Thursday, May 31, 2012

Baldur's Gate Remake for NWN2 Update

Firewine Bridge
Was looking through the forums tonight and ran across these little gems from the modders responsible for the ongoing BG1 remake project:
Well, it looks like the campaign will be fully playable in a couple weeks! After that, it's polish, polish, and some more polish for a few (at least 3) months. With this in mind, I think we're looking at September. 
As today only the hafling sidequest (Gullykin's surrounding) are missing. (around 5 exteriors area, including a little village, a dunjon, and less than 10 interiors area for the village) All the rest has its area done and scripted. So all chapters, and the extension (TOSC) are functionnal.
Pretty exciting!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Non-AC Defenses in DnD Next

Attack vs. Reflex?  No!  Make a Dexerity Saving Throw!
I'm working my way through the DnDNext playtest documents.  One of the first sections details the ability scores, and ultimately relates to one of the bigger changes to mechanics that I've seen thus far: changes to non-AC defenses.

In 4e, an attack could target one's AC.  But it could also target one of three non-AC defenses: fortitude, reflex, or will.  The names of those three defenses stems from earlier editions, of course.  But the innovation in 4e was that they all worked like AC: the attacker rolls a d20, adds appropriate bonuses, and then compares that with the target's AC, Reflex, Fortitude, or Will defense.  The one you targeted depended on the power.

In DnD Next, this is changing.  Attacks against AC work the same as they did in 4e (and earlier editions), and this includes (as I understand it) certain spells in which one makes an attack roll against AC.  But there are no longer such things as reflex, fortitude, or will defenses.  Instead, when one casts as a spell at a target, the target often will have the opportunity to make a saving throw so that they can resist or avoid the spell.  This is basically the same mechanic as 3e, except that these saving throws no longer are limited to the traditional reflex, fort, and will saves.  Instead, as far as I can tell, a given spell could conceivably target any one of a target's six attributes!  Spells like fireball that traditionally have reflex saves use a dexterity saving throw.  Charm spells use a wisdom saving throw.  But there are apparently spells that can require an intelligence saving throw, or a charisma saving throw.

I really liked the 4e mechanic because of its consistency: pick a power, roll a d20, add bonuses, compare to a defense.  It made playing DnD with kids easier, too, because there wasn't much math for them to do outside of their turn.  I still like that version better.

That said, I see that they're doing with this new system.  A major design emphasis in DnD Next, discussed a few months ago on the various Wizards blogs, was to enhance the importance of abilities within the game.  This is a manifestation of that.  Rather than having a zillion skills that each character must track, and rather than having three additional named defenses to keep in mind, players instead (mostly) just track their ability modifiers and use them to make saving throws and checks.  It makes for a simpler character sheet, because now there are three fewer defense numbers, not to mention a far smaller list of skills (you only track those in which you have specific training).  Furthermore,there is an elegance in the consistency of how skills and saving throws work that I do recognize.  And I LOVE the Next skill system because of its combination of flexibility and simplicity, so that alone may justify the non-AC defense changes.

There are some other benefits to the saving throw mechanic.  For one thing, by essentially putting the attack roll in the hands of the target, players will get to roll dice more often when it's not their turn.  This should improve engagement at the table, and it provides players with a sense of control when being targeted by a spell...even if it's imagined control.

It also makes character creation a bit more interesting.  Min-maxing suddenly becomes a bit more dangerous, because going with the minimum in, say, Charisma suddenly might have combat implications.  In 4e, as long as you had a talky-type in your party to handle roleplaying situations, a character could get away with going with the minimum in charisma, dexterity, or intelligence because there was little cost to doing so.  Now, doing so instantly makes you vulnerable to an entire set of spells.  Some saving throws will probably be more common (probably Dex, Con, and Wis if I was to guess).  But the devious dungeon master can choose monsters with appropriate spells to target their min-maxed player's weaker defenses.  This is also going to put a huge premium on any items or powers that can boost all saving throws, as well as (because of their pervasive effects) any items that boost a character's ability scores.

So while I do still like the 4e system, I'm going to sign off on the saving throw mechanic in least until I get a chance to test it in game!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

DnD Next Playtest Begins

Wizards began their Dungeons and Dragons Next open playtest today.  I just signed up and am eagerly awaiting the e-mail that will give me a download link to get my materials.

I'm honestly not sure if/when I'll be able to actually try out the game.  My "group," which was a family thing, has gone well in some ways and not well in others.  I'm unsure about whether I'll be continuing it for reasons that I don't really want to get into.  My feeling is that it is probably done for a while.  It's a shame, because I really enjoyed DMing.  I think it's likely that I'll be able to play some day in the future.  But for now, it just gets in the way of other things I should be doing...not worth it.

In the meantime, though, I am going to read through everything and offer a few thoughts on the contents.  I've been following the DnD Next discussions on the Wizards blogs and am interested in what they have in mind.  There is a real emphasis on faster play, which I think is a good idea.  I'm also pretty happy with the discussion of how character themes as a way of packaging feats together, and providing backstory for a character at the same time.  

But other times, I think they're ignoring some important innovations that DnD 4e brought to the table. 

For example, in his recent Legends and Lore article, Mearls discussed a "new" role for hit dice.  Apparently, they are going to be used during short rests to allow you to regain hit points.  And then, if you take an extended rest, you can regain those hit dice.  ...  sounds familiar?  Sounds a lot like healing surges to me, but with a bit more randomness to them.  I'm not complaining, really--I really like the healing surge mechanic, and how it, along with the second wind, reduces the need to have a healing class in the party and extends the party's lasting power through multiple dungeons.  

Also, while I'll know more when I get my e-mail and actually read the rules, I've seen more and more discussion of saving throws in a way that sounds much more like the 3e mechanic than how they work in fourth edition.  I really like the 4e system of rolling against one of four defenses (AC, Reflex, Constitution, Fortitude), as it allows for much more consistency in how the game works and increases the perceived value of non-AC defenses.  It may ultimately not matter a lot in terms of the math, but I dig the simplicity of it.

I've also recently been seeing discussion of whether opportunity attacks will remain in the core rules.  Angry had a great blog post about this last week, and I'd basically echo his thoughts: attacks of opportunity do a variety of things to enhance the importance of melee classes, and to enhance the costs of gaining ideal positioning (and thus the feats/powers that allow one to overcome opportunity attacks).  Without them, I think the game suffers.  The Facebook DnD game is a case in point: there's no point to including a fighter, as fighters can't do much to defend weaker party members without attacks of opportunity to keep enemies from sidestepping them.

I'm also a little hesitant about the reversion to "Vancian" magic for the wizard and cleric.  I actually really liked the 4e power system of at-will, encounter, and daily powers for most of the classes, especially as implemented in the Essentials classes.  I don't think there's a need for a zillion choices, at least in terms of how many things one character can do at a table.  For wizards, at least, it sounds like they're going to a hybrid system of at-will spells (cantrips) plus "Vancian" magic.  Cantrips would be enhanced to have actual value as at-will abilities.  I think this can work--I don't want to go back to the days of the wizard spending his/her time shooting crossbows.  

In any case, that's enough hand waving for now.  I'll have more to say once I get my hands on the rules! 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Alazander Sells Book Trilogy

I wanted to send huge congrats to Alazander for the sale of his first book.  And not just his first book, but his first trilogy!  I'm looking forward to reading it.

Alazander's Post

News item at