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


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.
I agree.

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I think that it's helpful to look at genres of video games, which I will talk about. However, I would say that a prominent theme I will emphasize in my post involves more diagetic progression.

Metroidvania: One of the defining features of Metroidvania games (e.g., Metroid, Castlevania, Hollow Knight, Ori and the Blind Forest, etc.) is non-linear progression that is often tied to exploration and discovery. These games often feature large interconnected maps, but areas or paths of the map may be inaccessible until the player acquires the right tool, item, weapon, ability, etc. that allows them to progress through those previously inaccessible areas. I recognize that this comes from D&D dungeon-delving, but I think that Metroidvania games often does this more intentionally and with greater cleverness.

Cozy and Survival Games: Both of these game types, because there is definite overlap, often employ diagetic progression that involves crafting, harvesting, foraging, growing, and discovering the necessary items you need and upgrading what you have so that you can unlock more options. IME, these are powerful psychological drivers for players.

MMOs and MOBAs: Having combat roles helps players understand what they are signing up for when they select a given class/character. I don't think that MMOs provide the best model for combat roles; however, I do think that MOBAs provide a better model for TTRPGs for several reasons. (1) MMO combat roles (and "the holy trinity") often involve managing aggro mechanics, enrage timers, etc. that are mostly non-applicable to NPCs played by a GM. (2) MOBA roles/classes (depending on the game's nomenclature) are more varied and informative than in MMO's: e.g., melee damage, ranged damage, mage support, mage control, bruiser, tank (less about aggro and more about absorbing damage, initiating fights, and peeling opponents for the team), etc.

MOBAs again: MOBA character options often involve a character with a relatively small selection of powers: i.e., a basic attack, a character-specific passive, three abilities, and an ultimate ability. As a result, MOBAs often feature a large cast of characters with limited powers; however, each of these characters are often designed to deliver a specific archetypical fantasy. There are even a few upcoming MMOs, like Wayfinder, that are designed with MOBA style characters. One benefit, IME, of this design choice is that it's fairly easy for players to sink their teeth into an archetype without overwhelming them with too many options.
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Cozy and Survival Games: Both of these game types, because there is definite overlap, often employ diagetic progression that involves crafting, harvesting, foraging, growing, and discovering the necessary items you need and upgrading what you have so that you can unlock more options. IME, these are powerful psychological drivers for players.
I honestly struggle to imagine how one could make gathering and crafting fun at the table, as opposed to a excel spreadsheet based slog.


I honestly struggle to imagine how one could make gathering and crafting fun at the table, as opposed to a excel spreadsheet based slog.
IMO, the message for me is not necessarily about trying to make crafting in TTRPGs fun, but, rather, about how diagetic progression can serve as a powerful Skinner box for players.


B/X Known World
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.
That's a good idea. I wouldn't want to cost the monster any effectiveness, i.e. give up an actual action, to telegraph...but something like at the top of the round the dragon plants both feet and takes a big inhaled breath as narration to prompt the players.

Something like this would definitely need to be combined with cheap or free and easy to access resurrection. Something like an adventurer's guild with guaranteed resurrection but you go into debt for each one. In my experience as a raid healer in WoW, players love to stand in the fire...so quite a few PCs will just ignore the telegraph and derp into a dead character regularly.
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.
It would probably be easier to put damage thresholds on monsters. Fire does a minimum of 20 damage; lightning does a max of 20 damage. Or something like that. Fiddling with the dice and making rolling damage take longer would slow down the game and I'm not sure that would be worth it. But flipping it from the player to the monster and making it static might work just as well while keeping things moving.
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.
Yeah. I'm a big fan of diegetic advancement. Lots of minigames could be fun. It just depends on how they're implemented. Bespoke mechanics for each one would quickly fill entire books with minigames. That's not necessarily bad, but not the greatest use of time or money. Something like a better implementation of skill challenges and giving overviews of various minigames would, I think, work a lot better.
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.
I'm not sure how isolated they should be. Part of me would want them to feed into each other or feed into the regular adventuring part of the game. Go fishing and catch a great fish that when cooked offers a buff to the party or something like that. In video games minigames are used as a break from the main portion of the game, to keep you playing but to let you relax and settle down after intense fights or whatever. Some minigames are in themselves stressful and wild, but they're a different kind of stressful and wild to the main game, typically.

Building in more downtime between adventures then providing a framework for minigames might work.


B/X Known World
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.
Absolutely. The interrupts killed all momentum.
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.
It's more of a mid-to-high level problem than a low level problem. Too many options, as you say.
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.
I think that has the problem backwards. It's not the "roll dice, add numbers, declare result" part that slows things down. As you say, it's the decision making combined with far too many options. Putting that in the hands of a computer would require AI and basically eliminate the player's only contribution to the game, i.e. deciding what their character does.
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.
Trad vs storygames in the sense of how they're designed and the rules they use. Trad games like D&D are fundamentally designed differently than storygames like Masks: A New Generation. Looking at video games, it's easy to see that WoW and Disco Elysium or Journey are also designed fundamentally differently, with different mechanics and goals, etc. There can be story in D&D, sure. There's story in WoW, sure. But games designed primarily for story, with mechanics that reinforce that story and only that story, are different than more wide-open games.
Some DMs do dungeon scaling and some do not.
I've never met one. Most seem to start new campaigns to run specific modules rather than level up the module to suit the PCs that already exist.

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