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

Sharing as asked by @dave2008

Logan Bonner's adventure in Dungeon #200, Blood Money, was a heist.

In order to make the heist be possible in D&D, and not just turn into combat the first time someone failed a roll or two (which happens all the time with D&D's high RNG, binary pass/fail and low threshold for rolling), Bonner added a mechanic, the name of which escapes me, but which I'll call "Preparation points".

Basically, the better you prepared for the heist (scouting, talking to people, gathering equipment, planning, infiltrating beforehand and so on), which included stuff the DM had pre-listed, but also stuff the DM judged as smart, the more "Preparation points" you got. Once the heist started, you could then spend those preparation points to negate/re-roll fluffed rolls, or to assert minor but potentially important bits of fiction, like "I stashed a crowbar here" or "I remembered to bring an extra 100' of rope" even though they weren't previously the case (so long as they were potentially possible and reasonable).

This worked extremely well to make the heist actually functional, and to not devolve into combat early on because someone missed a check. I'd be great to see D&D pick up a similar mechanic where appropriate.
 

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What I am saying is that I want reactions to a part of the action economy, not an add on. Right now you get a reaction for free, it is not a part of the 3 action system. Instead I want you to have a total of 4 actions, including reactions.

So you could make 4 sword attacks, but the penalty on the 4th on is real steep. However, if you use one as reaction - no penalty.
This is what Forbidden Lands does. You refresh your actions at the end of the turn, rather than beginning. Any “reaction” you take during another player’s turn (Dodge or Parry) gets deducted from your total actions.
 


billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
I also like the idea you could take 4 reactions if you want.
From the perspective of having to deal with multiple different opportunities for PCs to interrupt other character's actions and the administrative overhead of adjudicating it (or having to endure it as a fellow player at the table), 4 reactions would suck.
 


Fanaelialae

Legend
Hm.

I wonder what D&D would be like using popcorn initiative?
I tried it but my group didn't really take to it. They felt it undermined the value of initiative bonuses (since only the highest initiative roll matters).

What I've been using lately, and which has been well received, is a system I believe I came across on these forums (I'd love to attribute it, but I don't remember the poster or thread anymore).

Basically, all of the players roll initiative. Also, the DM rolls once using the highest initiative bonus among the monsters. Whoever rolls highest goes first, and then the two sides alternate until one side has no turns left (at which point the other side takes their remaining turns). I have the players go in initiative order but allow them to swap turns if desired. Even though it's not that different from popcorn (leaving aside the ability for one side to nova) they seem to be happy with it and so am I (because it's less tracking for me).
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I tried it but my group didn't really take to it. They felt it undermined the value of initiative bonuses (since only the highest initiative roll matters).

I don't understand that last bit. Since when does only the highest initiative roll matter?

In full-on popcorn initiative, there's no initiative roll at all - first initiative is given to whoever took action first in the narrative. It does undermine initiative bonuses, but Dex is an over-used stat anyway.
 

dave2008

Legend
From the perspective of having to deal with multiple different opportunities for PCs to interrupt other character's actions and the administrative overhead of adjudicating it (or having to endure it as a fellow player at the table), 4 reactions would suck.
Possibly. There are lot of things that go into a system designed to support this concept that could mitigate or eliminate that issue. I would not suggest just slapping it onto 5e without some more adjustments.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
I don't understand that last bit. Since when does only the highest initiative roll matter?

In full-on popcorn initiative, there's no initiative roll at all - first initiative is given to whoever took action first in the narrative. It does undermine initiative bonuses, but Dex is an over-used stat anyway.
I wasn't aware of that. The version I used had everyone roll initiative, with the highest roll given first initiative.

It may have been the campaign. I don't remember exactly anymore. I think one of the players wanted to have the Alertness feat (variant human), and another wanted to play a bard (Jack of All Trades). So they felt more short changed than the average player. I think we tried it for three sessions or so, the players weren't happy, so we went back to the standard method.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Similarly, I seem to recall that one of the Warhammer-like games had adding dice to a pool and totaling them, but since magic was fraught with peril any doubles (or more) would attract chaos and bad stuff. You could voluntarily use less dice, but then you were less likely to succeed.

Ideas like this, where more effort can cause problems, I think could be used. Even if it's just for stress/exhausion mechanic where you can push yourself to add more dice.

That sounds interesting. I wonder if there is an easy way to adapt that to D&D?
The Goblin Laws of Gaming do something like this. You have a pool of dice to use to power your spells. A single die can never miscast, but it's also relatively likely to fail to cast any spell but the weakest.


Well you would have to completely rework 5e to add the 3 action economy anyway so I don't think making it a 4 action economy is much of a difference.

Now, why I want something like this is mostly design aesthetic and a bit verisimilitude. It just bothers me that reactions are hanging out there doing there own thing and don't have an impact on the rest of the action economy. I also like the idea you could take 4 reactions if you want.
I haven't played Pathfinder 2 yet, but I would think three actions including an optional Reaction would be good for D&D.

In theory all of your actions and movement are taking up the same six seconds. Maybe you only get a Reaction IF you specifically reserve one by only taking two actions on your own turn.

This is what Forbidden Lands does. You refresh your actions at the end of the turn, rather than beginning. Any “reaction” you take during another player’s turn (Dodge or Parry) gets deducted from your total actions.
Oh, this is nice! This would also mean you wouldn't get denied your Reaction(s) against someone who got a higher initiative in the first round.
 

I'll have to try a 3 action mechanic game at some point. It sounds intriguing. Coriolis uses a 3 action point mechanic. It sounds similar, but I think it plays very different.

Each type of action uses X number of action points and your reactions are included in those 3 points. For example: a Normal attack is 2 AP, a Slow attack is 3 AP with a bonus to the roll, and a Fast attack is 1 AP with a penalty to the roll. Defending against an attack is 1 AP and is a reaction. You aren't automatically hit if you don't defend. Defending just gives you an additional chance to thwart your enemies by reducing damage, disarming them, making a counterattack, etc. Refreshing AP at the end of the turn like @FrozenNorth suggested sounds like a cool optional rule that I will need to try next time I play.
 

Andvari

Adventurer
It's interesting, but I think I prefer a more old-school approach. The 3 action system offers higher resolution, but it also makes turns take longer because they are more complex, require more die rolls and more planning.

On some occasions it also feels like Paizo made some things actions for no reason other than to get rid of one of the three actions.

For example, instead of just gaining an AC bonus from a shield, you have to spend an action to raise your shield every turn.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
It's interesting, but I think I prefer a more old-school approach. The 3 action system offers higher resolution, but it also makes turns take longer because they are more complex, require more die rolls and more planning.

On some occasions it also feels like Paizo made some things actions for no reason other than to get rid of one of the three actions.

For example, instead of just gaining an AC bonus from a shield, you have to spend an action to raise your shield every turn.
Every turn, really?
 

On some occasions it also feels like Paizo made some things actions for no reason other than to get rid of one of the three actions.

For example, instead of just gaining an AC bonus from a shield, you have to spend an action to raise your shield every turn.
Yup, people like the 3-action system until they need to move 10’ to open a door then move through the door and can’t do anything else because that took 3 actions.
 




billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
Shields must be badass, if you trade a potential third attack to defend with one.
Well, if you also have a shield block feat, you can also take a reaction to intercept incoming damage with it. So you may end up buying replacement shields a lot until you get one with higher hardness.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
My contribution would be from various games in the OSR space: I want to get rid of skills.

In 2000, skills were hot stuff, but "roll a d20 to succeed at this narrow application of an ability score" is a snoozer. We also wind up with certain ultra-significant skills (PERCEPTION) and some fairly worthless skills that relies on a DM to make them useful (like most INT skills).

I'd rather replace them with traits that just....give you benefits. Rather than a Religion skill, your character is "Religious" and they can invoke it just to know things about religion instead of having to roll. Rather than a Perception skill, your character is "Perceptive" and immune to Surprise or something. Now, I don't need to pump my Dex just to have a good stealth roll; I can just be "Stealthy."

I was just writing in my game report on Five Torches Deep that this is basically how proficiencies work. There isn't a fixed list of them; they are descriptive and free-form and it's up to the player to come up with plans that take advantage of them, and then up to the GM to adjudicate. I really like it.

I mean, 5e skills are actually supposed to work that way, too, except that there's a fixed list of them shared by all classes, for reasons I don't understand.
 

Andvari

Adventurer
IIRC, it's more that iterative attacks are significantly penalized. So you're giving up an attack that will probably miss for some extra defense.
Yeah, second attack is at -5, third is at -10. So if you've spend 2 actions attack and have an action left, it's about figuring what to do with it that isn't attacking. Such as raising your shield. (+2 AC, which also reduces chance of you being critically hit)
 

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