D&D 5E Combat as war, sport, or ??

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Sorry about the delay in this response, I got distracted by other things. I do accept that a games design can pull or push toward a particular aesthetic of play and 5e is strongly influenced by the fact that the designers have to design a working game where the mechanics are somewhat subject to a popularity contest.
However, while we lack specific data on what the playerbase favours the continuing popularity of the official version of D&D is a measure of what styles are favoured. If WoTC's game is still popular, in say, 4 or 5 years time, then design by popularity is a successful strategy and the playstyles that are most popular are the ones where (official) D&D does not fight back.

Though I am not sure we can glean anything more out of this conversation at this point in time.
Of course, this falls into the "never fix something if it seems to work" pitfall: "Well it's currently working, so clearly there's no reason to change anything at all or consider alternative approaches or address any concerns people might have."

Or, more simply put, something can be widely used and selling well despite, and not because of, its characteristics. Consider, for example, YouTube. Content creators really have no choice; if you want to make money by putting out content for other people to watch, it's YouTube or bust,* and Google is quite well aware of this. They can do basically what they like, and people on the platform have to put up with it or shout into the void and hope it inspires the end user to do something that will negatively affect YT's revenues. Content creators often grumble about the platform (or, more commonly, the algorithm), expressing how frustrating and often frightening it is to have one's livelihood so easily tossed about. If there were meaningful alternatives to YouTube, people WOULD pursue them. But they basically don't exist,* so people take what they can get.

This is part of why I stress the "only game in town" issue so often. Frequently, it is somewhere between difficult and impossible to find a game that isn't 5e D&D or 3.X/PF, so if you want to game, you have to tolerate whatever those games contain. If you really love classless systems...tough luck buddy, hope you can stomach never ever getting to play a system like that. If you dislike vancian spellcasting, I feel you, but we're pretty much SOL when it comes to finding games that don't use it. Etc. And that's just macro-scale mechanics; there could be any of dozens of little nagging issues that aren't enough to make you refuse to play, but which annoy you when they come up...and your alternatives are "deal with it, or never game" in many cases.

I don't mean to characterize this as some looming "everyone actually hates 5e, they just play it because everyone else is." That would be patently ridiculous. Instead, my point is that "popular," "selling a lot," "widely-used," and "genuinely liked from top to bottom," are all distinct from each other. A game can be popular and sell poorly, or popular but criticized. (Consider Cyberpunk 2077!) A game can sell poorly and yet still see widespread use. Don't mistake "most people play this," nor even "most people have a positive attitude about this," for "this is an unequivocally successful design with no issues." That's a major mistake, one I have seen WotC itself make multiple times over the years.

And that's to say nothing about the potential pitfalls of exclusively pursuing popularity over other concerns. I think very poorly of arguments that resort to accusations of "pandering," but we cannot ignore the fact that something designed to get the maximum number of butts in seats often results in one-hit wonders and enjoyable but empty experiences. Consider James Cameron's Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time...which completely disappeared from the public consciousness within a year of release.)

*A very small handful of alternatives exists for certain things, e.g. Twitch...but Twitch is if anything in a worse position than YT right now.
 
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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Of course, this falls into the "never fix something if it seems to work" pitfall: "Well it's currently working, so clearly there's no reason to change anything at all or consider alternative approaches or address any concerns people might have."

Or, more simply put, something can be widely used and selling well despite, and not because of, its characteristics. Consider, for example, YouTube. Content creators really have no choice; if you want to make money by putting out content for other people to watch, it's YouTube or bust,* and Google is quite well aware of this. They can do basically what they like, and people on the platform have to put up with it or shout into the void and hope it inspires the end user to do something that will negatively affect YT's revenues. Content creators often grumble about the platform (or, more commonly, the algorithm), expressing how frustrating and often frightening it is to have one's livelihood so easily tossed about. If there were meaningful alternatives to YouTube, people WOULD pursue them. But they basically don't exist,* so people take what they can get.

This is part of why I stress the "only game in town" issue so often. Frequently, it is somewhere between difficult and impossible to find a game that isn't 5e D&D or 3.X/PF, so if you want to game, you have to tolerate whatever those games contain. If you really love classless systems...tough luck buddy, hope you can stomach never ever getting to play a system like that. If you dislike vancian spellcasting, I feel you, but we're pretty much SOL when it comes to finding games that don't use it. Etc. And that's just macro-scale mechanics; there could be any of dozens of little nagging issues that aren't enough to make you refuse to play, but which annoy you when they come up...and your alternatives are "deal with it, or never game" in many cases.

I don't mean to characterize this as some looming "everyone actually hates 5e, they just play it because everyone else is." That would be patently ridiculous. Instead, my point is that "popular," "selling a lot," "widely-used," and "genuinely liked from top to bottom," are all distinct from each other. A game can be popular and sell poorly, or popular but criticized. (Consider Cyberpunk 2077!) A game can sell poorly and yet still see widespread use. Don't mistake "most people play this," nor even "most people have a positive attitude about this," for "this is an unequivocally successful design with no issues." That's a major mistake, one I have seen WotC itself make multiple times over the years.

And that's to say nothing about the potential pitfalls of exclusively pursuing popularity over other concerns. I think very poorly of arguments that resort to accusations of "pandering," but we cannot ignore the fact that something designed to get the maximum number of butts in seats often results in one-hit wonders and enjoyable but empty experiences. Consider James Cameron's Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time...which completely disappeared from the public consciousness within a year of release.)

*A very small handful of alternatives exists for certain things, e.g. Twitch...but Twitch is if anything in a worse position than YT right now.
You're absolutely right. Unfortunately, it doesn't change anything. The powers that be still have no motivation to make the changes some people want, because being popular makes them the most money, and making money is by a long way the highest priority.

From a practical standpoint, there is sadly not much point to even discussing it much. It can't lead to anything, because the fundamental issues remain the same.
 

You're absolutely right. Unfortunately, it doesn't change anything. The powers that be still have no motivation to make the changes some people want, because being popular makes them the most money, and making money is by a long way the highest priority.

From a practical standpoint, there is sadly not much point to even discussing it much. It can't lead to anything, because the fundamental issues remain the same.
I feel this way with LFQW issues (although I say its' caster/noncaster not just fighter/wizard) so I understand your mindset... having said that right now for DL it looks like I got what I wanted but you didn't and as happy as I am to get what I want I am sorry you didn't like what I got.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Of course, this falls into the "never fix something if it seems to work" pitfall: "Well it's currently working, so clearly there's no reason to change anything at all or consider alternative approaches or address any concerns people might have."

Or, more simply put, something can be widely used and selling well despite, and not because of, its characteristics. Consider, for example, YouTube. Content creators really have no choice; if you want to make money by putting out content for other people to watch, it's YouTube or bust,* and Google is quite well aware of this. They can do basically what they like, and people on the platform have to put up with it or shout into the void and hope it inspires the end user to do something that will negatively affect YT's revenues. Content creators often grumble about the platform (or, more commonly, the algorithm), expressing how frustrating and often frightening it is to have one's livelihood so easily tossed about. If there were meaningful alternatives to YouTube, people WOULD pursue them. But they basically don't exist,* so people take what they can get.

This is part of why I stress the "only game in town" issue so often. Frequently, it is somewhere between difficult and impossible to find a game that isn't 5e D&D or 3.X/PF, so if you want to game, you have to tolerate whatever those games contain. If you really love classless systems...tough luck buddy, hope you can stomach never ever getting to play a system like that. If you dislike vancian spellcasting, I feel you, but we're pretty much SOL when it comes to finding games that don't use it. Etc. And that's just macro-scale mechanics; there could be any of dozens of little nagging issues that aren't enough to make you refuse to play, but which annoy you when they come up...and your alternatives are "deal with it, or never game" in many cases.

I don't mean to characterize this as some looming "everyone actually hates 5e, they just play it because everyone else is." That would be patently ridiculous. Instead, my point is that "popular," "selling a lot," "widely-used," and "genuinely liked from top to bottom," are all distinct from each other. A game can be popular and sell poorly, or popular but criticized. (Consider Cyberpunk 2077!) A game can sell poorly and yet still see widespread use. Don't mistake "most people play this," nor even "most people have a positive attitude about this," for "this is an unequivocally successful design with no issues." That's a major mistake, one I have seen WotC itself make multiple times over the years.

And that's to say nothing about the potential pitfalls of exclusively pursuing popularity over other concerns. I think very poorly of arguments that resort to accusations of "pandering," but we cannot ignore the fact that something designed to get the maximum number of butts in seats often results in one-hit wonders and enjoyable but empty experiences. Consider James Cameron's Avatar, the highest-grossing film of all time...which completely disappeared from the public consciousness within a year of release.)

*A very small handful of alternatives exists for certain things, e.g. Twitch...but Twitch is if anything in a worse position than YT right now.
First off, all your caveats are valid to some extent, and the thing is we cannot know until "Official D&D" suffers some set back, like in the 4e era.
Then again the 4e era is proof that network effects are not enough on their own to carry an unpopular version of D&D.
In turn, the Youtube analogy can be overstated because, with YouTube, I think the network effect is stronger. However, it is very easy, in my opinion to overly dismiss the effect of subjecting proposed D&D mechanics to popular polling.
What these discussion is some real data on player preferences bases on some real social research, but I do know if anyone is attempting to do something like that, either in the industry or in academia.

Finally, your points are valid.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I feel this way with LFQW issues (although I say its' caster/noncaster not just fighter/wizard) so I understand your mindset... having said that right now for DL it looks like I got what I wanted but you didn't and as happy as I am to get what I want I am sorry you didn't like what I got.
Actually, it appears they've changed very little. I don't see anything directly contradicting the history, they just opened more options through the time-honored mention of "Outsiders". Even the religion stuff can be thought of as Public (Goldmoon) vs. Private (hidden machinations of other gods). Even the alignment removal, while I disagree with it, lacks any concrete examples of what you want; it just allows for the possibility of it.

The reasons of the Cataclysm are mostly as they were, right up to the gods designated as Good participating in a global punishment. The Kingpriest stuff, and indeed the entire affair, is a combination of unreliable history and "from a certain point of view".

I'm actually reasonably satisfied; I expected it to be much worse. The only thing that really disappoints me is the waste of digital ink because WotC didn't include that sidebar, or at least a confirmation of it, in one of the several hundred marketing statements they've made to make sure people buy the book.

I'm glad you're happy, but it looks to me they fell more on my side than yours.
 


EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Then again the 4e era is proof that network effects are not enough on their own to carry an unpopular version of D&D.
4e wasn't an "unpopular" version, despite what people like to claim, if you're using sales as a proxy for popularity; we've been told as much by the people who actually worked there. It sold as well as, if not better than, 3e did. The problems it faced were many, and negative publicity from fans with a vested interest in tearing it down was certainly one of the big issues (though there were several others.)

The only reason PF started outselling 4e is because they stopped making 4e books. It's quite easy to out-sell your rivals when you're ramping up production and they've stopped completely.

Let's put the myth to rest and move on.

What these discussion is some real data on player preferences bases on some real social research, but I do know if anyone is attempting to do something like that, either in the industry or in academia.
Unfortunately, the answer is almost certainly no. WotC doesn't do the kind of serious data collection needed to answer these questions, and academic historians haven't shown much interest yet (AFAICT, anyway.) The latter might change if you give it a couple decades, because by that point, D&D will have existed for nearly a full human lifetime (70 years!) People would need to be in their 80s or older in order to even remember a time before D&D. Since most people who got into D&D when it was brand-new, even most of the people who are 80+ will be likely to have at least heard of it or experienced its cultural impact, creating an opening for a new subfield. Shannon Applecline's Designers & Dragons and other works (such as The Elusive Shift) are the first early forays, but I don't think many of them are the result of academia becoming involved.

For WotC to actually do this kind of data collection, they would need to hire both a proper statistician and a proper psychologist, preferably ones with experience in survey design and interpretation. Most of the surveys WotC publishes are either minimally-effective focus group type questions, or outright push-polling (which, unfortunately, was especially rife during the D&D Next playtest. They conducted polls where, I kid you not, the only answers were--paraphrased, of course--"yes," "enthusiastic yes," "unenthusiastic yes," and "yes but I want more.") Since there is no appetite for increasing D&D's staff to include people actually creating new content, let alone "wasteful" jobs like people with actual mathematics or psychology training, it's simply never going to happen.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
It depends on what you mean by carry. 4E was the second most popular RPG during its life cycle.
Correction: as noted above, it was the first most popular RPG during its lifecycle, until they stopped publishing new books. At which point, based on a metric which exclusively considers brick-and-mortar book sales, it was overtaken by the (relatively) new Pathfinder. (That is, PF technically launched in 2009, but didn't get the GMG out until June 2010, and only got its first supplement--Ultimate Magic--out in 2011.)

The fact that PF overtook it at all is still significant. But it wasn't like WotC was trying to hold the crown when it got taken.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Just for the record, on the topic of 4e popularity (and I was a fan) but the network effect of being the "official " version was not enough to prevent the previous version and later pathfinder from running it closer than probably any rival rpg in the history of the game.
I am not sure about Vampire in the nineties as TSR was moribund at the time.
The point I was trying to make is that in the case of YouTube or Twitter (and the Elon of Mars is really testing Twitter right now) where the network effect and first mover is very important in success.
I think in the case of D&D the network effect is important but perhaps not as much as a certain minimum standard of the quality of the game.
 


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