Hey, I played the playtest with a couple friends of mine last weekend and we had a blast! My one question regards healing. I liked most of the mechanics, but I felt like the human cleric couldn’t quite heal enough. I was wondering what your thought process behind the healing kit was, and why you decided to make it an item instead of a class ability.
The idea behind making it an item was to make it something anyone could take. One direction we’re thinking of taking is making a cleric’s healing a separate ability from spells, so that we can give more healing without also having to give more spells in total.
- Awesome. Now if you could just return to the notion that someone besides a Cleric can heal.
- There’s something that has been picking at me: The signs point toward that separate healing ability coming from a theme. In what way is the pressure to sacrifice concept to “play the healer” different from sacrificing concept to “take the healing theme”? It seems as though the theme is just going to take the place of the class. I suppose that this is somewhat better in that player desires aren’t being completely submerged in the need for healing.
I’ve been playing D&D for close to 30 years and mostly with the same people. So thanks for keeping it going. My first question is how do you make magic items ‘magical’ again? With earlier D&D games I played, it felt pretty awesome when you got your first magical treasure. With 4e, magic items felt more like math than magic. I’d like to get back to a game where naming your weapon seems more natural because you won’t be trading up for a long time. My second question is are you planning on introducing rules to bring back some of the more permanent risks? For example: making traps deadlier, wounds more serious, precious items breakable, curses and cursed items debilitating and poisons more potent.
Again, thanks for all the hard work. I’m excited about D&D again.
Long-term drawbacks are something you can expect in a grim and gritty style module.
For magic items, we definitely want them to become more mysterious and interesting. We want more vorpal swords, brass armor of the fire lord, hurricane flails, hammer of nine thunders, stuff like that, where the +1 or +2 might be there, but it’s not what’s interesting about the item.
For instance, I don’t want a suit of magic armor to be neat because it’s +1 AC. I want it to be appealing because it contains a bound fire elemental that you can call once per day, or the armor can turn into a magical aura of flame that burns away your enemies but doesn’t give you an AC bonus while it is in fire form, interesting stuff like that.
- As much as I love the notion of more flavorful magic items, the problem is that Next’s tightly controlled accuracy mechanics mean that an additional +1 bonus is a much bigger deal than pretty much any power you put on the gear. I wish they would just get rid of always-on enhancement bonuses altogether. Make it be a big bonus that you can only use in special occasions.
Do you feel that WotC’s choice to appeal to a younger and more tech-savvy audience with 4E (and, specifically, at the time it did rather than earlier or later) was a wise one, or not? How would you have handled this differently given hindsight?
What I’m getting at isn’t anything like your standard-issue “4E is a video game” or “4E is WoW” complaints — I don’t think those are valid. But I do feel like the designers made a conscious choice to be inspired by sources that appealed to a younger audience in some respects and an audience that may have not played a tabletop RPG before in others, and it does seem to me that this is an audience that places less value on buying books and owning a hard copy of every core D&D book made than your stereotypical previous-edition grognard does, and since to a degree your job is to sell books… I wonder to what degree WotC’s digital offerings made up for that loss and to what degree you might now tweak the brand strategy a little bit if you had a do-over.
I think 4e tried to change too much too quickly, and it didn’t look before it tried to leap forward.
The 4e changes felt jarring to some people, and I think it’s much better to manage change in an ongoing, actively played game by measured advancements.
For instance, I think that the Book of Nine Swords helped warm people to the idea of over the top martial maneuvers. We needed to do more of that in 3e, see how people reacted, see what rose to the top, before we decided to make sweeping changes to the core game. With Nine Swords, clearly a lot of people liked it, but looking back I don’t think it was such an overwhelming response that the entire game needed to follow that path.
The other side of the coin is that you can appeal to a new audience while keeping your current one happy. If you see a destination, you have to take a moment and consider what you need to do to get there, then figure out the best way to do that.
For instance, for people who might like D&D but don’t want to commit to an RPG, we have the Castle Ravenloft board game. We can make that game, and sell a bunch of copies to people who might want to play a D&D game without committing to the RPG, without messing with the RPG.
So, I think there was too much of a focus on changing the RPG, rather than looking at customers – whether current or potential – and figuring out the best way to make something that appeals to them.
- Translation: “People who like tactical combat in their RPG are not WotC’s core audience. 4e was a mistake because it failed to satisfy the people they consider their core audience.”
- Book of Nine Swords wasn’t popular because of the mechanics. It was popular because it shattered the myth that only spellcasters could do cool, world-bending stuff.
- What really grinds me about this answer is that he suggests that the tactical play audience could be better served with a board game. And, if your response to this comment is that Mearls is only giving a suggestion, you might want to consider that he gave this suggestion in the context of things that are wrong with 4e. If he wants to make this comment elsewhere, irrelevant to 4e, then I don’t care. At the very best it’s a sloppy way of expressing himself.
- I also don’t like the fact that it hints strongly at the belief that the “people who like 4e” market isn’t all that important to them. We obviously weren’t their current customers when the system was introduced and we certainly aren’t being courted as potential customers for Next. Yes, he concedes at the end of the AMA that, “4e fans aren’t feeling the love yet. We’ll have that covered – just give us some time.” Simply put, you don’t tell your core market that they have to wait to see the cool. My belief is that the people at WotC think that the majority of people who bought into 4e will transition into Next simply because it’s D&D or because it’s a new RPG, meaning that they don’t have to give a lot of fan service to that base.
- You might ask, “Aren’t you just bitching that Next isn’t enough like 4e for you?” No. Absolutely not. I’m saying that Next development does not see the 4e base as a priority. They don’t hate us; they don’t want us to go away – they just want something else more. It’s fair of them to think that catering to a different audience will make for better sales. I certainly wouldn’t begrudge them a profit. Actions speak louder than words.
I’m one of the founders of Red Box Vancouver and a big fan of Basic D&D, so I’m loving the playtest rules–especially the choice of adventure!
Are there any plans for adding monster reaction tables or morale? They’re one of my favorite parts of the old school games. The first one really helps with sandbox play/improv and the second really speeds up combat.
Yup, you can expect both in rules modules. I wrote a set of morale rules for tactical play, and I expect we’ll include reaction tables for our interaction mechanics.
- I’m actually quite excited to see this. I think encouraging GMs to rethink the way combats end is a good thing.
I have a wizard in my group who likes to use Magic Missile. Like, loves the damned spell. She took it in 4e (where it was the Anti-Minion Sniper Rifle) and in the playtest of 5e she squealed in joy when she saw it on her sheet. I have played a wizard since I was a kid (late 2e) and Magic Missile wasn’t “guess I have nothing better to do this turn, Magic Missile!”, it was a carefully chosen “I need guaranteed damage on that guy right now ” spell.
This sounds like an awfully narrow question, but why is Magic Missile free and automatic in 4e and the playtest 5e? It seems fair to have one or the other but not both, because it puts a clock on the encounter of sorts- “okay guys we just need to hold this guy down for X more rounds while the wizard spams it to death”- and with some combinations of skills and such in 4e it’s literally possible to pin a monster down to the point where it can’t escape while it’s being pinged to death by MM.
I’ve noticed this player (and a few others) just spamming Magic Missile because it’s automatic damage when they could be doing so much more with their turns. I’m all in favor of giving wizards something cool to do at-will as an attack, but what are the design decisions that went into making Magic Missile the way it was in the old days, and what it has evolved into in 4e/5e?
Here’s the balancing act – is your player happy with using MM each round? The damage of MM is low enough compared to other options that it doesn’t tilt things too much, though it feels very powerful against kobolds or goblins.
OK, I just asked someone else here at the office. Here’s what they said – we wanted at-will spells to be very iconic, and we even tried out some new ones. They didn’t go over that well, so we went very hard in the direction of iconic. Since we’re in playtest mode, we decided to be more aggressive here and see how it went over.
- Yes, an auto-hit mechanic feels very powerful against things that die in a single hit. It’s also very consistent. This is hardly surprising. The question becomes whether they use Magic Missile because it’s super effective or because it’s fun. I’m going to bet that it’s the former.
what ’bout less combat-oriented XP system? luke crane of burning wheel fame recently had a post on his G+ commenting that old keep on borderlands basicaly encouraged players to go around monsters to get the loot since it (the loot) equaled XP.
The XP system is the kind of thing where I want to do a few different systems and have the DM pick one (XP for treasure, XP for killing, XP for meeting story goals, etc) to establish the tone for his or her campaign.
- I’m all for this. Having gone without awarding EXP for an extended period of time, I would like to see some advice for EXP-less methods.
Hi, Mike! I’ve been playing D&D since 2e (I ran Zanzer Tem’s Dungeon my first time as DM), and I’m been a big fan of the new math system so far.
Question 1: I know healing has been a source of a lot of feedback. Personally, I feel like having more healing in short rests and less healing in extended rests (say half your total hp) would be better. Are there any plans for alternate healing rules?
Question 2: My wife really, really likes her wizard’s encounter spells from 4e. Are there any plans for an AEDU spell system in D&D Next?
Also, my three year-old daughter played her first game last night and she asked me to say thanks for making an awesome game!
- The healing rules are going to get a complete overhaul.
- We’re looking at having different magic systems for different arcane classes.
- Cool! Thanks!
- Given that someone at WotC had to say to themselves “I think this Hit Die system will work” for it to even get out the door, I wonder how they feel about it now. It really scares me to think that they’re taking an al dente (throw it against the wall and see what sticks) approach to design.
Will the Warlord be a separate class or a theme? The Warlord is one of the best innovations from 4e, and it’s mechanically and iconically (as a fantasy archetype) different from the Fighter — a Warlord isn’t a fighter who heals people, it’s a leader first and foremost, and the 4e Warlord has many ways of approaching this: the battlefront warlord whose recklessness inspires his or her allies, the archer warlord shouting commands from the rear, the tactical genius, and the notorious “lazy warlord,” to name a few. Does the team feel that themes can adequately capture this variation and mechanical difference, or do you think the Warlord needs to be a separate class, even an optional class for use with non-core modules?
The warlord is tricky, because I think a theme might work pretty well for it. I can see wizards or fighters or rangers as warlords. That said, we’re not wedded to that. It’ll depend on what we see as the key features of a warlord and the best way to express them.
- My bet is that Warlord will end up as a theme because it fails to meet their criteria for “iconic.” After all, the non-divine healer really only came of age in 4e. Yes, there were some non-divine options in 3.5, but they didn’t see all that much support. It seems, however, that there are some people who can’t buy into the notion.
One of the biggest problems I had with 3.5 later in the edition, and 4e almost from the get-go, was the huge number of base classes. While each attempted to address a different character concept, many of them quickly began to blur together and address the same concept except for a minor cosmetic change.
Will the new “themes” and “backgrounds” mechanics be replacing the need for a huge library of base/prestige classes?
We definitely want to trim back the number of classes. The further you get from the PH, the more likely a class becomes a theme.
- Except that a theme can’t define identity the way a class can. Can you really see things like the Runepriest or the Warden being viable as a theme?
How do you intend to keep the game fun at all levels?
How do you balance the lethality and lack of powers early game in 3.5 with the daily healing nuggets and powers for everyone in 4th?
Context and Explanation:
The problem that I’ve had with D&D 3.5 is that it just was not fun to play at level 1 as a spellcaster, which had two causes: the number of spells you had per day (meaning you got one or two moments of being useful in combat) and your health, Which usually maxed out around 6, if you were lucky. Even not playing a spellcaster, usually the party had to take an extended rest every other encounter because the cleric was out of heals and everyone was badly injured.
Using just the core handbook, I saw no practical way to fix the first, other than getting a crossbow and praying you could get a lucky shot off. For the second, you could take toughness, which would move you out of the range of “taken down by a stray arrow,” but would hamper you because you’re taking a feat because you feel you need to, not because it fit your character, something I understand is a currently problem in 4th edition with the various expertise/focus/defenses feats.
4th fixed the health issue with healing surges, but no one seemed to be able to explain what they thematically meant. I liked the slight health increase and how hit-dice worked, but only one per day at level one struck me as low, and it wasn’t long before my party was seeking shelter.
5th looks like it’s going to fix the power issue for spellcasters with At-Will cantrips, which after playing seemed like the way to go. I’ve read that the current health system is still under review though, and personally, I would at least like to be able to get in more than a couple encounters (3-5) without having to nap.
I think the key is to elevate low level characters a bit, establish a steady power gain at low levels, but then curb things at higher levels. I think that the sweet spot in earlier editions came about because you started really weak, then hit a good spot for power, then kept getting more powerful and elevated out of it.
So, I think if we make characters a little more durable and give more options at low levels, then cut down on option bloat while still making characters interesting at high levels, we can start to address this.
Honestly, I don’t think any version of D&D has gotten high level play right. If we can do that with Next, I’ll be very happy.
- I don’t think I’m better at design than Mearls, he is a professional and a good one at that, but I think he’s missing the larger point here. At some point you have to acknowledge that encounters have to be tuned for the table. Once you teach a GM to tweak the numbers to get the desired result, the individual system and all its associated strengths and flaws becomes much less important. A good GM can use pretty much any system. A great GM doesn’t even need a system.