ver the past few weeks, we've revised the character classes to hit our goal of producing a game that can shift from low complexity to more detail and options. For instance, for the fighter we have a subclass that offers a number of passive benefits to attacks, and we also present other options that allow access to a set of special maneuvers similar to 4th Edition's powers. For the true kit bashers and hardcore optimizers, we're also planning on giving guidelines for building your own subclasses from the individual class features offered by each subclass.
As with most things in D&D Next, we expect a DM or group to decide how much detail they want to allow. You might use only the simplest character options, allow players to choose subclasses, or go all out and let players build their own subclasses.
With the classes rounding into form, we've turned our attention to the basic math behind the game. If you've followed our streaming playtest sessions and the podcasts we've released with them, you've gotten a little preview of the issues we're looking at. Here's a summary of our goals:
- We want to focus on growing hit points, rather than attack or saving throw bonuses (or DCs), as the way we reflect growing character power.
- Keeping numerical bonuses under control means that the gaps between characters don't grow too large.
- Since the gap doesn't grow too large, you don't have to rely on system mastery—your mastery of how to manipulate the game system—to make an effective character. You can make a better character (character optimization is fun for many gamers) but it isn't an "I win!" card.
- Since AC, attack, and saving throw numbers don't grow too much, low-level monsters can still hit and damage you (though for a smaller portion of your hit points) as you reach higher levels.
That said, we've seen a few issues from our playtest feedback and from our own games. The big one focuses on saving throws and skill DCs.
- Saving throws against effects that take you out of the fight, like a ghoul's paralysis, mess up monster scaling. A ghoul is equally deadly to a 3rd- or 17th-level fighter. If either one blows a saving throw, the fighter is out of the battle.
- Our skill DCs are out of whack. They don't match up well with the actual bonuses that characters accrue at all levels.
Over the course of a few meetings, we've plotted out some changes that you will see in the packet following the next one (we focused on character content before the math; our playtest data is showing that while people notice this issue, it isn't distorting the game as a whole). Those changes are as follows:
- We're instituting a consistent bonus progression for characters that ranges from +1 at 1st level to +6 at 20th level for attacks, checks, and saving throws.
- For characters who are truly experts in some areas, that bonus can go as high as +12 for checks. For example, rangers can hit +12 on Wisdom checks and rogues could hit it on Dexterity checks. You won't reach that height for attacks. We might allow characters to gain that on saving throws if it fits a character archetype. For instance, a dwarf fighter might eventually reach +12 on Constitution saving throws.
- The optional skill system allows you to reach +12, but only for specific checks that map to the traditional D&D skill system as seen in 3rd Edition and 4th Edition. For instance, a 20th-level cleric who maxes out the Sense Motive skill might be at +6 for Wisdom checks and at +12 for Sense Motive checks.
- We're plotting out monster saving throw DCs by level so that lower level critters have lower save DCs than higher level ones. In other words, a creature's DCs play a big role in determining its level and XP value.
- We're pushing the DCs used by player character casters down a bit and factoring effective spell level into the equation. Thus, a high-level wizard has lower saving throw DCs for weaker spells and higher ones for stronger ones.
- We're revising the DC table to match our expected bonuses.
- It's not clear if we'll continue to use a skill die or swap to a flat bonus. We're going to focus on getting data about this question in the next round of surveys.
So, that's what we're looking at in terms of math revisions. If you have any questions, remember that you can always reach me on Twitter where my user name is @mikemearls.
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He has worked on the Ravenloft board game along with a number of supplements for the D&D RPG.