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5E Why are vague rules praised?

Hussar

Legend
I think the problem here is that [MENTION=2518]Derren[/MENTION]'s use of the word vague is, well, rather vague. Because, the way I see it, there are two ways a rule can be vague:

1. The rule is unclear in some way and two people, looking at the same rule can come up with radically different interpretations. Alignment rules often look like this where two people can not only have differing opinions, but, can hold mutually exclusive opinions and still support their interpretation through the rules.

2. The rule leaves a lot of room for interpreting the final results or lack a great deal of granularity. The Carousing rules in 5e look like this. The rules are fairly clear in what happens, but, are very open ended and leave a lot to the individual table for implementation.

Personally, I have no real problem with the second type of vague. It's simply a quick and dirty system that gets the job done. You carouse, and stuff happens. If the DM wants to actually drill down and get more detailed, then go right ahead, there's nothing in the rules to stop you. OTOH, for those of us who don't care, a simple table does the trick. We can make stuff up on the fly if needed or just go with the results.

The first type of vague, I strongly dislike, and I think that it's poor game design.

But, [MENTION=2518]Derren[/MENTION], my point above still stands. After years of 4e critics constantly kvetching and bitching about how WOTC was trying to tell people how to play the game, if they do what you want them to do, they will ALWAYS do it wrong (for someone anyway) and we'll have years more of constant bitching about it. Far, far better to step back, tell DM's that this sort of thing is their responsibility. Pass the buck back to the DM's because, based on years of criticism from loud, constant, and never ending 4e critics, it's not worth trying to get more detailed.

IOW, you are getting vague rules like this because that's what some very vocal people asked for.
 

jrowland

Villager
IOW, you are getting vague rules like this because that's what some very vocal people asked for.
maybe. or perhaps the numerous surveys asking a lot of people who really love the game, who follow it religiously (OD&D to 4E fans and everyone in between), to really nail down the "essence" of D&D and, for better or worse, "vague" rules was part of the survey results.
 

seebs

Explorer
Of the people I know who play D&D, Pathfinder, etcetera, I believe I know exactly one who is not happier with 5e than 3e, and I was one of the only ones who was even willing to play 4e.
 

Hussar

Legend
maybe. or perhaps the numerous surveys asking a lot of people who really love the game, who follow it religiously (OD&D to 4E fans and everyone in between), to really nail down the "essence" of D&D and, for better or worse, "vague" rules was part of the survey results.
Fair enough and a lot more charitable than my take. But I find it pretty disingenuous to see complaints about vague rules after years of people advocating for exactly what they got.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Fair enough and a lot more charitable than my take. But I find it pretty disingenuous to see complaints about vague rules after years of people advocating for exactly what they got.
How is it disingenuous? Was it Derren advocating for vague rules and now complaining about them? If it isn't the same people it isn't disingenuous.
 

seebs

Explorer
Fair enough and a lot more charitable than my take. But I find it pretty disingenuous to see complaints about vague rules after years of people advocating for exactly what they got.
Probably different people. That happens a lot with fandoms. I rarely see the same person advocating for a thing and then complaining about it. I often see lots of people complaining about a thing that lots of other people liked.
 

Hussar

Legend
How is it disingenuous? Was it Derren advocating for vague rules and now complaining about them? If it isn't the same people it isn't disingenuous.
Because you asked so nicely:

Many people here probably know me as 4E hater and while I am so far pretty anti 4E is am not, like what most people probably think, fanatical meaning there are things which can change my opinion of 4E and I invite everyone else, no matter if he belongs to the pro, anti or wait and see camp, to also post what part of 4E will likely change their opinion of 4E (for good or worse) when it is done well or bad.

For me the primary thing is rituals. In my view they symbolize how combat focused 4E will be. If rituals are diverse, accessible for players and monsters alike, statted out as opposed to another reference to rule 0 "do whatever you want" and most importantly idependant from combat balance then I will likely change my opinion of 4E to "quite ok".

Another, but less important thing is how the game handles out of combat things. Here I don't want a abstract set of skill checks to solve any problem but rules how to handle common situations (and suggestions how to handle uncommon ones) but nothing more. The PCs and DM should decide when to use which rule and how the world reacts to what the PCs do.
The Escape from Sembia preview is exactly what I don't want (abstract rules of "making X rolls to succeed") but depending on how the final rules look like it can still become something I am neutral or only slightly negative about.


So as you see its very unlikely that I will become a big "pro 4E" guy, but depending on how the above rules will look I might play 4E regulary instead of buying the core books out of interest and then searching for another RPG to play.

So, what are your "critical rules" which will change your opinion 180° or will just tip you from "wait and see" into the pro or anti camp?.
That's from 2008 and it's hardly the only time. Just the first one I happened to hit across. The rules in the 5e DMG are precisely what he asks for. Almost word for word - basic rules that allow the PC's and the DM to decide how the world reacts.
 

LostSoul

Villager
That's from 2008 and it's hardly the only time. Just the first one I happened to hit across. The rules in the 5e DMG are precisely what he asks for. Almost word for word - basic rules that allow the PC's and the DM to decide how the world reacts.
Derren's objections seem consistent to me (not that people can't change their views over 6 years!). I read the quoted objection as saying that he dislikes making skill checks that are unrelated to PC actions. His objection in the OP relates to rules that could be interpreted in many different ways without any suggestion about how the DM could or should rule.
[MENTION=2518]Derren[/MENTION] can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he's looking for rules that let the DM make rulings based on the in-game situation, but also give guidance upon how those rulings will affect the game. He objects to the idea that rules that can be interpreted in many different ways is, in itself, a good thing.
 

Derren

Adventurer
[MENTION=2518]Derren[/MENTION] can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he's looking for rules that let the DM make rulings based on the in-game situation, but also give guidance upon how those rulings will affect the game. He objects to the idea that rules that can be interpreted in many different ways is, in itself, a good thing.
Having both would be the best but it would take a lot of space. Having either of them would be enough.

If the designers want to have the DM make rulings they should not provide weak rules but suggestions as that is a lot more helpful for the DM. This of course requires the game to already have robust rules in place so that the DM can implement the suggestions in a meaningful way, but that is a different topic.
If the designers instead want to make rules, they should strife to make rules which people can follow without first tinkering with them most of the time instead of rules which can be interpreted right from the start in many different ways.

To me, vague rules are the worst of both ways. First, they require the DM to stumble upon them and recognize that this rules does not work before the game or doing snap rulings during the game which disrupts the flow and then the book does not offer any help in making the ruling at all, either thematically or mechanically. And yet some people praise this for some reason.
 

Hussar

Legend
[MENTION=2518]Derren[/MENTION], just to clarify, what do you mean by vague? Do you mean the rule is written in such a way that it is unclear as to how to use that rule (5e Castle Construction rules would qualify here - as written they can be problematic) or do you mean that the rules don't give you specific enough results?
 

Uchawi

Villager
The DM is free to change any rule they want, but some may be reluctant to do so if the rules are clear and hard to argue. Some like the wiggle room, or doubt, to do as they please. It also grants more leeway to make determinations on the fly.

Some like black and white, while others like shades of grey. I prefer the level of abstraction or scope be set with any rule, and based on that, the rules are made as clear as possible. I do not believe building vagueness or obscurity in rules offers anything meaningful. That is even more evident if you are improving or clarifying existing rules which D&D has a long history. From a developer standpoint is appears they are looking for an excuse to go back to when the game first started, where there was no hindsight for comparison. Unfortunately, that is not possible with D&D in present times.
 

Derren

Adventurer
[MENTION=2518]Derren[/MENTION], just to clarify, what do you mean by vague? Do you mean the rule is written in such a way that it is unclear as to how to use that rule (5e Castle Construction rules would qualify here - as written they can be problematic) or do you mean that the rules don't give you specific enough results?
Both, whenever someone asks about it and someone else insists of praising the rules for others having to ask how to use it.
But that happens more with the latter one (unspecific results. I can't imagine many people would praise the construction rules). In my eye there is always a better alternative to rules with unspecific results. Rules with clear results, if the intention of the designers was that players can use the rule without tinkering with it, or pure suggestions which aid the DM to find a result he and the players enjoy and doesn't screw things up unintentionally.
Unspecific results neither provide a rule which can be used as is nor to they give any help to the DM in making a ruling he is obviously expected to do. The worst of both worlds, so why is this praised?
 
Both, whenever someone asks about it and someone else insists of praising the rules for others having to ask how to use it.
But that happens more with the latter one (unspecific results. I can't imagine many people would praise the construction rules). In my eye there is always a better alternative to rules with unspecific results. Rules with clear results, if the intention of the designers was that players can use the rule without tinkering with it, or pure suggestions which aid the DM to find a result he and the players enjoy and doesn't screw things up unintentionally.
Unspecific results neither provide a rule which can be used as is nor to they give any help to the DM in making a ruling he is obviously expected to do. The worst of both worlds, so why is this praised?
In many cases unspecific results exist in very situation specific instances. Rather than exhaustively load pages with specific results for many situations (and still some wouldn't be accounted for) a concept or principle that can be adapted is used instead. It is often a case of the specific result being dependent on a variety of factors that may not be known until it actually comes up.
 

TaiChara

Explorer
Something I encountered several times now is that when there is a discussion about a rule because there are multiple ways to interpret it or that it offers no help at all for the DM to adjudicate it someone comes and praises the rule as being intentionally vague so that the DM can interpret it.

My question is why? Why is it a good thing if a rule is vague or even not usable without houseruling or when the books give the DM no guideline, suggestion or other help in resolving something?
The idea probably is that this somehow empowers the DM, but why does a DM need vague rules to be empowered? He can already change anything he wants. And if the intention is to have the DM rule by himself, why make it a vague rule instead of a suggestion with helpful guidelines on what to look out for and how this ruling fits into the game world?
That would be a lot more helpful than to make a vague rule or a table with entries so vague that they do not help at all (the latest example being Carousing and not having any suggestion about what getting arrested actually means of being able to build strongholds and trade posts with no explanation what they represent and how they can be used in game).
Because it's not "vagueness", it's giving the wiggle-room needed to not have to codify everything in sight.

After too many years of dealing with people on both sides of the screen doing and expecting exactly that, 5e is a blessed breath of fresh air. Not everything needs to be pinned down in strict rules like a bug pinned to a card.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
They're not vague, they're just badly worded.
They are vague as to intent. Is the intent to have a maximum of quadruple the listed time? Or, is the intent to have no cap on the time, thus requiring the PC to stay close to the construction project and spend as little time away from it as possible until it's completed?
 

Hussar

Legend
When vague = badly worded, I'll agree that it's poor rules writing. If using the rules leads to misunderstood situations then sure that's bad.

But vague=undefined results? I got little problem with that. We used the carousing rules today in fact and everyone thought they were fine. Since we were in a dwarven city in Dragonlance, I'm not sure how Derren's specifically worded results would have worked better than what we had.
 

MechaPilot

Explorer
When you say "undefined results" do you mean that in the literal sense of the outcome being undefined, or do you meant that in the sense of the intent being undefined. I am fine with the former, while I think the latter is irritating.



I also think unnecessary specificity isn't great either. Just look at the magic item creation rules. You must be a spellcaster who uses spell slots to create magic items. That automatically cuts ritual casters, magic initiates, and non-casters out of the crafting game even if they were to use special materials like dragon's blood or medusa eyes in the crafting. It also clashes unnecessarily with the spell point variant offered by that same book.

The use of "must" instead of "may" doesn't help a DM explore other options. It points a way down a narrow path instead of broadly showing someone the horizon.
 

Hussar

Legend
When you say "undefined results" do you mean that in the literal sense of the outcome being undefined, or do you meant that in the sense of the intent being undefined. I am fine with the former, while I think the latter is irritating.
In the literal sense. Undefined as in the outcome is left to the players and the DM. Look at the Divine Intervention rules for Clerics in the Basic rules. The player asks for Divine Intervention, tells the DM what he wants to have happen, and rolls the dice. If the dice come up, the DM is instructed to interpret the request in a way that makes sense for the diety in question and give the results that benefit the character - i.e. no monkey's paw interpretations, although the exact results are left to the DM. It's pretty broad and vague, but, the intent is very clear and the results, while very much undefined, are given broad enough parameters that interpreting the outcomes aren't too difficult.

I also think unnecessary specificity isn't great either. Just look at the magic item creation rules. You must be a spellcaster who uses spell slots to create magic items. That automatically cuts ritual casters, magic initiates, and non-casters out of the crafting game even if they were to use special materials like dragon's blood or medusa eyes in the crafting. It also clashes unnecessarily with the spell point variant offered by that same book.

The use of "must" instead of "may" doesn't help a DM explore other options. It points a way down a narrow path instead of broadly showing someone the horizon.
I can get behind that. Rules need to be flexible. Although, to be fair, DM's need to be able to step up too. The degree of hand holding that some people seem to want from the rules is rather astonishing. I would hope that the DMG puts in great big letters in the opening pages the idea that you, the DM, are responsible for the game and if you want to change things, go right ahead. I mean, sure, the rules say you need spell slots to create magic items. But, is the game broken by allowing ritual casters to craft? Probably not and it's a very obvious and easy house rule which DM's should be encouraged to make, if they want to.
 

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