I’ve been part of a number of conversations recently about improvised actions in D&D. One phenomenon we observed early in the life of this edition of the game was that, when presented with a list of powers, players tended not to consider options that didn’t appear on that list. Some players felt that their options were actually more limited in the game than they had been in past editions, because they didn’t allow themselves to think past the power cards. I remember starting off a demo game I ran at D&D Experience in 2008 (a few months before the release of the core rules) by reminding the group that it’s still D&D, and they could still try anything they could think of.
But the perception remains, and that leads to conversations about what we can do to counteract it. I think there are a number of categories of improvised actions that players are likely to attempt, but one big category boils down to interacting with the environment. Certain types of players, at least, pay a lot of attention to the dungeon map, and when considering their options for a turn, they’re as likely to look at the braziers and fire pits and strangely glowing orbs as at their power cards. (I think a lot of instigators fall into that category.)
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About the Authors
James Wyatt is the D&D Design Manager for Wizards of the Coast Roleplaying R&D. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition D&D and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide. He was one of the designers of the Eberron Campaign Setting and is the author of several Eberron novels.