Friday, September 20, 2013

Overreaction Friday

Fun Stuff:

  • Temple of Elemental Evil is free at DTRPG/RPGNow/ for a week or so. Check here or log into your site of choice to get it.
  • This week was the 30th anniversary of the D&D cartoon. WOTC article here. I had mixed emotions about it as I was 14 when it came out and it was clearly written for younger kids. The visuals of the monsters were cool, especially Tiamat, but listening to Ralph from Happy Days flip into panic mode multiple times every episode made it hard to watch. I did pick up the DVD a few years ago just to have it but it's not a humongous part of my 80's D&D memories.  

New Stuff

The final D&D Next packet is out and I'm still digesting it. They have added new races, changed expertise dice to flat bonuses, and added skills back into the game. Oh, and the Bard is in too.

There are numerous and significant changes to every class - it looks to me like any existing characters of medium levels and up will require a rebuild. I suppose that's part of the "playtest" aspect but I thought we were closer to the final form than this.

Multiclassing is in.It's pretty much 3E style with minimum ability scores required for each class. Spellcasting looks a little messy right now as they attempt to solve the multi-classed spell-casting progression problem - there's a table specifically for figuring spells per day - but it looks to me like if I take 5th level fighter/5th level M-U I'm still only throwing spells as a 5th level M-U - the fighter levels still add nothing. A Ranger though, would add half levels, meaning a 5/5 M-U/Ranger would have spells per day as a 7th level caster, which is potentially a little better, but it's still capped by individual class level limits as far as what spells you can throw, so that character wouldn't be tossing any 4th level M-U or Ranger spells Confusing? I agree. It also means that this is another thing they have to consider when adding new spellcasting classes to the game and how this would interact with any alternative mechanics. I hope this gets better over the next year.

There will be updates to this packet! Both the Druid and the Paladin mention a future update to this packet.

Dragonborn do get their breath weapon (basically an encounter power) and it goes up in damage as they level - interesting.

Warforged look pretty strong - no need to eat, drink, or breathe, +1 AC, Stat bonuses are +1 to Str and Con. I can see a lot of metal barbarians in the future.

Drow get their classic spell abilities as they level up rather than all at once. Makes sense to me - assuming you're allowing them as PC's in the first place.

Skills are not like any previous edition of D&D so let me summarize:

  • There is a fixed list of less than 20 skills but it looks like it would be trivial to expand this if desired
  • Skills are just a more specific ability check - "Make a Stealth check" is just a d20 + dex bonus
  • Each class grants "Proficiency" in certain skills (some fixed, some variable) and Proficiency gives a bonus on that kind of skill check. This bonus starts at a +1 and goes all the way up to +6 as the character levels up from 1-20. 
  • Since it's a bonus -and not a ridiculous one - that means a fighter and a rogue can both make stealth checks but the rogue will have a +1 (at low level) that the fighter would not, unless he picked up the proficiency somehow, like with the "Stealthy" feat.
  • Craft type skills have been rolled into "Tool Proficencies" so if you're proficient with blacksmiths tool you can make stuff and with thieves' tools you can open locks, etc. 
  • Some classes have a further thing called "Expertise" which gives them a flat +5 bonus to checks on a number of skill and/or tool proficiencies.
I like this approach in general, though I'm not sure about the tool thing. 

Expertise looks pretty powerful too as Rogues get it at level 1 and Bards get it at level 3 - that means while everyone else is running around with a +1/+2 proficiency bonus (on top of stat bonuses) the Rogue or Bard will have a +5 on top of that. It definitely keeps the thief's niche safe as picking any lock or sneaking past anything with a decent perception ability is going to take an "expertised" thief at low levels. At higher levels other characters can handle the routine stuff pretty easily but I would still want the expert thief for the truly difficult stuff. 

I think this is pretty useable in play though as it basically creates three tiers of character when it comes to resolving individual tasks:

  • "Well I have a decent stat bonus, I can try it" - There's a chance
  • "I am proficient in that" (and have a decent stat bonus, hopefully)- I should be able to make it
  • "I have expertise in that" - No sweat
Beyond these long term considerations you also have the situational modifier of advantage/disadvantage coming into play as well. I think that's pretty flexible and easy to run in play. 

There's a big article about it here where they explain the thinking behind this approach and I mostly agree with it. There's some Q&A stuff here too.

Hopefully we will get a chance to update our characters and play it this weekend. More next week.

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