Posted by : David Guyll January 27, 2014

This week we get several rules updates, or more accurately the summary of what those rules updates will probably entail.

It looks like they are going to bring back Passive Perception (no mention of how it works with advantage though). I was not even aware that it was gone, but both this and an actual credit to 4th Edition (in name and everything) are steps in the right direction.

I think combining Passive Perception with marching order might be a bit too granular, but then the article does not provide any mechanics so who knows?

Not a fan of everyone making their own Stealth check. In my experience the people in heavy armor tend to ruin it for everyone else, but I can still see the reason for it. One thing that might speed up play is giving everyone a Passive Stealth to use while exploring, modified by how fast the party is going and light sources. That would also prevent the Dungeon Master from having to call for Stealth checks, potentially cluing in the players that something is nearby. The only downside is, like with Passive Perception, how it would work with characters that have advantage.

Matching the time it takes to pick a lock/disarm a trap to an exploration round both makes sense and is reasonable, something that I cannot often say about 5th Edition. The only potential issue is where the article specifically states that "disarming a trap or picking a lock takes 1 minute"; I could easily see complex traps and locks that need multiple checks to disarm, which would take multiple exploration rounds. But, maybe I am reading too much into it and that will be a thing in the final version.

I am pretty sure we converted Epiro over to 4th Edition before multiclassing hit, but given that it seems to operate very similar to 3rd Edition I have no idea why they are surprised that players have been able to cobble together broken combinations. You think they would have learned, especially when players cannot even choose most of the things they can do.

I think a simple, elegant solution to the extra action issue is to just go back to 4th Edition's action economy, at least in part, and make a bonus attack require a minor action, or even a move action if you felt that 4th Edition's minor action was a problem (I guess players tried to find ways to use them, even when they had nothing to use them on). Another option would be to go with 3rd Edition's swift action, where you do not automatically have an action to burn, but you can pick up features that use a specific, limited kind of action.

Tags and keywords could also be used to help highlight them as well as avoid repeated text, which it kind of sounds like they are doing by labeling them as bonus actions. It sounds a lot better and simpler than, say, repeating in each power that you cannot use it with something else that gives you extra attacks, like the initial "totally not a minor action" swift spells.

Speed penalties do differentiate races in an interesting and sometimes crucial way. If you use minis then there is the obvious difference in how far you can move; that extra space or two can make a huge difference. Even without minis there is still the equally obvious fact that dwarves and gnomes cannot keep up with the rest of the race-roster. By Mearls's own logic why give anyone low-light vision? It is not particularly interesting and comes up way less often in the game than movement.

I think there is a problem with the speed penalty imposed by heavy armor being negated with a sufficiently high Strength score, namely that if a Strength of 13 lets you waive it then I do not think it is going to come up at all. The characters that really want to get into heavy armor are most certainly going to have a Strength of at least 13, and if they do not it is not exactly hard to get it there.

Moving slower in exchange for the higher Armor Class gives it one of its only meaningful trade offs (the other being penalties to skills that the character probably never uses or will succeed at, anyway). I guess if you want to get rid of it, then just get rid of it; treat it like any other piece of gear and tie speed/skill penalties to overall encumbrance instead.

{ 14 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. He gave an idea that advantage was like +4 for passive perception. He ran a game during the weekend and used the new stuff. Someone asked him on twitter how he handled it and that was his reply

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  2. Love the passive stealth idea. Anything to make it less of a headache - no matter what edition.

    (that was an 11 character verification I had to type for these words of praise. Wow, strict!)

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    1. @panzer: Thanks for the praise and the heads up about the character verification (ELEVEN?!). We'll get that removed asap!

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  3. Only if Mearls uses more D&D 4th instead of whatever he is using now to make D&D next, the last playtest package is a mess.

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    1. That'd be nice, but at this point I'm not expecting it. I don't even think expecting them to try to quietly sweep 4e under the rug and pretend it never existed is particularly unrealistic.

      It's clear they've learned from 4e's math and some of its concepts, but there's no reason to try so hard to hide it beside being ashamed of it.

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  4. They should also be looking at other games that offer fast character creation and gameplay.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. They doing it, but they don't know how to use it or make its works. At all.

      But now my default reaction is "Meh", "13th Age/Dungeon World/D&D 4th made its better" and "Mearls, WTF you are talking about?!"

      Mearls, you want fast character creation? Why you just don't use something like Gamma World's Origins? You are ready have a fast character creation, you dumbass.

      And just for fun and profit, option, Fortune and Artifacts Cards.

      Or you can go True20/Dragon Age RPG, use just three base class, and two or three character kits, drop the Vancian Magic, and start to make more sacred cow hamburgers.

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    3. I love 4th Edition because it retained the concept and feel of Dungeons & Dragons, while adding/discarding mechanics as necessary. For the first time fighters had cool, interesting things to do, spellcasters did not dominate the game, and magical healing was not mandatory.

      I was hoping that 5th Edition would continue to take strides forward with the game, but they just mostly went back to what was done before. It is lazy, especially when there ARE better alternatives that achieve the goals Mearls wants.

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    4. The problem is, they hearing grognards and making a retro game, basically.

      Because its is how you play D&D, with weak fighter, godlike wizards, and THAC0. Btw, D&D 4th sux, and you sux because you like it.

      *facepalm*

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    5. I mean listen, instead of hearing, and talking about improving your rules, i thinking in ways to make the AEDU more organic.

      You can use two encounter powers for encounter, instead of only one use for each, and get another use in each tier, maybe only use Daily powers for Magic Users, and give something like a Desperate Moves for martial fighters, one damage bonus how start to work every time the get Bloodied or something like that.

      What you think?

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    6. Character creation in Next is going to bog down just as badly as 3/3.5/4e over time. It's a symptom of Wizards' publishing habits--you can't push out a hundred pages of new mechanical content every month and expect your game to remain high-speed, low-drag.

      Other games can offer fast character creation and gameplay because their amount of mechanical content is far more limited than D&D has been in the last decade.

      The only other game that even approaches D&D's release pace is WoD, and those books are extremely light on mechanical content. Everyone else puts out maybe one or two books a year. Even Privateer's Iron Kingdoms, which more closely resembles 4e (in terms of design philosophy, if not mechanics) than anything else on the market has published a grand total of three books since its release, one of them a 90-page paperback.

      Now, with all of that said: I do think Next's alarming lack of meaningful choices during character creation and gameplay is yet another part of the design team's knee-jerk reaction to being dethroned by Pathfinder, but that does nothing to excuse the fact that the game they're touting as the grand reunification of D&D is crude, un-fun, and--worst of all--not very interesting.

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    7. @darcydettmann: I think that not every class needs to use the AEDU setup. I am not really a fan of per-day things, unless it makes sense within the game’s narrative (like a sunsword that recharges when exposed to the rising sun). I get why it is convenient, and also “get” how martial characters can have daily things; ironically my complaint is why magic users have per-day spells. I have asked this question again and again, but no one has successfully provided a satisfactory “in-game” explanation for it.

      For example, if they wanted to make magic more “Vancian”, they could make all magic work once per encounter, and allow wizards to reset their spells during a short rest.

      I would love to see a mechanic for martial characters that works off of stunts, momentum, combos, stuff like that. Maybe borrow some ideas from 13th Age, where you the move does not always work (depends on what you roll).

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    8. @Straylight: I think that the need for publishing lots of content is one of the reasons that they removed meaningful choices in favor of five-feature “subclasses”.

      First, it is much easier to whip up five features. Second, it allows them to design new classes that are really just variations of another class. Think of 3rd Edition’s Complete Etc books. Where 4th Edition allowed you to make an unarmed fighter or archer warlord with a simple feature swap, this would allow them to pad out the page count and charge you for mediocre content.

      So, like Pathfinder, they are doing their own 3rd Edition rehash.

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