ImaJAN Media Network
MeltedJoystick Home
   Games  Members
Search +
Searching... Close  
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
  Login Using Facebook

What’s New in D&D Next: A Primer

View Nelson Schneider's Profile

By Nelson Schneider - 07/06/14 at 05:33 PM CT

Last month I discussed the rise and fall of the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop RPG, and how Wizards of the Coast managed to lose their non-digital gaming crown to upstart Paizo. What I didn’t discuss was what is actually changing in D&D Next (a.k.a., D&D 5th Edition). Let’s take a look at how D&D Next will be breaking compatibility with 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder (henceforth, 3.x), as well as 4th Edition, while streamlining game mechanics at the same time.

1. Goodbye Skill Ranks, Base Attack Bonus, and Saving Throw Bonuses; Hello Proficiency Bonus
3.x introduced these three core mechanics to replace a lot of Gygaxian weirdness that was present in AD&D, such as the infamous THAC0, negative Armor Classes being better, and inconsistency in determining whether high or low roll on a 20-sided die (d20) determines success. D&D Next wants to get rid of the complicated paperwork and number inflation these mechanics can cause by combining them all into a single bonus: Proficiency.

The weird thing, and something I’m not sure will work quite right in practice, is that ALL characters, regardless of race/class/whatever get the SAME Proficiency Bonus as they move up through the levels. This Proficiency Bonus starts at +1 at level 1 and maxes out at +6 at level 20. This is a far cry from the huge numbers granted to melee-type characters for their Base Attack Bonuses, and is also significantly lower than the ‘good’ Saving Throw Bonuses or a fully-invested set of Skill Ranks. Consequently, monsters are going to need lower Armor Classes and the Difficulty Classes of various Saving Throws and Skill Checks are going to need to be lower. I don’t know if 3.x materials will have a simple conversion for these numbers (like, say, subtract 10), but I have a feeling that this will be the single greatest stumbling block for players wanting to use older adventure modules with D&D Next.

2. Advantage and Disadvantage are Everywhere
3.x had dozens of little bonuses and penalties that could be applied to dice rolls in a huge variety of temporary situations. Is the Barbarian raging? Bonus to one stat, penalty to another! Is a nearby ally helping with a Skill Check? Bonus! Did that Otyugh just crawl out of a pool of diarrhea? Penalty for anyone that can smell him and fails their Fortitude Save! It got to the point where all of these bonuses and penalties were INCREDIBLY difficult to keep track of, especially for a Dungeon Master dealing new new/lazy/drunk players who can’t be arsed to keep track of the effects affecting their own characters.

D&D Next will be replacing every instance of a small, temporary bonus or penalty with either Advantage or Disadvantage. Both terms simply mean that the character/monster/NPC in question needs to roll 2d20 instead of one. In an Advantage situation, the higher roll takes precedent while in a Disadvantage situation, the lower roll takes precedent. Since neither Advantage nor Disadvantage stacks with itself and since the two cancel each other out, players and Dungeon Masters never need to worry about whether a large number of small bonuses/penalties are cumulative or not, providing an elegant solution to streamline bookkeeping and speed-up gameplay.

3. Fighting is for Fighters
3.x allowed every character to earn multiple attacks per round as their Base Attack Bonus increased. At every additional +6 worth of bonus, a character would gain an additional attack at +1, up to a maximum of 4 attacks per round. This was never the case in AD&D, as extra attacks were strictly limited to characters and monsters who specialized in beating face.

D&D Next will be returning to the old ways of AD&D in this regard. Martial-type classes get extra attacks at specific character levels, while non-martial characters don’t. Multi-class characters that dip into martial classes can earn extra attacks, but the solution is, as of the final playtest release, inelegant and far more difficult to calculate than Base Attack Bonus ever was.

4. Fewer Feats, More Ability Score Increases
3.x introduced Feats as a way to add player-chosen special abilities to a character that weren’t just part of the default abilities that came with the character’s class. Unfortunately, Feats got out of hand and ended up being the cheap and easy thing to throw into extra sourcebooks to make a few bucks. As a result, there are hundreds of Feats available across 3.x (some of which work differently in each revision of 3.x!), most of which are worthless, but a few of which can lead to horrendously broken Munchkin-style characters. Since there are so many, it is nearly impossible for a Dungeon Master (or even a non-uber-player) to keep track of them all.

Likewise, 3.x also allowed players, at specific character levels, to increase one of their character’s 6 core ability scores by 1 point. This was unheard of in AD&D outside of god-level magic or demonic bargains, but it provided a much-needed way of evening out a character’s ingrained weaknesses or spiking their strengths to great heights.

In D&D Next, every few levels, as determined by class, a character can choose to either add 2 points to one ability score (to a maximum of 20), 1 point to two ability scores, or a Feat that grants a number of bonuses or small improvements to a more specific aspect of the character. This focus on raising ability scores is understandable, as, with the new Proficiency Bonus system, characters will be relying primarily on having a high Strength or Dexterity modifier to help them hit their targets in combat. Likewise, reducing Feats actually should lead to expanded character options (currently, it appears that there are no Item Creation Feats or Meta-Magic Feats) by baking many Feats into the character classes themselves.

5. Simplified Stat Blocks and Obsfuscated Mechanics for Dungeon Masters
As someone who has spent a lot of time behind the Dungeon Master’s Screen, one of the first things that caught my eye about the D&D Next Bestiary document (the contents of which will most likely appear in the Monster Manual) was the fact that monster stat blocks no longer look like accounting ledgers that take up half a page. These stat blocks are condensed down to the pertinent information a DM needs to run the game, with the superfluous calculations left out. One especially nice touch is that it appears to be a formatting standard in D&D Next to include the Ability Modifier in parenthesis right after each Ability Score in a stat block, which should be extremely helpful for those who can’t remember the rate at which bonuses and penalties accrue.

On the other side of the coin, though, I’m concerned that the information provided for Dungeon Masters in the D&D Next playtest material isn’t clear on WHY specific stats have the values that they do. Armor Class has been simplified to simply a single AC score (as in AD&D), with Touch AC and Flat-Footed AC nowhere to be seen (indeed, Flat-Footed as a mechanic has been replaced by the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic). Likewise, the breakdown of what values are adding into an Armor Class has been removed, leaving the Dexterity bonus, Natural Armor bonus, Deflection bonus, etc. as something of a mystery.

The fact that 3.x had a stat for EVERYTHING and revealed all of the underlying mechanics of how the game was put together was incredibly helpful to me as a Dungeon Master because for the first time I was able to get a feel for balance. After shrugging my shoulders and running AD&D campaigns into the ground with too much loot or unbalanced custom content, 3.x actually showed me the steps the manual writers took in creating the system, which finally granted me the freedom to create a game that ran well… even through prep took forever due to how complicated everything was.

AD&D was a completely arbitrary (but fun) disaster that placed the burden upon the Dungeon Master to make judgment calls with little to no context, but a lot of hand-waving. Based on the playtest material, it looks like D&D Next might be pulling that old skeleton out of the closet along with the other AD&D-inspired changes it will be adopting. I’m hoping above all hope that the reason the D&D Next system seems so opaque at the moment is the ‘confidential’ and non-final nature of the playtest materials.

MeltedJoystick Gaming Blog RSS Feed

Avoid spam Captcha: Sign Up + or Log In +   



Previous Blog Posts


All Posts

April 2021

March 2021

February 2021

January 2021

December 2020

November 2020

October 2020

September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

December 2019

November 2019

October 2019

September 2019

August 2019

July 2019

June 2019

May 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

December 2018

November 2018

October 2018

September 2018

August 2018

July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

December 2017

November 2017

October 2017

September 2017

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

December 2016

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

July 2016

June 2016

May 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

January 2016

December 2015

November 2015

October 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

April 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

December 2014

November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012

June 2012

May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

Log In
For members wanting to use FB to login, click here
remember me

What Members Are Doing

Comments about...

New Game Reviews

The Deep Paths: Labyrinth ... game review by Nelson Schneider
The Vagrant game review by Nelson Schneider
Avadon: The Black Fortress game review by Nelson Schneider
Strange Brigade game review by Chris Kavan
Satellite Reign game review by Chris Kavan
Watch Dogs 2 game review by Chris Kavan
Soldner-X 2: Final Prototy... game review by Hurain
Dead Cells game review by dbarry_22

New Game Lists

Top Super Nintendo (SNES) Gam... by Jonzor
Backlog by Nelson Schneider
Games I Own: Switch by dbarry_22
Top Game List by SIngli6
Top PlayStation 4 Games by Megadrive
Top Game List by Barmak
My Backlog by Chris Kavan
Games I Want To Play by Shaneo99




Contact Us Public Relations MeltedJoystick Friends    

Advertise and Business

Contacts Us


About us



Support Us

FAQ and Help

News and Press

Terms of Use


Are you sure you want to delete this comment?
Are you sure you want to delete this blog?