Excellent episode! I think my favourite comment was when Wayne (I think it was Wayne) said, “If you aren’t doing swashbuckling in Eberron, you might be doing it wrong!” I totally agree with that!
I think you covered the topic rather well, I just wanted to add my 4 cents. and I’ll try not to ramble too much.
It is no surprise that a majority of RPGers get their start with D&D. And since Eberron is an official D&D setting, talking about the setting in terms of D&D rules is completely reasonable.
But something I’ve found about D&D (after playing for almost 40 years) is that the system itself isn’t designed to empower characters. It doesn’t encourage them to “think outside the box”. And it doesn’t promote the flamboyant, dramatic, and bold actions of swashbuckling. I’m not saying that it can be done in D&D. I’m just saying that it really requires a DM that actively promotes that kind of play to make it happen. And honestly, I’ve only really learned this from switching to a different system (Savage Worlds). If I were ever to run D&D again, I would do some things drastically different.
This leads to a topic you mentioned in the episode as well; pulling mechanics from other systems into D&D (or whatever system you’re running). And I think this is a great idea. I’ve done it before. One of my favourite times was when I used the Escalation Die from 13th Age and put it into D&D 4E. I absolutely made a positive difference in the length of combat encounters. It also gave the players a decision point on their action (Do I use my big daily power now or do I wait 2 rounds for the additional +2 and have much better odds to hit?).
But I do think that a GM needs to be careful. While it is true that you aren’t likely to break a game by doing this, it is possible with a system like D&D that adding mechanics in could have some “ripple effects” that end up making certain abilities/classes/skills/etc over or under powered. So I would say that any GM that wants to “cross-pollinate” their mechanics should be 100% transparent with their players and let them know that if the results end up contrary to what the GM intended, they may have to pull that mechanic. Or modify it. Or whatever.
And this leads to a thought that was running through my head as you were all talking about players that ask obscure questions. “How long is the table? And what is it made of?” or “How many books are on the top shelf of that bookshelf?” and so on. One thing that D&D is notorious for is providing a situation where the DM and players can become adversarial. Obviously, this isn’t “baked in” to the rules, but DMs and players who are already highly competitive people can easily slip into the “Players vs DM” mode of play. I’ve seen it happen many times (and had those players come to my table and end up shocked that I make all my rolls in the open and tell players the AC of an enemy at the first attack).
Anyway, I was thinking that players who ask questions in a sort of “roundabout way” are often afraid that the DM is going to put the kibosh on their action. They don’t want to say, “Okay, I’m going to dash over, leap up on the table, and launch myself feet-first at the necromancer!” because they are afraid of the DM saying, “Nope, you can’t do that.” Then, when they ask why they can’t do that, the DM says something like, “Well, the table wouldn’t support your weight.” or “You couldn’t get a running start from that table.” or any other convoluted reason to deny an otherwise cool action. For that matter, the DM may just feel like allowing an action like that would make the fight “too easy” for the players. Or maybe they just don’t fee confident enough as a DM to be able to adjudicate the action and they are afraid that if they allow it, it will cascade into some kind of “crazy free-for-all” where the players are just doing outrageous things that the rules don’t cover. So those players are probably just trying to “feel things out” and make sure that any possible denial of their intention is covered before they declare their action.
I’ve had players say that they want to do something like that. And most of the time I’ll say, “Okay, sounds give, give me a roll” of whatever is appropriate. But if the action actually would fail and the character would know that. Like say they wanted to bash a door down, but it is a crazy-thick door with reinforced hinges and stuff like that. I’ll tell them that they can see that it would take more than a squarely placed boot (or shoulder) to be able to bash the door.
But I think that’s because I’ve build the trust of my players. They know I’m not waiting for the “gotcha” moment when they try something and I say, “I know you asked if you could buy material components for your spells, but you didn’t ACTUALLY SAY that you were buying them, so you CAN’T cast that spell!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA-GOTCHA!”
Because GMs that do that are jerks.
Anyway, thanks for all the great Eberron talk. This is seriously one of my fav podcasts and I always move it to the top of the queue when a new episode comes available!