The Monster Manual Is for Every Player During Every Moment of Every Dungeons & Dragons 5E Game
Last week, the Manual of Siraq was presented right here on Nerdarchy as a new Dungeons & Dragons 5E magic item for players. The Manual of Siraq is a distinctly unusual magic item that has a metagame purpose of allowing every Player Character in a gaming group to have access to the Monster Manual during every moment of every Dungeons & Dragons 5E game. This article is specifically targeted at explaining why the Manual of Siraq is needed.
FIXING D&D 5E FROM WITHIN D&D 5E
I was blessed to be discussing Dungeons & Dragons with a few Nerdarchy Dungeon Masters (DMs) and one of them commented that he really wishes he could play more because he is almost always in the DM seat. I agreed that good DMs are few and far between, and then we got into a discussion about why there are so few good DMs. My fellow Nerdarchy DM stated he felt this issue was a lack of mentoring and that by mentoring players to be good DMs, this problem can be fixed. I disagree with his stance at a fundamental level. DM mentoring is already being done to a high degree. There are dozens of blogs, YouTube channels and podcasts aimed specifically at mentoring new DMs. Additionally, many existing good DMs are preparing their players to step into the DM seat.
My fellow Nerdarchy DM went into exactly how a player should be mentored into DMing, and explained that done right this process takes time and dedication. My goal is for there to be tens of thousands of new, good DMs, ideally hundreds of thousands of new, good DMs. That requires a fix to the problem that scales and scales quickly. The problem of why there are not more good DMs is not that there is a lack of mentoring, it is two specific obstacles to players playing and enjoying Dungeons & Dragons 5E:
- Play Obstacle 1 – Takes far too long to play (typically four hours).
- Play Obstacle 2 – Rewards system mastery greatly and punishes casual play brutally.
The Manual of Siraq is designed specifically to solve the second Play Obstacle. As it stands now, in a typical Dungeons & Dragons 5E game the DM brings his Player Characters into a dungeon and confronts them with a monster. Each player then thinks about how best to defeat that monster. Here is what typically happens with a group of five Dungeons & Dragons 5E Players.
- Player 1 (Grognard) – Knows exactly how to defeat the monster because she has the Monster Manual entry memorized, but it does not matter because she is running a Cleric and while the player knows exactly how to approach defeating the monster, the Player Character cannot use that knowledge because the Player Character does not know that knowledge.
- Player 2 (Dutiful) – Is a great player and has bought all three Core Rulebooks and has the Monster Manual sitting in her bag where she can quickly look up how to defeat the monster, but it does not matter because there is a long standing tradition her DM adheres to (along with the vast majority of DMs) that players cannot read the Monster Manual during a game session.
- Player 3 (Newbie) – Has no idea how to defeat the monster and does not have a Monster Manual to check how to defeat the monster (but is really curious what the Monster Manual has to say about the monster).
- Player 4 (Showboater) – Is a dubiously motivated player playing a Ranger who is really looking forward to using her knowledge of the monster to carve the monster apart and lord her expertise over the other players.
- Player 5 (Hackster) – Is a player who wants her character to swing her sword and kill that monster immediately and could not give two displacer-beast tails about how best to approach defeating the monster (which is the same approach this player uses on every monster).
Here we see the problem: The Monster Manual is available at the table and there are players who need the Monster Manual to know how to fight the monsters the DM has presented, but because of long held DM traditions the information the Monster Manual holds is not available to those players who want it and/or need it.
This tradition comes from the 1980s and in the ’80s this tradition made sense. Then Dungeons & Dragons was limited to a group of players who were generally nerds, generally scholars. We were happy with that, with having a limited population of Dungeons & Dragons players and the game being a niche. Dungeons & Dragons was for nerds and scholars then. Today, we have moved past the Dungeons & Dragons community being a community of nerds and scholars. We want to include as many people as possible in the hobby now, which means we need to move past this tradition of holding that the Monster Manual is not to be accessed during game play. We need to change this tradition so players can use the Monster Manual during every moment of a play session.
In the ’80s, players would spend four hours playing in the game and then go home and read and reread the Monster Manual. A large reason for this was that there was far less to do in the ’80s. There were not hundreds of great movies, hundreds of great video games, a higher focus on family time and building deeper relationships with friends. The world has fundamentally changed and Dungeons & Dragons needs to change in order to be inclusive and to do the simple things that will allow players to use the information that is available to them in the Monster Manual to defeat the monsters they are presented. Players need to be able to defeat monsters not with the knowledge they gained outside of the game (which rewards system mastery) but from the knowledge they gained during the game (which rewards casual play). Unlocking the Monster Manual and allowing it to the be used by players transforms the game into four hours of –
- Using the Monster Manual the way we use the Player’s Handbook.
- Using the Monster Manual to increase our knowledge of the monsters we are fighting.
- Letting the game become a learning session as well as a fun session.
This is an absolutely critical change that needs to happen with Dungeons & Dragon 5E. The Monster Manual should be for all players at all time. That is the reason I wrote the Manual of Siraq. The Manual of Siraq solves the in-game problem of Player Characters not having the knowledge of the player. DMs now need to solve the problem of the tradition of keeping the Monster Manual out of the hands of players during game sessions (This change also has the added benefit of making the Monster Manual a useful purchase for players, which will reward Wizards of the Coast for the amazing work they have already done on Dungeons & Dragons 5E.)
I should note that the Nerdarchy Primarchs (Dave, Ted, Ryan and Nate) have built a platform where you can read Scott Garibay’s thoughts on Tabletop Roleplaying Games each week, but that does not mean that a single one of them agree with my thoughts. This is a Scott Garibay stance, not a Nerdarchy stance. With that said, I call upon every Dungeons & Dragons 5E DM to take that bold step and make the Monster Manual available to Every Player During Every Moment of Every Dungeons & Dragons 5E Game. Thank you and great gaming to you!
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