What is the essence of D&D

Nagol

Unimportant
You have to read it in pari mutuel.

"it is possible to acquire knowledge of additional spells previously unknown as long as this does not violate the maximum number of spells which can be known."

(emphasis supplied)

This is referring to acquiring new spells that the spellcaster has never encountered before; the easy example is a MU finds Unseen Servant on a scroll, having never learned or tried to learn it.

However:
Chance to Know Each Listed Spell pertains to the percentage chance the character has by reason of his or her intelligence to learn any given spell in the level group. The character may select spells desired in any order he or she wishes. Each spell may be checked only once. Percentile dice are rolled, and if the number generated is equal to or less than the percentage chance shown, then the character can learn and thus know that spell (it may be in his or her spell books - explained hereafter). Example: A character with an intelligence of 12 desires to know a charm person spell that he finds in a book or scroll, percentile dice are rolled, but the number generated is 52, so that spell is not understood and can not be used by the character

Now, read the Minimum Number of Spells:

Example: The magic-user mentioned above who was unable to learn a charm person spell also fails to meet the minimum number of spells he or she can learn. The character then begins again on the list of 1st level spells, opts to see if this time charm person is able to be learned, rolls 04, and has acquired the ability to learn the spell. If and when the character locates such a spell, he or she will be capable of learning it.


Together, they mean that you get one shot to learn a spell; if you fail, you can never learn it again unless you increase your intelligence or fail to have the minimum number of known spells.


This rule is colloquially known as the "Wait, I reached 5th level and you're telling me I can't learn fireball??? I'm blowing this Popsicle stand!" Rule.
My M-U went lightning specialist because I couldn't learn Fireball or Wall of Fire!
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Though meant humorously, it's a fair stab at "Niche Protection is the Essence of D&D."
And, Niche Protection sure seems like a prominent feature of D&D, if one that eroded over time.

I'd say that's being charitable to both editions. 4e didn't remove /all/ the perennial problems with D&D, and it had a few gaping holes, at times. 5e, obviously, intentionally restored many perennial issues, with great success - and /with/ 'nostalgia' (or some more acceptable term for appreciating the game as it was back in the day) to tip the scales, is a very enjoyable game for doing so.
I despise nostalgia. I genuinely view it as a poison in our social nature; something we should be taught to sublimate and hold in low regard.

5e is fun as hell without any nostalgia.

D&D stacks the deck against itself when it comes to balance. If you wanted to rate balance in TTRPGs on a scale of 1 to 10, you'd have use decimal points to differentiate most editions of D&D.
Couldn’t possibly disagree more. Or, well, I guess I only care at all about roughly 3 editions, and even then only really 4e and 5e, but still. 4e and 5e are very close to each other, but no other edition comes close on the scale.

What, really, would be a barrier to RP? I mean, what in the actual mechanics or content of an RPG, could do that? (For that matter, what really /supports/ RP? I'd say being able to build a character as close to your vision of it as possible, and be able to play it in a way that conveys that vision, while remaining viable in the 'game' aspect and also not rendering anyone esle's vision non-viable in that same sense. That might be part of it.)

Like MMORPGs? (Never played one, but do they really not involve RPGs? Have they been sued for false advertising yet?)
...I guess... a little different. Still curious what those elements, are, exactly.

Often, when people talk about an RP element in an RPG (ignoring the whole thing /is/ an RPG), they're talking about some kind of carrot or stick to reward good RP or punish bad, typically with the DM judging which is which. Inspiration, in 5e, is an example of an RP carrot.
Personally, I don't actually find those helpful.
eh, I don’t care much about this particular argument. IMO having lore in the entry for every single option in the game promotes role playing, for a start.

As does making out of combat challenges have more mechanical weight, and keeping the binary result paradigm to simple checks.

Skill challenges alone helped turn “Garthok moves x [movement] and then attacks using [ability or weapon]/ I want to roll to intimidate the Duke” players into players who inhabit their characters and spend the entire session paying attention and thinking in the “voice” of their character about what’s going on.

The powers themselves also [try to] encourage thinking about how your character moves, fights, defends, and views the battlefield. IOW, they encourage and support roleplaying in combat.

The thing is, no mechanics can succeed at generating roleplaying, for every player. But even if we could somehow prove that 4e mostly failed at this, and that’s why it divided people (even tho they were divided before the PHB even came out), it wouldn’t mean that 4e doesn’t support RP. It would just mean they failed to engage most people with the game to the degree they needed to.

Off the top of my head and by no means complete and certainly not in any priority order:
  • a laser-like focus on combat pillar
  • the ebb and flow of combat -- the narrative of the PCs getting pushed down, rallying and coming back for a win is pretty deeply baked in
  • the additional restrictions wrt operational movement, planning, and investigation, both magical and slightly less magical
  • the commonality of magicks previously kept to higher level use (Misty Step for one)
  • square circles and short hypotenuses
  • abilities exclusively existing as combat assets
  • reduced reliance on external resources
  • reduced value of magic items and thus reason to explore
So, this is what I mean about presentation.

What laser-like focus on combat? Are skills, utility powers, rituals, magic items with no direct combat use (or movement stuff that clearly has use just as much in as out of combat), feats that do social or exploration/travel stuff, the mountains and mountains of lore in every single book and mag issue, skill challenges, etc all somehow focused on combat in a way that I missed?

What abilities are only usable in combat? Damaging powers? Even if we ignore that you can absolutely use those out of combat, how is that different from other editions?

Again, I’m not saying you’re wrong to have seen these things this way, I’m just saying that this perception is the result of presentation, not the actual nature of the things in question.

Thus my theory that the essence of DnD for many/most is at least half presentation and socially shared acceptance. Another significant factor is magic feeling as different as possible from the mundane. Make magic a set of skills with basic uses laid out that you have to “stunt” with just like physical skills and attacks in order to do wild stuff, and it probably won’t feel like dnd to most folks.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
What are those different reasons? Can you enumerate them please? Because from my perspective, the "it didn't feel like D&D" generally falls under a couple of reasons and most of them can be linked pretty clearly to the Primacy of Magic.
In other words you've already decided what the answer is... got it, and no I don't feel like wasting my time enumerating them for you.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
You know, maybe there's some crossover between pizza essentialism and D&D essentialism.

thinking

Naw, I don't want to go there!

I'm old enough to remember reading an article about San Diego's baseball stadium, and the writer being INCREDULOUS that they had fish tacos. As in, who would ever have fish on a taco????

Ha! A good seafood pizza rocks. :)
Oh man, tacos mariscos is life!

First time I ever had seafood pizza was in Lafayette Louisiana, and ive never looked back since.
Tolerance of pineapple pizza I hear is lagging....
Ugh. Some people wouldn’t know good pizza if it beat them up and stole their wallet for pizza money.
As I say, let a Million Pizza Pies bloom, from Pineapple to Seafood, from Margherita to Capricciosa, from New York to Deep Dish.

But not Papa John's. That's the Paladin of Pizzas. ugh
My only contention here is that since Paladins are good, the comparison can not be true.

Surely Papa John’s is the rust monster of pizza?
 
The magic classes need, for some segment of the player base, to be playing a different game from the mundane classes. They need to run on a different chassis, approach the game differently, and that needs to pervade all major facets of the game, from presentation, to gameplay, to how the narrative interacts with player decisions, for the game to feel like dnd.
Setting aside the satire: seriously do consider the question of rogues. I think you are sniffing around a real conclusion, but I don't think magic vs. nonmagic is the key distinction here. In "true D&D", the D&D in our nostalgia goggles, yes, the wizard is playing a different game than the fighter. But the rogue is playing a different game than the fighter too. And the cleric is playing a different game than the wizard. This diversity of the Core Four is, obviously, something that the 4E devs were aware of and tried to formalize with the class role system. But just as obviously, they missed the mark there for many players. Rogues' combat math says "striker", but since they use the same resource system as fighters, the decisions players are making are more similar to fighters, and so they feel more similar to play.
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
You know, maybe there's some crossover between pizza essentialism and D&D essentialism.

thinking

Naw, I don't want to go there!

I'm old enough to remember reading an article about San Diego's baseball stadium, and the writer being INCREDULOUS that they had fish tacos. As in, who would ever have fish on a taco????

Ha! A good seafood pizza rocks. :)
Well if you aren’t getting your pizza from Pizza Hut you aren’t playing right. 😉
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I despise nostalgia. I genuinely view it as a poison in our social nature; something we should be taught to sublimate and hold in low regard.
I obviously get nostalgia tweaks ... which drive me to insanity like discussing AD&D mages throwing darts

And I found it a bit of a thrill when i figured out a martial practice to support the really weird old Barbarian that hated magic items. (and how well that integrated with the rest of the development)
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Each pizza place has an optimal order I am a pizza optimizer
Pizza hut barbeque pizza with cheese bites crust
Dominoes pizza - 5 cheese pizza (delectible)
Valentinos - Special
Godfathers - Taco Pizza
 

Arnwolf666

Adventurer
Just because people like something doesn’t mean it’s nostalgia. Many people never stopped playing ad&d and becmi. Why concert their campaigns and characters. They have the tools to play their game. And some mechanics from that era are better for certain playstyles. Especially those that love save or die among other things.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
You have to read it in pari mutuel.

"it is possible to acquire knowledge of additional spells previously unknown as long as this does not violate the maximum number of spells which can be known."

(emphasis supplied)

This is referring to acquiring new spells that the spellcaster has never encountered before; the easy example is a MU finds Unseen Servant on a scroll, having never learned or tried to learn it.
In other words, interpreting "previously unknown" as meaning "never heard of it". OK, that's valid; though not jhow I've ever interpreted it.

I'll get back to the rest in a bit...
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Each pizza place has an optimal order I am a pizza optimizer
Pizza hut barbeque pizza with cheese bites crust
Dominoes pizza - 5 cheese pizza (delectible)
Valentinos - Special
Godfathers - Taco Pizza
I'm telling you this as a friend.

You may want to re-evaluate your life-choices if you have optimized your fast food pizza. :)
 

Imaro

Adventurer
What laser-like focus on combat? Are skills, utility powers, rituals, magic items with no direct combat use (or movement stuff that clearly has use just as much in as out of combat), feats that do social or exploration/travel stuff, the mountains and mountains of lore in every single book and mag issue, skill challenges, etc all somehow focused on combat in a way that I missed?

What abilities are only usable in combat? Damaging powers? Even if we ignore that you can absolutely use those out of combat, how is that different from other editions?

Again, I’m not saying you’re wrong to have seen these things this way, I’m just saying that this perception is the result of presentation, not the actual nature of the things in question.
I can only speak for myself when it comes to this, but it wasn't presentation that decided this for my group it was the sheer amount of time combats (as suggested by the encounter guidelines) took at low level and continued to increase as we went up in level. Our games, through no fault of our own were focused on combat because we had a limited amount of time to play and combat ate up the lion's share of it. And I'm talking trying to do 2 maybe 3 combats in a 4 hour period. This is the main difference my players (mostly casual) see between 4e and the rest of D&D, that the majority of our time was spent on a grid moving minis around in battle. It's why they view it as board gamey, samey (continuous calling out of mostly your best at-will) and pulling the focus away from roleplaying. We experienced this with no other edition (at least at low/mid-levels). And this for us at least was what made it an outlier... not primacy of magic
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Setting aside the satire: seriously do consider the question of rogues. I think you are sniffing around a real conclusion, but I don't think magic vs. nonmagic is the key distinction here. In "true D&D", the D&D in our nostalgia goggles, yes, the wizard is playing a different game than the fighter. But the rogue is playing a different game than the fighter too. And the cleric is playing a different game than the wizard. This diversity of the Core Four is, obviously, something that the 4E devs were aware of and tried to formalize with the class role system. But just as obviously, they missed the mark there for many players. Rogues' combat math says "striker", but since they use the same resource system as fighters, the decisions players are making are more similar to fighters, and so they feel more similar to play.
There is no version of dnd where I can see what you’re saying about the rogue and fighter playing a different game.

Perhaps it’s been too long since I played ODnD? I didn’t enjoy it even as a kid, after all. I like roleplaying in spite of my friends wanting to use dnd to do it, until 2e.

4e and 5e are the only numbered editions of dnd where I can see much difference between the two classes. I mean, the rogue had some inaugural abilities, but was absolutely playing the same game, while the wizard really wasn’t.

And I wasn’t employing any satire. That’s what was said. The mundane classes need to feel like basically a different game from the magic classes.
 
•a laser-like focus on combat pillar
While 'pillar' was coined for the Next playtest, D&D has /always/ been accused of being too focused on combat. It was, afterall, a wargame, the combat chapter has generally been the largest (rivaled only by spells, which were super-powerful in combat), skills were virtually absent the first 25 years. 3.5 didn't much change that. Skills, yes, nice addition, good first step, but completely binary, everything was resolved by a single check - or, if really 'complex' a repeated check. 4e broke rituals out from combat spells, and introduced Skill Challenges which finally weighted non-combat encounters the same as combat, and gave them a resolution framework that could draw the whole party into a no-combat scene, and, less dramatically, group checks, which finally let a party perform whole-party, skill-based actions without virtually guaranteed failure.
5e didn't completely un-do all that, it re-integrated rituals back into the spell lists, but didn't have them use slots, and it did away Skill Challenges, but kept group checks, /and/ it added downtime, and has some rules for exploration & interaction that go beyond single-character/single-check pass/fail tests.

So, focus on combat was really up to the DM & his group, in 4e, moreso than any other prior ed, which, at least, 5e took a stab at, too.

the ebb and flow of combat -- the narrative of the PCs getting pushed down, rallying and coming back for a win is pretty deeply baked in
Familiar from 3.5 - at least, it seemed like 3.5 combats often went that way for the group I played it with the most. I suppose it was lost once you got into 'rocket tag' territory. Conversely, I recall a lot of 'grind' in old-school combats that went south.

the additional restrictions wrt operational movement, planning, and investigation, both magical and slightly less magical
No restrictions, but fewer built-in benefits from combos like scry/buff/teleport, sure. Something else 5e hasn't entirely abandoned.
the commonality of magicks previously kept to higher level use (Misty Step for one)
Prior ed's teleports were longer distance and less restricted than that specific, racial power. Aside from that, most pivotal effects like flight, invisibility, and long-distance/beyond l-o-s teleport were pushed to significantly /higher/ level.

square circles and short hypotenuses
Simplified square-counting, making faster/simpler combat.

abilities exclusively existing as combat assets
There was significant siloing of combat & non-combat. What that did, was allow non-combat resources to be used more freely as such, and made it practical to greatly reduce the quantity of combat-available resources (spells in particular).

reduced value of magic items and thus reason to explore
Very much so. Magic items may have ballooned in nominal price, but the utility they delivered was essentially base-line - the most critical, keeping up attack & defense, being easily replaced with Inherent Bonuses.

I despise nostalgia. I genuinely view it as a poison in our social nature; something we should be taught to sublimate and hold in low regard.
I cannot understand that attitude. But, hey, it's your attitude, 'tude at it in good health and enjoy your always-fresh-and-new games. I can see the appeal in that, too.

Maybe, if I live long enough, I'll become nostalgic for people hating on nostalgia?

5e is fun as hell without any nostalgia.
Oh, it's not /hell/ without any nostalgia. Purgatory, maybe...

I guess I only care at all about roughly 3 editions, and even then only really 4e and 5e, but still. 4e and 5e are very close to each other, but no other edition comes close on the scale.
If the other one is 3e, yes, it's off whatever scale you're measuring the balance gulf between 4e & 5e against. 3e & 4e are, ironically, the outliers, balance-wise. 4e is often called 'balanced' or 'too balanced.' Both are exaggerations, IMHO.

IMO having lore in the entry for every single option in the game promotes role playing, for a start.
"lore" to me suggests setting information & tie-ins. Or do we just mean fluff/flavor text? Either way, if they're not flexible, they can limit character concept/realization.

As does making out of combat challenges have more mechanical weight, and keeping the binary result paradigm to simple checks.
I can see how weightier out-of-combat resolution would give more opportunities for RP, since you're expanding the range of play.

Skill challenges alone helped turn “Garthok moves x [movement] and then attacks using [ability or weapon]/ I want to roll to intimidate the Duke” players into players who inhabit their characters and spend the entire session paying attention and thinking in the “voice” of their character about what’s going on.
The powers themselves also [try to] encourage thinking about how your character moves, fights, defends, and views the battlefield. IOW, they encourage and support roleplaying in combat.
Oh, that's starting to sound like "fiction first?"

So, this is what I mean about presentation.
Thus my theory that the essence of DnD for many/most is at least half presentation and socially shared acceptance. Another significant factor is magic feeling as different as possible from the mundane. Make magic a set of skills with basic uses laid out that you have to “stunt” with just like physical skills and attacks in order to do wild stuff, and it probably won’t feel like dnd to most folks.
OK, yeah, that sounds plausible. 'Presentation' always felt like an excuse to me, like most gamers either play the game at such a casual level they hardly interact with the presentation of the rules, or they dive so deep into the rules in search of pearls of system-mastery that they transcend the presentation.
 
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