D&D General Why Editions Don't Matter

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Thomas Shey

Legend
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).

Though how much this got used varied considerably, and often it was more a thing to do with all the gold you accumulated rather than something you accumulated gold for if you understand the cause-and-effect distinction I'm making (i.e. a number of characters would get into building a keep/running a business/etc just because they had all that money that wouldn't have sought out money just for that purpose).
 

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hawkeyefan

Legend
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’.

Not sure. Asymmetric design? Inconsistent? I suppose it depends on if you consider it a positive or a negative.

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.

It depends on what edition you're playing. I offered it as an example of rules that provide a goal for play because you said D&D never had that and doesn't need it. Clearly, it has had it. Whether or not it needs it is a matter of preference.

I'd say that clearer mechanical rewards would probably help 5E a bit. As it is, XP is mostly gained by killing things, which shifts the game heavily toward combat. There are suggestions in the DMG on how to change this a bit, or to reward players for solutions to problems other than combat, and of course they bolted on the BIFTs and Inspiration as an attempt at rewarding roleplaying, but that's like the first thing people seem to ditch when they play 5E. And it seems like the shift to 1D&D may put that to rest for good.


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.

Sure, I'd say that this is a big part of why "editions matter".
 

Oofta

Legend
But how long XP for gold has been around is not really what is being discussed. You made this assertion:

To which hawkeyefan responded with a valid counter-example:

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.

I don't consider gaining levels alone to be a goal unless gaining levels allows you to achieve something you couldn't achieve before. If I gain a level and find that I'm still just walking around a plain vanilla dungeon fighting slightly stronger orcs, I don't consider it motivation. If I'm gaining levels it's so I can someday confront whatever BBEG destroyed my home city.

Of course leveling is part of the reward system so let me say instead: "outside of leveling, there has been little motivation built into the game." Getting gold for xp just speeds up leveling.
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
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.
Quoted for truth.
 


gorice

Adventurer
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.
I think I would say that there are some structures that are more or less necessary, and some that are merely nice to have and a matter of taste and/or debate.

Necessary structure might go something like: who has control over what, how to resolve conflicts or disagreements, and how the current scene/moment relates to others, and to the big picture. You can't play without this stuff.

Nice to have would be stuff that supports whatever the game is supposed to be about. For a game doing 'D&D' (as a genre, if you will), I think some kind of wilderness travel/adventure system, a basic means of dungeon-delving, an economic system (as in: stuff to spend money on, and ways to earn it) and some method for negotiations/intrigue would do it. Oh, and combat, obviously. None of these procedures need be complex; the most important thing is that they relate to the 'necessary' bits in some way (I'm especially thinking of costs of failure/time pressure).

I think 5e is about halfway there on the necessary stuff, and pretty bad on the rest, aside from combat.

Oh, and I think this has been established, but just to be super clear: I don't think a game needs to play itself to be 'complete' according to this schema. I wouldn't want to DM a game where all I do is manage The System!
 

Aldarc

Legend
I don't consider gaining levels alone to be a goal unless gaining levels allows you to achieve something you couldn't achieve before. If I gain a level and find that I'm still just walking around a plain vanilla dungeon fighting slightly stronger orcs, I don't consider it motivation. If I'm gaining levels it's so I can someday confront whatever BBEG destroyed my home city.
Different strokes for different folks. I think that we can acknowledge that this does not align with your preferences while also acknowledging that "XP for gold" was a significant part of the incentive structure for the game and how it remains played among a number who still play older editions or OSR variants. I suspect that 2e began gravitating away from this and more towards GM as storyteller, which is unsurprisingly the edition where 5e takes a lot of its major beats from when it comes to GMing.

Of course leveling is part of the reward system so let me say instead: "outside of leveling, there has been little motivation built into the game." Getting gold for xp just speeds up leveling.
Maybe in 5e, but no one has reached level 2 yet in my West Marches group after about 10 sessions. In 5e that pacing would almost be outrageous, whether that is XP for gold or milestone leveling.
 


Oofta

Legend
Different strokes for different folks. I think that we can acknowledge that this does not align with your preferences while also acknowledging that "XP for gold" was a significant part of the incentive structure for the game and how it remains played among a number who still play older editions or OSR variants. I suspect that 2e began gravitating away from this and more towards GM as storyteller, which is unsurprisingly the edition where 5e takes a lot of its major beats from when it comes to GMing.


Maybe in 5e, but no one has reached level 2 yet in my West Marches group after about 10 sessions. In 5e that pacing would almost be outrageous, whether that is XP for gold or milestone leveling.

But the reason to have XP is to level, correct? So leveling is still the reward. Even in 5E one of the options is to forego XP and do milestone leveling. So hitting that milestone could be a goal.

I thought I was being clear but let me reiterate: leveling is rewarding but not a motivation for me. I want in story motivations that make sense to my PC.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
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.

Something interesting about my gaming history and D&D compared to other games.

My group and I have almost always abandoned the XP system of D&D dating back to the 2E era when we first started gaming together. We've pretty much always done some form of milestone XP, although not usually triggered a specific event so much as X number of sessions or "adventures" or similar. The few times we've decided to start tracking XP per the rules, it never lasted and we always went back to just kind of eyeballing it.

What I've realized is that D&D is the only game where this is the case. The XP system is just cumbersome and there's nothing compelling about it, so we just get rid of it. I don't think we're alone in that, and I think the Milestone option being an official option in 5E says a lot.

But in all the other games I've played over the last few years, we always follow the XP/advancement systems.

The end of session questions of PbtA and FitD are a great reward structure. They reward examination of character and interactions with the world and other characters. It involves the players in the process.

Spire: The City Must Fall rewards players for making changes in the city. So it actively promotes what the game is meant to be about. Go out and try to change the situation in the city.

Heart has Beats, which are player chosen goals for every session of play. If they manage to hit the Beat for a session, they get a new ability. This gives players a wide range of choices for what to focus on in play, and gives the GM cues about what to involve in play.

So yeah... I can't agree that RPGs don't benefit from reward structures... I just don't think D&D's has been all that useful for quite some time.
 


Aldarc

Legend
But the reason to have XP is to level, correct? So leveling is still the reward. Even in 5E one of the options is to forego XP and do milestone leveling. So hitting that milestone could be a goal.

I thought I was being clear but let me reiterate: leveling is rewarding but not a motivation for me. I want in story motivations that make sense to my PC.
Sure, leveling is the carrot, but having "XP for gold" or even "milestone leveling" affects how players chase that carrot.

As I said, XP for discovery in Numenera affects how players engage the game, because if players want to level, then they will look to make discoveries so that they can earn XP. Likewise, in order to get XP for their characters, characters in B/X will look to acquire gold in dungeons or elsewhere. Shadow of the Demon Lord, in contrast, has a quasi-milestone system. It's simply you earn a level if you finish the adventure. But this system is at least more transparent for players, which orients their goals to completing the adventure.

One issue with milestone leveling, IME, is that it is rarely transparent to players, which makes it more difficult for players to set goals for their characters or for players to have a good sense of their character's impending new capabilities. It's often when the GM feels like it according to their whims or even "the adventure says the characters should be this level when they reach this point."

Something interesting about my gaming history and D&D compared to other games.

My group and I have almost always abandoned the XP system of D&D dating back to the 2E era when we first started gaming together. We've pretty much always done some form of milestone XP, although not usually triggered a specific event so much as X number of sessions or "adventures" or similar. The few times we've decided to start tracking XP per the rules, it never lasted and we always went back to just kind of eyeballing it.

What I've realized is that D&D is the only game where this is the case. The XP system is just cumbersome and there's nothing compelling about it, so we just get rid of it. I don't think we're alone in that, and I think the Milestone option being an official option in 5E says a lot.

But in all the other games I've played over the last few years, we always follow the XP/advancement systems.

The end of session questions of PbtA and FitD are a great reward structure. They reward examination of character and interactions with the world and other characters. It involves the players in the process.

Spire: The City Must Fall rewards players for making changes in the city. So it actively promotes what the game is meant to be about. Go out and try to change the situation in the city.

Heart has Beats, which are player chosen goals for every session of play. If they manage to hit the Beat for a session, they get a new ability. This gives players a wide range of choices for what to focus on in play, and gives the GM cues about what to involve in play.

So yeah... I can't agree that RPGs don't benefit from reward structures... I just don't think D&D's has been all that useful for quite some time.
IMHO, XP is easier in a lot of other games because the numbers required tend to be substantially flatter and smaller than the numbers D&D often requires, so XP in these other games feels less like trying to balance the books of a Swiss bank account. Leveling Numenera, for example, requires 16 XP to level: i.e., buying four 4 XP character advancements. That's for all six tiers of play. As you say, questions at the end of a session in PbtA and FitD often deal with smaller amounts: e.g., "1 XP if your character did X, Y, or Z."
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
Sure, leveling is the carrot, but having "XP for gold" or even "milestone leveling" affects how players chase that carrot.

As I said, XP for discovery in Numenera affects how players engage the game, because if players want to level, then they will look to make discoveries so that they can earn XP. Likewise, in order to get XP for their characters, characters in B/X will look to acquire gold in dungeons or elsewhere. Shadow of the Demon Lord, in contrast, has a quasi-milestone system. It's simply you earn a level if you finish the adventure. But this system is at least more transparent for players, which orients their goals to completing the adventure.

Yeah, the XP for gold works because it makes it clear what the game is meant to be about. You're supposed to get gold.

If you want the game to be about finding your brother's killer, then maybe a game that rewards XP for gold isn't the best choice. Or else maybe it can be modified for that.

Of course, many players and GMs have gotten used to having such fiction-based incentives not be mechanically rewarded because they tend to bring some level of satisfaction to the player... but I don't see how incentivizing that kind of thing can be viewed as bad. At least not if the system for doing so is not overly complex or cumbersome.

One issue with milestone leveling, IME, is that it is rarely transparent to players, which makes it more difficult for players to set goals for their characters or for players to have a good sense of their character's impending new capabilities. It's often when the GM feels like it according to their whims or even "the adventure says the characters should be this level when they reach this point."

Absolutely. That's something I had been working on correcting in my 5E game, before I placed it on hold. I was eyeballing things and granting a level with each significant goal resolved. But the players weren't really aware of this. It didn't cause any major issues, but I'm gonig to address that when we resume.


IMHO, XP is easier in a lot of other games because the numbers required tend to be substantially flatter and smaller than the numbers D&D often requires, so XP in these other games feels less like trying to balance the books of a Swiss bank account. Leveling Numenera, for example, requires 16 XP to level: i.e., buying four 4 XP character advancements. That's for all six tiers of play. As you say, questions at the end of a session in PbtA and FitD often deal with smaller amounts: e.g., "1 XP if your character did X, Y, or Z."

Absolutely. It's also generally unique to each player. So you don't need to divvy it up amongst each participant and all that. It's simpler and easily implemented, and in some cases, a worthwhile discussion about the game and the characters.
 

As I said, XP for discovery in Numenera affects how players engage the game, because if players want to level, then they will look to make discoveries so that they can earn XP.
Aldarc could you expand on this please? What does make new discoveries mean in the fiction?
I have the Arcana of the Ancients - have not used it as yet. I believe that still follows the std D&D XP model though.
 

Absolutely. That's something I had been working on correcting in my 5E game, before I placed it on hold. I was eyeballing things and granting a level with each significant goal resolved. But the players weren't really aware of this. It didn't cause any major issues, but I'm going to address that when we resume.
Given @Aldarc's description of Shadow of the Demon Lord I had a similar idea.
I was thinking of making it open to the players and that it would be dependent on which ever came first
(i) achieving x significant goal in the storyline; or
(ii) a time-lined event which the PCs know is occurring
 
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Aldarc

Legend
Aldarc could you expand on this please? What does make new discoveries mean in the fiction?
I have the Arcana of the Ancients - have not used it as yet. I believe that still follows the std D&D XP model though.
"Make new discoveries" means when the players discover something new in the Ninth World that they can understand and put to use, which is often an artifact, device, location, or even an abstract truth about the world.
DISCOVERING NEW THINGS
The core of gameplay in Numenera—the answer to the question “What do characters do in this game?”—is “Discover new things or old things that are new again.” This can be the discovery of something a character can use, like an artifact. It makes the character more powerful because it almost certainly grants a new capability or option, but it’s also a discovery unto itself and results in a gain of experience points.

Discovery can also mean finding a new numenera procedure or device (something too big to be considered a piece of equipment) or even previously unknown information. If the PCs find an ancient hovertrain and get it working again so they can use it to reach a distant location, that’s a discovery. If they locate a signal receiving station and figure out how to turn off the transmission from an overhead satellite that’s causing all the animals in the region to become hostile, that’s a discovery. The common thread is that the PCs discover something that they can understand and put to use. A cure for a plague, the means to draw power from a hydroelectric plant, an operational flying craft, or an injection that grants the knowledge to create a protective force field dome over a structure—these are all discoveries.
Broadly speaking there are three categories of discoveries Monte Cook details: Artifacts, Unmoveable Devices (often in ruins), and Miscellaneous. PCs will get XP based on the Artifact's level. The core book also discusses player-driven awards for XP that may be centered around achieving a goal or mission that the PCs make for themselves.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
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.
I needed the somewhat better flavor/stories Heretic and Hexen (and plugin alternates that were fan made like WoT Quake) to bring me into the twitch I needed some of my favored genre at minimum.
 


Not sure. Asymmetric design? Inconsistent? I suppose it depends on if you consider it a positive or a negative.
Generally, "asymmetric design" is used to refer to things like classes or factions rather than separate play-processes. I think if I wanted a neutral term for the split between combat and non-combat I'd call it something like "siloed." It's already a word in relatively common use with regard to offering different types of power. Some folks would prefer character growth be siloed, while others would prefer to reduce the overall silo design so combat and non-combat are not as separate.

IMHO, XP is easier in a lot of other games because the numbers required tend to be substantially flatter and smaller than the numbers D&D often requires, so XP in these other games feels less like trying to balance the books of a Swiss bank account. Leveling Numenera, for example, requires 16 XP to level: i.e., buying four 4 XP character advancements. That's for all six tiers of play. As you say, questions at the end of a session in PbtA and FitD often deal with smaller amounts: e.g., "1 XP if your character did X, Y, or Z."
Ah, Numenera...the game I wish I could like. So many good nuggets melted to several awful ones.

That said, the general idea of using XP to shape and direct player behavior/goals is great. Numenera does it in one of the worst possible ways (XP as both the "bennie" currency and as permanenr advancement currency), but other systems use it quite well. I love Dungeon World's stuff for example because it naturally generates less XP by having players roll 6- less often as they improve, so they don't nees an exponential curve in the math to get one in the results.

"Make new discoveries" means when the players discover something new in the Ninth World that they can understand and put to use, which is often an artifact, device, location, or even an abstract truth about the world.

Broadly speaking there are three categories of discoveries Monte Cook details: Artifacts, Unmoveable Devices (often in ruins), and Miscellaneous. PCs will get XP based on the Artifact's level. The core book also discusses player-driven awards for XP that may be centered around achieving a goal or mission that the PCs make for themselves.
Is this from the new(er?) edition of Numenera? I remember the intense controversies over the original version's advice to literally change the world if the players ever thought they'd actually figured out something about the past. One of the other reasons I was incapable of actually enjoying my interactions with Numenera as a game system.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Ah, Numenera...the game I wish I could like. So many good nuggets melted to several awful ones.

That said, the general idea of using XP to shape and direct player behavior/goals is great. Numenera does it in one of the worst possible ways (XP as both the "bennie" currency and as permanenr advancement currency), but other systems use it quite well. I love Dungeon World's stuff for example because it naturally generates less XP by having players roll 6- less often as they improve, so they don't nees an exponential curve in the math to get one in the results.
I don't disagree with any of this. Numenera is a traditional game designed by what a traditional designer thinks a narrative game is. I likewise think that the XP system as a source of bennies was one of the worst parts about the game. There are things that I like about the game, and I don't mind running it, but I have been disappointed by the lack of leap forwards in game rules or editions that really takes these commonly-cited rough spots into consideration.

Stonetop also has a neat work around XP and bennies. You don't level up until you get back to town. So if you have excess XP, you can use 2 XP to "Burn Brightly" for a +1 bonus after a roll has been made.

Is this from the new(er?) edition of Numenera? I remember the intense controversies over the original version's advice to literally change the world if the players ever thought they'd actually figured out something about the past. One of the other reasons I was incapable of actually enjoying my interactions with Numenera as a game system.
There is still supposed to be unexplainable mystery about the world and the past civilizations, but you can still figure out that if you pull a lever that water comes out of the tap. But that facet you dislike about Numenera is what I like about it though I would not go so far as to change the world if the players thought they figured out the past. Dune has a quote in the appendices - "Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic" - and I think that Numenera attempts to embrace that ethos or sentiment.
 

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