5E Just One More Thing: The Power of "No" in Design (aka, My Fun, Your Fun, and BadWrongFun)

DEFCON 1

Legend
I thought you were being critical of people who decline to build mechanically ineffective D&D characters. Whereas I tend to sympathise with them - D&D places a heavy priority on mechanical effectiveness. And modern versions also tend both to permit and to favour specialisation.
I don't think there is anything wrong with choosing mechanical efficiency, and in point of fact I suspect the more you play the more you become accustomed to making selections based on it.

My only rolling of the eyes comes when players get upset that the designers release mechanics that they believe are too overpowered, and now they feel like they have no choice but to select those mechanics over any other "more fun" options. The whole 4E 'Weapon Expertise' fiasco for example. That it's on the designers to never release anything that could be considered "too good", because doing so shrinks player choice since now these options have to be selected since they are so good.

At some point, you have to take personal responsibility and decide that if you want to make a character choice for "fun" reasons, sometimes that means not making the "optimal" one. Because there is no single "optimal" path that is everybody's "fun" path too, which means WotC's job is impossible.
 
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lowkey13

Guest
At some point, you have to take personal responsibility and decide that if you want to make a character choice for "fun" reasons, sometimes that means not making the "optimal" one. Because there is no single "optimal" path that is everybody's "fun" path too, which means WotC's job is impossible.
My personal opinion is that, for many people, there tends to be a bell curve (in D&D) when it comes to optimal efficiency.

When you first start playing, you pick things because they are cool. Because they are what you want to play.

Later, as you learn the rules, and how things work, you begin to make more decisions based on how to make your character ... better. More powerful. More optimal. More efficient.

At some point, you get really really good at it. There is little left to learn in terms of rules, or efficiencies to exploit.

So you begin to not worry about it as much; especially for editions (like 5e) that don't require optimization. You go back to what is ... cool. Fun.

I'm not saying that this is the same progression everyone has, or universalizing a particular experience. There are people that can't play knowing that they are making "bad choices" (that the rules are not supporting their desired build) .... it will just constantly bug them, like mosquitoes during the twilight. Others never fully go for optimization, and drift to other systems.

But, for the most part, the need for the most efficient and optimal character tends to fade in time ... although the amount of time that can take caries from person to person.
 
It helps for there to be a level of trust at the table too. If you trust the DM to run the game for the group he has, not some ideal group, you have more confidence that you can make a less optimized character and not just get your butt kicked every session.
 
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lowkey13

Guest
It helps for there to be a level of trust at the table too. If you trust the DM to run the game for the group he has, not some ideal group, you have more confidence that you can make a less optimized character and not just get your butt kicked every session.
Good point. I'd extend that to say that you need to trust your table. It's two separate, but related, issues.

The first is the spotlight issue. If the players at the table have conflicting ideas about what is "fun," that can cause problems. It is very difficult for even the best DM to adequately design campaigns and encounters when one (or a small number) of players derives their fun from wringing all possible mechanical advantage, while the rest of the players do not ... and vice versa. Or, put another way, it tends to work best when the players have a general consensus as to the style they are going to play. Otherwise you end up with the old "Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit" problem, which tends to lead to table strife.

The second is what I call the treadmill. The reason that (IMO) many tables don't worry overly much about efficiency after some period of time is because difficulty is just a treadmill of increasing speed. If everyone is optimizing, then the DM has to increase the challenge levels. Absolute difficulty might be increased, but relative difficulty remains the same. And all that really matters from the player perspective is relative difficulty. In my opinion, given the constraints of most D&D editions (including 5e) you can maintain a sweet spot of play for far longer if you don't try and wring every possible mechanical advantage. YMMV.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I thought you were being critical of people who decline to build mechanically ineffective D&D characters. Whereas I tend to sympathise with them - D&D places a heavy priority on mechanical effectiveness. And modern versions also tend both to permit and to favour specialisation.
Oh no - it's overwhelmingly common in D&D. The point that DEFCON1 originally made is that there's a set of reasonable-to-very efficient builds that tend to push out other builds.

Adding material doesn't do much to increase variation in play as it doesn't change the number of games/number of characters in play. What it does is either add more inefficient options that won't get played, or present some efficient options that bubble up and displace some of what was being played.

About the most that it adds in expanding options is when it's cherry-pickable, like many weapon CHR builds now sometimes looking at 1 or 3 levels of Hexblade. But cherry-picking has it's own issues to deal with.
 
I always thought that having damage determined by class rather than weapon would solve this.

This would roll all these factors into class choice. Then, once you’ve chosen your class, you could use whatever weapon you want and look cool and effective. Want to be a wnike fighter? No problem. Sword and dirk? Sure thing.

You could then have class options or feats that alter this a bit, depending on the weapon, but if the base damage is always the same, then at least all options seem viable.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
I always thought that having damage determined by class rather than weapon would solve this.

This would roll all these factors into class choice. Then, once you’ve chosen your class, you could use whatever weapon you want and look cool and effective. Want to be a wnike fighter? No problem. Sword and dirk? Sure thing.

You could then have class options or feats that alter this a bit, depending on the weapon, but if the base damage is always the same, then at least all options seem viable.
There are certainly games that do that (like 13th Age), but it tend to provoke a fairly strong "that's not D&D!" response when the idea gets floated.
 
A midrange option is to have certain classes do a higher die of damage with the same weapon. So a longsword does d10/d12 for a fighter and d8/d10 for a rogue. This could be for all weapons, or for a more limited set deemed 'class weapons'. Pertty much the same idea but I think it feels more like D&D.
 
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lowkey13

Guest
There are certainly games that do that (like 13th Age), but it tend to provoke a fairly strong "that's not D&D!" response when the idea gets floated.
Which is weird, because "real D&D" (aka the earliest forms of OD&D and B/X based off of OD&D) had a standardized damage for all weapons.

Mike Mornard claims that this is how EGG wanted it, but he wanted different weapons with different effects ....

"That's right, variable weapon damage is included in D&D because a 17 year old kid thought it was a neat idea and harassed the writer until he gave in."

So, there's that.

I think that there is a strong simulationist and "history/weapon buff" contingent that played D&D, and that they wanted to have different weapons with differnt effects; see, inter alia, the AD&D PHB.

The trouble is that the design space for differentiation is necessarily limited, and (IMO) you're better off in terms of the narrative and fiction of gameplaying to just have a single, non-differentiate damage die, and let people describe the weapons as they want.

But the game has moved to far toward different weapons providing some differentiation of features to allow for that for most tables, IMO.
 

Arilyn

Hero
There are certainly games that do that (like 13th Age), but it tend to provoke a fairly strong "that's not D&D!" response when the idea gets floated.
That was my reaction when I first read 13th Age. Armour class is class dependent as well, but it only took one session to fall in love with the idea. It's freeing to be able to describe weapons and armour anyway I want.
 
There are certainly games that do that (like 13th Age), but it tend to provoke a fairly strong "that's not D&D!" response when the idea gets floated.
Yeah, I believe Dungeon World does it that way, too....but I can't recall for certain at the moment.

I feel like there are certain elements of D&D where a problem could be solved if not for holding to tradition.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
At least 2/3 of the combo appear in the G-series. If a character comes into that with a girdle of giant strength, they have the potential to go the full Thor route (which is clearly the inspiration for the combo and probably the tease to the players in this particular module series).
Ah, but you need to replace the throwing hammer with the TRUE Dwarven Thrower: a hammer which when you throw it turns into a screaming Dwarf* in mid-flight, splats into whatever you've thrown it at, then turns back into a hammer and returns to your hand.

* - using the rules for summoned warriors, in those few corner cases where it ever matters in the least.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The first is the spotlight issue. If the players at the table have conflicting ideas about what is "fun," that can cause problems. It is very difficult for even the best DM to adequately design campaigns and encounters when one (or a small number) of players derives their fun from wringing all possible mechanical advantage, while the rest of the players do not ... and vice versa. Or, put another way, it tends to work best when the players have a general consensus as to the style they are going to play. Otherwise you end up with the old "Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit" problem, which tends to lead to table strife.
Yep - the old powergamer-vs.-casual player divide. Been there, seen that, had my fill. :)

The second is what I call the treadmill. The reason that (IMO) many tables don't worry overly much about efficiency after some period of time is because difficulty is just a treadmill of increasing speed. If everyone is optimizing, then the DM has to increase the challenge levels.
My term for this is the arms race.

The other big variable is how much magic the PCs end up with (the DM can control this), and whether that's evenly spread among the PCs or has accreted to just a few (the DM can't really control this).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I always thought that having damage determined by class rather than weapon would solve this.
Only if you ban multiclassing outright (an idea which for many reasons I'd be right on board with).

Otherwise everyone and their little dog Toto is going to dip one level of Fighter just to get that permanent damage boost, no matter what their primary class(es) might be.
 
Only if you ban multiclassing outright (an idea which for many reasons I'd be right on board with).

Otherwise everyone and their little dog Toto is going to dip one level of Fighter just to get that permanent damage boost, no matter what their primary class(es) might be.
I don't think you'd have to ban it, necessarily, but you'd certainly have to alter the multiclassing process to fit the system.

I don't recall how this works in the games where I've seen damage by class type mechanics.
 

pemerton

Legend
My only rolling of the eyes comes when players get upset that the designers release mechanics that they believe are too overpowered, and now they feel like they have no choice but to select those mechanics over any other "more fun" options. The whole 4E 'Weapon Expertise' fiasco for example.

<snip>

At some point, you have to take personal responsibility
This I agree with, which I think I already posted upthread. Though I think it's best done as a table-level decision to omit certain options, it doesn't have to be - in our 4e game the player of the fighter decided that having taken one super-effective build option (the one that lets his OAs impose immobilisation) he wouldn't take a second one that he was eligible for (I can't remember what that other one was).

And we never used Expertise at all (having played to 30th level, PCs are plenty effective enough in and out of combat without needing additional super-buffs).
 

ClaytonCross

Kinder reader Inflection wanted
I agree and disagree.

I agree that when ever possible players should make what they what from what they have. D&D 5e is very flexible and sometimes you don't need a new class for what you want. Players often want a new subclass like "Thug the strength based rogue" instead of just being a fighter with urchin background because they want to power game / munchkin the crap out of it and their GM will not let them. So they ask for a new official subclass to legitimize their desire.

I disagree that adding new official content is just bloat and unnecessary when you can just homebrew. While players power game, GMs do gate keep. No GM I have ever played under ever let me as a player homebrew. Homebrew is generally a GM only tool because "its there world, there rules". Official rules for players allows for them to ask for a tested product with a level of authority to gain a level of freedom on the one thing they control in D&D games... their character choices. Best Examples I have seen is the Beast master ranger and warlock pact of the blade. The Beast Master was a cool idea that worked for about 5 levels, then died a painful death of uselessness. The revised ranger UA and new UA alternate class features have made their way on to a great number of tables that the GM had previously denied attempts to homebrew fix the class. The Warlock pact of the blade was a constant discussion on how to make it hold it weight as the gish everyone wanted it to be. Then it got the hexblade in Xanthar's Guide to Everything and UA alternate class features has the Eldritch Armor invocation which has resulted in many happy players who were not able to get what they wanted without multi-classing paladin which of course many GMs (not all) take issue with. The design of a class that leads people to assume a specific style of play is intended but then requires a multi-class your GM may not even allow to not hold back your party and feel like a joke needs a fix. I will point out that I used Unearthed Arcana in both examples, and called them official, I know this is not truly "official" however, even UA has all the effects you describe and while some GMs may not allow UA, if like the hexblade, they release options in an official book players are likely to be freed up to play more the character they want. Of course, some GMs will just not allow the book, but players having something to point to other than themselves and homebrew helps.

My conclusion, is that content for the sake of more content... is bloat and going to over bloat for the sake of Wizards of the Coast having new stuff to sale. That is the natures of RPGs and publishers. However, content released directed at fixing specific player issues and new story source material / simplified mechanical systems for GMs like downtime in Zanthar's are the best use of these releases. Zanthar's over all is the best book outside of the core 3 in my opinion because it seems built around this premise.
 

pemerton

Legend
I always thought that having damage determined by class rather than weapon would solve this.
This is exactly the sort of thing I'm getting at in my posts.

The game has weapon charts on which some weapons are more effective than others. And it provides class-based access to those charts - part of playing a fighter is having access to better parts of those charts than would be the case were one playing a magic-user. This is, in effect, a damage-by-class system, but designed (by Gygax presumably not quite; see @lowkey13's post a little upthread) in a way that favours "realism" (swords are more effective weapons for warriors than are daggers) over sheer aesthetics (I want my guy to be a knife fighter!).

As a result, there is no rule that stops a fighter player choosing to use a dagger and no shield (just as there is no rule that stops a MU player choosing to memorise only Affect Normal Fires, or Wizard Mark, or Detect Magic and Identify, in his/her first level slots). But I don't think the result (a moderately ineffective fighter; a moderately ineffective wizard) is what the game is designed around, although the 5e maths may be forgiving enough to cope with it.

But unless the player is actively seeking to be ineffective, if the table is prepared to sacrifice "realism" than it seems obvious that no imbalance will result from allowing the knife-wielding fighter to do class-appropriate damage.

Yeah, I believe Dungeon World does it that way, too
Correct. Although there are also "tags" on weapons that aren't class-dependent in the same way. And each class has particular weapons on its gear list which are correlated with the damage die (at least somewhat - I've just had a quick scan but didn't look at every classes damage die and gear options). Eg the paladin does d10 and has longsword and halberd on his/her gear list; the ranger does d8 and has bows and shortsword or spear.

That was my reaction when I first read 13th Age. Armour class is class dependent as well
In 4e AC is very close to class dependent, in so far as each class has an armour list with one or two optimal choices, and has a (correlating) expected use of DEX or INT as a main stat.

Because 4e feeds it through a version of D&D's traditional AC chart plus a version of the 3E idea that heavy armour limits the DEX bonus, there are some convoluted outcomes, like primal classes that for aesthetic reasons are confined to light armours but that don't have DEX or INT as a main stat and so get a class bonus to AC to compensate. (And then this patch itself breaks down in some places like the DEX-based barbarian in Primal Power, which I've seen mentioned in some threads as the basis for a broken build when obviously what it needs is a nerf on the class AC feature which is there simply to patch the issue that results from the original conflict between class aesthetics and traditional AC methodology.)
 

pemerton

Legend
Adding material doesn't do much to increase variation in play as it doesn't change the number of games/number of characters in play. What it does is either add more inefficient options that won't get played, or present some efficient options that bubble up and displace some of what was being played.
I don't think this is true - or, at least, that it need be true - in a list-based game that depends heavily on minutiae, of which D&D is the quintessential example.

D&D has had new stuff added to its lists - new spells, new traps, new monsters which either have new special abilities or combine old ones in new ways, new classes, etc - from day one. Some of it is not very good. Some of it is broken as you describe. But that's not universally the case, and I'm not even sure that it's typical.

There's no reason I know of to think that the lists of stuff that were put out in the 5e PHB represent some sort of optimised exploitation of the possible design space, such that anything further is likely to be degenerate in some fashion.
 

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