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Rule-of-Three: 04/24/2012
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 In the past you've referred to wanting to boost DM empowerment in D&D Next. Can you be more specific about what this means?

In general, what it means is we want a system that makes it easy to be the DM, and at the same time trusts the DM to make the right call for any particular situation, rather than create many highly specific chunks of rules text in an attempt to cover every possible situation. Part of that is teaching the DM how to make the appropriate judgment call, and part of that is building the rules to make it so that, when the judgment call is made, it's easy to resolve.

As an example, let's say that the heroes are in a tavern trying to get information out of a member of the Thieves' Guild. The smooth-talking rogue says that he wants to deceive the thief into thinking that she is a member of the same guild to earn his confidence. Alternatively, the brawny fighter wants to crush a pewter mug in his hand to intimidate the thief into talking. If we have done a good job of educating the DM, then the DM simply sets an appropriate DC for success and calls for a Charisma check (from the rogue) or a Strength check (from the fighter). Rather than call on some kind of subsystem, we simply educate the DM on the best way to set a DC, and the best way to choose which ability to use for an ability check. That also has the advantage of allowing the player to simply say what his or her character does, then having the DM respond with the kind of check to be made, meaning that players are always talking about their actions in terms of what their characters do.

That may seem simplistic and obvious, but the subtleties of the way players and DMs interact with each other and with the rules can have a big effect on how the game functions. Beyond that angle of educating and trusting DMs to adjudicate many situations, we also want to empower the DM by providing lots of different ways for the DM to alter the rules of the game to best fit the kind of campaign and gaming group he or she has. This comes through not only the variant rules modules we've mentioned before, but also from things like teaching the DM how to make minor changes to the existing system. (Don't think the players start with enough feats? Here is some advice on giving them more!) It also comes from educating the DM as to the impact those tweaks will have on the game. Furthermore, this doesn't have to be restricted to overarching and permanent rules changes. It could also focus on bending, breaking, and changing rules during game play. (Does it seem like that difficult terrain should be even more difficult than usual? Here's how to alter the properties of difficult terrain for this instance to best fit the situation.)

2 Will the current system of standard, move, minor, free, immediate interrupts, immediate reactions, and no actions be retained, or is that something you look to change in D&D Next?

One of the things we're trying to do is streamline the player's turn a bit while still letting the player do something significant each turn. As of right now, we have a system that states that on your turn you can take one action, and then move up to your speed. Most everything is just an action; attacks, casting spells, activating magic items, etc. "Moving up to your speed" can also cover things like climbing, jumping, and standing up from prone within that movement. We believe this is going to accomplish our goal of making combat move faster across all levels, being easier to teach to new players, and also making sure that the kinds of effects we're putting into the game are big, meaty and significant so that you really feel their impact.

3 What's the deal with the Rise of the Underdark campaign?

The Rise of the Underdark is a story theme that kicked off this year at PAX East, similar to what we did with Neverwinter last year. The Rise of the Underdark storyline is a series of interconnected stories, adventures, and products all related to the same storyline. I asked James Wyatt to give us an idea of what the story looks like, and he said:

Deep in the Abyssal darkness of the Demonweb Pits, the goddess Lolth is spinning a web of deceit, treachery, and ambition. Her goal is to seize control of arcane magic—a position that has lain vacant since the death of Mystra a hundred years ago.

To facilitate this grasp for power, Lolth sent a prophet—Danifae Yauntyrr—to all the cities of the drow. Danifae is a fallen priest, a scoundrel, a seductress, and—if history is any guide—an avatar of Lolth herself. Danifae whispered to the leaders of all the great drow houses, spurring them to gather ancient power to aid Lolth's ascent.

The drow are scouring the world for primordial relics (pieces of a dead or sleeping primordial), seeking out the remains of great wizards, gathering artifacts once sacred to Mystra, and fighting for control of magical locations on the world's surface.

As the drow gather arcane energy and channel it to Lolth, her power grows. Her web extends to cover most of the world, forming a Demon Weave to replace the sundered Weave that Mystra maintained—a new fabric of arcane magic. With that, the priests and wizards who serve Lolth have access to greater power than ever before, and their task becomes to use it.

Across the surface world, Lolth's servitors draw on the Demon Weave to create shrouds of darkness that cover league upon league of surface lands. Under this pall of darkness, the drow can move and fight freely during what would normally be daylight hours. With this aid, they can complete Lolth's transformation and bring the world to ruin.

Additionally, you'll be able to participate in the story through three D&D Encounters seasons (Web of the Spider Queen, Council of Spiders, and War of Everlasting Darkness), play in organized play events at GenCon (Dawn of Night championship adventure), PAX Prime (The Sun Never Rises adventure), and local game stores (with two Lair Assault challenges—Spiderkiller and Kill the Wizard). Products tied to the Rise of the Underdark campaign include RPG books (Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook, Menzoberranzan: City of Intrigue), two Dungeon Tiles sets (The Urban Underdark, Castle Grimstead), a map pack (Vaults of the Underdark), D&D Fortune Cards (Drow Treachery), the Dungeon Command skirmish board game's Sting of Lolth faction pack, and online content in Dragon issue #413 and Dungeon issue #204. There are also several novels related to the storyline, including War of the Spider Queen Volumes 1 & 2, Charon's Claw by R.A. Salvatore, and ebook exclusives: Sword of the Gods: Spinner of Lies by Bruce Cordell, Prince of Ravens by Richard Baker, Skein of Shadows by Marsheila Rockwell and Spider and Stone by Jaleigh Johnson. Find out more at

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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