Author Topic: D&D: Where are the meaningful choices?  (Read 1362 times)

clockworkfish

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D&D: Where are the meaningful choices?
« on: August 25, 2010, 04:01:41 AM »
Having spent the last few years playing board games, and mostly ignoring RPGs, I've given it some thought, and I realize: battles in the d20 system have no meaningful choices.  Especially at lower level.  Player Characters run up from one side of the room, monsters run up from the other side, and the two sides smack each other until one side falls down.  I understand there is some room for more interesting battles, but you end up with 2-hour combat scenes.  How boring!

Most modern, popular board games are crammed full of intense decision making in an hour or less.  Why can't the popular RPGs do this?  Am I wrong?  Where are the RPGs with the painful (the good kind of pain) choices in battle?

The Jade Knight

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Re: D&D: Where are the meaningful choices?
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2010, 03:41:02 AM »
Mind giving your counter-examples?
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clockworkfish

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Re: D&D: Where are the meaningful choices?
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2010, 08:38:37 AM »
The first board game that comes to mind is Small World.  The meat in this game is choosing which race to be and use to attack next, as this can make all the difference in winning or losing.  Having multiple options to choose from, and deciding which is most beneficial, makes the choice interesting and fun. 

An even better example, that may relate more to RPG battles, is Battle Lore.  Each player has a set of cards that determines which troops can move.  It's tempting to use up all your cards on one side to push the enemy back and pin him against a wall, but this will leave you open later.  Lots of great tactical and strategic decisions.

One of the best games for decision-making is Pandemic.  Figuring out what to do with your four action points each turn, with an excellent press your luck mechanic, makes me want to play it over and over.

I think these basic principles of modern game design could be applied to RPGs, especially RPG battles.

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Re: D&D: Where are the meaningful choices?
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2010, 11:39:24 PM »
WFRP 2nd used actions and half-actions in a somewhat tactical way in this regard.

Are there any RPG's you feel do a good job with tactical choices in combat?
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clockworkfish

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Re: D&D: Where are the meaningful choices?
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2010, 07:44:48 AM »
I haven't tried WFRP, but that sounds like it's in the right direction.

To be honest, I haven't played too many RPGs.  This is just what I've noticed with D&D, 3, 3.5, and 4.  I have a feeling there are new ones that I know nothing about that probably do what I'm talking.

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Re: D&D: Where are the meaningful choices?
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2010, 12:52:26 AM »

If you're having boring D20 experiences it means you've had bad DMs. 
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Re: D&D: Where are the meaningful choices?
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2010, 12:54:15 AM »

If you're having boring D20 experiences it means you've had bad DMs. 


This is true for basically any tabletop. If you think its boring, blame either the setting (you may not like high fantasy or whatever the setting is) or, more likely, blame the DM. And it may not even be that you have a "bad" DM per say, so much as his (and the groups) play style might not be your play style.
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Re: D&D: Where are the meaningful choices?
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2010, 02:17:24 PM »
 It's often good to separate the white from the yoke.

1) There are no meaningful choices in DnD.
2) Combat is is simply rushing forward to smack at things.
3) There are no painful choices in combat.

You're using 2 and 3 to support 1, but I'd suggest that 3 is a good thing, 2 is incorrect, and that the majority of meaningful choices in an RPG should be out of combat.

I'll start with 2, which I regard as false. I currently DM a DnD 4th edition game. The characters are level 2 and constantly communicate in regards to tactics. One PC runs up and smacks things (the fighter) but the thing he smacks is always the creature that could cause the most damage to the group. They lay down traps, utilize the environment to break up large groups, the highly mobile ones will taunt an enemy and then run so another teammate can shoot at them at range, and then a third will bulrush them into a fireplace.

If a group of PCs can consistently win by running up and smacking things without any tactics, then the DM is performing poorly.

That you're talking about fights that take *two hours* suggests that whatever group you're gaming with is new to the system. A standard encounter takes about forty minutes. I've had tabletop sessions with five PCs where a round took about two minutes.

Now for complaint 3, that there are no painful choices in combat. Yeah, Dungeons and Dragons is a game of fantasy adventure. The idea is that an intelligent group of adventurers can take on 5-6 combat encounters a day and not die.

The days of ADnD, where a damn rat could kill your level 1 wizard are over, and I say good riddance. People want to play games of epic daring and adventure; they want to be heroes who win honor and glory (and phat loot). Having death constantly hang over your head destroys that feeling.

A group of PCs that works together and makes creative and intelligent decisions should expect to win the majority of the time. The few times they lose, it should feel that they were up against an extremely intelligent and/or powerful opponent.

The 'good kind of pain' has to be a rarity or it swiftly becomes the bad kind of pain.

Quote
An even better example, that may relate more to RPG battles, is Battle Lore.  Each player has a set of cards that determines which troops can move.  It's tempting to use up all your cards on one side to push the enemy back and pin him against a wall, but this will leave you open later.  Lots of great tactical and strategic decisions.

One of the best games for decision-making is Pandemic.  Figuring out what to do with your four action points each turn, with an excellent press your luck mechanic, makes me want to play it over and over.

That sounds like DnD. You have at-will, encounter, and daily powers. You want to make sure that you don't blow your encounter and daily powers too early or you'll be screwed during the harder fights. At the same time, if you're too stingy with them, the group suffers.

Also, it seems to me that your examples are board games. Games where losing repeatedly to another opponent is fine and where you're not telling a larger story or invested in a character.

In an RPG, if you lose during combat, you will likely die. If you've poured months into a PC, having them die is more significant than losing once at Monopoly. In fact, if people approached RPGing with the same mentality as the average board game, the ability to tell a story or develop one's character would evaporate.

The type of combat board games represent would remove the ability to make meaningful role-playing choices for your character as they'd constantly be dying before they could see the consequences of their actions.