Is D&D Too Focused on Combat?
  • Is D&D Too Focused on Combat?


    Dungeons & Dragons' wargame roots are well-known, but what is sometimes forgotten is how much its origins influenced role-playing games. Although D&D has been a platform to tell many different kinds of stories, its mechanics focus on a few core themes and one of them is combat -- but it's not the only one.

    The Three Modes

    Jon Peterson in Playing at the World explained that there are three modes of D&D play, in which dramatic pacing is achieved by transitioning between the three:

    ...a mode of exploration, a mode of combat and a mode of logistics. Time flows differently in each of these modes, and by rationing the modes carefully a referee guides the players through satisfying cycles of tension, catharsis and banality that mimic the ebb and flow of powerful events.

    These modes are interrelated in important ways, and modern role-players tolerance for all three has changed over time. Exploration has experienced a resurgence with sandbox-style play. Combat has been de-emphasized, particularly in story-telling games. And logistics are back in vogue thanks to the Old School Renaissance. Let's take a look at each in turn.

    The First Mode: Exploration

    In the original boxed set of D&D, exploration was important, but beyond the scope of the rules. It was a key part of emergent play -- using basic guidelines to encourage creative strategies -- but it wasn't actually part of D&D itself. Instead, D&D encouraged players to buy Avalon Hill's Outdoor Survival board game, as Peterson explains:

    The object of Outdoor Survival is to navigate a wilderness, though there are five scenarios providing distinct justifications for doing so: for example, lost players returning to civilization at the edges of the map or racing to find the object of a search party. Given that the board itself is not a secret from the players (Outdoor Survival has no referee), some other means is required to simulate being lost in the woods, since the players necessarily command a bird’s-eye view of the environment. Dice therefore determine whether or not players are lost, and if so, in which direction they will wander. The board is overlain with a hexagonal grid, segmenting the board into hexagons about 1.5 centimeters across; as there are six possible directions on a hexagonal board to move, a six-sided die can easily dictate the orientation of lost players. Each hex contains a particular terrain type, in much the manner of Hellwig: there are mountains, swamps, rivers, deserts, plains and even roads (well, trails).

    Evidence of D&D's interest in hexcrawling is strongly represented in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, which was published after the original set but before the rest of the AD&D line. Each monster has a few noteworthy statistics, particularly: frequency, number appearing, and % in lair. Much of these stats do not make sense in a typical dungeon context, where the rooms are planned out; DMs would likely know the monsters that were to appear in their dungeons, and in fact author Gary Gygax states, "...It is not generally recommended for use in establishing the population of Dungeon Levels." But when used in hexcrawling they're useful in describing the encounters there, beginning with frequency, then determining if the monster encountered is in its lair, and then concluding with number of appearing (which could sometimes be in the hundreds, befitting a camp but not a dungeon room).

    For a time, hexcrawling and emergent play were out of favor as more scripted adventures came into vogue. The OSR has reinvigorated sandbox-style play, in which the players generate the world as they adventure, one roll at a time.

    The Second Mode: Combat

    D&D's second mode is the one most gamers are familiar with: killing things. D&D grew out of Chainmail, itself a product of wargaming, so combat's relevance to D&D goes all the way back to its first iteration. Additionally, it mimics the style of the fiction that influenced it, including the violent Conan among other swords and sorcery novels. What's changed is how D&D scales combats. The emphasis on leveling up was treasure, as explained in a previous article, "The Original End Goal of Dungeons & Dragons." Kiva Maginn (Battletech design lead) on Twitter explains how this changes the style of play:

    As a player, you could gain experience by fighting monsters or claiming treasure. You could lose it by dying in battle with monsters. You could encounter monsters without treasure, and you could encounter treasure without monsters. So there was an obvious 'best' path. Get in, get the treasure, get out. Do as little fighting as possible, because fighting risks XP loss. Avoid encounters when you can, and subvert them with clever tricks if possible. Money you find without a fight is free XP.

    This changed with Third Edition, in which experience points were rewarded for defeating a monster:

    Consider 3rd Edition D&D, by contrast. Gold provides no inherent advancement. At a certain point, you simply don't need it anymore. You have so much of it that it's absurd to bother picking up any more. So there's a new obvious 'best' path. Ignore tricks and clever solutions. Never avoid fights. Kill every single monster in the dungeon, with 'it's in the dungeon!' as your justification for doing so. Seek out harder fights with bigger monsters. Don't stop killing.

    Ironically, D&D became MORE about killing than less, as PCs were no longer incentivized to just accumulate gold to advance. Third Edition also did away with name levels and retainers as being an end gold, so the purpose of spending gold had shifted from building strongholds and hiring mercenaries to personally enriching the character through acquisition of magic items. This change was a recognition that players were less interested in leading armies and transitioning back to a life of perpetual adventuring, and the game shifted gears to reflect that.

    Of course, role-playing has since moved beyond combat -- relying more heavily on the narrativist style of play -- even if it started with the primarily tactical dungeon and overland exploration of D&D.

    The Third Mode: Logistics

    Logistics have largely fallen out of favor today due to onerous nature of keeping track of encumberance, equipment, and gold. These factors were all intentional controls on player greed, ensuring that PCs couldn't just cart out mountains of gold (and thus experience points) without some challenges. You can read a more detailed discussion of inventory management and encumbrance in a previous article, "The Lost Art of Packing it All In."

    Third Edition's shift towards combat meant that the nature of logistics changed to be less about accumulating gold and more about personal advancement, exemplified by Pathfinder which spins out even more options than Third Edition for character development.

    D&D Today

    So where does that leave us with D&D today? Kiva points out that the combat biases are still there, but now D&D has expanded to encompass other styles of play -- it just doesn't emphasize it equally:

    The flaw in later D&D was that it was a game that was good at modeling killing, and spent a decade trying to be anything *other* than a game about killing.

    Inspiration, Personal Characteristics, and Background were added to incentivize players to role-play but as the AngryDM points out, many players forget all about it because of the way it's implemented:

    It’s just this thing that’s easy to forget and sits in the game not really doing anything. It feels tacked on. Vestigial. An afterthought. It certainly doesn’t seem to have a clear purpose, as evidenced by the fact that the DM and the players get different advice about it and how it is weirdly disconnected from the mechanics that it seems to be connected to. It seems thrown in. “People like Bonds in Dungeon World and Aspects in Fate, we should probably slap something like that in there.”

    Fifth Edition D&D has also changed how experience points are gained, providing an option to level up through milestones instead. This shifts the incentives yet again away from combat.

    Is combat overemphasized in D&D? Maybe, but that's at least partially due to the other two modes of exploration and logistics falling out of favor. If the eight pages detailing combat are any indication in the Basic D&D Rules, combat is still an integral part of the game, and many players are just fine with that.

    Mike "Talien" Tresca is a freelance game columnist, author, communicator, and a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to http://amazon.com. You can follow him at Patreon.
    Comments 228 Comments
    1. Saelorn's Avatar
      Saelorn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jhaelen View Post
      Well, I think, it's much more elegant to have a system using abstract wealth categories to determine what kind and quality of equipment you have access to. Such systems are e.g. used by Shadowrun and Ars Magica.
      Since when does Shadowrun use abstract wealth? Last I checked, money was still tracked to the nuyen, and ammunition could be purchased by the shot.
    1. Jhaelen -
      Quote Originally Posted by Saelorn View Post
      Since when does Shadowrun use abstract wealth? Last I checked, money was still tracked to the nuyen, and ammunition could be purchased by the shot.
      Maybe I'm misremembering. You're right that it's not purely abstract, some things like weapons and implants are tracked. But almost everything else is subsumed under 'lifestyle', iirc.

      Ars Magica also isn't purely abstract. You just don't count individual pennies. You do track expenses to upkeep your covenant like the cost of adding a new tower to your fortress. But starting equipment of characters is determined purely by your social status, e.g. a knight will start with a warhorse, plate mail and a set of weapons of good quality. The important thing is you don't have to worry about nit-picky details.
    1. Rhianni32's Avatar
      Rhianni32 -
      Seems like a lot of people are confusing what they want out of RPing vs what the D&D ruleset focuses on. GMs and players can make whatever they want out of their game but if using D&D rules, and they want non combat situations and challenges, they have to put in a lot more extra work on their own vs what is given in the rules.

      D&D has always been a Monster Murder Simulator rule set. They toss in some non combat rules in sidebars.
    1. Reynard -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rhianni32 View Post
      Seems like a lot of people are confusing what they want out of RPing vs what the D&D ruleset focuses on. GMs and players can make whatever they want out of their game but if using D&D rules, and they want non combat situations and challenges, they have to put in a lot more extra work on their own vs what is given in the rules.

      D&D has always been a Monster Murder Simulator rule set. They toss in some non combat rules in sidebars.
      That's not "confusing" anything -- it is answering the question posed by the article. And for many people, the answer is "yes" -- although there is a good bit of variation in what the "yes" really means.

      For my part, I don't want to see fewer combat rules so much as I want to see more robust "social combat" rules -- rules that involve the whole party in negotiations, trials or whatever, with options and consequences as interesting as physical combat. I'd like to see non combat, non social rules of a similar sort, too. This is all achievable, either through a strong core mechanic that applies equally to combat and other situations, or by robust sub systems.
    1. Kobold Boots -
      Quote Originally Posted by pemerton View Post

      You can't even begin to work out who won a D&D combat just be finding out who hit how many target numbers.
      At no point in time was I talking about resolving any of the pillars to its entirety. Within the bounds of my post, damage is a modifier to the end result of the hit. Location and position were mentioned in the second line as one of the add ons to support the game.

      So again, if you don't like what I've written enough to comment without reading things first, either read fully or just put me on block so you don't waste your time.

      Be well
      KB
    1. Thomas Bowman's Avatar
      Thomas Bowman -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jhaelen View Post
      "The One Ring" has pretty good rules for exploration; basically, every party member is assigned a particular role when traveling.
      "The Burning Wheel" has a "Duel of Wits" to determine the outcome of social conflicts. In Ars Magica there's an elaborate system to determine the winner of a debate.
      Maybe not directly, but definitely indirectly: It's quite a common meme that the heroes are (falsely?) accused of committing a crime and have to talk their way out of it to avoid being punished. That punishment may well be fatal.
      That's a rather weird example. But apparently you're so focused on combat that you cannot imagine any negative outcome that doesn't involve the pcs being attacked?
      I'd expect a roll of '1' to indicate that the store proprietor will flat out refuse to sell any weapons to the pcs. It's still a pretty bad example because usually you don't use a single die roll to determine the outcome of an encounter.
      Well, I think, it's much more elegant to have a system using abstract wealth categories to determine what kind and quality of equipment you have access to. Such systems are e.g. used by Shadowrun and Ars Magica.
      And tracking xp? It's already a thing of the past for me. Using milestones is way better. It neatly solves a bunch of problems, e.g. leveling up when there's no time to rest, lagging behind the expected power level due to missed encounters, and most importantly the freedom to solve conflicts and quests in whatever way the players prefer without having to fear that they'll be punished for not picking a solution that would grant them xp according to the rules.
      And let's not forget that there are plenty of RPGs that don't use the concept of 'levels'.
      Whether there is combat or not is up to the individual DM, the Game designers can't control what sort of DM he is going to be, using abstract die rolls as a substitute for social interactions is not every DM's style. Lots of DMs simply use common sense, for example the store proprietor is there to make money, to logically his actions are geared toward selling items to customers so he can make money and keep his shop open. If we use die rolls to determine what he does, he ends up behaving erratically, he would probably end up in jail if he attacked a customer like I just described. People's actions typically have some sort of logic behind them unless they are crazy.

      Another practice I use in combat is to roll dice to determine which Player Character a monster attacks, that probably is not a realistic way to run a combat, after all players don't roll dice to determine what monster they attack. To give an example, lets suppose there is an Orc right next to a PC, the Orc gets the initiative, the PC is a wizard with a dagger and a spell he is about to cast. So the DM roles a die and determines that the Orc right in from of the Wizard attacks Bernie the Fighter, who is in a full suite of plate male, and so far he has never been hit in this combat. So the Orc pulls out a javelin and hurls it at Bernie the Fighter who is on the other side of the room, the wizard goes next, casting a sleep spell on the Orc right in front of him and then slits his throat with his dagger. Lucky wizard, he die roll determined that the orc was a moron and attacked the wrong PC, If he attacked the Wizard instead as common sense would dictate, this combat would have ended differently. It is much the same in social interactions.
    1. Kobold Boots -
      Quote Originally Posted by Manbearcat View Post
      There are lots of problems with this Saelorn, not the least of which is how your extreme metagame aversion is incoherent with this position.

      1) In reality (you're extremely predisposed toward extrapolation via internal causality), both informal and formal parlay (regardless of stakes and goals) among groups (associates/peers, would-bes, or strangers) typically involves multi-layered interactions. One of the most important in the animal kingdom is unspoken signalling such as postures and respect for courtesies or social norms. For instance, if someone is spoken to and they are ill-equipped to interact or aloof/rude/non-credible in their interactions, it damages the prospects of getting what a side wants out of the interchange. This speaks to both (i) framing (a GM engaging a non-"face" character during interaction) and (ii) lack of consequences/fallout if either the non-"face" character eschews the interaction or the "face" character steps in and denies the NPC their interchange with the other PC. In the real world, that typically doesn't fly and you'll draw the ire of someone ("I was talking to him/her") or they'll lose respect for both parties (due to the beta nature of the former and/or the unsolicited, rude interruption of the latter).

      It may be "metagame cozy" to have the face do all the interactions (because of action resolution maths), but that should be a big problem of internal causality for anyone accustomed to varying social interactions in real life. And a GM who is insufficient at framing "non-face" characters into social interaction needs to step their game up. And a resolution system (GMing ethos or mechanics) that doesn't play into this paradigm is also likely a problem.

      2) While this won't move you at all, genre fiction (upon which plenty of people draw genre logic inspiration from) isn't exactly starved of tense social engagements with non-specialists (either because they imposed their will upon the situation or the situation was imposed upon them).
      Not to be contrary, but this is going to sound that way.

      If I'm with a group of people in a car and we get pulled over by a cop, the "face" is going to be the sober guy driving and not the rest of us who have been drinking all night.
      If I'm with a group of people at work and we're in a meeting, the "face" is going to be the person we all defer to "the person with the best chance of getting what we want done".
      If I'm a teenager and on a hockey team, there's the captain of the team who is going to get better girls and teach us how to get better girls ourselves. He's the "face"

      "Face" activity in RPGs is not metagaming. It happens every day in real life and it's entirely realistic. If I'm a dwarf fighter with a CHA of 8, and at least a passing WiS, provided that I'm going to get in trouble if I don't let the Bard CHA 18 speak for me, I'm going to. After that works once, I'm more likely to shut up and let it happen again within the same boundaries. Just like the drunk buddies, work associates or hockey jocks above.

      Of course, the "face" isn't always going to be there for me. That's the breaks.

      Thanks,
      KB
    1. Reynard -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kobold Boots View Post
      "Face" activity in RPGs is not metagaming. It happens every day in real life and it's entirely realistic. If I'm a dwarf fighter with a CHA of 8, and at least a passing WiS, provided that I'm going to get in trouble if I don't let the Bard CHA 18 speak for me, I'm going to. After that works once, I'm more likely to shut up and let it happen again within the same boundaries. Just like the drunk buddies, work associates or hockey jocks above.
      What I hope for is a system that removes the whole idea of the singular face. that is, a social interaction system that is as inclusive for the whole party as combat is. A fight scene where only one character is useful is not very much fun. Why should we expect that a social scene would be? Part of that is of course people knowing this in advance and building characters -- and the GM building encounters -- to support this. But a big part of that is the game system making sure everyone is viable in the scenario.

      One subsystem that i think manages this pretty well overall is Starfinder's ship combat. Ship combat roles are disassociated from character classes -- the technomancer is as good a potential pilot as the soldier for example -- and each role has mechanical actions they can take that have specific results. Commanders can give orders and offer support, gunners attack, science and engineering can mitigate damage or improve attacks and defenses and so on. So maybe a "social combat" system could be developed that keeps the "face" (the "pilot" of the social encounter) but adds an advisor role and a bodyguard role and a so on. Then you add a back and forth system where the sides are trying to wear down each others resolves and resistances and when enough "social damage" is done, the encounter is over and the consequences take place.
    1. Kobold Boots -
      Quote Originally Posted by Reynard View Post
      What I hope for is a system that removes the whole idea of the singular face. that is, a social interaction system that is as inclusive for the whole party as combat is. A fight scene where only one character is useful is not very much fun. Why should we expect that a social scene would be? Part of that is of course people knowing this in advance and building characters -- and the GM building encounters -- to support this. But a big part of that is the game system making sure everyone is viable in the scenario.

      One subsystem that i think manages this pretty well overall is Starfinder's ship combat. Ship combat roles are disassociated from character classes -- the technomancer is as good a potential pilot as the soldier for example -- and each role has mechanical actions they can take that have specific results. Commanders can give orders and offer support, gunners attack, science and engineering can mitigate damage or improve attacks and defenses and so on. So maybe a "social combat" system could be developed that keeps the "face" (the "pilot" of the social encounter) but adds an advisor role and a bodyguard role and a so on. Then you add a back and forth system where the sides are trying to wear down each others resolves and resistances and when enough "social damage" is done, the encounter is over and the consequences take place.
      I hear where you're coming from Reynard, but it's not the responsibility of the rules system to ensure that all players have fun. That's largely on the DM and players. What you're suggesting, to me at least, looks like the rules being responsible such that every player gets a "participation trophy" even if they aren't specifically geared for whatever is going on at the time.

      I don't subscribe to that being a great way to structure a game and think it takes too much away from the actual people at the table. Balance doesn't have to mean, every character useful all the time. "Social combat" to me, means "Write better plot and take ideas from the players so they are engaged"

      Thanks
      KB
    1. jmucchiello's Avatar
      jmucchiello -
      You can play any and all versions of D&D as a court intrigue game were no one attacks anyone with a sword 99% of the time.
      You can play any and all versions of D&D as a kick in the door, kill the monsters, take their look game.
      You can play any and all versions of D&D super serious where everyone stays in character 100% of the time at the table.
      You can play any and all versions of D&D as a beer and pretzels game with Monty Haul (sic) loot and frequent Monty Python quotes.

      The people sitting around the table (or sitting at the computer of a virtual table) and only those players determine what kind of D&D game is being played.
    1. Reynard -
      Quote Originally Posted by Kobold Boots View Post
      I hear where you're coming from Reynard, but it's not the responsibility of the rules system to ensure that all players have fun. That's largely on the DM and players. What you're suggesting, to me at least, looks like the rules being responsible such that every player gets a "participation trophy" even if they aren't specifically geared for whatever is going on at the time.

      I don't subscribe to that being a great way to structure a game and think it takes too much away from the actual people at the table. Balance doesn't have to mean, every character useful all the time. "Social combat" to me, means "Write better plot and take ideas from the players so they are engaged"

      Thanks
      KB
      Do you feel the same way in regards to combat? Do you think the game is trying to give PCs "participation trophies" in combat, too? Do you think combat is a situation in which players should not expect to necessarily be able to participate or meaningfully contribute?
    1. Kobold Boots -
      Quote Originally Posted by Reynard View Post
      Do you feel the same way in regards to combat? Do you think the game is trying to give PCs "participation trophies" in combat, too? Do you think combat is a situation in which players should not expect to necessarily be able to participate or meaningfully contribute?
      Yup. Characters are not going to be able to meaningfully contribute in all cases and all scenarios. That's why character generation and how you choose to build your character matter.
      However, that's not to say that players don't think outside the box and make a difference or that if I run into a fully optimized team I'm not going to have done the math on their builds and know how to kill them.
    1. Reynard -
      Quote Originally Posted by jmucchiello View Post
      You can play any and all versions of D&D as a court intrigue game were no one attacks anyone with a sword 99% of the time.
      You can play any and all versions of D&D as a kick in the door, kill the monsters, take their look game.
      You can play any and all versions of D&D super serious where everyone stays in character 100% of the time at the table.
      You can play any and all versions of D&D as a beer and pretzels game with Monty Haul (sic) loot and frequent Monty Python quotes.

      The people sitting around the table (or sitting at the computer of a virtual table) and only those players determine what kind of D&D game is being played.
      These statements are true, but it is undeniable that the game rules offer support for some of those over others. The questions seem to be whether that is as it should be, and if not how to go about changing it.
    1. Jay Verkuilen's Avatar
      Jay Verkuilen -
      Quote Originally Posted by ArchfiendBobbie View Post
      I am finding it too focused on combat, but that's not because of the amount of rules on combat. It's because of a general lack of rules in other areas and not enough effort to fix it.
      Yeah they really lowballed non-combat areas. Just having some suggested tasks you can accomplish with skills helps provide structure and a tutorial for DMs who are relatively new. You don't need it to be tons and tons, just some lists of suggested DCs and some reasonably worked through examples. Nope. For example, I can't think of a much more useless skill in 5E than Medicine, which doesn't even have the decency to connect with the Healer feat, which is, from a game mechanical standpoint, vastly better. So what's the point of even having Medicine?

      I've heard a bunch of post-hoc rationalizations about how this "frees the DM", but fundamentally I think the design team was just lazy on this.
    1. Kobold Boots -
      Quote Originally Posted by Reynard View Post
      These statements are true, but it is undeniable that the game rules offer support for some of those over others. The questions seem to be whether that is as it should be, and if not how to go about changing it.
      Personally, I'm fine with it the way it is. I really don't want the designers telling me how to play the game beyond frameworks that already exist. Then again, I've spent tons of time filling in the holes over the years and feel that if I hadn't, I wouldn't have learned how to DM well.

      Of course "well" is open to anyone's opinion once they play with me. I'm not gassing myself up, just stating how I feel about it.
    1. hawkeyefan's Avatar
      hawkeyefan -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rhianni32 View Post
      Seems like a lot of people are confusing what they want out of RPing vs what the D&D ruleset focuses on. GMs and players can make whatever they want out of their game but if using D&D rules, and they want non combat situations and challenges, they have to put in a lot more extra work on their own vs what is given in the rules.

      D&D has always been a Monster Murder Simulator rule set. They toss in some non combat rules in sidebars.
      I agree with you about the origin of the game, and its lingering impact, but I don't know if I agree about it requiring more work to add missing or less defined elements to the game. It may be so....coming up with entire modules of rules to add onto the existing chassis could be a very complex and difficult task. But that need not be the only approach. GM judgment can substitute for actual rules in cases where the existing rules don't serve.
    1. jmucchiello's Avatar
      jmucchiello -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jay Verkuilen View Post
      Yeah they really lowballed non-combat areas. Just having some suggested tasks you can accomplish with skills helps provide structure and a tutorial for DMs who are relatively new. You don't need it to be tons and tons, just some lists of suggested DCs and some reasonably worked through examples. Nope. For example, I can't think of a much more useless skill in 5E than Medicine, which doesn't even have the decency to connect with the Healer feat, which is, from a game mechanical standpoint, vastly better. So what's the point of even having Medicine?

      I've heard a bunch of post-hoc rationalizations about how this "frees the DM", but fundamentally I think the design team was just lazy on this.
      I'm more bothered by Perform. If you have a lyre and are proficient in Perform, can you play the lyre with proficiency? If not (and by the rules no is probably the answer), what does Perform proficiency do? If you are using Perform for acting, shouldn't you use Decpetion instead? If you are using Perform for giving a rousing speech, shouldn't you use Persuasion instead? When does Perform do something?
    1. Jay Verkuilen's Avatar
      Jay Verkuilen -
      Quote Originally Posted by hawkeyefan View Post
      I agree with you about the origin of the game, and its lingering impact, but I don't know if I agree about it requiring more work to add missing or less defined elements to the game. It may be so....coming up with entire modules of rules to add onto the existing chassis could be a very complex and difficult task. But that need not be the only approach. GM judgment can substitute for actual rules in cases where the existing rules don't serve.
      I think there's an intermediate position between super detailed rule systems and nothing/leave it up to DM judgment. WotC erred on the side of nothing. 4E had some pretty good material in this, with some suggested tasks and DCs. Even just three or four possible tasks under each heading with some examples of consequences would be nice. It doesn't have to be complicated and over-burdened.

      There are two reasons to flesh things out a little: Suggestions are helpful to both players and DMs, especially newbies, who may be wrapping their heads around how one would make use of skills and have little to work from. The other is that some players---including some folks I play with---are uncomfortable winging it on a lot of things. It doesn't make them bad players, but they like things a bit more cut and dried and laid out and it cuts way back on arguments when there are some rules to point to on common and/or life threatening tasks. My understanding is that the current WotC folks are a bunch of freeform drama types but not everyone is.
    1. Jay Verkuilen's Avatar
      Jay Verkuilen -
      Quote Originally Posted by jmucchiello View Post
      I'm more bothered by Perform. If you have a lyre and are proficient in Perform, can you play the lyre with proficiency? If not (and by the rules no is probably the answer), what does Perform proficiency do? If you are using Perform for acting, shouldn't you use Decpetion instead? If you are using Perform for giving a rousing speech, shouldn't you use Persuasion instead? When does Perform do something?
      Very good point. It's one of the most useless skills and is totally undermined by tools proficiencies. It really should be connected to bard abilities, but it's not.
    1. jmucchiello's Avatar
      jmucchiello -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jay Verkuilen View Post
      I think there's an intermediate position between super detailed rule systems and nothing/leave it up to DM judgment. WotC erred on the side of nothing. 4E had some pretty good material in this, with some suggested tasks and DCs. Even just three or four possible tasks under each heading with some examples of consequences would be nice. It doesn't have to be complicated and over-burdened.
      In an effort to simplify things, they over did it. There's no reason why the detailed skill descriptions found in 3.x could not have found their way into 5E. Replacing "ranks" with advantage is sufficient simplification. But losing all of the specifics found in a full skill description is not sufficient.

      I would even like to have seen the skill descriptions say "normal ability score" and "alternative ability score" to decouple skills from abilities a bit more, especially for Intimidation.
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