What makes roleplaying games strong?

This post isn't specific to D&D, but it acknowledges D&D as market leader who defines trends in the whole industry.

We all know the economic crisis and blame it when we hear someone isn't as profitable as before. But people spend more time at home, as they find it hard to finance going out, and might actually spend more on their hobbies. Some gaming related products bacame more profitable with this trend, but roleplaying games as a whole lost some of the playerbase. And this isn't specific to D&D. It is about a trend common to RPGs.


The Big Picture
What caused this loss of playerbase? I would attribute it to 3 main reasons. There might be other reasons, these reasons might be not the most important ones, but lets see how it looks like. Some of it will be "common sense" and some of it will be unavoidable facts, but they can help to understand more about the picture.

New games, new hobbies, new fun


We all see how video games like Diablo, World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, etc. some would say lets learn from them. But roleplaying games lost customers to other hobbies as well. If someone loves to travel using low-cost airlines and plans a trip for each weekend instead of playing D&D at same time, should we copy low-cost airlines too?


People are different. In 60s young people had their best chances for fun either by listening to music, reading books, playing wargemes, enjoying sports or treks to wilderness. Later video, roleplaying games, etc. led to a more diverse market and stole some of their customers. Now video games, low-cost airlines and their trips, etc. take away more people. It is nature of life and nature of free markets.


About literacy


A lot of younger people hate reading. It is hard to sell books to them. Look at your shelf with D&D products on it. what do you see? Books. People who hate reading is already intimidated. They won't buy D&D. They say killing monsters is easier to do in Diablo II. And no matter how you streamline your game to make it easier and simpler for them, they will see the rulebooks and they will know they hate reading and they will leave. As their numbers grow it will be harder and harder to sell RPGs.


Target audience / playing styles


I know a lot of you love tactical gaming. But I am sure if I would want tactical gaming, I would choose a tactical wargame or a tactical video game (even an RTS) would work well. Even if people love some tactical aspects in RPGs both around the gaming table and in video games, if people want tactical gaming they can get that without "roleplaying aspects". You as existing D&D players might remember some battles, your hard earned victories and want more about that. But advertising D&D with its tactical focus is dangerous at best.


If you want to make people buy RPGs you should build on the strengths of the genree you don't find in other kinds of games or rare in them. If you speak about depth, freedom, complexity, how you can use your creative mind, how it works with stories, some educated people will come. But if you say "tactical gameplay" people will ask: why would I choose it over a tactical wargame.


I won't say D&D 4E isn't D&D anymore because of tactical focus and simplicity. Simply because I know original D&D was called as a tactical wargame, and was just as simple. I would call going back to basics is "discarding all the advancement and evolution of the game". If you want to go back by 10-15 years and you advertise that it is what you get. And going back to old times was the advertised value of both 3E and 4E.


How WOTC (mostly) lost me as a customer

As you might see, I have a D&D Insider subscribtion now, but I don't own any other 4E product, and don't plan to get them. Tried them and they weren't my favorite. While I see how existing customers tend to discuss editions, and create theories how WoTC lost others, that is mostly speculation. I know how some former D&D players bash 4E for pursuing the same declared goal as 3E did and how they claim it isn't D&D anymore. Luckily I tend to give more specific reasons about how WOTC lost me, and I know my reasons well.


If I can't play the "D&D characters" I like, why would I play D&D?


D&D has a somewhat rich literature and it has / had somewhat rich background. It led to some ideas I have about characters. With 2nd edition and maybe Players Option, I felt I can make them happen. But then 3E came. And the game was changed. Most of my character ideas didn't work, people said "rules are here to maintain balance" and yet I seen some insane builds.


So it was an edition where I had to give up some characters because of game balance, yet I had no game balance. Was it a good deal? No it wasn't. And I seen the promised freedom didn't came with creative freedom, but it came with obviously broken designs and insane builds. I decided I wait, I pick up some products, see what happens, maybe with compromises it will work.


Yet, when I seen how WOTC said they plan to go back to 1E dungeon crawl style, how D&D is about killing monsters (yes that quote is from 3E time) I said, if I want hack and slash, I can sit in front of computer. If D&D focuses at "classic dungeon crawl", and I can't play characters inspired by D&D lore I won't play.


With advent of 3E lots of stuff changed. WOTC uniformized races by removing race / class restrictions. Sadly it led to strange things. When one race lacked talent for arcane before (but had a resistance to it) their relationship with more magic using races reflected it, and the history of the setting reflected this. When the rules changed the whole structure changed, and with this the game lost of a lot of depth.


Yet people celebrated this streamliving and the ability of "careless" approach of adventure design, where they didn't have to care about how the world works, what characters think about it... They only had to deal with feats and prestige classes.

This uniformity of races came with something extra: Multiclassing that didn't make sense. While people usually spend decades to become mages, at 3rd level it was possible to see a "Wizard / Cleric / Psionicist" multiclassed character still at his early 20s. It was about tactical advantages in builds, and not characters with personalities, background and history.


I said one thing: As long as D&D doesn't focus on creative freedom but gives tactical freedom to create such builds I won't find the game good. If friends say I should play with them I will consider it, but it won't be a game I consider important.


After all if I can't play my beloved D&D characters because these design changes, the changes to the world, when I don't have the creative freedom I enjoy, but I seen tactical builds and tactical challenges designed with them in mind (which isn't interesting) why should I play D&D? Why should I buy D&D?


This is how I decided I won't be a collector.


Of course with open source we seen many products with "even more ultimate powerfull classes and feats" and some of them was kinde incompatible. A good system is like a shared language, standardized with some quality assurance in design. Open Sourcing it destroyed this "shared language, shared basis" approach.


Then 4E came and...


(edited: Baiting)

And it celebrated even more streamlining, and with "points of light" concept even Diablo had more depth and creative freedom than most official modules, etc. And I had to say: If I want to kill monsters without seeing any depth to the game, and want a simple story with "Points of Light" I would load a shooter. Preferable on XBOX since PC games are complex and have depth. But I am not that kind of player.

Bought insider to have some basic acces to rules. Yes: You can't share rules online to show players in online groups how the game is good without subscribtion. An average player who would play in chat rooms or over skype first. etc. won't start with spending money, reading much stuff first, if a friend can't show him the game he would leave. Yet I paid, pay and tried. 


But even if I said it isn't my style, I said, it is executed well. If WOTC sees the problem with sales, they couldn't point to bugs, or complexity (much less at essentials) so they might learn from it, and reduced lifecycle, reduced income will make them thing whats wrong... So I hoped for a D&D next. And it came.


What would make me return?


If instead of copying simplicity of yet another game (maybe yet another Blizzard game) and implement its hack and slash WOTC would see there are people around who love depth, complexity, creative freedom. Some of them also love to read, learn, etc. and are more mature players.


If they would love that even in many MMOs there are quite a lot of people who choose RP server first and try to roleplay in cities (as long as they don't see how it doesn't work). Please learn that there are people who would love to roleplay their characters. Even in an MMO, even in a CPRG. People who seeks immersion, a complex, lifelike world and a system that tries to follow the world somewhat accurately.


There are people who when they load up the "latest MMO" end up in a Cantina, with an in character and in depth discussion of Sith code and how some Sith can use the Light Side. People who organize such meeting, spend a night with roleplaying, when killing monsters would be possible just out of the door of the cantina, and it would be even more faster, easier and streamlined than what you have in any edition of D&D.


Because there are people who love immersion, and the complexity and attention to detail it involes. And yes, they also enjoy the freedom and try to play it in a "sandbox" way.


Sandbox games with immersion and popular even in video games industry. And RPGs are better at implementing a complex sandbox with plenty of creative freedom than any video game. If you advertise RPGs and D&D with it, you focus on it the game will be solid.


Even if people will use the said creative freedom to implement their tactical playing style or some munchkin way of gaming. 


Can we have a good D&D?


Lots of people fear what they don't know and they fear RPGs. No matter what you do for some D&D will be evil. But if the game has depth, and we learn how to research, how to see things from a different angle, we put these skills in good use in our lives, we all win.


D&D should be a game you can advertise to parents and teachers, not a game about killing "monsters" (different intelligent beings) and taking their treasure (robbing the dead) and looting ancient ruins (graverobbing often).


It should be a hobby that makes us love reading, makes us understand probabilities at math, helps us with social skills, makes us more interested in history, that teaches us how to research and investigate (for an adventure).


I know on this forum this won't be popular. People who come here love the tactical streamlined easy D&D, they don't want to try something else. But if they would know Starcraft as their tactical fun, they wouldn't try D&D either.


If you want you can call this game AD&D. And you can also keep the simple one (even Essentials simple) as D&D and see what your players love. I know, you done it before, and advanced won. I know since you made things simple you lost customers. But if you love streamlining, maybe it makes sense to keep "advanced" and "essentials" lines separate. And basic / essentials can stay as is. But if you want to float (swim instead of sink) please consider releasing an advanced game next. And I hope we will get advanced games back not only in D&D, but in other RPGs too. After all many follows your example. If advanced works, maybe we will have advanced Star Wars, advanced Shadowrun, etc. again.

I really have no idea where you are going with this. It really makes no sense to me. Bits and pieces of it do, but as a whole, I've got nothing.
Owner and Proprietor of the House of Trolls. God of ownership and possession.
I see where you come from, but I have to say, my experiences are exactly the opposite.

You say 4E focuses more on tactics. I say it focuses more on tactical combat. You say its focus is combat. I reply the focus of the rules is combat. You say reflavoring doesn't work. I think reflavoring is the best thing ever. You say you can't play your character concepts. I say I never had the chance to play mine before. You say you can't play a character who doesn't focus on combat. I say that, at worse, you can't play a character whose character sheet is purposefully unusable in combat (and since you're playing an adventuring hero, I think that's good). You say RPGs are at their strongest creating sandbox games. I think their strongest part is allowing you to create a cooperative storytelling experience with your friends. You say D&D shouldn't be about killing monsters. I say it has never been that way since I started DMing (well... not quite. I had one hack and slash adventure - the first one - but I was 8 at the time).

The problem is not this one. The problem is in perception, immersion, and rules presentation. It's easy to say "4E focuses too heavily on combat!" but it isn't true: that's the way you decide to play it. And I'm not saying you are wrong, but that comes mostly out of the idea that rules describe the gaming world... something 4E actively discourages. For some people - such as yourself - rules are an immersion tool. For some, are a narrative enhancer. I wrote a blog post about this: it's the first link in my signature, if you're interested.
Are you interested in an online 4E game on Sunday? Contact me with a PM!
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Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
Ideas for 5E
A lot of younger people hate reading.

Yes. Now, could somebody please give me a tl;dr of this? Tongue Out

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
Quite a few board games emulate D&D on some level (Talisman, Hero Quest, Dungeon Quest, Descent), and there's the Anima card game. As for electronics, I needn't list the waves in the sea. I think D&D, however, allows for more creativity affecting the game, and on the fly. The creativity one works inside D&D is not limited to math or rule snippets like card games, nor must it be expressed in math to affect the events in its world. I think that is a tabletop RPG's core strength.

D&D must have more than a well-known name. Some tabletop RPGs focus on telling a certain flavor of story over character survival (Blood and Honor, Fiasco, Tenra Bansho); some are about the player using an avatar to interact with an imaginary world and character success is a motivator (D&D, Star Wars RPG). Violence and adventure aren't requirements (Maid RPG, Golden Sky Stories).

D&D stands out to me by how it tests player judgement with its environment. Dungeons don't follow normal laws; they are strange testing grounds born of dream and nightmare, and classic dungeons like the Tomb of Horrors and Whiteplume Mountain capitalize on this idea. Wilderness tests player astuteness and character ability. 4e made effort to further test players's heads in combat (even if I didn't like how rules-heavy it was). The scope of creativity is key here: there are many puzzle games wherein one must act within the anticipated; in D&D, one needn't.

I doubt literacy is a disadvantage D&D has from its competitors. Many games scratching D&D's itch (Elder Scrolls, Final Fantasy) are text-heavy. The difference is, in video games, one can sit down and play and get things done, quick and easy. I think the move toward making D&D's core simple and minimalist (and adding complexity as pure option) is a good move. I speak personally; complexity made me drop 2e Player's Option; complexity made me drop 4e. 3e's monster making rules got in the way of my monster-making habit; they should enable it.

You say 4E focuses more on tactics. I say it focuses more on tactical combat.


When you choose a build you consider tactical advantages, in skill challenges you focus on tactical thinking. It isn't about tactical combat.

But lets see the difference more clearly. Immagine a game that focuses on SWAT teams. Is it about tactical combat? Yes. But the focus on the game can be immersion, it can be about how a SWAT team experiences things.

On the other hand a simple game can pose challenges, where for your survival you should look for the most efficient option, and focus on an efficient tactics. In a game where you cannot roleplay the flaws of your character since the game gives you tactical challenges where you should be efficient to survive... Is a tactical wargame, a tactical puzzle game, where your mechanics limit or eliminate roleplaying.

D&D 4E focuses on tactics by its challenge mechanics, with the releated charcter creation where you create builds based on tactical value.

You say its focus is combat. I reply the focus of the rules is combat.



You imply that the rules are here to handle combat but the game isn't that combat focused. Yet the system is there to model character knowledge, and adventurers doesn't equal combat monsters, so the system should handle their other skills well. If it doesn't and the choices and challenges that determine your experience is based on what you system can handle it will focus on combat.

You say reflavoring doesn't work. I think reflavoring is the best thing ever.



You are free to say that. But if we want to avoid edition wars you should back it up with reasoning. And as you see reflavouring doesn't make a character stand out that much, it will be hard to justify. Why? Because the game gives you challenge which you solve in a tactical mindset by using powers, your experience of the game isn't determined by the background of your character and the flavour has little effect.

And with this even if you reflavour the focus of your character remains on solving the same challenges, with same tactics. And reflavouring won't let you have different kind of abilities and for many characters it would be important.

You say you can't play your character concepts. I say I never had the chance to play mine before.



I don't know about those characterc, but I am sure they can be implemented in other editions. Hint: reflavouring was there in previous editions too as an acknowledged concept, but designers knew it can't give enough freedom so it was just one of your options. As you have similar builds to D&D 4 builds (pretty close to them) in earlier edition and can reflavour in older editions too..


You say you can't play a character who doesn't focus on combat. I say that, at worse, you can't play a character whose character sheet is purposefully unusable in combat (and since you're playing an adventuring hero, I think that's good).



You are wrong on both counts.

1st: Even 20% less combat efficiency would make a challenging tactical combat become "impossible to win" and that is quite far from "Purposefully unusuable in combat". And I am sure even if you wrote it in an other way wrapped up in a nice insult, you know this as you know how tactical combat and balanced encounters work.

I would avoid using false statements bundled up with insults, as it would quickly lead to edition bashing and personal attacks.

2nd: Adventuring heroes in literature often have their weaknesses, and the stories tell you how they overcome them gradually. Yes: Even lack of combat experience was present in quite a few novels.

We don't play "Graverobbing marauding superheroes".

3rd: You imply that adventuring *depends* on combat. I am sure that an adventuring priest of a healing focused deity who saves people after natural disasters and deals with the elements, deals with hazards of destroyed buildings, etc. would see it otherwise. And he can be a fairly noncombatant. I am sure that firefighters who gave their lives to save others (even at 9/11) are heroes. A marauding graverobber combat monster isn't a hero. I hope you understand the difference.

You say RPGs are at their strongest creating sandbox games. I think their strongest part is allowing you to create a cooperative storytelling experience with your friends.



You are free to think how you want. But how cooperative storytelling works, if your players are railroaded? As you see the cooperative storytelling implies you focus on story and let your players influence the story and the world. This influence over the story and world is the nature of sandbox games. And yes, creative freedom leads to stories.

You say D&D shouldn't be about killing monsters. I say it has never been that way since I started DMing (well... not quite. I had one hack and slash adventure - the first one - but I was 8 at the time).



Sadly some editors made it clear that D&D is about killing horrible monsters and taking their treasure. If editiors and developers say that is the purpose of D&D that is what D&D is designed for... It will have an effect on playerbase and how the game will be played.


The problem is not this one. The problem is in perception, immersion, and rules presentation. It's easy to say "4E focuses too heavily on combat!" but it isn't true: that's the way you decide to play it.



The designed structure of the game, rules, challenges, advancement, etc is centered around it. You spoke about it before yourself.

And I'm not saying you are wrong, but that comes mostly out of the idea that rules describe the gaming world... something 4E actively discourages.



I tried to avoid edition bashing, but here it is. If a developer is too dumb to recognize what happens in game, how our characters will experience and see the world is determined greatly by rules then he shouldn't design a game. And if he does, that will make the game quite bad.

For some people - such as yourself - rules are an immersion tool. For some, are a narrative enhancer. I wrote a blog post about this: it's the first link in my signature, if you're interested.



Which is a common explanation by lazy developers who doesn't know what they do. Lets see what would make a "perfect" rule?

A perfect rule is an invisible one. At least for the characters.

Imagine 2 scenes.

In scene 1 you use the system.
In scene 2 you only use common sense and your knowledge about the setting

Scene 1 and Scene 2 is "otherwise identical".

In a good system your character won't be able to experience any difference.
In a bad system your character can see the difference.

How the good system works from a simulationist perspective? "Wow, accurate simulation"
How the good system works from a narrativist perspective? "Wow, the rules don't get in the way. Using them and ignoring them gives the same results"
How the good system works from a gamist perspective? "Wow, the challenge described by the DM in terms of world, and the challenge I see in terms of systems are the same". And as you see in this case noone would argue if the character of mr gamist would know what to do.

As you see a such system avoids arguments about gaming table.

Lazy designers who doesn't even try to come to this often say "we aren't simulationist" "we didn't work on rules because ... is more important" "we didn't make them life like as we focused on challenges" and they say you can't have both.

In fact they doesn't know what can be have at same time. They haven't even tried to work on it, they were too lazy to think about it.

In good rules, when your character are certain you can be certain, when your character sees danger the rules present that danger and lets you worry about it, as you roll the dice. When your character has a control over his / her action the rules give that to you. Good games try to achieve this, and speak about how advancement here is important. Bad games try to turn back the wheel of time and get back to "classic" gameplay and ignore even the goals.

I think the only thing I agree with 100% in the original post is that the ever increasing popularity and sophistication of video games, particularly multiplayer video games, has decimated interest in all tabletop gaming, not just tabletop roleplaying. Tabletop roleplaying in particular suffers in comparison to video games in terms of ease of playing with others (eg you have to schedule times to play tabletop RPG but you can hop on a video game any time you like, nowadays even if you're not at home using a mobile device or laptop), prep work involved (you have to work to DM and manage a game whereas all the prep work in a video game is done by the developers) and easiness to learn (learning an RPG requires reading the rules, especially if you're DMing, whereas modern videogames tend to teach you the game as you play.)  Not to mention video games are simply flashier and shinier than books and who doesn't love shiny graphics?

Other than that I'm not sure how much I agree with the original post. Literacy rates probably aren't an issue since literacy is relatively good, give or take, and certainly hasn't fluxuated to the extent of the scope of the decline in popularity of tabletop games. Also consider that in places where access to video games are limited you will find a sharp increase in the popularity of tabletop games and tabletop RPGs.  An interesting example I've read about is that D&D enjoys some popularity in prisons, for example, since there's no access to video games and offers an unusual way for prisoners to share down time other. Ironically I remember there being a lawsuit a year or two ago where a prisoner sued his prison because it instituted a ban on D&D under the claim the game incited violence and gang behavior. The court said that while the prison offered no convincing evidence either of those things was true they still ruled against the prisoner saying the prison had a great deal of leeway in deciding what activities were allowed. More to the point, the fact that D&D is relatively popular in prison compared to the outside world works against the claim that literacy is a factor since prison literacy is probably considerably lower than in normal society.


Most of the rest of the blog seems to be the author talking about how much they disliked 3e and 4e for various reason. Considering I like 3e better than 2e and 4e better than 3e and I know I'm not alone in that assessment I'll just say that different people have different tastes and leave it at that.

Most of the rest of the blog seems to be the author talking about how much they disliked 3e and 4e for various reason. Considering I like 3e better than 2e and 4e better than 3e and I know I'm not alone in that assessment I'll just say that different people have different tastes and leave it at that.



You are a regular on a 4E board, and considering that 4E and 3E follow the same design goals, what you says is expected. People who don't like 4E won't find much reason to be active on 4E boards.

The bad thing is: 4E wasn't a success commercially, and 3E wasn't that solid either, and now WOTC wants to hear from others why they don't like 4E. Yet from what I see only one tried to discuss them. You were civilized and I appreciate that, (edited: baiting). Are you sure that "we have many 4E fans, so we can bully the guy, stay off topic" and don't speak about improvement will help WOTC?

I don't. So please stop off topic, stop insults, bullying. Either stay on topic or stay out, bullying isn't a goal and it would turn into edition wars quickly.

You say 4E focuses more on tactics. I say it focuses more on tactical combat.


When you choose a build you consider tactical advantages, in skill challenges you focus on tactical thinking. It isn't about tactical combat.

But lets see the difference more clearly. Immagine a game that focuses on SWAT teams. Is it about tactical combat? Yes. But the focus on the game can be immersion, it can be about how a SWAT team experiences things.

On the other hand a simple game can pose challenges, where for your survival you should look for the most efficient option, and focus on an efficient tactics. In a game where you cannot roleplay the flaws of your character since the game gives you tactical challenges where you should be efficient to survive... Is a tactical wargame, a tactical puzzle game, where your mechanics limit or eliminate roleplaying.

D&D 4E focuses on tactics by its challenge mechanics, with the releated charcter creation where you create builds based on tactical value.



Let me get this straight: it's tactical because it focuses the character creation on your "challenge mechanics", which are the mechanics used to resolve challenges, AKA conflict resolution.

Mechanics in a roleplaying game are about conflict resolution: if there is no conflict, there can't be mechanics. If there is no conflict, there's no chance of failure, ergo things just happen.

I don't understand your logic in the underlined sentence: you are claiming that roleplaying the flaws of your character is the only thing that distinguishes a roleplaying game from a tactical wargame or a puzzle game? O.o That's... kind of a hard position to take.

You say its focus is combat. I reply the focus of the rules is combat.



You imply that the rules are here to handle combat but the game isn't that combat focused. Yet the system is there to model character knowledge, and adventurers doesn't equal combat monsters, so the system should handle their other skills well. If it doesn't and the choices and challenges that determine your experience is based on what you system can handle it will focus on combat.



Uhm, no. The system is there to model nothing. It's no fantasy world model it's a roleplaying game system. Its purpose is to define conflict resolution. Conflict resolution is most important in combat, because that's the chosen media for dramatic endings: D&D has climatic battles with BBEGs instead of, say, grand showdowns of army vs army or duel of wits. This is heavily influenced by media.

You say reflavoring doesn't work. I think reflavoring is the best thing ever.



You are free to say that. But if we want to avoid edition wars you should back it up with reasoning. And as you see reflavouring doesn't make a character stand out that much, it will be hard to justify. Why? Because the game gives you challenge which you solve in a tactical mindset by using powers, your experience of the game isn't determined by the background of your character and the flavour has little effect.

And with this even if you reflavour the focus of your character remains on solving the same challenges, with same tactics. And reflavouring won't let you have different kind of abilities and for many characters it would be important.



There's another thread about reflavoring and it's over 80 pages now. Many of those posts are mine, so I think I need not repeat my reasoning here, also because it's a matter of preference. Also, the fact that "the game gives you challenges which you solve in a tactical mindset by using powers" is your own personal experience and is not backed up by the rules. First, because the game doesn't provide anything but storytelling support to the DM. Second, because the DM is provided with way more freedom than in any other edition and can challenge the players in any number of ways. Third, because in my experience, you use powers only in combat with rare exceptions.
Also, I find it strange that you claim that "flavor has little effect" and that your experience of the game "isn't determined by your background"...

You say you can't play your character concepts. I say I never had the chance to play mine before.



I don't know about those characterc, but I am sure they can be implemented in other editions. Hint: reflavouring was there in previous editions too as an acknowledged concept, but designers knew it can't give enough freedom so it was just one of your options. As you have similar builds to D&D 4 builds (pretty close to them) in earlier edition and can reflavour in older editions too..



Yes, reflavoring was there, but it wasn't easy. Also, you're forgetting that previous editions purposefully punished you for certain concepts. For instance, if you had the concept: "I'm the most powerful lycanthrope fighter in the world, destined to kill the Lycanthrope King and claim his throne" and the concept "I bear in my mind the Spirit of Knowledge, whose power was so great he had to be constrained in old ages" at the same table in 3.5, I seriously doubt you'd be able to play both with any degree of fairness.


You say you can't play a character who doesn't focus on combat. I say that, at worse, you can't play a character whose character sheet is purposefully unusable in combat (and since you're playing an adventuring hero, I think that's good).



You are wrong on both counts.

1st: Even 20% less combat efficiency would make a challenging tactical combat become "impossible to win" and that is quite far from "Purposefully unusuable in combat". And I am sure even if you wrote it in an other way wrapped up in a nice insult, you know this as you know how tactical combat and balanced encounters work.

I would avoid using false statements bundled up with insults, as it would quickly lead to edition bashing and personal attacks.

2nd: Adventuring heroes in literature often have their weaknesses, and the stories tell you how they overcome them gradually. Yes: Even lack of combat experience was present in quite a few novels.

We don't play "Graverobbing marauding superheroes".

3rd: You imply that adventuring *depends* on combat. I am sure that an adventuring priest of a healing focused deity who saves people after natural disasters and deals with the elements, deals with hazards of destroyed buildings, etc. would see it otherwise. And he can be a fairly noncombatant. I am sure that firefighters who gave their lives to save others (even at 9/11) are heroes. A marauding graverobber combat monster isn't a hero. I hope you understand the difference.



First, you're starting to get personal. I'm sorry you felt offended by my post, but really, it was intended as a way to show that different preferences exist, and should be accounted for. Second:
1) False. I had a party of 2 rangers and a PHB-only Wizard, none of which were very optimized, and managed to create cool encounter experiences for the party easily. It's all up to the DM, that has lots of tools and DMG assistance, as well as a balanced framework, which is much, much, much more than could be said of any other edition of D&D.
2) I don't see where the issue is, really. Combat proficiency is largely flavor. I can easily play that character growth experience in any edition, and in fact, did play it in 4E at least twice (ok, saw people who played it, I'm the DM, but anyway).
3) I imply that D&D has chosen combat as the preferred way to deliver climaxes. That much is true, as pretty much every module has a climatic battle. I also believe it's mostly based on the media.

You say RPGs are at their strongest creating sandbox games. I think their strongest part is allowing you to create a cooperative storytelling experience with your friends.



You are free to think how you want. But how cooperative storytelling works, if your players are railroaded? As you see the cooperative storytelling implies you focus on story and let your players influence the story and the world. This influence over the story and world is the nature of sandbox games. And yes, creative freedom leads to stories.



Sandbox is not the only way to have creative freedom, nor the only way to avoid railroading. I'm pretty sure you know that.

You say D&D shouldn't be about killing monsters. I say it has never been that way since I started DMing (well... not quite. I had one hack and slash adventure - the first one - but I was 8 at the time).



Sadly some editors made it clear that D&D is about killing horrible monsters and taking their treasure. If editiors and developers say that is the purpose of D&D that is what D&D is designed for... It will have an effect on playerbase and how the game will be played.



I think none of us depends on the developers to tell us the way we should play. Developers can claim what they want, but if the rules are sound for another style of play, then that style of play can be achieved. Devs on the other hand can kill a style of ply by not supporting it with proper rules, which is what happened IMO in 3rd edition: cooperative storytelling got shafted by system mastery and godly wizards.


The problem is not this one. The problem is in perception, immersion, and rules presentation. It's easy to say "4E focuses too heavily on combat!" but it isn't true: that's the way you decide to play it.



The designed structure of the game, rules, challenges, advancement, etc is centered around it. You spoke about it before yourself.



That doesn't change the fact that it is you who decide to use that structure in such a way. I don't, for one, and neither do many many other people.

And I'm not saying you are wrong, but that comes mostly out of the idea that rules describe the gaming world... something 4E actively discourages.



I tried to avoid edition bashing, but here it is. If a developer is too dumb to recognize what happens in game, how our characters will experience and see the world is determined greatly by rules then he shouldn't design a game. And if he does, that will make the game quite bad.



That's your personal opinion, which I don't share in the least.

For some people - such as yourself - rules are an immersion tool. For some, are a narrative enhancer. I wrote a blog post about this: it's the first link in my signature, if you're interested.



Which is a common explanation by lazy developers who doesn't know what they do. Lets see what would make a "perfect" rule?

A perfect rule is an invisible one. At least for the characters.

Imagine 2 scenes.

In scene 1 you use the system.
In scene 2 you only use common sense and your knowledge about the setting

Scene 1 and Scene 2 is "otherwise identical".

In a good system your character won't be able to experience any difference.
In a bad system your character can see the difference.

How the good system works from a simulationist perspective? "Wow, accurate simulation"
How the good system works from a narrativist perspective? "Wow, the rules don't get in the way. Using them and ignoring them gives the same results"
How the good system works from a gamist perspective? "Wow, the challenge described by the DM in terms of world, and the challenge I see in terms of systems are the same". And as you see in this case noone would argue if the character of mr gamist would know what to do.

As you see a such system avoids arguments about gaming table.

Lazy designers who doesn't even try to come to this often say "we aren't simulationist" "we didn't work on rules because ... is more important" "we didn't make them life like as we focused on challenges" and they say you can't have both.

In fact they doesn't know what can be have at same time. They haven't even tried to work on it, they were too lazy to think about it.

In good rules, when your character are certain you can be certain, when your character sees danger the rules present that danger and lets you worry about it, as you roll the dice. When your character has a control over his / her action the rules give that to you. Good games try to achieve this, and speak about how advancement here is important. Bad games try to turn back the wheel of time and get back to "classic" gameplay and ignore even the goals.



This is a flawed perspective IMO, because you don't consider a lot of possible applications.

Simple example: healing surges. There was someone on another thread who said once: "Warlords should be able to heal characters by giving inspirational speeches. I mean, if my wife was kidnapped and shouted out at me, begging me to save her, would I be able to spend a healing surge?"
What ruling would you adopt in that case?
Simulationist approach: hell no! That doesn't make sense! 
Narrativist approach: hell yeah! Cool! I'll give you +2 speed to reach her, too!
Gamist approach: what? No fair! I had to spend a feat for that!

That's a case of rules having different needs for different people right there. You can claim it's just "lazy designers who can't give us both" but that's not really fair: designers make a very good job and provide us with awesome material. I don't think bashing their efforts is a good practice.
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Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
Ideas for 5E

First, you're starting to get personal. I'm sorry you felt offended by my post, but really, it was intended as a way to show that different preferences exist, and should be accounted for. Second:
1) False. I had a party of 2 rangers and a PHB-only Wizard, none of which were very optimized, and managed to create cool encounter experiences for the party easily.



Just to avoid long flamewars.

You speak about a balanced framework were characters are equal, things are balanced. Now you say 3 characters from that framework show how non equal characters work.

Now they are either equaly or not equal. Hint: they are equal. And you know it well how the balancing stuff worked, and how 20% weaker characters won't happen (yes, that is about -4 in all rolls, etc). Yet you claim the game works with that even if you shown you know well that isn't the case.

(edited: Baiting)
Title of the thread: What makes Roleplaying games strong.
I am not disrupting the thread by merely stating that your personal preferences are just preferences, that I do not share them and that the defined design goal of D&D Next is to please both of us equally with a game that we can enjoy. 


First, you're starting to get personal. I'm sorry you felt offended by my post, but really, it was intended as a way to show that different preferences exist, and should be accounted for. Second:
1) False. I had a party of 2 rangers and a PHB-only Wizard, none of which were very optimized, and managed to create cool encounter experiences for the party easily.



Just to avoid long flamewars.

You speak about a balanced framework were characters are equal, things are balanced. Now you say 3 characters from that framework show how non equal characters work.

Now they are either equaly or not equal. Hint: they are equal. And you know it well how the balancing stuff worked, and how 20% weaker characters won't happen (yes, that is about -4 in all rolls, etc). Yet you claim the game works with that even if you shown you know well that isn't the case.



Ignoring the passive aggressiveness:
I speak of a balanced framework (which exists in 4E and I trust you are with me on this point) where all characters are equally able to contribute. I took a heavily unbalanced party (no leader, no defender, weak controller) and used it to prove that your point:

 Even 20% less combat efficiency would make a challenging tactical combat become "impossible to win" and that is quite far from "Purposefully unusuable in combat". And I am sure even if you wrote it in an other way wrapped up in a nice insult, you know this as you know how tactical combat and balanced encounters work.



...is not true, as challenging tactical combats are entirely up to the DM.

As for the -4 in all rolls, it's not going to happen, and that's part of the balanced framework, but I don't think you truly believe numerical values are the only thing that matters in an encounter? A -4 in all rolls is a huge drawback, it is tough to balance properly, and the system avoids exactly that. However, it still allows for characters who are not focused on combat as long as you are willing to accept that your character sheet is combat-centered.
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Reflavoring: the change of flavor without changing any mechanical part of the game, no matter how small, in order to fit the mechanics to an otherwise unsupported concept. Retexturing: the change of flavor (with at most minor mechanical adaptations) in order to effortlessly create support for a concept without inventing anything new. Houseruling: the change, either minor or major, of the mechanics in order to better reflect a certain aspect of the game, including adapting the rules to fit an otherwise unsupported concept. Homebrewing: the complete invention of something new that fits within the system in order to reflect an unsupported concept.
Ideas for 5E
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 Dungeons don't follow normal laws; they are strange testing grounds born of dream and nightmare 



I hated that nonsense... all the way back it seemed like ooh look a rationalization for hack and slash game of pac-man and so the DM didnt have to try and have it make sense. Quite seriously a cop out.
  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."

 

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Thank you for your time here, it was quite valuable. As I understand well from this, "tl;dr but I post insults" is okay. Saying "you are the problem" and backing up attacks with lies are ok. Reminding people to don't bully and troll are bad.

I think with this kind of discussion it is pointless to bring out why people stoped buying WOTC products as they will be jumped on this way and WOTC supports this behavior, without moderating any of them. As I see with this handling of feedback you can't listen to much of it, so I have no reasons to think your products will improve. No reasons to keep my subscribtions online, no reason to buy D&D next when it comes out.

You just saved me good money. Feel free to close the thread. Lession learned.

I am not disrupting the thread by merely stating that your personal preferences are just preferences



No, you just disrupt it by quite a few other things. I won't repeat myself.

The key here isn't about personal preferences. It is a pretty simple thing, and I said it in the first post: You won't be able to sell D&D or any RPG by stating it is tactical. As people who aren't in RPGs yet and want tactical will go and buy StarCraft 2 instead.

All you can do if you want to sell them D&D is to tell them why D&D and RPGs are great. And it shouldn't be a "more expensive, less shiny alternative to Starcraft 2 with more work involved", but something that sounds great. Period. No preferences, no buts, no ifs, no I prefer this edition mores, but easy to understand stuff. People who want tactical combat can get it cheaper, easier and faster everywhere. If you want to sell D&D to new players with it, it won't work well. And you see why.

As a secound hint. Bullying, trolling, lieing, and telling people that they are wrong won't sell D&D either. It will only make the game bad and its community is full of ****s. It won't make anyone buy D&D and will keep market shrinking. It is simple as that. Want to avoid that? Then get your facts straight. You don't and you keep contradicting yourself, spice it up with insults, nasty comments? It won't work either.

As WOTC seems to love this later approach, so be it. It is their invested money, it will be their failure, no point in discussing D&D next anymore.
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