Friday, June 20, 2014

Breaking down the DnD 5e Fighter

Mike Mearls tweeted this image of the D&D 5e fighter sheet from the Starter Set.

Here we have the attributes. The standard array of Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, and Cha arranged in the new style with Physical attributes first and Metal attributes section. They chose to emphasize the bonuses as opposed to the original number. With the primary resolution system being d20 roll high versus target that is not surprising. However I would given equal footing to the raw attribute. While the bonus is what we use, the raw attribute is what we use to evaluate at a glance. +4 strength? Mmm OK. 18 strength, yeah now we are talking. Good or bad the 3 to 18 scale is entrenched in the DnD hobby. But I have to stress this is a presentation issue only. You still roll 3d6 (or your choice) and the raw number is not really used only the bonus.

Name block, looks like standard stuff except for the addition of background. More on that in a second.


Character information. With this in combination with backgrounds, 5e has more explicit support for roleplaying. I have no issue with this and feel that a minimal approach probably works better than the blank page approach of 4e or ODnD. We see that the noble background plays into the some of the information boxes particularly the flaw.


The two combat boxes. Looks pretty standard for DnD except for the Death saves. I believe if you go below zero you start making a Constitution save a round. Three successes means you stablized, three failures means you die. Makes for a mini game out of dying. Imagine the tension when after making two successful saves you start rolling failures or vice versa. Weapons are about your bonus and your damage which again is pretty much standard.


Abilities, at first level this fighter gets Second Wind, Fighting Style, and Position of Privilege. The first two are probably from his class and the last is a result of his background. The mechanics of Second Wind are the same as 4e's encounter powers but I like how they write it up here. It definitely sounds more natural and logic then the pure game mechanics of 4e. The test will be in what the other abilities that only reset with a rest look like.

Fighting Style (Defense) I think there will be more options in the Player Handbook when it is release. For Basic probably they will preselect everything. With that being said the abilities make sense. This fighter has the training to use his armor gear more effectively.

I like how the background gives a minor ability that is full of flavor and hooks for adventures.


The proficiency bonus this is probably the single most important number in DnD 5e. From the playtest every class has the same number. It is used for your attack bonus, saving throw bonus, and skill bonus. In short anything that your character is good at or rather proficient at will get to add this number in addition to the relevant attribute bonus.

This also mean that a Wizard swinging a staff and a fighter with a Greatsword will have the exact same chance to hit regardless of level. In this respect it is like ODnD particularly at low levels. It may lead to some blandness as well. In my Majestic Wilderlands supplements I have fixed progression for each class that has MW abilities (i.e. skills). I tweaked them to what I thought best for the case. So a 4th level Burglar with stealth may not be the sames as a 4th level Claw of Kalis with stealth but both are better than Mr. Fighter who can only use his dex bonus with stealth.

In the Player Handbook and the DMG there may be options to allow specific bonuses for skills based on a feat or background. We will have the see. Right now it looks like for 5e Basic if two characters are proficient in stealth they will have equal chance of succeeding at the same level and same dex regardless of class.


The six saving throw tied to attribute seems overly fussy to me. I would opted for Will, Reflex, and Fortitude of 3e myself or even the single save with modifiers of Swords and Wizardry. But it is not a deal breaker as long as how to use it is clear and understandable.


Click on the above image, look at it carefully, notice how EVERY skill is filled out. Yup just like what Matt Finch recommended in the Old School Primer, and what I implemented for abilities in the Majestic Wilderlands supplement; Any character can attempt any skill just some are better at some skills than others. The way 5e appears to handle better is by marking it as the characters being proficient in the skill. Thus allowing the character to add his proficiency bonus to the normal attribute bonus.

This wraps it up for the front half and in the next post we will look at the second page.

10 comments:

Hedgehobbit said...

I do like how the raw attribute numbers are ignored. I've been playing Basic that way and it makes more sense. However, I hate attribute based saves.

Harvicus said...

Love your breakdown and pretty much agree with what you said. One thing I wanted to point out though, is that the Fighter will likely have a higher STR score than the wizard, giving a better chance to hit, even though each has the same prof. bonus.

In addition, each character gets a chance to boost their abilities every (3?) levels, and the Fighter is much more likely to increase STR than a wizard, widening the gap more.

And that is not counting class abilities, of which the Fighter's will grant more combat prowess.

And I agree with Hedgehobbit, ever since recently playing with my son and his initial confusion of what number to use when asked to make a DEX check, I think the raw score should be in the background, as its only purpose is to generate the bonus itself.

Jeremy Murphy said...

In practice, the attribute-based saves are incredibly easy to use. As a DM, you can make up anything on the fly and just ask for a "Dex save" or "Wisdom save". It it 1000X better than Saving Throws, or 3e saves, because it ties everything back to the core mechanics and doesn't use tons of derived stats.

Easy to use, easy to remember, easy to improvise.

Dwayne Gillingham said...

Nice break down Rob.

Akhier the Dragon Hearted said...

If the attributes all have the same bonus progression as it has been for a bit now then I see no reason to even have the 'original' score period. Big numbers can be impressive but when a number only matters at even amounts then the bigger number is just a obfuscation of what matters. In 3.5 the only time the actual number when even mattered was for those few feats that need a 13 or some other odd number.

jdh417 said...

On the one hand, this seems like a refinement and updating of classic D&D rules.

On the other, that alone doesn't make it any better than anybody's house rules or any other official iteration of the rules.

Gamers rejected 4e for being too different. Will they toss out their current systems for a new one that's just a tweaked version of what they already have?

I think WOTC is going to need something beyond the just the new rules to make 5e a big success. Giving away the basics won't be enough.

Rob S said...

The dex penalty seemingly not applying to your AC if you wear heavy armour is the thing that's confusing me. I don't think ignoring dex penalties to AC has ever been part of D&D.

Thiles Targon said...

Having all proficiencies be the same seems kind of odd to me, especially for combat. The fighters may have better strength, but the base proficiency is saying wizards and fighter know the same amount about combat (I’m kind of surprised wizards are proficient with combat). It would maybe be more complicated than it is worth, but you would think there would be primary and secondary proficiencies, so there could be at least some different level of proficiencies.

Alan De Smet said...

(This is based on running the playtest and checking the final playtest release from last fall. Obviously things may have changed.)

Which skills you're allow to select as being proficient in and how many you get vary by class. Backgrounds add additional skill proficiencies. Classes can offer additional bonuses (quickly checking, the only one I can find is the rogue, who gets +5(!) to four skills, making them king of skills).

A bunch of rolls can be modified by advantage / disadvantage. When you have advantage, you roll 2d20 and take the higher; with disadvantage take the lower. It's a big boost. Each class has different options that gain advantage or force disadvantage onto foes.

The Fighter going toe-to-toe with a Wizard in melee combat has a few advantages: They have a larger bonus from Strength. They'll get multiple attacks per round (starting at level 5). They can use more effective weapons (the Wizard can as well, but their proficiency modifier disappears). They'll pick from a variety of options that boost their effectiveness in a different ways, several increase damage. At least one grants advantage relatively often (eyeballing it, a fighter will probably get it every other round in practice).

Arguably it's a bit wonky from a "what does it mean" point of view, but in practice, it's not a big deal. The Wizard is not going to be as effective in weapon-based combat as the Fighter (or pretty much anyone else).

To an extent, the "Wizard has the same weapon proficiency modifier" is a side effect of the decision to flatten the modifiers. One of the goals is stop the AC/To-Hit race that quickly causes low level monsters to become meaningless threats to PCs, and causes non-Fighters to largely give up on combat. The Wizard isn't going to want to use a weapon, but if pressed a 20th level wizard armed with a crossbow fighting a dragon can get a few, small licks in. (He will then be squished flat.)

Attribute based saving throws are pretty clean. I've never had a problem deciding what attribute is appropriate. Constitution, Dexterity, and Wisdom get used a lot as they're basically Fortitude, Reflex, and Will. Strength get some good use as well (Resist being forced back, grab onto a ledge as you're falling). I'll admit that Intelligence and Charisma don't really get much love; the guidance in the playtest rules give reasonable uses, but they're very specialized. Again, classes and races often modify specific checks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dwarves have advantage on saves against poison. High level Fighters just get a +2 to all saves from their front-line combat experience.

Rob S: Are you talking about the Dexterity modifier of -1 not be factored into the AC? That is odd. I'm thinking/hoping it's a mistake. I suspect the sheet came out of Codename Morningstar (http://www.codenamemorningstar.com/ ) and it's possible the calculation is wrong. Light armor always adds your Dex modifier. Medium armor always adds your Dex modifier but limits it to +2. Heavy armor as written doesn't add your Dex modifier at all, but I wonder if that's intended to only apply to positive Dex. Or maybe the logic is that you're stomping around in heavy armor and your Dexterity is no longer relevant so long as you can keep from falling down. I have no idea.

Thiles Targon said...

@Alan - Thanks for all the insights into the new rules!
I have not really seen the rules (I looked through them very briefly in play test) so I don’t know how it all fits together, which is very important, but…
I sort of assumed with other bonuses the proficiency thing would be kind of invisible, but it will still bug me, but that is my problem.
I have seen few people give up on combat, and normally the difference is all the stacked bonuses from feats, items etc and not so much BAB that made the difference in 3.x other than perhaps at very high levels (18th +). I think the + to hit gets way out of hand in 3.x. Around 12th level you can just subtract 10 from everyone’s to hit numbers and AC to make the math easier. It’s one of the things that drove me to the OSR. Armor is essentially no indication of someone’s AC (at lower levels it’s more an indication of their dex, everyone starts out with 18ish AC (not the wizard), “he has a chain shirt, bet his dex is 18, breast plate must be 12, ohh leather, he must have a really high dex”). I like the idea of bounded accuracy, I think they could have just divided the BAB by 2 or 3, but kept the class differences, but as I said that may not fit in the rest of the system.
I think someone with 18 dex in full plate would still dodge/parry better than someone with a 10 dex. I don’t like max dex for armor, pathfinder is at least tolerable allowing fighters to ignore it as they level. The loss to dex is already figured into the AC bonus of the armor. There is a difference between skirmish fighting and formation fighting, but generally armor is good, more armor is better, until tech advances make it otherwise, then everyone stops wearing it.