D&D 5E Changes in Interpretation

This is not what I mean by exploratory play. To me exploratory play is "You are there, what do you do?", not an abstracted dice game of skill challenges and pass-fail branching. And I find that 4e does not support this style of play well; eg my first 4e campaign was the Vault of Larin Karr sandbox converted from 3e, and the environment-exploration element never really worked well IMO. If I do that kind of exploration game again I'll probably use Pathfinder Beginner Box, which gives me the Simulation-oriented design I want without the heavy crunch of full Pathfinder.

Understood (your position, that is). But I'm not sure I understand the difference in play if the execution is there. This sort of play has historically been one of my favorites (whether narrative-directed or simulation-oriented or a hybrid of the two) and I've leveraged it just enough to change the pace and dramatic tension of a game (sometimes randomly without foreshadowing which has served the purpose of keeping the PC's feeling of "safe" from setting in...sort of like a typical Stephen King, misdirection writing convention...nothing of consequence, flavor, "hey look at this non-eventful thing here", BANG...one sentence...everything changes). For my mileage, "lost in the wintry wilderness", "fell into a sinkhole in the underdark and then subsequent cave-in" and/or "find the lost, sunken temple in the vast bog/wasteland" all require specific elements; (i) pacing through resource attrition and the PC's "desperation agenda" wrought by the former, (ii) the aggregate of a strongly DM-advocated "fictional-unknown" + said resource attrition combining as a "threat-delivery system", player character resource deployment or player ingenuity delivering the PCs from either imminent death or to their intended location.

I'm uncertain why

- "You are there, what do you do?"

cannot be successfully actualized by

- an abstracted dice game of skill challenges and pass-fail branching

I think this is likely one of those things where I would need to see the difference between what I do in 4e (which is, in effect, the same as I've always done) by using an extended Skill Challenge (to move through the exploration resolution and diminish PC resources) and the Disease Track system as a "Condition Track" system (to maintain nervous tension/foreboding by ensuring that the precious resources are not refreshed) and what you are describing (in play). Personally, within the fiction, what I've done from Basic to 3e remains the same (actually better I'd say). Its just the mechanical interface that has changed and thus the "danger" (in the stakes game of "how exposed are we when our resources are lost") becomes more explicit and therefore the sense of foreboding (at least with my players) made more palpable. Further, with less grainy, fiddly resource tracking, I am freed to focus more on the fiction and deliver it with a genre-relevant, harsh tone.
 

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pemerton

Legend
I'm not a big fan of James "Fun!" Wyatt, but I don't think it necessarily involves railroading: as long as it is the genuine choice of the PCs to find and fight the minotaur, skipping over the exploration of the maze is not railroading at all.
Agreed about genuine choice negating railroading, except that I think I'm more sympathetic to Wyatt than you, mostly because I think he is emphasising genuine player choice (and player engagement more generally) in his "skip the boring bits" advice.

I was just reading through P2 "Demon Queen's Enclave", one of the better HPE adventures, and there is a weird disjunct between the 64-page Encounter book, 30 lots of 'attacks immediately', and the slim 32 page Adventure book which explains that around half these fights are actually avoidable through diplomacy & negotiation!
I have that module, but to date have only used bits of its backstory. I agree about the weirdness of the presentation.
 

S'mon

Legend
- "You are there, what do you do?"

cannot be successfully actualized by

- an abstracted dice game of skill challenges and pass-fail branching

Because the latter does not feel to me as if I am actually exploring anything. It's more like reading a novel about a character, than actually being that character. It's the difference between Robin Laws' GMing advice in the 4e DMG2, and Gary Gygax's GMing advice in the 1e DMG. The latter approach creates a sense of immersion (for me) - not just character identification - "I worry about Rothgar" - but actual immersion - "I am Rothgar".
 

S'mon

Legend
I have that module, but to date have only used bits of its backstory. I agree about the weirdness of the presentation.

At least P2 explicitly discusses the possibility that some of the fights will be bypassed. In many 4e adventures I have a kind of wrenching sensation when I allow a fight to be avoided, it feels like I'm "going against the adventure". The adventures often reinforce this with admonitions against letting the PCs avoid any fights, because then they'll miss out on the XP they need to fight the BBEG at the end. :erm: Sometimes they say to throw in extra encounters so that the PCs aren't under-levelled. P2 says to give 1/2 XP for non-violent solutions, which is IMO an appropriate amount of XP, but still causes trouble when you're finishing a 'level 14-17' adventure with a compulsory EL 21 encounter...

Edit: It says to give the rest of the XP 'at the end of the adventure' - I'd think awarding it at a chapter break like the arrival in Deadhold would work best.
 

Because the latter does not feel to me as if I am actually exploring anything. It's more like reading a novel about a character, than actually being that character. It's the difference between Robin Laws' GMing advice in the 4e DMG2, and Gary Gygax's GMing advice in the 1e DMG. The latter approach creates a sense of immersion (for me) - not just character identification - "I worry about Rothgar" - but actual immersion - "I am Rothgar".

Hrmmm...I'm getting the sense that you're invoking dissociated mechanics and/or you feel that 4e's mechanics, specifically, force you into a 3rd person omniscient perspective and do not allow you to sustain actor stance and immerse within it?
 

S'mon

Legend
Hrmmm...I'm getting the sense that you're invoking dissociated mechanics and/or you feel that 4e's mechanics, specifically, force you into a 3rd person omniscient perspective and do not allow you to sustain actor stance and immerse within it?

I definitely would not put it as strongly as "force" or "do not allow". "Encourage/Discourage", maybe.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
I would say these things are true...

1. Changing others - nearly impossible.
2. Changing yourself - very hard but possible.

While I found the video in poor taste if it targeted people who like gnomes. I have no attachment to gnomes and thus wasn't offended myself but I could see it being offensive. I am offended frequently by attitudes on these boards and I was most assuredly offended by many 4e designers along the way. But it really is best if you want to be happy to not let it get to you. That doesn't mean you have to buy a game either. You can say - hey those people aren't with me. I'm playing Pathfinder. That is fine. But it's good if you can not let it get to you.
 

I definitely would not put it as strongly as "force" or "do not allow". "Encourage/Discourage", maybe.

Gotcha. Ok. I do agree that the the 4e DM advice, the explicit nature of the mechanics, the "meta-imperatives" and meta-resources built into the system can certainly be a burden to be overcome, or at least unwieldy, to some (many?) players when they are attempting to permanently sustain unperturbed, 1st person, actor stance immersion. I just hold that getting used to stance fluctuations so they become unconscious and do not perturb overall immersion within "greater actor stance" *, is about taste, exposure, will and execution.

If it is not within someone's playstyle taste and they have never been exposed to meta-techniques/system mechanics that propagate narrative play, then they will likely not devote the will to learn to properly execute *. I suspect some can properly execute * but cannot, however, muster the will to develop the taste for it (I am a behaviorist advocate so I do hold the position that "taste" is as much, or more, a matter of will as it is some natural, organic process intrinsic to the person). Lastly, I suspect some are right happy with their taste in playstyle and don't give a wit about diversifying it with new elements and/or think those new elements are rubbish or extraneous. If someone has within their retinue a strong advocate of meta-mechanics, that advocate may expose them (and the rest of the group) to those meta-mechanics/systems. If that exposure takes and develops into playstyle preference (taste), or at least as a toolkit to achieve a specific end within the greater scope of the fiction/mechanical resolution process, then they will devote their will to master the craft and execute consistently. My guess is that somewhere within that muddled composition of taste, exposure, will and execution you will find the the infrastructure of the edition wars and people's visceral reactions one way or another.

Well, the angle of that conversation would likely go round and round as I'm certain that both of us have seen it plenty before :) Given what I've read of your posts, I don't think your issue is exposure, will or execution. My guess is that yours is merely a matter of taste when it comes to the micro-issue of "meta-mechanics perturbation of actor stance immersion within exploration challenges." That's fair enough. I just hold that if your taste allows for it, and you set your will to action toward the end of execution (and some prior exposure would likely help this along), then you might be rewarded...taste-allowing.

Wow. What a collection of caveats.
 

D'karr

Adventurer
Understood (your position, that is). But I'm not sure I understand the difference in play if the execution is there.

I'm on the same boat here. I've read several times that 4e doesn't lend itself to exploratory game play and I fail to see it. Maybe it's my playstyle but I found that 4e gives me more tools.

I'm uncertain why

- "You are there, what do you do?"

cannot be successfully actualized by

- an abstracted dice game of skill challenges and pass-fail branching

I think this is likely one of those things where I would need to see the difference between what I do in 4e (which is, in effect, the same as I've always done) by using an extended Skill Challenge (to move through the exploration resolution and diminish PC resources) and the Disease Track system as a "Condition Track" system (to maintain nervous tension/foreboding by ensuring that the precious resources are not refreshed) and what you are describing (in play).

Yeah, I honestly fail to see the difference of what I used to do with 1e, 3.x, and now 4e. The difference now is that I have more mechanics that I can appropriately leverage to achieve the desired results, and to reward that type of play. In 1e, and 3.x the main mechanic was HP Loss, and resource (meals, torches, ammunition) attrition. Then I'd have to "determine" what to reward them with when they accomplished the goal.

I remember running some exploratory play in 3.x and at the end having to "make up" an appropriate ad-hoc XP reward for the players. I had to figure out how much XP to give based on very "abstract" parameters, as there had been no combat as part of the exploration. In 4e, I still have all the previous mechanics mentioned above. I also have healing surges and the disease track to leverage additional mechanics to the task, plus I have a solid framework to determine their rewards. I don't have to "guess" anymore.

Personally, within the fiction, what I've done from Basic to 3e remains the same (actually better I'd say). Its just the mechanical interface that has changed and thus the "danger" (in the stakes game of "how exposed are we when our resources are lost") becomes more explicit and therefore the sense of foreboding (at least with my players) made more palpable. Further, with less grainy, fiddly resource tracking, I am freed to focus more on the fiction and deliver it with a genre-relevant, harsh tone.

I have 2 current examples:

One of my game groups is currently going through the Slavepits of the Undercity module. Since I was not using this as "tournament" play I decided to let the adventure ride with whatever the PCs decided to do. Their initial hook to the adventure was to find the kidnapped daughter of a wealthy merchant friend (NPC). Instead of engaging the slavers, or infiltrating the slave outpost they decided to buy back the girl. They spent sometime in Highport exploring, and "making friends and influencing people" (bluff, streetwise, diplomacy, and intimidate) to find the information they needed.

BTW, the city of Highport is not detailed at all in adventure module A1. It just became the largest "hive of scum and villainy" among the coastal free cities. This was all free-form roleplay as they made their way through the city and its criminal organizations. When they finally made contact with an intermediary for the slavers, they decided to pose as "buyers". They arranged to buy a girl, and went into the temple where they were surrounded by lots of orcs. This could have turned into a "set-piece" battle to get the girl. But they kept their cool, bought the girl, and returned her to her family. That particular day there was only one combat, and it was with some thugs that I "randomly" generated as an encounter in Highport.

They spent quite a bit of their own coin to get information and the girl. This was money that they never got back as part of their initial "quest".

When they returned "home" the wealthy merchant found out about the slavers and their operation. Based on that information and in conjuction with some of his allies in the coastal free cities, the Church of Jaar (Pelor), and the Church of Aemahar (Erathis), he sent them back to face the slavers, but this time they were on a different mission - to destroy the organization.

The quest, the exploration play, and the very small combats ALL rewarded them with XP and I didn't have to "make things up" in order to reward them.

Second example:

Some months ago I ran an adventure where the characters were "lost" in a wintry tundra trying to find the resting place of a "beast of legend". As resources started to dwindle (food, water, fuel) the sense of "we are going to die out here" was definitely palpable and mounting. They were losing healing surges as environmental hazards. They were running into horrible hungry beasts mutated by the "wyrd" (one of the hazards). They were losing resources and had no good way to recover them as time went on. The disease track is wonderful for this because I can easily simulate heat stroke, heat cramps, hypothermia or winter blindness using it.

In the end they arrived at the burial grounds and confronted the actual "monsters". This adventure was brutal. And they got rewarded appropriately.

IMO, 4e simply gave me more appropriate mechanics (more tools) to both "punish" (tax the PCs) and "reward" (appropriate XP) exploratory play. This is in addition to the mechanics that I already had in previous editions.




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@D'karr

That's a great, illuminating post. I cannot XP, unfortunately. Exactly what I was referring to. The play examples are extremely helpful. I would write up my own but my obsessive mind and fingers would force me to write 10 pages that would numb the senses by page 2. Its nice to have your post as a proxy, only with conciseness and brevity. Thanks for posting that.
 

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