Wherein I debrief 5e

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  • edited November 2018
    Adam,

    Excellent!

    I hope you don't mind if I ask for a couple of clarifications.

    Let's say I need 100 XP for the next level.

    I earn 24 XP in the first session. I don't rest.

    Next session, I earn 27 XP.

    Do I get two advancements, or one?

    What if I earn 24 XP in the first session, then 24 XP in the second session, and the I take a long rest.

    Do I get an advancement? In either case, How much do I need to earn for the next one?

    Finally, if I earn 24 XP and then I rest... how much do I need to earn in the following session?
  • edited November 2018
    100/4 = 25 each "step" is 25 xp
    then
    24+27=51 you get 2 Adv
    24+24=48 you get 1 Adv (and need 25 xp for the next one)
    0=0 you still need 25 xp

    The hardest part is in the first line. Fortunately you picked easy numbers ;)
  • DeReel is right, but I'm not sure his examples are clear. They'd be clearer if he said, "and need 25 MORE xp for the next one, or 48+25=73 xp total."

    The question seems to be, are the absolute quartiles the milestones, or is the relative position to your last rest the milestone. The answer is the latter.

    So each advancement is per 25 xp earned after your last long rest or level-up.
  • So you still get the whole level at 100 regardless of how many rests you take?
  • Perfect. That's clear and simple.

    Effectively, you have two XP totals at any given time:

    "Total Experience Collected."

    and

    "Experience collected since last long rest."

    I suppose there might be some funny business if you level up without taking a long rest. (Could be handwaved away, or solved by saying that you don't level up UNTIL you take a long rest.)

    Frankly, I don't see any reason NOT to use this in D&D5, all the time.

    Are there any?

  • Giving character advancements between levels changes the power balance a little bit?
    Friction against the prevention of taking rests for metagame reasons?
    More bookkeeping?

    Probably nothing worth worrying about.

  • Frankly, I don't see any reason NOT to use this in D&D5, all the time.

    Are there any?
    Many people do not enjoy disassociated mechanics, i.e. rules that do not have an interpretation in the fiction. This would be an instance of such, at least without a very good explanation.
  • So-so explanation: Learning only happens in intense situations. Resting too much reduces that "pressure-cooker" environment.

    (I mean, it's about as metagamey as XP.)
  • edited November 2018
    I should like to add more to the discussion, but all I can say is that this paragraph mirrors my experience with 5e:
    This was fine, as far as it goes, but it never quite felt like...playing a game. It didn’t feel like they were “playing through the DM’s story,” or like we were “playing to find out what happens [to the characters]”, it simply felt like I was presenting scenarios, the players were responding to them in the expected way, and at the end not much interesting had taken place, because I wasn’t and didn’t want to create a story to present to the players, but as players of the game they didn’t have player-priority tools to move the game in any particular direction beyond the bounds of what their characters’ abilities offered them within the scenario. I could either present a story (which I didn’t want to do), or I could leave it up to play and have emergent story. Whereas OSR-style D&D allows interesting emergent play to happen because of the challenge-based nature of play (i.e., the reward system), 5e has no real space for emergent play. Consider that the base rules for XP (kill monsters), is almost entirely done away with in nearly every WotC-published 5e adventure. They love Milestone experience, which is “whenever the DM decides you level, you level.”
    I bake something I affectionately call "loaf." Not meatloaf. Just loaf. It has commonalities with meatloaf, but it is more loafy and less meaty. Loaf is a casserole of pureed vegetables and meat, baked at 350 degrees for an hour. Voila! Loaf exits the oven.

    Loaf is not delicious. It is not my first choice for food. The taste varies slightly depending on the exact ingredients, but it is always mild and palatable. It is a healthy, inexpensive dish that provides a balanced meal of carbohydrates, fat, and protein for those times when I am unable to take the time to cook during the week.

    5e is D&D loaf. It's a bland meal that is nobody's first choice. It holds the title and trappings of D&D, but it doesn't do much with it. It's mostly balanced, and the combat is somewhat interesting, and the skill system is functional enough, yet it never does anything with it. 3e was a disastrous product, totally incoherent, but it made character building an integral part of the game. 4e was brilliant if you enjoy miniatures combat. OSR games are delightful for the unexpected twists that can surprise even the DM. 5e manages to snatch up little bits and pieces of every edition and mush them together until you have D&D loaf.

    There is no challenge to the players beyond the first few levels. The resources available outstrip available outstrip anything but encounter marathons. Skill tests require little thought, being mere exercises of d20 rolls with arbitrary DCs set by the GM's whim. The players can direct the game if the GM allows it, and most players are content to sit passively as events unfold before them. There is the occasional dice roll with the appropriate cheer or boo at the inevitable 20 or 1 (which is determined almost entirely by the DM's caprice, since he alone dictates how frequently the dice will hit the table).

    The mechanics themselves are somewhat player-facing, except when they aren't, and they mostly content themselves with being about new-albeit-not-that-interesting ways to murder monsters, which is fitting as the game's only concrete mechanics for impacting are those for murder. Or justifiable homicide, since everything else outside of is a shoulder-shrug with a message of "ask your DM for permission," and the DM's tools are "roll the dice and let things happen (sometimes, but not too many times)." Unless you are playing a spellcaster, in which the world is at your wiggling fingertips. Solve mysteries! Demand fealty from gods and kings! Explore the exciting world of powercreep with every splatbook!

    It's all so tiresome.

  • Frankly, I don't see any reason NOT to use this in D&D5, all the time.

    Are there any?
    Many people do not enjoy disassociated mechanics, i.e. rules that do not have an interpretation in the fiction. This would be an instance of such, at least without a very good explanation.
    Those people should have a really hard time playing a game with such glaring abstractions as hit points, armor class, character classes, experience points & experience levels, to name but a few. I wonder how they manage.

    Am I the only one missing the voice of @2097 defending D&D5 as the best RPG, providing some contrast and variety to this conversation? Judging from previous threads, she seems to have had quite a different experience with 5E than most posters here.
  • @Rafu: I enjoy @2097's input on 5e, but her success with it seems an outlier involving brutal modifications to the rules, something I know all too well. I can make 5e function, but it requires proactive, engaged players and a DM who is willing to cannibalize other systems and stitch their pieces onto the chassis of 5e. Skill challenges, partial successes, Aspects, compels, and the like.

    That being said, I will ever-so-briefly defend 5e. I detest dissociated mechanics, but I tolerate Armor Class, hit points, and the like because they are abstractions that can be explained in the fiction. Armor Class represents your armor's ability to protect you from harm by deflecting and absorbing blows, whereas hit points are all the intangibles that go into a man's fighting spirit. Experience points and levels both represent something fictionally, even if they're a bit silly. (Gold as XP makes more sense to me despite it being an entirely gamist construct.)

    @2097's experiences lead me to believe she has players who are more willing to set aside mechanics to engage with the fiction. My own are not, which is one of the reasons that I grow weary of 5e. It promulgates a mechanics-first mindset that is totally destructive to roleplay. One can argue this is true for all editions of D&D, but the later editions have certainly worsened it considerably. As mechanics in OSR games are primarily DM-facing, it encourages gaming the GM by engaging the fiction to persuade him to rule in a certain way (in my opinion). To put it bluntly, without fun toys for the players, the players will make their own fun. (That itself is an interesting concept: does creating mechanics that produce discrete effects by engaging the fiction reduce fictional engagement or enhance it?)

  • Those people should have a really hard time playing a game with such glaring abstractions as hit points, armor class, character classes, experience points & experience levels, to name but a few. I wonder how they manage.
    I'm not sure, but it sounds like you're not clear on the difference between "abstraction" and "dissociated mechanic".

    An abstraction is simplifying or...abstracting something to make it easier to work with. This actually has nothing to do with dissociation as it is used in D&D circles.
    A "dissociated" mechanic is one that doesn't map to anything in the game world. Hit points map to "How hard is this person to kill?" Armor Class maps to "Having more defenses makes you harder to hit." and experience points and levels map to increased "experience" doing things and the increasing ability that comes with it.
    Dissociated things are: Action points. Powers that can EACH be used only once before you need a five minute breather. Losing XP for resting might fall in here, I'm not sure because the whole category sortof annoys me.

    And yes, to some extent, it is a nonsense "what can you justify" definition. But it's distinct from "abstraction" and it's very important to some people, at least, when they are looking for excuses to not enjoy D&D4.

    Am I the only one missing the voice of @2097 defending D&D5 as the best RPG, providing some contrast and variety to this conversation? Judging from previous threads, she seems to have had quite a different experience with 5E than most posters here.
    She also plays it in a pretty different way from most posters here. But it's true that she sincerely likes the game, and anyone who's been around here for a while will know that I still don't really understand why. =/
  • 4e was brilliant if you enjoy miniatures combat.
    I'm gonna differ on this point.


    Strongly.
  • edited November 2018
    4e was brilliant if you enjoy miniatures combat.
    I'm gonna differ on this point.


    Strongly.
    Yeah, it was brilliant either way. ;P
  • I will also push back on 3e as "disastrous". Remember that what it was moving forward from was AD&D. Comparatively, it's a stunning technological advance, extremely focused, with a system that (in D&D) was unparalleled in its uniformity and comprehensibility. There's a reason it was MUCH more successful than AD&D, and continues to be played and published-for extensively today (in the form of Pathfinder.) 4e and 5e are both better, but certainly 3e had its success. Even today I'll play many of the spinoffs quite happily (Spycraft, Mutants & Masterminds).
  • 5E is awesome! We are gearing up for the Dragon Heist set in Sigil (Planescape setting).
  • 4e was brilliant if you enjoy miniatures combat.
    I'm gonna differ on this point.


    Strongly.
    Yeah, it was brilliant either way. ;P
    But not as a minis game.
  • @Airk it's not that I'm not clear on the difference, rather, that I'm not keen on the difference. Or, apparently, that I draw the line closer to naturalism than some people.

    I literally listed things that bothered me in my teens, when I was one of many people who didn't enjoy any flavor of D&D preferring alternatives that touted a smaller degree of abstraction as their main selling point (stuff like GURPS, BASIC, etc.). That was because the moment you had an abstraction that is so abstract different people gave different fictional explanations of it (hit points!), that felt dissociated to me. I was unable to appreciate abstraction as elegance.

    Maybe I should have mentioned "spells per day" as my No. 1 example... That's obviously, glaringly a dissociated mechanic that they later tried to plaster over by providing ad hoc "in world" justifications, with all the sorts of funny side-effects. The non-D&D fantasy role-playing scene of the 1990s (it was a thing in my country at least) is easily summed up with "spells-per-day sucks".

    Later in life (D&D3 was a factor in it, but perhaps not the main factor) I jumped camps completely: I saw that the true evil of spells-per-day lies not in the dissociated mechanism per se, but in clumsy attempt at providing fictional justification. I now tend to favor dissociated mechanics over most alternatives, as long as we're all honest and straightforward about the mechanics being dissociated: finding justification for it, when necessary, is a moment-to-moment exercise in improvisation.
  • edited November 2018
    It may be useful to keep in mind that the disassociation theory may be viewed as a made-to-order justification that explains why trad rpgs, including D&D, are the bestest roleplaying games. With this origin in mind it may not come as a surprise if mechanics present in D&D are considered very naturally fiction-associative, while mechanics foreign to that tradition are considered disassociative. I am uncertain whether it's possible to say anything more about the disassociativeness of game mechanics except that people like what they are used to, and there's a difference between gamers in whether they react positively or negatively to new things. Take a bunch of people with a similar gaming background and a conservative mindset, and you could even get the impression that there really is some sort of disassociation phenomenon behind their consistent dislike of certain types of games, when the cause might instead be simply that they all like the same old games.

    That aside, my personal experience of what's "unrealistic" in D&D as a 90s kid used to more advanced games aligns with Rafu's - all those mechanics are rather abstract and simplistic compared to what a more simulation-oriented, newer game had to offer. Even BRP seemed like a vastly more natural scheme in comparison.
  • edited November 2018
    I also thought "spells-per-day sucks" until I understood it was a mechanic meant to map to a specific fictional source, Jack Vance's Dying Earth magic system. So, it's not like it was conceived from the beginning to be a dissociated mechanic meant to balance magic users with martial characters. Of course, that doesn't mean that borrowing it from that source didn't create problems and weird consequences in the game, those still uphold despite the edition. Perhaps if the source had become more popular it could had ended up evoking a nice particular atmosphere in the game, but for everyone who saw it first (and only) in D&D it only understandably evokes "spells-per-day sucks".
  • I fail to see how the "spells-per-day" limit is a dissociated mechanic (as opposed to Action Points, daily limits on martial powers etc.), particularly in light of (a) its literary origins and (b) the fact that it's magic (i.e. we can usually handwave things with "that's just the way magic works in this world").

    I think it's actually a decent and - above all - simple way to limit the power of magic-users but, not being familiar with Vance at the time, found it strange when I first encountered it.
  • I fail to see how the "spells-per-day" limit is a dissociated mechanic (as opposed to Action Points, daily limits on martial powers etc.), particularly in light of (a) its literary origins and (b) the fact that it's magic (i.e. we can usually handwave things with "that's just the way magic works in this world").
    Well, someone could say that the spell slot system is disassociative because it bears almost no resemblance to the greater breadth of supernatural lore familiar to the world. There is no culture on Earth where traditional magical folklore works on spell slots. The same holds for fantasy literature, both old and young, with the sole exception of Vance, whose system D&D merely approximates.

    I will especially highlight one element of the system that young Eero found particularly weird in the '90s: does somebody really think that magicians having to memorize their magic spells by rote every morning is somehow evocative and cool? Is that what being a "wizard" means to someone - the ability to quickly and thoroughly memorize meaningless rote? And then using magic is actually a process that makes you forget magical lore, is that how it works?

    There are, of course, other elements of the D&D magic system that could be criticized on grounds of disassociativeness. The lack of mystical flair and mythic underpinnings, for instance. It's so bad that the tasteless way D&D names its spells, and the humdrum utilitarian effects, actually make it seem less magical than if the game didn't have a magic system at all.

    I mean, I personally accept that "making sense" is in the eye of the beholder and this whole disassociation business doesn't actually mean anything except that things make sense to people who are used to them. But D&D being really popular and all American roleplayers having started with it doesn't automatically get to mean that D&D somehow makes better sense than anything else.
  • I mean, I personally accept that "making sense" is in the eye of the beholder.
    ba dum tss

    Magic in the world of Torchbearer consists of drawing forth mystical substance from the aetherial plane and shaping it with the caster’s will. The spells themselves are slippery, almost living things that must be wrestled into submission and caged within the prison of the caster’s mind. When casting, the arcanist uses a series of words and gestures to release the spell in question. Once cast, the spell bursts forth and may not be used again until the magician or elf has time to study the formula again and trap the spell
    once more in his mind.
    I think this is a cool way of thinking about/ describing magic systems using spell slots. In this light, spell slots are not "how much rote memorization you can do in a single morning" but "how many living spells you can trap in your mind at once".
  • edited November 2018
    Sure. Similar cool descriptions can be given to explain action points and martial daily powers too. It doesn't change the fact that its just adding color to a thinly-veiled wargame ammo slot.

    Why do spell slots work the way they do? Because magic-users are the D&D equivalent of ballistas and catapaults. Ipso facto, they have to run out of "ammo". Its as simple as that. One can put lipstick on a pig all one wants, but at the end of the day lets call a spade a spade, shall we?

    The "disassociated mechanics" argument was always interesting to me because it seemed to talk about two very different phenomena: 1) any mechanic that couldn't be rationalized from Actor Stance (this is where the pejorative that "you're not roleplaying" when you use such mechanics comes from), and 2) any mechanic that didn't "make sense" in the fiction. As @Eero_Tuovinen correctly pointed out, "makes sense" is a subjective issue and has more to do with familiarity more than anything else.

    Personally, when I first read the Disassociated Mechanics essay it came across to me as a just a really fancy way of saying They Changed It, Now It Sucks: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheyChangedItNowItSucks
  • 4e was brilliant if you enjoy miniatures combat.
    I'm gonna differ on this point.


    Strongly.
    Yeah, it was brilliant either way. ;P
    I don't know about brilliant, but 4E has definitely been the most fun I've ever had doing combat in a roleplaying game.

    That being said, the most fun I've ever had in 4E was doing multi-phase dynamic skill challenges, not combat.

    Make of that what you will.
  • I think it would be a good idea not to turn this into a thread about 4E, but (as someone who's never played the game) I'd love to hear about what makes D&D4 superlative as a combat game. Trent, would you consider starting a new thread about that? I, for one, would love to hear about it! Maybe it will finally convince me to give the game a try, as well...

    As for 5th Edition D&D, I agree with the assessment that the game does an excellent job of combining features of all the editions and feeling "familiar" to a lot of people. (It fails with me largely not because of the rules, but because of the fictional aesthetics - I'm not keen on the "video game" influence and "my D&D" has never included things like Tieflings and Dragonborn Sorcerers, so the new D&D - at least out of the book! - doesn't work for me as a nostalgia-device, either.)

    So, it does a good job of pleasing people who are interested in "playing D&D" and want a version that's flexible enough to do a whole bunch of things that look and taste D&D-like. It's flexible and well-designed.

    However, what kind of gameplay IS it good for? What does it support well?

    (1) I know some people have managed to do pretty well running D&D5 in a "sandbox" style. For me, some of the design features are incompatible with how I think a sandbox should run (this is largely about lengthy and high-investment character creation, XP for monsters, and the 15-minute adventuring day/resting.encounter balancing game), but I can see this going well for some.

    (2) I've heard a few people do a more story-oriented D&D, and they all manage by hacking the XP rules and leaving more heavily on Inspiration (some even going so far as using Inspiration rules like Fate Compels!) by bringing in techniques and procedures from other story games, but I'm skeptical that this is something we shouldn't consider as a separate/different game. I wouldn't include this playstyle as "native" to D&D5, personally, because of the extensive hacking required (even if the rules changes might seem minor, at a glance, the procedural changes to playing the game and GMing/prepping the game that they bring with them are thoroughly different from the game as written, in my opinion).

    (3) What I seem to see more often is D&D as a somewhat Participationist exercise, as described in this thread. The players come prepared to do D&D adventure things, the GM preps and throws encounters in front of them, the PCs face them in more-or-less expected ways (usually this involves pursuing obvious plot hooks and then spending much of the session playing through setpiece combat encounters).

    From what I've seen of Critical Role, which seems to be the template for modern D&D play, this is exactly what the game is "about" and how it should be played.

    The design of published adventures seems to be all about this, as well.

    I don't have a beef with this playstyle, but I no longer enjoy it, either.

    My hypothesis/assessment here is that D&D5, with either a great deal of effort or a willing lowering of standards, can work for type (1), but generally seems to be better suited - and is usually used - for type (3).

    Does anyone disagree? Am I missing other fun ways to play D&D5? What other modes of play do you think that the game is well-suited for, 'out of the box'? If so, can you explain what design features or mechanics support those modes of play?
  • Man, so much judgment. People seem to be enjoying the game just fine. "A willing lowering of standards," seriously?
  • edited November 2018
    Well, he did say "lowering of standards" in reference to 5e as a sandbox, not in reference to enjoying 5e at all.

    That said, catching up to this thread in the middle of a sixteen-hour drive: I admire your XP hack, Adam. Have you found that it actually challenges the players more? I'm starting to get this sneaking suspicion that no real amount of hacking XP/rest rules produces a tangible challenge for the players beyond the first few levels for 5e.

    Implicitly, I now realize, I believed that 5e was actually in significant part ABOUT challenging the players, and when I could see that it didn't do that, instead of bringing that knowledge to the front of my brain and looking at it, I tried to hack the game to better do what it was "supposed to" do.

    @ValyrianSteelKatana Loaf! So apt. The longer I consider my experience with 5e, the more I realize that I basically stepped back from roleplaying for a bit and then just willingly fell for 5e's marketing, wanting very hard to believe in what they are selling (and maybe in some instances warping their marketing in my head into something different from what they said, probably because they are very good at making 5e seem like it can be so many things).

    I forgot the JDCorley lesson of marketing: it exists to destroy knowledge, always.
  • Challenging players in what way?

    You mean, difficulty of encounters? Use tougher monsters...

    I don't understand this "D&D is broken and have you have to hack it to fix it." It's not broken. It does what it's supposed to do, but some people prefer to play differently, and by and large the rules support it, if those people at least have a basic liking for the game. 5e as a game is meant to be hacked a bit. If you want more lethality, there are options in the rules to do that. The DMG contains toolkits for hacking it. There's a pretty deep "hack it and make it yours mentality" that comes from the top. Mearls says he doesn't use the encounter building rules or worry about game balance, for example.
  • Ok! So what other playstyles are possible, if any? (Not that a game has to work for a variety of playstyles - if there's just one way to play the game successfully, that's fine, too, of course. I'm just curious!)

    (And, yes, Hans read me correctly! Read that sentence again carefully, it should make sense, I hope. "Lowering standards" is one of two choices in a subset of D&D play, and one that seems rare to me, based on my observation of the scene out there.)

  • It may be useful to keep in mind that the disassociation theory may be viewed as a made-to-order justification that explains why trad rpgs, including D&D, are the bestest roleplaying games. With this origin in mind it may not come as a surprise if mechanics present in D&D are considered very naturally fiction-associative, while mechanics foreign to that tradition are considered disassociative. I am uncertain whether it's possible to say anything more about the disassociativeness of game mechanics except that people like what they are used to, and there's a difference between gamers in whether they react positively or negatively to new things. Take a bunch of people with a similar gaming background and a conservative mindset, and you could even get the impression that there really is some sort of disassociation phenomenon behind their consistent dislike of certain types of games, when the cause might instead be simply that they all like the same old games.
    I'll try to mount a defense for the concept of "disassociated mechanic" as a useful one. Let us see how this goes.

    1. Some rules are clearly and obviously tied to fiction; strength score and creature size being extreme examples.

    2. Some rules, like 13th age style resting (rest once every 4 encounters; the number might be wrong), are quite disassociated from the fiction.

    3. An associated (non-disassociated, whatever) mechanic allows the participants to guess the game mechanical interpretations of various things in the fiction, or at least not be surprised by them.

    Given a description of a monster, different people can give it strength scores and they will probably be in the same ballpark, and they can have a discussion about how strong a monster should be (by comparing it to other monsters and considering that it can lift a carriage and so on).

    In a similar way, in a noisy clockwork dungeon, if a game master says that it is not possible to get a long rest because the clanking makes sleep impossible, this is more likely to be accepted by the players than an arbitrary explanation (the dungeon has blue walls so no sleep), and, in fact, clever players might have considered the possibility as soon as they got to know that the dungeon is noisy.

    On the other hand, monster hit dice (or level) is fairly disassociated - for big monsters one can use their body mass as some kind of indicator. But what about new and unique undead and demons and such?

    Likewise, Adam's mechanic seems fairly disassociated. Is it about fatigue? If so, getting tired, in general, should help one learn, and that should allow getting similar bonuses. Pressure? Does having my boss yell at me give similar bonuses? If magic changes my emotional state, then does it also change the relevant bonuses?

    4. Disassociation is partially a matter of not having a good explanation that the participants accept. There is a reason why D&D people have figured out explanations for alignment, hit points (that work as long as poisonous bites are not considered), and so on.

    5. Some disassociated mechanics are fairly harmless. These are the ones that do not suggest disruptive behaviour of the characters. Adam's rule is, I guess, fairly harmless in this sense. Giving experience for finishing goals or finding treasure and so on is harmless in this sense, and beneficial for giving structure to the game. Giving experience for killing things (and not overcoming them otherwise) is harmful if one does not want to play a game of monster hunters, because it suggests what is presumably undesired behaviour (seeking and fighting monsters for the sake of doing so).

    6. Generally speaking, for traditional games, less disassociated mechanics is better. a. It allows aligning player and character goals. and b. It allows fiction-based problem solving. Many traditional games have elements of both a. and b., in varying degrees.
  • Well said. I wonder if you would consider in-character perspective important for the associativeness of a given game mechanic, in addition to it corresponding to the fiction. I don't remember ever seeing the term used without also claiming that associative rules are important because they allow a player to rely solely on an in-character perspective while playing the game. (A rule can easily, after all, be both out of character and have a clear correspondence to fiction.)

    These questions about mechanical disassociation might make for a good topic for a new thread. More eyeballs and all that. The tail end of a thread on 5th edition D&D is a bit obscure place.
  • edited November 2018
    Ok! So what other playstyles are possible, if any? (Not that a game has to work for a variety of playstyles - if there's just one way to play the game successfully, that's fine, too, of course. I'm just curious!)
    You named a bunch above. Also, combinations thereof - start in one style and change to another as game progresses, or mix and match, etc.

    * Relationships and social play - some of the backgrounds define the character in interesting ways for this. For many players, does not really require mechanical support. This might be a type of princess play, as far as I know. The point is to have player and nonplayer characters with personalities and relationships that are interesting to play.

    Also, elements that can be emphasized in various styles:

    * Character optimization - mechanical support hopefully obvious.

    * Figure chess - mechanical support hopefully obvious.

    * Character immersion - the rules tell what characters can do and allow some amount of customization. This support immersion for some people. Others do just fine by focusing on the parts of play that do not really use the rules that much, which does not really require mechanical support as much as lack of mechanical hindrance.
  • Thank you for starting a new thread! That will be an interesting one.

    I like your point about D&D containing lots of "mini-games" within the game itself, which some people enjoy. In my experience, they don't say much about the overall structure of the game, though, except to draw even more attention to combat (which, of course, does affect the way the game is played).

    I'm still curious to hear if anyone else has seen D&D regularly played in a different style, in a way which it supports well. I'm struggling to think of anything I've seen which doesn't fall into the two categories I mentioned earlier.
  • Ron used to talk about "Vanilla Narr" games of D&D, where the players more or less de-prioritized the built-in reward cycle of XP and leveling, and prioritized address-of-premise type play instead. "What are you willing to fight and kill for?" and so on.

    I think that's a style of play that works fine with the RAW, but (as always with any type of play) it only works well if all the players have the same agenda.

    With some tweaks to the advancement system, a la my XP rules for Towerlands, you can add some mechanical support to a different style of play pretty easily and still have it be entirely recognizable as D&D and not some other game, as you suggested.

    Another style of play that works for most brands of D&D is straight-on Sim / Right to Dream play, especially as "Exploration of Setting" or "Exploration of Genre."
  • @Paul_T: I know of more than a few players who ignore the XP system and treat it like a storygame. That’s how I got my start. My go-to game is Savage Worlds, and that’s how I treat the system. New players who aren’t teenage boys looking to kick ass and chew bubblegum pretty much treat trad games like this in my experience—as long as the GM guides them there. This actually works fairly well due to the lack of player-facing mechanics (IMO) because it limits the requisite game knowledge and leans heavily on the GM as “story guide.” The GM coaxes the players along and prompts them for character actions and dice rolls. In a like-minded group, the culture reinforces and deeds into this. It’s how I learned to play, and it’s how I teach new players to play. Heck, there’s a local theatre group that runs live sessions of Pathfinder that uses this style of play, and that has to be one of the worst systems for it. (I maintain that 3e was a blight on the hobby and is the worst edition of the game. My perspective may be skewed by my introduction to RPGs leaving a most unpleasant aftertaste.)

    This method is flawed and prone to destructive behavior because sometimes (often, even) players are taught all the wrong lessons through gameplay. If the GM only allots XP for murderhoboing and treats every interaction as a hostile encounter in a wargame, so too will the players internalize this behavior. It’s a bit like learning bad life lessons, I suppose. My experiences with D&D imparted wisdom and folly alike. As @Adam_Dray notes, it’s entirely possible to ignore or alter the XP system as needed so D&D “works” better for the group, but some players just don’t get it. As an example, I tried to shoehorn character goals and objectives into my 5e game (a lá Mouseguard). Didn’t work. The players wanted me to strap them in and conduct a scenic rail tour.

    Allow me to elaborate (yammer) a bit more on this. I had a similar experience recently playing BitD at a convention. The mechanics immediately made sense to me: I need to take stress to make things happen and I want to put myself in desperate situations. Several other players seemed baffled and confused by the agency afforded to them and the need to proactively engage the mechanics. It was evident they were accustomed to the GM occasionally calling for rolls (probably spicy-style rolls) and settling in for a story. Even when the GM called on them, they refused to do much of anything but wait for things to happen!

    I digress with rambling, but I do have a broader point: even with XP triggers laid bare for them to see (and “touch”),they detached themselves from the reward system in favor of playing from an in-character perspective. “Should I, as my character, take an unnecessary risk and threaten to botch the heist?” From a character perspective, no, of course not. From a mechanical perspective, absolutely. Yet the mechanics made no difference.

    To answer your question here:
    I'm still curious to hear if anyone else has seen D&D regularly played in a different style,
    Yes.
    in a way which it supports well.
    No.
  • Hey, everyone, I'm back. Along with @2097 , I'm definitely one of the people who has defended 5E the most, so this seems like a good place to jump back in to S-G.

    A few general points, and then I want to talk about the most recent 5E campaign I ran.

    -Paul is very hung up on lengthy chargen being at odds with meaningfully challengeful play, but I disagree, for two reasons. One, with the app chargen takes only a few minutes, even starting above first level. (A little longer if you're playing a spellcaster, but not much.) Second, more importantly, the game can have meaningful challenge even if actual character death is rare. In this sense, challenge in 5E probably won't be of the "Old-School" type. Failure is likely to lead to betrayal, setbacks, villains growing closer to their goals, *NPC* death, and so on.

    -Despite my love of 5E, I do kind of agree that pure RAW 5E sucks. There's a lot of GM-facing stuff missing, the creative agenda is super-muddled (it's definitely trying to be all things to all people), the default XP system is terrible, and so on. Even worse, the RAW for resting is all kinds of bonkers and does, indeed, make actually challenging the PCs tough.

    -Especially when it comes to the resource-management (or strategic, as opposed to tactical) level, the resting rules (as-written) can trivialize any challenges that might be incipient. However, even when you fix the resting rules (very easy to do; there are *many* solutions that can work), it is a mistake to think that 5E will ever facilitate resource-management in the truly old-school style. Keeping track of food, water, ropes, light sources, etc., is all pointless, because running out of those things is actively hard to do, and the tracking is actively un-fun. (This is where I differ from Sandra, and possibly Adam [?].) However, there are resources that the game can challenge the PCs to manage: HP, Hit Dice, and spendable character resources (spell slots, ki points, etc.).

    -Because of the above two points, I freely acknowledge that, to make 5E work for me, I need to draw heavily on my knowledge of other games, including Dungeon World, Burning Wheel / Mouse Guard, some John Harper stuff, etc. But I'm not on board with saying that what I'm doing "isn't 5E." Just from a purely practical standpoint, you could take someone who's only played RAW, Adventurer's-League 5E, put them at my table, and in under five minutes they'd understand my house rules. I'm not changing any of the game's basic resolution mechanics or math. (Now, whether a given player will like my approach to 5E is a separate question, of course.)

    -I totally disagree that 5E stops being challenging above low-level. It's far, far better than 3E in this regard, and arguably only a little worse than 4th. (In that challenges at high levels in 5E are swingier than in 4E, so while still meaningful, a little bit less tactical. Only a little, however.)

    -Regardless of what specific set of rules / house-rules you're using, buy-in is absolutely everything. Spending time properly setting up the initial situation so that the PCs are really, truly invested in it is just as important in 5E as in any story game. (The DMG does an at-best mediocre job of pointing this out, of course.) This brings me to the campaign I ran this past spring...
  • OK, so I decided I wanted to try running some of the material from Tales from the Yawning Portal, a recent 5E product whose format is quite unique: they took 7 modules from prior editions, and 5E-itized them. They do span from 1st level through about 14th or 15th, but it is explicitly not intended that GMs run the players through them one at a time from the beginning.

    The 8th-level dungeon, White Plume Mountain, is a classic "funhouse" dungeon; it is literally "a wizard did it." Meanwhile, the 9th/10th dungeon is some really complicated puzzle dungeon whose premise I found incomprehensible and uninteresting, so I skipped that. But WPM is all about acquiring three artifact-level weapons, one of which is particularly good for fighting Giants... so I decided we should also do Against the Giants, which officially starts at 11th level. AtG is more serious and "gritty" than WPM, and actually consists of three linked dungeons.

    I worked with my players to develop a premise where it would really make sense for them to want to do WPM. They came up with serving the king of a small nation, breakaway rebels from a large and awful empire. (We used Greyhawk as the setting.) This king wanted the three artifacts before he formally declared independence, so he could defend his borders as needed. The PCs, crucially, all had various personal reasons for wanting the nation, or at least its king, to succeed.

    I told them out of game that, if we were all still having fun after WPM, we'd do AtG as well, but their characters didn't know that. What I did was that, on the way home from WPM, they essentially ran into AtG, and found that their nation was now threatened by giants, so they were motivated to solve this second adventure (plus they'd already bought into it on an OOC level).

    The game was an immense amount of fun. Even though we started at 8th level, and ended around 11th, it (a) felt quite epic and dynamic, and (b) was often quite challenge-ful; there were many suspenseful die rolls and the like. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the design of the game was "focused" (in the Forgean sense) on the challenge of these two (really four) dungeons.

    The key to making the dungeon-bashing interesting was my players' creation of an entertaining PC party, with cross-connections, complicated relationships, squabbles, and so on. My house rules for 5E, meanwhile, which are focused on BIFTs and skill roll failures, not only facilitated this entertaining intra-party dynamic, but also helped it not to stay static: the characters' feelings about each other evolved over time, in response to in-game actions. Two of the five original PCs ended up leaving; their players brought in new characters, and we worked together to make sure they'd still be closely tied to the group. A sixth character joined towards the end (the "visiting long-distance girlfriend" phenomenon), and she ended up as a wonderful foil to one of the original PCs.

    Also, the two players who didn't end up with super-weapons for their characters were tasked with roleplaying the artifacts' personalities as, essentially, secondary characters. (I played the third artifact.) This helped keep the spotlight balanced, even as three of the five characters soared in power level relative to the other two in a strictly numerical sense. It also helps that 5E cares a great deal about action economy, and has flatter math than 3rd or 4th edition, so those two PCs never felt extraneous.

    It was one of the most fun games I've run in a long time, and probably my single most successful D&D GMing experience. We laughed a whole lot; the game was not particularly serious or morally challenging. But it never devolved into total gonzo silliness, because there was a real, player-authored fictional premise underlying the adventuring, and because Greyhawk is a setting with a good deal of political plausibility built in. We played around 15 sessions, I think, but covered about as much ground as many much longer D&D campaigns would have.

    No matter what, it's undeniable that the rules of 5E, even if they were filtered through my rather peculiar prism, were absolutely a core component of the fun we had. We could, of course, have attempted the same campaign premise with an OSR D&D game, or even something completely different like FATE, Savage Worlds, or Burning Wheel. Those games might have been fun as well! But the particular way that this game was fun and memorable was very much a product of 5E's ruleset interacting with what we wanted to do with the game.
  • edited November 2018
    That's a great breakdown, Matt. I think that the only difference in opinion (sadly, likely an unresolvable one) is whether it is justifiable to attribute this sort of success to the design of the game vs. your own tweaks and GMing skills (including knowledge of other games). Like I said, I don't see how to resolve that argument, so it's almost certainly not worth having, but the fact remains that I - a fairly knowledgeable gamer - feel very low confidence about being able to design and implement similar changes to the game to what you have done (reworking the entire XP system essentially, making rules as well as GM procedures which leverage BIFTs meaningfully, and finding a way to balance rests/encounter balance with consistency). My sense is that it would take a LOT of unsuccessful play to get there (possibly several years?). Perhaps that would be different if I were simply to grab all of your house rules; I don't know.

    I love the nuanced portrayal of the game you've done here, and the way you breakdown various issues and strengths.

    Ultimately, I'm unlikely to ever participate in D&D5 play much largely on aesthetic grounds (the D&D-ness of D&D5 fantasy just bores me to tears at this point, and these new rules bake those assumptions in HARD - * see bottom of post), but I also see many positive features about its design, and would probably choose it over, say, D&D3 or AD&D, if I had to.

    Aside from the major issues you've brought up here (if I'm not mistaken, that's the XP system, support for BIFTs, and reworking resting/recovery), here are a few problems with the structure of modern D&D which have come up in this thread, or in my private chats with you, or games of D&D I have observed. How do you address these (or prevent them from being an issue)?

    * The heavy focus on combat and combat-related powers, rules, and abilities, in combination with XP for combat and constantly selling a plethora of enemies to fight, leads players and groups inexorably into fight after fight. Making a game out of modern D&D which makes combat or war a veritable choice, rather than an assumed event, seems to go against the grain. (Of course, if your game is intended to go from fight to fight, no problem.)

    * Character creation is colourful, intensive, time-consuming, and creates strong buy-in on the part of the player: even a 1st-level character (in contrast to OSR D&D, for example) seems like a real Hero, with lots of cool powers and striking Colour. When character death is a real possibility, this seems like it can cause a problem for people - at the very least, a mismatch of expectations. There's no real option for a quick, random character generation you don't buy into very much, if that would serve your game better.

    (This is another example of where modern D&D's Colour is an issue for me - and I recognize that this a very personal concern most people do not share. I like being able to say, "Hey, now let's play the servants at the manor, as the demon/Orc invasion arrives"... however, D&D5's incredibly colourful character options make that pretty difficult. A Dragonborn Wild Sorcerer and a Tiefling Druid who can breathe fire are almost impossible to reenvision as common servants, sailors, apprentices at a magic school, caravan guards, merchants... for my tastes, this limits the possibilities of the kinds of games and stories I can play far too much. But, like I say - that's a personal taste thing, and clearly not important to many other people who love the game.)

    * If, like you say, the game features a lot of challenge and the real possibility of failure, but without the danger of character death, how does one arrange that? What kinds of game structures, procedures, adventure design, etc, allow to maintain a game style where real challenge exists but character death isn't on the table?

    Again, it seems to me that the default "challenge mode" in D&D5 is of the martial encounter, which, without some "fixing of the contest", generally ends in death for the loser. Is this not so?

    How have you arranged for this consistently - what are the tips and tricks?

    * Using hardcore "story game" prep with BIFTs seems like a solid way to go - at least, if all the players involved understand the process and can buy into it. However, the default structure of the D&D "party" seems to work against that. I've heard a number of D&D GMs who attempt to run a more "story game" style run up against this problem:

    So long as character priorities align, it can work great (in combination, especially, with some kind of rotating spotlight system, whether explicit or not). However, if the game features difficult moral choices based on character details, and full player freedom to address those, the reality of different characters having different priorities rears its head.

    Either the players have to maneuver awkwardly to avoid any kind of inter-PC disagreement/conflict, or the game starts to suffer from a lot of player bickering (over whether the "party" should pursue one PC's current highest priority or another's).

    Neither seems to work well with "standard" "story game prep" a la Sorcerer or what-have-you. (At least, that's what I've seen.)

    (In successful games I've observed, Participationism tends to be the solution. Which leads me to:)

    * The fairly involved prep required on the GM's side, again, provides incentives to buy in strongly to particular prep. For most GMs, this means getting locked into the prep they have done, and steering the game that way - most people simply don't have the time or attention to prep an extensive sandbox in D&D5. (Sure, it's better, perhaps, than D&D 3e/4e, but OSR-style D&D, PbtA games, and other alternatives blow that out of the water.)

    That creates pressures to put the "game on rails" on the GM side, as well, in my experience.

    (Matt, I know that *you* are likely capable of handling a lot of these things very fast and very economically - you are extremely intelligent, capable of absorbing large quantities or rules really quickly, and so on - but I see people struggle with this all the time. Again, I'm a pretty experienced roleplayer who's played D&D a lot, and yet the handful of times I created a 1st level D&D5 character, it took me about an hour and a half, and I still had things to look up and correct afterwards. If I were invited to a high-lethality game where my character could die pretty easily, I'm not sure I could sign up for that kind of work every time it happened - I'd be sitting at the table still working long after the session was done!)





    * about how the game bakes in its Colour HARD: I'd be happy to discuss this, if anyone wants to hear more, but absent prompting I will keep it out of this thread. I don't know if it's interesting to people!

  • edited November 2018
    Matt - Thanks for your thoughts! You (almost) make me want to try 5e again (in fact this week while traveling for the holiday I've been unable to shake a campaign idea from my head that sprung directly from contemplating 5e's reward mechanic -- XP for monster kills -- a game explicitly about monster hunting ("Monster Manual as campaign setting"), not about fantasy adventuring where monsters happen to always be in the way of the PC's goals and we are all just sort of expected to accept that they'll kill all these monsters; alas, I don't think 5e is well suited even for that, as its monster design is far less interesting than its predecessor's, but I digress).

    You mentioned that you don't like the base XP rules. Even more than tweaking the rules for BIFTS and skill rolls, changing how XP works seems like a fundamental design decision that will greatly alter the experience of at-the-table play. I'm assuming you houseruled XP. If I'm correct, in what way did you do so?

    Paul - per your last point, I'd love a new thread for that.
  • edited November 2018
    @Paul_T Just to correct : "Martial contest without death for the loser" is practiced by humanity since dawn of time. Contrast tribal war with, sorry to say, genocide. Or did you mean in D&D only ?
  • DeReel,

    The problem lies in the way the rules are set up: there's really no incentive to surrender or otherwise give up in a fight until you run out of his points, and at that point you're likely to die.

    In real life, you might give up when you're wounded badly enough that you can't continue, disarmed, stunned, or otherwise incapacitated (e.g. by pain). In D&D, defeat pretty much always comes when you run out of hit points. So, with the exception of the (rather generous) "knock them out at 0 HP" rule, which I'm not sure why opponents would use unless they always sought to capture the PCs (and even then, I'm not sure how that rule works against PCs), making combats end in a loss for the PCs that is not death requires some careful thought and/or shenanigans, it seems to me.

    An example of a combat which has stakes other than death: monsters or enemies are trying to get into the castle (to do some nefarious deed). There is a bridge, where the heroes are making their last stand, so they face off.

    In many other games, there is some kind of conflict resolution procedure, and we might learn that the monsters overwhelm the PCs and make it into the castle. In D&D, however, what incentive do the PCs have to stop fighting before they reach 0 HP? They're likely to fight on and die. Conversely, if the monsters are winning the fight, what incentive do they have NOT to kill the PCs?

    I'm sure arranging interesting combats with stakes that are not about death is *possible*, but it's not exactly obvious (at least, not to me).

    But maybe I'm missing something!
  • Hans:

    I assume you mean my comments about Colour? I already touched on some examples, above, so I can really quickly summarize here, I think.

    The game includes a lot of very "colourful" and evocative sets of descriptions and powers, even at 1st level. For instance, I regularly see characters in 5th Edition D&D who are a described as a "Red Dragonborn Oathbreaker Paladin", or a "Tiefling Eldritch Knight"... things like that. It's less dramatic than some other versions of D&D, but...

    In comparison, truly old-school D&D would say you're a "Fighting Man" or a "Magic-User", and the rest was up to you: are you an old wizard? A gladiator? A scrappy street urchin? A soldier down on his luck? Lots of room for interpretation here.

    Like I mentioned earlier, in old-school D&D it's no problem to say that our characters are all going to be cabin boys aboard a ship traveling the high seas. In D&D5, though? Well...

    The first time I made a D&D character, the party I was joining wanted some kind of spellcaster. I looked over the list, and the idea of a Sorcerer seemed interesting. I thought maybe I could play a dark twist on the stereotypical "aging fantasy wizard". Great.

    However, then I discover that a Sorcerer needs high Charisma as a spell-casting stat, and to be effective I should have a high Charisma score. There are only a few races which give a bonus to Charisma, and a couple grant such a significant bonus (+2) that everyone is encouraging me to choose one of those races. Fine, I choose to be a Tiefling. What's that? I look it up and it means I have demonic heritage, and horns, and I smell of sulphur. Whoa. Well, ok.

    Next, I'm writing up my character and it turns out that I need to choose an origin for my powers, and the two choices are "Draconic" or "Wild Magic". So, either I deal with unpredictable and dangerous powers (which, among other things, tends to rule out, for instance, very careful spell use or stealthy spell use - no magical assassins here, at least not unless you have a lot of room for unpredictable failures :) ), or my character is descended from a dragon, and will breathe fire and eventually grow dragon wings.

    Now suddenly my character has demonic heritage, some strange magical powers which come from the underworld (e.g. Hellish Rebuke), is going to breathe fire, grow dragon wings, or deal with Wild Magic and thereby turn his hair blue and summon extraplanar creatures by accident...

    If I was hoping to be a slightly twisted street urchin who plays a lot of poker and learned a spell or two from his dead foster father's ancient books... well, the game has taken me into an entirely different direction. Then I pick my Background and I end up with an animal for a pet, as well...

    There are some more standard formats available, of course, but, especially given splatbooks and expansions and the size of a typical D&D party, you're likely to get a number of such characters in any game unless you very specifically make an effort to limit available character choices to the group.

    This is no way a criticism of the game on any objective grounds; I just find it limiting for my personal tastes. It's pretty hard to end up with a game that looks anything like Lord of the Rings, or Game of Thrones, or any other fantasy world or property I can think of (except China Mieville, perhaps): instead, the default is that we get a mish-mash of highly stylized races, classes, and powers.

    Hopefully this post doesn't derail this thread; my personal tastes in character creation and fantasy settings really shouldn't be of too much interest to anyone. But this limits the utility of the game to me a great deal - I have to like this kind of modern D&D Colour, severely limit character creation choices, or get out.

    I'm more interested in the ongoing discussion of how to make aspects of the game work well in terms of gameplay; it's my hope that the thread keeps moving in that direction rather than taking a detour.
  • edited November 2018
    Of course, I just wanted to make sure the second part of your statement (that martial encounters end in death of the loser) was directed at D&D like the first part (that the game sets up these encounters). I am confident someone who knows the game can provide "battelfield control" or incapacitating techniques that prove this statement wrong. The lack of them would be indeed facepalming for a game played in 2018. As I said, I don't play or tinker with D&D, except for 2097's bolt-ons, so excuse me for the interruption.

  • In real life, you might give up when you're wounded badly enough that you can't continue, disarmed, stunned, or otherwise incapacitated (e.g. by pain).
    I'd add "panic in the face of imminent, mortal danger" to that list. I suspect that it's the most common reason to surrender or flee in real life.

    In game terms, this is covered by morale checks, e.g. when the enemy cuts down the guy next to you. But that's a mechanic for NPCs and monsters.

    PCs run if and when the players choose to do so because they are scared to lose them. This is quite rare in my experience. It does happen in highly lethal games occasionally (typically when the players have to update their threat assessment such as when a monster turns out to have a powerful special attack).
  • In game terms, this is covered by morale checks, e.g. when the enemy cuts down the guy next to you. But that's a mechanic for NPCs and monsters.
    I'm a huge fan of morale checks. Are there morale checks in 5E?
  • I'm a huge fan of morale checks. Are there morale checks in 5E?
    Oops. I forgot that this was a 5e thread. I dunno about 5e and morale checks.
  • I really want to see @Deliverator 's XP and rest house rules. And how to better leverage BIFTs.

    We just kicked off our 5E Planescape game. Currently we are work shopping the BIFTs, social network, and how folks are anchored to Sigil.
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