Developing D&D’s NEXT 3rd Party

To quote Mr. Burns, I know what I like and I know what I hate, and I don’t hate this. In fact, I’m beginning to love where D&D NEXT is going, a far cry from that initial Friends & Family Playtest I gnawed through earlier this year. I’m not saying there are no more issues. I still don’t understand the resistance to defining standard, move, and minor/swift actions or the notable lack of minion monsters (it may be in the next release), but as for character generation, it’s instilling me some strange feeling not often felt in real life, confidence. That’s confidence in my capacity to create original content for it. Role playing games, like extrasolar planets, can sit in an almost legendary but seldom encountered “Goldilocks zone” where all the conditions are met to sustain life (as we understand it). Similarly, role playing games need to find the right balance between freedom and complexity in order to be accessible to people like me, both as a player and as a developer.

I admit that some systems I thought were overtly obtuse have achieved some measure of success, but my experience has shown, more often than not that an unintuitive system can’t achieve more than cult status, sometimes in spite of its rules and even occasionally because of them. Across the gulf, the same can be said for systems offering too much freedom, where definitions are amorphous and easy to abuse. Some are designed intentionally vague in order for more specific rules to be included later, and this can often work if those gaps are made clear at the beginning. One of the easiest systems to adapt this way was RTG’s/Hero’s FUZION, a ruleset I had bent and twisted to my whim in a half dozen homebrew conversions (still available on my old fanpage). In contrast, GURPS was my nemesis, odd considering what that the acronym stands for. One of the fears I admit still having with D&D Next is that they’re moving too far away from the hard-line definitions which made 4th Edition so easy to write for. I can pump out a balanced 4th Edition book with little strain compared to the occasional nose bleeds I get writing for Pathfinder.

My decision to announce development for D&D NEXT on both DEM’s Facebook and Twitter accounts might shock some, considering there has yet to be an official announcement of 3rd Party licensing or support, but long-time followers will take this more of a confirmation over a revelation. DEM was the first (so goes the claim) 3rd party company to sign onto the GSL after its release (letter went into the mail the day after), and considering the hoopla that emerged from that, it’s doubtful any third party license with D&D NEXT would be worse. I had been asked if DEM has an inside line to the development of D&D NEXT, on whether or not we have access to the future licensing rights.

Like I had said on EnWorld, I’m confident there will be a positive relationship in our future. If the potential liberty equals GSL or better (not even asking for OGL), DEM will commit. No harm with starting now. Considering we hope to transfer Amethyst, Ultramodern, NeuroSpasta and a yet unnamed third setting to NEXT (while still supporting past systems like 4th Ed and Pathfinder), we’ll need to start early. So DEM is proceeding on faith WOTC won’t close off NEXT access to 3rd Party developers. Yes, we believe we’ve read enough to have the confidence to begin writing for the new system, putting the number of editions Amethyst will be released in to four. The real reason why I’ve started initial brainstorming for D&D NEXT is because I couldn’t help but develop ideas, ideas which may or may not be found in the final product. Some are generic while others are very specific to Amethyst.

1) Finesse Weapons. We know that a new mechanic introduced states that certain weapons employ Dexterity instead of Strength for their attack attribute, not requiring a feat to do so. I’m thinking narros (dwarves) wanting to pursue a Dex-based fighter should be able to use heavier weapons as finesse if their Strength is at least 13. Like when Michelle Yeoh wielded that longsword in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

2) Move Attacks. Even though D&DN refuses to introduce move actions, it still doesn’t mean we won’t, like as a class ability. The character can initiate an attack action instead of moving on his turn. This is not considered an action. It would be limited, like being unable to score a critical hit. Perhaps the attack can have no expertise die applied to it as well.

3) Expertise Die. Speaking of expertise die, I believe it would be obvious in assuming future techan classes would all use expertise die. Medics can use them to heal, mechanics to boost technology. Gunslingers get extra attacks while snipers impose sneak attack or status effects. However, the real juice is in the marshal, our leader class. I thought it would be cool for the marshal to have multiple build options for selfish or selfless class abilities. These would include distributing his expertise die to others along with the capacity of boosting the capacity of expertise die in allies. Perhaps even auras where all allies can scale up their expertise die (1d6 to 1d8). I wonder how long before WOTC takes that one as well…yeah, I know, I’ll stop bringing that up. Here’s another idea, imagine not using any expertise die and as a result, adding +1 expertise die to your next round, and then making that cumulative to +4 and then have the stipulation that when you use them, you have to use them all.

4) Wizard Totems. Also reasonable would be pairing wizardry traditions with Amethyst totems, like the book with Academic or weapons with Battle Magic.

5) Limshau Custodians. My favorite subclass in Amethyst will be split into the Limshau background and Custodian specialty. There will be a Librarian specialty as well. There will also be custodian maneuvers like spending an expertise die to move up to half your move speed (this is not disengagement). Custodians will also be able to treat all Limshau weapons as finesse.

6) Races. Like our previous books, we take the formulaic races as a launching pad for our own. They will still be original, but like D&DN, we’ll offer regional differences like Damasian and Limshau damaskans as well as Fargon and Finer narros. However, I’m unwilling to give up variable racial attributes. Limshau damaskans should offer +1 to Int or Dex while Damasian damaskans may offer +1 Wis or +1 Dex.

And that’s just after a day of brainstorming. I wonder what else can be done.


Chris Dias

Chris Tavares Dias is the literary equivalent of that crusty burnt cheese at the bottom of the fondue pot. Some people claim he looks like Mathew Perry. He would like that to be true. It's not. In 2010, Chris co-wrote and created Amethyst Foundations, a 4th Edition setting based on the previous version under 3.5. It has received critical acclaim for integrating science fiction into classical fantasy. In August of this year, Chris was last seen staring at a dead raven that had fallen beside his car. Two months later, his watch and notepad were found in the stomach of a basking shark that had washed ashore off the coast of Florida.