D&D: A changing culture, do players demand a fairer, easier game?

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Ok my last post was closed, probably for being linked to politics. Thats ok, because maybe it is a better fit being linked to culture. So let me start again.

I think our culture is increasingly afraid of failure. We would rather avoid failure or make systems which ignore it. I think we also have a changing expectation of fairnes. I see some of our changing cultural ideas being brought into D&D and other games. For example on the topic of failure we see various ways to make it harder for PCs to fail:

  • The just say "yes" idea in the DMG
  • The fact that it is quite difficult to die in 4e
  • The elimination of randomness effecting players
  • Healing Surges, enough said.
  • Non combat "narration" instead of checks. In another post we were discussing the lack of profession/craft and other non combat skills. A point of view I see repeatedly against non combat skills is that the dice would be used to stop cool plans from working. Are we to assume that players need all their cool plans to work all the time?



Also on the topic of fairness, we see randomness being taken out of the game to make the game more fair for example:

  • static hitpoints
  • at will powers added to make dying harder at earlier levels
  • changes to balance the classes per encounter, not per day or per campaign
  • changes to balance spotlight time
  • stats not being rolled
  • random d100 style effects being toned down or eliminated
  • save or dies being removed


Again I don't want to discuss how one edition is better. I want to discuss how the changing culture, and how cultural changes effect what new generations DEMAND from their games. Do you think that an older generation of players could handle failure in a way that a newer generation just can't? Do newer players expect their games to be "fairer" then older players did? I presume WOTC is just selling what people want. I wonder how much has changed from what people want in the last 30 years or so.

Heres another talking point I just had to edit in. The Game of Life boardgame. Lets look at it. Everything is random. Within the first couple of rolls, one player is a doctor and the other is a single waitress with 2 kids. Is this type of "unfair" game just not fun for a new generation? If so, why does such a smash hit one decade become a smash failure in another decade? Is it just "game design" or is it more then that? Maybe peoples expectations in life are mapped onto their games. Maybe we could even relate the subprime mortgage debacle to this. Maybe that would be going to far

Your opinions? Examples supporting my idea, or counterexamples against my idea are all welcome.
  • static hitpoints
  • at will powers
  • healing surges
  • noncombat skills being narrated not rolled
  • stats not being rolled
  • random d100 style effects being toned down or eliminated
  • save or dies being removed

I'm sad I missed that discussion, but thank you for starting it up again without the political affiliations, Hanez!

*Static HP - Fun. Rolling a 1 is not fun, rolling a 3 on a 6-sider isn't really fun, only rolling a 6 on a 6-sider is actually fun. Static HP has nothing to do with making the game easier, and everything to dow tih the fact that 99% of players who tried Living Greyhawk 3.5 (where you had an option to choose 1/2 die size+1 HP) always chose that option. Most of us kept that method of HP gain even in our home games, because otherwise, you just hoped you could yell "Mulligan!" when you rolled a 1, and your DM would allow it.

Rolling HP or Stats is like gambling at a Casino; the House will eventually win, and you will eventually lose, unless you are allowed multiple rolls for each Hit Die or Stat. And really, that just isn't fun. :S

*At-Will Powers - I don't get this one. Can you detail why this makes the game easier?

*Healing Surges - Best. Thing. EVER. Narrative improvement, Role-reliance improvement, Character Improvement in general! There really are just no downsides I can see to Surges. Also, again, Fun. Wand of X was not fun. It was expensive, boring, and pretty much just accepted that you either had a Happy Stick, or a Cleric Player who was a Happy Stick (another bad idea they've improved on). Getting rid of that type of thing by making it Character Internalized means you can have a greater Party variation than was possible before. My current Party at certain times is all Arcane; we have no Healer/Leader. It's awesome.

*Noncombat Skills - Again, I must be missing something. Skill...Challenges? Or are you just talking about something...wait, you're not talking about Craft/Profession, are you??

*d% Almost Removed - I dunno that this makes it much easier. the only thing we used d% for usually was Random Treasure Drops, and that wasn't the greatest System, really. It was fairly meh, IMHO.

*SoD - Fun. Like, Fun times 9000. Seriously, I cannot TELL you how many times a crap roll left me either 100% dead, paralyzed for 5+ rounds (AKA the entire Combat), or made me utterly useless. Save vs Blind, Save vs Paralysis, Save vs Mind-Effecting Crap, Save vs Your Face, and you roll up a new guy. That was such an un-fun mechanic, and the Save Ends mechanic is oodles better, IMHO.


Lastly, let me say that I am incredibly tired of all the super-easy Video Games we get these days. I LOOOOVE a good challenge. My favorite DMs (like my current one) are the ones who make us face Level+3 Encounters; HARD Encounters, and they use GOOD tactics, too. However, SoDs weren't challenging; Random HP and Stats weren't challenging; 1/Day Spells weren't challenging; Random Treasure wasn't challenging. Those things were just unfair, and if I wanted unfair, I'd go ask my Boss for a raise and watch him chuckle. I don't want unfair in my free time; that's just silly! I want a challenge.
Resident Logic Cannon
*At-Will Powers - I don't get this one. Can you detail why this makes the game easier?


*Noncombat Skills - Again, I must be missing something. Skill...Challenges? Or are you just talking about something...wait, you're not talking about Craft/Profession, are you??

I made my post hastily so I will elaborate if there is some confusion.

I think at will powers are associated with making everyone stronger during the first 4-5 levels or so right? I mean levls 1-3 were TOUGH in earlier editions. Now the at wills make you tough.

Non Combat skills - I guess I am somewhat talking about craft, but not totally. I was discussing baking a cake in another thread and how it lead to a cool roleplaying idea, and how I appreciated the rules that allowed this idea to happen. But then some people said it would be better without the rules, so the DM could just allow it to happen. But Isn't success without the chance of failure, not a real success? Isn't it less appreciated?
I have the At will thing. It is good and bad. It is a guaranteed way to use your "theme" powers throughout the fight, but it sucks balls if you would like to use a sword without having to MC into the class. You could always be an Eldarin if you like using a sword though.:P
I made my post hastily so I will elaborate if there is some confusion.

I think at will powers are associated with making everyone stronger during the first 4-5 levels or so right? I mean levls 1-3 were TOUGH in earlier editions. Now the at wills make you tough.

I believe At-Wills were added in because having no options but Melee Basic Attack is not Fun. The 5-Minute Workday is not Fun, either, so if you give Characters Powers that will never run out, do cool things, but are still Balanced, they'll be much less likely to just take rests after every Encounter.

The first few levels are still Challenging, because you have, like, no Powers but your At-wills, which really aren't that great!

Non Combat skills - I guess I am somewhat talking about craft, but not totally. I was discussing baking a cake in another thread and how it lead to a cool roleplaying idea, and how I appreciated the rules that allowed this idea to happen. But then some people said it would be better without the rules, so the DM could just allow it to happen. But Isn't success without the chance of failure, not a real success? Isn't it less appreciated?

Ah, no, I'd definitely have to agree with you there. Showcasing something your character is proud of is never a waste of time. Mario RPG had a great thing with making a cake, as I recall, and it was quite fun! I can definitely see a Skill Challenge about Party Members finding the Ingredients/Making it/What-Have-You being challenging and fun!

"You bake the cake," is boring, unimaginative, and not fun at all. :S
Resident Logic Cannon
I suspect it's a change over D&D used to be played. Back in the day, it was mostly the DM vs the players. The Tomb of Horrors was just an excuse to kill characters.

Seeing that this DM vs Players isn't a good thing for a game that's supposed to be fun, when 2e rolled around, that's when we started hearing small rubmles of "say yes". Not loudly though, but 2e opened the door to the idea that D&D isn't all about PC vs PC or DM vs the PCs.

3e came along and really pushed the idea of saying yes to players. The game evolved from the DM being in charge of the game to giving the game to the players. Prestige classes, for example, were originally a DM tool to flesh out his game world, but turned into a character building option.

4e arrives and seems to be partially giving control back to the DM. I say partially as magic items have been moved to the PHB. During my 3e games I saw something that would be blaspheme during 1e days- players pawing through the DMG looking for magic items. Now in 4e, the items are in the PHB, so in a way that's a huge "Say yes" to players.

The idea of saying yes has been going on for years. I've seen articles in Dragon during 2nd edition days promoting such a thought. It was to loosen up the tight fisted control freak DM issues that seemed to be popping up left and right.

It may seem like it's difficult to die in 4e, and yet there are many threads complaining about total party kills. Difficult? Maybe. Impossible? Not in the slightest.

On the randomness issue, I think many people are growing up and out of the nonsencical random occurances. Back in the day, you'd have dungeons that made no sense. Kobolds in one area were living in the same dungeon with green oozes, orcs, ginat snakes, rats, a party of drow and maybe a dragon.

Randomness is fine unless the penalty is too huge to suffer or the reward unbalancing. How does one lose experience when drawing a card from a deck of many things?

Also consider that players themselves don't want randomness when building their characters. Sure you roll for stats, but do you roll to see if your character is a male of female? Do you roll to determine which class you'll play? Or what equipment you'll have? No, players want to pick and play what they want.

There's nothing wrong with healing surges. They're the replacement for all those healing wands we used to buy and burn through.

"Non combat "narration" instead of checks. In another posts we are discussing non combat skills. A point of view I see repeatedly against non combat skills is that then dice would be used to stop cool plans from working. Are we to assume that players need all their cool plans to work all the time?"

The problem with this statement is it contridicts the desire for randomness with the characters.


It's not that older generation can handle failures and the newer one's can't, but if you're new to a game, you want to be able to play it for a reasonalbe amount of time after spending a while building a character.

I ran a low level game where the first trap in the room would have killed the character if I hadn't fudged the dice. I've played characters who have been incapacitated or knocked down and out of combat withing one or two rounds. It's not fun to play a game without you know, actually being a part of the game and playing it.

Failure is never fun. Do you play a game to lose? Probably not. The reason for playing is to have fun.
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Of the two approaches to hobby games today, one is best defined as the realism-simulation school and the other as the game school. AD&D is assuredly an adherent of the latter school. It does not stress any realism (in the author's opinon an absurd effort at best considering the topic!). It does little to attempt to simulate anything either. (AD&D) is first and foremost a game for the fun and enjoyment of those who seek the use of imagination and creativity.... In all cases, however, the reader should understand that AD&D is designed to be an amusing and diverting pastime, something which an fill a few hours or consume endless days, as the participants desire, but in no case something to be taken too seriously. For fun, excitement and captivating fantasy, AD&D is unsurpassed.As a realistic simulation of things from the realm of make-believe or even as a reflection of midieval or ancient warfare or culture or society, it can be deemed only a dismal failure. Readers who seek the later must search elsewhere. - Gary Gygax. 1e DMG.
Imo, things getting easier is a trend of the economy and observable not only in D&D (or games, but I don't want to start a politic discussion again).

Video games are a good example of this. Video games were created roughly the same time as D&D, just have a faster evolution as they have a higher turnover rate. While a RPG edition lasts for years, a video game is mostly only good for some months.

In the early days of video games the games were hard. Partially that was because hard games made more money as you had to pay for retries (arcade games). That reason disappeared when they moved onto home consoles, but games generally stayed challenging. Nintendo Hard games were common in those days.

But then games got easier and easier. At first you had more retries, then infinite retries. Then at some points having trying again became rarer and rarer. Today you have self regenerating health and unless you play on hard difficulty many people won't even fail once in a game.
The same trend can be observed in D&D.

Now why is that so? No idea really. DO people become simply better at playing games? Maybe, but unlikely as new players also have an easy time. To attract more customers? Imo thats a big reason. One way to increase sales is to make the game accessible to more people. And to do that you must make sure that you don't need some special skill or experience with other games to play your game. Nintendo seems to be the master of this technique with their Wii (which at this point is a collection of party games and maybe 4 real games).
Partially its probably also because now the companies know better how to make games and what the audience wants.
I think Darren hits it. We accepted very difficult to impossible games because we were stupid then. :D
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Of the two approaches to hobby games today, one is best defined as the realism-simulation school and the other as the game school. AD&D is assuredly an adherent of the latter school. It does not stress any realism (in the author's opinon an absurd effort at best considering the topic!). It does little to attempt to simulate anything either. (AD&D) is first and foremost a game for the fun and enjoyment of those who seek the use of imagination and creativity.... In all cases, however, the reader should understand that AD&D is designed to be an amusing and diverting pastime, something which an fill a few hours or consume endless days, as the participants desire, but in no case something to be taken too seriously. For fun, excitement and captivating fantasy, AD&D is unsurpassed.As a realistic simulation of things from the realm of make-believe or even as a reflection of midieval or ancient warfare or culture or society, it can be deemed only a dismal failure. Readers who seek the later must search elsewhere. - Gary Gygax. 1e DMG.
Its not a product of culture, its an improvement in game design.

The genre is evolving and more thought is going into improving on what makes the game fun and trying to eliminate what makes it unfun.

As a group we were already doing things such as static hps, point buy stat systems, reducing character power disparity (though magic items mainly) and restraint on SODs even before they were enshrined into the rules and we've been playing for 20 years. Yet when your character dies you roll up a new one, no "*pop* you're alive again". Its not just about removing penalties for failure.
Its as Crimson Lancer said, we want challenging but not through randomness.
I wonder if we can say that players have improved.

By which I mean, in the old days players could lose a character every session and just pull out a new one.

There's less of a commitment, perhaps. If you really roleplayed a character then you've got some sort of connection there. After all, the more time you spend on something the greater the connection.

Spend a minute folding a paper airplane, and you don't care if it flies into the garbage disposal. Spend a week building a complicated piece of paper origami, and you'll certainly hurt if you accidentally let it melt in the rain.

I think players are less accepting of character death when it's not their fault. In the older days, a "whoops, there's a flash of green and all you see of Dave is a pile of dust surrounded by his equipment" was annoying, but seemed par for the course. Nowadays, they'll ask what the heck that was and why they didn't get a save.

I dunno. It just seems to be part of the evolution of the game - less "whoops, you're screwed" situations. It does seem like we want things to be fair - where you face the consequences of your choices rather than the consequences of random factors beyond your control. (I once had a wizard with roughly the same HP than the fighter in the party. That's... not cool, man. We were like level four or five, and he kept rolling 1s and 2s for hp.)
Less Failure...

* "Just say Yes" - I have mixed feelings about this. I think that if there's no rules regarding a thing...then saying yes is often the proper course. But, I also think that means letting the players ATTEMPT something, not just telling them, they succeeded for wanting to try it at all. When the rules say you CAN'T do something though, it's usually for a good reason, and should stay that way. But this "Yes" attitude leads to more exciting and interesting gameplay most of the time.

* Rare Death - Death isn't really rare. I remember hearing about parties getting slaughtered in KotS constantly early on. But now people know the ins and outs of the game, and deaths occur less often. That's how any game is. That said, TPKs most certainly SHOULD be rare. TPKs are not fun. Even when they lead to quests to restore the party, they annoy me because we were ALREADY on a quest, and I don't like side trips. I'm focused...what can I say?

* Elimination of Randomness - I really don't think it's been eliminated too much. I think certain otherwise superfluous rolls have been eliminated. Most of what's happened, with Defenses for instance, is that the burden of randomness has been placed now universally on the attacker. An optional rule from the previous edition, if you'll recall. If this refers to stats and HP...then I cover that part later in the post.

* Healing Surges - They're pretty limited. You can't just use them...they're highly conditional. They make healing more convenient in some cases, but less effective overall. It also rations healing based on the character needing it, not the character casting it, which makes such healing leaders more practical.

* Non-com Narration over Checks - This isn't really an issue. I also go into more detail later in the post. As far as "Cool plans always working" that's not really what this does. People who are doing this are taking the "Yes" suggestion in the DMG way too far. You're supposed to say yes to the ATTEMPT of a cool plan. It can still fail...and if it's a plan, it's likely to involve one or more skill checks or full-on challenges. Plenty of room for failure.

-

Less Randomness...

* Static HP - CL is right. Rolling a 1 for HP isn't just "not fun" though, it's potentially harmful to the campaign. Roll too many of them and your character becomes completely unplayable.

* At-Will Powers - I get why you think this makes things easier. Parties never use up ALL of their resources. There's always something left. That doesn't really make it easier though, it just means you have to spend less time with your thumb in a certain rear-facing orifice.

* Per-Encounter Class Balancing - This is really very important. One HUGE drawback in previous editions was that if your wizard or healer was out of juice, your party was done for the day. Even if the rest of you could go on, it was suicide to attempt it. So, you either had players sitting out of encounters because they had nothing left, players sitting around WAITING for the others to juice-up, or TPKs. Not fun. Players being left out or otherwise sitting around with their thumbs up their bums for any reason, combat OR non-com, is not fun at all.

* Plenty of non-combat skills are still rolled, such as theivery. But craft and profession and such just don't matter enough. Sure, you could fail at crafting a new sword, but what difference would it really make? You needlessly waste an insignificant amount of time and money on an unimportant task. Why go through all that for nothing? You want to make a sword, you make a sword.

* Non-rolled Stats - This is less about ease and more about balance, like HP. Getting minimal stats can be a detriment to the entire campaign. Granted, some people like playing the useless, idiot clutz, but it shouldn't be left in the hands of chance, especially if everyone would prefer to be functional. The point-buy or standard array are hardly powerful, and they often lead to "gimped" stats, so it's really a non-issue. It's just a way of making sure no one person outshines or drags down the group for no reason other than dumb luck.

* d100 style randomness - Dunno why this is gone, really. Probably just to save space. There's no REAL purpose for it other than that the DM doesn't get to pick anything (which DMs would often just pick off the list and say they rolled it anyway). It's better to make up something that fits the circumstances than have dozens of tables that lead to more tables to determine an otherwise extremely simple outcome. But..houseruling it back in would do nothing to harm the game itself at all...so it's fine.

* Save-or-Die - They got rid of this I think more because of the change in the nature of the game. Save-or-Die spells in 4e would be massively more powerful than even in previous editions. The threads about Orbizards alone are enough to justify the removal of Save-or-Die. Classes with access to such powers could effectively shut down encounters in the first round, and enemies could TPK even a prepared and experienced party with little difficulty. Either way that would get old fast.
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First, the cultural comparison is just the old idea of "generational decline" and is as much nonsense as it was when our grandparents were walking uphill through the snow to and from school. It's been around practically forever and it's been untrue for just as long; it just reflects generational elitism.

The reduction of randomness is simply to reduce how much the system relies on randomness as a substitute for challenge. Randomness doesn't create challenge, it only creates a moment of jeopardy. It increases unpredictability, not difficulty.

Difficulty is specifically designed to be predictable in 4e, so that it's tunable by the DM. This way the DM, rather than the dice, decides the level of challenge an encounter poses. A DM's under no obligation to make it either easy or hard for the characters.

At-wills exist to maintain at least a minimum extent of action choice in combat. Your class will always provide at least two tactical options.
Mario RPG had a great thing with making a cake, as I recall, and it was quite fun!

It was fun, cuz you didn't make the cake...you FOUGHT THE DAMN THING. Once it was established you couldn't kill the cake-monster-thing, one of the NPCs tricked the Wario-wannabe villain to eat it. :D

God, I love that game. Geno - Star Pact Warlock, FTW!
4e D&D is not a "Tabletop MMO." It is not Massively Multiplayer, and is usually not played Online. Come up with better descriptions of your complaints, cuz this one means jack ****.
Off-Topic! :P
It was fun, cuz you didn't make the cake...you FOUGHT THE DAMN THING. Once it was established you couldn't kill the cake-monster-thing, one of the NPCs tricked the Wario-wannabe villain to eat it. :D

Oh, yeeeaahh...and it was actually a really nasty fight, too. :S

God, I love that game. Geno - Star Pact Warlock, FTW!

Who doesn't?? One of the best RPGs in existence, and the best showcasing of a Silent Protagonist who's adjusted to his "disability" I've ever seen!

Also, I can't get any of my Warlock Powers to do 9999 damage, though, so no Geno Flash.


I think making a Sword or a Boat or a Cake should be an adventure unto itself. Order of the Stick's sidequest for Starmetal that would fix Roy's Sword was not only a reason to "just make a sword," it advanced the Plot and Inter-Party relations, as well.
Resident Logic Cannon
Ok my last post was closed, probably for being linked to politics. Thats ok, because maybe it is a better fit being linked to culture. So let me start again.

I think our culture is increasingly afraid of failure. We would rather avoid failure or make systems which ignore it. I think we also have a changing expectation of fairnes. I see some of our changing cultural ideas being brought into D&D and other games. For example on the topic of failure we see various ways to make it harder for PCs to fail:

  • The just say "yes" idea in the DMG
  • The fact that it is quite difficult to die in 4e
  • The elimination of randomness effecting players
  • Healing Surges, enough said.
  • Non combat "narration" instead of checks. In another post we were discussing the lack of profession/craft and other non combat skills. A point of view I see repeatedly against non combat skills is that the dice would be used to stop cool plans from working. Are we to assume that players need all their cool plans to work all the time?



Also on the topic of fairness, we see randomness being taken out of the game to make the game more fair for example:

  • static hitpoints
  • at will powers added to make dying harder at earlier levels
  • changes to balance the classes per encounter, not per day or per campaign
  • changes to balance spotlight time
  • stats not being rolled
  • random d100 style effects being toned down or eliminated
  • save or dies being removed


Again I don't want to discuss how one edition is better. I want to discuss how the changing culture, and how cultural changes effect what new generations DEMAND from their games. Do you think that an older generation of players could handle failure in a way that a newer generation just can't? Do newer players expect their games to be "fairer" then older players did? I presume WOTC is just selling what people want. I wonder how much has changed from what people want in the last 30 years or so.

Heres another talking point I just had to edit in. The Game of Life boardgame. Lets look at it. Everything is random. Within the first couple of rolls, one player is a doctor and the other is a single waitress with 2 kids. Is this type of "unfair" game just not fun for a new generation? If so, why does such a smash hit one decade become a smash failure in another decade? Is it just "game design" or is it more then that? Maybe peoples expectations in life are mapped onto their games. Maybe we could even relate the subprime mortgage debacle to this. Maybe that would be going to far

Your opinions? Examples supporting my idea, or counterexamples against my idea are all welcome.

Most pen and paper RPGs, while spawned by D&D, have also begun to move out in other directions. Part of this is because they need to get from under D&D's shadow, but another driving factor is the desire to carve out their own niche against competing entertainment options.

In a world where Magic the Gathering, easy to pick up and play skirmish games, and countless very detailed and interactive fantasy themed videogames exist, D&D has found that to flourish (not simply exist) it needs to embrace the things that makes P&P RPGs more popular.

One of the most unique aspects of P&P RPGs is the social dynamic between the player and GM and how they interact to create a story. It's becoming less and less about "winning" the game, but valuing the experiences and creative interactions that occur during an actual gaming session.

Another important aspect is creativity when it comes to making the world or your character. Eliminating randomness and encouraging an individualistic approach to world and character building better lets the DM and players craft the world they want, not the worlds that numbers and predetermined charts dictate.

Because of the greater emphasis on the story and creative exchanges, and less about confrontation between player and GM, the idea that you "lose" only when you die, or that you "win" simply because you survived lose some impact. You are cooperating with the DM and other players to create a story and fantasy experience. Having characters constantly killed and having to be constantly resurrected or conveniently replaced tends to curtail that as well.
I think it's less a change in culture and more an evolution of game design. Game design is a science now. We have clear guidelines as to what makes games fun, addictive, accessible, and attractive to casual or hardcore audiences. We know how to pace games, we know how to track complex situations without requiring complex mental mathematics, we know what kind of people play games and why, and we know how to appeal to those people.

There's hard evidence showing that people are most likely to leave an activity temporarily after a reward but most likely to leave an activity permanently after a loss-incurring failure. There's information about the way that people relate to depictions of characters in a virtual space. There's studies showing that people respond well to arbitarily large numbers when they represent rewards but to low numbers under 20 when they're calculating probability.

Modern game design is less a change in culture than it is an attempt to embrace patterns of play and modes of thought that are provably more inclusive, rewarding and fun. Whether it meets those goals is a matter of debate but we're not moving in new directions just because of arbitary shifts in taste - we're moving there because our best analysis says it's better.
I think the major focus has shifted towards keeping the party together; that the game is about everyone around the table having fun.

Consider, if you will...


1) Hard To Die.

Let's face it, if you have a save or die effect, that means that if your player rolls a die and it arbitrarily reads a low number, he gets to spend the session sitting out.

From a player perspective, this can really suck. I can recall one particular session where my rogue failed one fortitude save in the surprise round. As a result, I got to sit on my ass for three hours while the party dealt with the encounter, the situation, and finally returned to a location at which I could be revived. It sounds selfish to mutter about it, but the fact is; that session bit giant wrinkly Demagorgon balls.

From a storytelling perspective, frequent death makes it difficult to keep everything together. If the story is about your PCs, what happens when one is suddenly offed in the middle of the plot by an errant roll of the die? There are some beautiful campaign transcripts that illustrate this problem; stories about heroes conquering powerful evil, narratives constructed from the sessions themselves. Yet sometimes, when the various save-or-die situations occur with frequency, you realize in reading the story that the heroes who began the journey aren't even in the climactic battle. They're dead. The new crew is a bunch of replacements, or the replacements' replacements, who joined to fill the gaps left by the PCs dropping like flies. Epic romance turns to loss, a struggle for meaning becomes a cycle of failure, a great narrative becomes an epitaph.

From an mood perspective, frequent death is terrible for maintaining atmosphere. If frequent death happens without access to reviving, one wonders why the PCs don't suffer from massive post-traumatic stress syndrome, having literally watched their friends die around them. If you counteract the above problem with resurrection, you get the Revolving Door of the Heavens. PCs can't be threatened, they can't be intimidated; they've got a handful of diamond reagents in their pockets, and the will to use them.

(an aside: I know, this can still sort of happen. There is a reason I've reflavored "death" to Princess Bride's "mostly dead". The Raise Dead ritual thus became the magical equivalent of major surgery.)


2) Randomness Impacts PCs Less.

There was Save Versus Alignment Reversal, which basically said "Roll a die, and if you fail, take your PC character concept and shove it up your armor rating." There was the Deck of Many Things, a wench as fickle as the wind and treacherous as the ocean storm. There was rolling for HP, which could leave your fighter the most fragile member of the party. There was stat rolling, which resulted in paragons of mankind adventuring side by side with total runts.

Yep, randomness matters less, which means character concept and choice matters more. I'm willing to accept that.


3) Non-Combat is a Group Thing.

This is the other big one, and it ties back to my original statement; sacrifice a bit to keep everyone playing together.

It's true. You can't have a non-combat character easily, one who's only purpose is, say, to use diplomacy. Or a sneak monkey who doesn't know which end of the blade goes where. Or the craftsman who makes the entire arsenal of the party, but faints at the sight of blood. Conversely, when faced with skill challenges, a fellow member of the party is far more likely to be able to contribute, even if its Aiding his fellows, to the overall situation.

To give an analogy, we're going to take another detour. Sorry about that. :D

Ever played Spycraft 2.0? Awesome system for modern intrigue gaming. Spies and sleuths, agents and adventurers, pilots and persuaders, hackers and henchmen. The details of the skills alone took pages and pages, giving magnificent rules for everything from stashing an item to hiding in a crowd. Subsections included little minigames for chases, hacking, infiltration, even a how-to guide for becoming a mole in an evil organization. A great work of art.

After examining the book, going over all sorts of possible ideas, I finally settled on being the Resident Computer Expert. I hacked. It's what my character was all about; dancing across the information database and decimating all that stood in the team's way.

In practice?

When it was time for me to work my magic, it was interesting and dynamic. The DM and I could drill back and forth with out moves and countermoves, the valiant codeslinging slugfest between the terminals.

But when there was no hacking to be done? I did nothing, contributed nothing. And the funny thing was, it wasn't just me. When I was actually doing something, it meant the pilot was sitting out. When he was doing his chase scenes, the infiltrator twiddled his thumbs, waiting for more sneaking. When stealth was the game, the faceman didn't have anyone to chat around, and thus sat out. When the faceman charmed the populace, my character was back at base, "guarding the iron horses." The DM was always at work with one person or another, but being only one guy, he could only focus on one set of rules or another, running the adventure one person at a time. The game felt more like a series of 1 on 1 sessions mashed together with a peanut gallery than a cohesive party.


Yes, the game does make some sacrifices in character concept. It is assumed that you are a competent combatant, because that's what DnD has always been about; killing monsters and taking their stuff.

Outside of battle, the game still tries to ensure that everyone plays together. Skill boosts ensure that you can make some contribution, even a minor one. Lots of time-killers were nixed, no more sitting for eight months for one guy to finish making his plate mail. And everyone was given the possibility for things like ritual use and enchantment through feats to make sure that you can contribute if you so wish. Point is, everyone still acts as a group, facing skill challenges together, chase scenes together, puzzles together, and the adventure as a whole, repeating one last, mind-numbing time, together.


In regards to failure, I think the game pushes towards the idea that we succeed or fail as a group. Individuals are harder to take down and eliminate from the picture, no more alignment swapping helms or mirrors of Your Character With A Beard, or touch-the-gem-and-die-no-save regular events, or random statistics which make an individual character useless with the single roll of a die. The result is a cohesive party that sticks together like glue, a true adventuring team that takes on the challenges the dungeon master throws at them, and overcomes them or falls before them as one.

Put simply and succinctly(too late, I know), characters are tougher, hardier, and more likely to succeed so they can all support the cause of the group as a whole, so that each individual at the table can have fun and contribute something meaningful, and so that the choices they make matter more to the game than the roll of a die.

I'd agree that most of the changes have been more about fun++ than about just making the game easier; the pioneers of the genre didn't have the benefit of decades of role-playing to look back on to see what worked and what didn't. If 4e sees further than most, it's truly because it's standing on the shoulders of giants. (Though at the same time, I don't want to diminish the incredible job the designers did; they found the right giants to stand on in the right places, and stand pretty tall themselves, to drag an analogy way too far.) That's not to say that someone who grew up with the old style of play and enjoys it shouldn't continue to enjoy it that way, but unfair an inaccessible is not necessarily the way to get the acquisition that tabletops need to compete with videogames, which fill a similar niche.

On the subject of "Nintendo Hard" - while changing player expectations might be part of it, one of the primary reasons that NES games were frequently so difficult was so that they could offer a significant challenge with limited hardware. A PS2 disk has the space to offer hours and hours of entertainment by virtue of being able to hold a lot of entertainment on it. The NES and NES cartridges are much more limited in that regard; programming for one was often an exercise in efficiency, and there's just only so much that fits on there. To offer thirty hours of entertainment, the games often had to be really tough, since a player that just breezed through would simply finish the limited content that fit on there really quickly. (Also, I don't know that we had the highest standards in general back then. I played some great NES games in school, but I also played the hell out of a bunch of games that, in retrospect, are just terrible.)
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
I think it has less to do with failure and more to do with fun. People want to have FUN with dnd, having your wizard start with a 14 int isn't fun. Rolling a 1 on your barbarians d12 hit die isn't fun. Having another player overshadow you isn't fun, and in fact it's somewhat infuriating. However I will concede failure is being edged out of games, but I think there's a reason for that.

Let me explain, back in the day, when video games, were first coming into the lime light they had no story. Pac-man does not have a story, galaxian has no story, the list goes on. When consules appear we start to see the barest vestige of story "are you a bad enough dude to save the president," was accepted as a good enough story for a video game. As time went on video games went from being about replayability and difficulty and the light shifted to story telling. Today we can see this clearly, games like bio-shock, a smash hit, give you infinite retries, while still being challenging. Back in the day when you played contra and died you had to start over, from the BEGENNING! Of course since it didn't have a story you were playing it to play it, not for a story. Today story telling is one of the most important parts of a video game, bio-shock was a huge hit in part because it told an amazing story. Games are heralded as worthy of purchase if they have a certain balance of story telling, challenging and fun gameplay, and are bug-free. Today we're looking more at the whole package of the video game, rather than just how hard it is. And with story-telling being so important people don't want an impossible game because they want to see the conclusion of the story!

I think dnd is going through a similar evolution. Combat is still important, but story is becoming just as important. And players get attached to their characters, after I create a character and give him a backstory, and do all that work I don't want the dm to just hit him with disintigration and tell me "well you better start rolling up a new character." At the same time I don't want to know that the dm has a safety-net in play to make sure my character won't die. I've had dm's who have done both of those, and neither of them were my favorite dms. However given the choice I'll take the safety-net. I used to have a dm that would, literally, kill a new character I made EVERY SINGLE WEEK, unless I made him so bad-ass he couldn't, and then he would pull some bs out of his ass and kill the character. It was not fun, in the slightest. However if my character sacrifices himself to save the party I'm expecting to write up a new character, having the dm tell me something happened and he didn't die means I just did that completely in vain.

It's about striking the middle ground, being challenging, but fun. Not impossible, and treating all the players fairly. 4th edition, to me is so great, because it's a TEAM game. To put it in terms of video games, 3rd edition was like oblivion or morrowind, a single player game where you took on the world, and some guys followed you around (assuming you were the most well built character). Fourth edition is like left 4 dead, your team has to work together to survive and if someone goes off and does something stupid they'll pry get killed.

So in conclusion I feel D&D isn't moving towards being easier, but instead being more fair to all players, promoting teamwork, and promoting story and narration instead of constantly saying "make a blah blah roll," when you wanted to just do something entertaining and cool. The game is, all in all, more fun and enjoyable for everyone, in my opinion anyhow, and the game is becoming more complete. Instead of just one portion of the game being the exclusive focus.
I think at will powers are associated with making everyone stronger during the first 4-5 levels or so right? I mean levls 1-3 were TOUGH in earlier editions. Now the at wills make you tough.

Levels 1-3 still are tough.

The at-wills bring more variation to the game. The fighter now has a few different types of attacks. For years, fighters made the same attack, round after round after round -- and nobody complained. Now, they've got a few more options. I welcome this.

And the changes to the magic missile mean that the wizard no longer has to throw darts when that one memorized spell has been cast.

The healing surges are a nice addition. They're balanced in that everyone's HP have been raised. There's far fewer calls for, "Medic!" And the party doesn't have to run back to town for healing after every other encounter.

In earlier editions, if my PC gained a level, and I rolled a '1' for my HPs, I would feel like I had just wasted a level.

Save vs. Death? I now think that's wasteful. Going back to your boardgame comparision, in Monopoly you might go to jail, but you're not condemned to a life sentence -- you can keep playing. I don't think it's right or fair to have a PC's fate boil down to one roll.

I understand what you're saying about culture and the changes made to D&D. But if you look at it from WotC's position, you would want to make the game appeal to as many people as possible -- from casual gamers to the hardcore veterans. Yes, the game has been made more fun. It's intent is to appeal to a wider audience. And I think this is a good thing.

It's not harder to die in 4e -- in previous editions, it was just easier to die.
In earlier editions, if my PC gained a level, and I rolled a '1' for my HPs, I would feel like I had just wasted a level.

Oh yeah! Nothing like becoming a 5th level Fighter in 3e and rolling a '1' for hp. Them's the best, mmhmm, yes it is. :D
4e D&D is not a "Tabletop MMO." It is not Massively Multiplayer, and is usually not played Online. Come up with better descriptions of your complaints, cuz this one means jack ****.
Oh yeah! Nothing like becoming a 5th level Fighter in 3e and rolling a '1' for hp.

You become a 5th level minon.

Imagine my 3e sorcerer. At 1st level I have 4 HP. So when there's a fight, I hide.

At 2nd level I have 5 HP. And so now when there's a fight, I run away.
You know I just played a 2nd edition game for the first time in many many years the other day. I can safely say that drow poison took a player out of the game for several hours. That player didn't have any fun at all that day. Death works the same way. If you kill a player, they don't get to play anymore.

It sucks to sit by and wait for hours.

That said, I frequently KO my players. I do it every chance I get. I kill them every now and then too. I have only taken the Coup De Grace action once though. It's only hard if the players are playing as a team and why would you punish them for that.

4th edition is very much in the interest of fun. That's why player's don't get shafted with low Hit Points and Stat roles. I played a level 3 Rogue the other day and I had 14 hit points because I rolled two 1s, it was tough because I built him as a Melee Character right before the game started and I forgot to role my hit points until the end of character creation. The DM wouldn't give me a Mulligan either. I was ******. Static hit Points are a point of fairness. I think of it as equal opportunity between the players. Randomness during character creation is always not fun for somebody.

Saying Yes to the players isn't about giving in, or pandering to a whinier audience. It's about making a game that's fun for everybody. I haven't gotten to actually play 4th edition yet since I'm a DM, but the last two games I played were both that 2nd Edition game I mentioned and a 3rd Edition game. The 3rd Edition DM was obsessed with 2nd Edition.

Infact, I made a multi-class gish. He tried for 10 minutes to convince me that playing a gish was just playing wasting a character. Its a bad fighter and a bad mage. He then enforced a rule that said as a sorcerer I can't get spells in several paragon paths because they don't have a table that says you gain spells, even though this was errata'd he didn't care. He was so intersted in saying NO, to me that he actually gave the party a wand of resurrection that function the way it did in 2nd Edition. Because I was an Elven Fighter/Wizard/Spellsword/Eldritch Knight he made my character take up 5 charges to everybody elses and made sure to spend his first actions of the game killing me. He made a point to kill me twice that day. It sucked.

I realize that this is an extreme example but I think it fits for multiple reasons. First and foremost, the opposite of saying yes to the players is essentially saying No. Saying No to somebody takes their creativity and ability to have fun and sh*ts on it for no good reason. Older editions of D&D were fairly primitive because of a general imbalance between character options, the wand of resurrection penalizing Elf or Multi-class players is a good example of that. In my 3rd edition circumstance I wasn't number cracking a character, he wasn't even close to optimized, he was just the Sword Wielding Mage that I've wanted to play for years.

Say yes to fun. It's more important to laugh with your friends than to beat them, and if you are as good as I am, you can get a bit of both out of your game. This statement is not an attack by the way. I'm just saying its totally doable.
  • The just say "yes" idea in the DMG
  • The fact that it is quite difficult to die in 4e
  • The elimination of randomness effecting players
  • Healing Surges, enough said.
  • Non combat "narration" instead of checks. In another post we were discussing the lack of profession/craft and other non combat skills. A point of view I see repeatedly against non combat skills is that the dice would be used to stop cool plans from working. Are we to assume that players need all their cool plans to work all the time?

If you say no, the WotC gestapo will not kick in your door and drag you away. The idea of just say yes is that the game is meant to be fun for everyone so you should try to accommodate your players as much as possible. It does not mean he gets to choose red dragon as his race (unless thats the style of campaign you're running). However, sometimes DMs get so wrapped up in the rules that they forget about the spirit of the game, so they will disallow a really great concept for say...an outcast orc PC or something just because that race isn't in the PHB. If its a good idea, its balanced, and it can fit in your campaign, maybe you should consider allowing it anyway.

As for being difficult to die, I would say that depends strongly on the DM. Also note that it if someone does die before paragon tier, they tend to just be dead. If death is more final, then it should be rarer. Also, I would argue that its still easy to kill the players, but they have more control over the battle (meaning bad tactics on their part, or really good tactics from the monsters will be their downfall, not because they failed a single roll against a SoD).

Elimination of randomness. Any die rolls involve randomness, but when your life hinges on a single roll, it really sucks to fail it, and it feels very unfair. On the other hand, if you died because multiple rolls didn't go your way, it still sucks but you don't feel cheated. Remember this is D&D not real life, even if it could happen in the real world, no one would want their PC randomly trampled to death by a horse while walking around the town.

Healing surges, no not enough said. What is your complaint against them? They make clerics still valuable, but not required, and a wand of cure whatever can no longer automatically fix everyone between encounters. Realistic? No, but neither was the natural healing system of previous editions where the barbarian with 20 CON took longer to heal than the 8 CON wizard, not to mention characters taking longer to heal as they leveled up.

Noncombat narration. Craft and profession skills were extremely circumstantial, and often required the DM to contrive situations where the player could use one. Also, they forced the character to choose between background skills and skills that were actually useful during the game. I like the new system much better. If the character cares about having a certain skill, he can include it in his background, and it won't affect his combat effectiveness. If a situation truly arises where a skill check is necessary, he can either find appropriate existing skills to fill the gap, or he can simply treat this check as a trained skill based on the character's background. Most of the time, however, theres no real tension involved in a character forging a sword or baking a cake, and if theres no tension or conflict, does it really need a check? Just think of the narration like taking 10 or 20 in 3.x. Besides, this is Dungeons & Dragons, if I want to see how well I can forge a horseshoe, I'll go play Blacksmiths & Butlers.

Also on the topic of fairness, we see randomness being taken out of the game to make the game more fair for example:

  • static hitpoints
  • at will powers added to make dying harder at earlier levels
  • changes to balance the classes per encounter, not per day or per campaign
  • changes to balance spotlight time
  • stats not being rolled
  • random d100 style effects being toned down or eliminated
  • save or dies being removed

Some of these changes make the game more survivable (hitpoints, SoDs), but most of it is just to keep the game balanced. If I roll for ability scores, and have terrible luck, should I be forced to keep that character, even if I find him less fun because hes always outshone by his peers? If I'm not required to keep him, and I can reroll until I'm more in line with the other PCs in the party, then why did I need to roll? Why can't I just have a system that puts me on par with them in the first place?

Other changes, like balancing around encounters, keeping classes balanced at all levels, and having at will powers is to make players feel more useful all the time, as opposed to making them more survivable. A 4e character with at wills can still die at 1st level just like a 3e character with basic attack options. However, the 4e character tends to feel more useful. Ask any wizard who has had to hide in the back of the party through an encounter with his crossbow. Not as fun as being able to magic missile everyone.

Again I don't want to discuss how one edition is better. I want to discuss how the changing culture, and how cultural changes effect what new generations DEMAND from their games. Do you think that an older generation of players could handle failure in a way that a newer generation just can't? Do newer players expect their games to be "fairer" then older players did? I presume WOTC is just selling what people want. I wonder how much has changed from what people want in the last 30 years or so.

Heres another talking point I just had to edit in. The Game of Life boardgame. Lets look at it. Everything is random. Within the first couple of rolls, one player is a doctor and the other is a single waitress with 2 kids. Is this type of "unfair" game just not fun for a new generation? If so, why does such a smash hit one decade become a smash failure in another decade? Is it just "game design" or is it more then that? Maybe peoples expectations in life are mapped onto their games. Maybe we could even relate the subprime mortgage debacle to this. Maybe that would be going to far

Your opinions? Examples supporting my idea, or counterexamples against my idea are all welcome.

I honestly don't feel that this is brought about by changes in society. I'm sure people 200 years ago would have liked to have cars, but they hadn't refined technology to that point yet. Same thing with the game rules. I don't think that D&D would have been less popular had these rules been in the OD&D basic set, but nobody gets it right the first time. The rules have been gradually refined over time to please the gamers, and this is the natural evolution of those rules. If society did not change at all in the next decade, and even if we all magically stayed the same age, kept our same positions in life, etc., there would still be a new edition with new rules to attempt to improve upon the ones in the current edition. It is a game, and it should be about having fun, which is the central concept to 4e. In fact, that has kind of been the idea behind all the editions. This has always been intended as a game of cooperation rather than competition.

Some games are random. If I want a random game, I'll go play one. When I think back, yes a lot more games seemed random years ago then now. Is that because society didn't want non-random games, or was it that since most games offered were random that nobody experienced anything different? Maybe video games have changed us by offering us more control over our games, and now we hesitate to give it up. But D&D has always placed the players in more control than a simple board game so I don't really see the relevance. I mean really, how does the game of Life have any bearing on D&D?
Owner and Proprietor of the House of Trolls. God of ownership and possession.
Since the last thread got shut down before I had a chance to post my response, I've decided I'm going to post it here. Before I get in trouble, I didn't really touch on the topic of the education system, because I don't really think the education system has anything to do with the changes that have occurred in D&D. Here it goes:

I have one problem with your response (or maybe your rebuttal). It centers on the idea that I was comparing. I was not comparing failure in education to failure in D&D. I was asking, does a generation who is protected from failure in education, expect or demand games in which they fail less. Has this expectation changed the design of D&D. This is not a comparison. It is an attempt to link a cause and an effect (is there a word for this?)

Nope, I think it has more to do with the aims of the playerbase as opposed to the education system or anything of that sort. The first generation of roleplayers weren't really doing much roleplaying. The roots of the game were simple dungeon crawls... Gygax himself used to inform players that they should avoid naming a character prior to level 5 because of the likelihood that they would die.

Fast forward to the 90s, and a new style of play begins. People want long-lasting plots akin to Dragonlance, and disposable characters don't fit into that. Plots have become the standard for the game. Unfortunately, D&D doesn't really change to fit it, and 2nd Edition has to be played in a certain way to get the plots that people want. This starts a shift toward other games which do cater to plot-friendly mechanics... White Wolf games, especially. This also creates a schism wherein which TSR games become a joke amongst the fan community: their lack of plot-friendly mechanics get them gradually labeled as a gamist company, who cares nothing about real roleplay... and their entire company gets tagged as the source for munchkin games. As TSR collapses under the weight of it's own detritus (read as: failed campaign lines and split fanbase), WotC takes up the cause and, three years later, starts work on a new edition of D&D.

It's a good work in progress, with the mechanics leaning more toward what the playerbase wants. They standardize the mechanics, increase character survivability, and rejuvenate the fanbase greatly. Unfortunately, as time goes on things prove that they didn't go far enough to producing the plot-based game that people want. Survivability takes on a bell curve (low levels being difficult to live in, high levels being difficult to die in), game imbalance rears its ugly head in a way that's in many ways more dramatic than in prior editions, and other companies capitalize by offering more balanced gameplay (as was the case with True20) and, as it was before, better opportunities for plot (as was the case with Exalted).

So if it seems that the game is less lethal, or that it caters less to failure, it's because of the trend of the industry. Players want to live out the fantasies they read in fantasy books. No one reads "Drizzt Gets His Throat Slit by a Goblin 3 Minutes Into This Book Due to a Lucky Crit". No one reads "The Knights Fail to Save the Princess Because They Were Incapable of Making Their Jump Checks to Cross the Chasm".

That's the nature of the beast.
I think at will powers are associated with making everyone stronger during the first 4-5 levels or so right? I mean levls 1-3 were TOUGH in earlier editions. Now the at wills make you tough.

Yeah, for spellcasters, where you had 2 Magic Missiles and 3 Lights for the entire day. For melee characters, it was a cake walk. "Oh, hi Mr Kobold, I'm a walking tank with a big axe, you die now." Then in higher levels melee characters are left to be mopped up from the floor after every battle while the spellcasters cast 6 different personal range buffs and then cast a save or die every round.
[*]The just say "yes" idea in the DMG

[*]The fact that it is quite difficult to die in 4e

[*]The elimination of randomness effecting players

[*]at will powers added to make dying harder at earlier levels

I think these would be up to the DM (or the one designing the adventures) more than on any game system.
[*]Healing Surges, enough said.

Hmm. Maybe not so much the healing surges per se, but the way they can be applied. If you're on negatives, you go up to 0 first when receiving a surge. How anyone can go to an unconscious character and give him a second wind, heal dc 10. You can even be up and fully functional on your own when rolling 20 on death save. These combined with the amount of damage needed to actually die from a blow certainly make surviving easier. I mean the times the charactes can go up and down in a single combat makes me wonder why the monsters wouldn't use coupe de grace every chance they get.

[*]Non combat "narration" instead of checks. In another post we were discussing the lack of profession/craft and other non combat skills. A point of view I see repeatedly against non combat skills is that the dice would be used to stop cool plans from working. Are we to assume that players need all their cool plans to work all the time?

I think this'd fall under randomness also. Once the negotiations that would drastically affect the lives of the characters could have been up to a single diplomacy skill roll. 4th uses a skill challenge system to make the result less random. Or the GM can just decide the outcome; 'narration'. Nothing prevented GMs using more rolls before, there just wasn't a formalized system. Up to GM, not the system I'd say.
[*]static hitpoints

[*]stats not being rolled

Randomness in hit points and stats could result in difficulty or unfairness indeed. I don't know. Somehow I just find poor rolls resulting a poor character too unfair. In many occasions poorly rolled characters seem to have no fear of death anyway :D

[*]changes to balance the classes per encounter, not per day or per campaign

[*]changes to balance spotlight time

This is the biggest gripe for me. Why does everyone have to perform exact the same all the time? It's all just somekind of mish mush of indistinct powers firing. In addition this can increase the unfairness. A poorer character will be sucky constantly all the time with no chance to shine.
[*]random d100 style effects being toned down or eliminated

[*]save or dies being removed

The absense of SODs definitely make the game easier and situations less risky. This could be contributed to 'less randomness' but I don't feel that way. SODs are a great tool for a GM, they just have to be handled responsibly. If players are given the chance to prepare, avoid or whithstand them they can provide grat thrills. Nothing says 'don't mess with this guy unless you have to' like a readied deathray.
Some games are random. If I want a random game, I'll go play one. When I think back, yes a lot more games seemed random years ago then now. Is that because society didn't want non-random games, or was it that since most games offered were random that nobody experienced anything different? Maybe video games have changed us by offering us more control over our games, and now we hesitate to give it up. But D&D has always placed the players in more control than a simple board game so I don't really see the relevance. I mean really, how does the game of Life have any bearing on D&D?

It has no bearing on D&D. I am assuming that a game like Life would be TOO random to be a hit in todays culture. Games that are a success today, offer more control then just spinning a wheel. You can see the same trend in video games with easyness, retries, infinite lives ect. We see a similar trend in D&D (fairer, less random, maybe easier ect). Are all these trends due to a changing culture and changing demands from games?

I almost think the "better game design" line is a cop out. Why is it better? Because people like it. Why did people like snakes and ladders before? Because they were primitive people? I don't think so. Blackjack is still popular, better game design or not.

I think we are taught to believe if we try hard we can become anything, if you arent treated fairly you can sue, if you cant afford a home get the loan anyways, ect ect.

Maybe a generation born to leave their country to work in america, or a generation who saw people die en masse in WW2 (for instance), is more inclined to accept randomness and unfairness in their games.

I mean static hitpoints isn't really an original idea. We didnt need game design scientists to come up with it. Its even MORE of an intuitive idea then die rolls. So why did Gygax and the gang make people roll hitpoints with dies? Maybe they enjoyed randomness and unfairness in a way that we just dont. Or maybe they expected randomness and unfairness in games, because they also expected it from life.
double
It has no bearing on D&D. I am assuming that a game like Life would be TOO random to be a hit in todays culture. Games that are a success today, offer more control then just spinning a wheel. You can see the same trend in video games with easyness, retries, infinite lives ect. We see a similar trend in D&D (fairer, less random, maybe easier ect). Are all these trends due to a changing culture and changing demands from games?

To be fair lives and trys were a thing of the arcade. a way to limit the amount of time the player had and to keep the quarters going.

In modern game design a lives system is just a sacred cow like how some people compare the alignment system not needed any more.

Play whatever the **** you want. Never Point a loaded party at a plot you are not willing to shoot. Arcane Rhetoric. My Blog.

Decivre and Dragoncat pretty much took my thoughts and turned them into equally elegant forms.

Crimson Lancer also put it well.

There's what is called False Difficulty in games, in which the game mechanics themselves are the only reasons a given encounter, boss fight or what have you make the game difficult.

Resident Evil 5 actually is a prime example of False Difficulty (and it's not even that hard).

Most games have since abandoned "Move or shoot" for the more realistic and fluid Move and Shoot. mechanics. Defenders of RE will say "BUT IT IS TRADITION AND IT MAKES TEH GAMEZ SCARY!" Dead Space scared the crap out of me multiple times and I could move and shoot. Dead Space didn't fail to deliver on atmosphere or an actual Challenge to it's player. RE5? It's not a horror game it's an action shooter with outdated controls. It wasn't scary at all.

The only thing that makes RE5 a challenge is it's control scheme, not it's actual difficulty. Random mechanics, such as Stats and Hp rolls and SODs are just like RE5s control scheme. They really don't do anything to enhance the gameplay, and infact make it more difficult not through a legit challenge. You aren't overcoming an actual challenge you are overcoming inferior controls so to speak.

Also throwaway characters for most people actually aren't fun to play. Hell Gygax and his Cronies even said "don't name your character before level 5". Because getting attached to the Throwaway isn't very smart.

The old mechanics were there as an active Screw You in the system that was there to make it "hard" in instances in many cases where the game shouldn't be, or make it hard so that even an incompetent dm could pull off killing his party since it was about You vs Them. (which makes no sense in a cooperative Narrative style game)

As for non combat stuff, other people have also said my stance on this much better. But I'll throw in my own twist on the subject matter.

I'm not going to fail at making something or doing my job, if I am trained in doing it at all. If I'm going to make house, I am going to make a house there's no failure at it. If I'm going to weld something together and I know how to weld properly, guess what I'm going to weld it. The only way I'm not going to successfully weld it, is if I don't even try to weld it if I know how to weld.
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The "better game design" line is nonsense. There's no way to factually "prove" that 4E is a better designed game than 3.x, 2E, 1E, or even Basic/Advanced or the pre-1E booklets. Each version was different from the others; whether or not they were "better" is a matter of personal opinion and should not be discussed as if it were a factual matter.

In addition, I keep hearing players say things like "I suspect it's a change over D&D used to be played. Back in the day, it was mostly the DM vs the players. The Tomb of Horrors was just an excuse to kill characters." and I have to physically restrain myself from rolling my eyes. I was there "back in the day", and know from experience that the entire players vs. DM thing has as much resemblance to reality as a Ralph Bakshi cartoon.

In my opinion, yes, it is a generational thing, and it isn't just restricted to D&D, but to any kind of game. Oh boy they jump at the challenge, but make the consequences of failure too strict, or even make the chances of failure too high, and these boys balk and want to do something else.

Example the First: I was discussing the Traveller game with them, and mentioned that, while generating your character, there was every chance that you could (for instance) enlist in the Navy, then wash out your first term. I believe the exact words one of my son's friends used were "Wait... you mean I couldn't be a space-navy guy even if I wanted to, then? That's utterly messed up!" By the rules of the game, he would be restricted in what he saw was his natural right to do whatever the heck he wanted to do, and to him, that was intolerable.

When I and my friends first encountered the same game, way back in 1981 or 1982, we thought the fact that you could die during character generation (a trait the most recent edition of the game has taken out of the character generation process) was cool! It was a huge challenge! A dare even. As in, "I dare you to try to get one more term of service in!"

Different generation, different attitude.

What's the cause of the difference? No idea, really. But I know one thing. It's not "better game design". There's nothing inherently "better" about 4E over its predecessors, other than the preferences of one individual for a specific edition over another.
Chess is a great game. It is ancient and will be played for centuries to come. The Game of Life is not a great game. The chances that it will be played by the next few generations is pretty low.

The games that we've passed down through centuries, and that we most highly regard today, aren't games of random chance. They're tactical games in which chance is as small a factor as possible. Chess and its ilk -- other variations of chess, go, even checkers -- have no randomness. The more randomness a game has, the less a player's choice matters. The more random, the less room there is for tactical decisions to make a difference. The less your decisions make a difference, the less skill the game takes to play. Randomness becomes a ceiling on the learning curve.

The idea that our generational forebears were more accepting of chance in their games doesn't really hold. People will play a lot of different games to kill time, and many of these games are poorly designed games of chance. But the games that time doesn't kill aren't games of chance.

In some games, elements of chance still persist. Card games are games where one has to figure the odds and go with them. The key in these games is to eliminate chance as much as possible -- by reading your opponents, knowing the internal math of the game and suchlike. Almost all of these games are designed to facilitate gambling. I think they survive because peole get a rush out of putting somethin valuable to them on the line and because those who actually are good at the games can make a killing.

D&D is another game with elements of chance. Playing it well involves mitigating chance as much as possible. Because of the nature of the game, things like board positioning and power selection can decrease chance -- you can move into flanking positions or use powers or weapons that give a bonus to hit. So while randomness does limit the value of tactical decisions on the parts of the players, the decisions you make in D&D take the randomness into account and so give you meaningful options.

One of the major advances in 4e over previous editions is that it has removed a great deal of randomness over which players have no tactical control. If hit with a Save or Die effect, a character has no decision to make. They roll their save and, pass or fail, they get a result over which they have no control. The linear structure of a dungeon probably meant they didn't have much control over whether they'd even be exposed to the Save or Die effect. Because of this, Save or Die powers limit the ability of a game player to play the game, and reduce the meaning of their decisions within the game.

Rolling Hit Dice at level up for HP is another example of non-tactical randomness. There is no decision you can make to mitigate a bad outcome. There's no decision you can make to take maximum advantage of a good outcome. You won't roll enough dice over the course of your character's career to even pull a statistical average, in many cases. Hit Dice for HP doesn't add anything to the game and can, without reason, result in a character that is either stronger or weaker than he should be.

It's not better game design just because it's more popular. It's better game design because it makes the game a better game. Players have more opportunity to engage in decision-making using the game's rules. They have more opportunity to succeed or fail on the quality of the decisions they are making. That sort of thing is at the core of mental game -- people engaged in a problem-solving exercise according to certain rules and limitations. Randomness undermines all that and leads to a worse game.
It has no bearing on D&D. I am assuming that a game like Life would be TOO random to be a hit in todays culture. Games that are a success today, offer more control then just spinning a wheel. You can see the same trend in video games with easyness, retries, infinite lives ect. We see a similar trend in D&D (fairer, less random, maybe easier ect). Are all these trends due to a changing culture and changing demands from games?

I almost think the "better game design" line is a cop out. Why is it better? Because people like it. Why did people like snakes and ladders before? Because they were primitive people? I don't think so. Blackjack is still popular, better game design or not.

I think we are taught to believe if we try hard we can become anything, if you arent treated fairly you can sue, if you cant afford a home get the loan anyways, ect ect.

Maybe a generation born to leave their country to work in america, or a generation who saw people die en masse in WW2 (for instance), is more inclined to accept randomness and unfairness in their games.

I mean static hitpoints isn't really an original idea. We didnt need game design scientists to come up with it. Its even MORE of an intuitive idea then die rolls. So why did Gygax and the gang make people roll hitpoints with dies? Maybe they enjoyed randomness and unfairness in a way that we just dont. Or maybe they expected randomness and unfairness in games, because they also expected it from life.

Playing life just requires me and any random person to sit down for a bit.

To play a game of D&D, I have to find 2 or more other people, coordinate our schedules so we can meet weekly or bi-weekly for the next couple months. Write a campaign arc. Let them design characters with backgrounds and goals. THEN we can start the process of playing, which can generally consist of a dozen or so 4 hour long playing sessions.

Randomness becomes less and less attractive the more you invest in something.

Static hit points were an original idea... once. Just about everything since D&D and other electronic games have come out has been new. They are an entirely new medium and have gone through evolution as people try to figure out what seems to work better than others.

Generally, it's the fact that now we realize the stories and exporiences we can create with games. We don't have to rely on the primal thrill of awaiting the result of a random dice roll or the anxiety of being kicked out of the game entirely as an impetus to continue. There are other appealing ways they have found to keep people wanting to play a game for as long as possible.
Example the First: I was discussing the Traveller game with them, and mentioned that, while generating your character, there was every chance that you could (for instance) enlist in the Navy, then wash out your first term. I believe the exact words one of my son's friends used were "Wait... you mean I couldn't be a space-navy guy even if I wanted to, then? That's utterly messed up!" By the rules of the game, he would be restricted in what he saw was his natural right to do whatever the heck he wanted to do, and to him, that was intolerable.

When I and my friends first encountered the same game, way back in 1981 or 1982, we thought the fact that you could die during character generation (a trait the most recent edition of the game has taken out of the character generation process) was cool! It was a huge challenge! A dare even. As in, "I dare you to try to get one more term of service in!"

I don't think it's intolerable, just boring and lame. Seriously, if you could die before even playing, why bother? Part of the fun of creating a character and roleplaying is to live out a fantasy as a character you create. I get that it's a cool idea that your character maybe didn't get promoted in the Navy or whatever, and that that adds a level of realism, but where is the fun in playing? What's to stop me from making the same character over and over until he doesn't die in childbirth? Then, I might as well have just been allowed to play the character in the first place. That is absolutely one mechanic I have never, and will never understand. I thought the entire idea of most RPG's, and especially D&D, is that your character IS the exception. Just by virtue of the fact that you're involved in the adventure, your character has already excelled above and beyond what normal people accomplish. I honestly cannot possibly comprehend what this adds to any game. "Oh, sorry, you had a nice idea that you were expecting to play, but you rolled above 60% on the dice, so he's dead. No, I understand that you were expecting life threatening challenges to start popping up once we were actually playing, that being the core idea of the game and all, but it turns out that you fell out of a tree at age 9 and shattered your spine. Anyway, think of another character and you might get to play tonight after all."

That would be like a video game with a 40% chance that you wouldn't even be able to turn it on, or Monopoly boards that burst into flames when you open the box.
I'll throw in my 2 cents: 4e has a better game design than older editions. There have been countless posts sustaining this argument. Whether or not it is more fun to you as an individual or you personally think it is better is totally up to you.

Now as to the original question: "Do players demand a fairer, easier game?" Let's break it down:

Fairness - Do players demand a fair game? Yes, certainly. A game where there is no chance to win isn't much fun but neither is a game where there is no chance to lose.

Easiness - Do players demand an "easy" game? This really involves the definition of easy. All versions of D&D are easier than doing "real work".
I'll throw in my 2 cents: 4e has a better game design than older editions. There have been countless posts sustaining this argument. Whether or not it is more fun to you as an individual or you personally think it is better is totally up to you.

Now as to the original question: "Do players demand a fairer, easier game?" Let's break it down:

Fairness - Do players demand a fair game? Yes, certainly. A game where there is no chance to win isn't much fun but neither is a game where there is no chance to lose.

Easiness - Do players demand an "easy" game? This really involves the definition of easy. All versions of D&D are easier than doing "real work".

Be careful with the term "Better" design... no one wants to admit it even though it is true.

Play whatever the **** you want. Never Point a loaded party at a plot you are not willing to shoot. Arcane Rhetoric. My Blog.

One of the major advances in 4e over previous editions is that it has removed a great deal of randomness over which players have no tactical control. If hit with a Save or Die effect, a character has no decision to make. They roll their save and, pass or fail, they get a result over which they have no control. The linear structure of a dungeon probably meant they didn't have much control over whether they'd even be exposed to the Save or Die effect. Because of this, Save or Die powers limit the ability of a game player to play the game, and reduce the meaning of their decisions within the game.

It could be argued that your statement here is supporting the idea that the gamers of today want as little risk as possible in their gaming. "Removing the randomness" is another way of saying "making things less risky", after all.



It's not better game design just because it's more popular. It's better game design because it makes the game a better game.

But how do you define "better game"? This is why I stated that arguing from the point of "better game design" is nonsense, because there's no way to solidly define "better" in a way that covers everyone's opinion. Even two people who both think that 4E was an "improvement" on 3.x might have very different reasons for thinking thusly, after all.



Players have more opportunity to engage in decision-making using the game's rules. They have more opportunity to succeed or fail on the quality of the decisions they are making. That sort of thing is at the core of mental game -- people engaged in a problem-solving exercise according to certain rules and limitations. Randomness undermines all that and leads to a worse game.

In your opinion. ;)
I don't think it's intolerable, just boring and lame.

See what I mean? Different generations, different attitudes. Thank you for supporting my point.



Be careful with the term "Better" design... no one wants to admit it even though it is true.

When you can give me a solid, universal definition for "better" that doesn't depend on personal opinion and applies to 4E, it will be true. Until then, its nothing but opinion.
See what I mean? Different generations, different attitudes. Thank you for supporting my point.
QUOTE]

You have no idea how old I am or how long I have been playing.
The "better game design" line is nonsense. There's no way to factually "prove" that 4E is a better designed game than 3.x, 2E, 1E, or even Basic/Advanced or the pre-1E booklets. Each version was different from the others; whether or not they were "better" is a matter of personal opinion and should not be discussed as if it were a factual matter.

There is no way to factually prove anything on these forums it seems. It is just all opinion. The only way to prove such things is with polls. and even then general consensus is not fact. But im assuming if these boards will 90% full of 4e bashing you would be using it as a fact that 3.5 is better designed.

How do you define a better design?

Personally I look at it a few ways. I like that 4e took out the last half of the 3.5 phb (spells) and gave the classes more balanced features and powers.

and lets take THAC0, do you think that THAC0 is a great design? Sure you can get used to it and memorize it but is it better then straight up to hit defenses?

Also the flip flopping in previous editions on whats a good roll. I want to roll low in my skills but high on my attacks? Something 3e addressed is high = good.

Defenses, once again, moving into static teritory. Why should your armor be the only thing static? Why cant you assume you have a mental defense or a body's endurance without a random roll?

I am not going to go out and say that 4e is the best there is it is perfect. But game design in general has improved for the better from Basic D&D to 4e now. So is 4e better designed? Yes.

Play whatever the **** you want. Never Point a loaded party at a plot you are not willing to shoot. Arcane Rhetoric. My Blog.

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