Monday, January 20, 2020

6th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

There was a "who is your dream design team for 6e" thing going around on Twitter and because everybody was tagging their friends as the team you could just imagine all the completely dysfunctional editions they would actually produce. But really, my ideas for what I would do if put in charge of a new edition of D&D are also going to sound terrible to a fairly large swath of the game's audience too. To wit:



Ability Scores
  • The six standard ability scores? Cut down to four. Strength kills Constitution and takes its stuff. Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma get broken apart and reassembled as two ability scores. Shadow of the Demon Lord already does this and it's smart.
  • No numerical ability scores, just the bonus/penalty. The numerical score is already a vestigial tail that barely sees any use in the game; the time has come to jettison it.

Races
  • Races would have a whole lot less in terms of features because they tend to include a bunch of cruft that is quickly forgotten about in play. One or two spiffy features, maximum.
  • Ability score increases would be decoupled from race choice, or at least remade as a potential source of ability score increase among others.
  • Tabaxi and warforged are core now. Sorry. (Not sorry.)

Classes
  • You make the subclass choice for your character at 1st level now. No more waiting until 3rd level to play the character you want to play. You wanna play a beast master ranger? Now you can from 1st level. You're welcome.
  • Classes will only be detailed up to level 10 in the Player's Handbook. According to the available data, 10th level is about the highest level people tend to play to before their campaigns end anyway. Higher levels can be their own book later on, which will give that stuff time to actually be playtested.

Misc
  • Milestone XP is now the default. Totting up XP as homework is hereby abolished.
  • Alignment is gone. You won't miss it.
  • Backgrounds stay. That shit slaps, as the kids say.
  • The skill list can probably be pared down just a little bit more, especially if we make mix-and-match skill plus ability score a core concept. Do we really need perception and investigation?
  • Bonus actions are gone. We can do better.
  • More emphasis on reskinning the fluff around mechanics to get your desired game aesthetics.
  • No default setting. The emphasis will be on making your own setting. 
  • This time let's figure out what we want psionics to be before we publish the edition, even if it isn't in the core books.

37 comments:

  1. I love every bit of it except for one of the bullet points. I'd play this edition.

    That shit, indeed, slaps.

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    1. What was the bullet point you didn't like?

      And thanks!

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    2. Tabaxi and Warforged. :)
      Easily fixed on my end.

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  2. Millennials will never ever accept “no standard setting.” Remember 5e was supposed to be completely modular and yet we still end up with adventurer’s railroad on Friday nights.

    I would make a ton of different choices but I still love your ideas. Great job!

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    1. I don't end up with railroads, so you must be doing something very different than I am!

      Also, every student I encounter who is playing D&D has their own bespoke setting, so I'm not sure that "millennials" bit has the ring of truth to it.

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    2. Bro, I'm a millennial (1981) and I've been making up my own settings since I was 10.

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  3. Whut about hit points/death & dying and AC/magic items?

    I enjoy hit points connected with death & dismemberment tables (battle-scarred high level types should be, well, battle scarred). Also the 4th ed. idea (and Arduin btw) to have more hit points at 1st level then smaller increases over time (easier to add new players to a party).

    5th ed AC was a huge step in the right direction away from indestructible 3rd ed PCs. Though my group never grokked 5th ed "attuning" to magic items, somewhat artificial means justifying the end. Perhaps more powerful magic items should have some built in bane (or random a la 1st ed artifacts) rather than a catch-all character limitation.

    Hmmm, one other thought: Should there be an attribute for mechanical skill? This idea (also from Arduin) makes genre-crossing devices and settings simpler.

    Ha, so another other thought, how about an attribute for latent psionic ability? Most folks would be low, but an increased score could help with premonitions on up to psionic classes. And psionics should be different than magic, but each would provide a limited amount of protection vs the other. Psionic flavor would be undetectable by processes that detect magic and perhaps consequences (insanity or some lesser tick) for users and recipients. Should attract psionic creatures when used (an old fun trope).

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    1. Hit points as they are in 5e hasn't given me much trouble. They do increase quite a bit, but unlike a lot of old-school games damage scales to keep up, so that works for me. I like AC capping out pretty quickly too. Each table probably has their own preferred amount of magic items; I keep it fairly light in mine.

      Right now in 5e mechanical skill is handled with various "tool" proficiencies. More guidelines on what they can do would probably work well.

      I think psionics is controversial enough that I'd sidestep building it into an ability score.

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  4. These are quite good. I don't mind having a default setting, but I'd love if the emphasis was on making it one's own version of the setting, something closer to Yoon Suin or whatnot.

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    1. Ways to modify existing settings would be cool, but I'd probably put that in the setting books themselves.

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  5. My own hot-take is that the proliferation of archetypes/subclasses, starting with Pathfinder and continuing in 5e, has more or less made "classes" obsolete.

    The class is little more than an organizing principle that tells you where to start looking to find the specific subclass/archetype you're going to be interested in. Additionally, I would argue that since the purpose of the "class" is just to help you find your actual character type, fewer of them would reduce confusion. If I want to play a devotee of the guardian angels, for example, I might spend a lot of time reading through the paladin and cleric options before someone clues me in that I ought to be a celestial-worshiping warlock.

    But while I think you need few or no actual "classes" I also think that - as long as they're organized well - the game can support many, MANY more archetypes/subclasses without devolving into total analysis paralysis. Troika has 36 "backgrounds" that function as classes, and Electric Bastionland has 100. Make a shorter list for new players, ask some good leading questions and use the answers to point people in the right direction, or just allow for rolling on a random table if you can't make a decision. There are a lot of ways to allow player options to proliferate without making chargen impossible.

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    1. I think organizing principles are actually quite helpful, especially for new players. Having a recognizable mechanical chasis--the character who fights with weapons! the character with the healing spells! etc.--is very accessible design.

      I...wouldn't be using Troika as as inspiration for what I'd do, that much is certain.

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    2. Ha, no, I suppose you will. I agree that organizing principles are helpful for finding your character type quickly, I'm just not sure that the classes, as they're currently constituted, are necessarily the quickest way.

      "I want a character who does X!" followed by a list of options with page numbers would be helpful, for example. It would just be more helpful if they're willing to build in some redundancy. So you might find the Beastmaster Ranger on the list for "I want a character who fights monsters!" and also on the "I want a character who's friends with animals!" list.

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    3. Yeah, as a game D&D would really benefit from some guidance so players can get to what they want quicker. A peak behind the curtain as to what some of it is intended for would be helpful too.

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  6. I think the original dream team post you’re referencing was mine, and fwiw I agree with most every bullet point on your list. I believe there is a more elegant, more focused, more accessible version of the game that should be made. Its why I originally wrote that post. It might be worth it to put a small discord group together to actually do something along those lines.

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    1. If it was your, I think I only saw it once it had traveled further afield! Either way, interesting though exercise. But for me, it will probably remain a daydream: writing a full game is hard work and I'd rather have WotC do the heavy lifting for me!

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  7. Good riddance to alignment. Evil pun intended.

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  8. Hmmmm, one other thing (which I like to imagine 5th ed was looking for by basing much of the DCs on the attributes). How important is ease of access for backward compatibility with prior editions? I do think 5th ed kind of started to hit a sweet spot with this as I was running pieces of 2nd ed "Masters of Eternal Night" and :Dawn of the Overmind" translating to 5th ed on the fly and using a super simplified home-brew psionic system from Steven James "Silverblades Suitcase" (site sadly shutdown).

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    1. 5e's backward compatibility is good enough for me. Close enough to wing it is fine for how I play; I don't really need things to be fairly identical (like 1e AD&D to 2e AD&D) and I definitely don't want them to be radically different either (liek 4e, for example.)

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  9. I've become a supporter of the idea that ability score increases are tied to Class (and thus "professional training") rather than race. But I would totally leave them in, in some capacity, because people clearly like getting nice things.

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    1. The way I've houseruled it in my 5e games is that you get whatever numerical configuration of ability score modifiers your race gives you (usually +2/+1, but sometimes +2/+2 or +1/+1/+1) and you can apply them to either the ones indicated for your race or ability scores associated with your class.

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    2. Thanks, mang! One of these days I'll post my 5e houserules as a zine or something on here.

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  10. I'm still bound to ability score numbers, but I realize that's because I still play old editions almost as much as I do 5th edition. When I look at it objectively, we never roll under ability scores in our 5th edition sessions, we do the challenge rating thing. So yeah, I would adapt.

    I think I'm weird for an OSR gamer, I want more core races. Like, lots more. I think a lot of old school gamers forget that in the 80's we played all kinds of weird races. We were playing tabaxi, aarakocra, thri-kreen, and just about everything else we felt like trying out. I remember a short lived experiment where we all played brownies, pixies, and sprites. A few vocal gamers always seem to slag on the new races, as if a tiefling PC makes less sense than a half-orc.

    I don't mind alignment, but I don't need it either. I dig the three point alignment instead of nine, but that does come with an implied setting so maybe save it for a setting book and remove it from the core book. If you don't have a world with Lords of Chaos & Law (for example) then it doesn't make sense to bind everyone to those alignments.

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    1. I think you aren't alone in being an OSR gamer who wants more player options, but unfortunately that perspective often gets drowned out by the "no options, no character building, you can play one of three things like Gary intended!" crowd. Which is unfortunate, I think, because the OSR seen focuses on fun stuff for one player at the table (the DM) over fun stuff for everybody.

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    2. A bunch of PC races/species isn't my preferred aesthetic, but I think if you jettison a default setting that problem vanishes for me. If you treat the lists of classes, races, and monsters as things that all *could* be in any given game's world, rather than things that *are* in every game's world, then including more races etc. is simply adding more tools to the toolbox. Sometimes you'll want to throw everything in, sometimes you want a curated selection.

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    3. Yeah, that's why I'd rather emphasize building your own setting over a default setting. "Here are some options, which do you want to build your campaign out of?" seems like the optimal path.

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  11. What would you call your condensed mental ability scores?

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    1. Hmm, not settled on it, but Shadow of the Demon Lord's Intellect and Will feel about right.

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  12. I'd kinda prefer the opposite of dropping the numerical ability scores, which is to make them start meaning something again. I'd like to see them used as target numbers for maneuvers and some kinds of social skill rolls rather than contested rolls. I also don't really like the ability score increase OR feat paradigm in 5e; I prefer testing your ability scores in some manner on leveling, or else requiring training, to increase ability scores. And then you can just let people have feats. (Some of which need fixing too.)

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    1. Hmm, testing things to see if they increase opens the door for some people to get very lucky and some people to get very unlucky and have the same capabilities as 12th level they had at 1st.

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    2. I mean, there is that. A bell curve based test and frequent enough opportunities would help, but not entirely fix the problem. I find the current approach nearly as problematic though, as some class/subclass combos have secondary ability scores that are very important and some have ones that are only sort of important. Particularly if you play with feats, that leaves the very important secondary ability characters to continue to just increase their scores while the sort of important ones can start taking feats earlier depending on their play style.

      Of course dropping to four ability scores might fix that, too, so I may be quibbling over nothing.

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  13. As I've said many times - "D&D" is just a logo, the owners can put it on a packet of cat food and call that 6e if they want. It doesn't mean it's actually Dungeons and Dragons in any meaningful way. But it does shift the books a lot more easily than admitting you've invented a new game from scratch.

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  14. I still use 2nd Ed rules. Haven't found a edition yet that even remotely fits my fancy. But will use modules and convert em over. Due not tho it is still DM Rules. So have fun play well.

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