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D&D General What are the coolest/most innovative mechanics D&D could take from other games?

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
While not from another game, but something I've used on and off in my 5E house rules is the 3d20 system:

Normal
You use the middle roll of the three d20s. Your average is still 10.5 and the variance is lower than just using a d20.

Advantage
You use the highest of the three d20s. Your average is 15.49, almost exactly 5 points better, and your variance lower.

Disadvantage
You use the highest of the three d20s. Your average is 5.51, almost exactly 5 points better, and your variance lower.

Why do I like it? For a few reasons:

1. By using the d20, you don't have to change any numbers.
2. While not a "bell curve", it is centralized more around the mean, making the typical result more common and the extremes less likely.
3. Having advantage (or disadvantage) shifts the average +5 (or -5) points. This makes DCs effectively shift one place, making a Hard task Moderate (or a Hard task Very Hard). It also mirrors the 5-point adjust applied to passive scores.

Critical Damage, Not Critical Hits
For a long time now, my group has replaced critical hits with critical (i.e. exploding) damage rolls. So, this means the result of the attack roll does not determine the chance of criticals.

OPTIONAL: Something new we have been exploring is making a "Critical Hit" when you hit by 10 or more, but I don't know if we'll do it or not. We are keeping critical damage, regardless.
 

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Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Why do I like it? For a few reasons:

1. By using the d20, you don't have to change any numbers.
2. While not a "bell curve", it is centralized more around the mean, making the typical result more common and the extremes less likely.
3. Having advantage (or disadvantage) shifts the average +5 (or -5) points. This makes DCs effectively shift one place, making a Hard task Moderate (or a Hard task Very Hard). It also mirrors the 5-point adjust applied to passive scores.

You missed the best reason: rolling more dice is always more fun than rolling fewer dice.
 

I think I am old fashioned when it comes to D&D. I like new games and innovative mechanics but I think D&D works well when it focuses on what it does best abd when it isn’t chasing other games (I recall moments in its history where it made changes to appeal to fans of other games and I think most of those changes muddied what worked about it)
 

Uta-napishti

Adventurer
I have read Shadow of the Demonlord, but not played it. Boons and Banes do sound fun, but I don't know if they are so much better than advantage that I would replace it with them. Nice that they stack a bit though.

In Shadow of the Demonlord I love that you choose a path/class essentially three times in your level progression, at 1st, 3rd and 7th levels. Reminds me of Warhammer where there were interesting choices further up the level chart than 5E's one subclass choice.

I really love Fantasy Age's Stunts, kind of like special Combat (AND Non-Combat) actions that you can take once you've built up enough mojo. Think of them as kind of like Battlemaster Maneuvers for everyone, but also in social situations, or like a special moves from a PbtA game. In Fantasy Age, you can buy Stunts from points you build up from numbers rolled on one of the 3d6 standard dice as you go along. I would rather there be a cool new list of mechanics you unlock later in a fight rather than a single escalation die that just bumps to-hit or damage.

I also would love some type of freeform magic effect building system for D&D as many other RPGs have. This would represent casters kind of improvising with different types of magical energy, choosing a power source, a target, an effect etc.. and then paying dearly in mana or spell points to get exactly what they want to happen within reason. These effects would be more tiring than casting known spells, which have been optimized over generations (an improvised effect would only match the power of spells 1-2 levels lower), but they could be adapted to the situation. You could either use the spell points variant rules for this, or pay for this in extra burned slots or upcasting.
 

I like how Warhammer 40krpg does powers and leveling.

Essentially, you choose a class which gives you access to a chart of powers that you can buy with xp. When you spend enough xp, you level up and have access to the next level's list of powers. At certain points, you can specialize - and you can select from what tree or another(if I remember correctly).

What I like about this is, you gain power more gradually. If you get 100xp after a session and you use it to buy a power. You can save xp for expensive powers or spend it all on lower level powers.

So, in D&D terms, you'd have all rogue powers and abilities from all archetypes on a single list and you'd buy them a la cart. Some would only be accessible at higher levels. Things like extra sneak attack dice could be bought. But you could add so many cool abilities that aren't in the game like riders on damage (instead of an extra d6 sneak attack, a person gains the poisoned condition - or whatever).
 

A mechanic that recently caught my eye is Fabula Ultima's ability checks (which I believe are originally from Ryutama).

Essentially, your ability scores are a die between d6 and d12. When rolling a check, it's based on two ability scores (or you can use the die from the same stat twice if only one applies, such as a task that is purely based on brute strength).

For example, trying to lift a heavy statue would be [MIGHT + MIGHT].
Playing poker (assuming you aren't cheating) would likely be [INSIGHT+ WILLPOWER].

You crit if you roll doubles that are 6+, and fumble if you roll snake eyes. Therefore, a larger die not only improves your odds of success, but also increases your chances of a crit while reducing your chance to fumble.

Moreover, it allows for an interesting design space where different abilities and weapons leverage different combinations of ability scores. For example, weapons that only use one ability score have slightly weaker properties compared to weapons that use two ability scores, since needing only one high stat is an advantage in and of itself.
This sounds a lot like Savage Worlds.

You roll your skill or stat die (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12) and a 'heroic persona' also rolls an extra d6 along with it.

You take the best result between the two die. Any max roll is rolled again and added to the same die (exploding dice).
 

Well, I'd love to swap out the core resolution mechanism and change some of the attributes - but that's not going to happen and at least the former would mean a significant rework of the system.

So within the constraints of a d20 system:
  • I'd like to see HP becoming stamina only (as in Warlock!) or hit protection (as in Into the Odd) if one wants to keep the acronym, with critical wounds starting when you are at 0 HP and cutting into your attribute score.
  • Simple and advanced classes/careers (as in Warlock!) or even a multi-step advancement model (as in Warhammer Fantasy or Shadow of the Demon Lord)
  • An alternative spell casting system based on channeling/drain of HP (with fixed costs as in Fighting Fantasy, Warlock! or Dragonbane, or maybe even variable costs and potentially another resource like Willpower/WP as in Shadowrun)
I also like the proposals to include something like Boons and Banes and basic/advanced skills (the latter we IMO had already in 3e with trained/untrained skills).
 
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dave2008

Legend
Well, I look at it this way, once they figure out how to play a character (and each class uses the 3 actions differently which is great and avoids homogeneity) it wont change much between level 1 and 20. They might get a few extra abilities along the way to drop into one of those actions, but the paradigm doesn't change. In 3E/PF1 and 5E to some extent, you have two actions and then, free, reaction, swift, bonus, surge, etc... I find that way more confusing and variable than the 3 action economy of PF2. YMMV.
That is probably true; however, IIRC PF2 still has reactions (and maybe free actions too). That is one of my issues with it from a design viewpoint - I want reactions to integrated into the action economy. So four actions, not three. Maybe you avoid the iterative penalty if you use one as a reaction?
 

For 5e, I've started using things along the lines of the GUMSHOE mechanics for some things. First off, the party will ALWAYS find the clue to move things forward; however, having certain skills will increase what you gain from it. An example from a game I ran was the party found this very strange wirework device and knew it was some relic called a theosophist's cage. The character who had Arcana, because he had the skill, recognized that a theosophist's cage was largely considered a hypothetical item that would allow greater magics to be worked (i.e. allow channeling higher-than-9th-level spells) but no one ever built one because there was no reason to. That became the new mystery - why create an item that's so esoteric there is zero practical use for it?
 

Uta-napishti

Adventurer
Anything that will give us more interesting non-combat mechanics that can be gracefully layered with ability checks would be good for D&D, I think. Not too many mini-games and subsystems, but general story-shaping tools.
 

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