Player Perplexities (Long!)

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I DM for/play with a group of four others, all of whom have been playing D&D longer than I.  At the moment we have three different games running, depending on which of us DMs (which depends on who has something ready to run, and whose Real Life allows them the leisure to play that week).

I've been having unsettled feelings regarding all the games we have running (my own included), so I decided to query the others on the sorts of things they enjoy--specifically types of conflict, heroes, magic, and worlds.  I understand that can be a bit daunting to analyse in a lump like that, so I defined my terms as follows...

Types of Conflict:

Man vs. Self - defined by internal conflict and in some instances a change in character maturity... Gollum/Smeagol was my example
Man vs. Nature/the Supernatural - monster hunters, survival.. the more-or-less natural world in its raw glory challenging the characters
Man vs. Man - politicians and plots, characters against an active villain of some sort
Man vs. Society - the abolishionist or other reformer against his culture, or the scoundrel working against common morals
Man vs. Fate - Oedipus & other doomed heroes

Types of Heroes:

'Standard' Hero - inspired by the demigods of myth, the character who, in the face of danger, charges in courageously, who is willing to sacrifice
     themselves for the cause
Dark/Byronic Hero - to quote one of Byron's contemporaries:  "proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow"
Anti-Hero - if not for the fact he's a protagonist, this fellow could be a villain, for he shares many qualities with such folk

Levels of Magic:

Rare Magic:  Magic, as a whole, is new to this sort of world or very rare; mages of any stripe tend to terrify the common man  (usually found in
     conjunction with an extreme rarity of magic items, although that depends on WHY magic is rare and mages fearsome)
Restricted Magic:  Magic is a controlled commodity (usually by a ruling class), and only very low-level stuff is readily available.  Mages are still
     usually feared, but in the way medieval nobility would be feared by the serfs, for their power over them and their personalities, not their rarity.
Common Magic:  Magic is used in the way we used modern technology and in fact emulates forms of tech.  Magic items are very common, very
     ordinary, and not particularly fearsome.
Wondrous Magic:  Low levels of magic are common across the land such that the local peasant is unlikely to run from (and may even trade with) a
     passing mage, but high levels of magic are rare and evoke wonder or fear when they're encountered.

Types of Worlds:

Horror - The world hates the heroes; the Evil is most certainly overwhelming, and survival is the order of the day.

Dark and Gritty - The heroes lose more often than they win, and may or may not make a difference to the world.  Their opponents are often overwhelming, with few allies to be found.

Realistic - The heroes win as much as they lose, and as many commoners they meet are evil as they are good.  Magic has a minimal influence on cultures, terrain, and physics.

Heroic - Good and evil are fairly clear-cut, the heroes succeed more often than they lose (and usually win the day in the end) and they make a difference to the world immediately around them.

Epic - The good tend to be Good and evil tends to be Evil, and the fate of the world rests upon the shoulders of the heroes.  There may be gray areas in the small stuff, and there may be significant losses before victory (which may even be bittersweet, if someone sacrificed themselves so it could be achieved), but the heroes do reach that victory.


I recognize that the types of worlds I have listed overlap in some cases with plot-types, but I -like- world-building (even if the players don't see most of it) and I world-build differently for Realistic/Dark-and-Gritty than I do for Heroic/Epic.



Upon discussion, Player A said, "I don't care" or "It all works" to everything, which makes sense given the way he plays.
Player B said, "I like Dark/Byronic Heroes and Man vs. Self-type conflicts," but had no opinion on magic or world-type.

Then it gets sticky.

Player C likes Man vs. Fate, Anti-Heroes, and a Heroic world with VERY VERY VERY Rare Magic...
and Player D likes Man vs. Self and Man vs. Man, Standard Heroes and sometimes Dark/Byronic Heroes, Wondrous Magic, and Heroic/Epic worlds (Player D has also said that the feel of the world and the makeup of the party is more important than the types of conflict encountered).

I am looking for advice on how to engage both Player C and Player D with the same game, given their VERY dissimilar interests.
I think Player C wants to play some different game than the others. D&D is not the best game for him to do what he want.

But maybe like a world where above the ground is rare magic but below the ground is high magic. They have adventure in both.
I get the impression that your peplexity stems from your perceived responsibility to be the one to create the world for them, based on their choices from your menu of options. Try the following:

For at least one session, have them collaborate with you on creating the game they want to play. Brainstorm with them, which means there are no bad ideas and if someone establishes a fact it should not be negated by someone else's establishment. Ask them leading questions, based on what you know of their preferences. Of player C you could ask "Your character has a feeling of foreboding about this venture, as if he's not going to survive it; will he? If not, what are some of the circumstances of his death? If so, what else might be causing those feelings of foreboding?" Of D you could ask "What is your character like now, and how will he be after this adventure? What will change him?" Accept their answers and work with them.

I think the disparity about magic might be able to be handled with some reflavoring. To the Elves of Tolkien their cloaks and ropes and weapons were not "magical" but just specially crafted, but to the Hobbits the objects were fantastical. Be as vague as possible about what is bringing about the effects that occur. Many things can be reflavored as alchemy or artifice. Avoid items, monsters and effects that can't be easily rationalized in a number of ways.

You players can help here too. Collaborate with them on the types of treasure they find. If one of them likes plenty of magic, then when you put it to that player to offer what is found in the monster's hoard, then there will tend to be magical items. If a player likes little magic, then that player will specify other types of treasure.

But, like I said, start with just one session like this: No bad ideas; no contradiction or negation; leading questions from the DM. No one has to be directly on the spot, so if anyone's stuck someone else can try answering. The DM's job (in addition to making their own offers) making sure people are heard, that suggestions are kept track of, that people have a say and are not cut off, helping (along with the rest of the table) to reconcile seemingly disparate ideas, and deciding when to move the game along.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

One thing that will help if you're playing 4E: use Inherent Bonuses (DMG2, Dark Sun). 

Inherent bonuses mostly-replace enhancement bonuses on weapons/implements, armor, and neck-slot items.

So you can do a low-magic game, and the system still works mathematically. Or you can have a high-magic game that is relatively rich in magic items *other than* those three types. Even items not generally combat-useful.
"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
I never done the thing that centauri suggest but this sounds like a good way for to give everyone what they want.
I never done the thing that centauri suggest but this sounds like a good way for to give everyone what they want.

I like to think it's at least worth spending a session on in a good-faith effort, just to see what shakes out.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I never done the thing that centauri suggest but this sounds like a good way for to give everyone what they want.

Or at the very least, to find out what they want.

"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
I DM for/play with a group of four others, all of whom have been playing D&D longer than I.  At the moment we have three different games running, depending on which of us DMs (which depends on who has something ready to run, and whose Real Life allows them the leisure to play that week).

I've been having unsettled feelings regarding all the games we have running (my own included), so I decided to query the others on the sorts of things they enjoy--specifically types of conflict, heroes, magic, and worlds.  I understand that can be a bit daunting to analyse in a lump like that, so I defined my terms as follows...

Types of Conflict:

Man vs. Self - defined by internal conflict and in some instances a change in character maturity... Gollum/Smeagol was my example
Man vs. Nature/the Supernatural - monster hunters, survival.. the more-or-less natural world in its raw glory challenging the characters
Man vs. Man - politicians and plots, characters against an active villain of some sort
Man vs. Society - the abolishionist or other reformer against his culture, or the scoundrel working against common morals
Man vs. Fate - Oedipus & other doomed heroes

Types of Heroes:

'Standard' Hero - inspired by the demigods of myth, the character who, in the face of danger, charges in courageously, who is willing to sacrifice
     themselves for the cause
Dark/Byronic Hero - to quote one of Byron's contemporaries:  "proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow"
Anti-Hero - if not for the fact he's a protagonist, this fellow could be a villain, for he shares many qualities with such folk

Levels of Magic:

Rare Magic:  Magic, as a whole, is new to this sort of world or very rare; mages of any stripe tend to terrify the common man  (usually found in
     conjunction with an extreme rarity of magic items, although that depends on WHY magic is rare and mages fearsome)
Restricted Magic:  Magic is a controlled commodity (usually by a ruling class), and only very low-level stuff is readily available.  Mages are still
     usually feared, but in the way medieval nobility would be feared by the serfs, for their power over them and their personalities, not their rarity.
Common Magic:  Magic is used in the way we used modern technology and in fact emulates forms of tech.  Magic items are very common, very
     ordinary, and not particularly fearsome.
Wondrous Magic:  Low levels of magic are common across the land such that the local peasant is unlikely to run from (and may even trade with) a
     passing mage, but high levels of magic are rare and evoke wonder or fear when they're encountered.

Types of Worlds:

Horror - The world hates the heroes; the Evil is most certainly overwhelming, and survival is the order of the day.

Dark and Gritty - The heroes lose more often than they win, and may or may not make a difference to the world.  Their opponents are often overwhelming, with few allies to be found.

Realistic - The heroes win as much as they lose, and as many commoners they meet are evil as they are good.  Magic has a minimal influence on cultures, terrain, and physics.

Heroic - Good and evil are fairly clear-cut, the heroes succeed more often than they lose (and usually win the day in the end) and they make a difference to the world immediately around them.

Epic - The good tend to be Good and evil tends to be Evil, and the fate of the world rests upon the shoulders of the heroes.  There may be gray areas in the small stuff, and there may be significant losses before victory (which may even be bittersweet, if someone sacrificed themselves so it could be achieved), but the heroes do reach that victory.


I recognize that the types of worlds I have listed overlap in some cases with plot-types, but I -like- world-building (even if the players don't see most of it) and I world-build differently for Realistic/Dark-and-Gritty than I do for Heroic/Epic.



Upon discussion, Player A said, "I don't care" or "It all works" to everything, which makes sense given the way he plays.
Player B said, "I like Dark/Byronic Heroes and Man vs. Self-type conflicts," but had no opinion on magic or world-type.

Then it gets sticky.

Player C likes Man vs. Fate, Anti-Heroes, and a Heroic world with VERY VERY VERY Rare Magic...
and Player D likes Man vs. Self and Man vs. Man, Standard Heroes and sometimes Dark/Byronic Heroes, Wondrous Magic, and Heroic/Epic worlds (Player D has also said that the feel of the world and the makeup of the party is more important than the types of conflict encountered).

I am looking for advice on how to engage both Player C and Player D with the same game, given their VERY dissimilar interests.



An important point where their desires seem to converge is with magic being rare/wonderous. That can go a very long way towards setting the tone of a world.

As was suggested, inherent bonuses can be great for this and solve it all in one fell swoop. This lets you keep magic items to a minimum while giving each one a good amount of flavor and dramatic importance and history to give them that feel of wonder. Generally that means losing all concepts of "+X" items and only using powers and abilities on them.

To reconcile the conflict and heroic types, you can focus on a world where one part of the world is heroic and objective, but the other is not so clear cut. In my world, for instance, evil & good are easily understood and objective...evil is evil and good is good. However, law and chaos are stickier topics in that neither is necessarily right or wrong. So you get good conflict there. Letting the PCs be challenged regarding how they view those things gives you your heroic struggle (good vs evil) along with your grittier struggle of law & chaos...or even conflicting law vs law, etc. 

A lot can also be done at the character-creation point where player C and player D can define and structure their characters to tailor them to the conflicts they want to engage in. If player D likes Man vs Self and Man vs Man he might like someone like a paladin who has to struggle against temptation like a Jedi Knight (man vs self) while this also gives him a strong platform for Man vs Man...a righteous paladin contending with the morally gray machinations of politicians or even church politics, etc etc..and big nasty villains for him to vanquish.

Similarly, the archetypal rogue might suit Player C where he can thumb his nose at fate or try to escape some heavy baggage of his past, etc as he breaks free from the expectations put upon him. This could also give him the anti-heroic angle he's looking for...the Han Solo-ish figure that spits at the idea of "some Force guiding everything" while also trying to better his own station (sometimes by questionable means) and rise above the hand fate has dealt him.

Hope that helps.

EDIT: Also wanted to add Wonderous vs rare magic can be reconciled in some ways. I had to do it with my world too in certain ways. In my world, low level clerical magic is fairly common. Low level as in magic users of level 1 or 2. Higher level users though are far more rare. FAR more rare. A hobgoblin cleric just rolled into the major town my players have been mucking around in for months now and he's level 5, which gives him access to level 3 spells...that is a big deal in the world because that lets him Bestow & Remove Curses (this is in Pathfinder). Thats major in the world. Arcane spell-casters are generally of even lower level with most never advancing past level 1. Rare few achieve beyond that and they have to maintain their studies or they may drop back down (in that way I have a few NPC wizards that were stronger in their hey-day but have lost a step or two with age). This means enchanting is not common at all. Which, in turn, makes magic items rare.

This set-up flavors things interestingly where the gods will empower followers to perform minor miracles...but, in that regard, the power is not coming directly from human(oid) hands. So arcane magic still has the sense of "whoa this person knows MAGIC", especially when it's more than casting Identify. In this way, the rabble (haha take that commoners) know that a priest is a blessed holy man and their miracles are bestowed by gods...but magic users...well...ANYONE could be wielding that sort of power. All it takes is forbidden lore and obsessive learning. That is a scary thought. There is no test of character there. So people get jittery around it.

I also have different levels of technology in the world as my dwarves have electric technology (seriously, try facing down an electrified shield wall of 4 foot tall, 200 pound bearded bad muthas dressed like tanks...good times!) and some of the major cities have steam and clockwork tech of considerable sophistication. this means that in many ways technology can replace "mundane" levels of magic.

Like I said, it works for me. Maybe some of it will be helpful to you too!

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

It's always a good idea to be proactive about your game and player interest, but don't run yourself ragged  trying to please everyone with diverse interests.  Make certain that what you are building is fun for you too.  A lot of effort can be put out to please different people only to find out that there play styles are too differemt to mesh well.  

  As a dm you want ot accomodate your players as much as possible, but you don't want to be a door mat for ungrateful plaers either.  Its obvious you want every player to have fun but make certain every player includes yourself. 
It's always a good idea to be proactive about your game and player interest, but don't run yourself ragged  trying to please everyone with diverse interests.  Make certain that what you are building is fun for you too.  A lot of effort can be put out to please different people only to find out that there play styles are too differemt to mesh well.  

  As a dm you want ot accomodate your players as much as possible, but you don't want to be a door mat for ungrateful plaers either.  Its obvious you want every player to have fun but make certain every player includes yourself. 



1red13 is spitting some hot fire here! Preach on! Very good stuff!

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

It's always a good idea to be proactive about your game and player interest, but don't run yourself ragged  trying to please everyone with diverse interests.

Agreed.

 Make certain that what you are building is fun for you too.  A lot of effort can be put out to please different people only to find out that there play styles are too differemt to mesh well.

Right. I advocate putting the effort out in a different way. One needn't "build" anything entirely on their own, in hopes that they know enough about their players interests to give them the kind of game they want. That's traditional, but it's hard to know exactly what the players want, and it's sometimes hard to give them that, even if you do know. So, work with them. Then you're all "building" it, and they can apply their preferences directly, without even having to put words to them.

  As a dm you want ot accomodate your players as much as possible, but you don't want to be a door mat for ungrateful plaers either.  Its obvious you want every player to have fun but make certain every player includes yourself. 

Agreed.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

First off, Thank You to everyone who's responded.  I appreciate it all.

Directed responses now...

Centauri

I would like to try that sort of communal world-building, but I'm not sure how to introduce/initially implement it.  Do your players usually build their characters ahead of time, then do the world-building as a group, or vice versa?  If you had a group (such as mine) where 90% of the books in use (and character sheets) are on the computer, would you order it differently?  Do you think it would be worth it (for that initial session at the least) to restrict the players to what's only available off-line, to keep attention more focussed?  I came up with five initial questions, but they're more character-background type questions (When and why did you begin adventuring, How do you know/did you meet your companions, that sort of thing mostly)... How do you usually tie in the world-building?  I enjoy drawing maps and coming up with different cultures, why they exist, and how they got that way; how much (if any) of that sort of thing do you usually do ahead of time?

Warrl and YagamiFire

I've never used the inherent bonuses option 4e has - do you usually find that an "appropriate-level" combat still works as expected, or would I need to shave a monster or two off?  I try to create with my use of monsters combats that are challenging but not outright deadly (the fun's in watching the party explore the world, not watching them bleed out).

1red13 and YagamiFire

My tastes (when playing) are similar to Player D's.  I usually play standard heroes, with most of my Byronic Heroes coming out of standard heroes when I grew dissatisfied in some way with the game I was in.  I don't care much how many magic items we have, so long as the enemies we encounter are appropriate to the party's strength (bleeding out in the 2nd round... not so much fun).  I, however, like a heroic or epic-type world, where there is a sense of exploration and wonder - and as I usually play spellcasters, I would prefer not to be terrifying the locals every time I go into town to buy trail rations.  That just slows things down.  If you think of the scene in the Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf illuminates the halls of Moria for the hobbits... Yeah, that.  That sense of wonder, of age, of a world that's bigger, and worth the fighting.

When DMing... I recognize not everyone enjoys the same things I do.  I try to include several combats a session for Player B (who seems to pay most attention then), but I'm still working on my improv skills, so there aren't as many NPCs/potential plot hooks as I'd like to use.  Getting a handle on the anti-hero's motivations boggles me at times as well.  The last world I built, I didn't create a plot beyond the first few events (PCs signed up on a "Return to El Dorado" type mercantile mission, got shipwrecked, and had to deal with the locals).  Player D ended up changing characters shortly after that third scene, as his PC wanted to stay and help the locals (who were dealing with an undead infestation) and Player C's character wanted to go ("I claim the bricks of gold of the streets of El Dorado!") and wasn't interested in anything that didn't directly relate to that goal (even after someone sent assassins after the party).  I want to run a world/game that interests the players, that they enjoy, and doesn't consistently leave me thinking, "They [Players C and D] want to go in opposite directions; I wonder who's going to be changing characters this time?"

YagamiFire

I like the idea of the conflicting law/chaos and good/evil dichotomies, and Player D is -definitely- the Jedi Knight type.  I'm not as sure about Player C being the Han Solo type, but I'm taking notes, and I'll see how any suggestions I make along those lines go when I present them to him.  Your dwarven shield-wall sounds very amusing - were the PCs allied or opposed to the dwarves?  I'm not much for steampunk/clockwork mechanica myself, but I like the sound of the rest of your world.  It would be weird playing a spellcaster in it, but it's a cool world.  Player C would enjoy it, I think, although Player D isn't quite as enthused [I should probably note at this point that Player D and I are married, but he's been playing with the others about a decade longer than he's known me - although lately he says Player C has been rubbing him the wrong way].
I would like to try that sort of communal world-building, but I'm not sure how to introduce/initially implement it.

Start small, and do 90% of what you usually do, but normally when you would stop to consult your notes, or pause to think, consult your players. The simplest way is to turn the question back to them. When someone asks "What do I see?" turn it around and say "What do you see?" You'll find almost immediately that questions that open ended can be a bit daunting for them, especially if they're not expecting them, so it's usually better to lead the question a little bit. Something like "You see something that sends a chill down your spine. What is it?" or "You see a treasure of moderate value and usefulness. What is it?"

The reason I recommend you run this as a one-off, perhaps with no permanent connection to your regular game, is that, yes, narrative control can go to a player's head, where it might mingle with the very common failure-mitigation approach to D&D. "I see a frightening...ly gorgeous woman!" "I see a +6 vorpal weapon, that has 'I'm With Stupid' written on it." Et cetera. Since it's a one-off, you can just roll with that, and chalk it up as a learning experience, because even that will tell you something valuable.

But, if your players are even a little bit engaged they'll see what you're offering them: an opportunity for them to influence the game directly, along the lines that interest and engage them, without having to put words to what it is they want. "I see a bounty hunter holding a wanted poster from three towns over. The poster has my face on it." "I see a finely wrought blade, clearly ancient, that has seen numerous battles. It's not magical, but is clearly a famous weapon."

Do your players usually build their characters ahead of time, then do the world-building as a group, or vice versa?

I generally feel that players should have control over their characters, and veto power regarding suggestions made about them, so I would assume the players would have characters.

And I want to be clear: this kind of thing CAN get to the level of world building, but I'm suggesting that you start much, much smaller than that. Collaborate on a single delve or mission. Obviously it takes place in a world, but go generic for one session and focus in more tightly for a bit.

Frankly, building a "world" is not necessary, especially before there's some group concensus about the the kind of world people want to play in.

  If you had a group (such as mine) where 90% of the books in use (and character sheets) are on the computer, would you order it differently?  Do you think it would be worth it (for that initial session at the least) to restrict the players to what's only available off-line, to keep attention more focussed?

No. In fact, books probably shouldn't enter into it at all, unless people are looking for a little inspiration. Books are usually for getting things "right" and there's nothing to get wrong here.

  I came up with five initial questions, but they're more character-background type questions (When and why did you begin adventuring, How do you know/did you meet your companions, that sort of thing mostly)... How do you usually tie in the world-building?  I enjoy drawing maps and coming up with different cultures, why they exist, and how they got that way; how much (if any) of that sort of thing do you usually do ahead of time?

The thing to remember is that there's no guarantee that anything a DM creates is going to be interesting to anyone but them, or ever see the light of day in their games. Any creation that a DM does along those lines should be done entirely for its own sake, or at most in the hope that it will build a toolbox for their improvisation.

For what I'm suggesting, you don't need a world. In fact, you really don't need a "world" at all, but can build the parts of it that the characters encounter or know about as you go along. It's remarkably easy to fit different ideas and established facts together when four or five creative brains are collaborating.

I enjoy discussing this, and I'd be happy to go into more detail about what I'm suggesting. Some of us are running a play-by-post test game that operates on this principle and I could give you access to that if you're interested.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Salt your treasure bundles liberally with the standard neck, weapon and armor slot items, or you'll be seeing blood and grit more than your players agreed to.

~I~ like a rough and tumble game, but inherent bonuses can sometimes make seeing a TPK a lot more probable than it was before. Move cautiously into that arena, because its definitely a handicap when the monsters can already brutalize someone who's using normal math.

Personal experience: Inherent bonuses and low-magic (even the published Dark Sun, where it's supposed to work) do not make up for Monster Math. I've slowly been learning that even "at-level" encounters can be rough for players on the proper plane of bonuses. Removing any of their to-hits or defenses makes it that much harder.

That was pre MM3/MV, too. It's gotten worse since they "fixed" the damage expressions.

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

Salt your treasure bundles liberally with the standard neck, weapon and armor slot items, or you'll be seeing blood and grit more than your players agreed to.

~I~ like a rough and tumble game, but inherent bonuses can sometimes make seeing a TPK a lot more probable than it was before. Move cautiously into that arena, because its definitely a handicap when the monsters can already brutalize someone who's using normal math.

Personal experience: Inherent bonuses and low-magic (even the published Dark Sun, where it's supposed to work) do not make up for Monster Math. I've slowly been learning that even "at-level" encounters can be rough for players on the proper plane of bonuses. Removing any of their to-hits or defenses makes it that much harder.

That was pre MM3/MV, too. It's gotten worse since they "fixed" the damage expressions.

Interesting. I rarely see anything other than positive reactions to the "fixed" math. But DMs still have control over the level of challenge they throw at characters, so even if they're under- or over-equipped it should still be as possible to balance encounters as it ever is.

DMs can easily avoid TPKs if they don't want to risk them. It's also relatively easy to simply prepare for them to occur, though this assumes that players who claim to be fine with them don't think differently when one is actually occurring.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

The fixed math IS fixed. For players not using inherent bonuses. Inherent bonuses is starting with a handicap, and going from there.

Sure, DMs have the power to scale the challenge to prevent bad things from happening. Without a doubt. If you're using inherent bonuses, that scale probably needs to start around EL-1, instead of just EL for the party.

Again, personal experience from seeing it happen on both sides of the screen, as well as long talks with some people who actualyl understand the math on a much better theoretical level than I do.

58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?

 

An insightful observation about the nature of 4e, and why it hasn't succeeded as well as other editions. (from the DDN General Discussions, 2014-05-07)

Rundell wrote:

   

Emerikol wrote:

       

Foxface wrote:

        4e was the "modern" D&D, right?  The one that had design notes that drew from more modern games, and generally appealed to those who preferred the design priorities of modern games.  I'm only speculating, but I'd hazard a guess that those same 4e players are the ones running the wide gamut of other games at Origins.

       
        D&D 4e players are pretty much by definition the players who didn't mind, and often embraced, D&D being "different".  That willingness to embrace the different might also mean they are less attached to 4e itself, and are willing to go elsewhere.

    This is a brilliant insight.  I was thinking along those lines myself.  

 

    There are so many tiny indie games that if you added them all together they would definitely rival Pathfinder.   If there were a dominant game for those people it would do better but there is no dominant game.  Until 4e, the indie people were ignored by the makers of D&D.

 

Yep. 4E was embraced by the 'system matters' crowd who love analyzing and innovating systems. That crowd had turned its back on D&D as a clunky anachronism. But with 4E, their design values were embraced and validated. 4E was D&D for system-wonks. And with support for 4E pulled, the system-wonks have moved on to other systems. The tropes and traditions of D&D never had much appeal for them anyway. Now there are other systems to learn and study. It's like boardgamegeeks - always a new system on the horizon. Why play an ancient games that's seven years old?

 

Of course, not all people who play and enjoy 4E fit that mould. I'm running a 4E campaign right now, and my long-time D&D players are enjoying it fine. But with the system-wonks decamping, the 4E players-base lost the wind in its sails.

Seems to me that inherent bonuses can be a great way to make sure that everyone has the correct math even without possessing magic items.  What they may be missing though is the magic item powers and properties.  You can introduce the items (as suggested above) as non-magical items that give a power from a reason that does not stem from magic.  This way you an have both the effect of magic items and the feel of a low magic compaign.

Not sure why Rood.Inverse is being so dramatic about inherent bonuses. 
"The great epochs of our life come when we gain the courage to rechristen our evil as what is best in us." - Friedrich Nietzsche
Thanks again for all the responses.

It does help to know that there -could- be problems with the inherent bonus system if I'm not careful.  The one 4e combat I had major problems crop up with, I didn't actually calculate out until after (at which point it turned out to be equivalent to at least three at-level encounters, so that was ENTIRELY my fault for throwing a party of four PCs up against it).  So long as I don't go overboard again, everything should turn out fairly.

Centauri,

I appreciate the reminder that most of my world-building won't see the light of day, it should only inform what actually takes place.  I will admit that sometimes (since I enjoy exploring the world(s) presented to me when I play) that I go a bit overboard creating backstory and history, when really I only need that if the players engage with the elements it connects to. 

Do you have any other suggestions?  I'm looking at potentially running this one-shot on this coming Friday (Nov. 9th), so any additional advice would be appreciated.  Also, I would enjoy observing your play-by-post game, although I'm not sure I have sufficient time to actually play something like that regularly.
It does help to know that there -could- be problems with the inherent bonus system if I'm not careful.  The one 4e combat I had major problems crop up with, I didn't actually calculate out until after (at which point it turned out to be equivalent to at least three at-level encounters, so that was ENTIRELY my fault for throwing a party of four PCs up against it).  So long as I don't go overboard again, everything should turn out fairly.

I wouldn't bet on this. Combat math is not exact. Weird synergies and combos can crop up on both sides. Maybe over the long run the game is "fair," but you might not every be able to tell that if your sample set is small.

Centauri,

I appreciate the reminder that most of my world-building won't see the light of day, it should only inform what actually takes place.  I will admit that sometimes (since I enjoy exploring the world(s) presented to me when I play) that I go a bit overboard creating backstory and history, when really I only need that if the players engage with the elements it connects to.

That's fine, but it's important to get enjoyment out of that for its own sake and not from an expectation of receiving the same appreciation you give your DMs.

Do you have any other suggestions?  I'm looking at potentially running this one-shot on this coming Friday (Nov. 9th), so any additional advice would be appreciated.  Also, I would enjoy observing your play-by-post game, although I'm not sure I have sufficient time to actually play something like that regularly.

I'll send you and invite and you can just observe.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

The fixed math IS fixed. For players not using inherent bonuses. Inherent bonuses is starting with a handicap, and going from there.

The fixed math is fixed for players who are using enhancement bonuses that increase by 1 every 5 levels.

Inherent bonuses are enhancement bonuses that increase by 1 every 5 levels.

So what's the difference?

There are actually three differences, none of which affect the basic math:

  1. With inherent bonuses you don't have to replace three magic-item categories every five levels. This is a great aid to people in low-magic campaigns, to people who routinely use more than one weapon/implement, and to people who have more interesting things to do with their magic-item choices.

  2. Most magic weapons and implements do extra damage, (enhancement bonus)d(something), on a critical hit. This scales with the item's enhancement bonus. Inherent bonuses offer no such benefit, and even if there is also a magic weapon/implement the extra damage doesn't scale with the inherent bonus.

  3. With magic items, the DM can seed higher-level items a bit earlier, if he likes, without it being blatant that he's adjusting the game in the players' favor. With inherent bonuses, that kind of adjustment can't be done in a non-blatant manner (and the character builder just won't do it). Even dropping a +4 magic item when everyone's inherent bonuses are +3 is pretty obvious, if there have been no +2 or +3 or maybe even +1 magic items.


"The world does not work the way you have been taught it does. We are not real as such; we exist within The Story. Unfortunately for you, you have inherited a condition from your mother known as Primary Protagonist Syndrome, which means The Story is interested in you. It will find you, and if you are not ready for the narrative strands it will throw at you..." - from Footloose
Actually, you do get critical dice with inherent bonuses.  The actual issue with inherent bonuses is scaling. 

Attack and Damage: All characters gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls at 2nd, 7th, 11th, 17th, nnd, and 27th level.

Defenses: All PCs gain a +1 bonus to AC, Fortitude, Reflex, and Will at 4th, 9th, 14th, 19th, 24th, and 29th level.

Monster defenses are generally level + 14 for AC, and level +12 for other defenses (AC increases for Soldiers, decreases for Brutes, etc..).

Monster attacks are generally level +5 (and potentially higher for Artillery). 

If you decide to replace ALL magic items with these bonuses, you're going to encounter a few issues with the resultant disparity in scaling.  For example, most Defender classes wear heavy armor.

A level 7 Paladin wearing Plate +2 (which he should have had access to several levels ago) and carrying a Heavy Shield has an AC of  26.  A level 7 monster will have an attack bonus of +12 versus AC.  By design, he should hit the Paladin only on a 14 or better, to reflect the Paladin's role in directing more than his fair share of attacks in his direction.

A level 7 Paladin in a game with inherent bonuses will only have an AC of 24.  He still only has an +1 bonus to his AC at this level, nor does he gain the extra +1 to AC given to +2 plate.  The same level 7 monster hits this Paladin's AC on a 12 or higher, which will result in the Paladin taking more hits, and making him less capable of filling his role as effectively, by taking more damage.

There are also larger concerns, one of which is the lack of an item bonus to damage.  A lot of people feel that there is too much of this in the system already, but as monsters level, they gain increased hit points, and if you're still swinging for d8+stat+2 at level 7, you're going to have longer fights, as the monsters will die more slowly, giving them more opportunities to attack your lowered defenses.

Inherent bonuses are designed to work with a slightly lowered amount of magical treasure, but not to replace magical treasure (the DMG2 suggests removing ONE bundle of treasure per level).        
"You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies." -The Doctor, Remembrance of the Daleks
I had an experience very similar to the OP.  Player A liked gritty, high-PC-mortality, low magic worlds.  Player B liked high fantasy and clear moral choices.  We played together for 2 years, spanning several different tabletop games including 4e (which Player A hated), some White Wolf stuff, the first D&D Next playtest, and the Goodman Games Dungeon Delve Classics, which has a lot of similarities to D&D Next (and which Player B hated).

In the end, Player A left the group (amicably).  We had tried, but there just wasn't enough common ground between them to make anything work.  We couldn't even agree on which game to play. Sometimes that's what happens, no matter how hard you work to stop it.


As for inherent bonuses, I agree mostly with what MetaFictional said, except that Dark Sun also includes masterwork armor in its campaign guide, and so should anyone playing with inherent bonuses (this is why you see 597 kinds of a given armor type in the OCB when you need to choose masterwork).  I also disagree with Warrl that you can't drop a +4 sword when everyone has +3ib and no +1 or +2 items.  If magic items are extremely rare, it's not at all inappropriate that the few that do exist are quite strong.  This would only be "obvious" to players who were focused on items, in which case you shouldn't be playing a low-magic-item game in the first place.

At any rate, items should still be given out.  Many wondrous items, and of course alternate rewards, can easily be fluffed as non-magic loot.  Same goes for many consumables.
Yes, masterwork armor is intended to exist alongside inherent bonuses- what I was saying is more that you get defense bonuses at a much slower progression than is intended, and you can't use masterwork armor until you get the appropriate bonus.  Which means our front-line characters won't get the benefit of standard +2 armor until level 8.  In some campaigns (LFR, for example), common +2 armor is available starting at level FOUR.  Technically, by the guidelines in the Essentials Dungeon Master's Book, level 6 armor could appear in a level 2 treasure bundle, but I know a lot of DM's who would balk at the idea of a level 2 Paladin/Knight having an AC of 24. 
"You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies." -The Doctor, Remembrance of the Daleks