Monday, April 30, 2012

Yikes; or Balls! To the Rule of Three Article

[Nice. My Ipad hates blogger and just ate my post. I'll sum it below to give context to the comments.]

First, read this tired crap about using DCs as role-play resolution in 5e.

Then remind yourself how tavern role-play should happen and the originality, creativity, and fun that emerges from these situations. Why kill it?

People play role-playing games for that reason - to role-play.

If all I wanted to do was roll dice I'd play a board-game (or a WotC version of D&D).


  1. Two things.

    1. The beginning of that article reminded me of the Hard 8 hotline in KotD that B.A. Felton uses to call for rules clarification.

    2. The tavern scenario reminded me of this post:

    While I did try (unsuccessfully) to call for a dex check to see who got their physically faster, the girls would have none of it.

    Furthermore, they would have looked at me like I was stupid if I said anything about a "DC check."

  2. I check ability scores but mostly to avoid a portion of damage or to avoid an act with some type of negative consequence.

  3. That's true, while I don't think the dex check was a bad idea in that situation (that was a funny post!), the whole idea of the DC is very reminiscent of 3E. Not saying that it's a bad thing, but it's clearly not going to fly with people who are more accustomed to old-school style of play.

  4. That example sounds fairly craptacular. I was really expecting anything else out of 5e but if this is an example of what they think a role-playing game should be then I think they are just looking for the 3.x edition people for the new system. This is something I'm fine with. There is more than enough OSR material that is being released to satisfy any old school gamer. I don't think there is any need to just throw money at WotC and it doesn't sound like they are trying very hard to earn any of my money.

  5. you mean when Cheer Bear blessed us with his thoughts on the subject? ;)

  6. @kilted I go that route as well. In this case I went for the dex check, because both of their arguments were compelling and I wasn't about to call some D&D hotline. ;]

    @Alex Thanks! They can be hilarious. Now replace that scenario with a DC check similar to the WotC tavern situation. It would have robbed the girls of that character interaction. It would not be interesting and not worth writing about.

    I'm sincerely not picking on people who enjoy WotC's DC resolution system, but it is so bland at the table.

  7. That's pretty much how skill-based systems would do things anyway - make a check to see if you can do the thing you're trying to do. And it's something I used to do in my AD&D days with d20-based attribute checks. So this just seems like an update of something that's been around since not long after D&D turned into AD&D.

  8. @Peter

    I've enjoyed skill-based games outside D&D, but there's a missed opportunity in WotC's tavern example. It's overshadowed by the DC check.

    A. The fighter and thief argue with one another on which approach would work best (tavern brawl!).
    B. Perhaps the fighter crushes the mug, while the thief is trying to convince the guild member (doh!).
    C. Maybe the thief (the player) fumbles his words and the fighter is there to finish the job with his fist.
    D. Something the DM didn't think of (this is the one they'll pick btw!)

    In my experience, players are creative when it comes to solutions without dice rolls. To humor myself, I just asked Kay what she would do in the situation.

    I presented the scenario the same and asked how she would convince this guy to talk. She asked if she knew his name, I said sure.

    She then said, "Well, there is obviously some sort of password for his guild, so I'll need to get that. After that, he'll think I'm one of them."

    No DC check.


    1. She then said, "Well, there is obviously some sort of password for his guild, so I'll need to get that. After that, he'll think I'm one of them."

      Well, okay, but how do you get that password? Is it not possible that it would involve a roll of some kind? It might involve a con, it might involve breaking into his room and stealing his notes, it might involve a mind control spell, it might involve beating up his associates until they cough up the password.

      It just seems to me that the difference between "roll to hit" and "roll to see if your con works" is arbitrary. Opposed, not opposed, able to act it out, not able - it's arbitrary. If you've got a situation where failure is possible and could be interesting, it's nice to have a mechanic you can roll against. Neither you nor the player decide the result; you stack the odds as best you can and then ask the dice what happens. We do that all the time in gaming - and when you choose to do it instead of just saying, "Wow, you description was very convincing, you succeed automatically!" is arbitrary, IMO.

      Plus I'd note the article is trying to explain how the mechanic works, not how roleplaying works per se. It doesn't sound like "roleplaying is rolling dice" but raher like "When you roll dice during roleplaying, here is how you'll be rolling." I wouldn't read much more into it until the finished product rolls along.

    2. @Peter

      We've established that there is no DC check in Kay's case, but to answer your question, how she gets the password is up to her. She hasn't changed anything about the scenario yet.

      Sticking with your outline, if it involved being deceptive, she can use her own words (still no dice rolls).

      Breaking into his room and stealing notes could call for an open locks roll, but that's clearly not taking the place of role-playing. Opening the lock, just opens the door/chest (or fails and you hope there is a window or no one hears you breaking the window/door/chest).

      A mind control spell wasn't an option in the scenario, but the person resisting via saving throw is different than the DM role-playing the NPC's resistance to the unknown.

      It would be completely arbitrary for me to say, "Sorry. Spell doesn't work." Unless, this was some spell resistant creature in disguise, which, I'd imagine would have just uncovered something deeper! Not consulting the dice in the case would throw up red flags.

      Kay typically leans towards thieves and I don't believe she considered magic at all.

      Beating up associates, yes, would inherently call for dice rolls (because combat), but it's clearly not the same.

      "Wow, you description was very convincing, you succeed automatically!" is arbitrary, IMO.

      Is setting the DC check any less arbitrary? Hell, in my linked example, even I was stuck. They both presented compelling arguments of why they got there first and I was a amused when they both turned on me when I suggested a dex check.

      Again, Kay has done nothing but state that she needs a password. She hasn't succeeded at anything. Having said that, this approach is not as arbitrary as you might think.

      Quithanire's example in the comments below is a good one. He came up with a really creative way to bluff the guards, yet his DM still asked him to roll a bluff check. I personally thought his low charismatic dwarf had a great plan. Since he was playing 3E, he should at least incurred some bonus to his roll (another form of being arbitrary).

      Is his DM doing it wrong? Quithanire felt so and steered himself towards the type of RPG he enjoys.
      I can only guess that his former DM and the other players are perfectly happy with their game as is.

      The article is presenting mechanics in a situation where none are needed.

      I'm not reading into an unfinished product. How DC checks work are clearly established.

      No one is suggesting that DC/skill/stat checks are NEVER needed. There is a time and place.

      Most role-playing games have a roll to hit, roll to save, roll to open lock, roll to hide in shadows, and so forth.

      When did one have to roll to play?

      If Quithanire's DM is having a blast with his game, I'm not interested in ruining that for him. Nor am I interested in telling you how to play the game "the right way!"

      However, if you are open to the idea of exploring other options that you may not be used to, I would highly recommend Finch's Quick Primer for Old School Gaming.

  9. Yeah, I don't get what the problem is... while DC is a "new term" it's basically the same as the Dm saying "Roll a d6, you succeed on a 5 or 6", or rolling a bend bars check.

    I do find it darkly amusing that OSR people can read 5e as "To much like new games, they aren't reaching out to us" and the new school folk can read them and go "Oh, they are going after the old school people and ignoring us".

  10. @instantapathy

    The problem isn't the DC check/skill check/stat check.

    Whether you're playing New School, Old school, Whatever School the WotC scenario is a role-playing scenario. Where is the role-playing in what they presented in that article?

  11. I've always felt that, in game terms, the charisma score was sort of useless. In my games back in the day it was never really used, it was our throw away roll. "I rolled a 7, that's going to charisma!" Your character's charisma came from how you played them.

    In 4e, Wizards tried to make every ability score useful, apparently at the loss of actual role playing.

    A perfect example, I was playing in a 4e game where my character (a 7'5" gnoll ranger who was basically a goon for his old clan's clerics) and my friend (an elf rogue, that he played like a dandy pirate from a 1950's movie) were trying to get information from someone. The gnoll was choking the guy against a wall, getting in his face, snarling and asking questions. We role-played the whole scene, but I rolled hopelessly low, so the elf dandy comes in, does his version of intimidating and does it will a good roll.

    Numerically, that's fine, but logically? Not a chance!

    1. @anon

      You may enjoy reading Brendan's post about "Social Combat":

  12. I'm 100% with Burnedfx here. He is exactly right. These DC situations steal the role-playing from the role-players. At this point you can't call yourself a role-playing game anymore.

    I think a mistake is made with the bend bars example. There was likely role-play leading to the decision to try bend bars, but the situation itself - a fighter and an inanimate object - isn't a role-play act as that involves a minimum of two people or two things can interact with each other. The problem stems from extending those bend bars rolls overtop or in place of genuine role-play.

    The funny thing is that to many younger gamers rolling for DCs IS role-playing which is just a shame. Certainly more creativity exists at WotC than this. Not everything can be reduced to a number, and to think strictly along those lines, from a game design standpoint, is simply depressing.

  13. I guess I don't see these things as exclusive, and more on a sliding scale. The people I play with vary session to session (or even in the session) how "in character" they are, sometimes things get a bit more rolley and sometimes they are more rp focused, and I don't see either of those as a better experience for us.

  14. I agree Ive never liked DC checks as a DM. For one thing there is always an arguement with my players about how hard something should be, based on their level ( or real character world experience), secondly, I hate having to figure out and adjust them as they go up in level. Ive always handled the situation through a combination of Roll Play and Roll play. So, if Its something mundane, like bashing through a door, or selling off a bunch of used armor and weapons ( and I noone feels the need to play this out every time), Ill just have them roll under their strength ( to open door) or roll under Charisma ( to sell their stuff at the rate they want. Simple.
    Now if I want to role play out a situation ( as was proposed by the example) Id make it a combination Role Play/Role Play ( because lets face it, not all players are good at, comfortable with or able to role play- and I have to make the game just as appealing to them as to those that like getting into character). So, Id have them tell me what they want to do, role play it out a bit if its clear thats what both player and DM want to happen, then have them make a ability score ( roll under Charisma- if they are attempting to intimidate, or roll under Charisma if attempting to influence, etc). Id give them bonus points for Role Playing ( so a fighter with a bad Charisma, could still be effective with his efforts).
    In the case proposed by BURNEDFX, where it is suggested their is a password and they go find that ( even if I hadnt thought of that, but the players did) perfect- then I just run with that option- not a lot of Role play or Roll play.

    I think what they should do is similar to this in that they devise a system where everything is based on role playing. But offer up an OPTIONAL page or two of Charts that list DC checks for those that want to Roll Play. This is how I think they should handle most things. Start with the basics, then offer up side boxed sections called OPTIONAL- that layer on more rules that appeal to that style of play- such as DC checks etc).
    I like Castles and Crusades game specifically for this- and for me it was what 3rd should have been. It tries to take the game back to AD&D basics, with a D20 game mechanic approach and keeps everything relatively simple ( albeit not as simple as BX or Holmes lets say). Then, there is this abundance of online/house rules to layer in stuff you want for the game ( Feats, Skill checks, Background modifiers, etc)...

  15. Sorry meant Role Play/Roll Play in my example- should have proof read

  16. I sort of remember playing a 3E game where a player would use bluff and diplomacy rolls on my character to effectively get him to whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted like a "charm" or "dominate" spell. There was no roleplaying involved in this, and in 3E where rules can be almost impossible to keep track of sometimes, no one seemed to be bothered by this. This kind of gameplay doesn't fly with me in any edition because as Kiltedyaksman said it's just not a roleplaying game anymore.

    It just seems like later editions make it possible for this sort of things where older editions won't have it (which is what I like most about older editions). If I ever DM a later edition, I houserule these things so the roleplaying aspect can't be trodden under the foot of the numerical skill system.

  17. @ ALEX- Ive been running 3rd/3.5 and now Pathfinder since they came out. Its all any of my players will ever play sadly ( and I run two such groups and play in another). For them, these finite rules rolls are indicitive to the game and what they want to play. None of them would ever go for the game if I omitted all the stuff you are talking about ( skill checks, feats, DC checks, etc) because for them thats the basis of the game they are playing.

    Thats not to say we dont role play out a few t hings, but I have to admit it takes a back burner to roll playing that pretty much drives each session ( which is why after all these years of frustration, I am making a come back to Old School- but Im limited by player interaction, and none of the 20+ people I game with have any interest in that).

    I understand your frustration with the player you mention in the 3E game you played in. I just accept that as part of that style of rule play the same way I make my players in my Old School game accept that Time and Provision Management are part of that style of play- even though they dont like it.
    Im definately a "get into character" kind of DM. I like using voices and actions and props that liven up the game and help everyone ( especially me) get into the Role play aspect of the game. But not alot of people I game with do this. And I have to admit, years of playing/running 3rd edition, where there is very little regular use of this kind of play, I have become very rusty over the years. Instant improve of a situation or rolling with how players deal with a situation has become harder to do because the roll of the die and feats and skills and such have become the norm for dealing with such situations.
    I dont think this has been beneficial to the game, players or DM, and robs everyone of the core spirit of the game. Im sure as a DM you can force more role playing into the game, but if your players are all BY THE BOOK, min/maxers, rule strategists- what is a DM to do.

  18. I played a horribly ugly dwarf with extensive burn scars in 3.5e. I infiltrated a dungeon and killed some guards. I put on a slain dwarven guards uniform and, covered in blood, I came out of the dark pretending to be wounded to lure the next group of guards. I shouted that the other guardpost had been overun and we needed help. The DM promptly said, roll an opposed bluff check (if I remember right) and, because I had a low charisma (hence ugly dwarf) I failed even before I rolled. My approach was very old-school but the DM did not give a fig. This is one of the reasons I went back to old-school after playing 3e and 3.5 for several years. It became too much like a tabletop wargame than a RPG. All the talk about DC and opposed roles in the 5e I don't give a fig.

  19. That's an excellent example. Thank you for sharing that.

  20. I think bluff checks are a bit ridiculous. In real world terms, if you've never met me, and I'm dressed as a cop and show up at your door to arrest you in the middle of the night, the only "bluff" check you'd make is to see my ID and call the police to verify.

    Back to my gnoll example: I wanted the character to be very menacing and intimidating, but have a low charisma because he's a brute. In 3/4e terms the two can't coexist.

  21. In regards to the dwarf thing. To me that sounds more like a flaw in the Gm, than the system itself. Were I running that, at the very least you'd have gotten a good situational bonus to make them believe it. But even saying "a flaw in the GM", I can see a case for wanting a check. Sure you're making a disguise, but you still need to act wounded, maybe you didn't cover your own gear enough, or maybe these guards are exceptionally paranoid/watchful. *shrug*

  22. I think the sin that this roleplaying example commits isn't the mechanics, it's that the mechanics are boring. Having a great idea, bit of roleplaying or otherwise charged social situation depend on a single roll (not to mention a single roll using an inappropriate attribute) is hugely unsatisfying. It's about as unsatisfying as DM fiat.

    I never thought that roleplaying and die rolling could co-exist until I played Burning Wheel's social combat system. It's really fun, and it both uses the roleplaying (ie good roleplaying gives you mechanical advantages) and informs the roleplaying (eg if you are trying to double-talk someone, you have to roleplay your double-talk, or you're penalized mechanically).

    So it's possible to have both. We just haven't seen it with D&D yet.