D&D 4E Bridging the cognitive gap between how the game rules work and what they tell us about the setting

Voadam

Legend
Yeah, basically 4e, TB2, you could do similar stuff in FitD, etc.

To elaborate, I own a copy of the DSG and the WSG for 1e AD&D, but I am not even sure we ever read much of them let alone actually used them. This is typical awkward largely unplaytested post-Gygax TSR stuff. It sounded good in the days of 'realism will make your game better', but the fact is, it doesn't, and that was becoming quite apparent in that time frame.

I mean, consider that whole WSG 'shelter and fire' chapter. What advantage is there to using some arbitrary %-based tables, which certainly are just filled with numbers pulled out of thin air by some gamer geek in a 4th floor TSR office. I mean, I don't think I have better numbers, but anyone can make up a number out of thin air, why do I need a book and a bunch of tables for that?

So, IMHO, something like a Dungeon World game where we use the 'Make Camp', 'Take Watch, and 'Undertake a Perilous Journey' moves seems no less 'realistic' nor less authentic in any sense than the WSG's table after table of arbitrary numbers. Fictional position and dice, plus the GM applying principles to make moves where called for will likely produce a range and type of fiction that is going to be largely similar to the dozens of die rolls and detailed tracking required by the stuff in the WSG.

Even back in the day I never really understood what the big draw was.
The big draw for my group was the non-weapon proficiencies! The Dungeoneer's Survival Guide provided OA style NWPs for PH classes with things like blindfighting, fungus identification, and healing.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

1e Charm Monster is a decently long lasting spell with a week between checks for breaking the charm, I used it to get a walking menagerie as a bodyguard team in a dungeon for a while in an AD&D game. :)

The tough part here RAW using that spell is the communication.

Charm Monster (Enchantment/Charm)
Level: 4 Components: V, S
Range: 6” Casting Time: 4 segments
Duration: Special Saving Throw: Neg.
Area of Effect: Special
Explanation/Description: This spell is similar to a charm person spell (q.v.), but it will affect any living creature — or several creatures of lesser level as explained hereafter. The magic-user casts the charm monster spell, and any affected creature regards the spell caster as friendly, an ally or companion to be treated well or guarded from harm. If communication is possible, the charmed creature will follow reasonable requests, instructions, or orders most faithfully (cf. suggestion spell). Affected creatures will eventually come out from under the influence of the spell, and the probability of such breaking of a charm monster spell is a function of the creature’s level, i.e. its number of hit dice:
Monster Level or Hit Dice Percent Chance/Week of Breaking Spell
1st or up to 2 5%
2nd or up to 3 + 2 10%
3rd or up to 4 + 4 15%
4th or up to 6 25%
5th or up to 7 + 2 35%
6th or up to 8 + 4 45%
7th or up to 10 60%
8th or up to 12 75%
9th or over 12 90%
Naturally, overtly hostile acts by the person charming the monster will automatically break the spell, or at the very least allow the monster a new saving throw versus the charm, the spell will affect from 2-8 1st level creatures, 1-4 2nd level creatures, 1 or 2 3rd level, or 1 creature of 4th or higher level.

Also I don't know if this was originally conceived of using Oe rules where charm monster was permanent until dispelled.

Charm Monster: The counterpart of a Charm Person spell which is employable against all creatures. If animals or creatures with three or fewer hit dice are involved determine how many are affected by the spell by rolling three six-sided dice. It is otherwise identical to the Charm Person spell.

Charm Person: This spell applies to all two-legged, generally mammalian figures near to or less than man-size, excluding all monsters in the “Undead” class but including Sprites, Pixies, Nixies, Kobolds, Goblins, Orcs, Hobgoblins and Gnolls. If the spell is successful it will cause the charmed entity to come completely under the influence of the Magic-User until such time as the “charm” is dispelled (Dispel Magic). Range: 12”.

The power of Oe charm is amazing and surprised me when I eventually got a PDF copy of the Oe rules. "completely under the influence of". It certainly makes a one shot 1st level magic user potentially more viable.
Well, it is a 4th level spell, so you would need to be 7th level to cast it, at which point it will compete with things like 'Wall of Iron' and 'Wall of Fire' to just name a couple of nice ones for your only 4th level slot.

The AD&D version is also of limited appeal, as it changes nothing about the monster WRT the REST OF THE PARTY, they become YOUR friend, not the fighter's friend, not the thief's friend, etc.! Now, maybe some monsters will go ahead and do as you ask and not eat those folks, but that's probably subject to some discretion, as the Suggestion spell seems to indicate that highly abnormal or ridiculous commands are going to fail. Intellect as well as ability to communicate will be key, as any attempt to direct the actions of a Gelatinous Cube, for example, are pretty much bound to fail, halflings are food, the thief is going inside and that's that! The one saving grace of this spell is there is no cost to casting it (no M component).

Honestly, specializing in playing Magic Users in those days, I don't recall really using this spell much. I think 'Questioner of All Things' penned a scroll of Charm Monster on the off chance it might get him out of a jam. I don't remember really using it. I mean, you could definitely charm some fairly weak monsters with it, but IMHO 99% of the time Charm Person (which works on Humanoids) is just as good and takes up a MUCH less valuable spell slot. Also, Charm Person bases its saves on INT and they are MUCH MUCH less frequent for all but extremely intelligent targets!
 

The big draw for my group was the non-weapon proficiencies! The Dungeoneer's Survival Guide provided OA style NWPs for PH classes with things like blindfighting, fungus identification, and healing.
Yeah, but you run into a lot of the same issues that exist with other 'long list' skill systems at some point. That is, looking at the WSG list, what motivates making 'Plant Lore' relevant, as opposed to say 'Foraging'? If you look, for instance, at the 4e skill list, it just has 'Nature'. The GM is entirely in charge of the AD&D fiction, and it is unlikely that the details of specific plants and whatnot in a given random location in the wilderness has been predetermined. So which skill out of Forage, Plant Lore, Animal Lore, Hunting, and maybe even a couple others is going to cover a certain type of situation is pretty arbitrary, as the GM can simply describe things appropriately. So, how is all of those existing an improvement over 'Nature'? Or an improvement over simply a WIS or INT check? I never thought it was all that compelling...

And note that Dungeon World, as an example, has NO 'skill system' at all. You can forage for food, presumably that covers the 'Quartermaster' aspect of Perilous Journey. More specific Hunt/Forage isn't a specific move, but I don't see why you can't handle these sorts of things, as Provisions are a thing. So, if the party starts to run low, the Ranger calls a halt for a day and hunts. There's a whole supplement, Perilous Wilds IIRC that includes some specific options to flesh this out, but the GM can easily invent a Custom Move to cover it, or just fall back on 'Defy Danger' +WIS.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
But even the WSG is, as was noted a couple pages ago in this thread, 'lipstick on a pig'. I mean, I spent a lot of my youth camping, hiking, mountain climbing, caving, etc. and learned a reasonable amount about orienteering, what kind of supplies you need/can carry with you, how to scrounge for stuff, etc. Again, no survival guru, but I know enough to get by.

Now, the WSG is presumably written in at least a modestly realistic 'verisimilitudinous' fashion. At least that is the argument. However, there is a primary issue here, which is that the core hit points, levels, etc. that are at the heart of D&D are pretty unrealistic to start with, so there's a limit to what can be achieved here. Beyond that even fairly detail oriented players and GMs are unlikely to spend vast effort on constantly keeping the books on various little bits of equipment, etc. Finally, how do you structure something like "will we get lost and how do you orient yourself in the wild?" It's not a simple topic and entire books have been written on just this, specific to one type of terrain! What is realistically applicable to a temperate forest in summer is meaningless when talking about someone traversing an ice sheet in fantasy Greenland! No WSG that is feasible to write (or use in play) can handle all that, so at best the rules are going to be highly abstract and merely representative, and will probably produce results that are not particularly realistic.

Lets look at the section starting on page 61 "Camping and Campfires" and see what we can see! (I'm picking this at random, I haven't read it yet).

Starting out is a discussion of shelter in the wilderness. This points out that natural shelter may exist, but unless you already know where it is (IE the area is mapped and you are familiar with it) stumbling upon shelter is hit or miss, and claims that different sorts of terrain will be more or less able to provide it. Then there's a table 'Table 35: Chance of finding Natural Shelter', which has dimensions of season and terrain type.

I'd note that both of these dimensions are, at best, suited to a northern temperate to sub-arctic type of environment. Also the types of terrain seem fairly arbitrary to me, and subsume a WIDE variety of possible conditions. For example conditions in the Green Mountains of Vermont and on Mount Ranier in Washington (both places I am moderately to very familiar with) are QUITE different! I mean, maybe they both qualify as 'mountains' and I guess the fairly arbitrary assignment of a 40% chance of finding shelter in any season there is hard to argue with, but I know that they're just not THAT similar in most cases, though I'd mostly note that conditions in both areas will vary widely depending on exactly WHERE you are in the 'mountains'.

Not that I'm really criticizing the chart, just pointing out that it is basically arbitrary. Someone pulled the numbers out of their head, no way they're based on anything given the level of generalization and lack of detail.

Next the section gets into PORTABLE shelters, ones that the party would be bringing with them. The rules on carrying shelters seem fairly incoherent. First off is a statement that "even a single mount or size M pack animal is in the group, it can easily transport all the gear needed for many types of shelters with plenty of carrying capacity left over."

What the heck does that mean? That if I have a pack mule I get free shelter for the whole party? What kind is it? Table 36 gives stats for small, medium, and large shelters of 'poor, adequate, good, and superior' grades. There's no explanation given! There are encumbrance values, but we already learned we need not worry about that, and the text even reiterates that a single person can reasonably transport shelter for several people in addition to their other gear (nonsense, BTW this is quite unrealistic even in the day and age of nylon and aluminum). Anyway there are some ratings for durability, water resistance, and wind resistance for different grades of shelter. This is all, again, arbitrary but in a game sense where nobody wants to dig into the details of how you set up your tent I guess it 'works'. Frankly I could create more realistic rules than this, though in terms of 'aimed at some degree of realism' they certainly are.

After this there are some detailed, but again I feel pretty arbitrary, rules which detail exactly how long a shelter will last, the effects of weather on it, and then finally fairly complex, but again rather arbitrary, set of rules dealing with how much effective rest you get, the effects of deprivation of sleep and rest in game terms, etc. As I stated earlier, the issue here is the pig at the center of the whole thing. Given that D&D's core character rules are pretty unrealistic and gamist, we can't really do a lot in terms of 'realism' here, but the general idea is "the less you sleep, the worse off you are", so I'd put it in the realm of the core falling rules, it aims in the general direction of realistic, but doesn't try too hard.

Then there's a discussion of fire, which starts off with a HIGHLY INACCURATE assessment of the value of cooking! In fact, sure, you can eat raw food, and if the food is already processed stuff, like bread, pemmican, dried fruits and meat, OK then eating it raw is fine, though you will need to drink plenty of water in that case! However, raw meat, raw vegetables (especially root vegetables and other less normally edible sorts often found in the wilderness) REALLY need to be cooked! Yes, you can eat them raw, but REALISTICALLY you would want to count that as half rations, at best. There's a reason man invented fire!

Anyway, there's a LONG and complex section which purports to give pretty exact rules on starting fires, the warmth provided, how much fuel they use, availability of fuel, time required to start a fire (oddly with no mention of different means of doing so, which realistically vary widely) etc. Again, these rules are so abstract it is hard to make much of them, even in this detailed book and discussing a topic of such central importance to actual wilderness survival. Not to really criticize the rules, just to point out that, at best, they're a huge generalization and mostly just pulled from someone's head. I mean, I don't know of any actual source for information like "how long does it take to gather firewood?" My experience says it is hugely variable and might range from 'you hardly need to bother' up to 'it is pretty much hopeless'.

Finally there's a pretty long section on the dangers of fire, pointing out that it can be seen from a distance, but then mostly dwelling on the possibilities of fires getting out of control and what might ensue in such a situation. This is not really 'rules' per se, just 'Smokey The Bear' kind of stuff. Where it gets specific I would again say it is such a generalization and basically arbitrary text that I'd just say 'yeah, it is not specifically unrealistic, or realistic either one'. A rule for fire damage is given, again this falls into the usual D&D level of realism 'fire can burn you'. There's a special set of 'if you are on fire' rules as well, which begs the question of why you need special rules for being burned by an out of control campfire, but they don't seem intended to apply in any other situation. Typical AD&D!

That's the end of the section, total 6 pages, very abstract and general discussion. Not inaccurate necessarily, but just basically number soup with no real conveyed sense that the numbers relate to reality much, though one HOPES they add up to an interesting game (I have my doubts on that score as well, but never having employed these rules I cannot say with authority).

And, IMHO, this is pretty much a capsule of all of AD&D in terms of verisimilitude/realism. Not very, but usually not leaping into absurdness, just aping our expectations mainly while attempting to remain within the realm of what might plausibly be playable.
This just seems like a detailed attack on other people's preferences. Why does this matter to you? Are you playing AD&D? Did someone attack 4e and/or narrative games and this is retaliation? Is there a reason you must refute even an attempt at verisimilitude that is clearly at least a step in the right direction for some folks? What's the point of this?
 

Voadam

Legend
Well, it is a 4th level spell, so you would need to be 7th level to cast it, at which point it will compete with things like 'Wall of Iron' and 'Wall of Fire' to just name a couple of nice ones for your only 4th level slot.

The AD&D version is also of limited appeal, as it changes nothing about the monster WRT the REST OF THE PARTY, they become YOUR friend, not the fighter's friend, not the thief's friend, etc.! Now, maybe some monsters will go ahead and do as you ask and not eat those folks, but that's probably subject to some discretion, as the Suggestion spell seems to indicate that highly abnormal or ridiculous commands are going to fail. Intellect as well as ability to communicate will be key, as any attempt to direct the actions of a Gelatinous Cube, for example, are pretty much bound to fail, halflings are food, the thief is going inside and that's that! The one saving grace of this spell is there is no cost to casting it (no M component).

Honestly, specializing in playing Magic Users in those days, I don't recall really using this spell much. I think 'Questioner of All Things' penned a scroll of Charm Monster on the off chance it might get him out of a jam. I don't remember really using it. I mean, you could definitely charm some fairly weak monsters with it, but IMHO 99% of the time Charm Person (which works on Humanoids) is just as good and takes up a MUCH less valuable spell slot. Also, Charm Person bases its saves on INT and they are MUCH MUCH less frequent for all but extremely intelligent targets!
I completely agree on the charmed monster not treating your friends any differently unless you can communicate with them and tell them not to attack being a relevant consideration.

For me it was hugely impactful when the party split when I was seventh level and I had to solo my way out of a dungeon as a wizard on his own. Getting a big beast (gorgon) to not attack me and be a protector instead was really nice. :)

It was not competing with wall of fire because as an AD&D magic user my spells were mostly based off of what I got from looted spellbooks and made once per level rolls on to learn, not my choice of the straight PH list. I remember having charm monster and eventually wall of ice as my signature 4th level spell options. Forgotten Realms Adventure's Thunderlance eventually made the list as well.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Yeah, basically 4e, TB2, you could do similar stuff in FitD, etc.

To elaborate, I own a copy of the DSG and the WSG for 1e AD&D, but I am not even sure we ever read much of them let alone actually used them. This is typical awkward largely unplaytested post-Gygax TSR stuff. It sounded good in the days of 'realism will make your game better', but the fact is, it doesn't, and that was becoming quite apparent in that time frame.

I mean, consider that whole WSG 'shelter and fire' chapter. What advantage is there to using some arbitrary %-based tables, which certainly are just filled with numbers pulled out of thin air by some gamer geek in a 4th floor TSR office. I mean, I don't think I have better numbers, but anyone can make up a number out of thin air, why do I need a book and a bunch of tables for that?

So, IMHO, something like a Dungeon World game where we use the 'Make Camp', 'Take Watch, and 'Undertake a Perilous Journey' moves seems no less 'realistic' nor less authentic in any sense than the WSG's table after table of arbitrary numbers. Fictional position and dice, plus the GM applying principles to make moves where called for will likely produce a range and type of fiction that is going to be largely similar to the dozens of die rolls and detailed tracking required by the stuff in the WSG.

Even back in the day I never really understood what the big draw was.
How about you don't make the statement, "realism won't make your game better" as anything other than personal preference. That ok?
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Yeah, but you run into a lot of the same issues that exist with other 'long list' skill systems at some point. That is, looking at the WSG list, what motivates making 'Plant Lore' relevant, as opposed to say 'Foraging'? If you look, for instance, at the 4e skill list, it just has 'Nature'. The GM is entirely in charge of the AD&D fiction, and it is unlikely that the details of specific plants and whatnot in a given random location in the wilderness has been predetermined. So which skill out of Forage, Plant Lore, Animal Lore, Hunting, and maybe even a couple others is going to cover a certain type of situation is pretty arbitrary, as the GM can simply describe things appropriately. So, how is all of those existing an improvement over 'Nature'? Or an improvement over simply a WIS or INT check? I never thought it was all that compelling...

And note that Dungeon World, as an example, has NO 'skill system' at all. You can forage for food, presumably that covers the 'Quartermaster' aspect of Perilous Journey. More specific Hunt/Forage isn't a specific move, but I don't see why you can't handle these sorts of things, as Provisions are a thing. So, if the party starts to run low, the Ranger calls a halt for a day and hunts. There's a whole supplement, Perilous Wilds IIRC that includes some specific options to flesh this out, but the GM can easily invent a Custom Move to cover it, or just fall back on 'Defy Danger' +WIS.
Is someone here bad-mouthing Dungeon World? Why do you feel the need to trash other games?
 

Voadam

Legend
Yeah, but you run into a lot of the same issues that exist with other 'long list' skill systems at some point. That is, looking at the WSG list, what motivates making 'Plant Lore' relevant, as opposed to say 'Foraging'? If you look, for instance, at the 4e skill list, it just has 'Nature'. The GM is entirely in charge of the AD&D fiction, and it is unlikely that the details of specific plants and whatnot in a given random location in the wilderness has been predetermined. So which skill out of Forage, Plant Lore, Animal Lore, Hunting, and maybe even a couple others is going to cover a certain type of situation is pretty arbitrary, as the GM can simply describe things appropriately. So, how is all of those existing an improvement over 'Nature'? Or an improvement over simply a WIS or INT check? I never thought it was all that compelling...

And note that Dungeon World, as an example, has NO 'skill system' at all. You can forage for food, presumably that covers the 'Quartermaster' aspect of Perilous Journey. More specific Hunt/Forage isn't a specific move, but I don't see why you can't handle these sorts of things, as Provisions are a thing. So, if the party starts to run low, the Ranger calls a halt for a day and hunts. There's a whole supplement, Perilous Wilds IIRC that includes some specific options to flesh this out, but the GM can easily invent a Custom Move to cover it, or just fall back on 'Defy Danger' +WIS.
I felt it was more like specific later edition feats with special distinct minor abilities than a generally applicable skill system to cover how well anybody trying a task would do.

Blindfighting modifies things no ability check would handle.

Healing gave specific first aid for hp recovery after a battle. A decently useful ability in D&D with less healing than later editions.
 

This just seems like a detailed attack on other people's preferences. Why does this matter to you? Are you playing AD&D? Did someone attack 4e and/or narrative games and this is retaliation? Is there a reason you must refute even an attempt at verisimilitude that is clearly at least a step in the right direction for some folks? What's the point of this?
We're discussing different approaches to rules and their bearing on the topic in the OP. Is your comment relevant?
 

I completely agree on the charmed monster not treating your friends any differently unless you can communicate with them and tell them not to attack being a relevant consideration.

For me it was hugely impactful when the party split when I was seventh level and I had to solo my way out of a dungeon as a wizard on his own. Getting a big beast (gorgon) to not attack me and be a protector instead was really nice. :)

It was not competing with wall of fire because as an AD&D magic user my spells were mostly based off of what I got from looted spellbooks and made once per level rolls on to learn, not my choice of the straight PH list. I remember having charm monster and eventually wall of ice as my signature 4th level spell options. Forgotten Realms Adventure's Thunderlance eventually made the list as well.
Yeah, there's no saying you will have access to better spells, this is true. I also agree that a spell like this might be a good bit more interesting in a situation like "I'm alone in this bad place." Even if you COULD pick Wall of Fire in that situation, it solves some common problems, but isn't always appropriate. Being able to neutralize a monster and even use it as a minion for a while would be more flexible, probably. Honestly I don't remember what 4th level spells I had at 7th level back then either, I might have ended up with the same selection, lol. Later on I definitely remember making scrolls of a lot of stuff like that though, since they MIGHT come in handy, but rarely.
 

Remove ads

Top