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D&D General Let's Talk About How to "Fix" D&D

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
I don't think it is particularly helpful for discussion to redefine terms that we should generally agree on (with some possible fuzzy edges). Calling an attack roll part of "exploration" (just to pick an example) muddies the discussion.
Its a clarification, not a redefinition. Exploration, as described in the PHB, "is the give-and-take of the players describing what they want their characters to do, and the Dungeon Master telling the players the result of what happened."

They even give an example of pulling a lever to see what it does, which just so happens to also be described as part of an interaction in combat.

Using the wrong definition of words is what fuzzies the discussion and the misuse of exploration is what prompted me to ask the question. Because I agree that Survival could use better rules from a simulationist point of view, but I disagree that Exploration needs any sort of complications within the rules.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Im glad its not considered as necessary as it once was. In the early years of playing it was a given that someone would be mapping, These days, I find it to time consuming and distracting from the game at hand versus its benefits. As the DM I generally work off the premise that the characters are mapping, marking the ground theyve covered and taking pains to ensure they dont get lost. If there are extenuating circumstances, or the situation significantly changes I will call for an ability or skill check to see if they get lost. Or if the story is better served and I want them to get lost, I will just tell them that they have become lost. This works for us and I cant even remeber the last time I had anyone mapping at the table.
If the dungeon is linear enough that the party couldn't get lost if they tried, not mapping is fine. But if the players don't bother to map I take that to mean the characters aren't bothering to map either, and in some dungeons (S1 Lost Caverns, anyone?) getting lost would be almost automatic without a map; and in other cases only with a map can one see how things link up and-or notice missing "gaps" where a secret chamber might be - or not.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
When you say "I move closer to my enemy." You are exploring. You've stated your intended action and the DM described the result. That's the core of exploration. Likewise, "I attack," is an exploration declaration. Spells are even moreso exploration because their various effects can definitely change the environment around you and help you discover more.
Er...wha...?

Exploration is the act of looking for and-or finding something - usually a physical thing or place - you hadn't seen or didn't know about before*. There's pretty much no exploration involved in combat, and little if any involved in social interaction. (sure, in social settings you can say you're "exploring someone's mindset" or similar; or in certain character development scenes you can say you're "exploring your (own) character, but those aren;t really what the game tags as 'exploration' and thus irrelevant here)
But also, exploration is when you open doors. Its asking the DM if you spot any traps or if you can send your familiar to scout.
* - like this.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
Er...wha...?

Exploration is the act of looking for and-or finding something - usually a physical thing or place - you hadn't seen or didn't know about before*. There's pretty much no exploration involved in combat, and little if any involved in social interaction. (sure, in social settings you can say you're "exploring someone's mindset" or similar; or in certain character development scenes you can say you're "exploring your (own) character, but those aren;t really what the game tags as 'exploration' and thus irrelevant here)
I want to make clear that what the game tags as exploration isn't the same as what we would tag as exploration. And that the dynamic between the pillars are not exclusive but are often, and usually, cooperative to one another.

When a player says "I attack," they have no clue what the result will be. A hit or a miss, sure, but also how the enemy will respond. Will the attack be deflected because of immunity? Will the enemy have a reaction to bail them out? Will the enemy flee? Will they surrender? Or will they fall?

As a player, when you take an action, you're hoping for a positive result due to that action. But you don't necessarily know what will happen next (unless the DM informs you beforehand).

Attacking a scared goblin and it fighting back means goblins in this situation are likely to fight when cornered. Meanwhile, attacking a scared kobold and it fleeing below 4hp means kobolds are likely to flee or surrender. As such, you're learning about the world via combat. You're exploring your enemies and you may leverage that into advantageous positions.

The DM can easily undermine that, and undermine them they have, often enough. When a DM doesn't take into account a creature's personality, the player has nothing more to explore. That creature becomes a puppet rather than a character. Or a training dummy.

Well, all that being said. Its not that simply saying you attack means you're meaningfully exploring, but it doesn't mean you're not. It depends entirely on the situation.
-----------

I don't want it to sound like I'm trying to shift goalposts or whatever, but I want an unbiased approach to helping someone that struggles integrating their fantasy into one of my favorite TTRPG systems. To do that, its better to firmly categorize our ideas without a floating, undefined but supposedly understood definition. Especially when there's an actual definition inside the PHB that we can use.[/QUOTE][/QUOTE]
 

If the dungeon is linear enough that the party couldn't get lost if they tried, not mapping is fine. But if the players don't bother to map I take that to mean the characters aren't bothering to map either, and in some dungeons (S1 Lost Caverns, anyone?) getting lost would be almost automatic without a map; and in other cases only with a map can one see how things link up and-or notice missing "gaps" where a secret chamber might be - or not.
You make some good points that I had long forgot and just taken for granted. Our game has long since removed things the we consider extraneous just because we dont play for more than 3-4 hours tops every other week, and lately its not even that. Next time were in a smaller dungeon I might make the players map and see if it adds anything or turns into a messy TPK.
 

TheSword

Legend
The reason we don’t map at the table is that 99.5% of the time it’s irrelevant, and it takes up valuable time with geometric descriptions of rooms. As if the most important thing about a room is the distance between the east wall and the door in the 37 degree acute angle wall extends at 15 feet past. In fact just writing that drags up horrible memories of wasted time and dodgy inaccurate maps.

Players mapping arose for people when the game looked like this...

7306F966-8D43-401E-B28C-159E6184EFA9.png


It’s not so helpful when it looks like this...

9B15A5E6-AEBB-447A-96F4-96D6F13E89CD.jpeg
I don't expect players to write down the name and description of every NPC or location either, just because in real terms a month has passed since the last session in game terms it was four hours and characters should be allowed to remember. The same goes for finding their way through the door they walked through two hours before.

This seems to be part of a particular school of DMing that tries to punish players for not possessing information their characters would have. As an aside I also don’t expect my players to be able to read elvish script or be able to use a set of lock picks.
 
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This seems to be part of a particular school of DMing that tries to punish players for not possessing information their characters would have. As an aside I also don’t expect my players to be able to read elvish script or be able to use a set of lock picks.
From when I started playing through the end of 2E our games were like that, made people write down every bit of information, every piece of equipment and where it was stored, what color hair the gnome cobbler had 5 towns passed, etc. In some cases it did add to the game in specific instances, but for the most part it was just ridiculous and really did punish the players and DM alike. Its really funny how far my groups game has swung in the other direction. 99% of the time I give the players the benefit of the doubt and assume theyve properly informed and equipped themselves for the task at hand. The fun comes in during a roleplaying encounter and they call the king by the wrong name or something similar. Only problem Ive had as a DM is finding the balance between assuming too much and actively making the players do book keeping so the game isnt too easy, which Ive yet to find completely.
 

TheSword

Legend
From when I started playing through the end of 2E our games were like that, made people write down every bit of information, every piece of equipment and where it was stored, what color hair the gnome cobbler had 5 towns passed, etc. In some cases it did add to the game in specific instances, but for the most part it was just ridiculous and really did punish the players and DM alike. Its really funny how far my groups game has swung in the other direction. 99% of the time I give the players the benefit of the doubt and assume theyve properly informed and equipped themselves for the task at hand. The fun comes in during a roleplaying encounter and they call the king by the wrong name or something similar. Only problem Ive had as a DM is finding the balance between assuming too much and actively making the players do book keeping so the game isnt too easy, which Ive yet to find completely.
I think erring on giving the players the benefit of the doubt, definitely increases player enjoyment.

Giving the player disadvantage on their persuasion check because my made up fantasy name wasn’t pronounced with the right number of L’s definitely doesn’t up the fun factor. After all... Forgotten Realms names?!... the best thing we can do to fix D&D is through out FR’s ridiculous naming conventions.
 

After all... Forgotten Realms names?!... the best thing we can do to fix D&D is through out FR’s ridiculous naming conventions.
I think the FR naming conventions were fine early on, but as the years go on there have been so many writers that its gotten pretty varied and out of hand. The problem I have with any new campaign setting is learning the names and geography. Im currently reading the Midnight CS and compared to when I read the FR setting years ago FR seems rather tame name wise. Then again my attention span and memory while reading isnt what it once was.
 

TheSword

Legend
I think the FR naming conventions were fine early on, but as the years go on there have been so many writers that its gotten pretty varied and out of hand. The problem I have with any new campaign setting is learning the names and geography. Im currently reading the Midnight CS and compared to when I read the FR setting years ago FR seems rather tame name wise. Then again my attention span and memory while reading isnt what it once was.
It’s all the extraneous a’s e’s, h’s, s’s and l’s and sometimes wholely unnecessary syllables added in to make names sound fantastical. I much prefer names to trip off the tongue, than sound like they are struggling to free themselves from manacles somewhere in my oesophagus.
 

Reynard

Legend
People should play the way that makes them happy and increases the overall enjoyment of everyone at the table.

That said, I think there's a certain school of GMing that essentially amounts to telling the players a choose your own adventure story with, at best, binary choices. Of course there's no reason for players to take notes or draw their own maps when it is all going to turn out the same anyway.

But if the game is about real choices in a complex environment -- dungeon, wilderness or city -- there is going to be information the players will need to recall weeks or months later.
 

TheSword

Legend
People should play the way that makes them happy and increases the overall enjoyment of everyone at the table.

That said, I think there's a certain school of GMing that essentially amounts to telling the players a choose your own adventure story with, at best, binary choices. Of course there's no reason for players to take notes or draw their own maps when it is all going to turn out the same anyway.

But if the game is about real choices in a complex environment -- dungeon, wilderness or city -- there is going to be information the players will need to recall weeks or months later.
So railroads don’t need notes but sandboxes do need notes. Hmm. Either your DM makes you write stuff down and punishes you for not doing it, or they don’t. There is no difference between a linear story or a sandbox in that regard.

I don’t believe as many play in this theoretical linear railroad world you like to set up as a bugbear as you think. Most people play in a hybrid where there is choice up to a point. That point may be far more restrictive than you’re comfortable with but it’s fine for the hundreds of thousands of people playing published campaigns.
 

Reynard

Legend
So railroads don’t need notes but sandboxes do need notes. Hmm. Either your DM makes you write stuff down and punishes you for not doing it, or they don’t. There is no difference between a linear story or a sandbox in that regard.

I don’t believe as many play in this theoretical linear railroad world you like to set up as a bugbear as you think. Most people play in a hybrid where there is choice up to a point. That point may be far more restrictive than you’re comfortable with but it’s fine for the hundreds of thousands of people playing published campaigns.
I am not inventing railroading. It's been a "bugbear" for as long as there have been RPG adventures. And, yes, WotC has done really well with "illusion of choice" style adventures since 5e came out.

If you dig through old threads on this very site, about 10 years ago illusion of choice was all the rage and we were all debating its merits and discussing how to do it well.

The reason: it's less work. It makes the game flow more smoothly along narrative beats, which people like. But it isn't the only way to run a game and it doesn't mean actual choice is inferior.

On the subject of notes: there's a lot happening in a complex open world and players who take notes are rewarded for it when they discover connections. If there is an insidious cult slowly indoctrinating all the noble families, for example, the players suddenly realizing it the third time they have to engage with courtly politics is far more satisfying a reveal than the GM saying, "It's time for the evil cult adventure!" True player agency isn't just deciding whether and how to deal with the cult, it is being engaged to the point of seeing it is happening prior to The Night of Black Blades or whatever.
 

the GM saying, "It's time for the evil cult adventure!" True player agency isn't just deciding whether and how to deal with the cult, it is being engaged to the point of seeing it is happening prior to The Night of Black Blades or whatever.
This seems somewhat exaggerated. Just because the players don't need to take notes, map or keep track of other things doesn't necessarily mean that a campaign is as one dimensional as you've made it sound. There are lots of times my players will remember stuff without me interjecting and even when I refresh their memories from time to time I don't give them the answers. Once in awhile I'll give them a clue or a nudge in the right direction, but I don't wear a sandwich board with an arrow at the table that reads "This Way to Adventure". Although "This Way to Adventure" sounds like a great title for my next adventure.
 

TheSword

Legend
I am not inventing railroading. It's been a "bugbear" for as long as there have been RPG adventures. And, yes, WotC has done really well with "illusion of choice" style adventures since 5e came out.

If you dig through old threads on this very site, about 10 years ago illusion of choice was all the rage and we were all debating its merits and discussing how to do it well.

The reason: it's less work. It makes the game flow more smoothly along narrative beats, which people like. But it isn't the only way to run a game and it doesn't mean actual choice is inferior.

On the subject of notes: there's a lot happening in a complex open world and players who take notes are rewarded for it when they discover connections. If there is an insidious cult slowly indoctrinating all the noble families, for example, the players suddenly realizing it the third time they have to engage with courtly politics is far more satisfying a reveal than the GM saying, "It's time for the evil cult adventure!" True player agency isn't just deciding whether and how to deal with the cult, it is being engaged to the point of seeing it is happening prior to The Night of Black Blades or whatever.
Several campaigns have moved away from Illusion of Choice portrayed in games like Storm Kings Thunder, Or Hoard of the Dragon. While some like Descent unfortunately propagate it.

Choice within agreed parameters is not the same as Illusion or Choice where nothing the players do matters. Beginning with the premise that the characters want to tackle a particular disaster, or find out why demons are roaming the underdark, or work out why IWD is undergoing nuclear winter is not railroading when it is agreed in advance. Any more than a writer setting their campaign in their homebrew setting is railroading characters because it isn’t a Wild West setting.

Tomb of Annihilation, Rime of the Frost Maiden, Curse of Strahd, Out of the Abyss, DotMM, Dragon Heist. All allow for wildly different journeys and outcomes. It’s a bit frustrating to hear you refer to products inaccurately or lump them in one box. I get that they are not your cup to tea so you don’t read them. Perhaps don’t dismiss them so lightly then. I have no issue with people choosing to play other styles: story-now, or total home brewed sandbox. Campaigns with a plot are not better or worse, they’re just a different flavor of spaghetti sauce.

Your claim that these adventures aren’t complex or involve choice is ill informed. Buy smooth or not. It’s your choice, just don’t make unfounded statements about chunky.
 

6ENow!

I don't debate opinions.
Exploration in 5e amounts to tracking encumbrance, rolling wandering monster/getting lost checks, and making Survival checks to find food. It's boring.
I don't know, we do a lot of exploration and I don't find it boring. We are doing exploration in Frostmaiden right now and in our online "monk only" game did quite a bit as well.

I find things like weather, natural obstacles such as rivers and cliffs, and moving through darkened forests and deep caves all interesting when presented as challenges against the PCs.

And, of course, you quickly get abilities coming online that make exploring trivial.
THIS is definitely more of an issue IMO, especially when magic is involved. I think this is why some groups restrict spells like Teleport, Goodberry, et al.

the pillars are killin', slayin', and murderin'.
We made a joke RPG call Kick, Kill, and Steal about 20 years ago. Our motto was "Kick in the door, kill the monster, steal the treasure!" :)
 

I would hate to play in or run a campaign that was a railroad all the time. But every once in awhile they are a nice change. As long as its properly presented and not overly complicated, or too long they're good for a short trek where no one has to think too much. Out of the gate this is the adventure the DMs presenting, the current situation and how to solve, fail and this is what happens, now have at it. The key to making it work is to let the players know this up front. Obviously they have some choices on how they overcome the challenge but deviating from the challenge isn't an option. Who came up with "Illusion of Choice"? Sounds like a cop out to actually writing a decent adventure.
 

We made a joke RPG call Kick, Kill, and Steal about 20 years ago. Our motto was "Kick in the door, kill the monster, steal the treasure!"
Pretty sure most groups have or had a similar joke. Ours was "Kill, Maim, Destroy", though not very creative of us IMO looking back on it all these years later.
 


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