30 July 2010

A Little Bit Of Silliness

I'm supposed to be working on "Servants of Plague", but instead I'm browsing around at some blogs. At the blog "Tales of the Rambling Bumblers," one post in particular caught my eye: http://webamused.com/bumblers/2008/12/11/skill-challenges-threat-or-menace/

And for the same reasons I'd elucidated, here I find a blog post that explains exactly why I don't like skill challenges in 4e. I don't want to get into edition bashing, mind you, because the exact same thing has happened in every edition, but with much less explanation.

That thing is the reduction of roleplaying to a series of die rolls. It's the reason I flat out told my players (in 3rd edition D&D) not to bother taking ranks in Diplomacy, because I'm not letting you roll instead of talk to people. You can't roll some dice and tell me that you were so eloquent that the Duke cried and adopted you on the spot. I want you to prove it, and to come up with something that makes all of that happen.

I just can't understand it. And in the comments, a man, Scott, says that, and I quote:

The only way a skill challenge is *really* different from previous editions is that there’s a structure whereby the entire party can/should participate, and the success or failure of the attempt rides not on a single roll or two, but on a number of rolls.
Persuading an NPC in 1e: Roleplay + Charisma check.
Persuading an NPC in 3e: Roleplay + Bluff or Diplomacy check. Or maybe Intimidate.
Persuading an NPC in 4e: Roleplay + skill challenge, in which the party might use Diplomacy, Intimidate, Bluff, Insight, or even other skills. (Assuming it’s important; otherwise a single skill check still works. You don’t run a skill challenge every time a PC wants to haggle over the price of rations.)
In all three cases, a bad GM and/or bad players can skip the “roleplay” part and reduce it to a die roll. And in all three cases, the dice are unnecessary if the roleplay is convincing enough.
Skill challenges change *nothing* about the roleplay.

Joshua, the author of the Rambling Bumblers blog, calls him out. And I can't see why not. The man has missed the point entirely- he's defending Skill Challenges by saying, "This system designed to get around roleplaying doesn't really get around roleplaying. In older editions, you used to just roll different things to avoid roleplaying!"

One, I don't know if everybody did that. I certainly didn't. And two, that's patently untrue. With the exception of 3rd edition D&D's Diplomacy skill, there was no mechanic for turning out of combat events into a series of dice rolling similar to combat. There was absolutely no precedent for this sort of thing, and there shouldn't be a call for this bizarre substitution, either. With skill challenges, instead of using actual brainpower, experimentation, or logic to solve Puzzle X, you use Skills A, B, and C until it works.

It's a sad, sad shame on par with the fact that traps are all detected with a die roll instead of planning and intelligence, but I digress. The point of this post is to highlight another blogger's intelligent and interesting post, not to add my own poorly-worded two cents to an old discussion. :P

Is it really that common to honestly mistake "roll-playing" from role-playing? I've always thought that was a strawman discussion, where people insist that making Diplomacy checks or rolling Charisma counts as an interesting roleplay encounter.

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