General D&D Topics* Pros and Cons of going mainstream




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  1. #1
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    Pros and Cons of going mainstream

    The usual declaimers:
    This is NOT an edition war!
    The only wrong way to play is to not have fun.

    Greeting all.
    I found the attached article and while personally not agreeing with authors conclusions it does seems to raise interesting topics for discussion.
    In particular how has the focus of the game changed thorough the years and editions?

    The author of the article argues that by reaching a more mainstream status the game have become more focus on the casual play making easy to pick up, but loosing some of its sense of wander.

    Personally I feel that the earlier editions (OD&D, 1st and 2nd) were more focused on individual creativity where each DM makes an unique world of his own creation. In other words specialized, but more close fitting to the game group. There was a problem when switching groups or DMs for that matter. The growth of the PC was also more pronounced. 1st level adventurer is only slightly better then Joe NPC, while high level (10+ as defined by the High level handbook) is much more likely to succeed in a level appropriate challenge (hit more often, save more often etc). The world were more status quo - PC can face a variety of challenges in the same adventure (6 gargoyles vs 25 level lich) ans still feel threatened. It was up to them whether they will run or fight.
    3rd and 4th streamlined the rules and tried to place an unification factor as well as fully disclosed math. That increased the ease of play but also introduced predictability and for some a drive for optimization. Rules layering is nothing new, but I feel it rouse to new levels as well as get more organized in last two editions. I do not fight the expected wealth by level to be wrong, just not everyone's cup of tea. The feeling of magic items also felt to me less rewarding both due to its commonality as well as its way of meshing with the system. In other words, before magic items were thing that allowed one to go belong what was possible, now magic gets more everyday necessity vibe. (I guess IRL it parallels what computer have become- a luxury and wander to everyday nececity)
    Just my two coppers.


    Please discuss.
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by Luce; Tuesday, 20th November, 2012 at 06:38 PM.

 

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    You know, I don't think I've ever seen an experienced, adult RPG player describe a recent gameplay experience as possessing a "sense of wonder", in any system, including old editions of D&D.

    I don't think "sense of wonder" has anything to do with game mechanics or design. It's rose-tinted nostalgia for childhood where mechanics quite literally didn't matter, because kids are perfectly happy with pure make-believe. "Sense of wonder" happens when the world is a mystery because the processes used by the DM to run it are a mystery.

    But I think, as RPG players get older and more experienced, that mystery simply doesn't work any more. We see past that. Succeeding or failing at things simply because the DM said so loses any meaning. Lack of coherent rules makes trying to plan frustrating and meaningless.

    To be clear, I'm not making any statement on the relative merits of editions of D&D, but rather on the lack of usefulness of "sense of wonder" for evaluating game systems. It's tangential to mechanics, and inextricably tied up in our own very personal experiences and expectations.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dkyle View Post
    You know, I don't think I've ever seen an experienced, adult RPG player describe a recent gameplay experience as possessing a "sense of wonder", in any system, including old editions of D&D.

    I don't think "sense of wonder" has anything to do with game mechanics or design. It's rose-tinted nostalgia for childhood where mechanics quite literally didn't matter, because kids are perfectly happy with pure make-believe. "Sense of wonder" happens when the world is a mystery because the processes used by the DM to run it are a mystery.

    But I think, as RPG players get older and more experienced, that mystery simply doesn't work any more. We see past that. Succeeding or failing at things simply because the DM said so loses any meaning. Lack of coherent rules makes trying to plan frustrating and meaningless.

    To be clear, I'm not making any statement on the relative merits of editions of D&D, but rather on the lack of usefulness of "sense of wonder" for evaluating game systems. It's tangential to mechanics, and inextricably tied up in our own very personal experiences and expectations.
    I take you don't play video game puzzles either? Or believe anticipation based on prior experience can improve the enjoyment of a game? By the market alone your personal preferences are off for literally billions of people. Pretty much everything you said is demonstrably wrong.
    Last edited by howandwhy99; Tuesday, 20th November, 2012 at 09:20 PM. Reason: dumb spelling mistake
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    Quote Originally Posted by howandwhy99 View Post
    I take you don't play video game puzzles either? Or believe anticipation based on prior experience can improve the enjoyment of a game? By the market alone you're personal preferences are off for literally billions of people. Pretty much everything you said is demonstrably wrong.
    Video game puzzles are the exact opposite of succeeding or failing because a DM said so. They behave according to precise mechanics, with clearly established "win" conditions.

    I'm not sure what "anticipation based on prior experience" means, or what it has to do with my post.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dkyle View Post
    Video game puzzles are the exact opposite of succeeding or failing because a DM said so. They behave according to precise mechanics, with clearly established "win" conditions.
    Unless you understand all videogames as being played with full knowledge of the programming code by every player, videogames have unknown rules learned through play. None need to tell you a "win" condition and that's hardly a necessary part of any game or puzzle. When the game functions it's largely because the programmers programmed it that way, just like a DM behind a screen it is the programmer saying so.

    I'm not sure what "anticipation based on prior experience" means, or what it has to do with my post.
    Just take it on the understanding it has to do with one's sense of wonder, something your use of quotes makes clear you hold in contention.
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    Quote Originally Posted by howandwhy99 View Post
    Unless you understand all videogames as being played with full knowledge of the programming code by every player, videogames have unknown rules learned through play. None need to tell you a "win" condition and that's hardly a necessary part of any game or puzzle. When the game functions it's largely because the programmers programmed it that way, just like a DM behind a screen it is the programmer saying so.
    You don't need to know every programming detail to understand the rules of the game.

    And even if not told up front, it's enough that the game has rules to be discovered, adapted to, and exploited.

    And puzzle games usually are played with the rules and objective known up front. Or at least, very readily apparent within minutes of play.

    When you win a video game, you win because you were skilled enough to accomplish the challenges setup by the programmer, according to the predefined rules setup by the programmer.

    In contrast, the DM need not behave according to any rules at all. They can make decisions on any completely arbitrary basis. And if they do so, in that environment, a "success" in any roleplaying situation is not due to any sort of skill or wise decision-making. Increased chance of success comes from meta-gaming, and guessing how the DM will behave, not by engaging with the game world.

    But a DM running the game with a game system can run a meaningful game by using game mechanics to resolve situations instead of fiat.

    Just take it on the understanding it has to do with one's sense of wonder, something your use of quotes makes clear you hold in contention.
    My use of quotes was to indicate that I was quoting you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dkyle View Post
    In contrast, the DM need not behave according to any rules at all. They can make decisions on any completely arbitrary basis. And if they do so, in that environment, a "success" in any roleplaying situation is not due to any sort of skill or wise decision-making. Increased chance of success comes from meta-gaming, and guessing how the DM will behave, not by engaging with the game world.

    But a DM running the game with a game system can run a meaningful game by using game mechanics to resolve situations instead of fiat.
    I've snipped a good bit out, but that's because I largely agree with it. It's just that in D&D the objectives are largely determined by the whims of each player every moment of play.

    I disagree the DM does not behave according to rules. In fact, that's pretty much all a refereeing DM is allowed to do. They don't make decisions, they seek to avoid bias. It's all about the rules behind the screen, which don't have to be designed by the DM at all. And especially if they aren't, guessing how the person running the rules would have designed them, what you call meta-gaming above, is to the players' distinct disadvantage.

    And while I agree with your last line above, I disagree that game mechanics are antithetical or even tangential to wonder, cannot be designed to impart wonderment, or even need to be known by the players to be rules at all.

    My use of quotes was to indicate that I was quoting you.
    I was referring to your use of them for Raven Crowking's now long overplayed Sense of Wonder.
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    Quote Originally Posted by howandwhy99 View Post
    I've snipped a good bit out, but that's because I largely agree with it. It's just that in D&D the objectives are largely determined by the whims of each player every moment of play.
    It is. But if the player decides on an objective, it is much more satisfying to be able to realize that objective through application of well-defined rules, and say "I do this", than to ask the DM "do you permit me to succeed?", which is what a player must fall back on to in the absence of rules.

    I disagree the DM does not behave according to rules. In fact, that's pretty much all a refereeing DM is allowed to do. They don't make decisions, they seek to avoid bias. It's all about the rules behind the screen, which don't have to be designed by the DM at all. And especially if they aren't, guessing how the person running the rules would have designed them, what you call meta-gaming above, is to the players' distinct disadvantage.
    I'm not saying that DMs inherently don't use rules. I'm saying that they don't necessarily use rules. Whereas video games, by definition, are strictly driven by rules at all times. It's essentially inevitable that a DM will need to use fiat (that is, decisions made not on the basis of game rules) from time to time, if not frequently).

    And while I agree with your last line above, I disagree that game mechanics are antithetical or even tangential to wonder, cannot be designed to impart wonderment, or even need to be known by the players to be rules at all.
    I find it hard to imagine rules that are both simple enough that a DM can consistently apply them himself, and complex enough that players can't figure them out rather quickly. And I don't think obfuscating the rules is a good thing, anyway, as the rules are a players only real means to impact the world they're playing in, without appealing to fiat. I don't see a good reason to make them guess about what their options are.


    I think specifics might be useful: can you recall a specific gameplay experience within recent memory which imparted a "sense of wonder" to you? What gameplay mechanic helped enable that feeling?


    I was referring to your use of them for Raven Crowking's now long overplayed Sense of Wonder.
    I don't know who Raven Crowking is, or what he has to say about Sense of Wonder. I was just quoting the OP's terms.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dkyle View Post
    When you win a video game, you win because you were skilled enough to accomplish the challenges setup by the programmer, according to the predefined rules setup by the programmer.
    You win a video game by fulfilling a condition the programmer set, not necessary the way he expected. "Make sure the NPC is not killed by enemies while going to floor X" ->
    "Sure, I will kill him myself." While not what the programmer expected, the NPC cannot be killed, is in your party when you get to X. Quest done.

    "Bring me that kender alive." Go find kender, kill kender, carry body back, resurrect. Done. Bit expensive but much better then enduring a long journey with kender in tow.

    Video Games can have bugs and exploits. Hex editing saves anyone?

    In contrast a DM being there in person is more likely to be able to adjudicate spontaneous solutions.
    "Bring me the head of so and so general." -> Sure, along with the rest of his living body and an army for just deserts.

    "Make sure he stops breathing" -> Do I have a necklace of adaption and if not where can I get one fast?

    I would agree that a well written game can make a DM role as a referee easier, I just consider too much rules can be detrimental to the DM's ability (due to set expectations) to customize the game to his group in attempt to provide better experience (fun). Now what that limit is can vary from group to group.
    What I am trying to say is that RAW is not the only way to have fun. In fact while i find the rules as a great place to start eventually I like to make the game my own by introducing my own (personal and group) idiosyncrasies in the rules.

    I do however feel that we are getting sidetracked from the points I was trying to have a discussion on:
    How has the game changed in the process of becoming a staple?
    The article contents that there are changes and that EGG in '79 states:
    "Americans have somehow come to equate change with improvement. Somehow the school of continuing evolution has conceived that D&D can go on in a state of flux, each new version ‘new and improved!’ From a standpoint of sales, I beam broadly at the very thought of an unending string of new, improved, super, energized, versions of D&D being hyped to the loyal followers of the gaming hobby in general and role playing fantasy games in particular. As a game designer I do not agree, particularly as a gamer who began with chess….I envision only minor expansions and some rules amending on a gradual, edition to edition, basis"

    Personally I do think the game has strives to improve from one edition to the next. However, at the same time I also feel that the direction of the game has changed. There are multiple factors driving the change:
    the Internet, society becoming less fundamentalist, change in fantasy tropes and emergence of new ones, different classics. For example, I find 2ed closest to my ideal not because it is the perfect game but because it fit closest out of the box with the feelings I get from the novels that had most influence (imprinting even) during my early teens.
    Last edited by Luce; Tuesday, 20th November, 2012 at 10:16 PM.

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