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Friday 3 October 2014

John Wick Has NEVER Played D&D

We need to be clear on that point.  Since Mr. Wick is no liar, and I'm sure that his opinions were sincere in his recent blog entry where he claimed that D&D is not an RPG, because it is just a mechanical combat-game, and where he suggests that since D&D is a "game you can successfully play without roleplaying", unlike real RPGs like Call of Cthulhu.

The only possible conclusion from all this is that John Wick has never once played D&D in his life.

Oh, he may have thought he was playing D&D. He may have mistaken some other thing he did for D&D, and this twisted his mind to lead him to the place where he unfortunately finds himself today, where he barely seems to understand what an RPG is. 

Because you see, D&D is not in any way a game you can successfully play without roleplaying.  You can, no doubt, play a really shitty game of D&D without roleplaying.  But you could do exactly the same thing with Call of Cthulhu.

You could run either game, strictly mechanically, doing no roleplay. You could stat up a bunch of D&D adventurers and then play out a bunch of combat encounters with orcs. You could stat up a bunch of CoC investigators and just have them find clues via mechanical rolls and then just automatically lose sanity based on checks, and fight with (and probably die from) deep ones in a tactical encounter.
The only difference is that D&D characters would be slightly tougher in the fight.

You could say the same thing about FATE, for that matter. You could say the same about Seventh Sea or L5R.  Shit, you could say it about Dogs in the Vinyard.  If you wanted, you could just run through everything automatically, with no more roleplaying than D&D.

In fact, D&D at least OBLIGES more roleplaying if you intend to.  In many new-school games, instead of roleplaying you can just roll your social skills when you interact with an NPC. You don't have to lie to them, or manipulate them, or enchant them, you just have to ROLL your Deception, Diplomacy, or Seduction. 

Now tell me again which one is "Roll-playing and not Role-playing"?

But the thing is, this is a really shitty way to play an RPG (or indeed, as I understand it, even a storygame). 
And once you realize that, and realize that D&D has precisely as much or as little roleplaying potential as CoC, and probably more than new-school games that include a bunch of social mechanics to help you avoid actually just roleplaying it, then the only conclusion you can reach is that John Wick thinks that one is an RPG and the other isn't only because he has either never played D&D at all, or he played a really shitty game of D&D at some point and it traumatized him.

And shit, that's how most D&D-haters get their start.  Some shitty GM touched them in a bad place and they never got over it.
Its logical that D&D would have a lot of shitty GMs and that people would be more likely to have a bad D&D experience, for two reasons:
a) D&D is the first game a lot of people ever play. Often as mere kids, with other mere kids, who don't really know what they're doing.  By the time they move on to another RPG, like say CoC, they're already a bit more mature and thus MISTAKENLY think that CoC is a more mature game.

b) D&D is the most popular roleplaying game in the world, by a wide margin.  That means that it's likely, by mere weight of numbers, to have the most number of shitty GMs.

But that also means there are more awesome GMs for D&D than for any other RPG in the world. By that same rule of numbers, there are more fucking amazing DMs running D&D today than there are good games of CoC, L5R, and FATE put together.

If Mr. Wick thinks that a game of D&D run without roleplaying can be called "successful", he's never played a real game of D&D in his life. He's certainly not played in one of many games; in my (lotfp) Albion game last week, where there was a culmination of events from over a year of real-time and years of game play, in an epic Game-of-Thrones-esque situation of betrayal, shifting allegiances, rebellion and scenarios where the values of ideas like friendship, loyalty, social class, and truthfulness were all tested.  Plus a "reveal" scene where the PCs' boss (Richard Crookback) finally showed his true motives of revenge and what many would call villainy (certainly ruthlessness); and a gruesome and very roleplay-heavy death scene.
Shit, he hasn't even played in anything like my DCC game, which is a much lighter kind of fare than my Albion campaign, but even there roleplaying is the foundation or corner-stone of the entire game.  Where the PCs have to regularly interact with a vast range of colourful characters, wind their way through exotic and unusual groups and cultures (in a very detailed, very Gonzo, but internally consistent world), figure out where they stand with the various conflicting power groups in the areas they travel to, and (in the case of the party spellcasters) negotiate with their often erratic and demanding Daemon Patrons, or as clerics deal with a certifiably insane G.O.D.

So no, its a pity, but Mr. Wick has clearly never actually played a successful real game of D&D.  And the "negative reaction" Mr. Wick noticed that gamers had toward 4e D&D was not because it was "too honest", but on the contrary, because it was a game designed to cater to people who believed this lie, this utter bullshit about D&D invented by people who despise the game, that it was only meant to be tactical combat game.  And it FAILED as an edition because the vast majority of D&D players don't play the game that way.

And, I'll note, I'm sure there were some people who managed to have some decent campaigns with it.

In any case, John, I once invited you to come visit me in Uruguay and check out my lodge. I think you should really consider taking that up, especially now.  Not only will I show you around this amazing country, and give you the masonic tour, but I'll also teach you how to play D&D.  It sounds like you desperately need it.


Currently Smoking: Brigham Anniversary Pipe + Image Latakia


  1. Heh, excellent post. It does sound like he doesn't get what D&D's about, but I also got the impression he has a very limited and warped understanding of what constitutes an RPG. I imagine he's thinking you're either given or create some kind of prompt which you must act in accordance with, and are either rewarded for doing so or punished for deviating from it. I tried doing something like that when I was younger. I'd come up with all sorts of background and traits for my character and consciously try to act that out. It was when I quit acting and just tried to survive, however, that I truly began to have fun. And here's the beauty of D&D: I was behaving like someone other than myself. The game's mechanics encourage you to roleplay with acting, and this is now my preference for how RPGs should be structured. Don't give me some flaw that just tells me to be a coward, give me a reason to behave like one when playing intelligently — few hit points, low saves, whatever. I should never find myself thinking "Yeah, this would be the smart choice to make, but what would my character do?" If that happens, the game isn't doing its job

    1. Oops, that should say "encourage you to roleplay without acting". Sorry

    2. Ya, he has a limited understanding of what a Role Playing game is about. He's only written about a dozen of the most popular ones. That's crazy. Also, what you're describing doesn't sound like a Role Playing game (which by its very definition is playing a role, ie acting). It's a strategy game.

    3. What professorOats meant is that you get deep enough into the character, you don't need to 'fake' the acting of it. You get from the intrinsic nature and experiences of the character what he does. You don't have to play out the role of him, you EMBODY the role. It's Immersion.

  2. Story gamers have been trying to hijack the definition of role playing for quite some time. I'm not sure if that was his intent but is sure as hell had that vibe.

  3. His feelings about D&D didn't stop him from trying to make a buck off of it with his Wicked Fantasy stuff.

  4. your central point is undeniably true - cthulhu/brp/runquest system has had social skills since 70s, paladium, gurps, rolemaster, star frontiers, traveller all have social skills so it just isn a newschool thing - i like social skill because they let me be more charming than i am in real life but because they help player get leverage over jerk arbitrary gm's like me - if player rolls it i ought to nudge the result more in favour than my normal argumentative stubborn self would allow - apologies if im missing point

  5. Either Mr. Wick or the RPG Pundit is committing the "no true Scottsman" fallacy. I suspect both to some extent.

    The question is what games encourage roleplaying more. Unless the game has NO mechanics other than "roleplay well", it can fall short. D&D falls short because there is something satisfying in playing a tactical simulation, winning battles and taking their stuff. With no roleplaying at all, you can have a game that fun at some level. I don't know if that is 'true' D&D, but I know it happens often. See the average RPGA or Pathfinder Society game. It does seem to miss something in the game when you ignore all the flavor text and simply roll some dice.

    This sounds a little like an argument over the best instrument to make music. Are some instruments easier to learn? Are some instruments more likely to produce music rather than noise or copied garbage? Is a synthesizer or computer an instrument? If it makes music, I say it is a musical instrument. It ALWAYS comes down to the people involved, not the material.

    1. It totally agree with you. I have played some great D&D role playing games, but they were in spite of the system rather than the system encouraging it. It can be done, but there are better game systems for the purpose. I'm pretty sure that's the point Mr. Wick was making as well.

    2. In my experience most of the time "the system encourages it" mentality actually causes LESS reliance on roleplaying (and more reliance on 'story points' or having "five dots in diplomacy" or whatever). That's not the sort of encouragement you need or want. Any "encouragement" that makes how well you roleplay the guy irrelevant if you roll the wrong die result is not actually encouragement, its discouragement. It's telling you "don't worry about trying to portray the character, just put your points in the right skills".

    3. "In my experience" is the key part. And experience vary. Mine is closer to lokidr's. I saw more than once that "not roleplaying and having fun" is a valid way to play D&D. That is not wrong. But that makes D&D, among some other titlea, a game with optional roleplaying. Again - that is not wrong. But that makes it different when compared to some other games. Especially those, that give you vital resources for roleplaying.

  6. "In many new-school games, instead of roleplaying you can just roll your social skills when you interact with an NPC. You don't have to lie to them, or manipulate them, or enchant them, you just have to ROLL your Deception, Diplomacy, or Seduction."

    This is exactly what turns me off so many recent games I have seen. "Sense Motive" rolls instead of GM and player actually interacting and giving hints, clues, etc.

  7. Could you please demonstrate how you can successfully play L5R without roleplaying? A specific example, please.

    1. Really good question. I once got challenged to run a "dungeon crawl" for L5R. A friend and I designed the "dungeon" based loosely on something similar to "Enter the Dragon" or Mortal Kombat where each level was a different challenge (some puzzles, some social, some combat) as a competition in the name of a mysterious princess. The reveal at the end of the game was that all the characters had died before the start (the and were clinging onto their lives), that each "level" had represented one of the spirit realms they must traverse to reach Yomi (or their final destination as determined by their actions), and that their host the "princess" was actually Emma-O the Fortune of Death. So, the final encounter required some heavy role playing for them to pass, especially since they were being judged not on whether they had won or lost the challenges, but how they conducted themselves and how they dealt with elements in their backstory which arose. So even in a "dungeon crawl" the social impact of their actions played a huge role.

    2. "So, the final encounter required some heavy role playing for them to pass, especially since they were being judged not on whether they had won or lost the challenges, but how they conducted themselves and how they dealt with elements in their backstory which arose."

      I asked you to demonstrate how you can successfuly play L5R without roleplaying and you provide an example where roleplaying was the key element to the adventure's success.

    3. "Me" is not me the RPGpundit btw, its just some other commenter.
      And I think he was trying to agree with you, actually, based on his other comments here.

      Also, you know that this is a blog entry from like 9 months ago, yes?

      In any game that has social skills, rather than roleplaying, you can run a game without roleplaying more easily than one that has no social skills, unless you run the latter purely as a miniatures skirmish...

      That's because in any situation that demands roleplay, in the game with social skills, you can just say "i try to charm/seduce/enchant/intimidate/impress/honor person x" and then roll a die and the die roll can tell you whether you did it or not.
      In a game with no social skills, you actually have to roleplay.

    4. Social skills don't enter into it. As I said in my article, if I give my pieces motives and names, I've turned chess into an RPG. Success or failure in their actions isn't the issue.

      The fact that the pieces have motives other than "winning" is the issue. Not social skills.

    5. But there's a difference between ascribing motivations that are then resolved through dice-rolling versus ascribing motivations that are resolved by having to enter into the character's skin and portray the character.

    6. You still haven't given me an example of how you can play L5R without roleplaying. "Social skills" isn't an answer because WHY players are making social rolls (clan loyalty, familial duty, etc.) are the reasons players are making those choices in the first place.

      "Because that's what my Lion Clan samurai would do" vs "That's what my Scorpion Clan samurai would do."

      And that's roleplaying. Not social skills.

    7. And what the fuck makes you believe that in D&D you don't do that? Again, assume all else is equal, assume you have a good D&D GM, and not a shitty one (just like you're obviously trying to stack the deck by assuming you have a good L5R GM and not a shitty one): D&D allows for absolutely pure and unfettered expression of that very thing, without the shitty cage of oh-so-not-clever mechanics getting in the way and telling you how you must be forced to roleplay in a way that fits the designer's vision. You can just go in and fucking roleplay it, without breaking immersion to have to stop to think about whether you have the right trait for it or have to spend a fate point or anything else.

    8. Again, you're shifting away from the question. Please provide a specific example of playing L5R successfully without roleplaying.

    9. I haven't played L5R enough to give a specific example. But you claim to have played D&D enough to judge that ALL D&D is by its nature a non-RPG worthy of little more than tactical skirmishing.
      Which is bullshit, and you're consistently refusing to address my arguments that prove it's bullshit.

    10. "I haven't played L5R enough to give a specific example."

      So, in your reply, when you say, " You could say the same about Seventh Sea or L5R," you really don't know, do you?

      "But you claim to have played D&D enough to judge that ALL D&D is by its nature a non-RPG worthy of little more than tactical skirmishing."

      I've been playing D&D since 1981. I've played Blue Box, Red Box, 2nd Ed., 3rd Ed., 3.5, (haven't played 4th) and 5th Ed. I've played in Ravenloft campaigns, Oriental Adventures campaigns, Greyhawk campaigns, ran the Slavers series, ran Against the Giants, ran Queen of the Demonweb Pits, ran the entire S- series, ran the Desert of Desolation, ran my "Thieves Only" campaign over several years, played Tekumel with M.A.R. Barker at the UofM, created my own campaign worlds, ran Castle Amber, Tomb of Horrors (the worst adventure of all time), ran the entire Dragonlance campaign (even the shitty parts), ran D&D for the Neopets office "game night" for a year, ran D&D for the Totally Games office game night for a year, ran D&D for the AEG staff, played in the RPGA for 6 months and am currently doing a re-design based entirely on the character sheet (documented in Wicked Words Magazine).

      So, yeah. I've played D&D. I've run D&D. I've redesigned D&D. I've even played it "to its fullest potential." You can stop saying that I don't understand it.

      And my question remains: what makes D&D mechanically different than a miniatures tactical skirmish game like Warhammer? What makes it significantly different than Descent?

    11. Well gee, John, I've glanced enough at L5R to tell that it has nothing in it that makes it the unique wunder-game that we've all waited for that can really actually mechanically force someone to roleplay who refuses to do so.
      But it seems funny to me that you're trying to challenge me about L5R when you're the designer of L5R. I can tell you EXACTLY how you fucking CAN roleplay in Arrows of Indra or Dark Albion (with the Appendix P rules).
      Why don't YOU prove to ME how you could MAKE ME ROLEPLAY in L5R if I was a player determined not to?

      And very clearly if you think D&D doesn't do roleplaying, in fact, if you think it doesn't do roleplaying (potentially) much better than games with complex social-mechanic or roleplay-reward systems, I will say it to the rafters that you clearly DO NOT UNDERSTAND D&D.

    12. All your lengthy C.V. of campaigns-played shows is that you must be particularly determined in a particularly asinine fashion not to understand D&D. To intentionally and bull-headedly pretend its less of a game than it is, because you think, apparently, that more-rules equals more-game.

  8. And to address the "JW has never played D&D," I can confirm that I've played in and ran multiple campaigns since 1981.

    An example:

    I was playing in the weekly Decipher game night while still living in LA during the 2000's. We decided to try out Gary Gygax's Necro-whatever-it-was killer dungeon that someone published. We'd all play 10th level characters and try pummeling our way through it iron man style.

    I made a split class character: 5th level assassin, 5th level priest. My character's motivation for being there was—as a priest of an enemy evil god—I wanted to make sure Set didn't rule the world. (I made a promise to the DM I wouldn't sabotage the other players and I kept that promise.)

    I was immediately mocked by other players for choosing to play "two 5th level characters."

    Well, that stopped the moment I hit one of the major bad guys with an assassin strike. I built a magic sword (with the gp the DM allotted to us) that both held poison and spells. The spells I cast on it were (if I recall correctly) "Cause Serious Wounds" and "Bestow Curse." There was something else that I can't quite recall, but it amounted to the victim taking close to 60 points of damage from a single strike (due to backstabbing, CSW, the sword's damage, etc.) which resulted in both having to save vs death and poison with -6 to each save. Something like that.

    I hit one of the primary antagonists with that little gimmick which stopped the rest of the players in their tracks. I killed the baddie with one blow. Needless to say, they immediately turned to another player and accused him of "making John's character for him." He shook his head. "Nope," he said. "That was entirely John's idea."

    Another example is when—at the same table—we decided to play Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. I played an evil bard (because "reasons") and at the very beginning of the adventure, I captured one of the cultists (rather than killing him) and put on one of the dead cultist's robes and mask, used "charm person," got huge bonuses for alignment, disguise and the cultist's madness and convinced him that we were also cultists and that we should go down to the temple together.

    The DM slammed the adventure shut and said, "John ruined the adventure." He explained that I had created a situation where we were able to skip 50% of the dungeon.

    I asked, "Do I get XP for that?"

    So, yeah. I've played D&D. Plenty of times.

    1. If those are your examples, you've never played D&D used to its real potential.

      An example: in my Albion campaign, the PCs had to travel to the court of the Sultan in Byzantium, to obtain one of the pieces of the Lance of Mithras. They had to travel across great distances, manage interactions with the Inquisition to save one of their members, negotiate a local baron's war in Sicily, deal with the machiavellian politics of Venice to make contact with the Turk ambassador without getting caught by the Doge, while learning about the political situation in the Turk court along the way and learning that the key to getting entry to Byzantium involved manipulating the two claimants to sultan, the brothers Bayazid and Cem, who were at war, make up a half-fake prophetic vision, and then sufficiently impress the local Sufis to get their help.

      80% of what they did could not be resolved through using clever spells or combat or non-social skills. At least 40% involved directly having to obtain information and talk to people and convince people.

      In a game that uses social skills, ONE HUNDRED PERCENT of that could have in theory been resolved by rolling dice. Sure, a good GM will try to infuse some roleplay into the social-skill dice-rolling; and a good game designer will hopefully make a system of social skills that DEMANDS that the players actually roleplay it (though most don't, in fact, or at least make it completely irrelevant to the question of the skill roll itself, rendering the roleplay meaningless in essence).
      But in my D&D game, at least 80% of what they ended up doing that session could not be resolved by rolling dice in any way. It had to be roleplayed, directly.

      It seems to me, that if you're talking about all other things being equal, that makes D&D the BETTER game for roleplay, don't you think?

    2. "If those are your examples, you've never played D&D used to its real potential."

      Goalposts officially moved from "Never played D&D" to "Never played D&D correctly."

      Does your crystal ball work for other people or just for you? If so, I'd like to borrow it.

    3. "It seems to me, that if you're talking about all other things being equal, that makes D&D the BETTER game for roleplay, don't you think?"

      No, because I'm not talking about social skills. I'm talking about giving your pieces motives and playing those motives out in a logical way.

    4. And what pray tell exists in D&D that makes that less possible, or in any other game that makes that more possible? Your argument is hollow. I've described a D&D campaign that is full of motivations and agendas and personalities, and that's not a fluke or an outlier, that's every D&D campaign I've ever run and countless others I've seen played.

      What, other than your prejudices, makes you believe that other games do that better than D&D, especially if you are not talking about social-skills or of character-reinforcing/optimizing mechanics like "story points" or "Fate points" or whatever?

    5. "And what pray tell exists in D&D that makes that less possible, or in any other game that makes that more possible?"

      I'm not. You're either deliberately or unconsciously not understanding my point.

      I can do this with CHESS. That doesn't make chess a roleplaying game. Neither does it make 1st edition-4th edition D&D a roleplaying game.

      Just because I add a roleplaying element to a game doesn't make it a roleplaying game. A roleplaying game must have an _essential_ roleplaying element. In other words, if you remove the roleplaying element, the game ceases to function.

      This is not true for D&D: I can play it successfully without roleplaying because roleplaying is not a necessary element of the game.

      I played in the RPGA for 6 months as "FI-TOR." FI-TOR was a thief. FI-TOR had no gender, no appearance, no clothes. And FI-TOR backstabbed everything that presented itself as an obstacle. I never roleplayed once.

      We were successful in every RPGA scenario that was presented to the group I was playing in. With that level of behavior.

      Again, the question: what is the fundamental difference between a game like Talisman or Descent and Dungeons & Dragons? What is the fundamental difference that makes Descent a "board game" and D&D a "roleplaying game?"

      If you say "Because I roleplay with D&D," that's saying "I'm adding an element to the game that isn't essential to the rules," then chess—if I add a roleplaying element—is also a roleplaying game.

      In fact, ANY game—if I roleplay while playing it—is a roleplaying game.

    6. "What, other than your prejudices, makes you believe that other games do that better than D&D?"

      I also addressed this in the article and it has nothing to do with "story points."

      "A roleplaying game is a game in which the players are rewarded for making choices that are consistent with the character’s motivations or further the plot of the story."

      Remember the old canard: "My character wouldn't do that." Well, a roleplaying game is different than a board game in that it rewards you for playing your character rather than rewarding you for making the optimal choice.

      D&D's XP system rewards you for success. That's what board games do.

      A roleplaying game rewards you for making choices that are consistent with your character's motives.

      That's the difference.

    7. As soon as you create a reward/punishment mechanic, instead of JUST FUCKING ROLEPLAYING IT, you are creating a potentially gameable and abuseable system. D&D uses mechanics to solve all the LESS important things, while leaving it to the players to ACTUALLY FUCKING ROLEPLAY instead of just relying on mechanical checks.

      Your games that 'reward players for choices consistent to motivation' in no way actually guarantees that roleplay will happen. It just pushes the possibility of strategic/gameable choices to another level. In that system, a bad-faith player who does not want to actually roleplay can just use that system to get his reward-points when it suits him, and ignore it when he feels its stragetically more advantageous to miss out on the reward-points in exchange for other things (power, survival, nifty items, whatever).

      You don't actually solve the problem you imagine exists in your head; you just push it to another level of complexity that gets in the way of actually making the players immerse. Because instead of thinking "what would does my character do here based on who he is" they start thinking "what trait can my character invoke here to get the xp bonus for roleplaying, and is it worth it"?

    8. "As soon as you create a reward/punishment mechanic, instead of JUST FUCKING ROLEPLAYING IT, you are creating a potentially gameable and abusable system."

      Because D&D's rules are neither "gameable" or "abusable," right? And that makes D&D unplayable, right?

      "Your games that 'reward players for choices consistent to motivation' in no way actually guarantees that roleplay will happen."

      And what guarantees "roleplay will happen" in D&D? And, for the Nth time, what makes D&D different than a board game like Descent?

    9. I can answer those two issues, I think.

      John, what makes D&D (prior to 3.x) different from any other boardgame ever: try to find something in a room without a Thief. There's no "search" skill, so you have to think about the fictional situation and describe how exactly is your character searching for it, where exactly, etc. I think this is roleplaying too, even if I'm not talking about your character's motives, because it is a decision made by a logic founded in the fictional events and things that were presented in the actual gameplay. If you play in a group in which you NEVER have to take decisions taking in consideration the fiction, congrats! You're not roleplaying, :). The thing you mentioned about the XP system of D&D? You're forgetting the XP for gold piece in early editions. It didn't pay off at all to kill enemies instead of bypassing them to take the treasure. Almost never.

      So, on the other hand, I HAVE seen people playing Call of Cthulhu and Vampire: the Masquerade without roleplaying at all (either with your definition or mine). The thing is, I don't think they are addressing ALL the text printed in the manual. Yes, there's the fucking golden rule, but when I say "address" I'm talking about "have read, comprehended and considered" the text (whether or not using some rule or another). The Vampire players were just looking for augment their generation, hunting elders down and "diablerie-ing" them. The CoC ones were trying to roleplay, but the Keeper just avoided all their background elements and presented a clue after another, then revealed the mystery (he didn't even let them guess it from the clues), with some action in-between. They got a lot of fun, yes ('cause they figured out the keeper's playstyle), but they were certainly not roleplaying, not in your terms, nor in mine.

      So I think that, if you could add roleplaying to chess, you could remove it from CoC or D&D. You CAN certainly do that to BW or L5R too, or at least I can imagine a way to it. As Pundit said, I can even imagine a way to not roleplay Dogs at all. Couldn't it be a group thing to roleplay or not? You know you can't judge a game based in certain groups, yes?

      BUT, on the other hand, Pundit isn't right about the "social skills" thing. Yes, i've put an example of D&D not being a boardgame because it lacked a search skill, but adding it didn't make it less a RPG, seeing that 5th have it and it is considered one. It just made my argument a bit more easy. But I have played games with and without social skills, and I think both of them are equally role-playable, for different motives. The motives are obvious for games w/o social skills.
      For games with skills, the roleplaying comes in that the game text ALWAYS tells you, player or GM or whatever, to roleplay that. It is a rule, too. You can ignore it, sure, but then you're not playing that game at all.
      (I must add that I think the games are better designed when the roleplaying of the social part is mandatory to even use the rule at all, like Burning Wheel (the Task part) or Dogs in the Vineyard (the fictional backup part that let us know if it's an Attack, a Dodge or Block, or a Take the Blow), or Apocalypse World (the fiction-first or to-do-it,-do-it and -if-you-do-it,-you-do-it), because it makes us, the audience of the actual play (and players/GMs ourselves), know or confirm something about your character (c.f. the comment of Funny Skywalker, below).

    10. Using your CoC and Vampire examples: Yes, and when you removed the roleplaying element, the game broke down and ceased functioning properly.

      That's the whole point.

    11. I don't think so. Those groups had their good share of fun. Obviously, I don't consider they're playing the same game than (I suppouse) you, but that's also true for D&D.

      You say that you can play D&D successfully w/o roleplaying, I say that's not D&D anymore (so does the Pundit). The same way that playing CoC or V:tM w/o roleplaying is not playing CoC or V:tM at all. I say it's not the same than Chess, and I adscribe the illusion that it is to dysfunctional groups or dysfunctional understanding of the rules.

    12. John: "Because D&D's rules are neither "gameable" or "abusable," right?"
      Its rules on roleplaying are neither gameable nor abusable, because it has no mechanical framework. So yes, D&D's rules, when it comes to roleplaying, cannot be abused.

    13. Nargo: "For games with skills, the roleplaying comes in that the game text ALWAYS tells you, player or GM or whatever, to roleplay that. It is a rule, too. You can ignore it, sure, but then you're not playing that game at all."

      No, a lot of games with social skills do nothing of the sort. Some of them don't even tell you to roleplay it. Others tell you "you must play it out" but then provide no mechanical connection to the roleplay; so a player could give the most perfect oratory in history, or be chillingly threatening, or figure out EXACTLY what the NPC he's trying to bribe really really wants, and then roll a "1" and none of his roleplay means anything, he fails, too bad.
      On the other hand, a mental defective could say 'durp hurp derp', roll a natural 20, and get what the former player could not.

      Meanwhile, the manipulative non-roleplayer could just say "I do diplomacy on him", and roll the die and whatever happens on the dice will happen, because he's realized that this system with its social skills means what you roleplay means NOTHING, since all that the system takes into consideration is what you rolled on the dice.

    14. John: "And what guarantees "roleplay will happen" in D&D? And, for the Nth time, what makes D&D different than a board game like Descent?"

      Nothing 'GUARANTEES' that roleplay will happen in D&D. But nothing guarantees that roleplay will happen in any other RPG either, because again, ALL mechanical effects to encourage roleplay inherently push back the problem to just another level of abstraction and lead to increased ability for people determined not to roleplay to avoid roleplaying.
      What D&D does is make it MORE likely that roleplay will actually happen if the GM wants there to be roleplay. Because the manipulative player who doesn't want to roleplay, in another system, can fall back on manipulating the mechanical system without ever actually immersing in his character. But in D&D he has no choice to do so because there is no such system.

      As to your other question: the difference is EXACTLY the same one as in L5R: that there is an assumption that the POINT of the game is not a combat simulation or some other win condition but to interpret and immerse in a character in an emulated (virtual) world.

    15. I agree almost completely with your answer to John, so I'm just responding to the one you gave to me.

      "No, a lot of games with social skills do nothing of the sort. Some of them don't even tell you to roleplay it."

      Name one, if you please, :).

      "Others tell you "you must play it out" but then provide no mechanical connection to the roleplay; so a player could give the most perfect oratory in history, or be chillingly threatening, or figure out EXACTLY what the NPC he's trying to bribe really really wants, and then roll a "1" and none of his roleplay means anything, he fails, too bad."

      And that's what I call bad design.

      "On the other hand, a mental defective could say 'durp hurp derp', roll a natural 20, and get what the former player could not."

      Why on earth would you (a) make that player roll at all, (b) play a mental defective character, (c) try to make him/her convince the NPC of anything when your character is mental defective and thus hardly has even an opinion or goals?

    16. Shit, there's lots I think. We tend to assume "you should roleplay while you use social skills" but not a lot of games I know that include social skills make this an EXPLICIT rule, and even fewer actually have the roleplay-part of the social skill actually have a direct effect on how the mechanical part goes, making the roleplay-part irrelevant.
      And yes, it is bad design. If you are going to use social-skills, and you don't intend for them to replace actual roleplaying in social situations in the game, you damn well better make it not just explicit but mechanically relevant.

      As far as the "mental defective", I was referring to a mentally defective PLAYER, not PC. There are even some schools of thought that somehow think this is a bonus, because it means that people who are socially inept or bad at simulating social interactions or actually knowing what to say or do to effectively socially interact can just get a +10 to Diplomacy and solve it by rolling. I am obviously of the other school of thought, that says that if the point of roleplaying is being able to roleplay then you shouldn't create crutches for those who are bad at it (a good GM, of course, will try to help players who have the potential to improve at it to come out of their shell).

    17. To Nargo: Isn't that just how a social interaction could go? As great as a player can be in roleplaying intimidating threats or sweet seductions, you're almost always subject to the rule of chance. A slip of the tongue here, a fault in the tone there, not everything could translate that well ingame. I've managed to bullshit a Spectator with a long-winded lie about being its summoner's underling, but not without me noting my stuttering, my crazed expressions, and my attempts to cover slip-ups. Yet a die roll, a tool of chance, would dictate the success of the action. This roll is a wild card in every way, but the essence of role-playing and dynamic storytelling is when you flow with events while doing so fairly. Sure, the book states that the DC for the action is so, but a fair DM can change it to fit the effort the player had put into the role-play, without letting them forget that a part of this is still subject to chance.

  9. I think RPGPundit mistakes "roleplaying" (take decissions as my character would do), for "acting" (talk with some accent, making dialogues).
    You've make your way to Byzantium using actual dialogues. But it does not mean that you are roleplaying properly your character.
    If your character is a half-orc, with very bad temper, less culture, and no manners, but you made nice and polite dialogues to regain access to those place, you are not roleplaying properly your character. Your character would slam his way with their mace, instead of being a clever ass.
    And in D&D, and many tradicional games like CoC, this is not taking in account in the rules system. And if they are not in the rules, they are not in the actual game.
    (Sorry for my english)

    1. Again, incorrect. It is acting IN character. You and John Wick seem to think it is only making mechanical choices in character. You and John want to paint what I do as just acting without being in character.
      But in fact, Roleplaying is IMMERSION. It is ACTING IN CHARACTER.
      And that's what my PCs were doing on the journey in the Albion game, complete with getting themselves in trouble for sub-optimal choices based on character interpretation.

      Why is it so so hard for D&D haters to just admit that not only can you roleplay in D&D but that you can ROLEPLAY BETTER than in games where the mechanics get in the way of that? You want to believe my campaigns are shitty rather than just admit the truth: that they're better than yours.

    2. There's a fucking reason my campaigns routinely last on the far side of the half-decade of weekly play, and its not because we're doing a fucking skirmish game, Swine.

    3. Ok, there you go, xD. Is there a need to call anybody "Swine"? I mean, it's your blog, do whatever you want, but you know that when you have to attack verbally to the interlocutor, you're admitting defeat, yes?

      On topic: in your definition of what is roleplaying... well, NOBODY EVER HAS ROLEPLAYED BEFORE. I mean, you can't just act like your character would do, because you're not him. You can feel like you're doing it, but that's just illusions/delusions. In fact, your character simply DOESN'T EXIST BY HIM/HERSELF. He is an arbitrary fictional element designed by you and the game's mechanics (and maybe the other players or GM), so whatever you, or the mechanics (or players or GM) say about him/her is true as long as everybody else playing the game accepts that, yes?

      You can turn that I just said and claim that, since it is principally your design, what you say about him/her is truer than anything, and then that you always are roleplaying it (in the sense of Acting In Character/Immersion). So, yes, lets admit that; then, EVERYBODY HAS BEEN ROLEPLAYING THEIR CHARACTER ALL THE TIME, since everything they make their character do is the truest thing their character would do. So, you see, it's not a real definition, or at least it is not a functional definition to continue our hopefully kind conversation.

      Also, I know Funny, and he isn't a D&D hater as long as I know, so you may want to shut up there, ;).

    4. Nargos: what you're repeating there is the lie about Immersion that the Forge tried to push for years, that it's either impossible or a sign of mental illness.
      But in fact, roleplay long enough and it'll happen where you're playing a character and for a long time its you pretending to be him, but then suddenly he starts 'doing' things that you didn't consciously have to think about anymore, sometimes things that even surprise you or that you wouldn't have thought of consciously, but that come out of his "persona".
      The constructing of persona is something that sacred actors and shamans and magicians and writers and modern actors have been doing from a long time back now. You can, in fact, temporarily become someone else. That's the pinnacle of the immersive experience.

    5. I wrote some brilliantly forged arguments and blogger busted me, :(. I'll try to re-write them here.

      First: I'm not repeating anything. I'm not saying it is impossible nor a sign of mental illness, I'm saying that it may be one of two things: impossible or as possible as breathing (effectively, everyone is doing it all the time, without severe restrictions) while playing an RPG.

      But let's just play along your argument for a while.

      Let's say that the constructing of persona is the pinnacle of the immersive experience. That pinnacle has nothing to do with the rules; it has more to do with the group of players (GM included). You can do it with BW, DitV (I find this one extremely helpful in this endeavour), AW, D&D, CoC, RoleMaster, or whatever game (and here I mean game *text*, not the activity of gaming) you can think of, if you have the correct group. No one is better for this than any other by itself: I find DitV useful, a friend of mine finds in it an obstacle to get it. We certainly can't roleplay -in your terms- together, but we played this game and many others, having a lot of fun almost always.

      Are we cool on this, at minimum?

    6. I'm saying it is neither impossible nor 'possible as breathing', it is a process that takes time and effort (for the PC to eventually come to life), and the right conditions (chief of which is a lack of getting distracted by mechanics at the time of roleplaying) for it to happen.

      And yes, achieving Immersion is theoretically possible, given a great GM and a good group and all the other things, with pretty well any of those games, but not all games are equally suited to creating the right conditions: specifically, games that encourage you NOT to immerse (for example, many storygames where you are supposed to be thinking of "the fiction" or of the larger development of story and not necessarily to associate directly with the character or treat the world as a true virtual world but rather just a facade for story to happen in; or RPGs that have a lot of mechanical "interruptions" to the immersive process, where you can't just 'incarnate' your character and instead you have to be thinking about making social skill checks or how you're handling the accountancy of your 'story points' or whatever).

  10. I get you point, really, but I'm just not agreeing with you, and you're not agreeing with me.

    In my point of view, there's not necessarily a connection between IMMERSION or ROLEPLAY -as you define it- and mechanical interruptions. And, assuming that there is, why not to play without mechanics at all that get in the middle of our RP? My bet: it's because you like the "game" part too, and you associate that with mechanics. So, it's all about the "balance" between the freeform RP and the "mechanicalized" game, yes?

    I ask you now, maybe a little off topic: Why can't it be a FUSION between mechanics and immersion? Why just maintain it as a precarious "balance"? Wouldn't it be better if those two aspects of every RPG (the "roleplaying" and the "game") can fuse in one amazing experience?

  11. The article is an outburst. Neither very precise, nor constructive.

    In my opinion, John Wick's games are the other end of the line, putting the story / role into the middle. For me, a bit to much. I like his Aegis game. It has great ideas, but as a mecha game it lacks tactical options. On the other hand, I could very well imagine a 7th Sea game following Mr. Wicks game design. It is a matter of taste.
    Yet, I can relate to this kind of game design, even if it is not 100% my style. I can not find any connection with D&D though. Majority of D&D's rules are either remnants of the games tactical tabletop rules (like hit points) or have no significant impact on the play (like alignment). To ad to the insult we have rules which ad unnecessary constraints to the game (like classes). D&D rules facilitate or reward nothing, but mindless combat. As Kenneth Hite put it so aptly: "The original purpose of D&D is to provide continuity between fights."
    So yes, D&D has not much to go for in the role playing department. Can you have fun with it? Sure. Is it a useful for role play or storytelling? No, because it is not designed to be.

  12. Well,

    I may be a few years later to the fight, but I am sorry (not sorry) to say that mr. Wick is 100% right.

    If you were just able to let go for a moment of your knee-jerk reaction to defend something you like no matter what, you might see it.

    It is not impossible to have a great RPG experience with D&D, in the same way that it's quite easy to have a bad FATE RPG experience.

    RPG does not fail as a game; it fails in the intent of an RPG AS AN RPG, which is to facilitate the best role-playing experience.

  13. Super late to the party, but I just ended up here after reading a bit of one of John Wick’s book and wondered to myself “is this guy an asshole? Cause he sounds like someone who thinks they’re smarter than they are”. Glad to find out that, yes, indeed, my first impression was correct. Hard to find out about him with a name like that, but repeteadly engaging with someone for daring to criticise him is always a little bit pathetic, so this is all I needed to know really.