I have been DM'ing a table for close to a year where we play around 3 times a month. The majority of my players are new to role-playing games and DnD 5th edition. All of them came to me and asked if I would teach them the game and DM for the table. We first played a level 1-5 campaign where we fought basic enemies, did light dungeon exploring, and interacted with NPCs. At first, they were really engaged and excited about learning their character abilities and the rules of the game. They really wanted to level up fast so they could get more powerful, but I wanted to make sure they could grasp their characters at the current level before adding more complexity too fast. We later changed settings of the campaign and they continued to level their characters, eventually ending at level 9.
After a few months, it seemed that all of my players started to forget even the basics of combat and skill checks. Though they still seemed really engaged in the story, they seemed to lose interest in the mechanics of the game. Combat started to take longer, because I'd have to stop and explain their skills and abilities, which in turn makes other less engaged - compounding the problem.
When I DM, we typically play theater of the mind, but I bring out a map and miniatures for combats to help players see how many enemies are in play and where everyone is. I find this helps people stay engaged. I really don't use any homebrew rules, though I do sometimes handwave some of the more annoying rules (distance, changing weapons) to keep combat flowing. (e.g. "Am I close enough to attack?" "Sure, you can reach that enemy"). We also have access to all the books on DnDBeyond by sharing with a subscription so access to the rules isn't an issue.
What I tried:
- When we created characters, I sat down with each of the new players and we talked through each of their classes features, what their 'bread-and-butter' turn in combat should look like and how they can combine their abilities to make some strong plays.
- I helped my players create cheat-sheets that had their go-to abilities, attacks, and spells to help remind them of what their class and characters are best at doing.
- I frequently reminded players before our sessions to review their spells and features so they understood them.
- I would do some post-combat analysis with players that took relatively inefficient turns and suggested ways they could have played that turn differently.
- If players attempted to take extra actions, or do things against the rules, I would give them simple reminders like, "Remember, you get to take one action, one bonus action, and you get to move"
- When my players are confused about a rule, I explain it to them, and they seem to understand just fine for the rest of the session. Though, they often forget between sessions and I need to re-explain it the next week
Things even as simple as skill checks will have the players asking, "Wait, how do I do that again?". At this point, I'm getting tired of having to keep track of all of my monsters turns and abilities as well as the players. It's really just too draining to juggle the mechanics for everyone and tell an engaging story. I'm really considering that TTRPGs just aren't the game for these players.