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Rule-of-Three: 03/13/2012
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 What are your thoughts on critical failures and things like injury charts and tables? Is this something that you could see living in the core of D&D Next or a module?

Those are two great examples of things that probably wouldn't be core assumptions, but could live as modules, albeit in a core book. Neither of those two have been consistent in their presence across the breadth of D&D, but while I wouldn't consider their presence to be core to the assumptions of the D&D game, they're prevalent enough in auxiliary materials throughout the years that they seem like good candidates for things that DMs should have available to add into their games.

2 What have you guys learned about reaction and interrupt actions in 4E, and how do you think it will affect things for D&D Next?

Off-turn actions of all kinds can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can be exciting to be able to break the turn order and step in when you normally couldn't, giving the player a lot more control over the situation. On the other hand, off-turn actions are one of the primary sources of game play slowdown—not simply in their resolution, but in the player's need to keep them in his or her mind all the time. We've all seen the situations where the DM is well into resolving an attack when one player says, "Oh wait! I have a power that lets me stop that." That's not so bad when a single player has a single off-turn action, but when they proliferate across multiple characters (with some characters stocking up on off-turn actions), you can see how something that is good in moderation can bring the game grinding to a crawl.

I think one of the good things that off-turn actions do is give a sense of that the PC has active defenses; I don't just sit and take the punishment that the DM dishes out, I have a chance to protect myself thanks to the character building choices I made. This is one of the methods by which saving throws as presented in editions prior to 4th Edition actually have a positive impact on the players' game play experience.

Going forward, I think we'll want to address the challenges associated with off-turn actions in a couple of different ways. First, I think we'll want to be more cautious with how many we inject into the game. In order to retain the benefits of the "active defense" side of off-turn actions, we can look to saving throws as a method of providing that feeling, and then build mechanics that ride on top of the saving throw if the player chooses them.

3 With 4E we saw some successful experiments with a 0 level that helps you create your character and inform you on the character's past and motivations. Is that something you'd like to see continued into the next iteration - a level 0 for bringing new people into the game and fleshing out a character?

While I don't think level 0 play will be an assumed part of the core game, I think it's perfectly viable as an optional rules module. However, I'd also like to point out that themes do a lot for creating the kinds of character history that you're talking about. Themes, as presented in 4E, work best when they say something about your character's role in the world. Themes are something we want to be a core part of character creation in the next iteration of the game, chosen right alongside class and race, that adds a layer of depth to the character that we've seen great success with in 4E.

Additionally, we're looking at having the classes gradually layer in more capabilities over the first two or three levels, rather than providing a large number of class features at level 1, so that players new to the class have a short period of time to learn the basics of their class through play. Experienced players could simply start at 3rd level if they want to leap right into a more advanced starting experience.

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