Uniting the broken base - Metagame tropes

The player base of Dungeons and Dragons is broken. One half prefers one way, another half prefers the other. Some would say there are ireconcilable differences between the factions - but if that was true, why would they be playing the same game? (And it IS the same game, 1e to 2e to 3e to 4e)


There's something about D&D that all players share - something besides the name that brings them all and in the darkness binds them.

I think that's where common ground begins - what are the "Meta-tropes" ? The little things that bind the playbase together - common ground form which we can build a game - comes from experiences.

For me, some of the more obvious ones that have come up in 8 campaigns worth of 3.5, 4E, and recently 2E are:

1) Never Split the Party - everybody knows this - it's practically tattooed on every D&D player's chest - the cardinal rule of D&D.

2) Protect the Clothies - The Wizard's usually (there are exceptions) a soft target, and everybody's scrambling to protect him/her when the fight breaks out.

3) Everyone meets in a Tavern - I'll grant you, not every capmaign starts this way, but a ton of them do, to the point that it's iconic and has even been mentioned in some of the manuals. I have foind memories of incidents relating to this trope.

What are some that you've experienced as an iconic part of  "THE D&D EXPERIENCE" ? I'm interested to hear what Meta concepts others consider to be Iconic/All-important. 

 
1. Watch your back.
2. Conserve your ammo.
3. Never cut a deal with a dragon.

...dangit, that's Shadowrun.  Erm...well...2 of those are good.  'Geek the caster!' can replace the one on ammo.

Slightly more on-topic...

Know where your friends are.  Splitting the party may be necessary at times, but you best know where they are if you do!

Never rely solely on the caster.  They tend to be unreliable.

The terrain is usually your best weapon.  Use it.  Self-explanatory.

These may or may not be true in 4E -- I don't play it so I honestly don't know.

(And one for the road; one that -should- have been a cardinal rule!  Psionics are fun and belong in D&D!)

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true">Know where your friends are.  Splitting the party may be necessary at times, but you best know where they are if you do!


Agreed, though we try to limit this because we did it once and it turned into a mess with the DM having to kepe hopping between 3 different groups(not our best idea either, the two people in group 1 got captured breaking into the Big bad's castle, the guy in 2 was nearby in tried to break them out, and me and another person in 3 got hired to take out a hit on someone elsewhere).

Never rely solely on the caster
.  They tend to be unreliable.

Eh..depends. I don't like older(3.5e anyways, I'm not sure how editiosn ebfrehand did it) casters not because they were unreliable, but because they're too swingy. Spell hits, well, just won the fight(or took out every enemy as a threat and the only thing elft to do is for everyone else to mop them up). Spell misses, well you just wasted a round, did nothing, and have to wait to try something else.

The terrain is usually your best weapon.  Use it.
  Self-explanatory.

These may or may not be true in 4E -- I don't play it so I honestly don't know.

It is, but not quite as neccessary anymore since you had ways of protecting the casters that didn't involve cramming everyone into a hallway.

(And one for the road; one that -should- have been a cardinal rule!  Psionics are fun and belong in D&D!)


Definetly. I don't know how I could manage our Epic level campaign(in a few weeks) without my Psion/TIme Bender/Master of Moments :P

1) Fire solves all problems. 

1a) if fire doesn't solve your problems, use more fire.

1b) seriously. fire = problem solved. one way or another.

2) killing the NPC means one less potential backstabber to worry about. 

2a) also helps lessen the amount of exposition you need to sit through

2b) unless he's undead.

3) always remove the head.

3a) always.

4) golem holes. you want to mess with PCs or NPCs expectations? golem. portable holes. golem holes. or any mix of to game elements that should generally not mix in a sensible fashion. 

5) strip the dungeon of anything that isn't nailed down. 

6) checkov's gun. if you mention it in a description the PCs will expect to use it or be used. 

7) checkov's (unloaded) gun. if you mention it in a description the PCs will focus incessantly on it. even if it's just a set piece. even if a statue is only a statue, they will waste an hour looking for the secret switch.

8) anything can be weaponized. saying otherwise is considered a challenge to both a player's ingenuity and their [man/woman]hood. 

9) if it can't be done, never say "only on a 20". i've made GMs cry because they uttered those 4 words.
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Surprised these gem haven't been mentioned:

When it's dead, loot it. - 'Kill the monsters and take their stuff' is the modus operandi of D&D.

Take everything that isn't nailed down or too heavy.

If you think a room is empty, you probably haven't looked hard enough.

And if it is nailed down, pull the nails.  If its too heavy, chop it up into smaller pieces...

And remember if the DC to open the lock is high enough, its a very valuable lock
I try to avoid most game anecdotes, but dangit we're all gamers here and some resonate true with a lot of tables.  With that in mind...
9) if it can't be done, never say "only on a 20". i've made GMs cry because they uttered those 4 words.



From my -very first- Dark Sun game.

Me (Lena the Psionicist)"Wait...so I have the Heartwood Spear?  And we're in the -arena- with Kalak trying to ascend?"
DM: "Yup.  Better run."
Lena: "...can I -hit- Kalak with the Heartwood Spear?"
DM: "No, he's surrounded by a shield of power that goes all the way up to his neck."
Lena: *nod* "K." (to the Thri-Kreen)   "Bug, you run.  DM...Called shot to Kalak's head with the Heartwood Spear."
DM: "I told you, you can only make that on a 20 and you'll die if you miss."
Lena: "I won't miss."

-20-.

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

^That's an awesome story that holds true across all editions. I think every player has an awesome roll like that to share. Definitely one of the uniting tropes.
I agree that lot of the tropes mentioned here are par for the course - except one that was mentioned by anjelika which tends to be polarizing rather than uniting - Psionics. Some people love them, others hate them and think they are sci-fi not fantasy. Myself - I hit a middle ground. I believe they are too sci-fi when you read the fluff (in earlier editions mainly), but I refluff them as mind magic and I keep a sharp eye on them, though I haven't had to in 4e since they seem to be fairly balanced with everything else.
I agree that lot of the tropes mentioned here are par for the course - except one that was mentioned by anjelika which tends to be polarizing rather than uniting - Psionics. Some people love them, others hate them and think they are sci-fi not fantasy. Myself - I hit a middle ground. I believe they are too sci-fi when you read the fluff (in earlier editions mainly), but I refluff them as mind magic and I keep a sharp eye on them, though I haven't had to in 4e since they seem to be fairly balanced with everything else.



But isn't that what makes it a standard?

Seriously it's been around since 2nd edition and people have ALWAYS been looking at it funny.

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There is a nice little self created divide here. Shame there can't be more acceptance instead. I feel that is where the future of the game should be.

All this vitriol, pushing away, retroactive retaliation, and preemptive striking needs to stop.

I keep trying but some won't let things go. Will you?

 

Because you like something, it does not mean it is good. Because you dislike something, it does not mean it is bad. Because it is your opinion, it does not make it everyone's opinion. Because it is your opinion, it does not make it truth. Because it is your opinion, it does not make it the general consensus. Whatever side you want to take, at least remember these things.

Well, a few of my favorites which don't apply strictly to D&D...

Everything counts, in large amounts: Everybody knows the old Qantity vs Quality argument, but I say Quantity is a Quality all it's own! This hasn't always been the case in D&D (though it was in almost every other game EVER) since a lvl 20 fighter could fight 2,000,000,000 lvl 1 goblins, and eventually he'd kill them all. It'd take a while but they didn't have much of a chance of hurting him in the process. This edition (with the bounded accuracy), that's not the case (or at least may not be the case).

When in doubt, Grenade it out: Doesn't have to be grenades ofcourse (that's more of a cyberpunk thing), but the principal still applies. If you think there might be somebody big and scary down that hole / around that corner / through that door / wherever, always start with shoving something explosive, toxic, or otherwise destructive in there first, and then go in to clean up the mess after.

Stealth is Wealth: Nothing is more game-breaking, campaign ruining, or just darn annoying for a GM than a really smart player with a really sneaky character. That's doubly the case in non-D&D systems where if you come on somebody unawares you can often murder them fairly easily. D&D you have to stab somebody 40 times before they die unless you can manufacture yourself a coup de grace opportunity, so that bit doesn't always apply. There's still almost always SOOOOO much a crafty player can do with a sneaky character that nobody else can... it's worth it's weight in gold.
I agree that lot of the tropes mentioned here are par for the course - except one that was mentioned by anjelika which tends to be polarizing rather than uniting - Psionics. Some people love them, others hate them and think they are sci-fi not fantasy. Myself - I hit a middle ground. I believe they are too sci-fi when you read the fluff (in earlier editions mainly), but I refluff them as mind magic and I keep a sharp eye on them, though I haven't had to in 4e since they seem to be fairly balanced with everything else.



But isn't that what makes it a standard?

Seriously it's been around since 2nd edition and people have ALWAYS been looking at it funny.



Actually it's been around since 1st edition. And you're absolutely right, most people have looked at it cross-eyed for the most part. Is it standard? Not since 1st edition where it actually was in the PHB/DMG, and even then they were optional side rules at best. In 2nd, 3rd, and 4th it was only covered in splatbooks, not core books. At least that says to me that it isn't standard. The OP was also looking for tropes that were standard to everyone's D&D play experience and psionics are usually not part of the standard play experience for the most part. 
DMPC's are the devil !!!

I think this is another universal one, note those who post that they ran X DMPC and their friends loved him/her I'm afraid I've got to tell you they're just really good actors, really good actors afraid of your DM wrath.
Kill The Rats Down In The Basement

The metagame is not the game.

DMPC's are the devil !!!

I think this is another universal one, note those who post that they ran X DMPC and their friends loved him/her I'm afraid I've got to tell you they're just really good actors, really good actors afraid of your DM wrath.



I actually run a DMPC in my current game, though I only RP him and he only helps out with advice when the players are well and truly stumped. If they are asking him for advice, they're telling me they want a clue, and they know it. I have a player run him during combat so it's not an 'extra DM turn'. Sinc ehe's the only healer (and he's damn good at it too), they don't seem to mind having him around. DMPCs can be done if they are done correctly.  
Kill The Rats Down In The Basement

Can we make this an optional rule and let people that enjoy this have their chance at killing thousands of rodents to level up? For others like myself, I'd prefer starting at around level 3 or so (or level 1 in 4e). I've killed so many rats with so many characters, I REALLY don't need to go through that experience again...

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Gotta be honest with you, I've never had any GM in any game obtuse enough to make us do that or reward anybody who thought it was a good idea. It's there in an awful lot of video games, and most of the time I think it's just there as a joke honestly.

I can only recall having killed rats once in a game. It was in Cyberpunk when the players were so poor we literally had to hunt down vermin in the combat zone, with our various extra-cruddy weapons, just so we wouldn't starve. I was the boss, cuz I had a crossbow made out of leaf springs off a wrecked car (it shot pieces of rebar). Far more effective than the guy with the sharpened stop sign or the chain-link fence post with a chunk of concrete on one end.
I had a hilarious first level session in 3e where mysterious murders were going on in a small village. As we investigated we found that the stray cats had been acting odd lately. Long story short an evil level 1 Druid had 8 cats as his animal companion and was killing villagers to perform a dark ritual. 3 adventurers vs 8 cats was actually quite a challenging fight.
My favorite one that always seems to pop up, any time the rogue is checking for traps or there is a strange object to be investigated:

"I am standing 61 feet away"
DMPC's are the devil !!!

I think this is another universal one, note those who post that they ran X DMPC and their friends loved him/her I'm afraid I've got to tell you they're just really good actors, really good actors afraid of your DM wrath.


I once mauled a DMPC with a pair of Mariliths. We were leaving and never going to see him again, and my Wizard was slightly psycho, so it worked out.
Often heard at our gaming table:

"If it's head is on fire and it's still moving, it's bad."

"If the mage is in combat (i.e., melee), we're losing." (Doesn't apply to all our campaigns; one has a Bladesinger instead of a pure mage, and in one campaign, it's the cleric who's fragile)

"If only 1 PC misses the save, it's the PC who will be the mostnegatively affected by whatever went wrong."

In memory of wrecan and his Unearthed Wrecana.

@SteeleButterfly - So true on the mage thing - out party's wizard was swinging at a pack of stirges surrounding him the other day with his staff - we were immediately like "We're in trouble"
Gotta be honest with you, I've never had any GM in any game obtuse enough to make us do that or reward anybody who thought it was a good idea. It's there in an awful lot of video games, and most of the time I think it's just there as a joke honestly.

I guess Mithrus and I were the only ones to have been through this before, but I thought it was pretty common: the innkeeper has gone missing, and was last seen going to the basement for supplies - PCs investigate and find a tunnel, linked into the Absurdly Spacious Sewer, with a couple of rat swarms and maybe a dire rat or two along the way, eventually connecting to the underground lair of the thieves guild and their were-rat leader.

I have another one, though:

Door Maneuver X - stand adjacent to the door and use one hand to push it open while leaving your back to the wall, to prevent any potential enemies from taking their readied actions to shoot whoever was opening the door.

The metagame is not the game.

Door Maneuver X - stand adjacent to the door and use one hand to push it open while leaving your back to the wall, to prevent any potential enemies from taking their readied actions to shoot whoever was opening the door.

Hmmm ... we'll have to try that one. SOP for our groups -- the locksmith unlocks the door, then drops back to let the big guys open it, usually with a shield in front of them to block the incoming whatever.

In memory of wrecan and his Unearthed Wrecana.

DMPC's.  I just wanna make a quick comment on that part of this thread.

DMPC's -do- suck, and terribly.  BUT I see a -lot- of people these days using them to refer to -any- recurring NPC, especially if the NPC travels with the party for a while (not something forced on them, but an option/choice/what-have-you).  Those are -not- the same thing.

For example...no cleric, and the party wants a cleric?  NPC's are always available.  You can try to pick up whichever one you want, pick a decent religion; they'll 'fight' (but never as good as you guys, you're the heroes!) and offer advice (which may or may not be good advice; NPC's aren't player characters!) and they won't take as much treasure (but they want some, they're not free cannon fodder for you).  They have a name, a history, a background (even if I have to form some of it as we go) and are available to RP with if you so desire (but you don't have to if you don't want to).

When virtually every NPC the party encounters is like this (including people who would -never- adventure; shopkeepers, town guard, farmers, et al), people tend to start to pick their favorites and treat others as, well, people.  They get invested in their stories also, and those 'little useless folk' can springboard a thousand adventures without ever directly -asking- the players to do -anything-.

(Remember I allow only goods and some neutrals, never evils for PC's)  So yes...DMPC's suck.  Well-made NPC's, OTOH, are the lifeblood of a game.  I routinely end campaigns with a list of 100+ named NPC's that the party can return to, and it expands in most every game.

"Lightning...it flashes bright, then fades away.  It can't protect, it can only destroy."

Personal opinion...

Here are a few from my experience...

When the DM smiles, get ready to roll a saving throw.

Regarding DMPCs, in my groups they always either end up needing to be rescued or being the BBEG in disguise.

If the DM names a NPC, you can be sure most of the players will forget that name by the next session.  In fact, one of my players can't even remember the name of the deity his knightly order is dedicated to in our current campaign.

  

         

All around helpful simian

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Well, I do love Psionics.

About DMPC, I agree with Anjelika, a DMPC is one that is a Mary Sue in disguise(or not), the one that knows it all, can do it all, and of course, will deny it all if asked important plot information, but will sometimes gave little clues veiled in criptic wording.

That's doing it wrong, a  DMPC can be a Crutch Character without stealing the stage for the Heroes. Think Gandalf in LotR, for lack of a more easily recognizable and more accurate example.

However, true companions can exist in the form of well crafted NPCs, in fact my Players like them most of time, specially the generic ones, the ones that weren't meant as plot devices but were pure scenery, extras if you will.

Until the Players(Audience) decided they wanted more, I guess because those kinds of characters need to grow and develop along the journey they end up more memorable.
Sometimes the DM can end up running a DMPC that wasn't intended to be so. We have one campaign that's now on it's 3rd DM (the previous two passed away), so again one of the players picked up the DM mantle, and is still running the PC she has played all along. Not exactly a DM stooge, but she's had to be careful to keep the PC knowledge and the DM knowledge separate.

In memory of wrecan and his Unearthed Wrecana.

Another one which has come up often in my games:

The Cool-Aid Man: Why use the door when there's a perfectly good wall right next to it. They'll never see it coming! Or the ceiling or floor for that matter.
Another one which has come up often in my games:

The Cool-Aid Man: Why use the door when there's a perfectly good wall right next to it. They'll never see it coming! Or the ceiling or floor for that matter.


One of our character played a Barbarian who lived by this. He actually once caught a Vampire that climbed over the rooftops to escape us by charging through the house he climbed up(with a crit no less) and smashing through the other wall and pounded said Vampire into paste.