Not this, this.

Not this:
Shield
1st level conjuration 

You create an invisible, mobile disk of force that hovers in beside you to intercept attacks. 
Effect:  You create an invisble floating shield that moves with you to protect you against attacks.  The shield grants you half cover and automatically stops magic missles from damaging you.  The shield lasts for 10 minutes. 

This:
Shield
1st level conjuration 

You create an invisible, mobile disk of force that hovers in beside you to intercept attacks. 
Effect: You gain half cover (+2 to AC and Dex saves), and are immune to magic missle.  Duration: 10 minutes


Edit: added half cover text.  
YES!
Wizard's first rule: People are stupid.
^ This.
YES!

Wish I had the packet...
I totally agree with this.  Don't bury mechanics in the text.
CORE MORE, NOT CORE BORE!
Not this:
Radiant Lance
Minor evocation

Your devotion reveals itself as a beam of light shines from your holy symbol or weapon to burn a path through your foes.
Effect: You make a raged attack agains one creature within 50 feet of you.  On a hit, the target take radiant damage equal to 1d8+ your magic ability modifier. 

This:
Radiant Lance
Minor evocation

Your devotion reveals itself as a beam of light shines from your holy symbol or weapon to burn a path through your foes.
Ranged Magic Attack: 50 feet
One creature
Hit: 1d8 + Mod radiant damage.
The ?problem? with baking the cover numbers for Shield directly into the effect without specifying its reflecting cover is that then you can get a second cover bonus for hiding behind actual half cover when you have the Shield up.  They may not want this to provide extra mechanical benefit to those already in cover.

So maybe "shield grants you half cover (+2 to AC and Dex saves) and automatically..." so you don't have to look up the mechanic but redundant cover is still trapped against.
The ?problem? with baking the cover numbers for Shield directly is that then you get a second cover bonus for hiding behind actual half cover when you have the Shield up.  They may not want this to provide extra mechanical benefit to those already in cover.

So maybe "shield grants you half cover (+2 to AC and Dex saves) and automatically..." so you don't have to look up the mechanic but redundant cover is still trapped against.



Good point.  Fixed. 
Bah.  Ninja'd by Serpine. Wink
I have to agree with Serpine. Doubling dipping is bad, m'kay? 
Well, the problem with having baked-in numbers is that it's impossible to change those numbers via a rules module, you have to change each and every power that references "cover" instead of changing the one defintion of what "half cover" is. 
It takes 10-seconds to find "cover" on a DM screen (5-seconds the second time) and after a couple uses the player should have it memorized. NBD.  

5 Minute WorkdayMy Webcomic Updated Tue & Thur

The compilation of my Worldbuilding blog series is now available: 

Jester David's How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding.

Amen. Clean, formal, consistant templating doesn't hurt anyone and is an incredible boon, particularly when it comes to more complicated effects. There's a separate fluff line for a reason.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
The ?problem? with baking the cover numbers for Shield directly into the effect without specifying its reflecting cover is that then you can get a second cover bonus for hiding behind actual half cover when you have the Shield up.  They may not want this to provide extra mechanical benefit to those already in cover.

So maybe "shield grants you half cover (+2 to AC and Dex saves) and automatically..." so you don't have to look up the mechanic but redundant cover is still trapped against.

I'm not sure if this is neccesarily the case. to my mind it would make sense that if you had half cover from standing behind a big rock and you also had a shield that they would stack and effectively become 3/4 cover. Your shield would after all presumably not bother floating in front of the bits of you protected by a big rock.
I'm not sure if this is neccesarily the case. to my mind it would make sense that if you had half cover from standing behind a big rock and you also had a shield that they would stack and effectively become 3/4 cover.

In that case (which is very reasonable) stacking the bonus would be a disadvantage, since 3/4 cover grands a +5. By declaring it to be cover they add kind of a mental framework for building a wall of interlocking cover and emphasise that its directional as opposed to an all around force field.


Ah, you're quite right, I'd had 3/4 as being a +4 to AC in my head for some reason.
The minute you try to write mechanics as prose, those mechanics are a lot more succeptable to interpretation. If you want an effect to be clear and avoid confusion, you are better using the description suggested by the OP.

Descriptive text that can be altered to suit the flavor of a campaign or customized for a PC is great. Mechanics that can mean different things to different people are the first thing that will slow down a game.

I can not stress enough how much I support this post. 
My thoughts on what works and what doesn't in D&D and how D&D Next may benefit are detailed on my blog, Vorpal Thoughts.
Some people don't think it's D&D unless the effects of something are written in clunky prose.
Strange, I really like the way it's written presently. I'm not sure why--but what Jester said makes alot of sense to me. Build a core with as much flexibility as possible--and build in mechanics as you go, no? Now, some might say it's better to have hard mechanics now. +2 to AC now, +3 with this module, +4 with that, etc. etc. But the present wording allows a degree of flexibility that a more specific numerical description doesn't allow.
"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs. He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own." --Gary Gygax
While I agree with the idea of making sure the spells are written clearly (although it needs to balance that with allowing for modularity. So including half-cover, but not specifying what it means, allows for the various modules to define cover differently ... they may have some versions giving your opponent a disadvantage, or an advantage to your saving throw instead of a flat bonus to AC or Dex saves, for example.) technically, this is editting, not playtesting. It's important we know how the things work in order to playtest them, but formatting the powers consistently and concisely is something that would likely take place a lot later in the process.
Not this:
Shield
1st level conjuration 

You create an invisible, mobile disk of force that hovers in beside you to intercept attacks. 
Effect:  You create an invisble floating shield that moves with you to protect you against attacks.  The shield grants you half cover and automatically stops magic missles from damaging you.  The shield lasts for 10 minutes. 

This:
Shield
1st level conjuration 

You create an invisible, mobile disk of force that hovers in beside you to intercept attacks. 
Effect: You gain half cover (+2 to AC and Dex saves), and are immune to magic missle.  Duration: 10 minutes


Edit: added half cover text.  

+1 to the OP! I really like your more simplified effect lines.
This "descriptive and novel" approach to spells almost made me toss my laptop to the wall.

...technically, this is editting, not playtesting. It's important we know how the things work in order to playtest them, but formatting the powers consistently and concisely is something that would likely take place a lot later in the process.



I don't agree. I am a technical writer who does a lot of documentation, and there is nothing more confusing that testing documentation that isn't clear, and then is edited after the testing and no longer reflects what was tested. If we are testing mechanics, then the mechanics need to be clear and unambiguous. This doesn't mean rigid, because they can be altered on the fly by the people using them, but the intention of the design needs to be clear.

"Eats, shoots and leaves" is very different from "Eats shoots and leaves"
("Eats, shoots and leaves" is the name of an excellent book on clarity in communication)

It is a waste of everyone's time if people playtest rules and later on the designers state "that isn't what we meant".

P.S. I can't say how clear the documentation is, as I am unable to download it due to the "Error 400". I am just responding to the example posted. 
My thoughts on what works and what doesn't in D&D and how D&D Next may benefit are detailed on my blog, Vorpal Thoughts.
+1 to the OP!!!  I don't give a crap how "immersive" it is to read through spells the first time, I want them to be easy to reference in-game.
Well, as an English major I can also appreciate the tone and feeling implied in a well crafted description. It can communicate an ambience so much more powerfully than a line of dry mechanics; and in so doing capture the essence of a game.
"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs. He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own." --Gary Gygax
That's what the clearly distinct fluff text line is for; you can be as evocative as you want there, without even having to worry about working in the fact that the lightning bolt that sizzles the goblin's eyeball is fifty feet long. Then the mechanics text says what the spell does mechanically.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
If this is how it actually looks...

> You create an invisible, mobile disk of force that hovers in beside you to
> intercept attacks.
> Effect: You create an invisble floating shield that moves with you to protect
> you against attacks. (etc)

Then the only tone and feeling it evokes is that of a broken record.
That's what the clearly distinct fluff text line is for; you can be as evocative as you want there, without even having to worry about working in the fact that the lightning bolt that sizzles the goblin's eyeball is fifty feet long. Then the mechanics text says what the spell does mechanically.


This. 1000x.
+1 for the OP.  In general, I must agree.  I much rather have what he posted then what we have now in the playtest.
We had an edition of terse mechanics with detached flavour. Time for the opposite approach. 

5 Minute WorkdayMy Webcomic Updated Tue & Thur

The compilation of my Worldbuilding blog series is now available: 

Jester David's How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding.

We had an edition of terse mechanics with detached flavour. Time for the opposite approach. 


And if you had bothered to read the last few posts you would see exactly how you can have all the flavor you want, while still allowing for people who are simply interested in the mechanics to cut straight to it.
We had an edition of terse mechanics with detached flavour. Time for the opposite approach. 



+1 to the Jester
What if cover values change with modules? Won't you need a more general effect text?
"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs. He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own." --Gary Gygax
We had an edition of terse mechanics with detached flavour. Time for the opposite approach. 


And if you had bothered to read the last few posts you would see exactly how you can have all the flavor you want, while still allowing for people who are simply interested in the mechanics to cut straight to it.


Quick, hard rules are great for a Game. They're what I look for in Monopoly. I expect something more from a role-playing game, something different. The game aspect is just part of the rules.  Firm mechanics are limiting. Restricting. Unimaginative. It doesn't matter what the flavour says if the one-sentace effect line is pure crunch. Many people will skim over the flavour and thus miss the point of the power, miss what it actually does and just read what bonus it gives you. 

Morus discussed this at length over at ENWorld here. There are a tonn of opinions and comments on the matter, likely far more varied than the heavily 4e slant of much of these boards.

This is a fairly big issue 5e will have to wrestle with, as there are strong opinions on both sides. And both are right, as this is a flavourful design decision and not mechanical decision where there is a clear broken and unbroken.  Both presentations are equaly valid, and present the same potentially balanced content.
However, the current method in the playtest is significantly more evocative. Which I personally enjoy. 

This particular spell is not a great example as the flavour and the quick effect decription are virtually identical. However, in many other cases, the prose effect offers much depth and variety to the powers that a one or two line pure mechanical description would not.  This opens up creative uses and non-combat options for the spells, which might be ignored if it was returned to a 4e-style power. 
What matters most is consistancy. We can't have a small handful of spells that are quick, pure mechanics and several that are a paragraph or two of prose. All spells should have an equal opportunity for a little extra flavour built in.

Heck, I want spells like ray of frost to be longer to encompas some extra idea for shooting ice from your hand at-will. What else can you do with a beam of ice? 

Again, you hard your turn. You won last time and got pure rules with fluff that might as well have been written in pencil. Time for the opposite. You can have straight rules again in 6e.

5 Minute WorkdayMy Webcomic Updated Tue & Thur

The compilation of my Worldbuilding blog series is now available: 

Jester David's How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding.

What if cover values change with modules? Won't you need a more general effect text?


I believe I said that earlier. Or if you had a feat/ theme/ feature that increased the value of cover. 

5 Minute WorkdayMy Webcomic Updated Tue & Thur

The compilation of my Worldbuilding blog series is now available: 

Jester David's How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding.


Again, you hard your turn. You won last time and got pure rules with fluff that might as well have been written in pencil. Time for the opposite. You can have straight rules again in 6e.



I really like how it has to be one way or the other, like the exact opposite of what the op is trying to say.

All he is asking for is for the rules elements to be defined, not just prose that you have to sift through to be read a half dozen ways.

Play whatever the **** you want. Never Point a loaded party at a plot you are not willing to shoot. Arcane Rhetoric. My Blog.

Rules Lawyers want unclear mechainics they can argue over. Most gamers want mechanics they can use. Nothing in detailing the spells the way the OP specified limits creativity or the ability to make changes, in fact it makes it simpler as it eliminates the possibility of making a prose change that then causes more argument.

K.I.S.S. - I am all for flowery evocative text, I am never going to support having to read through it every time someone uses a spell in order to find out if it is what the spell is supposed to do. 
My thoughts on what works and what doesn't in D&D and how D&D Next may benefit are detailed on my blog, Vorpal Thoughts.
+1 OP. Simple is good.
DISCLAIMER: I never played 4ed, so I may misunderstand some of the rules.
Well, as an English major I can also appreciate the tone and feeling implied in a well crafted description. It can communicate an ambience so much more powerfully than a line of dry mechanics; and in so doing capture the essence of a game.



As someone with a degree in English and who has made real-world application of that degree I wanted to set the junk text on fire for obfuscating all communicative power through hiding useful mechanics under dry text, capturing the essence of trying to get an answer out of a politician or a lawyer.
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This:
Shield
1st level conjuration 

You create an invisible, mobile disk of force that hovers in beside you to intercept attacks. 
Effect: You gain half cover (+2 to AC and Dex saves), and are immune to magic missle.  Duration: 10 minutes



This. This! THIS! THIS!!!

I love flavor text. LOVE it.

But I also LOVE clear, easy to read, and non-interpretive mechanics.

Even if half cover is modified by a theme or module or something the *original mechanics* should be clearly stated with the numbers embedded.  If a theme needs to modify half cover, for instance, the theme mechanic should read 

Effect: The character in half cover or better gains an additional +2 bonus to AC and Dex added to the cover bonus.

... or similar. That way, the original mechanic does not require a "look up" when reading the spell, and the player is responsible for remembering the theme bonus or module bonus or what not.
 

No more interpretations. Keep flavor text, but DO NOT BURY THE LEAD, so to speak. 

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This:
Shield
1st level conjuration 

You create an invisible, mobile disk of force that hovers in beside you to intercept attacks. 
Effect: You gain half cover (+2 to AC and Dex saves), and are immune to magic missle.  Duration: 10 minutes



This. This! THIS! THIS!!!

I love flavor text. LOVE it.

But I also LOVE clear, easy to read, and non-interpretive mechanics.

Even if half cover is modified by a theme or module or something the *original mechanics* should be clearly stated with the numbers embedded.  If a theme needs to modify half cover, for instance, the theme mechanic should read 

Effect: The character in half cover or better gains an additional +2 bonus to AC and Dex added to the cover bonus.

... or similar. That way, the original mechanic does not require a "look up" when reading the spell, and the player is responsible for remembering the theme bonus or module bonus or what not.
 

No more interpretations. Keep flavor text, but DO NOT BURY THE LEAD, so to speak. 

I agree with the OP and Baysider.

Fluff is great.
Fluff adds depth and immersion.
Fluff has NO place in the mechanics of a spell or ability. If you base an ability on its fluff text, the ability becomes open to interpretation and goes up in down in power depending on the reader. A clearly written Effect: line is mandatory for clearing up RAW v RAI crap.

Simplest method:
"Is it written in the effect line?" Y/N
Y: That's what it does.
N: It doesn't do that. PERIOD.
+1 to the clarity of function over prose camp. But I believe a lot of players like that the effect is open to interpretation, on the grounds that it allows more room for improvisation. I disagree with the idea that ambiguity allows greater improvisation, but some people do seem to prefer it that way. This is one of those unfortunate circumstances where you simply cannot satisfy everyone. My hope is that the inevitable survey will ask if we found the wording clear enough, so they can see hard numbers for side of the fence holds majority opinion.