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Rule-of-Three: 07/11/2011
R&D Staff

You’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 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 What is the current design philosophy for D&D 4E, and how does Essentials and pre-Essentials design fit into this current philosophy?

Our current design philosophy—one that arose with the creation of the Essentials line—is to find the best mechanical expression that matches the intent behind a design. Rather than rely exclusively on the at-will, encounter, daily, and utility set of powers and the advancement of them that premiered in the Player’s Handbook, we are now willing to use class features, alternate power acquisition rates and so forth, to match the mechanics to a class’s design intent. By deconstructing the math behind 4th Edition, we are able to use more approaches to meet the same basic result.

For books like Heroes of the Fallen Lands, this allowed us to create simpler options or ones that tie into traditional elements of D&D (domains, schools of magic). We started by looking at players who wanted simpler, easier to manage options and designed to their needs and desires.

Since we are now designing with the idea or concept first, we can also look at specific player types or specific holes in the system. For example, the recent article giving new Strength-based powers for the cleric was a byproduct of this user-based approach. The intent behind the design, not the structure of past design, is our guiding principle.

2 What will be happening at Worldwide D&D Game Day?

The Neverwinter Game Day takes place on August 6th, 2011 and will give players a peek into the Neverwinter Campaign Setting with an exclusive adventure entitled Gates of Neverdeath. This Game Day will be the first time players are encouraged to create their own characters, using a custom Neverwinter character sheet and a random theme card with one of the 13 themes present in the Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Another addition to this Game Day is that players can keep their characters, including treasure and experience points, for use in the tie-in D&D Encounters season, Lost Crown of Neverwinter.

You can find more information on the upcoming Neverwinter Game Day here.

3 Where can we find the article submission guidelines for Dragon/Dungeon? Also, any suggestions for how an article pitch should look?

You can find the recently updated article and adventure submissions guidelines here. To give everyone a general idea of how a pitch can look, we've offered up four sample Dragon/Dungeon pitches. Not all of them were accepted, but the proposals clearly communicate the content of each article. As you can see, the length and structure of the pitch can vary wildly depending on the subject matter, but every proposal includes an estimated word count and the promise of a nice blend of story/flavor and mechanical content.

DUNGEON PROPOSAL #1 – Creature Incarnations: Court of Thorns

Court of Thorns provides a host of powerful fey with a woodland theme, such as ancient dryads, mighty treants, and eladrin who use magic to manipulate the woods. These creatures are meant to represent the most powerful warriors and mages of the Green Court (many of whom serve the Bramble Queen from Dungeon 185). The foes would range from levels 21-30. The article will be roughly 5,000 words long.

DUNGEON PROPOSAL #2 – A Wolf at the Door

Estimated word count - 4,000-6,000 words.

A short adventure for 4th level characters, “A Wolf at the Door” takes place in the small Westbrook village that is attacked nightly by packs of vicious wolves. The night the players arrive seems like it will be a particularly strong attack given the wolves' strength has been escalating recently and there is a full moon.

It contains:

  • One skill challenge (preparing the village);
  • Three waves of wolf attacks (keeping the wolves at bay); and
  • Two encounters (fighting the real threat).

The villain is Ulmar: the hero of the village, but it is revealed throughout the attack that he is actually the leader of the werewolves and wolves that attack the village, to neither the villagers' or his own knowledge.

Ulmar's goal is to protect the village with the help of the players, but cannot control his transformation at the sight of the full moon and then his goal is to destroy any living creature or settlement in his path.

The players' objective is first and foremost to protect the village, and the village's status when they return can fall into one of 5 categories—from completely undamaged to unrecognizable—depending on their success in battle and preparation of the village.

Also, when the players discover Ulmar's truth, they have the choice to kill him, protecting the village in the long-term but being despised and dishonored by the villagers, or to let Ulmar return to the village and allowing the villagers to adore, praise, and reward them—but leaving them protected only until Ulmar leads the next wolf attack.

I have not considered this to fit into any campaign setting per se, but given the location and aesthetic of the village nestled among trees and caves, I see no reason why it couldn't be made to fit similar settings, such as the Forgotten Realms or Chaos Scar, for example.

DRAGON PROPOSAL #1 – Eberron Character Themes

This 6,000-word article discusses using themes in Eberron, offering suggestions for what a particular theme could represent in terms of setting elements, and presents four themes specifically related to setting elements that define Eberron: the House Scion, the Magewright, the Veteran, and the Inquisitive.

House Scion is a theme for characters who either grew up as members of a Dragonmarked House or are otherwise defined through their association with one. This theme differs from the Noble in that it is much more mercantile in nature; Houses are businesses more than they are rulers. Accordingly, the theme’s granted abilities as it progresses tend towards bonuses to social skills for negotiations and access to the House’s services. The theme does not require that the character possess a dragonmark (although it should offer some support for them, such as ritual training in Mark-granted rituals and the ability to take the cost-breaks on rituals used rather than just request them); it also covers unmarked family members who handle other tasks for the House.

Magewright is a theme for characters who are practitioners of the sort of “everyday magic” that Eberron is so famous for. It gives characters access to the Ritual Caster feat (or, for characters who already have it, extra rituals known to represent their magical training), and gives some support as it progresses for using it in the form of bonuses to ritual skills and a generic bonus to ritual checks (like the Expert Ritualist feat). The granted encounter power is a weapon or implement targeting spell that changes the damage type of the next attack made to any other damage type, to emphasize the craftsman elements of the theme.

Veteran is a theme for characters who fought in the horrors of the Last War, and were shaped by that experience. To represent their ability to fight through the pain, their encounter power is an immediate when bloodied, to lash out and try to stay alive by putting down their attackers. Later bonuses are to History (you lived through this and learned about other nations firsthand during the fighting) and Intimidate (thousand-yard stare!), and a bonus to death saves to represent a refusal to stay down.

Inquisitive is a theme for characters who are fundamentally investigators, whether they’re noir fantasy gumshoes, city watch, or government intelligence agents. This theme focus primarily on old-fashioned detective work, granting bonuses through its progression to skills that are useful in urban investigations (Insight, Stealth, Streetwise, and Perception), as well as a more general bonus to checks made to gather information while in a city. Powers focus on using your predictive abilities to reduce the effectiveness of opponents.

DRAGON PROPOSAL #2 – Class Acts: Bard Songs for the Dead

2,500 words

Though usually thought of as frivolous, jovial, and sometimes decadent, bards also know many tales of sorrow and loss. This article would present three to four new bardic tales that deal with tragedy and death. When sung, these dirges harness the power of shadow magic to instill fear in the audience. The bard spells introduced in this article would be prefaced by short stories that are thematically reinforced by the effects of the spell. Each spell would also have the shadow keyword and might have an enhanced or alternative effect when used against an undead creature.

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!

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