D&D 5E What is Quality?

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Boy as a long time VtM fan, I can't agree with this enough. Just thinking about Obtenebration level 3 and trying to make sense of it (let alone all the arguments about it) is the stuff of nightmares.
Night clan. More like the Nightmare clan.

"Why can't you just play Brujah and punch stuff?"

Boy did we ignore and make up our own rules. I didn't think I know how to play by the rules it's been so long.
 

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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I respond that millions of people disagree then out comes the retort "popularity is not quality".
Well, we should be clear about that -- popularity is not quality. They're two different things, with different meanings, and while they often coincide, they don't always. D&D is both popular and of high quality, but anybody who claims something is of high quality because it's popular is making a logical error.

So how else are we supposed to judge quality of a product other than how well it sells and meets or exceeds it's targets?

There are many ways to judge quality, some subjective, others objective, depending on the item in question. Art (including an RPG) is assuredly the former. A fire extinguisher or a medicine? That's very different.

I think in the case of a TTRPG you are not going to get a definitive, agreed measure of quality. Popularity assuredly isn't it; but there isn't one. The answer to your question "How else are we supposed to..." is "you can't, other than forming your own subjective opinion".
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
If a book uses "it's" when it should properly use "its," it's not quality.

Regarding D&D, 5e was supposed to be a lightweight return to 3e, given the pushback on 4e and popularity of 3e. But since lots of people liked 4e, they didn't leave it all behind. So 5e is a high-quality mashup of two earlier editions, but it's a low-quality offering of anything new and interesting.
 

Cordwainer Fish

Imp. Int. Scout Svc. (Dishon. Ret.)
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is all about Pirsig's determination to figure out what Quality is.

Spoiler: it ends very, very badly for him.
 

an inherently subjective idea of something being good.

Which is fine, but some people don't know what subjective actually means.

You can somewhat quantify quality, but people generally don't accept it and instead become snarky jerks upon you saying it.
 

If a book uses "it's" when it should properly use "its," it's not quality.

Regarding D&D, 5e was supposed to be a lightweight return to 3e, given the pushback on 4e and popularity of 3e. But since lots of people liked 4e, they didn't leave it all behind. So 5e is a high-quality mashup of two earlier editions, but it's a low-quality offering of anything new and interesting.
Hey! You summed it up quite accurately.
A combination of two or three editions.

But for the latter, I beg to differ. Bounded accuracy was a genius move IMHO and it may be exactly why 5ed was so well received. No more Xcell spreadsheet needed to calculate your bonuses and maluses to hit, save and damage depending on which spells work or do not work.

Concentration did also a lot of thing to contribute, but the mechanic could be better implemented. But it was a move in the right direction.
 

When you criticize something that I think works well, I don't think it's wrong to disagree.
It's wrong to attempt to claim that because it's popular, it's essentially anything but well, popular.

So someone says "5E is flawed in X ways"

and you retort "5E is popular, so your argument is invalid"

Then you're not making any kind of rational or reasonable argument, you're just attempting to stop discussion with an appeal to emotion, essentially. That being the irrational belief that popularity represents anything but popularity. There are more specific arguments where popularity might be used as supporting evidence, but the probative value re: anything but popularity is limited.

Quality re: RPGs is subjective. Period. End of story. This was one of the first answers you received. That fact, and it is a fact, remains. No amount of demanding people provide you a "definition of" or "way to judge" quality is going to miraculously transform the objective fact of popularity into the subjective opinion of quality.

EDIT - I'm surprised no-one has brought music into this yet (ignoring the "Classical is the best!" comment, which I think we should). That's a particularly great example of popularity not equalling quality. Otherwise we have to accept that Daddy Yankee, Ed Sheeran, and Zhao Xian are the greatest musicians who ever lived, and I dunno about you, but I'm not ready to do that yet lol.
 
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Quickleaf

Legend
The 5e Player's Handbook has lots of interesting/useful rules & beautiful pictures, plus it has an index!

However, the binding fell apart & there are several rules hidden in sections that aren't intuitive for me and are not listed in the index.

While the class rules are streamlined, there are flaws with how certain parts are designed in the sense that the mechanics fail to reinforce the proposed fiction.

It's a great book. But obviously has some significant flaws. 🤷‍♂️
 


But for the latter, I beg to differ. Bounded accuracy was a genius move IMHO and it may be exactly why 5ed was so well received. No more Xcell spreadsheet needed to calculate your bonuses and maluses to hit, save and damage depending on which spells work or do not work.
Bounded accuracy including Advantage/Disadvantage was pretty great, and a huge deal for improving the tedious situations with bonuses, and is probably the biggest single boon to mechanical accessibility D&D has ever seen.

However, 5E pushed hard backwards against offering anything new/interesting re: a lot of other mechanics, which lead to a significant amount of questionable class design and some weird decisions generally. It also unnecessarily abandoned some not-really-complained-about 4E babies in the bathwater, and didn't deal with a lot of long-term D&D-system issues at all (even where D&D-derived RPGs like Worlds Without Number have).

So in terms of new/interesting it's really only new/interesting in the narrower context of D&D-derived systems. In that context it's about as interesting as say Worlds Without Number, mechanically. It solves/improves on different problems.
 

Ulorian

Adventurer
I wasn't saying there are no valid criticisms of 5E. Far from it. What I am saying is that in answer to the OP, when people say "popularity doesn't equal quality" without any further discussion, THEY are the ones being reductive. I wasn't commenting on the "quality" of 5E at all.
Normally I would be on your side of the fence not @Micah Sweet s, but he/she is right here. It might not have been your intent (which your post cleaned up for us), but your original post was definitely hinting at what Micah was saying.
 

Do you have any actual ideas on how to judge quality?
Sure. I'm also aware that they're not at all easy to defend, and may be quite subjective. That's actually part of my point. You are striving to replace the difficult work of analyzing quality with the trivial effort of citing sales figures. Others have mentioned upthread that it is a conversation-ender, not a conversation-starter. "It has to be good, because it sells well" doesn't get us anywhere.

As for your examples, e.g. "design goals," I've already given many criticisms. 5e's rest design is flawed, expecting player behavior that doesn't happen, and Jeremy Crawford has explicitly confirmed this (in softer terms, obviously). It has several flawed classes (Ranger, Sorcerer, Warlock) and subclasses (Beast Master, Berserker) in part because those classes got very little playtesting and essentially zero public playtesting. It specifically advocates three central pillars (combat, exploration, socialization), but fails to actually make every class directly contribute to these allegedly-central game focuses. Magic has again dominated the power curve of the game, with purely non-spellcaster options a distinct second fiddle, despite explicit designer statements and game mechanics designed to address this gap. It offers if anything a larger amount of fungible treasure than 3e or 4e, but little to nothing to do with it.

Advantage/Disadvantage is, exactly as I predicted, rampantly over-used, and as a result a significant portion of gameplay that could be interesting is instead flattened into "hunt for advantage until you have it," except for those rare and powerful features which stack, such as Elven Accuracy. Feats being (mostly) mutually exclusive with ability score increases forces exactly the kind of bad mechanical decisions people have validly criticized about both 3e and 4e, that dull and bland but powerful bonuses compete with, and are thus favored over, cooler, enriching, flavorful new options. "Bounded Accuracy," beyond being neither all that bounded nor actually all that much about accuracy, leaves the game poorly-equipped to create variety of challenge, hence the criticisms, particularly early on, about monsters being largely giant bags of HP with little character.

The books, particularly the 5e DMG, do not IMO do a good job of really actively supporting DMs and players in creating great games, particularly new players and new DMs. Instead, they focus on experienced players and setting an extremely traditionalist standard (to the point of almost being restrictive). The explicit deprecation, whether intended or accidental, of various options discourages creativity in a variety of ways. CR is pretty much the same as it was in 3e, mostly useless, you're on your own for figuring out how challenging things will actually be. Skills are a particularly unfortunate subsystem, being a strange hybrid of the limited and relatively closed-ended skills of 3e and the shorter, focused list of 4e, which (IME) brings out the worst aspects of both. Despite the claimed desire to avoid large growth of power, there's a clear bias toward granting more and more power via spells, and very little more power to anything that doesn't use spells. And, on the subject of spells, moving to 6 saves, particularly with how poorly saves grow overall, straight-up empowered casters for no reason: it's a lot more likely that you'll have at least one SoD/SoS spell that can hit a monster's weak saves when there are six saves to increase and only 2-3 of them will actually "keep up."

This does not mean it has no positive qualities, nor that it failed to achieve anything at all; both of those would be vast overstatements and completely unfair. It is difficult for me to focus on these because, as I expect the above identifies, I mostly find 5e to be weak in design--not, however, strictly bad in design. 3e has bad design, actively opposing its own goals. 5e is by comparison riddled with weak design, things that try to achieve an end but fall short, or having two contradictory goals and presenting a tepid realization of both. E.g., early levels being simultaneously option-limited and slow-progressing is meant to make life easier for new players so they aren't overwhelmed, but this runs headlong into the goal of making low levels give the "zero" feel that old-school players value, where life is often nasty, brutish, and short. Trying to fulfill both of these goals leads to an early experience that is brutally hard and extremely likely to dishearten or upset new players, and yet is still not sufficiently difficult or simplified for many old-school fans. Neither side ends up well-served.

But, looking at various unequivocally positive design elements, in no particular order:
  • Fixing (most) of the "frontloading" problem, classes have a comparatively very smooth curve, such that the à la carte multiclassing system almost always feels like a sacrifice, no matter what level you decide to MC. Given this was a serious flaw of 3e, this is a clear improvement.
  • As a corollary: actively making early class levels more approachable (as partially noted above).
  • The simplicity of Advantage/Disadvantage in principle (again, in practice I have issues with it, but the idea is unequivocally useful).
  • Concentration. An unequivocal improvement in caster balance (relative to 3e, as is the case for many balance-improvement good design choices in 5e), especially since it forces choices rather than being merely punitive or permissive.
  • Aesthetics. 4e did very poorly in this regard (other than its splash art), whereas 5e has done a very good job of it.
  • Variety. Even if it's not as complete as I would like, they were really trying to be inclusive, and this extends beyond just race and class offerings.
  • Subclasses. Note, this is not a mechanic I personally like, but it is unequivocally a design improvement over 3e, enabling faster, lower-overhead manifestation of classic archetypes and concepts (like the "mage-knight.")
  • Backgrounds. I myself have advocated for merging 4e's Themes and Backgrounds into what I call Heroic Origins, so 5e Backgrounds are straight-up the same kind of idea translated into a different edition's language. Can't argue with that.
  • Finesse as a weapon property. This is a huge improvement (relative to 3e) in both simplicity and usability.
There are probably several others that just don't come to mind right this moment.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
So this seems to come up on a regular basis. People say that 5E is not a quality product, I respond that millions of people disagree then out comes the retort "popularity is not quality".
Because that's true. Popularity and sales don't equal quality. As the next post states:
People are absolutely terrible at differentiating between "I don't like it" and "it is bad." The number of times I have read the words "it's bad design" from people who have no idea how to design things is overwhelming.

In short: I wouldn't worry about it too much.
The bit people selectively skip over is the reverse is also true. People are terrible at differentiating between "I like it" and "it is good." When we like things, we go out of our way to justify liking it by pointing out things that support our claim. Likewise when we don't like things.
I don't get it. D&D is a product. The goal of the team developing it was to create something that would sell well, that would have staying power. They exceeded all expectations and we've had the same edition for a decade and it's still going strong with minor optional enhancements and modules. From a business perspective minimal investment + continued popularity + year after year double digit growth = quality.
Sales =/= quality. If that were the case, then A Tale of Two Cities is the #1 best novel ever written in English and the #9 best novel ever written in English is the Da Vinci Code. Harry Potter would be the #1 best series of novels ever written in English and Goosebumps would be the #2 best series of novels ever written in English. If you can think of a single novel or series of books you like better than those, you have two choices. Either you're objectively wrong as sales = quality or the formulation of sales = quality is wrong.

It's the latter. Sales =/= quality. What we like we like. And we feel the need to justify that like. Simple as.
So how else are we supposed to judge quality of a product other than how well it sells and meets or exceeds it's targets?
Ignore capitalism and use your own judgement. If you think something is quality, it is. It's a subjective opinion, not an objective fact. That it sells well is an objective fact. That doesn't translate into quality.
Why is your opinion worth more than the opinions of millions who purchased and continue to play the game?
It's not about winning or being right. It's about what you like and dislike. It's a subjective opinion, not an objective fact. It's not a math problem to be solved. No one needs to or can prove they're right. Cigarettes sell billions, but they're bad for you. Soda sells billions, but they're bad for you. But, since those sell well, you're objectively wrong if you don't think they're quality products that everyone should consume. See how weird that argument gets when you think about it for even a second.

It's also the lowest common denominator. Sales typically reveal an inverse of quality. The more bland something is the more widely popular it can be. The more unique something is, the smaller its audience.

You ever like something that's unpopular? Why'd you like it? Were you objectively wrong for liking it because there wasn't a crowd of people who agreed with you?
 
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DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
So someone says "5E is flawed in X ways"

and you retort "5E is popular, so your argument is invalid"
But then again... oftentimes it seems like a lot of the discussion on the boards actually comes down to...

"5E is flawed in X ways, and thus Y needs to happen to fix it, and WotC needs to put it in a book."

With the retort then being "5E is popular, and since it seems that most of those people who contribute to that popularity do not actually have the same problem with X or needs Y that you (and maybe a few others) do... there's no real reason for WotC to go out of their way to fix it. You can just fix it yourself in your home game."

To me THAT seems to be the argument that occurs more often. That a change only "counts" if WotC agrees with the person with the problem and adjusts the rules to match. And is why the comment of popularity usually gets brought up-- if nine out of ten people don't have the same issue of "quality" than the remaining tenth does... maybe that level of so-called quality isn't actually necessary? Or at least not on the timetable that tenth person's demanding?
 

HammerMan

Legend
But then again... oftentimes it seems like a lot of the discussion on the boards actually comes down to...

"5E is flawed in X ways, and thus Y needs to happen to fix it, and WotC needs to put it in a book."

With the retort then being "5E is popular, and since it seems that most of those people who contribute to that popularity do not actually have the same problem with X or needs Y that you (and maybe a few others) do... there's no real reason for WotC to go out of their way to fix it. You can just fix it yourself in your home game."

To me THAT seems to be the argument that occurs more often. That a change only "counts" if WotC agrees with the person with the problem and adjusts the rules to match. And is why the comment of popularity usually gets brought up-- if nine out of ten people don't have the same issue of "quality" than the remaining tenth does... maybe that level of so-called quality isn't actually necessary? Or at least not on the timetable that tenth person's demanding?
The problem is nobody here (most likely nobody at all) has access to know what people do and do not need fixed. By shutting down conversation you and others are trying to police the discussion
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
The problem is nobody here (most likely nobody at all) has access to know what people do and do not need fixed. By shutting down conversation you and others are trying to police the discussion
Heh... is anyone ACTUALLY shutting down the discussion though? I'm pretty sure the other people just keep talking about the issues they have even if one or more people keep chiming in with "What you say is a problem isn't actually a problem." The only time the discussion really gets "shut down" is when folks are tossed from the thread or the thread is closed. :)
 

HammerMan

Legend
Heh... is anyone ACTUALLY shutting down the discussion though? I'm pretty sure the other people just keep talking about the issues they have even if one or more people keep chiming in with "What you say is a problem isn't actually a problem." The only time the discussion really gets "shut down" is when folks are tossed from the thread or the thread is closed. :)
Except those people arguing is what gets people thrown out and threads shut down. In fact it seems to me to be a troll move to pick a fight with one of the posters who has a short fuse to try to get the thread shut down.

I HOPE I am being paranoid but I keep seeing the same people argue over the same issue in multi threads. They get kicked most times but some of those threads have been closed.

Even if NOBODY is kicked and the thread stays open it makes it a less welcoming space to talk and share ideas.

I’m general the issue isn’t even just coming in to say “I disagree”. It’s people who come in to disagree by “showing the whole thread is wrong”.
 

payn

Legend
Except those people arguing is what gets people thrown out and threads shut down. In fact it seems to me to be a troll move to pick a fight with one of the posters who has a short fuse to try to get the thread shut down.

I HOPE I am being paranoid but I keep seeing the same people argue over the same issue in multi threads. They get kicked most times but some of those threads have been closed.

Even if NOBODY is kicked and the thread stays open it makes it a less welcoming space to talk and share ideas.

I’m general the issue isn’t even just coming in to say “I disagree”. It’s people who come in to disagree by “showing the whole thread is wrong”.
People getting banned from threads is common, but locking down threads because of it less so. The thread either is going in forum rules violation or the topic of discussion is so far away from the OP topic and 30,40,50 pages deep at that point before lock. Stay within the rules and dont get personal and you wont have anything to worry about in my experience.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
The problem is nobody here (most likely nobody at all) has access to know what people do and do not need fixed.
The problem is that everyone wants to be personally catered to. And when the game has millions of people who play it...that's literally impossible to pull off. Which is why you end up with vague rules that sort of try to do everything sort of well enough but nothing great...because they're trying to appeal to the widest possible market...i.e. the lowest common denominator.

But there is a group who has access to a lot of data about what people think is broken and needs fixing. WotC. Trouble is...again...with millions of fans each pulling in different direction, they can't cater to everyone. They have to make design decisions that will be unpopular to some segment of their fanbase. It's literally impossible to make something that appeals to everyone equally.
 

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