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.
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]
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
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
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
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
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
Thanks in advance, really loving 5e! - SalubriousStreets
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
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
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?
What other tabletop/table games do you enjoy playing in your off-time? - IWishIWasATurnip
- LotR: The Confrontation
- Battle Line
- Lost Cities
- Pecking Order
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
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
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
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
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
Bonus points for mentioning licensing character creation software rights to HeroLab.
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
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
I'd allow two weapons or a ranged weapon - it's not a big balancing factor. - Mike Mearls
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
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
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
When did you guys decide to add traits/etc into the game, and how did they develop? Ditto Inspiration? - monstermanual
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
- 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?
- 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?
1 The rules are silent on that, but I'd let a caster end it as a bonus action.
2 Correct. - Mike Mearls
- 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?
- Do teleportation effects like Dimension Door and Misty Step automatically break grapple? What about non-spell like abilities like the Shadow Monks shadow teleportation.
- I believe it is the damage dealt on casting.
- I'd say any teleportation breaks a grapple, unless it brings everyone grappling along for the ride.
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
- 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
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
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
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
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
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