Monday, May 28, 2012

On the #DnDNext Playtest: Part Two: The Wizard: Magic as a problem, not a solution.

First, here are the notes from our player with the wizard  (except the ones I've covered already):
  • Hit Dice-Have no apparent purpose
  • No called shots? Grapple? Critical Hits? 
  • Baby Goblins have full HP?
  • No way to identify magic items.
  • "We have enough problems with innumeracy in this world for you to make the math in the game stupid or to make numbers not count."
I've already addressed lack of ability to identify magic items in the first part. Called shots and critical hits were always optional rules, so since we did "play as written," which meant a natural 20 is "maxed damage" and a 1 is a miss. Since I did "play as written" a natural 20 meant the players rolled the damage and I "treated it" (and I am quoting the how-to-play, here) as doing the max damage. (This, btw, is VERY STUPID. "natural 20 you did max." Not "roll the damage and treat it as max," which is what the How-To-Play states. BUT we were "playing as written.")
 As a DM, I have a problem with this. We use an elegant critical hit and fumble table for our campaign, there is about a 1% chance of injuring the party and a <1% chance of automatically killing. The player rolls the percentiles, knows high is better (or worse for fumbles) and the DM modifies the result as needed for the situation. This critical hit and fumble chart is older than 80% of the players at the table, btw.

Grapple, however, is very important. It could be resolved using non-lethal damage, but, frankly, grappling someone and knocking them out are different. We use them for different things. I appreciate that the rules for #DnDNext seem to be about the players succeeding as much as possible, but frankly, a non-lethal attack, especially with a weapon, should always be dangerous for the victim. Yes, there is a possibility you kill the guy you're trying to knock out!

Baby Goblins have full HP: Because we were "playing as written," the immature goblins had 5 hp. Because all goblins in the universe do, unless they are chieftains or specially declared goblins. Did I mention that I, as a DM, found this a dumb thing? Because if you have a herd of antelope, some of them are sickly, and if you are the lion, you go for the sickly one.... but, anyways, those are for a different installment.

Here are the magic problems we had:

Instead of being hit-dice based, sleep is now an area effect. A 20ft radius circle area effect. Here is your circle on a map showing 10ft squares. To make it even clearer, I've drawn a radius. To make it clear even to people who are dumb, I've also drawn a diameter.
Now, I want you to picture something, for a moment.
You have a room full of goblins. There are, in fact, about 30 of them, depending on how many have run in from other rooms at the thought of their offspring being killed and knowing the party is around. Thirty small-sized beasties. If you are being parsimonious, you may decide that each size small creature takes up 1/4 of a square. The general rule in the past with such things is that a critter as small as a goblin, rushing you, crowding in, can be as high as 8 in a square, but let's allow the game to be fairer, and let's say the goblins space themselves about equidistant on the map, and in the 6 squares that are mostly in the map, either 3 or 4 goblins fit, and in the 6 squares that are mostly off of the map, you only hit one. This, again, is being overly parsimonious, in that the sand from the wizard's spell doesn't need to cover you to affect you (again, playing as written) you just need to get hit with it, which includes everyone in this circle. So, what does our wizard do with the 30 goblins?
The same thing she'd do with 48-50:
That's right. A FIRST LEVEL WIZARD just took out a room containing a HORDE of monsters. A room that should require planning. In order to avoid sleep, and take the lesser effect, goblins need to beat a roll of 13 on their WISDOM, because while "Sleep" requires a WISDOM roll, you have a special line on your sheet that says that when YOU cast a spell, the saving throw DC is 10+ your whopping +3 from your INT. Since Goblins have a WIS of 10, it's pretty much auto-fail, but DM is mean and decides 20% of the goblins save. Those 6 goblins are SLOWED, so the party finishes them off before the rogue is done slitting the throats of the sleeping ones.

But that's just your sleep! You also have six at-will spells. And that's why, when the party discovers it can take on just about any horde and goes after a boss with no planning and no healing left, allowing boss to get the jump on them, YOU and the rogue are the last two characters standing.

CONGRATULATIONS, WIZARD! You are now a tank. You will have no trouble soloing act one of Diablo...oh, wait, this isn't Diablo, this is a group game, and you've been upgraded to the point where you are impossible to kill and as long as you keep backing up, never out of ammo. It's like having a bow and an ever-full quiver, only your arm never gets tired, and you don't need to aim.


  1. Going through your points here.

    Hit Dice - How to Play document, Pages 4 and 13.

    Grapple - Contest on strength checks.

    Critical Hit - How to play document page 11. A critical hit deals maximum damage. Nothing there about rolling.

    As for the overpowered wizard. Sleep spell, if he ever finds 52 goblins standing huddled up in a sphere like that then power to the wizard. The goblins need a 14 on their save to be slowed instead of sleeping. This means on average 15 will still be awake and able to fight the party, or wake their fellows.

    You are also assuming the wizard is never going to take damage, and will be able to use sleep every time he wants to.

    1. all the wizard has to do to avoid damage is back up.

    2. In addition, whether they were under "how-to" or not, anything in a player's notes was posted, because the player felt that this was relevant to them.

      You don't need to huddle goblins, by the way, just irritate them until they chase you, cast sleep on the crowd of pursuers, then back up while you throw unlimited ammo at them.

    3. So it would be unreasonable for the goblins to reply with their shortbows against this mythical solo wizard? Creatures described as having malicious ingenuity are going to line up like sheep and follow the wizard to their death and won't say retreat and set up an ambush when it becomes clear what the wizard is doing?

    4. no, but being slowed, the wizard need only back up to be out of their range and they can't advance as fast as s/he can back-up. If the wizard gets into a room where she can see and they cannot, it gets even easier for the wizard.

      The goblins, unlike the wizard, also eventually run out of arrows. The wizard never runs out of magic missiles.