Monday, January 30, 2012

D&D Experience: Reimagining Skills and Ability Scores

The final D&D Experience seminar previewing game mechanics for D&D Next is called “Reimagining Skills and Ability Scores”. Along with the major changes to ability scores and the brand-new, open-ended skill system, there is talk about other topics, including equipment, themes, and the use of battle maps.

Ability Scores

  • When characters reach certain ability scores, they can automatically succeed at some checks without need to roll. This can vary depending on being in or out of combat or stressful situation.
  • Races change ability scores (both with bonuses and penalties!). Likely a +1 bonus to a single stat.
  • Classes give ability bonuses. Also looks like they will use a +1 to a single stat.
  • By default, abilities are generated by rolling! Roll 4d6, choose 3 highest.
  • Point buy generation will also be included as an option.
  • They want to have ability-boosting magic items (like Gauntlets of Ogre Power). There is talk of capping how much they can increase ability scores, though.
  • Ability scores will not increase as much [as in 4E] as you level up.

Saving throws

  • Saving throws are now directly associated with ability scores - the game now has six types of saving throws, rather than three defenses (Fortitude, Reflex, Will).
  • These six saving throws plus AC should make up all of a character’s defensive stats.
  • As an example, Charisma saves vs fear and charm.
  • If you justify it and provide a good description, you can use a different ability for a save.


  • The main means of interaction is the ability roll.
  • Skills are basically modifiers to ability rolls.
  • You may still be trained in a skill, and gain specific bonuses (e.g. moving faster while using stealth).
  • Since skills are now secondary, they can afford to include niche skills. Skills as flavorful options, rather than something with a lot of mechanical importance.
  • Skills are a module that can be ignored (in favor of just using ability scores).
  • There is mention of “open-ended” skills. This likely means that the game doesn’t actually have a closed skill list. Classes, themes and other options can add as many new skills as the designers feel like.
  • There is a bonus called “advantage” that a DM can provide for players giving good descriptions. This should be the non-combat equivalent for “combat advantage”, in 4E.
  • Skill challenges were considered a failure. They are not coming back.


  • The standard coin will be silver, rather than gold.
  • Some mundane gear will be out of reach for lower level characters. No plate mail at first level.
  • Implements are still in the game, including non-magical ones.
  • Weapons can have different damage and accuracy. Weapon damage types (slashing, piercing, bludgeoning) are being considered.


  • In addition to race and class, characters can pick a theme, representing their background before they go adventuring. The same basic concept as 4E themes.
  • Theme examples they mentioned include potion-maker, blacksmith, commoner, noble, knight, apprentice, planetouched.
  • Themes can also be used to replace niche classes from previous editions. For example, Avenger will be a theme.
  • They are also considering themes for certain races, like deva.
  • No theme is restricted to specific classes.
  • Themes are an optional module.

Battle map

  • The use of a battle map is included as an optional module in the initial book: the “tactical rules module”.
  • Character options specifically useful with a battle map (such as abilities that push enemies) will be flagged for convenience. They will still be usable even without that module.


  • Adventure preparation time will be quick, 4E style. Monsters use different rules as PCs, can be built in 5 minutes.
  • They seem to be looking for a middle point for lethality - not as much as earlier editions, but more than 4E.


  1. This really sounds like they are fleeing back towards 3.5 and abandoning 4e. Saving throws instead of static NADs? Racial penalties to abilities? I think these are cases of throwing the 4e baby out with its bathwater.

  2. 90% of this is terrible, but I think they're finally making some headway with skills. Oiy vey. One step forwards, two steps back.