Ambiguity of Rules - from the "D&D Next Design Considerations" comment thread

In a discussion following this week's L&L article, @mbeacom wrote, quoting me:


"What you are talking about here is what I'll call "revealed facts"; things that were not previously seen as related are suddenly recognised as being helpfully related in fact. The key, for me, is those last two words - in FACT."


This is a good quote. Because it demonstrates the fundamental difference with which we view the game world.


But first:


"If the rules fully define the situations of interaction between character and environment (which,  I maintain, is their function)"


I maintain, that in a fantasy game whose purpose is a shared creative experience, this is not the primary function of the rules, at least not the "fully" part.


But getting back to the former quote, the "fact" part is very interesting as it relates to the "fully" part. You see, I don't want the designer to dictate nearly as many "facts" of the world to me. This IMO diminishes the opportunity at shared world creation. I want the "facts" to be revealed through the shared communications of the group. This act of discovery through consensus is not only rewarding to me, but represents the essence of the game itself, certainly as it exists as a fantasy RPG. Otherwise, we slowly steer ourselves towards a board game, or at the very least, game that requires no adjudication on the part of the group. (In my games, the DM is the lead adjudicator, but not the primary, and certainly not the only).


So, to sum up, I'll point to this quote:


"If, on the other hand, the rules do not fully define the interactions, leaving them open to interpretation, then the revealed relations can rely not on "fact" but on the interpretations of the one designated to interpret."


This is a huge problem for me. What you're doing here is essentially replacing your groups consensus for the idea of a designer or group of designers. That's fine for those lacking the desire for creativity but for those whose main reason for playing such a game is the ability to exercise that creativity, it simply doesn't offer the same rewarding experience.  Basically, what I'm saying is that I want the group to determine a greater portion of the "facts" of the world. My groups "facts" are no less factual than a designers, and they are much more personal. The act of discovering them is a huge part of what makes the RPG such a powerful medium.


Otherwise, IMO, one may as well play a game like Wrath of Ashardalon or other fantastical RPG-like board game while adding some RP elements.


OK, let me first say that I do “get” the group world-building aesthetic of roleplaying; I see it as one very valid aim or “style” of play. However, I think you unnecessarily do down another style of play – that of players trying to overcome obstacles and challenges through clever play – in your enthusiasm for this one specific style. Far from it being “may as well play a board game”, there is a whole and valid play style here very specifically for roleplaying games, not just board games (and in my circle of friends, we like board games, too).


But, even for that style of play, I think explicit rules are superior to vague or ambiguous ones. Let’s take a quite from @Shamanstarr:


@Balesir: ahhh, but Charm is a magical simulation of basically Hypnosis, which cannot make a person do what they wouldn't do normally. You still won't go against your nature. As a Hypnotist myself, I can attest that it does work this way, but that depending on how you word your suggestions to a subject, you can "convince" them to perform an action that would be out of character for them, by couching it within a context their subconscious mind can accept. You cannot make a person jump off a cliff and kill themselves, however, you can convince them that the cliff is not there, and to walk over that perfectly flat piece of ground before them.


Look what you are doing, here: you take a poorly-defined spell (Charm Person) and add to it a model, taken from your own experience, to define how it works. Would the spell really not have been far better with that model explicitly included from the start? Every DM who adjudicates Charm Person in its “old” form has to do this; they formulate a model, based on their own view of reality, about how the spell should work. Should the caster of the spell really be ignorant of that model? Should there not be support for DMs who don’t happen to have personal experience of hypnotism or similar? I really don’t count the old wordings of Charm Person as “systems” for the spell – they were really nothing more than inspirations for a system of the DM’s own construction. Some of those constructed systems were good – some were bad; hence why the DM was “so important” back in the day”.


I’ll say again that I have no issue at all with house rules; a game with the facility to add elements via house rulings, perhaps inspired by elements mentioned in published material, is great. Check out the Shek P’var (magic user) system for Hârn to see what I think of as a great example of this. The problem I have is with adding an inspiration to a book of rules and calling it a “system”. It’s not a system – it’s an invitation to come up with a system of your own. In a way, I see this as handing power to a player I don’t want handed there – by taking this spell a player says, in effect, “I demand that you come up with a system for this outline idea”. In a game where the players contribute “system” for these elements, that would be fine – but in a game where the players are focussed on overcoming challenges it’s the DM’s problem, since the players are aiming to “beat the monsters”, not to “build the system/world”. Do you see the difficulty?


Lastly, to help illustrate the point. How much more interesting and engaging has this conversation been as we flesh out our understandings and try to find a degree of respect based on what we actually bring to the table, than if we were to just openly assume things are different and go our separate ways. I find that this type of exchange (in our case amongst people with fundamentally different views) is vastly more interesting and rewarding, then if you and I were to interact on these boards according to some redesigned criteria. You, and I, and Shamanstarr are, to a degree, engaging in the very activity I enjoy in RPGs. In this case, we're hashing out what it means to "be an RPG that we would want to play". Which is to say, we're engaging in the EXACT same activity to help define the "facts" of D&DNext that I engage in to define the "facts" of my RPG world.  Ultimately, the facts of 5E will be the facts. I just prefer that you and I help steer them, rather than Mike, Monte and Rob (as much as I trust they are good designers). I think that you probably agree with me here and therefore, to a certain extent, agree with the way I want to pursue the same things within the game world.


Let the option be there for players and DM to collaboratively pick modules, add house rules, etc., by all means. But I really don’t want to see “hooks” for house rules to hang on – like the old Charm Person spell description – that players who want to focus on “beating the encounters” can grab and demand a system for (too often hoping that they can find some advantage in a system that is manufactures on the fly).


What we are doing here is discussing what will (I hope) end up as an actual system - a complete model. This sort of thing - here on the boards and within gaming groups, is both healthy and fun! But I want this "rules bashing" to be separated out from the actual play of the game, for many and several reasons. If something comes into use in the game world, I really want someone to have a clear model of how it works in mind up front. Or, alternatively, have a clear vision of how its workings will be decided collaboratively (c.f. PTA and Universalis). Without this, much of the underpinning for some interesting "agendas" for play disappear.


P.S.: Sorry about the huge paragraph gaps - I hate this "invisible formatting" editor-thing...

======= Balesir
I missed the start of this and I'm lazy.  What are the two ways of defining Charm Person that are being compared?  i.e, rules text?  I don't want to derail the thread into a Charm Person argument from the first post, but it'd be convenient to have the examples to generalize from then talk around.

Edit:  Found one.

Charm Person.  Provided you can communicate with the target, you can persuade them to take any reasonable action that is not against their immediate interest

This is the definition that was under discussion.

For reference, the SRD Charm Person

There are three kinds of DM here:

1.  The kind who need help adjudicating corner cases
2.  The kind who do not need help adjudicating corner cases.
3.  The kind who resent help adjudicating corner cases.

Let's go ahead and assume 3 is a subset of 2 for simplicity.  Simple question:  If designing fair, balanced, and easy to use rules were simple, would we be here in the first place, discussing a fifth edition?  My theory is no, we would not be here.

The goal of the designers, and any published ruleset, is to lend their wisdom and expertise in designing rules to the purchaser.  Designing is difficult, but ignoring advice is easy.  Hence, a rule system that provides the support needed for the first type of DM also (indirectly) supports the 2nd and 3rd type of DM.  The 2nd type doesn't care, and the 3rd type can just ignore it.  Hence, all three types are supported.

A rule system that legitimizes and empowers the third type of DM at the expense of the first type, only supports two of the three types.

From the POV of sales and marketing, which is better for WotC to put on the shelf?

WotC seems committed to sparing no expense for appealing to multiple playstyles.  If something needs to be in print to legitimize the 3rd type of DM's decision to ignore what's in print, we can facilitate that:

Charm Person.
Fundamental description: Provided you can communicate with the target, you can persuade them to take any reasonable action that is not against their immediate interest
Recommended mechanics: whatever

Add a paragraph or two at the start of the chapter about how important the word "recommended" is.  Would that be acceptable?
I feel for you but I also don't see how any roleplaying game can escape DM/GM judgment.   More rules can reduce their burden in some ways but increase it in others.   If you are going to follow the rules you have to know the rules.  If those rules are voluminous then that is a cost too.   I like rules that help you create the world in a manner you prefer but don't intrude all that much when the game actually starts.  

I think learning your DM is part of the game.  It's the price we pay to get a game that is richer and deeper than a video game.  I've never understood those groups that enjoy the pure battle playstyle without much world behind it.  It would seem to me that an mmo would be better.  No one has to be the DM and it's still lots of fun combat action.  I'm not saying you want this OP either ok.  There is a wide continuum between free form and absolute wargame.  I fall in the middle and I assume most groups probably do when it comes to D&D.   
...I've never understood those groups that enjoy the pure battle playstyle without much world behind it.  It would seem to me that an mmo would be better.  ...  



On a tangent people play boardgames in part because they like to hang out with their friends and eat snacks, etc, while they play, and they play online video games because they like to be able to sit at home and play games without the hassle of putting on shoes and going to a friend's house, for instance. In other words in-person games satisfy a somewhat different social itch than online games. That's why some people like to play things like Axis and Allies or other strategy board games in person even though similar games and frankly more intricate and flashier strategy games are available as online video games. 

Mind you, personally I play tabletop roleplaying games because I'm a ham and I like to roleplay funny, interesting characters.  When I like my character I'm perfectly happy just roleplaying and doing no combat at all. But I can definitely understand why other people who are mainly into the combat side of RPGs still want to take part in tabletop gaming. It's as much about getting out of the house and doing something with friends as it is about how good or bad the actual game system itself is.
In some ways this feeds back into the "is magic too powerful?" debate because historically spells are where a lot of these open-ended game elements occurred.  Bluff is pretty easy to define with the rules, with specific examples providing guidance on how to adjudicate the results.  After all, we've all encountered people who lie, and have a general idea about how a lie can influence a situation.  A person can lie to someone and say "someone fell off that cliff once and survived," but that's not going to make that person any more likely to jump off of the cliff themselves!  A vague Charm Person description, OTOH, has no grounding in the real world, and so some DMs might say "it's magic, he walks off the cliff without question!" while others might say "your magical influence cannot override his sense of self-preservation," citing whatever clues in the vague description differentiate this spell from its much stronger big brother, Dominate Person.  The obvious problem arises when the designers intended a spell like Charm Person to be balanced against a Rogue's Bluff (and any class features the Rogue might have to enhance it).  It's either going to be balanced with the more severe interpretation in mind, or the "softer" one. 

4E was on the extremely structured end of the spectrum, since a spell did exactly what was written in its power block and nothing else.  I suspect that the designers will revert back to more open-ended descriptions riddled with flavor text which make spells (and other elements) more difficult to adjudicate, remember, and reference for actual play even if they are more immersive for the first read-through of the books.  FWIW I vastly prefer the presentation of 4E, but I wouldn't necessarily mind some reversion to open-endedness.  For example, "my Warlock blasts through the window with Eldritch Blast!" "no, sorry, but Eldritch Blast only targets one creature" is too restrictive.  In the case of Charm Person, something like "the target is willing to risk minor personal injury but not death, and won't perform an action where any injury is guaranteed, including combat against an overmatched foe" would be sufficient for me.  This would bound the effect not within a subset of specific physical actions, but on the psychological state of the target.  That's assuming it's not more rigidly defined as "provides a +5 bonus to Charisma checks used to Persuade the target," or something to that effect.  In this case the spell would fall under the umbrella of "mundane" social interactions, in which case an argument of "it's magic, he can walk off a cliff!" is avoided (though given the complaints raised against 4E for "diminishing" the effects of magic, I highly doubt they'll go this route).

EDIT:
I feel for you but I also don't see how any roleplaying game can escape DM/GM judgment.   More rules can reduce their burden in some ways but increase it in others.   If you are going to follow the rules you have to know the rules.  If those rules are voluminous then that is a cost too.   I like rules that help you create the world in a manner you prefer but don't intrude all that much when the game actually starts.


I think the question is ultimately where do you draw the line.  After all, I prefer streamlined, easy-to-remember-and-reference-rules that form a core structural guideline that can be applied to multiple situations.  The common terminology and layout of powers in 4E was a good example of this, as was page 42 of the DMG.  However, I also like having specific rules for common action types so that not only are such actions predictable for the players, but provide a framework (or a large body of examples) for how to adjudicate more corner-case stuff with the abstract rules.  The power cards in combination with page 42 worked well here (for example, if a player pushed an enemy into fire I'd use one suggested damage expression, whereas if they knocked a bookcase on top of them I might reduce the damage dice in order to throw in a prone effect). 

In theory, anyways.  In practice 4E's rules do fade into the background out of combat, but during combat they're front and center, in part because there's just too many powers, some of which don't have a strong default visual (hence "I use Rain of Blood, that means that these allies get a +x bonus to attacks and these enemies get vulnerable 5 to all damage" as opposed to "Raising my staff, I call forth a great crimson storm cloud that dumps a deluge of blood upon the battlefield" because while the second is a strong visual, nobody knows what it does until they've seen you use it a bunch of times).  I'd certainly prefer a game where a player simply narrates their action and it's abundantly clear what mechanic he's invoking, but even with this idea in mind I'm not sure exactly where I'd draw the line between amount of specific rules and amount of stuff the DM judges.  I just know that 3E tried to define the world too much, and 4E was honestly kind of a mixed bag, but 1E is too "the DM makes up whatever he wants." 

Mind you, personally I play tabletop roleplaying games because I'm a ham and I like to roleplay funny, interesting characters.  When I like my character I'm perfectly happy just roleplaying and doing no combat at all. But I can definitely understand why other people who are mainly into the combat side of RPGs still want to take part in tabletop gaming. It's as much about getting out of the house and doing something with friends as it is about how good or bad the actual game system itself is.



You sound like a fun group member.  Yeah I understand the appeal of boardgames even fantasy themed ones.  I guess I should have said - or play a boardgame vs rpg if all you want is battle.   I recognize the social aspects.  I meant why play a game that is designed to have roleplaying if you didn't want to roleplay.  Thats all.

I also agree there are tons of people who are just there because thats what the group is playing tonight.  I am not one of those guys but I've had them in campaigns before as players.  I'd hate to have 5 of those an no one else but the occasionally "watcher" type is fine.  My observation is that a simpler class is often desirable for these types.  

 

You sound like a fun group member.  Yeah I understand the appeal of boardgames even fantasy themed ones.  I guess I should have said - or play a boardgame vs rpg if all you want is battle.   I recognize the social aspects.  I meant why play a game that is designed to have roleplaying if you didn't want to roleplay.  Thats all.
 



Thanks! Anyway, if all you want to do is tabletop combat the question of why play D&D when you could play a combat game like say Warhammer miniatures, for instance, is an interesting one. I think one answer would be that D&D is a compromise that allows friends who enjoy different styles of gameplay to all play the same game. It can satisfy someone who likes roleplaying but isn't as interested in the combat play a game alongside their friend who likes the combat but isn't as into the roleplaying. A combat-only game can really only satisfy players who are into combat. 

Of course if the entire gaming group just wants to do combat and doesn't give a fig about roleplaying then there's less incentive for them to pick D&D as their tabletop game over some strategy-only game. But I suspect that most of the time when a gaming group decides to play D&D it's because at least some of the players want to do some roleplaying alongside the combat.

In a discussion following this week's L&L article, @mbeacom wrote, quoting me:


"What you are talking about here is what I'll call "revealed facts"; things that were not previously seen as related are suddenly recognised as being helpfully related in fact. The key, for me, is those last two words - in FACT."


This is a good quote. Because it demonstrates the fundamental difference with which we view the game world.


But first:


"If the rules fully define the situations of interaction between character and environment (which,  I maintain, is their function)"


I maintain, that in a fantasy game whose purpose is a shared creative experience, this is not the primary function of the rules, at least not the "fully" part.


But getting back to the former quote, the "fact" part is very interesting as it relates to the "fully" part. You see, I don't want the designer to dictate nearly as many "facts" of the world to me. This IMO diminishes the opportunity at shared world creation. I want the "facts" to be revealed through the shared communications of the group. This act of discovery through consensus is not only rewarding to me, but represents the essence of the game itself, certainly as it exists as a fantasy RPG. Otherwise, we slowly steer ourselves towards a board game, or at the very least, game that requires no adjudication on the part of the group. (In my games, the DM is the lead adjudicator, but not the primary, and certainly not the only).


So, to sum up, I'll point to this quote:


"If, on the other hand, the rules do not fully define the interactions, leaving them open to interpretation, then the revealed relations can rely not on "fact" but on the interpretations of the one designated to interpret."


This is a huge problem for me. What you're doing here is essentially replacing your groups consensus for the idea of a designer or group of designers. That's fine for those lacking the desire for creativity but for those whose main reason for playing such a game is the ability to exercise that creativity, it simply doesn't offer the same rewarding experience.  Basically, what I'm saying is that I want the group to determine a greater portion of the "facts" of the world. My groups "facts" are no less factual than a designers, and they are much more personal. The act of discovering them is a huge part of what makes the RPG such a powerful medium.


Otherwise, IMO, one may as well play a game like Wrath of Ashardalon or other fantastical RPG-like board game while adding some RP elements.


OK, let me first say that I do “get” the group world-building aesthetic of roleplaying; I see it as one very valid aim or “style” of play. However, I think you unnecessarily do down another style of play – that of players trying to overcome obstacles and challenges through clever play – in your enthusiasm for this one specific style. Far from it being “may as well play a board game”, there is a whole and valid play style here very specifically for roleplaying games, not just board games (and in my circle of friends, we like board games, too).


But, even for that style of play, I think explicit rules are superior to vague or ambiguous ones. Let’s take a quite from @Shamanstarr:


@Balesir: ahhh, but Charm is a magical simulation of basically Hypnosis, which cannot make a person do what they wouldn't do normally. You still won't go against your nature. As a Hypnotist myself, I can attest that it does work this way, but that depending on how you word your suggestions to a subject, you can "convince" them to perform an action that would be out of character for them, by couching it within a context their subconscious mind can accept. You cannot make a person jump off a cliff and kill themselves, however, you can convince them that the cliff is not there, and to walk over that perfectly flat piece of ground before them.


Look what you are doing, here: you take a poorly-defined spell (Charm Person) and add to it a model, taken from your own experience, to define how it works. Would the spell really not have been far better with that model explicitly included from the start? Every DM who adjudicates Charm Person in its “old” form has to do this; they formulate a model, based on their own view of reality, about how the spell should work. Should the caster of the spell really be ignorant of that model? Should there not be support for DMs who don’t happen to have personal experience of hypnotism or similar? I really don’t count the old wordings of Charm Person as “systems” for the spell – they were really nothing more than inspirations for a system of the DM’s own construction. Some of those constructed systems were good – some were bad; hence why the DM was “so important” back in the day”.


I’ll say again that I have no issue at all with house rules; a game with the facility to add elements via house rulings, perhaps inspired by elements mentioned in published material, is great. Check out the Shek P’var (magic user) system for Hârn to see what I think of as a great example of this. The problem I have is with adding an inspiration to a book of rules and calling it a “system”. It’s not a system – it’s an invitation to come up with a system of your own. In a way, I see this as handing power to a player I don’t want handed there – by taking this spell a player says, in effect, “I demand that you come up with a system for this outline idea”. In a game where the players contribute “system” for these elements, that would be fine – but in a game where the players are focussed on overcoming challenges it’s the DM’s problem, since the players are aiming to “beat the monsters”, not to “build the system/world”. Do you see the difficulty?


Lastly, to help illustrate the point. How much more interesting and engaging has this conversation been as we flesh out our understandings and try to find a degree of respect based on what we actually bring to the table, than if we were to just openly assume things are different and go our separate ways. I find that this type of exchange (in our case amongst people with fundamentally different views) is vastly more interesting and rewarding, then if you and I were to interact on these boards according to some redesigned criteria. You, and I, and Shamanstarr are, to a degree, engaging in the very activity I enjoy in RPGs. In this case, we're hashing out what it means to "be an RPG that we would want to play". Which is to say, we're engaging in the EXACT same activity to help define the "facts" of D&DNext that I engage in to define the "facts" of my RPG world.  Ultimately, the facts of 5E will be the facts. I just prefer that you and I help steer them, rather than Mike, Monte and Rob (as much as I trust they are good designers). I think that you probably agree with me here and therefore, to a certain extent, agree with the way I want to pursue the same things within the game world.


Let the option be there for players and DM to collaboratively pick modules, add house rules, etc., by all means. But I really don’t want to see “hooks” for house rules to hang on – like the old Charm Person spell description – that players who want to focus on “beating the encounters” can grab and demand a system for (too often hoping that they can find some advantage in a system that is manufactures on the fly).


What we are doing here is discussing what will (I hope) end up as an actual system - a complete model. This sort of thing - here on the boards and within gaming groups, is both healthy and fun! But I want this "rules bashing" to be separated out from the actual play of the game, for many and several reasons. If something comes into use in the game world, I really want someone to have a clear model of how it works in mind up front. Or, alternatively, have a clear vision of how its workings will be decided collaboratively (c.f. PTA and Universalis). Without this, much of the underpinning for some interesting "agendas" for play disappear.


P.S.: Sorry about the huge paragraph gaps - I hate this "invisible formatting" editor-thing...


This is, in my opinion, your best verbalization of your position so far. And once again, it's clear we simply value different things (and I think that's great!), and have a fundementally different perspective. Rather than beat this particular issue any more, I'll pull a few points that I think demonstrate the underlying differences.

"Look what you are doing, here: you take a poorly-defined spell (Charm Person) and add to it a model, taken from your own experience, to define how it works. Would the spell really not have been far better with that model explicitly included from the start?"

My answer would be "absolutely not". Simply because it's not how I would model it. The same thing could be said of whatever a designer might include. This is where the consensus world building comes in. I don't consider the wording poor. I think it's pretty clear. Shaman did too I think. The issue is that we can disagree on it to a certain degree. It is the sorting out of those disagreements that I enjoy, and the ensuing "model" that is of our own creation. This makes the world feel more organic and genuine. Plus, the model can expand and even change as necessary to reflect our developing understanding of our shared world.

"It’s not a system – it’s an invitation to come up with a system of your own." While I think this is somewhat hyperbolic, I actually agree. I want rules to be evocative and inspirational, that make us imagine wonderous things and seek to engage in them wholesale. Rules that are overly burdened with explanation and caveat can't achieve that as well, even if (and actually BECAUSE) they become "ironclad perfection" as you envision. Should rules be "intentionally vague"? No. Absolutely not. However, they should welcome the vision of their users and the application of them such that they serve the game and the story, rather than command it.

"players who want to focus on “beating the encounters” can..."

This simply is not me, nor my group, so it's hard to use that as a baseline for what's "correct" or "best".  This is why the modular approach is so wonderful. They write a baseline game with enough direction and guidance for me, without undue constriction, while adding things like gridded combat rules and further expansion on what capabilities exist for people who's main goal is "beating the encounters". We can literally have a win/win. I think this is their goal. I HOPE this is their goal. Based on this rather lengthy exchange combined with what I've seen so far, I see no reason they can't realistically achieve it, with perhaps a few mild concessions from both views.

You sound like a fun group member.  Yeah I understand the appeal of boardgames even fantasy themed ones.  I guess I should have said - or play a boardgame vs rpg if all you want is battle.   I recognize the social aspects.  I meant why play a game that is designed to have roleplaying if you didn't want to roleplay.  Thats all.
 



Thanks! Anyway, if all you want to do is tabletop combat the question of why play D&D when you could play a combat game like say Warhammer miniatures, for instance, is an interesting one. I think one answer would be that D&D is a compromise that allows friends who enjoy different styles of gameplay to all play the same game. It can satisfy someone who likes roleplaying but isn't as interested in the combat play a game alongside their friend who likes the combat but isn't as into the roleplaying. A combat-only game can really only satisfy players who are into combat. 

Of course if the entire gaming group just wants to do combat and doesn't give a fig about roleplaying then there's less incentive for them to pick D&D as their tabletop game over some strategy-only game. But I suspect that most of the time when a gaming group decides to play D&D it's because at least some of the players want to do some roleplaying alongside the combat.


I think that one thing to keep in mind is that while I agree that roleplaying is and should be central to D&D as it's a roleplaying game, not everyone who doesn't roleplay heavily is not interested in RP. 
Sometimes it is a part of a players personality, I for example am rather shy and from an outsiders view I tend to RP "less than average" that doesn't mean that I'm not a fan of RP, think it's unimportant or would rather be playing a board game/miniature wargame.  I do not believe that these posts where an attack against me or shy players in general, I'm just pointing out that there are other factors that influence how much some people RP.
I think learning your DM is part of the game.  It's the price we pay to get a game that is richer and deeper than a video game.  I've never understood those groups that enjoy the pure battle playstyle without much world behind it.  It would seem to me that an mmo would be better.  No one has to be the DM and it's still lots of fun combat action.  I'm not saying you want this OP either ok.  There is a wide continuum between free form and absolute wargame.  I fall in the middle and I assume most groups probably do when it comes to D&D.   

Even in out of combat roleplaying situations, though, having to learn your DM can be frustrating when the rules are not well defined. I can recall a situation where my Druid, with a high Perception check and a spell that gives a bonus to Perception when checking for poisons, completely missed that a guest's wine had been spiked with peanuts, because "peanuts aren't poison," despite the fact that A) With my basic perception I should have noticed something was off, and B) To the guest the peanuts were in fact highly poisonous due to his allergy. This example has nothing to do with combat, but it would still have been aided by a clearer expression of what the spell actually looks for and how it affects my ability to notice other things while using it. It would at least have let me know that I needed to say "I'm checking the food and drink for poison and anything else out of place."

I think the whole boardgame/pure combat group idea that's been raised is a non sequitur, though. You can have both a desire to roleplay and explore a world and a desire for clearly defined rules with which to do so. I'd much rather be exploring the world and story my DM's created than wondering about exactly how the spells my character knows work this time.
I think learning your DM is part of the game.  It's the price we pay to get a game that is richer and deeper than a video game.  I've never understood those groups that enjoy the pure battle playstyle without much world behind it.  It would seem to me that an mmo would be better.  No one has to be the DM and it's still lots of fun combat action.  I'm not saying you want this OP either ok.  There is a wide continuum between free form and absolute wargame.  I fall in the middle and I assume most groups probably do when it comes to D&D.   

Even in out of combat roleplaying situations, though, having to learn your DM can be frustrating when the rules are not well defined. I can recall a situation where my Druid, with a high Perception check and a spell that gives a bonus to Perception when checking for poisons, completely missed that a guest's wine had been spiked with peanuts, because "peanuts aren't poison," despite the fact that A) With my basic perception I should have noticed something was off, and B) To the guest the peanuts were in fact highly poisonous due to his allergy. This example has nothing to do with combat, but it would still have been aided by a clearer expression of what the spell actually looks for and how it affects my ability to notice other things while using it. It would at least have let me know that I needed to say "I'm checking the food and drink for poison and anything else out of place."

I think the whole boardgame/pure combat group idea that's been raised is a non sequitur, though. You can have both a desire to roleplay and explore a world and a desire for clearly defined rules with which to do so. I'd much rather be exploring the world and story my DM's created than wondering about exactly how the spells my character knows work this time.

Nelyo,

This, I think was a failure of the DM, not a failure of the rules. I would not want a rule about a druids ability to perceive poisons to list out every poison, nor would I want "legalese text" like what you see on nearly every product you buy. Something has a plastic bag on it and therefore there will be verbose warnings about how a plastic bag can cause suffocation, or that riding a bike can cause a head injury or that scuba diving with sharks can be fatal. All are true and left to people with no sense or maturity (or litigious friends) can be problematic.  But, such constant warnings and reminders are annoying to the vast majority of us who have enough sense to know these things. This is, what I fear such a mindset about rules will become. The peanut example is perfect. I would say that you may have had a DM taking advantage of the rule in a negative way, rather than a positive way. That rule clearly leaves the option open for the DM to consider that peanut something you'd notice. This is a beautiful thing because YOU (and your group together) can define what the rule means as you go. Can a designer predict the peanut scenario and every one like it? No way. Can he extrapolate long enough that he'll eventually include it some other way? Sure, but that makes for very tedious rules and little freedom. Or worst of all, imagine if the designer EXPLICITLY STATED in the rule that "this ability does NOT include the ability to discern non-poisonous allergens". Wouldn't this be kind of shocking since you clearly think it should include that very ability? This is what I see alot with very ironclad rules. I find the designers see things very differently from me and the rules make the game harder to use as a platform for a soaringly imaginative experience, as I 'm constantly forced to realign my vision with the contradictory vision of the designer. Who would you rather work with in your vision? A flexible and mature DM? Or a long gone designer whose feedback is impossible to discern beyond what he thought to tell you in the rulebook?
@Nelyo
I don't think we are disagreeing ultimately.  I'm not advocating everything be free form either.  It's just that as you try to nail things down too much you sometimes go to far and make the game not fun.  Thats all.  4e's slavishness to this principle went a bit too far in the hard magic arena for me.  I prefer that things like fire not hurt fire elementals or blunt weapons are better against skeletons.  I realize judgment opens up the possibilities of bad judgments but to me it's worth the risk to a degree.  

In your case, it came down to the definition of poison.  It's one of the problems with detect spells in general.  The DM interpreted it to mean something with poison on the side of the can and you as something potentially toxic to the drinker.  In theory magic can work either way.  I do probably lean towards your DM on it actually being caught by the spell.   I do though think he could have given you a regular perception check since I'm assuming the spell requires you to be focused on the subject of the magic.  I think that DMs can be pills sometimes.  Not sure what the solution is other than get rid of DMs and that is worse to me.   I do sympathize though on this ruling.



@Nelyo
I don't think we are disagreeing ultimately.  I'm not advocating everything be free form either.  It's just that as you try to nail things down too much you sometimes go to far and make the game not fun.  Thats all.  4e's slavishness to this principle went a bit too far in the hard magic arena for me.  I prefer that things like fire not hurt fire elementals or blunt weapons are better against skeletons.  I realize judgment opens up the possibilities of bad judgments but to me it's worth the risk to a degree.  

In your case, it came down to the definition of poison.  It's one of the problems with detect spells in general.  The DM interpreted it to mean something with poison on the side of the can and you as something potentially toxic to the drinker.  In theory magic can work either way.  I do probably lean towards your DM on it actually being caught by the spell.   I do though think he could have given you a regular perception check since I'm assuming the spell requires you to be focused on the subject of the magic.  I think that DMs can be pills sometimes.  Not sure what the solution is other than get rid of DMs and that is worse to me.   I do sympathize though on this ruling.





Exactly this.  If you remove the possiblity for BAD judgment calls, you also limit the DMs ability to make GREAT judgment calls (which is why some people think this type of gamer might prefer MMO style games where player/DM adjudication isn't a selling point of the system). To me the game really gets interesting in this space, once it enters "corner case" land. I love corner cases and I love how our resolutions of them helps to define the world better, but to OUR specifications. In my world, the druid would detect the peanuts. In your world they would not. That's WONDERFUL. Why on earth would you want to give up this small bit of perfection? Disagreements are an opportunity, a decision point that can lead to a better more personal game. Will every outcome be perfect for every player? Of course not. But in my experience, the net result will always be better and more personal that whatever the designer might have written had he tried to predict every possible application of the rules. Also, the ruleset will be much more consumable and useful when you're NOT in the corner case scenarios.

The designers can't design for us personally, so I think it works fine if they write rules that allow us a certain amount of flexibility in their application. And I'm not referring to the ability to ignore rules. I'm referring to the ability interpret them to a small degree according to our own vision.

The problem is, is that if I, as a player, do not know how the tools at my disposal (be they spells, skills, etc.) work, then I can't put a plan into action either to protect myself or to overcome an obstacle. The more ambiguity in the rules, the more potential for "Gotcha!" moments when it suddenly becomes apparent that the DM and I have different interpretations of how something works. If I come up with a plan that involves casting a grease spell and then setting it on fire, I'm not going to find out until the middle of the action when the DM says "Grease isn't flammable," and by that point I'm screwed because I'm wasting time in a dangerous situation trying to do something that my character should have known wouldn't work. If I don't even know where the corner cases exist on my tools because the descriptions of how they work are so vague, then my agency is effectively limited. Taking the example of Charm Person, as a player walking into a game with a new DM, I don't know what this spell does because I don't know where the DM draws the line on "trusted friend and ally." Can I get him to risk injury to help me? Maybe. Can I get him to give me a loan with generous terms? Maybe. Will he come back and break my legs after the spell wears off because the DM decides that people don't rationalize their actions in the aftermath of being Charmed? Who knows?

This isn't incompatible with allowed the DM to make judgment calls. Finding yourself in a bad situation and looking to a corner case as a "Hail Mary" can be a great way to enact a dramatic comeback (and give the DM an out to avoid a TPK), but I'd rather be able to turn a situation around because I have tools at my disposal and can be confident that they will actually work because their application is well defined.
The problem is, is that if I, as a player, do not know how the tools at my disposal (be they spells, skills, etc.) work, then I can't put a plan into action either to protect myself or to overcome an obstacle. The more ambiguity in the rules, the more potential for "Gotcha!" moments when it suddenly becomes apparent that the DM and I have different interpretations of how something works. If I come up with a plan that involves casting a grease spell and then setting it on fire, I'm not going to find out until the middle of the action when the DM says "Grease isn't flammable," and by that point I'm screwed because I'm wasting time in a dangerous situation trying to do something that my character should have known wouldn't work. If I don't even know where the corner cases exist on my tools because the descriptions of how they work are so vague, then my agency is effectively limited. Taking the example of Charm Person, as a player walking into a game with a new DM, I don't know what this spell does because I don't know where the DM draws the line on "trusted friend and ally." Can I get him to risk injury to help me? Maybe. Can I get him to give me a loan with generous terms? Maybe. Will he come back and break my legs after the spell wears off because the DM decides that people don't rationalize their actions in the aftermath of being Charmed? Who knows?

This isn't incompatible with allowed the DM to make judgment calls. Finding yourself in a bad situation and looking to a corner case as a "Hail Mary" can be a great way to enact a dramatic comeback (and give the DM an out to avoid a TPK), but I'd rather be able to turn a situation around because I have tools at my disposal and can be confident that they will actually work because their application is well defined.

"Can I get him to risk injury to help me? Maybe. Can I get him to give me a loan with generous terms? Maybe. Will he come back and break my legs after the spell wears off because the DM decides that people don't rationalize their actions in the aftermath of being Charmed? Who knows?"

I don't know! Let's find out together!  (would you rather a game designer simply said NO to all those questions? Simply said YES?) This is what makes an RPG spectacular to me. If you already know everything that will or won't happen, where is the joy in discovery? Sure, you're character knows who works and doesn't, but that' doesn't mean you as the player do, nor necessarily does the DM in my games. This is what concensus world building is all about. I don't just want to apply predictable rules (although a measure of predictability is of course required, for example, charm person can't make a castle crumble to the ground), I want to adventure in a fantasy setting where the outcome is new and interesting, (dare I say fantastic) and on some level, subject to participant vision. This is the nature of fantasy. This is why books can be even better than movies. RPGs is liking reading a book where you are the author. The question is how much authorial vision are we willing to cede to the designers. The answer, IMO, is much but not all. Like you yourself said, this is not about being entirely freeform, but the risk is worth the reward when it comes to ironclad alternatives IMO. And I'll reiterate, in a modular system you can have it both ways.
Sure, you're character knows who works and doesn't, but that' doesn't mean you as the player do, nor necessarily does the DM in my games.

And it doesn't bother you that you can do something completely out of character because you as the player doesn't know what your character has every reason to know? As someone who puts a lot of effort into creating the personality and motivations of a character and tries hard to remain in character, I find that very jarring, not to mention frustrating.

It is as though I'm playing a Bard helping out with peace talks thinking, "I'm going to cast Charm Person on this stubborn negotiator to get him to compromise. This isn't going to help anything at all, because he'll realize that he had no reason to make those compromises once the spell wears off, and he'll renege. In fact, it'll probably make things worse, because he'll realize that something was amiss and break off the talks and resume war on the grounds that someone is tampering with them. I know this is how it's going to work, because of learning how Charm Person functions from learning how to cast it and practicing it on people. But I'm going to do it anyway, just because. I hope nobody finds out what a stupid, counterproductive thing I've done, because if they do they'll probably exile me or execute me as a traitor."

 
I don't know! Let's find out together!  (would you rather a game designer simply said NO to all those questions? Simply said YES?)

I would rather the game designer said something, and said it well, so that if the group decides that they don't like what the designer said, they can talk it out and come to a consensus about how they think it should work, because in that case, everyone ends up on the same page ahead of time. As opposed to when the designer says very little, people come to their own individual conclusions, and we "find out together!" in the middle of a dire situation where the player is counting on a planned course of action working.
Sure, you're character knows who works and doesn't, but that' doesn't mean you as the player do, nor necessarily does the DM in my games.

And it doesn't bother you that you can do something completely out of character because you as the player doesn't know what your character has every reason to know? As someone who puts a lot of effort into creating the personality and motivations of a character and tries hard to remain in character, I find that very jarring, not to mention frustrating.

It is as though I'm playing a Bard helping out with peace talks thinking, "I'm going to cast Charm Person on this stubborn negotiator to get him to compromise. This isn't going to help anything at all, because he'll realize that he had no reason to make those compromises once the spell wears off, and he'll renege. In fact, it'll probably make things worse, because he'll realize that something was amiss and break off the talks and resume war on the grounds that someone is tampering with them. I know this is how it's going to work, because of learning how Charm Person functions from learning how to cast it and practicing it on people. But I'm going to do it anyway, just because. I hope nobody finds out what a stupid, counterproductive thing I've done, because if they do they'll probably exile me or execute me as a traitor."

 
I don't know! Let's find out together!  (would you rather a game designer simply said NO to all those questions? Simply said YES?)

I would rather the game designer said something, and said it well, so that if the group decides that they don't like what the designer said, they can talk it out and come to a consensus about how they think it should work, because in that case, everyone ends up on the same page ahead of time. As opposed to when the designer says very little, people come to their own individual conclusions, and we "find out together!" in the middle of a dire situation where the player is counting on a planned course of action working.

"And it doesn't bother you that you can do something completely out of character because you as the player doesn't know what your character has every reason to know?"

In my game, this is a non-sequitur. Whatever we at the table decide is the way the world works (the concensus) is what we presume the character would have known. In my game, nobody gets blindsided, unless it makes sense that they would. I would be so bold as to say, that if players or DMs are getting frustrated, somebody is probably doing it wrong.

"I would rather the game designer said something, and said it well"

Nobody is advocating the designer say nothing. Rather, I'm advocating that the rule be written clearly and simply and then left as it is, rather than the designer attempting to codify every corner case imaginable, burdening the players with unnecessary memorization and burdening the game with an overly impersonal slant that is difficult to overcome.
In my game, this is a non-sequitur. Whatever we at the table decide is the way the world works (the concensus) is what we presume the character would have known. In my game, nobody gets blindsided, unless it makes sense that they would. I would be so bold as to say, that if players or DMs are getting frustrated, somebody is probably doing it wrong.

I don't think I'm quite following your point here, so let me ask for clarification. What happens at your table when a corner case comes up, and the consensus that arises results in that the character just took an action entirely at odds with what they were trying to accomplish?

In my game, this is a non-sequitur. Whatever we at the table decide is the way the world works (the concensus) is what we presume the character would have known. In my game, nobody gets blindsided, unless it makes sense that they would. I would be so bold as to say, that if players or DMs are getting frustrated, somebody is probably doing it wrong.

I don't think I'm quite following your point here, so let me ask for clarification. What happens at your table when a corner case comes up, and the consensus that arises results in that the character just took an action entirely at odds with what they were trying to accomplish?


The short answer is that would never be the concensus. Why would any group choose for a character to do something completely at odds with what he/she was trying to accomplish (outside of a desire for comedic effect of course, which in some cases might be perfectly legitimate). It doesn't make any sense that they would do such a thing. The point of a concensus is that you define as a group how your world works and how that relates to the rules. If the group decides that the action would make no sense, it's assumed the character wouldn't have done it.

But it's perhaps more nuanced and intersting than that. In general, the consensus is not whether or not something is possible (because players are making an effort to adhere to the spirit of the rules and the desired feel of the campaign), but rather what it would mean to the story and the characters. Resolving such questions is, to my mind, part of the joy of a shared experience RPG. notice I say "part" of the experience. Because another part is the predictability that you mention. It's important, but it's also not necessarily a constant. Do these situations happen all the time? No. But when they do arise, we treat them as an entertaining opportunity for shared creativity, rather than an exercise in frustration as we butt wills. This is why, in the previous thread, I mentioned maturity. It's integral to the process. Both on the part of the players, (not trying to game the system) and the DM (not trying to play gotcha). If you have those two simple elements in place, its an amazing experience. I'd hate to think that would get stripped from a ruleset that was trying to mitigate the damage those two immature groups might do to a game. I'd also hate to strip it from teh game due to some players desire to be less creative (a valid desire) and simply exist in the world purely in the framework of the what the designers were able to predict would occur. I don't think the designers should waste time plotting out every possible 9/10s scenario. Just get the main game right. Demonstrate a consistency with simple and clear rules that we can use while still allowing our own creativity to influence how the world works.
The short answer is that would never be the concensus. Why would any group choose for a character to do something completely at odds with what he/she was trying to accomplish (outside of a desire for comedic effect of course, which in some cases might be perfectly legitimate). It doesn't make any sense that they would do such a thing. The point of a concensus is that you define as a group how your world works and how that relates to the rules. If the group decides that the action would make no sense, it's assumed the character wouldn't have done it.

So...what actually happens? Is the player allowed to "take back" his action? Does the group redefine how the rule works so that the action makes sense? Is a one time exception made?

But when they do arise, we treat them as an entertaining opportunity for shared creativity, rather than an exercise in frustration as we butt wills. This is why, in the previous thread, I mentioned maturity. It's integral to the process.



The problem is your average gamer cannot go to the gaming store and buy maturity.  Nor is WotC well served by putting "Mature audiences only" on the cover of the main rulebook.  For one thing, it'd only guarantee that immature people buy it.

And while I'm happy that you and your group have managed to transcend this dilemma, most people go into the gaming store to buy impartiality, and when they turn to the impartial judge and it says, "Hey, you guys can work this out on your own," they're not going to be satisfied.

If this version of D&D is going to be as inclusive as possible, we need to reach out to the immature, to the people who go to the store to buy impartiality.  I proposed one way to do it.  I like my own proposal (of course) because I feel the people who are mature enough not to need spelled out guidelines have the maturity to ignore the part of the rulebook clearly not intended for them.  We can downgrade "Recommended" to "Suggested" if it makes it work better.

The immature, OTOH, will not take well a book that doesn't give them what they want from it.
Even in out of combat roleplaying situations, though, having to learn your DM can be frustrating when the rules are not well defined. I can recall a situation where my Druid, with a high Perception check and a spell that gives a bonus to Perception when checking for poisons, completely missed that a guest's wine had been spiked with peanuts, because "peanuts aren't poison," despite the fact that A) With my basic perception I should have noticed something was off, and B) To the guest the peanuts were in fact highly poisonous due to his allergy. This example has nothing to do with combat, but it would still have been aided by a clearer expression of what the spell actually looks for and how it affects my ability to notice other things while using it. It would at least have let me know that I needed to say "I'm checking the food and drink for poison and anything else out of place."

I think the whole boardgame/pure combat group idea that's been raised is a non sequitur, though. You can have both a desire to roleplay and explore a world and a desire for clearly defined rules with which to do so. I'd much rather be exploring the world and story my DM's created than wondering about exactly how the spells my character knows work this time.


Lol, I saw something recently about an article trying to legally classify sugar as toxic (I don't know the details, as I didn't read it).  Of course any substance can be toxic with the right dosage.  In light of that, would Senses of the Wild constantly send alarm bells ringing throughout the Druid's head?  Or only if something is present in toxic amounts?  Would a slice of cake be detected, or would you need an entire cake?  What about a bunch of slices that add up to a whole cake?  Would it make a difference if the slices were divided up among many people (all intending to ingest moderate amounts), or if one person intended to ingest all of it (an amount that would obviously make said individual sick?).  Would peanuts register only if someone who was allergic was about to consume them?  Or would peanuts only register if the Druid was allergic to them?  

These are some of life's biggest questions, guys Wink
The short answer is that would never be the concensus. Why would any group choose for a character to do something completely at odds with what he/she was trying to accomplish (outside of a desire for comedic effect of course, which in some cases might be perfectly legitimate). It doesn't make any sense that they would do such a thing. The point of a concensus is that you define as a group how your world works and how that relates to the rules. If the group decides that the action would make no sense, it's assumed the character wouldn't have done it.

So...what actually happens? Is the player allowed to "take back" his action? Does the group redefine how the rule works so that the action makes sense? Is a one time exception made?



There's no action to take back. There's nothing to redefine since we're talking about a case where the actual rule didn't appear to cover it, a corner case. You're not redefining, you're fleshing out the world.

But when they do arise, we treat them as an entertaining opportunity for shared creativity, rather than an exercise in frustration as we butt wills. This is why, in the previous thread, I mentioned maturity. It's integral to the process.



The problem is your average gamer cannot go to the gaming store and buy maturity.  Nor is WotC well served by putting "Mature audiences only" on the cover of the main rulebook.  For one thing, it'd only guarantee that immature people buy it.

And while I'm happy that you and your group have managed to transcend this dilemma, most people go into the gaming store to buy impartiality, and when they turn to the impartial judge and it says, "Hey, you guys can work this out on your own," they're not going to be satisfied.

If this version of D&D is going to be as inclusive as possible, we need to reach out to the immature, to the people who go to the store to buy impartiality.  I proposed one way to do it.  I like my own proposal (of course) because I feel the people who are mature enough not to need spelled out guidelines have the maturity to ignore the part of the rulebook clearly not intended for them.  We can downgrade "Recommended" to "Suggested" if it makes it work better.

The immature, OTOH, will not take well a book that doesn't give them what they want from it.

This is not a problem at all. I run this way at my local store and it works perfectly fine. People find it empowering and refreshing. I get the "why haven't we been doing this all along" comments alot. My presumption is that most gamers are mature and reasonable. This way of doing things is completely impartial. I've found it to be far more impartial than allowing a public DM you're never met before simply say yes or no (which is also fine). There's LESS frustration, not more. There's greater agency, not less. And, like I said, in a modular design, you can have it both ways. It is vastly more inclusive than a model with carved in stone rules with little ability for players to be creative in the world building. Again, I have no problem with super elaborate rule systems that attempt to account for every eventuality. It just doesnt seem like you'd make every gamer learn every little nuance of a game to get started. I think if you want to be inclusive, you make the core game simple and then add all the variable complexity later as you and your group see fit. Seems the 5E designers agree and this makes me hopeful going forward.
Even in out of combat roleplaying situations, though, having to learn your DM can be frustrating when the rules are not well defined. I can recall a situation where my Druid, with a high Perception check and a spell that gives a bonus to Perception when checking for poisons, completely missed that a guest's wine had been spiked with peanuts, because "peanuts aren't poison," despite the fact that A) With my basic perception I should have noticed something was off, and B) To the guest the peanuts were in fact highly poisonous due to his allergy. This example has nothing to do with combat, but it would still have been aided by a clearer expression of what the spell actually looks for and how it affects my ability to notice other things while using it. It would at least have let me know that I needed to say "I'm checking the food and drink for poison and anything else out of place."

I think the whole boardgame/pure combat group idea that's been raised is a non sequitur, though. You can have both a desire to roleplay and explore a world and a desire for clearly defined rules with which to do so. I'd much rather be exploring the world and story my DM's created than wondering about exactly how the spells my character knows work this time.


Lol, I saw something recently about an article trying to legally classify sugar as toxic (I don't know the details, as I didn't read it).  Of course any substance can be toxic with the right dosage.  In light of that, would Senses of the Wild constantly send alarm bells ringing throughout the Druid's head?  Or only if something is present in toxic amounts?  Would a slice of cake be detected, or would you need an entire cake?  What about a bunch of slices that add up to a whole cake?  Would it make a difference if the slices were divided up among many people (all intending to ingest moderate amounts), or if one person intended to ingest all of it (an amount that would obviously make said individual sick?).  Would peanuts register only if someone who was allergic was about to consume them?  Or would peanuts only register if the Druid was allergic to them?  

These are some of life's biggest questions, guys



This is exactly my point. Those are ALL valid questions. The impression I get is that some gamers on this thread really want the designers to sit down and chart out all those circumstances and write a rule that covers it. I just think this method of game design is wasteful, when we as players are perfectly capable of interpretting corner cases based on our own campaigns. The core of the rule is there. It's simple and complete. To add context to a rule for all those situations you list seems like overkill to me. Maybe I'm alone in this view but I can just imagine the game session as the DM,

"well there' are peanuts in the food, your spell doesn't detect them but he is allergic"
"Whats a toxic level of peanuts?"
"Hold on, let me confirm"
"turns to page 74: Toxicity, Section 2: Legumes"
"Ok, says here that the peanuts are toxic at .o1 oz ingested per kg, how much does your elf weigh?"
"umm, let me check my sheet"
"ok, here it is, 57Kg"
"Ok, well that's really close, what kind of peanuts are they? Because spanish peanuts are more toxic"
"It doesn't say anything about spanish peanuts"
"great, now what the heck are we gonna do?"
"I don't know, want to go play WoW?"
"sure"


The DM just decides and in some cases gives the player a do over.  The players learn their DM over time and alls good.
This is not a problem at all. I run this way at my local store and it works perfectly fine.  People find it empowering and refreshing. I get the "why haven't we been doing this all along" comments alot.



Then you are blessed with great charisma, and have no need of a spell to charm person.  But again, this is not something WotC can stick on a shelf and sell.

Are we even thinking of the same thing here?  Go back to the 2nd post, the first one I made, listing two different charm spells.  You're really supporting the first over the second?  What happens when that goes to playtesting?  "Oh, this worked great, because all my players are mature and reasonable, and we came to reasonable decisions about the corner cases you left out."  "Great!  I'm happy you understood the rules so well."  "Oh, this sucked, there was this corner case we didn't understand and it ended up being an hour long argument."  "Oh, oh my.  Did you read the section on being mature and reasonable?  Cuz if you missed that, I can see how you ended up in an argument."

My presumption is that most gamers are mature and reasonable.



To be honest I still contest this statement.  Most gamers are not mature and reasonable.  A lot of them are still teenagers.  And not even the older kind with driver's licenses.  But let's pretend it's true.  Most gamers are mature and reasonable and, if they are willing to go without rules, then they can do without rules.  They can do this at no cost to themselves.  That's why a free form RPG like OVA has one main developer working part time and a bunch of volunteer playtesters.  Not a whole lot of investment is required.

OTOH, if mature and reasonable gamers want a detailed system of rules to play with, they're stuck.  Detailed systems of rules require time, expertise, and playtesting, which are all resources unavailable to the average gamer.  If we're going to leverage hundreds of man-hours of design talent and thousands of man-hours of open playtesting, why not leverage it in a direction that plays to the strength of having design talent and playtesters?
I would rather the game designer said something, and said it well, so that if the group decides that they don't like what the designer said, they can talk it out and come to a consensus about how they think it should work, because in that case, everyone ends up on the same page ahead of time. As opposed to when the designer says very little, people come to their own individual conclusions, and we "find out together!" in the middle of a dire situation where the player is counting on a planned course of action working.



Is it just me or isnt a game where the majority of critical actions that take place in dire situations is based on a d20 roll almost guaranteed to have situations where a player is counting on a planned course of action working and it does not?

Even situations where you are almost guaranteed to succeed (95% of the time) still have a 5% chance of failure.

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Homogenising: Making vanilla in 31 different colours
Detailed systems of rules do not preclude argument over the rules. They just mean the arguments get more arcane and take up more time as you look up the rules.
I would rather the game designer said something, and said it well, so that if the group decides that they don't like what the designer said, they can talk it out and come to a consensus about how they think it should work, because in that case, everyone ends up on the same page ahead of time. As opposed to when the designer says very little, people come to their own individual conclusions, and we "find out together!" in the middle of a dire situation where the player is counting on a planned course of action working.



Is it just me or isnt a game where the majority of critical actions that take place in dire situations is based on a d20 roll almost guaranteed to have situations where a player is counting on a planned course of action working and it does not?

Even situations where you are almost guaranteed to succeed (95% of the time) still have a 5% chance of failure.

Great point. Very astute.
Detailed systems of rules do not preclude argument over the rules. They just mean the arguments get more arcane and take up more time as you look up the rules.

I would add that games with very elaborate rule sysems draw people who really enjoy parcing rules. Systems with more basic rulesets will attract the gamer who is less likely to argue about it because not everything is designed to hinge on the letter of the law. The more elaborate the rules get, the greater our reliance upon them.
This is not a problem at all. I run this way at my local store and it works perfectly fine.  People find it empowering and refreshing. I get the "why haven't we been doing this all along" comments alot.



Then you are blessed with great charisma, and have no need of a spell to charm person.  But again, this is not something WotC can stick on a shelf and sell.

Are we even thinking of the same thing here?  Go back to the 2nd post, the first one I made, listing two different charm spells.  You're really supporting the first over the second?  What happens when that goes to playtesting?  "Oh, this worked great, because all my players are mature and reasonable, and we came to reasonable decisions about the corner cases you left out."  "Great!  I'm happy you understood the rules so well."  "Oh, this sucked, there was this corner case we didn't understand and it ended up being an hour long argument."  "Oh, oh my.  Did you read the section on being mature and reasonable?  Cuz if you missed that, I can see how you ended up in an argument."

My presumption is that most gamers are mature and reasonable.



To be honest I still contest this statement.  Most gamers are not mature and reasonable.  A lot of them are still teenagers.  And not even the older kind with driver's licenses.  But let's pretend it's true.  Most gamers are mature and reasonable and, if they are willing to go without rules, then they can do without rules.  They can do this at no cost to themselves.  That's why a free form RPG like OVA has one main developer working part time and a bunch of volunteer playtesters.  Not a whole lot of investment is required.

OTOH, if mature and reasonable gamers want a detailed system of rules to play with, they're stuck.  Detailed systems of rules require time, expertise, and playtesting, which are all resources unavailable to the average gamer.  If we're going to leverage hundreds of man-hours of design talent and thousands of man-hours of open playtesting, why not leverage it in a direction that plays to the strength of having design talent and playtesters?

You're doing two things here worth mentioning.

"OTOH, if mature and reasonable gamers want a detailed system of rules to play with, they're stuck.....why not leverage it in a direction that plays to the strength of having design talent "

1. You're arguing in absolutes which is not the situation. Nobody is saying the options you're looking for shouldn't exist or that designers should forego offering them. In a modular system they should both exist and will. It's a win/win. We were simply putting forth the merits of one over the other based on our styles of play, not whether either had a right to exist.

"Most gamers are not mature and reasonable.'

2. You're basically saying, "our target audience is largely uneducated, immature and unreasonable, therefore, we should publish the most elaborate and expansive system possible". That doesn't really make sense to me.
"OTOH, if mature and reasonable gamers want a detailed system of rules to play with, they're stuck.....why not leverage it in a direction that plays to the strength of having design talent "

1. You're arguing in absolutes which is not the situation. Nobody is saying the options you're looking for shouldn't exist or that designers should forego offering them. In a modular system they should both exist and will. It's a win/win. We were simply putting forth the merits of one over the other based on our styles of play, not whether either had a right to exist.


Ah, I made so many drafts of that post I forgot the question:  Read my first post, (2nd in the thread), I posted two versions of Charm Person.  Are you really supporting the first version over the second one?  If you don't like either version, write one.


2. You're basically saying, "our target audience is largely uneducated, immature and unreasonable, therefore, we should publish the most elaborate and expansive system possible". That doesn't really make sense to me.



You're basically saying that this is a happy world where everyone can sit down and just talk things out and there's no need for arbitrage.  That doesn't make sense to me.  You've chosen to label being a part of that world as being mature and reasonable.  That forces me into the position of admitting that the world is immature and unreasonable. 

Historically, when humans have sat together and talked things out, it usually ended in either war, tyranny, or an elaborate and expansive system of justice.  And while, yes, an elaborate and expansive system of justice can be difficult to understand, and yes, people often detest the people fluent in it, when things do get bad, it is there.  You may have forgotten that since most people go for decades without ever seeing a court room.  The thing is, you have a general idea how it works.  Speeding will get you a ticket if you're caught, theft is bad, killing is straight out, and part of every paycheck goes to Uncle Sam.  You can live your life that way.  Most people live life that way, and probably consider themselves mature and reasonable.  But if the law were written as "Ticket people you catch speeding, arrest people who steal, try to reserve something nasty for murderers, and take a part of every person's paycheck" it'd all fall apart.  While those are great rules of thumb to live by, they are in fact terrible rules because of how arbitrary they are and how much power they give to the interpreter.

Full disclosure, my friends didn't like playing with me at first.  On the other hand, when they let me DM, it started the longest and most successful campaign we had as a group, and they haven't let me play the other side of the screen since... and yes, I do answer a lot of questions with, "What do you think should happen?" but it doesn't change how I feel about how the rules should be written.
"OTOH, if mature and reasonable gamers want a detailed system of rules to play with, they're stuck.....why not leverage it in a direction that plays to the strength of having design talent "

1. You're arguing in absolutes which is not the situation. Nobody is saying the options you're looking for shouldn't exist or that designers should forego offering them. In a modular system they should both exist and will. It's a win/win. We were simply putting forth the merits of one over the other based on our styles of play, not whether either had a right to exist.


Ah, I made so many drafts of that post I forgot the question:  Read my first post, (2nd in the thread), I posted two versions of Charm Person.  Are you really supporting the first version over the second one?  If you don't like either version, write one.


2. You're basically saying, "our target audience is largely uneducated, immature and unreasonable, therefore, we should publish the most elaborate and expansive system possible". That doesn't really make sense to me.



You're basically saying that this is a happy world where everyone can sit down and just talk things out and there's no need for arbitrage.  That doesn't make sense to me.  You've chosen to label being a part of that world as being mature and reasonable.  That forces me into the position of admitting that the world is immature and unreasonable. 

Historically, when humans have sat together and talked things out, it usually ended in either war, tyranny, or an elaborate and expansive system of justice.  And while, yes, an elaborate and expansive system of justice can be difficult to understand, and yes, people often detest the people fluent in it, when things do get bad, it is there.  You may have forgotten that since most people go for decades without ever seeing a court room.  The thing is, you have a general idea how it works.  Speeding will get you a ticket if you're caught, theft is bad, killing is straight out, and part of every paycheck goes to Uncle Sam.  You can live your life that way.  Most people live life that way, and probably consider themselves mature and reasonable.  But if the law were written as "Ticket people you catch speeding, arrest people who steal, try to reserve something nasty for murderers, and take a part of every person's paycheck" it'd all fall apart.  While those are great rules of thumb to live by, they are in fact terrible rules because of how arbitrary they are and how much power they give to the interpreter.

Full disclosure, my friends didn't like playing with me at first.  On the other hand, when they let me DM, it started the longest and most successful campaign we had as a group, and they haven't let me play the other side of the screen since... and yes, I do answer a lot of questions with, "What do you think should happen?" but it doesn't change how I feel about how the rules should be written.

"You're basically saying that this is a happy world where everyone can sit down and just talk things out and there's no need for arbitrage."

This sentence is internally contradictory. What it says isn't true, nor can it be. Sitting down and talking IS arbitrage (and also the basic act of playing an RPG interestingly enough). That's the point.

"Historically, when humans have sat together and talked things out, it usually ended in either war, tyranny, or an elaborate and expansive system of justice."

This statement is patently absurd and wildly false.  Lets add a bit of context to shine some light on it.

"Historically, when humans have sat together and talked about games, it usually ended in either war, tyranny, or an elaborate and expansive system of justice."

Do you still think it's true? Because, that's the point that you're making.

And your comparisons to laws is a false choice. Nobody is asking for rules to be written in that fashion. The comparison isn't apt. It's a straw man, and to be honest, a pretty lazy one.

Again, no one is trying to take away the things you like. No one is arguing for their removal from existance. So the need to defend them in such absurd ways strikes me as strange. We're discussing a modular system where both desires are easily achieved. The discussion was purely expository.

And for the record, I can't find your second definition of charm person. Just a reiteration of the first and a recommended guidance. If you're referring to the recommended guidance, I would have no problem with that. In fact, I would encourage it.
The debate is heated already and I don't want to enter it. However, I will post my thoughts on the issue in general: do what you wish with them.

The base question is: what are rules for? And the answer I have is: to adjudicate conflict.

Whenever there is no conflict, either because the result is irrelevant or because the result is already a given, then there should be no rules. Things just happen. I don't want rules for climbing the stairs unless it's cursed stairs of doom above a fiery pit of molten lava. So the first characteristic of good rules should be that they get out of the way when not needed.

When there is conflict, however, then there should be rules. If something has a chance of failure, then this chance should be measured somehow, and a random factor should decide whether or not that thing fails, or succeeds. The choice of random factor is, of course, the d20. The mechanism for measuring the chance of failure is through modifiers and DCs. It's simple, and works well: I don't see a reason to change it. You shouldn't even need any other mechanism, on a very basic level, for your rules to work.

When the conflict is complex, or extended, then you have a need for less variance (in the probability sense) and for more variety. This is why fighting rules have generally been more complex: to grant a more satisfying experience with more variety and less randomity in the system.

The issue of ambiguity of the rules is the issue of balancing these two requests: simplicity, intuitiveness, and little emphasis on number-crunching on one hand, but on the other, complexity and depth for more interesting gameplay and less random results. People generally look for vagueness when they need faster resolution: in case of ambiguity, the DM adjudicates the result, and since his word is final the process (while being a burden for the DM) goes generally faster and in a direction that is more helpful for the story, with less care for consistency in the world (that is not to say that there can be no consistency, but that the general effect is one of less consistency). People who look for specific rules look for fairness and consistency in expectations (and in some oddball cases more ruleslawyering). In a way, having more specific rules is helpful to the players and especially helpful if your DM is a moron, while having vague rules is helpful to DMs and especially helpful when the DM is very good.

I believe there is a need for balance. I also believe some aspects of the game need more specific rules while others benefit a lot from vagueness. I think that the more one aspect of the game comes up, the more it benefits from proper rules. The more a certain aspect of the game needs to be enjoyable and profund, the more it benefits from good rules. The more a certain thing happens sporadically, the more it benefits from having no or vague rules.
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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
The debate is heated already and I don't want to enter it. However, I will post my thoughts on the issue in general: do what you wish with them.

The base question is: what are rules for? And the answer I have is: to adjudicate conflict.

Whenever there is no conflict, either because the result is irrelevant or because the result is already a given, then there should be no rules. Things just happen. I don't want rules for climbing the stairs unless it's cursed stairs of doom above a fiery pit of molten lava. So the first characteristic of good rules should be that they get out of the way when not needed.

When there is conflict, however, then there should be rules. If something has a chance of failure, then this chance should be measured somehow, and a random factor should decide whether or not that thing fails, or succeeds. The choice of random factor is, of course, the d20. The mechanism for measuring the chance of failure is through modifiers and DCs. It's simple, and works well: I don't see a reason to change it. You shouldn't even need any other mechanism, on a very basic level, for your rules to work.

When the conflict is complex, or extended, then you have a need for less variance (in the probability sense) and for more variety. This is why fighting rules have generally been more complex: to grant a more satisfying experience with more variety and less randomity in the system.

The issue of ambiguity of the rules is the issue of balancing these two requests: simplicity, intuitiveness, and little emphasis on number-crunching on one hand, but on the other, complexity and depth for more interesting gameplay and less random results. People generally look for vagueness when they need faster resolution: in case of ambiguity, the DM adjudicates the result, and since his word is final the process (while being a burden for the DM) goes generally faster and in a direction that is more helpful for the story, with less care for consistency in the world (that is not to say that there can be no consistency, but that the general effect is one of less consistency). People who look for specific rules look for fairness and consistency in expectations (and in some oddball cases more ruleslawyering). In a way, having more specific rules is helpful to the players and especially helpful if your DM is a moron, while having vague rules is helpful to DMs and especially helpful when the DM is very good.

I believe there is a need for balance. I also believe some aspects of the game need more specific rules while others benefit a lot from vagueness. I think that the more one aspect of the game comes up, the more it benefits from proper rules. The more a certain aspect of the game needs to be enjoyable and profund, the more it benefits from good rules. The more a certain thing happens sporadically, the more it benefits from having no or vague rules.

Very interesting input. I would say, this question is somewhat ancillary to what I was talking about. However, I think it presents a very interesting point of discussion. Plus, the previous discussion has mostly devolved into defensive hyperbole, so I'd just as soon eject myself from it. So...

What are rules for?

I certainly wouldn't answer "To adjudicate conflict". Although, I can understand that as one answer based on how one views the game and what is important. I don't view the game that way though and don't consider that the key value or utility of rules for a fantasy RPG. I think resolving conflict exists as a goal for certain rules, but more broadly, I would answer the question to say that "Rules exist to explain how the world works".

I think of rules in a fantasy RPG the same way I think of laws of physics in our world. Things like how much damage a fall does, how many languages you can learn with an 18 intelligence, and how many miles you can walk in a day could, in theory be used to adjudicate a conflict but that, to me, is tangential to their real purpose, to help us understand what is, and why it is. Once you know these things, then you can go on to adjudicate most any conflict because you can contain it within the parameters of the world.

Just as one would need to understand things like gravity and momentum to consider whether they can jump a gap in the real world, a player needs to understand how that jump is modeled in the game world in order to attempt to do things. Is jumping the gap a conflict? Perhaps, but I think it's more basic than that. I think rules help us adjudicate all things, not just conflicts. Like to know if something is even possible or if it exists. Like a rule that says dead spirits must traverse the Shadowfell on their way to eternity. Or a rule that says 1 platinum is worth 5 gold. Or can I will myself to fly up to the top of that mountain in the game world? The rule will exist to tell us how things work.  Even hit and damage rolls which seem like an obvious way to resolve the conflict between my sword and an orcs head are really there to express how the world works. This is how much damage a sword does. This is how hard it is to hit something (AC rules).

So, I think your assessment of what rules are for is correct......for you.
But it's not the core purpose of what I want rules to do. This could very well be the underlying difference of what we want out of rules. It's likely based on what purpose they serve in the game.

Relating this back to not wanting overly elaborate and expansive rules that attempt to govern every corner case (i take issue with the naming of this thread since I've never advocated intentionally vague rules) I would say that it comes down to my view that rules tell us about the world and that a very large part of the joy of RPGs for me is the shared creativity of both filling the world with stuff, but also to a certain degree, getting to define bits of how that world actually works. The first is story and the second is, IMO, rules. Yes, this includes, but is not limited to creating house rules. But they're part of the same thing. The exact same reason that I would want to make a house rule (to make the game and world my own) is the reason I'd want the existing rules to be subject to my (and my groups) understanding of them. This, to me, is a major strength of RPGs and one that is minimized by rules that are careful to strictly preclude the group from impacting their application.

Lastly, I would say that I agree with your final statement, almost to the letter.

"I believe there is a need for balance. I also believe some aspects of the game need more specific rules while others benefit a lot from vagueness. I think that the more one aspect of the game comes up, the more it benefits from proper rules. The more a certain aspect of the game needs to be enjoyable and profund, the more it benefits from good rules. The more a certain thing happens sporadically, the more it benefits from having no or vague rules. "
Detailed systems of rules do not preclude argument over the rules. They just mean the arguments get more arcane and take up more time as you look up the rules.


+1

There's a spectrum with one end having hordes of complex and/or very specific rules, and when playing such a system the flow of play (and I'd argue immersion) is frequently broken up by arguments and/or constant rules-referencing; at the other end of the spectrum is a very rules-light, free-form system where play is rarely (if ever) interrupted by rules discussion because it's largely the DM's job to create rulings on the fly.

The vast majority of games occupy a middle ground on this spectrum, and every gaming group has a slightly different "ideal" along it as well.  A group filled with rules-lawyers and people who spend a lot of time thinking about the game (resulting in them having memorized a lot of these rules) will do better with a game closer to the first end of the spectrum, whereas a group of casual gamers and "watcher" types would be better served at the second end.  Most groups contain a mix of different kinds of players. 

The argument basically comes down to "where do you draw the line?"  With D&DN being modular, that line will be flexible but in the core set they will tend to shy away from complicated, overly-specific rules systems.

"Look what you are doing, here: you take a poorly-defined spell (Charm Person) and add to it a model, taken from your own experience, to define how it works. Would the spell really not have been far better with that model explicitly included from the start?"
My answer would be "absolutely not". Simply because it's not how I would model it. The same thing could be said of whatever a designer might include. This is where the consensus world building comes in. I don't consider the wording poor. I think it's pretty clear. Shaman did too I think. The issue is that we can disagree on it to a certain degree. It is the sorting out of those disagreements that I enjoy, and the ensuing "model" that is of our own creation. This makes the world feel more organic and genuine. Plus, the model can expand and even change as necessary to reflect our developing understanding of our shared world.

Sorry, I just don't get this. You want to have a spell with a different effect than the one Shaman wants, so, instead of actually having a different spell with the effect you want, you actually, actively want there to be a "hybrid" spell that can be defined to be either spell (or, indeed, some other spell still)?? This really makes no sense to me at all.
"It’s not a system – it’s an invitation to come up with a system of your own." While I think this is somewhat hyperbolic, I actually agree. I want rules to be evocative and inspirational, that make us imagine wonderous things and seek to engage in them wholesale. Rules that are overly burdened with explanation and caveat can't achieve that as well, even if (and actually BECAUSE) they become "ironclad perfection" as you envision. Should rules be "intentionally vague"? No. Absolutely not. However, they should welcome the vision of their users and the application of them such that they serve the game and the story, rather than command it.

But the example spell as I (deliberately) worded it is (intentionally) vague!  I'm not asking for "ironclad perfection" - I'm asking for game elements (like spells) to be constructed, at least in the published rules, to actually specify what they do. If someone wants to homebrew an alternative that is (intentionally) unspecified, fine - but why should I pay for a lack of any specification? I can provide that quite adequately myself, if I want it!
"players who want to focus on “beating the encounters” can..."
This simply is not me, nor my group, so it's hard to use that as a baseline for what's "correct" or "best".  This is why the modular approach is so wonderful. They write a baseline game with enough direction and guidance for me, without undue constriction, while adding things like gridded combat rules and further expansion on what capabilities exist for people who's main goal is "beating the encounters". We can literally have a win/win. I think this is their goal. I HOPE this is their goal. Based on this rather lengthy exchange combined with what I've seen so far, I see no reason they can't realistically achieve it, with perhaps a few mild concessions from both views.

As long as they add vague and unspecified elements only in modules, I agree. Why anyone would really want to use "added vagueness" is a mystery, to me, but if there's a demand for it I have no objections to them being available!
@Nelyo
I don't think we are disagreeing ultimately.  I'm not advocating everything be free form either.  It's just that as you try to nail things down too much you sometimes go to far and make the game not fun.  Thats all.  4e's slavishness to this principle went a bit too far in the hard magic arena for me.  I prefer that things like fire not hurt fire elementals or blunt weapons are better against skeletons.  I realize judgment opens up the possibilities of bad judgments but to me it's worth the risk to a degree.

Other than blunt weapons not being defined as a class, this is quite possible in 4e already - which has notably non-vague rules. Just add "Immunity (own element)" to elementals and "Resist (edge or point damage) X" to skeletons and you're done. It's houseruling, sure, but houseruling monster stats is about the most common form there is, surely?
The problem is, is that if I, as a player, do not know how the tools at my disposal (be they spells, skills, etc.) work, then I can't put a plan into action either to protect myself or to overcome an obstacle. The more ambiguity in the rules, the more potential for "Gotcha!" moments when it suddenly becomes apparent that the DM and I have different interpretations of how something works. If I come up with a plan that involves casting a grease spell and then setting it on fire, I'm not going to find out until the middle of the action when the DM says "Grease isn't flammable," and by that point I'm screwed because I'm wasting time in a dangerous situation trying to do something that my character should have known wouldn't work. If I don't even know where the corner cases exist on my tools because the descriptions of how they work are so vague, then my agency is effectively limited. Taking the example of Charm Person, as a player walking into a game with a new DM, I don't know what this spell does because I don't know where the DM draws the line on "trusted friend and ally." Can I get him to risk injury to help me? Maybe. Can I get him to give me a loan with generous terms? Maybe. Will he come back and break my legs after the spell wears off because the DM decides that people don't rationalize their actions in the aftermath of being Charmed? Who knows?
This isn't incompatible with allowed the DM to make judgment calls. Finding yourself in a bad situation and looking to a corner case as a "Hail Mary" can be a great way to enact a dramatic comeback (and give the DM an out to avoid a TPK), but I'd rather be able to turn a situation around because I have tools at my disposal and can be confident that they will actually work because their application is well defined.

"Can I get him to risk injury to help me? Maybe. Can I get him to give me a loan with generous terms? Maybe. Will he come back and break my legs after the spell wears off because the DM decides that people don't rationalize their actions in the aftermath of being Charmed? Who knows?"

I don't know! Let's find out together!  (would you rather a game designer simply said NO to all those questions? Simply said YES?).

I want the designers to say "no" or "yes" as a default, absolutely!  Can they suggest alternatives or offer advice on changing this? Yes, of course. But having a game element that is freely available for players to take as part of their character build that are open to wide degrees of interpretation is just a deeply flawed rule, as far as I can see. It's asking for intra-group conflict, confusion, and for the player to either excite envy from others as it becomes obvious that the element can do far more than they think reasonable, or despair for themselves as it becomes clear that it does not add to the character what they thought it would add.
Is it just me or isnt a game where the majority of critical actions that take place in dire situations is based on a d20 roll almost guaranteed to have situations where a player is counting on a planned course of action working and it does not?
Even situations where you are almost guaranteed to succeed (95% of the time) still have a 5% chance of failure.

This isn't even similar. If there is a die roll involved, I know that there is a chance of failure; I probably even have some reasonable idea how big that chance is. If I pick a power or spell assuming that it will have a specific effect and then find that it won't, however, there is no "chance" involved - I've just been screwed over by a mismatch of assumptions. It's not (necessarily) anyones fault, but we still have a pot of bad feelings to drink from that we didn't need to have.
Detailed systems of rules do not preclude argument over the rules. They just mean the arguments get more arcane and take up more time as you look up the rules.

This is true, but who is talking about "detailed systems of rules"? 4e is vertainly no more detailed than 3.X, and yet the difference in ambiguity and vagueness is immense. In 4e you might see:

Charm Person; Daily Wizard Attack, Arcane, Implement (Charm)
Attack (Ranged 10): Int vs Will
Hit: The target is Dominated (save ends).

That's hardly "detailed" or complex, and yet it describes explicitly what the spell does instead of talking in vague generalities about "reasonable actions" or "treating the caster as a trusted friend". No complex detail is needed - just clear specificity.
======= Balesir
Is it just me or isnt a game where the majority of critical actions that take place in dire situations is based on a d20 roll almost guaranteed to have situations where a player is counting on a planned course of action working and it does not?

Even situations where you are almost guaranteed to succeed (95% of the time) still have a 5% chance of failure.

There's a difference between succeeding or failing based on a die roll, an impartial simulation of chance, and succeeding or failing based on whether or not the DM agrees with you about how a spell works. I have no problem with taking a risky course of action and failing based on the dice. I have a problem with taking a risky course of action and auto-failing because the DM and I don't interpret the world in the same way based on an ambiguously worded rule.

Is it just me or isnt a game where the majority of critical actions that take place in dire situations is based on a d20 roll almost guaranteed to have situations where a player is counting on a planned course of action working and it does not?

Even situations where you are almost guaranteed to succeed (95% of the time) still have a 5% chance of failure.

There's a difference between succeeding or failing based on a die roll, an impartial simulation of chance, and succeeding or failing based on whether or not the DM agrees with you about how a spell works. I have no problem with taking a risky course of action and failing based on the dice. I have a problem with taking a risky course of action and auto-failing because the DM and I don't interpret the world in the same way based on an ambiguously worded rule.


But that's no longer "risk", that's something else and I would also want to avoid it. If you think this is what I'm (or anyone here thus far) presenting as desirable then I'm simply doing a poor job of communicating. Somehow you keep saying/implying outcomes or resolutions that I've never mentioned nor seen on this thread. That's why I comment that your responses are defensive and strange.
But that's no longer "risk", that's something else and I would also want to avoid it. If you think this is what I'm (or anyone here thus far) presenting as desirable then I'm simply doing a poor job of communicating. Somehow you keep saying/implying outcomes or resolutions that I've never mentioned nor seen on this thread. That's why I comment that your responses are defensive and strange.

Whereas you avoid giving any specific examples whatsoever so I'm forced to guess at how things go at your table when the sort of problems I've seen come up arise in order to understand why you don't think this is an issue. And I don't think that you think that outcome is desireable, but I think that it is an outcome that will arise when rules are worded ambiguously enough that a DM and a player can independently come to different conclusions about how something like Charm Person works, because unless players sit down with you and discuss how all the spells they want to use work prior to using them in game, sooner or later they're going to whip out a spell in a situation and expect it to do something that the rest of the group doesn't think it can do.

Take the peanut example I used earlier, because it illustrates two points: One, the DM and I had different expectations about what was happening when my character made a perception check boosted by a power that aids in detecting poison. He thought that because I was using a power to boost Perceptions checks with regard to poisons, that that was all I had a chance to find with my Perception check, whereas I thought that I was making a general Perception check that was effectively higher with regard to poisons. Two, the fact that we had different expectations was not realized when I made the skill check, but rather after our guest had consumed wine spiked with peanuts and died, which meant that the possibility of rewinding the scene 5 minutes was out of the question.

Or take the example of the Bard trying to use Charm Person to smooth along negotiations; if the DM assumes that there are consequences once Charm Person wears off (due to the subject not rationalizing decisions made while under mind control, etc.) and the player doesn't realize this, the group probably isn't going to find out about this mismatch of expectations until the duration expires and the formerly Charmed negotiator furiously storms in, reneges on previously made agreements, and ends the negotiations.

Also, if I seem defensive, then it might be because I find myself having to counter implications that I don't like risk, always want to succeed, am more focused on combat than roleplaying, and would be better off playing a boardgame/MMO, all because I like clearly enumerated rules.