D&D 5E Why Don't We Simplify 5e?

Eubani

Hero
You absolutely could get simpler. Make casting an arcana check. Base the DC on the effect you want. Higher level effects have higher DCs which are too high for low-level casters. Give each school rough parameters of what it can do. That would take maybe 5-10 pages and would cover the entire magic section of the PHB.
Simple Magic caster As an action shoot an Arcane Bolt 120ft range uses Int mod des 1d8 + Int damage. 1 per rest you can make bolt do 20ft rd. Every so many levels up damage dice or number of dice. Gain detect magic a couple of times a day done.
 

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turnip_farmer

Adventurer
Small being?



How long? How far away?



Can nothing force it? How about magical creatures?



Because there's big gaps missing in what you tell them. That was what OD&D did with those spells.

But you know, they still took up more space than almost anything else, because even that much text takes up a lot of space when you have a lot of spells (and again, I'm not even talking as many spells as people are now used to, as a lot of staples didn't even come in until AD&D).
You can do short and snappy spell descriptions that are much more precise that Thom's example, though. This is the full description of Sleep in 5 Torches Deep:

"2HD/level worth of targets in 30’ fall asleep. Attack. 8 hrs"

All the spells are like that, and it means all 60 spells in the core rulebook fit on two pages.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
You absolutely could get simpler. Make casting an arcana check. Base the DC on the effect you want. Higher level effects have higher DCs which are too high for low-level casters. Give each school rough parameters of what it can do. That would take maybe 5-10 pages and would cover the entire magic section of the PHB.

Is the easy thing there just to grab a copy of Mage?

Anyway, what would you make the relative DCs for conjuring small amounts of nitrobenzene, aqua regia, chlorine gas, orange juice, and water? Is it based on the chemical complexity, commonness of the material, or game effectiveness?

Does the nature of the target at a distance affect the DC if it's just being conjured out of thin air? Stationary container vs. air above a stationary person vs. air space in a stationary person's mouth vs. in their chest cavity? Should it matter if you're just putting something into an air space?
 

One way to reduce the at-the-table complexity of spells would be to limit horizontal growth: basically, without even changing the spells much, you could make wizards a lot easier to play if they aren't prepping 30 spells out of 49 and casting up to 29 each day... okay that's at 20th but it's still a lot.

I think the upper limit of broad choices without causing issues is somewhere in the mid-teens, based on how many classes people seem to able to work through without getting confused. Which means that a max-level full caster, between spells prepped, subclass features and magic items shouldn't go past 15 or so 'spells' to pick from during play.

BUT if you do this, you can add complexity to spells in the form of internal variability - ie Fire Strike can encompass everything form fire bolt and burning hands and fireball all the way up to meteor swarm (depending on the level it's cast at), and still only count as one spell. Basically, reorganizing the spell rules into thematic groups can make the game less complex in practice while actually adding options.

I think, anyways. It seemed to work pretty well in other rpgs I've played.
 

Helpful NPC Thom

Adventurer
Small being?



How long? How far away?



Can nothing force it? How about magical creatures?



Because there's big gaps missing in what you tell them. That was what OD&D did with those spells.

But you know, they still took up more space than almost anything else, because even that much text takes up a lot of space when you have a lot of spells (and again, I'm not even talking as many spells as people are now used to, as a lot of staples didn't even come in until AD&D).
The GM makes a judgment call; whatever sounds reasonable to the table. If you demand more complexity from the rules, you'll get more rules complexity. In DCC, the fighter's Mighty Deeds of Arms covers a very broad range of potential combat maneuvers, yet it relies considerably on GM adjudication to function properly. The same can be done with all aspects of design. You can go Swords and Wizardry, or you can go full Exalted.
 

To quote you, this is bluntly nonsense. No one in the world has the perfect, encyclopedic understanding of the rules they live by that are provided by the game book the players at the table read. Especially if we're talking about a faux-medieval world like the ones presented in most fantasy games. The people in the world would know basic stuff, sure. But they would know nothing about the game's mechanics.

Let me present a simple case.

I'm a moderately armored warrior, of above average strength.

How far can I jump?

If you wish to tell me I should have no real idea, then we might as well drop this right now, because I consider that patentetly ridiculous. This is a character who has been dependent on his understanding of his physical abilities for his whole professional life (which presumably didn't start yesterday).

So. does he know? If the player has to ask the GM every time, I'll state I don't think, in practice, he does in any way that matters; if he does (even with some degree of uncertainty, though most of that is why there's a die roll involved in most such things) that's knowing the mechanics.

Similarly, a mage should have pretty good idea how far he can throw his lightning bolt. Again, mechanics.

A character would know they're hurt, they might know they feel like they're dying...but they wouldn't know what hit points are and they certainly wouldn't be able to make tactical decisions based on that knowledge. Your character won't know the details of a spell and how it works, for example, unless they learned that spell or happened to have studied about it (arcana check). They wouldn't know if a wizard lock worked on a daemon, for example...unless the wizard who taught it to them knew that, etc.

The problem is that with the examples presented earlier, they won't know that even if they have the spell. Its not in the spell description, so how could they? The player only has the data he's been presented.

Again, you can have the GM answer the question every time, but that gets back to "Is the GM going to be consistent about this with the number of spells even a couple of medium level spellcasters will know in D&D, given the lack of common metrics?" I've expressed my opinion on that.

Like I said, players don't need to know the rules. If the player alters their decisions for their character based on the rules of the game, that's proof they shouldn't know the rules. Play your character as if they're a living person in this world. People behave and act quite differently than the player characters.

No, to me that's proof the GM wants to play bait-and-switch on their understanding of how their world works. I may not know everything about every element of my world, but I can promise you I know good and well the likely range of outcomes of anything relating to my fields of professional expertise, and I wasn't trained in fields that would get me and others killed if I didn't.

That's arguing until you win because you know you're right so screw the game and everyone else at the table...I'm right dammit...territory. I will argue until I feel like not arguing any more. Jesus. That's legit someone with the argumentative flaw. What kind of nasty trolls have you played with?

Its arguing because you think it really matters and not understanding it is having you make decisions in the dark. That's not being a nasty troll, that's disagreeing with a GM's assessment of how important it is. And often they're not the only people at the table who think its important (though that can be if its in an area that doesn't apply to them).

That's odd to me as it's a fairly common practice in a lot of ultra-light play. Default to the GM, but if someone digs in, roll off. Because the game is the thing. Actually playing. Not sitting around arguing about playing. Again, unless the GM's call is going to kill your character and you don't agree with that outcome, most arguments are pointless nonsense. Unless it comes up in play, it doesn't matter. And we don't need to have rules that cover everything or worry about every situation a spell could possibly be used in up front. What a nightmare.

I've seen RNR married to an awful lot of pretty top down views of how the game is to be run. If you haven't, you've been fortunate.

And it doesn't have to be a decision that's immediately lethal for the character. How about it changing the situation as the player understands it so the planning he's been doing makes no sense? That can lead to failure or worse down the line even if it isn't immediately lethal, and not just for their character.

For some people, maybe. Others loved it and never stopped using it.

So? Some people like all kinds of things. Doesn't mean they're generically a good idea.
 

We've never had rules to cover everything. But it feels like there are some common things that always come up (number of targets? dice of damage? range?) that have pretty much always been included in the D&D rules.

Yeah, even OD&D, schematic as it was, didn't skip that sort of thing. Though you could get unfinished thoughts, such as the original description of the Sleep spell, where it listed how many of which dice range were effected, but didn't discuss what to do if you have mixed levels of opponents out there (did it effect the full dice range of each, or was there supposed to be some sort of pro-rating going on? The spell description in the original beige books was no help) or Magic Missile, which was apparently always supposed to hit but the phrasing was such that many people had it make a hit roll.
 

You can do short and snappy spell descriptions that are much more precise that Thom's example, though. This is the full description of Sleep in 5 Torches Deep:

"2HD/level worth of targets in 30’ fall asleep. Attack. 8 hrs"

All the spells are like that, and it means all 60 spells in the core rulebook fit on two pages.

That's fair; that's kind of schematic but covers the information.

But it also means your spells have to be simple, not only in how they're displayed but how they work. You can't get anything that does much fancy. And especially as you got to higher levels, that's never been D&D's bag.
 

One way to reduce the at-the-table complexity of spells would be to limit horizontal growth: basically, without even changing the spells much, you could make wizards a lot easier to play if they aren't prepping 30 spells out of 49 and casting up to 29 each day... okay that's at 20th but it's still a lot.

I think the upper limit of broad choices without causing issues is somewhere in the mid-teens, based on how many classes people seem to able to work through without getting confused. Which means that a max-level full caster, between spells prepped, subclass features and magic items shouldn't go past 15 or so 'spells' to pick from during play.

BUT if you do this, you can add complexity to spells in the form of internal variability - ie Fire Strike can encompass everything form fire bolt and burning hands and fireball all the way up to meteor swarm (depending on the level it's cast at), and still only count as one spell. Basically, reorganizing the spell rules into thematic groups can make the game less complex in practice while actually adding options.

I think, anyways. It seemed to work pretty well in other rpgs I've played.

Yeah, but the more you want to do that the more you need to hose down the exception based design to do it; otherwise, rather than remembering a bunch of distinct spells, you're just having to remember all the special cases for modification within each spell. Its not self-evident that people will generally find that any easier.
 

The GM makes a judgment call; whatever sounds reasonable to the table. If you demand more complexity from the rules, you'll get more rules complexity. In DCC, the fighter's Mighty Deeds of Arms covers a very broad range of potential combat maneuvers, yet it relies considerably on GM adjudication to function properly. The same can be done with all aspects of design. You can go Swords and Wizardry, or you can go full Exalted.

And what about the next time? Will the GM remember what he did previously? How about the other 20 spells that have such judgment calls?

And that's a false dichotomy; there's a lot of room between "This description is sketchy enough its entirely up to the GM to decide and make consistency" and "this spell is written up like something out of USC Title 18".
 

Helpful NPC Thom

Adventurer
You're not arguing against my premise: exception-based design does not demand complexity. You're saying that it requires complexity...because otherwise the GM might not be consistent. Those are two separate discussions.
 

You're not arguing against my premise: exception-based design does not demand complexity. You're saying that it requires complexity...because otherwise the GM might not be consistent. Those are two separate discussions.

If you notice, my comments about exception based design have been about making it so it is simpler and still doesn't require as much GM input at the same time. So they aren't completely separate. That said, my comment about exception based design was, you'll note, not directed at you.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Is the easy thing there just to grab a copy of Mage?

Anyway, what would you make the relative DCs for conjuring small amounts of nitrobenzene, aqua regia, chlorine gas, orange juice, and water? Is it based on the chemical complexity, commonness of the material, or game effectiveness?
As a faux-medieval magician, your assumed character would have no idea what more than half of those things are. As for the rest, it hasn't come up in a game yet, so it doesn't matter.
Does the nature of the target at a distance affect the DC if it's just being conjured out of thin air? Stationary container vs. air above a stationary person vs. air space in a stationary person's mouth vs. in their chest cavity? Should it matter if you're just putting something into an air space?
Any spell effecting a target allows them some kind of save. As for the white room theorycrafting...it hasn't come up in an actual game so it doesn't matter.
Let me present a simple case.

I'm a moderately armored warrior, of above average strength.

How far can I jump?
He would know. You don't. Just like your character would know everything there is to know about their daily life, the culture they're in, and the general world around them...yet you as a player know practically none of it. Odd how you're not digging in and arguing about your lack of knowledge in regards to those things. When/if it comes up in an actual game, we can talk about it. But until it actually matters in the game, it doesn't matter.
If you wish to tell me I should have no real idea, then we might as well drop this right now, because I consider that patentetly ridiculous.
I consider it patently ridiculous that as a player you seem to insist on perfect knowledge of all permutations and possibilities before you're even willing to entertain the idea of playing a different way. It's honestly absurd.
This is a character who has been dependent on his understanding of his physical abilities for his whole professional life (which presumably didn't start yesterday).
Right. But you have not. You started caring about these things literally yesterday. Your character's knowledge surpasses yours as a player. How are those situations usually handled? When the player wants their character to do something that their character would know wouldn't work, would be a social faux pas, etc, the GM reminds them of the situation but leaves the player their agency and lets them do what they want with the information the character would have. Again, that you're insisting on perfect knowledge of this instead of any of the rest is really odd. Why does the distance your armoured athlete matter more than the world they inhabit?
So. does he know? If the player has to ask the GM every time, I'll state I don't think, in practice, he does in any way that matters; if he does (even with some degree of uncertainty, though most of that is why there's a die roll involved in most such things) that's knowing the mechanics.
The character would know. But there's no guarantees. Randomness happens. Jumping has come up in games before. We usually handle it by basing the DC/% on the distance the character wants to jump and the relevant factors at the time. The players know the mechanics of the real world, generally, and we default to that unless there's magic involved. So everyone's carrying around the mechanics in their head and we don't need to rely on someone else's imagination.
Similarly, a mage should have pretty good idea how far he can throw his lightning bolt. Again, mechanics.
The mage would know. The mage would know that they could throw lightning to yon tree in the field their teacher taught them the spell, they wouldn't know precise measurements. Also, the mage isn't the player. Again, there are vast swathes of knowledge that the character possesses that the player does not. I don't see why the precise measure of a spell's range is any different.
The problem is that with the examples presented earlier, they won't know that even if they have the spell. Its not in the spell description, so how could they? The player only has the data he's been presented.
Exactly. So make the best judgement you can with the information given. Base your decisions as much on the character and world as possible, because that's a lot closer to what the character would actually do. The character wouldn't know. Like experienced players with new 1st-level characters fighting an ooze for the very first time. They all start talking about torches, fire damage, and not using bladed weapons. Um, excuse me. When did your character learn about that?
Again, you can have the GM answer the question every time, but that gets back to "Is the GM going to be consistent about this with the number of spells even a couple of medium level spellcasters will know in D&D, given the lack of common metrics?" I've expressed my opinion on that.
The GM usually only has to answer the question once. Once it's been answered, that's the rule going forward unless it needs to be changed. Yes, generally speaking, the GM in games like that try very hard to be consistent. That's the goal. But no one's perfect.
No, to me that's proof the GM wants to play bait-and-switch on their understanding of how their world works.
LOL. Or it's proof that the player wants to game the system and play to the mechanics instead of the character and world.
I may not know everything about every element of my world, but I can promise you I know good and well the likely range of outcomes of anything relating to my fields of professional expertise, and I wasn't trained in fields that would get me and others killed if I didn't.
Right. So leverage that expertise. Use it. Why would you defer to some game designer who isn't an expert in your field about how your field works? You wouldn't. Like a psychologist objecting to the terrible way mental health and mental illness are handled in games like Call of Cthulhu. The expert on the field handles that topic. Not the book.
Its arguing because you think it really matters and not understanding it is having you make decisions in the dark.
Most of the objections presented don't really matter. People have to make decisions without perfect understanding every second of every day.
That's not being a nasty troll, that's disagreeing with a GM's assessment of how important it is.
If everything is of utmost and absolute importance, then nothing is. If someone feels the need to argue about everything, they're a troll.
And often they're not the only people at the table who think its important (though that can be if its in an area that doesn't apply to them).
Which is why if there's a point of contention, you roll for it.
I've seen RNR married to an awful lot of pretty top down views of how the game is to be run. If you haven't, you've been fortunate.
Ultimately someone has to be in charge. But there's no reason they need to be a tyrant about it. Everyone's there to have fun. Except the people there to argue.
And it doesn't have to be a decision that's immediately lethal for the character. How about it changing the situation as the player understands it so the planning he's been doing makes no sense? That can lead to failure or worse down the line even if it isn't immediately lethal, and not just for their character.
Literally happens all the time in life. Why shouldn't it happen in a game. Like a character sneaking into a castle to steal something. Neither the player nor the character would have any idea if they'll be successful or not. In most D&D games the GM would ask for a stealth check up front. If the character succeeds, the player goes ahead with the plan. If the character fails, the player...inevitably...backs out of the plan, or tries really, really hard to. The player wouldn't know 5 feet out of the tree line whether they were being stealthy. They'd find out when it actually matters. You roll when there's a chance that an actual guard would spot you, not before.

Most of this conversation reminds me of that kind of situation. Endless questions about the particulars of the situation inside the castle that the player/character literally would not know until they get there, but a bizarre insistence that they would know and not only that but that the GM is somehow cheating for not telling the player up front. Like, dude. You will find out when your character would actually find out. You don't know if it's Cloudy-Eyed Klaus on patrol tonight or if it's Keen-Eared Kristen. You're a wizard who knows a spell? Okay, here's your character's understanding of the spell. That's the information the character would have. Make your decisions based on that. Not the game system.
So? Some people like all kinds of things. Doesn't mean they're generically a good idea.
Likewise, it doesn't mean they're a bad idea.
 

You know, Overgeeked, I think our perspectives on this are sufficiently different that any further discussion on this is useless. When you have a response like "Your character knows. You don't." and think this is a useful response, nothing further is going to go between us that doesn't add up to a pointless fight.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
. . . That's why I said if you get any simpler you've got BX. Basic Fantasy will scratch that itch in that case, also Swords & Wizardry, White Box Medieval Adventure Game are two other options. DCC is also comparably simpler while providing a nice complexity at the same time.
So, one reason we don't simplify 5e is because it's easier just to run a simpler game than to simplify 5e?

Does 5e butt up against actual rules-light games, which leaves room for adding rules but not subtracting them?

By the way, I'm seeing some good conversations here that might be carried into their own threads... 🤓
 

Jaeger

That someone better
I’m not saying otherwise. Simply that spells contribute to the complexity to the game.

True, But you can do this:

The spell list could be drastically culled and not lose much. Most of them are gradations of a theme. Bigger, smaller, more precise, bigger effect, longer distance, etc. You don’t really need 78 pages to detail the differences between a single target fire spell and a AoE fire spell and a replacement torch fire spell. You’re a Bright wizard. You like fire. Go. Or minor differences in mind control magic. Or how far and to where you can teleport. Or how you can summon more, less, bigger, or smaller allies to help you. There’s a lot of redundant cruft in there.

And then there is this:

Wizards might learn about some spells, but they clearly don't learn all the spells.

Granting PC's immediate access to the entire spell list for their class the instant that they level up is a mistake.

It is a case of designers removing a limit on casters in the name of "fun" without asking themselves why that limit was there to begin with - as if Gygax and co. missed something in all their years of practical play.

LFQW becomes less of an issue, and overall complexity becomes less of an issue when you don't have universal access to all the theoretical options at once.

In B/X and AD&D - no two 6th level magic users were the same. They found different spell scrolls to copy into their spell books in treasure. They researched and learned different spells as they progressed (They had to roll to see if they could even learn a spell they wanted to research!)

This made magic in B/X, AD&D, much more varied and mysterious in actual play when these rules were followed. When they were removed it made magic users much more formulaic, and pushed the desire for outright mechanical differences that you see in the magic user classes now with the sorcerer and warlock.


I don't know those games. However, one of the issues I've seen with Fate (which I do know) is that it's really easy to tie everything into your High Concept if you phrase it properly. "Since I'm a Barbarian From A Magic-Hating Tribe, I clearly know enough about magic to be able to decipher these magical runes. I'll even spend a Fate point to do it!" It sounds like if you make backgrounds, careers, class, race, or something broad like that into a skill, you'd end up with a similar problem. (Unless, of course, those games do skills in a completely different way from how you're making it sound.)

Barbarians of Lemuria is the standard I would reference most. The players do not create or define their own career/background terms. They select from a list of a dozen or so career/background descriptions which briefly outline what type of skills they encompass.

Having played a swashbuckling game using this skill system I have found that it take a little for players used to a standard skill list to wrap their head around, but it then flows very smoothly in actual play. I have found the issue you describe above to be a non-issue.


Subclasses. Actually one of my favorite things in 5e. While I know that you have class abilities you can choose from, the most important thing for subclasses is that they provide a theme, and random abilities won't cut it--especially since you can min-max to your heart's content this way.

In my opinion: Classes should already provide the thematic mode of play. The class abilities are just the expression of the individual characters take on the class.

In my version options are restricted at early levels specifically to narrow down analysis paralysis for newbies, yet give the player real choices after level 3.

As to min maxing: It will always happen. Always. 5e does multiclassing that lets this in the door in a big way as well.

The trick with my version is that a PC never winds up with more than 8 or so class abilities with restricted options. Yes, the design will need to be tight, and there can be no 'ivory tower' game design - no bad options. Playtesting will need to be thorough.


Personally, I'd do what they used to do, which is to give warrior-classes +3/level after they stop getting Hit Dice, squishy spellcasters +1/level afterwards, and +2/level for everyone in the middle. Or let people keep getting their Con bonus afterwards.

This is certainly a viable alternative, and IMHO it is the Hit Point paradigm that D&D should never have left behind. So many scaling and CR issues would be much easier for GM's and designers to get a grasp on. I'm admittedly more hardcore in my view on the issue.


The 5e dmg is terrible, and include all of these legacy facets of the game that the designers clearly don't care about anymore. OSE manages to be more useful in about as many words. Also, 5e says it's "ruling not rules," but in practice is actually lots of rules without procedures of play. Many of the problems that come up--how to run a dungeon, wilderness travel/exploration, talking to monsters instead of combat--could be addressed if they just carried over and maybe updated some of the procedures from earlier editions.

Yes. Another case of designers removing aspects of D&D without thinking through why those systems were put there in the first place.

IMHO 5e relies heavily on D&D's massive network effect to ease new players and GM's into the game.


Some players seem to insist on perfect knowledge of all permutations and possibilities before they're even willing to entertain the idea of playing a different way.
Modified the post a bit to make my response more generic:

Unlike a videogame, where you are limited to what the code allows, a Tabletop Game allows for user interpretation and changes. The Tabletop RPG is built on this capacity, which means that the Game Master's skill at running the game and body of knowledge available to inform his rulings has the consequence of significant variability of experience from table to table.

For Some players that variability really bothers them, and they get frustrated...

Why?

Because they were relying upon are the rules and mechanics - "the code" - and while they can complain to the programmers of videogames (and, usually, get bugs fixed in patches) they can't do that for proper Tabletop RPGs.
They rely on the mechanics because that is the only objective measure of performance that they are used to working with with, and therefore have any sense of control over. They don't have that with GM rulings. And their past experiences with some bad GMs have turned them sour on the amount of control that the Game Master has.

So they want the rules of Tabletop games defined - and therefore bound - by the rules.

Why?

Because the rules are what they can count upon. So they begin to insist upon their definition and adherence as a means to protect themselves from chaotic game situations where a GM's ruling "cannot be trusted", because of their past experiences with Bad GM's that they have extrapolated to all potential future RPG experiences.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
As a faux-medieval magician, your assumed character would have no idea what more than half of those things are. As for the rest, it hasn't come up in a game yet, so it doesn't matter.

Nitrobenzene, sure. Aqua regia was discovered in 800 AD. I was using chlorine gas as whatever green dragons breathe since it felt we were being a bit old school - change it to green dragon's breath. Orange juice seems an easy one if oranges are around - insert any mildly acidic beverage. Water was around. That feels like they'd know most of them. We can replace the nitro benzene with some very toxic poison liquid (black dragon's breath?).

I thought your claim was that the DM could quickly come up with rulings... and it feels like lethal liquid summoning is a thing that would come up.

Any spell effecting a target allows them some kind of save. As for the white room theorycrafting...it hasn't come up in an actual game so it doesn't matter.
Your claim is that the game works fine without the specifics because the DM can quickly do things. If they take too long to reply to a thread when there's no pressure on, I have my doubts about it being done quickly in a satisfactory manner in game.

He would know. You don't. Just like your character would know everything there is to know about their daily life, the culture they're in, and the general world around them...yet you as a player know practically none of it. Odd how you're not digging in and arguing about your lack of knowledge in regards to those things. When/if it comes up in an actual game, we can talk about it. But until it actually matters in the game, it doesn't matter.

Didn't you earlier say the players should have the characters do what the characters would do, or do I misremember? How does one do that if they aren't even allowed to know the basic fundamentals of what the character knows?

I consider it patently ridiculous that as a player you seem to insist on perfect knowledge of all permutations and possibilities before you're even willing to entertain the idea of playing a different way. It's honestly absurd.

Did anyone say all permutations and possibilities? Range doesn't seem like that hard of a thing to ask for. There are plenty of ancient sources that record ranges for all kinds of weaponry. It feels bizarre that siege engines would be a thing if range finding wasn't.

Right. But you have not. You started caring about these things literally yesterday. Your character's knowledge surpasses yours as a player. How are those situations usually handled? When the player wants their character to do something that their character would know wouldn't work, would be a social faux pas, etc, the GM reminds them of the situation but leaves the player their agency and lets them do what they want with the information the character would have. Again, that you're insisting on perfect knowledge of this instead of any of the rest is really odd. Why does the distance your armoured athlete matter more than the world they inhabit?
Certainly I don't expect the player to know everything about the world background that the character would. But who said perfect knowledge? And who said it mattered more?

The mage would know. The mage would know that they could throw lightning to yon tree in the field their teacher taught them the spell, they wouldn't know precise measurements. Also, the mage isn't the player. Again, there are vast swathes of knowledge that the character possesses that the player does not. I don't see why the precise measure of a spell's range is any different.
They'd never have paced the distance off to the tree? It feels like there is a lot of ground between "precise" and "the DM will let you know when it comes up".

Range is different than the name of your masters laundry service because it likely comes up a lot in game if the game features combat where spells are cast. Duration likely comes up a lot in game... number of targets likely comes up in game. Sure, color of your master's master's hair, not so much.

Exactly. So make the best judgement you can with the information given. Base your decisions as much on the character and world as possible, because that's a lot closer to what the character would actually do. The character wouldn't know. Like experienced players with new 1st-level characters fighting an ooze for the very first time. They all start talking about torches, fire damage, and not using bladed weapons. Um, excuse me. When did your character learn about that?
And here we have the other side. Correct me if I'm wrong - the player doesn't get to know what the character knows when making plans, and the character doesn't get to know what the players know.

The GM usually only has to answer the question once. Once it's been answered, that's the rule going forward unless it needs to be changed. Yes, generally speaking, the GM in games like that try very hard to be consistent. That's the goal. But no one's perfect.

Why is the GM storing all of the basic facts (range, number of targets, and the like) less work than just having the basics written down?
Literally happens all the time in life. Why shouldn't it happen in a game. Like a character sneaking into a castle to steal something. Neither the player nor the character would have any idea if they'll be successful or not. In most D&D games the GM would ask for a stealth check up front. If the character succeeds, the player goes ahead with the plan. If the character fails, the player...inevitably...backs out of the plan, or tries really, really hard to. The player wouldn't know 5 feet out of the tree line whether they were being stealthy. They'd find out when it actually matters. You roll when there's a chance that an actual guard would spot you, not before.
If your players are incapable of playing in character with the rolls, and that's something you value, isn't an easier solution to have the rolls be hidden, or use passive stealth and you roll the guards perception?
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
Modified the post a bit to make my response more generic:

Unlike a videogame, where you are limited to what the code allows, a Tabletop Game allows for user interpretation and changes. The Tabletop RPG is built on this capacity, which means that the Game Master's skill at running the game and body of knowledge available to inform his rulings has the consequence of significant variability of experience from table to table.

For Some players that variability really bothers them, and they get frustrated...

Why?

Because they were relying upon are the rules and mechanics - "the code" - and while they can complain to the programmers of videogames (and, usually, get bugs fixed in patches) they can't do that for proper Tabletop RPGs.
They rely on the mechanics because that is the only objective measure of performance that they are used to working with with, and therefore have any sense of control over. They don't have that with GM rulings. And their past experiences with some bad GMs have turned them sour on the amount of control that the Game Master has.

So they want the rules of Tabletop games defined - and therefore bound - by the rules.

Why?

Because the rules are what they can count upon. So they begin to insist upon their definition and adherence as a means to protect themselves from chaotic game situations where a GM's ruling "cannot be trusted", because of their past experiences with Bad GM's that they have extrapolated to all potential future RPG experiences.
Sure. I get that. But it's a false sense of control and protection. The GM is still there and can still make a call. The players can point to the book all they want, but ultimately the GM is in charge of the game. The rules don't replace the GM. The GMs make the rules. As long as they're not tyrants about it, it works just fine. A lot of those players need to lighten up. If someone wants a game with a GM but also wants to be protected from the GM, I'd suggest they don't actually want an RPG.
I thought your claim was that the DM could quickly come up with rulings... and it feels like lethal liquid summoning is a thing that would come up.
I'm just lucky I guess. Sorry. It's never come up.
Your claim is that the game works fine without the specifics because the DM can quickly do things.
Yep.
If they take too long to reply to a thread when there's no pressure on, I have my doubts about it being done quickly in a satisfactory manner in game.
You realize that we're not sitting at a table or on a VTT playing a game, right? So there's no need for me to immediately respond to you. That's the benefit of this social media thing.
Didn't you earlier say the players should have the characters do what the characters would do, or do I misremember? How does one do that if they aren't even allowed to know the basic fundamentals of what the character knows?
They are. When it matters, i.e. when it comes up in game, it will be answered. Like the particulars of the economic structure of a small western village that relies heavily on wool exports. The precise details of that don't actually matter until it comes up in game. The exact distance an armoured adventurer can jump are irrelevant until it matters in game at the table. Likewise the DC table for summoning dangerous liquids and gases. I suspect the majority of players want that up front so they can base their decisions about their characters on those facts. "Huh. Summoning chlorine gas is easier than hitting 90% of monsters' AC. I guess I'm playing a chlorine gas wizard." That's backwards. World and character first. Game mechanics dead last. If at all.
Did anyone say all permutations and possibilities?
The absurdity and insistence of most of these questions suggest it.
Correct me if I'm wrong - the player doesn't get to know what the character knows when making plans, and the character doesn't get to know what the players know.
No. Not doesn't get to, doesn't need to up front. The player doesn't need to read an exhaustive encyclopedia entry on the world before the game. If the player makes an incorrect assumption about the world, the GM can correct them. Likewise the rules. Neither matter until they come up in the game. If you say you want to fly, I'll ask you how since you don't have wings. You tell me you have a spell that lets you fly and I'll describe you flying and ask where you want to go. Before that exchange there's literally zero need for the player to know the ins and outs of the flying rules. The name of the local lord where you grew up, common knowledge. Either you read that encyclopedia entry and try to retain all of it, or you simply ask the GM for the info during the game when it actually comes up. You don't need to read and try to memorize the encyclopedia entry when the person who wrote it is sitting across the table and willing to answer questions.
Why is the GM storing all of the basic facts (range, number of targets, and the like) less work than just having the basics written down?
It's information the GM should already know. It is written down. In all those books about historical weapons ranges you mentioned. The players are free to read the same books. But unless it comes up in game how far a crossbow can fire, it doesn't matter. The weird thing about relying on game books is that they're often wrong about things like that. Some are better than others, but things are often changed for the fun of it. Like loading times of blackpowder weapons for example, or crossbows. So instead you go with the actual facts of things like that. The people who're interested in medieval warfare can correct the GM if/when they're wrong. It's really not anywhere near as complicated as you two are making it out to be.
If your players are incapable of playing in character with the rolls, and that's something you value, isn't an easier solution to have the rolls be hidden, or use passive stealth and you roll the guards perception?
No. It's easier to roll when it actually matters.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
You don't need to read and try to memorize the encyclopedia entry when the person who wrote it is sitting across the table and willing to answer questions.

It's information the GM should already know. It is written down. In all those books about historical weapons ranges you mentioned. The players are free to read the same books. But unless it comes up in game how far a crossbow can fire, it doesn't matter.

So DMs should have stacks of books of weapons ranges and jumping distances in the real world at hand? Or just make it up and likely not be any further off than the rule book for much of it. Also guessing the historical books don't have much in the way of spell ranges and the like.

The weird thing about relying on game books is that they're often wrong about things like that. Some are better than others, but things are often changed for the fun of it. Like loading times of blackpowder weapons for example, or crossbows. So instead you go with the actual facts of things like that. The people who're interested in medieval warfare can correct the GM if/when they're wrong.
It feels like flavor and game balance are things too? Does just using real world/realistic values do that for a game that also leans on tropes?

It's really not anywhere near as complicated as you two are making it out to be.
It's been pretty trivial for decades to just use what's in the books too for a lot of us.

And there are quite a few folks on here who have vast experience in just ignoring metagaming, and how it makes those issues not a problem at their tables

No. It's easier to roll when it actually matters.

If we're talking about stealth and the like, that sounds good.
 
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True, But you can do this:



And then there is this:



Granting PC's immediate access to the entire spell list for their class the instant that they level up is a mistake.

It is a case of designers removing a limit on casters in the name of "fun" without asking themselves why that limit was there to begin with - as if Gygax and co. missed something in all their years of practical play.

LFQW becomes less of an issue, and overall complexity becomes less of an issue when you don't have universal access to all the theoretical options at once.

In B/X and AD&D - no two 6th level magic users were the same. They found different spell scrolls to copy into their spell books in treasure. They researched and learned different spells as they progressed (They had to roll to see if they could even learn a spell they wanted to research!)

This made magic in B/X, AD&D, much more varied and mysterious in actual play when these rules were followed. When they were removed it made magic users much more formulaic, and pushed the desire for outright mechanical differences that you see in the magic user classes now with the sorcerer and warlock.




Barbarians of Lemuria is the standard I would reference most. The players do not create or define their own career/background terms. They select from a list of a dozen or so career/background descriptions which briefly outline what type of skills they encompass.

Having played a swashbuckling game using this skill system I have found that it take a little for players used to a standard skill list to wrap their head around, but it then flows very smoothly in actual play. I have found the issue you describe above to be a non-issue.




In my opinion: Classes should already provide the thematic mode of play. The class abilities are just the expression of the individual characters take on the class.

In my version options are restricted at early levels specifically to narrow down analysis paralysis for newbies, yet give the player real choices after level 3.

As to min maxing: It will always happen. Always. 5e does multiclassing that lets this in the door in a big way as well.

The trick with my version is that a PC never winds up with more than 8 or so class abilities with restricted options. Yes, the design will need to be tight, and there can be no 'ivory tower' game design - no bad options. Playtesting will need to be thorough.




This is certainly a viable alternative, and IMHO it is the Hit Point paradigm that D&D should never have left behind. So many scaling and CR issues would be much easier for GM's and designers to get a grasp on. I'm admittedly more hardcore in my view on the issue.




Yes. Another case of designers removing aspects of D&D without thinking through why those systems were put there in the first place.

IMHO 5e relies heavily on D&D's massive network effect to ease new players and GM's into the game.



Modified the post a bit to make my response more generic:

Unlike a videogame, where you are limited to what the code allows, a Tabletop Game allows for user interpretation and changes. The Tabletop RPG is built on this capacity, which means that the Game Master's skill at running the game and body of knowledge available to inform his rulings has the consequence of significant variability of experience from table to table.

For Some players that variability really bothers them, and they get frustrated...

Why?

Because they were relying upon are the rules and mechanics - "the code" - and while they can complain to the programmers of videogames (and, usually, get bugs fixed in patches) they can't do that for proper Tabletop RPGs.
They rely on the mechanics because that is the only objective measure of performance that they are used to working with with, and therefore have any sense of control over. They don't have that with GM rulings. And their past experiences with some bad GMs have turned them sour on the amount of control that the Game Master has.

So they want the rules of Tabletop games defined - and therefore bound - by the rules.

Why?

Because the rules are what they can count upon. So they begin to insist upon their definition and adherence as a means to protect themselves from chaotic game situations where a GM's ruling "cannot be trusted", because of their past experiences with Bad GM's that they have extrapolated to all potential future RPG experiences.
But this seems to emphasize the fact that trust between players is a key element to an ttrpg unlike video and board games with more defined rules. Not only because of dm discretion as the referee and final arbiter of the rules, but also because of ‘problem players’ of various kinds. I think without that trust and level of communication rpgs are not worth playing. Story games do a good job of providing advice for both gms and players for how to approach the social situation of playing an rpg.
 

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