D&D 5E The skill system is one dimensional.

Not really.
It more comes down to D&D transitioning to a different type of game at high levels once low level spell slots stop being critical to combat.

When you have 1st and 2nd level spell slots that don't have much damage or range over cantrips, spellcasters transition them to buffs, movement, and utility. And the game changes. Was the same in older editions with auto-scaling spells.

You have to recognize that. This isn't told to inexperienced DMs. It's more more less a "trial by fire" almost every DMs goes though if they play high level play. And few designers and adventure writers write for the change of play. "You learn when a player busts your campaign" is the normal way to learn this stuff in the community.
I agree with this. But it does not discount my points. I can only say that I watch a lot of people play in person and have a large amount of experience in playing with diverse groups. This has been, much like you, over years in the hobby. There are many players and DMs that do not read any of the books. They just build stuff from Beyond. There are even more DMs that have never run an adventure path or written adventure. They just want to do their own thing. And there are even more DMs that have not played as a player. Even older players, who wear the badge of "forever DM" are missing a huge piece of the learning experience in the game by only DMing. The semi-experienced ones that only DM often do so because they found their niche or they found the joys of world building and storytelling. But they are still missing that learning piece. The young DMs that only DM do so more often than not due to social constructs, and those are the ones that probably most need to be a player.

Sorry for the long-winded answer, because I agree with what you said. The game's shift to high level play is very real, and the wizard does get to shift those low-level spells to more utilitarian spells. And it is a trial by fire, no doubt.
 

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What it takes is playing different kinds of games. There are a lot of people who have only played 3.X and 5e, which are very similar systems for better and for worse. That leaves people with simply a lack of context for answering the question. To know what things truly delight and excite you, you need to do and try a lot of things. And it may be the case that you won't enjoy a lot of those things. That's fine! But I can't tell you how many times I've had to deal with someone (not just in TTRPGs) who was utterly convinced that they only liked X thing, or couldn't possibly enjoy Y thing...and then when they actually tried something outside the limits of X/actually gave Y a shot, suddenly their whole view changed.
I don't think my point and yours is mutually exclusive. I think you are correct. Playing different versions, especially AD&D and 4e broadens the horizons deeply. Adding other TTRPGs to it also greatly expands viewpoints. I am forever grateful my early geek friends did not mind trying Dangerous Journeys, Rolemaster, MERP, Earth Dawn, Gamma World, etc. It helped shape my view to a broader perspective.
The Ragu test is not one that gets changed from making your own spaghetti sauce. It is one revealed by trying many different kinds of sauces.
I agree. That is why players expand their view from having different DMs, and DMs expand their view from having different players. But those same players expand their view by DMing and DMs by playing. And they may never learn until they get both of those experiences. (ie Being a DM and then playing is not making your own sauce. Its watching someone else make the sauce and trying it. Same with players becoming a DM.
 

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I would say this is only partially true. There are many players that have no idea what they want because they have never been on the other side of the screen. Give them constraints, such as PHB only and no feats, and suddenly they have one of the best campaigns they have ever played. It's the Ragu spaghetti test all over.

My point is, it often takes being on both sides of the screen to determine what kind of game one likes.

I would also take umbrage with how the DM is portrayed in your post. In my experience, a DM that puts the gate in, or some unknown language, or something difficult to find is never playing gotchya. They are adding to the world. They are allowing those PCs to shine by getting the group through the gate, by allowing them to spot the sneak attack, or by allowing them to be the only one to know the language. They are also having the group use resources, which is a part of the game.
I don't think I've said it specifically yet, but all of my examples should be taken with the grain of salt that is every situation is not a 100% always thing. In other words... the DM who continually put up gates and portculli that blocked passage was not being a purposeful jerk all the time by doing so (and in fact might not have even realized how often they were doing it and just thought it was good adventure design.) But if they did do it often enough that a player felt as though they wanted or needed to design their next character such that they could easily get past those blockades, that should be an indicator that they perhaps have gone to the well too often and should start thinking of new things.

(This isn't directed at you specifically, Scott, but more of me just potificating generally)

I'm of the opinion (and yes, it's purely my opinion) that any player who goes all-in on one specific thing to become the "absolutely best" at it... are doing it for one of two reasons. Either they want the narrative and story in the world to be that they are known as "the greatest in the land" or "the ultimate gentleman" etc... or they want to have the highest possible modifiers to their game mechanics so they can "win" every check the DM calls under that one specific thing. The former I think is a fun addition to the campaign world (as the player would then hopefully act in such a way as to exemplify that ideal), the latter is just removing a whole bunch of things from the table that the DM could use as story fodder because good story comes from conflict. And you can't have conflict with someone succeeding ALL the time.

A PC with modifiers so high that they succeed on every roll all the time to me is as pointless as a 10th party who does nothing but face off against repeated packs of a half-dozen CR 1/2 monsters over and over again. There's no drama. There's virtually no point. At least that's my feelings on the matter.
 
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I don't think I've said it specifically yet, but all of my examples should be taken with the grain of salt that is every situation is not a 100% always thing. In other words... the DM who continually put up gates and portculli that blocked passage was not being a purposeful jerk all the time by doing so (and in fact might not have even realized how often they were doing it and just thought it was good adventure design.) But if they did do it often enough that a player felt as though they wanted or needed to design their next character such that they could easily get past those blockades, that should be an indicator that they perhaps have gone to the well too often and should start thinking of new things.

(This isn't directed at you specifically, Scott, but more of me just potificating generally)
Thanks for the clarification. And I completely agree.
I'm of the opinion (and yes, it's purely my opinion) that any player who goes all-in on one specific thing to become the "absolutely best" at it... are doing it for one of two reasons. Either they want the narrative and story in the world to be that they are known as "the greatest in the land" or "the ultimate gentleman" etc... or they want to have the highest possible modifiers to their game mechanics so they can "win" every check the DM calls under that one specific thing. The former I think is a fun addition to the campaign world (as the player would then hopefully act in such a way as to exemplify that ideal), the latter is just removing a whole bunch of things from the table that the DM could use as story fodder because good story comes from conflict. And you can't have conflict with someone succeeding ALL the time.
Those reasons sound, sound to me. (There has to be a better way to write that sentence! Those reasons sound reasonable to me. That's not very good either, but you get my point.)
A PC with modifiers so high that they succeed on every roll all the time to me is as pointless as a 10th party who does nothing but face off against repeated packs of a half-dozen CR 1/2 monsters over and over again. There's no drama. They're virtually no point. At least that's my feelings on the matter.
We agree again! :)
 

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I agree with you. Minigiant's format appears to me to be that "Skill System Mini-Game" I talked about originally that was nothing that I wanted. Reason being that the players spend more time looking at the rules and mechanics of the system, rather than just interacting with the DM in character (1st person, 3rd person, doesn't matter). I'm of the opinion that the players describe what their characters do or how they act or what they say to accomplish their goal, and if the DM feels a check is necessary, they will call for one (and it will get rolled). Then the DM will narrate the next section of what is occurring based upon the results.
To be clear, I am on a full third rail here. Skills should do specific (albeit broadly effective and powerful) things, players should know those things, and in coming up with the application of those things devise a solution to the problem they're facing. There's some overlap, but I don't want an adjudication loop where the DM makes some kind of judgement call about the proposed plan. I full expect the player with high enough climb to gecko stick on ceilings to look for a way to make that relevant and useful as often as possible.

To the extent possible (and here is the primary point of divergence, in that I think it's nearly always possible) there shouldn't be a need for adjudication, as the resolution process for skill actions should be encoded in the rules and not require arbitration. The GM should be describing a known world and the player, while perhaps not completely aware of the contents of that world or the decisions that will be made by NPCs, should be absolutely aware of how their own action declarations will be resolved and what impact they will have. I would prefer adjudication be the rarest and least important duty of the DM, mostly to be solved by finding the most analogous case covered current in the rules, and the largest gaps discovered treated as just that, gaps that should be solved.

Now do a I think that a less-experienced DM who might not know how or when to end a scene, could benefit from the '4 successes before 3 failures" model? Sure! It's an easy way to remember what it can take to successfully achieve a goal, and it also gives less-experienced players a way to guide them towards roleplaying actions that are trying achieve that goal. The DM says "describe for me what you want to do to maximize your chances of climbing up and over that 30 foot castle wall, and if four of your ideas succeed before three do not, you will accomplish it." The players now have signposts to follow on their way to learning how to describe actions towards goals without even needing to be prompted by the DM.

(And I think it is important to note that I specifically said "four ideas" to succeed and not "four skill checks". We want the ideas (as part of the narrative and story of the scene) to be the thing the players are trying to come up with... not four numbers on their character sheet to go searching for. That just completely separates the game out from the story and there's no longer a point to having the story in the first place.)

I think it's important to be very clear that my objection is not about the fiction, it's absolutely a question of gameplay. I don't actually see the much daylight between how "focused on the fiction" you would be in either scenario. Proponents of skill challenges point to their ability to support a broad variety of declared courses of action as a selling point, and view the structure they provide as fundamentally more fair and complete than relying on one person at the table's judgement. I'm ideologically more sympathetic to that position, I just think the gameplay it produces isn't good or interesting.

I am absolutely fine with a player who's head down, looking at their character sheet for a solution: I would like them to find something more interesting than "ah yes, my +4 modifier is bigger than my +3" to use there.
 

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To the extent possible (and here is the primary point of divergence, in that I think it's nearly always possible) there shouldn't be a need for adjudication, as the resolution process for skill actions should be encoded in the rules and not require arbitration.
To talk a little bit on this point that you bring up, there's a chance that you and I might be using a term like 'adjudication' differently, so let me go over how I'm looking at its use. You might not agree with my way of defining the word, but you might agree with the results that come from the way I'm using it. I don't know.

From my way of thinking (using the climbing a 30' castle wall as the example scenario)... the "adjudication" would come in from things like this: the player knows that they could just say a default "I want to climb the wall" and that the DM would then ask for a STR (Athletics) check. But because they know the default is the barest minimum to complete this challenge and has the highest DC since nothing has been been said to make the climb easier... the player might look for other things that would be to their benefit to the climb. So for instance asking if there are any parts of the wall where there are vines growing up that they could use for hand/footholds. Or if there might be a cart nearby they could wheel into place to give them a bit of a boost. Stuff like that. Then the "adjudication" (as I'm using the term) would be the DM deciding in the moment if any of those things do exist, and if so, deciding if their use would make it easier for the player's PC to scale the wall. Then that adjudication would adjust the mechanical DC downwards.

Now I'm sure there are some DMs who would not go along with that style of playing, because it essentially is a player "inventing" things in the world that could benefit them... things that did not exist before because the DM did not describe them originally. The DM has probably not thought up every single thing in the environment around these castle walls, so the adjudication comes from them after the fact deciding as to the possibility or likelihood that the thing COULD be there if/when the player asked about it. And if they decide "Yes, sure, let's say that thing is there" then how does that impact the mechanical odds of success?

So rather than a player knowing all the things they can do mechanically and making informed decisions that way (which I think is what you are talking about if I've understood you correctly?)... they instead know that they can come up with ideas narratively and that it will have impact if/when the mechanics eventually come into play. And the adjudication comes from the DM having to translate narrative ideas into mechanical results.
 


To talk a little bit on this point that you bring up, there's a chance that you and I might be using a term like 'adjudication' differently, so let me go over how I'm looking at its use. You might not agree with my way of defining the word, but you might agree with the results that come from the way I'm using it. I don't know.

From my way of thinking (using the climbing a 30' castle wall as the example scenario)... the "adjudication" would come in from things like this: the player knows that they could just say a default "I want to climb the wall" and that the DM would then ask for a STR (Athletics) check. But because they know the default is the barest minimum to complete this challenge and has the highest DC since nothing has been been said to make the climb easier... the player might look for other things that would be to their benefit to the climb. So for instance asking if there are any parts of the wall where there are vines growing up that they could use for hand/footholds. Or if there might be a cart nearby they could wheel into place to give them a bit of a boost. Stuff like that. Then the "adjudication" (as I'm using the term) would be the DM deciding in the moment if any of those things do exist, and if so, deciding if their use would make it easier for the player's PC to scale the wall. Then that adjudication would adjust the mechanical DC downwards.

Now I'm sure there are some DMs who would not go along with that style of playing, because it essentially is a player "inventing" things in the world that could benefit them... things that did not exist before because the DM did not describe them originally. The DM has probably not thought up every single thing in the environment around these castle walls, so the adjudication comes from them after the fact deciding as to the possibility or likelihood that the thing COULD be there if/when the player asked about it. And if they decide "Yes, sure, let's say that thing is there" then how does that impact the mechanical odds of success?

So rather than a player knowing all the things they can do mechanically and making informed decisions that way (which I think is what you are talking about if I've understood you correctly?)... they instead know that they can come up with ideas narratively and that it will have impact if/when the mechanics eventually come into play. And the adjudication comes from the DM having to translate narrative ideas into mechanical results.
The counterpoint to this is: wouldn't the dm assume the player is taking the easiest way up the wall? If there were vines to climb, of course any pc would try to climb those rather than the bare wall next to them^1. The analogy would be asking to attack the enemy's unarmored parts - of course you're going to try to hit the weak spots, that's what the die roll and AC represent.

The cart is a slightly different category - it's trying to use a tool to make the task easier, theoretically in the same category as taking out a grappling hook and trying to use that before climbing the bare wall/vines. There's a bit of agency debate here: if the presence of a cart hasn't been defined, can the player ask or declare one? But that's a whole other thread.

^1 Unless the vines are poison ivy or something where it's a tradeoff. But the dm should probably give that information up-front if possible, or at least give the players a chance and reason to investigate.
 

From my way of thinking (using the climbing a 30' castle wall as the example scenario)... the "adjudication" would come in from things like this: the player knows that they could just say a default "I want to climb the wall" and that the DM would then ask for a STR (Athletics) check. But because they know the default is the barest minimum to complete this challenge and has the highest DC since nothing has been been said to make the climb easier... the player might look for other things that would be to their benefit to the climb. So for instance asking if there are any parts of the wall where there are vines growing up that they could use for hand/footholds. Or if there might be a cart nearby they could wheel into place to give them a bit of a boost. Stuff like that. Then the "adjudication" (as I'm using the term) would be the DM deciding in the moment if any of those things do exist, and if so, deciding if their use would make it easier for the player's PC to scale the wall. Then that adjudication would adjust the mechanical DC downwards.
In my opinion, so much of this comes down to DM prep. Prep to set the scene accurately. And the most important, prep to make a skill check have actual value. I know myself, and many DMs I play with almost never put superfluous checks in.

Now granted, you can't cover everything. The players always surprise you and go different directions and paths you did not intend. But for many sessions, the DM does know what the players are doing, and where the PCs are going. And skill checks used should be curated to challenge the group, highlight individuals of the group, and help detail the setting.

Now I'm sure there are some DMs who would not go along with that style of playing, because it essentially is a player "inventing" things in the world that could benefit them... things that did not exist before because the DM did not describe them originally.
Regarding the example, I might be lucky, but I have never played with a DM that is against a player asking questions about the environment that may benefit their skill check. Things like, "Is there a cart nearby?" has never been an issue and wasn't an issue 30 years ago either. I feel like this is a either a myth or some overblown reaction to a single experience or experiences read about by the same people that post on Reddit that their DM is dating a girl in the group and giving her all the magic items. ;) (I am open to being wrong, but my experiences paint a very different picture than what I read. And I've only read it in the context of people trying to prove the claim of how "DM May I" alters games.
 

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The counterpoint to this is: wouldn't the dm assume the player is taking the easiest way up the wall? If there were vines to climb, of course any pc would try to climb those rather than the bare wall next to them^1. The analogy would be asking to attack the enemy's unarmored parts - of course you're going to try to hit the weak spots, that's what the die roll and AC represent.
I understand what you are saying and I'm sure some DMs might agree with you... but to me that just seems like a horrific way to play. Because you essentially are saying that player creativity and ideas are completely unnecessary, because the DM has already taken every possible advantage or thing a player might think of into account in creating the DC.

When confronted with that 30' wall and the DM says "DC 12"... to have every single idea a player might give to make it easier to get over the wall be met with "I assume you already thought of that... the DC takes it into account" is just training players not to do anything except roll a die. Any bit of roleplaying you want to might do with a guard to get them to let you pass? Don't need to bother, as the DM has just assumed you have said whatever you needed to get the easiest DC possible. Just roll the die.

If that works for some people, God bless them. To me though... to strip me of the one thing I have to give-- my ideas-- is not a roleplaying game I wish to play.
 

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