Modularity and Combat Subsystems (with Tom LaPille)

In principle, what Tom said was reasonable.

However, the example of a module that he presented was awful. I know he said it was an early draft of a module, but...blah.  
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Eh, it works for what it is.  Succeeds at its limited, targeted goal.

I'd still like to see more unique things that a Fighter can do that nobody else can, rather than "everybody can do what a Fighter can if they roll really well" as a model.  It's like saying I can, with no training, dangle a watch in front of the orc, and if I roll well enough he'd be affected by the Wizard spell Sleep.  It would feel half-baked, it would intrude on the coolness that is the Wizard, and generally I don't think people would like it.

The real question out there is "What is the point of the Fighter?"  This doesn't do much to answer it.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
This approach works for me and i like the direction of the Narrative Combat Modules as well as the Tactical Combat Modules. Reminds me more and more of the AD&D 2nd Edition Player's Options: Combat & Tactics. I hope these have all kinds of possible effects, especially applying Conditions like Immobilized, Restrained, Prone, Slowed etc...

I just don't like how the Fighter seems to get the shaft again and find himself doing things anyone else can do, but just better. They should have unique Maneuvers no one else can do. Hopefully the next Playtest Packet will bring a more dynamic Fighter as i know the class is being currently worked  on.  

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

I like the basic idea--alot.

This is essentially how we used called shots in our games--which was a flat -4 to hit unless you wanted some spectacular effect.

But I like the idea of fixed bonuses in Mr. LaPille's article better. And I can see a cornucopia of possibilities with such an approach. Blind, cripple, disarm and the like.

But my main concern is that the idea of narrative combat isn't lost in the mix. I think these manuevers should be "described" by the person attempting them. Or you going to blind by throwing sand in his eyes, by delivering a slashing headwound right above the eyes, or gouging an eye out. And if the circumstances dictate you'll have to take environmental factors into mind as well. I really like the idea, becuase it allows for players to try things GMs might otherwise disallow, assigns a target penalty and bonus and relies on roleplaying the action.

Which of course doesn't preclude a GM fro allowing a players to simply declare he attempts a knockback either--I just like more description in my games: "Okay, so how are you going to knock him back?" That sort of thing.

Very good in my opinion and a lot more likely to make it into my game than a tactical minis module. But that's the beauty of D&DNext--it supports them both. Good work Mr. LaPille.
"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
In principle, what Tom said was reasonable.

However, the example of a module that he presented was awful. I know he said it was an early draft of a module, but...blah.  



Why?  I liked it and would use it in my games.  It doesn't have to be useful all the time, only provide the option for characters to do something like that if they wish.  You don't have to use it if you don't want characters to be able to knock enemies over or deal a little more damage.  That's why it's so good as a module.


Why?  I liked it and would use it in my games.  It doesn't have to be useful all the time, only provide the option for characters to do something like that if they wish.  You don't have to use it if you don't want characters to be able to knock enemies over or deal a little more damage.  That's why it's so good as a module.



Couldn't agree more, in this case flexibility and generality is good.
"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
Eh, it works for what it is.  Succeeds at its limited, targeted goal.

I'd still like to see more unique things that a Fighter can do that nobody else can, rather than "everybody can do what a Fighter can if they roll really well" as a model.  It's like saying I can, with no training, dangle a watch in front of the orc, and if I roll well enough he'd be affected by Sleep.  It would feel half-baked, it would intrude on the coolness that is the Wizard, and generally I don't think people would like it.

The real question out there is "What is the point of the Fighter?"  This doesn't do much to answer it.



I expect we'll see some fighter only things come out.  As for the other classes doing things that the fighter can, but having to work harder.  I doubt any class other than fighter will be able to knock a 4 legged creature prone.  With bounded accuracy meaning that +'s to hit will be scarce as hell, that -10 will likely put that particular ability out of reach of any class other than the fighter who won't take the penalty.  Even the -5 will likely mean that the other classes have to roll a 17 or higher to succeed.
I'm lukewarm on this concept. -5 or -10 in a bounded accuracy system seems a little too harsh, but whatever.

My bigger concern is that the game seems to be drifting toward a 2e/3e do-over.

This is excellent for a lot of people and I'm happy for them.

But i don't play that way anymore and I'm uninterested in returning to it.

The latest ideas don't seem fresh to me. They seem warmed-over from older editions (except 4e).

"coming soon- things you might like." Maybe. But I'm reaching my good-faith limit, here.

Thus far, the playtest hasn't offered me anything to love.

-sidebar-
I am seriously considering that I may be an insignificant representative market share. Maybe I'm so in the minority, maybe my desire for AEDU in my wizard and Fighter class are so against-the-grain, that I could be and should be ignored.

Maybe d5d isn't for me. That's ok. I'm just one guy, after all. World cant revolve around me.

-sidebar over-

This is a serviceable concept. Like the core game. It works, I'm sure. Simple, quick, & effective. I'm just not excited about it. It's not inspiring me to daydream about all the exciting things I'm goin to do with this. I'm not saying, "Finally! Now my enemies will quake in fear a m new bag of tricks."

But hey- a hammer just needs to be a hammer.
Also, penalties should not range in the -5/-10 and should only -2/-4 max as Spells don't grant +5/+10 to their saving throws for Immobilizing or Proning you on top of damaging you afterall. 

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Eh, it works for what it is.  Succeeds at its limited, targeted goal.

I'd still like to see more unique things that a Fighter can do that nobody else can, rather than "everybody can do what a Fighter can if they roll really well" as a model.  It's like saying I can, with no training, dangle a watch in front of the orc, and if I roll well enough he'd be affected by the Wizard spell Sleep.  It would feel half-baked, it would intrude on the coolness that is the Wizard, and generally I don't think people would like it.

The real question out there is "What is the point of the Fighter?"  This doesn't do much to answer it.

I wasn't aware that there was a question of what the point of the fighter was.  The point of a fighter is access to all weapons and all armor.   That doesn't mean that fighters can't have cool unique ways of using all weapons and all armor, but that doesn't change the point of them.
Also, penalties should not range in the -5/-10 and should only -2/-4 max as Spells don't grant +5/+10 to their saving throws for Immobilizing or Proning you on top of damaging you afterall. 



It's a balance issue.  You can swing to knock someone prone 10 times in a row if you want, so it needs to be harder to accomplish than a spell that is a very limited resource. 
I wasn't aware that there was a question of what the point of the fighter was.  The point of a fighter is access to all weapons and all armor.   That doesn't mean that fighters can have cool unique ways of using all weapons and all armor, but that doesn't change the point of them.


I don't see why Fighters (& Rogues) couldn't do cool things like other Classes do just because they are Proficient with all weapons and armors.

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Eh, it works for what it is.  Succeeds at its limited, targeted goal.

I'd still like to see more unique things that a Fighter can do that nobody else can, rather than "everybody can do what a Fighter can if they roll really well" as a model.  It's like saying I can, with no training, dangle a watch in front of the orc, and if I roll well enough he'd be affected by the Wizard spell Sleep.  It would feel half-baked, it would intrude on the coolness that is the Wizard, and generally I don't think people would like it.

The real question out there is "What is the point of the Fighter?"  This doesn't do much to answer it.

I wasn't aware that there was a question of what the point of the fighter was.  The point of a fighter is access to all weapons and all armor.   That doesn't mean that fighters can have cool unique ways of using all weapons and all armor, but that doesn't change the point of them.


Wow, really?  You seriously think that Fighters not having anything cool and unique is acceptable?

Glad you're not designing the classes.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
 
It's a balance issue.  You can swing to knock someone prone 10 times in a row if you want, so it needs to be harder to accomplish than a spell that is a very limited resource. 


I understand, but -5 to -10 to just Prone is a very stiff penalty that will severely reduce the likelyhood of it being used.

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Also, penalties should not range in the -5/-10 and should only -2/-4 max as Spells don't grant +5/+10 to their saving throws for Immobilizing or Proning you on top of damaging you afterall. 



It's a balance issue.  You can swing to knock someone prone 10 times in a row if you want, so it needs to be harder to accomplish than a spell that is a very limited resource. 


Unfortunately this breaks down in a system where in combats ranking in the 'decently hard' realm the combatants still only get 3-5 turns...
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition


Why?  I liked it and would use it in my games.  It doesn't have to be useful all the time, only provide the option for characters to do something like that if they wish.  You don't have to use it if you don't want characters to be able to knock enemies over or deal a little more damage.  That's why it's so good as a module.



Couldn't agree more, in this case flexibility and generality is good.

I think the biggest problem with the module presented is the math.

-2 isn't so bad, but I don't think it's worth the +4 damage. -5 and -10 makes the skill almost impossible to succeed.

I'd much rather see the attacks done at a disadvantage. 
Fortunatly for everyone the Narrative Combat Module is a rough draft and has plenty of time to be refined. Wink

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Also keep in mind that -2/-4 vs -5/-10 is a numbers-tweak thing, and is vastly more easily fixed than "I don't like this system, think up a new one"

If all that's wrong with something is the numbers, at this stage that's a very good result.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
I thought Power Attack was a trap option ? 

(In that its loss of accuracy wasn't worth its gain in lethality)

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

Also, penalties should not range in the -5/-10 and should only -2/-4 max as Spells don't grant +5/+10 to their saving throws for Immobilizing or Proning you on top of damaging you afterall. 



It's a balance issue.  You can swing to knock someone prone 10 times in a row if you want, so it needs to be harder to accomplish than a spell that is a very limited resource. 


Unfortunately this breaks down in a system where in combats ranking in the 'decently hard' realm the combatants still only get 3-5 turns...




Precisely. Even in a system with no resources to manage at all, actions are still a resource. If you spend 10 actions to try to knock someone prone, and those same 10 actions could have been used to just kill 2-3 people, why on earth would you ever spend the 10 actions to knock someone prone?
Eh, it works for what it is.  Succeeds at its limited, targeted goal.

I'd still like to see more unique things that a Fighter can do that nobody else can, rather than "everybody can do what a Fighter can if they roll really well" as a model.  It's like saying I can, with no training, dangle a watch in front of the orc, and if I roll well enough he'd be affected by the Wizard spell Sleep.  It would feel half-baked, it would intrude on the coolness that is the Wizard, and generally I don't think people would like it.

The real question out there is "What is the point of the Fighter?"  This doesn't do much to answer it.

I wasn't aware that there was a question of what the point of the fighter was.  The point of a fighter is access to all weapons and all armor.   That doesn't mean that fighters can have cool unique ways of using all weapons and all armor, but that doesn't change the point of them.


Wow, really?  You seriously think that Fighters not having anything cool and unique is acceptable?

Glad you're not designing the classes.

THat was meant to read:

" That doesn't mean that fighters can't have cool unique ways of using all weapons and all armor" 

IE fighter should have neat unique abilities, to use all weapons and armors. 
I tought Power Attack was a trap option ? 

(In the its loss of accuracy wasn't worth is gain in lethality) 



There are two sides to this.  Cost and benefit.  If the cost outweighs the benefit, then the ability isn't tuned properly.  This doesn't necessarily mean that the cost is too high, it could be that the benefit is too small.

A -5/-10 could be entirely appropriate, if the Prone condition is severe enough to justify it.  It probably isn't, which makes the -5/-10 probably too big of a penalty.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
I tought Power Attack was a trap option ? 

(In that its loss of accuracy wasn't worth its gain in lethality)


Which edition? 

It was a trap in 4e, but in 3e it forced every fighter ever to use 2-handed weapons to take advantage of its damage multiplier and made Sword-and-board and TWF into trap options. 
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I thought Power Attack was a trap option ? 

(In that its loss of accuracy wasn't worth its gain in lethality)

Me to, I never used it, except one time, when I needed a 5 or better to hit

Also, personally, I'd like to see Fighters with Stances and Auras. 
4E's Power Attack, i am not familiar enought with the 3E version of Power Attack

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

 
It's a balance issue.  You can swing to knock someone prone 10 times in a row if you want, so it needs to be harder to accomplish than a spell that is a very limited resource. 


I understand, but -5 to -10 to just Prone is a very stiff penalty that will severely reduce the likelyhood of it being used.



I take it you've never been in a fight in D&D and been in a Hail Mary situation? :P

I like it because it gives the option, while leaving the fighter as the master of such things.

Edit: It also can't be made too easy, or it will be overpowered and used all the time. 
Eh, it works for what it is.  Succeeds at its limited, targeted goal.

I'd still like to see more unique things that a Fighter can do that nobody else can, rather than "everybody can do what a Fighter can if they roll really well" as a model.  It's like saying I can, with no training, dangle a watch in front of the orc, and if I roll well enough he'd be affected by the Wizard spell Sleep.  It would feel half-baked, it would intrude on the coolness that is the Wizard, and generally I don't think people would like it.

The real question out there is "What is the point of the Fighter?"  This doesn't do much to answer it.

I wasn't aware that there was a question of what the point of the fighter was.  The point of a fighter is access to all weapons and all armor.   That doesn't mean that fighters can have cool unique ways of using all weapons and all armor, but that doesn't change the point of them.


Wow, really?  You seriously think that Fighters not having anything cool and unique is acceptable?

Glad you're not designing the classes.

THat was meant to read:

" That doesn't mean that fighters can't have cool unique ways of using all weapons and all armor" 

IE fighter should have neat unique abilities, to use all weapons and armors. 



Well, that changes the statement considerably, as well as my reaction to it.  Complaint retracted, carry on.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Also, penalties should not range in the -5/-10 and should only -2/-4 max as Spells don't grant +5/+10 to their saving throws for Immobilizing or Proning you on top of damaging you afterall. 



It's a balance issue.  You can swing to knock someone prone 10 times in a row if you want, so it needs to be harder to accomplish than a spell that is a very limited resource. 


Unfortunately this breaks down in a system where in combats ranking in the 'decently hard' realm the combatants still only get 3-5 turns...




Precisely. Even in a system with no resources to manage at all, actions are still a resource. If you spend 10 actions to try to knock someone prone, and those same 10 actions could have been used to just kill 2-3 people, why on earth would you ever spend the 10 actions to knock someone prone?



Conversely, if it's so easy to knock someone prone like with the -2 suggestion, then why on earth would you ever just swing at something normally?  Something like this module MUST be hard enough to discourage regular use.

I meant this:


Increased Damage (–2)
(You deal more damage.)
Effect: You get a +4 bonus to your damage roll.

VS

Power Attack: When making a melee attack, you can take a -2 penalty to the attack roll. If the attack hits, you gain a +2 bonus to the damage roll (or a +3 bonus to the damage roll with a two-handed weapon). This extra damage increases by level, as shown on the table below, but the attack penalty remains the same.

Level          Extra Damage (Two-Handed Weapon)

1st-10th     +2 (+3)
11th-20th   +4 (+6)
21th-30th   +6 (+9)

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter


Well, that changes the statement considerably, as well as my reaction to it.  Complaint retracted


 Same here Daganev Wink

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

I think we need to basically ignore the specifics of Tom's proposed module. In and of itself it is just a placeholder to show that you can monkey with the math and provide module-specific rules.

Again though we do come back to system design. The CORE needs to be VERY consistent to support all this modularity in a sane fashion. For instance in 4e it is QUITE easy to make a 'Narrative Combat Module' (even though, yes, it will mean some sorts of powers and effects will be more or less relatively useful). Mechanically this is true because you don't need to worry about any given class or a whole lot of categories of things. ALL you have to describe is how powers work in that context and even then mostly just how different effects and keywords can be handled within it. Basically if you cover "Melee, Ranged, Area, Wall, and Close" and how they can be supported then you're 90% of the way there. You can go on and describe how conditions and actions function and any other rules you want to add or whatever, but in essence you have integrated the existing content of the game with your module at that point.

OTOH if you have no really defined list of keywords, 5 different 'power' systems, and tons of class features and whatnot that are largely defined by codified narrative effects but nobody knows exactly what the mechanics do, and a lack of exception based rules structure, then you have pea soup. Writing a module now becomes a much more significant exercise where to do a decent job you have to touch upon every class, every different set of class mechanics, etc in detail, and (though you probably won't) you really should explain the impact of how that module works on all the different items, spells, etc.

REALLY good system design advice is to not do it the 2nd way. Define a very specific lexicon of terms and game concepts with specific logical meanings that modules can tie right into. This means things like a small and precise set of conditions, keywords, damage types, ranges, areas of effect, etc (similar things for non-combat situations as well). Utilize common subsystems to the maximum possible degree in order to cut down the need for each module to rework MANY things. Powers are really the strongest example. 4e items are basically granters of powers, as are classes, themes, etc. Everything uses them, and they have only a few general attributes that need to be addressed. Feats in 4e are by far the messiest thing here, but luckily many of them were pretty basic in how they worked so it wasn't a huge deal (if they were more complex they often granted powers anyway).
That is not dead which may eternal lie
Not really what I expected. I thought the Narrative Combat module would have been to allow something along the lines of Feng Shui: a game mechanic by which the player providing a vivid, cool, cinematographic description of the action he wants to perform increases the chances of it to actually happen.
This seems to me like a list of generic (optional) combat manouvers. Which by the way is needed, I just don't see it as a module per se.
First all, these aren't really "narrative" options. They're just simplified tactical options that are designed independent of class features and powers.  As such, there's a real issue that Tom's currently not addressing in how these options interact with each other and the manuevers given to each class. I expect that these options should never be used in combination with the more complex tactical combat module.

One thing is becoming quite clear: D&DN will require you to custom tailor your character's mechanics for the particulars of whatever modules are being played.  That's not a terrible thing, as every RPG player should consider the game as a whole when making a character. It does come with some notable consequences though. WotC's support of the RPGA and one-shot events will likely become more problematic if there's no default form fo the game. It also complicates the laissez faire manner that I prefer to run D&D games.
Also don't discount specific weapons getting bonuses to specific moves.  Something like a whip or a hook sword may make that prone modifier less of an issue.
I don't see anything too terrible about the system presented, but what really worried me was the line about how the miniatures tactical module will be designed for people who really like miniatures.  I guess there's no hope for a simplified tactical module for people who find miniatures useful but don't want the entire world to be described in terms of five foot squares. 

The middle ground, where most people stand on most issues, will be the realm of non-standardized house rules.

The metagame is not the game.

First all, these aren't really "narrative" options. They're just simplified tactical options that are designed independent of class features and powers.  As such, there's a real issue that Tom's currently not addressing in how these options interact with each other and the manuevers given to each class. I expect that these options should never be used in combination with the more complex tactical combat module.

One thing is becoming quite clear: D&DN will require you to custom tailor your character's mechanics for the particulars of whatever modules are being played.  That's not a terrible thing, as every RPG player should consider the game as a whole when making a character. It does come with some notable consequences though. WotC's support of the RPGA and one-shot events will likely become more problematic if there's no default form fo the game. It also complicates the laissez faire manner that I prefer to run D&D games.

Well, again, I think we should take Tom's example module as just that, a quick example that he probably whipped off inline while he was writing the post and spent 10 minutes on. He may well have a direction in mind with it and whatever, but I don't think it is at all intended to represent a real module except in a very abstract sense of "here are the sorts of things that a module needs to do, like define some rules that overwrite certain core rules." We shouldn't get hung up at all on the details of it. Any actual highly abstract ToTM combat module will most likely be very different in its details by the time things come around to that.

Your second point is one that has definitely been made numerous times in other places. Certainly each major module choice is going to establish some significantly different sort of game, and when you combine several different major choices (IE class mechanics, combat, skills, healing, etc) there could be a LOT of different permutations that are rather different.

That DOES complicate everything. It complicates any sort of DDI concept enormously for instance. It certainly complicates any sort of organized play. It also complicates even making adventures (and to some extent settings and background material as well). It will have potentially a lot of implications for items, monsters, etc as well. Then as you say, there's the question of how the heck you come up with a set of rules you're going to use at your own table. Not only do the developers need to make all these modules, they are going to need to explain to everyone that wants to play D&D what the heck different games you can play with this 'Lego RPG' and how to get it to do what you want, which is a whole other large chunk of text that will have to be in the DMG ON TOP OF the rules for each of the major modules that the game includes when it comes out.

I've said many times that the logical conclusion to draw is that ultimately WotC will have to settle on one 'standard' set of options that they will support. All the modules, supplements, organized play, etc will be based on that set of options. Anything outside that will effectively be variant rules. It is hard for me to even imagine that more than a couple of those variants will get any real support at all.

Just how LARGE are the core books for this game going to have to be? I mean really to do justice to the highly divergent desires of the people I see posting around here it is going to be an 8 volume set just to get out a basic platform and enough support for each camp's basic desires so they can all actually play how they want. That's kinda scary...
That is not dead which may eternal lie

The middle ground, where most people stand on most issues, will be the realm of non-standardized house rules.



That's the vibe I'm getting too - hope I'm wrong, because as much as I like using miniatures/tokens and a grid (which we have since AD&D 2nd ED), I don't want this to turn into WH 40K.

The concern in that the requirement for the Tactical Module is misunderstood. It seems like the devs are responding to a number of players asking for more complexity, while in reality they are asking for more depth.
4E is not complex at all: it's actually the more accessible D&D game since Basic.   
 
I thought modules would be more like 2nd's Optional Rules.  Here's core Initiative rules, or these optional Initiative rules, or these optional Initiative rules.  But it sounds like they will be add-on rules, which means the core game isn't necessarily going to be too modular.

I know they have talked about not playing with Themes (read Feats) for that older school feel.  I guess if you don't want to play with Backgrounds (read Skills), you could skip that as well. 

But there will be alternative skill subsystems?  Is all the modularity boolean?

@Alhazred: I think we're on the exact same page about this. There are people I'm working with who have delayed the development of commercial campaign modules for the release of 5th Edition. As you've suggested, the proposed modularity is making them quite concerned about the variability of the system they will have to design for. Of course, it's not the end of the world. Most likely they'll just have to propose a default state to base their assumptions on, but doing so seems like it might alienate some potential players and GM's before they even begin reading.
I like standard rules for things like this. Being able to "knockdown" or whatever are common place in all 3 of the 4e games I play in right now, but each DM ajudicates the situation differently. Problem is that it's not very intellectually satisfying. The inclusion of narration into the standard rules for these types of affects is a perfect blend of what my groups are looking for. Thanks for sharing and keep up the good work. 


On another note, the whole idea of posts stating that the fighter not being a unique character class is strange to me. I assume it comes from the 4e fighter doing all sorts of truly awesome things and his perceived "downgrade" to all of the fighter's abilities being mimiced by other classes. Even if the fighter recieves the Combat Manuevers Mearls has spoken about, IMO and personal experience of playing a fighter in the past is that the fighter fulfills a role to direct combat: something which no other class can do. He can sit there and take damage and deal damage round after round, time and time again. The thief can't, the wizard definitely can't, and while the cleric might be able to help out, he's busy half the time keeping the squishies up...not to mention he can't pick up any weapon or suit of armor in a pinch. I'm pro-fighter as he is because I recognize the UNIQUE role he already and has filled for countless adventurering parties since '74.