D&D 5E Changes in Interpretation

S'mon

Legend
I don't think it's strongly embedded in the action resolution mechanics (with some exceptions, like divine radiant damage and its effect on undead). I think it is strongly embedded in many story elements - and not only monsters, but elements of PC build, like race, paragon path, epic destiny, and some powers (probably warlock powers the most, and ranger powers the least).

What sold me on 4e was an experience during my first session playing it, in 2009. An enemy cult priest had Dazed me (Rothgar the Fighter) and run off laughing, while his bodyguards wailed on me. In pre-4e I would not have been given any choices, it would mean I was stuck, ineffective until the spell effect ended. Even in 4e that would have been the tactically-optimal (Gamist) thing to do. I had played a drama-rich 3e Midnight game and it was always very frustrating when this kind of thing happened, the fiction would have to take a back seat to the (G/S) d20-3e mechanics - mechanics which seemed to have a personal animus against my Ironborn Sword & Board Fighter, Zana Than. They rarely allowed me to play the cool character that existed in my mind's eye.

However in the 4e game, at that point my brain went into Narrativist mode (though still actor-stance): Rothgar cares enough about beating that bastard that he is going to do whatever it takes to get him...

I charged the priest, sucking up two opportunity attacks from his guards, putting me to single-digit hp.
I made my charge Basic Attack, did some damage.

GM: "OK then, next player..."

Me: "Hold on there. Action Point."

(Couple minutes of rules dispute follows - GM initially wants to veto it, but eventually we determine that you can indeed spend APs while Dazed, and after a Charge).

Me: "Daily..."

Rothgar then proceeds to smear the no-longer-laughing cult priest over the landscape. I was pretty much wrecked for the rest of the fight, but I had made a Narrativist decision, the kind you see in movies all the time, when the hero says "No." - and my decision had been supported by the mechanics! After years of painful experiences with 3e play, this was immensely satisfying.

It took me another 2 years to mid 2011 before I could say I had reasonable mastery of 4e - there were and are huge problems with the game - but I'll never forget that first experience.
 
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S'mon

Legend
I think this is fair - both that you have to inject a bit of stuff, and that it's not that hard. Foreground tieflings, paladins, gods vs primordials, etc; don't put so much emphasis on elves, halflings, kruthiks etc. For example, take Bane, Erathis, and the fallen empire of Nerath - you don't need to add any extra story elements to frame a situation along the lines of "What would you do to restore civilisation?"

Yeah, I did exactly that with Fallen Nerath in my very Narrativist-oriented 4e Southlands campaign The Southlands Campaign: 4e D&D in the Wilderlands: Neo-Nerath and the Battle of Gedden Plain - it addressed some serious questions about ethnic conflict. The Bosnian war of the early '90s and the experience of South Africa were both influences. The PCs had to decide who they were and what they believed. In Gamist terms the optimal solution would probably have been a diplomatic solution by making peace with moderate elements on the Neo-Nerathi (enemy) side, such as the honourable undead Nerathi hero Cormarrin. Instead there was a critical moment or schwerpunkt where the PCs decided to execute two captured Neo-Nerathi noblewomen, the wife and sister of the enemy leader, which then set the stage for things spiralling down into a final apocalypse. The players may not have fully grasped the choices before them, except in hindsight: "There are no good guys here" said one player, in a moment of realisation. But it was dramatically satisfying in a sort of classical-tragedy way. And that was supported by the themes presented by the 4e books, and at least not undermined by the 4e rules mechanics.
 

S'mon

Legend
How would you classify something like FATE, that clearly has PCs and a Storyteller, but where PCs share in the narrative of the story as a creative undertaking and have a lot more authority over events than any version of D&D has ever given them?

From what I know of it, I'd call FATE a "Narrativist RPG" like "Sorcerer". Players have a PC but may slip freely between actor-stance and author-stance, rather than staying in actor-stance by default.

Whereas I think story-creation games without PCs or GMs fall outside the term 'RPG' as I understand it. In those storygames (like the one I played, 'Quest') author stance is the default, any actor-stance roleplay is a brief intermission in the normal activity.
 

The Choice

First Post
Here's the thing - you don't get to decide what's appropriate for people to get upset about. Nor does WotC.
You're right, but don't you agree that a cartoon is a pretty silly thing to get upset over. Particularly one that was meant to be "funny"? I mean, say it wasn't funny, that's a valid complaint. Say you disagree with the portrayal of gnomes and/or tieflings in the cartoon, that's a valid complaint. Say the style of animation was amateurish, say the voice acting grated on your nerves, say it was too violent, say it wasn't violent enough, say flash-style animation was "soooo 2004", those are all valid complaints. But say you were "insulted" or "upset" with it, and I say you are either taking this silly little game too seriously or you, even before the game was released, made your mind up about this game and were looking for things to discredit it/be angry about.
You make your statement and you live with the consequences of it. If you've pissed off part of the fan base, perhaps you should learn from the experience. It appears, from the D&D Next materials, WotC learned some valuable lessons and is trying to avoid having to learn them again (we'll see how well they do). Too bad they didn't learn them faster, then 4e's marketing might have been a lot less amateurish and annoying.
I don't agree with that statement. Could the publicity ramp-up to 4th Edition have been better handled? Sure, I think so, but I have enough sense to realize that I'm just some random guy with an internet connection, and not some marketing expert. If we go by the numbers, 4E wasn't exactly a flop; it did make the New-York Time's best-sellers list (non-fiction) and DDI brings in a few millions a year to WotC, a drop in the bucket compared to what MtG brings in, but enough to probably make it the most profitable edition of D&D on the long run. If WotC's marketing did fail, if indeed 4E is a flop, I'll argue that some silly little cartoon, about a silly little race in a silly little game probably isn't to blame. There might have been some legitimate complaints about gameplay, there might have been people capitalizing on that fake or misplaced outrage, there might have been a failure to communicate adequately with the public (the price to pay when you decide your spokespeople are going to be your R&D team, and not an actual marketing dept.), I don't know, nobody does.
 

Ahnehnois

First Post
You're right, but don't you agree that a cartoon is a pretty silly thing to get upset over.
...
But say you were "insulted" or "upset" with it, and I say you are either taking this silly little game too seriously or you, even before the game was released, made your mind up about this game and were looking for things to discredit it/be angry about.
I think you've actually captured the tone that constituted the problem in the first place. This is a hobby that people spend an enormous amount of time on over large parts of their lives. Like any creative endeavor it's something that some people put their hearts and souls into, and the output can be really meaningful to them.

It's also an activity that most people either don't understand or are actively antagonistic towards.

Thus, when gaming insiders do something that suggests that that suggests that the way particular people play is "wrong", they can get defensive; i.e.
The Shadow said:
I did not see the video in question is coming from the standpoint of a fan poking fun. It came across as hostile and dismissive, instead.
It's not at all wrong to feel this way, nor is it the result of any kind of prejudgment about the game itself. It's simply a question of there being something offensive and people getting defensive about it.

You may not think that a small aspect of a roleplaying game is worth getting upset over, but some people do.
 

tlantl

First Post
I'd just like to say that from my perspective there was nothing funny or lighthearted about the way WotC transitioned from 3e to 4e.

I'd go so far as to credit at least 60% of the reason I never picked up 4e is because of the way they treated their "loyal" customers for buying upwards of a thousand dollars worth of their product.

The rest of the reason is the game itself. I'll just say that the design took a wrong turn and left me and my friends with a bad taste in our mouths.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
Real smart move there, eh? :lol:

It worked for them for a while given their willingness to spin off periodicals and let someone else deal with the headache. Turned out that letting the licenses expire and then undercutting 3PP with a critically late GLS had the capability of turning this decision into a bad one retroactively.
 

The Choice

First Post
I think you've actually captured the tone that constituted the problem in the first place. This is a hobby that people spend an enormous amount of time on over large parts of their lives. Like any creative endeavor it's something that some people put their hearts and souls into, and the output can be really meaningful to them.

I don't get the whole "tone" argument. I simply looked at this game from an adult standpoint. Back in 2007, I had no bias for or against 4E, I loved 3.5, played it pretty consistently, but I also recognized its flaws. I was 26 then, and didn't see them making jokes about gnomes or grappling trolls as dismissive of me or my friends. Maybe it's because I don't tie in most of my personality to a hobby. Maybe, back when I was 14, I would've been angry.

I get that people invest in this thing, I do, but we should all recognize that it is just that: "a thing that we do". Some of us can make a living doing it, most of us don't. We talk about it, argue about it, but I feel it should remain just that. Not some thing we tie alot of ourselves into. When we do that, we're no better than the soccer (oh pardon, "football") hooligans or crazy hockey dads who get into fights over some referee's decision in a pee-wee game.

The point I'm trying to make is this: maybe it's unhealthy to get so attached to such a game, any game.

I'm going to talk from the heart and make a confession here: back when I was 15, my mom passed away from cancer. I didn't know how to cope, it was hard. So I retreated into my own little world, because it seemed like the only people who didn't treat me like some broken thing were the guys I gamed with, the only place where I didn't hurt all the time was when I was telling stories and rolling dice. It's only when I got to college that I realized too much of my life had hung on this game; it had become my coping mechanism, and it was unhealthy. Whenever people criticized what I was doing as a gamer, I reacted as if it was targetting me as an individual. My identity as a person was tied too closely to a game. So, when I see people reacting violently to a short cartoon, I flash back to that broken kid.

I still write oodles of text for my games, way too much according to some. I still invest time and thought into making characters and worlds that sing and come alive. But, if I'm allowed to torture an analogy, I see it as baking a cake. See, I'm a pretty decent cook, and I love baking. But whenever I bake a cake (be it chocolate or other flavour), I realize those are just empty calories, a nice dessert, but not a substitute to a whole meal. I'll invest time in making it, baking it, etc., but it'll remain just that: a part, fun though it may be, of a whole with much healthier parts.

It's also an activity that most people either don't understand or are actively antagonistic towards.

I've never been bullied or victimized because of my hobbies. It's been done to me for other reasons, though. Still, it does not excuse clannish and exclusionary practices. We are adults (most of us, I assume), let's talk and act like it. I react the same way when some nerd cries about Megatron not turning into a gun in the Transformers movie; there are legitimate criticisms to make about those movies (the racism, the objectification of women, the non-sensical plots, the nausea-inducing cinematography, Shia Leboeuf), why focus on THAT? Similarly, there are legitimate complaints to make with 4E and its marketing, saying it's "baby's first WoW simulator" or saying they "fired you as a customer" because of a cartoon is not a valid one and it's not adult behaviour. And having been bullied is no excuse. We don't know, maybe James Wyatt was taunted as kid, maybe Bill Slaviscek was pushed down a flight of stairs on a couple of occasions, maybe Chris Perkins got teased about his big, bald dome. Maybe they all faced prejudice at some point. The only difference between them and others was that they didn't let that define them as individuals, and they made a game and marketed it as such.

Thus, when gaming insiders do something that suggests that that suggests that the way particular people play is "wrong", they can get defensive; i.e.
It's not at all wrong to feel this way, nor is it the result of any kind of prejudgment about the game itself. It's simply a question of there being something offensive and people getting defensive about it.

You may not think that a small aspect of a roleplaying game is worth getting upset over, but some people do.

But I don't get where they told us we were playing the game wrong. They implied they thought they had designed a better way to play. Agree or disagree with the results of the design process, that's what they did.

As a comparison, here's an excerpt from Races and Classes, one of the two 4th edition preview books, that deals specifically with gnomes:
Gnomes lack a strong position in D&D. If you ask someone to name the important races in the world of D&D, gnomes always seem to come in last [...] So, what to do with the gnome? How can gnomes be repositioned or reinvented so that the race has a unique position in the world (goes on to list a series of test version of the gnomes based on different aspects of the race from previous editions) [...] So what are 4th Edition gnomes going to be like? At the time of writing this essay, we've yet to decide.
- Matt Sernett

They weren't dismissive, or disrespectful, they simply didn't know what to do with the little fellows as a PC race. So they shelved them for a while, so that folk that really wanted to play them would have a workable, playable race that connected to the world of D&D when they were ready.

Note also how the author refers to the "world of D&D". Gnomes may have a niche within your world (they did in Eberron, for exemple), but it is true that they lacked a hook in the core, bare-bones, version of the game.

In the end, when you have all the facts laid in front of you, there were no valid reasons to get upset over the cartoons portrayal of gnomes. You can say the humour failed, it certainly didn't make me laugh out loud, but as a gnome player, I didn't feel betrayed, talked down to or insulted.
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him) 🇺🇦🇵🇸🏳️‍⚧️
In the end, when you have all the facts laid in front of you, there were no valid reasons to get upset over the cartoons portrayal of gnomes. You can say the humour failed, it certainly didn't make me laugh out loud, but as a gnome player, I didn't feel betrayed, talked down to or insulted.

But you can't say any of that for anybody else. You certainly can't say the humor failed any more than you can say it didn't rise to the level of insulting because standards will be different for any individual.

If people can say that they did find the video funny, then your premise that the humor failed is not universal. It failed for you. Similarly, if you didn't find any valid reason to get upset at the video, that's for you as well and shouldn't be considered any more universal than the humor failing.

What I think you and other people have to do is stop being dismissive of other people's statements as "invalid". If you liked the video, say so. If it pissed you off, say so. And accept that other people have different viewpoints, some of which might annoy you.
 

The Choice

First Post
What I think you and other people have to do is stop being dismissive of other people's statements as "invalid". If you liked the video, say so. If it pissed you off, say so. And accept that other people have different viewpoints, some of which might annoy you.

But I'm not being dismissive, I'm simply contextualizing the video in relation to the rest of the... well "human experience". You can analyze the subtext, try to discern author intent from dissecting the words used and those notused, go through the cartoon frame by frame to find "the truth" behind it, but in the end, when you contrast it with the essay I quoted, you find that the only intent of the video was to make people laugh. And the only intent the designers had when they approached gnomes or any other element of the D&D game was to produce the best possible result they could get. Realizing they could not get a result that would make gnome-players happy in a specific amount of time, they chose to push it back so as to make them work. That says "look, we can't get this element you like to be ready for launch, we want to make sure it works for you, so we ask you to be patient and to have confidence that when we do put it out there, it's gonna rock." That sounds respectful and inclusive. That doesn't sound like "ah ha! look at those nerds playing gnomes, how silly of them to like such a crappy race, let's mock them in our advertising."

Again, there are valid complaints about 4th Edition as a game and about its marketing to be made. Arguing that this one cartoon is, it's missing the forest for the trees... heck it's missing the forest for a bush!

I'm not being dismissive of people's point of view in this, all I'm saying is let's argue about something real.
 

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