Friday, November 18, 2011

Since Nobody Asked Me...Here's My Type V

Before I give you these totally useless design specs, here's something actually helpful: autogenerator for NPCs with stats done as 3d6 in order.

Now, on with the main event...

How I'd do Type V D&D if I was WOTC. It combines, flexibility, customizability and simplicity in one completely untested, probably fatally flawed package.

Design principles:

1. I tried to alter the systems involved as little as possible across all editions while keeping the other principles in mind.

2. Just having every class slowly getter better at to-hit and saves--regardless of class--over time doesn't really make them better since the monsters also have to get better to keep up. This leads to a situation where a big slow, dumb monster like a giant has to have a +6 or whatever reflex save just to keep up with its alleged difficulty level, which makes building new monsters a little harder than it should be and adds unnecessary book-keeping and number-crunching all around. Plus it means like a little 0-level old lady couldn't throw a bucket of water at a giant and probably splash it, which is bullshit. So nobody gets better at anything unless it's part of their class. Thieves (for example) who want to get better at punching people can just take a level in fighter. (James Raggi's LOTFP:WFRP made me realize this.)

3. On the other hand, it is nice to have all PCs genuinely way more confident at fighting at high levels than low levels so the game changes scale over time, and so you can have a basic "one day you'll be badass enough to kill Demogorgon" idea in everybody's head. So everybody does get more hit points as they level up no matter what.

4. PC options should be available for customization, but you shouldn't be at a disadvantage if you're the kind of player who doesn't want to sit around and fiddle with them all day. In other words: they should make your PC more customized, not more powerful. It also means WOTC can still sell splatbooks if they really have to.

5. Likewise, if you're inventing a monster off the top of your head, there should be a straightforward way to make it equivalent to a fighter of a given level without sifting through an OED of powers or feats. If a bear is a ninth level monster (i.e. equal to a ninth level fighter) you can assume it has 9 hit dice +con modifiers and +9 to hit +9 to damage +strength modifiers and needs no feats or powers to make it a competitive monster.

6. This is just a sketch. Considering the way +1 to hit is, in the long run, better than +1 to damage, there's probably some unevenness here if you have players who are hardcore optimizers but the problem can probably be fiddled away by moving some numbers around or putting maximums on things so I haven't bothered.

7. Making new classes, monsters and even powers under this system should be as easy as, if not easier than, pie.


System: everything's pretty much resolved on the D20 system. D20 + modifier to get a target DC.

Bonuses are as d20. i.e. 12-13 =+1, 14-15=+2 etc.

Classes gain hp as d20.

No matter what class you are...

Strength modifier applies to:
melee to hit
melee/thrown damage

Dex modifies:
reflex save
finesse/missile to hit
finesse weapon damage

Con modifies:
fort save
hp per level

Wis modifies:
will save
averaging wisdom and int bonus gives you your Notice (passive) and Search (active) check

Int modifies:
know stuff (lore, basic knowledge, etc.)
averaging wisdom and int bonus gives you your Notice (passive) and Search (active) check

Cha modifies:
dupe save (this is a new save, kinda like "sense motive" which is whether you have enough
social intelligence to tell whether someone's full of shit)

You can use your xp to take a level in anything.

Levelling up is on a "pick your prize" basis, with each "prize" usually only takeable once per level unless otherwise noted. Bonuses are cumulative.

Pick two to start, two per level:

+1 melee to hit
+1 melee/thrown damage
+1 missile to hit (may be chosen twice in one level)
+1 missile/finesse damage (may be chosen twice in one level)
+1 to know stuff about foe (ac, hp, damage/attack, etc.)
+1 to combat non-direct damage maneuvers (trip, disarm, etc,)
-you spent some time outside this level: add +1 to both climb, jump, other athletics and acrobatics, etc. and to woodland lore/outdoor survival and to find/notice checks outside
-At seventh level they can start choosing off the fighter list

Pick two to start and two per level:

-new spells of current available spell level according to whatever progression
-an extra healing spell
-an extra spell related to their particular god's domain
+1 melee to hit
+1 melee/thrown damage
+1 persuade, +2 to those of the same faith

Pick 3 of these to start plus 3 per level thereafter (thief abilities are pretty situation-dependent):

+1 backstab--points count toward damage and 'to hit'. The initial bonus for a backstab is the same as for a finesse attack.
+1 to climb, jump, and all other athletics and acrobatics, etc.
+1 lockpicking and other delicate tasks (disarming traps, etc.)
+1 find/notice (passive and active)
+1 stealth
+1 persuade
+1 dupe save
+1 reflex save
+1 to combat non-direct damage maneuvers (trip, disarm, etc,)

Pick 3 (or whatever, really, depending on how powerful spells are in the new system) spells to start, plus pick two of the following per level thereafter:

A number of new spells (according to whatever spell-progression table)
+1 find/notice
+1 know stuff
+1 new spell of spell level 1 above currently castable level that only works on a successful int check. If this is a high level spell and the check fails, there'll probably be an entertaining disaster.

Pick two of the following to start plus two more per level thereafter:

+1 missile to hit
+1 melee to hit (may be chosen twice at same level)
+1 melee/thrown damage
+1 to know stuff about foe (ac, hp, damage/attack, etc.)
-pick from a list of "If/Then powers" that are situational but, when they occur, very effective, like "Wrestle: + 4 to immobilize a same size opponent that is already knocked over or quadrupedal"
-at tenth level, can start choosing off the Warlord list below

This is where you start in with your splatbook stuff. (However, a DM just trying to build a high level fighter can ignore it and put all the level up points into to hit or damage or whatever)

Pick two to start, two per level:

+1 melee to hit
+1 melee/thrown damage
+1 know stuff about foe (ac, hp, damage/attack, etc.)
+1 heal points of damage equal to the number banked here. once/day.
+1 holy smite: this number plus charisma modifier
+1 to deal with horses and hit and damage in mounted combat
-at seventh level they start being able to choose off the fighter list or the cleric list

Pick two to start and two per level:

+1 melee to hit
+1 melee/thrown damage (may be chosen twice at single level)
+2 more hit points
+1 to know stuff about foe (ac, hp, damage/attack, etc.)
+1 to hit and damage for your once a day rage freak out.
-you spent some time outside this level: add +1 to both climb, jump, other athletics and acrobatics, etc. and to woodland lore/outdoor survival
-at seventh level they can start choosing off the fighter list

Pick three to start and two per level:

+1 backstab--points count toward damage and 'to hit'. (starts as a finesse attack)
+1 climb, jump, other athletics and acrobatics, etc.
+1 delicate tasks and stealth
+1 dupe save
+1 missile/finesse to hit
+1 missile/finesse damage
+1 know stuff about foe (ac, hp, damage/attack, etc.)
+1 handle poison

Pick two to start, two per level:

-new spells of current available spell level (may be chosen twice)
-you spent some time outside this level: add +1 to both climb, jump, other athletics and acrobatics, etc. and to woodland lore/outdoor survival and to find/notice checks outside
+1 charisma roll to persuade animals to do things
-annoying animal companion (maximum 1). If your old one dies you can use this option to get a new one.

Pick two to start, two per level:

+1 melee to hit
+1 melee/thrown damage
+1 know stuff about foe (ac, hp, damage/attack, etc.) (may be chosen twice per level)
+1 to combat non-direct damage maneuvers (trip, disarm, etc,)
+1 to persuade
-pick from a list of "If/Then powers" that are situational but, when they occur, very effective, like "Wrestle: + 4 to immobilize a same size opponent that is already knocked over or quadrupedal"


Bards suck.


Multi-classing: you can take a level in whatever as long as it isn't in the subgroup you're already in, these subgroups are:

Fighter, Ranger, Paladin, Barbarian, Warlord
Wizard, Warlock
Thief/Rogue, Assassin


Possible other hacks:

Instead of invisibility, improved invisibility, mass invisibility the spells will be named inivisibility-mass, invisibility--improved (etc.) so that when they're in the book and you look up one and it says "this spell functions just like some other spell (qv)" you don't have to turn the damn page.

Monsters have static xp values. Why not murder thousands of random henchmen at high levels just to level up? Because you're not that boring. Or, if you are and there's really no one else to play with, DMs can institute no-xp-for-challenges-more-than-x-levels-beneath-you rules.

XP can follow three patterns, the PCs choose which:

Old School: XP is given for monsters and treasure. Treasure usually nets about 4 times as much xp as monsters required to get to said treasure.

XP is given for monsters plus each PC picks what kind of thing they want to get xp for based on their PCs' individual motives. Like: "My wizard wants knowledge,""My paladin wants to help the weak" etc. The GM can award these as s/he sees fit but the total can still be divided equally if the PCs roll that way--so if everybody helps one PC achieve a goal, they all benefit

Tactical: XP for monsters at x5 normal.


I put some more thought into this once 5e was announced--these became "classic""heroic" and "tournament" more detail on how I'd do it here and here.


Heikki Hallamaa said...

Why not ditch the ability bonuses completely and just use the ability as is? Just set the base DC at 20 and roll ability + d20.

mordicai said...

I have to say, I've always been impressed by the system I first saw you articulate-- I don't know how much you invented, synthesized, copied, adopted, re-invented, or whatever-- where the "roll under your stat on a d20" was combined with "skills allow a re-roll to get under your attribute." I thought the was a super elegant framework for non-combat options.

Zak Sabbath said...


there's a way to do that, but using derived stats allows you to combine the bonus associated with your stat with bonuses associated with your level on almost equal terms. that way levelling up counts as much or more as your original stat.

Obviously you could just use ability + level, but then the numbers get bigger, nature matters more than nurture and--perhaps most importantly in this particular case--it is less compatible with other forms of D&D because the numbers come out different.

That's pretty much how the system I invented for gigacrawler works though


yeah, that's what I use, but i can see the re-roll thing being a pain at high levels.

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts here Zak. I don't know if you've thumbed through the Pathfinder Players Guide at all but I like they way they handle alternate classes. Rather than having a ton of splat books with new beginning classes and prestige classes the book offers a cool idea. Say you want to be a Swashbuckler (rogue variant)- you sacrifice your trap finding (or something equivalent) and gain the Weapon Finesse feat (obviously this is more crunchy and clunky than what you're stating for your Type V system, but I think the principle could work).

With the Frankengame that I am running currently I took what Raggi stated in LotFP about only Fighters getting better and applied it slightly to all the classes. Warriors are the only class that gets +1 to hit from levels 1-10. Rogue caps out at +4 to hit and a wizard caps at a 2 or 3. I did this so the players get a little bit better and can enjoy melee (or at least not get utterly frustrated if they are in that situation) but it also keeps the dreaded inflation of numbers down.

I use Castles and Crusades as the base for my game and that system uses static target numbers for everything (except attacks) which is 12 for primary attributes (all characters have two) and 18 for non-primary attributes. This keeps things a challenge for characters and helps avoid number inflation.

Dead Horse said...

Wrathofzombie touched on it.

Alot of what you just invented is Castles and Crusades.
Have you read the Players Handbook for C&C?

I do like your pick your bonus class stuff, kinda cool but i forsee it as a book keeping nightmare in the long run.
Especialy if someone got level drained.

Interesting idea on the xp.

thekelvingreen said...

I don't understand what "fighter of a given level" means.

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

I like this, and it ticks a lot of the boxes I'd want ticked in D&D.

Zak Sabbath said...


yeah, my homebrew is (I'm told) basically like c&C too. Parallel evolution i suppose.

Zak Sabbath said...


I feel like the book-keeping would be (at maximum) no worse than for any wizard. And if you lose a level just remove two (or 3) "prizes"--it doesn't have to be the last ones you got.

I mean, in d20 you are already keeping track of more than this, and people handle it.

Pierce said...

I really like the level up/pick your power thing. It's a pretty cool way to do things.

Nagora said...

Interesting that the "newie" xp idea is pretty close to the Arneson system which is older than the Old School xp system (although still based on gold). It must be that circle of life thing that warthogs are always singing about. Damn those warthogs.

Anyway, here's a summary someone did:

Chris McDowall said...

Design Principle 2 is one of the few parts of D&D I've never quite managed to forgive. Even the meanest, scariest monster should be able to have something it sucks at.

Yes, a Dragon Turtle is not something most people should be able to go and kill in a fight. This does not mean it needs to have a +8 Reflex. Whatever this means at "appropriate level" I want my low-level characters to be able to at least interact with this sort of creature without them seeming completely ridiculous, mechanically.

For the same reasons, the Mind Flayer should not have +3 Natural Armour and 44HP, but then we're delving into a HP debate, which the world doesn't need another of.

Zak Sabbath said...


I am ok with hit points being the default abstract "....aaaaand somehow that didn't kill you, make something up" stat on grounds of simple utility (like whole-side-initiative). Plus, unlike the reflex save thing--it makes enemies easier rather than harder to build.

Chris McDowall said...

That's true. My objection to some of the Natural Armour scores in 3e D&D remains but I think 4e decided to drop them and just give stuff whatever AC it needed.

Adam Thornton said...

You forgot something very important. Even though it was there in the picture.

Type V Has Nipples

Other than that...."take a level of fighter if you want to be better at smacking stuff," well, down that road lies BRP, and, in general, skill-based-rather-than-class-based systems.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Zak Sabbath said...


Absolutely. But hewing to principle 1, I decided not to make a system more different from the existing D&D systems than they already are from each other.

That way if you find a level or class-based mechanic in an old adventure or supplement you can still use it out of the box.

Nate L. said...

How do you figure out what the target DC for skills is? Is it like in 3e, where more difficult things have higher DCs, or is it like your mongrel type, where you roll under your ability score? Or is it something else? Or a combination of both?

Zak Sabbath said...


like 3e.

again: makes it more cross-compatible

Anonymous said...

For the target numbers that's why I like C&C, and maybe Zak's homebrew is similar. With the static numbers it's always easy to tell.. 12 and 18. If it's something that befits your class (saw a Rogue climbing an unclimbable wall he also get's to add his level. otherwise it's just ability mod).

Necropraxis said...

Yes on the chargen suggestions! The aspect of newer games that turns me off the most is the pre-game game of building and optimizing a character. I seriously don't want to have to be familiar with all those feats or a power list for each class as a player, and I certainly don't want to have to put together such a complicated stat block as a referee.

I'm not a fan of the "take a level in any class" approach to levelling because I think it leads to flavorless mush classes, though I suppose that could be handled by roleplaying restrictions (go on a quest to find a trainer to teach you a level in fighter) or arbitrary mechanical restrictions (no more than N classes at once, or don't permit level differentials of more than 1).

The point of a class system is to model archetypes, and if you don't want to model archetypes (or want to be very flexible) it seems more natural to just go to a skill-based system.

Necropraxis said...

Oh, and based on that warlord power list, the fighter should kill him and take his stuff. Seriously, what is the point of that class?

thekelvingreen said...

I really like the level up/pick your power thing. It's a pretty cool way to do things.

It reminds me a little of WFRP and in particular the version of the system presented in the 40K rpgs. This is a good thing indeed.

Ian Whitchurch said...

I'd add

"Take an extra level for your henchman"

"Trade 1 point of to hit for one point of damage"

"Have 0.2 of an extra attack (needs five points total invested)"

Zak Sabbath said...


The challenge in designing a D&D system is to allow players to do whatever despite hewing to the kind-of-pointless class/level system. Split-classes are an ancient compromise.

The point of the Warlord is to provide a class that's like the fighter, but less powerful on purpose--for smart, experienced players who like a challenge. It' the same reason video games have a "hard" setting.


".2 of an extra attack" is madness and creates the exact problem this system's deigned to avoid.

Ian Whitchurch said...


Fair call as a design decision.

How do you plan to deal with a level A+B magic user being better than a level A fighter/level B Magic User ? I miss my viable Fighter/Magic Users ...

Zak Sabbath said...


same answer as to brendan's warlord question.

"less powerful" doesn't mean "broken". It means "because I'm smart, and I am going to fuck shit up despite these paltry mechanical disadvantages".

Ian Whitchurch said...

Part of me is going 'yeaahhh !!!' and most of me is going 'meh, lazy designer'.

A smart player, particularily if they are a social monster, can fuck shit up with an unarmed level 1 goblin. But as far as crunch goes, a fighter/wizard like Elric gets smeared in your system by both Rackhir the Red Archer and Enekrough the Sometimes Wise, who threw all their levels into 'smack things' or 'magic' but not both.

Zak Sabbath said...

@anton de stoc

Clearly we have different priorities.

However: the overall point of this system is if you need to, you can write a "Melnibonean Wizard-Knight" class on this template in less than 4 minutes... (which challenge I do hereby issue to you right now)

So Old Schoolers you can make new classes at will and new schoolers can go to the store and buy splatbooks full of new classes someone at WOTC made in 4 minutes. Everybody;s happy.

Unknown said...

This is pretty awesome, it deals nicely with the inflation crap that goes on particularly at the higher level end of things.

If i was using this i would also play that a character can instead of getting their normal points to allocate at a level up, can swap them for a 'feat' from the 3.5 handbook or something.

But that's because i'm running bastardised 3.5 and i think some of the feats are cool.

Easy class creation is epic. Your right Zak I reckon one could hack anything of the source material into a class based on this, just use the class progression table the rules give, and change anything that needs to be changed into +1 scaling bonuses.

Ian Whitchurch said...


Less than four minutes ? Done. Pick per level

1. +1 to hit

2. +1 damage

3. 'Old Favour'. You may get a *one-use* favour from an extra-planar being. It has a price, which the DM determines later.

4. Secret Knowledge. +1 to Know Stuff. +2 if its clearly Occult

5. 'Ancient Heritage'. Get a Magic Item of appropriate power.

Ian Whitchurch said...

Og yeah, the two words were Celestre and Stranter, so the elemental princesses are clearly pleased.

Ian Whitchurch said...

And the third one was 'Tritat', which is clearly T..m.t mispelled, so the Dragons, whether dreaming or lucid, are pleased as well.

Zak Sabbath said...


a magic item per level seems a bit much. I would just give them wizard spells at the normal progression minus one spell per level.

John said...

Is the point of having different classes in this system solely to preserve cross-compatibility between editions)? Because if you can take a level in anything, and if each class level is on a "pick your prize" basis, you've done away with classes in all but name.

Zak Sabbath said...



Pekka said...

Since no one mentioned it: Dragon Age RPG kinda does it this way. It's like modernized AD&D but it uses 3d6 instead of d20. There's only Warrior, Thief and Mage classes but you get to choose your abilities and talents.

Anonymous said...

Hello Zak, this comment is pretty much totally unrelated to the actual post above, but yo I just watched Episode 24 of Axe and the snake idea is fucking BRILLIANT. Best episode so far! (Also I like Mandy's paisley mug from the same episode. Also also, I was starting at Cooper the year you graduated and always remembered and liked your drawings from then. You are one of my heroes on many fronts. Sorry if I am kissing ass too hard.)


Zak Sabbath said...

Aw, thanks aaron! Be well, guy.

Jeff Rients said...

RE: the warlord

Thank Grodd there's someone else who understands why sucky classes are such a hoot. For similar fun, try this: Play a game with point-based chargen and use only 50 or 75% of the points. It drives the minmaxers crazy when you can still run the board.

Zak Sabbath said...

"Who ARE you?"

"I'm Batman."

huth said...

Unrelated but of supreme importance:

You've seen this, right?

Sean Fallon said...

Hey Zak,
Thanks for rocking my world.. again.
Stolen with a smile and now I'm gonna have to re-hack my hack:
YEEEE HA hahahaha.

Zak Sabbath said...


I haven't used much of this hack yet. Mostly because the numbers don't quite scale with the spells and monsters from any version of the game.

I want WOTC to do this (not me) because it needs a whole game behind it to function properly. Each version of the game is built on top of the PC progression numbers. You can't just use this with the AD&D, d20, or 4e monsters and spells and expect it to work without hacking the other building blocks too.

Sean Fallon said...

Yes, Zak, I understand that the numbers don't mesh properly with anything that currently exists.

But I'm not in the habit of waiting for wizards & have been hacking D&D for 10 years now.

I just stumbled the whole OSR RPG blog scene a month ago ... wow.

again, thank you.

Zak Sabbath said...



good luck

Steveman said...

Overall, I am digging your idea. Its not old-school enough for me to adopt, but I would gladly pick up a full fleshed out rulebook that covers a system like this that has had extensive playtsting.

However, something is digging at me, and its not just you, its all over the place in the worlds of retro-D&D. All of this "Type IV"/"Type V" crap is pedantic and insulting.

Yes, we get you don't like the current iteration or the handling of it for the last decade and a half - crap I don't, and I don't like any of the more popular alternatives on the actual gamestore shelves. But that does not stop it from being D&D. To make a totally blown out of proportion but mostly equitable comparison. Its like refusing to refer the United States of America by its name simply because the last two presidents are incompetent and have lead us down the wrong path. You may believe it is true, but it does not change anything.

Zak Sabbath said...


I do not use the term "Type V" because I don't like 4e. I do like 4e.

Please don't make up facts and then complain to me about your interpretation of them.

Here is me liking it:

I call it "Type IV" because I think calling all the editions by "type" names makes them sound like MM demons which is funny.

I also do it as an ANTI-edition warring measure because I think people who read my blog would argue about it less if they saw it as one of several -versions- of D&D rather than as the "latest edition" (which suggests progress in a way they feel inclined to bitch about even when it's off-topic).


So here's the part where you go "Oh, obviously, I'm sorry I assumed, I will try not to do that in the future"

Steveman said...

I do apologize for projecting my own pet peeve from the OSR fandom onto you. However, you are, whether you want to acknowledge it or not, adding to the schism within the gaming community by not calling Dungeons and Dragons 4th-edition by its name.

Other than the humorous throwback to classic Demons, I think your reasoning is greatly flawed, your content has very little for antagonistic people to latch on. Being mostly amusing and/or useful system-neutral GM tools and various brain droppings. And of course your support for the Flailsnails convention - which I thank you for introducing me to.

I firmly believe that if more people would the various iterations of D&D, including the ones without the trademarked name on them, by their rightful names it would go a long way in helping to close the schism in the fantasy gaming internet community.

Zak Sabbath said...


I know from long experience that people who read this blog actually do really Edition war nearly every time I bring up 4th ed. I know, I read my comments.

I know from experience I can do things, rhetorically, that affect the tiny group of people who read my blog and make it easier for me to have this conversation I have here, I can't do things that affect the whole gaming community.

Plus I care way more about whether I can have conversations that make sense on my own blog than about the "schism in the fantasy gaming community". Maybe that makes me a sociopath, but I don't think so.

Zak Sabbath said...

Plus "4e" and "4th ed" are no more the game's "proper" (your word) name than Type IV is. It's just a convention. The game's called Dungeons & Dragons--which is confusing, since that's like 9 different games.

So we use nicknames. Mine just happens to be more accurate and funnier than everyone else's.

Zak Sabbath said...

If I could really affect the gaming community as much as you seem to think, I'd like to get it so we're calling it Nalfeshnee.

Necropraxis said...

I'd be totally on board with Nalfeshnee.

spike said...

Seriously, just make me a Vornheim Player's guide. Re-name a few things to avoid WotC lawsuits, throw in some original Smith art and awesome monster designs and that's like an insta-buy from me.

I just think your Vornheimien strange-ness would give such awesome character to the book, it's rare to find DnD products with actual soul and personality.

richard said...

re Steveman's edition warrior thing: I've been re-reading and watching Hitchhikers with my kids and it strikes me Douglas Adams did something very clever by making every version of the story significantly different in its details - first it keeps me interested in each iteration, second it prevents any hint of edition warring. So the radio series is different from the books is different from the TV series. So then the film comes out and it's different. So what?

I guess games are different because you have to actually use them. Still, if each game contained different monsters, spells, treasure etc then people might welcome the variations rather than resenting them

Rocco Privetera said...

I didn't see anything on the magic system. Leave it the same?

I have to admit: I'm not as much of a fan that every class, once you get pass the special affects, seems a copy. Magic users doing just as much damage as fighters (fairness) and vice versa. That balance thing. I used to enjoy unbalanced classes.

Alan Zabaro said...

Looks like my comment got eaten. Anyway, looking at this it occurs to me that some folks won't want to pick - it'll seem artificial or unexciting to them, or new players might not have a good sense of what they want. So for each list add an option like "roll a die of the appropriate size (d6 for 6 option lists, d8 for 8 option lists, etc.) and take the option it indicates. Ignore the limitations on how often you can take an option if you get it by rolling."

That gives players a way to be surprised by character advancement within limits they set (they're still choosing class and don't have to roll for all their picks), while still giving them a reason to try rolling.

Zak Sabbath said...

who am i to turn down more randomness?

squidman said...

I've been away for a year, I come back and you are in awesome shape! I salute you!