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D&D General In defence of Grognardism

Rob, I mean no offense when I say this, but people are really good at seeing what they want to see. I've seen people make exactly the same claims who, when observed from outside, had understanding of elements of reality that were counterfactual. Sometimes they got challenged on this (because they had people in their games that understood the reality of, say, swimming, better than they did) sometimes they didn't. Sometimes they accepted the challenge, sometimes they rejected it.

The fact someone assures me that they're neutral and did their best here does not really tell me a thing about how true that is (and it can absolutely be they believe its so and still have it not be so).
I'd rather not "argue the negative" here, for that is what you are suggesting: Your premise states a bias, in fact, that you cannot trust anyone else except what, for yourself, is the only valid view point. This view, totally unassailable by you as expressed, even though it is statistically impossible to prove let alone then forward as a serious argument, "arguing the negative" to infinity is therefore the only logical summary of what you offer. You offer a non-provable argument; and thus the matter is left to personal experience as the only valid view.
 

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I'd rather not "argue the negative" here, for that is what you are suggesting: Your premise states a bias, in fact, that you cannot trust anyone else except what, for yourself, is the only valid view point.

You're assuming I automatically trust myself here. I don't. As I said, everyone has biases, blindspots and areas that they think they know more than they do; that does not exclude me. People can aspire to neutrality, attempt neutrality, but can they achieve neutrality? I don't have any real evidence of it. The best they can do is a better approximation than some.

This view, totally unassailable by you as expressed, even though it is statistically impossible to prove let alone then forward as a serious argument, "arguing the negative" to infinity is therefore the only logical summary of what you offer. You offer a non-provable argument; and thus the matter is left to personal experience as the only valid view.

You have an argument, but when one hits enough cases where the claim you're making has been proven to be false, I have to stand by the opinion that its a strong claim requiring strong evidence. And over the years I have hit many, many people who both thought they were more neutral than they were and had a better grasp on a wider range of real world phenomena than they did. So yes, I'm afraid the burden of proof is in your court as far as I'm concerned.
 

You're assuming I automatically trust myself here. I don't. As I said, everyone has biases, blindspots and areas that they think they know more than they do; that does not exclude me. People can aspire to neutrality, attempt neutrality, but can they achieve neutrality? I don't have any real evidence of it. The best they can do is a better approximation than some.



You have an argument, but when one hits enough cases where the claim you're making has been proven to be false, I have to stand by the opinion that its a strong claim requiring strong evidence. And over the years I have hit many, many people who both thought they were more neutral than they were and had a better grasp on a wider range of real world phenomena than they did. So yes, I'm afraid the burden of proof is in your court as far as I'm concerned.
You're a rather insincere chap in your closing remark that I argue your negative, that the burden of proof is upon me to disprove your unprovable argument!

Tell you what, when you can prove to me that all teachers, teacher's assistants and program assistants, worldwide and since the establishment of the Playground Movement (roughly early 1900's), and more to the point, that those so listed who were in charge of the directed play of millions of students through primarily verbal instructions and rules, that they were indeed, 100%, biased in their direction of said children, when you can prove that, do return for another round of logical fallacies!
 

You're a rather insincere chap in your closing remark that I argue your negative, that the burden of proof is upon me to disprove your unprovable argument!

I'm not requiring you to prove a negative, but a positive: that people are capable of reliably maintaining neutrality and keeping a good enough grasp on a wide variety real world actions that they can judge them fairly.

Tell you what, when you can prove to me that all teachers, teacher's assistants and program assistants, worldwide and since the establishment of the Playground Movement (roughly early 1900's), and more to the point, that those so listed who were in charge of the directed play of millions of students through primarily verbal instructions and rules, that they were indeed, 100%, biased in their direction of said children, when you can prove that, do return for another round of logical fallacies!

At what point did I say "100% biased"? That'd be the strong claim if I did.

But I didn't. I said everyone contains biases, misunderstandings and other things that prevent them from being a truly neutral and accurate arbiter. You could have argued that isn't strictly necessary (as it isn't in the case you're presenting there), but you didn't; you wanted to argue it wasn't true, because the degree of fairness required when you're both being an arbiter and being the person doing part of the opposition, as a typical RPG GM does, is a considerably higher bar.

The real issues is that there's a fair number of people who think there are benefits to a more ruling-oriented playstyle that gets lost as that gets diminished. They have a right to that view; there are circumstances that can even support it. But they don't get to take it as a given, and trying to claim there's never or rarely any problems that can come up with that only makes no sense, and people don't get to just assume it as a default premise as is often the case with some old-school approaches.

So yeah, be as outraged as you want about this, but I don't think I'm the one making an extreme claim here.
 

I'm not requiring you to prove a negative, but a positive: that people are capable of reliably maintaining neutrality and keeping a good enough grasp on a wide variety real world actions that they can judge them fairly.



At what point did I say "100% biased"? That'd be the strong claim if I did.

But I didn't. I said everyone contains biases, misunderstandings and other things that prevent them from being a truly neutral and accurate arbiter. You could have argued that isn't strictly necessary (as it isn't in the case you're presenting there), but you didn't; you wanted to argue it wasn't true, because the degree of fairness required when you're both being an arbiter and being the person doing part of the opposition, as a typical RPG GM does, is a considerably higher bar.

The real issues is that there's a fair number of people who think there are benefits to a more ruling-oriented playstyle that gets lost as that gets diminished. They have a right to that view; there are circumstances that can even support it. But they don't get to take it as a given, and trying to claim there's never or rarely any problems that can come up with that only makes no sense, and people don't get to just assume it as a default premise as is often the case with some old-school approaches.

So yeah, be as outraged as you want about this, but I don't think I'm the one making an extreme claim here.
Logical fallacy #1: Written rules are superior to verbalization of same.

Chicken or Egg?

Upon the advent of basketball (let us assume) that a single person one day threw a ball through a hanging hoop, intentionally or otherwise. An idea occurred! That's a point! Ball through hoop =1 Point. That is a rule, of course. Now to impress those with his new discovery he immediately moved to the library to get pencil and paper to write than rule down! Actually, no. He instead gathered some of his fellow classmates and friends and informed them of his new discovery and how it worked (the RULE) and they were off and running (literally). Now as the game evolved and more rules were added it became necessary to write these down to memorize and disseminate, as this new fad was strong and in demand and was now becoming a paid endeavor even! But for the most part, people in alleyways and school yards really didn't read a book to play the game, they watched it to learn, and/or were verbally instructed by instructors no less! or by those conversant enough with the rules--who could be biased in your world, for they indeed did not carry let alone produce for such neophytes an "ABC's of Basketball" pamphlet from their person for such instruction. Along the way referees were added for those school and college matches who knew all about the rules (as memorized from books) but that they, too, did not carry upon their persons during play. Such referees bias must remain suspect according to your view, for they too are just humans lacking true balance and moral fortitude and could even be conked on the head during an errant play, thus possibly (and maybe forever!) dislocating those rules that they had so assiduously memorized!

Everyone is imperfect and/or suspect in your world of situational bias. Indeed the burden of proof to that end is upon you, not I or anyone of the millions, past present and future, like me.

I now disembark from this voyage of the absurd. --finito--
 

Logical fallacy #1: Written rules are superior to verbalization of same.

Chicken or Egg?

Not a logical fallacy; a disagreement of opinion.

The fact someone had to come up with the rules in the first place does not mean that there was no point in writing them down, or just why did people? Because consistency is a virtue, and not one people are reliably given to on the fly. Otherwise why would anyone have bothered to write them down at all? After all, if decisions on the fly and keeping things in your head are all that's needed, there'd be no need, right?

who could be biased in your world, for they indeed did not carry let alone produce for such neophytes an "ABC's of Basketball" pamphlet from their person for such instruction.

Of course they're biased and flawed. They're human beings. But as I noted, context matters. And if bias was never an issue, people never challenge the ref, right? And this is in a case where the referee has no real commitment, unlike the case with running an RPG.

Along the way referees were added for those school and college matches who knew all about the rules (as memorized from books) but that they, too, did not carry upon their persons during play. Such referees bias must remain suspect according to your view, for they too are just humans lacking true balance and moral fortitude and could even be conked on the head during an errant play, thus possibly (and maybe forever!) dislocating those rules that they had so assiduously memorized!

Again, so no one ever gets to challenge them and point out an error in a call, right? Oh, yeah, they do; and this is with professionals who do nothing but do this, and are only doing so within the context of the commonly accepted (and, as we noted, written down) rules; they aren't making on the fly decisions outside of the written rules regularly.

Everyone is imperfect and/or suspect in your world of situational bias. Indeed the burden of proof to that end is upon you, not I or anyone of the millions, past present and future, like me.

I now disembark from this voyage of the absurd. --finito--

That's your choice. But as I said, if the idea people are imperfect and has biases is controversial in your world, it must be very different there.
 

There is no such thing as an impartial rules arbiter. Rules arbiters can attempt to be impartial (I do), but I'm not going to pretend that I'm unbiased. I have a particular GMing style that is loaded with expectations and preconceptions that color my implementation of the mechanics.

Hypothetical: the thief says, "I want to steal the orc's coinpurse."

What is the orc doing when the thief says this, and which direction is he facing? How bright is the lighting? Is there anything on the ground that might create noise? Is there anything in the environment that might mask the thief's approach? Is the orc on alert for thieves, or is he blissfully unaware?

How do these affect the difficulty of the roll?

Oh, and does the thief need to roll to get close enough to steal?

Next, what happens on a failed roll? What about a successful roll? Does the thief need to roll the dice to sneak away? How long before the orc notices his coinpurse is missing? What will the orc do when he realizes something's up?
 

Rabulias

Hero
What is the orc doing when the thief says this, and which direction is he facing? How bright is the lighting? Is there anything on the ground that might create noise? Is there anything in the environment that might mask the thief's approach? Is the orc on alert for thieves, or is he blissfully unaware?

How do these affect the difficulty of the roll?

Oh, and does the thief need to roll to get close enough to steal?

Next, what happens on a failed roll? What about a successful roll? Does the thief need to roll the dice to sneak away? How long before the orc notices his coinpurse is missing? What will the orc do when he realizes something's up?
I seem to recall there were tables to answer all of these questions in the AD&D 1st edition DMG... :LOL:
 

While complete neutrality may be an unobtainable goal, I imagine many people would be happy with a good faith effort.

We could add checks/balances/restrictions to reinforce neutrality, but that's its own can of worms...
 

While complete neutrality may be an unobtainable goal, I imagine many people would be happy with a good faith effort.

We could add checks/balances/restrictions to reinforce neutrality, but that's its own can of worms...
Of course. That's why I tend to be very upfront about check difficulties and the like. I don't provide exact DCs, but I say, "You imagine this is pretty easy" (DC 12ish), or "this might challenge you," (DC 17ish), or "this will be really hard" (DC 22ish). Obviously depends on the individual PC and his particular talents. Most of the time I let the players come up with a plan and succeed automatically, the dice roll is just to determine what, if anything, goes wrong.
 

While complete neutrality may be an unobtainable goal, I imagine many people would be happy with a good faith effort.

We could add checks/balances/restrictions to reinforce neutrality, but that's its own can of worms...

We do. They're called "rules". There's just some practical limits as to how much ground you can cover there.
 

A perfect lack of bias is impossible, even in principle, because the DM always has knowledge the players don't. There is never a situation where the players are, on the net, better-informed about the state of play than the DM is; at absolute best, with perfect communication and understanding, there will still be information that wasn't requested or that the DM knowingly keeps hidden for the purpose of suspense. And such perfect communication and understanding is, itself, another impossible goal. Further, things are shaped by the preferences and priorities of the DM. They should be; that's the whole point of having a DM at all. But that very point is what means diamond-absolute lack of bias is unachievable, even undesirable.

Rules, of whatever kind, thus exist to facilitate effective play and consistent results. Humans are notoriously bad at correctly processing probability for example, with slight differences in question presentation easily swaying answers even from well-trained experts in statistics. Yet correct handling of probability is essential for a truly unbiased arbiter in the D&D play space!

Hence, the appropriate function of rules is to help shore up those places where we flawed, imperfect humans are liable to make errors, even when intending to do things right. E.g., if I recall correctly, both 4e and 5e discuss why it's actually very unfair to players to ask them to repeatedly make stealth checks every time they attempt an action--because even though it might seem appropriate, doing that is equivalent to forcing the player to fail eventually. (Even if they only fail 1 time in 10, they have less than a 50% chance to pass 7 checks without any failures.) This is exactly the kind of problem that rules, and especially extensible framework rules (like 4e's Page 42) are ideal for solving, because they provide a consistent, reliable backbone that can eventually be trained until it becomes reflexive, at which point the difference between "Bob says so" and "The rules say so" has vanished, because Bob has made the rules second nature.

And that, unfortunately, is the big problem with most edition changes. Good DMs (and, usually, good players as well) have learned to make the good rules of the old system second nature, and learned to make the bad rules as minimally impactful as possible, or replaced them with house-rules that are not bad. (3e, for example, tended to end up with more of the former than the latter because of how pervasive the system problems are, but it relied heavily on both. 4e tended to rely mostly on the former for the places where it was weak, as outright replacement of the rules was rarely necessary and often done by the designers themselves with errata.)

I'm actually glad of reading and responding to this thread, because teasing this out has finally answered a question I've had for a long time: Why do veteran players of an old system, who can ride roughshod over that system's rules whenever they feel like it, so consistently feel "trapped" or "constrained" or "incapable of X" (whatever X may be) when they play a different system? And, as a corollary, why do systems that go out of their way to be similar to past systems (as with 5e going out of its way to scrub out similarities to 4e even when it uses 4e concepts, while actively playing up similarities to 3e even when the two differ) tend to have less of this kind of response?

It's because a system that feels unfamiliar, no matter how similar it may be in practice, fails to engage that instinct-level incorporation of the rules, and thus the rules feel alien and constraining, even though they don't limit behavior any more than the old rules did (and may even objectively limit it less). Whereas a system that feels familiar, no matter how different it may actually be in practice, preserves that instinct-level rule ingraining, subject to a few tweaks (e.g. 5e doesn't do iterative attacks, you just get more attacks if you have the Extra Attack feature, which feels similar to 3e even though it's arguably more similar to 4e's way of improving Basic Attacks and At-Will powers.)

This is why Mearls (IMO incorrectly, but not without merit) claimed that "mechanics are easy, feel is hard" or something to that effect. Because actually balanced mechanics are MUCH harder than feel-in-the-generic, and that's what I thought he meant (and, frankly, it probably is what he meant). But the actual nugget of truth here is that a mechanic that feels familiar is very hard to make, and that feeling of familiarity is essential to get people on board, even if the feeling is based on nothing particularly mechanical about the rule.

This also goes a long way to explaining why people who did not like 4e often seem deeply confused when 4e fans don't like things in 5e that seem so obviously 4e-like (as I mentioned in a surprisingly popular post in a different thread a few months ago). That is, 4e fans had internalized enough of the rules for, say, Healing Surges that the new 5e rules for Hit Dice do not trigger the feeling of familiarity...but we can actually identify why that feeling isn't present because 4e prioritized transparency in its rules. With systems that do not prioritize it (or, as with 3e and arguably some earlier editions, seemingly try to avoid transparency), all one has is the feeling without a clear origin point unless one is extremely well-versed in both systems' designs, not just instinctually but academically. E.g. the fact that Fighter in 3e felt disappointing was hard to articulate for many, until well-versed players pointed out things like how the magic item loot tables were an anti-transparent Fighter class feature, or how the weight of heavy armor was literally an XP penalty in exchange for a higher survival chance (in systems where GP=XP), and thus Fighters were more able to endure that penalty (and had faster XP tables than Wizards, so a Wizard in heavy armor would be double-extra penalized).
 

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