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D&D General D&D as a Curated, DIY Game or "By the Book": Examining DM and Player Agency, and the DM as Game Designer

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
After reading through, and occasionally participating in, the various permutations of the "exotic races" or "Tolkien races" or "respect mah authorit-ah v. respect mah agenc-ah" thread that have been popping up like mushrooms in a Bavarian forest after the rain, I realized that there is a common denominator to many of these arguments (this, and the rest of this post, is IMO, IME, etc.).

Normally, I think of these debates as being about DM Agency/Empowerment or Player Agency/Empowerment, but the more I have reflected on it, I think there is another factor at work. At least when it comes to D&D as a ruleset. Fundamentally, it is a difference in how people are approaching D&D as a game. I think that this difference can best be explored in two different approaches that we can see exemplified by the following quotes:

These rules are as complete as possible within the limitations imposed by the space of three booklets. That is, they cover the major aspects of fantasy campaigns but still remain flexible. As with any other set of miniatures rules they are guidelines to follow in designing your own fantastic-medieval campaign. ... New details can be added and old “laws” altered so as to provide continually new and different situations. In addition, the players themselves will interact in such a way as to make the campaign variable and unique, and this is quite desirable.

If you are a player purchasing the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS rules in order to improve your situation in an existing campaign, you will find that there is a great advantage in knowing what is herein. If your referee has made changes in the rules and/or tables, simply note them in pencil (for who knows when some flux of the cosmos will make things shift once again!), and keep the rules nearby as you
play.

Men and Magic, p. 4 (1974).


What is Living Forgotten Realms?
Living Forgotten Realms (LFR for short) is a worldwide Living Campaign that uses the 4th Edition DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® rules and the FORGOTTEN REALMS® campaign setting. Players create characters using the core D&D rules and the guidelines in this document, and can then play those characters in any LFR adventure, anywhere in the world.

The DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game is constantly evolving. There are many sources of optional rules (such as character classes, powers, feats, races, and magic items) that LFR characters are allowed to use without needing special permission. We call these player resources. LFR is a “core rules” 4th Edition D&D campaign, which means that we allow players to use material from the vast majority of official published sourcebooks, such as the Player's Handbook series and the D&D Essentials line. However, not everything in every published sourcebook is intended to be freely available to player characters. Some material is for the DM's use only, and certain elements of other 4th Edition campaign settings do not fit with the cosmology or themes of the FORGOTTEN REALMS (such as the concept of arcane defiling from Dark Sun, or anything from Gamma World). We try to be as inclusive as possible when deciding what players can use for their Living Forgotten Realms characters, but we don't allow everything.

LFR Campaign Guide, pp 1, 3 (2011).


I would call these two approaches the two opposite ends of the spectrum as to what the D&D experience is as a game and as a hobby, and this dividing line between these approaches is often the dividing line between the debates about races, or world building, or classes, or any of the interminable debates we often see. Please note that while I picked specific examples from editions, this isn't specific to editions, nor is this an invitation to an edition war. Both approaches are used in all editions of D&D.


Is D&D a ruleset, or a DIY hobby?

In the early days, there was no doubt that D&D was a DIY hobby. It was impossibly to play D&D "as is." It was a kitbash of multiple rulesets, magazine articles, and whatever the DM had to do to keep the game working. This practice continued through the entirety of 1e (AD&D). It is a truism that people say, when discussing 1e, that their table did (or did not) follow certain rules. Most tables used 3PP classes or races at some time, from Dragon Magazine "NPC classes" (yeah, right) to something from The Compleat ... series to a homebrew. Given that the game was unbalanced in many ways, it was hardly surprising when official supplements (such as the 1985 release of Unearthed Arcana) contained additional unbalanced material that was selectively incorporated into campaigns, or not allowed at all.

Moreover, in the early days, there was an expectation that the DM would create the adventures to run, and most certainly create the world in which the adventures occurred (the "campaign setting"). Famously, TSR was late to the gate in publishing modules and campaign settings because Gygax believed that the DM should be creating the adventures and setting, not using pre-published material (a position quickly reversed when TSR realized that, inter alia, Judge's Guild was able to do just fine ...).

The relationship between the DM and the table was thus necessarily different than just a referee administering a codified ruleset or a facilitator of collaborative world building. In effect, the DM functioned as a game designer for the table, creating adventures, campaign settings, and creating rules, excluding other rules, and determining what "worked" and "didn't work" in terms of the game, both mechanically and thematically. This is why you often hear about DMs that had binders of material for their campaigns- specific classes and races that were allowed and not allowed, homebrew, rules alterations, and so on, that accumulated gradually over time. I don't want to oversell this; there were certainly DMs that just winged it, and ran pre-published TSR modules, but it was nearly impossible to play early D&D without the DM altering the material- either adding, subtracting, or otherwise designing the game to better fit the table.

Starting with 2e's player-facing option books and wealth of campaign settings, this slowly began to change, and it certainly was fully changed by 3e. The idea that the DM was more of a referee for players- that the rules were the rules, and that players would design their characters within a specified ruleset, and the DM would run that specified ruleset, began to take hold. This is the time when you began to see ideas such as "Core + 1" first happen, as people struggled to reconcile the idea that players should be allowed to play what they want (the chargen "game") with the profusion of materials and options that could, especially in combination, unbalance the game. Arguably, this led to the 4e reset, which preserved the ability of players to play whatever they wanted and increase options by providing a coherent framework for additional expansions (the so-called "everything is core").

In essence, I am asserting that there is a dichotomy; we often see this in arguments about various options, about rules, and most recently about the inclusion of races. Is the DM the de facto game designer for the table, ensuring that there is a fun and bespoke game enjoyed by all? Or is the DM a referee and facilitator for the table, running the game that is published?


5e Allows for Both

It appears that 5e allows for both styles of play, and quite easily. While 5e might not have lived up to the original billing of a completely modular system, it is also an edition that is easy to quickly and easily modify; hence the appeal of DMs that prefer custom or curated worlds (D&D as a hobby, D&D as DIY). On the other hand, it also works well "out of the box" and provides numerous player-facing options, allowing tables to run it with the expectation that it will be "by the book" (D&D as a standardized ruleset).

In essence, when I see many debates here, they can often be simplified down. When someone asserts that something (race/class, for example) must be playable because it's in the PHB, they are asserting that D&D is a standardized ruleset that requires adjudication (DM as referee/facilitator). On the other hand, when someone asserts that something is not necessarily playable, even if it is in the PHB, they are asserting that D&D is a DIY hobby, with the DM in the role of game designer.

At least, those are my thoughts for now. I am sure that many, many people will disagree with me .... so, have at it! :)
 
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5e Allows for Both

It appears that 5e allows for both styles of play, and quite easily. While 5e might not have lived up to the original billing of a completely modular system, it is also the edition that is probably the easiest to quickly and easily modify; hence the appeal of DMs that prefer custom or curated worlds (D&D as a hobby, D&D as DIY). On the other hand, it also works well "out of the box" and provides numerous player-facing options, allowing tables to run it with the expectation that it will be "by the book" (D&D as a standardized ruleset).

In essence, when I see many debates here, they can often be simplified down. When someone asserts that something (race/class, for example) must be playable because it's in the PHB, they are asserting that D&D is a standardized ruleset that requires adjudication (DM as referee/facilitator). On the other hand, when someone asserts that something is not necessarily playable, even if it is in the PHB, they are asserting that D&D is a DIY hobby, with the DM in the role of game designer.

At least, those are my thoughts for now. I am sure that many, many people will disagree with me .... so, have at it! :)
That bolded bit gets parroted out a lot as some sort of self reinforcing truism that is true because people say it.. but frankly it's just not that true. Sure you can "modify" the game, but there is little underlying structure to build on/off with next to no guidelines used when designing things and nearly everything is a one off edge case making it so that attempting to actually "modify" anything other than fluff that was never difficult to modify in any edition will quickly become a Sisyphean task of epic proportions. You can see this clearly in the number of optional rules in the dmg that either accomplish nothing or break the game unless you apply them in an extremely narrow scope like a game where nobody is playing one of the seven out of 13 classes capable of casting the spell cure wounds or go on to fix a bunch of edge cases not even mentioned in the optional rule
 

The DM guide is pretty clear when it come to allow a DM to build a world of its own.
Pantheon, planes, physical world, societies, population, government, a DM can do want he wants.
DM guide allow also the DM to choose, players’s playable races, classes, to alter spell lists, leveling, treasures, even alter classes, create new races, spells, items, and so on.

But all those things are not changing the game, they are decision on the Setting level.
A DM that ban leomund tiny hut or Sharpshooter or gnome paladin with rapier, is not changing the game. He adjust the game to fit its expectation.

I think DnD can tolerate a lot of change and adaptation without changing the core of the game. we are not in a card game, where the nerf of a single card can shift the entire meta.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The DM guide is pretty clear when it come to allow a DM to build a world of its own.
Pantheon, planes, physical world, societies, population, government, a DM can do want he wants.
DM guide allow also the DM to choose, players’s playable races, classes, to alter spell lists, leveling, treasures, even alter classes, create new races, spells, items, and so on.

But all those things are not changing the game, they are decision on the Setting level.
A DM that ban leomund tiny hut or Sharpshooter or gnome paladin with rapier, is not changing the game. He adjust the game to fit its expectation.

I think DnD can tolerate a lot of change and adaptation without changing the core of the game. we are not in a card game, where the nerf of a single card can shift the entire meta.

So this is an interesting take.

In effect, you are saying that there are two "layers" of rules. What I have referred to as altering the game "mechanically" or "thematically". Am I understanding you correctly?

You would say that the DM can alter the rules that affect the game thematically to "build a world of its own" - to make decisions on a setting level. Classes, races, etc.

But not mechanically? So, assume the following. Imagine a DM that looks at the hiding/stealth/perception system. And decides, "Eh, I don't like it." And rips out the system and replaces it with a new system she designed. That's not a setting decision, that's a pure homebrew.

Or if that seems too complicated, what if the DM designs a new psionic system that isn't class-based, but cuts across classes (similar to the OD&D/1e system) and places it in 5e. Again, this is a mechanics change that can affect a lot- even the "core" of the game.
 

After reading through, and occasionally participating in, the various permutations of the "exotic races" or "Tolkien races" or "respect mah authorit-ah v. respect mah agenc-ah" thread that have been popping up like mushrooms in a Bavarian forest after the rain, I realized that there is a common denominator to many of these arguments (this, and the rest of this post, is IMO, IME, etc.).
I've long realised the difference - and it is not at all the one you are claiming. It's a matter of whether the DM is someone who sits on an almighty throne and everyone else should kowtow to them or whether the DM is the chair and the first among equals but every player at the table is important.
Is D&D a ruleset, or a DIY hobby?
D&D is a ruleset. Tabletop roleplaying is the overarching hobby.
Moreover, in the early days, there was an expectation that the DM would create the adventures to run, and most certainly create the world in which the adventures occurred (the "campaign setting").
And invoking the deeper magic from before the dawn of time there wouldn't be just one DM in the early days. Players would take their characters to multiple games and multiple players would run adventures in the same/overlapping settings. The reason so-called Monty Haul DMs were a problem was because if one player was playing in a Monty Haul game and another wasn't it would cause serious problems when a player brought a character from their game to your table.
Starting with 2e's player-facing option books and wealth of campaign settings, this slowly began to change, and it certainly was fully changed by 3e. The idea that the DM was more of a referee for players-
Whereas early on the DM was sometimes explicitly called the referee.
In essence, when I see many debates here, they can often be simplified down. When someone asserts that something (race/class, for example) must be playable because it's in the PHB, they are asserting that D&D is a standardized ruleset that requires adjudication (DM as referee/facilitator). On the other hand, when someone asserts that something is not necessarily playable, even if it is in the PHB, they are asserting that D&D is a DIY hobby, with the DM in the role of game designer.
If someone wanted a DIY hobby then the assertion would be that anything of the appropriate level that could associate well with PCs was playable regardless of whether it was in the PHB. Because the DM and the player would work together to make it playable. This is a constant through-line of DIY in D&D that reaches through from Gygax and Arneson's tables to both Matt Mercer's and mine.

Some DMs don't do this because they don't want to kitbash, which is fair enough. But other DMs don't do it because they want to keep the exclusive fun of kitbashing to themselves and keep tight control over the game and not let the players have the fun of kitbashing.
At least, those are my thoughts for now. I am sure that many, many people will disagree with me .... so, have at it! :)
And mine is that the disagreement is entirely orthogonal to the DIY mentality you are talking about. If anything the people with a DIY mentality are hardcore inclusionists right down to homebrew races if nothing fits. Because it's a fun challenge to effectively DIY a present for someone, and letting other people in on the fun of design is a good thing.

This is about DM authority and when and where it should be used. Not about homebrewing and kitbashing (or rather the refusal to kitbash and homebrew by DMs who don't like the purity of their worlds being sullied by players).
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I've long realised the difference - and it is not at all the one you are claiming. It's a matter of whether the DM is someone who sits on an almighty throne and everyone else should kowtow to them or whether the DM is the chair and the first among equals but every player at the table is important.
This really, really isn’t the root of the disagreement. All this is, is an attempt to dismiss the camp that enjoys a more curated D&D experience.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
You would say that the DM can alter the rules that affect the game thematically to "build a world of its own" - to make decisions on a setting level. Classes, races, etc.

But not mechanically?

So, I think it will help the discussion a lot to resolve the vagueness of "...the DM can..."

Yes, of course they can. It isn't like there's some physical law that prevents things from happening.

The discussion isn't around what they can or cannot do. The discussion is around what the implications of changes, and ways of implementing changes, are.

Much of the "agency" discussion is really around how and when you go about making changes, not what the change actually is, for example.
 

This really, really isn’t the root of the disagreement. All this is, is an attempt to dismiss the camp that enjoys a more curated D&D experience.
It certainly isn't whether it's about whether you DIY. That's nothing more than an attempt to pretend people who are often ardent DIYers don't DIY.

Meanwhile when you say "more curated" the question is curated by whom? The argument isn't whether you can't have a curated experience but whether the DM should be the all powerful sole curator, or whether everyone should have a hand in the curation.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
It certainly isn't whether it's about whether you DIY. That's nothing more than an attempt to pretend people who are often ardent DIYers don't DIY.
It’s one way to look at the division. It clearly isn’t the whole picture.
Meanwhile when you say "more curated" the question is curated by whom?
By the author(s) of the setting. That might be the author of a published setting, the DM when running a homebrew setting, or the group as a whole if they are co-creating it.
The argument isn't whether you can't have a curated experience but whether the DM should be the all powerful sole curator, or whether everyone should have a hand in the curation.
I think you’ll find there are very few DMs who believe they should be the all-powerful, sole curator. Most are willing to do some amount of collaboration with their players, and many have a back-and-forth with the default assumptions of a pre-published setting and their and/or their players’ desires for the setting.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I had an answer for this thread based on the title, not the body of the OP. But I'll post it anyway.

I thought we were talking about rules vs ruling. The thing with any game, is that rules have to be remembered. You want to do X. It doesn't matter what X is - are you trying to hit a goblin? Are you trying to travel to the past in an alternate material plane where you will elevate cows into a race of intelligent, warlike beings that will worship you as their creator, so you can come back to the present and Gate in an army of minotaur fanatics? What matters is "is there a rule for X, what is the rule, if there is no rule what ruling shall I (the GM) make?"

These examples of X are a bit ridiculous. Of course everyone knows how to do an attack roll vs the goblin, and of course there is no rule for my insta army plan. But there are going to be a lot of cases where there is a rule, you remember there is a rule, but you don't remember the details of the rule (grappling anyone?). This is especially true if you have played several editions of D&D. It's a lot easier to remember that a rule exist than remembering the rule!

So you have to look it up... and that slows down the game! So what do you do? stop and look up the rule or... make a ruling? And what I find is that 5e is a system that works well with rulings. "You want to jump over the guard and stab him in the back? Uh... this is pretty challenging (GM mentally sets the DC at 20) but he is drunk so I'll give you advantage - do an acrobatics check!" Player goes "yeeeaaah!!!" and the game moves on.

In other systems you could have issues like "do I get +1 because I have higher grounds?" or "you need a feat to do that".... but not in 5e :)
 

It’s one way to look at the division. It clearly isn’t the whole picture.
As long as you accept that the side that's interested in DIY are the inclusionists. And the side that wants to exclude as a default is those who don't want to DIY things. That's far more reflective of the whole picture.
By the author(s) of the setting. That might be the author of a published setting, the DM when running a homebrew setting, or the group as a whole if they are co-creating it.

I think you’ll find there are very few DMs who believe they should be the all-powerful, sole curator. Most are willing to do some amount of collaboration with their players, and many have a back-and-forth with the default assumptions of a pre-published setting and their and/or their players’ desires for the setting.
The argument is, despite hyperbole, between those with a default of including unless there is a very good reason to exclude and those with a default of excluding. I've repeatedly mentioned Kender as an example of those that should be excluded by anyone. Even on Krynn.

Also there's a major difference between a third party and a homebrew. In a homebrew things are the way they are ultimately because you made them that way. The setting is Doylist whatever the Watsonian justifications. If you're making the setting the only reason anything that's not deliberately designed to mess up the setting is excluded is because you say so. And the real world is pretty weird.

And with the level of magic present in D&D wizards are absolutely going to do things. So are gods and clerics. In lower magic games things are different - but D&D (especially in later editions) has very powerful magic.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
And what I find is that 5e is a system that works well with rulings. "You want to jump over the guard and stab him in the back? Uh... this is pretty challenging (GM mentally sets the DC at 20) but he is drunk so I'll give you advantage - do an acrobatics check!" Player goes "yeeeaaah!!!" and the game moves on.

In other systems you could have issues like "do I get +1 because I have higher grounds?" or "you need a feat to do that".... but not in 5e :)

I think that 5e's reliance on "rulings, not rules" is what makes it so amenable to easy customization.

OD&D, and to a lesser extent, 1e also did the same thing. The primary difference is that a lot of the "rulings" eventually calcified into published rules - and many of the divergent rules didn't play well together since they were created on an ad hoc basis (hence the issues with the d6 or d20 or d00 for similar things).
 

I think that 5e's reliance on "rulings, not rules" is what makes it so amenable to easy customization.
Interestingly I find that 5e's reliance on "rulings not rules" makes it actively hard to meaningfully customise at a deeper level than "I did that" because it's clear as mud. You can add things and you can subtract them easily enough because it's got the consistency of blancmange. If I want to customise a game 4e is for me a much better start because the consequences are far reaching, due to a more tightly written ruleset.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
As long as you accept that the side that's interested in DIY are the inclusionists. And the side that wants to exclude as a default is those who don't want to DIY things. That's far more reflective of the whole picture.
This just isn’t true. There are DIY DMs who include by default and DIY DMs who exclude by default.
The argument is, despite hyperbole, between those with a default of including unless there is a very good reason to exclude and those with a default of excluding.
Now this I do agree with.
I've repeatedly mentioned Kender as an example of those that should be excluded by anyone. Even on Krynn.
Ironically I would not exclude Kender on Krynn. Though I probably wouldn’t run a game on Krynn in the first place.
Also there's a major difference between a third party and a homebrew. In a homebrew things are the way they are ultimately because you made them that way. The setting is Doylist whatever the Watsonian justifications. If you're making the setting the only reason anything that's not deliberately designed to mess up the setting is excluded is because you say so. And the real world is pretty weird.
But there are many reasons you might say so, which may relate to aestecits or theme or tone or any number of other things. The same reasons the author(s) of a published settings might have to include or exclude things from the settings they create.
And with the level of magic present in D&D wizards are absolutely going to do things. So are gods and clerics. In lower magic games things are different - but D&D (especially in later editions) has very powerful magic.
Ok?
 

tommybahama

Adventurer
"respect mah authorit-ah v. respect mah agenc-ah" thread that have been popping up like mushrooms in a Bavarian forest after the rain"

Good essay, but I think you misspelled Barovian. :unsure:

For me it boils down to creating a shared epic narrative by the GM and the players vs mechanics. I want to be the Legolas that leaps onto the troll's back and jabs the Arrow of Slaying into its eye socket. I don't want to leave that epic scene to a contested athletics check followed by an attack roll at disadvantage because I'm within melee range even though I'm using the arrow to make and improvised weapon attack. Oh, and since I argued it's an improvised weapon attack, it only does 1d4 damage instead of a DC17 CON save for 6d10 damage. Arrrrgh!
 

This just isn’t true. There are DIY DMs who include by default and DIY DMs who exclude by default.
There are. Which is why it's a very different axis and is at best irrelevant to the discussion it spun off.
Ironically I would not exclude Kender on Krynn. Though I probably wouldn’t run a game on Krynn in the first place.
I might even on Krynn. But the only reason I'd run a game on Krynn would be if I was trying to run a "practical atheists" game starting with the assumption that anyone who wants to maintain the "balance between good and evil" is actually evil
But there are many reasons you might say so, which may relate to aestecits or theme or tone or any number of other things. The same reasons the author(s) of a published settings might have to include or exclude things from the settings they create.
But there's one more reason to include than a published author has. A player wants it. Which brings it back to the question of DM authority and whether everyone should kowtow to your wishes as DM or everyone should have the chance to contribute and you are simply first among equals. To me this is a very strong reason to default to inclusionism.
It's one of the reasons why inclusion should very much be the default.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I've long realised the difference - and it is not at all the one you are claiming. It's a matter of whether the DM is someone who sits on an almighty throne and everyone else should kowtow to them or whether the DM is the chair and the first among equals but every player at the table is important.
I'm just going to say this once on this thread. Don't agree with a specific style of running the game or the OP? Have a different point of view? Explain your logic and reasoning. There are many, many shades of gray on this topic and you are reducing it to black and white while people who prefer that the DM create a curated world are doing it wrong. Personally I prefer a game that makes sense to the DM whether I'm DM or player. If that means a curated world with strict limits, so be it.

There are many games, many styles, no style will work for everyone.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
It certainly isn't whether it's about whether you DIY. That's nothing more than an attempt to pretend people who are often ardent DIYers don't DIY.

Meanwhile when you say "more curated" the question is curated by whom? The argument isn't whether you can't have a curated experience but whether the DM should be the all powerful sole curator, or whether everyone should have a hand in the curation.
The problem with this framing is that it implies that the one who is making the choice of curation is solely the DM, and is imposing it on the players. That's neglecting the fact that there are a lot of players who are actively looking for the DM to be the one to do the curating. Lots of players have a play expectation that they will be passengers on the DM's carefully crafted railroad.

We do ourselves a disservice trying to build an analytical framework that treats this playstyle as invisible or as degenerate. Maximal DM force is a fully coherent RPG playstyle.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I think you’ll find there are very few DMs who believe they should be the all-powerful, sole curator. Most are willing to do some amount of collaboration with their players, and many have a back-and-forth with the default assumptions of a pre-published setting and their and/or their players’ desires for the setting.

I think what I was realizing is that there is a profound difference in the a priori starting points that different people have when they start these conversations, and this is why they get so confusing.

In my conception of what it is to play D&D, it is always a custom game. The DM is the initial "game designer" at the table. That does not preclude player collaboration on building the world through ideas and/or emergent play- it's the best part! But because every game is a custom game, I would never assume that anything (including PHB races or classes) is standard. Now, there are many times that the table might want to play a "standard" D&D game- whether it's a one-shot, or a competition (remember those?), or because that's what the table wants. But I would always go into a situation with the assumption that, at session 0, there will be some DM guidance about the guidelines of this custom game, and that players will design characters within those guidelines.

On the other hand, there are many people who start with the assumption that D&D is always standard; that any deviation from "base" or "core" D&D by the DM needs to be justified. A player should be allowed to create any type of PC, and it is the job of the DM as referee/facilitator to find a place for the PC, so long as the PC was created within the rules.

In the other thread, I just saw that @cbwjm posted this:
Maybe, I have definitely noticed a lot more people nowadays who think that just because something exists in a core book it must exist in game (could easily just be due to the prevalence of forums and social media making it seem like more though). I remember having an argument with people on Reddit who seemingly took offence at my statement that my world didn't have dinosaurs in it. They couldn't grasp that everything in the book is an option and that somewhere in the real world a game was being played where they couldn't polymorph or wildshape into dinosaurs.

And that's where a lot of the befuddlement, for me, came. Because people can yell and scream at each other on the internet; despite the protestations, the actual positions of most people aren't that different.

A: "It's my way or the highway. DM RULEZ"

B: "You're a terrible person. Players should be able to bring any concept, ever, and the DM has to accept it. U A PLAYA HATER!"

A: "That's silly. Besides, at my table, we actually discuss stuff. Not like your table, where people show up and DEMAND that the player gets to play."

B: "No, you're the silly one. Besides, at my table, we actually discuss stuff. Not like you table, where people show up and the DM DEMANDS that the player plays what the DM wants."

etc.

To me, though, I kept noticing that one of the fault lines kept going to the "if it's in the published material, the DM has to use it." Which is something I'm not familiar with; it's just a difference of opinion.


EDIT- by the way, I am not offering this as a be-all, end-all approach to solving the DM Agency/Player Agency "debate." Just a different way of looking at it in terms of D&D. :)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
But there's one more reason to include than a published author has. A player wants it. Which brings it back to the question of DM authority and whether everyone should kowtow to your wishes as DM or everyone should have the chance to contribute and you are simply first among equals. To me this is a very strong reason to default to inclusionism.
A player wanting to play a race (or whatever) is indeed a reason one might want to include it. That’s not a reason to include by default, it’s a reason to include on a case-by-case basis. That’s why most DMs are willing to discuss with a player if they want to play an option that they would not otherwise have included. But also, a player wanting to use an option in game is only one reason to include it, and does not automatically outweigh any and all reasons not to include it. It’s something that should be discussed between the player interested in using the option for their character and the DM responsible for creating and maintaining the rest of the world.
It's one of the reasons why inclusion should very much be the default.
I strongly disagree. Again, it’s a reason to include something when relevant, which may or may not outweigh any compelling reasons not to include it.
 

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