Wednesday, 30 May 2012

D&D Next: Difficulty Trends in D&D...

There's already been a lot of discussion about the advantage/disadvantage mechanics in D&D Next, but here are a few more quick thoughts about this mechanic and the general trend in D&D for each edition to become easier than the last, and easier than any other version of the game (apologies in advance).

First, a quick look at the the impact of the advantage/disadvantage mechanic on the hit probabilities in the game.  At normal difficulties advantage (and disadvantage) are worth the equivalent of +4/+5, and they also double the chance of a critical. It's a very powerful feature.  It looks like anything except for +2/-2 has been replaced with advantage and disadvantage, so players don't have to remember lots of different bonuses or penalties.

One of the main aspects of difficult in RPGs is the chance of hitting your enemy (along with HP differential and number of enemies).  D&D Next continues the gradual and incremental increase in hit chance for the player.  Monster ACs in the updated Caves of Chaos module (generally) range between 13 and 15 (ACs in the 4th Edition module Keep on the Shadowfell were 15 to 18).  Most of the pregens are attacking with +6, so players only need to roll between 7 and 9, giving them 55% to 70% hit chance, 10% better that 4th Edition.

Between advantage/disadvantage, higher starting HP, more forgiving death rules (- Constitution), gameplay tuning for an entire day of adventuring (so players can bail when they're depleted), and the general hit chance rules in 5th edition, D&D Next is very 'friendly' for players and it represents the long trend of coddling players.

Heroes Against Darkness downloads page: Heroes Against Darkness - Game Rules.


  1. I'm ok with characters hitting more. I've been in other games where we spent two rounds with everyone missing...what a waste of time. Missing is dull and boring. I would rather see more hitting and less damage done if I had my way.

  2. The thing is the hit chance and the damage amount are related, because generally your hit bonus is also your damage bonus (or close to it), so when one goes up, everything goes up!

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    1. Wow. Taking a second look...My math is WAY off. The bonus/penalty fits on a bell curve depending on the TN. Around +/-5 at the middle (25% at DC 11) down to +/-1 at the ends (4.75% at DCs 20 and 2).

      Still think the mechanic is "wholly unnecessary."

  4. The advantage mechanic is already part of D&D with the extra hit rolls for higher level fighters (and their multiple attacks versus 1HD opponents). Let's face it, players of other characters classes won't dislike it when they get to roll twice! The disadvantage mechanic may not prove to be as popular.

    However, bonuses and penalties are part of the game, expressed in a variety of different mechanics. D&D is a patchwork quilt of different resolution systems. So, a character has the drop on a monster. Should I give a +4 bonus to the die roll or get the player to roll twice?

    I think your underlying argument is that the D&D game system is getting soft. Too many hit points, too easy to hit, too hard to die? AD&D started that (and a whole lot more besides). It comes down to the DM and Players as to what game they want to play. There are good ideas in every edition and homebrew version of D&D. There are also things that you can rework/remove/replace.

    Pick some rules you like and play! It can be easy or hard. Your choice. Don't let the rules get in the way of your game.