D&D 5E What would 5E be like if the playtest's modularity promise was kept?

dave2008

Legend
The thing is, while this is a valid question (and despite what I say in the beginning, I think there is absolutely some modularity to 5E), it really wasn't what I had in mind. I was much more interested in discussing what a 5E that could reasonably emulate all editions within it would look like (which is what Monte Cook and the early design goals of the playtest indicated). The fact that most of the pages discuss not this but prefer dunking on the thread by saying "5E IS modular, duh" or going off onto a tangent about quality is a bit sad (also, once again, the point about OSE's model of genre rules is completely ignored!).
Have you spent much time on the internet, or these forums specifically? If so, you had to know tangents would take over.

Particularly with this rather difficult topic. I mean, you're asking us to consider how to design a game that would provide the modularity to not only emulate all editions of D&D, but do so at the same table. That is a lot of possibly completely fruitless work. Not something I generally want to tackle as I browse around these forums.
 

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Ondath

Adventurer
Have you spent much time on the internet, or these forums specifically? If so, you had to know tangents would take over.

Particularly with this rather difficult topic. I mean, you're asking us to consider how to design a game that would provide the modularity to not only emulate all editions of D&D, but do so at the same table. That is a lot of possibly completely fruitless work. Not something I generally want to tackle as I browse around these forums.
Well, of course I anticipated for the discussion to go in different directions! But I feel a bit odd when the thread I posted expressly says the topic I wanted to bring to everyone's attention, and then I'm told I should've asked a different question. The other question is also interesting, but surely I would've started a thread saying "Is D&D 5E Modular?" if that's what I had in mind, no?
 

dave2008

Legend
Well, of course I anticipated for the discussion to go in different directions! But I feel a bit odd when the thread I posted expressly says the topic I wanted to bring to everyone's attention, and then I'm told I should've asked a different question. The other question is also interesting, but surely I would've started a thread saying "Is D&D 5E Modular?" if that's what I had in mind, no?
I feel your frustration, but I think my previous response already provided my explanation.
 



dave2008

Legend
Thinking about @Ondath 's OP question a bit, I thin 5e would look very different if it truly embraced the type of modularity suggested by Monte. The trick is to design a very rigid system that allows things to be plugged-in or pulled out while giving the appearance of things working different, yet mathematically all working the same. That is too big an ask for me at the moment, but I can vaguely feel how it might work.

Another issue is you can't do this 100% for each edition. So you need to find what % is needed to make a play-style feel like a particular edition. Then you need your modular system to be able to achieve that % for each edition, at the same time, at the same table. I am not sure that is possible, but it is an interesting challenge.
 
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Remathilis

Legend
The thing is, while this is a valid question (and despite what I say in the beginning, I think there is absolutely some modularity to 5E), it really wasn't what I had in mind. I was much more interested in discussing what a 5E that could reasonably emulate all editions within it would look like (which is what Monte Cook and the early design goals of the playtest indicated). The fact that most of the pages discuss not this but prefer dunking on the thread by saying "5E IS modular, duh" or going off onto a tangent about quality is a bit sad (also, once again, the point about OSE's model of genre rules is completely ignored!).
My thought is that it would have been a logistical nightmare.

To start, you'd have to look at each edition and ask "what isn't being emulated in the current core rules?" The follow up questions are then "is that feature even compatible with 5e" and "if allowed, would it be fun?"

Take BECMI's race as class. It would be possible to make a dwarf, elf, and halfling class for example, but I don't see what advantage they would have over the normal race/class system. At best, we get a decent gish class. But more than likely, we have a new class scarcely better than a dwarf fighter with a lot less customization. Yet race as class is one of the THE defining differences between Basic and Advanced D&D.

You can do the same with nearly every edition: would a class you can only take after a specific multi-classing combo be fun enough to emulate the 1e bard or 3e prestige class? How do you balance 2e-like specialty priests? How do you even begin to fit an alternative ADEU system into the current 5e classes without basically rewriting all of them?

And that's assuming the core rules. Don't even think what kind of nightmare replicating 2e Player's Options would look like!

I think at the end of the day, they tried to get as much as they could fit into the core rules, but I think people were dreaming of things that are impossible. You can't make an edition where a 4e warden, a 2e specialty priest, a BX dwarf and a 3e spirit shaman could ask play at the same table and feel like their respective editions. However, you could make a oath of ancients paladin, a dwarf champion fighter, an oath of shepherd druid and a cleric of whatever domain you want and all feel something like those older editions in the "if you squint hard enough" sense.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
My money would be that the anemic initial release schedule is what ultimately killed the idea of modularity. There was probably an idea of an annual book in the vein of 3e's Unearthed Arcana or 4e's DMG2 and PHB2-3 that would come chock full of add-on and options for the game and that disappeared when it became setting, adventure, monster.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
My money would be that the anemic initial release schedule is what ultimately killed the idea of modularity.
Maybe, but my own suspicion is it was the desire for a unified base mechanic that ultimately killed modularity.

Modularity works best when each module is - and uses - its own discrete mechanical subsystem that doesn't really affect much else other than itself. 1e, for all its other faults, somehow got this bang-on right: you could chop out, add, or tweak entire blocks of 1e without really affecting very much else in the overall system or setting any mechanics precedents other subsystems would then be expected to adhere to.

Don't like the way turning undead works in 1e? Then feel free to change it, safe in the knowledge that as nothing else in the game uses that particular subsystem you won't be affecting how anything else works. Don't like the system 1e used for weapon vs armour type? Then feel free to change it or drop it, safe in knowing that you won't affect much if anything else.

3e-4e-5e, with their reliance on unified mechanics, also carry a tone of mechanical precedent (for lack of a better term); by which I mean there's an inherent sense that if you change one mechanic you're expected to change all the other mechanics along with it in order to keep the whole thing unified; and while this may make things easier in play it fights like hell against modularity.
 

dave2008

Legend
My money would be that the anemic initial release schedule is what ultimately killed the idea of modularity. There was probably an idea of an annual book in the vein of 3e's Unearthed Arcana or 4e's DMG2 and PHB2-3 that would come chock full of add-on and options for the game and that disappeared when it became setting, adventure, monster.
I don't think so. The idea that Monte suggested died when Monte left the design team, if not before. People held on to that idea, but that article by Monte was about the only time WotC talked about that degree of modularity.

Beyond that, they did provided a degree of modularity with the core rules that broadly achieve the goal of edition modularity.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Really I don't think the real issue is modularity and more that WOTC deciding not to make major modular after the initial release. More "no new classes unless the setting requires" and "Outside of Eberron, no major rules variants". WOTC decided to shift any major rules variant, major setting rules, and new classes to 3PP.


However due to TCOE and MOTM, I think WOTC is regretting not making 5e a bit more modular as they are now on new monster, race, and class paradigms. Tasha's and MOTM races, classes, and monsters could and should have been the original style. Or even more blank and swappable.
 

glass

(he, him)
I don't think so. The idea that Monte suggested died when Monte left the design team, if not before. People held on to that idea, but that article by Monte was about the only time WotC talked about that degree of modularity.
That was probably the only time that were that unequivocal, but it certainly was not the only time they talked in that way. That said, modularity certainly died very early in the process; long before the PHB was published. Certainly long before "release schedule" could have been a factor.



Anyway, what would a truly-modular system that made a genuine effort to support the playstyles of all prior editions look like? Firstly, to get the obvious out of the way, it would have to be modular in a new way - regardless of whether previous editions could be described as "modular" in some sense, this would need to be something else. EDIT: Which is not to say it would not also have switches/setting rules/varients in older senses.

Certain key subsystems would be presented as modules, and there would be a choice of module right there in the core rules. The obvious example would be combat (with gridded tactical combat, ToTM, probably others), but there would be others. Each module would have the same hooks for external interface, so any applicable abilities would (as far as possible) work with any module. SO for example, forced movement will not mean exactly the same thing in each module, but it will almost always means something.

I think it would look a lot more like 4e than real5e ended up being, not because I am a 4e fan and would prefer it that way (although I am and I would), but for purely practical reasons: When trying to accomplish a huge and unprecedented feat of game design, there simply is not time to throw 4e away and reinvent the wheel.

I am sure there is more I could say, but that is all I can think of right now.

_
glass.
 
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Remathilis

Legend
Maybe, but my own suspicion is it was the desire for a unified base mechanic that ultimately killed modularity.

Modularity works best when each module is - and uses - its own discrete mechanical subsystem that doesn't really affect much else other than itself. 1e, for all its other faults, somehow got this bang-on right: you could chop out, add, or tweak entire blocks of 1e without really affecting very much else in the overall system or setting any mechanics precedents other subsystems would then be expected to adhere to.

Don't like the way turning undead works in 1e? Then feel free to change it, safe in the knowledge that as nothing else in the game uses that particular subsystem you won't be affecting how anything else works. Don't like the system 1e used for weapon vs armour type? Then feel free to change it or drop it, safe in knowing that you won't affect much if anything else.

3e-4e-5e, with their reliance on unified mechanics, also carry a tone of mechanical precedent (for lack of a better term); by which I mean there's an inherent sense that if you change one mechanic you're expected to change all the other mechanics along with it in order to keep the whole thing unified; and while this may make things easier in play it fights like hell against modularity.
I don't think AD&D is modular insomuch as easier to jury rig. For example, you can't really replace the initiative system without messing up spell segments, but you could ignore all the casting time and weapon speed and just roll a die to see who goes first. Likewise, you could use the Basic ability score mods (+3 to -3) instead of AD&D's system, but it would mess up just enough things that you'd have to either keep making further adjustments (how does a girdle of giant strength work? What about a bend bars roll?) or keep ignoring things to make it work (how does it work with mage learning spells rolls, cleric bonus spells, thief skill adjustment, etc).

With later editions, the moving parts integrate more evenly, so radical changes would make greater impacts on the system at large.
 


James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
Except of course, Advantage wasn't the only mechanic, as you can see with inspiration dice, guidance, bless, and that one battlemaster manuever. So "we got rid of all the fiddly +1's" has the caveat "by replacing them with rerolls and extra dice".
 

Which makes perfect sense. If some people really want to play D&D in the style of 2E... why play an edited version of 5E to do it when you could still just play 2E? Everyone else wants to play 5E as-is and thus changing the style of the game seems unnecessary.
Because it's not enough to want to play another game. You have to get a critical mass of players who also want to play that game. So many people who would be happier playing something else (myself, for example), play and mod 5e because in practice it's nearly the only game in town.
 

The hate began long before it was used on any subsequent races. When the info from Tasha leaked, people hated how WotC was forcing this down their throats by simply presenting the option in the book (with the assumption players would FORCE DMs to use it because it's an Official rule). Even if WotC hadn't used floating ASI on future races, the Tasha rule was enough for people's blood to boil.
True, but all those folks who worried that this would be the new law of the land were very quickly proven right, weren't they?
 

Remathilis

Legend
True, but all those folks who worried that this would be the new law of the land were very quickly proven right, weren't they?
Perhaps, but it was drowned out by the strength to mass ratio of halflings and goliaths. Being right after the fact doesn't change the fact the original rule was hated even when it was still assumed to be an optional one.
 

Ondath

Adventurer
Their greedily and desperately huffing on Advantage as basically the only mechanic probably had a hand in it considering how narrow it made the design space.
It's true that Advantage is a bit too binary the way it is currently used, but I think coupling it with a single additional dice that steps up if multiple things stack in the form of expertise dice in A5E pretty much covers everything else. I think you can have a simple but deep dice rulling system just with proficiency and ability bonuses, dis/advantage and expertise dice. Hats off to A5E's design team for coming up with such an elegant method.
 

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