Advantage/Disadvantage, Specialties, and Backgrounds--Good or Bad?

Hi Everyone,

I've been on vacation for the past few weeks so I'm sure I'm a bit out of the loop. The playtest package I downloaded had some awesome changes! Most of the things I'd mentioned (earlier) had been fixed. I'm sure I'm not soley responsible for that, but it was greatly inspiring!

I liked the changes:



  • Hit dice and less hp in general.

  • +7 skill cap.

  • Alignments old style.

  • Rolling for ability scores as the primary option.

  • Pretty much all the other stuff.



The things which bugged me:

Disadvantage/Advantage is still around? Okay, maybe I don't understand the concept fully, but it sounds to me like replacing a static bonus with a totally probability nuking re-roll of the dice. This makes the game clunkier, slower, and makes rolling a dice for a random chance almost completely redundant.

Anyway, I could be off base, but it just doesn't make much sense to me.

Backgrounds and Specialties:

These are great. I love the idea of being a Necromancer/Jack of All Trades at first level. I think they just need to be refined a bit. As far as I can tell, you can be a dwarf fighter and take a magic user speciality or other such ludicrous combinations (on a related note, I didn't see any multi-classing rules. Multi-classing certainly plays havok with the game, but it does give some interesting options).

******

Any thoughts? Did I miss something important? Thanks for reading!

--David L. Dostaler
Author, Challenger RPG (free)
David L. Dostaler Author, Challenger RPG (free)

I'm almost completely at odds with you. Advantage and disadvantage are fine in my eyes, and I really dislike backgrounds and specialties, I'll just choose my feats and skills thanks anyway. Alignment is a big subject for me, I almost wish there was a alternitive personality trait system, with no indication if your good or evil, but rather if your cruel, pious, greedy, protective, and so on.

why is it ridiculous for a dwarf fighter to have the magic-user specialty?
While I have yet to have a strong opinion either way concerning advantages & disadvantages, I have found the backgrounds and specialities concept to be somewhat reminiscent of the spirit of kits from 2E, which I always thought was an innovative and fun idea.

Just roll some dice.

 

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While I have yet to have a strong opinion either way concerning advantages & disadvantages, I have found the backgrounds and specialities concept to be somewhat reminiscent of the spirit of kits from 2E, which I always thought was an innovative and fun idea.


+1

I have always been a fan of the kits from AD&D 2nd Edition; while disliking the Prestige Class feature of 3/3.5E.

I really like the concept of specialties but I would like the option to build your own or just pick feats on the fly as you level.


As it's released now there are two major concerns for me: 1) my players (and myself for that matter) will want to be able to customise their characters further than a specialty will allow and 2) by having huge lists of feats that are predetermined, you create a situation where you can't just add a feat to the game because they've all got to be attached to the package.


I was never a great fan of 4th ed, but I did play it for a little while and I liked advantage as it worked in 4th. I also like this one. There's no great loss to gameplay in having to roll 2 dice at once as opposed to 1. It's not like you have to keep track of which is which; you just pick the appropriate number and move on. One of my criticisms of 4th ed in general is that it was a game of margins: +1 here, -2 there. This advantage system has one awesome thing going for it in that the margins are no longer as important, becuase advantage could give you a huge range better than the lower roll or it could give you not much. Same goes for disadvantage.


I like that there are potentialy crazy consequences and an increased variable. Specialties are cool but I want the option to ignore them or build your own. It's likely that if such a system isn't in the final edition then me and my game group will just write one.


I really like the concept of specialties but I would like the option to build your own or just pick feats on the fly as you level.




Ok - done.

That was easy.....


(They have already indicated that this will be an option)    


Carl

hehe doh. Goes to show how much I pay attention to what's being said. I just dled the materials and got to playing. *returns to his cave*


however...


If that's the case then the real question isn't so much about how good the specialties are. Really I'm more interested in what, if anything, you'd get for not opting out of the specialties. If you don't get anything then it's a fantastic tool for beginners that can be discarded once you get more advanced, which is something D&D sorely needs.


Kits were mentioned above, and I can see the resemblance but, assuming there's no fringe benefit for taking a specialty, I actually think this is better because I found all the kits to be more than a little overwhelming even as an advanced player. There was a sort of saturation level where players were throwing random kits at me from some obscure source that did some tiny thing that didn't matter to me but for some reason it was incredibly important.


I prefer the notion that they're a crutch to help you get into the system rather than some mechanical thing; feats offer enough shenanigans on their own.


I'm sorry if I'm carrying asking questions or making irrelevent comments where the info is all ready forthcoming, go ahead and ignore me if that's the case.

Hi Everyone,

I've been on vacation for the past few weeks so I'm sure I'm a bit out of the loop. The playtest package I downloaded had some awesome changes! Most of the things I'd mentioned (earlier) had been fixed. I'm sure I'm not soley responsible for that, but it was greatly inspiring!

I liked the changes:



  • Hit dice and less hp in general.

  • +7 skill cap.

  • Alignments old style.

  • Rolling for ability scores as the primary option.

  • Pretty much all the other stuff.



The things which bugged me:

Disadvantage/Advantage is still around? Okay, maybe I don't understand the concept fully, but it sounds to me like replacing a static bonus with a totally probability nuking re-roll of the dice. This makes the game clunkier, slower, and makes rolling a dice for a random chance almost completely redundant.

Anyway, I could be off base, but it just doesn't make much sense to me.

Backgrounds and Specialties:

These are great. I love the idea of being a Necromancer/Jack of All Trades at first level. I think they just need to be refined a bit. As far as I can tell, you can be a dwarf fighter and take a magic user speciality or other such ludicrous combinations (on a related note, I didn't see any multi-classing rules. Multi-classing certainly plays havok with the game, but it does give some interesting options).

******

Any thoughts? Did I miss something important? Thanks for reading!

--David L. Dostaler
Author, Challenger RPG (free)

For advantage/disadvantage, it helps to roll 2d20 at once. Also, it doesn't play havok with odds, it just makes the math a little harder.  If someone wants to play a dwarf fighter necromancer, though, then what's the problem?  Only the dead spend more time underground than dwarfs...

Multi-class will come in a few packets, and they're looking at restructuring it quite a bit. 
'That's just, like, your opinion, man.'

If that's the case then the real question isn't so much about how good the specialties are. Really I'm more interested in what, if anything, you'd get for not opting out of the specialties. If you don't get anything then it's a fantastic tool for beginners that can be discarded once you get more advanced, which is something D&D sorely needs.


 




As I understand it - that is precisely the intent.  Mechancially the specialties are just a bundle of pre-selected feats (packed in a bit of fluff).  If you want simple - you take a specialty.  If you want complex - you pick your feats as you level.

Backgrounds - which ought to work similarly, but also come with a trait - are more problematic.

At present, I think that although you can pick and choose your skills, you only get the trait if you take the background.  I don't have a problem with that (it can be argued that cherrypicking skills makes for a stronger character and that counters the loss of the trait).  Especially since the background traits are generally roleplaying/ interactive hooks, not mechanical advantages.  

Carl



Backgrounds - which ought to work similarly, but also come with a trait - are more problematic.

At present, I think that although you can pick and choose your skills, you only get the trait if you take the background.  I don't have a problem with that (it can be argued that cherrypicking skills makes for a stronger character and that counters the loss of the trait).  Especially since the background traits are generally roleplaying/ interactive hooks, not mechanical advantages.



To be honest I can't really find anything in any of the traits that a DM wouldn't probably do anyway in the name of advancing the story. I'm often confused at why some people will let their players sit there and flounder about for more than ten minutes before throwing them a bone so the game can move forward.


From my experience playing with the material, the best use of traits is to give the DM some direction about who gets what information and what players will shine where. If none of the players have any trait that will help them in a given situation then it's likely the DM will create a hook that uses a trait they do have or they'll invent an encounter that pushes the players in the direction they want them to go.


Someone new to DMing would probably be greatful for the help and someone new to playing can latch on to it for flavour. *thumbs up*





Multi-class will come in a few packets, and they're looking at restructuring it quite a bit. 



Heh my group have all ready started to multiclass with the packets we've got now, 3rd ed style. I've got one player doing a cleric/fighter and another doing a fighter/rogue. It actually works pretty well; I'm interested to see what plans they have for casters.

Well, Traits as part of Backgrounds, I think, are a very good addition to the character sheet in many ways. First of all, it negotiates the lack of 'Profession' skills that we saw in 4e. Of course, in 3e/3.5, who the heck honestly spent points into Profession beyond maybe first level? Unless you suddenly took to being a sailor (and made that an important part of the whole campaign), it was a pretty 'useless' skill, and it was hard to justify putting skill points into them, especially if you were a class with very little skill points to begin with.

So, now, we all can have 'professions' of things characters did before the Call to Adventure, or what have you. It's not necessarily a mechanical benefit, but it's still something PC's can chunk in their toolbox. The Cleric of Pelor in my game has called on his Temple Services a few times now, and sure, the DM could have negotiated that benefit with the players eventually, but PC's like having that kind of power at their disposal.

oh yeah it's cool that these things don't require some kind of investment that makes people resent them. Temple services and their ilk are probably the most useful stuff to be had, where knowing where to find information is probably going to be game driven anyway and so is kinda redundant.


I think it'd be pretty easy to divorce the traits from the skill selection almost entirely and just let players pick the one that suits their dudes. One could stipulate that they have to take one of the skills listed in the background to qualify so you don't find yourself with a whole lot of people rocking up for free stuff (heals, shelter, food, servants) without actually having any related skills from their supposed past.


Then again, I could see how that'd be a source of conflict. Say you're a noble who shirked your responsibility and you've got servants but actually, they're your older brother's servants sent to keep an eye on you. Sure they'll do as they're told but you also get to deal with the friction of being watched as the bad egg of the family.


My inclination is to leave it loose and crush players that decide to use it as a free ride.

While I have yet to have a strong opinion either way concerning advantages & disadvantages, I have found the backgrounds and specialities concept to be somewhat reminiscent of the spirit of kits from 2E, which I always thought was an innovative and fun idea.



I've never really played 2e PnP but I LOVED the kit system when I used it in Baldur's Gate, its what I wished the did with the "essentials" sub-classes in 4e

On the other hand I dislike the feat/skill auto-selecting bits but if I'm interpreting the situation correctly its just an optional thing
I think that Advantage/Disadvantage is an excellent mechanic that can add a lot the game, but it is a mechanic that everyone really has to get used to.  For DMs especially, it seems that granting advantage/disadvantage is tantamount to saying..."I really expect that your should be able to pull this off...give it a go."   As such, it should speed up play and keep the narrative of the game flowing more smoothly.

Although you didn't mention this in your original post, I see Skill Mastery functioning in a similar manner, to speed up play and keep the narrative of the game flowing.   Skill Mastery, like Advantage/Disadvantage is basically saying ..."I really expect that your should be able to pull this off...don't sweat it."  If for some reason, the DM needs to make it more difficult for the rogue, the DC can be set at 20.  This may throw up a speed bump or road block that the PCs need to overcome in another way.   

I'm all for ways to make the game move quicker and more fluidly.     

A Brave Knight of WTF - "Wielder of the Sword of Balance"

 

Rhenny's Blog:  http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog

 

 

Personally I love the simplicity of advantage / disadvantage but its still in its early stages with some hiccups in combinations. 
It promotes simplicity and how often its handed out can be mostly DM fiat if need be.

As for backgrounds and specialities, they can be chopped and changed, Mike Mearls said this somewhere, though I'm awful at finding citation. This is a temporary stop gap to give people a feel for the beginning classes (and a great way to railroad us into playtesting certain things). 
It's interesting how a way to railroad us into playtesting things is also a good tool for teaching beginners how to play.
Wow, thanks for all the great info everyone!

So, from the gist of what everyone's saying, Backgrounds are essentially the game picking skills for you and giving you the useless/you'd have it anyway things in the game such as: crafting, proffessions, knowledge skills, and the fact your fighter used to be a blacksmith.

Also, it appears Specialties are just prepackaged feats you'd be better off power wise 'picking yourself'. Also, someone mentioned you could easily cut out both Backgrounds and Specialties.

If all the above is correct, my follow up question would probably be: if everything was implied anyway, and they can all be chucked out with no ill-effect, why do we have them? It appears to be for 'flavor'. If their purpose is for new players, or to hash out 'minor' background things the players might have (like being a former blacksmith) then that's pretty cool! Essentially, we've probably been doing that in my game groups for years. I probably misinterpreted them as 'full fledged' parts of the game and integral to play when they might not be. I actually think the game might benefit from making specialties and backgrounds a more 'solid' choice in the game and more integral to play, kind of like classes and races. They certainly get equal page space on the character sheet.

About Advantage/Disadvantage

It sounds like they're a nifty addition which speeds up play. However, this goes against all of my instincts. For some strange reason I get the feeling they'll completely cause havok, loss of valuable game time, and randomness for no reason in my games.

Yes, you could just roll 2 d20s at the same time, but it'll always be fractionally slower than just rolling one and with the amount of dice rolling usually occuring that can really add up. On top of that, the whole point of rolling a d20 is to get a random result. If the GM wants to skew the results he can just go +10/-10 as he sees fit. I know someone said they didn't like the margins in the game (+2/-1) and I totally agree! The escalating bonuses in previous editions really messed around with the d20 roll almost making it a moot point. That'ls why I like the +7 skill cap so much.

However, assuming the margins are actually reasonable (like below +10 at highest level) I think the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic could much more effectively be replaced by +10/-10 or whatever. If, on the other hand, d20 rolls are to continue to be outrageously whacked out by ridiculous modifiers I can start to see where just about anything would look better than another +2 tacked on (including Advantage/Disadvantage).

Basically, what I'm trying to say is, if the game is similar to the past couple of editions then, yes, Advantage/Disadvantage would be highly effective in curtailing some of the insane curve of bonuses. If the curve is more reasonable, it just seems like a lot of extra work and hassle to me.

The whole point of rolling 1d20 is to get a random result. If you consider the spectrum of all probability to lie on 1d20 from 5 to 100% then throwing in an extra d20 roll just messes things up. If you consider a d20 roll to be on an infinite scale of 'bonuses' then the extra d20 roll is more of a minor factor. However, if the d20 roll is such a minor factor, why do we have it?

***

Anyway, thanks for the great feedback! I learned a lot about how Backgrounds/Specialties/Advantage and Disadvantage were supposed to work.

--David
David L. Dostaler Author, Challenger RPG (free)
why is it ridiculous for a dwarf fighter to have the magic-user specialty?

Yeah.  What?
If all the above is correct, my follow up question would probably be: if everything was implied anyway, and they can all be chucked out with no ill-effect, why do we have them?

For the same reason instant mashed potatoes exists.

Not everyone has the patience to spend several hours carefully piecing together a character.
Race, Class, Background, Specialty.  Play!
Wow, thanks for all the great info everyone!

So, from the gist of what everyone's saying, Backgrounds are essentially the game picking skills for you and giving you the useless/you'd have it anyway things in the game such as: crafting, proffessions, knowledge skills, and the fact your fighter used to be a blacksmith.

Also, it appears Specialties are just prepackaged feats you'd be better off power wise 'picking yourself'. Also, someone mentioned you could easily cut out both Backgrounds and Specialties.

If all the above is correct, my follow up question would probably be: if everything was implied anyway, and they can all be chucked out with no ill-effect, why do we have them?



To enable new players and those who don't want to bother hand-crafting their characters to quickly and easily select a specialty to give them what they need to play the particular type of character they want to play.

It is a convenience not a way to make your character Uber.





About Advantage/Disadvantage

It sounds like they're a nifty addition which speeds up play. However, this goes against all of my instincts. For some strange reason I get the feeling they'll completely cause havok, loss of valuable game time, and randomness for no reason in my games.

Yes, you could just roll 2 d20s at the same time, but it'll always be fractionally slower than just rolling one and with the amount of dice rolling usually occuring that can really add up. On top of that, the whole point of rolling a d20 is to get a random result. If the GM wants to skew the results he can just go +10/-10 as he sees fit. I know someone said they didn't like the margins in the game (+2/-1) and I totally agree! The escalating bonuses in previous editions really messed around with the d20 roll almost making it a moot point. That'ls why I like the +7 skill cap so much.

However, assuming the margins are actually reasonable (like below +10 at highest level) I think the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic could much more effectively be replaced by +10/-10 or whatever. If, on the other hand, d20 rolls are to continue to be outrageously whacked out by ridiculous modifiers I can start to see where just about anything would look better than another +2 tacked on (including Advantage/Disadvantage).



The advantage of advantage is nowhere near +/-10.

It is a variable bonus which ranges from +/-5 if you need a 10 to hit to around +/- 1 at the extremes (you hit ona 2 or you only miss on a 19).  It also 'plays nice' with bounded accuracy - which giving numerical bonuses does not.


For these reasons it is actually mathematically superior to a large numerical bonus.

It also, in my expeirence, takes less time than adding bonuses - or at least not significantly more time.

It is also, in my experience, more fun/ more satisfying than just adding numbers onto the roll.

For these reasons I prefer advantage as a mechanic.  In fact, I and several others have been exploring ways to extend the principle of the advantage mechanic (choose the better/worse die) to replace the smaller bonuses and penalties (half cover, buffs, etc) that remain in the game.



The whole point of rolling 1d20 is to get a random result. If you consider the spectrum of all probability to lie on 1d20 from 5 to 100% then throwing in an extra d20 roll just messes things up. If you consider a d20 roll to be on an infinite scale of 'bonuses' then the extra d20 roll is more of a minor factor. However, if the d20 roll is such a minor factor, why do we have it?




It doesn't 'mess it up'. It changes it in a predicatable way that makes the character far more likely to succed on 50/50 attempts and less more liikely (?) to succeed on very difficult attempts.   It is also, btw, mathematically identical to granting a reroll on a miss (or - as with 4E halflings - forcing a reroll on a hit) - but faster.

Give advantage a fair shot and then decide whether or not you like it.  It's more appealing than you might expect.


Related aside:  At our last Encounters session one of the players (who does not play 5N and was unaware of the 5N mechanics) said something to the effect of:  "Wouldn't it be cool if combat advantage let you roll two dice and keep the highest one".  Really.

Carl
Yes, but by the same token, why not: Class, Race: Play! (with backgrounds and specialties worked into the two former entries). Basically, if something isn't specifically benefiting the rules, can't it be subsumed into something else to make the game, faster, easier to play, and better?

However, if they're merely 'prepackaged' components like the original pre-built characters in 3e then I have a different opinion. In that case, I'd probably never use them (and I can't see my players doing it either) but they might be fine for new players. In fact, if they're only for new players we could probably put them in a seperate book and leave the official rules for the experienced players.

I was kind of hoping Backgrounds and Specialties would have more offical 'weight' to them and not just be prebuilt packages for new players. I think they're very good ideas and deserve to have specific power in the game not achievable by just buying those skills/feats anyway.

As for the dwarf magic user: I don't have anything against dwarf magic users, but I think multi-classing should cost more and if you can use specialties to multi-class they should be pricier, etc. However, if they are merely flavor it's a moot point.

--David
David L. Dostaler Author, Challenger RPG (free)
Also, don't underestimate the roleplaying, inspirational value that the backgrounds and specialties add to the character.  Many postings have noted that players have been roleplaying more right from the get go because the backgrounds and specialties really solidify a character concept.   The benefits of flavor and utility in non-combat situations really appeals to a lot of people.   It is multi-dimensional to have a background that gives you something related to either exploration or interaction rather than combat.

A Brave Knight of WTF - "Wielder of the Sword of Balance"

 

Rhenny's Blog:  http://community.wizards.com/user/1497701/blog

 

 

Ha ha, yeah. Thanks for reminding me. I'm all for anything that improves roleplaying. Especially so if it's roleplaying outside of combat.

I guess you could just say I like the idea so much I kind of wish it was more integral to the core of the game so even the powergamers/munchkins would use them because of the statistical benefit. Some of my players never use anything prepackaged because they know it's more powerful to pick things themselves. If the Specialties/Backgrounds were tied a little more into the statistics even they would use them which I think would be awesome.

I love the idea of having Necromancer/Knight characters right off the bat.

Thanks Rhenny!
David L. Dostaler Author, Challenger RPG (free)
One of the reasons they are optional is for those that prefer a 1e type game experience, where you don't have feats and skills, you just have a race and a class (although I'm sure there are some out there that still consider a race as a class).

Some may just want backgrounds (skills and traits) and not specialties. Some may want the opposite.

The bottom line it was the first look we have of what they mean by modular, both backgrounds and specialties are modular parts of the game that tables can choose to use or not. Two things that work with the core game, but are not integral to the core game.

Another thing that's really fun about having the added layers to pick from is you can create traditionally divergent characters that have some roleplaying basis before you start mucking in with the numbers and crunching a build.


I see background traits as a more meaningful version of the "concept" field in World of Darkness character sheets. It supplies us with an underpinning logic to the rest of the player's choices about their character.


Specialties serve a similar role, but because the system will be such that you can just pick your feats without them their role is diminished.


Another thing that's really fun about having the added layers to pick from is you can create traditionally divergent characters that have some roleplaying basis before you start mucking in with the numbers and crunching a build.


I see background traits as a more meaningful version of the "concept" field in World of Darkness character sheets. It supplies us with an underpinning logic to the rest of the player's choices about their character.


Specialties serve a similar role, but because the system will be such that you can just pick your feats without them their role is diminished.


I'm not sure that picking feats will diminish the specialties roles, as people picking feats generally have a concept in mind. I think that a specialty name will be easily given to the freely picked pack of feats. I even think that naming their own specialties will be an attractive aspect of the game for many people, like creating their own martial art or cooking recipe.

Well sure but specialties as a mechanic to be manipulated is diminished compared to background traits because in order to get the background traits you have to take the background but if you want the feat selection of a specialty you're free to just grab the feats and move on.


That makes backgrounds a lot more significant than specialties, but that's tempered by the fact that backgrounds are largely flavouring.

because in order to get the background traits you have to take the background

Not really, no.  Taking a background and replacing all three skills is identical to a-la-carte trait selection.



These are great. I love the idea of being a Necromancer/Jack of All Trades at first level. I think they just need to be refined a bit. As far as I can tell, you can be a dwarf fighter and take a magic user speciality or other such ludicrous combinations (on a related note, I didn't see any multi-classing rules. Multi-classing certainly plays havok with the game, but it does give some interesting options).

******

Any thoughts? Did I miss something important? Thanks for reading!

--David L. Dostaler
Author, Challenger RPG (free)



And you lost me. There's nothing wrong with a system wherein the dwarf fighting can take the magic user Specialty. That's a system working correctly.
Skeptical_Clown wrote:
More sex and gender equality and racial equality shouldn't even be an argument--it should simply be an assumption for any RPG that wants to stay relevant in the 21st century.
104340961 wrote:
Pine trees didn't unanimously decide one day that leaves were gauche.
http://community.wizards.com/doctorbadwolf/blog/2012/01/10/how_we_can_help_make_dndnext_awesome
If all the above is correct, my follow up question would probably be: if everything was implied anyway, and they can all be chucked out with no ill-effect, why do we have them? It appears to be for 'flavor'. If their purpose is for new players, or to hash out 'minor' background things the players might have (like being a former blacksmith) then that's pretty cool! Essentially, we've probably been doing that in my game groups for years. I probably misinterpreted them as 'full fledged' parts of the game and integral to play when they might not be. I actually think the game might benefit from making specialties and backgrounds a more 'solid' choice in the game and more integral to play, kind of like classes and races. They certainly get equal page space on the character sheet.


Backgrounds and specialties are wrapping paper.  The true present is what's inside, but it's still nice to have it be shiny and convenient on the outside.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Yes, but by the same token, why not: Class, Race: Play! (with backgrounds and specialties worked into the two former entries). Basically, if something isn't specifically benefiting the rules, can't it be subsumed into something else to make the game, faster, easier to play, and better?

However, if they're merely 'prepackaged' components like the original pre-built characters in 3e then I have a different opinion. In that case, I'd probably never use them (and I can't see my players doing it either) but they might be fine for new players. In fact, if they're only for new players we could probably put them in a seperate book and leave the official rules for the experienced players.

I was kind of hoping Backgrounds and Specialties would have more offical 'weight' to them and not just be prebuilt packages for new players. I think they're very good ideas and deserve to have specific power in the game not achievable by just buying those skills/feats anyway.

As for the dwarf magic user: I don't have anything against dwarf magic users, but I think multi-classing should cost more and if you can use specialties to multi-class they should be pricier, etc. However, if they are merely flavor it's a moot point.

--David



Specialty and background do benefit the system. Exactly by seperating those elements from class. A fighter does not need to be constrained to 3 skills from a short list while the ranger gets 7 skills from a broader list. That really is a stupid system. This is one of the only things I'm really excited about with Next. The fact that you class doesn't decide your skills or feats.

Further, backgrounds provide things you wouldn't otherwise have. Being a commoner doesn't automatically imply that you'll have a home and some tools corresponding to your trade. Not having it on the sheet means it's up to DM whim whether you have that. Backgrounds give characters a place in the world, with enough examples that you can come up with your own traits for a custom background. Because that's the idea, you either pick or create a background.

Having said that, I don't like specialties as a feat delivery system.

Dwarf magic user:

Why should multi-classing have any cost beyond an opportunity cost? The game need not punish generalists.

Specialties are a package of feats. Feats are created in groups, with thematic ties. The magic user gives that character some cantrips as the level one feat. The dwarf could just pick the Arcane Dabbler feat, and then pick a skill training, and then the skeleton feat from the necromancer, effectively dabbling in two character concepts to create a necromantic arcane dabbler, whose primary training is as a warrior. It's a good system.

If that character needs more than what a specialty can provide, multiclassing is still an option.
Skeptical_Clown wrote:
More sex and gender equality and racial equality shouldn't even be an argument--it should simply be an assumption for any RPG that wants to stay relevant in the 21st century.
104340961 wrote:
Pine trees didn't unanimously decide one day that leaves were gauche.
http://community.wizards.com/doctorbadwolf/blog/2012/01/10/how_we_can_help_make_dndnext_awesome
Maybe whomever it was that objected to Dwarf Magicuser did so because they are a fundamentalist old schooler.  Once upon a time dwarves were resistant to magic and could not become wizards because of their racial nature:  From the AD&D PHB:  "Because of  their very nature, dwarves are non-magical and do not ever use magical spells."


In such a universe, a dwarf magic user would be ludicrous.


Of course, such a universe hasn't been canon for D&D in well over a decade.  But some traditions die hard.

And, also of course, any DM who wished to restore such limitations need only say:  Dwarves in my game cannot take the Magic User specialtiy (or the Wizard, Warlock and Sorcerer classes).


(Aside:  I kinda miss restrictions of that nature.  Not because of the limits it placed on players, but because of the blinders it could place on what players expect of the NPCs.  If the players believe that dwarves cannot be wizards, it allows me to set up a reveal where they discover that the big bad (whom they know is a dwarf) can actually cast spells (and of course, I'd have to justify how after the reveal).  I think potential dramatic moments are lost by the 'anyone can do anything' approach - even if that approach is arguably better for the PCs.  And even if you tell the players that NPCs have such limits, even if the PCs don't, the effect is never the same.)


    
Carl
Of course, such a universe hasn't been canon for D&D in well over a decade.  But some traditions die hard.

That's one way to say it.  Another way to say it would be, "Such a universe has been canon in D&D for most of its existence.  It's easy to see why some people would still support it as default."

As for the topics at hand, I like backgrounds and I think specialties at least make feats easier to locate. 

The whole advantage/disadvantage thing really seems like they want to cater to an audience of people who don't want to deal with circumstantial modifiers at all, so if they go that way then they should really get rid of all of those other +1 or -1 minor circumstance modifiers.  Put them into the tactical module, where advantage/disadvantage can be removed.  As it stands, it just feels lazy (especially when they cancel each other out).

The metagame is not the game.

I don't really care all that much for Advantage/Disadvantage. I feel we need a system with more levels of respective Advantages and Disadvantage, like modifiers. The example I go by is this: One archer is slightly dazed by a poisonous cloud. He makes his attack at disadvantage. Another archer is also in the cloud of poison, but he's also blind, lying down, and has his hands frozen in ice. He makes his attack at disadvantage. They both have the same level of difficulty in taking their respective shots. A real-life example is the time the fighter in the party managed to kill a bugbear that was hiding in a cloud of impenetrable darkness. This is more about the crazy HP-damage ratio, though...

As for specialties, I love them. They give beginning players an easy way to build their characters without leafing through a list of feats looking for the ones they want. Backgrounds do much the same thing. I think that players that pick and choose their skills should be able to choose a trait too. I would even let my player make his own, if it was roughly equal to the pre-exsting ones.
There are many and many points that I don't like at all in this edition, but I like very much background, advantage/dis and speciality, exacty in this horder.
No more vancian. No "edition war" for me, thank'you.
Aside:  I kinda miss restrictions of that nature.  Not because of the limits it placed on players, but because of the blinders it could place on what players expect of the NPCs.  If the players believe that dwarves cannot be wizards, it allows me to set up a reveal where they discover that the big bad (whom they know is a dwarf) can actually cast spells (and of course, I'd have to justify how after the reveal). 

Of course, this just creates a "why the hell couldn't I be a wizard then?" situation, similar to Dwarf Clerics in OD&D or the "why does his mount get to bite when mine has to share my actions?" question in 4E.

Players naturally expect any "always" and "never" imposed upon them to apply to the entire universe as well.
The whole advantage/disadvantage thing really seems like they want to cater to an audience of people who don't want to deal with circumstantial modifiers at all, so if they go that way then they should really get rid of all of those other +1 or -1 minor circumstance modifiers.  Put them into the tactical module, where advantage/disadvantage can be removed.  As it stands, it just feels lazy (especially when they cancel each other out).


I self-identify as a person who likes dis/advantage because I don't want to deal with circumstantial modifiers.  However, it would be false to say that I want some platonic ideal of no modifiers whatsoever.  I simply think both 3e & 4e had them popping up far too often.  Still having some is fine.
I self-identify as a person who likes dis/advantage because I don't want to deal with circumstantial modifiers.  However, it would be false to say that I want some platonic ideal of no modifiers whatsoever.  I simply think both 3e & 4e had them popping up far too often.  Still having some is fine.

In that case, are you in favor of letting someone with two trivial -1 penalties and disadvantage be significantly worse off than someone who has five separate conditions that each (only) cause (non-cumulative) disadvantage?  Or do you prefer a system where each subsequent stack of disadvantage causes a further -2 penalty?

The former promotes a far more disruptive degree of system mastery (IMO) in making sure you know what stacks and what doesn't, while the latter is pretty much where we were before except with an extra die involved.

The metagame is not the game.

I self-identify as a person who likes dis/advantage because I don't want to deal with circumstantial modifiers.  However, it would be false to say that I want some platonic ideal of no modifiers whatsoever.  I simply think both 3e & 4e had them popping up far too often.  Still having some is fine.

In that case, are you in favor of letting someone with two trivial -1 penalties and disadvantage be significantly worse off than someone who has five separate conditions that each (only) cause (non-cumulative) disadvantage?  Or do you prefer a system where each subsequent stack of disadvantage causes a further -2 penalty?


I want a system where the -1 penalty does not come up all that often.  As a relatively rare event, I could care less that -1 and disadvantage is worse than someone with five non-cumulative disadvantages.  I definitely do not want to count disadvantages for additional penalties. 

Speed of play is a much bigger priority than attempting to model how hard one particular roll of the die should be.  A handful of modifiers here and there is no big deal.  Routine modifiers is a big deal.
The more I think about it, advantages and disadvantages don't bother me so much, if used. There have been times in the past where I have chosen to play the character with the absurdly underscored stat, as a challenge and an RP opportunity. Sometimes I don't want my character to simply be Baron Von Badass, I want him to be a challenge and an interesting topic to study in the game. As for the specialities, I still think they are similar in feel and spirit to 2E kits; just more to spice up the RP, IMO.

Just roll some dice.

 

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Aside:  I kinda miss restrictions of that nature.  Not because of the limits it placed on players, but because of the blinders it could place on what players expect of the NPCs.  If the players believe that dwarves cannot be wizards, it allows me to set up a reveal where they discover that the big bad (whom they know is a dwarf) can actually cast spells (and of course, I'd have to justify how after the reveal). 

Of course, this just creates a "why the hell couldn't I be a wizard then?" situation, similar to Dwarf Clerics in OD&D or the "why does his mount get to bite when mine has to share my actions?" question in 4E.

Players naturally expect any "always" and "never" imposed upon them to apply to the entire universe as well.



As I said - I would have to explain why the dwarf was able to be a wizard when they couldn't.  My own demands for consistency would require it (I can come up with two immediately within the AD&D rules, when I was considering which of these to use I preferred one over the other - I bet there are more like a dozen reasons why such an exception might be possible - none of which would imply that all (or ever any other) dwarves would have the same option.

And I also allowed Dwarven Clerics in AD&D = because there really wasn't any reason not to.   If some dwarves can be clerics, I see no reason why the PCs can't as well.  But that was not the case for wizards.

The 4E one falls into the other arguments about 4E.  You either except that balance is more important than 'realism' - and you embrace the 4E koolaid; or you go nuts with all of the various parts of 4E which (despite their good qualities as game mechanics) ignore in-game common sense.  At least with the mount issue you had the option to ignore it.  The DMG specifically discusses allowing Mounts to have their own actions  - you just have to increase the encounter XP budgets accordingly.

Carl