I Would Like More Player Options At First Level (08/02/13 Packet)

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So, after generating a bunch of pre-gens for the Launch Weekend event for Murder in Baldur's Gate, I have come to a conclusion regarding the August packet.


I want more options to make my character distinctive at first level.

I can live with the Feats-vs.-Ability-Score-Increase thing, if I had the ability to make my fighter distinctive right out of the box by selecting a unique mix of Class Features. Unfortunately, I have to wait several levels before I get any choice about what kind of fighter he is.

Before, players loved tweaking their character, not to max out stats, but to see what kind of cool combinations they could come up with. Being able to choose a Background plus a Feat plus choosing a Class Feature meant that every fighter was distinct.

Now, I get to choose Background, that's it. And in the Encounters campaign, arguably designed to showcase D&D to new players and therefore a good marketing tool, most players will see no significant distinction in their character's development, since they will stop playing them sometime around 3rd level. Had they started the characters off at 4th level again, like they did for the last one, at least it wouldn't have been as bad.

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D&D Next Homebrew: Grifford's Protection cleric domain, gojirra's (Un)Death cleric domain.

I agree.  Each PC should get special something to make it unique.  The options don't even have to be major (like full feats).   Perhaps when the skills version of the game comes out, that will give more choice...and even for skilless choice, instead of picking specific skills, maybe PCs will get to choose which ability score becomes their trained ability (which might get skill dice when used in game).

It may be interesting to just have a list of smaller abilities or strengths that any new pc can opt into.     What if there were an optional system for starting out where each player could choose 1 boon, but to balance it off, he or she had to pick 1 bane.   For those that like to make their choices and create more interesting PCs, that would help.   For those that don't like that, they could just opt out.   If WoTC could come up with 14-20 boons and 14-20 banes...I think that would be really cool.   (Kind of like talents or advantages/disadvantages in other game systems).


A Brave Knight of WTF

The lack of pre-4th level customisation options is one of the things that are putting some of my players off Next and sticking to 4th ed, so I agree a lot with your post.
I would like to add something though especially after our last night's playtest session.   It's hard to tell (except through observation), but I think there is one benefit to not having too many options with PCs.   Since there is not an overwhelming amount of mechanical choices at 1st level, it seemed as if my players were freed up to roleplay a bit more.   Instead of deciding which feat or power to use, they thought more like a person in the game world.   Again, this is just my perception, and it does not mitigate having less choices for those who really want them.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of the interaction rules with traits, flaws and bonds that WotC designers are working on.  

A Brave Knight of WTF

My special lady friend had no experience with roleplaying games ttrpg, console, computer, etc. until we started playing Next last September.  Though Next has been fairly lean in both character creation and rules compared to many actually published RPGs, as someone not steeped in the hobby as I am, she found the rule sets and even character creation a little daunting.

But she loves this packets ultra simple first level version of character creation and wishes it had been present when we started playing.

Sample size of 1 so take it as you will.  
In regards to this issue, we need to remember that the lack of options at levels 1-2 is completely intentional.

A few months back Mearls wrote about tiers of play, and suggested the idea of an "apprentice tier" that would stretch from levels 1-3. The intent of this (as I understood it) was that players would start with a very simple character and make key choices about their character as they participate in their first adventures. The assumption was that most players would reach level 2, and possibly 3 after one session.

With choosing a subclass at level 2 or 3, the August packet is the first to seriously implement this concept.

I believe it will be the assumtion that "advanced" players who desire more options right off the bat will start at level 3.

I'm aware that some people aren't a fan of this concept, in fact I disliked it at first. However, the idea of using starting level as means of setting the power level of a game is not new. If you accept that a 3rd level 5e character is roughly the equivilant of a 1st level character from 3.5 or 4e, then this concept gives a DM the ability to dial the starting power level down below level 1. 

Personally, I would say I'm neutral about this issue; I won't be upset if the devs go a different route or if my assumptions are wrong. However, I do see some potential benefits to it.




 
Hmmm... I'll admit, I haven't been following all of the "dev diary" posts, but I guess I can see that. I hadn't noticed until the Game Day this past Saturday that the number of experience points to go up to 2nd level shot way down. I guess I will have to see this in play to judge.

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D&D Next Homebrew: Grifford's Protection cleric domain, gojirra's (Un)Death cleric domain.

I have also been finding as issue with the cookie cutter opeing to most classes that has arisen with this packet. Since most classes dont get to branch out until 3rd level it leaves a pretty hallow feeling in low levels. When you show up to an encounter session, which is a big market for D&D and which tends to focus on below level 4 content, you lose the sense of a fantasty setting when there are 3 rouge that all look the exact same. Same with mages, druids, paladins. The only classes that seem to have any major difference is fighter and cleric due to the weapons and armor they start with, IE. two handed weapon, one hand/shield, or 2x one hand. But even that isnt really that much customization.


In 4e and 3.5e feats helped to fix this cookie cutter effect, but in next the way feats work are so different that they dont really let you get creative until level 4, where the classes start to branch any way. This really means that it hard for experienced players to enjoy a low level campaign as you play roughly the same build for each class. This is very noticable in encounters as as been pointed out.


I think there are a number of ways to address this issue but the four easiest are, I will use a rouge for my example:

1) Level 1 feat: This lets people come out swinging at level one with a ton of different options as most feats do not overlap and can be applied to each class with reasonable success. Rouge for example, could become a marksman with bow feats, become a assain with  alertness, be a brute force killer with heavy weapon feat, or trickery reach fighter with polearms. These are unquie builds that can then be added to at level 3 as you pick your rouge path.    


2) Choice proficiencies: For a rouge instead of listing what items he can use say let the player choice. Armor for example is already put into broad stroke catagories like light, medium, heavy and the play picks what they want based on the person they make. Weapons should be the same! every one gets proficiency with a dagger but then say a rouge may pick: three light weapons, two finess weapons, one simple ranged and one martial weapon to be proficient with. This means that no two rouge would ever have to use the same weapon. This lets the player get creative and come up with a col concept for a build.


3) return to 4e/3.5e feat system: This is the weakest solution as its a cop out but it would fix the problem. bring back the old feat options to help let players create a unquie person as the gain feat through the levels. IF this was used as the option i would say turn the current next "feats" into specialization packages that could be earned as they currently are. This means a player could have 5 feats at 8th level AND then give up the point adjustment to get the specialization package  to incease his unquie play style.


4) Add more to the Backgrounds: This option would make the backgrounds even more important to the cration process. not only tie skills to the back ground but also bonuses to help create play style difference. for example a charlatan rouge, a thug and a bounty hunter should not all play the same. a charlatan could be better at feinting an attack in combat to gain advantage so add in a +2 bonus to combat bluffs. a bounty hunter might have a favorite weapon they fight with so gain a proficiency with your choice weapon and thug might relay on a unquie skill he has learned in his life on the street maybe he can use his highest modifier on attack damage no matter what it is.


These were just some concepts ive been playing around with to help really flush out the feeling of a fantasty setting right from level 1 and to avoid the current low level cookie cuttering that seems to be going on.   
   

  
I have also been finding as issue with the cookie cutter opeing to most classes that has arisen with this packet. Since most classes dont get to branch out until 3rd level it leaves a pretty hallow feeling in low levels. When you show up to an encounter session, which is a big market for D&D and which tends to focus on below level 4 content, you lose the sense of a fantasty setting when there are 3 rouge that all look the exact same. Same with mages, druids, paladins. The only classes that seem to have any major difference is fighter and cleric due to the weapons and armor they start with, IE. two handed weapon, one hand/shield, or 2x one hand. But even that isnt really that much customization.


In 4e and 3.5e feats helped to fix this cookie cutter effect, but in next the way feats work are so different that they dont really let you get creative until level 4, where the classes start to branch any way. This really means that it hard for experienced players to enjoy a low level campaign as you play roughly the same build for each class. This is very noticable in encounters as as been pointed out.


I think there are a number of ways to address this issue but the four easiest are, I will use a rouge for my example:

1) Level 1 feat: This lets people come out swinging at level one with a ton of different options as most feats do not overlap and can be applied to each class with reasonable success. Rouge for example, could become a marksman with bow feats, become a assain with  alertness, be a brute force killer with heavy weapon feat, or trickery reach fighter with polearms. These are unquie builds that can then be added to at level 3 as you pick your rouge path.    


2) Choice proficiencies: For a rouge instead of listing what items he can use say let the player choice. Armor for example is already put into broad stroke catagories like light, medium, heavy and the play picks what they want based on the person they make. Weapons should be the same! every one gets proficiency with a dagger but then say a rouge may pick: three light weapons, two finess weapons, one simple ranged and one martial weapon to be proficient with. This means that no two rouge would ever have to use the same weapon. This lets the player get creative and come up with a col concept for a build.


3) return to 4e/3.5e feat system: This is the weakest solution as its a cop out but it would fix the problem. bring back the old feat options to help let players create a unquie person as the gain feat through the levels. IF this was used as the option i would say turn the current next "feats" into specialization packages that could be earned as they currently are. This means a player could have 5 feats at 8th level AND then give up the point adjustment to get the specialization package  to incease his unquie play style.


4) Add more to the Backgrounds: This option would make the backgrounds even more important to the cration process. not only tie skills to the back ground but also bonuses to help create play style difference. for example a charlatan rouge, a thug and a bounty hunter should not all play the same. a charlatan could be better at feinting an attack in combat to gain advantage so add in a +2 bonus to combat bluffs. a bounty hunter might have a favorite weapon they fight with so gain a proficiency with your choice weapon and thug might relay on a unquie skill he has learned in his life on the street maybe he can use his highest modifier on attack damage no matter what it is.


These were just some concepts ive been playing around with to help really flush out the feeling of a fantasty setting right from level 1 and to avoid the current low level cookie cuttering that seems to be going on.   
   

  

I assume that Encounters play will be bumped up and will focus on post-3rd level encounters.

My experience is that the Encounters crowd gets the most enjoyment out of character customization and a rich selection of options. It would be foolish to make levels 1-2 the focus of Encounters play. 
I am fine with simple low level PC's with few options. A player should be able to craft a character in less than a half hour with paper and pencil.  Too many choices will scare away newbies. Make it very easy at 1st level.
-------------------- D&D Player/DM since 1975 - Veteran of Chainmail, AD&D, 2e, v3.5, DnD4e and now Next.
A balanced 1st level option:

-2 to a stat (or -1 to 2 stats), you cannot go below 8.  Gain a feat.

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F-111 Interdictor Long (200+ squares) distance ally teleporter. With some warlord stuff. Broken in a plot way, not a power way.

Thought Switch Higher level build that grants upto 14 attacks on turn 1. If your allies play along, it's broken.

Elven Critters Crit op with crit generation. 5 of these will end anything. Broken.

King Fisher Optimized net user.  Moderate.

Boominator Fun catch-22 booming blade build with either strong or completely broken damage depending on your reading.

Very Distracting Warlock Lot's of dazing and major penalties to hit. Overpowered.

Pocket Protector Pixie Stealth Knight. Maximizing the defender's aura by being in an ally's/enemy's square.

Yakuza NinjIntimiAdin: Perma-stealth Striker that offers a little protection for ally's, and can intimidate bloodied enemies. Very Strong.

Chargeburgler with cheese Ranged attacks at the end of a charge along with perma-stealth. Solid, could be overpowered if tweaked.

Void Defender Defends giving a penalty to hit anyone but him, then removing himself from play. Can get somewhat broken in epic.

Scry and Die Attacking from around corners, while staying hidden. Moderate to broken, depending on the situation.

Skimisher Fly in, attack, and fly away. Also prevents enemies from coming close. Moderate to Broken depending on the enemy, but shouldn't make the game un-fun, as the rest of your team is at risk, and you have enough weaknesses.

Indestructible Simply won't die, even if you sleep though combat.  One of THE most abusive character in 4e.

Sir Robin (Bravely Charge Away) He automatically slows and pushes an enemy (5 squares), while charging away. Hard to rate it's power level, since it's terrain dependent.

Death's Gatekeeper A fun twist on a healic, making your party "unkillable". Overpowered to Broken, but shouldn't actually make the game un-fun, just TPK proof.

Death's Gatekeeper mk2, (Stealth Edition) Make your party "unkillable", and you hidden, while doing solid damage. Stronger then the above, but also easier for a DM to shut down. Broken, until your DM get's enough of it.

Domination and Death Dominate everything then kill them quickly. Only works @ 30, but is broken multiple ways.

Battlemind Mc Prone-Daze Protecting your allies by keeping enemies away. Quite powerful.

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Dead Kobold Transit Teleports 98 squares a turn, and can bring someone along for the ride. Not fully built, so i can't judge the power.

Psilent Guardian Protect your allies, while being invisible. Overpowered, possibly broken.

Rune of Vengance Do lot's of damage while boosting your teams. Strong to slightly overpowered.

Charedent BarrageA charging ardent. Fine in a normal team, overpowered if there are 2 together, and easily broken in teams of 5.

Super Knight A tough, sticky, high damage knight. Strong.

Super Duper Knight Basically the same as super knight with items, making it far more broken.

Mora, the unkillable avenger Solid damage, while being neigh indestuctable. Overpowered, but not broken.

Swordburst Maximus At-Will Close Burst 3 that slide and prones. Protects allies with off actions. Strong, possibly over powered with the right party.

I am fine with simple low level PC's with few options. A player should be able to craft a character in less than a half hour with paper and pencil.  Too many choices will scare away newbies. Make it very easy at 1st level.



And make it easy to start at 3rd level for those who want a bunch of ability customization at character creation.  
I'm good with it.  It lends to very fast generation, which is new user friendly.  It only takes 950 xp before you start getting those options at level 3 (which is less than every other edition's threshold to get to level 2), and it's already been stated that if you want more complexity, starting at level 3 is perfectly acceptable.

In my opinion, that's a very small inconvienence to advanced players if it means that you're more appealing to the brand new starting player.  Especially since 90% of typical game play is between level 4-14.
I am fine with simple low level PC's with few options. A player should be able to craft a character in less than a half hour with paper and pencil.  Too many choices will scare away newbies. Make it very easy at 1st level.




I'll see your 1/2 hour and raise you to 10 minutes for someone somewhat familar with the game, 5 minutes for someone very familiar. 
As far as fewer customization options making it faster to create a character, I'll agree that can be an asset. However, as has @Trebuchet noted, Encounters play (which is how I have seen many people join the hobby in the past year or two) has focused on below-4th-level play which hurts their enjoyment of this packet. If they adjust future Encounters scenarios upward, then I'll withdraw my original post.

Not happy with the look of the new forums? Check out the Skin Your Forums thread for a solution.

D&D Next Homebrew: Grifford's Protection cleric domain, gojirra's (Un)Death cleric domain.

A balanced 1st level option:

-2 to a stat (or -1 to 2 stats), you cannot go below 8.  Gain a feat.



I would make this "Forgo race attribute bonuses. Gain a feat." Little less abusable.
I was initially against the low customization at low levels. I am a HUGE fan of customization. However, I found that this can be overcome by having interesting personality for a character for roleplay.
I made a DEX-based gnome barbarian with a napoleon complex, wielding a whip and dagger. Even at low level, I was able to give his personality enough flavor that it keeps playing him lively.
However, I would prefer encounters starting at, say, level 2 or 3 with this packet. This way, we have the simplicity for new players, but we will quickly get to the options provided at the next level. 
I like 1st-level characters being easy to create. In 1st and 2nd edition a fighter had even less to start with, basically any armor (some of which he couldn't afford) and any weapons and that was basically it. With 3rd edition he received a couple of feats and skills. And in 4th he received even more with several powers plus skills and feats.

A Next fighter is in the middle. A higher attack bonus than any other character, all armor and martial weapons, riding proficiency, and second wind. Unique too, as no other martial class has a +2 attack bonus at 1st level or second wind. I like the 5E fighter abilities much more than the feats of 3E and the powers of 4E.
Just to play Devil's Advocate here... YOU make your character special and different

RP is half of a character's makeup; and sadly the neglected side usually.
A balanced 1st level option:

-2 to a stat (or -1 to 2 stats), you cannot go below 8.  Gain a feat.




Very nice idea. Devs should consider it. But probably better balanced if the malus is -3 (or even -4) since I will place the malus on a lesser importat/dump stat (while the +2 ability improvement would have been used for an important stat).



I'm not so concerned about the lack of option at level 1 on the countrary I like the idea of apprentice tier and how it has been implemented.
I'm more concerned about the lack of option at low levels in general. I mean, ok you choose the sub-class... but that's almost all. You have some ability improvement-feat but that is just every 4-5 level depending on the class you choosed. 
Feats may be very important to develop the PG and how you use it, giving to it new possibilities and actions. I mean this edition is for sure different from 3.5 (the one i play), where feat where needed to do certain things. In NEXT you can do almost everything without the need of feats (manouvers like push, two weapon etc...), but some feats still gives you new option (ex: druid initiate) or bonus that are very usefull to use the PG in a certain way.

So I would like to have more possibility of costumization, not at first level, but in the first 10 levels. Something like 4-5 feats. maybe 1 feat every level from level 3 or 4 to level 7,8 or 9. (NB: probably at the moment the feats are too good to ask for 4-5 of them)

To me it seems like if now the devs are using the ability improvement/feats just as placeholder to not have blank level, since everyone said I they hate blank levels (me too, but maybe they are exagerating a bit, some class seems to have new abilities and manouvers just to NOT have blank levels and developing this way may be bad).


So my idea is that after level 10 I would like to consider my PG "done". Or to better say it, usable in the way i planned. Of course after that I still want to improve it, but I don't want to wait till level 16-17 to have the PG i wanted from the beginning. At those level i want the PG i wanted from the beginning with something more.
 

I absolutely agree that characters should have access to a 1st level feat, as with 3e and 4e.  Level 1 isn't just about game complexity, starting level is a tool to set the tone of a campaign.  It's a good starting place for new players, but I don't wish to see the developers forget that starting at level 1 also makes a statement for advanced players.

The level 1 feat is important because it demonstrates characters' destinctiveness from the beginning.  Offering a level 1 feat in exchange for a stat penalty is balanced but adds its own problem; to get the feat players must shave odd ability scores or create a dump stat.

Part of the problem we're looking at is created by a tradoff from embedding the feat/abilty progression into class advancement.  It has a real advantage in eliminating the second level advancement chart we saw in 3e and 4e, but the cost of this method is that classes cannot add a level 1 feat to their handful of features without harming multiclassing.

To offer another solution, all characters can chose a feat with their background at level 1.  After that, classes can handle feats from level advancement.  It will let D&D get rid of the secondary level charts of 3e and 4e without damaging 1st level customization.  Players who don't want the 1st level feat can enjoy an ability increase instead.  My hope is that this is a reasonable compromise between the goals of various players and the developers.

The Aug 2 packet intruduced another subtle problem to customization with the changes to feats and ability increases.  Most classes have noticably less combined advancement from feats and abilities.  This gave starting ability score more weight than in previous playtests.  D&D Next isn't as bad as 3e at causing multiple attribute dependancy, but there are still specific classes and builds that are effected more dramatically by overall ability rolls.  3e Monks were one of the most notorious examples, but by no means the only one.

With less total resources in this Next packet it made tailoring a class or subclass that dealt with multiple attribute dependancy and had a slow bonus feat progression far less flexible.  I understand there are different schools of thought on fine customization but, for me, the uniqueness of many characters is enriched by a tangible demonstration in the game rules.

Letting players can forgo feats to raise abilities is an excellent addition and benefits a broader range of playstyles, but I think it would benefit the game to accelerate classes with slower feat/ability advancement.  For example, classes that get four or five feats over 20 levels might get six feats instead.

(This might just be me, but I feel the Monk in particular still deals with MAD and should have one of the highest feat/ability progessions.)

With the September packet, a lot of my concerns have been eased. With the redesign of Proficiencies and expansion to Skill and Tool Proficiencies, you do have customization options that make your human fighter different from the rest. Plus they added Multiclassing, so even if you can't wait to fourth level to get your Arcane Initiate Feat, you can multiclass to Mage at second to start getting spells.

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D&D Next Homebrew: Grifford's Protection cleric domain, gojirra's (Un)Death cleric domain.

Still only at 1st Level.

 

To me the player options were not just initial build related, but combat utility related.

 

 

I am playing a Monk.  I run in and punch things.  I do nothing much else.

The Wizard casts a ray of frost, then he throws a dart, then he dual attacks with daggers, then he sleeps the entire room, maybe he casts another spell of use.

The cleric swift action heals draws a bow and basically shots-on-the-run, then she pulled a mace and bashed someone, then sacred flamed an opponent (or whatever spell it was).

I continue to punch, or Dodge while blocking casters.  Maybe I will use a sling some day.   Later I will be able to slow fall oooh ahhh.

 

I've been waiting desperately for the game to not be entirely gentrified in balance, but to consider how non-spellcasting classes need abilities that are not mechanically duplicated (by spells or other classes) to add flavor and utility.

I dunno, something like "spend a KI and flail like an idiot adding +2 to the AC of all adjacent friendlies for 1d4 rounds" or some other "thing" one could do.   Maybe a fighter can switch positions with a friendly as a swift action (I'm sure later there is such an abilitiy). 

 

There is almost always future bandaid books to fix martial classes.  This is likely to repeat.  Pathfinder has so many Rogue fixes it is disturbing.

In my humble opinion:

Spells = utility.

Martial classes = 1 dimension soon to be duplicated by spells.

This is not changing much from my Next experience.

My simple suggestion to this is to allow your players to sacrifice 2 points of racial stats in exchange for a feat at first level. 

 

This way the math and stat progression remain intact but additional versatility is available for those who want it. 

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

Valdark wrote:

My simple suggestion to this is to allow your players to sacrifice 2 points of racial stats in exchange for a feat at first level.

 

This way the math and stat progression remain intact but additional versatility is available for those who want it.

I'd actually advocate that taking a feat at first level should be worth 4 of the 30 points you get to buy stats, and you are only allowed to purchase one feat. That makes it the equivalent of raising two 14's to 15's. [Or if you want to discourage it more, make it worth 5 points, the equivalent of on 14 to 15 and one 15 to 16.]

That would do nothing for my group as we roll stats.  

 

Having it tied to the racial bonuses keeps it simple and means that if you are min maxing your stats you can't also min max the feat combos.  

 

The only way to breach an 18 at 1st level is through racial bonuses and having to give that up for a special ability is a real character design decision but a fair one. 

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.

Valdark wrote:

My simple suggestion to this is to allow your players to sacrifice 2 points of racial stats in exchange for a feat at first level. 

 

This way the math and stat progression remain intact but additional versatility is available for those who want it. 

 

I actually like this idea alot. I'll probably use that. It would give humans a really versatillity they need because they could potentially have two feats at level 1. 

 

Thanks for the suggesting Valdark.

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Imagine a world where the first-time D&D player rolls stats, picks a race, picks a class, picks an alignment, and buys gear to create a character. Imagine if an experienced player, maybe the person helping our theoretical player learn the ropes, could also make a character by rolling ability scores and picking a race, class, feat, skills, class features, spells or powers, and so on. Those two players used different paths to build characters, but the system design allows them to play at the same table. -Mearl

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sleypy wrote:

 

Valdark wrote:

My simple suggestion to this is to allow your players to sacrifice 2 points of racial stats in exchange for a feat at first level. 

 

This way the math and stat progression remain intact but additional versatility is available for those who want it. 

 

 

I actually like this idea alot. I'll probably use that. It would give humans a really versatillity they need because they could potentially have two feats at level 1. 

 

Thanks for the suggesting Valdark.

 

 

Not a problem.  I hadn't considered allowing multiple 1st level feats but it could definitely liven up humans a bit. 

 

Edition wars kill players,Dungeons and Dragons needs every player it can get.