Monday, January 16, 2012

5e, Cook's Latest Column...How Can This Work?

Believe it or not, I really want 5e to work out and be the edition that unties them all.  Based on some of the comments I am seeing from on high, I don't think it will be what I am looking for or would play.  My understanding is that we could basically buy the the equivalent of the Mentzer red box, then buy a booklet that expands it with classes, one with skills, one with feats, one with powers, etc.  That way we AS DM's can build our own system.   The AS DM's is important.

In his latest column, Cook says:

"Now imagine that the game offered you modular, optional add-ons that allow you to create the character you want to play while letting the Dungeon Master create the game he or she wants to run. Like simple rules for your story-driven game? You're good to go. Like tactical combats and complex encounters? You can have that too. Like ultra-customized character creation? It's all there."

That's a problem for me.  As a DM, creating a game I want to run is very much dependent on rules.  I refuse to have skills, feats, powers, etc in my game.   If the players want tactical combats and complex encounters, they can go play with a DM who wants to run that sort of game.  Setting up an expectation in players minds that they can and should be able to make up whatever character they want, using whatever modules they want, and tough shit the DM will just have to adjust because the rules allow for it and it is simple to implement is a crock of shit.  It's designed solely to sell the maximum amount of modular expansions.    That's not a game I am going to play.

As for this:

"Second—and this sounds so crazy that you probably won't believe it right now—we're designing the game so that not every player has to choose from the same set of options. Again, imagine a game where one player has a simple character sheet that has just a few things noted on it, and the player next to him has all sorts of skills, feats, and special abilities. And yet they can still play the game together and everything remains relatively balanced. Your 1E-loving friend can play in your 3E-style game and not have to deal with all the options he or she doesn't want or need. Or vice versa."

Not going to happen.  I don't care if they think they can pull off such a system or not, nor do I care if they do.  The expectation among players that they can jump into my Basic game with powers and dailies is a complete turn off.

Maybe my point of view is a bit different, but I always thought it was the DM's role to pick system, setting and style of game, and the players either want to join said game or not. 


  1. Is what he's describing not what is in practice going on with FLAILSNAILS? I mean, you have DCC RPG pc's with BECMI with B/X with 1st edition all going on an adventure. . .

  2. Yup, it is. I've played a few flailsnails games and had some fun, played a few and was bored shitless. It takes a very skilled dm to pull it off, and a group of players who don't care about such things as balance in any way shape or form, which most of us involved in the osr and flailsnails do not.

    I like flailsnails for one-off games, and due to personal preferences I know I couldn't run it or enjoy playing it in a campaign. For me, its good for a pickup game on a Friday night with nothing to do. Again, personal preference.

    What wotc is describing is overriding personal tastes by creating for mechanics for players of vastly different styles of game preferences to allow them all to sit at the table and have a good time.

    That won't fly with me, at least for nothing more than a random pickup game once in a while. I don't think personal preferences in game style can be overcome by and sort of rule system.

  3. Yeah, -C, but there's no marketing effort pushing the idea that your character will turn out exactly as you want at each DMs table. There's no rulebook telling me how to adapt anyone's crazy import PC.

    I tried to make this simple point during the switchover to 4e: the specific rules of any new edition aren't as important as the expectations they create in the player base.

    "this sounds so crazy that you probably won't believe it right now"

    That does sound crazy and I don't believe it right now. If they can actually pull it off and not leave the DM holding the bag, I will be quite impressed.

  4. Exactly Jeff. It takes a lot of control of the game from the DM. Think about it--if the modular thingies were in DM only books, where the DM chooses what he wants his game to be like and then lets his players know, WOTC loses shitloads of money. They need to sell modular thingies to players, and they need it not not be a waste of money for them by setting up an expectation that whatever the player wants will be supported by the system, rules and therefore ought to be supported by the DM, in the way that WOTC says it ought to be supported.

  5. I am intrigued. This is totally not what I expected from WotC.

    And maybe, just maybe, WotC finds a way to make it work. I mean, lots of games in the olden days were like this: a pool of DMs with each having his own campaign, and lot of players migrating with their characters through them. In one campaign a certain magic item was disallowed, in another it was "we don't use secondary skills at our table". Or a spell from White Dwarf. Or Arduin Grimoire.

    And if all those modular rules happen to work on the same scale it doesn't really matter if a character has a finely tuned skill list with "pick pockets" and "balance" and "scale wall", while another has a "Job: Thief", and they all roll a d20 vs. DC (or an attribute) with whatever modifier their rule gives them. And if someone wants to limit himself with a daily power (as opposed to the "Job: Thief" player who uses a stunt rolls based on his saving throw all day long) it would not be my problem.

    As long as the players don't make it a problem among themselves (cries of "unfair!") I could work with such a setup.

  6. I don't think it'll not work for just me. As a DM, it took me a while to settle on a system to use for the campaign I had in mind. I wanted it to be heavily war/conquest based, power hungry people in an amoral world where alignment is largely irrelevant, with a hit of Cthulhu horror. I chose LOTFP Grindhouse, because I liked the gritty raw low magic death around every corner and everything is scary as shit and my magic user is weak approach he took in the rules.

    If I allowed wotc's modular thingies on top of that basic ruleset at the table, next thing you'd have 4e type people saying "Well, if Cthulhu exists as a monster, we ought to be able to kill him, because that's how the game works, and the will be balanced for us, so lets go hunt him down."

  7. Plus, how the hell do you handle at the same game table mini's or no mini's? If only one player is using them out of 5, he's gonna get pretty lonely out there and confused as to what he should be doing, if he doesn't see exactly how many fractions of grid away each player is. All he has out there as a point of reference is the monster, which the dm has been forced to put out there as per the official wotc 5e dnd rules even though he hates them, never used them, and doesn't own any.

  8. I can see how wotc would want this to happen but like most folks I don't think it's going to be possible. In reality, it'll probably end up working with the DM just saying, "These are the rules modules we are using."

  9. It sounds like the real balance they're trying to strike is between making the game playable and marketable.

  10. the specific rules of any new edition aren't as important as the expectations they create in the player base

    Absolutely. Of course, being optimistic about this, maybe the fact that they are building options for all of these play styles into the main books will make it more likely that players will be aware that more than one play style exists at all. Many of the products from the past 10 years just take for granted that things like super-balanced classes and complicated character generation are examples of pure progress.

    I'm skeptical but interested to see what they come up with. The fact that OD&D is even mentioned as a distinct entity is promising. Could you imagine that in the years of 3E or 4E dominance?

    Some sort of DM record sheet explaining what game modules are supported might help.

  11. Two things: If WotC made it explicit that the DM is the final arbiter of the rules (duh) then that would solve the issue? That players can down-grade to more basic, but cannot up-scale past DM limit.

    Second, it seems a lot of the sub-text of the L&L columns has to do with taking too much power out of the DM's hands, and some indications point to 5e reversing this trend.

  12. To me it looks like there might be an unspoken assumption that when I sit down with my bare bones, Classic D&D BECMI style character at a table full of guys and gals who have all the nifty new options, I'm going to realize what I'm missing and add all that stuff to my PC. Not going to happen, and if that is the premise they're working from, the project is going to fail in terms of bringing old school players "back". I say "back" with tongue firmly in cheek, since I know there are many of us who never went new school in the first place.

  13. I actually don't see the problem here just because back in the second edition days it was pretty easy for me to say no to any player that brought a new splat book to the table and said they wanted to use the stuff in it. Sure, there were some players that wanted to min/max everything from all the splat books, but I just limited my table to books I owned, and out of those books (and there weren't too many past the core 3), rules I approved.

  14. And the spoiled players will of younger years say "We bought this book, it says we can use xyz, this is dnd, the new dnd ruleset says it is all fair, balanced, and allowable no matter what we use, and that the dm is expected to deal with our choices as players. Thats not fair! WAAAHHH!!!!"

    Me as DM: Fuck off.

    Because you see if it is really really really pushed by wotc that the dm is the final arbiter, then people might be hesitant to buy the modular thingies, for fear it will be a waste of money. so, based on the greed over at wotc, and the need to make this work for their bottom line, what do you think they will do? pump it in such a way as to make people hesitant to buy it?

  15. I am really curious to see how this turns out, though I'm pretty certain I'm going to stick with what I'm playing now.

    DM: Okay, the shadar-kai chain fighter uses his Improved Trip on you.

    Player 1: Um, no. I'm a B/X character. I don't believe in Feats.

    DM: Dammit...okay, I guess you just take 4 damage instead.

  16. I'm an 0e guy, but charge was an encounter power (only usable once every 10 min). How is that ANY different than saying once per encounter you can double move do 2x damage?

  17. Furthermore, in CHAINMAIL heroes had the ability to force enemies to make a morale check after he charges into them--easily another encounter power. Or his inspiring presence ability.

    Half the grognards are Holmes edition fetishest and there is more to d&d--including original d&d, than some of you claim. For the record I've never played 3e or 4e.

  18. I don't see how modularity will sell the new edition let alone bring back the old players. You want OD&D, 1e, or 2e? Play a retro clone or play the old editions. You want 3.x? Play Pathfinder or variants of True 20 or Fantasy Craft. Players of these systems went to these systems because they are getting support and these systems emulate their idea of what D&D is. They never switched to 4e or abandoned it because it's not a system they wanted. Now 5e promises to emulate their favorite retro edition which means 1. we get nothing new, this is OD&D to 4e combined into optional components, and 2. we get a competing system for something we've already been playing with since the time 4e came out or in the case of grognards, never left.

    I switched to Pathfinder when 4e came out. I don't see myself switching to 5e even if it can do everything that Pathfinder can because I already own supplements, books, and game aids from Paizo. Paizo is going to keep making support for Pathfinder so I have little incentive to switch. It's the same for all the retro-clones too. The only I'll probably go to 5e is if Paizo goes belly up.

    Okay, what is a flailsnails game?

  19. To Joe and all other 5E psychics.

    What will you give us if you're wrong?

  20. @Yong Kyosunim- I agree about going to other games after the rift of 4e. I play and have mishmashed several retro-clone games, play Pathfinder sometimes as well, and have discovered new games like Savage Worlds and Mongoose Traveler.

    I really don't see how they can keep this balanced. 4e power cards are way overpowered when compared to abilities from 0e to even 3.x.

    Look at an oe character, hell even look at Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Castles and Crusades, and Swords and Wizardry and compare them to a 3.x or 4e character. The more options available in terms of feats and skills means that there is more bloat and power creep that a DM has to contend with while the 0e character is very basic and not bogged down by shiny baubles.

  21. @Zak- I say that if the powers that be light up the sky and align perfectly to form a gem of cohesion and brilliance all the psychics, if wrong, shall post picture of repentance while wearing a bright colored thong.

  22. i don't see this working out at all, the whole premise seems flawed.

    i simply can't imagine having a 1st and a 4th edition character side-by-side in the same game (well, obviously i can imagine that, but it would suck terribly). if i am not mistaken, that is exactly what they are promising.

    why would players who like different editions want to play in the same game using different rules in the first place? they are using different rules for a reason!

    why would a dm that likes old school play have to provide for characters with skills, feats and whatnot?

    if they really just want to give players the options to choose from all the d&d that has ever been published... well, noone is stopping you from doing just that right now.


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