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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CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
I don't follow your answer. It doesn't match your experience that extra work is needed to get D&D to do things as well as it does combat? Or it doesn't match your experience that people credit 5e even when what they're doing includes a lot of their own work?
Your first one. I don't recall doing "extra work" to get D&D to do things "as well as it does combat." Because in my experience, the rules do a pretty good job of supporting both combat scenes and non-combat scenes. I've run gaming sessions that emphasized one over the other, or ignored one entirely, and the game was never unplayable.

I feel the rules as-written will support whatever kind of game I want to run, with as much or as little combat as I prefer. Obviously your experience differs, but I'm not in that room.
 

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Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
Well, no, not necessarily. They're dealt with differently, which means they can't meaningfully be compared simply on page/word count, or number of features, or similar.
Perhaps not, but they can be meaningfully compared in how much attention is paid to each when writing adventures, for example. How much of an official adventure is expected to involve combat? With only a couple exceptions, it's way more than 33%. And official adventures are how the designers tell you how to play the game, because those are the examples we're given.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
“Bare bones” is, IMO, a false judgement. The skill system would be bare bones if it was designed to do a job and then barely had what it needed to do the bare minimum of that job. Ie, if it was designed poorly, not to the desired effect.

The 5e skill system does exactly what it’s meant to do, and does it very well. You may not prefer a conversational rules engine, but that has nothing to do with how well designed, or impactful on play, that engine is.

It does do what it's meant to, which is minimal. It works in D&D because the focus is on combat.

I wouldn't say I don't like a "conversational rules engine".... I mean, that's a pretty apt broad description of RPGs overall, so it would be odd to say I don't like that. If you mean I don't like a social pillar that is minimal in nature, and largely revolves around the GM deciding how things go, then sure, I don't really prefer such a system. I accept that such a system is part of D&D, though.

Where did I suggest any such thing? I explicitly stated that they would replace what is removed with genre and theme appropriate player options. Like pretty much every 5e based game does. It isn’t a unique challenge by any stretch of the imagination.

I was asking if you thought that would be a satisfying system. It seems you don't think it would be.

It isn’t weak at all. That you are so dismissive of it is part of why these discussions go in circles.

We don't agree, that's why things go in circles. Don't blame me, and I won't blame you. It's a mutual thing.

It's weak because it applies to any RPG. It's not unique to D&D. It would be like saying "D&D is fun because you get to roll dice!" Okay, sure, rolling dice is fun, but there are dozens of games that have you roll dice.

Improvisational role play is not unique to D&D. Nor is it unique to systems that don't have many rules in the social element of the game. Every game I play has improvisational roleplay. So the "rules get out of the way" thing must mean something else.

What it seems to mean....and you can correct me if I'm wrong.... is that the rules are minimally involved in social areas. That players are free to portray their character however they like, and they basically advocate for their character and make requests of the GM. The GM then assigns a Difficulty and calls for an Ability Check (EDITED TO ADD: Or maybe he just decides). The roll is most often a binary succeed or fail, though the rules make some basic suggestions about how to add more than those two outcomes (with "basic" punching above its class, I'd say).

What this does is create a situation where the stakes are not nearly as high as they are in combat. Ever have a PC die in a social encounter? I'm sure it's happened, but if so it'd be an exception that proves the rule. Most social encounters are there to help push the story along a bit, giving new context to the situation in the fiction. Without mechanics involved to help shape this, it creates an environment where the DM can very much steer things in a way that suits what he has prepared. That environment is suitable to the way D&D 5e functions.

It also keeps the PCs free from personal consequences. Sure, if they fail to convince the duke of something, he may be mad at them and declare them enemies of state or he may withdraw his patronage or what have you. But what about a PC's standing in their community? What about their relationships with NPCs? What about their personal feelings and sense of self? None of that is mechanically supported.

At my most negative, I'd say the system is designed that way to allow each participant to maintain control.... the player of their PC, and the GM of the story. I think that is a little harsh, but honestly, it seems pretty apt.

And it's perfectly fine for the system to function the way it does. But it's things like this that mean that the social pillar is of minimal focus and the combat pillar is overflowing.


To the same extent that every 5e powered game does so. Just as much would be removed to do a Star Wars 5e-based game. About all that would be added back in would be extra attack and things like expertise, but it would still look very different from the 5e PHB.

I would say that nearly all the 5e based games I know are pretty combat focused. Star Wars is not exactly the best example you could have made because it's the kind of adventure fiction that is suited to D&D. It's heavily combat based..... dogfights in space, assaults on the ground, and sword duels... that's the stuff Star Wars is made of.

************

Now, you've snipped my previous post heavily and removed the bulk of it which was about character sheets, and honestly, that was the only new element that hasn't been covered before and which I was hoping would prompt a response. @doctorbadwolf I would greatly appreciate if you respond to my comments about character sheets and those of other games.
 
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I'm in complete agreement. For all the lip service & cheering abour o5e being designed to make combat quick I find that it turns into a slog with all the depth & speed of a drawn out game of rockemsockemrobots all too often without the tactical grid & powerful control/buff/debuff type stuff that used to allow it to ascend from slog to competence porn in the past. Functionally the "bunch of stuff you can do" is rarely more than the illusion of choice because it's either basically multiple options with dramatically similar end results when it comes down to any meaningful measurement or there is one option that is leagues ahead of all the nonchoice options.
 

Staffan

Legend
You can chalk combat up to a single roll based on some sort of nebulous, all-encompassing "attack" stat or skill. Then compare rolls to see who got the higher number (no modifiers needed, even) and then adjudicate the results based on the intentions of the winning combatant.

Combat is just another action in a roleplaying game. Like crafting an item, or trying to convince someone to drop the ideology they've followed their whole life, or skinning an animal you've hunted. Depending on what players are looking for, and what a system is trying to do, there's no inherent need for any of these actions to be more complicated than a single roll. Expanding upon those things shows you what a system is interested in doing, or encourages players to do/not to do.
You can, but I don't see that done in many games. And it would be really unsatisfying for my character to die from a single opposed roll.

The games I've seen that have used single-roll combat resolution have generally had that as an option for non-lethal/"first blood" combats, with a more robust system to use when things get serious.
 

Oofta

Legend
Yes.

No.

I said that there's a lack of support for a lot of things that happen to be outside of combat (and some of those have been well covered already in this thread), but never would I say none. And I haven't. Heck, man, I'm the one that's routinely brought up the non-option social interaction rules in the DMG, rules that, as I recall, you've explicitly said you don't find useful and don't use. If I was going to say D&D had no structure outside of combat, why would I be pointing out the structure that's actually there (and usually ignored)?

D&D doesn't have robust structure outside of combat is a thing I would say. It's pretty bare bones, has quite a few holes, and doesn't incentivize it.

I'm pretty sure I laid the strawman to rest above.
LOL. Just repeat what you said and declare "victory". Do we have a ton for out of combat hard rules? No. Does it "incentivize" with XP? Nothing hard and fast. But roughly half the text is stuff that is only tangentially related to combat. For some people role playing is it's own reward and we don't want nor need detailed mechanical implementation.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure at this point you'll just repeat yourself say you've already "proven" that you're right and I'm wrong. Might want to throw a "neener-neener" in there for good measure. Have a good one. :rolleyes:
 


doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Perhaps not, but they can be meaningfully compared in how much attention is paid to each when writing adventures, for example. How much of an official adventure is expected to involve combat? With only a couple exceptions, it's way more than 33%. And official adventures are how the designers tell you how to play the game, because those are the examples we're given.
Kindof, at best. Also a whole different goalpost.
It does do what it's meant to, which is minimal. It works in D&D because the focus is on combat.
No, if that were true, it would only work in campaigns focused on combat.
I wouldn't say I don't like a "conversational rules engine".... I mean, that's a pretty apt broad description of RPGs overall, so it would be odd to say I don't like that. If you mean I don't like a social pillar that is minimal in nature, and largely revolves around the GM deciding how things go, then sure, I don't really prefer such a system. I accept that such a system is part of D&D, though.
Good lord. I think this will be my last reply to you. This is getting extremely tedious.

Yeah I'm not even going to bother trying to rehash a thing I've explained to you in at least 2 past threads within the last year.
I was asking if you thought that would be a satisfying system. It seems you don't think it would be.
Don't put words in my mouth. This is basic social decorum.

You invented the idea of nothing being used in place of the PHB player options. My reply correcting that invention has nothing to do with what I would or would not find satisfying.
We don't agree, that's why things go in circles. Don't blame me, and I won't blame you. It's a mutual thing.
No, it isn't. Of the two of us, only you tend to dismiss the very idea of other people's preference, and reduce them to disparaging mischaracterizations, and then act like your preference is some sort of superior understanding of game design.
It's weak because it applies to any RPG. It's not unique to D&D. It would be like saying "D&D is fun because you get to roll dice!" Okay, sure, rolling dice is fun, but there are dozens of games that have you roll dice.
LOL sure. Exactly the same thing.
Improvisational role play is not unique to D&D. Nor is it unique to systems that don't have many rules in the social element of the game. Every game I play has improvisational roleplay. So the "rules get out of the way" thing must mean something else.

What it seems to mean....and you can correct me if I'm wrong.... is that the rules are minimally involved in social areas. That players are free to portray their character however they like, and they basically advocate for their character and make requests of the GM. The GM then assigns a Difficulty and calls for an Ability Check (EDITED TO ADD: Or maybe he just decides). The roll is most often a binary succeed or fail, though the rules make some basic suggestions about how to add more than those two outcomes (with "basic" punching above its class, I'd say).

What this does is create a situation where the stakes are not nearly as high as they are in combat. Ever have a PC die in a social encounter? I'm sure it's happened, but if so it'd be an exception that proves the rule. Most social encounters are there to help push the story along a bit, giving new context to the situation in the fiction. Without mechanics involved to help shape this, it creates an environment where the DM can very much steer things in a way that suits what he has prepared. That environment is suitable to the way D&D 5e functions.

It also keeps the PCs free from personal consequences. Sure, if they fail to convince the duke of something, he may be mad at them and declare them enemies of state or he may withdraw his patronage or what have you. But what about a PC's standing in their community? What about their relationships with NPCs? What about their personal feelings and sense of self? None of that is mechanically supported.

At my most negative, I'd say the system is designed that way to allow each participant to maintain control.... the player of their PC, and the GM of the story. I think that is a little harsh, but honestly, it seems pretty apt.

And it's perfectly fine for the system to function the way it does. But it's things like this that mean that the social pillar is of minimal focus and the combat pillar is overflowing.
Yeah, you and I are coming at games as a whole from diametrically opposed starting points. None of that fits with any experience of gaming I've ever had, on any level.
I would say that nearly all the 5e based games I know are pretty combat focused. Star Wars is not exactly the best example you could have made because it's the kind of adventure fiction that is suited to D&D. It's heavily combat based..... dogfights in space, assaults on the ground, and sword duels... that's the stuff Star Wars is made of.
It is exactly the best example because it is generally a very similar vibe to DnD. If you think it's a bad example, I apparently need to explain again what the point was.

Again, even Star Wars would remove half the PHB and replace it with Star Wars stuff.

So, "they'd have to remove the classes and feats and spells" just isn't an especially meaningful point.
************

Now, you've snipped my previous post heavily and removed the bulk of it which was about character sheets, and honestly, that was the only new element that hasn't been covered before and which I was hoping would prompt a response. @doctorbadwolf I would greatly appreciate if you respond to my comments about character sheets and those of other games.
I don't care about your comments on character sheets. It's a red herring.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
No, if that were true, it would only work in campaigns focused on combat.

I'm not saying it doesn't work. It works just fine. But if that was the game in its entirety, it would be dull. D&D is not dull. Why? Because it has this whole combat area that has tons of cool stuff to do.

The skill system as designed... meaning in conjunction with the combat rules.... works as intended. To be quick and to get out of the way.

Good lord. I think this will be my last reply to you. This is getting extremely tedious.

Yeah I'm not even going to bother trying to rehash a thing I've explained to you in at least 2 past threads within the last year.

Then don't comment. You've snipped my responses plenty. If you have nothing to say about a given part, then just skip it instead of posting anything like the above. You've already been asked to not make things personal. I haven't called you tedious or anything like that.

Don't put words in my mouth. This is basic social decorum.

You invented the idea of nothing being used in place of the PHB player options. My reply correcting that invention has nothing to do with what I would or would not find satisfying.

I didn't put words in your mouth. I asked you a yes or no question. You responded and didn't clearly say yes or no, but it seemed like you were agreeing. If that's not the case, then feel free to answer clearly and then explain.

No, it isn't. Of the two of us, only you tend to dismiss the very idea of other people's preference, and reduce them to disparaging mischaracterizations, and then act like your preference is some sort of superior understanding of game design.

I'm not dismissing anything about anyone's preference. You can like what you like and so can anyone else, and that preference is no more or less valid than mine.

I'm not disagreeing with anyone's preference. I'm disagreeing with the assessment that the D&D rules are not mostly about combat.

LOL sure. Exactly the same thing.

What RPG that you know of doesn't include improvisational roleplay?

Yeah, you and I are coming at games as a whole from diametrically opposed starting points. None of that fits with any experience of gaming I've ever had, on any level.

Okay, let me put it in a different way. Where would you say the stakes are highest? What pillar of 5e play?

It is exactly the best example because it is generally a very similar vibe to DnD. If you think it's a bad example, I apparently need to explain again what the point was.

Again, even Star Wars would remove half the PHB and replace it with Star Wars stuff.

So, "they'd have to remove the classes and feats and spells" just isn't an especially meaningful point.

No, you wouldn't. You'd need to reskin some things and make some tweaks, sure, but you wouldn't have to ditch nearly as much. Star Wars is a fantasy story, despite the sci-fi veneer. A lot of the classes and class abilities and feats would still pertain. You wouldn't have to look at the game and say "wow, we picked a property that really doesn't focus on what this game does well.... we're gonna need to make some major changes".

So attack bonuses and saving throws and AC and Hit Points and so on would function exactly as always. Many class abilities would still be in play because they would fit right into what will come up in Star Wars just as readily as they fit what comes up in D&D. Many feats. You'd lose most spells except those that would make sense to map to Jedi abilities.

Star Wars for 5e makes a lot more sense than Dr. Who, and would require a lot less effort to convert.

I don't care about your comments on character sheets. It's a red herring.

Ha sure it is.

The character sheet is a distillation of the game to its most relevant bits for reference in play. Character sheets tell us A LOT about a game.
 

Hussar

Legend
Counterpoint: depending on what you want to do with the flock, the answer will vary. Just rp? Then the dm can ust make something up. Use aa a resource? Than whatever measure of resources makes the most sense - 15 gp worth means you can get 15 g worth of stuff form the people you swayed. Or maybe it means you got enough people to donate 15 gp to the church, which you can spend on church stuff. This can be quite helpful if everyone else's downtime activity was to earn money - now you can just use the same downtime setup as everyone else.

It's not that you couldn't have a contextless answer - but a contextless answer can be dang near anything. "You attract one (1) crowd of people." Boom, answered.
Well, that's true. If you can use any context you like so long as you ignore what the player says I suppose.

But, this pretty much proves my point. In OTHER SYSTEMS THAT ARE NOT FOCUSED ON COMBAT, and I'm going all caps here to be very very clear, I can answer my question pretty easily. In D&D, BECAUSE THE SYSTEM IS FOCUSED ON COMBAT, I can't answer the question using the rules or, at the very least, I can't answer it as easily as I can in other systems.

I'm really not sure why this is a difficult point. My point was always to show that D&D, because it is combat focused, cannot answer questions as easily as systems which aren't so combat focused.

And, since all everyone has done since I posted my example is show how D&D can't actually answer my question, while at the same time, it being clearly shown that other systems can, I'd say my point stands.
 

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