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Author Topic: An impolite review of D&D 5th Edition  (Read 2948 times)
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« Reply #15 on: December 01, 2016, 05:31:06 PM »

Off-topic: Having followed this thread, I think we should choose a game system that we all think sucks and then have an IRC game using it smile
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« Reply #16 on: December 01, 2016, 05:34:31 PM »

Steerpike

Sure, so page 173 to 175 of the PHB essentially outlines the core mechanics of the game. There's a list of DCs from 5-30 roughly ranking difficulties - so, like, a medium-difficulty task is DC 15.
A medium-difficulty task for whom? I mean, this is a game that is supposed to represent everyone from common peasants to beginning adventurers to epic heroes to goblins to archfiends. Even among beginning adventurers, you might be rolling anything from a -2 (7 stat, no proficiency) to a +6 (18 stat, proficiency). Giving a DC to some common tasks gives those tasks a place in the world, because it's assumed everyone trying to do that task has to roll against that DC. Just assigning a DC to whatever "medium-difficulty tasks" are is not very useful when it's not clear what those tasks actually are.

Steerpike

Now, could it use some more specific DCs, like a list similar to the ones Pathfinder provides? Sure, but those are details, not the core mechanic. Even looking at the climb list DCs in Pathfinder and just looking at the descriptions in the right hand column, the right DCs more or less reveal themselves if you ignore the left hand column.
As I explained above, those details are extremely important when trying to put those DCs in the context of the world. While you're correct that in many cases the DC might 'reveal itself,' this is really just more Oberoni fallacy. It might well be easy for some people to figure out, but that's not an excuse for the designers to not have included it because having an idea of how to set the DC in the context of the world really is quite essential to running the game. Having a pretty good idea of the DCs of common tasks is also pretty important to playing the game if you want to optimize your character, so you know what kind of a bonus you need if you want a character to be good at a certain task.

Steerpike

A list of DCs in a book can be useful, but they're not rules, they're sample rulings.
Rulings are just proto-rules. A DM makes a ruling. If it's going to come up again, then the group probably wants to continue to use it, so it's discussed and subjected to analysis and refinement, and it becomes a rule. The sample DCs should be rules because the designers put a decent amount of work into determining them and structuring the game around them.

Steerpike

Can you give me an example where it would be really challenging to use 5th's rules framework to ad-hoc something?
I think "challenging" is kind of a subjective word, so instead what I'll do is point out cases where the rules as written are so vague or incoherent that they are going to almost certainly fail to provide sufficient framework for a DM to be able to make confident and consistent judgment calls.

Let's start with combat maneuvers. The PHB includes two, on p.195: grappling and shoving. Notably, neither one actually uses a DC, instead, they both use opposed contests. It also says "The DM can use these contests as models for improvising others," which is all the help the system gives when it comes to other combat maneuvers. The DMG doesn't include any additional help, either. Even more confusingly, the battle master fighter includes his own set of combat maneuvers, but these rely on the enemy making saving throws, rather than any sort of skill checks at all. So a DM might try to ad hoc a different combat maneuver (e.g, disarming a foe) according to basic core mechanic of "set a DC and have the player roll against it," or according to the opposed roll model on p.195, or duplicating the battle master fighter's maneuver which relies on the opponent making a Dexterity save... of course, these all may have rather different probabilities and outcomes. And there's nothing saying that the DM is going to do it consistently, either. One way out is that you could probably rely on "rule of cool," but then they should do like Fate does and actually say that up front and explain what exactly that means for how the game is going to be played, and how to sort it out if people have different definitions of what is "cool." As it stands, it's a mess.

Social conflicts are admittedly always rather poorly represented in D&D systems, but 5th edition is even worse than 3.x/PF. The tables on p. 245 of the DMG heavily imply it's a DC 10 check to avoid any fight at all ever with anyone you can talk to, because that's all it takes to make it so a hostile creature "offers no help but does no harm." I know that D&D diplomacy rules are always bad, but... seriously? This rule is so simplistic and so obviously bad that it might as well not exist, because no reasonable DM is going to use it. The DC doesn't even depend on who you're talking to! No mention is made here about adjudicating any sort of opposed Charisma rolls, even though on p. 186 of the PHB it says that's something you might have to do, and if you're trying to make this stuff up ad hoc it seems like an opposed contest would be more intuitive to most people than some nonsensical arbitrary static DC. Of course, if you do decide to do it this way, the question of what skill opposes your Charisma in a social conflict remains unanswered, too, as does what the outcome should be. There are also no guidelines for the important issue of how much authority the DM should exert over the player characters' actions if they lose a social conflict. The DM has to make all this stuff up, probably in the middle of play. Or just go with the "rule of cool" again and let players roleplay their social interactions, I guess. But default to the "rule of cool" enough and the question becomes why are we even bothering with a system?

The interaction between skills and conditions is also mostly undefined. There's a "frightened" condition and an Intimidation skill but no mechanics are actually given how to stick the frightened condition on someone using your Intimidation skill. Or "charmed" with your Persuasion skill, if that's even possible; the rules don't bother to say if it is or not. What do you roll? How long does it take to impose the condition? How long does the condition last once it's there? Again, it's all left to the DM with no help from the rules.

I'd also like to give a special dishonorable mention to finding hidden objects. On p. 178 of the PHB, under things you might do with an Intelligence(Investigation) roll, it says "You might deduce the location of a hidden object," but then, immediately to the right of that there's a little note box called "Finding a Hidden Object" and it tells you to use Wisdom(Perception) "[w]hen your character searches for a hidden object." Yeah, ok then. The Search action (PHB p. 193) does nothing to clarify the situation, saying simply, "Depending on the nature of your search, the DM might have you make a Wisdom(Perception) check or an Intelligence(Investigation) check," without bothering to explain what it actually depends on.

There are probably more, but that's all I have for now and I think it's more than enough to make my point.

Steerpike

it is also probably the least stressful game I've run or played in
That's fair, but it's also anecdotal. I've only run one game of 5e, so part of it was probably not being as comfortable with the system, but I found it pretty stressful. What about the stress of having to ensure that any ruling you make is consistent with any rulings that you've previously made, or the stress of when you're not just having to come up with a single DC but in effect concoct a subsystem out of nothingness? That was the big issue for me.

Steerpike

When someone tries something, instead of cracking out the long skills list and consulting all the relevant DCs and thinking through every nuance of tactical positioning in combat and trying to keep track of how many attacks of opportunity the kobold with combat reflexes should get and all the other status-tracking stuff that tended to slow combats down in previous editions I'm much more inclined to let players roll, give them advantage if it feels right, make a quick ruling as DM using the framework 5th provides, and generally being generous. I often ended up doing this in Pathfinder anyway, but I would often feel bad for consciously deviating from the RAW, often simply to avoid spending minutes flipping through pages.
Complex and highly specific rules that are too bothersome to look up and use is an argument in favor of abstracted rules, not vague rules. There's a very big difference. To use Fate as an example: Fate, unlike 5e, doesn't define two specific combat maneuvers (as well as a few others elsewhere in the book that use a totally different mechanic!) and then leave the rest up in the air with a vague statement of how the GM can improvise other stuff without any actual guidelines on how to do that. Fate has a single mechanic called "create an advantage" that governs pretty much every combat maneuver a character might want to do, and, if you want to do a combat maneuver, that's the mechanic you use. The GM isn't put on the spot because the mechanic is always right there. Fate's single reductionist maneuver can be a bit unsatisfying if you want some tactical distinction in your combat maneuvers, but there isn't going to be much tactical satisfaction in the DM just making something up, either.
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« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2016, 06:37:50 PM »

sparkletwist

A medium-difficulty task for whom? I mean, this is a game that is supposed to represent everyone from common peasants to beginning adventurers to epic heroes to goblins to archfiends. Even among beginning adventurers, you might be rolling anything from a -2 (7 stat, no proficiency) to a +6 (18 stat, proficiency). Giving a DC to some common tasks gives those tasks a place in the world, because it's assumed everyone trying to do that task has to roll against that DC. Just assigning a DC to whatever "medium-difficulty tasks" are is not very useful when it's not clear what those tasks actually are.

I'd argue medium difficulty for your average person, is one way of putting it. But I think it's more objective than that. So, like a cliff face that's difficult to climb is objectively "difficult" even if an expert climber can climb it more readily or capably than a non-climber. A safe can be objectively difficult to crack even if an expert cracker could accomplish it "easily."

I happily agree there should be more DCs, I just don't think their lack makes the game unplayable or necessarily dissatisfying. I usually came up with DCs in Pathfinder myself anyway.

sparkletwist

As I explained above, those details are extremely important when trying to put those DCs in the context of the world. While you're correct that in many cases the DC might 'reveal itself,' this is really just more Oberoni fallacy. It might well be easy for some people to figure out, but that's not an excuse for the designers to not have included it because having an idea of how to set the DC in the context of the world really is quite essential to running the game. Having a pretty good idea of the DCs of common tasks is also pretty important to playing the game if you want to optimize your character, so you know what kind of a bonus you need if you want a character to be good at a certain task.

I'll concede that a lack of common DCs does perhaps constitute a form of the fallacy, but it feels like one that's really not that difficult to fill. This is precisely what I mean when I say that with an experienced DM 5th can run well. Would lists of DCs be better? Sure. But a DM with a good head for design can just assign meaningful DCs while prepping or on the fly.

sparkletwist

Let's start with combat maneuvers. The PHB includes two, on p.195: grappling and shoving. Notably, neither one actually uses a DC, instead, they both use opposed contests. It also says "The DM can use these contests as models for improvising others," which is all the help the system gives when it comes to other combat maneuvers. The DMG doesn't include any additional help, either. Even more confusingly, the battle master fighter includes his own set of combat maneuvers, but these rely on the enemy making saving throws, rather than any sort of skill checks at all. So a DM might try to ad hoc a different combat maneuver (e.g, disarming a foe) according to basic core mechanic of "set a DC and have the player roll against it," or according to the opposed roll model on p.195, or duplicating the battle master fighter's maneuver which relies on the opponent making a Dexterity save... of course, these all may have rather different probabilities and outcomes. And there's nothing saying that the DM is going to do it consistently, either. One way out is that you could probably rely on "rule of cool," but then they should do like Fate does and actually say that up front and explain what exactly that means for how the game is going to be played, and how to sort it out if people have different definitions of what is "cool." As it stands, it's a mess.

There are actually rules for disarming and a bunch of other combat maneuvers such as mark, climbing onto bigger creatures, tumbling, and overrunning on pages 271-272 of the DMG. I think this is poor organization, but whatever.

The disarm option presented here illustrates what I perceive as the system's versatility and its emphasis on function. You make an attack roll versus Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) and if the attacker wins the item is dropped. Disadvantage is imposed on the attacker if the object is being held by two or more hands and on the defender if the attacker is larger. So there are multiple options for defending, plus contexts in which advantage/disadvantage gets imposed. But even here I get the feeling that these are guidelines, not ironclad rules. Like, if I felt that advantage were merited due to some other condition - like maybe the defender is wearing a bulky suit with mitten-like hands and can't grasp things well, or their hands have been burned or something - I I might well impose it. The emphasis is on judgment and using the tools provided (ability checks, skills) to come up with a quick solution that works, to keep the game rolling.

It's impossible, of course, to come up with a total list of combat maneuvers, just as it's impossible to list all of the DCs in the world. But 5th edition pretty clearly recommends managing most actions in combat using contests of some kind rather than flat DCs or saving throws, and has broad enough skills that I find it usually pretty easy to come up with contests that feel intuitive. Consistency is not its strong suit, I'll readily admit, finding something that works and then moving to the next action is it's strength.

I'll have to ponder social contests a bit more, as my feelings on them are more complicated.

sparkletwist

That's fair, but it's also anecdotal. I've only run one game of 5e, so part of it was probably not being as comfortable with the system, but I found it pretty stressful. What about the stress of having to ensure that any ruling you make is consistent with any rulings that you've previously made, or the stress of when you're not just having to come up with a single DC but in effect concoct a subsystem out of nothingness? That was the big issue for me.

So part of what I'm trying to claim, really, is less that 5th is inherently or objectively less stressful or but rather that it suits certain preferences. I don't find your stressors stressful and you probably don't find my stressors stressful. I don't think 5th is some sort of perfect system, I'm just saying it can work for some groups in some situations modeling some genres in accordance with some sets of preferences. Insofar as we should judge the game, I think, it makes sense to work out what kind of groups and situations and genres and preferences it works for, and those for whom it doesn't work - as opposed to grading the system by a notional objective measure of goodness, which I think does not exist.

sparkletwist

Complex and highly specific rules that are too bothersome to look up and use is an argument in favor of abstracted rules, not vague rules. There's a very big difference.

I see what you're saying. I think maybe what you're seeing as vagueness I'd call "fluidity" or "flexibility" as well as emphasizing functionality over a sort of fussiness (or, less pejoratively, precision). Like, there are probably 2-3 different ways to resolve a given conflict or contest in 5th edition, and none is definitively "right," and they're going to depend on how someone DMs, and might not be fully consistent from game to game or even session to session, but they probably get the job done more-or-less well and keep the rhythm of play moving and the players thinking and trying stuff. This is probably quite bad for someone who really wants to optimize their character and wants a game where their very specific choices in character creation lead to very direct and predictable results in play, but - in my admittedly subjective experience - very good for those who want to think up weird, creative solutions to in-game problems for which no rulebook could provide specific rules. The vaguenesses such rules call the DM to fill have not been onerous for me - though I can see why others might find them more onerous. Your mileage will vary.

One of the things I actually really dislike about Fate is the degree to which it feels hyper-abstracted, and the way it uses certain abstract nouns and verbs in specific ways, like a "success" versus a "victory" or an "outcome," or "stress" versus "consequence," or "aspect." I really dislike having to differentiate abstract synonyms in my head and then apply them fairly in a game situation; this to me is headache-inducing. There are some abstractions in D&D, like level and hit points or "attributes," that can be difficult at first, but the game in any of its editions or clones has always felt very concrete and intuitive and useable to me in a way that various narrative games and other more abstract systems never really have.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2016, 07:39:25 PM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2016, 07:40:52 PM »

Kindling

Off-topic: Having followed this thread, I think we should choose a game system that we all think sucks and then have an IRC game using it.

YAAAS!
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« Reply #19 on: December 01, 2016, 08:00:14 PM »

Steerpike

Kindling

Off-topic: Having followed this thread, I think we should choose a game system that we all think sucks and then have an IRC game using it.

YAAAS!

FATAL?
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« Reply #20 on: December 01, 2016, 09:00:38 PM »

Man I dunno if I could sink to the level of FATAL.

In terms of bad games played ironically I wouldn't mind trying out something like Cyborg Commando.

I would also pay money for sparkletwist to DM 1974 white box OD&D. I feel like in exchange I'd have to DM the Evil Hat game of her choice or something.
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« Reply #21 on: December 01, 2016, 10:13:58 PM »

Steerpike

I'd argue medium difficulty for your average person
Even that doesn't actually work. In D&D-world, the average mundane person has stats of 10, so is rolling with a +0 bonus. They call DC 10 "Easy" but I wouldn't exactly call a task easy if the average person completely fails at it around half the time. This is just a list of escalating words for difficulty stuck next to a list of multiples of 5. It's barely meaningful or useful.

Steerpike

I'll concede that a lack of common DCs does perhaps constitute a form of the fallacy, but it feels like one that's really not that difficult to fill.
Saying that a gap in the rules isn't that difficult to fill is the entire point of the Oberoni fallacy. Right now you are defending (or at least trying to mitigate) the Oberoni fallacy by invoking the Oberoni fallacy. If having a list of common DCs is so easy, then the designers should have actually done that. I mean, I'm not sure if it's really so easy. I'm talking about creating a list of sample DCs so that there's a fairly consistent and coherent world relative to the numbers that characters are able to produce, so that DC 10 tasks match what average mundane people should be able to do around half the time, and so on. Getting a good feel for this takes research and number crunching, but having someone do that work for us is (one reason) why we buy rulebooks. I don't need a rulebook to tell me "pull some DC that feels right out of your ass," because that's the default.

Steerpike

There are actually rules for disarming and a bunch of other combat maneuvers such as mark, climbing onto bigger creatures, tumbling, and overrunning on pages 271-272 of the DMG. I think this is poor organization, but whatever.
It definitely is poor organization. I completely missed these, because apparently they're optional rules. The only one on that list I see that is an actual optional mechanic is "Mark." The others seem like things you should just be able to do. What's a player supposed to do if they want to disarm a foe and the DM has decided not to use the optional rules for disarming?

Steerpike

Consistency is not its strong suit, I'll readily admit, finding something that works and then moving to the next action is it's strength.
So what? Finding something that works and moving to the next action is trivially easy. You can do that without any rule book at all. It's achieving any sort of consistency that is the hard part, but also the part that makes a rule system feel like a real working system. That's where the real design work is.

Steerpike

I'm just saying it can work for some groups in some situations modeling some genres in accordance with some sets of preferences.
Saying "some people like this some of the time for some purposes" is such a broad statement that I can't possibly refute it. It's also a terribly low bar. So, yeah, some people like D&D 5e some of the time for some purposes. That doesn't mean the rules don't have significant general and specific design problems that can be quantified and solved, nor does it mean that the 5e design team didn't completely fail to do so.

Steerpike

grading the system by a notional objective measure of goodness
How about the idea that a set of rules should try to cover the majority of situations that are likely to actually come up in play (either with specific rules or abstract rules to extrapolate rulings from) and provide a clear and coherent way to adjudicate those situations? What else is the system even for? What do you even call a system with numerous indefensible design flaws other than "less good" than one that can be demonstrated to not have them?

Steerpike

This is probably quite bad for someone who really wants to optimize their character and wants a game where their very specific choices in character creation lead to very direct and predictable results in play, but - in my admittedly subjective experience - very good for those who want to think up weird, creative solutions to in-game problems for which no rulebook could provide specific rules.
If your choices in character creation don't have at least somewhat predictable results in play, then there isn't even a point in having those choices because they don't actually mean anything. Anyway, just because the rulebook can't address every situation doesn't mean that it can't do better with the most common ones, and provide a better and more consistent framework for the DM to make ad hoc rulings, so those weird and creative solutions can more consistently fit into the game.

Steerpike

One of the things I actually really dislike about Fate
I could rant about this, too, but this post is long enough. tongue

Steerpike

I would also pay money for sparkletwist to DM 1974 white box OD&D. I feel like in exchange I'd have to DM the Evil Hat game of her choice or something.
Ha! We should totally do this.
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« Reply #22 on: December 02, 2016, 02:26:49 AM »

sparkletwist

Even that doesn't actually work. In D&D-world, the average mundane person has stats of 10, so is rolling with a +0 bonus. They call DC 10 "Easy" but I wouldn't exactly call a task easy if the average person completely fails at it around half the time. This is just a list of escalating words for difficulty stuck next to a list of multiples of 5. It's barely meaningful or useful.

You get a 10 just on a passive check and so auto-succeed on an "easy" task, so I think it should count as "easy." You only roll in situations where the outcome matters immediately or where a passive check won't cut it.

sparkletwist

Saying that a gap in the rules isn't that difficult to fill is the entire point of the Oberoni fallacy. Right now you are defending (or at least trying to mitigate) the Oberoni fallacy by invoking the Oberoni fallacy. If having a list of common DCs is so easy, then the designers should have actually done that. I mean, I'm not sure if it's really so easy. I'm talking about creating a list of sample DCs so that there's a fairly consistent and coherent world relative to the numbers that characters are able to produce, so that DC 10 tasks match what average mundane people should be able to do around half the time, and so on. Getting a good feel for this takes research and number crunching, but having someone do that work for us is (one reason) why we buy rulebooks. I don't need a rulebook to tell me "pull some DC that feels right out of your ass," because that's the default.

Once again, to be totally clear, I totally agree with you that they should have included the list of DCs. My point is only that of all the things to have as gaps that the Oberoni fallacy gets invoked to fill, I feel that specific DCs are one of the least important, because they are so often set by DMs anyway or thought up on the fly, and I find this process pretty simple, though again, I'm admitting this might not be true for all DMs. Like, if you leave out an entire spell list and just ask the DM to come up with every spell on the spot, that's a big thing to call on the DM to do. But thinking up a number from 1-30 to rate the difficulty of a given task does not feel taxing to me.

sparkletwist

So what? Finding something that works and moving to the next action is trivially easy. You can do that without any rule book at all. It's achieving any sort of consistency that is the hard part, but also the part that makes a rule system feel like a real working system. That's where the real design work is

Basically I think it balances a kind of rough-and-ready functionality with other things that make it considerably better than not having a rule book at all. I'm just saying that functionality is one sort of virtue a system can have, and I actually disagree that this is trivially easy to do and still have a game that doesn't careen totally into DM fiat. I don't think 5E does that, even though it does rely on DM judgment - that is, it doesn't rely on DM's making up rules, it supplies rules which DMs then must figure how and when to apply. I think you're tending to conflate the two a little at times here, although this does seem to be the way you talk about Fate working sometimes. As a DM I find 5E much easier to comprehend and keep in my head and and run than Fate, though, so maybe our cognitive approach to the process of DMing is just so radically different that we're stuck at an impasse.

sparkletwist

Saying "some people like this some of the time for some purposes" is such a broad statement that I can't possibly refute it. It's also a terribly low bar. So, yeah, some people like D&D 5e some of the time for some purposes. That doesn't mean the rules don't have significant general and specific design problems that can be quantified and solved, nor does it mean that the 5e design team didn't completely fail to do so.

Right, but it feels like your critique is essentially becoming a list of "here are all the objective bad things about the system" - as opposed to "if you care about these things, you won't like 5E" and conversely "if you care about these other things, you will like 5E."

Like, if you care about having a concrete list of specific DCs for a variety of tasks to refer to during play, I freely grant you will not like 5E at all, at least as a DM (as a player you might like it fine, so long as your DM is doing a good job of conveying the difficulty of tasks). If this does not especially matter to you because you find it easy to come up with them yourself and your players find them fair and easily conveyed, then this specific failing on the part of 5E will not be a problem.

sparkletwist

How about the idea that a set of rules should try to cover the majority of situations that are likely to actually come up in play (either with specific rules or abstract rules to extrapolate rulings from) and provide a clear and coherent way to adjudicate those situations? What else is the system even for?

I think 5E does exactly this. The rules provide a set of skills and abilities and ways of comparing to cover a very wide variety of situations that come up in play. They don't do this in a way that guarantees perfect precision, but for the most part they seem pretty clear and coherent. You yourself praised some of the simplifications in your opening post and noted that you had fun in the session, which a least indicates that the rules weren't obstructing your enjoyment or making things unfair or miserable, something rules-systems can often do.

sparkletwist

If your choices in character creation don't have at least somewhat predictable results in play, then there isn't even a point in having those choices because they don't actually mean anything.

You took out my adjectives. I said that "This is probably quite bad for someone who really wants to optimize their character and wants a game where their very specific choices in character creation lead to very direct and predictable results in play." I did not say that some degree of predictability isn't necessary or that character design choices shouldn't have any meaning. Far from it! I'm just saying that the kind of precision-based character optimization you see in something like Pathfinder isn't to everyone's taste, and can actually inhibit some styles of play, and isn't necessary to have a fun, working system that emulates certain genres of fantasy.

sparkletwist

Ha! We should totally do this.

Should we stipulate RAW or totally houserule them?   laugh
« Last Edit: December 02, 2016, 02:30:33 AM by Steerpike » Logged


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« Reply #23 on: December 02, 2016, 05:17:59 PM »

Steerpike

You get a 10 just on a passive check and so auto-succeed on an "easy" task, so I think it should count as "easy." You only roll in situations where the outcome matters immediately or where a passive check won't cut it.
I personally think this is not using the passive check mechanic correctly, but it's kind of vaguely defined so I don't even know. Passive checks are also prone to bizarre numerical outcomes because they're a flat number compared to a flat DC with all-or-nothing results. For example, in this case, our peasant passes a DC 9 check 100% of the time, and passes a DC 10 check 100% of the time, and passes a DC 11 check 0% of the time.

Steerpike

I'm just saying that functionality is one sort of virtue a system can have, and I actually disagree that this is trivially easy to do and still have a game that doesn't careen totally into DM fiat. I don't think 5E does that, even though it does rely on DM judgment - that is, it doesn't rely on DM's making up rules, it supplies rules which DMs then must figure how and when to apply.
That's true, and that's actually what I meant. Finding something that works and moving to the next action is easy in a game where you don't care about consistency. However, what that means is that a game that cares about ease of resolution over consistency is taking the easy way out. Sacrificing consistency for ease of resolution is easy because pure DM fiat can do that.

And, anyway, there is a lot of DM fiat and a lack of consistency because 5e like totally does rely on DMs making up rules, all the time. There is basically no structure for what the DC of most player-vs-environment skill checks should be. There is no combat maneuver system aside from two examples and a sidebar telling the DM to make something up, and some oddly placed optional rules with no real explanation what to do if a player tries to do a certain combat maneuver but you aren't using the optional rules. It is not clear at all whether or not you're proficient by default with unarmed strikes. There is no social system aside from some dumb static DCs that are based on nothing and produce nonsensical outcomes and a note in the PHB about using Charisma checks without any real mechanics. You can hide with a Stealth check, but nowhere are there rules for how hiding actually works or what being hidden even does, mechanically. There's a skill called Intimidation and there's a condition called frightened and no rules for how to use Intimidation to make someone frightened. There's an item called poison and there's a condition called poisoned and no rules for how to use poison to make someone poisoned. There are two skills that both explicitly state they can be used to find hidden objects (Perception and Investigation) and no actual explanation on how they differ in this use case. Oh, and I kind of forgot about tools, because they're so utterly poorly defined; there are no rules or even guidelines as to what skill is associated with what tool or even a decent list of what most tools can be used for and what the DC of most common tool use tasks should be.

Steerpike

The rules provide a set of skills and abilities and ways of comparing to cover a very wide variety of situations that come up in play. They don't do this in a way that guarantees perfect precision, but for the most part they seem pretty clear and coherent. You yourself praised some of the simplifications in your opening post and noted that you had fun in the session, which a least indicates that the rules weren't obstructing your enjoyment or making things unfair or miserable, something rules-systems can often do.
I strongly disagree about clarity and coherence and I point to the above paragraph. I liked some of the simplifications, but that doesn't mean I think the system as a whole is particularly well-designed or mechanically sound.

You're right, though, I did have fun, that time. But like I said, "works sometimes" is a low enough bar there's no point. I like to roleplay and "just make something up" can often be functional enough kludge in actual play when the DM is willing to roll with it. I can have fun with freeform roleplay, too. Gamer-sparkletwist just cares about enjoying the game as it actually comes, while designer-sparkletwist is the one who wants to dig into gritty crunchy details and proactively pick apart rules that don't work. I'll also point out that both of my previous times playing 5e prior to that one had been, as you put it, unfair and miserable.

However, you're definitely going to see how much I can tolerate as a gamer that I couldn't stand as a designer, because....

Steerpike

Should we stipulate RAW or totally houserule them?
I'll certainly try to stick to OD&D's ridiculous spirit. So let's do this thing.
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« Reply #24 on: December 02, 2016, 10:50:59 PM »

We're probably at a standoff, and I don't see either of us convincing one another. I guess all I'll say as a final word is that I've played about 12 sessions of 5E at around 4-5 hours apiece and have found it both fair and fun; indeed, often more so than Pathfinder, which I still enjoy, but which can be burdensome. I'll freely admit the rules have gaps, and there are places where you need to make serious judgment calls - though rarely have I had to actually come up with any new mechanics or actual rules on the fly. I've found that most combat maneuvers can be pretty easily handled by skill contests and despite the minimal structure for assigning DCs I haven't had much trouble coming up with DCs that seemed fair (the stuff in my games is often not especially "standard" anyway - even the most comprehensive rule book is unlikely to have saving throw DCs on resisting an alien time machine's side effects, for example, or an Arcana DC to figure out that yes, indeed, that otherworldly grape does contain what looks like an entire universe). I think mostly our differences really come down to a difference in priorities and our thought-processes into game running.

I will say I'm really pleased we had the debate since it's led to PARTY LIKE IT'S 1974!
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