Dear Mike & Monte





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  1. #1
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    ° Ignore Mercurius

    Dear Mike & Monte

    The point of this thread is to provide a place for ENWorlders to post their wishes/requests/demands/hopes (and fears) about 5E...who knows, maybe Mike ( @mearls ) & Monte (Cook) will peek an occasional glance and even take some of our dreams to heart. I'll start.

    Dear Mike & Monte,
    My wishes, hopes and fears for 5E are relatively wide and varied, but rather than overload you with demands I'll keep it relatively simple with three hopes and one fear (for now!).

    Hope 1: Toolbox D&D
    One element that seems thoroughly lacking from 4E is what could be called the "toolbox approach." You, as the lucky folks who get to make a living off D&D, design a game and provide a bunch of tools for us to tinker with and customize to our hearts' content. I want to design classes, races, feats, powers, etc, but would like some guidance on how to do so in a balanced way. In other words, I want the building blocks, not just examples of ready-made buildings (or rather, in addition to that). Can you provide me with this?

    To put it another way, I'd like to see D&D go "back to its roots" as a toolbox. Yes, have a core game that everyone pretty much follows as written. But this can be very simple, basic d20 stuff. After that, well, you provide the Legos and we'll set our imaginations to work.

    (Speaking of Legos, my approach--and that of pretty much every Lego fan, past and present, that I've spoken with--was to make the "official" design once, then scrap it and add the pieces to the Lego Chest and make stuff up myself. That was the real joy of Legos)

    Hope 2: Dial it Up (and Down) - Basic & Advanced
    Related to the above, don't just tease us with this sexy "complexity dial" idea--make it happen! I want a simple, core game, one that is playable in and of itself with minimal Fiddly Bits. Think Castles & Crusades but 4E-style, or True20, or Talislanta...that sort of simple (in other words, "rules light-to-medium"), or even simpler at the very core (ala Fabled Lands).

    After that, go hog wild. Provide options, modular options that we can pick and choose from. This is an extension of the Toolbox Approach. You build the parts, we'll put it together.

    Hope 3: Bring the Magic back!
    Something was lost in D&D over the years, and it wasn't just childhood wonder. While the Golden Age of scifi (and perhaps D&D) is 12 and there's no going back, such cosmic cycles come around again in a spiral-like fashion. The world falls into chaos and then a new Golden Age emerges. The Golden Age of AD&D fell with the Gygax departure and the "Satanic Scares" of the mid-80s, but then was reborn in the Golden Age of the 2E setting extravaganza in the early 90s. Then with the demise of TSR and the quiet years of the late 90s, a new Golden Age came once again with 3E and the OGL.

    We didn't really get a Golden Age of 4E. It flamed up, sputtered, almost died, flared up again with some of the recent offerings, but isn't as bright as it could be.

    I'm not just talking about bringing magic back in a big picture kind of way, but also the little stuff: e.g. magic items. Make magic items magical and wondrous again. Make arcane spellcasters arcane again--I want spell lists, long spell lists, with a wide variety of weird spells, not just homogenous at-will/encounter/daily powers that are interchangeable across roles and classes and power sources with an obviously formulaic structure that is all too transparent (for instance, you might as well say "5th Level Arcane Fire Burst Power" instead of "Fireball").

    Fear: WoWzers!

    Disavow WoW. Say it again: Disavow WoW! What I mean by this is not to bag on the World of Warcraft (OK, maybe a little bit), but to remember D&D's roots and, most importantly of all, what sets it apart from computer games: it is a game about the free play of the imagination. The "game board" is notthe screen, notthe battlemat orthe Virtual Tabletop. Sure, those tools can be handy and fun; I'm not denying that or being a "Gamer Luddite" (aka Grognard), but I am saying that what makes D&D special and beloved is not how close it gleans to video games, but how it differs from them.

    Gary Gygax once cited an anecdote in an interview in which he described a child being asked whether or not he liked radio or TV better; the child said "radio, because the pictures are better."

    So remember: D&D is most fundamentally a game of imagination, not of simulation. Use technology and apps and virtual stuff and miniatures all you want, but--and here's the kicker--only as ways to accent the imagination; in other words, make them secondary and optional to the core experience.

    Or, to quote myself from a couple years back: I want to use minis (on occasion), but I don't want to have to use minis.

    Thank you for your time,
    Sincerely,
    Mercurius, D&D player of 30 years

    p.s. To Fellow EnWorlders: Your turn!
    Last edited by Mercurius; Tuesday, 27th December, 2011 at 12:48 AM.

 

  • #2
    1) Please read Jonathon Tweet's Omega World d20. That game was brilliant in its simple complexity. It was a great adaptation of d20 to Gamma World and showed how the game was portable to other genres.

    2) Look at Savage Worlds. Simple for the GM but complex for the players. That is good game design.

    3) Bring back D&D miniatures. Nothing entices me more than the idea of buying a box of figures, opening it and running the night's game from it.

  • #3
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    ° Ignore Rechan
    Instead of cut-posting my response I do for every single one of these threads, I'm going to go with something a little more utilitarian.

    1. Playtest More

    3.0 had to be reprinted with fixes 3-4 years in. Well before 4e had Essentials, there were a slew of feats trying to fix The Math, and pages after pages of Errata. To the point that players needed to take feats just to keep up with the errors in the system. Skill challenges. The utter confusion of skill challenges.

    I do not enjoy this. Figure out the math from day 1 and repeatedly test it. Do not let the books out of shop without The Fundamental Core of the System being wrong.

    Furthermore, playtest it more. Playtest It More. Playtest it more. It should be a well oiled machine. And look past your own biases - Mike has said that in-house WotC cared more about accuracy than anything else, thus the reason Sure Strike etc was included. Get more playtesters to get outside feedback, on why they choose something and why they don't.

    2. Take your PR Seriously

    Eberron was exciting and refreshing. But, before Eberron was released in 3.5, the previews actually caused some confusion and satisfactions. The previews were all "Magic trains! Halflings on dinosaurs!" The response was "Wait, what?" Those were the wrong things to emphasize. They weren't what the setting was about, and really, aren't what people talk about now. In a lot of ways it was like advertising a movie by discussing the catering.

    That is similar, but worse, for what happened with 4e's previews. While @OnlineDM has a much much more in-depth explanation of this, I'll sum it up:

    A lot of damage was done to the image/expectations of 4e because of things the designers said and the things they emphasized during its pre-release prieview stage. There are still people who are offended over things that the designers said about 3e. The complaints of others come down to how the actual 4e books are laid out and read. This convinced so many to not like 4e before they ever saw it, based on what they were suddenly associating it with.

    Don't just hand the devs a blog and say "write things" - the devs aren't journalists or marketing guys. Put the best foot forward about the system, and put effort into how it is said, not just what is revealed. Your goal is to excite and convert old players.Yes. There will always be people who hate what is being said and who you can't counter. But don't add to their grievances. You're posting your previews to the net and using the internet to spread the buzz - the internet is the only place that message is getting picked up. Don't shoot this effort in the foot with poor comments or focusing on the wrong things.

    3. Earlier Focus on New Players

    I really appreciate what Essentials is trying to do. But a way to get new gamers in 2 years into D&D is a little late. The info should be more accessible early on. While I personally have little problem with a lack of info in the MM, it is not that useful for newbies. Bringing in new blood, and making it accessible for old and new, should be higher on the priority list.
    Last edited by Rechan; Tuesday, 27th December, 2011 at 02:15 AM.

  • #4
    Before mechanics, consider the basics:

    What's the goal of D&D?

    *Cooperatively telling fantasy adventure stories
    *Providing an engaging and dynamic "game" element through the rules
    *Having fun

    The rules should serve these goals (or whatever goals a broader consensus produces). Anything that doesn't support the goals should be omitted.

    How is an rpg developed?

    Cooperatively. Any attempt to develop D&D behind closed doors with focus groups under NDAs is doomed to failure. D&D rules are not corporate secrets. Any game claiming to be D&D, regardless of its own merits, is doomed to failure if not subject to large-scale interactive playtesting and not released under some version of the OGL. That's the standard, and now that that bell has been rung it can't be unrung.

    Who is D&D for?

    D&D is for a variety of people from all walks of life who look for all sorts of things from a game. It is also for a variety of people who have never thought about any kind of rpg. Any attempt to target the game towards a specific (WoW-oriented) demographic is bound to lose many others. D&D is a game for everyone. Write something flexible, with simple basics and optional add-ons, and which covers a wide variety of possible gaming styles. Write a game for everyone.

    Easier said than done (or I would have done it already), but that's the bar.
    "Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose"

  • #5
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    Dear Mike, Monte, and anyone else who might be working at WotC's Advanced Research Gaming Hive (ARGH):

    Have fun! You've got an awesome job!
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    The most cinematic adventure path for 4th Edition and Pathfinder.

    Now available - Admiral o' the High Seas, and ZEITGEIST adventure eight, Diaspora! For Pathfinder and D&D 4e.

  • #6
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    ° Ignore Mercurius
    Great ideas, Ahenhnois, along similar lines to my own thinking. Some comments:

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    The rules should serve these goals (or whatever goals a broader consensus produces). Anything that doesn't support the goals should be omitted.
    I agree, and it is because we have a wide variety of tastes for "what is fun," 5E should have a simple core with numerous possible (modular) options. I imagine that a simple enough core that retains the long-term elements of the D&D tradition could be designed to please 90% of the fan-base, from diehard OD&Ders to Pathinderers to 4EDers, but after that we all split up into different directions, or at least a half dozen or so "clans" that like a different collection of sub-systems. Make those optional, modular and--here's the hard part--interchangeable within a campaign, so that, for instance, some PCs use some rules options, while others don't; some are designed with the very simple core rules set, while others have a more complex design--and neither is "better" than the other, just with a greater or lesser degree of complexity and detail.

    Good luck with that, M&M!

    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    Cooperatively. Any attempt to develop D&D behind closed doors with focus groups under NDAs is doomed to failure. D&D rules are not corporate secrets. Any game claiming to be D&D, regardless of its own merits, is doomed to failure if not subject to large-scale interactive playtesting and not released under some version of the OGL. That's the standard, and now that that bell has been rung it can't be unrung.
    Excellent point. Remember how it felt to leave home for the first time, probably in your later teenage years? Maybe you were gone for a semester at college and then came back for Christmas; home seems a lot smaller, more cramped than it was before. My point being, once you get a taste of freedom, of a wider world, going back becomes impossible.

    I do like 4E, but overall it feels more "cramped" than 3.5, both in terms of the OGL vs GSL, but also the overall design principles. 3.5 can be added to and subtracted from, whereas 4E is more tightly interwoven, like a game of pick-up-sticks: move one thing and the whole things shifts.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ahnehnois View Post
    D&D is for a variety of people from all walks of life who look for all sorts of things from a game. It is also for a variety of people who have never thought about any kind of rpg. Any attempt to target the game towards a specific (WoW-oriented) demographic is bound to lose many others. D&D is a game for everyone. Write something flexible, with simple basics and optional add-ons, and which covers a wide variety of possible gaming styles. Write a game for everyone.

    Easier said than done (or I would have done it already), but that's the bar.
    Again, excellent point--and fits right in with my hope for a simple core/advanced options bifurcation. Actually, this view seems to ubiquitous with 5E speculation that it seems almost a certainty to be part of the design.

  • #7
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    Dear Mike and Monte, a few requests for 5e:

    Make the numbers smaller.

    3e was initially designed for levels 1-20, 4e for 1-30 (higher-level bolt-ons came later in both cases), and it can quite easily be argued that 1 to an open-ended 10 are enough. (i.e. look closely at 1e, designed for 1-infinity but playable from about 1-10)

    Scale back hit point numbers for both PCs and monsters - make d6 damage meaningful again. While you're at it, scale back all bonuses using this rule of thumb: unless it's an exceptional case, the bonus for anything should never become larger than the die being rolled. d8+4? Fine. d8+12? Meh. d8+20? Why bother with the d8...

    Make combat fluid rather than strictly turn-based.

    This would require a large shift in philosophy away from "a rule for everything" in that it asks the players and DM to co-operatively determine how combat progresses. Re-roll initiative each round (monsters too!), on a smaller die than d-20, and make things take time to do. My initiative is 5? That's when I start moving, I'll get there on a '2' and I'm somewhere between my start and end point during that time in case anything goes off that might hit me. (in other words, a move action takes measurable time, as it should). Spells and item use should work the same way.

    Find inspiration wherever it may be.

    Gygax etc. took inspration from wherever they could find it - Arabian Nights, Tolkein, real-world myths and legends, and so on. Do the same thing now, while incorporating inspiration from more recent sources. Need a psionic system? Take a look at Kurtz' Deryni. Need some adventures? Take a look at WoW and Zelda and others of their ilk. And so on...

    Don't ask us all to play the same game.

    Others have mentioned this, but I'll repeat: we all play the game a bit differently from each other, so make the system flexible enough to handle these differences as much as practicality allows. Design for 1 and 3 and 10 year campaigns. Design for rules-light, rules-heavy, rules-be-damned. Design a few unique settings and give guidelines to build our own. Etc. But make everything a guideline rather than a rule.

    While you're at it, design against system mastery giving as big an advantage as it has in 3e and (to some extent) 4e. For example, if character generation is complex enough that a char-ops board has a use, go back and rethink - and simplify.

    The adventures make the game.

    And guys, most important of all, you can design The Best RPG System Ever and if it doesn't have some good adventures right out of the gate to back it up it's going nowhere. 3e did well with Sunless Citadel and Forge of Fury while 4e struggled mightily with the less-than-brilliant H-series as their respective founding adventures. And then keep 'em coming! Don't rely on third party types to write 'em (though some surely will), instead do them in-house. If you're ever faced with a choice of whether to release an adventure or a splat book, always go with the adventure!

    Lan-"the fine details, as always, I leave to those whose job it is to sort 'em out"-efan
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  • #8
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    I've grown tired of complex games - the computer can do those quicker and faster. All I'm looking for these days is a game that quickly and painlessly lets me tell the stories I want and gets on with the game. I don't want to be bogged down in a tabletop tactical boardgame or a hack'n'slash fest - I'm already knee-deep in 40K and waiting for Diablo 3.

    And give us a new campaign world for 5E. More fleshed out than Nentir Vale but somehow different than the campaign worlds we've seen so far.

    ----------------------------
    Beyond 5E:

    Even though I don't play the game, I still like the quality of things that come out of WotC. Keep refining the board games and bring out more. More and varied tiles/poster maps. Keep the minis coming (if you can keep the quality up!).

    Some of us might not buy into the new game, but you can still keep us shopping with you for gaming gear we can use in our other games.
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  • #9
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    ° Ignore Mercurius
    Great contributions by all so far.

    While it is very early on in the thread, what's inspiring to me so far is just how compatible the ideas are. It is very likely that the more detailed we all get, the more we'll diverge from each other--but that's the point of the "simple core/complex modular options" approach; it allows for a united, simple core game and tons of variations.

    Hmm...maybe ENWorld should be designing this thing?

  • #10
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    5E = OGL


    Maybe more later but if it starts there it will have legs.
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