5E 5e Philosophy of System Mastery

A while back during one of the Warlord Happy Fun Hours, Mike Mearls said, in response to Warlords potentially allowing Rogues to get extra sneak attacks, that they tend not to balance things around base case scenarios because they want players to feel good about finding those best case scenarios. It kinda reminded me of 3e's idea of "trap options" in order to reward system mastery, but better implemented. Instead of punishing players for not learning the game enough, it rewards players decide to go in depth with the rules, as well as allowing the players to feel awesome when they find something powerful.

I personally think it's a good idea, because of the reasons above, and that it lets players feel like their "breaking the game", which is generally a good feeling. My question is, do you agree with this idea of system mastery, as well as allowing the players to break the game in "acceptable" ways? In addition, do you think 5e does this well enough in most cases (reminder that core rules don't have feats or multiclassing) or not, as well as other potential games that might follow this philosophy?

I personally think it is a good idea for both ideas, and that 5e does a well enough job of pulling off this idea.
 

TheSword

Explorer
No, I don’t think it’s a good idea for players to be able to break the game at the table.

What they want to theory-hammer in the privacy of their bedroom is their business.

But if a player sits down next to me as a player (or in front of me when I’m a DM) with a character who has an AC 30+ then I’m getting up and walking off.

To be honest, nobody in our group would do it.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
That a player can build a character that is better in some situations than other similar characters is plain to see and to me that's fine as long as there isn't an issue of spotlight sharing (which the DM controls anyway). I think it's a reasonable behavior for a player of a game to seek to be more effective at that game and that some players will have more skill than others. This isn't a problem if everyone at the table is trying to achieve the goals of play, that is, everyone having a good time and creating an exciting, memorable story by playing.

As far as "breaking" the game, yeah, well, good luck with that. I got infinite dragons.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
A while back during one of the Warlord Happy Fun Hours, Mike Mearls said, in response to Warlords potentially allowing Rogues to get extra sneak attacks, that they tend not to balance things around base case scenarios because they want players to feel good about finding those best case scenarios. It kinda reminded me of 3e's idea of "trap options" in order to reward system mastery, but better implemented. Instead of punishing players for not learning the game enough, it rewards players decide to go in depth with the rules, as well as allowing the players to feel awesome when they find something powerful.

I personally think it's a good idea, because of the reasons above, and that it lets players feel like their "breaking the game", which is generally a good feeling. My question is, do you agree with this idea of system mastery, as well as allowing the players to break the game in "acceptable" ways? In addition, do you think 5e does this well enough in most cases (reminder that core rules don't have feats or multiclassing) or not, as well as other potential games that might follow this philosophy?

I personally think it is a good idea for both ideas, and that 5e does a well enough job of pulling off this idea.
I feel about this the same way I feel about people complaining that the default game is too easy.

Well of course it is. WotC has to take into account new players and new DMs. Those experienced enough to break the system can adjust their table to ramp up the challenge, but can you actually expect new DMs to tone down difficulty? That's an absurd idea. How would they even know to do so?

So I agree. The baseline of the game is very good for what it needs to be, and easily tweaked for what it can be.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
The way I see it, by not catering around the expectation of optimal system mastery, it gives the DM more freedom to adjudicate sanely without fear of being contradicted by some hypothetical higher authority.

If someone wants to use some obscure interaction to try and break the game at my table, then I'll tell them that it doesn't work that way, because it would break the game; and my job, as DM, is to prevent that from happening.

It's a core aspect of adjudicating uncertainty: If there are multiple ways to interpret something, and one of those interpretations would break the game, then that's not the right interpretation.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
5e's balance is more than loose enough that some random combination of abilities isn't going to break it. If any one character feels too strong, bringing up the other characters is something that a selection of focused magic items can fix.
 
It kinda reminded me of 3e's idea of "trap options" in order to reward system mastery
Did that say that? It sounds like an excuse for messing up to me, like redesignating a bug as a feature.

I personally think it's a good idea, because of the reasons above, and that it lets players feel like their "breaking the game", which is generally a good feeling. My question is, do you agree with this idea of system mastery, as well as allowing the players to break the game in "acceptable" ways?
Nope. I would consider "good play" as role-playing and interesting and consistent character, not knowing the rules well enough to exploit loop-holes. Indeed, that is what I would designate as "bad play".
 
Did that say that? It sounds like an excuse for messing up to me, like redesignating a bug as a feature.
I remember a designer saying something like that, in relation to the player archetype things the made up for MtG (timmy, spike, etc). Can't remember who said it, might have been Cooke?
Nope. I would consider "good play" as role-playing and interesting and consistent character, not knowing the rules well enough to exploit loop-holes. Indeed, that is what I would designate as "bad play".
Eh, both within reason. Good roleplay in one sense is a Rogue stealing from party members (nobody likes that crap, no matter how much you justify it), writing a 20+ page backstory (I've noticed a lot of DM's complaining about that, and I don't think they're bad DM's because of that) or something like that. And just because you mechanically optimize our character, doesn't mean that you can't roleplay at all, although if a player comes at me with a multiclass monstrosity like a Soradin or Coffeelock or my personal "favorite", starting with 1 level in fighter and then completely ignoring it in future levels, they're gonna have to work to justify it.
 
I would rather a sytem that rewards a player for selecting the Prodigy feat because their character is an expert in History and tapestry making than rewarded a player for selecting Great Weapon Master because it maximised their DPS.
 
As long as the player is having fun and is excited about the character, who really gives a damn?
Well, that's the thing, isn't it? So long as you don't set out to "reward" system mastery, no one.

But rewarding "system mastery" is the same as punishing a lack of "system mastery", even when that is a deliberate choice, rather than a case of not knowing the rules like the back of your hand.
 
Well, that's the thing, isn't it? So long as you don't set out to "reward" system mastery, no one.

But rewarding "system mastery" is the same as punishing a lack of "system mastery", even when that is a deliberate choice, rather than a case of not knowing the rules like the back of your hand.
Is it though? In 5e it's incredibly hard to make a bad character unless you're deliberately trying. As long as you put a 16 in your main attacking stat (which I feel should be obvious and it even recommends you do that in the book) you're gonna be fine. The only problem I can see is overshadowing other people's niches, but again, as long as you just pay attention to party compilation, you're gonna be fine.

I mean, if a player wants to turn the enemies into paste, and they aren't encroaching on another player's paste making abilities, let them have their fun. You can still challenge them in combat and other stuff.
 

S'mon

Legend
But if a player sits down next to me as a player (or in front of me when I’m a DM) with a character who has an AC 30+ then I’m getting up and walking off.
I cap AC (& other DCs) at 30, and I find this works best in 5e's Bounded Accuracy system.

But I agree with Mearls, things like granting the Rogue a Reaction attack so he gets Sneak Attack twice in one round are great. I've also made my peace with my son's PC's one level of Barbarian & 12 of Rogue making him an incredibly tough incredibly deadly DPS tank monstrosity. :D
 
Is it though? In 5e it's incredibly hard to make a bad character unless you're deliberately trying. As long as you put a 16 in your main attacking stat (which I feel should be obvious and it even recommends you do that in the book) you're gonna be fine.
It's relative, isn't it? It's entirely possible in 5e to make a character who performs considerably better than "16 in your attack stat*", and the thrust of the OP is that people who do so need to be rewarded. With the corollary: people who don't should be punished.


*Even then, you are still punishing half orc bards and similar unusual race/class choices.
 

S'mon

Legend
It's relative, isn't it? It's entirely possible in 5e to make a character who performs considerably better than "16 in your attack stat*", and the thrust of the OP is that people who do so need to be rewarded. With the corollary: people who don't should be punished.

*Even then, you are still punishing half orc bards and similar unusual race/class choices.
I think there's an overly broad definition of 'punishment' around these days. :p
 
I think there's an overly broad definition of 'punishment' around these days. :p
Not receiving a reward is a punishment. It has nothing to do with "these days", it has always been the case.

If you say to a child "if you are good you will get a sweet". Then "you haven't been good so you don't get a sweet" you are punishing them.
 

mortwatcher

Explorer
5E did a good job of rewarding the system master by doing a bit more damage/being more efficient while also making the baseline strong enough that you do not feel like a complete chump in comparison if you do not know the system so well

Not receiving a reward is a punishment. It has nothing to do with "these days", it has always been the case.

If you say to a child "if you are good you will get a sweet". Then "you haven't been good so you don't get a sweet" you are punishing them.
I would say punishing them is giving them a whooping after they were not good.
denying reward for not performing to expectation is not a punishment imo
 

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