Posted by : David Guyll February 11, 2014

Oh hey, Legends & Lore is back. Again. This week we take a look at several rules that, given the time and resources at the company's disposal, some would say took far longer than expected (and probably necessary) to get where they are.

Apparently a lot of people like this mechanic. I do not. At least not as-is.

Partially it is because what it is intended to do (remove the need to track lots of minor, numerical bonuses) is contradicted at the least by spells that force you to track minor, numerical bonuses. Stuff like elemental weapon, magic weapon, prayer, and shield of faith, because of course spells get to break the rules and there is no reason to not expect more down the road in most of the supplements (uninspired, often situational, predictable magic is great for padding out splatbooks after all).

Mostly it is because there is no reason to try and gain any advantage or worry about any disadvantage beyond the first, since you only ever roll 2d20, and if you have any of both you have no incentive to try and better your circumstances as no matter what the ratio is they completely cancel each other out. Well, except for the ram, portable: that gives you a +4 bonus for some reason, plus advantage if one other person helps you out.

This rule could be made at least a bit better if advantages and disadvantages cancelled each other out on a one-for-one basis, with either the majority having some effect or the excess providing a small bonus. I know some people will tell me that that makes it more complicated, but I am not saying to give each benefit its own, unique modifier—like high winds are +1, slippery cliffs are +2, etc—but to make each advantage or disadvantage provide the same modifier. So, high winds, lightning, and slippery just ups the DC by 3.

That way it is a simple matter of counting both up, subtracting, and adding the sum as a bonus or penalty. Yeah, it is a bit of math, but it is not difficult and does not require memorizing numerous modifiers. I think players would be able to deal with it. Plus it would also be consistent (unlike the aforementioned spells and ram, portable).

Weapon Powers
Linking weapons to maneuvers? That sounds pretty awesome and even makes sense given that many weapons are designed with a purpose in mind. I disagree with the apparent mentality that only players playing spellcasters should have to worry about poring over hundreds of spells, and given all of 3rd Edition's trap options and 5th Edition's adherence to tradition my concern would be less system bloat and more execution.

A flail lets you trip something, but is it something that anyone with an average Strength would have a reasonable chance of doing against someone of a similar size? Is it something that only incredibly strong warriors should even bother to attempt? Is it like 3rd Edition where it takes a specialized build? Would it use the underwhelming superiority die mechanic (that does not account for your physical capability)? Is tripping something really even effective?

Of course the system bloat is still there, they just moved it from weapons to feats and class features, which leads to additional questions: Does that mean that if you want to try and trip someone that you have to have the feat or class feature, or can anyone try to trip someone, but you only get a bonus if you are wielding a flail and have the feat or class feature?

Not that they had to link maneuvers to specific weapons. They could have used 4th Edition's weapon categories to trim things down quite a bit. Hell, if they want simplicity why not link weapon damage to class and size, similar to how 13th Age does it. You could make things simpler still by just making the damage universal (as in Gamma World), or even static (like in Numenera).

I am actually fine with this direction in concept. In my own hack I would link maneuvers to classes: fighters would be able to choose maneuvers for any weapon, while rogues, rangers, paladins, and other classes that I expect to be good with weapons would be somewhat more limited. Unfortunately I expect the final result to be, "fighters can get a severely limited selection, in the order we specify, as long as they pick this one specific path early on that they cannot change later".

In other words, boring and pointlessly restrictive.

Concentration makes the game more complex? I...guess technically it is a few more words to read, not that they seem to mind making spellcasters complicated. I also guess I should be happy that it is still in the game because it restricts spellcasters in some way. At the very least I am surprised, pleasantly even as this is one of the rules I actually like.

Auto Success 
Has any edition ever required a check to climb a ladder? I mean, a normal ladder. Not a ladder made of snakes, or when it is raining acid, or when something is dangling on your feet and trying to eat you, just a "normal" ladder in normal circumstances.

I could still see a case being made for DC's below 10, because it is possible that unfavorable situations could reduce your check/increase the DC to the point where the odds are no longer certain....unless those things just impose disadvantage, which means that your character has the exact same odds of climbing a particularly slippery ladder, as she does a ladder made of snakes, while it is raining acid, and something is holding on to her feet and trying to eat her.

Anyway, like concentration I am surprised that they brought back Passive Perception; it was in 4th Edition after all.

In the end I also want a game that features quick resolution and speedier game play. The problem is that I think they are selectively stripping out complexity when they do not need to (mundane characters and the proficiency bonus), and there are games out there with quick resolution and speedier game play that also bring more to the table than 5th Edition does.

With the available choices out there, it is going to have to do better than "3rd Edition-ish, with unnecessarily uniform math and advantage mechanic".

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

  1. Just wanted to say the new look rocks.

    Now back to reading!

  2. Thanks! Blame Victor (aka The Planeswalker), he found an awesome theme. :-D

  3. D&D Next: "'Cause 3rd + 2nd = 5th, right...right, guys?"

    1. I would have also accepted, "Why make a good game when adequate sells, too?", and "D&D Next? More like D&D Previous". :-P

  4. I like the concept of the additive advantage/disadvantage because you could tie it in with certain features, such as the rogue's Sneak Attack. If they did a certain amount of bonus damage per point of advantage, they'd have a solid mechanical reason to set up ambushes and sneaky tactics, rather than the current situation of the most thought-out tactics giving the exact same bonus as a simple flank.

    1. Oooh, I had not thought about that. *writes down*

      I remember early on they talked about being able to trade your flanking bonus for extra damage. I could see anyone being able to swap out attack advantages for, say, +1d4 damage, with class features increasing the type of die and even the amount.

      Rogues might start with a d6, but eventually be able to swap them out for, I dunno, 4d6 each or something.

  5. Now i starting to call the Legends & Lore column, the Lenga & Lenga column (Lenga-Lenga its the Portuguese to "blah-blah-blah" or bullshit), because Mearls can be serious.

    This only can be some kinda of prank, or something.

    1. Some of it is media spin, like where he describes 5th Edition as a "lean, mean RPG machine" and the "evolution of Dungeons & Dragons".

      There have also been a number of columns where it sounds like he is trying really hard to convince us that what he is doing is a good idea, or even the best way to do something.

      Take classes. He wants you to think that by removing almost all meaningful choices is necessary because "people want a simple game", but there are simple games than even what they have done so far that still allow you to make choices.

      Basically he is doing it for the traditionalists that adamantly want a game that looks like an older edition for some reason, but he cannot exactly come out and say that, so he claims that people want a simple game.

      Except for spellcasters. Apparently everyone wants complicated spellcasters with the least sensible spellcasting system (and not because it was how it was done before, no siree).

    2. "Yep, everyone is simples (*whispers*and weak*whispers*), except the spellcaster, because they can make reality do everything for them."

      But Mearls needs to stop making excuse or trying to win back the lost costumers, and start to making something good, even if its a new edition of Iron Heroes based in 13th Age/Archmage Engine.

      Even if a have problem with 13th Age, like too much dice rolls, and everything about Flexible Attacks. But still, thats still better the anything are give to fighter, or any non-spellcaster, for now.



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