We're hoping this column becomes your window into roleplaying design and development -- or at least the way we approach these things here at Wizards of the Coast. We'll handle a wide range of topics in weeks to come, from frank discussions about over- or underpowered material, to the design goals of a certain supplement, to what we think are the next big ideas for the Dungeons & Dragons game. All of this comes bundled with a healthy look at the people and events that are roleplaying R&D.
Jesse Decker continues his miniseries on his dislikes of the game... this week looking at three pet peaves, and also offering some of R&D's personal house rules.
As promised in last week’s “Some Stuff I Like” column, here’s a list of a few things I feel the game could do without. Next week: why, how, and when the dev team takes problematic stuff out of the game. In addition, I walked the halls of R&D and asked a few folks to describe a house rule that they use in their own game. These house rules typically point at some flaw in the system, some new idea that needs playtesting, or just a way of achieving a specific play experience.
Three Pet Peeves
So here then, are three of my pet peeves, taken from the core rules of D&D 3.5. In future columns, we’ll range further afield to find stuff that could work a little better.
I guess it comes down to the fact that I’ve grown, and you just haven’t.
You see, I like to actually play D&D, not argue about rules, and with you it’s always the same. There’s just not enough time in the day to hear questions like “do my magic gauntlets still apply?,” and “so if I’m an uber-smurf, do I get all smurf powers or only some?,” so I’m moving on. You know, that wasn’t the only way you slowed our games down either. How long did John flip through the Monster Manual during his turn while we all just sat there? I tried to be understanding with you.
I know you’ve done your best. Your makeover to get yourself ready for 3.5 helped a lot, but some of the worst powers still remain.
If you are outside of the field and attack a creature in the field with a magic sword, does the magic apply? If you are outside of the field and a creature standing inside it attacks with a magic weapon, does the magic apply? If part of an area spell overlaps with the field, is the whole spell suppressed, or just the overlapping portion?
And the questions go on and on and on.
Worse than the rules complexity by far, the 6th level spell has an effect far out of proportion to it’s level and cost to generate. Its corner-case existence also forces an unreasonable amount of complexity into other portions of the game. For example, if you take the antimagic field spell out of the game, the three different types of special abilities (extraordinary, supernatural, and spell-like) become much simpler. All-in-all, this one spell causes many more problems than it solves.
Fortunately, if you simply apply a duration to the animated shield’s ability to float, so that the character must trigger it at the start of combat rather than having it always on, the item becomes a lot more balanced.
Changing the rules doesn’t help what I consider to be a pretty poor aesthetic, however. A shield floating around a greataxe wielding barbarian just doesn’t jive well with my personal tastes, but I’m perfectly willing to hear others tell me that they find the visual compelling.
Like you, the folks in R&D create new rule bits all the time to use in their own games. As promised, here’s a compilation of house rules from a few folks in R&D. Join in with your own house rules on this thread (or send them to email@example.com, and we’ll bring house rules from other members of R&D in future columns.
Andy Collins, Senior Developer
Chris Perkins, Design Manager
Stephen “Shoe” Schubert, Developer
Mike Mearls, Developer
Matt Sernett, Designer
Alright, that’s enough house rules for now. Next week, we’ll discuss why these rules are house rules rather than simply rules. Or, if you want to fancy it up a bit, we’ll look at what it means to have an evolving ruleset and how D&D gets “patched.”
You Craft the Creature
Last week, we asked you what minions our Aberrant Mastermind employs. Here are the results:
This week, we wanted to flip the question, and ask what enemies the AMM most despises? Some of the choices are similar, keeping with the forest environment theme, though of different alignment.What enemies does the AMM most despise?
About the Authors
Design: David Noonan is a designer/developer for Wizards of the Coast. His credits include co-designing Dungeon Master's Guide II, Heroes of Battle, and numerous products for the Eberron campaign setting. He lives in Washington state with his wife, son, and daughter.
Development: Jesse Decker is the development manager for RPGs at Wizards of the Coast. His credits include a two-year stint as editor-in-chief of Dragon magazine; design work on Complete Adventurer, DMG II, and other RPG titles; and development work on numerous D&D products, most of which he can’t talk about yet.
Thoughts or suggestions for this article? Topics for future Design & Development articles you'd like to see covered? By all means, please feel free to write directly to the authors, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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