5e Design Goals, A Question Or Two

So, there’s another design diary up on WOTC’s site, and that means another chance for me to write an inchoate, off-the-cuff rant there, and then post it here, and pretend that it’s content.


I’m a bit confused as to how these lists are created. Firearms rules, for example, can be as simple as crossbow rules: They’re a weapon, they do damage, boom, done. They can also be complex, with rules for powder measuring, firing in damp conditions, wheellocks vs. matchlocks vs. flintlocks, etc. They’re an example of a concept or option that can be iterated through multiple levels of complexity.

The idea of “only one rules change at a time” is likely to frustrate those people most likely to want advanced rules, and it goes against the concept of modularity. If the core system is fine, then, grid based combat built on the core, and hit locations built on the core, work fine, because each replaces a different module — in programming terms, each is a subclass of a different root class. The grid rules that determine where you are and how this affects your chance to hit should not care what happens after you’re hit — if your armor is DR or if your hit location matters. If there are such effects, it is the “after hit” rules that should contain them, and inform the grid rules of what’s happened (“I’ve been hit in my legs, I’m at -5′ speed for 1d4 rounds.”) The grid rules only care about “your speed”, they don’t care if some other rule has modified it.

Likewise, if we use a spell point system, we can’t have hit locations? Why not? I really don’t see your underlying logic here, in terms of how you decide to wall off one section of rules from another, or decide you can only pick one option from column A, two from column B, and free egg roll if ordering for four or more.

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3 Responses to 5e Design Goals, A Question Or Two

  1. I don’t see it. The primary paragraph is this:

    Options in the final category—ones that alter the core in a fundamental way—are best used one at a time or with careful consideration for their interaction. Since they alter the core, they might not work well together. When we design them, we’ll always assume that they are the lone, engine-altering option you’re using. That path allows us to keep our sanity and also makes it more practical to implement such rules. A hit location table is one thing, but making one that also accounts for armor as damage reduction requires far more work.

    They’re not saying “don’t use these rules together” — they’re saying “the warranty is off these rules if you combine them, so do so with care” — not that they’ll never be compatable, but that because testing/designing them so that they interoperate is a 2**n operation (where N is the number of different rules) at best, that it’s going to very much be a “GM Beware” situation where the GM may have to do some game design to make them work together. Hit locations and DR as armor is an excellent example — hit locations will make characters more vulnerable by making small amounts of damage disabling, while DR as armor will mean that characters take more damage in smaller amounts rather than bigger, rarer hits. Since combining them without an extra “how to combine them” module will mean that characters are a lot less vulnerable than the hit location rules intend them to be (as DR as armor will mean that damage will tend to get spread around the locations rather than piled onto fewer locations when a hit is scored), doing so reasonably would require a separate module that contained the combination — a big burden on the design team for an option that few groups would likely use.

    So by putting such potentially broken or just difficult combinations out of the realm of the initial design (I’m sure there will be Dragon articles on this kind of stuff) they limit their burden while comitting to a reasonable amount of content they expect people to use.

    I don’t think (though I may be misreading it) that all the items they listed are “advanced content;” I’d guess that some of them are dials, while others are the more “buyer beware” content that can only be combined at the user’s hazard.

  2. There seems to be something wrong with the comments on your site: every ‘comment’ link leads to the most recent post.

    Anyway this was meant to be a comment on ‘Rabbis and Rules Lawyers': more generally, I think theology appeals to the same sort of people that RPGs appeal to.

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