Tone and Edition (with Rob Schwalb)

In today's D&D Next blog, Rob Schwalb talks about varying tones and preferences of the fantasy genre and how they relate to the various editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

Go read the blog, post in the comments and come back here for further discussion. 

All around helpful simian

The idea of slapping a 'rarity' on such things, I do not like.  Firstly, such a system should be dependent on the DM's choice, and his setting, not the game books.  I might be running a game where humans are rare and dragonborn are common and elves don't even exist.  Same with classes.

Secondly ... unless you put some lame mechanic on it ('You must roll percentile dice to see what class or race you can be'), it's pretty much meaningless anyway.  It reminds me of the stupidity of stat requirements for classes in 1e (and 2e?  can't recall), which I also never liked.  At most, you're going to get 'didn't make it, reroll, didn't make it, reroll, didn't make it, reroll ... ah, made it!  Even if you say 'tieflings are rare' ... what would actually stop all five of your players from being tieflings?  Heck, it even makes more sense ... if there aren't a lot of you, you're more likely to want to gather with your own kind as a matter of solidarity and mutual defense.

Third ... don't most people do this already?  I can't recall ever playing in a game where I wasn't informed how likely I was to run into another of my race somewhere, or if people were going to look at me funny or not.

I officially vote this as a bad idea.  However, I am very big on player choice and player options; I generally don't ban or restrict things unless I think they are mechanically unsound.  It doesn't matter if I don't like it, even if I'm the DM, because it's not all about me (if that were the case, there'd be about 5 races and 11 classes in my 4e game).
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I'll repost here, because there's more room for "discussion":

My one concern with the "grouped by rarity" approach is that all it really serves to do is validate certain racial inclusions/exclusions, and put a big warning sticker on certain races for new players and DMs.

I still think the better way to validate inclusions/exclusions is to just do it all with one broad-stroke "The DM says what is, and is not, in his world." It's not like folks don't already know which races are "common" in fantasy, and which are not.

And I think the "warning sticker" aspect (which can happen even if you just single a group of races out as "different" than the others), is just unfortunate.

You got beyond the idea of "one type of (correct) fantasy" - would you have if the Dragonborn and Warlord were huddled off in the corner with a big "Warning! These are just weird!" sign draped over them?
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Personal opinion...

I like it because it gives DM's permission to say "no" while still providing the options for those who say "yes."  While that level of permission has always been sort of implied, it has never been expressly stated and thus new DMs have sometimes felt pressured to allow things they might not otherwise want in their campaigns.  In that way, its similar to how combat roles were always sort of implied but not given a name until 4th edition.  The common/uncommon/rare labels are just that, labels.  Once a DM gets more comfortable with the rules, they can cherry pick from among the categories to their heart's content, but the labels serve as a rough guideline for those just starting out. 

All around helpful simian

..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />My one concern with the "grouped by rarity" approach is that all it really serves to do is validate certain racial inclusions/exclusions, and put a big warning sticker on certain races for new players and DMs.



That, too.  Some people are likely to think that a 'rare' label means that there's something wrong/disruptive/unbalanced about the race rather than the game forcing flavor on them (which it shouldn't do).
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Personal opinion...


Aren't they all?  

I like it because it gives DM's permission to say "no" while still providing the options for those who say "yes."


Does it really do anything more than just give permission, though?  Why is this preferable to just "giving DMs permission to say 'no'" in a clear and succinct way?

Once a DM gets more comfortable with the rules, they can cherry pick from among the categories to their heart's content, but the labels serve as a rough guideline for those just starting out. 


Guideline for what, though?  If all races are created equal (because none are absolutely superior choices to others), what "guideline" are you giving?

One to create a "typical fantasy world"?

Aren't the choices involved in that incredible obvious already, to anyone who would care?
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)
It's far worse to tell someone he cannot do something (that particular option doesn't exist, or is explicitly banned), than it is to tell someone that someone else can do something (that particular option is "icky").
As far as I care, that second guy's opinion doesn't matter.
No.
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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
If you want race rareties they should be listed in the campaign setting. 
Should the player handbook be made with a specific campaign setting in mind it should clearly be stated to look at the race rarety table in the campaign setting book if your not playing this default campaign setting.

for example  Thri-kreen might be listed as rare in the player handbook and eberon campaign setting.
but might be listed as common in the dark sun campaign setting. 

if a race is not mentioned in the list in the campaign setting it should be assumed to be rare (maybe even not playable) 
If you want race rareties they should be listed in the campaign setting. 
Should the player handbook be made with a specific campaign setting in mind it should clearly be stated to look at the race rarety table in the campaign setting book if your not playing this default campaign setting.

for example  Thri-kreen might be listed as rare in the player handbook and eberon campaign setting.
but might be listed as common in the dark sun campaign setting. 

if a race is not mentioned in the list in the campaign setting it should be assumed to be rare (maybe even not playable) 



I like this, The handbook races should be fairly setting neutral, just describe the physical characteristics and leave the culture and rarity to be described by the individual campaign setting. In fact I would be fine with no default campaign setting (maybe thats just me though since I have never played or ran a campaign in the default)
I haven't been a fan of this rarity label since I first heard about it, either for classes or races.  It's completely setting-dependent and doesn't need to be in the core rules.  DMs are free to place restrictions as they wish without the rulebooks implicitly suggesting that some races and classes are "more bannable" than others.  If they must be broken into categories I would prefer they be distinguished by something other than rarity.  Ultimately I don't see this as a big issue though.

While I like the idea of including the vast array of classes and races that have appeared in the past at some point in 5E, I really hope that having them all in the first wave of books is a lower priority than having them well-designed with sufficient playtesting and rules support.  I was perfectly fine with 4E's assortment of classes in PHb1 and didn't mind waiting for some of the others.
Hmm, let's change the labels for a second...

Common = Classic D&D or BECMI.

Uncommon = AD&D 1st Edition or AD&D 2nd Edition or early 3rd Edition.

Rare = Late 3rd Edition or 4th Edition.

Now how do they look? 

All around helpful simian

if a race is not mentioned in the list in the campaign setting it should be assumed to be rare (maybe even not playable) 

Everything needs to be a theoretically playable race, from a housecat all the way up to the Tarrasque and various demigods.

It is the DM who shoots down a player's idea, at the moment the player mentions it.  Not the books themselves (apart from simple omission), and definitely not some other player at the table.
This could work to a certain extent, if they make clear they are talking about how common the races are in the generic default setting, along with explaining in the DMG how to setup the rarity factor for each campaign. However, it is something that needs to be essentially rule free and just mentioned in passing as a guideline.

It is something I think should be mentioned at some point, for two reasons. First, rarity is part of the racial concept for some races, and changing that changes the race. The DM can do that if they want for a campaign, but changing a race is the sort of thing that needs to be clear to everybody involved. Second, because D&D now has too many races for most campaign worlds. There isn't enough space or places to fit a background in for every one of the many D&D races and variants.

if a race is not mentioned in the list in the campaign setting it should be assumed to be rare (maybe even not playable) 

Everything needs to be a theoretically playable race, from a folding chair all the way up to the Tarrasque and various demigods.

It is the DM who shoots down a player's idea, at the moment the player mentions it.  Not the books themselves (apart from simple omission).  Not some other player at the table.



ok a compromise ?
if a race is not mentioned in the list in the campaign setting it should be assumed to be extreemly rare


if a race is not mentioned in the list in the campaign setting it should be assumed to be extreemly rare

That's included in DM's Prerogative.

Hmm, let's change the labels for a second...
[...]
Now how do they look? 


My complaints remain (though it's certainly an improvement - honestly anything other than Common/Uncommon/Rare would be an improvement for me).

In fact, changing it thusly really erases any utility to the "new players" it was described as being aimed toward.  Why should I, the new player, care which races were in 1e/2e/3e/4e?

The only people who those distinctions would be useful at all to will already know what races are in the games they're familiar with, and have played, and prefer. 

Saying "Dragonborn were in 4e" just doesn't actually provide any kind of benefit.
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)
Hmm, let's change the labels for a second...

Common = Classic D&D or BECMI.

Uncommon = AD&D 1st Edition or AD&D 2nd Edition or early 3rd Edition.

Rare = Late 3rd Edition or 4th Edition.

Now how do they look? 



No offense, but ... just as stupid, cumbersome, interfering, and useless.

Again ... what does designating a race as rare actually MEAN, for the player?  Is there some kind of enforced limit?  'Only one rare race allowed in a party'?  What could be the possible benefits of that sort of arbitrary limitation?  If it's just an RP thing, where you might go months or years without encountering another one of your own race, that already happens and there really isn't a need to codify it.
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Hmm, let's change the labels for a second...

Common = Classic D&D or BECMI.

Uncommon = AD&D 1st Edition or AD&D 2nd Edition or early 3rd Edition.

Rare = Late 3rd Edition or 4th Edition.

Now how do they look? 



The problem is it's still very setting dependent.  I.e. that breakdown wouldn't work in a standard Dark Sun campaign.  Gnomes would be common under that breakdown, they would be rare (at best) in Dark Sun.  Muls would be rare (again, at best) in a regular campaign, but common in Dark Sun. and so one.  Not to mention whatever racial mixes the thousands of players out there will come up with for their home campaigns.


So in the end, DMs will still be deciding on a case by case basis what races/classes are going to be in their campaigns, rarity labels or no.  So I don't see where the value of the label really is.  
if you link rarity to campaign settings it can also have in game effects.

for example a rare race might not be seen as a normal part of the society,
the city guard might be on edge having one of these strange people inside the city walls. 
if you link rarity to campaign settings it can also have in game effects.

for example a rare race might not be seen as a normal part of the society,
the city guard might be on edge having one of these strange people inside the city walls. 



And we need rules for this ... why?
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for example a rare race might not be seen as a normal part of the society,
the city guard might be on edge having one of these strange people inside the city walls. 

Do we really need to explicitly state (or rather: implicitly state, via an arbitrary 'rarity') that a Tiefling is probably going to get strange stares when walking down a street in Des Moines?

The only campaign setting that has any use for character "rarity" is Equestria.
Hmm, let's change the labels for a second...

Common = Classic D&D or BECMI.

Uncommon = AD&D 1st Edition or AD&D 2nd Edition or early 3rd Edition.

Rare = Late 3rd Edition or 4th Edition.

Now how do they look? 



The problem is it's still very setting dependent.  I.e. that breakdown wouldn't work in a standard Dark Sun campaign.  Gnomes would be common under that breakdown, they would be rare (at best) in Dark Sun.  Muls would be rare (again, at best) in a regular campaign, but common in Dark Sun. and so one.  Not to mention whatever racial mixes the thousands of players out there will come up with for their home campaigns.


So in the end, DMs will still be deciding on a case by case basis what races/classes are going to be in their campaigns, rarity labels or no.  So I don't see where the value of the label really is.  



I can only see the value of the rarity lable if it is combined with the campaign setting.

if a race is common for example warforged in eberon.
this means the campaign setting includes lore and history that suports this race and that the race is a major factor in the campaign setting.
your very likly to run into NPC's of this race.

if a race is uncommon:
there might be some lore about this race in the campaign setting but the race is not one of the major races that influenced the campaign setting
you could still run into npc's of this race in published adventures but it is more uncommon to do so.

if a race is rare:
the campaign setting does not have lore on this race.
when playing published advebtures you will probebly never run into another person of your race.


 
i dislike the "tolkien" fantasy and loves me some eberron and dark sun. i like the warlock and warlord. i love the warden. give me warforged and dragonborn.

so what does rarity mean for me?

if it means nothing at all, then what's the point in having it? if it means limiting my characters no thank you.

if 5th ed truly wants to preach inclusiveness "these are normal, these are not, BEWARE!" is hardly the best way to do so


if 5th ed truly wants to preach inclusiveness "these are normal, these are not, BEWARE!" is hardly the best way to do so



Another very good point.  "Yeah, the race you like ... we're dumping on it.  Have fun playing the game!" isn't going to get a lot of traction.
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if 5th ed truly wants to preach inclusiveness "these are normal, these are not, BEWARE!" is hardly the best way to do so


Precisely this. 
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
if you link rarity to campaign settings it can also have in game effects.

for example a rare race might not be seen as a normal part of the society,
the city guard might be on edge having one of these strange people inside the city walls. 



And we need rules for this ... why?



i would see it more as guidelines.

guidelines are very nice for people new to DnD or new to a specific campaign setting.

more experianced players like yourselve might not need these guide lines/ training weels.
but that does not mean they should not be available to those who might need them.

so that a player new to a campain setting knows that if he choses a common race he shoulden't run into to much truble and his race choice is fully suported by the campaign setting
If you take a look at the rest of the blog, Rob points out that everyone's "default" fantasy is different.  How then, does D&D cater to such a diverse array of preferences when it comes to fantasy?

By presenting several defaults.

Each "level" of rarity presents a different sort of default.  Common only presents a very different default than Uncommon + Rare.  It allows the game to be different things to different people without completely excluding anyone.

All around helpful simian

This idea is overly complicated.  Instead of assigning each race and class a rarity, just include a brief sidebar at the beginning of the character creation section, like this:

Dungeons & Dragons is a cooperative work of fantasy that, much like a short story or novel, has a unique tone and setting that is set by those telling the story.  Players and DMs share the task of crafting the stories being told.  Just as you wouldn't write up a story's characters without first knowing the setting, players should speak to the DM about the kind of setting and story they will all be engaged in.  DM's are encouraged to be flexible and to say yes when they can, but Players must understand that some things just do not fit together well, or easily.  Just as the DM is the final arbiter of the rules, he/she has the final say on setting as well, and that includes the races and classes avilable to the Players.



That's all we really need, just a simple section that sets out 1) the DM's right to say no, and 2) the DM's obligation to reasonably accommodate player requests when possible.

There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.

If you take a look at the rest of the blog, Rob points out that everyone's "default" fantasy is different.  How then, does D&D cater to such a diverse array of preferences when it comes to fantasy?

By presenting several defaults.

Each "level" of rarity presents a different sort of default.  Common only presents a very different default than Uncommon + Rare.  It allows the game to be different things to different people without completely excluding anyone.



Presenting no defaults accomplishes the exact same thing.  All it needs is a small section on worldbuilding and making clear that such things are the purview of the game group.
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i haven't played an elf in years. i haven't featured elves heavily in my games. 

why should elves be common while teiflings are not? 

that's what getting us in arms.

sure we can pick which categories we want to use, but WotC is still the ones making the categories. 

as for how the races apply to the settings, the 4th ed settings book already go into detail on how to present  or include various races and classes in the settings.

labelling them as common, uncommon, rare does very little compared to an actual and frank discussion of a race's place in the setting 
I propose categorizing races based on familiarity, and mostly in terms of mindset, which is intrinsic to the race: Familiar, Unfamiliar, Exotic.

So your humans, most elves, dwarves, and halflings would be Familiar races. We're very similar to them (for obvious reasons :P)

Half-orcs/orcs, maybe gnomes, some other elves, would be Unfamiliar. They're sort of like us, but they do have more different outlooks and ways of thinking.

Dragonborn, Teiflings, Thri-Kreen would be Exotic. They're very different from us in how they think, not only in their physiology.

This immediately tells new players what they'd be like to RP and how much effort it'll take, and is mostly not campaign specific and it doesn't imply anything about what the races role in any given world is.
"I don't want to fight dragons." - Hiccup If dragons are to be invovled, I much prefer to play as a dragon, dragon rider, dragonslayer-slayer, dragonfriend, or anything else *but* a dragonslayer.
i haven't played an elf in years. i haven't featured elves heavily in my games. 

why should elves be common while teiflings are not? 

that's what getting us in arms.

sure we can pick which categories we want to use, but WotC is still the ones making the categories. 

as for how the races apply to the settings, the 4th ed settings book already go into detail on how to present  or include various races and classes in the settings.

labelling them as common, uncommon, rare does very little compared to an actual and frank discussion of a race's place in the setting 



Put frankly, you are proposing meaningless labels that do not accomplish any real purpose while still giving those of us which are not aligned with "proper fantasy" or common fantasy or whatever you call it a bad feeling. You're basically putting dragonborns in a ghetto, call it whatever you want but you're still singling it out and saying "this race is not like humans, elves, dwarves and halflings". Everyone knows those four races are the base of fantasy - or were several generations ago at least - and therefore putting dragonborns, gnomes or whatever in another category is like putting them in a sort of a ghetto. Just like when putting people in a ghetto you don't accomplish anything (since those races are still there in the book), but still manage to convey a discriminatory feel towards those races, and the only ones rejoicing are those who can spit on the races in the ghetto and say "haha! There you are, you shouldn't even exist, at least you're in a ghetto like your kind deserves". Which, quite frankly, is disturbing.

So all in all I believe this solution is absolutely terrible from all relevant points of view. 
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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


labelling them as common, uncommon, rare does very little compared to an actual and frank discussion of a race's place in the setting 



it would be a quick refrence at the start of the races chapter of the campaign setting.
probebly in the same table that has the rase ability score modifyers for quick refrence

the "an actual and frank discussion of a race's place in the setting" would be part of the more in depth description of the race later in the chapter.
This might give insight to why a race is marked as common,uncommon or rare in the table.
 
so then why have the rarity if you'll have the discussion?

what would 1 page of rarity + 9 pages of race/class "where does this fit in the setting" discussion do that 10 pages of race/class "where does this fit in the setting" doesn't?

mechanics for the sake of mechanics does not cut it for me and this idea simply seems like a pointless page-filler.
If you take a look at the rest of the blog, Rob points out that everyone's "default" fantasy is different.  How then, does D&D cater to such a diverse array of preferences when it comes to fantasy?

By presenting several defaults.

Each "level" of rarity presents a different sort of default.  Common only presents a very different default than Uncommon + Rare.  It allows the game to be different things to different people without completely excluding anyone.



Why not just say here are the races. Check with your DM to see if the race exists in his game. Problem solved.

Most DM's I know are accommodating for race as long as the campaign setting doesn't preclude it, and will use it as RP fodder (imagine being a dragonborn going into a town that has never seen one, held siege by a dragon).

The rarity in the PHB is not needed. However, campaign specific rarities I could see since it's based on an established world built outside the DM.
so then why have the rarity if you'll have the discussion?

what would 1 page of rarity + 9 pages of race/class "where does this fit in the setting" discussion do that 10 pages of race/class "where does this fit in the setting" doesn't?

mechanics for the sake of mechanics does not cut it for me and this idea simply seems like a pointless page-filler.



becouse it would speed up character generation.
look in the table what race has ability scores that suit your idea then flip to the page that has the discription of the race.

you mihgt not want or have the time to read the description of every race before making your desicion,
a table with the ability score modifyers and rarity would narow the field of whitch race you might want to pick without having to read the full discription of each race. 
Wow, it seems like much ado about nothing.

These categories will have little impact outside of providing a metric for DMs and players to use guage how closely they want to adhere to the traditional D&D experience or not. It doesn't inherently limit what anyone can play, and it's likely that the text that explains "rarity" will also explain that in some settings the rarities may vary drastically from what is presented as "default" in the PHB and that the DM can adjust them to fit their homebrewed campaigns and they can be used by campaign setting expansions to determine their own default.

for people who don't like the wording common, uncommon, and rare.

if they where linked to campaign settings i could also use these instead:

fully supported by the campaign setting.
(plenty of lore in the setting for these no need for a Dm to make up lore him/herselve)

partualy supported by the campaign setting.
( limited lore in the campaign setting a DM might want to introduce more himselve if a player choses this race)

not supported by the campaign setting.
( there is no lore on this race in the campaign setting, if a player wants to play one of these races the DM has to make up the lore about how the race fits into the campaign setting himselve.)


 
Why group clusters of races or classes together as rare or not.  Why not guide the DM to make thes decisions informed by the desires of his group.  If no one wants to play an elf or gnome but dragonborn are popular and one player wants to play a tiefling, but would prefer to have that tiefling racial history. 

Why not make fey creatures rare or non-existant, have a vast dragonborn empire, and have tieflings be a rare result of corrupted bloodlines that show up erratically within family trees and not a atrue race at all.  DMs can do this, of course.  Inform the campaign world through the choices of the players.  A warforged might use the ebberon backstory, but might just as easily be a one of a kind magical accident, the soul of a real person trapped in a magically animated body.  I think the common/uncommon/rare mentality discourages this type of thinking.


I'd just like to encourage them to embrace their characters choices, and not set the rules up so that there is an undercurrent of "The DM is empowered to dismiss character options he isn't invested in personally."
How then, does D&D cater to such a diverse array of preferences when it comes to fantasy?

By presenting several defaults.


But that doesn't "cater to a diverse array of preferences when it comes to fantasy" - it caters to a handful of "default" arrays of preferences when it comes to fantasy.

Again, simply saying "The DM can say no" (with better phrasing) accomplishes the same primary goal, and better caters to a "diverse array of preferences".

It allows the game to be different things to different people without completely excluding anyone.


It's just not the best way to do so.  This can be accomplished in a different way, without the side effect of telling new players "These are the standard - these other ones are weird."
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)