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Rule-of-Three: 01/24/12
Rodney Thompson

Y ou've got questions—we've got answers! Here's how it works—each week, our Community Manager will be scouring all available sources to find whatever questions you're asking. We'll pick three of them for R&D to answer, whether about the about the making of the game, the technical workings of our DDI studio, or anything else you care to know about... with some caveats.

There are certain business and legal questions we can't answer (for business and legal reasons). And if you have a specific rules question, we'd rather point you to Customer Service, where representatives are ready and waiting to help guide you through the rules of the game. That said, our goal is provide you with as much information we can—in this and other venues.

1 Will the next iteration of D&D have influences from all editions, including 4E?

Absolutely. One of the primary goals of the game will be to take the best elements from all editions and find ways to unify them around a tight, central core of a game aimed at providing the essential aspects of Dungeons & Dragons. One of the things we did last year was play through every major edition of D&D, which helped us distill down the various elements of the game that have persisted and remained important throughout the game's life. With those elements at the core of the game, we can then add in various game elements (some assumed as defaults, some as options) to create a game that can accommodate those things that appeal to players and DMs of any particular edition.

Now, the details of which specific elements of each edition get carried through to the next iteration of the game are still in flux—and hopefully, you'll be participating in the playtest and let us know your opinions on what influences should shine through from each edition. Doing that play-through of each edition of the game really highlighted to me the best elements of every edition, and really drove home the point that while each edition has brought something new to the table, they all have an immutable concept at their hearts that is Dungeons & Dragons.

2 4E was balanced incredibly well when compared to the other systems. In the next iteration of D&D, will balance be as important or will we see some classes being noticeably more powerful than others again?

One of the best things that 4E did for us as designers was that it taught us a lot about game balance. Taking what we've learned over the course of 4E's design, development, and evolution, we can apply those lessons about game balance to the next iteration of D&D. In many ways, one of 4E's biggest contributions was putting new tools in our toolboxes for designing and developing the game—tools that weren't there before. More than that, we've learned how to apply that balance in different ways, allowing us to simply do more than we could before while still remaining balanced.

In my mind, game balance is not about symmetry, but about validating choices. Players want to feel like their choices have value, and especially in a cooperative game it's important to avoid traps that make players feel like they've made a "wrong" choice. Making a different choice, however, is vital. One of the things 4E does well is providing choices that, while not 100% equal, are equally valid, and reflect the play style of the player making choices. As the game evolved, we've found new ways to provide different—but still valid—choices for players looking for something that stands out more, or for something that better fits their play style. We want to take the things we've learned through that process and then apply that to the design of the next iteration of the game.

Balance is in the eye of the beholder. It's a good tool and a valuable thing to have in the game, but it can't come at the price of making the game feel bland or dull. One of the big reasons for our playtest is to ensure that as we balance the system, we attain the right kind of balance, not simply balance as we expect it or balance based purely on numbers.

The other thing about balance is that it should be a tool, and not a handcuff. There are certain things about D&D that are intrinsic properties of the game, things that are a part of D&D because they are D&D. In the process of making the next iteration of the game, we're going to focus on taking all of those intrinsic elements of the game and making the best game possible that includes all of those elements, as they should be. We use the game balance tool to then make sure that we're providing a satisfying experience using all of those elements. To address the specific example in your question, we'll want to make every attempt to make sure that choosing one class or another is still a valid choice, so I would say that class balance is an important thing that we'll be working on.

3 In previous editions, different weapon types mattered. For example, slashing weapons had different qualities than bludgeoning weapons, or worked better against certain monsters. Is this an element of D&D that you would like to see returned to the front lines?

I chose this question to answer because it's something we've been talking about recently. I actually like the idea of weapon damage types a lot, and damage types in general. Damage types are a low-impact way of conveying a lot of narrative through game mechanics. If I have a spell that deals fire damage, I immediately have an idea of how to describe it, and what other effects might be associated with it. At the same time, damage types are—by and large—simply a keyword that is referred to by other effects. They are also flags to the DM that can indicate when there is an opportunity for something interesting to happen. If I deal acid damage to a monster, the DM can easily jump in with a description of the acid spattering and weakening the floor beneath that monster—which, in turn, is a flag for the players to consider smashing the weakened floor to drop the monster through. That's an example of damage types at their best.

There have been many times since the inception of 4E where we'd wished we had some kind of damage type for physical damage, a point that was driven home especially well when we did the design and development of the Gamma World game, which does have a physical damage type. I think the step that previous editions could have taken, but didn't, is to treat slashing, bludgeoning, and piercing damage types just like acid, cold, fire, etc. damage. That way, weapon users get a few more interesting choices in the weapons they wield, just like spellcasters have when making spell selections. Plus, there's something very satisfying to me for the cleric wielding the mace to be able to step forward and smash through skeletons that are vulnerable to bludgeoning damage. While there's nothing set in stone about the next iteration of D&D, those are some of the kinds of things we are thinking about.

How can I submit a question to the Rule-of-Three?

Instead of a single venue to submit questions, our Community Manager will be selecting questions from our message boards, Twitter feed, and Facebook account. You can also submit questions directly to So, if you'd like to have your question answered in the Rule-of-Three, just continue to participate in our online community—and we may select yours!

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