D&D (2024) What could One D&D do to bring the game back to the dungeon?

pemerton

Legend
It's funny how some games do feel the need to have a hard rule to keep players roleplaying appropriately. Vampire the Masquerade can saddle you with a weakness (or you can saddle yourself with a Flaw) that enforces behavior like this. Ideally, sure, the player should roleplay these traits, but if one can resist the urge to press a red, shiny, candy-like button, when is it appropriate to do so?

A person with an obsession isn't necessarily ruled by it 24-7; they may have the willpower to resist or control their urges. If we leave this entirely up to the player, then when do you cry foul?

Let's assume we have a kleptomaniac. Do we cry foul if they are always stealing things? "I just have poor impulse control!"

Do we cry foul if they only steal irrelevant things? "Come on, I'm not suicidal, I'm not going to pickpocket Emirikol the Chaotic, he's been known to magic missile people that look at him funny!"

Rather than avoid any arguments about when it is or is not "kosher" to resist one's urges, or try to police someone's roleplay, perhaps a die roll to resist is the most fair solution.
The Dying Earth uses a Resistance attribute. (But attributes in that game are different from, say, a D&D save - you can keep spending down your attribute pool to take rerolls, until your pool is empty. Each attribute has its own fiction-based criteria for refreshing the pool.)

Reading Permeton's log from Torchbearer, I got similar wibes, particularily when Fea-bella read the cursed summoning runes. Then she made a Will check to stop reading. This is where I frown. In a narrative game, it ought to be Fea-bella's player who decides how far to play her obsession.
What obsession?

Fea-bella was able to read the runes without taking a turn, in virtue of her Instinct. This is somewhat analogous to the way a 5e rogue/thief can perform various actions as bonus rather than normal actions (Hiding, Sleight of Hand, etc) - I've never heard these called "obsessions" before, as opposed to say "knacks" or "skill tricks". The Will test was to avoid the ensorcelled runes that compel someone to read them. I lifted the trap from an ICE MERP module - in that system it will have been a Resistance Roll, probably based on either EM or PR. In classic D&D it would be a save vs Spells.

Fea-bella's Belief is the result of being cursed by a possessed Elfstone - her Belief is that the stone must be protected. Unfortunately it is currently lost - stolen! Fea-bella's player chose to act on this Belief by trying to bend the seeing throne to her will. The failure to do so is what led to her falling unconscious and hence being dragged off by aptr-gangrs.
 

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pemerton

Legend
I've played dozens of sessions of a game with a mechanic were you gain like 70% of your XP from failure (Dungeon World) and this is absolutely false.

The players want their actions to succeed.
The same thing is true in Torchbearer play, as I've experienced it.

The fact that a failed test can help advancement encourages players to take risks rather than play it safe - this is not about substituting player for character motivation but rather supporting an overall "adventurous" and even slightly gonzo approach to play, rather than turtling and doing nothing which is a known risk in dungeon-crawl RPGing.
 

The same thing is true in Torchbearer play, as I've experienced it.

The fact that a failed test can help advancement encourages players to take risks rather than play it safe - this is not about substituting player for character motivation but rather supporting an overall "adventurous" and even slightly gonzo approach to play, rather than turtling and doing nothing which is a known risk in dungeon-crawl RPGing.
Yeah. To be fair I don't think it would work with something like 5E/1D&D unless you had a DM who really leaned extremely hard into "don't roll unless there are consequences" (like, far, far harder than I've ever seen a DM lean into it IRL or on video, though I've Actual Plays where they did go that hard). With Dungeon World and similar it works so well because every action has consequences because of the soft/hard GM move system
 

pemerton

Legend
Yeah. To be fair I don't think it would work with something like 5E/1D&D unless you had a DM who really leaned extremely hard into "don't roll unless there are consequences" (like, far, far harder than I've ever seen a DM lean into it IRL or on video, though I've Actual Plays where they did go that hard). With Dungeon World and similar it works so well because every action has consequences because of the soft/hard GM move system
This takes us back to the notorious "two diagrams" from John Harper!
 


pemerton

Legend
I'm not actually familiar with those and internet is profoundly failing to show me them. Got any links?
Here's a post about them:
Upthread @Campbell linked to the following two diagrams, that set out (at a certain level of abstraction) two contrasting approaches to play:

View attachment 249616View attachment 249617
The one on the left is "story now" RPGing. The one on the right is "traditional" RPGing.

To say that 5e D&D has many tools and techniques the GM can deploy to accomplish moving the story forward is to say that 5e D&D follows the right-hand diagram.

<snip>

Conversely, Apocalypse World and Burning Wheel don't just have processes a GM uses to keep the story moving forward. They have processes that the table uses to keep events in motion. Those processes tell various participants to say various things under various constraints at various times. They are not just addressed to the GM. The tell us when a situation resolves without anyone having to decide, of their own motion, that it does.

This doesn't really have very much to do with uniformity of resolution system. Burning Wheel doesn't use uniform resolution systems: Steel is different from Resources is different from Circles is different from Wises is different from Duel of Wits is different from Fight! is different from Range and Cover is different from making a Climbing check to see if you can escape by climbing a tree. Classic Traveller doesn't use uniform resolution systems: the Streetwise subsystem is different from the vacc suit subsystem is different from the travelling-from-system-to-system subsystem is different from the evasion-in-a-small-craft subsystem, just to call out a few, but they are all conflict resolution systems. They all tell us when a situation resolves.
The RH diagram illustrates your point - that when resolution (eg rolling the dice for a check) is disconnected from consequences, with the GM-as-glue that sometimes brings them together, then a roll => consequences + advancement mechanic won't work so well.
 

Starfox

Adventurer
The fact that a failed test can help advancement encourages players to take risks rather than play it safe - this is not about substituting player for character motivation but rather supporting an overall "adventurous" and even slightly gonzo approach to play, rather than turtling and doing nothing which is a known risk in dungeon-crawl RPGing.
I agree this is a good thing. Fail-forward and making failed rolls not catastrophic is important in all styles of RPGs to avoid turtling down. An experienced GM can use such forgiving techniques to encourage players to take chances. What Torchbearer seems to do (from how you describe it) is to formalize and structure this, giving guiderails to both players and GMs. I admit this can be a good thing, but there are other ways to achieve this.

What I am trying to say is that Torchbearer (et al) can help produce a flow in the action, which can be harder (but not impossible) to do without such a rule structure. This comes at the cost of some additional mechanics that sometimes force player or GM actions. If this is a net plus is a matter of taste.

Different takes for different folks.
 

pemerton

Legend
I agree this is a good thing. Fail-forward and making failed rolls not catastrophic is important in all styles of RPGs to avoid turtling down. An experienced GM can use such forgiving techniques to encourage players to take chances. What Torchbearer seems to do (from how you describe it) is to formalize and structure this, giving guiderails to both players and GMs. I admit this can be a good thing, but there are other ways to achieve this.
This is John Harper's two diagrams: does following the game procedures ensure that the situation resolves (in Torchbearer the answer is "yes"); or does following the game procedures leave the question of whether or not the situation resolves unsettled, with the GM enjoying an express or implicit permission to decide one way or another.

@Manbearcat was getting at this contrast upthread when he posted:

When you make the claim "you manipulate game mechanics rather than <play a> roleplaying game" (eg the fiction doesn't matter as an input to action declaration and resolution and subsequent fiction/gamestate) are you saying something like this:

The GM's fiction (their preconceived ideas on setting and/or metaplot or an AP) doesn't have primacy in the trajectory of play (including the authority to suspend rules and impose desired outcomes if the GM feels its more conducive to a "good story") and/or the player's performative color/flourishes aren't their own primary input? Put another way, the formulation is:

GM provides story/setting

Players provide color and performative flourish
.
The bit I've italicised is the LH diagram. The bit I've underlined is the RH diagram.

What I am trying to say is that Torchbearer (et al) can help produce a flow in the action, which can be harder (but not impossible) to do without such a rule structure. This comes at the cost of some additional mechanics that sometimes force player or GM actions. If this is a net plus is a matter of taste.
Well, all mechanics sometimes force player actions - if the 5e GM says to the players "roll initiative" or "make a saving throw", the players don't have the authority to express a preference not to do so.

But Torchbearer's systems also constrain the GM, in a variety of significant ways. This is how it ensures that rolls resolve situations, which as has been discussed over the past handful of posts is what makes its advancement system work.

Those constraints on the GM also relate back to an earlier Manbearcat post in this this thread:
By my reckoning, there are four types of "crawls":

1) The kind I posted about prior that features tight systemization and procedures that exert extreme and consistent downward pressure on the "crawlers" toward a Skilled Play paradigm, decision-point-intensiveness around a myriad of both discrete and converging parts. Moldvay Basic and Torchbearer are the exemplars here.

<snip>

2) A heavily GM-directed experience where the crawl features free play, serial exploration and is more about performative aspects, ephemera (map and key and boxed text and possibly handouts), mood, tone, aesthetic than what (1) is about. GM's extrapolate their conception of the dungeon ecology and they play their mental model of the simulation while players try to suss out the GM's mental model while immersing themselves in all the stuff in that first sentence.

<snip 3 and 4>
The constraints on the GM are what makes Torchbearer type 1 rather than type 2.
 

Starfox

Adventurer
At this point I am trying to not be adversarial, just to understand.
Well, all mechanics sometimes force player actions - if the 5e GM says to the players "roll initiative" or "make a saving throw", the players don't have the authority to express a preference not to do so.
What I mean when I say "force action" is that the rules compel choices. Initiative rolls generally do not involve choices. Failed willpower rolls to stop reading an inscription do.

Edit: Forcing the GM - more on that below.

@Permeton refered to a post by @Manbearcat, I quote the original post directly.
When you make the claim "you manipulate game mechanics rather than <play a> roleplaying game" (eg the fiction doesn't matter as an input to action declaration and resolution and subsequent fiction/gamestate) are you saying something like this:

The GM's fiction (their preconceived ideas on setting and/or metaplot or an AP) doesn't have primacy in the trajectory of play (including the authority to suspend rules and impose desired outcomes if the GM feels its more conducive to a "good story") and/or the player's performative color/flourishes aren't their own primary input? Put another way, the formulation is:

GM provides story/setting

Players provide color and performative flourish.
What I mean by "manipulate game mechanics" is that there are metagame elements (hero points, scene framing) that allow the player to determine the action rather than relying strictly on in-world factors such as character skill, tools, and the complexity of the lock to be picked. In certain games we use hero points, but it feels your style rely more on metagame elements?

The way we play the results of a successful or failed action is outside the scope of the skill test itself. So the result could be (using secret GM resources now revealed) that behind the door the corridor just continues, empty, and nothing further happens. I guess that part of the reason we want to play like this is that it makes the game world more persistent and in a way more "real". The heroes are not progressing through a story, they are exploring an actual place (even if it is just a map the GM sketched on a notepad). The place existed before the PCs came here and is only affected by their actions, not story needs. But my style of game can lead to a lot of "nothing much" and potential boredom.

If I understand things right, in the type of game you are talking about, what is behind the door is determined by the check to open the door and to a degree on the scene framing done by the player, as well as the GM. In this way, the play is guaranteed to progress, there is no "nothing much" option. Or have I misunderstood?
 
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