Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Rules changes I like in DnD

Apropos nothing, here are my favorite changes to DnD systems. I put in parenthesis some systems that do this.

- Unified XP. I don't mind different XP per level for different classes, but I like having a single table. (DnD 3.x)

- Unified Saves. No Death Ray, Paralyization, Spells, etc. split that just got confusing. I like either the fully merged approach (Sword & Wizardry) or the three-fold approach (DnD 3.x). One number is easier, a three-fold approach gives some variety, so you know to use Will-based attacks on thieves and not on wizards, say.

- No Alignment. Honestly, it's just something I put on my character sheet and then try to justify later. I don't enjoy having it around, and I've played too long in a game system that lacks it. (Basic Fantasy Role-Playing)

- Unified bonuses. Much like how B/X D&D does it, I like that stats 13-15, 16-17, and 18 are the break points. I like how 5e does this, too, with its cap at 20. You get a steady climb without the craziness of ST 18, 18/01 - 50, 51-75, etc. up to 18/00 and then 19. Or Stat X giving a bonus at 15 and Stat Y giving no bonus.

- Ascending AC. I find this much easier to deal with. Give me a bonus to my 1d20 roll and then I can tell you what AC or less I hit. Very easy. (Swords & Wizardry does this, as did DnD 3.x)

- Weight not Encumbrance. Just tell me how much it weighs. How annoying it is to carry is a separate issue, and it's hard when systems combine and conflate them. (Swords & Wizardry) Ideally, the weights will be correct (cough, cough, my 10# one-handed sword in S&W).

- Unified dice mechanics. Not a lot of systems do this to a sufficient degree, but I like rolling in one direction - why is a 6 great for initiative and damage on a d6 but terrible for opening doors? Why percentile dice for locks but d6 to hear noise? The more DnD based games go for "roll high is good!" the better, I think - it makes it easier for me, as a player, to parse the results of rolls.

How about you guys? What rules changes do you find especially pleasing, easier to play than the original, or otherwise make the game smoother and better?


  1. I would do roll-under on a d20 for action resolution. This really brings D&D back to its roots (since that's how skill checks used to be made). I would use it for combat as well. This really makes the ability score mean something -- Str 13 means a 13/20 chance of hitting your average baddie, for example.

    This change couldn't just be plugged into an otherwise-unchanged rules architecture. You have to change some other things to make it work. I discuss that all at some length here:

  2. Ten pound one handed sword?! Oh my word.

  3. Your list is about the same as mine, Peter. I should note that if I have to take alignment, the old Anderson/Moorcock system is better, since all it indicates is on whose side you are.

    One big principle for me is that I'd like to be able to remember most of the rules while sitting on the bus, without hunting around on my iPad. Turning everything into simple algorithms is a big plus of 3.x D&D, and especially 4e. (Pity little else about 4e followed this.) I could remember how many spells an 11th level cleric had with a moment's thought, since I could remember the algorithm. Even the encumbrance table had this.

    I'd like a retroclone that's basically sliding your list into B/X, maybe one or two other things (I'd kill the thief skills as percentages and instead make the class as a skill itself, and have it go up at a 4e-ish rate), then make sure the writing style is simple so you can pitch it to junior high students. We need young blood in this hobby.

  4. Unified dice mechanics

    I dont care about this one.
    A lot of games have you rolling under a number to hit then high for damage, GURPS im looking at you. Maybe it is something that alienates other players, I dont know.

    1. I think GURPS moving to a roll high mechanic has a lot of merit to it. One thing about the target numbers in D&D is it means that skill difficulty is always addressed. A downside is that you're always adding numbers bigger than 10, which takes a little bit longer.

    2. I'm not talking about games in general, or GURPS, here. Just DnD based games. It's annoying to:

      - roll high for initiative
      - roll low for doors
      - roll low for thief skills
      - roll high for saving throws
      - roll high for damage

      Annoying from an actual play experience, not theory, either.

      GURPS has a very definite, clear split - roll low to succeed, high for effect. There are now "roll low for effect" rolls or "roll high to succeed" rolls. There are no switches from d6s for some skills to d10s for others. It's unified even if it isn't unified behind a single "roll high" or "roll low" approach for everything. Older D&D systems are especially full of systems that have different dice and roll high or roll low for the same kind of rolls. That's unnecessarily messy in play for me.

  5. These are pretty much my list that I've taken into designing Heroic Age: Tekumel, though I could go farther. I have single save, but classes get a bonus to their save for certain conditions. Alignment is inherent to Tekumel, but only in the Stability/Change way. No nine alignment system. And I use a d20-roll high mechanic for all tasks.


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