RP Assumptions translated into forced mechanics
Despite some articles in the D&D Next forum on flexibility is seems we are still stuck in the mud of forced RP concepts. While there are several examples of forced RP concepts for characters, I will touch on the hightlights of just one.
There are many concepts of wizards these days ...
- "Thou shall not pass!" old men with beards
- "Forzare!" stubborn casters that are slow on the uptake
- "I am a wizard?" scar bearing boys with wands
However we can see from the playtest that only wizards adhering to RP from fantasy literature written before 1970 will be allowed. Forced mechanics that should have been part of a "theme" were allowed to remain in the base class.
- Gandalf didnt wear armor so neither should you
- Gandalf didnt use fancy weapons so why should you?
- Gandalf was smart, so all your class mechanics should require you to stack INT
None of these really are about describing the core of a wizard which is the use of arcane magic. They are artifical mechnanics designed to force players into creating "yet another gandalf clone". Players wanting to try a more modern fantasy with wizards from "Harry Potter" are mechnically told they can play Hermione but not Harry, Ron, Hagrid, etc ... as all those charcters would emphasize other stats over INT.
Weapon / armor restictions are outdated mechanically as a game design concept. The difference between "all simple weapons" and "Gandalf carried a staff" or a "choice of mage armor or real armor" versus "Gandalf wore robes" is nothing. The damage output is the same and the defenses are the same, but one uses rules to say "NO" to players to enforce RP choices.
As for stats you could always not play INT based right ... well that leads us too
Each class has a single stat. Using the wizard again as an example, it ...
- controlls your ability to hit
- controlls your abilty to damage
- sets the DC for all your spells
Any player not maximizing that one stat has made a trap choice. We know from 4E that any feature with +hit was so strong that it was considered a near mandatory game tax for each player to purchase and 5E uses similar math. While its possible that advanced class creation could decouple the mandatory stat to class relationship to allow for more diverse charcters (such as allowing each character to designate a single stat at creation to drive all the +hit / + damage/ + effect mechanics) it looks unlikely based on all the past editions.
Maybe this is just "alpha" stuff maybe it is design ... who knows?
Armor & Tanking
- With a removal of 4E defender mechanics to "force" attacks on to certain players we return to prior editions tank mechnics of "stick a guy up front with high AC and hope the GM attacks them instead of the squishies".
- AC is determined by a mixture of armor choice and DEX mod which by current mechanics makes the best "tank" a light armor DEX player and the worst tank is a heavy armor plate STR classic fighter character (use a +4 DEX mod for easy math and compare across table on page 17 of "how to play")
- Uses a 4E mechanic of standard -2 penalty for a bad situation instead of newer 5E "disadvantage" concept (pg 14 of "How to Play")
- ranged attackers have "disadvantage" unless adjacent ... except per ranged attack rules ranged attackers have "disadvantage" when adjacent
Monsters are Different ~ Abilities
- 5E carries over the 4E concept that monsters do not need to follow player rules. They were not going to last past two or three rounds so why have dozens of effects? With one exception ... Dark Priest. Monsters that carry abilities that are referenced elsewhere are simply a tax on GM game time. Mechnically this was a real problem with editions prior to 4E with monsters that had their own spell lists that could mimic the dozens of complicated player choices.
Monsters are Different ~ Saving Throws
- 4E taught us that players and monsters do not have to be the same. Allowing players to roll a saving throw when their character is effected provides a postive gameplay experince to get people involved.
- However the expression of a monster rolling a "saving throw" based on a stat and a player rolling an attack against a monster stat is just a matter of who rolls the D20, and GMs making more rolls not only is a tax on their time but lowers player interaction by depriving them of a D20 roll on their turn.
- With lower AC scaling across levels the return of +X weapons that impact hit make them another "trap choice" of mandatory use. Keeping the +X to damage only would allow players to retain older signature weapons longer and not force strange assumptions into the monsters of increased defenses based on expectations of when GMs will give players those weapons.
- Two items return to a 4E mechanic of standard +2 bonus for a good situation instead of newer 5E "advantage" concept (page 20 of the "how to play")
- 10' poles that still make no mechnical sense on how players carry or use them and tiny flames in lamps that cast out light stronger than the strongest modern flashlights. Outside of nostalgi not only do these make no practical sense they are irrelevant in gameplay. Traps still require class feature and thief tools to interact with and for slightly more money than a lamp you can buy a "continual light coin" that works underwater, lasts forever, and wont get turned off by a gust of wind or burn you if dropped. I would hope we do not return to the "dual world" where all NPCs live a strange existance of being grounded in a "mundane medival world" unable to take advantage of magic effects available to PCs in early levels that live in a "fantasy world"