D&D General Arbitrary and Capricious: Unpacking Rules and Rulings in the Context of Fairness

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Yes!

This! Absolutely, precisely this.

Writing off these criticisms with a mere "if you don't trust why do you even bother" is a refusal to respond to real, valid, reasoned criticism.

Being unsure of motive is certainly part of it. I am, very frequently, playing with GMs I've never played with before, so it is important to clearly establish trust, which means NOT doing tons of things in secret and writing it off with "don't you trust me?" But by far the bigger components are with knowledge, judgment, self-awareness, and reasoning capacity.

Because I find a great many GMs are quite acceptable in terms of their intent. I just see a lot--and I mean a LOT--of evidence that most GMs are spotty at best on translating that intent into reality, specifically because of a breakdown of knowledge, judgment, self-awareness, or reasoning. See: the iterative probability problem, aka "roll Stealth every single round to continue hiding." Statistical reasoning is hard. It is not some horrible moral failing for someone to have faulty reasoning ability when it comes to something like this. In fact, that is the default state of being for humans.

There is, I agree, a pretty serious error on the player's part if they choose to play with a GM whose motives they distrust.

There is no error on the player's part for choosing to play with a GM whose knowledge, judgment, self-awareness, or reasoning capacity they sometimes distrust. Because that statement--"sometimes I don't completely trust the knowledge, judgment, self-awareness, or reasoning capacity of X"--is true of literally all human beings on this Earth.

I don't even trust MY OWN knowledge, judgment, self-awareness, or reasoning capacity sometimes!
All I can say to that is that the answer is not "Make sure there's a bunch of rules that restricts what the GM is allowed to do".
 

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EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
All I can say to that is that the answer is not "Make sure there's a bunch of rules that restricts what the GM is allowed to do".
Okay. All I can say to that is that the answer is also not "Make sure that GMs have literally no restraints and get encouraged to keep secrets."

But I also don't really think there's much room for a good-faith argument here if you think things like "having some tables that tell the GM what are good damage amounts for improvised attacks" or "skill DCs if the player is attempting something and you aren't sure how hard it should be" are "a bunch of rules that restricts what the GM is allowed to do."
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
Okay. All I can say to that is that the answer is also not "Make sure that GMs have literally no restraints and get encouraged to keep secrets."

But I also don't really think there's much room for a good-faith argument here if you think things like "having some tables that tell the GM what are good damage amounts for improvised attacks" or "skill DCs if the player is attempting something and you aren't sure how hard it should be" are "a bunch of rules that restricts what the GM is allowed to do."
Trouble is in the way 5e leans on leaving the barn door open in a lot of areas while relying on the gm to invoke fiat to slam in shut with rulings not rules. Players are rarely going to complain that the gm allowed them to do something that should have been much harder but if the gm is denying them something that the rules present as much easier those rules are pushing the gm to take the blame and justify doing it if challenged.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Okay. All I can say to that is that the answer is also not "Make sure that GMs have literally no restraints and get encouraged to keep secrets."

But I also don't really think there's much room for a good-faith argument here if you think things like "having some tables that tell the GM what are good damage amounts for improvised attacks" or "skill DCs if the player is attempting something and you aren't sure how hard it should be" are "a bunch of rules that restricts what the GM is allowed to do."
If you're talking about 4e, pg 42 is not my problem with that game.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
All I can say to that is that the answer is not "Make sure there's a bunch of rules that restricts what the GM is allowed to do".

As long as GMs are resistant to taking time out to explain and justify rulings that seem off, thee seems no other answer. Take a fairly tight set of rules, or be really willing to take time to discuss the rulings you make--pick one. If you're not willing to do either one, then I don't think the players who want one or the other are the problem.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Trouble is in the way 5e leans on leaving the barn door open in a lot of areas while relying on the gm to invoke fiat to slam in shut with rulings not rules. Players are rarely going to complain that the gm allowed them to do something that should have been much harder but if the gm is denying them something that the rules present as much easier those rules are pushing the gm to take the blame and justify doing it if challenged.

I've played with any number of people who would object to something that seems too easy. Of course they don't play 5e. But then, this thread is not only about 5e.
 

Yora

Legend
Can you give an example of what you mean by the latter? I thought of responding based on how I interpret your words, but would rather discuss what you actually mean rather than what I think you mean.
No, I think it's a meaningless concept.
But I am wondering if that is what people are trying to talk about here.
(I still don't understand what this discussion is about.)
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
No, I think it's a meaningless concept.
But I am wondering if that is what people are trying to talk about here.
(I still don't understand what this discussion is about.)
Before I attempt to give an example, I have two questions I'd like to ask of you.

1. Do you think that D&D is, at least by default, a cooperative multiplayer game?
2. If a person intends to play a cooperative multiplayer game, is it reasonable for them to expect that they'll be just as much an essential teammate as anyone else, even if it's in a different way?
 


Yora

Legend
Before I attempt to give an example, I have two questions I'd like to ask of you.

1. Do you think that D&D is, at least by default, a cooperative multiplayer game?
2. If a person intends to play a cooperative multiplayer game, is it reasonable for them to expect that they'll be just as much an essential teammate as anyone else, even if it's in a different way?
Yes, absolutely.
You think fairness itself is a meaningless concept? Watch the video I posted on page 4!
No, that was not what the post I quoted was referring to.
Having game rules create fairness (as in equal treatment) between both GM and the players is a meaningless concept.
 

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