Monday, May 21, 2012

The D&D Next Cleric & On Call Healing

So I'm  reading, and thinking hey, this is a pretty good idea overall. But then I get to this,
"We want to make the cleric as optional for a group as a fighter, wizard, or rogue. ... First, it's worth noting why we want to reduce the party's reliance on healing magic."
*DoH!* Forehead slap ...
I mean why change a basic assumption of the game? Namely that Clerics heal. That foundational assumption says so much about the nature and quality of what D&D IS. I mean if we rely on Clerics to heal that automatically brings the Gods and divine magic as central to the game. It establishes that D&D is a game where divine magic is central to the system. 
So I write my brother and he calmed me down a bit, by responding,
"I read this article this morning, too. And like you, I loved the first 3/4 of it and then out of nowhere Mearls talks about clerics as an option to the game! What?! 
Then I re-read the article. On second glance, it doesn't seem that Mearls wants to take divine healing out of the game, just make the specific class of cleric less vital to a parties' success. It makes sense to me from a 4e stand point; a party doesn't have to have a bonified cleric, but they do need someone to fill the leader role.
So, thinking about it from a simple game logistics perspective, I can see the concept being a redeeming quality of 5e. In the past three weeks I've DMd and PCd in campaigns where the cleric was absent from the session and it sucked. My ex-barbarian turned knight almost died twice. And DMing a group in an encounter which I built four days earlier PLANNING on the party having a healer and then changing things in-game is a headache to say the least.
That said, I don't understand how hit dice are going to solve this for 5e. While I can see Mearls point I'm not even sure what he means by hit it doesn't jive with my current concept of the term. But, it doesn't seem like he wants to take divine healing out of the game, just the requirement to have a cleric. It makes sense that he doesn't want ONE class to handicap the game, a problem which he says he cures with "hit dice?" I don't even know what he's talking about. Do you? Maybe you can explain."
To which I responded:
Yeah, to me I think he's talking about hit die meaning how many times you have rolled for HP with your PC. In other words let's say you are 4th level fighter. You would have 4 hit die. An 8 Hit Die monster would roll 8d8 for hp.
I'm not exactly sure, b/c he isn't really clear--but it seems like you will heal from wounds--maybe up to half your HP according to your hit die. So your fourth level fighter may heal overnight or with a prolonged rest  by 4 hp (since you have 4 hit die) or maybe you get to roll 4d10 to see how much you heal with a rest. It also sounds like he may be thinking about making healing more difficult for the bottom half of your hp--as that represents more serious damage. And maybe even longer if you've dropped below zero. To me it's a way of getting around surges with quick healing based on hit die. I don't think most people liked surges.
And I suppose it's okay to try and "balance things out" once again by changing a basic assumption in the game. Yeah D&D was a bit unbalanced and wonky, but that was D&D. It had a certain feel. Look at it this way. Does it make sense that you will be safer physically with a doctor who also happens to be a priest when you go caving in the troll cave? I mean he's gonna make sure you have frequent prayer for divine protection, can heal minor scrapes, handle serious injuries, watch for infection, even give priesthood blessings should he need to. He will also set a spiritual tone for the entire adventure. If he doesn't come, can we make up for that loss? No, not really. I mean we are trained in first aid, CPR and can recognize a cold or flu (maybe) but we are going to be incredibly underprepared without him. Same thing as a cleric.
But my brother had a good point in return, "That's a strong argument, but look at it this way: what if physician-priests weren't the only ones trained in surgery and the proper care of injuries? Or, for that matter, consider endowing other classes with priesthood power beyond the devoted cleric. Classes like the avenger, paladin, and warlord are current 4e classes that have access to such powers. That said, I'm a proponent of the reduction in the number of classes, but even I'll admit introducing variations on the cleric build as stand alone classes (anything that fulfills the leader role in 4e) is an cleaner way to generate a character that would've been strictly classified as a cleric in earlier editions and makes it easier for us as DMs because we don't have to houserule PC backgrounds as often. For example, in 1e you could play a laser cleric or a battle cleric. If you had a player that wanted to basically play a 4e avenger, he'd have to come up with a stellar background and then get it cleared through the DM, requiring several iterations, no doubt. But now you can select a stand alone class that fulfils the leader role and play a "cleric" that's more customized, yet offers the party some of the same "safety" of a traditional cleric, as you are proficient to some extent in temporal and divine healing." 
My brother is great. And his comments made me realize that perhaps I was being a bit narrow minded. I mean take the strength of a system like GURPS and then take a look at what Next seems to be trying to achieve. Customization within the class system that seeks to retain a 2e feel. Mearls himself recently admitted surprise at the fact that 2e has contributed so much to Next. I can see how the idea of themes is developing out of the kits idea into a much more versatile GURPS style customization. Are they "bastardizing the class system" as Gary exclaimed some time ago? That remains to be seen. We'll have to see how the various classes play and if they retain their distinctive identity. 

Which brings me to my brother's last email of the day when I expressed some frustrations at the radical changes WoTC felt compelled to make in what I consider the core of D&D,
"I don't see it quite the same way. I see it as them trying to create a game that is interpreted the same way by a broader audience; to make it a more playable game for more people. I really think they desire to improve the cohesion of the game across dining room tables all over the world. I just haven't seen anything proving or alluding to anything different.

To continue, obviously, there were significant and differing opinions on how to play D&D in the earlier editions. This is much less common with the current edition IMO. I'll support that statement with the absolute NEED for house rules in previous editions, i.e. things were done differently in each game you played. With each edition, additional rules were introduced (I'll admit, with varying levels of success) and the game was (arguably) streamlined -- that was their intent anyway. This sometimes changed the entire system, like when d20 was introduced and sometimes utterly failed like when 3e was updated shortly after its release with 3.5e.

Finally, we have 4e, in which if you are to houserule anything, you'll most likely be going against a stated rule in 4e. For example, the way 4e handles crits and fumbles in 4e is too conservative for me. So, I houserule a more severe penalty in my game. I do the same thing for swimming rules and shifting enemies more than twice your size with a martial power (a very annoying feature of the current fighter class). This is my right as a DM and the DMG says I can do so if I feel like it, but I don't HAVE to."

This has given me a lot to think about, and has continued to help me keep an open mind towards the release of Next. Could indeed old school gamers feel at home once again in a currently supported version of D&D?