Monday, May 28, 2012

Whiney Gamer Syndrome

How the hell did D&D fall into the situation it has been in for a couple decades now where many participants are averse to risk of character death?

It has gotten so bad that recent editions are full of things to keep the characters safe, protecting them more and more from the long scythe of Death. Buckets of starting hitpoints, deep negative hit point allowences before death can lay actual claim, death saves (I'm guilty of this one), easier and more readily available healing including the famous wand of healing (which as I recall was prevelant in 3e), healing sugres, and now in the playtest docs for D&D Next, a renamed form of surges along with full hit point recovery after a long rest. Add in the nerfing of level draining, and a few other tid bits, and you have Dungeons and Wussies.

I blame Dungeon Masters.

You heard me right, Dungeon Masters. Plot intensive games where characters are tied so tightly to a plotline that their death in play could wreck an entire campaign are the fault of Dungeon Masters. Setting the campaign plots up to require characters to survive till the end of the campaign and not leaving an "out" in the over-arching story has lead to the creation of more and more safety nets for PCs.

This need for protecting the plot by decreasing the risk of PC death through ever increasing safety net rules has accumulated into many people thinking that is what D&D is supposed to play like. They are suffering from Whiney Gamer Syndrome.

There is a cure. DMs have to stop creating plotlines so important in and of themselves that the death of a character ruins everything. Learn to leave plots open and flexible. Give up on detailed prophesies. Instead make them so vague players will only be able to verify what it means after everything is complete. Stop rail-roading. You can always return to sandbox style play and relieve your weary head of the worry that your precious plot will murder the campaign. And stop coddling the players and their characters. There is a cure.

"But wait" you say, "DMs can't be the only ones at fault?"

You're right. TSR and WotC bear some of the blame. By failing to provide solid DM advice in the DMGs on how to avoid these pitfalls when crafting campaigns, they bear some responsibility for the spreading plague of Whiney Gamer Syndrome.

WotC has an opportunity with the upcoming edition to begin vaccinating the D&D community against this scourge. Take the buckets o'hit points away from starting characters. Get rid of the Everyone is healed fully after a single long rest. Let undead be as nasty as they should be. These things have to be adjusted in the core set of rules. Sure leave some soft options available as modular options, but get back the focus of it being a game with challenges to overcome. Players should have to make some hard decisions and there should be plenty of risk, otherwise you can phone it in or send out an email every week telling the players their xp and treasure without actually playing the game.

So Wizards, are you up for making 5e the edition it should be?

To quote a friend of mine "it wouldn't be called an adventure if it didn't involve risks".


Arkhein said...

I agree with you here. I'd also add that computer 'RPGs' add to those player expectation by having those pesky save points and NPCs who miraculously get up after being killed in a fight (I'm looking at you Mass Effect.)

But it's not all up to WOTC. They are going to point to the playtester's feedback as an excuse for the decisions that they make. So, if someone cares what WOTC produces, they need to be involved in the playtest, running the packages, and filling out the little questionnaires as they come along.

- Ark

StevenWarble said...

Sorry OSR Baron, but here is where I not only disagree with you, but also accuse you of the only gaming heresy I care about, One True Wayism.

I could launch into a discussion of Gamism versus Narrativism, but instead I'll just say that _YOU_ may prefer unpredictable character death and emergent story but there are other players and GMs who do not like those things, and would rather have nigh-unkillable characters and pre-planned plots.

Rather than have these decisions handed down from on high, they are easily presented as game style changes in the document ("for maximum carnage players roll HP at first level, for moderate carnage characters start at Max HP at first level, for minimum carnage players start at CON + the roll of one HD at first level") similar to how old AD&D offered something like 6 different methods of stat generation in the PHB.

So long as everyone at the table agrees on the level of difficulty for a given game, does it matter what the guys and gals at the next table over do?

OSRbaron said...

Spot on good sir . . . almost.

I too dislike One-Wayism, and was especially pleased when the magic rug swallowed him in that horrible old D&D movie years ago. ;)

What I really want to see with 5e is a stripped down skeleton that works well and includes some new inovations, that can easily have modules slapped on to make it the game each group wants to play. Pretty much what Mike and Monte were claiming was the aim of developement from the start.

This rant was more of an opportunity to poke fun at some of the stuff I have been reading on forums of late and also loudly bellowing about where my current preference stands.

Meanwhile I'm quietly working on ideas for relaunching my Ptolus campaign which would be using some more of the soft options to aid some plots along without either being required to move the game along.

I remember a one-shot years ago in 1e where the group I was playing with did max hitpoints for every level, starting with 5th level characters for the game, and maxed out ability scores. That and magic items galore. We cleared the entire Caves of Chaos that session and had a blast.

I think you can see in a number of other posts that I do not really go in for actual One-True-Wayism (99% of the time). :)

Good catch!

Carter Soles said...

I tend to agree with you here, the place where 4e really lost me was with healing surges and stuff that seemed far more relevant to MMORPG's than it did the traditions of D&D. I am NOT a "One True Wayist" but I do believe that there is some benefit in honoring the traditions of our own hobby. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.