Tuesday, March 27, 2012

D&D Next commentary


A couple of points:

"I am going to 100% promise you that, especially if you are a veteran player or DM, we will include stuff in the next iteration of the game that you will ignore. In fact, I'm going to come out and say that we want you to ignore parts of the game." [snip] "Stuff such as XP budgets, treasure tables, encounter charts, and so on are there to make it easier to create adventures and build your campaign. If you are a veteran DM, it's quite likely you won't use any of this stuff.

 I'll let you in on a secret. I DM'ed a year-long Eberron campaign in 3E and I never once used the rules for treasure or wealth by level. I gave out stuff that seemed cool and appropriate, and the game worked fine. I used the challenge rating system as a starting point, but modified stuff to fit my group."

Again; I find myself somewhat surprised at what needs to be said.  I guess I shouldn't be anymore.  After all, how many times did I see gamers I know complaining about rules bloat in the d20 family of games?  How many times did I hear the (patently false) notion that the rules were a tightly interlinked 'system' and you couldn't remove one element of it without throwing the whole thing out of whack?

The paradigm presented here is hardly a secret.  I've been playing that way since about 1981 or so.  And I was still doing so last time I ran--a D&D 3e with extensive houserules and, curiously, a fair bit of ignoring wealth per levels, "correct" XP calculation, CRs (except in the vaguest sense) and all that.

It's a curious notion to me that so many gamers saw the presence of those rules as "mandatory" despite the history of our hobby being one that grew up in a crucible of DIY.  It's also a curious notion to me that so many gamers saw the only solution to that to switch to rules systems that were "lighter" and didn't have so many rules, rather than the immediately obvious and simple solution of just ignoring complexity that you didn't need or enjoy.  And finally, it's a curious notion to me that in the design of D&D Next, rather than removing all those rules, the presentation of them in the rulebooks and elsewhere (I presume, based on this post by Mike Mearls) will be to overtly encourage the ignoring of rules that you don't want.  To my perspective, this doesn't really need to be said, because it was always an available option anyway, and I found that doing so made d20 work quite well for me (I enjoyed the complexity for character definition and refinement, but disliked much of it during the actual running of a game.)  And since it doesn't need to be said, this doesn't actually represent any kind of meaningful change in direction to me at all.

But clearly, I'm not on the same page as a large chunk of gamers out there.  But it does seem that WotC could save themselves a lot of time and resources (as well as gamers a bunch of money--which is no doubt why it won't be done) by just saying that this advice--naturally--already applies to your existing 3e and/or 4e rules.  Or any other RPG rules of any other system you may be playing, for that matter.

If this is the vaunted "appealing to all kinds of fans" direction of the game--telling people that they are free to houserule (uh... no kidding!) then I'm somewhat less than impressed.

"This one is bound to be controversial, but I don't think roles belong in D&D as specific, mechanical elements that we design toward. Instead, I think roles are a great tool to help players focus on how they want to play a character. Veteran players should be free to create the character they want, however they want, instead of feeling that they must take on a job to "help" the party."

I agree 100%, but I do also agree that that's probably controversial.  I've very often talked to people who feel that role protection is very important, and I don't know how many times I've seen people take on a role that they didn't necessary want, but felt like it was necessary to take one for the team, because the game can't operate correctly without the proper roles all being represented.

My approach to GMing a game is to encourage everyone to make the characters that they are interested in playing... and if that means even going so far as not telling the other players what your specific class is, to encourage them to not try and fill out the corners of the party with what they think is missing.  And then, one of my #1 rules for good GMing is:
  • Run a game for the characters you get, rather than expect characters to be optimized for some predetermined notion of what the game will be.
If I end up (in D&D, for example) getting a party with nothing but fighters, or rogues, or magic-users, then I come up with challenges that will challenge the players I have, and not "punish" them for not picking something else.  Isn't that just common sense?  You do want your players to enjoy your game and invite you to run for them again, right?

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