I think there's a huge difference in that 4e was/is VASTLY more transparent about what it is doing. I mean, your average 4e GM doesn't even have to think about it, really, it just happens! They follow the books and other material, so the fiction progresses (you can see this even in the much-maligned HPE module series pretty plainly). As the fiction progresses, the DCs also progress in kind. If you make up your own material, you clearly know what sorts of things are Heroic, Paragon, or Epic kinds of elements, and they appear in your adventures as long as you follow basic encounter building procedure.Nah, at best it's (ie^4.5)%. I mean, if we're to be using imaginary numbers, I find this formulation much more interesting in general.
I don't disagree, though, that there's quite a lot of this going on. The system isn't written that way. I'll be absolutely glad to accept that we should engage with it this way -- according to those that are not attempting to follow the recommendations of the system but playing it according to what they know -- if we do the same thing for 4e. Arguing that 5e needs to be defined by those that aren't following it's guidance while advocating 4e run correctly is bad pool.
Now, I think 5e sort of manages that with combat encounters. Its CR system is MUCH less reliable than 4e's level/XP budget process, but surely GMs mostly grok that goblins are things that challenge low level PCs and big dragons challenge high level PCs. However, outside of that? I don't know anything that really naturally puts you on track. If you read the DMG, more carefully than a lot of GMs apparently do, then you are informed, once or twice in a couple of descriptive non-mechanical paragraphs, that DCs should be set to fit with both the fiction and the level of desired challenge. If you followed that exactly, you'd get 5e's rough equivalent of 4e's 'treadmill', but then nothing, not even the intro adventures, manage to do that.
So, no, I don't think it is dirty pool at all. The natural outcome of 'just doing whatever' in 4e is it works as-designed, and the natural outcome of 'just doing whatever' in 5e is that it doesn't.
Nobody said anything about "doing it wrong", that's not needed. You and I are, I daresay, members of a fairly exclusive club of GMs who practice running games as an art and a science, and take the time to study it as an activity and develop our technique. As @Morrus has pointed, something like <1% of his traffic comes from these boards. Judging anything by you and I anyone else who will ever even realize this thread exists is not even scratching the surface of what actual GMs in the wild do. My speculation on that may be speculation, but I think it is at least informed speculation.Works just fine at my table. I suppose I'm not doing it right? Let's stick with only considering how people not following the system play as definitional of the system.
Sure, so then why build a system which requires you to undermine its core advice to sell modules? I mean, OK, that wasn't an INTENDED result of the design. So it seems like a flaw, to me at least IMHO.The modules have an interesting problem -- they need to present a complete enough adventure with good enough guidance to sell. This is hard to do with the guidance that puts everything in the moment. That said, I do find this frustrating, even if I understand why they have done so -- it's to make money. I can't really argue with that. Purity for system is great, but not if you need food.
'Valence' I have been using as a way to describe the significance or 'weight' of a check result (and thus of the entire ability check process in a given specific fictional context). Maybe that is a bit off from its traditional meaning, but not too far. I'm a chemist by education, where the term relates to the 'power' of an element to form bonds (react, I don't want to get technical). In how I used it I mean its significance to the fiction. So, a check with high valence would have a lot of 'fictional weight', success would clearly contribute heavily to steering things in your favor, failure would clearly contribute heavily to steering things in your disfavor (again, lets not dissect that too much). 5e ability checks lack a set valence because they don't exist within any mechanical framework beyond the GM can call for them, and the GM can decide the DC, and then the GM makes up something that happens next. They are almost advisory, actually. Contrast this with 4e in which a check has a specific 'weight' in the context of an SC (outside SCs free checks are more like 5e checks, which IMHO is an area where 4e falls a bit short, though there are other non-SC subsystems which mitigate this a bit).I have no idea what you mean by valance of a check.
I think I've pretty much addressed all of this above. This is all very much like an 'Any Good Scottsman' sort of argument. One might almost call it an Oberoni on 5e. I grant you, the same issue has affected most 'traditional' RPGs since time immemorial (I can just barely remember it anyway). That doesn't make it any less of an issue!The DC spread, according to guidance, will almost always be 10-20. Going outside of this is like selecting a much higher level monster in 4e, like +8 -- something you do for good reasons. The result is that a player succeeds or fails, with failure having a consequence. Yes, 5e is vague on this, but I take success to mean just that -- not a lamed success or one immediately reversed. It is success. Does 4e have better guidance on this? Yep. Does that mean 5e is non-viable? Goodness, no. If you read it straight and don't try to twist it, it works just fine as presented and does a pretty good job.
I still beg to differ, and I addressed this in another post. The fiction is the fiction. An increasing set of DCs is simply there to provide the average GM with the mechanical 'ramp' to make it all 'just work'. From Day One of D&D the game has been designed to enable and support that fiction. Low level PCs are starting characters who deal with more 'gritty' and less 'fantastical' fictions, or at least fictions that operate on a local scale and involve stakes like "my village needs this medicine" or something. High level PCs are experienced characters who deal with more fantastical and/or issues of greater scope and wider import "I must destroy the Throne of Bone or else the skeleton armies of Bad Guy will overrun the whole world!" Increasing DCs simply implement this progression. In theory you could play without any change in fiction and still have increasing DCs, but that is plainly not intended, so the fiction must be the primary POINT of this, right?Bolded -- they are not. If they are, why is there a chart in the rules giving DC?! DCs are based on the chart. Good practice is to make sure your fiction aligns with those DCs, but the setting of a DC is not based on the fiction, because the DC range is set before your game even starts. Instead, your fiction is set up to give those DCs support in play.
I think I've already adequately stated my arguments for why scaling DCs are a good design.What requires a check is going to be based on the fiction, which is what I think you're going for, here. The goal of a skill challenge, the action that triggers a check, yes, but the DC? You pick it from a chart. This is the same for 5e. The difference is in how DCs are set. And it's really not all that different here -- the GM picks easy, medium, or hard. The 4e GM also select a level, which is necessary because you need to know where you are on the treadmill. The 5e treadmill is broken -- it stays in the same place, so this step isn't necessary.
Well, this is sort of a game design tautology here. There's no need for each GM to craft their own DC progression, that would be rather silly. So, yes, the game provides a chart which gives a set of DCs at various levels, and then it provides (at last count) FIVE entire books full of monsters (and plenty of additional ones elsewhere) which actualize the fiction for each of these levels, as well as many sections of DMGs and other books which describe the kinds of fictional elements which are typically expected to appear in each tier/level range.I don't think it's a terrible misconception at all. It's what the rules suggest -- there's a chart! That you've adopted a good approach that makes sure that you understand the need to up the fiction to match the DC range is cool, but you're still getting the DCs from that range, and have made your choices for the available range prior to crafting the fiction.
I still don't put it that way, or think of it that way. I think of Tartarus as a thematic element related to the Epic Tier, a part of the game's progression in which PCs undertake adventures and face challenges of a HIGHLY fantastical nature. In D&D's (with 4e having its particular spin on this) milieu these are often hostile extra-planar locations, like Tartarus as a fairly stock example. So, the fictional story would progress to that kind of location, and then, yes, naturally it would make sense to portray enormously hazardous (in a fictional sense) elements there which will sufficiently warrant their level-appropriate DCs. Now, the DC progression could have been different, and I agree that the exact numbers stem from a mechanical progression, they aren't inherently significant, except that they insure that the mechanics mirrors the fictional depiction of 'Tartarus' as "a place where ordinary mortals dare not tread." This is the sort of place Epic Adventures are made for!You said so yourself, above, that you need to send the PCs to Tartarus when they're of a level that challenge DC need that fiction. Cool! I agree.