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5E General rules, Specific worlds

Mercurius

Legend
One thread of "The Great Debate" that I haven't followed all that closely pertains to racial ability bonuses, but I think it highlights an underlying issue that filters into a lot of the other threads of the discussion, such as how to depict orcs, drow, etc.

With regards to the core rules, it seems WotC is in a bit of a pickle, a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation. If they present these ideas too generally, they lose a lot of flavor and everything becomes homogenized (e.g. orcs can be anything humans can, but just have pointy teeth); if they present things too specifically, they run the risk of depicting things in such a way that some will find offensive.

So what to do? I have argued for a "Big Tent" approach that provides general guidelines and many specific types and examples. The problem with this is mostly logistical: if you give orcs such a treatment, you're talking about quite a few pages, and thus less monsters and races. It also may lead to some degree of choice overload, which is problematic for new players. "Wait, which orc should I use?" At least as far as a starter set is concerned, some base assumptions are useful for starting players and DMs.

Another approach that I'd advocate for, and the main point of this thread, is a "general rules, specific worlds" approach. The way I see it working is like so:

Starter Sets: Keep it simple. Provide limited races and monsters, with some suggestion that they can exist in greater variation than as depicted in this product, as explored in the...

Core Rules: Broaden things up. Provide general descriptions, with numerous examples of specific treatments, from D&D history, literature, cinema, video games, etc. Emphasize (again and again) customization, that D&D is a game that is whatever you want it to be. Diminish canonical lore, making it specific to...

Worlds: This is where WotC can be more specific. The key is to highlight the uniqueness of each setting, and emphasize the contextual nature of each setting. In Eberron, orcs are this way; in the Forgotten Realms, this is the drow origin story.

Problems will arise, but easily addressed through clarifying the "general core, specific worlds" approach, and through emphasizing the customizable nature of D&D.

Another issue, mentioned above, is the page-count required to provide a wide range of possibilities. This can be done with some degree of moderation, though. For instance, the monster entry for Orc can include a paragraph discussing the wide ranging depictions of orcs in various media, and then offer fuller treatments of only a handful. A later product--perhaps digest-sized, like the Pathfinder pocket editions--could be printed that include only short descriptions and stat blocks of all monsters printed in the last few years.

But again, the approach I'm advocating is for a more general core rules, with specific and unique worlds. Some may dislike certain worlds, but they can always be customized ("I want Eberron orcs in Faerun") or, if not, there are other worlds to explore ("Faerun doesn't work for me, but Wildemount is interesting...").
 

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Haldrik

Adventurer
I just saw this thread.

Heh, threads like this are hard because it is easier to agree to complain than agree on what to do about it. Design is challenging.
 
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Haldrik

Adventurer
You describe the core rules being setting agnostic with lots of suggestions. This reminds me of D&D 1e Players Handbook and DMs Guide. Flavor has a light touch, often just a single sentence mentioned once somewhere, and often alongside other suggestions, and possibilities. 1e actively encouraged the DM to experiment.

I am ok if the "core rules" are the same thing as a flavorless SRD.

The setting guides are where to go into detail about how the cosmos and cultures work. But even then, there is wisdom to the 4e points-of-light design, where you flesh out some areas and leave other areas blank for the DM to fill in.

Right now the starter game is Forgotten Realms. Perhaps Eberron for a starter game is also possible.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Core Rules: Broaden things up. Provide general descriptions, with numerous examples of specific treatments, from D&D history, literature, cinema, video games, etc. Emphasize (again and again) customization, that D&D is a game that is whatever you want it to be. Diminish canonical lore, making it specific to...
I would really like them to document the mathy bits and the fluffy bits for how to create the following on your own:
  • Classes
  • Backgrounds (although I can see the algorithm pretty easily there)
  • Races/Folk/Culture/Ancestries - whatever they come out for
  • Spells
  • Weapons
  • Armor
In other words I agree with you and take it further. Give a person a tool, and they'll hammer their thumb, give them a toolbox, and he'll umm... never live in a drafty house? Anyway. Yeah. Let us see what's under the hood so we can build our own.
 

aco175

Hero
Do you think that Wizards can produce specific worlds in this environment? If orcs in one world are just another player race and in another they are savage evil wouldn't people still complain? Maybe 3pp could produce world specific books, but then few people buy them. I worry that all the worlds would be very similar in regards to monsters and player races.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
One thread of "The Great Debate" that I haven't followed all that closely pertains to racial ability bonuses, but I think it highlights an underlying issue that filters into a lot of the other threads of the discussion, such as how to depict orcs, drow, etc.

With regards to the core rules, it seems WotC is in a bit of a pickle, a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation. If they present these ideas too generally, they lose a lot of flavor and everything becomes homogenized (e.g. orcs can be anything humans can, but just have pointy teeth); if they present things too specifically, they run the risk of depicting things in such a way that some will find offensive.

So what to do? I have argued for a "Big Tent" approach that provides general guidelines and many specific types and examples. The problem with this is mostly logistical: if you give orcs such a treatment, you're talking about quite a few pages, and thus less monsters and races. It also may lead to some degree of choice overload, which is problematic for new players. "Wait, which orc should I use?" At least as far as a starter set is concerned, some base assumptions are useful for starting players and DMs.

Another approach that I'd advocate for, and the main point of this thread, is a "general rules, specific worlds" approach. The way I see it working is like so:

Starter Sets: Keep it simple. Provide limited races and monsters, with some suggestion that they can exist in greater variation than as depicted in this product, as explored in the...

Core Rules: Broaden things up. Provide general descriptions, with numerous examples of specific treatments, from D&D history, literature, cinema, video games, etc. Emphasize (again and again) customization, that D&D is a game that is whatever you want it to be. Diminish canonical lore, making it specific to...

Worlds: This is where WotC can be more specific. The key is to highlight the uniqueness of each setting, and emphasize the contextual nature of each setting. In Eberron, orcs are this way; in the Forgotten Realms, this is the drow origin story.

Problems will arise, but easily addressed through clarifying the "general core, specific worlds" approach, and through emphasizing the customizable nature of D&D.

Another issue, mentioned above, is the page-count required to provide a wide range of possibilities. This can be done with some degree of moderation, though. For instance, the monster entry for Orc can include a paragraph discussing the wide ranging depictions of orcs in various media, and then offer fuller treatments of only a handful. A later product--perhaps digest-sized, like the Pathfinder pocket editions--could be printed that include only short descriptions and stat blocks of all monsters printed in the last few years.

But again, the approach I'm advocating is for a more general core rules, with specific and unique worlds. Some may dislike certain worlds, but they can always be customized ("I want Eberron orcs in Faerun") or, if not, there are other worlds to explore ("Faerun doesn't work for me, but Wildemount is interesting...").
I like the ideas. I'm just struggling to see how the race section of the PHB would look with those changes. Or are races a component that's moving fully to the settings part?
 

Mercurius

Legend
I like the ideas. I'm just struggling to see how the race section of the PHB would look with those changes. Or are races a component that's moving fully to the settings part?
Good question. Short answer: haven't thought that deeply into it. I had the initial idea brewing over the last week, and fleshed it out as I wrote the OP.

My sense is not that different than now, but more general. Perhaps each race (and sub-race) would have a general description and then a sub-heading "Elves in D&D Worlds" that gives just general indicators, with full write-ups (e.g. Faerunian Gold Elves) in the setting books. Or something like that. The idea would be to direct players to specific worlds, and/or encourage DMs to design their own variants.

The key, I think, is de-tangling canonical lore from the core rules and inserting it into setting books. I've never loved the idea that all settings have the same basic background; I mean, in a way I like the quasi-Jungian idea of some kind of "archetypal world" of which all D&D worlds are manifest variations. On the other hand, I prefer to differentiate my own homebrews from core D&D, with my own origin stories for the various races.
 

Haldrik

Adventurer
I like the ideas. I'm just struggling to see how the race section of the PHB would look with those changes. Or are races a component that's moving fully to the settings part?
In my eyes, "Players Handbook" = "Forgotten Realms Players Guide". Since it already is a specific setting, I imagine it would continue to look moreorless the same. Moreorless the same format and same content. There is no alignment in the Players Handbook statblock for Elf, whether Drow, High, or Wood.

I am guessing, they will make the Drow description a bit more sophisticated, and highlight several different possibilities. Hopefully they remove Evil color coding. I hope the Drow were always black before Lolth and will remain black when there is no Lolth. That would be retcon to the Forgotten Realms lore, but most players are on board with this?

Personally, I would rather see "Orc" in the Players Handbook, than "Half-Orc". Then the Orc would get the same kind of rethinking that the Drow gets.
 
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Mercurius

Legend
In my eyes, "Players Handbook" = "Forgotten Realms Players Guide". Since it already is a specific setting, I imagine it would continue to look moreorless the same. Moreorless the same format and same content. There is no alignment in the Players Handbook statblock for Elf, whether Drow, High, or Wood.

I am guessing, they will make the Drow description a bit more sophisticated, and highlight several different possibilities. Hopefully they remove Evil color coding. I hope the Drow were always black before Lolth and will remain black when there is no Lolth. That would be retcon to the Forgotten Realms lore, but most players are on board with this?
And let's be honest: part of what makes drow so cool is their distinct appearance. I remember loving this picture from back in the day:

1594178071034.png


And that's a pretty sexy man-drow for you, Haldrik ;-).

That aside, the Realms already has variant sub-classes of elves: moon, sun, etc. I actually like that treatment better than the core rules, but it might be best staying as the Realmsian versions.
 

Haldrik

Adventurer
And that's a pretty sexy man-drow for you, Haldrik ;-).
One time, my brother and a male friend of ours were at a bar, with three female coworkers. Of course, the topic of sex came up.

What we discovered was, each of the males was especially attracted to a different aspect of the partner. My brother loves women with a voluptuous behind. I love a goodlooking face. And our friend is all about breasts.

Males are weird.

All of us, the men and the women, were equally surprised. But the women were actually relieved. One of them said: "You know, my breasts arent so big, but I have a nice ass. Theres someone out there for me."



For me, there are many ways to be beautiful. Every ethnicity includes guys who I find attractive.

I dont know if I would describe that particular drow as goodlooking, but he definitely looks awesome. It is one of my favorite images from the Old School pen-and-ink drawings. Heh, I notice that that artist makes the men as appealing as the women.
 


Do you think that Wizards can produce specific worlds in this environment? If orcs in one world are just another player race and in another they are savage evil wouldn't people still complain? Maybe 3pp could produce world specific books, but then few people buy them. I worry that all the worlds would be very similar in regards to monsters and player races.
Theros?

Ravnica?

WIldemount?

Eberron?

My man, what are you saying?
 

Mercurius

Legend
Do you think that Wizards can produce specific worlds in this environment? If orcs in one world are just another player race and in another they are savage evil wouldn't people still complain? Maybe 3pp could produce world specific books, but then few people buy them. I worry that all the worlds would be very similar in regards to monsters and player races.
Some people will complain no matter what. But it isn't WotC's job--even if it were possible (which it isn't)--to please everyone. They have to find a line somewhere.
 


Tonguez

Legend
So a D&D version done like GURPS? Or BRP from Chaosium?
I for one would really like that :) - I was playing GURPS before 3e came out and prefer 3.5 because of its Feats & Skills customisability.

But I do realise that it would be a hard sell as DnD, 5e though is somewhat to specific in its cultural melee and getting a bit more customisation without the Feat overload of 3e would be awesome.

I do like the idea of a Core Rule Set + “World Expansions”. Of course that is very much what the D20 SRD before the powers that be decided it wasnt their thing anymore.

1. In 3e I used to use a Humanoid template to transform monsters into playable races, so I suppose that route could be taken for the new humanoid set

Ie create one standard humanoid in the core rules with examples of how they can be adjusted (Size and ability adjustments) + Ancestral Traits package + culture package + Background + Motivation

So Drow
Medium Humanoid (ASI 0)
  • Ancestry: Elf (+Dex, +Cha, Trance)
  • Culture: Lolth Zealot (dark vision x 2 v - sunlight sensitivity*)
  • Background: Fey (magic)
  • Motivation: Hedonist

* disadvantage = bonus feat?

Hmmmm
 
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Haldrik

Adventurer
It occurs to me. If they develop the Drow description with a faction that is Evil and a faction that is Good, they should probably do the same with the High Elf and Wood Elf. This helps undo the color coding.

For Forgotten Realms, I view the High Elf as mainly like the Lord of the Rings Elf. Sophisticated magical scholars, living in elegant cities comprising treehouses in the branches of living trees, and coexisting with nature. I see the D&D version as especially the Eldritch Knight, with an acrobatic swordfighting style. This makes an awesome Good faction with a "defenders of the realm" vibe − but more wizardly.

There seems room for a creative interesting Evil faction for the High Elf. I wonder what it would be about.
 
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Haldrik

Adventurer
1. In 3e I used to use a Humanoid template to transform monsters into playable races, so I suppose that route could be taken for the new humanoid set

Ie create one standard humanoid in the core rules with examples of how they can be adjusted (Size and ability adjustments) + Ancestral Traits package + culture package + Background + Motivation

Hmmmm
If I remember correctly, each 5e Players Handbook race is equal to about 5 feats. (The Half Elf worth 6 feats.) Or something like that. +2 ability score equals a feat; an amount of skills, tools, languages equals a feat; an amount of armor, weapon, or cantrip proficiencies equals a feat; and so on. I could probably drudge up details from somewhere, but you get the idea. On Reddit, there is an excellent fix to make all of the official feats balanced with each other, that is particularly well done. It can be used to help calibrate how much each feature is worth.

For 5e, it might even be easy, to allow players to swap in and out feats to tweak an official race, or build one from scratch.

Of course, the same building blocks helps the DM do worldbuilding too, while making it easier to maintain gaming balance.


* disadvantage = bonus feat?
Disadvantages arent really worth anything because they are too easy to work around. Disadvantages are mostly for flavor.

In the case of the Drow, Darkvision x2, isnt too much a big deal compared to x1, and oppositely sunlight sensitivity isnt too much a detriment. So the combo seems like a wash, and fine as is.

I feel Darkvision is worth 1 cantrip, and can probably work on a list of cantrips to choose from. The Drow combo would worth about the same.
 
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