D&D 5E [+] What can D&D 5E learn from board games?

damiller

Adventurer
heres the obstacle i see though to making TTRPGs more accessible: choices.

For a boardgame they are limited. Lets take Candyland for example. You turn comes up, You pull a card, you do exactly what the card tells you do, you deal with the outcome, then turn goes to the next player. At no point does a player NOT know WHAT they are supposed to be doing.

If you did that in an RPG, it would set right next to Candyland until your young nephews and nieces showed up and BEGGED you to play.

I know that is an extreme example, but it serves my purpose.

Because play in a board game is basically reactive and limited in choices (or if you prefer - play is directed) This is the opposite of what I think of as a TTRPG (or at least what can be done with/in a TTRPG). And while less rules can make it easier to figure out HOW to play the game, it doesn't teach players WHAT to do.

And that "invisible part" of playing an TTRPG is the part that I've never seen addressed in a game. It is there implicitly in a variety of ways: the GMs choice of genre alone limits the amount of choices a player can make. The rules can do this as well. But there are still so many choices of which none are written down. The player has to decide. I think it is why combat come to be the default - its really easy to know what you are going to do compared to the rest of the game.
 

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
heres the obstacle i see though to making TTRPGs more accessible: choices.

For a boardgame they are limited. Lets take Candyland for example. You turn comes up, You pull a card, you do exactly what the card tells you do, you deal with the outcome, then turn goes to the next player. At no point does a player NOT know WHAT they are supposed to be doing.

If you did that in an RPG, it would set right next to Candyland until your young nephews and nieces showed up and BEGGED you to play.

I know that is an extreme example, but it serves my purpose.
Look at the board game Dungeon. It's almost that limited...and it sits up on the shelf for months to years on end without being played.
Because play in a board game is basically reactive and limited in choices (or if you prefer - play is directed) This is the opposite of what I think of as a TTRPG (or at least what can be done with/in a TTRPG). And while less rules can make it easier to figure out HOW to play the game, it doesn't teach players WHAT to do.
Tabletop RPGs are, at least for me, almost defined by the players' tactical infinity, their ability to try anything.
 


UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Nerd Immersion has posted a video on the Deck of Many Things and one thing it appears to do is act as an adventure creation system and I think this is an interesting development. This is what I was referring to in my comments regarding the use of the Mythos Deck in games like Arkham Horror. An adventure build as a randomised (or semi randomised) deck.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Nerd Immersion has posted a video on the Deck of Many Things and one thing it appears to do is act as an adventure creation system and I think this is an interesting development. This is what I was referring to in my comments regarding the use of the Mythos Deck in games like Arkham Horror. An adventure build as a randomised (or semi randomised) deck.
People have been using random generators for decades in RPGs. I don't think that's necessarily new. A dedicated deck of cards is newish, but things like that have been around awhile as well. I think I saw Dyson Logos had dice with connecting map pieces. You roll the set and fit them together. Boom. Random dungeon.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
People have been using random generators for decades in RPGs. I don't think that's necessarily new. A dedicated deck of cards is newish, but things like that have been around awhile as well. I think I saw Dyson Logos had dice with connecting map pieces. You roll the set and fit them together. Boom. Random dungeon.
The deck could be more than a simple randomiser, it could have branching paths. Some revealed mysteries could lead to a fail state in the current arc if there too many unresolved at one time. That sort of thing.
 

Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
Nerd Immersion has posted a video on the Deck of Many Things and one thing it appears to do is act as an adventure creation system and I think this is an interesting development.
So, the book may actually be "here's all the ways we'd use cards in D&D, if the game wasn't so centered on dice as a mechanic." Which isn't a terrible idea -- lots of games have been using cards like that for quite a while, and this is a good way to introduce the concept to the only-D&D, only-WotC folks.
 

The faults of "spotlight balance" (for cooperative games, I should say.)

A board game where one person does everything for multiple turns, and then a different person does everything for multiple turns, etc., and everyone who isn't the Spotlight Player is more or less just sitting there is going to be an extremely unpopular board game. "Bored" game, one might say. Not getting to meaningfully participate or contribute to the group effort for multiple turns in a row kills interest stone dead, and if any one spotlight shines a bit too bright or too wide, it can easily crowd out the others.

As a high-minded, abstract principle, "spotlight balance" sounds wonderful. All the freedom of an "unbalanced" game, or near enough to it, since within each spotlight the player is effectively alone. Yet all the rigor and challenge of a balanced game, since the ideal is that each player's spotlight is about equal in size, brightness, and duration. In practice, however, literally no part of that ever ends up ideal, and the specific characteristics of D&D lead to serious stumbles, mostly because of magic. Magic, the way D&D has (almost always) done it, is simply too powerful, versatile, and inaccessible to be compatible with "spotlight balance." Other games have taken steps to fix this, e.g. the Spheres of Power/Might alternate magic system for Pathfinder 1e (and later D&D 5e), but none of these alternatives has ever truly challenged the hegemony of D&D's overpowered, ultra-versatile, class-locked magic.

I get why people are enamored with the idea of "spotlight balance." It just...doesn't actually work in practice, and we all know the difference between theory and practice: in theory there should be no difference, in practice there is.

I find "spotlight balance" to work perfectly fine at our 5e table and, I'd be willing to guess, at other tables as well. It has nothing to do with the system, however, and everything to do with the social contract. If you have a group of players who are playing their PCs as a cohesive party and a DM and players who are making sure everyone has a chance to contribute, it all works out. If a fellow party member happens to be more powerful in combat because... magic... then I'm cheering them on - our party is that much more powerful and we're all sharing in the XP and loot anyway. If that same player is dominating every pillar of play and not finding ways to let others contribute, we have a different problem on our hands.

I guess, as I re-read what we've both written, perhaps we agree more than it might seem at first. I find "balance" on its own to be a fruitless goal. And what you say about magic holds true, IMO, as it makes "balance" really hard to achieve. Sharing the spotlight, on the other hand, is very much a worthy and attainable goal, regardless of any imbalance in powers.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
So, the book may actually be "here's all the ways we'd use cards in D&D, if the game wasn't so centered on dice as a mechanic." Which isn't a terrible idea -- lots of games have been using cards like that for quite a while, and this is a good way to introduce the concept to the only-D&D, only-WotC folks.
I kind of hope so, I must remember on the DMG playtest to leave a comment asking for new option add on mechanics to expand the game beyond the complex fight and binary everything else mechanics.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
People have been using random generators for decades in RPGs. I don't think that's necessarily new. A dedicated deck of cards is newish, but things like that have been around awhile as well. I think I saw Dyson Logos had dice with connecting map pieces. You roll the set and fit them together. Boom. Random dungeon.
Going back to Lion Rampant's Whimsy Cards, at least.
 

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