Thursday, July 17, 2008

DMG - Updates

This isn't a chapter in the Dungeon Master's Guide, but a file that Wizards maintains and should be checked regularly.

Usually these update files correct small overlooked errors, such as the Warlord NPC getting martial ranged proficiency instead of simple ranged proficiency, or the [Healing] keyword being left off of The Invulnerable Coat of Arnd. Okay, no one is perfect, and these little errors being fixed ensure that they don't end up as stupid Ask Wizards questions. But this latest set of changes is more than that. It's much bigger than a missing word, or the wrong bonus type.

The DCs on actions and skill checks got completely changed. Now everything is easier to do, from 3 to 12 points easier. This is not a little change -- a change on one point here and there would represent a slight rebalancing at this level or this difficulty. But this is significant. This is ... I'm speechless.

Well, you wish. But really, this is almost absurd. If you have the Dungeon Master's Guide, follow along with me: turn to page 42. That chart at the bottom there, with all sorts of DCs for various difficulty types and various level ranges. See the DC10 for a level 1-3 Easy check? Change that to a 5. That's right, it's now "five easier" to do. That's not a fine-tuning, that's a complete rebalancing of the check system.

See the bottom of the chart, where it says "For skill checks: Increase DCs by 5"? That has been completely removed. So now that level 1-3 Easy skill check has gone from DC15 to DC5. In fact, if you go to page 61, where the skill check table is, you can see changes throughout that, too. Level 28-30 Easy check goes from DC30 to DC19. An eleven point drop. And diseases, also something that carries a DC, also got affected, usually by 6 or more.

The Player's Handbook also came out with some updates, that I haven't gone through yet (my PHB isn't at-hand), but paging through the update file doesn't spring any changes to the calculation of DC checks, so it's not like they've just lowered all of the values across the board -- you roll the same and add the same bonuses, and things have just become easier.

Now, I'm sure there are players rejoicing about this, and it could very well be that this is a required change -- we haven't done many checks in our campaign as of yet, having only dealt with conversation and combat so far. And if that's the case - if things were too hard - then I'm all for these changes. But how on earth did something like this not get caught in play-testing?

I could see a global lowering by 1 point as something that might slip out of play-testing, revealed once the masses got their hands on the rules. But five points? Ten? Twelve? I really wonder what happened here. They only playtested combat? They have really lucky dice? Perhaps they published some old pre-playtesting numbers?

Or maybe Wizards is really on the DM's side after all, and looking for a Total Party Kill.


Mara Jade said...

u are right, last sunday we played and i`ve discovered that dcs are... terrific... too easy. So i made my own change, making difficult the checks in my mind.

Nombric said...

We've played half a dozen sessions of the new edition with various level baddies... this is what we found - Skill challenges AWESOME and shouldn't be changed.

meanwhile combat is always a looong protracted thing with baddies that do pitiful amounts of damage to us and us doing pitiful amounts of damage to the baddies - there is no sense of drama.

On one occasion the party wizard was surrounded by 2 wraith and a mummy for 5 rounds - he simply ignored it and told everyone to come over when they weren't busy (no sarcasm, he still had 20 HP without being healed by the end...) meanwhile every combat takes over an hour. No drama, no cinematic moments of glory.

To counter balance this we halved the baddies HP and doubled there damage - combat still takes 4-7 round, is dramatic with climaxes and terrible failures - and mistakes and stupidity are punished. All and all a better game.

When such a brute force workaround improves the game there is something awfully wrong. Very little if any high quality playtesting could of been done

Crwth said...

Well I'm definitely looking forward to higher-level combat, then, to see if our group sees the same thing.

Our last session had a bunch of plot exposure, with only one combat, and it wasn't a tough one -- Crwth the Cleric didn't have to heal anyone during combat, but it was our first combat at level two. Perhaps that's why it went a little easier?