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[Theory] Flavors of D&D II: Finding the Right Tools for the Jobs

Warlord476

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...

I am so tempted to throw Armchair Gamer under the bus and claim his work for my own right now. :D

Armchair gamer came up with the original idea and worked to refine it.

Damn my concience!
I managed to edit in time before I got locked out! Cheers ratman!
 

ImpactVector

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And we've come back to my first post on that subject. :)
Except you agree that it does have some things going for it like the low lethality and general predisposition towards the PCs succeeding, right? If X is the value of D&D in general for the noncombaty parts of P&P then X+1 is still 1 more than X.

Then again, it sounds like you're reading more into P&P than is just in that paragraph of description. If there's a bunch of context from the last thread that I'm missing that would explain things.

Though yeah, I completely agree with you that skill challenges are kind of crap in that there are almost no meaningful choices RAW. I could handle them being highly mechanical if the game actually did anything interesting with said mechanics. But there's nothing interesting about a series of binary pass/fail checks where you just want to finagle in your highest bonus.

e: Though maybe it's me that's reading more than what's there. When I think of P&P I think of a "Heroes Save the Day" vibe. Inherent in that is the conceit that the heroes probably will save the day in the end, thus listing PC success as a point for 4e.
 
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JoshR

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And we've come back to my first post on that subject. :)
Yes, but here's how the conversation looks to me.

Ratman_tf: 4e doesn't seem especially better than any other edition of the game.

ImpactVector: But I think 4e is good for this because of X and Y.

Ratman_tf: But also strikes against it such as A and B.

JoshR: But A and B are true of every edition, so they can't be strikes against 4e.

Ratman_tf: So, yes, it's not especially better than any other edition of the game.

At which point we're back to Impact Vector's X and Y: character resiliency and PC-centered game world, perfect for Paladins and Princesses.
 

ezekiel

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Perhaps it would be fairer to say that 4e is, in some sense, sort of an opposite of 2e with regard to P&P? That is, where 2e explicitly strove for the fluff, but the mechanics actively worked against it, 4e didn't particularly strive for the fluff, but contains mechanics which passively support such a style. Because it seems like Ratman is pointing out that 4e does no better than other editions at directly implementing P&P, because no version of D&D has been especially good at the "talk the bad guy to death" or "uncover the secret weakness/power/etc." kind of thing, at least with RAW. On the flipside, ImpactVector seems to be pointing out that, while 4e's RAW mechanics aren't especially better than other editions, its overall construction and rigor make for fertile ground, passively enabling P&P.
 

Ratman_tf

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Perhaps it would be fairer to say that 4e is, in some sense, sort of an opposite of 2e with regard to P&P? That is, where 2e explicitly strove for the fluff, but the mechanics actively worked against it, 4e didn't particularly strive for the fluff, but contains mechanics which passively support such a style. Because it seems like Ratman is pointing out that 4e does no better than other editions at directly implementing P&P, because no version of D&D has been especially good at the "talk the bad guy to death" or "uncover the secret weakness/power/etc." kind of thing, at least with RAW. On the flipside, ImpactVector seems to be pointing out that, while 4e's RAW mechanics aren't especially better than other editions, its overall construction and rigor make for fertile ground, passively enabling P&P.
I think that's fair to say. And while we're getting on the subject of mechanically supporting P&P (or any of the styles) I favor a nudge approach instead of a sledgehammer. Like, I'd really hate to see a goony mechanic that directly forces the players to do P&P type stuff. I'd rather see (for example) xp systems that reward it, but don't unduly penalize it if the players have a little different idea of how a specific scenario should be resolved.

Like you say, 4th has some passive things that make P&P style games easier, but then it also has stuff that makes P&P style harder, and so would have to be tweaked just like any other edition.
 

Daztur

Seoulite
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Aaack, so many typos in that snippet of mine from the OP :(

I'm increasingly coming around to categorizing RPG play in the following way:

-Sandbox: the DM doesn't know what the PCs are going to do next, which often results in pretty loose rules for adjudicating actions (since the PCs could do so many unexpected things) but there are generally either a lot of notes or a lot of rules or random tables for coming up with what the PCs run into rather than what happens when they do certain things. The setting is often fairly thin or tongue in cheek but engaging with specific bits of information about the setting is what tends to separate dead from living PCs moreso than engaging with specific bits of the rules.

-Tournament: an outgrowth of trying to make rule adjudication more consistent from DM to DM so that tournaments with multiple DMs could be run fairly (which is where the old meatgrinder modules come from). Tends to be more rules heavy with less DM adjudication hand waving. Actual play is fairly tactically focused with players engaging a lot with the rules of the game with setting information being flavor and color rather than what separates who dies and who lives. Story tends to mostly be a framing device for tactical challenges.

-Adventure Path: tends to be rather story heavy with a good bit of talk with NPCs and with the DM guiding things along a general plot while the PCs riff off the details. In my experience it tends to have a good bit of DM dice fudging and thinking along the lines of "never let the dice overrule you if you have a great dramatic idea." Often pretty dense setting information and can often be surprisingly rule-heavy but with the rules serving to allow players to play a wide range of character concepts or to have mechanics that reinforce setting concepts rather than a more tactical design focus.

-Story Games: the gap between fluff and crunch gets bridged by giving mechanical heft to stuff that's setting information or color in other styles. The setting often tends to be pretty mutable with both the players and the GM editing stuff on the fly (which often sets this apart from traditional sandboxing: in a sandbox the world doesn't give a shit about the PCs, in a story game the world revolves around them as they're the protagonists).

But that's really general, the OP works well for splitting up D&D and some of the categories map well.
 
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mafelton

Level Z Thac0Frogomancer
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Yup. For example, our house rule was max hp at first level, and -Con gives a nice buffer for healing attempts before dying. Though lately I'm of the mind to just say PCs don't die unless "dramatically appropriate". That kind of rule fits P&P, I think.
I run a pretty P&P game with AD&D2e. I allow max HP at level 1, + 1 hit dice roll. -10 for death. I added an injury system for when PCs go below "0", that has led to some epic questing (when the Paladin loses his sword-hand, it's up to his friends and his squire to find the Great Artificer... that sort of thing.) Most of the time, the injury system helps to keep the players feeling the danger even with all the buffers, and death is rare enough that when it happens, it's usually comes as a result of something dramatic completely without any fiat (not that I'm opposed to such a thing). It's very nice to have that P&P feel come as an emergent property of playing the game, rather than laying it on top.

Oh, one other house rule that I think has made a difference: +1 items are super common and are, by definition, non-magical. They are just really well made versions of their non "+" cousins.
 

Armchair Gamer

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But there's lots of strikes against it as well. I'd argue that combat encounters are not the primary way to resolve conflict in a P&P game. Mostly it's about accomplishing something. Returning the rightful king/queen to the throne, restoring the magical crystal, figuring out how to heal or restore the land, justice tempered with mercy. 4th is pretty focused on combat as a thing to be won, and combat as setpiece encounters. Whereas in P&P, combat is generally seen as an unfortunate failure to resolve situations peacefully.
There's a lot of this in P&P, yes, and it's part of the reason this is one of the two styles that I wondered might not lead out of the D&D family altogether. (G&G is the other if you push it to levels the game doesn't support well.)

But there's also a strong elements of confrontation with terrible, inhuman evil in the genre--standoffs against dragons, fiends, undead lords, wicked fey--that 4E could do quite well. And there's one subtle rules element in 4E that lends itself to P&P, in that it explicitly does not penalize combat effectiveness for trying to go for nonlethal combat solutions.

Then again, it sounds like you're reading more into P&P than is just in that paragraph of description. If there's a bunch of context from the last thread that I'm missing that would explain things.
These categories are broad, a little on the amorphous side (P&P and M&M slide into one another quite easily at their midpoints, for example) and not meant to be exclusive--many campaigns will mix two or three, or evolve from one to another, and most D&D settings can support several different flavors depending on what one wants to emphasize or how they're approached. My standard example is Dragonlance--pure P&P if you go by the art, original modules, and the like, but moving strongly towards M&M if one grounds it in the Weis & Hickman novels and their more cynical take on the setting.
 
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