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Mearls On D&D's Design Premises/Goals

First of all, thanks [MENTION=1]Morrus[/MENTION] for collecting this. I generally avoid Twitter because, frankly, it's full of a$$holes.

That aside: this is an interesting way of looking at it, and underscores the difference in design philosophies between the WotC team and the Paizo team. There is a lot of room for both philosophies of design, and I don't think there is any reason for fans of one to be hostile to fans of the other, but those differences do matter. There are ways in which I like the prescriptive elements of 3.x era games (I like set skill difficulty lists, for example) but I tend to run by the seat of my pants and the effects of my beer, so a fast and loose and forgiving version like 5E really enables me running a game the way I like to.
 

Comments

ad_hoc

Explorer
"Story first" may have been the design concept, but it's not how the game actually turned out. D&D 5E may not be as heavy on mechanics as 4th or 3rd ed, but it's still very much a tactical wargame at the core, part of the tradition that goes all the way back to Chainmail and beyond.

The vast majority of the rules in 5E relate to combat, while there's not a single rule that directly drives the story. Whether you get an exciting story or a boring one when playing 5E is entirely up to the players and DM.
This claim is, of course, absurd and wrong.

However, lets talk about who likes 5e.

I don't personally know anyone who likes both 5e and tactical wargames.

I invited a boardgame friend to play and he wasn't into it because it was too story driven and not focused enough on strategy and tactics. And he isn't wrong. D&D makes a terrible strategy game. I think some of the people who play 5e and gripe about it would probably be much happier checking out the advances in boardgames. There are great thematic games out there which are competitive and tight.

I don't have the data, but I think it is safe to assume that the millions of new players aren't playing it as a war game. The people I know who play don't even like boardgames.
 
This claim is, of course, absurd and wrong.
No, it is 100% true. Explain how 5E mechanically is any less of a wargame than Chainmail is.

D&D has always been a wargame. You can of course play D&D with more focus on the story less tactical combat in your sessions, but that doesn't change what the system actually is. I expect it was the style of your game rather than the system that turned off your boardgamer friend, my wargaming friends are having loads of fun playing 5E as a tactical dungeon crawler.
 

Tallifer

Adventurer
D&D can be either a roleplaying game or a tactical game or (usually) a mixture of both. I played a lot of D&D back in the day at my university's wargame's club; and I also played many wargames.

The interesting thing about wargames is that there are also two broad approaches: players like me focused on reliving the history and enthusing over the colorful bits; other players focused much, much more on the tactics and strategy of winning.
 
D&D has always been a wargame.
I don't agree that 4e is a wargame, for two reasons.

(1) Skill challenges are not a wargame resolution mechanic.

(2) More interestingly (perhaps) a lot of its combat resolution mechanics aren't wargame mechanics because their role is to drive a certain archeypte or fictional happening, rather than to emulate historical or even fantasy combat. The paladin power Valiant Strike is an example - it doesn't model how a paladin fights, but rather creates incentives for a paladin to be played valiantly.

Come and Get It would be another example.
 

CapnZapp

Adventurer
CapnZapp, have you ever tried HARP (High Adventure RP - a type of Rolemaster-lite)? It's not D&D (obviously) but it might satisfy some of your desiderata. (Because not D&D, not so good for pick-up games - I'm not sure what your situation is in that respect.)
I looked into it when it was new(ish), but got scared away by its apparent lack of balance.
Thanks though for the suggestion.
 
I looked into it when it was new(ish), but got scared away by its apparent lack of balance.
Fair enough. I can see how that would be an issue.

I know you don't like 4e (unless I'm misrembering badly). Does PF2 have anything to offer, or have you been left a bit hosed?
 

5ekyu

Explorer
That exciting outcome can come about in games that don't use measurements in the way that 5e does.

Which was my point.

I'm not sure that this is always super-exciting. It seems like it might be a little pedantic.
What? Should 5e go metric?

5e measures jumping to the half foot level. Jumping is frequently fairly important.

Movement and lots of things are measured in feet.

There is nothing required in 5e that prevents distances of 1 ft from mattering.

Some GMs may choose otherwise.
 

Eric V

Explorer
I have to say, by this metric, vast swathes of the spell rules could go.
This seems to be true in practice; in another thread here, people are describing how they virtually never change out the spells prepared of their spellcasting PCs they play.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
@Hriston's suggsetion that an initiative check is a multi-character contest to see who gets to go first seems right to me. I can read page 58 of the Basic Rules, which describes contests in terms of opposition between two character. But presumably those rules are intended to be extrapolated in appropriate cases - for instance, if instead of two character racing to grab a ring from the floor, we were trying to resolve a treasure hunt at a birthday party, or an orienteering competiton, the contest mechanic would presumably be the appropriate one, with the mechanical success ordering corresponding to the in-fiction success ordering. (only one can be the winner!)
You have misstated the rule and thereby applied it incorrectly to initiative. The rule is not that there can only be one winner. The rule is that only one can succeed. Only one person out of 20 racing for the ring can get succeed in getting it. With initiative all 20 succeed in the goal of having the potential to act during the round.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
This claim is, of course, absurd and wrong.

However, lets talk about who likes 5e.

I don't personally know anyone who likes both 5e and tactical wargames.

I invited a boardgame friend to play and he wasn't into it because it was too story driven and not focused enough on strategy and tactics. And he isn't wrong. D&D makes a terrible strategy game. I think some of the people who play 5e and gripe about it would probably be much happier checking out the advances in boardgames. There are great thematic games out there which are competitive and tight.

I don't have the data, but I think it is safe to assume that the millions of new players aren't playing it as a war game. The people I know who play don't even like boardgames.
You may not know me personally, but I’m raising my hand about liking wargames and 5e. Sure, I’m not approaching it as a wargame, but then again, I never have. The most board gamey version we ever played was 4e because it necessitated that degree of focus on the board, but we still didn’t approach it as a wargame or board game.

And the number of players who also play board games who also play 5e? Around my neck of the woods, it’s a lot.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Please explain how more than one can succeed when two are trying to go first. They can't both be first.
They are not both trying to go first. The goal is just to have the potential to act, I say potential to act instead of act, because you can opt not to act or you can be rendered unable to act by someone else's action or the environment. The success just determines the order of your ability to go. I don't know if you have been in a fight, but when you are in a fight, you are just trying to hit the person, run away, or perform some other action. You aren't thinking, "Boy. I need to go first this swing.", but rather just swinging away and sometimes you happen to go first. There are exceptions of course, such as when two Samurai duel and they are trying to be the fastest, but in the vast majority of instances, going first is just a matter of who happens to be fastest(dex check) and not the goal itself.

You don't know what might happen during combat. Maybe in round three the fighter and the goblin end up toe to toe and their relative initiative scores will matter.
That's not relevant to the initiative roll. For the initiative roll to be a contest, they have to be going up DIRECTLY against each other, per RAW, and that's not what happens with initiative.

I agree that Jeremy Crawford has stated clearly that initiative is not a contest. I'm fine with him saying that, but RAW is silent on the issue. RAW (like Crawford) states that initiative is an ability check, which is a die roll called for when an action is attempted that has a chance of failure. The attempted action in the case of initiative is taking your turn in combat before your opponent. To find out if the ability check succeeds or fails, you compare it to a DC. Except in a contest, "a special form of ability check", you compare it to the result of an ability check made by your opponent. I wonder which of those two forms of ability check most closely resemble what goes on in initiative.
RAW is not silent on the issue. RAW backs up Crawford and myself as it dictates that the opposition must be direct, which doesn't occur with initiative.

If it isn't a contest, what's the DC to succeed in going before your opponent?
The goal is not to go first. The goal is simply to have the potential to act in the round, so there is no DC. Initiative is a special kind of ability check that is neither a contest, nor one where you are trying to beat a DC. You will succeed on both a 25 and a 0.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
For foes who are vying to go first, Initiative is similar to a contest (in the 5e mechanical sense) but its not identical. In a contest, a draw would result in the situation remaining as it was before the contest. That doesn't work as an outcome for initiative.

Similar, but not identical.
Similar to, doesn't count for RAW. Identical to, counts for RAW. The rules dictate when a contest happens, and in a tie during a contest, the situation remains the same(though I don't necessarily agree with that on a personal level). For initiative to be a contest, ties would have to remain the same and they don't. They would also have to be characters that are in direct opposition, and they aren't. At best, the people rolling for initiative are in indirect opposition, at worst there is no opposition at all. I can roll and lose initiative to the goblin I can't see, even though there isn't any attempt on my part to oppose that goblin either directly or indirectly.
 
What? Should 5e go metric?

5e measures jumping to the half foot level. Jumping is frequently fairly important.

Movement and lots of things are measured in feet.

There is nothing required in 5e that prevents distances of 1 ft from mattering.

Some GMs may choose otherwise.
My point is that a system that uses measurements in the way that 5e does (which is a legacy of classic D&D combining wargaming distance measures with detailed map-based exploration) is not including only that which is necessary to tell exciting stories about brave adventurers facing deadly perils.

The evidence for this is that there are many RPGs which enable the telling of exciting stories about brave adventurers facing deadly perils that don't require keeping track of details in D&D's wargaming style. Fate is one (it uses zones). Cortex+ Heroic is another (it just uses free description). Etc.
 
You have misstated the rule and thereby applied it incorrectly to initiative. The rule is not that there can only be one winner. The rule is that only one can succeed. Only one person out of 20 racing for the ring can get succeed in getting it. With initiative all 20 succeed in the goal of having the potential to act during the round.
But obviously (and as [MENTION=6787503]Hriston[/MENTION] has pointed out) they can't all succeed in acting before anyone else.

Presumably 5e is meant to be able to resolve foot races and similar competitions. And presumably that is meant to be done by extrapolating from the contest rules, in much the same way as initiative does.

The goal is not to go first. The goal is simply to have the potential to act in the round, so there is no DC. Initiative is a special kind of ability check that is neither a contest, nor one where you are trying to beat a DC. You will succeed on both a 25 and a 0.
Where do the rules say this?

If the goal was simply to act in the round, why would a check even be required? What is at stake?

I mean, it's not as if the term initiative doesn't have a natural language meaning in this context. And it's impossible for every combatant to have the initiative over the others. It's something that one gains because another has lost it.
 
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Tallifer

Adventurer
Yeah.. I gotta say that who wins the Initiative contest at the beginning of the fight can sometimes make a big difference. So I would definitely call it a contest, an opposed roll.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
But obviously (and as @Hriston has pointed out) they can't all succeed in acting before anyone else.
That's not the goal. The goal is just to act. Not to act first. People in a fight are not typically thinking "I need to go first!" They are just trying to punch the other guy and who goes first is just something that happens.

Where do the rules say this?
Are you really asking me where the rules dictate goals? The rules model(imperfectly since reality is also not the goal) reality. In a fight, people are not punching with the goal of going first. They are punching with the goal of hitting the other guy. Who goes first just happens and a dex check adequately models this.

If the goal was simply to act in the round, why would a check even be required?
Because the alternative is a combat system that is utter chaos and virtually unplayable. To make a combat playable, there needs to be some way to determine who goes in what order.
 

clearstream

Explorer
Yeah.. I gotta say that who wins the Initiative contest at the beginning of the fight can sometimes make a big difference. So I would definitely call it a contest, an opposed roll.
I think [MENTION=23751]Maxperson[/MENTION] isn't discussing what one could call it informally, but how concretely it is defined in RAW. In RAW, Initiative is not a "Contest" because there are mechanical differences between an Initiative check, and a Contest check, in terms of outcomes. They're similar, but not identical.

For me, it's worthwhile going for formal application of keywords in RAW because it means everyone means the same thing when they use those words. For instance I could say someone was paralysed with fear, but unless they have the "Paralysed" condition, they are not paralysed... it's easy to see the ambiguities that can arise when switching between the informal and formal usages.
 

Hriston

Explorer
They are not both trying to go first. The goal is just to have the potential to act, I say potential to act instead of act, because you can opt not to act or you can be rendered unable to act by someone else's action or the environment. The success just determines the order of your ability to go.
So the higher degree of success the higher your placement in the order, yes? That sure sounds like you have a goal of high placement to me. If the goal, as you say, is only to have the potential to act, then a roll wouldn't be required. Everyone in the combat has the potential to act, so there is no uncertainty about the outcome of that goal and no need for an ability check to resolve it.

I don't know if you have been in a fight, but when you are in a fight, you are just trying to hit the person, run away, or perform some other action. You aren't thinking, "Boy. I need to go first this swing.", but rather just swinging away and sometimes you happen to go first. There are exceptions of course, such as when two Samurai duel and they are trying to be the fastest, but in the vast majority of instances, going first is just a matter of who happens to be fastest(dex check) and not the goal itself.
I'll have to take your word that this is your experience. As for myself, I haven't been in too many physical altercations in my life. I have heard that in a life and death fight the best way to survive is to immobilize your opponent's ability to harm you as quickly as possible before they have the opportunity to do so, and that's what makes sense to me.

That's not relevant to the initiative roll. For the initiative roll to be a contest, they have to be going up DIRECTLY against each other, per RAW, and that's not what happens with initiative.

RAW is not silent on the issue. RAW backs up Crawford and myself as it dictates that the opposition must be direct, which doesn't occur with initiative.
The results of the two rolls are compared with one another to see who goes first. That sounds like direct opposition to me.

The goal is not to go first. The goal is simply to have the potential to act in the round, so there is no DC. Initiative is a special kind of ability check that is neither a contest, nor one where you are trying to beat a DC. You will succeed on both a 25 and a 0.
If there's no uncertainty as to success then there should be no ability check. I think you should ask yourself why the DM is calling for an ability check when the outcome of the attempted action you've described (i.e. having a turn) is not in doubt.
 

Hriston

Explorer
For foes who are vying to go first, Initiative is similar to a contest (in the 5e mechanical sense) but its not identical. In a contest, a draw would result in the situation remaining as it was before the contest. That doesn't work as an outcome for initiative.
Thus the need for the specific rule regarding the adjudication of a tie during initiative.
 

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