I finished Dragon Age II this weekend. I enjoyed it a lot, and will probably get around to reviewing it, but I'll likely do another playthrough first. Partly this is because I like to re-playthrough Bioware games in general, but in this specific case it's because the game REALLY left me feeling like the choices I'd made all along the way lead directly to the culmination of things. One of the reasons I really want to try playing it again is to see how true that is - will things unfold differently, or is it all just sleight of hand? I'll say this: if the impact of the choices are half as real as they seem, Bioware has done something really magnificent here.
Playing the game also got me thinking about tabletop play, and I think there are a lot of lessons to take from the CRPG that could translate well into tabletop. First and foremost, the whole game is, effectively, a single urban campaign. The majority of play takes place within a single city and its surrounding locations. I love urban games, but I've always found them to be a real bear to run beyond a certain point, but this hangs together well enough that it really feels like it could just as easily have been one of the Plot Point adventures that Savage Worlds uses. Yes, there are a few random bits that might feel out of place (mugging seem to involve small armies) but the overall shape of it works very well. This is hard enough to explain succinctly that I'm going to have to chew on it for a while to create a useful set of lessons for people who haven't played the game, but if you do play it, take some time to think about how well it would migrate to tabletop.
The big lesson, and the one that really stayed with me as I played, was how strong the story/roleplaying side of it was. The fights were fun and all, but Bioware (as usual) brought their writing chops to bear to create a situation full of well-motivated characters in conflict with one another and few clear solutions. Part of why I'm so curious to replay the choices I made is that the game goes to great lengths to make sure they have teeth. A lot of times games will offer you choices, but there's one obvious good choice, and you only take the others if you're curious. DAII had more than a few points where the choices were all bad - not in a punitive way, but in a way that made total sense to what has happened. Things like a friend passionately and honestly wanting to do something that's a terrible, terrible idea: you can be loyal to your friend and back their play, or you can (in their eyes) betray them. How do you want to play it?
Oh, and for the weasels (like me) out there who try for the middle path of compromise all the time, thinking that's what the game wants? Yeah, that might work. Or it might mean you get BOTH bad outcomes. You're often better off making real choices.
But here's the thing: they managed to do this with a game that is really about button-mashing ass kicking. The mechanical parts of your character sheet have only a minimum of interplay with these choices. And that drove home a point for me: it's a cop out to blame a system for "not supporting role-playing" - hard choices don't care what system you use. If you're not making them in your play, the problem is not mechanical.
Now, to head off the obvious protest, yes, obviously, some systems have built in hooks to drive things towards hard, meaningful choices, but the reality is those are just tools to help get there. The system can't makes choices matter - at best it can force a pantomime of the act of making a hard decision. Choices matter because your game, at your table, either goes there or it does not. If the problem is that you don't know how to go there, then fine. It can be learned, there are tricks that can help get you there. If you want to reach that point, you can do it.
But if you know how, and especially if you know how well enough to complain that X or Y game doesn't allow it, then you need to take a hard look at your table and decide if the problem is that you can't face the hard choices, or that you don't want to.
And if you don't want to, that's fine. But cop to it, don't blame the system.
(back) 1 - I am, I know, more or less equating good roleplay with hard, meaningful choices. That's not all there is to it, and there are a lot of assumptions in there about what hard and meaningful mean, but by and large, I think I'll stick by it.
(back) 2 - One other easy protest is that, as a computer game, it has an easier time pushing things to choices than tabletop, by virtue of things being on rails and choices being from a menu. The latter point is reasonable - tabletop offers you more choices if you're creative - but the former carries less weight than you might expect. It would be true if the choices were arbitrary (and a few are), but when the choice is a natural outcome of the conflicts in the setting, then the only advantage the computer has is one of pacing, and even that is a tenuous advantage. If two people, ideas, forces or whatever are in conflict, then the computer only has one path for things to come to a head. At the tabletop, you have many more options for how that conflict may manifest, but so long as the opposing factors are robust, the problems _will_ come to a head.
I think where I want systems to come in on this issue is to increase communication to me as a GM. I have gone back and played Legend of the Five Rings after a lot of story-game style systems and it's been a real struggle. It's very easy for the players to disengage from these hard choices through their character generation and I've struggled pulling them back in. The system really isn't giving me the tools I need for that, so it's completely on my shoulders as a GM. I'm just guessing at what will engage them and I miss a lot.ReplyDelete
I have other system problems with L5R, too, but this is definitely one I notice.
Like Brennan above, a lot of what I'm looking for is a system to support me providing hard choices or making them. I want the system to help me make the game about the characters by getting the characters involved from the get go.ReplyDelete
My other big cross that I keep trying to bear is resolving conflict that doesn't involve physical combat. As a GM, I don't want to be the sole arbitrator of how persuasive a character is, I want guidelines and structure just like there is for other conflict resolutions.
I should clarify that I'm absolutely not saying system can't help - rather I'm saying that if the system does not help, then it does not make it impossible to do these things, nor does it absolve the table of responsibility. I LOVE that we have games that help put these things front and center, but I also think that those games help us build the muscles that let us go back to another game and do the heavy lifting without the help,ReplyDelete
Rob - I agree completely. I used to play this way all the time before I started with story games. It's just so much easier that I now struggle with the older style systems.ReplyDelete
I'm not sure I completely buy your argument, here. For example, if a game presents an obvious mechanical advantage to doing something that doesn't have any actual mechanical payout in the negative, many players will jump on that regardless of whether or not the ongoing narrative paints it in terms of a hard choice or not.ReplyDelete
In most versions of D&D, my tough fighter can leap off a 60 foot cliff and land on a dude who's running away because I know my hit points can soak it up. There's no hard choice there, but it would be totally different in some game that said, "jumping off a 60 foot cliff could be suicide... but you must stop that guy running away!"
And that's not even a "social" mechanic. That's just whacky RPG physics being exploited. It informs choices a great deal, and I think folks who know the rules and their loopholes will exploit them if given the opportunity, and to hell with the roleplaying. They'll make THAT work for them after the fact.
@cam I don't think that's illustrative of much beyond kind of stupid rules. I'll fully cop to bad rules being a problem, but "Not story supporting" doesn't necessarily equate to bad.ReplyDelete
But more broadly, if the choice isn't hard, then it isn't hard. It sounds like a tautology because it kind of is. A choice is not hard because it's _supposed_ to be hard, or because the drama dictates it be hard - it's either hard or it isn't. If no choice is ever going to be hard for player (snikt, bub) then they are lookign for a specific experience, and that's great, just so long as everyone gets that.
I think my only problem with this is with the use of the phrase "cop-out." I mean, there are some systems out there that actively discourage making any but the most optimal tactical choice at any given moment, and some people don't like those systems. I disagree that that's a cop-out.ReplyDelete
Knowing you, I don't think that's what you're saying, but I think it's not a stretch to read it that way.
Oh, FFS, that last comment is from Clark Valentine. Stupid google group login.ReplyDelete
@Clark It's a strong term, and I'll stick by it, but I'll clarify a bit.ReplyDelete
Not EVERY choice needs to be a hard, meaningful one. In fact, I think some games end up suffering because they try to make it all drama all the time. To use D&D as an example, since it's the elephant in the room, I fully expect 90%+ of the choices I make to be ones based on mechanically optimal choices because those choices will be made within the context of things like combat or advancement, and in that context, optimization is appropriate.
But that does not mean I cannot face hard choices about WHO I fight and WHY.
Now, again, maybe I don't want to face those choices. I, personally, don't want to if I'm intentionally playing a game that's really just an excuse to kick some ass. But to pretend that I want that stuff, but say i can't because "The game doesn't support it?" - that's me blaming the game for my decision. And it's a cop out.
Count me as one of those who do not buy your argument, Rob. You even acknowledge the flaw in your reasoning in your second footnote: the software is forcing you make these decisions, ergo they ARE part of the system in DA2.ReplyDelete
And "supporting roleplaying" isn't just about driving towards hard choices (Narrativism, as i read it); it's about prioritizing the fiction. You can admonish people about making the fiction matter all you want, but if the system (written rules or whatever procedures are in place at the table) is actively working against you, play inevitably devolves to being fiction-agnostic. I have seen this in countless D&D sessions.
You can drive toward hard choices all you want, but if the system in play rewards whatever outcome is tactically optimal, regardless of the fiction, that's what you're going to see happen.
Or, your group is going to find itself dissatisfied and looking to play something else... or simply drifting the system until it rewards the kind of play they are looking for.
(Even then, they may possibly drop the game because the drifting is too much work. MJ Hamish's blog over at http://rpg.brouhaha.us is a good example of this. No amount of hacking was enough to get 4e working they way he and his players wanted. They switched to FATE, and now are all happy.)
Ironically, I had a great running game of 4e D&D that had hard choices until one of them led to their downfall, but the subsequent games using a more free-form "role-playing friendly" system devolved rapidly into silly messes.ReplyDelete
Your mileage will vary!
Sometimes the straight-jacket of rules and conventions leads to something wonderful. J.S. Bach made it work for him.
@buzz The rub is that I actually think that a human GM can do it _better_ than a computer. I recognize this as counterintuitive because the computer can do a better job with certain trappings, but I think it's roughly akin to certain boardgames - A computer can trounce a novice, but beyond a certain skill level, the human is going to eat the computer's lunch, so to speak.ReplyDelete
Beyond that, yes, there's definitely an element of buying into the fiction that's required for non-mechanical choices to have any teeth. I think that's a good thing, and while I don't think it's an easy thing to achieve, I am explicitly disagreeign with the notion that it's only possible with system rewards.
Now, that's a big assertion - bigger than a comment can probably support - but it's one that has grown on me over time. System rewards can absolutely help, but they can also be a bit of a crutch. Investment, specifically the stuff that ends up tripping our buttons as humans (sympathy, empathy, visceral and emotional responses, stuff like that) gets watered down by systemization and rewards. By itself, this is not a weird assertion - lots of literature supports how weird thing get between our perception of actions and rewards - but it has the effect of saying that maybe the tools that help us get good at emotionally compelling play are also the things that keep us from getting better at it (beyond a certain point).
You know, this does sound like a much more eloquent version of the "we didn't need social mechanics in our games back when we played AD&D, we just roleplayed it out!" argument I see a lot. :)ReplyDelete
@cam It's absolutely a related argument. Thing is, there's a reason that argument persists. Whether that reason is because there's some truth to it or because those people are all just not smart enough to know better is one of those core internet questions.ReplyDelete
"System rewards can absolutely help, but they can also be a bit of a crutch."ReplyDelete
Rob, I'm very fond of Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn, which suggests among its central premises that at a certain point, increasing incentives can overshadow our perception of the value of the behavior being rewarded - in simple terms, the money becomes more important than the job being done. So we naturally stop trying to excel at the behavior and get into the habit of doing what is minimally necessary to achieve the reward.
I buy your argument, which shouldn't surprise anyone - there was Narrativism before there were "story games". The chief difficulty I've faced in "trad game with hard choices" play isn't about not knowing how to get there, it's about not being able to guarantee as reliably that everyone wants to get there.
It's expectation management. You look at a sheet and a system that tells you how good you are at killing things and taking their stuff, and either you expect that you're going to be doing that and get disappointed when you don't, or the effort you put in seems wasted because you know you're not going to be doing that as often.
Obviously, I'm painting that in hyperbole - there are a lot of levels of response in between. It is not impossible to manage these dichotomies, but because it all gets moved up firmly into the social realm, doing so has historically been a fairly murky enterprise.
These days, I'm not sure I have the patience to expend that kind of energy, especially when systems exist that communicate expectations more efficiently by comparison.
Bioware hires the best of the best to create those hard choices. And they don't do it alone nor do they do it in real time. The skill involved is non-trivial.ReplyDelete
Is a system required to help you create those hard choices? Absolutely not.
But the people who are great at creating hard choices without system are using either their rare innate talents or hard earned skills.
I know gamers who can't stand Aspects from Fate. "You don't need a system for this!" But most of them have been gaming for 20+ years or even crazier… many of them have been professional actors, writers, directors... or studied these skills in school for 4 to 10+ years! I have friends who say, "why do you need a GM?" but they've participated in live Improv on stage for 5+ years.
I'm a good GM, but I've GMed for 400+ different people and I still make mistakes when it comes to presenting hard choices in games that don't give me to tools to make the process easier. Without system, it's a skill. And not one I would expect to be required for someone to have a satisfactory experience to play roleplaying heavy RPGs.
I also game with teenagers and young adults who have no RPG experience. I think we can sometimes take for granted how many skills we bring to the table. I know I have! It's taken years of usability and multivariate testing experience to learn how to remove my own biases and advantages from the bigger picture. I frequently see RPGs played without the support of system or skill. Hard choices in those scenarios are rare in my experience.
@jenskot I think you nailed something critical on the head. You're absolutely right that it's a skill, and a non-trivial one at that, and I am ABSOLUTELY taking a somewhat selfish view when I talk about setting aside structure to raise the bar. Issues of gigantic ego aside, it's something I'm asking of myself when I wonder "Ok, how do I get better?"ReplyDelete
But I would NEVER consider discarding all the structure that got me there. SOme of it, sure, but the idea of structure is not what I'm fighting against. At best, my hope is really to say "Ok, we know that X can get us this far, but can it get us farther? No, ok, how about Y? Did it work? If so, does that offer any new insights on X?"
Hard to talk about. Easy to miscommunicate. But, then, it's one of the questions that comes up with almost any RPG text: who is your audience and what do they need? So, I guess I'm making that question more complicated and painful, which it doesn't need, but I don't see another option. :)
@Lenny No disagreement. Question is really what I'm looking to do at any given moment, and sometimes the answer really is "To see if 11 is where it stops". But, FUCK, yes, that's work.
(And to slightly offset the ego thing, I actually believe that most of the people reading this blog have a similar A game. But as Lenny notes, it's WORK to use it, so there is a reasonable choice regarding how much you're going to use tools vs. personal effort.).ReplyDelete
@Rob: makes total sense!ReplyDelete
I'm in the same boat in many ways. I'm looking for what can get me farther (which is different than what is useful for people starting out).
Because I'm constantly gaming with strangers, what I mainly want from system is real time communication tools. I want Beliefs from Burning Wheel that change in real time and that everyone can hook into, not just the person who wrote down that Belief.
I'm currently running Smallville ( Leverage probably next). We've been having problems with Smallville but there is a lot of brilliance. Specifically, I LOVE challenging Values and Relationships.
Often when we sit down, games ask us what we want. But many people don't know or change their mind frequently. In Smallville, I can write down anything to start and if I don't care anymore about a "Belief", I can challenge it to either make it go away or change it in exchange for gaining huge mechanical advantages. And it becomes pretty clear to everyone at the table what I'm now interested in. It's not perfect but I think it's starting to address what I need, especially when I game with new people all the time.
I dunno, Rob. A lot of what you're saying sounds a lot like "All you need is a good GM" to me, and I think we all know by now that's a bogus assertion.ReplyDelete
System is both what's written in the rules and a given group's habitual procedures. The "A game" you bring is indeed systemic reward incentivizing hard choices/immersion/whatever. And sometimes, depending on the RPG in question, bringing that "A game" is a herculean effort.
Ergo, I don't find it a cop-out to claim RPG X doesn't support this or that. Rules are all about modifying behavior to achieve a given result. If there is no rule, or no fruitful void created by the rules, that drive towards a given behavior, said behavior is not going to happen, save by random happenstance.
Now, if you want to keep things free-from and loose, leaving the "role-playing" to the humans and the combat stats to the rulebook, that's cool. But I am definitely with Lenny w/r/t setting expectations. An RPG should clearly communicate what it is about, and its rules should support that stated premise.
Personally, I have always had more success when the rules and I are on the same page. "The GM/player will handle it with his A game" has always ended in disappointment for me.
"I am ABSOLUTELY taking a somewhat selfish view when I talk about setting aside structure to raise the bar."ReplyDelete
For what it's worth, Rob, I think it's a totally worthy line of inquiry, if only because I think that line necessarily ends at the great underexplored phenomenon in RPGs: us.
For a hobby that is so social, it amazes me that so little has been said about what we, as groups of people in active, dynamic communication, actually bring to the table.
I was thinking while reading all the bad reviews of this game that these people probably didn't appreciate good GMing skill when they saw it. Was so impressed by all the meaningful choices in DA:O, even though I didn't get my fifth party member till sixteenth level because of it.ReplyDelete
@Leonard Balsera "For a hobby that is so social, it amazes me that so little has been said about what we, as groups of people in active, dynamic communication, actually bring to the table."ReplyDelete
I know that the Evil Hat crew isn't all that fond of the Forge, but I think this kind of "people at the table" focus is exactly what a lot of Forge theorizin' is all about. :)
Though not obvious from the surface topic, this entry really relates back to Friday's universal RPG topic. Obviously, it also hit a nerve, because most people will probably be tired of reading before they get to my comment. Lots of spirited discussion. There are so many topics that have bubbled up, it is hard to focus my comment, but, to again harken back to Friday's topic, the diversity of systems and what they promote or discourage greatly, though not perfectly, reflect "us" and Lenny so eloquently puts it. Even though we are all gamers, we really do want different things. And sometimes we want contradictory things at diffeerent times or stages of when we are playing. What is interesting to me as I continue to recnnect with my gamer roots around the internet, is how invested people are to different system and style choices. The "us" part of it. Because, it really seems like we can't just all get along. When we make a choice to value story, or to value rules/structure, or to value a loose game, or to value a real or imagined "old school", someone else is really pissed off about it (and sometimes they are pissed off, because we make a choice in a rather fundamentalist way (I have so chosen and the rest of you are going to gamers hell because you are not of the true faith)). I blathered on in my posts on Friday about how tied together choices about systems and setting were hard to divorce, but even harder is to look at things without considering the "us." The system and the setting are all very well, but without understanding the varied and fractious audience, the question of choices and whether they are hard or valued or valuable, is often a non-starter of a question.ReplyDelete
I like this post immensely, but don't have much to add; I am a narrative-junkie, and to me, narrative is about choices. I think that you're right, a system can't make choices intrinsically meaningful—you have to bring that to the table, that's why you play (if you're me). I've gone through similar processes thinking about in-game rewards and motivations.ReplyDelete
But what I really wanted to say was that I'm amused that you posted this at the same time as Austin posted a bit about DAII.
@buzz: You've just hit upon a subject that requires me more than a comment space to respond to adequately, and may require us to meet at a con and drink heavily.ReplyDelete
So instead, I'll throw out a couple of bullet points that hopefully don't take us too far from Rob's momentum:
1.) My Internet alias used to be Landon Darkwood. Now go read Ron's "Narrativism: Story Now" essay, and look at all the quoted conversations. The relationship you're implying between Evil Hat and the Forge is a touch more nuanced than you're allowing for.
2.) It is interesting, for all that Forge theory talks about everything being bracketed by the social space, that the mechanics of many "Forge diaspora" games can have the effect of lessening the influence that the social space has on play. One example of this is by discouraging drift, but there are others.
You, me, and the nearest bar. Or, you know, maybe another blog somewhere. :)
@Leonard Balsera: Drinks are on me, sir. Any time.ReplyDelete
Also, if I implied any contentiousness to Evil Hat's relationship with the Forge, it was not my intent. I meant only that said relationship is less "Forge, take me now!" and more "Hey, Forge, what's up?" :)
@buzz: You're my new best friend.ReplyDelete
Also, I only said what I said precisely because the thing is complicated. 'Cause there's Fred's POV, Rob's POV, my POV, etc etc ad nauseum. You know how it is.
@Rob Dude, when it comes to GMing, my A Game aspires to your A Game's area code. I require a great deal more practice before this stuff will come naturally to me, and honestly I really appreciate the help some systems provide regarding non-combat play. (That said, right now our group is playing that hippie indie game WFRP 2e, so what do I know? ;) )ReplyDelete
"...increasing incentives can overshadow our perception of the value of the behavior being rewarded - in simple terms, the money becomes more important than the job being done. So we naturally stop trying to excel at the behavior and get into the habit of doing what is minimally necessary to achieve the reward." - LennyReplyDelete
This is my sadness in playing any game: We're pattern recognizing machines that naturally look for (and discover) the most efficient way to play a game.
So, if we're presented with 4E, despite the myriad of colorful flavor presented around character options, through a little trial and error and some basic math skills, we're going to quickly become good at making characters that are good at killing things, even if it isn't our goal from the onset. It becomes knowledge you can't unlearn.
But tactics aren’t the only thing we become efficient at, we can become just as efficient (and unfortunately mechanized) about narrative principles. A player can become good ad making whatever "choices" the system rewards them for.
Example: I know that in Burning Wheel, I'll get rewarded for perusing my beliefs and being hampered by my instincts. So, I quickly learn to make beliefs that are immediately actionable (I can work on them NOW) and instincts that are always going to mess up my day. Which is great for story, until I figure out how to do those things so efficiently that it stops adding to the story. Example: "oh, another beggar in the city of beggars asked me for money, and I hate it when they do that, I scream at him like I screamed at the last 30 beggars and I get artha"
When this happens to me as a GM, I suddenly feel betrayed by the same tools I used to love. Like all the sudden my aspects in FATE aren't bringing the same punch they used to. My compels are getting mitigated, or players are self-compelling themselves in ways that avoid the hard choices. I look at my players and wonder what they are getting out this, because it isn't a good story, or hard choices or something I would want to see in a movie anymore.
And when a game comes to this, the natural skill we have at recognizes patterns in systems can (I won't say does because there are plenty of times I don't see this) mean that the player has figured out how to beat the computer, and there's no challenge left, unless the GM can step up, as a person, not a component of the system to say “that is weak sauce, we need to add some punch to situation otherwise it is boring the crap out of all of us.”
In short, I see systems ending up a crutches that we expect to generate good story and agree that the human element is necessary to take it a step further and prevent the engines of efficiency from making the game flat.
I don't think this question is ever going to be solved to the satisfaction of everyone, but I do think that there's another aspect that can help both skills and system in the investment during a game: The GM chapter.ReplyDelete
It may be trite now, but the GM chapter is where the stories should be dissected, the system's engine tore wide open and the social group profiled. I've just read the Dragon Age GM chapter where it says "present the players with tough choices". Now, there is not much more than that, but I think the opportunity exists for informing the GMs that a good story is more than inmersion and cool feats of heroism. Investment is really hard to come by because, simply put, it's a personal factor. Inside a social group. Inside a game. Inside a hobby. Inside Real Life (R).
I still remember how Vampire made me feel about telling stories. The system was not precisely "narrativist", but it fade into the background enough for the ideas about personal horror to start sipping in into my brain... Good times :)
I agree that if your system doesn't include story elements to drive game-play then you should be bringing skills to the table to make those choices meaningful.ReplyDelete
A BIG however is to assume everyone has the same A Game. Maybe this is your point of mentioning ego and many story game designers DO have an A game but if people played more systems that have story mechanics that enforce play experience we'd have more players with an A game.
This post crosses an odd gap. On one hand it seems to be saying "don't blame the game your playing if your not role-playing; there are good ways to GM" but the implication when your audience is a bunch of story game designers is "of course you should blame the game; its failing at bringing a constant experience" which is what good games do.
If I play a game like Shadowrun or L5R or Vampire I have to add things like BITs from BW or Dark Fates and prompting from Mountain Witch to really engage the players and make those decisions count. If player have to guess what the GM is getting at or the GM has to guess what really motivates particular players then the system has failed and you should play something else or hack the rules.
I ran a campaign for a while that eventually fizzled. I was frustrated because I had this really compelling djinn war set up and gods in the mountains and powerful pilgrims wandering the reward or punish the players based on sides they'd chosen, etc. It fizzled because my words and descriptions and choices, no matter how interesting, really weren't hitting what they were into. I don't thing that was reflected in my A game, rather the mechanics didn't support player involvement. Then I understood BITs in BW a little better and drive play based on their BITs.
Yeah, you can say "success in a game is dependent on certain player skills" and that's true and you can discuss ways to improve game play in most systems. But to combine that with "don't blame the system" is a different animal. If your game experience is lacking I think blaming the system is a great idea. Go play something else. Don't read blogs that tell you how to be a better GM. Play games that teach EVERYONE at the table how to engage players and story better. Instead of saying "if you're failing THIS might be how your failing" maybe the different perspective is to find a play experience your looking for in a game that supports it, no?
Sorry. My editing skills were a bit shoddy in that last post. Hope you get my meaning *rolls eyes at typing*ReplyDelete
@Don That's a fair point, and it might be more reasonable to say "Do not solely blame the system - you are part of this too" but even that simplifies things.ReplyDelete
The rub, to my mind, is that there's a contradiction I see in many of the complaints that boils down to this: The people who know best are most likely to blame the game. This is logical enough - assuming this is their area of expertise, they're going to be most sensitized to the failings of the game (and even at our worst, we're still kinder than audiophiles talking about stereos). The problem being that it's very easy to cross the line over to "It's a poor craftsman who blames his tools." Yes, sometimes the tools do suck, and while I sympathize with the situation, I am instantly cynical about the complaint. I wonder if the problem is that they tried to use a hammer as a screwdriver rather than use it for hammering.
Obviously, no one ever has enough visibility to be entirely sure of this, but to bring it back to gaming, I'll say this - there is a difference between a game doing something badly and a game simply not supporting something. D&D doesn't _support_ hard choices, but it's not like it has bad rules for them. If you, as a GM, know that hard choices are important AND you want to play D&D, then you can bridge that gap with your own skills, and if you fall short, then you can either learn from it, or you can blame D&D. The latter is not something I want to encourage.