[D&D 4th] inspired by Sam H's thread on emergent gameplay

edited December 2009 in Play Advice
[This is a response to Sam's thread over here about emergent gameplay.]
[also - I am relating an experience. I'm not sure if I am actually presenting a question to be answered, or if I just want you to hear my tale of woe. Thanks!]

So a really, really traditionalist friend of mine came with me to story-game night last week. We played Storming, and we had a blast. We played ancient Etruscans hunting down pirates, and the Big Bads were a pirate king and some siren-like creatures. Well, due to one of my character's People, a shepherdess who is my daughter, we ended up focusing on my daughter's secret boyfriend, one of the pirates, instead of strictly on the slaying of Bosses.
It got a little Shakespearean in its twists and turns, actually - I, the paranoid, Aegean father, was kept in the dark by the high priestess and the blacksmith's daughter, who were confidants of my little shepherdess. We fought pirates together, and when we found the boyfriend among their crew, the high priestess used Command to make him return with us to our city-state, and the smith-girl used Command to make him marry her (bear with me).

On the way back, the smith-girl turns to my Aegean and tells me she was so impressed by my battle-prowess that she's giving me the gift of a son-in-law: if I'll have him, the pirate youth will marry my daughter (I'm Greek and it's the Iron Age - it actually is up to me...). So, I never find out about their secret romance, and they get hitched when we return home. Hurrah!
We never actually fight the End Boss (the sirens) - the GM makes a point of announcing that "ok, this scene has gone on long enough; you go to the siren-cave. It's empty! They fled your wrath. The End." We had so much fun chewing the scenery and focusing on the daughter subplot that we never got around to that. Not that we bucked the plot or anything - we followed it effortlessly, going by the GM's leads. But we jammed and improv'ed all over it. It was awesome, and my trad friend never batted an eye about "but the GM wants us to...!", not even in post-game discussion.

So - cue the promise of sorts that I'd made - it wasn't a "trade" per se, but I agreed to try out 4th ed. D&D in the hopes that it'd cement my friend's desire to give story-gaming a go. The cementing was probably unnecessary, but now I find myself about to play in a game run by someone who finds Storming to be fringey in terms of its player agency. ^_^;;; cue irony alarm. Not that StWT doesn't have room for player agency, but the GM is supposed to prep an adventure ahead of time, and stick to it fairly closely. The rules for Command and Perception are structured enough that there are cool, social things you can do in the plot and still be within its borders - the GM can write up an npc's combat stats OR their motivations and knowledge, or both!

So. 4th ed. My GM tells me about an interaction between two prospective PCs - an airship captain ruins his career by taking a woman into a war zone to look for her missing family, and the family is already dead. He's severely demoted for indiscretion, she's a mother of dead children... a little guilt/resentment blob is in the mix, yeah? So I say, hey, what if I play a flagellant priest who blames the war's total devastation (if you're familiar with the Eberron setting, it's that kingdom of Sire or whatever that got WIPED) on the sinfulness of humanity and demi-humanity? And I mention a pretty overt social-contract-level desire to draw out the so-far latent conflict between the captain and the mother (the resentment I mentioned).
She gets concerned - am I going to be causing... dun dun dun... intra-party conflict?
I say, Hell yes! and then realize this is going to be a problem for her. So I talk down the situation, saying that my characterization won't monopolize the story, but that it's something I want to do. And yet, I grind my teeth to imagine I'll just be staying out of the way of her GM Story. Storming at least has lots and lots of Color for me to fiddle with, and it's got heart, darn it. Oh, and the mechanics are fun. So even if it's all about some GM Story in Storming, at least it's got a fun package. I'm not super crazy about the D&D package.
My friend, she's one of those GMs that, a la the Everway thread, thinks an RPG is ...
Posted By: Eero Tuovinen... a vehicle for the GM to push his creativity at an audience, which is, as Jonathan or some other hipster out there said, so nineties.
This, I find tedious. I decided a long time ago that I'd rather be super-low-prep and see where people take things, instead of coming to them with a super-firm idea in place.
She says she's flexible, and tried to reassure me by saying I and the other players would be in charge of cool details and stuff, but it's totally Illusionism and that makes me weep. I was done with Illusionism by high school, realized I was done with it in college, etc. and I just don't want that to be what our game looks like. And yet, I really want to at least give this situation a shot, and see a) how it goes and b) if I can show how fun and painless a little player agency can be.
Now, all I gotta do is up the ante and get her into a player-agency-heavy game. Polaris or something, anyone?

Any and all commiseration, thoughts, suggestions, etc., are welcome and encouraged.
Thanks for reading this whole big thing!

Comments

  • I played in a 3e game a substantial number of years back that was ostensibly open to player input, but turned out not to be so. I didn't have an agenda per se, but I wanted to create a character out of the norm and designed to work with the other characters in a complementary manner.

    Basically, I wanted to be a blind paladin. With Feats that could eventually be garnered, that paladin would have fought like Zatoichi, but in the beginning he would have to rely on his companions to keep him steered in the right direction, if not literally then figuratively. But because it was a traditionalist set-up, the characters were a complete mismatch, with no binding threads between them. We couldn't even have an emergent moment in chargen, let alone in the game itself.

    Hmm... I'm not sure if I added anything to the discussion here or just relayed my own tale of woe.
  • Sam,
    Relaying your own tale of woe adds something, to be sure ^_^
    That's kind of what I'm talking about, yeah - emergent, flowy game play involves more than just having the right to certain authority; it means sharing ideas between people. A lot of "trad" games really don't do that, or they hand-wave it and say "yeah, make characters as a group. Or not", and move on, assuming it's not important. Which, of course, it isn't, not to their design, as the other mechanics don't make it meaningful.
    Storming gives you a list of NPCs who are attached to the players in some way, and that is an excellent device that pulls away, hard, from "trad" gameplay assumptions - I've now played in two different Storming games in which (I think) a given NPC had two player characters connected to it at the start of play, connected in different ways. It's awesome!
  • Your tale of woe is that your friend is working with you to get you to a play a game of her choosing (after she played your style of game), but you would rather show everyone "how fun and painless a little player agency can be"?
  • @Dev: Yes. It doesn't look too good, when you put it like that ^_^ My intention is to be polite and give things a fair shake before deciding I don't like them. I'm just nervous about whether it's going to be any fun, and I'm kvetching. And I dunno if I'd call my post a tale of woe, either.
  • In my experience, GM's who believe that an RPG is a vehicle for them to tell a story to the players often say that they are "open to player input" when what they mean is "I will listen to your ideas about the game and either rewrite them so they fit my story or call you an idiot." I believe they do this for two reasons: 1) It keeps their players happy, which keeps them listening to their mediocre fantasy story. 2) It helps them know what their players are planning, so they don't screw with the precious story.

    Basically, I think some people are fundamentally dishonest with what they mean by "open to player input." It's an issue of control. Some people can get used to sharing control of the story as a player, but still fiercely defend their control as a GM.
  • The trick to playing D&D is to play D&D. All of this character drama and stuff is nice, but it's not D&D. Go into it looking for challenges to resolve in an attempt to get to the end-game, colored perhaps by your character's personality, and you'll do fine. I can "roleplay" my guy in the Battlestar Galactica board game and that can be fun, but if I'm relying on it for my fun, it's going to fail, you know? (Just to fend off any problems, 4e is great and it's not a board game any more than it's ever been.) It's not like you're going to be playing 4e for years or anything, so just approach it like a board game and try to have fun with that. Just follow the rules and let the play follow.

    I hope that made sense.
  • Well said, FF! My friend and I have been able to resolve every sticky wicket so far, but she tends to frame things in terms of "don't wreck my fun", which is also, of course, where I'm coming from. Part of her fun seems to be the right to, as you said, "rewrite [player input] so [it] fits [her] story". She was concerned about me leaning on inter-PC conflict because that could become the center of attention, and her carefully constructed scenario might fall by the wayside.
    To be fair, I am going to imagine I'm playing Storming when I play this, and therefore the scenario is valid (I generally have issues with scenarios and anything high-prep). And there will be lots of levers and things for me to get emergent with, once I'm hanging out with other players, I'm sure.
    And yet, I would love it if somehow I could give my friend a nice, big No Myth injection.
  • As Dev implies, sounds like she played your game in good faith, so all you can really do is do the same for her, whatever she's asking of you, however uncomfortable it may seem at first. It's not as if your game was necessarily super-easy for her, yeah? Stretch yourself :)
  • edited December 2009
    Posted By: LudantoThe trick to playing D&D is to play D&D. All of this character drama and stuff is nice, but it's not D&D. Go into it looking for challenges to resolve in an attempt to get to the end-game, colored perhaps by your character's personality, and you'll do fine. I can "roleplay" my guy in the Battlestar Galactica board game and that can be fun, but if I'm relying on it for my fun, it's going to fail, you know? (Just to fend off any problems, 4e is great and it's not a board game any more than it's ever been.) It's not like you're going to be playing 4e for years or anything, so just approach it like a board game and try to have fun with that. Just follow the rules and let the play follow.

    I hope that made sense.
    Yes. Yes yes yes.

    Being a blind paladin or a hand-wringing discord-sowing priest might seem interesting, but neither concept is particularly tied into stabbing monsters and stealing loot. Let your approach to the game follow the game's rules and incentives, not the other way around. MOVE AND SHOOT might not seem up your ally, and it might not actually be, but give it a shot on its own terms.
  • Eric,
    With you, definitely. At least, I get what you're saying. To add a layer to the situation, my GM isn't particularly interested in running it like you're describing it. She's all about stuff other than monsters and loot. And yet, she wants to use this game. *shrug* This could very well be a great big ball of Incoherence waiting to happen; we'll see where it goes.

    She likes Simming pastiche; I like player-agency-heavy Narrativism; somehow we're playing a super-Gamist game together. ^_^

    @Jay: No question, I'll be stretching myself a bit. I just wanted to complain :)
  • Can I just ask: "What's Storming?"
  • Storming the Wizard's Tower , by Vincent Baker, which I believe is still in playtest.
  • edited December 2009
    Posted By: Zac in DavisEric,
    With you, definitely. At least, I get what you're saying. To add a layer to the situation, my GM isn't particularly interested in running it like you're describing it. She's all about stuff other than monsters and loot. And yet, she wants to use this game. *shrug* This could very well be a great big ball of Incoherence waiting to happen; we'll see where it goes.

    She likes Simming pastiche; I like player-agency-heavy Narrativism; somehow we're playing a super-Gamist game together. ^_^
    Huh. So, this is one of those "DnD" games where you don't know what you're actually playing in practice until you've got 2-3 sessions under your belt, then? Because in that case, I can only say "good luck." May I suggest playing a Cleric, in either the Muscle or Lazer varieties? You're a 'leader,' so you're nominally trying to be a team player, you have extremely simple tactical choices (Whichever you play, you'll have an At-Will which is better than most of the Dailies in the game), and... well, I can't really do anything but speculate about the content of the game beyond "you'll probably fight mobs." Lazer Clerics provide infinite resource-free healing at level 1, and you can maybe be a peacenik or something to boot. Muscle clerics hand out (alarmingly!) large attack bonuses to nearby allies while they beat on enemies.

    Anyway, links:
    http://www.tgdmb.com/viewtopic.php?t=50514
    http://www.tgdmb.com/viewtopic.php?p=113532
    http://www.tgdmb.com/viewtopic.php?t=50213
    http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19648946/Holy_Smoke!_A_Clerics_Handbook?num=10&pg=1
  • Here's another way of looking at things:

    GM: So, we're going to be playing ancient Etruscans hunting down pirates...

    Player: I want to play a ninja!

    GM: Uhh, what?

    Player: What, are you against player agency or something?


    Suggesting an intraparty-conflicty-PC in D&D is at least as problematic as a ninja among the ancient Etruscans.

    It's not an issue intrinsically related to player agency, in my opinion.



    Cheers,
    Roger
  • 4E has a player agency feature -- the player-designed quest. (DMG page 103). The player says what they want their guy to achieve eventually, and when their guy achieves it, they get bonus XP. I admit it's a bit weak sauce, since it's just two paragraphs in the DMG and there's no compel on the DM to ever honor that input. There's also no discussion of how player and DM share authority in player-designed quests. Still, it's way better than nothing, and you might try sounding out your friend on this feature. It might help the two of you make beautiful music.
    Posted By: LudantoJust follow the rules and let the play follow.
    Jason, I think this is an honorable sentiment, but I think it's incomplete advice. I think it's more accurate to say: "just follow the rules DM's lead and let the play follow."

    D&D is like a box of chocolates. When I read / post on wizbook, I'm always fascinated by the noisy diversity of playstyles within that single thing called D&D. It's not all the stereotypical illusionist/immersionist/DM-driven/traditional monoculture -- not by a long shot.
    Posted By: Sam HBasically, I wanted to be a blind paladin. With Feats that could eventually be garnered, that paladin would have fought like Zatoichi, but in the beginning he would have to rely on his companions to keep him steered in the right direction, if not literally then figuratively. But because it was a traditionalist set-up, the characters were a complete mismatch, with no binding threads between them. We couldn't even have an emergent moment inchargen, let alone in the game itself.
    Sam, what did the other players think of this idea? Were they energized by it? Was there riffing with you on this? Did the idea get shot down, or did it just kinda dwindle?

    Could it be that none of the players were into the idea of being a guide dog to your character? If you're using your agency to generate relationships -- especially relationships that impose duties and themes on the other player's character -- then I believe you have a responsibility to ensure those relationships are mutually appealing.
  • Posted By: johnzoSam, what did the other players think of this idea? Were they energized by it? Was there riffing with you on this? Did the idea get shot down, or did it just kinda dwindle?
    It was just kind of... there. As it happens, the rules in 3e didn't put impossible odds against a blind person being able to fight effectively. The chances were, of course, reduced, but it wasn't insurmountable, so I was able to contribute to the hacky-slashy bits.

    As far as people being guide dogs for the character, well, we played it as if he could find his way without being able to see, thus giving life to at least one part of my concept. The real problem is that I didn't put heads together with the other players to make that mutually agreeable relationship. I was definitely the odd man out and that was entirely my fault.
  • I gotta echo what others have said upthread... The fact that you are uncomfortable with certain of 4E's ideas, Zac, I find unsurprising and understandable. The fact that your buddy wants to GM it, and wants to do something *other* than have you fight monsters and such... well, frankly, be afraid, be very afraid (but still open-minded).

    As you know, I'm verrrrrry comfortable with high-crunch mechanical games, and when I show up to play 4E, I'm all ready to dish out the damage and combo it up with the rest of the party. So if there's a lot of politicking and "drama" and whatnot, I'll be like, "Where are the encounters?" The game does a thing—it does a thing well. It doesn't do other things well. As others have noted, it's a lot like a lot of indie games in this regard.

    Matt
  • Plot in DnD 4E can be a funny thing.

    When I got started with the game I decried the reliance on "Chained Encounters" in existing scenarios and core rule assumptions. It seemed the game was intended to run, not even as "open-ended" as old dungeon crawling CRPGs like Eye of the Beholder, but rather like one of the more uninspired JRPG titles where a series of set-piece encounters are interspersed with cut scenes and character development options are purposely limited to optimize gameplay flow.

    Is this Simmy or even Illusionist? I certainly thought so. But, compare with that JRPG and ask yourself, does the game claim any degree of player agency? If not, can it truly be expected that impacting the story ought to be a part of gameplay?

    Gameplay is that which you do have agency over. In DnD 4E, rules as written, you have full control over your actions in combat. There is no indication anywhere that you have agency over anything else. DnD 4E is a Gamist game.

    Interestingly, in any game with hard scene framing, you may also be subject to "cutscenes" and only occasional moments of true player agency. If you are granted control of the story at moments of branching, where the outcomes involve transformation of situations and characters, then you're playing a Narrativist game - regardless of how long those cutscenes are.

    Now, you can do Nar with DnD as well. It seems kind of silly since there are no rules for it, but that's okay, because it is often possible to just disperse the fiat around the table and tell decent stories like in the good old days. In this case it seems perfectly reasonable to me that the DM treats encounters as cutscenes - even determines their outcome - because that's not the game, right?

    Illusionism is when you're being told you have agency, but you really don't, as the GM makes the plot compensate for your every move. This can actually be a really cool technique for DnD 4E to allow that guy who's really into Sim to enjoy some Gamism, and I think this is how most DMs run it.

    The real problem is when the Illusionism creeps into your combats, or when there are no combats (!) in favour of "just role-playing". This is when you analyze the amount of agency you have and realize you're not playing a game at all, you're being an unwitting audience member watching someone else's feature-length cutscene. If you're lucky you get to do some skill checks along the way, which are quickly fudged so as to fit within the parameters of acceptable outcomes. Yup, I've been at that table too.

    My advice would be to stick in there for a session or two and see what manner of play is truly on tap. DnD 4E is a fun game when you lose the preconceptions and focus on killing monsters so you can get the next story snippet handed to you. While it seems unlikely your friend operates this way, it's also entirely possible to hand over story control to the players completely and use an encounter generator and creativity to provide suitable challenges, although you may lose some of the epic feel of pre-planned set-piece combat. Even a healthy dose of Illusionism isn't exactly "wrong", especially if there are other players who are comfortable in this mode, as long as there is a true game to engage in between the smoke and mirrors.
  • Posted By: lachek

    The real problem is when the Illusionism creeps into your combats, or when there are no combats (!) in favour of "just role-playing". This is when you analyze the amount of agency you have and realize you're not playing a game at all, you're being an unwitting audience member watching someone else's feature-length cutscene. If you're lucky you get to do some skill checks along the way, which are quickly fudged so as to fit within the parameters of acceptable outcomes. Yup, I've been at that table too.
    Yeah, that. That's what I'm worried is going to happen here.

    Brilliant post, lachek.

    Matt
  • edited December 2009
    First, a good thing: I'm actually really interested in 4e's rules and stuff, and it looks like a fairly solid design. Playing Storming the Wizard's Tower has shown me that Gamist games can be really fun for me, and the amount of crunch in 4e isn't that high - those little "index card" templates may look intimidating, but they're both a) handy and b) less complicated than they appear at first blush, especially once you get used to the layout. I could definitely see a game of 4e going kind of like Storming: we chew the scenery, we have fun with some battles, and we find the loot and go home.
    Now, a bad thing: I mostly finished a Devoted Cleric of Boldrei (Eberron goddess of home and hearth) last night, and there was this interesting thing that kept happening - I really felt like I was in a high school D&D game again!
    - the GM wanted to find ways to subsume all the players' ideas into "her story"
    - I was told to leave the room (and it ended up taking about 20 minutes) so the GM and another player could discuss secret plans
    - at dinner, she got a great idea in response to something I said, but then said she wouldn't share it because it was secret GM stuff
    - I managed to explain Gamism and Creative Agenda a little better; she acknowledged that's what's going on with 4e, and then said she had no interest in cleaving to the game's written CA, preferring what she called a Final Fantasy approach: basically, JRPG mix of a central plot that we Explore and set piece battles. So, yes, it's going to be a Drifty mess.
    - When I said it would be cool to roll random stats instead of doing the point buy (which turned out to be just fine, to be fair), another player grinned and said "GM said it. Deal with it."
    - I cried myself to sleep on my huuuuuge pillah. Nah, not really, but what's a D&D conversation without a Mike Myers reference?

    And yet, we do have some neat ideas (my monastic order was destroyed in the Mourning [a magic atomic blast, kinda, that totally scoured my homeland, Cyre], so I dubbed myself the archbishop and inducted a warforged as my first disciple) for character stuff. My huge, huge concern is that I'm going to more or less tune out her GM Plot (not to the point of rudeness) and focus more on intra-party dynamic. I'm not there to have a friend of mine who's not the best writer in the world relate to me her D&D epic adventure tale when I could be playing Storming again instead ^_^ or just actual 4e.

    HOWEVER!
    We will see how it goes, and I intend to drag her along to more story game nights, so as to show her our ways. She liked Storming a lot (more importantly, she admitted that player agency was really fun), so I have hope. I am also heartened to know that she thinks Conflict Resolution sounds pretty neat, and wouldn't you know, everyone's favorite workaholic posted a way to incorporate CR into D&D years ago!
  • One thing I'd be wary of: If you don't commit to her ganme faithfully, in the spirit she committed to yours, then you'll sour her on the whole deal, and you'll have to give up on the idea of dragging her to more story game nights. She'll cotton on pretty quickly that you aren't actually interested in playing her game, and you are mainly interested in converting it to your game, *and* getting her to play in your other games too. That doesn't sound fair to me.

    My suggestion: try to get in the spirit of playing her way, on her game night, so that she won't start feeling resentful, and will remain willing to play your story games. It sounds like she's open to storygaming, but you are pushing too fast.
  • Posted By: lachekThe real problem is when the Illusionism creeps into your combats, or when there are no combats (!) in favour of "just role-playing".
    Hence the inherent problems of wanting to play a character based on intra-party conflict.

    Resolving the conflict with "just role-playing" sucks, and resolving the conflict through non-Illusory combat sucks, and that's the problem.
  • Posted By: demiurgeastarothOne thing I'd be wary of: If you don't commit to her ganme faithfully, in the spirit she committed to yours, then you'll sour her on the whole deal, and you'll have to give up on the idea of dragging her to more story game nights.
    This thread is really reminding me of a Dan Savage letter where two partners have agreed to be mutually GGG and one of them is complaining to Dan about how hard it is.
    Posted By: Zac in DavisMy huge, huge concern is that I'm going to more or less tune out her GM Plot (not to the point of rudeness) and focus more on intra-party dynamic. I'm not there to have a friend of mine who's not the best writer in the world relate to me her D&D epic adventure tale...
    You should email her this comment, if you haven't already.

    Because this reads to me like: "You're a mediocre author and your project, well, it's not all that interesting to me. But I do think you've got potential, if you change your approach up pretty radically. Maybe I can wring some engagement out of our time together. I'll try my best not to irritate you."
  • Posted By: RogerResolving the conflict with "just role-playing" sucks, and resolving the conflict through non-Illusory combat sucks, and that's the problem.
    Bang on, Roger. Thanks for that.

    Zac, on the thing about JRPGs - that, to me, is actually DnD 4E RAW, no question about it. It doesn't sound like drifty mess to me at all.

    So you're playing Final Fantasy oh, I dunno, 27, let's say. You know that as a player you don't have an opportunity to affect the story line. Like, at all. Everything is pre-written and pre-rendered in beautiful cutscenes. Sometimes you'll think the story is childish, sometimes it'll seem like a poorly translated jumbled mess, sometimes it'll blow you away with some pure emotional awesome.

    Why are you playing? Well, in part to experience that story, I'm sure - but for many, the driving reason is to engage in the micro-management of tactical combat and develop your character from an insignificant mercenary with good potential to a God-slaying killing machine. You're fine with the notion of only being apportioned some agency when it's time to fight, or level up, or buy stuff in town. That's the game.

    Consider the flip side: why is the DM playing? Probably because they think it's fun to come up with encounters and draw up dungeons, then play them out. However, the DM can never win those encounters, or the game ends. They are continually disadvantaged, and they're fine with that. In fact, if they mis-balance the encounters or have luck with the dice, they may even compensate by dumbing down their tactics to allow the PCs to win. Winning against the good guys is not the game; presenting cool challenges and sharing the players' excitement about overcoming them is.

    Part of the pre-planning and presentation aspects of the DM's job is to tie everything together in a coherent whole. So, the DM's job is less about telling you a cool story and more about showing off cool encounters in a coherent way. Guess what? When you go off the rails, the DM doesn't get to show off that cool encounter. You're robbing them of one of the two things (the other being tactical combat) that makes the game truly enjoyable for them, and asking them to replace their careful plans with some off-the-cuff uninspired encounter that you wanted to author in to make your character seem even more cool, or worse (!) some unsupported and ultimately pointless play like social conflict.

    So, while I'm myself no longer playing DnD 4E as I found it did not satisfy my tastes as an RPG, I do have to stress that if you're planning on giving it a fair shot you really ought to do so on its, and its DM's, terms. You may find JRPGs laughable and prefer the degree of player agency granted in WRPGs (or even the degree in TTRPGs for that matter), but that's how I've found DnD 4E to work best.
  • @Darren: I've conducted myself pretty well in this regard. I don't anticipate it being a problem, despite my histrionics to the contrary.

    @John: Major kudos for using a Dan Savage reference. And you're right - I'd better appreciate our sessions for what they are, or just not play at all.

    @Mikael: same thing I said to John - I will give it an honest chance, and if I start getting middle school flashbacks, I'll just tell her "It's not working for me," and I'll bow out of the game. We aren't gonna stop being friends or anything if that happens. And she won't be resentful if I do back out - she told me as much, knowing my concerns. I think the reason why this really is a dilemma for me is that we haven't played together in years (until a recent indie game night in town) and she's a dear friend of many years, so I'm invested in us doing gamey stuff together 'cause it's something we can do together that we both enjoy.
  • Zac, I'm not worried about you not being able to distance yourself from an experience you don't enjoy. What I'm clumsily trying to get at is that I think your tastes and my "default" tastes seem very similar, and I have had one hell of a hard time getting gamist D&D play to work for me. I was constantly trying to drift play to suit my tastes, "enlighten" the other players to how much fun it could be to introduce more player agency and dynamic plot lines, etc. Well, I ended up swimming upstreams for a long time and pissing off a lot of people, while enjoying myself hardly at all.

    Discovering DnD 4E and accepting it as a purposeful design masterpiece of gamism rather than a generic RPG system with a lot of combat rules was a big eye-opener for me. As I said, it didn't press all my buttons and therefore I'm not currently playing it, but at least I had a good time while playing it. So, everything I've said above is not said to lecture you at what DnD is and you better be a good boy and play it right, but rather to relate to you how approaching it as a boardgame-with-a-story rather than as a story-with-competitive-elements allowed me to enjoy it, while it lasted.
  • Well said, Mikael!
    Sitting down to make a character actually did do a good bit for me to see how it's well-designed and purposeful; the design is very Coherent, as opposed to some of its direct predecessors. I really like the At-Will/Encounter/Daily power use divisions, I think skill training makes a lot more sense now (and actually encourages you to train up in things your ability scores can't cover, since you get a nice +5 just for training), Healing Surges sound AWESOME (divine casters can finally get their hands free to cast non-healing spells!), powers that activate Healing Surges are, by extension, AWESOME ^_^ and I am super-excited about Rituals, too - they're a great way to handle magic that's not explicitly combat-related.

    I do feel a tiny bit like I have a WoW character (still getting over 1st level Cleric prayers being a bit like Moonfire), but that's okay - I used to really enjoy WoW, and having my character "segmented" into combat and non-combat abilities is pretty cool.

    In short, yeah! It's a totally Gamist design with (finally) an implied setting that doesn't lock you in (arguably my favorite kind of setting material), and I hope I can use the mindset you've mentioned to appreciate it for what it is. Even if my GM doesn't run it that way ^_^
  • :)

    Good summary of teh awesom in 4E, Zac. I hope you'll enjoy it in play.
  • Protip:
    Posted By: shau...Astral Mark, but it is awesome. No damage, but you have a plus 2 to hit, it lowers an enemy’s defense by 2, and the next ally who hit them gains 2+CHA+WIS in hp. It gives the wizard about half his hp back without using a surge, and it gives a bonus to hit comparable to righteous brand (spread out amongst the whole party), and it is the most likely power to hit. It almost single handedly makes a low level laser cleric bearable and you would be a fool not to take it.
    Infinite surge-free healing with a level 1 at-will. Go break the game, tiger.
  • edited December 2009
    I'm reading a lot of stuff here about how 4E is what it is and is best approached on its own terms. And I largely agree with that stuff. But as a DM at a table with a lovely but somewhat incoherent play group -- I count at least three divergent creative agendas at play at our table--I work hard to stretch 4E into a thing that can decently satisfy all those preferences.

    So my knee's been jerking a bit at this thread, and I am thinking of offering some thoughts on how 4E can be drifted towards player agency, thematic focus, and addressing of premise. But these thoughts might be duuhhh obvious to everyone but me, so I'm only gonna do it if people ask for it. Validate me!
    Posted By: EricInfinite surge-free healing with a level 1 at-will. Go break the game, tiger.
    What I especially love about drifting gamist designs towards narrativism is how you can story up a wicked bad game balance issue like Astral Seal.

    All that time reading Knights of the Dinner Table was not a waste. Man, I loved the Doomsday Pack.
  • I think you should either weasel out of your deal or commit to the game wholeheartedly, but not try to do both.
  • edited December 2009
    Posted By: johnzoValidate me!
    I have had my own ideas of how to make DnD 4E a lot more player driven, but none of them have really panned out well in play. It always came down to "sure, we can address this CA in a half-hearted way with some house ruling and drifting, but then why not play game X that does it by design?"

    The most successful thing we did was spend a session playing a group of goblins trying to incite an uprising against their powerful hobgoblin leaders, the success or failure of which would shape play for the regular party of adventurers in upcoming sessions. This session was framed as a skill challenge, with scenes and combats arising organically from the outcome of rolls in that skill challenge. It was something the players of that session grooved on, but I'm not sure if I would frame the whole game that way - its success may have relied on the novelty of the technique and the goblins as PCs rather than represented some drastically better way of playing.

    Ryan Stoughton's experiment with a pre-planned, persistent, multi-party world is extremely interesting to me, but would of course require a metric shit-ton of work (as Ryan discovered) as well as dedicated and helpful players. One of the really interesting aspects of it to me is how the "role-playing" was relegated onto a web forum between play sessions, much like "role-playing" in MMORPGs usually occur in taverns between raids and quests, not during times when people are busy actually engaging with the system. As we discovered in our group, the pace in 4E calls for 2-4 encounters of moderate size per play session and that's really hard to do if everyone's hanging out in character or arguing about who should take first watch.

    I'd love to hear how others have drifted DnD 4E to approach different CAs. I do have problems reconciling things like personal Quests with the railroady set-piece combat model, so obviously that's not the only mindset that went into the design.
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