5.5E 4e design in 5.5e ?


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Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
Ah. So the DM's a pushover. Got it. You roll six times. That's it. Can't handle those scores for your character? Then you're really not going to be able to handle playing in one of my games. Bye.
My very first DM told me to roll 3d6 six times, and that, no matter what, he wouldn't let me reroll. I proceeded to roll all six stats under 10. He watched the rolls, looked at me in horror, and told me to reroll.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
My very first DM told me to roll 3d6 six times, and that, no matter what, he wouldn't let me reroll. I proceeded to roll all six stats under 10. He watched the rolls, looked at me in horror, and told me to reroll.
We use those characters as mine sweepers. It's best not to get too attached. But, to be fair, we roll 4d6, drop the lowest.
 


Another thing is 4e put alot of thought into epic level play with epic destinies and such, 5e doesn't even do Tier 4 very well and doesn't give much guidance on how to do it well or cool T4 adventures and even less for levels 21+. No wonder so few folks play T4 and beyond, WotC could do better exploring DM advise for it, and better rules and adventure support.
 

My very first DM told me to roll 3d6 six times, and that, no matter what, he wouldn't let me reroll. I proceeded to roll all six stats under 10. He watched the rolls, looked at me in horror, and told me to reroll.
We use those characters as mine sweepers. It's best not to get too attached. But, to be fair, we roll 4d6, drop the lowest.

Which shows the two breakdown cases quite clearly: either (1) you aren't actually strict about it, so the (arbitrary) bottom of the bell curve is cut off and usually power creep slowly raises what "the bottom of the bell curve" looks like, or (2) you keep these horrible numbers and almost always die, except in the rare cases where you get lucky. The former means abandoning true randomness (consider the rather complicated, and no longer all that random, default rolling method of 3e), while the latter means forcing players through repeated failure states before a success state appears. Neither is all that good today.

OSR games with modern design have found solutions, but even those have issues. DCC, frex, has the "character funnel": you skip over the process of waiting to get a character that survives by running a large number simultaneously through a meatgrinder. Any that survive thus already either have reasonably good stats, or have gotten lucky, and either option is generally acceptable. However, such things risk showing their gamist edge (after all, such a funnel is inherently dissociated, for anyone who cares about that sort of thing), and ultimately still devalue randomness by ensuring selective pressure that favors characters with actual bonuses.

Ultimately....I don't really know if there is a true solution to this problem. It very much seems like the two desired things--effective characters and easily-generated, truly random characters--are truly at odds. Being effective generally means falling in a certain range of power. Being truly random requires not falling in any particular range of power. Trimming the randomness to guarantee some competence either sacrifices simplicity and ease of use, or breaks the feeling of randomness, or (often) both.

I think, in the end, they either need to be just marked as distinct approaches with a warning label on the random-gen option, or D&D needs to decide which matters more. Because forcing the appearance of randomness while actually, in the end, forcing pretty non-random results is not really tenable long-term.
 

In most of the old school games I remember when people made truly bad characters they played them as recklessly as possible so they would get killed and they could roll again. It's the kind of solution that's fine for people with time on their hands, but most people have no use for. Yet, if people aren't playing the truly bad characters, why exactly are you rolling?

I added a rule when running B/X that every time you roll a D20 against each ability score, and if you roll higher it goes up by 1. This does a lot to mitigate the biggest issues of random ability scores as it tends to even things out in the end.

In any case, if you want random character creation wouldn't it be better to randomly generate race and class rather than ability scores? These are the things that would have the most impact*. This means you get people playing things they otherwise might not play rather than the same characters but at different levels of effectiveness. (You sort of get this I guess if you assign ability scores in the order they're rolled, but the standard method seems to be assign as you like which is truly pointless!)
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Most OSR games use more B/X style modifiers which generally make ability scores a far smaller piece of the puzzle. 3d6 in order matters a lot less with the following sort of table (taken from Worlds Without Number):

  • 3 /-2
  • 4-7/-1
  • 8-13/0
  • 14-17/+1
  • 18/+2

Ability Scores generally matter a good deal more in the modern game than they ever have, especially in 5e with bounded accuracy.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
However, such things risk showing their gamist edge (after all, such a funnel is inherently dissociated, for anyone who cares about that sort of thing), and ultimately still devalue randomness by ensuring selective pressure that favors characters with actual bonuses.
Or, you know, simply accept that it actually is a game and as such accept that the game will feature “gamist” elements. I never really understood the need to pretend we’re not playing a game whilst actually playing a game.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Most OSR games use more B/X style modifiers which generally make ability scores a far smaller piece of the puzzle. 3d6 in order matters a lot less with the following sort of table (taken from Worlds Without Number):

  • 3 /-2
  • 4-7/-1
  • 8-13/0
  • 14-17/+1
  • 18/+2

Ability Scores generally matter a good deal more in the modern game than they ever have, especially in 5e with bounded accuracy.
B/X is slightly different, but your point is still correct.

In B/X it’s:
3, -3.
4-5, -2.
6-8, -1.
9-12, 0.
13-15, +1.
16-17, +2.
18, +3.
 

theCourier

Explorer
Yep. The point of the funnel is not only to pick up the pieces that remain and have them be Level 1's, but to have fun watching unlucky peasants get destroyed in all sorts of ways!
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Yep. The point of the funnel is not only to pick up the pieces that remain and have them be Level 1's, but to have fun watching unlucky peasants get destroyed in all sorts of ways!
Exactly. And it’s not a story-less meat grinder. It’s used to build story. In games like those whatever story there is is what happens during play. So you start with not only a background, but a story to tell about how you survived and leveled up.
 

Xetheral

Three-Headed Sirrush
Or, you know, simply accept that it actually is a game and as such accept that the game will feature ”gamist“ elements. I never really understood the need to pretend we’re not playing a game whilst actually playing a game.
Personally speaking, it's because I have more fun when I'm less consciously focused on the game mechanics than I am focused on trying to imagine the fiction from my character's perspective. The more the mechanics feel like an abstraction of a self-consistent game world, the easier I find it to not focus on them consciously, even though I never completely forget that they're there. By contrast, jarring mechanics tend to demand my conscious attention, like a pebble in my shoe.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Personally speaking, it's because I have more fun when I'm less consciously focused on the game mechanics than I am focused on trying to imagine the fiction from my character's perspective. The more the mechanics feel like an abstraction of a self-consistent game world, the easier I find it to not focus on them consciously, even though I never completely forget that they're there. By contrast, jarring mechanics tend to demand my conscious attention, like a pebble in my shoe.
Sure. I’m basically the same. I prefer the mechanics to get out of the way or fade into the background as much as possible. But any time there’s a roll, I’m keenly aware that I’m sitting at a table playing a game. Any time the mechanics defy common sense, I’m keenly aware that I’m sitting at a table playing a game. So rather than fight it or try to pretend otherwise, simply accept it for what it is and move on.
 

Most OSR games use more B/X style modifiers which generally make ability scores a far smaller piece of the puzzle. 3d6 in order matters a lot less with the following sort of table (taken from Worlds Without Number):

  • 3 /-2
  • 4-7/-1
  • 8-13/0
  • 14-17/+1
  • 18/+2

Ability Scores generally matter a good deal more in the modern game than they ever have, especially in 5e with bounded accuracy.
That's not the B/X modifier scale. Kevin Crawford uses a slightly different scale which minimues ability scores even more. B/X modifiers are somewhere between that and modern D&D. They go up to +3 at 18.

Edit: Ninja'd
 

I've seen people insist on rolling 3d6 in order for AD&D 1e, even though that's not even one of the many suggested methods for character creation in the DMG.

It gets really rather absurd when the random method being used generates characters that don't actually qualify for any character class (which I've seen multiple times).
 

FireLance

Legend
Ultimately....I don't really know if there is a true solution to this problem. It very much seems like the two desired things--effective characters and easily-generated, truly random characters--are truly at odds. Being effective generally means falling in a certain range of power. Being truly random requires not falling in any particular range of power. Trimming the randomness to guarantee some competence either sacrifices simplicity and ease of use, or breaks the feeling of randomness, or (often) both.
One possibility that I've been toying with, although I admit I've never actually used in any of the campaigns I've run, is to start with the standard array (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8), assign as desired to the various ability scores, and then roll 3d6 in order. If the number rolled for an ability score is higher than the assigned number, use the rolled number instead.

The standard array guarantees the baseline level of competence that the game expects, and the 3d6 rolled in order gives a chance that one or more ability scores may be improved - and not necessarily the ability scores that the player would have chosen.

Of course, the downside to this approach is that the PCs will have better ability scores, on average, than the game expects and the standard challenges will be that much easier for them.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
Getting back to the main topic I do not think Wizards should look back at previous versions either with an eye to avoid or bring back particular sorts of mechanics. There is such a vast number of new players who have no experience with previous versions of the game. They should listen to what those players want, come up with designs, and test them. Us old heads are not particularly relevant (whether we like 4e or not).
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Getting back to the main topic I do not think Wizards should look back at previous versions either with an eye to avoid or bring back particular sorts of mechanics. There is such a vast number of new players who have no experience with previous versions of the game. They should listen to what those players want, come up with designs, and test them. Us old heads are not particularly relevant (whether we like 4e or not).
My money spends just as well as some new fan. WotC clearly recognizes that otherwise they wouldn’t be catering to us olds as they have been. The long haul fans will still be here when this recent wave of fad players have left. If WotC caters only to the fad, then the game/edition will die when they leave. And WotC will have to go back to catering to long haul fans and revise/make a new edition. Easier to just not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
 

Aldarc

Legend
My money spends just as well as some new fan. WotC clearly recognizes that otherwise they wouldn’t be catering to us olds as they have been. The long haul fans will still be here when this recent wave of fad players have left.
I don't think that WotC has been catering to old fans at all: not since the D&D Next Playtest when they were courting the Pathfinder and OSR crowds. Since then though? It seems mostly oriented towards the Critical Role crowd and the newcomers.
 

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