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  1. - Top - End - #61
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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Beyond even that, why are we rolling to climb an average tree in the first place? Either it's a special tree with a special place in the world and it's do or die (and thus won't use the book numbers at all) or (much more likely) it's a relatively inconsequential part of something else. No substantial chance of failure, no particular interesting results of failure or success...why roll in the first place? Just narrate that you climbed the tree and move on. Maybe cost extra movement if you're under pressure and need to do it faster than someone else.
    Exactly. Two things are often argued together. One is the question of when and whether or not there should be a check, and the other is what the difficulty of the check should be. Both are left to the DM to decide, but the DMG repeats in a few places that the DM should only call for a check if there's an outstanding reason to. A DM that calls for a check to climb a tree when there's no duress or constraint is certainly free to do so, but that's not what the game encourages.

    Given the above, the idea that there's a standard DC for any given check is invalid. If the DM is calling for a check because there's some constraint or threat on the player, then the nature of the constraint or threat informs the DC (just as much as the existence of the constraint or threat determines if a check is made in the first place).
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  2. - Top - End - #62
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    I think we are varying from the main point a bit. In that I don't think this description lines up with rules-lite vs. rules-heavy. There is a correlation of mechanics based to rules-heavy because that design pattern benefits more from having more rules. Interpretation based systems can do pretty well with fewer rules.

    In fact although the focus shifts I think every system uses both. The core mechanics are almost always "mechanics based" because they have to set up a connection between fiction and the resolution mechanics, even in a loose "just roll whatever stat feels appropriate" system. Then that establishes a precedent you use when you step outside the defined mechanics and decide how to handle a new situation.

    Then you have a fuzzy scale, here with a few examples along it:
    Mechanics-Based
    • You can't do anything not described by the rules. Which is an extreme stance few systems take.*
    • Going outside the rules is an exceptional event, look to similar rules to make something up.
    • Common situations are clearly defined but less common ones are given only some guidelines.
    • All checks are described as handling kinds of situations. It is entirely up to the table what sort of this situation is.
    • There are no rules. This is free-form and you can role-play but isn't really a rules-system.
    Interpretation-Based

    * Insert D&D 4th edition joke here.

  3. - Top - End - #63
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Take, for instance, that DC 15 "climb a tree" check. An average human child commoner 1 has at most a +0 to Climb. So they not only can't take 10, they fall out of the tree 70% of the time when climbing under any pressure.

    Whereas in real life, kids climb trees all the time--falling out of them is the exception. Even under pressure. I'd say that child-me (who was anything but athletic) is a better climber than current-me. More coordinated, way less fearful, and most importantly a whole heck of a lot lighter.
    Depends on the child, and the tree. Everyone knows not just any kid is prone to climbing trees, and parents tend to prefer they don't because the risk of falling is pretty real. Also, DC 15 is for an average tree, but some trees are shaped as to be easier to climb (particularly gnarled, short, and squat trees). My sister and I used to climb trees, but they were not typical trees, and they were not very tall (it would have been unlikely for us to get seriously hurt falling out of them).

    For example, there might be a pretty big difference between climbing these trees. The first one might not even require a climb check and might actually just be difficult terrain and a narrow ledge for most of it, while the latter two are probably worthy of being DC 15 as is expected.

    Spoiler: Trees
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    So these mechanics claim to simulate reality...but instead make things worse. While at the same time introducing substantial overhead to every single interaction. Now the DM must either keep a table open (ugh, table lookups are a drag) or keep dozens of tables constantly in memory including interpolating between tables of modifiers. And no, the players can't take that load entirely because they don't (and can't) know all the details. Unless you only ever use "stock" elements (if it's not in the table, it doesn't exist). Which is bland and repetitive.
    Or they could just not, since the majority of DCs conform to the standard: very easy (0), easy (5), average (10), tough (15), challenging (20), formidable (25), heroic (30), near impossible (40). Then there's the standard +2/-2 adjustments for circumstances. Generally means that if you want to be lazy, you can be lazy and still have things be pretty consistent within the usual framework, as long as you are consistently being consistent (e.g. don't decide that a simple wooden door is DC 15 today and DC 20 tomorrow without their being a reason).

    More nuanced tool exist if you want to use them, which IMHO is better than not having the tools in the first place.

    Beyond even that, why are we rolling to climb an average tree in the first place? Either it's a special tree with a special place in the world and it's do or die (and thus won't use the book numbers at all) or (much more likely) it's a relatively inconsequential part of something else. No substantial chance of failure, no particular interesting results of failure or success...why roll in the first place? Just narrate that you climbed the tree and move on. Maybe cost extra movement if you're under pressure and need to do it faster than someone else.
    Because not everyone can climb trees. If you're wearing 50 lbs. of hardened steel, then the notion of climbing the tree to look around might be less appealing than trying to make a Perception check to find a trail, or a survival check to ensure you're oriented and not lost. It makes context and situations matter, which improves immersion. It also demonstrates the radical difference between someone who can comfortably climb even while in splint mail and someone who can climb in just their clothes, and if the guy who can climb in the armor takes it off he probably could rival a monkey.

    Again, it's about immersion. You're not going to suddenly be able to or not able to do a thing just because it's suddenly a "scene" where failure might matter. There's no magic moment where the director shouts "action" and then suddenly the world works differently (even rolling for initiative is nothing but a dramatically slowed down version of regular game time). You are capable of what you are capable of, which reduces the "mother-may-I" effect and allows you to more proactively and confidently interact with the world. A bit like how you just assume gravity is going to be gravity without worrying about it in real life.
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  4. - Top - End - #64
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Ashiel View Post
    Again, it's about immersion. You're not going to suddenly be able to or not able to do a thing just because it's suddenly a "scene" where failure might matter. There's no magic moment where the director shouts "action" and then suddenly the world works differently (even rolling for initiative is nothing but a dramatically slowed down version of regular game time).
    The intention behind the mechanic is that if you have plenty of time to get up the tree, you'll get up it assuming the tree is climbable at all. Even if it takes you five minutes. You could make a series of rolls, each representing an attempt. Or the GM could just say you get up there. Or maybe the GM will ask for a roll and use the result to describe how fast it took you. Unless the exact timing needs to be known, it's good enough to say you get up to where you want in a reasonable amount of time.

    On the other hand, if you are in round-by-round play, your climb check represents a single attempt on your turn. If it fails, you can certainly try again but everyone else, including hostiles, get their chance to act before that. In that case, you must roll for each attempt. The actions of others may ultimately prevent you from getting up. You won't know until it all plays out.

    Within the game world, there's no difference between these two scenarios. The tree is technically no harder to climb in either case (although an argument can be made that it is literally harder when an enemy is taking swings at you, but that's ultimately a matter of interpretation). The difference is how the players observe and interact with the game.
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by EggKookoo View Post
    The intention behind the mechanic is that if you have plenty of time to get up the tree, you'll get up it assuming the tree is climbable at all. Even if it takes you five minutes. You could make a series of rolls, each representing an attempt. Or the GM could just say you get up there. Or maybe the GM will ask for a roll and use the result to describe how fast it took you. Unless the exact timing needs to be known, it's good enough to say you get up to where you want in a reasonable amount of time.

    On the other hand, if you are in round-by-round play, your climb check represents a single attempt on your turn. If it fails, you can certainly try again but everyone else, including hostiles, get their chance to act before that. In that case, you must roll for each attempt. The actions of others may ultimately prevent you from getting up. You won't know until it all plays out.

    Within the game world, there's no difference between these two scenarios. The tree is technically no harder to climb in either case (although an argument can be made that it is literally harder when an enemy is taking swings at you, but that's ultimately a matter of interpretation). The difference is how the players observe and interact with the game.
    Exactly. You'd just take-10 or take-20 as the case may be. If you can do it, you can do it.

    I was responding to this:
    Either it's a special tree with a special place in the world and it's do or die (and thus won't use the book numbers at all) or (much more likely) it's a relatively inconsequential part of something else. No substantial chance of failure, no particular interesting results of failure or success...why roll in the first place? Just narrate that you climbed the tree and move on.
    The thing is, it might not be a special tree. You might not actually be able to climb it. If you've got a -7 check penalty because you're in splint mail, climbing the tree might just be out of the question for you, whether the tree is "of consequence" or not. This might be a good time to have one of your more nimble companions climb the tree and toss you down a knotted rope that you can climb while bracing against the tree (DC 0). Instantly you have immersive emergent gameplay, as you know that climbing the three is difficult but climbing a knotted rope with something to brace against is trivially easy, and you are naturally rewarded for your problem solving, without having to play "mother-may-I".

    EDIT: As opposed to "you can just climb trees, until climbing trees matters, then you probably can't".
    Last edited by Ashiel; 2021-01-01 at 02:18 PM.
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  6. - Top - End - #66
    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Cluedrew View Post
    Any yet it is the only reason to play a pen-and-paper/table-top role-playing games over a computer game.

    I'm serious, assuming I've got what everyone is talking about you need it. For all the stories about people taking it too far, GM's not being able to be consistent or playing favourites, without some ability to make decisions from fiction to mechanics instead of the other way around, what is the point? Even dialog choices are fixed, A, B or C, there is no "D, because I have a crazy idea" or even "B, but phrased differently because my character doesn't speak like that". You can have too much, but without a little you are just turning pages in a choose-your-own-adventure book.
    Hmmm… I claim that it's the only reason to play an RPG over a war game.

    But, yeah, the existence of things "outside the box" is a thing that has value.

    The question is, does the existence of things *inside* the box have value?

    My answer is "yes". More on why below.

    Quote Originally Posted by EggKookoo View Post
    A good system will provide guidance for the GM to determine it. Some systems outright list probabilities, but no list is without gaps, so in the end the GM may need to come up with something.
    So long as "outside the box" thinking is allowed, it is pretty definitionally true that the rules cannot cover "outside the box". However, good rules will, IMO, enable players to successfully play the game entirely *within* the box, if they have the desire to do so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    You think the numbers put on paper by some third party are less arbitrary than a GMs? Please. Made up numbers don't become better by being written down. At best, you're hoping a writer did research where your GM didn't, but if you don't trust your GM to do their job, why are you letting them be a GM?
    Quote Originally Posted by Satinavian View Post
    Numbers put on paper by a third party have a couple of advantages :

    1) They are consistent. The numbers on the paper don't change but a GM hardly remembers all their rulings and difficulties over several sessions

    2) Those third party people had time to think about those numbers and talk with each other about them as well while the GM has to decide on the fly to not bog the game down. That doesn't make all the numbers on paper better but on average, they are.

    3) Players can know the numbers and plan accordingly. Misunderstanding and miscommunication about expected difficulties are far rarer.
    Wow. That's almost exactly what I was going to say. Well, the same 3 points, at any rate - you just worded them better than I would have. So let's see if I can expand on what you've already covered.

    I would emphasize the value of consistency between tables - how you don't need to relearn the rules of chess or Stratego just because you play with someone else. Some people only want to learn one game (as has been covered in other threads recently) - games with printed rules rather than "mother may I" are therefore advantageous to the hobby.

    One big thing that's missing is, players can plan *away from the table*. With rules, it's easy to evaluate their plans; without rules, they have to call up the GM at 2 in the morning to go through their series of "how does this work?" questions in order to evaluate their plan. Or they have to waste hours at the table walking through all this with the GM. I really don't have to expound on how precious table time is, and how terrible this waste of time is, do I?

    Another concern that was brought up was the difference between known and unknown rules, and the value of Exploration and Discovery. Believe me, I feel you. Numerous tables have been unable to understand why I didn't want to read the rules or the setting documents, didn't appreciate the value of Exploration and Discovery, how you can only have one first time and, after that, a lot of the mystery is gone.

    Point being, you can still have your Exploration and Discovery with printed rules, as you can simply not read them! Easy peasy. Reading the rules and setting documents are for the second time through, after the novelty of Exploration and Discovery has worn off.

    What else?

    The larger the "box", the more likely that the given scenario will be covered, and the less likely that the GM will be called upon to produce a lower quality answer on the fly.

    If you're looking at rules away from the table, you've got time, and, for a well-layed-out system, there is a near 100% chance that you'll find the rule, and be able to reference it during the game.

    But let's say that the scenario comes up unexpectedly: the party breaks the dam, the flood waters are a thing, and the Wizard asks if he can use Stone to Flesh to turn someone to pumice, to use as a flotation device. Someone else wants to know if grabbing a tree (or pumice statue) can be covered by the grappling rules. A third character asks if they can use their flight under water. The fourth player wants to know about underwater visibility rules, for rescuing allies or locating and murdering / looting enemies.

    If there's only a 50/50 chance for any given to remember any given rule, that's still almost a 97% chance that someone at the table can just immediately answer the question. Even with phones and Google, already knowing the answer is still the fastest resolution method.

    And it's arguably similar 50/50 odds of remembering a previous ruling as remembering a given rule. And rulings are notoriously harder to research with phones and Google than rules are.

    Rules provide value for speed, consistency, quality, portability, planning, comprehension… there's just no favorable comparison to be had for rulings for any variable that I can imagine comparing.

  7. - Top - End - #67
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Ashiel View Post
    EDIT: As opposed to "you can just climb trees, until climbing trees matters, then you probably can't".
    Well, literally it's "you can just climb trees, until climbing this specific tree within the next 6 seconds matters, then we'll see we'll see how it turns out."

    I can do lots of things with a pretty high degree of success, that I would fail at if you pulled out a stopwatch and pointed a gun at my head.

    Likewise, there are things I never seem to be able to do, but if you pointed a gun at my head I would find the resources to do. People who can "never climb trees" may learn that they can if a hungry bear is chasing them. Adrenaline masks a lot of scrapes and twisted joints.
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  8. - Top - End - #68
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Tree-climbing is a good example of a skill I usually wouldn't bother to mechanize. The reason being: most people know what trees are, they don't need mechanical rules to intuitively understand their character can climb one, a GM describing a tree in any detail is enough to communicate difficulty of a task.

    I suggest you pick another example. Preferably something that is reasonably easy to mechanize but isn't common knowledge, like ballistics. Or weather.

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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    I find that mechanics-heavy games cause way more jarring problems than they solve.

    Take, for instance, that DC 15 "climb a tree" check. An average human child commoner 1 has at most a +0 to Climb. So they not only can't take 10, they fall out of the tree 70% of the time when climbing under any pressure.

    Whereas in real life, kids climb trees all the time--falling out of them is the exception. Even under pressure. I'd say that child-me (who was anything but athletic) is a better climber than current-me. More coordinated, way less fearful, and most importantly a whole heck of a lot lighter.

    So these mechanics claim to simulate reality...but instead make things worse. While at the same time introducing substantial overhead to every single interaction. Now the DM must either keep a table open (ugh, table lookups are a drag) or keep dozens of tables constantly in memory including interpolating between tables of modifiers. And no, the players can't take that load entirely because they don't (and can't) know all the details. Unless you only ever use "stock" elements (if it's not in the table, it doesn't exist). Which is bland and repetitive.

    Beyond even that, why are we rolling to climb an average tree in the first place? Either it's a special tree with a special place in the world and it's do or die (and thus won't use the book numbers at all) or (much more likely) it's a relatively inconsequential part of something else. No substantial chance of failure, no particular interesting results of failure or success...why roll in the first place? Just narrate that you climbed the tree and move on. Maybe cost extra movement if you're under pressure and need to do it faster than someone else.

    Edit: I will say that more "interpretive" games have other issues as well. Just different ones. So IMO, there's a balance to be struck. Call it "rules medium" or "rules as shared toolkit". The rules aren't in control, but they're building blocks for tables to use. You don't get the mathematical precision[1], but you also get turns that don't take 10s of minutes. You get the much better narrative fit, but you don't get the constant need to discuss how to translate a player action into a character action.

    [1] which I'd say is mostly false and unrealistic--you can't pin down the success probability of most things beyond "these things I can always do (unless something radical intervenes", "those things I can often do" and "those things I can only do when I get really lucky"). People are bad with probabilities in real life. Horribly so. And most probabilities aren't even meaningful for things you do only a few times.
    Some games are more realistic than others. Choose to taste.

    We've been over this before. Different DMs have different opinions on how easy it is to climb a tree. You think there should be no roll. Climb a tree because you want to. Great. Another DM says differently. You have to roll and the DC is X. Another DM says you have to roll and the DC is Y. Why? Because they say so, and they're not wrong. They think climbing trees are more difficult than you do. With all these different opinions it would help if there was a unifying rule. The Game says climbing a tree is W, where W = DC Z and specifically and directly tell the DM the player doesn't need to roll unless it's a stressful situation like combat. Then a character can get a Power that says he doesn't need to roll even if it is a stressful situation. Depending on the game mechanics maybe at some point another character can increase his ability to climb stuff such that he can make DC Z on a Natural 1 as a feature. The character is just that good, took the effort to be so good, and now gets to enjoy the fruit of that labor.

    Still, such a game system may still say a 4 year old can't climb trees like I did. For some people that's a deal breaker. They need absolute realism. That's fine. They can play another game. Some will look for a more mechanics driven game. Others may look towards interpretation.
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  10. - Top - End - #70
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    Some games are more realistic than others. Choose to taste.

    We've been over this before. Different DMs have different opinions on how easy it is to climb a tree. You think there should be no roll. Climb a tree because you want to. Great. Another DM says differently. You have to roll and the DC is X. Another DM says you have to roll and the DC is Y. Why? Because they say so, and they're not wrong. They think climbing trees are more difficult than you do. With all these different opinions it would help if there was a unifying rule. The Game says climbing a tree is W, where W = DC Z and specifically and directly tell the DM the player doesn't need to roll unless it's a stressful situation like combat. Then a character can get a Power that says he doesn't need to roll even if it is a stressful situation. Depending on the game mechanics maybe at some point another character can increase his ability to climb stuff such that he can make DC Z on a Natural 1 as a feature. The character is just that good, took the effort to be so good, and now gets to enjoy the fruit of that labor.

    Still, such a game system may still say a 4 year old can't climb trees like I did. For some people that's a deal breaker. They need absolute realism. That's fine. They can play another game. Some will look for a more mechanics driven game. Others may look towards interpretation.
    Personally, I find it a feature that every table can rule differently, because the same mechanics may be a great fit for your table and a poor fit for mine. I trust the GM of each table to make the best decisions for their table, because each GM knows their own table best. And that's one way playing at a new table, with a new GM, can be a fresh and exciting experience. But I can see where you're coming from.

    My first character, in D&D 3.5, was an avid tree climber, and I had to spend ranks accordingly and roll to climb trees regularly. Now that I have years of experience and familiarity with more systems, I feel like all of that detracted from the immersive experience. It was just a bunch of unnecessary rolling, and worse, time and build resources spent figuring out how to be able to do something that never significantly affected the game; the trees rarely mattered.

    Now I strongly prefer more permissive GMing with fewer rolls, so that players can have the freedom to play their characters how they want to play them. I find that leads to players role-playing more freely instead of browsing their character sheet for options. The games are more enjoyable that way, at least at our tables.

    So in the end, I agree with you. It's largely a matter of taste. What's important to each table, and each player, will vary, and that will even vary depending on the game situation. And there's plenty of middle ground between hard mechanics and loose interpretation.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vahnavoi View Post
    Tree-climbing is a good example of a skill I usually wouldn't bother to mechanize. The reason being: most people know what trees are, they don't need mechanical rules to intuitively understand their character can climb one, a GM describing a tree in any detail is enough to communicate difficulty of a task.

    I suggest you pick another example. Preferably something that is reasonably easy to mechanize but isn't common knowledge, like ballistics. Or weather.
    I don't believe you. There is a very large breadth of difference between the physical capabilities of different characters. When you factor in things like armor and/or how much characters are holding, I wouldn't know if a character could or couldn't climb a tree if there was no measure other than guessing.

    As for another simple example, picking locks. I know that if my character invests 1 rank into Disable Device (Pathfinder) they can take-20 to open common locks, but nice locks are not something they are capable of handling. I know this because nice locks are DC 25 and 30 respectively, so my ex-street delinquent turned cleric can't break into those ones but can get into most peasant houses.
    Last edited by Ashiel; 2021-01-01 at 09:44 PM.
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Ashiel View Post
    I don't believe you. There is a very large breadth of difference between the physical capabilities of different characters. When you factor in things like armor and/or how much characters are holding, I wouldn't know if a character could or couldn't climb a tree if there was no measure other than guessing.

    As for another simple example, picking locks. I know that if my character invests 1 rank into Disable Device (Pathfinder) they can take-20 to open common locks, but nice locks are not something they are capable of handling. I know this because nice locks are DC 25 and 30 respectively, so my ex-street delinquent turned cleric can't break into those ones but can get into most peasant houses.
    And that guarantees that all common locks, everywhere in the multiverse, are identical difficulty. As are all the nice locks of their respective categories. Or that the DM is adding modifiers, which breaks the whole "I know I can do it".

    For me, that homogenization ruins things. Within my own setting, no two locks are identical. But I don't have to worry about it, because anyone with the appropriate tools and proficiency (the only gated/untrained not possible check in 5e to my knowledge) can open any of the non-magicked ones given time. So unless there's a time limit (such as guards coming, or a trap, or whatever), the lock just doesn't matter. It's been reduced to a binary, without actually having to go through the process of caring about the exact difficulty. And if there's a time limit, the difficulty depends less on the lock and more on the circumstances--something easy to ignore for a bit might be DC 10 for a moderately complex lock, while a "we have to get it open in the next 6 seconds or we all die" case might be DC 20+ for a much simpler lock.

    DCs, in my mind, should reflect the entire circumstances, not the isolated task. Otherwise you have the defeat-by-endless-rolling problem (roll Stealth for this step, now for the next step, etc, which guarantees failure).
    Last edited by PhoenixPhyre; 2021-01-01 at 10:11 PM.
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    And that guarantees that all common locks, everywhere in the multiverse, are identical difficulty. As are all the nice locks of their respective categories. Or that the DM is adding modifiers, which breaks the whole "I know I can do it".

    For me, that homogenization ruins things. Within my own setting, no two locks are identical. But I don't have to worry about it, because anyone with the appropriate tools and proficiency (the only gated/untrained not possible check in 5e to my knowledge) can open any of the non-magicked ones given time. So unless there's a time limit (such as guards coming, or a trap, or whatever), the lock just doesn't matter. It's been reduced to a binary, without actually having to go through the process of caring about the exact difficulty. And if there's a time limit, the difficulty depends less on the lock and more on the circumstances--something easy to ignore for a bit might be DC 10 for a moderately complex lock, while a "we have to get it open in the next 6 seconds or we all die" case might be DC 20+ for a much simpler lock.

    DCs, in my mind, should reflect the entire circumstances, not the isolated task. Otherwise you have the defeat-by-endless-rolling problem (roll Stealth for this step, now for the next step, etc, which guarantees failure).
    Why is all common locks everywhere being the same DC to open a problem but all non-magical platemail everywhere providing the same AC is ok? In any case, a lock doesn't know an orc is chasing you so it decides to be harder to open. That is what 4E did, the DC of a task is based on the level of the character doing it. It will always be of some difficulty defined by its quality. What's different is the person trying to open it. Because the orc is chasing you is why you have to roll. You can't take your time. This is where your skill in opening the lock matters. If there was no orc the lock opens because you're that good. Because you need to open it Right Now, you roll. Your skill determines your chance. You may be good enough that you open it automatically anyway. Could be a class feature of autosuccess during stressful situations. Could be you invested in Open Lock skill enough you make the DC on a Natural 1 when you have to roll.

    Having defined target numbers can still allow no need to roll for every instance. It's been done. In 3E it is Take 10/Take 20. In 5E it is Passive score. You do not have to roll every round for Stealth or any skill in non-stressful situations. Some DM might ask for one roll and use it for the encounter. For example the party hears something. The scout goes looking. DM asks for a Stealth roll. The scout doesn't find what makes the noise until a gameworld minute later. The DM uses that Stealth roll when the scout looks for a place to hide and observe, not every round the scout moves to see if what made the noise hears/notices the scout. It is helpful for a game system to offer such an idea.
    Quote Originally Posted by OgresAreCute View Post
    "Welcome to Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition, where the DCs are made up and the rules don't matter."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    Having defined target numbers can still allow no need to roll for every instance. It's been done. In 3E it is Take 10/Take 20. In 5E it is Passive score. You do not have to roll every round for Stealth or any skill in non-stressful situations. Some DM might ask for one roll and use it for the encounter. For example the party hears something. The scout goes looking. DM asks for a Stealth roll. The scout doesn't find what makes the noise until a gameworld minute later. The DM uses that Stealth roll when the scout looks for a place to hide and observe, not every round the scout moves to see if what made the noise hears/notices the scout. It is helpful for a game system to offer such an idea.
    I would like to take this moment to mention that taking-10 as a GM is probably the best sanity and time saving thing for everyone, especially when dealing with things like Stealth and Perception.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    Why is all common locks everywhere being the same DC to open a problem but all non-magical platemail everywhere providing the same AC is ok?
    I'd like to point out that in 5e, more than a few creatures have AC values that are not calculated the same way as PCs. Especially those with the ill-defined "natural armor," which seems to be a term for "we wanted this monster's AC to be higher but not change anything else." It's hard to tell if natural armor is a bonus or a recalculation.

    But here's a thought. What if locks had "pick points"? So you make a lockpicking check. If you succeed, roll a die and then reduce its current PP by the result, just like damaging a creature. When the lock reaches 0 PP, it's picked and you can open it. Then all (common) locks have the same DC, but a range of pick points. Is that just moving the same problem to a different location?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ashiel View Post
    I would like to take this moment to mention that taking-10 as a GM is probably the best sanity and time saving thing for everyone, especially when dealing with things like Stealth and Perception.
    Indeed, and 5e oddball cousin: passives.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ashiel View Post
    I prefer the more mechanical system like D&D 3.x/d20, because IMHO it facilitates better roleplaying, because it provides a stable framework for what is reasonable, and as a direct result you can quickly learn how things relate to one-another. You can understand what you can do, why you can do it, and so on, and that allows you to engage in the world more as if you are living in it and have a more immersive experience.

    A simple example I use most of the time when discussing topics like this is, in D&D if you understand that the DC to climb a tree is 15, and you have a +5 climb modifier, you can climb trees. You don't have to ask the GM if you can climb a tree. If the difficulty is higher, such as being heavily covered in wet moss (say a +2 to the DC), or someone oiled the tree by casting grease on the it (say +10 to the DC), you can easily understand why you can normally climb trees easily but this one is harder and understand how big a deal it is to be able to casually climb those trees relative to what you're capable of now. It also means that you might intuitively understand how to solve such problems: if there's thick moss grown on the tree, you might spend a bit using a shortsword to scrape the moss off as you're climbing it (effectively negating the +2 to the DC in exchange for climbing up slower) or attempt to foil the lubricant by patting the tree with crushed chalk or flour; for you understand why there is a difference and can interact with it naturally.

    This leads to immersive emergent gameplay. If you're wandering through a forest with a thick canopy (dim light, things are difficult to see clearly) on the way to find a tower somewhere in the forest and you're not sure which way you are going, but you have a +5 climb modifier, you don't say "Hey GM, can I climb a tree to look around? If I get a better view from up there, will I be able to see any better? Will I...?". Instead, what you say is "I can climb trees, so I climb up a tall one and have a look around for the tower." You know that you can climb trees, and you know that getting clear line of sight in bright light above the canopy will allow you to see the tower without trouble and orient yourself. You have, naturally, intuitively, interacted with the world as if it were in a sense real and as a result makes it easier to roleplay without pauses, for both the player and the GM. The GM likewise benefits because s/he doesn't have to decide whether or not you can climb this tree and can instead focus on describing the results of your actions and further the story from there.

    It opens avenues for more pro-active gameplay and decision making. Knowing how the world works allows you to act accordingly. Knowing that it's harder to see you at a distance (-1 penalty to Perception per 10 ft.) can influence your decisions when tailing a suspected spy through a city, as you decide whether or not you want to risk them getting out of sight because they are far enough away that they could turn a corner or two before you could see which way they went, or if you want to stay further back to ensure you aren't spotted in a crowd.

    There is functionally nothing lost in a crunchy system since nothing is off limits if the GM and group wants it so. You can always simply ask if you can use a thing in a way not specified, but these sorts of considerations are actually made easier to handle for the players and GMs by a consistent framework that you can reference. For example, if your party is ambushed by some invisible stalkers or rogues with greater invisibility cast on them, you can ask to do something not covered by the rules such as "Can I scatter powdered sugar around the room to reveal the invisible people?" - "Sure, but it won't reveal them completely, and the cloud will make it hard to see anything in the room for a bit, so they'll loose invisibility and everyone in the room gains concealment 20% for...two rounds, then only the invisible people will have concealment as the dust settles".

    In a similar vein, being able to compare things at different scales can help decide on things that aren't already covered in the rules. If you know that iron has hardness 10, you know you need to have a fire that's hotter than 10 points of fire damage (on average) after halving it to melt the metal, so if a minotaur bull-rushes a PC into the coals of a giant furnace, you can say "Oh, well that's probably at least 6d6 fire damage since it's gotta be hot enough to actually get the metal soft".

    So I like the mechanical stuff because I find it supports roleplaying and doing interesting things more than flavors of "mother-may-I".

    That is exactly the appeal of a system with good mechanics. I prefer the mechanics to be derived from what we want to model, and will put the fiction-layer ahead of the mechanics-layer when the rules give nonsensical results... but I still want the actual mechanics.

    What I don't want is to have a long Q&A session with the GM every time I need to determine if an action is advisable, or possible, or which action to choose. My character should have a sense of that, and as a player I should have a sense of that, without spending 5+ minutes engaged in interrogating and then persuading the GM every time one of my action opportunities comes up.

    One of the things that bugs me about "modern" system design is that if it's not mechanics-heavy in a convoluted way that doesn't accomplish the actual goal stated here for having mechanics (maybe trying to capture some OSR goal, or maybe because they have some novel resolution system they want to spotlight, or maybe something else), then it's flirting with being "Oberoni Fallacy, the RPG", stripped down to a small set of sparse mechanics that only function because of constant GM intervention fig-leafed as something positive.

    Or, that obscured sense of the fiction-layer reality is presented as a "good thing", both because it "helps create challenges and dramatic twists" and because it "leaves room for shared narrative to form".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    Why is all common locks everywhere being the same DC to open a problem but all non-magical platemail everywhere providing the same AC is ok? In any case, a lock doesn't know an orc is chasing you so it decides to be harder to open. That is what 4E did, the DC of a task is based on the level of the character doing it. It will always be of some difficulty defined by its quality. What's different is the person trying to open it. Because the orc is chasing you is why you have to roll. You can't take your time. This is where your skill in opening the lock matters. If there was no orc the lock opens because you're that good. Because you need to open it Right Now, you roll. Your skill determines your chance. You may be good enough that you open it automatically anyway. Could be a class feature of autosuccess during stressful situations. Could be you invested in Open Lock skill enough you make the DC on a Natural 1 when you have to roll.

    Having defined target numbers can still allow no need to roll for every instance. It's been done. In 3E it is Take 10/Take 20. In 5E it is Passive score. You do not have to roll every round for Stealth or any skill in non-stressful situations. Some DM might ask for one roll and use it for the encounter. For example the party hears something. The scout goes looking. DM asks for a Stealth roll. The scout doesn't find what makes the noise until a gameworld minute later. The DM uses that Stealth roll when the scout looks for a place to hide and observe, not every round the scout moves to see if what made the noise hears/notices the scout. It is helpful for a game system to offer such an idea.
    There's also a space between "all locks of X quality have identical DCs" and "all locks have a DC set by the GM in the moment".

    A system could establish that each "category" of lock has DCs within a certain narrowish range, so that it's not all the same but it's also not entirely random and unpredictable.

    Just a random thought.


    Quote Originally Posted by EggKookoo View Post
    Exactly. Two things are often argued together. One is the question of when and whether or not there should be a check, and the other is what the difficulty of the check should be. Both are left to the DM to decide, but the DMG repeats in a few places that the DM should only call for a check if there's an outstanding reason to. A DM that calls for a check to climb a tree when there's no duress or constraint is certainly free to do so, but that's not what the game encourages.

    Given the above, the idea that there's a standard DC for any given check is invalid. If the DM is calling for a check because there's some constraint or threat on the player, then the nature of the constraint or threat informs the DC (just as much as the existence of the constraint or threat determines if a check is made in the first place).
    The GM should of course be free to not require a roll, or require a roll for how long something takes or how well/poorly it's accomplished, instead of a pass/fail roll ever single time.

    But that's not the same as "we only have rules for when things are challenging for that subset of individuals known as "PCs", nothing else matters or should be encoded." That approach gives a distorted picture and disconnects the mechanics-layer from the fiction-layer.



    Quote Originally Posted by Ashiel View Post
    EDIT: As opposed to "you can just climb trees, until climbing trees matters, then you probably can't".
    See also, the player who insists they can give their PC a 7 INT and no knowledge or intelligence based skills... but that doesn't mean the character is slow-minded or ignorant, as long as they can play the character smart and finagle their way out of ever rolling against it.

    One of my pet peeves is when we see solid mechanics conflated with "mechanics first", and someone insists that the 7 INT just means the PC is bad at rolling on INT-based rolls -- and that the low INT is supposedly not representative of the character as a person being kinda on the stupid side.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2021-01-02 at 10:51 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    That approach gives a distorted picture and disconnects the mechanics-layer from the fiction-layer.
    For some of us, that disconnect is a feature instead of a bug.
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    Quote Originally Posted by EggKookoo View Post
    For some of us, that disconnect is a feature instead of a bug.
    To me it's a fatal flaw.

    The disconnect means that the mechanics routinely produce results that don't match the expectations established in the fictional reality, and that I as the player cannot get the same broad sense of the probable, possible, unlikely, and impossible that my character has standing there inside the fictional reality. At "best", I can grind the game to a halt and engage with the GM at the table-level for minutes on end, interrogating and negotiating on what the results of an attempted action might be -- the game becomes less about the characters and setting and their actions therein, and more about my ability to interact with the GM and convince them of something.
    Last edited by Max_Killjoy; 2021-01-02 at 11:05 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    At "best", I can grind the game to a halt and engage with the GM at the table-level for minutes on end, interrogating and negotiating on what the results of an attempted action might be -- the game becomes less about the characters and setting and their actions therein, and more about my ability to interact with the GM and convince them of something.
    Sounds like any early session in any new campaign I run. I encourage these kinds of negotiations and discussions as long as they're in good faith. I want to know where you want to push the rules, or get clarification on the things that are important to you. Is tree-climbing important? Great, let's work out a process that satisfies you. Do you want to use spells in non-combat ways, like using fire bolt to light candles? Let's hammer out how you can do that without causing later imbalance. Just be aware that if we discover a problem later, we'll have to revisit it.

    This kind of stuff happens at the start of many of my campaigns, especially with new-to-me players. It doesn't derail much -- I tend to play with people who also like this kind of rules-exploration. My long-running players and I have come around to a general understanding of how this stuff goes, so it's not like we have to revisit it constantly.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    Some games are more realistic than others. Choose to taste.

    We've been over this before. Different DMs have different opinions on how easy it is to climb a tree. You think there should be no roll. Climb a tree because you want to. Great. Another DM says differently. You have to roll and the DC is X. Another DM says you have to roll and the DC is Y. Why? Because they say so, and they're not wrong. They think climbing trees are more difficult than you do. With all these different opinions it would help if there was a unifying rule. The Game says climbing a tree is W, where W = DC Z and specifically and directly tell the DM the player doesn't need to roll unless it's a stressful situation like combat. Then a character can get a Power that says he doesn't need to roll even if it is a stressful situation. Depending on the game mechanics maybe at some point another character can increase his ability to climb stuff such that he can make DC Z on a Natural 1 as a feature. The character is just that good, took the effort to be so good, and now gets to enjoy the fruit of that labor.

    Still, such a game system may still say a 4 year old can't climb trees like I did. For some people that's a deal breaker. They need absolute realism. That's fine. They can play another game. Some will look for a more mechanics driven game. Others may look towards interpretation.
    "Like the real world, unless noted otherwise" - why can't people just accept that, if trees are DC 15 to climb, and that doesn't match their expectations, they need to either a) get the company to admit to their mistake, and errata it, or b) accept that this is one of the ways that the game world is different from the real world, and calibrate their expectations accordingly?

    Quote Originally Posted by EggKookoo View Post
    For some of us, that disconnect is a feature instead of a bug.
    How can "Superman and Worf get KO'd every fight and come off as wimps" be a feature?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pex View Post
    Why is all common locks everywhere being the same DC to open a problem but all non-magical platemail everywhere providing the same AC is ok?
    Depending on the feel a campaign is going for, having armor made in different circumstances or by different levels of skill or knowledge vary could be useful. This is improvised plate mail cobbled together from different suits and has rusted in the rain: it's 3AC worse than you'd expect. This platemail has been optimized by a dwarven clan for centuries and grants an extra +1 AC to dwarves. This platemail was forged nonmagically by someone who was literally possessed by a deity of the forge at the time.

    Unexpected variation encountered suggests that seeking variation may be worthwhile. It creates the question 'can we do better than the standard stuff?' while making discovery of the methods a subject of gameplay rather than a subject of rule diving.

    As an aside, this is why I like there to be (rare) sources of permanent progression scattered around a setting in games with a leveling track. It breaks up the linearity and predictability of advancement, and suggests actions that ambitious characters could take in pursuit of power that are above and beyond just having your daily level appropriate encounters. Someone practices a certain kind of trick shot over and over, finally uses it to good effect in a life or death moment, and permanently picks up a +1 to hit in those circumstances that can't be explained by BAB or Feat or purposefully replicated by another character, but is just a bit of their history given weight.
    Last edited by NichG; 2021-01-02 at 11:48 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    How can "Superman and Worf get KO'd every fight and come off as wimps" be a feature?
    I don't think I'm following.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NichG View Post
    As an aside, this is why I like there to be (rare) sources of permanent progression scattered around a setting in games with a leveling track. It breaks up the linearity and predictability of advancement, and suggests actions that ambitious characters could take in pursuit of power that are above and beyond just having your daily level appropriate encounters. Someone practices a certain kind of trick shot over and over, finally uses it to good effect in a life or death moment, and permanently picks up a +1 to hit in those circumstances that can't be explained by BAB or Feat or purposefully replicated by another character, but is just a bit of their history given weight.
    Quertus, my signature academia mage for whom this account is named, has encountered, learned, developed counters for, and written about no fewer than 6 different methods for concealing magic. As just one example. Yeah, I'm a fan (of nonlinear permanent progression).

    Quote Originally Posted by EggKookoo View Post
    I don't think I'm following.
    So, you said that a disconnect between the mechanics-layer and the fiction-layer is a feature. Granted, "being Worf'd" is usually an issue with the *narrative* taking precedence over the mechanics; still, regardless of the precision of the example, I am asking how creating dissonance by disconnecting the mechanics from the fiction can be viewed as a feature. To me, it's all, "yes, I'm Superman, but that doesn't mean I have a high Strength score" - what is it to you?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Max_Killjoy View Post
    There's also a space between "all locks of X quality have identical DCs" and "all locks have a DC set by the GM in the moment".

    A system could establish that each "category" of lock has DCs within a certain narrowish range, so that it's not all the same but it's also not entirely random and unpredictable.

    Just a random thought.
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    Quote Originally Posted by EggKookoo View Post
    I don't think I'm following.
    It's the Worf effect. TvTropes has a page for it.

    Essentially one of the PCs is a strong &tough fighter. Therefore any opponent who can one-hit KO that character is a serious combat threat, the corollary being that anyone who can't isn't a threat. Since the PCs must be threatened lots of fights start with a Worfing and that PC goes down for a nap. Suddenly it's a bad joke, most fights start with the strong & tough character going down in one hit and everyone else seems much "tougher" because it takes multiple hits to down them. The fiction says "strong enemy" and you repeatedly turn the "strong PC" into a glass jaw chump to enforce the fiction. The fiction and mechanics are at odds and in this case the fiction makes people who think they have a strong & tough character feel bad & unhappy.

    You see similar things in a lot of games where everyone has a chance to both succeed and fail on all the mechanics. If you have a game where the smartest and most educated person has a 75% success rate and lobotimized illiterate has a 25% success rate you can just skip having them both roll and just drop a d8. On 1-6 the educated genius knows something, on a 7 nobody knows, and on a 8 the illiterate who is physically missing their frontal lobes knows the thing. Again, fiction and mechanical disconnect making the player who invested in a smart & educated character unhappy because the mechanics win over the fiction.

    Now you can square the circle here by ignoring the fiction or mechanics any time they produce stupid or broken results. But that takes you back to why you should use those rules in the first place if the DM has to constantly fix things (before or after rolling). And for some people people that's OK, they don't mind running that and don't play with DMs have interpreted the rules as not needing to be fixed and that rolling for everything works fine.

    The thing you're running into with D&D 5e is that the game has two modes, combat and not-combat. In combat the target numbers are all set by the system, the players know what they'll be rolling (attack, damage, saves), and the DM doesn't need to make lots of rules decisions. Basically all your combat target numbers are predefined by the system. Then you have the not-combat mode where there basically aren't all that pregenerated content and rules so the DM has to make everything up. You can really see the difference if you flip the modes. Use the combat rules for all the non-combat stuff (requires statting all non-combat challenges as monsters and defining PC non-combat gear like it was armor & weapons) and use the not-combat rules for combat (where there are no monster stat blocks and weapons & armor use the tool kit/proficency stats).

    Some systems avoid that by having both combat and not-combat use the same rules. Others admit to the split and produce fully separate rules for both modes. It's just that D&D 5e is both currently common and doesn't make the mode split explicit and distinct, so some DMs interpret & run the not-combat rules like they were the combat rules.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    So, you said that a disconnect between the mechanics-layer and the fiction-layer is a feature. Granted, "being Worf'd" is usually an issue with the *narrative* taking precedence over the mechanics; still, regardless of the precision of the example, I am asking how creating dissonance by disconnecting the mechanics from the fiction can be viewed as a feature. To me, it's all, "yes, I'm Superman, but that doesn't mean I have a high Strength score" - what is it to you?
    Quote Originally Posted by Telok View Post
    It's the Worf effect. TvTropes has a page for it.
    Ok, right, thanks. Yes, I'm familiar with the Worf Effect. But from what I understand, that arises from the conflict between an informed attribute ("Worf is a badass") and a demonstrated one (Worf consistently gets his butt kicked so the writers can demonstrate how tough the villain is, since "Worf is a badass"). But does that apply in a game? Is your high-athletics PC consistently failing athletics checks? How is that happening?

    Re: Superman, even if he had a high strength score, in a game like D&D the dice can still have him lose a strength contest with someone considerably weaker once in a while. This is true whether you require checks for every attempt or only the "significant" ones.
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    Quote Originally Posted by EggKookoo View Post
    Ok, right, thanks. Yes, I'm familiar with the Worf Effect. But from what I understand, that arises from the conflict between an informed attribute ("Worf is a badass") and a demonstrated one (Worf consistently gets his butt kicked so the writers can demonstrate how tough the villain is, since "Worf is a badass"). But does that apply in a game? Is your high-athletics PC consistently failing athletics checks? How is that happening?
    The answer to your questions was paragraphs 2 to 5 of the post you quoted from.

    Essentially fiction-mechanic dissonance causes issues for many people when both fiction overrides and contradicts mechanics, or mechanics override and contradict the fiction. The solution of "don't use the mechanics when they fail" begs the question of "why use bad mechanics that require constant fixing" and brings about another problem when novices try to use the system and encounter repeated failures.
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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by EggKookoo View Post
    Ok, right, thanks. Yes, I'm familiar with the Worf Effect. But from what I understand, that arises from the conflict between an informed attribute ("Worf is a badass") and a demonstrated one (Worf consistently gets his butt kicked so the writers can demonstrate how tough the villain is, since "Worf is a badass"). But does that apply in a game? Is your high-athletics PC consistently failing athletics checks? How is that happening?

    Re: Superman, even if he had a high strength score, in a game like D&D the dice can still have him lose a strength contest with someone considerably weaker once in a while. This is true whether you require checks for every attempt or only the "significant" ones.
    1) none of this answers "how is this (having mechanics and fiction be discontented) a feature?".

    2) yes, my high athletics character is failing athletics checks all the time: by being Worf'd by "this is a challenge", by Bounded Accuracy, by "you always fail on a 1", by DC treadmill. Depends on the system, but, yes, this happens all the time, for everything.

    3) let's pretend that "moving a planet" is the top of Superman's game, and pretend further that, in 3e, doing so requires Strength 2,000,000,000. That's a +1,000,000,000 to opposed Strength checks. Opponent rolls a natural 20 on their +10 Strength, gets a 30. Superman rolls a 1, gets a 1,000,000,001. 1,000,000,001 > 30, Superman wins. Mechanics and fiction are aligned. Superman does not get Worf'd.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2021-01-05 at 12:00 AM.

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    Default Re: Mechanics vs interpretation based RPG systems

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    1) none of this answers "how is this (having mechanics and fiction be discontented) a feature?".
    When I talk about keeping the mechanics and fiction separated/disconnected, I mean viewing the mechanics not as something that actually drives what's going on in the fiction as though the game rules are describing the laws of physics as (potentially) perceived by the characters, but instead as a set of rules the players use to help facilitate gameplay. The benefit of keeping the fiction isolated from the mechanics per se is that it improves the realism of the fiction. It's silly, or at least strange, to think that PCs actually possess game stats like levels, hit points, etc. I mean, that they literally possess these features. While some game mechanics might overlap with in-fiction properties, many do not, and many are outright disjointed (depending on which system we're talking about).

    Put another way, creatures in a TTRPG are made up of the same basic building blocks of matter that you and I are. Their actions are not dictated by the crude probability-generation of rolled dice. They don't have physical attributes that divide neatly into 20 points of value, or whatever the system in question uses. They're flesh and bone and atoms and emotion and dreams and the spirit of life.

    Every now and then someone asks a question along the lines of "would a wizard know about spell slots?" That question comes from an assumption that the mechanics and fiction are bound together. As long as that assumption is maintained, that question will inevitably lead to the conclusion that PCs know they're in a game. Don't get me wrong. A TTRPG where the PCs are aware they're PCs might be cool. But that would affect the fiction significantly. Like in the original Tron, where the Programs revere the Users, PCs in such a world would make decisions that incorporated their self-knowledge. Society as a whole would be built around it. It could be fun, but it wouldn't look much like Faerûn.

    I've used this analogy before, but it'd really be no different than the characters in a movie being aware they're in a movie. The "mechanics" of a movie are things like scene cuts, camera angles, story structure (currently everpresent is the 3-act structure used for almost every Hollywood film), foreshadowing, theme, subtext, and so on. Do these things actually exist for the characters? Are the story mechanics and story fiction tightly connected?*

    In a good film, no. Events unfold in the story as a natural result of what's going on. The characters in the story don't act as though they're aware they're in a story. They don't do things because the plot only makes sense if they do those things (again, we're talking about a good film). Storytelling mechanics, like jump cuts, Highlander-like scene wipes, split screens, dramatic tense music, etc., don't seem to matter to the characters. They're clearly there for the benefit of only the audience. Fiction and mechanics work in concert to create a greater whole, but they are disconnected.

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    3) let's pretend that "moving a planet" is the top of Superman's game, and pretend further that, in 3e, doing so requires Strength 2,000,000,000. That's a +1,000,000,000 to opposed Strength checks. Opponent rolls a natural 20 on their +10 Strength, gets a 30. Superman rolls a 1, gets a 1,000,000,001. 1,000,000,001 > 30, Superman wins. Mechanics and fiction are aligned. Superman does not get Worf'd.
    It would be a ludicrous system that allowed one creature to have a strength of 2 billion and another to have a strength of 30. I'd call that broken. It's even more ridiculous if the system required a mechanical roll to resolve a strength check between them, especially if there was literally no way to get a successful result. DC's RPG did its best to get around that by having each point of strength correlate to twice the real-world value as the previous, but having combat work out in a linear fashion**. And even then, Superman was basically never going to lose to a normal human, although strictly speaking it wasn't impossible, unlike in your d20-based example.



    * Interestingly, when they are tightly-bound, it usually is to the detriment of the film. Often bad movies are bad because of specific things that are just poorly conceived or implemented. But sometimes movies are bad because they "just don't work" or "don't come together." Many times it's because the writer is forcing contrivances out of laziness or ineptitude, which is another way of saying the story mechanics and fiction have been too tightly bound. Things happen because the plot said so, not because it made internal sense.

    ** So someone with a strength of 10 could lift twice as much as someone with a strength of 9, but 10 was only at most "one more" when working out the combat mechanics. Normal adult humans had a strength of 2. Superman had a strength of 25 (over 50 for the pre-Crisis version).
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