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General "Hot" take: Aesthetically-pleasing rules are highly overvalued

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Right, just to clarify, this is the function of the SC in 4e. Sadly 5e eschews this, and thus there simply are no rules for these types of situations. The DM simply decides which sorts of checks and how many will produce what fictional and mechanical result. What I contend is that this leads to a situation where the player MUST be entirely a "Character advocate" and the DM is inevitably cast into the role of saying what the player is 'allowed' to get (and if dice are used, it is entirely the DM who decides if enough have been tossed, he can ask for one more check at any point, so in effect the outcome is his to decide, the dice are just a fig leaf outside of combat).
Considering the DM in 4e constructs the skill challenge including defining relevant skills (or allows others if the players advocate for their PCs using them) and the outcomes, this looks to me like a distinction without much of a difference.
 

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I don't think this is very correct, or a useful distinction. There are lots of rules in DW that correspond to specific enough things. Hack and Slash, for instance, is pretty analogous to the attack action in 5e -- there's really not much of a distinction to the role H&S has in the game to that of the attack action.
Well, we will have to agree to disagree. While Hack & Slash, as a specific move, is representing roughly the same sort of thing as D&D's 'attacks', there are huge differences. There is no 'turn structure' in DW. Combat happens in a purely narrative sense, beyond even 5e's TOTM. It is an entirely narrative process, and might potentially not even HAVE 'attacks' in any mechanical sense (there really is no mechanical sense in which they exist). So, "an orc rushes out of the darkness and attacks you!" would be a 'hard move' in DW. The first thing you would note is that there are no 'attacks' made by monsters. There is literally no move open to the GM with the label "attack character X" and the GM DOES NOT EVER ROLL DICE in PbtA games (at least not for moves, maybe there are some situations where they can roll some dice for some other purpose, like damage). As soon as the above move was made by the GM one or more of the PCs would announce their responses to this change in fiction. The thief might say "I leap into the shadows!" (hiding, Defy Danger). The dwarf lifts up his axe and yells BARUK, BARUK KAZAD! and attacks (hack and slash). The ranger might Volley with his bow. Each of these would be dealt with in sequence, and that sequence would be based on the FICTION, not on any 'turn structure' or 'combat rules' (which don't exist).
The thief DDs (he's at the front), he fails, the orc delivers its damage to him with a vicious chop (GM rolls damage). Next the Dwarf and the orc collide, the dwarf manages to get a 10 with Hack and Slash, a clear success, he deals his damage to the orc, which now begins to fight with him. Meanwhile the ranger is nocking an arrow and lets fly, with some effect or other depending on what he rolls. Now, at this point the it is really up to the players, the thief could backstab, the dwarf will probably keep fighting (and if he rolls low he will take damage), etc. The GM could describe the orc as pressing the attack, or as barreling on through the party and off into the darkness in the other direction (though surely someone would have a chance to alter that with a move if they want).
What I'm saying is, sure, there are moves which speak to the concerns of dungeon adventuring, fighting, negotiating, handling hazards, getting drunk in taverns, etc. but they are not specific rules ABOUT the game world, they are about fiction, and only incidentally, sometimes, get related back to some of the fairly simple mechanics of the game.
In fact, contrary to earlier statement, I think 5e has a good tool to resolve the toy example of setting a shed on fire while orcs are running a bucket brigade -- it's right up front in the core playloop, the PC states the action, the GM determines if it's uncertain and, if so, sets a DC and asks for an attribute roll which the player can modify with appropriate proficiencies. This handles the toy problem, and many other issues similar to it, at least mechanically. And that is, to me, the big distinction between a game like 5e and one like DW -- the difference between the mechanical bits, or tech, and the way those are meant to be used, or the principles of play. DW has tech which is different from 5e, but not sufficiently to elicit the play of DW on it's own. What makes the big difference are the principles that DW presents not as game tech but more as meta-rules for play, and these directions on how to use the tech make the biggest difference in play. 5e doesn't really provide any principles of play, leaving it up to individual tables to both define and apply their own -- usually picking up from established and unstated principles from the D&D zeitgeist. This means that while 5e has the tech to solve the firing the shed toy example, it doesn't really work well unless a given table has set principles of play that enable it to work. Likewise, if you try to play DW without the principles of play, or using the principles of play common to D&D, you end up with a mess -- and we've had a thread fairly recently that illuminates this exact issue.
well, sure, every game involves a PROCESS, but I don't agree that 5e's process isn't explicit. It is pretty well spelled out. If you read the Intro to the 5e PHB it describes HOW you play. The DM describes the situation, and the players describe their actions. The situation then evolves in a kind of 'movie like' format. That is when the PCs go from the bridge to the castle they arrive there and 'make moves' in this new location. The reason for the existence of a location is simply to be the place you next went to. It could be more or less detailed based on what the DM places there, but the situational logic is purely described as "[the characters] navigate the its hazards and decide which paths to explore."
In particular Page 6 has a pretty specific 'formula'
1. The DM describes the environment
2. The players describe what they want to do. (checks may result if the it is "challenging" to complete a task).
3. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions
There is a lot of technical detail basically from there, leading to a discussion of 'adventures' and 'three pillars', etc. This provides a pretty detailed idea of how you would play, though I agree it is less detailed and less specifically relates actions to the goals and principles of the game than DW's rules do. Still, I don't agree that it is unstated.
And again, I point out that, while 5e has specific rules which might cover something like the 'orc fire brigade', the fact is that it doesn't really provide a PROCESS for how to employ them, beyond the 1,2, 3 above. This means you really are playing at the level of "the rules simply tell you how your PC interacts with the game world" but the rules don't have a FICTION orientation. So, how does the fiction, the narrative, actually come together? D&D is quite good when you are executing specific goals, like traversing a dungeon or fighting a monster. Games like DW OTOH are much better at handling conflict and fictional position and narrative as game elements in and of themselves. So, again, D&D is a focused on 'material things' (what happens when you swing a weapon), but DW is focused on "what is the process of advancing the narrative when an orc attacks?", and has VASTLY more to say about the process of how the story got to that point, in terms of why, and even how it is organized and run as a story, and not as simply a description of locations and character actions.
5e sort of cursorily addresses the later at times, but not in an organized fashion. There are the character traits you can generate for your PC, but there's not really a framework for how to apply them systematically to the narrative.
To bring this to skill challenges and 4e, I do not think that 4e was intentionally designed to work as it's being presented in this thread. It certainly wasn't clearly laid out that way, and the necessary principles of play to make it work that way were not presented. If you already held those principles, or were familiar with them, then the design of 4e worked well with them, but not, I think, intentionally. And I say this because the printed adventures for 4e do not embrace this approach, and how many tries it took to get skill challenges to work. Even then, the presentation of the skill challenges is one where the GM is the primary driver of the play, selecting both the goal of the skill challenge and the primary (and secondary) methods to achieve it. This is still solidly within the traditional play of D&D. Unless you ignore that, and bring in some of the principles common to other games, like Burning Wheel and PbtA, skill challenges are still a stilted, GM driven and GM may I tool. If you do bring in those principles, primarily the ones regarding fiction following play rather than leading it and honoring the results of the tech, then skill challenges aren't the tool their being presented as here, or even in the rulesbooks of 4e.
I think that 4e isn't entirely coherently a story game, and that is understandable, as it would be a really radical departure from the game's roots. That being said, it is more clearly in that camp than you may be appreciating! Note some of the wordings, even in the PHB (which seems less decidedly 'story game' in its descriptions than the DMG is). Here are some quotes:
"[your character] is also one of the protagonists in a living, evolving story line. Like the hero of any fantasy novel or film, he or she has ambitions..." PHB P18.
Right away 4e, in contrast with 5e, talks about the player's input to the narrative in an active role:
"[the DM] can react to any situation, any twist or turn suggested by the players, to make a D&D adventure vibrant, exciting, and unexpected" PHB P6.
and then "[the adventure] is like a fantasy movie or novel exception the characters that you and your friends create are the stars of the story." which at least implies that STORY is the central element of the game.
Beyond that, I agree, the PHB doesn't mostly read a lot different from, say, 5e. At least potentially the 4e PHB could simply be read as classic D&D rules. Now, when you get into the DMG, things are a bit different...
"[the DM] doesn't want the player characters to fail any more than the other players do. [...] The DM's goal is to make success taste its sweetest by presenting challenges that are just hard enough that the other players have to work to overcome them, but not so hard that they leave all the characters dead."
There is also a discussion of the type of fiction being generated on DMG PP12-13.
There is an interesting point made on PP21 which is returned to several more times "Gloss over the mundane, unexciting details and get back to the heroic action as quickly as possible."
Comparing the 4e and 5e DMGs one is instantly struck by the differences. 5e's DMG spends 6 pages at the start on all aspects of how to play, story, etc. and then dives right into world building and rules discussion. 4e's spends over 20 pages here, and then seems much more interested in 'story' from there on, rarely delving into rules territory at all until around page 40.
Chapter 5 "Noncombat Encounters" really does get into new territory. It explains that SCs are primarily about "goal and context."

Now, beyond "Say Yes" and "skip to the action" there isn't a TON of very specific concrete story game process here. So you, again, CAN take 4e's description as classic D&D, but the problem is a lot of the game just doesn't make that much sense that way. It is MUCH more 'process oriented' in how it presents material, and which things it focuses on. I REALLY think the authors of the DMG, certainly, had a sort of narrative process play in mind, certainly at times. I think there's editing and presentation things that work against it, but the subtext really is there, it isn't just something people made up. One of the reasons I see this clearly is that I wasn't particularly cognizant of the principles of this type of play, and hadn't run/played many RPGs for a few years during the 3e era. So 4e actually TAUGHT me to play this way. I didn't import some expectation from some other game, it showed me what it wanted. This really is at least one possible way that the game wants to be played!

That said, I love the tech of skill challenges, but do not even bother assigning skills to the challenge -- it's entirely open ended. The concept, to me, works more as a tool for the GM to determine overall success in a complicated task than a way to codify that tasking. It gives me, the GM, the framework to be able to describe the necessary hard and soft consequences to failure at different points in the challenge, and also the consequences of success -- and this is done using the number of successes and number of failures alongside the current fictional state and the player's declared actions. It's a loose framework to help establish appropriate framing and outcomes throughout the challenge. The rest of the 4e tech -- primary and secondary skills, advantages, etc. -- I toss and just use the normal 5e resolution loop: action declaration, uncertainty determination, DC setting and attribute check, outcomes.
Right, I don't think that the SC system per-se is perfect. I think it was actually sort of a compromise. Something like that was required, but it had to pass muster with the 'Gygaxian' crowd (which includes several D&D game designers who worked on 4e and clearly were not interested in story gaming). DMG2 really opens things up though, it is even MUCH more explicit about the focus on narrative and using the rules as a narrative building process.
I often wish that they had been bold enough to really fully take the step of going with it from the start and very explicitly describing the game in those terms. Positioned the mechanics as "tools for describing the narrative" as opposed to so often falling back into the "wargame zone" of describing them as adjudication of game world techniques. It was so close, and yet what 4e really proves is you better not take half measures. Make sure your game is all one thing or all another thing and not some sort of in-between muddle.
 

Considering the DM in 4e constructs the skill challenge including defining relevant skills (or allows others if the players advocate for their PCs using them) and the outcomes, this looks to me like a distinction without much of a difference.
Even if you take it that way, you have to admit that it provides a very specific formula for determining what constitutes success and failure, and what constitutes the entirety of an encounter. This is not something any other D&D does. While people have casually described that 5e can handle the 'orc fire brigade', it doesn't really do it well at all. Either you generate a single check, or there is some open-ended series of checks which the DM is likely to continue for exactly as long as it takes to get to a convenient outcome (IE if it is important for the PCs to burn the shed, then it will end when it burns down, or vice versa). In the 4e version it will be a designated number of checks, regardless (unless the encounter is effectively abandoned in some way).
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Well, we will have to agree to disagree. While Hack & Slash, as a specific move, is representing roughly the same sort of thing as D&D's 'attacks', there are huge differences. There is no 'turn structure' in DW. Combat happens in a purely narrative sense, beyond even 5e's TOTM. It is an entirely narrative process, and might potentially not even HAVE 'attacks' in any mechanical sense (there really is no mechanical sense in which they exist). So, "an orc rushes out of the darkness and attacks you!" would be a 'hard move' in DW. The first thing you would note is that there are no 'attacks' made by monsters. There is literally no move open to the GM with the label "attack character X" and the GM DOES NOT EVER ROLL DICE in PbtA games (at least not for moves, maybe there are some situations where they can roll some dice for some other purpose, like damage). As soon as the above move was made by the GM one or more of the PCs would announce their responses to this change in fiction. The thief might say "I leap into the shadows!" (hiding, Defy Danger). The dwarf lifts up his axe and yells BARUK, BARUK KAZAD! and attacks (hack and slash). The ranger might Volley with his bow. Each of these would be dealt with in sequence, and that sequence would be based on the FICTION, not on any 'turn structure' or 'combat rules' (which don't exist).
The thief DDs (he's at the front), he fails, the orc delivers its damage to him with a vicious chop (GM rolls damage). Next the Dwarf and the orc collide, the dwarf manages to get a 10 with Hack and Slash, a clear success, he deals his damage to the orc, which now begins to fight with him. Meanwhile the ranger is nocking an arrow and lets fly, with some effect or other depending on what he rolls. Now, at this point the it is really up to the players, the thief could backstab, the dwarf will probably keep fighting (and if he rolls low he will take damage), etc. The GM could describe the orc as pressing the attack, or as barreling on through the party and off into the darkness in the other direction (though surely someone would have a chance to alter that with a move if they want).
What I'm saying is, sure, there are moves which speak to the concerns of dungeon adventuring, fighting, negotiating, handling hazards, getting drunk in taverns, etc. but they are not specific rules ABOUT the game world, they are about fiction, and only incidentally, sometimes, get related back to some of the fairly simple mechanics of the game.
You moved from my point that the moves in DW are fairly similar in kind to 5e actions to a discussion about turn order, which I don't see what connection exists here. Your initial argument was that DW moves aren't like 5e actions in that DW moves are about "how to manage the story" and 5e is about "telling the GM how the world works." I don't see that in your earlier post, and I don't see it in your new tangent about turn orders. The DW moves do very similar things to 5e actions, even as there are other differences in mechanics. I mean, GURPS handles things differently from 5e, too, but they're much closer in design than 5e and DW. That DW is a narrative game isn't really a function of the moves, but of the principles of play -- again, there's a recent thread where DW was played in a 5e style, and it wasn't the moves that broke but the principles of play. The distinction between the games isn't in a fundamental difference of what the tech does -- the tech resolves uncertainty. It's the how the tech is used that's different, and that's nothing to do with the tech itself.
well, sure, every game involves a PROCESS, but I don't agree that 5e's process isn't explicit. It is pretty well spelled out. If you read the Intro to the 5e PHB it describes HOW you play. The DM describes the situation, and the players describe their actions. The situation then evolves in a kind of 'movie like' format. That is when the PCs go from the bridge to the castle they arrive there and 'make moves' in this new location. The reason for the existence of a location is simply to be the place you next went to. It could be more or less detailed based on what the DM places there, but the situational logic is purely described as "[the characters] navigate the its hazards and decide which paths to explore."
In particular Page 6 has a pretty specific 'formula'
1. The DM describes the environment
2. The players describe what they want to do. (checks may result if the it is "challenging" to complete a task).
3. The DM narrates the results of the adventurers' actions
There is a lot of technical detail basically from there, leading to a discussion of 'adventures' and 'three pillars', etc. This provides a pretty detailed idea of how you would play, though I agree it is less detailed and less specifically relates actions to the goals and principles of the game than DW's rules do. Still, I don't agree that it is unstated.
And again, I point out that, while 5e has specific rules which might cover something like the 'orc fire brigade', the fact is that it doesn't really provide a PROCESS for how to employ them, beyond the 1,2, 3 above. This means you really are playing at the level of "the rules simply tell you how your PC interacts with the game world" but the rules don't have a FICTION orientation. So, how does the fiction, the narrative, actually come together? D&D is quite good when you are executing specific goals, like traversing a dungeon or fighting a monster. Games like DW OTOH are much better at handling conflict and fictional position and narrative as game elements in and of themselves. So, again, D&D is a focused on 'material things' (what happens when you swing a weapon), but DW is focused on "what is the process of advancing the narrative when an orc attacks?", and has VASTLY more to say about the process of how the story got to that point, in terms of why, and even how it is organized and run as a story, and not as simply a description of locations and character actions.
5e sort of cursorily addresses the later at times, but not in an organized fashion. There are the character traits you can generate for your PC, but there's not really a framework for how to apply them systematically to the narrative.
You seem to have completely missed my point, here. It doesn't have to do with "PROCESS." It has to do with the meta-rules in each. 5e, while it outlines the tech and process of play, doesn't bother to tell you how you're supposed to use it. As such, we have arguments on this board as to whether or not you should use ability checks or skill checks, even those these are very similar things. The difference between the two is really in the meta-rule arena; in the principles of play. And, the biggest difference between 5e and a DW or similar game (and I just finished running a session of Blades, so I have relevant experience) is not in how the tech works -- ie, the mechanical ways things are resolved -- but in how, when, and why you use the tech. Look at ability checks versus skill checks in 5e, for instance. Ability checks are called for by the GM when the GM determines a declared action is uncertain. Skill checks are largely used by players to push the story forward because they don't have a sufficient handle to declare an action, or don't have sufficient confidence to declare actions not directly based on game tech (largely a risk evaluation issue). This is a 5e relevant illustration of how a different set of principles of play result in different applications of tech within the same game. DW has different tech, sure, but not vastly different tech. It achieves it's narrative play because the GM is strongly constrained by the principles of play, like "play to find out what happens" or "be a fan of the PCs" or "hold on lightly." These things inform the GM on how to use the tech to achieve the desired play. They aren't mechanical tech, or a process, but instead meta-directions on how to use the provided mechanical tech. If you abandon those principles of play and just use the DW tech, you end up with a mess, as evidenced recently in a thread where exactly this happened -- the GM ran DW using D&D principles of play and had lots and lots of problems.
I think that 4e isn't entirely coherently a story game, and that is understandable, as it would be a really radical departure from the game's roots. That being said, it is more clearly in that camp than you may be appreciating! Note some of the wordings, even in the PHB (which seems less decidedly 'story game' in its descriptions than the DMG is). Here are some quotes:
"[your character] is also one of the protagonists in a living, evolving story line. Like the hero of any fantasy novel or film, he or she has ambitions..." PHB P18.
Right away 4e, in contrast with 5e, talks about the player's input to the narrative in an active role:
"[the DM] can react to any situation, any twist or turn suggested by the players, to make a D&D adventure vibrant, exciting, and unexpected" PHB P6.
and then "[the adventure] is like a fantasy movie or novel exception the characters that you and your friends create are the stars of the story." which at least implies that STORY is the central element of the game.
Beyond that, I agree, the PHB doesn't mostly read a lot different from, say, 5e. At least potentially the 4e PHB could simply be read as classic D&D rules. Now, when you get into the DMG, things are a bit different...
"[the DM] doesn't want the player characters to fail any more than the other players do. [...] The DM's goal is to make success taste its sweetest by presenting challenges that are just hard enough that the other players have to work to overcome them, but not so hard that they leave all the characters dead."
There is also a discussion of the type of fiction being generated on DMG PP12-13.
There is an interesting point made on PP21 which is returned to several more times "Gloss over the mundane, unexciting details and get back to the heroic action as quickly as possible."
Comparing the 4e and 5e DMGs one is instantly struck by the differences. 5e's DMG spends 6 pages at the start on all aspects of how to play, story, etc. and then dives right into world building and rules discussion. 4e's spends over 20 pages here, and then seems much more interested in 'story' from there on, rarely delving into rules territory at all until around page 40.
Chapter 5 "Noncombat Encounters" really does get into new territory. It explains that SCs are primarily about "goal and context."

Now, beyond "Say Yes" and "skip to the action" there isn't a TON of very specific concrete story game process here. So you, again, CAN take 4e's description as classic D&D, but the problem is a lot of the game just doesn't make that much sense that way. It is MUCH more 'process oriented' in how it presents material, and which things it focuses on. I REALLY think the authors of the DMG, certainly, had a sort of narrative process play in mind, certainly at times. I think there's editing and presentation things that work against it, but the subtext really is there, it isn't just something people made up. One of the reasons I see this clearly is that I wasn't particularly cognizant of the principles of this type of play, and hadn't run/played many RPGs for a few years during the 3e era. So 4e actually TAUGHT me to play this way. I didn't import some expectation from some other game, it showed me what it wanted. This really is at least one possible way that the game wants to be played!
Your examples aren't very strong and don't really support your point. The big difference really isn't that the 5e DMG doesn't say largely the same things, but that it does it more succinctly and with different language. The "skip to the action" bits are clearly in the "middle path" suggestion of how to use the dice, just in different words. This is repeated across all of your points. 4e isn't designed to be a narrative game. I point to all of the printed adventures for it from WotC as proof of this assertion -- they're all pretty standard D&D adventure designs in that they feature linear storylines and set encounters with assigned DCs and suggestion possible actions. This is what 5e adventures do as well.

No, 4e gets it's ability to be run narratively by accidental design. They aimed for one thing, but, if you're experienced enough in narrative play principles, 4e works well with those -- so long as you ignore a few things judiciously.
Right, I don't think that the SC system per-se is perfect. I think it was actually sort of a compromise. Something like that was required, but it had to pass muster with the 'Gygaxian' crowd (which includes several D&D game designers who worked on 4e and clearly were not interested in story gaming). DMG2 really opens things up though, it is even MUCH more explicit about the focus on narrative and using the rules as a narrative building process.
I often wish that they had been bold enough to really fully take the step of going with it from the start and very explicitly describing the game in those terms. Positioned the mechanics as "tools for describing the narrative" as opposed to so often falling back into the "wargame zone" of describing them as adjudication of game world techniques. It was so close, and yet what 4e really proves is you better not take half measures. Make sure your game is all one thing or all another thing and not some sort of in-between muddle.
I find that any perceived direction to be more 'open' narratively is directly countered by the advice on how to pick the relevant skills which requires pre-plotting a path through the skill challenge or anticipating PC actions, both of which run counter to narrative play principles. 4e hews closely to the traditional modes of play, but is designed (again, I argue accidentally) in a way that you can switch to narrative play principles and have good success as well.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Even if you take it that way, you have to admit that it provides a very specific formula for determining what constitutes success and failure, and what constitutes the entirety of an encounter. This is not something any other D&D does. While people have casually described that 5e can handle the 'orc fire brigade', it doesn't really do it well at all. Either you generate a single check, or there is some open-ended series of checks which the DM is likely to continue for exactly as long as it takes to get to a convenient outcome (IE if it is important for the PCs to burn the shed, then it will end when it burns down, or vice versa). In the 4e version it will be a designated number of checks, regardless (unless the encounter is effectively abandoned in some way).
And you've just gone straight to principles of play when you suggest that 5e GMs will use the tech to generate a desired outcome. This is, indeed, a common thing done in D&D traditional play, and a poor principle in my opinion. A more principled 5e GM will use the tech provided to stage clear fictional positioning so the players can be confident in declared actions. This doesn't ever violate the 5e rules, is actually largely covered and suggested in the "middle path," at least as well as 4e covers narrative play, and resolves the situation using 5e tech without resort to a more structured SC. It's the principles being used at the table that really make the difference, not necessarily the tech. Sure, SC tech can lend itself to strong play, but it can also, without ever breaking the system, lead to outcomes that aren't as rosy as you suggest. The only really useful bits that I see in the SC framework is the concrete scene end-point, but you can get that without SC and may not really need it.

And, for the record, I'm a huge fan of fiction-first skill challenges -- I use them all the time when I run 5e. X successes before 3 failures is a great resolution mechanic for a complex non-combat task. I just don't agree that the 4e SC structure was 1) really that narratively angled as presented and 2) so much more effective than principled 5e play.
 

pemerton

Legend
I'm happy to bring out quotes if necessary. 4e talks about "player-authored quests" which clearly can feed into skill challenge resolution. The instructions in the DMG on skill challenges emphasise player contribution/driving, and refers to the significance of the fiction. DMG2 reinforces this with further examples and elaboration.

The relationship between skill challenges and other "closed scene" resolution frameworks - eg Maelstrom Storytelling, or HeroWars/Quest extended contests, or a BW Duel of Wits - is pretty clear. As soon as one reads the skill challenge rules it's clear that they are not just a version of "complex skill checks" or whatever those were called in 3E.

This is further driven home by the example in Essentials, where on a failed check a hostile NPC reappears just as might happen on a failed Circles check in Burning Wheel. It's clear that the resolution is not "process-driven" or "simulationist", though the rules don't actually explain this - they leave it as an inference for the reader.

People recognised all this, too, whether or not they liked it - eg the common complaint but why should I (the GM) have to keep the skill challenge going if the players come up with some knock-down solution? shows that skill challenges aren't reconcilable with process-driven or GM-decides resolution. They depend upon fiction first and narrating outcomes by reference to intention, pacing and finality constraints.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I'm happy to bring out quotes if necessary. 4e talks about "player-authored quests" which clearly can feed into skill challenge resolution. The instructions in the DMG on skill challenges emphasise player contribution/driving, and refers to the significance of the fiction. DMG2 reinforces this with further examples and elaboration.
There is similar language in many D&D editions. There's been a long tradition of offering this in D&D while not actually reinforcing it through tech or principles of play. That it's in the 4e DMGs is not indicative of anything more than continuing tradition.

Also, reference to the DMG2 is an interesting thing -- the DMG2 is not the first point of entry into the game, and if such an important way to play is delayed to past the initial entry point, is that terribly indicative of intent of play? Not that the DMG2 didn't provide a bit more top cover for non-trad approaches to play, it does, but that it still isn't explicit at that point and still provides play procedures that contradict narrative play (pre-building skill challenges for specific goals and selecting applicable skills within that challenge) cuts against your point here that it provides such direction.
The relationship between skill challenges and other "closed scene" resolution frameworks - eg Maelstrom Storytelling, or HeroWars/Quest extended contests, or a BW Duel of Wits - is pretty clear. As soon as one reads the skill challenge rules it's clear that they are not just a version of "complex skill checks" or whatever those were called in 3E.

This is further driven home by the example in Essentials, where on a failed check a hostile NPC reappears just as might happen on a failed Circles check in Burning Wheel. It's clear that the resolution is not "process-driven" or "simulationist", though the rules don't actually explain this - they leave it as an inference for the reader.

People recognised all this, too, whether or not they liked it - eg the common complaint but why should I (the GM) have to keep the skill challenge going if the players come up with some knock-down solution? shows that skill challenges aren't reconcilable with process-driven or GM-decides resolution. They depend upon fiction first and narrating outcomes by reference to intention, pacing and finality constraints.
Yes, as I said above, if you're already familiar with these play principles the skill challenge framework offers quite a lot of opportunity. If you are not, there's nothing in those descriptions that actually points you in the right direction, largely because it's right beside the direction to pre-build skill challenges as part of traditional adventure design. This includes setting the goal/entry/framing of the challenge ahead of play and also selecting the primary skills to be used, which presupposes applicable action declarations. That's right in there as well, and are the parts that I refer to when I say that they must be ignored to achieve a more narrative use of skill challenges.

Your final point is an interesting one, because it cuts against as well as for. If the structure of the skill challenge is used, then a 'knock-down solution' is not an exit to the challenge as the rules present. Both approaches must know when to abandon the challenge framework if the fiction dictates -- it's not just traditional approaches that have this issue. That those familiar with narrative play probably already know this principle doesn't mean that the skill challenge, as presented, doesn't provide this guidance to either side. You're mistaking your experience with other techniques and principles as part of the skill challenge and creating a problem for traditional approaches that you're solving not with the skill challenge framework, but outside awareness and experience. A traditional GM could also learn this lesson in a different way and similarly have no problems with skill challenges, just like an experienced narrative play GM. The actual skill challenge rules, and the guidance for those rules, do not solve this problem for either side -- it's an outside solution for both. If I had picked up on fiction first (which I agree is the best use of the SC structure) from the text without prior experience, then the skill challenge framework would pose a similar problem for me with a 'knock-down solution.' I'd have to realize I need to step out of the process and abandon it to close the scene appropriately.
 


I was born to that era, and even the UK, if watched enough TV and American movies, you could become of that era, and I am, hopelessly lol.

In my experience the only people who have problems with it have a problem with it because of baggage from previous editions. I honestly don't know how much clearer it could be if you don't have any pre-conceived notions.

I'd agree except the new-to-RPGs players I helped with 5E once were also extremely confused by it. I mean, what I'm saying is, I expected that to be the case, but my only point of evidence is to the contrary.

@Umbran Pretty much everything here is non-falsifiable. It's like, my opinion, dude.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I'd agree except the new-to-RPGs players I helped with 5E once were also extremely confused by it. I mean, what I'm saying is, I expected that to be the case, but my only point of evidence is to the contrary.

@Umbran Pretty much everything here is non-falsifiable. It's like, my opinion, dude.

I've introduced a few new groups and/or players as well. So far, no major issue except for a 30 second clarification with someone that had played older editions that there was no such thing as a surprise round. Could be confirmation bias, could be how I explain it, could be just luck of the draw. In any case I think the rule seems to me to be about as simple and easy to grasp as it can get. YMMV of course.
 

I've introduced a few new groups and/or players as well. So far, no major issue except for a 30 second clarification with someone that had played older editions that there was no such thing as a surprise round. Could be confirmation bias, could be how I explain it, could be just luck of the draw. In any case I think the rule seems to me to be about as simple and easy to grasp as it can get. YMMV of course.

It could be a lot of things, but claiming the rules is "as simple and easy to grasp as it can get" given that no-one seems to have a completely consistent interpretation of it (c.f. 1000+ post reddit threads and so on) is such ridiculous hyperbole that I'm wondering if I'm being trolled. If it was just me, I'd feel stupid and wonder if I was dumb. But I'm sorry mate, the weight of evidence is that it confuses the bejeezus out of people, and that loads of people who think they understand it either straight-up don't (c.f. the 5E reddit and various other messageboards), or have understandings which are reasonable but contradict other understandings.

It's one of the more complicated and counter-intuitive rules in D&D, whether you're new or not, I'd suggest.
 

Campbell

Legend
In general I think most versions of D&D are arcane messes that require an inordinate amount of specialized learning. 4e/5e less so than previous versions, but they still fairly messy for new players. Same goes for most traditional RPGs really.

I have found that Freebooters on the Frontier, Mork Borg, Dungeon World, Stars Without Number, Apocalypse World, Vampire 5th Edition, and Masks all have a much easier on boarding processing. Particularly Masks, Mork Borg, and Dungeon World.

I find a lot of people who wax poetic on 5e's ease of use had their own expectation mismatches with other games and not much experience with games that do not come in 300+ page books.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It could be a lot of things, but claiming the rules is "as simple and easy to grasp as it can get" given that no-one seems to have a completely consistent interpretation of it (c.f. 1000+ post reddit threads and so on) is such ridiculous hyperbole that I'm wondering if I'm being trolled. If it was just me, I'd feel stupid and wonder if I was dumb. But I'm sorry mate, the weight of evidence is that it confuses the bejeezus out of people, and that loads of people who think they understand it either straight-up don't (c.f. the 5E reddit and various other messageboards), or have understandings which are reasonable but contradict other understandings.

It's one of the more complicated and counter-intuitive rules in D&D, whether you're new or not, I'd suggest.

All I can say is that I disagree. If you haven't noticed an enemy when combat starts you can't do anything until the end of your first turn. I don't see how that is a hard concept to grasp.

All the discussions have revolved around concepts of "surprise round" which no longer exists. But ... whatever. I also don't understand why anyone but construction workers and farmers buy pickup trucks yet they're incredibly popular. My opinion and $10 might get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I also don't understand why anyone but construction workers and farmers buy pickup trucks yet they're incredibly popular. My opinion and $10 might get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
It just means that people approach things like buying appropriate vehicles, or even interpreting rules, from differing perspectives. Whether natural language or technical jargon, people are often going to look at what is written and come away with differing interpretations. It may seem mystifying, but it's a fact of life. The old joke may go that it's impossible to idiot proof because the universe just keeps making bigger idiots, but there's a truism in there. No matter how you work to corral people's interpretations, you literally cannot write for everyone's idiosyncrasies.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
It just means that people approach things like buying appropriate vehicles, or even interpreting rules, from differing perspectives. Whether natural language or technical jargon, people are often going to look at what is written and come away with differing interpretations. It may seem mystifying, but it's a fact of life. The old joke may go that it's impossible to idiot proof because the universe just keeps making bigger idiots, but there's a truism in there. No matter how you work to corral people's interpretations, you literally cannot write for everyone's idiosyncrasies.
Which is why I always try to qualify when it's just my opinion. But most of gaming is just opinion, isn't it? No ruleset is perfect, nor can it be for everyone.

If you want to discuss rules in 5E that don't make a lot of sense, I think you don't have to look much further than unarmed attacks/melee weapon attacks mess. To me that's something that could be fixed and clarified (along with a handful of others). Surprise rules? Those, to me, are simple and easy to understand.
 

You seem to have completely missed my point, here. It doesn't have to do with "PROCESS." It has to do with the meta-rules in each. [...]
I think what you call 'meta' is what I call 'process'. I don't draw a distinction between 'game' and 'meta game', that is a very 'Gygaxian' classic early RPG sort of position (though it has certainly hung in there amongst a crowd which includes a lot of people here). Thus I don't see the difference as so much one of principles of play and such as it is a straightforward difference in tool sets. DW does not have a combat section in its rules. It doesn't talk about resolving fights and what happens in fights, except incidentally as it may be an example of 'dangerous situations'. It does provide 3 moves, 2 of which are totally combat specific (defend can be applied in a few other situations). So it COVERS combat, given that it is a significant class of activities, but "resolving combat" is not one of the processes of DW. Advancing a narrative, including combat narratives, IS. Note again that there are no distinctions in its rules process for combat/social/exploring, etc. They are all moves. The only difference is which move might be relevant in a given situation. This is entirely different from 5e where there are things "the rules don't cover" or where a distinct 'check' system is used which is different from combat. The 5e combat rules are specifically discussed as providing resolution of what happens when you swing a sword, etc. DW simply says "describe what you do" and then some move or other will be mapped onto that. Nobody in DW would say "I go hack and slash on the orc!" This is not because of 'principles', it is because that isn't the PROCESS OF PLAY! You say "I want to hurt the orc with my sword" and yes, that maps pretty directly onto Hack and Slash, but that is only one case. You could easily decide that retreating from the orc uses Defy Danger, etc. In 5e you would specifically call out rules you are using, "I'm swinging my sword at the orc." or "I disengage from the Orc." These would invoke specific other rules, like maybe OAs, triggering the use of class abilities, etc. Note how this all happens in a turn order, which simulates a strict advancement of time. DW has no concept of time. The fiction advances, maybe a little bit, maybe a lot, it just depends on what moves are made. It may well be that only one PC will even take moves in a combat in DW, and there is no rule about who gets to do what, when. The narrative and logic of DM moves is entirely in charge of that.
Now, maybe you see some principles being in charge, but I think that example of "playing DW like 5e" is MECHANICALLY FLAWED, and I could point out specific places where the rules of DW were broken. If its rules were followed, the game would PERFORCE be a story game, it could not be otherwise (Admittedly, the principles exist for a reason, I'm not denigrating them, but their purpose is more to make the game work WELL and break people of their 'Gygaxian' habits vs being what makes the game itself mechanically work).
No, 4e gets it's ability to be run narratively by accidental design. They aimed for one thing, but, if you're experienced enough in narrative play principles, 4e works well with those -- so long as you ignore a few things judiciously.

I find that any perceived direction to be more 'open' narratively is directly countered by the advice on how to pick the relevant skills which requires pre-plotting a path through the skill challenge or anticipating PC actions, both of which run counter to narrative play principles. 4e hews closely to the traditional modes of play, but is designed (again, I argue accidentally) in a way that you can switch to narrative play principles and have good success as well.
I think it is less accidental than you do, much less. We agree, it CAN be read either way. As I said, I think this was kind of necessary, the story game advocates don't seem to have had absolute sway, or probably even the most say in what got included and the exact wording. Pity. Anyway, you can come play HoML sometime and see how you would take those principles and design elements of 4e and go all the way with it ;)
 

I'm happy to bring out quotes if necessary. 4e talks about "player-authored quests" which clearly can feed into skill challenge resolution. The instructions in the DMG on skill challenges emphasise player contribution/driving, and refers to the significance of the fiction. DMG2 reinforces this with further examples and elaboration.

The relationship between skill challenges and other "closed scene" resolution frameworks - eg Maelstrom Storytelling, or HeroWars/Quest extended contests, or a BW Duel of Wits - is pretty clear. As soon as one reads the skill challenge rules it's clear that they are not just a version of "complex skill checks" or whatever those were called in 3E.

This is further driven home by the example in Essentials, where on a failed check a hostile NPC reappears just as might happen on a failed Circles check in Burning Wheel. It's clear that the resolution is not "process-driven" or "simulationist", though the rules don't actually explain this - they leave it as an inference for the reader.

People recognised all this, too, whether or not they liked it - eg the common complaint but why should I (the GM) have to keep the skill challenge going if the players come up with some knock-down solution? shows that skill challenges aren't reconcilable with process-driven or GM-decides resolution. They depend upon fiction first and narrating outcomes by reference to intention, pacing and finality constraints.
There is a reason you teach and write, and I get locked in the back room to architect large software solutions ;) You have said it in a much clearer and more succinct manner.
As a 'Gygaxian' process-focused mechanical system SCs really DON'T WORK. At best they might give you the equivalent of a combat encounter in certain fairly bounded situations (IE a race or contest, etc. Actually the DMG1 examples bear this out pretty well). As soon as you get into any scenario where PCs could change their approach or adapt their goals in any significant way, then the system, as narrowly written, isn't going to cut it. You can certainly 'wing it' but this system really only comes into its own when you are able to write SCs from a meta-game perspective. So, if a check is framed more in terms of how it impacts a PCs interests, vs a mechanical outcome, then it works better. For example: The evil minister attempts to kidnap the Paladin's girlfriend. This invokes a skill check (of some sort) as this narrative unfolds. If the PC succeeds, the plot fails to put plot pressure on the paladin. What the exact fictional position which results is, that entirely depends on narration. The mechanical result is a success, the fictional result is avoiding this obstacle, BUT success might force the paladin to pay a price! Is he willing to abandon his ally to save his girlfriend? This gets even more of a hard choice if there is a failure. He could invoke an advantage (a mechanic of SCs from RC) to erase that failure (IE save the girl) but now he's going to really be giving something up (maybe his ally actually DIES).
Now, you can kind of get this narrative out of the classic way of employing SCs, but only if the GM maps that out ahead of time, and you run the risk of things going 'off the rails', whereas when the terms of the challenge are structured in this more character-oriented process way then you can simply adapt. "Oh the evil minister was poisoned, his son swears he will 'hurt the rogue' and threatens his father instead." (This example maybe isn't the best, as it smacks of "you can't win" but you get the idea).
 

There is similar language in many D&D editions. There's been a long tradition of offering this in D&D while not actually reinforcing it through tech or principles of play. That it's in the 4e DMGs is not indicative of anything more than continuing tradition.

Also, reference to the DMG2 is an interesting thing -- the DMG2 is not the first point of entry into the game, and if such an important way to play is delayed to past the initial entry point, is that terribly indicative of intent of play? Not that the DMG2 didn't provide a bit more top cover for non-trad approaches to play, it does, but that it still isn't explicit at that point and still provides play procedures that contradict narrative play (pre-building skill challenges for specific goals and selecting applicable skills within that challenge) cuts against your point here that it provides such direction.

Yes, as I said above, if you're already familiar with these play principles the skill challenge framework offers quite a lot of opportunity. If you are not, there's nothing in those descriptions that actually points you in the right direction, largely because it's right beside the direction to pre-build skill challenges as part of traditional adventure design. This includes setting the goal/entry/framing of the challenge ahead of play and also selecting the primary skills to be used, which presupposes applicable action declarations. That's right in there as well, and are the parts that I refer to when I say that they must be ignored to achieve a more narrative use of skill challenges.

Your final point is an interesting one, because it cuts against as well as for. If the structure of the skill challenge is used, then a 'knock-down solution' is not an exit to the challenge as the rules present. Both approaches must know when to abandon the challenge framework if the fiction dictates -- it's not just traditional approaches that have this issue. That those familiar with narrative play probably already know this principle doesn't mean that the skill challenge, as presented, doesn't provide this guidance to either side. You're mistaking your experience with other techniques and principles as part of the skill challenge and creating a problem for traditional approaches that you're solving not with the skill challenge framework, but outside awareness and experience. A traditional GM could also learn this lesson in a different way and similarly have no problems with skill challenges, just like an experienced narrative play GM. The actual skill challenge rules, and the guidance for those rules, do not solve this problem for either side -- it's an outside solution for both. If I had picked up on fiction first (which I agree is the best use of the SC structure) from the text without prior experience, then the skill challenge framework would pose a similar problem for me with a 'knock-down solution.' I'd have to realize I need to step out of the process and abandon it to close the scene appropriately.
Not convinced. You can ABANDON an SC within my paradigm, if the PCs give up before mechanically reaching the 'failed' state. This might happen if they aren't willing to pay the cost of success. You won't ever see 'short circuit to success', or simple disengagement. It is really hard for them to go off the rails when the terms of their construction is made 'meta game'. I agree that this was not how it was presented in DMG1, for the most part (there are hints). Unfortunately, what WAS presented, even the details of mechanics aside, wasn't super workable.
I suspect that some of the authors simply envisaged SCs as very limited situation tools where they would only basically be an 'encounter without combat'. The examples bear that out, but real world play showed that A) the mechanics were not good for that, and B) in practice it is hard to 'keep it in the box' to that degree. So, it was a story game mechanic grafted into a process sim sort of context, and that didn't work well. DMG2 provides a bunch of fixes, but it still isn't quite bold enough to do what I'm talking about, which is to ENTIRELY shift the mechanics to being about the meta-game vs being about the details of in game resolution (and here I am using meta-game again, but whatever...).
 

Mistwell

Legend
I was born to that era, and even the UK, if watched enough TV and American movies, you could become of that era, and I am, hopelessly lol.



I'd agree except the new-to-RPGs players I helped with 5E once were also extremely confused by it. I mean, what I'm saying is, I expected that to be the case, but my only point of evidence is to the contrary.

@Umbran Pretty much everything here is non-falsifiable. It's like, my opinion, dude.
I grew up and still live in the San Fernando Valley. We invented Valley Speak, and Dude-speak was extremely common here as well :)
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I think what you call 'meta' is what I call 'process'. I don't draw a distinction between 'game' and 'meta game', that is a very 'Gygaxian' classic early RPG sort of position (though it has certainly hung in there amongst a crowd which includes a lot of people here).
It's not Gygaxian at all -- I don't care about "metagaming" in the context of character/player separation. I'm using meta in the context of the game about the game -- ie, rules not on what you do in the game but instead on how you're supposed to use the rules of the game. It sits above the mechanics. Again, I point to the clearly defined principles of play that PbtA games provide. "Be a fan of the PCs" is not a rule -- there's no application of this rule that can be seen. Instead, it's guidance on how you're supposed to use the rules that are provided, ie I should use rules from a position of wanting to see how the PCs deal with the fiction and rooting for their success. This principle establishes a baseline for a game where the primary job of the GM is to make the PC's lives worse. The GM doesn't really have much to do with a PC success -- that's up to the player. It's only in framing and failure that the GM has work, and that's uniformly to add adversity and consequence. This principle sets the tone -- that while the GM is heaping on adversity, they're supposed to remember that they should be rooting for the PCs to succeed, or to showcase their grit and mettle. This prevents PbtA game from spiraling into GM vs player. As such, it's a meta rule because it's never realized at the table but instead only in how the GM applies the mechanics and the choices the GM makes in doing so.
Thus I don't see the difference as so much one of principles of play and such as it is a straightforward difference in tool sets. DW does not have a combat section in its rules. It doesn't talk about resolving fights and what happens in fights, except incidentally as it may be an example of 'dangerous situations'. It does provide 3 moves, 2 of which are totally combat specific (defend can be applied in a few other situations). So it COVERS combat, given that it is a significant class of activities, but "resolving combat" is not one of the processes of DW. Advancing a narrative, including combat narratives, IS. Note again that there are no distinctions in its rules process for combat/social/exploring, etc. They are all moves. The only difference is which move might be relevant in a given situation. This is entirely different from 5e where there are things "the rules don't cover" or where a distinct 'check' system is used which is different from combat. The 5e combat rules are specifically discussed as providing resolution of what happens when you swing a sword, etc. DW simply says "describe what you do" and then some move or other will be mapped onto that. Nobody in DW would say "I go hack and slash on the orc!" This is not because of 'principles', it is because that isn't the PROCESS OF PLAY! You say "I want to hurt the orc with my sword" and yes, that maps pretty directly onto Hack and Slash, but that is only one case. You could easily decide that retreating from the orc uses Defy Danger, etc. In 5e you would specifically call out rules you are using, "I'm swinging my sword at the orc." or "I disengage from the Orc." These would invoke specific other rules, like maybe OAs, triggering the use of class abilities, etc. Note how this all happens in a turn order, which simulates a strict advancement of time. DW has no concept of time. The fiction advances, maybe a little bit, maybe a lot, it just depends on what moves are made. It may well be that only one PC will even take moves in a combat in DW, and there is no rule about who gets to do what, when. The narrative and logic of DM moves is entirely in charge of that.
The focus on how the rulesets prioritize play details is a red herring. You've tried to use this to say that the difference between DW and 5e is that DW rules advance a narrative while 5e rules... I'm not sure what you mean to contest here but the implication is that 5e rules don't. This is not at all true -- both rulesets advance the narrative. There's a distinct difference in the tech used, and how that tech operates, sure, but just looking at the tech doesn't really make much difference at the end of the day. Yes, if I'm playing 5e I have more detailed rules for resolving a combat than I do in DW, but they also both advance the narrative, so they don't do different things. HOW those rules are used, though, is the important distinction, and this is the meta level of principles I'm talking about.

5e is generally used in a way that isn't conducive to "play to find out" principles. This is because D&D traditionally is based on the principles of the GM scripting at least a story outline and then presenting this in play for the players to explore. This is different from other games, like DW, where there's a minimum of GM prep and the fiction is intended to be discovered through the play. But, the actual mechanics of DW don't really do this -- you can run DW using the D&D style of approach. Like trying to run 5e purely on a narrative approach, the results are not ideal because there's a bit of a mismatch between the tech and the principles. Games like DW have tech that's designed in concert with the principles of play, and made to match, so that when you use the game tech according to the intended principles of play (the meta), the results are bang-on. 5e, on the other hand, and 4e before it, don't provide a clear statement of principles of play and instead let the individual tables come up with how that would work. 5e can be used narratively, but it's not a great fit because the tech is borrowed from D&D tradition and is aimed more at specific task resolution and fortune at the end style play which doesn't well align to narrative goals. Still, the tech can function pretty well in a large number of situations, just not as robustly as a game designed to do so. Which is why I'm arguing about the earlier statement that 5e doesn't have tech to resolve the shed toy example -- it does, if you're using an appropriate principle.

And, fundamentally, a lot of what's confused in this discussions are the principles of play. This is the source of much of the arguments on playing 5e alone, much less in comparison with other games. The fact that 5e doesn't clearly state principles of play and leaves those open to tables means that the traditional principles of D&D play are confused with what 5e presents. You don't have to do a GM lead story in 5e, for example, that's just the traditional way of doing it.
Now, maybe you see some principles being in charge, but I think that example of "playing DW like 5e" is MECHANICALLY FLAWED, and I could point out specific places where the rules of DW were broken. If its rules were followed, the game would PERFORCE be a story game, it could not be otherwise (Admittedly, the principles exist for a reason, I'm not denigrating them, but their purpose is more to make the game work WELL and break people of their 'Gygaxian' habits vs being what makes the game itself mechanically work).
No, I violently disagree that if you just use the rules and not the principles of DW that it would perforce be a story game. Recall that the fundamental principle of DW is 'say yes or roll dice' and that this is what functionally enables the story game, or narrative, play style -- that the GM cannot refuse a valid action declaration based on hidden backstory but must instead either accept it or challenge it with the tech. D&D, on the other hand, uses a clear "the GM decides" principle at the core of play -- ie, the GM can say no because they've determined, for whatever reason, that the given action fails. If you swap the DW principle of "say yes or roll the dice" for "GM decides", then the tech still functions, but the outcome is no longer a storygame. A player can attempt a move, say spew apocrypha, and the GM can just deny an outcome, even with a roll, because that's the principle at play. Here, the GM can run DW or AW or whatever using the GM decides mechanic and have players explore the GM's notes, so to speak, and it will work. Not well, and not at all what an experienced player would necessarily recognize as DW, but it will work and it will not be a storygame. You have to have the principles of play -- those rules not about what happens with dice or moves or whatever, but about how to use those rules -- the rules about the rules. Without these, there's nothing that prevents DW from running like badly organized trad D&D game.
I think it is less accidental than you do, much less. We agree, it CAN be read either way. As I said, I think this was kind of necessary, the story game advocates don't seem to have had absolute sway, or probably even the most say in what got included and the exact wording. Pity.
I don't think there were any storygame advocates on the 4e team, at least in the sense you seem to be taking it. Because that would imply that they had enough pull to add a storygame mechanic but not enough pull to actually explain how it works. If explaining the mechanic would give away the game, so to speak, and be a bad thing, why on earth was it allowed to be added? Because, I think, it's not meant as a storygame mechanic, it's just fluid enough that if you apply storygame principles it functions as that as well. I look at it as an attempt to iterate on complex skill checks from 3.x. The initial presentation, with the flawed math and poor explanation looks exactly like this. I think that it was recognized that it could work as a story game tool by the time Essentials rolled out, so there was some caveating to allow for that approach, but the core of the mechanic is still very close to how it was initially, just with better math and a few additional bells and whistles.
Anyway, you can come play HoML sometime and see how you would take those principles and design elements of 4e and go all the way with it ;)
I have little to no interest in your 4e heartbreaker, but thank you for the offer.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Not convinced. You can ABANDON an SC within my paradigm, if the PCs give up before mechanically reaching the 'failed' state. This might happen if they aren't willing to pay the cost of success. You won't ever see 'short circuit to success', or simple disengagement. It is really hard for them to go off the rails when the terms of their construction is made 'meta game'. I agree that this was not how it was presented in DMG1, for the most part (there are hints). Unfortunately, what WAS presented, even the details of mechanics aside, wasn't super workable.
I'm absolutely certain, and was when I posted, that abandoning SCs was something you'd be just fine with. I'm a bit surprised that you don't have a similar mechanic for an action declaration that cuts through to the quick and can end in an early success, though -- that seems like following the mechanic is more important that following the fiction which surprises me. Still, there's not reason why you cannot prevent exit on the success side early, the fiction is very fluid after all and another complication can be presented.

I suppose, though, that if you have a principle of play that Skill Challenges must be completed according to the mechanics, then, sure, the meta will require this. I don't think that's at all necessary to have functional and effective skill challenges, but that's the fun of principles -- they can differ and you can still have lots of fun. I'm in a phase where I'm strongly in favor of principles being explicit, so they can be examined, improved, and iterated as needed to achieve maximum fun.
I suspect that some of the authors simply envisaged SCs as very limited situation tools where they would only basically be an 'encounter without combat'. The examples bear that out, but real world play showed that A) the mechanics were not good for that, and B) in practice it is hard to 'keep it in the box' to that degree. So, it was a story game mechanic grafted into a process sim sort of context, and that didn't work well. DMG2 provides a bunch of fixes, but it still isn't quite bold enough to do what I'm talking about, which is to ENTIRELY shift the mechanics to being about the meta-game vs being about the details of in game resolution (and here I am using meta-game again, but whatever...).
I really think that they're just an attempt to iterate on complex skill checks. That's what they look like -- instead of just rolling the same check and adding until you get to the DC, you must pass multiple checks of different kinds to get the required number of successes. Seems a direct and natural iteration, with nothing at all to do with enabling story game play. That it does so is the accident.
 

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