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Rule-of-Three: 07/10/2012
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 Do you think there's a place for Spell Resistance and/or Damage Reduction in D&D Next?

As top-level rules constructs, probably not. Damage Reduction in particular is something that we think is currently being handled well enough by the resistance and vulnerability rules; DR 10/slashing isn't that far from saying that a creature has bludgeoning resistance and piercing resistance, as a direct translation of rules. As for Spell Resistance, right now if we decided to put something like that in the game, it would likely appear as a trait given to individual monsters, and all the rules would be included in the rules for that trait.

2 What kind of things are you guys looking at to reduce the "5-minute work day" that daily abilities can often bring to the game?

This is an area where we learned a lot from the way that the math behind the 4E game worked out, and built on those concepts for D&D Next. Daily refresh rates on resources do not cause short adventuring days; the ratio between the number of those resources available and the length of time it takes to spend those resources is the cause. Since we're focusing more on the adventure (and the adventuring day, as a point of resource refreshing), we want to make sure that characters have a good ratio of available daily resources to what we want to be an acceptable length of the adventuring day for each level. Essentially, when we design a class, we try to build that class toward a target adventuring day, and to make sure that if the class has daily expendable resources, it has enough of them so that it will reach the "end of day" target around the same time it starts running low on expendable resources.

Alongside that, we want to supplement a class's daily resources with other options that feel just as good and appropriate to the player as spending one of the limited resources. This is one arena where at-will spells come in very handy; one of the biggest reasons that spellcasters often burned through their spells very quickly was a desire to always be doing something magical (thus, living up to the promise of a class whose schtick is spellcasting). At-will spells let you do magical things and thus reduce the temptation to burn daily resources. For those classes who don't have daily resources, we're still balancing the character against the length of that expected adventuring day, using hit points as our main (but not only) indicator of when that character's day is finished. This all ties into the core math behind our game, which is built on expectations about everything from accuracy to the life expectancy of a monster to the number of rounds a character can go toe-to-toe with any given monster and keep on fighting.

On the Dungeon Master's side of things, we want to provide tools to build good adventures just like 4E provided tools to build good encounters. Part of this includes a budget of XP—which includes monsters, hazards, and other threats—that the DM uses to plan out the adventure, and the adventuring day. From there, we want the DM to be able to do as he or she pleases with regard to adventure and encounter design (coupled, of course, with lots of advice); if the DM wants to run a single, massive combat encounter that eats up the whole budget for the adventuring day, that's fine! However, thanks to the XP budgeting system and the adventure design guidelines, this should mean that the single massive encounter lasts about as long as a more traditional adventuring day with several smaller skirmishes, thus keeping adventures paced correctly and the classes balanced against one another.

3 Is the plan with D&D Next for different classes to have different attacks/actions they can do when using the tactical rules modules? Or is the plan for the module not to really add any more options/complexity to characters?

I chose this question because it speaks to a larger topic, and that is the relationship between character content and rules modules. In general, we would like it if the vast majority of our character content worked with any rules module, so that players can just build their characters and then sit down to play. Likewise, we would like it if the DM could implement a rules module and not have to worry about how it interacts with the player character rules. This is why it's so important for us to develop a simple, streamlined and clean core rules system: it becomes the central translator for everything that appears in the game. If everything works with the core rules, the core rules make sure everything works together.

Are there elements that will be more useful with certain rules modules? Absolutely. Abilities that grant movement (forced or voluntary) are going to seem more useful when playing with a grid, because their impact on the game world is more readily visible. That doesn't mean that—in a base game that doesn't assume grid-based combat—we won't have abilities that let you push your opponent around, or that let you tumble nimbly past attacking enemies. Instead, it means we want to design those abilities to have bigger, more meaningful effects so that it's easy to visualize their impact even when you aren't using smaller, more granular effects. That way, the player relying on imagination can see the benefits just as easily as the player relying on a battle grid. We don't want players to have to recall multiple sets of actions or character abilities based on whether or not their DM has decided to put down the battlemat. If there are abilities and effects we think are important as part of the tactical module, we want to find ways to make them feel exciting when you're playing without that module, too.

Of course, there may still be times when we create a rules module and feel the need to introduce a character option or two that only work within that module, but those cases should be the exceptions. If the firearms module includes a new gunslinger theme, for example, that would probably be okay, because the theme probably would not be functional without those firearms rules. Alternatively, rather than creating a firearms-specific theme, we could create an archer/sharpshooter theme for the core rules that was also designed to be usable with the firearms module, making it unnecessary to have a stand-alone gunslinger.

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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