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D&D General On Skilled Play: D&D as a Game

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
I think one of @Manbearcat's contentions WRT DW (and I guess BitD) is that skilled play and RP/characterization considerations are NOT orthogonal because the game deliberately invests them with mechanical weight bearing on success or failure at tasks in the game.

He furthermore describes 'Win Cons' for these games in terms of successfully expressing certain preferred outcomes in the fiction, and in gaining rewards like XP.
I'd like to stress again that I am speaking only of "skilled play" and not of skill. Those characterisations are orthogonal to "skilled play".

@Manbearcat may be putting forth claims and commitments relating to whatever is to be collected up under the label "'Bearcat skilled play" (BSP). Perhaps RP/characterisation considerations are not orthogonal to BSP? Perhaps the "skilled" in BSP is intended to draw attention toward a framework for skill in which reaching preferred outcomes in the fiction is an element? I have been silent on those matters.

EDIT I suppose I am making one claim, however - that SP and BSP are not identical.
 

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clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
I can respond to your post further, after some thought. Foremost I am not sure your questions should be answered without first establishing if "bearcat skilled play" (BSP) is identical to "skilled play" (SP). The view I will put forward is that it is not.

At its most primordial level, playing skillfully is sorting through possible permutations of the move-space (whether its the opening move or a subsequent move) such that the outputs of your decision-point (your "move made") yield a gamestate that places you closer to a Win Condition than the inverse. Further still, you can play more or less skillfully here. To just put numbers to it for illustration, you have a Win Condition at value 30 and you have the following "move values"; -2, 4, 13. It will absolutely be clear upon honest and informed reflection of the play that the move equaling 13 units would have been profoundly better move than the move equaling 4 units and both would have been considerably better than the -2 gaffe (which moved you closer to a Loss Condition).

So, before I go any further, I'd like to ask a question (and get an answer) and make a proposition (and get an answer):

1) Do we at least agree with the above conception of skilled play? If not, can I get some clarification on disagreement?
The conception is problematic: it contains significant omissions. We should consider when the win conditions are not defined, or arbitrary, or defined after the fact, or there are a plethora of them. We should also look at moves that are considered more skilful even when they do not take us any closer to the win condition, and moves that are not considered skilful - gimmes let's call them - even when they take us closer to the win condition.

Taking your example,
  1. I have available the moves -2, 4, 13. I don't know the win condition and choose 13. Was that skilful?
  2. I have two win conditions - get to 30, get to -30 - is the only unskilful move picking 4?
  3. I have another axis in play - to choose a number I must first overcome a challenge on this second axis - is choosing 13 now more skilful than it was in your example?
  4. I choose 4, and convince everyone my win condition was get closest to 5. Which was skilful, choosing 4 or convincing everyone to accept my win condition? Both? Was this then more skilful than choosing 13 in your example?
  5. I am offered -2 and 4, and you are offered 13. I choose 4 and you choose 13. Given the win condition in your example, did you play more skillfully than I? You certainly got closer to the win con, right?
  6. I am offered 13 or 13, but to select the former 13 requires I recite Feynman's Lectures from memory, giving insight into his understanding of quantum mechanics. Is it more skilful to select the first 13, or is it the same as selecting the second, given both carry us the same distance toward the win condition?
I'll stop there, not because there are not more cases, but because I believe we would need to say more about win conditions and dimensions of challenge in play, and the factors players engage in overcoming them, to develop a satisfying conception of skilled play (and I contend, that would still not necessarily count as "skilled play" which can be played without skill).

a) One can play skilfully, without approaching a win condition. b) The ability to play skilfully can help toward achieving a win condition. c) There may be skilful moves available - acts that all observers will agree are skilful - that have nothing to do with any given win condition. d) Some moves may be more skilful than others, along axes in directions other than the win condition.

The acceptance of win conditions, and exercise of skill in play, are not intrinsically linked as you put it.
 

I have arrived at a similar point in my thinking (by as you know a massively different route!) I'll attempt an example (I'm sure nowhere near as vivid as @Manbearcat's!) This restates an example from another thread.

The party need to persuade the fey queen to allow them through the perilous gate. Curiously, their bard has in her backstory a commitment to telling the truth. As it happens, in this specific instance there is a truth that if learned by the queen will harm any chance of persuasion: a lie is necessitated.
  • In "skilled play" the bard simply lies. She describes how she persuades the queen in-the-fiction. She doesn't skip steps. What the DM is concerned for is a credible act of persuasion from the player. The DM doesn't care if that outright ignores the character's backstory... at least not in terms of marking down the axes of skill the mode is concerned with.
  • In skilful 5e play, the rogue helps the bard - giving advantage - while the diviner bestows a low roll to the queen for her insight. Thus the bard's Charisma (Persuasion) check (hers is highest in the party) is more likely to succeed. The players can just tell the DM the outcome they want and the mechanics they use.
  • In skilful DW play - as I understand it from the sourcebooks and what has been written about it - the bard must say how she navigates her commitment to telling the truth. Perhaps the DM has created a thorny situation for the party in which it is an established fact that the queen will only listen to the bard. The conflict is obvious and hopefully will play out engagingly.
Now I think 5e in fact guides to a higher bar, in that a DM is expected to respond to what players describe their characters doing, with anything from forbidding a check to obviating one. An example might be that the Queen loves silver, and the party cleric being a silversmith crafts a lovely trinket for her: a DM might call for some sort of tool use related check, and change things accordingly. However, I think 5e doesn't expressly mark players down for failing to do that.

I can respond to your post further, after some thought. Foremost I am not sure your questions should be answered without first establishing if "bearcat skilled play" (BSP) is identical to "skilled play" (SP). The view I will put forward is that it is not.


The conception is problematic: it contains significant omissions. We should consider when the win conditions are not defined, or arbitrary, or defined after the fact, or there are a plethora of them. We should also look at moves that are considered more skilful even when they do not take us any closer to the win condition, and moves that are not considered skilful - gimmes let's call them - even when they take us closer to the win condition.

Taking your example,
  1. I have available the moves -2, 4, 13. I don't know the win condition and choose 13. Was that skilful?
  2. I have two win conditions - get to 30, get to -30 - is the only unskilful move picking 4?
  3. I have another axis in play - to choose a number I must first overcome a challenge on this second axis - is choosing 13 now more skilful than it was in your example?
  4. I choose 4, and convince everyone my win condition was get closest to 5. Which was skilful, choosing 4 or convincing everyone to accept my win condition? Both? Was this then more skilful than choosing 13 in your example?
  5. I am offered -2 and 4, and you are offered 13. I choose 4 and you choose 13. Given the win condition in your example, did you play more skillfully than I? You certainly got closer to the win con, right?
  6. I am offered 13 or 13, but to select the former 13 requires I recite Feynman's Lectures from memory, giving insight into his understanding of quantum mechanics. Is it more skilful to select the first 13, or is it the same as selecting the second, given both carry us the same distance toward the win condition?
I'll stop there, not because there are not more cases, but because I believe we would need to say more about win conditions and dimensions of challenge in play, and the factors players engage in overcoming them, to develop a satisfying conception of skilled play (and I contend, that would still not necessarily count as "skilled play" which can be played without skill).

a) One can play skilfully, without approaching a win condition. b) The ability to play skilfully can help toward achieving a win condition. c) There may be skilful moves available - acts that all observers will agree are skilful - that have nothing to do with any given win condition. d) Some moves may be more skilful than others, along axes in directions other than the win condition.

The acceptance of win conditions, and exercise of skill in play, are not intrinsically linked as you put it.

Clearstream, I like your post so let us keep it for future consideration...but we are both (a) way far afield (because you're unintentionally Calvinballing the initial example...fundamentally changing the initial parameters + adding/subtracting new elements with it) and (b) way downstream of what I'm trying to initially establish (note that in my first sentence I'm establishing this as "at the most primordial level"). I'm trying to establish 1st principles that we can agree upon for the most basic/foundational conception of Skilled Play possible and the most basic instantiation of that conception that would apply.

The "significant omissions" were by design. What you've done here is profoundly change the landscape and then move the ball well down the field after doing so, such that we can't even discuss the most basic/foundational conception of Skilled Play possible and the most basic instantiation of that conception.

Lets crawl before we walk before we run before we fly (off in many different directions). I'm not trying to create an analogy to TTRPGing. I'm trying to develop a basic unit of understanding. We can then build out and increase complexity from there (which we will have to do)...once we do that, your post will be helpful.

So back to my post, do you agree that the most basic/foundational conception of Skilled Play possible and the most basic instantiation of that conception is the above?

  • Substrate for play (conditions/parameters that create a bound field-of-play w/ permissible moves)
  • Established win con/loss con
  • Opposing parties navigating the substrate and move-space in attempt to make skillful moves of varying quality (composed as quantity in the example for ease-of-demonstration) against each other in attempt to achieve win/loss con.


EDIT - I don't recall precisely what I was setting out in the "discuss Win Cons" post in the other thread...but I did do a post in this thread about Dungeon World Win Cons and skilled play (there were 4 of them). Its post 493 here. If you're going to respond to that/critique it, please do it separately from responding to this particular post so the conversation doesn't get muddled. Please and thank you!
 
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@Manbearcat

I think I could be somewhat compelled that Alignment as it originally existed was consistent with a sort of handicapping, but I think while there is a skill in playing a game like Blades in the Dark or Dungeon World well it is fundamentally different in nature. Approaching play from the perspective of what would Ragnar do is something I consider different in character to Jon what are you going to have Ragnar do to defeat this challenge. This often gets lost in many of these discussions. If only we had some other pithy phrase to discuss games where the point of play is to prove you are skilled by overcoming challenge. One might call it something like Step On Up. That would be crazy though.

I knew there was a reason why I like you! You picked up precisely on where I was going with handicapping!

Let me ask you a few things:

1) You have a moveset consisting of a possible 10 moves (let us just say 10 to keep things manageable) in a given situation where the configuration of the shared imagined space is thus (vs this or that or any other arrangement of elements of the fictional positioning...if it was this or that configuration, there would not only be a different number of permissible moves but there would also be, at least in part, variance within the subset of moves).

a) If you then include a thematic coefficient to each of those 10 moves (ranging from thematically degenerate to thematically coherent to thematically potent sufficient to trigger mechanical effect), would that make the cognitive workspace of managing that moveset and navigating that singular decision-point less or more demanding/intensive (cognitively)?

b) Then, would it be correct or incorrect or not applicable to make the claim "as it pertains to skill, managing the cognitive workspace of that decision-point has increased?"

2) Let us focus on a singular move in Dungeon World:

When you stand in defense of a person, item, or location under attack, roll+Con. On a 10+, hold 3. On a 7–9, hold 1. As long as you stand in defense, when you or the thing you defend is attacked you may spend hold, 1 for 1, to choose an option:

  • Redirect an attack from the thing you defend to yourself
  • Halve the attack’s effect or damage
  • Open up the attacker to an ally giving that ally +1 forward against the attacker
  • Deal damage to the attacker equal to your level

Now, again, I'm not getting into the 2nd and 3rd order impacts of making build decisions that intersect with enabling/optimizing this move nor am I even talking about managing the shared imagined space (SIS) such that this Defend move is even permissible in a given configuration of the SIS. Nor am I talking about the downstream effects of synergy with this move (what it opens up for other players or takes away from other players).

I'm merely talking about the move.

If we entirely changed Defend to the following iteration:

When you stand in defense of a person, item, or location under attack, roll+Con. On a 10+ you redirect the attack from the thing you defend to yourself. On a 7-9, you redirect the attack from the thing you defend to yourself but there is a cost or complication.

Does this new iteration of Defend increase/decrease/unchanged ("move-in/move-out"...across a sufficiently large population of Defend moves) the potential skillfulness in its deployment by the player who triggers the move?
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
Clearstream, I like your post so let us keep it for future consideration...but we are both (a) way far afield (because you're unintentionally Calvinballing the initial example...fundamentally changing the initial parameters + adding/subtracting new elements with it) and (b) way downstream of what I'm trying to initially establish (note that in my first sentence I'm establishing this as "at the most primordial level"). I'm trying to establish 1st principles that we can agree upon for the most basic/foundational conception of Skilled Play possible and the most basic instantiation of that conception that would apply.
Let's reflect on the fact that frequently victory conditions for a game come in late in the arc of design. That is to say, victory conditions tell us something about skill, but they are usually not faithful to all of skill. Contrast Diplomacy with Chess. Skill in these games is a comparative concept: I win Chess when I play more skillfully than my opponent even if neither of us would be considered skillful by more experienced observers. On the other hand, I win Diplomacy not as a matter of any simple comparative, but of the balance between the participants. In some Diplomacy sessions, the two most skilful opponents take one another out, so that an objectively less skilful player wins. In Dune, players occasionally win by accident... as a consequence of more skilful players devastating one another.

You might wonder if perhaps exercising skill to devastate one another turns out not to be skilful?! That is an interesting question, and gives us the right sort of nuance to ask what skill is.

So back to my post, do you agree that the most basic/foundational conception of Skilled Play possible and the most basic instantiation of that conception is the above?
  • Substrate for play (conditions/parameters that create a bound field-of-play w/ permissible moves)
Are you saying that if the field of play is unbounded, or permissible moves can be added to on-the-fly, then there is no possibility of skill?

  • Established win con/loss con
Are you saying that if there is not an established win con/loss con, then there is no possibility of skill?

  • Opposing parties navigating the substrate and move-space in attempt to make skillful moves of varying quality (composed as quantity in the example for ease-of-demonstration) against each other in attempt to achieve win/loss con.
Are you saying that if parties are not in opposition - for example if they have non-zero sum win cons - then there is no possibility of skill?
 

@Manbearcat

I think I could be somewhat compelled that Alignment as it originally existed was consistent with a sort of handicapping, but I think while there is a skill in playing a game like Blades in the Dark or Dungeon World well it is fundamentally different in nature. Approaching play from the perspective of what would Ragnar do is something I consider different in character to Jon what are you going to have Ragnar do to defeat this challenge. This often gets lost in many of these discussions. If only we had some other pithy phrase to discuss games where the point of play is to prove you are skilled by overcoming challenge. One might call it something like Step On Up. That would be crazy though.
Actually, if you were to take all of what Gygax states about playing alignment in the 1e DMG seriously, then alignment becomes a pretty serious RP mechanic, almost on the level of stuff that is in DW. I would still fault it heavily for being a cumbersome mechanism that is unclear, subject to too much DM judgment, and hard to consistently communicate from GM to GM for any sort of consistent implementation. Still, it advises the player in terms of ways they should act, and their alignment can easily be 'tested' by fictional circumstance. Properly following it has no benefit though, which is one problem. Breaking your alignment is punished, and I don't really like that model. I think PERHAPS Gary might have thought of 1e's RP rating and training system as a more 'carrot like' and finer-grained approach, but it wasn't very workable (and is still fundamentally all based on GM whim).

So, one might argue, that at least by the time 1e was written, which is the first time the 2-axis alignment system is fully explicated and taken as the official rules (though it was known somewhat before then) that alignment is an ATTEMPT to figure out a way to develop a deeper tie between fiction and character mechanics. I don't know if Gary had anything else to say on that topic later. 2e decrees itself to be a game about stories, but it doesn't really do anything new in this direction. Alignment remains basically moribund, and even today in 5e it hasn't ever taken on any more sophisticated character or better mechanics. The training system was pretty much stillborn, Rob Kuntz told us recently in a thread Gary himself wrote it but never used it. IME it was not really a practical system.

It would be interesting to see what OSR people thought of a bond type system applied to classic D&D, lol. It seems like it would work, if a reasonably significant XP award was attached to it. A DW-style alignment statement system seems like it would work too. You'd have to decide how exactly to modify XP to get it all right, and there's the problem that thieves would be rewarded much more than anyone else (along with clerics for some reason, I guess that part maybe makes sense) but I suppose it could be expressed as a % of what you need for your next level. It would maybe work best in a 2e-style XP system.
 

I'd like to stress again that I am speaking only of "skilled play" and not of skill. Those characterisations are orthogonal to "skilled play".

@Manbearcat may be putting forth claims and commitments relating to whatever is to be collected up under the label "'Bearcat skilled play" (BSP). Perhaps RP/characterisation considerations are not orthogonal to BSP? Perhaps the "skilled" in BSP is intended to draw attention toward a framework for skill in which reaching preferred outcomes in the fiction is an element? I have been silent on those matters.

EDIT I suppose I am making one claim, however - that SP and BSP are not identical.
Well, different games, so I think it is natural that there are differences of course. 'BSP' (where did the 'Man' go? lol) seems to be about mechanically succeeding, and thus imposing your preferred fictional state, onto the game via in-character action. I actually don't think it is hugely different from GSP. I mean you might literally describe them with almost the same words. Yes, they ARE different in detail at the table. Mainly GSP doesn't use process/agenda to push the story to some sort of crisis point, its mechanism of testing is purely the passive "I made a dangerous dungeon, see if you can beat it." kind. So, significant difference there, but DW is very clever in terms of reaching the same destination by a very different route. Each certainly rewards players for 'working the fiction' and being clever.
 

If we entirely changed Defend to the following iteration:

When you stand in defense of a person, item, or location under attack, roll+Con. On a 10+ you redirect the attack from the thing you defend to yourself. On a 7-9, you redirect the attack from the thing you defend to yourself but there is a cost or complication.

Does this new iteration of Defend increase/decrease/unchanged ("move-in/move-out"...across a sufficiently large population of Defend moves) the potential skillfulness in its deployment by the player who triggers the move?
It is clearly much less fictionally powerful. However I'm not sure there is a real change in SKILL. There are less decision points, so cognitively 'simpler' in isolation. However I don't believe it makes the GAME cognitively simpler. In fact it is probably creating a harder problem for the player to solve, overall.
 

clearstream

Be just and fear not...
Supporter
Well, different games, so I think it is natural that there are differences of course. 'BSP' (where did the 'Man' go? lol) seems to be about mechanically succeeding, and thus imposing your preferred fictional state, onto the game via in-character action. I actually don't think it is hugely different from GSP. I mean you might literally describe them with almost the same words. Yes, they ARE different in detail at the table. Mainly GSP doesn't use process/agenda to push the story to some sort of crisis point, its mechanism of testing is purely the passive "I made a dangerous dungeon, see if you can beat it." kind. So, significant difference there, but DW is very clever in terms of reaching the same destination by a very different route. Each certainly rewards players for 'working the fiction' and being clever.
To retain space for MSP ("modern skilled play" or was it "Moldvay skilled play"... I really can't recall).

Anyway, maybe. A nagging doubt for me is that in SP the DM and only the DM decides what works, right? I pour water on the floor. The DM and only the DM tells me what happens... if I find the pressure plate. Whereas in MSP the players get a say.

Having not played DW I have to rely on others testimony. From the RAW, it looks like I as player will get to say what happens, sometimes. Also, and more pervasively, only I or we as players can decide what satisfies our various fictions.

So two quite different things. I think it would be confusing to collect up under the label "skilled play" something so modally different from its traditional use. Even if it would be an embetterment!
 

Voadam

Legend
Anyway, maybe. A nagging doubt for me is that in SP the DM and only the DM decides what works, right? I pour water on the floor. The DM and only the DM tells me what happens... if I find the pressure plate. Whereas in MSP the players get a say.
This would depend on the M. :)

In classic GSP it would be the DM judging based on the player choices and description. The DM decides but the player has input. DMs can do this in 5e by not calling for a check and just adjudicating the water technique.

If it is mechanics focused resolution the player rolls a search check for a defined DC or something similar and hitting the target or not means they find the pressure plate. This would be the system deciding but the player has some prior input from character build and possible current input from things like wrangling for advantage or resource usage. This can be done in 5e using an ability check and related mechanics and things like bardic inspiration.

If it is more modern games the player might have explicit narrative control "I spend a metacurrency and find the pressure plate." This would be the player deciding. This can happen in 5e with something like the success with complication option from the DMG when the player can turn a closely failed ability check into a failure with a complication later.
 
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To retain space for MSP ("modern skilled play" or was it "Moldvay skilled play"... I really can't recall).

Anyway, maybe. A nagging doubt for me is that in SP the DM and only the DM decides what works, right? I pour water on the floor. The DM and only the DM tells me what happens... if I find the pressure plate. Whereas in MSP the players get a say.

Having not played DW I have to rely on others testimony. From the RAW, it looks like I as player will get to say what happens, sometimes. Also, and more pervasively, only I or we as players can decide what satisfies our various fictions.

So two quite different things. I think it would be confusing to collect up under the label "skilled play" something so modally different from its traditional use. Even if it would be an embetterment!
Right, I've never tried to argue that we need to change the definition of SP, it is just a traditional term, as Snarf noted in the OP, lol. It is just basically "Whatever Gygax did." I think it is true, yes, that players are expected to have more say in 'what happens' in DW. You describe what action your PC is taking, and what its goal is, and then the GM describes what mechanics are involved.

I don't think the GM in DW has an option to say "that is impossible" for example, or to change the player-described outcome of their fiction, ONCE IT HAS BEEN TRANSLATED TO A MOVE. However, the GM does the translation. Thus a player could say "Ragnar runs up to the Dragon and slashes at it with his sword!" (his preferred fictional outcome is implicit here) and the GM could say "his sword bounces off the dragon's unnaturally hard scales, as it bites you!" (IE no mechanics, your goal was infeasible, no sword can slash through a mature dragon's armor). Now there would be a negotiation of what the Defy Danger is, or maybe Ragnar sticks his sword down the Dragon's throat next, etc.

So, the player has a certain fictional authority. In D&D you could DESCRIBE the same thing, but the result would always be "make an attack roll" (maybe initiative first). The result of that attack would be some sort of abstract outcome, maybe hit points of damage to the dragon, with the fiction being "your sword has little effect" (IE the dragon has a lot of hit points) and then it bites on its turn, etc.

D&D is pretty awkward in terms of handing off that narrative to players in any more substantive way. NOW AND THEN it awkwardly tries. So, certain monsters have several ACs, or some situation where their AC is different. Presumably this invites the player to invent a 'move' that will provoke the DM to rule that you attack that lesser AC. Something like that.

By contrast, if Ragnar's player says "I dodge the Dragon's bite!" then maybe its "Defy Danger (DEX)" and success provokes "I stab the dragon in the mouth!" and that's allowed as a Hack & Slash which Ragnar can succeed at. It might even result in damage bypassing the dragon's Armor value (DR). If this sort of action can happen in D&D it is certainly not due to any particular rules, stated agenda, etc.

And this is a bit of a problem with analyzing classic D&D. It is really very unclear what it is. If you go back to 'West Coast D&D' of the 70's, ala Arduin Grimoire and such and find surviving descriptions of play, you will see that a lot of them actually SOUND a lot like DW! But it was all up to a skilled DM and reinterpreting the entire idea of the game. Still, it wasn't like it contravened anything that was written in the 3 LBBs...
 

Campbell

Legend
One thing that Dungeon World does have on traditional RPGs when it comes to skilled play (of the fiction) is a much more transparent feedback loop. So in D&D (and most traditional games) there is no meaningful way to distinguish between failures of fictional positioning, failures due to GM intervention, failures due to unknowable backstory, or failures due to backend mechanics. Dungeon World's radical transparency helps us be much more confident about why we succeed or fail at any given task.

I can easily see a game that looks pretty similar to Dungeon World mechanically (in terms of player facing stuff) that is more focused on skilled play of the fiction. It just would require some pretty substantial backend changes to things like reward systems and GM procedures.
 

It is clearly much less fictionally powerful. However I'm not sure there is a real change in SKILL. There are less decision points, so cognitively 'simpler' in isolation. However I don't believe it makes the GAME cognitively simpler. In fact it is probably creating a harder problem for the player to solve, overall.

This is a very interesting and unexpected take.

In a singular move you have a limited resource that entails a decision-point between 4 powerful effects:

* Damage (that will reliably kill a mook or remove a substantial chunk of most creatures HP at mid level)

* Control (dictating enemy attacks to a tank is a huge control effect)

* Buff (+1 forward is powerful in DW)

* Mitigation (halve damage + armor turns most attacks into nothingburgers)

This is a move that allows a decision-point to toggle between Leader/Striker/Defender Stance or aspects of all 3. Do you think a 4e Fighter that had that kind of multivariate punishment (which you could build towards but not get to how powerful/versatile Defend is) for Mark violation would yield a less cognitively demanding/potentially skillfully deployed PC (again, across a hefty population of decision-points with this Mark usage)? It seems your answer is “<nuanced> yes.” I wonder if the player-base and the designers who felt that 4e was/is a more tactically robust and cognitively intensive game (and those that decried the game because it didn’t have “a simple Fighter”) would agree with you.

EDIT - Is your take a version of “5e Wizards with all of their choices/capability at low level (say, level 3) are less cognitively demanding/less potentially skillful (they’re EZMode) in application than their AD&D/Basic Wizards counterparts?”
 
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I’m just going to say this and people can respond at their discretion (or ignore it).

Some of what I’m seeing feels like a realized or unrealized proxy war for the Forge’s position of:

Two play agendas simultaneously lead to incoherent play. Therefore you can’t ACTUALLY have Narrativism and Gamism coherently designed into one system (such that play broadly and decision-points specifically cannot be an expression of both agendas).

Is that what is happening here (again...accidental or purposeful)? As most know, I agree with a considerable chunk of analysis from the Forge, but (a) I don’t agree with that particular position, (b) I believe Forge commenters are more diverse on that position than Ron was (and even he was somewhat muted it seemed), and (c) it’s empirically not true because there are designs out there that emphatically disprove (even if you don’t believe 4E or DW fit the bill) that challenge-based play and theme/premise-based play can be robustly married (Torchbearer, Strike, Blades in the Dark).
 

Campbell

Legend
I’m just going to say this and people can respond at their discretion (or ignore it).

Some of what I’m seeing feels like a realized or unrealized proxy war for the Forge’s position of:

Two play agendas simultaneously lead to incoherent play. Therefore you can’t ACTUALLY have Narrativism and Gamism coherently designed into one system (such that play broadly and decision-points specifically cannot be an expression of both agendas).

Is that what is happening here (again...accidental or purposeful)? As most know, I agree with a considerable chunk of analysis from the Forge, but (a) I don’t agree with that particular position, (b) I believe Forge commenters are more diverse on that position than Ron was (and even he was somewhat muted it seemed), and (c) it’s empirically not true because there are designs out there that emphatically disprove (even if you don’t believe 4E or DW fit the bill) that challenge-based play and theme/premise-based play can be robustly married (Torchbearer, Strike, Blades in the Dark).

I believe that the particular creative agendas defined in that work are not all of those that exist, but that our shared purpose or creative agenda should be coherent and clear in any given moment of play. That if in this moment of play we cannot equally serve two agendas that undercut each other. Also that we pay a cognitive burden for trying to do too many things at once. My experience with Blades in the Dark is that the particular marriage it makes feels distinct from both Step On Up and Story Now in their more pure forms seen in games like B/X and Dogs in the Vineyard.
 

I believe that the particular creative agendas defined in that work are not all of those that exist, but that our shared purpose or creative agenda should be coherent and clear in any given moment of play. That if in this moment of play we cannot equally serve two agendas that undercut each other. Also that we pay a cognitive burden for trying to do too many things at once. My experience with Blades in the Dark is that thematic play takes a higher priority when conflicts emerge between the two agendas being discussed here. The conflict is mitigated somewhat, but still very present.

I agree with every word of that (as I’m sure you know)!

However, what I hold (and hold firmly to) is that, overwhelmingly, individual sites of play in a robust design like Torchbearer and Blades (where the design is specifically meant to marry challenge-based priorities with theme/premise-based priorities) thread that needle or do not contain incoherency (so having to prioritize theme/premise over challenge-based priorities happens at a remote level).

Agree?

Disagree?
 

Voadam

Legend
Two play agendas simultaneously lead to incoherent play. Therefore you can’t ACTUALLY have Narrativism and Gamism coherently designed into one system (such that play broadly and decision-points specifically cannot be an expression of both agendas).
I don't think I agree with this position of the Forge as presented here.

Take 5e ability checks like the water to find a pressure plate example above. There is a range of ways to approach this.

You can do a narrative skilled play approach and just narratively adjudicate a result off of what is described.

You can do a full on game mechanics approach and call for a perception or investigate check and be done with it so the narrative elements of the water do not matter. The pouring water is an orthogonal descriptive narrative event that does not impact the roll, it is the character mechanics that matter.

You can do a mixed approach and have a clever approach of the water result in advantage so there is still a mechanics check, but it is impacted by the skilled play narration.

A 5e DM can slide along that continuum of choices differently in different situations or based solely upon preferred tastes for adjudication.

It is designed to be able to do so.

It is possible that you mean narrative here as "character roleplay" and gamism as "overcome the challenge" but those can blend together or be different as well. I like 5e's background with two skills and a proficiency as a good enough bridge between a character concept and game mechanics for my taste, for instance. Others can be more insistent about desiring character portrayal matching mental stats or alignment or ideals and such on the character sheet. Again a continuum of options in the 5e rule set as designed.
 
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@Voadam

I don’t wish to turn this thread into a deep dive analysis into Forge Incoherency Hypothesis (where I agree...where I disagree), but to address your thoughts above would take a VERY high word count (and derail the thread hard). My inquiry was basically to ask folks who already have a deep grasp of the hypothesis and developed opinions around it to let me know if there was an unrealized proxy war happening here.

But if you want to discuss Forge Incoherency Hypothesis and how it does or does not apply to 5e, I’ll gladly entertain that conversation if you want to PM me about it or start a new thread specifically about it (that conversation will be intense and volatile and overwhelm anything else)!
 

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