Tuesday, April 23, 2013

DnD Next feats and skills

The next blog post about DnD Next is up and it contains some things that seem pretty good and some things ... not so much good.  I have been openly skeptical about the development team's ability to balance Basic characters against Advanced characters but their new announcements seem pretty good as far as that goes.

In short characters are going to get constant +1 increases to their stats.  They can trade away one of those +1s for a feat if they are using the Advanced rules while Basic characters are stuck simply upgrading stats.  Feats will be balanced against stat increases so that Basic characters just have bigger numbers but less options - in theory this is a fine thing, but the devil is in the details.  The trouble is that they want some more powerful feats to have level prerequisites so high level characters can do awesome things.  This is problematic because if low level feats are bad then everybody will simply pump their stats up to the maximum of 20 and then Advanced characters will start taking powerful high level feats and Basic characters are stuck putting their stat increases into less useful stats.  The balance should be good at low levels when everyone has no options but at high levels... not so much.  Still, it isn't a terrible system and certainly gives the Basic characters something simple to do to improve their characters.

Skills are in a much worse place.  The current plan is to simply not have skills in the Basic game and have them in the Advanced game.  Everyone will be rolling 1d20 + Wisdom to see if they notice the hidden monster but Advanced characters will get to add their Perception skill bonus to the check.  This means that Advanced and Basic characters can't really play together reasonably and the difficulty numbers for tasks have to be changed based on what ruleset is being used.  Not great, but at least it is simple, right?  Not so much.  Not only are we going to have skills but there will also be areas of knowledge and proficiencies to deal with.  I don't think that having three different systems for tracking what your character can do skill wise is a sensible option.  Extra complexity is justifiable when the system is elegant but this seems like a beast; it doesn't bolt onto the Basic game seamlessly and it has too many parts.

If there has to be a Basic edition (which I am still not sold on) systems like skills need to exist in some form.  It can be something really simple, sort of like 4th edition.  A list of 6 skills where you get to choose 3 to get +5 in is really simple choicewise and straightforward to adjudicate.  People aren't going to be overwhelmed by making that sort of choice and the Advanced edition can have much greater flexibility in choice or some kind of skill point system if they want to amp it up some.  I don't look forward to a system where a Basic character can't be reasonably played in an Advanced game and vice versa.

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