A Love-Hate Relationship with the Base-Attack Bonus

Hey, guys! It’s someone different this time. My name is Sean, I’m the best, et cetera. But enough about me! I’m here today to talk to you about a system in the popular role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons: The Base-Attack Bonus. And oh boy, do I have a lot of opinions on this thing. Let’s delve deep into the world of third edition Dungeons and Dragons and all of its… uh… quirks. I’m… I’m so sorry.

First, in order to understand the Base-Attack Bonus, one must understand the rules of Dungeons and Dragons combat. So, we start off with an explanation of the combat rules of Dungeons and Dragons.

In Dungeons and Dragons, at least in any edition that uses the d20 combat system (sorry, THAC0, but you’re too convoluted for your own good), any given creature has what is called an Armor Class. This is determined by the armor of that creature, whether it be the plate mail of a knight, the scarlet scales of a dragon, or the sweater that one NPC’s mom made. To make a long story short, an Armor Class is a number that represents how hard it is to damage a creature. In combat, when attempting to damage a creature, the aggressor must make what is called a “to-hit roll.” This is a roll of a 20-sided die with static modifiers added on. If the result equals or exceeds the target’s Armor Class, then the attack hits. If it does not, then the attack fails.

A d20

The Base-Attack Bonus is a static number that is added to the to-hit roll. The number is determined by your class and level, i.e. a more combat-oriented class’s BAB grows more quickly than a more utility-oriented class’s. When a class’s Base-Attack Bonus grows to 6, they get a second BAB. They now have access to the ability to attack twice in one turn. The to-hit roll of the first attack has the first BAB added on while the to-hit roll of the second attack has the second BAB added on.

In-universe, this system can be explain by the character gaining experience. Maybe the character has gotten so good at doing one attack that they have began experimenting with a two-hit combo. The second hit just isn’t as well-practiced as the first, that’s all.

Now, that seems like a perfectly sound system, both mechanically and in-universe, right?


The answer, dear reader, may surprise you.

The answer is “eh.” Other acceptable responses are “meh,” “kinda,” “sorta,” and “well…”.

At first, the system is impeccable. The second hit isn’t so much less accurate than the first that it’s unusable. The fighter can, conceivably, swing his sword twice in the span of 6 seconds (the amount of time a turn in D&D represents). However, the BAB doesn’t just cap at 2 hits. At higher levels, some classes get to attack a ridiculous number of times. Sorry, monks, but it’s hard to believe that you can punch someone harder than the fighter can swing his 7-foot greatsword eight times in 6 seconds. Mechanically, the system becomes completely neutered, too. In order to compensate for the bonuses (BAB, stat modifiers, magic weapons bonuses) alone eventually having a value greater than that of the highest roll achievable with a d20 roll, the game designers had to make monsters with Armor Classes so ridiculous that the initial +30 to-hit attack could have a chance in hell of missing. In doing so, they made the monster have such a good armor class that the other hits, ironically enough, now don’t have a chance in hell of hitting. Slow clap.

So, every hit besides the first eventually become effectively useless.

You can theoretically hit this guy four times in one turn, just like how I can theoretically survive being shot in the head.
You can theoretically hit this guy four times in one turn, just like how I can theoretically survive being shot in the head.

This problem began in third edition and was never corrected in subsequent versions of third edition. It eventually even carries on into fourth edition.

Ah, you thought that this would be a paragraph about fourth edition, did you? Well, since we don’t talk about garbage in this household, this paragraph will instead be about how 5e made everything in the world right again. How did it manage to save a system so horrifically eviscerated by its own designers? Acquire a copy of the 5th edition Players’ Handbook and find out! Open up to any one of the classes and look at the Base-Attack Bonus! Huh? You can’t find the Base-Attack Bonus, you say? Of course not, because it’s not there. Knowing that saving the Base-Attack Bonus would be like saving a pig already in the oven (read: damn-near impossible), the designers just ate the metaphorical delicious roast pig, learned from their mistakes, and tried a new approach.

Meet the Proficiency Bonus, basically the older brother of the Base-Attack Bonus. Now, I have a bone to pick with this guy, too, but for right now, in this post, it is the lord and savior, as well as the messiah. It might also get honorary Buddha status. I’m not sure yet.

The Proficiency Bonus is a static number added to all rolls that a character makes with “proficiency,” basically performing a task he or she is good at. This includes attacking using weapons with which the character is familiar. Instead of having the clunky-looking +20/+15/+10/+5 of third edition’s Base-Attack Bonus, the Proficiency Bonus is a single number, ranging from +2 to +7, depending on the character’s level.

And what a world of difference this makes!

Instead of making the designers give monsters Armor Classes so astronomically high that Lil’ Wayne would be impressed, the designers can now give monsters Armor Classes that make sense. And instead of telling the combat classes to shove off and deny them the extra attacks they had in earlier editions, 5e just gave all of the extra attacks the ability to use the full Proficiency Bonus. Huzzah! Now your second hit actually does something.

You can actually hit this guy four times in one turn now! Rejoice!

To top it all off, because the Proficiency Bonus allows the characters to keep the feeling of their character slowly getting better with time while also allowing them to attack more than once a turn, none of the in-universe explanations have been lost, while fixing the broken Base-Attack Bonus system.

Even while multiclassing (having one character be multiple classes, say, part fighter and part ranger), the Proficiency Bonus– Wait.

Could this be?

Dear readers, I’ve spent around 1000 words bashing the Base-Attack Bonus and raising the Proficiency Bonus to a pedestal it only kind of deserves to be on. But can it be that I have something positive to say about the Base-Attack Bonus?

It’s better for multiclassing because the extra attacks in 5e are class-exclusive features. There.

As it stands, the Base-Attack Bonus is not bad… in concept. Much like how communism sounds really hype on paper but in practice leads to, more often than not, tears and misery, the Base-Attack Bonus sounded like a good idea at the time, but ended up being the most horrendously broken thing in third edition… is what I would be saying if magic in Dungeons and Dragons did not have the ability to bend the entire game system over its knee and spank it raw. Still, with a little bit of fixing, say, having the BAB cap out at a comfortable +9/+7/+5/+3 bonus, the system could work. Just please don’t let them bring back the old THAC0 nonsense.



How to Write a Good RPG Storyline

What is an RPG?

In short, a Role Playing Game is a game that allows you to make your own choices, and the player generally plays as a character who can explicitly interact with the world much like real life. The PC can make choices and chose his or her own path.

The problem, then, is to make a plot line for an RPG. How can you make an RPG if the character can practically do “whatever he or she wants?”

Here’s the trick: in an RPG, the player feels like he has control and he has choices-but he doesn’t. What you, as the Game Master (GM), have to do is to make options but leave no loose ends, and generally all the choices end up in the same direction. Remember that every choice doesn’t have to be important, but most do, otherwise the PC’s don’t feel like they’re doing anything but following a script (which they are anyway!).

As a note, remember to test out your game. Glitches and malfunctions are normal, but can easily be fixed in the end. As a recommendation for RPG Playground, test out the outcome right after you make a choice, as to not forget about it. We’ve all had many a token that didn’t work the first time…

A good RPG has choices. A bad RPG still has choices, but they are meaningless or don’t feel game-changing.

A meaningful, “game-changing” RPG choice resembles “Do I want to become a Sorcerer or a Ninja?” or “Do I listen to the advice of the crazy old guru or not?” or “I have prisoners, and the war is over. However, these prisoners are angry and are bad people. Do I free them and let the roam the Earth, or keep them in their dirty cells for the rest of eternity?”

A poor RPG choice might resemble “Do I buy the sword, or the axe?” or “Do I fight the monster now, or backtrack and return later?” or even “Do I rush to Dral-Vol, or take my time?” These choices are okay if you also have good choices in there too. Life is full of choices big and small.

A bad RPG in-game choice would be “What should I wear to the ball?” or “Should I read this book, or let the young lad read it to me?” or “Do you say hi to the Royal baby, or not?” Mind you, all these choices can become important with emphasis on different points. For example: “What should I wear to the ball if the Norwegian dress insults the Belgium Ambassador and the Belgium dress infuriates the Norwegian Ambassador? And wearing normal clothes will insult both!” or “Should I pretend to be illiterate, and let the lad read it to me to see if he is trustworthy enough to be my spy in the castle?” or “Shall I play with the Royal Baby if it pleases the King, but angers the Queen?”

Which way would you take?

Another important part of RPG’s is the plot. A good plot has challenges, arising choices, mystery, gold, fame and fortune. You travel to the far ends of the world, or you could just stay in one dungeon. But the most memorable part of the plot is always the end. A good plot generally ends with all the problems being solved, and typically a big bad boss is beat up. A big treasury with heaping rewards is for the PC. A bad plot…doesn’t have that stuff.

Bosses should be recommended for most RPG’s. There is nothing so much as satisfying as defeating the dragon with a critical hit, and only having 1 HP left. It also helps that the PC spent ages trying to get to this moment. However, keep in mind that your boss should not be over-powering, and at the same time it can’t be too easy. A too hard boss is frustrating, and a too easy one is boring. When in doubt, go with harder, and after play testing, fix it.

While most RPG’s have bosses, remember that every RPG is different, and therefore you can make one without a boss. I would not recommend it as it leaves for an unsatisfying ending, but if it suits your needs, go for it! Remember that in order for that to work, you need to have a very satisfying ending with all the answers being explicitly explained and examined, as well as a happy, or sad ending. (If you had an ending with little emotion, like the hero walks into the sunset with his friend, it is not satisfying. What happens then?)

Remember that if your RPG is good, people will want more. Another Final Fantasy or a new Zelda game. If you are expecting this, I recommend that you leave a question unanswered in the original, and answer it (while raising new questions or problems) in the next adventure. This backdoor does not have to be obvious. For example, it could be that the Wizard never found his wand and then dies. No more questions asked until-surprise!-an evil villain found the wand is reeking havoc on the planet.

Ah…but what happens to your child???

RPG’s have a lot of stuff in them, but if you can remember to make choices, have a good plot, and leave a backdoor for yourself, you should be fine! Nothing is more satisfying, then, once you are all done with years of coding and your fans finish the game in a day and ask for more.

Which reminds me…

I got a couple more hours of scripting to do myself!



Tokens are a great way of making choices. Will the character go through this door, or not? Make friends or enemies? Follow the rules, or not? Tokens right now, are the only way for you to get your choices into the game-for now!


How to Design RPG Characters

There are many elements to think about when designing a Role Playing Game. You have to think about the scenery, plotline, and overall appeal to the game. But one of the most important aspects of a game are the Non-Player Characters (or NPC’s).

Most of your world is composed of NPC’s. These are the people that your hero (or PC-Player Character) talks to and interacts with. This includes the Baker, Blacksmith, King, Newborn Babe, Mom, Dad, and more. (Remember that most NPC’s are not aware of what the hero has been doing or has done, and will act accordingly!) But NPC’s are also the Monsters, Ghosts, and animals. In short, the world is basically composed of NPC’s, the setting and the hero.


Some of the different NPC’s the hero may encounter.

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Release 0.18: Screenplay tokens

The new RPG Playground release is ready! This time you can extend your screenplays with tokens. This probably doesn’t mean much to you, but let me explain. You hero can receive tokens, and at another time you can check if the hero has some token. For example, a conversation can change the second time you talk to an NPC:

if hero lacks token "knows lisa"
    lisa says "Hi there, you must be new in town. My name is Lisa"
    hero says "Nice to meet you! I'm Bart"
    hero receives token "knows lisa"
    lisa says "Nice to see you again Bart!"

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Release 0.17: Change your hero

So here it is, the feature many of you have been waiting for: change the hero of your game!

Go to the actors tab, press the settings icon, and select your main hero. You can then change your hero to any character you wish. The conversation face image will also be adapted along with it.


As an extra bonus, you can move your hero to a new position, and change it’s orientation. Doing this will set the starting position to that location and orientation. So after saving your level and restarting the game, you hero will start at that position.

I also refactored the connection to the server, because sometimes it gave some issues.

So go on, go change your main hero of your game!


Welcome to the new website

The old website is gone! It was just a simple one-page website, but it did it’s job. The new website you are looking at now, is made with WordPress. It allows me to have blog posts of its own (instead of using koonsolo.com for that), and most important: there now is an official RPG Playground forum!


The forum has a different login that the RPG Playground application, so you will have to register a second time.

I hope you like the new website, and if there is anything wrong, or you have suggestions, feel free to tell me, by using the brand new feedback forum of course!

P.S.: The forum is currently completely empty; 0 posts. I wonder who will be the first to post something… :).