My problem with DM fiat and 5E

With all the talk about DM empowerment, I had been expecting a return of DM fiat. I played 2E for years, so I'm familiar with it and was comfortable with it in the past. I find myself having a violently negative reaction to it now, and I think I've figured out why. 5E is mixing DM fiat into the mechanics. I'm finding myself hating the mixing of the two, where I'm more ok with them in isolation. It's trying to go both ways at the same time and it's a Frankensteins monster.
...whatever
DM Fiat never left.  Page 42.  Rule 0.  DM's that abuse Fiat have a tendacy to not have players.
And crooks that abuse Fiat  - don't escape with the gold - or do they?

It's "The Self Preservation Society" 
There isn't, or shouldn't be, such a thing as "DM Fiat".  The DM has specific duties and responsibilities.  There's a lot of power that comes with that, but the DM needs to have a strict code delineated in the DMG about how he is to use that power and to what end.  None of this "you're in control, do whatever you want" silliness posing as "advice".
There isn't, or shouldn't be, such a thing as "DM Fiat".  The DM has specific duties and responsibilities.  There's a lot of power that comes with that, but the DM needs to have a strict code delineated in the DMG about how he is to use that power and to what end.  None of this "you're in control, do whatever you want" silliness posing as "advice".




DM FIAT RUNS THE ENTIRE GAME.  It is the DM's good nature that allows the universe to exist.  At some point it comes down to the DM to say this does or does not happen.

Fiat means:


1.

an authoritative decree, sanction, or order: a royal fiat.Synonyms: authorization, directive, ruling, mandate, diktat,ukase.


2.
a fixed form of words containing the word fiat,  by which aperson in authority gives sanction, or authorization.


3.
an arbitrary decree or pronouncement, especially by aperson or group of persons having absolute authority toenforce it: The king ruled by fiat.


 
The DM arbitrarily sets DCs to what he thinks they should be.  They hid it well in 4e and gave good guidelines on how to develop the game which should be carried over.  For this very rough document they have given us they do have some decent guidelines on how to use the Fiat to create a good game.  It is DM Fiat that the town the level one characters are in doesn't just randomly get attacked by 1,000 elder dragons hell bent on the party's destruction.  It is DM fiat that makes the first level characters encounter level apropriate challenges.  The DM arbitrarily selects that the NPC's will react in the ways they do.  The DM arbitrarily selects so many things that it is impossible to even concive that you could extract DM Fiat from the game entirely.  Instead the DM Fiat should be embraced and they should give guidelines on how to use it properly and responsibly to create a game your players can enjoy.

As many have said those that abuse DM Fiat rarely keep players for long. 
I always hated when I create a character based on certain rules and guidelines and the DM throws them out, simply cause he can.

On the other hand a DM is an arbiter, storyteller and the person who is supposed to make the game fun for the players. If a little fudge here and there or saving a villian so he can make his final speech is going to make the game fun than I am all for that. A good DM can use a little bit of DM Fiat and his players won't mind but a bad DM who abuses his power will lose players. 

I think for a DM's guide, letting new DM's know that it isn't always about rule A or rule B is a good thing. The DM's guide should be a guide to running a good game, making the game fun and being a good DM. The DM's guide shouldn't just about here is how you follow the rules so don't stray. 
bad DMs don't have players so nothing to worry about here.
There isn't, or shouldn't be, such a thing as "DM Fiat".  The DM has specific duties and responsibilities.  There's a lot of power that comes with that, but the DM needs to have a strict code delineated in the DMG about how he is to use that power and to what end.  None of this "you're in control, do whatever you want" silliness posing as "advice".




DM FIAT RUNS THE ENTIRE GAME.  It is the DM's good nature that allows the universe to exist.  At some point it comes down to the DM to say this does or does not happen.

Fiat means:


1.

an authoritative decree, sanction, or order: a royal fiat.Synonyms: authorization, directive, ruling, mandate, diktat,ukase.


2.
a fixed form of words containing the word fiat,  by which aperson in authority gives sanction, or authorization.


3.
an arbitrary decree or pronouncement, especially by aperson or group of persons having absolute authority toenforce it: The king ruled by fiat.


 
The DM arbitrarily sets DCs to what he thinks they should be.  They hid it well in 4e and gave good guidelines on how to develop the game which should be carried over.  For this very rough document they have given us they do have some decent guidelines on how to use the Fiat to create a good game.  It is DM Fiat that the town the level one characters are in doesn't just randomly get attacked by 1,000 elder dragons hell bent on the party's destruction.  It is DM fiat that makes the first level characters encounter level apropriate challenges.  The DM arbitrarily selects that the NPC's will react in the ways they do.  The DM arbitrarily selects so many things that it is impossible to even concive that you could extract DM Fiat from the game entirely.  Instead the DM Fiat should be embraced and they should give guidelines on how to use it properly and responsibly to create a game your players can enjoy.

As many have said those that abuse DM Fiat rarely keep players for long. 



Yes..yes..yes.  Players...trust your DM.  Let him or her make the game interesting and exciting.  Don't fight it.  The DM is your friend.  I am not being sarcastic and I do not mean to sound like the Computer in the Paranoia game.  I really believe that players must put complete trust in DM.  Conversely, DM needs to be fair and develop the game so that it maximizes the thrill of the game.   Players and DMs work together to build awesome stories.  Let it happen!



A Brave Knight of WTF

 

Rhenny's Blog:  http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog

 

 

I don't mind it. Lack of DM fiat in 4e and 3.5 meant even if the DM was good, you were hampered by the rules. A bad DM is still a bad DM and you don't want to play with them under any rules, but with a good DM, DM fiat helps a lot.

Bad DM - I won't play, even if the rules keep the DM in check.
Good DM - I won't play if the rules don't allow the DM to be good.
@Aeon

As a dm I get frustrated when Players make crazy characters and fight me tooth and nail when I won't let them break my game one character was abusing a spell in pathfinder to permanent stun lock my boss and when I asked him to stop, he quoted the rules. When I made him stop he left. The rest of the players were actually glad they got to fight an interesting boss.
My two copper.
@Aeon As a dm I get frustrated when Players make crazy characters and fight me tooth and nail when I won't let them break my game one character was abusing a spell in pathfinder to permanent stun lock my boss and when I asked him to stop, he quoted the rules. When I made him stop he left. The rest of the players were actually glad they got to fight an interesting boss.



That's a great example.  If players let the game play, they will have more fun.  Rules lawyers are not great players.

A Brave Knight of WTF

 

Rhenny's Blog:  http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog

 

 

If you want to play a game with exact rules for every situation in which a DM just rolls dice for monsters, play a video game. If you don't trust your DM to make the right calls, then you don't have a good DM. And the game should not have to take power away from good DMs to keep bad DMs from being abusive. People just shouldn't play with those bad DMs.
@Aeon As a dm I get frustrated when Players make crazy characters and fight me tooth and nail when I won't let them break my game one character was abusing a spell in pathfinder to permanent stun lock my boss and when I asked him to stop, he quoted the rules. When I made him stop he left. The rest of the players were actually glad they got to fight an interesting boss.



Creating crazy game breaking characters was never my problem since I am more of a character developer and less of a character optimizer. I do get where you are coming from though. That problem does seem to be a problem with not only the game system that allows that kind of play, but also the player that plays that way. I say good for you. The game is about everyone having fun.

By the way, two of the 'DM fiat' things in the DM Guidelines (hell, they don't even call it DM rules, they are guidelines) are:

1- Encourage the players to roleplay, or narrate their interactions. Reward good ideas and penalize bad ones.

2- Encourage players to roleplay, or narrate their explorations. Reward good ideas and penalize bad ones.

Just like combat is described (and they want to allow for improvised actions that aren't defined on the sheet), so to do they want the other pillars to be more interesting. So, before calling for a skill check, the group, or individual, describes HOW they want to go about convincing the King to help them. This may mean saying, word for word, what their character says, or outlining the intended strategy of the PC. Maybe they can't come up with the right words, but they want to soften the king up with flattery, before finishing up with a challenge, trying to make it so the king would be embarassed if he publically refused you. If the DM thinks the plan would be especially effective on this NPC (he has played him as arrogant and given hints that he prizes his public image) he may just let it be an auto-success. If it's a horrible plan, (the DM has shown the PCs that the king despises sycophants, and doesn't hold much esteem in the various hangers on that are mostly there for the queens benefit), he might just say "the king laughs in your face and turns you down". And, if they come up with an plan that isn't exactly perfect, but isn't so crazy it can't work, then you roll, setting the DC based on how close or far from the mark it is. The goal for the DM is to set this up by giving them a chance to learn enough about the people they will be dealing with in order to come up with a 'good' plan, and avoid a 'bad' one.

The bit on searching is similar ... instead of just having players search a room, give them a description, and ask them what they want to check out first, or what they want to to. If something isn't in a chest, you can search it all day and not find anything. If something is in a drawer, looking in the drawer would be an auto-success. [Tied to that, one the best things a DM can do is say "you don't find anything" instead of "there is nothing there".]  
I like the power given back to the DMs.

There is just one issue I always had.

ADVICE AND GUIDELINES

1) Uniformity.

Some DMs do this. Others do that. In order for the character to be made according to the player's vision, he must ask his DM a host of questions. If not, there can be many issuses. And even with question asked, issues can appear.

Suppose I want to make my fighter trip the orc.

DM1: Str attack vs AC. Success means orc falls prone but takes no damage.
DM2: Dex attack vs AC. Success means orc falls prone and takes 1d6 falling damage.
DM3: Int vs Dex contest. Success means orc falls prone but takes no damage. Failure means my fighter falls.
DM4: Dex vs Str contest. Fighter get disadvantage. Success means orc falls prone and takes 1d6 falling damage.
DM5: Dex attack vs AC. Fighter gets disadvantage. Success means orc falls prone and takes 1d6 falling damage.
DM6: Orc make a Str save versus my fighters Str score. Failure for the orc means orc falls prone and takes 1d6 falling damage.
DM7: Dex attack vs AC. Success means orc makes a Str save vs the figther's Str score. Failure of the orc means falls prone and takes 1d6 falling damage.
DM8: Dex attack vs AC. Success means orc falls prone and takes 1d6 falling damage. Once per day.

Rules at least know what I am most likely in for. A DM can change it obviously but most wont as long as the suggested rule doesn't stink.

2) Situationalism

You can't swing from chandeliers outdoors. You can't chuck barrels in a fight that breaks out at the ball.

Heavy reliance on DM Fiat forces DMs to place the tools for it everywhere. Every fight needs dificult terrian, random objects to kick or throw, hazards and pit to shove people in (What's the rules for shoving again? Oh yeah, gotta make one up), vines and ropes to swing over, tables to hop on or over etc etc etc.

You can't just have a fight in a field. The fighter and rogue need a rock to stunt off of.
No rocks means "Attack Attack Attack" means ZZZZzzz.

Please for the love of Pelor, don't just chuck all the responsiliblity with no help onto DMs.

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

It's easy enough for the player to propose how to handle a particular action and for the DM to just say "OK". So instead of having the 8 different DM scenario you presented, instead the player describes how they're going to do the trip, using which ability, and the DM maybe decides whether there's damage or not as a result.
It's easy enough for the player to propose how to handle a particular action and for the DM to just say "OK". So instead of having the 8 different DM scenario you presented, instead the player describes how they're going to do the trip, using which ability, and the DM maybe decides whether there's damage or not as a result.



Sadly, not all DMs are great. I've walked away from a game over crazy rulings. Another DM went through several rulings for one thing as his rulings created more problems.

This is why the final product should give suggestion, examples, and guides. It can't go the "Hey DM. Figure it out yourself." method.

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

Presumably the final DMG will be 256-320 pages, so I'd suspect that'll be covered.
Presumably the final DMG will be 256-320 pages, so I'd suspect that'll be covered.



How do you know? What if it doesn't? Isn't that the point of the playtest to point out potential flaws in the system rather than saying "wait and see" in response to every problem?
Presumably the final DMG will be 256-320 pages, so I'd suspect that'll be covered.



How do you know? What if it doesn't? Isn't that the point of the playtest to point out potential flaws in the system rather than saying "wait and see" in response to every problem?



Have you read the 4E DMG? The Essentials DMK? The 3.5 DMG and DMG2? They've got a very solid track record on this, hiring very skilled guys of Robin Laws calibre to write important chapters in the DMG.
Rule 0 and Page 42 existed in 4e for this purpose.


I mean, geeze, I've been playing 4e for 4 years and I still dont understand how their lighting system works, so I just ignore it for the most part. Its too much of a bother for me and my players to worry about most the time.


A DM who finds himself constrained by the rules is not being a good DM. At the same time, the rules form a solid base so everyone is on the same page.
Presumably the final DMG will be 256-320 pages, so I'd suspect that'll be covered.



How do you know? What if it doesn't? Isn't that the point of the playtest to point out potential flaws in the system rather than saying "wait and see" in response to every problem?



Have you read the 4E DMG? The Essentials DMK? The 3.5 DMG and DMG2? They've got a very solid track record on this, hiring very skilled guys of Robin Laws calibre to write important chapters in the DMG.



That's neither here nor there. We give feedback on what is present (or not present) in the play test material.
"Unite the [fan] base? Hardly. As of right now, I doubt their ability to unite a slightly unruly teabag with a cup of water."--anjelika
1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
Stormwind Fallacy
The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa. Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game. Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse role player if he optimizes, and vice versa. Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically role played better than an optimized one, and vice versa. ...[aside]... Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's game play. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Role playing deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else. A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other. Claiming that an optimizer cannot role play (or is participating in a play style that isn't supportive of role playing) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.
The spells we should getLook here to Check out my adventures and ideas. I've started a blog, about video games, table top role playing games, programming, and many other things its called Kel and Lok Games. My 4E Fantasy Grounds game is currently full.
Rule 0 and Page 42 existed in 4e for this purpose.
.



If you have to invoke rule 0, it's a problem. Better to provide the flexibility up front than tell you to ignore the rules whenever they cause problems.


That's neither here nor there. We give feedback on what is present (or not present) in the play test material.



It's ludicrous to suggest that because the DM Guidelines is a 9 page document that it's all Mearls & Crawford ever have planned for Ne.
Rule 0 and Page 42 existed in 4e for this purpose.
.



If you have to invoke rule 0, it's a problem. Better to provide the flexibility up front than tell you to ignore the rules whenever they cause problems.



Bad and incoherent rules make for bad games.  White wolf made this mistake over ten years ago and found that out the hard way.

-Polaris


That's neither here nor there. We give feedback on what is present (or not present) in the play test material.



It's ludicrous to suggest that because the DM Guidelines is a 9 page document that it's all Mearls & Crawford ever have planned for Ne.



It's all we have to go on.

-Polaris 

As someone who often DMs, I am against this new march toward "DM empowerment." When I heard them talking about how they were giving power back to the DM in next, I was baffled. When did it ever get taken away? In older editions of DnD, DMs had to make alot more judgment calls and rules decisions because the rules in the game were such a horrible and incomplete mess. Then 3e came along and really solidified things. DMs still made judgment calls, but had to do so far less often because most of the things that people would do in a typical adventure were covered by the rules. As both a player and a DM, I didn't find that restricting, I found it liberating! I don't like having to make rules fiat decisions as a DM any more often than I absolutely must. Having less concise and complete rules is not DM empowerment, its a burden! I don't want to have to play rules referee all night. I want to get to the fun parts of the game.


As someone who often DMs, I am against this new march toward "DM empowerment." When I heard them talking about how they were giving power back to the DM in next, I was baffled. When did it ever get taken away? In older editions of DnD, DMs had to make alot more judgment calls and rules decisions because the rules in the game were such a horrible and incomplete mess. Then 3e came along and really solidified things. DMs still made judgment calls, but had to do so far less often because most of the things that people would do in a typical adventure were covered by the rules. As both a player and a DM, I didn't find that restricting, I found it liberating! I don't like having to make rules fiat decisions as a DM any more often than I absolutely must. Having less concise and complete rules is not DM empowerment, its a burden! I don't want to have to play rules referee all night. I want to get to the fun parts of the game.



This, 100%.

As someone who often DMs, I am against this new march toward "DM empowerment." When I heard them talking about how they were giving power back to the DM in next, I was baffled. When did it ever get taken away? In older editions of DnD, DMs had to make alot more judgment calls and rules decisions because the rules in the game were such a horrible and incomplete mess. Then 3e came along and really solidified things. DMs still made judgment calls, but had to do so far less often because most of the things that people would do in a typical adventure were covered by the rules. As both a player and a DM, I didn't find that restricting, I found it liberating! I don't like having to make rules fiat decisions as a DM any more often than I absolutely must. Having less concise and complete rules is not DM empowerment, its a burden! I don't want to have to play rules referee all night. I want to get to the fun parts of the game.




AMEN!  The DM always has (and always has had) the right to make the final decision as the 'referee' of the game, but with a solid rules set, it's a lot less work on the DM and a lot less headaches as well to let the printed (coherent) rules do the heavy lifting....and save the energy for the important stuff (like the world and roleplaying).

-Polaris
It isn't just the advantage/disadvantage rules, but the amount of DM fiat involved in advantage/disadvantage is the dealbreaker for me I'm finding. I'm annoyed by a lot of other things, but this alone is killing the game for me. 
...whatever
Rule 0 and Page 42 existed in 4e for this purpose.
.



If you have to invoke rule 0, it's a problem. Better to provide the flexibility up front than tell you to ignore the rules whenever they cause problems.



The rules telling you to decide instead of giving you a firm base is the game invoking rule 0.


As someone who often DMs, I am against this new march toward "DM empowerment." When I heard them talking about how they were giving power back to the DM in next, I was baffled. When did it ever get taken away? In older editions of DnD, DMs had to make alot more judgment calls and rules decisions because the rules in the game were such a horrible and incomplete mess. Then 3e came along and really solidified things. DMs still made judgment calls, but had to do so far less often because most of the things that people would do in a typical adventure were covered by the rules. As both a player and a DM, I didn't find that restricting, I found it liberating! I don't like having to make rules fiat decisions as a DM any more often than I absolutely must. Having less concise and complete rules is not DM empowerment, its a burden! I don't want to have to play rules referee all night. I want to get to the fun parts of the game.




I dont think there's a better way to summarize my stance than this.
It isn't just the advantage/disadvantage rules, but the amount of DM fiat involved in advantage/disadvantage is the dealbreaker for me I'm finding. I'm annoyed by a lot of other things, but this alone is killing the game for me. 



Indeed.  I am just visualize the outrage when the first rogue flanks an enemy and does NOT get advantage.....


This is not good Wotc.

-Polaris    
AMEN!  The DM always has (and always has had) the right to make the final decision as the 'referee' of the game, but with a solid rules set, it's a lot less work on the DM and a lot less headaches as well to let the printed (coherent) rules do the heavy lifting....and save the energy for the important stuff (like the world and roleplaying).

-Polaris


The DM is the last word, he shouldn't be the first word. He also shouldn't be the sole word because the initial word is missing.
...whatever
It isn't just the advantage/disadvantage rules, but the amount of DM fiat involved in advantage/disadvantage is the dealbreaker for me I'm finding. I'm annoyed by a lot of other things, but this alone is killing the game for me. 



Advantage/Disadvantage are basically just the equivalent of the "DM's best friend rule", where you'd give an action a +/-2 depending on the circumstances. They really should state that certain things always grant advantage, though, like flanking and higher ground.
It isn't just the advantage/disadvantage rules, but the amount of DM fiat involved in advantage/disadvantage is the dealbreaker for me I'm finding. I'm annoyed by a lot of other things, but this alone is killing the game for me. 



Advantage/Disadvantage are basically just the equivalent of the "DM's best friend rule", where you'd give an action a +/-2 depending on the circumstances. They really should state that certain things always grant advantage, though, like flanking and higher ground.



The impact is not the same. Rolling two dice is a much bigger deal than +2/-2.
...whatever
It isn't just the advantage/disadvantage rules, but the amount of DM fiat involved in advantage/disadvantage is the dealbreaker for me I'm finding. I'm annoyed by a lot of other things, but this alone is killing the game for me. 



Advantage/Disadvantage are basically just the equivalent of the "DM's best friend rule", where you'd give an action a +/-2 depending on the circumstances. They really should state that certain things always grant advantage, though, like flanking and higher ground.



The impact is not the same. Rolling two dice is a much bigger deal than +2/-2.



I believe its been calulated out to be roughly +5/-5.
Plus with advantage you have twice the chance to crit (roughly).
Plus with advantage you have twice the chance to crit (roughly).



And twice the chance to critical fail for those people who like it for some reason.

It is not an easy matter. Some DMs will not have players due to their rulings. Some DMs will never lack for players due to the story that unfolds. I usesd to run a game called TORG. A fun little game once you got past logarithmic mathematics. The "Director's Fiat" was an explicit rule in that game. However I only ever had to use it when no other rules or guides could be found. At that point I used a very simple thought process.Does this make sense?
Does this move the story forward?
Will this make a great scene?
Is it fun?
People, mostly newer players, who fear the death of a character fight very hard against the empowerment of the DM. Thinking that it is them versus him. I love being a DM as much as playing, maybe more so. The Fiat never left the rules, as an arbitrator of them you must make a decision whether the book is explicit or implicit about this matter.


I am neither your enemy nor your friend
I build the world as you explore it
I withhold no quarter to fools who go blindly
I deliver the rewards for those that dare adventure 
I make the dice my final guide


I am a DM

MY DM COMMITMENT To insure that those who participate in any game that I adjudicate are having fun, staying engaged, maintaining focus, contributing to the story and becoming legendary. "The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules." Gary Gygax Thanks for that Gary, so now stop playing RAW games. Member of the Progressive Front of Grognardia Suicide Squad
Plus with advantage you have twice the chance to crit (roughly).



And twice the chance to critical fail for those people who like it for some reason.


For disadvantage, yes.
Plus with advantage you have twice the chance to crit (roughly).



And twice the chance to critical fail for those people who like it for some reason.


For disadvantage, yes.



Interestingly advantage makes it virtually impossible to critically fail (for those that use it) while disadvantage makes it virtually impossible to critically hit, far far more than one might think.  [If you have disadvantage, you can only crit 1/400 as opposed to 1/20...a big difference.]


-Polaris