D&D 5E Heteroglossia and D&D: Why D&D Speaks in a Multiplicity of Playing Styles

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
I think that reaction stems from differences of opinion around what good and okay mean.

Because I agree with the basic sentiment. That’s basically the same argument i make except with ‘okay’ replacing good.
I'd argue there are absolutely some people--including some in this thread--who have used "good" however, if not stronger terms.

The place "good" always throws me most is in comic book grading, where the best one can say about good is that it's better than "poor" or "fair", but is still really bad compared to the ones most folks actually want.

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Historically how important has it been to be first, especially in games and more broadly in all other industries. Sports might make a good starting comparison - it’s really hard for a new sport to totally take off. We get some hype around certain newer ones at times. But they all mostly remain fairly niche. Usually fairly quickly peaking in interest.

But sports is large enough to support 4 or 5 dominate ones and a dozen or so slightly less popular ones before you get to truly niche levels.
A number of those became popular not too far from the same time, however, or became popular in geographically separate areas. All the most well known ones (soccer, American football, baseball, ice hockey) coalesced into what we think of them sometime in the mid to late 19th Centuries, and even basketball, the new kid on the block, didn't start forming long after. An important issue is that they all emerged prior to mass media, too, so it was hard for any of them to become dominant except regionally.

In the early 1900s, was it Boxing and Horse Racing that were king? And then Baseball? I'm trying to avoid looking up how sports media in the newspapers worked back then to see what the big names were.

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Well, see above - what does "technical masterpiece" mean? Isn't designing a thing that you can't kill with a stick a technical achievement? Isn't having high gas mileage a technical achievement? These are qualities of the leaders in the mass market - Honda and Toyota.

We should beware of what we might call "sexy" technical excellence - speed, acceleration, and handling are all technical achievements, sure, but they have little to do with actual use off of a race track. Having the largest payload or towing capacity only matter if you actually move large loads frequently, and so on.

So, yes, it does depend on what you mean by quality. There is no such thing as general technical quality. There is only a long list of specific technical qualities we are interested in. And if we don't list what we are interested in before we decree what is "good design", the assertion is at best unsupported, and at worst it is misleading.
If all people cared about was getting to destinations we'd all be driving generic but reliable econo boxes or taking public transportation. Depending on the size of your family you might be driving a minivan.

How you decide what qualities of a vehicle are important is very subjective. There are some objective things you can measure from cost of ownership to how quickly the car can get to 60 from a dead stop. Other things like styling and overall design are highly subjective. My brother-in-law loves his Tesla but the unintuitive design of the interface and other factors leaves me cold. Literally. They had it set to 68, it was chilly when we borrowed the car.

And then there's the time you really need to get that sheet of plywood home, need to bring a car top carrier worth of stuff with too, or want to comfortably seat six...

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Sure.

I think the heteroglossia you talk about in the OP as in people playing the same game differently happens in other RPGs as well.

Thinking about Vampire the Masquerade as a big popular game with a large player base I think plenty of people were playing it differently.

Vampire supers.

Personal horror.

Politics.

Cross-over urban fantasy.

Those who are excited about metaplot and or lore.

Wow I miss some of the VtM games I was in in the mid 90s. Might have to see if I can find anyone local interested again. I think I've only been in one D&D game that came close to capturing a sizeable chunk of the feelings from VtM - and it wasn't the D&D rules that particularly led to it.

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I’m currently running a game called The 13th Fleet. It both removes Position/Effect from play and takes place in an entirely different setting than Blades.

You’re starting with your conclusion that D&D is more flexible than other games and then doing everything you can to support that conclusion. Despite evidence to the contrary.

The Changing the Game section makes it very clear that nothing is off the table.

There’s nothing greater about the flexibility of D&D.
The 13th Fleet is a Forged in the Dark game that does exactly the things you said the “Changing the game” section omitted.

Your comments have done nothing to show how D&D is more flexible than Blades in the Dark. Yet you claim it’s true. When someone else pointed it out, you said it was the fault of others for not explaining the text in full.

If you’re going to claim that D&D is more flexible than another game, then it’s on you to show how. No one else is gonna do your work for you.

As for the flexibility of either game…I don’t know how either game is “more flexible” than the other given the context of changing the game. How would either game not be changeable?

Is it accurate to say that BitD is to FitD as D&D is to d20? (Not in terms of development but in terms of whether something is a system instead of a game?).
 
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Aldarc

Legend
This was a point I made earlier. Its one of the reasons I'm not fundamentally a fan of class or playbooks as an approach to character design, but as you say, playbooks are easier to put together than at least most modern classes.
You have piqued my interest. What is your preference to character design then?
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Is it accurate to say that BitD is to FitD as D&D is to d20? (Not in terms of development but in terms of whether something is a system instead of a game?).

Yeah, that's accurate... though I don't know if folks still use "d20 system" so much as "5E system". I tend to see more references to the latter than the former.

But yeah, the game Blades in the Dark uses a system, which is allowed to be used to create other games as long as they indicate they were "Forged in the Dark". There are many games that have been made using that system, each of which includes its own tweaks or changes to deliver a different genre or theme.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
That does not mean it is necessarily of higher quality than other games with less mainstream appeal and/or commercial success like Pathfinder Second Edition, D&D 4e, 2d20 games, Apocalypse World, Exalted, Tales of Xadia, et al. It also does not mean it is more meaningfully flexible and can provide the sort of play experience other games do.
This may be a matter of perceptions or interpretations: how folk understand one another's arguments. I read and post comments defending the quality of 5e's game design. In that, I don't mean to say it is superior, but others keep coming in with mediocre etc and I feel that does not do 5e justice.

I really do not get why people in this community feel the need to put up D&D as superior to other games, to place it on a unique pedestal. Basically there's this tendency to treat other games and people who do not exclusively play other games as Eddie(s). As not fundamentally just as worthy of inclusion in our greater community.
Again, I read, and I certainly intend in my own, posts to be saying that D&D has high-quality game design. That is not positioning it as superior, and nor does quality fall along a single axis. I say only that it is not "middle-of-the-road" design work. It's exceptional design work. And there are today quite a few RPGs with exceptional design work.

Some of my favourites among more recent games:

Torchbearer 2
The Ground Itself
Blades in the Dark
Stonetop
1000 Year Old Vampire
Artefact
Ironsworn
The One Ring
Legend of Five Rings

I would describe each of these as a high-quality game design. 5th edition stands up among them.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Yeah, that's accurate... though I don't know if folks still use "d20 system" so much as "5E system". I tend to see more references to the latter than the former.

But yeah, the game Blades in the Dark uses a system, which is allowed to be used to create other games as long as they indicate they were "Forged in the Dark". There are many games that have been made using that system, each of which includes its own tweaks or changes to deliver a different genre or theme.
It may be better to refer to the 5e Engine rather than the "d20 System." The latter refers generally to the 3e OGL d20 System, but it was a building stone for a lot of other games out there, including 4e, 5e, M&M, True20, SotDL, etc. though the architecture for these games are pretty distinct. And as said prior, the 5e Engine is pretty big on the notion of "bounded accuracy," which is not true for the d20 system on the whole.

But whether one calls oneself "Powered by the Apocalypse" or "Forged in the Dark" has more to do with a sort of "inspired by" honor system. That is, it's used by people if they feel that their game is sufficiently inspired by the respective progenitor games (i.e., Apocalypse World or Blades in the Dark) to warrant being called as such.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
But yeah, the game Blades in the Dark uses a system, which is allowed to be used to create other games as long as they indicate they were "Forged in the Dark". There are many games that have been made using that system, each of which includes its own tweaks or changes to deliver a different genre or theme.
Strictly speaking no allowing is involved, as almost without exception game mechanics aren't protectable. The distinctive expressions of those mechanics are protectable. The distinctive title "D20 system" could be protected (as a registered trademark most likely.) Roll d20 above a target number to do a thing isn't protected.

This is not at all arguing that folk should not acknowledge FitD if they base their game on it. For one thing, it probably gets more players to take a look at their game as they will know something about what to expect.


EDIT I see that @Aldarc beat me to it. There are some other advantages, such as Evil Hat will generally only accept submissions using proven game engines. Designing, testing, balancing and streamlining a bespoke game engine is a lot of work: using PbtA, FitD, or the impled "5e system" makes design effort more efficient. The game is more likely to work.
 
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Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I would argue you should always cite your inspirations. One of my favorite parts about a lot of indie and OSR designs is that in the foreword they acknowledge the games that made their game possible. It also clues me into other games to look into. I discovered Stars Without Number because of the Blades in the Dark foreword.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
In the early 1900s, was it Boxing and Horse Racing that were king? And then Baseball? I'm trying to avoid looking up how sports media in the newspapers worked back then to see what the big names were.

It gets really hard to say with most sports because they more-or-less slowly coalesced out of earlier "folk sports" so there's rarely a very sharp line of when they became a thing.
 


Thomas Shey

Legend
EDIT I see that @Aldarc beat me to it. There are some other advantages, such as Evil Hat will generally only accept submissions using proven game engines. Designing, testing, balancing and streamlining a bespoke game engine is a lot of work: using PbtA, FitD, or the impled "5e system" makes design effort more efficient. The game is more likely to work.

Within limits. I still maintain that 5e in particular gets used as the base for a lot of things I have little evidence its a good basis for, at least without serious rework of elements of it. Its not alone in this, but its more common there because of 5e's popularity.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Either build point systems (though I have a mild preference for binned point systems where you're not fishing from a single pool) or non-random lifepath methods. Some class-but-not-much systems like the old Alternity are okay.
Do you have examples of games you like that follow either of these methods?
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Do you have examples of games you like that follow either of these methods?

The Hero System is a general build-point system (as is a large number of superhero games); a binned build-point system would be the D6 System (attributes, skills and special abilities are all taken from pools, but they're three separate pools). An example of a non-random lifepath system would be Morrus' W.O.I.N. (What's Old Is New).
 

Voadam

Legend
The Hero System is a general build-point system (as is a large number of superhero games); a binned build-point system would be the D6 System (attributes, skills and special abilities are all taken from pools, but they're three separate pools). An example of a non-random lifepath system would be Morrus' W.O.I.N. (What's Old Is New).
I remember various editions of Shadowrun being prioritize a bunch of categories (stats, skills, money/equipment/cyberware, magic, race) then you point build from within those categories with the size of the pool of points being based on the priority given to them. So mages have fewer points to assign to stats and skills, certain races give advantages but require a priority category and so take away from other point pools, heavy cyberware generally means not as many skills, etc.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I remember various editions of Shadowrun being prioritize a bunch of categories (stats, skills, money/equipment/cyberware, magic, race) then you point build from within those categories with the size of the pool of points being based on the priority given to them. So mages have fewer points to assign to stats and skills, certain races give advantages but require a priority category and so take away from other point pools, heavy cyberware generally means not as many skills, etc.

The Shadowrun approach is a variation on binned points, since it let you set up the bins itself. Some people didn't like it, but that's inevitable given that binning build points inevitably constrains character generation more than open points; its just a question whether the latter is always a virtue (my own take is "sometimes yes, sometimes no.")
 

Through some kind of magical alchemy and intentional design, D&D manages to hit each and every aesthetic, and can often trigger multiple aesthetics at once in a way that few other games I've seen be successful at. There are built-in mechanics for every step of the way:
a. Sensory Pleasure- Dice, so many dice. Also minis and battlemaps and virtual tabletops
b. Fantasy- Backgrounds - you're not just a collection of stats, you're a character with a history in a living world
c. Narrative- Sure, there are APs, but even the sandboxiest of sandboxes is going to develop a narrative over time.
d. Challenge- This is what I'd characterize as D&D's core aesthetic. Stats, feats, monsters, traps, these are all challenges to overcome.
e. Fellowship- With the exception of heavily PVP games, D&D is ultimately about shared, collaborative problem solving. This one is endemic to most TTRPGs though. Maybe not Paranoia.
f. Discovery- Sandboxes are Discovery on overdrive, but the "Exploration" pillar is pretty neatly mapped to this aesethetic.
g. Expression- And here is the "Social Interaction" pillar, though really the variety of character choices all map to Expression, from your background, to choosing your skill and tool proficiencies. Remember that dork whose 3.x characters always "wasted" skill points in "pointless" skills like Profession? That's the expression aesthetic at play. Also, that dork was me.
I'll add, too, that DMing? That's full-time expression baby.
h. Abnegation- Arguably, D&D might be one of the best TTRPGs at fulfilling this aesthetic. It's not just the Champion Fighter, but it's a lot that. There are very simple playstyles, and there's very simple to run adventures. In my experience, the folks whose key aesthetic is Fellowship are also going to lean in hard here. And, to its credit, D&D is designed to allow a player or two to chill out and hit goblins with swords while the cognitive loads and expressive play are handled by the "party face", for instance.

Name another RPG that's designed not only to appeal to all eight of these aesthetics, but is also capable of engaging players with very different aesthetic pursuits at the same time. There aren't going to be many.

I'd have more trouble naming an RPG that can't satisfy all of these aesthetics to some degree. Dungeon Fantasy RPG, for example, hits all of these aesthetics. D&D 5E may be slightly better at supporting abnegation whereas DFRPG is somewhat better at expression, for example, but they both support all the aesthetics--which is sort of AngryGM's point. The Eight Types of Fun are properties of the game you personally run at the table, not properties of the rule system you chose. If you want to support abnegation better, you just throw a bunch of weak monsters at the players and reward them with treasure afterwards.
 

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