Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Gear, Goods and Greatness.



Gear, Goods and Greatness

In my last post I took a moment to highlight and talk about some things that stood out to me after reviewing the final D&D Next Playtest packet. And, just as I mentioned in my post there was far too much material to cover completely. This became doubly clear by the following morning, where it occurred to me that there were still some areas I had yet to look through very well. So, if you’ll bear with me for a moment, I’d like to continue my examination of the material. Specifically, this post will try to focus upon magic items, mundane gear and feats.

  • Magic Items – The element of magically enchanted objects is nothing new to a fantasy setting, nor is it a sudden addition to the game. The infamous animated children’s TV show even capitalized on the concept as a core device; portraying the young heroes each with a magical item. Most people to ever have played the game can still fondly recall the thrill of finding their first magical item, no matter how simple it might have been.
  • No Guarantee, Entitlement or Requirement – Part of the underlying new culture being interwoven into Next is the concept that things like magic items should be exactly as their name implies; magical. With that idea in mind they are presented in a way that highlights them as rare treasures, not commonly encountered easily acquired badges of adventurers. The central theme is that players shouldn’t be guaranteed potent prizes every time the ride out, nor are they mandatory for them to be effective. The material is quite clear on how flexible this all can be depending on the setting, DM, or group – it isn’t established in stone. But the basic foundation is one of returning back to the wonder of discovering even the tiniest treasure.
  • Smaller Numbers, But Don’t Judge a Book by its Bonus – Initially I don’t doubt many will look on the items presented and scoff at the fact that for being so rare most only provide a +1 bonus. But this goes back to my last point; focus is shifting away from the large empty bonuses and back to the flavor. Every item shown as an example is dripping with descriptive detail. Items are given subtle elements that play to who/where they were made, hidden aspects, even quirks. Nowhere did I see a single object mentioned that was nothing more than a +x to stick in slot y.
  • Familiar Friends – Thumbing my way through each entry, I discovered some very well-known names. Some famous magic items have a history all their own, and it was very welcoming to see some classic staples presented.
  • Charge It – Some items, like wands and staffs for example make use of charges to power various effects. An interesting new element is a smaller number of total charges that recharge a random number at dawn or on expending the final charge have the risk of being exhausted permanently(a roll of 1 on a d20).
  • Common Sense Rules – As funny as the claim is, it is also apt. Magic item wearable limits have been simplified; if you could see someone wearing it within reason, then it’s acceptable. People wear multiple rings, necklaces etc all the time, so perhaps this will help cut back on some of hose late night debate sessions for some of us. Even though nothing will ever end them all together!
  • Here’s Your Stat – Instead of providing a bonus to a specific attribute, as has been the custom in the past, there are some magic items that alternatively grant a new score. For instance instead of boosting your strength by a set amount that may or may not grant you ‘the strength of a giant’ the object instead actually adjusts your strength to literally become that of a giant.
  • Tune In – Not surprisingly people have been protecting the secret methods they use to manufacture the very tools they use to safeguard themselves. Be they weapons proven effective, the most protective armors, all the way to miscellaneous utility equipment. Likewise it comes as no surprise that dwarves guard their rare relics by making them only to fit themselves, and elven smiths weaving intricate spells into their own to only respond to their own kind. As such some items have requirements, they will only function for race x or class y. Others function fine for anybody, but in the hands of a preferred person they respond with superior effect. A new aspect now allows a player to attune themselves to an item, to bond with it and unlock features only available by such a connection.
  • There is Always Something – Even without a mathematical benefit, magic items still manage to effect game play. Many might not even require activation; they simply provide some effect. For instance by making all movement made while wearing them soundless, even when passing over broken glass, dry leaves or loose gravel. Others grant access to special use powers or automated responses to conditions, like say; falling, for example. And then there is the element that opposed creature types, alignments etc might meet with revulsion when coming into contact with an item. It can even lead to actual harm from touching the object. Magic items are a much richer, vibrantly flavorful aspect to the game as their presented. And what is included is merely a working sample to give us an idea. I think we can expect some great things to come.

  • Mundane Gear – Things are simplified and very satisfying here in my opinion. Enough variety to fill plenty of needs and feels perfectly well rounded. Weapons are grouped into simple and martial types breaking down into ranged or melee each.

  • Whips are a Weapon – One thing stood out to me right away, as odd as it may be (or trivial depending on your viewpoint). And that was the inclusion of the whip as a weapon that actually does slashing damage. For quite some time whips have been regarded as a non-lethal or 1 point damage weapon that could be used to try and trip or disarm. Welcome back whips.

  • Armor and AC – With the adjusted math mechanics first glances are deceptive when you approach the armor section. Light armor allows you to take advantage of your dex mod but on average only provides about an 11 +dex on average without getting into the more expensive light armors. Medium armor limits your dex mod to a max of +2 while offering a range of around 12-14 (again barring the fancy stuff). And heavy armor allows no dex mod at all with an ac of 14-17. Now, I’m not typically one to crunch numbers just for the sake of maxing things out but as an example a player with a dex mod of at least +2 could manage to afford some medium armor (ac 14) with a shield (+2 ac) for a total armor class of 18 at first level and still have only spent maybe a third of their starting funds. If you want to be precise by spending 60 gold out of a starting 175. All things considered I’d say that isn’t bad at all. Don’t let the lower ac values fool you at first look, this feels balanced to me, but we’ll see how it holds up in action.

  • You Don’t Have to Have Two Feat to walk – Feats are entirely optional now, being a substitution available anytime your class might offer you an attribute improvement. They aren’t mandatory nor are they handed out like candy. However these are not your old feats, they are noticeably more potent.

  • The Power of Potential – Feats now can provide a +1 increase to a stat; allow additional skills or languages, even bonuses to certain actions. They can remove limits on some actions like suffering disadvantage when firing from long range, or even grant new actions. Feats are formidable enough now to warrant some consideration of their use but still without being a requirement to be effective.

Well, I believe that is about it for now. There are still things left un-mentioned but perhaps I’ll go over them another time.