Simulation vs. Cinematic

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Archon:
Hmmm. Greg wrote an article comparing Original (1st ed) D&D to 4th edition D&D, and it STILL turned into a 3.5 versus 4th edition war!

Arguing about 3.5E v. 4E is like arguing about who got the Silver and the Bronze at the Olympics. 1E gets the Gold!

if you're referring to OD&D, that's not first mi capitan :P

Most of the fun I've had is with 2nd Edition. It was absolutely brutal at low levels and there were some classes you wouldn't touch with a barge pole. Realism isn't the word I'd use but you were in constant fear for your life until at least level 7.

(under the old rules a domestic cat would regularly win a fight to the death with an unarmed man)

3rd edition took some time for me to warm to it. I initially found it overly complicated (what do you mean I have to choose feats?) but after a time I saw the benefits. It gave everyone more freedom to develop (especially the fighters from 2nd, hope you can RP as they were all identical on paper). I can specialise my charecter so that my fighter can do things your fighter cannot and visa vesa, without house rules. In second we would do it with house rules but trying to balance untested changes was a mare.

I understand about power gaming and abuse issues with it but it didn't really happen in our group. My turn as player had me as a vanilla horse arching ranger (with a hammer for tight spaces) and I had no plans to specialise.

4th edition seems to be carrying on with 3rd but trying to simplify the rules, this should fix some of the shock I had moving from 2nd to 3rd and make it more accessable. This is my opinion and I've not actually played 4th.

I always thought the simulation/blockbuster scale was dependant upon your DM and setting, not your rules. Thats why its important to talk the campaign through with your DM before starting so that everyones on the same page.

Chaya:

Just check the comparisons and see the difference.

I love the 2nd edition basilisk. He had real charecter. I'd keep one as a pet in a tank if it weren't for the obvious health risks.

Perhaps I'm unusually dense, but I don't understand the argument that there are certain role-playing activities possible in 3.5 that became impossible in 4E. If a DM or player wants to do something and the rulebooks don't assign that action a specific ability or skill for the purposes of adjudication, you just make some shit up. Like always, TSR/WotC/Hasbro will release a supplement covering that situation later on and then you're free to adopt the "official" solution to the problem (or not). In terms of "depth of mechanics," I think that all the systems are just about the same - 4E's depth is of a different kind than the depth in 1-3.5, but it's still there (believe me, I've had to sit and explain the differences between 50 different possible feats and powers to an eight year-old - the 4E system is plenty complicated enough).

Basically, I've never heard a truly coherent argument for why one edition of DnD is better than another - its all opinion based on individual playing experiences that have more to do with the chemistry of the specific people involved (or just outright uninformed prejudice). In other words, if someone asked me to join their DnD game, I would never use the edition they preferred as a litmus test for whether I joined them or not.

Altorin:

PedroSteckecilo:
But honestly the BEST Simulationist game I've ever seen is "Aces and Eights" a Western RPG that presents a picture perfect Wild West Setting in all its gun fighting, horse trading, bar brawling, cattle rustling, prospecting, gold mining, plague catching, impromptu trial running, pick something you'd want to show up in a wild west game glory. It's so realistic it's both awesome and painful, presenting some seriously intense, deep and fun rules/minigames to add a playable facet to almost every aspect of Western Life. Now what it ISN'T is easy, but it has a modular rules system that allows you to add or drop sections at will, so you could play a simple game of Gun Fighters, or an extremely complex game that nearly accurately simulates life in a Wild West Town.

except the wild west is mostly an anachronism, so basically you're simulating a cinematic genre :P

Well Aces and Eights prides itself on providing fuel for both and I would never call that game "Cinematic" by any stretch. It's a nasty, gritty piece of work where you can survive a bullet wound in a fight but then lose that leg a month later due to gangrene, depending on how deep you want to go with the Injury Rules. Hell, you can randomly get a brain parasite by drinking from a stream and die in the wilderness with nobody to find you.

Essentially, it's as good as "realistic" and if you really want to go further I accuse thee of semantics and nitpicking where none is needed.

Title is a tease. This isn't about Night Trap or Deception!

Altorin:
if you're referring to OD&D, that's not first mi capitan :P

Well, you are technically correct, but the rules presented in 1st Ed PHB and DMG are so close to the rules you get using OD&D + Greyhawk that I tend to use them interchangeably. The game changed more from the addition of Greyhawk to the Little Brown Books than it did from from OD&D + Greyhawk to the AD&D hardcovers.

craddoke:

Basically, I've never heard a truly coherent argument for why one edition of DnD is better than another - its all opinion based on individual playing experiences that have more to do with the chemistry of the specific people involved (or just outright uninformed prejudice). In other words, if someone asked me to join their DnD game, I would never use the edition they preferred as a litmus test for whether I joined them or not.

I think I can actually give you one... though it's not distinctly why one is "better or worse" just what each can do and what each can't.

Essentially, 3.5 can do almost everything 4th Ed can do, just not necessarily better. Want Cinematic Fantasy in 3.5? Alrighty then, throw in Vitality Rules and use Pathfinder's base HP method. Also allow for Skill Tricks ala "The Complete Scoundrel" and allow more of the crazy high powered stuff from Book of Nine Swords. However this requires additional books and at the end of the day 4th Ed with it's Powers does just as good a job of presenting quick, high action Cinematic Fantasy.

However you couldn't, for example, run a gritty dungeon crawl in 4th Ed, it wasn't designed for grit whereas base 3.5 is pretty much perfect for it. You also couldn't really run say... a court intrigue game with 4th Ed, or a good spy game with 4th Ed like you could with 3.5. However while 3.5 DOES allow you to run these kind of games, it's not really a good system for it. Skill Checks in 3.5 are, for lack of a better word, boring and thus so are non-combat encounters. At the end of the day DnD, no matter the edition, is a game about Combat and Team Based Tactics. There are FAR better games out there for doing what many people claim 3.5 does better than 4th Ed.

Essentially I guess, people say 3.5 does certain things better than 4th Ed, which is true, but it still doesn't do them well.

PedroSteckecilo:
However you couldn't, for example, run a gritty dungeon crawl in 4th Ed, it wasn't designed for grit whereas base 3.5 is pretty much perfect for it. You also couldn't really run say... a court intrigue game with 4th Ed, or a good spy game with 4th Ed like you could with 3.5.

I'm not sold on this. What do you mean by "gritty" in this context? Is that modifier a result of atmosphere or mechanics/rules? Difficulty? Certainly you can make a difficult 4E dungeon crawl by ignoring the recommended encounter level charts. If gritty mean detail-oriented, the focus on grid-based strategic combat in 4E seems more gritty than 3.5. Perhaps I just need a definition.

In terms of court intrigue or spy games, I think they're possible in either edition and both would require some serious house-ruling (mostly creative use of skills/attributes and extended skill/attribute checks). I can agree, however, that there are some non-DnD systems specifically designed for those types of game that may be more appropriate.

PedroSteckecilo:
However while 3.5 DOES allow you to run these kind of games, it's not really a good system for it. Skill Checks in 3.5 are, for lack of a better word, boring and thus so are non-combat encounters.

This sentiment strikes me as odd as well - if a skill check is boring, then perhaps the activity in question just doesn't need a skill check, right? When role-playing a non-combat encounter, I mostly rely on my sense of the NPC's character and what is probable/logical in a given interaction. Only in extremis will I resort to rolling dice (perhaps when probability/logic don't suggest whether a particular gambit will pay off for the players).

On the one hand, I understand why some systems have made non-combat rules mimic combat rules in their complexity. On the other hand, I feel like the situations that would arise in a court intrigue or spy non-combat encounter have little to do with luck (the role/roll of dice in RPGs) and more to do with intelligent planning/persuasive speaking. I don't like to determine those things using a tool best-suited to simulate chance.

Chaya:
Just check the comparisons and see the difference.

I... I kinda like all those basilisks? But I can see your point. 2nd gives the feel of a swift and agile hunter, unusual but not unnatural. 3.5 is like a hulking brute, with it's powerful build and all. 4th gives a really eery and magical impression.

I will always stick to 3.5 for fantasy rpg'ing. Why? Simply because I know the rules and invested time and money in it. Given the chance, I will gladly try any other edition (I recently downloaded the rules for the retro-clones Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord (downloadable for free at their respective publisher sites)), but everyone I play with knows 3.5 so it will probably stay with 3.5.
Anyway, nice article. That one about dissociative mechanics too.

craddoke:

PedroSteckecilo:
However while 3.5 DOES allow you to run these kind of games, it's not really a good system for it. Skill Checks in 3.5 are, for lack of a better word, boring and thus so are non-combat encounters.

This sentiment strikes me as odd as well - if a skill check is boring, then perhaps the activity in question just doesn't need a skill check, right? When role-playing a non-combat encounter, I mostly rely on my sense of the NPC's character and what is probable/logical in a given interaction. Only in extremis will I resort to rolling dice (perhaps when probability/logic don't suggest whether a particular gambit will pay off for the players).

On the one hand, I understand why some systems have made non-combat rules mimic combat rules in their complexity. On the other hand, I feel like the situations that would arise in a court intrigue or spy non-combat encounter have little to do with luck (the role/roll of dice in RPGs) and more to do with intelligent planning/persuasive speaking. I don't like to determine those things using a tool best-suited to simulate chance.

Maybe you think it has to do with luck because of the D20. Flat probability curve, so you have as much chance to suck horribly that to be really good. It's little more than heads or tails. A system with a probability curve, say Exalted (multiple D10 depending on the character's skill to do the action, each die with 7+ is a success, you need multiple successes for most difficult tasks) or 3D6 instead of a D20, will have more average results. Actions in life are more like those 2 examples than the wild temper of a D20 (sometimes we're better, sometimes we're worst, but most of the time, we're in some average determined by our skill).

Physical combat has as much to do with luck than social combat. Like combat should have modifiers because of a tactical advantage/disadvantage, a social combat system should have modifiers like having a good point, a demoralized opponent, reputation, etc. Also, giving bonuses to those that roleplay it instead of only roll-playing it is a good idea.

You don't call initiative to swat a fly or kick peasants out of the way (but maybe call for a quick roll) and you shouldn't do the same thing in social combat.

Doing a social combat system also help to free roleplaying from GM fiat, like combat systems were made to stop the "-Bang, you're dead! -No I'm not!" arguments.

lomylithruldor:

Doing a social combat system also help to free roleplaying from GM fiat, like combat systems were made to stop the "-Bang, you're dead! -No I'm not!" arguments.

Well put! I also like how it helps separate Player from Character, so you don't NEED to be a masterful arguer and role player to engage in social conflicts, intrigues and the like.

I think Pathfinder manages to find a good middle ground between the both.

Simriel:
I think Pathfinder manages to find a good middle ground between the both.

It's okay, but it really doesn't fix the core problems of 3.5 but it does balance the core book with all the additions and clean up some of the number crunch. It's not really between 4th and 3.5 as it is an improvement directly on top of 3.5, with no intention of going anywhere near 4th Ed.

Personally I'd much rather see a Fantasy Version of the Star Wars SAGA Edition Base Mechanics.

PedroSteckecilo:

Simriel:
I think Pathfinder manages to find a good middle ground between the both.

It's okay, but it really doesn't fix the core problems of 3.5 but it does balance the core book with all the additions and clean up some of the number crunch. It's not really between 4th and 3.5 as it is an improvement directly on top of 3.5, with no intention of going anywhere near 4th Ed.

Personally I'd much rather see a Fantasy Version of the Star Wars SAGA Edition Base Mechanics.

I would say that Pathfinder boosts characters powers to the point of cinematic, without being the completely disconnected and superhuman characters of 4e.

Archon:

Friv:
Right, but neither of those things are either cinematic or simulationist. D&D has, quite frankly, always sucked at simulationism, given that the attitude towards balance requires creating a world that makes no sense without a certain degree of mental gymnastics. People are more angry that the cinema being created is a different one than they're used to.

Wow! Saying D&D sucks at simulation is fighting words around here. ;)

What do you mean "attitude towards balance"? Are you referring to D&D 3.5's challenge ratings? Because OD&D's attitude towards balance is pretty agnostic and I haven't had any issues with it. What's an example of a game that you think does a GOOD job at simulating a fantasy world? Maybe we're simulating different things...

As a rule, the goal of Dungeons & Dragons has always been to simulate a dungeon crawl. The original game didn't even bother to include campaign settings, because they hadn't been invented yet - the game started as a wargame, and that's always been its roots. To that end, D&D designs character sheets and values based on how useful various abilities and items are in a dungeon crawl situation.

The side effect of this is that D&D settings tend not to make a lot of sense if you start prodding under the surface. Objects cost the same amount everywhere. Monsters inhabit dungeons filled with treasure. Level means that anyone of a given skill tier is equally good in most forms of combat, with only marginal variations. Magic items mean that the party has to encounter enemies with a given amount of loot on them, or else balance gets thrown out of whack. Poisons are insanely expensive and ineffectual. People can take thirty or forty sword blows to the face without dying.

It's very consistent, and very tactical. It's not very realistic.

As for a more realistic setting... mostly the very complicated ones. I have a vague memory of GURPS being fairly simulationist, when I played it. I'm not a big fan of simulationist RP, honestly. My favorite game is Adventure!, which is one of the most cinematic games out there.

Simriel:

I would say that Pathfinder boosts characters powers to the point of cinematic, without being the completely disconnected and superhuman characters of 4e.

To me it's still fairly "DnD" in its power level, matching the Base Classes with the power creep found in the later Class Expansion Books like The Complete Warrior and the like. In my mind you still heal too slowly, and use up your spells to quickly for it to be truly cinematic.

Friv:

As for a more realistic setting... mostly the very complicated ones. I have a vague memory of GURPS being fairly simulationist, when I played it. I'm not a big fan of simulationist RP, honestly. My favorite game is Adventure!, which is one of the most cinematic games out there.

So I'm NOT the only one who's heard of one of the best pulp adventure games ever made! I fricking LOVE Adventure!

Friv:
As a rule, the goal of Dungeons & Dragons has always been to simulate a dungeon crawl. The original game didn't even bother to include campaign settings, because they hadn't been invented yet - the game started as a wargame, and that's always been its roots. To that end, D&D designs character sheets and values based on how useful various abilities and items are in a dungeon crawl situation.

The side effect of this is that D&D settings tend not to make a lot of sense if you start prodding under the surface. Objects cost the same amount everywhere. Monsters inhabit dungeons filled with treasure. Level means that anyone of a given skill tier is equally good in most forms of combat, with only marginal variations. Magic items mean that the party has to encounter enemies with a given amount of loot on them, or else balance gets thrown out of whack. Poisons are insanely expensive and ineffectual. People can take thirty or forty sword blows to the face without dying.

It's very consistent, and very tactical. It's not very realistic.

Well, much as I'd like to argue with you, I think this is essentially correct - if you're going to criticize D&D, this is the criticism to deliver. These are exactly the problems I have had to tackle in building my campaigns. As I said in an earlier post, I believe there are resolutions to the above problems but that's a discussion for another day.

Archon:

Altorin:
if you're referring to OD&D, that's not first mi capitan :P

Well, you are technically correct, but the rules presented in 1st Ed PHB and DMG are so close to the rules you get using OD&D + Greyhawk that I tend to use them interchangeably. The game changed more from the addition of Greyhawk to the Little Brown Books than it did from from OD&D + Greyhawk to the AD&D hardcovers.

However, the question is, do you use Fighting Mans?

LunarTick:

Chaya:
Just check the comparisons and see the difference.

I... I kinda like all those basilisks? But I can see your point. 2nd gives the feel of a swift and agile hunter, unusual but not unnatural. 3.5 is like a hulking brute, with it's powerful build and all. 4th gives a really eery and magical impression.

I will always stick to 3.5 for fantasy rpg'ing. Why? Simply because I know the rules and invested time and money in it. Given the chance, I will gladly try any other edition (I recently downloaded the rules for the retro-clones Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord (downloadable for free at their respective publisher sites)), but everyone I play with knows 3.5 so it will probably stay with 3.5.
Anyway, nice article. That one about dissociative mechanics too.

that's pretty much what I was saying.. the real reason for dragging your heels moving onto the next edition is investment.. in time, money and memory.. All of your 3rd/3.5 books are pretty much useless if you, as a whole, move on to 4th edition. If you have published adventures you might be able to slap something together, but it's still a lot of extra work when you could just play 3.5 instead and shake your head in dismay at the 4th edition people.

I think that's the main issue with the silent majority of players who are stuck in the mud.

Altorin:

I think that's the main issue with the silent majority of players who are stuck in the mud.

Makes fairly good sense by my measure. Now you can't use all your old books because the new system is so different is a valid complaint, but again, it's not like Wizards is breaking into people's houses and burning all their books.

It's a new edition, 3rd Ed had run its course and needed some changes, either accept said changes or don't and keep playing 3rd ed/Pathfinder.

PedroSteckecilo:

Altorin:

I think that's the main issue with the silent majority of players who are stuck in the mud.

Makes fairly good sense by my measure. Now you can't use all your old books because the new system is so different is a valid complaint, but again, it's not like Wizards is breaking into people's houses and burning all their books.

It's a new edition, 3rd Ed had run its course and needed some changes, either accept said changes or don't and keep playing 3rd ed/Pathfinder.

I can agree with you, but at the same time, I've spent about 900 dollars on 3.5 edition books. That's a pretty large investment. I've spent years learning every little nuance of the edition. That's a pretty large investment as well. If I had spent the money and time I spent on D&D, on education instead, I would probably be a lot better off right now, but I digress.

To have to shelve those books (and don't tell me I don't have to, I know where the wind is blowing.. the books are going nowhere, but I can't stick myself in the past, the majority of my 3.5 days are at an end), spend god knows how much money on the next edition, spend years again relearning something that I should already know.. To spend all that time and money, when no doubt, in another 5 or 6 years they'll do it all again.

You can't tell me that's not a legitimate concern.

I'll do it, I'm a big boy, I'll take my chops, am I endlessly happy about it? No.

Friv:
As a rule, the goal of Dungeons & Dragons has always been to simulate a dungeon crawl. The original game didn't even bother to include campaign settings, because they hadn't been invented yet - the game started as a wargame, and that's always been its roots. To that end, D&D designs character sheets and values based on how useful various abilities and items are in a dungeon crawl situation.

The side effect of this is that D&D settings tend not to make a lot of sense if you start prodding under the surface. Objects cost the same amount everywhere. Monsters inhabit dungeons filled with treasure. Level means that anyone of a given skill tier is equally good in most forms of combat, with only marginal variations. Magic items mean that the party has to encounter enemies with a given amount of loot on them, or else balance gets thrown out of whack. Poisons are insanely expensive and ineffectual. People can take thirty or forty sword blows to the face without dying.

It's very consistent, and very tactical. It's not very realistic.

Archon:
Well, much as I'd like to argue with you, I think this is essentially correct - if you're going to criticize D&D, this is the criticism to deliver. These are exactly the problems I have had to tackle in building my campaigns. As I said in an earlier post, I believe there are resolutions to the above problems but that's a discussion for another day.

I'd like to see this discussion. Has it been had in the time between this quoted conversation and my arrival on these forums?

I should refrain from saying this next bit on a four-month old thread, but one of the things that I like about 4e (in addition to its cinematics) is that it allows me as both a DM and a player to return more to 1st-edition and early 2nd-edition roleplaying. Neither the earliest nor the most recent rulesets have rigid rules codifying what PCs can or can't do outside of combat, and that frees up an immense wealth of options that are ultimately limited only by player creativity and DM allowance. Many 3e adherents complain that 4e has no options for activity out of combat. I'd counter that 4e has any option that can be conceived of, as did 1e. In most cases, this doesn't even necessitate houseruling, but is rather found in characterization and background. One can play a swordsman who plays the violin and excels at games of chance, or a priest who is an expert horseman and afficionado of obscure literature, simply by saying so.

I enjoy 4th edition because of its general inclusiveness and sense of empowerment to players (especially new ones). Don't get me wrong, I liked 3.5 and all, but my experience has been that 4th ed. permits the players to fell like their accomplishing something and contributing to the party's progress in every encounter.

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