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D&D General Styles of Roleplaying and Characters

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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This Gandalf thing is a bit muddy given the nature of the character in the fiction. But just go to another example. I mean, pretty much any military-based story.

Can we all not picture a non-wizard walking the line and lifting the spirits of his troops? Or a coach or team captain giving a rousing speech? Is that something that we would consider a supernatural quality?
No, but in reality not all of the athletes might be inspired
Of course not. It happens in real life all the time. I’ve experienced it myself, and I imagine most of us have.
Yep. And other times I've been completely unaffected by the speech.
 


Can we all not picture a non-wizard walking the line and lifting the spirits of his troops? Or a coach or team captain giving a rousing speech?
And here's an equally thorny problem with the 'I choose my own emotional state' game - I don't need the speech or the general. I can simply declare my spirits are lifted, my energy is roused, irrespective of circumstance.

What you get from it is a game of Mary Sue characters doing disjointed cosplay in individual bubbles.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Yeah, part of the problem with the discussion is that the way D&D works is framing how folks are viewing the very idea of mechanics that affect PC emotion/mental state. The vast majority of examples are magic, so that is accepted, even if there’s still an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with it.

And D&D has such a strong delineation between the responsibilities of the GM and the players that anything that crosses that line (at least from the GM side into the player side) is often met with strong resistance.

The idea of taking social mechanics as they exist in other games and just plopping them into D&D isn’t really feasible. It’s like saying “oh look how offsides works in soccer, that’s interesting…let’s put it in baseball”. It doesn’t really work.

That doesn’t mean that D&D can’t have these kinds of mechanics….cleary they already do. They’re painted with the magic brush or similar, and so they’re accepted. But could those rules and similar ones be reworked and reframed in such a way to make D&D more focused on this aspect?

I mean, I think that it’s possible. You’d have to rework things and more importantly, people would have to be willing to play this way.

The question then becomes is it worth the effort to try and do that work? My answer in the past few years is to simply play another game if I’m interested in exploring characters, and to play D&D when that’s not a concern.

I agree. For me, one of the reasons I don't use inspiration for adhering to TIBF is that it feels like a step in the wrong direction for D&D. It's a carrot to get people to play their characters the "right" way. I think D&D through the years has stepped further and further away from what's on the character sheet dictating behavior. At one point, alignment was a straightjacket that limited what a PC could or could not do with XP penalties for changing alignments or even losing class abilities. Now? Alignment is just a general RP aid that has no mechanical impact. TIBF kind of dipped it's toe into nudging specific behaviors, but we don't really use it any more.

So yeah, my preference is to leave me as the sole author of what my PC thinks and does. This preference extends beyond TTRPGs to video game RPGs as well. There are times when I get a bit frustrated there's a cut scene or no appropriate dialog choice for what my version of the game's protagonist would do. I accept it in video games because they all have limitations. I don't want it in a TTRPG. I kind of ignore inspiring leader because I don't see it used very often and temp HP are not really affecting what my PC does, it doesn't really affect my PC's emotional state directly unless I decide it does.

In other words, if I'm playing a Han Solo type character, I want it to be my decision as a player to go back to save the day. But it's just a personal preference.

I would be curious to see (possibly a different thread) on how to implement some of the ideas from other games in D&D. Might be inspirational for some.
 

Here's the problem:

Player A as Gandalf: I give a rousing speech
Other players: We control our characters and we're not inspired
GM: Nor are the NPCs
Player A: Don't I get a roll?
All: No. That would be mind control.

I personally have not (that I recall?) used the phrase 'mind control' once in this thread. I have said that I prefer to have complete authority over the thoughts, emotions, and action declarations of my character.

I have also said that mental mechanics do serve a useful role in determining NPC actions.
 

And here's an equally thorny problem with the 'I choose my own emotional state' game - I don't need the speech or the general. I can simply declare my spirits are lifted, my energy is roused, irrespective of circumstance.

Yes, you can! That's the whole point.

But if you want a mechanical benefit for that, you'll need a mechanic.

What you get from it is a game of Mary Sue characters doing disjointed cosplay in individual bubbles.

No, I don't. Maybe you should have written "What I get from it...etc."
 

Amrûnril

Explorer
Yeah, part of the problem with the discussion is that the way D&D works is framing how folks are viewing the very idea of mechanics that affect PC emotion/mental state. The vast majority of examples are magic, so that is accepted, even if there’s still an undercurrent of dissatisfaction with it.

And D&D has such a strong delineation between the responsibilities of the GM and the players that anything that crosses that line (at least from the GM side into the player side) is often met with strong resistance.

The idea of taking social mechanics as they exist in other games and just plopping them into D&D isn’t really feasible. It’s like saying “oh look how offsides works in soccer, that’s interesting…let’s put it in baseball”. It doesn’t really work.

That doesn’t mean that D&D can’t have these kinds of mechanics….cleary they already do. They’re painted with the magic brush or similar, and so they’re accepted. But could those rules and similar ones be reworked and reframed in such a way to make D&D more focused on this aspect?

I mean, I think that it’s possible. You’d have to rework things and more importantly, people would have to be willing to play this way.

The question then becomes is it worth the effort to try and do that work? My answer in the past few years is to simply play another game if I’m interested in exploring characters, and to play D&D when that’s not a concern.

I think I agree with most of this, but the last sentence highlights the main problem I'm having with the framing of this debate. To me, taking a character that I created and control and then having to consider how they'd respond to a scenario I didn't anticipate is exactly what exploring a character is about. Mental mechanics, depending on exactly how they're structured (and on player preferences), could be helpful in creating these scenarios or could step on the player's toes in determining responses, but the idea that they'd be necessary is a huge disconnect from the way that I think about exploring characters.
 

I agree. For me, one of the reasons I don't use inspiration for adhering to TIBF is that it feels like a step in the wrong direction for D&D. It's a carrot to get people to play their characters the "right" way. I think D&D through the years has stepped further and further away from what's on the character sheet dictating behavior. At one point, alignment was a straightjacket that limited what a PC could or could not do with XP penalties for changing alignments or even losing class abilities. Now? Alignment is just a general RP aid that has no mechanical impact. TIBF kind of dipped it's toe into nudging specific behaviors, but we don't really use it any more.

So yeah, my preference is to leave me as the sole author of what my PC thinks and does. This preference extends beyond TTRPGs to video game RPGs as well. There are times when I get a bit frustrated there's a cut scene or no appropriate dialog choice for what my version of the game's protagonist would do. I accept it in video games because they all have limitations. I don't want it in a TTRPG. I kind of ignore inspiring leader because I don't see it used very often and temp HP are not really affecting what my PC does, it doesn't really affect my PC's emotional state directly unless I decide it does.

In other words, if I'm playing a Han Solo type character, I want it to be my decision as a player to go back to save the day. But it's just a personal preference.

I would be curious to see (possibly a different thread) on how to implement some of the ideas from other games in D&D. Might be inspirational for some.

Yeah, I think that preference is absolutely fine. I'm currently playing in a 5E game and my character is pretty static. I use my BIFTs and alignment to help shape my portrayal, but here's the thing; virtually nothing about the game would change if I had different BIFTs. There is a little, yes.....the GMs (we're rotating GMs) have incorporated some of my characters details into the larger world and that has forced me to make some meaningful decisions. But it's minimal.

I think that is probably the major point of dislike that folks who are speaking in favor of games that do have these social/emotional elements. In those games, they are essential to what happens in play.

And to reframe my admittedly simple Han Solo analogy....who do you think was more surprised by Han Solo's decision to go and help the cause: George Lucas, or the audience?

Maybe looking at the analogy with that question in mind can help illuminate what I'm saying with that example.
 

I think I agree with most of this, but the last sentence highlights the main problem I'm having with the framing of this debate. To me, taking a character that I created and control and then having to consider how they'd respond to a scenario I didn't anticipate is exactly what exploring a character is about. Mental mechanics, depending on exactly how they're structured (and on player preferences), could be helpful in creating these scenarios or could step on the player's toes in determining responses, but the idea that they'd be necessary is a huge disconnect from the way that I think about exploring characters.

I'm not saying that exploring character is impossible in D&D. I don't think it's impossible in any game, really. But I do think that some games make it integral to the game. They have rules and processes that actively promote it and make it come out in play.

D&D does not have those. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that is has elements that actively work against it. Doesn't make it impossible, no, but it does make it more difficult.

Also, see my post immediately above about Han Solo and Lucas or the Audience for clarification on discovery/exploration.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I think that a roleplayer's choice of literature influences his playstyle. More traditional fantasy like Tolkien, Lewis or Burroughs have almost no interior monologue or psychologically tortured backstories for the heroes; Malory has heroes succumb to vices but their inmost thoughts are not written out.
As someone whose primary fantasy influences are Tolkien and Lewis, nah.
 

This Gandalf thing is a bit muddy given the nature of the character in the fiction. But just go to another example. I mean, pretty much any military-based story.

Can we all not picture a non-wizard walking the line and lifting the spirits of his troops? Or a coach or team captain giving a rousing speech? Is that something that we would consider a supernatural quality?

Of course not. It happens in real life all the time. I’ve experienced it myself, and I imagine most of us have.

Yeah, sure. It's a thing.

But the point is:
a) Does everything we want to model in an RPG require a mechanic? Or do players get to also just make authorial decisions?
b) Assuming the latter, where do you draw the line between mechanical determinism and authorial decision? The line I like is the one between the external world and the character's internal mental state (and the actions those states lead to).
c) If a game is going to cross that line, I like there to be absolutely clear rules around how and why, so that it doesn't become a matter of other players and DM telling me what they think makes sense for my character. (edit: that is, positive creative input is fine, but overruling my decisions is not)
d) And, even then, I find it less narratively jarring if that loss of control can be ascribed to something...tangible. Magic, psionics, drugs, brain hooked up to a computer, etc. Whatever fits the genre.

I can totally understand that some people like games where the rules give you...let's call them "prompts", sort of like what you get in some improv activities...that tell you how to play your character. That's cool. Not what I've liked in the past, but you be you.

What I find completely weird is the insistence that there's absolutely no distinguishable difference between emotion and knowledge, or swinging a sword and falling in love, etc. etc. etc. Is that just a stance taken for the purpose of arguing for mental mechanics that affect PCs? If so, it's completely unnecessary. A simple, "Yes, those things are different but I like some mechanics that cross over that boundary" would suffice. We all have different game preferences, right?

It's almost like some folks need to somehow prove that my preference is just wrong, or inconsistent, or something.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I'm not saying that exploring character is impossible in D&D. I don't think it's impossible in any game, really. But I do think that some games make it integral to the game. They have rules and processes that actively promote it and make it come out in play.

D&D does not have those. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that is has elements that actively work against it. Doesn't make it impossible, no, but it does make it more difficult.

Also, see my post immediately above about Han Solo and Lucas or the Audience for clarification on discovery/exploration.
IME D&D does promote exploring the character for groups with any interest whatsoever in doing so.

Which is a strength, not a weakness.
 


What you get from it is a game of Mary Sue characters doing disjointed cosplay in individual bubbles.

No, I don't. Maybe you should have written "What I get from it...etc."

Well it's a pretty interesting take that I find hard to argue. If we look at 5E and my character, who has a Flaw that I've given him, but which I can simply ignore if I so choose....that pushes into Mary Sue territory.

And if everyone else is free to basically ignore my character and how I portray him....I cannot affect them without their approval, at least not emotionally.....then I can see how we can categorize that as being in our own bubbles.

And cosplay seems apt as it's just dressing, right? You can do it however you want to and the game remains unchanged.

Now, many here will say "Oh but that seems like poor roleplaying, and we're not poor roleplayers" to which I would say, then why resist some incentive to roleplay your character per the traits that you've selected? Why not let that flaw complicate things? Sure, some folks will play it that way....I try to do that myself....but often they will shy away from it either out of convenience, or some attempt to preserve their preconception of their character, or most commonly some need to not disrupt group play. Mechanics will actually make you play the character in a more meaningful way, I'd say.

Does it mean that you can't achieve these things without mechanics? No. But does it mean that you can simply ignore them? Yes.

Now, look at the other "pillars" of D&D and imagine if you could simply ignore the things that define your character in those areas. I mean, I know I have a level and an associated proficiency bonus, but I'll just ignore those in favor of what's easier, and declare that my character succeeds at his task!

Doesn't sound like very deep or meaningful play.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I agree. For me, one of the reasons I don't use inspiration for adhering to TIBF is that it feels like a step in the wrong direction for D&D. It's a carrot to get people to play their characters the "right" way. I think D&D through the years has stepped further and further away from what's on the character sheet dictating behavior. At one point, alignment was a straightjacket that limited what a PC could or could not do with XP penalties for changing alignments or even losing class abilities. Now? Alignment is just a general RP aid that has no mechanical impact. TIBF kind of dipped it's toe into nudging specific behaviors, but we don't really use it any more.
You may be in the minority then. OSR thinks that, if anything, it's the opposite direction that D&D has been heading. 5e did little, if any, to change that general opinion from the OSR community about D&D.

I do agree though that TIBFs have an odd structure to them - as you say, a carrot on a stick approach for playing their characters the "right" way. I think that the designers of TIBFs seem to misunderstand the role that Aspects/Troubles serve in Fate or Distinctions serve in Cortex or other more narrative-oriented games.

We have also discussed - even if we did disagree about it - that TIBFs could arguably be restructured to be more akin to Alignment. (I would also consider taking some inspiration from oaths in Ironsworn as well here.)

So yeah, my preference is to leave me as the sole author of what my PC thinks and does. This preference extends beyond TTRPGs to video game RPGs as well. There are times when I get a bit frustrated there's a cut scene or no appropriate dialog choice for what my version of the game's protagonist would do. I accept it in video games because they all have limitations. I don't want it in a TTRPG. I kind of ignore inspiring leader because I don't see it used very often and temp HP are not really affecting what my PC does, it doesn't really affect my PC's emotional state directly unless I decide it does.
I understand that you are talking about your personal preferences here, but this seems to mistake a particular criticism hawkeyefan made about the interaction between social mechanics, magic, and player/GM authority in D&D with a general one about social mechanics in other TTRPGs.

I would be curious to see (possibly a different thread) on how to implement some of the ideas from other games in D&D. Might be inspirational for some.
4e Skill Challenges are essentially Contests by another name. ;)

I think I agree with most of this, but the last sentence highlights the main problem I'm having with the framing of this debate. To me, taking a character that I created and control and then having to consider how they'd respond to a scenario I didn't anticipate is exactly what exploring a character is about. Mental mechanics, depending on exactly how they're structured (and on player preferences), could be helpful in creating these scenarios or could step on the player's toes in determining responses, but the idea that they'd be necessary is a huge disconnect from the way that I think about exploring characters.
It's certainly possible to do so in D&D, but the limitations of your preferred approach and the benefits of social mechanics have also been discussed in this thread before. To repeat myself again, resolution mechanics of a roleplaying game inherently place restrictions on the range of possible resulting fictions. This is true whether we are talking about mental mechanics or not.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Yeah, I think that preference is absolutely fine. I'm currently playing in a 5E game and my character is pretty static. I use my BIFTs and alignment to help shape my portrayal, but here's the thing; virtually nothing about the game would change if I had different BIFTs. There is a little, yes.....the GMs (we're rotating GMs) have incorporated some of my characters details into the larger world and that has forced me to make some meaningful decisions. But it's minimal.

I think that is probably the major point of dislike that folks who are speaking in favor of games that do have these social/emotional elements. In those games, they are essential to what happens in play.

And to reframe my admittedly simple Han Solo analogy....who do you think was more surprised by Han Solo's decision to go and help the cause: George Lucas, or the audience?

Maybe looking at the analogy with that question in mind can help illuminate what I'm saying with that example.

How much a PC changes during a campaign is going to vary pretty drastically depending on the group. I know I've had PCs change, their personality certainly becomes more refined during play. I've had players practically redefine the PC's personality because of events*. But the fundamental difference is that my PC changes (or not) because of the experiences and interactions they've had, not carrots or sticks to influence the theme of the PC.

The problem that I have with TIBF is that they're too simple. For example I had a player with a rogue with "I want to be the greatest thief in the land". What am I really supposed to do with that, especially since I had a 6 person group? I wasn't in a position to set up solo missions. Another rogue had the flaw "I'll do anything to get my hands on something rare or priceless." But is it up to me to do with anything with that as a DM? Where does the "anything" line get drawn? If I have a PC that has the flaw "I speak my mind, even when it would be better to keep my mouth shut." Okay. Cool. I can use that now and then, but does that mean my PC can't eventually learn to control themselves?

So I think TIBF's are an interesting place to start and can be inspirational, but for the most part I ignore them both for my own PCs and my player's. I just don't think they do a ton, and I don't think I'd want anything more concrete.

*Sadly, it wasn't for the better in terms of enjoyment by the group. :(
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Well it's a pretty interesting take that I find hard to argue. If we look at 5E and my character, who has a Flaw that I've given him, but which I can simply ignore if I so choose....that pushes into Mary Sue territory.
If my PC has the flaw, "Mouths off to authority" and has been summoned with the group to speak to the Emperor, a man known to behead people who so much as annoy him, it shouldn't come down to a mechanic determining whether or not my character utters a suicidal comment. It should be my choice whether or not he can hold back his comments in that situation, because even people with such flaws aren't suicidal.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
We aren't saying that non-magical inspiration shouldn't be able to happen. We're saying it should be our choice if our PCs are inspired or not.
As a DM I want to at least occasionally tell evocative and emotionally impactful scenes. Some of my proudest moments are when I've gotten a player to get teary eyed because of what was going on in a story, or to say "OMG" as they walked away from the table to process a big reveal.

To me those moments feel, for lack of a better word, more authentic. If a player is never affected by any scenario thrown at them, that's also cool because I'm not going to dictate what's important for their game.
 

If my PC has the flaw, "Mouths off to authority" and has been summoned with the group to speak to the Emperor, a man known to behead people who so much as annoy him, it shouldn't come down to a mechanic determining whether or not my character utters a suicidal comment. It should be my choice whether or not he can hold back his comments in that situation, because even people with such flaws aren't suicidal.

No? Never?

I would say that examples of people doing things that are not in their own best interest and that others would call stupid are so plentiful that we don't even need to debate it.

So when it comes into play in an RPG in a scenario as you've described it, I think that simply ignoring the flaw when it's most risky is a great example of rendering characterization meaningless. Can my character keep his mouth shut when his life is on the line, despite a clear hatred for figures of authority? That's interesting and that's what I'd want to discover. Not simply decide.

Allowing the player to simply decide is letting them off the hook easy.

And that's perfectly fine as far as RPGs go....tastes vary. But let's not say that character is so important to that moment of play if the established character trait can simply vanish as if it had never existed.
 

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