So Its 2008 And You Have Designed 4th Ed

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 Its 2012 and here we are playtesting D&DN. 4th ed seemed to be in trouble in late 2010. However in 2007 3.5 was not really in good shape with low quality sourcebooks being spammed out. Both editions bloated to fast IMHO. Anyway how would you have designed 4th ed? Here is where I would have started.

1. The main problem of 3.5 was overpowered spellcaster. My 4th ed would have brought out large nerf bats. The problem spells would have been rewritten or just plain old removed form the game. There would have been alot less spells as well something similar to 2nd ed s spell lists. Buff spells would be reigned in along with Druids. No more dire/legendary animal and dinosaur wildshaping.

2. Spell DCs would not scale with level. In 2nd ed saving throws increasing along with rings of protection more or less made one immune to things like save or dies. DC 19/20 would be the highest a spell DC could get to.

3. BAB overhauled. I would eliminate the extra attacks with classes gaining multiple attacks at higher levels or via feats.

4. A focus on level 1-20, no epic levels at all. Each class would get something at each evel (see Pathfinder).

5. Skill points thrown out, something similar to 4th ed skill system used (half level +5 but I would probably go with +3).

6. More skill points for classe along with consolidated skill list. Also less extreme difference in the number of skills gains. 3-6 skills would have been more or less default with most primary spellcasters only getting 2.

7. More feats. One every 2 levels a'la 4th ed/Saga/Pathfinder. Feats seem popular.

8. Drastic reworking of monster rules. Probably something similar to the 4th ed monsters and encounter building system.

9. A few powers available via feats and some classes.

10. No more magic item supermarkets. PCs can craft them at higher levels but they would require special materials in addition to gold.

 Thats more or less it for a short list. It would resemble 3.5 on the surface but I would be aiming more towards 2nd ed in terms of "feel". Things like grapple and other silly rules would be reworked or just thrown out.
If the only things I knew about anything were the things I knew then, my "4th edition" would probably have ended up looking basically like Pathfinder - 3.5 with some of the most egregious things papered over a bit. I might have gone a little bit further than Pathfinder, since presumably unlike Pathfinder I don't care all that much about compatibility with 3.5. I would have done what most people probably would when thinking about it, which would have been to start with 3.5 and work from there, rather than designing something new from the ground up. There are some super easy calls, like punting the 3.5 fighter out of core for the Warblade, figuring out something to do with 3.5's shameful FoB/TWF rules, and picking apart classes like the Scout and Swashbuckler as well as some popular prestige classes to try to give the Ranger and Rogue some more definition. Probably give the ranger full companion progression and drop it entirely from the Druid to de-overload the druid and give the ranger something a little louder than "Fighter with preselected feats, way more skill points and a situational combat bonus". (Although the fighter is the warblade now, so who knows.) In exchange for losing the companion and having to deal with much more sane shapeshifting rules, the druid gets support abilities sufficient to make it less like every party "needs" a cleric. The cleric also becomes more spellcastery to give the paladin a little more breathing room.

The one gutsy thing I might be tempted to try is to punt the Wizard, Sorcerer and possibly Bard out in favor of casters divided by theme, rather than by casting system. I realize that the wizard and sorcerer allegedly stand for different things in the gameworld, but there's close to zero connection between their core mechanics and the academic/genetic split. It's just flavor pasted on later. A necromancer would use the necromancer class regardless of whether they learned necromancy or whether grandpa was a lich.

So my class lineup would look something like Warblade, Ranger, Barbarian, Paladin, Rogue, Cleric, Druid, Monk, Beguiler/Illusionist, Warmage, and either a Gish class or Dread Necromancer, with most of the classes seeing significant redesigns; in particular, the non-casters and lite-casters need major awesoming-up. That there's no Warlord class in my list doesn't mean that I don't think that the Warlord is one of the best things to ever happen to the game, just that I don't know that it would have occurred to me at the time to make that a base class.

Note again that this is not what I think is the best possible way to do 4th Edition, it's just what I think I might have done knowing only what I did at the time.

Oh, and probably chuck vancian casting for the 3.5 psionics system.
Dwarves invented beer so they could toast to their axes. Dwarves invented axes to kill people and take their beer. Swanmay Syndrome: Despite the percentages given in the Monster Manual, in reality 100% of groups of swans contain a Swanmay, because otherwise the DM would not have put any swans in the game.
Like most people, I would probably have ended up with something close to Pathfinder, but with slightly more drastic changes. This list looks long but the only radical change in the mechanics is including a condition track, the rest is mostly fixing balance problems.

1 - Drastic spell rewrites. Most of the problem with over powered spell casters comes from two things, poorly written opened ended spells and a handful of high level spells never really intended for PCs. Fix those two problems and the rest would be a few tweaks.

2 - Include condition tracks for certain common conditions, gauged by severity. So that you can go from dazed to shocked to stunned and so on.

3 - Rework spell DCs to balance better. Drastically reduce the usage of spell resistance. Give high level monsters a separate ability to reduce the effects of save or die powers. Tie this in with condition tracks so that paralyze becomes slow automatically and so on.

4 - Change BAB slightly. Fewer extra attacks but higher bonuses on the extra attacks and BABs that are closer across classes but combat primary classes getting more extra attacks.

5 - Simplify the skill system to make tracking skill points easier, reduce skill points overall and provide a small by level bonus to all skill checks. Give the skill point deprived classes more points to work with.

6 - Rework fighter to make the class more balanced. Fighters would select a general fighting type they favor and get some maneuvers and bonuses depending on type, such as heavy armor/fencer/archer/slayer. Give them more combat options so they don't have to hyper-specialize in one trick to be effective, but make some of the tricks less effective.

7- Tweak over other classes to make them more balanced or interesting. I had optional heritage rules for Sorcerers that looked a lot like Pathfinder blood lines already. Rogues would get some class options to select a style of combat, from hard to get/hard hitting assassination abilities to easy to achieve but less powerful skirmisher dirty fighting. Clerics would be more distinct based on domain and get special powers by domain, and their spell list would depend partially on domain.

8 - Rework feats to divide them by power level or between combat and non-combat feats. I've gone back and forth on how to do this over the years, but any system that doesn't dump all feats into one big pool would probably work better then what we have. There would be more little feat trees, but the trees would be reworked so that the base feats where more useful.

9 - Rework CR to rank monsters better. Include some notation on CR for monsters that require special handling.

10 - Remove the assumption that any two parties of x level characters are equally powerful and rework the CR system to adjust the difficulty for party power level while keeping XP rewards scaling properly.

11 - Rework magic items to make magic gear more varied and interesting, fewer magic items slots in general. Include support for none/low/medium/high/very high levels of magic items in the game.

12 - Rework grapple so you don't have to reread the rules every time you use them, but not so simple as 4e's.

13 - Include an option to get partial class advancement on half levels, for slow advancement games.

14 - Set the default starting level at something above 1st. Something between 3rd and 5th, lower levels are for apprentices and mufti-classing.

Moving this to 4E general.
Trevor Kidd Community Manager
Moving this to 4E general.

Umm... why?  this isn't a thread about 4e at all.  It is a thread about what kind of game people would have made following 3e.  In fact the point of the thread seems to be to talk about what people would have done instead of make 4th edition.

I would have done mostly what 4E did, only I would have taken a few things a step further in terms of killing some more sacred cows and I would have possibly reworked a few things to make them clearer.

- The first thing I would have replaced the needless ability score numbers with the actual ability modifiers (i.e. instead of a Dex 18, you'd have a Dex +4) with a +1 bonus to three ability modifiers at every even level and a +1 bonus to all ability modifiers at every odd level replacing both the ability score increases, enhancement bonuses and the half-level bonuses of the standard 4E system (the numbers would work out to pretty much what they WANTED the 4E math to be without the need for magic items or math fix feats).

- The next thing I would have done is, like SAGA did, dropped AC entirely and then split the types of attacks which previously targeted AC between the Reflex and Fortitude Defense.

- Then I would have done is dropped enhancement bonuses from magic items entirely. Magic items would universally provide properties (like a flaming sword allowing you to inflict fire damage) or powers (like a cloak that allowed you to turn invisible once per encounter) rather than just bigger numbers (actually being able to add the much higher ability bonuses from my first change would completely replace the enhancement and item bonuses to damage and should actually result in higher damage numbers overall to shorten combat a bit).

- Like the earlier editions of WotC's Star Wars RPG, I would have replaced Hit Points with Wounds/Vitality (with wounds pretty much replacing death saves and being taken from critical hits, diseases and taking damage while at zero vitality). Going along with this I would have renamed healing surges as "recoveries" that would apply to Vitality only. The effects of wounds could ignored via proper use of the heal skill (i.e. bind the wound so it stops bleeding and allows you to move around without much pain), but only ritual magic or time could actually heal wounds (i.e. no healing of wounds in combat either way). The seperation of endurance/luck from physical wounds and not calling the resource used to regain endurance/luck "healing" would probably have done a lot to mollify those who can't stand the thought of quick non-magical healing while still allowing the mechanics of allowing a party without a magic healer to dust themselves off after a fight and keep going on the adventure.

- I would have dropped the AEDU mechanics for a hybrid At-Will and Endurance/Mana system with partial recovery of the Endurance/Mana pool by means of a short rest (with the stipulation that only ONE rest can be taken between encounters regardless of how long you actually spend resting). This would have maintained the concept of a daily resource system, but with a recovery system that would allow for at least limited use of bigger powers every encounter.

- With the degree of resource expenditure per encounter limited by the Endurance/Mana mechanic and the need for magic items highly curtailed, I would allow for characters to learn any number of exploits/spells/prayers (beyond what they are able to figure out on their own by leveling up), but require training (costing gold pieces) in order to learn them. If you gated which powers could be learned via level or other prerequisites, it would give the PC's something to spend their treasure on without needing a magic item market and without them gain too much power (they'd have a wider choice of powers to use, but are still limited by level and Endurance/Mana as to how powerful those abilities are.

There would probably be other things that I'd figure out and want to do differently as I hammered out those elements, but that's where I'd start.

ETA: I forgot skills. I'd have the reduced number like 4E did, but I'd have decoupled them from class entirely. Each PC would get 20 skill points to divide amongst the available skills (to a maximum of 5 skill points in any one skill). Your general "improve through use" would be handled by the ability bonuses as you level up, but additional skill points could also be purchased via training (i.e. expenditure of gold pieces) to a maximum of 10 points in any given skill. The prices would be dependent upon how many ranks you already had in the skill (the first 5 in any skill are relatively inexpensive, the latter five would be priced like magic items).
Pretty much everything Chris said. Smile
-I disagree with micromanging of skill points entirely, that's something i hated from 3rd edition from chris

-Something i would love, is having how ability score bonus from racial and class works from 13th age.  Where each race have a selection of 2 ability scores, you select 1 to boost +2, and then your class have a selection of ability scores that are relevant to the class, and you boost that one +2, but you can't select one that you selected from your race.  This make every race even more equal as compotent for every class and build.
Overall, I believe 4E to be pretty close to a masterpiece. It did, however, suffer from some of the worst adventures ever released for any edition of D&D. Yes, Pyramid of Shadows, I'm looking at you....

3.5E would have been a lot better if there had been a decent character builder from the time the revised edition was released. Imagine being able to create a PC or NPC and then print out everything you need to know including feat descriptions.

I definitely would have changed - as I did initially when I decided not to embrace 4E... which lasted two months before I "saw the light"! -  saving throw and skill point calculations. It was too fiddly for too little return.

Frankly, I am in favour of a single saving throw across all classes with class-specific bonuses where appropriate. Yes, that would result in higher saving throw bonuses as I am proposing that the "good" progression be used, but that also goes some way to addressing the overpowering nature of spells.

Skills? I would probably do something akin to 4E. Consolidate the lists and have a static bonus for trained skills.

I also prefer 4E's classification of types with undead, for example, being a subtype or keyword. Origin + body shape + keywords seems more intuitive than the strange classifications we sometimes end up with in 3.xE. 
Cheers Imruphel aka Scrivener of Doom
I would have followed SWSE's model a lot more.  Spellcasting would have needed some major remodelling (I'm not completely up on what 4e did.) to work well with SAGA but those were the sore spot.  SAGA's sandbox approach to character building offered even more freedom then 3.5 yet because of how simple things were it didn't feel so complicated.
Pretty much like 3.5 except for the following

punt the skill system entirely. Make dc static and flatter to get rid of skill taxes. For example a 22dc should be just as hard at level one as 20. Instead have players get small bonuses every couple of levels depending on class. That way a thief built around sneaking may have a +6 bonus at level 20 but be extremely good at sneaking in the system.

Ability score rolling instead of skills and merge saves into the ability score rolling system. This is one of the things I love about next and pretty similar to my houserules for saves and skills in sword&wizardry. Give saving throw bonuses based on class but make them specific things like barbarians get a bonus vs fear, fighters get a bonus vs magic etc. 

 Make npcs built differently from player characthers. Making npcs at high level was a nightmare in 3.5

Change how diplomacy works entirely. It was always used by my players as a get out of roleplaying card. Make diplomacy rolls used at the start of a roleplaying encounter and they effect the initial impression of the npc. After that no diplomacy rolls can be made.

Bring morale rules back, they were pretty cool.

Make armor give a penalty to armor class but a bonus to damage reduction like star wars d20.

Chunk feats entirely, give the martial classes choices of at will powers to keep them interesting.