D&D 5E Thoughts on Divorcing D&D From [EDIT: Medievalishness], Mechanically Speaking.

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Another element of using something like a modern setting is deciding how adventurers might interact with a more connected and orderly society. In my head, most of the adventures happen in remote locations, whether distant jungle ruins or deep sub-city/sewer lairs. In D&D, PC parties tend to be given essentially limitless leeway as long as they don't go murderhoboing the locals. But IME it is rare for them to have too much oversight by The Authorities.

What do you think about that part? And is there a potential mechanical system (something like Honor or a a Reputation system) that could help enforce it?
 

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Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Another element of using something like a modern setting is deciding how adventurers might interact with a more connected and orderly society. In my head, most of the adventures happen in remote locations, whether distant jungle ruins or deep sub-city/sewer lairs. In D&D, PC parties tend to be given essentially limitless leeway as long as they don't go murderhoboing the locals. But IME it is rare for them to have too much oversight by The Authorities.

What do you think about that part? And is there a potential mechanical system (something like Honor or a a Reputation system) that could help enforce it?

Not game wise, but maybe plotwise...

I've been reading the Continental Op by Hammett, set in the late 1920s. I was surprised how much leeway the (faux) Pinkertons got from the police. The Pinkertons almost seemed to treat the police like their auxiliary (and not the other way around).

The Wells Fargo Agents in the old western TV show seemed to be treated similarly.
 

Another element of using something like a modern setting is deciding how adventurers might interact with a more connected and orderly society. In my head, most of the adventures happen in remote locations, whether distant jungle ruins or deep sub-city/sewer lairs. In D&D, PC parties tend to be given essentially limitless leeway as long as they don't go murderhoboing the locals. But IME it is rare for them to have too much oversight by The Authorities.

What do you think about that part? And is there a potential mechanical system (something like Honor or a a Reputation system) that could help enforce it?
Just mentioned this in another thread.
 

Celebrim

Legend
In D&D, PC parties tend to be given essentially limitless leeway as long as they don't go murderhoboing the locals. But IME it is rare for them to have too much oversight by The Authorities.

I'll note that this proof D&D already has nothing in common with a medieval society. That sort of leeway in a medieval society only exists if you are of the knightly caste, which itself has its own rules and expectations about how you behave. D&D - especially post Gygax D&D - consistently seems to avoid matters of social station, taxations, and license in its story. PC's seem perfectly free to just leave town and walk to the next town carrying a weapon without the slightest expectation of being executed as bandits for doing so, or the slightest expectation that the next town over will demand a blade tax on all of those weapons they have bigger than a simple dagger or knife. The right to bear arms isn't something that attaches itself to nobility, and xenophobia just doesn't seem to happen. PCs assume that they have a right to put on armor and go trapsing about as if they were the King's subjects and no one is going to care, which is very much not true of how medieval authorities would react.

One could argue that D&D assumes this adventuring class, and in a typical D&D party it's usually possible to assume there is blanket protection for the party being inherited through a cleric and his cult or a fighter by his birth or something and handwave it I suppose, but nowhere does D&D bother to explain things like: "any man of whatsoever estate or condition… to go armed, girt with a sword or arrayed with unwonted harness… or do aught whereby the peace may be broken or the statutes concerning the bearing of arms contrary to the peace, or any of the people be disturbed or put in fear, under pain of losing his arms etc. and of imprisonment at the king’s will” or that upon entering a city you have to pay tax on your belongs ("No man is to sell by any measure that is not sealed with the town's seal, upon pain of fine") and swear an oath in front of the bailiffs that you shall obey the cities laws and you can't go about carrying weapons unless you are a citizen of the city or have some other right to do so ("No Dutchman or other alien may bear a weapon, on pain of its confiscation"), or that even as a citizen if were out of your house armed after a certain hour you'd be presumed under the law to be a criminal.

Medieval societies in the D&D since were vastly more orderly and connected than they are now. Far more regulation legally and socially existed then than now. Reputation was vastly more important then than now because anything alien was so vastly more mistrusted. The designers of the Oriental Adventures assumed that things like Honor would need to be mechanically enforced because the setting was so alien to the modern reader, but the truth is an Occidental Handbook today would need to assume the same thing.

What D&D initially assumed is something like the 19th century American old west (or even the fictional 19th Century old west) with a nigh universal right to bear arms. But as the game progressed it never enforced that and the setting modernized over time. What D&D assumes now is that social intuitions are unimportant to the story and as such they gravitate to the ideas of whomever is playing the game becoming reflections of whomever is playing or running the game. I'd imagine that modern games have legal and social institutions that are rarely older than the 1920s, just with some fantasy trappings. Certainly in something like "Honor among Thieves" the society has no historical grounding to any real period and the social mores seem to be current and modern. It could as well been the MCU. If you set the game explicitly in the 1920s it might get more archaic in its feel. I'm pretty sure my Star Wars campaign is more medieval than most D&D games.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I'll note that this proof D&D already has nothing in common with a medieval society. That sort of leeway in a medieval society only exists if you are of the knightly caste, which itself has its own rules and expectations about how you behave. D&D - especially post Gygax D&D - consistently seems to avoid matters of social station, taxations, and license in its story. PC's seem perfectly free to just leave town and walk to the next town carrying a weapon without the slightest expectation of being executed as bandits for doing so, or the slightest expectation that the next town over will demand a blade tax on all of those weapons they have bigger than a simple dagger or knife. The right to bear arms isn't something that attaches itself to nobility, and xenophobia just doesn't seem to happen. PCs assume that they have a right to put on armor and go trapsing about as if they were the King's subjects and no one is going to care, which is very much not true of how medieval authorities would react.

One could argue that D&D assumes this adventuring class, and in a typical D&D party it's usually possible to assume there is blanket protection for the party being inherited through a cleric and his cult or a fighter by his birth or something and handwave it I suppose, but nowhere does D&D bother to explain things like: "any man of whatsoever estate or condition… to go armed, girt with a sword or arrayed with unwonted harness… or do aught whereby the peace may be broken or the statutes concerning the bearing of arms contrary to the peace, or any of the people be disturbed or put in fear, under pain of losing his arms etc. and of imprisonment at the king’s will” or that upon entering a city you have to pay tax on your belongs ("No man is to sell by any measure that is not sealed with the town's seal, upon pain of fine") and swear an oath in front of the bailiffs that you shall obey the cities laws and you can't go about carrying weapons unless you are a citizen of the city or have some other right to do so ("No Dutchman or other alien may bear a weapon, on pain of its confiscation"), or that even as a citizen if were out of your house armed after a certain hour you'd be presumed under the law to be a criminal.

Medieval societies in the D&D since were vastly more orderly and connected than they are now. Far more regulation legally and socially existed then than now. Reputation was vastly more important then than now because anything alien was so vastly more mistrusted. The designers of the Oriental Adventures assumed that things like Honor would need to be mechanically enforced because the setting was so alien to the modern reader, but the truth is an Occidental Handbook today would need to assume the same thing.

What D&D initially assumed is something like the 19th century American old west (or even the fictional 19th Century old west) with a nigh universal right to bear arms. But as the game progressed it never enforced that and the setting modernized over time. What D&D assumes now is that social intuitions are unimportant to the story and as such they gravitate to the ideas of whomever is playing the game becoming reflections of whomever is playing or running the game. I'd imagine that modern games have legal and social institutions that are rarely older than the 1920s, just with some fantasy trappings. Certainly in something like "Honor among Thieves" the society has no historical grounding to any real period and the social mores seem to be current and modern. It could as well been the MCU. If you set the game explicitly in the 1920s it might get more archaic in its feel. I'm pretty sure my Star Wars campaign is more medieval than most D&D games.
Yeah, this is what a lot of people seem to want: a superhero game with medieval trappings for color. And there's nothing wrong with wanting that. I just really wish that D&D hadn't decided to abandon all other styles of play in favor of it.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I don't know how you get from here to there. Making PCs special has no impact on whether the world matters. The world matters when you make it responsive to the PCs, regardless of whether they are special or common. I mean, are you saying you can't have an urban fantasy or superhero campaign, or one where the PCs are angels and demons or the bastard offspring of Zeus? I know you prefer more down to earth settings, but to suggest that if they aren't, "the world doesn't matter" is a step too far.

I, for one, like it when the PCs are both special and deeply human.
Back on this matter - if only the PCs and a few rare opponents have access to magic, it often leads to the PCs being able to run roughshod over non-supernatural encounters because they have tools at their disposal that the competition cannot conceive of, account for or often counter.

White Wolf's Mage had an interesting "solution" to this in what was termed paradox - basically onlookers who had no involvement with the supernatural caused magic to fail or backfire if they were to observe it. Deadlands had a sort of similar thing with Fear Levels - the more supernaturally infused an area was the more likely you would be to run into supernatural entities, the more powerful they could be and the more plentiful magic would be. In areas untouched by the supernatural (Fear Level 0), magic might not work at all. Most of the world was at least at Fear Level 1, but a few, metropolitan places "Back East" in the US might have a Fear Level of 0.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
Back on this matter - if only the PCs and a few rare opponents have access to magic, it often leads to the PCs being able to run roughshod over non-supernatural encounters because they have tools at their disposal that the competition cannot conceive of, account for or often counter.
I don't think I have ever had a group of players decide to upend a campaign like that, but if they really wanted to play the villains, I'd be willing to see where it went.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
What do you think about that part? And is there a potential mechanical system (something like Honor or a a Reputation system) that could help enforce it?
Clout to encourage them to make the poor choices that are the hallmark of adventuring?

One of our GMs actually created this for a Shadowrun game we played where we were influencers, but you don't need the actual influencer thing as long as it grants access and public/private support.
 

Micah Sweet

Level Up & OSR Enthusiast
I don't think I have ever had a group of players decide to upend a campaign like that, but if they really wanted to play the villains, I'd be willing to see where it went.
How does what was described lead to the PCs being villains? It can, I suppose, but all it really means IMO is that placing such power in the hands of PCs and very select NPCs exclusively allows such people to ignore most avenues of authority, and you can do that with a variety of motives.

To do otherwise with that kind of power at your exclusive disposal is to engage in pretense. Is that what you're talking about?
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
How does what was described lead to the PCs being villains? It can, I suppose, but all it really means IMO is that placing such power in the hands of PCs and very select NPCs exclusively allows such people to ignore most avenues of authority, and you can do that with a variety of motives.

To do otherwise with that kind of power at your exclusive disposal is to engage in pretense. Is that what you're talking about?
Ostensibly, the PCs have access to that kind of power because their adventures will lead them into conflict where that sort of power is needed to succeed, and not into conflict with regular folks. It is like playing a supers campaign where the players decide to stop fighting villains and start exerting control over normals.

And even if those normals are "bad" that is still villainy.
 

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