It seems like there’s more focus on the numbers than the character…

Greetings Mike and Trevor and Chris,
I’d like to tackle a touchy subject in 5e. I guess I’d like to call it: “Numbers vs Role-play”.
If you ever stroll over to the /r/dndnext forums, or sat in some Adventurer’s League games, you’d know there are a lot of people playing 5e who seem to kind of play it like a tabletop video game. While min-maxing has always been around, it seems to be more prevalent now than in days gone by, and seems is the operative word.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with min-maxing itself, as long as everyone is having fun. However, when players, as a trend, focus more on what damage they do than what role they are playing, it makes me scratch my head and wonder what impression the game is imparting on the players and in what direction the game is going.
Now, everyone likes big numbers. 2d10, 6d8, whatever – that’s all cool and fun. Of course it’s just number bloat, and if it sells the product, then that’s great. But when I look at the product marketing, and in that I include interactive product marketing like Chris’ Acquisitions Incorporated and Adventurer’s League, I see a lot of focus on “roll the dice for big numbers”. I’m reminded of those episodes of “Press Your Luck”: “Big money, Big money, no whammies, no whammies!”. It doesn’t feel right.
When I think of D&D, I think of stories of epic proportion. I think of great adventure and the forging of heroes in the crucible of change and strife. I think of tales which wander in the backyard of Tolkein and other greats (“Let me tell you of the days of high adventure!”).
But what I see so often around here for 5e is “how do I max my rogue damage?”, “what’s the best multiclass for paladin?”, or “I did this with my action, bonus action, then this this this and dealt 86 points to the BBEG in my DM’s campaign and killed him in 1 round, LOL!”.
It seems like there’s more focus on the numbers than the character. And if that’s the case, and that’s what the players seem to want, then what’s 5.5e going to look like? Or 6e?
Is this something that you guys are thinking about? Does there need to be a paradigm shift? Does there need to be a re-emphasis of the R in RPG?One of the big things we’ve tried to do with 5e is give everyone the chance to play the game they want to. For some people, that’s building a powerful character.
I think that’s always been in the game, it’s just now with the Internet and streaming we can see other people playing. I would say that if you look at why people find Acquisitions Inc. fun, or streaming groups like Critical Role, it lies in the characters, stories, and events at the table. Sure, combat is fun, but I think people are much more focused on who the characters are than their stats.
In terms of new editions, it’s way too early to say anything. I think our focus would be on a fairly simple approach – streamline or remove rules that are proving troublesome, make sure character options are fun and flavorful, and improve elements to match what DMs and players want out of them.Comment
from discussion D&D AMA with Mike Mearls and Chris Lindsay 1/15.

One thought on “It seems like there’s more focus on the numbers than the character…

  1. I he says that munchkining (is that even a word?) is more prevalent now, I guess he skipped 3/3.5 🙂

    Just saying, I feel the exact opposite, 5e is extremely focused on story 😀

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.