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

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
It is true that 5e D&D has little or no structure for non-combat resolution. That doesn't make it particularly flexible in my view
Okay. Argument over then. We disagree fundamental on what words even mean. 🤷‍♂️

edit: no really, if you don’t see how presenting an action resolution mechanic, basic descriptions of what your character descriptors mean, and a framework for being better at some tasks than others, and then stepping back and letting the table do whatever they want with that, is flexible…there is just no way we are going to be able to have anything approaching a meaningful discussion.

Our POVs on the basic causality of fundamental game design philosophies (ie, this design element will lead to this outcome) are incompatible.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Furthermore, and as I already posted in this thread, I think this dependence of D&D on this sort of GM decision-making renders it not very suitable for co-/"round robin" GMing where each player plays a character but frames the scenes and adjudicates consequences for another player's character.
It…facilitates…exactly that…okay I should put the forums down for the evening I feel like I’m in the twilight zone talking to people who think the Beatles originated Ziggy Stardust and grass is generally purple.
 

I mean, yes there's no justification for that position, but is this really something you've come up against a lot? I've never seen anybody posit such a position. I'm not saying it hasn't happened in conversations you've been in, but I don't think it's a widespread sentiment.

You get very focused indie games and very flexible indie games. Indie games encompass a massive, wide range of game types. The most flexible tabletop RPGs in the world are usually indie games.

I'm not sure what you're defining as 'mainstream' (D&D?)
Yeah, it comes up a lot. I think @Umbran might have been in a few of those threads of late... I mean, I'm not complaining, nobody is really trying to be narrow-minded, but I think there are different levels of exposure to a wider variety of types of games, and it tends to be a point of view held by some who have stuck to a fairly traditional way of playing mostly D&D. Honestly, I'm sure there are a variety of backgrounds. Still, yes, there is a very strong contingent here and at RPG.net to an extent sometimes, who feel that systems like PbtA or other 'story games' are simply inherently niche games with very limited range. I think the standard argument goes that any whiff of meta-game takes them out of character. I don't want to be on risk of mischaracterizing though, I'm sure people can speak for themselves :)
 

Campbell

Legend
@doctorbadwolf

I said that D&D is not especially flexible, not that it was good at just one thing. That in this regard it is not remarkable or special. Feel free to disagree with me, but please do not twist my words. If you disagree please provide an actual case for why it is uniquely flexible.

I have put substantial man hours into learning how to run Apocalypse World in particular. I have internalized the principles. I can run the game with a great degree of skill. All I'm asking is for a degree of respect for the idea that I'm not doing this for nothing. That there's something there you cannot easily get without developing that skillset.

I have the same degree of respect for a well run D&D game. The specific skills it takes. The deftness at managing encounters. Weaving individual character stories into the adventures at hand.

Honestly this flexibility thing feels pretty damn elitist to me. Like you do not want to give any other game credit for doing something well that D&D does not do well. If that's not what you mean to imply please clarify what you are actually arguing because it feels like you are being pretty damn dismissive of other games to me.
 

But that wouldn’t be an assumption, because the person has said they don’t have much experience. I haven’t done that, and you’ve assumed ignorance because I see various games differently from you.

No, if I've assumed ignorance on your part it is in regard to Blades in the Dark, which I think is a game with which you obviously only have a passing familiarity.

I have no doubt about your familiarity with D&D, though.

We are not talking about the same things. You’re also being fairly pedantic. I’ll try to start from scratch later, I think, and get out of this loop.

I'm not trying to be pedantic. Saying that D&D is not structured because the structure isn't blatantly pointed out isn't me trying to say "gotcha".

It's a very structured game in a variety of ways. I sincerely think you are just not acknowledging the structure that is there.

Do you not have a score, that involves a set order of phases, each with its own rules?

Sure, there are scores. You might consider them adventures. Then you have downtime, in between the adventures, where you rest and recover and pursue other goals.

The adventuring day isn’t a rule. Almost no one I’ve ever seen or listened to or played with uses it, and I’ve seen maybe 6 people ever claim to stick to it online.

And this is what I mean by you not perceiving the structure. I don't care if DMs running D&D refer to the Adventuring Day as if it's a unit of measurement like "Wow that was quite the Adventuring Day wasn't it?"

The fact is that is absolutely how the game is structured. That's what a long rest is.....it divides the adventuring days. Short rests (may) divide the encounters. The classes were designed with this in mind. If you deviate from this structure, you will have to make adjustments in other ways.

🙄 Don’t be ridiculous. Perhaps I should go through every thread in these forums and find every statement you’ve ever made without explicitly saying it’s your opinion?

Okay. Offer something that says that the D&D community is more open to modding/hacking/homebrewing than the indie community beyond the fact that you think it's so. Anything that's specifically D&D or unique to D&D or that supports your thesis beyond "I think it is".

And don't forget, I'm not saying that D&D doesn't have plenty of DIY spirit going for it. I think it does. I've just also seen enough examples of that for plenty of other games that I think of it as a trait of RPGs more than D&D.

Show me where I said any game did, first.
Here:
Likewise, more GMs will mod a game that tells them to do what they want and "follow their bliss", than a game that is clearly built under the design ethos that the GM should follow the rules and trust the process or play something else.

Do you have any examples of RPGs that say they should be played one specific way only or else play something else?

Completely changing how players see their characters, how often they can do things without severe decrease in efficacy, how players view danger, etc aren’t big changes. Lol okay.

I don't think changing the frequency of the rest mechanic does all of that so much as it stretches things out. You can pull off all of that without changing the rest mechanics if you just throw a lot of encounters at the PCs. Since they reset resources on a long rest, the question is really "how many encounters between long rests".

That is not how you came across.
And no, I’m not going to write my entire gaming history for you. I did as much of that sort of thing as I’m ever willing to in the last tread related to this topic.

I'm not asking you to do that. You mentioned how Blades in the Dark players aren't as open to hacking/modding, so I asked you if you were familiar with some places where that happens quite a bit. I'm not asking for a resume, man......I'm pointing you to the resources that you were saying don't exist.

Generate a very lethal broken world by player input/choices/playbook for post apocalyptic archetypes to interact with, usually with no planning (I say usually because IME a lot of folks ignore design intent stuff like that) before the first session. A simplification, but I’m not here to write dissertations.

A simplification is fine for these purposes. Do you think D&D could be similarly simplified? Let's say the bit of text @pemerton quoted from the basic rules (and which is also in the PHB on page 5)...does that accurately summarize D&D?

I'd say it does. But does it encompass all that D&D can do? Of course not.
 

It's still far more broad than, say, Mouse Guard or Grey Ranks. And both of those more broad than Dogs in the Vinyard. Note that I'd not consider Mouse Guard indie, even tho' it's a forge-influenced design. Small corporate, yes. The designer and IP owner are different people, and the publisher a company.owned by neither.

It is easier to write a narrow scope than a broad one; broad ones, however, have a wider audience.
Mouse Guard IS BW. It is simply an application of BW to a specific niche genre. So obviously there are a lot of custom rules with regards to the setting and the PC's place in it, and how their world works, but it seems more like an argument for the FLEXIBILITY of BW than an example of a niche game (though obviously if you take MG as it stands it isn't made to do much else). Even so, I think I'd rather base some hack on MG and assume I could bend it to the task vs relying on trying to make D&D do various arbitrary sorts of game. D&D particularly is a VERY focused game in its classic incarnation! Later WotC D&Ds have at least skill systems and such, but they still fall far short of general applicability (actually they are just quite poor and thus fairly impotent).
 

DrunkonDuty

Adventurer
I don't find DnD (and anything built on the chassis like PF) to be all that flexible. In the olden days I tried using DnD to play different genres. At best it did okay, but never great. There are just things built into the system that don't work well for anything other than a traditional DnD game.

Spell casters become the be all and end of all of much of the game at even mid-level. For example, the spell system rapidly becomes: Spell X trumps situation Y, unless someone trumps spell X with spell Z. This is a poor fit for many (most?) types of stories.

Another area I find DnD poor at is long duration stories. Thanks to the steep power curve of the levelling system stories that go on for a while will either become a rather different story, at least in style*, or be rendered inert by the new powers that are made available. For example, I don't find it easy to run a mystery (say a long term mystery like the X-Files) across a wide range of levels thanks to all the divination spells that become available. Globe trotting adventures in which the journey plays a large part become kinda moot with teleportation.



*I have found Adventure Paths to be guilty of this.
 

pemerton

Legend
if you don’t see how presenting an action resolution mechanic, basic descriptions of what your character descriptors mean, and a framework for being better at some tasks than others, and then stepping back and letting the table do whatever they want with that, is flexible…there is just no way we are going to be able to have anything approaching a meaningful discussion.
What does letting the table do whatever they want with that mean?

I mean, any table of people meeting for a leisure-time activity can always do whatever they want. I can treat a Burning Wheel PC sheet as a set of descriptors if I want, just the same as a table of 5e D&D players might.

But my very strong impression, from reading many posts and correlating them to my own experience of games that take a very similar approach to PC build (ie stats + skills + special abilities whose basic design template is the classic D&D spell), is that what we have is a system where the GM decides, on the basis of more-or-less table conversation and consensus, what happens next.

To me that is not flexible at all. It's a single way of playing a RPG. And at least on this point, I think @Campbell agrees and as I read his posts this is a part of (not all of) what he is saying.

pemerton said:
I think this dependence of D&D on this sort of GM decision-making renders it not very suitable for co-/"round robin" GMing where each player plays a character but frames the scenes and adjudicates consequences for another player's character.
It…facilitates…exactly that…okay I should put the forums down for the evening I feel like I’m in the twilight zone talking to people who think the Beatles originated Ziggy Stardust and grass is generally purple.
Can you point me to actual play accounts of a 5e D&D game involving two players playing two PCs and simultaneously GMing for one another? The only accounts of this I've ever heard, as far as D&D play is concerned, involve random dungeon generation along the lines of Gygax's DMG Appendix A - which doesn't really involve simultaneous GMing so much as outsourcing the content generation to the charts and relying on the resolution processes alone, without GM judgement, to decide what happens next.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I’m bowing out of the thread. It was a mistake to even try to engage.

Im sorry, but I haven’t and won’t read the posts replying to me. If I offended, I apologize.

Good gaming.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Yeah, it comes up a lot. I think @Umbran might have been in a few of those threads of late... I mean, I'm not complaining, nobody is really trying to be narrow-minded, but I think there are different levels of exposure to a wider variety of types of games, and it tends to be a point of view held by some who have stuck to a fairly traditional way of playing mostly D&D. Honestly, I'm sure there are a variety of backgrounds. Still, yes, there is a very strong contingent here and at RPG.net to an extent sometimes, who feel that systems like PbtA or other 'story games' are simply inherently niche games with very limited range. I think the standard argument goes that any whiff of meta-game takes them out of character. I don't want to be on risk of mischaracterizing though, I'm sure people can speak for themselves :)
I have often brought up a lot in various discussions about how exceptionalism rarely holds up to scrutiny, and it's often a red flag of a person's prejudices and biases. It tends to say more about a person's views rather than the subject itself. This comes from my own academic experience, broadly working in ancient West Asian and Mediterranean cultures. When Egyptologists, for example, claim that "only in ancient Egypt do we see X phenomenon..." - often with the implicit judgment of Egyptian cultural superiority or uniqueness - it's not long before someone more familiar with other ancient Near Eatern/Mediterranean cultures (e.g., Hittite, Mycenae, Sumerian, Israelite, etc.) than the Egyptologist pipe in with "Well, actually..." (And a correction of such exceptionalism is sometimes followed-up with a moving of the goalposts.)

But I find it quite applicable to how some people talk about TTRPGs, particularly when it comes to D&D. I think that anyone claiming that D&D is more open to hacking and a DIY attitude than other games displays a certain degree of ignorance and lack of wider TTRPG awareness about other gaming communities and what goes on therein. IME, gigantic chunks of Discord discussions regarding these "niche" games is dedicated to hacking the game and demonstrating a tremendous degree of flexibility along the same veneer as D&D's. There is almost a double-standard that sees people hacking D&D as a sign of its flexibility and a lack of focus, but then regard people hacking non-D&D systems (e.g., Fate, PbtA, Cortex, BRP, Cypher, SW, etc.) as signs that they are more specialized, niche, and focused.

Stonetop, Masks, and Urban Shadows feel like completely different games despite all being PbtA. I think that calling them niche ignores the tremendous degree of flexibility and hackability that PbtA must possess as a system to even be hacked into such different games. That a system could produce such different "niche games" from a common resolution system and set of principles is not an easy feat. But the focus of PbtA is (1) genre emulation and (2) putting characters in situations of snowballing dramatic tension and conflict. I don't that is somehow more focused than D&D being designed for zero to hero fantasy adventure and fighting monsters in a series of tactical skirmish minigame encounters. I think that most (but not all) games of D&D that didn't have semi-common combat encounters would result in a mutiny because that's what the characters are designed for and what players often want to experience!

I can tell you from my own discussions with other people who are not part of the hobby that any game that has cultivated the reptuation of people putting tremendous amount of personal investment into pre-play game prep, dungeon design, and decorating purchased terrain/miniatures is going to look like one helluva specialized, niche game regardless of whether theater-of-the-mind or dungeon crawls are part of the experience or not.

I don't find DnD (and anything built on the chassis like PF) to be all that flexible. In the olden days I tried using DnD to play different genres. At best it did okay, but never great. There are just things built into the system that don't work well for anything other than a traditional DnD game.

Spell casters become the be all and end of all of much of the game at even mid-level. For example, the spell system rapidly becomes: Spell X trumps situation Y, unless someone trumps spell X with spell Z. This is a poor fit for many (most?) types of stories.

Another area I find DnD poor at is long duration stories. Thanks to the steep power curve of the levelling system stories that go on for a while will either become a rather different story, at least in style*, or be rendered inert by the new powers that are made available. For example, I don't find it easy to run a mystery (say a long term mystery like the X-Files) across a wide range of levels thanks to all the divination spells that become available. Globe trotting adventures in which the journey plays a large part become kinda moot with teleportation.



*I have found Adventure Paths to be guilty of this.
I wish more games would be designed with horizontal progression in mind, particularly for spellcasters, such that you are not so much growing in terms of a vertical progression leveling power curve, but, rather, you expand horizontally in your versatility by virtue of having more tools at your disposal.
 


This is a great example of a thing I’ve said many times in the past. A lot of the perceived inflexibility of D&D is actually just relics from the past and people ignoring that they aren’t necessarily a thing anymore.

In 5e, the gods don’t necessarily grant magical abilities. You can play a game with no extra planar beings, much less gods. Clerics and Paladins can be dedicated to ideals, rather than gods. And yet, people act like there is something in the rules that makes it so that gods give power to followers.
Which illustrates 2 things.

1) The suggestions of game authors have the force of canon. OD&D simply purports to be a set of material useful to creating "...Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil..." and "...they are guidelines to follow in designing your own fantastic-medieval campaign." However, clearly Gygax (or perhaps the convention started with Dave Arneson, we don't know) must have suggested, though I am not certain where, that clerical spells were 'miracles from the gods' or something of the sort. Certainly AD&D 1e is explicit about it, but I am pretty sure it was at least tacit in earlier play. This became a canonical, absolute, and sometimes enforced rule (IE you could be stripped of your spell-casting, all Men & Magic says is a phrase indicating that Clerics of level 7 and above must declare an alignment and 'lose those benefits' if it is switched).

2) Statements such as "clerics get their spells from gods" are virtually never reflavored. Instead they take on a sort of mythic status as unbreakable rules. Ironically every process of play suggestion or such are easily trampled, but something like this becomes a virtually ironclad guarantee you cannot violate without being exiled into the land of running, at least, a 'variant sort of campaign' or whatnot.

5e's statements. Heck, even 4e's outright denials, have nothing like the force of this ancient tradition. I think this is especially prevalent in D&D. I'm not sure if it helps cement the social popularity of the game, or is a consequence of it, I leave that as an excersize for others...
 


Anything is possible, sure.

I think a lot of times said variety is often achieved by actively altering the rules, or discarding some or adding in new rules.

At which point, the question becomes: does changing the rules in such a way actually imply flexibility?

Perhaps a system can be designed to be hacked and altered by its users, and so we can attribute some bit of flexibility to the design.

But then that would likely be true of most other games as well. Which means it’s a relatively moot point.
I don't think there is ONE KIND of flexibility. There is 'mechanical flexibility', are the rules tolerant of alteration in a strictly mechanical sense. In that light D&D, as an example, is certainly reasonably flexible. It has fairly high level generalizations like AC, HP, levels, and ability scores. (Speaking only of classic D&D) you can certainly alter these things. There will be many minor impacts in some cases, but each rule pretty much covers one small niche area. It may become largely irrelevant (IE if you have 'D&D In Space' you won't use a dungeon level based wandering monster rule much) or it might be 'broken' (IE if you don't have a STR score then you need a new rule to lift gates) but since each rule is pretty much stand-alone it is just a matter of playing and fixing these things. The GM has absolute sway anyhow, so none of the details are critical. Traveller is a fairly similar design, though a lot more of the rules tend to work together, the core mechanics don't really care.

Still, even in a system like D&D, the rules themselves can become awkward. D&D combat comes across as fairly silly when employed in a game full of firearms as its gamist abstractions rise to the level of plain unreality. Likewise if you played 'D&D with Traveller' your characters cannot advance and melee combat is exceedingly bloody, nobody would ever get far in a 'dungeon crawl' under any reasonable extrapolation of those rules.

There is also 'thematic flexibility', which picks up where the 'awkwardness' above comes in. D&D simply isn't thematically very flexible in that its whole agenda involves advancing your PC in levels of power which are pretty steep. Most genres simply don't come off well with PCs so covered in 'plot armor' that they can leap off buildings and laugh about it at higher levels. If you get rid of leveling, or use an 'E6' sort of hack, the game largely loses its point. You may find a way to squeak by, maybe building up a super heroes milieu where every hero starts out as an almost nothing and becomes an 'Avenger' or 'X-Man' purely by dint of experience and equipment. It would be a particular variation of the genre largely shaped by a need to support a certain game's built-in ideas. Gamma World took a slightly different tack, basically giving you a 'level 10' character equivalent from the start and making advancement about nothing but equipment (Power Armor or Die). GW is a pretty slapstick game overall though (again I'm really talking about the original game, not later ones).

When we thought of using Traveller in other genres and such, we found that you simply had to discard most of the MATERIAL of the game anyway, except maybe basic tech 6- firearms and such. It can form the basis of spy games and such, but there's little impetus, since you pretty much have to start over with nothing but the skill system, ability scores, and a few core rules that are not exceptionally better than many other games mechanically. It does work, but if you want to do James Bond, then Top Secret S.I. works perfectly fine! Nor would a game like Traveller have any use in making a Super Hero genre game, you might as well start from scratch, or play MSHRP.
 

There is almost a double-standard that sees people hacking D&D as a sign of its flexibility and a lack of focus, but then regard people hacking non-D&D systems (e.g., Fate, PbtA, Cortex, BRP, Cypher, SW, etc.) as signs that they are more specialized, niche, and focused.

I think part of the problem is that "D&D" is kind of a nebulous thing, at least in this context. It's a game, not a setting. But it has Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk and Dragonlance and Dark Sun and Ravenloft and Planescape.....and dozens of other settings, either "official" or by third party. Most settings allow for some variation on the general fantasy category that D&D assumes by default. Some may lean a bit more sword and sorcery, while others may lean more high fantasy or heroic fantasy, or gothic horror fantasy, and so on.

I think that lends the impression of flexibility on the part of the system because "hey look, all these games are different, but they're all still D&D".

Yet take a system like Powered by the Apocalypse, and while you have an incredibly flexible core system, when people take that core system and craft another setting for it, very often the result is a PbtA game that we wouldn't label "Apocalypse World". There is a distinction between Apocalypse World and Powered by the Apocalypse that there isn't for D&D and games using the 5E system.

Yet if you look at all the games that are designed for PbtA and then all the games designed for 5E, I think that the variety of PbtA seems to be greater. I don't think we can say for certain, but really, most 5E based games are some variation on fantasy. There are some exceptions for sure, and if we start to pull in things like Stars Without Number or other OSR type games, then that starts to open up more.....but that's not really 5E so much as earlier editions of D&D.

Like, the 5E based games and settings that I can list off the top of my head are primarily fantasy with a specific flavor or theme. Theros is Greek inspired and Primeval Thule is sword and sorcery and Adventures in Middle Earth is....well that one's obvious. There are some examples that are sci-fi or urban fantasy or cosmic horror.....but they're pretty few and far between, and none that I think are as regarded as some of the PbtA games.



Stonetop, Masks, and Urban Shadows feel like completely different games despite all being PbtA.

I think this is where folks leap to the idea that these games are niche. That they have a narrow focus. Because it's one system, and it's taken and tweaked in order to deliver a specific genre or theme. But this overlooks the fact that these games are all built on the same core system precisely because it is so flexible. And when compared to D&D, it seems that the same view that a given game or setting is niche is not applied.

Like, how is Monsterhearts more niche than Ravenloft? They're both games aiming to deliver a genre.
 

I would say that what I responded to does preclude what I'm saying, because "I think a lot of the “variety” that D&D allows is more perceived than actual. Like playing in Ebberon versus Dark Sun. Sure, the settings are different, but the game will largely flow the same way." does actually suggest that those of us who disagree are wrong about our own experiences, only "percieving" dnd to produce varied results. Nope. DnD does produce varied results, and I know that from direct personal experience both with dnd and with a decent number of other games. (I am reluctant to say many, in a world of thousands upon thousands of TTRPGs, ranging from DnD clones to one-page games with basically a dice mechanic and a description of the play loop.)

As Umbran pointed out, I never said you could. I have never made any claim like that. What 5e DnD can do is emulate a wide array of genres and a decently wide array of playstyles, broadening out even more when you are willing to use optional rules and supplementary materials. I have also claimed, elsewhere, that DnD remains DnD even if you put it in a modern urban setting and play supernatural cops, or put it in space and treat light space craft like starfighters/interceptors as big magic flying armor mechanically rather than like vehicles as such, and then use lightly modified ship combat rules for space ships. Very little else needs to change to play a team of explorers, the elite squadron of a defensive force patroling the border world between the free people republic and the evil empire, or something like a mix between Jedi and the Galaxy Rangers.

Some playstyles need more work than others, but generally when I see people talking about wanting something similar to Blades in The Dark, but not focused on criminal Scores, or whatever, people tell them to use Blades as inspiration to make a purpose built game, while with DnD people suggest houserules or 3pp additions (outside of the inevitable "play this game that doesn't do half of what you want because it is built specifically to do the one thing you're trying to add to DnD, because I've entirely missed the point" replies).

Exactly, but I'm used to what I did say being misinterpreted, regadless of how many different ways I try to say it.

DnD isn't especially structured, though. It certainly doesn't have a strongly prescribed mode of play. What it does prescribe is how to resolve things that players try to do, and that's most of it.

Is that a rule? Where? Am I suddenly not playing DnD if my PCs are all disparate individuals from different factions all pulled into a situation, with cross purposes and varying goals and methodologies?

Is there a rule about violence? And most games have an increase in abilities of some kind. I'd hardly call that a significant or strong prescription of play.

It is, though. You can ignore the rules if you want, but see below on that. Those are two branches of the discussions, not one.

1. DnD is particularly flexible because the actual "play loop" is only prescribed in terms of action resolution, not in terms of what kind of scenes follow a given scene, any sort of narrative structure or order, etc. Many indie games do prescribe those elements. The fact you can deviate if you want to doesn't make them not prescribed, just like I wouldn't claim that dnd's action resolution isn't prescribed just because I modify it from the 5e default in my games to better suite my group.

2. DnD is particularly flexible because the community is more accepting of homebrew, houserules, and 3pp supplements, and large swathes of the community consider it outright weird to play RAW.

3. DnD is particularly flexible because it contains rather a lot of optional rules and systems that alter the gameplay in significant ways.

It's an accurate claim, based on both direct experience and observation of discussion in those games' communities and of actual play/exhibitive online content about the games. I rarely see someone suggest hacks for Blades when someone wants something different in genre or gameplay from it. Instead, I see, "check out forged in the dark, and make a new game that does what you want" or "here is a similar game that does what you want", and much less pushback against those suggestions than I see in the dnd community, because more people expect dnd to have houserules and homebrew and 3pp material.

It's very relevant, for all the reasons I've stated.

My experience is that it's much more "alive and kicking" in some games than in others, but also that it is directed differently in indie games, which have more of a "make your own indie game" mentality opposed to dnd's "make DnD into the game you want" mentality. So, perhaps "Indie games" as a sweeping whole are collectively more flexible than dnd (or indeed any single game), but any given indie game? Not IME.

That there is a typo. My bad. I was responding to the accusation of ignorance, not making such an accusation myself.

and in those settings you don't use clerics.

That isn't the game, that's the history of adventure fantasy games giving people expectations. This is like blaming VtM when some groups try to play it like a hack and slash adventure game.

Not the least miniscule but harder, actually. Trivially easy, in fact. I have found, in 5e and 4e before it, that the Cleric is 100% superfulous to the game on every level. The only reason I haven't excised it from my games is that I don't believe that the GM should do things like that just because they don't like a class. I just don't use clerics unless a player decides to play one, which is rare because most of my players share my dislike for the class. Plenty of Paladins, but Clerics just aren't popular in my group at all.

But yeah, the party loses nothing significant when not having a cleric. Bards and Druids heal just as well, and Rangers and Paladins can heal well enough to get by.

It takes no work at all. You just don't interpret any of those things as having to do with gods, but instead with either faith, devotion to your community, or whatever else makes sense for your world and story. I know people who run and play clerics entirely as White Mage characters. Their magic comes from within, and from the world (often in a very final fantasy 7 lifestream kind of way), and from their empathy and desire to help others. Divine Intervention is just a massive swell of power that you cannot easily do again if you manage to do it, and that you can't always successfully manage to do. I wish sorcerers had something like that.
Can't really agree with you. I think you are largely arguing semantics in distinction between Indie games and D&D (as well as there may be an excluded middle here). 'FitD' or 'PbtA' can be thought of as 'toolboxes', yes, but that doesn't mean that 'making a FitD based game' is really any different from hacking D&D heavily! I mean, seriously, you suggest a 'cop game' built from D&D. That is going to be a RADICALLY hacked D&D, or else just basically D&D with uniforms. I mean, the only way it comes out that I can see with rules mostly intact is that the 'cops' are a hierarchy of power where 'captains' can literally eat bullets, laugh it off, and rip civilians apart with their bare hands with ease. That is what D&D's level-based rules and combat abstractions WILL produce! To tell me that eliminating character levels, most rules related to class and race, all magic, creatures, etc. is not equivalent to writing a new game doesn't hold water to me. That is what it would take to turn 5e D&D into 'Adam 12, the Game'.

Meanwhile, I can clearly build a PbtA 'Adam 12'. In fact my path is 100% clear. I need to decide on the basic principles and some play process which will evoke stories typical of that genre. I will need to describe moves and some other things the GM needs to do to make it work. I will need to create some playbooks or something for the PCs to use to describe how they navigate the story and adjudicate how their PCs 'do stuff' and how that relates to the agenda of the game. That will be some fairly 'game designer' kind of tasks, but I have MANY example games covering a wide variety of genre to draw design ideas from. My guess is I can have that game up and working inside of 2 weeks, though a few campaigns of testing and tweaking will certainly solidify it.

So, really, I'm not super convinced that the 'play loop' of D&D being 'loose' is much of an advantage. In fact I'm not sure it IS lose! D&D has an extremely strong tradition of a certain type of narrative construction, and the rules really are built around that, more than you seem to think IMHO. D&D, as written, doesn't seem like a wildly niche game to me, and I've even written a pretty extensive hack of 4e, so I'm not hostile to build off of it, but I don't see it as more flexible than, or even close to, systems like PACE, FATE, BW, PbtA, or FitD in general. Because these systems focus more on DRAMA and CHARACTERIZATION, which are universals in all story telling, they are really strong general platforms for any RPG activity where story matters much at all. I consider that to be MOST of the range of RPGs.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Can't really agree with you. I think you are largely arguing semantics in distinction between Indie games and D&D (as well as there may be an excluded middle here). 'FitD' or 'PbtA' can be thought of as 'toolboxes', yes, but that doesn't mean that 'making a FitD based game' is really any different from hacking D&D heavily! I mean, seriously, you suggest a 'cop game' built from D&D. That is going to be a RADICALLY hacked D&D, or else just basically D&D with uniforms. I mean, the only way it comes out that I can see with rules mostly intact is that the 'cops' are a hierarchy of power where 'captains' can literally eat bullets, laugh it off, and rip civilians apart with their bare hands with ease. That is what D&D's level-based rules and combat abstractions WILL produce! To tell me that eliminating character levels, most rules related to class and race, all magic, creatures, etc. is not equivalent to writing a new game doesn't hold water to me. That is what it would take to turn 5e D&D into 'Adam 12, the Game'.

Meanwhile, I can clearly build a PbtA 'Adam 12'. In fact my path is 100% clear. I need to decide on the basic principles and some play process which will evoke stories typical of that genre. I will need to describe moves and some other things the GM needs to do to make it work. I will need to create some playbooks or something for the PCs to use to describe how they navigate the story and adjudicate how their PCs 'do stuff' and how that relates to the agenda of the game. That will be some fairly 'game designer' kind of tasks, but I have MANY example games covering a wide variety of genre to draw design ideas from. My guess is I can have that game up and working inside of 2 weeks, though a few campaigns of testing and tweaking will certainly solidify it.

So, really, I'm not super convinced that the 'play loop' of D&D being 'loose' is much of an advantage. In fact I'm not sure it IS lose! D&D has an extremely strong tradition of a certain type of narrative construction, and the rules really are built around that, more than you seem to think IMHO. D&D, as written, doesn't seem like a wildly niche game to me, and I've even written a pretty extensive hack of 4e, so I'm not hostile to build off of it, but I don't see it as more flexible than, or even close to, systems like PACE, FATE, BW, PbtA, or FitD in general. Because these systems focus more on DRAMA and CHARACTERIZATION, which are universals in all story telling, they are really strong general platforms for any RPG activity where story matters much at all. I consider that to be MOST of the range of RPGs.
I’ve bowed out of the thread. Please stop replying to every post I’ve made. I’m sure the other people here would love to discuss whatever this is with you.
 

If you play Blades without doing Scores, you’re ignoring the rules of the game. If you play D&D without Delving into dungeons, you aren’t ignoring anything except some people’s expectations.
Why is 'score' any less 'color' than 'got my spells from my god'? I mean, you can go read about @Manbearcat and his FitD-based Fantasy Adventuring hack. I mean, the idea of a 'score', and the other things in BitD are pretty easy to reflavor, not to mention any process tweaks to fit a slightly different genre/agenda. D&D ALWAYS involves 'delving' into SOMETHING. You can call it 'wilderness' or 'dungeon' or 'The Abyss' if you want. I guarantee there will be a laid out set of encounter areas and some sort of plot or physical constraint that will lead from one to the next, with possibly some 'sandboxing' (IE the PCs pick the next thing to engage with or simply explore for it). I don't think this is less of a pattern than BitD and its scores. Certainly BitD, as written, with all its color and whatnot, has a narrower thematic premise than D&D. I don't think that makes it less flexible in terms of adapting that premise or reflavoring its elements.

Again, I go back to that offhand example you gave in another post about 'cops'. How would you make 5e into a cop game? I mean, VERY loosely described you could do that, sure, where the cops are fantasy guys patrolling a typical D&D city! That would be a bit of a variant that wouldn't stretch the rules much (maybe at all). Dungeons would become thief dens or 'trouble spots', etc. The city government would be both patron and potentially a threat, etc. Instead of 'building a castle' or something the PCs would advance ranks to take the top cop positions in the city, or even branch out into other things.

However, if you tried to translate that game to LA in the 1960's (or even today) it would be a preposterous game. D&D Character abilities from class, race, spells, etc. are integral to play. You could eliminate most of them, but then you'd also have to eliminate the whole leveling system and process. Now you would need some other agenda, there's no 'looting stuff and getting XP to level up' agenda anymore. You're at square one, all you got from 5e was some combat rules (which don't even cover guns, certainly not well) 6 ability scores, half of which don't really fit that well, and a skill system you have to rewrite. Now you have a game which is only awkwardly able to handle the more story-focused genre (and how else can it be focused). Again, you can simply create a sort of 'modern fantasy cops' that are just D&D characters, but it will be a weird and mostly ridiculous game IMHO (heck, go for it, maybe the genre will be amazing, I don't know).

I'm not seeing the 'flexibility' here. And again, PbtA or even FitD are likely to produce a much more genre appropriate game. They certainly will need game design type work, but a lot of it will just be developing moves, or in FitD analogies to Blades 'stuff', like 'scores' might become 'busts' or something (BitD already has a Doskvol cops variant).
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Why is 'score' any less 'color' than 'got my spells from my god'? I mean, you can go read about @Manbearcat and his FitD-based Fantasy Adventuring hack. I mean, the idea of a 'score', and the other things in BitD are pretty easy to reflavor, not to mention any process tweaks to fit a slightly different genre/agenda. D&D ALWAYS involves 'delving' into SOMETHING. You can call it 'wilderness' or 'dungeon' or 'The Abyss' if you want. I guarantee there will be a laid out set of encounter areas and some sort of plot or physical constraint that will lead from one to the next, with possibly some 'sandboxing' (IE the PCs pick the next thing to engage with or simply explore for it). I don't think this is less of a pattern than BitD and its scores. Certainly BitD, as written, with all its color and whatnot, has a narrower thematic premise than D&D. I don't think that makes it less flexible in terms of adapting that premise or reflavoring its elements.

Again, I go back to that offhand example you gave in another post about 'cops'. How would you make 5e into a cop game? I mean, VERY loosely described you could do that, sure, where the cops are fantasy guys patrolling a typical D&D city! That would be a bit of a variant that wouldn't stretch the rules much (maybe at all). Dungeons would become thief dens or 'trouble spots', etc. The city government would be both patron and potentially a threat, etc. Instead of 'building a castle' or something the PCs would advance ranks to take the top cop positions in the city, or even branch out into other things.

However, if you tried to translate that game to LA in the 1960's (or even today) it would be a preposterous game. D&D Character abilities from class, race, spells, etc. are integral to play. You could eliminate most of them, but then you'd also have to eliminate the whole leveling system and process. Now you would need some other agenda, there's no 'looting stuff and getting XP to level up' agenda anymore. You're at square one, all you got from 5e was some combat rules (which don't even cover guns, certainly not well) 6 ability scores, half of which don't really fit that well, and a skill system you have to rewrite. Now you have a game which is only awkwardly able to handle the more story-focused genre (and how else can it be focused). Again, you can simply create a sort of 'modern fantasy cops' that are just D&D characters, but it will be a weird and mostly ridiculous game IMHO (heck, go for it, maybe the genre will be amazing, I don't know).

I'm not seeing the 'flexibility' here. And again, PbtA or even FitD are likely to produce a much more genre appropriate game. They certainly will need game design type work, but a lot of it will just be developing moves, or in FitD analogies to Blades 'stuff', like 'scores' might become 'busts' or something (BitD already has a Doskvol cops variant).
Stop. Replying. To. My. Posts.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I think part of the problem is that "D&D" is kind of a nebulous thing, at least in this context. It's a game, not a setting. But it has Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk and Dragonlance and Dark Sun and Ravenloft and Planescape.....and dozens of other settings, either "official" or by third party. Most settings allow for some variation on the general fantasy category that D&D assumes by default. Some may lean a bit more sword and sorcery, while others may lean more high fantasy or heroic fantasy, or gothic horror fantasy, and so on.

I think that lends the impression of flexibility on the part of the system because "hey look, all these games are different, but they're all still D&D".

Yet take a system like Powered by the Apocalypse, and while you have an incredibly flexible core system, when people take that core system and craft another setting for it, very often the result is a PbtA game that we wouldn't label "Apocalypse World". There is a distinction between Apocalypse World and Powered by the Apocalypse that there isn't for D&D and games using the 5E system.

Yet if you look at all the games that are designed for PbtA and then all the games designed for 5E, I think that the variety of PbtA seems to be greater. I don't think we can say for certain, but really, most 5E based games are some variation on fantasy. There are some exceptions for sure, and if we start to pull in things like Stars Without Number or other OSR type games, then that starts to open up more.....but that's not really 5E so much as earlier editions of D&D.

Like, the 5E based games and settings that I can list off the top of my head are primarily fantasy with a specific flavor or theme. Theros is Greek inspired and Primeval Thule is sword and sorcery and Adventures in Middle Earth is....well that one's obvious. There are some examples that are sci-fi or urban fantasy or cosmic horror.....but they're pretty few and far between, and none that I think are as regarded as some of the PbtA games.
It's a brand with a multiverse of in-house settings. Not entirely sure how that's different in concept from Fate Worlds or Cortex Prime Spotlights or Worlds of the Cypher System, etc. which are all meant to show sample settings that attest to the ability of the respective systems to run games in different types of settings. But yeah, D&D's multiverse mostly just showcases 5 shades of fantasy adventure using mostly the same monsters, archetypes, etc.

I think this is where folks leap to the idea that these games are niche. That they have a narrow focus. Because it's one system, and it's taken and tweaked in order to deliver a specific genre or theme. But this overlooks the fact that these games are all built on the same core system precisely because it is so flexible. And when compared to D&D, it seems that the same view that a given game or setting is niche is not applied.
We could even look at hacking and flexibility within a game subset. For example, if we were to look at Dungeon World, we could find a tremendous amount of homebrew classes/playbooks that have been hacked for the game. There are also customized versions of pre-existing playbooks. We could also point to hacks of Dungeon World: e.g., Freebooters on the Frontier, World of Dungeons, Urban Modern Fantasy (Dungeon World's Urban Arcana), Homebrew World (a one-shot version of DW), and Stonetop.

Like, how is Monsterhearts more niche than Ravenloft? They're both games aiming to deliver a genre.
Mostly a privileging of "medieval" adventure fantasy over modern teen drama fantasy.

But if I wanted to run something like Castlevania though, I would possibly look at Worlds of Legacy - Rhapsody of Blood, which is a gothic action RPG that focuses on more Belmont style families over successive generations dealing with BBEG of the castle.
 

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