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That Thread in Which We Ruminate on the Confluence of Actor Stance, Immersion, and "Playing as if I Was My Character"

Campbell

Legend
Except that the standard D&D world is more racist than Delhi, Jo'berg, Sydney, or Atlanta in the mid 19th C. The thinking and feeling beings that are listed as monsters are non-people in the games, and, at least in AD&D, are inherently evil, irredeemably so it would appear, so killing them is merely preventing their spreading their evil ways...

... in the context of D&D as presented, Orcs not even good as slaves. Hence, slaughter is the order of the day, Given that the treasure in lair is where the bulk is, bypass the warriors, kill the orc village while the warriors are out, and get out with the treasure. If possible, tuckerize them before they tuckerize you. wait for one to be alone, and remote slay. If high enough level, cloudkill and a couple fireballs can end most villages. Maximum XP for minimum risk.

This does not really jive with the modern presentation of the game either as realized by Fifth Edition or especially Pathfinder Second Edition. The latter of the two goes to pretty explicit lengths that the defensive killing of orcs who are reaving is acceptable (just as it would be with humans), but that slaughtering them in their own territory when they have not been aggressive is not.
 

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This does not really jive with the modern presentation of the game either as realized by Fifth Edition or especially Pathfinder Second Edition. The latter of the two goes to pretty explicit lengths that the defensive killing of orcs who are reaving is acceptable (just as it would be with humans), but that slaughtering them in their own territory when they have not been aggressive is not.
5E also doesn't have 1 GP for 1 XP. So you're strawmaning here.

AD&D had both 1XP for 1 GP gained, and Orcs as inherently evil. The end result of skilled mechanical play is that Orc villages are fair game for mass murder.... which is part of why we rejected skilled play of AD&D in 7th grade. The obvious effect of the rules wasn't what we were comfortable with. On the other hand, seducing demons also was off-label but mechanically doable given the add-on Comeliness stat (IIRC, in Unearthed Arcana). My 18 Cha Elf got a max roll, and got lucky with Lolth in Q1...
AD&D had a lot of unintended consequences of its rules.
 


Yeah, that Game Theory being reported above wasn’t what I experienced in that period when my games left the dungeon.

My Hexcrawls in 1991 (8th grade by whatever) switched from AD&D to RC. Orcs went from Evil to Chaotic. The Game Theory that governed the groups I GMed for didn’t change as it pertained to Orcs whether it was in the dungeon or in the wild. It was:

Have Porter/mule

+

Treasure is infinitely better than confrontation.

+

Light Treasure with high return (in the form of gems and baubles etc) is massively better than gold due to encumbrance.

= Avoid conflicts and collect gems and baubles and keep the Porter alive.

Most of the games I ran were overwhelmingly Pawn Stance as well (for probably 100 players during that era) so alignment was less a moral question and more a game artifact question. Yet I didn’t see a tendency to expeditiously slaughter orc women/children in AD&D nor less so when we switched to RC.

It was resource-hoarding, rest/recharge-managing, spec ops XMen with S.O.P. power plays developed between party members for various situations.
 

I don't think that the morality of early DND was an outgrowth of skilled play, I think it was an outgrowth of the game's theming on the basis of absolute Law Vs. Chaos, and eventually Good vs. Evil. That theming in turn, was probably an outgrowth of both fiction at the time, and a need to create a loose narrative justification for the game's core loop.

By making creatures card carrying members of the evil faction, we create a justification for fighting them more or less in line with modern notions of tolerance of intolerance-- because they want things that are fundamentally at odds with the rights of others, they have to be addressed regardless of if they currently have the power to impose their desires, because someday they will have that power and use it. The only meaningful difference is whether that intolerance for the rights of others is considered an inherent trait, whether the exceptions to that are 'not appearing in this story,' or in the modern construction where only some of the orcs are intolerant of others rights, so only some of the Orcs qualify as monsters.

But skilled play, in and of itself, isn't incompatible with that modern construction of morality because ruthlessness doesn't have to be the best rewarded solution to a problem-- it can be deconstructed via appropriate cause and effect in game. Its not hard to imagine a game where killing the entire orc camp to make sure there aren't any survivors to take revenge would cause others to target the players in shock and horror thereby making it an example of unskilled play, or one where even opening oneself up to betrayal would net some other worthwhile benefit such as the aid of well intentioned others and make the moral play the skilled one.

Its actually interesting, because it opens up a question concerning skilled play-- does skilled play have to mean taking whatever action most reduces the difficulty of the scenario, or can it mean taking the hard road, but using skill to overcome the greater difficulty? Is the 'combat as war' mentality of killing creatures lest they warn or reinforce others a decision that demonstrates player skill, or a difficulty slider by which they attempt to reduce the need for skilled play by reducing the difficulty of upcoming challenges?

Both obviously have their place, but its interesting to think about-- my friends and I have sometimes included optional rewards for engaging with optional encounters that are harder than the baseline, players skilled enough to take and overcome the risk are better rewarded than players who avoid taking unnecessary risk. It deconstructs 'skilled play' as exclusively careful play, and reconstructs it as one's ability to survive reckless derring-do through the finesse with which they handle the resulting situation one has found themselves in. 'Skilled play' isn't avoiding the Dragon, its overcoming or escaping the Dragon. It suits the combat-positive, player empowered systems I prefer to play.

To drag this back around to the main subject of the thread, I think clear framing up front is important. In my upcoming Pirate West Marches, because the emphasis is on treasure, I'm going to stipulate that the players ought to construct characters who mesh with treasure seeking as a core motivation-- by being up front, I'm hoping to avoid scenarios where characters are built to be disinterested in what qualifies as skilled play (treasure-seeking, exploration), or to be so morally uncompromising that it presents impassable conflicts of interest ("but its wrong to loot a tomb!") They'll ideally be characters for whom skilled play and the two way bleed between character and player, are in relative alignment.

It effectively delineates a space within which the players know that they can construct and play characters with 'integrity' to borrow Campbell's Verbiage.
 

The end result of skilled play huh? Like there's only that one? I suspect that lots of people who engaged in that same skilled play might disagree. I know I do.
Using the definition of skilled play above, involving using the rules as written for their maximum efficiencies, yes. That's what the rules encourage.

Then again, my playstyle at the time I was running AD&D regularly was "Rules-raping munchkin rules-lawyer."
I outgrew that mode and AD&D, decades ago.
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Using the definition of skilled play above, involving using the rules as written for their maximum efficiencies, yes. That's what the rules encourage.

Then again, my playstyle at the time I was running AD&D regularly was "Rules-raping munchkin rules-lawyer."
I outgrew that mode and AD&D, decades ago.
I think I may have not made my point clear enough. What you describe isn't actually the natural outcome of skilled play in practice. Not in my personal experience, nor in my anecdotal experience, nor even in the descibed play experiences Ive read (all three extensive). I'm sure it happens, but this seems like an idea you have rather than an actualy widespread reality. Shrug
 

I don't think it's controversial to say that early editions of D&D had a number of mechanisms that were internally at odds with creating "immersive" play experiences. Not to say that you couldn't immerse, just that there were lots of artifacts getting in the way.
  • Gaming the "XP is gold" system, as noted by many.
  • General lethality / assumption of "troupe" play meant it was dangerous to get attached to any one character, let alone try and "immerse" as one.
  • The massive amounts of procedural rules (time, mapping, wandering monsters, massive numbers of tables on which to roll).
  • Gamist resource management of all sorts (rations, hit points, consumables, treasure hauling).
All of these are aimed at pushing players towards "skilled play" kinds of behaviors, of the kind predominant from '78-'83. And there's nothing wrong with it, it's just that taken at face value, they're largely at odds with "immersion" as a concept. The general "win conditions" of skilled play have no direct avenue into "immersion."
 
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I know what can increase immersion; dressing up as your character! Why hasn't anyone suggested it before?
Because for some, it's just a distraction. For others, a disruption. It also pushed into LARP territory, which for a significant subset is a no-go zone. There is very little that is truly a universal aid to immersion.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
I don't think it's controversial to say that early editions of D&D had a number of mechanisms that were internally at odds with creating "immersive" play experiences. Not to say that you couldn't immerse, just that there were lots of artifacts getting in the way.
  • Gaming the "XP is gold" system, as noted by many.
  • General lethality / assumption of "troupe" play meant it was dangerous to get attached to any one character, let alone try and "immerse" as one.
  • The massive amounts of procedural rules (time, mapping, wandering monsters, massive numbers of tables on which to roll).
  • Gamist resource management of all sorts (rations, hit points, consumables, treasure hauling).
All of these are aimed at pushing players towards "skilled play" kinds of behaviors, of the kind predominant from '78-'83. And there's nothing wrong with it, it's just that taken at face value, they're largely at odds with "immersion" as a concept. The general "win conditions" of skilled play have no direct avenue into "immersion."
I disagree. Well I disagree on some of your bullets.

1. XP is Gold. Sure if your players game the system this way then that is bad and yes it could happen. My Job as DM is to disincentivize that behavior. It was not a big deal for me. This is probably the one I can concede was probably a problem for many groups though not mine.
2. Beyond the very early levels, I didn't see this that much and even then with my groups it wasn't common place. But my groups were highly skilled in my opinion. Maybe this was a problem for many groups but honestly even outside of mine I didn't see it that much.
3. These procedural rules as you call them were almost all handled by the GM. Mapping was a player duty but we viewed it as our characters mapping in game. If the character wasn't mapping then the player wasn't mapping. So this one is at best neutral but in fact is likely pro-immersion.
4. Resource management and skilled play is just doing what you would really do if you really were that character. That would be immersing me further. So I have to say this is the one I'm most opposed to in concept. Lack of resource management would be non-immersive for me.

And I'm talking about being immersed in character and not just being focused on the game. One implies the other but the other does not imply the first.
 

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