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Class Design Concepts
Legends & Lore
Mike Mearls

O nce again, it's time to look at the results of our latest D&D Next playtest survey and give you an update on where things are heading.

Overall, we had a slight downturn in satisfaction with the latest packet. We expected the potential for a drop in happiness, as we knew we were pushing things a bit with the rogue's role in combat and the number of spells available to casters. The good news is that we're a bit ahead of the curve in terms of fixes, so it shouldn't be long until we apply some of the updates I'm going to talk about below.

For instance, with the monk we actually had to change some abilities to make them look more like the prior packet and less like our expectations for the next one. Based on initial comments, we had a good idea of where the wind was blowing and had already started to change our approach.


The biggest piece of feedback we received was that the rogue came across as a lame fighter. This was a key test to see how much tolerance people have for varied combat strength across classes. There's some give, but it looks like people want to avoid dramatic differences.

Frankly, that's not surprising, but now is the best time for us to challenge our assumptions before we lock things down.

The plan right now is to give rogues expertise dice equivalent to the fighter's progression. In addition, our new approach to skills uses bonus dice in place of a static modifier. A rogue can essentially use weaponized ability checks in combat. A rogue might lure an enemy into charging forward, dart into the shadows and disappear in the blink of an eye, distract a creature's attention away from the wizard as he or she prepares to cast a spell, and so forth.

You can think of these as nonmagical effects that would still require a saving throw or an ability contest to resist. For instance, Shalandra the rogue might contest her Charisma against an ogre's Wisdom. If Shalandra wins, she can trick the ogre into charging forward and blundering into a trap. She might contest her Dexterity against a creature's Intelligence to lure it into making a wild opportunity attack that actually targets its ally. These abilities are much like maneuvers, but they use the rogue's skill dice rather than what we're currently calling expertise dice.

With sneak attack, the plan right now is to treat it as a bonus to damage that you can gain in certain situations. As a default, when you have advantage, you can choose to forgo it in return for extra damage. Gaining both a significant bonus to accuracy and damage was proving a little too good. Dialing down the damage also allows us to be more liberal in giving you the chance to activate it.

I'd also like to continue making sneak attack an option, rather than having it be the default mode for all rogues. For example, a rogue might have the option to take better starting weapons, trading the spike of sneak attack for steadier damage, or the option to gain a special dodge ability to focus on reducing damage taken rather than boosting damage dealt.

General Spellcasting Notes

We're making a few changes to spellcasting. First and foremost, casters will receive more slots than the number we were giving in the last packet. In addition, at-will spells will scale in damage and effect to remain relevant at all levels. It's likely that these changes push the signature spell out of the picture, since we don't really need it to pick up the slack anymore.

It looks like we'll rearrange the spells to create either a separate category of at-will spells or an at-will version of existing spells. In either case, your at-will spells won't interact with your spell slots or spell preparation. You'll simply be able to pick a number of at-wills you can use each day based on your level.

Rituals are going to become free to use if you have the spell in your spellbook or on your list of prepared spells. This will require a fair amount of work to balance their effects, but charging gold pieces for them was a poor balancing mechanic.

Finally, we will add rules for casting spells while in armor. The rule will simply be that if you are proficient with a type of armor, you can cast spells while wearing it. Otherwise, the armor interferes with your ability to cast.


Turn undead will be significantly simplified and will be tied to a pool of healing that a cleric can tap into. A cleric gains 5 points of positive energy per level that he or she can channel each day. Clerics can channel healing on a 1-for-1 basis, create bigger healing effects for more points (remove disease, neutralize poison), and turn undead for a small number of points (undead creatures are, not surprisingly, repelled by positive energy). The numbers will change, but the basic mechanic is in place.

We might revise the deities to include armor proficiency. We'll also look for better at-will options for clerics. The text for the deity entries will also make it clear that titles such as the Warbringer might apply to one aspect of a deity. A single god might have clerics that gain different powers, depending on which aspect they embrace.


The wizard is also receiving a few changes. In addition to the general changes to magic, the wizard's spell damage will be increased, traditions will feature more choices, and we'll also look at covering all of the schools of magic by using traditions.

The biggest change for wizards is that we are going to separate spell preparation and spellcasting. You can prepare a number of spells, let's say three, for each level you can cast. When you cast a spell, you pick any spell you have prepared and spend the corresponding spell slot to cast it. This mechanic mirrors the flexibility we gave to clerics.


The fighter is in good shape. We're likely going to give the fighter a special parry mechanic that doesn't use expertise dice but works much the same way. If anything, the fighter might be a little too good. The feedback pegs the fighter as the most powerful class. The other classes will mostly catch up, but we might reduce expertise dice a little bit at higher levels to keep the game moving quickly.

Core Rules

There aren't any huge changes here, but I anticipate that we will soon begin to break up the core rules into basic, standard, and advanced sections so you can begin to get a sense of how we look at the rules and the game's core complexity.

Mike Mearls
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He led the design for 5th Edition D&D. His other credits include the Castle Ravenloft board game, Monster Manual 3 for 4th Edition, and Player’s Handbook 2 for 3rd Edition.
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