D&D General Why Editions Don't Matter


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niklinna

Snickers satisfies!
There's a fair bit of tangy truth to that article. Good thing I like tangy! Blades is probably my favorite system at the moment.

<Gets out rulebook to read it again.>
 


hawkeyefan

Legend
I suppose? I literally never played that adventure and only barely know the context so that's not exactly the best example for me.

It was a kind of sample adventure to play by yourself with the purpose of walking you through the basics of the game. This was in the Red Box by Mentzer, which came out in like 83 or 84.

It was designed specifically to help people learn the game.
 

gorice

Adventurer
Instead of responding to a bunch of stuff in pedantic detail, I'd like to try and clarify something. When I mention 'structures' or 'procedures', I'm thinking about recurrent processes that 'loop'. Play loops, right?

So, yes, I as a DM need to make a call about how long it takes for fire to burn through a rope bridge the PCs are standing on, or whether someone can jump across a chasm while wearing soaking wet armour. These kinds of rulings are completely normal in D&D, and I'm pretty comfortable making them, because they don't come up too often, and repeat even less.

(though, for example, some kind of flexible rule for counting down until something burns/explodes/whatever would be lovely, and indeed this is something I have a little houserule for).

The real difficulty comes from the stuff that repeats. If you're doing a piracy campaign, you're going to want to have some idea about how to handle naval battles and swashbuckling -- the odd judement call isn't going to cut it. The mental overhead is too much, and pretty soon you'll rule youself into a corner.

The other problem is: as a DM or GM, I want my players to be able to make informed choices about tactics, and meaningful decisions about what they do with their characters. If they're in a naval battle, they need to have some idea of their odds against that man-o'-war, and the risks involved in fighting it. If I'm winging everything, I have much less ability to provide that information.
 

pemerton

Legend
It's a longstanding thing in the industry, though. Like, from the very early days. I must say it is always nice to see a rulebook at least try.
In the context of D&D, I think it began with AD&D 2nd ed. The classic versions of the game (B/X, OD&D, Gygax's AD&D) set out procedures for play - in my parentheses I think they're roughly in order from clearest to least clear (though OD&D's combat resolution rules are notoriously hard to parse). They tell the GM how to build dungeons - map and key - and then how to administer the exploration process. AD&D has lots of stuff beyond that too, though obscurity of subject matter also tends to correlate to obscurity of rules.

With the focus of play moving from that classic exploration-type play to more "living, breathing world" and/or "story"-focused play, the idea of setting out procedures of play seems to have been left behind.
 

Can I ask what in the world jargon "Chinese Room" is?

Can I ask why "Chinese Room" isn't disqualified from conversation because its (a) jargon and (b) appears to be about the most unintuitive piece of jargon ever introduced into a TTRPG discussion unless its about someone in China...being in a room...playing a TTRPG? I mean I know something like GM Force is utterly terrible (being exactly what it sounds like and all)...but how is Chinese Room somehow helpful to conversation in any way? How is it not a giant barrier to entry piece of jargon that is inherently exclusionary (isn't that the typical refrain?)?

I anticipate this thread being awash with first principle-driven decrying of "Chinese Room" this time tomorrow.
 

It's a longstanding thing in the industry, though. Like, from the very early days. I must say it is always nice to see a rulebook at least try.
Sorta, kinda. I mean, D&D was really just intended as a sort of 'crib sheet' of stuff you would want to use to run a 'Fantasy Miniatures Campaign' be gluing together Chainmail fantasy supplement and AH Survival. At most it kinda set up a framework (classes, alignments, dungeons), and pointed in a basic genre direction, possibly by accident. I don't really recall much that said "and here's how you play" except maybe in the prefacing material a bit. Even that was pretty vague. Considering when we read it we had never heard of RPGs it was actually pretty hard and fast NOT explaining play! This is really the great gift of J. Eric Holmes Basic rules, they actually explain what the heck D&D IS. Unless you got it word-of-mouth direct from Garry and Co that was the only way you would ever get that (and we literally learned from a guy that learned from a guy that learned from Garry). Even then when I read Holmes Basic it was like "Oh, yeah, there's some things I never really got before..."
 

It was a kind of sample adventure to play by yourself with the purpose of walking you through the basics of the game. This was in the Red Box by Mentzer, which came out in like 83 or 84.

It was designed specifically to help people learn the game.
Alright. Am I at a disadvantage for learning due to having learned from the books (and websites like the d20 SRD) rather than from Mentzer's semi-solo intro adventure?
 


Nope!

I was using that example to agree with your point that teaching the game is at least one point of the books.
Ah, my apologies. I thought this adventure was something separate from the books. I still think of "boxed sets" as being a separate thing from the manuals...but I guess the original Red Box was meant as a mostly-complete game on its own?
 

I learned dnd with the 1991 "black box" set. I recently pulled this box out from storage to take a look at it. It does a very clever thing of teaching the game step by step through a choose-your-own-adventure scenario, and then having the little DM (it was aimed at kids) run the little players through the same scenario. The scenario was also clever in that you began captured, so the initial situation was explicitly constrained. Your npc cell mate even happened to have a set of polyhedral dice and was interested in playing a game with them! There were all the classic dungeon-crawling (and dungeon-making) procedures of course, but also advice on how the little dm was to deal with "unexpected actions"--you consider the situation make up a fair ruling. The example was a fighter trying to pull a rug to trip an npc. Attack roll? Save vs paralysis? No right answer, you make it up.

axel 2.jpeg
unexpected 2.jpeg
part 4.jpeg


It seemed to teach the dnd ethos of homebrewing stuff for your own game well enough that little-DM-me apparently made a custom shape shifter class (I had no recollection of this). Though I gated it behind two d100 rolls that resulted in a .03% chance of it being actually seen in play. It was possibly "OP," though I did put the additional restriction that the character had to spend 8 hours a week in liquid form in a bucket.

shape shifter.jpeg



Anyway, it is notable that the starter sets for dnd or other games that have similar sets always include an adventure or scenario of some kind. I think trying to learn dnd from the core books would be somewhat like trying to learn a language from a grammar book. New DMs/GMs (little and non-little) are better served by an example that teaches step by step and can be used for practice. FWIW, the 5e starter and essentials sets seem as good as any others in teaching a particular style of play and scenario creation.

OD&D of course did not have this example for people to learn, but they managed to play the game anyway somehow; one could even say that the resulting divergence of styles was an asset of the original play culture.
 


hawkeyefan

Legend
Ah, my apologies. I thought this adventure was something separate from the books. I still think of "boxed sets" as being a separate thing from the manuals...but I guess the original Red Box was meant as a mostly-complete game on its own?

Yeah it was in one of the books in the red box. That was the basic set, which was for the first few levels of play. The next boxed set was for the next few levels, and so on.
 

We're in the same boat. On occasion I'll modify the rues for a game, but if I have to make a lot of changes then I'm simply going to select another set of rules to use. I use the rules as written for the following reasons:
  1. They've typically been playtested.
  2. Everybody at the table has access to and an understanding of the basic rules (except for grappling).
  3. The rules are written by professionals (stop laughing) and are probably easier to understand than anything I write.
I agree 100%. No edition is perfect, but if someone needs to create tons of house rules at what point does it become a different game? I always tried to avoid changing stuff just so everyone playing knows what to expect, or if a new player joins our group they know what to expect. If a DM invited me to play in a 5E game but then handed me a heap of house rules, I'd decline to play. I'm sure I've house ruled a few things here and there over the years but nothing extensive and none that I remember or still use. I played in a 3.5 Forgotten Realms game in the mid 2000s where a few of us traded off DMing. One guy was relatively new to our group offered to run a game for a while. we all agreed. After a session or two he started implementing a bunch of his house rules mid-game, and they weren't up for debate or put to a vote. He changed alot of fundamentals of the Realms to, to the point it was unrecognizable. After about a month or two I quit as my expectations werent met, i.e. a clerics turn undead feature should work as written, Red Wizards of Thay are evil, Waterdeep is in northwestern Faerun, etc.
 


Micah Sweet

Legend
I agree 100%. No edition is perfect, but if someone needs to create tons of house rules at what point does it become a different game? I always tried to avoid changing stuff just so everyone playing knows what to expect, or if a new player joins our group they know what to expect. If a DM invited me to play in a 5E game but then handed me a heap of house rules, I'd decline to play. I'm sure I've house ruled a few things here and there over the years but nothing extensive and none that I remember or still use. I played in a 3.5 Forgotten Realms game in the mid 2000s where a few of us traded off DMing. One guy was relatively new to our group offered to run a game for a while. we all agreed. After a session or two he started implementing a bunch of his house rules mid-game, and they weren't up for debate or put to a vote. He changed alot of fundamentals of the Realms to, to the point it was unrecognizable. After about a month or two I quit as my expectations werent met, i.e. a clerics turn undead feature should work as written, Red Wizards of Thay are evil, Waterdeep is in northwestern Faerun, etc.
If you'd prefer to think of it as a different game, then do so. What's the relevance here?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Instead of responding to a bunch of stuff in pedantic detail, I'd like to try and clarify something. When I mention 'structures' or 'procedures', I'm thinking about recurrent processes that 'loop'. Play loops, right?

So, yes, I as a DM need to make a call about how long it takes for fire to burn through a rope bridge the PCs are standing on, or whether someone can jump across a chasm while wearing soaking wet armour. These kinds of rulings are completely normal in D&D, and I'm pretty comfortable making them, because they don't come up too often, and repeat even less.

(though, for example, some kind of flexible rule for counting down until something burns/explodes/whatever would be lovely, and indeed this is something I have a little houserule for).

The real difficulty comes from the stuff that repeats. If you're doing a piracy campaign, you're going to want to have some idea about how to handle naval battles and swashbuckling -- the odd judement call isn't going to cut it. The mental overhead is too much, and pretty soon you'll rule youself into a corner.

The other problem is: as a DM or GM, I want my players to be able to make informed choices about tactics, and meaningful decisions about what they do with their characters. If they're in a naval battle, they need to have some idea of their odds against that man-o'-war, and the risks involved in fighting it. If I'm winging everything, I have much less ability to provide that information.
And once they did an adventure with lots of boats, they did an expansion of boat fighting rules.

Once the players know what they can do on a boat with 2 ballista and a mangonel, they’ll know that the Amnian frigate with 6 mangonels and a for and aft ballista “swivel gun” is something they can only engage with using very smart tactics.

I don’t think those rules needed to be in the core books in order to call the core books a complete, playable, game.

Likewise, I don’t think that the game needs to have specific rules for how to end a scene and move on to the next one, it just needs good pacing advice for DMs.

I think what I’m trying to get across is that this argument is what I mean in all those past threads where I argue with @Campbell and @Manbearcat and others about whether D&D 5e is a narrow or very broad game.

Procedural specificity helps run a specific kind of game. It doesn’t help, IMO, run a game where the next adventure could be a “second story job” at the top of a mile tall tower, which could easily end with a skyward chase on sky coaches weaving through the towers and bridges of Sharn, or could be a delve into an abandoned tower overrun by aberrant corruptions of goblinoids and drakes, where the floors of the tower can be moved by levers in a control room, and the matriarch of the aberrant drakes can call reinforcements repeatedly and eat other aberrations to heal herself, or a tourney that is really one facet of a much more complex heist wherein the mark is a high level participant of said tourney, or a trip to a character’s home to investigate a murder and look into the secrets of the church the PC is a Paladin of.
 
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What's the relevance here?
IMO once a game system is extensively modified, house ruled its no longer the same game. If I agree to play an edition of D&D my expectation is that I can pull out my PHB, make a character, show up to a game and play based on the rules of that edition. When a DM implements a ton of house rules thats usually no longer possible. So yes to me editions do matter.
 

If you'd prefer to think of it as a different game, then do so. What's the relevance here?
The relevance would be that, if house-rules are enough to make a single edition into "a different game," then surely outright edition changes--which, barring 1e->2e, have always been much more significant than a couple pages of house-rules!--must also produce "a different game." And if you grant that, then it seems you have to grant that edition matters, because you have granted that editions are different games.
 

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