D&D General Why Editions Don't Matter

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Oofta

Legend
Time pressure (or consequences in general) is a big thing, so let's stick with that.

The DMG says that a party can move 300 ft. per minute at a normal exploration pace, or 200 at a slow one. In the 60 minutes before I roll and random encounter check, they will have been, looted, and gone home for a long rest.

There are some more practical exploration rules in the DMG, but it lacks any unifying procedures to hold them together. What exactly triggers a roll for encounters, or weather, or whether a monster notices a PC? The final playtest actually had a bunch of this stuff, but they removed it. Important procedures are missing.

Outside of dungeons, I don't think the game has any comparable procedures, either. OK, so the evil duke and his scary knights are trying to track down the PCs and their friends in the city. The PCs are racing against time to find a solution. How close is he to getting them? How do I decide when this happens? Do the players have a right to know how near he is, or that he is after them at all?

This is what I mean by incompleteness.

I'm still failing to see what procedure you would want or how it would work. Time pressure can work in multiple ways, it can be anything from the distraction you planted should keep the dragon out of the lair for the next 45 minutes, you took out some guards and if they don't check in within the next half hour the alarms will start ringing, you know reinforcements are likely coming and will be there by morning. The time pressure can be so varied, the scenario being played out can be so unique that I don't see how or why you'd want one standard procedure. There are many times I don't want my players to know the exact countdown because the PCs would not know. It's part of the fun. Did the distraction really work? Are the guards really that punctual? What happens if the info you have is wrong and you find out that the reinforcement will actually be there by midnight?

Related to that, if some of this is based on previous challenges or intelligence gathering, how well did they do? On a scale of 1 to 10 did they get a 1 or an 11 because they were more clever than you had expected?

It's that kind of flexibility that I want in a game and I think it's the kind of flexibility that the game encourages. Anyone who has watched spy movies, played any number of video games has a general idea of the kind of things that can and do go wrong along with how careful planning and intel can help out. The last thing I want is a metagame conversation at the table "Okay folks, this is round X of exploration so we only have 3 more rounds of exploration before we hit that random monster." It would take much of the sense of immersion and discovery out of the game for me.

Which was one of the issue I had with skill challenges as presented and used. We knew we needed 4 successes before 2 failures. There was no circumventing the hard-and-fast procedure, not clever ploy, no rabbit I could pull out of a hat. Any kind of procedural dungeon delving would start to feel the same.
 

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Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
For example: cantrips in 5e are part of its slightly chocolatey flavour. They add an unwelcome note to many dungeon crawls and wilderness adventures (light? mending? mage hand? prestidigitation? yuck). On the other hand, I think the 'he failed, what now?' problem makes it clear that there are some missing ingredients.
For me cantrips make casters always feel like casters instead of a dude with a crossbow (3e), or dude chucking darts(1e and I think 2e). They avoid players introducing out of genre flavors and create in genre flavors.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Perhaps some people experience a sense of sameness when structure isn't varied enough.

That might explain some of the aversion to 4e skill challenges, the aversion to the 4e AEDU power structure, the desire for less formalized structure in 5e, the preference for how 5e skills work with DM determination as the first step over say 3.x skills, etc.
 

pemerton

Legend
Time pressure (or consequences in general) is a big thing, so let's stick with that.

<snip>

so the evil duke and his scary knights are trying to track down the PCs and their friends in the city. The PCs are racing against time to find a solution. How close is he to getting them? How do I decide when this happens? Do the players have a right to know how near he is, or that he is after them at all?

This is what I mean by incompleteness.
I'm still failing to see what procedure you would want or how it would work.
A skill challenge would be one example.

Systems of opposed checks would be another.

Time pressure can work in multiple ways, it can be anything from the distraction you planted should keep the dragon out of the lair for the next 45 minutes, you took out some guards and if they don't check in within the next half hour the alarms will start ringing, you know reinforcements are likely coming and will be there by morning. The time pressure can be so varied, the scenario being played out can be so unique that I don't see how or why you'd want one standard procedure.
But you've just described one standard procedure - the GM decides, based on what they imagine is happening offscreen!

As I read their posts, @hawkeyefan and @gorice are canvassing the possibility of different procedures.

It's that kind of flexibility that I want in a game and I think it's the kind of flexibility that the game encourages.
By "flexibility" here you seem to mean something like freedom for the GM to imagine things and make them part of the shared fiction.
 

Actual rats?
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The DMG says that a party can move 300 ft. per minute at a normal exploration pace, or 200 at a slow one. In the 60 minutes before I roll and random encounter check, they will have been, looted, and gone home for a long rest.
So the DMG rule is not good, especially for replicating the kinds of pressures/tensions that you would find in a b/x dungeoncrawl (along with high encumbrance limits, near-universal darkvision, xp-for-monsters, etc). That's different from saying that the rule doesn't exist. If anything, I think the mistake is to include rules for things that encourage them to be handwaived anyway.


Outside of dungeons, I don't think the game has any comparable procedures, either. OK, so the evil duke and his scary knights are trying to track down the PCs and their friends in the city. The PCs are racing against time to find a solution. How close is he to getting them? How do I decide when this happens? Do the players have a right to know how near he is, or that he is after them at all?

Whitehack 3e and Worlds Without Number both have interesting and helpful thoughts on planning out what factions are doing and how it might come to bear upon the PCs. But they still rely a lot on GM interpreting and deciding, maybe with the aid of a random table. I mean, in whitehack the whole faction "procedure" is all of two a5 pages. I'd be wary of a 5.5, say, that aimed to be complete by trying to anticipate every possible situation that might occur in a game. More elegant, I think, is succinct advice that empowers DMs to design their own solutions.
 


Oofta

Legend
A skill challenge would be one example.

Systems of opposed checks would be another.

But you've just described one standard procedure - the GM decides, based on what they imagine is happening offscreen!

As I read their posts, @hawkeyefan and @gorice are canvassing the possibility of different procedures.

By "flexibility" here you seem to mean something like freedom for the GM to imagine things and make them part of the shared fiction.

But the "procedure" is all based on unique scenarios based on knowledge of the actors involved and the specifics of the scenario.

One time clock could be used for a murder mystery (try to find the killer before they kill again or dissappear) or it could be a carefully planned bank Heist. You could be in a race to beat your opponents to the MacGuffin. There could be multiple clocks ticking that react to the actions of the PCs.

There is no way I can see to make any kind of system for that, at least not one that I would want to use.
 

For me cantrips make casters always feel like casters instead of a dude with a crossbow (3e), or dude chucking darts(1e and I think 2e). They avoid players introducing out of genre flavors and create in genre flavors.
Interestingly, I have the opposite opinion regarding unlimited cantrips. I would much prefer having prof. bonus + attribute bonus number of cantrips per day, long rest whatever.

That I have a different preference than you isn't my point, however. It would have been amazing if this was a dial that could be turned and the design staff have a side board on the impact you could expect on what high or low frequency cantrips might be. That way we could have both our preferences available as well as have some guidance on what secondary effects might arise.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I think you are just looking under a greater magnification under the microscope than I am.There's alot of similarity in roll under stat -> roll over dc.

But roll under stat wasn’t how many out of combat procedures worked in early editions.

Sure. My flag is firmly planted on the ground of pros and cons for most everything.

Okay. So what are the pros and cons of “GM Decides” as a system?

I have no idea what you mean here.

I was asking what you meant. You said that a game could be hacked to do exactly what you want. Then you said that adding structures can be problematic.

I assume by hack you mean some kind of formal change to the system and not just off the cuff adjudication. In which case, I was asking how hacks can help but also be problematic.

Then you are clearly missing my point. What xyz is doesn't actually matter. The 'why' behind every preference is a mystery.

I’m literally asking you to tell me what you like about the way 5E functions. Like specifically.

I'll say this though, the reoccuring theme of people trying to explain why the prefer D&D in what you call it's incomplete form is because they view it easier to modify toward their preferences. I suppose ideally they would prefer a game built already aligning to their preferences that was just as popular as D&D currently is, etc. But usually when people don't pick the obvious answer like that it's because they have already considered whether such a thing is feasible and ruled out that possibility. So they settle for the tradeoff of having to 'hack' a game to their tastes.

Do you mean modify formally? Like come up with actual rules and share then with players? Or do you mean the freedom to just kind of decide stuff in the moment?

Because structured games can also be modified. So I think you mean more the latter than the former.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
But the "procedure" is all based on unique scenarios based on knowledge of the actors involved and the specifics of the scenario.

One time clock could be used for a murder mystery (try to find the killer before they kill again or dissappear) or it could be a carefully planned bank Heist. You could be in a race to beat your opponents to the MacGuffin. There could be multiple clocks ticking that react to the actions of the PCs.

So how do you adjudicate this at the table? Like, you say the murder mystery and the bank heist are different; how so?

Do you share these mechanics with the players in any way?
 

niklinna

Abstraction is a tool that streamlines gameplay.
I'm a fan of mechanics, and particularly mechanics being known to the players. They help me quickly decide what I'm doing and how, without having to ask all sorts of probing questions to tease out what I'm allowed to do, while everybody else waits, or worse, checks out. They also help the DM figure out how to resolve things quicker. On the other hand, it really gets my goat when I go to the trouble to learn the mechanics, so that I can participate efficiently and effectively, and the DM ignores or changes them from moment to moment, which I've also had happen in several games.
 

Alright, just going to comment on this part for now because we need to get on the same page. After we're on the same page, we can continue.

I wrote the below as one of your core contentions:

* A game that is a freeform platform cannot "be a different game" even if you go wholly outside of the core books (or even developer's expansions) while the same threshold for a game with structure + fictional/engine premise has a very low bar to meet before "its a different game."

To which you replied:

This is honestly confusing. I’d love to know where you got this idea. strongly no.

Then we have this below (in quotes) from me which is meant to demonstrate a position born of such a core contention of an argument. There are two components; the "Ravenloft D&D w/ stuff is still 5e D&D" and "this other stuff isn't Blades in the Dark." You commented on the latter (confirming my inference on your assessment of "Blades in the Dark vs not"), but you didn't comment on the "Ravenloft D&D w/ stuff is still 5e D&D" aspect of it. So if you would please comment on that. And if your answer is "yes, Ravenloft D&D w/ stuff is still 5e D&D" then that is how I arrived at my assembly of the above core contention for you...and then I would be curious how you would land on "strongly no" after a "yes "Ravenloft D&D w/ stuff is still 5e D&D."

So here is the Ravenloft stuff (just the bolded):

A Ravenloft game (complete setting and premise change, conflict milieu change, and location change from default D&D) which uses Fear/Stress mechanics and a 3rd party module for x and y is still "a 5e D&D game" while a Blades in the Dark game still set in Duskvol, whch may use (or not - Cult games do not) some Changing the Game stuff from Chapter 9 of the core book (which references things like Harper's Flame and Shadow for the game), and still using the premise of a corrupt and powerful hierarchy that you must interact with and ascend to overcome in order to do x or y (summon your goddess/expand your Cult or avenge the brutalized and downtrodden and carve out a semblance of hope and justice for them or perform your duties as Inspectors to find out which corrupt institutions and power brokers are committing a terrible conspiracy - perhaps against the Emperor...or against the Church of Ecstasy...or the Ministry of Preservation...or to reignite The Unity War...or to bring all the gangs of the city together under one banner to strongarm the other 5 City Council members...or be a band of Bluecoats from the Charterhall Precinct that actually tries to keep the peace and honorably serve in a precinct and within a law enforcement apparatus that is fundamentally a cabal of crooks) is "not a Blades in the Dark game."
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I just got done playing in a session of L5R Fifth Edition. It has interlocking systems that reflect the emotional tension of the samurai between serving their daimyos and realizing personal desires while trying to keep their honor in tact and make a name for themselves. Say we were using Adventures in Rokugan (a D&D 5e fork) could we have played a narrative where those elements were central to the enfolding story? Sure, but it would have been an exercise in collaborative storytelling instead of series of decisions we make based on the the desires our characters could not help but act on. The playstyle of the game would not have even been close to the same because it would have lacked the necessary pressure that made our game feel so real to me.

A game is more than the fiction produces. It is also an experience where we make decisions about what our characters do. How those ramifications are felt and generated is a fundamental part of the play experience. GM says for how the world reacts and player Says for how the PC reacts (without incentives that match emotional desires) cannot fundamentally create that experience. Neither can naturalistic framing generate the experience of hard scene framing that plays to who the characters are as people (and the conflict between their duty and personal desires).

Part of what makes the playstyles (I do mean playstyles because it does also provide some support for the action adventure milieu that Adventures in Rokugan was built to support) that L5R 5th Edition supports work is transparency and immediacy of its core systems. Knowing that killing is always a choice, knowing that unmasking will remove strife but also could cause consequences, being rewarded for pursuing your
character's personal desires and duty. These are all central to the feel of play. It would not fundamentally be the same playstyle without them. The same is fundamentally true the resource management and interdependency of characters that support the action adventure focus of Adventures in Rokugan enable a different set of playstyles.

Acting like playstyle or play experience is only defined by the milieu or scope of play is utterly baffling to me. If this were truly the case Tales of Xadia would by far be more flexible than any edition of D&D thanks to things like spells, what being an elf means, et al being open to negotiation and a set of conflict rules that can support any sort of fiction with aplomb. Where it differs from the GM Says process of D&D is that players get to take part in defining how that flexibility manifests itself.

Tales of Xadia - Most flexible game ever?
 

Oofta

Legend
So how do you adjudicate this at the table? Like, you say the murder mystery and the bank heist are different; how so?

Do you share these mechanics with the players in any way?

Share the mechanics? No. I only share information the PCs know. That's kind of the point of investigation and information gathering.

I don't use a consistent system, I just decide actors, environments, what logically happens when along with a dash of what will be fun. It's not anything I boil down to some concrete set of rules. I don't have "a system". That's kind of the whole point I've been trying to make.
 

pemerton

Legend
But the "procedure" is all based on unique scenarios based on knowledge of the actors involved and the specifics of the scenario.
This is true for every procedure in RPGing, isn't it? Eg the AD&D reaction roll procedure is based on unique specifics like alignment of the interacting parties. The 4e skill challenge procedure is based on the particulars of the situation and the stakes, which shape both framing and consequence narration.

One time clock could be used for a murder mystery (try to find the killer before they kill again or dissappear) or it could be a carefully planned bank Heist. You could be in a race to beat your opponents to the MacGuffin. There could be multiple clocks ticking that react to the actions of the PCs.

There is no way I can see to make any kind of system for that, at least not one that I would want to use.
There are systems that do just this. I believe that BitD is one, although that's from reputation not experience.

Although when you say "clocks ticking" I think you are meaning that the GM makes decisions about the offscreen fiction; not a formal or even semi-formal system for advancing the clocks as is found in BitD.

I don't use a consistent system, I just decide actors, environments, what logically happens when along with a dash of what will be fun. It's not anything I boil down to some concrete set of rules. I don't have "a system". That's kind of the whole point I've been trying to make.
To me, you seem to have just described your system: you as GM decides what happens next based on your imagination about what is happening offscreen.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Share the mechanics? No. I only share information the PCs know. That's kind of the point of investigation and information gathering.

I don't use a consistent system, I just decide actors, environments, what logically happens when along with a dash of what will be fun. It's not anything I boil down to some concrete set of rules. I don't have "a system". That's kind of the whole point I've been trying to make.

So would you say your players can play well?

Like how would you say one of your players did a good job? Because he rolled high often? Something else?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Alright, just going to comment on this part for now because we need to get on the same page. After we're on the same page, we can continue.

I wrote the below as one of your core contentions:



To which you replied:



Then we have this below (in quotes) from me which is meant to demonstrate a position born of such a core contention of an argument. There are two components; the "Ravenloft D&D w/ stuff is still 5e D&D" and "this other stuff isn't Blades in the Dark." You commented on the latter (confirming my inference on your assessment of "Blades in the Dark vs not"),
That isn’t what I said, but rereading I can see why a quick read would lead one astray. When I say “that seems just left of a classic Blades game”, I’m saying that it is indeed still Blades. I then explain what would make a game not seem like the same game, to me.

I also think this isn’t actually central to the discussion. What is more significant, to me, is the idea that I mentioned before that repurposing all the mechanics of a game to create a totally different thing…makes it a different game.

Like if someone took the mechanics of D&D 5e, stripped all the fluff, and repurposed it into a game about the Galaxy Rangers, it wouldn’t be D&D 5e just because the mechanics are technically mostly “intact”.
but you didn't comment on the "Ravenloft D&D w/ stuff is still 5e D&D" aspect of it. So if you would please comment on that. And if your answer is "yes, Ravenloft D&D w/ stuff is still 5e D&D" then that is how I arrived at my assembly of the above core contention for you...and then I would be curious how you would land on "strongly no" after a "yes "Ravenloft D&D w/ stuff is still 5e D&D."
Ravenloft isn’t that different. Spelljammer is further from classic D&D than Ravenloft. Neither requires changing fundamental rules procedures, you don’t need to teach someone how to play again, it’s just D&D set in a horror place using a couple add-on rules. A rogue is still a rogue, a sword still a sword, daylight still stops vampire regeneration, and you still kill a vamp if you deplete his HP while he’s in daylight, like any other vampire.
 

Azzy

KMF DM

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Interestingly, I have the opposite opinion regarding unlimited cantrips. I would much prefer having prof. bonus + attribute bonus number of cantrips per day, long rest whatever.
So you like casters toting crossbows snagging a certain feat and buffing dex? I see it as a genre issue to be honest.

Back in 1e land I decided that it felt better reflavoring dart throwing as runes that you painted on your staff which you pointed at enemies.. the runes would glow and launch a dart... I mean fly off in glowing light form, you recovered the spent runes by touching the target/location which was hit by them and the runes reappeared decorated on the staff. You could also spend some time to repaint the runes. (like a ritual or ahem using a fletcher skill)

There are many dials that 5e did not include there were intimations that 5e would be modular... hmmm

"That way we could have both our preferences available as well as have some guidance on what secondary effects might arise."

The modules they did include ... in my opinion lack much guidance about the implications and more so interactions between them.
 
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For me, the issue is: what happens after nothing happens? As DM, what do I do next? Personally, a rigid 'something bad must happen now' rule can feel contrived, but it does have the virtue of moving the story forward. What do you, as a DM, do in a situation where the players keep banging their heads against a brick wall, or trying every possible approach to get an increasingly nonplussed NPC to do what they want?
"Fail forward" doesn't even need to be outright bad all the time...it just means you didn't accomplish things in a way you like. Failing forward means the action advances even if the players don't get what they want.

I've heard campfire stories of the Edition Wars (3e and 4e completely passed me by, as I stopped roleplaying for a long time after 2e). Are people still sensitive about that? I want to be clear that I don't judge anyone based on which game they play, and I'll try and be a bit more careful to avoid any implication to the contrary.
Yes. Not least because people continue to confidently state outright falsehoods about 4e, even now, more than a decade later.
 
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