Mike Mearls AMA

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Tommy Brownell

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So Mike Mearls did an AMA on the D&D subreddit.

My biggest takeaways:

- He hates the initiative system.
- If there is ever a 6th Edition and he's involved, he wants it to be seamlessly backwards compatible.
- And my favorite exchange:
Q: Is there anything that you see other people do in D&D that makes you cringe? I know it's all "to each their own," but do you find some common practice to be "wrong"?
A: The idea that the rulebook has all the answers and that the DM answers to it.

Some good stuff there, though. He's clearly the guy who was pushing for "rulings, not rules" in the D&D books, which I am totally cool with.
 

Shipyard Locked

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- He hates the initiative system.

Specifically he says it is too predictable. Personally I'd go with grouped initiative, but I'm guessing he's thinking of something more unpleasantly complex.

Mearls said:
Druid - I'd make shapeshifting more central, maybe scale casting back to paladin or rogue level, use a nature domain for the guy with a scimitar and shield

How about just ditching the goddamn druid and letting a combination of the nature domain cleric and the shifter race from Eberron efficiently cover the druid's poorly executed themes?

Sigh... I know, I know, that ship sailed a long time ago...
 

Tommy Brownell

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He posted his version over on Twitter. It's something like rolling a d4 for Ranged, d8 for Melee and d12 for spells, +d8 if you use a bonus action, +d8 if you change gear...and you're trying to roll low.

I...wasn't a fan.
 

Shipyard Locked

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He posted his version over on Twitter. It's something like rolling a d4 for Ranged, d8 for Melee and d12 for spells, +d8 if you use a bonus action, +d8 if you change gear...and you're trying to roll low.

I...wasn't a fan.

Let's see how it looks when he presents it in Unearthed Arcana, but yeah, right now he's badly fixing what's not broken.
 

Tommy Brownell

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If one wants variance on initiative, I liked AD&D2e, where you rolled a d10, added Weapon Modifier or Casting Time, but rerolled each round.

Savage Worlds has the fastest combat I've ever ran that isn't completely abstracted to death, but it's almost too swinging because there's only a couple of ways to influence the initiative.
 

Necrozius

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I was thinking of using Savage Worlds initiative for D&D. Your initiative modifier would mean how many extra cards you get to draw (and pick the highest). Each Feat, spell bonus or other advantage (or Advantage) would grant extra cards.

Joker means your side gets Advantage on all action rolls, and/or someone stabilises if they're at zero HP.
 

Necrozius

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A few things I do:
  • Milestone advancement. I hand out levels when the players accomplish something notable.

  • Aside from potions and scrolls, I use custom magic items that (as my players will tell you) invariably come with a drawback or curse.

  • I'm far more loose with the rules than people might expect. My attitude as DM is that I'd rather let something ride than look up a rule. Even a broken character is only an issue if it stomps on another player's fun.

I like his house rules. I follow these principles, myself.

Milestone advancement is nice because there's less book-keeping and I can focus on rewarding the players in other ways than just small EXP tokens.

I always roll up a quirk, curse or otherwise weird element for all magic items.

Yeah and as long as another player isn't outright complaining about another character's abilities, I don't really care if a PC is really effective or carefully crafted for huge efficiency in a particular area.
 

Tommy Brownell

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When I ran The Tyranny of Dragons, I used a hybrid of milestone and regular XP, because I went so far off the beaten path.

Basically, they got XP as normal, but if they hit a milestone, they got enough XP to push the lowest level character to the next level. I don't have a problem with Milestone advancement, I was just catering to that D&D expectation of steady XP awards. They ended the campaign at level 18, and everything worked out fine.
 

Tommy Brownell

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I was thinking of using Savage Worlds initiative for D&D. Your initiative modifier would mean how many extra cards you get to draw (and pick the highest). Each Feat, spell bonus or other advantage (or Advantage) would grant extra cards.

Joker means your side gets Advantage on all action rolls, and/or someone stabilises if they're at zero HP.

I might play around with this a bit. I like a lot of your ideas here, though.
 

Baulderstone

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I was thinking of using Savage Worlds initiative for D&D. Your initiative modifier would mean how many extra cards you get to draw (and pick the highest). Each Feat, spell bonus or other advantage (or Advantage) would grant extra cards.

Joker means your side gets Advantage on all action rolls, and/or someone stabilises if they're at zero HP.

As a fan of Savage Worlds initiative, I have thought about doing the same. My upcoming game is going to be online though, and as I have already learned running Savage Worlds online, playing cards aren't quite as seamless online. You either have to use some kind of online app for the cards, or just use a real life deck, deal out the cards and manage initiative yourself. They are both doable, but you lose the pure simplicity of using a deck in person.

I run an actual tabletop game of D&D for my nephews when they come to visit, but using cards there might be iffy. They are 10, 7 and 3 (the three-year-old wants to be involved, so he sort of plays one of the retainers when his attention is engaged). They youngest is always running off with dice or miniatures. That's not really a big deal as I have a lot of dice, and I only use miniatures for the vaguest of positional purposes, so him using them as toys in the middle of a session does little harm.

I only use minis at all because it helped to get them to believe this was actually a real game at first. I'm thinking of weaning them onto purely using graph and hex paper next time, selling them on the idea that it will draw less interference.

Anyway, I drifted off-point there. My youngest nephew loves playing with cards, whether it is laying them out, arranging them in stacks or tossing them in the air. Using cards for initiative with them would be more a hassle than it is worth.
 

opaopajr

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Yeah, I felt the initiative system needlessly helped DEX one more time for little reason, First strike is a thing, I hear. That and the static nature then was "easier bookkeeping" for the sake of static for tactical coordination, which drags me OOC pretty darn fast. (And I like metagame tactical play; I just don't like confusing it with my role play tactical play.)

The easiest solution for me was go back to what AD&D 2e got right: 3 initiative modes, 2 optional as needed (often for combat size). Group roll + group mods (core standard), group roll + individual mods, individual roll + individual mods -- and they glow as they scale down in size from large, medium, to small battles. I'm sure you could rework individual mods for 5e, but there is enough similarity I don't see the point in the extra work.

Dig that third comment, though. GM is not a slave to the book, not a computer server with pre-programmed judgment, is probably something that needs to be codified in bold nowadays. Tournament-style anything tends to bring out toxic levels of competition, so I am not surprised to see the legacy of Tournament modules, RPGA, PFS, AL, et al. bear such fruit that warrants this reminder.

(Edit: I should also add that I think his 6e comment, about backwards compatibility, is impossible at this point. TSR v. WotC divide is big, but the WotC editions divide within itself is too big. Fourth edition alone precludes true backwards compatibility down to 1e/BX/etc. I think 5e is about as close as you can get as a chassis, and there's still a few too many 4e rat raisins in my cookie batter for me to leave in as is.)
 
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Tommy Brownell

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Pretty sure that he meant that a 6e would be as seamlessly compatible as possible with 5e. Kind how you could take 1e material for 2e with minimal modification.
 

opaopajr

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Oh thank god! Otherwise trying to tie together WotC D&D alone right now is like threading the needle with a biplane.
 

Tommy Brownell

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4e is the big, glaring standout. I say this from plugging in things from all over D&D history, and 4e was the only thing that required real work. Everything else was fine with some eyeballing.
 
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