YES!!! Another PR Bag of Poop from Mike, this time at Examiner.com. You can read the unadulterated Poop Here!. Join me, The Grumpy Dwarf, as we follow Mike in his latest interview...
I had the opportunity to catch up with Mike Mearls, senior manager of Dungeons & Dragons research and development. Mike and I last worked together years ago on AEG's d20 supplement, Relics. In this interview he gives an update on the playtest and the surprising places we might see old and new versions of D&D.
Michael Tresca (MT): How's the playtest going so far?
Mike Mearls (MM): So far, it has gone very well and the response to the first playtest survey has been overwhelming. People seem happy so far (at least 60%, but that's a whole nother conversation), but ready to see more options added to the system.
MT: The public playtest has generated quite a bit of press. ("See Mike? It worked!) Have you seen this reflected at all in consumption of Dungeons & Dragons content (online site traffic, product purchases, etc.)?
MM: We’ve definitely seen a surge of interest in D&D across the board (I'm willing to guess that sales are not part of that "board". who is going to buy D&D 4e shit when 5e is around the corner?). The playtest has been a great way to spark interest. A good chunk of the people responding to the playtest survey are former D&D players (how many are pathfinder players? are they really "former"?), so the word is definitely getting out there.
MT: The publication of the collectible Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books generated a lot of excitement (that aren't for sale yet, and i don't think they are "published yet). Given that D&D Next will be compatible with older editions (WTF?!? Wasn't this rumor beaten and killed months ago? it will NOT be compatible with OLDER editions), can we expect reprints of older editions?
MM: We aren’t announcing any specifics right now, but we do plan to bring back more fan favorite content throughout the year. (Wait, Mike didn't address an obviously very wrong compatibility statement? For shame Mike. For Shame!)
MT: In a similar vein, Wizards withdrew completely from the online marketplace. Any chance D&D will return to PDF publishing of older editions with the new release?
MM: I don’t have any information on that at this time, but we’re always exploring our options (Which means, our lawyers still don't understand how this internet thing works).
MT: Thanks for extending the playtest to support online play (that initially was our lawyers again not understanding this internet thing). Are you seeing a shift towards more online play of D&D?
MM: We haven’t tried to gather specific information on that, but I think it makes sense given how digital media and the Internet have evolved (but again, dont ask us about PDFs or God forbid, our Virtual Table Top) It’s much easier to get a game going if you don’t have to worry about driving to someone’s house or finishing up early because of time constraints. We’ve tried to focus our design efforts on making adventures about an hour long (which again seems like a waste to me, but 2 1/2 to 3 hrs seems to work fine, so what the fuck do I know?)knowing that shorter sessions become more viable if people are able to just meet online to play. (I wouldn't get together for a one hour session, in person or online - too much work for too little in return)
MT: What's been the most surprising feedback you've received so far from the playtest group?
MM: The level of positive feedback about the core system so far has been exciting. We aimed for simple, fast game-play with this system. My initial sense was that 3e and 4e left people wanting more complexity. (not surprising) Most of the feedback we’re seeing is centered on character options, however, rather than system detail. That was surprising, but in a good way.
MT: How are the races and classes shaping up? Any of the non-traditional core archetypes that were introduced in later editions likely to make an early appearance?
MM: We’re sticking to the meat and potatoes of classes and races right now. (i'll give mike credit, this was the best decision they could have made)
MT: Will we see a new introductory boxed set?
MM: I can’t talk about specific products (because it's too early in the game to even know), but in my ideal world there’s a game called D&D that you find in stores. It’s simple enough that you can just start playing, but deep enough that you feel that the next layer of stuff adds to it, rather than replaces it like going from a starter set to a Player’s Handbook has traditionally done.
MT: Fantasy Flight Games has led a shift towards creating detailed boxed sets of accessories supporting their role-playing games. Can we expect deluxe editions of D&D Next?
MM: We’re so focused on playtesting right now that we don’t really know what the final product will look like yet. If accessories are a part of it, I just know that I’d want them to be things that bring the game to life in ways that people are still talking about and using years down the line (if they go the Warhammer FRP route i'm not touching it - over priced and too system specific).
MT: Will we ever see D&D Next on toy store shelves again like they were in the 80s? Or even in bookstores…if there are any left?
MM: I don’t have any information on where/how D&D Next will be available yet (but if we go with a boxed set, the hopeful answer is yes - if there are any toy stores or bookstores left when we release D&D Next), but in recent years we’ve had a great relationship with hobby/game stores. They provide a great resource for local customers who are looking to purchase our games, get more information about them, and even take part in in-store play programs.
MT: What can we expect next from the playtest?
MM: We’re going over the playtest feedback right now to focus on areas that need some attention. You can expect to see revisions to the classes, mainly fighter but the cleric and rogue are getting some tweaks. We also have new drafts of the armor system in the works (was there anything strange with armor in the current playtest? it it going to absorb damage in the next one).
MT: Anything else you'd like to add?
MM: Without the playtesting feedback we’ve received, we wouldn’t be in a position to improve the game and make D&D something that everyone wants to play (I think you should be happy with "a majority of D&D players want to play"). The feedback has been a huge help so far, so for those of you who are currently playtesting and giving us feedback, thanks! And if you’re not playtesting yet, it’s not too late to get involved. Just go to dndnext.com. (and maybe they won't fuck up the release of the playtest materials this time around)