D&D 5E Visions of 5e

Tony Vargas

Long before 5e was announced, the time to talk high-level visions (and the lower level mechanics they might imply) had passed. WotC has a vision for 5e.

But, here's a thread for anyone who feels the need to express a vision that might have been.

Of course, I'll start. ;)

I'm using mostly 4e terminology, here, because that's an addition that's close to this vision, but any ed could be a good starting point for other visions. I've no creadibility to ask this, but let's try to make these positive descriptions of what your vision of 5e is, not what prior eds weren't or did badly. (the ever-hopeless 'no edition waring' plea - yes, it's hypocritical of me even to ask, don't bother pointing it out, I know).

Though the following is long, it's still just a high-altitude look at the shape of a system, with a few hints of detail here and there:

- There are PCs. PCs are the heroes of a cooperative story. Yes, they're special, no, they do not use the exact same rules as everything else. In fact, everything else uses rules that model how they interact with the PCs and move their story along. Everything that doesn't directly matter to the PC and their story is window dressing the DM describes at whim.

- PCs start at 1st level and advance from there by gaining exp. All PC use the same level advancement structure, gaining levels at set amounts of exp, and gaining abilities (features, powers, skills etc) as they level.

- PCs are defined by their Race, Class, and other decisions the player makes about them.

- Class is a general heroic archetype modeled in the game by a 'Source' of their extraordinary power and by Roles they tend to play in the party. A character recieves default features and powers of his class at first level, and each time he goes up a level. The player may choose to customize his character with alternate features or powers available to his class, or through customization, such as multiclassing or source-specific forms of specialization.

- The Sources in descending order of their prevelence in genre are: Martial, Divine, Primal, and Arcane. The DM is free to define that certain sources do not exist, at all, or to restrict player's choice of sources or the party's mix of sources to fit his vision of the campaign world. Source determines the largest list of powers (manuevers, prayers, gifts, and spells, respectively) the character can draw from. There are specialities within each Source, that a player can use to customize his character, opening up alternative power or feature choices - they are called, respectively, Styles, Domains, Circles, and Schools.

- The Roles in descending order of prevelence are: Striker, Leader, Defender and Controller. Each class has a Role that it is best at by default, and often a secondary role it tends to be good at, as well. However a character of any class, if sufficiently customized, could fill any role, and every character can probably perform some function of every role to some small degree simply through decisions made in play. Mechanically, role is primarily supported by default class features gained at first level, that make the character better at that role in each of the three 'domains' (below). Swapping out these features changes the character's primary role, swapping them out selectively could give a character different roles in different domains, though that would make party balance tricky.

- Race determines the character's origin and people. Characters of a given Race revieve benefits at 1st level, and specific features and powers as they level. Any or all of these may be swapped out if the player chooses to customize with a background like a sub-race, unusual upbringing, nationallity/tribe/clan, or the like, and some races may have alternatives to the default choices of their race, as well.

- Iconics: The Default Characters. For ease of play - to get a pickup game started, play for the first time, or otherwise quickly generate a character, there are 6 default D&D Iconics. They are the: Fighter, Cleric, Magic-user, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling. The first three are human, with the respective specialities of Greatweapon/Archer, Sun/Healing, and Evocation/Enchantment. The remainder are a Fighter(Guard/Phalanx), Fighter(Archer)/Mage(Enchanter), and Rogue(Scout/Thief), respectively. Each of the 6 has a fully integrated level progression chart, fully populated with default choices (which, not coincidentally, err on the side of being the /best/ choices), and a default set of gear. The player simply picks the name and sex of the character, invents any backstory and personality he cares for, and is ready to go.

- Simple Characters: Class/Race defaults. The next step up in character creation is to choose race and class independently. Doing so populates most of the characters progression with the default choices of each, but the player will have to pick a few skills and other abilities at first level and some subsequent levels and pick equipment as well as fleshing out personal details of the character.

- Custom Characters: The player chooses a Class, Race, Theme (background or Multiclass), and two specialities associated with his Source(s). He then swaps out as many default abilities for alternatives available based on those choices as he likes.

- Freeform: The player chooses abilities as he levels from all those that exist in the game, subject to any pre-requisites or any restrictions the DM lays down.

- The three pillars: Each ability a character gains by default or a player chooses has aplicability on one or more of the three broad domains of adventuring: Combat, Exploration, & Interaction. Players RP their characters and make choices for them within all three domains, and Class, Source, and Role aply across all three. When a player chooses or gains by default an ability that doesn't aply in all three domains, he also gains an ability that aplies (only) in the remaining domain(s). For instance, the Perception skill aplies in all three domains, so it would 'fill' a skill slot entirely. Athletics, OTOH, aplies in the Combat and Exploration domains, so a character choosing it would also choose an interaction-only skill, like Diplomacy.

- The Three Tiers: Heroic, Paragon, and Epic. There are new features and bonuses gained at each new tier. Again, these are default by race/class, and can be swapped, with specialities and themes opening up additional choices. The scopes and story themes of each tier need to be spelled out, and character progression (the features, powers, skills and other abilties available at each tier) need to back that up, mechanically. Each tier also presents an opportunity to retire characters, or to start a new campaign. So the game could be played from 1-30, or 1-10 or 11-20, depending on the kind of story the group is interested in.

- Challenges: PCs gain experience (and thus levels) by overcoming (or failing to overcome) challenges. Different challenges occur under each of the Three Pillars. Combat challenges are typically battles - either vs one terrible foe, a few serious ones, or many lesser ones. Exploration challenges are typically quests - the characters seek something, someone, someplace or perhaps just mere survival or escape - and must make their way through a dangerous environment. Interaction Challenges are typically negotiations of one sort or another - the characters seek to gain something (aid, forebearance, items, information, etc) from another sentient being(s) and may use reason, compensation, emotion, guile, trickery or deception to do it. All challenges move the PCs story along - often in a direction they wouldn't like if they fail. One or more PC deaths is a possible outcome of a challenge, particularly a combat or exploration(survival) challenge, and the DM should keep the consequences of a failed challenge in mind when designing it. Challenges often lead in to eachother. A failed combat challenge can lead to an interaction challenge (we'd bring a good ransom!) or exploration challenge (escape from the slave pens). A successful interaction challenge can send the players on a quest that leads to a climactic battle.

- Monsters, Hazards and NPCs. The main things making challenges challenging are antagonists. These can be horrible beast, sentient rivals or enemies, or treacherous dangers. Depending on the domain of a challenge, the same creature could be any of the three, but the mechanics governing it would be apropriate to the domain in question. A dragon could be a beast to be slain in a combat challenge, or a lethal danger to be avoided in an exploration challenge, or an NPC to be dealt with in an interaction challenge. The /same/ dragon could be each in a series of challenges over the course of the campaign - first a doom to be avoided and slunk past, then a terrible foe to be overcome, and finally a treacherous ally bearing close watching.

- Items, Terrain, and Allies: Just as challenges present impedements to be overcome, they also present opportunities to be exploited. Characters can gain magic items or specialized gear to help defeat a foe or pass an obstacle, they might see opportunities to exploit the terrain (finding water in a desert oasis, flinging enemies into pits, overhearing palace intrigues from behind an arras), or get the help influencial friends, knoweldgeable guides or stalwart companions in battle.

- Rewards: The best reward should be a good time and a good story. But, players gain experience as an award that improves their characters, and the characters recieve rewards in objectives attained (great wealth, prestige, communities saved, fair hearts won, trophies and prizes from foes fell and quests perilous).

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There are specialities within each Source, that a player can use to customize his character, opening up alternative power or feature choices - they are called, respectively, Styles, Domains, Circles, and Schools.
Specializations within sources overall and specifically Martial specializations called "Styles" sounds cool. A thought I had never considered. Smart idea to draw on specialist Wizards and mirror that innovation elsewhere.

I would like to see a dwarf-training character class as well as Elf and Halfling.

I'd also like to see Fighter/Thief rules in the Player's Handbook of D&D Next. I'd like true multiclass rules.

I love 4th edition but Regdar was a better iconic than anything in 4e.

Tony Vargas

Schools have been with us a long time, and Domains (introduced as 'Spheres' in 2e) almost as long. It's a powerful concept.

Styles have been around a while, too, they've just never been used as a grouping of possible abilities, but merely as a weapon/shield/armor choice, maybe with some minor bonuses involved.

One thing I left open is whether specialities would work more like School Specialization (you can use things from any speciality (or all but opposed one), but are better within your speciality) or more like Spheres (Domains) from the Complete Priest Handbook or Themes in 4e (you can only use things from a speciality if you have that speciality).


Your vision is similar to mine.

Except I see at least 10 Iconics as I expect more than 4 races.

Human (Greatweapon/Poelarm/Archer) Fighter
Human (Sun/Healing) Cleric
Human (Evocation/Transmuter) Wizard
Dwarf (Weapon and Shield) Fighter
Elf (Archer/Enchantment) Fighter/Wizard
Halfling (Dual Wield Thief) Rogue
Gnome (Sneaky Illusionist) Wizard/Rogue
Half-Orc (Greatweapon) Fighter
Half Elf (Protection/Duelist) Cleric/Rogue
X (Good/War) Cleric

A least three characters of each source so players have options.

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