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The MAYA Design Principle, or Why D&D's Future is Probably Going to Look Mostly Like Its Past

You can mimic a class-based system simply by providing (optional) templates that have most of the character creation work done and take no more effort to customize than picking a class. In fact, there have been systems for a long time that do exactly that. Levels generally require you to recalculate stats and add new things to your character sheet. This isn't really any simpler than spending system currency to increase skills--especially if players only do it occasionally (like leveling up) rather than every session.

I'm unconvinced by the argument that classes and levels are simpler or more accessible.
 

innerdude

Adventurer
I'm unconvinced by the argument that classes and levels are simpler or more accessible.
To say nothing of the fact that class/level based systems require vastly MORE up front work for long-term play, because you have to constantly be looking ahead 2-5 levels to make sure you're hitting the required minimums for that one "really cool feat thingy I want at level 7, and level 10, and level 12".

Point buy systems allow you to naturally and organically branch out your character into new directions as you see fit (and as long as the GM agrees). There's far less "opportunity cost" for players. They're not locked out of some key character feature at level 8 because they didn't pick the right thing at level 3.
 

billd91

Earl of Cornbread
To say nothing of the fact that class/level based systems require vastly MORE up front work for long-term play, because you have to constantly be looking ahead 2-5 levels to make sure you're hitting the required minimums for that one "really cool feat thingy I want at level 7, and level 10, and level 12".
No you don't. Most casual players aren't going to bother with that kind of medium to long-term planning.
 

Tony Vargas

Adventurer
To say nothing of the fact that class/level based systems require vastly MORE up front work for long-term play, because you have to constantly be looking ahead 2-5 levels to make sure you're hitting the required minimums for that one "really cool feat thingy I want at level 7, and level 10, and level 12".
That was mainly 3e, I think. I mean, 3e/d20 was hugely influential, so that's not dismissing the point, but classic D&D was prettymuch choose race, choose class, hold on for dear life. 4e, you could retrain every level. 5e, feats & MC are optional.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
To say nothing of the fact that class/level based systems require vastly MORE up front work for long-term play, because you have to constantly be looking ahead 2-5 levels to make sure you're hitting the required minimums for that one "really cool feat thingy I want at level 7, and level 10, and level 12".
Only in a game where you can reasonably expect your character to survive that long.

I'd hazard a guess that you're basing these statements on some 3e/PF experience, as that was the edition where this kind of thinking was (sadly) in vogue. Long-term play in 0e-1e (and maybe even early-version 2e) doesn't really have these kind of considerations, with the glaring exception of the as-written 1e Bard.

The big advantage of class-based systems is the very thing you complain about a few pages upthread: that no one character can do everything and thus needs other characters - i.e. a party - to cover the weaknesses. This is a strong feature in any game purporting to be based around the concept of co-operating adventuring parties; and jack-of-all-trades characters, while admittedly fun to play, tend to shatter the adventuring-party paradigm in that they can do just fine on their own.

Somewhat incredibly, given as they were largely flying blind at the time, the original D&D designers got this absolutely right: they made good and sure each class could do some things well and - more importantly - could not do some other things well, if at all.
 

Sadras

Explorer
The top problem for many (myself for sure) with 4E was that it fundamentally changed how I could play D&D. From 1980 to 2003 D&D was a game I played without minis. I did not own nor would I ever own minis until D&D 3.5 edition, when I did reluctantly get in to using them with one group (and hated it), primarily because they were necessary to the mechanics as written. By 4E even the possibility of Theater of the Mind as a thing you could manage with good mental imaging of the battlefield was suddenly gone.
This was one of my major issues with the game, and sadly this problem persists in one of my 5e groups as I have two new players who simply cannot comprehend ToM, being avid fans of Matt Mercer, they have been trained in the way of grid combat exclusively.
I dislike this 'forced' style of play on me so much that I have decided that when this mini-campaign is over (approximately 3 sessions left) I will unlikely DM for them again. I prefer to save BG combat for boss-end/complex encounters, not every other filler combat.

EDIT: With regards to the OP, I think the MAYA design principle makes a lot of sense.
 
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Tony Vargas

Adventurer
EDIT: With regards to the OP, I think the MAYA design principle makes a lot of sense.
Agreed.
5e definitely found the right compromise between advanced and acceptable.


This was one of my major issues with the game, and sadly this problem persists in one of my 5e groups as I have two new players who simply cannot comprehend ToM
TotM may be a relatively new label, but the necessity of playing without a play surface has been around as long as D&D has been played in tiny dorm rooms and the like. ;)
It really is kind of an "advanced technique" though, if the system doesn't have fairly solid support for it (Like 13th Age, for example). It's just not that easy for new/casual players - and just plain always hard for some people (people with as much right to enjoy an RPG as anyone else) because our brains aren't all identically wired, and the wiring that makes you good at one thing might not work so well for another - or DMs to visualize a detailed environment, 4-6 PCs, and however many enemies they're fighting, and all their special relationships to eachother, and track them as they change turn-to-turn.
(Really, when you think about it, it's something of a feat to run TotM well, at all.)

5e, in particular, doesn't so much support or facilitate TotM so much as minimize the advantages of play surface. In other games/ed (like the other WotC eds or 2e w/C&T, or 1e, for that matter) using a surface might let you use detailed movement/facing/positioning-affecting features available the PCs & monsters, AE templates, zones, terrain features and the like to create a dynamic, detailed battle with tactics developing over the course of it. In 5e, it'll play out about like it would vaguely-tracked without any play aids, because those features aren't there to begin with.

being avid fans of Matt Mercer, they have been trained in the way of grid combat exclusively.
I dislike this 'forced' style of play on me so much that I have decided that when this mini-campaign is over (approximately 3 sessions left) I will unlikely DM for them again. I prefer to save BG combat for boss-end/complex encounters, not every other filler combat.
That is a good policy - saving the grid for BBEG fights and complex set-pieces, that is, not excluding players from your game because they have trouble keeping track of your descriptions in a simpler combat you're running TotM.

In a simple fight, the effort of acquiring or drawing a map, and setting up might exceed the extra trouble of repeated descriptions and confusion from running it TotM. In a complex battle, the overhead of putting down a map & minis easily pays for itself.
 

Sadras

Explorer
It's just not that easy for new/casual players - and just plain always hard for some people (people with as much right to enjoy an RPG as anyone else) because our brains aren't all identically wired, and the wiring that makes you good at one thing might not work so well for another - or DMs to visualize a detailed environment, 4-6 PCs, and however many enemies they're fighting, and all their special relationships to eachother, and track them as they change turn-to-turn.
(Really, when you think about it, it's something of a feat to run TotM well, at all.)

(snip)

That is a good policy - saving the grid for BBEG fights and complex set-pieces, that is, not excluding players from your game because they have trouble keeping track of your descriptions in a simpler combat you're running TotM.
Thing is, I disliked myself in that moment, where I was 'forced' to turn, in my mind at least, a pretty easy-to-visualise encounter (literally 2 living statues on a 20' wide bridge, B10), into grid based formation because Thunderwave and what not. There was a moment where I felt the players did not even try, and I got a little angrier than I should have.
It soured my enjoyment of the session, especially since it was 20 minutes before the end.

However, all is not lost, the one newbie player is likely to become a DM in his own right, having purchased easily 7+ books of 5e and having watched/listened to over 200 hours of CR. He has a boardgaming history and I feel this is an issue we will clash on going into the future, so its best I don't DM for him after this.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Thing is, I disliked myself in that moment, where I was 'forced' to turn, in my mind at least, a pretty easy-to-visualise encounter (literally 2 living statues on a 20' wide bridge, B10),
I remember those statues - the first time I ran B10 the whuppin' those things laid on the party turned them back, and they never got that far again.
 

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