D&D General Why Editions Don't Matter

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
On that note. D&D is often criticized for treating combat differently than other aspects of the game. Blades in the dark does exactly the same thing. Scores (basically their version of a scene/mission) follow different rules than downtime for example.

I don't think the criticism is so simple as, "different parts of the game are handled differently".

In D&D (and almost all traditional games) combat is handled differently than other conflict resolution. And if your interest lies in other conflicts, that can be an issue.
 

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pemerton

Legend
On that note. D&D is often criticized for treating combat differently than other aspects of the game. Blades in the dark does exactly the same thing. Scores (basically their version of a scene/mission) follow different rules than downtime for example.
I don't think the criticism is so simple as, "different parts of the game are handled differently".

In D&D (and almost all traditional games) combat is handled differently than other conflict resolution. And if your interest lies in other conflicts, that can be an issue.
An alternative take to Umbran's would be this: in 5e D&D only combats are genuinely action scenes; other scenes are really transition scenes, in which the table collectively negotiates the lead-up to the next action scene.
 


pemerton

Legend
THAT I can accept. It's surely very accurate. THIS I cannot, "...the GM is using me as a piece in their own solitaire play." I mean, I believe you feel that way, but you aren't actually being treated that way.
The GM has created a situation/puzzle that I - the player - can't resolve without the GM feeding me the information that will help solve it. That is the solitaire aspect I am referring to. The GM is providing a solution to a problem entirely of their own making.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The GM has created a situation/puzzle that I - the player - can't resolve without the GM feeding me the information that will help solve it.
What puzzle? You keep trying to frame this as some sort of puzzle to solve, but that's not what I said. Yet you said you understood me.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I don't think the criticism is so simple as, "different parts of the game are handled differently".

In D&D (and almost all traditional games) combat is handled differently than other conflict resolution. And if your interest lies in other conflicts, that can be an issue.
From the onset of D&D, the combat rules were their own mini-game: "Oh, we're in combat. Pull out the Chainmail rules." "Roll for initiative" is practically synonymous with "commence the combat mini-game."

In games like Fate or Cortex, however, conflict is conflict and all conflict risks taking you out of the scene. There may be different stess tracks - e.g., physical, mental, social, fear, exhausted, wealth, etc. - but the conflict resolution remains constant.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
From the onset of D&D, the combat rules were their own mini-game: "Oh, we're in combat. Pull out the Chainmail rules." "Roll for initiative" is practically synonymous with "commence the combat mini-game."
I would think the other direction, really. D&D was originally more about combat, it wasn't the "mini-game", it really was the game. But YMMV of course.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
@FrogReaver

Fundamentally how you decide which consequences to apply of those listed is by first looking to your GM Goals and Principles, letting them guide your decisions. Also look to GM Actions and Best Practices. Try to avoid the listed Bad Habits. There's no rote process but there is plenty there to guide your decision making process.
Which of those options I listed above would have been against the principles or found on the gm bad habits list?

By the way how are you finding it so far? What sort of Crew do your players have going on?
They are a human sacrifice cult that’s tends toward chaos. They tend to go on take out a target style missions. (As I’ve said many times - my players really are the bad guys).

It’s going well. The players still have a d&d 5e mindset and tend toward trying to perfect a plan instead of providing me the detail I need to kick off a score. Makes downtime to score transition a bit difficult. But the players seem to be having fun - maybe more fun in downtime than in the score itself.
 

Oofta

Legend
Which is exactly what I was referring to earlier. These games don't end up giving you a concrete throughline once you get past character creation. (I never played Morrowind myself, but had a similar experience with Oblivion: I spent ages creating a character and doing the intro stuff, and when I finally got out, I had no sense of what to do. I bumbled around for a bit, got lost, and then died almost instantly when a random wolf attacked me.

I never played Oblivion again after that.

This is the experience I'm talking about with permitting things but not supporting them. You get lost in the weeds. You wander away from what the rules support, and get stuck on something they don't. There's little reason to stick with it, because you wandered off into things you want to do and the game doesn't help you do them, and the things it does help you do weren't that compelling or you'd have done them.

Hence why I used the term "rules-avoidant" rather than rules-light. 5e isn't rules-light. There hasn't been an official rules-light D&D for ages, if there ever was one. ("We ignored the rules," no matter how commonplace it might have been, doesn't actually make the game rules-light!) But 5e does actively avoid having rules for a lot of things. Crafting and magic item economy, for example. This doesn't end up making it particularly light, it has plenty of mechanical oddities (like the rules surrounding "melee weapon attack" from "an attack using a melee weapon" etc.) It just means it chooses to have no rules whatsoever for various things.

That absence is palpable. I've seen dozens of threads and posts over the years talking about how 5e showers characters in gold and then gives them no reason to actually spend it. Threads about crafting are less common, but I've seen plenty of them as well. And, as noted, the many, many, MANY posts where someone asks for advice and gets the answer, "You're the DM, do whatever you want!" All that freedom, all those infinitely many options, and yet no support.

Why do you need rules to implement goals and motivation? D&D has never really had that and in my experience has never needed it. Yes, in some editions we had the magic item bonus hamster wheel where they codified the "you need a +X weapon by level y" but other than that I don't see any way the rules can provide goals. [EDIT: I think of reward systems such as leveling to be different from goals and motivation although it's complicated and some people don't separate them.]

It's always been up to the DM (or a module) to provide reasons to adventure. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that "showering PCs with gold" is an issue you only have because of a flawed reward model. Yes, it's fun to get loot, but as you've said if you have nothing to spend it on why bother. My solution? I ignore the rules for the amount of treasure people get and only give them a limited amount based on what I think they'll need, and have the opportunity, to spend. At lower levels that means enough money to cover living expenses and buy potions. At higher levels I open up a limited magic mart*. In one campaign getting gold to fund a small army was a goal so the party got more treasure.

How much treasure the PCs get is always in the hand of the DM. It's a case where if you follow the random treasure chart, you actually demotivate people because treasure becomes meaningless. What motivates players will vary from individual to individual, there's no set of rules that could motivate everyone. For me, it's a matter of throwing out multiple threads and letting the players choose which thread to follow while throwing in the occasional surprise development from left field.

But I think this has always been an issue. I don't know how all games handle it, but I can't imagine how the rules of the game are going to provide motivation for every player. At least not a game with as many options as D&D.

*I think a price list should be more clearly defined, I made my own for my group.
 
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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I don't think the criticism is so simple as, "different parts of the game are handled differently".

In D&D (and almost all traditional games) combat is handled differently than other conflict resolution. And if your interest lies in other conflicts, that can be an issue.
Oh, I think one criticism really is that simple. There’s often many other criticisms layered on top though.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Why do you need rules to implement goals and motivation? D&D has never really had that and in my experience has never needed it. Yes, in some editions we had the magic item bonus hamster wheel where they codified the "you need a +X weapon by level y" but other than that I don't see any way the rules can provide goals.

XP for gold.

That's a goal provided by rules. The reward system of any game tells us what the game is meant to be about. Or it should tell us that, at least.

Oh, I think one criticism really is that simple. There’s often many other criticisms layered on top though.

I think a better way to look at it is not that folks are criticizing the game for handling different parts of the game differently. It's more about handling one area of the game with a very structured and understandable manner that has binding consequences, and then handling another in an unstructured, subject-to-change manner that may or may not have binding consequences.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I think a better way to look at it is not that folks are criticizing the game for handling different parts of the game differently. It's more about handling one area of the game with a very structured and understandable manner that has binding consequences, and then handling another in an unstructured, subject-to-change manner that may or may not have binding consequences.
Well… I’ve also seen the opposite criticism from others. That combat is too structured and would be better with less structure closer to out of combat. But I get your point. I’m just not sure of a way to encapsulate both positions better than ‘handling different parts of the game differently’.
 

Oofta

Legend
XP for gold.

That's a goal provided by rules. The reward system of any game tells us what the game is meant to be about. Or it should tell us that, at least.
XP for gold hasn't been around for a long time. Gaining levels is only rewarding for some people, and only rewarding so long as it really means something. If you just level up and simply face more generic boring but more difficult encounters, what's the point? Leveling up can be motivating for some but if you just keep giving people gold stars and that's all you give them, after a while the stars lose meaning.

I think a better way to look at it is not that folks are criticizing the game for handling different parts of the game differently. It's more about handling one area of the game with a very structured and understandable manner that has binding consequences, and then handling another in an unstructured, subject-to-change manner that may or may not have binding consequences.

Or ... one aspect of the game needs more structure and a different aspect doesn't need that structure. Having that difference is part of the reason D&D works for me. I enjoy combat, but after a while having a fairly constrained system of conflict resolution gets old. Meanwhile the non-combat aspect of the game feels different and lets me stretch different mental gaming muscles. Having the two aspects of the game is a big benefit.

Some groups can focus on the combat if they want a relatively constrained system while those that like more free format immersion can focus on the RP aspects. We get the best of both worlds.
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
I do not think there is really any issue with different parts of a game being structured differently. I am really not comfortable with using need rather than desire for the sort of structure we prefer different parts of a game to have. For my tastes saying that a relatively constrained combat system and GM says structure outside of combat is the best of both worlds does not track. It's basically saying if you like a game that like feels like a game you are required to focus on violent confrontations. That is emphatically not what I personally consider the best of both worlds. It's just one possible arrangement that has its own strengths and weaknesses.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Or ... one aspect of the game needs more structure and a different aspect doesn't need that structure. Having that difference is part of the reason D&D works for me. I enjoy combat, but after a while having a fairly constrained system of conflict resolution gets old. Meanwhile the non-combat aspect of the game feels different and lets me stretch different mental gaming muscles. Having the two aspects of the game is a big benefit.
Tangentially - Is the difference in structure between combat and adventuring a pretty old one in video games? (In Sid Meier's pirates back in the late 80s, were there a bunch of text choices and moving around, but then the combat was on the deck of the ship with swords? Are Zelda and games of its ilk kind of like that?)
 

An alternative take to Umbran's would be this: in 5e D&D only combats are genuinely action scenes; other scenes are really transition scenes, in which the table collectively negotiates the lead-up to the next action scene.
That would be alternative, and I feel incorrect.

However, you are also specifying 5e which is the edition I have the least experience with.
 

gorice

Adventurer
One of the things I didnt like about Morrowind is that if it had a main storyline it wasnt compelling - Oblivion was more compelling and, I felt some urgency and involvement in the main quest... I was less inclined to just wander around without engaging with it. (It sounds like you didnt find Oblivion compelling)
Complete tangent, but: Morrowind had the best story of any TES game, IMO. The problem was that the designers were so averse to railroading people into following it that most people never found it. Later games learned from that, but also had worse writing, so.

I think @EzekielRaiden 's analogy holds true, but I want to say that in a literal, not analogical sense, I don't think a game needs to provide a strong direction if the players are proactive enough. (Getting lost is the entire point of open world games, for me.)

Why do you need rules to implement goals and motivation? D&D has never really had that and in my experience has never needed it. Yes, in some editions we had the magic item bonus hamster wheel where they codified the "you need a +X weapon by level y" but other than that I don't see any way the rules can provide goals.

It's always been up to the DM (or a module) to provide reasons to adventure. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that "showering PCs with gold" is an issue you only have because of a flawed reward model. Yes, it's fun to get loot, but as you've said if you have nothing to spend it on why bother. My solution? I ignore the rules for the amount of treasure people get and only give them a limited amount based on what I think they'll need, and have the opportunity, to spend. At lower levels that means enough money to cover living expenses and buy potions. At higher levels I open up a limited magic mart*. In one campaign getting gold to fund a small army was a goal so the party got more treasure.

How much treasure the PCs get is always in the hand of the DM. It's a case where if you follow the random treasure chart, you actually demotivate people because treasure becomes meaningless. What motivates players will vary from individual to individual, there's no set of rules that could motivate everyone. For me, it's a matter of throwing out multiple threads and letting the players choose which thread to follow while throwing in the occasional surprise development from left field.

But I think this has always been an issue. I don't know how all games handle it, but I can't imagine how the rules of the game are going to provide motivation for every player. At least not a game with as many options as D&D.

*I think a price list should be more clearly defined, I made my own for my group.
Worth mentioning that some older editions of D&D had rules for acquiring and running domains in downtime, which was a big motivation and a way to spend your cash. So, your wizard could build a wizard tower, hire some guards, and spend their downtime cloistered with books inventing new spells and magic items. AD&D had rules for all of this (at least, 2e did).
 

Oofta

Legend
Tangentially - Is the difference in structure between combat and adventuring a pretty old one in video games? (In Sid Meier's pirates back in the late 80s, were there a bunch of text choices and moving around, but then the combat was on the deck of the ship with swords? Are Zelda and games of its ilk kind of like that?)
New games do that as well. I played Cyberpunk 2077 a while back, there's certainly a transition between the feel of the game between combat and non-combat. You still go from dialog options to combat, although there is more shared functionality than in the old systems. Your movement options are the same in and out of combat for example. Obviously video game options are almost always going to be constrained more than D&D with set dialog options and no "swing from the chandelier" moments in combat unless the developer included it.
 

Aldarc

Legend
XP for gold hasn't been around for a long time.
But how long XP for gold has been around is not really what is being discussed. You made this assertion:
Why do you need rules to implement goals and motivation? D&D has never really had that and in my experience has never needed it.
To which hawkeyefan responded with a valid counter-example:
XP for gold.
So let's be clear here. XP for gold is something that D&D unquestionably had as part of its Skinner Box for a good portion of its history. It was part of OD&D, B/X, and 1e. B/X is probably one of the most popular iterations of the game, especially in the TSR era.

I am playing a BX/1e hybrid game right now, and XP for gold is a big part of how that game is being played. IME, it does make a difference with how the other players engage the game. They have gold on their minds because gold is how they gain XP. It's little to no surprise then that this is also something that a lot of OSR has picked up on too. There are a LOT of OSR games that use "gold for XP" (e.g., Black Hack, OSE, etc.). Similarly in Numenera, players get XP for making discoveries rather than defeating monsters. This too impacts, IME, how players engage the game.

Now whether D&D needs that sort of thing is a separate argument than whether or not D&D "[ever] really had that." But it definitely did have the latter and the fact that XP for gold gets picked up in a lot of OSR as a "lost art" of the game is pretty telling as well IMHO about player incentive structures regarding "old school" style games.
 

Oofta

Legend
Complete tangent, but: Morrowind had the best story of any TES game, IMO. The problem was that the designers were so averse to railroading people into following it that most people never found it. Later games learned from that, but also had worse writing, so.

I think @EzekielRaiden 's analogy holds true, but I want to say that in a literal, not analogical sense, I don't think a game needs to provide a strong direction if the players are proactive enough. (Getting lost is the entire point of open world games, for me.)
I personally have issues getting psyched about true sandbox games. I need some overarching goal(s) and direction to pull me into the game. I keep trying to play Red Dead Redemption II and give up after doing so many little side quests that don't really mean much. I keep telling myself I need to go back and stick with it just a little longer.

A lot of games don't need that kind of story because they engage a different part of my brain that involves the twitch reaction/combat survival desires. The older Doom games were like that, minimal story but fun combat that kept me going. But even then the bang bang shoot parts of the game were interspersed with sections of exploration and light puzzle solving, the most recent version focused pretty much entirely on the action and I can't get into it either.

At least for me, variety of styles in the same game is a big draw.

Worth mentioning that some older editions of D&D had rules for acquiring and running domains in downtime, which was a big motivation and a way to spend your cash. So, your wizard could build a wizard tower, hire some guards, and spend their downtime cloistered with books inventing new spells and magic items. AD&D had rules for all of this (at least, 2e did).
That was pretty much dropped after 1E or so IIRC? We never really used the options much because it seemed to change the focus of the game from a cooperative group activity to everyone building their own stuff. Might motivate some people, but it's just one goal that you can still do with 3PP like Matt Collville's Stronghold Builder's Guide book. I do a little of that in my own campaign.
 

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