Friday, January 31, 2014

D&D Campfire Stories: "That's how it's done!"

The following D&D story was submitted to:
Feel free to submit your story and have it posted here!

D&D 2nd Edition campaign.  I'm the DM for a Ranger who is protecting a wagon carrying an elven noble lady who is going to be trained by the same Wizard mentor that's watching over the party.  They are ambushed on the road by a recurring villain and his trained griffons.  The Wildmage of the party roasts the first griffon, blinding it as well, making it flee.  The ranger stands atop the wagon like "he's got the captain in him" and readies his bow.  The last griffon circles wide, avoiding one shot, then makes a diving charge for the Ranger standing up in the open on top of the wagon.  The griffon is diving hard and fast, initiative is rolled for the new round, and the Ranger wins.  He draws back and plants his arrow into the griffon's face with a critical hit!  At this point, the griffon is seconds away from the charge attack, meaning... it's close, too close.  The griffon takes enough damage that it cannot sustain flight and plows right into the wagon and the Ranger, smashing everything.  Luckily, the elven lady and the Wildmage had retreated elsewhere.
 The Ranger staggered up out of the rubble and ruin of feathers and wood, barely.  Fists raised to the sky, he screamed in victory, and then laughed his face off with the rest of us.  "That's how it's done!"  The party talked later about the difference between tactics and style.

 DM's after-note - that player had no regrets; he loved every crazy, painful second of it.  True role players will role play themselves even if it kills them.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Six Things I HATE About D&D!

So yesterday, Sunday, January 26, 2014, was the unofficial 40th Anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons. And I thought I would celebrate my favorite game by digging up the few things I hate most about it. That’s right, there are a few things/types of players that I dislike regarding my beloved game and I’m about to do some ranting! I can praise D&D 365 days a year, but I only get one 40th Anniversary to bitch! But just before I get going, I want to point out that these gripes have been years in the making and I am not referring to any singular person, adventure, or DM. In effect:  all characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. So, with all of that said, the gloves come off!

To start, I want to look at three types of players that really grind my gears. The first is “the know-it-all”. These are the players who not only know all of the rules forwards and backwards (not necessarily a bad thing) but delight in flaunting it and lording it over the other players and even the DM. These folks love to interrupt storytelling, roleplaying, and even combat with an interjection of rule quotation or “suggestions” on what the PC/DM might be doing incorrectly. Quite frankly, that type of person needs to spend a few minutes in an actual combat situation having the tar beat out of them. As I have said on many occasions and will continue to preach in the future, the rules are secondary to the story. If, as a DM, I want to ignore a rule to make a better scene/adventure/enemy, then I shall do so. I don’t need a referee or a Jiminy Cricket telling me that I’m ignoring or bending a rule. Instead, they should be asking themselves why they feel regurgitating these rules is required? They might be surprised to find out that it has very little to do with playing the game and everything to do with making themselves feel more important. Sometimes the truth hurts.

Another player that irks me is “the chaos machine”.  These players are two sided coins because, for the most part, they are fun, inventive, and very imaginative. But, on the other side, they love to derail adventures and go off on tangents to make DMs cringe. These are the folk that will kill NPCs for fun, leave their fellow PCs high and dry in their time of need, and have a general “what’s in it for me” kind of attitude. I know that sometimes acting that way is a character choice but even the most contrary character has to find a reason to meaningfully contribute to the group from time to time. Otherwise, they wouldn't be with the group in the first place and just having the character leave the party is a lazy choice. Don’t get me wrong, I love tangents and sometimes a little chaos is okay. However, if you feel the need to arrest the spotlight for yourself and your whims on a session by session basis, then perhaps you need a refresher course on what a cooperative game like D&D is all about. Get over yourself!

The last type of player that I would like to speak about is more of a challenge than a distraction. They are the total opposite of “the chaos machine” and who I like to call “the quiet ones”. This player dislikes rocking the boat, is always willing to go along with whatever the group decides, and very rarely has a strong option about anything. While these folk don’t cause any kind of headache for the DM or other players, they do seem to be missing out on some of the fun. I understand that sometimes a character wants to take a backseat and let the others lead the way and I have no problem with that; but when I see the same thing week after week, changes have to be made. However, the DM and the other players must tread carefully in this area. Pushing too hard will have a negative effect, while pushing to lightly will achieve nothing. Instead, dig in for the long haul and slowly put those quiet players in the lead positions from time to time. From my personal experience, if you are patient enough, it will eventually pay off. Sometimes you’ll even create a monster!

Now allow me to switch tracks and talk about some actual game mechanics that make me want to burn my books with gasoline and move to Mars. The first of these is the Opportunity Attack (oh, how I loathe thee). At some point a deviously minded person said, “combat needs to be more complicated” and another wacko (a technical term in my book) said, “let’s add several more ways to make extra attacks in certain situations”. Well this DM, after reading about them and trying them out for a very short period of time said, “Hell No”! I stopped using them in 4th Edition and I have never used them in D&D Next. This has caused some grumbling among players who have powers or abilities that are tied to these bloody things and all I can say is: suck it up. I will not suffer a bad rule to live.   

Another issue I have pertains more to 4th Edition than to Next and that was the uselessness of magical items. Was it just me, or did 4th seem to have a boatload of items that were as useless as a Kobold with no arms? I remember looking at entire pages of items that looked like they came off of the cheap rack at Walmart. +1 for your nature lore check? +1 to any history checks pertaining to your race? +1 to your saving throws on a full moon in the month of January when the lone wolf howls? (Okay, that last one I made up but I’d bet they would have considered it!) Thankfully, D&D Next has gone back to many of the traditional magical items that I know and love from 2nd Edition. When it comes to magical items, I’ll take quality over quantity any day. 

A final issue that I have with the mechanics of the game involves leveling up and the experience charts. Sometimes I feel that too much emphasis and effort is placed on combat and not enough on roleplaying. Each and every creature in the Monster Manual comes with a specific XP value. And yet, when you do the research on XP for roleplaying, you’d think you were getting a palm reading from Madam Whatshername. I know that trying to assign an XP number to every possible roleplaying situation would be like giving every word in the dictionary a scrabble score but a more focused effort needs to be attempted. And that leads me to next week’s topic: my proposal for a more practical roleplaying XP system. Stay tuned!

Is there something about D&D that makes you want to go postal? Leave a comment below!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

D&D Campfire Stories: 11 Foot Pole

The following story comes from my good friend and first DM, Matt Jenkins. You can read about this story as well as many other things at his blog HERE.

"So back in my earlier days of gaming, I ran into this problem as a DM:

Me: As you walk down the second hallway of this dungeon, the Ranger spots the 
        outline of a trap on the floor, it is likely a trapdoor.
Player 1: Describe it to me, I look at it fairly closely. BUT I make sure that I don’t fall
Me: It stretches from wall to wall across the width of the hallway. It extends for about
       10 feet down the length of the hallway. When you take a look under the painted
       canvas that was covering it, you find that it’s a pit filled with slime. Above the
       hole is a metal ‘eye’ bolt set into the ceiling.
Player 3: Come on ‘Player 1′ and ‘Player 2′ we have to go back to town to get
               some supplies.
Player 2 (who is now confused): What do you mean? We have rope and a grapple!
Player 3: Nah, we need an 11 foot pole, I only have a 10 footer. If an 11 footer
               touches the bottom we know it’s 10 foot, not 15 feet. I know that this
               dungeon was laid out in 5 by 5 foot squares.
Player 1: We could just lower the grapple and rope in, and measure how deep it is!
Player 3: Nope, it might be acid under a thin coat of slime that floats on the acid! 
               That way, when we swim across we’ll get burned to death! If we lower the
               rope and grapple in, it’ll melt. Seriously, I want an 11 foot pole. The DM has
               it in for me.

After a little more arguing, the characters head back into town, passing some woodland on the way. I spend a minute or two describing the trip, and how lovely and straight the maple trees are. During the rest of the ‘journey’ back into town, Player 3 continues to rant about how he will outsmart me, the DM, with an 11 foot pole. Once the party is in town, they split up and Player 3 goes off in search of a merchant to buy this 11 foot pole from, with the rest of the characters are waiting for him at the bar.
From what I recall, Players 1 and 2 had a great time at the bar and role played with the local folk. They found out the history of the Dungeon/Cave complex. Player 3 would up spending most of the session looking for his 11 foot pole that he’d out smart me with.


There is a lesson to be learned here."

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Six Most Underrated Spells in D&D

So last week we took a hard look at some very under-appreciated weapons in the D&D armory. This week we are going to look at some equally snubbed spells in our tomes and why they might deserve a second look. Also, to keep things simple and accessible, all of these spells can be found between the tiers of cantrip and third level. They are also in alphabetical order. Let’s get started:

1) Blur (2nd Level Illusion)
                Your image becomes blurred to all that see you and all foes have disadvantage to hit you.
Disadvantage to hit anyone is a big deal. In D&D Next, disadvantage means you must roll your attack twice and take the lower of the two rolls. This can really take the wind out a nasty beast trying to stomp you into jelly. A natural twenty suddenly becomes a fourteen and a “just hit” sixteen becomes a dismal three. You get the picture. This spell far outweighs any suit of armor and should be a cloth-wearing spell caster’s best friend.

2) Dispel Magic (3rd Level Abjuration)
                End a spell on any object, creature, or magical effect. Although the roll to dispel the higher level spells can be intimidating, when it is successful the rewards can be huge. And many players don’t realize just how versatile this spell can be. Most use it for the aspect of ending a spell on an object such as a weapon, door, or chest. However, there are two more very effective uses:  Firstly, it can be directed to do harm on a magically created creature such as a Golem or Elemental (personally, I let it deal out damage at a rate of 1d6 per level of the caster, but you can do as you like). Secondly, and even less known, is the use of Dispel as a counter-spell! That’s right, if you are facing off against a wizard and you hold your action until he/she starts spouting the words of a spell, you can fire up your Dispel Magic and shut em’ down (assuming you pass the roll). This is particularly effective in the higher levels when you can use up your third level spell to cancel out a meteor swarm or some other nasty thing.

3) Goodberry (1st Level Transmutation)
                Up to ten berries in your hand are infused with healing magic and you can eat each one for 1 hit point of healing and they each provide the same nourishment as a full meal. As far as first level healing spells go, this is hands-down the best. Each of these berries are good for a 24 hour period, so memorize this spell multiple times before bed, cast up a storm of thirty or forty berries, have a long-rest, and go into battle the next day will full spell slots and thirty to forty points of healing ready to go. Even better, you can pass them out to anyone in the party and make them the back-up medic(s) for when you are too busy.

4) Heat Metal (2nd Level Transmutation)
                Cause a manufactured metal object to glow red-hot until the start of your next turn. Very few 2nd level spells can deal out the potential damage of this spell. First off it hands out 3d6 points of damage to the target wielding or wearing the metal. The target must then either drop the item or suffer disadvantage to all attack and saving rolls for its next turn. Secondly, the metal object remains hot until the end of the caster’s next turn, so it can then be used to even greater effect. For instance, imagine another PC pushing another foe onto the item after it is dropped, or even into the original target. There’s another 3d6! Repeat this action two or three times and you get an amazing amount of punishment out of such a low level spell.

5) Mage Hand (Conjuration Cantrip)
                Now we come to the most useful cantrip of them all. Mage Hand creates a spectral hand that you can float/fly around up to 25 feet away to open doors, pull levers, press buttons, turn pages, or do almost anything a normal hand could do. If this spell doesn't prevent a trap from going off in your face at least once a dungeon, you are doing it wrong. Combine this spell with a light spell to have a portable torch, or use it as a battle companion (it can pass you or others weapons, potions, items, or even be used as a distraction to foes). Any Wizard that has used this cantrip to its full effect will tell you that a well utilized Mage Hand is worth much more than any fireball.   

6) Rope Trick (2nd Level Transmutation)    
                To fully appreciate and understand the concentrated awesomeness of this spell I offer up the complete description of the spell from the D&D Next Playtest:

“Duration: 1 hour. You touch a length of rope that is up to 50 feet long. One end of the rope then rises into the air until the whole rope hangs perpendicular to the ground. At the upper end of the rope, an invisible entrance opens to an extra-dimensional space that lasts until the spell ends.
The extra-dimensional space can be reached by climbing to the top of the rope. The space holds as many as eight Medium or smaller creatures. The rope can be pulled into the space, making the rope disappear from view outside the space. Creatures in the extra-dimensional space are on another plane of existence. Attacks and spells cannot cross through the entrance into the space, but those in the space can see out of it as if through a 3-foot by 5-foot window centered on the rope. Anything inside the extra-dimensional space drops out when the spell ends.”

After reading that, read it again. It’s okay, I’ll wait…
Welcome back! Isn't that an awesome spell?
If your character ever needs to utter those famous words: “RETREAT!”, this spell will save your butt 99% of the time. Enjoy!

Do you have a spell to add to the list? Make a comment below! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Five Most Underrated Weapons in D&D

This week I wanted to explore five weapons that get very rare use in D&D but deserve better and I hope that I might open your eyes to some new possibilities. Far too often players attempt to make unique and colorful characters only to then reach for a boring short sword or dagger. Why not entertain these odd yet useful options instead:

Image: Wikipedia
1)  The Halberd. With more heads to choose from than a Swiss army knife, extra reach, and a charging bonus, who wouldn’t want to swing one of these bad-boys around. Want a weapon that both slashes and bludgeons? You got it. Why carry around that ten foot pole when you can have a ten foot weapon? And if intimidation is your thing then these weapons were made for you!

In all seriousness, Halberds are very underused in D&D and I think many players would be wise to consider these when choosing their next heavy weapon. They do more damage than either a       battleaxe or longsword and are yet much more practical and lighter than either a greatsword or greataxe. Also, the extra reach of ten feet over the usual five can come in very handy. That being said, they can be a nuisance in tight spaces and do have a tendency to break if not magically protected so they are by no means perfect. However, if you are looking at creating a more dexterous/acrobatic Fighter, paring them with a Halberd can be very fun. Medieval Darth Maul anyone?

Image: Wikipedia
2) The Sickle. I know what you’re thinking…(Really Al? The Sickle?) But take my word for it, I have seen these put to very good use, especially when paired with a length of chain or rope as depicted in the picture. For starters they can be great grappling hooks in a pinch. Use these suckers to climb walls, pull levers from a distance, and swing around a la Tarzan. Use them as throwing weapons and you can pull them right back to you (assuming something doesn't try to pull you!). No rope to tie up that NPC you must interrogate? Use this instead. Need to carve wood? Chip ice? Mountain climb? Harvest wheat? Our operators are standing by!

Sure there might be better bladed weapons out there, but sometimes you want a weapon that can act like a tool and the Sickle is very good in that regard. It might also be important to note that the sickle is labeled a 'simple weapon' in D&D Next and can therefore be used by any class. It is also lighter than most weapons at 2 pounds. It’s only real flaw is the 1d4 damage but that can always be improved via magic, acid, or poison.
I highly recommend this one for Bards and Wizards.                               

Image: Wikipedia
3) The Dart. For the most part I’ve always pictured the dart in D&D as more of the Japanese Shuriken than the modern Pub Dart. Either way, why would you want to equip yourself with such a small and very harmless looking weapon? To begin I’ve got three words for you: poison and acid. Who cares that the dart only does 1d4 damage when you can add acid to the tip for an extra 1d6? Or you could throw on a sleeping poison and go in for the Coup De Grâce!

Also, let’s not forget that these suckers can be concealed almost anywhere (oh my!) and could be invaluable in a captured or arrested scenario. Throw in (pun intended) the facts that darts are finesse weapons in D&D Next (add your Dexterity modifier to damage instead of your Strength modifier) and they also have just as good a range as javelins and these little guys start to show their worth. The chief weakness of the dart lies in recovering them. Finding all of your darts at the end of battle can be near impossible especially if there is water or thick foliage around. If you use these, be prepared to go through a half-dozen or so every fight.      

4) The Garrote. Very few people even know that this weapon exists but in D&D it is essential equipment if you want to be an efficient assassin. Unlike daggers, arrows, bolts, and many other “sneaky” weapons, the garrote not only kills your target but it will also keep them quiet while it works. A simple weapon, light weight, cheap to make, and easy to conceal, it really is a rogue’s dream. That might be the reason why these nasty stranglers have been used by real-world and fictitious mobsters for decades. (Michael Corleone says hello!)  

The obvious deficiencies in this weapon are the facts that: A) it requires a neck; and B) it requires a neck small enough to get the wire/rope around. So, if you’re facing a Beholder you are out of luck my friend. Similarly, you might not quite have the reach to garrote a Hill Giant or Dinosaur. But for your standard small/medium creature you can go nuts!

Image: Wikipedia
5) The Sling. Before the bow and arrow, slings made up the backbone of ranged attacks in ancient armies and there is a reason why. A properly trained person can do some real damage with one of these puppies and their accuracy is more than impressive. In D&D terms, the sling still does the 1d4 damage (which can be supplemented as mentioned before with acid, poison, or magic), just like the dart it is light weight, easy to conceal, and cheap to buy/make. Unlike the dart however, slings can make ammo out of almost anything: rocks, pellets, pieces of metal, marbles, glass shards, small body parts,etc.
Usually the forte of Halflings, slings and staff-slings can easily be the go-to ranged weapon of Rogues, Druids, and Wizards. And here is something else to keep in mind with the sling: it makes an excellent potion/poison/acid delivery system! Imagine using this baby to throw two or three Oils of Impact into a host of monsters or sending a much needed potion of healing flying across a battlefield into the hands of a hurting PC. No other weapon I know can do that.

In conclusion, I don’t expect everyone to rush to their character sheets and make some instant changes. Nor do I recommend that you never reach for the longsword or longbow. However, I do hope I’ve put some ideas into your heads about making your weapon choice with more than just damage in mind. Your weapon is an extension of your character and it deserves just as much attention as your alignment, class, race, or any other aspect. You might find that sacrificing the “cool” weapon for the “practical” one can be an improvement in the long run.           

Monday, January 6, 2014

“Cry Havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!”: Combat for DMs

Part two of my examination of combat focuses on the DM side of things. Many DMs thrive in this area, but others, just like players, dislike it. Why? Well there are many ways that combat can go wrong when you are sitting on the sunny side of the DM screen. Here are three examples that rear their ugly heads often and how I remedy them:

1)                  Combat can get very stale very quickly. This is especially true when the PCs are of lower level. After two or three really good rounds of casting spells and using talents the characters can start to run low on powers and the combat quickly reverts into a boring back-and-forth hack fest. I have two quick fixes for this issue: Firstly, encourage your players to use improvised attacks and give them the freedom to do so. Hitting one orc out of a dozen with your quarterstaff isn't nearly as impressive or useful as spilling a bottle of oil on the floor and watching “orcs on ice”. Secondly, spice up your encounters. Don’t just throw a gaggle of whatever at them without flourish. Make at least one of the foes standout such as leaders, chieftains, or spell casters and give them purposes/motives beyond senseless killing. I personally believe that the minute you up the game of your monsters, the players will pick up on it and do likewise.

2)                  Players can quickly come to view combats as “the goblin fight” or “the skeleton fight”. Don’t let the foes be the end all and be all of the battle. Where you are fighting is almost as important as what you are fighting. Terrain, location, and the circumstances surrounding combat can make a good scene great. When planning encounters, DMs need to remind themselves to spend as much time setting up the scene for the fight as they do the fight itself. Why have the PCs fighting a clan of kobolds in simple forest setting when they could be fighting on the top of a fallen tree that spans a deep ravine?  Or why fight a horde of zombies in an ordinary swamp when you could be fighting them in that same swamp during a lighting storm and the lighting is periodically electrifying the water? Simple changes can lead to epic battles.

3)                  Sometimes PCs will have “big ideas” during combat (I know some of you are nodding right now). These can range from strokes of genius to suicide runs (still nodding). How you improvise to accommodate these improvisations will say a lot about you as a DM. Do you shut them down or do you run with it? I suppose the answer really depends on the situation. My first instinct is to run with it and let the dice do the work. Set a difficulty, look at all of the modifiers, and let lady luck roll. But sometimes an idea is so good you just have to let them have it, rules or no rules. And there are other times when a player is asking for trouble or trying to attempt the impossible. When this happens you will have to walk the tightrope between being merciful and being the demon DM that never lets anyone do anything fun. Don’t let them get away with everything but don’t crush their adventurous spirit. Aim for the “hard but fair” cliché and you’ll do alright.

And speaking of balances, when it comes to combat a DM has to be careful to not give or take away too much power from the PCs. Taking too much can make them feel helpless and weak while giving too much can inflate their egos and make them seem more powerful than they really are. These extremes can be better characterized in the no-win scenario when taking away too much power and the destroy-the-campaign scenario when giving too much.   

I want to point out that smacking the PCs with an unbeatable foe or the no-win scenario is not necessarily a bad thing, it just needs to be done in the proper manner. I have used this tool in the past and the results have ranged from good to horrible. It can be an excellent weapon to humble a party that considers itself invincible but it can also bring low a party already struggling. I think that the key word here should be moderation. Can you present the PCs with an unbeatable foe? Yes. Should it be used to kill the party off? No; maybe one character at the most. Can it be used as a story twist? Yes; but only if the PCs are given a chance to redeem themselves later on. How often should it be used? I’d say once a campaign at the very most and, if you can manage it, perhaps once every other campaign.  

On the other hand, if there is one type of DM that I despise, it is the DM that values their creations over the needs of the PCs and is a power/control freak. In my opinion, the DM exists to give the players the best game/story possible, period. So, when a DM chooses an NPC or a monster over the PCs, things are going sideways. I have seen this happen many times and it serves no one other than the DM. Phrases get thrown around like “mulligan” or “you just screwed up the whole campaign” or even “well, time to roll up new characters”. Almost every DM will do or has done this at one point or another, yours truly included, and it is wrong, wrong, wrong! (Did I mention it’s wrong?)

While the no-win scenario for the PCs should be used sparingly, there should never appear the destroy-the-campaign scenario for the DM. If the DM places the players in a situation where they can ruin everything, is it their fault when they do? That’s like blaming a baby for smashing a vase when you give it the vase to play with. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Remember three vital things to avoid this bottomless pit: 1) Plan ahead for the worst possibility; 2) Bend the rules if you have to; and 3) If something does go wrong, own it and adapt. Chopping the head off an adventure or a whole campaign is not only going to weaken your authority in the eyes of your players but it’s going to create twice as much work for you in the long run. Instead, take a deep breath, step up your game, and make it work.

Finding the sweet spot in combat is no different than finding it in roleplaying. Both depend on quick thinking, inventive and interesting events, and dynamic interactions. When everything is working as it should the battle will flow like a movie and everyone should have a very clear idea of what is going on. But realize that things are not always going to go as you expect and half of the fun of D&D is seeing what does happen in unexpected situations and how things shape around them. Embrace them, conquer your fear or dislike of them, and open yourself to exploring the organized chaos. Being close minded and unyielding is for other games.  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

D&D Next: Races, Classes, and Alignment.

So I asked some folks on Facebook to send me some of their most pressing questions concerning D&D Next. Most of the questions I received centered around three things: Races, Classes, and Alignment. So I will try to answer everyone's questions by drilling down on these three subjects.

Races in this edition are still the usual suspects of Elf, Dwarf, Halfling, and Human; but there are also a set of "less common" races that are optional to use. They include Half-Elf, Drow, Dragonborn, Half-Orc, Gnome, Kender, Tiefling, and Warforged. The first question that pops into some people's heads is "which one has the best natural ability?" Well I'm pleased to say that each race comes with some pretty nifty abilities and none seem to be better/worse than another. I want to make specific mention of the abilities of Humans. For the first time, in my experience anyway, humans have been given a proper racial improvement. In D&D Next they are allowed to increase all of their ability scores by 1 point. This reflects the adaptable and varied nature of human life and gives them a huge boost that balances out the abilities of the other races. In short, playing a human is no longer a liability and that makes them fun to play. I also wish to mention that I have not yet discovered any of the racial abilities that can stack with other abilities and allow players to min/max. I'm sure that they exist, but so far I think the creative Next team have really eliminated as many of them as they were able.

Classes are another kettle of fish. Back on the menu are the standard classes of Fighter, Rogue, Mage, Cleric, Druid, Ranger, Paladin, and Bard. However, along for the ride are two of the fringe classes now made mainstream, Barbarian and Monk. First of all I will admit that despite some efforts some classes do seem to have advantages over others. But I would also like to point out that many of those advantages have been balanced out by some glaring disadvantages in other areas. For example, the Monk class has always been a bit over powered in its offensive power and this edition is no exception. However, the flipside of this advantage is poor armor class and fewer ways for the Monk to defend him/herself. Another example would be the Mage class. Mages, along with most spell casters in this edition, are now able to tap into "cantrip spells". These are small-time spells that do little, but can be used as many times as needed. The trade-off presents itself as fewer "memorized" spells per day. Therefore spells are more plentiful on the whole but not nearly as potent. Similar changes have taken place with every class and many of the "unfair bonuses" have been culled out over the long playtest. The result is as even a playing field as I have ever experienced. That being said, the Barbarians, Monks, and higher level Mages still have a slight edge in combat over the other classes. I'm also pleased to report that Rogues and Bards can be very nasty when played correctly and that's exactly the way I like them.

Finally, let us look at Alignment, and here we find that 2nd Edition is alive and well. Lawful, Good, Neutral, Chaotic, and Evil are all back and in their original combinations. How you wish to put them together is between you, your character, and your DM. For the most part, once selected at the beginning of a campaign, your character's alignment does not change unless something catastrophic happens to you. It is also possible to change your alignment via magical means but most of these changes are only temporary. Interestingly, D&D Next does allow for an optional system, called the Interaction System, to change your feelings/attitudes towards certain PCs or NPCs over the course of a few sessions. For example, under the old rules, it would be almost impossible for a Lawful Good character and a Neutral Evil character to get along. However, using the interaction system, these characters can slowly build a relationship especially when their goals happen to coincide. Although I haven't incorporated this system into any of my games at this time, it's something I want to test out in the future.

I hope that sheds some light on a few questions and I always welcome new ones at: