This weekend I finished reading the 5e DMG cover-to-cover.

My opinion hasn’t changed much since I posted about half-reading it over a year ago::
https://plus.google.com/+MarkDelsing/posts/KAzfPiVrEjy

The biggest fault I see emphasized now is the almost total lack of practical advice. Sure, there are more random tables now, but I don’t feel confident that this book would help me get a campaign started from scratch, much less get a dungeon prepped in time for game night.

And what really stuns me about this is that — thanks to the OSR, the Forge, ENWorld, previous WotC staff, and other sources — there is so much good advice for running D&D out there. I’ve linked to Matthew Colville’s excellent tutorial videos as an example; I’m an old hand at RPGs but I learn something new from Matt every episode I watch. How is the fifth DMG produced for D&D falling short in comparison to all of this fan effort? I don’t get it.

I could list a bunch of specific complaints, but I’ll leave you with just one that stood out to me: Alignment, as a topic, is never mentioned in this DMG. There’s talk of planar effects and magic items that forcibly change a PC’s alignment, but there is absolutely zero discussion of Alignment itself. I dunno, that seems exceedingly weird to me — especially since 5e brought back the more complex alignments from 3e and prior.

https://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=URLnX8U5Abs&u=%2Fplaylist%3Flist%3DPLlUk42GiU2guNzWBzxn7hs8MaV7ELLCP_

20 thoughts on “This weekend I finished reading the 5e DMG cover-to-cover.

  1. Yeah. The perfect DMG for me would be at least half a collection of useful procedures. (All of which could even be optional.) The other half could be creative content in the form of random tables.

  2. < ![CDATA[Yeah. The perfect DMG for me would be at least half a collection of useful procedures. (All of which could even be optional.) The other half could be creative content in the form of random tables.]]>

  3. Mark Delsing Yeah, I’ve said this before elsewhere. tl;dr. I would play D&D. But as GM I would make an argument for Symbaroum instead, assuming DW/BW are off the table.

    I would like to run a game RAW. There are several house rules out there that make D&D ‘nicer’ to GM…but house rules at a con?
    (I kinda dig: http://files.crngames.com/cc/sweet20/experience.html for XP). And I’ve gotten laughed/scoffed at about using the backgrounds bits and inspiration at pickup/com games. IME the players didn’t care about ’em. I wish they did.

    The exception, is our Chicago Sunday group. You folks make the game.

  4. < ![CDATA[Mark Delsing Yeah, I've said this before elsewhere. tl;dr. I would play D&D. But as GM I would make an argument for Symbaroum instead, assuming DW/BW are off the table.
    I would like to run a game RAW. There are several house rules out there that make D&D ‘nicer’ to GM…but house rules at a con?
    (I kinda dig: http://files.crngames.com/cc/sweet20/experience.html for XP). And I’ve gotten laughed/scoffed at about using the backgrounds bits and inspiration at pickup/com games. IME the players didn’t care about ’em. I wish they did.
    The exception, is our Chicago Sunday group. You folks make the game.]]>

  5. MadJay Brown Scoffed? Man, Backgrounds/Bonds/Flaws/Traits seem like 5e’s killer app to me! To ignore them begs the question of why not just play any other edition of D&D then?

    I wish I could get past my dislike for Symbaroum‘s rules, because the setting does seem pretty cool.

  6. < ![CDATA[MadJay Brown Scoffed? Man, Backgrounds/Bonds/Flaws/Traits seem like 5e's killer app to me! To ignore them begs the question of why not just play any other edition of D&D then?
    I wish I could get past my dislike for Symbaroum‘s rules, because the setting does seem pretty cool.]]>

  7. When they were first spinning up 5E, the largest feature they offered which never materialized was the idea of modular systems to facilitate completely different styles of play.

    I figured this would fall through, as to make changes at that level would mean completely different ways of prepping, different ways of deciding scenes/conflicts, and of course, different set ups for rewards – both the PHB and DMG would have to be 3x their current size and you’d also have to develop a language for people to know what the hell kind of game they were planning on running in the first place.

    That said, my guess for the failure of advice falls on two issues:

    1) They playtested mostly with people who already knew some form of D&D – those people never ask “Wait, how do I know what happens next? What are the rules for if the players walk into a house I made no prep for?” and other things new folks ask. No questions from playtesters, no need to include.

    2) Half of the heavy pushback against 4E was that it was very clear on the directives about how the game was to be played and structured. By leaving all this out, you avoid the pushback. (This falls into the shitty design of the 80s where “I left the engine block out of the car, so the car supports ALL ENGINES, SEE?!?” kind of logic).

    This second issue might be a little different if they had planned for fans to really handle that from the beginning – set up a wiki, put up some examples of different styles, let people add their own, put a few in the DMG and a big pointer to the website for more. It makes sense to let your fanbase be your developers and promoters, in this world of videos and podcasts of actual play and everyone pushing forward material. However, this isn’t a matter of good planning as much as “fill it in yourself, good luck”.

  8. < ![CDATA[When they were first spinning up 5E, the largest feature they offered which never materialized was the idea of modular systems to facilitate completely different styles of play. I figured this would fall through, as to make changes at that level would mean completely different ways of prepping, different ways of deciding scenes/conflicts, and of course, different set ups for rewards - both the PHB and DMG would have to be 3x their current size and you'd also have to develop a language for people to know what the hell kind of game they were planning on running in the first place. That said, my guess for the failure of advice falls on two issues: 1) They playtested mostly with people who already knew some form of D&D - those people never ask "Wait, how do I know what happens next? What are the rules for if the players walk into a house I made no prep for?" and other things new folks ask. No questions from playtesters, no need to include. 2) Half of the heavy pushback against 4E was that it was very clear on the directives about how the game was to be played and structured. By leaving all this out, you avoid the pushback. (This falls into the shitty design of the 80s where "I left the engine block out of the car, so the car supports ALL ENGINES, SEE?!?" kind of logic). This second issue might be a little different if they had planned for fans to really handle that from the beginning - set up a wiki, put up some examples of different styles, let people add their own, put a few in the DMG and a big pointer to the website for more. It makes sense to let your fanbase be your developers and promoters, in this world of videos and podcasts of actual play and everyone pushing forward material. However, this isn't a matter of good planning as much as "fill it in yourself, good luck".]]>

  9. I wonder if this is a trend? Exalted 3e has zero of its several hundred pages dedicated to “how to run the game”. It has the standard “one player is different” boilerplate, and odd sidebars about the Storyteller’s responsibilities with respect to specific rules, but that’s it.

    From a less mainstream angle, Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine also has next to nothing in the “how to run the game” department. It has some stuff about how NPCs are different from PCs, but nothing about scenes, pacing, etc. etc.

    Of course, games like just about anything Apocalypse Engine go the opposite direction, with actual hard-and-fast rules (practically unthinkable in Rule Zero world) for the MC. So it’s not universal. But it seems like certain corners of the tabletop RPG design space have given up on helping their world-and-NPCs players learn how to play.

  10. < ![CDATA[I wonder if this is a trend? Exalted 3e has zero of its several hundred pages dedicated to “how to run the game”. It has the standard “one player is different” boilerplate, and odd sidebars about the Storyteller’s responsibilities with respect to specific rules, but that’s it.
    From a less mainstream angle, Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine also has next to nothing in the “how to run the game” department. It has some stuff about how NPCs are different from PCs, but nothing about scenes, pacing, etc. etc.
    Of course, games like just about anything Apocalypse Engine go the opposite direction, with actual hard-and-fast rules (practically unthinkable in Rule Zero world) for the MC. So it’s not universal. But it seems like certain corners of the tabletop RPG design space have given up on helping their world-and-NPCs players learn how to play.]]>

  11. I’m with you. I wonder if they figured that Lost Mine of Phandelver would somehow do most (all?) of the lifting in training new DMs? It absolutely can’t, but I wonder if that was their idea.

  12. < ![CDATA[I'm with you. I wonder if they figured that Lost Mine of Phandelver would somehow do most (all?) of the lifting in training new DMs? It absolutely can’t, but I wonder if that was their idea.]]>