This is right now the most interesting discussion happening in tabletop gaming.
First off, Raging Owlbear opens up with a humdinger of a blog post. It’s about a deceptively simple situation: do you let someone in a recent edition of D&D alter the racial bonuses for their elf or not? The Owlbear comes down hard on this going so far as to say that you’re playing it wrong if you don’t do it his way.
Now… this is an interesting argument because it is applying a cross-game gamemastering rule of thumb– “say yes or roll the dice”– to something that is in an entirely different context. (That was about GM rulings for things that the players wanted to do that were sort of outside the scope of the rules.) Furthermore… if you spend a lot of time delving into vintage rpgs, playing the rules as written is about the only way to find out what those rulesets are even though almost nobody would have played them that way back in the day.
If you want to get lost in the weeds on this, you certainly can! Fortunately, The Complex Games Apologist is here to provide a measured and articulate response:
Why do gamers have such a hard time seeing eye to eye on this…? Runeslinger has an explanation:
People can definitely get confused about ‘just say yes’ and how to use ‘yes/no, but’ when running a game that requires a centralized authority to implement challenges rather than plot.
There is a different perspective on this and when you take away the exasperated tone of the original article, I imagine it would make more sense to people.
If you grew up rolling stats and qualifying for classes, then the suggestion of allowing a bonus swap, or running a game in a way where tailor-making a character and setting elements is possible can seem ridiculous or just never even occur as a thought. Making choices versus challenges is a major part of play, even in chargen.
For those who grew up selecting class first and using point-buy or roll many D6 and drop the lowest for chargen, it will seem arbitrary and ridiculous to quibble over where the bonuses get assigned. To them, it is just a skin that they are designing as their vehicle to enter the ‘story.’
Likewise, the decisions and authority needed by a GM running an ‘explore and survive’ game will be very different from one who is collaborating with their fellow players to create a world and its stories together.
It’s apples and oranges, but to many, too many, both people are talking in raspberries~
Needless to say, if changing the attribute bonuses of an elf character is really that big of a deal, then changing the hit dice for the thief class is right out.
There’s really only one answer to people that would suggest such a thing: #NotAtMyTable.