D&D Next

As many of you know, Wizards of the Coast is working hard on creating the newest version of Dungeons and Dragons.  They have chosen to call it Dungeons and Dragons Next, or D&DNext, to differentiate it from the X edition nomenclature.  This is part of a move to unite the various fans of the different editions of D&D, from OD&D to 4th Edition.  It’s an…ambitious endeavor.

I’ve not weighed in on the D&DN yet.  While the internet and blogosphere has raged with commentary and what-if doomsday scenarios, I didn’t see the point making wish-lists or getting worked up about something someone’s cousin’s ex-partner’s former roommate who knows a guy at WOTC supposedly said.

But last night I downloaded the playtest and so I, like thousands and thousands of others, now get to actually see something with meat on bones.

If you are interested in seeing for yourself, you can download it here.

As for impressions, my initial ones were fairly positive.  I’ve seen so many versions of D&D in my life that it’s a bit difficult to separate this one out.  And since the playtest doesn’t reveal character creation (a big bone of contention between grognards and new edition fans), it’s hard to say how well they are meeting their goals.  They’ve brought back Hit Dice, which do two different things, and I’m not pleased about how one of those things is exactly what they always were.  Sorry, but if hit points are an abstraction of combat skill and prowess, then they should be a set amount, just like your attack bonus and skills/feats or whatever.  Casters don’t get a variable amount of spells when they advance, why the hell should fighters (anyone really) get a variable amount of combat prowess?  Levels either mean something or they don’t and I’m sorry, this is one of those old school mechanics that should die the death.

There have since been plenty of reviews from people and groups playing the game and while some people like it, there are a lot who don’t.  And listening to their complaints, and rereading stuff for myself, I see why.  Fighters, as usual, seem to get the shaft.  Not only are they mechanically uninteresting (with nearly no choice from round to round but ‘I attack’), they are weaker than clerics at many of the things important to fighting.

One of the arguements raging between older and newer players of the game is whether the Fighter class should be completely mundane, or if they should have some sort of supernatural prowess at higher levels.  The mundane camp argue that fighters are supposed to represent ‘normal’ people who overcome through skill and prowess.  This is based on D&D’s Swords and Sorcery roots.  Basically, they don’t want characters to be ‘Big Damn Heroes’ but rather scrabbling sneak thieves like they were in earlier editions and how Gygax intended.

Bull Shit.

Biggest…Damn…Hero…Evar!

Yeah, put me in the camp that calls BS on S&S=No Big Damn Heroes. As has been pointed out, Conan, Elric, et al are nearly templates for Big Damn Heroes. Conan is supernaturally strong (from a human perspective).

I also call BS on the whole idea of old school=zeroes to heroes. While 1st level characters could die easily in older editions, other than the thief, they were nowhere near the ‘peasant with a sword’ nonsense, so that whole idea needs to die in a fire. A first level fighter was a ‘Veteran’. He could have twice or more HP than a normal human. He’d been around and SEEN THINGS man! Ok, the mechanics didn’t support him being too super bad, but by the time he was 4th level he was a HERO. He could literally go up against a unit of soldiers with good chances of winning. By 8th level he could break armies as a SUPER HERO. I am talking about Chainmail/Od&d/and sort of 1st Ed AD&D here, the oldest of the old school. But the thing that grinds my teeth is the fact that fighters get weaker with each edition. Except 4th maybe. Oh, sure, they got more hit points, but their ability to leverage their prowess across the field of battle kept getting reduced until they became the superfluous party member, outdone even by the thief (who was the original superfluous party member).

I understand that people don’t want the game to be heavily tactical and, now that I’m playing ACKS, I support that idea. But that doesn’t mean the fighter can have some ‘always on’ awesome, or class abilities that just reflect that he’s the best at what he does, and what he does isn’t pretty.

Spitballing here:
Cleave: If a fighter hits an opponent with an attack, then all opponents within 5 feet that have less than 5 hit points are reduced to 0 hit points. At level X (5? 10?), this ability affects opponents within 10′ and with 10 (or 15 or whatever) hit points.

Bam! I just made the fighter a whirlwind of destruction. Yes, it’s clearing minions, but still. Versus single tough opponents, they still do more damage (say double normal or something).  It also allows combats to move quickly by reducing minor, unimportant encounters.

Speaking of single bad ass opponents, how about something like:

Weaponmastery: Fighters add their level to their damage with any weapon or unarmed attack.

I also think that fighters should be physical powerhouses. They can climb and do athletics and all the physical shit that they were doing before the thief class was introduced. And the whole Warlord class from 4E (which I like) should be rolled into the Fighter (because back in the day that’s what it was…a 9th level fighter). Give the Fighter abilities to push their teammates to better capability, or even heal them… though maybe have that stuff kick in at 4th level or something.

Another way to make them shine. If you have maneuvers that anyone can do at a penalty (disarm, push, bullrush, etc), let fighters do all of them at no penalty (or even at a bonus). From level 1. None of this, I need a feat to bother with disarming crap. Just let the fighters do all of that stuff and do it well.

Anyway, I’m hopeful for D&DN, but right now, there is little in it that would encourage me to stop playing ACKS.

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16 thoughts on “D&D Next

  1. tpmoney says:

    I think without going to an every class looks and behaves exactly the same as every other class like 4e had, the fighter will always and forever be getting the short end of the stick as long as they keep power scaling the game. The problem is the Fighter is the “core class” that everything is built off of, and the more extra classes and features and powers they add, the further and further behind the fighter falls.

    Think of 0e, where as you mention, there was no thief class. You had fighter, wizard and cleric. The fighter does the physical stuff, the wizard does the ranged siege and the cleric did defense / healing. Then they added the thief, and suddenly the fighter does the physical stuff, except the things the thief does. The the barbarian came a long and now he does the hitting things and doing lots of damage thing really well. Then the rogue, who’s claim to fame is dextrous fighting with light weapons. Then the ranger, who takes ranged weapons. Then the monk took unarmed combat. So now we have a fighter who’s no longer the climber, no longer the heavy damage dealer, not a defender, not a ranged weapons guy, not a nimble swashbuckler, and so on and so forth. So now what is the fighter other than a better than the average bear, man at arms?

    I didn’t like what 4e did with powers, I think it changed the feel of everything too much, and made all the classes feel pretty much the same, and while it may be a nice system, it didn’t feel like D&D and didn’t have good support for the type of old adventures that define D&D. But clearly I think, going back to the 3e way where you just pile feats and skills onto the fighter isn’t what people want either (just go read through some 4e fan reactions to this playtest, if you can stomach the wailing that is).

    Perhaps then the solution is to drop the fighter class entirely. Because lets face it, what the complaints about the fighter being mundane boil down to is that he doesn’t have any cool special things that make all the other classes unique, and how could he, the fighter by definition in the old editions was a catch all for anything that wasn’t a magic user or a holy man, a jack of all trades. But at this point, the fighter catches nothing but flak. So let’s ditch the fighter completely. You want to hit things hard and fast, play a barbarian. You want to buckle some swash, play a rogue. You want to live out your Legolas fan fics, play a ranger. You want to kick butt Jet Li style, hello monk.

    Other than being iconic, what does the fighter bring to the table anymore?

    • Very good points. And thank you for linking me on your blog! You’ve given me a lot to think about. Part of me wants to say that the Fighter could exist in the design space where it encompasses all things, while the splinter classes or themes or whatnot take a single facet and perform that one thing better, while losing in all other regards.
      Hmmm….now I feel another post coming on!

      • From what I can read between the lines, I think that’s what they want to try accomplishing in Next. They haven’t released them yet, but they’re talking about themes and backgrounds, and I get the impression you take a generic “fighting man” apply a theme or two and background and have a unique snowflake. Unfortunately for the fighter, and 4e fans, those backgrounds and themes apparently will apply to other classes too, meaning that we’re back to the fighter being a generic fighting man amongst gods and demi-gods. To be honest, without switching to a point buy character building system, I can’t think of a good way out of this with the way D&D is structured without reverting all the way back to 0e, 3 classes only.

    • Sam says:

      But what if I want to play the ex-soldier, the veteran. He doesn’t go in like a barbarian, he doesn’t swash any buckles, he knows better than to go into a knife fight unarmed and he’s never heard of Legolas. No, he’s a tactically minded warrior that doesn’t fit into any other class but “fighter”. There is room for that in D&D, even in Next.

      • But other than not being as good as the Fighter Subclasses, what actually defines that fighter? Even your description defines the example in opposition to the more specific version. What mechanical differences does that character have that make it shine over the others? What is it best at?

      • To echo what micah said, you just described a plain ordinary no special skills fighter, the same old ordinary plain one that everyone is complaining about. If the complaint is that fighters don’t do or get anything special, then the honest solution is to simply be rid of fighters that don’t something special.

      • Beat me to the punch!
        Basically, how do you define that character EXCEPT in opposition to something else? That seems weird. All the other concepts stand on their own two feet (though they may have wiggle room…it isn’t soooo deviant that you need to redefine the class to play the concept). Fighters actually need subclasses to define their ‘Others’, but as you do this, you take away from the base class until, eventually, there is nothing left.

        Now, DNDNext could take the very unpopular option of getting rid of all subclasses. Want a Ranger/Barbarian/Swashbuckler? Take the appropriate Theme/Background and viola. But they won’t do that because people like classes and the more classes you have the more books you sell (rather than simply letting people construct their own).

  2. […] at Micah’s place, I left a comment regarding his thoughts on how D&D Next is handling the fighter so far. And I liked what I wrote so much, I’ve […]

  3. John says:

    There are two alternate 3.x fighters that warrant attention in this discussion, I think. The first was Iron Heroes’ Man-at-Arms. Iron Heroes was a low-magic d20 variant with almost no spellcasting, where the majority of classes were as you put it ‘fighter subclasses’ with various fancy features. The Man-at-Arms, on the other hand, was a fairly standard 3.0 fighter (full BaB, feats every other level) plus many skill points, a wide variety of class skills and wildcard feat slots which you could fill with any feat whose prerequisites you met during combat as an action (but then you were stuck with that feat for the rest of the day). Need to pick off some sentries? Spend a couple actions, pick up point blank and precise shot, and off you go. Found some crazy exotic weapon? No problem. These skills + wildcard feats meant that the Man-at-Arms was indeed the highly-versatile veteran who could adapt to whatever situation he found himself in.

    The other variant fighter that I’m thinking of is Frank & K’s Tome Fighter. It specializes in reactions and disrupting enemy actions, which works reasonably well for the veteran trope and isn’t something the subclasses do much.

    • I actually really like that first variant, though with 5e apparently trying to do away with “skills as feats” it might be tough to do. I could imagine something like the fighter being a “reverse wizard” though. Where a wizard seeks out spells, memorizes them at the beginning of the day, and spends them throughout the day, the fighter seeks out new moves, recalls them when needed, but spends them like the wizard spends spells, requiring a long rest to recover the slots.

      The only concerns I can see with that are again, pigeon holing a fighter into only the skills he has, or in an attempt to avoid that, making the skills so powerful (and outside normal improv ideas) that they’re game breaking.

      Perhaps fighters get a limited number of uses per day wherein they can dictate the outcome of a die roll. In recognizing a fighter is awesome at fighting, a limited number of times per day (like wizard spell slots) a fighter can replace a combat or physical related die roll with a declared number from the possible results, with the caveat that while a declared 20 would still count as an auto hit, they would still have to roll damage as it’s not a “critical” hit.

      • I also like the idea of the Fighter being truly ultimate in that he can think up, or remember, ‘just the right move’. And possibly it could be like spells, or a rotating feat slot, or something.
        The idea of X numbers of Preset dice is also pretty good. Though I think that damage should be included (and a 20 should still be a crit). These are gods of war after all.

  4. […] comment over at Micah’s place has me thinking about the fighter and how to make the fighter “better”. I’m not […]

  5. D. says:

    I’ve been running 1E for all purposes, and when you give Fighters (and their subclasses) attacks equal to level for less than 1HD creatures, plus some form of weapons specialization, this makes them pretty darn distinct from the other classes and keeps them in combat power-house mode. If you add in some version of a cleaving rule or ability (or effect for certain classes of weapons that only fighters can use) and it really gets obvious…

    D.

    • I think Fighters (and Fighters alone) having some kind of Cleave ability allowing them to move from one dropped opponent to the next, would make them feel special. However, a few caveats:
      1) As they level up, it get’s less meaningful. So what if Mr. 15th level fighter can attack and kill 15 1HD soldiers a round… those guys are not a threat to him in his +4 Plate and +3 Shield anyway. The DM might as well describe the scene as: a red mist sprays the air as they all fall like wheat before you. Rolling the dice for that kind of fight is typically a waste of time.

      2) As HP improve, unless your damage output goes up, it becomes less meaningful. If you fight 10 ogres who /might/ hurt you, so it’s worth rolling, at best you’ll get one follow on attack after you batter one down, unless you are putting out enough damage that you might kill an ogre with each hit.

      What I would like to see the fighter have is:
      Battlefield Control
      Greater leveraging of Weapons (maybe more damage but possibly some special maneuvers that either they alone can do, or only they can do without penalty)
      Greater Tactical Skill imparting Tactical benefits to the party.

      I hope they don’t simply do ‘bigger numbers’ because that (to me at least) get’s fairly old. Everyone else has tactical decisions to make, give the fighter some of that pie.

  6. […] DungeonCrawl brought up the radical idea that maybe it’s time for Fighters to go away as a class in D&D.  Of course, as a sacred cow […]

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