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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

mkill

Adventurer
If you want a pile of pictures of, say, a guy in armor fighting a dragon, some video game art company in China is the place to go. A good Western Fantasy artists costs $2000 or so, I'm sure the Chinese don't take more than $200. But looking at some of the 4th edition artwork, this step may be a good thing.

What I'm worried about more is that while Monte Cook is a very productive game designer, he has a certain style. He still thinks the Toughness feat was a good idea. But we'll see about that soon.

Or maybe I'm just jaded because WotC rolled a natural 1 on their Marketing check for the last edition. If they screw up again, D&D is dead, and they might take the P&P game industry with them. I wish they would just stop trying and sell the D&D license to Paizo. I prefer the 4th edition ruleset, but at least Paizo knows how to run a game company.
 

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docwatson223

First Post
Or maybe I'm just jaded because WotC rolled a natural 1 on their Marketing check for the last edition.
..and then '00' on the critical fumbles table.

I agree, if they blow this one then the PnP industry is more or less done since like it or not the 'brand' for the industry *is* D&D.

I really like the idea that Monte and Mike are back, though!
 

McTreble

First Post
I keep hearing about the marketing goofs on WotC's part regarding 4e, but I don't really see it. Maybe cause I was following the gestation closely and was a client months before it even came out, but I'm wondering what everyone is talking about.
 

Kzach

First Post
On one hand, interesting announcement. On the other hand, kind of underwhelming since all of us knew that 5E was coming since the return of Monte Cook.
Just like I know that the Sun will explode... eventually.

I really wish people would stop acting like they KNOW things when all they have is speculation and rumour. You didn't KNOW anything. You, like everyone else, madly and wildly speculated based on nothing more than pure imagination; crap in a bucket often enough and eventually you'll get something resembling a Picasso.
 



Therise

First Post
My thankful list:

1. really glad they brought in Monte.
2. happy they're ditching 4E.
3. really happy they'll be supporting the Realms and toning down the apocalypse that nuked it.
4. hopeful for D&D's future.

:):):)
 

Falstaff

First Post
My thankful list:

1. really glad they brought in Monte.
2. happy they're ditching 4E.
3. really happy they'll be supporting the Realms and toning down the apocalypse that nuked it.
4. hopeful for D&D's future.

:):):)
That part that I made bold and italics, can you tell me where you've seen WotC say that this is there intent?
 

Walking Dad

First Post
My thankful list:

1. really glad they brought in Monte.
2. happy they're ditching 4E.
3. really happy they'll be supporting the Realms and toning down the apocalypse that nuked it.
4. hopeful for D&D's future.

:):):)
1. really unimpressed they brought in Monte. (see MC WoD)
2. unhappy they're ditching 4E.
3. really happy they'll be still supporting the Realms and options to play before apocalypse that nuked it and after it.
4. hopeful for D&D's future.
 

Qwillion

First Post

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.
[/SIZE]


Several things about this statement are false so I thought I should clarify.

a video game art studio from China has been hired
Perfect World was never hired to do this, they got it as part of accusation.

Perfect World was brought into the picture by purchasing Cryptic Studio, which was previously owned by Atari who had the liscence for all D&D computer games and the game is a violation of Atari's liscencing agreement with Turbine that does D&D Online which is why Turbine had to sue Atari, in order to do this WotC sued Atari and got the liscences back though it was still allowing Atari to produce licensed games, leaving Turbine to get its pound of flesh from Atari (we will ignore WotC vs. Turbine and creating competing games for your own brand).

to fully detail the Realms"
They are not fully detialing the Realms this is the Neverwinter MMO its one city and the woods around it.
 

Roland55

First Post
Just like I know that the Sun will explode... eventually.

I really wish people would stop acting like they KNOW things when all they have is speculation and rumour. You didn't KNOW anything. You, like everyone else, madly and wildly speculated based on nothing more than pure imagination; crap in a bucket often enough and eventually you'll get something resembling a Picasso.
I would love to have given you XP, just for that image.

But ... you know ... "You must give" and all that.
 

Therise

First Post
That part that I made bold and italics, can you tell me where you've seen WotC say that this is there intent?
From this article at ENWorld, on the first page of this thread:

"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 <acronym title="Wizards of the Coast">WotC</acronym> 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." "
It's a mix of talking about the Neverwinter MMO and the PnP Realms.

I recall seeing it also at the WotC main site, pretty much the same info though.
 


Falstaff

First Post
From this article at ENWorld, on the first page of this thread:

"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 <acronym title="Wizards of the Coast">WotC</acronym> 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." "
It's a mix of talking about the Neverwinter MMO and the PnP Realms.

I recall seeing it also at the WotC main site, pretty much the same info though.
Right, I saw this quote, thanks. But I don't see where they say anything about undoing the spellplague event.
 

Therise

First Post
Right, I saw this quote, thanks. But I don't see where they say anything about undoing the spellplague event.
It's probably very unlikely that they'll un-do the Spellplague entirely, I just said they would be "toning it down". Over at Candlekeep, "toning it down" is a common consensus for what they'd have to do to bring people back (those that left, or stopped buying the Realms products).
 

Vyvyan Basterd

First Post
Right, I saw this quote, thanks. But I don't see where they say anything about undoing the spellplague event.
WotC said:
The Forgotten Realms has a rich history and we will support all of it.
Why would they need to undo the Spellplague? Would you deny those that actually liked it of an era that they enjoy playing in? The important part of the WotC quote, IMO, is above. They plan to support all eras of the Forgotten Realms history.
 

Falstaff

First Post
Why would they need to undo the Spellplague? Would you deny those that actually liked it of an era that they enjoy playing in? The important part of the WotC quote, IMO, is above. They plan to support all eras of the Forgotten Realms history.
I consider the spellplague so stupendously stupid that, yes, I would wholeheartedly embrace denying it remain a part of the Realms' history. To be frank, I could care less what other fans of the Realms think about any era of the history. But that's just my opinion, of course. I'm just one guy with some dice and access to the internet, so don't take me too seriously.
 

WSmith

First Post
What if they rebooted the Realms all the way back to the gray box... (kind of like the Star Trek movie). ;)
 



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