On Dungeons & Dragons, the Fifth again

Still more talk on the Dungeons and Dragons Basic Ruleset download. Same rules from yesterday apply. Part I can be found here.

Hit Points

I find the hit point section fascinating.

For example: a wizard can either roll a 1d6 for hit points or just take 4 hit points.

Assuming truly random distribution, you are always at a disadvantage to choose random rolling over the rounded up average.

This is. . . interesting. It seems to imply that this is a campaign decision, rather than a personal one. If they had rounded the total down, then the choice would be more interesting. I.e. I can either be safe and take 3 hit points, or test my luck for more. But rounding up, means testing your luck will usually result in you having fewer hit points than you could have.

The other fascinating aspect is that defenses don't really increase very much or get very high. Hit points are really how you tell a high level character from a lower level character. There is a danger in this that combats can drag on, but assuming you continue to use lower level creatures (orc/goblins) as threats, and don't assume everything the players face has to be of a similar power level, then I see it working quite well.

After having a look at the level 4 monsters, who seem to have an average hit points around 30, I'm very unconcerned about the speed of combats.



Well, no sir, I don't like it.

You get rewarded for my subjective appraisal of your behavior. Earlier this week +Jack Mack wrote a superb article on some of the problems with this approach.

". . .what if we keep Mario's jump as the fun and exciting mechanic it is, but ALSO give you a gold coin every time you do it? This is the reasoning behind giving players points when they role-play. Intrinsic fun AND extrinsic fun, that must combine to make the game more fun than ever, right? 
Well, research has found that's not quite true. In the words of this literature review: "...expected tangible rewards made contingent upon doing, completing, or excelling at an interesting activity undermine intrinsic motivation for that activity." Giving out an extrinsic reward destroys the intrinsic fun. When you're rewarded for performing an activity you enjoy, you lose interest in performing it for it's own sake. You stop jumping for joy and start jumping only for the reward."
But that isn't even my primary complain. My primary issue is the subjectivity of it all. This is a reward for "playing your character in a way that's true to his or her personality traits, ideal, bond, or flaw" (sic) Is there an objective, measurable, metric here? No. 

Well, now I get the reward for some subjective appraisal from someone else. Sounds like hoop jumping to me -- my least favorite activity in gaming. Conversations about "It's what my character would/should do!" are the worst way role-playing degenerates.

This is exacerbated by me in that players can reward each other inspiration for "good roleplaying, clever thinking, or simply doing something exciting in the game" which logistically degenerates down to "Bob's making an important roll, does anyone have any inspiration to give him advantage?"

From Whence You Came

Oh backgrounds, how opposed you are to the idea of development of character in play! Yet how wonderfully do you provide customization along with average to above average hooks that can be used in play! 

But What Can You Do?

I am impressed with the skill selection. I use 17 different skills in Numenhalla, each with very specific mechanical effects. The skill list for D&D basic is 18 skills. They look broad and useful! but that's not my favorite part. My favorite part is this.

"Normally, your proficiency in a skill only applies to a specific kind of ability check. . . In some situations, though, your proficiency might reasonably apply to a different kind of check. . . Similarly, when your dwarf fighter uses a display of raw strength to intimidate an enemy, your DM might ask for a Strength (Intimidate) check, even though Intimidation is normally associated with Charisma."

I see thousands of words written on the internet suddenly invalidated by the simple injunction to DM's to use their common sense!


"You can play a male or female character without gaining any special benefits or hindrances. Think about how your character does or does not conform to the broader culture's expectations of sex, gender, and sexual behavior. For example, a male drow cleric defies the traditional gender divisions of drow society, which could be a reason for your character to leave that society and come to the surface. You don't need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon's image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise your sexual orientation is for you to decide."
First of all, congratulations. Almost half of the people I play with are female, polyamorous, asexual, transgender, or homosexual, so you know, seeing something like this reflects the reality of the gaming I do.

I've seen some people complaining about the specific terms, which is confusing for me. Hermaphroditic refers to a mythological being that is both fully male and fully female (link). Corellon Larethian as the deity of the elves is about as mythological as you can get! Corellon isn't someone they are referring to in the 19th century sense as having both testicular and ovarian tissue. He is literally a mythological figure that is simultaneously both male and female, which is exact meaning of the word as I understand it. It is as correct to refer to him as hermaphroditic as it is to refer to certain snails or plants as such, because of the literal meaning of the word. 

Come back tomorrow when we look at some of the monsters that you might face from the basic set.

Hack & Slash 
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  1. The one half hit die plus one per level mechanic is used in Pathfinder. But it makes your fighter taste like vanilla to my dragon.
    The whole sexual orientation digression is disturbing in its implications. Will the 5e DMG include mechanics for asking a Transgender hot elf chick out on a date? If not, who cares?

  2. I've been doing take half minus one half or roll forever.

  3. "disturbing in its implications" is a bit of a strong way to put it. It has no mechanical impact on the game (as was explicitly stated in the text -- "no special benefits or hindrances").

    If the text helps make more people feel included in the hobby, then great... Otherwise, move along; nothing to see here.

  4. On rolled hit die vs slightly-above-average static value:

    1. Campaigns that feature enough of a particular sort of natural selection (i.e. where the more-resilient aberration PCs tend to out-compete "averaged hp" PCs to a spot at the table) can encourage rolled hit dice. Of course, this niche is potentially narrow. (Also the use of max hp at first level limits the effectiveness of some parts of the natural selection process.)

    2. Even if all players were to choose the average, presenting the die roll as an option is still a valuable DM tool. (Even if only as a reminder to the DM that details can vary.) Ranges are exploitable, whether for simulation or for tuning; and it's nice that an hp-adjusting knob doesn't implicitly adjust other stuff.

  5. 1. Hit Points: I was surprised by the "hit dice as resting/healing" mechanic. I guess this is a 4e import? In any case, it seems like a good way of beefing up high-level "per-dungeon" HP while still keeping "per-encounter" HP reasonable. So: at high level, you still have short combats, but without the 5-minute adventuring day. Everyone effectively gets double HP, but the first half only gets refilled when resting.

    2. Backgrounds: Maybe allow background choice to be delayed indefinitely? Then retcon the equipment, skills, and other perks? Seems close to what is usually done by "development during play" style DMs.

  6. Just waiting for people to start praising 5E for being "innovative" with that swapping key abilities bit. I've heard people talk about house ruling that into 3rd for years, despite it being right in the core rulebooks

    Do we really need to be told it's OK to play gay or transgender characters? If they want a pat on the back for being progressive, they should include them in the artwork. I don't think D&D's art really needs to be more diverse, but I'd rather that than more litorians and sexualized orcs. Just give them reasonable gear and quit with the anime-style and bad CGI!

    1. I might be misremembering, but I'm pretty sure that 2e contains advice on swapping the Abilities associated with Proficiencies when it would be suitable. Not sure what's in 1e's Wilderness Survival Guide etc.

    2. Couldn't find anything while skimming (though I did discover OA's proficiencies didn't use ability scores), but it wouldn't surprise me. I'd more likely expect something fiddlier, like averaging two scores. Anyway, my point wasn't that 3E necessarily did it first, just that it's been in D&D for years but people will still act like it's new. Same thing happened when 4E and Pathfinder came out. Hell, I've heard people complain about 3E introducing stuff that's been around since 1E, pre-UA even! I swear, nobody reads the damned rulebooks

  7. I think it should have been explicit that traits, ideals, bonds and even flaws can evolve through play. It will be at my table - just like alignment was back in the day.

    Question - I'm not familiar with honor in Hackmaster 4th, but Hackmaster 5th honor is similar to inspiration that it is subjectively awarded by the DM for roleplaying according to type (class, race and flaws). The biggest difference I see is that (if I recall correctly), it can't be given to other characters, only used by the character that has been awarded it.

  8. I'm a bit ambiguous about the Inspiration mechanics, but only because I don't feel that it goes nearly far enough. But I love the Burning Wheel games, Tenra Bansho, and the Cortex Plus Marvel game.


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