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D&D Next Q&A: 10/17/13
Rodney Thompson

Y ou've got questions—we've got answers! Here's how it works—each week, our Community Manager will scour all available sources to find whatever questions you're asking. We'll pick three of them for R&D to answer, whether about the making of the game 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 How do critical hits interact with things like Sneak Attack and Smite?

You maximize all the damage dice, including Sneak Attack dice, Smite dice, extra damage granted by spells, and so forth, except for the extra die you get for scoring a critical hit.

2 What is happening in the game world when a fighter deals damage on a missed attack?

Since Armor Class represents a combination of agility and the ability to absorb the impact of the weapon (for example, why a suit of plate, by default, has a higher AC than leather armor), we like to think of it as the fighter character striking the body of the target, and the armor (or hide) absorbing the brunt of the damage, but not all of it; the strike was so brutal and skillfully placed that it did more than anyone else could have done with the same attack. For anyone except a fighter with this very specific training, the armor/hide/scales would normally absorb the full impact of the strike, thus dealing no damage and being described as a miss.

3 Will druids be able to Wild Shape into creatures with more hit points or Hit Dice than they have?

We are carefully shepherding the specific creatures into which a druid can transform for just this reason; we want to make sure the hit points of the new form are a nice pool of bonus hit points, without completely overshadowing the druid’s own hit point pool. At this time, we’re going to look at expanding the number of creatures that a druid can use Wild Shape to change into, but we have certain guidelines and restrictions on what kinds of statistics and capabilities we want to see in player hands. At the same time, we want the druid to feel like he or she has a lot of options, so one area where we are likely to pursue some more open-ended options is in the basic forms available to all druids, not just Circle of the Moon druids. These forms tend to be higher in utility and not very useful as combat forms.

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Rodney Thompson
Rodney Thompson began freelancing in the RPG industry in 2001 before graduating from the University of Tennessee. In 2007 he joined the Wizards of the Coast staff as the lead designer and developer for the new Star Wars RPG product line. Rodney is the co-designer of Lords of Waterdeep and is currently a designer for Dungeons & Dragons.
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Has anyone else noticed that Rodney's answer about maximizing sneak attack dice on a crit contradicts the rules for the assassin rogue's assassinate feature (which lets you not only get an auto crit if you attack and hit a surprised creature but also get maximized Sneak Attack damage instead of having to roll for it)?
Posted By: pukunui (10/30/2013 3:04:59 AM)


I played 3E for a long time and never did come to appreciate the buffed-up rampaging terror of its shapechanged Druid. I sympathize with you younger gamers and think we should absolutely insist on an awesomely hand-to-hand combat specialized were-build. My own preconceptions, however, were formed in AD'nD days and run to using animal forms for reconnaissance, their utility in social and wilderness situations, and the occasional strategic usefulness of a well-placed dam, fallen tree, or anything a flying or swimming creature can carry.

The animal companion, however, is not adequately provided for in the rules given so far. Animal Friendship falls far short in duration and is not even tenable to keep in its present form, as long as cockatrices and rust monsters are considered beasts. It is conceivable that a pre-statted animal adjunct could be provided in the same way as the Find Familiar spell works, and I'm not ruling out that both will become feats. That has the advant... (see all)
Posted By: RadperT (10/24/2013 11:45:37 AM)


Mordechai's dithering about the potential effects of 0 HP are an excellent argument for leaving the default treatment of combat incapacitation simple. (My own ideas about optional rules involve lots of screaming and moaning, with little ability to even move.)

Regarding how we get and spend HP, the game is at a crossroads between damage potential and starting HP. Higher-level monsters' HP have had to be increased to withstand characters' higher amounts of or capability to inflict damage, fighters are approaching the debuff potential of spellcasters, and low-level monsters usually drop in a single round. Or, as one of my players put it, "When my first-level character can one-shot himself, that's a problem!" I hope the game developers are sincerely looking at ways to get damage back to pre-4E levels, but all indications are that the players want to munchkin out, and the designers are going to accommodate them with the simple solution of higher starting Hit Points.... (see all)
Posted By: RadperT (10/24/2013 11:03:25 AM)


Regarding crits:

GOOD. I hated the way older editions only multiplied some dice, or some bonuses. I found that I had accidentally "cheated" a few times in ADnD recently because I was multiplying more than just the base dice on backstab. Or wait, do magic item dice get multiplied? See, I like that here the answer is "yes." Or well, maxed out, which frankly is probably better, as far as stats are concerned.

Regarding hit points:

They've always been a messy abstraction. Like levels, though, they are a useful and iconic abstraction. I think saying HOW they are abstracted or WHAT they abstractly represent is a bad move; provide options, discussion, and let people pick their own solution.

The one thing I think hit points needs, though, is a "hurt" level. Bloodied wasn't bad, but I personally think the rule should be...hit points to zero, you are up. When you drop to zero, you go prone and only get one acti... (see all)
Posted By: mordicai (10/24/2013 6:32:45 AM)


A solid hit by a great axe or similar weapon will almost always kill you. The "damage" done by these weapons in DnD has always been an abstraction. How many hits do you think your shield arm can take before you are too numb to raise it? How many times can you dodge the massive swings before the next one catches you? Even if you avoid the edge, the sheer mass of a glancing blow can incapacitate you. I have no problem with the "realism" of the threat provided by a great weapon...even if wielded by a drunk prone and blinded fool.
Posted By: tomtill (10/21/2013 5:25:12 PM)


What about when wielded by a drunk, prone, blinded fool against an invisible creature with an AC of 200... which is on the other side of the room?

"When you attack a target that you can't see, you have disadvantage on the attack roll, whether or not you know where the target is located. Your attack might miss because you rolled too low or because the target is nowhere near where you struck!"

The creature will always take damage... from the level 1 fighter with this class feature.
Posted By: Shroom-Mage (10/22/2013 8:30:50 PM)


The AC is not relevant...the point of the great weapon fighters miss damage is to mimic the punishment a heavy weapon in skilled hands can cause despite armor or deft dodging. It is only a small amount of hp loss considering that you have just dramatically avoided being crushed or sliced in two by 3-5 lbs of metal a few feet long skillfully swung within your 5' space by a big burly man intent on your death.

The "across the room" argument speaks more directly to the rules for "Attacking an Unseen Target" in the playtest document. It is poorly worded as written and open to interpretation. Your interpretation is that if the target is unseen, you may make a melee attack against the target even if the target is not within reach. But such an interpretation contradicts the definition of a melee attack "A melee attack allows you to attack a foe within your reach." In 4e, the rules made it clear that when striking at a hidden foe, you were actually targ... (see all)
Posted By: tomtill (10/22/2013 11:29:32 PM)


I agree that the unseen target rules are sketchy and should be reworded, but I feel they demonstrate a point. If for ANY reason, you miss the target, whether it be automatically or because of a bad roll, you ALWAYS deal damage. Short of damage reduction (which I haven't seen in Next), the damage from GWF is 100% guaranteed.

How is AC not relevant? Imagine this AC is granted by a magic item of extreme power that give you dozens of layers of spinning barriers of force shields while also blurring your image and covering you head-to-toe in force armor with not a single gap. The rules for the magic item could grant you 200 AC or they could plainly state, "All attacks against you always miss," and GWF is STILL guaranteed to deal damage. There is no glancing blow. The target doesn't have to dodge. The armor isn't damaged. What imaginable reason could there be that the target would STILL take damage from a level 1 fighter with a two-handed splintered tree branch?
Posted By: Shroom-Mage (10/23/2013 7:26:17 PM)


Shroomy, the potential of the two-handed weapon wielder to wear down even the most nimble opponent is disturbing, but it was not necessary to indulge in such hyperbole. The extreme exaggeration of your example (and other diversions) distracts from the fact that the excitement of risk is replaced by a formula r=HP/d * (p+(1-p)/2) where the number of rounds it takes to eliminate an opponent is fairly predictable (d is your damage and p the probability of hitting said opponent; I'm probably not smart enough to expand that term correctly and expressing it in terms of the attacker's to-hit and target's AC would muddy my illustration rather than make it clerear.

Regarding the end of your first paragraph I wish to point out that the Barbarian's resistance to slashing, piercing and bludgeoning damage is similar, simpler, and less prone to abusive exploitation than damage reduction.
Posted By: RadperT (10/24/2013 9:38:32 AM)


The parallel between mages' area effects and melee types' attacks isn't perfect, although there is some compensation in the difference between half damage to several targets a few times a day, and a relatively small amount to one opponent on a regular basis. The formula should have been more like r=HP/d * (p+(1-p)*d/b), which is not overpowered but that was never my objection. Stylistically, I just don't like fighters burning through their enemies' HP so fast the opponents don't have time to undertake interesting tactics of their own.

I also noticed that the resistance to which I referred isn't present in the current playtesting packet (and I think the previous two, which just came on too quick for me to keep up with). They are trying out a form of damage reduction in the form of the Totem Barbarian's Spirit Vitality.
Posted By: RadperT (10/24/2013 11:01:02 AM)


" If for ANY reason, you miss the target, whether it be automatically or because of a bad roll, you ALWAYS deal damage."

My point was that I think you are over-interpreting the statement in the "attacking an unseen target rules." If, for example, you roll a natural 20 in your melee attack against an unseen target, but that target is not in the square you attacked, you will not hit that target even though a natural 20 always hits. In the same way, you will not miss that target either, and the great weapon fighter cannot dispense his miss damage. The "attack" does not occur in the game sense because the target was not there. You cannot "attack the darkness." The game terms "attack", "hit" and "miss" are not the same as the english language words. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Regarding AC, what you describe I would call 100% cover, not AC. The opponent is behind a wall and can... (see all)
Posted By: tomtill (10/23/2013 11:23:53 PM)


You still haven't given any reason why a level 20, max Dex, max Wis, invisible monk in range of a blinded, deafened, intoxicated, prone level 1 fighter's two-handed stick should be incapable of avoiding damage. Dodging a ranger's arrows, a rogues daggers, a barbarian's axes, or a bard's rapier is also taxing, but those don't deal miss damage either.

Let's pretend this feature was never implemented. If a user suggested it in a thread, would you be so adamant in your support for it?
Posted By: Shroom-Mage (10/24/2013 3:47:27 AM)



I don't really care...I just don't see a problem with it.

That said, I think it is a decent mechanic to emphasize the difference between being attacked, for example, by an opponent skilled with a rapier, vs. an opponent skilled with a great weapon. It is hard to deal with the sheer mass of a skillfully wielded great weapon within your 5' space.

Posted By: tomtill (10/24/2013 5:24:59 AM)


Why not just say that a Great Weapon Fighter does damage if he misses the target AC by 10 [or 5, or 7] or less? That way you can say that a guy with a big strong two handed weapon can power through armor to leave a guy ringing more often than with other weapons, but it is still possible for the guy to be so far off that he either misses entirely or doesn't put enough "umph" into it every time.
Posted By: bogmad (10/30/2013 2:55:22 PM)


Why nerf the druid shapechange ability? Make it a focus of their combat style. They should train to use natural weapons no matter their form. They may grow long nails and strengthen them in humanoid form to be claw attacks. Maybe they focus on bite attacks and sharpen their teeth and use magic to elongate and strengthen their jaw.
Then when turning into a bear they already have the claw attack training just with extra strength and minimal spell casting (only ones that can be cast without verbal and somatic components).
Posted By: Rartemass (10/20/2013 8:18:39 PM)


Also: I don't know of anyone who has ever willingly wanted to play a Druid because Wild Shape is so squirrely.

Especially if the goal is for Wild Shape to not be relevant in combat.... gad zukes man. WHY not?!?

If you want your character to fit into tiny uncomfortable places; then play a halfling!!! They can hide behind another creature bigger than them, which is literally everything! You don't need to turn into a mouse if all you have to do is walk behind someone taller than you. They cannot roll a 1 in the current iteration so they'll never critically fumble or whatever. And what's more, you can take a class that has useful abilities.

Don't get me wrong, the spell Call Lightning owns fools. But it's not enough to matter.

3rd edition Shape Change "almost" was cool enough to play. Because you could take prestige classes and such to where you could turn into whatever type of creatures you wanted AND got some of their p... (see all)
Posted By: awogaman (10/20/2013 1:28:10 PM)


Not sure what the big deal is. Hit Points are "abstract" concepts. Represented by skill at arms, ducking out of the way, armor, abilities such as Dexterity, etc.

Like a previous poster said; all it really means is the Great Weapon Fighter is making them work harder to not take a full damage hit. They don't get hit by the weapon; but still waste their energy getting out of the way.

It is to represent the fact that you can't just stand their and swing your sword all day long or run around in heavy metal armor all day and such without adverse affect.

The target has to expend more energy which is another abstract part of hit points, to not suffer the full affect of the hit.

Now why don't you people spend your time on things of the game that really matters. Like why are Kender back? Why are there monks in DND? Why dang it WHY!!!!!!!!! :-)
Posted By: awogaman (10/20/2013 1:15:14 PM)


First off someone doing a melee attack has to be adjacent to the target to attack it, hence if someone with GWF is attacking an invisible creature with a sword, they know where it is, *generally*. Thus "damage on a miss" could well represent filling the area with blows and striking so swiftly you're bound to hit SOMETHING. Similarly one would assume if you're making a ranged attack you at least declare where you're aiming.

Being prone and still able to attack (if not as effectively) or being intoxicated and being able to do so, or even both, don't strike me as impossible feats for a trained fighter.

And remember in all these cases, sure, the fighter is doing damage, but they're doing LESS damage than anyone who actually hits the target- it's not a replacement for competence.
Posted By: Criswell (10/23/2013 1:11:45 AM)


Dangit, responded to the wrong post.
Posted By: Criswell (10/23/2013 1:12:07 AM)


Rodney, can you tell me when a miss is ever a real miss? DM I need to know that for many situations. Does the great weapon fighter ever miss? Does he always hit invisible creatures? Does he always know were they are every time he swings his weapon? Does he always hit even when blinded? Also, I'd really like you to tell us why this mechanic is even needed. What problem does it solve? At this point, your explanation only works for creatures with armor. It makes no sense for creatures without armor. Now, if you break AC down into it's components (avoidance, deflection, absorption) I'll know when a miss has occurred, but if you just keep AC the way it is, you're just creating far too many dissonant problems for my group.
Posted By: dmgorgon (10/20/2013 12:33:49 AM)


I think you are making a mountain out of a molehill here. The DM has always had to adjudicate beyond what the rules say, and I am sure that is something you have always (and will always) do.

For example, you might say that a natural 1 deals no damage: that is a full miss.

You might say that the feature does not work if the target is invisible (or if the fighter can't see the target). You might say that the feature does not work if the fighter has disadvantage.

This is the "Proneable Ooze" 'problem' from 4E. If you blindly follow the letter of the rules and then complain that those rules don't work for you and your group, you have only yourself to blame.

If instead, you adjudicate the way the rules interact with your own idea of how the game world would work, you are doing exactly what the DMG has always suggested DMs do, and you will find your issues of dissonance will disappear.
Posted By: Arithezoo (10/20/2013 7:57:03 AM)


Why create these problems in the first place if the rule is not needed? You're asking me to house rule something that shouldn't need to be house ruled in the first place! There is no justification for the rule at all. All it's doing is fracturing the fan base and it's asking DM's to create a plethora of new house rule (just like the few you suggested) to fix all the problems it creates And yes, this issue is a mountain of a problem for my playstyle.
Posted By: dmgorgon (10/20/2013 1:44:23 PM)


If you don't want to use the "miss is still a hit for a well trained fighter" mechanic then a simpler approach is that on a miss the fighter forces disadvantage to the opponent.
Basically to avoid the blow the opponent had to get out of position or partially retreat and it will take them a moment to recover.
The fighter still gets a benefit and it makes sense in the context of combat.
Again this is a house rule that shouldn't need to be made.
Posted By: Rartemass (10/20/2013 8:09:25 PM)


Does a wizard casting magic missile ever miss?

If not, why do you have a problem with the fighter being equally competent?
Posted By: Criswell (10/20/2013 9:42:21 PM)


First off someone doing a melee attack has to be adjacent to the target to attack it, hence if someone with GWF is attacking an invisible creature with a sword, they know where it is, *generally*. Thus "damage on a miss" could well represent filling the area with blows and striking so swiftly you're bound to hit SOMETHING. Similarly one would assume if you're making a ranged attack you at least declare where you're aiming.

Being prone and still able to attack (if not as effectively) or being intoxicated and being able to do so, or even both, don't strike me as impossible feats for a trained fighter.

And remember in all these cases, sure, the fighter is doing damage, but they're doing LESS damage than anyone who actually hits the target- it's not a replacement for competence.
Posted By: Criswell (10/23/2013 1:12:35 AM)


The number of area effect spells to which a Mage, and to a lesser or not by so much extent Cleric or Druid, has access which inflict half damage even with a successful saving throw, would be a more apropos comparison.
Posted By: RadperT (10/22/2013 11:50:35 AM)


Great weapon attacks don't unerringly strike anything. In other words, weapon strikes should always have a chance to miss. Even magic missile can't target an invisible creature, but GWF will always hit them. Even if the fighter is intoxicated, prone, and attacking he will always hit.
Posted By: dmgorgon (10/21/2013 3:28:48 PM)


I think every class should have at least one Expertise Die per day they can use like an Action Point to do something difficult, like attempt a maneuver they're not trained in.

Bards, fighters and rogues should have lots of Expertise Dice they can use to do things like the function currently granted by Great Weapon Mastery. I'd rather maneuvers use the character's attack (proficiency) bonus and Expertise Dice with a d20 roll.

I don't like at-wills. They lead to weirdness like healing to half Hit Points (or Pathfinder's Stabilize spell), Faerie Fire doing damage, and if there were any considerable number of characters running around killing things with ice or fire throughout history, there wouldn't have been any history for them to run around in.
Posted By: RadperT (10/20/2013 12:01:33 AM)


Real life history has a lot of weapons far more potent that a ray of frost, and there were a lot more people with such weapons than there are wizards with ray of frost in a typical campaign. I'm not sure why you think there wouldn't be a history because of at-wills.
Posted By: Shroom-Mage (10/22/2013 7:54:07 PM)


Without magic (of the potency of that in D n' D, at least), we still managed to denude Lebanon and other (I'm no historian) lands of trees. Fire would do the job even more quickly, and exposure to cold is destructive to all the materials of which we construct our dwellings. Like the auto-damage inflicted by fighters with their continually renewing maneuver dice, Ray of Frost works fine in-game, it just stretches credulity. I'm a little better with the Fourth Edition Warlock's at-will energy damage, as even a chaotic evil patron is going to take measures to ensure its protegé survives long enough to sow mayhem and discord.

Giving everybody Expertise dice would clear up some of the confusingly similar mechanics of bonus dice to this and that. Eliminating the need for expert classes to renew this resource in combat takes out a rule with a lot of overhead, and provides a way to control various bonuses to damage with the intrinsically limited potential of Vancian (charac... (see all)
Posted By: RadperT (10/24/2013 7:04:34 PM)


Since hit points are also an abstraction not just of physical damage, but exhaustion, stamina, etc. a "damage on a miss" can also be seen that the fighter is good enough at hitting things (it's what they do, after all) that in order to avoid serious damage, the target had to do some extraordinary ducking, twisting, etc. that left them winded (loss of HP) but not injured.

In any case, in a real western style fight, the combatants almost always "hit" on each attack, it's just that the blow is parried, blocked by a shield, or absorbed by armor, so the idea of a "miss" being a complete miss for a fighter in melee is actually LESS realistic than the alternative.
Posted By: Noirsoft (10/19/2013 6:37:56 PM)


I LIKE the rationale of these explanations, and Noirsoft really had to think to come up with the second one. It illustrates that in order to complete Mr. Thompson's argument, you need not only a Painless damage type (for the top paragraph derivative of the 4E justification for auto-damage, and in my opinion loopy effects like Faerie Fire sapping your life force), but another damage type which only affects armored, naturally or otherwise, targets, in proportion to the amount of protection afforded by their armor.
Posted By: RadperT (10/20/2013 11:28:51 AM)


My face is red about Faerie Fire! These last two packets have come so fast I didn't have time to fill out the survey for the first one, and just now got around to looking at Spells. I like what they've done with Spare the Dying.
Posted By: RadperT (10/22/2013 11:46:07 AM)


I would be in favor of having a minimum number that the fighter must roll in order for a miss to still do damage (maybe "miss by 5 or fewer"). The other thing that's like this is the Halfling's luck, which means the Halfling can never get a 1. I would favor giving the Halfling one reroll.
Posted By: TheGimper (10/19/2013 6:20:04 PM)


It kind of seems to me that some people are consciously deciding to interpret the rules in a way which, to them, doesn't make sense, rather than interpret them in a way which WOULD make sense, but would be different from how they've played in the past. That doesn't really seem like a great decision.
Posted By: Matt_Sheridan (10/19/2013 4:42:19 PM)


Mr. Thompson, if anyone miss the target with a great difference between the roll and the AC, this is usually see like a complete miss: the weapon didn't a single scratch to the armour.
If a great weapon fighter deal damage even with a difference more than 5 between hit total and AC, this don't make sense to us.
And I hope that a high level druid can't be limited to only small form of animals. Circle of the Moon or not.
Posted By: Eilistraecomeback (10/19/2013 11:44:08 AM)


A miss is a miss. Any PC that cannot NOT do damage unbalances the game and your explanation of how it works doesn't really stand up to scrutiny. If not even making a concession for critical misses with Great Weapon Fighter, the great logical inconsistencies that plagued the game from the beginning once again rears its dragon-like heads. A character can't simply not ever miss.
Posted By: SirCorin (10/19/2013 9:19:23 AM)


I understand how damage on a miss works, but I don't like how it means that you effectively can't miss, regardless of your foe. It doesn't bother me as much with an evoker and his ray of frost, since a magic ray can have a "seeking" aspect to it. But when swinging a good old sword it really rubs me wrong. And the alternative interpretation of the sword completely missing and the damage being abstract isn't working any better for me.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (10/18/2013 10:00:07 PM)


Not a 4E fan, I take it? Anyway, combat in DnD has always been abstract. One minute rounds in 1st Edition ADnD, anyone? Personally, I guess I just don't get the resistance to things like this. YMMV.
Posted By: Clansmansix (10/19/2013 2:57:14 AM)


Just a playstyle difference. The resistance is based on the fact that these sorts of damage on a miss mechanics necessitate a playstyle I don't like. They don't really give me a choice, other than to houserule out the ability and replace it. I may be wrong, but since I don't see the absense of such mechanics forcing others to play in my style it makes more sense to leave them out so everyone can play it however they like.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (10/19/2013 1:21:20 PM)


But that's just it- again the Fighter can't have nice things because "realism" but the wizard gets a free pass. This is why we end up with Caster Supremacy.
Posted By: Criswell (10/20/2013 9:41:32 PM)



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