grognard, n

1: a complainer, especially a soldier or veteran (from the French, lit. "grumbler")

2: a terrible person with terrible opinions about games.

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The idea that “non-magic people can’t replicate magic things” is what got us Caster Supremacy in 3rd Edition, and is present at high levels in earlier Editions as well (but not to the same extent). The D&D idea that noncasters can’t replicate or interact with magic stuff, or that doing so breaks suspension of disbelief, needs to be shelved in order to encourage viable non-magical characters at high levels.

In D&D, magic is part of the world. It permeates the planes and interacts with people on a physical, mental, and spiritual level. A person without magic to a spellcaster is like someone without sight: limited, and does tasks the spellcaster performs routinely with great difficulty (or not all). Through training, a blind person can make up for the loss of sight, but it would take lots of work and even then he can’t discern details which require vision. Animals with poor eyesight use echolocation and can maneuver around their environment, but they still can’t see. It is expected in fantasy fiction for magic to be more powerful and “beyond” the “Muggles.”

"A Wizard Did It" is a very common excuse in fantasy games, used to justify all manner of stuff which we won’t do with non-magic stuff. I propose a second thing to go alongside this:"She’s Just That Good."

I’ve talked about on another site about letting D&D characters replicate magical effects through skill and talent. I once said that a smart character might be able to replicate divination spells through planning, investigation, and deductive reasoning.

Here’s an example, from the shoot-em-up Anime Black Lagoon.

Eda’s (the nun with sunglasses) plan is pretty much guesswork and theory based upon the motivations of the runaway girl and the criminals, reinforced through some careful planning beforehand. She has no guarantee that the thugs will approach the girl and chase after her in such a way, but it happens according to plan. In a way, her recollection of events is similar to the Augury and Scry spells, and can be replicated this way in D&D. (If you don’t have a YouTube account, I’d recommend getting one to see the content. It’s the kind of thing you’d need to see for yourself)

"But wait, Libertad, couldn’t PCs normally do this through player skill, by manually planning out such steps?"

Yes, but it should be a special ability with game mechanics. Lots of times we play PCs who are smarter, wiser, and more well-spoken than we are. Additionally, making players think up of plans the normal way makes it reliant upon DM Fiat. Giving a Sherlock Holmes PC Divination-like abilities both reinforces the character concept, and gives the player a useful option when he can’t think up a plan the old-fashioned way.

For more “physical” effects, there’s Samurai Jack in the episode “Jump Good,” where he trains among a civilization of sapient primates to jump so high that he might as well be flying.

The Barbarian claps his hands together to make a cone-shaped sonic attack because he’s just that strong.

Samurai Jack can “fly” because he’s just that skilled at jumping.

Eda the Nun can make assumptions about the actions of people who are not immediately present because she’s just that good at deductive reasoning.

"But this sounds like magic!" Right. That’s exactly the point. Noncasters should be able to mimic spell-like abilities, and we need this kind of stuff in D&D to encourage people to play people who aren’t spellcasters, especially at high levels.

How did they breed an Owlbear? A Wizard Did It.

How does Sherlock Holmes know that the ground beneath him concealed a secret tunnel? He’s Just That Good.

An Absolutely Disgusting, Bigoted Game Gets Funded on Kickstarter

It is rare that I have a topic that is completely appropriate to post not only to my gaming blog, Greyhawk Grognard, but also to my blog that deals with issues relating to my Heathen faith, GOPagan. However, my attention has been drawn to just such a thing by an article in the Boston Globe (h/t to The Wild Hunt blog).

Let me preface this by saying I abhor Political Correctness. It’s nothing but an excuse for professional offense-junkies to try to silence the free speech rights of those with whom they disagree by invoking a non-existent “right not to be offended”. This is not that. This jackass has a right to make this game. Just as I have a right to weigh in on that question of whether or not, when one has a right, one necessarily should exercise that right, and whether there exists a line on such things that should or should not be crossed.

The game in question is Salem. It was successfully Kickstarted on November 1, with 553 insensitive assholes pledging $33,812 towards it. The premise?

See who can kill the most witches in Salem.

Modern-day witches and Pagans don’t think it’s at all funny that people were killed in all sorts of horrible ways just for being accused of being what they are today. It’s not cute, it’s not an historical footnote, and it’s not something that begs to be made into a fucking game.

"You’re insulting my faith by mocking it" is one thing, and utter nonsense. All beliefs should be open to critique, questioning, and even ridicule. "You’re making a game out of slaughtering people who are like me" is quite another thing entirely.

Hey, I’ve got an idea. Let’s make a new railroad game. Each player is the commandant of a Nazi death camp. The one who can ship the most cattle cars full of Jews, gypsies, and homosexuals to their camp, while still making the trains run on time, wins. Mazel tov!

Or another. This one’s a resource allocation game. You have a limited number of negro slaves on your antebellum plantation. You need to allocate them between the cotton fields, the house, and in the slave huts making babies to increase your “labor supply”. The player who earns the most money, either by selling cotton, selling slaves to others, or (in an exciting side-game) having your slaves run cockfights, wins. “Recalcitrant nigger” cards can be negated by “If it’s a whippin’ you’re a-wantin’…” cards. Hilarity ensues.

One more. A racing game. You’re in Texas, and each player has a gay man chained to the back of your pickup truck. The one who can make it around the track first, without his faggot falling off the end of the chain, wins. Careful— take a curve too fast and you’ll lose ‘em before they die. Game over.

Am I overstating the case? I don’t think I am. It’s a concept that’s offensive on its face, the same way that nobody would think to make a game about the Holocaust, black slavery, or the murder of James Byrd, Jr.

For centuries, Christians engaged in witch-hunts, in which tens of thousands of accused witches were burned, hanged, stoned, and otherwise put to death. This is no “burning times” fantasy. It really happened. And for those who, in the modern day, identify themselves as witches, Pagans, and Heathens, it remains an open wound, even if most of those who were accused were guilty of nothing more than being widows and spinsters with property that was coveted by their accusers and judges. The fact that most of those murdered were killed not because they actually were witches, but because they were merely accused of being so, does not lessen the horror of their deaths, or their relevance in the modern day. People today are being slaughtered— literally— because they’re accused of being witches.

It gets even better— as a Kickstarter exclusive, you get little plastic nooses to use as player tokens, and a cardstock 3D gallows to adorn your game board. (I’m not making this up.) How jolly! The Zyklon-B replica canisters, real cowhide bull-whips, and 6’ length of chain will make dandy props for your game as well.

I don’t know how this vile game concept ever got approved by the Kickstarter staff, I don’t know how it ever found 553 people to commit money to it, and I don’t know how such a game could ever be published, when it essentially makes light of the concept of murdering a group of people who are roughly equal in size to the number of Sunni Muslims in the United States.

Joshua Balvin, head of Rock Paper Scissors Games, should be ashamed of himself. He is an insensitive jerk who obviously doesn’t give a crap about making light of the murder of people because of their beliefs, and anyone who buys this game should also be entirely ashamed of themselves.

WARNING: The comments on this post will be monitored very closely, and not only will offensive comments be deleted, but the author of said comments will be banned. Caveat scriptor.

Man, I wish I could invent a cultural identity that gave me an excuse to feel special, thoughtful, and oppressed. Too bad I’m stuck being just another boring privileged white guy. :(

via the inestimable Your Dungeon Is Suck, where you can see such awesome comments as this:

The fact that most of those murdered were killed not because they actually were witches, but because they were merely accused of being so, does not lessen the horror of their deaths

In his mind it requires thought to remind himself that the lynching of a complete innocent is not less horrible than the lynching of a bona fide witch.

The same problems exist in early editions, not to mention effectively making whole classes useless outside of their specific “niche”. I’m not asking for every class to be good at everything, but a system that encourages players to not be involved in parts of the game because their class has no features for it is just bad design.

I strongly disagree with this statement. And I think it comes down to what are you trying to design for.

If you are trying to design a story telling experience in which the rogue is the rogue, the fighter is the fighter, and the mage is the mage, then getting those things right is critical and putting persistent involvement of all characters regardless of their niche ahead of them being who they should be is defacto “bad design”. For the kind of experience I want, 4E is pretty solidly in the “bad design” area.

If you want continuous involvement from all parties, then prioritizing character roles and niches for the sake of storytelling would be bad design.

But these are distinct goals.

"What if I want players to not have anything to do most of the time? What then, smart guy?!”

I agree with many posters that are saying, in essence, that there is no ‘one’ DND game.

I disagree with the OP that WOTC should not concentrate on ‘traditional’ DND and go all out for ‘better game’.

I would propose that DND 5E be a continuation of things that have worked in the past. And this is what WOTC is saying they will do.

Now, some people here like 4E and more power to them.

However, I think it is evident, from the amount of uproar 4E has created and how sustained it has been, that 4E did something wrong.

You might like the game but many don’t. Enough, in fact, that it shows in sales and the general disposition on public avenues like this one.

The term ‘edition war’ was perhaps not created after 4E, but it certainly has been given a much longer life span by it.

This would indicate that something that 4E did was different and, I submit, it was that it went too far in the changes to the basics of the DND game.

Vancian magic, similar classes, the list goes on and on. In the end, however, the recurrent comment is: ‘it’s not DND’ and WOTC needs to look at that.

Based on fan reaction, 4E got it wrong even if the game is good. Therefore, 5E will need to get whatever ‘it’ is right and still produce a good game.

My recommendation is to produce a game that starts from the last ‘good build’ (in terms of fan participation) and extrapolate from there. Meaning, in essence, build from 3.5 and see where you can go. Many ideas from 4E could be reused but I think they should back up to the last ‘happy place’ and start from 3.5.

Some “how dare you, I am the community” levels of entitlement.

Back in the 80s, between differing interpretations of the written rules (because they were sometimes vague), house rules, the various “unofficial” rules and classes in Dragon magazine, and just differing play styles, different groups were often playing what amounted to wildly different games that would probably not have been compatible with each other.

Nevertheless, everyone was playing “D&D”, and everyone was buying stuff from TSR.

The best case scenario for Wizards is a return to those days.

I’m reminded of how, in Georgia, the word ‘coke’ is used to indicate any kind of soda.

I’m also reminded of how grogs don’t get that just because all of their friends moved away or started dating girls, it doesn’t actually mean that fewer people world-wide are playing rpgs.

The last 2-3 weeks, the majority of the threads on here, regardless of topic—hit points, Vancian casting, ability scores, multiclassing—ultimately come down to one common theme:

How much can D&D 5e stray from “being D&D” before it becomes “not D&D”?

And if the forums here are any indication, to a lot of people being “not D&D” is a bigger sin than being a mediocre RPG.

In my mind, it’s possible that one of D&D’s biggest strengths—its long-standing traditions—may now be just as much, if not more of a hindrance to the ongoing success of the game.

There’s a huge difference between saying, “How can we make the best RPG possible?” versus “How can we make the best version of the D&D RPG possible?”

Look, I get it, D&D is D&D because it has a certain … flavor. Sensibilities. Common tropes. Take those away and it’s just not quite “D&D” anymore.

But I’ve got to be honest—if 5e so far doesn’t feel all that inspiring to me, I think it’s because the designers are “stuck,” as it were, trying to make the best version of D&D that they can—rather than simply being able to make the best RPG possible.

D&D 5e is potentially the most popular RPG system in the world’s “last hurrah”—and if it’s going to go out, I want it to go out with a bang. I want real innovation. I just spent the last couple of days checking out FantasyCraft. And while the overall rules feel intensely heavy, I LOVE the fact that no assumption has been left unturned. There’s ZERO adherence to the credo, “Well, it’s always been this way, we can’t change it.”

The thing that worries me most about D&D 5e from what we’ve seen so far, the designers seem to be risk-adverse. That it’s more important for recognizable “D&D-isms” to be present and accounted for than for the rules to be shaped by innovative thinking.

It’s clear that they were trying to push the envelope in 4e; it just didn’t work out the way they wanted. But FantasyCraft has been clear proof to me that there’s still massive amounts of room to innovate the D&D “core.”

I’m becoming increasingly worried that truly innovative, improved game rules and ideas are getting tossed out simply because they don’t meet the audience’s view of “what D&D should be”—or more appropriately, what the designers perceive their audience’s view of “what D&D should be.”

Frankly, Wizards of the Coast, give me the best possible RPG you can make. If it happens to look and feel closer to some other game than the “historic” versions of D&D, I’m okay with that. If it looks and feels like a new game entirely, I think I’m okay with that too. If it manages to feel very much like D&D editions of yore, all the better.

But the way to “win” the battle going forward is to have the best product on the market, that appeals to the broadest range of people. 4e has already proven that the D&D brand name has cachet. Many people will buy your products just because of the logo printed on the cover, even if the game itself is different.

This being the case, make the best RPG possible. Frankly, you’re the only RPG company in the world with the history, tradition, and corporate backing to truly move the needle forward in RPG game design. Indie games and self-publishing are neat—but the industry moves with you.

Give us something that we, the fans, want to pick up and proudly march with ourselves. Something we can point to as being a high achievement in game design, regardless of whether it “feels like D&D.”

Don’t shove us along with some half-baked cocktail of rules that’s more the product of pandering than innovative thinking.

(emphasis mine)

i dont think anybody trusts them. Unification is EXACTLY what 5e is doing.. unifying ALL “D&D” players against WotC, because at least they are smart enough to see WotC’s goals are a failure to begin with since you cant please all the people all the time, and the recent attempts haven’t pleased enough people, otherwise 4th wouldn’t be being shown the door.

as long as a magic casting class exists, there can be no such thing as deciding combat or non-combat, because everything in the wizard’s repertoire works for both.

4th had one decent idea behind it that harks back to OD&D.. the game is only a set of combat rules. the problem is that isnt the whole game, as each edition AFTER OD&D proved.

the “social contract” as people call it is what has been missing since WotC took over, and NO amount of rules in the books will build that back, it has to come from the players.

"skill challenges" are as useful to the game as psionics has been. people just need to learn to play the game again, rather than play the rules, and this includes the designers.

what can Mearls & Co offer that you yourself cant come up with to do, or have already heard or seen done elsewhere? why does being effective in combat have to mean a trade off for being less effective in non-combat? the non-combat has nothing to do with the combat system, and you really dont need a set of rules for it that depletes the combat system of its whatever.

they are sadly trying to find the golden number for D&D with some formula, and would have an easier time finding a mathematical formula that defines love.

their module system is a good place to throw that crap into and NOT in the core game, so that people who WANT some addition to D&D to help where they lack social skills to be able to just roll some dice to get past that part of the game.

take PO:C&T for example, MM being separate from the DMG, so put other non-standard things in extra books for those that want them, NOT forcing everyone to pay for wasted pages for something they dont want or need.

WotC/HASBRO should NOT be trusted with D&D as they have never done anything good with it…except give some d20 system away to the public that was based on D&D. so why try to take back something you already gave away?

I submit that there is no universally-recognized “forward” direction in RPG design. I don’t think the development of RPG mechanics has ever taken place on some sort of easily-measured linear scale. It’s all over the place, this huge, chaotic, spidery thing with abominable tentacles reaching hither and yon every which way.

There is not clearly-defined forward progress in gaming design, and there never will be—and not simply because of the fact that its evolution isn’t at all simple and linear. You’re never, ever going to get everyone to settle on a single definition of exactly what constitutes forward progress. What might be Grand Progress to you might be a Complete and Utter Step in the Wrong Direction to me. What is a “mediocre RPG” to you might be my favorite game in the world.

I think there does indeed come a point of wide-open weirdness after which D&D is no longer D&D. For me personally, it’s not a firmly delineated boundary so much as a fuzzy patch into which the game wandered at some point in the lifespan of 3E and emerged looking less like classic Western literary medieval-esque Fantasy and more like the spiky-haired, emo-kid bastard lovechild of Dragonball and Mad Max/Junkyard Wars.

I don’t think it’s rude to ask that people who are more attracted to the latter go seek something like Exalted—if you don’t like the classic elements of D&D, why are you playing it? There are other games out there that cater to your tastes. Since there are other options for you out there, why are you trying to spoil the fun of those of us who do like D&D in its classic form, with all its familiar trappings? I don’t get it; it just seems overbearing and selfish to me.

It is impossible for D&D to be all things to all people. At some point the designers are going to have to realize that the direction they’re taking the game is going to alienate one or the other extremities of the fandom. Some factions of gamers are inevitably going to feel left out in the cold by the new version.

"I don’t want Mexican, I want Taco Bell."

The last paragraph is made more dumb by starting with the correct premise (game designs should have a focused premise and goal) and then concluding with the same old grog (game designs should remain what they were when I was a kid)

The end product, if fun, will become new D&Disms.

I know you are wrong. Evidence? 4e.

The people who play it, swear it is fun. It’s being replaced sooner than normal because it’s not selling. It split the player base immensely.

What is a HUGE complaint? “It doesn’t FEEL like D&D”

I would rather have a good game that feels like D&D than a “better” game that doesn’t. There are all kinds of “good” games out there I could play. I want to play D&D.

Good, because it makes it more likely I won’t have to play with you.

4e was the one where they threw away all the traditions and tried to make the best game they could. Everyone saw how that turned out, and it’s pretty clear they’re not doing that again anytime soon.

I for one totally agree with the developers’ goal of making 5e meet people’s expectations about what they expect D&D to be. I started with 4e, and it was very off-putting to find that it didn’t match anything I had been hearing about D&D through nerd culture—no Chaotic Neutral, no Hold Person, no saving throws, weird power system, healing surges, action points, cosmology, etc. The few perfunctory nods to tradition were pretty clearly shoehorned in (Turn Undead as a burst damage attack, saving throws as the Pokemon “flip a coin” mechanic, half-assed Wizard spellbooks, etc.).

It turns out D&D is a pretty specific thing. It’s not like a videogame, where each sequel can be totally different from previous ones and be good for different reasons. It’s a hobby that people heavily invest in for certain reasons. It’s like if there was suddenly a “new edition” of knitting where you don’t use a needle, or a “new edition” of basketball that doesn’t have a basket. People would be pissed.

It’s a hobby people invest in for certain reasons, like a sense of entitlement too powerful to let them see how entitled and childish they’re acting.

Obligatory reminder that the rules of professional sports are frequently changed in order to make them more fun for the audience (and in the analogy, players of an rpg are also the audience).