log in or register to remove this ad

 

General Taking the "Dungeons" out of D&D

Asisreo

Archdevil's Advocate
Really? After all these years, you don't get where that's coming from? I find that very hard to believe.
I know where it came from. I don't know why it's still even being said. An encounter a day is 100% fine and it can be fun and interesting to every class involved while also being balanced amongst themselves.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

No one has to prove they can really fight to play the heavy, why should a player have to be charming to play the face? That sort of thing.
Its the eternal problem, and the reason many social mechanics exist in dnd and other games, sometimes complex ones. In general, my experience with a number of social systems is that they create more problems than they solve. The rules just tend to get in the way of roleplaying and people getting in to character. You are absolutely right that the note above is an issue... its that no solution I have ever mechanically seen has solved it without diminishing or hindering the roleplaying of others.
 

Catolias

Explorer
I agree that encounters need to be re-jigged.

Also, whereas dungeon environments place characters into a predefined and organised space that limit options, non-dungeon environment are a sandbox and can be very difficult to run. Some clear rules, with some simple tips and tricks, would not go astray.

I’m also not sure that the skills are balanced enough for conducting extended non-dungeon games, particularly for cities and towns. Some skills, for instance, do a lot of heavy lifting and are the focus of use in those places (eg investigation).
 

Scott Christian

Adventurer
I realize that a lot of people play D&D without much if any dungeon exploration, so bear with me.

Many of the rules of D&D, including 5E, are artifacts of the dungeon exploration mode of play. The thing is, very little fantasy beyond D&D (and those things directly inspired by it) does dungeon exploration. Even the original inspirations for the dungeon were much less onerous than actual dungeon exploration. Vast Moria was basically a 5 room dungeon connected by a few skill challenges.

So, what does D&D look like if you presume that you will be emulating not dungeon crawls but Game of Thrones and The Wheel of Time or Lord of the Rings? What mechanical elements, specifically, need to change, be removed or added to make D&D a general fantasy RPG rather than a genre unto itself? And can you do that and still have the game*be* D&D.

A quick note: "Play another game" is not a helpful response. Nor am I asking you for advice on how I can make my game like this. I am just starting a conversation. We're just brainstorming for fun.
I think for all three examples, you would need to expand D&D roleplaying aspects. A game within a game, much like combat or skill challenges. Those rules would have to be heavily modified, because in all those settings, so many pivotal moments relied on not combat, but interplay between characters (or NPC's).
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I am of two minds on out of combat mechanics. I agree with you in many respects, but I also feel like when you have fewer mechanics for, say, "social combat" you end up punishing players who aren't necessarily good at that thing even when they want to play a character that is. No one has to prove they can really fight to play the heavy, why should a player have to be charming to play the face? That sort of thing.
It's great if someone is good at the social aspects of the game, but if there is uncertainty on how an NPC will react I still rely on die rolls. The target DC may be affected by the content of what is said and I take into consideration what the PCs have done previously but how they say it has no impact. I want the abilities and proficiencies of the PC to matter more than the abilities of the player.

But ultimately, yes, you will "punish" people who aren't good at figuring out the right things to say or the right approach. But the same can be said of combat. I've DMed for multiple groups at the same time with the same assumptions, rules, and general campaign style. One group could handle significantly tougher combat than the other.

So if the group (or an individual) isn't good at the social aspects I adjust the difficulty so that they still have fun. I may go as far as giving them insight or intelligence checks and giving them hints or direction. I just don't think having a set of rules would make much of a difference.

I don't think it's possible to make rules for out-of-combat resolution* that will not ultimately negatively impact the RP aspects of the game. To me, having free form and free flowing, non-combat aspects to the game is part of D&D's appeal.

*Skill challenges in 4E were a valiant attempt, but honestly I don't think they worked very well. Use them too much and RP doesn't matter. Use them sparingly and why even have them in the first place?
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
I know where it came from. I don't know why it's still even being said. An encounter a day is 100% fine and it can be fun and interesting to every class involved while also being balanced amongst themselves.
It's totally fine....as long as you play a caster. If I know going in to a game that the DM is the type who gives frequent lost rests, I always play long-rest based characters. I'd be foolish not to.
 


ART!

Adventurer
If you want the players to engage with politics, social positioning, war, and interpersonal relations, you should have robust rules for that and... in D&D, we don't. We have hand-waving. There should be ways for them to plan tactics and have special abilities around persuasion and intimidation, for example. In general there should be feats and class abilities that relate to these areas of play. There should be rules for use of resources on larger scale than small squad battles. And so on.

Our rules systems help assure that players have reasonable and interesting things to do within the context of whatever the action is, which effectively helps make sure everyone gets a bit of spotlight time. No rules? Unless the GM is very attentive, the bulk of play is apt to go to the most personally persuasive player, which is kind of bogus. The GM should have tools that help them organize play in a way where spreading the action comes out of the process of play.
I basically agree with this 1000%, but see below.

I don't really agree with this. Rules and robust structures are more useful for some things than others. Something like combat, IMO, needs more of that than politics or interpersonal relations. Larding those areas of play up with more rules and robust structures is, to me, detrimental to the game. OTOH, I think we could use some more rules and structure around exploration--I know these are all subjective preferences.
Yeah, there are plenty of games that can provide rip-roaring, intense, satisfying combat without robust or detailed structures for combat.

The frustration for some is that D&D does provide that for combat, but not for much else. "Provide" is the wrong term, really, because it's clearly the game's mechanical focus.

Something just occurred to me: some games focus on combat mechanics because that's something we can't simulate at the gaming table very well. We can, however, simulate social interaction, and we've all probably spent at least some time out int he woods or what have you, so we can kind of extrapolate exploration. But most people have not been in even a safe and protected combat with swords and such. So we have all these rules for it, in games like D&D.

However, it's a good point about how some people are not outgoing or have acting skills, and how in 5E those players have a disadvantage compared to the more dramatic, role-playing, actor-y players. That's not the case with game combat: a less active or athletic player has no real disadvanatge compared to an athletic player with vast martial arts and weapons experience.

Anyway, it's interesting.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Yeah, there are plenty of games that can provide rip-roaring, intense, satisfying combat without robust or detailed structures for combat.
Yes. So, as I already asked - why not take out all those draggy details of D&D combat? We don't need them!!!
 

ART!

Adventurer
Yes. So, as I already asked - why not take out all those draggy details of D&D combat? We don't need them!!!
I would be all for that. In the past 20 (+?) years people have gotten very used to combat in D&D being fairly crunchy (by my standards - YMMV). Given time, we could steer away from that, toward a system that has - let's say - moderate (yes, I know, it's relative!) crunch in all three pillars of the game.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I would be all for that.
Which is fair. However, I expect a number of readers would have a strong, even visceral reaction against doing this. That's fine, too, honestly. What I suggest is merely that folks examine that reaction, and why they have it for one pillar, but not the others.

There are games that treat, say, social/political interactions on the exact same mechanical basis as physical combat. Why do we reject something like that notion?
 


So, what does D&D look like if you presume that you will be emulating not dungeon crawls but Game of Thrones and The Wheel of Time or Lord of the Rings? What mechanical elements, specifically, need to change, be removed or added to make D&D a general fantasy RPG rather than a genre unto itself?
1) Gritty realism resting
2) Slow healing rule (no HP at the end of a long rest)
3) Ban all full casters. Half casters only (maybe also Warlocks)
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
I’m currently running kingmaker and I was at first stumped by the hexploration, one encounter per day situation recommended by the AP books.

Instead I took a leaf out of the computer games approach. Either...
  • Single encounter locations were expanded to have several encounters
  • Single encounters were made substantially harder
  • Single encounters were pushed towards roleplay encounters or world building therefore combat resource wasn’t relevant.

It’s working well so far. The range keeps things varied but without things being a pushover.

For instance one lair, was given sentries outside (encounter 1) a door guardian (encounter 2), a main lair (encounter 3), a leader and elites (encounter 4), and a beast (encounter 5). Arguably these could be fought in one go by a careless party but it would be an overwhelming fight.

I took a lot of inspiration from the five room dungeon approach. It isn’t just for dungeons...

The Ultimate Guide to 5 Room Dungeons

All sorts of locations can be structured this way.
 

aco175

Hero
The rules for combat are fairly structured and provide a framework that works. Social interaction and exploration may not be what some want, while others may want/need more rules. We have talked before about reducing a puzzle or a NPC interaction to a die roll and how some are fine with it and others are not, saying that it is taking some of the fun away from the players even if their genius mage would be able to solve the problem. The openness of everything non-combat is hard to make certain rules for- like skill challenges from 4e. They worked to a point, but some did not use them at all, while others found that players were just trying to use their best skill for all the rolls.

I tended to base skill rolls on the player and how much he was involved and how he played the game. Which is only relevant at my table and not anyone else. If I have a table of new players or kids that may not know about puzzles or logic traps and such, then the game needs hints and rolls to help. My father likes the logic puzzles and would not need a roll to give a hint. So to say all interactions need or do not need more rules if rather hard to create all-encompassing rules for.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
The obvious starting point is with the basic assumptions of six encounters in a day. That's something which basically never occurs outside of a dungeon scenario.

Following up from that means addressing basically every aspect of resource management, especially Hit Dice and spell slots.
It looks the same. The adventure still has a goal/objective and something like 1-6 obstacles of varying difficulty between the adventurers and the goal. There are transitions between scenes and a light amount of resource management.

The only real difference is that in a dungeon, the structure of the adventure is apparent (it’s walls and halls and rooms). Whereas outside the dungeon, the structure is less like physical boundaries and more like chasing down objectives on a scavenger hunt.

When you really “pull back” and think about adventures as an organizational tool, you’ll find it easier to write your GoT or LotR scenarios. The physical scale may be different (and there are rules for travel you might brush up on), and the obstacles may be less straightforward than locked doors, monsters, and traps. And really, we could have benefitted from some stronger guidelines for social interactions in the DMG (not tongue-fu, though, social combat is a bad idea).
I agree with both of these sentiments, which may seem to contradict each other, but I think are simply using the term “dungeon” differently. Indeed, D&D 5e works fine and dandy as-written for running adventures that don’t revolve around exploring subterranean lairs full of hazzards and enemies. But, in order to make an adventure that isn’t about dungeon delving work smoothly in D&D as-written, you have to make it functionally a dungeon adventure where the adventure’s structure takes the place of dungeon walls. It will still fundamentally be an exercise in exploring the play space, managing resources, and dealing with hazzards and enemies that tax those resources. To fundamentally change the structure and play style of D&D would require a significant overhaul of its systems to move away from exploratory play and attrition-based difficulty. And while I hate to be “that girl,” I don’t know if what you would end up with would feel much like D&D.
 

dregntael

Explorer
The primary focus of "Wheel of Time" is the breasts of the female characters... okay, okay, I'll quit snarking. The primary focus of "Wheel of Time" is conflicts among magic-wielders. Magic is very powerful, fairly controllable, and a lot of people can use it. Even the non-channeling protagonists get magic powers: Perrin's wolf-magic, Mat's luck and amulet, the supernatural gifts of the Warders. Anybody without magic is apt to end up in a supporting role. An RPG emulating WoT would have a very well-developed magic system and would give at least some magic to pretty much every PC.
This actually sound really close to what D&D already provides. The Wheel of Time is one of the few settings where all the high-level magic of D&D doesn't feel out of place at all (except perhaps for resurrection magic). This makes me wonder how feasible it would be to reflavour a few aspects of D&D to play in the setting of WoT. E.g. Perrin is either a ranger or a barbarian, while Mat is clearly a battlemaster with an unlimited version of the lucky feat and some rare magic items. Rand himself would be a level 20 sorcerer multiclassed with a level 20 fighter (OP munchkin that he is), with perhaps a few levels of warlock thrown in for good measure towards the end. Most Aes Sedai could be D&D wizards while other channelers would mostly be sorcerers or clerics. It would actually be interesting to homebrew a few wizard schools based on the seven (or 8?) Ajahs...
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I know where it came from. I don't know why it's still even being said. An encounter a day is 100% fine and it can be fun and interesting to every class involved while also being balanced amongst themselves.
The game’s systems are built around that assumption. Yes, you can run a game with one encounter a day and it can still be a lot of fun, but a lot of the rules systems will be superfluous (hit dice, for example, would be useless in a one encounter a day campaign), and depending on the party composition, the difficulty could become trivial, or much harder than expected. I hear all the time that 5e is “easy mode D&D” from people who don’t observe the 6-8 encounter day guideline. I never hear that from people who do observe it.

In short, you don’t need to conform to that guideline, but if you don’t, your gameplay experience will be very different than the one the game is written to accommodate.
 
Last edited:

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
The obvious starting point is with the basic assumptions of six encounters in a day. That's something which basically never occurs outside of a dungeon scenario.
It's actually quite doable to maintain that tempo in a city when "things are afoot".

8 AM: The PCs have breakfast. An informant shows up - she knows something but he's afraid to talk. PCs must convince her to give up information - an ally of the PCs has been robbed.

9 AM the PC see their ally - the alchemist - he is very glad to see them, he was just about to send his servant! An item he was working on - a vial of blood from one of the PCs - has been stolen. Consequences could be serious. Luckily, he had counter measure - the floor was covered with invisible ink, he has a potion that allows to see the invisible footprints, allowing PC to follow. He also suspect who the thief is, it's not the first time this has happened, and urges the PC to scare the crap out of the thief and retrieve the vial. He also is curious as to who wants the vial...

10 AM: The PC follow to a large in and stake out the place. The thief, Om Swar the Yellow, is a bit of a coward and particularly slippery (he's a mage!), so they have to do this right. His door is guarded by two thugs. They manage to foil's Om Swar's escape and learn he was hired to steal the vial by the Blood Merchant - he already has delivered it.

Noon: reconvene with the alchemist - this is very bad. The party agrees to steal the vial back.

2 PM: initial reconnaissance and info gathering.

4 PM: a social encounter at a magical auction house - already scheduled, PCs can't get out of it.

6 PM: random encounter in the streets -a funeral rite goes terribly wrong, undead spirit attacks.

11 PM: The PCs infiltrate the warehouse and steal the blood - but gasp a slugman is held captive in the basement, being used as an involuntary blood donor. This has been going on for over a year. The Slugmen are the ruling class in the Yellow City, the implications are huge.

2 AM: The PCs get roped into a nighttime assault to arrest the Blood Merchant.

This is a brief recap of a real adventuring day - took 2-3 sessions too.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The game’s systems are built around that assumption. Yes, you can run a game with one encounter a day and it can still be a lot of fun, but a lot of the rules systems will be superfluous (hit dice, for example, would be useless in a one encounter a day campaign), and depending on the party composition, the difficulty could become trivial, or much harder than expected. I hear all the time that 5e is “easy mode D&D” from people who don’t observe the 6-8 encounter day guideline. I never hear that from people who do observe it.

In short, you don’t need to conform to that guideline, but if you don’t, your gameplay experience will be very different than the one the game is written to accommodate.
I think a part of the issue is that the '6-8 encounter' is shorthand for how the daily XP budget parses out with Medium to Hard encounters. I pretty much never concern myself with getting within the 6-8 medium and hard encounters, but do tend to pay attention to daily XP budget as my tool to evaluate the challenge of a series between encounters. I think the reliance on the shorthand leads to way to much focus on the number of encounters and less on the nature of the daily XP budget in pacing.

So, not really disagreeing, just pointing out a technicality.
 

COMING SOON: 5 Plug-In Settlements for your 5E Game

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top