5e Bounded Accuracy


4th Edition

Scarab Sages

Thoughts on the latest article on "Bounded Accuracy".

I like the idea that low-level challenges remain somewhat challenging, and that low-level characters can take on more difficult challenges through teamwork.
I also like the idea that classes that do get bonuses, like fighters, actually feel more significant.

I don't like the implication of hit point and damage bloat.

I'm also wondering if there is a sort of elegance to the idea, in that if all AC/DC are the same, can a DM eyeball a scenario by just totalling up each sides hit points and damage to see which side is strongest? Eg. Giants vs. Town: How many guards does it take to barely equal the giants?

Your thoughts?

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I'll have to see how it shakes out. In theory, scaling back the number inflation is a decent idea. However, I can see pitfalls with it conflicting with my style of game.

First, I like some numbers going up. If walking a tightrope is tough for a 1st level rogue but a piece of cake for a 10th level rogue, I don't see that as a problem. In fact, I think it's a good display of the character's advancement in a game.

Second, it might mean that I have to spend more time protecting my big bads from low-level spells. I don't want a charm person spell to be very effective against the 20th-level evil wizard who has seized the throne.

Overall, I wouldn't mind if the rate at which the numbers went up decreased, but I think I'd still like to see the numbers go up as characters get better at the things they do.


My suspicion is that we'll eventually see backgrounds and themes making PCs capable of doing things better as they progress, but not at the rapid rate of advancement seen in 3.X or Pathfinder.

It's a constant frustration to adapt adventures that were written for other levels of play in the aforementioned systems for that very reason: if you don't have a very good working knowledge of how skill check DCs scale with level advancement, you often end up making something way too difficult or way too easy when converting, and running them as-is is usually a terrible idea if the party's APL is more than about two levels' deviation from the target.

I'm very happy with this design principle - one more reason to keep playtesting and hoping for the best. I still like what's coming out of D&D Next.


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My general opinion? Win. This is exceptionally appealing to me.

Scarab Sages

Power Word Unzip wrote:
It's a constant frustration to adapt adventures that were written for other levels of play in the aforementioned systems for that very reason: if you don't have a very good working knowledge of how skill check DCs scale with level advancement, you often end up making something way too difficult or way too easy when converting, and running them as-is is usually a terrible idea if the party's APL is more than about two levels' deviation from the target.

Great analysis. That is a really good selling point for 5e. I'd assume modules would still have a recommended level range, but it's much more liberating to be able to take in various levels (or even numbers of PCs, which they have explicitly mentioned as a design concern).


I was looking at 1E the other day, trying to grok out the basic concepts behind the game, and it struck me that saving throws in the old game are self-contained. They aren't affected by the level of the spell-caster or the monsters (although some poisons or effects have a modifer to make them harder or easier).

When a charcater determines his save for a level, that's the roll he has to equal or beat in order to save against that effect. It varies as the character goes up level, but it isn't dependent on an external DC.

The bounded accuracy system sort of reminds me of that, though saves are externally dependent.

I like the bounded accuracy idea, but it remains to be seen how well it will actually work.


Seems like a reasonable idea in theory, but so did many of the ideas being thrown about at 4E's release. I'd have to wait and see actual implementation before making judgment. While it does seem to solve some problems, it could potentially create other problems just as annoying as those that were solved.

EDIT: This is not meant to slam 4E, simply to point out that what they said 4E would be and what it actually ended up being were not entirely the same, and in many areas, quite different.

Scarab Sages

Jerry Wright 307 wrote:

I was looking at 1E the other day, trying to grok out the basic concepts behind the game, and it struck me that saving throws in the old game are self-contained. They aren't affected by the level of the spell-caster or the monsters (although some poisons or effects have a modifer to make them harder or easier).

When a charcater determines his save for a level, that's the roll he has to equal or beat in order to save against that effect. It varies as the character goes up level, but it isn't dependent on an external DC.

The bounded accuracy system sort of reminds me of that, though saves are externally dependent.

I like the bounded accuracy idea, but it remains to be seen how well it will actually work.

They're definitely going for that vibe with the new spell descriptions (which was the old method of delineating saving throws).

The change for 3.0+ was to capture the feel of improvement for spellcasters, which they have suggested will no longer be a goal, so maybe spell DC will not scale as quickly (perhaps you need a feat), or only be based on spell level.

The new argument is that higher-level = more feats/spells, which implements level=based casting, so no need for stacking that with scaling DC and spell effects. I kind of like it, but I would probably miss the old x round/level or 1d6/level mechanics.


I've liked everything that I've been reading about 5th edition, and the play test looked hopeful.

Scarab Sages

Jabborwacky wrote:
I've liked everything that I've been reading about 5th edition, and the play test looked hopeful.

Yeah, I just can't be bothered to agree to the NDA unless I'm involved in an actual group playtest. I'll just absorb information as it is released officially.

The Exchange

I think bounded accuracy goes hand in hand with their goal of emphasizing the differences between characters on the three pillars of combat, interaction and exploration. Anyone can fight, because monster AC doesn't scale with level, but at higher levels the Fighter is the one hitting things reliably. Anyone can try to use skills, but the Rogue is the best for the job if you want to hit the high DCs.

I quite like it. Reminds me of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, where the Fighter was the only class who gained a level-based attack bonus.


sunshadow21 wrote:
Seems like a reasonable idea in theory, but so did many of the ideas being thrown about at 4E's release. I'd have to wait and see actual implementation before making judgment. While it does seem to solve some problems, it could potentially create other problems just as annoying as those that were solved.

Indeed. I'm afraid it's going to turn out like Pathfinder. Lots of marketing speak before the release, a playtest with some momentum...and then nothing. The many known problems aren't fixed, there's a lot of handwaving, and the ruleset is released as broken as it ever was except for some cosmetic minor changes.


Malaclypse wrote:

Indeed. I'm afraid it's going to turn out like Pathfinder. Lots of marketing speak before the release, a playtest with some momentum...and then nothing. The many known problems aren't fixed, there's a lot of handwaving, and the ruleset is released as broken as it ever was except for some cosmetic minor changes.

3.x/PF at least works reasonably well as a whole system, despite the significant flaws in various parts of it. The trouble spots can be ignored or smoothed over for the most and the game can go on. A few spots take some significant house ruling, but I've found that it really doesn't take all that much if you can target them on the spots that truly bother you. The biggest issue I've had honestly has more to do with how it's organized and presented than the actual mechanics. Fix that, and most of the common issues would disappear.

My biggest difficulty with 4E was that the individual subsystems seemed really well done for the most part, but they just didn't seem to mesh well with each other, so the flow and feel of the overall game just wasn't there for me. Maybe it's just because I've never really played consistently with the same DM, but it seemed way to fluky and swingy to me. It looks great on paper, but it really takes the right DM and the right group composition to make it work as intended, whereas with 3.x/PF, you could get by with less than perfect groups just fine.

That's the biggest concern I have with Next as well. They seem to doing a good, or at least decent, job with the individual components, though I'm still a little dubious on their design goals for the classes, but until I can see them working with each other, the individual design doesn't mean a whole lot. 3.x/PF has a lot of crappy to average individual pieces, but they work well enough with each other, the overall product is greater the sum of it's parts. With 4E, I don't know precisely what the issue was, but it just didn't feel like a very well balanced overall system in the end; it just felt like it was too obvious that they forgot that the pieces all had to be able to fit together smoothly. Hopefully, by having the open playtest, they can smooth a lot of those transitions and interactions out, because it does seem like a promising system, at least on paper.


sunshadow21 wrote:
Malaclypse wrote:

Indeed. I'm afraid it's going to turn out like Pathfinder. Lots of marketing speak before the release, a playtest with some momentum...and then nothing. The many known problems aren't fixed, there's a lot of handwaving, and the ruleset is released as broken as it ever was except for some cosmetic minor changes.

3.x/PF at least works reasonably well as a whole system, despite the significant flaws in various parts of it. The trouble spots can be ignored or smoothed over for the most and the game can go on. A few spots take some significant house ruling, but I've found that it really doesn't take all that much if you can target them on the spots that truly bother you. The biggest issue I've had honestly has more to do with how it's organized and presented than the actual mechanics. Fix that, and most of the common issues would disappear.

Interesting. I would like to know more about this. How did you fix the lack of options of higher-level (7+) non-casters?

sunshadow21 wrote:
My biggest difficulty with 4E was that the individual subsystems seemed really well done for the most part, but they just didn't seem to mesh well with each other, so the flow and feel of the overall game just wasn't there for me. Maybe it's just because I've never really played consistently with the same DM, but it seemed way to fluky and swingy to me. It looks great on paper, but it really takes the right DM and the right group composition to make it work as intended, whereas with 3.x/PF, you could get by with less than perfect groups just fine.

I agree, Pathfinder works well for it's target audience. As does 4E.

sunshadow21 wrote:
That's the biggest concern I have with Next as well. They seem to doing a good, or at least decent, job with the individual components, though I'm still a little dubious on their design goals for the classes, but until I can see them working with each other, the individual design doesn't mean a whole lot.

Here, I really disagree. The main problem in 4E was that without house rules or with a bad DM, it can become a grind.

And for 5e, they want to use hit points as main scaling mechanic? No monster that is not a deity, dragon or tarrasque should have 100+ hit points when the average damage of a character is something around 10-20. Two average hits should kill anything but a Solo monster.

That's also what I really like about 3.5 - a level 1 orc has 5hp.

The Exchange

Arguably, a lot of 3.5's perceived problems weren't fixed with Pathfinder because they weren't seen as problems by the target audience. I think it's clear that Malaclypse wasn't in the target audience.

I'm personally of the opinion that Pathfinder implemented too few fixes towards perceived problems, while 4e went a bit overboard with them, fundamentally changing the entire game in the process. Then again, 3e already implemented a number of huge changes, meaning that it doesn't have much in the way of a shared language with previous editions.

I'm still hoping that Next will hit the sweet spot of 4e's balance and 3e's versatility/feel, but without those games' level of complexity. That'd be a version of D&D I would love to play.

EDIT: And just so this stays relevant to the topic, most of my problems with those games have to do with the math. 3e's Math is very inconsistent while in 4e it is consistent but to the point that constantly increasing bonuses and DCs make it seem like you're on a treadmill.


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Ratpick wrote:
I'm personally of the opinion that Pathfinder implemented too few fixes towards perceived problems, while 4e went a bit overboard with them, fundamentally changing the entire game in the process.

I pretty much agree with you (here and elsewhere). My view of this snippet is that, although each was perceived in a negative light by some, this difference is a good thing. I dont really understand the drive to declare one's preferred game the best - I've been glad D&D and PF are different and I hope D&D remains so.


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I actually think the biggest fix 3.5/PF needs a complete reorganization of the material. Most of the complexity comes from the fact that no one really knows where to find half the relevant information for any given thing. There are a few other issues as well, but most of them are really play style related, and not going to be fixed without completely changing the system. I agree that if Next can hit that sweet spot between it's two predecessors, it will be great; that's a hard thing to hit, however, and it could very easily miss. We'll just have to wait and see how it goes.

Malaclypse, I've only implemented two major house rules; I debated on others, but so far, these two seem to cover what I need. If I need to implement others as the campaign reaches higher levels, I will, but for now, I'm satisfied. The biggest one is changing the allocation of skill points. Instead of being strictly base + INT for all skills, its base (1 or 2, based on class) + (or -, as the case may be) the relevant attribute for any related skills and/or action points, the other major house rule I have. It gives more skill points, keeping more skills relevant for more characters, but also forces specialists to be actually be specialized. I've found this allows each character to develop, and fill, their own desired role more effectively while not stepping on each others toes. Action points, with a base amount/level + any allocated from skill points, help this further by giving folks more options. The exact list of options is still growing, but the list I currently have covers the most common concerns.

Beyond that, it's simply taking the time to read the book and piece everything together; it takes a while, but it can be done. I particularly like the environment section of the book, especially the weather effects, and the circumstance bonus. Put that together with playing the world and npcs reasonably believably, and varying the encounters up sufficiently, and magic is still useful, but not so overpowering that the mundane options become meaningless. Fly is great, but not in a thunderstorm with high winds or when the person flying is above the forest canopy and the battle is below. Teleport and Scry are great, but even Greater Teleport requires a decent amount of detail to work as intended. Just because the metropolis is large enough to have a mage that can give the party wizard that nifty level 9 spell doesn't mean that he's openly advertising his presence or selling his services. Same with any spell, especially those spells that may be deemed questionable or flat out illegal. Ditto for the market in general; not everything is going to be found in equal abundance everywhere, and while most of the time, it's not worth worrying about at low levels, higher level stuff is going to be rarer and therefore require a bit of legwork and old fashioned shopping around to find. On the skill side, having a diplomacy of +40 doesn't help much if the character is a dwarf, and the merchant despises dwarves to the point where he can barely keep from tying to kill the character, whereas he is more than willing to deal with the halfling with a -2.

The key is to keep the scenarios believable and varied, and this is true of all systems really. I just personally find it easier to do with PF because I already have a general outline to work with rather than having to make everything up myself.


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Ratpick wrote:
...in 4e it is consistent but to the point that constantly increasing bonuses and DCs make it seem like you're on a treadmill.

And to single this one out - we've just neared the end of E3 having played through them all from the beginning (with two TPKs). Whereas the "all classes are the same" cry always seemed wrong to me. I have felt that all levels have been "the same but more". We're now 29th level and we're still fighting the same number of minions, solos, brutes, etcetera. The battles feel very similar to how they always have - we're just in a crystalline fortress in the middle of the elemental chaos rather than in a kobold lair.

I've only just got there, but one criticism I'd make of 4E is that the epic tier doesnt feel qualitatively different from the others - the difference is quantitative.

I'm not really good at game theory, but I suspect this ties in somehow with the OP.


Ratpick wrote:
EDIT: And just so this stays relevant to the topic, most of my problems with those games have to do with the math. 3e's Math is very inconsistent while in 4e it is consistent but to the point that constantly increasing bonuses and DCs make it seem like you're on a treadmill.

IF they can keep the overall feel of 3.x/PF, but simplify the math, that would certainly help, although the math in the core system isn't that bad once you fully understand what the needed math is. It's when the splat books hit with poor oversight that the explosion of different types of modifiers really took off and the system lost control. But that happened with 4E as well, just with different systems, so perhaps the lesson isn't so much simplify the math as it is control both the quality and the quantity of the bloat. Paizo seems to do pretty well, though there were part of UC and UM that probably could have been better. WotC has never done this well, in anything they do. 3.x, 4E, even Magic, all of their products seem to fall prey to this eventually, which is one reason why I'm happy with PF. There is some bloat, but that is to be expected, and it sounds like Paizo was simply trying to front load the player options books so that they could actually be used and tested, and plan on shifting gears to other aspects of the game for a while.


Malaclypse wrote:

Here, I really disagree. The main problem in 4E was that without house rules or with a bad DM, it can become a grind.

And for 5e, they want to use hit points as main scaling mechanic? No monster that is not a deity, dragon or tarrasque should have 100+ hit points when the average damage of a character is something around 10-20. Two average hits should kill anything but a Solo monster.

Hit points (or hit dice, which is what it really is) as a main scaling mechanic is classic D&D. As for non-solo monsters who go down with two average hits... you've been spoiled by the "minion" mindset of 4E. Only monsters like kobolds and goblins are that weak.

The Exchange

Steve Geddes wrote:
Ratpick wrote:
I'm personally of the opinion that Pathfinder implemented too few fixes towards perceived problems, while 4e went a bit overboard with them, fundamentally changing the entire game in the process.
I pretty much agree with you (here and elsewhere). My view of this snippet is that, although each was perceived in a negative light by some, this difference is a good thing. I dont really understand the drive to declare one's preferred game the best - I've been glad D&D and PF are different and I hope D&D remains so.

Yeah, I'm in total agreement: while I think that Paizo could've pushed the envelope a bit more with Pathfinder, it's still a good game and the small changes amount to a vast impovement on 3.5. I'm okay with Pathfinder as is and I understand that they chose not to address many of the perceived problems of 3.5 because by and large their customers were okay with them.

I have no illusions about there ever being a version of D&D that is 100% to my tastes, unless I decide to make my on fantasy heartbreaker, but at the moment Labyrinth Lord is close enough for me and Next looks like it might be a formidable alternative.

And yes, beyond expressing one's opinion and preference in polite terms, I don't see any reason to s~%~ on other people's preferred version of Elves and Wizards Kill Things and Take Their Stuff: The Game.


Inspired by the playtest, I fully intend to "de-complicate" Pathfinder and run an old-school version of it this fall.

I'll remove any feats or abilities that pump up damage or add extra attacks, limit the numbers of attacks to a maximum of four at 20th level (even for monks), and eliminate the whole notion of channeling energy for divine types (except for the purposes of turn/command undead).

Additionally, to deal with spellcaster power creep, I'll change dice of damage for scaled spells to d4s instead of d6s and d6s instead of d8s.

And attacks of opportunity are no more, except for a new maneuver called "Cover Area", which will allow a combatant to ready an action to attack anyone who enters an area he is controlling. With Combat Reflexes, he can get attacks versus multiple opponents.

And criticals will be limited to natural 20 only, with no confirmation, max damage instead of multiple.


Jerry Wright 307 wrote:
Inspired by the playtest, I fully intend to "de-complicate" Pathfinder and run an old-school version of it this fall.

Anyone else considered something similar.

I'm loving the bounded accuracy idea as it lets you fight proper monsters at low level.
How would reducing monster AC and AB and player BAB break pathfinder? Ideas?


I like it. Well done WoTC.

I hope it translates into the actual game well but it sounds promising. I don't have a problem with the escalating hit points. Based on the article everything makes sense to me, is simple, and sounds like it works well.


I like the idea. We'll see how the execution goes.
4E had a lot of design goals that excited me, but the game itself never did.

Ken


Lol with bounded accuracy Drizzts stats will look broken over powered! Hahaha INCONCEIVABLE!


Its ok Drizzit can just pt.b his stats up and skip feats so he will be awesome anyway!

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