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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Picking Apart Monte's Latest Column - Uniting the Editions Part 2


  
Last week, I talked about why we might be interested in uniting the editions, and how we might look at the tones and play styles of those editions to capture what we seek to have in D&D. To be clear, we're not talking about creating a bridge so that you can play 1E and 4E at the same time (See, this shit was NOT fuckin’ clear!). Instead, we're allowing you to play a 1E-style game or a 4E-style game with the same rules (uhm... but I already have those rules, even 4e which I don’t  even want to play.  Why would I need a new set of rules to play D&D in a style that I already have.  First damn paragraph and my head is hurting.  Curse you Monte!). Also, players at the table can choose the style of character they want to play (Wait, how can the players choose a style for the PCs if you just said he needs to choose a style for the game oh my God it’s going in circles!). In short, let's talk about style and D&D.
The way we want to accomplish handling the style of play is with a modular approach. If 3E style is about character customization and a tactical view of combat, options should allow you to customize characters with feats and skills, plus play with a grid and miniatures (and have rules that support threatened areas, attacks of opportunity, and so forth). But in a 2E-style game, some or all of these options would not be desirable. Because of this truly modular approach, it means you don't have to pick an edition style. You can have the simple, fast combat of 1E with the character customizing skills of 3E, or any other combination (but if the 3e feats require 3e movement and 3e facing, your 1e “handwaving” ain’t gonna cut it).
But where do you start? For this to work, there needs to be a basic core to the game upon which you layer these options. That's where distilling D&D down to its essence comes in (yep, 3d6 in order 6 times... that was easy). What are the things that you'd expect to overhear at a table of people playing D&D if you didn't know which version they were playing?
That's something that we're working on right now. But some of the answers are obvious. Six ability scores ranging from 3 to 18. Fighters, clerics, wizards, and rogues. (Or, if you prefer, fighting-men, clerics, magic-users, and thieves.) Character levels. Experience points. Rolling a d20 to attack. Magic missiles. Fireballs. Hold person. And so on.
In effect, what you end up with is a fully playable game with its own style. Think of it this way: It would be wrong to say that there is no inherent D&D style that carries across the nearly forty-year lifespan of the game. What you really end up with, in this approach, is a game that ends up looking—not coincidentally—like original D&D. Not entirely, of course, and not precisely, but close. It's a game that captures the feel of OD&D (“feel” is  a scary word, because it may feel like it, but it isnt it, and apparently won’t even be compatible with it.  So if I really wanted to “feel” OD&D, I should play OD&D)
From there, with that excellent foundation, we can build upward and outward. (Wait, so they are saying that they striped 4e  and 3e down to their Oe essential oils, and are building from that?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to really build from 0e if that were the case?)
I know you have a lot of questions, and frankly, so do I (Huh!?!  you’re the designer.  if you still have a lot of questions, that aint good). That's what the public playtest is about—finding the answers together. The next big question you might have, however, is that with everything being so customizable, who makes the decisions (why yes, Monte.  Who makes the decisions.  Inquiring minds want to know)?
I think some of the answers are player-provided answers, and some are DM-provided. This is tied in very closely with my philosophy of the game overall. Players should play the characters they want to play (with DM input), and DMs should run the games they want to run (with player input) (that all sounds all fine and dandy, but if we are building upon 0e, and you aren’t empowering the DM, you’re gonna fail)
Some choices then—such as whether a character has a long list of skills and feats; or skills, feats, and powers; or just ability scores, hit points, Armor Class, and an attack bonus—are up to the player (no they are not.  if I don’t want that shit in my 0e touchy feely game, they have no place in it.  simple as that.  this is why, if 5e fails, it will fail.  You can’t run a 0e game with 4e feats, or a 4e game with 0e lack of feat... or what not). Some choices are up to the DM. If miniatures and a grid are used, that's a DM choice. If the adventures are going to be about grinding through a dungeon to get enough coppers to pay for tomorrow's meal or an epic quest across the planes to save the universe(s), that's a DM choice. (That latter choice might seem like flavor only, but it can determine which rules options are taken.)
So, the game is actually a matrix of these choices, with some made by the DM and some by the players, which will end up determining the feel of the overall game and might allow the group to "emulate" a prior edition (holy shit, talk about back tracking! now instead of getting a feel, you MIGHT emulate a certain edition). More importantly, though, these choices allow people to play what they want to play. In effect, the group can make their own edition of D&D. And that's really the most exciting part of it, I think.
Last Week's Polls
What's your favorite play style for your D&D games? Rate each of these on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being "not at all important" and 5 being "vital to the game."
(Let me summarize - Folks want “crunchy” but not too crunchy, heavily story based, with tactical options around those of 3e (but not 3.5e), no one is looking to be all that simulationist and in the end, they want heroic play.  Story and heroic action beat simulationist and tactical hands down)

Fast and simple
1
104
4.2%
2
327
13.3%
3
879
35.8%
4
695
28.3%
5
451
18.4%
Total
2456
100.0%

Story-based
1
69
2.8%
2
113
4.6%
3
380
15.5%
4
840
34.4%
5
1042
42.6%
Total
2444
100.0%

Tactical combat
1
174
7.1%
2
398
16.3%
3
775
31.8%
4
738
30.3%
5
353
14.5%
Total
2438
100.0%

Simulationist
1
426
17.7%
2
637
26.4%
3
750
31.1%
4
435
18.0%
5
164
6.8%
Total
2412
100.0%

Heroic and high action
1
95
3.9%
2
228
9.4%
3
496
20.4%
4
835
34.3%
5
781
32.1%
Total
2435
100.0%

If you could have only one of the following, which would you choose?
Story-based
1033
39.3%
Heroic and high action
734
27.9%
Fast and simple
440
16.7%
Tactical combat
272
10.4%
Simulationist
149
5.7%
Total
2628
100.0%

12 comments:

  1. Erik, I quit reading (or caring) about 5e about two weeks ago. Only reason I even look at anything regarding it anymore is because you post on it. Plus your pithy comments are hilarious. Keep it up! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. So, how many hundreds of pages of "player's options" are Mike & Monte expecting me to learn and allow at my table?

    Since, "builds" are supposed to be left up to the players (because Mike & Monte say so and 5e players are going to expect it to be that way) how am I going to "emulate" 0e, with Eladrin/Warlord/Anime PC's?

    You're very much right, Tenkar! Much less of a hassle, to just run 0e! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. So I guess «Picking apart» means «writing a rant trying to score some cheap point» nowadays.

    Seriously though: Based on what we actually know about D&D Next – you’re just making a bunch of ill-informed assumptions, trying to read the worst into Monte’s statement/sales pitch (yeah, I’m not totally naïve).

    And in my opinion, DM Fiat is one of the suckiest «rules» ever. If the DM isn’t willing to accomodate the wishes of the players, claiming that it’s his/her game, I’d find a new DM.

    Everyone participating in the game should be on the same page regarding feel and style of play, prior to starting the game. Otherwise some people will be disappointed.

    And if I ruffled some feathers, I apologize; I usually enjoy a lot of your posts. Just not this one.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dante, if you were my player I'd tell you to find a new DM.

    Let me give you an example: Here's what happens. I have my profession and 2 children and (invariably) folks like yourself that complain have none. That means I have to learn all kinds of extra crap I'll never use just to satisfy one player. The answer to that is hells no. DMs structure games and when it is your turn to DM you can let players go all heroic badass to your heart's content. Until then, I have a game to run.

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Dante - no feathers ruffled here. I just don't appreciate the BS the marketing guys put out in the beginning which Monte now finds himself having to explain away.

    I'll pick apart my rant later today, and explain where my distrust and confusion come from.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Dante - as an aside - The players show up to play the game, the DM has to prep (read and or design) for the game and has to give it 100% attention when it is being played - he's involved in every encounter, engagement, conversation, etc. When the players aren't the active player, they can zone out, surf their phone, build dice towers... etc.

    It really is the DM's game. The game will survive the loss of a player, it won't survive the loss of a DM.

    So yes, the game will conform to my needs as a DM, and if it doesn't suit the player's needs (and i might compromise within reason) they don't have to play.

    I used to find I was spending 2 to 3 hours of game prep per hour played - I would say the DM has more invested in the game from my experience.

    If he can run a game without opening the module until sitting at the table, he's either amazing or an incompetent fool. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  7. If he can run a game without opening the module until sitting at the table, he's either amazing or an incompetent fool. ;)

    One could do it with Stonehell and a few extra cigarette breaks. :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Even Stonehell I'd want to read the intro to to understand the flavor. Also, the initial entrance area requires some DM knowledge to DM effectively.

    Once the part is inside it gets a bit easier ;)

    ReplyDelete
  9. As long as the DM is up front with what his game is going to be like, and the players all agree that «yes, this is what we want to play» – then I see no problem.

    But if a player suggests something (e.g. «I’d like a little more political intrigue [or whatever] in our games») and the DM flat out refuses to even consider the matter, then I would consider finding another gaming group. Especially if he/she were to use the «it’s my ball, and you can’t play» approach.

    I have switched gaming groups a few times. Sometimes because the group couldn’t agree on a style that everyone was happy with.

    As I stated, I think the game should be for everyone, not just the DM. And a completely rigid and inflexible DM will probably find himself without players before long.

    (And please note that I’m not talking about what rules to use or even what game to play – merely what components are present in the actual gameplay.)

    @kiltedyaksman: Not that it makes my opinion any more (or less) valid, but I am the father of twins.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh, and I don’t mean that the DM should say «yes» to everything the players suggest.

    Rather what Erik wrote: «compromise within reason».

    ReplyDelete
  11. That's fine man, but as was noted games can survive players leaving, but not DMs.

    DMs are the lynchpin of RPGs, WotC had better make it easy on us or after the initial surge they will be back where they started with 4e.

    I maintain the "one D&D to rule them all" at this exact point in the game's history will be doomed to either break even or outright fail. The subculture is simply too fractured at this time to buy into a 3e/4e game stripped down to feel like early editions.

    ReplyDelete

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