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Theodoxus
2021-09-06, 08:52 AM
I'm curious about the apparent love for 13th Age vs the visceral hatred of 4th Ed, when both games use pretty much the same engine and are very similar in their "video game/WoW clone" feel (which has always been the criticism most cited for the lack of love for 4th Ed).

Morty
2021-09-06, 09:33 AM
I've never seen anyone who hated 4E but loved 13th Age. People who hate 4E are generally unlikely to give 13th Age enough of a second glance to dislike it, so that might be the source of your impression.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-06, 09:53 AM
There's actually some significant differences between 4e and 13th Age, particularly the more narrative slant and the variable class complexity. However if you disliked 4e for being videogamey* then you probably wouldn't like 13th Age.

If your issue was that every class used the same chassis of AEDU or the use of explicit roles then it might be a different story because it abandons the explicit roles and has multiple different styles of powers from spells to flexible attacks to whatever the Rogue does right in the core book.

* It always struck me as more 'Tactical RPG' than MMO though

Morty
2021-09-06, 09:59 AM
There's actually some significant differences between 4e and 13th Age, particularly the more narrative slant and the variable class complexity. However if you disliked 4e for being videogamey* then you probably wouldn't like 13th Age.

If your issue was that every class used the same chassis of AEDU or the use of explicit roles then it might be a different story because it abandons the explicit roles and has multiple different styles of powers from spells to flexible attacks to whatever the Rogue does right in the core book.

* It always struck me as more 'Tactical RPG' than MMO though

Unfortunately, from what I remember, in doing so it restores the fighters' status as "the simple class".

RandomPeasant
2021-09-06, 10:05 AM
Much of the negative reaction to 4e was people who thought (not unjustifiably) that it "wasn't D&D". It's not necessarily surprising that something that isn't trying to be D&D would be more popular. People like Shadowrun, but if you marketed Shadowrun as a new edition of Exalted, people would probably be pissed off about it.

Morty
2021-09-06, 10:53 AM
Once again, is it actually more popular than 4E? It's got some traction compared to other third-party D&D-alikes, but that's not quite the same thing.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-06, 11:11 AM
Unfortunately, from what I remember, in doing so it restores the fighters' status as "the simple class".

Barbarians and Paladins actually. Let me just get my book...

Okay, the official ranking for the complexity of the core classes is:
-Barbarian
-Ranger
-Paladin
-Fighter (because Flexible Attacks)
-Cleric
-Sorcerer
-Rogue
-Bard
-Wizard

So yeah Fighters were designed to be in the middle, it's Barbarians who are 'the simple class'.

Eric Diaz
2021-09-06, 12:10 PM
I disagree on both accounts - there are plenty of people that like both, AND they are very different games.

For example, 4e is know for being extremely depend on grid and miniatures, while 13A is full on "theater of the mind". Also, skills work differently, levels are different,. 4e is big on making all classes work similarly while 13th Age makes some classes simpler than others, etc.

However, they are both "epic" versions of D&D with minions, interesting monsters, etc.

I prefer 5e to both (with its "minis are optional", etc., approach), but I can see liking both 13a and 4e, for similar reasons or for different (even opposite) reasons.

https://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com/2017/03/does-d-require-miniatures-3e-versus-4e.html

4e:
"Each player needs a miniature to represent his or her character, and the DM needs minis for monsters";
* Position is everything. With a battle grid, you can easily determine whether your character can see a monster, whether the monster has cover, and whether you flank the monster.

13A:
"Combat is dynamic and fluid, so miniatures can’t really represent where a character ‘really is"

Telwar
2021-09-06, 01:35 PM
I, personally, like both, and my opinion on 5e is, ahem, extraordinarily negative; I'm aware I'm in the minority on this board with that.


I'd love to play both 4e and 13th Age again. The problem with 4e is it requires a character builder, with the plethora of options published in Dragon, adventures, errata, etc. I'm aware there are offline character builders. 13th Age, because it doesn't have NEARLY the volume of releases as 4e, doesn't have that issue, and does still have more mechanical options in character building than 5e does.

13th Age isn't perfect, of course; if you want anything more for a character class than has been published, you're going to have to homebrew it (this might be a feature to some). The Icons, also, are a little strange, and several published classes depend far too heavily on them to be usable if you're not using the published setting. The relationship dice being rolled at the beginning of the session suggests that the GM is supposed to improvise stuff as they go along, and while I am aware that does happen, depending on the GM's improvisational ability is a terrible, terrible idea; I hear a common tack is to roll them at the end of the session to give the DM thinking time.

KorvinStarmast
2021-09-06, 02:02 PM
However, they are both "epic" versions of D&D with minions, interesting monsters, etc. Part of 13 Age's appeal to me.

The relationship dice being rolled at the beginning of the session suggests that the GM is supposed to improvise stuff as they go along, and while I am aware that does happen, depending on the GM's improvisational ability is a terrible, terrible idea; I hear a common tack is to roll them at the end of the session to give the DM thinking time. 13th Age is made for people who already know how to play D&D; it isn't for beginners. I disagree with your point on the relationship and the DMs improvisation to fit things to what's going on between the players and the world/adventure. That's a good thing. You don't need a rule for everything.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-06, 02:28 PM
Oh yeah, 13th Age zigged pretty much everywhere D&D5e zagged. Starting characters are competent and hardy, you'll quickly scale out of lower level enemies being a significant threat (but I'm sure more experienced GMs know how to get around that), what your character is skilled in is very loose outside of combat and therefore broadly applicable, and every single PC is special in some way.

Of course your One Unique Thing could be 'I stink worst than a skunk farm' if you wanted.

Morty
2021-09-06, 02:37 PM
Barbarians and Paladins actually. Let me just get my book...

Okay, the official ranking for the complexity of the core classes is:
-Barbarian
-Ranger
-Paladin
-Fighter (because Flexible Attacks)
-Cleric
-Sorcerer
-Rogue
-Bard
-Wizard

So yeah Fighters were designed to be in the middle, it's Barbarians who are 'the simple class'.

That might be true. I just remember being unimpressed with the 13A fighter. Part of it is that it's very much a heavily-armored defender, which applies to the 4E fighter too. But that's just my general dissatisfaction with D&D classes, I guess.

KorvinStarmast
2021-09-06, 03:12 PM
Of course your One Unique Thing could be 'I stink worst than a skunk farm' if you wanted.
I worked with my GM on that bit; kinda bummed that the campaign died for RL scheduling reasons. :smallmad:

Theodoxus
2021-09-06, 04:24 PM
I've never seen anyone who hated 4E but loved 13th Age. People who hate 4E are generally unlikely to give 13th Age enough of a second glance to dislike it, so that might be the source of your impression.

The 5E boards are full of folks positively mentioning 13th Age, usually an aspect (like One Unique Thing or even a mechanical advantage that they wish to import) and most 5E folks on these boards have a range of feeling for 4E that's something between visceral hatred to ennui at best.

I just happened to do a deep dive into the core book this weekend and was bemused by how much of the rules were cribbed from 4E, and then polished - as evidenced by most replies to this thread, much as Paiso did for 3rd Ed.

Hence my curiosity about how much actual love for the mechanics of 13th Age there are, vs the fact that it's similar, yet sufficiently different from 4E to dodge the general stink of that edition.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-06, 05:52 PM
The 5E boards are full of folks positively mentioning 13th Age, usually an aspect (like One Unique Thing or even a mechanical advantage that they wish to import) and most 5E folks on these boards have a range of feeling for 4E that's something between visceral hatred to ennui at best.

I just happened to do a deep dive into the core book this weekend and was bemused by how much of the rules were cribbed from 4E, and then polished - as evidenced by most replies to this thread, much as Paiso did for 3rd Ed.

Hence my curiosity about how much actual love for the mechanics of 13th Age there are, vs the fact that it's similar, yet sufficiently different from 4E to dodge the general stink of that edition.

4e was a five game! It was also absolutely nothing people playing D&D wanted. Thankfully there were enough who enjoyed it for what it was too give it a player base.

But yeah, 13th Age is pretty much D&D 4e 2e. A lot of the mechanics people live are the additions, I believe especially the One Unique Thing and Escalation Die. I personally think it's much better than 5e despite being more complex, because it also seems to have a better grasp of what it wants to be.

Plus I love that the descriptions of the Icons treats 'what will they be delegating to the PCs' as an important consideration. There's a lot of stress from the start that these massively powerful brings are so busy they've built entire organisations in other to help them.

Telok
2021-09-06, 09:15 PM
Of course your One Unique Thing could be 'I stink worst than a skunk farm' if you wanted.

Now that is an ability you can leverage into world-wide fame & fortune just by showing up to parties.

My biggest issues with 4e were tedium and trying to track a dozen different conditions/modifiers across a combat. Gameplay during combat was so simple, yet slow slow, with such a limited slate of hard-limit abilities that my character's combat decisions were basically a simple 4 step flow chart that never changed even when the powers changed. [snip rest]

I regret though that 99% of my local area gaming community basically only knows the top 2 or 3 mass marketed games at any time. Anything else I have to run myself and never get to play. I'd be happy to play 13th Age, but not in the market to run another game.

Glorthindel
2021-09-07, 03:54 AM
One thing you have to remember is the value of first impressions, and 4th ed suffered from atrocious first impressions. I say this as someone who had the 'visceral hatred' but have mellowed over the years, and now realise that 4th ed had a place, but that place wasn't "the new edition of D&D".

There is power in names, and 4th ed played that game wrong. I have said for years now, that 4th ed would have probably been a success if they had only named it "Dungeons and Dragons: Tactics" - just that small degree of seperation would have excused many of its sins. Other games companies have realised the danger (There is a reason "Edge of the Empire" is called that and not "Star Wars RPG", because it creates enough of a seperation for fans of previous Star Wars RPG's that they know before opening the book that 'this will be something different').

Morty
2021-09-07, 04:41 AM
The 5E boards are full of folks positively mentioning 13th Age, usually an aspect (like One Unique Thing or even a mechanical advantage that they wish to import) and most 5E folks on these boards have a range of feeling for 4E that's something between visceral hatred to ennui at best.

I just happened to do a deep dive into the core book this weekend and was bemused by how much of the rules were cribbed from 4E, and then polished - as evidenced by most replies to this thread, much as Paiso did for 3rd Ed.

Hence my curiosity about how much actual love for the mechanics of 13th Age there are, vs the fact that it's similar, yet sufficiently different from 4E to dodge the general stink of that edition.

Little bit of column A, little bit of column B, I imagine. It is different from 4E despite being similar and 4E's bad reputation is self-perpetuating - people say it's bad because what's what everyone else is saying. Also, the 5E forum isn't really a very representative sample. That's not where you'll find people who still like 4E, for the most part.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-07, 06:02 AM
One thing you have to remember is the value of first impressions, and 4th ed suffered from atrocious first impressions. I say this as someone who had the 'visceral hatred' but have mellowed over the years, and now realise that 4th ed had a place, but that place wasn't "the new edition of D&D".

There is power in names, and 4th ed played that game wrong. I have said for years now, that 4th ed would have probably been a success if they had only named it "Dungeons and Dragons: Tactics" - just that small degree of seperation would have excused many of its sins. Other games companies have realised the danger (There is a reason "Edge of the Empire" is called that and not "Star Wars RPG", because it creates enough of a seperation for fans of previous Star Wars RPG's that they know before opening the book that 'this will be something different').

Honestly, I think WotC thought they could make the jump because 3.X was itself a massive change compared to BD&D or AD&D2e. The differences seen to be that 2e wasn't as widely discussed on the internet, and that most of the 3e changes bright the game around to using the same die for almost everything.

But yeah, if after 4e had been marketed as a crunchy tactics game alongside something more like 3.5 or 5e I think that it would have done better.

On the flip side, I think 5e got a lot of initial love sue to dropping almost everything good about 4e to present something that looks closer to older editions. There were some really good ideas on 4e that were just dropped.

But on the name differentiation thing, yeah. I believe it's also why the Traveller version of the Babylon 5 RPG presented itself as a sourcebook rather than a full game, and why Wrath and Glory doesn't use the name of any of the previous 40k RPGs.

RandomPeasant
2021-09-07, 06:47 AM
One thing you have to remember is the value of first impressions, and 4th ed suffered from atrocious first impressions.

That's a really charitable way of phrasing things. 4e didn't suffer from a bad first impression so much as it was genuinely bad at release. Say what you will about the value of the system overall, or the quality of the game now, but as-released 4e suffered from having one of it's core systems being nonfunctional (skill challenges) and having combat become extremely boring in boss encounters. It also offered a much smaller range of characters than even core 3e did, which made people hesitant to switch over, amplifying the impact of bad word of mouth. I think you're probably right that "D&D: Tactics" could have been successful, but it would've had to make different design choices. For starters, it should've launched with twenty classes that went to 10th level instead of eight classes that went to 30th level. The number one issue that stopped 4e from taking off was the huge reduction in available character options (and you'll note that this is something 5e corrected, having as many classes in the PHB as any edition has).

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-07, 07:21 AM
That's a really charitable way of phrasing things. 4e didn't suffer from a bad first impression so much as it was genuinely bad at release. Say what you will about the value of the system overall, or the quality of the game now, but as-released 4e suffered from having one of it's core systems being nonfunctional (skill challenges) and having combat become extremely boring in boss encounters. It also offered a much smaller range of characters than even core 3e did, which made people hesitant to switch over, amplifying the impact of bad word of mouth. I think you're probably right that "D&D: Tactics" could have been successful, but it would've had to make different design choices. For starters, it should've launched with twenty classes that went to 10th level instead of eight classes that went to 30th level. The number one issue that stopped 4e from taking off was the huge reduction in available character options (and you'll note that this is something 5e corrected, having as many classes in the PHB as any edition has).

Yes D&D4e needed a lot more playtesting when it came out. But then again 3.X's biggest balance issues were in the Player's Handbook, so it's not like 4e launched in s uniquely broken state. I tend to hear the anti-3.X advertising as a reason more than its balance issues.

In terms of character options it's not like 3.5's core book was any leader in the number of options or provided. But I think the two issue was holding off the subclass until 11th level, reducing the PhB from 32 character types to 8 in the Heroic tier (which also happened to be the most popular). Plus even with all it's subclasses 5e comes nowhere near the breadth of most point buy systems.

13th Age does only have a small number of classes in the PhB as well, but giving the three class specific Talents certainly helps.

KorvinStarmast
2021-09-07, 07:23 AM
The number one issue that stopped 4e from taking off was the huge reduction in available character options (and you'll note that this is something 5e corrected, having as many classes in the PHB as any edition has). And yet you only need 4 classes to play the game. :smallsmile: Another thing 5e did well (the WM sorcerer and 4e monk excepted) was that between the 12 classes you had a variety of sub classes that gave a bit of variation to a basic theme.
Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard. It's almost a kid in a candy store situation for a new player.

One thing I like a lot about 13th Age is that it's built to go to level 10, and the capability growth in level has a good feel.

Cluedrew
2021-09-07, 07:26 AM
I think you're probably right that "D&D: Tactics" could have been successful,But that's all of the editions of Dungeons & Dragons! D&D is feels like* a combat/dungeon exploration mini-game with flavour text to encourage freeform role-playing between battles. Why were skill challenges broken? Because that was the bleeding edge of D&D non-combat (non-spell-casting) support at the time. Actually maybe there is more of a story to it, I wasn't there.

* As compared to some of the other systems out there at least. Especially ones that fold combat into their skill system and develop there skills a bit more.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-07, 07:40 AM
One thing I like a lot about 13th Age is that it's built to go to level 10, and the capability growth in level has a good feel.

13th Age realised that power is relative. We can declare that 'Epic levels start' at whatever, and it's legitimate as long as we have the epic threats ready for characters.


But that's all of the editions of Dungeons & Dragons! D&D is feels like* a combat/dungeon exploration mini-game with flavour text to encourage freeform role-playing between battles. Why were skill challenges broken? Because that was the bleeding edge of D&D non-combat (non-spell-casting) support at the time.

* As compared to some of the other systems out there at least. Especially ones that fold combat into their skill system and develop there skills a bit more.

Don't let the D&D 5e crowd hear that, they get very upset when it's pinned out that their systems noncombatant mechanics are vestigial.

Also noncombat magic rules tend to be asking the lines of 'if you have the spell you pass the challenge', out of said spell just gives a big bonus 'if you have the spell you can attempt the challenge'.

But honestly? I believe that 0e and 1e had more rules for situations that weren't combat. They were just all focused on the idea that you were robbing incredibly elaborate tombs, and this needed rules for how much searching or movement you could do in a turn

RandomPeasant
2021-09-07, 07:49 AM
But then again 3.X's biggest balance issues were in the Player's Handbook, so it's not like 4e launched in s uniquely broken state.

3e's biggest balance issues were not things that came up in actual play. planar binding was broken, but that A) didn't happen until 11th level and B) had to be actively abused. Conversely, at release 4e broke down if you tried to use the rules for non-combat encounters or have a boss fight. It's really not the same.


In terms of character options it's not like 3.5's core book was any leader in the number of options or provided.

It absolutely was, for one very simple reason: open multiclassing. It's true that it's not as much as a full point-buy system, and that a lot of those options were completely unplayable past the first half-dozen levels, but in principle 3.0 launched with 11^20 possible builds before considering things like spell selection or feats. I would not be surprised if there are, by raw numbers, more ways to build a character in the 3.0 PHB than in any edition of D&D other than 3e or 5e.


But that's all of the editions of Dungeons & Dragons!

People say this, but it's just not true. D&D has always had the idea that you will eventually progress to grander things than just tactical challenges. It's worked or not worked to varying degrees, and certainly the game with an entire book of combat challenges is combat-focused, but even as early as BECMI, the idea was that you would eventually become a King and then a God.


Why were skill challenges broken? Because that was the bleeding edge of D&D non-combat (non-spell-casting) support at the time.

No, skill challenges were broken because they weren't math-hammered properly. Fixing skill challenges is actually very easy. Step one: fix the DCs. Step two: end the challenge after a fixed number of rounds instead of a fixed number of failures. Step three: done. The idea that skill challenges were the best that could be done is an incredibly low standard of performance to have for game designers (though perhaps not an inaccurately low one).

Glorthindel
2021-09-07, 08:06 AM
I know this is risking turning the thread into the next edition of "where did 4th ed go wrong", but I don't buy that there was anything fundamentally wrong with the rules on the base level. I will admit that there were definitely rule things wrong (I hated how much monsters became massive bags of hit points), but you can point to any version of D&D and see horrible rules and implementations. For good or ill, part of the hobby is making the rules work for your table.

Why this is sorta relevant to the thread, is I firmly believe 4th ed's mistakes were entirely in how they presented the edition.

My go to line is "Magic rings go on fingers, they don't go in hand slots" because it is emblematic of how the edition raised my personal hackles right from the start. That line is only half joking, the terminology is just wrong for a RPG: while the rules are fundamentally the same (since you can't wear multiple magical rings on one hand) the term "slot" makes you think of Diablo or WoW, not D&D.

And that sort of perception mistake ran throughout the books. Take Eladrin. While completely fine as a new race, they arranged races in the book in alphabetical order, so people reading the book read the Eladrin entry before they saw the Elf entry (especially because they used a generic elf picture for the Eladrin), and likely thought "what the f***, Elves don't teleport". Just putting the entries in the book in the different order (and maybe using a different picture for the Eladrin - more like the heavy-fey 5th ed ones) would have helped.

Sure, I am talking minor things, that have nothing to do with how the game actually plays, but they would have rubbed people the wrong way, and there were a lot of these minor things. To throw out some other examples - "spell-like" abilities for Fighters, missing core classes (like the Bard), magic items presented like a shopping list in the PHB (with a note telling players to tell DM's what magic items to give them - ouch, that's a miss-step). Again, all minor, but after a point, these minor things are going to push people to a tipping point.

Regardless of how good the game was (and again, I don't disagree that there were some bad rule implementations), the presentation matters, and sets the tone for how the meat of the product is received. By filing off the serial numbers, 13th Age gives itself room to breath and be judged on its own merits, where 4th ed set itself up for failure.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-07, 08:19 AM
To be fair, the Eladrin were basically a replacement for high elves that made them more 'magical'. 13th Age just changed their name back to High Elf, which it probably should have been in the first place.

But most of the issues with 4e had simpler solutions than 'Fighters are made redundant by the Druid's pet'. Most monsters needed +damage output -hit points, Skill Challenges needed to be operated two or three more times, and alternative resource systems probably needed to appear in the PhB2 rather than a year later (although psionics had their own issues). I also think Rituals needed to be a little bit more central, but that's personal taste.

Theoboldi
2021-09-07, 09:01 AM
Don't let the D&D 5e crowd hear that, they get very upset when it's pinned out that their systems noncombatant mechanics are vestigial.


It's almost as if comments like that were commonly used to dismiss people who enjoy D&D as not playing 'Real Roleplaying Games', or to declare that they should use different systems if they want to do anything other than dungeon crawling.

Just saying. It tends to get folks defensive.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-07, 09:17 AM
It's almost as if comments like that were commonly used to dismiss people who enjoy D&D as not playing 'Real Roleplaying Games', or to declare that they should use different systems if they want to do anything other than dungeon crawling.

The first is elitism. The second kind of has a vague point, although if they wanted dungeon crawling I'd recommend an earlier editions of maybe The Fantasy Trip. But there's a lot of other ways to have a combat heavy game that are suitable to D&D.


Just saying. It tends to get folks defensive.

They can stop hearing it when they stop insisting that a game needs pages of mechanics for combat.

It's not that I don't get their position. It's that I'm just as tired of having my position dismissed as they are.

Theoboldi
2021-09-07, 09:33 AM
They can stop hearing it when they stop insisting that a game needs pages of mechanics for combat.

It's not that I don't get their position. It's that I'm just as tired of having my position dismissed as they are.

Absolutely fair enough. And I do agree as well on the matter of combat rules. I just have a particular distaste for the way a lot of modern rpg discussion tends to go, so it's something of a pet peeve.

RandomPeasant
2021-09-07, 10:07 AM
I know this is risking turning the thread into the next edition of "where did 4th ed go wrong", but I don't buy that there was anything fundamentally wrong with the rules on the base level.

Well, that gets into the question of what "fundamentally wrong" and "base level" means. Certainly, there were problems with 4e as it was released, but do those problems count as "fundamental"? I would say that the problems with skill challenges are "fundamental" by a reasonable definition of the term, but I also don't think it really matters.


But most of the issues with 4e had simpler solutions than 'Fighters are made redundant by the Druid's pet'. Most monsters needed +damage output -hit points, Skill Challenges needed to be operated two or three more times, and alternative resource systems probably needed to appear in the PhB2 rather than a year later (although psionics had their own issues). I also think Rituals needed to be a little bit more central, but that's personal taste.

I don't see how "most monsters need their numbers retuned" could be a simpler fix than "some classes need their numbers retuned". I actually sort of disagree about the alternative resource management thing. I think 4e didn't go far enough with the unified resource management. If you're going to put everyone on one system, that's a great opportunity to break down the barriers between classes. The issue wasn't that Ranger and Wizard worked the same way, it was that Ranger and Wizard worked the same way but you still had to jump through hoops to have Ranger powers and Wizard powers on the same character.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-07, 10:16 AM
There's no inherent problem with archetype protection. Sure, there probably should have been easier access to other class's power lists, multiclassing should have let you get a power swap with one feat at the very least, but there's no inherent problem with not doing that.

D&D 4e is not the game for you off you want to be able to grab whatever powers you want. There are definitely games that work like that, but it isn't one of them.

It's like complaining that diplomacy acts before shooting in the Doctor Who RPG.

Although admittedly, why was there only one Controller in the PhB? Also three Strikers despite the DMG arguing that you should double up on Defenders and Leaders first?

RandomPeasant
2021-09-07, 10:53 AM
There's no inherent problem with archetype protection. Sure, there probably should have been easier access to other class's power lists, multiclassing should have let you get a power swap with one feat at the very least, but there's no inherent problem with not doing that.

It's an uncanny valley-ish issue. If you are going to strictly separate classes, that separation needs to get you something, and in 4e it doesn't. You can still protect archetypes while letting people pick from any list. Let people pick powers, then pick a class based on the powers they picked, and have the classes boost certain things. Same role protection, but infinitely more character customization.

Quertus
2021-09-07, 02:07 PM
So, it's probably fair to say that I hate both systems.

Well, maybe not *hate*.

If 4e had called itself "D&D Tactics", or hadn't called itself "D&D", hadn't tried to replace 3e? I'd still claim it wasn't an RPG, and I'd still mock it's defective implementation of skill challenges (and defective reimplantation, and defective re-reimplantation, and…), but I wouldn't hate it. 4th edition was "D&D, for people who hate D&D".

From what I skimmed, 13th age had similarly bad implementation of skills to 5e. If you want to know the answer to a difficult math question, you don't ask the genius professor, oh no. You ask the high-level, dumb as a brick BDF. Because level counts for so much of the ability to make skill checks.

OK, 13th age isn't as bad as 5e, but it still doesn't look *good*.

So I'm not a fan of either. But 13th age certainly looks better than 4e or 5e from what little I've seen.

I'm curious, though, how the system handles "one Unique Thing" choices like "pulled Excalibur from the stone, signifying I am the one true king", or hidden/unknown Unique Thing choices like, "only one who can safely wield / sync with artifact X", or characters generating a "Unique Thing" ("married Helen of Troy") during play, or character with more than one Unique Thing (five times winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award, famed for defeating the Banden Banshee, *and* this year's Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, or billionaire genius playboy philanthropist, head-of-family-business-X characters who are also tech-based, "my super power is that I'm rich" superhero Y). (I won't ask about characters with no unique thing, because, apparently, that *would* be their unique thing.)

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-07, 02:22 PM
I believe that the only limitation on the One Unique Thing is that it can't have any mechanical benefit. Although the Emperor might want a weird with you about that sword you pulled out from the stone...

Actually, 'I am the legitimate heir to the previous Emperor, denied my position by the current one' would be a rather fun One Unique Thing to run with. Although as the class I'm most likely to want to play is the Occultist (and maybe the Demonologist once I pick up the Book of Demons) I'd be more likely to go for 'I am the last of the Cult of X' and get a negative reputation with the Crusader.

KorvinStarmast
2021-09-07, 03:44 PM
I'm curious, though, how the system handles "one Unique Thing" choices That's not even a correct question, as I see it. The game doesn't handle it, the people playing it do. 13th Age isn't a computer game any more than any other D&D game is.

I wish our campaign had not folded, and I wish we'd gotten to levels 7 or 8 (or 10) so that I could have a better basis for discussing this; our connections to the various powers of the world - and that's another thing I like, how the game and the setting were deliberately connected which is something Empire of the Petal Throne also did - only got to impact play a bit before RL and scheduling killed that attempt.

My 'one true thing' was that I was the only known (in our half of the world, which was the southern half if you look at the map) offspring of a dragon and a mortal (an elf had mated with a lady dragon who'd been hanging about court in human form a lot) (half elf was my chosen race for the bard) and that provided the DM with a number of hooks for me as I tried to find out where the heck Mom had gone off to, and why Dad had not come back from his tour (he was a musician).

Cluedrew
2021-09-07, 07:07 PM
Also noncombat magic rules tend to be asking the lines of 'if you have the spell you pass the challenge', out of said spell just gives a big bonus 'if you have the spell you can attempt the challenge'.What its got a system to answer yes or no to a question and with supporting mechanics to increase the chance a character will get a yes. And that's about it.


People say this, but it's just not true.I did say it felt like that in comparison, but no, I am not actually suggesting that D&D has no non-combat rules nor that combat is all a character can do. It is the primary force of the system and the secondary focus (dungeon crawling?) is very far behind it. And by system I mean the one before 4th that was apparently not combat focused making 4th a real break from the game line. And by apparently I mean you are going to need a lot of evidence if you want to try and claim that's true.


4th edition was "D&D, for people who hate D&D".I would actually describe Dungeon World as D&D for people who don't like D&D. 4th I would describe as too much D&D. For me it doubled down on all of D&D's mistakes. A fan of the other editions of D&D complaining about 4th is weirdly reminiscent of my complaints of D&D in general.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-07, 07:13 PM
Edition wars are everywhere. Isn't Pathfinder going through one now because of how much 2e changed? I don't know, I don't own any Pathfinder books.

While I think 13th Age is distinct enough from 4e that a hypothetical second edition won't have to change so much I'm sure sure that the eventual 14th Age will lead to an edition war. It seems to be a fact of the internet, when Werewolf: the Apocalypse 5e finally drops the arguments are going to be through the roof.

Telok
2021-09-08, 12:03 AM
Edition wars are everywhere. Isn't Pathfinder going through one now because of how much 2e changed? I don't know, I don't own any Pathfinder books.

From what I've read & played you can sort of feel a parallel between the WotC path of "3.5, then test some ideas & numbers with ToB, go overboard with balance & lose a bunch of stuff people liked in 4e" and the Pazio path of "PF1, then test some ideas & numbers with Starfinder, go overboard with balance & lose a bunch of stuff people liked in PF2". Mind I haven't done a deep dive into PF2, just some skimming & forum reading.

Although Paz usually gets their numbers and %s right on the first go around as opposed to taking several tries or leaving stuff borked for DMs to fix.

Morty
2021-09-08, 02:55 AM
I would actually describe Dungeon World as D&D for people who don't like D&D. 4th I would describe as too much D&D. For me it doubled down on all of D&D's mistakes. A fan of the other editions of D&D complaining about 4th is weirdly reminiscent of my complaints of D&D in general.

Yes, the "4E isn't D&D" claim isn't one I can take seriously. It's D&D to the bone and a direct result of the direction D&D had been going down for years. It just wasn't the direction most D&D fans wanted, as it turned out. Plus a pile of other things. And it does many things simply because D&D is meant to do them.

To me, the thing that made 4E special was the idea that every character gets to be cool and spellcasting ones don't get preferential treatment. This hadn't been attempted in D&D before, except for ToB, and was completely dropped afterwards.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-08, 04:15 AM
Yes, the "4E isn't D&D" claim isn't one I can take seriously. It's D&D to the bone and a direct result of the direction D&D had been going down for years. It just wasn't the direction most D&D fans wanted, as it turned out. Plus a pile of other things. And it does many things simply because D&D is meant to do them.

Yeah, 4e is as D&D as you could get at the time. To me it actually still feels more like what D&D should be than 5e does (and I'll extend that to 13th Age).


To me, the thing that made 4E special was the idea that every character gets to be cool and spellcasting ones don't get preferential treatment. This hadn't been attempted in D&D before, except for ToB, and was completely dropped afterwards.

I could forgive 'mundane' characters not getting as many cool abilities if they had broadly applicable skillsets. Sadly 5e returned to casters getting both the cool toys and the broad skillsets (even if they don't peak quite as high as a martial does in damage or skill scores). It can be cool to wave your magic wand and stone the issue, it can also be cool to be the one to rewire the panel and open the door before the monster eats you. Not everybody should be McGuyver, but a Fighter of average intelligence should have multiple skills outside of Athletics and Perception (and no, the two background skills in 5e don't count).

My first Pathfinder character was a human fighter with 14/15 INT. I got six skill points, and could just about afford to know about history.

Quertus
2021-09-08, 05:36 AM
Yes, the "4E isn't D&D" claim isn't one I can take seriously. It's D&D to the bone and a direct result of the direction D&D had been going down for years.


I've been walking on this mountain for years. It's been going downhill. Now I'm below sea level, in salt water. So, despite your claims that I'm in the ocean, I'm calling this "mountain", because that's the direction "mountain" had been going for years.

I've been cooking these noodles for years. Everyone tells me it's just "char" now, but I know it's still noodles, because that's the direction noodles have been going.

The local pool, they keep adding chlorine, but not water. Now, when you jump in, it's a few inches of pure acid. You break bones, and get badly burned. Some want to say that it's no longer a swimming pool, but I know better - that's the direction the pool has been headed for years.

I don't think the logic necessarily follows.

Not that I'm in the "4e isn't D&D" crowd*, mind you. Just I don't think you've made a valid argument against their stance.

* I'm the founder, president, and sole member of the "4e isn't an RPG" club. Very different beast, that.


Yeah, 4e is as D&D as you could get at the time. To me it actually still feels more like what D&D should be than 5e does (and I'll extend that to 13th Age).

"At that time"? What made that time so limited that the most D&D you could get was "D&D, for people who hate D&D"?

And what should D&D be?

MeimuHakurei
2021-09-08, 05:40 AM
In 4th Edition, you have a wide range of classes and monsters on a tactical grid, your powers are diverse for different situations (I did hold off opening on Encounters/Dailies before because I wanted to set up a better opportunity to use them) and there's a lot of counterplay and build options involved.

13th Age has a static rest system and no decisions to be made in combat - well, you can, but there's one objectively correct choice (attack; if you're a spellcaster, cast what the escalation die tells you to) because martials don't get other options and spells are underpowered if they don't follow the Escalation Die. Attempting to fight defensively, fall back to a secure position or to stand your ground at such a place means your die won't advance and you don't get your enhanced offense.

The One Unique Thing has no mechanical weight or ties to 13th Age's systems and therefore you could just use it in 4e if you like.

Cluedrew
2021-09-08, 07:53 AM
I don't think the logic necessarily follows.No the logic is, take the iconic structural components (importantly, I'm not as concerned about the more surface level things like how exactly spells work) of D&D and 4th has them all and leans into them even more:
Combat Focus: So much show even the D&D fans thought it was too much.
Zero-To-Hero: Explicitly added tiers of upgrades and went over 30 levels instead of 20.
Class Roles: It even tags them now as combat is built around them.
On the other hand, what important/fundamental aspects of D&D did 4e leave out?


Not that I'm in the "4e isn't D&D" crowd*, mind you. Just I don't think you've made a valid argument against their stance.

* I'm the founder, president, and sole member of the "4e isn't an RPG" club. Very different beast, that.How?
D&D is an RPG. (Premise)
D&D 4e is D&D. (Premise)
D&D 4e is not an RPG. (Conclusion by ???)
Unless I made a mistake with premise 1, as you didn't actually say that, in which case I understand completely.

Morty
2021-09-08, 07:57 AM
How?
D&D is an RPG. (Premise)
D&D 4e is D&D. (Premise)
D&D 4e is not an RPG. (Conclusion by ???)
Unless I made a mistake with premise 1, as you didn't actually say that, in which case I understand completely.

I'm not sure if "4E isn't an RPG" is a premise that's worth engaging with seriously.

KorvinStarmast
2021-09-08, 08:13 AM
It seems to be a fact of the internet, when Werewolf: the Apocalypse 5e finally drops the arguments are going to be through the roof. I'll bet a few centavos on you being right.

* I'm the founder, president, and sole member of the "4e isn't an RPG" club. Very different beast, that. It took a portion of what D&D is and focused hard on optimizing that.


13th Age has a static rest system and no decisions to be made in combat - well, you can, but there's one objectively correct choice (attack; if you're a spellcaster, cast what the escalation die tells you to)
Not a bad point: once combat is joined, fighting to the end 'feels' like what you should try to do.

[quote] The One Unique Thing has no mechanical weight or ties to 13th Age's systems and therefore you could just use it in 4e if you like. That turn of phrase tells me that the observer is missing the point of a role playing game. It isn't all about the numbers.

Quertus
2021-09-08, 10:05 AM
No the logic is, take the iconic structural components (importantly, I'm not as concerned about the more surface level things like how exactly spells work) of D&D and 4th has them all and leans into them even more:
Combat Focus: So much show even the D&D fans thought it was too much.
Zero-To-Hero: Explicitly added tiers of upgrades and went over 30 levels instead of 20.
Class Roles: It even tags them now as combat is built around them.
On the other hand, what important/fundamental aspects of D&D did 4e leave out?

How?
D&D is an RPG. (Premise)
D&D 4e is D&D. (Premise)
D&D 4e is not an RPG. (Conclusion by ???)
Unless I made a mistake with premise 1, as you didn't actually say that, in which case I understand completely.

The form of your first augment I'll not argue with. Your second, though, is faulty: Star Wars is a movie, Knights of the Old Republic is Star Wars, therefore Knights of the Old Republic is a movie.

Back when I was taught logic, I'd have called it the fallacy of four parts. Not sure what kids these days are calling it.

Or, even closer, D&D is an RPG, the latest MtG set is D&D, the latest MtG set is an RPG.

Anyway, in addition to the logic failing, the premise "D&D is an RPG" isn't really true. 2e, 3e, probably BECMI? Those are RPGs. D&D is a brand, with a number of associated elements. That brand could be applied to RPGs, CCGs, Saturday morning cartoons, toys/minis, or breakfast cereals - not all would be RPGs simply by being D&D.

IMO, 4e is as much D&D as the new MtG set. And about as little an RPG as the new MtG set.

I've only skimmed a little of 13th age, so I can't say much beyond, "skill checks look almost as logically bad as 5e (albeit in a different way)".


It took a portion of what D&D is and focused hard on optimizing that..

That's also something I'll not argue with.

But if I make poor gently "tongue-tongue", I can say that I focused hard on optimizing a portion of what being human entailed. But if I try to claim "humanity was headed in that direction anyway", there's some steps missing, some logic leaps that others would be right to call me on, and ask, "how did you come to that conclusion?".

Batcathat
2021-09-08, 10:44 AM
IMO, 4e is as much D&D as the new MtG set. And about as little an RPG as the new MtG set.

While I agree that the "It's D&D so it's an RPG" premise is shaky, what is your definition of an RPG and how does 4e fail to meet it so completely?

Telok
2021-09-08, 10:50 AM
I can sort of answer the "not a rpg thing", as it was explained to me 4e is neo-chess with skill challenges & rp on the side.

To get neo-chess from chess you set up a regular chess board, one side removes all pawns and one each of bishop, rook, knight. That side now has 5 pieces. Replace taking turns with initative, replace capture rules with ac, nads, hp, & 4e powers. Players get the small side, DM gets the big side. Designate some board squares as "special terrain". Assuming you got the numbers right you still have a balanced chess-like-sort-of-maybe-similar-looking game. Neo-chess.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-08, 10:52 AM
Had anybody ever come up with a good definition of an RPG beyond 'it's a game that includes role-playing'? Almost every RPG includes a 'what is an RPG' section, but I can't describe it in a sentence like I can with board games or card games study from the above.

Now 'a game which includes role-playing' is a fine definition, but it includes things far removed from D&D (remember playing Doctors and Nurses as kids?). So maybe we should strive for something a bit more narrow.

Batcathat
2021-09-08, 11:05 AM
Had anybody ever come up with a good definition of an RPG beyond 'it's a game that includes role-playing'? Almost every RPG includes a 'what is an RPG' section, but I can't describe it in a sentence like I can with board games or card games study from the above.

Now 'a game which includes role-playing' is a fine definition, but it includes things far removed from D&D (remember playing Doctors and Nurses as kids?). So maybe we should strive for something a bit more narrow.

Yeah, it's a tough one to define. I might add that it has to have some sort of rules (even freeform games typically have some rules, if only something like "don't god mod") to separate it from just playing pretend. Though I suppose that might be included in calling something a "game" so it might already be implied by your definition.

Eric Diaz
2021-09-08, 11:42 AM
I thing "4e is not an RPG" a bit silly.

However, I wrote two extensive posts on a similar issue; the first I linked above (describing why 4e needs minis and uses square-shaped fireballs), and the second (" Crunch IS Fluff") describes what is unique about RPGs.

https://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com/2020/03/rpg-and-design-iii-crunch-is-fluff.html

The post is illustrated with examples so there is no use reproducing it here, but this bit explains my point:

---

What defines role-playing games is that the fluff is always important to the crunch, and vice-versa.

Compare it to chess, for example.

What if you role-play your bishop as he jumps the enemy's queen, loudly denouncing her sins in the name of Pelor? Is it a role-playing game now?

No, because the fluff has no effect on the crunch.

That is also why some people used to say 4e is "not D&D"*: sometimes, the crunch is ortogonal to the fluff and vice-versa, which is a bit antithetical to RPGs. Tripping oozes isn't a given for most RPGs.

(*I do think D&D 4e is both D&D and an RPG, of course, but I dislike some of the ideas that 4e adopts, as the ones explained just above).

---

In other words: some people denounce 4e as not being an RPG because it has rules (tripping oozes, square fireballs, counting "squares" instead of feet) that make you FEEL as if the crunch was separated from the fluff. However, this is not often the case, and 4e is still an RPG (say, 99% of the time).

It's worth saying that some "dissociated mechanics", which were common and heavily criticized in 4e, were kept in 5e (for example, superiority dice which would make people ask "why can I only attempt to disarm a couple of times every day"). This is not good or bad, it is a matter of taste.

RandomPeasant
2021-09-08, 04:46 PM
While I agree that 4e does qualify as D&D by my definition (roughly: levels, classes, uses a d20, epic fantasy, kitchen sink), it's hard for me to see how people can't comprehend the idea that someone could think it wasn't D&D in good faith. It's a radical departure from previous editions of D&D, both in mechanics and in the scope and expected playstyle of the game. The designers were very explicitly hyping up the anti-immersive aspects of the game prior to its release ("monsters don't exist outside combat"). I think the "4e is a videogame/boardgame" meme is wrong, but it's coming from a legitimate criticism of the system, just one that's been turned into a talking point optimized for virality rather than accuracy.

Cluedrew
2021-09-08, 08:45 PM
Star Wars is a movie, Knights of the Old Republic is Star Wars, therefore Knights of the Old Republic is a movie.Oh, I see, you were saying the franchise, I was thinking of the game line (not all games under the franchise) which I believe all are role-playing games. And you could get to by trying to work from common features are or...


Had anybody ever come up with a good definition of an RPG beyond 'it's a game that includes role-playing'?Role-Playing Game: What people mean when they say role-playing game. See also: RPG.

Yes its a stupid non-definition but that's actually how people's brain works (well, more like things people associate with the label of role-playing game, this is not actually about psychology). The point is more that a perfect definition may not actually exist because no strict and logical definition may ever make the loose and informal ways people use words. This is also why I will say that D&D is pretty much definitionally a role-playing game, because it's the strongest association with role-playing games society has, so if it drifts the definition of role-playing game could drift with it. Not that it has drifted in that way, and we can see it has by putting together a reasonable but imperfect formal definition. Starting with...


https://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com/2020/03/rpg-and-design-iii-crunch-is-fluff.html(I like the blog name by the way.) That's a pretty good start. I have two issues with it, one is just I think you are using game pretty narrowly but the mechanical side is definitely important. The other is I think it is important for the players to have large open ended - which is not to say unconstrained - input in terms of the story/fluff/flavour/narrative. I actually haven't quite figured out how this is important but just being presented with choices on a list and walking through a preset web of options just feels like it is missing something.

Again I don't actually expect to find a perfect definition. I've been working on this definition centered on the interaction between the fiction and mechanical layers of the game but not because I think that is the best way to define it, but because it is a useful way to look at it for a certain topic I've been thinking about (which might become a thread).

RandomPeasant
2021-09-08, 09:37 PM
Again I don't actually expect to find a perfect definition.

There is no perfect definition because there are no perfect definitions because language is an imperfect form of communication. There's a game you can play, where you take a simple concept (like "sandwich" or "soup") and you try to provide a formal definition that matches all the things the term is used for colloquially and none of the things it isn't. It's good fun, but what it teaches you almost immediately is that it is effectively impossible to precisely define anything (consider: is a hot dog a sandwich? is a vanilla soy latte a three-bean soup?). "RPG" is a cluster, and you're never going to get a perfect definition, because people can't agree what's in the cluster. At some point, going from Clue to Arkham Horror to D&D takes you from "board game" to "RPG". But I guarantee that if you got that progression out to a dozen things, not only would everyone you asked give you a different answer for where the line was, most of them would tell you the order was wrong.

Tanarii
2021-09-09, 12:29 AM
(I like the blog name by the way.) That's a pretty good start. I have two issues with it, one is just I think you are using game pretty narrowly but the mechanical side is definitely important. The other is I think it is important for the players to have large open ended - which is not to say unconstrained - input in terms of the story/fluff/flavour/narrative. I actually haven't quite figured out how this is important but just being presented with choices on a list and walking through a preset web of options just feels like it is missing something.
IMO what's missing in those cases is large open ended but not unconstrained ability to make decisions about what to do, at least in a strategic sense. Not input in terms of story/fluff/flavor/narrative.

That's one of the things that generally separates RPGs from board games or computer games. I like to say that Roleplaying is making decisions for your character in the fantasy environment. But an underlying assumption is that you're not tightly constrained to only doing certain things by the rules, usually due to resolution ultimately being decided by a game master with some flexibility to improvise resolutions for unexpected decisions, and have the world react in unexpected ways to those decisions.

Quertus
2021-09-09, 11:35 AM
While I agree that the "It's D&D so it's an RPG" premise is shaky, what is your definition of an RPG and how does 4e fail to meet it so completely?

@Cluedrew asked me that question some time ago, and I could only respond, "it's complicated".

But it looks like others have given a much better "80/20" version of my answer than I ever could. @Cluedrew, tell me you're seeing this.

But, to actually contribute…

To start at the top, a role-playing game has to include both "role-playing" and "game".

"Role-playing"… among many other things, involves thinking as the character / asking and being able to answer "WWQD?" / (or, as I would put it) running an emulator for their experiences & personality.

Eric Diaz wrote it as, "the crunch must match the fluff" vs "disassociated mechanics". And that works, too.

But… to perhaps misuse a common… uh… to misappropriate common symbolism? … these are all just small pieces of the puzzle, wise men feeling an elephant in a darkened cave.

Sure, with enough skill and effort, you can often get to the right answer from some of these starts, but the full answer is much bigger than just any one of these ideas.

Still, stating these various ideas all together (not that they're *all* the valid starting points, but they show that what we're looking at is bigger than "a snake" or "a rope") is a very good primer, to at least point in the direction of my definition of an RPG.

-----

To actually add something to the conversation… Angry recently wrote an article about "what is Role-playing?" (Senility willing, I'll add a link here). As always, he demonstrated having the sharpest mind on the topic by asking all the right questions… then demonstrated he hasn't been replaced with Folgers Crystals by still coming to the wrong conclusion. What Angry described as "role-playing"? Most of it is what I would call "character creation", not role-playing.

----

And, to answer your question… how does 4e fail so completely? By failing enough.

No, seriously - any other answer is… less correct.

The extent to which it has disassociated mechanics, the extent to which the fluff and crunch and world-building don't hold together, the extent to which you have to turn off your brain like you're watching an episode of Dr. Who to not take sanity damage from staring into the abyss through the gaping holes, the extent to which you cannot build a background, a personality, a character overtop that foundation that makes sieves and screen doors look positively solid in comparison? That's part of how it fails.

-----

Let's hit this from a completely different PoV.

(Warning: what follows is made with a high level of ignorance, of the type likely be seen at most of my tables. We're not all system and setting scholars. If that causes you sanity loss, ignore the rest of this post. You've been warned.)

Let's say I wanted to make a new character… an Elf in the Forgotten Realms. (Now I'm switching to also referring to the character in the 1st person, so don't get confused)

2e became 3e, what, 100-200 years ago? So my parents (let alone the elders) probably remember 2e, and even what came before. I grew up in 3e most of my life. That's par for the course - the Realms is a… volatile place. But recently, shortly before I began my adventuring days, reality really changed when 4e hit.

My parents were both adventurers. Mom was an Arcane Archer, Dad was some Archmage / Druid thing. Or maybe Mom was a Druid Arcane Archer, Dad was a Gish. Whatever. Point is, they have a lot of classic stereotypical Elvenkind experience adventuring, and I don't know whose footsteps to follow, or whether to forge my own path, and become a Cleric.

And Corellon Larethian isn't helping.

The patriarch of our deities used to encourage us towards benevolence and individuality, caring about the individual, and nature, and Elves. Mostly elves.

But the entire *concept* of "benevolence and individuality" recently died. Now "individuality" is only coupled with "self-serving" motivations. The clergy are mixed on how we the faithful should respond. Mom says most are probably Heretics of the Faith, whatever that means.

So I don't think I want to risk breaking tradition *and* risk being labeled as a heretic by actually taking the leap and joining the clergy. But mom and dad both say that their abilities have been "hacked by Gruumsh" (their words (when they weren't using more "colorful" descriptions)) when magic and reality broke for the 3rd time in recent memory. Like, Mom and/or Dad have put a lot of effort into researching fertility magic (no, I never asked specifics - gross) - I'm living proof of their success. But they don't seem to have those abilities any more, and have upped their adoption game. I was hoping my adopted sister would some day join me (mom mumbled "Cohort"; Dad countered "replacement character", whatever that means), but, as an Avariel, I'm not sure if she even exists any more. So I'm left looking forward to my other new adopted siblings maybe someday joining me.

But that's all just surface level stuff. Let's look at how I grew up thinking about basic tasks.

IRL, I want to know something? I think about it, I do research, I ask someone smart / wise / knowledgeable. Students gather in classrooms to have a single expert dispense knowledge / explain thought patterns. Wisdom is passed down.

5e reverses that. The Wiser gather large groups of idiots and ignoramuses in rooms to answer questions for them. It's a hilarious parody of a recognizable pattern.

13th Age pushes for the "know-it-all". There one high-level guy in the village? He's the one you want to turn to for everything. A true… gentleman scholar(?).

But 4e? You fail a skill challenge when you accumulate a certain number of failures. So you learn early on in life that nobody wants your help. They don't even want you thinking about their problems. Secrecy is the primary motivator of any functional society. Nobody asks aloud, "why is the sky blue", because, if they did, every motion would think about it, and accumulate enough failures that you were guaranteed to never know the answer.

Knowledge is jealously hoarded, carefully passed down to a select few apprentices - and even they know when to *not* help, and how to turn their brains off so as not to interfere with the Master thinking.

So it's kinda like a spoof on a not entirely anachronistic era, of everyone learning a trade, and masters being highly in demand, often passing along their trade through hereditary lines. Where Bob the Thatcher and his crew ("Can we thatch it? Yes we can!") are the only ones in town who are trained in the secret ninja art of thatching, and no-one else dare try ("Can you thatch it? No you can't!").

But it's rife with oddities, like, "I was lying there, bleeding to death, and she didn't even lift a finger to help me, and that's when I knew, she's the one.". Or the question, "whatcha thinkin' about?" being one of the rudest questions ever. Or group projects being an exercise in keeping secrets. Or "too many cooks spoil the pot" being one of the most obvious truths in the world.

Children aren't asked to help their patients with cooking or other tasks. "Can I help" is generally met with profanity, and killing people because they tried to help is almost certainly treated akin to self defense.

Adventuring parties (or most any other group endeavor) need to find out whose job it is to do what. In fact, it's likely that, in some areas, there's licensing, and official grading. "Hi, I'm Bob the Thatcher, tier 2 Thatcher and Drunken Master grade handling my liquor. I'll do your thatching and your drinking for you." Or "Sally Archer, Olympic hopeful, and 5-times winner of Witch Weekly's most charming smile award."

Good managers don't try to solve problems, they just grab their experts, and run down a list, asking, "can software help here", "can astronomy help here", "can underwater basket weaving help here", etc.

Point is, it's really bloody hard (read "impossible") to think through all the societal changes necessary to generate a thought process that generates a heuristic that consistently hits the Venn diagram at the intersection of "playing a reasonable 4e character" and "role-playing".

And that is why 4e is not an RPG.

(Yes, there's lots of steps missing. But here, at least, is my addition to the "it's like a rope…" description of this elephant.)

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-09, 11:54 AM
Role-Playing Game: What people mean when they say role-playing game. See also: RPG.

Yes its a stupid non-definition but that's actually how people's brain works (well, more like things people associate with the label of role-playing game, this is not actually about psychology). The point is more that a perfect definition may not actually exist because no strict and logical definition may ever make the loose and informal ways people use words. This is also why I will say that D&D is pretty much definitionally a role-playing game, because it's the strongest association with role-playing games society has, so if it drifts the definition of role-playing game could drift with it. Not that it has drifted in that way, and we can see it has by putting together a reasonable but imperfect formal definition. Starting with...

Oh, any proper definition will probably go on for pages. But I suppose a simplified definition could serve I for now. For the moment:

Role-playing: declaring your actions as if you were somebody else.

Game: a competitive or collaborative activity where participants attempt to overcome a physical or mental challenge. (Yeah, this leaves out computer games. I didn't feel like adding asterisks.)

If we assume that these two definitions are correct enough, can we define a role playing game as 'a physical or mental challenge where you act as if you were somebody else'? It might be as good a definition as any.

We must also accept that a game can be written as an RPG and whether it can be played as one. I thereby suggest that our argument is not about how the game was played, as any game can be played as an RPG if you have the right intent and playstyle. Our questions then become 'is it possible for a game to include role-playing'as an inherent part of the times' and 'does D&D do this'.

Cluedrew
2021-09-09, 09:30 PM
To : Yes I see it and I read it. OK basically your argument is "I found that D&D 4e prohibited my role-playing instead of enabling it", is that right? In that case I see where you are coming from. Its kind of like how chess isn't a role-playing game even though you can try to get into the mind of your queen-side bishop. But still I see two problems with this:
I didn't have this problem (at least no more than other editions of D&D) and we could poll for more opinions what makes it more than a matter of taste? I know that skill challenges had problems, but for me its because it didn't represent the world, not that the world it represented was insane.
Wouldn't that just make it a bad role-playing game? I don't think quality should be part of the definition and while there exist comically bad games (two "Games that will be not be named" and the one from the SUE Files come to mind) I think those are still role-playing games without question.

To [B]Anonymouswizard: I'm out of time, but I'll try to come back to that.

Tanarii
2021-09-09, 10:37 PM
Quertus, you've got some basic misunderstandings of the 4e skill challenge system. But your combination of how you think it works with trying to treat the game mechanics as a physics engine for the in-universe world resulted in a truly entertaining little essay 😂👍

Also, and I'm not sure on this, doesn't FR get retconned so it's always worked on the latest edition rules when the change occurs. The almost planetary disasters make for convenient breaks, but I though the underlying assumption was that the world didn't go *ping* and suddenly Bards could wear Chain Shirts.

sandmote
2021-09-09, 11:51 PM
I'm not especially familiar with either system, but I think it comes down to what happens when you come up with a character concept first and want to represent it in-game. 4e sees to struggle with that, while 13A seems to handle it fine. On the other hand 13A combat seems to descend into "attack, attack, attack" really easily, where 4e clearly brings in positioning and movement throughout combat (even if its just to reach the fleeing minions during mop up).


But 4e? You fail a skill challenge when you accumulate a certain number of failures. So you learn early on in life that nobody wants your help. They don't even want you thinking about their problems. Secrecy is the primary motivator of any functional society. Nobody asks aloud, "why is the sky blue", because, if they did, every motion would think about it, and accumulate enough failures that you were guaranteed to never know the answer.
...
So it's kinda like a spoof on a not entirely anachronistic era, of everyone learning a trade, and masters being highly in demand, often passing along their trade through hereditary lines. Where Bob the Thatcher and his crew ("Can we thatch it? Yes we can!") are the only ones in town who are trained in the secret ninja art of thatching, and no-one else dare try ("Can you thatch it? No you can't!").
...
Adventuring parties (or most any other group endeavor) need to find out whose job it is to do what. In fact, it's likely that, in some areas, there's licensing, and official grading. "Hi, I'm Bob the Thatcher, tier 2 Thatcher and Drunken Master grade handling my liquor. I'll do your thatching and your drinking for you." Or "Sally Archer, Olympic hopeful, and 5-times winner of Witch Weekly's most charming smile award."To start, regular old skill checks still exist. Swimming through water, for example, isn't a skill challenge. I suppose you could fail at it so much you drown, but that isn't tied to an exact number of failed checks.

Second, failing a skill challenge doesn't make a task impossible for everyone:

Example: The PCs seek a temple in dense jungle. Achieving six successes means they find their way. Accruing three failures before achieving the successes, however, indicates that they get themselves hopelessly lost in the wilderness.
"hopelessly lost in the wilderness" doesn't make it impossible to find the your way out later or apply if anyone else seeks the temple (or why the sky is blue).

There are also seven examples challenges in later in the section of the DMG1.

Three involve getting aid or information from a person, something that's likely to fail if you upset the person rather than on a time limit or based on hit points. Again, nothing stopping a third party unrelated to you from trying again.
Three suggest in an additional combat encounter or harder combat encounter on a failure. In practice this means one bad roll can't ruin singlehandedly things for the party. This would apply each time the event takes place.
The last one models research, and again moves the act of doing it beyond performing a single roll. In this case, when you've hit all dead ends on your leads, that's your failure state. "hitting a dead end" isn't tied to rounds or hit points though, se you need some other system to model it. And again, just because you failed doesn't mean someone else can't try.


Bob the Thatcher's job is time based, and there's not really any risk of failure. I suppose it could become a skill challenge if he needs to fix a roof before a storm hits (using failures to measure wasted time before the rain starts), but just doing the job would be a skill check he can repeat indefinitely, and the only failure state is "he wasted time."

Hytheter
2021-09-10, 12:23 AM
but I though the underlying assumption was that the world didn't go *ping* and suddenly Bards could wear Chain Shirts.

I was going to make a crack about OotS #1 but looking it up it seems you may have referenced it intentionally. :smallbiggrin:

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-10, 03:32 AM
To Anonymouswizard: I'm out of time, but I'll try to come back to that.

That's fair, wasn't overly expecting an answer. I was just continuing the direction. In practice the definition I was using is particularly as useless as yours but illustrated my point of 'is this even s worthwhile question'.

I'm just waiting until this thread gets diverted to a discussion on of the Epic Attribute and Fate rules in Scion 1e are broken (yes, although Epic Attributes can be solved easily on a couple of ways). Although to be fair, part of the reason I like that game is the fact it doesn't work work (I have a houserules document, and need to add another couple of z Birthrights to it).

icefractal
2021-09-10, 04:16 AM
If 4E doesn't count as an RPG, then a lot of games popularly known as RPGs don't either.

My opinion on 4E has varied considerably over time -
First mentions: "Hell yeah, new edition, bet it'll be awesome."
More info: "What?! That's not how I thought it would work, this is a pile of suck!"
Actually played it: "Eh, not so bad, but it's not for me. Nice cosmology though."
Years later, looking again: "Actually, why did I have a problem with this?"
I'd still rank it below 3.x in aggregate, but it's got some good stuff in there.

Some of that is ceasing to care about certain things. Like, when 4E came out, I got aggravated about the non-euclidean geometry (aka fire-cubes), convinced that this would cause all kinds of stupid situations. But it really is substantially faster and hasn't caused any issues, and now I use it in PF1 as well.

The bigger factor is that rules-light games have taken the crown, and now that's what a lot of people want to play. And so when you end up playing a number of those, you get used to things being loosely defined and putting the heavy lifting on GM/group consensus. And from that angle, 4E's (and 5E's) "crimes" are more like minor parking violations.

DCs are defined loosely, so your chances are highly dependent on how the GM adjudicates the situation? Yeah, welcome to most TTRPGs people are playing. You can 'trip' an ooze even if that's not literally tripping? Result-based mechanics - like every Fate-system game and a lot of others have.

So to me, "4E isn't D&D" is like talking about how this tuna sandwich is so different than the turkey sandwich that it shouldn't even be called a sandwich. They're a lot more similar than they are different, and a lot more similar than most games out there.

Waddacku
2021-09-10, 04:33 AM
I like 4e a lot, and I really didn't like 13th Age when I read it back in the day. I haven't played it, and it's been a long time since I read it, so I don't have a lot of very specific complaints. I didn't like the pseudo-storygame direction of it (pseudo, because it didn't really do much at all to help generate developments as far as I could tell, it just told you to make something up wholesale). The way weapon and armor choice was mainly about how much you adhere to the authors' notion of what the archetype should be using rubbed me the wrong way. There were some interesting expansions in the class mechanics that could be cool on top of something like 4e, which did have a few things that cared about, say, if an attack roll was even or odd, but then it went and stripped out more choices and interesting bits than it added.

I think the escalation die is interesting and I know very many people talked about importing that to 4e in some form, and as I said, there are class mechanics that would make for good expansions on what 4e already does, but... It just completely dropped the ball on actually making me want to play the system or build characters in it.

Batcathat
2021-09-10, 04:37 AM
If 4E doesn't count as an RPG, then a lot of games popularly known as RPGs don't either.

Yeah, this. For something to not even qualify as an RPG, it would presumably be something that you can't roleplay in. Which quite a few people do in 4e, even if Quertus isn't one of them.

Morty
2021-09-10, 04:42 AM
I'm not especially familiar with either system, but I think it comes down to what happens when you come up with a character concept first and want to represent it in-game. 4e sees to struggle with that, while 13A seems to handle it fine. On the other hand 13A combat seems to descend into "attack, attack, attack" really easily, where 4e clearly brings in positioning and movement throughout combat (even if its just to reach the fleeing minions during mop up).

Coming up with a concept first and trying to represent it in-game is a problem in all of D&D. 3.x only manages to alleviate it by piling up enough content to blot out the sun and even then there are some concepts that just won't work. 4E might be worse than other editions about it, though, since it does double down on D&D's general restrictiveness.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-10, 06:04 AM
Coming up with a concept first and trying to represent it in-game is a problem in all of D&D. 3.x only manages to alleviate it by piling up enough content to blot out the sun and even then there are some concepts that just won't work. 4E might be worse than other editions about it, though, since it does double down on D&D's general restrictiveness.

It's a problem in every system, even GURPS and HERO struggle to deal with everything (although I believe both let you build a muffin with standard character generation, so they're very broad). But class based games struggle to build anything outside of their supported archetypes.

This isn't a problem when the game is fairly up front about the archetypes it supports. I personally think that Dark Heresy did this well, just as an example. But D&D pretends to be significantly more broad than it actually is (which is reasonably broad once you know what it supports). Yes each supplement adds more options, but I've discovered that a good general rule of thumb in a system is to shine that nobody in the group owns any particular supplement (and that most won't own the core book).

At the end of the day there's nothing wrong with a game not supporting a concept. Unknown Armies very much does not support cool disinterested characters and it's one of my favourite games.

RandomPeasant
2021-09-10, 06:42 AM
Yeah, this. For something to not even qualify as an RPG, it would presumably be something that you can't roleplay in. Which quite a few people do in 4e, even if Quertus isn't one of them.

But you can roleplay in anything. If you really wanted to, you could get super in to a game of Monopoly or Clue or Risk and make decisions based on roleplaying, and I think everyone here would agree those are boardgames. People roleplay in MMOs or single-player story-driven games like Mass Effect, and while those are RPGs, I think we can again all agree that they are a different kind of RPG from D&D or Shadowrun or 13th Age.

Batcathat
2021-09-10, 07:07 AM
But you can roleplay in anything. If you really wanted to, you could get super in to a game of Monopoly or Clue or Risk and make decisions based on roleplaying, and I think everyone here would agree those are boardgames. People roleplay in MMOs or single-player story-driven games like Mass Effect, and while those are RPGs, I think we can again all agree that they are a different kind of RPG from D&D or Shadowrun or 13th Age.

Fair enough, though I'm still curious what sort of definition of RPG that would include most editions of D&D, other games we typically consider RPGs (unless there are more games Quertus disqualifies from being RPGs) but specifically not 4e.

Cluedrew
2021-09-10, 07:44 AM
IMO what's missing in those cases is large open ended but not unconstrained ability to make decisions about what to do, at least in a strategic sense. Not input in terms of story/fluff/flavor/narrative.You know what, drop the what the open ended decisions are about, I mean maybe we could slice it up differently and rate how much different decisions matter in different contexts, but really I think its just the fact that various important decisions are open ended in the game has some way to accommodate that.


Oh, any proper definition will probably go on for pages. But I suppose a simplified definition could serve I for now. For the moment:OK, well I have slightly different definitions of both role-playing and games, but the really important point I feel is there is some stuff that isn't in the title that is important. "I enjoy first person shooters." "You mean like Portal?"*

For instance I do not call free-form role-playing a role-playing game, even though it is a game in which you do role-playing. They do have rules, just not about what a character can do. So I think another important part of a role-playing game is the passing back and forth of control between players and the mechanics. Not entirely sure how to define that but it is definitely there. And it is definitely different from the rules of a free-form role-playing game where the limits are basically don't step on each others toes.

* Just in case, Portal is a game played in first person mode where your primary method of interacting with the world is a gun.

Batcathat
2021-09-10, 07:56 AM
For instance I do not call free-form role-playing a role-playing game, even though it is a game in which you do role-playing. They do have rules, just not about what a character can do. So I think another important part of a role-playing game is the passing back and forth of control between players and the mechanics. Not entirely sure how to define that but it is definitely there. And it is definitely different from the rules of a free-form role-playing game where the limits are basically don't step on each others toes.

So where would you place a game like Risus or other similar very rules light games? On one hand, they do have rules for what a character can do but the amount and complexity of the rules seems a lot closer to a free-form game than something like D&D. (If you're not familiar, the rules for Risus are like two pages long in total).

Silly Name
2021-09-10, 08:03 AM
Also, and I'm not sure on this, doesn't FR get retconned so it's always worked on the latest edition rules when the change occurs. The almost planetary disasters make for convenient breaks, but I though the underlying assumption was that the world didn't go *ping* and suddenly Bards could wear Chain Shirts.

"Minor" mechanical changes such as "how good are fighters with all weapons to ever exist", "is it possible to wear armor and cast spells" or "feats are a thing" are indeed not reflected in-universe. It's not so much as a retcon of the fiction as simply something that gets modelled differently in the newer editions.

Changes to magic, though? Those are 100% canon, with cataclysmic events usually involving Mystra dying heralding such changes and new rules getting set in. The Time of Troubles, with Mystra dying and Midnight ascending to her role, brought in the changes between AD&D and 3.x magic, and the Spellplague (again, involving Mystra dying) led to 4e, where magic as previously known stopped working. Finally, the Second Sundering and Mystra's resurrection by way of her favorite boytoy led us to D&D 5e and magic working more similarly to before but still different.

I predict next edition will see Mystra dying again. Crazy, I know.

Glorthindel
2021-09-10, 08:17 AM
Fair enough, though I'm still curious what sort of definition of RPG that would include most editions of D&D, other games we typically consider RPGs (unless there are more games Quertus disqualifies from being RPGs) but specifically not 4e.

Although I don't subscribe to the "not an RPG" claim, if you put 3rd ed D&D (which we would all agree is a roleplay game) on one table, Wrath of Ashardalon (which we would all agree was a board game) on another and told to put 4th ed D&D with which one it is most similar to, there would definitely be a significant number of people that would put it with WoA, and not be doing so just out of spite. Now, it is a little mean to call 4th ed a board game (for one, it doesn't come with a board, so fails the first test), but it definitely rides that line, and I can see why for some, it trips over it.

Morty
2021-09-10, 08:52 AM
It's a problem in every system, even GURPS and HERO struggle to deal with everything (although I believe both let you build a muffin with standard character generation, so they're very broad). But class based games struggle to build anything outside of their supported archetypes.

This isn't a problem when the game is fairly up front about the archetypes it supports. I personally think that Dark Heresy did this well, just as an example. But D&D pretends to be significantly more broad than it actually is (which is reasonably broad once you know what it supports). Yes each supplement adds more options, but I've discovered that a good general rule of thumb in a system is to shine that nobody in the group owns any particular supplement (and that most won't own the core book).

At the end of the day there's nothing wrong with a game not supporting a concept. Unknown Armies very much does not support cool disinterested characters and it's one of my favourite games.

Obviously, no system covers every possible concept. But D&D is much narrower than most and 4E is in some ways particularly bad about it. Also, D&D doesn't support concepts that it really has no reason not to support. Like, I'm not going to expect it to let me play a diplomat with no combat skills to speak of or an engineer/inventor (though the latter has received support in some third-party material) but a ranger who fights in melee without dual-wielding or a rogue whose preferred weapon is an axe or bow really aren't too out there. And yet, 4E shut these down entirely (other editions also don't have a great track record here).

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-10, 09:24 AM
OK, well I have slightly different definitions of both role-playing and games, but the really important point I feel is there is some stuff that isn't in the title that is important. "I enjoy first person shooters." "You mean like Portal?"*

For instance I do not call free-form role-playing a role-playing game, even though it is a game in which you do role-playing. They do have rules, just not about what a character can do. So I think another important part of a role-playing game is the passing back and forth of control between players and the mechanics. Not entirely sure how to define that but it is definitely there. And it is definitely different from the rules of a free-form role-playing game where the limits are basically don't step on each others toes.

* Just in case, Portal is a game played in first person mode where your primary method of interacting with the world is a gun.

To be fair it's not the definitions I use in real life. I was just trying to get something workable because I didn't have the free time to be more precise and wanted to make the point.


Obviously, no system covers every possible concept. But D&D is much narrower than most and 4E is in some ways particularly bad about it. Also, D&D doesn't support concepts that it really has no reason not to support. Like, I'm not going to expect it to let me play a diplomat with no combat skills to speak of or an engineer/inventor (though the latter has received support in some third-party material) but a ranger who fights in melee without dual-wielding or a rogue whose preferred weapon is an axe or bow really aren't too out there. And yet, 4E shut these down entirely (other editions also don't have a great track record here).

Honestly, I was disappointed at his damage works in 13th Age. I had hoped that it would be used to allow characters to use whatever weapons they want, but instead it punishes Fighters for not using heavy weapons and Rights for not using small ones. There's really no reason beyond thematics for it.

Tanarii
2021-09-10, 09:28 AM
You know what, drop the what the open ended decisions are about, I mean maybe we could slice it up differently and rate how much different decisions matter in different contexts, but really I think its just the fact that various important decisions are open ended in the game has some way to accommodate that.
It's an important distinction. If the decisions aren't about what the players character(a) is/are doing and is instead about story that characters are in, that's a storytelling game, not a roleplaying game.


If 4E doesn't count as an RPG, then a lot of games popularly known as RPGs don't either. Clearly Fate and Powered by the Apocalypse aren't RPGs because they don't have real mechanics. Plenty of roleplaying and storytelling, but they're not really Games.

Morty
2021-09-10, 09:48 AM
Honestly, I was disappointed at his damage works in 13th Age. I had hoped that it would be used to allow characters to use whatever weapons they want, but instead it punishes Fighters for not using heavy weapons and Rights for not using small ones. There's really no reason beyond thematics for it.

I appreciate class-based damage on principle because gods know equipment in D&D and many other fantasy games is an illusion of choice and half-baked attempts at realism. But I did get the feeling that in practice it pushes some classes towards some weapons anyway. I'd have to check again.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-10, 10:15 AM
I appreciate class-based damage on principle because gods know equipment in D&D and many other fantasy games is an illusion of choice and half-baked attempts at realism. But I did get the feeling that in practice it pushes some classes towards some weapons anyway. I'd have to check again.

The older I get the more I feel like weapons should be fluff. How often does it actually matter of I'm using a sword, a spear, or a frying pan. Give situational advantage or disadvantage for having a suitable weapon and then let people just do whatever reasonable damage for their class and/or skill is (maybe make damage a stat you can buy up in point buy systems).

Glorthindel
2021-09-10, 10:29 AM
I appreciate class-based damage on principle because gods know equipment in D&D and many other fantasy games is an illusion of choice and half-baked attempts at realism. But I did get the feeling that in practice it pushes some classes towards some weapons anyway. I'd have to check again.

Its one thing I have warmed to over the years with WFRP - initially, when I saw all one-handed weapons were just lumped in under 'Hand Weapon' I was appalled, but in recent years, I really grinds my gears that D&D (for example) chooses to spite people over their choice of bludgeoning weapon (historically it used to be warhammer weilders who got shafted compared to mace weilders, but in 5th oddly its now the other way around). Take out the names and make people select the ability packages, if a Rogue wants to use a light, finesse axe instead of a shortsword, why not?

Talakeal
2021-09-10, 10:59 AM
@Quertus:

While I agree with your conclusion, and find your story an enjoyable read, I think you would probably get similarly silly scenarios if you aplied the same “rules as physics” standard to most any game, RPG or not.

KorvinStarmast
2021-09-10, 11:47 AM
It's an important distinction. If the decisions aren't about what the players character(a) is/are doing and is instead about story that characters are in, that's a storytelling game, not a roleplaying game.

Clearly Fate and Powered by the Apocalypse aren't RPGs because they don't have real mechanics. Plenty of roleplaying and storytelling, but they're not really Games. Was blue text really needed there? :smallbiggrin:

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-10, 11:55 AM
Eh, I was reading Agon earlier, there you're not allowed to determine what you do until you've rules your dice (partially so you know if you should narrate success or failure). I actually like it's design, but it'll probably pull some people out of the game.

Now it doesn't remove role-playing, but when outcomes are uncertain it resolves then first before asking you to do any in depth RP.

Tanarii
2021-09-10, 12:28 PM
I mean, when the outcomes are uncertain you always have to resolve before you can narrate the results portion of the attempted actions.

Are you say you don't even decide among possible actions before rolling dice to see if any kind of action can succeed, or just that the actions are decided as more broad categories of activity and you narrate specific actions depending the the resolution?

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-10, 12:40 PM
I mean, when the outcomes are uncertain you always have to resolve before you can narrate the results portion of the attempted actions.

Are you say you don't even decide among possible actions before rolling dice to see if any kind of action can succeed, or just that the actions are decided as more broad categories of activity and you narrate specific actions depending the the resolution?

The latter. You roll a dice pool including a fire from s broad category of action (like Arts and Culture) and then describe if you try to calm the monster down or distract them with sculpture when you know if you succeed.

Morty
2021-09-10, 12:41 PM
The older I get the more I feel like weapons should be fluff. How often does it actually matter of I'm using a sword, a spear, or a frying pan. Give situational advantage or disadvantage for having a suitable weapon and then let people just do whatever reasonable damage for their class and/or skill is (maybe make damage a stat you can buy up in point buy systems).

I'm increasingly leaning towards this opinion. If a game isn't willing to go the distance and give me a robust selection of weapons - and most aren't - then just let me use whatever, however and whenever.


Its one thing I have warmed to over the years with WFRP - initially, when I saw all one-handed weapons were just lumped in under 'Hand Weapon' I was appalled, but in recent years, I really grinds my gears that D&D (for example) chooses to spite people over their choice of bludgeoning weapon (historically it used to be warhammer weilders who got shafted compared to mace weilders, but in 5th oddly its now the other way around). Take out the names and make people select the ability packages, if a Rogue wants to use a light, finesse axe instead of a shortsword, why not?

WFRP is, however, pretty inconsistent about it. It does lump many weapons into the "hand weapon" category, but then it splits some of them away seemingly at random, like rapiers, flails or spears.

Tanarii
2021-09-10, 12:43 PM
The latter. You roll a dice pool including a fire from s broad category of action (like Arts and Culture) and then describe if you try to calm the monster down or distract them with sculpture when you know if you succeed.
There are people that play D&D that way, as far back as Thief skills, but more so since 3e skills. Also true in warhammer and palladium system back in the day. So it's nothing new to roleplaying.

PhoenixPhyre
2021-09-10, 01:07 PM
I think you would probably get similarly silly scenarios if you aplied the same “rules as physics” standard to most any game, RPG or not.

I don't just think, I know that this is the case. Doing it in 3e (Quertus's standard here) makes the universe fall apart entirely--it's entirely not consistent.

No set of playable rules will be sufficient or even well-adapted as physical laws. And vice versa. No viable set of physical laws will ever be well-suited for a game. That's because they're operating at two completely different layers and don't even address the same questions.


And the whole idea that rules and physical laws are the same betrays a complete lack of understanding of the nature of physical law. Rules are legalistic statements (XYZ is permissible, ABC is not), while physical laws are statements of observed reality (under ABC conditions, when XYZ happens, X'Y'Z' are observed). You can break the rules ("that's cheating" is a meaningful statement); you cannot break physical law--the statement is in and of itself nonsense. Instead, you can disprove physical laws by showing that under ABC conditions, when XYZ happens, something other than X'Y'Z' are observed. That means that what you thought was physical law wasn't, and instead the physical laws are different. That's a meaningless statement about game rules.

/former science teacher rant

sandmote
2021-09-10, 02:44 PM
Coming up with a concept first and trying to represent it in-game is a problem in all of D&D. 3.x only manages to alleviate it by piling up enough content to blot out the sun and even then there are some concepts that just won't work. 4E might be worse than other editions about it, though, since it does double down on D&D's general restrictiveness. I'm not sure my idea of "concept" was clear, as I have very little of a problem in 5e, and not much in 4e or 2e. Or maybe I'm just not creative. Since 13A feels closer to 5e on that front (even when keeping a lot of 4e-isms) I figure that might cause some of the discrepancy.

13A's Class Talents help a lot and the feats seems fairly flexible as well. I might not be able to get mechanical backing for every ability, but there's usually a class that can fully focus on the basic combat idea (beastmaster, or using a spear for area denial, or specializing in a particular type of spell) and still tie on a good variety of other aspects of how I want the character to work (being good at pulling a scam or being wise or being a meathead) independently. 4e is a little worse at this, partially because this is tied much closer to class and so combat focused. Plus more of the feats and powers just make numbers go up; I need a few levels before the build starts reflecting multiple aspects of what I want the Character to be good/bad at.

I also don't play very often at very high levels, so I prefer both systems to 3.X. While that system handles spellcasting fine, the ways it handles feats, class features, and skill ranks usually forces me to wait for a prestige class before I can get mechanical backing for most concepts. Pathfinder's Archetypes and Traits systems are a big improvement on that (as is the way it handles skill points).

Focusing back on 4e vs 13A, I think its that initial fist impression I described that sets up the difference in feel, and the ability of Champion/Epic material and Paragon/Epic Destinies Material is less important. I also suspect many people were comparing the early levels of 4e to Epic level 3.X, where 4e swaps out more things and 3.X stacks more on top. I think 13A handles "you get more as you level instead of replacing things" a lot better than 4e.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-10, 02:44 PM
I'm increasingly leaning towards this opinion. If a game isn't willing to go the distance and give me a robust selection of weapons - and most aren't - then just let me use whatever, however and whenever.

Honestly to me the ideal would be dropping them entirely followed by a 'build a weapon' system with a good list of examples. Witch reminds me, I now need to go back to my fantasy RPG and rework both damage and protection.

An idea I had was for characters in a D&D like game to have a class based weapon die, of they used a shield it drops one step but you gain +2 AC, if you're using a second weapon it drops two steps and take a penalty on your attack but roll two dice for damage. A game which I should probably write.

So Fighters might have a d10 weapon die, and Wizards might have a d6.weapon die.

I might also extend the idea to spells, but I'm also considering a spell pool. You have a bunch of d6s you can invest in spells witch determine their randomised elements. Powerful spells would turn give a negative modifier.


WFRP is, however, pretty inconsistent about it. It does lump many weapons into the "hand weapon" category, but then it splits some of them away seemingly at random, like rapiers, flails or spears.

I believe it's mostly legacy, if it got special rules in the wargame it gets a new category in the RPG, although some don't fall into that category.

The one that's definitely legacy is spears. Them being special in the wargame made perfect sense, here the times where their length is an advantage or disadvantage is best left up to the group and GM.

HumanFighter
2021-09-10, 03:13 PM
4th Ed D&D = Facepalm
No, but for real, I did have fun with 4E when it first came out, the combat especially. Skill system was meh (and a little disappointed by the stripping off so many skills). Magic system was not good, but tolerable and manageable. I remember making fighters who got trained in the Arcana skill, then I gave them the ritual caster feat, cuz why not haha.
I also liked 4E for its monsters, and its vivid fantasy flavor.
But one thing that really dragged and probably the reason I won't play it anymore is the complexity. The complexity of D&D 4E's combat and character design is one of its strengths, but also one of its most dire weaknesses, especially mid-to-high level.

Never actually played 13th Age yet, but I want to. Most of what I hear about it persistently intrigues me.

Cluedrew
2021-09-10, 08:01 PM
So where would you place a game like Risus or other similar very rules light games? On one hand, they do have rules for what a character can do but the amount and complexity of the rules seems a lot closer to a free-form game than something like D&D. (If you're not familiar, the rules for Risus are like two pages long in total).I consider Roll for Shoes to be a role-playing game, not even free-form, and its rules fit on an index card. Or in a forum post.
Say what you do and roll a number of d6s.
If the sum of your roll is higher than the opposing roll (either another player or the DM), the thing you wanted to happen, happens.
The number of the d6s you roll is determined by the level of skill you have.
At start, you have only one skill: Do anything 1.
If you roll all sixes on your roll, you can get new skill one level higher than the one you used for the action. The skill must be a subset of what happened to you in the action (Say, Athletics 2 if you were climbing a wall, or Teeth of Biting 2 if you were eating a cake).
For every roll you fail, you get 1 XP.
XP can be used to change a die into a 6 for advancement purposes but not for success purposes.I think that idea of control passing between the system and the players is the key thing. I mean I just though of it, I haven't worked out all the details but it seems pretty good.


It's an important distinction. If the decisions aren't about what the players character(a) is/are doing and is instead about story that characters are in, that's a storytelling game, not a roleplaying game.There is a difference? I mean I don't know what you thought I meant but I'm talking about but having (as an example) complete open combat but then little choice in what my character does after that, or, almost equivalently, my character's actions ignored by the evolving story is... well, I'll hear any arguments people have that it is a role-playing game. Actually I should explain my word choice, actually I was hoping one of story/fluff/flavor/narrative would get across I'm story of talking about what the mechanics represent. For instance, mechanically there are no open ended choices in most character creation systems. Picking classes, assigning skills, unlocking advanced moves, buying starting gear and so on does have a lot of options. But it is not open ended. On the other hand the narrative side of character creation, name, description, personality and backstory, those are open ended. Does that distinction make sense.

As an aside: another definition for a role-playing game I use: A storytelling game that focus on individual characters and figuring out what decisions they would make (that is to say, a storytelling game with role-playing). I know some people consider storytelling games to be the degenerate form of role-playing games, but I actually believe it is a super-genre of game because... well when I asked myself "What is a storytelling game?" I just found there was nothing about it that excluded role-playing games. Of course that means that storytelling game does in fact still include all those other types of games people don't like.

RandomPeasant
2021-09-10, 08:56 PM
Honestly to me the ideal would be dropping them entirely followed by a 'build a weapon' system with a good list of examples. Witch reminds me, I now need to go back to my fantasy RPG and rework both damage and protection.

I think of all the things I want to consider fiddly customization options on, weapons are at the absolute bottom of the list. Generally speaking, when a weapon that you care about shows up in a fantasy story, the reason you care about it is that it is in some way magically impressive. I can't tell you whether Stormbringer is a longsword or a greatsword or a bastard sword off the top of my head, but I can absolutely tell you that it's a blade of magical power and malignant intelligence.


So Fighters might have a d10 weapon die, and Wizards might have a d6.weapon die.

I don't understand why you would want to do that. It's just punching verisimilitude in the junk for no reason. If you want the Fighter to be better at using a sword, give him bonuses to using a sword. Don't make the amount of damage the actual sword deals dependent on who is swinging it.


A storytelling game that focus on individual characters and figuring out what decisions they would make (that is to say, a storytelling game with role-playing).

I think by that definition the process of creating any book or movie with multiple authors was a roleplaying game.

Tanarii
2021-09-10, 08:57 PM
Actually I should explain my word choice, actually I was hoping one of story/fluff/flavor/narrative would get across I'm story of talking about what the mechanics represent. For instance, mechanically there are no open ended choices in most character creation systems. Picking classes, assigning skills, unlocking advanced moves, buying starting gear and so on does have a lot of options. But it is not open ended. On the other hand the narrative side of character creation, name, description, personality and backstory, those are open ended. Does that distinction make sense.Yes it does. I thought you were talking about the activity involved in playing the game.


As an aside: another definition for a role-playing game I use: A storytelling game that focus on individual characters and figuring out what decisions they would make (that is to say, a storytelling game with role-playing). I know some people consider storytelling games to be the degenerate form of role-playing games, but I actually believe it is a super-genre of game because... well when I asked myself "What is a storytelling game?" I just found there was nothing about it that excluded role-playing games. Of course that means that storytelling game does in fact still include all those other types of games people don't like.
They are not mutually exclusive, and there are plenty of games that explicitly blend the two within their rules. As well as many group choosing to mix and match elements of both outside of the rules structure. It's a matter of if you're playing a character or playing a story (or some third option), and it's entirely possible to do some of each. Or not.

13th Age for example has a few elements designed to encourage the player to spend some time playing a story rather than a character. That's unsurprising though. Heinsoo definitely understands and clearly espouses some degree of narrative mechanics for players. I don't know if that came about after 4e though. Because it didn't include them. But that may have been a WOTC directive.

Cluedrew
2021-09-10, 09:26 PM
I think by that definition the process of creating any book or movie with multiple authors was a roleplaying game.I don't see why, it's not a storytelling game to begin with so it cannot be a role-playing game. It might be a storytelling tool, process or exercise but that doesn't make it a role-playing game. Now the occasional game can lead to a story so I suppose you could use a role-playing game as a storytelling tool, but is designing a city a city building game?


It's a matter of if you're playing a character or playing a story (or some third option), and it's entirely possible to do some of each. Or not.I mean, I consider the three fundamental building blocks to be character, setting and plot. So if you are playing a character you are playing a story* (that's role-playing games). If you are playing a setting you are playing a story* (Macroscope and Questlandia). If you are playing a plot you are playing a story* (I don't know if people actually do this). I'm not sure how you get involved in characters (not just pieces with flavour text) without getting involved in a story. Which is how I arrived at the idea that storytelling games is a broader group than role-playing games. I don't actually have a question but I expect to get some different views on this idea.

* I might be entirely off by what you meant by "playing a story", it would explain the confusion.

Tanarii
2021-09-10, 09:31 PM
I mean, I consider the three fundamental building blocks to be character, setting and plot. So if you are playing a character you are playing a story* (that's role-playing games). If you are playing a setting you are playing a story* (Macroscope and Questlandia). If you are playing a plot you are playing a story* (I don't know if people actually do this). I'm not sure how you get involved in characters (not just pieces with flavour text) without getting involved in a story. Which is how I arrived at the idea that storytelling games is a broader group than role-playing games. I don't actually have a question but I expect to get some different views on this idea.

* I might be entirely off by what you meant by "playing a story", it would explain the confusion.
Plot isn't required for most RPG games. Nor is story. Depending on the game, you might need character, setting and hooks. Or you might have character and story. Or you might even just have setting and story. Or even just story.

Storytelling games aren't broader group than roleplaying games because roleplaying doesn't require storytelling. For that matter, many games that used to be advertised as storytelling games often don't even inherently include any storytelling or narrative mechanics. looking at you White Wolf.

A good example of playing the story would be Fate Points or the like that get to define how something external to the character happens, because story. That's a narrative mechanic.

In regards to this discussion, the Icon Dice were a 13th Age had a storytelling aspect, as does One Unique Thing. They both are aspects of the character that allow the player to define things external to the character.

RandomPeasant
2021-09-10, 09:45 PM
I don't see why, it's not a storytelling game to begin with so it cannot be a role-playing game. It might be a storytelling tool, process or exercise but that doesn't make it a role-playing game. Now the occasional game can lead to a story so I suppose you could use a role-playing game as a storytelling tool, but is designing a city a city building game?

Well then you're just shifting the ambiguity up one level. What is a "storytelling game"? For that matter, what is a "game"? Is there really a principled distinction between optimizing within the rules of the existing system of Shadowrun or Magic: The Gathering and optimizing within the existing system of the US legal code?

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-11, 06:08 AM
I think of all the things I want to consider fiddly customization options on, weapons are at the absolute bottom of the list. Generally speaking, when a weapon that you care about shows up in a fantasy story, the reason you care about it is that it is in some way magically impressive. I can't tell you whether Stormbringer is a longsword or a greatsword or a bastard sword off the top of my head, but I can absolutely tell you that it's a blade of magical power and malignant intelligence.

Cool, add the ability to have weapons be massively powerful and sentient into the books a weapon system.


I don't understand why you would want to do that. It's just punching verisimilitude in the junk for no reason. If you want the Fighter to be better at using a sword, give him bonuses to using a sword. Don't make the amount of damage the actual sword deals dependent on who is swinging it.

Simplicity is it's own reward.

The wizard just isn't worldwide the sword as well, and as such is going to do less damage with it. This doesn't break my verisimilitude.

Cluedrew
2021-09-11, 08:05 AM
Plot isn't required for most RPG games. Nor is story. Depending on the game, you might need character, setting and hooks. Or you might have character and story. Or you might even just have setting and story. Or even just story.OK, I flat out have no idea what you mean by this. How do you play a game without doing things and generating some plot? And as long as you have the fiction layer you should have a story. I mean you don't need a planned plot if that's what you are talking about.

To RandomPeasant: I'm aware its still ambiguous, as I said I don't have any perfect definition* and so every definition I say is imperfect. Captures some important aspects but probably leaves out some detail. "Shifting the ambiguity up" those I think is a win if it is towards terms people have a better understanding of (in this case, probably not storytelling game but maybe game itself).

I hope the US legal code was not designed for the sake of entertaining lawyers.

* Unless you include "Storytelling Game: What I mean when I say storytelling game." I wouldn't because while its perfectly precise it is also enormously unhelpful.

On Weapons: I know some systems where the weapons rules actually change between characters. Usually there is some base weapons rules that most characters use but one or two of the combat classes will have a special subsystem for getting cooler weapons. Like if you wanted to mimic the old "tool for everything fighter" the weapons would actually be presented as fighter special abilities.

OldTrees1
2021-09-11, 10:00 AM
Plot isn't required for most RPG games. Nor is story. Depending on the game, you might need character, setting and hooks. Or you might have character and story. Or you might even just have setting and story. Or even just story.

Storytelling games aren't broader group than roleplaying games because roleplaying doesn't require storytelling. For that matter, many games that used to be advertised as storytelling games often don't even inherently include any storytelling or narrative mechanics. looking at you White Wolf.

I believe this indicates you have a much stricter definition of certain key words (Plot, Story, Storytelling, and Storytelling game for example).

An RPG game will have things happen. Those things do not need to be planned. Those things do not need to include narrative mechanics. At the end of the session you could look back at the session and see a sequence of events that occurred. That sequence of events involved some number of nouns that (past tense verb) and happened somewhere. This emergent byproduct of the session might or might not be something the players care about.

So if you have a stricter definition of "Storytelling Game" than White Wolf is using, then perhaps your "Storytelling Game meaning" is a subset of their "Storytelling Game meaning" but not a subset of "RPGs". Thus White Wolf is an instance of RPG within their "Storytelling Game meaning" but not within your "Storytelling Game meaning".

Quertus
2021-09-11, 10:16 AM
Quertus, you've got some basic misunderstandings of the 4e skill challenge system. But your combination of how you think it works with trying to treat the game mechanics as a physics engine for the in-universe world resulted in a truly entertaining little essay 😂👍

Glad you enjoyed it. I tried to have more fun describing the elephant's "rope" than I would have had I actually tried to *show* the elephant, and fully define RPGs.

To roleplay - as *I* define the term - you have to treat the mechanics as world physics. Because, as *I* define role-playing, it's like stances(?): whenever you're thinking in terms of mechanics when making your choices, you aren't role-playing. So the mechanics - the world physics engine - have to be integrated into your character's experiences, so that you're not breaking character to make your choices, to play the game.

That is what makes something a Role-Playing Game, as I define the term.



Also, and I'm not sure on this, doesn't FR get retconned so it's always worked on the latest edition rules when the change occurs. The almost planetary disasters make for convenient breaks, but I though the underlying assumption was that the world didn't go *ping* and suddenly Bards could wear Chain Shirts.

Although I doubt the FR stories will agree with this, I also certainly hope that 4e FR did not draw upon the Dark Arts of Retcon.


To [BQuertus[/B]: Yes I see it and I read it. OK basically your argument is "I found that D&D 4e prohibited my role-playing instead of enabling it", is that right? In that case I see where you are coming from. Its kind of like how chess isn't a role-playing game even though you can try to get into the mind of your queen-side bishop. But still I see two problems with this:
I didn't have this problem (at least no more than other editions of D&D) and we could poll for more opinions what makes it more than a matter of taste? I know that skill challenges had problems, but for me its because it didn't represent the world, not that the world it represented was insane.
Wouldn't that just make it a bad role-playing game? I don't think quality should be part of the definition and while there exist comically bad games (two "Games that will be not be named" and the one from the SUE Files come to mind) I think those are still role-playing games without question.



Yeah, this. For something to not even qualify as an RPG, it would presumably be something that you can't roleplay in. Which quite a few people do in 4e, even if Quertus isn't one of them.


Fair enough, though I'm still curious what sort of definition of RPG that would include most editions of D&D, other games we typically consider RPGs (unless there are more games Quertus disqualifies from being RPGs) but specifically not 4e.

Now, remember, that was just me feeling around and describing "it's like a rope", rather than the full elephant of my definition of role-playing, and thereby of RPGs.

(By (a simplified version of) my definitions)

To be a RPG, it must have both "RP" and "G".

Most everyone agrees on that.

I take it one step further, and insist that… Hmmm…

(I got this wrong in my first attempt; hopefully, my edits no longer reflect this failure)

… "it is the natural and intended flow of the game for most minigames to be played in the 'RP stance'; that is, you can, and you should, but not that you must, roleplay in (most minigames of) an RPG."

(Most of the time, you're not role-playing during the character creation minigame, for example.)

Playing your Knight as having an affair with the Queen, and your Bishop therefore working for the enemy… isn't Chess, as most envision it. In Chess, role-playing is actively disruptive to the intended flow.

And there's more. Computer games fail at, like, the first order derivative of that, or something. If I'm in a so-called CRPG, and ask, "WWQD?", I'll often hit "well, he'd do something the game wasn't programmed to handle.". So I have to break "RP stance" and, for purely metagame reasons, choose differently. Thus, CRPGs are not RPGs, by my definitions. The open-ended ability of the G to handle the output of the RP is a necessity for an RPG.

4e fails not just by not handling things outside the box well, but by the 'G' not being accessable to the RP (as I explained above, and in the Spoiler).

But let me feel around in this dark room for more of the elephant.

By my definitions, in order be role-playing, when you take an action, the answer to the question "why?" must definitionally already have been answered. You have to have previously processed the events that led to the choice you're making now. So, cluedrew, your character who looks at her rings whenever she's nervous? Not role-playing, by my definition. Most of Angry's recent article on "role-playing"? It's talking about what I call "character creation", and talking about creating your character during the game. :smallyuk:

So, every time you make *any* decision in a game, pretend I'm there asking you, "why?". If your reason is based on mechanics, it's not role-playing. If you have to make something up to answer the question all the way back to "first principles" / "foundation events" (this needs a better name), then it is not, by my definitions, role-playing.

Bruce Wayne became Batman. Why? Because his patents were killed in front of him, and he thought bats were scary. Why? Oh, an incident in a cave (that later became the bat cave). He never uses guns. Why? His parents were killed with a gun.

Sure, other characters put in that scenario might have developed differently. Bruce Paine may well have become Ratman, master of guns in the night. And that's fine. But, either way, you've got solid personality traits, built on clear causal foundations.

Now, I said that the work has to have already been done. But technically that doesn't guarantee that you can instantly do the full deep dive answer to give first principles.

Turns out, there was an important piece of Armus' history that I had, quite simply, forgotten. But all of his personality traits, all of their subtle details, had been formed with that in mind, shaped by it for as long as I remembered it. So, once I read and "rediscovered" that fact, I saw that there was nothing in his roleplay (or what of it I could remember of it over the course of the next few weeks) that was inconsistent with that fact. Because all of his traits were shaped by that fact, all of his traits and actions reflected that fact, even when I did not actively remember said fact.

Gah. I said that in all the wrong order. Let me try again.

If I just said, "Quertus is a tactically inept academia mage", and asked others to roleplay him? What they played wouldn't be *him*. Because there's so much more subtlety to the exact nature of even those traits, that isn't covered by those few words. It's the fine details, the exact nature how those manifest, which is formed by *why* Quertus had those personality traits in the first place, that makes him the character that he is.

Or, take me for example. I have some… "materialistic" tendencies (not what others call them), and I'm not very… "generous"… except to a select few people I really care about. I (mostly) had no idea *why* I was this way, but my Mom commented casually that it's because, when I was little, my dad sold all my toys for drinking money.

Now, that's not the *only* reason for those behaviors - or, at least, not the only things shaping them. And, through my introspection, I understood those other foundations and how they shaped the behavior. But when my Mom made that statement about the origins of the behavior, it didn't feel like a retcon - it actually fit with the subtle details of the behavior.

And that's the level of… thing… that is required for it to be worth my time to think about, for me to not want to turn my brain off. That is what is required for something to match my definition of role-playing.

Again, we're not at my full definition, this is just feeling the elephant in a dark room. But feel the direction, enough to understand some things that aren't elephants?

RandomPeasant
2021-09-11, 10:53 AM
"Shifting the ambiguity up" those I think is a win if it is towards terms people have a better understanding of (in this case, probably not storytelling game but maybe game itself).

But "game" isn't really clarifying in this context. No one thinks 4e isn't a game, people disagree about what type of game it is. So if you're importing the bulk of your meaning for "RPG" from "game", you haven't really solved the problem.


I hope the US legal code was not designed for the sake of entertaining lawyers.

Not every game is designed for the purpose of entertaining people, let alone played for that reason. Consider the difference between a flight simulator being used to train a pilot, and one being played for fun. What makes one different from the other? I don't think you can really argue that it's the fidelity of the simulation or something, because I'm sure there are people who would play a flight simulator at any level of fidelity you cared to provide.

Cluedrew
2021-09-11, 11:28 AM
So the mechanics - the world physics engine - have to be integrated into your character's experiences, so that you're not breaking character to make your choices, to play the game.And HP doesn't completely throw this out the window? Like Quertus is a pretty high level wizard be now right? So if someone with average strength came up to Quertus and started stabbing him with a knife, Quertus could probably wait for a full minute before reacting to that and nothing he was wearing or carrying would be damaged by this. And you have no issue integrating this into the world? Is that actually how Quertus (the character) thinks about getting stabbed or have you patched over it and now do so reflexively? This is not a rhetorical question, in fact you might be the only person I would pose this question to as a non-rhetorical question.


But "game" isn't really clarifying in this context. No one thinks 4e isn't a game, people disagree about what type of game it is. So if you're importing the bulk of your meaning for "RPG" from "game", you haven't really solved the problem.Well I'll have to ask Tanarii if additional information about how I view the relationship between role-playing games and storytelling games helped them explain to me what they thought the difference between the two was. That's the problem I was trying to solve when I posted it. (I completely forgot why I created the definition in the first place.) It isn't related directly to 13th Age vs D&D 4e, only through the bit where we are trying to hammer out what a role-playing game is.


Not every game is designed for the purpose of entertaining people, let alone played for that reason. Consider the difference between a flight simulator being used to train a pilot, and one being played for fun. What makes one different from the other?Yeah I don't know, maybe nothing. There is a reason I have been bringing up the fact these definitions are imperfect. If you think you have a perfect definition for it feel free to bring it forward. But honestly a perfect definition that truly encapsulates everything a word can mean is REALLY HARD. And a lot of the boxes we like to draw with them turn out to not have clear edges.

PhoenixPhyre
2021-09-11, 12:06 PM
Not every game is designed for the purpose of entertaining people, let alone played for that reason. Consider the difference between a flight simulator being used to train a pilot, and one being played for fun. What makes one different from the other? I don't think you can really argue that it's the fidelity of the simulation or something, because I'm sure there are people who would play a flight simulator at any level of fidelity you cared to provide.

Context. "Game" isn't a property of the simulator, but a property of the uses to which the simulator is being put.

And "Game" isn't a binary either. It's a spectrum--there are more-game-like uses and less-game-like uses, without clear boundaries between "game" and "not-game".

Some factors that influence me in determining whether some activity is more-game-like or less-game-like[0]:
1) what is the primary motivating factor in participating in that activity? If it's fun, then the activity is likely more game-like.
2) what are the consequences for failure for the players? The lower those are, the more game-like the activity.
3) are there mutually-agreed on "rules of conduct" (ie meta-rules) for the game? Are there tactics that are considered less fitting, despite not being against the non-meta-rules? If so, it's more game-like.

So war games are more game like than real war, but less game like than an idle chess contest in the park between old friends. Professional sporting events are less game-like (higher consequences, participants are motivated by other factors other than just fun) than rec-league sporting events, all else being equal. Etc.

Under these conditions, 4e is definitely generally used on the more game-like end of the spectrum. It's engaged in for fun, the consequences of failure for the players are...non-existent, since failure for the players isn't a well-defined concept, and there are strong meta-rules (ie you're adventurers, doing adventuring things, so playing a shopkeeper who never goes out to adventure isn't part of the game, despite the fact that you could, in principle, create a character who does nothing but keep shop).



But honestly a perfect definition that truly encapsulates everything a word can mean is REALLY HARD. And a lot of the boxes we like to draw with them turn out to not have clear edges.

Agreed. Natural language is allergic to unambiguous definitions with clear boundaries. As is, basically, life. Instead, I find it best to use heuristics. In this case, the duck heuristic[1].

1. Does 4e call itself an RPG? Yes. That's a necessary, but not sufficient criterion.
2. Is 4e marketed and played as a game? Yes. See above.
3. Does 4e involve playing roles? Yes. Specifically, the players act as specific, discrete individuals with specific roles in a could-be-real world. And the DM plays lots of such roles, often in series. And actions are intended to be guided by those roles and are open ended, not merely by some abstract optimality considerations on a fixed moveset[2].

Is it, by this heuristic, a role-playing game? Yes. Is it a good RPG? That's a subjective matter that I'll leave up to the individual.

[0] Rulesets and programs aren't games, except by shorthand attribution, assuming that they're only used for activities that end up on the more-game end of the spectrum. The same ruleset can be used both as more-game and less-game; cf soccer.
[1] Does it look like a duck? Walk like a duck? Quack like a duck? Then it's likely a duck.
[2] Which distinguishes it from a board game, where every possible action is encoded in the rules and the only thing that matters is winning. The more a game encourages abstract optimization over character and role-based decision making, the less RP it is. 4e isn't the best at this particular criterion, but it certainly does have encouragements for character-based decision-making. Unless the player chooses to ignore those. Which is their right; one factor in TTRPGs is that the rules are non-binding unless the table decides they're binding. There's no external referee that can tell you you're doing it wrong and make that judgement stick.

Tanarii
2021-09-11, 12:21 PM
OK, I flat out have no idea what you mean by this. How do you play a game without doing things and generating some plot? And as long as you have the fiction layer you should have a story. I mean you don't need a planned plot if that's what you are talking about.Not at all. Storytelling is either recounting events that have happened, collaboratively controlling the world and events external to the character often retroactively (usually through narrative mechanics), or a controlled series of events in the world that only the author can impact (a plot). Only the middle one usually applies to TTRPGs. The last one often does technically apply for the introduction of new adventure hooks before the characters interact (on the GM's part), but also in the case of railroading.


I believe this indicates you have a much stricter definition of certain key words (Plot, Story, Storytelling, and Storytelling game for example).

An RPG game will have things happen. Those things do not need to be planned. Those things do not need to include narrative mechanics. At the end of the session you could look back at the session and see a sequence of events that occurred. That sequence of events involved some number of nouns that (past tense verb) and happened somewhere. This emergent byproduct of the session might or might not be something the players care about.Things happening and the resulting story that can be told after the fact are two different things. Things happening in an RPG doesn't automatically make for storytelling any more than living my life is living the story of my life.


So if you have a stricter definition of "Storytelling Game" than White Wolf is using, then perhaps your "Storytelling Game meaning" is a subset of their "Storytelling Game meaning" but not a subset of "RPGs". Thus White Wolf is an instance of RPG within their "Storytelling Game meaning" but not within your "Storytelling Game meaning".As far as I can tell, white Wolf uses "storytelling game" to mean "you should focusing on characterization not mechanics" and "the GM will run campaigns about things other than dungeon delving and similar adventuring sites".

There are lots of modern RPGs that actually have storytelling aspects to them, through narrative mechanics. And there are others in which the table does with without those elements, by players participating in defining events and parts of the world external to the character's actions. 13th Age has some of them. I don't recall 4e having any though.

This is distinct from Roleplaying, in which you decide things for your character and what they will do, and either the rules or the GM resolves what happens in universe as a result.

RandomPeasant
2021-09-11, 12:42 PM
There is a reason I have been bringing up the fact these definitions are imperfect. If you think you have a perfect definition for it feel free to bring it forward. But honestly a perfect definition that truly encapsulates everything a word can mean is REALLY HARD. And a lot of the boxes we like to draw with them turn out to not have clear edges.

As have I. Which is why you don't want to think about it in terms of definitions at all. Better to think of it in terms of examples.


Professional sporting events are less game-like (higher consequences, participants are motivated by other factors other than just fun) than rec-league sporting events, all else being equal. Etc.

But they're not. I don't think that anyone you would care to ask about the subject considers NFL-level football "less a game" than high school football. Similarly, there are all sorts of political norms that politicians typically follow beyond simply the constitutional or statutory limits of their countries, but I don't think many people would call politics a "game" in the same way that Poker or World of Warcraft or Exalted are games.


Is it, by this heuristic, a role-playing game? Yes. Is it a good RPG? That's a subjective matter that I'll leave up to the individual.

But so is "is it a role-playing game". Picking the heuristic is the easy part, the hard part is the argument that the heuristic is an accurate and effective match for our intuitions.


Which distinguishes it from a board game, where every possible action is encoded in the rules and the only thing that matters is winning.

Says who? What stops you from playing Risk with the goal of unifying and defending Europe, or playing Clue as a character who's too uptight to set foot in the kitchens? Certainly the other players might be bothered by it, but the other players will typically be bothered by extremely mechanically suboptimal decisions in a TTRPG too.


There's no external referee that can tell you you're doing it wrong and make that judgement stick.

And there is one in boardgames? Free Parking in Monopoly famously does whatever you can convince the other players it does. The rules of any game are enforced by the people participating in that game. Even when there is an external referee, he's there because the teams have agreed to it, just as you could hypothetically find someone whose opinions on the rules you think are generally good and abide by their decisions in all debates that arise while playing D&D.

Cluedrew
2021-09-11, 02:40 PM
To PhoenixPhyre: I like your follow up but have nothing to add to it.

To Tanarii: I guess it comes down to making up completely fictional characters and events, even if those characters and events reflect the rules given by a role-playing game, is storytelling. Maybe not just stating up a character, but giving them a backstory counts (OK its not quite storytelling if you don't mention it to anyone, story writing?), as does adding flavour text to there moves even in strict 4e-style combat and so does narrating what they do with their down time. And I kind of don't see why people don't think that is storytelling. Because storytelling does involve creating setting and figuring out what is in each scene is part of storytelling, but also includes figuring out who the characters are and what they do. People are kind of obsessed with people, and so people are at the center of a lot of stories people tell.

To RandomPeasant: Do you want examples of something? I'm sure where you are trying to go with this.

Talakeal
2021-09-11, 03:01 PM
This is not a rhetorical question, in fact you might be the only person I would pose this question to as a non-rhetorical question.

While it is an extremely alien mindset to me, Quertus is far from the first person I have seen espouse such a view on these forums. Lots of people play with the “HP are meat therefore high level PCs are superheroes and immune to normal weapons” on this forum.

Heck, one of the first long threads I remember on this forum was when a DM had a plot hook involving the inheritance of a mid level knight who died in a horseback riding accident off screen and the players calling the GM a cheater because it was impossible by the rules, and the people in that thread were pretty much fifty fifty about whose side they took.

Tanarii
2021-09-11, 03:12 PM
To Tanarii: I guess it comes down to making up completely fictional characters and events, even if those characters and events reflect the rules given by a role-playing game, is storytelling. Maybe not just stating up a character, but giving them a backstory counts (OK its not quite storytelling if you don't mention it to anyone, story writing?), as does adding flavour text to there moves even in strict 4e-style combat and so does narrating what they do with their down time. And I kind of don't see why people don't think that is storytelling. Because storytelling does involve creating setting and figuring out what is in each scene is part of storytelling, but also includes figuring out who the characters are and what they do. People are kind of obsessed with people, and so people are at the center of a lot of stories people tell.
As has been brought up before on this board, the first sentence is so broad a definition of storytelling as to be functionally useless.

I completely agree backstory is ... well, story. That's why I understood what you were talking about when you said you were talking about making up character background elements rather than talking about gameplay itself.

Description is ... I'm ambivalent about that. I generally see that as a form of resolution if it's part of play. Because I consider the fluff/crunch model of RPG analysis to generally be flawed. However, since we're talking about 4e and 13th Age and Heinsoo, it's relevant because he tells us it's relevant. Certainly being free to make up any descriptive elements you feel fit the game play actions taken is inherent to both the games. With all the handwringing over disassociated mechanics that comes with it.

In short, sure you can fluff the crunch any way you want by the RAW of 4e (and IIRC 13th Age), but it doesn't automatically tie back into something usable for resolution on the part of either player or GM. If you take it too far trying to tie the rules back in, you end up with Quertus-world or Tippy-verse. But if you don't take it far enough, players can't make informed decisions and GMs can't make informed resolutions.

But yeah, if you mean "describing things about your character and what they do in-universe is inherent to roleplaying games" when you say they are storytelling games, I agree with your point just not the definition.

Telok
2021-09-11, 09:34 PM
One issue for my group with 4e was whether or not the fiction should match the rules, or if the rules should match the fiction. I think that 4e mostly worked if you did rules>fiction in combat and then flipped to fiction>rules for everything else.

This was perhaps most obvious with the druid character. There was a utility power that transformed them into a cat. By the rules the only thing this did was make the druid tiny, look like a cat, and add +5 to stealth rolls for up to about 5 minutes. Also you couldn't pick anything up or make any form of attack. By the rules it didn't change how hard it was to identify the race of the druid, or even change that from "elf" to "cat". It didn't do anything about climbing or changing your senses, and trying to catch mice or drag a cat toy around (no picking anything up) was impossible. Even worse not only did the +5 stealth not make a druid any good at level-appropriate stealth, since stealth wasn't an allowed druid skill, but by the rules the power didn't last long enough to do hardly any sneaking around.

Basically the rules for the power and 4e didn't let it work for its supposed fiction purpose, probably because encoding the actual rules to be funtional out of combat would likely have made it "too powerful" in combat. You had to ignore the rules when out of combat for things to work properly in the fiction, or you had this weird fiction where your "turn into a cat" power didn't mean "turn into a cat" but did a strange faux-cat shrinky not-disguise thing.

Kymme
2021-09-12, 02:21 AM
I'm increasingly leaning towards this opinion. If a game isn't willing to go the distance and give me a robust selection of weapons - and most aren't - then just let me use whatever, however and whenever.

Making weapons more abstract is something I've begun to appreciate more and more. In something like Mythender, for instance, your characters weapons are abstracted to the point that you can pretty much play a character with any strange fighting style or mythical superpowers you want, and I find that freedom really valuable. It's one of the reasons why I love the way Masks: A New Generation approaches superpowers. You have so much freedom to come up with all kinds of creative powersets and abilities when the system abstracts them.

Batcathat
2021-09-12, 03:42 AM
Plot isn't required for most RPG games.

Out of curiosity, how do you define "plot"? Because by my definition, even something as simple as "go into the dungeon, kill the goblins, take their stuff" is a plot.


Making weapons more abstract is something I've begun to appreciate more and more. In something like Mythender, for instance, your characters weapons are abstracted to the point that you can pretty much play a character with any strange fighting style or mythical superpowers you want, and I find that freedom really valuable. It's one of the reasons why I love the way Masks: A New Generation approaches superpowers. You have so much freedom to come up with all kinds of creative powersets and abilities when the system abstracts them.

That's interesting, I was about to suggest that weapons could be handled in a similar way to how Mutants & Masterminds handle superpowers. I suppose it makes sense that systems that want to handle diverse superpowers have to be pretty flexible.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-12, 05:06 AM
Making weapons more abstract is something I've begun to appreciate more and more. In something like Mythender, for instance, your characters weapons are abstracted to the point that you can pretty much play a character with any strange fighting style or mythical superpowers you want, and I find that freedom really valuable. It's one of the reasons why I love the way Masks: A New Generation approaches superpowers. You have so much freedom to come up with all kinds of creative powersets and abilities when the system abstracts them.

I should probably have a look at both of those, although the Cypher System rulebook does Cody nearly £60(!).

But yes, as I've grown out of my teens I've lost the idea that lots of rules or less of weapons is inherently good. When it's as in depth as GURPS with the X-tech books it's nice, but most people I know struggle building GURPS characters.

Actually, I do like that the Cypher System seems to boil weapons down to three/six categories, maybe I should actually get that core rulebook. Maybe when it's actually on Amazon UK and so a bit cheaper...

Kymme
2021-09-12, 05:42 AM
Mythender is actually free online! (http://mythendersrd.com/) Masks is not, unfortunately, but it's only like 14 bucks.

Mutants and Masterminds goes in a great direction, with superpowers that are relatively abstract and effects-based, which keeps them pretty clear and concise. Not a huge fan of how it works in practice, though. Tying everything to the d20 is a bit of a weakness of that system. ICONS, made by the same creator, takes this a bit further and makes some neat improvements. I've never gotten a chance to play it, but it seems pretty neat.

Anonymouswizard
2021-09-12, 06:02 AM
I'll certainly nab Member next time I'm in my laptop rather than my phone.

My problem with Mutants & Masterminds is that Wild Talents does even more versatility with even fewer Effects.

My problem with both is that I'm just over complicated games. If more than happily play 13th Age, but it's too much for me to run. The same with the various Warhammer games, I love them but unless I can get ahold of a physical copy of Dark Heresy 1e again I just don't have the patience or eyesight to make my way through the books (and desire it's claims Wrath & Glory is at least as crunchy as Dark Heresy was, all I feel I've lost it's the quick hit location system which made 'where do you have armour' a worthwhile question). I've found much lighter and easier to run games for most things though, and I'm sure I can hack a Dark Heresy 3e together, maybe from the Warhammer fantasy Roleplay 4e rules.

So yeah, I'd love a very simple superhero game that doesn't involve CP counting for superpowers.

Quertus
2021-09-12, 11:58 AM
And HP doesn't completely throw this out the window? Like Quertus is a pretty high level wizard be now right? So if someone with average strength came up to Quertus and started stabbing him with a knife, Quertus could probably wait for a full minute before reacting to that and nothing he was wearing or carrying would be damaged by this. And you have no issue integrating this into the world? Is that actually how Quertus (the character) thinks about getting stabbed or have you patched over it and now do so reflexively? This is not a rhetorical question, in fact you might be the only person I would pose this question to as a non-rhetorical question.

Lol. I'm glad I'm distinctive. :smallcool:

Gah, what order to say this, to make it most clear? Hmmm… maybe treat it as slips of paper, left by the Oracle, that you have to sort into your own meaning?

D&D is "like the real world, unless noted otherwise". So why is it hard for people to accept the possibility that HP is a "noted otherwise"?

HP aren't just an abstraction. They're an in-game reality. There have been numerous items that measure HP, spells that key off HP, etc.

D&D doesn't have *mechanics* for pain (mostly); that is covered at the fluff level / characters are at 100% until they're dead. But the pain still exists - even Milo acknowledged it (he just then ignore it). And this "injuries are painful, but not debilitating" is simply another way that the world is different. I'll admit, my roleplay occasionally doesn't reflect this difference (usually when an NPC's actions don't reflect this difference).

Quertus (my signature academia mage for whom this account is named) has been to numerous worlds. And he's noticed that the very nature of reality changes between them.

On some worlds, HP are "meat points", and people (technically including himself, not that he'd ever) can just sit there and tank being stabbed repeatedly. On others, it represents a combination of luck, skill, and meat, where the 4-HP peasant just takes the knife to the gut, whereas the high HP character *mostly* dodges the blow, barely getting scratched (and would still die to a single stab if bound/immobilized). On still others, it's HP. What, you think there should be more to it than that?

On some worlds (/ under some GMs), if you try to just tank a dagger to the gut or just tank having your throat slit, you'll be dead, regardless of your HP.

Myself, I used to try to square the circle, and treat HP as perfectly reasonable IRL. Any more, however, I realize that that is a silly requirement, like expecting D&D spells, or D&D jump rules, to work IRL exactly like in the book.

Max and I had a discussion about HP once. Max insisted that they couldn't do X, I countered with how they could. Repeat for Y, Z, and on beyond Zebra. Eventually, he got a point where, when I squinted hard enough, I was pretty sure he was right, and that they finally did break down as an abstraction for something IRL would consider "reasonable". But it didn't bother me, because it happened beyond the point of anything that had ever come up in a game, and beyond the point that I could really comprehend it.

Whereas "child helping mommy in the kitchen"? Party role protection? "Can I help?"? "Can you give me a hand here?"? These are things that come up all the time.

Whereas "how people think"? "How 'being skillful' works / what that means"? Having no comprehension of it at all is how you get Cthulhu tech modules with "there's no forensic evidence, because the abductors knew medicine", and is not conducive to anything I'd likely call role-playing.

Yet another reason my characters are "not from around here". They grew up with a "reasonable" understanding of physics, and, if the GM does something really weird, they'll evidence their surprise, and deal with the new world's unusual buoyancy laws in character.

Most of my characters are cowards compared to a Determinator. They come from worlds where injuries hurt, and Death happens to the unwary. (See also Talakeal's thread about how many steps away from failure one is comfortable being).

As far as Quertus being damaged? He regenerates faster than that. (Insert SaO reference here). But, as cool as it may have been when Kirito did it, that's not Quertus' style. Daggers hurt! And Quertus is an academic, not an adventurer (insert "he's in denial" joke here)

As far as Quertus' items being damaged? Most have been soaking in Placian magic for untold millennia - they're sturdier than most artifacts. They might be disgruntled about having been stabbed, and look a little more worn after the fact (Quertus has a permanent illusion on him… of himself. Those who can pierce the illusion can notice when he takes damage, can see that his robes look more threadbare than the pristine illusion, etc), but they won't be damaged by much short of a Sphere of Annihilation. His mundane gear, however, is perfectly capable of being damaged or ruined by a muggle knife. Granted, on most worlds, that requires a called shot / intent for a knife (unlike AoE damage, like grenades, that can mess up his muggle gear regardless of intent (on some worlds)).

In short, no, D&D HP do not prohibit role-playing, at least not for someone like me whose understanding of them has a higher "depth covered" than "depth comprehended". And my "depth covered" covers everything that's come up at the table for, what, 40 years now?

(And remember, this is still based on me just groping around for the elephant's parts, rather than going through the tremendous effort of actually trying to fully define the elephant.)

EDIT: additive vs subtractive! I'll bet a penny that's (at least related to) your issue (or my lack thereof)! I'll cover this when I get time.

Tanarii
2021-09-12, 11:59 AM
Out of curiosity, how do you define "plot"? Because by my definition, even something as simple as "go into the dungeon, kill the goblins, take their stuff" is a plot.You're going to have to articulate your own definition that covers something like that, because I'm interested to see a definition that isn't so broad as to be functionally useless that covers a hook like that.

A plot is the underlying narrative tying together the events of a story. That makes it highly dependent on if something is a story or not.

More generally speaking in terms of RPGs, something is a plot only while under control of the author (usually the GM). As soon as it comes out of the module or notes/mind of the GM and interfaces with the players, there is no longer an underlying narrative. Unless they are making choices to retain or rebuild a narrative, instead of determine actions for their characters, or unless the GM is railroading for the same purposes, any underlying narrative has been shredded. There is no longer an underlying narrative to the game any more than there is an underlying narrative to me living my life.

That pretty much summarizes the root cause of why I object to the idea that RPGs are collaborative storytelling. They don't have an underlying narrative if I'm making decisions for my characters as if they are people living a (usually highly exciting) life, facing events in their life. Only if I'm making decisions to actually create an underlying narrative instead. They're mutually exclusive reasons for making decisions, as far as I'm concerned.

Example using your 'plot'. Choosing to "go into the dungeon, kill the goblins, take their stuff" because that's the adventure the DM has written is a narrative choice. Choosing to do it because my character wants to get rich, believes these goblins deserve to die, or really likes dank smelly caves is a non-narrative character-living-their-life choice.

Batcathat
2021-09-12, 12:16 PM
You're going to have to articulate your own definition that covers something like that, because I'm interested to see a definition that isn't so broad as to be functionally useless that covers a hook like that.

A term isn't useless just because it's broad. The word "house" can describe everything from a tiny cabin to a skyscraper, that doesn't mean it's meaningless.


More generally speaking in terms of RPGs, something is a plot only while under control of the author (usually the GM). As soon as it comes out of the module or notes/mind of the GM and interfaces with the players, there is no longer an underlying narrative. Unless they are making choices to retain or rebuild a narrative, instead of determine actions for their characters, or unless the GM is railroading for the same purposes, any underlying narrative has been shredded. There is no longer an underlying narrative to the game any more than there is an underlying narrative to me living my life.

My definition of a plot may be broad but yours also seem very narrow.

I don't think it's as binary as either railroading or no underlying narrative at all. I suppose I could agree with you if the GM runs a pure sandbox with nothing pre-planned and merely reacts to the players. But most have at least some plans for what is happening, even if it's (hopefully) responsive to what the party does.


Example using your 'plot'. Choosing to "go into the dungeon, kill the goblins, take their stuff" because that's the adventure the DM has written is a narrative choice. Choosing to do it because my character wants to get rich, believes these goblins deserve to die, or really likes dank smelly caves is a non-narrative character-living-their-life choice.

So in your definition of "plot", it ceases to be a plot the moment someone makes a in-character decision rather than a narrative one?

Tanarii
2021-09-12, 02:30 PM
I don't think it's as binary as either railroading or no underlying narrative at all.A plot is the underlying narrative of a story. You don't agree with that definition?

I understand I'm going from that to whether or not something qualifies as an underlying narrative (edit: and for that matter what qualifies as a story), but if you don't think that's what a plot is, then we're at an impasse.


So in your definition of "plot", it ceases to be a plot the moment someone makes a in-character decision rather than a narrative one?Definitely.

Cluedrew
2021-09-12, 06:32 PM
D&D is "like the real world, unless noted otherwise". So why is it hard for people to accept the possibility that HP is a "noted otherwise"?I haven't even tried to because I see no reason why it should be true. I have read official advice about when the HP abstraction is in appropriate, and when it should be discarded.* I have read absurd amounts of D&D lore and none of them even attempted to fold in HP as meat. Never a hint that was the intent, so why should I try?

That being said: Any other rules you fold into cannon? Character creation? NPC/PC divide? Combat turns? I want to see where the rabbit hole goes.

* I think it might have even been in the 2e rule-book. Of course it has been a while so I'm not sure about that. However, I am willing to stand on the assertion that someone somewhere who had some official standing with D&D said something about that.



So in your definition of "plot", it ceases to be a plot the moment someone makes a in-character decision rather than a narrative one?Definitely.Well then none of my stories (if I'm allowed to call them that) have a plot. OK maybe some of the really short ones with two stock characters and one plot point. But in-character decisions happen a lot because that is how you get consistent characters.

I can't say for certain, but it feels like the difference between two major views that seem to be that one is like the other, except includes a major "except for role-playing" clause. It feels very artificial, although not non-sensical. If you mostly have to deal with storytelling in the context of storytelling games and you mostly enjoy role-playing games, then defining storytelling games in contrast to role-playing games kind of makes sense. Still I deal with storytelling in other contexts there giving "thinking about what the character would do" special status is just weird because it is interwoven with everything else going on. That is also how I approach playing a role-playing game, just the ratio is different, but other people can do it their own way. Actually I suppose storytelling is also my own approach to, but I think understanding the characters is pretty common.

Tanarii
2021-09-12, 08:02 PM
To me it's no different from making decisions for me, except where the character is different. And the former is not anything related to story or plot.

But I also think player-character separation is a myth. As far as I'm concerned, all characters are inherently "me but ...", and there's no way around that.

Corvus
2021-09-12, 11:26 PM
I've not looked at 13th Age, but I actually liked 4e much more than 3e. It tried to fix the balance issues (which of course made those who wanted spellcasters to remain top dog unhappy) and introduced a lot of fun new classes, like wardens, warlords and battleminds, that sadly haven't been done since. Sadly it didn't fix other issues, like cook-cutterism and an all or nothing skill system.

Thats why I still prefer 2e - a 9 str, 16 int, 16 cha fighter is not just feasible but also fun in 2e as they have a role outside of combat, something that wouldn't work in 3e and 4e.

Segev
2021-09-13, 01:43 AM
If I recall correctly, 13th age had its classes actually have differing subsystems, the way 3.PF and 5e and even 1&2e did. 4e had some really neat ideas in its core mechanics. For me, it fell flat in its class design: everything was a 3.5 martial adept.

I do not believe 13th age shares that particular sin, but I could be wrong; I have never played in a game of it and may be misremembering its contents greatly.

Batcathat
2021-09-13, 02:48 AM
A plot is the underlying narrative of a story. You don't agree with that definition?

I realize this is kind of an annoying non-answer, but that really depends on how we define "underlying narrative".

Anyhow, it seems like the major difference is that I think plot can exist even with players acting independently of the "author" (I wouldn't say player action is part of the plot, but it is often in reaction to it) while you consider it to stop being plot the moment a player makes in-character choices.

Out of curiosity, would you say a written adventure can have plot before it's played or is the fact that it will have players enough to make it non-plot?

Theodoxus
2021-09-13, 07:17 AM
Well then none of my stories (if I'm allowed to call them that) have a plot. OK maybe some of the really short ones with two stock characters and one plot point. But in-character decisions happen a lot because that is how you get consistent characters.

Are you talking about fiction you've written or games you've run? If it's fiction, then unless you're using other people to provide character direction, you're still 100% in control of the universe your characters are in. Those in-character decisions are tied to, and move the plot along. Without a plot, there is no story...

I think Tanarii is basically stating 'no plot survives an interaction with another human being.' Because others, who obviously can't have 100% knowledge of your plot, can easily thwart or support it, and you have no way of knowing which (and even in support, it could go quite askew of where you originally intended).


I realize this is kind of an annoying non-answer, but that really depends on how we define "underlying narrative".

Anyhow, it seems like the major difference is that I think plot can exist even with players acting independently of the "author" (I wouldn't say player action is part of the plot, but it is often in reaction to it) while you consider it to stop being plot the moment a player makes in-character choices.

Out of curiosity, would you say a written adventure can have plot before it's played or is the fact that it will have players enough to make it non-plot?

For me, the only way a written adventure could have a non-plot is if the intention of the module is for something like "in this adventure, the characters will meet and hopefully defeat the Grand Lich of the land, thus thwarting the Wasting Curse and saving the planet" and then the characters en masse decide to have an adventure in Sigil instead. But then, are you even playing the module in the first place?

Personally, I don't agree with Tanarii's viewpoint. if the plot is to go to a dank cave murder kobolds and loot their homes, and the characters do that - regardless of what happens in the meantime - then the plot is resolved. And honestly, if they don't actually accomplish those goals (say, as above, when they get to the cave they decide it would be more fun to go shopping in Sigil), the plot doesn't suddenly evaporate, it just changes. Plot is literally 'what happens in a story'.

Frogreaver
2021-09-13, 07:34 AM
I can't say if 13th Age is more well liked than 4e, but I can say that 4e was much more hated than 13th age.

A few reasons would be:
13th Age improved on many of the mechanical aspects people took issue with 4e over
13th Age was a brand new game and wasn't trying to replace something that was fairly well liked at the time (Pathfinders success shows this to be true)

Though, this does bring a couple of thoughts to me,
If 4e hadn't have happened, then Pathfinder wouldn't have been nearly as successful. If 4e hadn't happened, 13th age wouldn't have got to adapt it's design to the complaints levied against 4e. If 4e hadn't happened would 5e have actually been well received and would it have looked anything at all like what we have now?

It seems to me that 4e's existence made a ton of other great games possible, and while 4e is generally viewed as a failure, it's possible that strategically it was still the right decision.

Theodoxus
2021-09-13, 08:18 AM
Very 'glass half full' viewpoint.

Or, as 13th Age advocates, always fall forward :smallwink:

Batcathat
2021-09-13, 08:21 AM
Plot is literally 'what happens in a story'.

I think this might be going too far in the other direction. While I haven't found a perfect way to define what I consider "plot" to be, something like "what is planned to happen in a story" might be kinda close. So if I run an adventure where the party end up unexpectedly turning on each other for some unforseen reason, I wouldn't say the PvP was part of the plot (though it might have been an unexpected reaction to the plot).

Frogreaver
2021-09-13, 08:26 AM
I think this might be going too far in the other direction. While I haven't found a perfect way to define what I consider "plot" to be, something like "what is planned to happen in a story" might be kinda close. So if I run an adventure where the party end up unexpectedly turning on each other for some unforseen reason, I wouldn't say the PvP was part of the plot (though it might have been an unexpected reaction to the plot).

“Planned Plot”

You’re welcome

Morty
2021-09-13, 08:55 AM
Making weapons more abstract is something I've begun to appreciate more and more. In something like Mythender, for instance, your characters weapons are abstracted to the point that you can pretty much play a character with any strange fighting style or mythical superpowers you want, and I find that freedom really valuable. It's one of the reasons why I love the way Masks: A New Generation approaches superpowers. You have so much freedom to come up with all kinds of creative powersets and abilities when the system abstracts them.

I do like some mechanical heft to my weapons and abilities, rather than boiling it down to doing the same thing but describing it differently. But I don't think weapons in D&D, or most fantasy systems for that matter, have ever really enabled that.

Quertus
2021-09-13, 10:13 AM
I also think player-character separation is a myth. As far as I'm concerned, all characters are inherently "me but ...", and there's no way around that.

1) I think "girls" is a myth. As far as I'm concerned, I've always been a guy, and they're no way around that.

2) Mac emulators for the PC, and PC emulators for the Mac are a thing.

3) not personally being able to breath fire is not what makes most people disbelieve Dragons.

Probably the most intelligent person I've ever met one told me that "if I had lived your life, I'd be you".

Now, sure, maybe no human personality emulator will ever have the fidelity to successfully roleplay "my Mom" believably. But there's a whole lot more accuracy, a whole lot more differences than, "me with blue skin".

Knowing one of my characters mostly hurts your ability to predict a second (if some if my former GMs (who seemed to share your mindset) are any indication). Knowing 5 of my characters… gives you a feel of my range.

Different people have different ranges, and different size ranges. I think it's unfair to actors (who are different than roleplayers, but roasted consult of "range") to claim that there's no such thing as characters, it's all just "them but…".

Yes, a great many players cannot go beyond "them but…". Yes, there's plenty of (bad?) RP advice that encourages such behavior. But that is not the limits of acting, or of role-playing.


Thats why I still prefer 2e - a 9 str, 16 int, 16 cha fighter is not just feasible but also fun in 2e as they have a role outside of combat, something that wouldn't work in 3e and 4e.

Woot woot! Here's to 2e, the best RPG I've played!

Tanarii
2021-09-13, 07:45 PM
Plot is literally 'what happens in a story'.
And what's happening at the gaming table, at least the ones I play at, isn't a story. :smalltongue:
Any more than me living my life is living the story of my life.


Or, as 13th Age advocates, always fall forward :smallwink:That lets you catch yourself with your hands.

Fail-forward is another of those internet memes that I'm not a big fan of. It's sure beats being session locked because there's no alternatives that let you do anything else. But it comes about in the first place because of GMs (and adventure writers) that only provided one path to anything fun or meaningful to do.

Kymme
2021-09-13, 08:24 PM
Fail-forward is another of those internet memes that I'm not a big fan of. It's sure beats being session locked because there's no alternatives that let you do anything else. But it comes about in the first place because of GMs (and adventure writers) that only provided one path to anything fun or meaningful to do.

Rather, it comes about in the first place because of tabletop rpgs with binary pass/fail systems that didn't provide any guidance on how to adjudicate failure or make failure interesting, thus leading to the difficulties you're talking about. There's a tendency to make GMs the scapegoats for the poor design of the games they use, and I don't think that's remotely fair.

icefractal
2021-09-13, 08:24 PM
I think any definition of plot that doesn't apply as soon as a single IC decision is made is too narrow to be useful.

Imagine a campaign where the GM had the entire story plotted out from the start, and the players were entirely on board with that. Every decision was made for narrative effect, and the dice were ignored as necessary for the plot to continue as planned. I would say that game definitely had a plot and was plot-based.

Now imagine the same campaign, except in one session a player bought a barrel of ale for the road - not for any narrative reason, but because it had been a while since they'd been in town and he figured his character would be tired of just water and trail rations. Suddenly the entire campaign doesn't have a plot because of that? I don't think so.

Cluedrew
2021-09-13, 08:30 PM
Are you talking about fiction you've written or games you've run?Mostly the first, but it does apply to my own stories, collaborative stories, games I've run and games I have played in.


And what's happening at the gaming table, at least the ones I play at, isn't a story.OK, finally this is one I can speak to. Now this is my opinion on the matter and/or how I view it: No, what's happening at the gaming table isn't a story (until you recount it). But what is happening in fiction is in fact a story. Because people are making it up and recounting it as the game continues. By fiction I mean anything that isn't actually happening. "I got a 6 [that happens] and miss the orc [well you got a miss result]." "The orc brings up her shield and your blade slams into it [that never happened]." And those bits and pieces are fragments of a plot that, combined with the characters and setting and anything else you care to include, forms the story.

And no, it doesn't have to be planned.


Fail-forward is another of those internet memes that I'm not a big fan of.What? People do that with fail-forward? Having thought about it for a moment: Yes people do that with fail forward for the reasons you mentioned. But I think it is more fundamentally, don't push back, the natural result shouldn't be nothing happens, try again. I have a thread about this, I should finish that.

OldTrees1
2021-09-13, 08:47 PM
And what's happening at the gaming table, at least the ones I play at, isn't a story. :smalltongue:
Any more than me living my life is living the story of my life.

Then isn't the "what happened" of the campaign a byproduct of playing the campaign just like the "what happened" of your life is a byproduct of you living you life?


That sounds like a story to me. It is not an intentional story. It may make English professors weep (joy or sadness?) at how agency avoids the tropes and clichés authors use when they intend to write literature. However it still sounds like a story to me.

Tanarii
2021-09-13, 09:31 PM
Rather, it comes about in the first place because of tabletop rpgs with binary pass/fail systems that didn't provide any guidance on how to adjudicate failure or make failure interesting, thus leading to the difficulties you're talking about. There's a tendency to make GMs the scapegoats for the poor design of the games they use, and I don't think that's remotely fair.
Not at all. As long as there's more than one option of something to do, binary pass/fail is often appropriate.



Imagine a campaign where the GM had the entire story plotted out from the start,Lord, I'd rather not.


Now imagine the same campaign, except in one session a player bought a barrel of ale for the road - not for any narrative reason, but because it had been a while since they'd been in town and he figured his character would be tired of just water and trail rations. Suddenly the entire campaign doesn't have a plot because of that? I don't think so.
Your mistake is in assuming that it goes from plotted to not plotted.

But yes, playing a game can be a mix of playing the characters and playing the story.



But what is happening in fiction is in fact a story. Because people are making it up and recounting it as the game continues. By fiction I mean anything that isn't actually happening. "I got a 6 [that happens] and miss the orc [well you got a miss result]." "The orc brings up her shield and your blade slams into it [that never happened]." And those bits and pieces are fragments of a plot that, combined with the characters and setting and anything else you care to include, forms the story.Maybe for you. But I'm neither playing the plot not playing the story when I do that, and that's a fact.


Then isn't the "what happened" of the campaign a byproduct of playing the campaign just like the "what happened" of your life is a byproduct of you living you life?Yes


That sounds like a story to me. It is not an intentional story. It may make English professors weep (joy or sadness?) at how agency avoids the tropes and clichés authors use when they intend to write literature. However it still sounds like a story to me.Of course, recounting the what happened of either a campaign or events in my life at a later date is a form of storytelling. Including often consciously or subconsciously editing the telling in some way to add some kind of narrative (ie a point to the recounting).

But when I play my game or live my life, I'm not doing that. Unless the game or table, for some reason, specifically includes some factor of playing the story instead of my character. Although I generally skip games that are heavily like that. Some don't do it heavily enough that it's a problem for me. Like 13th age.

Kymme
2021-09-13, 09:46 PM
Not at all. As long as there's more than one option of something to do, binary pass/fail is often appropriate.

I'm not certain we're in disagreement here. Pass/fail systems can work perfectly well if there is some guidance or framework in how to adjudicate them. Having more than one option of something to do, to not trap players in dead ends, could be a sage piece of that guidance or framework! But providing that guidance in the first place is something that the system ought to do.

Quertus
2021-09-13, 10:20 PM
Fail-forward is another of those internet memes that I'm not a big fan of. It's sure beats being session locked because there's no alternatives that let you do anything else. But it comes about in the first place because of GMs (and adventure writers) that only provided one path to anything fun or meaningful to do.


Rather, it comes about in the first place because of tabletop rpgs with binary pass/fail systems that didn't provide any guidance on how to adjudicate failure or make failure interesting, thus leading to the difficulties you're talking about. There's a tendency to make GMs the scapegoats for the poor design of the games they use, and I don't think that's remotely fair.


I'm not certain we're in disagreement here. Pass/fail systems can work perfectly well if there is some guidance or framework in how to adjudicate them. Having more than one option of something to do, to not trap players in dead ends, could be a sage piece of that guidance or framework! But providing that guidance in the first place is something that the system ought to do.

I feel that that is advice at the level of "do not pour boiling hot coffee on your crotch", "do not place child in oven, bring food to child", and "do not taunt Super Happy Fun Ball".

Which, sadly, means that humanity probably needs that advice to be explicitly given. :smallannoyed:

Still, I'm… Hmmm… uncertain if the original comment would be equivalent to, "the idea of 'fail forward' is bad, and should be replaced with 'rule of 3', and/or 'branching paths', and/or…?"?

PhoenixPhyre
2021-09-13, 10:23 PM
But I think it is more fundamentally, don't push back, the natural result shouldn't be nothing happens, try again.

I agree with this statement, and wish more people would accept it. If there isn't an interesting result for both success and failure, don't roll. Both branches should lead the ongoing set of events[1] somewhere interesting, even if it's not the direction the players intended.

[1] trying really hard to avoid the s-word or p-word here :smallwink:

Quertus
2021-09-13, 11:37 PM
And HP doesn't completely throw this out the window? Like Quertus is a pretty high level wizard be now right? So if someone with average strength came up to Quertus and started stabbing him with a knife, Quertus could probably wait for a full minute before reacting to that and nothing he was wearing or carrying would be damaged by this. And you have no issue integrating this into the world? Is that actually how Quertus (the character) thinks about getting stabbed or have you patched over it and now do so reflexively? This is not a rhetorical question, in fact you might be the only person I would pose this question to as a non-rhetorical question.


EDIT: additive vs subtractive! I'll bet a penny that's (at least related to) your issue (or my lack thereof)! I'll cover this when I get time.

Well, my first reply covered *most* of this; now to the concept of "additive vs subtractive".

"The game is set in the past" is a subtractive limiter on role-playing - there's plenty of things that we know about that don't exist yet, and so it's generally bad role-playing to reference anachronistic concepts.

But "can tank a dagger" is more of an additive role-playing feature, *especially* when it's "some people can tank daggers" *and* "you can now tank daggers, but didn't used to be able to do so". You can still roleplay exactly the kind of reactions one might have IRL, and it's perfectly reasonable for the character to behave that way. Additionally, you could alternatively roleplay the character understanding and accepting their superlative "meat points", and casually taking the dagger hits. ("Slit my throat! *Ung* Do it again!")

I'm generally in the "pain hurts" side of roleplay (especially for characters who are still alive for me to roleplay them…), but I do have one character who's all about bravado, who got run through by a unicorn, and shrugged it off with something along the lines of, "c'mon, I've had piercings that hurt worse than this. You really should stop attacking, and actually negotiate." (or some such)

So HP is an "additive" roleplay feature, that allows additional options to be valid, rather than limiting your choices by subtracting options.

Contrariwise, the skill systems in question are subtractive, removing "reasonable" options of roleplay as unreasonable within those game physics. (Where "change" is subtractive and additive)

Clear as mud?

Frogreaver
2021-09-14, 02:04 AM
I agree with this statement, and wish more people would accept it. If there isn't an interesting result for both success and failure, don't roll. Both branches should lead the ongoing set of events[1] somewhere interesting, even if it's not the direction the players intended.

[1] trying really hard to avoid the s-word or p-word here :smallwink:

I think that's a great reason to roll dice. I don't think it's the only reason to though. Dice resolve uncertainty, and uncertainty can be found not only in instances of interesting results, but also humorous results that aren't particularly interesting, to name one example.

There was once the the character got drunk and passed out at the bar. Another character tried to help him to a bed and failed every single check to do so. Not particularly interesting in any way, but was really fun and humurous due to the descriptions. I'd hate to see checks like that get cut out of the game because what happens on a success or failure isn't particularly interesting.

Satinavian
2021-09-14, 02:28 AM
I agree with this statement, and wish more people would accept it. If there isn't an interesting result for both success and failure, don't roll. Both branches should lead the ongoing set of events[1] somewhere interesting, even if it's not the direction the players intended.

[1] trying really hard to avoid the s-word or p-word here :smallwink:
I would say, one should roll, if both

a) all results are plausible as in you don't have any difficulties explaining failures or successes afterwards without straining credibility
b) at least one person at the table actually cares about the result

The "can be repeated endlessly without consequence" usually falls short of the second part and should thus mostly be omitted. But even then sometimes players want to roll for bragging rights.

Kymme
2021-09-14, 02:31 AM
I feel that that is advice at the level of "do not pour boiling hot coffee on your crotch", "do not place child in oven, bring food to child", and "do not taunt Super Happy Fun Ball".

Which, sadly, means that humanity probably needs that advice to be explicitly given. :smallannoyed:

Still, I'm… Hmmm… uncertain if the original comment would be equivalent to, "the idea of 'fail forward' is bad, and should be replaced with 'rule of 3', and/or 'branching paths', and/or…?"?

You misunderstand me. I don't think that this sort of thing should be advice at all. I think it should be rules text, a framework about how the game functions. An issue I have with a lot of tradgames is that the GM operates completely on fiat, with no rules or framework. They're not playing the same game as the players, even slightly. Many of my favorite modern ttrpgs place the GM inside a framework that provides rules they need to follow. The best new games sculpt these GM frameworks to the point where they help you make decisions and improvise on the fly, and relieve a lot of the typical pressure that older games just force you to deal with.

There are a lot of fascinating games out there that are experimenting and doing new things, and I think that's really cool.

Cluedrew
2021-09-14, 07:36 AM
Maybe for you. But I'm neither playing the plot not playing the story when I do that, and that's a fact.Actually its by my definitions, I think we are actually playing the same way. Maybe the ratios are a bit different. The only difference is whether one includes figuring out what a character would do in storytelling or not. I do because it happens in storytelling all the time and you don't. Actually I don't know why, I had some guess about you looking out from role-playing but I don't think you ever commented on that.


Clear as mud?Is that different then deciding whether or not the mechanic is cannon scene by scene? I might need some time with this one.

Quertus
2021-09-14, 11:50 AM
I think that's a great reason to roll dice. I don't think it's the only reason to though. Dice resolve uncertainty, and uncertainty can be found not only in instances of interesting results, but also humorous results that aren't particularly interesting, to name one example.

There was once the the character got drunk and passed out at the bar. Another character tried to help him to a bed and failed every single check to do so. Not particularly interesting in any way, but was really fun and humurous due to the descriptions. I'd hate to see checks like that get cut out of the game because what happens on a success or failure isn't particularly interesting.

Yeah, I think that the post you were replying to (that I somehow failed to QUOTE) was looking at things backwards, like database designers talking about buttons having shirts, and shirts having owners.

To my mind, you should want to design your game / content such that it isn't fragile / doesn't fall apart to a "wrong" result / can handle both success and failure (and "yes, but…", and "no, however", and…) and still result in an interesting game, rather than railroad the only result that you find interesting.


I would say, one should roll, if both

a) all results are plausible as in you don't have any difficulties explaining failures or successes afterwards without straining credibility
b) at least one person at the table actually cares about the result

The "can be repeated endlessly without consequence" usually falls short of the second part and should thus mostly be omitted. But even then sometimes players want to roll for bragging rights.

Lego Batman: "first try!"


You misunderstand me. I don't think that this sort of thing should be advice at all. I think it should be rules text, a framework about how the game functions. An issue I have with a lot of tradgames is that the GM operates completely on fiat, with no rules or framework. They're not playing the same game as the players, even slightly. Many of my favorite modern ttrpgs place the GM inside a framework that provides rules they need to follow. The best new games sculpt these GM frameworks to the point where they help you make decisions and improvise on the fly, and relieve a lot of the typical pressure that older games just force you to deal with.

There are a lot of fascinating games out there that are experimenting and doing new things, and I think that's really cool.

Interesting. Care to suggest an easy to read freeware example?


Is that different then deciding whether or not the mechanic is cannon scene by scene? I might need some time with this one.

Very much so.

Things like "innocent until proven guilty", "free health care", sales tax, tipping your waitress, air pressure, temperature, gravity? These aren't constant throughout the universe IRL.

But if I tell you that your character is starting at the top of the top of the highest mountain on earth as of noon yesterday, or starting on a mining colony on Jupiter, you can probably manage to not be surprised by the value of these variables if you recognize that they are variables. And, once you know that they are variables, and know their current values, you can make not unreasonable predictions about the scope of those values, and their likely future values.

Under a good GM, HP will behave some version of reasonably throughout their setting, unless them behaving unreasonably *is* the Plot.

On a world where a shirtless Barbarian can tank a dagger dozens of times, Quertus could do likewise[1]. Not that he would, of course. :smallwink:

And I would love to create a thread about "depth of comprehension", and the problem that mismatches (and mismatched expectations) can cause… but I don't really understand the concept at a sufficient depth yet to do so. :smalltongue:

[1] unless that world is one of the rare few that have an "import home settings" default.

Segev
2021-09-14, 02:35 PM
I think the concept of "failing forward" is best expressed as a statement that any result should let the game keep being played. Whether this means you wind up following the same plot as if you'd failed or not says more about the linearity (or non-) of the game you're playing than anything else.

icefractal
2021-09-14, 03:24 PM
I have fixed feelings on Fail Forward. Often it makes sense, and I've been in a game where the combat would have been seriously improved by it (attack and parry were independent rolls, only a successful attack with a failed parry had any effect, so against equal foes about 2/3rd of the rounds had nothing change). And for some play-styles, it's a direct improvement.

The one that it doesn't mesh well with is what I'd call ... adventure game style, maybe? Where you start by examining the thing / situation, then try relatively safe methods of interaction first, then based on the results of that you move on to other tactics.

So if you're trying to get into a fortress you might first try getting as close to it as you can without being spotted, watching the guard patterns, seeing who's going in and out legitimately, turning into a bird and getting a view from high above, asking the local earth spirits how deep underground the walls go, pretending to be a traveler and engaging some guards on leave in conversation, and so forth.

These aren't expected to solve "getting into the fortress" alone, and neither should they each be a risk of blowing the whole plan. They're preparation for the more risky / decisive part, and a result of "nothing happened" is perfectly valid for them.

Segev
2021-09-14, 04:30 PM
I have fixed feelings on Fail Forward. Often it makes sense, and I've been in a game where the combat would have been seriously improved by it (attack and parry were independent rolls, only a successful attack with a failed parry had any effect, so against equal foes about 2/3rd of the rounds had nothing change). And for some play-styles, it's a direct improvement.

The one that it doesn't mesh well with is what I'd call ... adventure game style, maybe? Where you start by examining the thing / situation, then try relatively safe methods of interaction first, then based on the results of that you move on to other tactics.

So if you're trying to get into a fortress you might first try getting as close to it as you can without being spotted, watching the guard patterns, seeing who's going in and out legitimately, turning into a bird and getting a view from high above, asking the local earth spirits how deep underground the walls go, pretending to be a traveler and engaging some guards on leave in conversation, and so forth.

These aren't expected to solve "getting into the fortress" alone, and neither should they each be a risk of blowing the whole plan. They're preparation for the more risky / decisive part, and a result of "nothing happened" is perfectly valid for them.

"Nothing happened" isn't accurate, though. Defenses were probed, the party avoided capture and came away with more intel. "Fail forward" is about what happens when you run up against, say, a locked door and you have to pick it, or a character you have to persuade to help you. It's not great design to have everything hinge on that one roll, but sometimes it does (especially if it's just that this was the last of a long chain of things you tried and this is the only one left you can think of). When such things happen, "you failed, so we're done playing the game; you lost," may or may not be appropriate, but "fail forward" says that you should have something happen that opens new doors. They don't have to be the doors the party was seeking, but there should be something happening because of it.

Even if it's just that now the party's quest, after Bob failed to jump over the ravine, is to find a healer to fix his broken leg. That continues the game.

Theoboldi
2021-09-14, 04:35 PM
You misunderstand me. I don't think that this sort of thing should be advice at all. I think it should be rules text, a framework about how the game functions. An issue I have with a lot of tradgames is that the GM operates completely on fiat, with no rules or framework. They're not playing the same game as the players, even slightly. Many of my favorite modern ttrpgs place the GM inside a framework that provides rules they need to follow. The best new games sculpt these GM frameworks to the point where they help you make decisions and improvise on the fly, and relieve a lot of the typical pressure that older games just force you to deal with.

While I agree that it is great to see the variety of games that exist, and that it's a good thing when games are clear about how they are meant to be run, I cannot agree that this particular new trend is entirely positive.

While creating a stronger system diversity, I think it also reduces GM diversity, forcing the people running these games to adopt a singular, mass-produced style of running games. And that's at its best. At worst, it creates an experience that feels restrictive and forced for those around the table when the group does not fit the finely crafted playstyle at all.

Keep also in mind that improv-heavy games come with their own sort of pressure, even when you are guided by the system. It is not right to assume that it is objectively better or easier for GMs, especially new ones, just because it tells you what steps you are supposed to follow in any situation. For some people, a prepared framework with a clear, expected throughline is far easier to run (and even improvise for in the moment) than an adventure that only is crafted at the table.



These aren't expected to solve "getting into the fortress" alone, and neither should they each be a risk of blowing the whole plan. They're preparation for the more risky / decisive part, and a result of "nothing happened" is perfectly valid for them.

While its a bit overstated to say a failed roll or even success at a cost would risk blowing the plan, many of those systems would demand those kinds of rolls to still reveal new dangers on a bad roll, which also goes against the point of doing these things in a more traditional adventuring playstyle. Just want to point that out pre-emptively, before someone makes that argument against Icefractal's point.

That said, one of the bigger flaws of failing forward in my opinion, especially in systems that make heavy use of partial successes, is that they create a specific sort of pacing. Once every action has to drive the story forward, it can get hectic, as new developments and dangers await at just about every corner. Planning and laid-back scenes of experimentation and interaction are discouraged, as are scenes that aren't story-relevant since the mechanics can no longer really be applied to them without making it part of the story.

Its not bad, and is something I find very nice occasionally when solo roleplaying. (Ironsworn and Starforged are fantastic games, to be precise about which games I mean by that.) It may even be quite nice for one-shots, though I haven't tried anything like that. What I have done is implement occasional fail forward elements in my games, as it is a genuinely useful tool at times for when the game would otherwise just end or stall. But playing by it entirely has repurcussions that I cannot call clearly positive.

OldTrees1
2021-09-14, 04:54 PM
I think the concept of "failing forward" is best expressed as a statement that any result should let the game keep being played. Whether this means you wind up following the same plot as if you'd failed or not says more about the linearity (or non-) of the game you're playing than anything else.

Fail forward intends to have any result allow the game to continue, but having every failure result in some form of progression.

It is a case where the intend is more valuable than ruthless devotion to the method. However it is one of many useful guidelines.

And guidelines are meant to be broken when there is a worthy reason to break them.


Personally I prefer sandboxes where the players have so much agency, that it is okay if their failures have the potential to not fail forward. Because the game can continue being played due to the other routes that already existed.

Kymme
2021-09-14, 05:31 PM
While I agree that it is great to see the variety of games that exist, and that it's a good thing when games are clear about how they are meant to be run, I cannot agree that this particular new trend is entirely positive.

While creating a stronger system diversity, I think it also reduces GM diversity, forcing the people running these games to adopt a singular, mass-produced style of running games. And that's at its best. At worst, it creates an experience that feels restrictive and forced for those around the table when the group does not fit the finely crafted playstyle at all.

There doesn't have to be just one framework and ruleset to guide GMs. Different games benefit from different approaches, and providing guidelines and rules can help achieve that. For instance, the GM rules for a game like Monsterhearts are vastly different from the GM rules for something like Mythender, but both games benefit greatly from placing the GMs inside a ruleset.


Keep also in mind that improv-heavy games come with their own sort of pressure, even when you are guided by the system. It is not right to assume that it is objectively better or easier for GMs, especially new ones, just because it tells you what steps you are supposed to follow in any situation. For some people, a prepared framework with a clear, expected throughline is far easier to run (and even improvise for in the moment) than an adventure that only is crafted at the table.

I think that you're completely correct - I've had a lot of fun running Masks: A New Generation, for instance, improvising stuff on the fly and following the fiction, and I've also had a lot of fun running premade adventures and campaigns for D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, and 4e. Honestly, I think those games are at their strongest when you have an adventure path or campaign guide helping you along - it's another example of how a framework of rules makes things so much easier!

Man_Over_Game
2021-09-14, 05:40 PM
That might be true. I just remember being unimpressed with the 13A fighter. Part of it is that it's very much a heavily-armored defender, which applies to the 4E fighter too. But that's just my general dissatisfaction with D&D classes, I guess.

One thing I've grown appreciative of is for there to be options for when players don't want complicated or overtly impressive. Sometimes, they want the simplest path for success, because they enjoy tabletop games for other reasons. Or maybe they just want to not have to worry about being optimal all the time at the risk of judgement or frustrations from others.

Having simple options for different styles is an excellent design choice. Personally, I believe that the secret element that determines whether a player enjoys a game is whether the game matches the level of complexity or effort they're looking for.

3.5 was extremely complicated, which is why it appealed to a culture of super-nerds. 5e is stupid easy, and...well...a good portion of its players probably eat glue.

The trick is figuring out how both types can enjoy their time at the same table. You do that by adding a complex and simple counterpart to every distinct playstyle. 4e's Fighter to the Warlord, or 13th's Ranger to the Rogue.

13th's Age's forced Theater of the Mind really frustrates my simple, autistic brain, and the dependence on in-universe storytelling seems really stupid (probably an overreaction from 4e's bad reception combined with an unwillingness to compromise on certain mechanics), but those guys really knew how to engineer a good game.

Man, now I'm really jonesing for a round of 4e.

Frogreaver
2021-09-14, 07:09 PM
"Nothing happened" isn't accurate, though. Defenses were probed, the party avoided capture and came away with more intel. "Fail forward" is about what happens when you run up against, say, a locked door and you have to pick it, or a character you have to persuade to help you. It's not great design to have everything hinge on that one roll, but sometimes it does (especially if it's just that this was the last of a long chain of things you tried and this is the only one left you can think of). When such things happen, "you failed, so we're done playing the game; you lost," may or may not be appropriate, but "fail forward" says that you should have something happen that opens new doors. They don't have to be the doors the party was seeking, but there should be something happening because of it.

Even if it's just that now the party's quest, after Bob failed to jump over the ravine, is to find a healer to fix his broken leg. That continues the game.

If the game is going to come to a grinding halt due to a failed check then don't ask for a check in the first place?

PhoenixPhyre
2021-09-14, 07:19 PM
There doesn't have to be just one framework and ruleset to guide GMs. Different games benefit from different approaches, and providing guidelines and rules can help achieve that. For instance, the GM rules for a game like Monsterhearts are vastly different from the GM rules for something like Mythender, but both games benefit greatly from placing the GMs inside a ruleset.


Here's the thing. With a fixed play style and ruleset, if I want to run a different style within a single campaign, I have to translate everything into a new system, have everyone learn that new system, etc.

Whereas if the play style is more open and the ruleset is more of a toolset, I can switch play styles within a single session, seamlessly. With a reasonable amount of player/DM trust (mutual, of course), I can run a murder mystery inside a teen-drama session that's part of a heavy dungeon-delving campaign. All without anyone having to learn new rules or new systems or new ways of playing--they just follow the same basic pattern (which is really freeform, just with some scaffolding):

1) DM describes the scene,
1.5) asks "<Character>, what do you do"
2) Player describes what <Character> is going to attempt.
3) DM determines how that changes the scene going forward, consulting with the player and the rules/mechanics as appropriate, possibly invoking some sort of dice roll (but often not)
4) DM narrates the changed scene
5) IF (SESSION NOT OVER), GOTO 1.5

The ruleset, then, does three things:
1) creates a shared language for the player(s) and DM to use in step 3
2) creates a set of default, pre-packaged action-resolution steps for easy resolution of attempted actions that the designers expect will be commonly attempted.
3) creates a thematic set of pre-generated content to plug in.

But you can do the steps without any ruleset at all, just with the standard meta rules of freeform. The ruleset is merely scaffolding, an aid so that it's easier for everyone to be on the same page. It's not some sort of binding contract; at most it's the starting point for any given table to figure out what rules they actually want to use and how much discretion to give various people at the table: eg do we want a single-person "DM" role or do we want to share that load across the table? What things can players state as facts (as opposed to just attempted character actions)? Who (and under what conditions) can change these rules or make rulings? Each table even playing the same ruleset can and should come to different conclusions about that. Because there's no way a developer can get it right for everyone, even in a very limited, narrow niche.

Tanarii
2021-09-14, 07:45 PM
You misunderstand me. I don't think that this sort of thing should be advice at all. I think it should be rules text, a framework about how the game functions. An issue I have with a lot of tradgames is that the GM operates completely on fiat, with no rules or framework. They're not playing the same game as the players, even slightly. Many of my favorite modern ttrpgs place the GM inside a framework that provides rules they need to follow. The best new games sculpt these GM frameworks to the point where they help you make decisions and improvise on the fly, and relieve a lot of the typical pressure that older games just force you to deal with.

There are a lot of fascinating games out there that are experimenting and doing new things, and I think that's really cool.



Interesting. Care to suggest an easy to read freeware example?


Powered by the Apocalypse

Kymme
2021-09-14, 09:03 PM
Powered by the Apocalypse

Not a game, and not specific enough. I'm inclined to point you towards Dungeon World, Quertus, because as much as it isn't to my taste it's a really neat introduction to a GMing framework and rules. Also, it's totally free online! (https://www.dungeonworldsrd.com/gamemastering/)

Blades in the Dark also has a free SRD, and while I don't think its SRD had quite as nice of a GMing section, the game itself is a lot tighter and pretty easy for people new to its genre of ttrpgs to pick up.

Tanarii
2021-09-14, 10:03 PM
Not a game, and not specific enough. True. I was thinking about AW specifically. It has some of the strongest GM rules framework from any game I've ever read, while still giving incredible flexibility and seemingly designed to thoroughly enhance improvisation.

I really don't like the way the game as a whole is designed, and I don't know if I could run the game effectively as designed. but the MC rules framework seems outstanding. Certainly for someone who grew up on D&D and what are all effectively D&D knockoffs when it comes to GMing, which includes things by RP elitists writers like White Wolf's or Palladium's/Amber's, it was eye opening as to what's theoretically possible in terms of true GM guidance without being a Ron Edwards about it.

DW basically uses the same framework. As with AW, I'm not sure the game as a whole would work for me, but I agree it and Blades in the Dark eye both eye opening as to possibilities as well.

Theoboldi
2021-09-15, 06:11 AM
There doesn't have to be just one framework and ruleset to guide GMs. Different games benefit from different approaches, and providing guidelines and rules can help achieve that. For instance, the GM rules for a game like Monsterhearts are vastly different from the GM rules for something like Mythender, but both games benefit greatly from placing the GMs inside a ruleset.

And this I disagree completely on. Or rather, I disagree with the philosophy that this means it is automatically better to place the GM within a ruleset, at least to such an extent.

I don't mean to argue that different games dont create different styles, but rather that you do end up with one style per game. Which I think is both terribly limiting and discouraging. The differences between how different GMs utilize the same system and setting are wonderful to me, and have been a source of incredibly creative and varied games over the years. Leaving the space for these differences to develop and grow is crucial for my enjoyment of roleplaying.

I will point out, I am someone who runs games and likes to play in games run closer to a Free Kriegsspiel style, as some have come to call it. (https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2500148/ancient-roleplaying-or-free-kriegsspiel-revolution) While I am not quite at the furthest extreme of that (I do enjoy having robust rules that can guide what happens when I'm not confident to rule arbitrarily.), I want to reference it here to point out my own preferences and biases when it comes to what is enjoyable in roleplaying games. Much like PhoenixPhyre, I prefer my systems as a toolbox.



I think that you're completely correct - I've had a lot of fun running Masks: A New Generation, for instance, improvising stuff on the fly and following the fiction, and I've also had a lot of fun running premade adventures and campaigns for D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, and 4e. Honestly, I think those games are at their strongest when you have an adventure path or campaign guide helping you along - it's another example of how a framework of rules makes things so much easier!
I don't think we are quite so much in agreement on this point, though it is right that is good that both preferences are served.

Adventure modules are not a framework of rules in the same way that GM agendas are in a PbtA game. (I hope I am recalling the terminology correctly.) Rather, they are a pre-set collection of ideas and preparation material that serves as a loose guideline for the user. They're closer to advice than rules.

In fact, many experienced GMs across the internet and even module writers have pointed that is best not to use modules as written or to treat them as rules. They're a starting point that often require rewrites, changes, and personal note taking to fit them for any given table. They provide a direction, but still leave it to the GM to make the most out of them. The deviation and customization is where the most memorable parts are created.

Cluedrew
2021-09-15, 07:30 AM
I don't think the more structured rules actually force one play-style. Maybe they are stricter than they have to be, but they do enforce a "matching" play-style for the system (and its campaign premise). And I think those things should be in sync. Classic counter example: the World of Darkness games. So little of that rule structure is dedicated to its premise - the social/internal torment part - to the point the default mode of interaction with the game could be the D&D with fangs the system's creators hated so much.

I also kind of into the toolbox approach but since I do a lot of my own homebrew that is actually the same thing as a focused system. And the next project I have in mind actually puts a lot of limits on the GM (me) because in doing so I can offload more work to the system (or me while I'm designing) instead of having to do it during the session. Yes it is a trade-off, but sometimes it is definitively worth it.

Kymme
2021-09-15, 07:45 AM
And this I disagree completely on. Or rather, I disagree with the philosophy that this means it is automatically better to place the GM within a ruleset, at least to such an extent.

I don't mean to argue that different games dont create different styles, but rather that you do end up with one style per game. Which I think is both terribly limiting and discouraging. The differences between how different GMs utilize the same system and setting are wonderful to me, and have been a source of incredibly creative and varied games over the years. Leaving the space for these differences to develop and grow is crucial for my enjoyment of roleplaying.

I will point out, I am someone who runs games and likes to play in games run closer to a Free Kriegsspiel style, as some have come to call it. (https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/2500148/ancient-roleplaying-or-free-kriegsspiel-revolution) While I am not quite at the furthest extreme of that (I do enjoy having robust rules that can guide what happens when I'm not confident to rule arbitrarily.), I want to reference it here to point out my own preferences and biases when it comes to what is enjoyable in roleplaying games. Much like PhoenixPhyre, I prefer my systems as a toolbox.

I feel like you're making an assumption here that when I say "framework" I mean "straightjacket," which isn't the point I'm trying to argue at all. I think that the framework provided in the rules for Masks: A New Generation does leave space for different GMs to utilize the same system and setting, make their own personal spins on things, and alter their styles as the game goes on. The first Masks game I was ever in had the typical superhero fights, but also investigations and unraveling complicated mysteries, it had bringing about political reform both in the city the game was set in but also on an alien planet, it even had a huge Evangelion-esque psychodrama sequence. All of these things involved big alterations in style, but the framework of the game helped keep us all on the same page, helped keep us communicating with one another, and helped us feel like we were playing a game together.

Also, this gameplay style you linked to is super fascinating to me, because it's very similar to the advice I first gleaned from Apocalypse World. That games are about the fiction, the shared imagined space where anything can flow naturally from the fiction and from the actions of the player characters, even stuff that is unconnected to dice and math and the typical rules of ttrpgs. It's really fascinating to read about how these principles harken back to something much older, to a part of rpg history I never knew about. Thank you!


I don't think we are quite so much in agreement on this point, though it is right that is good that both preferences are served.

Adventure modules are not a framework of rules in the same way that GM agendas are in a PbtA game. (I hope I am recalling the terminology correctly.) Rather, they are a pre-set collection of ideas and preparation material that serves as a loose guideline for the user. They're closer to advice than rules.

In fact, many experienced GMs across the internet and even module writers have pointed that is best not to use modules as written or to treat them as rules. They're a starting point that often require rewrites, changes, and personal note taking to fit them for any given table. They provide a direction, but still leave it to the GM to make the most out of them. The deviation and customization is where the most memorable parts are created.

I think I was off-base here. No, adventure modules are not the same kind of framework of rules that PbtA games use. (Your recollection of terms is correct. There are also GM principles and moves, too!) I think I agree with you completely in that regard. I have found that having this premade structure, in the form of adventure ideas, maps, enemy statblocks (even if i have to make changes, just having something to work from is a huge boon), treasure, guidelines for experience points, NPCs, all of those things, make traditional games so much easier to run.

KorvinStarmast
2021-09-15, 07:55 AM
Anyhow, it seems like the major difference is that I think plot can exist even with players acting independently of the "author" Indeed they can, and this really comes out in sandbox style play; one of the things 13th age tried to do, it seems to me, was to be very fluid in term of the direction of the story arc. By providing a setting but not providing a lot of detail, the movement between Those Big Powers that players have relationships with it seemed to me that the PCs choices would form the narrative arc that could only be realized in reptrospect. Again, our campaign didn't get far enough along (as a player I was working really hard to 'get' the mechanics and rhythm) for me to tell you that this happened; RL being the bane of many a campaign.

Are you talking about fiction you've written or games you've run? If it's fiction, then unless you're using other people to provide character direction, you're still 100% in control of the universe your characters are in. Those in-character decisions are tied to, and move the plot along. Without a plot, there is no story.
I disagree with this. The plot can sometimes only become clear in retrospect. That's an interesting feature of Role Playing games.

I think Tanarii is basically stating 'no plot survives an interaction with another human being.'
I think that thought is a valid one.

Though, this does bring a couple of thoughts to me,
If 4e hadn't have happened, then Pathfinder wouldn't have been nearly as successful. If 4e hadn't happened, 13th age wouldn't have got to adapt it's design to the complaints levied against 4e. If 4e hadn't happened would 5e have actually been well received and would it have looked anything at all like what we have now?

It seems to me that 4e's existence made a ton of other great games possible, and while 4e is generally viewed as a failure, it's possible that strategically it was still the right decision. WoTC failed forward, did they not? :smallsmile:

Probably the most intelligent person I've ever met one told me that "if I had lived your life, I'd be you". Durkon Thundershield and a vampire who was holding him hostage had a similar conversation.

Different people have different ranges, and different size ranges. And some never get out of edgelord mode. :smalltongue:


And what's happening at the gaming table, at least the ones I play at, isn't a story. :smalltongue: Any more than me living my life is living the story of my life. The story of your life is told after you've lived it, right? At your wake, we get the highlights. :smallbiggrin:

I agree with this statement, and wish more people would accept it. If there isn't an interesting result for both success and failure, don't roll. Both branches should lead the ongoing set of events[1] somewhere interesting, even if it's not the direction the players intended. Die rolling can sometimes interrupt play unnecessarily. On the other hand, in a game like Roll for Shoes, it inherently opens up new options. (Some day, I'd like to get our group together and try out Roll For Shoes. I think the five of us would be able to make something fun out of it).

An issue I have with a lot of tradgames is that the GM operates completely on fiat, with no rules or framework. That is so blatantly wrong as to not even be funny.
Trad games have rules, had rules, and as they got bigger they got even more rules to the point that no few of them became unwieldy. I you were unlucky enough to be a rules bound player and GM you'd never get through the game. DMs and GMs are explicitly the lubricant that keeps the game moving in trad games.

GMless games are a different form of RPG. (See my citation above in re Roll for Shoes).

I have fixed feelings on Fail Forward. Fail backward also works. Party runs into an encounter that's too tough; how they avoid or get out of that situation becomes a whole new path of events (Or would you consider that failing forward?)
Without failure being possible, though, where's the narrative tension?

"Nothing happened" isn't accurate, though. Defenses were probed, the party avoided capture and came away with more intel. "Fail forward" is about what happens when you run up against, say, a locked door and you have to pick it, or a character you have to persuade to help you. It's not great design to have everything hinge on that one roll, but sometimes it does (especially if it's just that this was the last of a long chain of things you tried and this is the only one left you can think of). When such things happen, "you failed, so we're done playing the game; you lost," may or may not be appropriate, but "fail forward" says that you should have something happen that opens new doors. They don't have to be the doors the party was seeking, but there should be something happening because of it. Or try stuff that isn't on your character sheet, like an old school party would. :smallwink:

Kymme
2021-09-15, 09:10 AM
That is so blatantly wrong as to not even be funny.
Trad games have rules, had rules, and as they got bigger they got even more rules to the point that no few of them became unwieldy. I you were unlucky enough to be a rules bound player and GM you'd never get through the game. DMs and GMs are explicitly the lubricant that keeps the game moving in trad games.

GMless games are a different form of RPG. (See my citation above in re Roll for Shoes).

I feel like you didn't spend even the minimum effort to read and understand my post. D&D is packed to the brim with rules for adjudicating events between actors, between the player characters and NPCs, but there are basically no rules proscribe the sorts of the actions that the GM should take in the running of the game. You don't see anything like Apocalypse World's Always Say section, or even a general list with quality of life things like 'be a fan of the players.' When a GM arbitrarily decides to inflate the difficulty class of a skill check because they, I dunno, really don't want you to climb this cliff or bluff this king or charm this dragon, they are operating purely on fiat. I think that situations like these lead to a lot of poor outcomes at the table, and that's one of the reasons I advocate for games that resolve these problems by introducing a framework.

Also, I didn't even mention GMless games. Not sure where you're getting that from what I said. :smallconfused:


Fail backward also works. Party runs into an encounter that's too tough; how they avoid or get out of that situation becomes a whole new path of events (Or would you consider that failing forward?)
Without failure being possible, though, where's the narrative tension?

Yes, of course that's also failing forward. Fail forward doesn't mean that failure doesn't exist, or that there's no narrative tension, it means that failure should never be a place where the game just stops. Failure should always roll forward into something new, whether that's an alternate route, success-at-a-cost, some unfortunate setback, etc. There is some really good, primordial-soup-type failing forward advice in Dogs in the Vineyard. If you're interested in seeing what it's like you should check that out.


Or try stuff that isn't on your character sheet, like an old school party would. :smallwink:

Fiction first, definitely. I think that freeform style is pretty neat. Hard to say it's really what games like D&D 4e were built for, though.

KorvinStarmast
2021-09-15, 09:36 AM
I feel like you didn't spend even the minimum effort to read and understand my post. D&D is packed to the brim with rules for adjudicating events between actors, between the player characters and NPCs, but there are basically no rules proscribe the sorts of the actions that the GM should take in the running of the game.
Did you read the DMG? Did you read chapter 1, specifically the part about how to play the game?

When a GM arbitrarily decides to inflate the difficulty class of a skill check because they, I dunno, really don't want you to climb this cliff or bluff this king or charm this dragon, they are operating purely on fiat. The term "GM fiat" is a red flag, I have found since I began the post Forge era discussions, for a series of faulty assumptions and bad attitudes, so I'll stop there.

Yes, of course that's also failing forward. OK, thanks, wanted to make sure of the size of that space.

As to Dogs in the Vineyard, you find someone running that game near where I live and I'll consider playing it.
Odds that happens are really slim. (The sole FLGS near to where I live has basically died (in terms of public play) due to COVID; a guy I used to work with created it, their big draw is MtG and WH40K, but he had to sell it when he moved).

Seriously.

I got a lot burned out on being the DM/GM, even though it gave me a lot of joy. (My first GM experience was three years, Empire of the Petal Throne, back in the late 70's/early 80's). For the next decade and a half if I wanted to play I was, more often than not, the DM. (Granted, Dming for my kids, nephews and nieces breathed fresh life into me ...)
That right there - the lack of DMs / GMs - informed my decade long hiatus from RPGs.

I only returned to them, in D&D 5e, due to the kids being mostly grown up and the condition that this time, I get to be a player. That worked for about two years, and here I am, DM for one group and part time DM for another. I am fortunate that my brother and I split DMing, and that Phoenix is a DM for a game that my wife {usually} allows me to play.

Which makes me realize why I liked Diablo, Diablo II, and Diablo III (to a lesser extent) (CRPGs) so much.
I could play, and if I had friend to play with GREAT but if I didn't then I could play solo if I had some time. WoW didn't do it for me, in part due to the GUI, but also due to scheduling. My son tried to get me to join his guild, but the game itself just didn't give me the feel I was looking for.

Segev
2021-09-15, 01:09 PM
If the game is going to come to a grinding halt due to a failed check then don't ask for a check in the first place?

Precisely 5e's approach to the problem. Sadly, it's tempting for DMs to call for rolls when they should just grant auto-success.

Theoboldi
2021-09-15, 03:37 PM
I don't think the more structured rules actually force one play-style. Maybe they are stricter than they have to be, but they do enforce a "matching" play-style for the system (and its campaign premise). And I think those things should be in sync. Classic counter example: the World of Darkness games. So little of that rule structure is dedicated to its premise - the social/internal torment part - to the point the default mode of interaction with the game could be the D&D with fangs the system's creators hated so much.

I also kind of into the toolbox approach but since I do a lot of my own homebrew that is actually the same thing as a focused system. And the next project I have in mind actually puts a lot of limits on the GM (me) because in doing so I can offload more work to the system (or me while I'm designing) instead of having to do it during the session. Yes it is a trade-off, but sometimes it is definitively worth it.

You say that about World of Darkness like it's a bad thing. :smallwink:
That joke aside, I do believe that while structured GM rules do not force a singular specific kind of play, they restrict styles and actual gameplay enough for them to lose something for me. And while I do believe it's better if play-style and premise fit the chosen system, what exactly constitutes a good fit can change from group to group. Unlike fitting a shoe to a foot, here factors in a certain amount of personal preference and philosophy that goes beyond how strongly the mechanics enforce certain themes.

On the matter of homebrewing, I definitely see where you are coming from. I am working on a system for my own games as well, and though I've kept it a generic system for use with the wide variety of premises I would like to run someday, it is very much written in such a way as to enable the kinds of experiences I wish to enable, without me having to oversee that at every moment. However, because that has given it an overall more pulpy feel it is also less suited for some of the grittier premises I've had in mind.

I'm this close to starting on a second system. Despite the ridiculousness of that idea. >_>


I feel like you're making an assumption here that when I say "framework" I mean "straightjacket," which isn't the point I'm trying to argue at all. I think that the framework provided in the rules for Masks: A New Generation does leave space for different GMs to utilize the same system and setting, make their own personal spins on things, and alter their styles as the game goes on. The first Masks game I was ever in had the typical superhero fights, but also investigations and unraveling complicated mysteries, it had bringing about political reform both in the city the game was set in but also on an alien planet, it even had a huge Evangelion-esque psychodrama sequence. All of these things involved big alterations in style, but the framework of the game helped keep us all on the same page, helped keep us communicating with one another, and helped us feel like we were playing a game together.

Also, this gameplay style you linked to is super fascinating to me, because it's very similar to the advice I first gleaned from Apocalypse World. That games are about the fiction, the shared imagined space where anything can flow naturally from the fiction and from the actions of the player characters, even stuff that is unconnected to dice and math and the typical rules of ttrpgs. It's really fascinating to read about how these principles harken back to something much older, to a part of rpg history I never knew about. Thank you!
What's fascinating to me especially is how we utilize completely different methods to pursue similar goals. There's many valid ways to achieve them, I would say, and it's only been good for roleplaying in general that there's so many options to do so. And that's without even going into fine (but dearly important) differences between our similar goals, or people who want something entirely different out of their roleplaying games.

Perhaps I overstated my point a little, though, as the enforcement of GMing style relates more to the how things are done and the proceedures taken to make that happen. All that moreso than the trappings and details of the stories themselves. There certainly is also a sliding scale of just how much enforcement there. Mythender for instance, I would argue is far more enforced than PbtA, which itself is more enforced than Fate, which is more enforced than D&D. (And then D&D also has some soft enforcement through magic item guidelines and challenge ratings! But those are so soft that they once more lean towards the side of advice rather than rules.) And I could go on and on and give more examples, and those could all be debated, but I think I'm getting my point across. Across this scale there are enough differences that for many people eventually it will feel like a straightjacket at some point, or too loose and directionless at others. Mileage may vary, and all that.



I think I was off-base here. No, adventure modules are not the same kind of framework of rules that PbtA games use. (Your recollection of terms is correct. There are also GM principles and moves, too!) I think I agree with you completely in that regard. I have found that having this premade structure, in the form of adventure ideas, maps, enemy statblocks (even if i have to make changes, just having something to work from is a huge boon), treasure, guidelines for experience points, NPCs, all of those things, make traditional games so much easier to run.
Thanks for the reminder on the terms. The only PbtA game I've spent a considerable amount of time with has been Ironsworn (and Starforged, but that's essentially the same system), most of which has been playing solo, so my memory is hazy on some details.
And yes, those premade notes are in fact highly helpful. So helpful almost to the point of necessity in fact, that nowadays I prefer systems that utilize only very basic, or no stats at all for NPCs. Whether that's a sign of my personal gaming philosophy, or just me being lazy, I'll leave to you.

Max_Killjoy
2021-09-16, 08:53 AM
It's funny, I see a lot of the systems/games that try to put a framework on the GM... as the games also that try to make the GM play by different rules than the players.

Why? Different rules for NPCs than for PCs. And I don't mean character creation rules, I mean fundamentally different characteristics/attributes and fundamentally different rules.

KorvinStarmast
2021-09-16, 12:29 PM
Why? Different rules for NPCs than for PCs. And I don't mean character creation rules, I mean fundamentally different characteristics/attributes and fundamentally different rules. Well, a gelatinous cube is a bit different from your average Fighting Man. :smallbiggrin:

Quertus
2021-09-16, 02:31 PM
There are rules for how the banker in Monopoly should comport themselves. Those rules differ from the rules for an MtG judge, a movie critic, or a <system> GM. I'm not seeing where this should be surprising.

The idea that different sets of rules lend themselves to different games… I can at least see that not being so obvious as to deserve a facepalm for anyone who doesn't instantly recognize the truth and full ramifications of that statement.

But trying to *assign* rules to systems? There's definitely lots of opportunity to go too far, or not far enough. For instance, WoD does great as "superheroes with fangs", and trying to create rules to enforce the correct level of angst simply inhibits valid gameplay (color blue to taste).

Point being, "what the designers intend" and "what a system actually *is*", let alone "what a system could be" don't necessarily match. Just look at how "balanced" 3e is, or how 4e doesn't match my definition of an RPG.

So it's… dubious… whether system designers should be trusted to choose what rules get used at the table.

That said, creating the system such that the rules aren't badly integrated into the system, and the table can actually choose for themselves to what extent to follow such guidelines - and tables use that baseline to explicitly list/discuss such deviations in season 0? I don't see much problem with that.

*That* said, there are some rules/guidelines, like "Rule of Three" / "Fail Forward" = "don't make a game where a single thing - a single missed clue, a single failed (or successful) roll, a single decision from the players - can end / make unfun / make unsalvageable the game, *unless* that is *explicitly* intended behavior" (thank you captain obvious), that I think could be applied nigh universally.

The guidelines for 4e… are a pattern of 2 encounters, short rest, 2 encounters, long rest? Presumably some WBL stuff. Anything else?

The guidelines for 13th Age are…?

(Many of the guidelines for 2e and earlier D&D should be labeled, "how to be the biggest ****", and definitely should be ignored.)


Fail forward intends to have any result allow the game to continue, but having every failure result in some form of progression.

It is a case where the intend is more valuable than ruthless devotion to the method. However it is one of many useful guidelines.

And guidelines are meant to be broken when there is a worthy reason to break them.


Personally I prefer sandboxes where the players have so much agency, that it is okay if their failures have the potential to not fail forward. Because the game can continue being played due to the other routes that already existed.

Joyous exclamation! A call out to the power of sandbox!

I have my opinion, but… why/when do you believe that the guideline of "fail forward", of don't have a choice end the game, should be broken?

OldTrees1
2021-09-16, 05:05 PM
Joyous exclamation! A call out to the power of sandbox!

I have my opinion, but… why/when do you believe that the guideline of "fail forward", of don't have a choice end the game, should be broken?

2 Circumstance based on different scope:

1) Is there value in a failure closing off that direction forever?
Fail forward would suggestion the failure towards a terminal objective should push the party towards another way of achieving the same terminal objective. That is a good guideline, unless you want to allow the possibility of an objective being forever lost. In a linear campaign these objectives tend to be large, limited, and losing one forever tends to risk ending the campaign. In a sandbox campaign these tend to be small-medium, player generated, and losing one forever is a character moment rather than the end of the campaign.

Still even in a sandbox many failures towards PC terminal objectives would not block off that objective. If a PC wants to protect a village, and the village is raided by slavers, the PC can fail forward by going after the slavers to free the village. However what if a deadly plague swept over the village. The PC can rush to find a way to save as much of the village as possible. If they fail a tiny bit, then they can fail forward into helping the village recover from their losses. If they fail by a lot, then the village died out.

2) Is there value in a failure ending the campaign?
Oddly enough, sometimes a disaster will be big enough that ending the campaign is more satisfying than undermining the agency of the PC's mistakes. Maybe a squad of astronauts as stranded on Mars. Minor failures might create complications that you can fail forward with. However any failure big enough to cause a TPK, is probably best left as a "Oh well, we lost. That was fun. What is the next campaign?". Does the possibility of that big of a failure add or detract from the campaign of "We are strangers in an exceedingly hostile environment?". Ask your players.


Summary: The guideline of "Don't let a mistake end that section of the game" can be broken if the agency of the mistake is worth more (to the group) than the section of the game.

Cluedrew
2021-09-16, 08:28 PM
I do believe that while structured GM rules do not force a singular specific kind of play, they restrict styles and actual gameplay enough for them to lose something for me.I'm just going to need an example for this one. Like you say this and I can abstractly understand that something like this might happen, but I don't really see how it could. Well any more than any given rule in the system and if we go to that extreme we end up at free-form. So what makes the trade-off different in this case?

For instance, in your homebrew example, you found that it suits a certain tone better than some others. And things like tone, setting, character creation options, player-hooks, distribution of direct setting/plot (not via a character) control and a bunch of non-GM player facing rules seem they would have similar or greater restrictions coming with them. So why is this one more of a problem?


I'm this close to starting on a second system. Despite the ridiculousness of that idea. >_>Welcome to the long road.

KorvinStarmast
2021-09-16, 09:23 PM
it was eye opening as to what's theoretically possible in terms of true GM guidance without being a Ron Edwards about it. *yoda voice*
Out loud, I laughed. :smallsmile:

Theoboldi
2021-09-17, 12:42 PM
I'm just going to need an example for this one. Like you say this and I can abstractly understand that something like this might happen, but I don't really see how it could. Well any more than any given rule in the system and if we go to that extreme we end up at free-form. So what makes the trade-off different in this case?

For instance, in your homebrew example, you found that it suits a certain tone better than some others. And things like tone, setting, character creation options, player-hooks, distribution of direct setting/plot (not via a character) control and a bunch of non-GM player facing rules seem they would have similar or greater restrictions coming with them. So why is this one more of a problem?

Oh, it's not a bigger problem at all. I'm simply objecting to the idea that more codified rules for GMs is inherently a good thing that rpgs should have, rather than a specific desire that should be served by some rpgs.

I do however think that GM rules, once they go beyond guidelines and are implemented as such, will by necessity have a big, perceptible impact. Since the role of the GM is so central to the flow of a game in which there is one, anything that affects them will have a knock-on effect on the rest of the game.

I'll use Ironsworn as an example, since many PbtA games have rules relating to these things and this is the one of them that I've played at length. (Though it is unique in that regard in how it doesn't actually have explicit GM moves.) In essence, they way that task resolution is structured through moves makes most actions with an uncertain outcome result in what you could call success at a cost, and failures always instruct you to make a meaningful negative change happen to the story.

There's no way for the GM to circumvent this short of not calling for a roll or blatantly not following the rules, which the game does not even state as an option. (Rule 0, sure, but I'm going off RAW here.) Explicitly, they are meant to help determine the outcome of moves, not dictate them, as that is done by the moves themselves. The game has a pacing and way of adding twists that exists independent of the GM, and by necessity the GM is forced to follow this. And since doing so for a prolonged time is very creatively exhausting (which I will attest to, since I've felt that a lot during my solo gameplay) the GM is also heavily pushed to offload part of the creative progress to the players, which is unsurprisingly what the system wants in the first place.

None of this is bad in and of itself! In fact, it comes together and functions wonderfully with the right group. I just genuinely would not want to GM it, as it enacts too much control over parts of GMing that I have fun doing myself. (pacing and twists) That, and I know many friends of mine who have styles that are utterly incompatible with this, and who have such a skill for crafting intricate worlds and plots and NPC webs which they simply cannot bring to play under these constrictions.

Again though. Great game. Love playing it. Even GM-less in a group. It's a good old time for some improv-based fantasy gaming.



Welcome to the long road.
A long road it is indeed. At least the progress of thinking up rules is fun! Writing them down, not so much...

Max_Killjoy
2021-09-18, 09:58 PM
True. I was thinking about AW specifically. It has some of the strongest GM rules framework from any game I've ever read, while still giving incredible flexibility and seemingly designed to thoroughly enhance improvisation.

I really don't like the way the game as a whole is designed, and I don't know if I could run the game effectively as designed. but the MC rules framework seems outstanding. Certainly for someone who grew up on D&D and what are all effectively D&D knockoffs when it comes to GMing, which includes things by RP elitists writers like White Wolf's or Palladium's/Amber's, it was eye opening as to what's theoretically possible in terms of true GM guidance without being a Ron Edwards about it.


Which is kinda funny... AW comes out of the Ron Edwards inner circle, and at least some of us here have found the advice therein not helpful, but condescending.

Tanarii
2021-09-18, 11:04 PM
Which is kinda funny... AW comes out of the Ron Edwards inner circle, and at least some of us here have found the advice therein not helpful, but condescending.
That certainly explains the prose accompanying the rules.

But what's surprising is the rules seem pretty solid at what they want to accomplish. Unlike say Burning Wheel.