Monte on Logic in RPGs





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    Monte on Logic in RPGs

    Monte Cook (one of the designers of D&D 3E, and until recently of D&D Next) has written a short essay on "Logic in RPGs" over on his journal, The Chapel Perilous. It largely deals with the concept of rules-heavy and rules-light systems ("rulings not rules") and the effects such systems have on gameplay, while clearly stating his preference for the latter. It's not a new theory by any stretch, but it goes some way to codifying it clearly.

    You can read the essay here.
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    He nailed it right down.
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    Thankfully he defined what he means by "logic" at one point, by which he basically means "whatever basis the DM and players want to use to drive their play experience."

    Also interesting that the D&D edition that most offends the principles in his post is 3E (IMO), the edition which he had a hand in.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Monte
    If this seems like a salvo in the so-called Edition Wars, let me assure you that it's not. It's a game design issue and it extends far beyond editions of any one particular game. I lament that there are now so many game design issues that one can't even discuss without them turning into Edition War name calling and finger pointing. In that regard, that detracts from, rather than adds to, the discussion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fifth Element View Post
    Also interesting that the D&D edition that most offends the principles in his post is 3E (IMO), the edition which he had a hand in.

    Two posts in. Not a record but close.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fifth Element View Post
    Thankfully he defined what he means by "logic" at one point, by which he basically means "whatever basis the DM and players want to use to drive their play experience."

    Also interesting that the D&D edition that most offends the principles in his post is 3E (IMO), the edition which he had a hand in.
    Note that he does say there are games out there like that that are excellent. I'd say that's true. So maybe he doesn't want to work on games like that anymore. Does that justify the cheap shot?
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    Reading this makes me even more curious as to why he left the 5e design team, as 5e is starting to look like it might need a bit of this kind of thinking.

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    I believe what Monte Cook is advocating is commonly known as emergent gameplay.

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    It's not bad. But there's quibbles.

    First, there's the problem of the player getting "good instruction" for what is possible. I've seen this at work in the 5e playtest: having the ability to do anything can leave you paralyzed with options, unable to think of what you should do in any given situation. Not every player has a problem with this, but I've seen a lot of people just shrug and do some default action over and over again and get a little bored with it because they can't see what they can do.

    The other side of this is a DM getting "good numbers" for what is possible. 4e's Page 42 could, slightly expanded, be a great basis for an entire RPG built entirely around what Monte is advocating. 5e doesn't have something like that yet, which means the DM gets her own special version of the analysis paralysis: I don't know HOW to adjudicate this so that it has some effect without having ALL the effect.

    Balance concerns figure into this, too. Relying on the DM means subtle personality quirks and rules opinions can drastically swing the play experience. One DM things wizards are teh overpowerdz, so she uses her powers of interpretation to nerf every spell into ineffectiveness (the "Charm Person makes them your friend, but this goblin loves to stab his friends!" kind of DM). Another DM thinks wizards SHOULD be the most powerful of all ever, so she uses HER powers of interpretation to make wizards always the best choice (the "Charm Person gives you a loyal peon for life, and no one else can convince an NPC of anything" kind of DM).

    You can give DMs all the advice and guidance you want, and not eliminate this problem, because much of it lies in the realm of emotion and opinion, and not fact and reason.

    And the absurd endpoint of the concept is to not have any rules at all because all we need is a player who says "I do X" and a DM who says "Y happens," and uses some half-arbitrary criteria to decide on success or failure.

    People need hooks to hang their characters on, and DMs need hooks to hang their arbitration on, and no amount of text in a rulebook is going to train a good DM. Only experience does that. Experience using those hooks and examples and rules as training wheels to get to the point where they can confidently ignore them, if they want to.

    A game consisting of a PHB that says: "Do anything you want!" and a DMG that says "Figure out what happens!" doesn't give me enough hooks to hang anything on.

    To a certain degree, this was a problem with my 4e experience. Lots of places where the rules told me to do it myself, and, as a result, I had no real idea what to do.

    In other words, it's a great Rule Zero, but we're gonna need more than that (even if just a little bit).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark CMG View Post
    Two posts in. Not a record but close.
    Nice try, but not every comment about the good stuff/bad stuff in a particular edition is an attempt at an edition war. Guess which edition of the game I'm playing right now?

    And whether this was even a comment about bad stuff is a matter of opinion anyway, all I said was that it went against what he was talking about - if you disagree with his post you'd see that as a good thing, and I offered no comment on whether I agreed with his post in toto or not.

    Also, note that I only said it was "interesting". I didn't say it made his comments invalid or that he was a hypocrite or something stupid like that.

    So no, people can discuss various editions of the game without warring about it. But it's difficult, because there tends to be someone who will interpret it that way anyway.

    Back to the thread!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fifth Element View Post
    (snip)

    Rather than just discuss the content sans edition, you felt the need to put it in terms of edition despite that being the exact opposite of the sentiment in the blog.
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