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Author Topic: Why D&D will never leave Hack -n- Slash  (Read 5765 times)
Zak Arntson
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« on: June 20, 2001, 10:29:00 PM »

Played D&D again tonight.  Here's an observation.  Using the search time concept, I believe that D&D will never become a good system for non-dungeon crawling (i.e., search for traps, get treasure, kill monsters).

So why?  It boils down to search time.  Your To Hit and Armor Class bonuses are prefigured, and your Damage Done.  It's all written down on your character sheet.  Same for your Skills.

So, what's the Search Time to hit a goblin?  If I haven't memorized, it's a quick glance on my character sheet.

Now then, we're playing and one PC decides to subdue and bind a goblin, rather than kill it.  What happens?  Several people flipping through books, DM jokes about being taken by surprise and unready for this.  Search Time is immense, and the Handling Time takes a bit, since it's not immediately obvious how to apply the subdual damage and how it affects the goblin.

In conclusion, D&D really suffers from selling itself as a grand fantasy system, but when you try to do anything other than killing or skill checks, you've just doubled or tripled (or worse) the search time.

And the kicker here is that the game encourages XP rewards for finding alternate and creative solutions, but doing these things is such a pain in the butt.  And I'm sure having a To Hit on your character sheet keeps many new players from trying anything other than trying To Hit.

Hope nobody minds this little rant/observation.  It's just that I feel like the Forge is finally giving me the tools to analyze what I like/dislike about gaming.

(don't get me wrong, the other players had lots of fun, I just don't think D&D's my bag)
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #1 on: June 21, 2001, 12:41:00 AM »

If your group became accustomed to such things (i.e., no longer had to do that lookup), and/or if the DM simply declared "here's how we'll do it" (who's go the highest Ropes skill?  Ok, give me a roll . . ), that particular problem would go away.  The DD3e games I've played of late have less search/handling time OUT of combat, because the GM makes EVERYTHING a skill roll (not always the most interesting role-play opportunity, but it works).  When people start worrying about 5' steps, Attacks of Opportunity, "maybe I can/should charge - how's that work?" - those are the times we've bogged down.

D&D might still not be for you, but there are ways even within the system to  . . . help with the issues that are bothering you.  That's a lesson I learned here, or maybe over at GO - not only System matters, how you use it is also important (if not always sufficient).

Gordon C. Landis

[ This Message was edited by: Gordon C. Landis on 2001-06-21 04:43 ]
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hardcoremoose
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« Reply #2 on: June 21, 2001, 08:02:00 AM »

I have to throw in with Zak on this one.  I've been forced into playing quite a bit of D&D in the past few months (it was either that or not play at all), and I have to say, we spent a lot of time looking stuff up in the books.  The Skills and whatnot do help, but there's still an incredible amount of information - combat and otherwise - to be referenced.  Coupled with the fact that those books are set-up all wrong for quick reference and you can see the problem.

Now granted, you can always just make stuff up or use house rules to handle certain situations, but the people in my group feel this real need to keep everything fair (even for the monsters) and by the book.  It was so exhausting that when we finally decided to try something new, I went the complete opposite direction in terms of rules - we played InSpectres/NightWatch.

Take care,
Scott
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jburneko
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« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2001, 10:14:00 AM »

Hello.

Thought I'd just throw in my comments.  I'm GMing a D&D3E game right now and I have a rules-lawyer in the group.  But in this case it's a blessing.  I have a good head for rules but MAN this guy is a walking d20 encyclopedia.  Basically when I can't remember the rule he can and when HE can't remember the rule he knows the books like the back of his hand and can look it up VERY fast.  I would just 'wing it' but he wouldn't let me.  He's obsessed with keeping things fair.

BUT for those of you who aren't walking rules databases there's a neat short-cut trick I've learned.

If you go to the open gaming foundation page, cut-and-paste, and print out select sections of the System Reference Document you can make yourself a pretty handy d20 quick reference booklet.

Just my thoughts.

Jesse
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Peter
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« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2001, 10:55:00 AM »

My question is.. when you spent all the time looking up, what did you eventually find?

The reason I ask, is that subdual damage is applied the same as any old damage, except it generally doesn't kill the victim. Binding is just a use of the use ropes skill. You might find some "sample DCs" if you looked hard enough or some possible modifiers but thats the gist. Your GM should have enough info to handle the situation without even opening (any) book, if he understands that he's responsible for coming up with the difficulty numbers anyway, and everything defaults to a single roll of the d20 with a modifier.

Your GM may not have realized that thats pretty much all that subdual damage is, or he may have been looking for a modifier or something. Maybe it's a philosophical thing. Maybe it's a conceptual thing.

Anyhow, my main problem is the title:
"Why D&D will never leave Hack -n- Slash". This might be a problem that resides with your GM, or with your group...but I haven't had this problem under the new version.  You might as well say "Why Ars Magica will never leave hack and slash" or "Why Everway will never leave hack and slash". I'd be just as confused.

If we broke all roleplaying activity for all roleplaying games down into three activites and judged each RPG solely on time/effort spent in
A) descriptive wordplay (players and GM)
B) dice rolling or other mechanics/process (the actual time rolling the dice, counting the successes, whatever)
C) adjudication of events by GM decision

(B and C usually being the bulk of handling-time)

I have a feeling that D&D3 comes out as pretty quick in both B and C.  


 

 










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Peter Seckler
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jburneko
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« Reply #5 on: June 21, 2001, 11:56:00 AM »

Quote

On 2001-06-21 14:55, Peter wrote:
The reason I ask, is that subdual damage is applied the same as any old damage, except it generally doesn't kill the victim


Actually that's technically not true.  The actual rules state that normal damage should be SUBTRACTED from your actual hit points.  And subdual damage should be kept as a UPWARD counting running total.  When subdual damage is greater than or equal to your current hit points you're unconcious.  The reason you keep two running totals is because they heal at different rates.

In addition you suffer a -4 penalty to your attack roll if you're attacking with the flat of your blade.  Some weapons ONLY deal subdual damage and some weapons CAN'T deal subdual damage.  Also some types of creatures aren't effected by subdual damage.

So yeah, if your GM was concerned about being fair and acurate I can understand needing to look this all up.  And as far BIND there's specific Escape Rules and what not.

Jesse
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2001, 12:46:00 PM »

Hi,

If I'm reading Zak's point right, it's not so much about what the rules do or don't say, or how easy or not easy they are if you're not a rules-database kind of guy. It's mostly about the character sheet, and the social interface of play.

There you are, at the table, and you're trying to figure out what to do, and like it or not, most of us end up looking at the sheet to find out. (As some of you know, I'm currently trying to develop PC sheet designs that promote a different style of play.) Anyway, as Zak says, it's reeeeeeal easy simply to whack the other guy. You're set for it, there's no need to explain anything to the DM or get input from the other players, and in fact, your sheet is ALL ABOUT it.

I have no doubt that Pete in particular has promoted a different style of play and PC-management for D&D 3E. But I do agree with Zak that the instrument of the sheet, and some of the consequences of "delay" among some players, have a specific role in canalizing much of D&D play.

Best,
Ron
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2001, 01:16:00 PM »

Grrr ... this is the FOURTH time I've written this post.  I lose it EVERY time I try to write it.

So, I will make it VERY short.  Ron hit what I was aiming at.  D&D is a good system, but it facilitates Combat FIRST, Skill-use (primarily Dungeon Crawl-oriented) SECOND, and other stuff THIRD.

D&D's emphasis on Combat and Dungeon Crawling (by way of 1/2 its skills involving exploring in a dungeon environment) will keep it in the realm of Hack'n Slash.

My main point is: Game Designers should pay attention to their mechanics and how they are presented to the player.  If your game focuses on social intrigue, you should have those mechanics easily available, hopefully on the character sheet.  D&D does what it does WELL (I love the new d20 rules), but it's clunky (especially for newer players) when trying to go beyond its own goals.

I didn't mean to bash D&D, I just wanted to point out the light that went on in my head.
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Peter
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« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2001, 06:53:00 PM »

Okay, but..

Would we call Mage: The Sorcerors Crusade hack and slash? Because if you check the rules sections, Sorcerors Crusade has at least as many permuations for the rules to be used in different situations (if not more, and .. I think applied a lot more arbitrarily, not to bag on Sorceror's Crusade, it's one of my favorite games). As far as 'more combat options classifying a game as hack and slash'-- Sorcerors Crusade lists around 36 different combat maneuvers; everything from Bind to Blind Foe to different fencing maneuvers, and combat use of skills like Manipulation+Intimidation to frighten foes in the midst of combat.

Each maneuver has a seperate diff number and a way to modify damage whether strength, strength +2, weapon, or weapon + a certain number. There is a space on the character sheet to list around 6 favorite 'special maneuvers' or so, however.

All of this in there, and yet.. I don't consider Sorceror's Crusade 'hack and slash' and I don't know anyone else who's actually played it that thinks that either. Simply including the rules for combat doesn't dictate the style of play.

My other confusion is on the character sheet dictating part of the style of execution stems from this: with most RPG's there is a standardized character sheet. I realize this. But it has also been a (long) tradition with most of my D&D games that character sheets are hand-done. (usually) by me, especially if it's a long running campaign. They generally have all of the same stuff, but not even two character sheets from characters in the same campaign are actually alike in format.

So what I'm saying is: whats the standard? If D&D is considered hack and slash for having a lot of options for combat rules, and a listing on the character sheet.. how does this standard apply to everything else? How does it apply to Gurps, L5R, Ars Magica, or Hero Wars?

Here's why I think the term Hack and slash is annoying: first of all, I don't care what anyone says: it's a very primitive style of roleplaying. By saying "why D&D will never leave Hack and Slash" you're classifying all D&D players at a default of being hack and slash type gamers: which is wrong. I know just as well (probably better) than a lot of you just how bad the D&D hack & slash thing is in certain corners..I run a newbie demo game at the local gaming store (I just got back from one, in fact) on a fairly crowded gaming night. This is very much a cross-platform phenomenon. The game does not make the gamer. The real emphasis should be on player and GM skills: these are the things that make the real difference in a game. Instead, the way things work is this : all you have to do is say 'well, I outgrew that game.. now I'm only into Call of Cthulhu".. and you automatically gain the esteem and respect of your gaming peers: regardless of whether you ever ran or played a successful game session in your life-- and by successful, I mean. "one that wasn't a complete waste of time."

By contrast, I think of some of the games I played in college, or my big Eglantine campaign and think: "this was some of the most brilliant roleplaying I've ever been involved in.." and yet, it's hard to get that across, because the "hack and slash" stigma has not only been attached to the game.. it's suddenly stuck to me as well.
My roleplaying is automatically suspect because of what system I used?
 
The other thing is: Ars Magica. Ars Magica is D&D3 using a different size dice. Only it isn't generally called "hack & slash" primarily because it's not called "D&D" and comes with a setting that attempts to be halfway serious fantasy.


Also keep in mind this final fact; D&D players invented the term "hack & slash' in the first place as a derogatory term to identify badly-run, combat-filled D&D games. I can remember both hearing and using this term as early as 1979-1981 or so to describe a style of game we were trying to avoid. We learned the term from early issues of Dragon magazine, which used to run articles about how hack&slash wasn't really roleplaying.

If there is a standard (of what causes a system to be or not to be 'hack & slash', and thus inherently primitive and thus suitable only to "beginners" or "weak roleplayers"), it should be standardized and applied to everything, or nothing at all. I am also absolutely convinced that it is the users (the GM and the players through their own skills and talents or pitiful lack thereof) are what make the actual difference, if the game system works at all.


 



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Peter Seckler
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Ian O'Rourke
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« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2001, 04:32:00 AM »

 This Message was edited by: Ian O'Rourke on 2001-06-22 08:34 ]
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Ian O'Rourke
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Peter
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« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2001, 05:29:00 AM »

I just want to add that I concede the point on spells. You pretty much end up looking them up most of the time unless it's really familiar (a magic missile spell, for example, usually isn't a problem for me, but if someone cast 'Death Knell' or something.. I'd definitely have to look it up).

Of course- the same thing would happen under Ars Magica.

My other questions.. It has been asserted here and elsewhere that "D&D's emphasis on Combat and Dungeon Crawling (by way of 1/2 its skills involving exploring in a dungeon environment) will keep it in the realm of Hack'n Slash."

Which half of the skill selection (which specific skills) are specifically designed for use in a dungeon crawl setting?

Choose from the following list:

Alchemy
Animal Empathy
Appraise
Balance
Bluff
Climb
Concentration
Craft (Various)
Decipher Script
Diplomacy
Disable Device
Disguise
Escape Artist
Forgery
Gather Information
Handle Animal
Heal
Hide
Innuendo
Intimidate
Intuit Direction
Jump
Knowledge (various)
Listen
Move Silent
Open Lock
Perform
Pick Pocket
Profession (various)
Read Lips
Ride
Scry
Search
Sense Motive
Speak Language
Spellcraft
Spot
Swim
Tumble
Use Magic Device
Use Rope
Wilderness Lore

All of these definitely come in useful in a dungeon-crawl setting (I guess) .. but they might also be useful skills for just general fantasy adventuring. Anywhere. Also, they use the exact same system as the combat system. Substitute the word "difficulty class" for "armor class".

Also: if new players find D&D so clunky and difficult, why are so many of them playing it?  They can choose anything. I run a game specifically for new players, in my local game store. It takes place right between an Inquisitor display and directly facing the Gurps bookshelf. There are all kinds of colorful stuff, new games, old games, wierd games, etc.. all over the store. Yet, the players are there specifically to play D&D and show no interest in anything else right now.

 





[ This Message was edited by: Peter on 2001-06-22 09:56 ]
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Peter Seckler
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greyorm
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« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2001, 07:03:00 AM »

I wonder if the actual problem is not the search&handling times of 3E itself but familiarity with the rules.  That is, most groups tend to use the combat rules the most, and other things second, if at all.

But the situation described above (knock out & bind goblin) would not have resulted in even an eyeblink for my group.  Heck, two months ago they tried to knock out a white wyrmling instead of killing it and the combat did not differ one bit from normal, with the exception that I kept track of the stun damage and they had a modifier to hit.
Tying something up?  Simple: dex check or appropriate skill (Rope Use), DC 10.

(Note, no one's ever needed to or tried to tie anyone up in my game, I guessed...and now I checked (10 secs) and I'm right!)

In fact, my players sometimes have more problems with the hack n' slash portion of the game than they do with other sections (flanking?  Oh yeah...+1!  How do I flank again? What's this Combat Reflexes feat used for again? ), which, if I were crazy, I could use to say 3E is ill-suited for combat-oriented games.

Simply, in any new game or new situation -- like "We haven't knocked anything out using this ruleset, how do we do that" -- it is going to take time to look up the rule.
At least the first time it will, but you can't judge the system on that unless you are *always looking it up (most spells, frex).
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Zak Arntson
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« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2001, 05:25:00 PM »

Quote
Peter
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« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2001, 04:59:00 AM »

"D&D's design philosophy centers around combat (look at the huge section on combat in the books)."
 
Your'e wrong.








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Peter Seckler
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Jared A. Sorensen
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« Reply #14 on: June 23, 2001, 07:22:00 AM »

I agree with Peter -- the design philosophy of D&D3e is for the players to put their characters into dangerous/difficult situations in order for them to a) surmount them and b) benefit from them.

- J
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
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