Random DnD advice (for DMs, primarily)

2017 February 20
by mackan

What the title says, so let’s just jump into this random post.

  1. Would I have started over today with new players at my table, I would make them keep their class “secret” to one another. At least through the first few levels.

    This is simply to help them start ROLEplaying. By having to show what they are good at, instead of telling the other players their class’ stats, players have to rethink tactics and strategy. It also makes for a perfect way to teach everyone on how to do skill checks and attack rolls, regarding of what tactical role you “should” have in a traditional DnD party.

  2. Would I have started over today, I would also have lost the magic system(s) of DnD and picked up the one from Dungeon Crawl Classics instead. (The link goes to the Beta rules pdf. But you should buy this book, and support the makers. ‘Cause it is great.)

    I am simply not that fond of the binary way a spell either works or fails in DnD. Which made me write my own sort of magic system, used by Witches, in my campaign setting. But I digress. The cool thing about the DCC system is all the ways a fumble on a spell might really blow up in your face.

    Some people would criticize the DCC magic to require you to have spell cards printed out, so that you could remember all the different effects and stuff. And this is probably true. BUT. You kind of already have to do that in DnD anyway. You have to remember which spells requires INT, WIS or CHA, which spells requires a save against it and which are cast in a special way. Which are real “spells” and which are cast as rituals. Etc, etc, etc. My only point here is that the spells in DnD are not very streamlined, rules wise, and then you can use another system which actually add some new features as well.

    Because here is my other critique of the DnD magic; it is basically tons and tons of spells that all “zap” someone or “zap area”. I don’t say that there are not other spells aswell, but it feels as if every other spell is like “zap”, with a little difference on range, and how often you can use it.

    I think that this is in part a relic of earlier versions of the game, whereas in DnD4 everyone had “powers” and most powers, to be honest, were different names for the same effect.

  3. I am thinking about permanently disabling a PC who drops to 1 or 0 HP. With a mechanic such as this (for blindness).

  4. Would I have started over today, I would not let PC’s choose a class (or maybe just Rogue or Fighter) until, like, level 3.

    Wow, DnD5 certainly made a lot of spellcasting classes. Basically, now a Ranger is a Fighter-Druid, a Paladin is a Fighter-Cleric, a Monk is a Barbarian-Cleric and add to this all the usual Bard, Cleric, Druid, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard (did I forget any?). So… What? 9 out 12 classes are now some sort of spellcaster. This has a DnD4-”everyone has Powers” legacy vibe to it.

    But it makes it so much harder for new players to actually learn the core mechanics of the game. So this is my first critique of it; You don’t learn the core stuff before specializing. Stuff such as skill checks, saves, how to attack and move during combat, but more importantly – how to actually roleplay.

    When everyone has learned how to role play, how to mechanically play the game and use the dice, then you can add magic.

    Also – is there really a good reason to have all these different kinds of classes of what used to be a Wizard? Can’t we just have a unified spell casting supplement and sort of add on the flavours? That would also mean weeding out some of the different names for “Zap!” (you don’t have to know if it’s a sorcerer, warlock or druid zap…).

    ALL magic also takes a lot of extra time. Often the spellcaster don’t know beforehand what kind of “Zap” s/he wants to do and it takes a while, sometimes minutes, in a battle round before you have the stats checked up (save? No? OK, spellcasting ability, spell casting bonus, spell level aaaaaand….) and is hard for the player to memoraize and prep beforehand. So. Some streamlining regarding magic is probably a good thing

I realize it sounds like I am hating on DnD, and especially the magic. I don’t. I love DnD and when I play, I almost always play a spell casting role (since a year; a warlock). So this is more just a random selection of advice and thoughts. Feel free to comment and discuss below.

Happy gaming! Always! That’s what counts!

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