D&D 5E Combat as war, sport, or ??


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EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
I have a whole thread about that very thing...
Yep.

It's quite stupid to change things for bad reasons, though you have the physical capacity to do so. I do consider myself constrained by the fiction, but that is because I wish to be, because I believe it important to produce good gaming. It's not because it is logically impossible for me to do otherwise.

But if, for some reason, I genuinely believed it was vital to the game to do something without having the kinds of justification I usually demand of myself...what would stop me?
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Supporter
I think you're engaging in some kind of straw man argument? Sorry, I have flu, can't really engage.
Mod Note:

That’s a bit provocative. If you genuinely can’t understand someone’s intentions because of illness-related diminished capacity, it‘s probably best to ask for clarification or not engage until you can, instead of making that kind of judgment call and begging off.
 
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pemerton

Legend
This argument seems like it would benefit from a re-focus.

There are (at least) two broad approaches to the fiction-mechanics relationship in RPGing.

One is to treat the mechanics as a model, in some loose sense, of the fiction, such that the fiction is largely read off the workings of the mechanics. In one version of this, the mechanics are (at least in principle) tightly tuned so that the fiction that gets read off their workings is coherent, verisimilitudinous, etc. The classic exemplars of this are RuneQuest and Role Master.

The second version of this first approach is to set the mechanics more or-less-arbitrarily, or perhaps with an eye on mechanical game balance, and then to suck up whatever fiction results, no matter how absurd. I regard 3E D&D and its variants as exemplars of this.

The second approach is to have a notion of the fiction prior to the mechanics, and to use the mechanics to mediate and perhaps develop this notion. 4e is a clear example: we have a notion that a giant is tough compared to a 6th level PC, and so stat it as a level 6 solo; and we have a notion that the same giant is not tough compared to an epic-tier PC, and so we stat it as a 21st level minion.

Marvel Heroic RP is another example: we don't need the mechanics to tell us that the Hulk is stronger than Aunt May; we know this, and this constrains action declarations and resolutions involving an arm wrestle between the two of them. Only when we're not sure and want to leave the matter open - eg if the Hulk confronts the Thing - do we need to invoke the mechanics.

The second approach is obviously "fiction first" in a way that the first is not: the mechanics can't be invoked or applied, to frame a situation, without some prior conception of how it fits into the fiction (eg what tier is the challenge supposed to be?). This will produce a different play experience from the first approach, in which situations can be framed purely mechanically without forming any view about their relationship to the fiction. What can't be done, using the second approach, is to leave it an open question, to be discovered in play, whether or not a framed situation is relevant in some or other fashion to the PCs. Decisions of that sort have to be made as part of the mechanical framing process.

The idea that one approach is more meritorious than the other, or that the second approach produces shallow fiction, seems obviously false.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
So, if a table generated a response that you were absolutely, 100% certain would harm the enjoyment of your players, you would proceed without reservation?
Are you trying to trick me?

I said I had a preference, but if an absolutely abominable result appeared, I would probably try to steer that into something that would work. The fact that I can compromise my preference if needed does not make it not my preference.
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm currently using a system with lots of random tables, mostly for various categories of "downtime" events: Torchbearer 2e.

They're not at odds with an approach to the fiction that prioritises character and "story" over a "mechanical" understanding of how the world unfolds. In this way they are different from, say, classic D&D random encounter tables; I see them as closer to Classic Traveller, though not the same, which has not only D&D-style tables, for animal encounters, but also tables intended to produce events more closely integrated with the unfolding scenario.

I make this point to try and emphasise that some nuance in thinking about various techniques, and how they bear upon the fiction-mechanics relationship, is helpful.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
There is no fact about the fictional world which exists independently of you having made it so, and no fact about the fictional world or its contents which remains true other than because you will it to be so. The instant you actually desire it any such fact to be false, it is false.
And once that fact has been established in the fiction, turning around and declaring it false just on a whim is bad-faith DMing; and that's a whole different conversation.

Let's assume good-faith DMing, shall we, and continue.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
Are you trying to trick me?
Not strictly. It's Socratic questioning.

I said I had a preference, but if an absolutely abominable result appeared, I would probably try to steer that into something that would work. The fact that I can compromise my preference if needed does not make it not my preference.
Okay, but the point is, it's still truly, ultimately your choice.

And once that fact has been established in the fiction, turning around and declaring it false just on a whim is bad-faith DMing; and that's a whole different conversation.

Let's assume good-faith DMing, shall we, and continue.
Then let us assume good-faith playing as well, yes?
 

S'mon

Legend
The idea that one approach is more meritorious than the other, or that the second approach produces shallow fiction, seems obviously false.

Yes, it depends on what you're trying to achieve. The different approaches work best for different goals. The goals of eg Runequest are not illegitimate.
 

pemerton

Legend
The goals of eg Runequest are not illegitimate.
No. Nor those of 4e D&D.

As you probably recall from some of our conversations over the years, I've got significant doubts about how the relatively complicated and meta-game-y PC build approach of 5e D&D fits well with the mechanics => fiction approach. Bounded accuracy clearly makes it a better fit in this respect than 3E; but for someone who cultivated their sensibilities for that sort of approach using Rolemaster (with RQ/BRP as a back-up), it is a bit hard to look at 5e through a purits-for-system simulationist lens.
 

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