Friday, February 8, 2019

Grumpy Grognard Guy

"Use of the NPC personality traits and characteristics [found on pages ] for player characters is NOT recommended.  The purpose of AD&D is to allow participants to create and develop interesting player characters who will adventure and interact with their surroundings.  If personality traits are forced upon PCs, then participants will be doing little more than moving automatons around while you, the DM, tell them how their characters react to situations.  It is therefore absolutely necessary for you to allow each player the right to develop his or her character as he or she chooses!"
~ p.11, Original Dungeon Master's Guide

I stumbled across this while considering an upgrade to my own character creation page on my wiki, and could not help noticing how well it contrasts with the content I wrote earlier today.  At the risk of sounding like Grumpy Grognard Guy, even though I don't use the AD&D DM's Guide for much any more ~ I've either replaced it, remembered it or redacted it from my game ~ I cannot help noticing the comparison of language from one edition to another.  5th Edition really wants you to like it; hell, it desperately panders so hard the player is forced to consider a restraining order.  1st clearly does not give a shit if you like it or not.  "The Game is This.  Fuck you."

I'm not sure my wiki needs an upgrade.  I don't strongly feel there needs a reason for my choosing to roll 4d6 [given as method I in the DMG] rather than some other form.  Games as a whole don't give explanations or justifications for their rules.  They usually give one opening paragraph with a little drama in them and then they get down to business.  For example, here's the first paragraph for the 1975 game, Wooden Ships & Iron Men:
"Wooden Ships and Iron Men is a tactical simulation of naval warefare during the great age of sail.  The game covers the period from 1776 to 1814 when the great square sail ships-of-the-line dominated the oceans and the speedy and durable American frigates gave world recognition to their young parent navy.  The game is played by two or more players each commanding a ship, squadron or whole fleet!  Scenarios depict the famous naval engagements of the American and French Revolutions and the Napoleanic Wars.  The game is also a kit from which other scenarios or any fictitious engagement may be designed."

Direct, to the point, here's what the game offers and how.  The immediate next paragraph sets the language for the rest of the manual (I won't quote it all):
"Each counter represents a single ship and covers two hexes of the mapboard.  Orders for movement are written for each ship on a 'log.'  Ships are then moved simultaneously over the mapboard.  Any which foul or grapple may attempt to form boarding parties to take possession of the enemy's craft ..."

We don't need a lot of flowery bullshit language.  "Grapple?  Boarding parties?  Take over the enemy's craft?  I'm in!"

No one thinks to explain why we've adopted a simultaneous movement scheme or why a ship is specifically two hexes long.  Because it works, that's why.  Because it's a game, we tested it, you didn't, so shut up and play.  And that's how people would have talked to you in 1978 if you sat down at a tournament to play the game.  There were such tournaments.  War games go back a long way.

Early along the way, however, where D&D was concerned, spines grew  rubbery and flexible among the designers.  Look at that page in the old DMG.  There are four methods offered for how to roll dice for the character and there is a namby-pamby effort to explain that characters rolling a straight 3d6 for stats tended to have short lifespans.  Even then, in 1979, the originators were already beginning to doubt their message.  That list of dice-rolling methods (it used to be famous, like Appendix N, but I suppose it has fallen into obscurity) obviously came about because the designers themselves couldn't agree on how much better a character's stats ought to be.

I am fine with saying this is the method and drawing the line here.  I have heard every kind of complaint a player can make about low ability stats.  And I've had my share of player suiciders ... that's why long ago I determined that the player's character had to meet two possible requirements.  If every stat except one was 14 or less, and that one stat was at least 17, even a grumbly player would make the best of it.  The same, I found, was true if no stat was 17 or better, but two were at least 15 and 16.  Two 15s weren't enough.  And a single 16, with everything else being 14 or less, wasn't good enough either.

Of course, I had players who would happily run with all their stats below 15.  Some players are just like that.  That can't be relied upon across the board; my minimums, as far as I can tell, satisfy everyone ... and even those disgruntled players who don't want me to let them roll their six stats again, because they're a masochist, will grudgingly do so anyway once they understand everyone in the game is held to the same standard.

It works.  I've tested it.  Those who don't like it, who don't feel the rewards equal whatever the hell 5e offers them, can keep walking.  Once we've established what the rules ARE, one thing we cannot allow ourselves to do is cave everytime some malcontent doesn't get their way.  Malcontents will always try.  Reason, effectiveness and the very course of civilization demands that malcontents not be given any power, ever.  Look what happens.

Civilization?  Look at any part of your culture that is falling apart: infrastructure, the law, the electoral system, the way people are treated in public ... it's all degrading because some group of people really, really didn't want to behave or act or contribute as they were meant to contribute.

And some dumbfuck group with real power said, "Okay. You don't have to.  Not if you don't really want to."

Cleaning up was such a bother.  [see the source for this image from Nix & Gerber]


James said...

I renember reading people say "I roll 3d6 straight" and thinking "wow, that seems unplayable, AD&D must gave sucked," then being blown away when the book outright says "if a player gets unplayable stats, chuck them and try again."

There is a lot of misinformation out there. I don't know, while I innstely lean towards being a powergamer (and I apologize if I annoy you in that regard), I am happy to live with any restriction placed upon me.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yeah, I've heard that argument used against AD&D many times. I have to go to Jerry for that one.

I play a rational, well-managed game system and I'm not prone to allow gamesmanship, so power-gamers are not at all a negative thing; in fact, I believe that at least one munchkin in a party will go a long way to keeping everyone alive, and that is a GOOD thing.

James said...

(Takes a look at Mikael's Level 2 Mage)

I don't think you'll have to worry about me keeping the party alive for awhile.

Drain said...

A precious post, this one, especially the closing paragraphs.

[I swear to gods, somewhere in my folders there was a jotted half-sentence about how 5e is "desperately anxious to be liked"]