Thursday, December 19, 2013

Game Mechanics and Story

It’s said that when you have a hammer, all your problems look like nails. I’ve noted the same sort of thing happen in my 4e game. My players, as much as I push them, tend to default to whatever their character sheet says they can do. That’s honestly one of the things I like most about old school games. There is very little to tell you what to do, or how to do it.

It isn’t that the games are unfinished, but rather are left for the DM and the players to work things out for themselves, and the rules are there as a framework to support whatever they opt to do. It’s not a bug, but a feature, that there’s so little that’s been filled in for you.

There’s some discussion that the mechanics limit or direct the focus of the game, in that the combat rules tend to make up a bulk of the rules in any edition of D&D. I don’t think that’s necessarily the truth given how little advancement comes from combat, at least in the pre-3.0 days. Rather I think that the potential complexity of combat lends itself to mechanical codification as a way to distinguish it from the more freeform conflict resolution of cops and robbers or cowboys and indians. Of course it really comes from D&D’s wargaming roots, but from that grew a much stranger game, one where combat wasn’t necessarily a good idea.



This is #23 in the 30 Days of Gamemastering Challenge.

4 comments:

  1. "...the combat rules tend to make up a bulk of the rules in any edition of D&D. I don’t think that’s necessarily the truth given how little advancement comes from combat, at least in the pre-3.0 days."
    I would disagree with this statement. Combat is almost the only way to level up quickly in every edition of D&D. 3e introduced he concept that skill checks could be as advantageous of an XP reward as combat was and it was the first time the rules took focus away from combat, despite the fact that feats largely became the de facto way of making a combat monster.

    Apart from that assertion, I agree with everything else you said here.

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    1. In Rules Cyclopedia it's definitely not fighting monsters that gets you bulk of your XP.

      For example:
      Fighting 1d4 Hill Giants gets you between 650-2600xp
      Acquiring 1d4 Hill Giant's treasure gets you an average of 7500gp (aka 7500xp)

      Fighting 1d6 ghouls gets you 25-150xp
      Acquiring 1d6 gargoyles' treasure gets you an average of 2000gp

      Fighting 1d3 large red dragons gets you 4,800-14,400xp
      Acquiring 1d3 large red dragons' treasure gets you an average of 127,500gp

      Fighting monsters is often the way to get to the real goal, the treasure, but it's dangerous, deadly, and sometimes worse. Tricking a monster out of its treasure, or defeating it some other way that doesn't require fighting it gets still you the goal, and saves your character the danger.

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    2. Interesting. I never owned the Rules Cyclopedia. I knew that 1st ed AD&D had rules about XP rewards for treasure value but I never knew a GM who actually used them.

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    3. In old school D&D (aka up through 2nd edition), if your DM didn't give you XP for treasure, advancement was way slower! Some editions even gave XP for magic items!

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