log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 4E The Best Thing from 4E

What are your favorite 4E elements?


  • Total voters
    225

Aenghus

Explorer
I'm unsure how to take this. Isn't that the point of those details? As a player, it's your responsibility to account for them. All the details that you need to account for are all in the open. If you don't account for them, some things will be blocked.

An easy example: say you make players write down what gear they have. I think this is something that many tables do (we'll say 50%). The party comes up against a cliff they must climb down. The get the idea to get a rope and tie it to something at the top to help anchor people who scale down. The GM asks if anyone has a rope. The party checks, and nobody does. The party therefore can't use their rope plan.

This is a roadblock of that plan. And it's because of a detail. But now you get to see what they do. Do they all climb down individually? Does that mean one of them falls and gets hurt? Does that mean a healing spell is used? Does that mean they have one less spell when they need it later?

The only way to know just how important the impact of a detail is is to see what happens when the players account for it (or don't). Forgetting that rope could lead to a PC death, for all we know. And that's just one example. There are many that I'm sure I make my players keep track of that not even 50% of tables do (outfits, bedding or tents [in case it gets cold], arrows, daggers, food, etc.). All these things can lead to very interesting situations. Players that run out of food might actually decide to find pesky goblin tribes in the area to barter with or loot so they don't starve. Or, hell, they might have to eat goblin. Or slow down while they hunt and gather food, which might have other effects (what with weather, the setting continuing to evolve, etc.).

Logistical D&D is an old tradition and a perfectly valid playing style, but I think one that primarily interests a subset of detail-oriented people, and bores rather more. I've seen horrible unfun issues arise in this playing style so I no longer find it attractive as a constant pursuit. Forcing players into painstaking logistics management on pain of PC death can end up counterproductive. I've seldom seen logistics being enforced consistently and fairly either. "Forgotten rope" issues can be a sign that the DM feels his or her adventure hasn't been sufficiently prepared/ written and wants to delay the players. This being a case where the players had discussed a plan using ropes well beforehand, there was plenty of time and opportunity to prepare, and logistics checking hadn't been an issue in the campaign much before.

While as in your example this sort of thing can leads to lots of adventure, it can also make the person who forgot the rope, or forgot or mislaid the piece of paper with rope written on it, or who wasn't able to get to the session, feel stupid or responsible for getting a PC killed. If there's enough bad feeling about it, the campaign can blow up as a consequence. "For want of a rope the campaign was lost"

Adventures can contain single points of failure where something is needed to pass them, and being roadblocked by them may be naturalistic but it often isn't fun for anyone involved. Sometimes, particularly in dungeons, there's only one way forward, and a roadblock is a literal roadblock, forcing the party to leave to get the lost item. At which point a lot of DMs do a u-turn and just let them have the forgotten item, as they realise the mistake is partially their own.

Also, I don't agree all the details are out in the open. Even the referee doesn't know everything, but he knows far more than the players. There is such a vast amount of detail in the gameworld, and most of it is irrelevant, but the relevant details pop out clearly to the referee. It's hard to keep in mind that this isn't the case for the players who generally have difficulty distinguishing genuine clues from red herrings, mistaken conclusions, badly written notes, lies from NPCs, lies from other PCs, etc.(the referee doesn't know the secret plans of the players, individually and in groups and subgroups)

I prefer higher level D&D in any case, where simple logistical problems are moot due to bags of holding filled with all basic adventuring supplies. If your players aren't detail oriented, punishing them for that lack is shortsighted and fails in the DM duty to cater to the players you have rather than punishing them for what they are not. Though obviously, it's sensible to recruit players who want the style of game that you want to run.

Also my playing time is precious and I see a sizable amount of logistical roadblocking as timewasting, wasting both my players and my own precious playing time.

The "Assumption of Competence" is one of my core principles nowadays - generally assume that the PCs are competent, don't make dumb decisions off camera, don't forget basic supplies, don't get killed by house cats. Newbie PCs can flail around a little, but my players and I have done all the logistical exercises before in previous games, we don't need to do them over and over again. For me the fun failures are those that take place on camera in the game due to the active decisions of the players.



And these are just basic exploration details. While 4e has some rules on these sorts of things, I'd definitely consider the non-combat rules ill-defined, especially by comparison to it's fairly concrete combat rules (outside of the huge realm of stunting). And that's a shame, because I'd really like my players to be more empowered when making decisions instead of everything being filtered through me.

True, it can lead to this. I think the flip side is that the abstract rules make it so that player actions might now be filtered through the GM, and that's not something I much like (because I'm lazy!). But I definitely understand why people would like the more abstract approach. I guess I just don't see it as transparent still. Thank you for the reply :)

As others have said, the gameworld is always filtered through the DM. Barring a DMing AI and virtual environment, the players are forced to constantly play twenty questions to build up even a pale shadow of the DM's appreciation of the gameworld. Thus all the stories about DMs who failed to mention the giant dragon in the centre of the room (which is the D&D version of the Elephant in the Room). Players can't automatically see what is clear to the DM due to the lack of context and ability to zoom into details, mostly irrelevant.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

keterys

First Post
Am I the only one who didn't find the solo - elite - standard - minion demotion of monsters over levels satisfying (as a player)? Hmm. To me it was a terrible thing because killing 6 minions of something you previously fought was patently not the same as killing 6 actual creatures. The was no sense of accomplishment.
Just to be clear: do you object to the solo - elite - standard progression?

Cause it's one thing to dislike minion mechanics, and another thing to dislike the progression.

People _loved_ when I put out a couple dozen dragons in my Epic game, because they were so high level that those solos they remember from Heroic were chaff in the wind before their might.
 

Just to be clear: do you object to the solo - elite - standard progression?

Cause it's one thing to dislike minion mechanics, and another thing to dislike the progression.

People _loved_ when I put out a couple dozen dragons in my Epic game, because they were so high level that those solos they remember from Heroic were chaff in the wind before their might.

Well, and not just that, but the way that it is mechanically implemented has a lot going for it. The DM isn't burdened with keeping track of stats for something trivial. Even a much lower level monster would still have hit points and etc. Said monster would also be unable to even get a hit. You can of course play 5e where PCs never rise high enough on the power curve to just blink at a low level monster and have it fall to pieces, but IMHO its a high price to pay for 'consistency' to force your system to be so limited. You can always play 4e without minions, or without 'downgrading' monsters from solo->regular->minion if you so wish. Its not even actually suggested to use that technique, though it is quite handy.
 

But illusionism is non-trivially related to the second thing that you mention: if the shared fiction is not going to be changed by the players' metagame desires - eg if they not allowed to make decisions and generate outcomes because they would be fun, or exciting, or whatever - then there are likely to be two options. The first is that the game is rather boring, because the players play their PCs method-actor style, the GM runs the world sim-engine style, and not a lot happens.
[...]
The second is that the GM takes steps to make sure that play is interesting, eg by manipulating random encounter rolls to make sure exciting options come up, or by manipulating NPC reaction rolls to make sure that interesting confrontations occur, or by manipulating the fiction to introduce elements that are engaging rather than boring.
There's also the very strong possibility that the players play in-character, the GM runs the world as a sim-engine, and interesting stories happen anyway.

I used to follow a podcast, where they made frequent mention of something called "the adventuring paradigm"; which is just a way of saying that the world is set up in a way such that interesting things are likely to happen. The best example given was of Shadowrun, where the world is naturally set up so that anyone can (essentially) pick up a dangerous quest from a mysterious stranger in a tavern. The GM doesn't need to manipulate any dice, or arrange for unlikely coincidences in order to get things going, because that's just the premise. Even when you're actually on the run, the GM doesn't need to make anything more interesting, because the natural course of events should be interesting enough.

I would say that D&D also has a strong adventuring paradigm, without DM intervention. There's a world that exists, with dungeons that contain monsters which make sense for the area, and there are people who want to explore these dungeons in the hope of finding loot. That's the premise, and if you just follow with that, it seems like you should still have a fun time of things.

Done covertly in a context where player protagonism is part of the game's promise - which includes most fantasy RPGing - and for me, at least, it is terrible.
I've never been a fan of protagonism, and I've never seen it as critical to any edition of D&D (with the possible exception of 4E). Maybe it's because I started with 2E, and that edition had more of a participationism ideal. For me, whenever something happens because you're the hero, it just feels hollow and kind of pointless; I would rather read a book, or watch a movie, than play that sort of game.
 

I'm trying to follow along, but I think I'm confused on a major point regarding illusionism. Is the illusion supposed to be that the players are actually contributing in any way, while the DM is just stringing them along in order to tell a story - where freedom of choice is the illusion? Or is the illusion supposed to be the honest attempt of the DM to create a living and breathing world, where the characters exist as people (rather than narrative constructs), and interact without influence from outside (metagame) factors?
No, I think it's pretty clear that it's neither of those things. While a DM using illusionism might very well magician's-force away the players' free will, in addition, the two are separable techniques. Similarly, there's nothing at all honest about illusionism, its deceitful by nature & by necessity - best case, like a 'white lie,' worst case, obviously leading to the paranoia previously mentioned.

Rather, illusionism is the DM taking the basic formula or social contract of an RPG - that you get a few people together, and they all make stuff up about their characters and the world, and, where the made up stuff conflicts, the rules resolve the differences - and taking over the 'rules' function, himself. Some games openly encourage such behavior, some openly discourage it, but some really do work better with it than without it, while other's don't really need it, and none are /entirely/ immune (the 'transparency' of 4e, for instance, makes it more evident that the DM is breaking the social contract, rather than making it somehow impossible for him to do so).

but the way 4E deals with transparent game mechanics, the thing they are anathema to is immersion.
Really? You're going to edition-war on this nice little reminiscence thread?

There's also the very strong possibility that the players play in-character, the GM runs the world as a sim-engine, and interesting stories happen anyway.
Well, there's a possibility that an 'interesting' story happens somewhere in a process-sim world. On occasion it might happen to a PC, and, very, very rarely, it might even be an heroic sort of interesting story (rather than an interesting 'how I got ignominiously killed by green slime' story while poking about for treasure' story).

But, more to the point, illusionism is the deadly enemy of the 'sim-engine,' which runs on rules-as-laws-of-physics, while under illusionism the laws of physics are, well, illusory.
 
Last edited:

There's also the very strong possibility that the players play in-character, the GM runs the world as a sim-engine, and interesting stories happen anyway.

I used to follow a podcast, where they made frequent mention of something called "the adventuring paradigm"; which is just a way of saying that the world is set up in a way such that interesting things are likely to happen. The best example given was of Shadowrun, where the world is naturally set up so that anyone can (essentially) pick up a dangerous quest from a mysterious stranger in a tavern. The GM doesn't need to manipulate any dice, or arrange for unlikely coincidences in order to get things going, because that's just the premise. Even when you're actually on the run, the GM doesn't need to make anything more interesting, because the natural course of events should be interesting enough.

I would say that D&D also has a strong adventuring paradigm, without DM intervention. There's a world that exists, with dungeons that contain monsters which make sense for the area, and there are people who want to explore these dungeons in the hope of finding loot. That's the premise, and if you just follow with that, it seems like you should still have a fun time of things.

I've never been a fan of protagonism, and I've never seen it as critical to any edition of D&D (with the possible exception of 4E). Maybe it's because I started with 2E, and that edition had more of a participationism ideal. For me, whenever something happens because you're the hero, it just feels hollow and kind of pointless; I would rather read a book, or watch a movie, than play that sort of game.

See, I have never been able to accept the general premise of this point of view. Not to cast aspersions on people for holding it, but the DM constantly does things to favor the characters finding interesting adventures even in the most hard-core sandbox. The very nature and setup of the world is such that there will be adventures, and they will be served up in a level-appropriate sequence. The dungeon just happens to be near the town where the PCs can go without a big dangerous overland journey. Level 1 is at the top of the stairs and has the easiest monsters, etc. Giants and dragons are off in the mountains 5 days away and near the town are lower level monsters. Its all arranged and built around providing a specific experience to the players. There's no special logic to it or reason for it, except that. A D&D setting/campaign is basically pure meta-game. It lives and breaths meta-game.

Beyond that DMs cannot possibly arrange every detail of their sandbox ahead of time. Vast numbers of details are determined on the spot, and long experience has taught me that the particulars of those details ALWAYS are influenced, if not largely shaped by, the agendas of the participants. The DM drops hooks that lead to the next adventure that just happens to be the one that is doable by the party and not the one that's 10 levels too hard, etc.

So, given that, the earlier comment about "why is it giants and not orcs" comes to the fore. Its giants because they're threatening to a level 10 party and orcs aren't, that's why! I'm not saying there cannot ever be other ostensible reasons for things, there often are, but the notion of some logically consistent setting where everything is entirely arranged only in a logical way that has nothing to do with any consideration of the setting's use as an adventure location is unsupportable IMHO.
 

Well, there's a possibility that an 'interesting' story happens somewhere in a process-sim world. On occasion it might happen to a PC, and, very, very rarely, it might even be an heroic sort of interesting story (rather than an interesting 'how I got ignominiously killed by green slime' story while poking about for treasure' story).
If the world is set up for it, then interesting stories should happen all over the place. Not just to the player characters, but to similar sorts of NPCs throughout the world.

But, more to the point, illusionism is the deadly enemy of the 'sim-engine,' which runs on rules-as-laws-of-physics, while under illusionism the laws of physics are, well, illusory.
That's why I'm asking. Your answer seems somewhat at odds with what was previously suggested, but taking both answers together, I can try to understand what people are saying here.
 

Really? You're going to edition-war on this nice little reminiscence thread?

I think we just have to admit that there are a certain set of players for whom counting out distances in squares, favoring ease of play over geometrical precision, and using restrictions like "you can only do this once per day" just got under their skin so much that they couldn't enjoy the game.

Personally I was happy with the way 4e favored playability. It eschewed ALL use of the dreaded charge counting mechanics (wands with 20 charges you had to track for instance), and the reduction of all AoE's to 3 simple types.

Yeah, a fireball is technically 'square', but if you look at the difference between a radius 20' sphere and a 5x5 square burst 3 zone EVERY SINGLE SQUARE in the zone is at least touched by the 20' radius centered at the same place. The difference is small enough to just call it "well, you're closer to this edge of the square than THAT edge", and wow was it faster in play. I PERSONALLY don't see how it would require any great mental gear clashing, but I'm not everyone...
 

JamesonCourage

First Post
The response might be at the meta-level (accusations of GM cheating) but if the social contract is healthy the response should be at the play-level: the players recognise that the challenge is a hard one, and bring their resources to bear - and then the system of powers, power rationing, action points etc gives them a lot of flexibility to do this (taking some of the best of classic D&D wizard play but making the novas more tactically interesting while extending the approach to all the players).

That's transparency in combat, and associated player empowerment.
I agree with this.
If the situation is non-combat, there are also default expectations about DCs, which are somewhat decoupled from the details of the fiction. (Not completely, because of Easy/Moderate/Hard.) So the players are free to propose ideas and approaches, based on their conceptions of their skills plus their powers (which, per both the PHB, the DMG and the DMG2 are expected to be relevant to skill challenges), which first get negotiated at the stage of permissibility in the fiction, but then either get blocked with no resource cost to the player or change in the fictional position of the PC ("OK, the GM doesn't think I can jump to the moon even though I'm a demigod, so I guess Athletics isn't going to help at this stage") or else gets resolved against a DC which - if the maths of the game haven't broken down (and in my experience the maths mostly doesn't break down) - the player has the capacity to meet, between skill bonuses plus various buffs/augments that might be brought to bear.

For me that's transparency in non-combat resolution, and associated player empowerment.
I don't agree with this, because player power is all filtered through the GM. Can you use the skill that way? The GM decides. Is it appropriate at this level, in this campaign, at this time, etc? The GM decides. Is it Easy/Moderate/Hard? The GM decides. None of that strikes me as player empowering. It strikes me as the opposite, in fact.
If the GM is going to block, for instance, the GM has to make it clear that s/he is blocking at the level of permissibility in the fiction. The GM has to be upfront that s/he is exercising authorial authority; there is no hiding behind (for instance) an "objective" DC 50 that "makes sense". Being upfront is a form of transparency; the negotiations that it can lead to create the space for player empowerment.
I do see how this is transparent (like objective DCs), but I don't see it as empowering players. With objective DCs, skill list uses, powers, action points, etc., all the tools are in the hands of the players. That empowers them to act. That's why people in this thread have said they love powers and the power system.

On the other hand, while saying "I don't think you're powerful enough to do this" is transparent, it doesn't empower the players, does it? Or are you saying that once the PCs decipher the GMs (hopefully) transparent reasoning on allowing some things and not allowing them, they'll be able to declare more actions than they would before figuring it out (and thus gain more power)? I could see that argument, but my gut doesn't tell me it trumps direct player empowerment ("you, as a player, have the power to do X.").
Also, because - once negotiations are resolved - the DC is taken from the appropriate chart, the player has a real chance (plus the ability to use buffs etc to help make it happen). There is nothing analogous to trying to pick the lock without knowing the DC, perhaps expending resources on an attempt that the GM knows is futile all along, etc. This is mechanical transparency reducing the scope for a type of player disempowerment that I associate with 90s-style RPGing.
I guess it depends on the skill. I don't think any of my PCs can hit a Hard DC in something they aren't trained in, for example.

Thank you for the long and helpful reply :)
 

See, I have never been able to accept the general premise of this point of view. Not to cast aspersions on people for holding it, but the DM constantly does things to favor the characters finding interesting adventures even in the most hard-core sandbox.
That seems awfully pessimistic. And I know it's not strictly true, because I have encountered DMs who run a fair sandbox without changing things for or against the PCs.

So, given that, the earlier comment about "why is it giants and not orcs" comes to the fore.
It makes more sense to me that giants live further away from town, because nobody would build a town right by where a bunch of giants live (and a town wouldn't survive having a bunch of giants move in nearby). Most worlds really do make sense, from that sort of angle. At least, all of the published settings I know of are examples of this.
 

If the world is set up for it, then interesting stories should happen all over the place. Not just to the player characters, but to similar sorts of NPCs throughout the world.
I know what you're really getting at, it just /sounds/ like you're claiming that you run through what happens to every NPC in the world...

That's why I'm asking. Your answer seems somewhat at odds with what was previously suggested, but taking both answers together, I can try to understand what people are saying here.
Go back to Manbearcat's original post, DM violating the social contract is the crux of what he was talking about. Well, leveraging a weak rule system to get away with violating the social contract.
 

I know what you're really getting at, it just /sounds/ like you're claiming that you run through what happens to every NPC in the world...
From a practical standpoint, I just apply a weighted statistical analysis to determine what else goes on in the world. If you're going rules-as-physics, then it amounts to much the same thing. At least, the end results are nigh indistinguishable.

Go back to Manbearcat's original post, DM violating the social contract is the crux of what he was talking about. Well, leveraging a weak rule system to get away with violating the social contract.
Violating the social contract is never cool, no matter who does it. I'll definitely agree that 4E gave the DM less room to get away with that. Do you know which number that original post was? I can't believe that anyone would suggest violating social contract as a good way for some people to run a game.
 

D'karr

Adventurer
It makes more sense to me that giants live further away from town, because nobody would build a town right by where a bunch of giants live (and a town wouldn't survive having a bunch of giants move in nearby). Most worlds really do make sense, from that sort of angle. At least, all of the published settings I know of are examples of this.

It might make more sense but in reality is just a different form of catering to the adventuring potential of the PCs. The giants don't live close by to the town because this area is level 1-3.

However, nearby there is a dungeon with threats ranging from level 1-5

I've never seen or played an adventure for level 1-3 players where the crux of the adventure is that a high level threat is attacking directly the area the PCs are in. Yes, the power behind the throne might be a high level threat, but only his low level minions, and possibly a mid-level sergeant attack the town the level 1-3 PCs are in.

Of course the PCs defeat that threat and find out about the high level threat, but their route must first take them to the mid-level Lieutenant threat. By the time the PCs actually encounter the high-level threat they are themselves mid-high level and can handle it.
 

I've never seen or played an adventure for level 1-3 players where the crux of the adventure is that a high level threat is attacking directly the area the PCs are in.
I've played in a few. Once it was a dragon, and another was just an evil wizard. The goal of the PCs (as well as everyone else) is usually to run away without being noticed, and spread the word to nearby villages so they can either flee or muster some sort of meaningful response.

I've also played in a campaign where cities over there were being obliterated by a powerful magical force, and the only difference between those two situations is where the PCs start in relation to the phenomenon. When your party is a hundred miles away, and have just received notice of the Big Bad, then some other party was probably right in its path.
 

S'mon

Legend
For the fictional accomplishment of killing the monsters to depend upon the precise mechanical details in which an encounter is framed seems to require a type of merging together of the game and meta-game that, at least at my table, I think doesn't happen.

It's a simulationist-gamist nexus which is part of 3e, and in other editions of D&D, but definitely not part of 4e. In 4e I never feel the NPC guard is 'really' a 3rd level soldier, whereas in eg 1e AD&D
saying the guard is a 3rd level Fighter usually feels like you are saying something meaningful about the guard's
place in the (fictional) universe, not just his game-role. 4e is a big departure from that.
 

S'mon

Legend
I've never seen or played an adventure for level 1-3 players where the crux of the adventure is that a high level threat is attacking directly the area the PCs are in. Yes, the power behind the throne might be a high level threat, but only his low level minions, and possibly a mid-level sergeant attack the town the level 1-3 PCs are in.

Oh, those definitely exist. Not all adventures are 'kill all the bad guys'. Some may be 'flee the bad guys'. A good example of asymmetric threat is Death Dealer: Shadows of Mirahan. Mirahan is a god, the level 7-9 PCs can't directly beat him, or his army. They need to get the Death Dealer to do it for them.
Or, one campaign of mine climaxed in a hopeless, '300' style defence against overwhelming odds, another undead army. The PCs and their allies were all going to die - at any rate, they did all die - but they held the bridge long enough to save their people.
 

I don't agree with this, because player power is all filtered through the GM. Can you use the skill that way? The GM decides. Is it appropriate at this level, in this campaign, at this time, etc? The GM decides. Is it Easy/Moderate/Hard? The GM decides. None of that strikes me as player empowering. It strikes me as the opposite, in fact.
In what game is this not true? I mean its simply not plausible to me that your RPG spells out a formula for each skill that literally deterministically states for all situations when and how that skill is useful, what the DC is, and what the results of use/failure are going to be. I can imagine you have covered the most basic common cases of skill uses that probably DO cover 80% of skill checks, but so does every other game. When the rogue asks what the DC is going to be for leaping off the balcony onto the top of the flaming balloon, riding it to the ceiling and leaping to the ledge, you can't possibly pull that off a chart. Presumably in 4e someone is going to say its a hard stunt of DC N, and make an Acrobatics check. I think that's about as transparent/empowering as you can get, isn't it?

I do see how this is transparent (like objective DCs), but I don't see it as empowering players. With objective DCs, skill list uses, powers, action points, etc., all the tools are in the hands of the players. That empowers them to act. That's why people in this thread have said they love powers and the power system.

On the other hand, while saying "I don't think you're powerful enough to do this" is transparent, it doesn't empower the players, does it? Or are you saying that once the PCs decipher the GMs (hopefully) transparent reasoning on allowing some things and not allowing them, they'll be able to declare more actions than they would before figuring it out (and thus gain more power)? I could see that argument, but my gut doesn't tell me it trumps direct player empowerment ("you, as a player, have the power to do X.").
In my opinion when people talk about 'empowerment' they are saying "the players have clear rules and guidelines they can use to decide if they can do this thing or not", which is empowering because it removes the doubt and makes explicit the risks and rewards inherent in an action. The rules don't empower players by giving them more options, they just make the options work better for them. They may also sometimes mean mechanisms that increase the facility with which players interact with the game in other similar ways. The 'moves' of DW can be said to be empowering simply for the way they clearly delineate how you interact with the world. Any player can be sure they are 'doing it right' by using those moves.

I think transparency is a major type of empowerment, not the only one by any means.

I guess it depends on the skill. I don't think any of my PCs can hit a Hard DC in something they aren't trained in, for example.

Thank you for the long and helpful reply :)

It depends on what levels your PCs are. At level 1 a PC with a 10 in a stat will have a 0 bonus, without training. They can hit a hard level 1 DC on a 19. This is pretty hard, but its not impossible. The same character with a 14 stat and one of the many +2 static skill bonuses granted by races, feats, some classes, etc succeeds on a 15, they can perform this hard task with a bit of luck. In any case, I don't know why everyone should have to be able to do everything. Clearly at level 30 a character with a 10 in a stat (started with an 8) and no bonuses of any kind can't even do an easy task without a 19, but its a demi-god level task, and they won't pass a medium skill check ever. I don't think this is disempowering at all, its just very clear, you have to invest in your skills, to be able to do the really hard stuff.
 

pemerton

Legend
There's also the very strong possibility that the players play in-character, the GM runs the world as a sim-engine, and interesting stories happen anyway.

I used to follow a podcast, where they made frequent mention of something called "the adventuring paradigm"

<snip>

I would say that D&D also has a strong adventuring paradigm, without DM intervention.
If the world is set up for it, then interesting stories should happen all over the place.
In this approach, the GM frontloads his/her "intervention" into world design. What exactly the expectations are for the players (what is their job, what sort of pleasure are they meant to get out of play, etc) will depend on individual groups, on what considerations inform the GM's world design, etc.

In classic Gygaxian style, the GM might design a single megadungeon with layered levels in easy walking distance from the PCs' home town. Or, in classic 2nd ed style, the GM might have mercenaries working for the evil overlord attack the PCs' home town. Different starting points, and different shared understandings of how the players should respond and engage, will produce different play experiences.

Though getting rid of the metagame is hard. If the players in the Gygaxian game decide that their PCs don't want to take the risk of exploring the dungeon, not much will happen. If the players in the 2nd ed game decide that their PCs surrender to the mercenaries, not much will happen.

The Gygaxian game is probably less prone to illusionism. The players want to explore and loot the dungeon, they choose to have their PCs similarly motivated, and the focus of the game is on dungeon hijinks.

The 2nd ed game is more prone to illusionism, because the 2nd ed rulebooks do not, in themseves, give the GM anything like the tools necessary to run a "resist the evil overlord" game in a way that doesn't deprotagonise the PCs.

I've never been a fan of protagonism, and I've never seen it as critical to any edition of D&D (with the possible exception of 4E). Maybe it's because I started with 2E, and that edition had more of a participationism ideal. For me, whenever something happens because you're the hero, it just feels hollow and kind of pointless; I would rather read a book, or watch a movie, than play that sort of game.
The bit about starting with 2nd ed doesn't surprise me.

The bit about why stuff happens does, though - or at least it confuses me a bit. Why do the mercenaries happen to attack just now, when the 4 PCs are gathered together at the town inn ready and able to confront them? Why is the decades or centuries old megadungeon waiting to be looted right now, rather than having been looted by some other random person days or weeks or years ago? The "adventure paradigm" you've described depends upon framing the adventure opportunities around the geographic and temporal circumstances of the PCs.

In the Gygaxian campaign, the GM is likely to drop rumours of a new dungeon, across the wilderness, once the PCs reach 3rd or 4th level. (But not before.) Why do the rumours emerge then? Because PCs of that level can survive a wilderness trek.

The world of D&D, much like the real world, is full of people who live ordinary lives that are - to the external observer - relatively dull. The PCs are not among them. But this is because the GM injects content having regard to metagame considerations. The "adventure paradigm" doesn't really avoid that - it is just a particular way of handling that metagame.

I also don't really follow your movie/book comparison - I will try and explain why below.

Your answer seems somewhat at odds with what was previously suggested, but taking both answers together, I can try to understand what people are saying here.
I think [MENTION=996]Tony Vargas[/MENTION] is more strongly emphasising the social dimensions of illusionism - ie it is a type of cheating - whereas I was more strongly emphasising the techniques that are involved, and how they are related to the goals of play.

While I don't dissent from what Tony says, I think it is towards the harsher end of fair description. GMs who opt for illusionist techniques aren't (necessarily) "bad" - often they're just following instructions in rulebooks, or following models presented in rulebooks, and don't know any techniques for doing things differently.

It's also complicated because the line between illusioninsm and participationism is blurred. In a Cthulhu game where the GM is narrating my PC's descent into madness, I know that I am just there to have a good time. It is very much like watching a film, but - because I have the job of providing some colour for my character (eg the details of my ranting about the coming of Nyarlathotep) - it is a bit more immediate and intimate.

In a 2nd ed AD&D game, where I am engaging in the trappings of protagonism - making choices for my PC, rolling dice, etc - but I know that the GM is manipulating the fiction and even some of the mechanics to make these trappings irrelevant - it is a bit less clear. Even if I am a willing participant, I don't know where the GM is wielding power and where s/he is not. So the extent to which I am a mere participant is itself unclear, or shrouded in illusion.

I find this frustrating because I can't just sit back and enjoy the ride, because I'm expected to contribute something; but some of my contributions are irrelevant because the GM will negate them, and so it's hard to get very enthusiastic about contributing at all. Frustration is only compounded if the GM is being covert about the whole situation in the actual course of play (even if, in the abstract, we all know what the GM is doing) and so you find yourself caught in battles of power.

For instance, if I declare actions for my PC and the GM blocks (eg rope problems of the sort [MENTION=2656]Aenghus[/MENTION] was discussing upthread), how do I know whether this is the GM adjudicating the action resolution rules - and so I have to declare more actions for my PC to work around the block - or the GM exercising power to shape the fiction in a particular direction - and so it is pointless for me to try and work around the block, and I should just sit back and wait to be told by the GM what happens? This sort of uncertainty, and hence practical impasse, is very common in my experience of 2nd ed-style play. Personally I hate it.

Once it is clear that the players' choices really do matter, and that they are capable of making a difference to the fiction in virtue of those choices, I think the experience becomes quite different from a movie or a book. Because the players become a species of co-author rather than mere audience.
 

That seems awfully pessimistic. And I know it's not strictly true, because I have encountered DMs who run a fair sandbox without changing things for or against the PCs.
I don't want to spoil the tone of the thread, just call me a pessimist then. I consider this assertion unproven. In 35 years of playing and DMing I've never seen it happen. I'm sure there are many people who THINK they are doing this. I humbly submit that they're unaware of the actual processes going on at the table.

It makes more sense to me that giants live further away from town, because nobody would build a town right by where a bunch of giants live (and a town wouldn't survive having a bunch of giants move in nearby). Most worlds really do make sense, from that sort of angle. At least, all of the published settings I know of are examples of this.

Again, I haven't found a setting which I find to be even remotely logical. Sure, there are often a bunch of things that are explained in terms of some logic. Its debatable whether said logic WORKS or not, and in a sea of illogicality a few isolated logical elements don't really count for much since their entire context doesn't make sense and is contrived as I stated earlier.

Don't get me wrong. I don't find any of this to be a FLAW in settings. Quite the contrary it is a necessary and entirely understandable part and parcel of building a D&D setting. They are fantastical localities designed specifically to present a finely tuned set of circumstances to the players of adventuring PCs. They don't function according to any consistent internal logic, don't model any kind of world which could come into existence by any sort of organic process, nor can we even define the logically consistent rules which they are purposed to be following!

Honestly the greatest triumph of 4e FUNDAMENTALLY was realizing and explicitly being designed around the fact that the rules are there to facilitate a fun game of D&D and have no other purpose nor serve any other master. In 4e strategic teleport works a certain way BECAUSE IT MAKES A BETTER GAME. It took D&D's designers 40 years to get to that point, but they finally did and the results were startlingly effective. Even if you have issues with 4e you do have to admit that it solved a LOT of problems of this ilk. Of course you can hate the concomitant slaying of cows, but that's a whole other matter of taste which is best left to each individual and not aired around in forums.
 

Again, I haven't found a setting which I find to be even remotely logical. Sure, there are often a bunch of things that are explained in terms of some logic. Its debatable whether said logic WORKS or not, and in a sea of illogicality a few isolated logical elements don't really count for much since their entire context doesn't make sense and is contrived as I stated earlier.

On a tangent, I don't consider the real world to be remotely logical by the standards of a D&D setting. I mean, have you looked at the biology of Australia? Or the causes of World War 1? Or the way that we have this amazing resource called the internet and it's used mostly for pictures of cats?
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top