Friday, November 28, 2014

Volumes of Information Litterally at My Fingertips and Yet I Don't Know a God-Damned Thing

One of the problems that I've noticed with participating in this hobby is that you can drown under the volume of information that has been produced to help you run your games in the best way possible. Just looking at my gaming shelf - you know, the one with all the fucking books I never actually look at but can't stand to put in a box - I've got six hardback books on the Forgotten Realms, a setting I don't fucking like, yet here they are cluttering up my shelf for that one occasion when I need to know something about a setting that I really don't like. 

I used to think that I was alone in this regard. Then I went over to a friend of mine's house and sat there talking to him and looking through the three hundred mint condition role-playing game books that he's never even so much as opened. Like me he's got books for settings he's never played, systems he has no interest in playing, and options that he wouldn't let in his games even if Katy Perry were to give him the nod and tell him she'd love to play one of his silly elf games. 

As we set there talking it suddenly occurred to me that something is incredibly wrong about all of this. It's like I'm hoarding books for games that will never come and that won't ever be played or that I'm somehow hoping that by having more books than the next guy that I'll win a game no one else is really playing or has any interest in joining. And the worst part of this is that I suddenly realized that I wasn't alone. 

What the fuck is wrong with us?

I don't have an answer to that question but I do have whiskey and hours of writing ahead of me as I'm working on getting a few more projects completed before the end of the year. So here's to the work day, may it be productive and awesome. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Feminist Games" and Other Things that Tell Me Not to Play Your Games

This morning I was reading Kill Screen when I ran across an article, Let's All Save These Historic Works of Feminist Game Making from Obscurity, when I realized why describing games as Feminist or Racially Diverse or the use of any similar descriptor turns me completely off. You see, instead of talking about a great game that provides you with an exceptional play experience we're talking about the political or social message behind the game - which is another way of saying this game is complete shit but you should totally buy it because of its message. 

Fuck that. 

I'm not incredibly wealthy and I don't have time to waste on games that don't provide me with a great experience. So for me to buy a game it has to be fun. I don't care if the main protagonist is female or male; white, black, or any color in between; gay, straight, or transgendered. That noise is all secondary to the actual game and is meaningless background static when I'm trying to kill aliens, avenge the death of my best friend, or save the world.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Iron Kingdoms, Part 3: The Orgoth

“. . . They are the blackest of things. I have seen them shearing the hair off women and children to make rope with which to hang their own fathers and husbands. While we strike at their armored beasts, they laugh. Their robed women make play with strange words, turning the air dark with hate and causing fires that boils flesh. Even the prayers of our priests faze them little. They are implacable, as dark as the deepest waters of Meredius. They are made of hatred and blood and covered in armor wrought with leering faces that actually howl in torment. These Orgoth have brought an evil stain with them . . ." (WG, pg. 24)
In most role-playing games there exists an ancient evil empire that is the source of all the terrible, vile ruins and artifacts that haunt the game's landscape. These ancient empires are often referenced in long forgotten tomes, barely within the scope of historical record, and more often than not completely forgotten about by the average person.

Not so with the Orgoth.

The Orgoth empire conquered the lands of Western Immoren and held it under their iron grip for nearly 600 years. During that time they held the Iron Kingdoms under their boots and ground them into the dirt, murdering anyone that dared to oppose them and stifling the technological and magical development of the continent. Even in the text of the Iron Kingdoms books they are treated in such a way that reading the text leads you to question if they weren't devils traipsing across the surface of Immoren rather than men - but men they were.

At a time when the rest of the known world (at least as far as the Iron Kingdoms are concerned) had no knowledge of arcane magic the Orgoth had sorceresses that dominated battlefields and strange beasts that shook off the best efforts of the Immorese. That we know that these women weren't clerics becomes clear as the text of the World Guide expressly calls them sorceresses and questions the ability of the Orgoth to control them as though the magic was so wildly unpredictable that it drove those using it mad.

That magical power, especially arcane magic, is a corrupting influence is a major theme in much of the Iron Kingdoms literature. As was discussed in The Philosophy Behind the Iron Kingdoms the creators of this setting have decided to treat magic as another form of physical science; and just as splitting the atom gave the Americans and Russians a hugely powerful weapon to use against the rest of the world, so too did the Orgoth's early mastery of magic. With such a powerful weapon at their disposal the Orgoth acted with impunity and so were corrupted by it. 

According to the Iron Kingdoms books magic for the world of the Iron Kingdoms was not available prior to the Gift of Magic in 150 BR and yet the Orgoth clearly possessed magic in 600 BR - 450 years earlier. Where did their mastery of magic come from? To my mind there are two possibilities. The first is that magic was always available but that due to the superstitions and inherent prejudices of the Immorese those with the natural gift of magic hid it from the world around them for fear of persecution and only revealed themselves after the Gift of Magic was more widely spread throughout Immoren in 150 BR. The other possibility is that the Orgoth made a deal with the Infernals (see MM1, pgs. 106-113 and MM2 pgs. 88 - 99 for more on this evil supernatural power) for magical powers. It is entirely possible, and I would argue probable, that both possibilities have some truth in them.

When thinking about the Orgoth during this period there is no cruelty, no activity - including human sacrifice - that these people did not engage in. They are the most dominant military empire in the history of the world and they acted accordingly throughout our understanding of them. In the end though they couldn't hold onto Immoren and left the continent. 

Why? What drove them away from Immoren and had them destroying and booby-trapping their holdings?

To the peoples of the Iron Kingdoms it was their invention of the Colossals, the first mechanika, that allowed them to finally shrug off the yoke of Orgoth oppression and drive their long time tormentors to the sea. Yet even as this claim is made in the books the Orgoth seem to be slow and methodical in their movements off the continent. There are no broken lines of panicked warriors racing to the black boats. This seems to indicate that the Orgoth had another reason for withdrawing from the continent.

It is implied throughout the text of both the World Guide and Character Guide that the Orgoth have conquered many lands, much of which the people of western Immoren have no direct knowledge of yet they have been able to guess at their existence. No empire of man has ever been able to successfully conquer and maintain control over any large swath of territory without absorbing the technological strengths of the realms they absorbed. So it seems certain that the Orgoth would have eventually developed Colossals of their own either by capturing the technology or by emulating it - neither of which they are noted to have done. It seems far more reasonable to assume that there was another reason why the left Immoren.

Is it possible that they were facing another enemy on a different front; one that required the fullness of their resources and attention? Or did they suffer some economic collapse that forced them to withdraw? Was there a power struggle within their central government that forced them back? The books are silent on these questions yet one central fact remains. The Orgoth still exist and somewhere across the vast ocean their empire slumbers, waiting for some damned fool to come along and remind them of their lost colonies on Immoren.

Feel like you're missing something?
Part 3: The Orgoth

Cited Texts
Martin, Joe and Matt Willson. Iron Kingdoms World Guide. Seattle, WA: Privateer Press, 2005. pg. 24
CG - Character Guide
WG - World Guide
LL - Lock & Loaded
LM - Liber Mechanika
MM1 - Monsternomicon v1
MM2 - Monsternomicon v2
WFT1 - Witchfire Trilogy 1
WFT2 - Witchfire Trilogy 2
WFT3 - Witchfire Trilogy 3
NQ# - No Quarter Issue#

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It's All About Tone, You See.

When I was younger and had time to waste pondering questions that didn't matter in the grand scheme of things I allowed myself the little vanity of pretending to be a great philosopher. I would read the works of philosophers great and small while nodding to myself and loudly pontificating on the reasonableness of my own actions as I decried the foolishness of the world. Such are the frailties of youth that we imagine ourselves great enough to solve all the problems ever only to find out later that we didn't even come close.  

Over the years I learned that just because I'm willing to stand up on a table and scream that I've got the biggest cock in the room isn't enough - you have to be willing to flip the damned thing out too. So consider this a warning that terrible things are being plotted over in Dyvers and that I mean to deliver.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Put It Behind You, Son

Over the last few weeks I've been working on a secret project which we'll call the Impossible Task. At first I assumed that I would be able to soldier through the project reading the thousands of pages required to fully complete the project in a reasonable period of time, but that was foolishness in the extreme. So instead I'm going to abandon the Impossible Task at this time and go back to focusing on the Great Blog Roll Call 2015 Edition so that I can have it up and running during the first quarter of 2015.

At this time I have 409 blogs that I am working my way through to make sure that all of their descriptions, update schedules, and authors are up to date. For some this is a simple task of seeing that the author hasn't really done much this year (twelve or so entries for the year) and quickly reading through it to ensure that the description is accurate and not whole off base in regard to what the author is now talking about. Others though . . . there are other blogs that have produced nearly a thousand entries covering a wide rage of topics and to meaningfully talk about them in a way that doesn't come across as complete bullshit requires that I do more than say, "great fucking blog here." Admittedly I could do that to provide myself with a bit of ease through this laborious project but that isn't what I want out of this whole thing. 

No one pays me to do this - though certainly if you would like to give me money I will take all of it - so for me it's a matter of pride. When people run across one of my blog roll calls I want them to be able to find new places to read and be inspired by the authors who are putting their thoughts out there for the world to either rip to shreds or praise. And I don't want to have my list filled with dead links as authors delete their blogs which is why I go through each blog and make sure that it's not only still around but actually active. 

I may still release the Impossible Task but it won't be done when I wanted, and that's okay as I can work on it while I'm working on the GBRC2015. It's disappointing that I won't be able to do both when I initially wanted, but that's life. And sometimes the only thing you can do with things you aren't happy about is put them behind you and move on. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cleaning Up the AMA with Mike Mearls, Part 2

Mike Mearls answered questions for two days in the Ask Me Anything he began on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. Many of his answers on the second day were hidden behind load more comments links and so much of this may be new to those who have already been reading through the AMA. While I have included most of the questions that received answers there are a few that I skipped because they were either incidental (i.e. Great job Mike!) or the question had already been more fully answered previously.

Classic Settings and New Ones?


Providing you're really Mike I simply wanted to say "thanks". 5th rocks. :]

And now, the question: could you confirm both Darksun and Ravenloft coming back? - JesterRaiin

I can't confirm anything, but I can say that we're big fans of the classic D&D settings. When we created the core 5th system, we new that it had to be flexible enough to both cover past D&D settings and have the ability to stretch to cover new ones. - Mike Mearls

[While Mike will not confirm any future plans for the edition it has not stopped other members of the D&D team from doing so. In April Chris Perkins told Forbes "The Forgotten Realms is our flagship setting for the new edition, however we are supporting, or will support, all of our key settings in the future . . .That includes Ebberon, says Perkins, and . . . you are going to see more Ravenloft stuff very soon . . .” (Secrets from the 'Tyranny of Dragons'). Interestingly this is the first time that he's hinted at new settings being brought into Dungeons and Dragons. - Charlie]

Mike, 5th edition is the best D&D I've played. I run an after school Games group and it's what we're playing now, not to mention my two weekend games.
My question is:

When do we get to find out what's going on in the Forgotten Realms!? I feel like I'm going in blind, I have no dates, I don't know what's currently happening or has recently happened in the Realms!

Great job on an awesome product, and thanks! - mutants4life

We definitely want to provide a broad update on the Realms, but nothing to report yet. Sorry! - Mike Mearls

Heya Mike!

What is the timetable for conversion documents for classic settings? I'd LOVE to play Eberron but it needs a lot of moving parts like Dragon Marks, Psionics, etc to work. DarkSun is friendlier, but I still need something for how magic works in the setting. Stuff like that. - mostlyjoe

We looked at each setting and what it needed, and have done some work quantifying the work effort each would need. Sorry I can't be more specific right now, but we are looking at it. - Mike Mearls

General Questions for Mike

Hi Mike,

I hope I'm not too late to ask this - work is busy so it's hard to take time out to write a post. I'm really curious about your thoughts on the design behind (and niche filled by) Paladins and clerics. I don't want to prime your answer by putting my thoughts, but I do see some overlap with things like the 3rd level war specialization on the priest (sorry, no book in front of me) that make it hard for me to distinguish between the two classes. Love 5e. It's been a breath of fresh air and it has definitely rejuvenated my gaming group.

Thank you for all you do! - cirot88

One of the things we tried to do was make paladins distinct by adding in the concept of the oath. A paladin doesn't need to be tied to a deity to wield power, and in a future product we present a paladin who uses spells but has an oath tied to a kingdom or crown, rather than a god. - Mike Mearls

What are your thoughts on the homebrewing of classes? I would love to see some basic class templates or guidelines in the DMG. - TorchedBlack

We'll be tackling that in a future web column. We thought about covering it in the DMG, and did write up some material, but given how the game can evolve we didn't want to have outdated info in a core rulebook in a few years. I'm a big fan of homebrewing - it's part of what makes D&D great. - Mike Mearls

Dunno if you're still looking at this, but:

You guys did a good job on this one...and goes to show that execution is just as important as the mechanics themselves; lots of needless overcomplication that didn't add anything thrown out the window. It almost feels like 3 was 'how can we make the best simulation', 4 was 'how can we bring in new blood from similar hobbies [big box board games / MMOs]' (Edit: Or possibly 'How can we get the tactics without the crunch'), and now 5 is 'screw it. Let's just make a good game.'

As someone trying to teach himself how to do the probability of and in turn create a good underlying model for a game's mechanics: How do you arrive at that original playtest prototype, balance-wise? One of the things I've struggled with is getting the mechanics and math to where I'm happy taking it to a table, feeling reasonably sure it'll play ok and need tweaked, rather than being so far out in the weeds the numbers need redone. I'm sure experience comes into play [other devs have even stated as such], but there has to be a rhyme or reason to it. - foxden_racing

We started with the game design and then focused on the math second because it helps to start by looking at the effect you want a mechanic to have in play.

Think of a mechanic like its own, short story. What story does it tell? What emotions do you want to evoke?

Advantage and disadvantage grew out of that approach. I wanted you to hate that second d20 on disadvantage, or see that second die as your best friend with advantage. If the emotional pay off is strong enough, you can twist your math around to make it work. - Mike Mearls

What's your favorite 5e Rule Variant that DIDN'T make it into the core rulebooks? - Polythello

I've mentioned dice for proficiency, but let throw in another - I liked it when warlock pacts gave you a cosmetic drawback. Like, if you had the ability to see in the dark you had creepy devil eyes, or some such. - Mike Mearls

Hey Mike! I'm an aspiring writer and game developer in NYC, aka I make absolutely no money. Jokes aside, I've gotten into DnD lately, and 5e was my first tabletop rpg I've ever played. After a few sessions I started to think about making something like a DayZ rpg, really focused on the DayZ world and some of the mods too. I know it's a huge question, but where do I get started? What should I think about going in, what kind of mechanics are absolutely key to pin down early? How do I start this massive journey!

Thanks in advance, really loving 5e! - SalubriousStreets

The best way to start is to throw together some basic mechanics and try playing. For something like DayZ, think about the stuff in the game that's important to you. If you were to tell someone the most exciting story you can imagine about playing DayZ, what are the things you talk about?

That stuff is the key to your game - make sure your mechanics support it, and let everything else fall aside from now.

From there, try running a session or two. As GM, take note of stuff you need and stuff that turns out to be bothersome and revise as needed.

If you get stuck in a rut, try this mental exercise - think about stuff that would be absolutely terrible ideas for your game. Then, think about why they're bad ideas. That can help shed light on what your game needs or is missing.

Finally, err on the side of simplicity. It's much easier to start simple and add what you need than wrestle with complex rules. - Mike Mearls

I've been playing DnD since the mid 90's and back then the campaign settings felt more like they were each their own game systems rather than just a couple new races and a different map and feel. Some examples are things like Birthright and Darksun. When 3e came out the settings felt like they still needed to "fit" inside the game system to me. More about small tweaks to generate a feel and less about sweeping changes.

What's your take on campaign setting design? Do you like it when it makes the game almost unrecognizable or do you prefer DnD to have a more stable core? - Sparticuse

I think a stable core is useful, because it makes it easier to focus on the differences. The administrative stuff in a system - AC, hit points, checks, etc. - I'd prefer to remain stable.
With that in mind, I think it's reasonable to ask one of two things from a setting (though a setting can have both):

  • What game mechanic does the setting use that I don't see elsewhere?
  • What's the one big thing I put on my character sheet for this setting that I don't see elsewhere?
I think the best settings have interesting answers to those questions. That said, something like FR is what establishes the baseline from which other settings deviate. You do need that foundation for everything to play off of. - Mike Mearls

Salutations, Mikey-boy!

What other tabletop/table games do you enjoy playing in your off-time? - IWishIWasATurnip

My wife plays lots of board games, so we have a number of two-player games in our rotation:

  • LotR: The Confrontation
  • Battle Line
  • Lost Cities
  • Pecking Order
A few others we play: * Ticket to Ride * Carcasonne * Puerto Rico * Dominion
For more hobby game stuff: * X-Wing miniatures game * Battletech * Car Wars * Ogre * Arkham Horror * Elder Sign

I used to be a huge Warhammer 40k player and collector.

For RPGs, I've played the following in the past year, in addition to D&D: * 13th Age * Dungeon World * Numenera * Call of Cthulhu * Descent

RPGs have been a little thin lately, due to D&D playtesting.

I own and really want to play: * Battle Lore 2e * Combat Commander * Fire in the Lake * Twilight Struggle * Mage Knight board game * Eldritch Horror * Commands & Colors: Ancients - Mike Mearls

Is it too late to ask if I can get a job? ;)

Also, what was the hardest thing to let go of when converting the older (3.0, 3.5, 4.0) rules to 5.0? - VetMichael

Hardest thing - don't sweat the details. 5e is fairly streamlined. Focus on capturing the essence of a monster or magic item, rather than every element of it.

For characters, it'll basically come down to finding the best match for the options you've chosen. We'll talk about that stuff in the conversion docs we're working on. - Mike Mearls

Handling Errata 

When will we, if we will, see official errata or clarifications for the PHB, HotDQ, and subsequent books? Namely the Circle of the Moon Druid. - jmcampbell82

Starting next year, we'll issue surveys similar to the playtest ones to ferret out any issues and vet solutions. - Mike Mearls

Open Playtest

First, thanks for being so active in responding to questions! Great AMA.

I'm also a long term gamer - picked it up with the red box back in 1978. I've played a lot of games (and I'm a Runequest nerd at heart), but I'm very happy to see the new edition. I just picked up the PHB and the MM to join a friend's new campaign! My question is about process... The playtest was fascinating. What feedback surprised you from it? What are some changes you all decided to make that you weren't expecting? - stranger_here_myself

Biggest surprise - people loved complexity out of combat, and generally disliked it in combat. That ran counter to what we expected. I really thought we'd see a big call for a much fiddlier core combat system, but that never happened.

Unexpected change - I love the proficiency bonus, but there were some of us (including me!) who thought that people would not be happy with a single progression. The feedback showed us that people loved it. It was a happy surprise. - Mike Mearls

It seems like Pathfinder development is much more transparent than D&D. They have active Facebook and web blogs. They frequently visit their forums. Further, major releases all have a beta period, they release PDFs of all their sourcebooks and they have open submissions for writers. In contrast D&D doesn't seem to have a face or much of a community liaison. I believe the last Reddit AMA was a year ago. What structure is in place that causes D&D to be so opaque and mired in paper publishing? - Uverus

Bonus points for mentioning licensing character creation software rights to HeroLab.

I don't agree with your premise - we opened up the development of our core system to an audience that is larger than the audience playing any other RPG on the market.

We have over 600,000 followers on our Facebook page and post there regularly.

The core team is active on Twitter and answers rules questions.

Honestly, I think the better question is why do people think we're opaque after we spent two years conducting an incredibly open test driven by rigorously collected and analyzed data? I'm really not sure what else we can do.

IMO, a big drawback we face is that when we say we'll do something, people hold us to it. D&D is an order of magnitude larger than any other tabletop RPG. If we say we're going to do X and then don't deliver, we catch far more grief than any other publisher. - Mike Mearls

Specific System Questions

Hi Mike - probably too late for you to see this, but you never know.

I'm really enjoying 5E, much more than I had expected to given that the only other edition I really enjoy is 4E. In all honesty, the only thing I really miss is the Warlord class - I always thought it was the best addition to the game, and the tiny bits and pieces in, for example, the battlemaster Fighter and valour Bard don't really scratch the tactical itch.
Is it too much to hope for more warlord? - barnardine

Our intent is for the fighter's options to pick up the warlord concept, but as with anything we'll keep an eye on how it's working out in play. - Mike Mearls

The Pact of the Blade Warlock feature seems to imply you can form any melee weapon you want, until you make a pact with a specific weapon, at which time you can only summon that weapon with the pact. Is that correct? Also, is there any mechanical reason that you can't summon two weapons (for TWF) or ranged weapons? Wondering if this pact is limited for flavor reasons or mechanical ones. Thanks! - menkoy

That's a correct reading of the pact.

I'd allow two weapons or a ranged weapon - it's not a big balancing factor. - Mike Mearls

Out of curiosity, why are the Ranger's known spells limited to half-level + 1, while the Paladin is able to prepare spells from the entire list of Paladin spells?

Was also curious about how a Beastmaster functions as a mount. The PHB states that a mount can take the dash, disengage, and dodge actions.

This seems to be at odds with the Beastmaster requiring you to use your action to have your companion take those actions, and makes the archetype improvement at level 7 a bit lackluster. - DakAttak

Paladins vs. Rangers: It's a flavor issue, a nod to the ranger's AD&D links to the magic-user/wizard spell list.

Beastmaster Mounts: I'd allow the companion to act as either per the companion rules, or as per the mount rules each round. At level 7, that would let the beast dash/disengage/dodge with its own action as a mount, then the ranger can use a bonus action for one of the Exceptional Training benefits.

That's IMO, not an official rule. Crawford makes me say that, because he's the official rules expert. - Mike Mearls

The zombie lord Marcel from 2nd Ravenloft adventure "Night of the Walking Dead" has two abilities: one is a vile odor that affects all in 30yds with a con save against random effects, all replicated by 5e except a Weakness spell effect and a Cause Disease spell effect (Contagion is already on the list); the other is a save vs. Death-and-zombification effect. What are appropriate DCs for such effects, and how can I retool the odor? - youareanassmaggot

I'd go one of two paths:

Lower DC but a really bad effect (DC 10 or so), or a higher DC (15) that requires one save per round and has a really bad effect after three failed saves. - Mike Mearls

Are levels meant to determine a relative level of power regardless of class or are they only to determine how powerful a character is in relation to it's own class? I know ideally it's the former, but it feels like the latter. - IWantToFishIt

Ideally the former - though class power is relative to the challenge at hand. - Mike Mearls

Hello! I wanted to know more about the development of the Conjure X spells. Specifically the design behind the Conjuration Wizard. I'm a new-ish DM with about a dozen 6-12hr games under my belt, and I'm finding that the ability to create 8 or more copies of a single creature bogs down combat tremendously, and is preventing me from placing the party in scenarios that feel dangerous to them. The wizard will just summon swarms of ravens to keep multiple enemies at bay. Is there a downside to this strategy I'm not seeing that will allow me to keep combat exciting without feeling cheap?
Thank you! -  LyonArtime

Remember the concentration rule - hit the caster, and the party risks losing all of those summoned creatures. Also, for weaker creatures don't be afraid to provoke their puny opportunity attacks. Finally, remember that larger creatures can move through the space occupied by a creature two sizes larger or smaller than it. - Mike Mearls

I really like traits/ideals/etc and Inspiration, and I like how Inspiration works differently from similar mechanics in other games- I like how it isn't a point economy, and its easy to have it, use it, and award it.

When did you guys decide to add traits/etc into the game, and how did they develop? Ditto Inspiration? - monstermanual

They came in fairly late in the process, if I recall correctly. We knew we wanted to have mechanical support for roleplaying, and it was something we suspected that people would react well to.

The mechanics were inspired by two RPGs, FATE and Pendragon. They gave us some nifty models for adding a system to encourage RP without being heavy handed about it. We knew that the rules needed a light touch, because some people would really latch on to it while others would avoid it.

I'm happy with the end result - it's nifty to see it accepted by so many people. I think inspiration, along with advantage and backgrounds, are the signature elements of this edition. - Mike Mearls

Hey Mike, just a couple quick questions but wanted to get clarification.
  1. This came up at the table and I think we got it figured out, but are wizards able to end spells early if they aren't concentration?
  2. So, just to be clear, exp earned in combat is still divided amongst all participants instead of each party member getting the full xp reward, right?
Loving 5e so much. This is everything I wanted DnD to be. Well, I am a little sad that rangers are still partial spellcasters and rely on favored enemies, but oh well, fighters can now do what I want rangers to do. Otherwise, it's a lot of fun. - Ryuutakeshi

1    The rules are silent on that, but I'd let a caster end it as a bonus action.

2    Correct.
- Mike Mearls

Is there a reason there isn't a spell to summon fiends, like there is with elementals, fey and celestials? Will that be in the DMG? - Twigzy

Fiends are a special case - the nature of the Abyss and the Nine Hells makes summoning them very difficult and at the cost of a sacrifice. It's something that we leave in the DM's hands. - Mike Mearls

I've been playing 5e with my friends for over a year now thanks to the playtests and we've already houseruled a few things back in (expertise dice instead of proficiency to skills for example) but I have two major questions:
  1. The Draconic bloodline sorceror adds damage to their relevant damage type. Say we have a red dragon sorceror who casts Wall of Fire. Do they add charisma to each tick of it , or just the damage dealt on cast. Do they also add damage for each individual hit of Scorching Ray?
  2. Do teleportation effects like Dimension Door and Misty Step automatically break grapple? What about non-spell like abilities like the Shadow Monks shadow teleportation.
Also, what is your favorite ability from 5e. For me, it's the Bend Luck feature for Wild Magic Sorcerors (lots of fun to make creatures fail their saves). - BlackSol
  1. I believe it is the damage dealt on casting.
  2. I'd say any teleportation breaks a grapple, unless it brings everyone grappling along for the ride.
Favorite ability: I love the rogue's cunning action. Makes them feel tricky, like they always have something up their sleeve. - Mike Mearls

Will there be an epic tier for 5e (levels beyond 20)? Do you think the straightforward nature of character building in 5e would make it harder or easier to design? Would it break bounded accuracy? - sudsboy

For things beyond 20, I think we'd look at introducing a new mechanic to make characters feel truly legendary. I doubt it would break bounded accuracy - we'd instead focus on really powerful abilities that can alter a campaign world.

As an example, rather than giving you a big bonus to attacks or damage, we might look at stuff a character can use to alter world events. A fighter might be able to turn the tide of a mass battle singlehandedly, stuff like that. - Mike Mearls

You mentioned above about such features as domains and owning business. Can you elaborate what that entails? I attempted to do this with a party back in 4e, and it didn't work out well. - kboy101222

It works through the downtime system and gives you options for spending your time and money between adventures to build up a domain or run a business. Think of it as your character's job when not adventuring. - Mike Mearls

Couple of questions:

What, exactly, are the advantages of bounded accuracy and what does it add to the game?

Where are all the modules we were promised in the Legends and Lore columns?

Why is the DMG release date being pushed back if you had two years to work on it with no product being pushed out the door?

Where are the stealth rules?

As a player and a DM, I value consistency in the game world highly. For example, if my fifth level fighter can drop-kick a guy from a chandelier, I want to be able to use that manuever with another fifth level fighter in a game with another DM. Given 5e's philosophy (as you have stated in this thread) that every DM should change everything from skill DCs to multiclassing rules, what exactly does 5th edition have to offer me? - The_Great_Evil_King

  1. Bounded accuracy simplifies the math, speeds up the game, and makes it easier for all characters to have at least a chance of success in most situations. It also simplifies character creation and leveling.
  2. DMG.
  3. We were still making products during those two years, just not many. Also, the book needed the additional work to hit our quality goals.
  4. PHB
  5. If you need every DM to run the game exactly the same, 5e is probably the wrong game for you. 5e is focuses on giving DMs the tools and flexibility to run the game they want. - Mike Mearls
Why Convert to 5e

I played and enjoyed 3rd Edition (and 3.5), but 4th Edition left a bitter taste in my mouth. The game felt like a tabletop MMORPG, which is not what I'm interested in. Since then, I've moved on to Pathfinder. Why should I now consider looking at 5th Ed.? - ArthurTrollington

5th is designed from the ground up to account for everything we've learned about RPGs in the 14 years since 3e launched. Those lessons are expressed both in the design in the rules and will be apparent as we start to roll out the product line.

The biggest thing, IMO, is that 5th focuses a lot on delivering similar depth of play as the d20 system with a much more compact, easier to grok, and easier to handle system. For instance, let's take designing NPCs. In 5th, we don't assume that NPCs need magic items. Feats are optional. Skills are either a thing you have or you don't. If you want to make a 10th-level NPC fighter, it takes a sliver of the time as it does in d20 because those details are no longer necessary. As a DM, you can delve into them if you want, but you don't have to. 

That philosophy is infused throughout the system. We've basically taken out hoops you had to jump through or elements of the system that evolved into barriers. As another example - all characters now have a basic competence in two-weapon fighting. We eliminated the default penalties and the multiple feats needed to become good at it. Instead, we simply balanced core TWF against sword & board or two-handed weapons. In essence, the game is built to move quicker, get results faster, and work in a compact manner that makes it much easier to mod or take apart.

Hope that helps! - Mike Mearls

Wizards of the Coast Questions 
& Future Plans

Hi Mike,

I really like how the Players Handbook was an "all stars/best of" D&D and fantasy worlds. All the main classes were there and all the usual suspects in terms of races, elves, orcs, halflings, etc. My question is: what about getting a bit 'out of the box' with some of the races and classes. For example, having a class that's based on a renaissance-style inventor like Leonardo da Vinci or a race seldom seen in fantasy tropes. (You mentioned centaurs in a different question). - FlyBlueGuitar

That's the kind of stuff that will come in as we produce books to support specific campaigns and story arcs. For instance, you could imagine that the githzerai as a playable race would make a lot of sense in a psionics book that supported a mind flayer-based campaign. Fey options would fit into a Feywild campaign, and so on. - Mike Mearls

Is there still plans to write articles for the D&D website providing advice on topics such as Dungeon Mastering? - JesterDavid

Yes, we have exactly that kind of thing planned for next year. - Mike Mearls

Is there any hope of seeing 5e as a video game?

Is there any chance 4e will ever get the turn based tactical rpg game treatment it seems to emulate?

I love both editions for different reasons and I'd rather see 4e digitized than 5e, because 5e is a far more nuanced and enjoyable table game. You guys knocked this one out of the park. - krymsonkyng

Hopefully we'll have some cool 5e-based video games to announce in the near future.

A 4e tactical game is tricky - we couldn't get one into production during the edition's run, and I think the chances of that happening have only gone down since. It'd be cool, but it's tough for digital RPGs and funding these days. - Mike Mearls




Thank you for answering my question, even if the answer hurt a bit. Like i said, I'm a huge fan of your team's work - krymsonkyng

Will D&D Next go more international in the coming years? Us here in the Far East are craving some D&D action, but the decision not to allow localization in Korean/ Japanese / etc. made us very sad.  I'm asking because I saw a screenshot of an official D&D webpage with Korean / Japanese / etc. on it. :D - szp

We definitely want to expand our reach - no plans to announce, but it's something we're working on. - Mike Mearls

Have you thought about releasing paperback versions of the Player's Handbook? - kekker_crane

Formats and such are things that we'll look at as the edition matures, but not in the near term. - Mike Mearls

Coming late to the party, perhaps too late. But nevertheless, I don't see it mentioned anywhere else . . .

Do you think we'll ever see a meta-game math document anywhere? For example, you very obviously have target numbers for damage (incoming and outgoing, with varying accuracy) at each level (or at least certain levels). And you clearly are willing to deviate from them a bit for various reasons. I'd really like to know how to design a monster, class, magic item, or trap. I'm told the DMG is likely to have the basics of monster design, but what about the rest?

Second question. I forgot to cancel it, so my annual DnD magazine subscription renewed for another year. Given that you are continuing to charge for the magazine, is it safe to say that we can expect new issues soon? How do the magazines figure into your avoidance of system-bloat and fewer splat-books? In 4e, the magazines published a lot of material, which was great, especially for niche content. How is this likely to work for 5e? - alficles

The DMG will cover that for monsters. For stuff like spells, that's something that will evolve with time. I'd like to address it via a regular web column.

The magazines will present much less material in 4e, and I do not expect them to be tied to the DDI [Dungeons and Dragons Insider - Charlie] subscription. We'd look more to adventure content and a DM focus. - Mike Mearls

Ooh, this looks fun!

1- Will there be a faster item crafting variant for people who want to be able to make moderately simple items in just a couple days' work? A lot of us think item crafting is fun and wish it were more integratable into the smaller periods of downtime that crop up in the middle of adventures rather than in between adventures. For instance, I have an alchemist character, but spending 5-10 days working on a single-use weapon that is only moderately powerful if it successfully hits the enemy seems like an uneven tradeoff.

2- On a related note, will we get any additional crafting options for the more unusual artisan's tools, like alchemist and tinkerer? There aren't many examples of items they can create, and it's harder to guess what else might be craftable with them. - Fralexion

1.    Not an official variant yet, but really you can chop time down by a lot as long as you account for it in your campaign.

I'd really love to have a robust, interesting crafting system. I was never too into WoW
[World of Warcraft - Charlie], but I loved collected materials and creating gear. It's tricky, because such a system can become fiddly, but it's part of the game I'd like to see expanded upon.

[2.]    The rules are vague in that area for now. Definitely have me thinking, though, about how we can expand on them . . .
- Mike Mearls

Congratulations on the epic release of 5e. Loving everything about it so far. My gaming group prefers to keep playing 4e, so I found a second group to run a 5e campaign for and I'm going to run Adventurer's League soon too as well. I'm 100% sold.

But a quick question concerning 4e. I know you probably can't say anything about this but is there anything - anything at all - in the future for 4e? A simple yes, no or ''can't say'' will suffice.

Best of luck with all your future RPG work, and don't ever stop living the dream! - UndertakerSheep

We'll keep the character builder and tools running as long as enough people subscribe, but we basically see 4e as a complete game at this point. - Mike Mearls

It seems that WotC will be subcontracting adventure design product, at least in part. What will your team be focusing on, design-wise, after the core books are on shelves? Can we expect splatbooks, or a similar release schedule to 1E & 2E with Deities & Demigods, Unearthed Arcana, et al? - sudsboy

Our main focus is on two areas:
  • Quality control of releases, especially making sure they play well with the core rules
  • Managing the ongoing maintenance and quality of the core rules, via new design ideas and regularly feedback surveys
  • Researching new products and platforms to make D&D more accessible and easier to play - Mike Mearls

Hi Mike. Will the warforged be in he DMG? Will there be support of Eberron in 5e? Many have supported Keith Baker's Eberron charity initiatives. - nicolascarrillos

Warforged are not in the DMG, alas. Cut for space reasons. However, we will be making that material available. - Mike Mearls

Would WotC ever publish an evil campaign? Maybe take some inspiration from GTA [Grand Theft Auto - Charlie]. It would be a good excess to publish a player's book on evil classes too, necromancers, vampires, blackguards, etc. - looneysquash

Probably not in the near term - it's an interesting topic, but the drow-based encounters campaign we did in 4e got mixed reactions. - Mike Mearls

Any reason for the higher price point? - NuclearOops

We wanted a premium product, especially in terms of art and book design, to ensure that the physical book had value as an object when compared to a future ebook. Obviously, that drove the cost up. We also felt comfortable with that direction knowing we'd have a free version of the game available (Basic D&D). - Mike Mearls

What are your plans for D&D in Southeast Asia (SEA)? There's a surprising lack of D&D products and events here. - charlesatan

We're looking at growing to a global audience, but for now we're making plans for translations and perfecting our organized play network primarily in North American before growing further. - Mike Mearls

Will 5e dnd next be the final edition of dnd with continous support or will there be another edition in the future? Do you think it's fair to fans/supporters to have so many editions? - JohnnyMayhem2008

I really don't like doing a new edition. IMO, new editions of D&D would focus on cleaning up trouble spots, applying lessons learned in design, and sticking to the core elements that made a thing successful in the first place. 

Basically, a new edition asks people to re-learn the game all over again. It has to be worth that effort. - Mike Mearls

Hi. I'm a big fan of D&D 5e and I'm from Brazil. I know a lot of people interested in this edition, but some are uncomfortable to get the books in english. However, this time unlike in the past, we have no news about translations. Looking on the internet I came to know that this is being a issue in others countries as well. So, for now, what can you say about translations? - FGarden

We want to adopt a plan that makes it possible for us to deliver new releases in multiple languages at the same time. That requires a lot of work on our end, and also likely ties into digital publishing.

It's definitely something we want, but it might take some time to line everything up. - Mike Mearls

Mike! Huge fan! I wanted to know what are some things people (like myself) who want to work for Wizards should do to set us apart from the pack? I want to work on one of the creative teams and would love advice! I went back to school just to finish a degree so I can qualify for most of the positions. Any help would make a world of difference. Thanks! - Chris Lynch

Big thing would be coming into a job interview with a clear outlook on what makes you unique. It also helps to have done your homework on WotC products and any future plans we've announced. If you show you've done the work to prep for the interview, it speaks well to your work ethic and initiative. - Mike Mearls

Hey Mike, I'm currently a high school student with no idea of what I want to do with my life. I am however, interested in D&D in general, so I was wondering what kind of education or training is necessary to get a job at Wizards? Also, what kind of careers are available for the long-term? - kreol0100

Getting a job at WotC working on D&D is a pretty tough prospect - we have 15 people on staff, so competition is fierce.

In general, for the gaming industry a good mix of skills is useful. Programming is good for getting into video games, but even for analog design it's a useful skill set for learning how to think about rules, their interactions, and building systems.

Math and statistics are useful for understanding the basics of probability. English and communications in general are very useful, especially for working with other people and learning to write clearly.

I'd also strongly recommend you attend GDC, PAX Dev, and similar events if possible. It's helpful to have a sense of the current trends.

Finally, play lots of games and constantly design your own.

In terms of careers, there are a lot of roles you can fill. While game design and programming are obvious paths, project management, production, and so on are all worth looking at. People on the outside don't understand how critical the people who simply make gaming companies function are on a day-to-day basis. - Mike Mearls

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cleaning Up the AMA with Mike Mearls, Part I

Last night I started reading through the Mike Mearls Ask Me Anything over at Reddit and quickly found that reading through the entire thing is a dreadful chore. To make it easier to understand everything that was said I've gone through and organized the thing focusing on the questions Mike answered, Mike's answers, and the most interesting follow-up points that came after Mike's response.

A few notes before you start reading. Since many of the people on Reddit tend to use lots of abbreviations and allusions to things that Mike may be perfectly aware of but the causal reader will not I'll often be linking to other sites that were not originally linked and explaining the initial use of the abbreviation in brackets (for example - D&D [Dungeons and Dragons - Charlie]) to make sure everyone understands what is being said. All posts will be linked to their original locations by the name of the person making the comment. Mike's responses will be in bold text to help make him stand out. All questions are divided by topic, which are arranged alphabetically, and the questions will be presented in the order they are asked.

Digital Tools

As a software developer by trade, it might be fun to make some D&D tools in my spare time. But of course, if I'm not very careful, I would end up violating your copyright, WotC will have to send me a C&D. I wish there was an API where I could pull a list of spells, or monsters, or races or classes, and get them back as JSON or XML. And I wish access to that API depended on the user, and not as me as a developer. E.g. the user subscribes to DDi [Dungeons and Dragons Insider - Charlie], gives my app their username/password, and now my app gives them access to the list of monsters. - looneysquash

This would be more or less the perfect way of allowing third party tools to create characters, spellbooks, etc. Let the developers use an API that's linked up to DDi. I'd totally renew my DDi subscription for that. - MatthewRoB

That would be pretty cool, wouldn't it? - Mike Mearls

Mike, it is the pink elephant in the room. What happened with Trapdoor and Dungeonscape? What can you say that will inspire us to have patience and confidence in the WotC team to get digital right after the abysmal 16 year track record teams before you have had with digital? Does Orcus secretly run the digital team? (see what I did there . . . Abysmal . . .) - UrsoLeo

I can't speak to the specifics - like any other business relationship, it's nothing something we talk about in public. 

More generally, our approach with digital tools, ebooks, new sourcebooks for D&D, and so on follows a similar path: grow D&D. If we take the time to do something new, it has to reach a new audience or make D&D easier to get into. That might be through product design (a newbie can get into the game easier), press coverage (people talk about and raise D&D's profile), or some other element.

That does have the drawback that we can't rush into things or take half-measures if we want to hit our targets, but I think the short term issue of a lack of clarity is worht the long-term prospect of growing D&D to heights it has never reached. - Mike Mearls

Hi Mike,

I've been writing a little code to apply templates to monster statblocks (mostly so that I can easily generate lots of distinct NPCs for the cities my two (mostly urban) campaigns pass through). It's a lot better to have NPC guards in a high elven city open up combat with a cantrip, say. I'm quite pleased with the code - it's able to intelligently pick languages and (for Half Elves and Variant Humans) proficiencies and stat boosts that compliment the base NPC. It is, of course, implementing a load of material from the PHB and MM, so it's locked down on my VPN - not publicly accessible in any way.

How likely is it that it will ever be possible to make such a thing publicly accessible? I realise the most likely answer is that you can't talk about more open licensing yet, but I figure it can't hurt to ask! :-) - oscarhocklee

That sounds pretty cool - we're definitely aware that people want to make their own tools. It's on our radar, but something we don't have any concrete plans for yet. - Mike Mearls

The reasoning that we had always heard for the lack of a 5E tools license and digital PDFs was that Dungeonscape will take care of both of those. Now that Dungeonscape is no more, what reasoning will there be for why we can't have those? - Glae_Hex

We want to produce both tools and ebooks - we're simply at the stage now of planning out how we want to do that in a way that grows D&D. - Mike Mearls

Forgotten Realms Specific Questions

Hey Mike,

I'm swinging away from 5E questions for a second.

So, you've advanced the timeline of the FR by 100 years. Mirt is still alive (somehow), Khelben is dead, and I assume the rest of the old Lords have either died or retired.
Any plans for an update to the Lords of Waterdeep Boardgame for the Lords in the 1480's? Also, I'm writing a campaign in Waterdeep for 5th. Any hope for some City of Splendors lore for the new era, or is it too soon to even think about it? - TrustMeIAmAGeologist

It's a little too soon for Waterdeep in the RPG, but we are considering it. It's a key part of the Realms.

For Lords of Waterdeep, something like that is more likely to show up in a theoretical expansion than in a re-issue of the core game. I'd be worried that people would feel like we were asking them to buy a game they already owned. - Mike Mearls

General System Questions

Hey, Mr. Mearls, congrats on the launch of 5E! I can say without a doubt that 5th Edition has had the most universally positive reception among my friends and local gamers out of all the RPGs we play, so thanks to you and the team for that!

Which parts of each prior edition would you say had the most influence in the development of 5E (4th ed's AEDU [an acronym developed for Fourth Edition that stood for the At Will, Encounter, Daily, and Utility powers - Charlie] powers and structured feeling, 3.5's variety, etc)? If you were to do another playtest on a similar scale and scope of the D&D Next program, what would you do/approach differently, if anything?

Can you give us any idea/hint/statement that everyone will overanalyse on when WotC might start releasing more info on the "living rules system" program (playtesting optional fixes and rules, I think the ranger might have been mentioned at one point as something that your team was looking at)?

How much of fan homebrew and shop-talk does the D&D team take into account, if any, when deciding what new character options they might want to make? For instance, if a tonne of people make their own homebrews for the Changeling race (hint hint) or a rage-powered sorcerer (hint hint hint), would the team prioritise an Eberron release or some sort of book with lots of sorcerer bloodlines?

Finally, which would you rather fight: 20 kobold-sized tarrasques, or 1 tarrasque-sized kobold?

Thanks for helping to bring in a future for D&D that looks bright and full of promise! - NecronPariah

For influences: * 3e's core mechanics, and the concept of unifying things across the board * 4e's approach to a core math foundation, and emphasis on giving every class something cool and unique (might sounds weird to people due to AEDU, but dud classes were a big issue in 3e that 4e really curtailed) * 1e's emphasis on the DM as arbiter and referee, taking priority over the system * 2e's emphasis on roleplaying and storytelling, along with the 2e DMG's presentation of options and variants for the DM

Living Rules System - This will start early next year. The process will begin with playtest surveys much like the ones we did for the core game, to allow us to see if the game has issues and if so where.

New character options will be driven by story and setting, but any cool idea is fair game. Homebrewing is also a key part of being a DM, and we want to help make the processes behind making transparent as possible.

I'd rather fight one tarrasque-sized kobold. Bigger beastie = bigger target! - Mike Mearls

Oooh, LRS is sooner than I thought! Looking forward to that!

I'm also really, really excited by the paring of new options with story-driven events (and I loved the idea you mentioned earlier for introducing psionics by releasing a psionics book alongside a psionics-themed adventure). It makes it so each event is something to get really pumped up about, unifies the excitement instead of smaller groups getting excited about different things - DMs get their adventure options, character-focused players get new character stuff, and people who love new tools and options get new mechanical stuff!
It changes those conversations with my friends from:

"Dude, Book 1 is coming out next month! It has Thing 1 + 2 in it!"

"Yeah, I'm not a fan of that - I like Thing 3, which is coming out six months from now"

"And I'd rather see more options for This Other Type of Thing, but they haven't announced support for that."

to something where people can say

"Dude, Event 1 is starting next month! It has Thing 1 + 2 in it!"

"Yeah, and the Event is about Faction 3, which is my favorite!"

"And they're expanding on Area 4 of the world - I've always loved the background behind it!"

Also, I'm really, excited to hear about transparency for homebrewing! One of my biggest worries about the "DMs run it however they want" is that many DMs won't allow homebrew from other groups because they aren't sure about it being balanced. But having transparency in the process of making stuff makes it much more likely that different DMs will accept homebrew (or at least be willing to give it a try). - NecronPariah

Were there any features of DnD that you wanted to remove or heavily alter, but couldn't because they have been grandfathered in for so long? - Abdial

There actually aren't too many traditional pieces I wanted gone. It was more stuff I would've added to the game but couldn't for reasons of time, budget, and priorities. 

Probably the only mechanic I'm not crazy about is XP [experience - Charlie] and leveling. If I could, I'd build a system where gaining a new class feature is driven by story-based prereqs [prerequisites - Charlie]. Like, you can't learn to cast fireball until you've defeated a fire elemental and captured its essence, or after slaying the orc king a fighter can master a new battle axe technique. 

Here's what I'd do if I designed the game solely for myself.
  • More dice, fewer static modifiers. I'd use a die in place of the proficiency bonus. I like rolling dice and find it easier to teach that way.
  • A few more classes and races - goliaths, a fey race that isn't an elf, centaurs dropped to size Medium and made a playable race; for classes, really nail down psionics in a way that makes them fit with fantasy cleanly to the point that they can be in the PHB without confusing people. All this stuff comes down to time and focus - the more you do, the less time you have to polish what's there, so no regrets that it's not there. Just stuff I personally like 
  • I wish the MM [Monster Manual - Charlie] could be an app rather than a book. Working in page counts sucks, to be honest. I would've loved to break out tables of bonds, traits, and flaws for every intelligent creature in the game. Don't get me wrong, I love physical books, but on the digital front there's so much potential in breaking out of physical restriants. 
  • More domains. I love deities in fantasy, and I think I could've put another 12 domains on the list for the cleric. 
  • More backgrounds by culture - delve into a few historical eras and bust out backgrounds to let you adapt the classes to play in fantasy takes on them.  - Mike Mearls

Love 5e. Why did you bind Eldritch Knight so tightly to two schools in the Wizard spellbook? - IWantToFishIt

It's a trade off between getting fighter abilities and going full-fledged caster. The wizard's key with magic is flexibility. Class options that make another class wizard-ly tend to sacrifice that range of options to become good at one thing. We also wanted the eldritch knight to really capture that warrior/mage flavor, hence the focus. Finally, we wanted to ensure that a fighter/wizard multiclass (for people using that system) remained an interesting choice, rather than one that the EK eliminated. The two options had to exist in harmony. - Mike Mearls

What were some of your personal design goals/preferences for 5E that you feel either weren't implemented the way you'd have personally liked, or got cut fro the final release entirely? - Atmosfear2012

I touched on this earlier, but I'll go into more detail here - I'd love get rid of XP and maybe even level benefits and replace it with a system of rewards based on your deeds.

I love how in Elder Scrolls games my character improves at the things I do. If I sneak a lot, I get better at sneaking. I'm not sure there's an elegant way to make that work on a tabletop, but I think it would be cool.

For more noteworthy stuff, I imagine a system that gives you special abilities based on deeds you complete in game. Let's say your fighter manages to wrestle and kill a stone giant. That might earn you big bonus to all checks made for wrestling and a special ability when fighting giants.

It's the kind of system that I think can work for an individual group, but I'm not sure it works as something you create for a mass audience. - Mike Mearls

I'm curious, what made you/the designers decide the the Death domain should be villainous/evil, DMG only material? Especially when the flagship setting for 5th edition has a neutral god of death in Kelemvor? Not to mention the fact that the Necromancer wizard has a far more evil vibe, but was still put in the Player's Handbook instead of held back like the Death domain.

I can understand the whole "undead are evil" thing, but the Death domain doesn't even mess about with undead for the most part (it has animate dead as a domain spell, but that's it... and again, the Necromancer wizard loves undead). Given the wealth of non-evil deities of death, both in the real world and the various D&D settings, what caused that decision? - JRutterbush

Kelemvor is a little bit of an outlier compared to most settings. We wanted it to be available in the core, but felt that making it a default didn't fit the flavor of most campaigns.

While DMs can pick and choose options, we felt that the PHB had to be a selection of material that 90% of DMs would be happy to have in their campaigns. The death domain and the oathbreaker didn't quite hit that level. - Mike Mearls

Mike, gotta say I love 5e. It's my favorite iteration of the d20 system since its inception, mostly because of the flattened math. For years I tried to invent alternate magic systems that used skills, tried to implement a wound system, shift combat over to skills... none of it worked because of the spiraling math of previous editions. With 5e I have a simple enough framework to make those things happen if I want, so thank you.

My last remaining "bugbear" (haha) is the class system. I don't even mind levels so much, but I don't having to force my character idea into one of several predetermined categories, nor the other way, picking one and then building a character concept from there. With the new system it seems easier than ever to have a classless method of character creation. Any chance we could get something like that down the line? - HawaiianBrian

I'd love to do it - probably not in the near future, but it's a system I'd personally like to see.

The tricky thing is that invariably, there is a "correct" build. I think if we went this route, we'd try to balance things as we could but we'd focus more on giving DMs good guidelines to handle balance issues that come up in their games. - Mike Mearls

Is it mathematically possible for 5th edition to model the following situation:
"Two characters of the same level are attempting a reasonably difficult task. One character is sufficiently unskilled that they have almost no chance of success; the other character is an expert, who is experienced enough that they have no chance of failure."
As a concrete example, let's say that both I and a Nobel-laureate mathematician try to derive a complex (but unremarkable) mathematical proof. I have enough knowledge of math that I could take a crack at it, but I'd need many attempts to even come close to a solution. The mathematician would have no trouble solving it on her first attempt.
This is a pretty common thing in everyday life. Most people have no chance of picking even an ordinary lock, while someone with basic training can do it with no trouble. Most people can't deadlift 200 lbs, but most weightlifters would find it trivial. 3rd edition can easily model this with its skills system: if a task has a DC of 25, any character with less than 5 in that skill has no chance of success, while any character with 25 or more has no chance of failure, and it's pretty easy for (say) two 10th level characters to fit that bill.
It seems like this is impossible in 5th edition, because there's a (very small) maximum difference between the skills of any two characters of the same level. If so, why design it this way? Essentially, it seems like in 5e no character can ever be an expert at anything. At least, not compared to other characters of the same level. - m_data

That's only if you define expert as something that excludes a chance of success for other characters. D&D, being focused on heroic fantasy, doesn't follow that line of thinking. D&D errs on the side of giving you at least some chance of success.

That's not a judgment on what is correct for any RPG. It's just what's correct for D&D. - Mike Mearls

General Questions for Mike

Hi Mike!

Big fan. What's the meanest/funniest thing you've done as a DM to a group of players? Not that anything DM's do could be considered mean, they're great. I unconditionally love them and would never want to upset them. All DM's are powerful and good looking. Fact.
Also, what's the meanest/funniest thing you've done as a player to another player or DM? - Eggnpggin

Meanest thing as a DM: It's small, but it's the first thing that comes to mind.

3e Eberron game, the characters are fighting their way through a frost giant outpost high in the mountains. The giants send a pack of dire wolves out to rush the PCs. The halfling player comes up with a fiendish plan. He decides to leap on the back of a dire wolf and attack. The wolves can't bite at him while he's there, he declares. It would be crazy unrealistic for them to risk biting their packmate. Plus, the giants would clearly avoid throwing boulders at the halfling and risk squashing their pet. 

I agree with his cogent points.

On the giants' next turn, they use a free action to whistle and ready their actions to ends that are inscrutable to the players. Halfling player is perplexed. On the wolf's next turn, it runs back to its master in response to the whistle. Giant #1 pulls the halfling off the wolf's back. Giants #2-6 pummel the crap out of him. That was the last time he tried riding a giant wolf. 

Funniest/meanest thing done to another player - buried a rogue alive, not realizing that the ring of regeneration he stole from the fighter was going to revive him in a few hours. - Mike Mearls

1.) I'm surprised there was so much of a gap between PHB, MM, and the still pending DM guide (especially since the books reference each other). Can you explain why the staggered release?

2.) I got into D&D with 4e (before that I was just a spectator on the sidelines -- and I guess never winter nights 1/2 if that counts). What were some of the disadvantages of the 'at-will / encounter / daily' style of abilities (as opposed to the now minutes / full-rest).
3.) I'm still getting used to D&D 5e. I think having specific skills (e.g. athletics, bluff, etc.) was actually more clear than the 5e system; can you detail the design intent behind the change?

4.) I must admit that while I love D&D, I try my best to avoid the cannon fluff whenever I can. Mostly because I have a really hard time rationalizing things like hoards of treasure waiting to be seized (that would destroy economies), the long-term effects of magic on the development of society (e.g. arcane wind mills / necromantic farmers / any disease or ailment being 'fixable' regardless of what it was), the effect of different planes and 'Gods' directly interfering with mortals, etc. What can you tell me to rationalize this aversion?
Overall, I'm pretty giddy -- I read my PHB every other night as bed-time material. Once the DM guide comes out in December, I'll finally start a game that my friends and I have been planning for several years.

Also, just to reinforce what people have said (and I know you can't talk about it), but the 4e DnD insider tools were some of the best things ever. The entire cost of the subscription was worth it just for the character builder. It was that same character builder that I used to rope so many others into this hobby as well. And now, with so many of my friends being spread all over the globe, having is a huge boon.

Edit: Follow up bonus 5.) Here is a link to the last AMA you did 2 years ago. Some notable topics you touched upon: feat support / relevancy of D&D in the future / logistics of large encounters, number mechanics (AC, adv/disadv) / play-testing feedback / caster-fighter balancing. Going back through that AMA now, are there any questions / answers that you think have changed in these 2 years? - saadistic1
  1. It was a hard lesson from 4e. Staggering the release allowed the same core team to work on every book. That improved consistency and solved a lot of quality control issues that plagued us in the past. Short-term pain for people starting campaigns, but worth it for the long term health of the game.
  2. The big disadvantages of AEDU, based on feedback we saw in the playtest, come in two areas.
First, we saw that many players don't want much complexity in combat. They're happy to just attack. AEDU forced everyone to the same level of complexity. Second, making it easy to get back encounter powers made each battle feel too similar. People could easily fall into a script they repeated fight after fight. It was not a result I expected, but pushing the short rest to one hour makes an encounter ability feel more precious. Using it is seen as a real risk now, rather than an automatic choice.
  1. The skills in 5e gave way to a bigger emphasis on ability scores. We found that this approach made the game easier to understand and forced us to adopt a more streamlined system. The skill system used to hide a lot of complexity. By forcing that material into the core system, we had a better feel for the real weight it carried and could take steps in the core to simplify things.
  2. I don't think you need to rationalize it - every DM has a unique approach to D&D. My advice would be to meet it head on - how would you change your campaign setting to account for that? What are the interesting interactions that arise and what do they mean for the world?
Personally, I like how some of that stuff can twist things around and make a setting unique.

Prior AMA - Let me get to some more questions here before I go back through the old one, but it's definitely an interesting idea. - Mike Mearls

Hey Mike,

Just got into tabletop last year and now I'm addicted. Been following you ever since, lapping up the tidbits about D&D 5 leading up to the launch. 2 questions: 1. What's your very best life advice? 2. What exactly does the D&D R&D office look like? I imagine there are vials and bunsen burners?- uberlad

  1. Don't just accept the options that other people give to you. Find your own path. If you don't know what that path is, find a steady job to keep yourself comfortable while you work that out.
Focus on what you really want, not what people tell you you're supposed to want.
People totally underrate jobs like becoming a plumber and look down their noses at it. But when you think about it, being a plumber pays well, you have different challenges every day, and when you get good you can start your own business with it. People will always need toilets and they will always pay lots of money to keep their toilets working. And if your toilet breaks, you can fix it yourself.

  1. The office is like your basic, open cube layout, but features a lot more D&D posters, action figures, board games, and dioramas of ruined castles than most other offices. - Mike Mearls

Great Game Guys

. . . I played my first game of D&D in 1976. I'm 57 & have played EVERY edition. My current campaign has been running for 30 + years & has evolved through 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and now 5th edition. Just wanted to say "Thank You"; I think (as a whole) you guys have done a fantastic job on this edition (of course there's a couple of things I'm not fond of - but I'll just ignore 'em!). Can't wait for the DMG [Dungeon Master's Guide - Charlie] & am looking to the future. Please, DO come up with some sort of digital character manager - DandD76

Thanks! Glad you enjoy the game! - Mike Mearls

Horde of the Dragon Queen

Hi Mike,

I'm currently running the HotDQ [Horde of the Dragon Queen - Charlie] adventure with my party, and we're liking the system a lot. My big issue is that my party has now amassed a lot of money, but have nothing to spend it on. The PHB [Player's Handbook - Charlie] says that only common magic items are sold, so it sounds like they can't buy +1 weapons, etc. What can my party do with all its wealth? - SatsumaOranges

The DMG has guidelines on this, but to tide you over I'd take a look at the final chapter of HotDQ (spoiler - flying castle) and set a price tag on getting that thing repaired and flying again. Stuff like that gets players really excited, because they get a really cool toy that logically needs a lot of cash to keep functional (staff, guards, repairs, etc.) Otherwise, I'd eyeball magic item sales, land and titles, and so on. The key for me as DM is to avoid giving the players a blank check - for magic items, I'd have them create a list of ones they want to buy, then incorporate that into the game as a key event (someone sells them a treasure map to one, someone else will take a bribe to help steal one, etc - keep it fresh rather than making it feel like a trip to the corner store). - Mike Mearls

I hadn't even thought of letting PCs purchase a noble title. That... makes me happy. - darkpsimystic

Iron Heroes

What's your favorite story about/from Iron Heroes? - gradenko_2000

Man, that takes me back. Probably my favorite moments were watching people play the game while I was still designing it. A friend of mine ran a few sessions, and I'd sit and observe his gaming group play. It was interesting watching the game come to life, seeing what worked and what didn't.

I also learned tons about the process behind creating an RPG - the behind the scenes stuff - that came into play during 5th's development. Iron Heroes really needed another year or so to gestate before it was ready for prime time. - Mike Mearls

Open Gaming License

Any idea of when details of the 5th ed. version of the OGL will be released (that is, if there is one)? - DandD76

No news yet, but we plan to announce something within the next couple of months or so - Mike Mearls

Specific System Questions

A couple of questions about passive skills. As I understand it, they are used when someone is passively doing something rather than actively, so passive perception is used as a baseline for how much a character notices when he's not actively looking around.

So if a character with a passive perception of 13 is actively looking around for something that can be seen on a perception DC [Difficulty Class, a measure for determining how difficult a task is in the game - Charlie] of 10, and he rolls a 2, does he not see it? Or should passive perception be considered the minimum possible value for that character?

Passive Investigation is mentioned in the Observant feat, but I have not seen anything else written on how you passively investigate something, or what situations warrant using this skill. Are there other skills that can be done passively? - GunnerMcGrath

Any skill can be used passively - it's up to the DM [Dungeon Master - Charlie] to apply that as needed. 

For perception checks, you passive result is always in effect. If you could see soemthing with a DC 10 check and your passive is 11, you see it without rolling.

Keep in mind, though, that a DM might rule otherwise. Passive checks are a tool that groups can use to speed up the game or move past die results that slow things down or lead to a grind. - Mike Mearls

Monk weapons are any simple weapon that aren't heavy or two-handed, and short swords. Quarterstaff and spear fit this criteria, but also have versatile. So can these be used two-handed for 1d8 damage and still benefit from teh martial arts bonus unarmed attack, or can they only get their bonus attack if they use the weapons one-handed?

Related question, can you confirm that unarmed attack can apply to using elbows, knees, feet, and heads? Seems like this would be the most common way to attack unarmed while wielding weapons but just checking. Thanks! - GunerMcGrath

Keeping in mind that Crawford [Jeremy Crawford is credited as co-lead designer of this edition - Charlie] is the official rules expert, these are IME [In my estimation - Charlie] -

Using a d8 weapon with the monk isn't the end of the world. It's 1 point more of damage on average than intended - the system is robust enough that you won't really notice. I allow it in my own games. 

Unarmed attacks are the same - I allow head butts and kicks. The monk in my group fights with a staff two-handed and does exactly that. It works fine, especially because she's the group's main melee character - Mike Mearls

Hey Mike, thanks for taking the time to answer questions. I want to preface this by saying overall I love 5e, but my questions are going to be directed at the things I do not love.

1) Why is alignment still a thing? All of the class alignment restrictions have been removed, and pretty much all of the penalties tied to violating alignment are gone, so what function does it serve? Was it kept around just to justify the wholesale slaughter of orcs?

2) Traits, Ideals, Flaws, and Bonds were an incredible introduction to 5e, and I've found they're great at giving starting characters real personality. That said, why don't they have more mechanical support? I really would have liked to see more bonuses for embracing, as well as penalties for ignoring them.

3) As a DM, I really value consistency. I want my players to know what their characters can accomplish, and be confident about those things. When it comes to ability checks though, difficulties for standard activities (climb a wall, swim in a river) seem to be left out entirely. Can we look forward to seeing some guidelines in the DMG?

4) Resting for a night replenishes all of a characters HP, as well as half their hit dice. The full heal seemed to garner a fair bit of criticism during the playtest, so what was the deciding factor in including it? - IronApothecary

1. Alignment is a uniquely D&D thing that people associate with the game and make references to in pop culture. It's also an easy shorthand to describe characters in broad strokes.

It's also a handy tool to describe the basic tendencies of factions in D&D while allowing for conflict between good-aligned groups. That's a subtle thing, but it bakes in the idea that the Harpers and the Order of the Gauntlet don't always get along, because they differ on how they see good as a force in the world.

1. We avoided penalties in the game as much as possible, primarily because we feel that giving people incentives or bonuses to do things is a better motivator. That said, in the playtest and design process we felt that a light touch gave groups more room to determine how important roleplaying out character traits was to the table. If we add too many mechanics, we risk hitting the point where roleplay feels scripted or by the numbers.

2. There are more guidelines for DCs in the DMG, but we are consciously avoiding the concept of a canonical list of DCs. Each DM has a different approach, and we also feel that the spread of DCs is narrow enough that DMs can quickly silo tasks into them.

3. We found that the full heal was the most popular option, but there are alternatives in the DMG. It's definitely a case where groups varied the most in terms of preference, but full healing seemed to make many groups happy while doing the least offense in turning people away. We generally created defaults that are fairly liberal, and then let DMs tone down things. That seems to be a pattern that works well for most DMs. - Mike Mearls

Is the mass combat Battlesystem you posted about in L&L going to be in the DMG? What about material for PC domains? I really want to incorporate that stuff into my campaign as it levels up. - monstermanual

Mass combat is not in the DMG - we decided that the system needed more playtesting. So, we'll be conducting open testing of that material and releasing it as part of Basic D&D once it is complete. 

There are rules for domains and managing a realm or business as part of the downtime system. - Mike Mearls

What kinds of guidelines were used when assigning monsters their CRs? Is there a range of values for each rating/level? Coming from 4e with its fairly strict progression I've been having a hard time finding any sort of pattern in monster capabilities. - ImpactVector

It's much 4e, but with a key wrinkle.

The DMG breaks down CR into an offensive and defensive rating, with a range of values for each (attack bonus and damage for offense, AC and hit points for defense). Special abilities can also modify those CRs, and this is where a fair amount of design sense and playtesting comes in to make sure that something is weighed correctly. Once you're done, you simply average out offensive CR and defensive CR to come to your final rating. Again, you might adjust a little in either direction for monsters with weird abilities, but the process is easy if you're making typical monsters. - Mike Mearls

What was your favorite concept from the 5e playtest cycle which got left on the cutting room floor? - Cramulus

I mentioned dice in place of the flat proficiency bonus, but here's another one. At one point, each martial weapon had a special maneuver built into it. It was a cool idea, but it proved too complex at the table.

Were I to do it again, I'd look at using the 4e weapon categories, tying the special maneuvers to those categories, and giving only certain characters access to them (fighters can use any of them, other classes more limited). - Mike Mearls

Hey Mike, can you talk a little bit about the design philosophy behind the PHB crafting rules? Page 187 describes the downtime activities, and the example listed talks about a character having to spend 300 days crafting a single suit of plate armor. That seems unusually long for a blacksmith (though I have admittedly never crafted armor in my life).
Why the 5g max per day forumla?- jeddite

On one hand, it captures the work effort needed to do fairly complex things, like a suit of full, heavy armor. On top of that, you can assume that a smith will have multiple people working on something. From a balance point of view, the idea is to let players make simple objects or items between adventures. - Mike Mearls

You can spend 250 days and 250 gold to learn a new tool or language, why not a skill as well? Why is there no way to add skills except via feat or multiclassing? Do you see any balance issue with allowing this? - GunnerMcGrath

It's definitely a case where it comes down to the group. Since some classes receive more skills than others, we decided to not put that option in there for "soft" balance reasons. By soft, I mean the following - it doesn't break the game, but it might irritate some players. Niche protection is a key part of class design, and a lot of players see skill training as a key part of the rogue and bard. Letting other classes match them in skills might make those classes feel squeezed out.

As a DM, you can use it without issue if you feel that your table will be fine with the change. Like a lot of things in RPGs, you might find an issue that exists for D&D players as whole doesn't affect your group. - Mike Mearls

Hello Mike. I had the pleasure of meeting you at Gen Con. Thanks again for taking your time then and now to answer questions.

Travel Pace (pg 182): Is this a blanket table regardless of the speed of the creatures involved? I know the rules list exceptions for flying creatures and the like, but the table seems to be based on creatures with speed 30. I also note the line about horses going faster over short distances. I'm just having trouble seeing a horse with speed 60, a wagon drawn by draft horses and a dwarf all travelling at the same pace if they are travelling separtely. Is this something that will be more detailed in the DMG? - PFBeginner

This is an area where we erred on the side of ease of use. Someone (maybe Crawford?) did some research on travel times of mounts vs. people on foot, and came to the conclusion that it was pretty exceptional and required a lot of support for mounts to provide a significant, long-term speed boost.

IIRC [If I remember correctly - Charlie], the Pony Express required riders to swap out horses several times per day, and the animals themselves had serious risks of injury. So, for that reason and to keep things simple, we standardized travel times. - Mike Mearls

The PHB says that a paladin who breaks his oath can become an Oathbreaker Paladin or "abandon this class and adopt another." Does this just mean begin mutliclassing as usual? Does a 10th level paladin who breaks his oath and switches to Fighter or Rogue retain all his existing Paladin powers and just become unable to learn new ones, or do some of them go away? I always had the impression that a fallen paladin (who does not become an evil paladin from the DMG) would lose his divine abilities temporarily or permanently. - GunnerMcGrath

It's based on the DM's campaign. You can go two ways - the paladin can multiclass and keep the existing paladin powers, or the paladin rebuilds as a character with levels in a different class (most likely fighter). In the first case, you're saying that paladin is something that people can learn. As you level up in the class, you unlock secrets that you get to keep. In the second, you're saying that once you anger the gods, they take your power away. In a campaign where paladins aren't tied to deities, the first approach makes sense. The second one fits if you see the gods as tightly tied to what makes a paladin a paladin. - Mike Mearls

Does the DMG include wealth by level tables and magic item price for GMs who want to run very high magic games? - PepticBurrito

We give a baseline of how many items are typical for a campaign, plus guidelines for creating higher level characters and their typical gear. There are price ranges based on level for items, plus guidelines for buying and selling items. - Mike Mearls

Would you let a caster with 6 levels in sorcerer (draconic bloodline) and 10 levels of wizard, evocation spec do +int and +cha to their wizard evocation spells of their dragon's element.  - egopunk

Yes, should stack. - Mike Mearls

How do you handle the Assassin's Assassinate feature in conjunction with creatures joining an existing combat? If the Assassin is hidden at the moment they join combat, can the Assassin "surprise" them? - Unsight

I'd say yes. Essentially, surprise occurs when one side is unaware of the other. Once battle is joined, though, I'd allow it only for someone entering the fight for the first time. - Mike Mearls

Why did the Monk's unarmed damage get reduced from 1d6 to 1d4 at first level? - Slutmiko

Believe it was to keep bonus attacks with unarmed strike balanced. - Mike Mearls

Elemental Languages:
  • PHB lists only Primordial (and it says typical speakers are Elementals)
  • MM lists Auran, Terran, Ignan, and Aquan. Primordial is not mentioned anywhere
Is this a mistake, or is Primordial supposed to encompass all four of those languages?
edit- Night Hag and Kraken mention Primordial, but not the Elementals. As an aside, love this new edition and enjoyed the playtest. Great work to your team and you!- OkinShield

Page 123 of the PHB, under languages, paragraph 3 touches on this - Terran et al are dialects of Primordial. Some creatures know the root language, others only speak variations of it. - Mike Mearls

Wizards of the Coast Future Plans / Questions

What's the internal WotC perception of the launch of the current edition as compared to previous editions? - cahpahkah

People at WotC are very happy. People are buying lots of copies of the game, playing it, and talking happily about it. We beat our targets across the board.

I think the biggest change in internal perception is that we have a much better sense of managing the game in the long term. With 3e and 4e under our belts, we understand much better what years 1, 2, 3, and so on look like. We have a better handle on what the D&D audience is doing with the game and how we can serve people.

There's very much a sense that this is the end of the beginning, and that the next phase is just as important as the launch. From here there's a lot of hard work to be done to keep people engaged and ensure that we sustain interest and happiness - Mike Mearls

Is there the hope and intention to try and get 10-12 years from this edition like 2e and (via pathfinder) v3.5? Kylden_Ar

Yes - that would be ideal. - Mike Mearls

Any tips for people who want to break into game development as a career? Is there any such thing as an "entry-level" game designer / writer / developer in WotC? (Not just thinking of RPGs, but all types of games that WotC is involved in). - EdgeOfDreams

There really aren't entry level positions on staff for D&D. Biggest piece of advice - make your own games. Either self-publish on the cheap, or just walk through the process of making a game to learn what works. 

For education, a good mix is useful. Learn a bit of coding, math, history, English. Game design is fundamentally the art of communication. Understanding how to present your ideas and entertain people is key. - Mike Mearls

Will the PDFs of the 5e books be sold? - Nicolascarrillos

We're definitely looking at PDFs, ebooks, and other digital platforms, but no news yet. The goal with anything along those lines will be grow D&D, not just sell ebooks to people who already play the game, so we're putting a lot of work into figuring out that side of the equation. - Mike Mearls

You've mentioned that you were going to stay away from the splatbook-a-month model of 3.x, and that most of the monetization would come from settings and APs [associated products? - Charlie]. It's also been said that you would expand character options with books on things like psionics. Could you explain in a bit more detail what kind of books we'll see in the future and what kind we won't? Will we see the same kinds of books as in 3.x, but with more time for editing and more care given to avoid bloat? - ademonicspoon

I'll give you an example of a theoretical expansion. 

Let's say we wanted to do psionics. We'd tie that to a campaign you can play, maybe one centered on mind flayers or a similar foe.

The psionic sourcebook would be the player's compainon to the DM's mind flayer campaign. The sourcebook would have all the info for creating psionic characters, along with world material for players who are creating characters for the mind flayer campaign. The player's book might also have a chapter written from an in-world perspective on psionics and psionic monsters, the kind of information that a character might have access to or have heard.

You can expect us to do one or two such products a year, to give people enough time to play through a campaign without overwhelming them with new options. - Mike Mearls

Given that 5e's spiritual predecessors are (mainly, as far as I can reckon it) 2E and 3.5E, what do you fell 5E offers those who prefer 4E's style of play? Do you worry about losing the support of 4E's fanbase? - dancey

We actually found in the playtest that people's play preferences don't break down by edition. Support for fifth was equally high across people who expressed an edition preference, regardless of that preference. 

That said, we'll have guidelines for miniatures, grids, and tactical combat in the DMG for people who want more detail there. There are character options that offer more round-by-round choice in the PHB. - Mike Mearls

Can you tell us a little bit about anything that is on the official schedule? - zephyrdragoon

We have two things still to come for the 5e launch. 

The DMG is out in late November in core stores, early December at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other mass retailers. It covers everything the DM needs to create campaigns and adventures, lots of tools to make a DM's life easier, and plenty of new mechanical options for DMs to tweak the system to suit their needs.

The DM screen comes out in January. It has all the relevant tables, summaries of conditions, and so on. Since 5e is fairly light, it also has room for stuff like random name generators, things that can be handy for a DM to use during a session. - Mike Mearls

It's no secret that WotC's other big property is Magic: The Gathering. It would seem like easy money to make a D&D campaign guide to a Magic setting like Ravnica. So my question is: Is there something preventing this from happening? What about a Magic set in the Spelljammer or Dark Sun?

Also . . . Merfolk as PCs when? I want my Merfolk Paladin in 5e. - CoffeeDave

Merfolk PCs would be cool. 

Porting Magic settings to D&D would be cool, but we also have a lot of D&D material to work through first. That's the biggest barrier - we have enough D&D material to last us a long time. 

Magic aslo works on a much different schedule than D&D. It would take a fair amount of coordination to get everyone on the same page. 

The real barriers come down to those sort of planning and logistics issues. On top of that, while the idea sounds cool it's not clear that we'd make fans of both games happier with it. It would he hard to announce giving Innistrad the D&D treatment when Ravenloft hasn't been covered in 5e, for instance [For added insight into this topic please see Magic the Gathering, D&D, and a Host of Eye Witnesses. In that article several former Wizards of the Coast employees discussed the problems associated with the project - Charlie]. - Mike Mearls

You guys did a bang up job on 5E. Two questions:

1: I'm very happy with the diversity shown throughout the Player's Handbook. Have you guys experienced any sort of pushback related to the increased amount of diversity shown in official products from some fans? Or has it mostly been positive?

2: Is system bloat a thing that you guys are considering for future 5E products? It seems 3E/3.5E hit critical mass and became almost unmanageable to run. - nenorc

1. Nope - zero stuff directed at me personally, only a few things I heard about in passing. Really, the people who oppose diversity and inclusion are so few in number that they have to make death threats to get any attention.

I also have a sense that there's a generational divide here. People under 30 just expect a diverse cast and kick ass female characters.

[2.] System bloat is a big concern. It's one of the things that forces us into a new edition and makes the game hard to get into. We're looking at keeping our new mechanics to a minimum and having clear guidelines on the best way to incorporate new material into your campaign. 

For instance, one guidelines we're looking at is for DMs to restrict characters to one additional book beyond the PHB when making characters. That keeps things manageable while allowing each campaign to have a distinct flavor. - Mike Mearls

Will we see Dungeon and Dragon magazine again? Will there be digital content on the website, similar to the maps, art, and adventures we saw in the 3E era? - Myrmidon73

We're exploring options for the magazines right now. Nothing to announce yet, but we know they're an important part of D&D's history. 

That said, the magazine business is in rough shape. Subscriptions to them were dropping heavily in their last years in print, and that was six years ago. You can expect anything we do will be delivered digitally. - Mike Mearls

Hey there Mike! Playing 5th Edition, and so far so good. A robust system perfect for teaching newbies, with enough depth to keep me interested.

However, I'm playing in my favourite setting ever - Ebberon. I was wondering if you could tell me if and when it'll be getting a revamp to 5E? If the information's tight, be as vague as you need to be; I just want to know if it's coming or not, really! - aravier

Eberron's definitely on the radar - my longest running 3e campaign was set there. A few of the rules options in the DMG speak to Eberron campaigns, plus we have the warforged designed already. - Mike Mearls

My question is simply: Will we see any Spelljammer in 5e? - zd10

It's really a matter of time and resources, but the concept behind it is cool. SJ isn't at the front of the line, but it is in line. - Mike Mearls

I hear that you cant go into details or specifics on unannounced projects, but can you confirm or deny existence?

There is a rumor going about that WOTC will be taking an extended break from publishing D&D content after DMG, are there 2015 supplements planned?

Are digital tools being planned, or are we running this edition without them?

Is there any comment on what happened with trapdoor? - FlyingSkyWizard

We definitely have stuff planned for 2015! We are moving away from the monthly model, and you can expect fewer releases overall, but we want to avoid splat creep and system bloat. That decision is based on our personal preference plus data we collected via the playtest.

We're evaluating plans for digital tools and publishing as I type this. Nothing to report yet, but when we have news we'll share it. I know it's frustrating to not hear, but we want to avoid making announcements that lead nowhere. In the long term, I think that's worse than delaying things today. - Mike Mearls

Has a new Gamma World release been kicked around? - SculptusPoe

Nothing to announce, but I think that the 5e core would do a good job of capturing GW's flavor. You'd need to add rules for experimenting with tech and mutations, and I think the 4e-based GW game we did provides a good model. - Mike Mearls

How influential was the OSR in guiding 5th? I know that guys like Zak Smith had input, but what was WotC's impetus to listen to him -- to us -- in the first place? - DrRotwang

It's really about getting back to the core roots of RPGs, and seeing how things changed for both the better and worse over 40 years. There are a lot of assumptions that became embedded in RPG design that have been unchallenged. Looking back and really studying RPGs - both new and old - helped give us a sense of what we had to keep and what prior elements of the game needed to be re-emphasized. - Mike Mearls

Hey Mike, super glad you are in charge of D&D.
  1. How much of an influence have OSR games had on D&D?
  2. How much of an influence have Indie GamesTM had on D&D?
  3. Any specific games, from either camp?
I hope these questions aren't viewed as charged, because they're not. I am a fan of games from all camps! - hans_co

  1. The concept behind the OSR - lighter rules, more flexibility, leaning on the DM as referee - were important. We learned a lot playing each edition of D&D and understanding the strengths and weaknesses each brought to the table.
  2. Similar to the OSR, I think indie games bring lighter rules via focus and an emphasis on storytelling to the table that we learned a lot from. While a traditional RPG like D&D by necessity has a much broader focus than traditional indie games, there's a lot to learn there in being clear and giving people a good, starting goal or framework to work within.
  3. For OSR stuff, we drew directly on older editions of D&D. In terms of indie games, or games cut from that cloth, Dungeon World, FATE, and the GUMSHOE engine leap to mind.
For more traditional RPGs, Warhammer FRP (hello, backgrounds!) and Pendragon definitely had their say on the game. Runequest and Rolemaster had an influence via 3e.The fun part was taking those design ideas and looking at how they'd work within a D&D context. - Mike Mearls

Hi Mike, Bearer of the Green Dragon Mask here. When last we spoke, you said there was some cross-training and borrowing between the D&D team and the Magic team. Could you elaborate on the types of ideas or experiences they hope to share with their new teams, and what they hope to bring over from the other side? - GreenDragonMask

Congrats! You did the Zhentarim proud!

The big thing we're learning from Magic is how to improve our storytelling. Two people from Magic - Richard Whitters and Adam Lee - have come over to guide our art concepting and writing, respectively.

For a long time, D&D was very much driven by a group of lone writers doing whatever they wanted. That led to some pretty interesting individual moments, but it also led to D&D stories being isolated, unconnected, and chaotic. For instance, even after the success of the Baldur's Gate video games it wasn't until recently that we featured that city as a key part of the RPG.

With Magic, there's an emphasis on building compelling stories that work for card sets while also setting the stage for the larger, Magic universe. That's exactly the direction we're taking D&D. - Mike Mearls

Why are you outsourcing to
WizKidsGale Force 9 for spell cards? Isn't WotC an expert at making cards? - looneysquash

Spell cards are by Gale Force 9 - they have a license to produce gaming accessories, and they have a lot of freedom to brainstorm ideas.

Our expertise in Magic would really only pay off if we went the collectible route, a la Gamma World and Fortune Cards in 4e. - Mike Mearls

Whoops, sorry I got the company wrong.

I meant more that WotC is good at formatting and printing nice cards, even if you're not leveraging your marketing or game design knowledge. But it sounds like this was more GF9's idea than WotC. So that makes sense.

PS. Thanks for answering all my questions! - looneysquash

Are the Warforged and Kender still on track to be included in the 5e DMG? What options for players, rather than DMs, will be included? I know we saw two archetypes for the cleric and paladin included there, for instance. - MisanthropeX

They are not in the DMG, but they will be made available. That material, along with a few other things, were squeezed out due to page count limits. However, the writing is done and we want to get it into your hands.

You can imagine that Legends & Lore, as an article that talks about 5e design, isn't really needed anymore. It's possible that L&L goes away and a Uniquely Approachable new column with a similar, throwback name rolls out and focuses on hacking and modding the system, drawing on DMG stuff that we had to remove and then growing from there. - Mike Mearls

I actually really enjoyed 4e D&D, which makes me somewhat of an anomaly. Why were there no video games based on that system? It would have worked as an incredibly fun tactical wargame such as Fire Emblem. - hpgross

Licensing is tough with digital RPGs - it would've made a great game, but at that time there was a lot of resistance to launching a new digital RPG line. MMOs were really the thing. IME, until Skyrim came out companies just weren't looking to invest in that direction. - Mike Mearls

Does 5E D&D have any promotional media lined up for it such as movies, games, television shows, etc.? Your exclusivity contract with Atari expires in 2015; will you renew it or do you have another partner in mind? - Forumferret

Our deal with Atari ended a couple of years ago. Nothing to announce yet, sorry! - Mike Mearls

I just started running Tyranny of Dragons, and while reading about it online, I found mention of other supplementary products (maps, minis) that were supposed to be out by now. What happened to them? - HoppyMcScragg

Gale Force 9 is working on them - I'm not sure if there are delays on their end, but I know that we do have copies of the ToD DM's screen in the office. - Mike Mearls

Ok, so I absolutely adore this new edition, but my biggest question is... when/will we ever see artificers in 5e? - IntenseWizardry

Definitely when we tackle Eberron - no date to announce, but it is something we have thought about. - Mike Mearls

Any chance of seeing any of the other settings from WOTC's Fantasy Setting Search come to life in 5E? - Vestrati

Probably not - I wasn't around for the competition, but I believe that the other two semi-finalists were at least partially incorporated into Eberron. - Mike Mearls

Mike thanks for doing this AMA. I'd like to say first that I've become a big fan of 5E despite being a little worried at points during the Playtest. There were times were I felt 5E wouldn't turn out good after encountering things in the Playtest. I think though the product really came together and you guys did a very good job. I not only really like 5E but it's continued to grow on me. Here's my questions:
  1. I hope this doesn't stray into "digital tools" territory. Has the sales performance of D&D Classics convinced Wizards to re-think their policies on delivering PDF copies of the core rulebooks for the various editions? The currently policy is absolutely awful. I can get PDFs that work on any tablet, eInk reader, or computer for just about any RPG except D&D. If Paizo (not owned by a multi-billion dollar toy company) can manage to sell paper books alongside PDFs WotC should be able to do the same. Can you speak to any sort of plans to change that?
  2. What was WotC thinking when they hitched their wagon to Silverlight for the 4E digital tools? I'm honestly curious who thought that was a good idea. It's like WotC wanted to pretend that tablets not only didn't exist but they were going to go away. Going with Silverlight gained you (crappy) support for Macs but cost you support of pretty much all smart phones and tablets.
  3. Will WotC every consider licensing anything like the OGL ever again? Will there ever be some sort of community license that will let third parties (or motivated fans) publish "officially works with 5E" modules?
  4. Personally what would you consider the best ratio of core rulebooks/rule supplements/settings/adventures from a first party publisher? For instance in the 80s TSR published a lot of adventure modules compared to core and supplemental rules. With 4E WotC published a lot of core and supplemental rules and very few adventure modules.
  5. Do you envision doing more official playtests for non-rule products or for future rule supplements or do you feel the playtest model is only appropriate for changes to core rules? - giantsparklerobot
1.    I touched on this a few times, but the idea is that any moves we make in this direction will be aimed at ensuring they help grow D&D. PDFs are expedient, and they can play a role in our strategy, but we also know that there are platforms and marketplaces that a lot of potential players use that we want to reach.

2.    Sorry, I don't have any insight into that.

3.    Yes - we're working on plans right now to allow people to use the D&D system to create their own stuff.

4.    Honestly, I think our current plan fits my ideal pretty well. It was also driven by the data we collected as part of the open playtest. We're looking at two major releases a year, with one or two books supporting each. Before I worked at WotC, I rarely used stuff beyond the core.

5.    I think playtests are a great way to make sure that rules elements are hitting their mark. It's going to be a a process that we grow into, as testing requires a longer lead time, but it's worth doing as long as we do it right (rigorous data collection and analysis, as opposed to relying on reading forums)
.  - Mike Mearls

Why are there no fold out maps in any of the products? For the Starter Set, I actually bought the player's maps (the one's without the numbers and secrets) off of the artist's website and printed them myself.

One the one hand I don't mind supporting the artist so much, but on the other, I feel like those maps should have either been in the box, or been a free download on the WotC website. - looneysquash

Maps drive up prices fairly significantly, and we wanted to hit a $20 retail price for the starter set. On a more general level, D&D has always been a game of the imagination and we wanted to encourage that as the default method of play, both to drive home how D&D is unique and to show new players that they don't have to buy or make maps as a default. It's funny, but we did see people who felt like they needed to spend a ton of money, or needed the exact right minis and tiles, to play 4e. - Mike Mearls

Is there any chance of d20 Modern/Urban Arcana/Future getting the 5e makeover? - thealmightypatx

Not for a while - we have a lot of material to tackle for fantasy first. - Mike Mearls

I have just started as a DM in 5th. I enjoy it thanks. I started reading tsr books with Dragons of Autumn Flame in like 94 or so. As the design guy (the phb and mm are gorgeous) why are there not more Larry Elmore paintings on and in the books?? - hiddikel

I can't say for 100% certain, but I think we approach Mr. Elmore about doing some work but it didn't work out. I might be wrong (wasn't involved in picking artists) but I know we talked to a few of the TSR artists. - Mike Mearls

Are we going to see Planescape in some form or fashion updated to 5e? At the very least, are we going to get a Fiendish Codex-esque thing?

Edit: And what's your stance on optimization from a game designer's point of view? I've heard it said that a game system should be so broken that it allows for options on all levels of play, those who like dungeoncrawling can do that, those who like world building can do that, and those who like PunPun can do that. Can we expect 5e moving forward to be friendly to optimization at all? - atnorman

Planescape is definitely on the radar. It's a great setting on its own, plus its easy to link it to our other settings. That makes it a great direction to expand into.

Optimization is tricky - RPGs as a form of gaming aren't really the best venue for it, IMO. When you look at MOBAs and TCGs, it's clear that they are centered 100% around making optimizers happy.

I think that tabletop RPGs are in the opposite corner, but not directly opposite. There is a place for optimization, but I don't think it should drive the entirety of the game. The risk with it is that if we go too far with it, it quickly overwhelms other play styles.

Ideally, people who want to optimize can feel that D&D gives them the chance to customize their characters, but the spread in power won't be as big (ideally) as it has been in D&D's recent past. - Mike Mearls
Will there be an epic tier for 5e (levels beyond 20)? Do you think the straightforward nature of character building in 5e would make it harder or easier to design? Would it break bounded accuracy? - sudsboy
For things beyond 20, I think we'd look at introducing a new mechanic to make characters feel truly legendary. I doubt it would break bounded accuracy - we'd instead focus on really powerful abilities that can alter a campaign world.

As an example, rather than giving you a big bonus to attacks or damage, we might look at stuff a character can use to alter world events. A fighter might be able to turn the tide of a mass battle singlehandedly, stuff like that. - Mike Mearls
Good Afternoon Mr. Mearls, and thank you for your time. First and foremost, I'd like to say how I absolutely adore 5e. Its a perfect balance between the ability to simply tell a story, and a mechanical masterpiece; so thank you.

My question: I am very fond of the licensing to other companies to make products for 5e; Adventures, tools, etc. Without giving specifics that you've already mentioned you can't (above), are there plans for continuous WoTC released material for 5e? Or are you going to primarily rely on outsourcing? Perhaps a mixture of both. - xaelvaen
We'll be working with partners, and focusing our efforts on bigger picture things we can do to keep the core rules functioning smoothly, working on ways to expand the D&D audience, and acting as caretakers or custodians of the game as it moves forward. This approach lets us focus on what we do well - strategy, rules refinement, managing feedback and playtests - while letting our partners focus on the tactical execution of specific projects that are their area of expertise. - Mike Mearls

Closing Comments.

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