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

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
I'm not sure what your point is, here. Are library filing systems definitional for genre? Because they don't have a heroic fiction section, either.
Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Sub genre: Heroic fantasy

They might have a heroic fantasy section if the fiction collection was large enough to justify that level of detail in shelving. Most likely, the fiction section will feature genre sections.

However, the Player's Handbook is not a work of fiction. It would be located somewhere else entirely.

True, but that's been heavily toned down for the last two editions. I can leave that space blank on my sheet in 5e and it doesn't change how the game plays.
Has it, though? Seems now there's an entire chapter that highlights it.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Sub genre: Heroic fantasy

They might have a heroic fantasy section if the fiction collection was large enough to justify that level of detail in shelving. Most likely, the fiction section will feature genre sections.

However, the Player's Handbook is not a work of fiction. It would be located somewhere else entirely.


Has it, though? Seems now there's an entire chapter that highlights it.
the game known as D&D is very much not heroic fantasy. even d&d novels are very different than d&d gameplay & d&d tropes. Goblin Slayer is extreme gritty fantasy but takes pains to actually incoperate the way a game like d&d works into the way characters & the world functions from the role of adventuring guilds, mega powerful meaningless NPCs who might hire the party, the absurd randomness of pc group assembly, consumable magic items, the way spell slots work, a few one off local big bads, & much more.

As much as wotc wants to claim that 5e d&d is heroic fantasy all they really did is strip & code against elements that allow other styles of d&d to run well.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
the game known as D&D is very much not heroic fantasy. even d&d novels are very different than d&d gameplay & d&d tropes. Goblin Slayer is extreme gritty fantasy but takes pains to actually incoperate the way a game like d&d works into the way characters & the world functions from the role of adventuring guilds, mega powerful meaningless NPCs who might hire the party, the absurd randomness of pc group assembly, consumable magic items, the way spell slots work, a few one off local big bads, & much more.
I would expect most D&D novels to be classified under fantasy fiction or science fiction.

The heroic fantasy sub genre is common in fantasy fiction.

The D&D rule books would be classified under amusement non-fiction (handbooks, manuals, etc.).

As much as wotc wants to claim that 5e d&d is heroic fantasy all they really did is strip & code against elements that allow other styles of d&d to run well.
Approaching the materials with dispassion, I think the Dungeon Master's Guide does an excellent job at applying sub genre tags to the works of fantasy fiction relating to D&D.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I would expect most D&D novels to be classified under fantasy fiction or science fiction.

The heroic fantasy sub genre is common in fantasy fiction.

The D&D rule books would be classified under amusement non-fiction (handbooks, manuals, etc.).


Approaching the materials with dispassion, I think the Dungeon Master's Guide does an excellent job at applying sub genre tags to the works of fantasy fiction relating to D&D.
The problem is that different themes & tropes present in settings like ravenloft/eberron/darksun/etc need support for the themes & tropes they emphasize within the rules rather than rules that thwart them. It' such a significant undertaking that wotc themselves avoided doing so in both the eberron & ravenloft books. Take darksun as an example, it's hard to play up scarcity when the rest & recovery rules make it so trivial to quickly recover & a wide array of abilities are designed to just let a player say "actually no I just solve it". In some ways those things impact eberron as well just as not bothering to make crafting rules & designing the core rules themselves to squeeze out room or need for magic items
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Fiction
Genre: Fantasy
Sub genre: Heroic fantasy

They might have a heroic fantasy section if the fiction collection was large enough to justify that level of detail in shelving. Most likely, the fiction section will feature genre sections.

However, the Player's Handbook is not a work of fiction. It would be located somewhere else entirely.
Ah, your argument is that the Player's Handbook cannot have a genre, because it's not a work of fiction. Cool. But, I'm talking about D&D as a game, not the Player's Handbook as a book.
Has it, though? Seems now there's an entire chapter that highlights it.
Let's talk this as given. It's irrelevant -- nothing in that chapter means anything to actual play. The only mechanics that are leveraged in that chapter are the background proficiencies and the background special abilities. None of the BIFTs are mechanically enforced anywhere. I can have all of the (good) BIFTs, and ignore them, and nothing happens. Heck, even earning Inspiration for BIFTs is a recommendation, the actual rule is that the GM will tell you how you can earn Inspiration in the game. The DMG offers that you can do it for a much larger range of reasons and also says that you can choose to not use it. Inspiration is an optional rule in everything but label. I am following the rules if I, as GM, award Inspiration once per session, when quests are complete, or never. All of these are fully available options for how to use Inspiration.

So, if Chapter 4 exemplifies alignment (and most of the entries on the random BIFT tables aren't even aligned) it's confusing to me how that works. Your table can choose to embrace alignment, no doubt, and be within the rules if you do so. But those rules do not require this, and don't strongly promote it, either, and can, in fact, ignore it altogether and be just as within the rules as you are.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
Ah, your argument is that the Player's Handbook cannot have a genre, because it's not a work of fiction. Cool. But, I'm talking about D&D as a game, not the Player's Handbook as a book.
You're talking about the intellectual content of the book. I'm with you.

And I'm not arguing, I'm just trying to make sure we're talking about the same things before we embark on our next great debate.

Let's talk this as given. It's irrelevant -- nothing in that chapter means anything to actual play. The only mechanics that are leveraged in that chapter are the background proficiencies and the background special abilities. None of the BIFTs are mechanically enforced anywhere. I can have all of the (good) BIFTs, and ignore them, and nothing happens. Heck, even earning Inspiration for BIFTs is a recommendation, the actual rule is that the GM will tell you how you can earn Inspiration in the game. The DMG offers that you can do it for a much larger range of reasons and also says that you can choose to not use it. Inspiration is an optional rule in everything but label. I am following the rules if I, as GM, award Inspiration once per session, when quests are complete, or never. All of these are fully available options for how to use Inspiration.

So, if Chapter 4 exemplifies alignment (and most of the entries on the random BIFT tables aren't even aligned) it's confusing to me how that works. Your table can choose to embrace alignment, no doubt, and be within the rules if you do so. But those rules do not require this, and don't strongly promote it, either, and can, in fact, ignore it altogether and be just as within the rules as you are.
We've moved on from that discussion. We're talking about tropes now.

Lawful good paladin is the trope, not paladin. The rules for personality and background show you how to play up tropes and be rewarded for doing so.


The problem is that different themes & tropes present in settings like ravenloft/eberron/darksun/etc need support for the themes & tropes they emphasize within the rules rather than rules that thwart them. It' such a significant undertaking that wotc themselves avoided doing so in both the eberron & ravenloft books. Take darksun as an example, it's hard to play up scarcity when the rest & recovery rules make it so trivial to quickly recover & a wide array of abilities are designed to just let a player say "actually no I just solve it". In some ways those things impact eberron as well just as not bothering to make crafting rules & designing the core rules themselves to squeeze out room or need for magic items
I think that Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft and Rising From the Last War were both great campaign sourcebooks. How did they fail to deliver on theme?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
You're talking about the intellectual content of the book. I'm with you.

And I'm not arguing, I'm just trying to make sure we're talking about the same things before we embark on our next great debate.
Then we need to circle back, because I'm not sure what you're saying. Your talking about how Player's Handbooks are shelved in some nominal library and using that to saying something about its genre. I'm not following, this seems a very strange line of argument to me.
We've moved on from that discussion. We're talking about tropes now.

Lawful good paladin is the trope, not paladin. The rules for personality and background show you how to play up tropes and be rewarded for doing so.
There's a lot of nestled assumptions here.
1) BIFTs are rewarded
2) If you are playing a lawful good paladin, Chapter 4 shows you how to do this.
3) Paladins are lawful good.

Starting from the bottom, 3) isn't true anymore. There are no requirements that paladins be lawful or good.

2) There are no backgrounds or BIFTs that are tagged "for paladins." In fact, if I follow one of the options, I can roll for BIFTs and end up with chaotic and evil tagged BIFTs for my paladin. This is playing by the rules, so Chapter 4 can't be said to actually show you how to play a lawful good paladin (again, note the assumption with 3)). I can have a criminal background Paladin with evil tagged ideals. Sounds like some fun!

Instead, 2) relies on the assumption that a paladin is 3) lawful good and that the player already knows what this means and so can make selections based on this. However, as noted with 3), there's no guidance for the paladin class that it be good or lawful, so a new player, not familiar with this trope, will not find any help in Chapter 4 to align to this trope because Chapter 4 doesn't say anything at all about paladins being lawful good or how you would do that.

Finally, your 1) is still not correct. I just pointed out how Inspiration is entirely up to the GM by the rules, and runs the gamut from never being awarded to being awarded for leveling to being awarded for completing a quest or adventure to being awarded at the beginning of the session to being awarded when the GM thinks you've done a BIFT well enough. All of this is within the rules and guidance for Inspiration -- all of it. Chapter 4 tells a player they may be rewarded for a BIFT, but to ask the GM to find out how they're doing it. This isn't the virtuous cycle you're assuming, and, quite often, it's not done this way at all with a large chunk of the community ignoring BIFTs and Inspiration altogether -- and doing so according to the rules of the game.

Finally, Paladins being lawful good isn't a defining trope for the D&D genre. (If anything, Lawful Stupid Paladins are more identifiable as D&D, but I'd not put it there.) You can remove Paladins from the game entirely and not touch the defining tropes of D&D. Absence of the Paladin doesn't suddenly make D&D not D&D. Your earlier statement about alignment is much more on target, but not things like lawful good paladins but rather the alignment structure itself. Again, however, 4th and 5th have worked hard to neuter this, and I'm not sure it's actually done the D&D genre much harm. It's certainly reduced the impact of the memes based on alignment for the newer generations of players.
I think that Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft and Rising From the Last War were both great campaign sourcebooks. How did they fail to deliver on theme?
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I think that Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft and Rising From the Last War were both great campaign sourcebooks. How did they fail to deliver on theme?
The context is critical & being ignored. I would agree with you on that for rising & would like to on vrgtr, but the problem is the core rules being too tightly aligned with the needs of FR & FR type games. For a more black and white example, Hasbro owns my little pony & could hypothetically pay Chaosium to let someone write the most incredible My Little Pony sourcebook.... for Call of Cthulu. You don't need to know much about either of those things to realize my little pony & Call of Cthulu are probably violently incompatible without major rules changes & rules rewrites. Simply declaring that the ponies cannel the magic of sanity instead of friendship against the unfriendly elder gods won't fix that clash either. The same kind of thing applies to having the settings for that great sourcebook and... that... uhh... Other... sourcebook because the settings depend pretty heavily on rules structures that no longer exist.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I will agree with this. My go-to game is Savage Worlds. It's a flexible, genre-neutral system that encourages pulp action adventure. It can do fantasy, science fiction, gothic horror, and spaghetti westerns. It does them all very well...but it only does them in shades of Savage Worlds. Every Savage Worlds game is going to have big gunfights with a lot of miniatures on the battlefield because that's what the game is about.

In that same vein, every D&D game can do different genres, but they're all D&D. D&D meets science fiction (Spelljammer)! D&D meets gothic horror (Ravenloft)! D&D meets post-apocalypse (Dark Sun)! The system's conceits define and constrain it. There are boundaries in place that D&D cannot reach beyond. Hit point attrition, resource management, Vancian spells, classes, saving throws, the ability scores, etc. Your game might cross out the word wizard and replace it with "decker," you might call spells "programs," you might change hit points to "stamina," but the basic gameplay remains unchanged.
You’ve never seen changes to those things that actually change them rather than rename them?
It's a bit tautological, but a thing is defined as itself. D&D is D&D.
I’ve been told that my changes to play a fantasy space opera made the game “not D&D” even though I didn’t change any of the things you’ve listed, so I’m not convinced that D&D even has all that solid a definition.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
Then we need to circle back, because I'm not sure what you're saying. Your talking about how Player's Handbooks are shelved in some nominal library and using that to saying something about its genre. I'm not following, this seems a very strange line of argument to me.
I'm trying to support your understanding of the term genre and what it describes, hoping you'll recognize category (roleplaying game) and genre (fantasy) are separate descriptive terms.

There's a lot of nestled assumptions here.
1) BIFTs are rewarded
2) If you are playing a lawful good paladin, Chapter 4 shows you how to do this.
3) Paladins are lawful good.

Starting from the bottom, 3) isn't true anymore. There are no requirements that paladins be lawful or good.

2) There are no backgrounds or BIFTs that are tagged "for paladins." In fact, if I follow one of the options, I can roll for BIFTs and end up with chaotic and evil tagged BIFTs for my paladin. This is playing by the rules, so Chapter 4 can't be said to actually show you how to play a lawful good paladin (again, note the assumption with 3)). I can have a criminal background Paladin with evil tagged ideals. Sounds like some fun!

Instead, 2) relies on the assumption that a paladin is 3) lawful good and that the player already knows what this means and so can make selections based on this. However, as noted with 3), there's no guidance for the paladin class that it be good or lawful, so a new player, not familiar with this trope, will not find any help in Chapter 4 to align to this trope because Chapter 4 doesn't say anything at all about paladins being lawful good or how you would do that.

Finally, your 1) is still not correct. I just pointed out how Inspiration is entirely up to the GM by the rules, and runs the gamut from never being awarded to being awarded for leveling to being awarded for completing a quest or adventure to being awarded at the beginning of the session to being awarded when the GM thinks you've done a BIFT well enough. All of this is within the rules and guidance for Inspiration -- all of it. Chapter 4 tells a player they may be rewarded for a BIFT, but to ask the GM to find out how they're doing it. This isn't the virtuous cycle you're assuming, and, quite often, it's not done this way at all with a large chunk of the community ignoring BIFTs and Inspiration altogether -- and doing so according to the rules of the game.

Finally, Paladins being lawful good isn't a defining trope for the D&D genre. (If anything, Lawful Stupid Paladins are more identifiable as D&D, but I'd not put it there.) You can remove Paladins from the game entirely and not touch the defining tropes of D&D. Absence of the Paladin doesn't suddenly make D&D not D&D. Your earlier statement about alignment is much more on target, but not things like lawful good paladins but rather the alignment structure itself. Again, however, 4th and 5th have worked hard to neuter this, and I'm not sure it's actually done the D&D genre much harm. It's certainly reduced the impact of the memes based on alignment for the newer generations of players.
Again, we've moved on from that discussion. We're talking about tropes now.

The rules for personality and background contain the tropes: The criminal seeking redemption, the folk hero following her destiny, the noble obliged to his subjects, etc.

These tropes are common in the genre of fantasy.

As I said previously, Chapter 4 is instructive. It outlines the common tropes and then offers to reward you for leaning into the cliché.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I'm trying to support your understanding of the term genre and what it describes, hoping you'll recognize category (roleplaying game) and genre (fantasy) are separate descriptive terms.
Um, why would I be confused about this? I think you're trying to assert that RPGs can't have their own genres, but this isn't true. D&D is a very strong genre, and the rules support it or you end up with mutiny (see 4e, which actually moved away from the baseline genre of D&D and received strong pushback for doing so).
Again, we've moved on from that discussion. We're talking about tropes now.
We apparently haven't, because your tropes argument rests entirely on the argument about Inspiration and how BIFTs work.
The rules for personality and background contain the tropes: The criminal seeking redemption, the folk hero following her destiny, the noble obliged to his subjects, etc.
Or the criminal not seeking redemptions, or the folk hero succumbing to baser desires, or the noble ignoring everything to be a murderhobo. You're cherry picking, and basing your argument on the fact that these are somehow elevated or reinforced, but they aren't.
These tropes are common in the genre of fantasy.
So? There are others, and these aren't necessary nor sufficient for D&D. Murderhoboing is far more integral to the definition of D&D than anything you've listed.

Can you engage those tropes, can your game feature them heavily? Absolutely! But this is that sprinkling on top, because your lawful good paladin will still solve most of their problems with combat, they will still start zero to go to hero, and they will still be absolutely expected to subsume any and all personal traits, bonds, goals, and wants to the party zeitgeist.
As I said previously, Chapter 4 is instructive. It outlines the common tropes and then offers to reward you for leaning into the cliché.
It offers no such rewards, by the very rules you're quoting. It offers a possibility of a rewards, but the DMG advice that pairs with this spends more time on other reward structures than it does on rewarding BIFTs.

And it does offer tropes, but these aren't the ones that define the D&D genre, nor are they anywhere near all about alignment, nor are they even coherent with each other. You can use them to get to some tropes, but you have to be aware of that trope and working for it or it's just an accident, because Chapter 4, at best, offers you fragments you can puzzle together -- it certainly doesn't offer you whole concepts.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
The context is critical & being ignored. I would agree with you on that for rising & would like to on vrgtr, but the problem is the core rules being too tightly aligned with the needs of FR & FR type games. For a more black and white example, Hasbro owns my little pony & could hypothetically pay Chaosium to let someone write the most incredible My Little Pony sourcebook.... for Call of Cthulu. You don't need to know much about either of those things to realize my little pony & Call of Cthulu are probably violently incompatible without major rules changes & rules rewrites. Simply declaring that the ponies cannel the magic of sanity instead of friendship against the unfriendly elder gods won't fix that clash either. The same kind of thing applies to having the settings for that great sourcebook and... that... uhh... Other... sourcebook because the settings depend pretty heavily on rules structures that no longer exist.
I understand you to be saying that the core rules don't support the Dark Sun campaign setting properly.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
Um, why would I be confused about this? I think you're trying to assert that RPGs can't have their own genres, but this isn't true. D&D is a very strong genre, and the rules support it or you end up with mutiny (see 4e, which actually moved away from the baseline genre of D&D and received strong pushback for doing so).
You need to revisit the definition of genre.

We apparently haven't, because your tropes argument rests entirely on the argument about Inspiration and how BIFTs work.
You need to revisit the definition of trope.

Or the criminal not seeking redemptions, or the folk hero succumbing to baser desires, or the noble ignoring everything to be a murderhobo. You're cherry picking, and basing your argument on the fact that these are somehow elevated or reinforced, but they aren't.

So? There are others, and these aren't necessary nor sufficient for D&D. Murderhoboing is far more integral to the definition of D&D than anything you've listed.

Can you engage those tropes, can your game feature them heavily? Absolutely! But this is that sprinkling on top, because your lawful good paladin will still solve most of their problems with combat, they will still start zero to go to hero, and they will still be absolutely expected to subsume any and all personal traits, bonds, goals, and wants to the party zeitgeist.

It offers no such rewards, by the very rules you're quoting. It offers a possibility of a rewards, but the DMG advice that pairs with this spends more time on other reward structures than it does on rewarding BIFTs.

And it does offer tropes, but these aren't the ones that define the D&D genre, nor are they anywhere near all about alignment, nor are they even coherent with each other. You can use them to get to some tropes, but you have to be aware of that trope and working for it or it's just an accident, because Chapter 4, at best, offers you fragments you can puzzle together -- it certainly doesn't offer you whole concepts.
Oy.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I understand you to be saying that the core rules don't support the Dark Sun campaign setting properly.
1627950171717.png
The problem is that "baseline", the rules support & reinforce it time and again to the extent that
rules previously altered & highlighted to reinforce the baselines of settings that venture away from the "default assumptions" were often removed or coded against by rules designed to reinforce the needs of the first few settings without the red underline. It takes more than simply describing the setting & maybe adding a couple races classes archetypes and/or items but rising & vrgtr do not take those steps even to baby step degrees.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
The problem is that "baseline", the rules support & reinforce it time and again to the extent that
rules previously altered & highlighted to reinforce the baselines of settings that venture away from the "default assumptions" were often removed or coded against by rules designed to reinforce the needs of the first few settings without the red underline. It takes more than simply describing the setting & maybe adding a couple races classes archetypes and/or items but rising & vrgtr do not take those steps even to baby step degrees.
Okay. Thank you for explaining.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
You’ve never seen changes to those things that actually change them rather than rename them?

I’ve been told that my changes to play a fantasy space opera made the game “not D&D” even though I didn’t change any of the things you’ve listed, so I’m not convinced that D&D even has all that solid a definition.

Well, you're always going to have some pretty rigid definitions for some people.

But I think once you get away from the obvious "D&D with a different coat of paint" games, it becomes progressively harder to find games that have all of (or even a majority of) classes, levels, level elevating hit point, fire and forget spells, attack rolls modified by armor, let alone some of the more specific class/monster/spell things that tend to carry over even to alternate settings.

Heck, even when you're getting games actively trying to hit some D&D tropes, they tend to get to them different ways.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
You need to revisit the definition of genre.
Genre:

a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.

That's how I'm using it, so, thanks!
You need to revisit the definition of trope.
Trope:

a) a recurring theme or motif, as in literature or art
b) a convention or device that establishes a predictable or stereotypical representation of a character, setting, or scenario in a creative work

Also how I'm using it. Good review!
If you can't respond, please don't.
 

DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
You know, I used to believe that "Skip the Sage" was the column's title. Later on, I started to think it was intended as advice.

I used to think that... just trying to follow the rules the way they were intended to work, with exceptions made for intentional house rules, was good enough for most games and most gamers. Either I'm getting older, or I'm getting more authoritarian in my old age, but I find myself thinking that I need to adopt more and more rigid positions on the rules of any game that I play, because I'm constantly finding myself having to defend them against players who think we're playing a very complicated boardgame and they can get special privileges-- vis a vis "the rules"-- simply by being louder and dumber than everyone else at the table.

I play roleplaying games to get away from the dismal reality of 21st century politics.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I play roleplaying games to get away from the dismal reality of 21st century politics.

If you ever thought being in an RPG group was going to get you away from politics, you either were an incredible optimist, or didn't understand what politics was. I learned some of my best lessons about politics from dealing with an extended gaming group with multiple GMs.
 

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
Genre:

a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, characterized by similarities in form, style, or subject matter.

That's how I'm using it, so, thanks!
Can you explain "the D&D genre" using that definition so I can understand what you mean?

This is where I'm coming from...
  • category of artistic composition: game
  • genre/form: tabletop, pen and paper
  • genre/style: roleplaying
  • genre/subject matter: fantasy, science fiction
Where does "the D&D genre" fit? Under form, style, or subject matter?

Trope:

a) a recurring theme or motif, as in literature or art
b) a convention or device that establishes a predictable or stereotypical representation of a character, setting, or scenario in a creative work

Also how I'm using it. Good review!
Can you explain "the tropes of D&D" using that definition so I can understand what you mean?

It has been my stance that the rules for personality and background are a device that establishes a predictable or stereotypical representation of a character in the game of Dungeons & Dragons.
 
Last edited:

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top