s we continue to work toward the release of D&D Next, a number of rules that you saw in the public playtest have undergone revision. Here's a quick look at some of those updates and changes.
The exploration rules have been reworked to make them easier to use at the table. We've brought back the concept of passive perception from 4th Edition to cut down on the number of die rolls and to speed up play. A character's passive perception is the result of rolling 10 on a Wisdom (Perception) check. Your character sheet will have a space to note this, making it a value you calculate once and then use as needed.
We've also folded the basics of the exploration system into the party's marching order. As the party approaches a trap, a hidden monster, or some other threat, the DM uses a combination of marching order and passive perception to determine who sees the threat and when. This change eliminates tracking the party's alertness, though moving at a fast pace imposes a penalty to characters' passive perception.
We also simplified the concept of group stealth. Whenever the party moves at a slow pace, everyone in the group makes Dexterity (Stealth) checks to hide, in addition to whatever other actions they take while traveling. At a slow pace, a rogue can thus attempt to hide while using an action to pick a lock or search for secret doors. If the party moves at a faster pace, each character can still attempt to hide, but must use an action to do so.
The idea of a sequence that includes checking for random encounters remains in place. You can still undertake a variety of tasks while exploring, but we've unified those options with the general rules for doing stuff. For instance, actions such as hunting or sneaking are described under their appropriate abilities. The exploration rules simply reference them as things you might do while exploring.
Finally, we've standardized the time it takes to complete certain actions with the exploration rules. Disarming a trap or picking a lock takes 1 minute, matching the duration of an exploration round in the dungeon and making timekeeping easier for the DM.
The playtest process showed us that gaining an extra action on your turn in combat can lead to a lot of overpowered combinations. In addition, letting characters stack up extra actions can seriously bog down the game. Multiclassing cast a bright light on this issue, with characters combining class features and swift spells on the same turn to unleash all sorts of havoc.
Right now, we're working with a rule that limits a character to one bonus action per turn, and then labeling abilities as bonus actions where appropriate. The goal of this rule is to avoid stacking up options like two-weapon fighting, the rogue's Cunning Action, the monk's Flurry of Blows, swift spells, Bardic Inspiration, and other abilities that are meant to augment your turn, not to replace it. You can use one of those bonus actions during your turn, but not all of them—a
change that should address many of the more heinous action combinations that playtesting uncovered.
Character Speed and Heavy Armor
We're looking at giving all the standard player character races a speed of 30 feet, and allowing characters with sufficient Strength scores to ignore the speed penalties for heavy armor. We think these ideas make sense for a few different reasons.
The speed penalty for smaller characters and dwarves doesn't differentiate them from the other races in any interesting way. Moreover, goblins and kobolds have had a speed of 30 feet since the days of 3rd Edition, so in some ways, we're simply adjusting gnomes, halflings, and dwarves to an existing standard.
When it comes to armor, we wanted heavy armor to have potential drawbacks without being overly harsh or restrictive. Heavy armor is . . . well, heavy, so making your Strength play a role in its effectiveness is intuitive. This change allows medium armor to play a more meaningful role for characters with marginal Strength and Dexterity scores. Other characters can still maximize their AC with heavy armor if they have a poor Dexterity, but at the cost of reducing speed by 10 feet if a character's Strength is less than 13.
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He led the design for 5th Edition D&D. His other credits include the Castle Ravenloft board game, Monster Manual 3 for 4th Edition, and Player’s Handbook 2 for 3rd Edition.