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Mearls On D&D's Design Premises/Goals

First of all, thanks [MENTION=1]Morrus[/MENTION] for collecting this. I generally avoid Twitter because, frankly, it's full of a$$holes.

That aside: this is an interesting way of looking at it, and underscores the difference in design philosophies between the WotC team and the Paizo team. There is a lot of room for both philosophies of design, and I don't think there is any reason for fans of one to be hostile to fans of the other, but those differences do matter. There are ways in which I like the prescriptive elements of 3.x era games (I like set skill difficulty lists, for example) but I tend to run by the seat of my pants and the effects of my beer, so a fast and loose and forgiving version like 5E really enables me running a game the way I like to.
 

Comments

Jay Verkuilen

Dogsbody Waghalter
I think they were a little afraid of backlash after 4e, but some aspects they wanted to keep because they were identifiably D&D. Ability Scores where 18 is high, Armour Class, longswords, Hit Dice, etc. Some terms that all D&D gamers know regardless of edition, that help distinguish D&D from other generic fantasy RPGs.
Absolutely, and I think it was more than a little afraid. I suspect they were in "do or die" mode, at least insofar as corporate ownership was concerned, though I don't know. One thing with 4E was that I think it fell into the "uncanny valley": It was in the D&D family but changed a lot of aspects people expected to see. I'm not arguing whether some folks liked the changes or not, but they changed a lot. 5E went much back towards prior versions in many ways.


Other bits of design were less about backlash, and more about the direct wishes of the playerbase. They did a massive public playtest, and that gave them a good idea of what the players want. They were added explicitly because the players wanted it and that's what the feedback reported.
Yeah, though one problem I've had with their method for seeking feedback is that they run right into selection bias issues. Listening to a hyper-engaged group online isn't necessarily a good way to get feedback. By and large I think they did a good job, though there were some fairly core things I think they missed on.
 

Shasarak

Villager
I realize I'm late to the party and maybe this is in the very long thread somewhere. But can someone explain how designing with a greater complexity or level of mechanical options attracts :):):):):):):)s? Or am I misreading this somehow?
Dont worry about it, there is no correlation.

Its just marketing.
 

Shasarak

Villager
What made the difference with WotC however, and what many people either forget or ignore, is that WotC was coming from designing a very successful game where there really was a rule for everything: Magic the Gathering. They then took that rule-for-everything ethos and tried to apply it to D&D, with decidedly mixed results.
I have to say that I have never heard that particular argument before. Is there any evidence that the RPG team had anything to do with the CCG team?

Remembering that WotC essentially absorbed the TSR team.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
No, the rules don’t say that. I understand how you might have misinterpreted them as saying that because I’ve made the same mistake myself, but if you recognize that the rules for combat always assume the participants are in combat with each other, you won’t have the problems that result from using the combat rules for encounters in which the parties aren’t fighting with each other, like rolling initiative when they aren’t taking directly opposing actions or having both sides stand around being surprised when no one’s attacking.
There is no rule that says what you are assuming. It's also not a direct ability contest in any way, shape of form. Initiative is as obviously indirect opposition, as sun will obviously come up tomorrow. In any case, it's stated in Sage Advice that initiative is not a contest, so it isn't. Since you can't seem to get that it's not direct opposition, just go with the Sage Advice.
 

Hussar

Legend
Me: The rules allow for simultaneous surprise, so attacks haven't necessarily happened when initiative is rolled.

You: Well, I used to run combat like the rules say, but then I decided to change them and run it differently.

So you run encounters differently than the game says. How is that relevant to a discussion on how to run encounters per RAW?
Attacks might not have happened, but combat has. Attacks =/= combat. Heck even without surprise, you can have a round of combat with no attacks quite easily - baddies go invisible and move away would be one example.

And since we're still flogging this equine - [MENTION=23751]Maxperson[/MENTION], are you seriously claiming that if 2 people tried to hold a door against one opponent, it would not be a contest since a contest can ONLY be 2 actors? Or if three people tried to grab a ring, 5e D&D has no mechanics to support resolving the outcome, but, only houserules?

Seriously?
 

Hussar

Legend
Absolutely, and I think it was more than a little afraid. I suspect they were in "do or die" mode, at least insofar as corporate ownership was concerned, though I don't know. One thing with 4E was that I think it fell into the "uncanny valley": It was in the D&D family but changed a lot of aspects people expected to see. I'm not arguing whether some folks liked the changes or not, but they changed a lot. 5E went much back towards prior versions in many ways.




Yeah, though one problem I've had with their method for seeking feedback is that they run right into selection bias issues. Listening to a hyper-engaged group online isn't necessarily a good way to get feedback. By and large I think they did a good job, though there were some fairly core things I think they missed on.
I've never seen anyone use the term uncanny valley for 4e, but, y'know, I think that's pretty spot on. And, frankly, the whole concept does go a long way to explaining reactions.
 

Greg K

Adventurer
1. DMs don't read everything.
2. DMs don't create campaign primers.
As someone that does these things, I, actually, will not play D&D with a DM that does not. Then again, Rolemaster and Hero were two of my first non-TSR games and they, along with AD&D2e ,shaped my perception that the DM needs to design a campaign primer.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I have to say that I have never heard that particular argument before.
I heard it constantly during and for a while after the 3e release, and I think it valid.

Is there any evidence that the RPG team had anything to do with the CCG team?
The actual teams were separate AFAIK, but they both worked for the same boss/company in the same place and the cross-influence is clear. Around the same time there was also a lot of talk (and considerable resistance, which never quite made sense to me) about actually cross-pollenating the games - have iconic D&D monsters show up as Magic cards, for example, and use Magic settings* and storylines for D&D.

- this at least, 15+ years later, is finally starting to happen.

Remembering that WotC essentially absorbed the TSR team.
Such as it was...
 

Shasarak

Villager
I heard it constantly during and for a while after the 3e release, and I think it valid.
Curious, I have never heard it until now.

The actual teams were separate AFAIK, but they both worked for the same boss/company in the same place and the cross-influence is clear. Around the same time there was also a lot of talk (and considerable resistance, which never quite made sense to me) about actually cross-pollenating the games - have iconic D&D monsters show up as Magic cards, for example, and use Magic settings* and storylines for D&D.

- this at least, 15+ years later, is finally starting to happen.
So this thing that was talked about constantly only actually happened...15 years later.

It really makes me wonder exactly how much cross-influence there actually was for there to be essentially no cross-influence. Until a DnD designer switched to work in the MtG department.

I would probably put more stock into an arguement that Spellfire influenced DnD more then MtG since it was produced by the same boss/company.

Such as it was...
Mmm, yes such as it was indeed.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
One thing that seems to always happen---and it might be inevitable---is going overboard fixing the perceived flaws of the previous edition. 1E/2E having inconsistent rules and a lot of interpretation left to the DM? 3E to the rescue! 3.X having too many rules, not a lot of options for some character types, and a lot of game balance problems? 4E to the rescue! 4E falling into a game design uncanny valley that's too far away from the way the game used to feel, prescribing too many things for the DM, and having grindy combat? 5E to the rescue! I wonder what's going to happen when 6E rolls around?
What frequently perceived or cited flaws of 5E do you believe exist for 6e to address? I do not want to suggest that there are no flaws, but I am curious about your own speculative reading of the upcoming Zeitgeist.

I doubt, for example, 6e would go this route due to your aforementioned issues of "too much change" and the "uncanny valley," but I have noticed that a lot of contemporary D&D-inspired games have compacted their total class levels from 20 to 10.* The impetus for this change seems oriented around a growing "new normal" for both the average length of campaigns and the "sweet spot" for balance.

* Though many others also preserve the 20 level structure (e.g., PF2, Fantasy Age, etc.).
 
And since we're still flogging this equine - [MENTION=23751]Maxperson[/MENTION], are you seriously claiming that if 2 people tried to hold a door against one opponent, it would not be a contest since a contest can ONLY be 2 actors? Or if three people tried to grab a ring, 5e D&D has no mechanics to support resolving the outcome, but, only houserules?

Seriously?
I already flagged those examples uprhread. [MENTION=23751]Maxperson[/MENTION] answered yes, it is houseruling.

Likewise a footrace needs a houserule, but if there is a ring to grab at the end of it and only two participants than it is a RAW contest. (I don't understand why trying to be the first to break the ribbon at the finish line doesn't count as a contest, but maybe Maxperson will explain.)
 

clearstream

Explorer
I already flagged those examples uprhread. @Maxperson answered yes, it is houseruling.

Likewise a footrace needs a houserule, but if there is a ring to grab at the end of it and only two participants than it is a RAW contest. (I don't understand why trying to be the first to break the ribbon at the finish line doesn't count as a contest, but maybe Maxperson will explain.)
I believe we agree that RAW is taken literally and all parts must be complied with. If there is cherry-picking, complying with some parts and ignoring others, that is fine at a DM's table, but it's not RAW.

For a footrace involving exactly two contestants, RAW might just about be upheld by making the goal "first to break the ribbon" so that the race can end with one winner or "remain the same" with a tie. In the latter case, one is asked to ignore that the race has changed from a state of started to a state of completed, which I struggle to see as remaining the same.

However, that doesn't capture all of what we have been discussing. If there are more than two contestants, then "remains the same" can't be formally complied with because of the possibility of placings. There are about thirteen ways the contestants can finish, and only one of those (a dead heat) satisfies "remains the same" (with the same misgivings as above).

At that point, a DM can make a ruling and say that they like to apply the rules this way: they are houseruling.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Attacks might not have happened, but combat has. Attacks =/= combat. Heck even without surprise, you can have a round of combat with no attacks quite easily - baddies go invisible and move away would be one example.
Thank you for agreeing with me that it doesn't have to involve direct opposition.

And since we're still flogging this equine - [MENTION=23751]Maxperson[/MENTION], are you seriously claiming that if 2 people tried to hold a door against one opponent, it would not be a contest since a contest can ONLY be 2 actors? Or if three people tried to grab a ring, 5e D&D has no mechanics to support resolving the outcome, but, only houserules?
It would not be a contest per RAW. I would treat it as a contest, though with my personal ruling for my game. Something other tables might not do. What do you call a personal ruling for only your game again? I can't seem to recall what a rule you make that only applies to your house is called.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I already flagged those examples uprhread. [MENTION=23751]Maxperson[/MENTION] answered yes, it is houseruling.

Likewise a footrace needs a houserule, but if there is a ring to grab at the end of it and only two participants than it is a RAW contest. (I don't understand why trying to be the first to break the ribbon at the finish line doesn't count as a contest, but maybe Maxperson will explain.)
The last time you incorrectly claimed that a footrace needs a house rule, I pointed you to the ability check section. Dex checks are also for moving quickly, so a dex check can be used for a footrace. Set the DC as you wish, and determine what success means.
 

clearstream

Explorer
It would not be a contest per RAW. I would treat it as a contest, though with my personal ruling for my game. Something other tables might not do. What do you call a personal ruling for only your game again? I can't seem to recall what a rule you make that only applies to your house is called.
One option is to have only one character make the check, giving advantage for the other helping. I guess helping is permitted, for Contests...
 

Kobold Boots

Villager
As someone that does these things, I, actually, will not play D&D with a DM that does not. Then again, Rolemaster and Hero were two of my first non-TSR games and they, along with AD&D2e ,shaped my perception that the DM needs to design a campaign primer.
Probably pretty obvious from my post that I'm rowing the same boat that you are.

KB
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
One option is to have only one character make the check, giving advantage for the other helping. I guess helping is permitted, for Contests...
That's probably better way to do it, really. It works more smoothly than having the two PCs roll individually.
 

Jay Verkuilen

Dogsbody Waghalter
I've never seen anyone use the term uncanny valley for 4e, but, y'know, I think that's pretty spot on. And, frankly, the whole concept does go a long way to explaining reactions.
I realized that the issue with 4E was that it had fallen into the uncanny valley a while ago in a discussion here. A ruleset is, even across editions, a family resemblance, meaning that a cumulation of many small changes, each of which would be relatively meaningless on its own, eventually moves too far away from the original to fit in the family.

I played it and at times had fun but I always found running it incredibly frustrating. I had a pretty good feel for all prior editions of the game but I really couldn't run 4E that way but was instead very much channeled into running things the way the designers wrote it, which I found disempowering as a DM. This came 100% home to me in 2013 when I ran, on the request of an old player, my old 2E with houserules game and immediately felt "THIS is what I remember!". I never wanted to run 4E again. 5E, no problem, it was pretty much back to normal.

In addition, the fact that D&D has a propensity to be the only game in town meant a lot of folks were more or less forced into playing it.

And don't get me wrong, 4E had many good ideas. A lot of folks really liked it and found what I considered "pinch points" to be comfortable.
 

Jay Verkuilen

Dogsbody Waghalter
What frequently perceived or cited flaws of 5E do you believe exist for 6e to address? I do not want to suggest that there are no flaws, but I am curious about your own speculative reading of the upcoming Zeitgeist.

I doubt, for example, 6e would go this route due to your aforementioned issues of "too much change" and the "uncanny valley," but I have noticed that a lot of contemporary D&D-inspired games have compacted their total class levels from 20 to 10.* The impetus for this change seems oriented around a growing "new normal" for both the average length of campaigns and the "sweet spot" for balance.

* Though many others also preserve the 20 level structure (e.g., PF2, Fantasy Age, etc.).
I have no idea what WotC would change in a future edition, but here are the things I think are messed up:

(1) Combat: By and large it's pretty good. I think there are a few broken areas, such as attacks made on Bonus actions every round. Polearm Master crossed with Great Weapon Master, I'm looking at you. For the most part, though, it works fairly well. You can tell simply by the length of the sections in the game what WotC focused attention on.

(2) Skills and Saves: While in combat, they managed to implement bounded accuracy fairly well, both skills and saves have issues. They work OK in lower to mid levels, but the scaling starts to break down at the higher levels. This is particularly obvious with regards to saves. Consider that at about 10th level a character who has a strong stat and a strong save has a bonus of around +9 or +10 while one that doesn't have a strong stat and save has a bonus of 0. This means that the first character essentially ignores all low DC threats while the second has about a 50/50 shot. However, high DC threats are essentially impossible for the second character and, without a lot of buffs, stays that way. As DCs get higher, characters gain glass jaws. Similar effects happen with DC creep in skills. At lower levels it's still worth it for many characters to keep trying to do things they're not strong at, but at high levels it's not even worth it. This happens IMO because skills and saves are both binary success/fail situations. One fix to allow DCs and accumulated bonuses to go down would be to make them work less as binary situations. A better skill challenge type mechanic (3 successes before 1 failure, etc.) means things can be more like the combat system. I'd also dump Expertise as written given that it contributes to DC creep.

(3) Missed opportunities: Vulnerabilities and resistances are a great way to encourage PCs to move outside their comfort zones. For instance, monsters that have either resistances or vulnerabilities encourage the character using their favorite weapon or spell combos to try something else. To this end, I'd get rid of the "magic weapons hit everything to get through resistances to BPS damage". This would allow for some upper tier weapons having interesting properties, such as the ability to do two damage types, thus letting its wielder take advantage of vulnerabilities or avoid resistances. Magic armor doing something like this would also be really useful. It lets the bonus not get higher and higher.

I'm sure there are some other things I could think of, but this is a pretty decent start. In general 5E is pretty well done, but it's got some rough patches. This is what you see over time and play.
 

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