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Rule-of-Three: 04/03/2012
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 elements of 4th Edition are you considering for the next version of the game?

It’s been said before, but one of the things we’re hoping to do is draw upon all editions, and that does include 4th Edition. Here in Rule-of-Three alone, I’ve made mention of themes, martial maneuvers/powers, class parity, monster design, and making it easy for the DM to run the game and to improvise. Additionally, things like at-will magic, rituals, and the presence of non-magical healing are all things that we think are good concepts from 4E that have a place in the next iteration of the game.

I also want to emphasize that right now we’re in the very early stages of design and development. Our priority is the core system, plus our four iconic classes (fighter, cleric, rogue, wizard) and four major races (human, elf, dwarf, halfling). Beyond that, many things are just ideas and concepts, and haven’t even been fleshed out other than to sketch out a few ideas. As we proceed with design, more content will enter the game, and along with that you’ll see more elements from all editions, including 4th Edition, start to show up. For now, though, we need to get the core of the game down, playtest it thoroughly, and only when we are satisfied with the basics will we expand out with the design of new classes, races, optional and variant rules, etc.

2 4E really innovated with regards to PC survivability (healing surges, second wind) and encouraged playing healers (multiple leaders, minor action healing, attacks that heal). Does Wizards see 4E PCs as too hardy and want to move away from these aspects in favor of classic concepts (cleric as sole healer, standard action spells, no self-healing for PCs)?

There are a lot of elements at play in what you describe, so I’ll try to cover a lot of ground here. First, I don’t think that clerics being the sole healers is something I’d consider a common trait of D&D throughout the ages; the bard and the druid classes were both capable healers in previous editions. Though the cleric was arguably the best healer in certain editions, others could fill that role; 4E just went further and standardized healing mechanisms between all healing classes. As I mentioned in the first question above, we also think there should be some self-healing or non-magical healing.

Beyond that, there’s still a lot up in the air. In general, I personally feel like 4E characters are the hardest to threaten within the bounds of what you would consider the standard adventure design. I think that in the 4E environment, that makes sense, given the game’s focus on the encounter as a base unit of measurement for game play. In the next iteration of the game, though, we’re looking at shifting the focus more to the adventure, as opposed to individual encounters, and that will likely mean that we want to increase the sense of danger, which I think improves the experience during the exploration portions of the game.

This is a great example of where we can offer lots of options to create the kinds of games that any individual DM and his or her players want to play. Want to run a game where players are always healed up to full hit points between fights? No problem; we’ve got rules for that. Want to run a game that is super-deadly with disposable characters? We can do that too, just by tweaking things like hit points, availability of self healing, and so forth.

3 What tips do you have for 4E DMs who want to run short session games (1-2 hours)?

Keeping in mind that every gaming group has different ideas of what they enjoy in an adventure, here are the things I would do for an adventure I was running for my gaming group.

  • Shift the focus away from combat, and more onto exploration and interaction. Combat is the most rules-heavy portion of the game, and often the slowest to get through.

  • Prep more than you need, and then if a scene begins to drag, push past it to the next scene or locale. If the players are dragging in their conversation with the duke, end the conversation and move on. When you only have 2 hours, there’s not enough time for meandering chats.

  • Avoid designing challenges that require a lot of trial and error or deep thought to figure out. If you put a riddle on a door that has to be answered before the players can proceed, your players may spend more time thinking and solving than doing more active things.

  • Don’t be afraid of simple design. Not every room in a dungeon has to be a complex trap or an intricate set-piece encounter. It’s OK for the players to enter a room, take a look around, see the one or two interesting elements that you placed in the room, and then move on. This will help them cover more ground and feel a greater sense of accomplishment in a short amount of time.

  • Don’t be afraid of a simple premise. It’s good to present a simple, straightforward goal and adventure in a shorter session; simple premises make it easy to get into the adventure, rather than first playing through a more complex adventure hook.

  • When you do build encounters, make them easy. In a short game, it’s OK for players to blow encounters faster than usual.

  • During prep work, figure out average damage numbers for every damage roll in your creatures’ arsenals, and use those instead of rolling.

  • During prep work, pre-roll 50+ d20 rolls (use a random number generator) and when you would roll a d20, instead take the next result on that list and then mark it off.

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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