D&D General Games People Play: Looking at the Gaming Aspects of D&D


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loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
That said, I do have a lot of tolerance, as a player, with being in the dark.
I mean, yeah, me too, otherwise I wouldn't stick around with RPGs long enough to even think about any of this. I'd just bounce off my first couple of campaigns.

I kind of don't like it when the GM takes pity and then just gives the next clue; I think failure can be a fun story option.
It's not really GM taking pitty, it's just how the adventure is written. The "cutscene" segment is a breather between two very intense gauntlets, an opportunity for both the players and the characters to relax a bit. And it's a Warhammer game, of course it needs a grand gothic cathedral.

But, since it is a Dark Heresy game, not a Shinning Faith game, yeah, it's pretty fair for players to assume that there must be something. If it was a video game, where options are inherently limited to what the designer intended, this confusion would last, at best, a couple minutes. But it's a TTRPG, so the players are free to do what they want.

Except they aren't, as they still need to progress the adventure and get to the actual content of the chapter. "Screw this inquisition stuff, we're going to join the monastery" or "we'll make so much ruckus that we'll be persecuted as heretics ourselves" aren't really an option, so I think going against the "folk wisdom" and directly telling the players what they can or cannot do is a good idea.

Dark Heresy is a very rules-heavy game that demands extensive prep. Combat is very brutal, so it requires a very delicate balance, the rules are plentiful so you need to have statblocks and stuff handy, and all of that combined leads to linear, largely pre-written campaigns, regardless of whether the GM bought one in .pdf format or written it herself.
 

pemerton

Legend
There's a segment that is pretty much a big long cutscene and I know that it's a big long cutscene where nothing of note can be done — so I don't even try to do anything of note and can focus on little things. Is my gal humbled and awestruck by a glorious cathedral devoted to the God-Emperor and will spend her time there in a constant prayer, taking the chance to attone for all the previous and future sins in a holy place where He might actually listen? Or is she wandering around in her tasteless but expensive garb, admiring lavishly decorated building with a sense of amusement, giggling at the reactions monks give her? Or maybe in her paranoia, she will suspect everyone, even in this sacred palace, of heresy and fake faith, looking for clues that aren't there?

Ultimately, it doesn't matter. PCs will be just handed the next clue in the morning, but expression is still cool!

Another player, who didn't know that it's nothing but a cutscene, spent the whole session trying to look under every rock, and was very frustrated he couldn't find anything. If the GM just bluntly said that he'll never find any traces, regardless of his actions or rolls, I reckon the guy would have a much better time.
I'm not a big fan of cutscenes in RPGing. But I agree it serves everyone better if the GM tells the players what is up for grabs and what isn't.

I don't understand why default GMing culture is to keep that stuff secret, so that players spend time faffing about pointlessly.
 

loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
I'm not a big fan of cutscenes in RPGing. But I agree it serves everyone better if the GM tells the players what is up for grabs and what isn't.

I don't understand why default GMing culture is to keep that stuff secret, so that players spend time faffing about pointlessly.
I found myself generally enjoying limited "bursts" of real agency, but only when I know when those happen. But maybe it's because I have a soft spot for Dark Heresy and the GM is hot, so maybe I'd enjoy the game regardless of anything, huh.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
Whats really interesting is how the pillars of D&D are viewed. The social pillar, for example, seems to fall into that Tarrot level of interpretation mentioned in the OP. Most folks are ok with that to some various degrees. However, the combat pillar seems to be much more rule exact driven. The "game" here is more of a focus and the stakes seem much more tangible. Exploration lands somewhere in the middle.

I've found that the need for rules rises in conjunction with the players' fear of loss.

D&D's extensive combat rules tell me that the loss players fear is the loss of their character, significantly.

If you could flub a Persuasion check and get your character killed or permanently unplayable or something, we'd want a lot more rules around that check.

If you were immortal in combat, it'd probably be fine to just roll d20 + level to see how quickly you kill those goblins.

Fact is, a failed social encounter can sometimes be more fun than a successful one. There's usually very little to lose there.
 

Enrahim2

Adventurer
More seriously, creative expression (storytelling) and skill expression (overcoming challenges) are at inherent odds with each other
I think I see what you are gettig at, but I think I still have to strongly disagree with the generality of this claim. I can agree that if you have a scenario where a player can decide between wining and story, then there is clearly at odds. And this might in essence very often be the case for TTRPG scenarios.

However this do not need to be the case. For one thing given a realy difficult scenario with a very large option space, there are usually room for signifificant creative expression in how you decide to approach the problem. And as far as I know it is generally recogniced that high level of creativity is often rewarded by high chance of success via the DM fiat mechanism of traditional TTRPGs.

Another important nuance here is the difference between in story characters overcoming challenges, and the player overcoming challenges. The purest example I can think of for this is The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Here one player is telling a story while the other players may chip in with a short question introducing a complication. Each complication typically involve some challenge that the character of the story need to overcome. However the main challenge for the storyteller isn't to come up with just any solution to the challenge (which might be quite trivial as there are very few limitations on what they can narate), but rather figuring how to narate overcoming the challenge in such a way that it inspires more questions, as that is what is fueling the "performance gauge" of the game. As such the player's active intent to overcome this challenge also explicitly involve trying to make a good story.

Another take on this is my own creation storyboard. There main loop of that game involve the hero being presented by a challenge, and the players should figure out how the hero overcome that challenge. However the main challenge for the players are that this has to be done over a number of "scenes" that one of the participant deem "relevant. The traditional GM roles are distributed among the players, so the rules are not really providing any creative limitation at all. But in order to succeed the players need to spin a strong enough story that the judge (who also was the player that chose the challenge) deem enough of the scenes "relevant". Again actively trying to overcome the challenge drives choices that is good for the story.

Going back to D&D 5ed it can be mentioned that they do have the inspiration mechanics that serve a similar purpose, though extremely watered down compored to the sources I feel quite certain inspired it.
 
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loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
I think I see what you are gettig at, but I think I still have to strongly disagree with the generality of this claim. I can agree that if you have a scenario where a player can decide between wining and story, then there is clearly at odds. And this might in essence very often be the case for TTRPG scenarios.

However this do not need to be the case. For one thing given a realy difficult scenario with a very large option space, there are usually room for signifificant creative expression in how you decide to approach the problem. And as far as I know it is generally recogniced that high level of creativity is often rewarded by high chance of success via the DM fiat mechanism of traditional TTRPGs.
When I talk about "creative expression" I mean the process of creation, of expressing an idea or feeling through something. English is far from being my first language, so maybe there's a better term, I don't know.

"Skill expression" (expressing your ability to play the game well) can be creative (as in, extraordinary, unexpected), but it is different from expressing ideas. Think about it this way: combining two pieces of armour from different sets (or race and class, or a weapon and feat, whatever) in an unexpected way because you've found a synergy between them and the rest of your build is skill expression — you're showing off your skill at utilizing the rules of the game in cool ways. Combining two pieces of armour from different sets because you think they look nice together is creative expression — you're showing off your fashion sense.

The results may overlap (an outfit that looks cool may also be very effective), but it's a question of intent — you can't have more than one first priority.

Also, it's worth noting that skill expression doesn't necessarily mean "winning at all costs", often it involves deliberately handicapping yourself or doing stupid s##t just to flex that you can. Running at your enemies head-first as a sniper is probably a bad idea, but if you are confident in your ability to quickscope, it's a truly thrilling experience that also showcases your aiming and movement skills.

Also also it's worth noting that creative expression can be achieved through gameplay — game design is a creative field too. You can use the rules to, say, build a character that feels like a bear, conveying the feeling and emotion through gameplay interactions the same way you could through musical notes or written words.

Regardless, I'll probably need to develop a better vocabulary.

Another important nuance here is the difference between in story characters overcoming challenges, and the player overcoming challenges
It is an important disctinction, but I am talking exclusively about the player. In most kinds of stories there will be challenges for the characters to overcome, especially in our euro-centric (or northamerico-centric, I guess?) world.

Your Storyboard sounds awesome and right up my alley, can I have a link?

It and Munchausen (that I honestly completely forgot about, thank you for reminding me!) sound like outliers, so I guess it needs more pondering. My gut instinct is to say that "creating for the sake of creation" and "creating to please the jury" are two different things, but I'm probably trying to justify my preconceived notions.
 

Enrahim2

Adventurer
Your Storyboard sounds awesome and right up my alley, can I have a link?

As for your distinction between creative and skill expression - i agree that they are different dimentions, but I still fail to see why they should be in conflict. After all, isnt great art usually considered an extraordinary feat of both creative and skill expression?
 

payn

He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
I've found that the need for rules rises in conjunction with the players' fear of loss.

D&D's extensive combat rules tell me that the loss players fear is the loss of their character, significantly.

If you could flub a Persuasion check and get your character killed or permanently unplayable or something, we'd want a lot more rules around that check.

If you were immortal in combat, it'd probably be fine to just roll d20 + level to see how quickly you kill those goblins.

Fact is, a failed social encounter can sometimes be more fun than a successful one. There's usually very little to lose there.
Makes sense. I tend to run social encounters that will have a delayed impact. The players are never quite sure how the interaction went unless they roll/RP well or poorly. Not always, of course, but I tend to run a lot of faction play. My campaigns are intricate and nuanced. All this changes how social encounters are seen and played, IME.
 

re: long term campaigns

The idea of the "campaign" to my knowledge comes from the wargaming roots of the hobby. Gygax seemed to think of a campaign as such:

“It is reasonable to calculate that if a fair player takes part in 50 to 75 games in the course of a year he should acquire sufficient experience points to make him about 9th to 11th level, assuming that he manages to survive all that play...As BLACKMOOR is the only campaign with a life of five years, and GREYHAWK with a life of four is the second longest running campaign, the most able adventurers should not yet have attained 20th level except in the two named campaigns. To my certain knowledge no player in either BLACKMOOR or GREYHAWK has risen above 14th level.”

Moreover, each session was probably longer, taking up the larger portion of an entire weekend day. This idea has survived in trad games, where you might be playing with more or less the same characters using the same system for at least a year of weekly play (Horror on the Orient Express, etc).

My sense is that more recently-designed games have moved away from this model. Not that they are limited to one-shots, but also that they are not designed with slow, long term progression in mind, and instead think of "campaigns" as "seasons" (as for a tv show) or shorter arcs.
 

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