"Simplify combat by removing extraneous options. We have 14 options in the rules now. The basic game needs only attack, cast a spell, disengage, hide, hustle, search, and use an item. I'd like the core rules boiled down to about 16 pages, not counting class-specific material."
Getting all the rules condensed to sixteen pages, and having that skeleton be strong enough to support a more advanced version of the game, is a tall order. However, since the playtest was announced, I realize I have been making several suggestions that can help keep the core rules balanced, short, and strong. I have gathered those suggestions here.
Abilities need to be relatively equal in utility. This allows you to design classes the rely on one Ability without worrying whether ability dependence makes them unbalanced. One of the problems with the current playtest is that some Abilities -- Dexterity and Wisdom, particularly -- are far and away better than other Abilities, while others -- Strength and Intelligence -- are far and away worse. To make the Abilities easier, without impinging on word count, I have suggested the following two new design guidelines:
Initiative: You determine the order in which characters act by a d20 rolled by each player prior to combat beginning. This die is modified by the Ability most appropriate to that encounter. For instance, in an ambush, the ambushers may use Dexterity to get the jump on their enemies, while the ambushees may use Wisdom to detect the ambush in time to react. In a social encounter gone wrong, you may use Charisma, while in a fight that begins with everyone in sticky mud, Strength may be used.
Saving throws against effects should also be spread across the abilities as follows:
Strength: Effects that affect movement, such as slow spells, hindering traps, etc.
Constitution: Area effects with physical consequences, such as poison gas and fireball.
Dexterity: Targeted effects with physical consequences, such as arrow traps and lightning bolt.
Intelligence: Effects that cause confusion, such as maze or riddle contests.
Wisdom: Effects that deceive, such as phantasmal force or moral quandaries.
Charisma: Effects that coerce, such as dominate or psychic traps.
These guidelines would be throughout the game design, but should also be placed in a description of the Abilities.
Armor needs to be simple to rule, but still provide meaningful choices. I propose the following armor rule:
Wearing Armor: You cannot use armor unless the lower of your Strength or Constitution scores is one less than the AC value of the armor or greater. Your AC may not exceed 20 due to AC and dexterity bonuses.
None, AC 10
Padded, AC 11
Leather, AC 12
Hide, AC 13
Scale, AC 14
Chain, AC 15
Plate, AC 17
Wielding Shields: You can use your shield as a reaction to give you cover to one attack. A small shield provides 25% cover, a medium shield provides 50% cover, and a large shield provides 75% cover. When you use the Dodge action, you also gain cover from your shield for all attacks until the beginning of your next turn.
Note that shields do not grant an AC bonus in this proposal. This keeps the range of AC fairly limited and is consistent with the playtest's goal of bounded accuracy. Alternately, a shield can also grant a +1 AC bonus regardless of size.
Like armor, weapon rules need to offer simple, concise, but meaningful choices. In my opinion, balance is also maintained when the damage output of any given weapon style is about equal. I have identified three melee weapon styles: two-weapon, weapon-and-shield, and two-handed. Here are the melee weapon rules I propose:
There are three sizes of weapons and three damage types:
Standard: You can wield a shield in your other hand.
Great: This weapon requires two hands to wield.
More complicated melee weapons can be included in the expanded rule set.
The designers have indicated that they are pretty happy with races as they stand. I am not going to propose that they be changed significantly. (Though I do change the human slightly, as it is well acknowledged to be overpowered.) Rather, I think a framework can be laid so that a more advanced module could be introduced for customizing races even further by distinguishing between race and culture. Below are the current racial traits divided between inherent benefits and cultural benefits (I've also included gnome and orc):
Speed: -5 feet
Subrace Ability Bonus
Subrace Trait: Toughness or Armor Mastery
Subrace Ability Bonus
Subrace Trait: Speed +5'&Grace or Cantrip
Speed: -5 feet
Subrace Ability Bonus
Subrace Trait: Speak with burrowers/Minor Illusion
Subrace Trait: Fearless or Stealthy
+1 to two Abilities
+1 to one inherently raised Ability
Resistance: Ongoing damage
Subrace Ability Bonus
Subcultural Trait: Rages based on sub culture
Then the following can be included in the more advanced game:
Raised by Another: Unless you are raised by humans, you may replace the cultural abilities associated with your race with the cultural abilities associated with the race that raised you and the subrace trait with the subrace trait of the subrace that raised you. If you are a non-human raised by humans, you loses all cultural traits, including any subrace trait. Instead, you raise the Ability score of the Ability associated with your subrace by an additional point.
In addition, human subcultures can be introduced using the Raised by Another rule for various terrains or subcultures.
Encumberance has always been of two minds. On the one hand, a large segment of the comsumership utterly ignores these rules. On the other hand, those who do not ignore them want them to be relatively realistic. I think the appropriate goal shoudl be to make them realistic and easy to ignore. Community member Haldrik found an interesting article about appropriate loads for soldiers in combat. Using this data, I came up with the following suggestion for encumberance:
Medium characters are unencumbered if they carry weight equal to or less than five times their Strength score in pounds. If they carry between five and ten times their Strength Score they are encumbered, which means they suffer disadvantage on all Ability checks (but not attacks) and cannot move more then ten feet. If they carry between ten and 20 times their Strength score in pounds, they are can take no actions or reactions and can move no more than 5 feet. If they carry more than 20 times their Strength score in pounds, they are stunned (and may take crushing damage at the DM's discretion).
Small characters can carry three-quarters the weight their medium counterparts can carry. Supine creatures (like beasts and oozes) can carry triple their upright counterpart's weight. For each size category above medium, a character can lift eight times the weight their medium counterparts can. For each size category smaller than small, a character can lift one-half the weight their medium counterpart can.
In order to accomplish this, the weights of armor listed in the playtest packet should probably be halved. Light weapons should weigh one pound, one-handed weapons should weigh 2 lbs. and two-handed weapons should weigh 4 lbs.
This system works well with the system of encumberance I devised for 4e almost two years ago (which was based on a system I designed for 3e).
Here are some basic rules I devised for mounted combat.
Mounted combat: When a character is mounted on a willing creature with Intelligence of 6 or lower, the mount loses all actions. The mount and rider move as one, with the rider using the mount's speed. The rider can also use its action to order its mount to use one of its attacks. The mount and rider are separate targets for an attack and maintain separate defenses and hit points. If the rider is unable to take actions at the begining of his turn, he will fall from the mount and the mount regains its actions, taking its place in the initiative right after its former rider. The rider must use one hand to remain mounted, unless the rider makes a 15 DC Dexterity Check as part of the action requiring two hands. On a failure, the character falls off the mount and the action does not occur.
Intelligent Mounts: When a character is mounted on a creature with an Intelligence of 7 or greater, the creature maintains its own actions and place in the initiative order and remains a NPC in control of the DM (unless the rules state otherwise). The rider is considered to be in a grab with the mount and as long as the mount does not fight the grab, the rider moves whenever the mount moves. The rider must use one hand to remain mounted, unless the rider makes a 15 DC Dexterity Check as part of the action requiring two hands. On a failure, the character falls off the mount and the action does not occur.