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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

In no way does 5e come close to inverting linear fighter/quadratic wizard. It would not even do so if every sword strike was lethal rather than the fighter wandering round effectively with a nerf sword (or a foam rubber cosplay sword) thanks to the nature of hit points, especially in 5e.

This is among other things because combat isn't everything - and in part because at both 1st and 20th levels the fighter's big thing is moving a normal move distance and swinging a piece of sharpened metal hard and fast. There is almost nothing other than an improved proficiency bonus that distinguishes what a L1 fighter can do from a L20 fighter in the exploration and social pillars.
actually it does take the a5e breakdown. The numbers appear to suggest your statement is correct, but the critical caveat there is that those numbers are also calculated with no feats & no magic items. Simply add a +2 to the champion's greatsword & it inverts pretty quickly getting even worse when you add GWM. Sure you can add a +2 to any of the casters, but the important difference is that the champion multiplies the +2 & gwm by the number of attacks while the caster does not.
 

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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
In no way does 5e come close to inverting linear fighter/quadratic wizard. It would not even do so if every sword strike was lethal rather than the fighter wandering round effectively with a nerf sword (or a foam rubber cosplay sword) thanks to the nature of hit points, especially in 5e.
...

I think 5E does better at it than 3.5 and older versions did as long as you don't allow long rests every two or three fights. A 20th level fighter can't compete with a 20 level wizard's nova encounter, but after that nova encounter the wizard will not be nearly as effective.

...There is almost nothing other than an improved proficiency bonus that distinguishes what a L1 fighter can do from a L20 fighter in the exploration and social pillars.
Just to be a bit contrarian, the fighter gets a lot of feats and if they want they could gain proficiency and expertise in several skills. Depends on the priority set by the player in how they build their PC.
 


So, we see here an attempt (intentional or not) of setting this up as a conflict between Them and Us, with good guys and bad guys.
The dichotomy of "D&D as a hobby, D&D as DIY" (which is a direct quote from the OP) with the implication that it is a conflict between two groups is the entire premise of this thread and is in the actual title of the thread. I didn't bring the dichotomy or the metaphor, merely critiqued with strong justification which group should be seen as which.

And do I think there is a value judgement in "DIY" vs "hobby"? Yes, absolutely. Just as there is in the ridiculous "Sport vs War" dichotomy.

What I think is the actual disagreement is between players of D&D as a roleplaying game in the toolbox vs players of D&D as the RPG they use. There are a lot of elements of D&D that mean that, far more than GURPS, unless you're redesigning the system from the ground up (and completely rewriting the hit point system, the magic system, and the levelling system as the three principal offenders) you end up with D&D with a thin coat of paint. And once you've changed those three there isn't that much left except hireling management and the magic item system that's different in almost every edition.
 

I think 5E does better at it than 3.5 and older versions did as long as you don't allow long rests every two or three fights. A 20th level fighter can't compete with a 20 level wizard's nova encounter, but after that nova encounter the wizard will not be nearly as effective.
I think 5e does better than 3.5 does. I do not think it does better than TSR-era D&D does other than by making the rogue far more worthwhile than the AD&D thief.
 

The issue I have with the "D&D as DIY hobby" viewpoint approach is this:

Why would I ever DIY for my home game using D&D as the foundation, when FATE and Cortex are right there and come with much less baggage to unpack and discard?

If I was in the business of producing RPGs commercially, then I could see the argument for making a 5e hack along the lines of AiME, Esper Genesis, Five Torches Deep, Pugmire, etc. Alternatively, I could try and make something new out of the rules chassis of earlier editions; Pathfinder did it with 3.5, Lancer did it with 4e, and the OSR market is (over)saturated with B/X and AD&D clones and hacks. But if you aren't interested in going so far as to creating a new game entirely (and possibly monetizing it), then I don't see trying to make 5e work for purposes beyond its RAW state worth the effort.

In the context of the 90s and the early 00s, when the Internet wasn't as developed as it is today and both games themselves and in-depth discussions on games theory and design wasn't as accessible, I can understand why DIY became the dominant ethos. But the field has shifted, the breadth of tabletop games has massively expanded, and I am very tempted to say that the community overall has a better understanding of the hows and whys of the ways tabletop RPGs function.

In that light, I feel that there's two ways you can go with DIYing 5e and have it be worth the time investment: you either make some very minor aesthetic changes, or commit to really taking it apart and putting it back together in a standalone game. If you don't commit to either extreme, you'll more than likely find yourself in some weird limbo of messy and clunky design that wasn't really worth the effort and probably would have been better off just using another game for your purposes, whether generic or specific.
Because D&D remains by far the most popular RPG, and therefore the game for which it is easiest to find players. If you want to create your own flavor of game, and you want to actually have players for it, your best bet is to sell it as D&D with some mods. It can be extraordinarily hard to get D&D players to try a different game.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I think 5e does better than 3.5 does. I do not think it does better than TSR-era D&D does other than by making the rogue far more worthwhile than the AD&D thief.
I seem to remember a lot of 5 minute work days in the TSR-era so that casters had something to do, along with lots of wands and scrolls. But that was a long time ago.

Also, don't get me wrong, I think the last attempt at perfect balance in 4E didn't work particularly well but that's a whole other topic.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Nope.

I've run three different campaigns with the same group, each a different different genre, each a different list of playable races.

I didn't say you can't use D&D to do multiple genres.

I am saying you can't change the basic rules or the subsystems that affect them heavily without the players noticing. And if they notice some may talk.

If none of your players ask questions then you have a situation where your players are passive or submissive. Therefore your experience is clouded by not having assertive or aggressive players.

D&D was built on a passive hobbyist dynamic because most of it's fans were the same. But like any fandom that grows, preferences lead to discussion.
 

He pretty much is [a dog].
... how do you mean? And which version of D&D did you learn on and which do you run now?
It would be nice to get to play. I only DM because no one else is willing to do it.
I'm sorry to hear you find that. As I say this is not my experience at all.
Playing is fun, DMing is work.
DMing I find twice the work and twice the fun. I only really found DMing to be work in the 3.X and (to a lesser extent) 2e eras, but 4e simplified what the DM needed to do drastically and 5e kept it relatively low.
My experience, about 2/3 of players haven't read the rules. They only know what they have picked up through playing. I have met one other player willing to try DMing, but after a couple of weeks they found they didn't have time with the pressure of work.
Something is going IME either very weirdly at your table or you're exclusively playing 3.X and Pathfinder (1e certainly - I haven't played 2e). One of my fellow RL DMs has mentioned she used to take a dozen hours preparing each three hour session there and it was far too much of a job.

As I've mentioned Apocalypse World literally tells the MC to come to the table with nothing prepared. I've mentioned in other threads how my last AW campaign went (an absolute in character trainwreck in the best and most gloriously enjoyable ways for all the players) - but it took me less than half an hour between each four hour session, mostly of checking my notes from the last session on the day of the next. I spent a bit more preparing my last 5e campaign

If you're finding being the DM makes you a dog something is going wrong somewhere. Some of this is down to rules systems and habits those rules systems encourage or make necessary.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
D&D was built on a passive hobbyist dynamic because most of it's fans were the same. But like any fandom that grows, preferences lead to discussion.
I ... don't think this was the case. There are passages in the 1E books wherein Gygax makes it clear (well, clear by Gygaxian standards) that much of the point of AD&D was to codify things because there was too much difference between the tables--enough that it was at least sometimes as though different tables were playing different games. Given how people talk about how their tables played 1E, that was slow to change. I don't think that kind of "we play this game the way we want" attitude bespeaks the kind of passive base you seem to be talking about. There was always picking-and-choosing.
 

Minigiant

Legend
I ... don't think this was the case. There are passages in the 1E books wherein Gygax makes it clear (well, clear by Gygaxian standards) that much of the point of AD&D was to codify things because there was too much difference between the tables--enough that it was at least sometimes as though different tables were playing different games. Given how people talk about how their tables played 1E, that was slow to change. I don't think that kind of "we play this game the way we want" attitude bespeaks the kind of passive base you seem to be talking about. There was always picking-and-choosing.

Well didn't he do that because...

..people were treating it as a hobby and players were letting DMs just do whatever with no pushback, questioning, and oversight?
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Well didn't he do that because...

..people were treating it as a hobby and players were letting DMs just do whatever with no pushback, questioning, and oversight?
I think you're presuming most tables had Forever DMs. Most of the groups I knew of had rotations or something, and pretty stable houserules. I think it was kinda the expectation that players would eventually want to DM and that DMs would eventually want to play.
 

Because D&D remains by far the most popular RPG, and therefore the game for which it is easiest to find players. If you want to create your own flavor of game, and you want to actually have players for it, your best bet is to sell it as D&D with some mods. It can be extraordinarily hard to get D&D players to try a different game.
adding to this since the comparison being made is to fate. I ran open fate games at a flgs for years & including my core group of 4ish would see maybe a dozen players a year at most if I included all of the people who just dropped in for a session or sat in to watch out of curiosity...at the same flgs during covid I could probably find a dozen players who were not only "willing" but eager to show up in a mast & play d&d for a few hours a week by tomorrow.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I didn't say you can't use D&D to do multiple genres.

I am saying you can't change the basic rules or the subsystems that affect them heavily without the players noticing. And if they notice some may talk.

If none of your players ask questions then you have a situation where your players are passive or submissive. Therefore your experience is clouded by not having assertive or aggressive players.

D&D was built on a passive hobbyist dynamic because most of it's fans were the same. But like any fandom that grows, preferences lead to discussion.

Or maybe, just maybe, the players are enjoying the game and don't care as long as the DM is consistent, fair and running a fun game. That there's nothing wrong with that despite the negative connotations you're implying. :unsure:

Most games will play slightly different, rulings over rules and all. I've never had a DM that had significant house rules or used optional rules that weren't up front about it. If someone has a question about how I'm running my game we chat about it after the session if they want. Is that ever an issue? Guess I don't get what you're trying to imply.
 

Minigiant

Legend
I think you're presuming most tables had Forever DMs. Most of the groups I knew of had rotations or something, and pretty stable houserules. I think it was kinda the expectation that players would eventually want to DM and that DMs would eventually want to play.
Nah.
It had nothing to do with forever DMs. Player just didn't question DMs that much or that hard and let DMs do whatever. Possibly because like you said and what I said.
 

I seem to remember a lot of 5 minute work days in the TSR-era so that casters had something to do, along with lots of wands and scrolls. But that was a long time ago.

Also, don't get me wrong, I think the last attempt at perfect balance in 4E didn't work particularly well but that's a whole other topic.
To me it depends a lot what you mean by "the last attempt". 4e was allocated 24 months for development and went back to the drawing board 10 months in. What was launched was a buggy beta with a couple of very promising aspects. It took a year of patches to be viable, and two to be good. And you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

So although I will absolutely defend 4e as working well as of 2012 or even mid 2010 they should have listened to Shigeru Miyamoto when he said that "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad." While there are exceptions only a tiny handful (4e, FFXIV, Diablo III, No Man's Sky, and Fortnite) actually spring to mind and all of them in about the last decade.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
To me it depends a lot what you mean by "the last attempt". 4e was allocated 24 months for development and went back to the drawing board 10 months in. What was launched was a buggy beta with a couple of very promising aspects. It took a year of patches to be viable, and two to be good. And you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

So although I will absolutely defend 4e as working well as of 2012 or even mid 2010 they should have listened to Shigeru Miyamoto when he said that "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad." While there are exceptions only a tiny handful (4e, FFXIV, Diablo III, No Man's Sky, and Fortnite) actually spring to mind and all of them in about the last decade.

I agree that 4E felt rushed and half-baked. I seem to remember them saying the power structure was never meant to be applied across the board.

In any case, I don't want to get into edition wars.
 

I didn't say you can't use D&D to do multiple genres.

I am saying you can't change the basic rules or the subsystems that affect them heavily without the players noticing.
I don't change basic rules and subsystems. I change things like what races are available.

And if they notice some may talk.
I've never had any complaints, but if any of them ever think they can do better then I would be only too happy for them to take over.
If none of your players ask questions then you have a situation where your players are passive or submissive. Therefore your experience is clouded by not having assertive or aggressive players.
I've been DMing for 39 years. Never had an aggressive player, I don't associate with unpleasant people.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Or maybe, just maybe, the players are enjoying the game and don't care as long as the DM is consistent, fair and running a fun game. That there's nothing wrong with that despite the negative connotations you're implying. :unsure:

Most games will play slightly different, rulings over rules and all. I've never had a DM that had significant house rules or used optional rules that weren't up front about it. If someone has a question about how I'm running my game we chat about it after the session if they want. Is that ever an issue? Guess I don't get what you're trying to imply.

Have you never told a DM "Hey Insert Name, if you change this then that kinda breaks. You know that right?"
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Nah.
It had nothing to do with forever DMs. Player just didn't question DMs that much or that hard and let DMs do whatever. Possibly because like you said and what I said.
Yeah. Most dichotomies, when you look at them, aren't so much "this or that" as "this and that" or "neither."
 

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