Mass combat, via
Last week’s Unearthed Arcana covered Mass Combat for the second time since the series launched at the beginning of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Behind only the Ranger class, it is the second most-covered subject of the series, meaning D&D’s designers feel there is a gap in players’ expectations and the rules as written.
Frankly, I don’t care much for either entry, as both sets of rules offer too much unnecessary crunch to a game that’s elegant and streamlined. I don’t have any particular gripe with the rules they’ve presented (though they’re more complicated than just using a swarm, for no real benefit), but rather with the fact that any rules are presented at all. Simply put: most RPGs, including D&D, don’t need them. However, this latest Unearthed Arcana does capture the most important element for running exciting mass combats, buried in the very final section: Critical Events. An RPG should focus on the moments where the characters’ actions influence the direction of the story most, and these inflection points–Critical Events, in the parlance of the UA article–should be the point of focus for the rules and the Gamemaster.
To illustrate this thesis, think of the Trojan War. It’s a story that has been retold a thousand times, but can you recall anything about troop formations or the tide of the broad battle at any given point? The Greeks attacked and the Trojans held firm. Alternatively, think of the battle between Hector and Patroclus; Hector famously slew Patroclus, believing he was Achilles for he had donned Achilles’ armor. Achilles, on learning of Patroclus’ demise, entered the battle in earnest and turned the tide in the Greeks’ favor. More to the point, if you were retelling the story at a tabletop, would you rather focus attention on the minute movements and formations of the regular Greeks and Trojans, or on the epic duel that led to the entry of the Greek’s greatest champion and, ultimately, the demise of Troy? To borrow from the silver screen, would you rather focus on the naval battle around the Second Death Star, or the Millennium Falcon’s bombing run into its core?
Posted in Dungeons & Dragons, Game Design Dungeon, Homebrew, Mundangerous
Tagged 5E, d&d, Design, dnd, Dungeons and Dragons, Mass Combat, RPG, Unearthed Arcana
This week, Wizards of the Coast released the much-awaited The Ranger, Revised Unearthed Arcana, in which they took the first pass at a truly redesigned Ranger class. In previous Unearthed Arcana editions, they proposed new archetypes to mixed reception, but this one is actually a rebuild from level 1 to 20, with three subclasses: the Hunter Conclave, the Beast Conclave, and the Deep Stalker Conclave.
Full disclosure: I’m a Ranger critic. As we discussed on Total Party Thrill #18, I love the concept of the Ranger class in Dungeons & Dragons, but I’ve been disappointed with its implementation in 5th Edition. As printed in the Player’s Handbook, the Ranger is a total mess; it’s the weakest of the martial classes in combat, it lacks a niche, and its class-defining abilities are either useless, overshadowed by other classes, or simply less fun in practice than they should be. The Fighter has both trickiness and brute force in combat, the Paladin has better burst damage and party buffs, the Barbarian tanks, the Rogue dominates the Exploration pillar with its Expertise, and the Druid has identical-or-better wilderness and animal handling capabilities. The last hope for the Ranger, his last One Cool Thing, is the animal companion. It’s only available to one subclass, and it happens to be the single worst class in the game by a longshot.
In short, this revision is overdue. Let’s break it down, ability by ability.
Posted in Dungeons & Dragons
Tagged 5E, d&d, Design, dnd, Dungeons and Dragons, Podcasts, Ranger, Review, RPG, Total Party Thrill, Unearthed Arcana
I read some things
this week over the last month. I’ve been busy, but we’ll be back to our normal programming soon. After the jump, you can read them, too.
At some point this week, Wizards of the Coast silently updated the first installment of their monthly R&D/playtest series, Unearthed Arcana: Eberron. This is exciting, especially since I had previously offered a detailed critique of the Artificer class, and I’m hopeful for some thoughtful revisions. I’ll breakdown the changes in version 1.1, point by point, after the jump.
This is not the Unearthed Arcana you’re looking for… via
A week ago, Wizards of the Coast’s R&D team released Unearthed Arcana: Eberron, the first supplemental material that’s been released for Dungeons & Dragons 5E, and the first hat tip to Eberron since the D&D Next playtest ended. Of course, this is all stamped with a huge DRAFT label, and effectively serves as a playtest feedback period for the materials.
The purpose of the Unearthed Arcana series appears to be providing an early glimpse into the R&D team’s priorities, projects, and products, as well as a way to get playtest feedback from the D&D community. Though the product strategy for 5E is still “evolving,”it seems clear that Wizards is more open to giving new content to players for free online. Leveraging the D&D community to validate design decisions and provide playtest feedback is an encouraging new trend for Wizards of the Coast, and I support any move towards transparency for the hobby’s flagship brand.
So while I think Unearthed Arcana is great in theory, now that we’ve had more than a week to play the beta of the first rules supplement, it’s time to offer some feedback. We need to talk about the Artificer.
Update 2/16: Unearthed Arcana was updated to v1.1. The Artificer wasn’t affected, but I’ve got the full changelog available here.
I read some things this week. After the jump, you can read them, too.