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Expertise Dice
Legends & Lore
Mike Mearls

L ast week, we released the monk character class. In the last packet, we revised the rogue. In both cases, those classes use expertise dice to reflect their growing combat ability.

At first glance, it's easy to think that expertise dice exist to allow characters to use maneuvers. The mechanic first appeared with the fighter, and it proved a fairly easy way to give that class a way to use combat maneuvers. As we move forward, it's worth taking a moment to look at the mechanic and talk about its actual role in the game.

As the game comes together, it has become clear that expertise serves as a replacement in weapon-using classes for earlier editions' increased attack bonuses. Traditionally in D&D, a weapon-user gains a bonus to attacks with an increase in level. 3E had base attack bonus, AD&D used a table that gave an increased chance to hit with level, and 4E added half your level to your attack rolls.

In D&D Next, we're changing things up a bit. Rather than focusing on improving your bonus to attack rolls, the system instead gives you an increased bonus to damage. Expertise dice represent your skill with weapons. A highly skilled warrior hits much harder than a novice. This improvement matches your increased hit points with level, as some part of hit points represents skill in avoiding deadly hits.

Thus, two warriors facing each other are evenly matched if they have an equal ability to score telling blows and an equal talent for avoiding deadly strikes. Hit points represent, at least in part, your improved defenses, while an escalating damage bonus represents your improved weapon skill.

This might seem like a minor point, but it's important to keep it in mind as we look at other classes. It's quite likely that any class expected to make melee attacks on a regular basis will have an expertise dice rating, but that does not mean that most classes will use maneuvers. In fact, this approach has a few benefits that help bring the game together.

To start with, this change makes it easier for us to maintain our flat math approach. We're content to let accuracy remain something that stays flatter than in the past. The bonuses you gain to attacks come much slower than in the past, and we don't try to differentiate classes through accuracy to the same degree as in previous editions. Low-level characters battling a powerful monster don't hit less often (unless a high AC is a signature feature of a monster), but it takes them many more attacks to defeat the creature. By the same token, weaker monsters fall quickly to higher-level characters. They must attack in groups to pose a threat. That's a dynamic we've aimed for since the beginning of the game's design.

Second, it means that expertise can't shoulder the entire load of the fighter's abilities. The fighter still needs something to call its own. At this stage, I'd like to take the Parry maneuver and make it a fighter-only ability that does not use expertise. Instead, Parry becomes an option that improves on its own and doesn't require a fighter to split dice between attacks and defense.

Third, since many classes can use expertise, we should make it as simple as possible to use. Right now, expertise requires tracking between your turns. Here's an idea for the fighter. Let's say you use an opportunity attack to hack at a troll as it pushes by you. If you spend expertise dice to boost that attack's damage, you need to remember you spent them when your turn comes around. Ideally, for your fighter, we'd give you all of your dice to use on your turn and also when you use your reaction. Players who opt for a simple version of the fighter know to just roll their expertise dice as a bonus to damage.

Fourth, we can use feats as a way for characters to gain more maneuvers, focusing on options like Two-Weapon Fighting, Rapid Shot, and so forth—things that many different classes could opt into by using feats in prior editions. If the paladin uses expertise dice, someone playing a paladin can opt into the generic maneuvers and use the dice to fuel them.

Finally, rules modules can use expertise dice in different ways. For instance, a tactical combat option might give all characters a set of generic options for spending expertise dice. You can imagine a simple stunt system that lets anyone try different options in return for spending dice. An optional power system might give weapon users encounter or even daily powers that let you spend dice for bigger effects on a limited basis.

So, to summarize the status of expertise dice:

  • They represent your growing skill through a bonus to damage.
  • Characters advance in weapon skill through a damage bonus, rather than an attack bonus.
  • Maneuvers are limited to certain classes.
  • Some specific maneuvers are accessible by feats.
  • We can use expertise dice as the currency for some optional rules modules, such as powers and tactical combat.

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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