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The Six Cultures of Gaming

But this isn't remotely helpful when apprehending the relevant touchstones and priorities that should be the foundational elements for game design.

If this ("most people don't care about design or at least can't articulate what they do care about in design") was what should be gleaned from evaluating the distribution of TTRPG play and the attendant approach that should be taken for game design...game design would be absolutely incoherent anarchy across the board.
Well, honestly, "game design" does seem to be a fairly anarchic. It's pretty hard for me to discern any structure that covers all the designs across the board, so yes, I guess I agree with you -- game design doesn't have any form of organizing structured but instead pulls ideas from wherever seems good to the individual designer.

As evidence, I submit the acknowledgements section of the recently released game AGON:
  • Agon was first inspired by Jonathan Walton’s game concept Argonauts. Specifically, the Fate track that measures the lifetime of a hero was a core idea that sparked the original Agon design.
  • The original playtesters for the first edition also contributed ideas and support that helped the game get off the ground. They were Brandon Amancio, Scott Dierdorf, Tony Dowler, Wilhelm Fitzpatrick, Philip LaRose, Ed Ouellette, and Cara Tyler.
  • The gaming technique “ask questions and build on the answers” was taken from Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker and Meguey Baker.
  • The experience of playing the epic, wandering heroes of Trollbabe, by Ron Edwards, was a big inspiration for Agon. Trollbabe also introduced us to the idea of portraying aspects of nature (the sea, a mountain) as characters in the game.
  • The idea of using increasing die sizes to represent the potency of character traits was inspired by Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy Hensley and In A Wicked Age... by D. Vincent Baker.
  • The battle sheet design was inspired by the range map in 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars, by Gregor Hutton.
  • The Pathos mechanic was initially inspired by the exhaustion system in Don’t Rest Your Head by Fred Hicks.
It seems to me that an anarchy where the designers simply chose systems they liked and tested them out is a much better fit than saying they decided on a certain genre and followed some sort of structure or rules to make it happen. And I think this is a good thing. I'd much prefer to read the sort of description above than one that said "We set out to create a game in the Nordic LARP tradition and so used the following accepted techniques to make the game fit that genre".
 

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If the overwhelming majority of gamers don't care about cultural priorities informing design (or at least they can't articulate their thoughts on it), that doesn't tell us whether or not game design should be informed by analysis and apprehension of play priorities (which are upstream from culture).
An important point -- thanks for raising it. I disagree, but it's really just opinion so I'm quite willing to be told I'm wrong on this!

For me, the fact that most people don't care about the priorities informing a game design means that we shouldn't be as hung up about them as we can get. When I look at D&D5E, for example, I can see it as a direct reaction to the strong priorities that informed 3.5 ("This will simulate everything") and 4E ("This will be a fair, logical, game") and rather than establish a new set of priorities, they went "we'll remove anything that gets in the way of fun and just make it a game for people who want to get together and have an enjoyable time with friends".

5E seems an exemplar of the "who needs genre?" approach. It's absolutely not an "opinionated" game, and anyone who wants mechanisms for deep character air story exploration, or simulation mechanics, or, well, really ... anything specific -- they are going to be disappointed.

If I were to design a game, I'd go with the approach of 5E or Agon -- not deciding on a culture, genre or priorities and then choosing mechanics that support those options, but instead defining or choosing mechanics that will work and be fun regardless fo where they come from. If they all happen to come from a set that someone calls a "genre" then OK, sure classify the game as in that genre. But doing that by design? Nah, not excited by that.
 

An important point -- thanks for raising it. I disagree, but it's really just opinion so I'm quite willing to be told I'm wrong on this!

For me, the fact that most people don't care about the priorities informing a game design means that we shouldn't be as hung up about them as we can get. When I look at D&D5E, for example, I can see it as a direct reaction to the strong priorities that informed 3.5 ("This will simulate everything") and 4E ("This will be a fair, logical, game") and rather than establish a new set of priorities, they went "we'll remove anything that gets in the way of fun and just make it a game for people who want to get together and have an enjoyable time with friends".

5E seems an exemplar of the "who needs genre?" approach. It's absolutely not an "opinionated" game, and anyone who wants mechanisms for deep character air story exploration, or simulation mechanics, or, well, really ... anything specific -- they are going to be disappointed.

If I were to design a game, I'd go with the approach of 5E or Agon -- not deciding on a culture, genre or priorities and then choosing mechanics that support those options, but instead defining or choosing mechanics that will work and be fun regardless fo where they come from. If they all happen to come from a set that someone calls a "genre" then OK, sure classify the game as in that genre. But doing that by design? Nah, not excited by that.
What's interesting is that while I understand its very popular and a lot of people enjoy it, what you identify is kind of my biggest beef with 5e. The 'who needs genre?' approach just makes it feel like it does everything badly (for me.) This is of course my personal experience, and I'm fully aware I'm discussing the most popular game on the market:

The game isn't fair and logical so its lack of balance is unfun since its always a headache to have a challenge or pace an adventure and spread the spotlight around or hold back on character building, nor is it good for simulation because it doesn't have systems do most of the stuff I kind of need it to do, its not particularly great at storytelling either the way a more 'narrative' game might be. I was on the 'but its super hackable, you can make it whatever you need it to be!' train for a while but then drowned in the amount of work that actually was-- trying to redesign the item system from the ground up to make them more accessible, trying to curate options for my players to enjoy their character building more.

Most of the reason it doesn't do anything super well, is because it cut those elements away based off the idea that they were unnecessary or 'unfun' (what would a one size fits all idea of unfun even mean?) this is going to come off as fighting words, but its like a game designed by my worst players, where 'how about lets not?' is the default answer to anything that could add more engagement at the cost of them having to pay attention, like, the kind of player that used to boot up Skyrim on his laptop. Any joy in my games during our 5e era was me fighting the system up hill to make it work, curating homebrew content, and so forth, or would have been better served by cups of coffee instead of dice.

It makes me kind of want to ask if the goal was "we'll remove anything that gets in the way of fun and just make it a game for people who want to get together and have an enjoyable time with friends" then why is the game so acutely unfun, but I know the answer is that for a lot of people, its plenty fun, and that not every game is right for every person.
 

Well, honestly, "game design" does seem to be a fairly anarchic. It's pretty hard for me to discern any structure that covers all the designs across the board, so yes, I guess I agree with you -- game design doesn't have any form of organizing structured but instead pulls ideas from wherever seems good to the individual designer.

As evidence, I submit the acknowledgements section of the recently released game AGON:
  • Agon was first inspired by Jonathan Walton’s game concept Argonauts. Specifically, the Fate track that measures the lifetime of a hero was a core idea that sparked the original Agon design.
  • The original playtesters for the first edition also contributed ideas and support that helped the game get off the ground. They were Brandon Amancio, Scott Dierdorf, Tony Dowler, Wilhelm Fitzpatrick, Philip LaRose, Ed Ouellette, and Cara Tyler.
  • The gaming technique “ask questions and build on the answers” was taken from Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker and Meguey Baker.
  • The experience of playing the epic, wandering heroes of Trollbabe, by Ron Edwards, was a big inspiration for Agon. Trollbabe also introduced us to the idea of portraying aspects of nature (the sea, a mountain) as characters in the game.
  • The idea of using increasing die sizes to represent the potency of character traits was inspired by Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy Hensley and In A Wicked Age... by D. Vincent Baker.
  • The battle sheet design was inspired by the range map in 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars, by Gregor Hutton.
  • The Pathos mechanic was initially inspired by the exhaustion system in Don’t Rest Your Head by Fred Hicks.
It seems to me that an anarchy where the designers simply chose systems they liked and tested them out is a much better fit than saying they decided on a certain genre and followed some sort of structure or rules to make it happen. And I think this is a good thing. I'd much prefer to read the sort of description above than one that said "We set out to create a game in the Nordic LARP tradition and so used the following accepted techniques to make the game fit that genre".

An important point -- thanks for raising it. I disagree, but it's really just opinion so I'm quite willing to be told I'm wrong on this!

For me, the fact that most people don't care about the priorities informing a game design means that we shouldn't be as hung up about them as we can get. When I look at D&D5E, for example, I can see it as a direct reaction to the strong priorities that informed 3.5 ("This will simulate everything") and 4E ("This will be a fair, logical, game") and rather than establish a new set of priorities, they went "we'll remove anything that gets in the way of fun and just make it a game for people who want to get together and have an enjoyable time with friends".

5E seems an exemplar of the "who needs genre?" approach. It's absolutely not an "opinionated" game, and anyone who wants mechanisms for deep character air story exploration, or simulation mechanics, or, well, really ... anything specific -- they are going to be disappointed.

If I were to design a game, I'd go with the approach of 5E or Agon -- not deciding on a culture, genre or priorities and then choosing mechanics that support those options, but instead defining or choosing mechanics that will work and be fun regardless fo where they come from. If they all happen to come from a set that someone calls a "genre" then OK, sure classify the game as in that genre. But doing that by design? Nah, not excited by that.

Did you read the OC/Neo-trad entry?

It’s basically describing 5e stem to stern from design impetus directly to particular play priorities to the marketing to the the accretion of streaming culture around it (because all of this stuff emerged and then coalesced at exactly the same time)!

5e is the poster child for optimal OC/Neo-trad play! This wasn’t a happy accident. Mearls/Crawford intentfully designed the game to produce this experience (and it made it “photogenic” for the streaming/voyeur culture at the exact same time the tech enabled the zeitgeist of streaming culture to explode).

Im curious if you disagree with that and, if so...how?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Did you read the OC/Neo-trad entry?

It’s basically describing 5e stem to stern from design impetus directly to particular play priorities to the marketing to the the accretion of streaming culture around it (because all of this stuff emerged and then coalesced at exactly the same time)!

5e is the poster child for optimal OC/Neo-trad play!

Im curious if you disagree with that and, if so...how?
Hi, I disagree. I think 3.x and Pathfinder are the poster children of Neo-trad, and 5e is a return to Trad. 5e's main focus is the it's the GM's game, which runs well with Trad but goes against the need for player-facing codification in Neo-Trad (the focus on RAW).
 

Hi, I disagree. I think 3.x and Pathfinder are the poster children of Neo-trad, and 5e is a return to Trad. 5e's main focus is the it's the GM's game, which runs well with Trad but goes against the need for player-facing codification in Neo-Trad (the focus on RAW).

We are having all the disagreements today!

When 5e was in late stage development, I called it “AD&D 3e.” The reason for this is because it’s basically a fusion of probably 1/3 Trad and 2/3 Neo-Trad.

Look at it this way. If you just take one sentence out of the Neo-Trad essay “deprioritize authority of the GM” and sub in Trad GM authority, you basically have 5e whole hog:

* Tell a story and “have fun” apex priorities

* Heavy GM curation/tailoring for spotlight/aspiration.

* Heavy use of published materials

* Rapid gratification

* “OC styles are also particularly popular with online streaming games like Critical Role since when done well they produce games that are fairly easy to watch as television shows. The characters in the stream become aspirational figures that a fanbase develops parasocial relationshipswith and cheers on as they realise their "arcs".”

I mean...if that isn’t 5e...I don’t what is. Just sub in heavy GM authority (which, to be honest, is the only part of the essay I find confused...if the GM is curating content and tailoring play to spotlight and enable player aspiration and using APs...how is that not the highest level of GM authority!)

So I think we likely agree more than you think.
 
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This is probably a good time to contrast with Story Now’s approach to dramatic need.

These things aren’t aspirational in the way aspirational is operationalized in Neo-Trad games. The play isn’t about curating content and spotlight management to ensure the realization of these things. It’s about putting intense pressure on these things...damn near constantly...testing these things HARD...and following where that test goes to see how PCs change/wilt/grow.

Ideals/Bonds/Flaws/Traits don’t remotely do the same work in 5e as Relationships, Traits, and Belongings do in Dogs in the Vineyard...not conceptually, not in how they’re operationalized in play, and not in the results of play.

Because they share names, people might things they’re superficially similar. But they’re not conceptually similar, the GM and system and players aren’t oriented to them similarly, and because of that, they’re operationalized dramatically differently (with different inputs and outputs on play).

It’s kind of like Healing Surges in 4e and Hit Dice in 5e. Superficially similar but absolutely not remotely the same thing for a few pivotal design/integration reasons.
 
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What's interesting is that while I understand its very popular and a lot of people enjoy it, what you identify is kind of my biggest beef with 5e. The 'who needs genre?' approach just makes it feel like it does everything badly (for me.) This is of course my personal experience, and I'm fully aware I'm discussing the most popular game on the market:
I'm with you! I prefer much more directed games with a specific focus. I don't play 5E because yeah, it's only "OK" at everything -- or at least, that's how it feels to me. But just because it's not my thing doesn't mean it's not a good, fun massively enjoyable game that deserves to be the most popular RPG out there. It deliberately chose to be most things to most people and just do what is going to maximize fun for most people.

But the thesis of the original blog article is that games are developed in a certain genre, or from a certain cultural background, and no, I don't buy that WOTC set out to make. game in a specific genre and came up with 5E. They set out to make as popular a game as possible and they succeeded. There are plenty of games that set out to embody a certain style of play and some are great and I love to play them, but I believe they work best when the designers pick and choose mechanics from anywhere, rather than constrain themselves to a given "design genre".
 

5e is the poster child for optimal OC/Neo-trad play! This wasn’t a happy accident. Mearls/Crawford intentfully designed the game to produce this experience (and it made it “photogenic” for the streaming/voyeur culture at the exact same time the tech enabled the zeitgeist of streaming culture to explode).
Well, as you can see from @Ovinomancer's response, not everyone will agree with you that 5E exemplifies the description of OC/Neo-trad in the blog. To recap, the blog characterizes that "culture" with the following:
  1. shares a lot of the same norms as trad ("the primary goal of a game is to tell an emotionally satisfying narrative, and the DM is the primary creative agent in making that happen")
  2. it deprioritises the authority of the DM as the creator of that story
  3. The DM becomes a curator and facilitator who primarily works with material derived from other sources
  4. emphases on Rules As Written
  5. Modules are another important textual support for this style
  6. it focuses on player aspirations and interests and their realisation
  7. emerges with the growth of Living Greyhawk Core Adventures and the apparatus of "organised play"
  8. reinforced and spread by "character optimization"
Subtracting [2] from [1] as the author suggests leaves nothing but a goal of "tell an emotionally satisfying narrative" which is about as general a statement as possible and does not distinguish from any other genre.

[3]-[5] says that the GM is treated as a facilitator and not given much agency; that the rules are in charge and GM invention is way down the list of priorities. That seems diametrically opposed to 5e to me, as I thought it gave more agency to GMs than 3.0 / 3.5 did, and certainly there are way fewer modules and other material than there was for 3.0 / 3.5.

[6] is a bit odd. I want to read that as "character aspirations" but it says "player". I'm really unsure what that means, but maybe it means that players want to determine their characters' story and so argues for more meta-mechanics that support it?

[7]-[8] seems basic hankering for the 3.0 / 3.5 / 4E CharOp and living campaigns. The latter have been massively reduced from their 3.5 heights (I've played in all of them, significantly), so again, it doesn't seem really a 5E thing.

So, I'm much more aligned with @Ovinomancer on this. It seems way more like 3.5 than 5E.

But then it's also terribly contradictory and vague ("it's about narrative", "it's rules as written", "it's player-driver", "it's about running modules") so overall, I'd just ignore it as a poorly thought out and not terribly useful characterization.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
We are having all the disagreements today!

When 5e was in late stage development, I called it “AD&D 3e.” The reason for this is because it’s basically a fusion of probably 1/3 Trad and 2/3 Neo-Trad.

Look at it this way. If you just take one sentence out of the Neo-Trad essay “deprioritize authority of the GM” and sub in Trad GM authority, you basically have 5e whole hog:

* Tell a story and “have fun” apex priorities

* Heavy GM curation/tailoring for spotlight/aspiration.

* Heavy use of published materials

* Rapid gratification

* “OC styles are also particularly popular with online streaming games like Critical Role since when done well they produce games that are fairly easy to watch as television shows. The characters in the stream become aspirational figures that a fanbase develops parasocial relationshipswith and cheers on as they realise their "arcs".”

I mean...if that isn’t 5e...I don’t what is. Just sub in heavy GM authority (which, to be honest, is the only part of the essay I find confused...if the GM is curating content and tailoring play to spotlight and enable player aspiration and using APs...how is that not the highest level of GM authority!)

So I think we likely agree more than you think.
For me, there's a large difference between 5e in the rulebooks, and 5e considered across the entire product line. In the rulebooks, 5e is very Trad centered -- it explicitly tries to be less setting dependent (even offering non-setting options for things introduced in setting books!) and very much move away from RAW play, putting much of the content of the rules in the GM's hands. These same rules offer a few options for how to run games, and how to create content, that are very much still GM decided and centered. 5e, from the rules, is almost entirely Trad.

The rest of the 5e oeuvre, though, is, as you note rather Neo-Trad. From organized play being very constraining of GM rulings, to the AP lines that emphasize setting material, the rest of the 5e catalog outside the rulebooks is Neo-Trad. I tend to ignore this when I talk about 5e, because I see these offerings as ancillary to 5e rather than emblematic of it, but that's me, and I can see how a view that includes them as core would come to the conclusion you have.

Well, as you can see from @Ovinomancer's response, not everyone will agree with you that 5E exemplifies the description of OC/Neo-trad in the blog. To recap, the blog characterizes that "culture" with the following:
  1. shares a lot of the same norms as trad ("the primary goal of a game is to tell an emotionally satisfying narrative, and the DM is the primary creative agent in making that happen")
  2. it deprioritises the authority of the DM as the creator of that story
  3. The DM becomes a curator and facilitator who primarily works with material derived from other sources
  4. emphases on Rules As Written
  5. Modules are another important textual support for this style
  6. it focuses on player aspirations and interests and their realisation
  7. emerges with the growth of Living Greyhawk Core Adventures and the apparatus of "organised play"
  8. reinforced and spread by "character optimization"
Subtracting [2] from [1] as the author suggests leaves nothing but a goal of "tell an emotionally satisfying narrative" which is about as general a statement as possible and does not distinguish from any other genre.

[3]-[5] says that the GM is treated as a facilitator and not given much agency; that the rules are in charge and GM invention is way down the list of priorities. That seems diametrically opposed to 5e to me, as I thought it gave more agency to GMs than 3.0 / 3.5 did, and certainly there are way fewer modules and other material than there was for 3.0 / 3.5.

[6] is a bit odd. I want to read that as "character aspirations" but it says "player". I'm really unsure what that means, but maybe it means that players want to determine their characters' story and so argues for more meta-mechanics that support it?

[7]-[8] seems basic hankering for the 3.0 / 3.5 / 4E CharOp and living campaigns. The latter have been massively reduced from their 3.5 heights (I've played in all of them, significantly), so again, it doesn't seem really a 5E thing.

So, I'm much more aligned with @Ovinomancer on this. It seems way more like 3.5 than 5E.

But then it's also terribly contradictory and vague ("it's about narrative", "it's rules as written", "it's player-driver", "it's about running modules") so overall, I'd just ignore it as a poorly thought out and not terribly useful characterization.
We may agree in conclusion, but your thinking is pretty different from mine. I don't think that there's nearly as much contradictory information in the descriptions, and not as vague as they seem to you. That might be because I've been discussing game design quite a bit, so these terms are common and well known in some circles, so I'm bringing that along with me. My disagreement with @Manbearcat appears to be less about disagreement in the cultures, and more about the scope of consideration when looking at 5e. I was talking rulebooks only, he was including the entire catalog.
 


If differences in RPG "style" and technique don't matter, why was there such a big reaction to 4e?
Not sure who you're addressing this to; can't see anyone in this thread with that position. Perhaps you should quote the person you're asking the question of? On the chance it's me, the quote you're looking for is:

"most people don't care about the priorities informing a game design"

which is obviously very different from your statement, but I can't see any better fit for your question. Do you think the two statements are equivalent, or is someone else's post you are replying to?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Not sure who you're addressing this to; can't see anyone in this thread with that position. Perhaps you should quote the person you're asking the question of? On the chance it's me, the quote you're looking for is:

"most people don't care about the priorities informing a game design"

which is obviously very different from your statement, but I can't see any better fit for your question. Do you think the two statements are equivalent, or is someone else's post you are replying to?
Is it that different? If people are indifferent to design priorities, shouldn't they then be indifferent to the results of the design? This isn't the case -- game design is a hotly contested topic on occasion. I know, I've been in lots of discussions where I'm told that certain games just cannot work because they don't support assumed design goals. They do work, but because they have different design priorities, and this is the problem. This doesn't support your argument that design priorities are not cared about. I'd absolutely agree that most people don't care to discuss or consider design priorities, but they certainly care about them when they sit down to game. Or argue on the internet.
 

We may agree in conclusion, but your thinking is pretty different from mine. I don't think that there's nearly as much contradictory information in the descriptions, and not as vague as they seem to you. That might be because I've been discussing game design quite a bit, so these terms are common and well known in some circles, so I'm bringing that along with me. My disagreement with @Manbearcat appears to be less about disagreement in the cultures, and more about the scope of consideration when looking at 5e. I was talking rulebooks only, he was including the entire catalog.
To me, the fact that the two people who seem most supportive of the theory cannot agree on whether the singular most popular RPG is in one category or not, and that the entire "culture" of 5E changes when you look at all books or just rulebooks, argues very convincingly that the theory is vague and not terribly applicable.

I work in analytic sciences, and my bias is that if a model isn't obviously applicable to the most common form of data, it's not a good model. The characteristics the blog discusses are fine and quite useful, but the attempt to create a categorization based on it just doesn't seem to fit even the most popular game. I honestly (really!) cannot see that this model does anything more effectively than asking "where do you fit on the GNS spectrum?" question --- so long as you allow the answer "I have no clue what you're talking about, can we just play?"
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
To me, the fact that the two people who seem most supportive of the theory cannot agree on whether the singular most popular RPG is in one category or not, and that the entire "culture" of 5E changes when you look at all books or just rulebooks, argues very convincingly that the theory is vague and not terribly applicable.

I work in analytic sciences, and my bias is that if a model isn't obviously applicable to the most common form of data, it's not a good model. The characteristics the blog discusses are fine and quite useful, but the attempt to create a categorization based on it just doesn't seem to fit even the most popular game. I honestly (really!) cannot see that this model does anything more effectively than asking "where do you fit on the GNS spectrum?" question --- so long as you allow the answer "I have no clue what you're talking about, can we just play?"
You must have missed that "disagreement." It was about the scope of the comparison, not a difference in understanding. If we consider the APs, organized play, sage advice, etc, alongside the rules of the game, then it tilts heavily in the Neo-trad direction. If you just look at the books, I think it's pretty Trad (and this aligns with stated design goals). Also, we're not the "two people who seem most supportive." That's a ridiculous statement that's trying to paint me and MBC as crackpot outsiders. Don't do that.

I'm an engineer, a systems engineer to be specific, and analysis of and design of things, from conception through retirement, is my bread and butter. Let's not try to out credential each other. Also, I dislike most of what came out of the Forge. Their best contributions were the lead in to Apocalypse World and the many games that branched from there and codifying the concept of GM Force. These, I think, are their best ideas, although there are a smattering of others. I greatly dislike GNS, and also the whole stance thing, as far too precious to be useful. Don't mix and match in the rush to dismiss.
 

Subtracting [2] from [1] as the author suggests leaves nothing but a goal of "tell an emotionally satisfying narrative" which is about as general a statement as possible and does not distinguish from any other genre.

"Tell an emotionally satisfying narrative" is (a) not as prevalent as you think/claim and (b) where it is elsewhere, its put and operationalized entirely differently. Story Now play, for instance, isn't about "telling an emotionally satisfying narrative" (its about playing to find out...experience an emergent story as the confluence of participant roles, conversation, and systemization converge to reveal a story to all of the participants). Further, Story Now play isn't operationalized as such that you have the same kind of volitional arrangement at the table (and within the GM's purview) to make that happen.

Finally, "telling an emotionally satisfying narrative" isn't a priority at all in a huge segment of Classic Skilled Play. Pawn Stance delving/hexcrawling has zero interest in a satisfying narrative. Its entirely about playing a game and defeating obstacles/challenges.

[3]-[5] says that the GM is treated as a facilitator and not given much agency; that the rules are in charge and GM invention is way down the list of priorities. That seems diametrically opposed to 5e to me, as I thought it gave more agency to GMs than 3.0 / 3.5 did, and certainly there are way fewer modules and other material than there was for 3.0 / 3.5.

As I expressed above, this is one of the two places (including the Storygaming nomenclature and diagnosis of the apex priority) that I disagree with the essay. 5e and Neo-trad play has ENORMOUS GM latitude/empowerment. They effectively have a mandate (as I wrote above) to tell an interesting/compelling story, "ensure fun", curate content and tailor play to the aspirations of players (Power Fantasy and Dungeons and Beavers being a significant part of this...more on that below), and deploy GM Force as required to get there (the particular vehicle here is the AP/metaplot...where Force is basically required to keep play centered).

[6] is a bit odd. I want to read that as "character aspirations" but it says "player". I'm really unsure what that means, but maybe it means that players want to determine their characters' story and so argues for more meta-mechanics that support it?

Its actually spot on. Its about enabling Power Fantasy (which is absolutely a HUGE part of the formulation):

"...focus on realising player aspirations is what allows both the Wizard 20 casting Meteor Swarm to annihilate a foe."

The 2nd part "and the people who are using D&D 5e to play out running their own restaurant to be part of a shared culture of play" is the Dungeons and Beavers aspect of Trad that Classic D&D laments. This play priority/aesthetic is overlap on the Trad/Neon-Trad Venn Diagram (its a play priority that a player like Lanefan identifies with and feels is seminal to his enjoyment of D&D).

[7]-[8] seems basic hankering for the 3.0 / 3.5 / 4E CharOp and living campaigns. The latter have been massively reduced from their 3.5 heights (I've played in all of them, significantly), so again, it doesn't seem really a 5E thing.

If you've missed the vigorous CharOp community of 5e, you're not looking hard enough. Its absolutely there in spades.
 
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Campbell

Legend
"Tell or be told an emotionally satisfying narrative" is never anywhere near a priority for me personally. It's basically the opposite of what I want under pretty much any circumstances.

My personal tastes pretty much run towards anything that's not particularly curated. I think it's the advantage of the medium.
 
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Aldarc

Legend
For me, there's a large difference between 5e in the rulebooks, and 5e considered across the entire product line. In the rulebooks, 5e is very Trad centered -- it explicitly tries to be less setting dependent (even offering non-setting options for things introduced in setting books!) and very much move away from RAW play, putting much of the content of the rules in the GM's hands. These same rules offer a few options for how to run games, and how to create content, that are very much still GM decided and centered. 5e, from the rules, is almost entirely Trad.

The rest of the 5e oeuvre, though, is, as you note rather Neo-Trad. From organized play being very constraining of GM rulings, to the AP lines that emphasize setting material, the rest of the 5e catalog outside the rulebooks is Neo-Trad. I tend to ignore this when I talk about 5e, because I see these offerings as ancillary to 5e rather than emblematic of it, but that's me, and I can see how a view that includes them as core would come to the conclusion you have.
Yeah, it may be better to say then IMO that 5e tried to capture "Trad" play but instead stumbled into "Neo-Trad" play, particularly as that what was popular with their audience/consumers/playerbase, and once they realized that there was more money in the latter than the former, then the latter became their primary focus. But I think that's often the case. Sometimes the desire to return to the "old" is less of a restoration of the old and instead entails an unintentional move to the "new."
 


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