Joshua Kronengold (mneme) wrote,
Joshua Kronengold

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D&D, D&Dnext, and the old stat->power paradigm

So, over on the wizards site they posted a bit on their D&Dnext playtest where players objected to rogues who are trained in perception being worse at spotting traps than clerics who aren't trained in perception.

Mulling over the problem of "how does one make the rogue not (always) have a worse chance to spot traps than the cleric", I'm struck with a curious notion -- a D&Dlike game (or D&D, even) doesn't need the primary stat->attack power equasion any more -- and it is, in fact a sacred cow.

The thing is, even if the cleric were trained in perception, logic indicates that a cleric (who is, after all, a priest, and not a trapfinder) shouldn't be necessarily better than a rogue (eg an "expert trapfinder").

The core of the problem, I'm convinced, lies in the tradition of a "primary stat" -- and that the bigger your primary stat is, the more often you should hit, the more damage you should do, and if you're a spellcaster, the harder it is to resist your spells and more more you should get.

The thing is, early versions of D&D struggled to make your stats relevant -- in AD&D, bonus spells and extra to-hit/damage was pretty much all you got out of your primary stat, and you didn't get that much of it unless you were lucky enough to roll an 18 and follow that up with a high percentile roll (if you were human). But successive versions of D&D have already made your stats hugely important -- giving them individual uses, introducing skills that are rooted in your stat, and tieing defenses into your statistics.

In fact, Next(5e, likely) is one of the most stat centered of all, even not counting to hit/damage/spells. Aside from trained/untrained (and probably feats), you get no other bonuses to your skills aside from your stat [in fact, there are no skill rolls; there are just ability rolls with -bonuses- if you have appropriate skills; a Commoner trained in the Folklore skill will get +3 to an Intelligence check to dredge up a bit of folklore, and +3 to a Charisma check to charm a passing NPC with some folklore]. And the system does try to make skills useful in combat, with simple rules for adjucating stunts. Plus, most importantly, for the first time, every stat can be used in a saving throw. Strength saves you from being pushed around; Dex saves you from things you can dodge; Con saves you from disease, poison, and pain; Int saves you from attempts to overwhelm your mind, Wisdom saves you from things that try to fool your mind, and Charisma saves you from magical compulsions that destroy your sense of self [although the save benefits of Charisma are sadly non-existent in the playtest rules in practice, alas]

More, skills are highly variable relative to class (for the first time in an official D&D game). You pick your class, and you pick your background -- the background determines your skills, while your class determines your primary combat abilities. Pick wizard/scholar, and you're a typical wizard, memorizing lore from everywhere. Pick wizard/Soldier, and you're a wizard trained with the army, trained at intimidation, survival, and perception -- but will likely suffer in these because you still need to keep your Int up.

Fundamentally, the fact that a character has made first (or 5th, or 10th) level in a class should be sufficient to assume they have good attacks and damage. You don't need that association to make people care about their stats -- and having it makes it harder to go against type without providing a good game-reason.

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Tags: d&d, rpg
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