Breaking the Fourth Wall

First off, I also had some thoughts on making D&D 5e experience work more like DCC, although instead of reworking the XP charts, I converted the awards to work within the existing XP charts for the game. Here is a PDF I made of that effort:

When Sean and Brett were discussing the GM that makes you detail every single thing your character does, it reminds me of one of my earliest convention experiences. It was a multi-part adventure where you needed to be voted into the next part of the adventure, and I loved the first section that we played through. For the second session, I had a GM that pulled that exact same thing on me.

“I swing my longsword at him.”

“You don’t need to roll, you missed.”


“You are 10 feet away from him, and you didn’t say that you stepped forward to cross the distance.”

“So my 7th level adventurer hasn’t learned that swords don’t spontaneously grow 10 feet when you attack?”

It was very frustrating.

Part of the discussion wandered into how to get players the information that they want from checks, and I’ve found that between PBTA games, and Star Trek Adventures, I really like letting someone make a check, and if they are successful, I let them ask me a question that I will acurately answer based on what they did to get the information. That keeps me from having to second guess what to tell them or disappoint them with information they didn’t really want. I have a few times said, “from what you said you were doing to get information, I don’t know if you could answer that question.”

I think some of what you were talking about regarding breaking the 4th wall is a discussion on what is diagetic and non-diagetic in the game.

For example, theme music or narrators in a movie or TV show are non-diagetic. Nobody in the story hears the narrator or the music.

On the other hand, if there is a big fight in a club and there is driving techno music while blood sprays out of sprinklers while a vampire hunter is cutting down the undead, that’s diagetic, because while the music emphasises what’s going on, it’s actually being played in the club.

That’s what makes RPGs an interesting entertainment medium, because the players are actors, writers, and audience. That’s why some meta-gaming really doesn’t bother me. Rolling a 1 is like an ominous note in the background music. Low hit points are the tense music that starts playing when the threat is increasing in a thriller.

That’s part of what fascinates me about framing mechanisms in games and stories. I like playing in that space where maybe someone is thinking back to stories they heard. Maybe we’re telling the audience, i.e. the table, that this is like a comic book because we’re framing things with opening splash pages and “to be continued” words appearing at the end of a session.

Sometimes those non-diegetic touches don’t take you out of the game, they create the genre framework that the game is operating within.



I run DCC all the time and find that it’s a very efficient way of awarding XPs. It takes away most of the math and encourages players to take on challenges. It’s a great idea to use it in 5e!

May I borrow it? :grin:


No problem. Borrow away!


My formula in the spreadsheet was off from 5th level on. I replaced the document, but you may want to download the PDF again if you already downloaded it.