Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cheer Bear Looks at The Rules of Three - Empowered Reactions in the Underdark

I've been told on G+ that my critique of various 
5e postings are "distasteful" at times.  To clear 
the palate for everyone,I will critique this entry 
as Cheer Bear of Care Bear Fame.  Cheer 
Bear has got the rainbow on his belly and is 
awfully nice.  Original posting is here.

In the past you've referred to wanting to boost DM empowerment in D&D Next. Can you be more specific about what this means?

In general, what it means is we want a system that makes it easy to be the DM (I like easy.  Easy as pie.  Pie is sweet), and at the same time trusts the DM to make the right call for any particular situation (I like to trust my DM.  Trust is good.  I like pie), rather than create many highly specific chunks of rules text in an attempt to cover every possible situation (chunks aren't good.  unless they are chunks of pie). Part of that is teaching the DM how to make the appropriate judgment call (teach me! Me!), and part of that is building the rules to make it so that, when the judgment call is made, it's easy to resolve (if the judgment call is made, isn't it resolved?  my head hurts.  I want pie).

As an example, let's say that the heroes are in a tavern (why can't they be in a happy field eating gummy care bears and drinking lemonade?) trying to get information out of a member of the Thieves' Guild. The smooth-talking rogue says that he wants to deceive (you should never lie!  lying is bad.  have some pie) the thief into thinking that she is a member of the same guild to earn his confidence. Alternatively, the brawny fighter wants to crush a pewter mug in his hand (you shouldnt break things, but if you do, tell your parents) to intimidate the thief into talking. If we have done a good job of educating (school is fun!) the DM, then the DM simply sets an appropriate DC for success and calls for a Charisma check (from the rogue) or a Strength check (from the fighter). Rather than call on some kind of subsystem (you can always call on a Care Bear.  we are your friends), we simply educate the DM on the best way to set a DC, and the best way to choose which ability to use for an ability check (isn't this called DM Fiat and abdul-jue-kate-on?). That also has the advantage of allowing the player to simply say what his or her character does, then having the DM respond with the kind of check to be made, meaning that players are always talking about their actions in terms of what their characters do (always do doody in a potty).

That may seem simplistic and obvious, but the subtleties of the way players and DMs interact with each other and with the rules can have a big effect on how the game functions (i'm just a small bear.  but i'm trying to stay in character.  players should try and stay in character too.  DMs must do all of the work.  work is good.  more pie). Beyond that angle of educating and trusting DMs to adjudicate many situations (zero bear likes this.  some bears don't like this.  some bears say "DM Fiat" is bad.  i like DM fiat.  I also like pie), we also want to empower the DM by providing lots of different ways for the DM to alter the rules of the game to best fit the kind of campaign and gaming group he or she has (but then the bears don't know what to expect.  this makes some bears sad.  it makes the 4th bear very sad.  4th bear like to know the rules don't change.) This comes through not only the variant rules modules we've mentioned before, but also from things like teaching the DM how to make minor changes to the existing system. (zero bear likes.  4th bear is even sadder)  (Don't think the players start with enough feats? Here is some advice on giving them more!) It also comes from educating the DM as to the impact those tweaks will have on the game. Furthermore, this doesn't have to be restricted to overarching and permanent rules changes. It could also focus on bending, breaking, and changing rules during game play (this is where 4th bear considers how bad things have become in the land of Next). (Does it seem like that difficult terrain should be even more difficult than usual? Here's how to alter the properties of difficult terrain for this instance to best fit the situation.)

Will the current system of standard, move, minor, free, immediate interrupts, immediate reactions, and no actions be retained, or is that something you look to change in D&D Next?

One of the things we're trying to do is streamline the player's turn a bit while still letting the player do something significant each turn (Cheer bear is always stignaficant.  useful too). As of right now, we have a system that states that on your turn you can take one action, and then move up to your speed. Most everything is just an action; attacks, casting spells, activating magic items, etc. "Moving up to your speed" can also cover things like climbing, jumping, and standing up from prone within that movement. We believe this is going to accomplish our goal of making combat move faster across all levels, being easier to teach to new players, and also making sure that the kinds of effects we're putting into the game are big, meaty and significant so that you really feel their impact. (cheer bears wonders how you can climb and attack)

What's the deal with the Rise of the Underdark campaign?  (cheer bear wanders off aimlessly now, as this is 4e stuff, and cheer bear does not grok 4e)

The Rise of the Underdark is a story theme that kicked off this year at PAX East, similar to what we did with Neverwinter last year. The Rise of the Underdark storyline is a series of interconnected stories, adventures, and products all related to the same storyline. I asked James Wyatt to give us an idea of what the story looks like, and he said:
Deep in the Abyssal darkness of the Demonweb Pits, the goddess Lolth is spinning a web of deceit, treachery, and ambition. Her goal is to seize control of arcane magic—a position that has lain vacant since the death of Mystra a hundred years ago. 
To facilitate this grasp for power, Lolth sent a prophet—Danifae Yauntyrr—to all the cities of the drow. Danifae is a fallen priest, a scoundrel, a seductress, and—if history is any guide—an avatar of Lolth herself. Danifae whispered to the leaders of all the great drow houses, spurring them to gather ancient power to aid Lolth's ascent. 
The drow are scouring the world for primordial relics (pieces of a dead or sleeping primordial), seeking out the remains of great wizards, gathering artifacts once sacred to Mystra, and fighting for control of magical locations on the world's surface.
As the drow gather arcane energy and channel it to Lolth, her power grows. Her web extends to cover most of the world, forming a Demon Weave to replace the sundered Weave that Mystra maintained—a new fabric of arcane magic. With that, the priests and wizards who serve Lolth have access to greater power than ever before, and their task becomes to use it. 
Across the surface world, Lolth's servitors draw on the Demon Weave to create shrouds of darkness that cover league upon league of surface lands. Under this pall of darkness, the drow can move and fight freely during what would normally be daylight hours. With this aid, they can complete Lolth's transformation and bring the world to ruin.
Additionally, you'll be able to participate in the story through three D&D Encounters seasons (Web of the Spider Queen, Council of Spiders, and War of Everlasting Darkness), play in organized play events at GenCon (Dawn of Nightchampionship adventure), PAX Prime (The Sun Never Rises adventure), and local game stores (with two Lair Assault challenges—Spiderkiller and Kill the Wizard). Products tied to the Rise of the Underdark campaign include RPG books (Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook, Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue), two Dungeon Tiles sets (The Urban Underdark, Castle Grimstead), a map pack (Vaults of the Underdark), D&D Fortune Cards (Drow Treachery), the Dungeon Command skirmish board game's Sting of Lolth faction pack, and online content in Dragon issue #413 and Dungeon issue #204. There are also several novels related to the storyline, including War of the Spider Queen Volumes 1 & 2, Charon's Claw by R.A. Salvatore, and ebook exclusives: Sword of the Gods: Spinner of Lies by Bruce Cordell, Prince of Ravens by Richard Baker, Skein of Shadows by Marsheila Rockwell and Spider and Stone by Jaleigh Johnson. Find out more at DungeonsandDragons.com/drow


  1. I like the gut reactions sans happy cheerful bear.

    When the players want to spend more and more time educating the bear, he's going to get cranky. Cranky Bear is not friendly. Seriously, let's just make a call and move on.

  2. it was interesting being sweet as honey, but i'll be back to my cranky self with the next one ;)

  3. What exactly was "distasteful" about your previous postings?

  4. LOL Even Cheer Bear was stretching his happiness towards the end.. I will say something.. I like the idea of doing 'something' subtracting from your movement and not being some sort of other 'action'. If you are knocked down it will take 10' of movement to get off your butt. If you aren't moving then hurray.. You can get up and attack.. but if you want to get up and move you can only go your move-minus the 'time' it took to stand up.. All this swift, free, full. move stuff is confusing as hell..


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