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Thread: D&D Next Blog: Tone and Edition
Monday, 30th April, 2012, 06:13 PM #151
Magsman (Lvl 14)
The rules books initially gave some rules suited very specifically to "competitive" play against the monsters: hit points (resources to manage), experience points (prizes for winning), classes (reasons to join a team) and so on. But the rules were too vague for a full-on combative contest, so a referee was needed; and the stipulation was that this was the same guy as the "enemy". The natural outcome of this was that the DM had to become an entertainer and an illusionist. S/he couldn't be an antagonist, because they held all the real power, but the players needed opponents to kill and steal stuff from, so the DM had to build an illusion.
At the same time, the rules seemingly expected the players to compete with the monsters; but with the DM determining not just the monsters' placement, motives and moves, but also just what the rules meant about what their characters could do, this wasn't really feasible. So the players learned to shift their attention to other outlets; to competing to please the DM (and thus get their neat ideas accepted as "working"), to enjoying the ride as the DM spun out a 'story' and to immersing themselves completely in their character, imagining what it would be like to be really "there".
Along come more explicit rules. For many players, this doesn't really matter. The DM looks after all that stuff, anyway, while we do improv acting, immerse in the world experience or just enjoy the tale unfolding. But for the competitive ones - the frustrated tacticians - this makes a huge difference! Now, the rules actually say what their character should expect to be able to do! A constellation that has been there in part from day 1 - the impetus to implement tactical plans to kill things and take their stuff in a way you, the player, actually have significant control over - has finally been realised. And so, the assumptions clash.
- When I run 4e, it is because the rules are actually explicit, unambiguous (for the most part) and clear. I know the rules well, and I stick to them, because they work. If I want to change them, that is my prerogative, but I tell the players up front what the changes are. The rules are their communication from me concerning how the game world works.
- When I run HârnMaster, it is because no-one at the table is under any illusions that "competition" or "overcoming challenges" has anything to do with what the play is about. We are all there purely to explore the world of Hârn and build upon its already impressive "reality" to forge a great "myth" in all our minds, shared by all. Rules lawyering given this objective is pointless.
So, my opinion, the key things are communication and clarity. And the rules of the game are a very important locus of communication.
Last edited by Balesir; Monday, 30th April, 2012 at 06:16 PM.Balesir
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Monday, 30th April, 2012, 06:31 PM #152
Magsman (Lvl 14)
And I think Wizards sees this to some extent. I hope they hold true to that and give us 10 full classes in 5e's PHB1, and, I can only hope, give us ~10 full races as well.
Monday, 30th April, 2012, 06:43 PM #153
Lama (Lvl 13)
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So, I'm sorry. I can definitely understand why someone whose experience has been that DM as arbiter results in a lack of player agency doesn't want a return to the DM as arbiter system. Hopefully, D&DN allows everyone to play in the same sandbox.
Fortunately, there should be tactical combat mods and the like for frustrated tacticians who want clear and present player agency.
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Tuesday, 1st May, 2012, 12:53 PM #154
Magsman (Lvl 14)
This is where some of the "good DM"/"bad DM" stuff comes about. It's not linked to specific actions or approaches, as such, but rather "good DMs" set the extent of player agency such that the players' expectations for it are met, whereas "bad DMs" set player agency in a way that does not meet the players' expectations. It's notable that this can run in either direction; I have heard players complain of too much, as well as too little agency.
In my own GMing I have, with some notable exceptions, been reasonably successful in meeting players' expectations of agency, I think. But that does not mean that I see deliberate vagueness or ambiguity in game rules or deliberate schemas of "GM power overrides rules" as anything but inferior ways to design an RPG.
Once in the scene, however, the rules dictate what results from the characters' (and monsters') actions.
If you assume a conflict resolution system, on the other hand (i.e. the players describe objectives that they wish to pursue in a scene, and inject the means they will leverage in advancing that objective, while the system resolves whose objectives get achieved and to what extent), the rules system can be quite simple without any need for GM extrapolation or fiat.