(Note: There's a lot of traffic coming in on this post from G+ where people are asking about the 5th edition of D&D. This post is not about sth ed. I'm not talking about 5e because that. This post is about a dumb argument that keeps happening on the internet stirred up by 5e. If you wanna read that, carry on.)
This argument never ends, but D&D Type V has made it go round and round and round so many times I now know the whole thing by heart.
Never have this argument again, just cut and paste from this handily-numbered cliche farm:
(cue dumb argument...)
1. But that isn't fun. You play and then die and are dead, that isn't fun for anyone.
Depends who you are. You often do not die, but the possibility of death can be what makes it like a fun horror movie or an exciting challenge for many kinds of gamers. Gamers that, granted, aren't you, but still actual human beings.
2. Challenge based on what? DM whim about when you die?
Of course not, that really would be boring. The idea is the GM's job is to create challenges that can be won or lost fairly plus with a margin of randomness. If the GM fails to be able to do that, the game is not fun and everyone should stop.
Different groups need different levels of deadliness to feel tested.
3. Why not just write the rules of those challenges in the damn book at least rather than having the GM decide?
Because that would obviate the whole point of that kind of test: sometimes it's similar to the way a riddle works, you have to solve a thing within parameters, not succeed in a given direction.
4. Isn't that just pixelbitching and playing "what am I thinking?"
A good challenge doesn't work like that. Like with some real riddles, you can find an answer that fits the solution but isn't what the GM is thinking.
5. But that opens the door to the GM being arbitrary and a jerk and thinking up reasons your solution won't work.
Yeah the GM has to be good at both creating interesting challenges and expressing the kinds of things in the environment that you might use to overcome them. Affordances both expressed and implied. The GM has to not only be just hard enough to provide a challenge but open to solutions that make the game more fun.
6. Well don't you think that's a problem?
Dude or ma'am, the GM has to: write interesting fictional content, be the switchboard operator of a multi-hour conversation, convince people s/he's fair-minded, express the "grit level" and kinds of affordances you'd see in an environment and create challenges that are not so hard all the players die and are frustrated but not so easy that they get bored like when you are playing a video game on Easy mode plus give you snacks. Yeah, it's a hard job. But so?
(6a. Wait, are you saying if I don't want to do all that challenge/affordance stuff I'm not a "good GM"?
Not at all. A good GM does what any good creative person does: defines goals and then does all s/he can to fulfill them. A good GM who rolls in the high-lethality style has to do certain things. A good GM who is more about something else has to be good at other stuff. Either way, you have to fill that 2-12 hours of game time with Good GMing of one kind or another. If you're a good chef making an omelette, the things you must do are different than if you are making a tuna casserole.)
7. Most peoples' GMs can't do all that stuff in #6 and many GMs and players would like to have some back-up and not have to worry about all this business.
Um, sure, but if you roll back to the beginning we weren't talking about "most GMs" we were talking about whether it was possible for this thing to be fun and it is.
8. What if your GM sucks and doesn't know it?
What if your friend who is giving you a ride to the airport sucks at driving and doesn't know it? Suck it up, talk to them about it or get a different friend to give you a ride.
9. I hereby posit that all GMs who do this suck and do not know it and none of the people playing have fun but refuse to say so for social reasons.
Um, actually I was in the OP's game and it rocks and was fun and I have and would eschew other ways to spend my time to play in it again.
(others chime in)
10. You aren't everybody, though. Or even representative of most people.
We aren't everybody, we didn't say we were. The whole original point was "This kind of game isn't fun for anyone". It is fun for some people.
11. Ok, this kind of game may be fun but it is not fun for anyone who does not have a given personality flaw: pointless nostalgia, immaturity, fear of change, etc etc
You are getting perilously close to abstract statements impossible to prove or disprove (or simply tautology) but here is a person who in no way fits your thesis who enjoys a high-lethality game...
Hi! (Waves young, non-Caucasian stripper hand with fantastic nails.)(People fitting essentially every other sociological profile including game designers and authors and a few actors you like also wave.)
12. Well it's just they have never played a better game.
Wait, actually they have played and enjoyed different kinds of games with the same and other GMs who were also good (Keith Baker good enough for you?) and like both. Some may even like the high-lethality game better.
13. Well I secretly posit that all the players who have designated themselves as enjoyers of this kind of game have crippling personality flaws. I will not tell you this, but use it as my secret reason to myself to bring this up over and over in the face of what appears to be airtight reasons not to.
Not much I can do about that. I'll get back to you right after I'm done getting this three-girl blowjob while listening to Onslaught at maximum volume and eating a chicken cutlet sandwich with melted M&Ms and reading JOESKYTHEDUNGEONBRAWLER.
14. Ok, but about your friend with the nails: sure but that's not most people.
Again, we aren't having a conversation about most people, we're having a conversation about whether it is possible for humans without crippling personality flaws to enjoy this style of play on account of words that came directly off of your keyboard. Proving something is possible is easy--just produce one example. Proving something is common is some whole other thing I don't care about.
15. Ok, I grant that this style of play can be desirable, but it inhibits Other Desirable Game Thing like for example characters with any depth or interestingness.
First of all, campaigns are long and the high-lethality part of the game is not necessarily all of it. Second, the character that survives the highly lethal parts of the game is often treasured and developed and identified with all the more just for having survived. Also, the PC very often has acquired interesting characteristics while you got to experience it happen in the course of the game because fear of death is the mother of invention.
16. Well I like a game where I get more narrative control over the kind of interesting my PC is.
Well depending on how much you want, that is something that is hard to do. Puzzles (and, therefore puzzle-like phenomena) are very often by definition a thing where the solver does not have narrative control over the thing to be solved.
There are possibilities even here though: You can chop the game up into phases with different sorts of rules and procedures for different phases (like character generation vs. the actual dungeoncrawling v. PC downtime) or you can play a different kind game. In Jeff's game, for example, you have a ton of narrative control when you're not in the dungeon--people buy sell and create things all the time there. Anyway, we are mostly talking about a kind of fun being possible for a well-adjusted human, not whether all possible ways to have fun all must always appear together.
17. Well then so what if I do that and it doesn't work?
Then do something else until you gain that confidence. Like any creative activity, knowing yourself is a key part of being good.
18. Well anyway this lethal playstyle seems boring and invites conservative play so cautious I'd fall asleep.
Actually a good GM can create situations by accident or design which reward alacrity as well as shrewd caution. The bold and aggressive players in my game have fun and like it, despite the risk. Like in Super Mario sometimes its best to just RUNNNNNN immediately all the way past the jumping fish and immediately fireball the guy and sometimes it's best to sit for a bit and watch for a pattern.
19. What's "alacrity" you fuck?
Look it up.
20. Hey wait I'm a fictional person you just made up in an example, why are you making me dumber than you? I know what "alacrity" means. That's a totally dick move.
Sorry. My bad. Anyway...
21. Anyway, right, now that I'm fixed: Creating both of those types of situations would appear to require good GMing.
Yeah, I never said it didn't. Your GM should be good. Just like the person who drives you to the airport should be good at driving. We're back to that again.
22. I have never experienced such GMing.
Are we back to the thing we did a minute ago where you claim this does not exist and I produce players who say they like they experienced it and they did? Back at #9?
23. Of course not. But, it's rare which means: Should a commercial product rely on that GM existing if it's rare?
I'm not talking about a commercial product. I said I like a thing, you said it was always unfun for all good people, I disproved that (to the degree you will accept anyone who isn't you's own testimony as evidence).
24. Well I just don't think official D&D should be that way because I don't like it and I think lots of other people wouldn't either.
So you're moving the goalposts into this "ok but what grows the hobby" territory?
Ok, well you might be right. Someone should do some market research. If they care.
26. Why wouldn't you care?
Is this what all this is about? Someone goes "I like this" or "I want this" and you assume they are claiming 'This will definitely make some game company some money and/or grow the hobby?"
27. Well I saw someone do that on this forum once and...
Well we're not talking about that forum where some idiot lives. We are talking about "Is it possible for x to be fun".
28. Well anyway this playstyle is always terrible for new players.
Uh, hello, I got lots of both new and experienced players who are into it. Unless you are denying their existence you just lost that one.
29. Well anyway this playstyle often results in arguments and long-term trauma when people fail to socially negotiate how this stuff works with their GM and die and it feels unfair and they are sad.
If you are blaming the rules or playstyle instead of the people who use it to be pricks because they can't communicate or are just actually assholes then you need to take a closer look at who you play with. Are you seriously suggesting that because you saw or heard about this horrible trauma it is an inevitable consequence for any given group of people?
30. What if there isn't anyone else to play with but these jerks?
Then prioritize: get a life first, then worry about killing bugbears.
31. Did you just tell me I didn't have a life if I played a game and it made the people in the game act like jerks?
Yes. That or you're 12. Learn the Explosions In Space Rule. Use it.
32. Well if you just make a narrow claim like "Some people without personality problems enjoy this playstyle and nothing bad happens" then you're not saying much.
No I'm not. But if you go up there and read what you wrote you'll see that someone said that tiny little narrow thing and you argued with them about it.
33. Well--wait, how come I'm the jerk in this totally made up dialogue? It's just as plausible that I'd go "I like tactically complex, heroic persona, lethality-unlikely-because-character-survival-and-therefore-development-play-is-optimized-for play" and somebody would argues with that totally unarguable statement of opinion?
Why? To be honest, I could've made either party the jerk. This conversation only ever happens when someone is being a jerk. If you say "I like this playstyle" and somebody goes "That's never fun unless you have this personality flaw" that person is always being a jerk.
34. You point that out a lot.
It's true a lot. Also: since this very long argument only ever is triggered when one party is a jerk and creates a lot of words on the screen, it gives an impression there are more jerks than people who are just like "You like that? Cool." or "Some days I'm in the mood for deathpuzzle diegetic problem-solving and sometimes I'm in the mood for other stuff".
35. Ok, but wait, you're saying I can't solve puzzles and think unless I play a high-lethality game? Because let me tell you, buddy, just because...
No I am not saying that. In fact low-lethality high-tactical-interplay games rely on a whole other kind of problem-solving skill based on known and transparent rules. It's a real skill and is interesting. It also requires a kind of creativity to think this way. And, of course, a game where you have so much narrative control you have to keep inventing stuff to keep the game interesting requires creativity, too, but a different kind.
36. But some guy on some forum somewhere said...
I'm not that guy and neither is whoever you picked a fight with, otherwise I wouldn't be defending them.
37. Ok, now you're writing me kind of whiny.
Sorry. It's hard to reproduce the tenor and multidirectional attack vectors of this kind of argument without including all arguments I've ever heard, which is bound to make you look dense when consolidated down to one symbolic imaginary person.
38. Alright, well then now I have to bring up all the people who tell me I'm an anime World of Warcraft illiterate attention-spanless entitled baby for liking...what was it I'm supposed to be liking? 4e?
Those people are irrelevant to this discussion and should die a thousand deaths. You experiencing suffering does not license you to be wrong.
39. Umm..did we cover every cliche? Oh wait, how about: "Why are you arguing with me about this you nerd!?"
Because I am curious about what assumptions about life could cause a person to take a position which appears to me to contradict observed and reported reality and am wondering if I missed anything. I have to have a conversation to find that out.
40. Oh, got one: "Well, it's just my opinion, mannn aren't I entitled to my opinion?"
First: you are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts, second: that is an explanation of the rhetorical tactic you just employed and if you didn't know that you should read it.
41. This post is really boring.
You're telling me. I never want to have to write any part of this ever again or see anyone I know who might potentially have something useful or interesting to say about games get involved in any part of it. That's why I wrote it out here. Maybe enforcing its status as a cliche--like "roleplaying vs rollplaying" or "realism" will shut some people up so they can move on. We did, after all, eventually get people to realize Jack Vance was a person who wrote some good books that weren't by JRR Tolkien. Anyway, that's why there's numbers, so you can just go "Hey JR McSuckinstuff, you are at #37 on this conversation, read it".
42. But your site is blocked where I work, I can't read it.
You have my permission to cut and paste it whenever.
43. But I am in the middle of an argument with someone who posts a link to this blog to prove their point and it's blocked at work but I don't want to admit it so I am just pretending I read it and I keep arguing. Like with smug smilies and stuff.
Yeah, maybe just always cut and paste, then.
44. Couldn't at least half of this argument have been obviated just by playing this kind of game with a good GM on G+ and seeing what it was like for myself?
45. I still disagree because I didn't read this, it was like long or something...
Ah, the desperate "it was poorly written" defense. While not a logical fallacy, this is often pulled out just because the actual argument is airtight and the person arguing against it can't figure out what to say back so pretends to misunderstand. Kinda like Ronald Reagan saying he didn't remember selling arms to Iran. However, if you really want to say that, just quote the part where I lost you and I will re-explain it to you.