Dear Mike & Monte




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  1. #1
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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rechan View Post
    Do not let the books out of shop without The Fundamental Core of the System being wrong.
    Be careful what you wish for...................
    Death is for amateurs -Charlie Sheen

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    Mr. Mearls and Mr. Cook, here are my wishes:

    1. Wait for a couple of years with the next edition, please do. I am having a lot of fun with 4E as it is. Do not feel pushed or nudged too much by those who have a problem with what 4E is now and want it to be removed. You do not know if they will like the new edition. You do know, however, that I and many others like 4E very very much.

    2. Do not "bring the magic back" if that means that a magic user is stronger than a fighter. I wish for balanced classes.

    3. I wish for mechanics that can do without certain +x items built into the system. I would like to see magic items with special powers, yes. But my Battlemind should not need a +5 armor or a certain +x-to-attack-feat at a certain level just to be able to compete with a monster.

    4. Rely on digital technology to make the game easy to prepare for all players, including the GM. Being able to make characters and monsters in just a couple of minutes is a good thing for me, because I have a job, a family and several other hobbies.

    5. I wish for a toolbox of options with a lot of narrative control. For powers I would like to see mechanical crunch, seperated from the power's flavor text that I as a player or a GM can change according to a situation.
    I wish for a basic ruleset, with extras added on top, if I like to use them.

    6. I wish for online magazines with good campaign arcs, optional locations or encounters that I can drop into my campaign easily and advice on how to apply my character's abilities to the fiction.

    7. For the next edition, be legally wise and do not make an OGL. Nothing should last forever, no matter how much you love the current edition. Do not stand still. If you want 3rd party support, make sure they are legally unable to do the Paizo-thing. Because I think, in the end, that was bad for your business.

    8. And since this is a pure wish list: Cooperate with WorldWorksGames. They do amazing things and playing with their game supplements enhances the game tremendously.

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    Dear Mike and Monte,

    My only wish is that you guys keep making games, even if some people find them unbalanced, unwieldy, too rules-heavy, too rules light, if they find the numbers too big or too small, or whatever else, because there are people out there who will play them and find them fun. They are your Goldilocks, where everything is 'just right.'

    Even if I don't get into your game, like I have never tried 4E because the rules changes did not sound appealing, I want you to keep making games because it will hopefully bring new people into the hobby.

    Regardless of how much you play-test and ask focus groups and have people from 'outside' critique your work, there will always be people who don't like it. There will always be people who find ways to break your game. There will always be people who want more and people who always want less. No matter how many options you add, there will be someone out there who wants something you didn't think of.

    All of this is okay. Just keep making games and options for the games you create. Your Goldilocks' (Goldilockses?) are out there and they will find your game.

    Sincerely,

    Skredli T. Ogre.
    Listen to me LIVE at listen.partyfmradio.net at 1 pm Eastern on Fridays and 10 pm Eastern Sundays! PartyFm Radio, where the FUN is just getting started!

    Adventureaweek.com, where you get a brand new awesome adventure every week!

    And if you're facing us, block off a thirty-block radius. I throw more blows than boxing Dr. Octavius - Apathy - AotP - "Battle Cry"

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    My communities:

    Quote Originally Posted by TheFindus View Post
    2. Do not "bring the magic back" if that means that a magic user is stronger than a fighter. I wish for balanced classes.

    3. I wish for mechanics that can do without certain +x items built into the system. I would like to see magic items with special powers, yes. But my Battlemind should not need a +5 armor or a certain +x-to-attack-feat at a certain level just to be able to compete with a monster.

    4. Rely on digital technology to make the game easy to prepare for all players, including the GM. Being able to make characters and monsters in just a couple of minutes is a good thing for me, because I have a job, a family and several other hobbies.
    I agree with these things, especially #4. I am a very busy person - job, family, etc.. - and I DM 90% of the time. In 3e I used DM Genie all the time, and in 4e I use Adventure Tools and a couple of 3rd party tools to help with creating encounters and running the game at the table. Don't be afraid to give us tools for out tablets and laptops that we can use at the table, not just for online play.
    Game on, gang!
    Ptolus #15 (with customized, personalized sig from Monte.), Rappan Athuk Reloaded #37 (The Necromancer way.)

    Current Campaign

    Current Campaign: Currently running Deadlands for Savage Worlds. Also have a Slumbering Tsar 4e campaign that is taking a break, but we'll be starting that up again in the summer.

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    I hate to pick on you, TheFindus, but your answers are just about the opposite of what I want.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheFindus View Post
    Mr. Mearls and Mr. Cook, here are my wishes:

    1. Wait for a couple of years with the next edition, please do. I am having a lot of fun with 4E as it is. Do not feel pushed or nudged too much by those who have a problem with what 4E is now and want it to be removed. You do not know if they will like the new edition. You do know, however, that I and many others like 4E very very much.
    4E is getting its ass handed to it by Pathfinder and other RPGs. I'm not saying rush a product out of the door, but day-by-day I hear about more and more people switching to Pathfinder.

    Me personally, I don't play either 4E or Pathfinder at this point. I've gone back to old school D&D (via clones), so I don't really have a stake in either system. What I see though is 4E continually losing ground. If that continues, it'll become harder and harder for 5E to pull players away from those ongoing games. I don't think WotC = D&D means much anymore. Hell, I've introduced people to "D&D" via playing games like Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Adventurer Conqueror King. So, the actual mechanics of 4E at this point are so far from what a lot of people think of when they think of "D&D" that I don't think there's any reason to latch onto the system as it stands.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheFindus View Post
    2. Do not "bring the magic back" if that means that a magic user is stronger than a fighter. I wish for balanced classes.
    No. I don't want balanced classes. What I want are classes that tilt against each other and nudge each other and fill different gaps in the play dynamic.

    There's something interesting I've noticed about playing old school D&D and it's that the problem stemmed more from changes to what came before and leaving other things the same than from how things actually were from the get-go.

    3E mucked this up quite a bit. For example, people decry Wizards as being "too powerful" in 3E. Well, there's a reason for that, and it's not because Fighters didn't have spells like in 4E. It's because 3E took all the good stuff Wizards had from previous editions and stripped away all the limitations.

    Then, tack on the fact that the high-level Fighters lost their strongholds and armies and 3E replaced them with "bonus feats" and suddenly you have a stark contrast between the two in power level.

    There's a dynamic that can't be attained from "balanced" classes. And, the only reason you would need them to be balanced is if your game was only about combat.

    Classes need to fill different voids, for different styles of players and personalities. There is more to the game than combat, and classes enable those players who enjoy the other things to excel in those areas.

    Balance has nothing to do with that. So, why do we need it?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheFindus View Post
    3. I wish for mechanics that can do without certain +x items built into the system. I would like to see magic items with special powers, yes. But my Battlemind should not need a +5 armor or a certain +x-to-attack-feat at a certain level just to be able to compete with a monster.
    I agree, but I don't think magical items should be "special powers" either. I think magic should be dark, mysterious, dangerous and powerful.

    A character should think twice every time they plan to use a magical item. They should give the player an edge, but be risky or have some sort of fallout. Using a magical item should be a hard choice.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheFindus View Post
    4. Rely on digital technology to make the game easy to prepare for all players, including the GM. Being able to make characters and monsters in just a couple of minutes is a good thing for me, because I have a job, a family and several other hobbies.
    Oh man, no way. If we have to rely on digital technology then the game is too complex already. I want a basic game I can play pickup games with by grabbing the box off the shelf when family members are over and want to give it a shot.

    I want to be able to roll up characters in 5 minutes using dice, pencil and paper only and get into the game with minimal prep time.

    If I need some online program or database software to manage all the options and choices, you've already lost me and those potential players who might actually try the game at family gatherings. I want to be able to say, "Yeah, you guys wanna try it?" and grab the box off the shelf after explaining what D&D is at a party and get playing right away. Instead of, "Well, we can play next Sunday - it'll take some time to go over character creation and all that...."

    Screw that. By next Sunday those people will have forgotten all about D&D and I'm not interested in trying to wrangle them into the game when they've already lost interest.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheFindus View Post
    5. I wish for a toolbox of options with a lot of narrative control. For powers I would like to see mechanical crunch, seperated from the power's flavor text that I as a player or a GM can change according to a situation.
    I wish for a basic ruleset, with extras added on top, if I like to use them.
    This is what killed 4E for me. Dissociating mechanics from the fiction even more so would not be my ideal version of D&D.

    In fact, let's go back the other way. Let's design this game with the fiction first and mechanics to supplement that.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheFindus View Post
    6. I wish for online magazines with good campaign arcs, optional locations or encounters that I can drop into my campaign easily and advice on how to apply my character's abilities to the fiction.
    I want tools that help inspire me to come up with my own goodness. If I download something from WotC's site, I want it to be environments and sites that are more akin to sandboxes with tons of little tidbits of things I can draw from and use.

    Published adventures are of no use to me. I want resources, inspiration and monsters, magical items and exotic locales that inspire my imagination. I don't want a story written for me that I have to lure my players through.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheFindus View Post
    Mr. Mearls and Mr. Cook, here are my wishes:

    1. Wait for a couple of years with the next edition, please do. I am having a lot of fun with 4E as it is. Do not feel pushed or nudged too much by those who have a problem with what 4E is now and want it to be removed. You do not know if they will like the new edition. You do know, however, that I and many others like 4E very very much.
    I have no preference as to whether a 5E comes out next week, next year, or next decade...or honestly if ever. No preference at all.

    However, I just wanted to point out that even if 5E does come out, it can't affect the fun you're having with 4E unless you choose to let it do so...

    Even if 4E is removed from DDI (which I think would be a colossally stupid thing to do, and would show they didn't learn a damn thing from the release of 4E), you still have all of your books. You can still play it as much as you want. You can even still use the VTT on DDI (as so many DDI subscribers take pains to tell players of other older editions...)

    How does this affect your fun as concerns 4E???


    *scratches head*

  10. #10
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    @Rechan, while I agree that WotC's PR has been notoriously bad, whether through art direction or comments made by designers or just poor communication in general, I would say that if there are really people that are still offended by things designers said about 3E, then that has a lot more to do the psychological make-up of the offended than anything else, and there's simply no pleasing some people.

    Gamers tend to be an easily offended lot (just go over to rgp.net, for chrissakes). If someone is still offended about something a game designer said about a game...four years ago, then I don't know what to say. You can't design your PR around people that are that sensitive.

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