Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Wooden-Headed Design

The following is content from the 5th edition adventure, Rise of Tiamat:
"The Order of the Guantlet shares the Harpers' dedication to justice and equality, but their methods and attitude are quite different.  Bearers of the gauntlet are holy warriors on a righteous quest to crush evil and promote justice, and they never hide in the shadows.  Evil must be opposed openly and vanquished in the light of day, so that all can see and be emboldened by its destruction.
"Members of the order are driven by religious fervor and by devotion to the principle of justice for all.  Whether a member places more emphasis on one or the other of those ideals is an individual choice.  Camaraderie and esprit de corps run high within the order, and an individual member will risk anything to save a fellow member or to complete an important mission.
"The Order of the Guantlet is a young organization, and it is eager and restless for action.  It does not take orders from any government or temple, although the opinions of holy figures are greatly esteemed within the order.  When evil threatens, the gauntlet strikes."

 So ... many ... cliches.

Believe me, the whole adventure is written like this, at least as much of it as I could stomach.  I haven't read a splatbook in a long, long time ... but I can see from this example that they have gotten, oh gawd, so much worse.  This is the level of writing they once reserved for 5-cent pulp novels in the 1940s.

Yet let's put aside the rather hilarious over-the-top dramatics of the piece.  And let's put aside the four or five actual discontinuities in the text (they're righteous, but with fervor, that is based on principles, that are open to individual choice, while the opinions of holy figures are only "esteemed" and not necessarily obeyed - oh yeah, bring it on!).

I only want the reader to consider the actual usefulness of the text.  Apart from depicting some clearly confused fanatics who are certain to listen to nothing the party tells them, what flesh has the writer added to the bones of these wooden soldiers?

The actual purpose of the Order is made clear in the next paragraph, which explains to the DM how to use them.  It is written,
"Before the final battle, members of the order make interesting NPCs for roleplaying encounters because of their outgoing ways and strong opinions.  Sharing a roadside inn with twenty paladins from the Order of the Gauntlet, or joining their march for a few days when headed in the same direction, should be a memorable experience."

Oh, I'm sure.

Our purpose, then, is to describe the Order as an entity that cannot be reasoned with, that in turn permits the DM to be a profoundly unreasonable asshole while role-playing.  Fun for the whole family.

I'm sure a lot of content-starved players have enjoyed their happy experience with the Order.  I would find it contrived, flat and two-dimensional.  I would see within a second, perhaps two, that I was being jerked around by the DM and the adventure.  These are real people, with real thoughts and feelings.  They're not dynamic because there's no possibility of change.

Unless, of course, half the details painstakingly given in the text are just ignored.  They're not suffering from religious fervor; they are willing to admit that "crushing evil" and "justice for all" are somewhat inconsistent policies.  Evil might possibly outlast the Order, despite all the Order's efforts.

Because, see, if it is possible the Order won't succeed, and an individual of that Order is kept awake at night thinking about it, that's very interesting.  It is much, much more interesting to have a conversation with a member of the Order who is having a crisis of faith, who doesn't know for certain what the right action is, who could conceivably reason and plan with the party in a meaningful sense, instead of a lot of shouting dull, absolutist fanatic phrasing that, let's admit, we can hear at any Klan rally.

I wouldn't expect the WOTC to get that ~ it is fairly clear that their "Sword Coast" agenda is systematically geared to destroy creativity and replace it with bland, mindless mediocrity.  I was somewhat repulsed to open the Store link on the website where it read, "Greetings Citizens of Eberron."  Not, for example, "Players of D&D."  Um, no.  Last week I called us a cult and, apparently, we are.


Drain said...

I knew these modern modules were bad, but this is something else.

Why wallow in this trash, Alexis? Sardonic catharsis?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Perspective. Slumming is instructive.

JB said...

Oh, man, you made me guffaw in public reading this. I am wiping tears of laughter from my eyes.

It's padding, man...and just a lot of seriously banal padding. You should check out the latest rulebooks (especially the 5E DMG). It's just part of their corporate strategy to churn these books out...WotC seems to have a lot less interest in teaching DMs how to create a vibrant, active campaign, and a lot more interest in keeping their customers firmly reliant on their regularly produced products. It's money in their pockets, after all.

[I've been re-reading How to Run this last week, and getting a lot out of it]

Archon said...