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5E Kate Welch on Leaving WotC

Kate Welch left Wizards of the Coast a few days ago, on August 16th. Soon after, she talked a little about it in a live-stream.

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She started work at WotC as a game designer back in February 2018, and has contributed to various products since then, such as Ghosts of Saltmarsh and Descent into Avernus, as well as being a participant in WotC's livestreams. In December 2019, her job changed to that of 'senior user experience designer'.

"I mentioned yesterday that I have some big news that I wouldn't be able to share until today.

The big news that I have to share with you today is that I ... this is difficult, but ... I quit my job at Wizards of the Coast. I no longer work at Wizards. Today was my last day. I haven't said it out loud yet so it's pretty major. I know... it's a big change. It's been scary, I have been there for almost three years, not that long, you know, as far as jobs go, and for a while there I really was having a good time. It's just not... it wasn't the right fit for me any more.

So, yeah, I don't really know what's next. I got no big plans. It's a big deal, big deal .... and I wanted to talk to you all about it because you're, as I've mentioned before, a source of great joy for me. One of the things that has been tough reckoning with this is that I've defined myself by Dungeons & Dragons for so long and I really wanted to be a part of continuing to make D&D successful and to grow it, to have some focus especially on new user experience, I think that the new user experience for Dungeons & Dragons is piss poor, and I've said that while employed and also after quitting.

But I've always wanted to be a part of getting D&D into the hands of more people and helping them understand what a life-changing game it is, and I hope I still get the chance to do that. But as of today I'm unemployed, and I also wanted to be upfront about it because I have this great fear that because Dungeons & Dragons has been part of my identity, professionally for the last three years almost, I was worried that a lot of you'll would not want to follow me any more because I'm not at Wizards, and there's definitely some glamourous aspects to being at Wizards."


She went on to talk about the future, and her hopes that she'll still be be able to work with WotC.

"I'm excited about continuing to play D&D, and hopefully Wizards will still want me to appear on their shows and stuff, we'll see, I have no idea. But one thing that I'm really excited about is that now I can play other TTRPGs. There's a policy that when you're a Wizards employee you can't stream other tabletop games. So there was a Call of Cthulhu game that we did with the C-team but we had to get very special permission for it, they were like OK but this is only a one time thing. I get it, you know, it's endorsing the competition or whatever, but I'm super excited to be able to have more freedom about the kinds of stuff that I'm getting involved with."
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Back in my day we didn't have a computer or a phone to help us with rules.
I'm pretty sure the kids today can handle it -- thinking of all kinds of #%!@ in minecraft they do with books everywhere about it. Back in my day, computer programs came in magazines and you typed them in and saved them on cassette tapes (or they came over the air in some parts of Europe I understand, and you saved them on cassette tapes). So the competition for D&D was a bit less on a rainy day. I'm sure the kids today could figure out D&D from scratch if they had a reason to think it was worth bothering with.

As far as the rules, a lot of Moldvay feels easier than 5e essentials. No races, just classes. Just three levels. No picking archetypes.
 

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Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Pretty much everyone I know either plays D&D or would never-in-a-million-years play D&D, no matter how simple the rules where.
It feels like there are lots of things where whether someone tries (for more than a few minutes) comes down to how long it takes to explain enough to get going. There are lots of folks who play tons of card games, but not bridge, because the jump in rules looks to be huge if you don't lay out the basics for them on a nice cheat sheet. If I didn't have the nice cheat sheet and just handed them Hoyle or two books on bidding, I'm guessing we'd have a lot fewer players in our twice weekly lunch time group. -- That being said, I'm pretty sure the cheat sheet won't help recruit many folks with no interest in playing cards in general.
 

Mort

Hero
Supporter
Welch has not clarified her position? has she followed up on social media at all

It is sad that the kids from the 70's and 80's could teach themselves how to play D&D (Thaco was not easy)and this generation cant or is complaining at all. These starter editions are easier than 90% of the boardgames out there nevermind roleplaying games (i'd argue its easier than magic the gathering)

Im going to be that guy-Back in my day we didn't have a computer or a phone to help us with rules. We were able to jump from D&D to traveler to Star Frontiers, Gangbusters, James Bond, etc and I feel confident that we got the rules mostly right
It's not a fair comparison. The outlet for complaining is much much easier then it was back in the 70s and 80s.
 

It feels like there are lots of things where whether someone tries (for more than a few minutes) comes down to how long it takes to explain enough to get going.
D&D does very well in that respect, because it takes about 5 minutes to explain and get going.
There are lots of folks who play tons of card games, but not bridge, because the jump in rules looks to be huge if you don't lay out the basics for them on a nice cheat sheet. If I didn't have the nice cheat sheet and just handed them Hoyle or two books on bidding, I'm guessing we'd have a lot fewer players in our twice weekly lunch time group. -- That being said, I'm pretty sure the cheat sheet won't help recruit many folks with no interest in playing cards in general.
Bridge is one of those games with snob value. Players pretend it is oh-so-complicated when in fact it is ridiculously simple. But the fact that I can play Bridge doesn't make me want to play Bridge. I still think it's a boring game.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
D&D does very well in that respect, because it takes about 5 minutes to explain and get going.
I'm assuming you mean "start playing" by "get going". If you have pre-generated character sheets (which the book doesn't start with) and don't expect them to have read the entire PhB before you started (which some upthread seem to expect).

Bridge is one of those games with snob value. Players pretend it is oh-so-complicated when in fact it is ridiculously simple. But the fact that I can play Bridge doesn't make me want to play Bridge. I still think it's a boring game.
The actual rules to play? Or the bidding and why it makes sense to bid that way. (And then there's the scoring :-/ ).
 



Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
You can design toast the rpg and some people gonna find it to complicated.

By now D&D more or less cones down to three books and each book is going to be over 300 pages.

That's D&D, you could tweak the PHB a bit but there's only so much you can do before you need 6E.
One big thing is to give a decent index. I mean, when I look up Abyss, I get "See planes of existence," instead of "See page 5, 300-303." They spend 3 more characters to not tell me where to go when they knew what I was looking for, and they do that a LOT.
 

I'm assuming you mean "start playing" by "get going". If you have pre-generated character sheets (which the book doesn't start with) and don't expect them to have read the entire PhB before you started (which some upthread seem to expect).
Indeed.

Some of my players have been playing for years without reading the PHB from cover to cover.
The actual rules to play? Or the bidding and why it makes sense to bid that way. (And then there's the scoring :-/ ).
Like D&D you can muddle though it so long as someone at the table knows the details. And experienced players get really cross because (unlike Poker) inexperienced chumps can win easily over veterans.
 

matskralc

Explorer
I don't know why anyone would be hostile towards the idea of a Player's Handbook that was better organized and/or written in a manner as to be more friendly to new players.
It seems like "D&D would be better if it was easier to learn" should be an uncontroversial statement, but here we are spending two dozen internet pages arguing about it.

It's just gatekeeping. That's all "back in my day", "it's supposed to be difficult", and "if I could do it, so can you" really are. Acting like barriers to entry are a good thing serves only to make those who have previously cleared them feel better about having to do so.
 


It seems like "D&D would be better if it was easier to learn" should be an uncontroversial statement
Why do you think that?

Noughts and Crosses is easy to learn. Snakes & Ladders is easy to learn.

People don't take up hobbies because they are easy. Who, when asked "why did you climb that mountain?" answered "because it was easy"?
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
It seems like "D&D would be better if it was easier to learn" should be an uncontroversial statement, but here we are spending two dozen internet pages arguing about it.

It's just gatekeeping. That's all "back in my day", "it's supposed to be difficult", and "if I could do it, so can you" really are. Acting like barriers to entry are a good thing serves only to make those who have previously cleared them feel better about having to do so.
That's not true, at all. Quite frankly, your comment is unnecessarily divisive.

I once knew a user interface engineer who had this amazing poster from the 50s breaking down the steps for sharpening a pencil. I thought it was the coolest, funniest thing ever. One day, I was talking to him about it, and I realized that I completely misunderstood the purpose of his poster. It wasn't a joke. It was to remind him, on a daily basis, that even the most simple thing can require painstaking, step-by-step instruction. That when you're in the UI business, you always have to re-examine your assumptions as to what people know, and what they have to be told. Instruction is not easy, even for the easiest things. There is a push and pull between simplification of the thing to be taught, and teaching.

The statement that "something is better if it is easier to learn" is necessarily different than "we need to do a better job teaching people something we love." To put it in terms of someone who doesn't agree with you, you are saying, "I think we need to make D&D as dumb as possible, instead of working to bring more players to the game we love. Heck, most people don't have the dice, but do have d6s. So let's only use d6 in D&D." Now, I don't think you are saying to make D&D "dumb," I think you want D&D to be accessible. But so do I! I just want D&D to be good and accessible, not just accessible.

In effect, people here are having a discussion about the types of rules they prefer. Which is a normal and acceptable thing to do! There are costs and benefits to different rules. For example, D&D would be much easier to learn if there were no spells to choose from, right? That's a serious learning curve! For that matter, we could easily return to the Basic (and proto-OD&D) system of just using d6 for all weapon types. That's much easier to learn!

I say this because it should be unacceptable for someone to use pejorative terms (gatekeeping) in order to assert a preference for their own rules. To put it in terms of video games; Witcher is harder to learn than Flappy Bird. And that's fine. That doesn't mean we need to make Witcher into Flappy Bird.
 


I once knew a user interface engineer who had this amazing poster from the 50s breaking down the steps for sharpening a pencil. I thought it was the coolest, funniest thing ever. One day, I was talking to him about it, and I realized that I completely misunderstood the purpose of his poster. It wasn't a joke. It was to remind him, on a daily basis, that even the most simple thing can require painstaking, step-by-step instruction. That when you're in the UI business, you always have to re-examine your assumptions as to what people know, and what they have to be told. Instruction is not easy, even for the easiest things. There is a push and pull between simplification of the thing to be taught, and teaching.
This is an interesting example. Most people do not need a poster to tell them how to sharpen a pencil because they where shown (usually as a small child) how to sharpen a pencil.

But suppose someone had never been shown? Then you could design a poster to give them step by step instructions. And the poster would make it look like a complex task. It's a lot easier to show someone how to sharpen a pencil than to design a poster to tell them how to do it. And harder still to design the poster in such a way as to make the task look simple.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Hence the hostility. People who claim that equating "improving the new player experience" and "dumbing down" is a strawman are living in cloud cuckoo land. It is not possible to do one without the other.
Mod Note:

When you can no longer imagine that intelligent people can come to a different conclusion than you without suffering some metal aberration, that is the point when you are not longer in an equitable discussion yourself. So, you're no longer part of this discussion.

In the future, leave room for you to be, well, wrong about things, or at least keep yourself short of the point of insulting people who disagree with you.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Like D&D you can muddle though it so long as someone at the table knows the details. And experienced players get really cross because (unlike Poker) inexperienced chumps can win easily over veterans.
There's a reason we use a cheat sheet for bridge... and some of the tournament bridge players in the building don't come play with us. :)
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Isn't that what the Starter Sets are for? They come with pregenerated character sheets and a stripped-down version of the rules.
We got the essentials box and not the starter one. I need to go back and check what that one had. The rules in it, anyway, started right with making characters. The essentials, anyway, was a lot more than the Moldvay Basic, for example. I was surprised how free-from the module with it was too.
 

ChaosOS

Hero
Supporter
I'm deeply confused why the brigade here has constructed a strawman out of changing the rules being the method of an improved new player experience as opposed to simply seeing an opportunity for improvements in layout. Indexes, bolding/italicizing/capitalizing/something for keywords, reminder text, explanatory sidebars - all things that don't change the rules but would make the books much easier to comprehend. That's not even getting into things like "Chapter 8 spells could be much better organized", such as sorting spells by level then alphabetically.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I'm deeply confused why the brigade here has constructed a strawman out of changing the rules being the method of an improved new player experience as opposed to simply seeing an opportunity for improvements in layout. Indexes, bolding/italicizing/capitalizing/something for keywords, reminder text, explanatory sidebars - all things that don't change the rules but would make the books much easier to comprehend. That's not even getting into things like "Chapter 8 spells could be much better organized", such as sorting spells by level then alphabetically.
I mostly agree. I think organization, presentation, and coherence (instead of rules changes) mean a great deal. Just a usable index ... I mean, c'mon!

However, I disagree about keywords. I'd rather have the books be more readable than be more ... gameable. I think that a strength of 5e is the readability of the books; that the lore/rules mix isn't broken up with emphasized and italicized key words.

On the other hand, a simple, easy-to-use flow chart, or explanation of key terms (even conditions, or what the different type of natural language words mean vis-a-vis attacks or breaking down the difference between "action" and "reaction" and "bonus action") would be helpful to many people.
 

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