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Retcon-style mechanics

The playtest for the version of D&D that’s codenamed “D&D One” has Guidance and Resistance spells be post-hoc instead of pre-hoc and I thought that seemed great at first but through playtesting we’ve run into trouble. The more we use it, I’ve gone from “sure, that makes sense” to hating it, but my players are becoming more entrenched in loving it.

To me it feels like retconning and I’m not into it. Jarring and unfun.

I like fortune at the end and dislike “fortune in the middle” mechanics, like how you can retcon your attacks by spending points, and this is even worse since what you add retroactively is even more dice. It’s “fortune in the middle and then even more fortune”.

I also hate how inspiration, also according to the playtest, can be used retroactively. To me knowing when to spend your inspiration was one of the few actual player skill moments in the symbolic mechanics layer of 5e. You have a resource and you can spend it like a “bet” or “gamble” or “extra effort” by putting it in. It’s your way to communicate to the entire table that “this roll matters extra to me”, and it’s your way to influence the probabilities to make that more likely.

Of course, the diegetic layer has a lot of player skill. How do you interact with your environment, what gear do you pack, how do you approach the various dungeons, what credence do you put to the rumors you hear, who do you ally with and who do you start fights with, etc.

Not so much on the symbolic layer. There, everything is kind of scripted and procedural, which, on the one hand is appropriate since that layer is just a tool while the real game should happen on the diegetic layer (no offense to 4E fans), but on the other hand, it gets kind of ridiculous. People go “oh, wow, good roll”, as if it was the player being skillful by rolling high. But with having to spend inspiration before the roll, that kind of becomes true. Yes, you and your choices actually did influence that outcome.

Deciding whether to spend insp after the fact is a no-brainer. You use it when you’ve got to use it and you don’t use it when you’ve don’t got to use it, the end, strategy talk over, game plan reduced to polyhedral Candyland.

It reminds me of when the Magic card game had “damage on the stack”, which I’ve talked about before, but it’s the example that keeps on giving.

In short, people thought they were so smart & clever using “the stack” to have their Mogg Fanatic card both deal normal attack damage and deal its special ping damage, but strategically it was a no-brainer. Of course you’d do it that way. When they ended the “attack damage on the stack” thing it brought a real, difficult decision back into the game.

Deciding whether or not to use your inspiration before the roll is similarly a real decision. How much do you value your insp compared to how it might help you if you use it?

I’m not the biggest fan of the Wushu game but one thing I like about it is that if you say something, it happens. You only roll to find out what can happen next.