log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D 5E The D&D Advantage- The Campaign


log in or register to remove this ad

payn

Legend
Adding to this o5e itself make significant steps away from the whole "d&d-like" construct. By tuning the system & all of its math to a spherical cow of no feats no magic items while shifting the power from those things directly onto the base pc itself under bounded accuracy, the GM is left with no room for growth and a goodie ie bag they cant actually draw from without rebuilding the system into something that once again becomes "d&d-like". O5e sidesteps sun sized spotlight by having the name of "dungeons and dragons".
5E is also the most popular edition!
 

Thus responsive to @EzekielRaiden's critique of the OP, I believe it isn't a past advantage simply playing out as a kind of market or audience inertia. It is a live brand-pillar, recognised by the designers and actively wielded to appeal to players. I'd agree that the innovation was salient to the initial success, and without the initial success there'd be no D&D today. I don't agree that it is just a fact about the past.

[EDIT And I think UA in a fashion forms proof of this conclusion. The constant searching and testing of design space for character advancement. Races. Feats. Sub-classes. Classes. Look at the recent Strixhaven cross-class sub-classes. These experiments are evidence that the designers are as focused on their character classes - and their advancement-arcs - as ever!]
None of those things is "the campaign," first off, which was rather the centerpiece of the OP. So, at least from that angle--sure, if we're broadening to include "whatever form advancement takes, no matter how divergent it becomes," then yes. But that's not a single thing over time. Almost every game with any component of strategy (even "purely random" games!) admits some kind of metric of progression if you're willing to generalize far enough. And "be innovative!" is hardly an "advantage"--it's more like a vital need, one that D&D has actually been pretty antagonistic toward across its history. After all, 4e also iterated in a ton of ways, pushing design, implementing genuinely innovative new concepts, and people actively shat on it and misrepresented it constantly.

Second, the subclass and concepts like that go pretty far afield from the "goodie bag"/persistent-character model. Like, they're kinda orthogonal to it. Yes, they offer a wider variety, but you can't mix them together. You're locked in, you're embarked, once you pick a subclass that's your subclass forever. So....that's kinda completely orthogonal to the "you can play this one character, and it never stops growing or participating unless you want to stop or things go really super wrong." It's not an advantage of the levelling experience that you're given a variety of options to play; it's a wholly unrelated advantage, enabling different fantasies efficiently. Which, sure, that's one of D&D's advantages--one it retains to this day, as many games tend to pursue a more narrow definition of fantasy. But it's not the same advantage as discussed in the OP.

And, again, that's a design space that the D&D community (and, to a certain extent, its creators) have been actively antagonistic toward. Even when 5e was being made, it was STILL considered a totally normal not at all insulting thing to mock people who like playing dragonborn, purely for that preference. Even when said in jest, such things are really Not Okay (I mean, for real, would you mock a good friend purely because they told you they like sweet, fruit-flavored mixed drinks instead of beer? Even as a playful ribbing, that kind of thing can really hurt!) but it's literally only been in the last couple years that the old hands and the game designers have started to, y'know, actually treat dragonborn fans as serious people who just genuinely like something, rather than dweebs or immature roleplayers or whatever else.

Or, for a literal demonstration that just happened on this very forum, consider the "what class do you dislike most" thread, where multiple posters have expressly said that Artificer and Monk shouldn't exist in D&D because they don't fit the fantasy, aka, because enabling that fantasy in some way bothers or upsets those players. And the same thing goes for the Warlord, which some people are actively hostile toward, despite it being intensely beloved by its fans.

This is (just) one way that the fanbase can be actively antagonistic to the things that make a thing actually great. Enabling a diverse spectrum of fantasies has always been an important pillar of D&D. It's why have the pseudo-Van Helsing Cleric today, and why Gygax permitted people to play balrogs or dragons at his table as long as they were willing to start weak and grow strong with effort--but it's also always been under attack from the traditionalist fans (and, sometimes, traditionalist designers) who have an uncompromising view of what the game "should" be.
 

Aldarc

Legend
True. And Han shot first. :mad:
Justice Judge GIF by truTV


Han was the only one who got a shot off. Greedo never shot at all. But what you are alluding to was the 1997 Special Edition change.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Well, no. Han was the only one who got a shot off. Greedo never shot at all. But what you are alluding to was the 1997 Special Edition change.
Right. He shot first before Greedo had a chance to shoot him. Like any good space scoundrel should.
 

The campaign a driving force? Nahhhhh....
Leveling? Nahhhhhhh....
It is not those things alone that explains the success of D&D. It is the whole package. Other systems offers as much the same thing as possible yet, they do not have the success D&D enjoyed and enjoys still (with exception of the 4ed, agreed).

The real drive behind the success is that it was the first to mix all these together. And over the years, it was supported by a Magazine, adventures and different campaigns possibilities. The fact that D&D is generic enough to accommodate a lot of genres and the system is relatively easy enough to learn makes it ideal for starting players to play almost immediately.

As I said, many systems have the campaign and a leveling system but they do not enjoy the same popularity. D&D has also a big ace. And it is the backlog of adventures, campaigns, reference books and all source books ever printed that are almost 100% compatibles. That is a huge advantage and it explains 4ed failure to reach the mass of players they were hoping to reach. 4ed was not compatible to other editions of the game (at least not without a lot of work). 5ed made sure that is was compatible right out of the box and the success came with it. You can take any adventures of previous editions (even 4ed) and you can use it with less work than building your own.

So D&D is 1st not only because it was the first, but also because it made sure that ita previous materials could be used throughout it editions. Only once did it not do that in its history and it backfired in a spectacular fashion.

NB:" I really did like 4th edition. I do not wish to start edition warring but it is a fact that it was not well received."
 

Minor quibble: Star Wars: A New Hope didn't get the subtitle "A New Hope" until the theatrical re-release in 1981. I think that until then it was just "Star Wars."
sigh

Knew somebody was going to feel too strong an urge toward pedantry on this one, but I thought maybe the internet might let it go, just this once, given how tangential any of that information is to the topic. Serves me right, I suppose. Yes, I was aware of all these facts. I didn't consider them salient, and in fact, I chose the names I used because I figured there would be more people who would be confused by not calling it "Episode IV" or "A New Hope" than who would be perturbed by the factual inaccuracy of referring to the original '77 film by the '81 re-release's name.
 

Aldarc

Legend
sigh

Knew somebody was going to feel too strong an urge toward pedantry on this one, but I thought maybe the internet might let it go, just this once, given how tangential any of that information is to the topic. Serves me right, I suppose. Yes, I was aware of all these facts. I didn't consider them salient, and in fact, I chose the names I used because I figured there would be more people who would be confused by not calling it "Episode IV" or "A New Hope" than who would be perturbed by the factual inaccuracy of referring to the original '77 film by the '81 re-release's name.
I didn't realize my minor quibble would result in receiving such a disproportionately grumpy retort. Christ. If this is how you talk to people who actually like you, I hate to see how you'd respond to people who don't. Sorry for ever posting, EzekielRaiden.
 

Helpful NPC Thom

Adventurer
Tons of systems, with different genres, implied settings, or perspectives pull off exactly the same reward loop as D&D. Your "(and similar systems)" sweeps under the rug easily dozens of unrelated things. D&D retains its lofty position primarily through familiarity, marketing, and having been the top dog.
It's not the reward loop alone that has propelled D&D to its enviable position. The reward loop is certainly part of it, but it's not everything. I consider the reward loop perfected in two D&D editions: early editions and 4e. Early editions utilized the gold-for-XP mechanic, which was ingenious and extraordinarily gameable. 4e utilized combat-for-XP and emphasized leveling up to gain new powers and abilities (moreso than other editions, as the AEDU structure provided 30 levels of powers for all classes, even non-casters). One of these created a massive following while the other remains a relatively niche system.

The reward loop isn't everything, agreed. Pathfinder initially gained a large following by copy-pasting 3.5, yet Pathfinder 2e has a drastically reduced following despite being an overall better designed system that utilizes the same reward loop as modern D&D (combat-for-XP).

We also need to look at why D&D was so successful initially. "Familiarity, marketing, and having been the top dog" don't explain why D&D achieved the status as a cultural artifact in the first place. You're telling me a game about elves and wizards just happened to strike gold because it was first to the market? Press X to doubt on that one.

I consider D&D a very American game, especially early editions. It appeals to particular American sensibilities: settlers on an unexplored frontier, rags-to-riches stories, the self-made man. Add to that mix a dash of wargaming, a bit of fantasy nerdery, and the reward loop and you've got a big hit for American teenage boys. Other demographics filter in, the hobby broadens to encompass general fantasy gaming and storytelling, and there's your "top dog."
 

I didn't realize my minor quibble would result in receiving such a disproportionately grumpy retort. Christ. If this is how you talk to people who actually like you, I hate to see how you'd respond to people who don't. Sorry for ever posting, EzekielRaiden.
I apologize. Saying what I said, the way I said it, was dumb. I was very frustrated overall and, honestly, felt like that was "yeah cool story bro, but did you know you got this one unrelated fact wrong?" rather than engaging with anything I'd actually said. That wasn't your intent, and I shouldn't have responded as though it was.
 

Long time, no big post! I've been ruminating about a planned two-part post regarding D&D that has been informed by some recent conversations I've had, the first dealing with narrative authority, and the second dealing with rules, but before going into the weeds I thought I'd start what is now a trilogy with an essay about the single greatest advantages that D&D has in the world of TTRPGs- the Campaign.
...
But today, I'm going to examine another, less-lauded, aspect of the success of D&D. The persistent character, the advancement of levels, and (to sum it up) the Campaign.
The thing is that almost all RPGs that I can think of that aren't designed for one-shots have some sort of levelling up and growth of power. Unless you're suggesting that character level being a simple bulky number I can't see this as a difference between D&D and say oWoD, GURPS, or any of the Warhammer RPGs. I think they are useful for the campaign - but not something that's special about D&D.
I've heard these arguments too often, especially with the advent of 3e and later 4e calling them "video games" (each previous generation saw it that way). The problem with this argument is it misses the point: video games are the great imitator. All activities came first, and then video games copied them. Ping pong? That's a video game. Boxing? That's a video game. RPGs? That too is a video game. The D&D structure was imitated because it works, but that's what video games do: imitation.
I too play space invaders and run around jumping on goombas in real life. And when I stack falling boxes flat lines of them disappear. Seriously, there's a better case for tabletop RPGs being about imitating than computer games being about it.
 

1634237154551.png


Justice Judge GIF by truTV


Han was the only one who got a shot off. Greedo never shot at all. But what you are alluding to was the 1997 Special Edition change.

But back to the original subject, the reward loop of D&D is so much a part of the experience. It's no wonder that some of the most dreaded foes are the ones that undo that progress (whether old school level-draining undead, rust monsters, disenchanters, or the like).
 

AtomicPope

Adventurer
I too play space invaders and run around jumping on goombas in real life. And when I stack falling boxes flat lines of them disappear. Seriously, there's a better case for tabletop RPGs being about imitating than computer games being about it.
Side-scroller video games Super Mario Bros are like a real-time board game. They're designed to cause set backs.
 


clearstream

(He, Him)
None of those things is "the campaign," first off, which was rather the centerpiece of the OP. So, at least from that angle--sure, if we're broadening to include "whatever form advancement takes, no matter how divergent it becomes," then yes. But that's not a single thing over time. Almost every game with any component of strategy (even "purely random" games!) admits some kind of metric of progression if you're willing to generalize far enough. And "be innovative!" is hardly an "advantage"--it's more like a vital need, one that D&D has actually been pretty antagonistic toward across its history. After all, 4e also iterated in a ton of ways, pushing design, implementing genuinely innovative new concepts, and people actively shat on it and misrepresented it constantly.
I don't follow your meaning here. It isn't the case that a given innovation is guaranteed to pay off. As a fact about commercial design, most innovations fail to pay off. A formula I think about is this - V = $/% - where % is the chance of the innovation succeeding (the lower the %, the greater the risk you are taking), $ is investment in development, and V is customer value. What it is stating is that taking more risk on innovation can act as a multiplier to your investment: resulting in greater customer value. It observes that taking risk means accepting a chance of failure. Implicitly built into % is a chance your innovation won't matter to your audience (if it doesn't, then it doesn't matter whether you carry off the execution or not). That's one reason why design for at least the last fifty years has focused increasingly on understanding customers.

Just because you innovate, doesn't guarantee you will succeed commercially. It's more that innovation can be a force multiplier for your investment.

Second, the subclass and concepts like that go pretty far afield from the "goodie bag"/persistent-character model. Like, they're kinda orthogonal to it. Yes, they offer a wider variety, but you can't mix them together. You're locked in, you're embarked, once you pick a subclass that's your subclass forever. So....that's kinda completely orthogonal to the "you can play this one character, and it never stops growing or participating unless you want to stop or things go really super wrong." It's not an advantage of the levelling experience that you're given a variety of options to play; it's a wholly unrelated advantage, enabling different fantasies efficiently. Which, sure, that's one of D&D's advantages--one it retains to this day, as many games tend to pursue a more narrow definition of fantasy. But it's not the same advantage as discussed in the OP.
Progression and choice are not identical concepts, as one can feel a sense of progression without making any choices. For example, I can run a race and progress past 100 yards, 200 yards, 300 yards, without choosing a different track. My observation would be that RPGs that offered a lot of choice haven't succeeded for players as well as those that narrowed choices down. In D&D PHB -

1/12 choice of class * 1/3 (usually) choice of sub-class
1/9 choice of race * 1/2 (usually?) choice of sub-race (in future we might have a lot more races, and no sub-races)
1/10 choice of feat * 1/10 choice of feat (supposing only about a quarter are relevant to a given character)
1/12 (or so) choice of background
A few skill, tool, language and equipment choices

Most characters are somewhat funneled, and some choices are far more significant than others. Still, much less choice than say Champions where you can design your own super-powers. I suspect we'd agree that some choice is desirable, but how much choice is the right amount?

And, again, that's a design space that the D&D community (and, to a certain extent, its creators) have been actively antagonistic toward. Even when 5e was being made, it was STILL considered a totally normal not at all insulting thing to mock people who like playing dragonborn, purely for that preference. Even when said in jest, such things are really Not Okay (I mean, for real, would you mock a good friend purely because they told you they like sweet, fruit-flavored mixed drinks instead of beer? Even as a playful ribbing, that kind of thing can really hurt!) but it's literally only been in the last couple years that the old hands and the game designers have started to, y'know, actually treat dragonborn fans as serious people who just genuinely like something, rather than dweebs or immature roleplayers or whatever else.
For me this really substantiates the argument for game balance. Good balance in multiplayer games is that which makes the most options mechanically viable. Mechanically viability takes off the table lack of a worthwhile niche. It's not about having more power, but rather equivalent power. I believe dragonborn would be far better received if their mechanics were not so ill-considered.

Or, for a literal demonstration that just happened on this very forum, consider the "what class do you dislike most" thread, where multiple posters have expressly said that Artificer and Monk shouldn't exist in D&D because they don't fit the fantasy, aka, because enabling that fantasy in some way bothers or upsets those players. And the same thing goes for the Warlord, which some people are actively hostile toward, despite it being intensely beloved by its fans.
This rejection of choice would seem to me to speak more to progression and choice being not identical, than anything else. Everyone will have different lines in the sand for what should be in and out of D&D. For example, I think artificer might fit well in Eberron. I dislike it for Faerun. However, my real objection is the poorly thought through impact of infusions on the imagined economy (which, yes, was already shonky.) That has turned out to be a barrier to including artificers in my next campaign (a subject for another thread!)

This is (just) one way that the fanbase can be actively antagonistic to the things that make a thing actually great. Enabling a diverse spectrum of fantasies has always been an important pillar of D&D. It's why have the pseudo-Van Helsing Cleric today, and why Gygax permitted people to play balrogs or dragons at his table as long as they were willing to start weak and grow strong with effort--but it's also always been under attack from the traditionalist fans (and, sometimes, traditionalist designers) who have an uncompromising view of what the game "should" be.
How broad should the game be, might equally be posed. I've observed tolerances for genre-melding to have increased hugely over the years. Still, I would prefer a D&D where Eberron and Faerun feel very different, than one where both are a pastiche!
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
I'd probably reframe it slightly. Leveling up and long-term campaigns were a crucial innovation that gave D&D a major advantage over competitors during its early period. But it's hard to call it a current "advantage" when the design has been so fully plundered into gaming design over the past 45-50 years. I mean, most TTRPGs and video games have some sort of persistent avatar than can continually grow during play and gather rewards.
Indeed. I've had some preeeety long campaigns that weren't in D&D, and not "just recently".
 


I don't follow your meaning here. <snip> Just because you innovate, doesn't guarantee you will succeed commercially. It's more that innovation can be a force multiplier for your investment.
I'm saying, a business which never innovates in any way is dead--and that, as you note, innovation is not, in and of itself, an advantage. Successful innovation is required merely to survive in business. Sooner or later, if you don't innovate, you'll be outcompeted by those who did.

A thing you have to do, and which is not guaranteed to work even if you do it, doesn't make sense as an "advantage." It's a prerequisite.

Progression and choice are not identical concepts
...yes. I was literally saying that you were conflating the two.

My observation would be that RPGs that offered a lot of choice haven't succeeded for players as well as those that narrowed choices down. <snip> I suspect we'd agree that some choice is desirable, but how much choice is the right amount?
Insufficient data to make any determination on that front--again, because "success" is driven by an enormous number of factors. If D&D had been beaten to the RPG punch by a freeform-build game, we could easily live in a world where class-based systems are rare and do-it-yourself construction had always been the more common (and more successful) method.

And yes, some choice is desirable. I, personally, find classless games daunting, because I get lost in all the choices and can't make a decision. By that same token, I have found that there are a lot of people who strain against the restrictions of class-based design, even when they continue to play such games to the exclusion of anything else. Again, "success" and "what players want" are not strictly the same thing, so it's actually pretty unhelpful to argue "well, X pattern is historically more prevalent, therefore X pattern is better." The vast majority of humans who ever lived were illiterate, but I don't think either of us would argue that that's superior to literacy!

Regardless, the OP's point was that two key things--"the campaign" and (paraphrasing) "the level-up experience"--are responsible for D&D's success. You then looped in subclasses as a demonstration of this success. That's really weird, because subclasses are neither part of "the level-up experience" (they provide different options when you do level up, but they don't actually affect whether you get options for levelling up, which the OP repeatedly stressed as the key factor) nor part of "the campaign" (they may have setting implications, but they have no effect on world continuity or the persistent existence of the character past a single play session).

You haven't demonstrated how subclasses, feats, races, or a variety of other things have any similarity whatsoever to "the campaign" or "the level-up experience," other than being innovations. Since as I said innovation is required to survive, that's not an advantage in and of itself, it's a prerequisite. I think all these things are good (to a point) but I don't see how they have more than superficial similarity to the two key points the OP made. I certainly don't see how any of them emphasizes that "the campaign" and "the level-up experience" remain active advantages, rather than merely historical ones.

For me this really substantiates the argument for game balance. Good balance in multiplayer games is that which makes the most options mechanically viable.
Oh, no question. I'm a huge advocate for well-balanced games. It's why it infuriates me so much to see people handwave serious problems, like short-rest classes falling behind long-rest ones. Problems which were foreseen all the way back in the D&D Next playtest and dismissed as irrelevant...only to be later recognized by the designers themselves as an actual problem. Likewise, people noted the serious weakness of dragonborn relative to other races, particularly elves and dwarves, even before official launch.

This is why I advocate so strongly for pursuing really rigorous balance long before publication. Such balance means you don't need to make so many post-hoc changes. 4e was pretty good at this, but even it had some stumbles (skill DCs, Skill Challenge rules, stealth, a couple other things) despite being (in)famous for its balance.

This rejection of choice would seem to me to speak more to progression and choice being not identical, than anything else. Everyone will have different lines in the sand for what should be in and out of D&D. For example, I think artificer might fit well in Eberron. I dislike it for Faerun. However, my real objection is the poorly thought through impact of infusions on the imagined economy (which, yes, was already shonky.) That has turned out to be a barrier to including artificers in my next campaign (a subject for another thread!)
Then, to the best of my knowledge, you are an exception, not the overall pattern. I have seen many, many people who think artificers and monks could not ever have a place in D&D, and that it is borderline offensive to even try to include them, in any way, under any circumstances, even if they can be entirely ignored and not present at specific tables if the DM so desires. We saw exactly the same problem with the Warlord, where you had people doggedly insisting that it would ruin D&D to permit martial healing etc. in 5e, even though they've always had the ability to just ignore classes and mechanics they don't care for.

How broad should the game be, might equally be posed. I've observed tolerances for genre-melding to have increased hugely over the years. Still, I would prefer a D&D where Eberron and Faerun feel very different, than one where both are a pastiche!
...aren't they both already pastiches, or at least extremely heavy on the "borrowing" from other places? Eberron borrows extremely heavily from pulp action comics, Indiana Jones, astrology, Victorian-era fiction, etc. Faerun openly copies literal real-world cultures (e.g. the Mulhorandi pantheon is literally Egyptian, while the Untheric pantheon is literally Mesopotamian), so even if Eberron isn't a true pastiche, the Forgotten Realms absolutely are--particularly when you start accounting for the continental areas that openly invoke different cultural tropes, like Al-Qadim being a pastiche of the myths and legends of Golden Age Islam, or Maztica being a pastiche of the Americas around the time of the despoiling Conquistadors.
 
Last edited:

Silvercat Moonpaw

Adventurer
What do you think?
I think you're right, and that's probably why I've grown to be dissatisfied with D&D and its ilk: the reward loop doesn't work on me (at least, not in this medium). XP and loot don't hit my reward center: dialogue and fun game moments do. So when I encounter advancement in a game I don't really know what to do with it. My characters can evolve, sure, but that's a thing determined by the story and doesn't have to be -- and maybe shouldn't be -- tied to getting more rules bits.

Other people like it, which is a good thing, so it should be included. But there is a different perspective.
 
Last edited:


Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top