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Comments on Dan H's People Who Don't Like Dogs In the Vineyard: Anonymous
This game does have one or two nice features that conventional/old school RPGs don't. The big one, for me, is the ability to play out one "conflict" to settle something that another game would model as a huge number of discrete actions or not model at all. In Dungeons & Dragons, sneaking through an enemy camp requires some arbitrary, unknowable, and likely very large number of hide and move silently checks. Fights with multiple participants grind through hideous numbers of die rolls. Whether a character learns a new skill is either deterministic or by fiat. It's genuinely awesome to have a game where "can I infiltrate the enemy camp?", "can I beat up the gang of thugs?", and "can I learn to ride?" are able playable "conflicts."
I've played and run D&D 3.5 extensively. I'm coming to that conversation as an outsider or as a detractor; I would say that D&D 3.5 is one of the best RPGs ever made.
Unfortunately, some of those rules simply don't work, but are still explicit enough to seem binding. Stealth and perception are probably the most egregious examples. If you want to creep past a room with 5 guards in it, then you'll be making a hide and move silently check, and the DM will be rolling 5 spot and 5 listen checks. As you go through the complex, it's not really clear whether and when you need to roll more hide checks, but it is clear that the DM is rolling dice for every observer.
You certainly could choose to bypass those rules entirely and let someone make a single roll (hide? move silently? one of each?) to learn some arbitrary information, in the sense that you could do anything your group agrees will improve their experience but that's really a level of divergence from the explicit rules that I think it passes beyond "adjudication" to become "changing the rules."
It's better to outsource as much decision-mkaing to the dice as possible, so that the GM can spend more of their attention and creativity on the bits that are most important to them.
I understand that you feel 5E's stealth rules are more robust than that, and I'm interested in that discussion, but I think this is a sufficiently important point of method that it's worth discussing on its own.
I want to argue that even in this case, mechanics that require negotiation imposes substantial costs. When you depend on the referee's adjudication, you don't know what you can do until you check with your ref.
To do that, you need to get your ref's attention and they need to spend at least a moment of time considering it.
If a combat scene or action scene is happening, that means you may not be able to decide your move in advance, because you may need to wait for your turn to come around so you can ask what DC your MC would set for some jump, or swim, or climb you may be considering.
First, as in combat, it just saves time if you know what you can do without having to ask.
Swimming is a great example of an implied task. If there's a rapid river below my character, and I'm thinking of trying to cross the river on a narrow beam, I'm probably going to ask how difficult a balance roll it would be. I'm less likely to remember to ask how difficult the swim roll would be if I fell in. In that situation, while my focus is elsewhere, I'm likely to just assume that my character can or can't handle the rapids and that my referee probably feels the same way. If I assume "can" and the ref doesn't feel the same way, I could get myself into trouble. On the other hand, if the DC for an armored human to stay afloat in rough water is something I can just look up, I would have already check whether my character can survive a dunk in the pool, and if my character cannot survive taking a dip, I would know that going in an be sure not to put myself in that situation.
It took me 2 minutes and 40 seconds to look up the following: Swimming in rough water is DC 15, and with the -7 armor check penalty for masterwork full plate, I would need a +12 swim bonus to automatically succeed by "taking ten." I'f I'm being shot at, I can't "take ten," but I won't actually sink unless I fail by 5, so if I have a +18 swim bonus I'm in no danger. Climbing a tree is DC 15, while climbing a generic dungeon wall is DC 25. Walking a 2-inch beam is DC 20, unless it's coated in invisible grease, in which case it's DC 25.
How do you know that the beam isn't polished with nigh-invisible grease? How do you know the river isn't an illusion? I would say that this is a good time to remember that There is no rule-based solution to playing with someone that isn't fun to play with. You just chalk it up to experience and stop playing with them
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