D&D General Sacred Hamburger - What classic elements of D&D do you disregard?


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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The biggest examples for this question are:

Neat Symmetrical World-Building - Stuff like the Great Wheel, the over-categorization of the gods (and everything in the game), the existince of neutral evil fiends because obviously if you have Chaotic and Lawful Evil Fiends you need to also have Neutral Evil ones! I hate all of it. I make no attempt to satisfy the urge folks have to say “the existence of X implies the existence of Y” in any part of the game. One of my worlds has a heaven and no hell, I don’t distinguish between types of fiends (devil and demon are interchangeable terms), etc


Dungeons and Delves (site based adventures) - a lot of people ditch this cow, in favor of more narrative driven structure, or sandboxes, or some other structure.


Semi-Medieval Eurocentric Patriarchal baseline - My games are very queer, and not Anglo-centered, and not set in Europe analogues, and not even really medieval. There

The Past Was Better trope - Nope! So much of D&D has this assumption baked in, and I am not a fan. Basically, Rome has fallen and we don’t know how they did plumbing or civics or whatever. Most magic items are ancient? Nah. Some are, but the masters now are just as good and often better than the masters a the past. Magic and tech have gotten more advanced over generations.
 


Yora

Legend
Alignment
Common
Weapon restrictions
Pre-2008 spell preparation
+1 weapons
Dearves, halflings, and orcs
Beholders
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
Wait dragons are supposed to have specific head types? This is news to me.
Yup. At least the Chromatic Dragons do.

Blue Dragons have a single horn kinda like a Rhino.

Black Dragons have two horns, one on each side of their head, but they point forward.

Red Dragons have two horns, but they point backwards.

Green Dragons don't have horns and instead have a smaller version of the Spinosaurus's sail, but it extends up to their forehead and down to their tail.

White Dragons don't have horns and instead have a fin that juts out from the back of their head.
 


Planar structure. The Great Wheel is a terrible cosmology. It's an attempt to systematize something that shouldn't be perfectly systematic. Simultaneously, it's trying to be an "all myths are true" universe where Heaven, Nirvana, and Asgard all coexist, while also having a bunch of weird and largely unnecessary gradations that come across much more as grid-filling than as anything productive. (Do we really need Acheron, Hell, Gehenna, Hades, Tartarus, the Abyss, Carceri, Pandaemonium, and Limbo? Do we really need Nirvana, Arcadia, Celestia, Bytopia, Elysium, the Beastlands, Arborea, and Ysgard?)

No game I have run, or ever intend to run, will use the Great Wheel. Some may use the World Axis, because it's a dramatically better cosmology, but a tad too specific to be an always-on choice.

The Weave. Pretty much the same concerns as above. It honestly baffles me that this has become a "default cosmology" thing--the Weave is so weirdly specific. It would be like if the magical bells from Garth Nix's Old Kingdom trilogy had become a default expectation of how wizards cast spells. (Which, don't get me wrong, I love the books and their magic system! But it's very setting-specific.) Having one singular uber-deity of magic and a literal thaumaturgic field that permeates reality is just...really limiting. Those limitations can be leveraged, to be sure, but much of the time, I want greater freedom with my writing.

The behavior of devils and demons. The devils and demons of standard D&D cosmology are ABSOLUTE IDIOTS. Mine are almost totally different, because they're a hell of a lot smarter and MUCH less likely to shoot themselves in the foot. They are abstract creatures, for whom symbol and significance are way more important than paltry mortal concerns. Mortal souls are either a consolation prize or the slowly-ripened fruit of a long relationship producing a servant at the end, not something so greedily sought after that it gives every fiend ever a bad name.

Dragons...sort of. See, I love dragons. That means I want them to either be EVERYWHERE, or I want them to be special. My current game favors the latter. Other game ideas I have favor the former. In my current game, the party has met exactly two dragons, and the second was only met very recently, after four and a half years of play. There is technically a third dragon, but that's an enemy secretly hiding in their city, so they haven't "met" the dragon properly....as far as they know. As a result, the two actually-met dragons in my home game have some mysterious connections to higher powers and are generally very congenial, but more than a little cagey about their exact nature. Not because they want to deceive, mind, but because there are things they've promised not to do, and "reveal X piece of information" is sometimes on that list.

Deities...for my current game only. Of the religious beliefs known to the party, there are some animist/ancestor-worship traditions (a variety of these from various places), a monotheistic religion and its main heresy (the dominant religion of the area), and a sort of hybrid-form religion which recognizes all the animistic spirits and other celestial beings as members of the Celestial Bureaucracy that is ruled over by the August Jade Emperor...and thus effectively monotheist. But in general I actually like deities...so long as they're handled more like the 4e way where they are in some sense "living, sapient concepts" rather than the rather dull "Olympians in the playground" style.

Medieval Stasis. I'm not opposed to a game being medieval. But I prefer to allow things that are from a broader range. Guns and such are perfectly valid, and in Jewel of the Desert you can see the very very earliest first inklings of an industrial revolution on the horizon, but it hasn't actually "arrived" yet, so to speak. Part of this is because human society basically had to completely rebuild itself from the ground up, other than the buildings themselves, when the genie-rajahs packed it up and moved to Jinnistan, their new country in the elemental otherworld.

Saying no. Obviously, I do still say "no" now and then. But I have found a lot of more "traditional" DMs...well, frankly, it comes across like they're gleefully rubbing their hands together and grinning at the prospect of shutting down any idea proposed after 1975, and that they have an incredibly dim, disapproving idea of even basic player creativity when it comes to re-interpreting things or doing something unexpected. I am a HUGE proponent of "say yes or roll the dice," and as a general rule I favor keeping "or roll the dice" only for things I really can't justify just giving to the player. It may be permissive, but I find it permits a way more interesting, engaging, exciting game.
 

Wait dragons are supposed to have specific head types? This is news to me.
It goes back to the art from the 1st edition Monster Manual. All the dragons had distinct designs, which (for the chromatics) was reflected in the art for Tiamat. Subsequent D&D artists have been pretty consistent in picking up on those original designs for the chromatic dragons.

Cudos to the original artist, I think.
 

I'd guess that ascending AC and not using THAC0 have become sacred to mainstream D&D players. I ignore that.
Any particular reason? I have always found descending AC and THAC0 to be incredibly confusing and frustrating. It's not--at all--that I lack the math training or preparation to use it. It's just that I find it nearly impossible to get my brain to employ "lower is good" when you have +X weapons and armor and spells that provide a +Y bonus to AC or a -Z penalty to hit.

The only reason I ever got even remotely competent with it was being forced to think through it due to playing Baldur's Gate 1+2 and Planescape: Torment.
 

Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
The Great Wheel. Most of the planes in it have too much overlap with other planes (Pandemonium with the Abyss, Ysgard and Acheron, most of the Heavens). Eberron and 4e had superior cosmologies because of the different planes of existence have important distinctions and there's few enough for the players to be able to remember them. And I also hate alignment, so making the main cosmology of D&D be based on a nonsensical morality system that I don't use really turns me off of the cosmology.

Always-Evil Races. Free will means that you have the agency to be moral. Orcs, Goblins, and other races always being evil have always seemed contradictory to me. They can still be evil, but it's based on culture, factions, and religions. I still have always-hostile creatures, but they're either basically demons (demons, most aberrations) or not sentient (beasts, some plants).

Redundant/Superfluous Races/Monsters. There don't need to be three different types of Frog-People (Bullywugs, Grung, Grippli), Bird-People (Aarakocra, Owlin, Kenku), and two types of "overweight giants that like to eat" (Ogres, Hill Giants). Another part of D&D that follows this rule that I haven't successfully excised yet is the redundancy of having Planetouched races and Sorcerers with magical powers that come from other planes. Either the sorcerer class shouldn't exist/be able to get their powers from having an angel ancestor, or the Planetouched races shouldn't exist.

Alignment. Morality is not as simple as D&D presents it, and alignment just causes too many arguments and is too problematic (having Lawful Good gods commit/condone unforgivable acts including genocide). D&D doesn't need to build Buzzfeed's "What kind of pizza topping are you" quizzes into the game or its worlds.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Religion: I don't havve characters worship single gods but have actual religions.

Everyone prays to the Skyfather and Mother Nature for good harvest but who is mentioned first and the ceremony is based on which religion you are.

This is what makes paladins and monks special as they are the few beings devoted to single deities.

Dungeons:
90% of Dungeons are the ruins of past adventurers' stronghold or tombs. The loot inside are their stuff which is warred over by their followers or random monsters.

Dragons: Dragons are not color coded as they can interbreed. Dragons despise the concept of children but their pride and biological clocks force them. So in mating season, any two noncommitted dragons of any type might come together. Therfore there are many dragons (and dragonborn) of mixed chormatic, mettalic,and gem colors and alignment. Like Lord Kaiba the LE Blue/White Dragon or Val the Silver/Red LN Dragon.

Humanity: If the players can do it, I don't have nonhumans act like humans. If the group is up to it,everyone gets a 7th Humanity, Dwarfiness, Elfocity score that they get to roll or save against in cases of things aligne to the mental and spiritual differents of their race.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I'm seeing a lot of people have abandoned the original planar structure these days. In the past, it seemed like few had moved as far away from it as I have. It would be interesting for people to share their changes and see if there are trends that have developed.
 

Jack Daniel

dice-universe.blogspot.com
Any particular reason? I have always found descending AC and THAC0 to be incredibly confusing and frustrating.

A combination of basic practicality (all the rulebooks and modules I use already have it written that way) and the fact that I just genuinely find it easier that the numbers involved get smaller (and therefore easier to add and compare quickly) as the campaign itself rises in level and grows more complex.

A 1st level 3e fighter with an adjusted +4 to hit attacking a plate-armored enemy with AC 18 isn't all that different from a 1st level 1e fighter with an adjusted THAC0 of 17 attacking an AC 3 plate-armored enemy. 1d20+4 vs. 18, 1d20+3 vs 17, the mental effort involved is basically the same either way. But at high levels? Totally different story. I'd much rather be rolling 1d20−1 vs. THAC0 3 than, say, 1d20+23 vs. AC 34.
 
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Levistus's_Leviathan

5e Freelancer
I'm seeing a lot of people have abandoned the original planar structure these days. In the past, it seemed like few had moved as far away from it as I have. It would be interesting for people to share their changes and see if there are trends that have developed.
To me, the Great Wheel isn't designed well for adventuring, is too tied to alignment, and too complicated/filled with redundancies. So the main things I've done with my own cosmology systems are to divorce it from the alignment system, design the planes with the intention of them being adventure locations, and simplifying it so it's easier for the PCs to become familiar with.
 

I'm seeing a lot of people have abandoned the original planar structure these days. In the past, it seemed like few had moved as far away from it as I have. It would be interesting for people to share their changes and see if there are trends that have developed.
The cosmology of Jewel of the Desert is specifically an area of mystery, one which the players are slowly learning the truths of. (I left much of this open to start with, and began figuring it out as the players established things and as it made sense for the ways the fronts were developing.)

Mortal-kind lives in many regions of the planet, which in the local tongue (close enough to "common" though not actually a global common language) is called Al-Duniyyah, "that which is near" or "the place of examination." It contains at least two continent-sized land masses and at least one roughly-Pacific-sized ocean, the Sapphire Sea, though it has a lot more livable islands than the Pacific does (think the profusion of islands in The Seven Voyages of Sinbad.) On the eastern shore of the Sapphire Sea, you find the Tarrakhuna, the main region where the game is set, a semi-arid, arid, and desert land, but also a land of great magic and great opportunity for those willing to seek it. There are jungles to the north and temperate forests to the south, each with their own culture and history. On the far western shore of the Sapphire Sea, you find Yuxia, the Jade Home, a distant land of mystery and profit, though advancements in sailing technology and other things have only recently allowed truly regular trade between the two continents.

Overlaid on top of Al-Duniyyah--really, more of a "simultaneous" world rather than a parallel one--you have Al-Barzahk, the "Spirit World," which people properly trained can view via rituals of various kinds. The Spirit World retains a memory of past events, especially anything that has lasted a really long time or major, sudden upheavals, including large numbers of deaths. There are some differences between the types of spirits that tend to frequent the Spirit World and those that tend to frequent the material world. The former tend to be associated with the dead, or with abstract ideals and concepts (e.g. Owl, a sapient spirit representing the idea of being an owl and what skills and powers owls have, but much more intelligent and interactive.) The latter tend to be called "elementals" or arise naturally out of physical things and formations. There is some overlap between the two but generally those categories are pretty solid.

Parallel to Al-Duniyyah, there is Al-Akirah (which the people of Yuxia simply call "Akira," a curious and not yet explained similarity), the "other world." Al-Akirah has far denser, more potent elemental energies than Al-Duniyyah, to the degree that native life there can have active elemental manifestations (e.g. trees with leaves of fire or ice or smoke), and even relatively mundane plants grown there have significantly increased potency and magical utility. The equivalent of the Tarrakhuna is the genie "country" called Jinnistan, but it's really more a loose collection of city-states that all mutually recognize one another's authority and act as something of a cartel protecting Jinnistani export values. (The City of Brass is one of the many city-states of Jinnistan.) Yuxia also has a parallel, called Fusang, but few in the Tarrakhuna know anything about it.

"Beneath" Al-Duniyyah, in a physical sense, you find Al-Jahim, the "underworld," which should be taken very literally in this case, it's all the places that exist (sometimes somewhat tenuously) deep below the surface of the world. Natural laws sometimes become...less firm in these places, and strange Things from Outside can sometimes leak in. Fortunately, that sort of thing only happens very deep down, so even if you delve into the earth exploring a temple or whatever you rarely find issues of this type. The party has only once dealt with this stuff, delving into the deepest parts of the catacombs in their main city.

"Beneath" it in a more metaphysical sense, you find Ja'Hannam, "Hell" or "the Abyss." It's where fiends come from, and is generally a very unpleasant place. It's also very difficult to reach, and its residents are generally very unwelcoming of guests. Little is known in a verified academic sense about Hell, though somewhat more is known about its denizens (such research must be conducted carefully to avoid raising the ire of the Safiqi priesthood, but is not totally forbidden.)

The atmosphere and space above Al-Duniyyah are called Al-Jana, "the heavens." They are believed to be empty and devoid of life, as no magical or scientific examination has yet revealed evidence of any life outside of Al-Duniyyah. Likewise, no planes are even remotely accessible to magical effects other than Al-Akirah and Ja'Hannam, so this is where the official academic cosmology ends.

According to the Safiqi priesthood, there is one more plane: Jannah, "True Heaven," a place which is outside reality entirely. It's where souls go when they truly, permanently die, to meet with the One, the Great Architect, creator of all things and monotheistic deity of the Safiqi religion. Once a soul journeys to Jannah, it cannot come back; this explains why some souls cannot be resurrected and others can. No evidence has ever been found by Waziri mages that Jannah exists, but if it really is a one-way trip, no such evidence should exist, so this isn't necessarily much of a criticism.

However...the party has learned things which contradict the above story.

The players have conclusive proof (having physically been there) that there is at least one plane completely unrelated to any of the aforementioned planes--specifically, an artificially-constructed perpendicular plane, known as "Zerzura," or the "White City," "Garden-City," or "City of Birds." They cleansed this plane of the spirit corruption that had been destroying it, and have set up some of their allies to help rebuild it. Due to Timey-Wimey Shenanigans as a result of their adventure in Zerzura, they have seen what the future they built could be like, and it's pretty cool. But that won't happen for a very long time.

While adventuring in Zerzura, the party also discovered a "Polyplanetarium," which had some...very weird projectors. That is, these projectors did not have lenses and overlays to show a single, static night sky. Instead, they were magically capable of showing either the sky or surface of many other worlds--dozens, perhaps hundreds, all of them very clearly different. This implies the existence of not just one other plane, but possibly hundreds or even thousands of other planes that are, somehow, completely inaccessible to Al-Duniyyah at present. How or why this happened, and what might be done about it, remains a mystery.

Well...mostly a mystery. The party has learned, from several sources, that several major changes occurred on their world about two millennia ago. Firstly, the First Sultan (whom they have learned was a real, flesh-and-blood man) rose up, gathering together the power of all the extant free people of the Tarrakhuna, uniting them as a rebel army against the tyranny of the Genie Rajahs. Secondly, the Genie-Rajahs chose to abandon the mortal world entirely, departing for Jinnistan en masse, leaving their cities behind. Some cities were simply abandoned, such as the one the player characters come from, Al-Rakkah. Others were hidden, booby-trapped, or otherwise protected. Third, there used to be an extremely advanced civilization of magic-using, elf-like beings called the El-Adrin who lived in the temperate forests south of the Tarrakhuna. However, their prophets became aware of a future cataclysm that would affect the whole world, fundamentally changing the way magic works in a way that would lead to the collapse of their civilization. Rather than accept this fate, they attempted to evade it, casting their entire civilization into a pocket-plane to wait out the troubles; the party Battlemaster is a descendant through his mother of those El-Adrin who remained behind, who were changed by the alterations to the world into "merely" being elves. Finally, they have found records of some being, "Azimech al-Saqqit," "The Uplifted and Fallen One," who apparently was imprisoned on their world. Who, or what, Azimech al-Saqqit is, the party does not yet know, but they are drawing closer to real answers.
 


Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Any particular reason? I have always found descending AC and THAC0 to be incredibly confusing and frustrating. It's not--at all--that I lack the math training or preparation to use it. It's just that I find it nearly impossible to get my brain to employ "lower is good" when you have +X weapons and armor and spells that provide a +Y bonus to AC or a -Z penalty to hit.
I've never grokked THAC0 and probably never will, but descending AC is second-nature to me. THAC0 tries to force me to do the arithmetic differently than I've always done it, and adds a step as well.

And while I agree there's a degree of counterintuity involved in having a +2 suit of armour in fact make your AC 2 points lower, I've never had a player fail to "get it" within the first few sessions...including those who after some years still didn't know which dice to roll for what. :)

Then again, lower-is-better comes up all the time elsewhere in my game e.g. roll-under stat checks, roll-under thieving skills, etc., meaning it's not a foreign concept.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I'm seeing a lot of people have abandoned the original planar structure these days. In the past, it seemed like few had moved as far away from it as I have. It would be interesting for people to share their changes and see if there are trends that have developed.
I moved away from it but probably in the opposite direction to most: I made the underlying cosmology even harder-coded than the great wheel has it, and based it all on three dualities: Good-Evil, Law-Chaos, and Male-Female.
 

I'm seeing a lot of people have abandoned the original planar structure these days. In the past, it seemed like few had moved as far away from it as I have. It would be interesting for people to share their changes and see if there are trends that have developed.
My campaigns have moved to Material, Ethereal, and Astral.
  • The Material is just like our universe; unbelievably massive. Look up at the night sky and you might see the star of a solar system that a different campaign takes place in.
  • The Ethereal is home to things like the Feywild, demiplanes, elemental realms, the deep Ethereal, etc. It has abundant magic and is affected by the will of beings within it. Depending on the campaign I can change what parts of the Ethereal are available.
  • The Astral connects to all celestial bodies that have magic. It looks like a single solar system but is full of planets that can be visited. The homes of gods, demons, souls disconnected from their worlds, and those seeking an immortal life can be found here.
  • Alignment can matter but it's more of its own type of power/magic than anything else. No creature of the Material or Ethereal is bound to an alignment without undergoing a daunting spiritual and mental transformation and an accumulation of great personal power. I describe it as joining a fraterntiy/sorority but way more intense. Astral beings are more likely to have a steadfast alignment.
 

Clint_L

Hero
Alignments. The game doesn't even notice when they're gone.

Experience points. Leveling is story driven all the way!

Almost all the race/creature lore that has anything to do with behaviours. Chromatic dragons automatically being EBUUL and metallic dragons automatically being GUD - that kind of stuff.

Most of the planar stuff. Not interested.

Anything that doesn't make sense in the moment.

Encumbrance. We just use common sense.

Any rules, spells or feats that only exist to be exploited by power gamers (e.g. pole arm master).

Most psionic stuff.

Basically, I disregard anything that doesn't help the story.
 
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