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D&D 5E Open Letter to Mike Mearls from a pro game dev

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Gorgoroth

First Post
Hello forum, I have not logged in here for a very long time, and promised not to do so again, yet I am compelled to in order to get my message across to Mike Mearls. I do not have his email, so I am posting it here in the quest to bring to his attention to a grave mistake his game design team has made in the last packet, and hope that he rectifies it. I hope that my good XP level on this message board will allow this one post to remain online, despite my prior disagreements with The Powers That Be(tm) in the distant past.


Here is my post:


http://community.wizards.com/forum/...um/dd-next-general-discussion/threads/4035056


Hello Mike, this is an email from a fellow game developer. The forum members on this website will not acknowledge that because I haven't shared my creds publically, but I will share them with you via a PM if you so desire.


There is a huge glaring problem with D&D Next, as you're aware, with Great Weapon Fighting style.


This fighting style allows 1st level fighters, who are supposed to be apprentice level fighters, to achieve a god-like 100% accuracy on every single attack of their entire career. Please remove this, regardless that 39%, 50% or even 64% of fans like it. It is simply a bad rule, that doesn't fit within the design goals of D&D Next, as you've outlined them:


I will commence by quoting the actual problem:


Great Weapon Fighting


When you miss a target with a melee weapon
that you are wielding with two hands, the target
still takes damage from the weapon. The damage
equals your Strength modifier. The weapon must
have the two-­‐handed or versatile property to
gain this benefit


When you miss, the target takes damage. How? does not explain. Why? does not explain.


Later on, in How to Play.pdf, page 22, we read the following on how to interpret HP when it becomes reduced to 0, via hits or misses (which now mean essentially the same thing):


Describing the Effects of Damage


Dungeon Masters describe hit point loss in different
ways. When your current hit point total is half or more
of your hit point maximum, you typically show no signs
of injury. When you drop below half your hit point
maximum, you show signs of wear, such as cuts and
bruises. An attack that reduces you to 0 hit points
strikes you directly, leaving a bleeding injury or other
trauma, or it simply knocks you unconscious.


Let's recap the problem:


A) When you miss a target with a melee weapon
that you are wielding with two hands, the target
still takes damage from the weapon


B) An attack that reduces you to 0 hit points
strikes you directly, leaving a bleeding injury or other
trauma, or it simply knocks you unconscious. (all of which imply a hit)


These two things are incompatible. You cannot say HP are abstract, therefore misses can cause damage, but when those misses cause the damage to result in 0 HP, suddenly they were hits. This is a direct, black and white, contradiction in the rules.


Please remove this.


As a pro game developer with over a dozen AAA games to my credit (go ahead and ask me for my CV, and I will share it with you, Mike), I have identified, based on both your own design goals, and my general game design and debugging experience, as well as 25+ years of D&D on top of that (which qualifies me eminently better than 99% of your survey recipients) with GWF:




1) The higher level you get, and thus better accuracy, the less the fighter will benefit from his fighting style. Fail. Simple fail.




2) There is nothing specifically relating to the use of two-handed weapons even hinted at in the style. Even supporters of GWF acknowledge this, and want damage on a miss generalized to other fighting styles. It could easily apply to any other weapon type, TWF, S&B, bare-hands. It isn't evocative of the use of heavy weapons being similar to a nimble blade that can get in no matter what. Big weapons tend to miss big, too. This goes counter to how massive weapons should behave. Reaping Strike from 4th edition even worked with single handed weapons and sword and board style. There is zero correlation to two-handed weapons in any narrative sense. That makes it a disassociated mechanic, which goes against one of your own recent L&L articles.


3) Thrown versatile weapons such as warhammers, spears and tridents can never miss a prone, invisible target when thrown. This is absurd.


4) All objects being attacked, no matter how small or well guarded, will be automatically destroyed. This has important ramifications for epic battle scenes where crystal balls need smashing on time. Or ropes need cutting to lower the drawbridge. It removes the agency of the dice from the game, which, being a gamewhere dice are used when outcomes should be uncertain, is bad form.


5) It allows 1st level fighters to do damage every round they attack. If you cannot see why that violates how D&D combat is supposed to work, I don't know what to say. It's not how D&D fighting has worked in any game I've ever played. As a "custodian of D&D", giving 1st level fighters, or second level rangers or paladins a 100% chance of dealing damage on every attack is pure fail.


6) No human is so perfect that he can never fail to harm his opponent any time he attacks them. Certainly not a 1st level Fighter fresh out of boot camp. A pro boxer doesn't land all punches, or an olympic fencer say "touché" after every single thrust, and they're supposed to be more akin to 20th level in terms of proficiency. A first level fighter has no business being so reliably damaging against any foe, regardless of their AC or other defensive capabilities.


7) Armies of Ogres or Trolls using PC creation rules can use this to auto-win any battle due to their excessive strength and HP in the first round or two of battle, by concentrating firepower on one target near them. Monsters are supposed to be able to pick up fighter levels without breaking the game, according to Mike Meals' tweet.


8) If used against PCs, they will not appreciate the DM being able to kill them without any input or agency from either D20s or damage dice. An Ogre built using PC creation rules can wreak havoc on the party mage, since a fighter's Protector ability cannot defend him. Invisibility spells cannot make you safe. This is another example of how the mechanic bypasses melee combat.


9) It ignores which weapon you're using, so a longsword used two-handed has the same effect as a greatsword or greataxe. Removing the importance of weapon selection is something feedback rejected


10) It turns all enemies with HP < # of attacks per round * str mod into insta-kill minions, up to 25 HP without buffs. That was previously a level 20 fighter ability in a previous packet. Should give a clue. This is terrible news for wizards, both PC and NPC wizards, who will be insta-gibbed.


11) It completely negates all defensive fighting styles : AC +1 ? Useless. Granting disadvantage? Useless. Investing into 30 AC, with artifacts, spells, buffs, invisibility, disadvantage? Useless
Actually, it basically means a fighter in full plate and magic is no better defended from incoming damage occurring than a naked, prone, disarmed and helpless princess on the floor.


12) If you have less than X (mentioned above) HP vs a foe with this ability, your armor is useless, as you will die no matter what, anyway. Ever single time.


13) There is no point in rolling to-hit or damage when a fighter attacks a foe he knows has less than his GWF damage. This can be
20, or it could be 50, 60 per round. Insta-kill terminators, here we come!


14) It says you miss with your weapon, but your weapon does damage. Not you doing damage, your weapon doing the damage. Since the weapon missed, how is this possible? Doesn't bother explaining (it can't, because it's nonsense)


15) It makes a mockery of the english language, basic logic, and basic physics, and forces you to interpret HP as being essentially a meaningless stat. Contradictory definitions = meaningless.


16) Wizards have unerring striking in a daily spell, Magic Missile, not a cantrip. This is essentially an at-will Magic Missile for fighters, mechanically. Actually better since it can potentially do much more damage. So it fails on a balance level against an iconic wizard spell, which currently costs them a daily slot to use.


17) Wizard cantrips do not do damage on a failed saving throw, and thus never miss. Why should fighters get that? They already get multiple attacks per round to scale their damage


18) Spells with saving throws that are succeeded by the target are still within the area of effect of the spell. The analogy is that they hit, but roll less damage. This mechanic is like a spell with NO saving throw for zero damage, no matter defensive abilities like Evasion. There is nothing at-will equivalent for any spellcasting class. This is unbalanced, since it is basically magical effect and does not belong in a non-magical class.


19) In the last round of battle, every monster from the lowest kobold, to the greatest dragon, stands a good chance of being auto-killed without any dice rolls, precisely in the most dramatic possible moment of their existence. Removing dramatic tension in epic death scenes, and nail-biting will he / won't he be killed this round, is one of the cornerstones of D&D fun. Finishing off that dragon with a lame auto-damage mechanic is probably the thing that bothers me the most about this. In the last round of battle, at low HP, a dragon is no tougher to kill than a naked, blind, and gagged kobold.


20) Attacks of Opportunities are like laser force shields that automatically kill weak creatures that try to run through, or run away. For example, a druid polymorphs into a bird, and attempts to fly into the castle past some guards. One of those guards has GWF and can never fail to damage the bird by 5 HP and thus revert him back to human form.


21) When damage is stacked to the base Str-mod miss damage, it will create all kinds of balance issues. Such as : being able to automatically kill any creature, at will, regardless of the D20 roll OR the damage die of the weapon. There are at least 6 instances of things stacking with this ability. The entire game will have to be re-written to have "when damage is rolled" instead of "when damage is dealt" to avoid stacking, and it's somewhat confusing based on Mearl's tweet that this is working as intended, i.e. stacking will be allowed and even perhaps encouraged. This is terrible. Once you add enough buffs to your damage, then the W of the weapon becomes less and less important, meaning the D20 itself ceases to have any real agency whatsoever. Stacking is definitely a bug that even the most ardent supporters of this mechanic want curtailed. But those same people do not like the D20 from mattering in the game, as they want to automatically "win" every attack roll and never be able to do 0 damage, or have a large variance on their expected DPR.


Low-variance, high magnitude DPR is EXTREMELY BROKEN. It will reduce D&D to a game of chess or initiative rocket-tag.


22) There is no defense to this mechanic other than DR, which is AFAIK not even present, as most monsters have generic resistance (1/2 damage), not old-school DR that subtracts. So there is no real defense against this, ever.


23) Spells like barkskin, prot from evil, blur, etc are have no chance to save a spell caster's life, but against any other weapon attack they can.


If we are to accept Rodney's explanation, a lance used two handed by a GWF has a greater force of impact than when used mounted. Apparently, your hit points are not taxed when leaping away from a charging 2200lb war horse at full gallop. On the othe hand a, GWF attacking through a portcullis with a lance can auto damage.


24) In Design Finesse—Part 2, they mention losing concentration when damage it taken. This interacts with GWF in a negative way, by giving a 1st level fighter with that ability a 100% chance to threaten a concentration save vs the toughest, most defended foe in the game, AC 25 /w disadvantage, a scenario where a level 20 fighter without this ability only has a 68% chance of doing the same. Here is a forum discussion of the article and the bugs this one mechanic causes.


Math:
prof bonus : 6
to-hit bonus : 5
magic weapon : 3
to-hit : +14
vs ac 25 : 11 or better. (50%)


Chance to not deal any damage, and thus not trigger a concentration save (4 attacks) :
0.5 * 0.5 * 0.5 * 0.5 = 0.0625 (6.2%)


P(at least one hit) : ~94%


Chance to miss /w disadvantage on each attack :
(1-0.25) * (1-0.25) * (1-0.25) * (1-0.25) = .316


P(at least one hit) : 68.4%


1st level fighter with GWF ability to threaten concentration against the most epic, toughest, most critical foe's concentration with or without disadvantage:


P(at least one hit) : 100%


That's a 31.6% better chance to disrupt concentration, in the worst circumstances possible in the game, for a level 1 fighter as opposed to a level 20 fighter with all his attacks.


A first level fighter /w GWF can attack a foe that's level-appropriate for a 20th level fighter and disrupt their concentration more often = strictly better. All you need to auto-threaten disruption of any foe's buffs is a first level dude with a pike and GWF = equivalent to casting at-will dispel magic at a very high level in earlier editions.




25) A recent poll at Enworld with 268 votes, has 122 (45%) showing they find this mechanic unbelievable, while 107 (40%) find it believable enough to keep. The rest, 39 (14%), do not care enough about it either way.


When even Mike Mearls, the lead manager of the game, finds it confusing to narrate (let alone the balance issues involved), that's a very good sign that it should be removed:


Mike Mearls ‏@mikemearls8 Nov @adamBWaters Yeah, we're looking at it. Personally, I find it gets confusing when combined with effects that trigger when you damage a foe


If YOU find it confusing, how are you expecting CASUAL gamers to find it? You are the MANAGER of this game!


If YOUR team argues about it internally, how do you expect tables across the country and the world to react to it, over time? Do you really think this problem is going away?


Remove damage on a miss, it's a terrible idea, and doesn't belong in D&D.


Contradictions in game rules are invalid, and must be removed. If you publish this game with a direct, black and white contradiction in the game rules, after hundreds of people have reported it to you, including people who make games for a living, you need to actually listen, and override the public. You are the boss.


Veto argumentam ad populum. The masses can be wrong. And yet, more people in public polls actually hate this infallible apprentice-level fighter style. either way, popular or not, it's bad for D&D, bad for you and I (it's incomprehensible how an attack can have both missed and have been a "direct strike" at the same time. Utter nonsense), and it's bad for America.


The default, core rules for 5e should be clear, simple to understand, invisible, get out of the way, don't introduce narrative inconsistencies, and make sense. Contradictory rules should be purged no matter which game you're making. This is just Game Design 101. And I know you're more advanced than that, I have faith in you, that you will make the right decision and remove this awful mechanic from the game.


Thank you for your time.
 
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Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad
OK, that's it, I am reversing my prior opinion. I now want Damage on a Miss in the game. I want it so, so much now. I think I will email Mearls (whose email address I do have) and tell him. I won't need to remind him of my credentials - he already knows I'm awesome.
 


DEFCON 1

Legend
I think this Open Letter must have gotten lost in the mail, because this is the kind of thing that might have meant something maybe a year and a half ago. But at this point in time it's a rather futile gesture.
 

Ichneumon

First Post
Got a tweetable version?

Funnily enough, most issues with damage on a miss go away if you don't let it reduce hp below 1.
 


Gorgoroth

First Post
I think this Open Letter must have gotten lost in the mail, because this is the kind of thing that might have meant something maybe a year and a half ago. But at this point in time it's a rather futile gesture.

We shall see, the next L&L should be enlightening.

I look forward to saying I told you so to an entire legion of ....nevermind.
 

Gorgoroth

First Post
OK, that's it, I am reversing my prior opinion. I now want Damage on a Miss in the game. I want it so, so much now. I think I will email Mearls (whose email address I do have) and tell him. I won't need to remind him of my credentials - he already knows I'm awesome.

Hanging out on Enworld is not a credential. (hint : credentials are those things where others consider your opinions and talents to be worth actual currency)
 


Obryn

Hero
...?

This is the kind of coherent, pertinent argument one would expect to find on da internetz
It's not an argument, it's an expression of sheer exasperation.

Because Holy Crap, I've heard and read enough insane arguments about damage on a miss over the past few weeks to last a lifetime and the only thing new you're adding is an insistence that your "credentials" make your opinions on the topic new, interesting, or more relevant than anyone else who's taken a survey.
 

Gorgoroth

First Post
It's not an argument, it's an expression of sheer exasperation.

Because Holy Crap, I've heard and read enough insane arguments about damage on a miss over the past few weeks to last a lifetime and the only thing new you're adding is an insistence that your "credentials" make your opinions on the topic new, interesting, or more relevant than anyone else who's taken a survey.

The opinions about game rules by pro game developers should be taken more seriously. That's what expertise means.

When people start paying you six figures for your game dev skills, call me.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I'm sorry, I don't like damage on a miss myself, but your open letter is full of reading comprehension fail. Please go back and carefully re-read the GWF text. Several of your points are invalid and need to be rewritten to be correct.

Note: MELEE weapons only. STR MODIFIER, not STR damage.
 

Gorgoroth

First Post
I'm sorry, I don't like damage on a miss myself, but your open letter is full of reading comprehension fail. Please go back and carefully re-read the GWF text. Several of your points are invalid and need to be rewritten to be correct.

Note: MELEE weapons only. STR MODIFIER, not STR damage.

A trident is both a melee and a ranged weapon. Throwing it is a rules "maybe", but it's still a bug.

Certainly not elegant, which is one of the design goals. Anything requiring rules lookups slow the game down. If you think Tridents aren't great weapons when you throw them with two hands, then perhaps they should rename GWF to "never can miss fighting style", that would be accurate.

I can, and have, gone through every single one of these counter-arguments dozens of times, and blasted every single one away.

Q) how many thousands of bugs in games have you identified and corrected in your vast game development experience?

When you explain why damage cannot be dealt on a missed ranged attack, you've also explained by the same reasoning why it cannot be dealt on a melee attack. Melee weapons only damage you when they hit you, and HP does not mean stamina, otherwise attacking would deplete your HP as well as dodging.

Imagine fit kobolds dying of exhaustion after 6 seconds of combat vs a guy with a big axe. It's so ludicrous, I won't even debase myself to debate its merits.
 
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The opinions about game rules by pro game developers should be taken more seriously. That's what expertise means.

When people start paying you six figures for your game dev skills, call me.

Actually, I respect the opinions of Eric Mona and RangerWicket (and Col Playdoh and Sean K Reynolds and countless other gaming devs who have posted on ENWorld in the past) because they're legitimately nice people who post interesting and insightful things. And because they don't tell me about the fact that they're a professional game developers in every post they make. I suspect you would be taken a lot more seriously if you learned a bit from their example.

On a related note, would anyone else like to speculate how many actual game devs take home a regular six figure salary? Based on the general size of the RPG market, I'm guessing that number is about a dozen or so. Maybe less.
 
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Gorgoroth

First Post
Actually, I respect the opinions of Eric Mona and RangerWicket (and Col Playdoh and Sean K Reynolds and countless other gaming devs who have posted on ENWorld in the past) because they're legitimately nice people who post interesting and insightful things. And because they don't tell me about the fact that they're a professional game developers in every post they make. I suspect you would be taken a lot more seriously if you learned a bit from their example.

On a related note, would anyone else like to speculate how many actual game devs take home a regular six figure salary? Based on the general size of the RPG market, I'm guessing that number is about a dozen or so.

I'm a nice guy in real life, trust me, but this is war, and we are so very close to the finish line that I want him to be made aware once again, for the last time, perhaps, before it's too late. An attack cannot deal damage on both hits and misses, otherwise those polar opposite events (indeed, a miss is defined in the dictionary as a "failure to hit") have no inherent meaning and the game is reduced to mere semantic sludge.. I want Mearls to remove this crud or I will not be able to play this game, or DM it (which I'm dying to do, once I know which way he rules).

CRPG devs routinely make six figures, and the work we do is far, FAR more complicated, widely-scrutinized, analyzed, profitable, and generally pertinent to more people than D&D could ever hope to be. Keeping things simple is not merely a worthwhile design goal for us, it's an absolute necessity. Which is why I recognize Mearls as a pro, and see eye to eye with him in most ways. He's clearly a guy who learned from his mistakes in the 2008 era, and has a love for D&D in the classic sense (i.e. one where associated mechanics result in a coherent interpretation of the game from both the player and the character point of view...which he also mentioned recently as a design goal).
 
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CRPG devs routinely make six figures, and the work we do is far, FAR more complicated than D&D could ever hope to be.

So, just to be clear then, you're not an actual, professional, role playing game developer? And you acknowledge that the work you do is significantly different from games like D&D?
 


MortalPlague

Adventurer
If you think Tridents aren't great weapons when you throw them with two hands, then perhaps they should rename GWF to "never can miss fighting style", that would be accurate.
Do you even listen to yourself? Throwing a trident with two hands and arguing that it counts for a melee feat because it's listed as a melee weapon?

Good luck with your petition, sir.
 

Gorgoroth

First Post
So, just to be clear then, you're not an actual, professional, role playing game developer? And you acknowledge that the work you do is significantly different from games like D&D?

I've made all types of games, including RPGs. Table-top RPGs, no, but those obey the same set of logic and narrative consistency rules as do many other computer-based ones. Logic is universal, game design is not strictly limited to what type of processor it's run on (the human mind vs a multi-core GPU). Sure, the human mind is vastly superior in many ways, but what I can make a computer do in real time would make most DMs feel like the Reaper kicked in the door to the bathroom stall and said "time's up" while they were on the throne.

Solving game design issues in D&D is actually rather trivial for someone in my profession. I solve much harder bugs all day, every day, 12 hours a day, for years at a time, and ship games played by thousands of times more players than each iteration of D&D ever has.

Besides that, any child knows that a sword that wooshes by your head doesn't hurt you unless it actually connected. Which is why it's so banal that I even have to argue this, or that it's dragged on this long.

Imagine the Archery fighting style dealt damage on a miss. It would be ludicrous, right?

Now explain, in physical terms, how a sword attack can deal damage on a miss. Like, damage. Not tiring you, which is NOT damage.

The physics of why archery cannot result in damage on a miss are the exact same (basic newtonian physics), as those for melee attacks. The EXACT same. We're talking, basic collision detection modelling here. Momentum transfer.

Nobody has ever died of a few seconds of strenuous activity, even an old man with a bum ticker and a harem would last longer than a kobold vs a fighter with GWF.
 

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