D&D 5E Why Don't We Simplify 5e?


ETA: If you roleplay your character as person living in a real-to-them world, the game mechanics don't matter.

This is bluntly nonsense unless you both have a GM and player well on the same page, and a GM who can maintain consistency over time better than any I've ever seen in my life. Given the matter at hand, a mage should have a pretty clear idea what his spells will do, and if you're asking me to believe that most GMs are going to be consistent about that with dozens of spells over time, I flat out don't believe it.

So you don't need to worry about them. Not only do you not need to know them, you mostly don't need to have any. If knowing the game mechanics will change the decisions you make for your character, that's metagaming, and playing to the rules of the game rather than playing a person living in a real-to-them world.

No, its having your character actually understand how his world and his abilities work rather than guessing from one time to the next. There's nothing metagaming about that.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Exactly. If you know the world, the game rules are irrelevant.

As long as you’re in the same ballpark you’re close enough. Variance of understanding is fine. We’re talking about an elfgame, there’s no need for perfection.

LOL. Really? The rules clarify? Okay, so then explain all the rules arguments and disagreements that happen around these games.

Otherwise, instead you just get arguments about how it would really work or what makes sense. If you somehow find that easier or works better, well, good on you, I guess.
 

Exactly. If you know the world, the game rules are irrelevant.

As long as you’re in the same ballpark you’re close enough. Variance of understanding is fine. We’re talking about an elfgame, there’s no need for perfection.

LOL. Really? The rules clarify? Okay, so then explain all the rules arguments and disagreements that happen around these games.
I'll admit that in the last one, I misspoke: good rules clarify. But removing unclear rules and putting nothing in their place just replaces the mud with fog.

Because if a lack of rules is always clearer, explain all the arguments about what "makes sense" that dominate nearly every rules-lite game I've been in.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
If I was to Streamline 5e D&D…
I agree with a lot of the stuff here. It might make for a very cool 5e-based OSR. There's a few things I disagree with though, of course:

Ditch skills. Go with 13th age/Barbarians of Lemuria style Backgrounds/Careers as Skills. 4-5 per PC.
I don't know those games. However, one of the issues I've seen with Fate (which I do know) is that it's really easy to tie everything into your High Concept if you phrase it properly. "Since I'm a Barbarian From A Magic-Hating Tribe, I clearly know enough about magic to be able to decipher these magical runes. I'll even spend a Fate point to do it!" It sounds like if you make backgrounds, careers, class, race, or something broad like that into a skill, you'd end up with a similar problem. (Unless, of course, those games do skills in a completely different way from how you're making it sound.)

Distinct types of spell lists like PF. Mage (Trad Blast and cast), Drudic (Nature stuff), Sorcery (Summoning things), Miracles (Cleric powers). The classes primarily learn and focus on the spells of their class, but make an in-game way to learn a few spells from others.
Personally, I like some of the wizard spells that don't fit into "blast and cast" since they're often very flavorful or mythic in concept, and that works well in a game like D&D. I'd be happy if they were more like unique rituals rather than just "ho-hum, I leveled up so I might as well take tiny hut." But I wouldn't want to get rid of them.

Also, not to just list the wizard archetypes at you, but they mostly do fit standard tropes. You know of the enchanter, the illusionist, the necromancer, the summoner, the transmuter (or alchemst, if you like). They're all very D&D-style fantasy. Whether this simplified version has multiple mage classes and spell lists, or wizards who have to choose a type of magic when they're created--either way, but they should stay.

Which brings me to this:

Feats are gone. Subclasses are gone. Multiclass gone.
Subclasses. Actually one of my favorite things in 5e. While I know that you have class abilities you can choose from, the most important thing for subclasses is that they provide a theme, and random abilities won't cut it--especially since you can min-max to your heart's content this way.

Stop all HP progression at lvl 5. All other level increases occur normally. So the characters get more powerful, yet still retain a certain vulnerability to threats.
Personally, I'd do what they used to do, which is to give warrior-classes +3/level after they stop getting Hit Dice, squishy spellcasters +1/level afterwards, and +2/level for everyone in the middle. Or let people keep getting their Con bonus afterwards.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Otherwise, instead you just get arguments about how it would really work or what makes sense. If you somehow find that easier or works better, well, good on you, I guess.
Only if you have argumentative people. A player disagrees with the GM’s call. Either default to the GM and move on or make an opposed roll to see who’s opinion is used and move on. Anyone who’s willing to argue and argue and argue and argue about something isn’t someone I’d want at my table. GM or player.
I'll admit that in the last one, I misspoke: good rules clarify. But removing unclear rules and putting nothing in their place just replaces the mud with fog.
Hardly. You’re replacing the rules someone else thought up with the shared sense of the world at the table while you’re playing. If the group thinks X should happen, it does. Why do you need to defer to someone else’s imagination?
Because if a lack of rules is always clearer, explain all the arguments about what "makes sense" that dominate nearly every rules-lite game I've been in.
Because they didn’t follow the golden rule or rules light gaming. If there’s a disagreement, default to the GM or roll off. I mean, ultimately, most of the things gamers argue about are nonsense that don’t matter. Unless it’s a question of character death, who cares? Most complaints about this kind of thing are from white-room theorycrafting going straight for edge cases that would most likely never actually come up at the table.

For example, can a daemon get through a wizard locked door? Do you have a daemon actively trying to get through a wizard locked door? No. Well, then it doesn’t matter. If it does, that’s literally what the GM is for. To decide on the things the rules don’t cover and to ignore the rules if/when necessary. This just takes that a step further and back to the before times, back the birth of the hobby.
 

Only if you have argumentative people.

I could say that about rules arguments, too. Frankly, I think most people are argumentative enough for both purposes.

A player disagrees with the GM’s call. Either default to the GM and move on or make an opposed roll to see who’s opinion is used and move on. Anyone who’s willing to argue and argue and argue and argue about something isn’t someone I’d want at my table. GM or player.

And I'd say anyone who isn't willing to at least argue some really doesn't care about outcomes.

Or put another way, I don't think expecting everyone to be limp noodles here is a good argument for something working well outside of very specific group dynamics.

Hardly. You’re replacing the rules someone else thought up with the shared sense of the world at the table while you’re playing. If the group thinks X should happen, it does. Why do you need to defer to someone else’s imagination?

Again, assumes a group will all agree on what happens. If that's generally been your experience, I am suddenly less surprised you think this is all a good idea.

Because they didn’t follow the golden rule or rules light gaming. If there’s a disagreement, default to the GM or roll off. I mean, ultimately, most of the things gamers argue about are nonsense that don’t matter. Unless it’s a question of character death, who cares? Most complaints about this kind of thing are from white-room theorycrafting going straight for edge cases that would most likely never actually come up at the table.

This is an offhand dismissal that ignores people have seen this sort of stuff come up at the table by people who think because they haven't that's somehow a universal case.

For example, can a daemon get through a wizard locked door? Do you have a daemon actively trying to get through a wizard locked door? No. Well, then it doesn’t matter. If it does, that’s literally what the GM is for. To decide on the things the rules don’t cover and to ignore the rules if/when necessary. This just takes that a step further and back to the before times, back the birth of the hobby.

And I saw this sort of thing create problems back in 1975, so let's not act like its some new thing.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I could say that about rules arguments, too. Frankly, I think most people are argumentative enough for both purposes.

And I'd say anyone who isn't willing to at least argue some really doesn't care about outcomes.
There's discussion about a disagreement then there's arguing. If we disagree, that's discussion. If voices get raised or the discussion lasts more than a minute or two, it becomes an argument. There's literally nothing about an elfgame that needs to be argued about.
Or put another way, I don't think expecting everyone to be limp noodles here is a good argument for something working well outside of very specific group dynamics.
What an odd excluded middle you're presenting. Either people will argue until they're blue in the face or they're limp noodles.
Again, assumes a group will all agree on what happens. If that's generally been your experience, I am suddenly less surprised you think this is all a good idea.
Not really. It assumes that the majority of the time they will agree, but when they don't there's a way to handle it. Defer to the GM. If a player is so bent on getting their way and the GM is agreeable (or not interested in further argument), they can roll off to see who's opinion is used and move on.
This is an offhand dismissal that ignores people have seen this sort of stuff come up at the table by people who think because they haven't that's somehow a universal case.
And the reverse is true. Just because something bad happened at your table doesn't make it universally bad.
And I saw this sort of thing create problems back in 1975, so let's not act like its some new thing.
I literally referenced the beginning of the hobby. No one's pretending it's new.
 

There's discussion about a disagreement then there's arguing. If we disagree, that's discussion. If voices get raised or the discussion lasts more than a minute or two, it becomes an argument. There's literally nothing about an elfgame that needs to be argued about.

I'm going to be blunt: my cynical view is that this is definition based on the level you like and what you don't. I don't disagree about the yelling part, but how long is appropriate for an argument is not something anyone but the person making the point can define.

What an odd excluded middle you're presenting. Either people will argue until they're blue in the face or they're limp noodles.

I'm presenting hyperbole that I think reflects how you've presented the other side.

Not really. It assumes that the majority of the time they will agree, but when they don't there's a way to handle it. Defer to the GM. If a player is so bent on getting their way and the GM is agreeable (or not interested in further argument), they can roll off to see who's opinion is used and move on.

"Getting their way". See that "limp noodle" comment you objected to? This was the kind of thing it was in response to.

(That said, the fact you're willing to split the difference with the roll-off comment already puts you several steps up from most people I see make these kind of arguments).

And the reverse is true. Just because something bad happened at your table doesn't make it universally bad.

I'm also not just referring to my table. Though I kind of think given how frequently I saw this sort of problem come up in the OD&D days in different groups I've got a right to my opinion here, and that was just in the first few years of the hobby.

I literally referenced the beginning of the hobby. No one's pretending it's new.

And your phrasing seemed to suggest "this worked back in the early days, why not now?" My answer to that is "It was often a hell of a problem in the early days, too."
 

My question would be: what is the role of the GM and what is the appropriate scope of "ruling not rules"?

My memories of playing as a child/pre-teen were that there were a lot of arguments, because the game (basic) leaves a lot to interpretation, and 11 year olds like to argue. But as an adult, my players (who are also my friends) come to the table wanting to have fun, not argue.

In this sense, I think ruling not rules--that is, a high-trust game--works best when the GM is not the totally neutral "referee," but has a little bit of the "be a fan of the PCs" in them. Basically, it's more fun for everyone when what the PCs try to do could plausibly work, depending on the dice. Both the 1e "referee" gm and the 3e rules over rulings style creates, imo, a possibly adversarial game in a way that is not fun.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
No, its having your character actually understand how his world and his abilities work rather than guessing from one time to the next. There's nothing metagaming about that.
To quote you, this is bluntly nonsense. No one in the world has the perfect, encyclopedic understanding of the rules they live by that are provided by the game book the players at the table read. Especially if we're talking about a faux-medieval world like the ones presented in most fantasy games. The people in the world would know basic stuff, sure. But they would know nothing about the game's mechanics.

A character would know they're hurt, they might know they feel like they're dying...but they wouldn't know what hit points are and they certainly wouldn't be able to make tactical decisions based on that knowledge. Your character won't know the details of a spell and how it works, for example, unless they learned that spell or happened to have studied about it (arcana check). They wouldn't know if a wizard lock worked on a daemon, for example...unless the wizard who taught it to them knew that, etc.

It's also telling that so many of the wizards and sorcerers in the world just happen to have only the best spells. Isn't that odd. You'd think that a character living in the world...some character...somewhere...would have picked a bad spell up along the way. And if generation after generation of wizards only pick the best spells, the rest would be lost to time.

Like I said, players don't need to know the rules. If the player alters their decisions for their character based on the rules of the game, that's proof they shouldn't know the rules. Play your character as if they're a living person in this world. People behave and act quite differently than the player characters.
I'm going to be blunt: my cynical view is that this is definition based on the level you like and what you don't. I don't disagree about the yelling part, but how long is appropriate for an argument is not something anyone but the person making the point can define.
That's arguing until you win because you know you're right so screw the game and everyone else at the table...I'm right dammit...territory. I will argue until I feel like not arguing any more. Jesus. That's legit someone with the argumentative flaw. What kind of nasty trolls have you played with?
(That said, the fact you're willing to split the difference with the roll-off comment already puts you several steps up from most people I see make these kind of arguments).
That's odd to me as it's a fairly common practice in a lot of ultra-light play. Default to the GM, but if someone digs in, roll off. Because the game is the thing. Actually playing. Not sitting around arguing about playing. Again, unless the GM's call is going to kill your character and you don't agree with that outcome, most arguments are pointless nonsense. Unless it comes up in play, it doesn't matter. And we don't need to have rules that cover everything or worry about every situation a spell could possibly be used in up front. What a nightmare.
And your phrasing seemed to suggest "this worked back in the early days, why not now?" My answer to that is "It was often a hell of a problem in the early days, too."
For some people, maybe. Others loved it and never stopped using it.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
My question would be: what is the role of the GM and what is the appropriate scope of "ruling not rules"?

My memories of playing as a child/pre-teen were that there were a lot of arguments, because the game (basic) leaves a lot to interpretation, and 11 year olds like to argue. But as an adult, my players (who are also my friends) come to the table wanting to have fun, not argue.

In this sense, I think ruling not rules--that is, a high-trust game--works best when the GM is not the totally neutral "referee," but has a little bit of the "be a fan of the PCs" in them. Basically, it's more fun for everyone when what the PCs try to do could plausibly work, depending on the dice. Both the 1e "referee" gm and the 3e rules over rulings style creates, imo, a possibly adversarial game in a way that is not fun.
That's all well and good to say, but 5e takes it to a level beyond that where you often have very unfinished spitballs of an idea that hang their unfinished state behind ask your gm For example...
1629335469578.png
Do any of them do anything? How can a player use them if they build one. What about a fort, is that bigger or smaller than a small keep & which is more defensive?... ask your GM. That's not to say these are burning questions relevant to anyone's game or deeply desired features... They are just an example of 5e's overreliance on ask your gm where it doesn't belong. Want to something relevant to many campaigns like craft magic items?... ask your gm... sure xge has has a section of "rules" for it, but most of it is left to the GM to finish then derail their campaign to make adventures for you to get supplies for crafting.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
A character would know they're hurt, they might know they feel like they're dying...but they wouldn't know what hit points are and they certainly wouldn't be able to make tactical decisions based on that knowledge. Your character won't know the details of a spell and how it works, for example, unless they learned that spell or happened to have studied about it (arcana check). They wouldn't know if a wizard lock worked on a daemon, for example...unless the wizard who taught it to them knew that, etc.

Don't all wizards learn the spells, and would thus know the details of the spell? Details which could easily be in the PhB?

It feels like an odd and very non-D&D world where the trained wizards didn't know roughly how many people could be affected by sleep or charm person for example, and I'm not sure what benefit is gained by not having that detail in.

Like I said, players don't need to know the rules. If the player alters their decisions for their character based on the rules of the game, that's proof they shouldn't know the rules.
Why wouldn't the Wizard who learned the spell know the basic rules of how the spells works?

Play your character as if they're a living person in this world. People behave and act quite differently than the player characters.

There are entire threads on metagaming. This is how you want it to work, and not how everyone's tables run.

That's odd to me as it's a fairly common practice in a lot of ultra-light play. Default to the GM, but if someone digs in, roll off. Because the game is the thing.
Or just flip to the page in the rules that says if it can be done quickly?

And we don't need to have rules that cover everything or worry about every situation a spell could possibly be used in up front. What a nightmare.
We've never had rules to cover everything. But it feels like there are some common things that always come up (number of targets? dice of damage? range?) that have pretty much always been included in the D&D rules.

That's arguing until you win because you know you're right so screw the game and everyone else at the table...I'm right dammit...territory. I will argue until I feel like not arguing any more. Jesus. That's legit someone with the argumentative flaw.
Like lots of people in threads on here? :)
 
Last edited:

Faolyn

(she/her)
A character would know they're hurt, they might know they feel like they're dying...but they wouldn't know what hit points are and they certainly wouldn't be able to make tactical decisions based on that knowledge. Your character won't know the details of a spell and how it works, for example, unless they learned that spell or happened to have studied about it (arcana check). They wouldn't know if a wizard lock worked on a daemon, for example...unless the wizard who taught it to them knew that, etc.
A spell--which presumably takes of at least a page of text in your spellbook, if not the 1 page/level as in some earlier editions--will likely have information as to how it works. While it won't be written in the dryly encyclopedic way that spells are written in the PH, I wouldn't be surprised if it contained phrasing such as "ye Arcane-locked door keeps shutte, & not Personne nor Beast nor Daemon shall render it Twain, save through ye moste brutal Acts of Strengthe & ye very-moste clever-fingered of Thieves. To caste thys spell, thou must taketh an Ounce of golden Dust and..." and so forth.

It's also telling that so many of the wizards and sorcerers in the world just happen to have only the best spells. Isn't that odd. You'd think that a character living in the world...some character...somewhere...would have picked a bad spell up along the way. And if generation after generation of wizards only pick the best spells, the rest would be lost to time.
The 2e Wizard's Spell Compendium was something like a thousand pages long. The vast majority haven't been published in 5e. Even ignoring campaign-specific spells, I'd say that most spells have been lost to time.
 

That's all well and good to say, but 5e takes it to a level beyond that where you often have very unfinished spitballs of an idea that hang their unfinished state behind ask your gm For example...
Do any of them do anything? How can a player use them if they build one. What about a fort, is that bigger or smaller than a small keep & which is more defensive?... ask your GM. That's not to say these are burning questions relevant to anyone's game or deeply desired features... They are just an example of 5e's overreliance on ask your gm where it doesn't belong. Want to something relevant to many campaigns like craft magic items?... ask your gm... sure xge has has a section of "rules" for it, but most of it is left to the GM to finish then derail their campaign to make adventures for you to get supplies for crafting.
The 5e dmg is terrible, and include all of these legacy facets of the game that the designers clearly don't care about anymore. OSE manages to be more useful in about as many words. Also, 5e says it's "ruling not rules," but in practice is actually lots of rules without procedures of play. Many of the problems that come up--how to run a dungeon, wilderness travel/exploration, talking to monsters instead of combat--could be addressed if they just carried over and maybe updated some of the procedures from earlier editions
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Don't all wizards learn the spells, and would thus know the details of the spell? Details which could easily be in the PhB?
Wizards might learn about some spells, but they clearly don't learn all the spells. And there's no reason to assume the student wizard would get to pick which spells they learn. Their teacher would likely decide what the young wizard actually learned. Why assume a perfectly stocked wizard school and/or library with spells easily available? It's a conceit that makes no sense in the fantasy world, it only exists to make it easier as a game.
It feels like an odd and very non-D&D world where the trained wizards didn't know roughly how many people could be affected by sleep or charm person for example, and I'm not sure what benefit is gained by not having that detail in.
Roughly, not exactly. And only the spells they know. But you generally get a table full of gamers who know most of the spells by heart and tend to be quite vocal about which spells are good and which are trash...which impacts caster players. There's a heap of metagaming around.
Why wouldn't the Wizard who learned the spell know the basic rules of how the spells works?
Basics, yes. Perfect details of exactly how the mechanics of the game work and perfect knowledge of any and all edge cases, certainly not.
This is how you want it to work, and not how everyone's tables run.
I never suggested otherwise. That's all any of these threads are. How we want it to work and not how everyone's table runs.
Or just flip to the page in the rules that says if it can be done quickly?
Or just ignore the book and have the GM make a call in the moment and save 5 minutes every time a question comes up.
We've never had rules to cover everything. But it feels like there are some common things that always come up (number of targets? dice of damage? range?) that have pretty much always been included in the D&D rules.
Some editions certainly tried to cover everything. Besides, we already have rules that cover everything. The GM and the players at the table. What the books have are guidelines. The table can decide just fine without a book. It's not holy writ.
A spell--which presumably takes of at least a page of text in your spellbook, if not the 1 page/level as in some earlier editions--will likely have information as to how it works. While it won't be written in the dryly encyclopedic way that spells are written in the PH, I wouldn't be surprised if it contained phrasing such as "ye Arcane-locked door keeps shutte, & not Personne nor Beast nor Daemon shall render it Twain, save through ye moste brutal Acts of Strengthe & ye very-moste clever-fingered of Thieves. To caste thys spell, thou must taketh an Ounce of golden Dust and..." and so forth.
As general ideas for what they do, yes. But not so detailed that the character knows the game mechanics of the spell. Like those edge cases where players use the game mechanics to get a bit extra. Nah.
The 2e Wizard's Spell Compendium was something like a thousand pages long. The vast majority haven't been published in 5e. Even ignoring campaign-specific spells, I'd say that most spells have been lost to time.
I'm talking about in the fiction of the game world, not what the game companies have published. It is 1152 pages long.
 



teitan

Legend
A lot of the game's complexity comes from the spells, which are not one of the optional items you listed.
Yes but when you bring in something like magic you can't really get simple per se. That's why I said if you get any simpler you've got BX. Basic Fantasy will scratch that itch in that case, also Swords & Wizardry, White Box Medieval Adventure Game are two other options. DCC is also comparably simpler while providing a nice complexity at the same time.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Yes but when you bring in something like magic you can't really get simple per se. That's why I said if you get any simpler you've got BX. Basic Fantasy will scratch that itch in that case, also Swords & Wizardry, White Box Medieval Adventure Game are two other options. DCC is also comparably simpler while providing a nice complexity at the same time.
You absolutely could get simpler. Make casting an arcana check. Base the DC on the effect you want. Higher level effects have higher DCs which are too high for low-level casters. Give each school rough parameters of what it can do. That would take maybe 5-10 pages and would cover the entire magic section of the PHB.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Yes but when you bring in something like magic you can't really get simple per se. That's why I said if you get any simpler you've got BX. Basic Fantasy will scratch that itch in that case, also Swords & Wizardry, White Box Medieval Adventure Game are two other options. DCC is also comparably simpler while providing a nice complexity at the same time.
Which all goes to show that you can simplify 5e.
 

Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top