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Rule-of-Three: 05/22/2012
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 Are there auto successes in D&D Next when it comes to skills? Does the rogue have more of those built in due to his awesomeness with skills?

There are a couple of ways to address automatic successes, some of which you may have already heard about. Of course, the most obvious is that there will be many things that simply don't require checks because there's no risk of failure; for example, we might not include any DCs below 10, simply because if a task would have a DC that low, it isn't something the heroes should fail to achieve. Another way we can handle this is, on the DM's side of things, is to recommend that in many cases the DM allow a character to succeed on certain tasks if the character's ability score is higher than the DC, representing the idea that the character's natural talent makes the task easy. Likewise, we want to encourage players to think and act creatively, and to that end we also suggest that DMs allow automatic success whenever the players do something creative or clever that should just work.

As for the rogue, we're looking at more reliability for the class, rather than automatic success. For example, right now, when a 1st-level rogue makes an ability check and applies the bonus from one of his or her skills, the rogue can take either the die roll or 10, whichever is higher. We think this is a good expression of an increase in reliability in the arena of skills.

2 Is the idea in D&D Next that all fights or encounters could be run with or without a grid, or do you expect that some encounters or scenarios will require a grid?

This is a topic we want to address when we look at adventure design, rather than system design. In general, we want the vast majority of our rules to be perfectly functional whether you're using the grid or otherwise. However, we know that sometimes the adventure is just going to demand an encounter that is so tactically involved that a battlemat is the only practical way to go. However, we want the design of that encounter to be a conscious choice on the part of the adventure designer, not an unintended result of building the encounter. Moreover, I think including encounters that make use of a battlemat nearly mandatory is something we want to be judicious with, saving it for adventures that are really geared toward the tactical style of play.

3 How many playtests with pregens do you think we'll go through before we start getting into the character creation rules?

Since we're focusing on testing the base rules of the game first, we want to give everyone a really good chance to play without being distracted by character building. That said, and with the caveat that schedules and plans may change between now and then, we'd like to have players building their own characters and testing those rules within the first two months of the open playtest.

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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