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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

#dndnext: Optional Complexity


Breaking the writer's block a bit with this random thought about D&D Next design which I published on the D&D Next Facebook group, but that I wanted to make more "accessible" here.

It's a bit of  worry, something of a promise made by designers that I'm not seeing in the playtest, or not enough: optional complexity.

As of now I'm unsure that the design team remembers what was the philosophy in this regard at the start of the designing process. Maybe they focused on different things and simply left it for later, but given how this requires a solid framework behind, I'm unfortunately more of the opinion they forgot about it.

I'm talking about complexity by "nested choices", which wasn't called like that, but was more or less like this
(not actual quote, but I'm sure I can find the original)
"You can choose the basic Fighter and you have no choices to make, you just get these bonuses every 2 levels. You want more complexity, then you suddenly have to choose some things at first level and some more things at the other levels, IN PLACE OF the basic bonuses. You want to completely customize everything? Fine, but for adding maneuvers and other complex things, you lose a bit on the "fixed numbers" aspect to compensate your greater flexibility."
- This to me was the heart of D&D Next, the lesson coming from 4e Essentials, which demonstrated that you could change between AEDU and... AU, without making the two choices unbalanced, possibly demonstrating that a lot more differences could have been put into classes without losing balance.

Where is this design philosophy now?
I saw it here and there, for example with Signature spells (which are apparently going away), and the fact you can choose Combat Styles or Rogue Schemes, or you can make your own. But i this latter case, there's absolutely no difference. I don't want mechanical reward or disadvantage for complexity/choices, at all, but for example, they could have made the really basic form of the classes devoid of it, adding just fixed numbers or "pseudo maneuvers", showing that you can change the whole thing into the expertise dice mechanic and it's the same class, but with more complexity. A bad example maybe (too much difference), but something similar could have been achieved (a fixed default style/scheme embedded into the class for example).

Anyway, these are just small things. The philosophy entails much more, both in the simplicity direction and the complexity direction. 
Eventually, one should be able to play a "very simple wizard" (perhaps in the form of a re-flavored Sorcerer/Elementalist..?) or a "very complex fighter", in the same game.

I hope I'll be able to "remind" the developers of this philosophy with some feedback, because to have this "optional complexity/simplicity", the system must be tailored to support the whole thing.