On labels

For the love of Gygax, stop telling me how to play.


Our playtest group finally advanced enough to start messing about with some of the higher level spells.  And that's where I found this laughably awful bit of purple prose:

"  Ice storm
4th level evocation
You utter the words of this spell, cold and heavy in your mouth, describing a future where the world has ended and ice ceaselessly pummels the frozen landscape.  As you finish, your breath steams as white as the hail of rock-hard ice that pounds down, pulverizing everything in reach of the small storm..."



Good grief.

I'd already been trying to stomach the bits of somatic nonsense.  Burning Hands describes the shape of the wizard's fingers.  Okay.  But when the wizard casts Mage Armor, we're told "your stylized gestures recall the motions of a knight donning armor," and Spider Climb requires the mage to wriggle like an arachnid climbing her web.  Bad enough.  Worse were those bits of description which told our party wizard what she was supposed to be thinking: "You visualize the Elemental Plane of Fire," or "you imagine shining wires that hang the subject of your spell in the air."

I can see why it might, on occasion, be necessary to describe the effect of a spell for newbies who can't picture a Stinking Cloud.  Okay.  Telling the wizard how they have to move for the spell to work is stretching it.  Telling them what to THINK is way beyond the line, and it needs to die, now.  Whichever developer is under the false impression that he or she is the next Hemingway needs to shut up, grab an eraser, and remove these hideous bits of cheese from the game.  This goes for descriptions of skills and maneuvers as well: let the PLAYERS play the game, not the DEVELOPERS.  The writing is laughably bad, but worse, it robs the players of the opportunity to describe their own actions and characters' thoughts. 


Note: this goes for "roles" too.  Stop telling me how to play, damnit.

 
It's like flavour text on a magic card :P Ignore it if you want.

I personally appreciate the fluff. It makes it feel more immersed than numbers listed on a page.
My two copper.
Strip the fluff text, and someone will complain about "formulaic" descriptions. They can't win.
Strip the fluff text, and someone will complain about "formulaic" descriptions. They can't win.



Lol, true dat.
My two copper.
For the love of Gygax, stop telling me how to play.

Maaaybe no the best name to invoke for this particular cause.

Anyway, some example flavor text is fine. The problem just comes with it gets conflated with the spell's actual immutable mechanics. What you have there is not part of the spell's "Effect" line, so it's no problem for me.

this goes for "roles" too.  Stop telling me how to play, damnit.

Roles don't tell you how to play. They just help to make sure that you don't suck if you can't figure the rest out for yourself.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
It's like flavour text on a magic card :P Ignore it if you want.



No.  
Two reasons:
1.) If its in the spell description, its in the spell description.  If there's an official somatic position for casting Burning Hands, I can prevent the wizard from casting it by supergluing his palms togather.  If the Wizard can move, but NOT enough to wiggle like they're putting on invisible pants, they can't cast Mage Armor.  So it's not just flavor text.
2.) EVEN IF IT WERE, there is no way that in a role-playing game, the designers should be telling the players what their characters are thinking.  EVER.  It's the diametric opposite of role playing.   

I dunno...  I don't mind the fluff they provide.  I figure at worst, it can provide inspiration on the fly for how you want to visualize what you want to do.  At best, it can provide something you might not have thought of before.  It's one of the reasons I want fluff heavy campaign books (and why I use my old Realms books for lore instead of newer.)  I love tearing through lore and concepts to either snag or tinker with.  Sure, the prose may seem a little goofy, but D&D's writing isn't supposed to be the greatest.  If you want better prose, why not check out the D&D novels.

Crazed undead horror posing as a noble and heroic forum poster!

 

 

Some good pointers for the fellow hobbyist!:

  • KEEP D&D ALIVE, END EDITION WARS!
  • RESPECT PEOPLES' PREFERENCES
  • JUST ENJOY THE GAME!
Roles don't tell you how to play. They just help to make sure that you don't suck if you can't figure the rest out for yourself.




They do to tell you how to play. For instance, in your case they seem to have made you think that one "sucks" if one plays outside of one's Class' assigned role.   
Wow buddy, you are getting waaaaay too technical with this. If your players seriously think they HAVE to think about X, and it's having a big enough impact on your game to cause this much outrage, then you have more than a problem with fluff text on your hands :P

How do you handle campaign setting material? It gives you all sorts of predetermined fluff.
My two copper.
Roles don't tell you how to play. They just help to make sure that you don't suck if you can't figure the rest out for yourself.




They do to tell you how to play. For instance, in your case they seem to have made you think that one "sucks" if one plays outside of one's Class' assigned role.   



I'll kind of agree.  When I was learning 4th ed a second time (Via Encounters and Essentials), roles tended to fluster me more than help me.  YMMV of course.  Sometimes, I broke out of said role and did just as fine as someone in said role!  (In one session, I went from being a "leader" to controller, striker, and defender... as a Bard - Skald)

Crazed undead horror posing as a noble and heroic forum poster!

 

 

Some good pointers for the fellow hobbyist!:

  • KEEP D&D ALIVE, END EDITION WARS!
  • RESPECT PEOPLES' PREFERENCES
  • JUST ENJOY THE GAME!
this is hardly a "label" it's just a few lines of inconsequential flavor in an experimental spell.

no need to get so uppity over something that has no mechanical bearing. 
Let me guess, for stinking cloud you wiggle your buttocks in the enemies direction while scarfing down a can of magic beans.Yell

These new forums are terrible.

I misspell words on purpose too draw out grammer nazis.

Let me guess, for stinking cloud you wiggle your buttocks in the enemies direction while scarfing down a can of magic beans.



From the Compendium of Sophomoric Spells, no less? ;)

Crazed undead horror posing as a noble and heroic forum poster!

 

 

Some good pointers for the fellow hobbyist!:

  • KEEP D&D ALIVE, END EDITION WARS!
  • RESPECT PEOPLES' PREFERENCES
  • JUST ENJOY THE GAME!
I like flavor text too, but in my family-night playtest last night, my wife kept rolling her eyes at the poorly written flavor text filtered liberally throughout the spells.  I can only hope that stuff was simply not a priority for the playtesters and will be replaced with better written prose upon release.
It's like flavour text on a magic card :P Ignore it if you want.



No.  
Two reasons:
1.) If its in the spell description, its in the spell description.  If there's an official somatic position for casting Burning Hands, I can prevent the wizard from casting it by supergluing his palms togather.  If the Wizard can move, but NOT enough to wiggle like they're putting on invisible pants, they can't cast Mage Armor.  So it's not just flavor text.
2.) EVEN IF IT WERE, there is no way that in a role-playing game, the designers should be telling the players what their characters are thinking.  EVER.  It's the diametric opposite of role playing.   


Yikes.  Yikes yikes yikes.
At this point, there is really nothing to say.  Other than "Yikes".
But I'll try anyway.

From How to Play, page 21:

"you must complete intricate hand motions with at least one of your hands"
"If you can't complete a spell's component, you are unable to cast a spell.  Thus, if you are silenced, or don't have a hand free, you cannot cast a spell."   

This is the rule for spellcasting.  Note it says nothing about "The specific description for a spell might involve other motions."  Why?  Because it assumes (silly, I know) that you can tell the difference between flavor text (totally optional) and rules text (less optional).  But yes, you are right: if you superglue a wizard's hands together, he can't cast spells.

Now, I know you don't think that part is flavor text, because it sounds like you feel that any text is "official", so I really can't help you.  All I can say is what others have said, "Dude, seriously, it is a game.  Just ignore it.  Seriously.  It is clear that you and your friends find the default spell flavor stupid, so ignore it.  Really.  You can do it.  Describe the casting in any way you want.  Honestly.  It will work.  Trust me."

As for #2..."Dude, seriously, chillax.  It is just a game.  For many people, default flavor makes the game more fun.  It can spark creative ideas even if you don't use the exact flavor presented.  Default flavor doesn't 'tell you what to think'; it simply gives an example of what might be happening.  If you and your friends find it very stupid, just ignore it."

Really, nothing more can be said.  I find it very simple: flavor is totally optional.  That includes: pictures, descriptions of how you cast spells, descriptions of how you attack, etc.  If you can't see that, I can't help you.  I suggest writting to WotC with a complete list of the flavor that you prefer for each spell.
At least separate the fluff and the mechanics by putting them in different paragraphs or putting one in italics.  Combining them has never worked well.  This is the very reason Warlocks and Sorcerers were sent back to the drawing board.  Their fluff and their mechanics were too intertwined, forcing you to play in a specific way whether or not that fit your specific table's playstyle (Pretty elven entity Pact?  Gives you warts whenever you use a power given to you from her.  We won't mention if there's a duration or in game effect.  It's just some fluff in your mechanics.)
I like flavor text too, but in my family-night playtest last night, my wife kept rolling her eyes at the poorly written flavor text filtered liberally throughout the spells.  I can only hope that stuff was simply not a priority for the playtesters and will be replaced with better written prose upon release.




see this is a problem I can connect with.  If they are going to give some flavor, which I really do apreciate the inclusion of, I want it to be well written.  I have been giving them the this is still a rough playtest benefit of the doubt on this currently.  I do hope they get some better writing for the descriptions as the playtest goes on though. 
I dont mind flauff but keep it out of my mecanics. I want my dread warlock too be different than the other guys sometimes.

These new forums are terrible.

I misspell words on purpose too draw out grammer nazis.

I dont mind flauff but keep it out of my mecanics. I want my dread warlock too be different than the other guys sometimes.



You got fluff in my mechanics!
My two copper.
I dont mind flauff but keep it out of my mecanics. I want my dread warlock too be different than the other guys sometimes.



You got fluff in my mechanics!

Heh heh can we turn this into a joke?

"Waiter, there is fluff in my mechanics!"

Can't really think up a punchline...

I was referencing the old school reeces commercials.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJLDF6qZUX0

My two copper.
This is the rule for spellcasting.  Note it says nothing about "The specific description for a spell might involve other motions."  Why?  Because it assumes (silly, I know) that you can tell the difference between flavor text (totally optional) and rules text (less optional). 



Does it need to say "specific descriptions for spells might involve other motions" when the actual spell text for more than half the spells specifically declare those other motions?
This issue is not a minor one.  1e and 2e wizards had to cart around bags-of-holding worth of specific components to cast spells.  According to the undifferentiated text of the spells in the playtest, if you're not holding a bag of diamond dust and two different sizes of iron bar, you're not casting bupkiss.  If there were any type of distinction between the "flavor" and "effect" text, you might have a point...but there isn't.  And moreover:


 Default flavor doesn't 'tell you what to think'; it simply gives an example of what might be happening.



I suggest you read the actual spell descriptions, in which they declare, very explicitly, what your character is thinking.  All I'm noting here is that this breaks immersion, and any time a designer is tempted to use the second-person perspective, they should be shot out of a cannon at a nearby brick wall.  Is that so much to ask?

Really, nothing more can be said.  I find it very simple: flavor is totally optional.  That includes: pictures, descriptions of how you cast spells, descriptions of how you attack, etc...


Sexist artwork, demon summoning, baked-in alignment for certain classes, because heaven knows none of THOSE ever caused any controversy, amIright?


Fluff can get intermingled with rules, and lead to confusion. I have seen that in WH40k specifically. Profdaddy makes a good point there. Whoever suggested clearly indicating fluff text with italics or a different font and maybe moving it to a sidebar made the best suggestion. +1 

As for the folks who recommended "just ignore it" I couldn't do that myself. Its part of the material so I am going to read it. Like the feel of the paper or the illustrations the fluff text can't be just erased. It is part of the product and if it fails to evoke a sense of mystery and promote good story then it should probably be removed. 


 Nothing wrong with that suggestion either.

I look at it like this. 3.5 required a bit of luminescent moss to cast the spell light. How many times did I actually say "are you taking the moss out of your pouch?" ? 0 times. It's just fluff to help you get an idea of the intensity/real world effect of the spell. It's just there to aid in immersion. In practice no one even thinks about it most of the time.
My two copper.
I look at it like this. 3.5 required a bit of luminescent moss to cast the spell light. How many times did I actually say "are you taking the moss out of your pouch?" ? 0 times. It's just fluff to help you get an idea of the intensity/real world effect of the spell. It's just there to aid in immersion. In practice no one even thinks about it most of the time.



I can live with the requirement that you have a bit of moss to cast light.  IT's clumsy, but hey, we demand that the fighter actually carry a sword to hit with one, so maybe this is equivalent.  What truly pisses me off is the requirement that your character think about golden string, or think about the plane of fire, in order to cast the spell.  Obviously any of we experienced gamers can look at that and go *poof*, doesn't happen.  But I'm always thinking about what newbs are going to do when they get the new edition in their hands.  I want the developers to get out of a bad habit before they start thinking it's their right, or worse their duty, to tell the players how their characters think.
You know, it is magic. Who says they DON'T have to think about certain things to cast it.
My two copper.
On the other hand I would love to see "in game usable" boxed text descriptions for all the monsters. Maybe the ubber creative adjective happy writers could be sicked on that!
Perhaps spells could have clearly demarcated parts in their entries, with the fluff on one line and the mechanical effects in another section. Wasn't there an edition of D&D that did that? I vaguely seem to recall ... 
I find myself agreeing with the OP here.  The prose is bad.

As far as the assertion to simply ignore the fluff?  That's all well and good until some DM decides to enforce the "fluffy" description.  This becomes even more of an issue given that 5e (so far) is professing to be somewhat of a throwback to earlier editions.  In 4e, fluff was mutable as it should be.  In the earlier editions, fluff was often considered law.

As Selachian noted above, there needs to be some kind of disclaimer and demarcation so to separate fluff from game affecting descriptions and flavors.
I look at it like this. 3.5 required a bit of luminescent moss to cast the spell light. How many times did I actually say "are you taking the moss out of your pouch?" ? 0 times. It's just fluff to help you get an idea of the intensity/real world effect of the spell. It's just there to aid in immersion. In practice no one even thinks about it most of the time.

The 5gp? spellcasting pouch allowed you to assume you had any spell component without a written cost assigned to it.  It was enough of an issue that they had to create an item just to fix the immersion.

As a DM I loved the material components. It was a good way to reign in out of control spells or spur a little side adventure. Not something I kept track of, but it was easy enough to say that there is a shortage of spoted newt tails.

I'm pretty sure thats not what the prof is finding difficult to deal with though. 
They do to tell you how to play. For instance, in your case they seem to have made you think that one "sucks" if one plays outside of one's Class' assigned role.

Wow, no, that's a drastic misunderstanding of what I said. Roles existed as a suggestion and as a fallback. You were totally free to ignore them and still excel at some other role if that's what you preferred, but if it turned out that going for something else wasn't working out, you still had a fall back. For example, it was perfectly possible and in fact easy to build a Fighter like a Striker in the PHB. You didn't have to play a Defender at all. But it you tried that and weren't very good at it, you could still have the Defender stuff to fall back on.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
I was referencing the old school reeces commercials.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJLDF6qZUX0


Ha ha that was great!
Default flavor doesn't 'tell you what to think'; it simply gives an example of what might be happening.

I suggest you read the actual spell descriptions, in which they declare, very explicitly, what your character is thinking.  All I'm noting here is that this breaks immersion
Yikes.  I know I have said that a lot, but it is all I can think right now.  If the description of spellcasting in the book breaks your immersion, I honestly can't help you.  I really don't even know what to say.  Besides "yikes".
As far as the assertion to simply ignore the fluff?  That's all well and good until some DM decides to enforce the "fluffy" description.  This becomes even more of an issue given that 5e (so far) is professing to be somewhat of a throwback to earlier editions.  In 4e, fluff was mutable as it should be.  In the earlier editions, fluff was often considered law.

What do you mean by "fluff was often considered law"?  Do you mean "In my groups, the DM often considered fluff to be law"?  In that case, I guess all I can say is, "I'm sorry."  Or do you mean, "Across ALL groups, fluff was often considered to be law"?  In that case, I have to ask: how in the world do you know?

Also: if your DM insists that when your character casts a spell they MUST be thinking exactly what is presented in the books, you have other problems.  Or they do, I'm not so sure.  But please take a minute to think about the complete rediculousness of this.  It might possibly be the most rediculous thing I've ever heard, and I have watched every Marx Brothers movie.
As Selachian noted above, there needs to be some kind of disclaimer and demarcation so to separate fluff from game affecting descriptions and flavors.

Disclaimer?  Do we really need to treat Fluff like Trans-fat?  "Burning Hands - now fluff free!"

To me it seems very clearly differentiated, just like 4E powers.  Every spell begins with a quick description (the fluff).  It is like the jacket summary on a book: you read it to get an idea of what the spell is all about.  It contains some fancy fluff because that spruces it up a bit.  The argument of whether or not the fluff is well-written is another topic; the point is that this section is clearly separate from what follows, which is the:

Effect:

Yeah, they put it in bold so that you see it.  This part tells you the rules, the stuff you use to figure out how to resolve the spell. 

Now, some of you might disagree.  Some of you might play with every bit of fluff being law.  That's fine.  But I don't think they need to say: "HERE IS THE FLUFF!"

Lastly, don't you think you are burning the candle on both ends here?  First you say that fluff was often considered law.  Then you say that they need to tell us clearly which parts are fluff.  If fluff is considered law, why does it matter?  And, as I said before, if your DM is insisting that your character THINK the words written in the flavor text section verbatum when casting the spell, you have other issues.

I agree with Arithezoo, the spell description separates fluff from mechanics pretty clearly already. I don't see a problem with it.

I wouldn't mind it if they shaded the fluff text, just to give it further distinction for those that can't seem to do so on their own. I don't want it removed though; I think it important for reasons already specified in this thread.
As far as the assertion to simply ignore the fluff?  That's all well and good until some DM decides to enforce the "fluffy" description.

How is "visualize the elemetal plane of fire" enforcable?

  What do you mean by "fluff was often considered law"?  Do you mean "In my groups, the DM often considered fluff to be law"? ...



Yes, there were/are many DMs (and players too) who would hold their players to such strictures.  I have gamed with many.  No, I am not such a DM or player myself, but I have suffered much under the weight of "fluff being mandated into law."

I got a chuckle out of your last paragraph about thinking the words to a spell as I once, back 1978, endured a DM who was gleefully supported by his regular players who insisted that we actually recite an incantation to cast a spell.  No incantation meant your spell failed.  Each spell had to have its own incantation.  Needless to say, my time spent with that group was pretty short.  What's even more scary, this DM wasn't the only one who did that, as I had horrible flashbacks at conventions in 1982, '86, '89 and 1993 where the DMs insisted on "demonstration" based casting or the spell failed.

I agree that the need for disclaimers is pretty sad, but there are many folks out there who would benefit from them.  Just because your group doesn't have such a mindset doesn't mean that mindset doesn't exist.  As one who DMs and plays at many game stores and conventions (non RPGA) I can most assure you that those absurd disclaimers are most needed.

The very fact this thread is here proves that some folks have this issue. Pre 4e, fluff had mechanical and in game consequences. I distinctly remember when 4e was new lots of people not "getting" reflavoring because mechanics and fluff were often combined in 3e and earlier.

Given that 5e is taking a retro tone, it is possible that the above issues will resurface.  As the OP states, it is better to nip it in the bud now then wait for the issues to crop up later.

I am not advocating the removal of fluff.  I just want a little "Idiot proofing" because in my 35+ years of gaming I have had to put up with a lot very bad rulings for exactly what the OP is speaking about.
As far as the assertion to simply ignore the fluff?  That's all well and good until some DM decides to enforce the "fluffy" description.

How is "visualize the elemetal plane of fire" enforcable?



DM:  "You didn't specify that you visualized the plane of fire before casting.  Therefore, your spell fails."

Player: ...

That's how.

Sad but true.  I have seen many variations on the above across many a table over the years.

If you haven't experienced the joy of this particular brand of play, consider yourself lucky.

I look at it like this. 3.5 required a bit of luminescent moss to cast the spell light. How many times did I actually say "are you taking the moss out of your pouch?" ? 0 times. It's just fluff to help you get an idea of the intensity/real world effect of the spell. It's just there to aid in immersion. In practice no one even thinks about it most of the time.



That's a material component, that isn't fluff. It only feels like fluff if they have their spell component pouch. If they don't, there is suddenly a whole lot of spells wizards can't cast, and they are all pretty amazing.

About the silly descriptions, that was seen at least as far back as the Spell Compendium in 3.5, and it was rare to find a description that didn't make me want to laugh or smash someone's teeth.
Didn't they say in the spell compendium to ignore the italic text if you wanted? I seem to remember that somewhere in the beginning where they break down how spell blocks are written.

Response to the OP -


The quality of the spell fluff is lacking, but I actually like that it's specific in its language. I don't like that it's whacked right into the body of the spell and framed such that it's part of how the spell works mechanically, but I also have to remind myself that this is a playtest and the finer points of formatting isn't what they're doing right now. That kind of polish will happen when they do the formatting and paste up for the actual book.


I can see how someone might see the fluff text as telling you how to play and the fact that some of it is pretty bad doesn't help us along to accepting it. It's a valid bit of criticism.



Spell fluff, generally -


As long as the fluff is set off from the rest of the spell and explained in the heading section that the stuff is there just to get you into the spirit of the thing and not meant to be telling people how they must cast a given spell, I think it's fine. I actually tink it's essential to help newer players get the idea and I think it's useful for veteran players to use as a springboard for their own ideas. It must be optional though and I think really, it's pretty easy to separate mechanics from fluff.


Different DMs and players will have different ideas about what's fluff and what's mechanic, even if you do set it apart and say it's optional. There is nothing anyone can do about that and as long as they've made every effort without interrupting the flow of the text then I don't see that anyone can blame the publishers for that problem. It's literally out of their hands.



Material components -


hate them. I do like focuses though and often I'll take a powerful spell and require an expensive and/or rare focus. I feel that I can still regulate spells in the same way spellbooks regulate spells: they can be lost, destroyed, damaged or taken away; you can do it more freely than with spellbooks because they only take the one spell away and not all of the wizard's power they ever had.


Players also feel like the spell is more special 'cause they've gone to the trouble of getting that focus and they tend to shy away from builds that rely on spells that require foci unless they specifically want to mess around with that spell.


Basically it's materials without the mucking about with item tracking and random "gold every cast" balance.