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

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The ironic thing about the bolded above, is that when you listen to interviews/watch game play with "game designers" whether RPG or TT, what you invariably see (in my experience) is that these "designers" who want you to "play a certain way", DON'T actually play that particular way at their own tables. They pick and choose rule applications, make rulings on the spot, change things up to suit their campaign, etc. They also tend to get quite a bit of stuff wrong. However, the RULES they put out to the rest of us say "play this way".
I'm going to challenge that notion.

The 5e PHB before it talks to the players about anything concrete, tells the players to talk to the DM to find out what house rules the DM has put into place. The idea that the DM would change rules is so fundamental and important that it's one of the first things that they tell the players to find out.

The 5e DMG in about a half dozen places in the DMG stresses to the DM that the DM is in charge of the rule, not the other way around. If they really wanted us to "play this way," they would not have put that into the DMG at all. Instead they are stressing to the DM that he make the game his own and not be beholden to the rules. They further emphasize this by putting almost all of the optional and alternate rules into the DM's Workshop, indicating that changing the rules is something for the DM to work on AND give advice on creating house rules.

They give us a game that can be played as is, but they are not saying that we should "play this way."
 

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I don't use rules to dictate what happens. I use rules to adjudicate propositions. If players propose to me something that isn't covered by the rules, I'm not going to say, "The rules don't cover that so you can't do that." I'm going to say, "Let me try to find a solution within the framework provided by the rules that adjudicates what you just proposed."

Whether rules light, heavy, rulings or RAW, this is quite essential to enjoyable play to me. If the GM can't go beyond what is written down I find I feel very constrained as a player.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
Indeed, but a DM is well within rights to say "Dumb or not, that's the rule. You wanna change it? Talk to WotC."

It's a hazard when playing with a Lawful Neutral DM. :)
That's why the rule set needs to include explicit text for bitter pills needed for the health of the game that the gm can ignore modify or use as is & why it creates problems when leaning too heavily on mother may I mechanics
 

Clint_L

Hero
If anything, the rules are becoming more consistent but less prescriptive. Look at the rules for race and class, for example - they increasingly emphasize DM and player agency. Back in the day, if you wanted to be a paladin you had to be human, lawful good, have a 17 charisma, and probably be male, because females had their strength capped. Elves were all good, Half-orcs all evil. And so on. That was way more about trying to tell me how to run my table than anything in 5e.
 

Cruentus

Adventurer
I'm going to challenge that notion.

The 5e PHB before it talks to the players about anything concrete, tells the players to talk to the DM to find out what house rules the DM has put into place. The idea that the DM would change rules is so fundamental and important that it's one of the first things that they tell the players to find out.

The 5e DMG in about a half dozen places in the DMG stresses to the DM that the DM is in charge of the rule, not the other way around. If they really wanted us to "play this way," they would not have put that into the DMG at all. Instead they are stressing to the DM that he make the game his own and not be beholden to the rules. They further emphasize this by putting almost all of the optional and alternate rules into the DM's Workshop, indicating that changing the rules is something for the DM to work on AND give advice on creating house rules.

They give us a game that can be played as is, but they are not saying that we should "play this way."
Poor wording on my part. But in my opinion, 5e is moving toward “this is how you play”. Sure, check with your DM about any house rules, but be sure to be ready to accuse them of limiting you as a player. Be sure to check with your DM about what species you can play, but be sure to be ready to call them a bad DM for not allowing you to use whatever suits your fancy. Sure, check with your DM, but not about how rules are adjudicated, we’re going to begin to move those away from “Dm adjudication” to “player facing, the rule does this. Just roll.”

The notion that DM’s changing rules is “fundamental and important”, based on what I read here on ENworld, is slowly being whittled away. And that also appears to be the direction OneDnD is going too.
 

The notion that DM’s changing rules is “fundamental and important”, based on what I read here on ENworld, is slowly being whittled away. And that also appears to be the direction OneDnD is going too.

My impression is this has waxed and waned quite a bit over the years. I don't think D&D is likely to hit any kind of end point in that respect. You can see huge differences around this issue from all the WOTC editions: 3rd, 4th, 5th and now One.
 

Clint_L

Hero
Poor wording on my part. But in my opinion, 5e is moving toward “this is how you play”. Sure, check with your DM about any house rules, but be sure to be ready to accuse them of limiting you as a player. Be sure to check with your DM about what species you can play, but be sure to be ready to call them a bad DM for not allowing you to use whatever suits your fancy. Sure, check with your DM, but not about how rules are adjudicated, we’re going to begin to move those away from “Dm adjudication” to “player facing, the rule does this. Just roll.”

The notion that DM’s changing rules is “fundamental and important”, based on what I read here on ENworld, is slowly being whittled away. And that also appears to be the direction OneDnD is going too.
The actually reads like your objection is not that the rules are telling the players how to play, but that you perceive yourself as being less in charge of how others should play. And then you offer a caricature of the 5e table that doesn't look like anything I've ever seen happen. If those kinds of conflicts are happening at your table, then maybe it's a you problem.
 

Oofta

Legend
The actually reads like your objection is not that the rules are telling the players how to play, but that you perceive yourself as being less in charge of how others should play. And then you offer a caricature of the 5e table that doesn't look like anything I've ever seen happen. If those kinds of conflicts are happening at your table, then maybe it's a you problem.

I can see why it seems to be moving that way with the playtest. For hiding, the only decision the DM makes is whether there's line of sight, whether the PC has cover or obscurement. Nothing else matters, make a DC 15 check and you're hidden. Want to influence someone? Doesn't matter if they're hostile, if your influence check is high enough they'll help anyway!

It's not going to change how I run my game because those rules feel far too rigid and uncompromising while simultaneously being less fun for the players as well as I explained above. There is no issue with the supposed issue of "Mother May I" in the games I've played, sometimes players ask for clarification but no amount of rules will ever change that. Yet in the interview reducing MMI (Mother May) I was stated as a goal. I disagree that MMI is an issue, at least it's not one I've ever seen in a game I've been a player, but because it's a perceived issue they're going overboard. IMHO, of course.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Agreed, but only with a certain sort of Lawful Neutral DM.

I don't use rules to dictate what happens. I use rules to adjudicate propositions. If players propose to me something that isn't covered by the rules, I'm not going to say, "The rules don't cover that so you can't do that."
Except "the rules don't cover that so you can't do that" was exactly the 3e mindset; and my example comes from a 3e game. 5e at least opened up the rulings-not-rules avenue, but some of that 3e mindset still exists among people who started in that era.
 


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