We received the following question through one of our feedback channels recently:
“I like where this edition is going. Thank you! Had a question regarding the Guardian Talent for the Cleric. We saw that there is currently no limit for how often the Cleric can shield someone. Should this be 1x/round?”
I have good news for the person who asked this question. It is, and we have some rules technology behind the scenes that makes it so. It will take a little unpacking to explain what’s going on, though, and that gives me the opportunity to talk about the game’s action economy as a whole. So let’s do that.
But first, a quick recap of the past. In 4th Edition, there are three action types: the standard action, the move action, and the minor action. Each turn, you get one of each of the three types of actions. Each of these actions can also be traded for an action of a “lesser” type. In explanation, this is fairly simple. The problem is that in play it becomes quite the maximization problem. I’ve seen many people feel obligated to think for quite a long time about how to get value out of their otherwise-wasted minor action in a round, which makes combat turns take much longer than I want them to.
We also have immediate interrupts and immediate reactions in 4th Edition, which work differently. Immediate interrupts can cause the game to hang up, since they happen before the triggering action. A high-level party might have several immediate interrupts per round, causing all kinds of headaches for the DM, who has to keep track of what all the monsters want out of life as well as the timing rules.
For D&D Next, we wanted an action economy that was both simple to explain and fast in play. There are currently three parts to this action economy:
On your turn, you can take an action.
Actions include things such as attacks, spells, hiding, and other things that take time and concentration to do correctly. There’s a little bit of fuzziness that this can cause; opening a door, for example, is a minor action in 4th Edition. We’ve stated in the playtest documents that opening an unlocked normal door can just be part of a move, while opening a door that is stuck would be an action. If something your player wants to do is big enough that you think he or she can’t attack in the same turn, make it an action.
On your turn, you can move.
This is pretty simple, although we’ve folded many movement-related actions into the move. Standing up from prone or mounting a horse, for example, will cost you some amount of feet in movement.
Between any two of your turns, you can take one reaction.
And here’s where we get to the fun part. We’re controlling for 4th Edition’s reaction creep by adding the reaction to the action economy. You get one, and that’s it. Not only is the Defender theme’s disadvantage-granting ability a once-per-round ability, but it also eats up your ability to use other reactions.
We created the reaction because there are many abilities that require this technology for the rules to make sense. The Defender theme’s disadvantage-granting ability is just one of these abilities. We could have written it as a static ability: “While you are next to an ally, attacks against that ally have disadvantage.” This version of the ability has several problems, though. First, it’s really good if it’s always on. Second, what if the character with this ability falls unconscious or is restrained? Tying the ability to the reaction lets us control the amount of its use while also making sure that its usage always makes sense, since a character can take reactions only if he or she can also take actions.
There are other abilities we could see in the game that having a “reaction action” greatly simplifies, such as the 4th Edition warlord’s commander’s strike. It also lets us control the frequency of one character’s opportunity attacks in a potential tactical grid rules module.
All in all, we think the action/move/reaction model makes for an action economy that is simple to explain and quick to play. Our combat rounds using this model don’t normally take more than five minutes to resolve, even with five or six players at the table.
We’d love to know how it’s been working for you, though. How long do combat rounds take, and how difficult has it been for players to figure out what to do on their turns? Our goal with most of the D&D Next rules is that they get out of the way of the action as much as possible. If the action economy isn’t doing that, we’d like to know sooner rather than later.