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5.5E What is "compatible"?

Li Shenron

Legend
According to WotC, 3.5 was "fully compatible" with 3.0.

And it was, for roughly a month after it came out. But the further into 3.5 we got, the less the new stuff resembled the original stuff. You could still use it, but then, I can still use my old 2e stuff too. So by that logic all editions and versions are "fully compatible" with one another.
Bingo!

After all, I have mostly used 1e, 2e and 3e adventures in 5e. I use 5e version of monsters and equipment but otherwise the story, the characters, the locations, they all work... I discovered that ALL editions are compatible!

For me compatibility can be summarized as: does this new rulebook work TOGETHER with the entirety of the rulebooks I already have?

If using a new rulebook means that I will stop using some of my previous rulebooks even partially, then they are NOT compatible.

And that only applies to rules including character material. It doesn't apply to fiction and props.
 

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Marandahir

Crown-Forester
I’m also wondering how this will play out on dndbeyond. wen looking up Stuff in a players handbook will it merge the two related aticles with markings for each in the document etc.
We’ve already seen how it works.
First we got Orc of Eberron, and then Orc of Exandria (even though these were identical), as additional options to the Orc stats in VGtM.

Then WotC clarifies that the Orcs in Eberron and Wildemount were intended as soft errata to address issues. Then WotC puts out errata with them for Volo’s. Then EVENTUALLY DDB merges them into the original Orc document.

At least with Tritons and Goliaths their updates were just merged in rather than creating a whole new option in the lineage lists on the site/app. Though I remember that Triton was merged in poorly. And I can’t recall if they ever fixed Tieflings to merge in “Feral” Tiefling or if you still have to choose either Tiefling or Feral Tiefling and still can’t mix and match the features from PHB, SCAG, and MToF.
 

Jack Daniel

Legend
My definition of compatible is as follows: if player A can make a character using ruleset A, and sit down at a table where referee B is running ruleset B, and nobody notices any discrepancies for a long time, rulesets A and B are compatible.

In that respect, the TSR editions are all fairly inter-compatible if just the core material is used (but the more optional add-ons you tack on, the more likely you are to run into conflicts), and likewise for the 3Es (3.0, 3.5, and PF1). But 4e and 5e stand alone as separate games, with their own mechanics and jargon that make cross-compatible play impossible.

"Save vs breath weapon!" vs. "Make a Reflex save!" vs. "This attack targets your Reflex Defense!" vs. "Make a Dexterity save!" … If the DM says something like this, and you can look down at your character sheet and agree that it makes sense, compatible. Otherwise, not compatible.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
My definition of compatible is as follows: if player A can make a character using ruleset A, and sit down at a table where referee B is running ruleset B, and nobody notices any discrepancies for a long time, rulesets A and B are compatible.
This is a reasonably good way to look at it. I think there may be individual subsystems that are different - like surprise moving to a d10 - that can be modularly updated with the later edition without saying they're incompatible.

The shift from 3.0 to 3.5 had one glaring shift that failed this easy level of compatibility - weapon sizing. That stuck out like a sore thumb and would have been an obvious tell if someone brought an affected character into the unaffected edition.
 

AtomicPope

Adventurer
Saying "compatible" is a way to sell this to their current audience - that's us. Even going from 3.0 to 3.5 had some big changes. Fighters changed from being crit machines to dip-classes, while Barbarians and Rangers were no longer dip-classes. Compatible for most people means they can use their old books and their new books together. To a lesser extent you could mix and match with 3.x, taking from the splat books and using them in the game if the DM allowed. Eventually everything was remade so it didn't matter, and it was just as bad.

Personally, I like what they did with 5e and since I love converting old modules (2e had some of the best modules ever made for any RPG) 5e has proved itself quite compatible in this regard. One module, which I consider the best ever made, The Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, is nearly 100% compatible where you just use 5e versions of the same monsters with the same amount. The only thing that doesn't fit (SPOILER ALERT) is the Gargantuan Mimic. During a 4e conversion I changed the tower into a haunted place and kept that as my Official Conversion™.

I'm guessing 5e will follow the same path as 3e, where the compatibility means you can use an old class, subclass, feat, monster, etc, rather than the new one and the rules will be similar enough to make it work. That's good enough for me.
 

aco175

Legend
I hope is is not like Magic card where my cards from 20 years ago do not fit into today's game. I can still use my Sera Angel and I say it has a power that does not make it tap.
"That's called vigilance now." oh, ok.
"I have a card that takes away vigilance, so it works on that card." Oh, ok.
"In the new edition there is a super Sera Angel that has vigilance, a +1/+1, and deathtouch for the same casting cost, so your cheating yourself if you do not play that one." Oh, ok
"I also have this new commander that gives my angels super awesomness, so I'll win in 3 turns." Oh, ok This game is just how I remember.

It might not matter that much to me though since I will likely buy the books. If the new changes make the game play better and makes prep easier, than why wouldn't I? There may be a convention where someone shows up with an old book PC and feel more like my poor Sera Angel compared to some of the new min/max combos there is sure to be.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Some initial thoughts. Compatible can mean a lot of things, and allow for a lot of change. But not all changes.

Changes that are clearly compatible:

Options already introduced in latter books*
New stuff that is 5e compatible
Reinterpreting alignment or making it optional
Detailed revisions to existing spells and class features
Feat revisions, perhaps major ones, but feats stay
Clarifying stealth, surprise, and (other) ability checks
Monster math, as long as the intended power level of the creature is the same
Magic item revisions, optional rules, DM advice
Rewriting non-rules text
New art
Books that don’t fall apart.
I don't think any of the "may be compatible" is compatible, I think that is a departure. I think what you have here is what it will mostly be although I do not think there will be detailed revisions of spells or class features, I think these wil be limited to tweaks.

I could also see changes to a lot of the optional actions in the DMG. Stuff like disarm, shove aside, tumble and mark. I think we could get revised rules on those, allowing some of them as a bonus action or allowing mark to make more than one reaction is not really in line with the PHB.

Finally I don't think the basic action economy is going to change but I could see more clarity or minor changes on certain things, for example allowing a potion to be drank as a bonus action or an action. I think we will see most magic items rewritten so it is clear if they constitute "use an object" action or a different action. Right now parts the book says using a magic item is "use an object" and sage advice says it isn't.

Also wizards has already recalibrated encounters per day. They have stated new campaigns, including WBW, will be able to be completed without any combat at all. This takes the "6-8 per day" down to an official floor of 0 as part of a normal adventuring day.
 
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MarkB

Legend
For me, there are two elements which make a new book "fully compatible" with the 5e core rules:

  1. The only thing I need in order to use the elements introduced in the new book are that book, and the 5e core books.
  2. Nothing in the existing 5e rules will be invalidated or made unusable if I use the contents of the new book.

It's fine if the new books introduce, for instance, a new implementation of a class, such as the ranger or warlock. But if they introduce elements which make the original versions of those classes no longer playable, that's not "fully compatible".
 

TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
I don't think any of the "may be compatible" is compatible, I think that is a departure. I think what you have here is what it will mostly be although I do not think there will be detailed revisions of spells or class features, I think these wil be limited to tweaks.

.....

Also wizards has already recalibrated encounters per day. They have stated new campaigns, including WBW, will be able to be completed without any combat at all. This takes the "6-8 per day" down to an official floor of 0 as part of a normal adventuring day.

A multi-year project declared to be the next evolution of the game won't just be tweaks.

In no way have they "recalibrated" encounters per day. At least not yet. But very few games have 6-8 encounters per day, most day, and hopefully they are taking that into account.

Support for non-combat encounters would be a natural thing to put in a revised edition.
 

ECMO3

Hero
A multi-year project declared to be the next evolution of the game won't just be tweaks.

In no way have they "recalibrated" encounters per day. At least not yet. But very few games have 6-8 encounters per day, most day, and hopefully they are taking that into account.

Support for non-combat encounters would be a natural thing to put in a revised edition.

Actually I think it will be mostly tweaks. I think they are going to combine alot into one manual, so you do not have to look across 4 different books to understand what subclasses, spells and invocations are available for Warlocks. Then I think they will change the game rules on races to align with the new guidelines.

Right now the only official hard copy publication on the Orc as a playable race says they have a -2 intelligence and while the people on this board visit sage advice and listen to podcasts the vast majority of players don't. The desire to clean that up and move on to more acceptable portrayals of race and stereotypes is going to be a big driver in what they print and will probably constitute the majority of changes from this version to the next.

The 6-8 was actually combats per day, I don't think there is a calibration for non-combat encounters. So with new campaigns being able to be completed with no combat at all this is going to have to come down to 0 combats per day as the lower end. Even if we take the argument that combat encounters will be replaced with non-combat encounters, those non-combat encounters are not going to use the numbers of resources that a combat encounter uses. You might cast a zone of truth or a charm person in a non combat encounter but you are not going to be casting multiple leveled spells like you do in combat.
 

Right now the only official hard copy publication on the Orc as a playable race says they have a -2 intelligence and while the people on this board visit sage advice and listen to podcasts the vast majority of players don't. The desire to clean that up and move on to more acceptable portrayals of race and stereotypes is going to be a big driver in what they print and will probably constitute the majority of changes from this version to the next.
Eberron Rising From the Last War removed the -2 Int from the Orc PC writeup. It's a campaign specific book, but so is Volo's Guide to some degree.
 

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