In 5e, it is. In 3e, there's Rule 0, instead.Fir one, tge play loop is as much rules as the combat section. It's right there in the front of the book as how to play the game.
It's a subtle but important difference. In 3e, the DM's ultimate control of the shape of his own game - of deciding what game, and what variations on the game, he's going to run - is acknowledged, up front, in a "get it over with, but stick to it" kind of way. The expectation in the community was clearly RAW, and if you House Ruled (used Rule 0, or even just used a less-popular interpretation), you better stick to those house rules. Once play is joined, the expectation was that the rules were more or less set in stone.
In contrast, 5e builds it's acknowledgement of the DM's primacy over the system into /every resolution that takes place in the course of play/. There is no game without the DM, and the DM comes before the rules every time. There's an elegance and an honesty to that is probably the closest modern analog we could get to the quixotic experimentation of the original, given that there's a certain innocence to the TTRPG's very first incarnations that's as impossible to re-capture as that of childhood.
(And I'm getting /really/ maudlin & nostalgic.
I think it at least relies on a level of competence and lack of malice (preferably even active, if perhaps, not overt, benevolence) on the part of the DM. The quality of the players is of much lesser concern.Two, it doesn't rely on mythical perfect people, nor is it more prone to degenerate play than your preferred more 3.x style of hard mechanics. If this was true, it would be impossible for those of us that report excellent results to be anything other than liars for no perceivable reason.
But, certainly not perfection. Perfection is often used as a foe of Reason. There's no such thing as perfect balance, so radical imbalance is OK. There's no such thing as a Perfect DM, so jerk DMs are OK. DM's aren't perfect, so their judgment must never be trusted. There's no such thing as a Perfect System, so there's no need to improve upon any existing ones. Etc...
Oh.... do we have a touch of Convert's Zeal, here?I used to play as you argue -- I got in some ugly arguments with [MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION], refusing to believe he could possibly be honest in how he presents this playstyle. I can't say what started me listening, but everything I believed before - that you have to have strong codification of mechanics and that you go to mechanics first - is wrong.
That's not strictly a dig, either: the capacity to change your own mind is rare & wonderous in the context of an internet forum.
Heh.But, by golly, does it chap my backside when someone spouts ignorance like this. Which is probably karma for me doing it years ago.
Personally, I'll pitch my tent in either camp. The 1e/5e Way works /really/ well for me when I run games. I thrive in improvisation, running by the seat of your pants, ruling & interpreting off the cuff, I run a lot of my best stuff that way. Also some of my worse when I'm not up for it. Conversely, I love to build a cool character in detail, sometimes excessive detail, and have it actually work as intended when I play it, 3e/4e (& Hero &c) gives me that pretty consistently - and there are times (especially as I've gotten older) when I appreciate running a system that takes care of itself a greater proportion of the time (though, TBH, D&D has rarely been that system).
There are bad DMs in the sense of actively malicious, and there are bad DMs in the sense of needing improvement. Nothing can quite /stop/ the former, but a good system can cramp their style, a bit, and it's helpful to the latter if the system makes the job easier in some way.I think we have a case where a number posters think that DMs generally cannot adequately adjudicate their games and thus must turn to the rules first to ensure fairness. I'm not saying that there aren't bad DMs out there, of course there are. But I don't think we can fix bad DMing by turning to the rules (or adding more rules).
OK, yes, that's a function of a combat system. But, you might be able to come up with a system that applies a bunch of modifiers and formulae, comes up with a % chance of victory, and just roll that. It would resolve the outcome of an uncertain conflict. It might even, hypothetically, give the same result as playing through a D&D combat every time. And it could be quite fast. (And, hey, doesn't that sound a bit like most non-combat resolution in D&D?)To my mind the combat rules are provided to provide a system to resolve a conflict the outcome of which is uncertain - this uncertainty is guided by the CR expectation of the encounter: Easy, Medium, Hard, Deadly. As the party gains levels the CR of these encounters changes and it means that there are some combat counters which are completely certain and it would be ridiculous to drop into the combat rules.
But it wouldn't be a very engaging sub-system, wouldn't involve all the players, and probably wouldn't make for a great experience as part of an RPG.
Combat is also an arena where players can define/display their characters, make interesting/important choices for them, and where those characters can advance their goals, grapple figuratively with their demons (as well as literally with their enemies), address interpersonal conflicts, and even undergo a bit of character development now and then (and not just by leveling).