Mike Mearls' D&D AMA Summary: Rangers, Initiative, WotC Staff Levels, Fave Pizza #dnd
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  • Mike Mearls' D&D AMA Summary: Rangers, Initiative, WotC Staff Levels, Fave Pizza


    WotC's Mike Mearls is doing an AMA over on Reddit today. I'm sorting the answers into categories and posting them here for easy reading. I'll update this regularly throughout the day. Mike Mearls is the D&D 5th Edition lead designer. In this AMA he touches on things he doesn't like about 5E (the ranger, the initiative system), how he got his job at WotC, the number of people in the D&D design team (spoiler: it's 10), along with various answers about his favourite class, monster, and pizza topping. At the bottom you'll find all the random "what's your favourite class?" type questions, separated out so that you can skip them if you want to.



    WOTC
    How many people constitute the core/full-time WotC D&D development team? I've gotten the impression it's not a huge group and was curious. Obviously that number must become much larger when you add in contract/commission folks and support roles.

    Creative team is 10 people.

    I was a contractor at WotC about 6 years ago, at the time there were 500+ people working for the company and most of them were employees. It wouldn't surprise me if it's fairly similar today.

    Yeah, those numbers are pretty accurate these days. The thing with games - and a big issue with the industry IMO - is that it works a lot like movies, but we don't have a central place where all the work happens.

    Like, I don't need a staff director. I need a director for a specific movie. In LA, you can move from gig to gig since the studios are all there. Gaming requires you to move around a lot if you do the staff thing. Very happy to be working with Hasbro for that reason - stability, plus a great company overall.

    GAME DESIGN
    Do designers use scripts or programs to roughly estimate how strong a spell or class feature will be? Comparing the statistics of casting bane or bless in combat would be an example. Balance aside, the variety of spells gives me inspiration for new abilities and magic items. What is your opinion of releasing more unearthed arcana with more magic items or higher level spells?

    No - the math is simple enough that if needed we can use a spreadsheet. In most cases it's a direct comparison between game object A and object B.It's not something we'd do lightly. The bugbear of D&D balance almost always comes down to combinations. The more stuff we add, the more potential combinations. It's like a ticking time bomb if you're not careful. That's part of the reason why we've been very slow to release more mechanical content and have done as much public testing as possible.

    What is something you have tried putting in the game, but could never find the right mechanics to make it work?

    I'd love to find a way to manage a dungeon crawl that's very newbie friendly, that provides enough structure to give new DMs the confidence to run the game, but that doesn't become a set of rules that devolves into playing the rules, rather than playing the game. Basically, a framework for the game that gives DMs a little more creative support without replacing the DM's creativity. It's a narrow path to walk. The rules for exploration in 5e are fine, but I think they're too much of a bother for experienced DMs and too mechanistic for newbies to really benefit from them.

    People ask for everything: classes, settings, monsters, settings, races, settings. With so many people asking for so many things, how do you incorporate these requests into the decisions about what to do next?

    We look to prioritize things - luckily, there is usually a pretty clear hierarchy, where one thing stands out as the most requested thing, and so on.From there, we use UA to look at which concepts or ideas resonate and which ones fall flat

    5E seems built to last. Assuming that's correct, what sort of design choices are intended to add longevity to 5th Edition?

    A few things:
    • Keep mechanical expansion slow and steady
    • Keep an eye on overall player satisfaction, and focus on areas that are proven to be pain points
    • Build painless upgrades - if we ever did do a 6th edition, my ideal would be seamless backwards compatibility.

    How do you feel the Beastmaster is in terms of coolness and usefulness? Will we see any love for that ranger type?

    I think the Beastmaster is really, really hurt by trying to exist as a subclass within a class that supports non-beast rangers. The root of its power issues rests there, IMO.

    What's a class / archetype for 5E you've wanted to design, but haven't had the opportunity to?

    I would LOVE to do specific domains for a load of deities, probably using existing domain abilities in a lot of cases but creating a unique ability or two for each one to give it some flavor.

    What are some aspects of the core game that were the most fun to design? What were the hardest?

    Most fun - magic items, cleric domains, warlock pacts

    Least fun - feats, spells

    What are some things that you personally have loved from previous editions that you strive to ensure are brought to everyone's attention with this latest edition?

    From prior editions, I always want to keep a sense of wonder for new players. It's important that we try to remember that every product is potentially someone's first time with D&D. It's a vague thing, but we can't get too complex, too focused on inside knowledge, and so on.

    How did you and Crawford decide what complexity level to sit at?

    It's very conscious. Half of complexity, IME, is the appearance of complexity. A simple monster given a detailed breakdown of tactics can very easily look daunting or overwhelming. We're hardwired to see work as making new stuff; training yourself to cut away is tricky and requires constant attention.

    Is the domain game ever going to be revived, or is it dead in this modern iteration of D&D?

    I think it will be revived, but needs to take on a form that's better joined with the game narrative. I don't want something that's finicky and detailed, but I also don't want something so abstract that you're playing a mini-game divorced from the immersive action at the table.

    When designing the 5e Warlock's pact magic system (at will invocations, recovering spell slots, 1/day big spells), where did you guys start with the system and how did it get to the way it currently is?

    I think it started with the basic 4e concept of powers and their usage, then was refined through playtest to its current form.

    What was the design reason for having Way of the Shadow spells be more ki efficient than the Way of the element spells?

    It's probably an artifact of two designers working from slightly different expectations than anything else, or the way of shadow having a stronger, more easily grokked concept (ninja) to draw upon.

    How different has the feedback from polls, surveys, and play tests been compared to the sales or download data for products? Any surprising insights on how that data influences design priorities?

    The polls so far have been in step with final results - we usually see a much bigger difference in forum or online feedback. It's honestly kind of random - stuff will be super hated online, but the polls are fine with it.

    What was the thought process behind making "monstrous Humanoids" less balanced compared to especially when many monstrous humanoids (especially Orcs, Goblins, kobolds, etc) were so requested? (RIP orc)

    It was more important to match the race to its existing stats/lore than to produce new abilities.

    Have you given thought to creating something unique for the D&D legacy with 5th edition? Like an entirely new campaign setting or brand new player races or classes. It seems each edition has added something entirely new, but I'm not sure what 5e has added... yet.

    Yet.

    How do you account for multiclassing with balancing classes?

    The primary focus is on making sure you don't get too many cool things at levels 1 - 3, balanced against making sure a single class character is satisfying.

    When creating new content, be it a rule, a class feature, etc., what is your process? That is, what are the questions you feel need answering?

    Biggest question - is there something people want to do that the game currently doesn't allow for?

    Second question - is there some new thing that, if offered to people, they'd snap up?

    That's basically the alpha and omega of it.

    Will we ever have a detailed list of poisons, hirelings, herbs & alchemic items used in encounters? I'd like my gold in 5e to be capable of being used in a diverse way.

    Not in the near term, but the new downtime rules in UA open up ways to spend your cash.

    Are you happy with the grappling rules currently in effect in 5E?

    Yeah, they do the job. Never a big fan of grappling in D&D as a core concept to be honest.

    What spells did you want to add to fifth edition but couldn't for balance reasons (or other reasons)? Also, what do you think is the most useful magical item in fifth edition as far as utility goes?

    I always liked dust devils, and similar spells that summon little toys you can mess around with. Hard to balance and keep simple, though.

    Most useful magic item - hat of disguise. So much fun!

    What do you think about multiclassing in 5e? Did you balance classes with it in mind? Do you believe that investing in more than one class is beneficial in the long run, or does it take away from the original concept and flavour of a character?

    I think multiclassing works fine. I don't use it myself all that often - backgrounds usually cover what I need to create a character that previously worked only via multiclassing. I think it all comes down to how well you can create the concept you want - works for some, not needed for others.

    CAMPAIGN SETTINGS
    How much do you tend to enjoy working with the more traditional fantasy settings like Forgotten Realms vs. some of the more out-there stuff like Eberron and Dark Sun?

    It varies. The Realms is really fun because it looks fairly generic, but there's a lot of interesting stuff hiding in the details. A lot of our work has been extracting that material and making it more obvious.With a setting like Eberron, the flavor and basic gimmick are already there. There's not as much room for invention. The main task, from a professional standpoint, is figuring out how it all functions within the greater D&D multiverse.On a personal level, my longest 3.5 campaign took place in Eberron, and my go-to setting has been Greyhawk for more traditional fantasy. I tend to alternate campaigns between something very traditional and something based on a stranger/less classic fantasy setting.

    Are there any plans for non-Faerun settings like Dark Sun, Eberron, Spelljammer, or really any setting that isn't Faerun?

    Yes, but nothing I can talk about. We think of D&D as a multiverse of worlds.

    Will we ever see a campaign setting book for the rest of the Forgotten Realms? Not just the Sword Coast.

    Can't comment on specific stuff, but we've put thought against many regions of the Realms. Personally, I love Thay.

    UNEARTHED ARCANA
    Can you talk a little bit about what the design process looks like, especially regarding UA? Like do you write a subclass, test it out in-house, put it out as UA, tweak it, playtest it more in-house, tweak some more, finally publish it, etc? Or how does that work?

    I'll try to be clear but concise:
    • We start with feedback info - what do people seem to want? Sometimes we just have a fun idea. That can also push something to the top.
    • It's written and edited. Goes directly to UA, usually without much internal play. We really lean on the surveys to give us a clear direction. Changes at this stage or for basic functionality or clarity rather than if something is fun or not.
    • UA test, survey, and then data analysis. We look for stuff that has high overall rankings, then zero in on specific pain areas.
    • That material then goes to our closed list of alpha playtesters for more detailed feedback.
    • Assuming nothing goes sideways there, it ends up in a book.

    I vaguely remember you mentioning a psionic fighter subclass in the works before the last mystic update came out. What ever happened with that?

    It's the sohei; shelved for now as we process mystic feedback.

    Can you give us any general details regarding when an unearthed arcana variant might become a regular rule? For example, the Revised Ranger has been a very popular UA used at many tables, but its playtest status makes it unusable in official events such as the Adventure League.

    When we have a product on the schedule that's a good match for it, we'll include it there. Alas, no news on new products yet.

    Why are UA classes and archetypes unsuitable for multiclassing? Isn't that a subject on which you folks should seek out feedback too?

    We aim first for mechanical concept, see what people like, then move stuff around. Knowing that the key mechanics are working makes it easier to understand how to shuffle or break up stuff.

    So I greatly enjoyed the regular stream of Unearthed Arcana content that we got over the last few months, and I know that many others here enjoyed it too. What was that experience like for the WotC team, were you guys crazy busy or was it more of emptying a backlog of items that you had been working on over the last year? Also do you have a personal favorite article from that series?

    It's kind of funny - 90% of that stuff was written last fall. The schedule was a combo of not burning out Crawford and staggering stuff so that surveys would be easy to fill out in a few minutes.

    I'm most excited about the warlock stuff, since hexblades are my bag.

    THINGS HE WOULD CHANGE
    Is there anything that's made it in to the final version of any 5e book that you wish had been changed or revised before release?

    Stuff about 5e that bugs me:
    • Cyclical initiative - too predictable
    • Fighter subclasses - so bland!
    • The divide in the warlock between the pact and the pact boon - boons should be options chosen from among stuff your specific pact can give
    • Ranger - I'd rebuild it using the paladin as more of a model
    • Druid - I'd make shapeshifting more central, maybe scale casting back to paladin or rogue level, use a nature domain for the guy with a scimitar and shield
    • James Wyatt wrote a cool sample adventure for the DMG that we couldn't include. Wish we had.
    • A better treatment of actions - action typing is still too fuzzy for more tastes.
    • Bonus action - they're pretty hacky; I'd get rid of them and just design smarter. Prior editions always poke through your thinking and distort it. We were so dependent on swift/minor actions that it took a lot of work to stop framing concepts in their terms.

    Is there any rule you personally do not like at all that is in the fifth edition of D&D?

    Initiative.

    What's the rule(s) that you homebrew the most in your own homegames and why?

    Currently, initiative. Find the current rule too predictable for my tastes.

    I would love to see rules about leveling wildshape forms. I had a druid that loved wildshaping into a dire wolf, but at a certain level, it becomes underpowered. If I could level my animal forms, I'd love to stay a dire wolf into the higher tiers.

    I do agree that the druid's wildshape could use some more fun elements to it. It's something I've been tinkering with.

    Do you have any house rules that appear in all of your games? Like a standard thing that isn't part of the core rules but you feel helps the game/players along?

    A few things I do:
    • Milestone advancement. I hand out levels when the players accomplish something notable.
    • Aside from potions and scrolls, I use custom magic items that (as my players will tell you) invariably come with a drawback or curse.
    • I'm far more loose with the rules than people might expect. My attitude as DM is that I'd rather let something ride than look up a rule. Even a broken character is only an issue if it stomps on another player's fun.
    • My biggest, new house rule is initiative. I really dislike the current initiative system. It's too predictable, weirdly slow when a fight should be sharp (A dragon appears! OK, timeout as we roll dice, do math, and bubble sort a bunch of initiative results), and bulks up the system in non-obvious ways.

    I've run several games with a new system, and might run it up the Unearthed Arcana flagpole to see if anyone salutes it.

    Are there rules in 5e that you ignore/change when you play and if so why?

    I've never worried about a cleric, paladin, or other caster shuffling around gear in hand to cast a spell.I love improvisation at the table, and tend to let interesting ideas fly especially when it comes to spells.

    I say this as a lover of all things D&D: do you think there is any big flaw in D&D right now that you would like to see addressed? What do you NOT like about the game? (mechanically, socially, structurally)

    I wish Adventurers League was more story focused. There's something of a combat-centric tradition that carried over from earlier editions. It's not a huge issue, but I don't want people to see AL as a D&D variant.

    What's a rule/system you'd like to have seen in 5e that didn't end up making it in for one reason or another? As a player/DM why did you like it?

    I liked using a die roll for proficiency bonus, rather than a flat mod. Made it much easier to tell if someone was applying it, and it was nifty to add a die roll. Alas, too variable for playtesters' tastes.

    What are, in your personal opinion, the best and worst designed class in D&D 5e so far and why?

    Best - wizard. Super happy with the subclasses. They are really on point for how I think subclasses should work.

    Worst - ranger. We overthought it, didn't really dig into how the subclasses could be more vivid and a core part of the class.

    The warlock bugs me because I dislike how the pact and the pact object are two separate choices.

    I love 5th edition and appreciate the creativity involved in its design. However, there are two items that often seem to confuse new players: hit dice, which are used for healing, and spell slots, which are spent to cast spells.
    Can you explain the thought process that went into this terminology, instead of calling them "healing dice" and "spell charges", or similar names that more directly describe their function?

    We basically default to what people already knew, but I do think that may have been a mistake. I think we've learned it's better to avoid re-using terms unless the exact meaning is the same. For instance, we're looking at changing the favored soul sorcerer into the divine soul, simply to keep expectations clear.

    What are some rules in 5e that you wish were different? Maybe a rule from an older edition that you miss, or something that you wanted to get implemented differently, but it just never happened.

    I've said initiative a million times, so i'll give another example - I think bonus actions are needlessly fiddly. If we crafted actions correctly, we wouldn't need them. Alas, the benefits of three years of hindsight!

    What contribution are you most proud of? What bit of 5e do you most regret?

    The entire 5e thing, really. If I had to pick one thing it would be a combo of the open playtest and going back to the OGL.

    5e regret - other than specific rules I've covered elsewhere, wish we had cleaner subclass support (more evocative) for a few classes, especially fighter.

    4TH EDITION
    Are there any bits and bobs from your previous projects (Iron Heroes, 4th Edition D&D, etc.) that you wish you could've included in 5th Edition?

    The fighter is close to what I want from that class. I wouldn't try to make the "simple" fighter so different, just a starting chassis alongside others that are more intricate.

    I believe you actually led the Essentials line for 4E. How valuable was that experience for when you became a lead designer for 5E? And what's your favorite thing from Essentials?

    That's true - biggest lesson was more in terms of management than game design, the importance of having a clear goal and team buy in.

    I'm pretty happy with the hexblade. That warlock/spellcaster with a sword has been a favorite character of mine since I read the Elric saga.

    What was the reason for switching from the more rigidly separated Flavor/Mechanics for spells and powers of 4th Edition to the more collected spells and powers of 5th Edition during the transition/playtesting?

    Big issue was flavor - old approach was too mechanical, not evocative enough. Unfortunate, but that's how it played out.

    I think that, as the time goes by, there is more and more appreciation for the things that 4E did right .... Monster roles and the ease with which you could create interesting mixes of monsters to fight. Minions, as well. Reactionary powers, lair actions, et cetera. How likely is it that you will perhaps return to some of these in the future?

    The challenge with that approach was that it creates a lot of jargon and makes the game harder for new players. It makes you think in terms of game rather than narrative. That's a much bigger barrier than you might think. 4e's fundamental problem was that the new player and DM pipeline was closed.

    That said, I'd love to revive a 4e-style game as D&D Tactics or something similar.

    6TH EDITION
    Is the goal of 5e to get all D&D players onto one edition and then to support it for a long time, much like what Microsoft is doing with Windows 10? Should we expect 5e to last longer than the 5-6 year lifespan of the previous several editions?

    I think we'd do a new edition only when the warts of the current one are bothersome enough that people want them excised.

    MISCELLANEOUS STUFF
    Today's current market where large numbers of new roleplaying games are being released, and other popular roleplaying games are releasing new settings and core rules support monthly: do you feel like your slow module support release model is effective in retaining customers?

    Based on what we've seen, I'd say that our release schedule has been a key component to D&D's explosive growth.

    Can you talk a bit about the decision to emphasize D&D as a 'legacy game' with 5ed? Why was it important for you as designers to embrace the game's history?

    There's a few reasons:
    • People leave and come back to D&D all the time, often over the course of many years. Keeping the game recognizable helps keep those players involved.
    • There's a lot of really great adventures and content in the game's history. When we make something new, we have to be confident it could be more compelling than revisiting something classic.
    • It helps keep D&D distinct, by pulling its history together into something that emphasizes the unique parts and builds bridges between them to build a coherent whole.

    What's a more unusual book you'd like to produce for 5th edition if the release schedule, sales and approval from the rest of the team magically didn't matter somehow

    I can't say, because there's a good chance it'll end up on the release schedule!

    What was the hardest announcement to keep under wraps? As in, what were you especially excited about that you were just dying to declare to the fans?

    The 5e playtest. Couldn't wait to kick it off.

    Do you have a go-to one-shot to introduce new players to the game?

    It has been a long time since I've had totally new players, but I like to run an obscure adventure from the 2e City of Greyhawk boxed set called Minding the Store.

    What user-made DM's Guild content would you recommend?

    MT Black's adventures are fun. Running them now myself. He has a compilation available.

    I played Teos Abadia's Adamantine Chef, had a lot of fun.

    The Spellbinder class from Kate Holden is cool.

    Do you think the spells that can revive players should be reworked to give the players a sense of mortality at higher levels?

    I'm not a fan of that myself, though I understand how that varies from DM to DM. I like continuity. I prefer to have the characters in my campaign in debt and on the run. I can't threaten a corpse with prison or a century of service to Asmodeus.

    Are there other storylines/adventures that you, as a fellow gamer, would love to see updated to 5e? Are there any large campaign ideas that aren't evocative of earlier editions you'd like to develop for 5e?

    I'd love to do something inspired by Dragon Mountain or Undermountain, a big dungeon with interesting pieces.

    For a new thing, an underwater campaign or one set in the elemental planes.

    What is the most terrifying monster built/that you would build?

    Anything that destroys magic items.

    How often do you use the various variant rules from 5e? And if you do use them, do you feel that they should have been added as part of the core rules instead of being labeled as variants?

    I use milestone leveling exclusively, but I don't think that would work as the core rule, at least right now. Requires a bit of DM experience to use it well.

    Where do you see yourself in five years? what do you see for wizards goals for Dnd at that time?

    In five years, I'd love to see D&D played by more people than ever. I honestly believe that the world would be a better place if everyone played RPGs.

    ADVICE
    I just got introduced to D&D this year and I really enjoy it. What is your go to advice for new players?

    Take risks! If your character dies, you can always make a new one. I
    t's easy to worry about keeping safe or playing smart, but great stories are driven by bold actions and risks.

    When overseeing an encounter with multiple npcs on different sides of the combat, (essentially, in which npcs are attacking each other and not always interacting with the players) how would you recommend expediting npc-on-npc combat?

    I tend to skip numbers and just eyeball it - this guy beats that dude, but is left with 30% starting hit points. Otherwise, the players are just watching me play a solo game.

    What is the one major tip you could give DMs, that a lot of people seem to forget/not realize?

    Everyone at the table wants you to succeed and the group to have fun. If a player isn't on board with that, boot them.

    Encounter Building / Balancing still seems incredibly hard for a new DM, heck even some experienced DMs as well. Any tips?

    Don't sweat the single encounter - as a DM, you're playing the long game.

    I also build stuff based on a group's performance. I tend to throw fewer, tougher fights at my party. However, I can't remember the last time I used the actual guidelines.

    How would you run a four-armed species that took two weapon fighting? One of my races is a four-armed squirrel-taur (which I slapped up on this sub earlier this morning) and I still haven't decided how I'm using her four arms to her advantage.

    Here's what I'd do - restrict the four arms to d4 weapons (daggers, etc.) and spread damage bonus to stats across all four attacks. Require action + bonus action to use.

    I write D&D content for both the DMs Guild and OGL stuff, but none of it ever gets seen by many people no matter how I share it. How would you suggest getting my stuff out there to as many people as possible?

    Two ideas:

    • Keep at it.
    • Find people who do interesting stuff and find a way to work with them. There's strength in numbers.
    • Consider a podcast or stream to engage with people.

    Is there anything that you see other people do in D&D that makes you cringe? I know it's all "to each their own," but do you find some common practice to be "wrong"?

    The idea that the rulebook has all the answers and that the DM answers to it.

    PERSONAL STUFF & ANECDOTES
    If you don't mind sharing, how did you end up working for WotC and then managing the creative team? It seems like a nebulous career path and I'm wondering how it was done, or how it could be done today.

    This is a hard question to answer, because so much comes down to the culture of a company you want to work with and the state of the business. I had a few things work in my favor:
    • I have a crazy work ethic. I can't stop thinking about D&D and where to take it next. I think you have to think to yourself, if I didn't have to work a day in my life, what would I do? The answer is your calling.
    • I was in NYC for 9/11, and it was something of a wake up call to help ignite the point above. I was 26 at the time, not really applying myself to anything. The reminder that life is pretty fragile gave me a serious kick in the ass. Moved back in with my parents and made game writing and design my focus.
    • I wrote lots of bad to mediocre design for low pay for a few years. On the upside, I also skilled up and developed the ability to do a large volume of work to specification and on time. That's still a hugely useful skill today.
    • Once I arrived at WotC, I focused on working hard and delivering what was needed from me. When I disagreed with stuff, I was always respectful and remained committed to our direction even if it wasn't a path I would personally pick. I still operate that way - when you work on a game like D&D, it has to be about the millions of players out there, not what I personally want. That's what my campaign is for. I think that has really helped keep the focus where it needs to be.
    • In terms of becoming a manager, you need to embrace that idea that a creative leader doesn't make things work by being personally creative. You make things work by boosting the creativity of people around you. You bring energy to meetings, provide encouragement, give good feedback, and focus on skilling up as a team.

    This might all be maddeningly vague, but there really is no career arc that I think anyone could replicate. It's all very context driven. If D&D had been healthy and strong from 2000 to today, I'm probably still just a designer or maybe a team lead.

    Say you wanted to reboot the movie and/or book 'Mazes and Monsters'. How would you do it?

    I'd make it retro and play it for laughs. The movie is basically hilarious to me now.

    What do you find the most difficult part of being a player is? a DM?

    Hardest part - finding time! My toddler is quite the (lovable, cute) distraction from tabletop gaming.

    Who/What was the most difficult BBEG you've ever run as a DM, or played against as a player?

    Toughest I ran - crime lord who secretly controlled the magic item shops in town. Sold the PCs gear that was secretly cursed and spied on them.

    Runner up - a dwarf assassin who through completely crazy die luck always evaded my players.

    Toughest I faced - Jason Bulmahn has a real knack for making NPCs who are real pains in the ass to fight. Drowning his uber-evil dwarf NPC in an Eberron campaign was quite the thrill.

    Do you have a story that stands out to you as particularly memorable from the behind the scenes development of 5e? Either between the devs, or maybe while doing in-house playtests?

    I remember running a very early prototype of the game. Basically, before design began I mocked up a set of characters and an adventure to capture what we were aiming for.

    Most enjoyable playtest - running Steading of the Hill Giant Chieftain. The players ended up leading a slave insurrection to defeat the giants.

    RULES QUESTIONS

    A player casts counterspell against a rakshasa, does it work? I can't tell if counterspell targets the creature casting, or the spell itself.

    Wording indicates to me it targets the creature.

    D&D BEYOND
    What are your thoughts on D&D Beyond, and how important is it to the future of 5E?

    Really excited about it. I think that Curse is bringing a lot of expertise and excitement to the table. I use the tool myself and am quite excited to see it roll out.

    "WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE X?"
    Just here for completeness' sake. Lots of repetition.

    What's your favorite "strange" rule from a previous edition of the game?

    Oh man, there are so many. Picking one, I'd go with restriction on cleric's using edged weapons. It's random, nonsensical (maces don't cause bleeding. really?), and bizarre, but it's also super flavorful.From a modern game design POV, it gave clerics a really iconic weapon kit. Anyone managing a gaming universe today would approve of the design decision, even if it makes no sense.

    Who was the latest character you made

    I very rarely play, and with the handy pregen characters on the D&D web site I don't even need to make characters for one shots. I did create a number of mystics to walk through that class while working on it.

    Do you have some DMs you look up to? If yes, who?

    I'm jealous of every DM, especially the ones on this subreddit, who can do beautiful maps, character portraits, 3d terrain, all that crafty stuff. I'm pretty bad at it. I am the anti-handy man. If you want something broken ask me to fix it.

    What's your favorite class to play as?

    Favorite class is rogue.

    When you DM, what class do you enjoy having in your party the most?

    Favorite class as a DM is hard to say - I tend to like players who get into trouble faster than they can get out of it. I'd link that to barbarians and warlocks IME.

    When you DM, what is your favorite monster to throw at the players?

    Favorite monster, ogre mage. Nice balance between combat brute, heavy magic fire power, and nice options for deception.

    What's your preferred story length: one-shot, short adventure/module, or campaign?

    I like 2 hour sessions, campaigns that run weekly for about a year. It's a nice pace to tell a bigger story.That said, my ideal D&D session would be a marathon dungeon crawl, played for a weekend straight. I've yet to do that, for whatever random reason.

    What's your favorite campaign setting that hasn't been heavily featured in 5e yet?

    Greyhawk!Eberron runs a close second.

    What are your favorite pizza toppings?

    Favorite pizza topping when we order - bacon. My wife makes a mean goat cheese, pancetta, and onion pizza. That's my favorite pizza.

    What's your favorite non-D&D RPG?

    Call of Cthulhu.

    Are there any non-RPG games you enjoy?

    At the moment, Overwatch and Hearthstone. I wish I had the time to play Magic again. This dang D&D game keeps getting in the way...

    Who has been the favorite character you've ever played? Regale us with some of his accolades.

    I played a lawful evil wizard in a 5e game who may or may not have been a time traveler who helped create the original Tomb of Horrors. Or he may have just been nuts. He commissioned marionette puppets of the other party members and would perform little skits with them to creep them out

    What recent (say 2-3 years) RPG are you most intrigued by? Like if you had the time to run a regular game of it, what system would you pick and why?

    I've picked up 7th Sea, the new Call of Cthulhu, 13th Age, a number of the Savage Worlds games/settings, and a bunch of other games. Would love to play or run Mutant Year Zero. I like its approach to postapocalyptic gaming - nice blend of a clear campaign framework, great presentation. It's a genre I've always been fascinated by.

    What is your favourite Multiclass Character Concept in DnD 5e?

    Wizard/rogue - always found that a fun combo. I like being tricky and magical.

    What is your snack and beverage of choice when playing?

    Drink - Coke Zero
    Food - Pizza, nachos
    Did I mention I need to eat healthier?

    What's your favourite D&D monster?

    Ogre mage

    What is your favourite bit of Unearthed Arcana you guys put out in the weekly content early this year?
    The warlock stuff was a lot of fun.

    What is your favorite published module from any edition of D&D?

    I love the original Temple of Elemental Evil.

    What RPGs do you play apart from D&D? (And what ideas do you steal from them?)

    Call of Cthulhu, 13th Age, a few home brew games, Shadowrun, Trail of Cthulhu, though not anything lately (having a toddler cuts into tabletop time tremendously).

    As a player, what is your favourite class, and as a DM, what is your favourite monster to use as a villain?

    Rogue and ogre mage

    What are your dream party size and temperaments?

    4 - 5 players, good mix of temperaments, but all putting roleplaying first, making choices that lead to fun game play, willing to really get into the game.

    What is your favourite magic item from the DMG or houseruled?

    I love stuff that can cause mischief, like a hat of disguise. In my current campaign, I gave the players a sword that can prevent a character from dying, but it's clear that after it does that 9 times something bad is going to happen. I love the dread they're feeling over it.

    [UPDATE - it's gone 1am here, and Mearls hasn't posted anything in a couple of hours, so I'm heading to bed. I'll check back in the morning to see if he added any more.]
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    This article was originally published in forum thread: Mike Mearls' AMA Summary started by Morrus View original post
    Comments 180 Comments
    1. doctorbadwolf's Avatar
      doctorbadwolf -
      I'm really glad he can't have his way without a new editor on some of those regrets/things that big him. Bonus actions are good design.

      The idea of scaling back Druids to half casters or lower is just bad.

      Warlock boons and Patrons should be separate. His idea would be less good than the current very good design.

      Beast masters are fine with the revised ranger. I'd love a full pet class that can be a beast master, a sha'ir, a binder, or something like the final fantasy 9 style Eidolon summoner, but as a pet having ranger, the BM is great. Especially now that the base class supports having less powerful animal allies, as well.
    1. Morrus's Avatar
      Morrus -
      I'm just glad we now know what Mearls' favourite drink is.
    1. Zaukrie's Avatar
      Zaukrie -
      Thanks for compiling all this!

      I agree with a lot of good comments, especially being loose with the rules.
    1. thethain's Avatar
      thethain -
      Quote Originally Posted by doctorbadwolf View Post
      I'm really glad he can't have his way without a new editor on some of those regrets/things that big him. Bonus actions are good design.

      The idea of scaling back Druids to half casters or lower is just bad.

      Warlock boons and Patrons should be separate. His idea would be less good than the current very good design.

      Beast masters are fine with the revised ranger. I'd love a full pet class that can be a beast master, a sha'ir, a binder, or something like the final fantasy 9 style Eidolon summoner, but as a pet having ranger, the BM is great. Especially now that the base class supports having less powerful animal allies, as well.
      I think the druid idea kinda makes sense though. Basically you would have caster type druid fall under a nature domain cleric (maybe even other domains which make sense, such as adding elemental domains)

      Druid could then be a shapechanger class with various specializations such as animals or elementals. At this point, if they made a new class that was that, it would basically make many moon druids feel invalidated.

      And the warlock boons thing I see more like the UA warlock. Its not that they are all tied to your patron, just that your patron opens up options otherwise unavailable. Some of the invocations in the UA are really awesome flavor abilities for warlocks, which make the patrons feel more unique.

      BUT. Yes, there should always be several people checking things out before they get out the door.
    1. Sacrosanct's Avatar
      Sacrosanct -
      With nature being a domain of the cleric, I would totally support a half caster druid that specialized in other things, like shapeshifting, or elemental or pets.
    1. doctorbadwolf's Avatar
      doctorbadwolf -
      Quote Originally Posted by thethain View Post
      I think the druid idea kinda makes sense though. Basically you would have caster type druid fall under a nature domain cleric (maybe even other domains which make sense, such as adding elemental domains)

      Druid could then be a shapechanger class with various specializations such as animals or elementals. At this point, if they made a new class that was that, it would basically make many moon druids feel invalidated.

      And the warlock boons thing I see more like the UA warlock. Its not that they are all tied to your patron, just that your patron opens up options otherwise unavailable. Some of the invocations in the UA are really awesome flavor abilities for warlocks, which make the patrons feel more unique.

      BUT. Yes, there should always be several people checking things out before they get out the door.
      Druid as half caster doesn't work for me, at all. I'd rather see the nature Cleric gone, or just accept that there is overlap and move on. Slightly reduced spellcasting, like a warlock, where a lot of the higher level casting is optional, but with less automatic higher level casting than the warlock, to give more room for wild shape to come through, and have an option for a pet in a subclass, and land Druids bring you up to full caster, is more or less be fine with.

      But half faster is too much of a drop.
    1. DEFCON 1's Avatar
      DEFCON 1 -
      The druid thing might be an indication of why Mike posted that Twitter poll several weeks ago. He had his own opinion about what a druid should be and was curious as to how others felt. Based upon the results, the majority of respondents agreed with him that if druids could only have one, they wanted shapeshifting.

      Now what he does with this information? Quite possibly nothing. But he does that informal opinion in his back pocket should he have another book down the road that might need a druid re-look.
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      I noticed this-

      "Ranger - I'd rebuild it using the paladin as more of a model"

      NO!

      You are going the wrong direction, Mearls. THE WRONG DIRECTION!
    1. Zaukrie's Avatar
      Zaukrie -
      I too disagree on the druid. Does shapechanging alone sound like what a druid is as is understood by the world?
    1. bmfrosty's Avatar
      bmfrosty -
      The discussion of Initiative, Action, and Bonus Action are the most interesting.

      I think the things that they're dissatisfied with from the core mechanics are the best indication we can have with how things will go for whatever comes later. Maybe some come up as optional rules - like Initiative. Some - like the action types may take a new version, and some, like character classes that need to be redone, really just become new classes and older versions can optionally become retired.
    1. Ath-kethin's Avatar
      Ath-kethin -
      I didn't see anything shocking here, but I'm really curious about what specific DMS Guild (or even which specific MT Black) adventures he likes.

      I also completely agree with his advice for new players. It blows my mind how fearful people get of their PCs, so fast. A memorable death beats a mechanical and humdrum 12th level any day of the week.
    1. doctorbadwolf's Avatar
      doctorbadwolf -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      I noticed this-

      "Ranger - I'd rebuild it using the paladin as more of a model"

      NO!

      You are going the wrong direction, Mearls. THE WRONG DIRECTION!
      lol ok, other than your hatred of Paladins conceptually, do you have any objection to it?

      Bc I rather think he means that the ranger would work mechanically more like a Paladin, which I don't really like, because Paladin subclasses are smaller than ranger Subclasses, and I want Ranger subclasses to make up about as much of the class as they currently do.
    1. vincegetorix's Avatar
      vincegetorix -
      Quote Originally Posted by doctorbadwolf View Post
      lol ok, other than your hatred of Paladins conceptually, do you have any objection to it?

      Bc I rather think he means that the ranger would work mechanically more like a Paladin, which I don't really like, because Paladin subclasses are smaller than ranger Subclasses, and I want Ranger subclasses to make up about as much of the class as they currently do.
      Maybe he was talking more about extra spells like the paladin. If I remember correctly some of the new rangers have extended spell list. Maybe something like giving the Beastmaster Find Familiar, always-ready Summon Beast, giving the Hunter more scrying spells etc
    1. doctorbadwolf's Avatar
      doctorbadwolf -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ath-kethin View Post
      I didn't see anything shocking here, but I'm really curious about what specific DMS Guild (or even which specific MT Black) adventures he likes.

      I also completely agree with his advice for new players. It blows my mind how fearful people get of their PCs, so fast. A memorable death beats a mechanical and humdrum 12th level any day of the week.
      That's hardly an accurate dichotomy, though. It's a choice between a death that may or may not be memorable, and a 12th level career that may or may not be memorable. IMO, the 12th level character is much more likely to be memorable, unless the player is just really boring, because there is a lot more time to have great moments with that character.
    1. doctorbadwolf's Avatar
      doctorbadwolf -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ath-kethin View Post
      I didn't see anything shocking here, but I'm really curious about what specific DMS Guild (or even which specific MT Black) adventures he likes.

      I also completely agree with his advice for new players. It blows my mind how fearful people get of their PCs, so fast. A memorable death beats a mechanical and humdrum 12th level any day of the week.
      That's hardly an accurate dichotomy, though. It's a choice between a death that may or may not be memorable, and a 12th level career that may or may not be memorable. IMO, the 12th level character is much more likely to be memorable, unless the player is just really boring, because there is a lot more time to have great moments with that character.
    1. Gadget -
      Quote Originally Posted by doctorbadwolf View Post
      I'm really glad he can't have his way without a new editor on some of those regrets/things that big him. Bonus actions are good design.

      The idea of scaling back Druids to half casters or lower is just bad.

      Warlock boons and Patrons should be separate. His idea would be less good than the current very good design.

      Beast masters are fine with the revised ranger. I'd love a full pet class that can be a beast master, a sha'ir, a binder, or something like the final fantasy 9 style Eidolon summoner, but as a pet having ranger, the BM is great. Especially now that the base class supports having less powerful animal allies, as well.
      I'm not sure I agree. While the D&D druid has a long history of being a full spell caster, it was mainly the uniqueness of the spell list and abilities that differentiated it. With that gone, I'd like to see what they could do with this new design. I definitely agree with him on the Warlock, they tried to do to much with to small a mechanical space; see all the arguments about the blade'lock. I never really cared for the Beastmaster concept to begin with, but I think his point stands.
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by doctorbadwolf View Post
      lol ok, other than your hatred of Paladins conceptually, do you have any objection to it?

      Bc I rather think he means that the ranger would work mechanically more like a Paladin, which I don't really like, because Paladin subclasses are smaller than ranger Subclasses, and I want Ranger subclasses to make up about as much of the class as they currently do.
      Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?

      Fun fact - John Wilkes Booth? Paladin.
    1. Azzy's Avatar
      Azzy -
      Quote Originally Posted by doctorbadwolf View Post
      I'm really glad he can't have his way without a new editor on some of those regrets/things that big him. Bonus actions are good design.

      The idea of scaling back Druids to half casters or lower is just bad.

      Warlock boons and Patrons should be separate. His idea would be less good than the current very good design.

      Beast masters are fine with the revised ranger. I'd love a full pet class that can be a beast master, a sha'ir, a binder, or something like the final fantasy 9 style Eidolon summoner, but as a pet having ranger, the BM is great. Especially now that the base class supports having less powerful animal allies, as well.
      Agreed.
    1. doctorbadwolf's Avatar
      doctorbadwolf -
      Quote Originally Posted by Gadget View Post
      I'm not sure I agree. While the D&D druid has a long history of being a full spell caster, it was mainly the uniqueness of the spell list and abilities that differentiated it. With that gone, I'd like to see what they could do with this new design. I definitely agree with him on the Warlock, they tried to do to much with to small a mechanical space; see all the arguments about the blade'lock. I never really cared for the Beastmaster concept to begin with, but I think his point stands.
      The Blade Pact could be fixed within the framework of Pact Boons, though. It just doesn't stand up next to the other two. If you ignore the one they didn't design as well as they thought (no shade, they did good with the rest of the class, IMO, but at least some small tweaks are needed for the blade pact to work as intended), the Pact Boon feature is an excellent part of the class, and I absolutely do not want to see a Warlock whose boon is chosen by choosing their patron. Each boon makes sense for every patron, and it should stay as it is. Especially since Invocations let you choose how much to focus or ignore your boon as you progress.

      As for Beastmasters, as a person who loves the concept, the Beast Master ranger works really, really well now. The PHB version isn't great, but the revised version is excellent.
      It doesn't obviate the space for a pet class, but that is a whole other thing, and I don't want a Beast Master class to be the Ranger. if it is a class, it needs to be it's own class.


      Re: Druids: Again, I'm fine with reducing it's casting focus a bit, just not to the point of a half or 1/3 caster, as he suggests. The Land Druid as it exists is not a nature cleric. It is a Druid, and needs to remain something you can do with the Druid class.
      And no matter what, there need to be more spells that only Druids and Rangers get (and barbarians, because I'd like a couple more Barbarian options that get spells as rituals, or even as normal spells x/day) that exemplify that tie to nature as a Force in the world, and to the spirits of nature, etc.
    1. doctorbadwolf's Avatar
      doctorbadwolf -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?

      Fun fact - John Wilkes Booth? Paladin.
      Nah, Lincoln was more of a Paladin. Booth was a rogue.

      Actually, I'd love a UA full of revolutionary subclasses. There is a ton of inspriration for abilities in Star Wars Saqa Edtion that translate just fine to fantasy gaming, IIRC in the book Galaxy of Intrigue, and also in the Rebellion Era Campaign Guide.
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