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D&D General D&D Combat is fictionless

Ummmm hit points and a lot of other elements really seem more like contenders for that title hell even levels and spell slots always seemed on the list

ESPECIALLY levels and spell slots.

Levels, as done in D&D, combine a an excessive number of different things that by all rights shouldn't have anything to do with each other (max ranks in all skills, hit points, spellcasting ability, other special abilities, saving throws, attack accuracy, etc) into a single thing

And spell slots are another one of those places where Gygax and Arneson latched onto an idiosyncratic part of a very specific intellctual property that wouldn't really work anywhere else, and then tried to make it work someplace else.
 

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Lyxen

Great Old One
@Lyxen, I don't understand why you seem to ignore the fact that dying, in 4e, is a technical term, defined in the PHB (p 277) to mean having zero or fewer hit points, being unconscious and having to make death saves.

Because a word says what it says. If they did not mean dying in the descriptive sense, why did they use THAT word ? So the first interpretation that comes to mind is actually dying.

My turn, why do you insist that this word actually means "not dying" ? Just to support your narrativism ? Then, for me, it's an excellent goal, my only point is that you should not have to do this if you want a narrative game.

When a 5e character drops to zero hp, and they don't trigger the "instant death" rule, they are unconscious, and have to make death saves (Basic PDF, p 76). Setting aside some minutiae (in 4e, a natural 20 save allows spending a healing surge; in 5e, it restores the character to 1 hp; 5e has a couple of further fiddly rules around the saves, in part reflecting that it has no rules for negative hit points) these are the same mechanical subsystem! And neither requires magic or substantive surgery or similar to recover from dying to healthy. So it completely puzzles me why you are outraged by 4e's but not by 5e's treatment of this matter.

I am absolutely not outraged at either treatment (and I'm not criticising 4e in particular over 5e), I am concerned by your extremely biased reading of the rules to justify your narrativism, that's all.

And I totally support you in your narrativism, believe me, my point is only that you need to read the rules in such a biased fashion to support it. You need to say "the rules say "dying" but they don't mean that and I'm going to ignore it so that my story makes sense."

My only point here is that if you go with a lighter and less constrained system that does not insist that you are dying at 0 hp, you have much more narrative freedom without needing to twist the meaning of simple words to achieve it.

As far as the dragon is concerned, the rules for movement in 4e and 5e are also relevantly identical. From the 5e Basic PDF, p 71:

Whether a creature is a friend or an enemy, you can't willingly end your move in its space.​

So if you object to my adjudication of the jump onto the dragon's back in 4e, you should be rejecting the same adjudication in 5e. Conersely, whatever rationalisation you apply in 5e is equally available to you in 4e.

Actually, this is not true, because 5e is much more careful about what it says. So where 3e's interdiction is absolute and actually causes lots of problem with the interpretation of powers (it is no longer squares, these are cubes, and the aberration of distance computation becomes ridiculous if you look at diagonals, and more - see below), 5e is more open: "A creature's space is the area in feet that it effectively controls in combat, not an expression of its physical dimensions...A creature's space also reflects the area it needs to fight effectively." And that's it, after that it's up to the DM to make rulings as to whether a creature's space is intruded upon, what are the consequences in terms of not being able to fight effectively, all of that without needing to compute squares or cubes to see which one fits into which other, how you are in range or not. But in 4e, how do you adjudicate all this, I honestly have no idea.

In 5e, using Theater of the Mind, it's really easy, the guy on the back certainly does not bother a huge dragon, but he has disadvantage on everything he attempts because the dragon is certainly moving and thrashing below him. End of the story, no rules were harmed in the making of this decision, and I have zero problem of ranges and areas of effect, they are exactly where I describe them to be.

For my part, I just followed the advice on p 42 of the DMG: Your presence as the Dungeon Master is what makes D&D such a great game. You make it possible for the players to try anything they can imagine. The player in my game could imagine leaping onto the back of a nearby dragon flying at about the same level as the PCs' flying tower. And we adjudicated it.

It's interesting that you use that sentence in complete isolation of the section in the DMG, which is, as usual, extremely technical and only covers things like giving a +2 to an action, casting an action as a check and improvising damage. The latter, by the way is totally ridiculous, because basically it says that you have to dimension the damage from the brazier according to the level of the character doing the pushing.

Thank god for bounded accuracy, but in any other edition of the game, a brasier does a bit of damage and it's fun, you don't need silly computations like this. And then the DMG suggests to add the sneak damage on top ? Of course, pushing someone into a brazier by kicking is such a precise attack, that brazier is so sneaky, you know...

Anyway, that section is once more all about being technical and balanced, and in the context of such a controlled game, it's not surprising.

There is nothing in there about jumping on the back of a dragon, and moving there, but one thing is sure, you winged a huge part of the rules to achieve that, and I'm sure you did not use the recommendations of the rest of page 42 (and honestly, basing your whole philosophy on one sentence in one book that leads to a section that has little to do with improvisation and claiming that it's the intent of the designers is more than a bit exaggerated to me).

In an earlier session, the ranger PC had leaped onto the back of some Hobgoblins' war behemoth and taken control of it. In another earlier session, two PCs psychically chained together had been forced to go about with one sitting on the other's shoulders. In a subsequent session, the PCs captured Ygorl by leaping onto him from a giant elemental Frosthawk, grappling and thereby immobilising him. He tried to rid himself of them by teleporting through the waves of chaos, but the PC held on.

This is great narration, but again with zero support from the rules and ignoring tons of them, I can't even count how many there, for example when you teleport, you do not take grappling people with you, PH p. 286: "Immobilized: Being immobilized doesn’t prevent you from teleporting. If you were immobilized because of a physical effect, such as a creature grabbing you, you can teleport away and are no longer
immobilized or restrained, if applicable."

By the way, Ygorl has phasing as well, so by any rules and narration principles in my game, no one could have hold on to him anyway, he would just have phased through you.

Again, great narration, but I stand by my opinion after reading that new account, you are playing a very technical game with very precise rules, but ignoring tons of them when it suits you for narration, when the game (as is 4e's wont) constrains you really strongly about what you can do.

And in the case of capturing Ygorl, there was absolutely no reason to ignore the rules or invent new ones, the PCs did nothing extraordinary, and actually did something that I would have deemed very silly in my games, trying to grapple a lord of Entropy looking like this :)D):

View attachment Ygorl-4e.webp

That being said, Ygorl has always been one of my favourite beings in D&D ever since the Fiend Folio, so I suppose they were just enthusiastic.

So I'm asking you, what is the benefit of using such a technical and precise environment when you spend half your time adjudicating rules on the fly anyway, and forgetting about these rules (and you are lucky no one at the table does what some of my players do, try to understand what is happening so that they can play in that spirit - not even ruleslawyering, as some of my players, one in particular, is a specialist about gimping himself anyway) ?

There was never any controversy at my table about using three-dimensionality to advantage when appropriate.

And still, flying is just "hopping around the battlefield". You never had flying PCs ? Did that not totally frustrate them ? Because for us, it was just looking silly and impossible to narrate properly...
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
ESPECIALLY levels and spell slots.

Levels, as done in D&D, combine a an excessive number of different things that by all rights shouldn't have anything to do with each other (max ranks in all skills, hit points, spellcasting ability, other special abilities, saving throws, attack accuracy, etc) into a single thing

And spell slots are another one of those places where Gygax and Arneson latched onto an idiosyncratic part of a very specific intellctual property that wouldn't really work anywhere else, and then tried to make it work someplace else.

And they did well. For example, look at the number of people who, in 5e, complain that the encounter building system is not as precise as it used to be under 4e and even 3e (they are right, it's not as precise, lots of reasons for it but inevitable in my view, but it's another story).

Because of its wargaming past, D&D has always walked with one foot in the roleplaying arena, and the other in the fantasy battle one, and you can only have fantasy battles when they are somewhat balanced. The "level" thing is certainly artificial, but at least it gives a gradation of power that allows one to build characters with a reasonably accurate level of power.

You can't do that in games where all the parameters that you mention are decorrelated from each other. RQ is one of my favourite game ever, but trying to judge whether the opposition is balanced in case of a fight is an absolute nightmare, because it's totally swingy depending on the circumstances. you can have very offensive and very defensive characters physically, magically, tactically, in any sort of combination. And with a party with no really defined roles, as everyone can be good a random things and others at other, it's even harder to estimate.

So yes, there are drawbacks about the choices made my Gygax and Arneson, whereas Stafford and Perrin made very different choices, which resulted in very different games. But it's great, because in the end, depending on the type of game that you want to play, you have many options on the table. I would never play D&D in Glorantha (or in Rokugan, for example), just as I would certainly play RQ in Greyhawk (although the viking and japanese settings of RW were fantastic, with magic being fairly fantastic and low key).

Which brings me back full circle to this thread, D&D has been designed as an epic game, if you want to narrate it in true epic fashion, I think it's better to use something which is not too constraining in terms of rules, because you will need to improvise and the fewer rules you toss out of the window, the easier to understand and manage, that's all.
 

pemerton

Legend
Because a word says what it says. If they did not mean dying in the descriptive sense, why did they use THAT word ? So the first interpretation that comes to mind is actually dying.
I don't know why they used that word. Why did they use the word immobilised for a condition that doesn't actually make all movement impossible? In 5e they use the word paralysed but the heart and lungs keep working and so the character is actually not paralysed in the literal sense.

My turn, why do you insist that this word actually means "not dying" ? Just to support your narrativism ?
Because it is defined. And the definition includes the possibility of spontaneous recovery via the will to live. Hence the character is not, literally, in all cases, dying. And we can't know which until the saving throw and any other healing processes have played out.

You need to say "the rules say "dying" but they don't mean that and I'm going to ignore it so that my story makes sense."
I apply the rules exactly as they are written. You are the one who is layering something else over the top - an assumption about finality of fictional content which is not stated anywhere, and is contradicted by the rules for rolling 20+ on a death save plus the rules for Inspiring Word and how those intersect with the "dying" rules.

Again, I ask which of us seems to have better interpreted the rules: me, who ends up with a completely coherent if sometimes gonzo fiction? or you, who ends up with what you admit is nonsense of "wounds being shouted closed" or "wound spontaneously healing when a 20+ is rolled"?

My only point here is that if you go with a lighter and less constrained system that does not insist that you are dying at 0 hp, you have much more narrative freedom without needing to twist the meaning of simple words to achieve it.
Is 5e supposed to be this "lighter and less constrained system"? It's rules are identical for present purposes to the 4e ones. It uses identical terminology of "death saving throws" - why do you think a character has to make death saving throws in the fiction of 5e? The only difference is that 5e does not call this condition dying, instead using the longer phrase being reduced to zero hp without having been killed. That is not lighter. It's actually wordier!

5e is much more careful about what it says. So where 3e's interdiction is absolute and actually causes lots of problem with the interpretation of powers (it is no longer squares, these are cubes, and the aberration of distance computation becomes ridiculous if you look at diagonals, and more - see below), 5e is more open: "A creature's space is the area in feet that it effectively controls in combat, not an expression of its physical dimensions...A creature's space also reflects the area it needs to fight effectively." And that's it, after that it's up to the DM to make rulings as to whether a creature's space is intruded upon
No. There is the rule that I already quoted, which says that Whether a creature is a friend or an enemy, you can’t willingly end your move in its space. That is identical to the 4e rule. And no one in 4e thinks that a creature is literally a cube - as the Rules Compendium says (p 200), "A creature's space . . . represents the three-dimensional space that the creature needs to take part in an encounter, allowing it to turn around, attack, fall prone and so on. Despite the cubic shape of its space, a creature is not actually a cube (unless it's a gelatinous cube).

You are conjuring up differences that don't exist.

In 5e, using Theater of the Mind, it's really easy, the guy on the back certainly does not bother a huge dragon, but he has disadvantage on everything he attempts because the dragon is certainly moving and thrashing below him. End of the story, no rules were harmed in the making of this decision, and I have zero problem of ranges and areas of effect, they are exactly where I describe them to be.
In 4e I could have applied a penalty to hit against the dragon - either -2 or -5, these being the two relevant ones. Of course I might also apply a bonus for attacking from above. In the end I did neither. This is entirely within the sphere of GM adjudication in 4e, no differently from 5e.

I can't even count how many there, for example when you teleport, you do not take grappling people with you, PH p. 286: "Immobilized: Being immobilized doesn’t prevent you from teleporting. If you were immobilized because of a physical effect, such as a creature grabbing you, you can teleport away and are no longer
immobilized or restrained, if applicable."

By the way, Ygorl has phasing as well, so by any rules and narration principles in my game, no one could have hold on to him anyway, he would just have phased through you.
Phasing does not negate grappling. It doesn't even let you end your turn in another creature's space. (MM glossary; RC p 208.)

As I posted in the actual play report, Ygorl was teleporting him through the chaos, inflicting damage as a result. That was an improvised action on Ygorl's part. I can't remember now whether that was an alternative to teleporting away, or whether the PCs had taken some other action to ensure that the grappler remained anchored to Ygorl. (My actual play posts reports that "they came up with a plan to grapple him instead, which would immobilise him, forcing him to double-teleport at 6". It doesn't mention that particular aspect of the plan, and I don't remember it more than 6 years later.)

It's interesting that you use that sentence in complete isolation of the section in the DMG, which is, as usual, extremely technical and only covers things like giving a +2 to an action, casting an action as a check and improvising damage.
Even here you are wrong. The example given is of pushing an ogre into a brazier. Which is neither damage nor a bonus, but forced movement. The first time I adjudicated other condition infliction using the page 42 guidelines was when the 2nd level paladin spoke a prayer to the Raven Queen to help defeat a wight. The check was a success and the benefit gained was combat advantage.

then the DMG suggests to add the sneak damage on top ?
No it doesn't. The comparison is made to sneak attack damage in order to help assure the reader that the improvised damage is balanced.

There is nothing in there about jumping on the back of a dragon, and moving there, but one thing is sure, you winged a huge part of the rules to achieve that, and I'm sure you did not use the recommendations of the rest of page 42 (and honestly, basing your whole philosophy on one sentence in one book that leads to a section that has little to do with improvisation and claiming that it's the intent of the designers is more than a bit exaggerated to me).
I'm reminded of conversations 10 or so years ago where people complained about the fact that fire keyword effects don't set things on fire; I pointed out that the rules obviously contemplate that they do (DMG, p 66, suggesting that "a gauzy curtain or a pile of dry papers might have vulnerability 5 to fire because any spark is likely to destroy it"); and they then retorted that that was an obscure and irrelevant rule, and the game really did suck for the reasons they were saying.

You are insisting your interpretation of the game, as fiction-free or else laden with absurd fiction, and unable to handle improvisation, is correct. I am pointing out the rules of the game, which include page 42, and which I used to run a very satisfactory fiction-first game, and you are insisting that I got it wrong, and that the true interpretation is the one that sucks. It's a strange interpretive principle.

So I'm asking you, what is the benefit of using such a technical and precise environment
I don't think I am using a technical and precise environment in your sense.

If you want to know what I enjoyed about 4e D&D, then you can follow the links in the actual play reports I've linked to in this thread.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
Look man, you live in a strange world of your own where you don't even read the rules of the game you play, but you improvise all the time instead, relying one ONE sentence in the whole rules. This is fine as a playstyle, but the main problem is that it makes it impossible to discuss with you, when you can't even acknowledge that you are ignoring rules on purpose. Improvising is fine, but please don't take us for idiots and try and tell us that you play the game as written and intended at the same time. Examples below:

You are conjuring up differences that don't exist.

I have given you two clear examples of rules which are worded very differently, and yet you continue with this totally unsustained opinion:

4e: When your hit points drop to 0 or fewer, you fall unconscious and are dying.
5e: If damage reduces you to 0 hit points and fails to kill you, you fall unconscious. This unconsciousness ends if you regain any hit points.

And the fact that, in 5e, there is this supplement to rules about space that exists nowhere in 4e: "A creature's space is the area in feet that it effectively controls in combat, not an expression of its physical dimensions"

Don't even bother answering until you acknowledge that there are differences.

Phasing does not negate grappling. It doesn't even let you end your turn in another creature's space. (MM glossary; RC p 208.)

It's funny that you chose to answer only the part about phasing, but forgot the important rule that you forgot or decided not to apply: "
"Immobilized: Being immobilized doesn’t prevent you from teleporting. If you were immobilized because of a physical effect, such as a creature grabbing you, you can teleport away and are no longer immobilized or restrained, if applicable."

So please stop dithering and answering besides the question, Ygorl, as written, has NO POWER TO TELEPORT A GRAPPLING CHARACTER WITH HIM, and anyone grappling him is left behind when he teleports.

As I posted in the actual play report, Ygorl was teleporting him through the chaos, inflicting damage as a result. That was an improvised action on Ygorl's part.

And here you go. Rather than applying the rules and the powers of Ygorl as written, for the rule of cool at your table, you decided something else. But anyone playing 4e by the rules would have had a completely different result of the encounter. He would have destroyed your party because no one could have immobilised him long enough to be subject to the ritual.

You are not playing 4e, you are playing a wildly different game that you define as you go, but which has little to do with the original concept. You base all of your wild game on one single sentence in a section that does not even mention that, rather than applying all the hard and fast rules of the game, as written.

I can't remember now whether that was an alternative to teleporting away, or whether the PCs had taken some other action to ensure that the grappler remained anchored to Ygorl.

There is no such thing in the rules. 4e grappling rules are very basic because they interfere with the game too much are would be unfair if made stronger (and ignore all other defenses and hit points). Which is what happened in your game, the PCs totally ignored most of the powers of Ygorl, which you did not even play, making him do an improvised action that caused him to lose the fight without relying on his powers. The 4e fans at our tables would be really upset by that anyway, they would certainly feel that the DM fudged in their favor and underplayed the adversary.

Even here you are wrong. The example given is of pushing an ogre into a brazier. Which is neither damage nor a bonus, but forced movement.

And it's funny how forced movement ends up doing damage which scales with level. Why ? What makes that forced movement make more or less damage compared to the level of the character ? Is the brazier hotter because the character is higher level ? This is ridiculous.

You are insisting your interpretation of the game, as fiction-free or else laden with absurd fiction, and unable to handle improvisation, is correct. I am pointing out the rules of the game, which include page 42, and which I used to run a very satisfactory fiction-first game, and you are insisting that I got it wrong, and that the true interpretation is the one that sucks. It's a strange interpretive principle.

No, I'm insisting that you are not playing the game that was designed, as your other friends pointed out to you. Maybe it sucked for you, but having a clear-cut combat game with crystal clear rules was the intent and there were lots of people who liked it that way, including at our usually more story orientated tables.

And these people would have complained about your way of playing the game, ignoring half the rules and most of a creature's powers for the sake of the story, when what they wanted was the actual challenge of beating up the bad guy as written.

I don't think I am using a technical and precise environment in your sense.

No, you are not, which is why I've always said that I would probably have enjoyed your games, with just one thing to overcome for me, it's hard to see the logic of it and to determine what is going to work and what is not, because it all seems to hang only on your arbitration.

If you want to know what I enjoyed about 4e D&D, then you can follow the links in the actual play reports I've linked to in this thread.

I've looked at the play reports, but honestly, I'm not seeing what in 4e you are using that makes you so satisfied. The system is barely recognisable anyway. I've played games of Amber Diceless Roleplaying which certainly looked like that, but it is very much free form and expected, your 4e games look absolutely nothing like any 4e play that I've experienced.

If you look at what is probably the most epic adventure published, E3 Prince of Undeath, you will see that even at an extremely high level like this, the battles are actually very mundane, it's Orcus as a level 34 solo brute, 10 level 30 minions, and complex but fairly standard powers with high bonuses and DCs. It's well done because it's combined with a skill challenge, but apart from that, it is very technical, and when we played it, there was no silliness like grappling Orcus to force him to use his teleport 6 and bypassing his 1525 hit points.

I'm not saying that one style of play is better than another. I did not really enjoy that campaign ending with Prince of Undeath, because we were playing by the rules and seeing high level monsters and characters just hop on and off instead of flying, and never using 3D properly bugged me in each high level fight. Still, I was playing a shielding swordmage, and she was an awesome character.

But quite a few people enjoyed 4e as designed and written because there was a challenge to it, a technical one, but we all found narrativism very hard to come by because of the way all the powers were written as technical and did not make much sense narratively. For example, Orcus is really well designed as a Master of Death, the powers are straightforward death oriented, etc. but in the end, making him a brute and having him fight that way is bizarre, as is the ending explaining that if the fight goes against him, he will fly away out of the throne room and breaking all the rules established so far in the fight by really flying out of the encounter. Why ? Why can he do this at the end and not technically during the fight where it would give him a tremendous advantage ?

So you either play by the rules and have a very technical fight but one that does not make much sense narratively especially at the end, or you play wildly as you do, but it does not make a lot of sense to keep some rules and ignore a lot of others, and in that case, a less complete and constraining set of rules might serve you better.

Because where I've seen play like yours was actually mostly with AD&D or BECMI, where we really played demigods with incredible powers and their own logic, only loosely based on the much thinner rules anyway.
 

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