D&D Next tagged posts

D&D Home Brew: Character Creation – the Random Grid Method

When it comes to RPGs and gaming, everyone has a favorite system. For us, it’s Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). It’s where we started with RPGs and we have the best command of the various iterations and intricacies of that system. Yet inspiration and innovation can come from many places, so when we find a mechanic we like in other systems we always like to think of how we home brew a version for D&D.

The “Grid Method”

Where we found it: There’s an entry for it on Invisible Castle, the indispensable dice rolling website. While the site gives credit to a user on a forum, the links to the original forum no longer work.

What is it: A way of generating ability scores for a new character. Rather than using a standard array, simply rolling dice, or a point buy system. The grid method has players generating a 3×3 grid of numbers (by rolling 4d6 nine times) then labeling the rows and columns with the six ability scores. Players choose one number from the corresponding row/column for each ability score, and each number can only be used once.

Why is it important: This method is a lot of fun, and lets players make interesting choices about their character right from the ability score phase. Rather than simply applying a min/max formula to assigning ability scores, the grid method leads to trade-offs and often times surprising results, which can create characters different than just the perfect mathematical representation of a class or archetype. There are strong puzzle and discovery elements to crafting a character this way.

We love the method, so much so, that some within our play group might never use another means of character generation. Yet, in practice we noticed a few glaring flaws. First is that by rolling to generate the grid, there can be wild swings in the number set, making the choices either academic or potentially impossible. If you generate nine numbers, none of which end up being less than 12, you’ll probably create a vastly overpowered character (and that’s before you consider racial/class bonuses). Of course, the reverse is also true and you could end up with a vastly underpowered character.

Another issue is that because of how the ability scores are grouped (STR, DEX, CON on one side, WIS, INT, CHA on the other), the grid essentially splits characters into physical and mental types and is biased toward classes that embrace one of those types. So, fighters and wizards are easy to make, but classes that relies on strong scores in both categories – like a cleric or monk – are harder to create.

So, after more calculations than were probably necessary, and lots of tweaking, we present the Random Grid Method.

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D&D Home Brew: The Escalation Die

When it comes to RPGs and gaming, everyone has a favorite system. For us, it’s Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). It’s where we started with RPGs and we have the best command of the various iterations and intricacies of that system. Yet inspiration and innovation can come from many places, so when we find a mechanic we like in other systems we always like to think of how we home brew a version for D&D.

The “Escalation Die”

Where we found it: This is a mechanic that exists in a few other RPGs, but most notably 13th Age which is an RPG developed by a few of the lead designers on D&D 3rd and 4th editions.

What is it: A mechanic aimed at speeding up combat by giving ever increasing bonuses to attack rolls as combat rounds progress. Enemies become easier to attack, meaning characters get “stronger” the longer a fight goes on. It starts at +1 and increases each round toward a max of +6.

Why is it important: Combat takes a long time in D&D. This was especially true in 4th edition, and while D&D Next has some specific changes that address that issue, combat can still be a real grind sometimes. After enough rounds it just degenerates into players aimlessly hacking away at monsters till they die, and that’s if the players are rolling well. The Escalation die reduces and improves combat by increasing the chance that players will hit, and effectively encouraging risky or fun actions because of the attack bonus.

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Legends & Lore: Magic Systems in D&D Next

How does Elminster cast his spells? Any way he f*ing wants!

How does Elminster cast his spells? Any way he f*ing wants!

Mike Mearls has written a new Legends & Lore column, and as always I’ve read it with great interest. Today he talks about two main topics: “Why haven’t you given us more classes to playtest?” and “How can I customize the way that my character casts spells?” The first question is answered simply: Doing it right is better than doing it quickly. And I agree.

In the meantime, we have six classes to tinker with (fighter, rogue, wizard, cleric, sorcerer, warlock). Those cover the extremes of the class system, so they’re the most important anyway. [Readers who study linguistics (Okay, just me) may be familiar with the similar concept of point vowels.] Paladins and bards and monks will be better classes for having the big tent pole classes designed thoughtfully in advance. But it’s the second question that’s the real meat of the article…

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The Magic of Items in D&D Next

Another Monday, another Legends & Lore. Go ahead and read this one. In it Mike Mearls addresses magic items in WotC’s upcoming 5th edition of D&D. I think we’ve heard about this stuff before, but this time we get more details. Here are the highlights:

  1. The game makes no assumption that you have magical enhancement bonuses on your weapons and armor.
  2. Enhancement bonuses will pretty much cap out at +3.
  3. Magic items do a lot of things, rather than one minor thing.
  4. That said, you can still find vanilla +1 chain mail if your DM is into that.
  5. Prebuilt items. Mearls talks about a sunder rock mace as an example. This item occupies a specific place in the world, and only comes in one form. There are no sunder rock swords, and sunder rock is not a generic weapon ability that can be applied to whatever base weapon floats your boat.

Now let’s dive into analyzing this.

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D&D Next: Let’s Talk About Opportunity Attacks

With the D&D Next open playtest in full swing, one thing I’ve noticed that has been a big topic of conversation during our game sessions is where we all stand on Opportunity Attacks. Or rather, where we all stand on the complete lack of them in the current rule set. Seeing as the rules are still incomplete, we cannot take the omission of Opportunity Attacks to mean that they won’t exist later on.

A quick refresher if you aren’t familiar with the mechanic. When in combat, people can’t simply walk away from a monster they are fighting and go do something else. Similarly, you can’t just walk past an enemy without penalty. In these cases, opportunity attacks are granted and the creature get a free chance to try and hit you. There are other ways an opportunity attack can happen, but these are the two most frequent scenarios.

Why did Wizards of the Coast (WotC) decide not to include them? That answer isn’t clear, but there are a few possibilities. It could be that they just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Many of the omissions seem to be related to tactics in combat – trip, disarm, etc – and so it could be that WotC hasn’t quite figured that stuff out yet. Another possibility is that because they want to emphasize that DnD Next does not require a grid, they have pulled out some of the more grid dependent mechanics.

Regardless of the reasons, the lack of Opportunity Attacks does raise the question, do we really need them?

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D&D Next: Playtest Announcement and Team Shakeup

Mike Mearls dropped a surprise after-hours news release on us this evening on the D&D website when he announced that the D&D Next open playtest will begin on May 24th. Great news for D&D gamers everywhere, as we’ll finally get our hands on the game’s early draft and can see what the future holds.

It’s important to remember that this will be a quite early draft of the rules. I’m anticipating an extremely incomplete document, but if we can make a party of low-level PCs and do battle with goblins it’ll be fun to imagine what the later bits will entail. And being a playtest, it will be full of imbalance and busted rules. But the beauty of the open playtest will be that those holes are patched over by harnessing the force of nerdrage. Every D&D player who has ever gone god-hunting or sent a DM home in tears is well aware that there is nothing in the game that cannot be broken, so this phase of D&D Next will be a critical stress-test.

The joy of a playtest start date announcement is tempered, though, by the completely unexpected news that Monte Cook is leaving the design team. Is he quitting to get a headstart on writing freelance adventure modules, to have a full adventure path ready to go the day that D&D Next debuts? Sadly, that’s unlikely. We are given no specific details as to whether this is an irreconcilable creative dispute or something personal and unrelated to D&D Next. Mearls addresses the issue in a brisk but amicable fashion, then quickly moves on to the playtest news.

I hope we see more of Monte Cook, as he has been the genius behind some of my favorite D&D products, but in the meantime we can look forward to May 24th.

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Vancian Magic: Love it or Hate it?

Elminster by Clyde Caldwell

Monte Cook hase revealed that Dungeons &Dragons (D&D) Next would feature Vancian magic, at least in some form. Before we get to our thoughts, here’s a little history on the subject.

The rules for spellcasting in D&D, prior to 4th Edition, said that after a wizard casts a spell, it is erased from his mind and he must wait until the next day to cast it again. This concept comes from the Dying Earth series by  Jack Vance, fantasy author and anagrammed namesake for Vecna the Arch-Lich of the Tomb of Horrors. In these books, as in D&D, a wizard’s brain can only hold so many of the arcane formulas that control magic. Each day, you memorize a limited number of these spells and then forget each one as soon as you’ve cast it.

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D&D 5e: What Do We Know So Far?

Now that we’ve all succeeded on our save vs. shocking news, let’s examine today’s Big Announcement and study what we know. We’ll learn a lot more in the coming days and weeks, but let’s make a first stop of many and roll Perception to see if there’s any hints at what to expect. Until the playtest phase rolls around (and we’ve been assured it will), we’ll have to make do with gossip and terrible, wonderful speculation.

The future of D&D?

First off, we don’t even know what it’s going to be called. The Internet has erupted in 5th Edition fever, but if you look at the WotC press releases, they carefully call it the next iteration of D&D, or the future of the game, or the new rules. The closest you might find to an “official” name so far is “D&D Next.” Press who visited WotC in December learned the code name used by WotC R&D for the rules document, but have been asked not to reveal it. (It begins with an “I,” though. 4th Edition was codenamed Orcus during development, so maybe Iggwilv? Ioun? Imix? Io? My money’s on Iuz.)

In fact, Mike Mearls pretty much put it down when he said “Most people will think of this as the fifth edition of D&D. In many ways, though, we want this to be a version of the game that embraces the entirety of D&D’s history, one that all D&D fans can turn to and use. I think that the actual naming of the game will come down to how the play-tests go and how people react to it. I’d love to just call it Dungeons & Dragons and leave the edition numbering behind” (CNN).

A sigh of relief can be followed by a *huh?* of confusion at the news that Mearls hopes “to create a system that allows players to use much of their existing content, regardless of the edition” (The Escapist). Whatever that means, he seems to be saying that the game will accommodate content from throughout D&D history, at least in part. But how? What does it mean? A magic formula for turning 2e monsters into 5e statblocks? Unlikely. An extremely stripped-down ruleset that doesn’t use most of the rules trappings that each edition of D&D has employed? Undesirable. A pipe dream that cannot be followed through upon? Unknowable.

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