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Rule-of-Three: 05/15/2012
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 It sounds like with backgrounds being a skill delivery system that is not linked to class, a fighter could fit all the goals Mike talks about and still be relevant and useful outside of combat. Is that what you guys are working towards?

Yes. To elaborate, while we might occasionally build in bonus skills into one class or another, we're trying to disassociate class and skills, instead tying skills to your background. Not only does this make a certain amount of sense in the story of your character, it also does a lot of fun things for character building. As we saw in the character creation of Gamma World, some of the most interesting characters come out of combining things that seem like they might not normally go together. For that reason, we're looking at making it so that all of the backgrounds deliver an equal number of skills and traits, making it so that (with the exception of bonus skills built into the classes) all characters are on par with one another. Of course, there will always be some combinations that are more favorable than others—a high-Intelligence wizard is going to look more favorably upon a background that delivers a lot of knowledge and lore skills—but playing with or against type is going to be completely a player choice.

2 If you go with a system for non-combat character features like traits, how would you like to tackle that? Could you give us an example?

Sure. We imagine that traits cover a pretty broad swath of different abilities, mostly tied to your character's unique history. A simple expression of this would be a few extra languages, which opens up more roleplaying possibilities for the character. A more specialized trait would be one that allows a knight to always be able to get lodging and aid from a noble house that recognizes his or her own noble claim.

3 What about feats that build off a character's race or class mechanic? Is this something that is going away with the approach to backgrounds and themes?

In our current vision of feats and themes, for the most part we want themes to be things that transcend class; as mentioned in the first answer, there are a lot of exciting possibilities in the strange combinations. Tying feats to specific class features limits those possibilities, which is something we want to avoid. Plus, we'd like to make it so that players don't feel like they have to chase certain feats to be able to fulfill the promise of their classes. Races are a little different, because we can imagine that there are some themes that tie in well to the race's culture. For example, we might do a dwarven defender theme, or an elven bladesinger theme, which would tie into race as a cultural touchstone, but probably wouldn't tie in especially tightly to that race's mechanics.

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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