Monday, November 4, 2019

Unearthed Arcana: Class Feature Variants

Earlier today, Wizards of the Coast released a new Unearthed Arcana focusing on Class Feature Variants for playtesting.

I am really keen on the idea of having options to choose from when it comes to Class Features, allowing you to trade in one feature for another. I think this is a better way to help some unpopular classes (I'm looking right at you Ranger) than redoing the whole class.

However, the article also offers Class Enhancements which are buffs to that do not cost anything. It can be spells, skill options, all kind of stuff. And I'm definitely not cool with them.

I've never felt underpowered or a zero in DnD 5E. Not once. Yes, the math to encounters can be weird (in the early days, useless even) but a group of tactically minded players who understand what their role in a fight and what options work best are hard to beat in 5th Edition.

I simply view the enhancements as power creep and if they do appear in a product, I doubt I'll let them be used.

However, I urge you to take a look yourself and judge for yourself.


Matt said...

I disagree. While this certainly can be construed as a form of power creep, nothing I read in the document seemed to be something that felt designed to increase things power, but rather I think these options expand the game to let people play in ways that make for more complete characters.

First, a lot of the options (especially for spellcasters) allow for people to have their character change things they picked at first level, things previously set in stone. At my tables, I normally let players do this anyway, because when they create a first level character, they have no idea who that person is, and what feels right for them to do. This also allows for a new type of gameplay, where the name of the game is information. Having players be able to research their foes and adjust their arsenals to deal with it instead of the standard "Well, we can't change, so we'll just go in like we are' excites me.

Second, Clerics and Paladins recharging a spell slot. In a lore stand point for 5e, it kind of makes sense, as they are kind of a dispenser of a god's power, and being tapped out for the day doesn't mean their god is. My current character and the one before that both had Channel Divinity, and I think I used it a singe time in the last 3 months. Being imbued with divine power doesn't matter in the core rules, if you never fight undead or have the circumstances of your specific CD power come up. Role Play wise, I'm excited about the prospect of my paladin praying over the bodies of the dead for an hour, to spend a short rest and get a single 1st spell slot back.

Clerics also get a tweak, meaning they can be flexible and either provide melee or support with the same d8 radiant. The math of their power hasn't changed, but I'm really excited to see people playing melee clerics who aren't war clerics. Honestly, I rarely saw people PLAY clerics in the first place (which I think might be a reason for these changes)

The monk and sorcerer options give them more ways to spend limited resources, for some supposed value. The fighting styles and the Fighter and Warlock tweaks let people drill into being the character they imagine. And the Rogue's Aim stops the "I jump out, shoot, then hide!" that is how all ranged Rogues basically play.

Ranger is the only class that has substantial changes, but AFAICT they won't do anything more in combat that the couldn't already do. The fact that all the cool ranger magic is built into Bonus Actions and Concentration spells, being able to get some free Hunter's Marks doesn't change combat. (And, let's face it, the Ranger has such a bad rep atm, getting some TLC is good for it.)

So, individually, I don't think there's anything particularly "power creepy" with any of these feature changes. Individually, at least. The world of multiclassing is getting turned on it's head. Rogue has serious competition for the best 1 level dip, and there's a lot of stuff being handed out that could easily be really strong. I haven't tried wrapping my mind around it yet.

But multi-classing for min-max reasons has been done since 5e came out, and new options don't change the fact that Multi-classing is still listed as an optional, "ask your GM," rule.

The part that is worrying with power creep is that when all these do drop as rules, they'll be in a book of who knows what else. There's classes we've seen, and there was a bunch of utility feats that haven't seen the light of day yet, so we might be looking at a PHB2 with a LOT of options all dropping at once.

I'm going to stay optimistic.

Cross Planes said...

I appreciate your break down of these options and sharing them. Thank you for that. I still worry about all of those options, when taken as a whole, causing problems in play.

Aside from that, if this is a PHB2 or worse, 5.5 it could cause problems for new DMs and new Players (which thankfully we have a ton of). Decisions paralysis and broken options could cause some of those newer members of our hobby to be overwhelmed.

I remember when I was younger and didn't know the difference between the Rules Cyclopedia and AD&D. Rules Cyclopedia was where I should have started but if I"m going to play, then why wouldn't I want the Advanced version?

Matt said...

As much as I live in hope, I do see where you're coming from. I think it's too early to tell what the effects will be on the game

I doubt they'll name it a "Player's handbook." I'm sure they'll call it "Drizz't's Guide to Advanced Adventuring" Or something, so they can eat some page count with cute little quips from characters. And as much as it will have player options, I predict that it'll also give a bunch of DM stuff, like finalizing sidekick rules, move vehicle rules out of the Adventures they've put them in, and bring them to a "source" style book.

As annoying as 5e is at times, I honestly believe that they have learned a lot, not only from each book they publish, but also from previous editions. They've been doing 3 books a year because of a careful plan, not because they're lacking in ideas. and yet, the curse of large RPG publishing companies is that they can't stand still. To make money they have to sell books, to sell books people have to want them, and while DMs buy a lot of stuff, a book chock full of player options has 5x the audience.

I think new player confusion is a thing that people at WotC are thinking about. If you look at the last year, we've had 2 or 3 starter sets come out, each with own infection vector (Stranger things, Rick and Morty, and people who shop at target) Those books are all going to say "These are the basic rules, go buy the PHP" and it's been a while since looked since I've understood how the system works, but each of the advanced books probably have a line somewhere that says "Thanks for buying this book, but you need the PHB to play" So ideally, for the new players, they'll have an easier time of it.

I know we'll eventually get a 6th edition, but I'm sure its years away. I think a 5.5 might happen, but it won't be a marketed thing. There will just be a point where a book comes out that marks a change in how the game is played, so much so that all games after it's release are different. I think these UA changes here are small enough to not be that division, but it's hard to tell from here.

(6e will come when it's drastically cheaper to redesign and reboot all of those worlds and manuals, rather than to make new stuff up. But they'll make 5e versions of whatever they can first. I have a Bingo card. (If we get Dark Sun and a Draconomicon, I win a prize!))

I'm really curious how Adveturer's League is going to handle a book that says "all those classes do this now."

Cross Planes said...

Adventurer's League was one area I see this possibly rocking the boat. I hope it's merely a rules expansion and I have to admit that I've gone back and looked at the more UA stuff and found many of the sub-classes intriguing. Didn't care for the Swarm Ranger though, it wasn't mechanical problems just imagining playing someone who has insects constantly crawling over them.

6E is going to be an interesting thing.

One one hand, WotC has wisely made every Edition available in PDF and most in POD.

I wonder how sales of older editions do for them? And does the availability of them slow down 6E's arrival?

Matt said...

It can be a swarm of anything, though. Maybe you're a dwarf with a beehive in your beard, or a crazy cat lady or the pied piper and his rats. A bit of spin makes it work for a lot of different things.

On the subject of older editions, I... collect isn't the right word, as I'm getting books to look into and study. I accumulate books from older editions. And never once have I bought them from WotC. I'll get them from my FLGS, or online, but I've never looked into pay the company. So from my sample size, I doubt they see much money from that. I can't imagine older books effecting the march of progress too much, except in terms of "Oh, people liked Oriental Adventures! We could re-do Oriental adventures!"

6e will come when 5e's sales drop below some margin that the secret business people have set. But, since my FLGS is always sold out of the player's handbook, I'm thinking it will be a while before 6e.

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