In this episode of the RPGBOT.Podcast, we discuss the future of Dungeons and Dragons. Random and Tyler share their experiences with the transition from 3.0 to 3.5, and how we expect that to affect the transition to the “new evolution”. We also discuss what sort of mechanical changes we expect to see based on recent changes to 5e and the announced changes coming in Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse.
Special thanks to @cursedKenku for this week’s question of the week.
Materials Referenced in this Episode
- Articles on RPGBOT.net
- 3.x Source Books, etc.
- 5e Source Books
- Other Stuff
I’m actually good at combat.
Welcome to the RPGBOT.Podcast. I’m Randall James, you’re disappointed edition disciple and with me is Tyler Kamstra
and Random Powell.
All right, welcome, welcome. This is Episode 13, the 14th episode of the RPGBOT.podcast. Tyler, what are we going to do today?
Well, I know spook Tober is over, but we’re going to talk about something a little bit scary. We’re going to talk about the future. Specifically, we’re going to talk about the future of Dungeons and Dragons. I did a lot of talking about this on the blog and on Twitter, we got a The Future of D&D panel at the end of this year’s D&D celebration, and they announced some kind of startling news. So Wizards of the Coast is working on the quote unquote, next evolution of Dungeons and Dragons. So we don’t know exactly what that means, but Random and I have been through this a few times. So we’re going to talk about what you can expect from the future, what we already know, what we can assume, and what we don’t know yet, but what we can hope for.
Yeah, just for comparison, I have literally never been through this. So I started playing during the fifth edition era. And I kind of looked at history, like I was aware that there had been these other editions because you don’t just start counting at five, right? But I just assumed it wasn’t going to happen to me. I thought as a society, we had moved past this. I was equally shocked by Windows 11. Like, I thought Windows had finally figured it out. We don’t like new editions. Just every week, you know, change my widget color a little bit, give me something new. Like when I get a new version of Android, sure, I’ve got to restart my phone and it shows upm But like nothing, I didn’t have to do anything. I didn’t have to buy anything. Like, I I bought the phone, what more do you want? So yeah, this, I will say hearing the idea of like, Oh, we’re gonna get a new edition, or we’re gonna rev it. What that sounds like to me is like, throw out all your old stuff we’re buying new stuff. Everybody welcome the D 16. I, yeah, I can’t.
I will say we are very explicitly not getting that. For those of you who haven’t had the chance to either watch the live stream recording or read Tyler’s blog post, they have very explicitly come out and said, it will be backwards compatible with what there currently is. While this has led to some debate, I feel like this is very much the transition from 3.0 to 3.5. As someone who has gone through a fair bit of both 3.0 3.5 content and tried to use both of those things in 3.5, there were definitely some things where if it was not updated, you could very much tell. Resistance in fifth edition is very much a mechanic from 3.0 that they did away with in 3.5. In 3.0, you had monsters that took half damage from piercing, that sort of jazz, and then in 3.5, that all got changed to damage reduction, where just if it doesn’t meet a certain requirement, take a flat number off of it instead. There are definitely going to be some things where you’re going to look at this and you’re gonna have to maybe do a little bit of adjustment, either on the fly or in prep time if you’re trying to use this fifth edition base content in a theoretical 5.5. But honestly, I think they are going to have learned a lot from that. And WotC has grown in some really impressive ways in the last 20 years. And I think that that’s going to be a great basis for them to do this transition and have it work even better than it did last time where was already pretty good.
You say you see something interesting there, like the organizational intelligence of having gone through this before. Do we know, like, are there a lot of old hats who did this the first time and saw the positives and negatives that are contributing to what’s happening now?
There’s a 3.5 called Book of Exalted Deeds that random and I both remember very fondly. Jeremy Crawford, now the lead rules architect for Dungeons of Dragons, that was one of his first books that he worked on. So the turnover rate at Wizards of the Coast is pretty low, like, people generally get in there and then stay forever, like, some of their artists have worked there since TSR.
Yeah. So these people have been through this a lot. They know what they’re doing. They know what works and what doesn’t having having done it right with 3.5 and then arguably wrong with fourth edition. I’m hoping that they’re going to benefit from that institutional knowledge. And like Random said, yes, we do know that things are going to be backwards compatible. So if you have a bookshelf full of fifth edition books, none of that needs to be thrown out in favor of the new edition. We do know with more than kindness monsters. of the multiverse, a lot of character options are going to get an update. We know that that every race that’s in a non-setting-generic or setting-agnostic book is going to be in more than comments monsters with multiverse. So everything that’s in the Wildemount book, everything that’s in the Eberron book, all those races are going to be brought into Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse and updated. And from what they said in the future of D&D panel, the plan is to update those races to be ready for the transition to the new version of D&D, what we’ll likely see is races that have been around since before Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything updated to use the more recent design mechanics.
Does that then imply that maybe the new races who showed up the fairy or the… oh, I can’t think of the name of the rabbit from Wild Beyond the Witchlight. Harengon. Harengon. Okay, yeah, I need to remember that. That that these are actually ready to go, potentially? Or do we also think that they might appear in this?
I think they’ll probably get reprinted in the book just so that they’re not locked away in an adventure, but they will probably be textually identical. Races like, say the Warforged as an example, they will probably get some rules updates. So we’ll see things like the ability score increases will change to new use the new +2/+1 or any three plus ones. And then skills will be just any skill you want if you get a skill proficiency, but otherwise, those races might stay the same. They might see some balance changes. It’s hard to say and WotC hasn’t told any hasn’t told us anything yet. They did say in the panel that there was going to be more news in October. But as of this recording, October is over, and we never got that news. Maybe the news they were teasing was just the new the new Critical Role adventure.
Okay. And then I guess there’s other standardization that they talked about for the new races coming. So there’s kind of this idea that unless specifically stated, just treat average statistics as humanoid. Is that right?
Yeah. We talked about it some in the bonus episode, where we reviewed the new Unearthed Arcana, talking about these races that very clearly seem to have their tie ins with the the multiverse content.
Episode 12, 13th episode,
That wasn’t a bonus episode. I’m so bad at this. But I mean, you really what it seems like is they are trying to go for basically, unless stated otherwise, base it off human. It’s kind of interesting that they’re going that route. With this, this new model of races, I think that there is a little bit lost. The thing that really gets me is that races are all now only speaking one language in general, which feels kind of weird. You know, if we do get, say the half-elf updates, where you know, you’re like, all the races have their common plus one. There are definitely some races that it made sense to speak other languages. So I wonder how they’re going to work with that for less common things.
Where did where did that detail come from? Actually, I hadn’t heard that yet. So the idea would be you might be a half-elf, but as a half-elf, you might still only speak common based on the race benefit?
In the Unearthed Arcana, and I, I will admit that I I believe that this was also true in the new races that we got were slight wherever those fair, yes, wherever those… Yeah, Witchlight. I guess we did get new races in an actual…
In an adventure, yeah.
That’s so fascinating. Yeah, where they only speak common plus one. And there definitely have been in the past, when you were selecting bonus languages, there was like a list that you could pick from that made sense for the race. And, you know, I wonder how they’re going to try and incorporate that. Some, some races did get more than one beyond common. I just I wonder about that as a vague sidebar. eEerything being generalized, I thin, is gonna do a lot for opening up options so that no race is going to feel pigeon holed into any one thing. In the same way that Tasha’s did basically just, you know, taking that and expanding it to, yeah, this is no longer an optional rule. This is no longer a thing from tortious. This is just how races work. And good. Now you don’t have to use Tasha’s as as your plus one, which maybe we should talk about that at some point.
And so the the idea there being that, when you choose your ability scores, you can do choose plus two plus one or three plus ones. And therefore, just because you’re a gnome, it doesn’t limit your ability to go be the best Barbarian they possibly can be if that’s the thing that you have passion for. Right, exactly. I guess the distinction I would imagine between the different races will be things like the dragonborn that has this additional breath weapon. For some of the Unearthed Arcana races, however they show up, they each had maybe one or two unique features that they had such as the ability to glide because that’s going to be critical in combat. I think that’s the future. Is, is that the main thing that’s actually going to help you choose mechanically what race you want to be is what that bonus feature is?
I think so. The ability score increases, speaking from character optimization perspective, the ability score increases really defined what a race was good at. And then the additional traits of the race were really secondary to the ability score increases. High elves were the only race in the core rulebook that in the core rule books that got an intelligence increase. They were the best wizards period. And until we got more races with intelligence increases, if you wanted to play a Wizard, you played a high elf. So now the ability to assign your ability to score increases however you like means… Gnome Wizard well now that I think about it, Gnomes also got an intelligence increase. But you get my point.
Halfling wizard, gnome barbarian, all of your all of your crazy race class combinations are all viable. And then picking a race comes down to those additional traits beyond the ability score increases.
And and one interesting thing mechanically, you know, yes, that’s the optimization that we’re looking for. Because RPGBOT.net, that’s what we do. What this also does is it really opens up better narrative options. Because when you are not limited to feeling like you are needing to make a choice between the narrative decisions you want and being mechanically optimized, that’s going to lead to a lot better character building where maybe you do have this brilliant idea for a gnome Barbarian, but you never wanted to play it because, well, you don’t get a strength increase. And so, man, that that’s really rough. This just removes that opportunity cost. You can now have both. So I’m very excited about that. On that note, I’m really interested to see how they do sort of balance things when they do this reprint of these races, a lot of the 3.0 to 3.5 content, some of the things like you could tell that they worked but they didn’t really make sense as a power level. So in this current edition, for instance, for a long time variant human was the meta because you get a feat at level one and you get to assign your ability scores. Great. With Tasha’s, all of a sudden, one particular flavor of dwarf became the meta because now you get two plus two skill increases. That this was a thing where this dwarf it made perfect sense because it was you know, like strength and con so they’re amazing fighters/barbarians, and kind of mediocre anything else until you give them this increased flexibility. So if that does get just straight ported into a plus two plus one three plus ones, great. But yeah, I definitely remember like I was saying some some of that 3.0 content. One of my particular favorites, you could tell that there were some things that they just couldn’t figure out what to do, and so they never bothered. The Epic Level Handbook is something that I read through really a lot because it was a lot of fun to you know, just read these overpower things. In addition to our lovely things like stone and iron golems. When you get to Epic levels, you can deal with mithril golems and adamantine golems and adamantine golems were fine. They were just a stat block. Like the problem with mithril golems is because yes, well, this has been a very light material. So what do we do? We give it permanent haste. Now, anyone who is familiar with 3.0 haste knows exactly why this was an enormous problem. The more recent D&D people among you, in 3.0, actually, you know, I’ll go backwards. So fifth edition haste, you know it… when you take a full attack, or it’s, you can take an additional action, which can only be a single attack, or dash, or dodge, I think.
Something like that.
In 3.5, it was just double your move speed. If you take a full attack action, you get an extra attack, and like the plus two armor class and reflex saves. Well, in 3.0, you just got an extra action on your turn. And you could use that action for anything you could use actions for, like, say, casting spells. For the duration of haste, you could just cast a minimum of two spells a turn, and if you quicken one, you could cast three spells a turn. And there we go. Seeing this the stuff like 3.0 haste on this Golem, you sort of have to look at this and wonder, okay, but how? How are you? How are you expecting you to make this compatible? I am hoping that that’s the sort of thing that Wizards of the Coast does take that experience of the 30. to 3.5 transition and go, Okay, we really need to look at these edge cases, we really need to, you know, be aware of how are we going to balance things as we move them? Or like, how do we provide… honestly, what I really want them to provide his guidelines for, like, we’re not going to translate everything. We’re going to reprint 20% of content, and then everything going forward is this this new version. Let’s look at some guidelines for how do we make the old stuff still relevant and maybe like CR adjustment or whatnot, but that’s what I’m hoping for.
And I will say if you’re not happy with how Wizards of the Coast does that backwards compatibility, you should come visit your fine purveyors of opinion on the internet at RPGBOT.net because we’re going to be chock full of opinions,
Oh, of course. Random’s really right about the transition from 3.0 to 3.5 a lot of things did eventually get ported especially character options. So we got splat books like Defenders of the Faith, which was the splat book for clerics and monks and that had prestige classes feats etc. And then that eventually got updated to do in three five it got updated with things like Complete Warrior and Complete Champion the… the “Complete” series which was like eight books by the time 3.5 ended. All of the character options really got updated, a lot of the monsters eventually got updated in various sources but like Monster Manual 2, the Epic Level Handbook a few other things never got updated from 3.0. Now we did have, a we did get
Ah, I got a cut off real quick. What is a splat book?
Oh, gosh, sorry. a splat books are things that add more rules. So like Tasha’s, Xanathar’s, basically a rules expansion.
I can’t believe I’ve never used that term on the podcast.
Or if you have I missed it. But yeah, I guess I’ve never heard that phrase. So you, you have your core rulebooks, you have splat books, which expand the rules, and then you have adventures and sometimes the adventures come with rules, but they’re still adventures. They’re not splat books.
And 3.x, just as a quick sidebar, 3.x had a ton of them. I mean, Tyler was right. The Complete series, you had all of the various magic expansions. So your Tome of Battle Tome of Magic… That, yeah, okay. The Defenders of the Faith, that whole series, you could technically use those in 3.5. They were I don’t know, maybe 80-page paperback things that were specifically for like two classes, Wizard/Sorcerer, Rogue/Bard, Fighter/Barbarian. I’m honestly pleased at the fact that they’ve sort of slimmed down that trend in fifth edition.
Gears and Guns with Pathfinder 2 is an example of a splat book.
Street Wired on top of the core rulebook for Shadowrun sixth edition. Is that a splat book?
So yeah, third edition, famously had these books coming out, like every two months. So like, if you think, man, I’m struggling to keep up with the release pace of fifth edition where we get one, like, we get one campaign every year and one source book. One splat book. Like if you’re struggling to keep up with that, man, imagine six times that. It was nuts.
With no internet or digital downloads.
Yeah. Well, it was the early days of the internet. So the transition from 3.0 to 4.5 happened in like 2004, 2005. And they did release a transition guide document for how to convert stuff from 3.0 to 3.5. They released it as a PDF on the wizards website. It wasn’t quite dial up. Was a little past dial up, just barely, if I’m remembering right.
But you did still have to have Adobe installed or something like this.
Okay. Yeah. You You were on a rant, but I got caught on splat book, I don’t wanted to stop. Did you? Can you pick up where you were?
Yeah. So the conversion guide from 3.0 to 3.5 was what I wanted to hit. I’m hoping we’ll get something similar like that for fifth edition where it’s like, okay, here are the big rules concepts that changed. Here’s what you need to do to update things that haven’t been updated yet. The 3.0 to 3.5 version was one page and honestly wasn’t especially helpful, in my opinion.
Good luck, losers.
I’m hoping they do better this time, especially since it’s so much easier to distribute things digitally now. Like, if they put out an update guide and people are like, “Hey, I don’t know how to solve this super serious problem.” They can just put out another version the next day.
We’re much better equipped to solve these problems now from a technology perspective and from a communications perspective. So the transition from from fifth edition to 5.5, or whatever it ends up being called, they can make it very smooth.
Yeah, I guess I feel like I hear that the… alright, the number of folks playing fifth edition D&D is much larger than the number of folks who were playing third edition D&D Back in the day. So it feels, you know, again, with anything, it feels like a risk saying that we’re going to, you know, move to the next thing or we’re going to, you know, go into 6.0 would just seem insane with how much success they’ve had and getting people to sign up and start engaging, Like, it feels like a big risk to turning people off. But with what you’re saying that this, this is going to be an incremental step it’s going to add, but it’s not going to take away, the compatibility is going to be there. It seems like really, they’re making it simpler, and they’re making it easier to go down the narrative that you want to go down. I guess one more thing that I feel like I’ve heard, to make things easier, is it’s also going to be easier to DM.
So if you’ve looked at Wild Beyond the Witchlight, and some of the discussion on Twitter and stuff, we’re getting changes to the statblocks for monsters, especially spellcasting monsters. So if you crack open your Monster Manual, swhith the NPC… flip to the NPCs at the back of the book and look up Archmage. It is effectively a 17th level Wizard. Now they’re nice enough to give you the spell list ahead of time and say this is all of their spells that they have prepared on any given day. Good luck! Now, now I just recently just to see what would happen, I stuck that thing into the Monsterizer. And if you go by just like, Oh, what are its attacks? It technically owns a dagger, which means it has a CR of… I think it works out to 3 based primarily on how many hit points it has. So it turns out a lot of the spellcasting monsters assumed that the DM was going to play this thing like a character optimizer. Like, you are going to go in knowing how to murder stuff with this stat block. And when you’re pulling something out of Monster mManual real quick or like you’re running a publish module, and you didn’t think to read ahead or whatever, you might not know exactly how murdery this thing is supposed to be. So the Archmage an example their highest level damage spell is Cone of Cold. Like, they can cast up to ninth level spells but their ninth level spell is I think Time Stop instead of like Meteor Swarm or Wish or something. Solid choice, but doesn’t do damage. Their CR is calculated assuming that you’re going to use their three highest-level spell slots to cast Cone of Cold because that is how they can get the most damage output with the resources. That’s not explained anywhere. There’s no tactics entries for any of the monsters. So it’s it’s basically guesswork for a lot of DM’s. So wizards looked at that and said, Okay, people aren’t killing their players enough. We need to make this easier for DMS to be scary with spellcasters. So now, instead of having those offensive spells, spellcasters will have, like, spell-;ike actions, essentially. The warlock that’s going to come in Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse has a has an action, it can use once per rest or something that’s basically Hunger of Hadar as an action. So it’s called something different, but it has pretty much the exact same effects. It’s AOE ongoing damage, it’s spooky, and there’s tentacles. And then spellcasters do still have spellcasting list in the statblock. But instead of having like, here’s your up to nine levels of spells plus cantrips. And they can do all these spells and have these spell slots. And you’ve got to track all the spell slots, DM, have fun! So instead of all those things, it’s just here are all of their non-combat spells, they can ask each of them once per day. That’s it.
One interesting thing if you want to see some good examples of this right now: Fizban’s. Fizban’s is out and all of the Dragons have basically this sort of stuff. If you go coming through the the the monster section of Fizban’s, anything that cast spells, it looks exactly like that. They don’t actually list spells, they just say, can cast such and such and they list like four things. So you don’t you only have to look at those four things do. And interestingly, some of them, even if these are big, scary things that are meant to be BBEG’s, it will still just list for instance, legendary action. Like, legendary action spellcasting. Because they know that they’ve narrowed it down to just these four things, they’re fine with saying, Okay, we know you’re you can’t possibly break anything we’re trying to do by just casting these four spells we’ve given you, we will let you do this even on other people’s turns, because we’re saying this is not so complicated that it’s no longer that hard to deal with. So that’s a good example of what things are maybe going to look like.
Yeah, and I guess just to say it, I know we talked about this on the monsteriber… Monsterizer episode, we’re talking about what it took to build the Monsterizer, but the assumption when offensive CR, so CR is built out of offensive CR plus defensive CR, taking the average of these two values. The short summary of how you calculate offensive CR is based on the maximum amount of damage that you can build, that you can do over three turns. And so toward towards what Tyler was talking about, it’s a little confusing to say, Oh, well, I have this Cone of Cold cantrip. And I also have a ninth level spell slot. And the thing you were supposed to put together is that if that’s your highest damage at ninth level, then you’re going to cast this cantrip at ninth level, and most folks just wouldn’t think to do it and therefore the CR of it doesn’t make sense. It’s actually kind of a disappointing, what did you say, 17th level monster?
17th level Wizard. I think they’re CR like 13 or 14. Somewhere in that range. But they have they have the spell list of a 17th level Wizard.
Okay. And so talking about where we’re headed, is the idea being that instead of telling me that I have a cantrip, which is Cone of Cold, and I have a ninth level spell slot, are they just going to say you have a fulcrum of frost? And when you cast this, or when you use this ability, you’re just gonna roll 9d8?
Okay. So it’s taking a little bit of freedom from the DM, but probably we agree it maybe isn’t freedom that most DM’s are taking advantage of anyway.
Yeah, I think so. The one thing we’re going to lose in this is you can’t counterspell the spell-like actions, which people are I think justifiably upset about. Because when you walk into a fight with a spellcaster, you want to be able to counter their spells,
Does it, I mean, would it, would it be game breaking to basically grant this? Like, if, if it if it looks like a spell on spells like a spell? We’re just gonna let you cast counterspell?
I’d allow it.
Okay. Yeah, that’s interesting. I’m gonna have to check on that. Because it does specify and admittedly, it is called spellcasting as an action. But like I, I mean, I did comb pretty heavily through Fizban’s. And it is literally called spell casting, and then it lists spell names. I would see very little reason to treat any differently than other spells. Because if you’re going to say that counterspell doesn’t work, then that means that they’re also working in an anti magic sphere, which is an enormous problem, for obvious reasons.
Oh, well, sorry, I should clarify. So the stuff under spell casting where it still lists like the individual spells, that all still works normally, except it’s just they only get the cast each spell once per day. The spell-like actions that they’re using to replace those offensive spells. Like, they’ll say magically does, blah, blah, blah, blah. But it, not, isn’t the cast a spell action. So you can’t use counterspell on those.
Rules as written.
You can still counter, like, the actual spells, just not the spell-like actions. And I’m pretty sure most most or all of them do say magically. And anything that says magically doesn’t work in an anti-magic field. So you can still like walk in the anti-magic field onto to these casters and ruin their day.
Okay. But a hope would be and hopefully this is a subtle thing they’ve already thought of, and they’re not just listening to this podcast and going to write it down. If you were very deliberate about either calling it a spell action, or having that magically phrase. It might also make sense to basically call out that with Counterspell. Any action that requires magic can be counterspelled. With with the current rule set, is there anything that we can think of that that would break?
Depends on what you define as magic. Because like, I could see that definitely impacting things like, bardic Inspiration. Or how do you magically control, say, your swarm of very tiny velociraptors. Look it up, it’s totally possible. So I would be very hesitant about trying to go that route. But one of the things that I will always give enormous credit to fifth edition for is, if it is my table, and this is magic, then Counterspell works. Hard stop.
And you get to do that. Yeah, no, that makes sense to me. Okay, cool. All right. So I think it’s a good time to get wild. What’s your bold call for 5.5?
Bold calls for 5.5. Okay, so I think we’re going to change… I think we’re going to see changes to how ability score generation works. So right now we have the standard array, the 15/14/13, yada, yada. You could do point by or you can roll. And then you have racial ability score increases that go on top of that. Now, if every race gets the same choice of plus two plus one or three plus ones, why even bother having racial ability score increases? Why not just raise the cap on the ability score? So like, change the standard array to 16/15/14/13/12/20? Like, do something like that. I don’t know how they’ll handle that from a backwards compatibility perspective. Like, maybe the conversion guide will be just, yeah, just ignore racial ability score increases, just don’t use those use these cool new rules instead.
I don’t like that. Well, no, I mean, here’s my call out, right. Like I could give the two to the eight, er to… to 14 and have a 16. Or I could give the two to the lowly eight and a 10. And like, do I want no garbage stats? Or do I want to maximize my mechanically advantageous stat. So basically, am I am I going to do character optimization, in which case, you know, where you’re going to put the plus two plus one, but but some folks might try to balance things out.
Well, and I mean, that’s just about the standard array specifically. You know, if you’re, if you’re doing point by then maybe it’s just going to be ignore racials, you get 30 points instead, and the cap is 17. And that that’s still gonna let you do the customization that you were just talking about where you know, maybe I do, for instance, want to have fifteens in all fields because I am a variant human and I am Gaston and Gaston has all 14s as a folk hero. That’s, that’s my hot take. Actual 5.5 kind of things. One of the things that I think would be really interesting would be if they do try and redo how some classes work. I saw a really interesting column recently where for levels one and two, a lot of classes play really identically to each other because a lot of classes don’t get their sub class until level three. And while that’s definitely one of the reasons why starting your one shots or whatever at level three slash four. Very good idea. It does really feel a little bit odd when you know something like a Cleric gets to have their domain at level one, they just walk out and yes, I am a peace domain Cleric, hate me as you should. You know, whatever the case may be there. So I’m I’m really hoping that they take this opportunity to try and tweak early levels a little bit. Maybe… I know that one of the big defining things for some classes is the ability that they get to start. I know that that’s why they assigned some of that power to level three. But realistically, I think that you should be able to figure something out, you know, we do get the channel options for clerics. We do get… I don’t know particular. I’m trying to I am now blanking on if there are any other classes that get their subclass at level one. Is it… monks? The the short answer is I hope that they try and make it so that you are more thematically different so that you are not just every Ranger mcRanger at levels one and two. That’s where I’m hoping they’ll take this opportunity to be a little creative, because they know that fifth edition is such a strong base that people are going to still be interested in whatever they’re doing.
Yeah, I wonder, I wonder how much of that is like a hangover of like how like a better way to put it, the game is kind of meant to be played on long, arcing campaigns, right? And if it’s your first time sitting down to play, it makes sense to start at level one. Because with everything else that that’s happening, it’s complex enough to play a level one character. And then you finally understand and you learn a little bit and then you really start getting like the unique things where nobody else at the table probably has the feature that you have. And so you really have to learn to master it on your own. But I feel like that that really only makes sense the first time you play fifth edition D&D, and from then on, maybe the answer is, unless it’s a campaign out of a book, you should just start at three. Because those first two levels are boring anyway.
And very lethal.
Yeah. And vice versa, like towards your point, maybe if you if you move it back and let people get awesome at level one, like let them start getting really character-defining features mechanically at level one. If everything else is a bit simpler, if it’s a little bit easier to get started, maybe that’s not so bad. And yeah, I guess this is a good point to it too, right? The complexity is not playing a level one or level three character the first time. That complexity is building a level one or level three character the first time. Because, like, It’s so wild until everything actually makes sense. And you’ve seen it used in context. And you’re like, Okay, obviously, yeah, I don’t want to have 5 life and an AC of 13. I probably want to do something about this.
Yeah, and this is something that we’ve seen over 20 plus years. Tyler and I have both dragged who knows how many people through character creation for the first time. And I, there have been times where I have sat people down and say, we’re just gonna bang out this character, just tell me what you want to do. Because that’s something that you as someone who has played a lot can guide them through, and then get them to the part which is actually interesting, because, well, you know, there are the weirdos like Tyler and I do really enjoy just, let’s crunch all the numbers and theorycraft this thing into the pinnacle of dealing 30 negative levels with fists and one turn. Never again. For most people, they’re there for the cooperative storytelling experience. That has nothing to do with character building. You can certainly optimize your character to be better at the things that you want to be narratively better at. But because fifth edition is a closed system, and I hope they keep that in 5.5 I doubt they would shy away from it. Because it’s a closed system, you’re rarely going to To encounter a character, where your modifier for a role is more impactful than the die itself. Certainly there are going to be your your rogues and your eloquence bards with reliable talent and enormous modifiers to a particular subset of skills. But even so, in general, it’s going to be largely up to fate. Because of that, no matter how much you optimize, you’re still just this character going through the story. And so getting people in there as fast as possible I think is really cool. And giving them the things that make it flavorful is why I’m hoping that this sort of thing happens where, you know, everyone gets their, their start of, I am a healer Monk. Because like the fact that this this is one of the things that’s a little bit ridiculous, so if you’re gonna play the… I don’t remember that the name of the way, but the the plague doctor monk.
Way of mercy, thank you, if you’re going to play a way of mercy monk, you still start out as a level one character, just beating the tar out of people. You can’t heal people yet. Even if you’re designed to be someone who should be healing, you can’t do it until your stuff comes online, which is like, guys. Why?
You learn to punch people a few times and then feel bad about it. And then you figure out the healing.
I think it really hurt when I hit them there. What if I don’t do that? Do the opposite aggressively.
Dr. Tofu, If you get that reference?
Yeah. You said a closed system.
In fifth edition, it is meant to be the case that… and if I said closed, I meant bounded. Modifiers are meant to be always smaller than what your die are doing. It is never meant to be a system where I just stack plus ones, plus twos, plus ones, plus twos, ad nauseum. And so my stealth role is plus 50, or whatever. That’s not intended to happen. Now, there are some things that you can do. And in fact, if you read the Artificer handbook that I wrote, you get yourself up that high. But that’s one extreme edge case where a character is, you know, totally built around that. And there aren’t very many things that you can do to get that. In general, with numbers, particularly things like armor class, being and attack bonuses being much more reasonable, it means that combat is much more fluid, because you’re not having to remember, okay, how, where all am I stacking all of my bonuses from? What is this plus three written in pen on my character sheet? That’s the boundary system that I was talking about, that I really hope fifth edition sticks to.
And then on the DM side, the idea that you can kind of keep a common scale for difficulty for anything that we’re trying to accomplish. And more or less, that scale will continue to make sense. But as proficiencies climb just a little bit higher, skill scores climb just a little bit higher, it becomes a bit easier to hit those things. So they’re, obviously, we’re gonna have to form camps. And everybody’s gonna have to get into their camp, as far as you know, was this a bad idea? Was it a good idea? We need to start the edition war. Like, we need to start building banners for that. We need to code words so people know which side we stand on. Because that’s a apparently a thing that people were doing these days.
I’m going into my Benny and the Jets, snap while I walk up to people who think that 3.0 was a good idea. No, I’m kidding. I mean, honestly, I really doubt that we’re gonna see the same sort of split like we did. Now, I will admit, you know, given that we’re probably expecting this to be more like a 5.5 than a sixth edition. You know, I think that Wizards of the Coast knows that they have a golden goose here. They’re not going to kill it. Fifth edition has done great things for them. The numbers very much support that, I really doubt that we’re going to see people trying to say, Oh, I’m, I’m never going to do this, I, I’m going to be 5.0 until I die. That’s, that’s not a thing. I really don’t expect that to happen. It, similarly, I really don’t expect… I mean, when the fourth edition happened, 3.5 was still very popular and the fact that fourth edition was so different, and a lot of people weren’t willing to go there is what made Paizo expand Pathfinder from just a setting to an actual rules system. And it was, it was largely appreciated by the community. You know, unless we get some real radical design departure. I really doubt we’re going to see anything like that. We already have Pathfinder 2. It is not anything like fifth edition. It is honestly one of the most complicated things I’ve ever read. The rulebook is over 600 pages.
The… Pathfinder first edition the core rulebook was 700
Pathfinder 2 is a lovely game. I’ve had fun playing it.
I have no arguments that it can be a lovely game, but I have been doing this for a long time and I wouldn’t call that book so much difficulty curve as difficulty cliff. With that said, I really think that we’re going to be looking at this as just it feels very much like fifth edition, there’s a little bit of tweaks, you’re still going to get to do all the stuff that you like. And we’re not really going to have to worry about this sort of declaring your fandom and dealing with that.
I feel like we need to get Random his own RPGNOT.net email address so he can take the mail that’s going to come on that one. But…
Forward all hate mail to Random’s email address.
Well, we’ll let people know who to talk to. I mean, we’re not gonna… So I’m kidding. But seriously.
I agree with Random, I think it’s pretty unlikely–
That Pathfinder 2 was too hard to read? Oh, no.
Sorry, backing up a few points. I actually really liked Pathfinder second edition, but that is a subject for a different episode. So I also don’t think that we’re going to get a huge edition war here. Fifth Edition has, when it was originally written, there was a big emphasis on accessibility, simplifying the rules, keeping the number scale low. Like I’ve played with people who as soon as they have to add two two-digit numbers, everything goes off the rails for them. The high number scale in previous editions was super inaccessible, just because a lot of people can’t do math that quickly. A lot of these small design decisions, like my cat meowoing into the microphone, excuse me. A lot of the small design decisions in fifth edition really made the game more accessible. And I think we’re gonna see more of that in 5.5. Like, the ability score increases getting changed just to make things more accessible. So people don’t look at a race and build your gnome barbarian with eight strength and be like, wait, what do you mean, I’ve built a character that can’t function and is going to die in the first time the first time a pointy sword comes out them? Fifth Edition is moving away from that, that necessary mechanical complexity. They’re lowering the skill floor to get into the game, which means more people are going to get into fifth edition. More people are going to get into the hobby. It’s going to continue to grow.
And they’re also going to make it easier on DM’s. Because I feel like that’s, oftentimes, that’s the challenge. People have enough time to show up and play a session. Does one person have the time to get prepared for a session ahead of time? And so even taking pressure off those folks to allow more opportunities to have game to make more people willing to DM. You know, I think that’s powerful, too.
Yeah, I will say personally, that is why my Strahd game that I talked about frequently fell apart is that the DM stopped having enough time. Which, if we can reduce that barrier to entry, I am really going to be happy about that. Like you said, fifth edition did a really good job of helping with that. But I think that these changes to things like monsters, statblocks races, that sort of stuff. I think that that’s really going to be a even higher improvement going forwards. And so I’m very looking forward to this becoming even more popular than it already is.
Okay, you heard it here first. No edition war. Everybody is going to be perfectly happy. Love everything that comes with 5.5. The fan base is going to embrace it and charge forward under one banner. All right. Congratulations, WotC, we’re proud of you. All right. I think we have a question of the week right?
Okay. So this comes to us from Eric on Twitter. Will fifth edition continue to release stronger variants of existing content?
So I picked this one again, I keep doing this. I pick a topical question. Eric on Twitter, Twitter handle @cursedKanku. This is our second question from them. They keep asking good questions. I like it a lot. “Will find the continue to release stronger variants of existing content?” Yyes and no. Things are going to get updated with the move to 5.5. Races that are in the core rules will likely be reprinted some of them will be made more powerful. We have seen some things get reprinted already, like the dragonborn is a great example. But the dragonborn was widely widely regarded as the worst race in the players handbook, so giving them an update to be in line with everything else makes sense. Now, I think the spirit of the question here is more along the lines of Hey, Tasha’s had some sub classes that are just way out of bounds with everything else. Like peace domain, which I like to beat on frequently. Ban peace domain, kids. Do I think we’re going to keep seeing more of that? I think probably, but maybe not intentionally. Anytime, then a new source book gets published, there are going to be some options which are more powerful than the designers intended. There are going to be some that are weaker than the designers intended. They can’t get balanced exactly right every time. Not not by anyone’s fault. There will be things that are stronger. I don’t think Wizards is intentionally just saying like, yeah, every book is going to be a little bit of power creep because we have to sell books.
One of the things that you have to keep in mind, while they do balance testing as much as they can. When you have a few 100 people, or maybe even a few 1000 people working on it, compared to several million people playing this game, actively trying to find stuff, you know, did they think Ah, yes, I am going to set out to make the rules that will let you make Pun-Pun, a level for deity with infinite actions that can inhabit all planes at the same time. No. And yet, that is possible in 3,x.
That’s suspiciously specific.
It’s it’s a real thing. It’s a kobold. Infinite actions, infinite stats, inhabits all planes at once. Pun-Pun.
Thank God can’t be done in fifth edition.
Right. But my point there, right, is the more pieces you add to the pool, the more things are going to be able to interact and produce results which are either completely unintended or just stronger than intended. Some of it, you know, that definitely is intended. Paladin/Warlock combination has been a perennial favorite, because you can use the warlock spell slots, the power smit. Great. That’s been good the whole time. And then when they added hexblade, that got even better. And then when they added undead Warlock in Tasha’s, suddenly that becomes really strong. If you want to play a particular Paladin oath. Go read the Paladin handbook I wrote for oath of conquest, because that works really well. This is what I mean were the more things you add to it. And this was sort of the problem by the end of 3.x, there were so many fiddly bits that you could fit together to optimize far beyond what the designers ever thought to make that it’s not that they were intentionally adding, ah yes, here is a prestige class that everyone is going to take because it’s crazy awesome. Haha, buy our books give us money. No. It’s like, okay, well, this prestige class, when you combine it with this feat, and this feet, and two levels on each of these base classes, and now all of a sudden, I can do this ridiculous stuff. So in that same way, I think that they’re much more cognizant of that in fifth edition, no matter what, there are always going to be things where yes, this is stronger than base options from a purely mechanical standpoint, because some of those options were written for the narrative. Like, zealot is a good example, the fluff behind the zealot is a lot of fun. I am so dedicated to being angry that I’m just gonna die and die over and over again, because me throwing my body at my problems is going to solve them eventually. Just bring me back, bud. As an optimization standpoint, it is terrible. It is really bad. Pick any other Barbarian it’s better. You know, they put it in there because if that’s the story that somebody wants to tell, that that’s the story that somebody wants to tell. And trying to compare everything, as apples to apples, even in the same class doesn’t really make a lot of sense from a power standpoint, because they are going to make things for particular narrative options, and then the rules will follow.
So I get so many messages about the zealot. About our rating of the zealot. I agree with you random, but people on the internet send all your hate mail to Random anyway.
No wait, ah!
But so the, I think what you said was that mechanically, it’s terrible. But that narratively, it’s quite a lot of fun. Is that…?
The only metric to judge yourself playing the game and the DM running the game is “are you and everyone else at the table having fun?” Period. After all, Dungeons and Dragons is a game. It is a ruleset so that you can build your game, build your story, play it out. And the purpose of the game is to have fun. If the story that you want to tell is throw myself at the problem, no matter how many times I die doing it. Great. We have that option for you. If the story you want to tell is I want to…
I’m actually good at combat. Right? Oof.
It’s a story you want to tell is I am a Barbarian that is so infused with chaos that I make random magic happen around me. Great! We have that option too. Now mechanically, that one happens to be a lot stronger. That is not through the fault of Wild Magic Barbarian.
Is it mechanically stronger? Yes. Yes. Is it a better choice? Absolutely.
That that second one really depends. Is it a better choice? If your goal is to be a combat optimized character, yes. Is it a better choice to tell your story? Not necessarily.
Almost almost surely not. Yeah. Alright, cursedKenku: Will 5e continue to release stronger variants of existing content? I have absolutely no idea. It’s a great question though. Keep them coming. All right. Well, I’m Randall James, you can find me at amateurjack.com and @JackAmateur on Twitter and Instagram,
I’m Tyler Kamstra. You can find me at RPGBOT.net. On Twitter and Facebook @RPGBOTDOTNET and patreon.com/rpgbot.
And I’m Random Powell, you can’t find me. But in case you could, that would be because you looked either here on RPGBOT.net, and read some articles or listen to this podcast. And you may have found me on places or even play games. It’s either Hartlequint or Hartlequint.
Perfect. Alright. So I think next episode, we’re going to talk about hirelings and sidekicks, this was a request that we hadn’t and I think it’s it’s fantastic conversation because we talked about, oh, just use sidekick rules for this, but we’ve never actually said what sidekick rules are. And I’ll confess I have no idea what sidekick rules are. All hail the Leisure Illuminati. Thanks, Producer Dan.
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My cat escaped the pantry, which is why she’s being such a pain right now.
You have a really long mic cord and I want to compliment you on that.