Mearls On D&D's Design Premises/Goals
  • Mearls On D&D's Design Premises/Goals


    In a longish Twitter thread a week or so ago, D&D designer Mike Mearls talked about D&D and its overall design goals, and how that changed from previous editions. It covers the "who" of who D&D 5E is designed for, the styles of play it encourages, and more.




    When designing a game, consider the personality traits and behaviors the game encourages in its player. Then ask yourself if you want to make a game for a community that embraces what youíre encouraging. That tweet is a nicer way of saying: If you make a game for &$&%*(@, be ready, willing, and able to deal with &$&%*(@. Itís also why D&D got out of the business of trying to ďfixĒ obnoxious people.

    3.5 and 4 were very much driven by an anxiety about controlling the experience of the game, leaving as little as possible to chance. They aimed for consistency of play from campaign to campaign, and table to table. The fear was that an obnoxious player or DM would ruin the game, and that would drive people away from it. The thinking was that if we made things as procedural as possible, people would just follow the rules and have fun regardless of who they played with.

    The downside to this approach is that the rules became comprehensive to a fault. The gameís rules bloated, as they sought to resolve many if not all questions that arise in play with the game text.

    At the same time, 3.5 and 4 were driven by the idea that D&D players wanted as many character options as possible, presented in a modular framework meant to encourage the search for combinations that yielded characters who broke the power curve.

    These two aims play together in an extremely terrible way, at least from a design perspective. Your core system has to cover everything... meanwhile you are adding more cases and content to your game. Good luck with keeping those things in balance!

    IMO, the basic design premise suffers from a fatal flaw. It misses out on a ton of the elements that make RPGs distinct and doesnít speak to why people enjoy D&D in the first place.

    With 5th, we assumed that the DM was there to have a good time, put on an engaging performance, and keep the group interested, excited, and happy. Itís a huge change, because we no longer expect you to turn to the book for an answer. We expect the DM to do that.

    In terms of players, we focus much more on narrative and identity, rather than specific, mechanical advantages. Who you are is more important than what you do, to the point that your who determines your what. In broad terms - and based on what we can observe of the community from a variety of measures - we went from a community that focused on mechanics and expertise, to one focused on socializing and story telling. Mechanical expertise is an element of the game, but no longer the sole focus. Ideally, itís a balanced part of all the other motivators. If balanaced correctly, every has their fun. Enjoyment isnít zero sum.

    As D&D is descriptive rather than prescriptive, individual groups had different experiences. However, that was the design trend and what we saw in the community as a whole. Itís been interesting to see things change with the change in rules and the flood of new players.
    Comments 1249 Comments
    1. Reynard -
      First of all, thanks @Morrus for collecting this. I generally avoid Twitter because, frankly, it's full of a$$holes.

      That aside: this is an interesting way of looking at it, and underscores the difference in design philosophies between the WotC team and the Paizo team. There is a lot of room for both philosophies of design, and I don't think there is any reason for fans of one to be hostile to fans of the other, but those differences do matter. There are ways in which I like the prescriptive elements of 3.x era games (I like set skill difficulty lists, for example) but I tend to run by the seat of my pants and the effects of my beer, so a fast and loose and forgiving version like 5E really enables me running a game the way I like to.
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Great post.

      It should be bookmarked for future conversations on the forum.
    1. Charlaquin's Avatar
      Charlaquin -
      Interesting. I do like most of what heís saying, but I also wish they would embrace the fact that a lot of players still have a strong desire for mechanical options. Focusing on narrative identity is great, and the goal of those specific mechanical advantages should be to express a characterís narrative identity rather than to break the gameís progression curve. But 5e still offers so little in terms of ways to mechanically differentiate a character. He paints mechanical options as if theyíre at odds with the design philosophy he describes here, but I donít think they are at all.
    1. Reynard -
      Quote Originally Posted by Charlaquin View Post
      Interesting. I do like most of what heís saying, but I also wish they would embrace the fact that a lot of players still have a strong desire for mechanical options. Focusing on narrative identity is great, and the goal of those specific mechanical advantages should be to express a characterís narrative identity rather than to break the gameís progression curve. But 5e still offers so little in terms of ways to mechanically differentiate a character. He paints mechanical options as if theyíre at odds with the design philosophy he describes here, but I donít think they are at all.
      A couple of days ago, I was creating a 17th level barbarian as a test case for a high level one shot I want to run. It took less than a half hour. To create a 17th level character. In D&D. I was flabbergasted.

      Sure, if I had been making a caster I am sure it would have taken a bit longer, but even so. I had expected to spend a couple hours on the process at least. So, yeah, there are fewer options, but at the same time the ease of character generation is almost back to BECMI levels. That's kind of a win.
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Charlaquin View Post
      Interesting. I do like most of what heís saying, but I also wish they would embrace the fact that a lot of players still have a strong desire for mechanical options. Focusing on narrative identity is great, and the goal of those specific mechanical advantages should be to express a characterís narrative identity rather than to break the gameís progression curve. But 5e still offers so little in terms of ways to mechanically differentiate a character. He paints mechanical options as if theyíre at odds with the design philosophy he describes here, but I donít think they are at all.
      These two aims play together in an extremely terrible way, at least from a design perspective. Your core system has to cover everything... meanwhile you are adding more cases and content to your game. Good luck with keeping those things in balance!
      ...
      In terms of players, we focus much more on narrative and identity, rather than specific, mechanical advantages. Who you are is more important than what you do, to the point that your who determines your what. In broad terms - and based on what we can observe of the community from a variety of measures - we went from a community that focused on mechanics and expertise, to one focused on socializing and story telling. Mechanical expertise is an element of the game, but no longer the sole focus. Ideally, itís a balanced part of all the other motivators.


      So, one thing that many people don't understand unless they are designing things is that there is no such thing as a "free lunch." And this applies to, well, pretty much all design choices.

      Or, if design is too abstract, think about going out to eat. There may be 500 wonderful entrees and appetizers on the menu, but you can't order them all. You have to pick and choose what you want to eat, instead of devouring all of them, unless you end up like Mr. Creosote (wafer thin!).

      We all want more of what we like. But I don't think we can get a much more clear statement of design intent than we have here. They specifically chose to go away from more mechanical options, and mechanical complexity, and did so for reasons of balance (more of a 3x issue) and narrative/identity (perhaps more of a 4x issue). Again, this isn't a normative judgment about what is good, or bad, but instead it is an emphasis on design.

      But yes, it is clearly explained that this design philosophy is at odds with what you are describing, and why. That doesn't mean your desires are less valid, or your preferences are "bad," just like the preferences and design decisions inherent in anything (iOS v. Android, Audi v. Toyota, Gehry v. Liebskind) are "bad."

      Moving back to your point, adding additional mechanical complexity has to be balanced against this design goal; because, at some point, the added PC crunch will be that little wafer thin mint, causing the whole design to explode and we end up with 6e.
    1. Umbran's Avatar
      Umbran -
      Quote Originally Posted by Charlaquin View Post
      Focusing on narrative identity is great, and the goal of those specific mechanical advantages should be to express a characterís narrative identity rather than to break the gameís progression curve.
      Bolding mine. In that bold is the basic problem.

      Players have goals. Designers have goals. Mechanical advantages do not - in the same way that a hammer does not have a *goal* of hammering nails. Chunks of steel on sticks do not have will or desire, and have no goals. The hammer can be used to tear down drywall, if that is my goal, no matter that the designer of the hammer had a goal of making a thing to hammer nails.

      The designer cannot set the player's goals. The designer can only choose designs that support particular goals more, or support them less.

      Having lots of strong mechanical choices supports power gaming, whether you want it to or not. All players have to do is take on the power, and not role play the matching narrative identity - it is the old "role playing restrictions are not a reliable way to balance mechanical strength" issues of Paladins in 3e. And, having supported power gaming, then you are back in the 3e/4e power-curve-breaking mode, because having supported it, it becomes a major way to get rewards as a player.
    1. TwoSix -
      Quote Originally Posted by Charlaquin View Post
      Interesting. I do like most of what heís saying, but I also wish they would embrace the fact that a lot of players still have a strong desire for mechanical options. Focusing on narrative identity is great, and the goal of those specific mechanical advantages should be to express a characterís narrative identity rather than to break the gameís progression curve. But 5e still offers so little in terms of ways to mechanically differentiate a character. He paints mechanical options as if theyíre at odds with the design philosophy he describes here, but I donít think they are at all.
      While I am certainly in agreement with you that I enjoy more mechanical options, it would be remiss not to point out that a surfeit of mechanical options exist outside the boundary of WotC published material. I have more classes, subclasses, and feats in my personally vetted collection of homebrew material than exist within the combination of all of the published WotC books.
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      True words. I think itís important to look at your DMing style, too, and see what kind of play style you are encouraging.

      I would say that controlling the experience of the game goes back even further to 1e. If you look at all the ďpunishmentĒ items, and the idea of capricious and omnipresent death, I think there was very much a backbone of ďhaving to keep the PCs in lineĒ there, too. Just not necessarily through an overabundance of rules.

      As for not being able to fix obnoxious people, yeah. Either you put up with them for various reasons, or you let them go. D&D is big enough that thereís no reason to have a player just to have another PC at the table. Itís been hard for me, unlearning the old ways of needing every player you could find, regardless of fit for the table or quality. But I am learning.

      Quote Originally Posted by Morrus View Post
      [hq]When designing a game, consider the personality traits and behaviors the game encourages in its player. Then ask yourself if you want to make a game for a community that embraces what youíre encouraging. That tweet is a nicer way of saying: If you make a game for &$&%*(@, be ready, willing, and able to deal with &$&%*(@. Itís also why D&D got out of the business of trying to ďfixĒ obnoxious people.

      3.5 and 4 were very much driven by an anxiety about controlling the experience of the game, leaving as little as possible to chance.
    1. Sacrosanct's Avatar
      Sacrosanct -
      Well, those tweets pretty much explain why I prefer 5e way over 3e or 4e. Maybe it's because I've had an artistic background since I was a kid, so I've always enjoyed the creativity part of D&D, and 3e and 4e made me feel more shackled by the rules, especially since I mostly DM.

      I've always held that no game should try to fix broken or disruptive players because that's a human thing, and it's up to the group to handle those issues. It's part of the social contract when you become a group of people. If someone is being disruptive, I don't expect a rule to keep them in check, I am expected myself to address it and worst case, advise them that this table isn't the best fit for them. The trade off of that in order to have gaming tables be able to more easily mold their session to the style they prefer is well worth it.
    1. robus's Avatar
      robus -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      Great post.

      It should be bookmarked for future conversations on the forum.
      I'll add it to the "Best of" (if it's not already )
    1. Charlaquin's Avatar
      Charlaquin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Reynard View Post
      A couple of days ago, I was creating a 17th level barbarian as a test case for a high level one shot I want to run. It took less than a half hour. To create a 17th level character. In D&D. I was flabbergasted.

      Sure, if I had been making a caster I am sure it would have taken a bit longer, but even so. I had expected to spend a couple hours on the process at least. So, yeah, there are fewer options, but at the same time the ease of character generation is almost back to BECMI levels. That's kind of a win.
      That is definitely a benefit of 5eís design. For me personally, high-level barbarians being fast and easy to make is not a worthwhile tradeoff for barbarians of all levels being boring to play. But thatís just my personal taste, and Iíll grant that thee are definite benefits and drawbacks of less mechanically complex design.

      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post

      So, one thing that many people don't understand unless they are designing things is that there is no such thing as a "free lunch." And this applies to, well, pretty much all design choices.

      Or, if design is too abstract, think about going out to eat. There may be 500 wonderful entrees and appetizers on the menu, but you can't order them all. You have to pick and choose what you want to eat, instead of devouring all of them, unless you end up like Mr. Creosote (wafer thin!).

      We all want more of what we like. But I don't think we can get a much more clear statement of design intent than we have here. They specifically chose to go away from more mechanical options, and mechanical complexity, and did so for reasons of balance (more of a 3x issue) and narrative/identity (perhaps more of a 4x issue). Again, this isn't a normative judgment about what is good, or bad, but instead it is an emphasis on design.

      I understand that they have to pick a set of design goals and run with them, I just donít care for all of the goals they picked in this case. I agree with some of them and disagree with others.

      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      But yes, it is clearly explained that this design philosophy is at offs with what you are describing, and why. That doesn't mean your desires are less valid, or your preferences are "bad," just like the preferences and design decisions inherent in anything (iOS v. Android, Audi v. Toyota, Gehry v. Liebskind) are "bad."

      No, itís not. Itís clearly explained why they decided to move away from trying to ďfixĒ poor DM and player behavior with rules and design for flexibility over consistency of play. Itís also explained that the design for consistency of play was at odds with designing for a heavy emphasis on mechanical options. But you only have to change one of those two design goals to resolve that conflict. They instead changed both, and I would have preferred they only change one.

      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      Moving back to your point, adding additional mechanical complexity has to be balanced against this design goal; because, at some point, the added PC crunch will be that little wafer thin mint, causing the whole design to explode and we end up with 6e.
      6e is exactly what I want, so...

      Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
      Bolding mine. In that bold is the basic problem.

      Players have goals. Designers have goals. Mechanical advantages do not - in the same way that a hammer does not have a *goal* of hammering nails. Chunks of steel on sticks do not have will or desire, and have no goals. The hammer can be used to tear down drywall, if that is my goal, no matter that the designer of the hammer had a goal of making a thing to hammer nails.

      The designer cannot set the player's goals. The designer can only choose designs that support particular goals more, or support them less.
      His words, not mine. Kindly leave the pedantry aside and engage with my point, which is that mechanical options can be designed to support narrative identiy.

      Quote Originally Posted by Umbran View Post
      Having lots of strong mechanical choices supports power gaming, whether you want it to or not. All players have to do is take on the power, and not role play the matching narrative identity - it is the old "role playing restrictions are not a reliable way to balance mechanical strength" issues of Paladins in 3e. And, having supported power gaming, then you are back in the 3e/4e power-curve-breaking mode, because having supported it, it becomes a major way to get rewards as a player.
      First of all, I donít consider power gaming an inherently bad thing. Itís certainly not at odds with roleplaying. Players can do one, the other, both, or neither, there is no conflict between them. More importantly, the ability to break the power curve stops being a problem when the design philosophy is to empower the DM to make decisions based on the needs of their table, rather than designing to make the rules as consistent as possible. My point is, Mearls clearly illuminated a conflict between two parts of their previous design philosophy. They changed both parts instead of just one, and I would have preferred they just change the one.

      Quote Originally Posted by TwoSix View Post
      While I am certainly in agreement with you that I enjoy more mechanical options, it would be remiss not to point out that a surfeit of mechanical options exist outside the boundary of WotC published material. I have more classes, subclasses, and feats in my personally vetted collection of homebrew material than exist within the combination of all of the published WotC books.
      I think I may have miscommunicated to you what I meant by mechanical options. I donít want more races, classes, and subclasses. There are plenty of those available between official products, 3rd party, and fan-made content. What I want is more than one choice of race, one choice of class, one choice of subclass, and four ability score increases/feats to differentiate one character from another. For all the flack 4e got for ďevery class feeling the same,Ē I see that issue much more with 5e.
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Charlaquin View Post
      I understand that they have to pick a set of design goals and run with them, I just donít care for all of the goals they picked in this case. I agree with some of them and disagree with others.
      Regardless of the rest of what you wrote, I think this is the only thing that matters. I suggest really truly reading what you wrote here (along with wanting a 6e) and thinking about it, and trying to read my post again.

      There is a big difference between the following statements:

      1. I don't like your design goals!

      2. I like your design goals, but I don't think you accomplished what you were trying to do!

      3. I don't really care what your design goals are, I just want what I want.


      When someone says, "Hey, we considered X, but we decided not to design for X, because that's not what we are designing for ..." then, well, you can't really say, "Yeah, well, I don't care man, you should have X anyway!"

      Maybe you want to have an iPhone, that runs Android OS, and is fully expandable, and doesn't use the Apple Store and doesn't have a walled garden and doesn't use proprietary connections ... and that's great. But that's not an iPhone.
    1. TwoSix -
      Quote Originally Posted by Charlaquin View Post
      I think I may have miscommunicated to you what I meant by mechanical options. I donít want more races, classes, and subclasses. There are plenty of those available between official products, 3rd party, and fan-made content. What I want is more than one choice of race, one choice of class, one choice of subclass, and four ability score increases/feats to differentiate one character from another. For all the flack 4e got for ďevery class feeling the same,Ē I see that issue much more with 5e.
      Fair point. I definitely agree I'd like more selectable options, ideally per level. Something like alternative class features, or Pathfinder style archetypes, or class options that aren't 20 level progressions to have more options while multiclassing (like 3e PrCs).
    1. Parmandur's Avatar
      Parmandur -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post


      So, one thing that many people don't understand unless they are designing things is that there is no such thing as a "free lunch." And this applies to, well, pretty much all design choices.

      Or, if design is too abstract, think about going out to eat. There may be 500 wonderful entrees and appetizers on the menu, but you can't order them all. You have to pick and choose what you want to eat, instead of devouring all of them, unless you end up like Mr. Creosote (wafer thin!).

      We all want more of what we like. But I don't think we can get a much more clear statement of design intent than we have here. They specifically chose to go away from more mechanical options, and mechanical complexity, and did so for reasons of balance (more of a 3x issue) and narrative/identity (perhaps more of a 4x issue). Again, this isn't a normative judgment about what is good, or bad, but instead it is an emphasis on design.

      But yes, it is clearly explained that this design philosophy is at offs with what you are describing, and why. That doesn't mean your desires are less valid, or your preferences are "bad," just like the preferences and design decisions inherent in anything (iOS v. Android, Audi v. Toyota, Gehry v. Liebskind) are "bad."

      Moving back to your point, adding additional mechanical complexity has to be balanced against this design goal; because, at some point, the added PC crunch will be that little wafer thin mint, causing the whole design to explode and we end up with 6e.
      This is a thoughtful, balanced and accurate post.

      I'm pretty sure that you are Interneting wrong.
    1. TwoSix -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      When someone says, "Hey, we considered X, but we decided not to design for X, because that's not what we are designing for ..." then, well, you can't really say, "Yeah, well, I don't care man, you should have X anyway!"
      Why not? If my local bakery, that produces and sells my favorite bagels, decides to only sell donuts from now on, why can't I say "Hey, you guys stopped making my favorite bagels, what's up with that?" They are certainly within their rights to say "Well, donuts sell better, and we don't really like making bagels, so I guess you're out of luck." And I'm certainly within my rights to respond "Well, I only really liked your bagels, so if you start making them, I'll come back, but otherwise I'll just have to skip bagels."
    1. Parmandur's Avatar
      Parmandur -
      Quote Originally Posted by TwoSix View Post
      Why not? If my local bakery, that produces and sells my favorite bagels, decides to only sell donuts from now on, why can't I say "Hey, you guys stopped making my favorite bagels, what's up with that?" They are certainly within their rights to say "Well, donuts sell better, and we don't really like making bagels, so I guess you're out of luck." And I'm certainly within my rights to respond "Well, I only really liked your bagels, so if you start making them, I'll come back, but otherwise I'll just have to skip bagels."
      It is off-point: it is more like buying the donut and complaining that it is too sweet and needs more onions.
    1. Pauper's Avatar
      Pauper -
      Good discussion of your position. My $0.02US...

      Quote Originally Posted by Charlaquin View Post
      That is definitely a benefit of 5eís design. For me personally, high-level barbarians being fast and easy to make is not a worthwhile tradeoff for barbarians of all levels being boring to play. But thatís just my personal taste, and Iíll grant that thee are definite benefits and drawbacks of less mechanically complex design.
      I'm not sure I agree that 3/4e had classes that were all fun to play -- instead, what you had was a bunch of barbarian concepts that were pretty boring/bog-standard, and a few who were insanely fun for the right kind of player because they broke the game. Same with every other class, only the ratio of bog-standard to broken builds changes by class.

      No, itís not. Itís clearly explained why they decided to move away from trying to ďfixĒ poor DM and player behavior with rules and design for flexibility over consistency of play. Itís also explained that the design for consistency of play was at odds with designing for a heavy emphasis on mechanical options. But you only have to change one of those two design goals to resolve that conflict. They instead changed both, and I would have preferred they only change one.
      Except if they only change one, they don't really commit to their design goal, because both changes support it. Specifically, both changes reduce the amount of complexity in the game, which would otherwise focus player and DM attention on the mechanics of the game rather than the other elements that make the game, as an RPG, distinct from other kinds of tabletop games. I mean, I was a fan of 4E, but I know a lot of people who basically got bored with low-level 4E play not because it was a bad system, but because it was pretty much the same game mechanically they'd just played a couple of nights before when they played Arkham Horror or Touch of Evil or Last Night on Earth.

      If you try to reduce the rules overhead, but leave in the high amount of mechanical complexity, then what you have is a game that tries to pull you in two different directions -- do you focus on the simplicity and free-wheeling aspect of the game, or do you dive into the mechanical complexity and ultimately find the unbalancing factors there (which become unbalancing much more rapidly given that the rest of the game system isn't trying to hold those factors in check anymore). Ultimately, the mechanical complexity will 'win' in most games, because, as noted many times previously, optimization as a play style drives out other play styles.

      The designers had to do both, or they had to admit that their stated design goal wasn't their real design goal.

      His words, not mine. Kindly leave the pedantry aside and engage with my point, which is that mechanical options can be designed to support narrative identiy.(sic)
      But why? There are already literally countless ways your 1st level rogue can be different from my 1st level rogue. Mine could be a street urchin while yours is a bored noblewoman looking for excitement. Mine could be looking for a big money score while yours sees wealth as people or organizations rather than money. Mine could have a flaw where he claims not to want to be a hero, but can't help throwing his hat in when needed, even if there's no money in it, while yours can be as brittle as a dry bone when presented with unpleasant choices. The ways to distinguish your rogue from mine are unlimited within the context of a role-playing game; that both characters get Sneak Attack at first level doesn't invalidate this, and arguably having a rogue option that got some ability other than Sneak Attack that you could take at first level wouldn't necessarily make our rogues any more distinguishable as characters, just as game pieces.

      First of all, I donít consider power gaming an inherently bad thing. Itís certainly not at odds with roleplaying. Players can do one, the other, both, or neither, there is no conflict between them.
      I fundamentally disagree. Rather than spend yet another post trying to explain this, I'll just point you at a very well-written essay (from back before 4e even came out) that makes the salient point:

      "The 'character' must make choices based on personal motivations rather than strategic or tactical advantage. This is the 'My Character Wouldn't Do That' factor. The correct move in chess may be Queen's Pawn to Pawn 4, but if the King decides, 'I want to protect my Queen more than I want to protect my Bishop, even though the smart move is to protect my Bishop,' then we have a roleplaying game."

      More importantly, the ability to break the power curve stops being a problem when the design philosophy is to empower the DM to make decisions based on the needs of their table, rather than designing to make the rules as consistent as possible.
      No, it doesn't. What it does is means that the DM now must serve the role of maintaining balance that previously was presumed to be the designer's role -- in that sense, had the designers gone this route, I'd agree that you could call them 'lazy' for making up a game with a ton of mechanical complexity and then, when DMs asked for help balancing the options, just shrugging their shoulders and saying, 'nope, that's your problem."

      My point is, Mearls clearly illuminated a conflict between two parts of their previous design philosophy. They changed both parts instead of just one, and I would have preferred they just change the one.
      You're missing the bigger picture -- both parts of the philosophy implicated the same goal, reducing mechanical complexity and rules overhead in order to get the game closer to a goal of supporting different styles of play.

      And while I don't necessarily think you're a bad person just because you're a fan of power gaming, I will point out that Mearls himself starts the thread by effectively saying the lesson of 3/4e is basically, 'if you design a game for jerks, expect to have to deal with jerks'. I'm involved in an infrequent Pathfinder game, and my feeling at the end of each session is always that the biggest problem with Pathfinder as an RPG system are the people who really like Pathfinder as an RPG system.

      For all the flack 4e got for ďevery class feeling the same,Ē I see that issue much more with 5e.
      My guess is that all of your 5e characters feel the same because they are all the same: the "my character is the best in the world at what he/she/it does" character. I find it curious to consider playing endless variations of the same character as a role-playing game, just as I'd find it curious to see someone lauded as a 'great actor' when he only ever portrays one role. Adding more mechanical complexity wouldn't actually make a better game; it would just allow you to distract yourself for a bit longer before realizing you're just playing the same character, over and over, in a glorified board game.

      If that's what you want to do, cool -- as noted by other posters, there's a ton of third-party material to let you do just that. Just don't cram it into the 'core game' where I as a DM have to deal with it, because running a game where I'm dealing with the characters' mechanical strengths and flaws is way less interesting to me than one where I'm dealing with their personality strengths and flaws.

      --
      Pauper
    1. TwoSix -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parmandur View Post
      It is off-point: it is more like buying the donut and complaining that it is too sweet and needs more onions.
      No it's not. This isn't akin to buying the wrong type of thing and not getting what you anticipated, it's saying that a vendor used to sell you something you liked (3e and 4e style rules) but doesn't anymore. Playing an RPG isn't like buying a single item, it's more like subscribing to a service.
    1. robus's Avatar
      robus -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post

      But yes, it is clearly explained that this design philosophy is at offs with what you are describing, and why. That doesn't mean your desires are less valid, or your preferences are "bad," just like the preferences and design decisions inherent in anything (iOS v. Android, Audi v. Toyota, Gehry v. Liebskind) are "bad."
      This is perhaps why Paizo continues to do well and perhaps it is healthy for the hobby as a whole as there are more playstyle options available: those wanting a more mechanical approach to the game can find lots of support in Pathfinder, while those wanting a looser, more DM arbitrated game can hang out with D&D. I'm not trying to start a war, but simply saying that there is a system, that's very closely related to D&D, that has stuck with the mechanical crunch for those that want it. Waiting for WotC to provide it in D&D 5e is probably futile given that it would fly directly in the face of their stated design goals. And I imagine 6e (if there is one) will double down on their design goals (further streamlining the ruleset where they can).

      The great thing is that the adventures for each can be easily adapted to the other (or so I hear ), massively increasing the amount of playable content.
    1. Parmandur's Avatar
      Parmandur -
      Quote Originally Posted by Charlaquin View Post
      That is definitely a benefit of 5eís design. For me personally, high-level barbarians being fast and easy to make is not a worthwhile tradeoff for barbarians of all levels being boring to play. But thatís just my personal taste, and Iíll grant that thee are definite benefits and drawbacks of less mechanically complex design.


      I understand that they have to pick a set of design goals and run with them, I just donít care for all of the goals they picked in this case. I agree with some of them and disagree with others.

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      No, itís not. Itís clearly explained why they decided to move away from trying to ďfixĒ poor DM and player behavior with rules and design for flexibility over consistency of play. Itís also explained that the design for consistency of play was at odds with designing for a heavy emphasis on mechanical options. But you only have to change one of those two design goals to resolve that conflict. They instead changed both, and I would have preferred they only change one.

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      6e is exactly what I want, so...


      His words, not mine. Kindly leave the pedantry aside and engage with my point, which is that mechanical options can be designed to support narrative identiy.


      First of all, I donít consider power gaming an inherently bad thing. Itís certainly not at odds with roleplaying. Players can do one, the other, both, or neither, there is no conflict between them. More importantly, the ability to break the power curve stops being a problem when the design philosophy is to empower the DM to make decisions based on the needs of their table, rather than designing to make the rules as consistent as possible. My point is, Mearls clearly illuminated a conflict between two parts of their previous design philosophy. They changed both parts instead of just one, and I would have preferred they just change the one.


      I think I may have miscommunicated to you what I meant by mechanical options. I donít want more races, classes, and subclasses. There are plenty of those available between official products, 3rd party, and fan-made content. What I want is more than one choice of race, one choice of class, one choice of subclass, and four ability score increases/feats to differentiate one character from another. For all the flack 4e got for ďevery class feeling the same,Ē I see that issue much more with 5e.
      But Barbarians, and the other very distinct Classes, are very fun to play, at all levels, for most people. They spent a lot of time working out what is mechanically fun and interesting in play, and supportive of narrative.

      Power gaming, as such, is neither good nor bad. But, tabletop gaming will never be able to compete with video games in that territory, straight up. WoW is a better power game experience than any TTRPG ever made, or conceivable.

      6E is both going to be a long wait, and backwards compatible with 5E when it does come. Soooo, good luck with that.
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