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D&D 6E Mike Mearls “…it’s now obvious how to live without Bonus Actions”' And 6th Edition When Players Ask

With all due respect to Mike Mearls, he is wrong. The action economy in 5th Edition is beautifully designed, and I wouldn't change a thing about it.
 

schnee

First Post
Ugh... Fine... :hmm:

Again, I'm not saying that you are wrong here. Just that you could be, and then it will be up to you to eat your words.

If you want to tell others they have to do something, then you should be prepared to do it yourself if you are wrong. Fair is fair.

You'd be absolutely right if I said 'I think a whole bunch of people who are resisting what he's talking about will eat their words later on.'

But I didn't.

I've been working in corporate environments for almost twenty years. I know how to sprinkle juuuust enough weasel words and 'could', 'maybe' and 'quite possibly' to allow me to wiggle out of almost anything. ;)

And, because I think we're probably more in agreement than it seems, I feel like I should restate what I said in a clearer way:

I think many people in this thread are too attached to 'bonus actions', think it's fine the way it is, and don't think it can be improved. And they're getting kind of riled up about it. Not everyone, but a significant number. (It's even worse on Giant in the Playground.)

I think he will most likely crack the problem, come up with a more elegant design, and make the game a bit less fiddly and exception-based while keeping all the goodness we have now. (I've seen far harder logic and task flow problems cracked.)

And, if that happens, a lot of people that are dismissive or resistant now will be proven wrong. Because they were hassling him for having the audacity to try to improve the game.

If it doesn't, (which I'd bet against), oh well.
 

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Dausuul

Legend
Exactly. A tight action economy keeps D&D from turning into a game of Magic where one guy's combo deck is going off. Don't get me wrong, I love a good combo deck, but D&D is the wrong game for that.
Mearls's proposal takes this into account. Hardwiring the bonus action into an associated regular action means you can't stack them; you only get one action, period.

The question is how this would work with stuff like Cunning Action or bonus-action spells. I'd be interested to see how that gets addressed.

Bonus actions are hacky and clunky. They should be tolerated only so long as no one has a better idea. Mearls has an idea; whether it's better or not remains to be seen, but he should at least explore it.
 

pukunui

Legend
Mearls's proposal takes this into account. Hardwiring the bonus action into an associated regular action means you can't stack them; you only get one action, period.
How would you hardwire something like Bardic Inspiration into another action? Which other action would it be? They made it a bonus action so that the bard could do more than just inspire someone on their turn, which was a big reason why bards were so weak in 3e. Sure, it doesn't always make sense in game, but it works in play.

Also, wouldn't you have to break the Attack action into a whole lot of smaller actions, one each for all the different things that let you do something extra when you would now normally take the Attack action? So like Mearls is saying with TWF, you'd just take a TWF action, instead of the Attack action + a bonus action. So then you'd probably have to make things like GWM provide its own attack action, so you couldn't stack the bonus attack from it with something else that provides something extra when you attack, and so on. The game would end up less simple.
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
You'd be absolutely right if I said 'I think a whole bunch of people who are resisting what he's talking about will eat their words later on.'

But I didn't.

I've been working in corporate environments for almost twenty years. I know how to sprinkle juuuust enough weasel words and 'could', 'maybe' and 'quite possibly' to allow me to wiggle out of almost anything. ;)

And, because I think we're probably more in agreement than it seems, I feel like I should restate what I said in a clearer way:

I think many people in this thread are too attached to 'bonus actions', think it's fine the way it is, and don't think it can be improved. And they're getting kind of riled up about it. Not everyone, but a significant number. (It's even worse on Giant in the Playground.)

I think he will most likely crack the problem, come up with a more elegant design, and make the game a bit less fiddly and exception-based while keeping all the goodness we have now. (I've seen far harder logic and task flow problems cracked.)

And, if that happens, a lot of people that are dismissive or resistant now will be proven wrong. Because they were hassling him for having the audacity to try to improve the game.

If it doesn't, (which I'd bet against), oh well.

Fine. Weasel out of it. ;)

And personally I am not attached to the bonus action. I'm just not willing to get rid of it, just for the sake of getting rid of it. His current suggestion of "Just make a bunch if individual actions" doesn't sound like a good solution to me. Instead of learning a couple general rules, you will need to learn potentially hundreds of separate special rules, some with their own little corner case.

Here are so other suggestions.

1. Don't get rid of bonus actions, but reduce where not needed. Two weapon fighting seems like one of the biggest offenders*.
2. Make a clear list of actions and bonus actions. Include a chart in the book. Make space on the character sheet to list the action type.
3. Eliminate special exceptions. Do you really need to limit casters to a cantrip with a bonus action spell? I have yet to see a really broken combo. And it will just burn you spell slots faster.

*The real problem with removing the bonus action from two weapon fighting is that they added a style and a feat to boost it up to make up for the fact that it requires a bonus action. Now if you take it away it is unbalanced. If you just tone down the power of the style and feat you can get rid of the bonus action requirement and it is fine.
 

Lord Twig

Adventurer
How would you hardwire something like Bardic Inspiration into another action? Which other action would it be? They made it a bonus action so that the bard could do more than just inspire someone on their turn, which was a big reason why bards were so weak in 3e. Sure, it doesn't always make sense in game, but it works in play.

Also, wouldn't you have to break the Attack action into a whole lot of smaller actions, one each for all the different things that let you do something extra when you would now normally take the Attack action? So like Mearls is saying with TWF, you'd just take a TWF action, instead of the Attack action + a bonus action. So then you'd probably have to make things like GWM provide its own attack action, so you couldn't stack the bonus attack from it with something else that provides something extra when you attack, and so on. The game would end up less simple.

I think the idea is to go back to 4th edition powers. So yeah, GWM would be its own action, or power. Then you have the two weapon power, the flurry of blows power, the bonus spell/cantrip power, etc. And then you would just write each action/ability/power onto your character sheet, or have a card with it printed on it, and you have all you need to know!

Of course that is silly, because you could just write down that something is a bonus action or a regular action on the sheet and you would save yourself some time.

As an aside, I will admit that I have run into a player that sits there and tries to figure out if he can somehow get a bonus action on his turn, like he is wasting it if he doesn't do something with it. I blame this on a hold over from 4th edition. After the 3rd round of this it is blatantly obvious that he has no bonus action and he should just end his turn, but he doesn't. Everyone else didn't use a bonus action! (Except the Rogue, and he just uses it to move.) Just take your one action and move on!

But that is not a problem with bonus actions, that is a player problem. I'm sure he will get it eventually.
 

Bonus actions are hacky and clunky.
I fundamentally don't understand this complaint. Like, at all. You're doing one thing on your turn, plus a discrete bonus thing. What more elegant way is there to frame that? Smashing together the two things into one "action" seems a lot more hacky and clunky to me. Cunning Action would need to read something like, "As an action, you can attack, dodge, disengage, dash, cast a spell, or use an item, and then also dodge, disengage, or dash as part of the same action". And I'm probably forgetting a couple of standard actions rogues like to do in combination with Cunning Action, all of which are cleanly allowed when you just make Cunning Action a bonus action.
 
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pukunui

Legend
I think the idea is to go back to 4th edition powers.
Yeah, no. I don't want to go back to 4e powers.

Bardic Inspiration is the only bonus action ability that has ever felt even remotely wonky to me. Even the bonus action spell / cantrip thing makes sense if you think about it in terms of the number of words / gestures required to cast a given spell. Perhaps bonus action spells and cantrips only require a single, monosyllabic word and/or simple gesture, whereas a levelled spell would have more and/or longer words, as well as more complex gestures. Casting one of the latter takes up the same amount of time as casting one of each of the former.
 

Oh, gods, no! I do not and will not buy a .5 edition of 5th edition D&D - I didn't buy 3.5, and stopped buying 4th edition when they came out with the Essentials material, which was 4.5 without admitting it. If it's really that broke, make a 6th edition, don't sell me what I already have with a few tweaks along the lines of "Hey, 'Animals' and 'Beasts' are two creature types in 3e - let's drop one of them and dump 'em all in one category for 3.5, disregarding that previous books players might want to use employs the distinction." :hmm: Leave my core books alone, and if you want to fiddle with the Ranger or whatever, release a supplement! (And besides, isn't that the plan already?) I had 3e, and when 4e came out it was a new rules set (I'm disregarding the fluff here, and solely considering game mechanics), so it was worth buying whereas 3.5 was too close to what I already had, game-mechanically, while being just different enough to be only semi-compatible - the worst of both worlds, IMO.
To be fair, 4E Essentials was totally compatible with all previous material. By the criteria you're stating here, it was not "4.5 without admitting it".
 

Bardic Inspiration is the only bonus action ability that has ever felt even remotely wonky to me. Even the bonus action spell / cantrip thing makes sense if you think about it in terms of the number of words / gestures required to cast a given spell. Perhaps bonus action spells and cantrips only require a single, monosyllabic word and/or simple gesture, whereas a levelled spell would have more and/or longer words, as well as more complex gestures. Casting one of the latter takes up the same amount of time as casting one of each of the former.
A lot of bonus actions are implicitly things that you're doing at the same time as your other action, just with other parts of your body. Like, two weapon fighting: it's not that you're attacking with one hand, and then attacking with the other hand super-fast before your turn ends. Both attacks probably take about the same amount of time, but you're performing them near-simultaneously. Or Cunning Action: you're good enough with fancy footwork that you can perform it while also doing something with your hands.

Bonus action spells seem to be a partial exception to this observation. If the rule were straight-up "you can't cast a spell as both a regular action and a bonus action", it would make sense: a bonus action spell plus, say, a sword attack means you can multitask and swing your sword while still reciting an incantation and maybe making a gesture with your off-hand. But being able to cast cantrips sort of throws a wrench in that model. Maybe if it were instead something like, you can't cast two spells in the same round if their components overlap? So you could cast a purely verbal spell and a purely somatic bonus spell (or vice versa), because your hands are doing one thing while your voice is doing another.
 

pukunui

Legend
Both attacks probably take about the same amount of time, but you're performing them near-simultaneously.
Sure, and casting two really short, quick spells one after another can still fit into that paradigm. You can point a finger and shout "Freeze ray!" and "Bamf!" near-simultaneously too. But can you shout "Bamf!" while also pointing and chanting the words to the fireball spell? I guess not.
 

I fundamentally don't understand this complaint. Like, at all. You're doing one thing on your turn, plus a discrete bonus thing. What more elegant way is there to frame that? Smashing together the two things into one "action" seems a lot more hacky and clunky to me.
I guess neither alternative exactly displays crystalline perfection. ;(

5e's action economy kinda shakes out to sorting actions into three buckets - OK, 6: move, action, bonus, object-interaction, just no action-economy 'cost' (Second Wind, for instance), and the off-turn Reaction (Ok and concentration is sorta another action type all by itself). What ends up critically important is not so much how many of each action you get in a round (1), but what all is in each bucket. So if two completely different and un-related things both use a bonus action, you can't do both of them in the same turn, but if one is an object-interaction and the other an action, you can do them simultaneously (for instance). Thus you have issues like 'needing too many reactions' because you have several things to do that all consume that action-economy resource, while maybe having nothing much to do with you bonus action, say.

It's not terribly intuitive what the critical resource is, and it will vary with the build - you can even optimize around getting the most of each available action if you want, I suppose.

The complexity is ultimately similar to what was in 4e (Standard, Move, Minor, Free, OA, Immediate, not-an-action) or even 3e (Full, Standard, Partial, Move, 5'-step, Swift, Free, Immediate, AoO, not an action), just some of it's brushed into corners where you may not notice it at first. Even so, it's at least a defined, not entirely inconsistent sort of complexity.

But, ultimately, it shakes out to the important question not being 'which action takes longer/is more important' but 'do two things take the same action or not.' If you have two option that take an action, you can't do them both, if you have two options that take a bonus action you can't do them both - but you can do one from column A and one from column B. 'Opportunity' cost, I suppose, is more important than 'action economy' cost. In contrast to 3e/4e where you could generally trade actions up and down the scale, or even start an action in one round and finish it in the next, making the 'economic cost' more critical.
FWIW.

Anyway, going to the defined-combo-action instead of Action + Bonus model would just further limit options. Instead of being able to take a bonus action with one of several Actions or an action with one of several bonus actions, you take a specific special Action that does a typical action thing, plus the bonus action thing. It moves the complexity around, because you probably end up with a lot of such defined actions. Instead of one Cunning Action class ability, you have an Attack-and-Disengage-Cunningly Ability, and an Attack-and-Hide-Cunningly Ability, abd a Dash-and-Dash-again-Cunningly Ability, etc...
 
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S

Sunseeker

Guest
I think the main reason for the bonus action is that it helps to limit what extra things you can do. If you had a bunch of different freebies that triggered off the same thing (like making an attack), you might end up with people trying to use all of them at once. Making them bonus actions, and specifying that you can only take one bonus action per turn, stops that sort of thing from happening.

I enjoyed them too, but I can also see why they removed them as default.

I suppose but I would think a lot of that could be handled with mutually-exclusive conditionals. IE: you can't Fury of Blows unless you strike unarmed (or with a Monk weapon). Great Weapon Master on the other hand wouldn't give you the extra attack unless you hit with a two-handed martial weapon.
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
Currently you can preform any standard action and perform a Cunning Action as a bonus action. Your method would exclude everything but an attack. Your bonus action spell would exclude everything but an attack or cantrip. If you don't want to reduce the players options you still need standard actions.

So something like "When you use Cunning Action you may use the Hide, Disengage or Use an Object action in addition to a second standard action." Or something like that.

But really why bother? This will just lead to a thousand and one "special actions" when bonus actions already account for all of those one thousand and one cases.

And are bonus actions really that hard? Or is it all the limitations that are stacked on top of them. Really it is stupid simple. You get one bonus action. Can you use Cunning Action and Second Wind on the same turn? No, they are both bonus actions.

You get a bonus attack from two weapon fighting and a bonus attack from flurry of blows. They are both bonus actions. You can only use one. Second Wind is also a bonus action. You only have one bonus action per turn. So you can not use Second Wind and get a bonus attack from either two weapon fighting or flurry of blows. Or use any other bonus action. Because you can only use one per turn. Honestly I just don't comprehend how it could get any simpler.

You cast a bonus action spell and still have your regular action. So go head and take any standard action in addition to it... Except another standard spell, you can only cast a cantrip if you use a bonus action spell. Okay this is a corner case and can be hard to remember and I get that. But the problem is not the bonus action. It is the limit on additional spell casting.

This sums up my thoughts as well.
 

happyhermit

Adventurer
...
My prediction is that 5th will hit a point where that is deemed necessary earlier in its life cycle than the previous two editions. ...

I think your prediction has already been proven wrong though, or will be very shortly. Give or take a few months depending on when editions were officially deemed released we are already at or past the point in the life cycle that 3.5 and essentials were released let alone announced. It could possibly be close I suppose but I don't see how it could be earlier.

Now, I suppose it's possible that the upcoming book could qualify as something along the line of a .5. If that happens it will probably be time for me and mine to check out of D&D mainstream at least for awhile.
 

Mercurius

Legend
I really wouldn't worry about a new edition coming out anytime soon, and I don't think anything's "in the air" (naught [MENTION=1]Morrus[/MENTION]). BUT...while I haven't worked in game design, I imagine that as soon as you publish a new edition, you start a new folder called "Ideas for the Next Edition," and that over three plus years, things start adding up. So if you're Mearls, of course you're thinking about the next edition, at least on the back burner. But there are a lot of steps between here and there, like the alleged Unearthed Arcana book, for one.

I could see something like:
2014: 5E core rules
2017/18: first expansion - planes/psionics/odds and ends
2021/22: second expansion - epic play
2024: 50th Anniversary Edition
 


Dausuul

Legend
I fundamentally don't understand this complaint. Like, at all. You're doing one thing on your turn, plus a discrete bonus thing. What more elegant way is there to frame that? Smashing together the two things into one "action" seems a lot more hacky and clunky to me. Cunning Action would need to read something like, "As an action, you can attack, dodge, disengage, dash, cast a spell, or use an item, and then also dodge, disengage, or dash as part of the same action". And I'm probably forgetting a couple of standard actions rogues like to do in combination with Cunning Action, all of which are cleanly allowed when you just make Cunning Action a bonus action.

I'm not going to try to defend the specifics of Mearls's idea, because he's hardly given us any; that's why I noted Cunning Action and bonus action spells as examples of where I would like to see his proposal fleshed out. I do think that the change would have to go farther than just "mash bonus actions into regular actions"--some things, like Cunning Action, would probably have to be rethought from the ground up.

But when I say bonus actions are hacky and clunky, that's not in comparison to some theoretical alternative. That's looking at them on their own merits. Bonus actions are hacky and clunky because they create complexity, confuse new/casual players, and cause unexpected breakage in all sorts of places. Berserker barbarian who wields an axe in each hand? Sorry, your 3rd-level berserker path feature is now 100% useless. If you cast a bonus action spell, and Saruvoldeminster counterspells it, you can't counterspell back... but when Saruvoldeminster casts a spell on his turn, you can counterspell that. Try explaining that one to a casual player. You can stack a bonus action with a regular action, but not another bonus action. It's an endless accumulation of these little wonky bits, none of which is a deal-breaker in itself, but collectively they're a headache.

So, to reiterate: Bonus actions are hacky and clunky and should be tolerated only so long as no one has a better idea. The question now is whether Mearls's idea can be fleshed out into something better, or whether it's a dead end. It may turn out to be the latter, but people are way too quick to throw up their hands and say it'll never work. I for one want to see where it can lead.
 
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Whereas I'm on the verge of going back to AD&D (2nd ed).
I'm torn between playing 5E with a bunch of stuff from prior editions (except 4th, which I don't own) or playing PF/3x and importing what I want from 5E and pre-3E.

I really think 5E is winning the fight, in my mind at this moment.

6E would have to be practically perfect for me to consider it. I tend to favor odd editions, so 7E probably has a greater chance of acceptance from me... though I do own quite a bit of 2E books.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I suppose but I would think a lot of that could be handled with mutually-exclusive conditionals. IE: you can't Fury of Blows unless you strike unarmed (or with a Monk weapon). Great Weapon Master on the other hand wouldn't give you the extra attack unless you hit with a two-handed martial weapon.

And then the Kensei can use both because he can wield two-handed martial weapons (longswords) and make them monk weapons.

No matter how mutually exclusive you try and make things, it's going to run into problems, until you end up with class abilities that read "Do this thing and a standard action" which then new players are going to ask what a standard action is and you're going to need a list of them handy because half the time they do something the ability is "Do this and a standard action"

One of the more common things that I forget when running the game? The fact that my players don't know they can take the Dodge action. After a few years most people have gotten dash and disengage figured out, but monk's are the only ones who generally even know the dodge action is present in the game.

That's because people read their class abilities, not the section in the back that lists the standard actions that anyone can take. So, I think we'd end up with a bigger problem than we have now if the main concern is player confusion.
 

guachi

Adventurer
If you cast a bonus action spell, and Saruvoldeminster counterspells it, you can't counterspell back... but when Saruvoldeminster casts a spell on his turn, you can counterspell that. Try explaining that one to a casual player.

I would never explain that to a casual player because it's wrong.

I get my reaction back on my turn. If I cast a spell and it gets countered I can use my reaction to cast counter spell.
 

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