• COMING SOON! -- Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition! Level up your 5E game! The standalone advanced 5E tabletop RPG adds depth and diversity to the game you love!
log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D General In defence of Grognardism

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
When the rules say your character is trash at an activity, players weaseled around the rules to avoid using them. Refer to all those eloquent and brilliant 1st edition characters with bad Int and Cha scores. "Skilled play" at it's finest.
As someone who played 1e in 1981 all the way to 2012 as my preferred edition (and still do occasionally) with hundreds of players, I have not seen this. Can you cite some references to this? IME, if you had a character with a low INT and didn't role-play it that way, it was called out by both DM and players. What is your experience playing 1e in the 70s and 80s?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Nefermandias

Adventurer
I call it pandering to the GM, but that doesnt have the air of superiority. It's certainly part of early play's tendency towards metagaming/ DM manipulation, because actually using the rules for task resolution was frequently sort of a death sentence (10% chance to disarm traps anyone?).

When the rules say your character is trash at an activity, players weaseled around the rules to avoid using them. Refer to all those eloquent and brilliant 1st edition characters with bad Int and Cha scores. "Skilled play" at it's finest.
This post shows a profound lack of understanding on the subject. Carefully considering your surroundings and coming up with clever solutions to any given situation is 100% the way old school D&D was supposed to be played.

Heck, EGG himself has said so in several occasions.

Just keep in mind that Rob Kuntz managed to survive the Tomb of Horrors whilst playing as a Fighter. It's pretty obvious that traps was expected to be engaged by means of skillfully manipulating the fiction, not just rolling a dice and hoping for a 10% success chance.
 

GuyBoy

Adventurer
This is a tricky issue relating abilities such as INT and CHA to “skilled play”, whether in the 70s and 80s or more recently. WIS might have the same problem.
Being “trash at an activity” such as fighting or pick-pocketing is pretty easy for the DM to adjudicate. You have a small chance to succeed and a dice roll determines the outcome. Much the same applies to the physical skills, so “skilled play” can’t really get round this. It doesn’t matter if I’m a big rugby player myself; my 8 strength bard can’t lift the portcullis, so I’d better use “skilled play” to find another way out PDQ.
The non-physical skills are a bit trickier. Let’s take INT. I have played characters with low INT. I try hard to play them with that in mind, but I am a reasonably bright bloke academically, so this can create a roleplaying dichotomy when I can work things out that my low INT character can’t. Is it “skilled play” to potentially die by roleplaying his 7 INT or do I “weasel”?
Similar situations arise with CHA and WIS.

In a slightly different vein, I seem to remember Gygax stressing the need for skilled play in Tomb of Horrors. Seems to me that you had no chance of surviving without skilled play ( and not too great a chance even with it)
 

It's clearly not so easy to understand the intended meaning. Else I wouldn't regularly see these disagreements about how "there are other kinds of skilled play" crop up whenever "skilled play" gets mentioned. You don't see similar objections to "crit" or "fumble", despite these terms being widely understood.

IMO, it's a poorly chosen term. Alas, as I said, that ship has almost certainly sailed.

Personally I see that more as trying to control the language of a play style to win a play style debate
 

ehren37

Adventurer
This post shows a profound lack of understanding on the subject. Carefully considering your surroundings and coming up with clever solutions to any given situation is 100% the way old school D&D was supposed to be played.

Heck, EGG himself has said so in several occasions.

Just keep in mind that Rob Kuntz managed to survive the Tomb of Horrors whilst playing as a Fighter. It's pretty obvious that traps was expected to be engaged by means of skillfully manipulating the fiction, not just rolling a dice and hoping for a 10% success chance.
So grognards are now trying to lay claim on clever tactics too? This gets better and better!

"Skillfully manipulating the fiction" is just another term for metagaming and DM pandering. Which old skool DM's love, because it gives them all the power.
 

The semantic loading of a term exists whether intended or not. And bluntly, I think its optimistic to think some of the people who started using that term didn't intend it just exactly that way; I've been in a few too many discussions where people clearly think of more modern games as easy mode that requires no thought to accept that no one intended "Skilled Play" not to imply that other styles weren't.

Personally I am not worried about how much skill is involved in other styles of play. I don't even worry about how much skill involved in skilled play. To me it is just a useful term that describes the style clearly, and has gained a lot of traction so that when you say it, people know what you mean (even the folks in this thread who are objecting to it, appear to understand what is meant by the term). Honestly I think the hardest style I've ever played was trying to power game during 3E, both because the system and the methods for building a powerful character were pretty intricate and because it required a tremendous amount of system mastery. Skilled play in the old school sense isn't hard as much as it requires focus and attention to detail. The think you are being challenged by is the stuff going on in the game. You aren't contending with the math of the system (which I would say is a harder task). But what I find frustrating in these discussions is there is a term people who come out of the style use, and it is how we communicate what we are talking about. But I find pretty consistently that people who are opposed to said style, have this tendency to go after our vocabulary so that we can't even communicate what we mean by the end of the conversation. It is like having the words taken out of your mouth. And to be clear, I am not a pure "skilled play" GM or player. I play and enjoy lots of styles. This is just one style among many I enjoy and I find this language is important to understanding it.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
So grognards are now trying to lay claim on clever tactics too? This gets better and better!

That's not what was claimed at all. No one is claiming that only grognards do that. Only that it was a key factor of the gameplay style. If being part of my group is that you like chocolate ice cream, that doesn't mean I'm saying no one else can like it.
"Skillfully manipulating the fiction" is just another term for metagaming and DM pandering. Which old skool DM's love, because it gives them all the power.
You keep making a ton of pejorative assumptions about the character of DMs and players who like old school games, both here and in other threads (of which you've had mod warnings about). I don't know why you have so much hostility, and insist on using load terms like "weasel" or "pandering" when describing said players, but I'd wish you'd stop.

I ask again, what is your experience playing 1e in the 70s and 80s to have all this knowledge about how the game was/is played? While yes, there were bad DMs back then, there are bad DMs in every edition, and you seem insistent on trying to paint all old school DMs and players as bad. Despite the repeated responses by actual DMs and players of old school games stating otherwise.
 

transmission89

Adventurer
So grognards are now trying to lay claim on clever tactics too? This gets better and better!

"Skillfully manipulating the fiction" is just another term for metagaming and DM pandering. Which old skool DM's love, because it gives them all the power.
That chip on your shoulder seems to be weighing heavily on you. No one is laying a claim on clever tactics. They are just trying to explain to you that’s what a big part of the game is.

Skilfully manipulating the fiction means just that. As in most games, there is back and forth between GM and players over narrative control, what happens at this point? The GM sets the scene, then the players “manipulate” or interact with it.

The difference tends to be these days that the modern iterations of the game have more of those interactions codified in rules (predominately in skills) so that you are more likely as a player to lean on those. They are there, why not make use of them?
Where the interaction is not so codified in earlier editions (not entirely absent), it was more on the player to come up with a solution, with little guide, to the current fiction. A more plausible solution would have a better chance of success.

There’s also nothing inherently wrong with giving a DM more power within a game’s framework. Indeed, I love older editions because I feel they give me more power and autonomy to master the game. Certainly, newer iterations provide a stronger framework for new DMs so they are less likely to fall into bad, gotcha DM practices, but even the most robust of rules will not save you from a bad DM.

It might not be your cup of tea, that’s fine, but no claim of objective superiority is being made, you enjoy what you want…
 

ehren37

Adventurer
As someone who played 1e in 1981 all the way to 2012 as my preferred edition (and still do occasionally) with hundreds of players, I have not seen this. Can you cite some references to this? IME, if you had a character with a low INT and didn't role-play it that way, it was called out by both DM and players. What is your experience playing 1e in the 70s and 80s?
Hah. Man I played since the 80s, went to cons in the 80's and 90's and it was ALL I saw. A bunch of finger wagging neckbeards all playing the exact same character, over and over: the professional adventure solver. They had a strong tendency to engage with the world in the same boring manner, because they'd been trained through Pavlovian response to poke, prod and pixelbitch (so much for fast play huh?). They were just playing themselves with a thin veneer of spellcasting or items spackled over, regardless of what the mental/social stats on their sheet said. Sometimes the character was Axebeard MacAleHammer and the Scottish dial was cranked up 15%, or they were 10% more haughty as "Elfy le Elfbow", but the goal was always "win the adventure". If the rules were in their favor, they use them. If not, they "get creative" and avoid engaging with the rules of the game. Power Metagaming if you will.

I've never seen a grognard knowingly spring a trap or make the wrong decision because that's what their character would do. They don't play interestingly flawed characters. You know the scene in Pan's Labyrinth where the little girl eats the grape from the monsters table and all hell breaks loose? I've never seen an old skooler who would voluntarily make that choice. For all the pontificating about roleplaying, the characters they choose to portray are from a really narrow spectrum.
 
Last edited:

theCourier

Explorer
I've never seen a grognard knowingly spring a trap or make the wrong decision because that's what their character would do. They don't play interestingly flawed characters. You know the scene in Pan's Labyrinth where the little girl eats the grape from the monsters table and all hell breaks loose? I've never seen an old skooler who would voluntarily make that choice. For all the pontificating about roleplaying, the characters they choose to portray are from a really narrow spectrum.

Could it be they're roleplaying seasoned adventurers and wary tomb robbers instead of naive child characters? Nothing wrong in roleplaying as a dungeoneer that'd rather come out of the dungeon with their life than with gold, as long as it gives them a chance to do it again.
 

Could it be they're roleplaying seasoned adventurers and wary tomb robbers instead of naive child characters? Nothing wrong in roleplaying as a dungeoneer that'd rather come out of the dungeon with their life than with gold, as long as it gives them a chance to do it again.
But really is it logical in any way that the “wary tomb robber” has a wisdom of 8 and an int of 10? Does that person with those stats make sense as a know it all puzzle solving wise man? Does that sound like reasonable role-playing to you? I’m pretty sure that’s what ehren37 is talking about…
 

theCourier

Explorer
But really is it logical in any way that the “wary tomb robber” has a wisdom of 8 and an int of 10? Does that person with those stats make sense as a know it all puzzle solving wise man? Does that sound like reasonable role-playing to you? I’m pretty sure that’s what ehren37 is talking about…
Those stats seem perfectly viable for people looking to make a risky dive for whatever reason into a completely dangerous ruin/cave/castle/etc. 10's average in most systems, with 8 being below average. I like to think a lot of the standard adventuring procedure comes not only from previous experience, but as a precaution from rumors, tales, and the reputation of the place being explored.

But yes, I get your point. I'd definitely roleplay someone with an 8 WIS as being a bit rash and naive in their expectations. 10 Int is pretty average though, they might not be able to make a lot of connections when it comes to subtle puzzles and challenges but with enough time (something that's quite precious in dungeons due to wandering monsters or other complications), I don't see why they couldn't figure it out by poking about the place.
 

But really is it logical in any way that the “wary tomb robber” has a wisdom of 8 and an int of 10? Does that person with those stats make sense as a know it all puzzle solving wise man? Does that sound like reasonable role-playing to you? I’m pretty sure that’s what ehren37 is talking about…

Again though this is just about what you find fun and what the styles favor. There is actually a bit of variation on this one. Some people who engage the style happily play that 8 wisdom. Some take more of a 'you are playing yourself' in terms of your mental stats, and the wisdom thing would only matter when it comes up mechanically. People role-play for different reasons. Some people get really into playing a character they have created, rolled and/or designed. Some people role-play more as themselves and ignore characterization (maybe seeing it more as a gaming conceit that can be ignored). Again I have to emphasize though, I see lots of diversity here in terms of how people approach roleplaying a character in this skilled play style. After all we are playing these games to have fun
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Personally I see that more as trying to control the language of a play style to win a play style debate
So you're telling me that if everyone around here started referring to it as "playing the DM" that you would be fine with that, since it's just a term that reflects a particular view (with a grain of truth) of this playstyle? The OSR can call it "skilled play" and everyone else will refer to it as "playing the DM". Two sides of the coin.

I think that plenty of OSR folks would object to using such a term. In fact, I've seen it plenty of times on ENWorld. "Skilled play" is similarly problematic, for similar reasons. It's likely too entrenched to change now, but for you to cast such aspersions upon anyone objecting to the term suggests a bias.
 

TheSword

Legend
I've never seen a grognard knowingly spring a trap or make the wrong decision because that's what their character would do. They don't play interestingly flawed characters. You know the scene in Pan's Labyrinth where the little girl eats the grape from the monsters table and all hell breaks loose? I've never seen an old skooler who would voluntarily make that choice. For all the pontificating about roleplaying, the characters they choose to portray are from a really narrow spectrum.
@GuyBoy yeah. You would so eat that grape. You’d look Ryan and Pete straight in the eye too as you did it 😂🤣😂
 

So you're telling me that if everyone around here started referring to it as "playing the DM" that you would be fine with that, since it's just a term that reflects a particular view (with a grain of truth) of this playstyle? The OSR can call it "skilled play" and everyone else will refer to it as "playing the DM". Two sides of the coin.

I think that plenty of OSR folks would object to using such a term. In fact, I've seen it plenty of times on ENWorld. "Skilled play" is similarly problematic, for similar reasons. It's likely too entrenched to change now, but for you to cast such aspersions upon anyone objecting to the term suggests a bias.

No, what I am saying is trying to alter an existing term that is used within a style to describe something they do, especially one like this that has gained currency outside the style, is controlling the language in order to win a playstyle debate. I am saying these conversations about a particular style's vocabulary tend to do that. I have no problem with legitimate discussions about the terms we use. But it just seems like every single big term used by the OSR gets run through this process where people want to attack it, change it, co-opt it, or argue that it isn't accurate because it applies to everything under the sun (when again it is just a descriptive term), that it is very frustrating in discussions (because it feels like the words are being taken out of your mouth and the waters of the conversation are being muddied). I am saying having two different terms for the same thing would be confusing and make it harder for people who abide by a skilled play style to communicate that style to gamers from other approaches.
 

Personally I am not worried about how much skill is involved in other styles of play. I don't even worry about how much skill involved in skilled play. To me it is just a useful term that describes the style clearly, and has gained a lot of traction so that when you say it, people know what you mean (even the folks in this thread who are objecting to it, appear to understand what is meant by the term).

That's only because most of us have been around this rodeo before. Use it around people who aren't familiar with the OSR and see how they interpret it sometime. I promise you, its not going to likely be positive.

Honestly I think the hardest style I've ever played was trying to power game during 3E, both because the system and the methods for building a powerful character were pretty intricate and because it required a tremendous amount of system mastery.

Well, the fact 3e was littered with traps and false attractants didn't hurt.

Skilled play in the old school sense isn't hard as much as it requires focus and attention to detail.

I'd also (and if you hear some negativity in my response, you're not wrong) knowing your GM. As I've noted any number of times over the years, the "sensible" response to an action can seem vastly different even among two players, let alone a player and the GM, and until you know your particular GM well, predicting what that will be is not a given.

The think you are being challenged by is the stuff going on in the game. You aren't contending with the math of the system (which I would say is a harder task). But what I find frustrating in these discussions is there is a term people who come out of the style use, and it is how we communicate what we are talking about. But I find pretty consistently that people who are opposed to said style, have this tendency to go after our vocabulary so that we can't even communicate what we mean by the end of the conversation. It is like having the words taken out of your mouth. And to be clear, I am not a pure "skilled play" GM or player. I play and enjoy lots of styles. This is just one style among many I enjoy and I find this language is important to understanding it.

If someone objects to the semantic loading in a term, they're not required to accept it just because its convenient for the people using it.
 

This post shows a profound lack of understanding on the subject. Carefully considering your surroundings and coming up with clever solutions to any given situation is 100% the way old school D&D was supposed to be played.

Heck, EGG himself has said so in several occasions.

Just keep in mind that Rob Kuntz managed to survive the Tomb of Horrors whilst playing as a Fighter. It's pretty obvious that traps was expected to be engaged by means of skillfully manipulating the fiction, not just rolling a dice and hoping for a 10% success chance.

Rob Kuntz knew Gygax well, and could likely predict whether he was going to respond to a particular tactic Kuntz chose in any fashion that Kuntz would expect. So is that playing to the fiction or to the GM?
 

This is a tricky issue relating abilities such as INT and CHA to “skilled play”, whether in the 70s and 80s or more recently. WIS might have the same problem.
Being “trash at an activity” such as fighting or pick-pocketing is pretty easy for the DM to adjudicate. You have a small chance to succeed and a dice roll determines the outcome. Much the same applies to the physical skills, so “skilled play” can’t really get round this. It doesn’t matter if I’m a big rugby player myself; my 8 strength bard can’t lift the portcullis, so I’d better use “skilled play” to find another way out PDQ.

The problem is, the farther back in the evolution of D&D you go, the less mechanics there were for, well, anything outside of combat. As an example, lets say you had an OD&D fighting-man and wanted to leap over a chasm. There was nothing whatsoever to provide guidance to a GM if it was reasonable. Oh, he could look at things like your Strength and encumbrance and the width of the chasm and try to factor it in, but in the end he's pulling the answer out of the air, and anything other than a yes/no answer was going to be a fundamentally arbitrary roll that, barring houserules of one stripe or another, the player had no way to know short of asking him. What's worse, there was no obligation for the GM to actually tell him this in advance, and even if he did he might well do it in "natural language" terms that could mean any number of things in practice.

(This doesn't even get into how GMs read things into the Thief abilities that sometimes colored how much and what they'd let other characters do).
 


Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top