D&D Next Q&A - 8/16/2012: Skills and Magic Items

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I think Rodney missed the question here. The question wasn't about creating your own skills but about open skill choice, independent of Background. Considering how often this question came up since the release of Packet 2.0, i think its a missed opportunity here.
 
I am all for guidelines on how to manage magic purchasing in your campaign

Magic Item Creation rules are still up in the air.

Yan
Montréal, Canada
@Plaguescarred on twitter

i have to admit, i find it surprising that there will (likely) be price tags on the items. even i am doing away with that in my 4e work. i don't think they should base any guidelines for items on their even hypothetical price, but rather just give DMs a tool to determine how often items will be found. 1e accomplished this nicely with random tables. id love to see something very similar to that; a completely random magical reward system. things like potions, and perhaps low-level rituals could have prices at the DMs discretion.

i also don't like the idea of magic item creation being just a ritual costing the dollar amount of an item. i mean, i know he is saying they are still dreaming up ideas, but that one is just tired and boring.

one of the intriguing things about 5e is how they were going to "bring back" items that feel magical. the system they describe here isn't a good one, even if its only presented as an option.

as for skills, as long as you don't have to pick a background, and can pick your own skills, i can pretty much tolerate anything. in the new packet, it doesn't appear you can do that without screwing yourself out of a trait and equipment.

id personally like to see skills separated COMPLETELY from backgrounds. backgrounds as accumulated wealth/gear and a trait still makes perfect sense. they could just suggest skills, but let you pick your own.

again, i want to pick my own skills without being penalized for not taking a background, and i would think that anyone that's ever had an 'offbeat' character concept agrees with me. i do actually like the skill list though; good flavor imo
I agree backgrounds should be changed to only include "suggested skills". You are still limited to 3 trainings total.

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Rolling for a random item on creation: a ludicrously bad idea.

re: balacing magic items in general:

Really, they need something like inherent bonuses as core, possibly with some extra.  Magic items are a basic part of character advancement and you will never have a working system without a rule that says "if your campaign doesn't have magic items, the characters get pretty much the same bonuses as if they'd had them".

If you create a rule for low-magic-item settings that explains how characters get "virtual item slots" that they can put "virtual items" into gained according to some regular progression, then it'll be fine. 


Really, they need something like inherent bonuses as core



i don't know if you noticed it bc it kind of hides amongst the packet, but imo they do a good job of this by bringing back the attack progression charts by class; the only thing i cant figure out is why a mage is more accurate than a cleric with his spells
Yeah, I think he missed the intent of the first question...  During the character creation process, I found it... frustrating... that I couldn't get undead lore training on my cleric necromancer without taking the sage background.  If I was DMing for a player with the same concern, I would just let them swap one of their skills for undead lore, but I think the option needs to be in the rules.

We had problems with magic items in 4E.  They were ubiquitous... Each character had several to fill in all their slots, and we got them with such frequency (per DMG guidelines), that they ceased to feel magical at all.  I think magic items should be treated like artifacts in 4E.  Truly unique and powerful items that define the campaign, in part.  Then again, I think the system also needs to support the option for people to have high magic campaigns with lots of magic items!

From my last response, you can probably guess my feelings on magic item creation, so instead of commenting on that...  Thinking about these questions and the answers we got to them brings to light a fundamental difficulty in this play test process and dnd next as a whole.  The initial promise was an edition to unite all players... But before you can do that, you have to create a base from which to build off of.  And it's that base that we are currently play testing and helping them build.  Unfortunately, that base intrinsically cannot support all play styles at this point in development. Those of us looking for more might have to just be patient, help them through this rudimentary process, and then hope the aspects of the game we see as lacking are addressed further down the line.
Presumably magic item enhancement bonuses would add to that, though.  If they do have a system where in some campaigns you will be expected to have e.g. a +2 weapon at level 6, then they need to make sure that in the other campaigsn everyone has an automatic +2 bonus at level 6.

Additionally, if magic items have non-enhancement-bonus properties (as the should), those properties should be either very weak (bad) or properties that you can get from non-magic-item sources in campaigns without them.  Otherwise you get lots of character builds that get inadvertently shut down by the whim of the DM because they need certain magic items to be effective.

Plenty of DMs want to run campaigns where all of the magic items the party receives are plot-relevent, and that's fine - I actually prefer that.  But the rules need to give characters in those campaigns the same abilities they would have in normal-magic campaigns, just packaged differently.

edit: xpost 
I find myself hoping the default assumption is 'no magic boosts to weapon/armor', and that monsters remain balanced with that in mind.  I'm free to dole out quirky items instead.  Keep the +2 longsword, just give me my Immovable Rod and Portable Hole any day of the week.
If that's the assumption, then they need to sharply restrict enhancement bonuses (or even better, get rid of them entirely).
I find myself hoping the default assumption is 'no magic boosts to weapon/armor', and that monsters remain balanced with that in mind.  I'm free to dole out quirky items instead.  Keep the +2 longsword, just give me my Immovable Rod and Portable Hole any day of the week.



There is no default.  Monsters will be balanced with both in mind.
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I'm wondering if the Pre-4e mechanics for placing a portable hole into a bag of holding will return.

There is no default.  Monsters will be balanced with both in mind.



That's impossible. You can't balance monsters with both in mind. The numbers need to be based off people having +3 plate mail or people having mundane plate mail. They can't be balanced off both. It's actually impossible, unless they're going to present two different stat blocks.


   Widening the point of magic to rewards in general, what reason is there for the PC to go out adventuring?
    We are not going to promise him any magic.  Gold is limited to about 12.5 gp per 100 XP, so our 5th level has a grand total of 1000 gp, and which is enough to buy just about all the mundane stuff he can carry.  [He still can't afford the most expensive armors, but in a couple more levels...]  D&D has always been the game of "kill the monsters and take their stuff", but what is there worth taking?
I'm wondering if the Pre-4e mechanics for placing a portable hole into a bag of holding will return.



I hope so


I'm wondering if the Pre-4e mechanics for placing a portable hole into a bag of holding will return.



I hope so


I hope so too, but I hope it's a suggestion and not a hard rule.  It's great piece of flavor for those who want it (magic item interactions is certainly a cool idea.  I once ruled that a character developed hairy palms for drinking too many potions.  Occasionally he'd meet someone who assumed something else was the cause ).
There are a great many problems that can be circumvented by players and DMs having a mature discussion about what the game is going to be like before they ever sit down together to play.

 

The answer really does lie in more options, not in confining and segregating certain options.

 

You really shouldn't speak for others.  You can't hear what someone else is saying when you try to put your words in their mouth.

 

Fencing & Swashbuckling as Armor.

D20 Modern Toon PC Race.

Mecha Pilot's Skill Challenge Emporium.

 

Save the breasts.



Really, they need something like inherent bonuses as core



i don't know if you noticed it bc it kind of hides amongst the packet, but imo they do a good job of this by bringing back the attack progression charts by class; the only thing i cant figure out is why a mage is more accurate than a cleric with his spells



Um... because a cleric gets to wear armor, wield better weapons, and gets a channel divinity feature. I'm surprised they get a bonus to spells at all...
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1-4E play style
The 4E play style is a high action cinematic style of play where characters worry less about being killed in one hit and more about strategy and what their next move is and the one after it. The players talk back and forth about planning a battle and who can do what to influence the outcome. 4E play is filled with cinematic over the top action. An Eladrin teleports out of the grip of the Ogre. The Fighter slams the dragons foot with his hammer causing it to rear up and stagger back in pain. The Cleric creates a holy zone where their allies weapons are guided to their targets and whenever an enemy dies the Clerics allies are healed. 4E is about knowing when to lauch your nova attack, whether its a huge arcane spell that causes enemies to whirl around in a chaotic storm, or if its a trained adrenaline surge that causes you to attack many many times with two weapons on a single target, or a surge of adrenaline that keeps you going though you should already be dead. Its about tactics and the inability to carry around a bag of potions or a few wands and never have to worry about healing. Its about the guy that can barely role play having the same chance to convince the king to aid the group as the guy that takes improv acting classes and regularly stars as an extra on movies.
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Really, they need something like inherent bonuses as core



i don't know if you noticed it bc it kind of hides amongst the packet, but imo they do a good job of this by bringing back the attack progression charts by class; the only thing i cant figure out is why a mage is more accurate than a cleric with his spells



Um... because a cleric gets to wear armor, wield better weapons, and gets a channel divinity feature. I'm surprised they get a bonus to spells at all...



Pretty much.  The cleric is almost a hybrid class and his attack bonuses show it, it comes with equal bonus to martial and magical attacks.  Maybe they should muck with the math a bit and not make it 50/50 to the regular bonus but 75/75 or something since to hit is such a big balancing issue.  But the guy who only spell casts should be better at throwing spells than the guy who spell casts, kicks butt, channels divine power, has more HP, wears armor etc.  
Q&A haiku time!

Open skill lists?
No. Now I'll distract you with
Talk of house ruling.

Buy magic items?
Don't know what the rules will be.
Maybe an option.

Make magic items?
Weren't you listening? Gah!
Don't know. Stop asking!


Really, they need something like inherent bonuses as core



i don't know if you noticed it bc it kind of hides amongst the packet, but imo they do a good job of this by bringing back the attack progression charts by class; the only thing i cant figure out is why a mage is more accurate than a cleric with his spells



Um... because a cleric gets to wear armor, wield better weapons, and gets a channel divinity feature. I'm surprised they get a bonus to spells at all...



oh i get its for balance i just don't know why they pick the 'to hit' rolls as the spot to balance it. all of the things you just mentioned except channel divinity have been true for nearly 40 years, and they never resulted in the magic-user having increased accuracy. channel divinity doesn't help the cleric so much as it helps the entire party, so it seems very poor design to penalize a cleric due to that. i can accept a fighter's increased accuracy, since there is some historical basis in the game for it (weapon specialization, etc), but there is no history of d&d flavor to back up the magic-user getting a +1 to hit with spells over the cleric. unless its in 3e somewhere (i never bothered w 3e).

i personally do not think it matters for balance if their spell to-hit numbers are the same; it isn't going to stop people from playing a magic-user. still, if they must seek to 'balance' the magic-user against the cleric, id like to see the magic-user gain a class feature, xtra lore skills or something, more powerful spells at higher levels, or maybe be able to use a wider variety of magic items than the cleric. anything but the to-hit numbers, as there is no flavor or game history that supports the increased accuracy. its just not very pretty to look at; there's no flavor to it.
It really, REALLY bothers me that magic items are an afterthought.

How they work, what their intent is, how they're created and distibuted, should have been included in the design spec (if there even is one) from day 0.  Seriously, they have been an absolutely key part of EVERY other edition to date, and they haven't even really been thought of yet?

The design team are just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks while we freaking watch, aren't they?
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The design team are just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks while we freaking watch, aren't they?


I'm not sure that's necessarily a bad thing. I do agree, though, this is not how I would approach it. I would start with the math (magic item bonuses included), and build the rest of the game around that. But I tend to respect the fact that these guys have done this kind of thing before, and I haven't.

There is no default.  Monsters will be balanced with both in mind.



That's impossible. You can't balance monsters with both in mind. The numbers need to be based off people having +3 plate mail or people having mundane plate mail. They can't be balanced off both. It's actually impossible, unless they're going to present two different stat blocks.





Those are not the only two options.  Monsters will be balances with +0 armor in mind, but it can still be magical.

There is no default.  Monsters will be balanced with both in mind.



That's impossible. You can't balance monsters with both in mind. The numbers need to be based off people having +3 plate mail or people having mundane plate mail. They can't be balanced off both. It's actually impossible, unless they're going to present two different stat blocks.


Would it not work to have monsters based of no magic weapons as a baseline, then something like if the party has +1 weapons/armor add 100xp to encounters, +2 adds 200xp, +3 adds 300 xp? 
The way to handle magic items is by calculating how many xp (experience points) their powers are worth.



If an item has powers equivalent to 5082 xp, then that is enormously out of balance for a level 1 hero who only has 562 xp. But for a high level character who already has 150,562 xp, the boost of 5000 xp wont even be felt.

Xp equivalence helps the DM *accurately* and easily determine how disruptive a magic item is. Also how to compensate by boosting opponents to the same effective level.

Xp equivalence also helps players create magic items that are appropriate for their level. The DM can easily say, make anything as long as it doesnt put you over to the next level. As such, most players will create magic items when leveling when they have the most slack in xp available. Which is a helpful rhythm.



Finally, I feel no cost in gold pieces is ideal. The book can give an optional formula for how to convert xp into gp, for settings where magic is less mysterious. I suspect most players can work with such a set up. If the magic item table never lists gp, but only lists xp, even when conversion is easy, that is awesome. It sets the tone that magic items are mysterious, but allows any players add in specific prices.

Personally, I feel all magic item acquisition needs to be quest-oriented. But nothing routine. For my setting, each magic item will have a different kind of quest. One is to find rare and mysterious ingredients (alchemy), one is to find rare and mysterious items (totemism), one is to find a rare an mysterious magical being (animism) perhaps the one who can build or imbue such an item, one is to acquire knowledge from ancient scrolls, or a remote or busy sage (who requires magical tasks in exchange), one is to connect with an ancient ancestor for family luck to increase to enough strength to achieve the magical effect, one is to achieve some kind of inner quest - for a Good person to become a better and stronger person - a more helpful and more patient - to achieve the spiritual perspective necessary to master the magic, and so on.

Finally, by knowing exactly how much xp power each magic item adds to the hero, the DM can easily determine how much of an ordeal the quest needs to be to feel “worth it”.

There is no default.  Monsters will be balanced with both in mind.



That's impossible. You can't balance monsters with both in mind. The numbers need to be based off people having +3 plate mail or people having mundane plate mail. They can't be balanced off both. It's actually impossible, unless they're going to present two different stat blocks.


Would it not work to have monsters based of no magic weapons as a baseline, then something like if the party has +1 weapons/armor add 100xp to encounters, +2 adds 200xp, +3 adds 300 xp? 


    Technically, but we are hearing a lot about magic with special effects, like 1d6 fire damage.  So you need to adjust monster defenses too and ...  Before too long you end up with 2 stat blocks.

The design team are just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks while we freaking watch, aren't they?


I'm not sure that's necessarily a bad thing. I do agree, though, this is not how I would approach it. I would start with the math (magic item bonuses included), and build the rest of the game around that. But I tend to respect the fact that these guys have done this kind of thing before, and I haven't.

The designers created 4e by starting with the math. With many important achievements and insights, especially understanding and balancing mechanics.


For 5e, the math premise isnt possible. The goal is to start with 1e, and expand from there, and, well, 1e has no math. It is a patchwork of kluges. Even looking at the 1e ability tables, and how disparate they are, they shock me.

The truth is, the design team cares about math, at least to some degree, and have been responsive to correcting wild imbalances. For example, the original plan which thankfully we never saw come to fruition, was to make each class focus on one of three “pillars”. So most classes were going to intentionally suck at combat, except for the Fighter. The designers quelched that in response to an outcry of concerns, and we can see the Playtests at least striving for combat parity.

I guess the point is, the design team isnt *starting* with math, but for better or worse, this is a consequence of design goals that seek to reconnect with earlier versions.