D&D 5E Is D&D 90% Combat?

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In response to Cubicle 7’s announcement that their next Doctor Who role playing game would be powered by D&D 5E, there was a vehement (and in some places toxic) backlash on social media. While that backlash has several dimensions, one element of it is a claim that D&D is mainly about combat.

Head of D&D Ray Winninger disagreed (with snark!), tweeting "Woke up this morning to Twitter assuring me that [D&D] is "ninety percent combat." I must be playing (and designing) it wrong." WotC's Dan Dillon also said "So guess we're gonna recall all those Wild Beyond the Witchlight books and rework them into combat slogs, yeah? Since we did it wrong."

So, is D&D 90% combat?



And in other news, attacking C7 designers for making games is not OK.

 

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Thomas Shey

Legend
Oh yes. I buy the PDFs of DM's screens sometimes and print the backsides of them and put them in a plastic slip so that they're sitting in front of me. I just can't stand the actual screens.

Since I run digitally, I tend to use them as quick references; its often very useful to have things like tables or lists of modifiers and the like all in one place. But I can't say I ever used a screen as, well, a screen.

(This doesn't mean I absolutely never do a secret roll, but most of the time when that's the case its because even knowing a PC-facing roll is occurring conveys information (passive perception rolls in games that do that for example)).
 

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Oofta

Legend
I was replying to this from you:
If, by "every other version", you means something other than every other version, fair enough. The only versions in the past 13 years are 5e and 4e, and I've already posted that 4e is different from what you have described.

I don't have enough knowledge of 3E to have a confident opinion of how much it may have fitted your description.

What I'm trying to get at is that your description of the "default" for D&D may be true as a statistical matter - ie what does the typical game look like - but is not true as a normative matter, in terms of what the rules of the game say, once we look at some non-5e versions of D&D.

I don't know if you care about that. I care, because I get frustrated by descriptions of "default" D&D that paint 4e D&D or classic D&D as deviant.

In practice in all of our 4E games the DM still made the final call. There were still things not covered directly by the rules that the DM just had to adjudicate. There were times when the text was not clear and the DM would make a final ruling.

I meant no offense, not sure why this is a sensitive topic.
 

HammerMan

Legend
Excellent. So having no rules and allowing what the players to do is good for your game. It harms my game and the games of a great many, probably the vast majority of us who play. Games without rules are few and far between.
sigh... again with "I am in the right, more people agree...I know even though there is no way to know"
also totally misframing what I said about not careing if someone cheats, to 'no rules ever'
Correct. The DM can alter them as he sees fit. It's cheating for the players to do so and the players are by default beholden to them.
I disagree
It's no more illusion than Monopoly is. Yes it's a game of the imagination, but it has structure and rules, cheating is by default forbidden, and as a game it is not an illusion at all.
OMG...please tell me you don't think this is in anyway real or realish or real from a point of view, please tell me you know we play make believe.
I get that you don't get it, but can you at least accept that for huge numbers of us someone cheating robs us of enjoyment?
some... I can understand that some, but no not a huge number. And neither of us can PROVE a number. I also don't understand HOW it robs you of your enjoyment... maybe if you showed the harm.
The cheaters are saying to us, "Screw you. I don't care about your fun and I don't care about the time and effort the DM put into the game. I just care about my own fun."
no... you are putting words in there mouths. I have NEVER seen ANYONE say something like that.

actually wait... thats not true I did know a guy in2e that said something like that, he was no in any group though and never stayed friends with us.
Integrity. Both my integrity and the game's integrity. Allowing to happen sacrifices both.
your integrity? if you aren't the one doing it, and no one is forceing you too how does it effect YOUR integrity?

here is a simple test. If a player rolls a 4 tells you they hit a 17, and roll damage, BUT you don't know what there bonus to hit is, compared to the player rolls a die you can't see it (in my case I am too old I have to pick up my own sometimes) says he hits a 17, compared to You KNOW he has a +7 to hit, rolled a 4 and really hit 11 (aka miss) but calls a 17. In all 3 he is 'cheating' but you only know it is the 3rd. How does it effect your game at all in any of the 3 or does knowing it and catching it matter?
I don't know how it is in your game, but my players want death to be on the table. Death off the table for us = no point in even playing the game.
I have played both with and without it on the table (like we literally played a game as immortals once) but in general death IS a possibility... the fact that sometimes people fudge one way or another (or make honest mistakes especially math ones) doesn't bother us at all
I reject your False Dichotomy. I already showed you how I would do it differently.
no you called them on it in a friendly way, but you called them on it (weather that be call them on the mistake or call them on cheating doesn't matter)
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
Presumably most people play RPGs to have fun, but identifying that goal doesn't take us very far in identifying what the various participants ought to be doing to try and ensure that the experience is fun. The particular game being played, its systems, the "ethos" it brings with it, etc, are all considerations. Eg D&D benefits from maps in a way that is largely irrelevant to Prince Valiant. D&D as typically approached benefits from - even, arguably, depends upon - cooperative party play in a way that Burning Wheel doesn't have to and even Classic Traveller can depart from. If I wanted to play a game of intense emotional and tactical rivalry between protagonists - if that was the sort of fun I was looking for - I wouldn't choose D&D. It's lack of social conflict resolution mechanics would be just one of the reasons for that; the fact that it is designed around a sort-of "combined arms" paradigm of problem-solving is another. Whereas Burning Wheel or (I would think) Apocalypse World would handle the game of intense emotional and tactical rivalry pretty handily.

And of course even within the context of how a given system rolls, there can be vastly different things people get fun out of (this tends to be really pronounced in wide-net systems rather than more tightly focused ones). I don't tend to find investigation and clue-seeking particularly interesting, so I'd avoid getting in a game heavily focused on it, but it can come up in all kinds of games that I otherwise like, so I just have to accept that I'm going to have to bide my time during those parts of a session--they aren't fun for me, but they are for other people, so they're just part of the price tag of participating.
 

HammerMan

Legend
A long time ago a man named Wittgenstein tried to explain to the world that rules for languages and rules for games are never exact and only seem so insofar as we decline to examine their details. Suppose a friend and I play a game of chess. Suppose my friend is much better at it than I, so she spots me a rook; is that still chess? Suppose on top of spotting me a rook, she also lets me take back foolish moves when I make them even though she herself does not; is that still chess? Wittgenstein's whole point here was that if you think there is an actual fact of the matter with which to answer these questions, you don't understand what games (or languages) are yet.

Suppose HammerMan and his players decide to allow something like "mulligans" in the game and everyone at the table endorses this principle. Is that still D&D? What makes anyone suppose there even is a definite answer to be found for that question??
yup... that sounds like a much smarter way of saying what I am saying (glad we have people who can quote smart people)

heck I have seen tables that literally wont let you undo an action you declaired even if it was dumb, missaid or a misunderstanding.
 

G

Guest 7034872

Guest
yup... that sounds like a much smarter way of saying what I am saying (glad we have people who can quote smart people)

heck I have seen tables that literally wont let you undo an action you declaired even if it was dumb, missaid or a misunderstanding.
I once sat at such a table.


Once.
 

Oofta

Legend
DitV doesn't operate in the same fashion as D&D. There are no secret numbers.

Marvel Heroic RP doesn't operate in the same fashion as D&D. There are no secret numbers, and all checks are opposed (either by an antagonist, or by the Doom Pool which is a fluctuating dice pool managed by the GM that represents opposition from "the world" or "the scene" or "the crisis" that is independent of any particular antagonist).

Speaking in more general terms:

There are several features of 5e D&D that permit GM manipulation or "subversion" (your word, that you used upthread). The three that I think are most obvious are (i) that the GM often rolls and some of those rolls are secret, or are modified by secret modifiers, (ii) that the GM often sets target numbers, some of which are kept secret, and some of which - even if revealed - are extrapolated from secret information not available to the players, and (iii) that the GM generally decides what the consequence of success on a check is, and that that decision may be informed by extrapolation from secret information not available to the players.

Burning Wheel doesn't have full-fledged (i), doesn't have full-fledged (ii), and doesn't have (iii).

Apocalypse World doesn't have (i), doesn't have (ii), and doesn't have full-fledged (iii).

MHRP/Cortex+ Heroic doesn't have full-fledged (i), doesn't have (ii) and doesn't have (iii).

Classic Traveller doesn't have full-fledged (ii) and doesn't have full-fledged (iii).

4e D&D doesn't have full-fledged (ii) and doesn't have (iii).

Dogs in the Vineyard doesn't have full-fledged (i), doesn't have (ii), and doesn't have (iii).

These various departures from 5e D&D's (i), (ii) and (iii) aren't magical. They're pretty straightforward aspects of RPG design, that have fairly obvious and predictable consequences for the degree and manner of GM influence over what happens next.

So taking DiTV as an example. Based on a quick google search, if you enter into a conflict you and your opponent have a pool of dice. This pool of dice is determined somehow (I don't care enough to buy the game) but it is made clear to both sides how many dice are in the pool, correct? From that point on it's a question of how many dice you want to spend escalating and possible fallout. But from the very beginning of the conflict things are transparent. You know exactly what you're facing, unlike D&D where you may or may not know

But this is a pointless argument. I can't disprove anything you say about a system I don't use. I disagree on 4E. The DCs are set by the DM, monster's statistics and modifiers are hidden from the players.
 

Oofta

Legend
In 4e, on (ii) for skill checks, doesn't the DM set the level (which determines the DC) and the complexity (number of successes needed) and have the power to reward clever ideas? The DM doesn't have to reveal all of the relevant skills (or difficulties?) do they?

In 4e, on (iii) for skill checks, doesn't it still depend a great deal on the DM and what they know. In the negotiation example in the PHB, the DM still determines the "reasonable assistance" and the "more trouble" outcomes in the case of a failure. In the dead witness, the DM decides what the corpse knows and how much ill will subsequent undead encounters will have if there is a failure.. In the chase example the DM determines if there is a monetary reward or a combat encounter, or where they take refuge if there is a failure. In the interrogation the DM determines what the valuable information and any other benefit, or what how bad the bad information is on a failure. etc...

So... I feel like I must be missing the point you're trying to make here.

I will say that 4E tried to systemize a lot of things and reduce the leeway the DM had. But in many ways it was similar to the climbing DCs from 3.5 that gave you a different DC based on the type of wall. It gave it the semblance of standardization, but it really just pushed it down the road a bit because the DM decided what category the wall fell into. Obviously 5E is more rulings over rules than 4E was.

In any case, in every edition of D&D most DMs have made calls in the moment to keep a game going if there was any disagreement which can be followed up by further conversation after the game. Saying that a DM should double check the rules now and then while admitting to mistakes is hardly anything earth shattering, it's just good advice in general.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
sigh... again with "I am in the right, more people agree...I know even though there is no way to know"
I'm comfortable with my anecdotal evidence. Almost 40 years of play in many, many groups and zero instances of games like yours encountered, including at the many conventions I've gone to. Is it theoretically possible that I somehow missed huge numbers of players and tables that play like you do? I suppose. Those odds would likely be as long as my winning the lottery tomorrow, though.
also totally misframing what I said about not careing if someone cheats, to 'no rules ever'
I'm not misframing what you said. I'm telling you what it means to allow players to do whatever they feel like, whenever they feel like it. If your players are allowed to "cheat" whenever they feel like it, there are no rules in your game. Rules are prescriptive and you've set it up so that nothing in your game is prescriptive. Ergo, no rules.
I disagree
And the game default disagrees with you.
OMG...please tell me you don't think this is in anyway real or realish or real from a point of view, please tell me you know we play make believe.
OMG...please tell me that you really did understand what I was saying and aren't wearing blinders.

Being a game of the imagination doesn't make it an illusion. It's still a game with rules like monopoly. You can even use pieces like monopoly if you want. D&D is a real game. It's just played in a different medium.
no... you are putting words in there mouths. I have NEVER seen ANYONE say something like that.
I'm not putting words in their mouths. I'm telling you what cheating means. Your game doesn't have cheating. You've chosen to get rid of rules and just let the players decide when to use or ignore what the game says. For games with actual rules(prescriptive), that's what cheating means.
your integrity? if you aren't the one doing it
If I say nothing, I am in fact taking part in it. I know the truth and am now lying by omission if I say nothing. My integrity means something to me.
here is a simple test. If a player rolls a 4 tells you they hit a 17, and roll damage, BUT you don't know what there bonus to hit is, compared to the player rolls a die you can't see it (in my case I am too old I have to pick up my own sometimes) says he hits a 17, compared to You KNOW he has a +7 to hit, rolled a 4 and really hit 11 (aka miss) but calls a 17. In all 3 he is 'cheating' but you only know it is the 3rd. How does it effect your game at all in any of the 3 or does knowing it and catching it matter?
I always know or know within 1 of what the PCs bonuses are.

The answer is that even if I don't know the player cheated, that player has still compromised the integrity of the game. In instances where the player was caught, that player gets only one warning and will be kicked out the next time he cheats. The integrity of the game is very important to me and my players.
no you called them on it in a friendly way, but you called them on it (weather that be call them on the mistake or call them on cheating doesn't matter)
As I said, "called on it" strongly implies cheating, so no I didn't call him on it in any way, friendly or not. I approached it from a position of assuming a mistake and reminded him. That's different than "calling him on it."
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
What the DMG says (underling is mine)
  • The DM creates a world for the other players to explore, and also creates and runs adventures that drive the story.
  • You can also lean on the other players to help you with rules mastery and world-building.
  • The D&D rules help you and the other players have a good time, but the rules aren’t in charge. You’re the DM, and you are in charge of the game.
  • That said, your goal isn’t to slaughter the adventurers but to create a campaign world that revolves around their actions and decisions, and to keep your players coming back for more!
  • A player tells the DM what he or she wants to do, and the DM determines whether it is successful or not, in some cases asking the player to make a die roll to determine success.
So can the DM give some control to the PCs? Sure. It's always been and always will be an option. If the DM does things the players don't care for, they don't come back. No DM can be the right one for everyone. I've had people occasionally leave because of it, I've left games because the game wasn't for me, I've had players tell me it's the best campaign they've ever played in. There is no one size fits all.

But the default assumption in the DMG and the PHB is that the DM is in charge of the world, the rules and what happens when a PC attempts something.

Yes, I get that. But my point was about how such authority is tempered by other phrases and descriptions of the process. The authority is there to facilitate play not to empower the DM.

I don't expect there are many games where the DM actually exercises the full level of authority granted by the entries you've quoted because that game would absolutely suck. It would involve the DM deciding the results of every declared action without any rolls. That's not how the game is meant to work, even if it is technically allowed by the rules.

No one plays D&D that way, and if they did, I'd likely utter the dreaded phrase "they're doing it wrong".

So yeah, I don't really care about the hypothetical extreme that doesn't actually exist.
 

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