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Messages - Mercurius

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1
Whether you like it or not, D&D has expanded beyond your preferred style of play. It now includes a much broader umbrella of play styles, which can't be anything but a good thing.
Ehhh, you had me until here.  Sadly, unlike some versions of D&D, resource depletion is a very real thing in life.  There is only so much time, energy, attention, products, etc.  Part of what has happened to RPGs in general (and D&D specifically) is that a growing popularity has led to a skewing of the rules and focus shift that naturally comes when more people are trying to pigeon-hole their definition of fun into a single activity.  Basically, what I am saying is that there are only so many modules, game rules, and/or options that WotC can publish per year.  And the ones they choose to spend their limited resources on are important to those of us who play 5e.  Because, in theory, WotC spends all of their time developing, testing, and refining their rules and modules.  I, on the other hand, play RPGs as a hobby.  So, once again in theory, WotC should be able to produce content that plays better than what I slap together before a session (the fact that they often can't is a whooooole other thread).  So I have a vested interest in having WotC produce (at least some) material that follows my definition of fun.  So this expansion of styles is NOT an objective good (you can argue that it's a subjective good, "The good of the many..." and all that.  But I'll note that Spock dies after saying that...).

The real subject hidden here is that RPGs are fundamentally about players making choices for their characters and facing the consequences (good or bad) thereof.  That's it, the whole crux of the hobby (which is why so much is said about "railroady" DMs and adventures).  Everything else we do is just to help support that basic feature (rules, dice, settings, all of it).  Some players want to make a lot of choices, either because they seek the complexity or a heightened sense of control over the outcomes of their choices.  Others want to make few, or broader, choices.

Logistics (which is what Pundit is really talking about here) is the science of choices.  The more logistics you involve, the more your choices matter (a roll that determines when you are "out" of ammo might provide a potential seed for a choice, but it is not the product of a choice itself).  But it also means the more time and effort you have to spend on your choices.  What any individual calls "fun" is going to be based on a different value of this work-to-consequence ratio.  But there is a very real difference in the number of choices you are making (and the control you have over your character and the consequences) when you abstract or ignore certain types of logistics in your game.

A few things from your thoughtful post.

One, you are talking more generally than the Pundit did, and what you say can be applied in a variety of ways and differently depend upon play-styles and the basic assumptions of the game. You can completely ignore arrow count and encumbrance (etc), but still have a very strong work-to-consequence ratio, still offer significant choices, depending upon what the focus is.

We can look at the difference between low/gritty fantasy and high/epic fantasy. What the Pundit talks about is suited for the former, but both involve work-to-consequence, both involve choices that can be the difference between death and glory. It is just that the scope is focused on different things.

Or we can frame it in another polarity: survivalist vs. save-the-world. In a survivalist campaign, the point is to survive, and maybe accumulate wealth to get out of survival mode. Obviously counting arrows is important. In a save-the-world campaign, getting bogged down in minutiae like tracking arrows may actually diminish the focus of the campaign, and de-emphasize the more important--and consequential--choices that need to be made. But the point is, either way there are stakes, there is a tension that is nourished through situations involving meaningful choice - and I think that is what you are getting at.

(And of course you could mix the two, so that the world depends upon how many arrows you have, or you can only survive if you save the world...but the point is that the underlying principle can be applied in different ways, to serve the specifics of the campaign)

I hear what you are saying about WotC, but I think that is a somewhat different issue. What you are saying, as I see it, is that you aren't their primary clientele anymore. Actually, on another board I emphasized that point: that we 40+ year olds (Gen Xers) are a much smaller portion of the current edition's fan-base than we've ever been. Their primary customer base are Millenials and even older Gen Z (teenagers). So we're being left behind a bit.

With the surge in popularity of D&D over the last six years, they have a new player base to focus on (and make money from), so don't really need to publishing stuff that suits grognards and quasi-grognards. But we don't need them, either. There are so many great games, and even you want to play 5E, you can pretty easily adapt stuff from Hyperborea or S&W or DCC, or other OSR and non-D&D games (e.g. Forbidden Lands).

So regardless of what you or I think about WotC product, it works. It is more popular than ever before, and most of the complaints seem to come from older folks, who feel left behind or marginalized. "This product isn't for me." While I can commiserate, I can understand why WotC is doing what they're doing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and in this case, "broke" means not selling product, and that isn't the case.

2
It is really quite simple: different styles of play are just that. One is not inherently better than the other, in the same way that "dramas" are not inherently better or worse than "comedies," or "science fiction" better or worse than "fantasy." Or, perhaps more relevant to this discussion: low fantasy isn't better or worse than high fantasy.

On the other other hand, there are commonalities and not everything is loosey-goosey subjective. A specific comedy or even a specific joke might not make all people laugh, but it might make a lot of people laugh, because they have a shared experience, and a shared taste in comedy.

Likewise, certain rules encourage certain behaviors. Awarding xp for gold, for instance. It might not be for everyone (it certainly isn't my preferred xp system) but we can recognize for a lot of people it incentivices certain behaviors over others. (Avoid fights, grab treasure, flee)

A certain style of play might be better than another at evoking certain behaviors. And a group might find those behaviors fun at the gaming table. Tracking ammo is part of rewarding players who plan ahead and manage their resources well. Whole board and video game genres are built on resource management.

I agree that there is no one true way to play the game, but there are game apsects (rules) that are better or worse at evoking certain playstyles.

Yes, agreed - which I think I said. It depends upon what sort of play-style you want to evoke. If you're playing gonzo Exalted-esque fantasy, then tracking arrows is beyond tedious (unless they're special magical arrows). If you're starting with the classic, "You wake up in a forest, naked and not knowing who you are" trope, then every little bit of equipment matters.

So while you seem to think I'm saying "loosey-goosey," I'm actually saying the same thing, and that the Pundit is advocating that what works for his play-style should work for all, which ignores the fact that not everyone wants the same play experience that he does.

3
One one hand, it is rather baffling how the Pundit seems completely ignorant of the reality of subjectivity, variable tastes, and the idea that RPGs are different things to different people. He also doesn't seem to be aware of the problem of One True Wayism - which is so easily debunked with a modicum of post-objectivist thinking and grokking of what "category error" means. (For the sake of full disclosure, I didn't listen to the whole thing - just the first two-thirds or so - but I'm guessing he doesn't change his tune or basic idea).

It is really quite simple: different styles of play are just that. One is not inherently better than the other, in the same way that "dramas" are not inherently better or worse than "comedies," or "science fiction" better or worse than "fantasy." Or, perhaps more relevant to this discussion: low fantasy isn't better or worse than high fantasy.

On the other, at least he's open about his bias and adherence to One True Wayism (even if he seemingly doesn't recognize it as such). On the opposite side of the spectrum, stalwarts of other forums subtly (or not-so subtly) advocate for cultural One True Wayism, that roleplaying feelies is better than killing things, that certain cultural assumptions should infuse every game table, and perhaps the most annoying of all: that the fantasy world should reflect real-world values. The Pundit seems less conflicted, just a bit unaware of his subjective bias.

So I'll give it a shot: Pundit, there are different styles of D&D, different ways to play the game, and different objectives. All styles and approaches share one thing in common: to have fun. How one has fun really depends upon the individual and group. If you find it fun to count arrows, have at it; it facilitates a certain style of play (and in that regard, your advice is good for facilitating a certain style of play). Others don't find it fun, because it detracts from their preferred style.

I mean, you're basically saying: "OK, you're having fun, which is great, but you're doing it wrong, and if you did it right--or rather, the way I do it--you'd have more fun."

Whether you like it or not, D&D has expanded beyond your preferred style of play. It now includes a much broader umbrella of play styles, which can't be anything but a good thing.

4
How "dark" something is, is really relative. Some folks can't even watch an episode of Game of Thrones, while others think it is Grimdark Lite and merely a gateway to really cool stuff.

I think the solution is simple: Just take something, whether Schwalb's game or Midnight or something else, and turn the toaster dial until you get to your desired darkness.

5
For fiction, I'm finishing up a re-read of Patricia McKillip's Riddle-Master trilogy, one of my all-time favorites. After that, I have too many to list, but am thinking of diving into John Crowley, Clark Ashton Smith (especially Zothique), and a bunch of others.

For non-fiction, I am reading Jamie Williamson's The Evolution of Modern Fantasy, an excellent discussion of the roots of modern fantasy, particularly as it pertains to the canonical Ballantine Adult Fantasy classics published in 1969-74.

For rpgs, I've cashed in a bunch of store credit from Noble Knight, so have a ton of new books that I'm browing through, including stuff from Symbaroum, the Forbidden Lands, the Eris Gazetteer, the Megadungeon zine, and a few mega-dungeons (including Rappan Athuk).

6
McDonalds is a good analogy, I think, but what I'm trying to express does not have much to do with quality... it is more like ubiquity + ignorance. How people can be experts in 5e without ever hearing about DCC (or CoC or GURPS for that matter). And, look, I cannot say any of those games are 100% better than 5e. I just think it is incredibly USEFUL to learn about RPGs, not only 5e D&D.

Heck, even reading Moldvay's Basic - a 50ish-page book - sounds infinitely more useful than getting a 200+ page book with new ideas on how to use your bonus action. If you want something more current, Shadow of the Demon Lord, DCC RPG...

The campaigns bother me the most, because I tried running them, and it is a hassle. While the character options are somewhat balanced and play-test (but yes, there is some power creep and caster supremacy gets worse and worse), there are essential parts of the campaigns that have obvious mistakes (railroading, misunderstanding hexcrawls, etc.). But, I mean, people are still running them and enjoying, so...

I hear you and feel your pain - but again, you and I are not the drones WotC is looking for. They're looking at their new Millenial player base, and upcoming Gen Zers who know nothing of Moldvay or THACO or the OSR. They might eventually.

In that sense, the McDonalds analogy might work insofar as both McDs and D&D are the "gateway drugs" to fast food and RPGs, respectively.

Many people stop at McDonalds because it is cheap and, frankly, tasty in a junk food way. Some try other fast food joints and restaurants, perhaps gradually fine-tuning their tastes. A smaller percentage get into cooking and start making their own burgers.

But the majority of people stop somewhere before that, and settle on their "brand" - be it McDonalds, Five Guys, or D&D. It is a small percentage that get into boutique games or even creating their own.

So while I agree that people are only enriched by going deeper than D&D (or 5E), I also understand why they--especially casual players--just stick with the official material.

EDIT: here is another analogy: a body-builder with strong arms who refuses to train his legs... ever. Nice arms, but training your legs would be really helpful overall.

I don't think that quite works, because it implies that 5E-only folks are "doing it wrong." Or rather, if we want to use the analogy of body-building, I think the equivalent is someone who just goes to the gym 2-3 times a week for 45 minutes to maintain a decent physique, but doesn't get into it in any great depth.

7
The McDonalds analogy is...limited. I mean, I get that 5E appeals to a wide range of people while not appealing to any one group or style as well as any number of other games. But McDonalds is crap. It is lowest common denominator junk food. 5E is, at least, well designed and incorporates bits and pieces from (when it first came out) four decades of game development.

If we must stick to fast food chains, I think Chipotle or Five Guys is a better analogy. Both are good for fast food, but you can get a better burrito or burger elsewhere, especially if you know how to cook. But the vast majority of people will like Chipotle or Five Guys just fine.

The OSR critique seems to often boil down to: "But it isn't barbeque! I want barbeque, and anything other than barbeque is crap!" 5E has barbeque sauce, but doesn't actually barbeque the food.

8
I'm not that concerned with "woke" stuff, since I don't learn politics (or economics etc.) from role-playing games. What bothers me is the idea that someone would need WotC's authorization to change stuff around (or, worse, would need an "official" printed book to say that).

You make a great point about the number of books they publish... Yeah, we had nothing like that since Xanathar's, and I'm glad they are publishing adventures.

I also agree there is not "one true way", but it bothers me to think of people never bothering to read any other RPGs except 5e.

Especially if they are publishers, I guess.

Maybe ignore my second post, then. It will be hard to avoid the woke issue on this forum ;).

Anyhow, I hear you. It also bothers--or at least, baffles--me. I think it is a carry-over from 3E and 4E days (in different ways) in which the rules systems were so complex and tightly bound that it was harder to diverge and customize. Also, I think the increasing role of the internet and online discourse over the last 25+ years is a major factor: we're more aware how everyone else is playing, so there is more debate about how it "should" be done.

But it isn't only younger players who have this adherence to RAW and the default mode in the rulebooks, whether rules or lore. Even in a place like ENW, which is mainly inhabited by older folks, there are endless discussions which simmer down to what the default of the game lore should be.

While we can always play the game as we want it, I do understand why it matters to some what the official version of the game states. But in a way, caring too much is just a corollary to adhering to RAW.

9
One more thing. I don't know how old you are, but the cold, hard truth is that a lot of folks who are getting the feeling of "This game isn't being marketed to me anymore" tend to be Gen Xers (40s-50s), with the stray Boomer (60+) still holding onto his tattered copy of the Efreet DMG, grunting "From my cold, dead hands!" Meaning, if that's how you feel, well, you're justified, because it is true. WotC still wants you to buy their books, but you're not their primary market.

The bulk of 5E players are now Millenials or Z, and WotC is adjusting to that. They don't really need to cater to us anymore. Sure, a best-case scenario for them is that everyone is happily playing D&D, but the player base has gotten so much larger--and younger--over the last six years, that they no longer have to appease grognards to profit, because Gen Xers and Boomers make up a much smaller fraction of the market than they did even a decade ago.

And more to the point: WotC's biggest concern is growth. While you might get the occasional Gen Xer running across an article about D&D in Salon, thinking, "Hey, I used to play that in college!" and dusting off their old polyhedrals, the number of older players remains relatively stable and isn't where potential growth is, which is younger folks. And, well, Millenials are simply more woke, so WotC is taking that demographic seriously (aside from their personal socio-political views). Gen Zers...well, it remains to be seen as the oldest cohort are only now in high school.

All that said, I'm not as pessimistic as some in this forum in that I think the pendulum will swing back. A bit, at least. The current woke cancellation trend will eventually simmer down, just like the Satanic Panic of the 80s quieted (or at least became marginalized and not taken seriously). But unlike the Satanic Panic, there is actually a positive element to wokism in that it does ultimately want to make D&D more inclusive, just in an extremist and over-the-top way. But as these woke warriors mature, they might relax a bit and realize that fantasy orcs aren't black people, and killing things and taking their stuff isn't tantamount to distributing small pox blankets to Native Americans.

10
If you have a problem with 5E's approach, I'm guessing you didn't much like 4E, or 3E for that matter. 5E actually de-tangled itself (somewhat) from rulings over rules, if only through having a lighter rules system. It isn't quite OSR, but a lot of folks who didn't like the "new school" of 3E/4E, liked 5E enough to rejoin the fold. Some folks (such as myself) like and use the 5E rules, but port over stuff from different places, be it actual TSR stuff, OSR stuff like Hyperborea, or "retro-vibeish" games like Forbidden Lands.

I'm also not picking up Tasha's, mostly because it doesn't strike me as a book I "need" to won, especially considering that I'm not actively playing right now, and even if and when I start a campaign up again (planned, but delayed by Covid), I probably won't need it for awhile as there are plenty of options for players in the PHB and Xanathar's.

Tasha's is just another toolkit. Even the whole separation of ability bonuses and races thing, while some are complaining that it smacks of wokism, it is--as far as impact at the game table--just another variant approach that individual groups have freedom to embrace (or not). Meaning, it doesn't enforce anything or take anything away, just provides more options. Similarly with everything else. None of it is required.

And it is hardly the case that WotC is glutting the market with splats. They publish 4-5 hardcovers a year, 1-2 of which are adventures, 1-2 settings, and 1 rules supplement of some kind, usually monsters of players options. This is the first players options book since Xanathar's in 2017, so one new such book every few years isn't overwhelming, especially when they are optional.

So my suggestion is that the whole enforcement of one true way to play is largely a mirage. Even if WotC is getting behind wokism and advocating for a more woke approach, there is still the freedom to make the game you want with the 5E rules. You don't have to change the way you want to play or use books and rules you don't want to use.

Now if they publish a revised set of rulebooks in 2024 with the 50th anniversary that change the default significantly, which is possible, that will be a different matter, although the same basic idea will hold true: D&D, and RPGs in general, are infinitely customizable and can be played however we want to play them.

11
The moment they release that book on Psionics also is the moment that the cycle towards 6th Edition D&D begins. Because they will have covered everything in 5th. And will start looking forward to that sweet new edition loot.

Yes, I am being cynical. But WOTC hasn't really given me cause not to be.

They still haven't really done the planes, but that is going to happen before psionics, I think. My guess would be planes in 2021-22, psionics in 2022-23. And of course there are also secondary sub-systems that they haven't really touched, and may never touch: epic play (beyond 20th), kingdom building, science fantasy, etc.

As for 2024 and the anniversary, I don't think they'll do a new edition but more of a revision. And yes, it will likely have "woke reskinning." All PCs must be gay or transgender, no races allowed except for a kind of indeterminate dark gray-beige skin tone, drow are pastel colors and live in a utopia called Wokaria, dwarfs are renamed "People of Shorter Stature" and orcs are noble and kind.

But on a serious note, I don't see a reason for them to reboot, at least anytime soon. They haven't taken the same approach of the past few editions, which requires the edition treadmill. They've found a more sustainable approach which allows them to plateau at a very high level of sales. They can keep churning out 1-2 setting books, 1-2 story arcs, and 1 rules supplement indefinitely, especially with the Magic settings to draw from.

I don't think they'll re-boot until sales start to lag, and probably only then after a downward trend is consistent for a couple years. A 2024 anniversary event--revised core rulebooks, and maybe one or two commemorative products--will delay that for another year or two, if sales start dipping by then. But regardless of what we think of their products or politics, WotC has found a really strong formula for continued success.

12
The RPGPundit's Own Forum / Re: 2020 Election Commentary
« on: November 21, 2020, 10:19:02 am »
Funny how people see what they want to see.

Anyone see Tucker Carlson's bit about Sidney Powell? He contacted her several times to present proof and she didn't, but threw a tantrum and told him to leave her alone.

People are not mad at Trump because they're scared he's got a case - everyone knows he doesn't. They're mad because he's fucking everyone by stalling the transition of power, and the the threat that he's going to try to stay in office unlawfully. Only his weak-brained drones still believe that he won the election, and they'll lap up anything he says. It is rather pathetic, like the idiots running the asylum.

Meanwhile, the liberal media keeps focusing on Trump's ongoing tantrum, ignoring that Biden is creating a centrist warhawk administration and screwing progressives, and thereby the American people. Trump's far worse, but fuck Biden too.

13
The RPGPundit's Own Forum / Re: 2020 Election Commentary
« on: November 20, 2020, 10:05:54 am »

 Fucking gender-fluid trans freaks.

Looks like someone jumped the shark.

14
... and recalling many MANY comments on the internet hyped to the roof about the new "options", I get to wonder - has the 5e crowd gotten brain dead or something?

The book has some new sub-classes (pulled from UA), magic tattoos (oh boy, more spell-like character features), magic items, group patrons, making spells personalized, and some more. Apart from the content copy/pasted from unearthed arcana, most of the new guidelines is just stuff we've used to make up on our own. Like the spell customization - visually your magic missile can be a bunch of chickens now (omg, how cool and nouveau is that?!).

I won't go in more detail because I don't have time and will just continue to rant, but it seems this book solidifies my feelings that wotc and the 5e mass marked are locked in a cycle of regression. There is rampant churning and spoon-feeding of "player options" and half-baked rules that consist of a weak random table and a paragraph or two. And it seems that people crave for that stuff like it's the next ten commandments. I won't be surprised if some years from now, on a table somewhere, players are going through the books to see if it's allowed to have a house cat as a familiar.

This product doesn't inspire me enough to pick it up, but you're a little off-base here. Yes, 5E assumes far less house-ruling, and in general WotC D&D has been more RAW - or rather the player base is, despite every edition mentioning some variation of "rule zero."

But this is the first real player's options book in three years, since Xanathar's in 2017. Over the last three years, the yearly formula seems to be: 1-2 setting books, 1-2 story arcs, and 1 rules supplement of some kind, be it a player's option book, a monster book, etc.

My guess is that the next player's option book will be psionics oriented, probably in 2022 or 2023. Next year the supplement will probably be monsters (planar?).

So what they're "churning out" are stories and worlds, and supplementing with the occasional monster or player's option book.

15
The RPGPundit's Own Forum / Re: 2020 Election Commentary
« on: November 17, 2020, 02:51:44 pm »

I wish people would stop painting with such a broad brush. All you're really doing here is creating a caricature of everyone to the left of you, as if they (we) are all Marxists, all hate conservatives, all think the same. In other words, you're being an instant of your own complaint.

Certainly, this type of viewpoint exists and is promulgated by much of the media, as well as in sub-cultural pockets like TBP, but it isn't shared by all.

So if you want people to stop calling you a fascist, maybe do the same.
Awww, did someone's precious fee-fees get hurt? Get fucked, buddy. This is the future you chose.

Nice gaslighting attempt though. What's your encore gonna be?

Master of Projection! My feelings aren't hurt - sorry, but your opinion doesn't really hold any weight to me.

But please address what I said. You're whining about something you're actually doing. That isn't gaslighting - it is pointing out your hypocrisy and projection.
Oh please. Since you have the memory of a goldfish, let's review:

Bitch was tossing around the 'fascist' label/
I remarked on how he (and his fellow demagogues) had been using that label to target anyone who wasn't a proper proggie, and voiced my contempt for him over it.
You came riding to the rescue with a pathetic 'NO U DO IT TOO' defense.

You know, you really have to be denser than Christmas gravy to try and gaslight me with a 'oh those nasty lefties don't exist'. Have we not discussed the words and actions of public persons on this very subforum? Do you know who Keith Olbermann is? Robert Reich? That's just two of many. Shall we discuss the (publicly defunct, for now) Trump Accountability Project? Shall we discuss this column, published in Time Magazine?

*snort* 'abstract other that only really exists in their head' my entire ass.

You seem to have reading comprehension issues. I enver said "those nasty lefties don't exist" - I clearly said they do. I said you are doing the same thing you're accusing them of, and not grokking that not all on the left hate Trump voters.

p.s. Biden isn't a "lefty" is center-right at best.

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