How will DDN not be Unearthed Arcana N?

I am genuinely curious how a modularized system with optional variant rules won't be just like a big Unearthed Arcana (3e). From as much as I have read and watched, admittedly not an exhaustive amount, but a fair bit, it doesn't (yet) feel all that different from a bundled Unearthed Arcana into the core rule set and this worries me a bit. Why? Cos we already have all the variant optional rules we could want from any UA, from other editions, shared house rules, even other game systems, etc? Will DDN be all that different from what we have already seen?

Does anyone care to convince me that it won't be like one big UA? Or is a big UA just what everyone wants; a big lucky packet of variances and options to pick and choose from (hit points are abstract wounds, hit points are tied hit locations, hit points are never more than 10, hitpoints replaced with injuries and wounds, no hitpoints at all, etc)?

Or have I missed the idea of what will be modularized and what won't be. Instead of five ways to treat damage, there will only be one because damage is considered "CORE".  On the other hand, there will be eight ways to treat "magic" (for example), because playtests show that in "magic" there is greater flexibility to have different approaches.

Incidentally, the old UA had 45 pages on how to approach magic differently, so even my example isn't that great as to show what different insights modularity will bring. 

I'm eager to be convinced otherwise.
The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules. -Gary Gygax
Honestly, I think it will be like a big UA in Core, and I'm alright with that.

I absolutely love UA, because it allowed you to play very different / specific characters using  the base classes. Instead of having 106 core classes (which 3.5 did at the time) you could just use the core ones with all those options, and everyone felt unique.

I think the big difference between 3.5 with UA and D&DN is that the new edition, despite what many people fear, won't just be 3.5. It will have a lot of new and interesting rules (hopefully) and have options for everyone. D&DN will probably be similar to 3.5, but lets face it, 3.x had a LOT of problems, as has every edition of D&D. So I'd pay a ton for a game book that is all the good stuff of the last few editions, with built-in options of UA.  
@thorbardin

You might want to come back after they have more than 20% of their game design in place.

Maybe keeping an open mind migth be in order rather than looking for stuff to not like and challenging us to convince you you're wrong.

So what if it resembles stuff from other games, it's supposed to. 

I'm sure they are going to use a lot of stuff that people aren't going to be thrilled about. We have versions D&D or other games we can play. they are trying to keep D&D alive. D&D has moved so far from it's roots as not to resemble D&D any more. People don't like that and they have used their wallets to let them know it.

If people don't like the previous versions of D&D then they are likely not going to like this one. D&D next is intended to be a new version of old style D&D, not another game that isn't D&D with the logo stapled to it. 
@Tlantl

Well, I hope that at 20% of completion they haven't tossed the modularity idea, but I kinda think your response to my question is likely to be the same then too. 

My mind is open and believe me when I tell you I am not out looking for things to have concerns about - I am just communicating the concern that I feel. You obviously don't share it and that is well and good. What I don't see in your post is why you think (or don't think) the game will be like a big UA and whether you are fine (or not fine) about this approach. I'm interested to know whether I'm a lonely voice in the wilderness or whether there are others that are thinking along the same lines. 

I'm not sure I agree with the statement that "D&D has moved so far from it's roots...", but then I guess it depends what you consider "roots". Chainmail? D&D Basic red box? AD&D? 2e? 3e? As for my own tastes, the only edition I can say I didn't enjoy as much as the others, was the last. Hence my curiosity and interest with D&DN. I live in optimism that gamers like me, working at Wizards, can make a product I'd love to play. To reinvigorate the proto-rpg that started a lifelong hobby in 1985. 

Your last paragraph is quite damning. I've like nearly all the versions of the previous games. You reckon I'm doomed to not like D&DN? Perhaps you should come back when they have more than 20% of their game design in place. ;)
The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules. -Gary Gygax
What Tlantl said was that if you doidn't like the previous editions you probably won't like the new one.  Logically, therefor, if you did like the old systems you may like the new one.  You liked most versions of the game... chances are you will like D&DN.

The idea of having all those options out of the box (so to speak... book would probably be more accurate) is to increase the chances that you will like it as you can just not use the bits that you don't like.  The benefit of building the game with this in mind is that it will be easier to change things without affecting other things in an unforseen manner (if the designers do a good job).  Coming back after the game has been produced with a load of options to alter it (UA style) is more likely to lead to complications. 

Is it like having UA wrapped up and added into the main rules?  I guess you can look at it like that.  It is better to have the options in mind when designing the game than sticking them on afterwards though.  And they are more likely to get support.  So, I'd say... like Unearthed Arcana but better.  And UA wasn't bad to begin with.      

The optional rules modules may also be able to go deeper than UA managed.  
Unearthed Arcana is pretty much the best thing ever, so I'd be happy with that.
Excuse me being a putz, but which unearthed arcana are we talking about? I'm assuming 3e but I might be wrong, it's happened before.


from the things they're telling us they need to get the basic core set before the modules can be finalized. From the sounds of things the core of the game is the stuff that makes D&D tick. grounding the game in it's roots as I said. OD&D, BD&D and all of it's permutations, AD&D, D&D3e and 4e. 

Right now it's still putting the skeleton together. From there they get to the more intricate stuff. Allegedly we'll get to play test their systems until the game is released, testing the core and the different modules along the way. Right now it's still on the drawing board as they say.
Maybe the modules will be playtested together and have solid numbers backing them that would make it not unearthed arcana.
  Creative Character Build Collection and The Magic of King's and Heros  also Can Martial Characters Fly? 

Improvisation in 4e: Fave 4E Improvisations - also Wrecans Guides to improvisation beyond page 42
The Non-combatant Adventurer (aka Princess build Warlord or LazyLord)
Reality is unrealistic - and even monkeys protest unfairness
Reflavoring the Fighter : The Wizard : The Swordmage - Creative Character Collection: Bloodwright (Darksun Character) 

At full hit points and still wounded to incapacitation? you are playing 1e.
By virtue of being a player your characters are the protagonists in a heroic fantasy game even at level one
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Cos we already have all the variant optional rules we could want from any UA, from other editions, shared house rules, even other game systems, etc? Will DDN be all that different from what we have already seen?


The problem, as I see it, is that all these optional/variant rules are from different versions of D&D; with 4E being so different that its rules seem incompatible with earlier editions, making the game feel very different.

This caused enough of the player base to move away from "branded" D&D, to the options that were more like earlier versions of D&D, that WotC could not keep D&D a profitable venture.

So, the modularity of D&DNext is an effort to integrate rules from all editions, in such a way that you can play a character that feels like one from your favorite edition alongside (in the same game/at the same table) as someone playing a character that feels like one from a different edition. Thus, bringing back features that might re-attract that lost player base and regain the market that was necessary for profitability.

I think it can be done; and that they are working in the right direction. I also think that the most difficult area will be in keeping it simple enough for new DMs to be successful (not an "overload" of different rules). This is where the objective will have to be to integrate those disparate rules in such a way that they are not just that: different rules sets; but different options (modules) within a single rules set. Here is where, I think, we will see some things that are considered new, D&DNext rules; ones that will be common (or core) to all surrounding modules.

In summary, it should not be all that different from what is already available; but, it will be one game/version. Hopefully, one that will unify the D&D lovers of the world again (at least when it comes to which game they're playing). Just my two cents...

@Tlantl
Yep, I've got the 3e UA on my shelf and I've been looking at that, but I remember the original UA for AD&D doing "similar" kind of things with a suite of optional rules. I think that was where the fighter first got his Weapon Specialization bonus and we said "Hail" to the Cavalier; but my memory's fuzzy. So I mean the essence of what Unearthed Arcana represents; a book filled with optional rules rather than the rules contained within any specific edition. 

If I've undestood WotC correctly, one could play "just the core" and have a satisfying D&D experience. If they get that right (and it's not like 4e), they can have my money. I'm absolutely playtesting the system with my gaming group. I'm really looking forward to this "collaborative" process.

@lawrencehoy
Thanks for your post - you make a lot of sense. I had forgotten WotC's motivation for their modularity and that actually helps me deal with their approach. I am exactly the guy they are trying to entice back to their roleplaying game, having fled from 4e. Considering that I have probably bought 70% of their product line up in every other edition, to stop abruptly after the 4e core set, they would do well to win me and my wallet back. ;) Knowing that they have "my interests" at heart is comforting. 

- -

I guess my concern (which is purely speculative) is fueled by other speculative posts on these boards that have one-liners in response to questions like: "should they or shouldn't they include X" to which someone invariably answers: "Oh they can just make that an optional rule, it wouldn't take up much space. A tiny module in the corner of the page for those that like it to use it and those that don't to ignore it." And this freaks me out, because I don't want a core system with a hundred little modules and a checklist to make my own RPG. I'm all for modularity and variability, but I hope the other speculators that think that every rule that has more than one version should be an optional module are wrong.

I point this out not to bash the designers, but to point out how wild speculation from the community shapes the meaning of the word "modularity". Does it mean an endless suite of options? Or does it mean bespoke flavours that group subsets of rules? Too soon to tell right? But I'm hoping for the latter.
The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules. -Gary Gygax
Well... I believe Mike Mearls said at PAX that the idea is that the DM can build his game in a similar way to how players build their characters.  So you might not like that.  You should at least be able to stick to the core if that is what you prefer though... so you don't have to build anything.  Still very early in the design process though so things may change yet.
I trust the designers to have a pretty good idea what things will be included in what modules. Most of the stuff people on these, and other forums, want is for their version of the game to rise to the top. 

I believe that those of us who have played the simpler versions of D&D will be best served by the basic core of the game. We will probably be able to ignore most of the modular add ons and be happy. I personally plan on tinkering with different combinations to get an idea what works for me and have a good idea which things are not going to be used right from the start. 

I personally find the grid combat rules to be too focused on the maneuvers of the pieces. This takes away from the spontaneity of the players, a point brought up by one of the guys I play with. Sometimes a grid is good but often it is unnecessary and cumbersome.

My biggest concern is in the presentation of the monsters and treasures. I hated the size increases for things like insects and dire creatures. Spiders as big as houses and that sort of thing. I really hate the way they design expected wealth and magic into the levels. 3e had me pulling my hair out because of the wealth by level rules. I like to use the rules as written, it is after all the way the game is designed, but when it makes my job as DM harder or removes my ability to control the things found in my game world I get discouraged. 

From my observations of the monster design of the latest edition I am fervently hoping that the devs don't incorporate large chunks of either 3e or 4e. I can do without the cumbersome rules for advancement, the incomprehensable clutter of multiple versions of the same creature to fill some arbitrary role or to fill out an encounter because the main monster isn't enough.
They have already said that wealth/magic items by level isn't intended to be an assumed part of the game.  Don't know anything about creature design.
I share the same question of the topic. But truth be told, I really liked the Unearthed Arcana, it gave some nice changes with official support and better tested rules than those we usually make at home. 

What I truly expect is that WotC manages to keep the system modular but still with a solid core. I don't want to change rules completely, only to use or not to use some optional stuff.

@ Pa11ad1n
That's one of the D&D Next points that is keeping my hopes high. I never liked to throw hundreds of magic items to my party and usually kept them as rare stuff, found in real dangerous places. In game terms I usually halved (or leveled down the CR) the calculated treasure in 3rd edition. That made some high level monsters incredible tough to the party, but still manageable.

What happens in previous system is that two non-armored 20th-level fighters will propably never miss to hit the other with their huge attack bonuses even when taking a full-attack action. That's insane, both are very skilled so they could manage to avoid some blows at least. This also makes a non-armored (without magic rings, magic amulets, magic blablabla) fighter also a sitting duck against monsters.  
I point this out not to bash the designers, but to point out how wild speculation from the community shapes the meaning of the word "modularity". Does it mean an endless suite of options? Or does it mean bespoke flavours that group subsets of rules? Too soon to tell right? But I'm hoping for the latter.


I am also hoping it leans more toward the latter.

I can see modularity being a combination of both these ideas though. Some modules being different ways to expand on core rules (AEDU/Vancian/manapoint magic systems vs whichever is the core system) and other modules being optional rules that aren't necessary to actually play the game (encumbrance, weapon speed, tactical/grid combat movement, etc.).

I, like you, will spend more of my hard-earned money on D&DNext, if they succeed in bringing back some of the feel of AD&D; and I think they will. Let's face it, 4E doesn't appear to be making enough profits with the current customer base; and that includes people like me who keep the DDI subscription going because I'm worried I'll miiss out on something (heck, even the magazines aren't really enough to justify the subscription price anymore - which is why I subscribed in the first place).

They have already said that wealth/magic items by level isn't intended to be an assumed part of the game.  



I wasn't referring to this in particular.

In 3e the magic items are assigned level limits, there's the expectation that players can go to a shop and find just the item they are looking for, stuff like that. It makes my blood boil when I'm told I can't do something that I routinely did before using rules from a game with the same name.

Was a time the DM had total control over everything the players got as treasure, spells, weapons, and equipment. There were no wands of cure light wounds, bags of cure potions, overpowered spells being routinely cast and other things like that. 

Telling players that although the books list stuff they aren't going to get to use them turns the DM into the villain. If the expectation is the DM is the one determining the gear, spells, and availability of magic then the players don't rebel when you say no.
In 3.x (and 2ed, pretty sure 1ed too) the magic items were in the DMG so the players shouldn't have had access to the list regardles.  So how is the DM being a villain by restricting items that the players aren't meant to have a list of?  That list is for the DM's use not the players'. 

The thing about divorcing assumed levels of magic items from level is that it allows the DM to make magic items as rare or as common as they wish.  So one could run a campaign where you can buy everything from the store and another could run a game where the players have no control over what they find.  Up to the group's style.  Personally I prefer not being able to buy it all at the corner shop.  
Hmmmm.... a character sheet for the DM's rules choices does sound like a long shopping list. here's an example of what that sheet might look like.

Abillity scores: Method 2.
Races: Classic core, no sub-sets, no monsters
Racial bonuses: Yes
Race/Class restrictions: No
Classes: Tier 3
Alignment: good vs evil
Age: No aging modifiers
Traits/Flaws: Yes
Starting level: 1
Level limit: 20
Level progression: Slow
Genre: Low fantasy
Campaign world: Ebberon
Honor/reputation: By level
Feats: Racial & Class only
Item creation feats: Potion and scroll only
Weapon Proficiencies: By group
Skills: Broad
Skill challenges: Degrees of success
Powers: Martial only
Combat: Narrative
Action point: Yes
Story point: Yes
Fate point: Yes
Damage system: Abstract hit points
Healing: Fast (Surges & Divine magic)
Death: 3 strikes sub-zero or Negative Con score
Defense: Ability scores
Saving throws: Ability scores
Arcane magic: Vancian & Spontaneous (Class Tier 3 includes Sorcerer)
Divine magic: Non-deity specific, spontaneous heal
Psionists: No
Metamagic: No
Wild magic: No
Magical items: Unique, rare and unlimited in power use
Recharge magical items: Yes
Monsters: Classic, fewer hitpoints, no classes
Minions: No
 
Does this make you happy or sad? Could this be an actual sheet you pass to your players to describe "Your" style of game. If it is as free-form and open as this, I expect players will chime in what they want the rules to be based on what they think is right... and mini/maxing: what makes their character more powerful.
The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules. -Gary Gygax
I think it will be both simpler and more complex than this.


  • Certain subsystems might be switched on and off on-the-fly, not necessarily at the beginning of the campaing. An example is the tactical combat subsystem, which a DM might decide to use only for "boss fights". As another example, one could use both classed and non-classed monsters.

  • Some elements are unlikely to exist as modules (e.g., Racial ability score modifiers) or will have a core version, upon which modules are applied (HP, ST, AC). For example, HP are likely going to be supplemented but never replaced by other damage subsystems: there might be subsystems for "conditions" or "wounds" in addition to HP, as in SW Saga, but not a subsystem that simply makes away with HP and replaces them with hit locations and wound effects, or wound levels only. That's because a subsystem must merge into the existing core: if HP were completely removed, the designers would have to propose a completely different system for weapon damage, spell damage, etc., essentially restatting every weapon and attack spell. With a "conditions" subsystem, OTOH, they would just add a rule that states something on the lines of "if an attack inflicts more HP than a certain threshold (e.g., 1/4 total HP), your condition goes down one step", a set of rules that specify the effects of condition levels, and then feats that build on the previous rules, by providing special attacks that inflict or benefit from condition loss, etc.

  • Other elements might not be part of a subsytem, because of changes in the basic math of the game -- e.g., Minions may be not necessary if to-hit probability doesn't scale with level, but damage and HP do.


Other than such (relatively minor) details, I think the idea is more or less correct. There was initially some discussion of giving options an XP cost, making it possible to mix and match options even at PC construction level (e.g., if you give up feats, you grow in level 10% faster or something like that), but that might have been dropped later on.

I would like say if there is a soucerbook like Unarthed Arcana, or only a article from Dragon Magazine, I would wish a article, I may be only a couple of pages, about optional system with different number of score abilites.

I know the six abilites scores of D&D is a sacred cow but why not? It could be only a parragraph of DMG with a piece of advices to do it like house-rules to avoid the abuse of max-min by munchkin players (I realise the less useful abilites had the lowest numbers and all about it) for creation of PC. I hadn´t to be canon/oficial change, only a optional suggestion.

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@Agathokles

Thanks for the considered reply. What you write makes sense. If it is as you describe I'm still very interested in buying into D&DN, if it's as I describe... I'm less certain. 
The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules. -Gary Gygax
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