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

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
The major issue with this is just how minimalist early D&D demands things be. Hence my comment earlier. If Fighters need to be essentially empty of features, how do you match that in such a way that you don't make the new(er)-school options a straight 100% power-up, thus throwing all encounter math completely out the window.
You have to more or less create a basic +X to damage class feature and allow people who want 3e, 4e, or other styles to swap it out.

They attempted this with the brute fighter but they didn't leave enough room to make it work.
 

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James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I guess it just came from WotC platitudes about this being the "greatest hits" edition, ie, no matter what style of D&D you like, you'll find it here, and Monte (as usual) saying stuff that would annoy people later (you'd think he'd learned after the Ivory Tower incident).

We expect optional rules, every edition has them. WotC used to give us whole books like Sandstorm, Cityscape, Unearthed Arcana, or the DMG II full of optional rules!

We were expecting ways to truly transform the game and instead we got "well if you want feats or magic items, you can have them! We're not balancing them, so good luck!" and "You can always make full rests take a week!".
 

I would love for a source book per year (or even every other year) to have been "here are modifications to spells/feats/races/classes to get closer to older edition feels" having advice (maybe the forward of each) that you can mix and match them and the core game.

The best part I was waiting for was for them to go beyond... like by now 8ish year later to be saying "Hey if you want more a WoD style game here is a supplement"
 

James Gasik

Legend
Supporter
I would love for a source book per year (or even every other year) to have been "here are modifications to spells/feats/races/classes to get closer to older edition feels" having advice (maybe the forward of each) that you can mix and match them and the core game.

The best part I was waiting for was for them to go beyond... like by now 8ish year later to be saying "Hey if you want more a WoD style game here is a supplement"
So...terribly written rules about playing slightly better than normal humans who drink blood or grow fur interspersed by random song lyrics and quotes to make you seem hip, cool, and not in any way pretentious?

Oh and then gripes for the next 30 years from Justin Achilli about how you're playing wrong?
 

Because even if they managed to include a Warlord that gave you the four things you mentioned in your list... someone else would have another list with even more Warlord stuff that they felt had to be in the class for it to be a Warlord. There are people out there who probably would only want a Warlord that exactly matched the 4E version (down to maneuver names and such) for the 5E Warlord to be valid.
So because there might possibly be a tiny handful of unhappy people, it's totally cool that nearly everyone who loved Warlords walked away unhappy with 5e? Now that's a hot take...

I just am unwilling to wipe the entirety of 4E-isms in 5E away just because they don't match.
Well, if you actually took my argument seriously, you'd know that I'm saying they don't match.

E.g., cantrips aren't at-wills with a twist or fresh paint. They reinforce caster dominance. They are actively fighting one of the most important purposes at-wills served, and there is no system which compensates for this. Or, for another example, hit dice aren't healing surges, and in fact serve literally the opposite purpose (extra healing on top of essentially-unlimited magical healing). You cannot even rework hit dice to make them work like surges (and the optional rule claiming to do so is, again, laughably missing the point by making them unbounded because there's no other way to get around the limitations of 5e hit dice healing.)

--------

So, building off the above and attempting to answer the initial question: Hit Dice could have been an actually cross-edition modularity option. If they'd been handled differently, it could have been easy to toggle between 3e-/5e-style "they're a bonus on top of unlimited magic healing," something relatively 1e-style where healing is slow and difficult (e.g. maybe you only recover one hit die per long rest, so they're precious), or something 4e-style where they're beefier but act as a cap on healing. Likewise, it wouldn't have been THAT hard to, for example, make a list of Combat Stunts that use up one attack roll to do something cool and do damage (e.g., stuff like Shove, but actually, y'know, interesting and making-fights-end-sooner rather than delaying-when-the-fight-ends), with toggles so that the 2e approach requires you to spend Weapon Proficiencies (and giving tables of such proficiencies for various classes), a 3e approach that locks them behind feats, and a 4e approach that lets non-cantrip classes (e.g. Paladin, Fighter, Barbarian, Rogue, etc.) pick some up, perhaps on a schedule similar to cantrips for full casters, e.g. Paladins get fewer because they're part-spellcaster, while Fighters get the most. Etc. Skills could have toggles to 2e-style NWPs, 3e-style point-based skills, or 4e-style broad skills and skill challenges. Etc.

THAT is what modularity would look like. Multi-state toggles carefully constructed to assist the actual spirit of the rules of various prior editions, rather than superficial mimicry.

And I would absolutely include "zero level" rules as a similar component, a toggle for groups that like really slow progression and really legit actually zero-to-hero play. Likewise, learning from 13th Age, rules for "incremental advancements" so groups can smooth out some of the chunky aspect of levelling up and feel like they're making progress while still keeping the pace relatively slow.
 

So...terribly written rules about playing slightly better than normal humans who drink blood or grow fur interspersed by random song lyrics and quotes to make you seem hip, cool, and not in any way pretentious?

Oh and then gripes for the next 30 years from Justin Achilli about how you're playing wrong?
I mean no... yes, but, no...but yes
 

You have to more or less create a basic +X to damage class feature and allow people who want 3e, 4e, or other styles to swap it out.

They attempted this with the brute fighter but they didn't leave enough room to make it work.
I guess my issue is, from what stuff I've seen from folks who speak up about wanting old-school stuff in 5e, even this would not cut it. Because extra damage is a feature. And there shouldn't be features.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I guess my issue is, from what stuff I've seen from folks who speak up about wanting old-school stuff in 5e, even this would not cut it. Because extra damage is a feature. And there shouldn't be features.
Here's the thing. I don't see many of those types ever playing WOTC brand D&D. Many of the old schoolers are willing to accept some class features.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
And I get it might be disappointing to hear that... but at the end of the day, it just forces a person to decide what is really more important to them... moving to 5E because it's the one currently supported and can find the most willing players (even if a lot of the rules don't match their preferences)... or sticking with their preferred game so that they can play the game they want-- but just have to put in a little more work finding new players and creating/adapting new material to use for their game.

Really liked your summary, but with regard to this last bit, I must say that personally I feel I can play several different games I want, using 5e core rulebooks, and not just one. The key is to treat the core game more as a toolbox and less as a religious book. Sometimes Crawford & pals actually remember about this and tell us so in their "interview" videos or posts, but most of the time they still act more like they're telling us the mandatory way to play the game. But the core books have A LOT of stuff that probably the majority of us aren't following religiously in our games (only in our theoretical discussions), and by changing the focus on one aspect or rule somewhere along the line between "key feature of our game" and ignoring it completely, you can definitely steer the game towards many different styles.

One example could be how much you use Inspiration and how often you grant (dis)advantage by narrative descriptions done by the players: change these habits, and the game can swing heavily between a more narrative style and a more technical style.

But then indeed, some things that depend on numbers can't be changed easily at all. If someone considers having two-digit bonuses an essential element of playing "3e style" or non-linear ability bonuses for playing "BECMI style", then clearly 5e doesn't offer these options.

I find it hilarious that people think 5e is modular already (according to the terms laid out during development). It clearly isn't. If modularity is defined as having some optional rules in the DMG, or variant race rules, then yeah, tons and tons of games would meet that definition and it loses all meaning.

When people have this discussion I take it to mean as whole collections of rules and adjustments that you remove and add together, you know, in a module. So you would have a narrative one, a tactical one etc. Which, also happens to be what I think the developers also meant when they talked about it during Next.

Yes but if someone expects a "module" to be an entire book, or at least a beefy chapter, perhaps it's because they are underestimating how many rules are needed to actually make a difference. You don't need a book for a "called shots/permanent injuries" module, you can probably have that in one single page. You can make BIG changes to how your game plays just by changing the standard duration of short/long rests.

It cuts both ways. Lots of people disliked Tasha's "options" because they felt WotC was dictating them rather than presenting an option. Imagine if they had printed the Greyhawk Initiative in Tasha's; people would be furious that WotC was changing the initiative rules on them!

Honestly, WotC ceded the ground on modular rules to 3pp like Level Up because any option they put in would be considered Core by the majority of players who would either demand to use it or rail how WotC was changing their game on them.

It's a no win situation

It's primarily a failure of the gaming community, which is on average way too obsessed by what is the "current official rule/version".

It is also a failure of the game designers, when they push something to be less than optional, where actually almost everything in the game could be optional by nature.

Take something like passive checks. In theory the PHB goes quite light with them, the text is more about suggestions. And yet there's a couple of specific abilities (maybe a couple of feats) which refer to passive checks and would lose some meaning if a gaming group decided not to use passive checks. But then the DMG goes down in a more patronizing way about how the DM actually should use them by default for secret doors and such. The failure of the designers here was not to recognize how the gameplay style changes: use passive checks regularly and the game is a lot more predictable outside of combat, ignore them and it get a lot more random. How is that not very much a gamestyle preference that should be left to each gaming group? Why was it not more presented as a "dialable" part of the game, like for example group checks (which have similar power in swinging the overall feel of the game outside combat)?
 

Here's the thing. I don't see many of those types ever playing WOTC brand D&D. Many of the old schoolers are willing to accept some class features.
I mean, there are users on this very forum who advocate for things like eliminating all but the "core four" classes and consider that a favorable compromise for folks opposed to class reductionism. It's more common than you give it credit for.
 

Ok, in all good faith, we have to admit that 5ed does bring a bit of modularity. But as with everything in life, the devil's hidden in the details.

Look at the book we had. PHB, MM and DMG.
Already we are told from the get go that magical items and feats are optional in the PHB.
The DMG brings us a load of "optional" rules to tweak the game to our preferences.
You do not like healing overnight? Fine, use gritty realism.
You do not want to have 6-8 encounters per day? Fine use alternate rest rules. This way, the narrative side will take over the Rolls... I even know about a table that use a day for a short rest, a week for long rest but all HP are recovered overnight.
And so on with many variations and choices unique to each tables but everything is according to the "official" rules.

But even the splat books brought us some additional rules, all optional, to the game.
GGR brought us a nice complementary approach to guilds and organisations and how they could serve in helping the players. From magical trinkets and items to services.
Acquisition inc brought us some nice stuff about how and adventuring guild might work.
Some adventures brought us a few rules, tweaks and so on to add to our games.
Theros brought us the mythical treatment on BBEG creature type. And that one was really good IMHO.
Eberron gave us the Artificer, dragon marks and so on.

And the list can go on and on and on...

The true lack of modularity in 5ed is in the class system itself. Some classes feel like they were rushed and are in needs of tweaking from the get go. I look at you too, Beast Master, Sorcerers and Monks (especially the 4 element one). And the little tweaks were easy to find (well, for my tables at least) that I am surprised that IF they were truly tested, that these tweaks were not found or that the evident weaknesses of these classes did not appear in the play tests...

What would have worked would have been more choices in leveling up. Ok I am a wizard, evocation. My first choice in powers is either sculpt spells, a bonus to hit with evocation cantrip or to specialize in an element like fire, water etc... doing +1d4 damage with that element. The Totem Warrior in the barb class does this but the choices are hardly equal in values at all levels.
Also, more choices at different levels would also have helped a lot.

And lastly... Bards should never have been full casters. Never.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I mean, there are users on this very forum who advocate for things like eliminating all but the "core four" classes and consider that a favorable compromise for folks opposed to class reductionism. It's more common than you give it credit for.
The thing is many who claim it still want tons of class features. They just want the idea of just 4 classes, even if 2 members of the class aren't similar at all. The majority of the no class feature types are rare on ENworld and usually just want class features by DM Fiat and wish to hard balance on the fly. They are the type who'd have to ban bladesingers and war clerics because wizards with high AC and clerics with good damage invalidate fighters completely.
 



Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I mean, that's rather irrelevant. People are talking about how neat it would be if 5e was modular in the way described before, or postulating what it would look like. Saying "go play something else" doesn't really add anything to the discussion. It's the equivalent of somebody telling you to move to Canada whenever your country does something you don't like.
Also hardly the most useful advice when given to someone like me, who has lived in Canada his entire life... :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
You have to remember though, while AD&D offers the promise of reaching Valhalla, very few people ever see it. Majestic peaks and endless chasms. Over time, D&D has flattened out. It went from mountains to plateaus and chasms to ravines. These days, it feels to me more like hills and 10' pits (though the pits might have some spikes or snakes in them!).
Does that mean 6e is going to resemble something like Kansas or Saskatchewan?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Re: the OP's point, I think we can reference this to see what an actual 4E module that attempted to make 5E 4E-like might look like.

1) You'd want to make it so forced movement was much more of a thing. Probably make it so you can sacrifice Attacks after the fact to make a Shove push someone further, or can push further if you're giving up more base damage.

2) OAs need to be more significant, so you probably need to make it so certain classes get like a "free Reaction" to do an OA on top of their Reaction.

3) Make healing spells eat HD by default but also be Bonus actions when they do (and probably heal for less when they don't).

4) Create a "Page 42" equivalent for 5E - i.e. table expected damages/difficulties etc. for stunts. That would be very important.

5) Add Marking to certain classes, Flanking to add, but probably do Flanking as +1d4 or +1d6 instead of Advantage - 5E wasn't imaginative enough to do that at launch, but would.

6) 10 minute short rest.

7) Start at level 3.

8) Let long-rest casters refresh some of their spells on a short rest - 5E actually addresses this briefly in another half-considered option, and suggests limit it to spells below level 5. I think you'd probably want a table, myself, showing what level and what you can refresh.

9) Suggest excluding/including certain classes.

I think that sort of modularity would be more like what people were looking for, and you could probably fit most/all of it on one page.
I can think of a couple of other things that would make it more 4e-like:

--- bring back skill challenges
--- a optional but near-complete redesign of how monsters work and-or are generated, to mechanically replicate the minion-skirmisher-elite-solo vibe
--- bring back bloodied as a mechanic, and use it
 


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