Saturday, August 4, 2012

D&D Next Annotations: Legends & Lore Clarifications (up to 8/4)

I'm all out of order now, but hey, this can just sit here. It doesn't say a ton of new stuff that changes much of anything, I just want to get it out before I have to do the next column on Monday. Tonight's Dark Knight Rises review will go up on schedule.
So hey, should start typing up the annotations on the Legends & Lore before I get even FURTHER behind.

Column 1: Playtest: First Round Overview.
* Hi Mr. Mearls, I'm Ego, and I'm going to be reviewing whatever you say.
* Yeah, the character sheet looks nice enough. I don't know if that's what I want on the final, but it's definitely good for now, and absolutely better than a plain text file.
* You're absolutely correct that I think the clerics need more magic and more healing. Based on what you're describing here though, it seems like this will be something that is a personal choice when it comes to character creation time. If that's the intention, I'll hold more judgment until you release that playtest. Even still though I think they need one more spell slot at first level.
* I like the idea of Turn Undead as a spell, though it hasn't been played in our game yet. No undead yet - you know how it is. If we bounce back and deflect the TPK as a TPDefeat, we'll likely get a chance since we already met the Dark Cultists.
* Oh, I hadn't noticed the weapon damage difference. That's clever, but I'm not sure we want to lock Fighters into axes and hammers persay.
* So wait, is this difference - the Fighter's amped up HD and the Cleric's amped up warhammer - what makes the two subraces different? Because in terms of what's on the page, there's no difference. I could learn to be okay with this way.
* Twin themes? That could work. To be honest, I'm actually already quite satisfied with how the Fighter is running, he's got quite a bit of cool on his sheet.
* Oh, THAT'S what you mean by the old-school thing. It makes it deadlier and removes some of the math...okay. Change the wording - "For a deadlier experience a la AD&D, remove Background and Theme." Because as-is, old-school also has a heavier emphasis on the cool functions of Theme and Background-like flavor, and we DON'T want that to go away.
* Oh man, I would NEVER remove those Minor spells! They work great, I really like it.
* Haven't had a chance to play with a familiar yet.
* We don't have a rogue, but I DO like Skill Mastery.
* I do like the terminology  of Contests.
* "The default is that you simply swim across a pond or climb a broken wall. Checks come in only if a situation is particualrly difficult," is VERY GOOD. Slid the scale from task-resolution to conflict-resolution a tad.
* Yes, I like the stealth rules. If you're playign very sneaky though it DOES place a heavy burden on your Dex score. Maybe some ways to use other ability scores would be cool? Not all of them, but a potential idea.
* Combat works just fine while still being stuck with using the same things and rolling round after round. Maybe we just need to try to be more creative sometimes, but the rules aren't encouraging me to do so.
* Saw no use of the HD mechanic.
* That's a fair change to Conditions. We'll see how it holds up though.
* I like what you're saying about backgrounds tossing out some cool goodies in the gear department. That "memento of a previous campaign" off of the Fighter's Soldier background needs to have a similar thing on everyone, I love that.
* Yup, spells being 3e but in plain language is decent. Rituals being altered versions is very nice.
That's it for this one. Next!

Column 2: Playtest: DM Packet Overview
* Oh man, Lizard (one of the fellows I commented with often during the lead-up to the release) isn't going to like that we're getting guidelines for DCs instead of specifics. I, however, was on the other side of the debate - I like this direction! Keep it going!
* Skills, well, you need to be careful with the wording. I like the range of things on the Wizard sheet, but the Fighter can pull a bonus on a LOT of things, especially wielding Perception. That's a very powerful skill to have, though not quite as powerful as the Elf getting advantage.
* On the other hand, I DO like how flexible it is. You know what it reminds me of? Traits and Tags from Lady Blackbird.
* I will say that, while I can't do published adventures myself and we aren't playing the straight CoC, this open-ended thing is GOOD. I essentially prevents the adventure itself from railroading us, which is an excellent thing.
* I know from peeking ahead that future columns are about Monster Design, so I'll wait.

Column 3: Bounded Accuracy
* YES YES YES, levels do NOT mean numbers have to go up!
* Yes, it creates actual improvement instead of percieved but illusory improvement.
* Nonspecialization is okay, sweet.
* I remember you tried doing something like this "monsters never go out of your list" thing with 4e and it only half-worked. This looks more acceptable.
* Well, I'm no sure how much it improves our ability to improv. But then again, that's always been my strong suit, so maybe I just don't see it. I get the idea though, and I like it.
* Oh, I hadn't thought of that! You CAN bring together a bunch of lowers to take out big guys! Fun, and I think that makes Troupe play much easier to calculate.
* Yup, nice numbers to handle.
* Yeah. In general I think it's obvious that I very much like Bounded Accuracy.

Column 4: Monster Design in D&D Next
* Right off the top, I want to say that though it is "rudimentary at best" right now, I think the monster design I witnessed in the Bestiary is the right DIRECTION.
* ...That is a truly SICK set of books of monsters. How many of them are straight USELESS? I love monster books, but you need to think about when enough is enough... Anyway, back to it.
* Hook Horror huh? Not my favorite monster, but iconic enough.
* Starting with the story? Yeah. You made the right choice.
* Skewered on a hook? Ew. Also that would never fly with 4e's "HP isn't necessarilly physical wounds" thing. I don't actually care though, just saying. Also, when I say "Ew" I mean "That is awesome".
* Wait, Hook Horrors are large? Oh man. I've had the wrong image in my head. Also, as strong as an ogre is going to make it gross as hell, we're all gonna die.
* Cool enough.
* Oh, so you DO plan to have us encounter build with an XP budget? Fair enough, I can make that work. Random charts are fun, though I will likely NEVER use them.

Column 5: Monster Design, Part 2
* See, there's an alternate side to this Strength in Numbers thing, and that's that eventually you can get tired of having to plow through real combat for every freaking henchmen just because they can pose an actual threat. The removal of minions definitely hurts. I'd like to see minions come back in some form. That and I like handwaving small creatures of "they're not actually a threat to you, you just kill them." That messes with xp balance now. Not saying I think you're doing the wrong thing necessarily, but you do have to consider the flipside.
* I think there IS an issue of, when they're leaderless, everything now fights the same. That's kinda sad - like you said, in 4e each of the types did have a distinct gimmick.
* I like everything you said under Nonhumanoids.
* Yup, not the final stat block etc etc.

Column 6: Playtest Update
* Hmm. Well, I want to say that you really should try to find more than just those surveys for playtest feedback, I find those surverys really lacking for places to say what I want to say about it. I just hope you at Wizards are reading my annotations here and my voice is actually being accounted for.
* I don't care about the tactical combat module right now.
* not what we mean by narrative combat. It looks like it's going to be clunky right there. I hope it's not, but seriously, examine what the Story Gaming community likes about our narrative gaming and how you can make D&D into something like that.
* I actually don't need more from the fighter. Maneuver system will be alright though.
* Oh my, critical tables? No thanks. You say optional though, so okay. What I'd LIKE is a function of either background or theme: "When you score a critical hit, blahblahblah happens too."
* Oh, a replacing bit? Okay, that's alright. Giving the rogue advantage on his skills would make him really REALLY effective btw, just saying...
* I haven't had any need to confront the resting rules. We played 'em like we always do: resting is a full heal. Fuck anything else. A way to do some healing without compromising other stuff makes the cleric VASTLY stronger, so be careful. I do definitely agree that this one tends to be a matter of tone.

Column 7: Magic Items in D&D Next
* Keeping them out of the math is cool, it means they're never mandatory and that you can do weird things with them that would make determining levels and such for them very odd.
* Magic Items and Artifacts are probably my second-favorite thing about D&D books, only behind sweet-as-hell monsters. +x items are not cool. But the reasons given here for their presence is compelling and given this I entirely accept that they will be present, but not the focus.
* Capping at +3? Sure, that's the Bounded Accuracy talking. Fine by me.
* Wondrous Items were always my favorite. Design inspired by them is good.

Column 8: Working in the Game Mine
* I see nothing to disagree with here. While I personally rather the story approach (if I need I can improvise mechanics as long as I have a story, and even if I don't use the monster I can draw inspiration from a story that I can't from just mechanics). But I definitely agree that each has their place and should be discussed. The best is, of course, when the backstory and the mechanics inform each other compellingly and obviously, but that's pretty much impossible on this scale.

Column 9: The Five-Minute Workday
* I think that balancing the casters' spell attrition on the non-casters' staying power is DANGEROUS. Something that was good about 4e was that everyone was always useful in a situation type (combat/noncombat/social) to some degree. In this case, in order for the fighter and rogue to start having full-power fun, the casters need to STOP having fun. Nasty. Try to find a different fulcrum to balance on. Icky. Honestly, I think the 5-minute workday is just something that if the players want it to work for them, they can make it. It's really on the player side to not try to abuse the rules in this case.

Column 10: Monster Creation in D&D Next
* You see, this approach is how I DON'T want monsters done. I want you to start with what you did in the Filling in the Details section, assigning its special abilities that make this creature special. Formulaicly judging its basic statistics can be done, but making the monster special should be the important part, and no one remembers the monster that was special for having AC 18 and 200 HP, you remember it because it had disintegrating and petrifying eye rays or stole the heat from your body and turned it back on you with a fireball attack. Maybe this isn't an overly balanced way of designing, but hey, my opinion is Fuck Balance.
* On a similar note, I wouldn't start with level and power. You start with concept. However tough your concept and its special abilities are, it's that level. Level-first design is gonna end up with a lot of pigeon-holing to fill in gaps - it's the sort of design work that would give us a Martial Controller in 4e. That's what I see.

Column 11: Fighters & Combat Superiority
* I have to say, I'm iffy on this whole thing. It seems like it'll be a bit clunky and probably slow things down. But then, I'm happy with it as it is, so I'm not the target audience of the change. I do like that there's a whole otn of things to do with the dice.
* My big question is: Can the class still function on the level if all the Fighter player wants to do is "I attack the monster." As much as I loathe doing this, Daniel is this kind of player. He is here to have a social event, playing a fighter is pretty much just a pretense - it's the simplest thing there is, and he always beelines straight for the simplest. Playing this way should be an option.

By some fluke, I seem to be caught up! I'll try to keep up with new ones as they come. Really hoping the next draft of the playtest is coming soon!

End Recording,

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