Focus on more player options rather than scaling numbers

What if leveling was focused solely around adding creative options for players - rather than scaling? Instead of adding so many pluses/minuses, let the players do something they weren’t otherwise able to do before. I think there is a kernel of coolness here, if you’re willing to read on.


Let’s get rid of number bloaters that give us the illusion of advancement (BAB, save progression, items buffing attack/damage/stats/saves, increasing spell variables, etc.).


If a Fighter class granted a flat 40 HP (+Con Mod), +3 to all attacks, +3 Fort saves, these numbers would remain that way his entire career and be meaningful compared to a Wizard forever having 16 HP (+Con Mod) and +3 saves vs. spells. Whatever the numbers are, the gist is that these formerly variable ever-increasing numbers become fixed regardless of your level. The 40 HP vs. 16 HP is a 2.5 ratio, which one could argue is more-or-less the design intention of giving a d10 HD to one class versus d4 HD to another.


But the cool stuff that makes the game fun is to add player options! And I’m not talking about more 4e power cards that all basically do the same thing, and a process that gets repeated every fight (blow through encounters, stuck with boring at-wills in a fight that drags on forever). Make the focus of the game all about the cool class features, and how they bend or break the core rules.


Each class should get at least one cool class feature every level (or better yet, to pick from a list of cool class features unique to the class, like SW Saga Talent Trees, or Monte’s Akashic from Arcana Evolved). Players can only ever be in one class. Instead of multi-classing, let WotC release new classes in supplementary books that are, in-and-of-themselves, effectively a multiclass. This lets them continue to make money on add-on products, still maintain control over combinations so they don’t become too powerful and (if WotC released enough interesting new classes) still appease players that like offbeat combinations.


You can further customize and make your PC unique in other already-established ways. Pick a character’s Background, to provide their “level 0” fluff and benefits. With less (or no) bloat, these should also be significantly more meaningful throughout their entire career.


Make feats more general in nature, either available to a group of classes (i.e., former “martial” classes) or to any class. There are no such things as feats that have pre-requisites of a single class (those would be moved to within the class itself, as class features/talent trees). I’d do away with any feat that contributed to numeric bloating (dodge, weapon focus, etc.) and instead just let them bend/break core rules to grant players more options during play. Perhaps dodge lets you force a foe to reroll an attack as an Immediate Interrupt once per fight, or simply let you roll 1d6 and add the result to your defenses for one turn a fight. Feats that let you take arcane area effects (such as Fireball) and create safe unaffected pockets to avoid hitting allies, or halve the radius to double the damage.


Skills are either known (trained) or unknown (untrained), but don’t have escalating bonuses to deal with escalating DCs. Trained provides a flat +2 bonus to the roll. Ripping off Pathfinder a bit, any class can train in any skills they want, but you get flat +3 bonus to any class skill you are “trained” in (incentive to train your class skills). You can pick up “skill training” feats to become trained in more skills as you advance. Tack on the ability modifier. Fighter Str 18 (+4), plus trained (+2), plus class skill (+3) = +9 total. Done. That number stays that way for the rest of your career, and the only way to boost it were crazy rare or infrequent/temporary.


I would imagine you could easily build a balanced skill DC table around this, making the +9 bonus a very good chance to succeed at athletics checks in general. And for anything else, you can create class features or feats without resorting to stacking bonuses. Just rip off all the cool utility powers from 4e. For example, you could have feats that let you jump twice as far as normal, exceed normal limits, treat it as if you made a running start, climb twice as fast and so on. Feats that let you bypass DR/hardness while smashing down a door. Feats improving knowledge checks by letting you roll twice and take the best result.


Ability scores stay the same your whole career. Only exceptions should be crazy rare (artifacts, Wish-like effects or campaign climax). I’ve got no problem with Str 18 being the human max. It also makes the racial ability modifiers more meaningful, instead of them being buried in a pool stacking numbers that get you beyond a 30 stat. Damage bloat also being gone, your Str 18 fighter is doing 8 points of damage on average with his longsword, dropping a foe (of equal level) in 5 hits.


A single HP is meaningful now. Another crazy thought is to keep HP as being nicks/fatigue-based, but treat healing surge boxes as “wound” boxes. Once a character drops to 0 HPs, the character suffers a real wound (put an X in a wound box), is bleeding and falls unconscious. I.E., your HP are a threshold for a wound. Like SW Saga, let there be a spell to heal the HPs (frequent and easier to cast, brings ally conscious, stops bleeding, back into the fray) and a separate “cure wounds” spell that removes wound boxes (which can only be cast outside of combat, harder to cast or fewer per day). All the other iterations of healing HPs still exist (inspiring words, second wind, etc.), since HP is still potentially a restoration of morale or ignoring fatigue. Have wound boxes bestow conditional penalties of some kind, but not so extreme that a couple wounds neuters you into being unable to participate in combat.


You can have classes factor into quantity of wound boxes as well as severity of wound penalties. Barbarian could inherently have more boxes, allowed to suffer more wounds before he starts seeing penalties, and even then, a much more forgiving penalty progression when they start appearing.


Once your wound boxes are all X’ed off, you’re dead (last box being the fatal blow). Nice side-effects: no more negative HP tracking required here (0 HP or less is simply 0 HP and unconscious/bleeding) and a small handful of temporary hit points become cooler in this setup. Throw in a few ways to bypass HPs and deal a wound directly (critical hits, the former save-or-die stuff, a few rare monster abilities).


To represent differing experience/power level levels between creatures (i.e., level 1 fighter goes up against level 10 fighter), I’m sure there are plenty of crafty ways to handle this. Off the top of my head, you could simply take the difference in levels between combatants and add it as a bonus to the higher level creature’s base damage/attack/defenses (and possibly even things like damage reduction). If your team of 5th level PCs go up against a 5th level orc, use the orc’s stock numbers since he is the same level as the PCs. But if the PCs go up against an 8th level ogre, simply add +3 to all the ogre’s numbers to represent the difference (yes, I presume all PCs are always the same level as each other; it’s just how we play).


As an aside, I like the concept of limiting the spellcasting by connecting it to HPs. Casting is fatiguing; it costs you HPs to cast a spell. If you toss enough, you wound yourself and collapse unconscious. Very dramatic. I think SW Saga did something like this. I’ve always disliked the huge number of D&D spells out there too. Way too many. I’d prefer a significantly smaller list of spell choices and make each one cool, and let class features and feats modify them in interesting ways to give more options.


And to the above a well-crafted adventure to introducing the circumstantial stuff and variability, and of course, a good story.


Not saying it's perfect, but does it have promise? What do you think?

What people mean by "scaling" is not just that the numbers go up.  Scaling means the rate at which your character's overall effectiveness changes as you level.  Even if the numbers never went up, and you just had more capability, that is still scaling and it still is important for balance that characters scale at the same rate.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
What people mean by "scaling" is not just that the numbers go up.  Scaling means the rate at which your character's overall effectiveness changes as you level.  Even if the numbers never went up, and you just had more capability, that is still scaling and it still is important for balance that characters scale at the same rate.



Not to mention that if your numbers never go up, as the OP suggests, then it doesn't matter how many attack powers (or attack "class features") you have, you're never going to hit a monster whose AC is too high. That doesn't leave a whole lot of room for monster design, since you'll end up with dragons being not much harder to hit than goblins.

Not to mention that if your numbers never go up, as the OP suggests, then it doesn't matter how many attack powers (or attack "class features") you have, you're never going to hit a monster whose AC is too high. That doesn't leave a whole lot of room for monster design, since you'll end up with dragons being not much harder to hit than goblins.



My proposal was that AC would not go up either, so PC of equal level to the dragon would still hit as often as the designers wanted him to (on average).

Also take into account the issue you bring up (dragons not much harder to hit than goblins) is kinda-sorta already there in the game. Low level character rolls low attack bonus against low AC (goblin) versus high level character rolls high attack bonus against high AC (dragon).

If during design, you determine a level 1 fighter has +5 to hit (just using random numbers here) and goblin has AC 12, you hit on a roll of a 7 on that d20 (70% chance to hit). If you deterrmine a level 20 fighter has +32 to hit and the dragon has AC 40, you hit on a roll of a 8 on that d20 (65% chance to hit). To me, it feels like it nets out around the same, just with bloated numbers.

Ultimately, when you boil it down, you are just looking at odds of hitting, regardless of level. So can't you achieve the same thing without progressing attack bonuses and defenses?

In regards to the other comment about "scaling," perhaps it was just the wrong term. If you read my original post, it should be clear I'm talking about avoiding the math (numeric bloat), but providing instead more player choices/options as the primary focus of the "fun" of the game. So yes, all classes/characters should have a progression of new and improved capabilities as they level up. Sorry if I used the wrong word there.
I expect to at least see hit point and damage scaling, because that is still a relevant way to represent the different between high and low level. If hit and AC are flat, then the PCs are unable to harm the dragon meaningfully at low levels, whereas it is killing them outright on a hit. As they progress, the PCs are dropping orcs in one hit, and then bigger and badder monsters.

I agree that adding options is better than adding numbers (one of my big issues with certain classes throughout D&D) but some numbers do need to progress if levels are to retain anything like their meaning thus far. 

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

This is pretty much the route of my homebrew heartbreaker, so I'm all for the idea.
I love the idea flattening the scaling so it doesn't bloat, but I feel like there has to be some growth in "hit points", "to hit", "damage", and "skills."   The growth can come automatically, or through acquisition of specific feats if that gives players more options.

I love the idea of keeping AC fixed based on the type of armor or hide/carapace.  A soft skinned beast should have AC 12 or 13 even if it is huge and has 300 hp...a strong-shelled beast should have AC 18-24 depending on the shell material.

By the same token, there has to be a fixed table for skill checks....no sliding scale.  If something is easy...DC 3-5.   If something is a moderate challenge it shoudl be DC 7-10....hard 15, etc.    If it is nearly impossible just set it at 30 or 35 and leave it alone.  

 

A Brave Knight of WTF

 

Rhenny's Blog:  http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog

 

 

I expect to at least see hit point and damage scaling, because that is still a relevant way to represent the different between high and low level. If hit and AC are flat, then the PCs are unable to harm the dragon meaningfully at low levels, whereas it is killing them outright on a hit. As they progress, the PCs are dropping orcs in one hit, and then bigger and badder monsters.



HP and damge don't need to have numeric bloat either. I covered one possible solution in my original post with an alternate way to handle difference between high/low levels.

In short, DM takes the difference in levels between PCs and foes, and applies as bonus or penalty to the bad guy's numbers on the fly (attack/damage/defense, damage resistance, and vulnerabilities). So even if Fighter 15 and Fighter 1 have same 1d8+4 damage, it is a number relative to a foe of their level.

Fighter 15 versus a foe level 15 = 1d8+4 damage (same damage as fighter 1 versus foe of level 1).

Fighter 15 versus foe level 5 (a 10 level difference in favor of PC), the bad guy's attack/defenses drop by 10 and he develops a sudden "vulnerability 10/all" against that PC's superior combat skill. The PC is going to decemate the low level foe in one hit.

Fighter 5 versus foe level 15 (a 10 level difference in favor of foe), the bad guy's attack/defenses increase by 10 and develops (or improves) DR by 10/all. The PC isn't going to hit him, and if he does, he won't do any damage.

After all, once again, we're ultimately talking about number of hits to bring down a foe. A fighter dishing out 30 average damage per hit on a 150 HP foe is the same as a fighter dishing out 8 average damage per hit on a 40 HP foe. The foe goes down in 5 hits on average either way.

I think it's possible to avoid numeric bloat to attack, AC/saves/defenses, HP, damage, skills, etc., and still retain the essence of what is happening already.

Hmm wouldn't that add more on-the-fly math despite the simpler character sheets? And either the DM is stuck doing all this or he tells the players the level of the monsters, which isn't ideal for everyone. I guess if you're using the computer you can input the party level to get a correct stat block... idk if that's too much cleaner. Also, scaling everything at +1 per level may not be the way to go.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

Regarding original post


  • Slower HP advancement. (1 or 2 HP per level) sounds fine

  • Slower ThAC0 advancement andj damage per roumd advancement sounds fine

  • Simpler skill system sound fine

  • I like the idea that characters to go unconcious at 0HP and have a good chance of survival.

  • Cool abilities sound like fun but


  1. I would like to avoid dailies (personal preference)

  2. I would like to avoid interrupts, because they slow down my game.

DISCLAIMER: I never played 4ed, so I may misunderstand some of the rules.
I'd be happy with class related hit point and damage scaling if it isn't crazy high.  I want fighters to inflict more damage with weapons than wizards and as they level up, that should scale a bit because higher level spells are going to be that bit more powerful.  I want fighters to be less fragile than wizards in a meaningful way.  I'm also not a fan of daily powers for all classes because book-keeping can be a drag (we have to expect it for casters if Vancian is back though).  Save what would have been low level daily powers for higher level characters' encounter powers.

I think the higher level your character is the more invested you are in them. Making higher level characters harder to kill by a low level orc is a must.  It's no fun trotting along for a raise dead every 3 fights.
I've got no problem with dropping to hit and AC increases, the treadmill just doesn't add very much besides harder math.  But honestly, I don't see why on the fly adding/subtracting AC/DR/vulnerability is in any way preferable. I for one would rather deal with larger numbers than more steps, especially when the extra steps lead to larger numbers AND make it impossible to have workable, low-damage aura-type effects that don't automatically kill minions (something I was really looking forward to Next fixing, the way they've described minions).  Ultimately, you've got as much or more scaling in your system than we've got already, you're just hiding it behind an on-the-fly level comparison rather than baking it into the stats, forcing DMs to do the math themselves rather than doing it for them.  
Our philosophies diverge in some areas (I prefer a simple but flexible core over myriad feat and class expansion), but the overall idea of dropping all the number scaling and abstract math abilities in favor of interesting in-game-world concept abilities is one I've already homebrewed toward at home. It's much easier to create new monsters and to use a greater variety of monsters at any level, and I think the players have enjoyed the renewed focus on in-world abilities over abstract math adjustments.