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Off to see the Wizards: The day that WotC showed me D&D 5th Edition

This is one of three articles covering this announcement. The other two articles are WotC Seeks Unity with a New Edition and Bet You Wish Your Workplace Looked Like WotC?

It was a pretty normal day in early winter last year. I was waiting to see if I could get a few questions answered by Mike Mearls, head of R&D for Wizards of the Coast. I heard the ping of an e-mail and saw that it was from my contact for Wizards. The e-mail said that I could ask Mike a couple of questions personally if I was available to come out to Renton, WA, where WotC is headquartered. It seemed that WotC had something big coming up and wanted to tell a few press types in person. They would even fly me out and put me up on their dime. I was excited; this wasn't the kind of opportunity which simply knocked - it blew the door off the hinges. Of course, I had to sign an NDA on behalf of EN World, so I knew we would have to sit on the information for a while and resist revealing it as the RPG community speculated around us!

So I got my things together and with my backpack bursting I headed to the airport and boarded a plane. I had a list of the other media who had been invited to whatever this was (we still had no idea what was going to happen or be said), so I cyber stalked them. CNN, Forbes, Wired.com, amongst other huge news outlets had been invited. When I arrived I instantly recognized Topher Kohan from CNN waiting for the shuttle to the hotel so I chatted him up. He was really funny and a hardcore gamer like myself, so we speculated on what it could be and talked RPGs during the ride and in the lobby for an hour or so before it was time to go to bed.

I was restless and couldn't sleep. Thanks to a successful moderate Streetwise check, I knew the hotel was across the parking lot from the Wizards of the Coast headquarters. Even though it was rather chilly outside (early December in Seattle) I donned my Batman hoodie and went out to investigate the building's exterior in the dark of night. I could see the massive purple neon sign boldly lighting up the sky and as I circled the building it dawned on me that I didn't need to break in. I had been invited and in the morning WotC would let me in. I took a couple of pictures and returned to my hotel room.




In the morning I was up before my alarm and looking over my notes. I had several sets of questions prepared since I had no idea why I had been invited. One set of notes in case Hasbro had decided to sell the Dungeons & Dragons license or anything to that effect. Another set of questions in case it was the live launch of the Virtual Game Table, and another in case it was.... 5th Edition D&D. About an hour before we were to leave I headed down to the restaurant to get a bite to eat and ran into Ethan Gilsdorf and Greg Tito as well as Topher Kohan again. We all kind of speculated a few moments on things and then it was off to see the Wizards.

So we were led over to the building and into a conference room on the first floor. I got a cup of coffee and settled in to my chair, laptop at the ready. It was then that a couple of people from Wizards of the Coasts came in and checked on us and then Mike Mearls, head of R&D followed a minute or so later. Now I was even more interested because this meant it wasn't something to do with the Virtual Table or some sort of merger.

Well, colorspray me stunned when 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons was officially announced.

Indeed it had been under development on for some time, completely under wraps (although not immune to rumor), and while continuing to produce product of 4th Edition. Then they really dropped the big news: I was going to play an early, very rough, development version of 5th Edition.

We took the elevator up to the offices on the 4th floor. It was a lot bigger than I would have imagined and there was some excellent artwork and statues (see pics). Seemed like a fun place to work even though everyone seemed really busy. I took some pictures of the lobby and then went to a conference room to play 5th Edition. Yep, that's right: I went to play D&D 5th Edition.

The above mentioned journalists plus David Ewalt of Forbes formed the rest of the players with Mike Mearls as the DM. It was fun. I didn't know that my dwarf voice sounded like Christian Bale's Batman, so I learned something new. I wish I could detail the mechanics here, but WotC has specifically asked us not to do so - the game is early in its development, and nothing is set in stone yet. I hadn't played with players I wasn't familiar with in a good while, so it felt great to get to mix and mingle with some different gamers and play a new game. Mike was a really fun DM, and all the players were extremely entertained.

Then I got some one-on-one time with Mike Mearls. This was excellent as it allowed me to talk about RPGs and what Mike enjoys about gaming. Mike answered all my questions about his gaming habits, where he saw D&D going in the future and which pieces of its past were important to keep. He also listened to what I liked and disliked about 4th Edition, D&D, and RPGs in general (don't forget about the warlord or some other way to heal other than cleric).

D&D 5th Edition is coming! (though you have plenty of time)

So, EN World is excited to officially announce to the role-playing game community (and the galaxy at large) that indeed there is, indeed, a 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons currently under development. Or, more precisely - we can officially confirm once and for all that all those rumours you've been hearing since Gen Con last year are completely true, and that WotC is now happy for you to know it!

With the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast is seeking to "create a rule set that enables players of all types and styles to play a D&D game together by taking the best of each edition and getting at the soul of what D&D is." I did get an opportunity to playtest some of the materials and the above statement is not too far off; it felt, in many ways, very retro. The project has been given a code name inside WotC, but we have been asked not to reveal that code name at this time (it begins with an "I" though!) The new edition will be designed as a basic rules set which can be expanded upon with stack on rules to suit the tastes of mechanics complexity to suit the players and DMs.

Wizards will be doing several rounds of playtesting for this project in the coming months. In addition, they will continue to encourage discussion through Monte Cook’s weekly Legends & Lore column, other articles, and through community discussion threads. Additional details about playtesting will be available shortly, and you can expect to see some elements of 5E at DDXP this year. Admitting that they have learned from the past, WotC's playtests will be much more open than with 4th Edition and you can hear all about this in WotC Seeks Unity With 5th Edition.

The Forgotten Realms will be supported from the start, and a video game art studio from China has been hired to fully detail the Realms. I asked if going forward support would be continued for the current time after the Spellplague and the Neverwinter Campaign. A WotC spokesperson answered, "The Forgotten Realms has a rich history and we will support all of it. It is for the gamers to decide which time they would enjoy playing in." That would allow Wizards to take advantage of a massive back catalog of products; however, there are no current plans that we know of for other settings - we assume these will follow in later years.

When will we learn more?

Soon! We've been asked not to share everything we learned quite yet, but in the coming months you'll hear plenty of information about release dates, products, marketing plans, new and old distribution models, mechanics, playtests, and more.

Why so secretive? Well, nothing is yet set in stone. An initial but incomplete rules draft exists, marketing plans are being finalized, and everything is subject to change based on fan feedback - which they hope to gather in a structured way over the coming months. Even the name is not necessarily finalized.

It's been tough holding this news in while surrounded by an internet maelstrom of rumor and speculation; NDAs are like that. And there is a bunch of stuff we're still not permitted to reveal (mainly pertaining to the mechanics we playtested - darnit, we had photos of the pregenerated cleric's character sheet used in the playtest! - and the specific marketing and distribution plans which WotC revealed to us) but I'm sure we'll be able to talk about some of that very soon. We fully expect that DDXP later this month will reveal much.

See this page at wizards.com for WotC's own reveal, where you can also sign up for playtests.
 
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Comments

JoJa

First Post
Dear Gaming Tonic,

The journalist from Forbes who joined your early 5th ed game is David M. Ewalt. Notice the distinct lack of a D at the beginning of his last name. He writes the awesome Metagamer blog at forbes.com.

Carry on.
 

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Gaming Tonic

First Post
Thousands upon thousand of people missed that. Thanks. David was a great guy and was kind enough to give a stranger who never stopped talking role-playing a lift to the airport. He is a great writer as well. He is an awesome blogger and I have really enjoyed reading his stuff since I was introduced to it.
 

smiteworks

Explorer
Code Name "Inigo Montoya"
Subtitle: You killed my 4E, prepare to die!

I actually like new editions. I'm also glad to see Monte back... although as others stated, it wasn't much of a surprise to anyone.
 

JoJa

First Post
The fact that his twitter handle is @dewalt doesn't make it any easier. Yeah, I'm a big fan of David's, and I look forward to reading more of your coverage as DnD 5E/orwhateverweendupcallingit unfolds. Take care.
 

Nareth

First Post
I'm of a couple minds about this announcement. First off, even though they say their goal is to create an edition that can include players from any previous edition, I fear that the community will be fractured even further than it was with 4e's release. I'm also a bit concerned about the remaining time of 4e, as supplements and other books are going to suffer in the wake of this announcement. Not only that, but 4e does have a great tool in the online character builder and I'd hate to see that go away.

I truly hope they do something for third parties similar to what happened when 3e came out. The ease with which companies could obtain a license and create material for 3e caused the hobby to explode, and brought us great companies like Goodman Games, Green Ronin, Necromancer, Malhavoc, and others. 4e didn't have that support due to the stand on licensing that Wizards took, and I think that hurt the game.

Of course, I'm excited about the announcement at the same time, and have already signed up to playtest. If they are able to achieve everything they are saying they want to do, this version of the game could be extremely successful. But, there's always a danger in trying to be all things to all people. And, to be honest, anything that Monte works on or has his name on, becomes canon at my gaming table, so to have him involved in this project pretty much guarantees that I'll be investing when it is released.
 

Thraug

First Post
* Bring back some sacred cows and history. Magic Missile needs to hit automatically. And the default world should be Greyhawk or someone other identifiable world. Forgotten Realms, uhhh, it got so broke during 4.0. What can fix it?

3.5 is not perfect, it can be complex and physically unwieldy. A unholy combination of 3.5 and 4.0 could be nice.
Magic Missile does hit without a roll in 4e, from errata about 6 months ago.

I agree about Greyhawk. I suspect there's some legal limitation keeping them from using Greyhawk. Otherwise one would think they would have it for 4e.
 





Jawsh

First Post
To those of you considering burning your 4E books:

would you consider mailing them to me instead? I can give them a better home. PM me.
 


kunadam

Explorer
To those of you considering burning your 4E books:

would you consider mailing them to me instead? I can give them a better home. PM me.
Indeed, I can spare some shelf space for some 4E book myself too.
Then, after having 1m of 2nd ed, 1.5m of 3.X I could fill my first row of 4E.
 

Rechan

Adventurer
@Gaming Tonic <!-- END TEMPLATE: dbtech_usertag_mention -->

You can't talk about mechanics. That's cool. But you played it.

Can you tell us how it felt? DId you like it? Did you have fun? What was your reaction to playing it.
 
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Gaming Tonic

First Post
[MENTION=54846]Rechan[/MENTION] I had a great time. I can't talk mechanics but I will say these things. I loved it. It felt a lot like my favorite edition of D&D (go read my blogs and figure it out) with knowledge gathered from what works in the other editions. It played quick with your turn coming around in short order because you aren't waiting 10 minutes for a player to decide what to do with an insignificant actiion. The characters were easy to use. I did get to play a cleric but I guess I spilled the beans on that somewhere so I will say it here. The cleric was also my favorite (race) and that was a blast. I picked randomly from a pile of character sheets on the table. I can role-play anything, haha. There was one new mechanic that I hadn't seen before in any edition that was absolutely brilliant to clear up some of the things that didn't work. So I did have a blast. Mike is a great DM and the rest of the group were a blast to play with.
 

Grummore

First Post
Two things :

1- I'd really like to know their thoughts behind the "why a 5th ed". Why they came to the conclusion that they should do a big change about it; the reasons behind the decision.

2- Since they are going to questions the public about the 5th ed, I think it's very important to open a worldwide forum about it. Peoples from americas, european, etc. doesn't necessarily see or play D&D the same way.
 

Falstaff

First Post
[MENTION=54846]Rechan[/MENTION] I had a great time. I can't talk mechanics but I will say these things. I loved it. It felt a lot like my favorite edition of D&D (go read my blogs and figure it out) with knowledge gathered from what works in the other editions. It played quick with your turn coming around in short order because you aren't waiting 10 minutes for a player to decide what to do with an insignificant actiion. The characters were easy to use. I did get to play a cleric but I guess I spilled the beans on that somewhere so I will say it here. The cleric was also my favorite (race) and that was a blast. I picked randomly from a pile of character sheets on the table. I can role-play anything, haha. There was one new mechanic that I hadn't seen before in any edition that was absolutely brilliant to clear up some of the things that didn't work. So I did have a blast. Mike is a great DM and the rest of the group were a blast to play with.
Where are these blogs that you speak of?
 


WSmith

First Post
I am concerned about the statement about art from China. Magic the Gathering type art does not appeal to me as much as organic old fashion drawings that you find from the classic artists, like Dee and Trampier. Art actually does mean a lot to me, and many of my fellow older edition friends. I just in the end, it is too early to really think about this portion.
 

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