D&D 5E Poll on the Reaper: is damage on missed melee attack roll believable and balanced?

Is the Reaper believable and balanced (i.e. not overpowered)?


Let's just hope the "damage on a miss" stuff stays confined to Themes, as the game development continues. Some of us would like to continue to ignore them.
I would totaly support the idea of only a very few (or even 1) way to do this, would that make anyone happy?
I don't think it has to be confined to just one feat/theme. But I think (i) it has to be confined to stuff that can easily (trivially!) be swapped in or out, and (ii) be very obvious.

Substitutabity means there have to be plenty of other options that behave mechancially differently, but occupy something like the same functional and story space (ie Reaper better not be the only way to build your PC as a vicious and deadly combatant).

And obviousness is important, because you don't want people accidentally be making a choice based on labels or flavour and then find that they're stuck with a mechanic that doesn't work the way they want it to.

I think this an argument in favour of a more transparent and clinical style for presenting feat and spell mechanics than the playtest document uses. It's also an argument for something a bit like roles - I'm thinking of the categories used in Essentials to group feats together. It might be helpful if it was easy (via categories, labels etc) to find all the "I kill things dead quick feats", and then easy, when looking through them, to separate the "non-simulationist hp" ones from the "simulationist hp" ones.

I know there are other tradeoffs with going in this stylistic direction - it makes it very obvious that the rules are rules for a game and not just descriptions of PC abilities in ingame terms - and maybe an alternative supporting obviousness is possible.

But as long as it is obvious, and easily ignorable or substitutable, then I don't think it should be a problem if there are one, several, or many.

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I think the high abstraction of D&D combat can allow one to say a miss is not a "miss" and a hit is not a "hit".


I can see Reaper setting up some interesting choices: I know I can kill this guy for sure, but I'd rather kill that guy instead; what move is better? (I'm not sure if this is a choice or a calculation though; maybe all actions in combat are calculations? I don't know.)
I don't think all actions in combat are calculations in the strict sense, because they are informed in part by intuitions and estimations about how the GM will respond in playing the NPCs and monsters (for example, if I move to attack that guy, how will the GM have him respond?). This is where story considerations can be worked in, however exactly these are understood and work out for a particular group (eg is it about faithfulness to pre-established descriptions, or about prodding and poking to see what responses are provoked, or . . .?).

But that doesn't undermine your point about the Reaper. For example, the GM can use his/her knowledge that the player knows that s/he has access to an autokill vs certain combatants to set up interesting choices - do I drop this kobold here and now, as the team might prefer, or do I go and attack that guy who is my sworn nemesis?

If you don't know you're guaranteed to kill the kobold, it might be easier just to leave it to someone else to handle. Whereas if you know you can autokill it, then by leaving it you're making a definite statement about its importance to you compared to whatever you do choose to tackle - even if only that kobolds are too petty for you to be bothered with!

Maybe the easiest solution to that is to say that a roll of a "natural 1" on the d20 attack check never deals any damage?
I would have thought that that should solve the issue, while still leaving the basic function of the mechanic in place.

Presumably Magic Missile could have a similar roll (you can always muck up your recitation of the mystic words under the pressure of combat), and we could even say that a natural 20 on a save always means no damage, even from a spell like fireball.

Dark Mistress

First Post
I think Attitudes like this are never going to be happy with next, as it's a game toted to be a modular play what you want to play kind of game.

I honestly dont understand how something like this small effect can ruin a game for someone.

At what point did I say it ruined the game for me. I said I hated that aspect of it. If I like the rest of DnD next then that is a easy house rule to fix, just ignore abilities like that.


First Post
At what point did I say it ruined the game for me. I said I hated that aspect of it. If I like the rest of DnD next then that is a easy house rule to fix, just ignore abilities like that.

Sorry, this was not totally about you but about that ~8% or so that say they'll walk away. Sorry If I misquoted.

I think it overall makes the Fighter/Slayer a bit boring, to be honest. I'd rather have some ability that allows me to make some kind of decision. Be it pushing someone around, tripping them, taking an alternative action other than to attack to gain a bonus for the next attack, or something like that.

Balance wise it seems fine.
Believability-wise - a Reaper fights so agressively that evading any attack by him is strenous for the defender.
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I'd like to see most 'miss' effects (included succeeding at saves and taking half damage) not killing stuff. That includes Reaper, but really does apply to just about everything. And... if it's kept for just about everything, I'm fine with it sticking for Reaper. It's certainly not unbalanced.

I would suggest moving it to 3rd and swapping Cleave into 1st, though - that way it lets you slide past the initial hump where it autokills many of your enemies (rats, kobolds), and seems a little less exceptional than having a 1st level character do it.
That I could see. "A miss can never reduce a target to 0 hit points or less". But of course that it can still do that is pretty much the point of the Reaper ability.

El Mahdi

Muad'Dib of the Anauroch
Keeping in mind that it is far easier to add things in than to strip them out, if auto-damage is removed you're always welcome and able to add it back in.

Erm... How is that? I think you have it backwards. All it takes to take something out is a pencil drawing a single line. Especially if the game's as modular as it seems.

That's generally not true. With something as simple as a Feat or Ability you don't like, sure. Just line through it and you're good to go. But if this design idea becomse common throughout the core system...well that's a horse of a different color. And when you get to more complicated or far reaching mechanics, simply lining through them isn't an option. The ramifications may be interlaced throughout the rules in ways and places one hasn't discovered. Like trying to pull a weed, but roots get left behind...

In general, it is easier to add to a game system than subtract. At the least, with adding something you always know where the roots are.

I can't find the quote right now, but one of the 5E designers said the same thing in one of their blogs. If I find it, I'll post a link.


Found it. It was Mike Mearls during an interview with MTV Geek. I believe he also reiterated this a few more times during some of the Seminar Chats and in Blogs. MTV Geek – Lead Developer Mike Mearls Answers Questions About “Dungeons and Dragons Next”

Geek: What is the strategy for allowing this new system to be so flexible? Are the designers looking to scaffold layers of complexity on top of a base game, or take a more modular approach where groups could go down different branching paths to customize the experience to their liking? Or is there some other strategy beyond what I'm conjuring up here?

Mearls: We don’t have specific plans yet, as we’ll be running stuff through play testing to make sure it resonates. I can say that starting with the simplest base possible is likely a given, as it’s far easier to add complexity to a game rather than take it away.



First Post
I'm also fairly certain he's wrong, at least in the context of a game that will have an online character builder. It is pretty easy for me to tell my players 'don't take that feat' and not nearly so easy for me to get my homemade feat into the official builder.


I think he was talking in terms of official supplements. I was talking in terms of taking a game and fixing it by houserules. :)
At the very least, he was talking about "complexity". The theme/feat system itself would be complexity surely, but an individual feat?

I'm also fairly certain he's wrong, at least in the context of a game that will have an online character builder. It is pretty easy for me to tell my players 'don't take that feat' and not nearly so easy for me to get my homemade feat into the official builder.
Also a good point.

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