D&D (2024) What could One D&D do to push the game more toward story?

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Riffing on the other similarly titled thread...

I keep hearing about how modern D&D is a collaborative storytelling experience and how story trumps all. But then I look around to actual story games and they look nothing like 5E.

So, with the new edition, I wonder: what rules tweaks could the designers do to the 5E chassis to make it work better as a storytelling game?

The biggest issues with 5E as a good storytelling game is that whatever story happens is either an accident of the dice or must be imposed by the referee and/or the players rather than being naturally emergent from the mechanics. The closest we have to story-based mechanics in 5E is inspiration, and it is, at present, anemic. But, more often than not, the mechanics tend to get in the way of story rather than support it. You want to run an epic boss encounter, but the action economy and a few lucky crits could mean the fight's over in a round or two. You want a big scary bad guy, but forgot to write immune to stun and charm in their stat block, so your big bad gets to just stand there and drool while the PCs wreck their face. You want to play a cool, badass, heroic character but you have to roll a d20 to accomplish just about anything...no matter how unimportant. But that all makes for a boring story.

I think if D&D is going to be a storytelling game it should have some actual story-focused mechanics in the game. Provide primers on scene structure, act structure, how scene-and-sequel works, character motivations and arcs, picking scene goals, plot points, long dark night of the soul, save the cat, kick the dog, twists...you know...actual storytelling guides. A good primer on improv would be great, too. It should have metacurrency that can actually alter the story (for players and referees). It should maybe cut back on the pointless bookkeeping, too. Characters in stories die when the writer needs them to, so hit points are a waste of time to track. You rarely see characters in stories going to the bathroom or eating, so there's really no point in having the rules for food and water in a storytelling game. Come to think of it, everything in a story serves a purpose, whether plot- or character-based. So, in theory, the only things that should be in the game are story-focused mechanics. Everything else is superfluous.

Thoughts?
 

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Reynard

Legend
I think PbtA and FitD present a potential path to that, which ultimately boils down to when things happen in play we say "yes, and" and move forward.

Specific to the transition from 5e to 1D&D would be to adopt a narrative style multidimensional task resolution outcome. There's a DC but X below that means one complication thing and Y above that means some exceptional result. That is, don't let the dice be binary.

It's unlikely but it wouldn't be hard to implement. I as GM already use many die rolls as informative checks rather than binary pass/fail states.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I think PbtA and FitD present a potential path to that, which ultimately boils down to when things happen in play we say "yes, and" and move forward.
Right. But what that actually means, how it works at the table isn't really well explained in the context of D&D. Yes, and...okay what is that, what does it look like, how does it work, etc. I know it's an improv technique. I know what it looks like in that context, and how it works, but it very quickly makes D&D nonsensical if actually applied.

Player: "Look, I just found the Rod of Seven Parts in this bag of holding. What luck."

Referee: "Yes, and an eagle swoops down and steals it from you."

The player wants to be able to declare their bit but, importantly, for the referee to not be able to do that response.
Specific to the transition from 5e to 1D&D would be to adopt a narrative style multidimensional task resolution outcome. There's a DC but X below that means one complication thing and Y above that means some exceptional result. That is, don't let the dice be binary.

It's unlikely but it wouldn't be hard to implement. I as GM already use many die rolls as informative checks rather than binary pass/fail states.
In PbtA, the results are 41.67% fail, 41.67% mixed, and 16.67% success. You could easily swap out DCs for the rough equivalent for that in D&D. Say 1-8 = fail, 9-16 = mixed, and 17-20 = success. Or tack on a degrees of success with 5 lower than the needed DC and 5 higher than the needed DC.

I think something like Fate's compels needs to be in the game, honestly. If we're going for proper storygame here then we need something that will give the player a coupon for playing along and biting plot hooks.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
Riffing on the other similarly titled thread...

I keep hearing about how modern D&D is a collaborative storytelling experience and how story trumps all. But then I look around to actual story games and they look nothing like 5E.

So, with the new edition, I wonder: what rules tweaks could the designers do to the 5E chassis to make it work better as a storytelling game?

The biggest issues with 5E as a good storytelling game is that whatever story happens is either an accident of the dice or must be imposed by the referee and/or the players rather than being naturally emergent from the mechanics. The closest we have to story-based mechanics in 5E is inspiration, and it is, at present, anemic. But, more often than not, the mechanics tend to get in the way of story rather than support it. You want to run an epic boss encounter, but the action economy and a few lucky crits could mean the fight's over in a round or two. You want a big scary bad guy, but forgot to write immune to stun and charm in their stat block, so your big bad gets to just stand there and drool while the PCs wreck their face. You want to play a cool, badass, heroic character but you have to roll a d20 to accomplish just about anything...no matter how unimportant. But that all makes for a boring story.

I think if D&D is going to be a storytelling game it should have some actual story-focused mechanics in the game. Provide primers on scene structure, act structure, how scene-and-sequel works, character motivations and arcs, picking scene goals, plot points, long dark night of the soul, save the cat, kick the dog, twists...you know...actual storytelling guides. A good primer on improv would be great, too. It should have metacurrency that can actually alter the story (for players and referees). It should maybe cut back on the pointless bookkeeping, too. Characters in stories die when the writer needs them to, so hit points are a waste of time to track. You rarely see characters in stories going to the bathroom or eating, so there's really no point in having the rules for food and water in a storytelling game. Come to think of it, everything in a story serves a purpose, whether plot- or character-based. So, in theory, the only things that should be in the game are story-focused mechanics. Everything else is superfluous.

Thoughts?
I don't know the answer because d&d is so extremely different from every story/narrative game I've ever played or run. There was a panel at garycon a few years ago where mearls mentions one mechanic an early version of 5e had that sounds similar to fate style compels here at 1:21:20 but it doesn't seem like something that fits within what people normally consider d&d. Mindja,,er might be the closest I've seen a story/narrative game to d&d given it includes things like equipment lists races/species & so on but midway through the tome it's printed in things eventually click & you realize it's still just fate underneath the surface.

While I was typing this one specific improv technique came up but it's only one of many & the slavish devotion to it as some kind of holy grail that the GM should somehow rush to deploy is quite harmful to any semblance of story if the GM's role is to be anything but life support for the main character's story.

The DMG does not even mention them in passing last I checked.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Bah.
Make easier rules to convert monsters to different class types.

If I want to make an adventure about an evil cult, it should be easy to take evil cultist and convert them to "evil cult warrior", "evil cult priest" ,"evil cult assassin" and "evil cult warlock".

This way I can focus back on the story and NPC characteristics.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I'm torn on this question... because my true answer would be something along the lines of "There probably shouldn't be any, because trying to 'gamify' a story is the antithesis of creating it." In other words... when you put in 'game rules', the players will naturally gravitate towards being more concerned with "playing the rules of the game"... and thereby missing the forest through the trees of creating a story. People get so tied up in how mechanics work that their focus would be on the storytelling mechanics, rather than the story that was meant to emerge from it.

Now the reason I probably SHOULDN'T be the one to answer this question and why almost NO ONE should take my answer as by any means "correct"... is because my feelings and opinions are coming at it from a wildly divergent angle than probably 99.9% of the player base. Because I am first and foremost an improvisor and have been performing and directing and producing performance improv for a quarter-century. And as a result... my brain has been completely rewired and conditioned towards creating story out of nothing but the interactions with other people... without using any sorts of "rules" to do so. And even the so-called "rules of improv" that people tout are not actually rules that experienced improvisors follow... they exist merely to help new improvisors get better at the basics and middle-range stuff before they finally realize that "improv rules" aren't needed either.

And thus "game rules" don't help you get better at story-based improvisation... they exist merely to focus and constrain story... not help generate it. Things like improv "games" are not there to help us create better improvised scenes... they are there more or less as a party-trick to impress the audience. "Oh look! They are creating this interesting and compelling story with interesting and compelling characters... while also changing the genre they are in every 30 seconds! Cool!" And likewise... any sort of commodified "game mechanics" are really just trying to "teach you effective improv technique" at a table while in the middle of playing the game you are using them for and without a professional improv instructor there to give you notes to tell you how or why these rules exist and whether or not your use of them is actually helping you do the thing you're trying to get out of it.

Which means in truth that I can't effectively answer the actual question... because my answer for what would be the best "storygame" mechanics to add to D&D would be-- take improv classes. LOL. Actually learn and practice the techniques of creating improvised story that "storygames" attempt to do while in the middle of playing it. But to me, that's like trying to learn how to play baseball during the actual baseball game. It doesn't really work very well. At best you learn how to play the mechanics-- the "game rules"-- but you don't really learn the underlying thing these rules and mechanics are trying to serve.

But that's really a completely unhelpful answer and I freely admit it.

And the only reason I bring it up is because the same way I'm an advocate of D&D and RPGs to people who don't play them and don't realize how fun they can be... I am also an advocate for the art of improvisation itself and want to inspire as many people as I can to give it a try. Because in my opinion it ends up being the purest form of expression of what "storygames" are trying to teach us. So rather than stutterstep your way through it by playing something like Fiasco or Ten Candles... just go right to the source. Because once you do... once you learn how to effectively create a compelling narrative and story at a table without ANY rules whatsoever... then after the fact games like Fiasco and Ten Candles will become fun to play not because they are telling you how to do it, but because they are just helping you focus and constrain your improvisation the exact same way improv games like "Film And Theater Styles", "The Alphabet Game", and "Stand Sit Kneel" do.
 
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aco175

Legend
As a DM, I can change the story by modifying the rules and results. If I magically give the BBEG resistance to something or more HP suddenly I may be changing the story for a more dramatic result. Half the people on these boards shout yes and the other half shout no or foul. If the players did it to make the PC hit or to suddenly have an item, DMs would likely call foul and constrain them. Seems to advantage the DM which is likely where this sort of fudge should lay.

I give the players a 'hero point' each night of play which is like inspiration but can be used for anything. It gives them a chance to change the story a bit. A monster hits them and now it rerolls, or reroll a saving throw- or make the monster reroll. It seems a bit like the bard power where you add 1d6 to a roll over the next 10 minutes. It changes the story to make the PC do better and not fail.

Bringing a good story into plot and a campaign is hard to do. Maybe the designers can help in making plot and campaign tie together better and how to use the rules for better play. We have threads here about cinematic play and fail forward, but if Wizards has not made the rules part of the core mechanic many will not use them.
 

SteveC

Doing the best imitation of myself
There are many things that they could do, but I don't expect the new edition to go into them. There are many games out there that have strong mechanical story support, but these games are also really different from the D&D experience. From Fate to Blades in the Dark to Swords of the Serpentine to Dungeon World there are a lot of games out there. The problem is that they approach things quite differently to traditional D&D because they were designed in response to D&D and to do things that it didn't do well.

What could be done, it to separate the different pillars of play in execution. If you've seen the game ICONS, it uses a D20 combat system matched up with the Blades in the Dark skill system and it works pretty well. With the concept of "pillars" of the game that we heard about during the playtest for D&D Next, this is something that could really work.

But, I think everyone knows that won't happen, since it would be a massive change to the game and not something that current casual players would easily adopt. I remember saying that the notion of adventures that didn't require combat to solve would be a massive shift in the game, but it turns out that they were just bolted on to existing mechanics, that don't serve them really well.

What I think will happen: I think the next DMG will have a few 1-2 page modules that attempt to offer some mechanical support for more "story" approaches, so you might have the shell of a mystery mechanic or a social conflict system. I'd say that will be about it.
 

Reynard

Legend
There are many things that they could do, but I don't expect the new edition to go into them. There are many games out there that have strong mechanical story support, but these games are also really different from the D&D experience. From Fate to Blades in the Dark to Swords of the Serpentine to Dungeon World there are a lot of games out there. The problem is that they approach things quite differently to traditional D&D because they were designed in response to D&D and to do things that it didn't do well.
Emphasis mine.

I think you could layer Aspects on to D&D without a whole lot of effort, and could easily change Insiration into fate points. Not that I think that is going to happen -- I'm just saying you could play D&D with that feature of Fate and it would work fine. But then, underneath the aspects, Fate is a pretty trad game engine.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Kill the dice. Give more ways to obviate or actually be good at what characters are good at.

Emphasize location design and improv for DMs.

Have an expanded discussion on not just RP, but party building in the PH.
 

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