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View Full Version : Do Limitations Improve Creativity? (re: Character Creation)



Boethius Junior
2019-02-06, 02:23 PM
Though rather new to this forum, as an active poster at least, I have been running games of various systems for the better part of my life. Something that I have always been curious about, especially regarding RPGs that include vast arrays of options at character creation, is whether such a voluminous quantity of content actually improves or rather stifles creativity. Certainly, offering a great deal of mechanical pieces allows for the production of varied character sheets - that is not exactly what I mean. What I wonder is whether or not the depth of development for said character is hampered by the weight of dice-related accoutrements.

I have a dim background in acting, and what my more experienced peers would tell me was that embodying who you are represents a more substantial challenge than merely memorizing a set of lines. Despite how obvious this advice was, bear with me. It was always followed by requests to "act beyond the script"; to be your character without the aide of the writer's dialogue. If you can accomplish that, and be true to what was written, you are that much closer to delivering a grand performance.

I feel the same is true to roleplaying games, which are themselves merely another form of acting. I have not played too great a deal of Pathfinder, but I believe games such as that are not doing their players any good service with their methodology. I.E. to not only facilitate, but also encourage, good roleplaying the system should employ some degree of scope: a lens by which the player can enter their character in meaningful ways. I personally do not believe that an excess of feats, spells, and special abilities accomplish this - worse still is the catalogue of races.

These are often donned and subsequently shed like coats: an outer covering that does little to inform the character's mindset. This is mostly critically a result of what I consider a lack of cultural grounding: why does the dwarf drink so much? Why do the elves live in trees? Why is the orc so hateful? etc. Internal consistency and causation are the lifeblood of any living world - it must abide its own rules in a manner that makes enough sense that one does not lose suspension of disbelief. The antics each race exhibits should not be a laundry-list of inexplicable idiosyncrasies, but rather the surface representation of an ingrained cultural practice. The same is clearly true for our own world, so why should the fantastical be any different?

At this point though, I am rambling. I would be very interested to hear anyone else's thoughts on the matter.

Red Fel
2019-02-06, 02:38 PM
First, let me address your actual question: Do limitations improve creativity?

The answer is: They kind of have to. Let me explain.

Say you have to build a mousetrap. That's fine. Piece of wood, metal spring, bit more metal, cheese. Done. Now, say you have to do it again, but without metal. That's trickier, but you can do it. The more limitations I place on your mousetrap, the more creative you have to get to accomplish it.

Now, if I placed limitations on the outcome, instead of the means (e.g. build a mousetrap, but one which calculates 20 digits of pi rather than catching mice) that's not necessarily something you can solve with creativity. But if the limitations are on means, that just means that you have to be more creative about how you get to the goal.

Second, let me address the point you appear to be making in your post: Do more rules on character generation make the resultant roleplay worse?

The answer is: Mu (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu_(negative)). Let me explain.

I want to play Theodore McStabbington, a swordsman from an impoverished family with a tragic past and an optimistic attitude. One system, rules-light, allows me to play him based entirely upon the description I just gave you. Another system, crunch-heavy, requires me to jump through several hoops at character generation to establish his background, reputation, skillset, flaws, and abilities.

In both systems, I am still playing Theodore McStabbington, a swordsman from an impoverished family with a tragic past and an optimistic attitude.

The level of rules, or hurdles to jump through, or mechanics to comprehend in order to play the character - none of that is relevant to my ability to roleplay him. The mechanics of a system are not supposed to be "a lens by which the player can enter their character in meaningful ways," they are meant to be a structure by which the character's actions can be measured mechanically, as needed.

To put it another way: The fact that one system gives Dwarves a +2 to this and another gives them a -2 to that does not have any impact on how I play a Dwarf, or how I visualize and realize my character. Those differences only serve to facilitate challenged mechanical interactions. It's the setting - the non-mechanical, fluffy explanation of the world and its inhabitants - that influences the lens through which a character is viewed. Not the crunch, the fluff.

At least, that's my perspective.

Willie the Duck
2019-02-06, 02:57 PM
It is going to depend on the person, but also on what you mean by limitations.



At this point though, I am rambling. I would be very interested to hear anyone else's thoughts on the matter.

And that's going to be the biggest problem, because I don't think you know quite what you want to ask, nor do we (such that we can answer it).

I will say, in general, if the GM were to say, 'I am creating a game called, "multiverse amalgamated" where you can be anyone (or anyones) from anywhen, doing anything, now who do you want to play?' -- they would get some blank stares and probably someone saying, 'um, could you at least give us some context, or at least perhaps some scale? So on some level, constraints in this regard are positive. Or at least can be used as a framework for building a character conception upon.

However, you seem to be talking at least a little about quantity of rules material. And terms like, "voluminous quantity of content," and, "the weight of dice-related accoutrements," means it sounds like you are wondering about level of crunchiness or rules lite vs. rules heavy. I will say that, despite my own best efforts, if a character can be defined by a list of dozens upon dozens of numbers (skill modifiers, stat points, resource management boxes, and the like), the less likely I am to focus on their innumerate qualities. However, I've also found nearly numberless systems like Dramasystem, or storygames in general, don't automatically make for more open and acting-like play experiences. There doesn't seem to be a natural best model for any of these, except to find the system and level of each kind of detail which resonates with you and your group.

Erloas
2019-02-06, 02:59 PM
I think the two are mostly unrelated, roleplay and mechanics.
I think what the wide range of mechanics do is give a false sense of character. "I've picked these skills, that makes me unique." But so often people pick the best skills\races\spells\feats and build a character around that, rather than the other way around.
So I think you're right in so far as: if all fighters had the same skills\abilities then players would have to differentiate their characters through roleplay.
Here especially you're also not as likely to see characterful choices over mechanical ones. Or at very least when it does happen it gets no attention.

Thrawn4
2019-02-06, 03:00 PM
Say you have to build a mousetrap. That's fine. Piece of wood, metal spring, bit more metal, cheese. Done. Now, say you have to do it again, but without metal. That's trickier, but you can do it. The more limitations I place on your mousetrap, the more creative you have to get to accomplish it.

That's an interesting example. However, wouldn't a more diverse pool of tools and materials also encourage creativity? Maybe a self-cleaning mousetrap, or one that gives me a signal once a mouse was caught.

But I really like your statement about the limitations of the outcome and McStabbington, and would just like to add a little something:
Limitations on the outcome can curb creativtiy if they don't leave room for creativity (e. g. if I want to play McStabbington but the fighting style I envision is not available during the lower levels/beginning of the campaign).
Which is not always bad if it helps with the consistency of the setting (no anime fighting in realistic settings).

JoeJ
2019-02-06, 03:06 PM
I will say, in general, if the GM were to say, 'I am creating a game called, "multiverse amalgamated" where you can be anyone (or anyones) from anywhen, doing anything, now who do you want to play?' -- they would get some blank stares and probably someone saying, 'um, could you at least give us some context, or at least perhaps some scale? So on some level, constraints in this regard are positive. Or at least can be used as a framework for building a character conception upon.

Yeah, too many options can inhibit creativity through "analysis paralysis" but I think the threshold for this will be different for different people, and probably for the same person at different times.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-06, 03:06 PM
Do Limitations Improve Creativity?


No.

They simply redirect creativity to dealing with the limitation, taking it from elsewhere.

The notion that they do, is used as a cheap rhetorical excuse.

Boethius Junior
2019-02-06, 03:13 PM
snip

Sure, I believe that to be an entirely valid perspective to have. One that I would not disagree with, even.

To continue my line of thought with your own examples: Theodore McStabbington, Esquire. The difference between rules-light and rules-heavy is not precisely the metric I was considering. I grant that in both cases the Sir was created true to form, though the latter does provide more structural foundation through which his person might be realized. Consider instead if the goal is not to create one particular character, but rather to create a character at all: you are now presented with an extensive array of mechanical components from which you might select. The jumble itself is what I feel to be unhelpful - the means, as you put it, when divorced from the world in-game.

In totality the jumble is nothing but potentially useful sprockets lacking any guide; as you say trying to assemble a mousetrap from random bits, but without knowing you are supposed to be building a mousetrap at all! Now as I continue to my first thought would be simply to ensure that a setting is always present - do not assemble without the instructions, as it were. However I cannot claim much fondness for the pre-constructed settings offered by many RPGs, becuase of the aforementioned lack of any cultural practices/causation that has been explored.

I still feel as though I am running in circles, desperately attempting to find the proper stance. I imagine the essential thrust of my argument would be thusly: for the betterment of his own game, a GM should not allow all materials to be available. They should decide what is appropriate, and provide a structured world for their players wherein their characters shall exist in a manner that is not facile.

Of course most GMs do this already and I would like to determine exactly why this seems so proper and whether or not the companies/creators of games should follow suite.


snip

I have always found that I can better realize my own thoughts by discussing them, so this will be beneficial to me no matter what the end result is. I do not require a solution per se; merely the chance to air my brain is sufficient.

Re: "multiverse amalgamated" - I think that is what games such as Pathfinder are effectively offering their players with their content. My intention was not to be hyperbolic, rather to stress just how much material is available for theoretically any game. I do not believe that the Pathfinder Society disallows much of anything from their library. I find your appraisal of rules-light vs rules-heavy to be accurate and agree wholeheartedly with the need for balance.


snip

I would be hesitant to agree that mechanics and roleplaying are distinct from one another, as the games themselves have rules by which interpersonal interactions are governed, e.g. the famous Diplomacy skill. Now - what I find you have said that agree with absolutely is the assumption of that mechanics are equated with character. Consider that some players are want to build "builds" rather than a person. I am of the opinion that a wealth of options inevitably incentivizes that sort of gameplay.

Hackulator
2019-02-06, 03:25 PM
There are a few ways to look at this question

1 - It depends on the person.
Let's take a player who always wants to play the same build and character. You know, that guy who is always the rogue with the same attitude, or the TO wizard. By putting restrictions against those builds, you can force that player into more creativity. However, a player who is already super creative and makes all sort of weird characters and none are ever very similar will not necessarily have a more creative outcome than they would normally have. This example can be expanded for less ad nauseum examples and still retain its validity.


2 - It depends on what you mean by creativity.
If you are more concerned with the process of creation but the outcome is somewhat fixed, the answer is usually yes. For example, let's say you were running a game in a strange environment that the characters needed to be able to survive as part of their creation. There might be a simple spell or magical item that would bypass this issue, but you ban it, forcing the players to come up with more creative ways of doing what was needed. If the players then all went and made their characters separately you'd probably have various bunch of different methods for overcoming the obstacle you had placed in front of them, as opposed to everyone just having the same magic item. However the outcome, that being the obstacle is overcome, is generally similar in all situations.


3 - It depends on the limitation.
Excluding old ideas and forcing people to come up with new ideas always fosters creativity. However, simple restrictions may in fact reduce creativity, as it denies certain avenues that a person might have explored. For example, if you have a brand new player, and you ban wizards, that reduces their chance for creativity, as wizards are one of the most versatile classes and allow for many creative options. It is very important to note that creativity and originality are not the same thing, as a person can be super creative and come up with something on their own that someone else previously came up with independently.

Boethius Junior
2019-02-06, 04:25 PM
No.

They simply redirect creativity to dealing with the limitation, taking it from elsewhere.

The notion that they do, is used as a cheap rhetorical excuse.

Your assertion seems rather vague to me - what do you mean when you say creativity is "redirected"? That does not necessarily mean that it is unimproved, as I assert, or reduced as you seem to hold. Chuck Jones offers a convincing argument for the necessity of limitation in the matter of imagination. The possibilities provided by cartoons are just as endless as those of the imagined RPG-world: where anything can happen (or could be made) the stakes are lifted as a consequence.


snip

This here is another very good take, and I agree with all three of your points. I would be curious to know how you feel about the matter of "analysis paralysis" as coined by JoeJ, and whether or not any game would benefit from mitigating this concern.

DeTess
2019-02-06, 05:43 PM
I think it also depends on how someone develops their character. If they start with the mechanics, and then create the 'character' around the mechanics available for character creation, limitations would encourage creativity, as they'd encourage you to make this thief/fighter/wizard different than the other thiefs/fighters/wizards which would all mechanically be fairly similar.

On the other hand, if someone starts by envisioning a character and then try to make the mechanics fit, I think limited mechanics stifle creativity. If I decided on playing a street-urchin that had to steal to survive, but who grew up in a magical-university town, learning basic magic tricks to help them survive, and the system then tells me I have to choose between begin a wizard, a fighter or a thief and the first one has no thief-related skills, and the latter two have no magic, I'd feel like the system is limiting what I try to do.

Edit: The inverse of the first case is probably true too. Someone starting with the mechanics in a very diverse system like 3.5 would probably be inclined to simply have the fluff of their character match and combine the fluff of their chosen pieces, rather than coming up with something really unique to themselves.

Darth Ultron
2019-02-06, 08:52 PM
Well, I'm on the side that mechanics and role playing are separate. The too huge box of mechanical things does hurt character creation in many cases. And finally role playing limitations do improve creativity.

So....

1.Mechanics and role playing...is a mess in any game. While some just role play freely, maybe players like to have mechanical effects for character things. So if a character is 'funny', they want a +1 to rolls telling jokes and some ability to make NPCs laugh. Assuming the game even has abilities like that; but even if they do you get the hard limit of abilities. A character can only have so many abilities, and the +1 to laughs is a poor choice next too ''double range with weapons'' if the game will have even some combat.

2.The box of stuff can be too big...even more so for new players. Players can get lost in the hundreds of choices.

3.Finally role playing limitations improve creativity by the simple fact that they narrow and focus it. With no limits a character can just be role played as anything anytime.

Knaight
2019-02-06, 10:46 PM
I've generally found that more focused concepts are generally more interesting, though that's less a matter of limitations and more a matter of structure. In terms of system breadth that seems to show up at both ends. Really generic systems tend to be used selectively as toolkits, where some small part of them is taken for a focused concept. Focused systems remain focused because that's their nature. It's the ones in between, broad but not so broad that it's trivially obvious to use only a selection that tend to end up dull because of their openness.

Spore
2019-02-06, 11:04 PM
It is yes and no for me.

It does limit when there is fluff married to the crunch, like in Pathfinder. Don't get me wrong, the fluff added by some classes is very welcome if you do not have a specific idea in mind. Playing a draconic sorcerer with claws and scales and whatnot is very cool. But what if you just want the Bloodline Arcana for your blaster build?

Suddenly your Orc//Dragon Wildblood feels VERY munchkin even though blasting is not even that OP a concept. (Yes my sorcerer can blast a hole in the castle wall. Compare that to a wizard of the same level that can easily fly over the walls invisibly, rescue the princess and vanish without even so much as triggering an encounter.)

But limitations does not hamper creativity when it comes to interacting with the world. There is a strong orc tribe serving a dragon out there in the setting. Suddenly your little blaster sorcerer feels much more integrated in the world instead of being a weird little snowflake (that yes, adventurers are, but they should still be somewhat connected to the world).

Thirdly, this one was mostly from a post apocalyptic RPG but my character's story was coming of age really so it would apply to many character concepts. Your character should not start out with the best gear, and ideal starting location and the perfect background. If your character wants to become a healer/doctor but the circumstances forced you to steal to survive, to collect scrap to feed your siblings (until the various adventuring background reasons come along and kick off your game) then that character has room for growth. If your character wants to be a healer and starts off the game as a cleric of first level, most of the journey is already done.

This is like starting off a romantic comedy with the small town hunk already dating the incredibly busy city manager woman. It takes out all the tension, the "how will that work out?" There is still story to be had, but it is not much anymore. And imho in that regard levelless RPG systems have a distinct advantage. If your crunch telegraphs a few sorcerer levels in due time, it is not so much "will my paladin be able to master the eldritch arts of arcane magic" but rather puts your DM on a clock to provide story reasons for that class. In a system like WoD or WH 40k, your character picks up the relevant skill when it makes sense in character. You dont suddenly learn how to cast chaos magic out of the blue, you are not suddenly extremely good at grappling for no apparent reason (other than taking a level in rogue).

Satinavian
2019-02-07, 04:02 AM
These are often donned and subsequently shed like coats: an outer covering that does little to inform the character's mindset. This is mostly critically a result of what I consider a lack of cultural grounding: why does the dwarf drink so much? Why do the elves live in trees? Why is the orc so hateful? etc. Internal consistency and causation are the lifeblood of any living world - it must abide its own rules in a manner that makes enough sense that one does not lose suspension of disbelief. The antics each race exhibits should not be a laundry-list of inexplicable idiosyncrasies, but rather the surface representation of an ingrained cultural practice. The same is clearly true for our own world, so why should the fantastical be any different?
D&D in its various incarnation always treated this stuff as part of worldbuilding not as part of the rulesystem.

That is why it doesn't really provide that outside of setting supplements. And even those tend to be shallow kitchen sinks severely lacking in this regard (Yes, there are a few exceptions).
The DM is suppossed to do this work. Making a world, choosing which of the races to use, providing them with cultures and backgrounds.

There are many many other systems that go a different route and are often closely married to some special campaign world with detailed description, where you get all of the above.

The thing is, weather this background exists or not has little to do with how many moving pieces you have for character creation or with how complex the rule system is.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-07, 10:10 AM
It is yes and no for me.

It does limit when there is fluff married to the crunch, like in Pathfinder. Don't get me wrong, the fluff added by some classes is very welcome if you do not have a specific idea in mind. Playing a draconic sorcerer with claws and scales and whatnot is very cool. But what if you just want the Bloodline Arcana for your blaster build?

Suddenly your Orc//Dragon Wildblood feels VERY munchkin even though blasting is not even that OP a concept. (Yes my sorcerer can blast a hole in the castle wall. Compare that to a wizard of the same level that can easily fly over the walls invisibly, rescue the princess and vanish without even so much as triggering an encounter.)

But limitations does not hamper creativity when it comes to interacting with the world. There is a strong orc tribe serving a dragon out there in the setting. Suddenly your little blaster sorcerer feels much more integrated in the world instead of being a weird little snowflake (that yes, adventurers are, but they should still be somewhat connected to the world).

Thirdly, this one was mostly from a post apocalyptic RPG but my character's story was coming of age really so it would apply to many character concepts. Your character should not start out with the best gear, and ideal starting location and the perfect background. If your character wants to become a healer/doctor but the circumstances forced you to steal to survive, to collect scrap to feed your siblings (until the various adventuring background reasons come along and kick off your game) then that character has room for growth. If your character wants to be a healer and starts off the game as a cleric of first level, most of the journey is already done.

This is like starting off a romantic comedy with the small town hunk already dating the incredibly busy city manager woman. It takes out all the tension, the "how will that work out?" There is still story to be had, but it is not much anymore. And imho in that regard levelless RPG systems have a distinct advantage. If your crunch telegraphs a few sorcerer levels in due time, it is not so much "will my paladin be able to master the eldritch arts of arcane magic" but rather puts your DM on a clock to provide story reasons for that class. In a system like WoD or WH 40k, your character picks up the relevant skill when it makes sense in character. You dont suddenly learn how to cast chaos magic out of the blue, you are not suddenly extremely good at grappling for no apparent reason (other than taking a level in rogue).

Indeed, there are a lot of systems that don't fall into the D&D-like "zero to superhero" progression, that don't do steep fundamental change, and frankly it's a relief that not every system is set up this way. HERO for example has a very "gentle" slope on progression unless the GM is giving away XP like candy -- the characters start out as who they are, and most progression is building on that, rounding out, or expanding horizontally, rather than a ton of vertical "growth". (Say a superheroic character starts out at 300 points -- typical XP would be 3-6 XP per session. A more "mundane" character in a non-superheroic game would be maybe 100 at most, and XP maybe a touch less per session.)

Personally, the whole "hero's journey" or "coming of age" thing means very little to me, and it's not what I want out of an RPG. Characters and their "arcs" and relationships and so on matter, but that particular arc leaves me utterly uninspired, always has, in gaming and in fiction. I'm far more interested in playing the character who's done the training, grown up, has a family, or whatever, and is there to get the job done, not to "discover himself".

And that's one of the "limitations" that I don't think inspires creativity at all -- a system with progression (and the attached if unspoken assumptions) like D&D severely restricts the sorts of characters that can be created. One can pretend that one's first level fighter is a grizzled veteran, but the numbers on the page simply don't agree when they're largely the same as a callow youth fresh off the farm... who's a natural fighter with some training from his mysterious neighbor.


Even when I'm writing, the protagonists are almost never raw green youths, and their stories are almost never "coming of age" or "the hero's journey" or "self-discovery" stories.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-07, 10:16 AM
D&D in its various incarnation always treated this stuff as part of worldbuilding not as part of the rulesystem.

That is why it doesn't really provide that outside of setting supplements. And even those tend to be shallow kitchen sinks severely lacking in this regard (Yes, there are a few exceptions).

The DM is suppossed to do this work. Making a world, choosing which of the races to use, providing them with cultures and backgrounds.

There are many many other systems that go a different route and are often closely married to some special campaign world with detailed description, where you get all of the above.

The thing is, weather this background exists or not has little to do with how many moving pieces you have for character creation or with how complex the rule system is.

Problem is, D&D is built on a lot of unspoken presumptions before the DM "does any of that work", presumptions about the setting, and about characters and their "arcs" -- it does "D&D worlds" well, and "D&D arcs" well, and is otherwise more like trying to hammer a screw, or cram a square peg in a round hole.

That is, D&D is also closely married to a certain kind of setting without ever saying so... and more than a few gamers have unwittingly absorbed all those unspoken assumptions, if for no other reason than that they haven't been exposed to a broad selection of systems that either state the setting presumptions clearly or really don't have setting presumptions.

zlefin
2019-02-07, 11:35 AM
My recollection is yes; iirc Mark Rosewater said that alot in the Magic design articles.

Quertus
2019-02-07, 12:04 PM
So, I created Quertus, my signature academia mage, for whom this account is named, from several seeds, the primary (or primarily discussed) one is that I was baffled how humans could do something (like, say, play a boardgame or D&D) for years or decades and still be utterly clueless. So I reverse-engineered a set of conditions I considered most likely to produce that effect in a character, and, in the process, happened to create a Wizard that I enjoy playing, and who tops the charts for character others enjoy me playing / request that I play.

So, what's my takeaway? I suppose, like many others, I see them being mostly unrelated.

Now, if the rules were utterly complex and arcane, and because my sanflagism wasn't at lest half the square of my kjbay8asd, my spells used obscure side effects table WMNG17, invalidating my backstory, then the rules could get in the way of creating the character.

Similarly, if surviving reduced oxygen to be a "mountain climber" required 20 feats, so it was impossible for my character to have grown up "in the mountains", then the mechanics once again get in the way of the concept.

Otherwise, meh. They're generally independent.

Except... headspace is finite. Time from "let's make a game about X" and playing X is also finite. In that regard, "creating a character, not just a playing piece" may be better served by not having to learn more rules - which is why every game should be D&D, and creating other roleplaying games, forcing people to waste headspace learning new rules, is a hindrance to roleplaying. Bad RPG designers, hindering roleplaying that way! (color blue to taste)

Pleh
2019-02-07, 01:52 PM
How about rephrasing the statement?

Limitations provide impetus to overcome the limits presented.

Removing limitations isn't actually inhibiting a person's creativity, but it does remove one source of motivation to put forward the effort to think creatively.

Necessity IS the mother of invention, but it's not the exclusive driving force.

People who are inspired to create without these limits will feel rules to be imposing and stifling. People who are having trouble generating their own inspiration can use limitations to break through the writer's block.

Thrudd
2019-02-07, 04:24 PM
Creativity is only useful when directed toward an end. You need context for your creation. In an RPG, players are usually meant to be creating a group of characters that will be working together, or at least connected to each other, in a specific setting. So they need to be limited in the sense that they need to know the setting, they need to know what type of roles they're supposed to be playing in the setting. They need to know what sort of activity the characters are expected to participate in. These are all limitations.
Does it force you to be more creative in a literal sense? not particularly. But it gives you a productive place to go with your creativity.

Most games are better with a coherent setting and an explicit role for the characters. Whether you figure that out collaboratively with the players as they come up with ideas for their characters, and create the setting afterwards, or you design the setting in-full and give them the info for character building, it has to happen. It is rare, I think, that a GM comes without any idea of the setting and completely allows the players to dictate the style of game based on their individual, disparate character ideas. One comes with a telepathic android with ultra-tech from the 23rd century, another has a dinosaur riding elf in medieval armor that wields a magic lance, a third has a werewolf/vampire hybrid constantly struggling with self-loathing/rage issues, and the last is a cat girl with a katana who speaks in anime-isms and has cutesy magic powers. Actually, that sounds like too many games of "Rifts" from back in the day. Which isn't a good thing. The point is, unless it's a comedy game, and often even then, you need a more focused setting or nobody will really be happy.

Hackulator
2019-02-07, 07:25 PM
This here is another very good take, and I agree with all three of your points. I would be curious to know how you feel about the matter of "analysis paralysis" as coined by JoeJ, and whether or not any game would benefit from mitigating this concern.

Well that's just another instance of "it depends on the person" and in order to know if your game would benefit from trying to mitigate this, you need to know your players quite well. Personally I often end up building multiple characters and then picking one, so for me this is generally not a problem but someone who suffers to the extent they can't even get started it could be.

King of Nowhere
2019-02-07, 07:31 PM
The way I see it, the number crunching and the roleplaying experience are two different games. two games that go together, true, but separate enough that one has little influence on the other.

So, more choices of races and classes and feats have no real impact on roleplaying. At least, no more than I want it to have. I can play a dwarf and play it like any other human, because there's no reason dwarves shouldn't have individual personalities. When I DM, I try to give consistent motivations to characters who are important enough to explore, and that's regardless of number crunch.

Satinavian
2019-02-08, 03:21 AM
That is, D&D is also closely married to a certain kind of setting without ever saying so... and more than a few gamers have unwittingly absorbed all those unspoken assumptions, if for no other reason than that they haven't been exposed to a broad selection of systems that either state the setting presumptions clearly or really don't have setting presumptions.Meh, in my country D&D was never actually big.

There are ideas floating around which can be traced to our most common fantasy system but as that one is closyly married to a specific setting, most gamers are more aware of the fact that those should not be assumed to be valid elsewhere.

Yora
2019-02-08, 04:05 AM
Limitations are details. And once you have details, the easier it gets to come up with more.

Frozen_Feet
2019-02-08, 09:05 AM
From a computational perspective, limitations are creativity. If you have a block of marble, all statues that can fit in its volume potentially exist in that space. It's only by virtue of being able to imagine one specific statue and chisel out what's unnecessary that you get anything done.

Similarly, all playable characters are expressible as strings of characters (that's "words" for the semantically challenged). Anyone could create any character if they could randomly smash at their keyboard for long enough.

In practice, this isn't usefull. In practice, we are instead concerned with two limited spaces of creative potential: the number of characters a player can think up in a limited time, versus the number of characters expressible in a game system.

When these two overlap poorly, the player is left unsatisfied. Either the player's ideas are not expressible in the system, or the ideas of the system are too opaque to the player.

Now, increasing expressive ability of a system is often fairly trivial, because steps of character creation are multiplicative. For example, if a system has choice of two sexes and three classes, those multiply to give six possible characters. However, adding new categories requires defining and adding new steps of character creation, while adding new options increases time to go through a step. So the more characters we want to express in a system, the higher requirements of memory and processing speed will be for the player. In practice, character creation will end up taking more time.

So, we end with a couple of antagonistic effects. On one hand, we want the system to cover characters thinkable to the player, on another we don't want character creation getting too complex and bloated. There's a likely sweetspot here based on limits of human work memory.

For highly expressive systems, you want to do away with player creative agency alltogether and both randomize and automate the character creation process. This isn't a joke. With a fast computer and a decent algorithm, your players will get more characters they want to play faster by just repeatedly clicking "create random character" and they will be more varied than what the players would come up themselves.

Satinavian
2019-02-08, 12:37 PM
For highly expressive systems, you want to do away with player creative agency alltogether and both randomize and automate the character creation process. This isn't a joke. With a fast computer and a decent algorithm, your players will get more characters they want to play faster by just repeatedly clicking "create random character" and they will be more varied than what the players would come up themselves.
Why would a Player want to have many charaters instead of one he really likes ? I don't think you have your priorities right. Character building is already a part of engaging with the character and the world. You don't want to optimize that a way.

Most people hate playing with premades. Because those are not their very own handcrafted character born from maybe hours of trying to put numbers to an inspiration.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-08, 12:40 PM
Why would a Player want to have many charaters instead of one he really likes ? I don't think you have your priorities right. Character building is already a part of engaging with the character and the world. You don't want to optimize that a way.

Most people hate playing with premades. Because those are not their very own handcrafted character born from maybe hours of trying to put numbers to an inspiration.

I'm thinking there must be some very blase and unpicky players out there if they're getting more characters they like out of a randomizer than out of a deliberate creation process.

Plus what does "varied" have to do with it?

DaOldeWolf
2019-02-08, 12:51 PM
I really think context is important when these limitations come to place. Speaking from personal experience here, I think it depends on how these limitations are framed when they are set and what kind of implications they give. To add a bit of perspective to what I mean, let me put a few examples:

The DM sets the following rule:
-No psionics because they are OP.

It is not setting related. It doesnt really give me anything extra to think about except not to consider psionics.



The DM has set the following rules:
-Only core classes
-Only core races.
-Only core rulebook material

This is a case where something has been so much overdone and the material at our disposal has been experimented so much that it just doesnt feel fresh. Playing set after set after set of this is going to eventually get boring.



The DM has set the following rule:
- You can only play humans

Info related to the setting: the setting involves the extinction of all of the other races and the humans going into the past to prevent this event from happening.

Sure, I can only play humans but there is a reason behind this that should make me think about my character´s motives. Why is he helping? How does he plan to bring something to the table on this expedition? What makes him an asset?



The DM has set the following rules:
-Your character has to gain a level in bard in the following levels (1,3,5,7,9,11,13,15,17,19).
-No full spell casting clases.

Info of the setting: You are a band of musicians travelling the world. Magic is pretty rare in the setting since its pretty recent development.

I can work with this. It gives an impression on how magic is being treated in this world. What kind of stuff I should expect. Even if we are all playing bards, we could play different types of bards, take different feats, make different builds. The builds could even be related to the kind of instrument we play.


I am not saying that DMs should have explicit setting reasons for each little thing that is banned but just banning stuff isnt going to make my mind fly wild.

Koo Rehtorb
2019-02-08, 12:52 PM
I don't think they improve creativity. But they also don't hinder it.

But, I do think some people are lazy/incompetent and substitute mechanical creativity for character creativity.

Unavenger
2019-02-08, 03:26 PM
Limitations limit. Prompts prompt. Whenever I use a writing prompt, I avoid using it as a restriction - to me, it doesn't matter whether or not I've gone off-script. Limitations do not improve creativity: they limit its scope.

Frozen_Feet
2019-02-08, 03:51 PM
Why would a Player want to have many charaters instead of one he really likes?

In a game system, there are two basic ways to create a character: top-down and bottom up.

Top-down: we expect or wait for the player to come up with a character concept that they want to play. This takes X time. Then we search through the steps of character creation in the game system. This takes Y time. Only now do we know if the character is viable in the system. X is highly variable, depending on player memory, intelligence and knowledge, however, for the average person it takes several minutes. Y is also variable, dependent on number of steps in character creation and number of options at each step. For complex systems with high expressibility, expected value for Y is an hour or more per character when doing it manually.

The good news is that top-down method can significantly shorten the process, compared to the next one, because the player doesn't need to go through as many options. The bad news is that there's a chance of false starts where the character turns out to be unviable, necessitating rules changes or starting over.

In the bottom-up method, the player goes through steps of character creation, in order, picking an option that sounds good on the spot. This takes X time.

The good news is that the character is guaranteed to be viable in the system and the player doesn't need to have any kind of character thought up when starting the process. The bad news is that the player has to read more of the options at each step, risking decision paralysis. You can get over decision paralysis by allowing random rolls, but when doing this manually, in a complex system the expected value of X still climbs to hour or more.

Keep in mind that a lot of this time is just writing things down and calculations.

So let's compare this to an automated random generator. With a modern computer, doing a character from the bottom-up takes seconds. Reading through a well-laid sheet takes a minute. So in the time it would take for a player to manually get a single character made, the generator has presented them with dozens. Chances are really good that when creating characters by the bulk like this, the player will get a character they want to play in less time than if they'd tried to do one manually. A lot of the time saved is also just a result of eliminating the menial work and boredom associated with it.

Tl;dr: in complex game systems, due to vastly higher output rate of automated random generation, the time to getting "one character the player really likes" is less than when the player tries to make one manually.


I don't think you have your priorities right. Character building is already a part of engaging with the character and the world. You don't want to optimize that a way.

I've found that actually playing the game is better at getting players engaged than the pre-game of character creation. So reducing the time spent in character creation to a practical minimum is optimal.


Most people hate playing with premades. Because those are not their very own handcrafted character born from maybe hours of trying to put numbers to an inspiration.

"Most people" aren't very smart, then. What's one of the most often-cited reason for people not engaging in their hobbies? It's lack of time. And again: time spent playing is more interesting than pre-game of character creation.

"Most people" also haven't even seen efficient automated generators for their favorite games, so I don't consider majority opinion to be particularly informed on the front I'm talking about.

I would also ask you to take a critical look outside the niche of RPGs. Is the appeal of music to "most people" making their own songs? Is the appeal of video games to "most people" coding their own games? Is the appeal of books to "most people" writing their own?

The answer in all cases can be trivially shown to be no, no and no.

Here's a thought for you: if it appears that "most people" in the RPG hobby prefer using hours to make their own characters, maybe that's because RPGs are an arcane time-sink which don't appeal to actual majority of people for precisely that reason. So the only people left are the committed artesan types.

---


I'm thinking there must be some very blase and unpicky players out there if they're getting more characters they like out of a randomizer than out of a deliberate creation process.

If I say the number of songs made by others that I like to play vastly exceeds the number of songs I've made myself that I like to play, is that a result of me being "blase and unpicky", or a result of the sheer quantity of music not made by me?

"Deliberate creation process" is a red herring. We can use automated generation to make new music too that's just as pleasing to the ear as music made by humans. Every step and all the options at each step are still chosen deliberately, and set to produce viable results, even when choices within steps are randomized.

In the end, the quality of output from an automated generator is a matter of technological implementation. There is no general rule for creations of humans to be superior. You cannot make valid generalizations of the nature of humans who prefer products of automated creation to handcrafted ones.


Plus what does "varied" have to do with it?

An aspect of "creativity" is "originality", which is basically a subjective quality of seeing something you haven't seen before and finding the novelty of it exciting. This is fundamentally just unexpected variety.

The average player is not particularly original. Many fall into playing the same two character over and over. This lack of variety can carry across games and even game systems, leading to feeling of sameness that eventually kills interest.

A powerful random generator can bypass this by creating more variety than player are capable of themselves. Yes, despite of how counter-intuitive it may sound, a random generator can feel "original" by introducing unexpected results.

King of Nowhere
2019-02-09, 12:48 PM
In a game system, there are two basic ways to create a character: top-down and bottom up.
...

The good news is that top-down method can significantly shorten the process, compared to the next one, because the player doesn't need to go through as many options.
...
A lot of the time saved is also just a result of eliminating the menial work and boredom associated with it.


that's the first thing you're getting wrong: you are treating character creation as a chore. a waste of time that player would rather be done with quickly. Instead, it's a fun part of the game. It's something that we want to do. It's like, I don't know, think one of those guys who spend months or years building a boat model with matches inside a bottle? Well, it's like you go to one of them and handle them a plastic boat model and say "there you go, now you don't have to glue all those tiny pieces of wood one by one. I saved you time".

Sure, if you've got players who see character creation as a chore, then pregenerated is good for them. but i never met any such player. the closest I know is one who likes to play pregen for one-shot.




"Most people" aren't very smart, then. What's one of the most often-cited reason for people not engaging in their hobbies? It's lack of time. And again: time spent playing is more interesting than pre-game of character creation.

"Most people" also haven't even seen efficient automated generators for their favorite games, so I don't consider majority opinion to be particularly informed on the front I'm talking about.


"most people aren't very smart". that phrase is often used to divide people in smart and not smart, with the speaker placing himself on the better side. Now, since most people use that sentence, it follows that most people who say that aren't very smart themselves.
But you know what? Actually, when people think the others are making bad decisions, most of the times it only turns out that they have different priorities. You don't like spending time on character creation, I do, and most people here also do, and that's why we have diverging opinions.
Implying that those who disagree with you do so because they are not very smart isn't earning you any points

that said, I prefer to have few hobbies and dedicate lots of time to them, rather than the opposite. I discovered early in my life that if i don't want to spend the time it takes to do something properly, then I don't really care about it in the first place. And if I like it, I'd rather have an option to spend more meaningful time on it. If you cut it short, it's less fun. I find hobbies are much like sex in this regard :smallsmile:



I would also ask you to take a critical look outside the niche of RPGs. Is the appeal of music to "most people" making their own songs? Is the appeal of video games to "most people" coding their own games? Is the appeal of books to "most people" writing their own?

The answer in all cases can be trivially shown to be no, no and no.


Here's a thought for you: if it appears that "most people" in the RPG hobby prefer using hours to make their own characters, maybe that's because RPGs are an arcane time-sink which don't appeal to actual majority of people for precisely that reason. So the only people left are the committed artesan types.

Creating an rpg character is not making a song, coding a videogame, writing a book. the similarity doesn't work. there's also lots of people who prefer to prepare their food rather than buy it ready. And internet is full of "do it yourself" tutorials for everything, even though most of those things can be done industrially in a more efficient way. so it really depends on the specifics wheter people will prefer to do something themselves or not.

As for the rpg hobby being niche, that's great. You sound like a salesman, trying to sell a product to the greatest number of people. that can be a solid marketing strategy, but it doesn't create things that people love. because people are different. what one loves is what someone else hates. So in order to do something that very few people hate, you'll be left with something bland.
Or, you can cater to a niche. If you cater to a niche, you can get much closer to what they actually want. Of course, it will alienate those not in that niche. that's good. I would not have much fun playing with those people anyway.
So yes, the majority of people don't like this hobby, or prefer the most recent iterations that are closer to what you propose and less time consuming. We, the committed artisans, like our stuff and would not change it with anything else. Saying that we should be different to attract more people is like telling people that they must be less nerdy to have more friends; I struggled for years with that kind of bs before realizing that I don't want to be friends with people who won't like me as I am, so forgive me if I feel strongly and react strongly about that kind of mindset.

And you know the great thing about the digital age? You don't have to change or be a loner because no one else around you likes what you like. The internet is big enough that you can find people like you and share something with them. Which is exactly what we're doing in this forum. And you are telling us that we're doing it wrong.

ImperiousLeader
2019-02-09, 01:26 PM
Depends on the Limitation.

Bad Limitation: You can't play a Sorcerer or class X because I (the DM) don't like them.
Good Limitation: Magic is feared and oppressed in this world, so spellcasters have to hide their talents.

I'm playing a Wizard in the latter world. It's interesting, my character worked for the Mob equivalent, because of course criminals would be more willing to use magic, magic use was forced underground due to the "prohibition" on magic. I don't dress in robes, my spellbook is encoded to look like a diary/cookbook travelogue, and it's been hard to find new spells to scribe into my spellbook.

LaserFace
2019-02-09, 01:41 PM
Limitation breeds creativity. Financial limitations won't make a bad independent filmmaker better, but creative filmmakers can make the most of their limitations and give you a unique experience.

If you have good players, giving them constraints and forcing them to think in new ways can get some really cool results and provide a new perspective on the game. But, the nature of the limitation has to be something that everyone wants to play with, and I think ideally you're doing something that changes the scope of play without depriving them of investiture in the characters or the setting.

Jay R
2019-02-09, 03:13 PM
No, limitations don't improve creativity; they require creativity to be played well. Creative play improves the lot of characters with limitations.

A person can be as creative as he is she can be, and no more. Giving a player with low creativity a character with a limitation won't magically make the player more creative.

But if you give a creative player a character with a limitation, you will see just how creative he or she can be.

Frozen_Feet
2019-02-09, 05:17 PM
that's the first thing you're getting wrong: you are treating character creation as a chore. a waste of time that player would rather be done with quickly. Instead, it's a fun part of the game. It's something that we want to do.

I already addressed this: actually playing the game is better. I can and will extend the argument to any "but it is fun!" justification: just because something is fun, doesn't mean it's the most fun you could be having. Hence, "fun" is not a factor that distinctly makes a thing worth doing over others.

Even more specifically, look at the thread title. Does it ask "do limitations improve fun"? No, it asks "do limitations improve creativity? "

Even if doing things a slow way is more "fun", that doesn't mean it's more creative.


It's like, I don't know, think one of those guys who spend months or years building a boat model with matches inside a bottle? Well, it's like you go to one of them and handle them a plastic boat model and say "there you go, now you don't have to glue all those tiny pieces of wood one by one. I saved you time".

Building bottled boats is a niche hobby. Your and Satinavian's fallacy is assuming "most people" prefer doing a thing in a niche way. It is trivial to show that actual majority of people prefer to just buy their ornamental objects. More of the same below.


Sure, if you've got players who see character creation as a chore, then pregenerated is good for them. but i never met any such player. the closest I know is one who likes to play pregen for one-shot.

Great, so you've never met most convention GMs or players. You know what's one of the most common advice given to convention GMs? "Have pregens at hand." Why? Because character creation is a chore that takes up valuable play time and convention time.

Now you will think to yourself "but most games aren't held at conventions!" Maybe so, but time pressures don't cease to exist outside of them. Again: one of the most commonly cited reasons for people not engaging their hobbies, is lack of time. Minimizing pre-game time in favor of the game is hence optimal.


"most people aren't very smart". that phrase is often used to divide people in smart and not smart, with the speaker placing himself on the better side.

... you really didn't get why I put "most people" in quotes, now, did you?

So let's make the point more explicit: Satinavian was committing a fallacious appeal to popularity (https://simple.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_popularity) . It's doubly fallacious because you and Satinavian are raising objectively unpopular practices to support the claim.

Saying "most peopleprefer creating their own characters at length" is not smart just because actual majority of people don't play RPGs to begin with, just like actual majority of people don't build bottled boats. And even if you restrict the "most people" argument to currently existing RPG players, it is fallacious, because you are committing yourself to selection bias. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selection_bias)


Creating an rpg character is not making a song, coding a videogame, writing a book. the similarity doesn't work.

Trivially false in an information theoretic sense, and trivially false in another way when it comes to videogames: CRPGs are a thing, they are built on same tropes as tabletop games to the point of many being direct rules emulations, and the CRPG industry by now is more massive than the tabletop one.

In fact, since both character creation and character generators are common in CRPGs, you could conduct a statistical study (or cite one) on how players approach character creation and what is the appeal. It would be much more powerfull argument than anything anyone has made in this thread.


there's also lots of people who prefer to prepare their food rather than buy it ready. And internet is full of "do it yourself" tutorials for everything, even though most of those things can be done industrially in a more efficient way. so it really depends on the specifics wheter people will prefer to do something themselves or not.

This is a prime example of you committing the double fallacy outlined above. "Lots of people" =/= "most people". The existence of DIY enthusiasts is not a good argument for doing stuff in a way preferred by DIY enthusiasts.

Going to "it depends on the specifics" backpedals all the way to the opposite direction. You've replaced "most people like X, so you shouldn't do Y" with "some people like X, so you shouldn't do Y with them".

The rest of your post devolves into dubious rhetoric and you actually seem to concede some of the arguments made halfway, so I don't feel like doing a line-by-line reply. I'll jump to this gem:



And you know the great thing about the digital age? You don't have to change or be a loner because no one else around you likes what you like.

This is trite rhetoric that has nothing to do with anything. Why? The question was "does X improve Y?" That's a question about change. Saying "you don't have to change" is absolutely useless as an answer untill it has been proven that no further positive changes can be made.

That's before I remind you the crux of the argument was about process-heavy high-expression game systems. It's Satinavian, Max_Killjoy and you who are reducing it to be about people and preferences.

King of Nowhere
2019-02-09, 07:23 PM
I already addressed this: actually playing the game is better. I can and will extend the argument to any "but it is fun!" justification: just because something is fun, doesn't mean it's the most fun you could be having. Hence, "fun" is not a factor that distinctly makes a thing worth doing over others.

Even more specifically, look at the thread title. Does it ask "do limitations improve fun"? No, it asks "do limitations improve creativity? "

You are forgetting a bit of detail: actually playing needs the full group in session. It needs 5ish adult people to allot several hours of free time, so you can't do it all that often. creating a character is something you can do on your own, with only minimal interaction with the DM.

So, playing the character builder minigame is actually a way to get more fun; you get the same fun at the table, but you get to do something outside of that weekly occurrence too.

Of course this doesn't work at conventions, because conventions are not groups. And if I were to attend one and try a system I'm not proficient enough in to make a character in less than 10 minutes, I may ask for a pregen myself. But that's an entirely different situation.

And you were the first one to bring in "fun", by saying "cutting character creation lets everyone have more fun because it saves time for the real stuff", so don't accuse me of deviating from the topic



Your and Satinavian's fallacy is assuming "most people" prefer doing a thing in a niche way. [and related stuff]

You seem to have misunderstood my argument. I didn't say that most people prefer to do things in a niche way; in fact, the very concept of niche implies those guys are minority.
What I am saying is that I, the niche minority, prefer to do things in a certain way, and I don't give a damn about what other people prefer. They do things their way, I do things my way.
Your argument about majority and minority don't hold any sway, because we are not holding a vote to decide the proper way to generate character; instead, we are each playing at different tables and each using the way he prefers.




This is trite rhetoric that has nothing to do with anything. Why? The question was "does X improve Y?" That's a question about change. Saying "you don't have to change" is absolutely useless as an answer untill it has been proven that no further positive changes can be made.

That's before I remind you the crux of the argument was about process-heavy high-expression game systems. It's Satinavian, Max_Killjoy and you who are reducing it to be about people and preferences.
Yes, the question is "does X improve Y?".

But you have to define what "improving" means.

This is not an industrial good where you can get the same thing for a lower price and lower environmental impact and say, truly and objectively, that you have "improved" your process. This is a game with vague premises and vague goals that are different for each individual involved, and so you cannot claim to have improved it if the thing that you like is something that someone else dislikes. And even if more people like it after the modification, still it's not an improvement; it's just a different thing, that appeals to different people.
Which is the reason me and plenty others are reducing it to people and their preferences: because whether rpg is "better" in a form or another is all about people and their preferences. You can't make an objective measure of how good an rpg is, to show that the number has increased following "improvements". You are attempting to define how good the system is by statistical considerations, but that is, as you yourself put, an appeal to majority fallacy. It works only for salesmen, whose goal is to sell to as many people as possible.

Now, regarding the original point of the thread, i.e. whether limitations improve creativity or not, I already stated that my personal opinion on it is that they have no correlation, because the character creation game and the roleplaying an individual game are different.
While some people may learn to roleplay better if you hand them a random character and say "that's your backstory, you have to make it work", some others will feel off and not enter in character, and some (which will partially overlap both groups) will just not be interested in trying a character outside of their established routines.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-09, 09:42 PM
The BEST a random character generator can HOPE to do is run so many iterations that it eventually comes up with what I would have come up with anyway to model the character I started out with in my head into the system.

Frozen_Feet
2019-02-09, 11:39 PM
You are forgetting a bit of detail: actually playing needs the full group in session. It needs 5ish adult people to allot several hours of free time, so you can't do it all that often.creating a character is something you can do on your own, with only minimal interaction with the DM.

So, playing the character builder minigame is actually a way to get more fun; you get the same fun at the table, but you get to do something outside of that weekly occurrence too.

I didn't forget it, I ignored it because it is covered by the general clause about "fun" I made in my last post. If spending time on character generation between sessions is the best use of your time, that's it for you. You can still use automation to improve the process, though: the parts about eliminating menial work and getting over decision paralysis apply to solo play just as well.

Also, the actual practical minimum for playing a TRPG is two people (one GM, one player) and you can run a viable session in 30 minutes (play with less people tends to be faster-paced for obvious reasons). Only one of them needs to be "adult" enough to know, process and explain rules of the game. Yes, even when talking about rules-heavy systems; in line with my own argument, I'm assuming use of calculators and other technological aides to speed up processing.

The idea that tabletop RPGs need five or so adult people and several hours is an idiosyncratic idea that hasn't gotten very far from 1974. Many hobbyists could play a lot more frequently if they'd learn to work outside that idiosyncratic ideal.


Yes, the question is "does X improve Y?".

But you have to define what "improving" means.

I already did, but let's make this more explicit again:

Creativity is a mathematical process. It is also an eliminative process: you're trying to establish limits to a space of a creative potential to get a specific result.

Output rate, the number of creations per unit of time, is one aspect of creativity we can mathematically quantify and where we can also easily examine and quantify how changing the limits effects it. Higher is better, because that leaves you with more time to do things with your creation, to create other things and to do other things in general.


This is not an industrial good where you can get the same thing for a lower price and lower environmental impact and say, truly and objectively, that you have "improved" your process.

You claim, but your claim doesn't hold up.


This is a game with vague premises and vague goals that are different for each individual involved, and so you cannot claim to have improved it if the thing that you like is something that someone else dislikes.

Firstly, the premises and goals are NOT different for each individual. You are basically denying existence of general trends among people. You've gone from Satinavian's appeal to popularity, to the polar opposite of special pleading every single player.

Secondly, the whole point of calling out appeal to popularity as a fallacy is that preferences are NOT sacrosanct. People can both like and dislike things for objectively bad reasons. Someone disliking an improvement is hence not enough to disprove it.

Thirdly, you are implicitly committing a cardinal sin of mistaking variability for non-objective. Here's a hint: there isn't a single, general rule for making industrial products cheaper and more environmentally friendly either. The methods required vary based on the good and the situation they are made in. Furthermore, the arrows of improvement can be mutually antagonistic, so claiming a general improvement may even be impossible.

Yet, the factors that go into these can be defined and quantified. Getting over vague premises and goals to get something concrete done is Monday in every industry.

Creating characters is not different.


You can't make an objective measure of how good an rpg is.

But the question was about creativity and I already pointed out and defined factors of creativity which can be mathematically quantified.


You are attempting to define how good the system is by statistical considerations, but that is, as you yourself put, an appeal to majority fallacy. It works only for salesmen, whose goal is to sell to as many people as possible.

Statistical considerations =/= appeal to popularity. You can commit said fallacy via statistics, when polling people for oponions, but there's plenty of factors of creativity that you can statistically analyze which are not opinions. I already named several, but let's recap: there's player memory, player intelligence, player knowledge, number of steps to create a character in a system, number of options at each step etc.

What you say here doesn't work even as criticism of my suggestion to use CRPG players as sample populations, because for answering questions like "Do most people hate pregens?" or "how appealing is character creation compared to gameplay?", a poll would be perfectly adequate.

---


The BEST a random character generator can HOPE to do is run so many iterations that it eventually comes up with what I would have come up with anyway to model the character I started out with in my head into the system.

You seem to be approaching the concept from a highly idealistic viewpoint, where every character you'd want to play is already in your head, and no RNG could provide you with a novel, exciting idea.

I find this dubious, but it doesn't make much of a difference. Again: all playable characters are expressible as strings of symbols, and if you could randomly smash at your keyboard for long enough, you'd produce them all. It's not a practical way to think of it, because you'd literally run out of time, but functionally it's the same. In practice, we need a system with space of creative potential overlapping yours, and an algorithm that can be run fast on a modern computer. All a matter of technological implementation; improbable, but not impossible.

This would, naturally, be easiest to implement if you collaborated in programming of the character generator.

Mechalich
2019-02-09, 11:40 PM
I have to say, I think the overall direction of the OP question is flawed, because the goal of character creation is not to maximize creativity. The goal is to create a character that the player desires to play while also fitting to the narrative and setting structure the GM and players have agreed to for the game. Extraordinarily creative characters have a tendency to fit said structure extremely poorly and/or have limitations that are not conducive to tabletop play. For example, playing a character with a sensory disability like blindness or deafness may be creative, if done in a respectful and non-clichéd fashion, but is horrible in terms of tabletop dynamics. Heck, playing a character who doesn't speak the same language as the rest of the party is a functionally verboten option, which is why people who play Thri-Kreen completely ignore the fact that they aren't supposed to be able to pronounce certain common human sounds.

Limitations, deployed during character generation, channel creativity with the intention of guiding a player towards producing a character that they would not only find fun to play, but that also fits the campaign they would be playing. Some systems, like FATE Core, make this connection explicit, by tying character traits directly to the setting structure, and some systems flatly assume a setting and a whole suite of character options. In Vampire: the Masquerade, you are playing a vampire, and there's a whole pile of stuff that applies to you because of it and you don't get to choose to not have those things because the overall playspace that system produces is contained within vampire fiction. It's an extremely rare system that allows the prospective player to create any character they want, GURPS technically allows this, but it's generally understood that for any given GURPS game only certain options will be permissible.

Satinavian
2019-02-10, 01:56 AM
Great, so you've never met most convention GMs or players. You know what's one of the most common advice given to convention GMs? "Have pregens at hand." Why? Because character creation is a chore that takes up valuable play time and convention time. Yes, it is a necessary evil at conventions because the format doesn't allow otherwise. That doesn't make it good practice when this restriction does not exist.

... you really didn't get why I put "most people" in quotes, now, did you?

So let's make the point more explicit: Satinavian was committing a fallacious appeal to popularity (https://simple.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_popularity) . It's doubly fallacious because you and Satinavian are raising objectively unpopular practices to support the claim. Wrong.

Popularity and what people find fun is the most critical element to conduct how to to a cooperative hobby.


Saying "most peopleprefer creating their own characters at length" is not smart just because actual majority of people don't play RPGs to begin with, just like actual majority of people don't build bottled boats. And even if you restrict the "most people" argument to currently existing RPG players, it is fallacious, because you are committing yourself to selection bias. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selection_bias) Wrong again.

The community of roleplayers and prospective roleplayers is the only group that matters when deciding how to do roleplaying.


I didn't forget it, I ignored it because it is covered by the general clause about "fun" I made in my last post. If spending time on character generation between sessions is the best use of your time, that's it for you. You can still use automation to improve the process, though: the parts about eliminating menial work and getting over decision paralysis apply to solo play just as well. I don't argue against automation.

Of course having some program that counts all the ponts, makes sure all prerequisites are met and calculates all the derived value and places the result neatly in a sheet is a good thing. But such a program doesn't make a character, it just makes sure any character is rules-legal. That is why nearly none of the many many character builder programs for various RPGs has a randomizer button.


You seem to be approaching the concept from a highly idealistic viewpoint, where every character you'd want to play is already in your head, and no RNG could provide you with a novel, exciting idea.

I find this dubious, but it doesn't make much of a difference. Again: all playable characters are expressible as strings of symbols, and if you could randomly smash at your keyboard for long enough, you'd produce them all. It's not a practical way to think of it, because you'd literally run out of time, but functionally it's the same. In practice, we need a system with space of creative potential overlapping yours, and an algorithm that can be run fast on a modern computer. All a matter of technological implementation; improbable, but not impossible.
It is not that a randomizer can't come up with something new we hadn't consideres. It is just that we are kind of picky with characters, usually willing to play less than 1/100000 of possible characters a somewhat rules heavy system has to offe. The time it would take to review one random character after another until we find something we would like to play is considerable longer than building it the other way.

And that is even true if we don't already have an inspiration after hearing the campaign pitch or reading the rules. Which also happens a lot of times.

Hackulator
2019-02-10, 02:34 AM
Frozen Feet one thing I think you are disregarding is that while you may be correct that playing is more fun that character creation, character creation makes playing the game more fun. People often have more fun playing a character that does what they want it do, that fits a backstory they want it to have, can be roleplayed in the way they want to roleplay, and that can grow in a way they want it to grow. So while character creation might not be the most fun you can have on its own, it is a fun multiplier for the act of actually playing the game and therefore is a completely worthwhile endeavor. Conventions are a completely different animal as you're almost always only going to have one session so yes, it is better to play for that session than create a character.

Now, this doesn't mean there is not a theoretical computer algorithm which could take input from a user in a very short period of time and spit out a character which conformed almost exactly to what they wanted to do thus streamlining the system, however there is probably a theoretical computer algorithm that can do anything better and faster than humans can so that in and of itself seems not too meaningful to me.

If I missed some argument you already made which you believe answers my points here I apologize, there was a lot of text up there.

Knaight
2019-02-10, 03:49 AM
The randomization option here also only works for certain games, with two major fail states. Sufficiently mechanically intricate games (e.g. 3.x D&D) tend towards having so many bad options that reviewing characters takes longer than making them, and that's the soft case. The harder case is any game which doesn't rely on list picking. A randomizer is going to struggle pretty hard with something like Fate's aspects, where getting something grammatical is generally doable but getting something coherent is unlikely, and it gets worse when you have several different player made phrases that all need to work together.

That said, I'm all for pregens for one shots, at conventions or otherwise.

Cazero
2019-02-10, 04:28 AM
Frozen Feet one thing I think you are disregarding is that while you may be correct that playing is more fun that character creation, character creation makes playing the game more fun. People often have more fun playing a character that does what they want it do, that fits a backstory they want it to have, can be roleplayed in the way they want to roleplay, and that can grow in a way they want it to grow.
And as someone with actual creativity issues, I can tell you that when I show up at the table without any clue about any of those points, using a random generator to at least assist my character creation process is a very good idea. I've rolled for things until I got inspired on several occasions, and it was a lot more helpful that phrases like "just play what you want to play".

Floret
2019-02-10, 04:41 AM
That said, I'm all for pregens for one shots, at conventions or otherwise.

I'm actually not. I mean, it depends on the game. But what I'm for, ideally, is to play, in the setting of oneshots, games where character creation is perfectly doable within 10-15 minutes, even for noobs.

I have so far found Powered by the Apocalypse games, as well as the German indie game Los Muertos to work for this.

Ime, it works way better, especially as a hobbie introduction. Making your own person gets you more involved, and that's worth gold. Being told "this is a hobby where you can be who you want to be - now choose from this five" puts a weird damper on things (especially with the lack of knowlege about the system making picking... hard, and lots of systems having **** pregens (shadowrun 5, why...)).

I'd also argue that for convention games, any system where you need the 10 minutes instead to comprehend the character sheet (looking at you, shadowrun, Dark Eye, DnD...) is a pretty sketchy proposition in the first place.


Frozen Feet one thing I think you are disregarding is that while you may be correct that playing is more fun that character creation, character creation makes playing the game more fun. People often have more fun playing a character that does what they want it do, that fits a backstory they want it to have, can be roleplayed in the way they want to roleplay, and that can grow in a way they want it to grow.

I would agree. Having your own character is a fun multiplier, and cannot be removed without ripple effects.

I'd still be interested in the statistical analysis of what most people prefer. I find it dubious that if only character creation were removed, lots more people would play, but I have met several people that would have loved to (and did, then, cause I might as well do intro oneshots...) play, but found the chargen idea of the most commonly played systems (Dark Eye, in my parts, but also DnD) too daunting.

But I'd also love to have a random button. Not for actually playing them as-is, but as a starting point.


And as someone with actual creativity issues, I can tell you that when I show up at the table without any clue about any of those points, using a random generator to at least assist my character creation process is a very good idea. I've rolled for things until I got inspired on several occasions, and it was a lot more helpful that phrases like "just play what you want to play".

Yeah... Creativity in a vacuum is just... difficult (not to mention likely to clash with something, like other characters, later on). I recently for my 40k Hobby built some scenery. First time I had the kit, I vad no limitations. Just... pieces, and could do whatever. I decided to go with the instructions. Pretty solid, and it's at least something sensible. Just building into the blue could have run into all sorts of problems.

The next time, it was for a diorama, with quite clear instructions: fits on this board, in that space, high to the right, broken down to the front. Same kit, and suddenly I'm here tossing the instructions and just fiddling around. With an amazing result if I dare say so myself.

Limitations give creativity a starting point. If everything is equally possible and special, everything a starting point, nothing is. You need something - and while that might be an idea that just popped up, any sort of input (which a setting description usually is), helps. Any limit that comes from that? Good.

Any limit that's just "no X"? Ask why. Because the why might help. No X just culls, but doesn't help the remainder stick out as ideas.

Frozen_Feet
2019-02-10, 09:33 AM
Yes, it is a necessary evil at conventions because the format doesn't allow otherwise. That doesn't make it good practice when this restriction does not exist.

I already addressed this: time pressures exist outside of conventions just as well.
On the flipside, the idea that the format does not allow otherwise is not true. It's just been deemed impractical.


Wrong.

Popularity and what people find fun is the most critical element to conduct how to to a cooperative hobby.

None of that makes an appeal to popularity of the sort you made into a valid argument.


Wrong again.

The community of roleplayers and prospective roleplayers is the only group that matters when deciding how to do roleplaying.

The set of prospective players can only be determined by examining the general population and that set depends on the product you're offering them. This set is not guaranteed to share idiosyncratic tastes of current players. Because of that, it is vital to critically examine said idiosyncracies and offer people other options. So examining and eliminating selection bias in whatever set you've deemed representative of "most people" is still just as relevant as ever.


Of course having some program that counts all the ponts, makes sure all prerequisites are met and calculates all the derived value and places the result neatly in a sheet is a good thing. But such a program doesn't make a character, it just makes sure any character is rules-legal. That is why nearly none of the many many character builder programs for various RPGs has a randomizer button.

This is a weird non-sequitur. You're saying that not having a program to build complete characters is why RPGs don't have a random option for building complete characters.

Download Ancient Domains of Mystery. It gives you the option to "let [f]ate decide" your character and as a result gives you a random character with complete play statistics, equipment, physical description and backstory. That's more than just making sure a character is valid, and it's still far from what would be technologically possible.

It would be possible to create a randomized character generator for, say, the d20 system, or DSA, which would do everything ADoM does, and then some, better and faster.

The rest is something I already talked about and have nothing new to say for now.

---


Frozen Feet one thing I think you are disregarding is that while you may be correct that playing is more fun that character creation, character creation makes playing the game more fun.

I'm disregarding it because it doesn't really need to be separately addressed. While thinking of time spent at character creation as a "fun multiplier" is an interesting hypothesis, putting plausible numbers to it makes it fall in line with rest of my argument due to diminishing returns.


People often have more fun playing a character that does what they want it do, that fits a backstory they want it to have, can be roleplayed in the way they want to roleplay, and that can grow in a way they want it to grow.

This may be true, but lengthy manual character generation does not guarantee these things, nor does fast automated random character creation guarantee lack of these things.

Also, since King of Nowere repeatedly compared me to a salesman, let me actually put on that hat for a while: what people want is malleable. Getting people excited about a product is highly based on simply how that product is presented to them.


Now, this doesn't mean there is not a theoretical computer algorithm which could take input from a user in a very short period of time and spit out a character which conformed almost exactly to what they wanted to do thus streamlining the system, however there is probably a theoretical computer algorithm that can do anything better and faster than humans can so that in and of itself seems not too meaningful to me.

What makes it meaningfull is that you can actually make and test algorithms of this sort with modern computers. It also allows us to examine the titular question, "do limitations improve creativity?", in an empirical and mathematical ways, at least in some aspects.

Jay R
2019-02-10, 12:50 PM
The BEST a random character generator can HOPE to do is run so many iterations that it eventually comes up with what I would have come up with anyway to model the character I started out with in my head into the system.

This assumes that the only fun way (or at least that the most fun way) to play is to come to the game with a character already in your head.

I agree with you that if there is only one character design that will provide maximum fun for you, a random character generator doesn't provide that kind of fun. It's not supposed to.

But your statement that that's the BEST it can do assumes that that's always the best fun that people want to have. This assumption is disproven by the fact that in many games, people don't create their characters or tokens. In chess, I play with the same sixteen pieces as anybody else. In Monopoly, I have to roll a die to see if I can land on Boardwalk. In Pendragon, I start with a a squire. In original D&D, I've played characters who were created by rolling 3d6, in order. In poker or bridge, my cards are purely random. I fence with short arms and short legs and 63-year-old lungs.

And I enjoy all of these games just as much as modern D&D.

A random character generator provide a different kind of fun, just like rolling a die to hit provides a different kind of fun than just always saying, "Twenty! Another critical hit." Your position is not significantly different from saying that the BEST rolling a die can do is provide me the result that I already knew I wanted.

The point of using a randomizer is to play with random results rather than just getting what you would have wanted.

I enjoy the careful character building of D&D 3.5 and Hero Systems just as much as you do. But I also enjoy trying to make something out of the random rolls I get in original D&D or Flashing Blades or many other games.

Have the kind of fun you want; I have no problem with that. But recognize that one kind of fun is not inherently better than the other kind of fun -- at least not for everybody.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-10, 01:02 PM
This assumes that the only fun way (or at least that the most fun way) to play is to come to the game with a character already in your head.

I agree with you that if there is only one character design that will provide maximum fun for you, a random character generator doesn't provide that kind of fun. It's not supposed to.

But your statement that that's the BEST it can do assumes that that's always the best fun that people want to have. This assumption is disproven by the fact that in many games, people don't create their characters or tokens. In chess, I play with the same sixteen pieces as anybody else. In Monopoly, I have to roll a die to see if I can land on Boardwalk. In Pendragon, I start with a a squire. In original D&D, I've played characters who were created by rolling 3d6, in order. In poker or bridge, my cards are purely random. I fence with short arms and short legs and 63-year-old lungs.

And I enjoy all of these games just as much as modern D&D.

A random character generator provide a different kind of fun, just like rolling a die to hit provides a different kind of fun than just always saying, "Twenty! Another critical hit." Your position is not significantly different from saying that the BEST rolling a die can do is provide me the result that I already knew I wanted.

The point of using a randomizer is to play with random results rather than just getting what you would have wanted.

I enjoy the careful character building of D&D 3.5 and Hero Systems just as much as you do. But I also enjoy trying to make something out of the random rolls I get in original D&D or Flashing Blades or many other games.

Have the kind of fun you want; I have no problem with that. But recognize that one kind of fun is not inherently better than the other kind of fun -- at least not for everybody.


If I didn't make it clear, me fault, but my comment was intended to apply to myself or anyone who shares my preferences for character creation, not be a universal assertion -- thus the multiple "I" and "my" in the phrasing rather than "we" and "our".

JoeJ
2019-02-10, 05:52 PM
This here is another very good take, and I agree with all three of your points. I would be curious to know how you feel about the matter of "analysis paralysis" as coined by JoeJ, and whether or not any game would benefit from mitigating this concern.

As much as I'd like to take credit for it, I didn't coin the term "analysis paralysis." I've seen it used in a number of contexts in the part few years.

Satinavian
2019-02-11, 05:27 AM
I already addressed this: time pressures exist outside of conventions just as well.
On the flipside, the idea that the format does not allow otherwise is not true. It's just been deemed impractical.
Outside of cenventions you can make characters on one session and start playing the next. Yes, it would cost you a session, but it is something you can't do at conventions.
Convention timeslots are usually four hours max. If your character creation would take 2 hours for the whole group, the resulting play time would not be enough for anything beyond an introduction module, so you simply really can't do it this way.

None of that makes an appeal to popularity of the sort you made into a valid argument. Better than all your arguments that this random character creation is any kind of improvement.

This is a weird non-sequitur. You're saying that not having a program to build complete characters is why RPGs don't have a random option for building complete characters. Making a character builder that includes all options and has all the buld rule interactions and restrictions in it is hard. Slapping a random number generator on it is trivial. The only possible reason why it is nearly never done is that there simply is no demand.

What makes it meaningfull is that you can actually make and test algorithms of this sort with modern computers. It also allows us to examine the titular question, "do limitations improve creativity?", in an empirical and mathematical ways, at least in some aspects.No, you can't.

How do you measure creativity ? Depending on the answer there are two possible outcomes :
- It is nothing where an algorithm can give you ansers so a program won't help you
- The anser is trivially done by basic math and you don't need a program.

Quertus
2019-02-12, 11:53 AM
So, just to point it out: there's been a lot of talk about "characters" that is actually talk about "playing pieces". The character's statistics make them a playing piece; their personality makes them a character.

When I made Quertus, my signature academia mage, for whom this account is named, I used rolled stats. He rolled an 18 in Constitution. Did I plan on my bookworm academia mage being tough? No. But it wasn't incompatible with the character I envisioned, and it helped me solidify some subtle details about him.

Similarly, when I created Balteus Battlerager, the party used both proficiencies and... Darn senility... A table of random "talents". The party rangers kept rerolling until they got a "woodsy" result, like "Fletcher" or "Tanner". They asked me if I wanted to roll. I thought, and said, sure, roll once, if I like it, I'll take it; if not, I'll skip it. They rolled once, groaned, and said I needed to reroll. "Why?", I asked. Because I'd rolled "no skills of measurable worth". I looked down at my character sheet, saw that I had taken both a bowl and a fife, and said, "I'll take it :smallbiggrin:". Thus was Rage's beggar status established - which shaped how he interacted with numerous NPCs.

So, I think that randomness could potentially add to the character creation process. But I doubt that a completely random generator could ever be made to efficiently match a playing piece to the concept of the character in my head.

Cazero
2019-02-12, 12:53 PM
So, I think that randomness could potentially add to the character creation process. But I doubt that a completely random generator could ever be made to efficiently match a playing piece to the concept of the character in my head.
Because you're starting with a character already in your head. The random generator helps when you don't have one.

Black Jester
2019-02-12, 03:34 PM
Yes, implementing limitations, especially unexpected limitations, force the player to think outside the box and therefore to push the envelop; this process of integrating an additional, and often unexpected additional information into an enjoyable concept to play necessarily activates a creative process of asking about the hows and whys and add to the whole part. It is a challenge to include such an element, and as such, it requires you to approach it differently. The limitations forces you to break your habits and to engage your mind with the solution to this problem, considering ideas and character traits you would have not considered before.

This is why a good character creation system should always provide some meaningful elements of randomness.

Creating a character is often, especially with players who are mostly focussing on a specific type of character, very much a force of habit, and may become repetitive on its own. This is particularly obvious with systems like D&D that uses classes as a relevant factor of what a character is and does, because these systems already have a tendency to create cookie cutter characters with little variation or discernible identity - which is a nice way to say that they are really, really boring after a while. These characters are boring to play with, which is bad enough, as RPGs are a group activity and you want characters to be interesting for the others for mutual inspiration and friendly banter opportunities. Even worse, they will become boring and samey to play after a while, which just isn't much fun. You are just playing the same guy, over and over again, but progressively less enjoyable.

This is why a good character creation system should always provide some meaningful elements of randomness.

I also think that the assumption that one already knows everything there is to know about a completely fresh character beforehand without outside input or assuming a different perspective on the whole or adding some new and surprising element to the character seems like a recipe for stagnation. It is a lot more rewarding to break the pattern and try something new, but that first requires that you recognize that there is some sort of a pattern and some repetitive elements.

Sure, implementing new ideas and concepts that are in a way intrusive to your isolated thought processes is, by design, a challenge. It is a puzzle that requires solving, and therefore, it can be inconvenient. It necessarily makes you think harder and in previously unexpected ways. This is you get better at the whole creative thinking process, the character building process, and the actual relevant part of writing interesting characters. You, as a writer, a player or a creator will get better not by repeating the same things you have done over and over before but by facing challenges and trying new ideas.

Quertus
2019-02-12, 04:22 PM
Because you're starting with a character already in your head. The random generator helps when you don't have one.

Point.

From that PoV, I doubt a random personality generator would produce anything simultaneously particularly productive to my study of human psychology, and within my roleplaying range - or, even if it could, do so anywhere approaching the efficiency of me creating my own character.


I also think that the assumption that one already knows everything there is to know about a completely fresh character beforehand without outside input or assuming a different perspective on the whole or adding some new and surprising element to the character seems like a recipe for stagnation. It is a lot more rewarding to break the pattern and try something new, but that first requires that you recognize that there is some sort of a pattern and some repetitive elements.

Sure, implementing new ideas and concepts that are in a way intrusive to your isolated thought processes is, by design, a challenge. It is a puzzle that requires solving, and therefore, it can be inconvenient. It necessarily makes you think harder and in previously unexpected ways. This is you get better at the whole creative thinking process, the character building process, and the actual relevant part of writing interesting characters. You, as a writer, a player or a creator will get better not by repeating the same things you have done over and over before but by facing challenges and trying new ideas.

Sometimes, it makes a particular concept impossible. Were I to have rolled a "3" Intelligence, I could not have played the Wizard Quertus. Were I to have rolled... well, I don't know that there were any talents actually incompatible with Balteus 'Rage' Battlerager, tbh, but, if there were, and keeping the talent were mandatory, then I would have had to shelve the concept until I had acceptable rolls.

Random "suggestions" can be cool, and can add things to keep a character from being stale. Random "requirements", otoh, can invalidate concepts for those who come to the table with concepts to begin with, or for those who get concepts from previous portions of the character creation process.

Does that clarify things / help keep people from talking past each other? Or am I just muddying the waters?

Unavenger
2019-02-13, 01:54 AM
Random "suggestions" can be cool, and can add things to keep a character from being stale. Random "requirements", otoh, can invalidate concepts for those who come to the table with concepts to begin with, or for those who get concepts from previous portions of the character creation process.

Yes, exactly. Limitations limit, prompts prompt. I don't know why people think that reducing the creative space someone has will help them be more creative.

Hackulator
2019-02-13, 02:12 AM
I'm disregarding it because it doesn't really need to be separately addressed. While thinking of time spent at character creation as a "fun multiplier" is an interesting hypothesis, putting plausible numbers to it makes it fall in line with rest of my argument due to diminishing returns.

Not sure where that statement is coming from. There are no diminishing returns, you spend a finite amount of time creating a character, and then the returns increase every time you play that character.


This may be true, but lengthy manual character generation does not guarantee these things, nor does fast automated random character creation guarantee lack of these things.

If you want guarantees you're in the wrong conversation because when it comes to human emotions guarantees don't really exist. I still stand by the idea that creating your own character generally increases your enjoyment of playing that character. Obviously my evidence of this is anecdotal, but given the preponderance of anecdotal evidence with little else to work with, that's what I've gotta base my opinions on.



What makes it meaningfull is that you can actually make and test algorithms of this sort with modern computers. It also allows us to examine the titular question, "do limitations improve creativity?", in an empirical and mathematical ways, at least in some aspects.

I mean, maybe you can, but unless someone actually is it feels kinda moot. I've never seen a random character generator that didn't mostly just churn out crap. I'm also honestly not sure how it relates to the original question at all.

Jay R
2019-02-13, 10:24 AM
Going into a random character generation game with a character, or even a character class, already in your head is like starting a game of Monopoly planning to buy Boardwalk and Park Place before seeing where the dice put your race car.

Random character generation is a lousy way to play a character you built.
Point-buy character building is a lousy way to see what character comes your way.

For maximum fun, focus on playing the game you're playing, rather than some other game.

Nickthef
2019-02-13, 10:26 AM
That's a hard question but i think it does

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-13, 11:05 AM
Yes, exactly. Limitations limit, prompts prompt. I don't know why people think that reducing the creative space someone has will help them be more creative.


It's just one of those things that's been used to justify limits on creative space when there are otherwise no actual reason for them, so often, for so long, that people just regurgitate it as "truth" whenever it comes up.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-02-13, 05:54 PM
I feel the same is true to roleplaying games, which are themselves merely another form of acting.


So, just to point it out: there's been a lot of talk about "characters" that is actually talk about "playing pieces". The character's statistics make them a playing piece; their personality makes them a character.

Roleplaying games involve acting, but are not only acting, not are they only collaborative storytelling or similar things, and on the other axis they're not only mechanical analysis and tactical wargaming either. The "backstory and personality" side and the "playing piece" side of a given character may be more or less intertwined based on the system you're playing, but they're always separate to at least some degree; even in a system like Fate where you literally free-form some descriptions of the character and the results have mechanical weight, there are many ways to express the same character mechanically, each of which will have its own quirks that inform how the character is roleplayed and how it will perform in play.

Anyone coming to RPGs with the idea that RPGs are a subset of acting/storytelling/etc. is probably going to stray far into Stormwind Fallacy, "roleplaying vs. roll-playing!", "rules get in the way of creativity", etc. territory and is going to be flummoxed by people who come at it from the other angle. Not only can you start with mechanics and/or randomization and create a fully-fleshed out character from there, you can actually start playing the game without any character concept in mind and improvise the entire thing from there--and the events of the campaign are going to be more fertile ground for one's imagination than any random generator you can code up.

Back in the good ol' days of AD&D, it was entirely possible to roll up a character and not even decide on a name for your character until they had a few levels under their belt; Melf of Melf's acid arrow fame was infamously (and possibly apocryphally) named because several sessions into the game Gygax asked for the character's name and his player looked at his sheet, saw "M Elf" (for "male elf") and named him after that. And if you look up stories about Melf, you're going to see lots of anecdotes about interesting, deep, flavorful, and dare I say creative things that happened in-game, and nothing about how Melf's player rolling too low a Wis to play a cleric and was forced to play a wizard instead crippled his roleplaying and characterization.


Yes, exactly. Limitations limit, prompts prompt. I don't know why people think that reducing the creative space someone has will help them be more creative.


It's just one of those things that's been used to justify limits on creative space when there are otherwise no actual reason for them, so often, for so long, that people just regurgitate it as "truth" whenever it comes up.

There are plenty of good reasons to have limitations in place. If you're playing a game in the Star Wars setting, you can't build a Vulcan replicator technician who graduated from Starfleet Academy because neither Vulcans nor replicators nor Starfleet exist in Star Wars, and you can't start play as a planetary governor with a personal capital ship and personal militia because that would be both too powerful for a starting player to have and take the spotlight away from the other characters. There are always going to be limitations for setting, character, system, playgroup, playstyle, and possibly other reasons, and blithely dismissing all of those as having "no actual reason" to exist--or dismissing and condemning the mechanical ones while accepting the others with no problem because mechanical stuff is badwrongfun and flavor stuff is "acting"--is misguided.

And limitations are prompts, and vice versa. If you can't play a Vulcan replicator technician in Star Wars, that's a limitation...but it's also a prompt, because it might cause you to go looking through Wookieepedia to find the closest equivalent to "smart space elf who spouts technobabble and has a valuable role in a paramilitary organization" to use to build your character, and thereby (A) discover things about the setting you didn't know, deepening and improving your roleplaying, and (B) causing you to branch out beyond just playing a Spock expy.

Likewise, if you roll up a prompt to play a...*rolls*..."jaded ex-priest" who...*rolls*..."was adopted into a loving noble family" and...*rolls*..."had his entire town eaten by killer llamas," that gives you all sorts of hooks, quirks, and personality or backstory things you can work with...but it's also a limitation, because that means you're not playing an idealistic warrior who counsels his faltering partymates to trust in the gods' benevolence, or a hardened criminal who was reduced to stealing coppers to survive, or a happy-go-lucky ranger with a dire llama animal companion.

Every single influence you draw upon when deciding on a character, and every single choice you make during the character creation process, opens up certain potential avenues of roleplaying and cuts off other ones. If you accept the premise that prompts make you more creative, then you must also accept that limitations make you more creative, or you're just defining "limitations" as "prompts I don't like or can't figure out how to work with" and "prompts" as "limitations I like or don't mind working with."

ZamielVanWeber
2019-02-13, 06:33 PM
No.

They simply redirect creativity to dealing with the limitation, taking it from elsewhere.

The notion that they do, is used as a cheap rhetorical excuse.

I would argue structure does, generally. It is easier to answer a question than to generate the question then answer it but structure does not imply limitations.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-13, 07:47 PM
There are plenty of good reasons to have limitations in place. If you're playing a game in the Star Wars setting, you can't build a Vulcan replicator technician who graduated from Starfleet Academy because neither Vulcans nor replicators nor Starfleet exist in Star Wars, and you can't start play as a planetary governor with a personal capital ship and personal militia because that would be both too powerful for a starting player to have and take the spotlight away from the other characters. There are always going to be limitations for setting, character, system, playgroup, playstyle, and possibly other reasons, and blithely dismissing all of those as having "no actual reason" to exist--or dismissing and condemning the mechanical ones while accepting the others with no problem because mechanical stuff is badwrongfun and flavor stuff is "acting"--is misguided.

And limitations are prompts, and vice versa. If you can't play a Vulcan replicator technician in Star Wars, that's a limitation...but it's also a prompt, because it might cause you to go looking through Wookieepedia to find the closest equivalent to "smart space elf who spouts technobabble and has a valuable role in a paramilitary organization" to use to build your character, and thereby (A) discover things about the setting you didn't know, deepening and improving your roleplaying, and (B) causing you to branch out beyond just playing a Spock expy.

Likewise, if you roll up a prompt to play a...*rolls*..."jaded ex-priest" who...*rolls*..."was adopted into a loving noble family" and...*rolls*..."had his entire town eaten by killer llamas," that gives you all sorts of hooks, quirks, and personality or backstory things you can work with...but it's also a limitation, because that means you're not playing an idealistic warrior who counsels his faltering partymates to trust in the gods' benevolence, or a hardened criminal who was reduced to stealing coppers to survive, or a happy-go-lucky ranger with a dire llama animal companion.

Every single influence you draw upon when deciding on a character, and every single choice you make during the character creation process, opens up certain potential avenues of roleplaying and cuts off other ones. If you accept the premise that prompts make you more creative, then you must also accept that limitations make you more creative, or you're just defining "limitations" as "prompts I don't like or can't figure out how to work with" and "prompts" as "limitations I like or don't mind working with."


First, I would never roll random prompts. As an example, any game that relied on a random lifepath generator, I immediately declined to play. Simply not interested.

Second, note that in the comment you quoted, I said that "limitations improve creativity" was an excuse for limitations that have no actual reason to be in place -- and then your very first "counter" example, about the Vulcan in a Star Wars game, was of a limitation based on an actual reason, in this case the setting. Don't move the goalposts.

Thrudd
2019-02-13, 09:04 PM
First, I would never roll random prompts. As an example, any game that relied on a random lifepath generator, I immediately declined to play. Simply not interested.

Second, note that in the comment you quoted, I said that "limitations improve creativity" was an excuse for limitations that have no actual reason to be in place -- and then your very first "counter" example, about the Vulcan in a Star Wars game, was of a limitation based on an actual reason, in this case the setting. Don't move the goalposts.

I think the point is: how do we define what are "actual reasons" and what aren't? So being part of a pre-established setting is an "actual reason". What if it's part of the GM's custom setting - ie, I say that my D&D setting has no gnomes or halflings or half-breeds, because that's how I like it. Is that an "actual reason", or an arbitrary limit? What if I say "campaign will be all human PCs" because that's the kind of campaign I want to run? Good enough reason? What if I say no players can have a certain set of skills or spells, because they would be unbalancing or outside the theme of the campaign I want to run? That seems like a perfectly good reason, to me.

You can't really separate GM's preferences for overall game system or setting from their preferences regarding any other aspect or detail of the game - in most systems, GMs are expected and sometimes encouraged to adapt the game to their preferences. All those preferences could be seen as arbitrary - a player that really wants to play a Vulcan could just as easily complain that the GM should be running Star Trek and not Star Wars, rather than complaining that Vulcans and replicators aren't in the Star Wars setting.

I am totally within my rights as a GM to specify the parameters of the campaign and the options for the players, even if those options are only a subset of those allowed by the rules or that exist in the setting.

I'd say no, limitations don't "improve" creativity. But they are often necessary to creating something coherent. They often result in an "improved" end-product. Prompts, which are being equated with limitations, can help someone who is having trouble with creativity or having trouble fitting their creativity into the correct context, to start a productive flow of ideas. In that sense, the limitation "improved" that particular person's creativity.

Quertus
2019-02-13, 09:57 PM
Is that an "actual reason", or an arbitrary limit?

You can't really separate GM's preferences for overall game system or setting from their preferences regarding any other aspect or detail of the game -

Of course I can. I can poke you / your limits with a stick / with questions until I deduce a) you are able to explain them as coherent and meaningful to me, or b) you are not.

If "a", they are "actual reasons".

If "b", choose your fail case ("arbitrary limit", "GM/we cannot communicate", etc).

Thrudd
2019-02-14, 12:53 AM
Of course I can. I can poke you / your limits with a stick / with questions until I deduce a) you are able to explain them as coherent and meaningful to me, or b) you are not.

If "a", they are "actual reasons".

If "b", choose your fail case ("arbitrary limit", "GM/we cannot communicate", etc).
The point is, you can't "poke with a stick" something that is purely a creative choice, and that sort of choice is still a valid "actual" reason. If I say my setting has no gnomes in it, because that's how I have envisioned my setting, there's no explanation or meaning to be deduced. "That's how I want my setting" should be satisfactorily coherent for you or anyone. If it's a change to mechanics/home brew, those are things that can be discussed and explained and possibly debated. But not all GM choices are that type of choice.

Kaptin Keen
2019-02-14, 03:11 AM
I have a couple of examples.

I'm running a game right now, in which the players are all members of a travelling troupe of bards. Hence - they're all multiclass bards, obviously. Does that make the characters better? Likely not. But it does make them different. I can say with almost absolute certainty that none of them would have made a multiclass bard otherwise. And different is, if nothing else, at least creative.

And it has forced a playstyle which is different - less combat focussed, more geared towards social interactions and stealth. Is that, in itself, creative? Nah, but it's different, and different is creative.

Another example is Martin. He's my friend since time out of memory, 25 years I guess or more, and ... Martin always plays the same character. Martin's PC is a mage. He's good at comboing spells. He may be a sorceror, or a psion, og a wizard, but all of these are irrelevant, because it's always the same character. Martin is creative, sure, he really is very good at using his tools in clever and spectacular ways. But he's always the same mage.

Over those many years, we - the group of friends - have tried from time to time to force inspire Martin to ... explore other options. Play something different. Let someone else be the mage, from time to time. And so on.

This has met with varying degrees of succes. Martin gets bored when he has fewer tools at his disposal. Simply put, playing something that isn't a mage feels to him like a suboptimal choice - like he's simply not doing it right.

The solution is to play something else. A game without a super strong mage class. As soon as mage isn't the obvious, optimal choice, he's just fine playing something else. So is that creative then? Well, yes and no. Forcing Martin to play a non-mage in D&D isn't working. Forcing him to play Shadowrun instead does.

Floret
2019-02-14, 03:24 AM
If you accept the premise that prompts make you more creative, then you must also accept that limitations make you more creative, or you're just defining "limitations" as "prompts I don't like or can't figure out how to work with" and "prompts" as "limitations I like or don't mind working with."

I have to do no such thing. The fact that prompts and limitations most often coexist, and a thing can be both, does not make the terms identical. It is trivial to come up with limitations that don't prompt.

It is harder to come up with a prompt that doesn't limit in some way, true. And when I have to be creative in a vacuum, I tend to not be very creative at all. As soon as there is a basic premise, I have a chance of getting started (See also point on scenery building).

You are, however, right on one thing: Any border drawn between acceptable and nonacceptable limitations will be entirely arbitrary.


Of course I can. I can poke you / your limits with a stick / with questions until I deduce a) you are able to explain them as coherent and meaningful to me, or b) you are not.

If "a", they are "actual reasons".

If "b", choose your fail case ("arbitrary limit", "GM/we cannot communicate", etc).

Out of curiosity, and in relation to some older discussion we've had:

Would you consider "this world has no connections to outside worlds, because the metaphysics are in such a way they don't allow it" as valid?

Would you consider "because it would destroy narrative coherence of the setting, and devalue any threat by making the space it affects infintesmaly smaller"? "Because it fundamentally changes the worldbuilding to introduce worldhopping?" Do you acceppt "the rules of the game are so tied to setting that it is all but impossible to represent a world traveller with them (and I neither want to a) invest the work to playtest the necessary additions thoroughly, and b) don't want to play with untested, potentially heavily unbalancing material?)"

Do you accept any, and which do you? Because to me, all of them are valid. But they are also, the lot of them, ultimately GM arbitration.

(Bonus question: Would you accept "no, you can't play any of your dnd guys, we're playing Star Wars"?)

Note: this is not meant as just a list of questions to quertus, but also a point on "no, all limits ever are indeed arbitrary. That is not bad, just... a fact." Some of them are certainly more arbitrary than others, but ultimately, nothing is "just so".

NichG
2019-02-14, 06:39 AM
In character creation, a player is more like a writer than an actor. The question that they're directing their creativity towards is not 'what would this character do?' but 'what character would be interesting to see?'. Ultimately, the things that engage with a player's creativity in that moment are those things which act as sources of inspiration that let a player anticipate what kinds of things would create novel or distinctive situations downstream. Limitations can both provide inspiration or quash it - they can prompt one (in trying to address the limitation) to see portions of the space that they didn't previously realize were there, but they can also close off regions of the space. The deeper issue is that whether a limitation helps or hinder is likely to be very dependent on the particular player and the things which they find evocative or boring.

One person might find that a particular 'type' of limitation (such as - characters driven by emotion, or bound by culture) maps out a space that they feel is unexplored or worth developing. Another person might be bored with that entire class of thing, or might regard that limitation as preventing them from investigating spaces that they are more interested in at the moment. If I want to explore what the mindset of a proper, fully resolved, superhuman entity would be like then a fixed set of cultural taboos or psychological flaws is going to get in the way of what is currently inspiring me. On the other hand, if I want to ask 'what would the actual emotional impact of all of these tabletop RPG-isms be if rendered realistically' then those cultural and psychological boundaries would help give me guidance as to more specific questions which could be asked in the form of particular distinct characters. But its not going to always be the case that limitations will either help or hinder - it will depend on each player's intellectual goals at that moment.

JAL_1138
2019-02-14, 05:47 PM
This is sort of tangential to the discussion, but I feel like it might be a worthwhile point to make:

It is not the DM’s job to try to prompt the players to be creative. It is the DM’s job to provide an engaging game (for both the players and themselves, but there’s however-many of them and one GM, so it’s weighted in the players’ favor).

If the player will have more fun playing a stereotypical character, or a character that isn’t particularly fleshed-out, or whatnot, and it won’t do any serious harm to someone else’s fun, then so be it. It doesn’t matter if the character is Blandy McBlanderson or a walking cliché if everyone’s having a good time.

Limitations should be mutually agreed upon, by and large—some are necessary for balance or setting cohesion or otherwise necessary to the rest of the table’s fun. Perhaps the rest of the table doesn’t want to adventure with an Awakened Gelatinous Cube, or a Marty Stu/Mary Sue, or tinker gnomes don’t exist in the setting, or my character should be banned from having the explosives skill because I’ve got a history of shenanigans, or Paladins in the setting gain their power from specific deities and so atheist Paladins are right out, or whatever. But beyond that, trying to encourage creativity is not the point. Making sure people have a good time is the point.

Limitations purely meant to “encourage better roleplay” could kind of imply that you think something is lacking in a person’s roleplay, or that you’re falling into the Stormwind fallacy, or that you don’t trust your players to RP well on their own. But the thing is, “good roleplay” doesn’t actually matter unless it significantly impacts the group’s fun one way or another. “Good roleplay” can even be problematic at times! Somebody might be a world-class RPer but if what they’re RPing, or the results of it on the game, or the time they’re taking to do it, are hurting others’ fun, that’s a problem.

And not everybody even plays RPGs for the same reasons—some people straight-up don’t care about the social pillar and just want to solve puzzles and stab things, and still others want to play a larger-than-life, eacapist archetype instead of a nuanced, well-developed character and that’s perfectly valid. Some people do want to portray a character, but emphatically do not want to act it out—maybe they’re not comfortable doing so and would prefer to narrate actions out from a little more distance, e.g., “I try to come up with a clever ploy to fast-talk the guard into thinking we’re really just the janitors and not a heist team,” rather than going through the specifics of the conversation, and that’s also valid.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-02-14, 06:30 PM
Second, note that in the comment you quoted, I said that "limitations improve creativity" was an excuse for limitations that have no actual reason to be in place -- and then your very first "counter" example, about the Vulcan in a Star Wars game, was of a limitation based on an actual reason, in this case the setting. Don't move the goalposts.

As I said in the part you quoted:

dismissing and condemning the mechanical ones while accepting the others with no problem because mechanical stuff is badwrongfun and flavor stuff is "acting" is misguided

You've arbitrarily decided that a limitation based on the campaign setting is an "actual reason," while arbitrarily deciding that other limitations are an "excuse." If "You can't play a Vulcan because this is a Star Wars campaign and Vulcans don't exist" is a sound limitation, then "You can't play a cleric because this is an undead-heavy campaign and you'd be too powerful at low levels" and "You can't play an emo loner rogue, Dave, because you've done that the last two campaigns and we're sick of it" are also sound limitations. One is flavor-based, one is mechanic-based, and one is playgroup-based, but all are decisions that the GM and/or players feel will make their game better, and all have reasoning behind them.

Importantly, you may not agree with a particular limitation--you might feel that a player should play whatever makes them happy regardless of the group composition, or think that a DM should be able to handle a party of Turn Undead-focused cleric/Favored Enemy: Undead ranger/Smite Evil-focused paladin/necromancer wizard in an undead-heavy campaign just fine, or heck, that the GM should be willing to plop a planet called Vulcan somewhere out in the Unknown Regions and let the player play not-Spock anyway as a member of a hitherto-unknown Near-Human species who happens to call their own star system's government The Federation--but the kinds of limitations, and the ability and prerogative for the GM or player or group to set them, are equally justified.


Here's a good example of a setting-based limitation that a lot of players might object to, riffing off of Floret's questions. Athas is, officially, part of the Spelljammer and Planescape settings: in 2e products, there's quite a few mentions of spelljamming ports, neogi activities, etc. in Darkspace (and an infamous "that comet is actually a spelljammer holding rhulisti in stasis" plotline that...yeah) for the former, and rules for passing through the Gray and the Black, musings on how Athas's "elemental planes" fit into Planescape's elemental/paraelemental/quasielemental planes setup, and so forth for the latter. So a player is perfectly justified in wanting to bring in an explorer from a crashed spelljammer or a wayward planar traveler as a character or use that backstory to justify having certain items/powers/etc. not found in Athas.

Yet a DM wanting to run "a Dark Sun campaign" might want a purer experience, without any material from other planes or crystal spheres intruding on it, and might reasonably say that nothing from other settings or late-3e material that wasn't accounted for in the original setting isn't allowed, even if it's reflavored or justified appropriately. The player might reasonably object: this isn't a case of shoving a Vulcan into Star Wars where it didn't exist and doesn't belong, those things are demonstrably part of the setting! Yet there's a good reason for that limitation (easy access to other kinds of magic, metal gear, etc. breaks the setting or at least noticeably boosts the party), and while the player is technically correct the DM is justified in making that limitation for that campaign, wouldn't you agree?


I have to do no such thing. The fact that prompts and limitations most often coexist, and a thing can be both, does not make the terms identical. It is trivial to come up with limitations that don't prompt.

I honestly can't think of any. Like I said, even setting the most trivial of limitations is inherently going to prompt you to pick something else if you had your heart set on doing whatever that limitation prohibits.

If you really wanted to build a TWF fighter but happened to roll a 14 Dex and can't qualify for the TWF feat, you have to pick another fighting style. An annoying limitation? Sure. A fairly trivial prompt? Certainly. But you came to the table with a certain concept in mind, it didn't work out, and then you had to come up with something else.

Again, you might not agree with this specific limitation or other ones on feats; for instance, you might think that TWF's prereq should be Dex 13 to match Power Attack's Str 13, or that Weapon Finesse shouldn't have a BAB prereq so a 1st-level rogue can pick it up, or that there should be no stat- or BAB-based feat prereqs at all. But that's purely a matter of taste; someone else might find those limitations perfectly reasonable and flavorful, and might instead find e.g. minimum spellcasting ability scores objectionable because then you can't play a foolish and constantly-drunk priest of Dionysus with a low Wis or a dim-witted "wizard" with low Int who doesn't understand magic that well and is empowered by a magical tome, or some other concept that those things shut down. And neither of you is wrong to have those preferences at all, but their existence does prompt you to come up with a different concept.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-14, 06:56 PM
You've arbitrarily decided that a limitation based on the campaign setting is an "actual reason," while arbitrarily deciding that other limitations are an "excuse."


Not really, but you go ahead with that.

Whatever.

Satinavian
2019-02-15, 03:10 AM
I think the point is: how do we define what are "actual reasons" and what aren't? So being part of a pre-established setting is an "actual reason". What if it's part of the GM's custom setting - ie, I say that my D&D setting has no gnomes or halflings or half-breeds, because that's how I like it. Is that an "actual reason", or an arbitrary limit? What if I say "campaign will be all human PCs" because that's the kind of campaign I want to run? Good enough reason? What if I say no players can have a certain set of skills or spells, because they would be unbalancing or outside the theme of the campaign I want to run? That seems like a perfectly good reason, to me.
Setting based reasons are good reasons.

Balance reasons are also good reasons.

But both do not "improve creativity" at all. The first one makes immersion easier, the second one makes the gameplay more palatable. That is why those are good reasons.

But even then one might not like the particular limit. Just because a limit comes from the setting or from balancing doesn't mean it makes the (now more limited) variety of acceptable character more appealing to players. Even with a good reason the players might now dislike the campaign setup or even the campaign world and not actually want to engage it. Take a look at your example

"all human PCs" ? Why ? Because there are only humans in the setting ? That is acceptable. That is also not why i play a fantasy RPG with a ruleset full of goofy things which is utterly lackluster is simulating mundane actions of regular humans. Seems like a bad idea but other elements of the pitch might still save that for me.
Because of "PCs should discover all the fantastic and strange elements of the setting ingame ?" Sounds utterly boring and uninteresting. Would get a firm "No, not interested."

Now, "No humans, those don't exist" or even "only lizardpeople" would be something i could get behind. Because it is rarely done and would appeal to me. But there are many other people who would give it a pass instantly.

Same with balance. Sure, you could play "E6" or "only Tier 4-5" or "only gestalt fullcasters" or similar stuff (or a system that is more balanced than D&D in the first place), but you will exclude people who now suddenly can't realize their preferred concept or don't find something engaging in the remaining options.


Limitations, even limitations for good reasons tend to turn players away. That doesn't make limitations inherently bad. But it does make limitations without any compelling reason inherently bad.

JoeJ
2019-02-15, 03:38 AM
Limitations, even limitations for good reasons tend to turn players away. That doesn't make limitations inherently bad. But it does make limitations without any compelling reason inherently bad.

But every limitation has a compelling reason in the judgment of whomever set that limitation. No GM thinks, "this limitation is totally useless and stupid, but I'm going to impose it anyway."

Floret
2019-02-15, 05:12 AM
I honestly can't think of any. Like I said, even setting the most trivial of limitations is inherently going to prompt you to pick something else if you had your heart set on doing whatever that limitation prohibits.

"No ". Without any additional context, those do not prompt anything. They only bar you from certain choices.


But you came to the table with a certain concept in mind, it didn't work out, and then you had to [I]come up with something else.

Importantly "but I wanted to play [insert race/class/whatever]" is context, and prompts looking for alternatives at least.

But a limitation like that could well be implemented way before character ideas are made, and communicated as such. In that context, I don't gain any input. I just loose an option. Or to put it differently, in this case limitations that don't affect you are still limitations.

Mind you, it's also trivially easy to make limits like that into prompts by contextualising them in the world. But "headsup, no psionics, I don't have the book for them" doesn't prompt anything on its own.

Jay R
2019-02-15, 09:55 AM
1. Different games are different. If you approach a game with any restrictions or limitations as a game that doesn't have them, then your annoyance comes from the fact that you wanted to play a different game.

Playing a D&D game in a setting with no elves is an annoyance if you came to it wanting to play an elf. But that's no different from playing a D&D game and being upset that you can't play a spaceship captain, or getting upset that you can't carry a baseball or cricket bat into a football game.

Play the game you're playing.

2. Limitations cannot improve creativity, for the very simple reason that if somebody is not creative, then taking away the elf option, or any other, won't magically imbue them with creativity.

Creativity and flexibility are useful tools for playing a limitation. [They aren't the only ones.] It therefore follows that more creative or flexible people will be more comfortable playing a character with a game-enforced limitation than people who aren't.

[Yes, really. Person A creates a completely different character for each game, and has played many different races, templates, alignments, classes, feats and skills. Person B always chooses to play a Chaotic Neutral Halfling ranger with two axes, giants as favored enemy, and a cheetah animal companion, with the same feat tree. Who will be most upset at a setting that limits character options?]

There is an old sports maxim that "sports don't build character. They reveal character." Similarly, limitations don't improve creativity; they reveal creativity.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-15, 10:06 AM
Sometimes, limits just do strange things.

Try building a character who is INT-based and Skills/Proficiency focused in D&D 5e.

Evidently in the standard D&D world, charming or sneaky people are more likely to be well-educated than smart people?

Jay R
2019-02-15, 11:17 AM
Sometimes, limits just do strange things.

Try building a character who is INT-based and Skills/Proficiency focused in D&D 5e.

Evidently in the standard D&D world, charming or sneaky people are more likely to be well-educated than smart people?

Not better educated; just more skillful. Even in our world, somebody proficient in rope use, animal handling, and riding is more likely to be a less educated rancher than a college professor. An expert at sneaking, hiding, moving silently and picking locks is more likely to be an uneducated thief than a CEO.

In fact, many highly educated people in our world have very high knowledge in only one or two narrow specialties -- just like every high-INT wizard I've ever created.

Nitpick about phrasing aside, you make a good point. Limitations often just do strange things. This is a limit imposed by the simulation and the game structure. The fact that the game is trying to be somewhat balanced means that wizards won't have as many skills as rogues, whether that is accurate or not.

Lionlore
2019-02-15, 01:47 PM
If you are already being creative with the character and/or have a strong concept some limitations are likely to stifle creativity, others will perhaps encourage it. It is the double-edged sword of making people adapt to the character's limitations, but also of even moderate optimizers needing to sacrifice developing aspects of the character they might otherwise like to. Forcing limitations is likely to inspire people with no clear idea of the character, but also leads to an effective, say, barbarian tending to be a lot like every other effective barbarian. You can always give him or her personality not borne out by the mechanical limitations, but they likely aren't improving the creativity.

One of my current characters, a fame-hungry wizard with an archaeologist background, is rather extroverted and wants really wants people to find him charming and impressive. But he has no actual charisma based skills. He thus has a tendency to have social situations go catastrophically wrong. Had he had the opportunity to pick up a persuasion proficiency this aspect of the character would not have been developed, and I would have to be less creative with him. It also gives me reason to invest in having him pick up such skills later, hence some character development. I had a strong concept here to begin with and the limitations just added more flavor.

But, at the same time, a new character of mine needed to fulfill a role as the only frontline fighter for a small party of newbies. Thus I've felt the need, for the good of the party, to have him be a fairly optimized, and he has ended up a more generic fighter than I would normally make. Skill choices are mostly fulfilling party needs or mechanical needs and 5 out of 6 rolled stats were odd numbers, so bland old regular human became the most powerful racial choice in my estimation. While I can certainly give him a lot of personality I don't have much mechanical support for it in his actual skills and ability scores (other than slightly above average intelligence and charisma). Thankfully the extra fighter ASIs will let him add a couple extra feats or bump more stats for flavor or interesting multiclassing, but that's a ways down the line. None of this is debilitating to creativity, but the limitations are definitely doing more to limit than promote creativity for me on this one.

Lionlore
2019-02-15, 02:12 PM
Sometimes, limits just do strange things.

Try building a character who is INT-based and Skills/Proficiency focused in D&D 5e.

Evidently in the standard D&D world, charming or sneaky people are more likely to be well-educated than smart people?

It is pretty amazing that a Bard who chooses to take her expertise in Arcana can have an intelligence of 10 and still eventually be better at the skill than the party wizard, whose whole character premise centers around intensive study of magic.

JoeJ
2019-02-15, 02:24 PM
It is pretty amazing that a Bard who chooses to take her expertise in Arcana can have an intelligence of 10 and still eventually be better at the skill than the party wizard, whose whole character premise centers around intensive study of magic.

And an academic who devotes their career to the study of fluid dynamics can eventually have a much better understanding of how water flows than a plumber does.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-15, 02:27 PM
Sometimes, limits just do strange things.

Try building a character who is INT-based and Skills/Proficiency focused in D&D 5e.

Evidently in the standard D&D world, charming or sneaky people are more likely to be well-educated than smart people?



Not better educated; just more skillful. Even in our world, somebody proficient in rope use, animal handling, and riding is more likely to be a less educated rancher than a college professor. An expert at sneaking, hiding, moving silently and picking locks is more likely to be an uneducated thief than a CEO.

In fact, many highly educated people in our world have very high knowledge in only one or two narrow specialties -- just like every high-INT wizard I've ever created.

Nitpick about phrasing aside, you make a good point. Limitations often just do strange things. This is a limit imposed by the simulation and the game structure. The fact that the game is trying to be somewhat balanced means that wizards won't have as many skills as rogues, whether that is accurate or not.



It is pretty amazing that a Bard who chooses to take her expertise in Arcana can have an intelligence of 10 and still eventually be better at the skill than the party wizard, whose whole character premise centers around intensive study of magic.


(Not that this is a D&D 5e specific thread, but it does serve as a good example of the strange places that limitations end up taking us.)

The Skills I was thinking of: Arcana, History, Medicine, Religion primarily; Investigation and Nature secondarily.

And then Wizards also get no Tool Proficiencies -- which means by default no Herbalism, Alchemy, etc... things very much associated with those who delve into the eldritch and arcane.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-15, 02:33 PM
And an academic who devotes their career to the study of fluid dynamics can eventually have a much better understanding of how water flows than a plumber does.


So you're comparing the academic magic-using Class from that system to the plumber, and the "no really it's not just a fancy minstrel" Class to the career student of fluid dynamics? I might question this less if the example you were replying to didn't specially reference the Arcana skill...

"Arcana. Your Intelligence (Arcana) check measures your ability to recall lore about spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes."

That's literally the basis of the Wizard's spellcasting and what they spend their career studying.

IDK, maybe it's just a case where the Wizard section should just read "Skills, Arcana and chose one from the following..."


Which does bring us around to a limitation on character creation that actually makes sense and has a real basis underlying it.

Satinavian
2019-02-15, 02:38 PM
But every limitation has a compelling reason in the judgment of whomever set that limitation. No GM thinks, "this limitation is totally useless and stupid, but I'm going to impose it anyway."
This is a thread about improving creativity through limitations. As is just potting limitations into games for the sake of having limitations and expecting a better game.

JoeJ
2019-02-15, 03:31 PM
"Arcana. Your Intelligence (Arcana) check measures your ability to recall lore about spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes."

That's literally the basis of the Wizard's spellcasting and what they spend their career studying.

IDK, maybe it's just a case where the Wizard section should just read "Skills, Arcana and chose one from the following..."

Recalling magical lore =/= casting spells. Wizards know what to do to produce the desired magical effect. Nothing else is necessarily included. A wizard certainly can be an academic, but that is not a requirement of the class. The example wizard in Xanathar's Guide to Everything was an street urchin who taught herself magic after stealing a spellbook.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-15, 03:35 PM
Recalling magical lore =/= casting spells. Wizards know what to do to produce the desired magical effect. Nothing else is necessarily included.


Spare me the Vancian rote nonsense. It was garbage in the editions it was primary in, and now it's just obsolete game lore.

Or start here from the 5e PHB...


"Wizards are supreme magic-users, defined and united as a class by the spells they cast. Drawing on the subtle weave of magic that permeates the cosmos, wizards cast spells of explosive fire, arcing lightning, subtle deception, and brute-force mind control. Their magic conjures monsters from other planes of existence, glimpses the future, or turns slain foes into zombies. Their mightiest spells change one substance into another, call meteors down from the sky, or open portals to other worlds."



"Wild and enigmatic, varied in form and function, the power of magic draws students who seek to master its mysteries. Some aspire to become like the gods, shaping reality itself. Though the casting of a typical spell requires merely the utterance of a few strange words, fleeting gestures, and sometimes a pinch or clump of exotic materials, these surface components barely hint at the expertise attained after years of apprenticeship and countless hours of study."

JoeJ
2019-02-15, 03:45 PM
Spare me the Vancian rote nonsense. It was garbage in the editions it was primary in, and now it's just obsolete game lore.

Or start here from the 5e PHB...


"Wizards are supreme magic-users, defined and united as a class by the spells they cast. Drawing on the subtle weave of magic that permeates the cosmos, wizards cast spells of explosive fire, arcing lightning, subtle deception, and brute-force mind control. Their magic conjures monsters from other planes of existence, glimpses the future, or turns slain foes into zombies. Their mightiest spells change one substance into another, call meteors down from the sky, or open portals to other worlds."



"Wild and enigmatic, varied in form and function, the power of magic draws students who seek to master its mysteries. Some aspire to become like the gods, shaping reality itself. Though the casting of a typical spell requires merely the utterance of a few strange words, fleeting gestures, and sometimes a pinch or clump of exotic materials, these surface components barely hint at the expertise attained after years of apprenticeship and countless hours of study."


Which pretty much supports what I said. Wizards know how to draw on magic to cast spells. They're very good at it. Many of them will also be proficient in recalling arcane lore, but they don't have to be. All they require is the practical knowledge of what sounds, movements, and materials objects they need to use to produce a desired effect.

Appropriately for this thread, you're imposing a limitation that is not in the rules, but helps set the tone for the kind of world you want to run.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-15, 04:04 PM
Which pretty much supports what I said. Wizards know how to draw on magic to cast spells. They're very good at it. Many of them will also be proficient in recalling arcane lore, but they don't have to be. All they require is the practical knowledge of what sounds, movements, and materials objects they need to use to produce a desired effect.

Appropriately for this thread, you're imposing a limitation that is not in the rules, but helps set the tone for the kind of world you want to run.

I'm not imposing anything extra, it's right there in the text in the PHB, already posted:

"Wild and enigmatic, varied in form and function, the power of magic draws students who seek to master its mysteries. Some aspire to become like the gods, shaping reality itself. Though the casting of a typical spell requires merely the utterance of a few strange words, fleeting gestures, and sometimes a pinch or clump of exotic materials, these surface components barely hint at the expertise attained after years of apprenticeship and countless hours of study."

Compare to the text from the Arcana skill, also already posted:

"Arcana. Your Intelligence (Arcana) check measures your ability to recall lore about spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes."


How exactly is a student of magic supposed to master its mysteries if they have no knowledge of those mysteries?

JoeJ
2019-02-15, 04:29 PM
I'm not imposing anything extra, it's right there in the text in the PHB, already posted:

"Wild and enigmatic, varied in form and function, the power of magic draws students who seek to master its mysteries. Some aspire to become like the gods, shaping reality itself. Though the casting of a typical spell requires merely the utterance of a few strange words, fleeting gestures, and sometimes a pinch or clump of exotic materials, these surface components barely hint at the expertise attained after years of apprenticeship and countless hours of study."

Compare to the text from the Arcana skill, also already posted:

"Arcana. Your Intelligence (Arcana) check measures your ability to recall lore about spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes."


How exactly is a student of magic supposed to master its mysteries if they have no knowledge of those mysteries?

Your question is a non-sequitur. Wizards do master the mysteries of casting spells. That's not the same thing as recalling lore about magic. Proficiency in one of those does not require proficiency in the other.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-15, 04:41 PM
Your question is a non-sequitur. Wizards do master the mysteries of casting spells. That's not the same thing as recalling lore about magic. Proficiency in one of those does not require proficiency in the other.

So a wizard* can master the the arcane with no knowledge of the arcane?

Truly, the arcane is mysterious and ineffable. :smallamused:

* the only INT-based, study-based full-caster Class... based entirely on knowledge as opposed to inner power or divine blessings or eldritch pacts...


Given the things that are covered under Arcana, and the things that can go wrong casting certain spells, any Wizard who starts casting spells beyond Cantrips without it is pretty much a fool, and a ticking timebomb. It's like somebody deciding they want to work with explosives but refusing to study any chemistry, physics, or electronics.

Lionlore
2019-02-15, 05:17 PM
Your question is a non-sequitur. Wizards do master the mysteries of casting spells. That's not the same thing as recalling lore about magic. Proficiency in one of those does not require proficiency in the other.

I absolutely think this is a fair point, I just think it's silly that classes that have access to "expertise" can potentially become better at arcana in the final tier of play than a wizard can ever possibly be, and that's without even having an intelligence bonus. If your goal was to build the greatest scholar of arcane lore possible, rogue would be a better class long-term than wizard.

I'm not saying it's a problem, given it's a hypothetical situation requiring high level play, it's just a little goofy.

JoeJ
2019-02-15, 07:33 PM
So a wizard* can master the the arcane with no knowledge of the arcane?

Truly, the arcane is mysterious and ineffable. :smallamused:


How in the Blue H*** did you go from lacking proficiency in recalling lore to having no knowledge, or from knowing how to cast spells to mastering the arcane?

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-15, 08:32 PM
How in the Blue H*** did you go from lacking proficiency in recalling lore to having no knowledge, or from knowing how to cast spells to mastering the arcane?


The Wizard's magic all comes from knowing and understanding things about magic.

Arcana is about exactly the things that the Wizard needs to know and understand to do magic.

Again, with feeling: "Arcana. Your Intelligence (Arcana) check measures your ability to recall lore about spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes."

Or are you suggesting that a Wizard can do magic without knowing anything about spells, eldritch symbols, planes of existence, etc?


A Wizard without Arcana is like a physicist with a first-grade understanding of mathematics, or a demolition "expert" who doesn't know the difference between a detonation and a deflagration, or a surgeon who never studied anatomy.

JoeJ
2019-02-15, 10:19 PM
The Wizard's magic all comes from knowing and understanding things about magic.

Arcana is about exactly the things that the Wizard needs to know and understand to do magic.

That's an assumption that is not supported by the rules.


Again, with feeling: "Arcana. Your Intelligence (Arcana) check measures your ability to recall lore about spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes."

Or are you suggesting that a Wizard can do magic without knowing anything about spells, eldritch symbols, planes of existence, etc?

Not knowing anything? Every character knows something about those topics, so that's not relevant. A wizard needs to know what combinations of sounds, movements, and material components will bring about the desired end. IOW, they need to know the lore of how to cast the spells they have in their books, but not other lore, such as the origins or histories of spells, clever one-off uses of certain spells, rumors of lost spells, etc. A wizard RAW definitely does not need to have a better than average ability to recall lore about magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes. But do you know who does need the ability to recall lore of that type? A bard who has chosen to specialize in telling tales about encounters with magic.


A Wizard without Arcana is like a physicist with a first-grade understanding of mathematics, or a demolition "expert" who doesn't know the difference between a detonation and a deflagration, or a surgeon who never studied anatomy.

Alternatively, a wizard without arcana is like a pilot who never paid much attention to tales of famous aviators and their adventures.


To bring this back on topic, suppose a player in a 5e game wanted to play a wizard with dexterity, charisma, and wisdom all higher than their intelligence (the player is planning to mostly cast buffs and utility spells that don't require an attack roll or a saving throw, and when they do need to make an attack roll they'll use their familiar to get advantage), the urchin background, and proficiencies in deception, insight, investigation, perception, sleight of hand, disguise kit, and thieves' tools. Their backstory is that they taught themselves to cast spells from a stolen spell book. If you were DM, would you allow that character? And if not, do you think that limitation would make the player be more creative?

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-15, 10:50 PM
That's an assumption that is not supported by the rules.


Is that a disagreement about the interpretation of the PHB text I quoted and the connections drawn, or a disagreement over whether fluff matters?




Not knowing anything? Every character knows something about those topics, so that's not relevant. A wizard needs to know what combinations of sounds, movements, and material components will bring about the desired end. IOW, they need to know the lore of how to cast the spells they have in their books,


Sounds like an argument for "rote magic", not the INT-based delver into the arcane being described in the text.




but not other lore, such as the origins or histories of spells, clever one-off uses of certain spells, rumors of lost spells, etc. A wizard RAW definitely does not need to have a better than average ability to recall lore about magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes. But do you know who does need the ability to recall lore of that type? A bard who has chosen to specialize in telling tales about encounters with magic.


So a science fiction writer needs to know more about physics than an aerospace engineer or a cosmologist...




Alternatively, a wizard without arcana is like a pilot who never paid much attention to tales of famous aviators and their adventures.


He's a pilot who doesn't know what happens to aircraft that fly into thunderstorms, or how other pilots have managed to coax aircraft home with otherwise fatal mechanical or electrical failures.

Rather famous poem, song, and animated short on the subject of those who cast spells they don't understand -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sorcerer%27s_Apprentice




To bring this back on topic, suppose a player in a 5e game wanted to play a wizard with dexterity, charisma, and wisdom all higher than their intelligence (the player is planning to mostly cast buffs and utility spells that don't require an attack roll or a saving throw, and when they do need to make an attack roll they'll use their familiar to get advantage), the urchin background, and proficiencies in deception, insight, investigation, perception, sleight of hand, disguise kit, and thieves' tools. Their backstory is that they taught themselves to cast spells from a stolen spell book. If you were DM, would you allow that character? And if not, do you think that limitation would make the player be more creative?


I'd allow such a character, and then use their ignorance as a hook for complications and subplots.

JoeJ
2019-02-16, 06:10 PM
Is that a disagreement about the interpretation of the PHB text I quoted and the connections drawn, or a disagreement over whether fluff matters?

It's a refusal to read into the text something that is not stated. If the intent was for the Arcana skill proficiency to cover the kinds of magical knowledge that wizards need, the text would indicate that.


Sounds like an argument for "rote magic", not the INT-based delver into the arcane being described in the text.

Intelligence-based "rote magic" is a completely reasonable reading of the text. Accuracy of recall is a function of the intelligence ability just as much as the ability to reason is.


So a science fiction writer needs to know more about physics than an aerospace engineer or a cosmologist...

A science fiction writer who specializes in hard SF needs to know more about physics than a fighter pilot. And more about biology than an aerospace engineer or a cosmologist.


He's a pilot who doesn't know what happens to aircraft that fly into thunderstorms, or how other pilots have managed to coax aircraft home with otherwise fatal mechanical or electrical failures.

Nope. He's a pilot who knows and can follow all the established procedures for operating an aircraft in emergencies, but may not remember the one-off things that worked for somebody once.


I'd allow such a character, and then use their ignorance as a hook for complications and subplots.

That's fair, since their street smarts would presumably also provide them with advantages (along with other complications and subplots).

1337 b4k4
2019-02-16, 10:03 PM
So a science fiction writer needs to know more about physics than an aerospace engineer or a cosmologist...

Let's reverse the question: Do you find it unbelievable that a person could have an extensive knowledge of world music, instruments, key artists and composers and still not be as proficient of a musician as Billy Joel?

Or as another example, I write software for a living, and consider myself to be above average. I also have a fairly comprehensive breadth of knowledge on computer software and development as a whole, historical, philosophical etc. There are other developers out there, I work with them, that are heads and shoulders better software programmers than I, but have almost no knowledge of the things outside their particular field of expertise. There are other people out there who have vastly more comprehensive understandings of the lore, historical and philosophical parts of software development but are mediocre software developers (or who may not be developers at all). One is not necessarily dependent on the other, although they do often go hand in hand. And sure, all things being equal a developer who is both proficient in the lore and in the skill is vastly preferred over one merely skilled or merely proficient in lore, but each of those still has their place.

Or a pop culture example, you want to slay vampires and The Master, you want Buffy. You want to know what The Master is planning and what the ancient texts say about his ascension, you want Giles.



On the actual topic of the thread, I think it was said best earlier, limitations don't "improve" creativity per se, but they can absolutely inspire or reveal it. As an example, I started a Traveller game recently, and if you know Traveller you know that means 100% pure random character generation. So I rolled up a character with pretty competent starting stats, sent him off to the Merchant Marines where he blew through his first term with ease and landed that officers slot along the way, picking up some quality skills, and picking up some more in his second term, but in that term not only failing to advance but actually being discharged from the service entirely. So in a game where the "standard" is life hardened old salt sailors taking on the world by its horns and by the seat of their pants, I've got a 26 year old kid still wet behind the ears with a bizarre mish-mash of skills that don't quite mesh (gun combat, medical and navigation), with a 4th officer's commission in the merchant marines. This is not exactly your A1 tier Traveller character, but rules are rules, you roll randomly, you take what you get, and no second careers.

Cleary what I have here is a young buck spacer who saw boarding combat by pirates during his first term of service. That's where he picked up the combat and medical training. But combat isn't like the pulp novels, it's bloody and messy and people you like die. So he turned to drink, not fast enough that he didn't get some advanced learning, the navigation skills hint at him being trained to be a bridge officer, but it eventually got the better of him, ending his career one night when he was discovered drunk at the helm after a near miss with another merchant. That's why he's traveling with this misfit band, that's why he's not still earning his paycheck, and that's why he's got a chip on his shoulder, because like many with a substance problem, he doesn't recognize it for what it is.

This is not the sort of character I would have built on my own. I have a vision for what my ideal Traveller character would look like, and this isn't it. But he's been a lot of fun to play and to map out. Obviously the creativity to bring him to life was in me all along (to use a movie cliche) but that doesn't mean that he wasn't brought about by the very limitations the game imposed. Because he's definitely the sort of character I never would have played in a point buy system.

The limitations didn't improve my creativity, they forced me to apply my creativity in a way that I would not have previously considered it. So in a way, Max is right, the limitations re-directed my creativity from one thing (building the sort of character I wanted to play) to something else (making a character I never would have considered building into an interesting and playable character). That's not bad, or good, it just is. And as long as you're game for having your creative energies challenged, stretched or re-directed, then that is going to be great for you. BUT, just like every time you sit down at the gaming table you don't need to play a morality tale that only ever reinforces positive messages and morality, nor do you need to "open your mind to playing outside your comfort zone" you also don't need to have your creative direction dictated by limitations.

I may not understand Max's absolute disdain for any form of character creation or building that isn't 90%+ within his control, but that doesn't make him wrong, and it doesn't make him less creative than me.

This position also may fly in the face of things I've said before, I may have even said that limitations improve creativity (I don't think I have, but I've been here a while). If I have, I'd like to amend that then, because as I've grown and changed, I think that view is refined to say that limitations may expose creativity in new and emergent ways that you don't always get when you're allowed to do whatever you want rather than being forced to work within the confines of limitations. If it's "more creative", it's only in that for any individual they may find that the limits of their creativity are higher than they previously thought possible.

Satinavian
2019-02-17, 01:21 AM
Or as another example, I write software for a living, and consider myself to be above average. I also have a fairly comprehensive breadth of knowledge on computer software and development as a whole, historical, philosophical etc. There are other developers out there, I work with them, that are heads and shoulders better software programmers than I, but have almost no knowledge of the things outside their particular field of expertise. There are other people out there who have vastly more comprehensive understandings of the lore, historical and philosophical parts of software development but are mediocre software developers (or who may not be developers at all). One is not necessarily dependent on the other, although they do often go hand in hand. And sure, all things being equal a developer who is both proficient in the lore and in the skill is vastly preferred over one merely skilled or merely proficient in lore, but each of those still has their place.
I think a better example would be a developer who does know enough of the syntax of a modern language to use it but does not really know how the OS or the hardware actually work and isn't even aware of the differences between interpreted and compiled languages.
Such a person sure could write code that works. But anything hardware near ? Any optimisation for speed or memory use ? Solving of problems that occur dependend on the system the software is used ? No, he could not do any of that.



Or a pop culture example, you want to slay vampires and The Master, you want Buffy. You want to know what The Master is planning and what the ancient texts say about his ascension, you want Giles.The argument is that Giles is an INT-based character because his power comes from knowledge and studying while Buffy clearly is not because her powers don't come from knowledge and studying. (If not downright keyed to physical stats, it would probably be Charsisma force-of-personality stuff)


I am only halfway agreeing with him on this. The problem is that INT is both knowledge and intelligence and a high intelligent person lacking formal education is very much imaginable. But should this person be a wizard ? No, i don't think so. As long as wizardry is fluffed as something academics do, it would not be useful or convincing to have wizard spellcasting working from your INT stat without academic knowledge. It would be OK for dabblers or multiclassing (using the natural talent and shortcuts to get some easy magic to work without all the basic knowledge) but someone who specializes on wizardry by taking it as main class would be someone who studied magic seriously and would thus have academic knowledge.
The prodigees casting powerful magic that can rival wizards without really knowing what they are doing or why it works are traditionally modelled as sorcerers.
There are classes emphasizing intelligence and not knowledge. Something like the Duellists Canny Defense is certainly not meant to represent academic knowledge. But wizard spellcasting is.

Theoretically you can change and refluff everything to make stuff you really want work but then we wouldn't need to argue about it anyway.

oxybe
2019-02-17, 02:46 AM
I think the extra step of the problem with wizards who don't understand vs a rogue's perfect mastery of arcana is as followed.

let's say you have 2 people who step up to 2 identical high performance race cars.

the first is our wizard who knows nothing about arcana. skill wise he can do any car maneuver he wants but understands nothing about how or why his car works: the buttons, levers, knobs are all foreign to him and he only makes moves he was shown and practiced, but his skill at them is unparalleled. he cannot develop or infer use on his own, only what is practiced through rote training.

the second is our rogue. he fully understands how and why it works and can explain in full detail the laws regarding driving. uou want information about driving? this guy... but he cannot drive. he cant even open a car's door. if let in the ignition won't work when he goes through the motion of inserting and turning the key, and even if someone else does let him in and starts the car the gas pedal, steering wheel and other functions don't repond to anything he does.

Jay R
2019-02-17, 11:11 AM
Cooks have known how to make bread rise for centuries. Fairly recently, biologists discovered the presence of yeast microbes that explain why the process works.

Metal-workers have made excellent swords, hardened and tempered, for centuries before physicists discovered the phases of ferrite, cementite, and austenite that explain how it works.

Movie-makers can't explain why a sequence of still pictures provides the illusion of movement, but they create great movies using it.

The guy who fixes my air conditioner doesn't really understand the chemistry of why expanding gas cools its surroundings, but he sure knows that's what the evaporator coil does, and how to fix it when it stops working.

The ability and knowledge required to make something work is not synonymous with the theoretical knowledge of how it works.

GloatingSwine
2019-02-17, 11:29 AM
A Wizard without Arcana is like a physicist with a first-grade understanding of mathematics, or a demolition "expert" who doesn't know the difference between a detonation and a deflagration, or a surgeon who never studied anatomy.

A Wizard without Arcana is an engineer.

They know what the formulae do and have a pretty good idea when to use each one, but they don't care about how to derive them from first principles because that's not relevant.

Arcana is about knowing the lore of magic. Who came up with what spell, how they generate and transfer energy, and all the other things that are useful if you want to research the theory of magic but don't affect your practical ability to do it.

A wizard can cast a fireball with a 20' blast radius, a wizard with high arcana knows why the fireball has a 20' blast radius.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-02-17, 11:36 AM
A Wizard without Arcana is an engineer.

They know what the formulae do and have a pretty good idea when to use each one, but they don't care about how to derive them from first principles because that's not relevant.

Arcana is about knowing the lore of magic. Who came up with what spell, how they generate and transfer energy, and all the other things that are useful if you want to research the theory of magic but don't affect your practical ability to do it.

A wizard can cast a fireball with a 20' blast radius, a wizard with high arcana knows why the fireball has a 20' blast radius.

And not just the theory of magic--it's about knowing that this particular set of movements/runes/etc is characteristic of a member of that school of magic that existed there during this other period of time. It's less like a physicist not knowing the laws of physics than it is like a physicist not knowing the history and philosophy of science. Which, as a PhD in Physics, I can tell you most practicing scientists are clueless about those things.

Adventuring wizards are not ivory-tower theoreticians. They're practical magical engineers. They use magic to do things. Some might then learn more about the practices and teachings of particular groups, about extra-planar entities, and the like, but (for example) a graduate of the 112th Military College for Magical Artillery is unlikely to have studied these things. Especially as an apprentice (which is what 1st level characters are).

Conversely, nothing in here is specific to casting spells. So a non-caster can be an expert in them. Additionally, for a rogue in particular to gain proficiency (and thus expertise) in Arcana requires them to take it as a background (which means taking the Sage background or customizing their background). As a result...a rogue with Arcana Expertise is someone who has seriously studied academic magic, magic traditions, etc. And deserves to do better than a more practice-focused person.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-17, 11:49 AM
Cooks have known how to make bread rise for centuries. Fairly recently, biologists discovered the presence of yeast microbes that explain why the process works.

Metal-workers have made excellent swords, hardened and tempered, for centuries before physicists discovered the phases of ferrite, cementite, and austenite that explain how it works.

Movie-makers can't explain why a sequence of still pictures provides the illusion of movement, but they create great movies using it.

The guy who fixes my air conditioner doesn't really understand the chemistry of why expanding gas cools its surroundings, but he sure knows that's what the evaporator coil does, and how to fix it when it stops working.

The ability and knowledge required to make something work is not synonymous with the theoretical knowledge of how it works.

Just as an aside there, years ago my father had to get an HVAC certification for his job, and part of the test was on exactly that -- why and how the coolant changing phase absorbed and then released heat, what was going in at the molecular level, etc.

More specific to the tangent at hand... the idea of a magic user who is literally just going through rote steps to create magical effects and doesn't understand why they work, who just knows that "hold this thing, put fingers like this, say these words" makes stuff happen... as noted before, he's a disaster waiting to happen, like someone who's putting a bomb together from a picture, but doesn't even know what the parts do or how.

It's the magic-really-works equivalent of a cargo cult.

GloatingSwine
2019-02-17, 12:18 PM
Just as an aside there, years ago my father had to get an HVAC certification for his job, and part of the test was on exactly that -- why and how the coolant changing phase absorbed and then released heat, what was going in at the molecular level, etc.

More specific to the tangent at hand... the idea of a magic user who is literally just going through rote steps to create magical effects and doesn't understand why they work, who just knows that "hold this thing, put fingers like this, say these words" makes stuff happen... as noted before, he's a disaster waiting to happen, like someone who's putting a bomb together from a picture, but doesn't even know what the parts do or how.

It's the magic-really-works equivalent of a cargo cult.


I want you to consider something:

You have transmitted this message to us using devices which you do not actually understand the functioning of*, but which you know how to operate by making the right motions and/or sounds.




* And that's true no matter your level of specific education, because computer technology has advanced long past the point that no human can possibly understand its complete function. Instead people understand specific aspects of the functions in detail. People who know how software works in detail don't know how hardware works in detail, and people who know how some parts of hardware work in detail don't have the same level of detailed knowledge about other parts or related devices, etc. For any computing task you can imagine, no one single human has a thorough understanding of how it happens at the software, hardware, electrical, and physical levels)

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-17, 12:33 PM
I want you to consider something:

You have transmitted this message to us using devices which you do not actually understand the functioning of*, but which you know how to operate by making the right motions and/or sounds.


And that's where our society dies, when people believe this about technology.

Whatever.

GloatingSwine
2019-02-17, 12:39 PM
And that's where our society dies, when people believe this about technology.

Whatever.

I notice you don't have a counterargument where you explain in detail everything from the electromechanical function of your keyboard through the whole software and hardware processes of operating system and browser function, data encoding and transmission at the physical level, and the reverse process to allow me to see the message.

Because you know I'm right.

No single person could fully describe the end to end process we are using to communicate. And yet both of us can do it.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-17, 01:18 PM
I notice you don't have a counterargument where you explain in detail everything from the electromechanical function of your keyboard through the whole software and hardware processes of operating system and browser function, data encoding and transmission at the physical level, and the reverse process to allow me to see the message.

Because you know I'm right.

No single person could fully describe the end to end process we are using to communicate. And yet both of us can do it.

It's a tangent to a tangent, and one so laden with social and cultural and political issues that I'm not motivated to take the risk.

Think whatever you like, you're already halfway to the cargo cult.

oxybe
2019-02-17, 04:36 PM
yes you can cook without being a chemist, but if you're a professional chef making a spicy curry i would expect you to understand the properties of the stuff you're using, not just the kitchen tools, but how and why a given ingredient is used.

i can give a young cousin some jiffy pop and expect him to microwave it without blowing up the house, but this is a FAR less complex task then the curry and the result of failure is... bad popcorn i guess?

and as a tech support guy, who do you think i get more calls from on the most idiotic, pants on head stupid reasons?

people who use stuff without knowing how it actually works. every so often we get actual techinal calls and i need to guide someone into computer settings, however I'm sorry but if your aunt is buggering up her cable pressing random remote buttons because she doesn't understand that "no signal" means the tv is not getting a signal amd feels the need to chastise me with tears in her eyes because she can't be arsed to learn how her stuff works and she's missing the british bakeoff...

now place that same woman in a position where fireball, polymorph self and stinking cloud are actual things. mages would have such a high "oops i guess i accidentally'd myself with this nuke as i didn't wiggle my fingers right because rote use without understanding will eventually lead to a self destruct". even if you dont understand the full science, knowing that if you wiggle your fingers like this instead of like that will cause lightning bolts over turning your pants into crocodiles is something that should be drilled into any respective mage, there has to be some body of knowledge that professional mages use or have access to to survive long enough to cast thise fireballs instead of going "teehee :smallredface:" when they eventually burn down their Waterdeep flat with a burning hands misfire.

Because I'm sorry but real life has proven that rote use of harmless technology can cause grown adults to fall down in tears because their only friend is the TV set and it's "broken" state is one they could've solved with very little study... how the heck is flamethrower fingers not the no.1 cause of dumb wizards winning darwin awards?

GloatingSwine
2019-02-17, 05:11 PM
It's a tangent to a tangent, and one so laden with social and cultural and political issues that I'm not motivated to take the risk.

Think whatever you like, you're already halfway to the cargo cult.

You don't even understand what a cargo cult is. (Hint: It's doing the superficial parts of a thing because you don't realise they're not the functional part and getting no result because of it).

There's no social and cultural issues here. Modern technology, especially computers, are functionally magic in the Clarkean sense because they have progressed past the point where a single individual can understand how all of any of one of them works.

No matter how much you know, there are always going to be black boxes where you know what inputs get the outputs you want but you don't know what happens in the box.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-17, 06:32 PM
You don't even understand what a cargo cult is. (Hint: It's doing the superficial parts of a thing because you don't realise they're not the functional part and getting no result because of it).

Yeah, and like I said, if you believe what you posted in this thread, you're halfway there yourself.

JoeJ
2019-02-17, 06:54 PM
More specific to the tangent at hand... the idea of a magic user who is literally just going through rote steps to create magical effects and doesn't understand why they work, who just knows that "hold this thing, put fingers like this, say these words" makes stuff happen... as noted before, he's a disaster waiting to happen, like someone who's putting a bomb together from a picture, but doesn't even know what the parts do or how.

It's the magic-really-works equivalent of a cargo cult.

So? All that matters is that it works.

I get that a lot of people like the idea of wizards as scientists experimenting with dangerous forces that only they understand, but that's not how magic works. Being a wizard does not require a high intelligence. Getting past another creature's defenses, either with an attack roll or a saving throw DC, uses intelligence, but simply getting the spell to go off safely and reliably does not. A character with an intelligence of 3 can do it. There's no skill roll to cast a spell. If you know the spell you can reliably cast it. Failure only occurs in extraordinary circumstances, such as attempting to cast a spell inside an Antimagic Field or stupidly casting the spell at a target it can not affect. And on those rare cases where it does occur, the failure is not dangerous; the worst that can happen is that the spell slot is wasted. Some sorcerers can accidentally trigger a Wild Magic burst, but wizards can't. There's no bomb. No disaster waiting to happen, because magic is not dangerous in that way.

There's no way to tell from the rules exactly what occult knowledge is required to cast spells, but we do know that whatever that knowledge is, it's different from the knowledge covered by proficiency in Arcana. Wizards do not need proficiency in Arcana, and having that proficiency does not make it easier for them to cast spells. Nor does gaining proficiency in Arcana grant the ability to cast spells to a character who would not otherwise have it. The two are simply not related.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-17, 07:03 PM
So? All that matters is that it works.

I get that a lot of people like the idea of wizards as scientists experimenting with dangerous forces that only they understand, but that's not how magic works. Being a wizard does not require a high intelligence. Getting past another creature's defenses, either with an attack roll or a saving throw DC, uses intelligence, but simply getting the spell to go off safely and reliably does not. A character with an intelligence of 3 can do it. There's no skill roll to cast a spell. If you know the spell you can reliably cast it. Failure only occurs in extraordinary circumstances, such as attempting to cast a spell inside an Antimagic Field or stupidly casting the spell at a target it can not affect. And on those rare cases where it does occur, the failure is not dangerous; the worst that can happen is that the spell slot is wasted. Some sorcerers can accidentally trigger a Wild Magic burst, but wizards can't. There's no bomb. No disaster waiting to happen, because magic is not dangerous in that way.

There's no way to tell from the rules exactly what occult knowledge is required to cast spells, but we do know that whatever that knowledge is, it's different from the knowledge covered by proficiency in Arcana. Wizards do not need proficiency in Arcana, and having that proficiency does not make it easier for them to cast spells. Nor does gaining proficiency in Arcana grant the ability to cast spells to a character who would not otherwise have it. The two are simply not related.

You're confusing the map for the territory.

JoeJ
2019-02-17, 07:22 PM
You're confusing the map for the territory.

No I'm not. I'm simply not assuming the devs were too incompetent to create the game they wanted to create.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-17, 07:37 PM
No I'm not. I'm simply not assuming the devs were too incompetent to create the game they wanted to create.

The the rules fail to reflect the setting as described, then the rules are faulty.

JoeJ
2019-02-17, 07:46 PM
The the rules fail to reflect the setting as described, then the rules are faulty.

Or the description is. Fortunately, in this case they do not fail to reflect the setting as described, so we don't need to decide between those two options.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-17, 08:10 PM
Or the description is. Fortunately, in this case they do not fail to reflect the setting as described, so we don't need to decide between those two options.

Wizards who cast through stupid rote, and have no idea what they're actually doing or how any of it works, don't reflect the description in the PHB I have. The copy I have describes spellcasters who master strange forces through understanding, study, practice, and analysis -- not idiots wiggling their fingers and making noises they don't comprehend because it happens to make fire.

JoeJ
2019-02-17, 08:20 PM
Wizards who cast through stupid rote, and have no idea what they're actually doing or how any of it works, don't reflect the description in the PHB I have. The copy I have describes spellcasters who master strange forces through understanding, study, practice, and analysis -- not idiots wiggling their fingers and making noises they don't comprehend because it happens to make fire.

What page are you seeing that on? Especially the analysis and understanding part, because study and practice are the basis of "stupid rote." I see on p. 113 that some wizards are lecturers and sages, but only some.

1337 b4k4
2019-02-17, 10:00 PM
I have to agree with Max, D&D wizards as McDonalds assembly line workers is not in congruence with either how D&D generally portrays wizards or how it portrays magic and magic learning. Wizards are skilled practitioners of their arts, they know the theory they need to know to exercise their skills and assuming they were well taught or studied, they should have at least some degree of comprehension beyond "Left foot in, left foot out, left foot in, shake it all about".

But I still think Max, that you are confusing a skilled practitioner of an art with an expert on lore and the history of that art. Again, it is absolutely believable to me that you can have a master musician and all the intelligence and skill that exists behind that, who is also not nearly as learned in the history of music and of music around the world as a non (or lay) musician.

As I said before, I don't expect a rock star developer to necessarily be able to tell me the history of the PDP-11 or to be able to necessarily pick out the various types of Commodore computers from the 80's. Heck, I wouldn't even necessarily expect an expert developer to know what a 6502 processor is because it's neither relevant to most of what I need a developer for today, nor necessary to know in order to be a good developer today.

Even the chef example someone else had is off, I expect my chef to have a working knowledge of ingredients, why and how they're used and what results different cooking methods give. I expect them to be able to create new things. That's more than rote cooking, but at the same time that they are a master at creating pasta does not imply to me that they know the tale of Strega Nona.

The arcana skill is about lore. It's about trivia, or history. Details long forgotten to time and dusty tomes. I expect a wizard to know these things when and how they relate to their particular skill sets. I don't expect them to be a generalist about, unless they've taken that arcana skill.

JoeJ
2019-02-17, 10:12 PM
I have to agree with Max, D&D wizards as McDonalds assembly line workers is not in congruence with either how D&D generally portrays wizards or how it portrays magic and magic learning. Wizards are skilled practitioners of their arts, they know the theory they need to know to exercise their skills and assuming they were well taught or studied, they should have at least some degree of comprehension beyond "Left foot in, left foot out, left foot in, shake it all about".

My example was a pilot, not a fast food worker. Somebody who knows in great detail how to operate a very complex machine, but would not necessarily be able to design that machine, nor yet recite stories of famous aviators and their exploits.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-02-17, 10:53 PM
So, I think that Max is right when he says wizards are skilled practitioners who know the theory behind their magic, and that everyone saying Arcana is about lore rather than theoretical/practical knowledge is also right. See, in 3e, there are two relevant skills for "knowing stuff about magic."

First, you have Knowledge, which represents "a study of some body of lore, possibly an academic or even scientific discipline," which specifically in the case of Knowledge (Arcana) covers "ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols, cryptic phrases, constructs, dragons, [and] magical beasts." In 5e, the Arcana skill lets you "recall lore about spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes," which sounds a lot like Knowledge (Arcana), which makes sense since the descriptions of History, Nature, and Religion match up to those of the corresponding 3e Knowledge subskills too.

Second, you have Spellcraft, which lets you identify magical auras and effects, decipher and understand magical writing, identify certain magical items, and so forth. Wizards use Spellcraft for all of their class-relevant magical knowledge: all the rules for creating/researching/scribing/preparing/etc. arcane spells fall under Spellcraft, Spellcraft is used to identify spells in cast and written form, and specialist wizards get a +2 to Spellcraft checks, not Kn: Arcana checks, regarding their specialty school. Kn: Arcana and Spellcraft have synergy bonuses, 'cause knowing lore helps with the practical bits and vice versa, but a wizard can do wizardy things just fine with 0 ranks in Kn: Arcana as long as he keeps Spellcraft maxed out.

So what 5e skill maps to Spellcraft? There isn't one!

Several uses of Spellcraft no longer require a check in 5e: deciphering spellbooks and scrolls and identifying auras with detect magic don't require any sort of check, even a plain Int check, and I can't find any specific rule for identifying spells as they're cast; you could certainly extrapolate "recall lore about spells" to "identify spells as they're cast" but (A) the lore vs. theory distinction people have been pointing out in this thread is a good one and (B) if you can automatically identify magical auras and spell scrolls on sight with no magical training whatsoever, well, maybe spells are the same way now. Other uses of Spellcraft don't exist anymore: there's no reference to preparing spells from another wizard's spellbook, for instance, and there are guidelines for the DM creating new spells but no mention of how a wizard can research them himself.

So basically, 5e appears to assume that all of the knowledge and capabilities of Spellcraft (the lesser capabilities allowed to wizards in 5e, at least) is tied up in having spellcasting levels--far from forcing wizards to be rote spell memorizers who know nothing of theory, all wizards effectively have automatic ranks in Spellcraft. The game instead doesn't provide any mechanism for non-spellcasters to access that same knowledge without wizard levels, access to detect magic, or similar, and the rogue's Expertise won't help in that area in the slightest.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-17, 10:58 PM
So, I think that Max is right when he says wizards are skilled practitioners who know the theory behind their magic, and that everyone saying Arcana is about lore rather than theoretical/practical knowledge is also right. See, in 3e, there are two relevant skills for "knowing stuff about magic."

First, you have Knowledge, which represents "a study of some body of lore, possibly an academic or even scientific discipline," which specifically in the case of Knowledge (Arcana) covers "ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols, cryptic phrases, constructs, dragons, [and] magical beasts." In 5e, the Arcana skill lets you "recall lore about spells, magic items, eldritch symbols, magical traditions, the planes of existence, and the inhabitants of those planes," which sounds a lot like Knowledge (Arcana), which makes sense since the descriptions of History, Nature, and Religion match up to those of the corresponding 3e Knowledge subskills too.

Second, you have Spellcraft, which lets you identify magical auras and effects, decipher and understand magical writing, identify certain magical items, and so forth. Wizards use Spellcraft for all of their class-relevant magical knowledge: all the rules for creating/researching/scribing/preparing/etc. arcane spells fall under Spellcraft, Spellcraft is used to identify spells in cast and written form, and specialist wizards get a +2 to Spellcraft checks, not Kn: Arcana checks, regarding their specialty school. Kn: Arcana and Spellcraft have synergy bonuses, 'cause knowing lore helps with the practical bits and vice versa, but a wizard can do wizardy things just fine with 0 ranks in Kn: Arcana as long as he keeps Spellcraft maxed out.

So what 5e skill maps to Spellcraft? There isn't one!

Several uses of Spellcraft no longer require a check in 5e: deciphering spellbooks and scrolls and identifying auras with detect magic don't require any sort of check, even a plain Int check, and I can't find any specific rule for identifying spells as they're cast; you could certainly extrapolate "recall lore about spells" to "identify spells as they're cast" but (A) the lore vs. theory distinction people have been pointing out in this thread is a good one and (B) if you can automatically identify magical auras and spell scrolls on sight with no magical training whatsoever, well, maybe spells are the same way now. Other uses of Spellcraft don't exist anymore: there's no reference to preparing spells from another wizard's spellbook, for instance, and there are guidelines for the DM creating new spells but no mention of how a wizard can research them himself.

So basically, 5e appears to assume that all of the knowledge and capabilities of Spellcraft (the lesser capabilities allowed to wizards in 5e, at least) is tied up in having spellcasting levels--far from forcing wizards to be rote spell memorizers who know nothing of theory, all wizards effectively have automatic ranks in Spellcraft. The game instead doesn't provide any mechanism for non-spellcasters to access that same knowledge without wizard levels, access to detect magic, or similar, and the rogue's Expertise won't help in that area in the slightest.


Given that there's no Spellcraft in 5e, and the description of Arcana, I read it as the two skills having been folded into one.

1337 b4k4
2019-02-17, 10:59 PM
My example was a pilot, not a fast food worker. Somebody who knows in great detail how to operate a very complex machine, but would not necessarily be able to design that machine, nor yet recite stories of famous aviators and their exploits.

It might be the word "rote" that's causing the consternation then, because I can generally see a pilot falling under "skilled trade" vs "well versed in lore" sort of distinction. But to me, the word "rote" conjures up the McDonalds fast food worker, or learning simple mechanical task performed in a specific series to get a specific result. It doesn't really imply any sort of skill, or improvisational ability to work when things go wrong. I expect my pilot to be able to handle things going very very wrong and way outside the realm of simple mechanical repetition of flying tasks.

Knaight
2019-02-18, 01:05 AM
It might be the word "rote" that's causing the consternation then, because I can generally see a pilot falling under "skilled trade" vs "well versed in lore" sort of distinction. But to me, the word "rote" conjures up the McDonalds fast food worker, or learning simple mechanical task performed in a specific series to get a specific result. It doesn't really imply any sort of skill, or improvisational ability to work when things go wrong. I expect my pilot to be able to handle things going very very wrong and way outside the realm of simple mechanical repetition of flying tasks.

Sure. That said, how well do you expect your pilot to be able to handle the math of complex fluid dynamics? How well do you expect them to understand the chemistry and heat transfer of a jet engine? How well do you expect them to understand the molecular structures of the various materials used to make the plane?

How things work deep down and how to use things are two separate skill sets, and while they can overlap they don't necessarily do so. Which is why a quantum chemist is in a much better position than a computer programmer to explain how a semiconductor actually works, but the programmer can do a whole lot more with the computer using that technology.

For wizards though better examples apply. Lots of scientific fields saw huge amounts of impressive experimentation long before foundational understandings were found. We didn't have a decent model of the atom until the 1920s, yet we had chemists doing experiments long before that, coming up with a wide variety of important reactions and able to predict unknown ones to at least some extent.
Engineering and science are different technical fields that tend to see this same divide writ large, and engineers are absolutely learned specialists who tinker and experiment.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-02-18, 07:06 AM
For wizards though better examples apply. Lots of scientific fields saw huge amounts of impressive experimentation long before foundational understandings were found. We didn't have a decent model of the atom until the 1920s, yet we had chemists doing experiments long before that, coming up with a wide variety of important reactions and able to predict unknown ones to at least some extent.
Engineering and science are different technical fields that tend to see this same divide writ large, and engineers are absolutely learned specialists who tinker and experiment.

Right. The best model for "D&D magical science" isn't modern science, it's pre-modern/scientific revolution-era (at latest) alchemy and chemistry. Where you're beginning to understand the importance of experimental design and repeatability and starting to shed the mysticism that cloaked it before. But magic (unlike chemistry) inherently has lots of mysticism and symbolism.

You're inherently working from poorly-understood fundamentals. Experimentation along the lines of "well, if I wave my hands clockwise at step #3, nothing happens. If I wave them counter-clockwise at step #3, the results depend on exactly how fast I do it" is what's going on. You can build some predictive models, but you're not working from first principles, you're working from empirical rules built up over centuries.

And the engineering and science are very different fields (speaking as a physicist with engineering buddies). And if I had to ask one of the two of them to actually get something done--I'd ask the engineer. His methods rely on empirical rules and tables more than on first-principles calculations, sure. But they're actually applicable to real-world, macro-scale things (unlike my theoretical computational matters, which cap out at about 5 atoms and a few hundred basis functions, on a tiny range of energies).

Raimun
2019-02-18, 09:47 AM
Do limitations improve creativity? I would say: No. Vice versa.

Let's say someone has a character concept for a campaign that is about to start. He has a detailed backstory and a personal history and it has two major elements that relate to how the character has spent most of his time. The elements are that he's (1) a barrister(ie. a lawyer) who has trained himself to be (2) an unarmed warrior for his masked vigilante work.

The player decided on this kind of character because he felt that the character would be right at home in the setting. The game played is a fantasy setting where most of the story and action takes place in urban territories. Being an registered barrister would surely be useful and being a masked vigilante would allow him to fight the bad guys without ruining his reputation. Specializing in unarmed combat means that there's no need to smuggle weapons because he can fight just as well as an armed warrior.

Then he reads the rules of the game for the first time:

To realize this concept, he picks Warrior because he hears it's the only class that can specialize in unarmed fighting. Now, he realizes that the rules for classes have rather strict limitations. For example, a Warrior has no way to be a barrister. Not only that, he finds out that there is no way to get any stealth-related skills such as sneaking, disguise or even bluff, all of them being rather handy for a masked vigilante.

Then he takes a look at the Thief-class. Turns out that while Thieves can sneak, disguise and bluff, there's no way a Thief could take on and defeat any enemies face to face like he envisioned because all their combat abilities revolve around backstabbing and throat slitting. They can only fight with shortbows, light crossbows, daggers and saps and their unarmed fighting skills are poor. And they can't be barristers either.

Neither class can never learn the skills they lack and there is no multiclassing, so the player just decides to play a "standard issue" Warrior or Thief and abandons his original creative idea. Maybe he could make a masked Thief who slits the throats of the bad guys but it wouldn't be the same as his original idea of a brawling "white collar" vigilante. Or he could play a Warrior who merely claims to be a barrister and who can never sneak up on the bad guys or avoid the authorities that try to stop his vigilante work but he thinks it would be too silly.

In a game with more options and less limits, it's easier to realize creative character concepts. There are many good games that do just this.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-18, 09:53 AM
Sure. That said, how well do you expect your pilot to be able to handle the math of complex fluid dynamics? How well do you expect them to understand the chemistry and heat transfer of a jet engine? How well do you expect them to understand the molecular structures of the various materials used to make the plane?

How things work deep down and how to use things are two separate skill sets, and while they can overlap they don't necessarily do so. Which is why a quantum chemist is in a much better position than a computer programmer to explain how a semiconductor actually works, but the programmer can do a whole lot more with the computer using that technology.


The Aviation Flight Science (ie, "pilot school") degree at the university here where I live has physics and engineering courses as part of the Bachelors' curriculum, for what it's worth. Evidently they they pilots need to understand at least the basics of flight and how aircraft actually function.




For wizards though better examples apply. Lots of scientific fields saw huge amounts of impressive experimentation long before foundational understandings were found. We didn't have a decent model of the atom until the 1920s, yet we had chemists doing experiments long before that, coming up with a wide variety of important reactions and able to predict unknown ones to at least some extent.

Engineering and science are different technical fields that tend to see this same divide writ large, and engineers are absolutely learned specialists who tinker and experiment.


I was thinking last night while trying to fall asleep that in a lot of fantasy settings, where the study of magic is secretive and guarded and often jealous, and magical knowledge is not academically codified and standardized, most Wizards are more like the early aviation pioneers than they are like a 2019 pilot -- people who are trying to understand how flight works as much as they are trying to go about flying.

1337 b4k4
2019-02-18, 11:06 AM
Sure. That said, how well do you expect your pilot to be able to handle the math of complex fluid dynamics? How well do you expect them to understand the chemistry and heat transfer of a jet engine? How well do you expect them to understand the molecular structures of the various materials used to make the plane?

I don't. As I said, I recognize a difference between a skilled practitioner of an art and a person versed in the theory or lore of said art. It was the description of D&D wizards as rote magic users that I was taking issue with, because rote to me implies a whole lot less understanding than I think is warranted.


The Aviation Flight Science (ie, "pilot school") degree at the university here where I live has physics and engineering courses as part of the Bachelors' curriculum, for what it's worth. Evidently they they pilots need to understand at least the basics of flight and how aircraft actually function.

So two things, one I don't think anyone is seriously arguing wizards have no knowledge of some of the fundamentals of their arts. No one here seems to be (despite the prior usage of the word "rote") arguing that wizards are just paint by numbers magicians in D&D.

That said, I think you're vastly overestimating the degree of knowledge such a course would likely impart. My own computer science degree required a physics course too, but none of it was applicable to being a software developer (save for if I went into designing a physics engine, and even then it was physics 101 and 201, effectively high school physics with calculus). Certainly it wouldn't be enough to call a graduate in my computer science curriculum someone versed in the lore of physics. Even if the courses you're referring to were more "physics for pilots" type courses, I wouldn't expect someone at the end to be able to discuss or even know the various competing views surrounding string theory or to even be able to list the 10 most respected physicists world wide. That's the sort of knowledge that "Aracana" seems to be talking about when I read the description.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-02-18, 01:21 PM
Even if the courses you're referring to were more "physics for pilots" type courses, I wouldn't expect someone at the end to be able to discuss or even know the various competing views surrounding string theory or to even be able to list the 10 most respected physicists world wide. That's the sort of knowledge that "Aracana" seems to be talking about when I read the description.

Note that those are things that I, with a PhD in Physics (Computational Quantum Chemistry, 2011) and as a practicing physics teacher would not be able to do reliably under pressure.

Which is another part of it. Skill proficiencies (and Ability checks more generally) in 5e measure what you can do under extreme pressure, in the face of consequences for failure. If you have all the time you need (ie about 10 minutes), anyone can make a DC 20 check automatically as long as they're not rocking a negative total modifier. You only roll for things that have consequences other than just wasted time (unless time is critical).

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-18, 01:45 PM
Note that those are things that I, with a PhD in Physics (Computational Quantum Chemistry, 2011) and as a practicing physics teacher would not be able to do reliably under pressure.

Which is another part of it. Skill proficiencies (and Ability checks more generally) in 5e measure what you can do under extreme pressure, in the face of consequences for failure. If you have all the time you need (ie about 10 minutes), anyone can make a DC 20 check automatically as long as they're not rocking a negative total modifier. You only roll for things that have consequences other than just wasted time (unless time is critical).

So... if someone has no investment in a Skill, and a base score in the normally-associated Ability... they can still pass it automatically given a little time and no negative modifiers? :smallconfused:

PhoenixPhyre
2019-02-18, 02:05 PM
So... if someone has no investment in a Skill, and a base score in the normally-associated Ability... they can still pass it automatically given a little time and no negative modifiers? :smallconfused:

Right. It takes 10x as long, but anything that's possible and can be retried without penalty can be automatically succeeded at. Because remember, Ability checks are only for those things where there are consequences for failure (and so can't be simply retried until they succeed). Now if the DC would normally be 25 or 30, they'd need either a maxed ability score or both that and high-level proficiency to automatically succeed.

That means that things the character shouldn't be able to know/figure out (the secret password lost to time, for example) are DC: No. No check, just fail. But anything in the normal range isn't a problem if you have time and a positive modifier.

1337 b4k4
2019-02-18, 02:07 PM
So... if someone has no investment in a Skill, and a base score in the normally-associated Ability... they can still pass it automatically given a little time and no negative modifiers? :smallconfused:

With resources, I don’t think it’s unreasonable. Not to drag this too far into the future but a lay person today with access to an encyclopedia or a library and sufficient time could answer such questions (respected physicists, competing views on strong theory etc) they may not have comprehension of the associated issues and certainly wouldnt be able to put it into practice, but it would be doable.

To me, the difference between having “arcana” and not is whether or not while you’re standing in the mummy’s tomb you know what the legends say about taking the mummy’s treasures vs having to go back to town and do research and possibly seek other answers and then haul your party back to the tomb to act on those answers.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-18, 02:10 PM
Right. It takes 10x as long, but anything that's possible and can be retried without penalty can be automatically succeeded at. Because remember, Ability checks are only for those things where there are consequences for failure. Now if the DC would normally be 25 or 30, they'd need either a maxed ability score or both that and high-level proficiency to automatically succeed.


On one hand, it puts a different perspective on whether Wizards need Arcana.

On the other hand... it makes the whole idea of a scholarly character seem less distinct or viable, if anyone can succeed at a Skill check on Arcana, or History, or whatever, given a few minutes to think about it.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-02-18, 02:19 PM
On one hand, it puts a different perspective on whether Wizards need Arcana.

On the other hand... it makes the whole idea of a scholarly character seem less distinct or viable, if anyone can succeed at a Skill check on Arcana, or History, or whatever, given a few minutes to think about it.

Remember, there are no Skill checks. There are only Ability checks to which a proficiency (one of many, in practice) might be added. The skills overlap, on purpose. And most of the important checks are under pressure (and so can't be auto-succeeded). If you need to know right now what that ritual is, you need a good Intelligence (Arcana) result. If you need to know right now what the proper form of address is for that nobleman (so he doesn't pull a Red Queen on you), you need a good Intelligence (History) result. If you need to know what the proper ritual is to pass this sentinel (who will sound the alarm if you do it wrong), you need a good Intelligence (Religion) result. Etc.

Having a scholarly character is nice because they have a wide range of ways to approach a problem when it matters. You can get different information out of Arcana than out of Nature even for the same question.

A basic principle of 5e is that it's features (class or race or feats) that make your character special, not base numbers. So being an "expert" in something usually means either
a) having 2 levels of bard
b) having 1 level of rogue
c) having the Paragon feat.

And to be able to do adventuring-related Ability-check things best, you want to be a level 11+ rogue for reliable talent.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-18, 02:35 PM
Remember, there are no Skill checks. There are only Ability checks to which a proficiency (one of many, in practice) might be added. The skills overlap, on purpose. And most of the important checks are under pressure (and so can't be auto-succeeded). If you need to know right now what that ritual is, you need a good Intelligence (Arcana) result. If you need to know right now what the proper form of address is for that nobleman (so he doesn't pull a Red Queen on you), you need a good Intelligence (History) result. If you need to know what the proper ritual is to pass this sentinel (who will sound the alarm if you do it wrong), you need a good Intelligence (Religion) result. Etc.

Having a scholarly character is nice because they have a wide range of ways to approach a problem when it matters. You can get different information out of Arcana than out of Nature even for the same question.

A basic principle of 5e is that it's features (class or race or feats) that make your character special, not base numbers. So being an "expert" in something usually means either
a) having 2 levels of bard
b) having 1 level of rogue
c) having the Paragon feat.

And to be able to do adventuring-related Ability-check things best, you want to be a level 11+ rogue for reliable talent.


That's reflective of 5e's somewhat laser focus on Adventuring, I suppose.

(Calling them "skill checks" seems like useful shorthand for "Ability checks to which a Skill will apply if a character is proficient", but I can see where it might be a source of confusion for some players.)

Cazero
2019-02-18, 02:43 PM
(Calling them "skill checks" seems like useful shorthand for "Ability checks to which a Skill will apply if a character is proficient", but I can see where it might be a source of confusion for some players.)
(Not really. Sure, it's shorter, but it also breeds the mentality of 3e skill checks, where there is no skill overlap, every skill is married to an ability score, and trying stuff without the skill might as well be impossible.)

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-18, 02:50 PM
(Not really. Sure, it's shorter, but it also breeds the mentality of 3e skill checks, where there is no skill overlap, every skill is married to an ability score, and trying stuff without the skill might as well be impossible.)

(Thus "but I can see where it might be a source of confusion for some players".)

PhoenixPhyre
2019-02-18, 02:53 PM
That's reflective of 5e's somewhat laser focus on Adventuring, I suppose.

(Calling them "skill checks" seems like useful shorthand for "Ability checks to which a Skill will apply if a character is proficient", but I can see where it might be a source of confusion for some players.)

The important distinction is that Abilities are primary, skills are secondary. Having proficiency is always a bonus. The only core case of it being a requirement is for Thieves Tools (and standard locks, not necessarily all locks). This is a huge distinction from 3e, where skills were primary and abilities were only a (relatively) small part and many tasks were locked behind skill point investment barriers. For example, riding a horse in combat. In 5e, anyone can do it. At most you might need to make a Wisdom (Animal Handling) check under certain circumstances. Or climbing. In 3e you had to have points to do it well--5e anyone can climb most surfaces, just at half speed. Thief rogues get a feature to do it at full speed. Spells can get around the normally impossible to climb (slick/no hand-holds/upside down) surfaces.

Things outside of adventuring are to be handled as the fiction demands. So that baker? He doesn't need a high level and ranks in Profession (Baker) to do his job. He just does it.

It's a reflection of the fact that 5e does not attempt to model the whole fictional world as such, merely an interface for player-world interactions. It's a translation layer for actions taken by PCs or involving PCs. A way of resolving uncertainty. If there's no uncertainty, there's no mechanics. It just happens. Too many people forget this quite a lot of the time.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-02-18, 03:15 PM
(Not really. Sure, it's shorter, but it also breeds the mentality of 3e skill checks, where there is no skill overlap, every skill is married to an ability score, and trying stuff without the skill might as well be impossible.)

That's still the case in 5e, you know. The skills don't lend themselves to any overlap any more than 3e skills do (they're used in the same way as 3e skills in adventures and examples, with just one skill specified, and the descriptions are basically the same as 3e skills), using an alternate ability for a given skill is a variant rule (which existed in 3e too, by the way), and there are DC ranges for every skill at which you need to have proficiency to have any reasonable chance of success even if you have a +5 stat modifier.


The important distinction is that Abilities are primary, skills are secondary. Having proficiency is always a bonus. The only core case of it being a requirement is for Thieves Tools (and standard locks, not necessarily all locks). This is a huge distinction from 3e, where skills were primary and abilities were only a (relatively) small part and many tasks were locked behind skill point investment barriers. For example, riding a horse in combat. In 5e, anyone can do it. At most you might need to make a Wisdom (Animal Handling) check under certain circumstances. Or climbing. In 3e you had to have points to do it well--5e anyone can climb most surfaces, just at half speed. Thief rogues get a feature to do it at full speed. Spells can get around the normally impossible to climb (slick/no hand-holds/upside down) surfaces.

5e says you can automatically control a mount and only need to make an Animal Handling check when attempting a "risky maneuver;" 3e says all the basic Ride tasks can be hit by an untrained rider taking 10, and only need to roll when doing something risky when you can't take 10. 5e says you need to roll Athletics checks to climb "a slippery vertical surface or one with few handholds" or "avoid hazards while scaling a wall or cling to a surface while something is trying to knock you off," and otherwise you can climb at half speed without a check; 3e says an untrained climber can hit all the basic DCs while taking 10 and you only need to roll when...climbing a slippery surface, climbing a surface with few handholds, or climbing while something is stopping you from taking 10. (And note that you don't have to be a Thief Rogue in 3e to climb surfaces with no handholds or an overhand.)

As for ability modifiers in 3e being only a small part of skill modifiers, sure, at high levels where you rarely and/or infrequently play they only made up 1/5 or so of your total modifier. At 1st, though, a +4 ability modifier contributes as much to a class skill check as your 4 ranks do, and a +2 as much to a cross-class skill check as your 2 ranks do, and at low levels a high ability modifier means the difference between "hit DC 15 while taking 10" and "hit DC 20 while taking 10."

5e certainly has philosophical differences with 3e, but the degree of conceptual differences between 3e skills and 5e skills is vastly overblown--at least as far as it applies to this particular discussion--and you can't really handwave the Arcana debate or scholarly character question by appealing to them.

PhoenixPhyre
2019-02-18, 03:28 PM
That's still the case in 5e, you know. The skills don't lend themselves to any overlap any more than 3e skills do (they're used in the same way as 3e skills in adventures and examples, with just one skill specified, and the descriptions are basically the same as 3e skills), using an alternate ability for a given skill is a variant rule (which existed in 3e too, by the way), and there are DC ranges for every skill at which you need to have proficiency to have any reasonable chance of success even if you have a +5 stat modifier.



5e says you can automatically control a mount and only need to make an Animal Handling check when attempting a "risky maneuver;" 3e says all the basic Ride tasks can be hit by an untrained rider taking 10, and only need to roll when doing something risky when you can't take 10. 5e says you need to roll Athletics checks to climb "a slippery vertical surface or one with few handholds" or "avoid hazards while scaling a wall or cling to a surface while something is trying to knock you off," and otherwise you can climb at half speed without a check; 3e says an untrained climber can hit all the basic DCs while taking 10 and you only need to roll when...climbing a slippery surface, climbing a surface with few handholds, or climbing while something is stopping you from taking 10. (And note that you don't have to be a Thief Rogue in 3e to climb surfaces with no handholds or an overhand.)

As for ability modifiers in 3e being only a small part of skill modifiers, sure, at high levels where you rarely and/or infrequently play they only made up 1/5 or so of your total modifier. At 1st, though, a +4 ability modifier contributes as much to a class skill check as your 4 ranks do, and a +2 as much to a cross-class skill check as your 2 ranks do, and at low levels a high ability modifier means the difference between "hit DC 15 while taking 10" and "hit DC 20 while taking 10."

5e certainly has philosophical differences with 3e, but the degree of conceptual differences between 3e skills and 5e skills is vastly overblown--at least as far as it applies to this particular discussion--and you can't really handwave the Arcana debate or scholarly character question by appealing to them.

But you can't take 10 under threat without some special feat. In 5e you can do that in combat, no check needed. And you can rarely if ever go off d20, while with the fixed DCs and scaling skill points in 3e, going off d20 is what everyone does. In 5e, Dcs don't go above 20 except for very rare circumstances, and you can do just about anything untrained (which you can't in 3e). For example, in 3e a commoner can't know about a goblin, no matter the level. At all. DC 11, can only get DC 10 and lower Knowledge checks untrained. Wat.

There are huge, fundamental differences, starting from the basic idea of when you make checks at all. 3e attempts to simulate the whole world, including NPC-NPC interactions. 5e doesn't. Those foundational differences ripple through, and unless you adjust you'll find one of the two systems to not work for you at all.

PairO'Dice Lost
2019-02-18, 10:31 PM
But you can't take 10 under threat without some special feat. In 5e you can do that in combat, no check needed.

Firstly, the basic act of controlling a mount in combat doesn't require any checks in 3e as long as it's trained for combat, just like in 5e. Secondly, as I noted, the DMG calls for making Athletics and Animal Handling checks when doing anything risky; Animal Handling notes making a "risky maneuver" or "keeping a mount from getting spooked," both of which can apply in combat, so any time a 3e character is attempting something fancy and couldn't take 10, the 5e character is probably having to make checks to do the same.


And you can rarely if ever go off d20, while with the fixed DCs and scaling skill points in 3e, going off d20 is what everyone does. In 5e, Dcs don't go above 20 except for very rare circumstances

Y'know, I keep seeing this repeated as a strength of 5e, that you can do the same thing in both editions but 3e DCs are "too high" and 5e DCs are "more reasonable," so I took a look through the 3e skill DCs to compare. Interestingly enough, standard DCs above 20 are fairly rare in the PHB, and fall into the following categories:

1) Do things you can't do in 5e by default, and so could reasonably also be assigned DC 20+ if you're going to allow an attempt at all:
Climbing a rough rock wall or overhang (which, as you mentioned earlier, a 5e character finds "impossible to climb")
Diplomancing people from Hostile/Unfriendly/Indifferent (which doesn't have an equivalent in 5e because attitude categories aren't a thing, but "Persuade someone to be your friend indefinitely" would certainly have a high Persuasion DC).
Find or spread a specific rumor (where 5e just mentions "finding the best person to talk to" with no guarantee of doing anything with the rumor in question)
Notice someone is charmed (which would be a reasonable, though "very hard," use of Insight)
Move through an enemy's space (where 5e only allows that if there's a two-category size difference between you and the enemy)
Fake a race or alignment to use a magic item (where it's not a stretch to allow in 5e, but it just doesn't mention it since it wouldn't come up much)
2) Do things you can do in 5e, but that would be assigned a "very hard" or "nearly impossible" DC anyway:
Understanding codes or intricate/exotic/archaic writing (where in 5e codes are created by people with the Linguist feat and have a DC of Intelligence score + proficiency bonus to decipher, and so can easily go about 20)
Answer a "really tough" question, at DC 25+ (where "very hard" is literally DC 25 in 5e)
Hear an owl gliding in for a kill, at DC 30 (which, yeah, "nearly impossible" difficulty applies)
Escape from manacles or wriggle through a tight space, at DC 30 (where 5e doesn't mention going through a tight space under "other Dexterity checks" like it does escaping bonds, so who knows how hard that DC might be)
Open a "good" or "amazing" lock, at DC 30 or 40 (where 5e says "better locks" than the DC 15 default may be available for higher prices)
Gain a noble or extraplanar patron with your performance, at DC 25 or 30 (seems to fit those categories nicely)
Understand a "strange or unique magical effect", at DC 30 (yep, "nearly impossible")
3) Do things you can do in 5e, but faster or better:
Making an alchemical item, at DC 25 (where in 5e you don't need to make a specific check to do, but you do need proficiency in Alchemist's Supplies, and it takes e.g 10 days to craft alchemist's fire where a 3e alchemist can craft 3 per day)
Jump 25+ feet long or 6+ feet high, at DC 24+ (where the 5e jump rules let you jump [Str score] feet long or [3+Str mod] feet high, with an Athletics check of indeterminate DC to do more).
Just about the only thing where the 5e equivalent of something in 3e actually does (A) do the same thing and (B) stop at DC 20 is disarming a "wicked" trap, clockwork device, or magical trap, at DC 25 to 25+level. And personally I think they made finding and disarming traps too easy in 5e (it would be a good idea in theory to remove the arbitrary Trapfinding barrier from 3e, but since they didn't give the rogue a new schtick to replace "the trap guy," letting anyone have a good chance of disarming any trap swings a bit too far in the other direction), so that's a wash.

So the argument that the two are basically the same but that 5e has better math is basically bogus.


and you can do just about anything untrained (which you can't in 3e). For example, in 3e a commoner can't know about a goblin, no matter the level. At all. DC 11, can only get DC 10 and lower Knowledge checks untrained. Wat.

Ah, yes, the "But farmers don't know what cows are because they have no ranks of Knowledge (Nature)!" thing. While that's a commonly repeated bit of trivia, note that Knowledge is "a study of some body of lore, possibly an academic or even scientific discipline," and Knowledge checks let you "identify monsters and their special powers or vulnerabilities" (emphasis mine) and a successful check "allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that monster," while "common knowledge" (which is left up to the DM, and which might reasonably include "the cows I milk every day" and "the goblins that raid every summer") is knowable without Knowledge ranks.

Note also that when the later Monster Manuals started adding lore blocks to every monster (which often took liberties with the rules, like e.g. drow in MM4 using Kn: Dungeoneering or History to ID instead of Local, and having the wrong DCs in any case), the base DC gave you a small blurb about what the monster is (basic knowledge) and also revealed all type and subtype traits ("a bit of useful information," though not the information a reasonable player would necessarily ask for first), implying that you don't need the check result to know the basic blurb.

So a commoner could know what a goblin is just fine, or a wolf, or a green dragon, or whatever, because the existence and appearance of such creatures could fall under common knowledge assuming the commoner is in an area where such creatures are known to exist. Said commoner just wouldn't necessarily know or remember whether goblins can outrun humans (nope, same speed), or whether a wolf has particularly thick fur (yep, +2 natural armor), or what shape a green dragon's breath weapon takes (a cone).

That said, the very fact that the last page of this thread has been an in-depth discussion about what exactly Arcana proficiency gives you shows that knowledge rules in both editions could be a lot clearer.


There are huge, fundamental differences, starting from the basic idea of when you make checks at all. 3e attempts to simulate the whole world, including NPC-NPC interactions. 5e doesn't. Those foundational differences ripple through, and unless you adjust you'll find one of the two systems to not work for you at all.

And my original point was that grand bombastic pronouncements about simulationism vs. non-simulationism or attributes-first vs. proficiencies-first or whatever are generally unhelpful and/or a load of hooey when it comes to discussions about skills, because the actual literal descriptions of skills as printed are very similar between the two editions (plus or minus the general vagueness of 5e rules text).

"Remember, there are no skills" gives no useful information or guidance about how to handle checks differently in 5e vs. 3e, because the way you actually use them and the way they're laid out in examples and adventure modules is the same for both; "the skills overlap on purpose" is false, or at least no more true than it is in 3e (because, again, the Knowledge subskill descriptions in 3e and the Arcana/History/Nature/Religion descriptions in 5e are as close as makes no difference). The "huge, fundamental differences" make themselves known in many other parts of the respective systems and show general trends overall, but at the micro level for skills, it's a wash.

Tanarii
2019-02-20, 07:56 AM
For highly expressive systems, you want to do away with player creative agency alltogether and both randomize and automate the character creation process. This isn't a joke. With a fast computer and a decent algorithm, your players will get more characters they want to play faster by just repeatedly clicking "create random character" and they will be more varied than what the players would come up themselves.
I found your series of posts defending this concept in the face of hostility well written. It seems like the possibility would work well if it could be random within parameters, depending on the system. For example leaving out skills, or only determine half, in a skill system. Or predetermined array of classes in a class system.

Off the top of my head, and based on constantly having to assist new players with character creation, albeit primarily with D&D, the biggest problem would be new players not knowing their abilities on their character sheet. This is of course always an issue to a degree. But players having to choose requires more understanding before the game begins. Even something as simple as deciding what abilit scores need to go where. "On-the-job" training of playing the game may sound like its superior, and with a certain base level of understanding it is. But often there needs to be a basic understanding ... even if it's just where to look for something on a character sheet.

I can tell you, even with a character sheet as trivially simple as D&D Classic, six ability scores, hps, AC, a to hit chart, and possible one spell, that can be an issue. Don't even get me started on how complex 5e characters are for newbies. Making choices and writing that stuff down themselves helps dramatically.

For experienced players, your idea has a huge amount of merit. They should already know these things, and you're right, random determinations make for fun and interesting characters.

Beleriphon
2019-02-21, 11:19 AM
Sure, I believe that to be an entirely valid perspective to have. One that I would not disagree with, even.

To continue my line of thought with your own examples: Theodore McStabbington, Esquire. The difference between rules-light and rules-heavy is not precisely the metric I was considering. I grant that in both cases the Sir was created true to form, though the latter does provide more structural foundation through which his person might be realized. Consider instead if the goal is not to create one particular character, but rather to create a character at all: you are now presented with an extensive array of mechanical components from which you might select. The jumble itself is what I feel to be unhelpful - the means, as you put it, when divorced from the world in-game.

In totality the jumble is nothing but potentially useful sprockets lacking any guide; as you say trying to assemble a mousetrap from random bits, but without knowing you are supposed to be building a mousetrap at all! Now as I continue to my first thought would be simply to ensure that a setting is always present - do not assemble without the instructions, as it were. However I cannot claim much fondness for the pre-constructed settings offered by many RPGs, becuase of the aforementioned lack of any cultural practices/causation that has been explored.

I see what you're asking. You want to know if setting limits on character creation allows for more creativity. Its akin to asking somebody to build you something from a pile of spare part, but not telling them you have a mouse issue in your basement you need to solve. The building could make anything, but it isn't necessarily going to solve the issue you actually want solved.

To extend to an RPG context: if you're playing traditional fantasy using a rule set that lets you build anything (lets say Mutants and Masterminds, GURPS, or HERO) but a player turns up with The Porcupine, a superhero from Salt Lake City Utah, then you have an issue. That player was very creative, but lacked direction to match the expectations of the games. My example certainly contains its fair share of hyperbole, but you can use anything in exchange. Playing a game of gritty mercenaries a la the Black Company and players show up with a magical talking cat, probably not the right game of the cat character.

So perhaps constraints don't necessarily increase creativity, but they do direct it to useful outcomes. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do something.

Max_Killjoy
2019-02-21, 11:56 AM
I see what you're asking. You want to know if setting limits on character creation allows for more creativity. Its akin to asking somebody to build you something from a pile of spare part, but not telling them you have a mouse issue in your basement you need to solve. The building could make anything, but it isn't necessarily going to solve the issue you actually want solved.

To extend to an RPG context: if you're playing traditional fantasy using a rule set that lets you build anything (lets say Mutants and Masterminds, GURPS, or HERO) but a player turns up with The Porcupine, a superhero from Salt Lake City Utah, then you have an issue. That player was very creative, but lacked direction to match the expectations of the games. My example certainly contains its fair share of hyperbole, but you can use anything in exchange. Playing a game of gritty mercenaries a la the Black Company and players show up with a magical talking cat, probably not the right game of the cat character.

So perhaps constraints don't necessarily increase creativity, but they do direct it to useful outcomes. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you should do something.

And that's entirely reasonable and fair -- but it's also a grounded limitation as opposed to an arbitrary limitation.

What such limits do is restrain the creative space to those characters which are compatible with setting and campaign. As you note, that doesn't increase (or decrease) creativity... a highly creative player will still be highly created within that space, a player with poor creativity will not suddenly be more creative within that space.

Beleriphon
2019-02-21, 01:14 PM
It might be the word "rote" that's causing the consternation then, because I can generally see a pilot falling under "skilled trade" vs "well versed in lore" sort of distinction. But to me, the word "rote" conjures up the McDonalds fast food worker, or learning simple mechanical task performed in a specific series to get a specific result. It doesn't really imply any sort of skill, or improvisational ability to work when things go wrong. I expect my pilot to be able to handle things going very very wrong and way outside the realm of simple mechanical repetition of flying tasks.

That's what pilots do. There is a reason they have a checklist for everything! A modern jumbo jet is so complicated that nobody can remember everything about them, so there are books full of what to do when something happens, for just about everything on the plane that isn't a critical failure of its structure and ability to fly. Hell, if the wings falling off could be fixed with a checklist there would be one for that too. The checklists are literally rote: do X, get Y. The pilot might have some concept of why the things they do are being done, but they don't actually have to know why the steps are done to get the result. In fact, pilots skipping steps because they think they know why something is done have actually caused airline disasters.

As for un-expected problems, like say a propeller falling off turboprop in flight (its happened) is going to take some quick thinking and knowledge of flying. A skilled pilot is going to save the plane, an unskilled one is probably not.

Beleriphon
2019-02-21, 01:33 PM
And that's entirely reasonable and fair -- but it's also a grounded limitation as opposed to an arbitrary limitation.

What such limits do is restrain the creative space to those characters which are compatible with setting and campaign. As you note, that doesn't increase (or decrease) creativity... a highly creative player will still be highly created within that space, a player with poor creativity will not suddenly be more creative within that space.

Max, this is very true. But an uncreative player with limitations might at least be directed to something useful. If I'm told to make a mouse trap with the stuff in my garage I'm probably gong to come up with a pretty typical mouse trap, since I have springs, wire, wood, and probably something as bait hiding in a corner. Its not creative per se, but works. If I hire you to build me a mouse trap, but stipulate that it can't kill the mouse you're going to have to be more creative with the same set of tools than I was. So maybe you build a spring loaded box trap, or a mouse-a-pult, or who knows what. But you have to think creatively to get the same solution where the mouse in my house is a mouse out of my house.

I think that's what idea of limitations improve creativity. In situations where this an obvious, or unlimited number of options a limit can force somebody to come up with a distinct solution. RPG character creation may not be an area where this necessarily applies, as there are only some many potential answers to the problem of "make a character." And there are already substantial limitations on character creation. There have to be to force players into playing the game with the rules as chosen.

Keledrath
2019-02-22, 08:17 AM
I think it can depend on the person. Some people find limitations to be inspiring, I tend to have my ideas and want to make them work regardless of the limits you gave me. Looking at my current roster of DnD 4e characters. My 4e group allows pretty much all printed material

Cathak Nadia: A port to 4e of one of my Exalted 3e characters. The original character was a Melee, War, and Presence focused Fire Aspect. So for 4e I went with a Genasi Warlord, and found ways to apply my Str or Int to social skills.This was a character who existed previously and was built mechanically around that

Nalin Hellsong: This one started as a mechanical idea as I found a way to set up all of my attacks as Fire and Thunder, which are 2 4e damage types that allow you to make your AoE effects bigger. Tiefling Wizard|Warlock hybrid, he made a pact with the Summer Sidhe to learn the secrets of Summer Fire, and wielded it together with Hellfire. In his journey, he encountered a sphinx who used Truename magic (an actual NPC the DM had written before my character) and he apprenticed under her. His move to paragon (when he started turning all his powers to fire+thunder) involved the creation of his Twinflame Blade, allowing him to command all flame with its True Name.

Lilith: A fallen angle of Lathander, who fell after the re-emergence of Amanuator. She refused to accept Amanuator as a replacement for the god who created her, and ultimately fell for it. Now, she bears an angel's grace in a mortal body, forced to drain the life force from others to prevent it from burning her up from the inside. Eventually, with the help of a friend, she learned to instead siphon off the volatile grace into her foes so it would burn them instead of her, and eventually came back into nearly her full power as one of Lathander's Morninglords
Mechanically, Lilith was a copy of a friend's build that looked very fun, a Vampire|Warlord hybrid. Early in her career, the life draining was how she fought, and the switch to siphoning her own grace into things was marked when she got a Radiant weapon and changed her damage type.

Lilith and Nalin are cases where I built the fluff around the mechanical character, while Nadia was taking an existing character and constructing their mechanics around them. None of them really had any limitations that weren't self imposed, and honestly I couldn't say which is more creative