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13th Age Learning the arts of war from other games (esp. 13th Age)

An idea struck me, as I was reading through a review of 13 True Ways, the first big supplement to 13th Age that filled in many of the "missing" classes--including the Commander, the 13A equivalent of the Warlord. Specifically, 13th Age is a game that intentionally eschews a precise grid focus in many ways (albeit not completely theater-of-the-mind style either), and also a game that embraces a variety of "intricacy" levels in its classes (I don't care for the connotations of "complexity"), much like 5th edition. Yet it also has plenty of room for the Commander, and manages to make the Commander a solid contribution to any party, magic or not. Some of this is due to preserving certain mechanical conceits from 4e (e.g. most things are attacks vs. a defense, even spells), but there's a lot of mechanical variety despite the game having a much reduced/streamlined tactical side.

But the thing that really struck me was a combination of two things.

Firstly, the Commander's abilities are (by and large) "at will" in one sense, and not "at will" in another: most of their really good abilities depend on spending a resource (called "Command Points")...which can only earned through actual combat, either by successfully making a melee attack (1d3 points on a hit), or spending your action to "Weight the Odds" (1d4 points regardless)--the former means taking a risk of getting nothing (if you miss), while the latter consumes a turn but guarantees at least 1 point and potentially gives more points. While I have no doubt that the precise numbers would need to get tweaked in order to suit 5e math (which scales much more slowly than 13A math), it seemed like this kind of mechanic could satisfy the desires of the two major sides of the debate. On the one hand, it provides a minimum set of important choices to make and bakes in a need to consider your actions (and the battlefield) carefully before acting; on the other, it can allow for purely martial, supportive abilities that can be "used all day" (you don't suddenly forget/lose them) but can't be used every moment (you can't spam them eternally). The fundamental mechanic is already present in other strongly Warlord-like classes in other games; the Battlemaster from Grim World (a Dungeon World..."extension" I guess) has "Gambit," and even Pathfinder has a vaguely similar concept in the Gunslinger's "Grit." D&D following suit with its own particular flavor would hardly be an unusual thing.

Secondly, the Monk's "Forms." In 13A, Monks learn sets of attacks called "Forms." They can learn a fixed number of forms based on level, and each form has three parts: an opening attack, a flow attack, and a finishing attack. In general, openings are the weakest and Flow attacks can only be used the round after using an opening attack--you can't just start the first round with a flow attack (though if you have some way to make two attacks in the first round, it's perfectly fine to use an opening and then a flow). Finishing attacks, likewise, can only be used the round after using a flow attack. You can always choose to start again (e.g. round 1: opening, round 2: flow, round 3: opening) if you want. And, very importantly, you can mix and match parts of your forms. So if you know the Dutiful Guardian, Way of the Metallic Dragon, and Claws of the Panther forms, you could use the DG opening, CotP flow, and WotMD finisher--or you could use all three from DG, or two from CotP and one from WotMD, or any combination you like. This, again, promotes variety and interesting choice while maintaining restrictions on the strength and breadth of things the character can do--which would seem to meet goals for both sides.

What do you guys think? Combining these two mechanics (multi-step "tactics" plus a resource that must be built up before it can be consumed) seems like a solid, and importantly unique (within the context of 5e) way to create a Warlord. Can it resolve at least part of the Great Debate?
 
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mellored

Explorer
I had the idea of using your action to recharge dice on one of my versions. I think i called it "survey". Overall i like the idea, and think it's pretty fitting narrative.

However, 5e combat doesn't last long enough. So i abandoned it for the straight action -> bonus.

The monk idea is also neat. But again, if it takes 3 turns to pull off, your only finishing the stragglers. D&D doesn't have escalation dice to slow nova turns down.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
Firstly, the Commander's abilities are (by and large) "at will" in one sense, and not "at will" in another: most of their really good abilities depend on spending a resource (called "Command Points")...which can only earned through actual combat, either by successfully making a melee attack (1d3 points on a hit), or spending your action to "Weight the Odds" (1d4 points regardless)--the former means taking a risk of getting nothing (if you miss), while the latter consumes a turn but guarantees at least 1 point and potentially gives more points. While I have no doubt that the precise numbers would need to get tweaked in order to suit 5e math (which scales much more slowly than 13A math), it seemed like this kind of mechanic could satisfy the desires of the two major sides of the debate. On the one hand, it provides a minimum set of important choices to make and bakes in a need to consider your actions (and the battlefield) carefully before acting; on the other, it can allow for purely martial, supportive abilities that can be "used all day" (you don't suddenly forget/lose them) but can't be used every moment (you can't spam them eternally).
Interesting! I think that has a lot of potential. It might make the Warlord a bit MAD, depending on how it's set up, but perhaps not to an unreasonable degree. How long do these points last? It's true that 5E combats are usually pretty short, but if these points could be built up in one combat and then used in another, it might even provide interesting narrative flow--the warlord fights on the front lines in smaller skirmishes and then uses the insights gained from those to help out in the bigger battles. And if the points went away with a long rest, it would even give a party an incentive to press on and do one more battle before the end of the adventuring day.

The fundamental mechanic is already present in other strongly Warlord-like classes in other games
Out of curiosity, are you familiar with the Star Wars Saga Edition Noble?
 
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An idea struck me, as I was reading through a review of 13 True Ways, the first big supplement to 13th Age that filled in many of the "missing" classes--including the Commander, the 13A equivalent of the Warlord.
Yep. I've played a Commander in 13A. It's a fairly focused take on one sort of Warlord concept - the 'leader' who barks orders to his allies.

Specifically, 13th Age is a game that intentionally eschews a precise grid focus in many ways (albeit not completely theater-of-the-mind style either), and also a game that embraces a variety of "intricacy" levels in its classes (I don't care for the connotations of "complexity"), much like 5th edition.
It's a lot more TotM than any version of D&D, 5e included, sure, even as it also has rules that are workable for minis. It's a lot like what 5e was trying to be, that way. Actually, 13A and 5e are interesting in how very similar they are in what they try to accomplish, and how very differently, mechanically, they go about it.

Firstly, the Commander's abilities are (by and large) "at will" in one sense, and not "at will" in another: most of their really good abilities depend on spending a resource (called "Command Points")...which can only earned through actual combat, either by successfully making a melee attack (1d3 points on a hit), or spending your action to "Weight the Odds" (1d4 points regardless)--the former means taking a risk of getting nothing (if you miss), while the latter consumes a turn but guarantees at least 1 point and potentially gives more points.
It is a neat little mechanic. 5e fights tend to be a bit quick, especially the more trivial filler ones, so it's questionable how workable a mechanic like that might be. That, or any other sort of 'warm up' limitation would certainly be a severe balancing factor in 5e.


Secondly, the Monk's "Forms." In 13A, Monks learn sets of attacks called "Forms." They can learn a fixed number of forms based on level, and each form has three parts: an opening attack, a flow attack, and a finishing attack.
Nod. I haven't tried a Monk (the concept has never appealed, though the 13A version is more open to non-orientalist takes than most), but I've seen it in play and it does seem effective and to have a fair amount of that tactical detail ('good complexity,' I could say) that is missing from non-casters in 5e.

What do you guys think? Combining these two mechanics (multi-step "tactics" plus a resource that must be built up before it can be consumed) seems solid, and importantly unique (within the context of 5e).
The main stumbling block I see is the way 5e is tuned for fast combat. If a combat lasts a round or two, you might get in one use of some ability that requires a round of set-up. That makes such an ability potentially more limited than most dailies. It's also - ironically, I guess - tactically sub-optimal to spring something late in a fight, as D&D in general, and 5e in particular, strongly favors the 'Nova.'
 

Interesting! I think that has a lot of potential. It might make the Warlord a bit MAD, depending on how it's set up, but perhaps not to an unreasonable degree. How long do these points last? It's true that 5E combats are usually pretty short, but if these points could be built up in one combat and then used in another, it might even provide interesting narrative flow--the warlord fights on the front lines in smaller skirmishes and then uses the insights gained from those to help out in the bigger battles. And if the points went away with a long rest, it would even give a party an incentive to press on and do one more battle before the end of the adventuring day.

In 13A, they disappear at the end of the encounter, but you always start every encounter with 1 point. Given how short people have said 5e combats are (not my experience, but it's said often enough that it's hard to argue with), this might not be feasible. An alternative could be starting with Proficiency/2. I also like the 'don't rest, act now' side of it but I'm not sure how to maintain it in the face of 5e design limitations. Combats being really short is such a frustrating issue! :mad:

Out of curiosity, are you familiar with the Star Wars Saga Edition Noble?

Not at all, I'm afraid. The only exposure I've had to anything like that is the stuff used in the Knights of the Old Republic games, and I'm pretty sure they're just a tweak on 3e or possibly 3.5.

Yep. I've played a Commander in 13A. It's a fairly focused take on one sort of Warlord concept - the 'leader' who barks orders to his allies.

That's fair, though at the same time I feel like mixing in the more "maneuver"-y stuff from the Monk--especially if some of those maneuvers have payouts like actual HP restoration if you can complete a three-part combo--could help move away from being so "order barking" and thus presenting a more varied and balanced (in the conceptual sense) class.

It's a lot more TotM than any version of D&D, 5e included, sure, even as it also has rules that are workable for minis. It's a lot like what 5e was trying to be, that way. Actually, 13A and 5e are interesting in how very similar they are in what they try to accomplish, and how very differently, mechanically, they go about it.

I believe it. That's part of why I thought it would be ripe for borrowing from: if it captures well even some facet of the design space, then it could be useful and fitting for many of the "demands" made on the Warlord's abilities.

It is a neat little mechanic. 5e fights tend to be a bit quick, especially the more trivial filler ones, so it's questionable how workable a mechanic like that might be. That, or any other sort of 'warm up' limitation would certainly be a severe balancing factor in 5e.

Well, that's sort of the point. Many of the critics of proposals--whether a concrete writeup or simply abstract requests--have focused on the powerful/unbalancing/etc. nature of the bonuses requested, and that the usual methods of constraining such power are wholly unacceptable (sometimes to both sides).

Nod. I haven't tried a Monk (the concept has never appealed, though the 13A version is more open to non-orientalist takes than most), but I've seen it in play and it does seem effective and to have a fair amount of that tactical detail ('good complexity,' I could say) that is missing from non-casters in 5e.

The main stumbling block I see is the way 5e is tuned for fast combat. If a combat lasts a round or two, you might get in one use of some ability that requires a round of set-up. That makes such an ability potentially more limited than most dailies. It's also - ironically, I guess - tactically sub-optimal to spring something late in a fight, as D&D in general, and 5e in particular, strongly favors the 'Nova.'

Okay so now I'm really really confused. Are one-round combats ACTUALLY a thing that happen on an even slightly regular basis (say, 10% of the time)? Because my experience of 5e is so dramatically, thoroughly antithetical to that...I just can't even wrap my brain around it. ONE round combats? Really?

These are, of course, still valid considerations. Perhaps the round-by-round thing could be helped by porting some of the benefits to allies? That is, Round 1 the Warlord does X, then on the ally's next turn (this round or next round) they get some kind of option/bonus/beneft, and then when the Warlord acts in Round 2 they 'complete' the maneuver? Obviously such teamwork-heavy maneuvers would need to be just one option with some alternatives that are more suited to individual actors (but still providing some degree of "support"). Further, you could just have these things be open/finish, rather than open/flow/finish, so that you almost never have a combat where you can't use SOMETHING.

Ugh, I never thought I'd say that "fast" combat was a "problem," but at this point it REALLY is becoming one. (Again, not that that is anything like my experience of 5e, which was slow, brutal, and meat-grinder-y.) So much fruitful, interesting, and potentially-compromise-finding design space locked away because novas are soooooo good and taking even two turns for warmup is practically a gorram life-age of the earth!
 
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jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
In 13A, they disappear at the end of the encounter, but you always start every encounter with 1 point. Given how short people have said 5e combats are (not my experience, but it's said often enough that it's hard to argue with), this might not be feasible. An alternative could be starting with Proficiency/2. I also like the 'don't rest, act now' side of it but I'm not sure how to maintain it in the face of 5e design limitations. Combats being really short is such a frustrating issue! :mad:
Well--why not let them last until a long rest? But to help balance that, I think you should start the adventuring day with 0. Possibly you could put a cap on them as well ... Proficiency x2, maybe? I'm just spitballing here.

How many rounds does your average combat go? You may represent the upper edge of the spectrum of what's typical for 5E.

Not at all, I'm afraid. The only exposure I've had to anything like that is the stuff used in the Knights of the Old Republic games, and I'm pretty sure they're just a tweak on 3e or possibly 3.5.
IIRC it was 3E. When I get the chance and have my book handy, I'll try to dig into the SWSE Noble and see if there's anything that could be ported to 5E. The thing that intrigues me about the SWSE Noble is that it's a support class in a game that has no resurrection and very little in-combat healing. Some of that is due to the system itself, of course--the Condition Track, where you can be worn down to ineffectiveness instead of being fully capable until downed, is a big factor--but still, there might be a few nuggets to mine.

Are one-round combats ACTUALLY a thing that happen on an even slightly regular basis (say, 10% of the time)?
I've had them happen, but I wouldn't say 10% of the time. I consider them a sign that I didn't make the encounter hard enough. Without actually checking my previous combat records, I'd say two to four rounds is more usual.
 

mellored

Explorer
These are, of course, still valid considerations. Perhaps the round-by-round thing could be helped by porting some of the benefits to allies? That is, Round 1 the Warlord does X, then on the ally's next turn (this round or next round) they get some kind of option/bonus/beneft, and then when the Warlord acts in Round 2 they 'complete' the maneuver?
2 rounds is doable. 3 is too long.
Hmm...

Teamwork Assault. As a bonus action you declare a target. On you next turn you gain +1d6 damage on weapon attacks against that target for each ally who attacks it.

Not sure if that's any better then "Until the start of your next turn each ally deals an extra +1d6 damage against the target".
Which is simpler to handle, and doesn't require counting.


Though just to toss it out there.

On My Command. As an action you ready an attack against a target. Allies may also ready an action against the target waiting for the right moment. As a bonus action on your next turn, you can trigger all the readied actions. All such attacks have advantage against the target, and the target has disadvantageous on any such saving throws.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
On My Command. As an action you ready an attack against a target. Allies may also ready an action against the target waiting for the right moment. As a bonus action on your next turn, you can trigger all the readied actions. All such attacks have advantage against the target, and the target has disadvantageous on any such saving throws.
Oh, that's a cool one. Dunno if it's balanced, but it's very flavorful!
 

Well, that's sort of the point. Many of the critics of proposals--whether a concrete writeup or simply abstract requests--have focused on the powerful/unbalancing/etc. nature of the bonuses requested
Sure, but they're wrong about the them being powerful by nature, and ignoring that balance is a fairly trivial factor in the 5e paradigm.
, and that the usual methods of constraining such power are wholly unacceptable (sometimes to both sides).
And completely unnecessary.

Okay so now I'm really really confused. Are one-round combats ACTUALLY a thing that happen on an even slightly regular basis (say, 10% of the time)? Because my experience of 5e is so dramatically, thoroughly antithetical to that...I just can't even wrap my brain around it. ONE round combats? Really?Ugh, I never thought I'd say that "fast" combat was a "problem," but at this point it REALLY is becoming one. (Again, not that that is anything like my experience of 5e, which was slow, brutal, and meat-grinder-y.) So much fruitful, interesting, and potentially-compromise-finding design space locked away because novas are soooooo good and taking even two turns for warmup is practically a gorram life-age of the earth!
'Novas' can be very effective, yes. Even if a combat does go more than a round or few, it might very well be 'decided' in the first round or two. Fast combat was a major goal of 5e and it's delivered on it pretty decisively. So, it's a pendulum-swing that has brought back old problems as well as solving perceived ones, that's how D&D has often gone with new editions - a series of over-corrections.

These are, of course, still valid considerations. Perhaps the round-by-round thing could be helped by porting some of the benefits to allies? That is, Round 1 the Warlord does X, then on the ally's next turn (this round or next round) they get some kind of option/bonus/beneft, and then when the Warlord acts in Round 2 they 'complete' the maneuver? Obviously such teamwork-heavy maneuvers would need to be just one option with some alternatives that are more suited to individual actors (but still providing some degree of "support").
Teamwork should certainly be the Warlord's 'thing,' the way DPR is the fighters, just a whole heck of a lot more versatile. ;) But, yeah, 5e could avoid 4e's mistake of making the Warlord too ineffectual/optionless when acting on his own for whatever reason.
 

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