[D&D Next] Legends and Lore: Bounded Accuracy

Today’s Legends & Lore article from Rodney Thompson goes into detail on something that the design team calls the bonded accuracy system.

I’ll let Rodney’s words do the explaining first:

The basic premise behind the bounded accuracy system is simple: we make no assumptions on the DM’s side of the game that the player’s attack and spell accuracy, or their defenses, increase as a result of gaining levels. Instead, we represent the difference in characters of various levels primarily through their hit points, the amount of damage they deal, and the various new abilities they have gained. Characters can fight tougher monsters not because they can finally hit them, but because their damage is sufficient to take a significant chunk out of the monster’s hit points; likewise, the character can now stand up to a few hits from that monster without being killed easily, thanks to the character’s increased hit points. Furthermore, gaining levels grants the characters new capabilities, which go much farther toward making your character feel different than simple numerical increases.

Now, note that I said that we make no assumptions on the DM’s side of the game about increased accuracy and defenses. This does not mean that the players do not gain bonuses to accuracy and defenses. It does mean, however, that we do not need to make sure that characters advance on a set schedule, and we can let each class advance at its own appropriate pace. Thus, wizards don’t have to gain a +10 bonus to weapon attack rolls just for reaching a higher level in order to keep participating; if wizards never gain an accuracy bonus, they can still contribute just fine to the ongoing play experience.

This extends beyond simple attacks and damage. We also make the same assumptions about character ability modifiers and skill bonuses. Thus, our expected DCs do not scale automatically with level, and instead a DC is left to represent the fixed value of the difficulty of some task, not the difficulty of the task relative to level.

It’s quite a bit to take in all at once, but the concept does merit looking into. I like the idea of having DCs and AC stay static, as opposed to scaling upwards based on the level of the PCs. Having a fixed difficulty for doing something means that those who train at being good at the task are really more likely to succeed, without having to move the goalposts all the time.

This eliminates a weird problem wherein DC values lose their meaning as the players level up in the older systems. It’s easier for a GM to eyeball the difficulty of a given task. Climbing a DC 15 cliff face, for example, remains difficult for most player characters, but less difficult for characters who are proficient at the task.

With regards to monsters, characters no longer outgrow monsters as they remain a credible threat (albeit now in greater numbers) even if the player characters are much higher in levels. Likewise, the idea that weaker level characters can team up to take down a dragon given enough attacks, luck, time and tactics is one that I completely get behind. The dragon can scarf down a Level 1 fighter no problem, but assailing a garrison full of Level 1 soldiers might be a tricky proposition for all but the most devastating of creatures.

There is one thing that I have reservations with on this article however, and that is the mention of scaling challenges primarily via hitpoints, damage dealing capacity and special abilities. This is something that has to be very carefully implemented. My only worry here is that fights might end up being boring simply by virtue of how long it takes to kill something since it’s been beefed up by a ton of hit points.

Then again, if the Bonded Accuracy discussion is right, then it means that players of the appropriate level can take down big monsters because they have their own special abilities and heightened damage dealing capacity as well.

Overall I’m very happy with what I’m seeing here. The flatter math is a boon to D&D Next, one that I hope will make it all the way to the finished product.


        • My opinion is that, only spiteful GMs would want to pit a Medusa/s, or any save or die creatures, against Players without proper prior warning.

          Having them randomly pop-out while traversing the world map and gaining a surprise advantage over hapless Players isn’t exactly a healthy game to play in — unless explicitly forewarned by a GM.

  1. I still want to reiterate my issue with regards to absurd amounts of HP.

    I don’t want my barbarian facing off against a high-level wizard, only to learn that a wizened, robe-wearing geriatric can survive an axe to the face, just because he has ‘high HP’.

    Unless of course he turns out to be a Lich, then I guess that’s a different matter entirely.

  2. It’s not the HP as such that matters, so much as the ratio of HP to damage.

    But there’s not much point in raising HP of PCs if you also raise monster HP by the same amount but keep damage the same; all that means is the fight lasts longer.

    Of course, remember that in D&D:

    Armor Class is just how tough your mail or plate is.

    Most of your Hit Points aren’t toughness; mostly they’re you’re fighting skill and luck.

    A wizard with lots of HP never takes an axe in the face until the last few moments of the battle when he drops from 8 HP to zero or whatever.

    (This also, incidentally, suggests that all weapons should probably do the same damage modified only by level of attacker (skill). After all, if HPs represent dodging and luck, why is it harder to dodge a big battle axe or a dragon’s claw than a halfling’s knife, given equal speed…?)

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