Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My thoughts on the Neuroglyph / Mike Mearls interview (part 2)

Like the post earlier today, I'm responding to this.

Mearls:  And if you think back to the Red Box in ‘83, when we had that choose your own adventure text… that heavy reading, right, so like a person that wants to play a role-playing game, they probably read a choose-your-own-adventure book. And that’s why when we thought about the 5th [Edition] Starter Set, should have a choose your own kinda adventure thing? Where for 90% of the people this like the first time they encounter a choose-you-own-adventure style play, they’ve never seen this before. But they’ve probably played a role-playing game… they’ve played Skyrim or [World ofWarcraft or any of those game, so they probably actually know what a role-playing game is. We can probably just assume they know what a role-playing game is and they know they just need to make a character, and let’s just start explaining how this game works. So what I think, as opposed to what happened before was, we were trying to predict the future, and then trying to get a sense of the audience, ok? 

Is the Red Box like a choose your own adventure book?  I'm thinking that's more the design team's impression than a deliberate emulation circa 1983.  But is it accurate?  I'll let you guys decide for yourself.

Below, Neuroglyph answers the million dollar question.  As an aside, I can tell you that Neuroglyph's PHB review seemed to hint at OSR criticism...

Well, Mearls' answer goes both ways.  Yes, the old school renaissance was influential but not so much that the designers tried to forge 5e by using an old school philosophy alone.  Basically, Mearls considers the OSR movement reactionary.  It grew out of disdain for RPG design that went too extreme.

I'll tell you what - for as OSR compatible as 5e tries to be (at times), it fell down and fell down hard from the get-go.  Here's a quote of some actual play transcribed by the PHB on page 5...

Dungeon Master (DM):  OK, one at a time.  Phillip, you're looking at the gargoyles?
Phillip:  Yeah, Is there any hint they might be creatures and not decorations?
DM:  Make an intelligence check.
Phillip:  Does my Investigation skill apply?
DM:  Sure!
Phillip (rolling a d20):  Ugh.  Seven.
DM:  They look like decorations to you.  And Amy, Riva is checking out the drawbridge?


Anyone who's had the revelatory pleasure of reading Quick Primer for Old School Gaming knows that that kind of skill check nonsense takes you out of character, out of the story, and out of the game.  Rolling to see if you examine a statue, tapestry, or dungeon wall carefully enough - without taking the time and effort to describe the action from the character's point of view - is the worst.  It's not old school but the very opposite.

Well, my PHB review is coming in a day or two, so I won't go any further into it.  BTW, not trying to bash 5e or harsh anyone's mellow yellow.  For the most part, I love what they've done with D&D.  Just wish a few things were different.


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