D&D General Younger Players Telling Us how Old School Gamers Played

Thomas Shey

Legend
Agreed. With the exception of 4e, which leans hard into class-as-function and makes it work! (This is why I liked 4e - it took all the classic D&Disms and actually made them work in the context of a modern RPG.)

I almost made an exception for 4e, but even in 4e it was entirely possible to drag your character out of role if you were motivated. It'd be a little perverse, but it was doable.
 

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Thomas Shey

Legend
Even if you don't use class-based building and the character gets its in-game abilities via other mechanics (I think it's safe to assume characters are ging to have some sort of in-game abilities), the question still remains whether the having of certian abilities carries a hard-coded expectation that those abilities have to be used by the character in a proscribed manner, or whether the player can choose to play against type and either use those abilities differently or not use them at all; and this is the question being side-stepped when asking whether class-based is useful.

I'll outright say I think the number of people who are going to bother to invest in abilities to any significant degree that they then don't use at all is vanishingly small unless its for a color dip-in; nobody is liable to buy a massive amount of Stealth skill and then never use it. And frankly in a group based game, going out of your way to not use abilities you have to help the group at all is pretty perverse, and most people out there are not running RPGs as five individual games where PCs occasionally interact.

Basically, at the end of the day its legitimate to ask "If you're going to take stealth and lockpicking at high levels, if you aren't at least going to function as a scout somewhat regularly, why are we taking you with us?" All the more since there's usually some tradeoff in terms of investment that means that someone who invests heavily in those is unlikely to be exactly great at any other things to justify their membership in a group that does things regularly.

While I realize the kind of games you run are far more tolerant of people just individually going off and doing their own thing that most do now (or, honestly, as far as I can tell, ever), while I can understand thinking some groups are overly fixated on a character function in the group being maximized until the wood cracks where the screws go in, there's still normally some purpose in them going along, and normally that's got to do with what they bring to the group others don't already supply. Otherwise they're just there because of PC glow, and that's not much of a virtue.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
While I realize the kind of games you run are far more tolerant of people just individually going off and doing their own thing that most do now (or, honestly, as far as I can tell, ever), while I can understand thinking some groups are overly fixated on a character function in the group being maximized until the wood cracks where the screws go in, there's still normally some purpose in them going along, and normally that's got to do with what they bring to the group others don't already supply.
With this I agree.

What I'm trying to push back against is the idea that exceptions and playing-against-type can't happen and-or should be suppressed by the system.
Otherwise they're just there because of PC glow, and that's not much of a virtue.
Perhaps, though everything said here can (and sometimes does) also apply to adventuring NPCs.
 

Expecting classes to contribute a certain skill set to the party? That sounds MMORPGish to me.

D&D is suppose to be players running their characters through the lens of their fiction and letting the DM figure out the rest. Or TPK them. That works too.
 


Gilladian

Adventurer
Yeah, I don't understand why any DM would need or want to do this. I mean, sure, its possible it might be hard to get the exact same players at the table next week, but there's always ways to deal with that. AFAIK Gygax et al just did some switcheroo with who was or was not a PC vs a henchman. So the rogue's player is not around, but the guy that normally plays the fighter is. Guess who happened to be hiring himself out? The rogue gets treated as an NPC for the session, and one of the men-at-arms turns out to be the dwarf. Or someone starts one of the hirelings as a new level 1 PC, or just plays a henchman, etc.

Yeah, there could be an issue where later in the week some other PCs would like to go hit the same dungeon, but its in a 'quantum state' because actions haven't been dealt with that happened yesterday. Well, again, how hard is it REALLY to handle that? Most of the time not a biggy. The other party goes somewhere else, runs into trouble, explores a different level, etc.
Yup. Thinking about people I knew in the mid 80’s, every one that I knew and gamed with then, whom I still know today, either is still playing, or would play given a chance.
 

Gilladian

Adventurer
Yup. Thinking about people I knew in the mid 80’s, every one that I knew and gamed with then, whom I still know today, either is still playing, or would play given a chance.
And the time thing - we NEVER applied it to games that were left in mid-scene. But anytime you ended a session in a “down” state, real time applied.
 

pemerton

Legend
Even if you don't use class-based building and the character gets its in-game abilities via other mechanics (I think it's safe to assume characters are ging to have some sort of in-game abilities), the question still remains whether the having of certian abilities carries a hard-coded expectation that those abilities have to be used by the character in a proscribed manner, or whether the player can choose to play against type and either use those abilities differently or not use them at all; and this is the question being side-stepped when asking whether class-based is useful.
One response to this is @Thomas Shey's - why would a player build a PC with abilities they don't plan to use?

But sometimes a player doesn't get to choose - eg Traveller's random PC gen. But a PC in Traveller doesn't have a class. A class is a bundle of functionally-integrated abilities, which are bundled together because they fit into the logic of the gameplay in some particular fashion. If you're not going to play a RPG in a way that cares about those functionally-integrated bundles of abilities, then why use them as a core component of your game?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
One response to this is @Thomas Shey's - why would a player build a PC with abilities they don't plan to use?
Because they want to play against type.

A pacifist warrior. A thief who doesn't steal. A healer whose main aim is to hurt things. A bard who sings like I do*. All of these are at least somewhat common character concepts.

* - hint - that'd be one crappy bard....
But sometimes a player doesn't get to choose - eg Traveller's random PC gen. But a PC in Traveller doesn't have a class. A class is a bundle of functionally-integrated abilities, which are bundled together because they fit into the logic of the gameplay in some particular fashion. If you're not going to play a RPG in a way that cares about those functionally-integrated bundles of abilities, then why use them as a core component of your game?
Even if the player doesn't get to choose and-or the abilities aren't integrated, the character still ends up with some sort of ability set.

My point is not to do with how those abilities are assigned or how integrated they are, it's to do with whether a player has to use them in play and what happens if the player chooses not to, or chooses to use them in ways unforeseen by the designers. All this bit about "why use classes" isn't relevant to that.
 

so I had a 3.5 set of campagins... I was playing in 1 helping run 1 and about to start a 3rd. In the one I was helping run the idea the DM wanted was power house power game concepts... and I mean we used dumb Op Board stuff (hence why he needed some help) the second I was a PC cleric, and had a level or 2 before this time had taken leadership and by accadent made an OP druid that was better then the whole rest of the party put togather... so that is the type of things we had been talking about when I pitched my more normlish world.

So 1 player asked if I could have a barbarian tribe or two in the world before session 0... no big deal easy. I actually made an elf and a human set of barbarians along with the intermixing being half elves.

so session 0 (we just called it character creation night) rolled around and there were 4 players. (3+1 that had made request) and we went around discussing our ideas. We were starting at 5th level but no more then 2 allowed for race level adjustment... the first player pitched wanting to try to warmage or the warlock from arcane power. then the player I assumed would be a barbarian went next and said he would be a human barbarian 1/cleric 4. I was like "cool like a tribal shaman?" and he said something like that and went off to build... the other 2 now thinking we had a cleric made a Knight/Warblade and a Swordsage/psiwarrior. The orginal player settled on warmage and we took our stuff and the only item to really discuss was teh god teh barbarian cleric would worship he asked who teh god of war was, and I said all of them are warlike but here is my list... he chose one that had war healing and knowledge as domains and we Bsed a while.

game 1 he does this weird self buff thing and runsd in and basicly out fights our two warriors BUT at this point it is all high 5's and how amazing his character is... until the end of the first fight when the warmage asked for some healing...

"I don't heal"
I thought I heard him wrong "You are a worshiper of my god of healing knowledge and war (remember all of them had war) and you don't heal... you don't even need to prep the healing spells you can just spontaneously"
he interrupted me "I wont heal. My spell slots are for me an not a team resource, go get a wand"
so when the party got some loot before splitting it they bought 2 wands of cure light. then split the remaining money... that player complained he shouldn't be 'shorted' money since he COULD heal himself (and he did).
so they gave him the wands and he said "I wont use them to heal you I am not a healer" and the game blew up both in and out of game into a fight...

As the DM I layed down my ruling that this went against the table rule of playing as a team/group. the fact that we thought we we geting a shaman, the fact that he didn't say anything until healing was needed even as we all considered healing to be okay in the group was a violation....

I don't mind you going against type but you have to tell us. 4e (and we still use the terms now) helped with party role... You want to play a celric striker cool but be upfront don't let us build a controler/defender/striker party around your leader then refuse to heal.


As I ttyped this I am reminded of the guy who tried to charge party members for healing in 2e...
Sounds like a bad experience, but I am not sure XP for “clericy” actions is the solution. Instead, better communication at session zero is.

I’ll respond to your example with another example: in the Might Nein (by Critical Role), the party ended up with two clerics: Jester and Cad. Cad was a traditional cleric, with lots of heals. Jester was a cleric of trickery, and rarely healed anyone, but contributed to the party in a different way (Polymorph was on her spell list). Should Cad have received more XP because he played the role more traditionally ?

But in goes further: in 5e, your subclass can greatly modify your character’s focus. So, if you set the goals for sorcerers to extra XP, what do you do about divine sorcerers, who are principally healers?
 
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For what you describe here, I don't see what class-based PC design is bringing to the table.
Yes and no. The more restrictive the design, the more likely the rules prevent you from realizing your concept.

5e though? The classes themselves aren’t particularly restrictive, people’s expectations of them are.

A bard is just someone who uses music to create magic. They might be a faithful chorist, a barbarian shaman, bugler in an army company, or an old sea salt creakily belting out sea shanties on an accordion (note that no where does it specify that you must play well for you spells to have effect).
 
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A thief who doesn't steal.
this is the most common one I saw, and the first one I saw. Game 1 session 0 having never played D&D but was the DM.

Player 1 wizard (named dalimar no less... and an elf 'but a dark elf)
player 2 a ranger
player 3 a bard
player 4 a fighter/thief "but I'm not a thief, I don't steal anything I'm just trained in useful skills and if i get the drop on you ican do really good strikes"
then player 4 had a 2nd character that was our wand of... i mean cleric
 

Sounds like a bad experience, but I am not sure XP for “clericy” actions is the solution. Instead, better communication at session zero is.
that was my whole point... that you can play against type you just need to talk and be open about it from the start...
I’ll respond to your example with another example: in the Might Nein (by Critical Role), the party ended up with two clerics: Jester and Cad. Cas played a traditional cleric, with lots of heals. Jester was a cleric of trickery, and rarly healed anyone, but contributed to the party in a different way (Polymorph was on her spell list). Should Cad have received more XP because he played the role more traditionally ?
again... as long as they are not being a detriment to the party I don't understand teh question?
you seem to have only quoted half my post
this is something that needs to be walked through.

classes can have suggestions, things they do best (what I would call a role) but playing against type or even just a slight tweek of type should be fine and if it isn't the DM needs to be upfront about it... I love all of your examples but as a DM I want to bring up my own
But in goes further: in 5e, your subclass can greatly modify your character’s focus.
it can, I don't expect many fiend pact tome warlocks in the front line, I don't expect many necromancers in the front line... I DO expect most hexblades blade pact warlocks in the front line and most bladesingers in the front line
So, if you set the goals for sorcerers to extra XP, what do you do about divine sorcerers, who are principally healers?
again you missed the whole point
this is something that needs to be walked through.

classes can have suggestions, things they do best (what I would call a role) but playing against type or even just a slight tweek of type should be fine and if it isn't the DM needs to be upfront about it... I love all of your examples but as a DM I want to bring up my own
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
With this I agree.

What I'm trying to push back against is the idea that exceptions and playing-against-type can't happen and-or should be suppressed by the system.

Sure. But again, once people have joined a group, its usually because of their function to one degree or another, and for better or worse, with a class system people expect that function to relate to the class, as the class is normally a shorthand for that. At the very least if someone is going to be playing against type heavily there, they need to notify people up front and not just have "cleric" do all the heavy lifting.

(This is normally not an issue with non-classed games unless the player is being deliberately perverse, as people will talk about the job they're going to cover when bringing their character in, and that's usually at least a little more precise than D&D classes are in what can be expected, though sometimes there are buried expectations that need to be addressed)

Perhaps, though everything said here can (and sometimes does) also apply to adventuring NPCs.

Not sure why that changes anything.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
One response to this is @Thomas Shey's - why would a player build a PC with abilities they don't plan to use?

But sometimes a player doesn't get to choose - eg Traveller's random PC gen. But a PC in Traveller doesn't have a class. A class is a bundle of functionally-integrated abilities, which are bundled together because they fit into the logic of the gameplay in some particular fashion. If you're not going to play a RPG in a way that cares about those functionally-integrated bundles of abilities, then why use them as a core component of your game?

Of course the fact that Traveler characters were quite as random as they were was often a weakness of the system; it could end up meaning a given group was utterly lacking in things it needed to actually function, or that a given character had no real function at all in practice. This could be particularly pronounced with characters who got booted out of the professional system early on if they didn't come from one that had an automatic gain in some area. That's over and above a group where no one had even aimed at a service that could give them what they might need.

But its also an exception here; very few games without classes were quite that random in what they awarded, either.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
this is the most common one I saw, and the first one I saw. Game 1 session 0 having never played D&D but was the DM.

Player 1 wizard (named dalimar no less... and an elf 'but a dark elf)
player 2 a ranger
player 3 a bard
player 4 a fighter/thief "but I'm not a thief, I don't steal anything I'm just trained in useful skills and if i get the drop on you ican do really good strikes"
then player 4 had a 2nd character that was our wand of... i mean cleric

Edit: Since Sac corrected me below, and I don't want to confuse anyone who wasn't around at the time of the reality, I'm removing a post here that made a claim about OD&D that was very much not true, and as I note below, I clearly conflated with the later 2e approach.

Don't get old, people. Don't get old.
 
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Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Thieves were that way from the day they walked in the door. Since they had built-in skills, but the assignment of values to them was at player choice, you could end up with a "thief" who was just a scout--Climbing, Move Silently, Hide in Shadows, but no Pickpocket, Pick Locks or Disarm Traps.
Player choice of how to assign % points to a thief didn't start until 2e. Prior to 2e, your skills were all level based with no player choice on how good you were with each. But even in 2e, all thieves had a base value in all of their skills.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Player choice of how to assign % points to a thief didn't start until 2e. Prior to 2e, your skills were all level based with no player choice on how good you were with each. But even in 2e, all thieves had a base value in all of their skills.
I was going to say... I remember that being a big change in 2E.

For the prior 15 years every Thief of a given level had the same % chance at every skill, plus or minus adjustments for Dex score, armor worn (or lack thereof) and race.
 


pemerton

Legend
Yes and no. The more restrictive the design, the more likely the rules prevent you from realizing your concept.

5e though? The classes themselves aren’t particularly restrictive, people’s expectations of them are.

A bard is just someone who uses music to create magic. They might be a faithful chorist, a barbarian shaman, bugler in an army company, or an old sea salt creakily belting out sea shanties on an accordion (note that no where does it specify that you must play well for you spells to have effect).
For my part, I don't really see the merits of setting this up as a classed-based game. I also accept @Thomas Shey's point that there's real sense in which it's not one.
 

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