In a few threads, it has been asked what player abilities should be encouraged, discouraged, or rewarded by the next iteration of D&D. This is a crucial question for the designers, as it sets up what players and DMs they hope to attract to the game. I have identified eight different categories of player abilities, and have created the following poll to identify what people would like to see in their games. Note I am not asking what you want to see in the next iteration of D&D. Let's assume that the designers are going to make the game as modular as possible and open it up to as many game styles as they can. What I want to know is what you prefer when you sit down to play D&D.
Feel free to leave a comment below, or participate in the related discussion thread.
Before answering the poll, please review my brief description of each of these categories:
Optimization is the ability to master a game system and to find the hidden synergies and build strengths that allow your character to excel at a given role. A system that encourages this behavior allows clever players to find winning scenarios, or specializations that allow their character to more easily overcome obstacles. Note that with the growth of the internet, optimization may be as easy as Googling a build that someone else has already designed. The issue is whether the system should encourage or reward system mastery, or whether it should seek to discourage such behavior.
Preparation is the ability to anticipate future obstacles and prepare your group to better overcome them. Unlike Optimization, which happens during the character building or leveling process, Preparation occurs during the game, and usually involves the careful selection of spells (in a spell memorization system), hunting out rumors, clues, and divinations of what is to come, understanding the system so as to ensure the party is prepared for a wide variety of enemies or varying strengths or weaknesses. A system that encourages preparation may specialize in "gotcha" encounters which nullify traditional party strengths and force parties to have contingency plans. Should the game encourage or discourage this sort of adventure?
Knowing Your DM
The more discretion a DM has in crafting and resolving encounters, the more valuable it is to know how your DM thinks. Some DMs may be persuaded by emotional appeals, while other DMs may be more persuaded by hypertechnical rules discussions, and other DMs may be swayed to appeals to verisimilitude. Some players may now that their DM likes to speak in riddles, while other players have DMs who reward self-sacrifice. The more discretion the system places int he DM's hands, the more potent the ability to know your DM becomes. How much should the system reward this ability?
Knowing Your Fellow Players
Some games may encourage the ability to work with your companions intuitively base do your years of friendship, while other games may want to encourage a table of strangers playing together for the first time and having no troubles at all. How important should it be that a player know and understand how the other players at the table think, and what sort of playstyles they prefer. Should the players be required to operate as a cohesive unit, or should it allow, or even encourage, players to go their own ways?
Riddles are a stable of fantasy. And puzzle-like challenges are also a staple of D&D. Figuring out your encumbrance, spending one's limited funds, determining who should be on watch with whom, are just a much a puzzle in logic, as solving a sphinx's riddle. To what extent should these challenges be resolved using the character's skills and knowledge and to what extent should these challenges be resolved using the player's knowledge. For purposes of this poll, we want to know your opinion of how much weight the player's ability to think logically should factor into the game.
Combat can often resemble a chess match. But should it? Some people enjoy the strategic aspects of combat, while other people simply want to get through it quickly and without a lot of granularity. Strategic gaming rewards strategic grandmasters, but it can alienate people who have little interest in strategy. How much strategy would you want in your game?
Complicated games involve clues that are scattered across adventures, waiting for players to find them, remember them, and then recall them at strategic moments. Related to Puzzle-Solving, Lorekeeping encourages players to immerse themselves in a world, to feel a part of it, to ferret out its hidden corners and mysteries and to treat the campaign world as a real, living place. But Lorekeeping can be a nightmare to track, can discourage casual play, and can feel like a chore without proper guidance. How much guidance should the game have? How much Lorekeeping should it include?
Some games encourage players to create characters with lots of story hooks. Missing mentors, insane siblings, mysterious benefactors, can all be incorporated into the game with the expectation that the DM will incorporate these hooks into the developing plotline. However, time spent on one person's story may detract from time spent on others' stories, or on the team's ongoing challenges. How much should the game encourage, or discourage, players to pursue their own back stories and character personalities? Should the game punish such activity? Should it exalt such activity?
These polls will run for one month! I look forward to the results!