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Indie Games Are Not More Focused. They Are Differently Focused.

There is, however, a HUGE problem with large unbounded skill lists. They are just unworkable. I'll use a character sheet from my long ago 80's CoC campaign that I dug out as an example (I will also note, I was wrong, this is CoC 3rd Edition, still really old):

There are 72 skills on the character sheet, and the list is 'open' (there is some space to add more). Weapon skills are not listed either, you have to write those in (presumably there are potentially a vast array of them). The character in question seems to have 10 skills with a rating, so she will be baseline in all the others, meaning she has anywhere from a 0% rating up to 25% depending on the skill. Of the 10 she's got points in, 5 are at or below 30%, and 2 are at or above 60%. She's a 'parapsychologist', which IIRC is a specific occupation or at least a variation of 'academic', yet her psychology skill is only 35%. So, frankly, this character has few really usable skills, library use and read/write (English) are the best.

Now, suppose she has to conceal herself, what skill does she use? Well, there is Camouflage, with 25% (the base level, we are all able to sort of do this), BUT there is also Hide at 10% (again, base level). Which would apply? Some situations might seem to mandate Hide, but MANY could be either one, flip a coin! Why do we need Camouflage? Why are people so much naturally better at it than 'hiding'? There is also 'Sneak' which has a baseline of 10% as well, but if you are sneaky shouldn't hiding and sneaking be pretty much correlated? One is unlikely to achieve great ability in one and not the other for sure...

Likewise we have Debate, Oratory, and Fast Talk. Why do we need all of these? I mean, sure, I can kinda parse some difference between them, but MANY times you will simply want to 'talk' and now you have to pick from several skills, and you may have drastically different ability to employ these often subtle variations. Nor would I limit the world to these 3 realistically, there are certainly many other variations of human communication at that level of granularity! Nor is it clear why you would use these instead of other skills like Law, Psychology, Speak, etc. depending on the situation. Since CoC doesn't clearly distinguish whether intent or action is the relevant factor we can VERY OFTEN have many choices.
The clear distinction is a thing that much postdates RQ3.
The examples make it clear you test on the method, not the goal, (I know RQ3 better than RQ1)

In fact, almost every game pre-1995 (every one I've seen) has only implied outcome by stated method. And, since the method is what is tested, the GM is (in most cases, explicitly) expected to decide the coucome based upon the stated method.
"I waste him with my crossbow!" is, in RQ, pretty damned clear in intent. And explicit in method. Shoot him.
"I shoot him in the Eye" is implied intent and incomplete method - while the games didn't usually ask intent, many GMs would... "Shooting to blind or to kill by hitting the weak braincase behind the eye?" thus allowing the adjudication, and the missing element of the method being which weapon can (and usually was) inferred from what's ready.

As for "Broadly incompetent" - that entirely depends upon the GM and their rules knowledge. Let me rummage for the book. Got it.
Lookign through the skills chapter, the default assumptions include no extra tools other than the absolute minimum to do the job, some time pressure (except boating) Neither perfect nor horrible conditions.
Many GMs didn't read these elements out of the text... likewise, the transport skills are to get it moving; only significant speed, or tricky maneuvers, require a second roll.
Heck, ride is explicit that riding a riding-trained horse at a walk, even for a long distance, is no roll. Your ride check is your chance to do a novel behavior or to stay on when the horse tries to shed you, or is running. (Horse walk speed is about correct for a tolt or canter.
I've worked with horses a small bit. Well trained, cooperative, friendly horses of the Icelandic breed (both registered). I was able to get to a full gallop... but the horse was helping.
Most GMs of RQ3 call for rolls too often, and without modifiers for beneficial circumstances. That percentage is for pressured situations, adjust accordingly.
 

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How don't you have 'general conflict resolution mechanics' in FitD? You have obviously a set of mechanics which model character capabilities. There are some things that need to be established, like the level of control of the situation in effect at the time. FitD/BitD, IMHO, doesn't really require that a 'scene' be a 'heist'. That is how things in BitD are flavored and oriented, but basically any dramatic situation can follow roughly the same model. You establish one or more clocks, the initial situation (is it controlled, desperate, whatever) and present the fictional situation. From there the mechanics are perfectly capable of working. It might be a bit unclear what the impact of some things are in terms of various tallies like relations with other groups or whatever, but if these are important they can be worked out pretty easily.

Likewise with PbtA games. DW for instance, assuming a fantasy milieu appropriate to its character classes, is perfectly fine doing dungeon crawl, wilderness, intrigue, quests, military campaigns, building a holding, etc. I could very easily run a pirates campaign, for example, using DW. I wouldn't need to change a thing. AT MOST one might consider creating a playbook or two as a way to support some genre specific character types. Honestly, I think PbtA generally is EASILY capable of handling about 95% of what is normally done with 5e, including what shows up in other '5e based games'. There is really VERY little structure to PbtA, it is just principles/agenda/techniques/process, and then playbooks and generic moves. The only other parts to it are details of the character sheet for a given PbtA 'flavor' and any associated mechanics. So, for instance, DW has 6 ability scores, hit points, armor, equipment, bonds, alignment, and XP rules. Other PbtA flavors have similar stuff. Chances are you can co-opt a lot of your material from one or more of them, though honestly between DW, AW, and Uncharted Worlds, you have pretty solid systems for your more maintstream RPG genres (High Fantasy, Post-Apocalypse, and Asimovian-style Space Opera). I'm not familiar with others, but I am 100% certain there are various Supers games, several other flavors of Sci-Fi games, etc. They are all extremely similar in overall architecture! Certainly as similar as 5e-based games. I would say that PbtA is to 'indie games' what GURPS, d20, or BRP is to traditional games. And heck, if you don't like that FATE is an equally flexible toolkit (and there are others).

I just don't think the idea that there is some sort of 'mainstream traditional' game architecture that is the 'generalized flexible way' that can do a version of anything, and then some 'other way' that is somehow more limited. That is utterly not supported by what is out there in the market today.
I know there was a bunch of different points you made here and in the other posts quoting me, but I'm getting a little overwhelmed trying to keep up with the volume. I'll summarize a response by saying that I definitely think that the texture of play is important, so even if you could tell the same sort of stories in a broad sense it doesn't mean the system handles the texture as well. Concerning the social situation thing, I don't have any experience of avoiding adjudicating social stuff, and have distinct memories of focusing on it as a good way to play for time when I needed time to prep more of other kinds of content-- I'm not usually inclined to think of myself as some kind of GM wunderkind so you might find that your avoidance of social stuff because there aren't sufficiently strict rules for it to be a very individual concern-- for what its worth that matches up with your earlier discussion of preferring rulesets that give you power over the fiction that can't be mitigated by the GM, you seem to have a marked preference for the 'science' of roleplaying over the 'art' of it.

These things you're discussing as being something that games like 5e don't have (agendas/principles, social resolution, etc) are things that are considered (intentionally!) to be in the GM's purview, when I sit down with Pathfinder 2e, the system doesn't have agendas and principles, the campaign I'm running does-- for instance, that I want a feeling of impartial simulation, or that I want to reward information gathering and preparation.

@kenada alluded to different strains of discourse here about flexibility, and they're totally right, to me the idea that the system itself doesn't carry its own expectations as to what the agenda and principles are (and how that lack of expectations informs the mechanics) are what make it flexible-- and its definitely flexible, that part isn't really up for debate since I have extensive first hand experience with that flexibility.
 

I know there was a bunch of different points you made here and in the other posts quoting me, but I'm getting a little overwhelmed trying to keep up with the volume.
Sure sure, you are expected not to have a life! ;)
I'll summarize a response by saying that I definitely think that the texture of play is important, so even if you could tell the same sort of stories in a broad sense it doesn't mean the system handles the texture as well.
I certainly won't argue with people's taste, but I don't think you can really make this argument, as it amounts to "My taste doesn't comport with how this game works, so the game is bad at doing this thing." which may be fine as "for me" (and I am happy to read it that way). It just doesn't put the problem on the GAME, nor help us with what other people might think.
Concerning the social situation thing, I don't have any experience of avoiding adjudicating social stuff, and have distinct memories of focusing on it as a good way to play for time when I needed time to prep more of other kinds of content-- I'm not usually inclined to think of myself as some kind of GM wunderkind so you might find that your avoidance of social stuff because there aren't sufficiently strict rules for it to be a very individual concern-- for what its worth that matches up with your earlier discussion of preferring rulesets that give you power over the fiction that can't be mitigated by the GM, you seem to have a marked preference for the 'science' of roleplaying over the 'art' of it.
I don't know about 'science vs art', I will leave those sorts of debates to those who like to split hairs with Wittgenstein and such, lol. I'm obviously willing to accept that your thesis is at least logical, lol. OTOH I've found I can do these sorts of social intrigue games pretty handily with various non-traditional process games (I tend to use the label 'Story Game' myself, or 'Narratively Focused Game', but I am not sure those are really standardized terms, or maybe they are used to mean other things in other discussions...).
These things you're discussing as being something that games like 5e don't have (agendas/principles, social resolution, etc) are things that are considered (intentionally!) to be in the GM's purview, when I sit down with Pathfinder 2e, the system doesn't have agendas and principles, the campaign I'm running does-- for instance, that I want a feeling of impartial simulation, or that I want to reward information gathering and preparation.
Well, I think traditional process type systems like 5e or PF(any flavor AFAIK) DO have a process! They have a very succinctly stated process. In most modern versions of these games it is spelled out somewhere fairly explicitly, at least at a principle level (IE 'rule 0', and 5e extends that to 'rulings' as the core process of play). I think their overall principles and agendas may be less transparent, but not always. I was reading Cypher (at least the bits that you can DL free, but that seems to be enough to get the overall outline of play). It seems pretty clear in process. I am not so sure about how transparent it is, as I've only read about 20% of the material, but it seems fairly clear how it is supposed to work.

I think you could assign your noted agenda to campaigns in a lot of the less firmly niche Story Games, like DW for example. It might require bending a few of the agenda/process 'rules', but the actual mechanics will be fine with that, and you can always add or modify moves to work with that agenda.
@kenada alluded to different strains of discourse here about flexibility, and they're totally right, to me the idea that the system itself doesn't carry its own expectations as to what the agenda and principles are (and how that lack of expectations informs the mechanics) are what make it flexible-- and its definitely flexible, that part isn't really up for debate since I have extensive first hand experience with that flexibility.
I just don't believe any system DOES that. They all impose constraints on agenda, process, and thus principles of play to a pretty much equal degree. When it is largely or partly opaque you simply accept it, and you've played traditional style games for so long you don't even see what is being assumed.
 

Campbell

Legend
A big part of what I want to get across in this thread is that can be used to tell the same stories is simply not a good enough threshold when comes to flexibility for my tastes (and those of people like me). There is a strain of discourse in our community that views what the Nordic LARP community calls bleed and a concern over skilled play as illegitimate aims or at least only valid in as far as they do not step on the toes of story telling concerns. A game that does a poor job of supporting bleed and skilled play, but an excellent job at supporting story telling is not especially flexible. It trades flexibility in one area for inflexibility elsewhere as far as I am concerned.

Basically as a GM when I have too much control over the fictional space it makes it more difficult to create fair challenges where players can exercise their skill to overcome challenges. Like when I have so much control over pacing, how things are handled outside of combat, and have so many tools to basically renege how do I create a challenging play environment with meaningful consequences where skill at playing the game has more impact on what happens then my stray decisions?

From the stand point of bleed how do I create situations that put meaningful pressure on characters when there is never real risk to the core of the character? No meaningful expectation that players need to respect that fictional positioning? I have done this sort of play without mechanics (I love Nordic LARP and parlor LARPs), but to do so usually involves some pretty strong social expectations that are odds with the described play processes in most traditional games.
 

pemerton

Legend
A big part of what I want to get across in this thread is that can be used to tell the same stories is simply not a good enough threshold when comes to flexibility for my tastes (and those of people like me).
Though our tastes aren't identical, I fully agree with this.

Basically as a GM when I have too much control over the fictional space it makes it more difficult to create fair challenges where players can exercise their skill to overcome challenges. Like when I have so much control over pacing, how things are handled outside of combat, and have so many tools to basically renege how do I create a challenging play environment with meaningful consequences where skill at playing the game has more impact on what happens then my stray decisions?

From the stand point of bleed how do I create situations that put meaningful pressure on characters when there is never real risk to the core of the character? No meaningful expectation that players need to respect that fictional positioning?
This - especially the first paragraph - is something I'm conscious of GMing Classic Traveller. I look to the encounter rules as a way to try and regulate the pacing. Not exclusively, I'll concede.
 

I wasn't suggesting that you should treat my lack of experiencing it as an argument, it was more an explanation of why your argument didn't land with me personally. Incidentally, I play Story Now games too, chiefly Masks: A New Generation, though BITD is in the process, and I'm looking forward to the upcoming Last Airbender Tabletop as well.

Having experience in both makes it feel a lot like the difference is that traditional games (4e, 5e, Pathfinder 2e, I can't speak to any other traditional RPGs, except COFD I guess if that counts) tend to impose constraints that don't tend to constrain you from the things you want to do with them.

Like ok, one example thats come up on the forums before is one user pointing out that Blades doesn't work for them because it very specifically does not want you to meticulously plan the heist, that is the basis of the flashback system and stress, and the lack of conventional inventory-- your expenditure of stress is how the system emulates planning. So, you have to deal with the consequences to that system (and therefore to the vice stuff) if you handle that differently, and they very much want to plan the heist manually and have preperation be a player skill.

But DND could be used for either the game play of pre planning the heist, or NOT pre planning the heist, nothing breaks in either direction, and some parties play with strict inventories, while others focus more on what it would be reasonable to have-- its design doesn't yeet itself into your way in either direction. The assumptions that it does make are, in my opinion, suited for a wider array of experiences, if I run into things I can't do, its due to not being suited to the milieu of non-contemporary fantasy, rather than the mechanics interfering with my ability to provide a play experience.

That is to say, I can perform preparation heavy, referee impartial 'Right to Dream' simulation, I can perform dark fantasy that pretty much captures horror particularly if I'm willing to throw encounter balance out the window and be clear about the need to retreat, I can do anime style empowered romps, I can do combat-lite intrigue or personal drama games where the mechanics fade into the background until they're needed, I can do heists either fast paced and loose, or meticulous and carefully planned or anywhere in between, I can focus on the joy of deeply tactical combat, or leave that by the way side with undemanding fights, we can explore the druid's relationship with her wizard father, or the rogue and warrior's romance to one another, I can do war stories, and dungeon crawls with oppressive atmosphere, I can do crafting and survival, I can explore social justice themes or philosophy, I can explore either side of a colonial conflict, I can do sailing and pirates, I can do espionage, I can do archaeology, I can do mysteries, and absurdist madness.

I'll be real with you? I've yet to have had a narrative experience that matches our 4e game. The implicit insistence is that the stories produced by traditional games, particularly in @Campbell's recent post, don't support Bleed as well... hasn't been my experience, its actually been pretty hard for me to bleed in these other games, and a big part of why is that the mechanics are so ever present my brain keeps analyzing them instead of slipping into the fiction. If as Edwards once suggested, the mechanics are a 'prosthetic' for our damaged ability to tell stories (which I'm still not crazy about, but its a useful analogy here) its like trying to use the 'prosthetic' on top of a fully functioning limb-- especially since I come from a freeform play by post background, often 'playing to find out what happens' using the mechanics is taking the story in directions that are less interesting to me, the authorship is part of the fun.

Thats why traditional games are a lot more intuitive to me I guess, they compartmentalize mechanics differently.
 

But DND could be used for either the game play of pre planning the heist, or NOT pre planning the heist, nothing breaks in either direction, and some parties play with strict inventories, while others focus more on what it would be reasonable to have-- its design doesn't yeet itself into your way in either direction. The assumptions that it does make are, in my opinion, suited for a wider array of experiences, if I run into things I can't do, its due to not being suited to the milieu of non-contemporary fantasy, rather than the mechanics interfering with my ability to provide a play experience.

That is to say, I can perform preparation heavy, referee impartial 'Right to Dream' simulation, I can perform dark fantasy that pretty much captures horror particularly if I'm willing to throw encounter balance out the window and be clear about the need to retreat, I can do anime style empowered romps, I can do combat-lite intrigue or personal drama games where the mechanics fade into the background until they're needed, I can do heists either fast paced and loose, or meticulous and carefully planned or anywhere in between, I can focus on the joy of deeply tactical combat, or leave that by the way side with undemanding fights, we can explore the druid's relationship with her wizard father, or the rogue and warrior's romance to one another, I can do war stories, and dungeon crawls with oppressive atmosphere, I can do crafting and survival, I can explore social justice themes or philosophy, I can explore either side of a colonial conflict, I can do sailing and pirates, I can do espionage, I can do archaeology, I can do mysteries, and absurdist madness.

I'll be real with you? I've yet to have had a narrative experience that matches our 4e game. The implicit insistence is that the stories produced by traditional games, particularly in @Campbell's recent post, don't support Bleed as well... hasn't been my experience, its actually been pretty hard for me to bleed in these other games, and a big part of why is that the mechanics are so ever present my brain keeps analyzing them instead of slipping into the fiction. If as Edwards once suggested, the mechanics are a 'prosthetic' for our damaged ability to tell stories (which I'm still not crazy about, but its a useful analogy here) its like trying to use the 'prosthetic' on top of a fully functioning limb-- especially since I come from a freeform play by post background, often 'playing to find out what happens' using the mechanics is taking the story in directions that are less interesting to me, the authorship is part of the fun.

Thats why traditional games are a lot more intuitive to me I guess, they compartmentalize mechanics differently.
D&D can do that if you are, as indicated by your own statements, cutting significant parts out.

There are different kinds of flexibility...
There is the form that "nothing core breaks when you add to it." MegaTraveller
There is the form that "It can handle any game world, so long as it's the same tropes as ___" --n pretty low bar. (AD&D 2)
There is the form that "it has a robust core mechanic that can easily be extended to unplanned for circumstances and situations." (eg Mouseguard)
There is "it can be built into a wide variety of genres, but only some playstyles" (Cortex Prime, GURPS, Fate Core, Savage Worlds)

They're not all equal.
 

D&D can do that if you are, as indicated by your own statements, cutting significant parts out.

There are different kinds of flexibility...
There is the form that "nothing core breaks when you add to it." MegaTraveller
There is the form that "It can handle any game world, so long as it's the same tropes as ___" --n pretty low bar. (AD&D 2)
There is the form that "it has a robust core mechanic that can easily be extended to unplanned for circumstances and situations." (eg Mouseguard)
There is "it can be built into a wide variety of genres, but only some playstyles" (Cortex Prime, GURPS, Fate Core, Savage Worlds)

They're not all equal.
Sort of, this might be different from ADND specifically, but the typical 5e game doesn't really care that much about the mundane adventuring gear you carry. Its there but it wouldn't be a significant part, unless the adventures are designed to make it meaningful. I think that between ADND and now 'builds' have supplanted the non-magical inventory in importance.

Whats really happening is that you can lean into or out of different parts of the design of the game depending on rule variants and adventure design-- limiting multiclassing and feats, gritty realism, and the like gets you a gritty feel where mundane adventuring gear is more central to your kit because you need to be clever and survival oriented. Leaving it all in and making items plentiful gives you a pretty flush power level, using or not using exploration stuff changes how much that's a part of the game, obviously.

That is a strength, that I regularly use as a strength, and have experienced wonderfully.
 

pemerton

Legend
I don't think that 4e D&D supports planning very well. Unlike classic D&D, there are no spell load outs. Even at low levels, mundane gear doesn't matter much (eg sunrods are very cheap). Skill challenge resolution depends on a certain degree of abstraction. And much of the action is in real-time decisions about resource expenditure.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Likewise. My last two PCs have been a fanatically devoted knight of a holy military order; and a self-deceived Maeglin-style Dark Elf who is (or at least thinks himself - maybe he's self-deceived!) ready to kill with a long knife.

In real life I'm pretty different from both these characters in how I see the world and my relationships with other people.
Yeah other than like, mental health stuff that I find satisfying to explore, I think only one of the last 10 characters I’ve played have been much like me in personality, and even here they aren’t wildly different, morality, they are still quite different.

I mean, I don’t enjoy punching someone, so my swashbuckler who loves a good fight in the same way that I used to enjoy running from cops or drunk rednecks I’d cheesed off at a bar and not realized they had a whole gaggle of friends is quite different from me, before we even get into important stuff. My Halfling Assassin is brooding, quiet, very dry in humor, and utterly externally passionless when angry. Not to mention capable of sitting still.


It is fun to play a character more like myself, too, though.
 

I don't think that 4e D&D supports planning very well. Unlike classic D&D, there are no spell load outs. Even at low levels, mundane gear doesn't matter much (eg sunrods are very cheap). Skill challenge resolution depends on a certain degree of abstraction. And much of the action is in real-time decisions about resource expenditure.
4e is weird, because it tends to DISCOURAGE you from doing this (and of course you are correct that some arenas of planning like classic D&D spell load outs don't much exist). HOWEVER, gear could be pretty important, and there's a fairly tight encumbrance limit, oddly enough. So, you may well not be able to carry all you would like!
One time a few guys over on the old WotC boards wanted to do an online 4e and I joined them. So, I forget, we played on some VTT or other, but I decided to get a little crazy and I build my character as the ultimate 4e toolkit wizard. I just loaded up on stuff that would expand my options, give me the ability to create 'stuff', etc. So, I had the tome implement mastery, and the expanded spell book, and I bought rituals left and right, and alchemical formula, and picked the Apprentice Wizard theme, which gave me a couple more oddball things, etc. Even at first level, I remember the VERY FIRST THING we did was try to sneak up to some walled in place, and I found some oddball ritual that got us a huge bonus on our Stealth, and there we went, lol. It was like that every adventure. I swear, I'd figure out what the perfect stuff to have would be, plan it all out, and viola I would whip out the right potion, scroll, alchemical item, or ritual to make the whole plan work. It was like I was back in 1e. It drove everyone nuts because it was like LFQW, lol. I mean, most any PC could have done it, though wizards did have a few nicer options. Planning in an old-school sense might not have been EMPHASIZED, but if you paid attention, AV2 particularly was FILLED with some totally ridonculously effective consumables. Some of them are really outrageous.
 

Yeah other than like, mental health stuff that I find satisfying to explore, I think only one of the last 10 characters I’ve played have been much like me in personality, and even here they aren’t wildly different, morality, they are still quite different.

I mean, I don’t enjoy punching someone, so my swashbuckler who loves a good fight in the same way that I used to enjoy running from cops or drunk rednecks I’d cheesed off at a bar and not realized they had a whole gaggle of friends is quite different from me, before we even get into important stuff. My Halfling Assassin is brooding, quiet, very dry in humor, and utterly externally passionless when angry. Not to mention capable of sitting still.


It is fun to play a character more like myself, too, though.
Now, see, for me to play a character, to RP it and inhabit it as a personality which is really different from mine, requires an INTELLECTUAL exercise. I'm sure that is just me, but it is not something where I am wanting lack of restrictions or process in order to do it. The opposite, I want stuff ON MY CHARACTER SHEET and have it bind me to play the Utterly Selfish Egotist, or the Overly Sensitive Intellectual, or whatever whatever whatever. If I don't consciously work out and implement my character's personality, I guarantee you I will start to just get into baseline hardcore gamer PC mode, every time.

D&D's way of relating the participants at the table and to the characters and the story, will INVARIABLY do that. I will be playing 'Questioner of All Things', mastermind, plans and controls everything, has a personality, but definitely always WINS. That character can be any class, whatever, it won't matter.
 


Aldarc

Legend
I'll be real with you? I've yet to have had a narrative experience that matches our 4e game. The implicit insistence is that the stories produced by traditional games, particularly in @Campbell's recent post, don't support Bleed as well... hasn't been my experience, its actually been pretty hard for me to bleed in these other games, and a big part of why is that the mechanics are so ever present my brain keeps analyzing them instead of slipping into the fiction. If as Edwards once suggested, the mechanics are a 'prosthetic' for our damaged ability to tell stories (which I'm still not crazy about, but its a useful analogy here) its like trying to use the 'prosthetic' on top of a fully functioning limb-- especially since I come from a freeform play by post background, often 'playing to find out what happens' using the mechanics is taking the story in directions that are less interesting to me, the authorship is part of the fun.

Thats why traditional games are a lot more intuitive to me I guess, they compartmentalize mechanics differently.
4e is likely a bit of a different fish from the rest of D&D and traditional play. I suspect that it's one reason a lot of the Story Now people on this forum are commonly singing its praises, while a fair number of posters more steeped in traditional play seem to eschew it and also complain about its mechanics in a similar way as you do here. On a recent Twitch stream, Matt Colville basically argued that 4e D&D may have been the only edition of D&D - and I suspect that he was overlooking B/X and procedural dungeon-crawling here - that was intentionally designed to be good at a particular style of play: i.e., high heroic. He also compared it to Exalted, which I found interesting given @Campbell's own experiences with both. So in some regards, D&D 4e does have more in common with "indie games."
 

4e is likely a bit of a different fish from the rest of D&D and traditional play. I suspect that it's one reason a lot of the Story Now people on this forum are commonly singing its praises, while a fair number of posters more steeped in traditional play seem to eschew it and also complain about its mechanics in a similar way as you do here. On a recent Twitch stream, Matt Colville basically argued that 4e D&D may have been the only edition of D&D - and I suspect that he was overlooking B/X and procedural dungeon-crawling here - that was intentionally designed to be good at a particular style of play: i.e., high heroic. He also compared it to Exalted, which I found interesting given @Campbell's own experiences with both. So in some regards, D&D 4e does have more in common with "indie games."
I'd agree, with the caveat that 4e seemed to succeed most for me (as fun as the tactical combat it was designed for was) in having a light touch outside of combat.

We had scenes with a lot of what Campbell discusses as bleed, with only the base conflict resolution mechanic to sort out details. So while it was absolutely designed with a degree of real precision, it was also not in the area where my ecperience really shines.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Now, see, for me to play a character, to RP it and inhabit it as a personality which is really different from mine, requires an INTELLECTUAL exercise. I'm sure that is just me, but it is not something where I am wanting lack of restrictions or process in order to do it. The opposite, I want stuff ON MY CHARACTER SHEET and have it bind me to play the Utterly Selfish Egotist, or the Overly Sensitive Intellectual, or whatever whatever whatever. If I don't consciously work out and implement my character's personality, I guarantee you I will start to just get into baseline hardcore gamer PC mode, every time.

D&D's way of relating the participants at the table and to the characters and the story, will INVARIABLY do that. I will be playing 'Questioner of All Things', mastermind, plans and controls everything, has a personality, but definitely always WINS. That character can be any class, whatever, it won't matter.
Ah, fair enough. For me, the personality traits, and some internal “rules” do the trick, but I can totally see where a lack of spefkcic features rest.
 

Campbell

Legend
It's not about the stories produced. It's about the process of play. What's socially freeing about most Story Now games to me is that they are structured in a way where I just get to play a protagonist. I don't have to worry about some adventure or story to follow. I don't have to worry about stepping on toes, spotlight balance, or character arcs. The game is socially setup in a way where I'm just responsible for advocating for my character.

I'm a former soldier, theater kid, and lifelong athlete so I am naturally biased towards being a team player and collaborator. If there is a social implication that something is important to the group (of players) like overcoming a mission, maintaining cohesion among the PCs, or maintaining their concepts I feel constantly torn about what I'm supposed to be doing and feel like I can never really get into the right headspace to experience bleed in. It's incredibly stressful to me (if I actively try to fight the game).

Some traditional games are better than others here. RuneQuest, Exalted Third Edition, Legend of the Five Rings 5e, Chronicles of Darkness, and to a lesser extent Pathfinder Second Edition / D&D 4e were much better than other traditional games here. Infinity also seems better, but I have not really played it long enough to know. Mostly the more a game is weighted towards playing a person who exists with ties to things outside themselves the better.

As far as mechanics, particularly social mechanics, with teeth I think where they help the most is in providing social permission to act in ways our gamer culture generally considers selfish in the context of traditional play. Stuff like going off on your own, pursuing personal desires over group ones, acting out, having a contentious relationship with other PCs, etc. This is a really big deal for me personally.

The other thing I think they do really well is slowly over time help get players in a mindset of being a curious explorer of the fiction, including their own character. In my personal experience we all have the tendency to hold way to tightly to our conceptions of who these characters are, their personalities, what they want out of life, and what they are willing to do to get it. Social mechanics with teeth help to promote really thinking about these things in more depth and really considering what a character would do instead of getting attached to ideas about how things should play out.
 

@AbdulAlhazred, I'm guessing that in the game you describe those out-of-combat elements (eg sneaking into walled places) wasn't being resolved via skill challenges. Am I right?
Well, I don't recall that the GM in that game was quite where I am now in my thinking where I would not run any conflict outside of an SC in 4e. I mean, this game WAS 9 years ago or so, even I wasn't quite at that stage in my thinking back then.

So, 4e really never tried to build any standardized process for things like "I'm in an SC, I want to cast a ritual that will accomplish the next bit of the fiction." In general, since checks were pretty ubiquitous in most areas of play, you could simply take whatever check was specific to the thing you wanted to do (attack roll, ritual check, etc.) and simply apply it to the SC. The question then was always "why did I burn this ritual instead of someone making some other check?" Obviously the GM could deal with that, but it created a 'hole' into which GM 'rulings' had to apply. Still, if you were following Story Game type principles and paying attention to 4e's statements about process, it would work.

So, my specific answer is 'no' I don't think they were mostly SCs. Certainly with the right GM they COULD be. With a '4e 2.0' cleaned up design, such a thing would be pretty viable IMHO. It certainly worked for me in that game, though we didn't progress beyond heroic play. I'm not sure if all those elements would serve as well in Epic. I'm guessing I could have managed it fairly well.
 

kenada

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As far as mechanics, particularly social mechanics, with teeth I think where they help the most is in providing social permission to act in ways our gamer culture generally considers selfish in the context of traditional play. Stuff like going off on your own, pursuing personal desires over group ones, acting out, having a contentious relationship with other PCs, etc. This is a really big deal for me personally.
This is something I’ve been wanting to say but could not figure out how to put it. I had a reputation in our D&D games for playing “stupid” characters because they would get into trouble and die sometimes. I guess I just didn’t care all that much about winning so much as being entertained (though my monk in 3e was more about being not-incompetent at something for once). Sometimes they would make bad decisions, but those bad decisions would make made sense for the character. I lost a few characters that way, and I’m pretty sure I ruined at least one Mage campaign. While I miss planning out our missions in Scum and Villainy, I love that I can drive a character hard without having to worry that I’m doing something wrong or “stupid” because that’s the point.
 


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