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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Grumpy Dwarf Chews The Chat - Mike Mearls D&D Next Chat Session (Part 1)

This is a long chat to chew.  I may have to break this into two separate parts.  Lets see how much actual meat there is as I chew the fat ;)


Original chat is here

10:51
Trevor: I've just opened the chat so people should be making their way in now. Once we're about to start, I'll do another couple announcements.

10:55
Trevor: Hah! You're all awesome with your questions, but we haven't started quite yet. You can keep them coming in, just know that we'll be starting this party in about five to ten minutes.

11:00
Trevor: For a few of you asking about a transcript - yes, the contents of this chat will be available on the site after we're done.

11:01
Mearls: Hello world. (Hello Nurse!)

11:01
Trevor: There's Mike Mearls, one of the stars of the show!

11:01
Mearls: Jeremy Crawford will be a little late. We just finished up a meeting on the playtest packet.

11:03
Trevor: You want to regale us with any playtest tidbits while we wait for him, Mike?

11:04
Mearls: Hmmm... let's see. I've been DMing mostly, and the rules have changed a lot over the past few days (this is a very scary statement.  if they've changed a lot over the last few days, we can probably roll back that 20% complete number they were throwing around the other week). Probably the funniest thing was guest starring as a librarian in a playtest game at DDXP. (k, color me clueless on this remark) Also, I got to test the DR (damage resistance?  difficulty rating?  dead rat rules?) rules when the players had to cut open a dead wererat's stomach to find a gem it had swallowed. That was not how I expected to test those rules.

11:05
Mearls: Trevor, you can go ahead with questions. Jeremy will be here shortly, and I can defer to him as needed.

11:06
Trevor: Alright, lets get the intro blurb in there and get started then.

11:06
Trevor: Welcome everyone to the Q&A for the next iteration of D&D and the upcoming playtest! I'm Trevor Kidd, Community Manager for Wizards and D&D and I'll be facilitating the chat. Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford from the D&D design and development teams will be fielding Your questions.

11:06
Jeremy Crawford: Hello, everyone!

11:07
Trevor: This is a moderated chat, which means every comment or question you make is seen on our end of things, but you won't see it until we publish it to the room for Mike and/or Jeremy to talk about. With all that said, let me get out of the way and let Mike and Jeremy introduce themselves and say a few words. After that, we'll start fielding your questions!

11:07
Trevor: And there we have Jeremy!

11:07
Trevor: Alright - I'll leave the floor to you two. When you're done with introductions let me know and I'll get on to the questions.

11:07
Mearls: I'm Mike Mearls and I'm the senior manager for the D&D team. My job is to oversee the development of the game and make sure all the teams work together.

11:08
Jeremy Crawford: And I'm Jeremy Crawford, head of editing and development for D&D products. (well, at least we know who Jeremy is now)

11:08
Mearls: I also pitch in as needed to get work done. For instance, my other open window has the rules text for rituals, though those won't be in the initial playtest. (because 1st level characters wouldn't be casting rituals.  at least, i hope they wont)
11:08
Jeremy Crawford: I do enjoy trying to get Mike to work as a writer still. :)

11:08
Mearls: I think we're ready for questions.

11:09
Trevor: To cover a lot of very basic questions out there, can you remind us when the playtest starts and give us a little information about what people can expect from this first playtest packet?

11:09
Mearls: The playtests starts on the 24th. That's next Thursday. Which is much sooner than it seems. Much, much sooner.  (yep, assuming there isnt an NDA on this playtest, it should make for some very interesting discussion)
11:09
Jeremy Crawford: Here's what to expect in the packet . . .

11:09
Jeremy Crawford: Five pregenerated characters (all right - first thing of note - they are blanacing for parties of 5 - if you have 6 or more players in your group and you want to playtest, you'll need to double up)
11:10
Jeremy Crawford: The Caves of Chaos adventure (that's the same that was run at D&D Experience - it was in all of the ENWorld photos posted - well, some of the photos - sigh - whatever)
11:10
Jeremy Crawford: A bestiary to accompany the adventure (this could be cool - will be interesting to see the fluff / crunch ratio)

11:10
Jeremy Crawford: And rules of play, both for players and DMs

11:10
Mearls: We're doing two clerics to test the range of the domain/deity system.

11:11
Jeremy Crawford: One of the clerics is more of an armor-and-mace fellow, and the other is more of a mystic (i would expect the mystic to be more squishy - it will be interesting to see how they can balance the two)
11:11
Jeremy Crawford: The five characters will feature the background and theme system that we've alluded to in the past few months.  (break out those AD&D 2e Complete Handbooks if you want a preview ;)
11:12
Mearls: Next question!  (why do I hear Frau Blucker's voice? ;)
11:12
Trevor: Another very popular set of questions from many in the room: Who can play in the playtest, and how are we going to distribute the playtest information to people?

11:13
Jeremy Crawford: We hope everyone will play! (we also hope everyone will PAY when the time comes...)

11:13
Mearls: The playtest is open to anyone who signs up, and the information will be available digitally. As part of signing up, there will be an online playtest agreement (is this an NDA?  my googlefu is weak, and i can find no info on an online playtest agreement for Dungeon Command) similar to the one we used for Dungeon Command last year.

11:13
Mearls: Next question!

11:13
Comment From monstermanual
What level of complexity will we see in the first wave playtest PCs, and what options will we have to adjust them to our taste?

11:14
Jeremy Crawford: There will be a range of complexity, from a relatively straightforward fighter to a class wizard. (k, this is the first "true" bullshit answer.  this question was asking about complexity within the classes - the 0e feel playing with the 3e feel playing with the 4e feel.  Jeremy, your answer fails)

11:14
Jeremy Crawford: By "class" I mean "classic". :)

11:14
Mearls: Character customization will come in a bit later. To start with, we're focusing on the core system. (as originally presented, the most important part of the D&D Next system was the ability to adjust the complexity of the character classes to play "your edition" to some extent.  I thought that was "the core".  Guess not.  Now I know why my question asking if they were backing off the idea of evoking different editions in the core system was never presented - well, that and i asked one question as Erik Tenkar and one as The Grumpy Dwarf.  I probably should have used D&DNext4Ever as my handle ;)
11:15
Jeremy Crawford: We will roll out adjustment options in the next few months. For now, we'd like people to play with the pregens.

11:15
Comment From OngoingDamage
How different will the 5/24 playtest materials be from what we saw at PAX East? Did any of the PAX East playtest feedback get incorporated into the current version?

11:16
Jeremy Crawford: There will be many differences, both in the core mechanics and in the characters. 

11:16
Mearls: Yes, we incorporated that feedback. The playtest will look fairly different in terms of characters. Mostly, things will look a little simpler for DMs. The classes, themes, and backgrounds are a little better organized, and we've done some work in figuring out what parts of a character sit where. (themes and backgrounds sound redundant, but maybe that's just me)
11:17
Comment From shamsael
How much can we expect the rules to change from the start of public playtesting to final release? To put it differently, how much of the system at this point is set in stone and how much is free to be tweaked or rewritten at this point?

11:17
Mearls: Probably the biggest change is in the mechanic for advantage and disadvantage. We've also have done a lot to the cleric, fleshing out domains and making those a bigger part of the class that changes a lot of stuff. (we've seen mike's thoughts on the cleric - he may as well be a eunuch if mike gets his way - unless the domains add back more than enough o make up for the snipping that make already planned for the poor schmucks).

11:17
Jeremy Crawford: An example change: Spellcasters all have at-will spell options now. (yeah, that works for all editions prior to 4e - NOT!)

11:18
Mearls: Nothing is set in stone. Since we're starting simple, we can make huge changes without massively reworking tons of text. We're taking it slowly precisely because we expect to release rules, incorporate feedback, than use that to drive the next wave of material.  (game design by the opinion of the masses.)

11:18
Mearls: Next question!

11:18
Comment From John Sussenberger
Will we be able to run play tests in public locations, such as a game store or convention?

11:19
Jeremy Crawford: Addressing the previous question: The only things we won't budge on are the things set in D&D's stone, such as using the d20 or that the game contains wizards. :)

11:19
Mearls: I believe we're working on that option now. Right now, for the playtest each person taking part should sign up. We're working on something right now that will allow cons and stores to run stuff. (if you have to sign up, and can't play without signing up, you are obviously signing away something.  whether it is the right to talk about aspect of the game, or your right to any ideas you give back to them in feedback, you are signing something away.  i'm interested more in the agreement than the rules at this point)

11:20
Mearls: Next!

11:20
Comment From Gerardo
Hi, thanks for making this live chat. (hey, I know who asked this!  how did an actual question get past the screener? ;) I've been following the character class design post and I'm intrigued to know how you measure balance. How do you know a class is balanced or not? Some number or value attached to powers that you add up and say OK it's good, or is it more a gut feeling based on the designers experience and playtest feedback?

11:20
Jeremy Crawford: It's a mix of math, playtest feedback, and a dash of intuition.  (Voodoo, Tarot Cards and some tea leaves)11:21
Mearls: It's a combination of the two. D&D covers so much ground, that we can balance stuff based on combat without actually balancing anything for a specific campaign. We're looking at each area of the game - combat, exploration, interaction - and making sure that characters can contribute in each area. It's maybe 50/50 art and science.  (and 100% bullshit.  good question, pretty worthless answer)
11:21
Mearls: Feedback will be the biggest, important factor for us.

11:22
Mearls: next question

11:22
Comment From The Mormegil
Can you tell us more about movement and positioning in D&D Next? What will it look like?What about attacks of opportunity? What are your thoughts about interrupts and other out-of-turn actions?

11:23
Jeremy Crawford: That's a Russian nesting doll of questions!

11:23
Jeremy Crawford: Mike and I are conferring . . . (dude, did we even get to this in the rules yet?)11:24
Jeremy Crawford: Our desks are next to each other, so we're chatting at the same time.

11:25
Jeremy Crawford: The simple stuff first: Attacks of opportunity are not in this playtest, but the system does have rules that point to the peril of making ranged attacks in melee, for instance. (what does ranged attacks have to do with attacks of opportunity?)

11:25
Mearls: Ha! Jeremy will love this question. I'm really not a fan of giving people extra turns in addition to their own turn. I think it really slows the game down. For movement and positioning, the goal is to focus more on terrain and interesting things to move to and around, rather than flanking and such.  (interesting things to move to and around?  what the hell is he talking about?)

There are off-turn actions in the game, but the philosophy now is to have them eat into your turn or have something you have to set up (sounds like a blast mike - please, tell us more). For instance, instead of everyone automatically getting opportunity attacks, a character might need to take a feat or choose an ability that basically says, "If you make a melee attack on your turn, you get one opportunity attack for the next round." (but wouldn't you have a normal attack on the next round anyway?  basically, you can retreat in most circumstances without any risk now.  hell, i was giving AOO to players and monsters when I ran AD&D 1e and 2e.  is it really that unbalancing if both sides get it?  as for increasing the length of combat, i just don't see it.  roll a fucking d20 and if you hit roll damage - what is that?  30 to 60 seconds?)

A rogue might have this - you can move away from an enemy that moves next to you, but you lose your move on your next turn. (which means the enemy moves next to you next turn and you can do nothing?  or you can still attack, but you cant move.  seems more trouble than it is worth)
11:26
Comment From Arbanax 
Can I ask how Monsters will be handled in terms of stat blocks and information, the off table help and fluff and the at table crunch?

11:27
Jeremy Crawford: In this playtest, you'll see shortened stat blocks in the adventure, and then full stat blocks in the bestiary.  (that's they way it should be.  i can think of a new OSR styled publishing company that should follow this)

11:27
Jeremy Crawford: The bestiary includes both mechanical information and lore.  (okay, this actually sounds pretty cool)11:27
Jeremy Crawford: What you'll see is just a starting point. We expect the stat block format and the lore information to evolve quite a bit in response to playtesting.

11:28
Jeremy Crawford: Next question!

11:28
Comment From Jools 
I'd love to know what your thoughts are on conditions in 5e. Something spoilery would be nice!

11:29
Jeremy Crawford:
We've been discussing conditions quite a bit lately. They're certainly in the game. I'll be revising them this afternoon, in fact. (now that's a non-answer)

11:30
Jeremy Crawford: We're fans of conditions that make sense both as game mechanics and as something in the world. Prone, for example, is a useful game concept, and it matches what's going in the story. You're knocked on your butt! (i thought most conditions matched something in the real world, or did 4e change that?)
11:31
Mearls: We're trying to keep the list of conditions slim and make it apply to things that are obvious changes in the world. For instance, right now invisible and ethereal are on the list of conditions. We also added intoxicated. Basically, what are things that when they happen to you have a clear effect on how you interact with the world?

here's another thing - with stuff like paralyzed, we're dealing more in describing what happens rather than trying to make everything mechanical. So paralyzed says that you can' t move your limbs. Spellcasting specifies that you need to move your arms to cast a spell. Thus, a paralyzed creature can't cast spells.

The idea is that we give the DM clear mechanics, but also make it clear what's happening in the world so the DM can make any judgment calls as needed. (I like the idea of DM judgement calls.  Lots of 4e players will not like this idea.  As I've seen little OSR / Old School sensibility in 5e so far, this is mildly reassuring)



Alright, that the end of part 1 - i'll get to part 2 tomorrow.  there's just so much this Grumpy Dwarf can stomach at one time!

14 comments:

  1. I just read the whole transcript - it didn't sound modular at all (in fact I don't think they used the word once).

    ReplyDelete
  2. nope - it sounds like one set of rules for all

    BTW - you're reading my blog as i'm reading yours ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, yea, that didn't help me want to play this game at all.

    HOWEVER, it does give me ample time to finish mine and try to put Wizards on it's ass.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Brent - go for it. WotC is leaving lots of players behind with this one

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah, that kinda helps me feel a bit more motivated...to work on my own project again. I just hope that sometime in the next 30 days somebody actually says something besides 'we are considering that as an option and have some other ideas too'...jeeeez...sounds like a presidential candidate.

    The sooner they let the cat out of the bag the sooner more focus will return to the community. I notice the posting has slowed down on the subject.

    I say BRING ON THE ABOMINATION! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. The more I hear about "next" the less I care. I think with ACKS and DCC to choose from (not to mention all the retroclones) it is going to be pretty hard for WotC to recapture the OSR crowd.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm running an ACKS game now, and it's been one heck of a hit with my group (and me too).

    DCC i would enjoy in one shots i think, but I'm not so sure how it holds up campaign wise, at least for me.

    The book is a beauty tho.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am hoping to launch an ongoing DCC game, we will see how it goes. DCC is definitely the more appealing of the two to me but ACKS seems like a very polished well thought out game. This is precisely my point though. Here we are picking apart the fine points of two very solid OSR games . . . and they think we will be excited about some 3rd/4th-hybrid-weirdo game? Unlikely. That being said, I don't think we account for a big enough slice for them to care what we think.

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  9. As for the size of the slice, I don't think WotC can leave anything on the table if they can help it.

    3x players are firmly help by Paizo

    4x players are going to be disappointed i think with 5e

    OSR players are being given next to nothing in the current 5e game design

    they needs to capture large parts of ALL of these player bases to be successful

    As a side note, please let me know how the DCC campaign goes :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Good point.

    I'm not sure that recapturing the D&D market is a possibility though. While the brand name is somewhat important to people, mostly people want to play the game they want to play.

    It's hard to imagine that the game-designed-by-survey is going to magically satisfy everyone's desires about the game (especially when those desires can be so diametrically opposed - my eyes actually roll back into my head whenever someone says "feats", others wouldn't play a game without them).

    I will definitely let you know how the DCC action goes, hoping to start this weekend.

    ReplyDelete
  11. "The more I hear about "next" the less I care."

    I sincerely hope you are hearing about "next" from other sources than just this site.

    ReplyDelete
  12. @Callin - which is why I include links to the WotC original articles for folks that want to read without The Grumpy Dwarf's comments.

    There is no "right opinion" or "wrong opinion" at this point. We don't even have a rule set to play with yet, just a bunch of sound bites for me to riff on ;)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Yeah, that's sorta my point. It kinda irks me that people are dismissing 5E before its even out...the "5E is lame because it might be lame" mentality.

    If 5E is a pile of crap, then its a pile of crap, but until we see it how can we really judge?

    Though I can completely understand the level of frustration and ennui WotC is generating by not releasing concrete info. Maybe that will all change in a couple of weeks...maybe.

    In the mean time, I'll keep running my 4E game and start working on my ACKS campaign.

    ReplyDelete
  14. @Callin

    My judgment is mostly based on what the WotC people say (although I greatly enjoy reading Tenkar's commentary). I have liked almost zero of what WotC has done with the game since they acquired it back in the 90's so I am skeptical that this iteration will be any better than what they have done before. What I have seen of WotC D&D in the past has been generally antithetical to what I like about the game and nothing that they have said about Next indicates a change in design philosophy. So I'm pretty skeptical about a new edition and have largely stopped caring about it.

    I am still curious however!

    I will absolutely look at the playtest materials and I hope to be blown away. More good RPGs to play means more good RPGs to play, but I refuse to give them the benefit of the doubt when they have yet to create a game that I want to play.

    ReplyDelete

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