As the design stands now, are Themes just a thematic package of feats, which can be otherwise independently selected? That is, are they a strict setup (to get these mechanical perks, you need to take this Theme), or will players be able to pick and choose feats in lieu of taking a theme package?
You can forgo a theme and go straight to feats if that’s what you want.
Themes establish a place in the world for feats. They are also a useful design tool, as they force you to give a feat a context in terms of who uses it and why.
- I’ve been thinking about this concept for a while now and I suspect that it has merit, though perhaps not in the way that the designers intend. Themes and Classes in Next are going to resemble Essentials classes in that, once you’ve picked them, there isn’t much leveling management other than noting what new thing you got. The player doesn’t have to make a whole bunch of decisions unless they want to.  I actually think that this is elegant design, as long as there isn’t an explicit barrier within the system to tweaking the character. This brings up an interesting idea: if a GM doesn’t want to worry as much about degenerate builds, they can always disallow modifications. This is different than the system telling the players that they can’t. It seems like a very authoritarian form of table control, but sometimes extreme measures are required.
- It’s worth noting that, as far as I know, accuracy feats are dead. This is an excellent thing.
: This makes me wonder if “prepackaged” 4e characters wouldn’t be something that the readers of this blog would enjoy and get use out of.
Thanks for doing this. Love DnD. Here are a couple of my questions:
- What are you guys doing to end the 5 minute adventuring day that has pretty much plagued every edition of DnD.
- Have you give any thought to being able to run a campaign in DnDNext without the archetypical party? Specially, what if you didn’t want to go with a cleric, how would combat healing work?
- Why would anyone every use a crossbow instead of a shortbow in dndnext? Same damage, but one takes an action to reload.
- Any hints on what you guys will be doing to the Monk in the new edition?
- I really want to address this with DM advice. I think that trying to make the rules do this just messes things up.
- This is basically the crux of our healing mechanic issues. We want the cleric to be optional. Whether we just have other classes with robust healing or a rest system that makes that work remains to be seen.
- We have fixed this in the revisions we’ve made to the weapons.
- I’d like to make the monk really good at fighting. I liked the movement options the class gets in 4e, and think that as the best unarmed warrior in the game the monk should be a match for the fighter.
- I really wish they would stop with the notion that the Cleric is the only class that can heal. 4e demonstrated that there could be many classes that heal that felt unique and fun. The issue seems to be one of design space. The moment you say that healing is part of Cleric class identity, you’ve given away your ability to assign that to other classes.
- I’m kind of confused at what advice you can give GMs to counteract the 15-minute workday when Next is being designed to be far more dangerous than 4e or 3.5. If the PCs get the piss beat out of them for whatever reason, they’re going to want to rest, it’s as simple as that. With the mindset that “combat is war” where imbalances and unfairness occur more often, the fights that go badly tend to go really bad. The only way that an encounter doesn’t trigger this is if the encounter gets bypassed, which isn’t an acceptable solution for some groups, or if it is designed in a more balanced “combat as sport” fashion.
Another question, Mearls, is why did you decide to pull away from giving non-casters concrete rules and abilities and have them leave their effectiveness up to what is essentially GM Fiat?
This is especially confusing since the casters stuff is still all formal and concrete and vastly over shadows what the non-casters can do.
I mean, in the playtest there’s “I can do STR mod damage guarenteed but I’m slower than the majority of things we’ll fight and have no way of stopping them from running away and kiting my ass” Fighter, “At-Will Movement=0 then fire everywhere” Wizard and the two “Better Fighter than Fighter + I got the heals” Clerics.
Since this is the playtest I have to assume that these pre-gens are general insights in to how these roles/classes will work and I’m confused and lost as to how this would ever been a good design choice.
There are definitely directions that will change based on the pregens. Ray of frost is a little too good at this stage. Honestly, the goal of the playtest is to generate exactly the sort of feedback you just gave us.
And, as has been mentioned, we’re working on a maneuver system.
Finally, I do think that fighters could use a unique mechanic or two that really speaks to giving them a clear edge in some way. In the past, they’ve relied on best AC and best weapon, but those aren’t vivid enough IMO.
- “Aren’t vivid enough” is a phrase… Oh, let’s be honest, he’s already admitted several times that the Fighter is too bland. Time to stop beating that horse.
- How do you plan to balance magic item stacking?
- Will it be possible to permanently increase a stat?
- Will magic users have items that directly increase their abilities in a way that corresponds to magic weapons for melee?
- Is there thought given to the “budget” that different class styles will need to spend on equipment to keep up with the balance curve?
- We’re hoping to avoid +X items outside of armor, weapons, and shields.
- We’re looking to keep implements as items that increase spell accuracy/save DCs.
- We’re actually looking at making buying equipment optional. Instead, you are given a starting package based on background and class.
- If they’re going to gate permanent stat increases through the GM, they need to put in a section that describes how this might be abused or get out of control.
- I wonder how the grognards will feel about seeing a +1 wand.
Why not give heavy armor the Dex bonus? It’s not like it constricts your movements that much; in fact, it actually gives you greater freedom of movement in combat, since you can maneuver without having to worry about someone hitting your soft parts.
My POV summarized: http://www.enworld.org/forum/new-horizons-upcoming-edition-d-d/324624-awfully-alarmed-about-armour-2.html#post5937680 Especially “Wearing armor in combat should always be preferable to not wearing armor in combat.”
The key is to strike a balance between low Dex characters and high Dex ones. One of the tricks to class design is to allow players to feel like they can ignore a stat if they want to focus on the class’s strengths. It’s a little irritating if a fighter needs high Str, Con, and Dex, or if the high Dex light armor guy has a better AC than the fighter.
- I’m not sure why Dex mod adding into defenses wasn’t among the things they threw out because they were too complicated for the benefit.
It seems to me the greatest challenge WotC faces in shepherding D&D into the 21st century is one of time. Specifically, the time players spend away from the gaming table.
The original network of D&D players in the 70s and 80s, when they stopped playing D&D, went home and created content. World, dungeons, maps. They took this content and iterated on it for years.
These days players, and this is my direct experience, regardless of age or background, love the game at the table. But when they leave the table, they go play Skyrim or Minecraft or whatever.
Do you have any plans for giving players online tools to create content, worlds, dungeons, adventures, and share them with others? Vote on the best ones, search, download, modify? Crowdsource, in other words, the content creation people used to do habitually and alone?
Great job on 4E, BTW. Best system I’ve ever seen.
This is definitely a big issue for all games. I can’t make specific comments, but it is something that I think is a logical extension of the game. In some ways, D&D was one of the first games (along with minis games) that had a lot of away-from-the-game entertainment built into it. There is definitely something there that I want to tap into.
- As a child of the 70′s, I can say that there was a lot less to do in those days. RPGs now have to compete with instantly available entertainment and I think how they do that is an excellent discussion to have.
My sincerest thanks for doing this AMA!
D&D Next Questions:
- I’m a huge fan of Iron Heroes, and I would love to play a D&D Next campaign that doesn’t rely on the party having access to magic of any kind. Will this be an explicitly supported option?
- I don’t like random hit points upon level up. Will D&D Next explicitly support deterministic hit point progressions?
- I really like the idea behind the advantage/disadvantage mechanic, but I am a bit confused about how to apply it. For example:
- In a contest, does the party with the upper hand roll with advantage, or does the other party roll with disadvantage?
- Can NPCs get advantage or disadvantage?
- Yes, the core game does not assume any benefits coming from magic items. They purely make you better.
- Yes, we’ll have options for rolling or taking a number.
- It’s possible for one side to had disad and the other advantage in a contest. I’d recommend looking at each factor that affects the contest and assessing it as a disad or advantage for one side or the other. NPCs can definitely get either affect, depending on the situation.
- Answer #1 here confuses me. People want things that make them better. If someone gets a magic sword that helps them hit more often, how does the desire on the part of the other players to hit just as often not become the new normal? Am I supposed to say, “I’m sorry, Witchknight, you can’t have a magic rod because it isn’t good story, even though Ogden got his sword”? That seems… unhealthy.
- Oh, yay. It’s not as though 4e addressed the fact that almost every group had house rules for hit points or anything. Let’s just keep unmaking the wheel and then adding it in as an optional feature.
My biggest problem with 4E was magic items. Back in 3e, and 3.5, it was awesome to get a magic item, because it would deal consistent, extra damage (+1d4 ice, +1d6 fire, etc.). With the vanilla 4e ruleset, those are thrown out the window. Magic items were basically +1 to hit, or maybe +1 damage. I realize its balanced around this, but it just feels sorta underpowered, and lame. I like rolling lots of dice, and I never felt I could in 4e, at least at the lower levels.
I remember the first time, as a Warlock, I got a Warlock Pact Blade. In 4e, using the player’s handbook (or DMG I can’t remember), it was +1 to hit, and +1 damage. The only other thing it had going for it, was as an Encounter, you could use Eldritch Blast. What? Why was this even a thing? I can cast Eldritch Blast a million times, why was this some extra thing? It basically made Pact Blades cool for other casters, and useless to a Warlock.
How are magic items handled in DnDNext? Will we see a return to awesome extra damage, or will they say “super balanced” and +1 to hit. I looked over the Wizard, and felt he was okay, but I wanted to ask about the Rogue. I noticed that there really isn’t an option for extra damage on a Sneak Attack (I think it said you can get +1d6), but I liked how at higher levels this would go up in damage, making Sneak Attacks a valuable thing that only happened rarely. Are these types of abilities falling by the wayside?
We want magic items to feel awesome. I want the +1 or +2 to be something that you might even gloss over, and part of me wants to try designing the game without them.
I’d much rather have a hurricane flail that generates buffeting winds, knocks arrows out of the sky, and summons an air elemental than a +1 weapon. Key is – how many people agree with that? Are +X weapons/armor/etc iconic to D&D?
That said, I think we can have both. We’ll likely limit the maximum plus you can get, and we can then simply start with interesting/cool items and add pluses to those.
- I think that +X items are only iconic in that people grok the math of hitting more often. That doesn’t make them exciting, only necessary.
what if any thing were you disappointed by during 4th edition and how will you address it in D&D next?
I think that giving every class the same power progression was a compromise that we didn’t need to make. We were trying a few different things, and I think that there was too much of a sense that we needed to use a brute force method to balance things.
In Next, we’re going back to unique progressions for each class.
- I don’t disagree that it would have been very possible to create different progression mechanics for different classes. I think that having diverse progression fights a feeling of sameness at the cost of balance. I mean, if Fred the Fighter gets an additional +1 to-hit and Wally the Wizard gets access to a new spell level, who do you think is going to be more excited?
1) Any comments on Perception and the blind rogue/radar cleric issue? The wisdom=perception still has some bizarre side effects, like the fact that the characters who used to have Listen At Doors as a class feature are now among the deafest characters in the game, and that it’s considered a good choice to spec a cleric, not traditionally known as scouts, for high Perception. (And of course there’s the OotS joke that your hearing and eyesight get better with age, but that’s rarely relevant at the table.)
2) Any second thoughts on Intoxication and the fact that it’s a viable decision at low levels?
3) Any ideas yet about how to balance rogue damage?
4) Please comment on random HP and the decreased, irregular value of a Con bonus on HP.
- We’re looking at skills right now and trying to determine if skills make you better than you are (a flat bonus that adds to your ability check) or strictly make you good (a flat bonus that takes the place of your ability modiifer). So, the 8 Wis rogue with perception training might just be at, say, +5, rather than at +3 added to a -1 Wis check.
- We definitely want to avoid making it abusive, but I think it’s kind of funny that getting drunk and charging into a dungeon might be a good idea.
- Definitely taking a long look at this one. I’d like to give a rogue a nice but not overpowering bonus that he can get every round, and a BIG bonus (like AD&D backstab) for those once an adventure ambushes or set ups.
- Random HP will be an option alongside fixed HP. The key to Con is that adding the bonus at each level can overwhelm class contribution to total HP. We need to find a middle ground.
- Unfortunately, attributes scale. Flat modifiers don’t. Decoupling skills from attributes means that there is never any chance for growth. That seems stagnant.
- I think the intoxication benefits are silly, but that’s just me. I would feel fine houseruling them out of existence.
- It would be nice if the Rogue was even remotely competitive with the Fighter.
- See above comments regarding random hit points. I think they’ve opened up a huge snarl with this by trying to bring back random hit points when that was one of the few things that pretty much everyone thought needed to be changed.