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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


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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
It's more a case of thinking that the idea that shuffling that information around would make the slightest bit of difference to "the new player experience" is stupid.
You really don’t think that maybe explaining the basic systems before listing a bunch of player options that give benefits within those systems would make the book more accessible?

How rules are presented is a matter of taste. I found the 4e rules inaccessible because they where presented as the rules to a combat boardgame rather than the chattier, storytelling approach of 5e.
Sure. But however the rules may be presented, they will be easier to learn if you start with the basics and build up to the more complex as you go. No D&D edition so far has been organized that way.

But the fact is D&D has too many rules for any new player to absorb in one go.
Who says it needs to be learned in one go? We’re talking about removing the need to bounce back and forth between different sections to understand what the heck you’re reading. A book is easier to digest in multiple sessions if you can start from page 1 and read through in page order, pause, and resume where you left off than if you have to bounce around from chapter to chapter to understand the context of what is being said.

It doesn't matter how you present it, it is the amount, not the manner of presentation that makes D&D hard to learn without someone to teach it to you. I would also add that I don't see that as a problem. Things that are easy are rarely worth spending time on.
D&D is easy to learn. It only looks hard because it’s poorly organized.

That being the case, the only possible way to make D&D more accessible is to take an axe to the rules and massively reduce the number.

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.
This is just simply not true. It is entirely possible to improve the new player experience without changing a single rule. You may believe that such an experience would still be a challenge, or broadly inaccessible. I would disagree with that opinion, but it would still be an opinion. It is a fact, however, that the way the D&D rules are organized creates a barrier to understanding, and it would be more accessible (we can disagree about how much more, but still undeniably more) if it was reorganized.
 
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MockingBird

Explorer
looks at his 12 year old playing D&D with two friends using the Essentials kit without help from me and shrugs
Yeah, it really seems like a non-issue IMO. I mean I figured out THAC0 by myself before the the time of internet. We literally have the easiest edition of D&D with tons of support now. I dont care how easy or how nicely laid out you make it, if someone doesn't want to put forth the effort to learn it they're just not gonna learn it.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
looks at his 12 year old playing D&D with two friends using the Essentials kit without help from me and shrugs
You didn't show them anything about it first? Cool.

I had run through B/X with mine (now 11yo) before we switched over to Essentials last year and then the full thing this year. So I didn't have the experience of watching someone start from scratch without someone experienced helping them.
 

cbwjm

Hero
Yeah, it really seems like a non-issue IMO. I mean I figured out THAC0 by myself before the the time of internet. We literally have the easiest edition of D&D with tons of support now. I dont care how easy or how nicely laid out you make it, if someone doesn't want to put forth the effort to learn it they're just not gonna learn it.
I learnt as a kid using the Rules Cyclopedia for BECMI, I've seen people online suggest not using it to learn the game and instead use the earlier BX because its easier, but it wasn't really all that difficult.

I think the problem with people who are new to the hobby, or perhaps aren't joining the hobby is because to learn there is a bit of homework. You can sit down and provide character sheets and start running them through an adventure but if they don't take the time to understand the numbers then you can have some confused players. I've had players who I don't think ever really read the rules and had trouble remembering when to apply proficiency bonuses or even where to find information on the character sheet, stuff I'd always assumed was basic but then I've been playing DnD for years, picking up a new edition tends to be fairly simple because of all the history of playing older editions. Some numbers or calculations change, but it's all pretty much the same edition to edition.
 

BMaC

Explorer
You didn't show them anything about it first? Cool.

I had run through B/X with mine (now 11yo) before we switched over to Essentials last year and then the full thing this year. So I didn't have the experience of watching someone start from scratch without someone experienced helping them.
Nah, between watching his older brother play Skyrim and his own experience with Breath of the Wild and other random stuff (all the LotR!) it seems pretty intuitive to him and his friends. Now they are making a mess of the rules, and adding new ones too--seems like fighters can surge and add an extra d20 damage--but they have the gist of it.
 

Puddles

Villager
I think there are a few small tweaks they could make that would really improve the on boarding for new players. If think they could add another 8 pages to the PHB (the standard amount for printing) dedicated to helping new players and it would really enrich the book whilst taking nothing away from the rules.

Some tangible examples of what I mean: the starting process for most new players is to fill out a character sheet. In the PHB they sort of guide you through this in the first section, but they don’t tell you everything you need to know. For example, no where in the first section does it tell you what your passive perception score is. In fact they don’t overtly tell you in the second section. There a box out on passive scores and you can deduce it from there.The same goes for you initiative and for your attack bonus on ranged weapons and things like that. I think for a lot of players they get lost creating their first character because there are all these empty areas on your character sheet that you would expect to fill in as you follow the first section of the book, but can’t find the answers to.

Another thing that I see tripping players up, is that after choosing your race it prompts you to select a number of skills to be proficient in. But then in the next step, choosing your class, you might get set skills that your character is proficient in, perhaps being ones you’ve already chosen meaning you need to jump back a step and pick another skill instead, and then the same thing can happen with your background prescribing skill proficiencies too. Really you need to choose your race, class and background simultaneously - work out all the mandatory skill proficiencies you get, and then make your choices. A little flow chart to guide a player through this could do wonders in my opinion.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Now they are making a mess of the rules, and adding new ones too--seems like fighters can surge and add an extra d20 damage--but they have the gist of it.
Some above seem like they wouldn't count that as actually playing (or might for a kid but not an adult?).

I think it's cool.

I wonder if there is any reorganization of the rules that would make it less of a mess - or if it's just the nature of being that age. (I'm pretty sure F14s weren't in 1e when we played back in the day, but we worked it out).
 

Haffrung

Adventurer
It's more a case of thinking that the idea that shuffling that information around would make the slightest bit of difference to "the new player experience" is stupid.

How rules are presented is a matter of taste.
And yet technical writing and instructional design are professional fields where people get paid a decent salary to do just that - make content easier to learn, reference, and understand by how it's presented. You can take entire courses and get diplomas in the fields. And I can tell you that one of those professionals who shrugged off criticism of their work by claiming how content is presented is just a matter of taste would be out on their ass in a heartbeat.
 

R_Chance

Adventurer
The information in the players handbook could easily be made much more accessible for new players simply by reorganizing it. 5e really isn’t a hard game to learn, but it does a terrible job of teaching itself.
I'm not saying it couldn't benefit from reorganization. I'm saying that no matter what you do to it, the sheer volume of information people require from the PHB will prevent it from being "easy". If you cut classes, races, spells etc. it will be met with "outrage" from the people whose favorite material has been removed to make it more digestible. An intro version with both new / better organization (and ymmv on what that means) and reduced options is the only way to make it "easier". I don't believe it will ever be all that easy. As many have pointed out, it's not an easy game. So, to sum up my point, you might improve on it (both the PHB and any new intro game) but you will never make it easy enough for casual / new players to just pick up and play. They have to want to play. Really want. The best thing, imho, that streaming games have done is make it desirable / cool. As well as bringing some basic familiarity.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Yeah, it really seems like a non-issue IMO. I mean I figured out THAC0 by myself before the the time of internet. We literally have the easiest edition of D&D with tons of support now. I dont care how easy or how nicely laid out you make it, if someone doesn't want to put forth the effort to learn it they're just not gonna learn it.
Well, THAC0 was simple subtraction, so not that tough. :p My friends and I learned 1e on our own, though. We made mistakes, learned from those mistakes, and eventually knew what we were doing.
 

jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
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 actually disagree that this would be a better form of organization. You have the spell lists by class and level to tell you which spells your class can have at the level you want, and then a straight alphabetical listing to quickly find any spell you need.
 

Hatmatter

Explorer
I actually disagree that this would be a better form of organization. You have the spell lists by class and level to tell you which spells your class can have at the level you want, and then a straight alphabetical listing to quickly find any spell you need.
I agree. The principle item I miss from the PHB list (which they did do in XGE) is an inclusion of the school of magic in parentheses for each spell in the spell list. But, then again, I run over to the D&D Beyond website (and I am not a paying member) and I get all that info in ten seconds, and it is more updated by including newly published spells than my PHB could be.

Wizard's was facing such an uphill battle with the creation of 5th edition, and I think they pulled off a miracle in bringing the community, which was so divisive, together, I will always have considerable affection for the PHB, DMG, and MM of 2014. I am happy if Wizard's has finally settled on this version and they continue to put creative energy in upcoming years and decades into coming up with alternate means of introducing people to the hobby and the game, using reorganized material in different books and sets, and using different media (What I find confusing is visiting the D&D Youtube channel...If I was wanting to learn D&D I probably would be inclined to go to the D&D website and Youtube channel first and both, I would think, would be disorienting for a new player. But, who knows? I am not ten years old.). I think many of the observations some of the experienced technical writers from our community have made are fascinating...but some people like the PHB as is...and with a forty-two year old publication (in the case of the 1978 PHB) in any field, there is going to an expectation from long-time admirers that some things remain the same simply due to an innate conservative tendency in people. Those wonderful observations from technical writers that have been made can be applied to different books or media.

I am surprised that nobody in this thread has mentioned Jim Zub and Ten Speed Press's collaboration with Wizards of the Coast on their Adventurer's Guides: Warriors & Weapons, Monsters & Creatures, Dungeons & Tombs...I think those are great!
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
I actually disagree that this would be a better form of organization. You have the spell lists by class and level to tell you which spells your class can have at the level you want, and then a straight alphabetical listing to quickly find any spell you need.
There's a reason spells have universal levels, though.

Paladin/Ranger/Artificer might get Spell levels 1-5 over the course of 1st-20th level rather than SL 1-9 over that same period, but the fact that they learn their spells slower doesn't change the tremendous benefit from having spells by level tabbed.

If Pages 211-289 are spell descriptions, then say pages 211-215 are cantrips, 216-230 are 1st level, 231-240 are 2nd level, 241-250 are 3rd level, 251-260 are 4th, 261-270 are 5th, 271-275 are 6th, 276-280 are 7th, 281-285 are 8th, and 286-288 are 9th.

As a spell caster, I'd only ever have to look at the pages I have spell levels from. An1st-level spellcaster would only ever need the first 20 pages of the spell lists, rather than having to flip all around the chapter to look up their spells.

WotC shouldn't ASSUME that you're using some sort of support tool to find each of your spells.

There's a reason GaleForce9 has made a killing on spell book cards. It's just too much busy work to keep skipping around the book during a game. People who don't buy the cards almost certainly have copied over their known spells to a word document or something for reference.

It's unwieldy and unnecessarily so. And it's even worse for Divine Casters who know their entire spell list to draw from every day.
 

jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
If Pages 211-289 are spell descriptions, then say pages 211-215 are cantrips, 216-230 are 1st level, 231-240 are 2nd level, 241-250 are 3rd level, 251-260 are 4th, 261-270 are 5th, 271-275 are 6th, 276-280 are 7th, 281-285 are 8th, and 286-288 are 9th.

As a spell caster, I'd only ever have to look at the pages I have spell levels from. An1st-level spellcaster would only ever need the first 20 pages of the spell lists, rather than having to flip all around the chapter to look up their spells.
I still don't think that's better in the long run than the current setup. At the very least, it's not an case where one way is obviously and objectively better than the other--it depends more on your reading style.
 

Marandahir

Crown-Forester
I still don't think that's better in the long run than the current setup. At the very least, it's not an case where one way is obviously and objectively better than the other--it depends more on your reading style.
Can you go into a little more detail on why you think the current set-up is superior?
 

jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
Can you go into a little more detail on why you think the current set-up is superior?
Because to me, it's more important to find any spell I want quickly. If they're alphabetical, I know exactly where to look. If they're sorted by level first, then I have to know which level section to search. ("Is it level 2? No, it's not in the level 2 section. Must be level 3...")
 
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Eltab

Hero
There's a reason GaleForce9 has made a killing on spell book cards. It's just too much busy work to keep skipping around the book during a game. People who don't buy the cards almost certainly have copied over their known spells to a word document or something for reference.
When I was DM'ing Tiamat, I told my players to hand-type or -write (not xerox) their characters' spells onto a sheet of paper they could keep nearby at table. Our Wizard made an actual spell book out of his. I did this for selfish reasons: I cannot memorize everything, and play was dragging while they worked through what a spell did and how the mechanics worked. By typing each spell up, I knew they would have to read it and therefore would remember some of the highlights.
 

Eltab

Hero
I liked the 3.5 sourcebook format for organizing spells: listed by class, then by level within each class, was the spell name and a one-line summary of the spell's intended result. (Fireball: Flashy explosive ball of flames 30 feet across.) Spells shared by multiple classes had their description line repeated. The actual full spells followed in one big alphabetical list.
 

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