D&D General How much control do DMs need?

soviet

Hero
Fair enough, but in a somewhat technical or analytic discussion like this one it is probably more helpful to say that D&D is widely hacked rather than that D&D is distinctively hackable.

Another factor here is that, once a person becomes familiar with a few non-D&D RPGs, they probably stop hacking D&D and use other ones that work better. Eg I gave up all my efforts trying to make AD&D more "simulationist" (systematised spell lists, a proper skill/proficiency system, etc) once I discovered Rolemaster, which does all that work for me!
This is definitely true. I have a mental golfbag of games at this point, and I choose the game to suit the kind of campaign I want. I have MERP/Rolemaster for when I want to do gritty sim, I have WFRP for when I want to do something also sim but a bit lighter and more comical/tragic, I have Other Worlds (obligatory plug) for when I want to do something on the storygame axis, and I have AD&D 2e or red box basic for when I want to do actual D&D.

And there are many other games on my shelf that I'd like to try one day, not to turn into something else but to experience them for what they already are (this includes my copy of Rifts!).
 

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soviet

Hero
I like this turning of the principle to show its implications.

When I first read the Czege principle it was readily obvious how it applies when I'm playing a character. It's more fun if someone else controls the adversities with which I am faced.

It was less obvious how it applies when I'm controlling the adversities (e.g. GM). It's more fun if someone else controls the resolution of those adversities.

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This is interesting, I hadn't considered that angle to it.

When I GM I try to give players problems that I don't have pre-cooked solutions for. An example was in my epic fantasy Other Worlds campaign where the players were defending a friendly port from a naval attack by the unseelie. I'd set up a whole fleet of bad guys including flamethrower ships and attack craft filled with fomorians who were immune to magic and immune to weapons. The players being players they ended up capturing the flamethrower ships and using them against the fomorian ships - obvious in retrospect, but not something I had anticipated at all so my delight at their solution was 100% spontaneous.
 

soviet

Hero
Regarding your (b)… I think in a game with a more traditional approach to prep like 5e D&D, that can be an issue because everything is prepared for a party. Adventures are typically balanced with the idea of X number of PCs. So when players split the group, that can quickly lead to issues where the sub-groups are no longer capable of facing the challenges they may encounter.

Things can be adjusted on the fly to allow for this, but a lot of DMs don’t want to make such adjustments, and there’s certainly no guidance for it in the 5e material.

Also, should combat break out while the group’s split, then you have to roll initiative and resolve combat without all players, which can potentially take a lot of time.

There are other games that handle these things better than D&D does. Again, this is just because of the way the game functions.
Yeah, this would seem to be a big black mark against the purported flexibility of D&D - if you break out of the 'adventuring party' conceit and start having characters split up (as happens regularly in both real life and fantasy stories), the game can't really handle it.
 

pemerton

Legend
The moment more than one person is able to add major elements to the setting such as entire new nations or cultures or anyhting else big enough that it should have been at least known of right from day 1, contradictions are inevitable.
This claim is false. Do you know how I know? From experience. It's just crass dogmatism to assert things which you have no evidence of from your own experience, and that the actual experience of others contradicts.

@pemerton talked briefly upthread (at least I think it was in this thread - there's so many!) about a game he is/was in, where while his PC holds another PC in contempt in-character, he-as-player is really invested in that other PC. For me, if my character holds that other PC in contempt then I-as-player probably won't think much of it either; completely unrelated to what I-as-me might think of that other character's player.
I don't know what the difference is between you-as-player and you-as-you.

I have no problem being invested in a character who is regarded with contempt by the character I am playing. My character isn't me.

if the GM preps material, or establishes consequences of actions, which pre-empt or run over those player choices about how their PCs are oriented towards, and engaging with, those tropes and themes and so on, that is not really caring about and engaging with those player choices. It's disregarding them.
I like the general thinking here, yet I would clarify the conclusion further. That is, it's not inevitably or negatively disregarding players so long as the prep and consequences don't run over the choices they want to have and the way they want to engage. (Which can be read from what you say although it's not clear if you intend to imply it?)
I don't understand: why would players make choices they don't want to make, or engage with tropes and themes in ways that they don't want to?
 

Edgar Ironpelt

Adventurer
Fair enough, but in a somewhat technical or analytic discussion like this one it is probably more helpful to say that D&D is widely hacked rather than that D&D is distinctively hackable.

Another factor here is that, once a person becomes familiar with a few non-D&D RPGs, they probably stop hacking D&D and use other ones that work better. Eg I gave up all my efforts trying to make AD&D more "simulationist" (systematised spell lists, a proper skill/proficiency system, etc) once I discovered Rolemaster, which does all that work for me!
Yes and no, in my case. Many of those other systems have elements that I absolutely detest, so it can be less work to hack D&D than to hack one of those other systems. (I dislike "critical hit" systems and utterly detest "fumbles," so if I ever ran Rolemaster (after hell froze over, thawed out, and froze over again) I would house-rule delete all the Rolemaster critical hits and fumbles. And once I did that, what would be left of the Rolemaster system?)

I did convert my then-main campaign from AD&D to The Fantasy Trip, way back when the full TFT rules first came out. But I also ended up with so many TFT house rules that I decided to go ahead and rewrite it as a home-brew system based on TFT.

I also happen to like 3.5e, albeit with certain house rules. Most of those house rules consist of "This is not allowed, in this campaign of mine." I take the 3.5e rules, cut away everything that doesn't look like the campaign I want to run, and what is left often requires only minor tweaks to be good to go.

(Minor by my standards, anyway. I have a tendency to overdo house rules that I've learned I need to keep in check.)
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
if the GM preps material, or establishes consequences of actions, which pre-empt or run over those player choices about how their PCs are oriented towards, and engaging with, those tropes and themes and so on, that is not really caring about and engaging with those player choices. It's disregarding them.
I like the general thinking here, yet I would clarify the conclusion further. That is, it's not inevitably or negatively disregarding players so long as the prep and consequences don't run over the choices they want to have and the way they want to engage. (Which can be read from what you say although it's not clear if you intend to imply it?)
I don't understand: why would players make choices they don't want to make, or engage with tropes and themes in ways that they don't want to?
I may have read your comment more strictly than you intended. Suppose those players want their GM to prep material, establish consequences, and pre-empt? Caring about player choices needn't amount to engaging with them, if that's not what players want. As in the case where players want immersive play in an objective-feeling* world.

Objective defined as I offered further above: a created world can feel objective to Zed if Zed did not create that world.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Yeah, this would seem to be a big black mark against the purported flexibility of D&D - if you break out of the 'adventuring party' conceit and start having characters split up (as happens regularly in both real life and fantasy stories), the game can't really handle it.
One facet that I feel makes D&D a suitable tool for some ends, and less suitable for others, is its commitment to pretend violence. Due to its roots in wargaming. If what you want is decent fantasy skirmish-level miniatures combat embedded in your RP, it's significantly better than games like DW. 4e went even further in that direction: it's a step up from 5e... albeit went too far for many.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I guess I look at the bigger picture a bit more, in that (in the games I'm used to playing and running, anyway) the party and-or campaign pretty much always outlast any character*; thus while being invested in a character (of my own or someone else's) certainly happens it's a more or less temporary thing, while being invested in the party or campaign lasts as long as the campaign runs.

Yet you’ve often stated that don’t make decisions on anything other than what your character would do. The common example you offer is that even if that decision means the character removes themselves from play.

So if this is your approach to play… to always view things through you character only (and even your views of other players’ characters seem incapable of escaping this)… then when and how are you considering the “big picture”?

The moment more than one person is able to add major elements to the setting such as entire new nations or cultures or anyhting else big enough that it should have been at least known of right from day 1, contradictions are inevitable.

How do you know this if you’ve never done it?

Many of us have done it and don’t share your concerns. Why should a neutral third party reading this listen to your opinion over those of us who have actual experience with this?

Except we do know about them, at least to the point of knowing of their existence: they're shown on the map.

And if a book doesn’t contain a map at the start are you somehow unprepared when something new is introduced?
IME characters that are interesting enough (which is a direct synonym for entertaining enough - if it's not entertaining, it's not interesting) to hold attention like that often tend to flame out real fast. It's a fine line, making a character be entertaining enough to keep the other players engaged but yet not being too gonzo with it. As for caring about them - again, that's in the eye of my character. As player, I just want to be entertained, and to entertain in return.

I’m guessing that your entertaining and my interesting are more different than you expect. I have no idea why entertaining characters would “flame out” quickly.

Yes, I too prefer if others play entertaining characters, and I do my best to reciprocate in kind.

So then why all the confusion about why this is a preferable thing?

In a certain type of group I can see how this would work. But in the anything-goes sort of game I prefer, there's likely to be a lot more in-character conflict; meaning some of the characters will sometimes be enemies to each other.

That’s a weird assumption to make.

Would you agree that a person likely cares about the actions of his enemy? Or cares about that enemy’s situation? I’d think the answer is obvious.

I've always equated "caring" with positive (or even very positive) feelings.

That’s not exactly how I’m using it here, though that can be one example.
 

Oofta

Legend
In a long campaign such as the one I'm running the character development, goals and background are something I encourage and push for and my players seem to have an interest in pursuing that. Its very important to them and to me. I have even made it a factor for one of the methods in achieving a level.

In short campaigns my games would be exactly like the game @hawkeyefan is currently participating in.
I run long campaigns as well. Some of the PCs have goals, some don't. When I play I try to give the DM some hooks they can use, but sometimes the backstory I generate doesn't really generate one.

For example I had a vengeance paladin that just wants to take out bad guys because his back story is that the ones that killed his family escaped his justice. The bad guys are dead by someone else's hand, but he didn't get to do it. He also feels guilt about not being there to protect his family in a time of trouble. What's his goal? Other than hunt down other bad guys before they can harm innocents? The DM doesn't allow time travel and resurrection is not an option. I think it makes an interesting story and character but there's not really a lot of goals there.

In another case I had a PC concept (one I still hope to run) that the mostly absentee father who my PC idolized was really a very bad guy and now he's in hiding as far away as possible. Or the son of a king that knew he wouldn't be a good ruler and wanted nothing to do with the throne or his inheritance. I guess he had a goal of not inheriting the crown, but his way of doing that was to become an adventurer.

Potentially interesting plot lines, what drives the character, don't necessarily translate into goals. Trying to force players to come up with goals feels artificial and not something I've ever wanted to do.
 

Enrahim2

Adventurer
Yeah, this would seem to be a big black mark against the purported flexibility of D&D - if you break out of the 'adventuring party' conceit and start having characters split up (as happens regularly in both real life and fantasy stories), the game can't really handle it.
I don't get this. Some of my most memorable D&D moments happened with temporarily split groups. I agree that if you are playing 5ed and a portion of the group get themselves into a setpiece battle, you might have stumbled upon something that at first might seem like an achilles heel due to the slow resolution that is not very spectator friendly. But please show me any system that can handle that smoothly out of the box without grabbing to the "players control the monsters" grip that is easily accessible in D&D as well (as rule 0 give the GM full power to delegate their monster control to other players)

Similarly is there any system that handles long term split parties in any way that isn't easily imported into D&D using rule 0?
 

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