5E Why does 5E SUCK?

JamesonCourage

Villager
What up, dude.
What I find frustrating it (what seems to me) an urge to engage on the technical matters of PC building (and related) but (for whatever reason) there is resistance to vigorous, technical evaluation of system and GMing techniques (including posting, what I feel are the most constructive, play examples).
I feel like this is actually what I wrote about. Some people don't or won't agree with your analysis (your "technical evaluation of system"). They don't or won't agree with your terminology. Why bang your head on that wall when you could have productive conversation with people who line up on your views and actually contribute to the conversation you want to have?

Otherwise, you'll be getting stopped before conversation even starts, as people say, "your premise is wrong." Because that's how they feel about your analysis. If you don't want to have that conversation, I'm just advising stepping around those people.
Further, there is (what seems to me as arbitrary) admonishing of it when folks (such as myself) do try to engage in technical details of system and GMing techniques. Again, I don't know if it is because there is a very strong undercurrent of "it is more art than engineering" or "system doesn't matter because good games are mostly born on the back of utilization of strong GM Force" or if it is something else entirely.
I guess I'm confused about why this is "frustrating as hell" when you could just ignore these people or politely ask them not to participate. A lot of posters here don't like 4e, but they didn't threadcrap in my 4e thread while I was still playing it. I'm sure the same could be done on discussions you'd like to talk about.
I just want to chat with fellow GMs about systems and techniques. I want to do it because I think it is the MOST healthy discussions possible for our hobby because (a) it makes each of us better GMs and (b) because folks who are wanting to become GMs (and likely lurking) can gain invaluable insight.

That's all.
I think you can have that. I just think that some people are honestly saying that, to them, taking a technical approach is not what they want when they GM. I'm somewhere in the middle (between art and science), I think, but I do love me my crunchy systems.

Regardless, is it surprising that, when you bring up GMing techniques with other GMs, that they talk about things that work for them? I assume it's not. So that's the part that I'm confused on. What part of this is frustrating? Because I'm just missing something, I think.
 
I'm really not sold on the accuracy of this. For example, I think all the vocal folks in this thread are GMs and not players. I consider it unlikely that people that are only ever players are diving into DC theory debates (I'm sure some do, but it's likely a very dramatic ratio compared to GMs that do)
I agree, I think 99% of the people that post actively on these sorts of threads at least are DMs. Maybe there are other kinds of threads that are quite different, but I probably don't usually post THERE.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I'd say that perhaps you are speaking the truth of your players or those you've played with, but I have definitely seen players that do not fit your definitions remotely so neatly or closely. And to me it still sounds like you have a nice chunk of resentment there either way, but it's all up to you of course, so never mind.
Yes. We all know players that have different attitudes.

Players are under no obligation to build characters with the fun of others in mind. They are under no obligation to build characters with balance in mind. Many players often don't want to run the game because they have fun playing and little fun dealing with a DM deals with. Even this thread with all the insulting talk about arbitrary DM's is indicative of this attitude. They don't like the DM having control of the game. They prefer a set of rules that allows them to do what they want within the rules without having to worry about arbitrary DM rulings. They argue over rules they think work a certain way, usually as advantageous to them as possible. I'm sure myself and other DMs could create a nice long list of things we have to deal with from players, just like players could make a nice long list of things they don't like from DMs.

I hold not resentment. You are reading that in. I hold more resentment towards lazy game design that misses these problems. I feel like we pay game designers to understand and provide rules free of most of the imbalance problems. Yet they always seem to release a book with some of these problems. I have yet to play an edition of D&D that did not have these problems. Even 4E had some cases where abilities were out of control if run by the RAW.

As a DM you have to find them and rewrite them, the player has no obligation to do this. Some players put up resistance to changes to favorite power abilities, even if it is fairly obvious they are making the game nearly impossible to run. Do I resent the player for acting within their nature? No. Players want to build the best character they can.

Do I resent game designers for creating problem abilities, getting play reports on these problem abilities, and not fixing them quickly? Yes, I do. Game designers are paid to build an extremely balanced game and make corrections when problems are found. That should include the high level game, otherwise they shouldn't even have made the game go to high levels. It's lazy for game designers to make a game that plays to level 20 or 30 and allow it to be so problematic to run. Could you imagine if they did this in MMORPGs? If they created the game, sold it to you, and it became ridiculously easy for you to defeat their designed world encounters of an appropriate level including elites and world bosses. Would you be happy with your purchase if that were the case?

Some of us like to play to high level because we enjoy the characters. Finding that monsters can't withstand player groups at high level is disappointing. It shows the game designers failed to account mathematically for the high level game. They should have taken the time to create high level optimized characters and run them against encounters from the Monster Manual to ensure they are challenging using optimal tactics.

So yes, there is some resentment. Not towards players who are doing what human nature impels them to do, but definitely towards game designers for not testing the high level game more thoroughly to provide me with a rule set that works from 1 to 20.
 

JamesonCourage

Villager
Players are under no obligation to build characters with the fun of others in mind.
I have five rules that my players must abide by during character generation. Rule number 2 is, "The character must be fun for everyone." In the RPG I wrote, it's in the book, at character creation, before you ever even hit the mechanics.

I think the point is that not everyone has the same social contract going on at the table. My players aren't douches. They're literally not allowed to be, or they won't be one of my players. Not everyone has problem players. Not everyone has optimizers, or rules lawyers. Not everyone is interested in themselves first. Not everyone advocates only for themselves, and never against themselves.

It seems like you realize this (you said "Yes. We all know players that have different attitudes."). I assume you realize that different tables have different social contracts, too. And at tables like mine, the problems you're describing don't exist. Some players fit your description, but none of them act that way. Because if they do, they'll be booted. And they don't want to be booted. They like the game.

Anyway. Just my thoughts.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
I have five rules that my players must abide by during character generation. Rule number 2 is, "The character must be fun for everyone." In the RPG I wrote, it's in the book, at character creation, before you ever even hit the mechanics.

I think the point is that not everyone has the same social contract going on at the table. My players aren't douches. They're literally not allowed to be, or they won't be one of my players. Not everyone has problem players. Not everyone has optimizers, or rules lawyers. Not everyone is interested in themselves first. Not everyone advocates only for themselves, and never against themselves.

It seems like you realize this (you said "Yes. We all know players that have different attitudes."). I assume you realize that different tables have different social contracts, too. And at tables like mine, the problems you're describing don't exist. Some players fit your description, but none of them act that way. Because if they do, they'll be booted. And they don't want to be booted. They like the game.

Anyway. Just my thoughts.
I do realize that. I personally would not play at tables where the DM interferes too much in my character concept other than to ensure I role-play it properly. I never use a general concept like "fun for everyone." When I outline parameters for character generation, I only require the following:

1. Fits the theme of the campaign. If I make the campaign based around a particular place or situation, I expect the character backgrounds to fit.

2. Isn't going to be disruptive like a person playing a psychotic evil person that will murder others. I don't mind an evil PC as long as they are not insane. Evil people can be selfish and greedy, but generally understand teamwork and can develop relationships.

3. They follow the rule parameters I've made clear prior to character creation bringing any abusive options they know I might take issue with to my attention prior to springing it on me.

It's far too difficult to try to appease everyone's idea of fun. I don't even try to do that. I try to ensure that the party is capable of working together. If a player makes a character that isn't interested in working as a team, they have no real reason to be there. D&D is first and foremost a team game. Though I do like in character conflict. I prefer there to be some party tension because it makes things more interesting and better mirrors stories. Everyone working perfectly together lacks verisimilitude and is boring.

If someone runs a good game, a player will put up with a lot.
 
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Marshall

Villager
Difficulty is measured relative to the world as a whole, and the (global) average modifier to any given check is between +0 and +1. Moreover, in case anyone has forgotten, a natural 20 is not a success unless you're talking about attack rolls or saving throws.

If a Hard DC was anything higher than 19, then it wouldn't be hard for most people - it would be impossible.

Which jives well with our observed reality. In the real world, normal people sometimes beat the odds and survive terrible circumstances.
Which means, only, that the 5e DC chart is set up for zero level PCs and is incomplete when asked to deal with higher level PCS.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
Which means, only, that the 5e DC chart is set up for zero level PCs and is incomplete when asked to deal with higher level PCS.
It might be based around 0th-level characters, but there are harder difficulties to challenge high-level characters. If the DC is 25, then it's a check which would be impossible for most people, and yet a talented and trained individual with sufficient experience has a chance of succeeding anyway.

It is very much working as intended.
 

tyrlaan

Villager
You say...
Players are under no obligation to build characters with the fun of others in mind. They are under no obligation to build characters with balance in mind.
And then say...
I do realize that. I personally would not play at tables where the DM interferes too much in my character concept other than to ensure I role-play it properly. I never use a general concept like "fun for everyone." When I outline parameters for character generation, I only require the following:

1. Fits the theme of the campaign. If I make the campaign based around a particular place or situation, I expect the character backgrounds to fit.

2. Isn't going to be disruptive like a person playing a psychotic evil person that will murder others. I don't mind an evil PC as long as they are not insane. Evil people can be selfish and greedy, but generally understand teamwork and can develop relationships.

3. They follow the rule parameters I've made clear prior to character creation bringing any abusive options they know I might take issue with to my attention prior to springing it on me.
So you basically are saying that your players ARE under obligation to build characters with the fun of others in mind and with balance in mind.


It's far too difficult to try to appease everyone's idea of fun. I don't even try to do that. I try to ensure that the party is capable of working together.
I don't really agree with this. That's what the conversation before a game starts is intended to facilitate. There's the Same Page Tool out there to make this pretty easy. The rules around character creation, like you have above, help toward this goal. And so on. And that's only before the game starts, which doesn't take into account touching base with players for feedback between sessions, etc.

Will everyone be giddy with gaming glee every moment of every session? Of course not. But it seems fruitless to play a game with a bunch of people, when the point of playing is to have fun, to not try to deliver said fun. This is not exclusively a mission of the GMs, but clearly as the voice of authority in a game, it should be the GM that pushes that agenda.

If you're not trying to bring fun to everyone at the table, why are you playing?

If a player makes a character that isn't interested in working as a team, they have no real reason to be there. D&D is first and foremost a team game. Though I do like in character conflict. I prefer there to be some party tension because it makes things more interesting and better mirrors stories. Everyone working perfectly together lacks verisimilitude and is boring.
Totally agree with this, like 1000%. I wanted to let you know so you don't think I just like being contrary to you :)
 
On the one hand, the bounded accuracy of 5E clearly pushes in this direction. But it is hugely different than 4E in the sense that characters who are experts in something can and will leave others far behind.
I have no idea why you think this is not a feature of 4e. At 10th level skill bonus gaps will typically be more than +/-10 (+5 for training, +4 for stat differences, +2 for items). At 30th they are more than +/-20 (+5 for training, +3 for feat, +8 for stat, +6 for items).

Given that 5e has a hard stat cap and low-bonus items, I don't think the gaps in that system are going to be any bigger than 4e.

Thus when character level changes the result will follow the function and "shift".
What result? How many levels are you envisaging the PCs gaining while they hang out on the one mountainside within the same blizzard that, in the fiction, is not changing?

If you want to play a very static game, in which the fictional context of the PCs adventures does not change much, then I would think it's obvious that 4e is not suitable, given that it has a clear statement to the contrary in the "tiers of play" sections of both the PHB and DMG that I quoted upthread.

you seem to not grasp that when you frame it as a function of character level, the implication that it will continue to be a function of character level is present.
There is some uncertainty over the reference of "it" here.

If you are saying, there is an implication that future challenges will likewise be authored (both fictionally and mechanically) so that they serve pacing and challenge goals, which include PC level as a consideration, then yes. But I don't see the big deal about that.

If you are saying, when the higher level PCs return to the very same blizzard, it will have a higher DC, then I am puzzled. Time travel is not a default part of 4e, so this is not going to come up. (Which also relates to my point above: I don't see that a blizzard is a "static challenge".)

If you are saying that, when higher level PCs meet a typical goblin or orc, it will have been levelled up (but not suitably minionised) then I deny that there is any such implication. Where is it stated in the 4e rulebooks? Which 4e player is affirming it? How do the Monster Manuals possibly suggest this?

In general, 4e assumes that the GM (i) will frame DCs to suit the pacing/challenge demands of his/her group, which includes PC level as part of that context, and (ii)will frame the fiction in accordance with the guidelines I quoted upthread, such that Heroic PCs are facing heroic challenges, Paragon PCs paragon ones, and Epic PCs epic ones.

It's not really rocket science.

I suppose you just track what level the party was the first time they go anywhere so you know what the DC was when it first came into existence.
You could do that. Or you could do what I do - if there is nothing very dramatic happening, you just say yes. (EG when the epic PCs in my game briefly returned to the town where they'd made a big splash in the first half of the paragon tier, no dice were rolled.) Whereas when something dramatic is happening, you narrate the fiction in a fashion that fits with the relevant tier of play.

You need to quit inserting yourself as the center of every comment.
You replied to my post in which I explain the intricacies of a particular technique, and why I use it, by saying "I still maintain that knowing the level of the characters is completely unneeded." I assumed that you mean "unneeded by anyone" - that would seem to be what completely unneeded means - and hence, as a special case of that, "unneeded by pemerton". If in fact you agree that it is need by me, then why do you keep posting that it is completely unneeded?
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
So you basically are saying that your players ARE under obligation to build characters with the fun of others in mind and with balance in mind.
No. I'm saying I as the DM am under an obligation to ensure some semblance of balance regardless of the desires of the players. I make sure the game is balanced. I don't expect the players to do so. That is irresponsible DMing in my opinion. If as a DM you can't assess rule problems and create a solution to balance them, then it is your fault when the game goes off the rails.

It is my obligation to provide the players with a clear idea of how they should structure their backgrounds to fit the story. If I provide them with no clear direction for their background and they create one that doesn't fit the story, whose fault is that? It is my fault as a DM, not the players.

The DM has an obligation to provide clear guidance for the player to create a character. If the DM fails to do so, the player has no obligation to seek to do so himself. I consider such mistakes my failure. I have had this happen before where a player makes something that doesn't fit and I've had to tell him to make something else. When that happens, I screwed up, not the player. Same as I had to modify some class capabilities and spells to balance them after the player used them. That is the fault of the game designer, not the player. It is my obligation to make appropriate changes to balance the game.

I tend to consider it the DM's responsibility to consider all these things prior to play. The player's only responsibility is to follow the guidelines outlined by the DM.

I don't really agree with this. That's what the conversation before a game starts is intended to facilitate. There's the Same Page Tool out there to make this pretty easy. The rules around character creation, like you have above, help toward this goal. And so on. And that's only before the game starts, which doesn't take into account touching base with players for feedback between sessions, etc.

Will everyone be giddy with gaming glee every moment of every session? Of course not. But it seems fruitless to play a game with a bunch of people, when the point of playing is to have fun, to not try to deliver said fun. This is not exclusively a mission of the GMs, but clearly as the voice of authority in a game, it should be the GM that pushes that agenda.

If you're not trying to bring fun to everyone at the table, why are you playing?
People are responsible for their fun. Not me, not the other players. Let me give you a clear example that occurs in my group quite often. One player likes to read the rules, read the message boards, and build a highly effective character he enjoys. Another player doesn't read the rules much, doesn't spend much time to build an effective character, and finds the min-maxing annoying. Which one do you side with? Player 1 or player 2? Player 2 has the option to do what player 1 does, but he chooses not to. Would it be fair to force player 1 to stop doing what he finds fun about the game? I don't think so. He's likes the game. He likes to spend his free time reading up on it. He likes to try things he's read up on. It makes player 2 unhappy.

I don't feel it is the responsibility of either player to rectify the situation. Player 1 is doing what he's doing to have fun. If player 2 doesn't enjoy it, he can either start reading up on the game as player 1 does or find another group. I'm not going to worry about taking responsibility for his lack of willingness to maximize his character.

Now take these two players and carry it over to the group. What if each player has a different reason they're not having fun? Then what? Do I rewrite the entire rule system until it is fun for everyone? Hardly my responsibility.

Each person is responsible for their character and their fun. I'm responsible for creating clear guidelines for character creation and handling what seem to be mathematically provable balance issues. I'm responsible for utilizing the character backgrounds in the story in a manner that is entertaining and fun for the players. I'm responsible for providing an entertaining and fun adventure experience.

The table, player and DM, is responsible for group problems like argumentative players or disagreements between the DM and players that must be worked out through discussion. Fun is too subjective to require a group to be responsible for it. I'm pretty sure we could all list countless examples of players enjoying the game in different ways that rubs other players the wrong way. If we tried to impose rules that limit the players, we would have trouble getting going.

I have a good enough group right now. They don't all spend time worrying about the other guy's fun. They accept each others differences, enjoy the company, and try to enjoy the adventure which I usually create in a fashion that allows everyone to enjoy their character and have fun. Each character having fun is more the responsibility of the DM.



Totally agree with this, like 1000%. I wanted to let you know so you don't think I just like being contrary to you :)
I guess there's one thing.
 

SkidAce

Adventurer
It is my obligation to provide the players with a clear idea of how they should structure their backgrounds to fit the story. If I provide them with no clear direction for their background and they create one that doesn't fit the story, whose fault is that? It is my fault as a DM, not the players.
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tyrlaan

Villager
No. I'm saying I as the DM am under an obligation to ensure some semblance of balance regardless of the desires of the players. I make sure the game is balanced. I don't expect the players to do so. That is irresponsible DMing in my opinion. If as a DM you can't assess rule problems and create a solution to balance them, then it is your fault when the game goes off the rails.

It is my obligation to provide the players with a clear idea of how they should structure their backgrounds to fit the story. If I provide them with no clear direction for their background and they create one that doesn't fit the story, whose fault is that? It is my fault as a DM, not the players.

The DM has an obligation to provide clear guidance for the player to create a character. If the DM fails to do so, the player has no obligation to seek to do so himself. I consider such mistakes my failure. I have had this happen before where a player makes something that doesn't fit and I've had to tell him to make something else. When that happens, I screwed up, not the player. Same as I had to modify some class capabilities and spells to balance them after the player used them. That is the fault of the game designer, not the player. It is my obligation to make appropriate changes to balance the game.

I tend to consider it the DM's responsibility to consider all these things prior to play. The player's only responsibility is to follow the guidelines outlined by the DM.
I agree with all of this, but...

This isn't a counterpoint to player obligation. In fact, you agree with player obligation as per your last sentence here. You can replace the word responsibility with obligation and there you have it. So if you're supplementing commentary of both of ours from prior posts, totally agree. But starting with the word "no" seems very contradictory to your own words.

People are responsible for their fun. Not me, not the other players.
I'm responsible for utilizing the character backgrounds in the story in a manner that is entertaining and fun for the players. I'm responsible for providing an entertaining and fun adventure experience.
Sure... but, as the GM I have a large portion of the control over how much fun a player can have. I could run a game where I kill everyone's PC each session in the most absurd and uninteresting way possible. Is it fair for me to turn around and say to the players that "they're responsible for their own fun?" I'm sure I'd quickly be out of players. And actually you agree with me on this, as per the second quote above, which means you concede that you have at least partial responsibility for the fun of the players.

In a group/team environment, everyone at the table has an impact on everyone else's fun. That means they have a responsibility to be aware of this dynamic and keep it in mind when playing the game.

You've already demonstrated that you know what I'm talking about here because one of your chargen rules is to make someone who will play relatively nice with others, which means you probably agree with me. Why would you have this rule if not for the fact that playing someone who is a lone wolf/psycho evil/etc character is going to damage other people's fun?

Let me give you a clear example that occurs in my group quite often. One player likes to read the rules, read the message boards, and build a highly effective character he enjoys. Another player doesn't read the rules much, doesn't spend much time to build an effective character, and finds the min-maxing annoying. Which one do you side with? Player 1 or player 2? Player 2 has the option to do what player 1 does, but he chooses not to. Would it be fair to force player 1 to stop doing what he finds fun about the game? I don't think so. He's likes the game. He likes to spend his free time reading up on it. He likes to try things he's read up on. It makes player 2 unhappy.

I don't feel it is the responsibility of either player to rectify the situation. Player 1 is doing what he's doing to have fun. If player 2 doesn't enjoy it, he can either start reading up on the game as player 1 does or find another group. I'm not going to worry about taking responsibility for his lack of willingness to maximize his character.
For starters, I must confess I don't see what the point of contention is between the two players, unless you're saying one is complaining about the other for some reason. What is the situation that needs to be rectified?

If there is no complaining from either player.... there's no issue here and why would I as a GM think I need to intervene? And what does it have to do with worrying about their respective fun?

Now take these two players and carry it over to the group. What if each player has a different reason they're not having fun? Then what? Do I rewrite the entire rule system until it is fun for everyone? Hardly my responsibility.
Sorry, couldn't follow this, so not sure what you are demonstrating here, though one thing is that you seem to be pigeon-holing fun issues to rules related only?
 

JamesonCourage

Villager
It's far too difficult to try to appease everyone's idea of fun.
This isn't my experience at all. But hey, I'm not one of those GMs that has runs tables for a hundred different players. Probably only about twenty people.
I try to ensure that the party is capable of working together. If a player makes a character that isn't interested in working as a team, they have no real reason to be there.
I mentioned my Rule #2 being, "The character must be fun for everyone." However, Rule #1 is, "The character must work in a group." And hell, Rule #3 is "The character must have a reason to be with the party."

So, I definitely agree with you, here.
If someone runs a good game, a player will put up with a lot.
This is my experience. And this is why I've had players with disruptive tendencies curb that behavior at my table. Because if they don't, they'd be gone.
 

Hussar

Legend
/snip


People are responsible for their fun. Not me, not the other players. Let me give you a clear example that occurs in my group quite often. One player likes to read the rules, read the message boards, and build a highly effective character he enjoys. Another player doesn't read the rules much, doesn't spend much time to build an effective character, and finds the min-maxing annoying. Which one do you side with? Player 1 or player 2? Player 2 has the option to do what player 1 does, but he chooses not to. Would it be fair to force player 1 to stop doing what he finds fun about the game? I don't think so. He's likes the game. He likes to spend his free time reading up on it. He likes to try things he's read up on. It makes player 2 unhappy.

I don't feel it is the responsibility of either player to rectify the situation. Player 1 is doing what he's doing to have fun. If player 2 doesn't enjoy it, he can either start reading up on the game as player 1 does or find another group. I'm not going to worry about taking responsibility for his lack of willingness to maximize his character.

Now take these two players and carry it over to the group. What if each player has a different reason they're not having fun? Then what? Do I rewrite the entire rule system until it is fun for everyone? Hardly my responsibility.
To some degree everyone already does this though. You talk about limiting optimisation to ensure balance. Aren't you doing that to ensure everyone at the table is having fun? You are adding house rules in order to limit abuse in order to make sure everyone has a good time. That's just DMing 101. It's pretty basic stuff. The difference is simply one of scale.

Now, if the group's tastes are all so different that everyone is annoyed by someone else's fun in the game, then that group is dysfunctional and headed for a break up before too long. Too many competing interests and, barring some outside factors (only game in town for example) it's pretty likely that this group has a half life usually reserved for small animals on a brightly moonlit night.

And, of course, there has to be willingness to compromise. Everyone has to accept, to some degree, different play styles. Like your two players, one who is an optimiser and the other isn't but the issue isn't large enough to cause either to outright quit. And most tables, over time, will settle on a fairly middle of the road approach. The optimiser maybe tones it down a touch or the non-optimiser picks up the game a bit. Depends on the DM really. If the DM consistently builds encounters to challenge the optimiser, then the Timmy is likely going to be very frustrated and eventually leave the group. OTOH, if the DM's encounters are somewhere in between, then both players are probably content enough to stay.

But, group building, just like any social interaction, is something of a weeding process. Stable groups will generally share play styles and it becomes circular. People with similar play styles will build stable groups, which stay together longer, which causes the group to further meld their play styles together. Those whose play styles are too different will simply move on.

Wow, not sure where I'm going with this. This kinda got away from me. No idea what my point is here, other than, IMO, it becomes, over time, unavoidable for the group to become responsible for each other's fun because each other's fun depends on a particular play style which a given group will eventually settle on if the group is going to be long term stable.
 

Aenghus

Explorer
IMO, it becomes, over time, unavoidable for the group to become responsible for each other's fun because each other's fun depends on a particular play style which a given group will eventually settle on if the group is going to be long term stable.
I find the unspoken compromises in a particular group become more visible when there's a new player with different expectations to provide a contrast to the evolved culture of the existing group. It can be surprising how many unspoken, unwritten compromises evolve over time in a long standing group, and are only consciously realised when an outsider points them out.

Groups of competitive, adversarial players have less inherent cooperation typically and need more active refereeing than collaborative player groups do to keep individual players from stepping over lines they shouldn't.
 
I'd say this is also something of a shift in attitude from the mid-1990s when 2E was mid-life.

<snip>

D&D suffered from a lot of elitism from people playing other systems that seemed to feel (sometimes outright said) it was a "beginner" system and not for "serious roleplayers" (which seemed to be a code word for LARPers and.. well, that's another story. Balance complaints, however, were unheard of.
They were definitely unheard of.

<snip>

MMOs did not yet exist, so "balance" when it was discussed still referred to the balance of a particular campaign (you might remember the term Monty Haul), and whether a system was balanced wasn't a concept that even occurred to anyone to talk about.
Yet oddly enough I used to talk to other D&D players (and RPGers more generally) about balance issues in games and systems.

Here is a quote from Gygax's column in Dragon 15 (June 1978; italics original):

Remember that D&D was developed as a game, and allowances for balance between character roles and character versus monster confrontations were made.​

And here is something I found in Dragon 84, from Jan 84), in a letter to the Forum discussing psionics options:

I would not expect this problem to have much effect on game balance.​

As [MENTION=22779]Hussar[/MENTION] said, examples could easily be multiplied.
 
Nowhere in the history of never and/or ever has Ikea (and its instructions) stopped anyone from drilling a hole 3/4 of an inch lower because they thought the result would look better.

All "select DC by level" verbiage in 4e is assuming you wish to create a dramatic situation with fairly predictable outcome with regards to the PC/party's general power. It is a guidebook saying : "If you use these numbers, there is a good chance the game will work in this* way."
My only quibble with this is over the nature of the "predictability". The outcomes will be mechanically fairly predictable - but the fiction associated with those outcomes can be as varies as the players and GM like (especially when it comes not non-combat resolution).

Show me a passage, sentence or whatever that tells you to base the actually difficulty ratings (actual numbers) on the adventure

<snip>

the basis in the 4e books always starts with character level.
I'm not basing my DC's on the level of the PC's in my game, I'm designing an adventure, sometimes on the fly, that uses the DC's for a party of 10th level characters... and my PC's just happen to be 10th level characters... but they're not what I'm basing my DC's on... I'm basing them on the level of the adventure I am creating... for my 10th level PC's
What does the adventure mean here?

If a GM is running a module (whether for 3E, 4e or 5e), the module author will typically state the DCs.

Presumably, then, we are talking about a GM preparing his/her own material for use in his/her game.

In that context, I don't think that it is uncommon for GMs to have regard to the level of PC they expect to use that material. For instance, when I was an AD&D GM building dungeons, I would have regard to the level of PC I expected to enter the dungeon. (For instance, I generally used higher-HD monsters in dungeons I was designing with the intention that my players high level PCs would explored them.)

In AD&D, there are no on-combat DCs to speak of - non-combat resolution is generally based on a d6, d20 or d100 roll that is level independent (except for thief abilities, and in tht case the level of the thief sets the success chance, so there is no DC for the GM to set).

In 4e, non-combat is treated the same as combat - something in which PC level is a factor in resolution, and hence in design. Just as an AD&D GM may well have regard to likely PC level in building a dungeon, so a 4e GM may well have regard to likely PC level in making notes on a mountain and the blizzards that notoriously occur on its slopes.

The only difference between 4e and earlier editions is that in 4e they actually gave you numerical ranges for determining difficulties instead of letting the DM try to guess what would be appropriate for that level of an adventure.
Point me to the section in 4e about sandbox play and how to set it up

<snip>

I use 5e there are no DC's for the level of my PC's
5e doesn't have "level appropriate" DCs. Instead it has "level appropriate" damage ranges, which is why monsters in 5e have CRs but some non-combat situations don't. (But presumably some do: in deciding how much damage a PC suffers from a blizzard, or falling down a mountainside, doesn't the 5e DMG provide advice on level-appropriate damage?)

As I've tried to explain upthread, I think there are interesting differences that go beyond sandbox vs scene-framing when it comes to objective vs subjective DCs. But I don't see that the combat vs non-combat divide is a very exciting place to draw the line. If we can and do assign combat challenges CRs, why is it any fundamental difference to assign non-combat challenges CRs?

OK, then explain to us how its different then in 5e. How there's some mysterious procedure by which the DM, blind to any possibility that he's got an actual party of characters to cater to, simply divines how hard it would 'really be' to pick a magical lock, or dispel a demon? Or even climb a mountain.
In addition to the point you were making in this passage, I think it also feeds into a more general issue with "objective" DCs - namely, that they are not self-evident. The notion of a mountain being Hard vs Very Hard for some (notional) "ordinary NPC" is not something that can just be read of the world (either the real one or the imagined one). The GM has to make stuff up, or alternatively the game designers have to make stuff up and provide lists of DCs.

Its not the objective DCs themselves that leads to grittiness, it's the fact that objective DCs are so subjective that your chances of success are unfathomable. Aside from a handful of fixed, obvious challenges(ie doors, locks, walls) everything else is set difficulty at the whim of the GM based on his subjective feelings at that second. 99.9% of the time, that judgement is going to give a DC that is wildly to difficult for the task at hand even tho it is ostensibly based on objective reality of the fiction.
What you say about setting "objective" DCs may be true of 5e. It's not true in general - for instance, two of the systems I've mentioned a bit upthread (Rolemaster and Burning Wheel) have lists of objective DCs for a much broader range of tasks than opening doors and locks and climbing walls.

But in any event, in my view the principal reason why "objective" DCs produce a sense of grittiness is because they focus attention very closely on the causal reasons why things are happening in the shared fiction. Whereas "subjective" DCs tend to focus attention on the dramatic significance of the things that are happening in the shared fiction.

Consider the blizzard example again. In a system of "subjective" DCs, the GM states the DC for the blizzard. If the players mention that their PCs put on overcoats etc it makes perfect sense for the GM to say "I've already factored all that in". The point of the blizzard, as a challenge, isn't to make the players think about procedural solutions to cold conditions, but rather to engage the dramatic situation. In an "objective" DC game, on the other hand, it absolutely makes sense for the players to start looking for procedural/operational choices that will lower the DC. Which contributes to grittiness.
 
What I find frustrating it (what seems to me) an urge to engage on the technical matters of PC building (and related) but (for whatever reason) there is resistance to vigorous, technical evaluation of system and GMing techniques (including posting, what I feel are the most constructive, play examples). Further, there is (what seems to me as arbitrary) admonishing of it when folks (such as myself) do try to engage in technical details of system and GMing techniques. Again, I don't know if it is because there is a very strong undercurrent of "it is more art than engineering" or "system doesn't matter because good games are mostly born on the back of utilization of strong GM Force" or if it is something else entirely.
On the lack of play example, I have no real hypothesis.

On the objection to analysis, I do have a hypothesis. There are people who enjoy books and films, for example, but disagree vociferously with even the idea of doing serious analysis or criticism of them. I think a lot of the resistance to analysing GMing comes from a similar position. The thought is that to analyse is already to change the practice, and make it something it isn't and ought not to be (eg a deliberate or considered thing rather than a spontaneous thing).

A related sort of objection to analysis is that the analyst is trying to set him-/herself up as intellectually superior to those who engage in the activity without analysing.

My theory is two-fold. One is that GMs have strong personalities and I just think things get taken too personally, out of context, delivered insensitively, and so on. In response, GMs are unlikely to just accept it and move on because of said strong personalities, so things keep going down the road less constructive.

The other is that people are too tied up with the need to fight the edition fight
I don't share you first theory - I don't think that GMs have particularly strong personalities compared to other people I know (both personally and professionally) for whom analysis is part and parcel of engaging with any sort of activity.

I think your second theory is closer to the truth, but perhaps confuses causation and correlation: the objection to 4e is, in many cases, grounded in the same sort of approach to RPGing as makes someone hostile to analysis. Eg 4e doesn't present the play experience as something that emerges organically and almost ethereally from just reading the books and rolling up PCs, but rather presents the game a something rather deliberate, and - in that sense - artificial.
 
Players are under no obligation to build characters with the fun of others in mind. They are under no obligation to build characters with balance in mind.
My group tends to assume the opposite on both scores. Players are expected to build their PCs having in mind the fun of others, thinking about how their PCs might fit into the bigger picture of the game and the play experience. They are also expected to build keeping balance in mind. This isn't appropriate during actual action resolution - I find there is nothing quite as insipid in RPGing as having to hold back your PC so as to avoid overshadowing/dominating - but PC build, being a pre-play rather than play stage of the game is precisely the right point to have regard to balance issues.

Practical examples I can think of in games I've GMed are players making choices about spell selection, or about feat selection, having regard to imbalances that some options might lead to. I have vague recollections of race choices being similarly influenced by balance concerns.

The reason there is not much talk from a GMing viewpoint on general forums is the majority of posters are players.
I thought most posters on ENworld were GMs. Isn't there some survey data about this?
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
To some degree everyone already does this though. You talk about limiting optimisation to ensure balance. Aren't you doing that to ensure everyone at the table is having fun? You are adding house rules in order to limit abuse in order to make sure everyone has a good time. That's just DMing 101. It's pretty basic stuff. The difference is simply one of scale.

Now, if the group's tastes are all so different that everyone is annoyed by someone else's fun in the game, then that group is dysfunctional and headed for a break up before too long. Too many competing interests and, barring some outside factors (only game in town for example) it's pretty likely that this group has a half life usually reserved for small animals on a brightly moonlit night.

And, of course, there has to be willingness to compromise. Everyone has to accept, to some degree, different play styles. Like your two players, one who is an optimiser and the other isn't but the issue isn't large enough to cause either to outright quit. And most tables, over time, will settle on a fairly middle of the road approach. The optimiser maybe tones it down a touch or the non-optimiser picks up the game a bit. Depends on the DM really. If the DM consistently builds encounters to challenge the optimiser, then the Timmy is likely going to be very frustrated and eventually leave the group. OTOH, if the DM's encounters are somewhere in between, then both players are probably content enough to stay.

But, group building, just like any social interaction, is something of a weeding process. Stable groups will generally share play styles and it becomes circular. People with similar play styles will build stable groups, which stay together longer, which causes the group to further meld their play styles together. Those whose play styles are too different will simply move on.

Wow, not sure where I'm going with this. This kinda got away from me. No idea what my point is here, other than, IMO, it becomes, over time, unavoidable for the group to become responsible for each other's fun because each other's fun depends on a particular play style which a given group will eventually settle on if the group is going to be long term stable.
It is the DM's responsibility to ensure people are having fun. It is in fact your number one job.

Why do you feel that my group is dysfunctional? My group has been together for over thirty years. No one is this perfect example of harmony so many seem to paint on here. They're people with different tastes and reasons for gaming. Why would you expect one guy to have fun in the same way as the other guy? Do you really seek a group so close in personality that they achieve gaming fun in the same fashion? I find all this "goals of play" talk and "everyone is responsible for the fun of others" strange.

Guys read the books. They get bored playing the same concepts over and over again when you've been playing as along as we have. They're always searching for some cool concept to try that involves some power concept they like. It makes the game new for them. I allow it as long as it is not breaking the game meaning making it trivial.

Gaming attracts odd personalities. Often opinionated and independent minded people. Making them responsible for each other's fun is a bit too much to ask. We're all long time buddies. We've come to accept each others differences even if we don't like them. I always figured gaming groups come to accept the foibles of others as much as they enjoy the commonalties. I don't expect my players and they don't expect me when I play to create my character with their fun in mind. They expect me to create my character with my fun in mind. If I'm not enjoying my character, then I'm not having fun.

The reason I put so much on the DM is because if the DM isn't creating a fun adventure, the entire group is dead in the water. They're bored no matter how well they constructed a party to have fun. DM failure is the number one reason games fail.
 
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