D&D (2024) What do you want in the revised DMG?

R_J_K75

Legend
I think the issue is really that there is so much variety in each PC group that one static set of guidelines can't do 5e justice. So what I would like is just some explanation on how to adjust the encounter guidelines for different groups, themes, play styles, etc. I think the encounter guidelines work for a very specific group, but we need guidance on how to adjust them for groups that deviate from those assumptions. Heck, if they even gave us a clear baseline assumption it would be helpful
I agree and if the game was built upon Bounded Accuracy, I think a few paragraphs to explain exactly what it is and how it works would go a long way, for me at least.
 

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Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
. . . I find I don't have to worry about prepping 5e encounters at all. I can make them whatever I want and I don't have to worry. I completely abandon trying to create "balanced" encounters about 5-6 years ago. Now I just create what makes sense for the story, situation, and environment. I am confident my players can come up with a solution to anything they come across.
When people ask why I think 5e has an "old school" feel, I need to start quoting this post as an answer. Because I think this bit sums it up better than anything else could.
 
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Maybe it could be a boxed set!

like this:

If we put aside tradition, there would be many different ways of organizing the rules.
 

  • 3 pages of tldr summary cause no one is gonna read the book unless they have to prove someone on the internet wrong, but ya know, there are a few things they should probably know.
  • one page on its ok, do whatever the fork you want, it’s ok, we don’t care, if you want all dwarves to be short and angry with long beards, have at it, all drow evil, fine, do it, we could literally care less what you do with your game, but be sure to tweet at us to show how popular the game is.
  • 5 pages on how to listen to what your players are saying. Based on my Reddit reads a sizable portion of the dm base are people on the spectrum with limited skills for understanding how to work with people to achieve a common goal. Or teenagers. Regardless of the eye rolls here, pages are needed to explain what players mean when they say, “your game is kinda rapey” “I”m forking sick of stirges” “no one gives a shirt about the last 2000 years of history in your made up universe, can we just get on with it” “Todd is an art hole AND a bard, I don’t want to play with him”
  • 0 pages on other planes no one adventures in, 5 pages each on the shadowfell and feywild and what the fork they mean to the material plane because that’s interesting other realities you might actually adventure in and could daily affect your world. one page on the nine hells cause of course Brad is gonna send us there, 72 pages on how the fork extra planar beings might be in our world cause the MM is full of cool shirt that has no reason for being on the material plane we all actually adventure in.
  • 20 pages on designing encounters because for some reason people just don’t understand if their players get out of battles with nary a scratch, just keep throwing more crap at them. I mean people, how hard is it to send more or less monsters based on what happened last time? does this really need 20 pages of math to figure out? Apparently it does.
  • 50 pages on all the stuff I bought on dms guild cause I was too lazy and busy to make up myself. Stores, nPCs, strongholds, ships, airships, more shops, the fantasy world economy, shops, easy sidekicksto fill out a party to play published adventures, shops and stuff to put in them that isn’t just the equipment list in the PH.
  • 20 pages on alternate rules addressing everything people whine about there not being rules for.
  • 2 pages on basic magic items everyone wants and expects to get, +x weapons, shields, armor, and bag of holding to carry 2000 gc cause I mean what, try getting around with that many pennies for forks sake.
  • 100 pages of non boring ingenius items and at least 5 of those on how to make your players care about them and actually use them.
  • 1 page on how to convince yor players to use the gd spell scrolls they have for once omg you forking scriptoriums
 


DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
I feel like this is a thread cross-over... :)

For myself, this was what old school was about (and what 5E does differently):

1. Fewer decision points and less options at decision points.
5E begins by having a lot more races, and subraces. There are more classes, and subclasses--sometimes with choices within those. You likely play with feats, so have to choose those.

2. Lower ability modifiers.
Most abilities didn't give you any bonuses for anything until about 15. You were lucky if you had three or more abilities with a modifier of some kind. In 5E, nearly every ability score gets a modifier IME, most PCs have no more than 1 ability (maybe 2) with modifiers of 0 or less.

3. Fewer HP.
5E uses larger HD and it is easy to get a CON bonus to HP. You also keep getting HD for each level.

4. Better Armor Classes.
5E, with bounded accuracy, limits most PCs to ACs of 18-22 IME. Old school, with more powerful protective magic items, you could have AC of -5 or better by name level easily (equal to AC 25 in 5E).

5. The (not-so-dreaded) Whiff-fest.
5E makes hitting in combat way too easy, with success roughly 60-65% of the time on average. Unfortunately, to try to keep things "interesting" more HP was added, but that also escalated more damage.

6. Easier PC deaths.
5E makes survival very easy unless you purposefully try to counter it. With spells like Revivify and the Death Saves mechanic, unless you play recklessly or have a killer DM, PC deaths are rare IME anyway. YMMV, of course.

7. Action declarations.
5E you don't declare your intentions for the round. When your turn comes up, you go. In a way, this makes things like Smite and Sneak Attack more easily applied.

8. Restricted Spell Casting.
5E allows you to cast any spell you have prepared or known at any time if you have the spell slot, so you no longer have to prepare each spell's use.

9. Slower Leveling.
5E expects PCs to level quickly. IIRC, the default suggestion is 2nd level by the end of the first session, then two sessions for 3rd, and then 3-4 sessions for each level thereafter.

10. Varying Mechanics.
5E uses the d20 system mechanic of beating a number for nearly everything.

11. Extensive Bookkeeping.
5E hand-waves a lot of things, like encumbrance, by making it such a simple system it is generally a non-factor.

12. The game is about the adventure, not the character.
5E focuses so much on the character and what they capable of doing, instead of the adventure and what they characters actually do.

Of course, even prior editions (I would think anything AD&D 2E or older) which are considered "old school" did have a fair number of choices, and some groups probably did level up quickly, etc. But, off-hand those are my criteria for old school, and even with that list there are probably things I am forgetting. With enough tweaking you can get that in 5E, but it takes a bit of house-ruling. 🤷‍♂️
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Yeah, the content is solid, but the organization is bonkers.
Especially after seen it done well in other systems. I bought Arcana of the Ancients from Monte Cooks Kickstarter for it. It's basically the Numera setting for 5e. The layout is clean, well organized with very thoughtful use of call-outs and cross references.

I've also been very impressed with the organization of Cortex Prime (Fandom), both the printed book and the web version.

The 5e books are beautiful, quality books, and the copy editing is very good. But then then blow it on organization. Even when put into D&D Beyond they are inconvenient to navigate and search. Really hope that they improve the user experience along with any content changes and editions in the new books.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I almost think that the contents of the DMG could be separated into two books: (1) a basic guide for running/modifiying the game and (2) world-building and such in the D&D multiverse. But "tradition" - whether it's a consistent one or not - demands three books.
I would rather have the PHP, DMG, Xanathar's, Tasha's, and some of the crunch scattered among the adventure and beastiary content put into one master reference tome. Yeah, it would be a big book, but if organized well, it would be far more useful at the table. Besides, I use D&D Beyond most of the time and currently trying to search and navigate among multiple books is inconvenient, especially as the books are not designed to facilitate quick look ups.
 

I feel like this is a thread cross-over... :)

For myself, this was what old school was about (and what 5E does differently):

...

3. Fewer HP.
5E uses larger HD and it is easy to get a CON bonus to HP. You also keep getting HD for each level.

...

5. The (not-so-dreaded) Whiff-fest.
5E makes hitting in combat way too easy, with success roughly 60-65% of the time on average. Unfortunately, to try to keep things "interesting" more HP was added, but that also escalated more damage.

Just plucking these out for the moment. I'm going to take some (hopefully small) liberties with the math for ease of use. I believe you mentioned somewhere that a 35% hit rate would be more your speed rather than the 5e "60-65%" success rate you indicate. With that assumption in mind, let's make it 33% vs 66%.

Combined with 5e increase in HP (I'm saying it is a 2x increase for simple math here - just as the "to-hit" rate is 2x higher) we find ourselves with the following question:

Would players rather have a 5e-style fight against a 100HP monster that can be hit 2/3 of the time OR a modded "old school"-style fight against a 50HP monster that can be hit 1/3 of the time?

It strikes me that players having their PCs hit 2/3 of the time is likely more fulfilling than missing 2/3 of the time. If we add the "more damage" assertion to the mix, we have the 5e-style fight resolving more quickly.

Oversimplified? Most definitely. But, given these parameters, it strikes me as potentially adjusting HP and "to-hit" knobs down for no real benefit and, perhaps, added frustration at the table with 2x the misses. Is that really what "old school" was like? I honestly don't remember that - but, then again, it's been decades since I played in a 1e campaign, then I skipped 2-4, and started playing 5e exclusively 6 years ago.

That said, I'd personally focus on incorporating other ideas from your list to give our 5e game a more "old school" feel, if that's what I was after for our table.
 

Oversimplified? Most definitely. But, given these parameters, it strikes me as potentially adjusting HP and "to-hit" knobs down for no real benefit and, perhaps, added frustration at the table with 2x the misses. Is that really what "old school" was like? I honestly don't remember that - but, then again, it's been decades since I played in a 1e campaign, then I skipped 2-4, and started playing 5e exclusively 6 years ago.
There's a change that, while not objectively better would impact the feel of the game: hits become more important and a big deal, rather than the expectation. This frees you to narrate them as, well, a big deal rather than needing to describe them as scratches, exhaustion, etc. Basically it lets hit points more closely resemble meat points, which is indeed easier to grok.

The downside, as you noted, is a lot more turns where nothing really happens because you rolled to hit and didn't. In a game with even somewhat long turns like 5e (to say nothing of 3e, 4e, or PF) that's really bad and definitely something to avoid. If I need to wait 15 minutes for my turn to come around, I don't want to roll one die and then nothing happens. But if you can get turn times down (which old-school simplicity allows even if it doesn't guarantee) then this isn't nearly as much of an issue.

I've read that the current hit rates (65%) were specific targets based on market research - that is, WotC is certain that the 5e approach is more popular than the alternative. Sales figures prove they're not way off at least. But that doesn't matter for one's home game, really.

You can split the difference by adding a layer and having something like Warhammer's setup: you roll to hit then roll to wound then there's an armor save - even if each has a 3/4 chance of working for the attacker, that's a 27/64 chance of doing real damage. But it doesn't really feel like 'nothing happened' if the armor save is why they're not dead. Sort of - I myself wouldn't prefer this, but I'm not really an OSR guy.
 

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