Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It's Easier to Add Than it is to Subtract

We learned this when D&D went from descending AC to ascending AC in the transition from 2e to 3e. That was simple math.

The same applies to rule systems, especially when we are looking at what is considered "core".

What we know of D&D 5e so far is the snippets that Mike Mearls and others have posted over on the WotC website. Color me not impressed.

Why? Because many of the "systems" that they are talking about as being part of the "core" system would have worked better as optional modules (although I suspect they are no longer putting much emphasis on the "modular aspect" of 5e that was all the rage back in January and February).

At will powers for casters? Add it in as a module.

At will powers for all classes (Mike just recently mentioned this)? Add it as a module.

Self Healing after combat using a Dice Pool ("Healing Surges" using "Hit Dice" - 4e players will say it's not a healing surge and 3e and earlier players will insist we aren't talking hit dice)? Add it as a module.

When you make something part of the "core" of a game, it becomes the default baseline. It is much easier to add something optional to the baseline than to remove something that is considered "core" from the baseline.

That, in my opinion, is where D&D Next has it's main issues, it's default baseline. Needless to say, I personally default to a lower powered gaming style than fans of 4e. For 4e fans, their default baseline, their comfort zone, is much higher than mine. Where I see issues, they see their expectations being met.

There is one instance I can think of where it's Easier to Subtract then it is to Add, and that is when a game company changes the edition of it's flagship game.

The move from 3x to 4e lost the D&D franchise a significant amount of it's player base in exchange for a large boost in sales for the new rulebooks. Short term gain for a long term loss.

The move from 4e to 5e was initially attempting to cover the built in loss that occurs during edition change by attempting to make a game that would bring back some of the players of earlier editions. This would ideally have kept the numbers playing the latest edition of D&D roughly equal (or maybe even higher) than the numbers playing 4e.

It ain't gonna happen. There is little that I've seen in recent posts that's going to entice OSR or Pathfinder players to return to the D&D fold. Which means that WotC is going to shrink it's market for the yet again for a short term gain in sales (new rulebooks).

Their idea on how to cover they inevitable loss of players was admirable, but no where near attainable as WotC had first hoped.


  1. Return to the D&D fold?

    "D&D Fold" might be a good name for this incarnation, because it seems unlikely to be a winning hand for WotC at this point.

  2. Some people like hot dogs with yellow mustard.

    Some people like hot dogs with spicy brown mustard, ketchup, pickle relish, and diced Maui onions, with the whole thing smothered in chili.

    Both of them start with a hot dog and a bun.

  3. Dammit, now i'm hankering for a chili dog.

  4. One issue with the calculations required for 2E was some of it adding up and some of it required subtracting - making the entire system additive or subtractive would create less mental whiplash.

    On issue I have is Mearls not clear as he should be in terms of articulating what is going on with the design process and what the goals are.

    That said, my expectations for 5E are dropping. I like Pathfinder and even 4E and I will be surprised if 5E is good enough to make me switch over.

  5. Curious.. has anybody seen how the sales of the AD&D re-releases they recently put out have been selling? I still think WOTC could recoup their losses by starting back where it began...

  6. "We learned this when D&D went from descending AC to ascending AC in the transition from 2e to 3e. That was simple math."

    Not quite. In 3e, the core algorithm includes a comparison, and comparisons are basically subtractions. So, you're actually having to do mental subtractions on every core mechanic roll because of ascending AC. The to-hit algorithm that has the least mental burden is Delta's "Target 20" with descending AC:

    TARGET 20 ALGORITHM: d20 + level + AC + mods ≥ 20

    Which has a comparison, but, significantly, a comparison with a constant, round number, which is quick and easy on the brain. Sure, you have to subtract to figure AC, but you only do that when you change armor, not every attack.

    See the original analysis: http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2009/07/what-is-best-combat-algorithm.html

  7. and now we know why I tapped out with pre-calc in college ;)

    good analysis tho i must say


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