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What's the Next Great Leap Forward in RPG Mechanics?

Not the best way of putting it, IMHO. D&D has to appeal to it's own past and it's established player base, and thus the often quixotic playstyles they managed to fit to it over the decades (which, yes, is one of the reasons they had to roll back some of the innovations adopted by 4e - though those innovations may have been made by other games years if not decades earlier). But D&D has never supported a broad range of play styles, it's just that, as it was the dominant game for so long, gamers have adapted many styles to D&D, as best they could.There's been a strong sense of a pendulum swinging on certain issues. 3e combat was too static, so 4e combat became dynamic and tactical, so 5e combat became fast. Then again, there are other aspects where it's just a straight trend - spellcasting just getting easier an easier with every edition, until, in 4e, it was no more risky or penalized to cast a ranged spell as any other ranged attack (like a bow), and, in 5e, where it's now easier to cast a spell in melee than to use a bow. On the DM side, yes, the pendulum has taken a longer swing from the player-empowerment of 3e & 4e, back to the DM empowerment of the classic game. Sounds like fun.
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I am not saying it needs to support multiple game styles in the way that a game super focused on it would. What I am saying is it needs to not present strong impediments or problems to these range of styles. D&D has never been the game for a group or person who is very into one particular thing and is looking for a specialized system to fit it. But you still get a broad range of play styles and preferences due to the fact that so many people play the thing. I think the goal of 5E was all about bringing as many different types of gamers to the table. And I think that is the position D&D is in because it is so big, naturally you are going to have a lot of people playing it in slightly different ways. If an edition comes out, and it feels like an affront to a group that has been playing this way or that for ages, then it can lose a whole segment of the market. So it is about not making D&D so specialized (aside from its own hallmarks that people have come to expect) that the guy who wants to focus more on hack n slash isn't put off but neither is the person who wants to focus more on story or on RP and investigating (or more likely have a blend of all those things over several sessions). So the innovations it brings will need to be stuff that don't trip out folks too much.

I think innovation in mechanics and system is important and it is good we have niche games exploring them. But I also think there is this condescending attitude that creeps into these discussions when it comes to D&D, where people sort of sneer at D&D players and preferences for 'holding back' innovation. I don't know, to me that is a bit elitist and feels like it isn't really interested in understanding why people are playing the game in the first place (it just wants them to finally adopt some other way or be more open to changes that a person wants). But when you have a big and popular game getting in changes is more like an election. The big game has to appeal to so many folks, many of whom have been playing the game for years already and have certain expectations around it, that you really can't expect that its going to be introducing massive and radical changes to the rules for the sake of innovation (innovation isn't the aim, the aim is producing a good edition of D&D that will be played by the maximum number of people possible).

That said, while I haven't had a chance to play it yet (because I got two campaigns going with another system right now), I have been reading the 5E books and interested in running something. Personally I think it is a very interesting edition that makes some very good and important alterations, but does it with a light enough hand that it will be accepted by a wide cross section of gamers (and that kind of light hand takes a certain amount of skill in my view).
 
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I have no idea what the next big leap is going to be.

All I can hope for it does not result in diceless games being the norm.

Nothing against people who enjoy it that way, but I cannae be playin' without rollin' 'em bones!
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
I am not sure I'd agree with you on spells. I am still dipping my toes in 5E so I can't comment on that edition but the original spell system was very simply in a lot of ways, particularly in the amount of text each spell had. In some ways, I think 3E was more complicated than 1e or 2e with spells. I think it depends on what aspects you are focusing on though in your assessment.
Oh, no, I didn't mean easier on the player, but less risk and fewer restrictions on the caster. In old-school D&D, casting in melee was very risky, if your spell was interrupted it was spoiled and you lost memory of it. Very difficult, very risky. It's only gotten easier since. In 3e your spell provoked (unless you made a concentration check) and ranged attackers could ready to interrupt you, but even if you were hit, you got a concentration check to cast the spell anyway, even if you failed and the spell didn't go off, it remained prepared and you could try to use it again, later. In 4e, spells were no different than any other ranged or area attack, they provoked, and Immediate Interrupt could, well, interrupt them, but they still went off even if you were hit, so a caster using a ranged spell was no worse off in melee than an archer. You wouldn't think casters could have it any easier than that, but in 5e, spells don't provoke, even in melee, there's no interrupts, only Reactions, and you can cast a spell in melee at no penalty, which is even easier than using a ranged weapon in melee (which is at disadvantage). So, yeah, that's an example of a straight-line development over time to contrast the examples of pendulum-swings.

I think the goal of 5E was all about bringing as many different types of gamers to the table. And I think that is the position D&D is in because it is so big, naturally you are going to have a lot of people playing it in slightly different ways. If an edition comes out, and it feels like an affront to a group that has been playing this way or that for ages, then it can lose a whole segment of the market.
Both true. D&D is played in a lot of slightly different ways simply because so many people play it, and there is a segment of it's fan base that violently rejects anything more than that. When D&D innovates, or even adopts too many innovations, or opens up significantly different ways to play, there can be a backlash. It's resistant to innovation, that way.

But I also think there is this condescending attitude that creeps into these discussions when it comes to D&D, where people sort of sneer at D&D players and preferences for 'holding back' innovation. I don't know, to me that is a bit elitist and feels like it isn't really interested in understanding why people are playing the game in the first place
Just like the roll v role debate in the 90s, yes. D&D is the easy target - whatever's wrong with the hobby must be D&D's fault. But, though it's not a good attitude, neither is it entirely wrong. D&D is the first/biggest RPG, and the only one with mainstream name recognition. It's the face of the hobby to new players, it's the 500 lb gorilla of the industry, it doesn't need to innovate and even faces backlash when it does, so, yes, it's 'holding back' innovation - or 'keeping the hobby on an even keel,' depending on how you want to spin it.
 

Oh, no, I didn't mean easier on the player, but less risk and fewer restrictions on the caster. In old-school D&D, casting in melee was very risky, if your spell was interrupted it was spoiled and you lost memory of it. Very difficult, very risky. It's only gotten easier since. In 3e your spell provoked (unless you made a concentration check) and ranged attackers could ready to interrupt you, but even if you were hit, you got a concentration check to cast the spell anyway, even if you failed and the spell didn't go off, it remained prepared and you could try to use it again, later. In 4e, spells were no different than any other ranged or area attack, they provoked, and Immediate Interrupt could, well, interrupt them, but they still went off even if you were hit, so a caster using a ranged spell was no worse off in melee than an archer. You wouldn't think casters could have it any easier than that, but in 5e, spells don't provoke, even in melee, there's no interrupts, only Reactions, and you can cast a spell in melee at no penalty, which is even easier than using a ranged weapon in melee (which is at disadvantage). So, yeah, that's an example of a straight-line development over time to contrast the examples of pendulum-swings.

Both true. D&D is played in a lot of slightly different ways simply because so many people play it, and there is a segment of it's fan base that violently rejects anything more than that. When D&D innovates, or even adopts too many innovations, or opens up significantly different ways to play, there can be a backlash. It's resistant to innovation, that way.

Just like the roll v role debate in the 90s, yes. D&D is the easy target - whatever's wrong with the hobby must be D&D's fault. But, though it's not a good attitude, neither is it entirely wrong. D&D is the first/biggest RPG, and the only one with mainstream name recognition. It's the face of the hobby to new players, it's the 500 lb gorilla of the industry, it doesn't need to innovate and even faces backlash when it does, so, yes, it's 'holding back' innovation - or 'keeping the hobby on an even keel,' depending on how you want to spin it.

Again, this has a real sneering quality to me. It is like you are saying the problem with gaming, is gamers. I mean yes there are going to be some unreasonable reactions to modest changes. But a lot of the stuff people disagree over are also key issues of how the game is played and a reflection of their personal play style (not a personal failing on their part). Innovation is fine and good. But it isn't everything. And just because people reject an innovation here or there, for whatever reason, doesn't make them bad, stupid, or unsophisticated. It is a game and there are lots of reasons why people want rules that do one thing but not another. I think rather than assume these tastes and preferences come from a bad place, it is just better to deal with the reality that these tastes and preferences exist and then make a genuine effort to understand them (and any effort that starts with assumptions like people 'violently reject' anything new because there is something wrong with them is doomed to fail and not a genuine effort in my book).
 

innerdude

Legend
It's an interesting question. For example, has there been much resistance to the addition of the advantage/disadvantage mechanic in 5e?

It's not my impression that it has; most seem to have readily adopted it. Some of that I think is because both the logic/reasoning behind its addition, AND the actual in-play consequences "fit" with what most people want from the game ---- fewer modifiers, less slowdown of the game, easier adjudication.

Are there examples of a mechanic introduced to D&D that met with outright rejection? Meaning, almost no one adopted it, and those who did quickly abandoned it as a bad idea? Weapon speeds from 1e, maybe?
 


Tony Vargas

Legend
Again, this has a real sneering quality to me.
Not how it's meant, sorry.

It is like you are saying the problem with gaming, is gamers.
That's not terribly unfair. I think we all agree that a good DM makes a game better, and that good players do too, if maybe a little less dramatically so. The same holds in the aggregate. The hobby is the people who participate in it.

It's an interesting question. For example, has there been much resistance to the addition of the advantage/disadvantage mechanic in 5e?
I don't see why there would be, it's not a very significant change - it doesn't expand what you can do with the game or challenge old assumptions about it.

Moreso than weapon speeds, there was the weapon type vs armor type attack adjustment matrix.
I was virtually the only DM I knew back in the day who actually used that. ;)

I think rather than assume these tastes and preferences come from a bad place, it is just better to deal with the reality that these tastes and preferences exist and then make a genuine effort to understand them (and any effort that starts with assumptions like people 'violently reject' anything new...
Not /anything/ new (anything too unfamiliar perhaps), and no judgment about the place they 'come from' implied - but it's not an assumption, it's a lesson of the edition war.

I mean yes there are going to be some unreasonable reactions to modest changes.
Even to modest changes, yes - and how much more, and more unreasonable, the objection to 'great leaps forward?'
 
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Not how it's meant, sorry.

That's not terribly unfair. I think we all agree that a good DM makes a game better, and that good players do too, if maybe a little less dramatically so. The same holds in the aggregate. The hobby is the people who participate in it.

I think this thinking is misguided. People are not bad because they like playing with dice a particular way. A GM who likes hack N slash, isn't a bad GM. A GM who likes narrative mechanics isn't a bad GM. A GM who likes running a realistic game world and sandbox adventures isn't a bad GM. What makes someone a bad GM is more about things like a lack of creativity, an inability to communicate well with players, bad preparation skills. Gamers liking D&D to play a particular way and being cautious about certain changes, doesn't make the player base bad. I just don't think this way of approaching the issue is helpful. Much better to find out what changes A) people are willing to accept and B) add to the experience they want from the game. If people don't like something, telling them they are wrong or afraid of change isn't going to alter anything.


It's not an assumption, but a lesson of the edition war.

I don't think looking at peoples preferences through our own experience with online flamewars about gaming (which were often much more about people interacting badly with each other online than they were about ideas anyways) is a solid basis for assumptions like this. If you are assuming the worst about people you are trying to understand, then you won't understand their behavior. To me, this amounts to saying people are engaged in behavior X because they are bad. That is rarely the case. Some folks might get defensive and not be good at articulating why they like one thing and not another. But I really have an issue with this approach that assumes the problem is the players, just because they haven't adopted something you happen to like or want.

Even to modest changes, yes - and how much more, and more unreasonable, the objection to 'great leaps forward?'

It is a game, not a civilization. We are talking about people having a good time when they sit down to play characters in a fantasy game world. If people don't like change, rather than attacking them for being unreasonable, genuinely try to find the reason and see what sorts of changes they would accept. Taste is a funny thing. Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint why we like certain things. And liking something because it has been that way for a long time and that works for you, is a perfectly legitimate preference. Putting the entire weight of the hobby on people like this and essentially blaming them for lack of growth and innovation, is weirdly hostile in my view.
 

Tony Vargas

Legend
I think this thinking is misguided. People are not bad because they like playing with dice a particular way.
That does sound misguided.

Gamers liking D&D to play a particular way and being cautious about certain changes, doesn't make the player base bad.
No, but it does make the market they constitute resistant to innovation. And, when you're talking about the market for the single biggest game in the industry, that's significant.

I just don't think this way of approaching the issue is helpful. Much better to find out what changes A) people are willing to accept and B) add to the experience they want from the game. If people don't like something, telling them they are wrong or afraid of change isn't going to alter anything.
I have no expectation of altering anything. And I'm skeptical that some 'next great leap forward' has much potential to change anything.

I don't think looking at peoples preferences through our own experience with online flamewars about gaming is a solid basis for assumptions like this. If you are assuming the worst about people you are trying to understand, then you won't understand their behavior.
Again, not assuming. Observing.

Some folks might get defensive and not be good at articulating why they like one thing and not another. But I really have an issue with this approach that assumes the problem is the players, just because they haven't adopted something you happen to like or want.
I don't know, yet, if I'd like or want whatever 'Next great leap forward of game design' might be in the wings. But, whether I do or not, I'm pretty sure it'll have an uphill battle for acceptance.
 

Reinhart

First Post
When it comes to "liking the way things were" there are, of course, extremes. You may think people are being elitist for commenting on it, but there are definitely a very vocal constituency of role-players that can make non-f20 gaming seem very unwelcome to the hobby. The problems aren't really from people who decide that they prefer to keep playing D&D 2e or 3e instead of buying and running D&D 4e or 5e. Those hold-outs happen with almost any transition in media. Game designers aren't bothered that you like some of your old games. That's normal for all media. I still play the 4th edition of of Gamma World from 1992 instead of the latest 3 editions. I also prefer George Romero's Dawn of the Dead over Zack Snyder's. As far as I can tell these preferences are harmless.

So a little nostalgia or a desire to just do the same old thing isn't the origin of the hostilities we're talking about. What I'm talking about are partisans who claim that other modern systems like Apocalypse World, Fate, and Gumshoe aren't really role-playing games and the people who play them are somehow ruining the hobby. And when D&D, the most mainstream RPG, tries to accommodate those play-styles from the rest of the hobby? It fuels that partisan narrative that the other styles of gaming are somehow a corrupting pollution.

You might say, "So those guys are jerks! Don't play with jerks!" Unfortunately, f20 has been a sort of shelter for those jerks. What's more, with the rise of OSR and 5e's focus on accommodating previous styles, those jerks seem pretty outspoken these days in forums and gaming stores. This wouldn't bother me if it weren't for the fact that D&D is almost synonymous with the rest of gaming. As a result, any barrier for adopting D&D becomes a barrier for much of the hobby. There's a lot of people I've met who are reluctant to get into role-playing because of bad experiences they've had with the D&D community. But that's really less D&D's fault, and more the fault of certain fans who wave its banner.

I guess the best metaphor I can give is that it's like trends in cars. It's one thing to avoid buying a new fuel-efficient car just because you're into restoring old muscle cars. Even I think that's kinda cool. It's another thing to react to the increased presence of hybrid vehicles by deciding to start rolling coal. One of these is a preference for a classic. The other is a very real hostility to innovation.

220px-F-450_coal_rolling_Monster.jpg
 

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