D&D 5E How Far Could D&D Change--And STILL Be D&D?

DND_Reborn

Legend
Kind of a BECMI/BX design with a 4e mentality and 5e maths.

The post by @vincegetorix got me thinking about D&D and all the iterations/house-rules I've done since I started playing 5E to make it into the D&D experience I really want to enjoy.

When I asked for further details on the above post, this was the response:
Just an idea, top of my head and all that, so bear with me:

Low HP: So we go back to Basic (or 1st AD&D) with HP die being small (1d4 wizards, frex) and capping after some levels (So lvl 10 rogue would closer to 35 ish hp than 70). BUT...the party is considered to go back relatively close to full hp after an encounter through Breathers and recovery features.

I think I'd keep Death Saves (maybe Wound Saves?), but they disappears after a Recovery in a Haven, not a long rest. Greater Restoration may remove one failed Death Save and Regenerate may remove 1 per 10 minutes for the duration of the spells, Heal may restore all HP and remove a Death save, etc. The other spells arent called ''healing'' or refer to ''wounds'' they are Invigorate, Instill Vigor, etc. Instant death or death effect may kill without Death saves (Power Word Kill. ) or give a failed Death Save (Enervation, Negative Energy Burst, Horrid Wilting, Death Cloud) on a failed save.
Poisons can drain the already low Max HP of the PC. Diseases may increase the DC to beat the Death Save.

Damage: We used the 5e maths, so we have the same way of doing modifier, same damage rolls, bounded accuracy. Damage and ''Healing'' (or other mitigation) should be able to keep up with each other, at a cost. PC cant endure 2-3 rounds of sustained damage, so resource-based mitigating features could be able to ''undo'' most of the damage on a PC in that round. A high damage feature or spells or critical hit will surpass the mitigation capacity of a target that round.
A creature with 1 accrued failed Death Save is considered Bloodied (which may trigger other effects). A monster is considered bloodied 1)when it reaches half-HP 2) the round after it is hit with a Critical Hit.

4e role design: Damage is mitigated with spells and features, either by giving THP, reducing incoming damage, boosting AC or simply by using recovery items or features. Some class have built-in recovery (fighter's Second Wind) and other are support classes helping the rest of the group with damage mitigation. Support is not a dirty word and it is not a chore, it must feel valuable and gratifying.

Recovery: The PC can spend HD to recover HP during Breathers and when prompted by a recovery spell or feature or item. A PC regains half its max HD on a long rest.

Just throwing some stuff here.

Now, a while ago I explored the idea of fewer hp but you get them all (or most of them) back after each encounter. My reason then was because out of combat healing was so abundant each new encounter the PCs typically had 85-100+% of their hp. It got me thinking: why not just cut out the middle man (healing after the battle) and restore PCs to full hp after each encounter?

Not surprisingly, some people then commented: sounds a lot like healing surges and such from 4E (which I never played...). This must (at least in part) be the 4E mentality @vincegetorix mentioned.

Thinking about this more and more, and returning to prior ideas I've had (generated from other games), did get me wondering:

How much could you change D&D (5E as the current version) and still feel like it is D&D?

UPDATE: Given some of the responses... My question is focused on 5E, and changes to it, that would make the next iteration NOT feel like D&D?
(So, references about prior versions isn't really the intended thrust.)

I realize this is a very broad question, and somewhat rhetorically honestly as I am just voicing my thoughts, but if anyone cares to weigh in and share your thoughts, please do and thanks for reading.

FWIW, I'm sure I'll be back with further thoughts... ;)
 
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jgsugden

Legend
In reality: If WotC slaps the name of D&D on it, it is D&D. Period. That is how we got 4E.

Now, how much can it change and still feel like D&D? I think the change between 3.5 and 5E is about what you'd expect between editions. You could do more and still call it D&D, but I don't expect they will.

I'd expect to see them address some math (Sharpshooter/GWM, for example), introduce some new mechanics to address problem areas (like stealth, perhaps), and to modify some of the elements that do not work. I expect the next edition will presume miniatures as a default rather than making it an optional rule everyone uses. I think they'll be more sensitive in how they address 'races' and heritages. I expect they'll redesign a few classes to make them more distinct (sorcerer will no longer be 'charismatic wizard', for example). I think they'll design the system to be more digital friendly (with the design intended to be more compatible with a VTT, meaning that more elements will have specifications that work with the VTT). I believe they'll take another stab at making legendary creature mechanics so that they're more elegant, but preserve that 'solo fight' capability without the '1d20 ruins your day' risk. However, the next books they release are supposed to be 100% compatible with the existing 5E materials you've botught ... so I don't expect massive, massive changes.
 


Somethings that, if removed, would have me asking "Is this really DnD any more?"

1. Races. You can change the rules to dang near nothing, but DnD has races. And quite a few are essential: elves, dwarves, halflings, half-elves, drow, dragonbon, tieflings definitely.

2. Ability scores, that you can roll for with 3d6.

3. Classes, although few if any classes couldn't be removed so long as the concept lives somewhere

4. Dragons

5. Dungeons, for that matter


6. 1d20 as the core die for task resolution

7. Branded monsters: mind flayers, beholders, et al. Some other classic IP stuff like Blackrazor and whatnot. Rules can change.

8. Dungeon masters (although a way to play without them might be a useful option, if you can't have a dm that would be too far.)

9. at least three core rulebooks. PHB, DMG and MM. You can add extra core books (ie a book of traps and hazards) or have optional re-organized versions (ie one book with all you need for levels 1-3)

10. Levels. Character levels, that is. We haven't needed dungeon levels in a while and I'm okay with getting rid of spell levels

11. Spells, although you might be able to get rid of spell slots.

12. The ability to play in existing campaign settings - at least most of them. If a setting needs extra rules like psionics in Dark Sun that's fine but it should take changing core.

13. Saving throws in some form.

Edit: 14. Hit points and armor class.
 
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Stormonu

Legend
Well, I'd look at from those games that are fantasy, but they aren't D&D - Gurps, Savage Worlds, 7th Sea, etc. Why wouldn't you call those systems "the next D&D"? Then you have those "near D&D" games - Castles & Crusades, Pathfinder, Old School Essentials. How far can you bend before it "isn't D&D" anymore?

Oh, and @jmartkdr2, on

#5 - I don't recall any dungeons in Planescape
#7 - Dark Sun would not be considered D&D then, nor BirthRight
#9 - that would mean that the entire D&D basic line isn't D&D, including the Rules Encyclopedia.
 

Well, I'd look at from those games that are fantasy, but they aren't D&D - Gurps, Savage Worlds, 7th Sea, etc. Why wouldn't you call those systems "the next D&D"? Then you have those "near D&D" games - Castles & Crusades, Pathfinder, Old School Essentials. How far can you bend before it "isn't D&D" anymore?

Oh, and @jmartkdr2, on
Rebutting for funsies:
#5 - I don't recall any dungeons in Planescape
I never played Planescapes but that was an odd duck anyways
#7 - Dark Sun would not be considered D&D then, nor BirthRight
Did not know that
#9 - that would mean that the entire D&D basic line isn't D&D, including the Rules Encyclopedia.
Eh, the boxed sets contained those books. But they're cemented in to the legacy now.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
Oh, and @jmartkdr2, on

#5 - I don't recall any dungeons in Planescape
#7 - Dark Sun would not be considered D&D then, nor BirthRight
#9 - that would mean that the entire D&D basic line isn't D&D, including the Rules Encyclopedia.
Compared to what D&D currently is (as the 5th edition), those wouldn't be I suppose, if the next iteration failed to meet them? 🤷‍♂️

Just to be clear, my thoughts were about what could you change in the current edition and still have the result be considered D&D, not what elements of the game make it D&D to you.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Compared to what D&D currently is (as the 5th edition), those wouldn't be I suppose, if the next iteration failed to meet them? 🤷‍♂️

Just to be clear, my thoughts were about what could you change in the current edition and still have the result be considered D&D, not what elements of the game make it D&D to you.
Well, that's sort of circular - if I change something and it is no longer considered D&D, isn't that based on what I think D&D "is"?
 

Oofta

Legend
It's hard to discuss some of this because it's all personal perspective and I don't want to get into edition wars. Whether you liked 4E, thought it was a good game or not (I thought it had some good ideas but it was badly rushed), it didn't "feel" like D&D to a lot of people. I am not saying this was a universal feeling.

Yes, we still had things like ability scores, HP, AC. The labels were the same. We still rolled D20s and whatnot. But the aspects that made it feel like it was "not" D&D was giving everyone a similar structure for all classes, tried to encapsulate most of the things that could be accomplished into powers. Powers, for those that didn't play were broken down into AEDU, at-will, encounter, daily and utility. What they did was encapsulate much of the rules into bite-sized chunks.

So fighters had something like this random 1st level encounter power:
Cleave​
fighter attack 1​
Melee Weapon​
Target: one creature​
Attack: Strength vs. AC​
Hit: "1[W] + Strength modifier damage, and an enemy adjacent to you other than the target takes damage equal to your Strength modifier.
"Increase damage to 2[W] + Strength modifier at 21st level.​
You had other powers that could impose conditions like stun, force movement and so on.

The advantage of this is that everything you could do was right there. The disadvantage was that everything you could do was right there. This led too often in my experience to people not thinking outside of the (power) box. But it had a related issue in that everyone's primary actions in combat had limits on how often they could be used. You could only "cleave" once per encounter. You had other powers like Brute Strike (triple weapon damage) that you could only use once a day.

Since every class followed this same pattern, hitting the same beats and tones so to speak, it was hard to justify the fiction. Why could I only cleave once per encounter? If there was a second wave, you can't use it. But if you have a quick nap, you can do it again. Have multiple encounter powers and would like to use cleave more than once? Too bad.

Again, this did not make 4E a bad game. It just made it not feel like D&D to some.
 


It isn't circular at all, though.

We are currently in 5E D&D. How much can you change in 5E, and still consider it D&D?
"You" personally or "you" as in "a person who is in charge of DnD?"

Personal opinions are individual. But market opinions are just the aggregate of personal opinions.

For what it's worth, my post above is what I think the market will bear, but it's just a guess.
 

DND_Reborn

Legend
What you would imagine this "you":
"you" as in "a person who is in charge of DnD?"

So, what changes could whoever is designing a version of D&D (assuming either WotC or someone who has approval to use the D&D brand) make and have the receiving public/target audience still consider it D&D.

For example, your first point was "races". If the next iteration of D&D didn't include races, you (as part of the target audience) could no longer consider it D&D, right?
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
The post by @vincegetorix got me thinking about D&D and all the iterations/house-rules I've done since I started playing 5E to make it into the D&D experience I really want to enjoy.

When I asked for further details on the above post, this was the response:


Now, a while ago I explored the idea of fewer hp but you get them all (or most of them) back after each encounter. My reason then was because out of combat healing was so abundant each new encounter the PCs typically had 85-100+% of their hp. It got me thinking: why not just cut out the middle man (healing after the battle) and restore PCs to full hp after each encounter?

Not surprisingly, some people then commented: sounds a lot like healing surges and such from 4E (which I never played...). This must (at least in part) be the 4E mentality @vincegetorix mentioned.

Thinking about this more and more, and returning to prior ideas I've had (generated from other games), did get me wondering:

How much could you change D&D (5E as the current version) and still feel like it is D&D?

UPDATE: Given some of the responses... My question is focused on 5E, and changes to it, that would make the next iteration NOT feel like D&D?
(So, references about prior versions isn't really the intended thrust.)

I realize this is a very broad question, and somewhat rhetorically honestly as I am just voicing my thoughts, but if anyone cares to weigh in and share your thoughts, please do and thanks for reading.

FWIW, I'm sure I'll be back with further thoughts... ;)
It goes back to the familiar legacy aspects of the game. AC, hp, six stats, race, class, level, etc. Lose those and you lose the D&D feel.

It also needs to be designed to feel like an RPG. Not a skirmish game with RP elements. Not a storygame with a few hold-over mechanics from wargames. For me 4E feels more like D&D than 5E. But 4E feels less like D&D than the TSR editions.

As I’m sure it’s already been mentioned, I’ll say low hit points, deadly combat, combat as war, slow healing, and other staples of TSR-era D&D are what make it feel like D&D. So any changes to 5E that bring those back is good. Something like Gritty Realism as the default. Drop death saves. Decrease PC hp and damage by about 1/3. Remove cantrips. Cap hp gains at ninth level. Bring back the assumed focus change based on levels, dungeon, wilderness, region, domain, armies, path to immortality, immortality, etc. Do all that and 5E will start to feel like D&D again.
 
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toucanbuzz

No rule is inviolate
How much could you change D&D (5E as the current version) and still feel like it is D&D?
Mechanically, you'd have to keep:
  1. The 6 ability scores.
  2. A d20 for attacks and saving throws.
  3. Four basic roles with scaling abilities (warrior, arcane, divine, skill monkey).
Beyond that, you can change weapon damage, how you handle initiative, healing, resting, going to 0hp, abilities of each class as they go up, and so on, and it'd still be D&D because ALL of these were modified between AD&D and 5E and it still plays the same.
 

Corinnguard

Explorer
Even though Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition wasn't designed and written up by WoTC (it was designed and written up by En Publishing), it still has that 5th edition D&D feel to it. What makes it different from 5e D&D is that it has a lot more crunch to it, more ways to customize your character with regards to the three pillars (combat, exploration and social).
 

beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
For me, it would no longer be D&D once the different species become nothing more than skins that you can add a random group of abilities to.

It will no longer be D&D when combat takes an official back seat to RP.

It will no longer be D&D when every other monster encountered is a fey...oh wait.... :D;)
 

Mechanically, you'd have to keep:
  1. The 6 ability scores.
  2. A d20 for attacks and saving throws.
  3. Four basic roles with scaling abilities (warrior, arcane, divine, skill monkey).
Beyond that, you can change weapon damage, how you handle initiative, healing, resting, going to 0hp, abilities of each class as they go up, and so on, and it'd still be D&D because ALL of these were modified between AD&D and 5E and it still plays the same.
what if I added two more ability scores would the game be truly different?
 

It's hard to discuss some of this because it's all personal perspective
yup and it is super engranded in a lot of us to edition war
and I don't want to get into edition wars. Whether you liked 4E, thought it was a good game or not (I thought it had some good ideas but it was badly rushed), it didn't "feel" like D&D to a lot of people. I am not saying this was a universal feeling.
right... so lets try to be constructive (and I appertiate you are)
Yes, we still had things like ability scores, HP, AC. The labels were the same. We still rolled D20s and whatnot.
I think that is pretty much the answer... 6 ability scores something called a save, something called AC some variant of Hp and it mostly using d20s is about it... anything with that and the D&D fluff around it is D&D
So fighters had something like this random 1st level encounter power:
Cleave​
fighter attack 1​
Melee Weapon​
Target: one creature​
Attack: Strength vs. AC​
Hit: "1[W] + Strength modifier damage, and an enemy adjacent to you other than the target takes damage equal to your Strength modifier.​
"Increase damage to 2[W] + Strength modifier at 21st level.​
man I miss martial characters just 'getting things they could use'
You had other powers that could impose conditions like stun, force movement and so on.
that I think is a better example... I doubt many people had an issue with cleave.

artful dodger rogues moving targets around the field and warlords removing conditions or letting someone spend HD are normally the more major issues... but damage on a miss was big too... but it all started with this low level issue

At-WillMartial, Weapon
Standard Action
Melee Or Ranged Weapon
Requirement: wielding crossbow, light blade, or sling
Target: one creature
Attack: Dexterity vs. AC
Hit: "1[W] + Dexterity modifier + Charisma modifier damage.
"Increase damage to 2[W] + Dexterity modifier + Charisma modifier at 21st level

edit: the biggest thing I heard was that even with such a simple concept "How can you add charisma to damage, isn't that just a spell" that drove some away...

there was also a rogue daily that if slide a target 5ft, but if you were an artful dodger subclass instead moved you 5xcha mod ft and people freaked out about how a rogue could force an enemy to move 15-20ft
The advantage of this is that everything you could do was right there. The disadvantage was that everything you could do was right there. This led too often in my experience to people not thinking outside of the (power) box.
The thing is over 30ish years I have seen this in every edition... and I have seen creative uses of powers in 4e (it even had rules in the DMG on HOW to rule that sort of thing.


overall look at the middle earth 5e book, the classes are different, there are different rules, and ideas (shadow, journey, and audience) but it is just D&D

if you go back to 3e and the D20 system you will find WW2 D&D superhero D&D and Cowboy D&D all with very different rules but all D&D non the less (Stargate D&D was the best)
 
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