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

pemerton

Legend
Are you referring to the original Dragonlance Modules here? I never played them or ran them. I believe that they were very much on rails and even needed DM force and the use of illusionism to make work as intended.
That use of GM force/illusionism is what I was getting at when I referred to "the GM suspending the rules, and managing the backstory, so as to make sure a story happens somewhat independently of the actual minutiae of play."

That is a way of getting story in RPGing which is quite different from AW and other "indie"-/"story"-games.
 

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I've mentioned this elsewhere requiring the earning of Inspiration for levelling up is one way of pushing the game towards story. At this point the player is required (dare I say forced) to engage with their Bonds, Ideals, Flaws and Goals (BIFG) to progress. That feels like the foremost change we should making with the mechanics at hand.

The only disagreement people may have would who adjudicates whether one has successfully leaned into their BIFG sufficiently to earn their Inspiration (the DM, the player, the table). At our table it was the DM (me) - we had an instance where the player disagreed with me, and then I let the table decide, which backed my decision. The player in question is very much more tactically/mechanically minded. I did not yield, because I did not want to cheapen the efforts made by the other players - otherwise I may as well as have removed the requirement altogether.

Besides Inspiration, other mechanical benefits could also be earned Piety, Faith, Honour...etc
The trick is to tie it to levelling up otherwise the BIFG mechanic is ignored, especially by players who are not naturally engaging with the game's narrative aspect.
 
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ART!

Deluxe Unhuman
I've mentioned this elsewhere requiring the earning of Inspiration for levelling up is one way of pushing the game towards story. At this point the player is required (dare I say forced) to engage with their Bonds, Ideals, Flaws and Goals (BIFG) to progress. That feels like the foremost change we should making with the mechanics at hand.

The only disagreement people may have would who adjudicates whether one has successfully leaned into their BIFG sufficiently to earn their Inspiration (the DM, the player, the table). At our table it was the DM (me) - we had an instance where the player disagreed with me, and then I let the table decide, which backed my decision. The player in question is very much more tactically/mechanically minded. I did not yield, because I did not want to cheapen the efforts made by the other players - otherwise I may as well as have removed the requirement altogether.

Besides Inspiration, other mechanical benefits could also be earned Piety, Faith, Honour...etc
The trick is to tie it to levelling up otherwise the BIFG mechanic is ignored, especially by players who are not naturally engaging with the game's narrative aspect.
Interesting. How do you go about tracking this, or gauging when it's time to level up?

I'm running Tomb of Annihilation, and the PCs have recently, finally entered the titular tomb. I quickly realized that encounters were going to happen much more frequently there compared to the game thus far, so now I'm allowing long rests every 8-9 encounters instead once per day.

However, reading your comments makes me think I'm going about this the wrong way. I know long rests is different than leveling, but maybe I should be focusing on character arcs and story hurdles rather than encounters.
 

Interesting. How do you go about tracking this, or gauging when it's time to level up?
Good question.
Some factors - our table moves at a slower pace than most, high level 13th, I do not keep track of XPs but rather Inspiration points used.
We have 3 level-up conditions at any time...
(a) Completion of 1/2 Level+1 (i.e. 7) Sessions and the use of Level+1 (i.e. 14) Inspiration points (milestone and XP variant) OR
(b) Obtaining a Conch of Teleportation (achieve a great feat in the storyline) OR
(c) Attending the 4th Council Meeting (timeline event)

As soon as they go up a level, the slate is wiped clean for (a), and (b) and (c) are updated.

The point for this entire exercise of mine was more to ensure
(1) The PCs integrate with the narrative aspect of the game
(2) I have a levelling-up system that is player-facing and that works with my campaign pacing.

So, to answer your question I analysed my campaign and used numbers that best suited it based on our play history & frequency as well as how the campaign story would progress and what I thought would be fair. I guess the earning of Inspiration points is tempered by the number of sessions needed (milestone equivalent).

I'm running Tomb of Annihilation, and the PCs have recently, finally entered the titular tomb. I quickly realized that encounters were going to happen much more frequently there compared to the game thus far, so now I'm allowing long rests every 8-10 encounters instead once per day.

However, reading your comments makes me think I'm going about this the wrong way. I know long rests is different than leveling, but maybe I should be focusing on character arcs and story hurdles rather than encounters.

Yeah, I see your dilemma.
I haven't purchased Tomb of Annihilation just yet so I cannot comment insightfully on progression within that storyline but I will say that I'd imagine my current campaign which is a ToD/SKT mashup allows for much more freedom for characters to play into the BIFG which doesn't help you.
However - you can use your pre-existing pacing metric of 8-10 encounters which is a milestone mechanic essentially and tack on x required Inspiration uses. Obviously not too many if it is difficult to leverage their BIFG within the Tomb.

I hope I've made some sense in all that rambling.
 

ART!

Deluxe Unhuman
Good question.
Some factors - our table moves at a slower pace than most, high level 13th, I do not keep track of XPs but rather Inspiration points used.
We have 3 level-up conditions at any time...
(a) Completion of 1/2 Level+1 (i.e. 7) Sessions and the use of Level+1 (i.e. 14) Inspiration points (milestone and XP variant) OR
(b) Obtaining a Conch of Teleportation (achieve a great feat in the storyline) OR
(c) Attending the 4th Council Meeting (timeline event)

As soon as they go up a level, the slate is wiped clean for (a), and (b) and (c) are updated.

The point for this entire exercise of mine was more to ensure
(1) The PCs integrate with the narrative aspect of the game
(2) I have a levelling-up system that is player-facing and that works with my campaign pacing.

So, to answer your question I analysed my campaign and used numbers that best suited it based on our play history & frequency as well as how the campaign story would progress and what I thought would be fair. I guess the earning of Inspiration points is tempered by the number of sessions needed (milestone equivalent).



Yeah, I see your dilemma.
I haven't purchased Tomb of Annihilation just yet so I cannot comment insightfully on progression within that storyline but I will say that I'd imagine my current campaign which is a ToD/SKT mashup allows for much more freedom for characters to play into the BIFG which doesn't help you.
However - you can use your pre-existing pacing metric of 8-10 encounters which is a milestone mechanic essentially and tack on x required Inspiration uses. Obviously not too many if it is difficult to leverage their BIFG within the Tomb.

I hope I've made some sense in all that rambling.
No, that all makes sense! Thanks!

I've been rewarding Inspiration for 1s rolled that go to whoever rolled the 1 (they're heroes (or the like), so they come back from failure), and 20s rolled that add an Inspiration to a pool that the players can draw from. I could keep track of that, but the 1s and 20s things is so mechanical and chance-based that it has nothing to do with character per se. So, I could require a Background-related rationale for drawing from the Inspiration from the pool, for instance. Hmm...
 

pemerton

Legend
I've mentioned this elsewhere requiring the earning of Inspiration for levelling up is one way of pushing the game towards story. At this point the player is required (dare I say forced) to engage with their Bonds, Ideals, Flaws and Goals (BIFG) to progress. That feels like the foremost change we should making with the mechanics at hand.
I haven't purchased Tomb of Annihilation just yet so I cannot comment insightfully on progression within that storyline but I will say that I'd imagine my current campaign which is a ToD/SKT mashup allows for much more freedom for characters to play into the BIFG which doesn't help you.
I think your second post brings out an important point - whether the approach you set out in your first post can fully gain purchase depends to some extent on elements of the fiction that are, traditionally, under GM control.

Marvel Heroic RP uses an XP system (which is not about levelling in the literal sense, but does allow the purchase of PC build power-ups) which is a bit similar to your Inspiration/BIFTs approach - each PC has (normally) two "Milestones" which are thematically-apt lists of trigger conditions for earning XP (eg Captain America gets XP for mentoring a hero, starting or dissolving a superhero team, etc). There are technical rules about how often each trigger actually earns XP (at will for the 1 XP trigger, 1x/scene for the 3 XP trigger, once for the 10 XP "capstone" trigger and then the Milestone is done and the PC needs a new one to reflect how they've changed).

In my experience, what this produces in play is a bit like a Marvel comic - the characters play out their concerns, sometimes rivalries, etc, against the background of the action (fighting Dr Doom or whatever). Because the system is relatively abstract and flexible in the way it handles action declarations and scene framing, it doesn't really get in the way of this.

I think there would be scope, in a hypothetical (or even actual) new DMG to give a GM advice on how D&D, which is a bit more "rigid" in its approach to scene framing and resolution, could be deployed so as to support your approach rather than cause the possible friction that might arise out of (say) a rather trad-ish dungeon like ToA.
 

I think there would be scope, in a hypothetical (or even actual) new DMG to give a GM advice on how D&D, which is a bit more "rigid" in its approach to scene framing and resolution, could be deployed so as to support your approach rather than cause the possible friction that might arise out of (say) a rather trad-ish dungeon like ToA.
I agree. Given the characters at our table are level 13 and are of a certain age within the fiction - I have allowed them to select 10 (half their level +4 initial) Bonds, Ideals, Flaws, Personality Traits and Personal Goals for their characters. My intention is to offer more as rewards when the fiction calls for it.

Even though I am the final arbiter for success, I do not want to make it challenging for the players to earn Inspiration for their characters. The point was always to encourage leaning into story more and with this increased range of options it makes it easier for them to be creative/inspired. We are testing it out, it is still very early on. By the time we finish our campaign and ready to start another we will have a better idea where we could improve on the system.

Due to our pacing, the system appears to work for us, because within x sessions we would have dungeon-delved, travelled, long-rested, socialised and possibly down-timed...etc All of this is more than enough time for the players to lean into their character's story hooks.
Within the traditional dungeon - it really depends how much time (i.e. how many levels) the PCs are expected to adventure there.

Despite Undermountain being a traditional dungeon, I'd imagine its easier with this mechanic than a dungeon like ToA.
 

This is a similar problem as the one trying to classify playstyles. There are words out there but little agreement as to what they mean.

So, how about throwing out some concepts there and see if any stick.

Trad-Story. Here the game is played in a traditional D&D way but there is an expectation that the characters are protagonists. This is characterised by a reasonable chance to survive a fight/encounter. The campaign ends if a TPK occurs or they defeat the final boss.
The story is the interaction between the party and various NPCs and resolves as a series of arc where the party unravels the plots of antagonist NPCs that have come to their attention.

It is reinforced by game elements that increase character competence. Like powers, skills, more hit points and so forth, a good skill challenge mechanic.

It could be further enhanced by things like Fate Points: - to be cashed in, in the event of a TPK. that is, convert it to a capture or waking up in the battle site sans equipment or what ever.
Or by a re-roll currency like Inspiration.
Or by allowing the DM to make a hard move on the plot like capturing the party in an encounter where they were overmatched with out playing out the encounter. This would then yield the party plot coupons that could be cashed in to set up their escape.
An example would be the rogue cashed in her coupon to declare that she has lock picks hidden in the braids of her hair with out any pre-establishing fiction.

A more narrative/drama focused game could have mechanics relating to back story or other elements but I am not familiar with such games to suggest any category names or the mechanics to support them.

What I do not want in response to this post are blank statement that one does not like this but is the category name useful, do the suggested mechanics fit into this or should they belong to another category or another (an suggest a name for this).
Ideally these suggestion should promote story (for some value of story) and I leave it to those familiar with modern narrative type games to offer their suggestions and classifiers.
OK, but let me observe: I would consider my own game to be pretty much intended to operate in the 'story game' space, the agenda is weaving a tale of heroes arising and becoming immortal legends/myths. All of the elements, I mean all as in virtually exactly as you describe them, are present, except you label this 'trad'.

So, I think you have perhaps missed something key here. IMHO that is where the driving impetus of story comes from. The story, as various story game exponents have long opined, is about the PCs and is thus primarily the domain of the players, not so much of the GM. So in HoML the action is determined by the players choosing quests (they can just pretty much make them up, though the need for fictional coherence will impose certain limits on theme and content). The GM frames scenes, and thus has some significant say in the specifics of challenges, but then the players decide what the intent of the component actions is, and have some tools like fate and practices, to shape how they deploy themselves and what the results will be. In other words, I think its more the things where the players say "and we're attempting to achieve X, followed by the GM's more reactive "and you will get that if you can pass an A check."

I guess my point is, trad may also use some of the same stuff, potentially, but full bore story game has an additional toolkit and process of play architecture that makes it do what it does. And what it does is basically say "well, you wanted to do X, here you go! Oh, here's a twist!" I mean, HoML has a specific theme, like all of these kinds of game. Trad games, OSR games, etc. all IMHO have equally specific themes and genre conventions.
 


For my money, I think the way to do this (push the game more toward story) is to work within the structure 5E already has. I don't see WOTC adding any big story-centered mechanics to the game any time soon, so I've been trying to figure out how to use stuff that's already in the game to achieve this. I'd love to hear what others have come up with along those lines.

I flirted with assigning die types to each Background characteristic. Flaw gets a d4, and then the player can distribute d6s and one d8 among Ideal, Bond, and Personality. If players want more than one Bond (for instance), I'd probably allow another d6 there. Mechanically, it's very much like the Proficiency Die variant rule in the game, but the player could add that die to a relevant roll once per game session, or in-game day.

The problem was getting the players and even myself to even start doing this. Now, instead, I'm just going to remind people to use their Background stuff to give them advantage on appropriate rolls.
Right, but my response to this, and I'm not against it, is simply that it won't change the fundamental equation. A game where the GM presents a dungeon and the player's PCs venture around in it won't suddenly become a story about the PCs vs being a story about the dungeon, simply because a player can interject "I roll my extra bonus d6 when I attack the orc threatening the halfling because my bond with him says I protect him at any cost!" I mean, it will clearly provide a more ready correspondence between character traits and expected situations where the character will try something. It will make those things tried likely to be successful (which isn't necessarily moving you toward more story, just more success). I don't think those are bad, but I would at least couple them with a convention that says "and on success the player describes how the character's intent was met" even if it means authoring a bit of added fiction.
 

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