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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
"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 not a judgment on what is correct for any RPG. It's just what's correct for D&D. - Mike Mearls
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
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
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 roll20.net 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
- 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.
- The big disadvantages of AEDU, based on feedback we saw in the playtest, come in two areas.
- 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.
- 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?
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
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
- 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.
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.
- 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
. . . 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
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
I hadn't even thought of letting PCs purchase a noble title. That... makes me happy. - darkpsimystic
What's your favorite story about/from Iron Heroes? - gradenko_2000
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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
Why the 5g max per day forumla?- jeddite
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
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
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
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
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
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
- PHB lists only Primordial (and it says typical speakers are Elementals)
- MM lists Auran, Terran, Ignan, and Aquan. Primordial is not mentioned anywhere
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
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
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
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
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
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'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
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
- How much of an influence have OSR games had on D&D?
- How much of an influence have Indie GamesTM had on D&D?
- Any specific games, from either camp?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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