D&D 5th Edition Open Letter to Mike Mearls from a pro game dev
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  1. #1

    Open Letter to Mike Mearls from a pro game dev

    Hello forum, I have not logged in here for a very long time, and promised not to do so again, yet I am compelled to in order to get my message across to Mike Mearls. I do not have his email, so I am posting it here in the quest to bring to his attention to a grave mistake his game design team has made in the last packet, and hope that he rectifies it. I hope that my good XP level on this message board will allow this one post to remain online, despite my prior disagreements with The Powers That Be(tm) in the distant past.


    Here is my post:


    http://community.wizards.com/forum/d...hreads/4035056


    Hello Mike, this is an email from a fellow game developer. The forum members on this website will not acknowledge that because I haven't shared my creds publically, but I will share them with you via a PM if you so desire.


    There is a huge glaring problem with D&D Next, as you're aware, with Great Weapon Fighting style.


    This fighting style allows 1st level fighters, who are supposed to be apprentice level fighters, to achieve a god-like 100% accuracy on every single attack of their entire career. Please remove this, regardless that 39%, 50% or even 64% of fans like it. It is simply a bad rule, that doesn't fit within the design goals of D&D Next, as you've outlined them:


    I will commence by quoting the actual problem:


    Great Weapon Fighting


    When you miss a target with a melee weapon
    that you are wielding with two hands, the target
    still takes damage from the weapon. The damage
    equals your Strength modifier. The weapon must
    have the two-ş‐handed or versatile property to
    gain this benefit


    When you miss, the target takes damage. How? does not explain. Why? does not explain.


    Later on, in How to Play.pdf, page 22, we read the following on how to interpret HP when it becomes reduced to 0, via hits or misses (which now mean essentially the same thing):


    Describing the Effects of Damage


    Dungeon Masters describe hit point loss in different
    ways. When your current hit point total is half or more
    of your hit point maximum, you typically show no signs
    of injury. When you drop below half your hit point
    maximum, you show signs of wear, such as cuts and
    bruises. An attack that reduces you to 0 hit points
    strikes you directly, leaving a bleeding injury or other
    trauma, or it simply knocks you unconscious.


    Let's recap the problem:


    A) When you miss a target with a melee weapon
    that you are wielding with two hands, the target
    still takes damage from the weapon


    B) An attack that reduces you to 0 hit points
    strikes you directly, leaving a bleeding injury or other
    trauma, or it simply knocks you unconscious. (all of which imply a hit)


    These two things are incompatible. You cannot say HP are abstract, therefore misses can cause damage, but when those misses cause the damage to result in 0 HP, suddenly they were hits. This is a direct, black and white, contradiction in the rules.


    Please remove this.


    As a pro game developer with over a dozen AAA games to my credit (go ahead and ask me for my CV, and I will share it with you, Mike), I have identified, based on both your own design goals, and my general game design and debugging experience, as well as 25+ years of D&D on top of that (which qualifies me eminently better than 99% of your survey recipients) with GWF:




    1) The higher level you get, and thus better accuracy, the less the fighter will benefit from his fighting style. Fail. Simple fail.




    2) There is nothing specifically relating to the use of two-handed weapons even hinted at in the style. Even supporters of GWF acknowledge this, and want damage on a miss generalized to other fighting styles. It could easily apply to any other weapon type, TWF, S&B, bare-hands. It isn't evocative of the use of heavy weapons being similar to a nimble blade that can get in no matter what. Big weapons tend to miss big, too. This goes counter to how massive weapons should behave. Reaping Strike from 4th edition even worked with single handed weapons and sword and board style. There is zero correlation to two-handed weapons in any narrative sense. That makes it a disassociated mechanic, which goes against one of your own recent L&L articles.


    3) Thrown versatile weapons such as warhammers, spears and tridents can never miss a prone, invisible target when thrown. This is absurd.


    4) All objects being attacked, no matter how small or well guarded, will be automatically destroyed. This has important ramifications for epic battle scenes where crystal balls need smashing on time. Or ropes need cutting to lower the drawbridge. It removes the agency of the dice from the game, which, being a gamewhere dice are used when outcomes should be uncertain, is bad form.


    5) It allows 1st level fighters to do damage every round they attack. If you cannot see why that violates how D&D combat is supposed to work, I don't know what to say. It's not how D&D fighting has worked in any game I've ever played. As a "custodian of D&D", giving 1st level fighters, or second level rangers or paladins a 100% chance of dealing damage on every attack is pure fail.


    6) No human is so perfect that he can never fail to harm his opponent any time he attacks them. Certainly not a 1st level Fighter fresh out of boot camp. A pro boxer doesn't land all punches, or an olympic fencer say "touchÚ" after every single thrust, and they're supposed to be more akin to 20th level in terms of proficiency. A first level fighter has no business being so reliably damaging against any foe, regardless of their AC or other defensive capabilities.


    7) Armies of Ogres or Trolls using PC creation rules can use this to auto-win any battle due to their excessive strength and HP in the first round or two of battle, by concentrating firepower on one target near them. Monsters are supposed to be able to pick up fighter levels without breaking the game, according to Mike Meals' tweet.


    8) If used against PCs, they will not appreciate the DM being able to kill them without any input or agency from either D20s or damage dice. An Ogre built using PC creation rules can wreak havoc on the party mage, since a fighter's Protector ability cannot defend him. Invisibility spells cannot make you safe. This is another example of how the mechanic bypasses melee combat.


    9) It ignores which weapon you're using, so a longsword used two-handed has the same effect as a greatsword or greataxe. Removing the importance of weapon selection is something feedback rejected


    10) It turns all enemies with HP < # of attacks per round * str mod into insta-kill minions, up to 25 HP without buffs. That was previously a level 20 fighter ability in a previous packet. Should give a clue. This is terrible news for wizards, both PC and NPC wizards, who will be insta-gibbed.


    11) It completely negates all defensive fighting styles : AC +1 ? Useless. Granting disadvantage? Useless. Investing into 30 AC, with artifacts, spells, buffs, invisibility, disadvantage? Useless
    Actually, it basically means a fighter in full plate and magic is no better defended from incoming damage occurring than a naked, prone, disarmed and helpless princess on the floor.


    12) If you have less than X (mentioned above) HP vs a foe with this ability, your armor is useless, as you will die no matter what, anyway. Ever single time.


    13) There is no point in rolling to-hit or damage when a fighter attacks a foe he knows has less than his GWF damage. This can be
    20, or it could be 50, 60 per round. Insta-kill terminators, here we come!


    14) It says you miss with your weapon, but your weapon does damage. Not you doing damage, your weapon doing the damage. Since the weapon missed, how is this possible? Doesn't bother explaining (it can't, because it's nonsense)


    15) It makes a mockery of the english language, basic logic, and basic physics, and forces you to interpret HP as being essentially a meaningless stat. Contradictory definitions = meaningless.


    16) Wizards have unerring striking in a daily spell, Magic Missile, not a cantrip. This is essentially an at-will Magic Missile for fighters, mechanically. Actually better since it can potentially do much more damage. So it fails on a balance level against an iconic wizard spell, which currently costs them a daily slot to use.


    17) Wizard cantrips do not do damage on a failed saving throw, and thus never miss. Why should fighters get that? They already get multiple attacks per round to scale their damage


    18) Spells with saving throws that are succeeded by the target are still within the area of effect of the spell. The analogy is that they hit, but roll less damage. This mechanic is like a spell with NO saving throw for zero damage, no matter defensive abilities like Evasion. There is nothing at-will equivalent for any spellcasting class. This is unbalanced, since it is basically magical effect and does not belong in a non-magical class.


    19) In the last round of battle, every monster from the lowest kobold, to the greatest dragon, stands a good chance of being auto-killed without any dice rolls, precisely in the most dramatic possible moment of their existence. Removing dramatic tension in epic death scenes, and nail-biting will he / won't he be killed this round, is one of the cornerstones of D&D fun. Finishing off that dragon with a lame auto-damage mechanic is probably the thing that bothers me the most about this. In the last round of battle, at low HP, a dragon is no tougher to kill than a naked, blind, and gagged kobold.


    20) Attacks of Opportunities are like laser force shields that automatically kill weak creatures that try to run through, or run away. For example, a druid polymorphs into a bird, and attempts to fly into the castle past some guards. One of those guards has GWF and can never fail to damage the bird by 5 HP and thus revert him back to human form.


    21) When damage is stacked to the base Str-mod miss damage, it will create all kinds of balance issues. Such as : being able to automatically kill any creature, at will, regardless of the D20 roll OR the damage die of the weapon. There are at least 6 instances of things stacking with this ability. The entire game will have to be re-written to have "when damage is rolled" instead of "when damage is dealt" to avoid stacking, and it's somewhat confusing based on Mearl's tweet that this is working as intended, i.e. stacking will be allowed and even perhaps encouraged. This is terrible. Once you add enough buffs to your damage, then the W of the weapon becomes less and less important, meaning the D20 itself ceases to have any real agency whatsoever. Stacking is definitely a bug that even the most ardent supporters of this mechanic want curtailed. But those same people do not like the D20 from mattering in the game, as they want to automatically "win" every attack roll and never be able to do 0 damage, or have a large variance on their expected DPR.


    Low-variance, high magnitude DPR is EXTREMELY BROKEN. It will reduce D&D to a game of chess or initiative rocket-tag.


    22) There is no defense to this mechanic other than DR, which is AFAIK not even present, as most monsters have generic resistance (1/2 damage), not old-school DR that subtracts. So there is no real defense against this, ever.


    23) Spells like barkskin, prot from evil, blur, etc are have no chance to save a spell caster's life, but against any other weapon attack they can.


    If we are to accept Rodney's explanation, a lance used two handed by a GWF has a greater force of impact than when used mounted. Apparently, your hit points are not taxed when leaping away from a charging 2200lb war horse at full gallop. On the othe hand a, GWF attacking through a portcullis with a lance can auto damage.


    24) In Design FinesseŚPart 2, they mention losing concentration when damage it taken. This interacts with GWF in a negative way, by giving a 1st level fighter with that ability a 100% chance to threaten a concentration save vs the toughest, most defended foe in the game, AC 25 /w disadvantage, a scenario where a level 20 fighter without this ability only has a 68% chance of doing the same. Here is a forum discussion of the article and the bugs this one mechanic causes.


    Math:
    prof bonus : 6
    to-hit bonus : 5
    magic weapon : 3
    to-hit : +14
    vs ac 25 : 11 or better. (50%)


    Chance to not deal any damage, and thus not trigger a concentration save (4 attacks) :
    0.5 * 0.5 * 0.5 * 0.5 = 0.0625 (6.2%)


    P(at least one hit) : ~94%


    Chance to miss /w disadvantage on each attack :
    (1-0.25) * (1-0.25) * (1-0.25) * (1-0.25) = .316


    P(at least one hit) : 68.4%


    1st level fighter with GWF ability to threaten concentration against the most epic, toughest, most critical foe's concentration with or without disadvantage:


    P(at least one hit) : 100%


    That's a 31.6% better chance to disrupt concentration, in the worst circumstances possible in the game, for a level 1 fighter as opposed to a level 20 fighter with all his attacks.


    A first level fighter /w GWF can attack a foe that's level-appropriate for a 20th level fighter and disrupt their concentration more often = strictly better. All you need to auto-threaten disruption of any foe's buffs is a first level dude with a pike and GWF = equivalent to casting at-will dispel magic at a very high level in earlier editions.




    25) A recent poll at Enworld with 268 votes, has 122 (45%) showing they find this mechanic unbelievable, while 107 (40%) find it believable enough to keep. The rest, 39 (14%), do not care enough about it either way.


    When even Mike Mearls, the lead manager of the game, finds it confusing to narrate (let alone the balance issues involved), that's a very good sign that it should be removed:


    Mike Mearls ‏@mikemearls8 Nov @adamBWaters Yeah, we're looking at it. Personally, I find it gets confusing when combined with effects that trigger when you damage a foe


    If YOU find it confusing, how are you expecting CASUAL gamers to find it? You are the MANAGER of this game!


    If YOUR team argues about it internally, how do you expect tables across the country and the world to react to it, over time? Do you really think this problem is going away?


    Remove damage on a miss, it's a terrible idea, and doesn't belong in D&D.


    Contradictions in game rules are invalid, and must be removed. If you publish this game with a direct, black and white contradiction in the game rules, after hundreds of people have reported it to you, including people who make games for a living, you need to actually listen, and override the public. You are the boss.


    Veto argumentam ad populum. The masses can be wrong. And yet, more people in public polls actually hate this infallible apprentice-level fighter style. either way, popular or not, it's bad for D&D, bad for you and I (it's incomprehensible how an attack can have both missed and have been a "direct strike" at the same time. Utter nonsense), and it's bad for America.


    The default, core rules for 5e should be clear, simple to understand, invisible, get out of the way, don't introduce narrative inconsistencies, and make sense. Contradictory rules should be purged no matter which game you're making. This is just Game Design 101. And I know you're more advanced than that, I have faith in you, that you will make the right decision and remove this awful mechanic from the game.


    Thank you for your time.
    Last edited by Gorgoroth; Wednesday, 5th February, 2014 at 07:52 AM.

  2. #2
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    Oh for the love of pete

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    OK, that's it, I am reversing my prior opinion. I now want Damage on a Miss in the game. I want it so, so much now. I think I will email Mearls (whose email address I do have) and tell him. I won't need to remind him of my credentials - he already knows I'm awesome.

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    Open Letter to Mike Mearls from a pro game dev

    You could have just said you wanted to share with the rest of the children, you don't have to put up a pretense.

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    I think this Open Letter must have gotten lost in the mail, because this is the kind of thing that might have meant something maybe a year and a half ago. But at this point in time it's a rather futile gesture.

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    Got a tweetable version?

    Funnily enough, most issues with damage on a miss go away if you don't let it reduce hp below 1.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Ichneumon View Post
    Got a tweetable version?

    Funnily enough, most issues with damage on a miss go away if you don't let it reduce hp below 1.
    Which is a plain hack, which you would know if you were an actual game developer.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by DEFCON 1 View Post
    I think this Open Letter must have gotten lost in the mail, because this is the kind of thing that might have meant something maybe a year and a half ago. But at this point in time it's a rather futile gesture.
    We shall see, the next L&L should be enlightening.

    I look forward to saying I told you so to an entire legion of ....nevermind.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Mistwell View Post
    OK, that's it, I am reversing my prior opinion. I now want Damage on a Miss in the game. I want it so, so much now. I think I will email Mearls (whose email address I do have) and tell him. I won't need to remind him of my credentials - he already knows I'm awesome.
    Hanging out on Enworld is not a credential. (hint : credentials are those things where others consider your opinions and talents to be worth actual currency)

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Obryn View Post
    Oh for the love of pete
    ...?

    This is the kind of coherent, pertinent argument one would expect to find on da internetz

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