Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Original Thought

So, I just read this post by Alexis of The Tao of D&D. Before reading my post here, you should probably read that one (and some of the preceding ones dealing with credibility) if you haven't already. (I was going to just respond on the post itself, but this turned into something way too long-winded for a comment.)

It's an insightful post, but what jumped out at me was a comment made by Archon:

"Amongst the people I know; half of them would think the worse of you for being a league GM. It shows an inability to have an original thought. Ever."

As soon as I read this, I remembered a small conversation I had in the chat server with members of my alma mater's tabletop gaming club - a club that I helped found, but which took very little time to mutate into something I'm not a fan of. Case in point: a great deal of rules discussion was occurring back in September about some minutiae with class powers in (what else?) D&D 5th Edition. This particular instance of bafflement happened back in September of last year, and - because I'm a hopeful Library & Information Sciences student with strong document-consciousness - I copied the text of the conversation for later use.

 The issue was whether a particular action could be done at the same time as another action, or whether they conflicted with one another. The rules as written in the book - like so many of the rules in 5e - are unclear and incomplete. If you're a Referee, you probably have a good idea of what you'd do should such an issue come up at your table: make a ruling of your own (with input from the players) and just use that ruling from now on. The ruling becomes a new rule once it's accepted.

Now, the Dungeon Masters of the club are trying to make a decision for the large "West Marches" style game that includes multiple parties and multiple DMs, so I can understand why they'd have more discussion about this than would occur at a single table. What baffled me was that they apparently didn't trust themselves to make that decision, and chose to delay their final verdict until after they got a response on Twitter from one of the current developers of 5th Edition. At this point, I interjected:

"Since this Westmarches campaign is confined to [University], you as [club officer] could just make a decision and put it in the document (ideally with input from other Westmarches DMs)."

One of the club officers in charge of keeping the club campaign in order made a decision... that they stated would only be valid until clarification arrived from WOTC (in the form of a Sage Advice article). Another club officer confirmed that they had sent the question to the developer. My response:

"Right, but I don't see why a 'house rule' can't just be applied. Since this isn't a game organized/run by the WOTC, it doesn't necessarily have to fall to them to make an 'official' statement on it.
"I get that there's some desire for rules consistency between different groups, but this seems like a fairly minor issue that could easily be adapted to if a player were to join who had previously played in a different campaign."

The officer responsible for the temporary decision insisted that "[a]n official ruling is necessary to avoid confusion in the future and have an absolute ruling."

Umm... why?

I'm not going to post the entirety of the officer's (quite lengthy) response, because they have not given express written permission for me to do so - and the club server may or may not be considered a public space where statements can be on official record. Basically, they stated that the club was relying on "official" rulings to prevent confusion; this statement was repeated several times, with only slightly different wording.

Apparently it's too confusing for some people if they go to a game run by one DM, and the rules are slightly different than the rules used by another DM. Sure, they might use the exact same selection of races, classes, combat mechanics, skill lists, dice-roll fudging, and horrible halfling art... but if it takes both an action and a bonus action to emerge from hiding, that'll make it too hard to adapt!

As I think of it more and more, Archon's comment seems right on the money. If the current club officers' lengthy discussion about getting official WOTC support wasn't enough of a smoke signal, the insistence on only using WOTC-approved rules should have finally tipped me off as to their "inability to have an original thought."

The best part about this? The club officer then asked me to "be patient and abide by the current ruling". Apparently they failed to notice that I have never played a single one of the club's "West Marches" game sessions, nor do I intend to.


  1. This shows the increasing desperation of the community dependent on the WOTC to find a means to create a stable playing space. In effect, the group you've described is trying to weaponize the WOTC as a tool to control others ... but of course the problem is the WOTC isn't present, and those USING the WOTC will almost certainly weaponize the "official statements" in order to put themselves in power.

    Basically, we must appeal to the church to end this heresy; and as the priests speaking on behalf of the church, no game that goes on in this venue shall occur without the church's express approval, so say we the priests.

    This eventually collapsed some centuries ago as various churches throughout Northern Europe adopted your point of view, Fuzzy. This is OUR church; WE will decide how it is run, and not Rome.

    When I argue for a consensus, believe me when I say I'm not interested in supporting a bunch of papists. But that's the way we're going for now, because gamer groups are getting DESPERATE. The rules as written are AWFUL and inconsistent, not to mention full of holes such as the one you mention. It is a bad document to build a church on ... and yet that's what hundreds of groups are trying to do, much to their despair.

  2. "Apparently it's too confusing for some people if they go to a game run by one DM, and the rules are slightly different than the rules used by another DM."

    Yet there are literally dozens of D&D clones out there and hundreds of RPGs, and (at least online) hundreds of thousands of fans proclaiming an RPG renaissance.

    1. What's especially funny to me is that - judging from the actions of some of the Yahoos involved in this - a variant on 5e is too confusing, but a completely different game (such as Tortured Earth) is not.

    2. This is the third reference to "confusion" in RPGs that I've come across in the past 24 hours. One is from a podcast, the other is in a review of a recent playtest for Pathfinder 2nd Edition. I feel a rant may be in order, but it's almost too baffling to sort out. How can anyone playing an RPG argue that the game is "too complicated?"