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Rule-of-Three: 07/03/2012
Rodney Thompson

Y ou've got questions—we've got answers! Here's how it works—each week, our Community Manager will be scouring all available sources to find whatever questions you're asking. We'll pick three of them for R&D to answer, whether about the about the making of the game, the technical workings of our DDI studio, 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 What kind of thoughts do you guys have on supporting different fighting styles such as two weapon fighting, two-handed, sword and board, free hand, archery, unarmed, etc. in D&D Next? Do you envision covering these kinds of things with themes or some other aspect of the game?

Most of the things you describe are likely to be best modeled through themes, as they are things we expect multiple classes want to access. You've already seen a guardian cleric, and a guardian fighter would very neatly model the "sword and board" fighting style you describe. Likewise, many classes might want to be archers, or fight with two weapons, and so it's probably best that the mechanical expressions of those styles live in themes. Additionally, as Mike has mentioned elsewhere, we want the classes to stand out with unique mechanics; if we put something as broad as "two-weapon fighting" into a single class, that runs the risk of cutting it off from the rest of the classes, which we don't want to do.

2 In D&D Next, will more common monsters (such as the baseline ogre, or the baseline skeleton) be very similar to each other, or will each monster type have something unique?

Each monster starts with a description of the fundamental truths about the monster, which are independent of game mechanics. From there, the monsters will be designed to ensure that those fundamental truths are reflected in the mechanics. So, a skeleton and an ogre (even the most baseline versions) will feel different because their fundamental natures are different. However, not every difference of feel requires multiple exceptions-based mechanics to communicate. An ogre, for example, is big, tough, inaccurate, but packs a big punch when it does hit. All of those can be modeled by the ogre's statistics (Large size, lots of hit points, low attack bonus, high damage). On the other hand, a skeleton might have resistance to piercing damage and vulnerability to bludgeoning damage to help give it a slightly different feel, along with being undead. Numerical changes and the application of some common mechanics can have a big impact on the way a monster feels.

That's not always going to be the case, though; many monsters, especially among the humanoids, are likely to be very similar in their numerical statistics. As such, they may need something more exceptions-based to differentiate them from one another, so that you feel the difference when you're fighting an orc as opposed to a gnoll. A skeleton and an ogre deviate enough from the norm that they may not need such things to feel different, but that doesn't mean that other monsters won't. Likewise, this is just talking about the simplest of monsters; clearly something like a rakshasa or a mind flayer will need more complex mechanics to adequately communicate its unique traits.

At this point, we want to start with the simplest possible monsters that we can create while still having them exhibit those fundamental traits described in the flavor of the monster. If that produces a satisfying experience, then great! It works toward our goals of speeding up play and making the game easier to run. If that proves inadequate for the game's needs, we can always add more abilities and traits to a monster to help it achieve its goals. However, it's much easier for us to add traits and assess their effect on the monster than it is to try and take things away and figure out what is missing. As with many things in the game right now, we are aiming first for streamlining and ease of use, with the awareness that we may need to add more to that design as time goes on to improve the game.

3 Do the backgrounds in D&D Next ever advance or change?

We are working on some ways to allow your skills to advance as you gain levels, but the background itself won't change. It's a representation of where you come from; we'll want something else (like class, theme, or perhaps other subsystems) to help express how your character grows. For example, if you have the sage background, that gives you some skills and the ability to know where to go to find knowledge; those won't change, though your skills might advance. Later, you might decide to found a great library, or create an organization of scholars dedicated to the preservation of knowledge. While those decisions might be informed by your background choice, any kind of mechanical expression of something like that would likely need its own system (such as an organization management system).

How can I submit a question to the Rule-of-Three?

Instead of a single venue to submit questions, our Community Manager will be selecting questions from our message boards, Twitter feed, and Facebook account. You can also submit questions directly to So, if you'd like to have your question answered in the Rule-of-Three, just continue to participate in our online community—and we may select yours!

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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