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    Sunday, 31st August, 2014
    Ten RPG Blogs Everyone Should be Reading 
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    I have a guest blogger today! One of my favourite blogs, Dyvers Campaign, is written by Charles Akins. I recommend it highly. Charles has written a guest blog entry here on EN World, in which he lists ten RPG blogs (which aren't his or my blogs!) that everybody should be reading:

    One of the wonderful things about this hobby is the vast array of creativity that it elicits from enthusiasts and nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of blogging. Here you’ll find people enthusiastically discussing their favorite settings, systems, and companies with the sort of fervor that is usually reserved for fighting over politics and religion; but you’ll also find new ways to improve your game. Whether you’re looking for a new monster, an adventure hook, a creative house rule, or just some inspiration for your next game there’s a blog out there waiting to provide you with just that.

    Today I’m going to share ten blogs that everyone should be reading. These blogs represent different systems, styles of play, and range far and wide from what you might consider a stereotypical gaming blog. Yet in spite of all their differences these blog share one thing in common: they’re filled with great ideas that you can use in your own games – regardless of what system or edition you’re playing.

    10. The Dungeon Dozen by Jason Sholtis

    The concept behind The Dungeon Dozen was to provide a Dungeon Master with a d12 chart of fantastic ideas each time it updated. In the four years since the blog began Jason Sholtis has produced over 420 tables ranging across a wide range of topics from what sort of corpses you encounter in the dungeon to what’s at the bottom of the pit you’ve just discovered. The sheer volume of output from this blog can be intimidating but you shouldn’t let that give you pause in bookmarking and exploring it because it has an easily searchable index and continues to update with outstanding content on a regular basis. You can also use an index created by Jeff Russell, of the blog Blessings of the Dice Gods, which has arranged most of the tables by topic so that you can quickly find the chart that best suits your needs.

    If you enjoy this blog’s output then I would also encourage you to pick up Jason’s first compilation The Dungeon Dozen from LuLu which has lots of art and two hundred tables that you can use for your games.

    Style of Game: Open system
    Posting Frequency: Nine posts per month

    9. Chirine’s Workbench by Chirine ba Kal

    The game of Tekumel was created by Professor M.A.R. Barker and at one time it was considered the pinnacle of what could be done with the Dungeons and Dragons game. Then things got difficult with TSR and Tekumel disappeared from the wider gaming culture, but that doesn’t mean that it stopped being played. Professor Barker continued to run the game for years afterwards and Chirine ba Kal was one of his long time players and a close friend.

    This blog is filled with Chirine ba Kal’s remembrances of playing in Professor Barker’s games along with his experiences playing with Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax. Yet this blog isn’t focused only on the past. Instead Chirine writes fascinating articles about how to run convention style games (which he’s done for decades), Braunstein games, and his on-going personal campaigns that have been going for years. He also discusses miniatures and how they were used in the games he’s played in the past and even today. Perhaps the best part of this blog, though, is the constant reassurance that you can do it all yourself. You can make all of the miniature terrain, buildings, and props from scratch. You can carve the miniatures you need and make up the rules as you go along. You can use things you find at the pet store and at Dollar General instead of spending every spare dollar buying Dwarven Forge terrain and Games Workshop miniatures.

    In a hobby where we are constantly eschewing our own talents for the prefabricated efforts of corporations Chirine has become something of a clarion call reminding all of us that we are more than just a fistful of dollars. We are what make the games matter and no rulebook or supplement can change that.

    Style of Game: Tekumel and War Gaming
    Posting Frequency: Eleven posts a month

    8. Tenkar’s Tavern by Erik Tenkar

    Arguably in the last five years no movement within the hobby has had a greater online presence than the OSR and yet in spite of all its adherents defining the movement remains an elusive task. This is because the OSR is a nebulous idea that harkens back to the early days of the hobby when what you did with your game was more important than what any publisher might provide you with in its stead.

    If you were looking for a blog that has it’s pulse on the OSR movement than you couldn’t find a better place to start than Tenkar’s Tavern. Erik Tenkar has produced a blog that ranges across many of the topics that connect to the rpg industry; yet it’s the community of commenters that he has cultivated to his blog that makes it so special. Whether he’s asking about how you use NPCs or discussing his latest house rule you’ll find a vibrant community that expands and diverges from his original comments to produce a wide variety of thoughts that will help you reexamine your own beliefs on those topics and be better for it.

    Where this blog really shines, though, is when Erik begins talking about many of the rpg Kickstarters that have been launched over the last few years. He has produced numerous reports that have been valuable in shining light on the crooks and flakes who have used Kickstarter to their personal advantage. Through his tireless efforts Erik has helped keep many of these people honest and has ensured that the worst offenders are shown for what they are in the light of day.

    The Tavern has a wide audience that consists of mostly OSR gamers but Erik has produced a blog that welcomes everyone regardless of the style of game they play. It’s also one of the most prolific blogs in the blog-o-sphere having produced over a thousand posts in each of the last two years.

    Style of Game: OSR with a focus on Swords and Wizardry
    Posting Frequency: 78 posts a month

    7. FATE SF by John Till

    When I first learned about FATE I foolishly dismissed it as a heartbreaker system that wouldn’t provide me with the same sort of flexibility and enjoyment that Savage Worlds did or that GURPS promised. Then I ran across FATE SF by John Till.

    John possesses a seemingly endless supply of enthusiasm and creativity that FATE has only exacerbated. His blog is filled with great monsters, space opera overtones, brilliant adventure locations, and tremendous adventure opportunities. Yet the best part about all of his efforts is that it is so easy to convert them over to your favorite system. This blog has sold me on the FATE system and John’s continued creativity has only impressed on me the possibilities available in picking it up.

    Style of Game: FATE
    Posting Frequency: Fifteen posts per month

    6. Elfmaids and Octopi by The Prophet Konsumterra

    Elfmaids and Octopi has been one of my must read blogs since I first ran across it nearly two years ago. The author has one of the most distinctive writing styles I have ever encountered, and it takes some getting used to before you’re able to fully engage with the blog, but it works perfectly.

    The Prophet Konsumterra has steadily built up a blog filled to the brim with some of the most creative writing I’ve ever run across. His game session reports read like front line missives one week and the next like a conversation in a friendly bar with a good band playing in the background. Yet as good as these are they aren’t the best part of this blog. Where he really shines is when he starts exploring his gaming worlds (in particular the Planet Psychon series is outstanding) and builds these amazing d100 lists that each provide the reader with more ideas than a lifetime of gaming would allow them to fully explore.

    As if all of that weren’t enough the Prophet Konsumterra has also published his work for his Home Chimera game which combines his favorite elements of each D&D edition from First though 3.5. Reading through his efforts is like finding an old friend who keeps telling you that you don’t have to limit yourself to the things you’ve always been told and can instead go your own way. Having a voice like that in this hobby is essential if we’re going to continue to grow beyond the standard fare.

    Style of Game: Homebrew Chimera (mix 1-3.5 D&D)
    Posting Frequency: Twenty-four posts a month

    5. Barking Alien by Adam Dickstein

    Most of the blogs written about rpgs tend to focus on the narrow genre of an imaginary, Medieval Europe where we all fight dragons and rescue feckless princes while we tell jokes that are only funny if you were there. Not so with this beautiful blog. Instead Barking Alien focuses on the wide breadth of role-playing games outside of D&D.

    It’s a refreshing break from the monotony of the standard fare as Adam brings a unique perspective to the hobby and is constantly pushing against the imaginary constraints we impose on ourselves. He is a passionate proponent for gaming and nearly every post he writes contains brilliant bits of advice that will help improve your own games even if you’re not playing the same system. Perhaps the best part of this blog, though, is when Adam discusses his internal group dynamics and makes an effort to genuinely think about what’s happening and how to improve the games and situations he involves himself in. I’ve learned so much about how to deal with his style of play – which is far different from my own – and it’s made my own games better as a result.

    Style of Game: Currently Supers / Space Exploration
    Posting Frequency: Twelve posts a month

    4. Gaming Ballistic by Douglas Cole

    Before I started reading Douglas Cole I avoided GURPS like the plague. I labored for years under false beliefs about the game and foolishly ignored a robust system that would allow me to play everything from a Space Pirate to a Cowboy in the old west. Then I found Gaming Ballistic and everything changed. Douglas Cole has a way of making GURPS into one of the most attractive systems you’ll ever read about. Through his tireless efforts he has helped demystify the game through his Melee Academy series and his GURPS 101 series. And he always seems to come up with great adventure ideas, locations, and enemies that can easily be moved into your favorite system.

    Even if these efforts weren’t as impressive as they are his blog would still make my list for his Firing Squad interviews. He makes an effort in each interview to put his guest at ease and to discuss a wide range of things going on in the hobby; with the end result being some of the best, far reaching interviews you’re likely to find today.

    Style of Game: GURPS
    Posting Frequency: Thirty-two posts a month

    3. Hack & Slash by Courtney Campbell

    If you’re looking for a blog that aggressively works to provide some of the best content on the web then you’d be hard pressed to find many better than Hack & Slash. This blog covers the breadth of the hobby moving from esoteric topics from the earliest days of the hobby to building new backgrounds for D&D 5e. Yet the far reaching scope of this blog isn’t its best quality. Instead what makes it so valuable for the reader is the author’s unerring belief that what we’re given isn’t good enough, we can do better, and he’ll show you how.

    Reading Courtney’s blog will leave you with the belief that the standard monsters that have grown trite and predictable shouldn’t be left that way; instead we should reimagine them and make them better than the boring things they’ve become. Our old adventures and paths, which everyone has trod before us, should be abandoned for new grounds where we can do the unexpected again. Courtney is the sort of reinvigorating figure that this hobby needs to prevent us from stagnating under the pressure of our collective past.

    Style of Game: OSR
    Posting Frequency: Thirteen posts a month

    2. Aiee! Run from Kelvin’s Brainsplurge! by Kelvin Green

    To try and sum up the entire breadth of topics covered by this rare blog would be a fool’s errand. Instead I will tell you that over the course of the last eleven years Kelvin has managed to craft an exceptional blog that is capable of both a deep study on the esoteric ephemera of the hobby and of developing new content on a regular basis with a seeming ease that I am frankly jealous of. He has explored so many topics during his run with this blog that I can honestly tell you that if you’re looking for somewhere to begin developing your own thoughts on this hobby that exploring this blog will help you see both where we have been as a hobby and where we are going.

    Kelvin’s keen intellect and consistently high standards of blogging have made this blog one of my favorites to explore as every delve into his archives is rewarded with a plethora of new ideas for my own games and a re-examination of my own thoughts on the hobby. I cannot recommend this blog highly enough for any reader.

    Style of Game: Multiple systems
    Posting Frequency: Four posts a month

    1. Goblin Punch by Arnold K. Adult Content Warning

    httWhen I am looking for inspiration in my own games the first blog I look to is Goblin Punch. Arnold is a fantastic writer who has carefully crafted a blog that explores the fertile grounds of his imagination to produce some of the most provocative monsters and locations today. His creative re-imagining and invention of monsters have provided me with a wide array of nightmarish fodder to launch on my unsuspecting players. Then there are his adventure locations which are as beautifully written as anything coming out of Monte Cook Games and can easily be dropped into your own world without losing all of their beauty.

    There is so much to this blog that I enjoy; but I don’t want to spoil everything for new readers because exploring the depth and breadth of this blog is half the fun. So instead I’ll be brief and simply say that if you’re looking for a blog to read that is not only a creative powerhouse but a well-written and enjoyable read then this is the place to start.

    Style of Game: Open System
    Posting Frequency: Ten posts a month

    WotC's PR agency just sent along this press release:

    Today, Wizards of the Coast provided a glimpse of what Dungeons & Dragons will offer in 2015, with new digital offerings set in the Forgotten Realms from partners including Backflip Studios, Beamdog and Cryptic Studios with Perfect World Entertainment.

    Click for more about D&DThroughout 2014, D&D has ignited excitement in the game industry with a celebration of the brand’s 40th anniversary, the launch of new rules for the tabletop RPG, and the exciting and engaging Tyranny of Dragons storyline.

    Digital plans for next year were revealed at PAX Prime today during the “2015 Videogames in the Forgotten Realms” panel hosted by Wizards of the Coast and partners:


    Nathan Stewart, Brand Director for Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast
    Rob Overmeyer, Executive Producer for Cryptic Studios
    Trent Oster, Creative Director for Beamdog
    Ryan Drag, Creative Director for Backflip Studios

    Below please find an overview of the news from the panel, highlighting what D&D fans can look forward to in 2015. We encourage you to share this exciting news with your readers and visit www.dungeonsanddragons.com for updates.


    Neverwinter MMORPG on Xbox One
    Rob Overmeyer confirmed that the highly-acclaimed free-to-play MMORPG, Neverwinter, will be coming to Xbox One in the first half of 2015. At launch, console gamers will be able to experience the fast-paced combat and epic dungeons all set in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms universe.


    Dungeons & Dragons Partners with Backflip Studios
    Ryan Drag unveiled that Backflip Studios is designing a “castle defense” style D&D game for mobile. The partnership is a natural fit as Backflip shares a common passion for the D&D brand, which is underscored in the recently released Developer Video (watch it online here). The mobile game is set to release in 2015 and additional information will be announced in the coming months.

    Beamdog Continues to “Enhance” the Sword Coast
    Trent Oster from Beamdog announced Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition is coming to iOS, Android and PC later this year. Trent also revealed two updates for Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition, including availability on iPhone and the capacity to have multiplayer work across different platforms. All three Enhanced Editions are classic D&D computer RPGs that have been rebooted for play on modern tablets and PCs.

    Copyright © 2014 360 Public Relations, All rights reserved.

    Various authors, publishers, designers, artists and more in the RPG industry have taken part in the ALS ice bucket challenge. I've put together a small compilation of some of them. Enjoy! This list includes WotC's Mike Mearls and Chris Tulach, Paizo's Jason Bulmahn, Shanna Germain & Monte Cook, Angus Abranson, Sean K Reynolds, and Erik Scott de Bie.

















    I sat down with Trapdoor Technologies' Evan Newton, Chris Matney and Rachel Bowen at Gen Con 2014 to discuss DungeonScape, the upcoming digital tools for D&D 5th Edition. I wanted to get this video out to you as soon as possible after Gen Con, so it's a little rough and ready!



    PAX PRIME, the Seattle-based convention, starts tomorrow. WotC, Paizo, and others will be there. I don't know if any announcements are planned (Gen Con having just been and gone), but I'll keep my ears open.

    Also, I'm working on a new reviews system. EN World started as a reviews site - once the biggest collection of RPG reviews in the world - although crashes and hacks along the way lost much of that over the last decade. So I've decided, with the launch of D&D 5E, to start a reviews system beginning from August 2014 and moving forward from there. It's not ready for primetime yet, but it needs a bit of testing. I've added a small handful of products to test with, and I'd appreciate your help.

    If you have the time, I would appreciate it if you'd write a review of something you have. Please use genuine reviews, simply because if it all works, I'll leave them there (although if it doesn't, they might have to be cleared out at some point).

    One minor issue - right now the text box where you enter your review has no WYSIWYG editor. It accepts HTML for now, but any other formatting/linebreaks get stripped from your review when you post it. That's on the to-do list to fix. What you *can* do is, once posted, edit your review -- the editor *does* work correctly, so you can add your formatting afterwards. It's a bit of a pain, but it's a teething issue.

    Anyhow, if you'd be so kind as to post some reviews and let me know how you get on, I'd be super grateful!

    Dungeons & Dragons News





    Other News

    • D24 Wrestling is a new game which features a d24 and.. well, wrestling.
    • There are some revised DungeonMorph dice available for pre-order. "If you're unfamiliar with the dice, each side of each die has a mini 10x10 dungeon geomorph on each side. Each edge of each design has two corridors at the same points so any two designs can join together. To make a random dungeon, just grab a few, roll them and push them together/line them up and you're done!"




    Some great news for D&D 4th Edition fans today! Finally available after being Kickstarted a year ago - the ZEITGEIST: The Gears of Revolution adventure path - Act 1 compiled in a beautiful 560-page full-colour hardcover book! Also including the extended versions of the Player's Guide, Campaign Guide plus a bonus adventure! Click on the picture below to find it in hardcover and PDF format!

    These five adventures are the first act of a steam & spell campaign for Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (also available for Pathfinder RPG, coming soon).

    Steam and soot darken the skies above the city of Flint, and the choking products of its industrial forges sweep from the majestic harbor to the fey rainforests that dot its knife-toothed mountains. The Unseen Court, the Great Hunt, and the many spirits of the land no longer receive tribute, but they cannot enter these new domains of steam and steel to demand their tithe. The impoverished workers who huddle in factory slums fear monsters of a different breed, shadowy children of this bleak urban labyrinth.

    Times are turning. The skyseers – Risurs folk prophets since their homeland’s birth – witness omens in the starry wheels of heaven, and they warn that a new era is nigh. But what they cannot foresee, hidden beyond the smog of the night sky, is the face of this coming era, the spirit of the age. The zeitgeist.

    This tome contains Act One of ZEITGEIST: The Gears of Revolution, a cinematic adventure path designed for experienced Dungeon Masters (also available for the Pathfinder RPG). These five 'steam and spell' adventures will take your party - members of the Royal Homeland Constabulary - from 1st to 11th level as they solve murders, engage in magical spycraft, and unearth villainous conspiracies. Take a step away from traditional fantasy, and play a part in shaping the coming age!

    Visit www.zeitgeistadventurepath.com for more information and a glimpse at the free Player Guide, Campaign Guide, and introductory adventure, The Island at the Axis of the World.



    Pathfinder RPG News



    Dungeons & Dragons News



    Nordriki, the northern kingdom of the land of Mithgarthr, has been relatively free of dragons for hundreds of years, but recently the locals have been reporting sightings of red, white, and green dragons all throughout the Drekiberg mountains to the north. Recently, a green dragon has taken up residence in an abandoned mine that is close to the city of Valdhum. The surrounding land is rich with wildlife for the beast to feed on, and the lair it has chosen is well protected and secluded.

    The Mines of Valdhum is an exciting adventure for 6 or so PCs of levels 5-7, written for the fifth edition of the world's most famous RPG.

    R.A. Salvatore's Novels - In Order!

    R.A. Salvatore has provided a list of his Forgotten Realms novels in the order he suggests you read them. If you're wondering what you need to read next, or what you may have missed, this could help!


    This is my suggested READING ORDER for my Forgotten Realms books, which all tie together. So here goes:

    I get a constant stream of PMs, e-mails and the like from people wondering where to go next with the Drizzt books. I certainly understand this confusion; there are so many books now that I get confused all the time!

    So here it is, a COMPLETE LIST of my Forgotten Realms titles, as I would read them if I was just coming into the series. ALL CAPS TITLES are trilogy/quartet/quintet title. Also, I might do the ICEWIND DALE TRILOGY before DARK ELF - that is the unending debate!

    THE DARK ELF TRILOGY*
    Homeland*
    Exile*
    Sojourn*

    THE ICEWIND DALE TRILOGY*
    The Crystal Shard*
    Streams of Silver*
    The Halfling’s Gem*

    THE STONE OF TYMORA
    The Stowaway
    The Shadowmask
    The Sentinels

    THE CLERIC QUINTET (featuring Cadderly and Pikel!)
    Canticle
    In Sylvan Shadows
    Night Masks
    The Fallen Fortress
    The Chaos Curse

    LEGACY OF THE DROW
    The Legacy*
    Starless Nights
    Siege of Darkness
    Passage to Dawn

    PATHS OF DARKNESS
    The Silent Blade
    The Spine of the World
    Sea of Swords

    THE SELLSWORDS (featuring Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle)
    Servant of the Shard
    Promise of the Witch-King
    Road of the Patriarch

    THE HUNTER’S BLADES
    The Thousand Orcs
    The Lone Drow
    The Two Swords

    TRANSITIONS
    The Orc King
    The Pirate King
    The Ghost King

    THE NEVERWINTER SAGA
    Gauntlgrym
    Neverwinter
    Charon's Claw
    The Last Threshold

    The Companions, Book 1 of the Sundering

    THE COMPANIONS CODEX
    Night of the Hunter
    Rise of the King (coming September 30 - pre-orders and e-signing running now)

    and finally:

    The Collected Stories of the Legend of Drizzt, a collection of all the short stories I’ve written for these characters over the years, for anthologies or Dragon Magazine and including a new story that details the end of Wulfgar’s long life. And yes, this is hte one the celebrities did for Audible.com - very cool.

    * = These books are also available as GRAPHIC NOVELS from IDW

    Also, there are two original GRAPHIC NOVELS:

    "Legend of Drizzt: Neverwinter Tales," fits in around Neverwinter, telling the surprising story of a certain fanged dwarf...

    and

    "Cutter," which shows the (inadvertent) start of the War of Silver Marches, the story told in THE COMPANIONS CODEX.

    And of course, all of these are available at RASalvaStore.com, where you can get them signed and personalized.

    Bob

    ps. Speaking of confusion..."The Last Threshold" and "The Companions" run concurrently to each other. The immediate SEQUEL to "The Companions" is "Night of the Hunter."

    This interview was conducted by EN World reviewer Michael Evans, who you may know as Neuroglyph. Check out his many reviews here, including the D&D 5E Starter Set, the new Player's Handbook, and Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

    Neuroglyph: At GENCON 2014, I had a great opportunity to sit down with Mike Mearls to chat about the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons. As co-Lead Designer on the project and the head of the R&D Department, Mr. Mearls has a unique perspective in the process of bringing this new D&D edition through its long playtest process to a finished product released just this month.

    Here’s my whole interview with Mike Mearls, where we cover a range of topics from designing the game, its mechanics, and the playtest process to the new Tyranny of Dragons campaign, working with Kobold Press, and even Dragonlance


    Neuroglyph: As one of the main Lead Designers for the new edition of D&D, how did you find your experience with the whole design process, and what was it like to work on the project?

    Mike Mearls: I think the biggest difference… I mean obviously there’s the playtest… and I think what the biggest difference, say, between 2005 and 2011… 2012… was that when we started this game in ‘05, we had to guess, right? Gaming was changing… World of Warcraft had come out, obviously consoles like the Xbox Live and Playstation III and online multi-player had become the mainstream. And people still liked first person shooters and stuff, where people would set up a LAN party and stuff like that. And now there were services coming into to play where you could play head-to-head on the internet with other people - so gaming was definitely changing. And I think what 4th Edition, looking back, what we were trying to do was to start predicting for D&D where we thought the game was heading… so that was a big part of it. So what we think, when people are coming to role-playing games, they’re going to have that MMO background or a video game background.

    And if you think back to the Red Box in ‘83, when we had that choose your own adventure text… that heavy reading, right, so like a person that wants to play a role-playing game, they probably read a choose-your-own-adventure book. And that’s why when we thought about the 5th [Edition] Starter Set, should have a choose your own kinda adventure thing? Where for 90% of the people this like the first time they encounter a choose-you-own-adventure style play, they’ve never seen this before. But they’ve probably played a role-playing game… they’ve played Skyrim or [World of] Warcraft or any of those game, so they probably actually know what a role-playing game is. We can probably just assume they know what a role-playing game is and they know they just need to make a character, and let’s just start explaining how this game works. So what I think, as opposed to what happened before was, we were trying to predict the future, and then trying to get a sense of the audience, ok?

    And I think of D&D as a conversation, in terms of game design, between the designers and the audience. And I think what 3rd and 4th Edition was, the conversation made sense… the transition to 4th made sense… if you say, played 3.5, bought Player’s Handbook 2, the Complete Arcane, and I think it was the Complete Mage with all those feats that had that at-will magic, Book of Nine Swords. So if you were following along, the conversation made total sense. You can say hey, here’s 4th Edition, you can see a lot of the things [mechanics] that had come out. But what we found though when we went back and looked at responses to the playtest from the audience, most people view D&D as a role-playing game and the conversation there is Player’s HandbookPlayer’s HandbookPlayer’s Handbook. And I think at the end of the day what happened before was if you got a 3.5 Player’s Handbook [and] that’s the only D&D book you have and the only one you read… and then you got the 4th Edition Player’s Handbook… there was a gap. You did not understand… how did we end up here? If you had been part of the changing game, then yeah, you say, I get it I understand where we are now. Which I think some people kinda felt like, essentially, like this [4E] is a backwards product. But if you had been there all along, it’d have been like doing updates, and you’d be like, oh yeah, this makes sense, going from 3.5 to 4.0 would have felt like from 3.6… 7… and 8, instead of this huge disconnect. So a lot of what how the playtest process was to say, look, we have to look in the mirror and say we don’t understand our audience and we have lost track of the core D&D audience. We probably had a pretty good handle on the people that were posting online, and the people who were hardcore Organized Play players, but for that person that just buys the Players Handbook… we lost them.

    So a lot of what [we did]with the playtest was get a good sense of the player base, starting there first, then creating the game. Rather than starting more like let’s try and get ahead of the curve, and try and think where we are going to be and then designing to that, and then having the audience catch up to us. And I think both approaches made sense because actually, when you run a game, there are a lot of games which have managed to be ahead of their time or have defined genres, right? Like World of Warcraft is a great example, or first-person shooters like Halo for the console. There are people who are on consoles today because of Halo in 2001 being so cutting edge. So I think there is always a risk when you take something that you think you understand and try to really change it that you can then have that discontinuity. I think looking back, we could have looked at 4th Edition and said instead, hey its 4th Edition and it’s a new way to play D&D it’s like we had done a miniatures rules… it’s like a new game. And here’s still 3.5 going… I think we would have seen a much different reaction. It could have been couched in new terms.

    And you look at the success of Ravenloft the Board Game, it’s based upon the 4E engine boiled down, and that did really well. And I was doing an interview in here earlier today and someone was asking about that, will the adventure system games change in the next five years. And well no, they don’t need to, because for the purpose of that style of game, the rules as they work now, they work great. We don’t need to start changing things, like put in spell slots or other kinds of stuff. So I think in some ways it was trying to predict things.

    There’s a reason why like Hollywood movie studios or a lot of game companies kinda use a volume strategy when they try to predict the future, you place as many bets as you can, and when one comes in, it’s great. It’s harder when this is the only bet you get to place, and you don’t have five or six other games. And so I think that a game with the history of D&D, there’s a culture that grows up around it. So much of it is making sure that culture has contimuity. You know? And what I think you’ll see us doing with experimental stuff or formative stuff, we’ll do it around D&D, rather that changing [the audience’s] relationship to the RPG.

    How much do you feel that polling the player base then affected your overall design process?

    Huge, just huge! I mean really what those surveys let us do is let us establish what does the audience look like, you know, like who are the people playing D&D, what do they want out of the game. You know, because for us, it looks like the Sabermetrics in baseball… in a lot of ways, it was us just catching up to the curve in that sense. Look, this is kinda my speil to the designers... I said look you guys, you’re designers, you have the easiest job in the world… you’re making a game that everyone already loves, so you just have to make the game they love. I mean I know that’s kinda being blasé about it… it’s harder than that. But we really have a target audience in mind, if we weren’t trying to create something completely new, we really don’t know who the target audience is anymore. So having those surveys was huge, and they really clarify what people actually wanted from D&D.

    Do you feel the OSR Movement influenced you in a way as you designed this new edition?

    I don’t really think it was a direct influence as in that’s what people are doing with that, so let’s follow that [OSR Movement]. I think it’s more, from my own experience, I think a lot of the Old School Gaming has arisen in a very similar way to how Indie RPGs arose. Because Indie RPGs are like we have an RPG rules and a setting, and your setting is about this and that, but your mechanics aren’t backing that up. So I’ll make up an example, because I don’t want to name a game that some people might really be into. So let’s take a cyberpunk game, and it’s all about the tension between humanity and technology, and you can have a lot of fun writing about it, but then your game mechanics are like a generic system. So on one hand you say your game is about this [cyberpunk], but I don’t see any rules for actually bringing that into play.

    And so I think that was what happened in the early 2000s, and I think that the OSR was a similar reaction, for role-playing games… traditional role-playing games as opposed to Indie… have become these giant rules and three or four or five hundred page system, you know. And people see it and say, do you really need all these rules to play? And I think that it [OSR] was a reaction to it.

    So like we have the Inspiration rule in D&D… for the Three Pillars. So you can say, what’s D&D about – it’s about Exploration, it’s about Interaction, and it’s about Combat. So you have rules to cover those Three Pillars, and it’s a role-playing game so the Inspiration [rules] encourages roleplaying. And I think it’s the same kinda thing where people are like, do we really need all these rules to game, or can we lean more on the Dungeon Master or the Game Master who is in charge of the game. Why can’t we let that person make more judgment calls, right? Make rulings not rules, right?

    And so I think where some of that philosophy [OSR Movement] definitely played a role, because I think in tabletop roleplaying games, a lot of these movements arise because I think it’s a reaction to the way things [games] evolve. It’s like here’s where gaming is, and here’s where it could be. But when gaming goes too far to an extreme, I think there’s a natural tendency to want the opposite. Because you can start pushing people out and making them frustrated.

    So with the new Player’s Handbook I noticed that your production values are incredibly high and it’s just gorgeous stuff....

    ...Thanks!...

    ...but when you’re investing as much as you did in designing a book like this, what then become your concerns about theft and piracy?

    So there is something very important about how we approached the [D&D] product line. So we knew, obviously, that there would always be individuals that would want to pirate and make a PDF, so that’s part of why we have the free rules, and make the game for free, so that there is really nothing to pirate. And then there’s a lot of people who still say, look, a book has value to me. So what can we [WotC] do to make this as a physical artifact so that it is something that is compelling and really interesting, so that you can say, yeah, I can go online and get a PDF and that’d be kind of useful… but I really want to get a hold of this book because I really like it and I like having it. I like the heft of it, and it’s got a great spine and looks like it’ll never fall apart, and it just looks great.

    I think it’s kind of funny, I think I picked up on that idea you had, and I think I said as much in my review, about this book being a bibliophile’s dream. In fact I think I described this book in what might amount to nearly pornographic detail in my review.

    [Mike laughs.] Yes exactly. That’s what we want the owner to feel. And yes, I read your review, and it was great to see you had all that, because we know that gamers love books… and we’re gamers too, we love books! And then it’s not just a game manual, it’s an artifact Because if you like D&D enough that you want to spend money, we’re are going to give you reasons to spend your money. But if you weren’t going to spend money and just pirate it, that’s easy, there’s already a free PDF out there.

    I suppose I’m kind of editorialize this… there are plenty of people out there who can justify the economical necessity of piracy, and just as many who say here’s the solution to piracy and I’m going to sell it to you. I mean I look at it that when I was a kid and I pirated software, it’s because I only had 50 dollars a month I could spend on games, so all that would mean is I’d skip stuff, I’d never play Ultima V because I could never buy Ultima III. But instead, I played a pirated version of Ultima III, and then when Ultima V was announced my 50 bucks went right to Lord British. But really, if there was no piracy to play the earlier game, I wouldn’t have spent money on the later game when I had it. And I think it’s easy as a creator to say, oh this piracy it’s killing me! Instead, I see it, and I think you have to approach it because it’s a challenge, how can I make you say, you know what I want this [book]. I gotta have it. But there is still a market for the PDFs…

    Yea I was going to ask about that [PDF sales]…

    You know we haven’t announced anything official yet, but I’d be surprised if we released the PDF to be exactly as the book. Because I think that we’ll sit down and look at a PDF format of the book and say well what’s the best format that could take? It really does make good sense to have it sort of stripped down and in a utilitarian layout.

    Because you know what? I’m actually just using this because I just want to get some rules at the table. Maybe I just want to be on a plane or just sitting around and want a quick reference that’s a quick read and just the information I want. So what does that do to the [PDF] design? We strip out a lot of the art and make it utilitarian. Or we break it up and actually the ebook version is actually three books, we’ve broken it up into three parts, and each topic is now a separate book. So maybe I’m playing a Wizard, and I’m just using the Basic D&D, but I want more spells… so I’m just wanting the spell chapters, so maybe I spend 5 bucks or 2 bucks just so I have that indexed or bookmarked and can quickly reference my spells. You know, what is the usefulness of that? Just as a bibliophile wants the whole book as a physical artifact, the digital only user, well, what is the best way for them to get access to the game.

    So there is nothing concrete yet, but those are just some of the possibilities being discussed?

    Yea exactly. Especially with the Dungeonscape Tool that Trapdoor [Technologies] is working on, and how they are going to approach things and what features they are going to have, could that kinda feed that need? Because we asked that it be iOS, Android, PC, so maybe you can just download the app and then buy the say Fighter packet and however we’re breaking it down, so are we really going to need to sell a separate PDF because actually the best way is to buy the tool, and the tool is also populating my database and I can make characters, then maybe I just don’t necessarily need the PDF. So a lot of it is just trying to figure out where things are with what they’re [Trapdoor Technologies] is doing, and we just don’t want to rush into something and then you’re like but I just bought the PDF and then the tools came out, and now I’m paying twice for the same content, that would make you upset. So it’s really just figuring out what is the best thing for the gaming audience at this point.

    [Interviewer’s Note: You can read about Dungeonscape Tools on the official website here. http://www.dnddungeonscape.com/ ]

    So with regards to the new magic system in D&D – it looks like you took the classic Vancian magic system and melded it with the At Will magic from 4E.

    Oh yes.

    Me: Was that a conscious choice, or was that a response to the reaction from the fans, or kind of a combination of the two?

    Yea, it was definitely a combination. We knew that At Will magic did really well with the initial playtests, and we had playtests where we looked at types of fantasy magic. We wanted to say hey, here’s different types of magic, what feels the best to play? And then we saw… and it’s funny I can’t even remember which version of the playtest it was there were so many… that people were really asking for flexibility. You know, what I think that we saw was the magic of D&D has always been a point of contention.

    So we got to what it was about Vancian… because some people just don’t like it at all. But for people who were mostly happy with the system, where are those kind of pain points… and so that’s where it can get a lot more flexible. You don’t have to decide to memorize three Magic Missiles and two Fireballs, but you just have one list of spells that you just use in your slots from that list. I think a lot of that came from that sort of act of playing in the playtest, where they [the players] said it still feels like D&D magic but you’re kinda smoothing out some of those rough edges that made it irritating, you know. And what adds to the flexibility is like being able to cast Fireball as a higher level spell; Cure Wounds is now just one spell, so you only need cast it at that higher level version to get a better effect.

    So going in to this knowing At Will magic, I would have been surprised if people didn’t like it. It was popular in 4th Edition, and it just kind of makes sense. That’s the kind of thing too, coming from a computer game background, people who play Skyrim and [World of] Warcraft, well of course you have At Will magic, right? D&D’s kind of a weird outlier where you stick a Wizard with a crossbow once he’s out of spells. Those games have Firebolt or something the Wizard can always throw, so I think that people are just used to that. So it’s not weird that D&D is going that way [too].

    You’ve obviously got a lot of dragon and Tiamat themes going on now in the new edition, as well as the direction that the new Encounters campaign will be taking on dragons. So um, I know you probably can’t really confirm or deny this this, but I’m going to ask anyways. The Dragonlance fans have been really longing for some attention and love from a new D&D edition for a while now – is this the edition the setting finally gets the spotlight again?

    Hmm… We’ll see. [Mike laughs.] I mean we did mention a lot of settings in the Core rules…

    You sure did…

    Yup, yup. And we are really embracing a lot of D&D’s heritage, and we know the settings that the fans really like. And that’s something that makes D&D really stand out. And a lot of it is that in the early 80s, D&D was the only game in town. If you wanted to play a fantasy game… it was D&D. There’s a bajillion different computer roleplaying games – Final Fantasy, King’s Crown, Wizardry - but you know those came out only once every three or four years. So D&D was like the fantasy franchise you could attach yourself to. But nowadays, there’s a bajillion tabletop fantasy games, there are fantasy games everywhere – well, what makes us [D&D] unique. What makes us unique is Darksun and Greyhawk, Ravenloft and the Realms obviously.

    It’s iconic you mean…


    So yeah… exactly, those are icons for a reason! So it’s up to us to kinda say what can we do to get you excited about the new edition. But without falling into the trap of trying to put out so many settings that we have so many additional ones that don’t get supported the way they should. So it’s definitely a riddle that we are very interested in solving. So we’ll see…

    Ok, fair enough. So what was it like working with Kobold Press on the new campaign arc? I just got done with the When the Kobolds Meet Tiamat panel with Wolfgang Baur and Steve Winter. So how was that working again with those guys, and actually “farming” out a product to be designed for the new edition?

    It was great. What it was that when you’re working on a new edition, all your energy is focused on that. But by working with Wolfgang and Steve, it let them focus all their attention on just creating a campaign and an adventure. And I think that they brought a certain level of authenticity to it that we really wanted to bring to the table. I mean, we’re now launching a new edition of D&D, where the first adventure [product] is a campaign, and you’re going to fight Tiamat! Right? It’s not just, oh it’s a dungeon and there’s a few kobolds in it, right? Or here’s some haunted keep where you’re going to fight some monsters in it and that’s that. It’s really a big undertaking. And I… this always blows my mind. The first issue of Dungeon Magazine I bought, there was this adventure in it called A Rose for Talakara written by Wolfgang Baur. And it’s about this Death Knight, and he’s trying to betray his Mistress…

    Oh yes, I remember that one!

    And it was just like, Wolfgang can definitely bring a big story to the table. And that’s what we wanted, we wanted something big and bold. And then Steve is a veteran of TSR from the early 80s, he knows fantasy inside and out, he gets… they both really get the union of a good story and a roleplaying game. What I love about Tyranny of Dragons, is that it’s an adventure path… it’s a path so you’re going to go from point A to point Z. And what they do is that within each chapter… did you have a chance to read the adventure?

    I did.

    I really love how each chapter has a ton of quests in it. Right? There’s just a ton of places you can go!

    Sandboxy?

    Yeah, right! It’s like seven or eight different sandboxes you get to play in, and I love that! And I really think that players like that and DMs like that… and so there’s enough guidance to get you into a campaign, but each party has a very different experience as they move through it. Like in Greenest, when the attack comes, or at the trading outpost, I mean how do you figure out what is going on and do you just run in and attack or do you sneak in… you just don’t know! So it was just fun reading it, and if you read it, it will just make you want to run it… and I think that’s because of how they [Wolfgang and Steve] write it, it just draws you in… and I think that’s great.

    And one of the things, and this is something we learned as part of the playtest, as our audience knows, there are really a lot of great creators out there, and when we get the opportunity to work with them, they bring their talents to D&D and that helps people play games as a whole. So now we [WotC] can just focus on the Core Rules, on the product line, and on the digital tools, and make sure that they all work together. But then we can rely on those outside studios to bring their own real specialty to the table. You can just give them the core idea of a storyline, and just let them go crazy with it, you know. And I think that we’re in a much stronger position as an edition because of that and we’re launching with a really, really good D&D.

    And I think it’s the kinda thing where people are going to just take it and they are going to run it [Tyranny of Dragons] for six to twelve months… they’re set! And I think when they come back, we can have something else to be sure that they have more to do, and they’re still set. Personally, I’m going to be running… I’ve actually playtested parts of the campaign [Tyranny of Dragons] and I’m going to start running it with a group of people at Wizards that haven’t played D&D before. And every Friday afternoon we’re going to play, and it’s the kind of thing that just gets me really excited. So yea… they’re really creative guys [Wolfgang and Steve], and we’ll be working with them again.

    So you think that there’s the possibility that you’ll be working with other smaller presses and designers with other projects coming up?

    Oh yea, sure. Definitely.

    Well that’s all the questions I can get into 30 minutes. And I really appreciate your time… oh and I’ll be reviewing Hoard of the Dragon Queen next week… I’ll be sure you all get a link to that. Thank you again for the chance to interview with you today!

    I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this interview… and I really want to thank Mike Mearls for taking the time to sit down with me at GENCON 2014! I think that there’s a lot of interesting insights here about the design history of this and the previous editions of D&D, and there’s going to be some good times ahead for the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons.


    Monday, 25th August, 2014
    More 5th Edition Fan Resources! 
    [105446/13503 views | Tweet This Article! | Share on Facebook]


    If my big list of cool D&D 5E fan creations and resources the other day wasn't enough, here's a couple more that have been sent my way. I hope you find them useful!



    A couple of WotC interviews have popped up, too.

    • Mike Mearls on the Tome Show podcast.
    • Jeremy Crawford on Examiner.com -- "Jeremy explains why dragons are eating low-level adventurers and the average expected duration of a D&D campaign".


    And reviews:

    • Play Board Games has a positive review on the D&D 5E Player's Handbook. "5e really feels like the best from 2e, 3e and 4e. The combination of some of the best things from the old editions and the streamlining of some of the rules and math make this edition great for old and new players."

    Here's a new teaser from Necromancer Games' upcoming 5th Edition Foes (on Kickstarter). 5th Edition Foes is a third-party sourcebook for D&D 5E containing "...between 200-250 additional creatures, beasts, monsters and titans to challenge your players and enhance your adventures!" [26 comments]



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