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D&D 5E On rulings, rules, and Twitter, or: How Sage Advice Changed

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I love this ideal! It's amazing how many players choose it for their character.

There are certain table debates you know to anticipate once you have enough experience under your belt being a Dungeon Master. One of them is the ever-reliable brouhaha over torture and alignment that takes place in hostage situations.

If the debate gets heated or common agreement remains elusive, there's an objective arbiter we can look to for resolution: Good-aligned characters believe people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. -- Solved!
Not really. Alignment is terrible. It's worse than BIFTs. At least they are the player making direct choices / claims about how their character will act. Alignment is a nebulous argument factory. With a good enough talker / debater you can have people thinking up is down and left is right. Alignment assume an objective reality of morality where there is none. It's hot trash and has been for decades.
It was said earlier that personality characteristics are a compass. Show them how to use the compass and then reinforce its use by awarding inspiration when they do.
This is one of my sticking points with BIFTs. As mentioned by others, BIFTs are either too rigid or they're too loose and either essentially makes them meaningless. Too rigid and the character cannot grow or change; too fluid and there's no core to the character. And with the inspiration mechanic you basically have another point of possibly tension between the player and DM as you have to either convince the DM that what you're doing conforms with your BIFTs to get that sweet, sweet inspiration, or you're sitting there with no shiny tokens. That you can only have one at a time mitigates that a bit, but it's still a poorly implemented mechanic.

Something like Cortex+ or Cortex Prime its Values and Value Statements works so much better. They're built to be useful, mechanically, and changeable over time. If you're not familiar, they're typically a list of six values (Duty, Glory, Justice, Love, Power, and Truth). You rank them with dice (d4-d12, typically) based on how strongly you feel about that topic (positive or negative). Then you write a short statement about that value. That's key. When the statement is in accord with what you're doing it helps (adds dice to your pool) but when you decide to directly go against that statement, you get a boost (more dice), and can then change that value statement after the session. So you're baseline mechanically encouraged to act in accord with your values and you're able to choose to go against those values and change them over time (while also getting a mechanical boost for doing so). You're rewarded for adding drama and story to the game.
 

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mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
Not really. Alignment is terrible. It's worse than BIFTs. At least they are the player making direct choices / claims about how their character will act. Alignment is a nebulous argument factory. With a good enough talker / debater you can have people thinking up is down and left is right. Alignment assume an objective reality of morality where there is none. It's hot trash and has been for decades.
The ideals listed in the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide are instructive with regard to what alignment represents.

lawful: tradition, faith, honor, fairness, community, responsibility, logic
chaotic: change, independence, creativity, freedom, free thinking, no limits, whimsy

good: charity, friendship, beauty, respect, generosity, greater good, noble obligation, life, self-sacrifice
evil: greed, might, power, mastery, retribution, domination, pain, slaughter

neutral: people, sincerity, live and let live, nature, knowledge, balance, moderation
other: aspiration, honesty, destiny, self-knowledge, family, glory, nation, self-improvement, discovery, redemption

All the game asks is that you choose one as the hill your character would die on.
 
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overgeeked

B/X Known World
The ideals listed in the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide are instructive with regard to what alignment represents.

lawful: tradition, faith, honor, fairness, community, responsibility, logic
chaotic: change, independence, creativity, freedom, free thinking, no limits, whimsy

good: charity, friendship, beauty, respect, generosity, greater good, noble obligation, life, self-sacrifice
evil: greed, might, power, mastery, retribution, domination, pain, slaughter

neutral: people, sincerity, live and let live, nature, knowledge, balance, moderation
other: aspiration, honesty, destiny, self-knowledge, family, glory, nation, self-improvement, discovery, redemption

All the game asks is that you choose one as the hill your character would die on.
Yes, I am aware. I have read the books. It’s still trash. And it has been for decades.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I love this ideal! It's amazing how many players choose it for their character.

There are certain table debates you know to anticipate once you have enough experience under your belt being a Dungeon Master. One of them is the ever-reliable brouhaha over torture and alignment that takes place in hostage situations.

If the debate gets heated or common agreement remains elusive, there's an objective arbiter we can look to for resolution: Good-aligned characters believe people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. -- Solved!

It was said earlier that personality characteristics are a compass. Show them how to use the compass and then reinforce its use by awarding inspiration when they do.
I'm sorry, but how is something that the player is free to ignore and only engage with when it benefits them solving this problem? How does it act on the situation to come to a resolution? You're suggesting there's some power here that is utterly lacking. Do you mean that the GM reminds the players how they're supposed to play their character?
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
Alignment is a nebulous argument factory. With a good enough talker / debater you can have people thinking up is down and left is right.
Why do we always assume the worst in our players and DMs? Why does everything constantly have a deeper layer of distrust, scheming, or trickery?

The base assumption of the game should be that every player and the DM is, at least, well-intentioned even when there is disagreement over certain things. If the assumption is that players are creating characters for cooperative purposes, the players will put in effort not to intentionally disrupt and when they realize they are disruptive, they'll apologize and back off.

If a player is intentionally being disruptive for whatever reason, there's no features you can add or remove in the game that will prevent that. There's more ways to be disruptive than there are ways to prevent it.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Why do we always assume the worst in our players and DMs? Why does everything constantly have a deeper layer of distrust, scheming, or trickery?

The base assumption of the game should be that every player and the DM is, at least, well-intentioned even when there is disagreement over certain things. If the assumption is that players are creating characters for cooperative purposes, the players will put in effort not to intentionally disrupt and when they realize they are disruptive, they'll apologize and back off.

If a player is intentionally being disruptive for whatever reason, there's no features you can add or remove in the game that will prevent that. There's more ways to be disruptive than there are ways to prevent it.
Ha! This is one of the primary arguments that comes out -- be a team player first! -- that absolutely undercuts any argument that BIFTs are valued character building tools. Unless BIFTs are aligned to the team, there's conflict, and now the argument to be a good team player means that you should discard your BIFTs when they do not support your team.

Say, for instance, I have a character that has the ideal from above -- good: respect. But, I also have a flaw that I'm quick to violence and think violence can solve problems. The scene in the example unfolds. Now, instead of a choice between whether or not the angel or devil gets their way in my character, I have to step back and think of which choice is the best team choice. That's certainly not about being my character, is it?
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Why do we always assume the worst in our players and DMs? Why does everything constantly have a deeper layer of distrust, scheming, or trickery?
Because apparently some people have been burned too greatly before and won't ever let themselves be burned again. That's the only reason I can think of that sets some people off. Mention the name Drizzt and immediately some people start ranting their hatred because apparently they were the table that actually had their friends play dual-wielding drow over and over again seventy-five times over until the person couldn't take it anymore. Or that they actually had their friends group absolutely destroyed because someone played a "kender" and now they can't hear that word without going into fits.

So now they've thrown up these massive defense shields to defend against the game should it ever deign to conspire against them and make all players they might play with in the future horrendous and horrible fiends destined to destroy their love of the game. :)
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I always try to assume best play, but the issue here isn't that people are playing badly, it's that we're discussing different goals of play -- am I trying to successfully showcase the character traits of my PC, or am I only doing so when it doesn't disrupt the team? I can have excellent, good-intentioned play in both directions that would look utterly against the other. This isn't a matter of bad players, but misaligned play goals. The topic for some time has been how BIFTs enable strong characterization of PCs, but now we're arguing for team play and not characterization. That's a different goal, and I'd like to understand how it's being aligned here -- do BIFTs only enhance those characterizations that also feed into team play? If so, are they then less about characterization and more about rails to keep characters within the goal of team play? Either way, my opinion is that they are terrible at both.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
Say, for instance, I have a character that has the ideal from above -- good: respect. But, I also have a flaw that I'm quick to violence and think violence can solve problems. The scene in the example unfolds. Now, instead of a choice between whether or not the angel or devil gets their way in my character, I have to step back and think of which choice is the best team choice. That's certainly not about being my character, is it?
Its a compromise to keep the social contract enforced. Again, assuming a well-intentioned player, they want to display their character's personality yet they recognize that being a psychopath probably isn't fun for too many people.

And really, you can display most flaws, even seemingly disruptive ones, without actually disrupting the group.

If I was roleplaying the character but I wasn't trying to actually disrupt play, I'd make a remark like "Why bother talking when we can break his neck?" Where a more reasonable character can roleplay theirs and say
"You know we can't just start picking fights. We're on a mission."
"Fine, but you'll probably not getting anything without breaking a few fingers. When you need that, call me."

Not only does this not disrupt the game, it invites others to share spotlight with dialogue. Its not what you BIFTs are, its how you use them.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Its a compromise to keep the social contract enforced. Again, assuming a well-intentioned player, they want to display their character's personality yet they recognize that being a psychopath probably isn't fun for too many people.

And really, you can display most flaws, even seemingly disruptive ones, without actually disrupting the group.

If I was roleplaying the character but I wasn't trying to actually disrupt play, I'd make a remark like "Why bother talking when we can break his neck?" Where a more reasonable character can roleplay theirs and say
"You know we can't just start picking fights. We're on a mission."
"Fine, but you'll probably not getting anything without breaking a few fingers. When you need that, call me."

Not only does this not disrupt the game, it invites others to share spotlight with dialogue. Its not what you BIFTs are, its how you use them.
Sorry, but this isn't actually having that character DO anything, it's just play-acting. Which is one of my complaints about these systems -- they don't encourage actual changes in play, they encourage superficial changes at the play-acting level. Because, if we analyze that scenario for actual impacts, what happens is the character meekly goes along with the group, but makes some funny noises along the way. This isn't actually engaging a flaw, it's just taking a prompt to do some play-acting and pretend we've done something impactful with our character.

And, to be perfectly clear, this is fine. Honestly, it's the expectation at a normal D&D table and it's entertaining, so there's nothing bad here. The point I'm making isn't that this is weak-sauce or terrible, because it's not, but that it's not actually engaging in playing a character that has a flaw in any meaningful way. Again, you don't have to, but the claim is that BIFTs do this -- they engage character in meaningful ways. This example shows this to be strongly overstated -- there's nothing meaningful here outside the entertainment variety. Now, D&D is structurally a team game where you have to belong to the group consensus to advance play (broadly speaking), so having systems that actively promote characterization is something that is a hinderance to this. BIFTs, as the tacked on kluge they are, try to suggest that you do get some individuality in D&D, but they don't provide any way to actually do this, so the default is that you're expected to use BIFTs in service of the team goal approach, not against it. This rips the meaning out of them, and they become nothing but glorified prompts from occasional play-acting and not actual characterizations.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Sorry, but this isn't actually having that character DO anything, it's just play-acting. Which is one of my complaints about these systems -- they don't encourage actual changes in play, they encourage superficial changes at the play-acting level. Because, if we analyze that scenario for actual impacts, what happens is the character meekly goes along with the group, but makes some funny noises along the way. This isn't actually engaging a flaw, it's just taking a prompt to do some play-acting and pretend we've done something impactful with our character.

And, to be perfectly clear, this is fine. Honestly, it's the expectation at a normal D&D table and it's entertaining, so there's nothing bad here. The point I'm making isn't that this is weak-sauce or terrible, because it's not, but that it's not actually engaging in playing a character that has a flaw in any meaningful way. Again, you don't have to, but the claim is that BIFTs do this -- they engage character in meaningful ways. This example shows this to be strongly overstated -- there's nothing meaningful here outside the entertainment variety. Now, D&D is structurally a team game where you have to belong to the group consensus to advance play (broadly speaking), so having systems that actively promote characterization is something that is a hinderance to this. BIFTs, as the tacked on kluge they are, try to suggest that you do get some individuality in D&D, but they don't provide any way to actually do this, so the default is that you're expected to use BIFTs in service of the team goal approach, not against it. This rips the meaning out of them, and they become nothing but glorified prompts from occasional play-acting and not actual characterizations.
In theory, there is mechanical carrot for playing BIFTs called inspiration. In practice, it rarely happens at most tables.

However, personally I never remember them because there's too much going on with 6 PCs at my table. I guess I could have players claim them, but I'm not sure I want people thinking of what their PC does in terms of what will get them inspiration.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
Sorry, but this isn't actually having that character DO anything, it's just play-acting. Which is one of my complaints about these systems -- they don't encourage actual changes in play, they encourage superficial changes at the play-acting level. Because, if we analyze that scenario for actual impacts, what happens is the character meekly goes along with the group, but makes some funny noises along the way. This isn't actually engaging a flaw, it's just taking a prompt to do some play-acting and pretend we've done something impactful with our character.

And, to be perfectly clear, this is fine. Honestly, it's the expectation at a normal D&D table and it's entertaining, so there's nothing bad here. The point I'm making isn't that this is weak-sauce or terrible, because it's not, but that it's not actually engaging in playing a character that has a flaw in any meaningful way. Again, you don't have to, but the claim is that BIFTs do this -- they engage character in meaningful ways. This example shows this to be strongly overstated -- there's nothing meaningful here outside the entertainment variety. Now, D&D is structurally a team game where you have to belong to the group consensus to advance play (broadly speaking), so having systems that actively promote characterization is something that is a hinderance to this. BIFTs, as the tacked on kluge they are, try to suggest that you do get some individuality in D&D, but they don't provide any way to actually do this, so the default is that you're expected to use BIFTs in service of the team goal approach, not against it. This rips the meaning out of them, and they become nothing but glorified prompts from occasional play-acting and not actual characterizations.
Engagement can't be forced by these traits, but why should we force engagement? Some people don't want to engage more than their comfort level and by forcing it, you're making the play experience more uncomfortable.

I know people that are happy to be in the background of a game aside from a few remarks or quips of characterization, at least until combat. There's nothing wrong with that and I don't think forced engagement is going to make the game fun for them.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Engagement can't be forced by these traits, but why should we force engagement? Some people don't want to engage more than their comfort level and by forcing it, you're making the play experience more uncomfortable.

I know people that are happy to be in the background of a game aside from a few remarks or quips of characterization, at least until combat. There's nothing wrong with that and I don't think forced engagement is going to make the game fun for them.
And you've move the goalpost, but poorly, in that you're still forcing engagement, just engagement with the team-play consensus building concept versus playing a character that you've chosen. I mean, if I've made the choices about my character, how is it forcing engagement, again? Is it forcing engagement when I choose to use a weapon my character is not proficient with and so suffers disadvantage?

You're making an artificial distinction here -- I'm forced to engage with other mechanical traits of my character that have lasting impact on play, but it's bad to expect character traits to have any such impact or engagement because reasons.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
In theory, there is mechanical carrot for playing BIFTs called inspiration. In practice, it rarely happens at most tables.

However, personally I never remember them because there's too much going on with 6 PCs at my table. I guess I could have players claim them, but I'm not sure I want people thinking of what their PC does in terms of what will get them inspiration.
Thanks, I've made that point repeatedly in this thread, but it's good to see it reinforced.
 

Because apparently some people have been burned too greatly before and won't ever let themselves be burned again. That's the only reason I can think of that sets some people off. Mention the name Drizzt and immediately some people start ranting their hatred because apparently they were the table that actually had their friends play dual-wielding drow over and over again seventy-five times over until the person couldn't take it anymore. Or that they actually had their friends group absolutely destroyed because someone played a "kender" and now they can't hear that word without going into fits.

So now they've thrown up these massive defense shields to defend against the game should it ever deign to conspire against them and make all players they might play with in the future horrendous and horrible fiends destined to destroy their love of the game. :)

It doesn't take a lot of encounters with players who seem to be doing their best to just get around anything constraining them, or GMs who use character definition as a bludgeon to keep people in line, for it to leave a mark. Same applies to other elements of game play, and, frankly, just life: people don't assume good behavior because they've seen enough bad behavior. And its not always something you see coming.
 

I'm inclined to push your thinking on how they don't really require the player to make any effort toward working with the Dungeon Master. The DM is the lead storyteller and referee. There is no game if players are not working with them. If you believe that 5th Edition is about rulings not rules, the statement you've made here challenges that belief.
I'm no sure what there is to push. I explained that they don't do this this & this, fail at these things, and are lacking like so at least once or twice to be net with "that's just your opinion I reject all of that as unworthy of discussion and think they are great". If you look at systems like fate BiTD & likely others where similar systems exist the GM has ways to point at a player's BITS equivalents being relevant to a situation & force the player to either spend a resource & make an excuse to ignore it or do something fitting the combination of aspect & situation. That is so deeply mechanically woven into the mechanics even beyond that that players proactively look for ways to use their aspects without being forced including spending some of that same resource in order to use them in powerful ways. BITS by comparison are lacking in anything like that, completely optional to use, able to be ignored with no issue, regularly describing something meaningless, & after all of that can be used in disruptive ways because "[no offense but] my character has x BITF so he/she does Y". Then BITS tops all of that off by claiming they are to be d&d5e's tool described the same as those aspects.

Saying the dm is in charge is great and all, but that gets into trouble with 5e stripping so much power from the gm, dumping so much power into the classes themselves, & leaving the GM with an empty quiver beside an empty toolbox rather than risk maybe having a bad (usually new) gm abuse them while learning to be a better on.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
Yes, I am aware. I have read the books. It’s still trash. And it has been for decades.
Yikes.


I'm sorry, but how is something that the player is free to ignore and only engage with when it benefits them solving this problem? How does it act on the situation to come to a resolution? You're suggesting there's some power here that is utterly lacking. Do you mean that the GM reminds the players how they're supposed to play their character?
Players are free to ignore any of the following and only engage when it benefits them:
  • languages they speak
  • armor proficiencies
  • weapon proficiencies
  • tool proficiencies
  • spells they can cast
  • rituals they can cast
  • features they can use after a rest
  • skill proficiencies
  • equipment they carry
  • wealth they have
  • services and hirelings
  • mounts they can ride
  • activities they might undertake while traveling
  • downtime activities
  • available combat actions
I'd hate to point at any of these in a given situation where they might be useful for fear of reminding anyone how to play their character (gasp!).

Ha! This is one of the primary arguments that comes out -- be a team player first! -- that absolutely undercuts any argument that BIFTs are valued character building tools. Unless BIFTs are aligned to the team, there's conflict, and now the argument to be a good team player means that you should discard your BIFTs when they do not support your team.
I'm trying to imagine the tables you're sitting at because all of the conflict you describe is just alien to my experience with the game. Who is it that behaves so terribly? I'd honestly like to know so I can avoid them should I encounter them in the wild.

Say, for instance, I have a character that has the ideal from above -- good: respect. But, I also have a flaw that I'm quick to violence and think violence can solve problems. The scene in the example unfolds. Now, instead of a choice between whether or not the angel or devil gets their way in my character, I have to step back and think of which choice is the best team choice. That's certainly not about being my character, is it?
Respect is the thing your character believes in most strongly, though they're extremely hot-headed and someone else can use that to exploit them or cause them to act against their best interests.

There's no angel versus devil dichotomy. You've described someone who will smack you up if they see you disrespecting a gentle soul, but will only use the amount of force necessary to straighten you out.


In theory, there is mechanical carrot for playing BIFTs called inspiration. In practice, it rarely happens at most tables.

However, personally I never remember them because there's too much going on with 6 PCs at my table. I guess I could have players claim them, but I'm not sure I want people thinking of what their PC does in terms of what will get them inspiration.
Inspiration is everywhere when campaigns first start because it helps to get everyone on the same page about the game we all want to be playing. As time goes on, it really only makes a showing in those awesome moments where something cool happens and there's magic in the air.

My big takeaway from this thread is that I'm incredibly lucky to play with the people I play with. There's so many magical moments!✨


I'm no sure what there is to push. I explained that they don't do this this & this, fail at these things, and are lacking like so at least once or twice to be net with "that's just your opinion I reject all of that as unworthy of discussion and think they are great". If you look at systems like fate BiTD & likely others where similar systems exist the GM has ways to point at a player's BITS equivalents being relevant to a situation & force the player to either spend a resource & make an excuse to ignore it or do something fitting the combination of aspect & situation. That is so deeply mechanically woven into the mechanics even beyond that that players proactively look for ways to use their aspects without being forced including spending some of that same resource in order to use them in powerful ways. BITS by comparison are lacking in anything like that, completely optional to use, able to be ignored with no issue, regularly describing something meaningless, & after all of that can be used in disruptive ways because "[no offense but] my character has x BITF so he/she does Y". Then BITS tops all of that off by claiming they are to be d&d5e's tool described the same as those aspects.
I'm simply asking you to reconsider in light of D&D not being any of those other games. It's clear that you have a fixed mindset on this, so I won't try and push your thinking anymore.

Saying the dm is in charge is great and all, but that gets into trouble with 5e stripping so much power from the gm, dumping so much power into the classes themselves, & leaving the GM with an empty quiver beside an empty toolbox rather than risk maybe having a bad (usually new) gm abuse them while learning to be a better on.
I've not encountered this argument about 5e stripping power from the DM, but we'll have to discuss that in a different thread.

Edit: Formatting
 
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Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
...
My big takeaway from this thread is that I'm incredibly lucky to play with the people I play with. There's so many magical moments!✨



I'm simply asking you to reconsider in light of D&D not being any of those other games. It's clear that you have a fixed mindset on this, so I won't try and push your thinking anymore.


I've not encountered this argument about 5e stripping power from the DM, but we'll have to discuss that in a different thread.
All I can say is that we also have a lot of fun, laughs and, occasionally, drama. We just don't need a mechanical carrot or stick to get there. People let me know either in character or outside of the what they want, we discuss it, and it gets worked in. Easy peasy.

If a more systematic approach works for you, I'm not going to tell you that you're wrong. Just that there's more than one way to achieve the goal.
 

Asisreo

Fiendish Attorney
All I can say is that we also have a lot of fun, laughs and, occasionally, drama. We just don't need a mechanical carrot or stick to get there.
This kinda reminds me that these types of debates are silly to begin with. I can have fun with my friends without playing D&D entirely, we just do it because it enhances our fun. Otherwise, we wouldn't bother. Same for people that either engages or disengages with BIFT (Bonds, Ideals, Flaws, Traits) and their uses.

If someone were to say "Everyone should stop playing D&D because its not fun" or "Everyone should play D&D because its the only fun." Those people would be rightfully seen as ridiculous.

I think the same for BIFTs, its a bit ridiculous to want everyone to engage with them if they are obviously doing more harm than good, but I don't think that means its okay to completely remove it from existence.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
All I can say is that we also have a lot of fun, laughs and, occasionally, drama. We just don't need a mechanical carrot or stick to get there. People let me know either in character or outside of the what they want, we discuss it, and it gets worked in. Easy peasy.

If a more systematic approach works for you, I'm not going to tell you that you're wrong. Just that there's more than one way to achieve the goal.
Oops. My comment about gratitude for my gaming experience wasn't meant to be anything other than a takeaway from observing the whole thread. Please don't read into any subtext or subtle jab aimed at you.
😬😅❤️
 

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