Archive for June, 2012

On Confirmation Bias

So Mike Mearls did an AMA over at Reddit. While nothing that was revealed was particularly ground breaking, there was certainly some good information in there and some useful bits too. Others have hit the highlights already, so I won’t go into them here, but suffice it to say, Mearls has been listening to the feedback they’re getting, and they really do seem serious about trying to make this a sort of rosetta stone version of D&D. One thing I’ve notice though (and perhaps I’m guilty of this myself) is that there is an awful lot of confirmation bias floating around about this. It appears that some old edition fans are reading the additional plans (such as viable non-magical healing) as warnings that 5e will not be the olive branch promised. Conversely there are 4e fans who apparently interpret the comment thread (in which Mearls didn’t even reply) about the Slayer theme as a sign that they’re not done neutering the fighter, and WotC won’t be satisfied until Mages are gods from level 1 and all Fighters are merely henchmen. So as a public service announcement, I’d like to remind the internet that sometimes, deeply reading the words that other people write will provide you with far better and much more accurate information, and can reduce your stress levels greatly.

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The D&D Next Playtest: Session I

So yesterday, after many delays and false starts, the group finally got together and played a session of the D&D Next playtest. It was actually easy to get the players in since we’re already running B2, I just had them “fall into a deep slumber and awake in a CRAZY SHARED DREAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” were they are in the same world but different characters. I know, I’m so clever. The group mostly cleared their way through parts of the A cavern, and a lot of fun was had by all.

The group consists of 3 players and myself. One player hasn’t played D&D since 2e, so the LL game we started was their first foray back into gaming. One player hadn’t played any D&D or other RPG before we started LL. The last player grew up playing the homebrew game I’ve mentioned a couple times past, and has played in 2 4e campaigns before we started the LL campaign. Reactions around the table were generally positive, though the player who hadn’t played any D&D before found themselves struggling to keep all the new options available straight. For all the whining a bitching the simple fighter template gets across the RPG world, sometimes it’s nice to be able to hand a basic “hit it with a stick” template to a new player to let them get on their feet before dumping spell casting or skill systems on them. If a new player is really having a good time, eventually they’ll start wanting to learn how to do the other cool stuff.

As to specifics, the dis/advantage system was well liked all around. As a GM, while I enjoyed having the DCs in the adventure module for various things (hearing noises in rooms for example), I found that flipping through the manuals for DCs for other tasks to be annoying and tedious. Admittedly, if I spent the time to make up a DM screen like I had for LL for 5e, I’d probably have an easier time with this, but I definitely found myself missing the simple 1 in 6 checks, or the simple “roll under your stat”checks from LL. In fact, I’d love to maybe see about combining dis/advantage mechanic with the simple stat scores to come up with an even simpler check system, where in you have 3 “DCs” easy (stat check with advantage), normal (stat check), and hard (stat check with disadvantage), but I’m not sure how to do it. Obviously you could say “roll under your stat, and if you have advantage take the lower roll”, but that breaks the normal behavior of the dis/advantage mechanic. And rolling over your stat is no good because that means succeeding gets harder as your attributes increase, even if you apply the stat bonuses to the roles. Honestly, I probably just have to copy out the DC ranges for easy, normal and hard from the manual and into a chart on the DM screen and run with that.

I also found that (from a DM perspective) rolling individual initiative is kind of a pain, and it definitely slows down the battles. When it comes time to fight in LL I say “roll a d6”, and whoever wins that whole side goes first, and play sort of continues in the way it has up until that point. In the playtest, it’s a few minutes while initiatives are rolled and ordered and then play occurs in a much more ordered and linear fashion than it has until that point. As a DM I definitely prefer group initiative.

I also found myself missing morale numbers. As the rouge was being chased down the hallway by a band of 3 kobolds, one player managed a crit on their crossbow shot, and pulverized the lead kobold. Immediately I looked for a morale number to check against for these kobolds and found none. Obviously I could have made any ruling I want on this (and did) but I do enjoy having the numbers handy.

Combats were roughly as fast as they are in LL, but are slowed a bit as I said by individual initiative, and also HP bloat. The kobold chieftain has 44 HP, and once his guards had been dispatched, killing him was kind of a slow inevitable slog as the players ground him up. By comparison, in the original module, the chieftain is certainly bigger than the average kobold, but still only has 8 HP, meaning a 2 or 3 well placed sword swings makes quick work of him.

The player playing the fighter certainly enjoyed the slayer theme.

Overall, the game as written currently plays a lot like LL, and while I think I personally still prefer LL, I could easily see myself continuing to play 5e with my players if that was what they preferred.

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Fixing The Fighter

A comment over at Micah’s place has me thinking about the fighter and how to make the fighter “better”. I’m not sure there’s an adequate way to give the fighter a cool list of moves without degenerating into a 4e “every class feels the same” mess, but a variant mentioned in that comment got me thinking.

What if instead of daily spells, fighters got daily battle control slots. Recognizing that the one thing a fighter should be absolutely bar none the best at is fighting, what if we gave the fighter a limited ability to constantly tip the battle in his favor. Mechanically the way this would play out is a fighter has a limited number of battle control slots per day, like a wizard or cleric has spells per day. But unlike a wizard who has to memorize his spells to create supernatural effects, the fighter simply gets to spend his control slots where he needs them most, at the time he needs them. Once per control slot, the fighter can replace a die roll for any physical effort, whether it’s a to hit roll, a damage roll, a save, a dodge whatever, with a declared number from that die. So for example, it’s a battle against the BBEG, and things are looking grim for the party, and the fighter really needs this next attack to hit. Rather than roll his d20 and hope he gets that 15 or better, the fighter instead burns a control slot, declaring a 19, and thus ensuring the hit. My only limit to this would be that declared 20’s would not be critical hits. They can still be auto-hits, but the fighter should have to roll damage. The reason I say this is to prevent the use of this ability to declare both a hit and max damage in a single slot burn. That doesn’t prevent the fighter from burning another slot to ensure max damage though.

Additionally, let’s give the fighter (exclusively) the house rule that I stole from Zack a while back, the fighter can choose to expand his critical range up to a value equal to half his level round up. In exchange, his critical mis range is increased by the same amount. So a level 1 fighter can choose to attack with a crit range of 19-20 and a fail range of 1-2, while the 4th level fighter can attack with a ranger of 18-20 and 1-3.

What do you think? Will this help fix the fighter?

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