Kingmaker from Paizo kind of did that.

Imagine LMoP with 6 side quests from NPCs that are basically fetch quests for items found somewhere in the adventure.

Also you hit fp for hex crawling which I thought was clever. 300 xp a hex low levels 1000xp required to level up.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Note this is a plus thread.

If your response to the thread title is "nothing," then this thread isn't for you. Please keep that comment to yourself and move on.

The premise of the thread is: D&D 5E can be improved by learning from video games.

If you want to argue against the premise of the thread, then this thread isn't for you. Please keep those comments to yourself and move on.

#

So the question is: what specifically can D&D 5E use from video games to improve the game.

I think it's fruitful to first eliminate all the things that video games can do that people at a table cannot. Talking about graphics, soundtracks, etc are not really things the people at a table can curate in the way that video game companies with millions to spend can.

So what can people at a table do to improve the game by emulating video games?

Speed of Play. RPGs infamously pack 30 minutes of fun into four+ hours of play. Working to shrink that ratio as much as possible would be a great step. Video games have a computer to run all the complex maths and systems, but this is generally mental work the players at the table have to perform themselves, so either introducing computers into the game to resolve all the complex maths and systems or simplifying the maths and systems to be more easily run by the players at the table. While RPGs will never realistically get to the point of reflexive button smashing that some video games thrive on, I think it's a worthwhile endeavor to speed up game play.
I think there is an inherent tension between complexity and speed. It is not just math that slows the game down. In my experience options slow it down more. I play with some friends since college, nearly 30 years of gaming and their 3.x and 4e games were slower than their 5w game. 4e was particularly slow even though in my opinion the math was simpler but the number of options really slowed the game down.
Especially where players had to make decisions out of turn.
D&D has a particular issue here because there are things in D&D that are probably not good game design but are part of the identity of D&D.
I could see hybrid games where an app is used for task resolution becoming a thing. People are already using VTTs to present the gamestate, if they start to use the automation for task resolution. There are already (I believe dice that can report their results to the VTT via Bluetooth or WiFi.

Solo Play. Most video games are designed for solo play; most tabletop RPGs are designed for group play. Some video games include group play; some RPGs include solo play. Do you play World of Warcraft? Imagine only being able to play when there's a raid. While there are a few tools out there and solo play is becoming more accepted, it's still a niche within a niche within a niche. Getting more tools, more acceptance, and including solo play by design would be great.
I would see this remaining in the realm of video games unless hybrid or app based rpg become a thing. That said there is room in the rpg market for rules or at least GM advice as to running with small parties. Particularly D&D where 4 is the expected minimum.
Focused Theme. Video games are, generally speaking, much more focused than most RPGs. Traditional RPGs tend more towards life sims while storygames tend more towards the kinds of thematically-focused experience you'd find in video games. While there are pros and cons of both trad and storygames, there's a lot to be said for focusing on one type of experience, one kind of play and doing that incredibly well rather than trying to do everything and being not that great at delivering.
I kind of object to the distinction between trad and story, the Hickman revolution has been a thing longer (or as long) as I have been involved in rpgs. I think that this is self-selecting in groups. A DM that only does open world sandboxes will struggle with players that cannot make their own fun in that environment. A DM that wants to run an adventure path with have issues with player that keep wandering off into the wilderness. They either talk out their issues and compromise or part ways.
Wide-Open World. Some video games have very limited themes and therefore very limited maps or areas where the game takes place, other video games have exploration as their theme (or one of their themes) so they come with huge, wide-open world maps that you can explore. This is a staple of the most D&D-like video games, such as WoW. Some D&D games have this, some don't. This is a staple of a lot of old-school play.
Except for graphical fidelity I really do not see what video game has to offer here. The DMs that do this have been doing since whenever.
Persistent World. Video games like MMOs where group activities are a regular occurrence tend to have persistent worlds. While having a persistent world created by the referee and having huge groups or multiple groups playing in that same, persistent world is a staple of some old-school play, it's generally not that common any more. One group of a few players in a persistent world is the norm, from what I can tell, but massive games with dozens of players and multiple concurrent groups is not.
Same as the wide open world.
Save Points & Respawning. Video games have save points and RPGs do not. It is a difference between the two, though I'm not sure RPGs would benefit from save points. Some RPGs, most notably D&D, has effectively respawning in the form of reliable and easy resurrection.
There is one very important distinction between save points/respawning and resurrection. In the case of the latter the world has moved on, the fight that was lost remains lost. Whoever killed you remembers killing you. With save point you can redo the fight again and again until you get it right and not just fights. I think I would prefer resurrection in the game than a save point mechanic.
Dungeon Scaling. This is specific to WoW, rather than video games generally. In WoW you can take just about any level character into just about any dungeon and have the experience scaled to your level. This is done by adjusting the PCs' current numbers and the NPCs numbers to basically match what they should be if the PCs were the appropriate level. Generally reducing the numbers by quite a lot. This is easy to do with a computer, but not that easy for a person at the table. However, there are lots of tools referees could use to inflate the NPCs' numbers to bring them in line with a higher level group. This allows a group of almost any level to engage with a dungeon of almost any level.
Some DMs do dungeon scaling and some do not.
What else is there?
I don't know about video games but I think that a lot could be learned from boardgame design. Games like Arkham Horror are damn close to rpgs perhaps there is something to be learned from them.
 
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I don't know about video games but I think that a lot could be learned from boardgame design. Games like Arkham Horror are damn close to rpgs perhaps there is something to be learned from them.
One area form board games that I think we should look into deeply: the ways player information is presented and tracked. Cards for abilities, player boards, tokens for resources, progress trackers around the edge of the main board, stuff like that. Complex board games have found a lot of ways to make this information clear, easy to adjust, and readily available to everyone at the table, and lots of these ideas should be considered. I know people don't like ttrpgs that require anything beyond pencil & paper, but a good player board and u-to-date spell cards could go a long way to making the game much easier to play by managing information better.
 

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