5E Mike Mearls - Reddit AMA
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  1. #1
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    Mike Mearls - Reddit AMA

    Hi all,

    Mike Mearls is currently doing an AMA session over on Reddit (link). Mostly he's talking about general stuff, but there are a few gems in there:

    On the Mystic:
    Moving the mystic back a bit - it lacks a clear conceptual boundary. The design right now kind of does everything. We're looking at it in terms of settings. What does a psionic-user in Dark Sun do, etc.

    Artificer is moving up ahead of it, would like to have something by the middle of the year.

    On the Artificer:
    Hoping to get something out by mid-year, using Eberron as more of an inspiration for the next draft. Tested well, so more refinement than wholesale reinvention.

    On Changing 5e:
    I'd remove bonus actions, rebuilding specific abilities to capture what they are trying to do. For instance, healing word could let heal someone and include a melee or ranged attack as part of the spell.

    Bonus actions add complexity that doesn't need to be there. I like keeping things streamlined when I can.

    On 6e:
    For a new edition, we'd need to see player demand for a revised PHB. I'd prefer to continue incremental updates and improvements, and then let you all let us know when it's time to take the best improvement and fold them into a new edition. Backward compatibility would be a high priority.

    On the Revised Ranger:
    Unfortunately, no schedule right now. We're specifically looking at how we can integrate it as smooth as possible into the existing ranger. For instance, we want to make sure that someone using D&D Beyond isn't confused or making a weird choice (this ranger, or that ranger - pick one) that is nonsensical to a new player.

    On Creating Something New for 5e:
    Nothing in the sense of a new thing for the sake of a new thing. We usually think more in terms of what players and DMs might want or need, then look at how that might manifest as a story.

    Classic stuff is easier to get a handle on. People know they like Ravenloft and want it, so we tackle it.

    Really, for something new I want to create - new players and DMs.

    On Eberron:
    Eberron is seen as a core D&D setting, alongside the Realms and Ravenloft. What does that mean? Can't say yet...
    I would not be surprised to see Keith [Baker] working with us in some capacity in 2018.

    On D&D Settings in General:
    The settings are definitely on my mind. We have some fun stuff planned for 2018. I hope we can pull it off.
    Can't say anything, but (with some modifications) we see Spelljammer as a part of the D&D cosmology.

    On Power Creep:
    Power creep is definitely a concern. We don't want people to feel they need to buy the newest thing to make characters (really hurts bringing in new players).

    That said, we try to balance against where things should be rather than where they ended up. Player perception is also very important. Since D&D is coop, the perception of imbalance takes priority over mathematically proven imbalance.

    On the Arms & Equipment Guide:
    Not at this time, but it is definitely a product concept that we have on our list.

    On Campaign Building:
    I tend to build my campaigns in quick episodes, with a good knowledge of the main NPCs who might drive the action to help flesh stuff out.

    This article has proven useful to me:

    http://slyflourish.com/fronts_in_dnd.html

    On Live Streaming:
    We work with a number of streamers directly, and for newer ones we don't have a specific plan right now. We are thinking about what streaming means for the game, though, and how we can encourage it. Might be simple stuff, like guides on equipment, tech set up, and so on.

    On UA Content:
    If the concept is interesting and distinct, we send it back to the drawing board for a re-concept based on what people rated well. In fact, you might see a few new subclasses in January's UA that look a little familiar.

    On New Subclasses:
    I'd like to see a subclass that does more with spirits and primal entities. I'd also like to see one that does something meatier with elementals and elemental power.

    On Mass Combat:
    Talking to a designer now about tackling that topic.
    Yes, we are talking to a designer about tackling it in 2018 in UA.

    On Rules that Get in the Way:
    When it happens, it's almost always because of bonus actions or the goofy definition of what a weapon actually is. Also, implements can cause headaches.

    I obviously use bonus actions in my game, but otherwise pay no mind to what is actually a weapon or whether someone has the right implement to cast a spell. Those rules are basically there to help a DM if a player is doing something cheesy.

    On D&D Novels:
    It turns out that as a game company, we're not so good at being a novel publishing company. We've talked about them, but nothing to announce.

    On Overlooked Niches in the D&D Multiverse:
    Genies - I think the elemental planes as a whole could use some more detail.

    On Adventure Anthologies:
    Tales did very well, and we still see people asking for adventures. I would not be surprised if we did something similar.

    On the Best Way to Support the D&D Staff:
    Recruit more players and DMs!

    On Puzzles:
    I usually start with a solution in mind, then work backward to how to present it. I like the solutions to be relevant to a location or dungeons's flavor. For instance, in an ancient library you might need to find the specific book that the ghostly sage wants.

    For more, see posts #4, #7, and #14.
    Last edited by pukunui; Wednesday, 20th December, 2017 at 10:14 PM.

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    He's all but saying Ebberon in 2018, with the mentions of Keith Baker and how he considers Ebberon a core setting alongside FR and Ravenloft.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick McGill View Post
    He's all but saying Ebberon in 2018, with the mentions of Keith Baker and how he considers Ebberon a core setting alongside FR and Ravenloft.
    Well, his comments here combined with the multiversal material they have been testing suggests that they are going to roll out their complete metasetting vision in 2018, for sure. He also hints at Spelljammer pretty heavily.

  4. #4
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    After a short break, he appears to be back:

    On Factions:
    The FR factions are fairly underutilized. We've talked about a revision to make them all as interesting as the Harpers and Zhents. Nothing specific to talk about yet.

    On Exploration:
    In my own thinking, I have started to replace exploration with discovery. Exploration itself is a little too nebulous and specific for my tastes these days.

    Discovery to me means finding or uncovering things considered lost, walking at the very edge of the known and pushing onward. It would be things like discovering a forgotten ruin or reclaiming a lost relic.

    On Designing XGE vs PHB:
    Biggest thing was having feedback based on several years of play with the final game. There is definitely a point where people start to push the game and begin to bump into its limits or issues.

    On Artificer/Mystic/Ranger Again:
    Hoping for ranger and artificer in first half of the year, mystic depends on a deeper revision to give it a clearer identity, driven by settings like Dark Sun and what it would need.

    On Bonus Actions:
    For bonus actions, I'd be more prescriptive and just say what you can do in addition to the action. So, for two-weapon fighting just becomes a variant attack action with a prereq that you are wielding the right weapons.

    On High Level Adventures:
    It's a chicken and egg issue. Our studies show that most people don't reach high levels, not for lack of desire but due to time pressures (campaign ends early).

    IMO, making high levels work relies on moving away from combat as a solution. Players expect high power levels, especially with magic. I don't think countering that with stronger and stronger monsters is necessarily the way forward, but we don't have a good sense of it because few people reach those levels.

    On the New Movie:
    We work pretty closely with Hasbro studios on movie stuff.

    On Digital Platform Pricing:
    Much of that comes down to the cost needed to implement content across different platforms. If we offered one product that gave access to all the platforms, its cost would look a lot like the prices added up across all of them.

    Lower prices work for ebooks when you talk about novels and such. However, RPGs are a lot more costly to make due to art, layout, game design, and so on. Compared to a novel, a much smaller percentage of the product cost to us comes from the cost of printing.

    For digital platforms, you then have to account for the coding, server maintenance, and so on, to keep everything running and updated.

    On the D&D-MtG Crossover Themes:
    The Magic-D&D crossovers have been unintentional. Wish we could say we planned it! It had not been an issue in the past when D&D was not as story focused, so we missed that as an issue. We talk more about future plans now, though.
    [NB. He's specifically talking about how so many of the Magic sets were thematically similar to a D&D product coming out at the same time, like Innistrad and CoS and Ixalan and ToA.]


    On the Lack of an Arcane Half-Caster:
    I think we have enough casters that we're not necessarily seeking to fill that gap. The bard was probably the most likely candidate for that treatment, but worked out much better as a full caster.

    On the Warlord:
    Yes, been thinking about it a fair amount and have some ideas for it. It's not a robust enough concept to survive as a class, but we can do some pretty meaty things within subclasses. Issue so far has been feedback - hasn't bounced to the top of things people are asking for.
    Last edited by pukunui; Tuesday, 19th December, 2017 at 10:39 PM.
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  5. #5
    I do not understand the beef with Bonus Actions. It really seems like removing them and tacking additional stuff on to the actions makes the actions unwieldy and open to abuse from poorly written add-ons to another action. It seems easier and more straightforward to say that you have a bonus action and here is a list of things your character can do with it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tormyr View Post
    I do not understand the beef with Bonus Actions. It really seems like removing them and tacking additional stuff on to the actions makes the actions unwieldy and open to abuse from poorly written add-ons to another action. It seems easier and more straightforward to say that you have a bonus action and here is a list of things your character can do with it.
    They really only started talking about that beef sometime after we all figured out that Dual Wielding has some serious issues with both scaling and not triggering on special attack actions.

    So we can assume that Bonus Actions are taking the heat for Dual Wielding being shoehorned into them. And in hindsight, they probably shouldn't have made any Bonus Action Attacks in the first place, but it's far to late for that consideration now. So again, Bonus Actions as a whole are getting dinged for attacking with them.

    There is also that blurb about bonus actions not existing until something triggers them, which is an overly complicated explanation for what they intended bonus actions to do (just letting them exist all the time and not be usable until a trigger would have accomplished the same thing). But that has no practical effect on the rule mechanics, just people learning them.
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  7. #7
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    A few more tidbits:


    On the Nerfing of the War Mage:
    At that stage, mostly balance. We rely on the feedback surveys to point out issues with the class, and overwhelmingly people vote based on how balanced something looks on the page or feels in play. We do rely on math to figure out details, but feel and perception play a bigger role because this is a coop game.

    On How to Avoid Having a PC Do the Same Thing Round After Round:
    This is one area where the bonus action can help. I like putting stuff into the combat area that encourages not-attacking or using a bonus action to do stuff in addition to attack.

    For instance, last session I ran the players were fighting an albino, underdark squid. A number of demonic plinths were scattered around the squid's pool. In addition to just attacking, the PCs could mess with the plinths and solve the puzzle of how to use them.
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  8. #8
    I really don't see how having a lot of separate rules saying "if you do X you can also do Y in the same action" is in any way less complicated than bonus actions. Actually it seems like it would be a more complicated in play, and also less flexible.
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  9. #9
    It's been a really interesting AMA so far, I'm happy to hear about the progress of the artificer and them mystic though sort of sad to hear that the mystic is facing more significant changes, I was fairly happy with it. Still, I'll probably like however it ends up working, I'm actually very surprised that the artificer did test as well as it did and that it just needs refinement- i expected for usre that it was going to see major changes, like becoming an arcane half-caster and losing mechanical servant to a subclass, but he seems to be implying the changes would be much less significant than that.

    Eberron in 2018, calling it right now based off Mearls hinting- I'm so stoked if 2018 turns out to be the year we got to see their multiverse viewpoint in action.
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  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Tormyr View Post
    I do not understand the beef with Bonus Actions. It really seems like removing them and tacking additional stuff on to the actions makes the actions unwieldy and open to abuse from poorly written add-ons to another action. It seems easier and more straightforward to say that you have a bonus action and here is a list of things your character can do with it.
    I'm with Mike on this one.

    Bonus Actions are really just a 2nd action in your turn. They're hacky and unnecessarily confusing.

    If a character has special actions, it's easier to just write them down on the sheet. Then everyone still just has 1 action. Abilities which grant a different action are simple. There is no longer a need to make a distinction about what sorts of things are bonus actions and what are actions. And when a bonus action is used, does it have to be before the action or after? What kind of restrictions does it put on the action that turn? Etc. Just have 1 type of action and have it be 1 action per character turn.
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