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Things I don't like about the 4E DMG - part 1 of 1000

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Darrin Drader

Explorer
I have a reputation for being a heavy-handed DM, but I agree with the point the OP makes, if not the heavy-handed method of delivery. If you're going to take an existing game mechanic in any edition of D&D and make it ineffective so as to preserve plot, it is up to you to come up with a convincing reason why it failed. Blaming the player for it's failure when it was not the player's fault is not the ideal way of handling it, IMO.
 

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gizmo33

First Post
The OP did have some pretty harsh personal comments leveled at the designer, so I don't see anyone casting the first stone.

CommentS? As in "more than one"? I don't know what you guys are talking about. As I explained above, there was only one paragraph that even discussed Wyatt personally at all - and that was the discuss the issue of the interpersonal problem that Wyatt's advice here would cause IME.

Also, it should be pointed out that the OP left out the next sentence in the section he quoted, which contained some more useful advice:

I didn't leave it out by accident - the preceding statement forms a complete thought - this bit you quote is almost a non-sequitur. The advice was already given.

It's as strange to me as if I were to write something silly like "If the player tries to use a spell that kills your favorite NPC, tell the player he's a cheater and ask him to leave your house. Oh, and don't forget NPCs can use counter spells." I really don't think the second sentence would do much to deflect people's objections to the first.

Rather, it says the DM can make the decision that the description wasn't specific enough. He doesn't have to tell the player this, just make a mental note of it.

This doesn't seem plausible to me. Why would the DM "make a mental note" of something he knows is not true? He didn't want the players spell to succeed because of the way he conceived his plot - AFAICT this is made clear. The ruling in this example is a rationalization of this fact, which is hidden from the players, and a dishonest explanation is instead offered to the player.

What happened to the "say yes" advice, as others have pointed out? Part of my fanciful 1000 post critique of the 4E DMG would point out the MANY places in the book that apparently contradict themselves.

What happened to players helping to "write the story", or whatever one calls it. It's the players game too, and apparently the player thought that at that point in the story an Observe Creature spell was warranted. Well, all of the sudden it seems that the true one-sided, self-serving nature of my worst opinion of the whole narrativist thing rears its ugly head. The players are captives in a story the DM wants to tell.

That's not "playing" the game of DnD. This is *not* what's implicit in the fact that you're going to play a game where people roll dice. Why in the world would you even bother to have stats for NPCs? Just have the players keep rolling and act like you're writing down damage until you've concluded that a sufficient amount of suspense has built up. At which time you say "the villain is dead" and everyone yells "huzzah!".

Plus, the OP citation of the DMG has nothing to do with banning. It's about existing rituals in play. The crux of the paragraph is this: "Don't give the characters less than they are entitled to, but don't let them short-circuit your whole adventure by using a ritual."

You're right, it has nothing to do with banning. If a DM doesn't want to use scry rituals in his campaign (for example) I'm totally cool with that. And I find your advice about using scry in the game (which I didn't quote) to be much more sensible than the paragraph I quoted in the OP.

But I do not read the paragraph to have the same meaning as what you're saying here. If the author were trying to say that you shouldn't "give the characters less than they are entitled to" then I'm completely at a loss as to how that paragraph demonstrates that - other than saying it. Say "don't be unfair to the players" and then turn around and give an example where you are unfair to the players? I think the players are entitled to hear an honest explanation about how you are going to run the game.

And it's such an important aspect of the game IMO. The entire game of DnD is full of dice doing wacky things, characters with powers the DM isn't familiar with, players doing things that take the DM by surprise etc. DMs have to learn how to deal with unexpected things in the game. This one paragraph does not do the subject justice. As I said before, he alludes to your "rights" as a DM without being explicit about what those are - but if it's anything like what his example suggests they are then I found it extremely objectionable to frame what IMO was insulting behaviour towards the players as somehow a "right" of the DM.
 

Derren

Hero
To me DMs who do this are the worst of the worst. Not because of shifting the blame of failure to the player as in this advise, but by railroading at all. When the DM overlooked a ritual and using this ritual give the players a big advantage then the DM should roll with it and not invent things to neutralize it.
 

Hussar

Legend
Whenever I read critiques like Gizmo's, I've learned that it is absolutely imperative to go back to the source material. So often people reacted to what someone else said about what WOTC said during the run up to 4e that we now have this massively persistent meme that WOTC was constantly bashing 3e. Yet, when asked for examples, suddenly, all the examples have apparently vanished.

This is a good example of this.

Let's look at the entire section shall we?

Page 27 4e DMG lower right column said:
While you're disseminating information, think about how rituals might give some advantage to the PC's. Divination and scrying rituals can allow characters, especially epic-level characters, to bypass obstacles to information as easily as they can bypass physical obstacles at those levels. Design your adventures accordingly, paying careful attention to the ritual descriptions in the PHB. Don't give the characters less than they're entitled to, but don't let them short circuit your whole adventure by using rituals either. For instance, the Observe Creature ritual requires the caster to be extremely specific when describing the ritual's intended target. If allowing the ritual to succeed would throw a monkey wrench into your plans for the adventure, you'd be within your rights to rule that the ritual failed to locate the inteded target because the caster's description wasn't specific enough. Also remember that high level villains have access to the same rituals that the characters do, including wards they can use to protect themselves from scrying attempts.

So, basically, he's saying, "Do your homework when designing your adventures. But, if you screw up, and it's going to short circuit your entire adventure, nerf the ritual rather than chucking out your entire adventure."

Is this really so bad? Sure the best solution would be to think on your feet and come up with new stuff on the fly. That would be best. But, some of us are not quite so nimble. So, do we finish the adventure in 15 minutes, then pack it in for the week? Or do we be a bit of a RBDM and nerf the ritual? Not for all time, just for this one time.

Yup, the DM screwed up. He left a great gaping hole in his plans. But, given the choice between an utterly unsatisfying night of gaming or a speed bump of nerfing a ritual, which is the better choice?
 

Jack99

Adventurer
So, basically, he's saying, "Do your homework when designing your adventures. But, if you screw up, and it's going to short circuit your entire adventure, nerf the ritual rather than chucking out your entire adventure."

But if you do not like 4e, the OP's version was so much better!
 

Imban

First Post
On-topic, Hussar, I find it to still be somewhat bad advice even with the addition of "you should say yes, but sometimes...", because while that criticism no longer applies, you certainly shouldn't be blaming the players in any case.

Yet, when asked for examples, suddenly, all the examples have apparently vanished.

They had a thing about treasure parcels in which I seem to remember that they totally misrepresented 3e's treasure system. (or well, misrepresented it in the way you commonly see commercials doing, with a woman flailing miserably at the "traditional" system and breaking whatever she's doing repeatedly)

If you can find that one for me and it wasn't as bad as I remember I'll take it back, but part of these examples vanishing is that I didn't keep strenuous logs of everything that was said in the runup to 4e's launch.

(Of course, I've heard similar "apparently vanished" things about community negativity, and part of that is that the more egregious examples (such as http://www.enworld.org/forum/genera...arls-blog-phb2-his-best-ever.html#post4593935 ) really did vanish, and for good reason.)
 


To me DMs who do this are the worst of the worst. Not because of shifting the blame of failure to the player as in this advise, but by railroading at all. When the DM overlooked a ritual and using this ritual give the players a big advantage then the DM should roll with it and not invent things to neutralize it.
Eliminating one option is not railroading; there could still be dozens of ways for the PCs to go.

Providing only one option is railroading.
 

gizmo33

First Post
Whenever I read critiques like Gizmo's, I've learned that it is absolutely imperative to go back to the source material. So often people reacted to what someone else said about what WOTC said during the run up to 4e that we now have this massively persistent meme that WOTC was constantly bashing 3e. Yet, when asked for examples, suddenly, all the examples have apparently vanished.

This is a good example of this.

What is? I've already addressed this issue to some extent above. I'm not talking about some recollection I have. Look at the priorities that are established in the sections that you're quoting, shall we? "Honoring the implicit contract about how the rules relate to the game is important, but as long as that doesn't interfere with X". Where X is something that, based on other advice in the book, pretty much should be going on constantly. The warning that powerful characters have enhanced flexibility is nice and all, but when the "rubber hits the road", the DM nerfs the power, and does it in a really jerky way.

So, basically, he's saying, "Do your homework when designing your adventures. But, if you screw up, and it's going to short circuit your entire adventure, nerf the ritual rather than chucking out your entire adventure."

Which I find analagous to "Do you homework and study, but if the test is too hard, cheat. And if you're caught cheating, tell the teacher that he's picking on you because he's a pit fiend." I just don't see how you can claim that these statements are what you (and others, really) claim that they are. What kind of "homework" does one do anyway? The DMG could have established some guidelines for how to deal with the rather small set of rituals in this case. But they don't care because you can just nerf everything when you're too tired to think of a respectful way of handling this. And, again, what "rights" of the DM is he talking about? "Chucking out your entire adventure" is really a presumption that makes me question how serious the author was about his section on improvising.

Is this really so bad? Sure the best solution would be to think on your feet and come up with new stuff on the fly. That would be best. But, some of us are not quite so nimble. So, do we finish the adventure in 15 minutes, then pack it in for the week? Or do we be a bit of a RBDM and nerf the ritual? Not for all time, just for this one time.

Yea - "I'm only going to cheat on my test this one time." But that's not the case, and when you set up the priorities as you have, why would it be? Important villains and plots, unexpected actions from the players, rules you don't quite understand as a DM, and random/weird dice rolls ABOUND in the game IME. This means that when you establish a set of priorites and procedures as has been done in this section, you get a certain result.

Yup, the DM screwed up. He left a great gaping hole in his plans. But, given the choice between an utterly unsatisfying night of gaming or a speed bump of nerfing a ritual, which is the better choice?

I think it's pretty unsatisfying to play DnD under a certain pretense and then be lied to in a rather inconsiderate fashion and find out suddenly that you're merely the audience for a story. Sure, taking the lying part out for a second, I might not mind showing up to my friends house and watching Star Trek instead of playing DnD, but it's rude to presume that they are interchangeable.

And if it's so unsatisfying, then why is the player acting on the information to short circuit the adventure?? Why would the player intentionally doom himself to an unsatisfying night of gaming? I think the only person unsatisfied by this is the DM. The DM really ought to learn how to share, how to improvise so that actions of the players don't doom the night, etc. These sections are in the 4E DMG but they take a secondary position to protecting the plot.
 

Kraydak

First Post
Whenever I read critiques like Gizmo's, I've learned that it is absolutely imperative to go back to the source material. So often people reacted to what someone else said about what WOTC said during the run up to 4e that we now have this massively persistent meme that WOTC was constantly bashing 3e. Yet, when asked for examples, suddenly, all the examples have apparently vanished.

This is a good example of this.

Let's look at the entire section shall we?



So, basically, he's saying, "Do your homework when designing your adventures. But, if you screw up, and it's going to short circuit your entire adventure, nerf the ritual rather than chucking out your entire adventure."

Is this really so bad? Sure the best solution would be to think on your feet and come up with new stuff on the fly. That would be best. But, some of us are not quite so nimble. So, do we finish the adventure in 15 minutes, then pack it in for the week? Or do we be a bit of a RBDM and nerf the ritual? Not for all time, just for this one time.

Yup, the DM screwed up. He left a great gaping hole in his plans. But, given the choice between an utterly unsatisfying night of gaming or a speed bump of nerfing a ritual, which is the better choice?

Funnily enough, I think the full source material strengthens the OP's point. You see, the base advice (do your homework) was right, and means that the issue was thought about.

The advice should have been: do your homework. If you blow it, suck it up and treat it as a learning experience. The advice in the DMG is primarily for new DMs. Any advice that points people towards bad habits (making intelligent player action irrelevant) should be assiduously avoided. Note that if (when) players realize that the scry because the DM cheated them, it'll leave a bad taste in the players' mouths. NOT good for a new group.
 

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