Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Grumpy Dwarf Chops Away at Mike Mearls Q&A on Reddit (Part 1)

Food For Dwarven Thought ;)
My God but Mike had a shitload to say at Reddit!  I'm going to go through this in pieces, because a dwarf needs to make sure he doesn't get buried in a pile of dung - it's the whole height issue if you must know.

Now, lets hear Mike's Words of Wizzdom

Answer One (because the questions are just too fucking long and rambling)

First, I think it's important that we learn from the past and guard against those mistakes. So, we've seen the sort of mechanics that cause issues in 3e and 4e. (I've seen some of those mistakes crop up in 5e.  Wait - those are features now, my bad!)

Second, we've made a big effort this time to define what exists within each piece of a character - race, class, feat, spell, magic item, and so on. Before, there were a lot of grey areas. For instance, in 4e powers were fairly well defined, but feats were all over the place. (but this means that 4e was defective.  oh, i get it.  every edition prior to what ever edition that is being worked on now id defective)

So, the key lies in establishing the limits in each area and then, most importantly, throttling way back on the flood of mechanics (whoa!  i thought the whole mechanics BS was the bread and butter of the design team). We have to consider each spell, theme, or whatever with the same attention that the Magic team regards a new card (comparing D&D to MtG is not a good sign in my book).

By keeping the core options under control and expanding slowly, we can keep a handle on the worst excesses.

This ties back into class support, where we want to release overall less stuff (dumb question - where is the money in a New Edition if you don't release the usual pile of useless shit to go with it?  isn't that where the bottom line is made?), and the stuff we do release make as usable across classes as possible. So, we're more likely to introduce new themes that any class can take rather than spells for one specific class.

The math will be baked into the class and race. Since those are the only things that are 100% required for the game, between the two of them they contain all the math that we assume.

We 100% will support sliding complexity within classes, though with some limits (wizards and clerics are inherently a little more complex than non-casters). (i will believe this when i see it - sliding complexity with parity among the complexities)

Balancing the simple vs. the complex is tricky. The important thing is to keep the math level and make the simple character feel effective, even if the experienced played who takes a few maneuvers and applies them intelligently comes out ahead. We have to allow for skill and experience -otherwise the game gets stale - but I think we can mitigate that if the beginner feels like he has an effective characters and has some obvious, clearly useful things he can do.

For instance - the pregen fighter's damage on a miss. A beginner player always feels like he or she is contributing in a fight. (that is the reason?  are we moving our RPGs to the type of Little League where everyone gets a trophy?  why not just make every roll auto-hit?  hell, lets just make every monster a one hit and it's dead wonder. Mike, if there is no chance to fail, there is not true chance to succeed)

Answer Two

I can't say any specific about digital tools, but we're 100% committed to making them happen. I think the easiest way to make D&D fade would be to mistake the core thing about D&D with the way it's delivered. (but don't expect anything in PDF ever again - because PDFs are tools of the Devil!  They make people steal!  It has nothing to do with fairly pricing our products in PDF format.)

D&D has survived and thrived over the years because it engages the imagination and brings people together in a really unique way. It would be foolish to lose that by equating those things with physical books. (But WotC has a history of foolishness in such matters)

Of course, people do like physical products and there's no reason to stop those, but the reverse is also true - we aren't making book lovers happy by pissing off people who want the game delivered digitally, with a robust set of tools. (Mike, we trust WotC to piss off a large bunch of people before they figure out what to do digitally.  Just accept it, you'll feel better)

(Hey Mike, how's that Virtual Table Top thing going for ya?)

Answer Three

Ah yes, the rats. Sometimes, playtests reveal subtle issues. Other times, they hit you over the head.
This is a pretty big issue, because the monster design is aiming to keep hordes of orcs/goblins/etc a viable threat at high levels. So, at level 1 it might be 18 rats, but at level 10 it might be 18 orcs. (wait, keeping orcs viable at higher level is to turn them into "swarms"?)

I'd like to incorporate a core "swarm" rule into the game, an easy way for DMs to group up monsters into single attacks. For instance, something that lets you combine X attacks into one die roll, with some small amount of damage even on a miss to make that an appealing option. (again with this fucking success on a failure shit, but now on the DM's side of things)

Hopefully, that solves the rat issue and also the humanoid horde issue at higher levels. (personally, I suggest going back to the drawing board on this one)

Answer Four

Probably the most surprising thing has been the positive reaction to having fairly slimmed down rules. I was expecting a lot of people to feel that the game was incomplete - and obviously it's just a first draft - but I think a lot of people are pretty happy with a simple, fast game. That's been cool to see.

The feedback on long rests has primarily been that they are far too forgiving. (you think!?!  you didn't find this out in the earlier playtests?) It feels lame that the party can be on the edge of death, sleep for eight hours, and bounce back up to full strength.

The thing I loved and had to see go away - there's been a few. I wanted to go back to the name magic-user because it is so uniquely D&D, but cooler heads prevailed (magic-user is cooler than wizard in some ways, but whatever). Some for thief, though thief is an option under rogue. (rogue is so - bleh!)

I really liked one of the drafts of the auto success system we had early on, but it was hard for DMs to grok it. An auto success mechanic is something I still want to see in the game, but making it work without making it too good is a tricky thing to balance. (auto success can be extremely unbalancing, especially if the extremes are Auto and Miracle Time)

Alright, that's all The Grumpy Dwarf has time for today.  More tomorrow ;)


  1. "are we moving our RPGs to the type of Little League where everyone gets a trophy?"

    This, x1000. Failing hurts people's feelings so everyone needs to "win", every time, no exceptions.

    I never in all my years of 1e/2e gaming heard someone complain about a miss resulting in no damage. And I'm pretty sure my groups complained about pretty much everything.

  2. Wow. Yet again WotC shows how out of touch with its customers it is... Yikes. I haven't been paying attention for a while, but this is a real humdinger. (auto successes, bah!)

  3. This post seemed so mean spirited... It's a privilege to get insights into anyone's creative process. Even if you disagree, it is not necessary to be so mean spirited. I did enjoy the post, though :)


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