D&D 5th Edition UA and depth of complexity - Page 13
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  1. #121
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
    To call that a failure on the part of the imagination of that particular player is as much WrongBadFun as declaring all of 4e bunk and garbage because those mechanics exist.
    Ahhhh....you're right, it would be inappropriate to say "the reason that is dissociative for you is because your imagination is weak."

    But that's not what I (speaking only for myself) am saying.

    I'm saying that players choose to make a mechanic 'dissociative' for themselves because they don't like it, and perhaps (probably?) because there's an alternative they like more.

    Actually, that would be interesting data: how often do players complain of "dissociative mechanics" (or breaking immersion) when they don't have a preferred alternative rule/mechanic/option, vs. when they do?
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  2. #122
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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny3D3D View Post
    I disagree.
    I know it was a pithy little metaphor, but the sense of it is, I think, pretty well justified. The phrase /was/ coined for the Edition War (and I was replying to a characterization of the Edition War as a BadWrongFun argument), by one side, as a justification for their position. Thus 'ordnance' - a metaphorical weapon in their arsenal. Since it's still surfacing now and then, even though the impetus for its creation is over, it's metaphorically 'war surplus.'

    I do not feel that other people enjoying a game or rule is badwrongfun.
    However, from my perspective, I find that a difference between how I expect something to work and how the game system says something works can be a barrier when it comes to enjoying a game.
    Nod. If you expect AC to get better as the number gets lower, and the game doesn't work that way, it can be off-putting? Sure. Or if you expect wizards to cast spell infrequently because they're dangerous, or exhausting, or because they have a limited life-time supply of 'mana,' but the game says they cast spells infrequently because they much memorize each spell individually and forget it when they cast it? Uh... sure.

    But, what about a game like 5e? Say you approach 5e with one of the above expectations about how magic use works, but what you find is slots. Is that really so bad? I'm not aware of an actual 'how magic works' explanation for slots in 5e (did I miss it? please, someone jump in and tell me off if I did). But, even if there is one, and it's not one you like, couldn't you just change it? Your caster only casts so many spells of each level, each day, because they're exhausting. Or because it's the only way to manage his mana reserves. Or because the gods demand it. Or whatever meets your expectations.

    That being said, I'd assert that completely dismissing the idea of 'disassociated mechanics' is potentially a statement born of willful ignorance.
    There was certainly a lot of willful ignorance being displayed throughout the Edition War. Very often by the folks crying 'disassociated mechanics.'

    But, no, I'm familiar with the articles that originated the term, the definition used, and the argument it was part of. It is an idea that absolutely deserves to be dismissed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elfcrusher View Post
    In other words "dissociative mechanics" means "rules that rub me wrong".
    That's much more concise, yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
    People have a right to attempt to quantify their personal preferences.
    People have the right to do lots of things, no matter how badly they may end, sure. It can be pretty darn inconsiderate to do so, though.

    For a certain type of gamer, "Dissociated Mechanics" is about as good a terminology as any for a game mechanic that breaks their sense of immersion.
    It's really not. A better term would be "game mechanic." Because any game mechanic can do that.

    That the term was tied to (or coined during) a particularly contentious "Edition War" and used (wrongly) as an objective measure of a system's inherent worth does not mean that the term does not still have value.
    It has value as an example of the twisted logic of the edition war.

    Of course; you or I might be able to conceptualize that HP are an abstraction
    It's not like abstraction is a terribly difficult concept. And, yes, abstraction can be something you have to reach past to hold onto your immersion. So, arguably, are mechanics. But as barriers to immersion go, they are as nothing compared to just playing a TTRPG in the first place.

    I get that a given example of one may just be the straw that broke the camel's back for someone's fragile state of immersion. I do. I just don't think it's valid to complain about the straw and demand the entire caravan go home because of the straw.

    But the term has value for conceptualizing a particular personal preference;
    ...For someone who prefers the model of HP as actual physical health and endurance and nothing more, damage on a miss and second winds and martial healing are definitely Dissociated Mechanics. I don't know how you could argue otherwise.
    Because it's a self-defeating rationalization. If your preference is a mechanic closely modelling actual physical health, hps already fail. Period. They're utterly indefensible. If you can accept hps and psychic damage and whatnot in spite of that preference, but cannot accept a fighter's second wind or an inspiring word or Hit Dice/Healing Surges or CS Dice/Martial Exploits - then it doesn't work as a conceptualization.

    To call that a failure on the part of the imagination of that particular player is as much WrongBadFun as declaring all of 4e bunk and garbage because those mechanics exist. The system just isn't built for them.
    The 'failure of imagination' comes in when you have the option of resolving the issue just by changing how you picture the mechanic & fiction in question, and choose not to, or claim an inability to do so.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elfcrusher View Post
    Ahhhh....you're right, it would be inappropriate to say "the reason that is dissociative for you is because your imagination is weak."

    I'm saying that players choose to make a mechanic 'dissociative' for themselves because they don't like it, and perhaps (probably?) because there's an alternative they like more.
    When the Alexandrian coined "Dissociative Mechanics," it was in an early article attacking 4e for the balancing of class resources, specifically fighters gaining abilities with a daily limitation. He did not plead deficiency of imagination (though players echoing his ideas later sometimes did, in effect). He actually rejected the perfunctory rationale the game presented, and constructed an alternate visualization of the fiction specifically to /make/ it unsatisfactory in a way that fit the term he'd coined.
    Last edited by Tony Vargas; Friday, 27th January, 2017 at 08:26 PM.
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  3. #123
    Quote Originally Posted by Elfcrusher View Post
    Ahhhh....you're right, it would be inappropriate to say "the reason that is dissociative for you is because your imagination is weak."

    But that's not what I (speaking only for myself) am saying.

    I'm saying that players choose to make a mechanic 'dissociative' for themselves because they don't like it, and perhaps (probably?) because there's an alternative they like more.
    No doubt; people can at times be bad at introspection. The point is that the underlying Aesthetics that cause certain mechanics to rub certain people the wrong way are perfectly legitimate, and "Dissociated Mechanic" is a perfectly fine term to describe that issue, regardless of its origins. The fault (in both those who use the term and those who oppose it) is assuming that the use of "Dissociated" is objective and universal. "Dissociation" is, by definition, personal.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    People have the right to do lots of things, no matter how badly they may end, sure. It can be pretty darn inconsiderate to do so, though.
    The inconsideration is in the universalization of one's own personal preferences, not in the terminology they use to define said preferences.

    It's really not. A better term would be "game mechanic." Because any game mechanic can do that.
    True, and I said as much earlier. That's why I feel it's important to clarify, as I did above: whether a mechanic is "Dissociated" or not is a matter of personal preference.

    It's not like abstraction is a terribly difficult concept. And, yes, abstraction can be something you have to reach past to hold onto your immersion. So, arguably, are mechanics. But as barriers to immersion go, they are as nothing compared to just playing a TTRPG in the first place.

    I get that a given example of one may just be the straw that broke the camel's back for someone's fragile state of immersion. I do. I just don't think it's valid to complain about the straw and demand the entire caravan go home because of the straw.
    I would agree with you, for the most part. A lot of the vitriol directed at 4e would have been resolved by those same people saying "You know what? This edition is not for me," and walking away (as you suggest has happened for the most part regarding 5e). There's an argument to be had about whether a fandom can or should get to claim "ownership" over a property and whether that validates their anger regarding changes made to their "owned" properties but that's diving down a huge rabbit hole that I don't think is a particularly valid point of view in the first place. Needless to say, we now have Pathfinder for a reason. I think, with the virtue of hindsight, we can see that the world was wide enough for the both of them.

    Because it's a self-defeating rationalization. If your preference is a mechanic closely modelling actual physical health, hps already fail. Period. They're utterly indefensible. If you can accept hps and psychic damage and whatnot in spite of that preference, but cannot accept a fighter's second wind or an inspiring word or Hit Dice/Healing Surges or CS Dice/Martial Exploits - then it doesn't work as a conceptualization.
    See, I agree with your argument and disagree with your universalization of it. Obviously there is a case to be made for "meat points". It's not one I agree with, and I think that "HP" have been pretty clearly defined as abstractions for pretty much the entirety of D&D's history... but there were also clearly people with different ideas about it. And the fact is that every previous edition of D&D made it fairly easy to just say that no, HPs aren't abstractions, and 4th edition made it nearly impossible to do so. I liked that change and the mechanics and tactical options that allowed. Others didn't. Neither justifies an critique of the "objective" merits of 4e, because they're steeped in personal preference.

    The 'failure of imagination' comes in when you have the option of resolving the issue just by changing how you picture the mechanic & fiction in question, and choose not to, or claim an inability to do so.
    I find this statement here to be in entirely bad faith. You are engaging in the exact kind of universalization of your own personal aesthetics that you seem so frustrated by others for doing. Some people are either unable or don't want to engage in intellectual gymnastics to preserve their sense of immersion. They shouldn't have to. That doesn't mean they have "failed" in any subjective or objective measure. The system has failed them, specifically, but that's not also not a knock on the system.

    The thing is, D&D has this sort of reputation for being "all things to all people" and the reality is... it's not that. It never has been and it never will be, and there's an argument to be had as to whether that's a worthwhile goal to strive for in the first place. Now, what you can say about 4e, objectively, is that it was divisive. It did not, in many ways, appeal strongly to the people who had been playing D&D previously. For others in entirely broke what, to them, D&D was all about in the first place. For others it was a distillation and evolution of exactly where they say the game moving forward for them. For still others it was an incredible entry point into the game and into the medium of TTRPG's. But 4e was the edition that least fit the maxim of "all things to all people" because it was a heavily experimental edition. And because people struggle to not universalize their own personal aesthetics of play it led to a particularly vociferous Edition War.
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  4. #124
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
    The fault (in both those who use the term and those who oppose it) is assuming that the use of "Dissociated" is objective and universal. "Dissociation" is, by definition, personal. The inconsideration is in the universalization of one's own personal preferences, not in the terminology they use to define said preferences.
    Appending it to 'mechanics' asserts that it is an objective quality of the mechanics, instead of the person claiming to experience the phenomenon, himself, taking ownership of it, and leaving it personal.

    There's an argument to be had about whether a fandom can or should get to claim "ownership" over a property and whether that validates their anger regarding changes made to their "owned" properties but that's diving down a huge rabbit hole
    I'm honestly not that unsympathetic to the idea. In a practical sense, the owner of an IP has to weigh loss of existing fans vs appeal to a broader audience vs the perception of the IP. D&D, and, indeed, TTRPGs in general, have missed every opportunity to achieve broader appeal, but the IP can be used for more than just TTRPGs, so shoring up the perception of the IP and the relationships between it's owner & fans to prevent negative publicity all seems very sensible.

    And, it gave us a wonderfully nostalgic, tolerably modernized edition.

    See, I agree with your argument and disagree with your universalization of it. Obviously there is a case to be made for "meat points". It's not one I agree with, and I think that "HP" have been pretty clearly defined as abstractions for pretty much the entirety of D&D's history... but there were also clearly people with different ideas about it.
    People can have ideas that are simply irreconcilable with the facts. Most versions of "meat hps" fall into that category. (There are few entirely consistent interpretations, though - Hemlock has one I quite like, for instance.)

    And the fact is that every previous edition of D&D made it fairly easy to just say that no, HPs aren't abstractions, and 4th edition made it nearly impossible to do so.
    Hit points were unavoidably abstract in every edition. Still are, and it would be very hard to change that. Long familiarity might have made that easier to ignore...
    ...and, at the same time, harder to face up to when a new variation brings it back to light.

    Some people are either unable or don't want to engage in intellectual gymnastics to preserve their sense of immersion.
    Fine, as far as it goes. If they're playing D&D, though, /they already are/.


    The thing is, D&D has this sort of reputation for being "all things to all people" and the reality is... it's not that.
    It's the first RPG and the one most everyone in the hobby is familiar with. So, within that tiny community, it is, by default, a sort of common experience. It's obviously not all things to all people - to the vast majority of people, it's nothing at all.

    and there's an argument to be had as to whether that's a worthwhile goal to strive for in the first place.
    5e is striving to be all things to all /fans/ of at least one past edition of D&D. That's a much more tenable goal.
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  5. #125
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
    People have a right to attempt to quantify their personal preferences.
    But they also have a duty (of intellectul accuracy/honesty) to do so as accurately as they can, and to respond in good faith to the analysis and criticism that such quantifying provokes.

    To put it another way: there is a difference between "I don't like that" and "I don't like that because of [design/structural considerations ABC]". The dislike is not in dispute. The analysis, though, is fair game for discussion.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
    For a certain type of gamer, "Dissociated Mechanics" is about as good a terminology as any for a game mechanic that breaks their sense of immersion.
    I don't agree. There is no coherent way of framing the mechanics that The Alexandrian frames as "dissociative" that does not capture the traditional D&D mechanics of AC and hit points, plus Gygaxian (but not 3E/5e) saving throws, plus 3E-and-onwards turn-by-turn, "stop motion" initiative and action economy.

    That is to say: the mechanics per se don't explain what happens when a war devil uses the "Besiege Foe" power - the GM has to add some narration. All the mechanics tell us is that, whatever that narration, it has to be consistent in some fashion with the foe being vulnerable to the war devil's allies' attacks while him-/herself being unable to easily turn from the war devil to face those other attackers.

    The mechanics per se don't explain what happens when someone is hit for 8 hp and (therefore) drops from (say) 42 to 34 hp. Someone at the table (most often the GM, I think) has to add some narration, and all the mechanics tell us is that, whatever that narration, it has to be consistent in some fashion with the character who lost hit points being closer to defeat as a result of his/her foe successfully pressing an attack.

    It may well be that someone's immersion is harmed by the War Devil but not by the hit points. But whatever the explanation for that, it can't be that one brings its narration with it as able to be read straightforwardly of the mechanics, and the other doesn't: because neither does.

    And the reason I raise the hp example - besides the fact that it's obvious and low-hanging fruit - is that a large number of RPGers quit D&D in the late 70s/early 80s and moved to games like C&S, RQ, RM, DQ, etc (and later to Hero and GURPS) precisely because they objected to this feature of D&D's combat resolution.

    Ron Edwards and The Forge have a technical label for these sorts of mechanics: fortune in the middle. As in, first the action is framed; then the dice are rolled (to hit and damage, in the hp case) or the mechanics otherwise applied (bonuses to attack the besieged foe, with penalties for the beseiged foe to attack the besiegers, in the War Devil case); then the narration is finalised, which involves choices about how to do that as it can't be read straightforwardly off the resolution, although the resolution does provide constraints within which the narration must fit.

    As the hp example shows, D&D has always had FitM. Originally it was widespread - not only in the basic combar mechanics but saving throws, many skill-type checks (eg bend bars checks, thief abilities, searching for traps, etc - any of these, especially the ones that forbid retries, could easily in classic D&D be narrated in a FitM fashion). 3E got rid of it from saving throws and skill/ability checks but kept it for core combat resolution (this is why I, personally, find 3E to be an unstable combination of gritty and gonzo). 4e brought it in a lot of places, in ways that I personally see as generalising the general approach to resolution of classic D&D (but obviously that's not a univerasal opinion).

    I think conversations about the relationships between fiction and resolution (framing checks, narrating outcomes, etc) can be quite profitable. Whereas overlaying it with descriptions of personal psychological responses ("I like this, but not this") tends to obscure the analysis. And generalising those descriptions is even more problematic: for instance, I've seen people describe some FitM mechanics as at odds with immersion as such, when I personally have participated in games that use those mechanics and have witnessed moments of great immersion during those games. For instance, some people say that a player can't be immersed in character when s/he also has to provide the narration in the manner that FitM abilities require - ie with some constraint but some room for choice. But I know that that claim - which is an empirical one - is false, because I've seen such immersion take place. (How does it work? Because the player's inhabitation of the character, and the character's situation within the game, is so total that from the player's point of view there is no choice - the logic of the fiction drives a single narration - even though, if we abstract the mechanics out of that particular moment of play, they didn't dictate any particular narration.)
    Last edited by pemerton; Friday, 27th January, 2017 at 11:01 PM.
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  6. #126
    Quote Originally Posted by Gradine View Post
    ... The point is that the underlying Aesthetics that cause certain mechanics to rub certain people the wrong way are perfectly legitimate, and "Dissociated Mechanic" is a perfectly fine term to describe that issue, regardless of its origins. The fault (in both those who use the term and those who oppose it) is assuming that the use of "Dissociated" is objective and universal. "Dissociation" is, by definition, personal.
    This a very reasonable attitude, unfortunately a few people in RPGs will simply refuse to enter into a reasonable discussion on these subjects, instead they will just try to shout it down with cries of "edition war" or "badwrongfun".

    Interestingly, these same issues regarding mechanics have been taking place in the board game community for years without any real animosity. Terms like "soul-less euro" or "ameritrash" are about as heated as it gets, yet both terms are used by people who actually like those kinds of games. Unfortunately, boardgames don't have much better terminology to describe "thematic" mechanics and how that relates to the degrees of abstraction. Like a lot of things in life, there are a many factors, some of them subjective but that doesn't make them not worth using. Measuring "happiness" is just as difficult due to the inherent subjective nature of the concept, but it doesn't mean we should abandon the term or refuse to discuss it.

  7. #127
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Vargas View Post
    Appending it to 'mechanics' asserts that it is an objective quality of the mechanics, instead of the person claiming to experience the phenomenon, himself, taking ownership of it, and leaving it personal.
    You beat me to it.

    The reason "dissociative mechanics" is not an appropriate term is that it sounds (intentionally) like an intrinsic quality of the mechanic. It's pure spin. When we take a term that very clearly has one meaning (mechanics which cause dissociation, suggesting that some do and some do not) and insist that it means something else (mechanics that aren't liked by whoever used the phrase) that's called "propaganda". It's Orwellian.

    (Analogy to "ugly art" deleted. I'm learning.)

  8. #128
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    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    Power creep is lethal to a game in the long run, and would in short order necessitate a 6e.
    Actually, there could be made an argument that power creep is already killing 5e: it seems monsters and NPCs can't cope with character equipped with feats, magic items and multiclassing.

    The argument "all that's optional, don't use it if your players break the game" is nonsense. Feats and multiclassing has been part of the game since 2000. If the game gives you options you can't use, those options are worthless.

    The expectation that the game is robust enough to handle the rules in the PHB is completely reasonable, and in fact, I consider it wholly unreasonable to not have this expectation.

    Also: If the game can't even handle the toys that are in the frikkin' first core book, what does that say about the game's ability to handle splatbooks?!?

    The saddest part is that none of it (or at least only a little) is the core system's fault. The core system doesn't mean you can't design monsters competently.

    The system doesn't change. What is increasingly obvious, however, is that we need an alternative Monster Manual for power users.

    (And for the love of Vecna, if your trigger response is "I don't have any problem with the MM" you don't have to purchase this product)
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  9. #129
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    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    Though I said that you had to be careful adding more depth of complexity to a system, I do in fact think that 5e is (as it currently exists) vastly too simple with far too few options. I just don't think the problem lies in there being not enough options for existing archetypes. The existing classes are already crammed full of abilities (practically at every level) and they all have two or three dials to turn already to tweak them.
    The problem for me and my players is that the problem space just isn't large enough.

    Sure there are more dials we haven't turned yet. Problem is, in most cases we've already concluded they're not competitive.

    Barbarian: our first Barbarian was a Totem barb. I haven't seen any other subclass that motivates us to return to that class.
    Bard: very squishy. The Inspiration die is almost game-breakingly good, but it's no fun to bring along a "super die" the others have to constantly protect.
    Cleric: we've used Light and Tempest to good effect. Problem is, now we're running out of first-tier results. Also, very few cleric-specific feats and no good multiclassing makes Cleric a done deal, a problem solved.
    Fighter: There are really only two options: Battlemaster with Precision maneuvers, and Eldritch Knight with Shields. I'm sure a case can be made for a few more builds, but then again I consider Fighter one of the most successful classes of all of 5E. The multiclassing potential is wonderful; many feats are tailor-made for fighters.
    Valor Bards and Blade Warlocks: the problem is that compared to real martials, you're simply way too squishy. Besides, you will never use your weapons, since your spells will outcompete weapon usage every time.

    ...and so on, you get my point.

    Adding more subclasses might be good for players looking for a specific archetype, but almost none of them are interesting in the least from a charbuild perspective.

    That's why I started this thread. To highlight the fact that adding MORE options (like UA is currently doing) does nothing for existing characters.

    So, yes, 5E seems simple on the verge of going played-out in its third year already, and that's way too soon IMO. But adding breadth alone won't cut it. Some of us crave more depth

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    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim View Post
    Some areas I would like to see new breadth of complexity though:

    a) More feats.

    b) More spells. Particularly spells that are thematic.

    c) More archetypes.

    d) More backgrounds.

    e) More subsystems. Pursuit/Evasion, Mass Combat, Domain/Dynasty Management, Crafting, Mystery/Investigation, Research/Invention, example Skill Challenge Frameworks

    f) Better refined existing subsystems. A lot of the existing subsystems - say some of the simple Downtime systems (Carousing, for example, comes to mind) - to me feel like simplified placeholders designed to give quick and easy answers to something not intended to be a major part of the game. I've got mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I applaud them putting subsystems into the game at all. On the other hand, I feel like the only justification for the subsystems as is, is lack of space to put in better ones, and that they are better thought of as stubbed out components to be replaced by advanced systems is later supplements than as anything really useful except as inspiration.

    g) Possibly more classes. See my comments earlier on the standard D&D classes and how they leave lots of design space untouched. If that design space can't be reached by swappable archetype components, you need new classes to do it. The reason I say 'possibly' is new classes is a huge danger of power creep, and the more classes you have the more risks you are taking. It doesn't matter how many classes a system has. It matters how many classes are of a viable tier. Nonviable classes will on the whole cease be played.
    a) agreed, especially to add back competiveness to the currently underserved fighting styles (cue the Throwing Weapons thread going on). Of course, I'm convinced the Monster Manual can't handle it if everybody get Greatweapon Master levels of DPR - I would much rather solve this issue by nerfing -5/+10 and voila: all the "underserved" styles are suddenly competitive again
    Also: more feats for spellcasters.
    b) sure, but this does nothing for build complexity (adding more spell lists, however...)
    c) if you mean subclasses we've already talked about this. I disagree. This entire thread is about not agreeing to that, as long as you don't add a way to combine two archetypes of the same class.
    d) sure... but meh. Backgrounds have a miniscule amount of system complexity.
    e) how about fixing the current subsystems first...
    f) if you mean the magic item pricing system, I agree... Downtime is simply something we're not using in our way of playing. Much more interesting is the stealth subsystem, which would be my top priority of actually fixing.
    g) Well, Psion and so on, sure. But I want to breathe new life into existing classes (and their subclasses), which adding subclasses doesn't do. Revisiting the Beastmaster Ranger is an excellent example of what should be strongly encouraged in this area:
    * a Berserker barbarian that doesn't get levels of something that goes outside the regular short/long rest recovery system
    * a sorcerer class that doesn't deny a valuable depth-of-complexity subsystem from other spellcasters
    * a wild mage with actual system support. My analysis back then was that it's not worth playing a Wild Mage until more spells with attack rolls are added. And that doesn't even bring up the clusterfrack of leading DMs to believe Wild Mages can be competetive even when denied their core mechanic (=don't play a Wild Mage unless your DM is completely 100% on-board with getting back advantage with EACH AND EVERY spell you cast)
    * a sorcerer class that instead of the intellectual (and thus malplaced) metamagic subsystem gets something that adds actual fun to the class. Doesn't have to be "more known spells" but something to add color to the character: more reliance on a damage type or otherwise element
    * reengineer the manuevers subsystem to tier the maneuvers. Acknowledge that the generaility of Battlemaster is holding back future design - split battlemaster into a few distinct subclasses
    * give the sorry ass Elements Monk some real oomph
    * fix dualwielding so it is less stellar at levels 1-4 and less sucky at levels 11+
    Last edited by CapnZapp; Saturday, 28th January, 2017 at 11:38 AM.

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