What does DM empowerment and Player entitlement mean to you?

Please answer the question in the title in as detailed a manner as possible.   Also if possible answer it as cleanly technical as you can.   Meaning avoid snarky attacks and gushing support.  

Then once you've answered the two questions feel free to comment further on how much of an element you like in YOUR games.   

Thanks.  I think to some degree this bears on the 5e design and will be useful raw data for the devs.  I am not saying they aren't already considering these things.  But a breakdown of varying ideas would I think be nice. 

Here is a great blog by themormegil that explains why we had an edition war. narrativism vs simulationism

 HoBby Award Winner metagame dissonance (plot coupon)

dissociative mechanics (same as my own metagame dissonance. A great article.)

The Five Minute Workday Fallacy

My view on hit points

And if you'd like to talk about hyperbole, I can't say I've ever seen a set of rules that codifies everything a character can do -- unless you consider a unified task-resolution system to be restrictive, which is nonsense. 

 



I've heard the argument that 3e/4e don't restrict actions (quoting page 42 for 4e), "all you have to do is try."  Well I don't want to have to "try."  I want it to come naturally and be encouraged by the system (not by a rule in the system, but by the system itself).  Newer versions of D&D don't encourage empowerment, they snuff it.




That's your experience, not mine. In my experience, codified systems give players confidence to try different things because they know their character's capabilities better. Even in older systems, players tend to look first to their spells and magic items because they know what those things do -- it's written down in black and white. 

(And please, spare me the "you had bad DMs" thing. It seems like everyone who prefers newer systems over older had bad DMs. Amazing how many bad DMs there are out there, huh?) 
I agree - but isn't that where the conflict lies on issues such as "Should the game rely more on DM fiat?"  Some people think all DMs should be 'good DMs', and others say 'well yeah, but they're not'?  (And then they all spend 1000+ posts "proving" each other wrong with anecdotes and "Well I'm a good DM"-ing.)




Good DMing is teachable.  The problem has been that instead of trying to teach people to be better DMs, the thrust of D&D design for at least 13 years has been to restrict the DM by providing more and more rules.  At least as far as new/young players are concerned WotC has the advantage of the bully pulpit.  What they say is going to carry a lot of weight.  I know, because I fought "against" the weight of what Gygax had to say about DMing for years.  If you use the DMG as a vehicle to "teach" good DMing, you will end up with good DMs.

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Concerning Player Rules Bias
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
Gaining victory through rules bias is a hollow victory and they know it.
Concerning "Default" Rules
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

For me, saving throws are total player empowerment, a big hindrance regarding ease of storytelling, as AC-like defenses favor DM secret checks and never establish a double standard in the players' eyes, as every DM check become a secret check by default.


If you feel the need to fudge the numbers when they don't turn up with the result you've preordained that you want, why are you playing a RPG?

You would probably be happier engaging in freeform roleplaying.

It's your interpretation of what I said.

By knowing who will succeed or miss long before the triggering event, you have all the time to adjust the following events. I roll the dice during short rests, so the players know that their character's fate is decided at this moment.

Why am I playing a RPG ? I don't know, maybe you already have your idea or informations I don't have ?

If you think my english is bad, just wait until you see my spanish and my italian. Defiling languages is an art.

That's your experience, not mine. In my experience, codified systems give players confidence to try different things because they know their character's capabilities better. Even in older systems, players tend to look first to their spells and magic items because they know what those things do -- it's written down in black and white. 



You do realize that you shot your own argument in the foot, right?  If it isn't written down in black and white, people aren't going to try it.  

The difference is that the people I have seen play "rules lite" systems don't have the "black and white" crutch to lean on, so they become creative by default.  In rules heavy systems people tend to rely on the crutch.

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Concerning Player Rules Bias
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
Gaining victory through rules bias is a hollow victory and they know it.
Concerning "Default" Rules
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

That's your experience, not mine. In my experience, codified systems give players confidence to try different things because they know their character's capabilities better. Even in older systems, players tend to look first to their spells and magic items because they know what those things do -- it's written down in black and white. 



You do realize that you shot your own argument in the foot, right?  If it isn't written down in black and white, people aren't going to try it.  

The difference is that the people I have seen play "rules lite" systems don't have the "black and white" crutch to lean on, so they become creative by default.  In rules heavy systems people tend to rely on the crutch.



Having character capabilities defined leads to more flexibility in the using of those capabilities. Reading is fundamental.  
Having character capabilities defined leads to more flexibility in the using of those capabilities. Reading is fundamental.  



Are you listening to yourself?  Having them defined is the opposite of flexibility.  How about you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't comflict with an existing rule?  That's flexibility.

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Concerning Player Rules Bias
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
Gaining victory through rules bias is a hollow victory and they know it.
Concerning "Default" Rules
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

Having character capabilities defined leads to more flexibility in the using of those capabilities. Reading is fundamental.  



Are you listening to yourself?  Having them defined is the opposite of flexibility.  How about you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't comflict with an existing rule?  That's flexibility.



No, because it's not "you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't conflict with an existing rule." It's "you can do whatever you want as long as the DM allows it."  
No, because it's not "you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't conflict with an existing rule." It's "you can do whatever you want as long as the DM allows it."  



Now that's your experience.  Never at my table or any I've ever observed has a DM disallowed an action unless it directly conflicted with an existing rule.

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Concerning Player Rules Bias
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
Gaining victory through rules bias is a hollow victory and they know it.
Concerning "Default" Rules
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

I agree - but isn't that where the conflict lies on issues such as "Should the game rely more on DM fiat?"  Some people think all DMs should be 'good DMs', and others say 'well yeah, but they're not'?  (And then they all spend 1000+ posts "proving" each other wrong with anecdotes and "Well I'm a good DM"-ing.)


Good DMing is teachable.


But also very subjective.  And, personally, I've seen more people with 'bad dming habits' who think they are 'good dms', willing to teach new people, than I've seen actual 'good dms'.

The problem has been that instead of trying to teach people to be better DMs, the thrust of D&D design for at least 13 years has been to restrict the DM by providing more and more rules.


You see restrictions, I see guidance - and more people willing to try to run a game.

At least as far as new/young players are concerned WotC has the advantage of the bully pulpit.  What they say is going to carry a lot of weight.  I know, because I fought "against" the weight of what Gygax had to say about DMing for years.  If you use the DMG as a vehicle to "teach" good DMing, you will end up with good DMs.


I actually think WotC has been doing pretty well with their "advice" since around the  time of the "core book sequals" in 3.5 (DMG2, PH2).
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
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Having character capabilities defined leads to more flexibility in the using of those capabilities. Reading is fundamental.  



Are you listening to yourself?  Having them defined is the opposite of flexibility.  How about you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't comflict with an existing rule?  That's flexibility.


It's only the opposite of flexibility if you commit the fallacy of thinking that defining certain things means that other things are defined to not exist by the omission.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
I actually think WotC has been doing pretty well with their "advice" since around the  time of the "core book sequals" in 3.5 (DMG2, PH2).



I would actually tend to agree with that, though the advice I see on these boards is often still better than what is found in 4e DM products.  The problem is that Since 2000 the message has been mixed.  Here are guidelines for being a good DM, but here also are masses of rules because we really don't trust you to take our advice.  If we had a product with pre-2000 rules and post-2000 advice we might actually have something there.

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Concerning Player Rules Bias
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
Gaining victory through rules bias is a hollow victory and they know it.
Concerning "Default" Rules
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

No, because it's not "you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't conflict with an existing rule." It's "you can do whatever you want as long as the DM allows it."  



Now that's your experience.  Never at my table or any I've ever observed has a DM disallowed an action unless it directly conflicted with an existing rule.



In a recent game I ran, the players were in a carriage being chased at high speed by a gang of villains in another carriage. The monk player had his character jump off, roll to a stop using his Acrobatics skill, launch himself at the driver of the villains' carriage with his Flying Tiger Assault power, knock him flying, and then land on the seat (I did call for another Acrobatics roll for that). 

He didn't even need to roll great dice to accomplish all this -- he actually missed the first Acrobatics roll by a point, landed on his face, and had to use an action point to stand up again and make his attack. He knew his character's abilities and used them to put together an awesome stunt. 

Would that happen in a lighter version of D&D where it was up to the DM's judgment whether the monk landed safely or just said "Roll a d6 to see how many extremities you break?" If I had been playing the monk in a game like that, I know I darn well wouldn't have risked it.
DM empowerment is the ability for DMs to provide the game they want with little disagreement of their players. Player entittlement is the abilty for players to play the characters they want with little disagreement of the DM. Basically both are the abilty for your character to do something and have little explanation or argument about the process or result of the action.



Then why is one 'empowerment' and the other 'entitlement'? You (or perhaps just the OP?) seem to be suggesting they are closely related, but you are using a term with a negative connotation  to describe one and using a term with a positive connotation to describe the other. That doesn't seem entirely objective.



Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Having character capabilities defined leads to more flexibility in the using of those capabilities. Reading is fundamental.  



Are you listening to yourself?  Having them defined is the opposite of flexibility.  How about you can do whatever you want as long as it doesn't comflict with an existing rule?  That's flexibility.


It's only the opposite of flexibility if you commit the fallacy of thinking that defining certain things means that other things are defined to not exist by the omission.



If you read all my posts in this thread you will understand that statement.  I know you haven't because you obviously don't understand it.

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Concerning Player Rules Bias
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
Gaining victory through rules bias is a hollow victory and they know it.
Concerning "Default" Rules
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

Yeah, sorry, no.  You don't get to say I don't understand it just because I disagree with you.

I mean I get you think that you're right, but the idea that I must not understand it because I disagree with you is the height of hubris.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
DM empowerment is the ability for DMs to provide the game they want with little disagreement of their players. Player entittlement is the abilty for players to play the characters they want with little disagreement of the DM. Basically both are the abilty for your character to do something and have little explanation or argument about the process or result of the action.



Then why is one 'empowerment' and the other 'entitlement'? You (or perhaps just the OP?) seem to be suggesting they are closely related, but you are using a term with a negative connotation  to describe one and using a term with a positive connotation to describe the other. That doesn't seem entirely objective.



The terms are bad. 

I'd prefer DM tilted synchronization, Player tilted synchronization, and Shared synchronization.

Either the player join the DM's world, the DM's world is developed by the rules and player wishes, or something inbetween.

Orzel, Halfelven son of Zel, Mystic Ranger, Bane to Dragons, Death to Undeath, Killer of Abyssals, King of the Wilds. Constitution Based Class for Next!

Would that happen in a lighter version of D&D where it was up to the DM's judgment whether the monk landed safely or just said "Roll a d6 to see how many extremities you break?" If I had been playing the monk in a game like that, I know I darn well wouldn't have risked it. 



Yep.  The other DM in my group loves Monks and has played them forever when I DM.  While an exact analogy to your described situation never occured, thousands of similar ones did.  I can remember him  in first edition running across a room, flipping onto a table adjacent to a wall, wall walking (15 years before the Matrix) into another flip, wrapping his legs around the neck of an orc and twisting it down to the ground.  I don't remember the judgements I made about how to allow it, or if it took more than one round to accomplish, but it was certainly not defined by the rules.

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Concerning Player Rules Bias
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
Gaining victory through rules bias is a hollow victory and they know it.
Concerning "Default" Rules
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

Yeah, sorry, no.  You don't get to say I don't understand it just because I disagree with you.

I mean I get you think that you're right, but the idea that I must not understand it because I disagree with you is the height of hubris.



LOL  You are misunderstanding the way I used "understand" too.  You're a riot!  

The reason you didn't understand is because your concern had already been addressed by me.  By understand I didn't mean it in the way some use it to mean agree with my point of view, only that you would comprehend the statement better and why your comment came across as uninformed.

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Concerning Player Rules Bias
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
Gaining victory through rules bias is a hollow victory and they know it.
Concerning "Default" Rules
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

If you mean things other than what the words you're using mean, you might want to consider using new words.

Instead of laughing at my folly, how about you actually try to remedy the situation?  Or, I suppose, you could just claim the argumentative high ground and continue to insult me.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
If you mean things other than what the words you're using mean, you might want to consider using new words.

Instead of laughing at my folly, how about you actually try to remedy the situation?  Or, I suppose, you could just claim the argumentative high ground and continue to insult me.



I did.  See my edit above.

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Concerning Player Rules Bias
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
Gaining victory through rules bias is a hollow victory and they know it.
Concerning "Default" Rules
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

They're nothing more than meaningless buzzwords people use when they really mean to say 'I don't like the way you play your game'.
What you said earlier:
The difference is that the people I have seen play "rules lite" systems don't have the "black and white" crutch to lean on, so they become creative by default.  In rules heavy systems people tend to rely on the crutch.


Yeah, that.  I disagree with that.  Not that I disagree with what you've observed, but rather that what you've observed is able to be generalized to the larger D&D population.

And, as well, I disagree with the idea that it's better to abdicate the writing of rules, and have people just make it up themselves, and yet still charge 30 bucks for a book.

So no, I "understand" just fine.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
And, as well, I disagree with the idea that it's better to abdicate the writing of rules, and have people just make it up themselves, and yet still charge 30 bucks for a book.



1st Edition AD&D went for $32 for all three books.

Kalex the Omen 
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Concerning Player Rules Bias
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
Gaining victory through rules bias is a hollow victory and they know it.
Concerning "Default" Rules
Kalex_the_Omen wrote:
The argument goes, that some idiot at the table might claim that because there is a "default" that is the only true way to play D&D. An idiotic misconception that should be quite easy to disprove just by reading the rules, coming to these forums, or sending a quick note off to Customer Support and sharing the inevitable response with the group. BTW, I'm not just talking about Next when I say this. Of course, D&D has always been this way since at least the late 70's when I began playing.

......in 1977.

Inflation is a thing you should be aware of.  Might make you look a bit less uninformed.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
And, as well, I disagree with the idea that it's better to abdicate the writing of rules, and have people just make it up themselves, and yet still charge 30 bucks for a book.



1st Edition AD&D went for $32 for all three books.



And adjusted to today's inflation/value rate they would go for $164.95. Three $30 books today look like quite a bargain when adjusted accordingly.
Tongue Out
Would that happen in a lighter version of D&D where it was up to the DM's judgment whether the monk landed safely or just said "Roll a d6 to see how many extremities you break?"



No, it would be up to an ability score check (some kind of roll), what the hell are you talking about?
Using the terms in the inital question, not altering them to meet my definition or make them more palatable...

DM Empowerment : is the basis of the rules to give the general authority to the DM to run a campaign the way he sees fit. It is the rules telling the DM that it is up to him weather or not to allow a given race, class, to restrict alignment, to tell the players that they must start off knowing each other. It is the general lean of the rules to grant authority to the DM and promote his/ her ability to make rules for the game to create the world he/she wants.

Player Entitelment : is the basic slant of the rules to grant decision making to the players giving them the authority to make the character they want reguardless of the DM's wishes. It is the rules telling the players what they are allowed to do and limiting the actions of the DM. It is where the players have specific rules that grant them the authority to tell the DM what the character will do. It forces a player choice past the DM's authority and gives it the power to dictate to the DM what will happen.


Those are the terms as I understand them. I have not altered the terms I use them as presented. Both can be used with negative connotations. Player Entitlement is "almost always" a derogatory term, though I have heard both used in a negative way.

I have tried to just answer the questions with out coloring the meaning with my preferance which I will save for another post.
Here my definition in a nutshell(to the extreme). 

DM Empowerment - Whatever I say goes. I don't care how powerful or skillful you are, roll
anything less then 15 and you auto fail. I also have full control the of story. 

Player Entitlement - You are only here to control the monsters and the NPCs. 
We have control over the rules and how the story goes.  


I wonder how many DMs can handle my extreme definition of Player Entitlement? 
I sometimes DM for kids, so I am pretty big on Player Entitlement.

 
I think that they are just talking points.  You encounter this kind of thing in politics all the time.  You try to frame your position in a sound bite that sounds good, and your opponents' in a sound bite that sounds negative.

That's why both sides on a certain devisive issue call themselves "pro-" something, for instance.

Clearly, one side is framing the debate in this case:   "Entitlement" is negative, "Empowerment" positive.    They are terms chosen to skew debate in one direction.  

Very cynical stuff, unworthy of the lofty goals of Next.

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A few folks have already given good enough definitions, but here are some quick ones.

DM Empowerment is the building-up of the DM to feel like he can run the game however he likes.
(DM Entitlement would be the feeling that the DM should run the game however he likes.)

Player Entitlement is the feeling that the game should cater to what the player likes.
(Player Empowerment is the building-up of the player to feel like he can play the game however he likes.)


Personally, I think the terms - as used in the forum - are 99.99999% of the time just pure BS.  As others have said, they're almost always used pejoratively, because that's what labels are for, apparently. 

"Entitlement" itself (not "being entitled to", but the noun) has a negative connotation in almost any discussion, D&D or not.  "Empowerment" has a more positive connotation (generally).  That the OP specified one "bad" term, and one "good" term, would indicate to me that he intended a discussion about that perception.


That the "bad" terms are often used as nothing more than "objective sounding" ways to say "I don't like this" doesn't help any discussion.  That the "good" terms are often used as nothing more than "objective sounding" ways to say "I like this" doesn't help any discussion.


Like "dissociative mechanics" or "plot coupons", the use of "X Entitlement/Empowerment" is generally an indication that someone likes or dislikes something, but is unwilling to actually leave it at that, and wishes to dress their opinion and personal taste in the guise of fact or "truth".
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)
Our main group is very DM entitlement, but its solid trust. DM serves the players, should be building the best game he can for the players, players expect that the decisions are for their benefit. We all play, we all dm. I can't imagine having this kind of playstyle with other people tho, we are close friends who have been playing for 20+ years.

The only way this thread has value is to make suggestions about what is necessary to accomodate varying play styles regarding group dynamic. I actually think this is really important and easy, mudular rules tend to lean towards playstyles. Multiple sets group to form large chucks can actually be the basis of a playstyle. By codifing them, and integrating them it can make it MUCH easier for new players to identify their desired playstle, and meld with groups. 

It can be less of warring playstyles and mroe like a casino hall, where you can quickly identify the tables you want to sit at. 

My mind is a deal-breaker.

As I understand the terms, especially from a purely "Game Design Philosophy" standpoint as requested by the OP:

DM Empowerment: Rules design that are presented where the thrust and focus is towards encouraging the DM to make rulings. Tools are provided in order to facilitate the DM's running of the game while hard and fast set in stone rules are avoided to a greater extent. The framework is provided, but the specifics are left to the DM to come up with. Such rules rely heavily on Rule #0/#1 stating that All Rules are to be considered mutable guidelines and that the DM is free to add modify or discard any rule as they see fit for their game. Thus Empowered. A general "When in doubt, the DM's call is law"

Player Entitlement: Rules designed that are presented with solid codification of how things are meant to be ruled upon. There are far less gray areas allowable for DM ajudication. As many different types of actions are codified so that they can be referenced by either the DM or Player in each game session when there is a question of what is possible. In addition, Player Entitlement rules include hard-coded option selection trees that allow for the adjustment and customization of their characters without having to rely on the DM to 'allow' them to refluff their character to better match their own concept. 


Example of DM Empowerment type statements:  "If you desire, as DM, you may allow Players to reflavor their Magic Missile to appear as anything you and the Player desires. You can also feel free to allow Players to alter the type of damage done by the Magic Missile if it fits your intended story"

Example of Player Entitlement type statements: "When you cast Magic Missile, the caster decides how that missile appears. Examples include mystic darts of light, flaming spectral daggars, or some other appearance" and then later in the game, there are rules that codify how the Player can choose options in the creation process to also mechanically alter their Magic Missile to change what Energy type their damage is linked to. 


The above examples show that in a DM Empowered game, the DM is constantly reminded that all decisions inn the game are up to Him/Her and completely under their control. They are free to change things as they see fit. They can be encouraged to change things FOR the Player's benefits, but the power sits squarely in the hands of the DM. Player Entitlement on the otherhand, puts in the rules text the default assumption that the Player is free to make the changes in fluff and flavor they want, and also provides mechanical options to allow changes in actual mechanical aspects of their character to help support the reflavoring they may choose.

 
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Player Entitlement - You are only here to control the monsters and the NPCs. 
We have control over the rules and how the story goes.  


I wonder how many DMs can handle my extreme definition of Player Entitlement? 
 

DMs used to be called "Referees."  In wargaming, a Referee was there as arbiter of the rules while two players or teams of players plaid against each other.  But, they weren't the norm.  If the rules were simple enough, or the players mature enough, they wouldn't need the Referee.

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"DM empowerment" seems to be something that everybody likes, because it's something WOTC is supposed to do for us. It means creating good tools for DMs so their job is easier. It may also mean designing rules systems that make things easier for DMs - for example, Bounded Accuracy is supposed to "empower" DMs by making DCs more consistent, so you can just remember "DC 15 is pretty tough" rather than looking at a DC-by-level chart.

Everyone seems to like DM empowerment in the abstract, but people argue about what steps are necessary for it. 

"Player entitlement" is much more controversial. It seems to mostly be an epithet pre-3e players use when discussing the gaming community's perceived move away from the idea that the DM is all-powerful - that when the DM does something that screws over your character, it can be "unfair" because the players are "entitled" to fair challenges. It seems to mostly come up in discussions about character options - players are said to demand access to classes, races, spells, and other options that the DM thinks is inappropriate to the game for one reason or another.

Player entitlement is not a useful term because it is inflammatory, but it does point to important issues about gaming-group politics and expectations. Basically, your players should know coming in what the DM's expectations are of them and vice versa. If the DM is running a more "gamist" group, focused on creating tough but manageable challenges for the players, or if he's running a game where he expects the players to take a hand in designing the game world, or if he's running an "adversarial" table where he plots against the PCs and vice versa, he might take extra care to be sure that the players feel that they're treated fairly and know what to expect. If the DM is running a more narrative-driven or "simulation"-driven game, where bad **** can happen for the sake of drama and/or verisimilitude, and the players are happy with that, there might be a lot more restrictions and arbitrary bad things happening to the PCs.
DM Empowerment:  Freedom for the DM to craft the most engaging and interesting narrative regarless of mechanics.

Player Entitlement:  The expectation that the results of a players characters actions are predictable and effective.

Good DMing is teachable.  The problem has been that instead of trying to teach people to be better DMs, the thrust of D&D design for at least 13 years has been to restrict the DM by providing more and more rules.  At least as far as new/young players are concerned WotC has the advantage of the bully pulpit.  What they say is going to carry a lot of weight.  I know, because I fought "against" the weight of what Gygax had to say about DMing for years.  If you use the DMG as a vehicle to "teach" good DMing, you will end up with good DMs.



The best guidelines and DM aids in any edition of D&D ever came out with the 4e books.  The DMG 1 & 2 have more solid DM advice then any other published D&D books ever IMO.
I'm a DM who runs with what I guess a lot of people would consider fairly extreme levels of player narrative control. I let players decide that things are true in the world pretty pretty much all the time, within common-sense limitations. For example, if one player is playing a dwarf, and they say something is true about dwarven society, then that's true about dwarven society, but a player doesn't just say that, say, a branch falls on the kobold's head and it dies. Because everyone playing the game is a human with at least a little common sense about where the boundaries for narrative control lie, this doesn't really cause the sort of issues that I'm sure a lot of pontificaters might speculate it does. When people get together to play a game, they do it so that everyone can have fun, no so they can smush the boundaries of the informal agreement regarding narrative control in order to prove some kind of point.

I guess as a DM, I don't really feel less "empowered" by ceding a lot of control - narrative and otherwise - to the players. I feel as though its taken as a given that if you give players more than a certain amount of well-defined control that they'll run roughshod over everything and RUIN IT ALL, but I feel like sharing some narrative authority really just gets people a little more invested, and that makes it easier to DM for them, not harder.

I know that different groups are different, but the model of the group as the players and the DM vying for a finite quantity of 'power' doesn't really resonate with me. It's weird to me to see "player entitlement" as something that tramples on the DM, because as a DM I want players to be able to make the character they want to make and do the things they want to do. I don't see D&D as a game that's about the players trying to do as much as possible and the DM trying to let them do as little as possible. That doesn't mean that I'm not ever willing to put my foot down or at least to work with a player to help them frame their idea in a way that might potentially be less disruptive (if they want to do or play something that actually would reduce the overall group satisfaction with the game), but in general I don't see authority as zero-sum. Everyone can contribute to what's going on, and get more invested. It's understood that the DM has the final say - that's fundamentally the role of the DM - but the players are part of the game too.

I don't see codified abilities as significantly impinging on my freedoms as a DM. It's difficult for me to imagine feeling like somebody having it written on their character sheet that they get a free whack at a different kobold when they kill a kobold (Cleave) as a harrowing sap on my DMatorial authority. That's not to say that there aren't codified abilities that I find occasionally somewhat problematic - long-range teleports, divination, resurrection - but that just means working with the players to establish what such abilities mean in the context of our campaign.

Any campaign involves mutual trust on the parts of the DM and of the players. I'm not sure that I could DM a campaign where the only thing saving me from having everything ruined by the players was having rules that made it double-dog clear that I'm the DM and anything I say is the way it is. Similarly, while I play less than I DM, I don't know how happy I'd be in a campaign where I felt like I really needed the rules to act as a shield to protect me from the DM; I sort of feel like a DM who wants the players to not have any fun for some reason can figure out how to do that regardless of how you write the rules.

None of this is to say that I think the issue is irrelevant, just that I feel as though as long as everybody is out to have a good time then it's not the end of the world one way or another, and if somebody is out to poison the experience, I don't think any sort of rules can really stop them.

Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.

The best guidelines and DM aids in any edition of D&D ever came out with the 4e books.  The DMG 1 & 2 have more solid DM advice then any other published D&D books ever IMO.



I agree.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
"Wizards and Warriors need abilities with explicit effects for opposite reasons. With the wizard its because you need to create artificial limits on them, they have no natural ones and for the Warrior you need to grant permission to do awesome."

 

I think that in general practice "rules light" tends to be much more allowing of mundane things, and "rules heavy" tends to be much more allowing of spectacular things.

For example, I think the rules heaviness of 4e combat, famously, makes just tripping someone problematic. There's no standard trip action everyone can try, and there's clear concrete rules on tripping through powers.. all of which were encounter or less at launch. Then the Fighter got an at-will trip (+Str mod damage), further reinforcing the thought that maybe trip is special enough it shouldn't be something just anyone can do.
A rules light approach would certainly allow tripping people, no doubt! DMG p42 could be invoked, but it's not really clear on how it should apply here. Certainly I think people should be able to trip people, even without any specific specialized training! 3.5 included it as part of their rules, but the rules themselves were designed to make it suicidally stupid if you didn't invest anything in specializing in it.

When we drop to rules light, i.e. 4e skill challenges, things get a lot more free-flowing. Everything you could want to do physically can be distilled down to:
a) it just happens. If there's no particular reason it might fail, it just happens.
b) It's a skill check. If it could succeed but might not, bam! Skill check. (or ability check)
c) Some other rule steps in, like using a ritual or item, or whatever.

For mundane stuff, this is pretty clear. Even some of the more "mundane" uses of magic (make an Arcana check!)

But what if you want to do something really far out there? I want to use my technomancy skill to create a handful of laser-guided throwing knives and throw them at my enemy. While he's blinded by the lasers, I'll slip into the shadows and disappear, then come out of another shadow behind him. Before he knows I'm there, I'll create a bomb-sword, and try to stab him in the back with it. If it hits, the sword will explode on impact, but fortunately I'm resistant to explosives so I'll come out of it better than him.
Unless there's -something- on my character sheet saying I can do this nonsense, no DM is going to let any of this fly. 

Nor should we just blanket declare than any random character can do these sorts of shenanegans. A key part of a good roleplaying game is letting every character have their own signature brand of shenanegans that they can do.

Typically, if you want to teleport, you need something that says you can teleport. If you want to throw fireballs you need something that says you can throw fireballs. Etc. But something like "I can use magic" is way too open ended, and DMs are naturally going to balk when you try to make such a broad claim, and then use it to justify anything and everything. "I can use magic" isn't sufficient excuse to be able to do anything and everything that magic could concievably do.

And so it becomes easier to allow something like, say, teleporting yourself and your party to another plane of existance if it's specifically listed in a book somewhere as a spell that you could learn (and you go through the appropriate steps to learn it), rather than just because you say "I know magic". Not every character should be able to teleport their party to another plane of existance, but it isn't necessarily bad for there to be some characters that can. 

The best guidelines and DM aids in any edition of D&D ever came out with the 4e books.  The DMG 1 & 2 have more solid DM advice then any other published D&D books ever IMO.



I agree. I love Gygaxian prose but it wasn't always good advice (or even advice, but rambling bits that were great fun if not overly useful).