Posts Tagged ‘wotc’

D&D Next Packet v0.2

Posted: 21 August 2012 in The Hobby
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So while I was away the world changed, and we suddenly have a new D&D Next Playtest Packet.  I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet, but lots of other people have: once I’ve worked my way through it I’ll add my thoughts to the conversation and probably try to run another playtest (I’m particularly interested to see if my players take to the character creation system or not).  Apparently, this process is expected to continue for 2 years.

In the mean time, there’s a summary of changes included in the packet and I thought I’d share my initial impressions on that.

Changes

Hit Points: everyone, both players and monsters, have lower hit points.  I’d have to look at what exactly this means, but I think it may be a good thing.  (Though, I’d have to finish my investigation of What Hit Points Mean before I can really say.)

Surprise: rather than changing your initiative (-20 to your roll), Surprise now just prevents you from acting at the beginning of combat (essentially just like always).  This is probably a net-positive, but I really liked the penalty-to-roll mechanic.

Opportunity Attacks: exist again, but only trigger if you leave a character’s reach.  I think this gives characters more maneuverability around Giants than around Orcs, but I’d have to check. They also added a disengage action, so you can run away without provoking an attack.

Ranged Attack in Melee: rule only applies to ranged weapons, not spells.  I’d have to refresh myself on what the rule was to be sure of what this means, but again I think it’s probably good.

Short Rest: can be taken even if you have fewer than 1 HP left.  Not sure if that really changes the dynamic or not; apparently it lets a henchman use a healing kit on you, which seems reasonable.

Long Rest Variants: They say they haven’t changed the rule, but they’ve added variants to try out.  I’m tentatively intrigued.

Conditions: Some conditions were altered; I don’t remember having a problem with any conditions before.

Armor and Weapons: the tables have apparently been heavily revised, which is good because they needed it.  Medium Armor no longer penalizes Move Silently.  Don’t know what I think of that one.

Monsters: New stat block format, new abilities, and an XP-based encounter-building system.

Spells: Changed spell disruption rules (now not just Wizard-specific), clarified what you need to cast (your voice and a free hand), and added and revised spells.

Classes: Changed Cleric’s Turn undead and Channel Divinity.  Added combat superiority and fighting style for Fighters.  Changed Rogue’s Sneak Attack and Skill Mastery.  Too vague to really comment on at this level.

Misc: added a skill list (yay), associated skills with attributes (boo), changed the word “Theme” to “Specialty” (huh), and changed some feats.

Oh, by the way…

Did I mention that none of this matters any more?  OK, that might be a little bit of an exageration (for some of you), but WotC also announced that they’ll be releasing their “whole back catalog” of D&D products in electronic format.  I’m not sure what that means, either in terms of what exactly will be available and in exactly what form, but if it means I can hand them a reasonable amount of money and get all those 2nd Ed. treasures I apparently missed out on, color me excited.

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D&D Next Petition

Posted: 17 July 2012 in The Hobby
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So Michael over at Neuroglyph Games has a post up about a petition to WotC to reconsider the path they’re taking with 5th Edition.  Unsurprisingly, he takes his cues from the Open Letter to WotC that was published a couple months ago, and his message is the same: 5e is unlikely to unite the market, and the market doesn’t need to be united.  We like our various rules systems at the best thing to do, for both WotC and Gamers, is to re-release the old systems, continue support for all rules sets, and release content that people will buy.  He notes that there’s loads of material for old systems that never got converted to newer rules sets, and new modules could be written and statted for use with all forms of the game.

There’s a Kickstarter up right now that I think shows a great model for this sort of thing: The Bestiary of the Curiously Odd is a Bestiary book that’s going to bee 200+ pages of monster descriptions and fluff, without any stats; then they’ll publish no less than 3 smaller statbooks, for Pathfinder, OSRIC, and Traveller rules systems.  They just tripled* the market for that bestiary for the cost of a couple small softcovers.  WotC could do the same thing — write up one book with the adventure descriptions and NPCs, and a series of statbooks so that the adventure could be run for 1e, 2e, 3e, 4e…  And with print-on-demand capabilities, you can even avoid a lot of the traditional costs that would be associated with storage, etc.

Michael’s petition is up on Change.org, and since I know a lot of my readers are non-US I want to point out the “outside the US” link on the form as well; I don’t know that it will get noticed by anyone at WotC or Hasbro, but I think it’s at least worth voicing our opinion.

The Next D&D N5xt

Posted: 29 June 2012 in The Hobby
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Mike Mearls has an article up talking about the survey feedback they got from the first round of open playtesting for D&D 5E, and what that means for the next round.

As I’m writing this, it strikes me: why am I writing this?  I’ve pretty much already decided that 5th Edition isn’t going to be for me.  At best I’ll riffle through 5E’s pockets for a few nice ideas, but it’s unlikely that they’re going to make a system that serves me better than 3.X or Pathfinder, and certainly not the way they’re heading right now.  Everything about 5E strikes me as “wonky”, so why bother spending more time on it?

I think the answer is: D&D, and role-playing in general, is something I’m passionate about.  I want to see it done well, and so I can’t help but engage in this dialog (such as it is).  D&D 5E probably won’t become something I want, but if I don’t participate it definitely won’t.  It’s still probably a futile exercise, but…

Anyways, go ahead and read Mearls’ article, I’m going to go through and address his points.

I do think they’re on to something with speed of play, though that may just be in light of the slow pace of modern gaming, and D&D 4E in particular.  It strikes me that the way we play modern systems (regardless of the rules system) tends to bog things down with options and analysis and so on.  The playtest rules at least feel a little more “fast and loose,” so I’ll give them credit for that.  I think most people had positive responses for (Dis)Advantage because they haven’t grasped the full implications of the mechanic.  I’ve all-but decided that I’m strongly opposed to it, myself – not because I think it’s a bad idea, but because I don’t like the roll-twice-drop-one mechanic (and the way it’s math plays out alongside static bonuses).

I like the sounds of adding in combat options and different maneuvers.  I’m… intrigued by the thought of Facing rules.  In my gaming career I’ve never encountered anything like that, though the people I know who have rarely seem to have good things to say about it.  Too much book-keeping?  I don’t know.

Surprise (which was just -20 Initiative for those surprised) was actually something I really liked.  I might have changed it to, say, -15 or -10 so that it wasn’t quite as severe (the best you could do when surprised is a score equal to your DEX mod, and most of the time you’d have a negative score — which means you’re going after everyone on the other side for the entire battle).  I can see how the permanent loss of initiative could be frustrating over the period of a long battle.  Maybe make the -20 temporary?  Or have the surprised members just lose their first turn?  It’s something to think about.

Critical hits were automatic on a 20 and did max damage.  I guess I can see how that’s boring, but it’s also not far from the way things have always been.  I’m a fan of 3.X criticals (threat range, confirm roll, and 2x the roll) with my only real complaint being that a crappy roll can do less than a regular hit (been thinking about max damage+roll for my games).  I really don’t like auto-crit on a 20; it means that 1 in 20 swings will be a critical, regardless of how easy or tough your opponent is.   like confirm rolls because it means 1 in 20 *hits* will be a critical, and that’s a bigger number for weak foes and a smaller number for tough ones.

They’re still interested in getting rid of skill points, and I can kind of understand that.  I think it’s a mistake, but I can understand it.  The idea of having training replace your attribute mod instead of enhancing it is interesting, but it means that training is less useful for someone who’s attributes SHOULD make them good at it.  So a character with a -2 mod is just as good with training as the guy with a +3 mod.  That doesn’t feel right.

Resting and Healing is where I had some of the biggest issues with the playtest.  He doesn’t really say much, except that it sounds like they want to put out different sets of rules depending on how gritty you want your game.  when it comes down to it, THAT is one of the things I dislike the most about the way they’re approaching 5E.  If I get together with friends to play 4E or Pathfinder or OSRIC, there’s a reasonable expectation that we all understand the system we’re going to be playing with, with a bit of variance for house rules and preferences.  With D&D 5E, though, the ASSUMPTION going in is that you can drastically change the rules system, and so it strikes me that there will have to be a negotiation each time a group forms — and when I say that, I mean more of a negotiation than “do we want to play 4E or 3.X?  Each time a new campaign starts there will need to be a discussion as to whether we’re using Themes, or Facing Rules, or High Lethality, and when someone tells invites me to their 5E game, I need ask, “well, which 5e?”

The one thing he does say definitively is more than a little concerning for me: they want to move Healing magic out of the spellcasting system and into a theme or something so that Clerics can heal *and do something else* each round, be it heal and attack, or heal and cast a spell, or whatever.  This concerns me because it’s essentially the biggest tactical failing of 4th Edition.  Tactical Healing works best when it’s a choice you need to make, like taking any other defensive move rather than an offensive one.  By allowing a Cleric to do healing and attacks at the same time, there’s no trade off.  Healing becomes assumed (because why would you not choose to heal, if it’s essentially free), and in becoming assumed it becomes necessary.  Now instead of having Cleric (or at least, Healer) as an option, it’s a staple that every party needs to have in order to be successful.

If you don’t want to be a Healer, don’t be a Healer.  If you don’t want all Clerics to be Healers, we’ve already begun to address that.  But if we take away the tactical cost of healing we lose the ability to choose to have it or not.

I’ve been thinking about WotC’s new “bounded accuracy” idea a lot lately.  The long and short of it is that I don’t like it.  On face value it solves a problem (scaling bonuses and DCs don’t mean anything) that we created ourselves when we stopped letting 5th Level Adventurers encounter a 10th Level Roper.  We developed a fetish for ‘balanced encounters’ and, yes, when you scale monsters and obstacles to the party’s level, monsters and obstacles will scale to the party’s level.  The answer is to stop scaling to the party’s level; then the whole thing goes away.  Let the players experience things they can’t overcome, and then show them the same thing when they can overcome it and the sense that level advancement is pointless goes away.  But it means showing players Really Hard encounters and Really Easy encounters all the time. It means setting DCs based on actual properties of the obstacle, not on how big the character’s bonus is (or should be).

Building appropriate DCs is actually pretty easy.  Once you have the right notion of what the D&D system is supposed to model, you can get an objective sense of how hard things are.  DC 20 isn’t “the DC that’s hard for 3rd Level Adventurers,” it’s “the difficulty of performing master-quality work.”  And you can do this because you can break down what a character’s bonuses mean.

The catch is combat.  At least, that’s the hook I’ve been stuck on since i started chewing on this issue.  Deconstructing to-hit bonuses is still pretty straightforward.  If you’re stronger you can swing your sword better, faster, more accurately, so Strength plays a factor.  There’s a practical limit to strength (there’s an old Roles Rules and Rolls post that equates STR scores with “strength of n men”), and it’s based off a measurable quality of a creature.  There’s also equipment to consider (since masterwork or Magic weapons can help score a telling blow), and lastly there’s training — which is represented as Base Attack Bonus and goes up based on level and class.  if you have a complaint about the rate that BAB increases that might be a valid argument to make, but the system models several (fairly distinct, I think) tiers of adventuring, and there’s a hard limit on BAB within a tier (the best you can do is be a Fighting Man and get +Level).

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I feel like I’ve been talking about alignment a lot lately. Maybe it’s just me.

There’s a post today at Wizards of the Coast’s D&D Website about how every group needs a moral compass “to remind his or her adventuring companions that they’re heroes.”  I would tend to disagree — there are some play styles and some campaigns where having a moral compass might be useful or encouraged, but I think it’s a stretch to say that every group needs a moral compass.  After all, who ever said that the PCs have to be “heroes”?

There was a time when I would have agreed with the WotC article, when I would have shaken my fist and said “yes, that’s what my group needs.”  In those days, I developed campaigns not unlike movie screenplays or novel outlines, and a lot of the time my players messed it up.  They wouldn’t go where I wanted them to go, they wouldn’t act the way I wanted them to act.  I found myself building barriers to discourage the “wrong” choices and trying to suss out what kind of sticks or carrots I could use to get my players to go the “right” direction.  Did they want money, or glory, or fame?  Could I kidnap a family member, or threaten them with the King’s Justice if they didn’t obey?  Those were very stressful times for me, and I’ve been moving slowly but steadily away from them.

The point is, an adventuring group only needs a moral compass if there are wrong choices for them to make.  And more and more, I feel that framing things so that any choice can be wrong kind of misses the point of Role Playing.  Sure, if you have a certain style of game you want to play — say a heroic quest where the PCs fight against the Big Bad Evil Guy — then there are guidelines you need to set down so that everyone (including the DM) has fun with the game.  But the heart of Role Playing is making choices based on who your character is, and for me the best role playing is when your character has to make a tough choice — and that usually requires the character to choose between Good and Evil in some way.  If the going-in assumption is that Evil is always the “wrong” choice, then there’s no choice at all.

In my games, all choices have consequences.  All choices change the world in some way, and that change will come back to affect the characters in some way.  Good acts will sometimes have negative consequences, sometimes doing bad things makes achieving your goals easier.  Players are free to choose to be the Heroes, and that can be awesome and fulfilling, but if my players want to fracture the party and raise armies against each other, I think that should be just as valid.  If players choose to be villains we should let them, and they should reap the benefits and consequences of their actions regardless of what those actions are.