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

mamba

Legend
So I am wondering how a storytelling RPG could work, from your perspective. Do you enjoy playing such games at all? They seem inherently antithetical to what you describe as good game design.
the closest I come is playing a heist, then you can have much of that information beforehand and plan accordingly (not necessarily all perfectly reliable… while I see the ability to throw in a surprise as a bonus, they probably think of it as detrimental)
 

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
To me you might just as well read the adventure at home and think about what you would do in any given situation. I don’t see why you need to actually play it at all
It really does read like the player version of the railroading referee. This will be perfect no matter what the other side does. That sounds way more stressful than fun. And, to me, misses the point of RPGs entirely.
 
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loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
Your examples are really doubling down on execution as the marker of skill though, which I just don't think is the only way to do it, nor one that's particularly well suited to TTRPGs. If that's the most important criteria, than yeah, I think they're intrinsically pretty bad at it. You can't really do time pressure, you can't do reaction speed, and TTRPGs almost never repeat precise scenarios, so you're not going to try out different lines of play repeatedly within identical conditions.
While, yes, the first thing I imagine when thinking about "player skill" is hitting railgun shots at supersonic speeds, the first example I lead with was a tabletop wargame -- Warhammer 40000.

A good Warhammer player,
  • Before the game: leverages their knowledge of other armies and current meta to build a competitive roster
  • During the game: leverages their knowledge of opponent's units and their rules to gain every possible advantage and win the game
  • After the game: reviews performance and learns lessons
All of which are venues for skill expression.

In a team tournament (which used to be the main competitive format back in my days, but I haven't touched the game in half a decade now), there's also skill expression in captain's job of securing favourable match ups, building a well-rounded team that can handle any challenge, knowing what positions to give up, all that.

All of this would be completely impossible if all the participants didn't know exactly what their opponents can bring to the table. You can't really play Warhammer when someone can just decide to pull a new mini outta their backside or when you don't know how many shots a gravigun makes.

So I am wondering how a storytelling RPG could work, from your perspective. Do you enjoy playing such games at all? They seem inherently antithetical to what you describe as good game design. What is an example of a good storytelling RPG, from your perspective, and what makes it good?
Well, I think that Fallout and Arcanum are absolutely horrendous games (as in, both are trivially solved and the gameplay is nothing more than a chore), but I really enjoyed them both -- because the story and the characters are cool and interesting enough to forgive the sins of boring gameplay.

More generally, the part of RPGs I enjoy the most (well, storytelling) is completely antithetical to challenge that involves Shared Imaginary Space in any way shape or form. There's no way around that, and RPGs I enjoy mostly limit or eliminate any challenge. Apocalypse World will ensure that everything will always get worse, regardless of what you are doing. Fate ensures that you'll always have tools to deal with any situation. Microscope and Awesome! just place you in charge of deciding outcomes.

But when the game involves challenge, and then goes out of its way to make it as braindead as possible, I can't help but question "why?".
 

mamba

Legend
Players knowing in advance exactly what awaits them makes any game more interesting.
no, it makes things a lot less interesting, I’d probably not even bother playing at that point because what is left is only 20% of the fun.

I prefer reading a book / seeing a movie for the first time too, with most I do not bother doing so a second time. What you are essentially saying is that the experience is much more interesting the 10th time, I fundamentally disagree. There is a reason why we have spoiler warnings…

I am not saying you cannot have fun that way, but then I’d rather do Sudokus, crossword puzzles, riddles or other brain teasers, this is not what I am looking for in a TTRPG - and I’d argue it is not what it is intended / designed for either
 
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mamba

Legend
All of this would be completely impossible if all the participants didn't know exactly what their opponents can bring to the table. You can't really play Warhammer when someone can just decide to pull a new mini outta their backside or when you don't know how many shots a gravigun makes.
agreed, but you are not playing a TTRPG, you are playing a miniature wargame. If that is what you want to do, go right ahead, but do not think that D&D is meant to be played this way
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
no, it makes things a lot less interesting, I’d probably not even bother playing at that point because what is left is only 20% of the fun.
Exactly. It’s like reading the end of a mystery novel first. “I can’t enjoy discovering the mystery as I read. I have to know the solution first, then I can have fun reading the mystery novel.” They're called spoilers because they spoil the surprise. “I don’t like surprises.” Okay. Then you don’t like the improv of RPGs or the mystery of mystery novels, etc. I cannot imagine what fun would be left after removing all the thrill of discovery, suspense of not knowing, improvisation, randomness of the dice, etc. Just read a novel at that point. And be sure to read the end first.
 
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overgeeked

B/X Known World
agreed, but you are not playing a TTRPG, you are playing a miniature wargame. If that is what you want to do, go right ahead, but do not think that D&D is meant to be played this way
It can be, but it removes everything that's unique about RPGs and reduces it to nothing but a wargame. Wargaming is clearly in the roots of RPGs, D&D especially, but that's not all it is. Thankfully. If you want a wargame, why play an RPG? Go play a wargame instead. Seems like an odd choice. Just as odd as people wanting really intricate and detailed story in their RPGs. Sure, you can do that, but you have to remove almost all of the game elements to achieve that.
 

loverdrive

Prophet of the profane (She/Her)
agreed, but you are not playing a TTRPG, you are playing a miniature wargame. If that is what you want to do, go right ahead, but do not think that D&D is meant to be played this way
Well, if you think that skill expression doesn't matter, then maybe you should try RPGs designed around creative expression instead? I live in the world where Forge already happened.
 

Clint_L

Legend
@loverdrive I think I have wrapped my head around your perspective to some degree. I guess I am confused as to why you are interested in a discussion about Dungeons and Dragons at all. Conceptually, it seems like a style of game that could not be to your taste while still remaining the game that most of its adherents desire (e.g. an improvisational storytelling RPG). The games that you cite as having good story are a different beast; those have story that is revealed (i.e. the players are ultimately audience), whereas a game such as D&D has story that is created (i.e. the players are ultimately authors).

I played Warhammer for a long time. It's a great game! But it is a fundamentally different type of game than is D&D, so criticizing D&D for not being more like Warhammer is, to me, a bit like criticizing poker for not being more like chess.

Edit: Forge games are a different beast again, and some of them are great (e.g. Fiasco). However, my experience with them is that they need very copacetic players and a strong narrative concept that lends itself to one-off games. For millions of players, D&D and related games, which are rules heavy yet narratively driven with significant player agency, seem to find a sweet spot that keeps them coming back for more, sometimes for years or even decades in the same campaign. Why is that, in your opinion? I assume that most people are rational agents, so these games must be doing something right.
 
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mamba

Legend
Well, if you think that skill expression doesn't matter, then maybe you should try RPGs designed around creative expression instead? I live in the world where Forge already happened.
Skill expression is not limited to planning ahead in detail, as I already pointed out.

I do like my RPGs the way D&D is, and given its popularity so do many others, thank you very much.
As to Forge, this is the other extreme I am not interested in, I am not interested in playing the equivalent of telling a story around a campfire.

If you can only have fun on either end of the spectrum, then by all means stick to them, I am not missing your attitude at my table
 

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