There's a discussion on Twitter right now about whether or not D&D is a "violence simulator" and it just strikes me as such an off-mark conversation to have
Because, there's a certain sense in which, of course it is. If, for you, D&D is the thing in the core rulebooks, it's a wargame with extra things tacked on to it to make the combat asymmetric and handle out-of-combat scenarios. A third of the rules are things to fight.
But there's also a sense in which it makes little sense to say that at all. If D&D, to you, is the thing that happens at the table, it's an expression of what the players find interesting. It's a way to give players a kind of power they don't have in their real lives. The rules put limits on that power so that it's satisfying to gain more - more gold, more magic items, more class levels, more political power.
So what we end up arguing about is which semantic level we're speaking on - something we should just acknowledge and frame the conversation around in the first place.
If your players want to do violent things - players here including the game runner - they will build that kind of story, in D&D or Heart: The City Beneath or Microscope or Dream Apart. If your players are interested in finding non-combat solutions, they will find, execute, and enjoy those plots, in whatever game you pick.
And it's worth noting that the worst conflict happens when your ideas about this are misaligned. If one player wants to eat nachos and kill orcs, and the other players want an epic tale of romance and want violence to be rare, dramatic, and consequential, *they will come into conflict*. It's even worse if the player with the differing assumptions is the game runner.
Anyway I hate being the person defending D&D because WotC is bad. But, as someone who plays a lot of other games, including games by people who have expressed exactly this opinion - that D&D is about violence in a way that other games are not - I keep coming back to it, not because of marketing but because of community, because of modularity, and because of the, frankly, wide breadth of things it does well.
@tindall I think the conversation is a poorly disguised attempt to get the people who play d&d as something other than a fantasy wargame to explore indie rpgs that better serve their interests
@clayote sure but I don't see why we can't just say that
If the reason is that it doesn't work, we should interrogate why people are sticking to D&D!
@tindall what's to interrogate? Hasbro has a much better marketing machine than some hipsters on itch.io
@clayote that's obviously true but I don't think it's sufficient to explain the difference. ActiBlizz has better marketing than indie devs on itch but indie video games have better market share than indie ttrpgs, in general
@clayote and, if it really is the only reason, that's a golden opportunity for someone to get some VC money. I'm generally against that kind of thing but if the only problem is the market I do think the market can help solve the issue
@tindall indie videogames have more market share than indie ttrpgs because videogames have more market share than ttrpgs, generally
And word of mouth is a legit marketing tactic, so people are using it. In this case, by posting provocations
@clayote I meant "market share" as in a percentage of people who play games in that medium; iirc the ORR report from 2019 says that >65% of games on Roll20 were D&D or a D&D descendant, and WotC claims it's more than that in the general market.
@tindall @clayote 1) some people at their tables only/primarily/at all want to play DnD
2) some people turn this into a moral panic (and have for at least years) about... anything
3) no one involved has enough experience with collaborative anything to identify their own problems and propose constructive solutions
I think that's why
@tindall playing D&D is not really playing. It is historical enactment. There are soo many better RPGs and rule sets these days.
@tindall chess is a classic game. D&D was a prototype. We now have games like Rune Quest or Vampire The Masquerade or Call of Cuthulhu...
@jens_d are you saying that VtM and CoC are categorically better than D&D in every way? That seems hard to defend.
@tindall D&D is a primitive hack & slay & level up game. You hardly need dice. High level Character
wins the fight anyway.
@jens_d I don't agree with you, on an experiential and factual level. It's good to play other games but D&D is also pretty good.
@tindall Also, I quite like biffing things in games. Nothing wrong with a game being “about violence” if that’s what you want to play
@ghost_bird Absolutely. To the credit of folks talking about this, I think they recognize that and acknowledge it.
@gunchleoc Power gaming’s related but not identical. You can absolutely have a game of combat without power gaming
@ghost_bird We did combat too of course, it's part of the game. What we did though was to abolish the XP system and simply decide as a group when it was time to level up, so that we wouldn't level up too fast.
@gunchleoc One of the things I like about 5e is they made that an official option. It always made more sense to me, really, but that’s because I tend to focus on narrative
@ghost_bird We always had some house rules, e.g. the skill "Dangerous half knowledge" which was the most fun when you rolled badly.
@tindall Case in point: We joined a friend's campaign mid-stream and were introduced into the scene as a spy targeting this doofus of a noble who'd allied himself with the bad guys. Plan was he'd make an amusing midboss to destroy and then we'd be rescued and join the party and go from there.
Instead, they took him alive, I was like "hey while we're escorting him anyway I should talk things out," we forged a connection and face-turned him and he's our idiot himbo sidekick/helper/son now.
@tindall To some extent, that feels a bit like a nature/nurture argument.
There may be players with a greater or lesser natural inclination toward violence (or any particular kind of play) but on the other hand, the context of the rules provide direction on what type of play the game nurtures.
D&D might do politics in a pinch if the players want it enough, but it doesn't do it /well./ Microscope doesn't do violence /well./
As always, the final result is a mix of both in different percents.
@tindall if i were to give a short definition i’d call it a cooperative storytelling system with some rules
@tindall what is the discussion even about exactly , like “violence simulator”? that’s pretty ridiculous
@luci I don't think its inherently ridiculous - as I said there is a semantic level on which that totally makes sense. Tons of the official rules are about violence!
@tindall i mean yeah but like, why does it matter if something is a so called “violence simulator”, is it a criticism? or is it just a random statement
@luci I mean, I think it's a reasonable way to describe the game, right? As in, MSFSX is a flight simulator; if you want to run around and shoot things, you should choose a different game. The argument being made is that you should pick a different game if what you're interested in is storytelling.
@tindall it makes some kind of sense, i don’t think it’s necessarily entirely unfit to like, tell stories along with other people
@tindall oh dear.
I mean, first of all, you're right. D&D is your table.
Also though, as someone who grew up with the storm about video nasties and violent video games that were turning young people into delinquents... Surely we got past all that?
(There's doubtless nuance to it, but nuance is the first casualty when a debate goes viral, so when discourse like this starts to take off, I start to get worried.)
@tindall I think it also misses the point that so much of fantasy media (eg Norse sagas, comic books) are played on a stage where ethical struggles are enacted through violence. "Can I count on you?" “You have my sword."
When Captain America punches Hitler, it's not about the punching. It's about who is in the right.
@spaceportmarketwizard Absolutely! And I think there's a conversation to be had about building myths that aren't about violence - building a less violent culture - but that's a separate conversation.
@tindall I agree, but I suspect we won't be able to step away from it entirely as a species. It's just too baked in. Which is not to say that it's healthy if there are no alternative tropes…
@tindall IMO the argument that D&D is a violence simulator has merit when comparing it to other systems. It doesn’t *only* do violence, but it makes a lot more affordances for solving problems through violence than other means, partly because of its wargame rules.
Much of the other fun stuff is less rigorously rules-based, so IME it’s (for instance) much harder to role-play a smooth-talker if you’re not one IRL than it is a mighty warrior/wizard.
@tindall And, coming back to systems comparison, there are ROG systems that consciously step away from combat and offer more rules for social interaction, to enable those fantasies.
I.e., D&D offers many verbs (Skills/Actions) for „hurt“, but only a single one for „Persuasion“
@tindall Agreed. I wish more people would take it in the direction that rollforkindness.com does. He actively talks about ways to use DND for non-violent purposes and works on different pro-social rulesets/games instead of just complaining idly about the biggest game. Universe of possibilities!
@tindall everything is a violence simulator
have you considered how many spores end up meeting a brutal end in your sinuses