D&D General Rules, Rules, Rules: Thoughts on the Past, Present, and Future of D&D

Celebrim

Legend
These static numbers make no sense to me, higher level PCs that focus on this stuff will pretty much always succeed unless there's some other rule they haven't revealed yet. I think it's the wrong direction to take the game.

Static difficulties never work for any system for long. It's the biggest problem with for example the BRP system used in CoC is that it doesn't really provide good granularity for things being more difficult than usual. Rules in 7e try to codify and solve the problem, but even then there are issues.
 

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Clint_L

Hero
D&D rules are just guidelines and always have been. That said, in most situations they make sense and you don't want to break them arbitrarily because that is unfair to the players. But whenever the RAW don't make logical sense, I don't think twice about overruling them, and my players never complain because it's a good faith situation: they know that we are working together to create a fun game.

Having clear rules just gives everyone an equally understood starting place.

I think 1e was much worse both for arbitrary rules and rules that tried to force you to play a certain way...if you were stuck on RAW. That's because 1e was largely the product of one guy (one Gygax, to be specific) who was writing rules that reflected his preferred way to play, and his preferred fantasy archetypes. That was often an awkward fit with my own tastes, but that's okay because GG acknowledged the primacy of each DM at their own table. But it's obvious that 1e is a much, much more idiosyncratic game than 5e.
 

I don't disagree with any of that analysis, I just don't think it follows that because this isn't a particularly good design for this rule, we should not write rules.
This exactly.

@Oofta : I had basically this exact thought as I was reading through your previous example, and I had it again reading this new one.

You are, if anything, doing the exact process I laid out earlier, just you've had the first few steps done for you by the playtest designers, and are using a mix of statistical reasoning (static values skepticism) and thought experiment to examine it. You have determined, through these things, that the rules in question function badly, and thus should be rewritten.

You are, very directly, seeking to make the game more balanced.

But the conclusion you thus draw--that because these two rules are bad, ALL additional rules must be bad--is not warranted by the data you've gathered. You have convinced me, at least, that Hiding as a condition and other playtest rules are badly made, and I will give feedback as such when I'm able. You have not, as a consequence, convinced me that the reason for these things is a bad reason; merely that these efforts toward it were unsound.

Trepanning, exorcism, and solitary confinement as a solution to mental health issues were all unsound practices; that does not mean mental health is not a valid concern for doctors to examine, nor that we should abandon our efforts to address mental health. It simply means that our early efforts were poor ones.
 

Oofta

Legend
I don't disagree with any of that analysis, I just don't think it follows that because this isn't a particularly good design for this rule, we should not write rules.

A static number for all levels is bad design IMHO. Besides this guidance was already in the DMG as an optional rule for those that wanted to use it if anyone ever bothered to actually read the DMG. I disagree with putting it in the PHB.
 

Oofta

Legend
This exactly.

@Oofta : I had basically this exact thought as I was reading through your previous example, and I had it again reading this new one.

You are, if anything, doing the exact process I laid out earlier, just you've had the first few steps done for you by the playtest designers, and are using a mix of statistical reasoning (static values skepticism) and thought experiment to examine it. You have determined, through these things, that the rules in question function badly, and thus should be rewritten.

You are, very directly, seeking to make the game more balanced.

But the conclusion you thus draw--that because these two rules are bad, ALL additional rules must be bad--is not warranted by the data you've gathered. You have convinced me, at least, that Hiding as a condition and other playtest rules are badly made, and I will give feedback as such when I'm able. You have not, as a consequence, convinced me that the reason for these things is a bad reason; merely that these efforts toward it were unsound.

Trepanning, exorcism, and solitary confinement as a solution to mental health issues were all unsound practices; that does not mean mental health is not a valid concern for doctors to examine, nor that we should abandon our efforts to address mental health. It simply means that our early efforts were poor ones.
When have I ever said all rules were bad? More rules, more concrete rules, are not necessarily better.

That's all. I prefer the current 5E stealth rules over the proposed ones even if the 5E rules basically come down to the DM deciding if being hidden is possible.

As far as the rest of it, I have no idea what you're talking about.
 

Hussar

Legend
These static numbers make no sense to me, higher level PCs that focus on this stuff will pretty much always succeed unless there's some other rule they haven't revealed yet. I think it's the wrong direction to take the game.
These static numbers make no sense to you because you are being nonsensical.

Why would the DM call for a roll in this case? It's an automatic failure. The DC's are set for when the DM ASKS for the roll. Same as it is now. Heck, it's even worse now since there's pretty much no guidance as to what a persuasion check actually does nor how difficult it should be to persuade someone to do something. It's all just whatever the DM "feels" is appropriate.
 

Oofta

Legend
These static numbers make no sense to you because you are being nonsensical.

Why would the DM call for a roll in this case? It's an automatic failure. The DC's are set for when the DM ASKS for the roll. Same as it is now. Heck, it's even worse now since there's pretty much no guidance as to what a persuasion check actually does nor how difficult it should be to persuade someone to do something. It's all just whatever the DM "feels" is appropriate.
I had no problem with the chart when was in the DMG because then it's just a suggestion, a starting point. I can look at it and decide to set the DC at what I think is appropriate. Trying to get past the bouncer, an indifferent NPC, at a local club? DC 10 (and maybe a couple of gold) works if it's a dive and not busy. DC 20 for a hot spot. DC 30 for the nightclub run by the mob and it's their neck on the line if the boss finds out how they got in. Perhaps it's impossible even though the NPC is just indifferent.

I think you're underestimating how many players, especially rules lawyers, will look at this and demand that because they got a 20 on their influence they can get whatever they want. I don't see the point of putting this chart in the PHB if the DM is just going to ignore or adjust as necessary. It becomes a rule, not a starting point suggestion and guideline when a DM is unsure.

Look at the chart for indifferent again.
Indifferent Creature’s Response
10 The creature does as asked, as long as no risks or sacrifices are involved.​
20 The creature accepts a minor risk or sacrifice to do as asked.​

There's no nuance, for lack of a better term, in this chart. I've had players that I guarantee would look at this chart, max out their persuasion and then expect to get indifferent people to help them all the time and then argue about level of risk. Heck, a friendly creature "accepts a significant risk or sacrifice to do as asked". So ... because you're friends with the local bartender you can just ask them to risk their lives? What does significant risk or sacrifice even mean? How friendly do they need to be?

It establishes, in the minds of many players, that influence becomes almost akin to mind control whether that is the intent or not. At least when the chart was in the DMG it didn't do much harm because nobody reads the DMG.

But it pales in comparison to the new rules of becoming hidden. I think that is a horrible set of rules including a DC 15 check to hide. Hidden as a condition, instead of being hidden from specific creatures, is also bad but that may just need clarification that you can be hidden from some creatures but not others.
 

I don't disagree with any of that analysis, I just don't think it follows that because this isn't a particularly good design for this rule, we should not write rules.

I don't think any of us are arguing for not writing rules. We are just disagreeing over how flexible, narrow, robust, comprehensive and legalistic rules should be. I like games that allow for rulings, where the GM can adapt rules easily to specific situations (rather than having rules for specific situations). But that doesn't mean I want a rulebook with nothing in it.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I don't think any of us are arguing for not writing rules. We are just disagreeing over how flexible, narrow, robust, comprehensive and legalistic rules should be. I like games that allow for rulings, where the GM can adapt rules easily to specific situations (rather than having rules for specific situations). But that doesn't mean I want a rulebook with nothing in it.

A table top role playing game, to contain an accurate detail of all the subdivisions of which its great rules will admit, and of all the means by which they may be carried into execution, would partake of the prolixity of a legal code, and could scarcely be embraced by the human mind.
Dave Arneson, writing a screed about how Gary Gygax screwed him in the '70s, probably.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I don't think any of us are arguing for not writing rules. We are just disagreeing over how flexible, narrow, robust, comprehensive and legalistic rules should be. I like games that allow for rulings, where the GM can adapt rules easily to specific situations (rather than having rules for specific situations). But that doesn't mean I want a rulebook with nothing in it.

In my opinion, all tRPGs allow rulings, so achieving that is no great feat of design and hardly worth discussing.

As a GM, what I don't want is a game system where I'm always relying on my own discovery, invention, and design - because all of those things are hard. I want to only have to make rulings in one off edge cases. I don't want to find rules that fail almost immediately when I try to rely on them, and find myself working in the mode of a designer doing play testing and fixing the rules based on evidence gathered. I am quite frankly disgusted that almost every adventure, rulebook, and campaign I purchase requires 100s of hours of my time to fix the broken math, cover the edge cases, and remove and rewrite the badly thought-out rules that are too narrow, too brittle, too likely to produce absurd results, and so forth or (in the case of adventures) depend on unlikely assumptions about player behavior and have no plan b for the adventure continuing.

What I find is that 100% of the time, leaving it up to GM judgment was just laziness on the part of the writer that drains almost all the value of the product. If I have to do the work of play testing design and elaboration of even the most basic areas of the rules, why in the heck am I paying for the product? If winging it is what I'm doing any noticeable percentage of the time, I wasn't saved many hours of work compared to writing my own fantasy heartbreaker, adapting an existing engine, or writing out my own adventure. Declaring that you created a game for me that allows for rulings is telling me you suck as a designer and your product is shite.
 

In my opinion, all tRPGs allow rulings, so achieving that is no great feat of design and hardly worth discussing.

As a GM, what I don't want is a game system where I'm always relying on my own discovery, invention, and design - because all of those things are hard. I want to only have to make rulings in one off edge cases. I don't want to find rules that fail almost immediately when I try to rely on them, and find myself working in the mode of a designer doing play testing and fixing the rules based on evidence gathered. I am quite frankly disgusted that almost every adventure, rulebook, and campaign I purchase requires 100s of hours of my time to fix the broken math, cover the edge cases, and remove and rewrite the badly thought-out rules that are too narrow, too brittle, too likely to produce absurd results, and so forth or (in the case of adventures) depend on unlikely assumptions about player behavior and have no plan b for the adventure continuing.

What I find is that 100% of the time, leaving it up to GM judgment was just laziness on the part of the writer that drains almost all the value of the product. If I have to do the work of play testing design and elaboration of even the most basic areas of the rules, why in the heck am I paying for the product? If winging it is what I'm doing any noticeable percentage of the time, I wasn't saved many hours of work compared to writing my own fantasy heartbreaker, adapting an existing engine, or writing out my own adventure. Declaring that you created a game for me that allows for rulings is telling me you suck as a designer and your product is shite.

I don’t want rulings all the time but it sounds like I would like them more frequently than you. And I prefer when a system is built with rulings in mind. Just my preference. I don’t feel put off by it, I see it as allowing for greater flexibility and creativity
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
My son and his friends often try things that by raw shouldn't work - say casting a short range cold spell on a friend's arrow to do cold damage to what the arrow hits. I'd hate to stifle that creativity. (Which is not to say that I will let them do anywhere near to everything they would like to try because, wow.)
 
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Thomas Shey

Legend
My son and his friends often try things that by raw shouldn't work - say casting a short range cold spell on a friend's arrow to do cold damage to what the arrow hits. I'd hate to stifle that creativity. (Which is not to say that I will let them do anywhere near to everything they would like to try because, wow.)

This still seems to be based on the idea that "If it doesn't say you can, you can't". I know fairly few games even with fairly rigorous rules that try to do that (and the ones that do lean in that way its usually in areas where someone is trying to get a free lunch by trying to end run the way they can get the result they want because they'd actually have to acquire it).

I mean, I don't doubt there are people rigid enough in their approach where this might be an issue, but its like the claims that feats in various incarnations of D&D and offshoots for doing certain things forbid you doing them without them. When examined carefully, what such things usually do is let you do those things with less constraints about how you have to do them, but some people read them as forbidding doing them at all, and I have to say that seems to be a problem with application, not the rules.
 

Oofta

Legend
This still seems to be based on the idea that "If it doesn't say you can, you can't". I know fairly few games even with fairly rigorous rules that try to do that (and the ones that do lean in that way its usually in areas where someone is trying to get a free lunch by trying to end run the way they can get the result they want because they'd actually have to acquire it).

I mean, I don't doubt there are people rigid enough in their approach where this might be an issue, but its like the claims that feats in various incarnations of D&D and offshoots for doing certain things forbid you doing them without them. When examined carefully, what such things usually do is let you do those things with less constraints about how you have to do them, but some people read them as forbidding doing them at all, and I have to say that seems to be a problem with application, not the rules.

I saw plenty of "You can't do that because there some rule/power that does something similar" in the the past. If you have a rule that covers some aspect of gameplay, a lot of people insist on using the rule and in my experience it's limited creativity. Thinking outside the box tends to go away when you could do what you want (or close enough) if only you had someone else's box.

In a way it makes sense that people are not going to do something that is a special feature of another class or feat. If everyone can do X, why would you ever take a feat that primarily allows you do to X? You should take some other feat.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Meanwhile if the players didn't have that chart in front of them maybe they would have tried tricking or bribing the ogre. In my experiences with this over the years having one specific route to achieving a goal spelled out tends to limit the imagination of people when it comes to problem solving.
Exactly this. Mechanics point players to mechanical solutions. Players will do whatever is easiest. It's far easier to memorize a rule and try to apply it than actually be creative in the moment and problem solve diegetically.

Robin Laws said something similar in Over the Edge 2nd Edition:

"And why the simple mechanics? Two reasons: First, complex mechanics invariably channel and limit the imagination; second, my neurons have better things to do than calculate numbers and refer to charts all evening. Complex mechanics, in their effort to tell you what you can do, generally do a fair job of implying what you cannot do."
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Making rulings within the context of a rules lite system is a lot less of a cognitive load for me than running a more codified, rules heavy game. The DM 'support' that I'm looking for in a game is a very simple framework that allows for relatively easy ad hoc rulings. If I have to look anything up during a game or keep track of player information to make sure the game is running correctly, I get tired quickly. Interesting questing beast video today about this topic.
Great video. And good point.
 

Clint_L

Hero
Making rulings within the context of a rules lite system is a lot less of a cognitive load for me than running a more codified, rules heavy game. The DM 'support' that I'm looking for in a game is a very simple framework that allows for relatively easy ad hoc rulings. If I have to look anything up during a game or keep track of player information to make sure the game is running correctly, I get tired quickly.
Ever played Dread?
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
A classic case of rules trumping common sense.

But the bigger question even then is why, if two or more participants in a combat roll, say, 15 for their initiative, can't they act at the same time? What is so wrong with my archer shooting an arrow at that Goblin at exactly the same time the wizard resolves a magic missile into the same Goblin, meanwhile simuntaneously a different Goblin swings at the Cleric?

Why can't I do the Big Damn Hero thing and deliver the death stroke to the BBEG just as the BBEG kills me in return?
Yeah. Long-time complaint of mine as well. It makes sense to segment the characters' turns in this way to make running and playing the game easier, but it's so weird and alien to me to then mistake the artifice of the game's mechanics for how the fiction it represents actually works.

As always, Viva La Dirt League has some great videos mocking exactly this.


 


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