D&D General Weekly Wrecana : The Three Pilasters of D&D 4 parts

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
In Memorum - Mark Monack "Wrecan"

THE THREE PILASTERS OF D&D
The developers of D&D Next have made a big deal of supporting what they call the three "pillars" of D&D: Combat, Exploration, and Socialization (which they inaccurately call "roleplaying"). I identified these pillars of D&D in my prior article series called Unbloodied Heroes. However, I also identified three other elements of D&D, which, while not as central a support as Combat, Exploration, and Socialization, are still important areas that I believe deserve some consideration. I hereby dub them the three "Pilasters" of D&D: 'Ludes, 'Sage, and 'Port.

TABLE OF CONTENTS


  • The Three Pilasters of D&D
  • 'Ludes, the First Pilaster
  • 'Sage, the Second Pilaster
  • 'Port, the Third Pilaster

I plan to explore each of these pilasters in a separate article, but for now,I will just give you an introduction to the concepts and how they might impinge on the stated design goals of D&D Next.

'LUDES
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A "'Lude" is the stuff that happens before (prelude) in between (interlude), or after (postlude) adventuring. They include the background of a character, the hero's nonadventuring interests, and generally, all the things that a hero might accomplish when not traveling around with three to six other adventuring heroes. Does the priest spend time at the local shrine? Is the rogue maintaining his contacts with the guild? Is the wizard in the library? The druid at the grove? The fighter visiting her retired army captain? Because D&D is a team-oriented endeavor, it is generally not recommended to run 'Ludes at the table because it deprives other players of the chance to play their characters (though some DMs may assign players the roles of other characters in the hero's interlude). 'Ludes, however, are also the time when a player feels most attuned to a character because there is not much risk, and the player can relax and really delve into the character's personality without feeling that opening up in this way will expose the character to danger. Navigating 'Ludes is a difficult but crucial arrow in a DM's quiver. D&D has attempted a number of different mechanics to preludes and interludes.

'SAGE
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DMs are often struggling with ways to get players the information they need, without giving them an opportunity to get so much information they can avoid the encounter altogether. Research is something that is often done during interludes, but is just as often something that comes up in the middle of an encounter. What does a character know and what can a character discover. A bard might peruse local establishments, while the wizard consults ancient tomes, and the priest asks his superiors at the local temple. Others might cast lots to divine the future or scan the skies for omens and portents. How information is related to players can define a lot about what is at issue in a game and how much mystery a DM can maintain about the world in which the characters adventure.

'PORT
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Adventurers generally spend all their time in one of two places: dungeons, where they get loot, and cities, where they spend loot (during 'Ludes). In between is type of adventure that brings a yawn to most adventurers: travel. Travel, or 'port, is usually a drudgery, filled with random encounters, or long, boring descriptions of local weather conditions and natural features that may or may not become relevant at a future date. But 'port is also an opportunity for the DM to immerse the players in the campaign world. There is a lot of space between the points of light of the cities and the points of darkness where adventure occurs. Having characters traverse this space without event conveys a feeling that the world is safe and secure, while burdening a party with frequent encounters in travel can bog down a campaign in unneeded minutia. Handling 'port represents a fine line for many DMs, but an important one.

In this series, I will explore the history of 'ludes, 'sage, and 'port in D&D and try to distill their essential nature and how it might translate to D&D Next.
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Ludes

This is the second in my "Three Pilasters" series of articles. In this article, I plan on talk about the first Pilaster of D&D: 'Ludes.

"
-lude" is a suffix that means "play", and is appended to three prefixes which correspond to a different type of 'lude: the prelude (before play), interlude (between play), postlude (after play).

Do not confuse
'lude with noncombat. Play happens whenever the adventuring party has gathered and tries to accomplish a task, even if that task is as passive as "resting for the night", or as esoteric as "wandering around looking for your next adventure".

A
'lude, for purposes of this article, is any non-adventuring task a character attempts to accomplish without the other adventurers in the party. I do not mean solo adventures. If a rogue wants to break into the Church of Pelor and take the Goblet of Gold, and leaves the paladin behind, that's a side trek or a solo adventure. I mean those tasks that a character undertakes that contribute to the team as a whole, but do not involve anybody but the character.

I identify three or four "subludes" in each of the three
'ludes. In preludes, there is birth, upbringing, and training. In interludes, there is crafting, leveling, earning, and shopping. In postludes, there is destiny, politics, and strongholds.

If a
'lude is something that happens without the other players around, why then, is it worth considering? The reason is that these are things that players want to consider. They help flesh out a character and gives the character details and history and personality that make the character more than a sheet of numbers. But the more time spent dwelling on these details, the less time spent sitting around a table and playing with friends. And playing with friends, is, in my opinion, what D&D should ultimately be about.

So the key is to make
'lude mechanics that are fulfilling and rewarding, without being time-consuming or requiring a DM to exclude the other players while adjudicating one player's interlude. Let's examine how 'ludes have been handled in the past.

PRELUDE
A prelude is all the stuff that happens to the character before the character meets the rest of the adventuring party. Basically, this means the entire process of character creation. The nice thing about the prelude is that since every player has to go through the process, the DM can run everyone through it simultaneously, thus eliminating the dilemma of having to tell the other players to sit out while one player's 'lude is being developed. We can break this up into three subcategories:
Birth: In D&D, birth has generally meant one thing -- race. You are born as a race, and the race comes with certain mechanics attached. Race is a good prelude because it takes little time to handle, and yet has a deep and meaningful impact on a character. In fact, if you ask someone about a character, the first work you are likely to hear, is that character's race. In 4e, Backgrounds added more birth options. You could be born in tundra, or born in a tropical area, or even born with a curse. I'll discuss the issues with backgrounds later, but at least it gives players an opportunity to accommodate circumstances of birth other than their race.

Birth rules could be limited to racial selection, but it would be nice if there were a simple mechanic to distinguish races raised in the tundra from those raisedin the jungle.

Upbringing: Upbringing basically describes the skills that a player might possess that is not directly related to the character's adventuring abilities. In 1st edition, this took the form of the optional rule known as Secondary Skills. In 2nd edition, it took the form of the optional rule of Non-Weapon Proficiencies. In 3rd edition, it took the form of some Skills. In 4th edition, you could take a Background that detailed your upbringing, and you could also choose Skill training to reflect upbringing as well. Some Themes also helped develop your character's non-adventuring interests in 4e. In any edition, you might spend some of your starting cash on individual items, like a signet ring, or a musical instrument, to reflect a personal style not directly related to your adventuring career. (I once created a gnome illusionist who fancied himself a portraitist first and an adventurer incidentally... because he specialized in making portraits of adventurers, and was often drawn into their adventures in the process.)

Upbringing rules should be straightforward and easy to apply. I like 4e Backgrounds as a concept, although the mechanic they chose (free Skill or Language training simply didn't offer mechanics that let you feel like you had the upbringing your background indicated. I don't think enough thought was put into backgrounds, possibly for fear that individualized backgrounds would be unbalanced. The designers need to take the risk and give us some mechanics that match the promised feel.

Training: Training represents every other quality you give your character during character creation, which means all of your adventuring skills, like class and theme. Class, like race, is a defining aspect of a D&D character, and is likely the second thing you learn if you ask a player to describe the character.

I don't have a lot to say here, because training is going to be absorbed into the character mechanics related to the three pillars of combat, exploration, and socialization. You don't need to consider much more for the pilaster of 'ludes.

INTERLUDE
The interlude is stuff that individuals may want to break off from the party and accomplish without the involvement of other players. I don't merely refer to things that other players could be involved in, but the first player is just being a jerk. I mean stuff that, traditionally, wouldn't reasonably involve other players.

Crafting: People want to make things. A wizard scribes a scroll. A fighter returns to his old blacksmithy and makes a new dagger. A bard sits in the corner of a tavern and drafts a love poem to the dryad whose tree he was regrettably required to burn to the ground. Crafting is a deeply individual experience and one that can both lead to more adventure, but also soak up time at the table. In AD&D, crafting mundane objects had few rules (maybe a non-weapon proficiency in 2e), and it was generally assumed that the character was better off hiring a professional than doing this himself. Crafting magic items, however, was an arcane and thoroughly obscure process that required unspecified rare components (yay adventure hooks), and was often more trouble than it was worth (boo, useless mechanics). In 3e, feats handled magic item construction, which cost XP and gold but no rare components, resulting in predictable mechanics that offered no adventure hooks. In 4e, rituals and practices (or Backgrounds) handled all construction which also resulted in predictable mechanics that offered no adventure hooks. Crafting in 3e, however, was an arcane process of spending silver pieces and rolling Craft skill checks over and over. This was the worst of all worlds. It consumed time at the tabel where other people were, at best, rolling Aid Other checks, it involved almost no adventure hooks, and required you to consult unnecessary mechanics just to get a table.

Crafting rules should be evocative. They should add adventure hooks if the DM wants it to, or be simple if the DM doesn't want them to. They should take up as little game time as possible, but still be detailed enough so a player who has a fighter who used to be a blacksmith actually feels like his character has some skill at blacksmithing.

Earning: Related to crafting is earning. This is usually the stuff a player has a character do to kill time. It might be singing for your supper, or working at the local quarry. When the fighter is recuperating from wounds, and the cleric is performing ablutions in the local temple, what are the others doing? In 1st edition, there were actual rules related to how much living expenses a character spent per week (based on level, and reduced for paladins and monks who took oaths of poverty). Only 3e ever tried to have mechanics at this, in the form of Perform and Profession skills. Frankly, I think this was a bad way to go about it. First, free money can be unbalancing at low levels. But more importantly, you spent a lot of time rolling Perform and Profession checks for no reason other than to fill the time until the next adventure. It ended up being a time-waster.

Earning rules can be evocative, but they need to be simply to apply and easy to run. They should only get more complicated when invoked during an adventure. For instance, if the minstrel is singing to make some coin while the rogue is consulting with his guild contacts about a lead on a mystery, it should be straightforward. Don't waste time. But if the minstrel is singing at court while the party is trying to convince the duchess to let them enter the noble's hunting grounds to kill the rampaging ankheg clutch, then it can be incorporated into the larger socialization encounter (which is part of that pillar).

Leveling: Like the training prelude, leveling is something a player does alone. However, since characters tend to level-up together, like character creation, it's something that doesn't have to require some players to sit out.

Leveling should occur to all characters at once. This prevents alienation or boredom. Also, even though you can have varying levels of complexity for characters, no class should be so complex that the effort needed to level up will draw substantial time away from the other players' time to play.

Shopping: The last interlude is shopping. I am not discussing whether magic items can be bought and/or sold. I'm not concerned here with what can be bartered, only with how the bartering occurs. Every campaign has had its charts of stuff adventurers could buy and how much it cost. Usually, this is done as a group. A party gets to town, divvies up the loot, converts it to gold pieces if they don't want it, or writes it into their stuff if they do, and then everyone looks at charts and determines what they want to buy that's available. It is all quite civilized and simple.

And that's how it should be. I am not an advocate of roleplaying out every shopping excursion, unless it is the hook for an adventure. Let people buy and sell at the table with everyone else there and be quick about it. Don't introduce dice. Don't roll to barter with shopkeeps for a discount, unless the whole party is involved.

POSTLUDE
The postlude is what happens to the character after the adventuring ends. Call it an epilogue, requiem, or retirement. Assuming the character is able to vanquish all enemies, what happens after the dice are put away. However, the best postlude mechanics have effect in the game. They introduce the player to thinking of the character's life after adventuring, which again helps enrich a character and develop them as most than a sheet full of numbers.

Destiny: 4e introduced the concept of the epic destiny, and I love this mechanic. It encourages people to think about where their characters are heading and how to get there. it doesn't even need much mechanics tying it into the current story, though sometimes it makes sense to get powers that can lead you towards a specific destiny. Sure, the character could die, and leave the destiny unfulfilled. but a destiny is almost like a side pact between the DM and player, with the player opening up about a desire and the DM promising to make that happen if feasible.

Destinies should be simple and should be established when the DM is beginning to think about closing out a campaign. All it requires is a few lines, a few examples, and maybe swapping out some class features for a destiny feature or two. It can be incorporated into the leveling process and can lead to a much richer story experience. Don't let destinies die!

Organizations: In prior editions, a rogue might establish a rival rogue's guild, a cleric might found a church, and a monk might establish a monastery. In AD&D this occurred at "name level" and required players to spend time tracking their followers, naming them, directing them, etc. This was often time consuming and distracting, but also immensely rewarding.

I think players should get to choose as a table whether, at a certain level, they want to add a module on organizations. Does the warlord raise an army? Is the rogue running a guild? The table should decide this as a whole, because otherwise, the wizard is twiddling his thumbs while the fighter rolls up his next squire and promotes a knight, and the cleric is busy ordaining his new acolytes. But a modular addition can be a great way to introduce postludes.

Strongholds: Like organizations, AD&D gave benefits to characters who built a stronghold. In 4e, there was an Unearthed Arcana article allowing parties to own and develop strongholds. I prefer the latter format. If strongholds can be owned by the party, nobody need be left out. teh rogue can design traps, while the wizard places wards, and the fighter shores up the physical defenses. The Justice League HQ is always preferable to one player having a batcave, another the Fortress of Solitude, all while Wally West lives in his parent's basement.

Rules for strongholds can be another optional add-on, one that affords some benefits, but generally immerses the characters in their world, gives them something to defend and fight for, and people to protect.

Well, that's it for 'ludes. Stay tuned next week when I talk about the second Pilaster: 'sage.
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Sage

'SAGE, THE SECOND PILASTER
This is the third in my "Three Pilasters" series of articles. In this article, I plan on talk about the second Pilaster of D&D: 'Sage.


While 'ludes describe the things that happen when an adventuring companion is unaccompanied -- the space between the pillars -- 'sage is the stuff that makes the pillars possible: information.

D&D, like all role-playing games, is a game of the imagination. And since imagination has no form, not physicality, it is essentially a game of information. So how the game doles out information is crucial to its success.

This is has been an area that has been handled haphazardly, at best. I've divided information into the following categories: backstory, message, sage, and presage.

MESSAGE
The message is the information the DM needs to impart the party before an adventure begins. It is sometimes called the "hook" or the "back story" or sometimes simply "exposition". There are a variety of ways for a DM to impart this information. Often is it tied to a character's prelude. Sometimes it just comes out of the blue, with a stranger hiring the PCs to do something. Moduels and published adventures use this technique most often because hiring a mercenary is the easiest way to get a group into the story without having to know too much about the specific individuals within the group.

Message is important because the DM has to figure out what is the least amount that the party needs so they can find and successfully complete the adventure. For instance, if the world is going to end in 24 hours, but the party does not know it and has no opportunity to learn it, they may rest, never realizing they will never wake up. Also, if the party doesn't know that the bad guy is walking across the continent, they might rush unnecessarily exhausting themselves to the point that it becomes impossible for them to defeat the bad guy. They key is determining what it the least amount of information needed to find and complete the adventure.

Not all of the message needs to be received from one source or one time. The party might get some information at the beginning of the advventure (dinosaurs are attacking!) and then later learn more necessary information (the dinosaurs are coming from that cave!) and then later learn even more (the dinosaurs are being summoned by the drow!). The DM should have guidance on determining what information is crucial and how best to ensure the party learns what they need.

There have never been a lot of mechanics for messages. In AD&D, many adventures had rumor charts where players could roll to get story hooks (sometimes false!). 3rd edition would make lists of story hooks in various supplements, which DMs could use for inspirations. 4e gave lots of DM advice, but little in mechanics. Personally, that's my preference. D&D is about story and I prefer the opening of the story to be dtermined exclusively by the DM, without interference by the dice. But Next needs to decide how it wants to lure a party into adventure, and whether the dice should play a part.

SAGE
The second category of 'sage is sage. Sage constitutes the information that the characters can learn during the course of the adventure, which is helpful, but not strictly needed. There are several ways a party might get sage.

The first is good 'ol fashioned footwork. In 3e and 4e, this is called "Streetwise check". Before the Streetwise check, you were expected to go and interview every NPC you could find.

A second way is through the "Knowledge Check" in which the dice tell you what your character knows. Pre-3e, many DMs avoided knowledge checks (even in the form of Intelligence checks), prefering to let the characters use the players' knowledge. One of my first characters was a multiclassed ranger, chosen, in part, to justify the fact that I would often blurt out facts that I gleaned from having memorized the Monster Manuals. Nowadays it would be called metagaming.

A third way is through divinations. Lots of spells would give players access to information that is otherwise hidden. In fact, an entire strategy -- scry and die -- was developed in Thrid Edition to capitalize on the value of divinations, and suddenly bad guys had to be world-class abjurers in order to keep the player characters' divinations from obviating the DM's carefully crafted stories.

A final way is through actual sages. If the PCs don't have the proper spells or abilities, they'll usually have the money to buy them. In 3rd and 4th edition, you might buy divinatory scrolls. AD&D actually had rules for sages that PCs could hire,a and what they would know.

Next needs to figure out how to balance the players' desire for sage and the DMs' need not to allow PCs from obviating the entire avdenture by being armed with foreknowledge. If players don't get enough sage, they feel like they are being railroaded. If players get too much, it limits the types of stories a DM can tell.

PRESAGE
The final category of 'sage is presage. Presage represents the foreknowledge of things to come, the hints and seeds of future adventures that one finds littered throughout the current adventure, even if the players do not recognize them as such.

The key to presaging is that the players are not generally looking for it. So there is less concern about divinations ruining a plotline because the players shouldn't know they should be casting them. Instead, presaging becomes entirely a DMing tool.

Some presaging comes in the form of a recurring villain. A DM descided to bring back an escaped (or resurrected) villain. Some presaging comes in the form of innocuous details that become relevant only in retrospect (often called refrigerator moments). Some presaging hits you over the head... often in the form of story elements that will define an entire campaign arc. These might be in the form of omens. These might simply be backstory that is not immediately relevant, like knowing that an asteroid is hurtling toward the planet.

There are no rules that a DM could invoke to control presaging. In fact, not all campaigns will even use presaging. Some DMs prefer DMing on thefly, without knowling where the next adventure will be. Many sandbox settings actively eschew presaging. But either way, presaging is a DMing tool that deserves some consideration in a DM Guide, for those DMs who want it.

WHAT'S NEXT
In the next and final article, I will discuss the last of the three pilasters: 'Port!
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
'PORT, THE THIRD PILASTER
Thursday, March 15, 2012, 7:13 AM
Categories: Dungeons & Dragons



This is the fourth in my "Three Pilasters" series of articles. In this article, I plan on talk about the third Pilaster of D&D: 'Port.


'Ludes describe the action that a player takes without the participation of the rest of the gaming group. 'Sage described the information that the DM imparts to the players so that the adventures can proceed. 'Port, the third pilaster, describes a part of the adventure that combines Combat, Exploration, and Socilaization (the three Pillars of D&D) in a way that presents unique problems for the game.

'Port is my term for travel. Adventures (socialization, exploration, and combat) tend to occur in discrete locations -- the Tomb of Horrors, the Village of Hommlet, the Barrier Peaks. 'Port is what allows the players to get form one location to another. But travel presents a conundrum. Most players want to get through the 'port quickly. 'Port is usually not story, or is, generally, the least interesting part of the story. Your players want to accomplish big things, impossible things, fantastical things, important things. Walking is something all the players accomplished when they became toddlers. It's not a big accomplishment.

On the other hand, 'port is vital for the DM trying to convey a sense of the world. is the world a dangerous place with small lbastions of light and hope? Is the world a fantastical universe of zeppelins and teleportation pods? Is the world populated with mythic geysers and the the ruins of a lost civilization of majestic stone giants? 'Port is the canvas against which the Dm can paint these pictures. But if the DM spends too long on these events, the players become bored and resentful. They have been transformed from heroes to audience.

On the third hand ('port is a xorn), spellcasters quickly get items and objects that obviate 'port. Flying carpets, teleportation and fly spells, winged mounts, all tend to render the benefits and drawbacks of 'port nonexistent in a short order. Sure, sometimes 'port just changes venue, from the material world to the outer planes, but usually, the players can find ways around even that inconvenience. 'Port, in other words, is a pilaster usually limited to the lower levels.

The next iteration of D&D needs to think about what 'port is intended to accomplish in the game, how DMs want to use 'port and how players can enjoy it. I have identified three aspects of 'port: transport, rapport, and sport. Any rules related to 'port should accommodate each of these aspects.

TRANSPORT
The first and most obvious aspect of 'port is transport. Literally getting from point A to point B. Prior editions have always had various rules for describing how quickly players can travel, which can be as bare-boned as converting your base speed into miles (or kilometers), or as complicated as calculating the speed of a caravel in a strong headwind. How much can wagons carry? How much faster is a hippogriff from a griffin? How much more expensive is a rowboat than a canoe? These are questions the game shoudl consider; at a minimum, the designers must consider whether they should consider these questions.

A second aspect fo transport is advancement. In each edition, there have been spells that can ameliorate the effects of 'port. When should the players get to fly over, and avoid, Trollhaunt Pass? When should the players simply get to teleport from locale to locale? When can the players acquire a spelljammer? The answers depend on how long the players must feel like folk heroes, rather than world-spanning heroes. For me, I don't want the players to leave the ground until they have internalized just what the flavor of the world is. Once the players can teleport form city to city, campaign worlds tend to blend into a melange of teleportation circles and planar bazaars. Advancement should be considered carefully.

RAPPORT
Rapport
represents the DM's ability to convey the unique flavor fo the campaign world. Eberron is a very different place from Dark Sun or Ravenloft. The best way to convey this difference is through 'port, the sights that the traveling heroes spy, te sounds, sights, and smells of the world. In addition, 'port conveys the dangerousness of the world. If the players can simply travel from Nulb to Orlane without incident, does the world really need heroes? Bandits, hordes, roving undead, all exist as fantasy tropes to serve the greater purpose of conveying the danger of travel. But these encounters need to be used sparingly lest they detract from the story-related adventure.

The next iteration of D&D should give DMs tools for personalizing their campaign world. Prior editions of D&D have given guides for different sorts of terrain, different ideas for towns and cities and hamlets through which a party might pass, even ideas for fantastical terrains and unusual nations and tribes. Rapport, and 'port, are an essntiall element to the art of campaign-world building.

SPORT
'Port
can be fun. Traveling through dangerous territory means encountering dangerous things. And that means XP. Prior editions were full of wandering creature charts, with different tables for various levels of terrain, including wandering encounters for flyign parties and extra-planar parties.

Wandering wilderness encounters, however, need to be scaled differently. Often, the party will only encuonter one wandering wilderness encounter a day, which means that parties feel no need to conserve renewable resources. a Vancian spellcaster an unleash every spell int he arsenal, confident that this is the only encounter. Moreover, random charts can be swingy. It often lacks verisimilitude that a traveling party will only encounter creatures within the acceptable range of encounters for their party level. However, without a clear mechanic for being able to discern when an adventurer is outclassed by -- or outclasses -- a foe, random wilderness encounters can quickly turn into demoralizing TPKs. Death can be common in some campaigns, but nothing is as dissastisfying as being given an awesome quest you can't wait to embark upon and getting killed during a layover in the Gotcha Gulch.

The next iteration of D&D should carefully consider how DMs can place and design wilderness encounters, so they both serve the purpose of conveying how dangerous the campaign world can be, the falvor of that campaign world, and yet not unduly distract from the primary story at hand. It is not an easy task and no prior edition of D&D has handled it perfectly. But it is a task thatmust be undertaken, and, if done well, will reap goodwill and create memorable stories that players can cherish for years.

I hope you enjoyed the Three Pilaster series
 
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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
These arent technically 4e specific... but in keeping with the Weekly Wrecana thought I would keep them together (though I have an interesting 1 that is 3e specific and I may post it for it)
 



So do I, and I love that the art is included here.

It is all panels from the cartoon strip 'Wormy' that ran in early volumes of The Dragon/Dragon Magazine (during the first several years it was actually called 'THE Dragon'). Trampier eventually drifted off and the series petered out, but it was one of the better features of the magazine (along with The Adventures of Fineous Fingers, Fred, and Charlie). I personally always thought things went a bit downhill with the transition to Phil Foglio's material. It was good, but Wormy was better, in a sort of D&D kind of way of being better.
 

I have to say, I don't think a huge amount of this applies in any specific way to how I run 4e (or think about game design). I think that the ELEMENTS are interesting, there are interludes, travel and information dispensing are all subjects that can be interesting and need to be touched on in some form by RPGs.

On the whole I think Wrecan's approach displays a sort of "circa 2008" approach to 4e (obviously this was written sometime around 2012 I'm assuming). Notably there's no discussion here about a more 4e story centered approach to these kinds of non-adventuring or 'para-adventuring' elements of the game. He seems to pretty much assume a kind of AD&D-esque paradigm of world existing independently of adventurers, although he does now-and-then touch slightly on a more story-centered view. Overall it feels a bit more old-fashioned than where I am now in my own thinking.

It is interesting that you fished this particular set of posts up at this time [MENTION=82504]Garthanos[/MENTION]. I had just the other day written up a section of my own game/notes on Challenges and Interludes, which provides for an approach to many of these things. So, in my own play at this time, there are only 2 states of game play, Challenge, or Interlude (I admit, I use the term 'interlude' very broadly, Wrecan parses this a lot more finely). During challenges dice are employed in the adjudication of risk incurred as a result of conflict, which the challenge resolves (or maybe fails to resolve, or partly resolves, etc).

Everything else works dicelessly. You don't roll dice to see if you were able to make 12cp today begging, or if you managed to smith a fine sword or a merely ordinary one for resale. These non-conflict situations simply get resolved as the GM and players wish, taking into account character's various attributes and resources.

So, how to handle some of the situations Wrecan touched on? Why handle them at all? That is to say, suppose a group of players decide their characters will build a fortress for the group to use as a base. Assuming that the way is clear to do so, its not really something that involves conflict, so simply decide on some cost and assess it to the characters. Time passes, gold is spent, some sort of results are obtained. Perhaps some great difficulty arises? The GM has now injected some form of conflict, a challenge can resolve this. If the whole enterprise is problematic then it can be a single challenge, or a whole adventure. It obviously isn't an interlude anymore at that point...
 

ChaosOS

Legend
I think the "Crafting System" and "Stronghold rules" touch upon one of the conclusions I've come to playing 4e (After having played 5e): Gold (As the regular currency in the setting) needs to be separate from the fungible currency players use for choosing their power progression. For my revision I've made Residuum the "Advancement currency", made it unusable for rituals besides Create Magic Item. Other ritual components are bought with gold. Gold I hand out with whatever logic the world uses, and helps define their out of combat place in the world, such as acquiring land and noble status.

Regarding interludes and 'port, I really like Savage Worlds system of handing out cards. Each player tells a story about their character's past or what they're up to based on the card they draw.
 

I think the "Crafting System" and "Stronghold rules" touch upon one of the conclusions I've come to playing 4e (After having played 5e): Gold (As the regular currency in the setting) needs to be separate from the fungible currency players use for choosing their power progression. For my revision I've made Residuum the "Advancement currency", made it unusable for rituals besides Create Magic Item. Other ritual components are bought with gold. Gold I hand out with whatever logic the world uses, and helps define their out of combat place in the world, such as acquiring land and noble status.

I'm not sure its really an issue as long as you go entirely into a story-driven kind of mode of play. The issue arises when you have a sort of dichotomous play where half the time you're building a story and half the time you're trying to play simulationist mode. If its just all about plots and agendas and whatnot, then it doesn't really matter what kind of money you do or do not have. In fact what's better than the player being able to establish her agenda by mere use of cash? Its very straightforward. So for example the player chooses to engage in some adventuring that is likely to be monetarily remunerative instead of say saving the town. Now they're rich, because they wanted to build their own castle and they needed money. OK, now they can build the castle! And if they decided instead to buy some fabulous +N magic item? OK, they made a choice, no castle!

What happens next? Well, bad deeds always come back to bite you and there's that destroyed town that's on your books, so I'm figuring the GM is going to have plenty of material to hang the NEXT adventure on!

The problem is if you want to try to consider some sort of economic and political 'system' or something. Well, now maybe your stuck with how things go in that, and where is it building your story? If the characters get a bunch of money, now you have to deal with it in the context of that system, and presumably GM fiat is not so welcome here. I kind of like the Oriental Adventures concept of moving this kind of campaign more firmly into the realm of families, clans, honor, large-scale events, etc. Only personally I'd have the players derive all of the details of their backgrounds as they see fit instead of using a whole lot of random rolls (they can always roll if they want). Then have a whole list of event ideas that the GM can pull out whenever it makes sense, or that the players can even trigger.
 

ChaosOS

Legend
I prefer the dichotomy 4e draws between combat effectiveness (Big +N weapon) and non-combat effectiveness elsewhere in the system, which is why I create the delineation. Furthermore, my players like having more concrete gold amounts that fit in a logical fashion into the rest of the world, so 4e's exponential wealth scaling is problematic.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
For my revision I've made Residuum the "Advancement currency", made it unusable for rituals besides Create Magic Item. Other ritual components are bought with gold. Gold I hand out with whatever logic the world uses, and helps define their out of combat place in the world, such as acquiring land and noble status.
Well that is a pretty straightforward way to distinguish
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I had just the other day written up a section of my own game/notes on Challenges and Interludes, which provides for an approach to many of these things. So, in my own play at this time, there are only 2 states of game play, Challenge, or Interlude (I admit, I use the term 'interlude' very broadly, Wrecan parses this a lot more finely). During challenges dice are employed in the adjudication of risk incurred as a result of conflict, which the challenge resolves (or maybe fails to resolve, or partly resolves, etc).

Everything else works dicelessly. You don't roll dice to see if you were able to make 12cp today begging, or if you managed to smith a fine sword or a merely ordinary one for resale. These non-conflict situations simply get resolved as the GM and players wish, taking into account character's various attributes and resources.

So, how to handle some of the situations Wrecan touched on? Why handle them at all? That is to say, suppose a group of players decide their characters will build a fortress for the group to use as a base. Assuming that the way is clear to do so, its not really something that involves conflict, so simply decide on some cost and assess it to the characters. Time passes, gold is spent, some sort of results are obtained. Perhaps some great difficulty arises? The GM has now injected some form of conflict, a challenge can resolve this. If the whole enterprise is problematic then it can be a single challenge, or a whole adventure. It obviously isn't an interlude anymore at that point...

I am pretty much in agreement across the board.. of course I also like the idea atleast of enabling resources akin to karma and luck as it seems genre appropriate that heros have more of it and particular heros, perhaps more or less.
 

I am pretty much in agreement across the board.. of course I also like the idea atleast of enabling resources akin to karma and luck as it seems genre appropriate that heros have more of it and particular heros, perhaps more or less.

Sure, I would say things like that should have mechanical impact. Obviously that won't be on DICE outside of conflict, but then again when would luck come up EXCEPT in a dangerous situation? Now, maybe you can spend a 'karma point' on something that doesn't involve conflict, during an interlude, but its likely to be sort of like spending gold in the same way, it might relate to acquiring resources by spending other resources, but not to accomplishing any deeds.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Sure, I would say things like that should have mechanical impact. Obviously that won't be on DICE outside of conflict, but then again when would luck come up EXCEPT in a dangerous situation? Now, maybe you can spend a 'karma point' on something that doesn't involve conflict, during an interlude, but its likely to be sort of like spending gold in the same way, it might relate to acquiring resources by spending other resources, but not to accomplishing any deeds.

Yes it becomes mechanically resource juggling... I spend karma points to find a master to teach me the GMT... master doesnt ask for gold, insert trope "When the student is ready the master will appear" ;)

I do very much like your idea of treating all gains of new capability as a form of GMT/Boon so it is tied to the actual play experience.
I keep thinking a different base game might be a better starting point though.
 

Yes it becomes mechanically resource juggling... I spend karma points to find a master to teach me the GMT... master doesnt ask for gold, insert trope "When the student is ready the master will appear" ;)

I do very much like your idea of treating all gains of new capability as a form of GMT/Boon so it is tied to the actual play experience.
I keep thinking a different base game might be a better starting point though.

Eh, but most games lack the sheer variety and yet also the mechanical unity of the 4e engine. And that is what makes it so cool. You couldn't REALLY do this in 5e for instance, because there's no common mechanics between a wizard and a fighter to base a boon on (I mean you could do SOME, like there are a very few select feats in 5e anyone could take, but the list is short). With 4e ALMOST anything can be slapped on any PC, and its almost always possible to make it work (and I've removed most of the speed bumps that 4e has for doing that).
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I identify three or four "subludes" in each of the three 'ludes. In preludes, there is birth, upbringing, and training. In interludes, there is crafting, leveling, earning, and shopping. In postludes, there is destiny, politics, and strongholds.
It’s wild how well this maps to my own philosophy on TTRPGs.
 

It’s wild how well this maps to my own philosophy on TTRPGs.
Yeah, though I never found a really convincing argument for why there needed to be distinctions. I like to erase distinctions instead of creating them. So, for instance, there are 'interludes' in HoML, and they all follow the simple rule that you are not allowed to touch dice. Its a talky time, you can use 'powers' or whatever, but nothing risky is happening. Its transition, set up, intra-party interaction, etc. Or maybe things like flashbacks and dream sequences (DMG2 has these types) can also be lumped in there, although those COULD also become SCs. As soon as risks are being taken (significant ones anyway, not maybe a friendly drinking contest/bar brawl) you go to the challenge (SC) rules.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yeah, though I never found a really convincing argument for why there needed to be distinctions. I like to erase distinctions instead of creating them. So, for instance, there are 'interludes' in HoML, and they all follow the simple rule that you are not allowed to touch dice. Its a talky time, you can use 'powers' or whatever, but nothing risky is happening. Its transition, set up, intra-party interaction, etc. Or maybe things like flashbacks and dream sequences (DMG2 has these types) can also be lumped in there, although those COULD also become SCs. As soon as risks are being taken (significant ones anyway, not maybe a friendly drinking contest/bar brawl) you go to the challenge (SC) rules.
IMO/IME most players enjoy rolling dice, even when they aren’t there to determine whether a thing succeeds, or the scenario doesn’t involve any real risk.

For an interlude, my thought is to use dice to determine some of the details and consequences of what the PCs are doing, things like how long a thing takes (and thus whether they can finish it now or must come back to it), how NPCs react to a thing (like whether you strain a relationship with a contact by calling in a favor from them), etc.

Since my game uses dice pools and not everything can be tied to a specific skill, many of these rolls are just a d6 or a d12, but a die is still being rolled.

One idea I had recently is to port my Heat mechanic from running magitech in Eberron into relationships. So, a relationship would have a Strain Die and an amount of current Strain, and you roll it every time you call upon that relationship. If you roll the current Strain or lower, the relationship gains 1 Strain. Eg, a basic contact might have d4 Strain, starting at 1. You call in a favor from them, with no immediate favor to give in return, so you roll a d4. If it comes up 1, the Strain increases to 2, otherwise it stays at 1. Next time you call upon them, if you’ve done nothing to repair the relationship, you increase strain on a 1 or 2.

Relationships can range from d4 to d12, probably. I’ll run some simulations in anydice and compare this scale vs “increasing numbers of d6s”, though.

Anyway, the main thing I’m surprised at how similar I’ve come around to wrecan’s ideas is simply the idea of having mechanics for interludes, thinking about knowledge and research differently than adventuring, and thinking about travel differently from adventuring.
 

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