Mike Mearls, franchise creative director for D&D 5e sits down to work on a new subclass for Fighters and also shows off some of what goes on behind-the-screen with some of the weapons of 5th Edition.
Mike Mearls’ Happy Fun Hour has brought us a ton of great insights into the functionality of the subclasses, into different ways to handle things like exploration, and in general is a great way to spend an hour or so per week if you’re an aspiring designer or DM interested in learning not just what might one day be in a D&D project (the Order Domain Cleric originated on the Happy Fun Hour) but also the thinking behind certain concepts.
Today’s video is an interesting one, because Mearls dives into some of the grittier details behind some of his design decisions by revisiting the Weapon Master Fighter. The Weapon Master is, as the name suggests, a Fighter designed to fight (and do increased damage) with multiple weapons. If you saw the Brute Fighter that made the rounds in Unearthed Arcana a while back, then you’re familiar with a lot of what’s here. This is a fighter designed to do damage. And Mearls dives real deep into what kinds of choices players might make–who might make them–and what exactly it means to deal extra damage and balance a class for RPGs.
One of the biggest features that Mearls shows off is the Weapon Groups, which helps differentiate the Fighters’ training with multiple weapons. Each of these categories has multiple weapons in it that you can apply an extra “mastery die” which is a bonus damage die that scales up as you level:
So if you were a master of Blades, for example, you’d apply this to daggers, short swords, long swords, great swords, rapiers, and scimitars–and you could swap between them freely. Whatever weapon group you choose feeds into your 7th level ability, which gives you a benefit to a skill based on what weapon group you choose. The real exciting thing here is the Superior Fighting Style:
Which is a great boost to this fighting style you already have gotten, it makes you feel specialized–but the best part about this feature is that it leads into a discussion on what damage means in D&D.
Some real how the sausage is made kind of stuff here, for instance: most damage is assumed to have about a 60% accuracy, so on average you’ll be dealing about 60% of your damage with each attack. Which means that things that let you do half damage on a miss, while they feel good, aren’t necessarily as powerful as you think they are. But the way something feels matters just as much as the actual mechanical playout of things.
D&D isn’t a competitive game, so they have different balance considerations, and it’s neat to see them in consideration here. At any rate, this has been another session of Dungeons & Devs, hope you enjoyed this peek into damage design philosophy.