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Thread: Is D&D too hard?

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    Ogre in the Playground

    Join Date
    May 2009
    Perth, West Australia

    Default Re: Is D&D too hard?

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Again, I don't have trouble meeting the difficulty metrics, this is more of a "postmodern" question about whether the metrics themselves are flaws.
    The metrics are flawed. Videogame mechanics and design in this area run rings around the average TTRPG and have done so for decades, mainly because video games sell an experience and RPGs for the most part sell a group of rules.

    The most obvious contradiction can be illustrated by juxtaposing two canards of encounter "design":

    a. 80% of a party's resources should be used up per day. Thus, 4 encounters chew 20% of resources each.
    b. 30% of encounters should be either outright easy or easy if handled right (DMG).

    If an encounter is easy, i.e. involves the party hitting more often and not having to dig deep into its resources, why should it cost 20% of your daily resources? In particular, an encounter that's easy if handled right surely should use less than 20% of a party's resources because once the party identifies the weak spot or the load bearing boss, the resource usage should drop pretty significantly.

    "But I fix that by pushing the resource cost on the other daily encounters higher, i.e. making the other encounters harder, so I still chew up 80% of their resources per day." That's penny wise and pound foolish thinking, because if you stick hard and fast to that rule, eventually your players look at their daily resource balances and start realising that easy encounters during a day are actually a harbinger of doom, because if they get an easy encounter that only chews 5% of their resources, later that day they will be facing an encounter that's going to hit them for a good 35% of their resources. Which is problematic, because typically the encounters that heavily chew party resources are also the encounters most likely to get their characters killed.

    And the reason that sucks is because it is destructive of the illusion of character progression, which is the primary impetus for people to keep playing past a DM's (generally) second-rate one-man theatre show for an audience of four to six.

    If you realise on a gut level that your levelling is meaningless because the DM is just going to keep the difficulty level at a point that you never actually get that much more powerful - you are always burning up 80% of your resources - then it removes a big sense of the reward for fighting all those horrible things trying to bring your hitpoint count to negative integers.

    "But that brings out the best in my players, they have to think and come up with better and better strategies to win, their bloody deaths teach them how to play better, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!" I hope a bus tries to make you stronger. Dice are mathematically objective but in reality unfair. There is no reasoning with them. A large part of the reason we have all those rules adding modifiers to the roll is to introduce the illusion of fairness: that if you do persevere, that if you do think and fight efficiently, that if you invest your XPs in the right places, you will manage to cheat the dice a few times. And most people need overt indicators that they're getting better. That illusion is as important as the suspension of disbelief when reading a novel. When they don't have that, quite apart from chemical mood stabilisers and rubbish personalities, the result is a feeling of powerlessness. Which, as Yoda once said, leads to frustration. And frustration leads to rage. And long posts on GITP from DMs about how their players aren't engaging with them despite the fact the DM is following the DMG guidelines to the letter.

    Try introducing some meaningful as opposed to mathematically-derived texture into the difficulty ratings of battles, by which I mean, a couple of fights against formerly-formidable opponents which are cakewalks and which don't result in an increase on the difficulty or cost of future encounters in that day. This will involve moving away from the DMG guidelines, but the guidelines, as said, are slightly more expensive toilet paper.