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d20r Design Goals

For the d20 Rebirth system, headed by Fax Celestis

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d20r Design Goals

Postby Fax » Mon Nov 22, 2010 3:45 pm

General Design Goals:
  • Eliminate Linear Fighters, Quadratic Wizards: all classes should progress at approximately the same rate.
    • To counteract this, all classes have progressing class features. Most classes that were previously 'quadratic' (ie: Tier 1 and 2) have been reduced somewhat in their access to the abilities that made them powerful. Clerics, for instance, have had their spell lists restricted thematically and determined by their deity of choice instead of having blanket access to their entire spell list.
  • Classes should fit as close to tier 3 as possible.
    • Due to this, there is a large number of base classes. I'm okay with this.
  • Material should be as clear as possible, to cut down on loopholes and to prevent arguments. Consistency from game table to game table is key.
    • Related to this, clarity is a major concern specifically because relying on 'common sense' is a bad balancing mechanism. "Common sense" was needed to balance the 3.5 game, and it did not come out very balanced. If the rules are clear and balanced, there is no need to alter them unless one is going for a specific effect.
  • Material should be easy to use: time spent finagling with your character sheet takes away from time spent actually playing the game.
    • Vancian spellcasting has been largely removed specifically because of this as well. Expediency is important: spontaneous casters, in addition to being easier to balance, are quicker at the game table.
  • Classes should have augmentable abilities (selectable abilities gained by level), so as to both differentiate two members of a class from another and to allow for easy later expansion.
    • This is, in my estimation, one of the biggest reasons for the Linear Fighters, Quadratic Wizards problem. A barbarian, for instance, had no options (aside from late-introduced Alternate Class Features) to differentiate one barbarian from another. In comparison, every wizard was different due to his spells known, spells prepared, familiar chosen, and bonus feats selected. It also allows for a post-publication patch system: it is very easy to alter, remove, or add 'plug in abilities' (augmentable abilities): see how 3.5 listed new spells and feats in nearly every supplement, but had very little in the way of alternate class features. By giving every class its own augmentable abilities, all classes can benefit from supplemental material. Further, prestige classes can grant effective levels to more than just spellcasting with this setup.
    • To counteract the LFQW problem within this mechanism, while all classes have augmentable abilities, very few of them have unlimited access to their entire augmentable ability options. Every class must make choices.
  • Monsters should be dangerous and not immediately identifiable.
    • Or at least, exceptional monsters shouldn't be immediately identifiable.
  • Feats should be worth taking at any level, and should grow as the user levels.
    • This is the main reason for the introduction of prowess: in this fashion, characters can differentiate between each other even if they select the same class and the same exact feats by focusing on specific feats. Further the introduction of prowess also allows for functioning Style feats and lets me make feats that were--in 3.5--"not worth it" into more than feat-tax prerequisites.
  • Equipment should augment and strengthen your features, should be readily available, and play a support role.
    • The "Hat Rack Effect" prevalent in 3.5 (and even in 2e) is something I want to downplay. Further, the concept of trading in a sword for a bigger and better one feels too JRPG for a serious tabletop RPG, so I want to create a series for items that grow with your character. Weapons of Legacy provides a system that is close, but has a lot of flaws within it (such as a heavy reliance upon emulating other items or spells, or afflicting a wielder of a legendary weapon with an attack roll penalty).
    • Death should be more damaging than item loss.

Principles when designing material:
  • Every class should be very good at its intended purpose, and be capable--but not dominating--in other purposes.
  • Every class should have an augmentable/expandable feature (like a wizard's spellcasting). Base classes should never be restricted to an option-less set of features.
  • Every class should have something it can do that no one else can do.
  • Every race should have at least one increasing level-based mechanic, so that race remains relevant throughout your career.
  • Negative levels are a shitty mechanic. Diseases and poisons have shitty mechanics.

Basic assumptions made about the game:
  • Natural attacks, spell-like abilities, and spell resistance are not worth level adjustment.
  • Level adjustment is a bad mechanic, and has been replaced with level progressions.
  • Part of the problem with 3.5 is that certain classes are infinitely expandable without alternate class features (spellcasters, particularly those that know their entire lists), while other classes are not (like the monk).
  • Look-up tables and roll/check/roll/check mechanics (like turn undead) should not exist.
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