D&D discussion

A place to do whatever, out of character.

Postby Claincy » Thu Aug 25, 2016 11:32 am

Quoting from shoutbox

mac wrote:On a more positive note, I managed last night to almost make a player roll a Death Saving Throw in D&D!


mac wrote:I have tried explaining to them that they have a VASTLY overdeveloped sense of danger. I have heard them complain because that battle was so tough, and two of the PCs actually got bloodied. I was like ARE YOU NUTS. I got the tank unconscious three times, but the healer was always there with a spell. We had to pause mid-combat, but finally one guy is unconscious, the healer is out of healing spells, and unless the second healer shows up for next combat and also gets a turn before the tank has his, he'll finally have to throw a single death saving throw.


Herowannabe wrote:Just take the Dalinar approach- Storm in there, smash their Shardplate to pieces, beat the snot out of them, put your boot on their throat and say, "See? If I wanted to kill you I could. Easily. But I don't. What I want is an enjoyable game."


Claincy wrote:@mac, I'm kinda with Hero here, give them an actually really hard fight (at a dramatically appropriate moment) to reset their baseline of what constitutes serious danger.


Claincy wrote:An example of a situation where it's totally ok to freak out about dying is when: you're unconscious, your hit point maximum has been reduced to 1 and the chasme demon that did it to you still has it's proboscis embedded in your chest. So if it isn't forced away from you before it's next turn, your dead. And if the DM had rolled 1 point of damage higher on either of the attacks that brought you to that state...you'd be dead.


Claincy wrote:That was a scary one :shock:


Claincy wrote:Generally speaking though, in 5e if I consider an encounter to be challenging I'm generally expecting at least one PC to drop at some point during the fight.


Kadrok wrote:Doesn't D&D have that Clone Spell that lets you Cylon-Resurrect if you die? I hope Fantasy Craft gets in on that action.


Claincy wrote:Yeah there is one, (in 5th Ed) it's 8th level and needs to be done at least 120 days in advance though. There's plenty (too many imo) of easier ways of ressing in D&D.


Kadrok wrote:But come on man... Cylon Res! I'd want a lab full of inert-Kadroks primed and ready.


Claincy wrote:I didn't say it wouldn't be cooler, just harder ;)


Claincy wrote:It's a spell that's just begging to be used for a recurring villain....actually...hmmmm :)


Kadrok wrote:I AM the recurring villain. 3:D Pity I can't get the clone spell in Path of Steel... unless...


Kadrok wrote:*Makes an Atium Spike containing Jastes's soul*


Claincy wrote:You're playing 4e? (Not judging anything, just curious :) )


Claincy wrote:I have a bit of a different style from the standard D&D dungeon crawling adventure. I run a smaller number of significantly harder encounters mixed with an approximately equal (or slightly less, it varies) amount of roleplaying, mystery and non-combat exploration.


Claincy wrote:I'm not saying there's anything wrong with a more dungeon crawl focused game, it's just not my style. I often find we only get through a maximum of 2-3 combat encounters in a session anyway, so I'd rather have 1 or 2 really interesting and challenging encounters in that time than 3 lesser ones.


Claincy wrote:My personal philosophy is that an encounter is made interesting by 3 pillars: interesting/varied environments, interesting/varied enemies and narrative significance.


Claincy wrote:I try to make every combat be significant in at least one of those 3 pillars, preferably more.


Claincy wrote:I also play a style where player death is possible, but rare. Ok, actually, no-ones died at all yet but we've only had a few sessions since I took over :P


mac wrote:1. Yes, 4e. We began our campaign years ago when it was the only option, and translating to 5e didn't seem feasible. Also, I was involved in the early playtests of 5e and did not like it. Since, I have yet to have anyone explain to me what's so great about 5e. I know during playtesting they made a huge deal about how "Skills" in 4e were absolutely awful and 5e was going to totally revamp it with The Plan. And I pointed out what was wrong with 4e Skills, and pointed out that The Plan did literally nothing to address any of that, and people told me but no, it'll be better. Just see. Then real 5e came out and it handles skills exactly like 4e did, with very slightly fewer, and slightly different names for some of them. I am open to someone explaining why 5e is an improvement, but I have asked a lot of veteran gamers and have yet to get a real answer. 2. Yeah, this isn't a standard "dungeon crawler" either. I don't think I formalized it to your Pillars, but I do something very similar. We can only meet for about two hours at a time, so one combat encounter per night is about all we can handle. Our system is as follows: We pick a date to play. I email everyone with a little story blurb, either beginning or continuing the story, letting them know the set-up for the whole quest or the fall-out from their most recent encounter. At this point I typically have a general sense of what I want the next combat encounter to be. Then we have a few days of back-and-forth emails where the players will roleplay a bit, maybe make some decisions about how they want to proceed. Typically their decisions simply flavor what happens next, but every so often they throw me a curveball and decide to go way off-script and I have to shelve the idea in my head and come up with something unique. Then we typically find some way to do an email skill challenge; the big change in my system is I make everything a group check. Everyone rolls what they think is appropriate, what they think they can contribute to overcome this next challenge, and I total up everyone's score, sometimes apply a few bonuses for creativity or teamwork, and they all pass or fail together. By then it's usually time for combat. I do typically try to throw in at least one or two interesting terrain features though I've been slacking on that somewhat recently. The combat usually has at least the flavor of something narratively thematic (though I know the Lore of D&D far better than my players so mostly it goes over their heads). Whenever possible, I like the combat encounters to speak someone to at least one player's backstory or sub-plot. Beyond that I try to build up my crunch a lot, then cover it with fluff. Like, I've found my players aren't fans of Lurkers so I save those for when I want to be vexing. One encounter they'll face paper tigers, the next one glass cannons behind bullet meat. Minions don't work out, mechanically, and Solos tend to end too quickly, so I mostly stick with Standards and Elites. It's not as flagrantly interesting as your Pillars, but my players do tend to think tactically, and it keeps them on their toes. They really seem to enjoy the opening gambit of any encounter as they try to determine which bad guys are squishy, which are gonna deal damage, and omigod is one of them going to dominate someone. 3. So, yeah, like you, I like to have mystery, and roleplay. We just tend to do most of that via email, though every so often something is relevant enough that we take the time to meet and do it in person. Heh, I recently had someone set them up to make it look like they hired assassins to kill the Emperor. I apparently did an excellent job, because at one point one of the players, OOC, turned to the guy next to her and asked, "Wait, we didn't actually do this, did we?"


Claincy wrote:Just moving this convo to a thread so I can respond properly as it's getting pretty large :)


OK, sounds like our GMing styles have a fair bit in common :) Though our campaigns sound very different :P

(I'm gonna have to be brief for now cos it's late :( )

Regarding 4e vs 5e:
Honestly, I can't give you much of an answer. I've only played 1 session of 4e so though I've picked up a bit from reading stuff online I can't compare them very well. But from what I know/gathered skill challenges as a formalised structure were removed in favour of more free form individual rolls. Whether that works better or worse probably comes down to the group and DM. In general 5e has a focus on less rules based, more free form play. Personally I like that as I have a preference for rules-light systems, even 5e is a bit rules heavier than my normal preference. Generally more complicated rules systems tend to aid tactical play more but support roleplaying less.

In any case, Sly Flourish has an article on the differences that will probably be a lot more helpful at illustrating the differences. http://slyflourish.com/4e_dms_guide_to_5e.html
I can't remember if I've read through that article to be honest, but the other ones of his I've read are good.

My crew currently meets fortnightly for 4-5 hour sessions on Friday nights and pretty much everything happens inside the sessions. Having emails like that would make for a quite different experience. It'd certainly make it easier to know in advance roughly what the players were going to do each week. I can guess of course, but I have to prepare more wildly and improvise more. Tomorrow's session is a good example of this actually. They just finished the climax of the current arc and there are several things they might choose to do at this point and I really won't know what they'll decide till it's happening :P

Whenever possible, I like the combat encounters to speak someone to at least one player's backstory or sub-plot.

That's really good :) I've been seeding a lot of character elements into the plot too. More for the ones who have given me a backstory of course.

Heh, I recently had someone set them up to make it look like they hired assassins to kill the Emperor. I apparently did an excellent job, because at one point one of the players, OOC, turned to the guy next to her and asked, "Wait, we didn't actually do this, did we?"

Nice :)
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Postby Mac » Thu Aug 25, 2016 9:58 pm

Regarding rules heavy/rules light: So, first of all, I enjoy either. If the game is very freeform, that's fine, though I usually prefer it as a one-shot, since without structure advancement gets bizarre and unbalanced quickly. But it's like my dislike of diet soda. If you want soda, drink the real stuff and deal with the calories. If you care more about the calories, drink water. Diet soda is a "worst of both worlds" compromise. It's still awful for you, and the taste is terrible. I will never have a reduced fat oreo. My snacks will be oreos, or something like grapes or dried kale. There are times when the compromise is just the worst of either.

That's my philosophy on 5e. There are a ton of RP systems out there which are extremely freeform. At least one of them must be a system anyone who wants rules-light would enjoy. 5e feels like another worst-of-both-worlds to me. Too structured to be considered freeform, not structured enough that you can be sure the answer is in the rules somewhere. I'd rather play one of the extremes. I'm sure there are people out there who simply prefer the middle-of-the-road approach, but I think it loses more than it gains.

Regarding skill challenges: Um... yeah, if that's their reasoning, it's dumb. When I first heard the complaints about 4e skill checks, I heard a great number of valid complaints. Granted, the formal skill challenges were dumb, but it's not like "just do skill checks and forget challenges" is something you could not have simply done in 4e. I see the distinctive signs of "we messed up, quick move the goalposts" in their current philosophy. "Oh, yeah, we fixed everything cuz now you just do checks and not skill challenges. No, you definitely could not have just done that in 4e. Oh, a whole list of other problems we promised we'd fix? No, no, that wasn't us, you must be thinking of the other Wizards of the Coast." It just strikes me as disingenuous. It's prolly unreasonable of me to expect them to honestly say, "Yeah, we tried to fix it and failed. Sorry, skills will simply always have these problems, but the game is better in these other ways."

For anyone who cares, any skill check in 4e forces people to pick their two or three best skills and only ever do those things. Unlike combat powers where some might situationally do more damage, or there might be a trade-off where this status effect might set up an ally to do more damage... there's no tactics in a skill challenge. You just have to roll as high as possible, and you're severely penalized for failure, so the system rewards you for finding whatever convoluted way you need to to justify why your Athletics check should totally be just as applicable when trying to get a good deal at the merchant as when trying to find your way when you're lost in the woods. When your only tool is a hammer... And literally nothing in 5e addresses that concern.

And yeah, I like messing with my players, and the bits of their backstory that haven't been revealed yet. For the longest time, no one knew why Valna our barbarian hated the Drow. Our party's Tiefling wants to resurrect Bael Turath but not evil, so any time we fight Tieflings he's always begging for mercy, hoping to sway them to his cause. Our Ranger is forced to wear a cursed pin whenever the moon is out, and has yet to find the courage to discover what his punishment will be if he doesn't.
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Postby Claincy » Fri Aug 26, 2016 12:25 am

Mac wrote:I'd rather play one of the extremes. I'm sure there are people out there who simply prefer the middle-of-the-road approach, but I think it loses more than it gains.

That's fair, I think it really comes down to personal preference. I can enjoy rules heavy and I can enjoy free-form. I think I enjoy rules heavy in the same way I enjoy board games and tactical strategy games which is good, but won't really hold my attention for the length of a typical long-form roleplaying campaign. Free-form/rules light I enjoy for the narrative and collaborative story-telling, but in my experience so far a lot of the free form systems lend themselves pretty heavily to short campaigns and sooner or later I tend to feel the lack of interesting mechanical depth. The ideal for me is a best of both worlds system that has interesting depth without too much complexity but the combat sequences and other challenges are driven by the ongoing narrative and roleplaying. So with the mechanical aspects adding depth and challenge and aiding the narrative without bogging it down.

Is D&D 5e (or another other edition for that matter) a perfect match for that? NOPE, definitely not :P But it is closer than some of the earlier editions and there are definitely aspects of it that I like.

Regarding skill challenges: Um... yeah, if that's their reasoning, it's dumb.

I wouldn't care to speculate what their reasoning is given my lack of knowledge of 4e.

I think the primary difference from what I gather between 4e and 5e is that (depending on the DM in question of course) there's commonly less direct penalty for failing a skill check and so players can be more willing to make attempts with skills they aren't as good at. Though as you said, (to my understanding) you could pretty easily make the same changes in 4e to the same effect. Where it matters most I think is in whether checks are approached mechanically or narratively. With a more narrative approach where you just roleplay back and forth until the DM determines something requires a roll it's easier to get players attempting more varied skill checks. If there's a more mechanical focus and more of a direct, well known, consequence for failure players will be much more reticent to attempt it. I try to encourage broader skill use in my game by rewarding more varied and interesting attempts, and making the consequences of failing those less serious, or at least interesting 3:D

I do think they did a good job in their selection of available skills for 5e. They are spread pretty reasonably between the attributes and most of the time it's pretty easy to pick a skill that applies when a player wants to do something. It's very possible that previous editions were similarly good in that regard, I just don't know them well enough to say :) *shrug*. With that said; the more I think about how skills work in D&D in general the more I dislike the numbers they chose. I really wish they'd used some sort of "bounded skill" in the same manner as the bounded accuracy they introduced in 5e.

To illustrate that more clearly:
In 5e most low level players will be rolling with a +4 to +7 bonus. Most mid level players will roll +7 to +9 and the highest level players will start rolling +10 to +12ish. In any case what I'm most talking about here is the difference between players in the party, most of them won't be too far apart. Sure one might be attacking with a fire bolt, another with a sword and another with a bow but they all accomplish roughly the same thing and are all generally within a couple of points of to hit bonuses of eachother. Enough that there's difference and variety, but close enough that nobody should feel left behind.

Skills are an entirely different matter. At first level a character might have a +6 in their best skills and a -2 in their worst, that's already a gap of 8 and it only gets worse as they level up. A bard or rogue with expertise could easily be rolling +12s on some checks by mid level and up to 16-18 by high level. In a level 5 party you could very easily have a rogue with +10 to stealth and -1 to persuasion and a bard with -1 to stealth and +10 to persuasion. That's a massive difference and gets to a point where one character will succeed 90% of the time and the other would fail 90% of the time.

I don't like that at all. I like to encourage players to try things, to step outside their character's strengths at times, it often leads to cool narrative moments and interesting roleplaying. But the wide gap in bonuses counters that. The MAG actually suffers from the same thing to some extent as a character with a charm of 3, compared to a character with a charm of 5 or 6 with an applicable trait is at a horribly large disadvantage.

Character weaknesses are very important and can be just as interesting as their strengths. The problem I have is when the mechanical discrepancy gets too large and starts to hurt the roleplaying.

Really, that whole section of this post is me describing why I agree with you about the general issues with D&D's skill system :D (Assuming I understood what you were saying, let me know if I didn't.)

And yeah, I like messing with my players, and the bits of their backstory that haven't been revealed yet. For the longest time, no one knew why Valna our barbarian hated the Drow. Our party's Tiefling wants to resurrect Bael Turath but not evil, so any time we fight Tieflings he's always begging for mercy, hoping to sway them to his cause. Our Ranger is forced to wear a cursed pin whenever the moon is out, and has yet to find the courage to discover what his punishment will be if he doesn't.

3:D
The characters, narrative, roleplaying and mystery are what make the game for me. Without them it's more of a strategy game. Which can be fun, but doesn't hold the same level of engagement or lasting appeal for me.

4 sessions ago they had a run in with a necromancer. One of the party members is becoming a necromancer and so was quite tempted to join him. They ended up deciding not to, but it was an interesting character moment. But now they have access to all of the Necromancer's notes. Sure a lot of it is written in a cypher and he was an arcane caster and the PC is a divine caster. All the same, there are rather a few things the PC might pick up over time... ;)
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Postby Mac » Fri Aug 26, 2016 8:37 am

cometaryorbit wrote:The reason 5e is an improvement for me & people I've played with is that you can mess with it more without feeling like you are going to break the delicate balance. 5e is much more 'slap advantage or disadvantage on it', rulings on the fly friendly.


Eh, see, that's exactly what I dislike about it. There's no reward for extraordinary effort. "I have total and complete tactical superiority!" "Congratulations, you have Advantage!" "I've got slightly more secure footing." "You also have Advantage!" Like... why bother being exceptional, then, if it's meaningless? Sure, there's the story reward, you get to picture something cooler than "guy not standing on scree" but I just like a system that rewards people for strategic brilliance.

If literally everyone at the table is a veteran and excellent at RP, 5e sounds perfect. But I've never played with a group entirely like that. There's always one person insisting on some preposterous advantage, and the rules of 4e keep that person in check. "No, you can't just claim you have advantage on literally everything." Or someone who screams whenever the "ruling on the fly" is against him. Even as the DM, I like being able to set things up in advance, and not have to either pause the game every three minutes to come up with something off the top of my head, or literally spit out the first thing I think of, cuz I know from experience I'm not that good at improv.

My cousin is playing 5e, and his character is the tank. And since there's no map, and not enough rules, he can't protect his allies. The DM always just says, "I stab at the squishy!" as though calmly circumnavigating the paladin is a foregone conclusion... and my cousin has no recourse. He just doesn't get to play the game. And, yes, the DM shouldn't be such a jerk... but 4e literally wouldn't have let him. In 5e, you're forced to rely on everyone at the table having the proper mindset. If you guys only ever play with people like that, I am super envious, cuz I'm happy when I've got three people at the table who could play a friendly game of 5e.

Claincy wrote:Free-form/rules light I enjoy for the narrative and collaborative story-telling, but in my experience so far a lot of the free form systems lend themselves pretty heavily to short campaigns and sooner or later I tend to feel the lack of interesting mechanical depth.


Definitely valid. I like the relaxed games but you really can't play more than two sessions of them.

I wouldn't care to speculate what their reasoning is given my lack of knowledge of 4e.


Sorry if I sound like a jerk about the skills. Everyone telling me how great 5e was gonna be kept hammering me on skills, right at a time my group was trying to fix Skills ourselves and one of my players was being a total cremling about it. I might be a little bitter.

I think the primary difference from what I gather between 4e and 5e is that (depending on the DM in question of course) there's commonly less direct penalty for failing a skill check and so players can be more willing to make attempts with skills they aren't as good at.


1. What is this lessened penalty?
2. See... even if it's "less of a penalty," there's still no actual reason not to use your best skill. That I know of. In combat, you might use a less accurate power, because there's a chance of greater damage, or a great status effect. You might do a power that does less damage but lowers the targets AC so everyone else in your party has a better chance to wail on them. In skills? The Barbarian will use a Religion check for... novelty? Because the DM has gotten tired of her using Athletics for literally everything, so has simply decreed by fiat that she's not allowed to? That's like telling the ranger, "You're doing too much damage and I'm tired of Twin Strike, so for this combat your short swords simply don't work." It's a jerk move, and adds nothing to the game. We're essentially asking the player to sacrifice for nothing, to deliberately run a higher risk of failure, however light the penalty, just for the sake of the narrative. The rules should encourage excellent gameplay, they shouldn't tell the player, "we know we're not good enough, now it's your responsibility." I mean, yes, the players of course have responsibility to act in character even if that means in a mechanically not-ideal way, but I'm just upset that the answer is "well we're not punishing the player as much as we could be."

Though as you said, (to my understanding) you could pretty easily make the same changes in 4e to the same effect. Where it matters most I think is in whether checks are approached mechanically or narratively. With a more narrative approach where you just roleplay back and forth until the DM determines something requires a roll it's easier to get players attempting more varied skill checks. If there's a more mechanical focus and more of a direct, well known, consequence for failure players will be much more reticent to attempt it. I try to encourage broader skill use in my game by rewarding more varied and interesting attempts, and making the consequences of failing those less serious, or at least interesting 3:D


I have absolutely no problem with this, and do it all the time. Typically they end up being knowledge checks. (Does your character know what the proper Rituals of Ioun are? Do you know whether or not that type of bird is native to this region?) And it's great, it makes for excellent roleplay. But... it is very casual. The games lets you invest "capital" in your skills. You can take feats which, instead of helping you in combat, help your skills. Should the only reward be non-mechanical? Our Ranger took all these feats to make him an incredible Nova; he can deal a ton of damage in a single turn once per encounter, and an insane amount once per day. He took a lot of feats, and is getting a mechanical benefit, and as far as the narrative is concerned he describes the action very well (and usually does a quick and silly photoshop afterwards to email around to everyone, it's great). Should the bard get penalized because many of his feats are skill-based? Should he get only narrative rewards, and just accept that his character is sub-par? I'm not sure that I like that the answer is, "Skills just don't work, so just never use them unless it literally does not matter."

I really wish they'd used some sort of "bounded skill" in the same manner as the bounded accuracy they introduced in 5e.


That... is completely and utterly perfect, actually. A much narrower gap between "best" skill and "worst" skill, or best player and worst player, would solve most of the problems. I'd only need to offer a small bonus for using off-brand Skills. Now, the thing is, attacks have more to them than accuracy. My arcanist and my ranger might both have a roughly equal chance to hit, but one of them will do a ton of damage to a single target, while the other deals out status effects like halloween candy to a mob of monsters. I would still like people to have the option to customize skills somewhat. Otherwise, it loses a lot. Our bard is a skill monkey, and that's amazing, and I feel like it should be mechanically rewarded. If it simply meant he had a miniscule advantage in succeeding at a check, that feels like he put a lot of effort in for little or no reward, and I know very well how that makes me feel as a player. What if instead of just numerically adding to the value of skills, could he have feats that somehow make his successes count more than that of his fellows? Or a way to lower the difficulty of other checks? Or a way to recover from other failures? I'm trying to model it after the Roles of 4e...

Really, that whole section of this post is me describing why I agree with you about the general issues with D&D's skill system :D (Assuming I understood what you were saying, let me know if I didn't.)


Yeah, I think we're at least on the same page, if maybe not the same paragraph.
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Postby Claincy » Fri Aug 26, 2016 10:16 am

Mac wrote:*first 3 paragraphs*

Hmm, a stronger ruleset absolutely works better when the GM and/or players are less good, or more argumentative. (It's probably obvious but I'm referring to your players and your friends GM, not you ;) )

I'm fortunate in that my players are quite good. They aren't the best roleplayers or anything but they're there to have fun, and not to get in the way of anyone else's fun. They will question a ruling on occasion when they think I'm being unreasonable (or just forgot something), explaining why, but if I confirm the ruling they accept it and we move on. They do seek to twist things to their advantage, but not to any problematic level, and they accept it when I tell them that really doesn't work :P Players certainly should be seeking to turn situations to their own advantage to some extent and they don't go beyond the bounds of that.

In terms of improv, the bulk of my GMing experience comes from running a really free-form, player driven MAG campaign so I'm fairly used to it. I've still got plenty of room to improve of course, but I'm happy to improv a lot.

5e can use maps, and frequently does. Part of the design was to make theatre of the mind practical to do but it really comes down to the DM how often a map is used. Personally I go about 50/50, the more complicated fights I run on maps and the simpler (and more improvised ones) I run in theatre of the mind. I do in general prefer systems that give the GM a lot of power, but for it to work it definitely requires a GM who knows how to use that power to make the game better for everyone and doesn't abuse it and it requires a strong degree of trust between the players and GM.

From all you've said I think 4e probably is a much better fit for your group than 5e would be :)

Sorry if I sound like a jerk about the skills. Everyone telling me how great 5e was gonna be kept hammering me on skills, right at a time my group was trying to fix Skills ourselves and one of my players was being a total cremling about it. I might be a little bitter.

It's ok, I understand feeling burned like that.

1. What is this lessened penalty?

Outside of a skill challenge a failed skill roll often means more of a temporary setback (like complications in the MAG) than one of 3 strikes. Obviously you can do this just as well in 4e if you make those changes. 5e just runs that way by default.

Generally when they do attempt a check that has consequences and fail, my aim is that the failure should primarily make the situation more interesting, having a negative effect is secondary to that. On some (often rare) occasions failing a check actually makes the situation better for the players, or succeeding on what they were trying to do would have made things worse. I do try to reward them for trying different things at any rate.

2. See... even if it's "less of a penalty," there's still no actual reason not to use your best skill. That I know of. In combat, you might use a less accurate power, because there's a chance of greater damage, or a great status effect. You might do a power that does less damage but lowers the targets AC so everyone else in your party has a better chance to wail on them. In skills? The Barbarian will use a Religion check for... novelty? Because the DM has gotten tired of her using Athletics for literally everything, so has simply decreed by fiat that she's not allowed to? That's like telling the ranger, "You're doing too much damage and I'm tired of Twin Strike, so for this combat your short swords simply don't work." It's a jerk move, and adds nothing to the game. We're essentially asking the player to sacrifice for nothing, to deliberately run a higher risk of failure, however light the penalty, just for the sake of the narrative. The rules should encourage excellent gameplay, they shouldn't tell the player, "we know we're not good enough, now it's your responsibility." I mean, yes, the players of course have responsibility to act in character even if that means in a mechanically not-ideal way, but I'm just upset that the answer is "well we're not punishing the player as much as we could be."

In life or death and time limited situations the players are going to try to use the skills they're good at a majority of the time, and that's fine. Most of the skill rolls in my game don't happen in those situations. Things like religion, nature, arcana, history, etc checks can provide them with information that can be very important or useful. Sometimes it's just interesting, other times it helps them resolve a situation or makes a fight easier etc. Knowing a creature is vulnerable to X or resistant to Y or doing Z will have an impact is very useful. It helps that my players haven't played D&D before so don't already know most of that, and because I homebrew a lot anyway :) Because of how heavily my games run on mysteries and secrets there's always plenty for them to learn through appropriate skill checks. And yeah, maybe someone else in the party has a higher bonus for that check but usually rolling that kind of skill check is a free action in my game so whoever thought of it rolls it, and if they roll badly maybe they'll find a time to ask said other player to roll. For example: in the past few sessions most of my players have made multiple arcana checks in each session. In general in my campaign, the roleplaying, exploration and knowledge is as important, and takes up near as much time, as combat.

I'm also fairly strict about using skills in ways that make sense. If you're trying to intimidate the guard you're using intimidation, I don't care that you have a really high athletics bonus, that's not what you're trying to do :P There's a little bit of leeway but we use the most appropriate skill for whatever they're trying to do. And because my players are pretty good, that works well :D I can imagine that with worse players you could run into a lot more power gaming and arguments about how a skill applies.

In terms of feat selection and sacrificing combat effectiveness for skill feats, 5e doesn't do that as much. Instead of being a core part of your build feats in 5e are more like optional extras. They're actually explicitly an optional rule that the DM can choose to make available. If they are available players only get to choose them at certain levels when they are given a choice between 2 stat bumps (1 point each) or a feat and over the course of 20 levels a character will only get that option 4-7 times (depends on their class). The feats are admittedly a very mixed bag, some are great for specific combat character builds, others are great for exploration or utility, some are admittedly pretty poor options. There are a few feats that, amongst other benefits (generally including a stat bump) will give you advantage on certain checks in certain situations, some of which are more worthwhile than others. There is only 1 feat that is directly about skills and it gives you proficiency in 3 skills or tools of your choice, which I think is roughly balanced with the other options as characters only start with 5-8 proficiencies anyway (again it depends on the class).

It's far from perfect as we've both said :) But it works out more balanced in my game than you might expect.

I would still like people to have the option to customize skills somewhat. Otherwise, it loses a lot. Our bard is a skill monkey, and that's amazing, and I feel like it should be mechanically rewarded. If it simply meant he had a miniscule advantage in succeeding at a check, that feels like he put a lot of effort in for little or no reward, and I know very well how that makes me feel as a player.

Yeah absolutely. I want the gap to be smaller, but I definitely don't want to take away the uniqueness and variety of characters. We really want the players to feel special and significant and that their choices carry weight. Sometimes less is more.

What if instead of just numerically adding to the value of skills, could he have feats that somehow make his successes count more than that of his fellows? Or a way to lower the difficulty of other checks? Or a way to recover from other failures? I'm trying to model it after the Roles of 4e...

Ooh, yes. :D Lowering the difficulty of checks is mechanically about the same as raising a bonus, when you get down to it. Unless you mean adjusting the difficulty for others which is cool, though that's basically what bardic inspiration does already. Successes counting more/failures counting less can at it's simplest be done through modifying nudges/stunts/flourishes. I really like those mechanics and the lack of them in D&D really disappoints me at times :( . (I don't really know the Roles of 4e so I can't really help there.)

Yeah, I think we're at least on the same page, if maybe not the same paragraph.

Yeah :) And that's good. It'd be a more boring world if every GM ran the same kinda game.

Edit:
Have you watched Critical Role? Aside from being fantastic entertainment I've learned a fair bit from watching Matt DM it. It's also fairly close to the kind of campaign I try to run. :)
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Postby Mac » Fri Aug 26, 2016 12:41 pm

Claincy wrote:In life or death and time limited situations the players are going to try to use the skills they're good at a majority of the time, and that's fine. Most of the skill rolls in my game don't happen in those situations.


I pretty much agree with everything else you've said. And I haven't seen Crit Role, though I keep intending to.

But... this line. Isn't "life or death" and "time-limited situations" why we play? Would you expect people to enjoy nothing but non-life-or-death combat? Fighting when you're allowed to take as much time as you wish on your turn? It feels like you're gently relegating skills to second-class status again. Skills are fine... in their place. Which is not center stage. It's not where things get critical, when the tension is high. It's for flavor. It's background. It informs the REAL actions.

Which I guess, at the end of the day, is the only solution. My friend made a skill-monkey Bard, and she shouldn't have, because skills just can't be the primary thing in any but rare and niche circumstances. He's nothing but the guy in the van while the protagonist fights the fight and saves the day.

I dunno. I heard a lot, from the Wizards of the Coast promos and from the biggest DnDNext proponents, that "skills" were just going to be so much amazingly better in 5e. And they're not just no better, they're literally exactly the same, minus the one thing that at least tried (albeit failed) to make them as interesting as combat.

I mean, yes. The way I structure my campaigns, there's a lot that goes on between the points of tension, and skills have a lot to do with that. There are mysteries, sub-plot, sidequests, possible advantages to be gained, hints at the larger story to pursue, and skills have a lot to do with that. (In those cases I spend a lot of time letting it flavor things. Flirting with a barmaid and it won't impact the story? I'll ask for a roll, and if you do poorly I'll ask you to describe you striking out.) There are points of tension besides the critical ones. I just wish skills were done in such a way that they could be used in either, because at the end of the day, mysteries and sub-plots are pretty interesting, but people remember the time they clove an Orge in two, or cut off seven of the Hydra's heads at once.
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Postby cometaryorbit » Fri Aug 26, 2016 6:05 pm

Mac wrote:If literally everyone at the table is a veteran and excellent at RP, 5e sounds perfect. But I've never played with a group entirely like that.


Well, the group I've played 5e with isn't that at all, and it worked great for us anyway. We played for about a year and a half until I moved recently.

There's always one person insisting on some preposterous advantage, and the rules of 4e keep that person in check. "No, you can't just claim you have advantage on literally everything." Or someone who screams whenever the "ruling on the fly" is against him.


Eh, we didn't really have that issue. Don't know why, except maybe that we didn't take things super seriously or always aim for a lot of mechanical advantage stacking?

My cousin is playing 5e, and his character is the tank. And since there's no map, and not enough rules, he can't protect his allies. The DM always just says, "I stab at the squishy!" as though calmly circumnavigating the paladin is a foregone conclusion... and my cousin has no recourse. He just doesn't get to play the game. And, yes, the DM shouldn't be such a jerk... but 4e literally wouldn't have let him.


Well, we did use a map.

But 5e isn't 4e. Being 'the tank' in the sense of soaking up damage to protect others but not really being a damage dealer yourself isn't nearly as supported in 5e (although there is the Protection fighting style).

IMO this is a problem with the disconnect between 4e and 5e/carrying over expectations rather than with 5e itself. In my view, 4e was way too friendly to 'tanking' with marking and lots of move-enemy powers; I actually prefer the 5e version where a fighter or barbarian is, while really tough, more of a damage dealer than a damage sponge. (That's a bit too harsh, maybe, but the difference is there.)

5e intentionally moved away from the carefully defined "MMO-style" roles (Defender/Striker/Controller/Leader) of 4e. I'd say it's even less so than previous editions, since clerics/druids have more offensive magic, etc.

EDIT: clarify bit on tanks
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Postby Kadrok » Sat Aug 27, 2016 1:23 am

You guys ever tried Fantasy Craft?
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Postby Mac » Tue Nov 15, 2016 11:44 am

DnD last night was a success!

In addition to my erasable map, I've got a roll of 1" square grid paper. Last night, the "erasable map" was the sky and a few immobile features, and then I did three varied-sized little "maps", and the players had various options for how to make them all move in relation to the absolute frame of reference, and rules if they got knocked off or if they knocked someone else off, or how to jump on the backs of the dragons flying around...

It all worked out really, really well and the players loved it. I'm very proud of this encounter.
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Postby Claincy » Tue Nov 15, 2016 9:21 pm

Oooh, nice!
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