5E Why does 5E SUCK?

especially if [MENTION=996]Tony Vargas[/MENTION]'s philosophy of super-strong GM force is being applied.
The super-strong GM force separated from the elctro-weak Player force in the early RPG epoch, and is most powerful within 2x10^15 femtometers of the screen.

The flipside to this, presumably, is that 5e throws back to the pre-4e game-centred philosophy of disposable characters?
Only at very low levels.

Force is a very specific phenomenon. 5e being very vulnerable to the phenomenon due to its construct and its ethos. It is the phenomenon that you're seeing [MENTION=996]Tony Vargas[/MENTION] not just saying 5e is vulnerable to, but advocating the technique as the best/required way to run 5e.
That is a major feature in achieving 5e's DM Empowerment goal, yes, and applying a Forge label to it doesn't make that a bad thing (for 5e). 5e isn't simply a bad game asking you to paper over its flaws with 'GM Force,' it presents players with an explanation of the DM's central role in resolving all aspects of the game, and instills an expectation that the exercise of that role will be both commonplace, and for the good of the play experience, for all.

So, 'GM Force' or 'DM Empowerment,' the idea is that the success and quality of each instance the game experience (campaign/session) rests primarily with the DM, rather than the players or the system (or the designers of that system).

This is a response on @AbdulAlhazred post about how the DCs "should" guarantee success at about a 60% of the time. In fact, it's a description about 4ed made by a 4ed fan, against 5ed, which is supposedly a deadlier game (or at least a frustrating one).
Keep in mind that you're talking about a guy who started with 0D&D in the 70s, and has played every edition /through/ 4e, not just 4e: "4e fan" doesn't really do that experience justice.

But, FWIW, 60% is a pretty fair target for success, in general, as far as balancing feeling challenged with feeling competent - and 5e hits that target pretty consistently when it comes to things like attack rolls (really, more like 65-70%). Skills are all over the place, taken as a whole, but for characters actually good at a skill - good stats & proficient - pegging DCs to a similar level of success wouldn't be a bad idea. Less skillful characters'll still have a shot, and experts will be able to auto-succeed, if available.

Plus, of course, the DM can leaven any target success rate by declaring success or failures when such would improve play.

The point being made is: many of the "5 Edition SUCKS because can't do X" are utterly false. I particularly like 5th edition because of Bounded Accuracy
Bounded Accuracy is one reason you have some "can't do X" scenarios, because the game doesn't cover as wide a range of growth or as varied growth among classes as, say, 3.5 or AD&D.

But, while it may not be strictly 'false,' when considering only the range of dice results and the numbers generated by player choices to say "can't do X," once you factor in the DM's contribution, it's laughable: anything/everything becomes entirely possible!

Several critics made are, for me, gross simplifications (like the godlike, unfettered DM power)
GM power is a reality of the traditional RPG structure. While there are a (very) few games that do away with the GM role, or share it among all players, the vast majority of games have a GM, and the reality is that the situations of the in-game universe, and interpretation & modification of the rules are entirely within his power. It's true of DMs in all versions of D&D.

3.x acknowledged that power in 'Rule 0,' only to have the community go all RAW on it,
4e tried, through balance/clarity/playability, to minimize the need for the exercise of DM power.

5e acknowledges the legitimate power of the DM - and leverages it, making every effort to direct it in positive ways. 5e doesn't just tell the DM "you're god, go crazy," the DMG is full of advice for the DM on using that power constructively. And, it doesn't just tell players "you're just along for the ride," it gives them lots of choices, and prepares them for the role of the DM from the first 'how to play' explanation in the basic rules, and throughout the details of the system that follow.

For what 5e is trying to be, in the time it's trying to be it, with the history behind it, and the fan-base before it, I think 'DM Empowerment' has proven a very effective strategy.
 
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While I do subscribe to Czege's Principle across the majority breadth of an RPGing experience, I don't agree with it as a logically unassailable, ever-present axiom. I'm a big believer (especially as prologue) of he player authored kicker in Sorcerer and Dogs.

<snip>

If the resolution mechanics are not robust or they're subordinated by force, then what is the point? But that stands regardless of whether I, as GM, introduced the adversity or the player did.
Czege's principle is certainly not an axiom: it's meant to be an empirical generalisation that rests on understandable facts about human motivation and the experience of drama. Let's call an empirical generalisation that's grounded in that way a theoretical generalisation.

Now, as we all know, when a theoretical generalisation is confronted with contrary evidence, the first thing a defender of the generalisation does is reinterpret (ie interpret away) the evidence! So here's my go at that:

The Sorcerer-style kicker isn't really an instance of the player authoring his/her own adversity. It's true that it is more like that then (say) the player choosing that so-and-so is his/her PC's rival. In that latter case, the player chooses the antagonist but hands the antagonist over to the GM to use in scene-framing.

But in the context of the kicker, it's still the GM who decides how the kicker event is located within the broader backstory of the game, and who is responsible for adjudicating and narrating the consequences of the kicker as play unfolds.

In this way, the kicker is more like a formalised way for having the players make suggestions to the GM as to how to use his/her scene-framing authority. But it's not the player fully setting his/her own stakes.

How'd I do?
 
I'm always surprised at how little my players invest in intelligence gathering. IMO spells like Augury and Divination are pure awesomesauce for preventing nasty surprises.
I ran a Rolemaster campaign, years ago now, that became so dominated by (precognitive) divination that it ended up almost derailing the game, in that practically every action declaration was preceded by a divination which attempted to predetermine what the outcomes of the action declaration would be - with the PC then going through on the divined action only if the outcome was favourable.

In our next campaign we dropped precognitive divination from the game. In the late stages of the campaign, though, powerful Time Stop effects ended up playing a similar role: the players would meticulously plan out their PCs sequences of actions, then have their PCs travel to ground zero, activate the Time Stop and unload the plan (which mostly consisted of intricate layers of spells, including meta-magic spells within the layers).

I think the presence of divination, and of planning more generally (but divination and planning travel closely together) makes a big difference to the way the game plays; and flipping that around, a game wants to think about the sort of play to be encouraged as part of deciding whether or not to include divination as a feature.

As part of the gradual drift of elements of the D&D community away from classic exploration (especially dungeon exploration), I think divination has become less central to D&D play. If you want to run an exploration and planning-heavy game, divination is certainly an aspect of the magic system worth amping up. (Though the spell ranges in classic D&D make it not worthwhile for non-dungeon exploration; in a wilderness game you'd want to expand them a bit, although wilderness gaming poses other problems for adjudicating divination, like a lack of precise knowledge of the setting on the part of the GM.)
 
Celtavian said:
In 5E if the players come up with a good idea for breaching the door or whatever activity and he can find no reason not to allow it to work, the DM allows it to work. No time wasted rolling.

<snip>

Every door does not require a break DC. If the Big Bad Fighter or Barbarian is raging through a dungeon with doors he can break down, the 5E DM doesn't waste his time requiring rolls
Completely cannot understand what 5e does for me to allow this to happen in any way easier than it could in any other edition. I can hand wave and state "it works" in any game.
There's also the community to consider. In 3.x, for instance, as in any RPG, you, as GM, could change any rule you wanted, it even came right out and said so in 'Rule 0.' Yet, in spite of that, the community was very focused on RAW, and that carried through to the attitudes of many players. So you could hand-wave in 3.5, but some of your players might rebel if you did.
In Rolemaster, every roll of the dice is meant to correspond to some in-fiction event, and every in-fiction event is modelled, at least in principle, by a roll of the dice.

In addition, in RM, nearly every action check is open-ended (so no auto-fails) but has a fumble range at the bottom.

This means that handwaving success is not part of the spirit of the game; the dice need to be rolled to see if a fumble/auto-fail comes up. Nor is handwaving failure OK, because the player can always roll and hope for an open-ended result - and every RM table has the tale of when a double-open-ended roll was needed to save the party, and one of the players pulled it off!

This is a game, then, in which you can't just handwave without breaking the spirit of the game.

Contrast (say) Marvel Heroic RP, where the GM is encouraged to handwave stuff that is just colour and is not pertinent to the resolution of the conflict that is driving the scene at hand. In MHRP, not handwaving that stuff would be contrary to the spirit of the game.

4e is more like MHRP in this respect.

An interesting system that straddles the RM(simulationist)/4e-MHRP(fortune-in-the-middle) divide is Burning Wheel. DCs are objective, and skill bonuses are objective too (eg a good riding skill in BW doesn't just mean "My PC is likely to experience success in scenes involving riding" but also means "My PC is a skilled rider"). But handwaving action declarations that don't matter is a core part of the system ("Say yes or roll the dice"), which means (for instance) that bad stuff never happens when nothing is at stake, unless the players choose to make it happen (and the game has mechanics that give players incentives to do this).

I think 3E had at least aspirations to be a RM-style simulationist system, and rather than handwaving I think the system expects use of taking 10 and taking 20. So I'm not sure it's just the "cult of RAW" that explains player hostility to GM handwaving in 3E.

I think this thread is bringing out some interesting divergences as far as 5e is concerned. [MENTION=5834]Celtavian[/MENTION] seems pretty clearly to think that it works like 4e. I don't think [MENTION=6784868]Erechel[/MENTION] agrees. My reading of the rules leaves me uncertain what the designers had in mind - and maybe they deliberately didn't have any particular approach in mind!

the DM can leaven any target success rate by declaring success or failures when such would improve play.
I think declaring auto-fails when the mechanics (eg bonus compared to DC) leave success open as a possibility is particularly fraught, for all the obvious reasons.

a DC table that doesn't take levels into account isn't inherently flawed or backwards or useless or that it must lead to bad play where the PC's can't pass by some DC that is too hard for them or any of the other things AA seemed to presume must happen because 5e doesn't set DC's relative to level, and that setting DC's relative to level isn't clearly a better or more advanced or improved option.
I don't think [MENTION=82106]AbdulAlhazred[/MENTION] was saying that 5e's DCs lead to bad play. I think he was saying that, for him as a GM they are not helpful, because he can't tell at a glance what the effect on pacing and degree of challenge will be if he sets a DC for a given PC or party at X rather than Y.

Another way of stating the complaint is that 5e DCs don't come with a challenge rating or encounter level attached. (Whereas 4e's do.)

If you don't think that challenge ratings/encounter levels are helpful or necessary, then presumably this won't bother you!

As false I see things like the comment about the more "narrative" approach of 4th Edition.
It seems to me that either 5e is the same as (or similar to) 4e, or it's not. I don't think it can be both at once.

One feature of 4e is that it defines game elements (traps, monsters, environmental features, obstacles involving DCs, etc) in level-relative terms. The express purpose of this is to support their use by the GM in making decisions about challenge level and pacing.

Whether or not you want to call this a "narrative" approach, it is a point in respect of which 4e resembles HeroWars/Quest and Marvel Heroic RP, and a point in respect of which it differs from Rolemaster, Runequest and (in my view, at least) Burning Wheel.

If it's a feature that you find helpful in a system, the lack of it in 5e - the fact that DCs aren't given a challenge rating or encounter level - will be a mark against the game. (Or it could be more complex: you might think that a game that lacks such features should have robust "fail forward" rules instead, as Burning Wheel does, and feel that 5e isn't so strong in this respect. I'm sure there are other possibilities too.)

Whether or not you think it's a bad thing, it's a clear difference from 4e!

level-relative DC's can create a feeling of impotence in a player when they know that their achievements and experience don't actually affect the chance of victory very much, and world-relative DC's can by the same token create a feeling of mastery and achievement in a player when they know that they're taking on much harder challenges than they "should."

<snip>

I know I've felt more than once that 4e is largely a "level-less" game for all its 30 levels (of which I played about 18). And 5e, over the course of 7, is already showing me that setting the DC's relative to the world is a part of the edition's strong antidote to that. In 4e, I always felt at about the same level of badass ("fairly"). In 5e, I've felt the growth that comes from a tier-shift in a way 4e never achieved (going from "not very badass" to "a little badass!"), and in a way is a little more subtle and interesting than bigger numbers.
Overcoming obstacles and dramatic tension are presumably two of the keystones behind why many of us play RPGs

<snip>

I think the art of delivering meaty obstacles and drama are completely tried to the ability of the GM and in no way tied to the ruleset (Hm, maybe that's not completely accurate - perhaps mechanics like the Doom Pool in MHRPG actually DO help deliver meaty obstacles and drama).
4e is largely level-less, yes.

PC progression in 4e plays two roles, as best I can tell.

One is that it opens up new mechanical space (eg now I can dominate! now I can fly! etc). The other - not unrelated - is that level gain opens up new fictional possibilities. This is summarised in the PHB descriptions of Heroic, Paragon and Epic tier. It is given concrete meaning, too, in the Monster Manuals, which locate the various classic D&D antagonists at levels which the designers intend will fit within the "story of D&D". So you start with kobolds, graduate to gnolls, then trolls and giants and serious dragons, and end up fighting demon princes.

The relation between these two aspects of progression is that being able to dominate, or fly, or whatever, corresponds to a character having a certain status and capability within the fiction.

The actual maths of the game, though, is not meant to change significantly in the way that the mechanical minutiae and the fiction change in these ways. (When 4e players think they have discerned such changes in the maths, they decry it as errors in the maths, and get "fixes" like the Expertise feats.)

Pleasure in PC progression in 4e, then, has to come from these two sources. The game certainly takes for granted that mechanical intricacy, and changing mechanical intricacy (daze vs stun vs dominate, shift vs slide vs teleport, etc), is fun for the players - if it's not fun for you, I don't unreservedly recommend 4e because it's hard to get away from this sort of minutiae in that particular system.

But I think the change in the fiction is meant to be more important. A player knows, and feels, that his/her PC is becoming more "badass" not because the numbers are changing, nor because success comes more often, but because the challenges confronted and (hopefully for the player) overcome are different.

If the GM doesn't succeed in making the fiction engaging in this way, I imagine the game might fall pretty flat. Whether "objective" DCs will cure that I suspect is also pretty GM-dependent, though. And player dependent, too: after all, there is a real difference between "I couldn't overcome that door before, because it was DC 25 and my bonus was +4, but now I can because my bonus has grown to +8!" and "I couldn't overcome that door before because a lowly street thief can't hope to infiltrate the Overtemple of Vecna, but now that I'm a Master Thief I have a chance!", but I think different sorts of explanation (mechanically grounded or fictionally grounded) speak to different players (or perhaps to the same player in different moods).

4e tried, through balance/clarity/playability, to minimize the need for the exercise of DM power.
I think 4e gave the GM very important roles. From the PHB, p 8:

Adventure Builder: The DM creates adventures (or selects premade adventures) for you and the other players to play through.

Narrator: The DM sets the pace of the story and presents the various challenges and encounters the players must overcome.

Monster Controller: The Dungeon Master controls the monsters and villains the player characters battle against, choosing their actions and rolling dice for their attacks.

Referee: When it’s not clear what ought to happen next, the DM decides how to apply the rules and adjudicate the story.​

The first of these allocates the GM authority over very important elements of backstory. The second then links that backstory authority to authority in respect of scene-framing. (Which connects back to the Czege principle.)

The third role is somewhat distinct to D&D (and comparable systems), because of its very granular combat resolution system. (There is no real analogue to the third role in a skill challenge, for instance.) In general terms, though, it's a particular element of scene-framing authority, reframing the scene on a round-by-round basis.

The fourth role is the only one directly connected to action resolution. It gives the GM responsibility for adjudicating resolution, and adjudicating the fiction more generally, when the content of the fiction is not self-evident. (This can also be seen as an application of the Czege principle.)

The 4e GM also have an important role in adjudicating fiction relevant to applying the action resolution mechanics (as opposed to narrating the fiction that results from their application), although this is not stated in the PHB but rather in the DMG in relation to skill challenges (p 79 makes it clear that the GM is the arbiter of what action declarations are permissible, given the current state of the fiction) and in relation to pacing (p 105, for instance, encourages handwaving action declarations that aren't core - an apparent application of "say yes or roll the dice").

It seems to me that when you itemise it like this, then as far as actually running a game goes the only additional power of a 5e GM that has been identified in this thread is the power to declare auto-failure despite what the mechanics would otherwise imply.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Why does the DM's imagination trump everyone else's? Aren't we all playing a game together? What if I use a spell/ability creatively and it, by the rules, takes out the BBEG in one round, only for the DM to say, "That's anti-climatic, BBEG stays up." It's 'better' because he says so?

What if the DM isn't as imaginative as the rest of the players...his imagination still trumps everything else? Really??
A DM's imagination trumps everyone else's because he's running the game and putting the most work in designing the adventure. If you want to play alone, you can. Roll the dice, tell yourself the story, have no DM, and you decide everything. I've seen a few players do this. If you want someone else to do the work to run your character, then his imagination decides the game. It's the courtesy you give the DM because of the work the DM is putting in to the game, which usually exceeds everyone else's investment at the table.

So many players don't seem to get how thankless a job DMing is. How the sole pleasure of doing it is the creative process of building a story or encounters. Players want the DM to allow them to live this vicarious fantasy of being a successful adventuring hero. A DM will put hours into this activity spending money on modules, game books, and his time to create this fantasy. That's why he gets final say in a lot of matters.

What motivation is there for a person to commit to running the game if not the creativity of it? People that like to DM a lot enjoy the creative part of DMing. I don't mean just the story fluff, though that is a major part for many. But the encounter creation and the entire process that goes into building an adventure to challenge the PCs. It's a lot of work to DM. That work should be respected. It should be acknowledged as far more difficult than playing a character.

That being said, good DMs reward imaginative play. Part of my fun as a DM is thinking up interesting challenges and scenarios for players and seeing what they come up with to win or solve them. If they come up with something outside the box, I reward that play. I like players that use imaginative strategies outside the scope of standard rules to set achieve victory. That's when the game gets really fun and reaches beyond what any video game could possibly accomplish. It is the imagination of the DM and players that makes a TTRPG different from a video game experience.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Completely cannot understand what 5e does for me to allow this to happen in any way easier than it could in any other edition. I can hand wave and state "it works" in any game.
And you can construct a DC system that works a percentage of the time in any game. All DC means is difficulty check. It's just a roll with a number based on some other numerical value in the game. Nothing in any system prevents you from using this type of resolution system in any game system.

That's why I think most of these arguments boil down to, "I don't like 5E. I like this edition." Nothing is preventing anyone from taking an idea like Skill Challenges and finding a way to transfer them to 5E.

The only difference with 5E is they specifically tell you to hand-wave anything that isn't important. They don't want you to waste time rolling to accomplish something unimportant. They don't want you to roll every round for some skill. They don't want you wasting time with DC checks for no reason. That is the only difference in 5E.

Whereas 3E gave a roll for anything from the door to the farmer's house to the castle gates, 5E does not bother. I'm not sure what 4E did. I know that 5E tells the DM to hand-wave unimportant rolls and only use the DC system for things you want to make interesting. It provides you with a system you can use in any fashion you wish be it 4E skill challenges, 3E single rolls, or something else of your own devising. They encouraged you to create such challenges in whatever manner seems appropriate to you with some examples they came up with. I don't see why some are finding that limiting.

I think it is fun to dream up your own method of resolution. Why some consider that a weakness of 5E I don't understand. Why do they need things spelled out for them? If you have an important event you want resolved using non-combat skills or elements, dream it up, write it up, play it out. All easy to accomplish in 5E.
 

Eric V

Explorer
Q: What if I use a spell/ability creatively and it, by the rules, takes out the BBEG in one round, only for the DM to say, "That's anti-climatic, BBEG stays up." It's 'better' because he says so?

A: In that example, the DM undercuts himself by explaining his reasoning, but, in general, yes, that's the idea. The system failed (snapped under the strain of your system mastery), but the DM corrected that failure.

Wow...how many people here would genuinely enjoy playing (Note: not DMing) in a game like this?
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Q: What if I use a spell/ability creatively and it, by the rules, takes out the BBEG in one round, only for the DM to say, "That's anti-climatic, BBEG stays up." It's 'better' because he says so?

A: In that example, the DM undercuts himself by explaining his reasoning, but, in general, yes, that's the idea. The system failed (snapped under the strain of your system mastery), but the DM corrected that failure.

Wow...how many people here would genuinely enjoy playing (Note: not DMing) in a game like this?
Depends on how good everything else has been. You make it seem like this event would happen all the time. Why would any DM allow such an event to happen all the time? Give me a reason why this would continuously occur? Are you implying you would play with a DM so lacking in ability that he would decide matters in this fashion all the time? What is the point of your example?

It seems like you're using an extreme, unrealistic example to make some kind of point. What is that point?
 

SkidAce

Adventurer
This is my interpretation of 4e as well, and in fact the reason for the scaling DCs and typical 50-60% chance of success (or whatever it is).

4e made the choice to only use game "spotlight" and rolling dice on challenges that had decent chance of success and failure.

The DM is suppose to look to the fiction and just narrate (or skip) trivial obstacles and just outright block impossible ones. When it is a decent challenge for the party, you pull out the dice. The DM has a lot of flexibility on what constitutes a 'decent challenge' depending on genre/tone of the game your playing.

This was the source of all the "at high level every house suddenly has adamantine doors on it now!" silliness. Of course in most games they don't. Most houses have regular doors that are trivial to get through for your high level PCs. No rolling needed. However, IF the DM decides that a door actually is a challenge (because of material, warded, etc.) then you can pick an appropriate DC that reflects that.

I think this approach actually lends itself to MORE verisimilitude, not less.
Exactly correct. And 5e does this same thing.
 

Eric V

Explorer
A DM's imagination trumps everyone else's because he's running the game and putting the most work in designing the adventure.
No offense, but this is a horrible reason. I'm saying this as a DM for decades who has only recently convinced his group to become a rotating-DM group

So many players don't seem to get how thankless a job DMing is. How the sole pleasure of doing it is the creative process of building a story or encounters. Players want the DM to allow them to live this vicarious fantasy of being a successful adventuring hero. A DM will put hours into this activity spending money on modules, game books, and his time to create this fantasy. That's why he gets final say in a lot of matters.
Again, going to disagree here. It's not thankless; why would one do it, if that were so? I would agree that the "pleasure of doing it is the creative process of building a story or encounters" but not to the point where only a limited number of DM-imagined outcomes is permissible. For many DMs, the work is the reward; it's extremely poor form to trump the other players' imagination "because I'm the DM and this is how I want it."


What motivation is there for a person to commit to running the game if not the creativity of it? People that like to DM a lot enjoy the creative part of DMing. I don't mean just the story fluff, though that is a major part for many. But the encounter creation and the entire process that goes into building an adventure to challenge the PCs. It's a lot of work to DM. That work should be respected. It should be acknowledged as far more difficult than playing a character.
All true. But nowhere in here is there cause for DM fiat to change things to "match something I think is more palatable" when the player does something according to the rules of the game.

If DMs use fiat that way, they are like the kid who had the best G.I. Joe collection but overruled any interaction during play he didn't like based on the fact that the figures were his.

DMs already have plenty of responsibilities, as [MENTION=42582]pemerton[/MENTION] outlined above: Adventure Builder (already enough work, thank you), Narrator, Monster Controller, and Referee.

For myself, I wish WotC understood the first 3 are more than enough work, thank you; after doing all that, I don't also need to adjudicate things that could simply have been written more clearly. As [MENTION=5834]Celtavian[/MENTION] points out above, it's enough work already.
 

Eric V

Explorer
Depends on how good everything else has been. You make it seem like this event would happen all the time. Why would any DM allow such an event to happen all the time? Give me a reason why this would continuously occur? Are you implying you would play with a DM so lacking in ability that he would decide matters in this fashion all the time? What is the point of your example?

It seems like you're using an extreme, unrealistic example to make some kind of point. What is that point?
You have it wrong. You ask "Give me a reason why this would continuously occur?" when the question I am asking is "Why should that occur even once?"
 

SkidAce

Adventurer
But that is a false assumption. Hard means "world" hard. Look at this way: power, training and expertise are the way to do hard things. But still, to the other characters (whom probably don't have Proficiency or Expertise) is still hard. The Expert guy at level 10 can accomplish more often very hard tasks, and can attempt with some success Nearly Impossible tasks, and at the end of his career, Hard tasks are a cake to the experienced rogue, and he is accustomed to the impossible enough to have a fair chance of succeed (+17, 13 or more to make Near Impossible things). But the magician still has to use the Knock spell to open the easiest locks (unless background, etc.).
Quoted for truth!
 
As part of the gradual drift of elements of the D&D community away from classic exploration (especially dungeon exploration), I think divination has become less central to D&D play. If you want to run an exploration and planning-heavy game, divination is certainly an aspect of the magic system worth amping up. (Though the spell ranges in classic D&D make it not worthwhile for non-dungeon exploration; in a wilderness game you'd want to expand them a bit, although wilderness gaming poses other problems for adjudicating divination, like a lack of precise knowledge of the setting on the part of the GM.)
RE: "lack of precise knowledge on the part of the DM," this is what makes the Portent ability interesting to me. By dictating die rolls, 5E's Portent manages to give the feeling of knowing the future even without the DM actually knowing the future. "I knew all along he would fail that save if we could just wait for the right time."

There's no reason a DM couldn't create a similar mechanic for Augury in an unknown situation: "If I say 'Weal', you get an auto-Portent die for the next half hour. If I say 'Woe', I get one. Okay, ready to cast your spell?"
 
If the GM doesn't succeed in making the fiction engaging in this way, I imagine the game might fall pretty flat. Whether "objective" DCs will cure that I suspect is also pretty GM-dependent, though. And player dependent, too: after all, there is a real difference between "I couldn't overcome that door before, because it was DC 25 and my bonus was +4, but now I can because my bonus has grown to +8!" and "I couldn't overcome that door before because a lowly street thief can't hope to infiltrate the Overtemple of Vecna, but now that I'm a Master Thief I have a chance!", but I think different sorts of explanation (mechanically grounded or fictionally grounded) speak to different players (or perhaps to the same player in different moods).
Wish I could give XP multiple times for this post. You, sir, have made sense of my limited 4E experience for me. I think it's still not to my taste, but if I'd gone in with expectations framed as you have done in your post I would have been a lot more relaxed about the things that I didn't enjoy.
 
A DM's imagination trumps everyone else's because he's running the game and putting the most work in designing the adventure. If you want to play alone, you can. Roll the dice, tell yourself the story, have no DM, and you decide everything. I've seen a few players do this.
I do this occasionally, both as prep work for my player-run stuff (test fights with the test party, to measure difficulty and refine monster tactics) and for fun. In order to make it fun you need random tables to generate uncertainty: even if I know there's a 70% chance this coffin is empty and a 30% chance it will release a vampire, there's still some uncertainty about how much to pre-buff before opening the coffin, and also of course the role-playing uncertainty about whether or not Eladriel is going to think it's a good idea to open the coffin anyway. It is somewhat like storywriting and somewhat like playing D&D.

It's hard to do a long session like that but I can run several scenes at least.
 
I don't dispute that, I just note that just because a low-level party comes up against a high DC in 5e doesn't mean that something's broken, so thus having the assumption that the DC is not tailored to the party isn't inherently flawed (as AA was indicating).
No, what is 'flawed' if you wish to use such language, is the PRESENTATION of the information. You present it as 'hard', but that's not really what it is, except in some context that never enters into the actual game.
It's totally in-fantasy-genre to always succeed, but not it's not typically a very good gameplay element. Games are interactive, and part of that interactivity is shown by the ability to fail, to have the bad guy win, to decide to take those eagles to Mount Doom, etc. If there's no real failure state, there's no real game to play, it's just shared dynamic fiction (which can be fun in its own right!). No edition of D&D gets it that bad, but 4e at its most "fail forward-y" can produce that feeling of impotence in the face of success.
I don't think this is at all unique to 4e. In fact the 5e game I'm playing in right now is rife with this. IME it has nothing to do with 4e. There's not even the slightest barrier in place of a hard-edged 4e game where you can brutally slaughter characters for whatever reasons float your boat. The worst you can say is that ALL modern forms of D&D require significant work in chargen, which can deter this sort of thing. CB was actually a pretty good answer to that, I can make a 4e PC in under 2 minutes if I'm willing to take recommended feats and not angst too much over which power to select.

So I don't thikn 5e's CR guidelines are "less than dependable." They're perfectly dependable - "hard" and "very hard" and "easy" have meanings in the world, independent of PC level. A hard DC is hard compared with all the challenges in D&D, not just at the level you encounter it. If you beat it at a low level, you've exhibited skill and ability, like a low-level run.

And you can not do it that way, if you want.
I think when he was talking about CR he was talking about monster challenge rating, its not at all reliable. In fact 5e's CR system is a hot mess. Still, 4e aside, its no worse than every other D&D and so it certainly can be lived with, as all 5e's quirks can be.

And again, with the DCs it is presentation. We all know what you can do with them, but its a more obtuse system because the labels aren't meaningful relative to the only thing that matters in the game, the PCs. Nobody cares about 'compared with all the challenges in D&D'. That comparison is of no value to the DM at the table. IMHO the key, central, and most important thing that 4e ever did was to take a step back and re-examine the tenets and goals of the game, and then reshape the mechanics to serve those goals and tenets. The failure of 5e, such as it is, is in failing to do likewise. I could always trust the principles of the 4e designers when they created material. It would always be useful and usable because they would design it in light of actual game play. I don't know how to trust the 5e designers in the same way. Sometimes they do the most ridiculous things for reasons I can't even fathom.

Right - gameplay is the process for doing that. Specifically, in D&D, using resources and exploring the world and asking questions of the DM in a back-and-forth matter. It's hard to build a character to trump DC's in 5e (at least without being high level to begin with). Much better to ask the DM: "What's the lock made of? Is it acid-resistant?"
Its also hard to build a character to PASS DCs in 5e! So the problem is everyone has the same difficulty passing them. Sure, at very high levels the game just barely starts to really differentiate, but the fact that people constantly bring up level 20 Expertise characters and such is exactly a sign of the issue.

As for 'asking is it acid-resistant' how is 4e's system not amenable to that? In fact, again, you ignore the solution, running an SC, which is exactly focused on those sorts of questions. You use narrative to explore and approach the problem and some checks to introduce some variability into the process without making long-shot DCs the primary focus. Still, you can always set a huge DC for atmospheric or other reasons if you wish.

"Make this Athletics check to catch yourself" is a world apart from "Make this Strength save or fall," psychologically speaking. The former is empowering the character, showing how heroic and strong they are that they are able to actively turn a disaster into something not so bad. The latter empowers the effect, showing how dangerous and menacing the threat is, that it can force you to fall unless you do something to stop it.
No it isn't, they're utterly the same. The bad guy blasts you with a 'push' effect. In 4e you go over the edge, now you can make a check, can you grab the dangling rope? 5e, you go over the edge, well you have a save DC, presumably saving means SOMETHING fictional, does it not? Or are you maintaining that the difference is purely in the fiction? If so that's not psychological at its root, its mechanical. There's no difference here though, since each thing should be rooted in fiction the character 'heroically saves himself' or 'heroically resists' etc. In both cases its an active participation in the game.

Nah. Especially when you know that "oops splat you're a mark down below" isn't an option. When that isn't on the table, dangling from a rope 500' above the ground is almost dull. Because, really, you're not going to let me splat. If I say "I let go," there's going to be some flying bird that swoops around at the last minute and breaks my fall. If I then stab that bird, well, I landed safely in the treetops, maybe took some damage. I've got no real agency, I'm just here to roll dice and advance the plot.
This is silly. If you really want to play that way, yes of course you can. That's not what we're talking about here. Characters died quite frequently in my 4e campaigns for instance. They just died for REASONS, not usually "oops I missed a check." You're dangling from the rope, now, what can happen that is interesting. Oh, you can see the bad guy climbing up the back side of the platform to backstab the wizard who's performing the ritual, oh oh! You can swing down to a lower level or try to climb the rope and save the wizard, while some demonic rats are gnawing on it. Take the big risk, or survive until tomorrow to fight again? Going splat is what is boring. I mean maybe at some point going splat is fine, you gambled, you lost, you've played your last card, the character's number is finally up. Its all a matter of context. Dramatic play is not about endless last-second saves, that's a mere pastiche of the technique.

Yeah, it does, by saying that the DC of the lock shouldn't necessarily depend on the level the party encounters it at. 4e's "DC is dynamic with your level" philosophy would mean that the party doesn't encounter locks that they don't have a fair chance to pick, but 5e's "DC is static with regards to your level and varies with the world" philosophy means that the party will encounter locks that are easy, locks that are difficult, and a range in between, depending on what their goals are and how they approach the adventure.
No, not true. You can still set DCs to any value, they just get adjusted by 1 point up or down per level of the PC. Again, this is not the way 4e envisages DC working, you simply asked the question "how would you emulate 5e's static DC system in 4e" and I answered, you'd null out the bonus progression by scaling. I have no idea why you would ever do this BTW, its not something I'm suggesting, but it does illustrate that 4e's DC system can flex quite a lot.

In 5e, there is no such thing as a check out of your league. Just a check of varying difficulty for your league.
And that's an issue! 4e allows the possibility of DCs that you simply cannot pass, yet at least. Now, to some extent so does 5e, but its not the same clear-cut thing.

It - correctly - disputes that what you say is reality. For a lot of tables, it really isn't. For a lot of tables, what the DC is will be a property of that thing (that lock, that chasm, that challenge), and it is up to the party to figure out how to beat that DC or go around it, not up to the DM to only give them challenges they can beat within expected margins.
Every GM largely tailors their adventures such that the challenges are beatable in some way. Lets not even kid ourselves about that. Every published module features a byline "adventure for characters of level X to Y". To pretend otherwise is to again go into this unfathomable mumbo jumbo land where you pretend that you're playing some other game than you're really playing. Again, I most admire 4e for in general stabbing that monstrosity in the heart. When it produces a mechanic it is producing it such that it fits the game at the table.

Obviously some subset of people will just play in a way that is so idiosyncratic that a given set of rules won't match up with their needs, but 4e was the practical edition. It always took the road that the game was first and foremost a game played at the table by people. Sometimes it might not actually achieve some of what it attempted, but it was all engineered in the service of good play, not some theoretical aesthetic judgement of how D&D should be that has to be worked around in practice. 5e very definitely backed off from that.
 
Every GM largely tailors their adventures such that the challenges are beatable in some way. Lets not even kid ourselves about that.
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Your generalization about all GMs does not hold except for extreme values of "in some way" which include totally unconscious effects. Some people instead choose to telegraph challenges and let the players face whatever difficulty they may. I deliberately don't even know the exact level and stats of my players' PCs at any given time. There are challenges in my game world which I would fully expect to eat them alive (if they go after Falgoth the ancient wyrm for example--right now they're scared stiff of his grandson the adult red). I'm pleased that my players have gotten good at knowing when to run away, even though I was kind of hoping to kill the barbarian last week when he went up against a Rakshasa solo. Through sheer luck he made his saving throw against Domination just before the Rakshasa would have made him crit himself to death. (I rolled both attacks at the same time so I know what the second roll was about to be.)

The challenges aren't designed to be "beatable" or "unbeatable." They're just there, and it's up to the players to beat them or avoid them until later.
 
This is true about how to handle difficulties as well. They are assumptions about how people handles things. In my own homebrew world, there is no direct influence of "gods", although many people believe in them. But there are spirits everywhere (if you search among custom backgrounds, you will see the Animist Shaman that acknowledges this), both good and bad, and a succesfull DC 20 Religion check, after a long ritual, allows the players to "see" them. Also, you can exorcise a weak demon/spirit possession with a DC 25 Religion check. Strong demons are near impossible to exorcise (DC 30), and a Demon Lord is uncannily difficult to banish, but there is a chance (DC 35). But, if you make logical assumptions, careful thinking, and waste some resources (maybe some spells, maybe money, or magical items -very scarce and valuable in my world) you can decrease the difficulty of this. The monk and the paladin of the group have also a little decrease in the difficulty, due to their backgrounds and skill selection.

This information is shared among my players. They expect to do that, and they expect certain constants and improvise viable ways to decrease difficulty (in one session, they sang and danced Cuban Pete trying to keep a powerful demon at bay from posses a powerful warrior). I brought this here because I try to make a point: This difficulties are fixed to the world, but the world is in the table's hands.
I don't think it matters much here what you're playing, but I look at it in terms of 'process' when talking about game systems. I probably won't have established all the details of demons and demonology beforehand. It will come up at some point in the game in relation to a specific instance of demon possession or whatnot. That element will obviously be introduced to the game WRT characters and situations present at that time in play. So the DC will naturally need to reflect whatever role that element plays in the story. Hence what I will be thinking, in any system, is "I need a DC of X, this is supposed to be hard, so I want it to be high enough to explain why the PCs were called in, but low enough that when they take the proper steps they'll banish the demon." Now, if that's a pretty low DC, then maybe in the fiction I make this a 'low level' demon. That is I leave it fictionally that there could potentially be demons of much greater power which these relatively weak PCs couldn't handle. That question probably won't even come up, but its simply implicit in the way 4e handles it.

Now, maybe I've roughly outlined demonology already, or maybe I do so afterwards just for my own edification or to provide the PCs with some sort of clue or background knowledge. At that point I may well have done as you suggest, and established some DCs for different things, but again if those DCs can be attached to levels, then I am able to gauge that a DC 26 possession is one that 12th level PCs will handle with some difficulty, but that level 30 PCs will find trivially easy.

In other words you can run that system backwards and forwards as required. You can also use it to set an XP reward.

I don't think any of us realistically thinks DMs can't look at numbers and gauge these things in 5e, but it requires a bit of additional thinking, toting up what a PC's likely bonuses are NOW to see what is relatively easy or hard. 4e just did that step for you. The reasoning is a lot of DCs come up on-the-fly in play and the system acts as a good rule-of-thumb way to get generally useful DCs that can help make play interesting.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
What do you mean 'how'? You just use the current PC level DCs. RC even suggests this for a few specific types of skill checks, probably on the assumption that it mirrors roughly the sorts of situations you'll be in, but it WILL work fine. So a barred door is a DC 26 IIRC, but for a level 10 PC it will be a level 36 DC, etc. A simple lock might be an easy level 1 DC8, for the level 10 guy its 18, still very easy. I mean clearly this isn't as straightforward, but you're bending the system to operate in a way it isn't meant to.
I am getting more confused isn't this... scaling by level? You're picking the DC's based on level. I asked how you would do this without scaling DC's by level...

Why would the system not work 'as intended' with only certain DCs? You can't even tell me how it was intended to work, its up to each DM!
I was speaking to 4e... it is designed to scale by level. There are no objective DC's, DC's that scale with the species or abilities of creatures, or any other method that could be used. Are you claiming that there would be no effect in just ripping out a wide swath of ranges in 4e?

No, it isn't. DC 20 is hard for level 1 PCs (19 is 4e's level 1 hard DC). For level 10 PCs 20 isn't so hard. They have almost surely about a +4 to their checks in 5e vs level 1. So probably on the order of +8 or +9, and for a character with Expertise or somesuch it would be higher. Heck, our thief had +14 to Acrobatics at level 1! OTOH in 4e Hard is always Hard. I can say "well, its a hard check from way back at level 1" but at level 10 that's a Moderate DC, reflecting that getting a 20 isn't so tough anymore.
Wrong... this reflects that hard things become easier the more proficient and practiced one becomes... A hard DC is still hard, you're just better at doing it... Otherwise what's the point of increasing the numbers?

It is just a more descriptive system FOR THE TABLE. Its purpose is to be fast and easy to use in play on the fly. The DM only needs to keep in mind three numbers. They're a different three numbers at each level, but he can keep DMing with the same mental toolset at all levels.
Yes but with 5e you only need to remember the same 3 numbers throughout the game... I've asked you to explain to me why it is easier to narrow the range of numbers in 4e but I don't think you've really answered the question yet. I'm not seeing you show me how it's easier to create a narrower range of numbers in 4e.
 

tyrlaan

Villager
A DM's imagination trumps everyone else's because he's running the game and putting the most work in designing the adventure. If you want to play alone, you can. Roll the dice, tell yourself the story, have no DM, and you decide everything. I've seen a few players do this. If you want someone else to do the work to run your character, then his imagination decides the game. It's the courtesy you give the DM because of the work the DM is putting in to the game, which usually exceeds everyone else's investment at the table.
I kind of feel like a good counterpoint to this is that if the DM wants his/her imagination to trump everyone else's, that person may be better served writing a book. I'll come back to this.

So many players don't seem to get how thankless a job DMing is. How the sole pleasure of doing it is the creative process of building a story or encounters. Players want the DM to allow them to live this vicarious fantasy of being a successful adventuring hero. A DM will put hours into this activity spending money on modules, game books, and his time to create this fantasy. That's why he gets final say in a lot of matters.
I'll agree that GMing can be thankless at times (and probably varies from group to group). But this doesn't lead to the logical conclusion of "GM gets the final say". GM gets the final say because the GM is supposed to be the ultimate arbiter/referee unless your group works out something different. The GM doesn't get the final say just because he/she is the one that brought the volleyball to the game.

I'd go so far as to say that if someone GMs and feels he/she has the final say because he/she put in "all this work" (which yeah, can be a hell of a lot of work), then that person is probably not in the right frame of mind to be running a game. GMing is a labor of love, and if you build up expectations that you are "owed" something from your players ("final say" or whatever), you probably will not succeed as a GM.

What motivation is there for a person to commit to running the game if not the creativity of it? People that like to DM a lot enjoy the creative part of DMing. I don't mean just the story fluff, though that is a major part for many. But the encounter creation and the entire process that goes into building an adventure to challenge the PCs. It's a lot of work to DM. That work should be respected. It should be acknowledged as far more difficult than playing a character.

That being said, good DMs reward imaginative play. Part of my fun as a DM is thinking up interesting challenges and scenarios for players and seeing what they come up with to win or solve them. If they come up with something outside the box, I reward that play. I like players that use imaginative strategies outside the scope of standard rules to set achieve victory. That's when the game gets really fun and reaches beyond what any video game could possibly accomplish. It is the imagination of the DM and players that makes a TTRPG different from a video game experience.
Your second paragraph partially answers your first here. There's also the joy of seeing what the PCs will think of next and working with it, hearing them try to work out a mystery and realizing they come up with something better than you so you adjust things behind the scenes to adopt their wild conspiracy, listening for opportunities to pull in character specific/backstory bits and give the characters equal chance to be center stage in the story of the game for a while, adapting to the horrible moment when they one-shot your BBEG, and so on.

See, to me there are two fundamental rewards to GMing. One is unleashing your creations upon your players and watching with joy as the world you have built comes to life. The other is seeing what players do with it, making it even more alive.

I said earlier that if you want your imagination to trump all, write a book. I say that because players will destroy your plans. It's in their DNA. If you can't handle plans being destroyed, GMing is going to be very frustrating for you, or depending on how you handle it, your players. Because, when that happens, you have two choices as a GM.

Option one is to play your trump card and somehow twist things so your plans are not destroyed. Maybe that preserves the fun for the GM, but it's terrible for players. KM talks about feeling "impotent" in 4e because of the scaling DCs/fail forward philosophy/whatever, but that's nothing compared to a GM showing the players that their actions don't matter. So I'd say Option one is a quick way to for a GM to feel good at the expense of deteriorating his/her game.

Option two is to roll with the punch. Maybe someone saw the events and becomes the next BBEG, vowing revenge. Maybe words gets around of the PCs insane success and soon they are approached with a quest vastly over their head and unsure what to do. Maybe because they took a left instead of a right, a small village was destroyed that connects back to the story in some crazy way later. And so on. The GM is still exercising his/her imagination muscles, but doing it in a way that allows the choices made by the PCs to matter.
 

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