Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules First Impressions: The Magic Is Back

Rhykker

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Feb 28, 2010
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Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules First Impressions: The Magic Is Back

Will 5th Edition save D&D?

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Jan 12, 2012
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I'm looking forward to getting a chance to play the game. I'm with you about Vancian magic; I dislike the micromanaging and that the most obvious trap that D&D designers keep falling into is, "We're making some new wizard feats, lets do ones that expand their repetoire, allow them to have any spell prepared, or otherwise ruin the balance." But I protest over something that hasn't been done in this edition (yet).

I like the added emphasis on flavour, but I disagree that the trait system is a good one. I've always felt that roleplaying is so subjective that tying some mechanical bonus to how 'good' or 'in-character' something is tends to boil down characters to their most base elements. It's the same problem with restrictive alignments; if you and your DM don't agree on whether or not something is Lawful Good, there's going to be an argument.

It goes double when you have something as broad as the ideal of "compassion" and the bonus is Advantage on a attack roll, saving throw, or ability check of their choice- do you gain inspiration dice when you give money to the poor, when you spend your last copper on a shawl for the orphan girl, or is it (as it usually is) a constantly moving goalpost? Similarly, I know plenty of players who will take a "strong drink" flaw, order some liquor at a tavern, and expect an inspiration die. The worst thing to do then (which I have fallen prey to before, more than once) is to then insist they have disadvantage on a Dexterity-based check due to their consumption of alcohol.

I know it's not compulsory, but seeing it written into the basic rules sets my teeth on edge. I've found roleplaying to be much more enjoyable natural when the system stays out of the way, rather than sending mechanical roots into the non-mechanical part of the game.
 

Clive Howlitzer

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Jan 27, 2011
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Thunderous Cacophony said:
I'm looking forward to getting a chance to play the game. I'm with you about Vancian magic; I dislike the micromanaging and that the most obvious trap that D&D designers keep falling into is, "We're making some new wizard feats, lets do ones that expand their repetoire, allow them to have any spell prepared, or otherwise ruin the balance." But I protest over something that hasn't been done in this edition (yet).

I like the added emphasis on flavour, but I disagree that the trait system is a good one. I've always felt that roleplaying is so subjective that tying some mechanical bonus to how 'good' or 'in-character' something is tends to boil down characters to their most base elements. It's the same problem with restrictive alignments; if you and your DM don't agree on whether or not something is Lawful Good, there's going to be an argument.

It goes double when you have something as broad as the ideal of "compassion" and the bonus is Advantage on a attack roll, saving throw, or ability check of their choice- do you gain inspiration dice when you give money to the poor, when you spend your last copper on a shawl for the orphan girl, or is it (as it usually is) a constantly moving goalpost? Similarly, I know plenty of players who will take a "strong drink" flaw, order some liquor at a tavern, and expect an inspiration die. The worst thing to do then (which I have fallen prey to before, more than once) is to then insist they have disadvantage on a Dexterity-based check due to their consumption of alcohol.

I know it's not compulsory, but seeing it written into the basic rules sets my teeth on edge. I've found roleplaying to be much more enjoyable natural when the system stays out of the way, rather than sending mechanical roots into the non-mechanical part of the game.
I suppose you could look at it as a compromise to try and get characters into roleplaying that might otherwise not bother. I know I've had players in my group that just wouldn't roleplay at all. They were walking piles of numbers and if there wasn't a rule to it, they wouldn't do it. They just weren't creative enough. I tried playing a more open ended game with some of them(Numenera) and they got bored because "You didn't have enough moves, or stuff to get at level" not getting that you could do anything you wanted. They just can't think outside the box.
I guess maybe this is a way to try and urge them into doing so? I am just trying to rationalize it as I mostly agree with you. I prefer my roleplay being roleplay. Nothing I hate more than someone making a great argument while roleplaying a conversation with an NPC, only to enforce a d20 roll on it afterward.
 

Scars Unseen

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May 7, 2009
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Thunderous Cacophony said:
I'm looking forward to getting a chance to play the game. I'm with you about Vancian magic; I dislike the micromanaging and that the most obvious trap that D&D designers keep falling into is, "We're making some new wizard feats, lets do ones that expand their repetoire, allow them to have any spell prepared, or otherwise ruin the balance." But I protest over something that hasn't been done in this edition (yet).

I like the added emphasis on flavour, but I disagree that the trait system is a good one. I've always felt that roleplaying is so subjective that tying some mechanical bonus to how 'good' or 'in-character' something is tends to boil down characters to their most base elements. It's the same problem with restrictive alignments; if you and your DM don't agree on whether or not something is Lawful Good, there's going to be an argument.

It goes double when you have something as broad as the ideal of "compassion" and the bonus is Advantage on a attack roll, saving throw, or ability check of their choice- do you gain inspiration dice when you give money to the poor, when you spend your last copper on a shawl for the orphan girl, or is it (as it usually is) a constantly moving goalpost? Similarly, I know plenty of players who will take a "strong drink" flaw, order some liquor at a tavern, and expect an inspiration die. The worst thing to do then (which I have fallen prey to before, more than once) is to then insist they have disadvantage on a Dexterity-based check due to their consumption of alcohol.

I know it's not compulsory, but seeing it written into the basic rules sets my teeth on edge. I've found roleplaying to be much more enjoyable natural when the system stays out of the way, rather than sending mechanical roots into the non-mechanical part of the game.
I think that in these cases, it is best to go with the Fate Core approach. That is to say that if it doesn't make the narrative more interesting, don't mess with it. In a game I ran, I wouldn't hand out inspiration bonuses just because someone played to their character in mundane or insignificant situations. They would have to do so in situations that significantly affect the adventure or cause significant and immediate complications for the character and/or party.

For instance, a paladin stopping to heal a wounded traveler would not count, as there is no real drawback or significant gameplay or narrative consequence for doing so. It's simply expected behavior. Insisting on staying behind alone to escort a stranded family to safety from the oncoming orc horde while the rest of the party hastens to the city to answer the local lord's call for mercenaries would count.

Basically, I would use this mechanic as an incentive for the players to roleplay extraordinary characters, not just characters with extraordinary ability score arrays.
 

DanielG

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Jul 16, 2012
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Looks like the basic rules give a pretty good idea of what the final system is like, they actually have more pages than the rulebook in the starter set (110 vs 32). I've only quickly flipped through the starter set rulebook but it looks like it has just enough to run the included adventure using the pre-generated characters; no rules for creating a character in the starter set.
 

Scow2

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Scars Unseen said:
Thunderous Cacophony said:
I'm looking forward to getting a chance to play the game. I'm with you about Vancian magic; I dislike the micromanaging and that the most obvious trap that D&D designers keep falling into is, "We're making some new wizard feats, lets do ones that expand their repetoire, allow them to have any spell prepared, or otherwise ruin the balance." But I protest over something that hasn't been done in this edition (yet).

I like the added emphasis on flavour, but I disagree that the trait system is a good one. I've always felt that roleplaying is so subjective that tying some mechanical bonus to how 'good' or 'in-character' something is tends to boil down characters to their most base elements. It's the same problem with restrictive alignments; if you and your DM don't agree on whether or not something is Lawful Good, there's going to be an argument.

It goes double when you have something as broad as the ideal of "compassion" and the bonus is Advantage on a attack roll, saving throw, or ability check of their choice- do you gain inspiration dice when you give money to the poor, when you spend your last copper on a shawl for the orphan girl, or is it (as it usually is) a constantly moving goalpost? Similarly, I know plenty of players who will take a "strong drink" flaw, order some liquor at a tavern, and expect an inspiration die. The worst thing to do then (which I have fallen prey to before, more than once) is to then insist they have disadvantage on a Dexterity-based check due to their consumption of alcohol.

I know it's not compulsory, but seeing it written into the basic rules sets my teeth on edge. I've found roleplaying to be much more enjoyable natural when the system stays out of the way, rather than sending mechanical roots into the non-mechanical part of the game.
I think that in these cases, it is best to go with the Fate Core approach. That is to say that if it doesn't make the narrative more interesting, don't mess with it. In a game I ran, I wouldn't hand out inspiration bonuses just because someone played to their character in mundane or insignificant situations. They would have to do so in situations that significantly affect the adventure or cause significant and immediate complications for the character and/or party.

For instance, a paladin stopping to heal a wounded traveler would not count, as there is no real drawback or significant gameplay or narrative consequence for doing so. It's simply expected behavior. Insisting on staying behind alone to escort a stranded family to safety from the oncoming orc horde while the rest of the party hastens to the city to answer the local lord's call for mercenaries would count.

Basically, I would use this mechanic as an incentive for the players to roleplay extraordinary characters, not just characters with extraordinary ability score arrays.
Actually, a Paladin stopping to heal someone on the side of the road probably should grant an Inspiration Point - D&D has a much more complex resource management system than FATE does, and has a whole host of discrete resources to provide for an emergent gameplay - a Paladin that stops to heal someone is usually trading part of a daily resource - or two! (healing power, and time)
 

Scars Unseen

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I still wouldn't because it then turns it into a simple resource exchange(albeit not one in the player's favor in that case). Inspiration appears to be a tool for promoting roleplaying, or at least that is how I would use it as written. That being the case, I have to think about what it is I would want to promote in a game I was running, and simply using a resource to heal someone on their way to somewhere else wouldn't strike me as something worth rewarding, particularly if there are no other encounters that day that would have required said resource.

Of course, it is specifically worded to be a tool used at the DM's discretion, so naturally different people will use it in different ways, but I would rather encourage extraordinary behavior than resource min-maxing.
 

vipLink

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DanielG said:
Looks like the basic rules give a pretty good idea of what the final system is like, they actually have more pages than the rulebook in the starter set (110 vs 32). I've only quickly flipped through the starter set rulebook but it looks like it has just enough to run the included adventure using the pre-generated characters; no rules for creating a character in the starter set.
Hey,

i've been looking around but can't seem to find the Core Rules PDF.
Someone mind putting a Link up, it'd be nice if there was one in the article as well.

Looking to get back into D&D and this Review sounds really promising (skipped 4e because everybody seemed to hate it).
There doesn't seem to be much information on what's actually inside the Starter-Set, I was thinking of preordering it, so do you mind giving me a quick rundown of what's inside?
 

william12123

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Oct 22, 2008
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I'll check it out. Some of the RP stuff looks interesting, some of it looks restrictive (I've always disliked the notion that classes have a defined flavor, classes are just bags of mechanics you can name/flavor however you want to me). The playtest did not appear to be in any way similar to 3.5, so I will admit I am doubtful.
 

Rhykker

Level 16 Scallywag
Feb 28, 2010
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Thunderous Cacophony said:
I like the added emphasis on flavour, but I disagree that the trait system is a good one. I've always felt that roleplaying is so subjective that tying some mechanical bonus to how 'good' or 'in-character' something is tends to boil down characters to their most base elements. It's the same problem with restrictive alignments; if you and your DM don't agree on whether or not something is Lawful Good, there's going to be an argument.
Maybe it depends on the players and/or DM. The Inspiration rules did specify that the rewarded roleplaying should be "compelling," so it seems to suggest something above and beyond simply running your character as defined. I agree with your concern that it should definitely not become, "I know that if I make my character do this, I will get Inspiration," as in the case of ordering a drink at the bar.

In my last major 4e campaign, I had implemented the following roleplaying reward system:

At the end of a session, I would have a private meeting with the players. We would discuss the roleplaying of each player, in turn (the given player would sit out) in order to determine whether they received the Consistent Roleplaying reward and Memorable Roleplaying reward.

If we, as a group, could find three examples of the player running his character in a manner consistent with what we knew of the character from previous sessions, then the player received the Consistent Roleplaying reward. These examples would have to be things that the player actively roleplayed, rather than passively -- eg. roleplaying a quiet character by simply being an un-talkative player is not an example of consistent roleplaying. I understand your concern about this boiling down a character to its basics, but it is important to have those basics established and at the forefront of our minds, because while people do have much greater depth than this, it is the broad strokes, not the detailed ones, that give us a general picture of who someone is.

The Memorable Roleplaying reward, which seems to be more in line with what Inspiration rewards, would be given if the player had some standout RP moment that really showed they were making an effort to enhance the story and be compelling.

Being a democratic process, we actually found a natural evolution of our expectations over the weeks and months -- things we rewarded players for previously would no longer suffice as RP ability developed. This system resulted in every single player becoming a better roleplayer, without question. The good roleplayers became great roleplayers, and the novice roleplayers became good roleplayers. And it was entirely subjective -- we knew each other and our capabilities, and made sure to reward the effort put in.

But maybe I just rolled a 20 on selecting my group of players :)
 

Fasckira

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Oct 22, 2009
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Fantastically written article! You raise an excellent point right at the start; it always struck me as amusing when I'd hear players bitching about the lack of roleplaying in 4e because as you say thats something they themselves are responsible for. All the new flavour stuff looks fantastic however, certainly dangles enough hooks.
 

Rhykker

Level 16 Scallywag
Feb 28, 2010
814
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Thunderous Cacophony said:
I'm with you about Vancian magic; I dislike the micromanaging and that the most obvious trap that D&D designers keep falling into is, "We're making some new wizard feats, lets do ones that expand their repetoire, allow them to have any spell prepared, or otherwise ruin the balance." But I protest over something that hasn't been done in this edition (yet).

I like the added emphasis on flavour, but I disagree that the trait system is a good one. I've always felt that roleplaying is so subjective that tying some mechanical bonus to how 'good' or 'in-character' something is tends to boil down characters to their most base elements. It's the same problem with restrictive alignments; if you and your DM don't agree on whether or not something is Lawful Good, there's going to be an argument.
So... good news, for you, I guess, since feats don't exist apart from an optional rule to displace the by-level stat increases with somewhat level-independent customizations, usually something as simple as adding more skills or proficiencies with maybe a minor bonus.

I suppose further good news there in that the trait system makes alignment LESS restrictive since your traits can easily deviate from 'core alignment', e.g. you're CG with the exception that a Human once killed your husband so you'll let 'em all burn if given the choice. As for backgrounds in general, the PHB has the system for designing them from scratch if you don't like any of the prefab ones. (If you can't look at the PDF and work out that it's basically two skill proficiencies, two item proficiencies, a profession subset, and one of a list of fixed 'special abilities' plus a fixed amount of gold in gear... I don't really know how to help you.)

Generally speaking, this edition hangs onto the more balanced combat of 4th edition, but takes a stab at getting skills back into play. Mechanically they've tried really, really hard to make each stat the actual primary meaningful measure of your capabilities (until level 10 or so your stat matters more than whether you're proficient or not in a skill), give casters the feel of the Vancian system while leaving them an infinite magical 'basic attack' and the ability to infini-cast utility spells (rituals, made less obtuse than 4th thankfully) and stripped out the potential for rolls to automatically fail or succeed almost entirely. Having playtested, I'd say they've largely succeeded, it has the feel of a skill system without the whole micromanaging ranks and such: if you rolled a charisma character, he's good at talking to people, and he'll never be entirely outshone by someone with actual training, though someone with both is still best.

There are a lot of balancing simplifications that kill the old bonus-stacking juggle: pretty much everything stacks, but magic bonus caps at +1, competence is +1 to +5ish most of the time, and no stat can get above +5. Even as a max-level paladin with capped Str and Cha and your magic weapon up, your attack is +16 with a powerful magic weapon, for instance, so if a level 1 goblin finds some splint mail and a shield (AC 21) you might still miss.

The inspiration system is an action dice system, but using the new mechanic of advantage/disadvantage, which is literally just "roll twice take better" or "roll twice take worst" respectively. So it's sort of a stroke of luck but can't actually enhance anything beyond your capabilities, it's not a bonus, it's exactly what it says on the tin: a statistical advantage. It also is designed where the two cancel each other out, so you can use something that grants you advantage (e.g. flanking, to use a combat example) to cancel something that gives you disadvantage (the fighter protection ability). They even thought of how annoying piling that on could get and instituted a "once both advantage and disadvantage have been applied and cancel out, further advantage/dis does nothing" rule, which saves a lot of effort.

The short version is that this is what 4th was supposed to be: a streamlined version of 3rd with better mechanical balance and more accessibility to newer players. Basically since last time someone at wizards actually found a dictionary to look up 'streamlined' and discovered that it means retaining features in a more easily-accessed fashion rather than "let's just cut out everything that isn't combat entirely".

Personally, I like it. A bit more than Pathfinder, not anywhere near as much as Spycraft or Iron Heroes. Call it on par with the Warhammer tabletop RPG, quality-wise, basically. Which I know isn't really a ringing endorsement, but it's not bad and if you really wanted to play a system that was both balanced and flexible you'd have given up d20 in favor of the new World of Darkness years ago. So... in context, good times.
 

Rhykker

Level 16 Scallywag
Feb 28, 2010
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Scars Unseen said:
I still wouldn't because it then turns it into a simple resource exchange(albeit not one in the player's favor in that case).
The rule of thumb in White Wolf for the roleplay-based resource (recovering willpower from roleplaying a virtue, willpower being basically the same action dice system stuff) is that you recover your willpower if you roleplay your virtue at a personal cost to the character.

So, essentially, if the character does something that is according to his roleplay bullet points but makes things HARDER for the party, he should get the inspiration or whatever. Healing a beggar by the side of the road in itself, not really worth it. Healing a beggar by the side of the road when the character knows that more combat is coming and he's only at half HP, worth the inspiration point.

The most common thing this does in my experience is get people to actually participate in the social encounters, since there's an actual mechanical incentive for your hardcore communist gnomish mechanic to fly off the handle and start lecturing the plutocratic noble hiring the party about how he should nationalize his farms where normally the player would take the course of wisdom and keep his mouth shut due to having left charisma at 8. In my opinion this makes games immensely more entertaining.
 

DanielG

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Jul 16, 2012
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vipLink said:
Hey,

i've been looking around but can't seem to find the Core Rules PDF.
Someone mind putting a Link up, it'd be nice if there was one in the article as well.

Looking to get back into D&D and this Review sounds really promising (skipped 4e because everybody seemed to hate it).
There doesn't seem to be much information on what's actually inside the Starter-Set, I was thinking of preordering it, so do you mind giving me a quick rundown of what's inside?
The core rules can be downloaded from the Wizards website.

The Table of Contents for the Starter Set rules is on the front cover and lists
Chapter 1: How to Play (Getting Started, Six Abilities) pages 2 - 7
Chapter 2: Combat (The Order of Combat, Movement and Position, Actions in Combat, Making an Attack, Cover, Damage and Healing) pages 8 - 13
Chapter 3: Adventuring (Travel, Resting, Rewards, Equipment) pages 14 - 19
Chapter 4: Spellcasting (What Is a Spell, Casting a Spell, Spell Lists, Spells) pages 20 - 31

The back cover is an appendix that describes various conditions that can afflict a character (Blind, Charmed, Deafened, etc.)

It does seem like just enough to run the adventure; for instance, there is no discussion of classes or races. It doesn't appear to contain any information about the new character features such as personality traits and the like (although they do appear as part of the pre-generated characters). However, if you want to get a group together and run a 5e session then it looks like this would allow you to do so with minimum effort.
 
Jan 12, 2012
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vipLink said:
Hey,

i've been looking around but can't seem to find the Core Rules PDF.
Someone mind putting a Link up, it'd be nice if there was one in the article as well.
Here you are.
Jim_Callahan said:
So... good news, for you, I guess, since feats don't exist apart from an optional rule to displace the by-level stat increases with somewhat level-independent customizations, usually something as simple as adding more skills or proficiencies with maybe a minor bonus.
The thing is that Mearls has talked about balancing feats with ability upgrades by making them significantly more powerful than in other editions. Because you only get the occasional feat, which must be balanced against ability scores, they've got a lot of kick. Here's one from an old L&L column:
Great Weapon Master

You can let the momentum from a deadly attack carry your weapon into another foe.

Benefit: You gain proficiency in heavy martial weapons.

When you make a melee attack with a weapon, you can take a ?5 penalty to the attack roll to double your damage with that attack.

When you score a critical hit with a melee weapon or reduce a creature to 0 hit points with a melee weapon, you can make one additional melee attack as a part of the same action. The attack granted by this feat cannot trigger another attack from this feat.
This isn't the final version, but it seems that feats are definitely much more powerful, combining the power of two or three feats from previous versions. I'm not saying that this is the wrong approach, just that taking that approach is very risky in terms of maintaining long-term balance, because you need feats that are powerful and wide-ranging so people want them, but not too powerful or wide-ranging so that they unbalance the game.

I don't have a problem with backgrounds, because those are mechanical collections with a bit of RP flavour- nothing dictates that someone with the criminal background has to be a criminal, or that they gain an advantage by acting like a hardened criminal as opposed to someone with a rough past trying to move beyond it. The background isn't restrictive in encouraging you to play a certain way.

I disagree with you on the power of advantage/disadvantage, though, due to my own playtesting experience. When the bonus that most characters have to most actions is single digit, and the die they roll is a d20, getting the opportunity to roll again is massive. The 'stroke of luck' is a big factor given those numbers. And the fact that inspiration can be used for any attack roll, ability check or saving throw inclines it more towards a powerful resource to hoard, rather than a temporary bonus to be used in that situation or lost.

Rhykker said:
Thunderous Cacophony said:
I like the added emphasis on flavour, but I disagree that the trait system is a good one. I've always felt that roleplaying is so subjective that tying some mechanical bonus to how 'good' or 'in-character' something is tends to boil down characters to their most base elements. It's the same problem with restrictive alignments; if you and your DM don't agree on whether or not something is Lawful Good, there's going to be an argument.
Maybe it depends on the players and/or DM. The Inspiration rules did specify that the rewarded roleplaying should be "compelling," so it seems to suggest something above and beyond simply running your character as defined. I agree with your concern that it should definitely not become, "I know that if I make my character do this, I will get Inspiration," as in the case of ordering a drink at the bar.

In my last major 4e campaign, I had implemented the following roleplaying reward system:

At the end of a session, I would have a private meeting with the players. We would discuss the roleplaying of each player, in turn (the given player would sit out) in order to determine whether they received the Consistent Roleplaying reward and Memorable Roleplaying reward.

If we, as a group, could find three examples of the player running his character in a manner consistent with what we knew of the character from previous sessions, then the player received the Consistent Roleplaying reward. These examples would have to be things that the player actively roleplayed, rather than passively -- eg. roleplaying a quiet character by simply being an un-talkative player is not an example of consistent roleplaying. I understand your concern about this boiling down a character to its basics, but it is important to have those basics established and at the forefront of our minds, because while people do have much greater depth than this, it is the broad strokes, not the detailed ones, that give us a general picture of who someone is.

The Memorable Roleplaying reward, which seems to be more in line with what Inspiration rewards, would be given if the player had some standout RP moment that really showed they were making an effort to enhance the story and be compelling.

Being a democratic process, we actually found a natural evolution of our expectations over the weeks and months -- things we rewarded players for previously would no longer suffice as RP ability developed. This system resulted in every single player becoming a better roleplayer, without question. The good roleplayers became great roleplayers, and the novice roleplayers became good roleplayers. And it was entirely subjective -- we knew each other and our capabilities, and made sure to reward the effort put in.

But maybe I just rolled a 20 on selecting my group of players :)
I'm interested in how you made this work.
1) You say that the given player sat out while you discussed the bonuses. Did you ever talk to someone who was not getting the bonuses regularly about why they weren't getting it? (or perhaps the bonuses were rare enough that even getting one was a big thing)

2) What exactly were the bonuses? Was it XP, some form of benny, or something else?

3) Did you notice people tracking stuff for their Consistent Roleplaying reward? For example, did someone (or someones) make little notes of when characters were acting 'in-character', tally them up, then say, "Yeah, Jess had 4 moments by my count, so she gets the bonus"? On a related note, would people work to get one standout moment for the Memorable reward, then step back to let other characters take centre stage? Thinking to my own groups, there are some people who like to jump forward all the time and would earn that reward simply by virtue of continual action, while others may spend a couple weeks playing their character well and to the benefit of everyone at the table, without generating one of those standout moments you brag about on the internet.
 

Rhykker

Level 16 Scallywag
Feb 28, 2010
814
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Thunderous Cacophony said:
I'm interested in how you made this work.
1) You say that the given player sat out while you discussed the bonuses. Did you ever talk to someone who was not getting the bonuses regularly about why they weren't getting it? (or perhaps the bonuses were rare enough that even getting one was a big thing)

2) What exactly were the bonuses? Was it XP, some form of benny, or something else?

3) Did you notice people tracking stuff for their Consistent Roleplaying reward? For example, did someone (or someones) make little notes of when characters were acting 'in-character', tally them up, then say, "Yeah, Jess had 4 moments by my count, so she gets the bonus"? On a related note, would people work to get one standout moment for the Memorable reward, then step back to let other characters take centre stage? Thinking to my own groups, there are some people who like to jump forward all the time and would earn that reward simply by virtue of continual action, while others may spend a couple weeks playing their character well and to the benefit of everyone at the table, without generating one of those standout moments you brag about on the internet.
1. After the group pow-wow's, I'd then have a private one-on-one with each player, highlighting the takeaways in a positive way. "We saw some good RP out of you early on, when such-and-such, but we felt you kind of shut down halfway through the session." More often than not, the player already knew whether he'd be getting the bonus. "Yeah, I know, I really wasn't in it tonight."

The Consistent RP bonus was fairly regular for most players. The Memorable RP bonus was the rare treat, but it became more prevalent over time.

Also, by having the players in on the RP evaluation discussion, they were all learning what we look for in consistent RP, as we were deciding it as a group. So if someone wasn't getting rewards, they knew why based on why other people were or were not getting rewards.

2. XP initially -- for years -- simply because I couldn't think of a better system. But I disliked how that would make the PCs advance at different rates, so I devised an extremely elaborate bonus point system. Bonus points could be spent on a number of things, from random buffs that would last a session (eg. +2 to Athletics checks) to leveling up allies within a complex ally system I devised, to increasing the odds that the next treasure trove would contain exactly the magic item they desired.

3. Most players didn't most of the time, but some did some of the time. Our sessions lasted three hours; while I never forbade anyone from taking notes, my rationale is, "If I don't remember the RP you did, then that says something." Basically, there should be enough examples of consistent RP that we can remember three of them, given a few minutes of reflection.

Two players (they were BF/GF and spent a lot of out-of-session time talking about the campaign) would occasionally work together to plan some great RP moments, generally to highlight just one of their characters at a time. If someone wants to go to that effort, then I'll certainly reward it.

We've never really run into issues in which a player didn't get a chance to shine if they chose to, but maybe that's just Canadian politeness :) It would sometimes happen that a player would lament, "Yeah, I wanted to get into a deep RP moment there, but then such-and-such happened and the moment passed." But the players were generally good at noticing when something important to a certain character may be happening and give the player time and space to shine - it also helped that the campaign, itself, was devised to give players these opportunities.

Also, the Memorable reward was only 50% greater than the Consistent reward, and it was virtually unheard of to earn the Memorable without also earning the Consistent. So overall, the Consistent reward was the more "lucrative" for everyone, with the Memorable one being desired almost purely based on its greater rarity and sense of self-satisfaction.
 

Perspicacity

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First off when reviewing a new system weather as a professional or just chatting in a forum like we're doing now talking about RP is a red haring here because we RP the same no matter what system you put in front of us. You wont find RP in any book, because RP is what YOU contribute to the game. It's your piece of the puzzle. Good RP can make up for even the worst mechanics, so when I deride or compliment a system it's purely from a mechanics perspective. Certainly the canonical narrative presented with the game material can help or hurt RP, but using that narrative is completely optional. I don't care if you're playing D&D, Shadowrun, L5R, BESM, Vampire the Masquerade, or Eclipse Phase. The universe is what the GM says it is, not what the book says it is. In fact probably my favorite system is Tristat DX because it has ZERO cannon. The GM has complete free reign to tell any story he wants from a Olde West game set in 1756 Texas to a cyberpunk game set in 2244 on planet Zarblox & no one can ever say, "HAY THAT'S NOT CANNON!". Moving on.

I got in to the Beta test for 5th early & through the entire process I just didn't like what I was seeing & the direction they were taking the game. I think a lot of people are hyped about it cause "Oh new & shiny!" but once the system is more widely known & the "new-book" smell has faded, people will go right back to pathfinder or 3.5. It's shift in both power balance & gradient of power growth is felt right away & carries through to end game. Players that like to challenge themselves by playing what are considered "weaker" classes (aka my favorite classes) like Ranger or Bard or complex classes like Cleric or Wizard will find the weak classes beefed up & the complex classes simplified. I don't want to go so far as to say dumbed down as you'll still need a bit of acumen to grasp the finer points of spell casting but certainly more will be able to grasp the system then before. On the other side of things people who like to play OP stuff like Druids, Monks, or particularly well built Fighters will find there not quite as good as they use to be. Still good, but not as good as we remember them. It really feels like your fighting with weights on your PC's hands the whole time.

Some might consider these changes to be good things, & certainly arguments have been made to that effect that I find it hard (but not impossible) to contend with, but the end result is that this is a different animal then most D&D players are use to. The instincts I had before we're all out of whack in 5th. I played a Cleric because I wanted to challenge myself & Clerics are traditionally difficult to use offensively in early game, but in 5th I roflstomped every thing we came across. The other 2 players (A Rogue & a Fighter respectively) pretty much just stood back & watched me blow stuff up for like the first 4 game sessions & I think in that first month I cast maybe one cure spell.

Ive been playing D&D since late 2nd ed. & as I went through the evolution of the system 2nd, 3rd, 3.5 & Pathfinder all felt like natural evolutions off of each other. Graduating from one to the next was an easy transition & what you learned from one could if only in an esoteric fashion be used to guide you in the next system & allowed you to adapted quickly. The transition was grace full & easy to comprehend. Then 4th came along & was like a Dwarven Warhammer to the teeth. In this respect 5th is in a precarious spot. it has three distinct groups of players to deal with. Group 1 hated 4th ed & either stayed with 3.5 or went pathfinder; frequently both (I'm in this group). Group 2 liked 4th ed, played it extensively & made the transition with all it's associated bumps & scrapes. Group 3 are the youngest among us who don't even know what 3.5 is. The problem with 3 divergent groups is that any new edition is going to reproduce that "face-hammer" feeling for one of these three groups. If they pander to the the 3.5ers the youngbloods who only know 4th will be in for a rough time. If they had instead chosen to build off of 4th, the alienation of the old schoolers would have been complete. What they instead of chosen to do is create a hybrid system which the loyal core of group 2 will find easy to follow & probably even very enjoyable but will likely rub both old schoolers like me & very young new players unfamiliar with 3.5 & earlier the wrong way.


On the positive side they pretty much ditched 4th ed keeping only a few of the more popular mechanics & started with 3.5 as a base to build on so taken as a whole 5th is certainly better then 4th by a wide margin, but again that's not saying much considering 4th is a rather low hurdle to get over. They did a few minor things I liked like simplify armor check penalties, but the bad out weighed the good IMO. In retrospect 5th felt less like, "hay we're listening. Lets build a better game together", & more like, "PLEASE DON'T LEAVE US WE'LL GIVE YOU WHATEVER YOU WANT!" & that understated tone of desperate pandering just hung in the air through out the development process & the PR blitz & is reflected in the game play. The constant "This is so cool! wait till you guys see how cool this is! You're gonna see, it's so cool!" really over hyped it for me. Don't get me wrong after the one two punch of 4th failing the way it did & then Paizo delivering a vastly superior system, Wizards had to do something; I'm just not sure they did the right thing. Over all I will admit 5th is a (baby) step in the right direction, but they've still got a ways to go before they catch up to Paizo & Pathfinder.
 

Falseprophet

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Perspicacity said:
First off when reviewing a new system weather as a professional or just chatting in a forum like we're doing now talking about RP is a red haring here because we RP the same no matter what system you put in front of us. You wont find RP in any book, because RP is what YOU contribute to the game. It's your piece of the puzzle. Good RP can make up for even the worst mechanics, so when I deride or compliment a system it's purely from a mechanics perspective. Certainly the canonical narrative presented with the game material can help or hurt RP, but using that narrative is completely optional. I don't care if you're playing D&D, Shadowrun, L5R, BESM, Vampire the Masquerade, or Eclipse Phase. The universe is what the GM says it is, not what the book says it is.
Sorry, I haven't found that to be the case. Every set of game mechanics has certain assumptions built into it that colour the way the setting works. Rich Burlew helpfully compiled a list of D&D's core assumptions [http://www.giantitp.com/articles/YPgbz2j3PckGjjviJU5.html], among them "Magic is consequence-free". I'll add, every edition of D&D assumes a small band of adventurers of diverse class combinations fighting groups of low-powered monsters or lone high-powered monsters. The combat system handles duels of any sort very poorly, and adventuring with groups of all fighters or all thieves is extremely difficult. And speaking of the cleric class, how often do D&D supplements actually discuss what it means to have an important position in a religion that presumably thousands or millions of NPCs in the game world would believe in? How often is the social power of religious leadership in a world where the gods are demonstrably real ever discussed in D&D game material?

White Wolf's solution to this is to just ignore the rules when they become inconvenient, which then turns the session into a game of Storyteller fiat. Vampire the Masquerade's fluff has spent pages and pages of ink describing exactly how important blood is to vampire society. It's their economy, it's their social status, it's their energy source. The game's title reflects the difficulty of acquiring blood without revealing the existence of vampires to their prey. And yet (with one possible exception [http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/28796/Damnation-City?it=1] which was late-coming and made for Requiem) the game never provides a system for acquiring blood. Is it easy? Is it difficult? Is there the potential to lose yourself in the moment and accidentally kill your victim? The game doesn't care. It claims to be a game about personal horror, and yet shies away from confronting the most horrifying thing your characters do on a regular basis. This is exactly why its detractors often call it a game about dark superheroes instead of vampires.
 

moonkid

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Sep 14, 2009
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I'd just like to point out that the magic system is only "semi-vancian", and works quite differently to any previous edition. You can prepare a set number of spells of any level, and you then use your "slots" essentially as spell points to cast anything you like from that list. It's a lot more flexible than the old system, although it retains a deal of the flavour.

Lots more to say, but no time. Suffice to say that this by far my favourite edition at this point.
 

SteinarB

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Jun 16, 2014
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Unfortunately Wizards lost me with 4th edition and drove me to look at other systems I hadn't tried yet. By now it's too late for them to gain me back, no matter if 5th edition is an improvement or not. I'll stick with systems like Savage Worlds which, IMO, is far better than any version of D&D/AD&D has ever been. Certainly far superior to both 3.5 and 4th ed.