Sunday, February 5, 2012

D&D 5c, Community Edition

So, Wizards is currently trying to design a new version of D&D, with the support of the community. With that in mind, I see no better way to help that along than by showing them the game that the community itself would make. To that end, I'm going to try my hand at drafting up a community-built 5th edition. Feel free to add and comment on this extremely rough first draft/outline.

Absolute Guidelines
- Nothing is sacred, save the game itself
- The rules should attempt to be familiar to those who've played previous editions of the game, while improving upon these designs. If it's constant across all editions, it should probably be in. If it's part of the game's parlance, it should definitely be in.
- Ideally, this should be, in essence, the game you've already been playing.
- The rules shouldn't be designed for how you wish something worked flavor wise, but support how it has always been in D&D, yet improved. D&D Elves, Halflings, and Dwarves should still be D&D Elves, Halflings, and Dwarves. Etc.
- You're goal shouldn't be to make the game more like any one edition, but to find a happy mean between each that we can all agree upon.
- These rules do not necessarily need try to match what we know of WotC's current working version of the 5th edition rules. After all, the goal here is to advise them.
- The core design philosophy should be to first establish the barest bones of the game, then build optional components onto that for those that would like more depth without interfering with those who do not.

My Preferences
- I believe we should go for a "grow out, not up" design with 5e. We've always spoken of the "sweet spot," where the monsters are fun to fight. I believe that characters should always be within this power level and, rather than gaining static bonuses as they advance, should become more versatile rather than simply more powerful. Thus, while better able to take on their opposition, they never outpace it entirely. Some power increase is good, but not nearly to the degree seen in previous editions of the game.
- With the current setup, a new player, or one that simply doesn't want to get bogged down with rules, can simply roll their ability scores, assume that they are a human, apply their class features, and begin playing the game without a single other step. I love that simplicity, and that this is possible without losing a shred of 3.5's character creation depth (in the long-run) or 4e's combat tactics.

Open Questions
- Armor as AC, or should we move on to the defenses structure and do armor as DR.
- Should shields provide a static bonus or be more active tools?
I've left these as per standard D&D because of our guidelines and goals, but I don't consider either of these to be sacred cows, especially if the Reflex defense remains.

This represents an area where I see room for design improvement, but have chosen to go with someone simple and classic in order to keep the rules simple and familiar. Generally, this would be a place for expanded rules in additional material.

This represents comments on the design, not stuff that would actually go into a compiled version the rules.

All numerical data is, at this stage, completely spit-balled.


Chapter 1: HOW TO PLAY
Same stuff, different book.

Core Mechanic
1d20 + Ability Score + Skill Modifier + Misc Modifier, attempting to overcome some set difficulty #
A natural 20, a 20 showing on the face of the rolled die, is considered a "critical success" and always automatically succeeds.
(of course)


Determine your character's 6 primary statistics, or "Ability Scores," Charisma, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Strength, and Wisdom, by rolling 3d6 for each.

For each ability score, (Ability-10)/2 = the "Ability Modifier" for that score. Round up.

Step 2: RACE
Do we really still need to call them "races?"
Choose a race. Note that, in addition to these features, further race-specific features will become available to your character as you progress.

This design is intentionally simple in order to reduce both complexity and the possibility of any one race being overly linked with a given character class. 
Things such as racial weapon preferences, Stone Cunning, etc. can be handled via character features with racial pre-requisites. The more traits we give each race, the more each member becomes closer to being the same character. See: my opinion on that.

+2 Str, -2 Cha, -2 Int
Chromatic Dragon Herritige: Choose the color of your scales. This will determine the type of damage dealt by your Dragon Breath ability.
Dragon Breath: Ranged Attack vs Reflex, 6m Blast, XdY (z)damage.

+2 Con, -2 Cha, -2 Dex
Low Light Vision: You can see as well as a human in half as much light, though colors are be muted.

+2 Dex, -2 Con, -2 Wis

Low Light Vision: You can see as well as a human in half as much light, though colors are be muted.
Fey Origin: Your ancestors were native to the Feywild, so you are considered a fey creature for the purpose of effects that relate to creature origin.


Gnomes are similar in height to Halflings, though they retain child-like proportions throughout life.

+2 Dex, -2 Int, -2 Str, -2 Wis
Beast Tongue: You can speak with animals, though they remain limited by their intelligence.
Low Light Vision: You can see as well as a human in half as much light, though colors are be muted.
Small: Your relatively small size will often result in contextual modifiers to rolls.

Fey Origin: Your ancestors were native to the Feywild, so you are considered a fey creature for the purpose of effects that relate to creature origin.


Halflings are roughly half the size of Humans, though identically proportioned.

+4 Dex, -2 Con, -2 Str,
Small: Your relatively small size will often result in contextual modifiers to rolls.

You are of a mixed heritage, displaying traits from each side of your bloodline.
Choose your non-human parent race. Lose one beneficial and one negative trait from that race. In place of a trait, you may increase/reduce a racial ability score bonus by 2.
For example, a Half Elf born to a Human mother could trade in lose their +2 Dex and -2 Con modifiers, but still have her father's -2 Wis and Low Light Vision. Her twin brother, however, may have +2 Dex, -2 Con, but no Low Light Vision.
This seems closer to ideal, and rather simple, but does still require the player (or DM at-least) have some fleeting grasp of game balance, as simple as it is made, and does exclude non-human combinations. The options does exist to do it this way, but clearly mark which racial traits are considered positive and negative in the formatting.

No special rules.

+4 Strength, -2 Intelligence, -2 Wisdom, -2 Charisma
Low Light Vision: You can see as well as a human in half as much light, though colors are be muted.

-2 Wis

Demonic Origin: Your ancestors trafficked with demons, and in doing so tainted your bloodline. You are considered a demonic creature for the purpose of effects that relate to creature origin.

Low Light Vision: You can see as well as a human in half as much light, though colors are be muted.

Step 3: CLASS
Choose a Class.
I'm not a fan of Wizards' choice of branching out beyond a few core classes. If anything, 4e's design goals should really have resulted in "Defender, Leader, etc." classes - with variants like "Cleric" and "Warlord." As far as I can tell, constantly introducing new classes has 2 major results.
A) More class specific rules/feats/powers that the majority of characters can not use.
B) Requiring the purchase of more books to use all classes.
Selling books isn't a bad thing, but I'm of the opinion that fewer books with better rules will make more money than a ton of lower quality content.

I'm also not a fan of prestige classes. At least as traditionally handled. Feats can carry that weight.

You are a servant of a higher power.
+1 to Religion rolls.
+1 Will Defense
Compel: You can issue simple commands to chosen creatures of your deity, even if they would not normally be capable of understanding you. (Wis vs Will, if resisted, one creature within line of sight)
Defender of the Faith: If your deity has a favored weapon, you gain the "weapon proficiency" feature with that weapon, and the +1 bonus to attacks it provides.
Divine Magic: You may cast all 1st level divine spells (see spells for rules).
Rebuke: You may make repel creatures anathema to your deity, even if they would not normally be capable of understanding you, knowing fear, or feeling pain. (Wis vs Will, one creature within line of sight )


+1 to Athletics, Endurance, and Intimidate rolls.
+1 Fortitude defense.

Military Training: You gain a +1 attack bonus with all non-exotic weapons and  +1 defense bonus with all non-exotic armor & shields, as if you had taken all of their respective "armor/weapon/shield proficiency" features.

+1 to Stealth and Sleight of Hand rolls.
+2 Reflex defense.

+1 to Arcana rolls.
+1 Will defense.
Magic: You know 1d6 random 1st level spells (see spells for rules).
Feyburn: You know magic to be somehow linked to the Feywild, and thus like many Fey, anathema to metal. Wearing metal armor results in penalties when casting magic.

Step 3: SKILLS (optional)
Your character may be particular efficient in certain areas of expertise. If so, you may choose take a +1 bonus to rolls with that given skill, but take a -1 to rolls for another skill. Time spent on one interest necessarily precludes another. This may be done as many times as you please.

The following is a highly recommended list of standard skills which should cover all areas of specialization without being so specific as to complicate or reduce their use in the average session.

Acrobatics (Dex)
Arcana (Int)
Athletics (Str)
Bluff (Cha)
Bushcraft (Int)
Diplomacy (Cha)
Endurance (Con)
Engineering (Int)
Heal (Int)
History (Int)
Insight (Wis)
Intimidate (Cha) 
Perception (Wis)
Religion (Int)
Sleight of Hand (Dex)
Stealth (Dex)
Streetwise (Int)

HP = x+Con*y
AC = 10 + Armor + Shield + Dex
Fortitude Defense = 10 + Con + Misc
Reflex Defense = 10 + Dex + Misc
Will Defense = 10 + Wis + Misc

You start with xdy silver to buy whatever you need.

There should be a generic melee & ranged attack, on the character sheet itself for characters who do not wish to bother with equipment. This should be no stronger or weaker than any other weapon of its type, and do bludgeoning/hacking/slashing/piercing damage depending on context. 
For example, the generic attack may be 1d20+STR to hit & deal 1d6 (x)damage, while a short sword might be 1d20+STR to hit & deal 1d4+1 (slash or piercing)damage. Statistically they are identical, but the latter more accurately simulates the intended weapon. Both players could be wielding the same weapon. One simply knows and cares about what a short sword is, while the other only knows that it's a melee weapon he picked up off of that dead goblin.
The default attack should be mechanically simple (1dX vs 2dX+Y bludgeoning, reroll 1s) and unremarkable, dealing very standard damage rather than hitting any extremes.

Whenever you advance in level, choose a new character feature for which you qualify from "Chapter 6: Character Features."

If a group has decided that they would like their characters to be more complex and differentiated at character creation, they may simply agree to each select an agreed upon number of character features, effectively beginning at a higher level. As the game is advancing out & not up, there should be little appreciable difference in the group's over-all combat efficacy.

Greater depth into the various race options, full of context and role-playing advice. This chapter could be removed from a short & sweet reference version of the rules.

Greater depth into the various class options, full of context and role-playing advice. I don't expect there to be any kind of 4e style "powers," nor am I currently using class specific advancement at the moment. Thus, there is no reference material for this chapter and, if this remains the case, it could be removed from a short & sweet reference version of the rules.

Chapter 4: SKILLS
Greater depth into the various skills, what they cover, and examples of common uses. This chapter could be completely missing, covered simply by one line descriptions of the skills in Chapter 2 in a short & sweet reference version of the rules. The examples of use are really more useful to the DM, and the use of skills at all is already optional.

Herin lies the bulk of the book. Since we're taking a lot of the core complication out, the best place to return optional complexity would be within the game's "feats." Reducing the emphasis on linear progression also increases the importance of this section in differentiating characters. 
A major benefit to the "versatility not power" version of progression is that characters will not have any concrete limit on the # of feats they will be able to select over the course of their journeys. Furthermore, there would be far less reason for levels to become increasingly less common. This both de-emphasizes ideal builds and puts less stress on individual feat choices. There would no longer be "mistakes" made during character advancement. Otherwise interesting but under-powered feats become a viable option when the greatest limiter on character progression is time at the table, rather than a level cap.
For all intents and purposes, you character features are what will define the character in the long run.

- Add double your STR bonus to attacks when wielding 2h weapons.
- Gain an attack of opportunity on any adjacent target either turning their back on or moving more than 2m away from you on their turn.
- Gain an attack of opportunity on any adjacent target attempting to make a ranged attack.

- Gain an attack of opportunity on any adjacent target attempting to cast a spell.
- Power attack
- Cleave

Chapter 6: EQUIPMENT

Insert items here. Be sure to include misc items to inspire creativity in the players.

It may be worth having penalties on armor equal to the benefits, in order to better allow new players to play with only ability scores, a class, and human as their race (no rules).

See: Chapter 2:Character Creation, Step 5: Equipment about the generic attacks for players who wish to eschew buying arms and armor.

Chapter 7: MAGIC
De-emphasizing the class chapter means putting the divine/arcane magic in its own chapter.

Need the two magic types retain individual lists?

Let's do away with traditional spell levels. The nomenclature makes no sense, is incredibly confusing for new players, and doesn't jive with our "grow out not up" concept.

A thing that adventurers tend to do.

Chapter 9: COMBAT
Melee Attack = STR+Weapon vs Reflex (Add STR to damage)
Ranged Attack = DEX+Weapon vs Reflex

Any roll of a natural 20 (the number on the face of the die being 20) is considered a critical hit, always hitting the target and dealing double damage.

If you would like to use a grid, treat each space as being 2m in diameter.

So, thoughts? Anyone else want to jump in on the project? (If so, probably best to move this over to a Google doc.)

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