We’ve talked a lot about the existence of optional rules modules in D&D Next, although we haven’t given you much information about what they look like. Unsurprisingly, you’ve been asking about it. Today, I’ll show you some of what we’re thinking about.
A rules module is an additional set of rules that can be laid on top of the core rules. Each module attempts to make the game feel different in a way that a subset of the audience would find satisfying. We expect that most players won’t use most rules modules, but groups can find the rules modules that work for them so that they can achieve the feel they want.
Where do we look to find what modules to make? We look at how the game works, see what people are asking for, think about what would make the game more fun for us and for our groups, and write some rules to accomplish what we think will address these elements.
I’m working on D&D Next, but were I running games in the real world, I would want more complexity in combat than the system currently offers. I’m not a big fan of miniatures, however, and I sometimes found the many powers that 4th Edition offered me to be overwhelming.
I play RPGs other than D&D that give me narratively driven choices in combat within the base system—called shots, knockdowns, pushes, and so on—and I find that satisfying, because the cool things I usually want to do in combat are also things that make sense to me in the world. The rules for these other RPGs translate my impulses into mechanical terms. I missed that, so I wrote a rules module that gives it to me. Here’s a bit from a very early draft:
Tactical Narrative Combat Module
How It Works
When you make a melee attack, you can declare one of the following actions. If you do, you take the indicated penalty to the attack roll. If you hit with the attack, the extra effect listed takes place in addition to whatever damage your attack would deal.
Increased Damage (–2)
(You deal more damage.)
Effect: You get a +4 bonus to your damage roll.
Knockdown (–5 or –10)
(You bowl your enemy over, knocking him down.)
Effect: The target falls prone.
Penalty: This action has a –5 penalty if the target has two legs, has a –10 penalty if the target has three or four legs, and cannot be attempted if the target has more than four legs. You can attempt this action only against a creature of your size or smaller.
These actions end up looking a bit similar to the fighter’s combat maneuvers. The fighter’s actual maneuvers don’t require a penalty to the attack, so the fighter still ends up better at doing cool things in combat than other classes. This system just opens up several easy-to-imagine in-combat actions to everyone else.
This sort of thing would give me all the combat complexity I wanted, and I think it would work for my groups that play other RPGs. It might not do anything for you, but that’s all right too—if you don’t like it, just don’t bother with using it.
If you like miniatures, on the other hand, I have heard Mike Mearls talking about a tactical miniatures combat module that might make you happy. I don’t know much about what’s in it yet, but I know you’ll find rules for cover, movement into and out of enemy threat areas, and other things that most miniatures games worry about. There are even rules for facing! Our goal with the subsystem isn’t to make miniatures rules for everyone—it’s to make miniatures rules for the people who really love miniatures.
Does this sound like an approach that would work for you? What modules would you like to see? What do you love about D&D that the current D&D Next playtest rules don’t speak to? Sound off in the comments, and we might find even more rules modules to write.