Twitter-Inspired Thoughts, Part II: 5th Edition D&D Is Accessible. So What? @newbiedm @Dm_LSP @MerricB @Pablodnd @DarkplaneDM @LeslieGMgrrl @ChattyDM #DnD #5e

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Last Saturday, I tweeted the following.

All of those discussions were inspired by or involved NewbieDM, S Keldor lord of Castle Greyskull DMLSP (that’s a mouthful), Roving Band of Misfits, and Merric Blackman. I can say that NewbieDM and Merric are good at doing that; I’ve never interacted with S Keldor. Note that while I’ll be quoting them in these posts, much like my brain at 3 am acknowledged about me, I can’t do their arguments justice either. You’ll have to click through to see everything they’ve said. My only purpose here is to express my own opinions while providing context for their genesis and giving credit to those that inspired them. If you want to know what they think, click through and ask them to clarify.

To keep my posts short, each issue will be dealt with in its own post, all with this same introduction. | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV |Part V |

Part #2: 5th Edition D&D Is Accessible. So What?

This one starts with NewbieDM.

Notice my comment: 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons is accessible. In our community, that means there’s a low bar to entry, so I was saying that picking up 5th Edition is easy for new players. I’m not alone in my view.
This is certainly going to be shorter than yesterday’s post, because that’s my entire point.

We all understand why it’s important for a game to be accessible: You can’t sell books to new or casual players if the game is too complex. People want instant (or at least quick) gratification from their games. If they’re always being run over by the hardcore gamers that study the game as if it was their full-time job, then the game’s community will inevitably consist of only hardcore gamers. Game designers need to keep that big picture in mind. However, there’s more to the big picture. They also have to appeal to their current players, giving them more to discover as they learn the game. If the game doesn’t keep giving more at a rate that satisfies players’ needs for new material, and the release schedule doesn’t compensate for that, then the success won’t last.

Also of note is that the one and only serious gripe I have about 5e is its encounter building system. You have to run your numbers through a formula to produce your encounter, then run that encounter through another formula to get it right, solving a partial differential equation along the way (not really). Even then, creatures like the Banshee make it impossible to know whether those formulas produced an encounter with the intended difficulty. As for DMs — and more to the point, adventure designers — the game really isn’t that accessible, and I lost interest in trying to build fair or accurate encounters long before other things took me away from playing RPGs. The only thing that saves 5e in this narrow regard is, as I said yesterday, the beauty of the 5e Monster Manual. So, we have a low barrier to entry for players, resulting in a huge number of players buying Player’s Handbooks, but a high barrier to entry to casual adventure designers, resulting in a huge number of DMs resorting to buying adventures. Hmmm, good marketing strategy, I guess. 🙂

So, all but one of the responses I saw to NewbieDM’s tweet mentioned accessibility, and that’s great, but only one mentioned anything else. This shared observation answers NewbieDM’s question as such: Other than accessibility, the consensus is that 5e doesn’t do anything better than any prior edition of D&D. This isn’t a fatal flaw, of course, because 5e is fun, and people are sticking with it. Perhaps a focus on accessibility is the best approach. After all, 5e is reported to be selling better than all previous editions, but that observation seems to ignore another part of the bigger picture. Could they have done even better if they had taken a different approach? Is the reason for their unprecedented success based on other factors that didn’t apply before (and may not apply in the future)? Despite the success, is there yet another lesson to learn for other game designers? Well, that’s for my next post on these Twitter thoughts and will probably be far more controversial.

More foreshadowing!

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Newbie DM @newbiedm
Follow S Keldor lord of Castle Greyskull DMLSP @Dm_LSP
Follow Merric Blackman @MerricB
Follow Roving Band of Misfits @bandofmisfits
Follow Pablo Holguin @Pablodnd
Follow Graham Ward @DarkplaneDM
Follow Leslie @LeslieGMgrrl
Follow Philippe-Antoine Menard @ChattyDM

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

In case the tweets are deleted, here are images of them: