WotC Ray Winninger Is Head of D&D RPG Team; Mike Mearls No Longer Works on RPG

People have been wondering where Mike Mearls has gone for quite some time. It seems that he has not been working on the D&D tabletop RPG since some time last year, and the new head of the team and Executive Producer is Ray Winninger. Winninger is an RPG industry veteran. Amongst other things, he was co-designer of DC Heroes and Torg, and wrote the Dungeoncraft column for Dragon Magazine. He...

People have been wondering where Mike Mearls has gone for quite some time. It seems that he has not been working on the D&D tabletop RPG since some time last year, and the new head of the team and Executive Producer is Ray Winninger.

Winninger is an RPG industry veteran. Amongst other things, he was co-designer of DC Heroes and Torg, and wrote the Dungeoncraft column for Dragon Magazine. He has worked at a number of RPG companies including TSR, Mayfair Games, West End Games, and more.

Ray_Winninger_at_MIX08_2_crop.jpg



Winninger is Chris Perkins' and Jeremy Crawford's boss. And in further comments, Chris Perkins says that Mike Mearls has not been part of the tabletop RPG team since some time last year.


That explains why Mearls' Twitch shows, like Happy Fun Hour, have disappeared. Although he's made a couple of retweets since, his last tweet on Twitter was February 13th, 2019. He still works at WotC on the D&D brand in some capacity, but not the tabletop RPG itself (he did an interview about Baldur's Gate 3 on Polygon last year).

Ray Winninger introduces himself in the latest issue of Dragon+, WotC's online magazine. "My name is Ray Winninger and I’m the new Executive Producer in charge of the Dungeons & Dragons studio at Wizards of the Coast. In just a few months on the job, I’ve already been impressed by the skills and the passion of the designers, artists, editors, and production staff who bring you our terrific D&D products. They are a uniquely talented group, and it is an honor to work alongside them."
 

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Bacon Bits

Legend
DCA was Chris Perkins, not Mike Mearls. I don’t think Mearls had anything to do with DCA. They’ve also started a new show with the same cast minus Holly and Jared and a couple new folks.

DCA was an officially backed stream, as far as I'm aware. It carried WotC's D&D branding, VODs were posted on D&D's official YouTube channel, and there were posts on the official WotC site about the stream. DCA getting that kind of treatment would have been a decision made while Mearls was in charge of the RPG team. That doesn't mean that DCA was Mearls' decision, of course, but I can see two controversial situations coming out of decisions that were made while he was in charge might color management perceptions.
 

Sunsword

Adventurer
I was always uncomfortable with him on 5E, since one of his early 5E-related articles (I don't know if it's still up, suspect not) basically threw 4E "under the bus" in a not horrible but kinda crummy and cheap-seeming (to me) way (I get that 4E insulted previous editions too, but that was dumb and trying to be funny/clever, and this was much more direct).

I think some of the customers wanted to hear that. 4E was a Nadir for the brand and looking at how the RPG team was reduced to a skeleton crew I'm not sure that if it wasn't for the OSR D&D wouldn't have laid fallow. 4E was a good game with some warts. Essentials fixed some of them but it needed to be camouflaged and less boardgamey. I actually miss 4E some days and I miss the Nentir Vale quite a bit.
 

gyor

Legend
I think your bar for risky/daring is like, a lot lower than mine. Wildemount is smart, it's the opposite of risky or daring. It's a totally generic setting from an incredibly popular and really reasonable-seeming bunch of people. Theros is a small risk - smaller than Ravnica, I'd say, because the basic underlying material has a broader appeal and it sounds like it'll have more and more widely-usable content than Ravnica.

They don't compare to stuff like Underground. I mean go read the link - that's risky, I mean, even for edgy '90s RPGs, Underground was like razorblade made of glass edgy, and Torg was a hugely daring thing, even if kind of a failure. It would be totally unreasonable to expect anything like either form WotC, but I do hope they move a bit outside the generic/kitchen sink and MtG settings they've been doing so far.

EDIT - Reading Winniger's LinkedIn a bit more, and he is staggeringly qualified for this position, overqualified even. I guess starting with Mayfair games to being in charge of the biggest RPG company on the planet at the apex of their power is kind of a dream job for him.

Seriously worth a look and expand the "Experiences" a couple of times: https://www.linkedin.com/in/raywinninger/

I said a little risky, not a lot and he's only had the job for a few months.

Let's see what he have by the end of 2021 or even 2022 when he move passed already planned settings and books, and are deeper into the choices Winniger has made for D&D 5e.

Its going to take time to get a full grasp of what Winniger's mark on D&D 5e truely looks like compared to Mike Mearls and who ever had the job during the interm period between them (does anyone who had the job in the interm period?)
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
It's really not hard to not get yourself in trouble on social media. The vast majority of the time, problematic tweets aren't seen as problematic by the people making the tweets, because they don't realize that the rest of the world doesn't share their point of view on what they're saying.
But that's kind of my point. I mean obviously I don't know who you are in "real life" and thus have no idea how far reaching the people who follow you or who you connect with on social media are... but if you aren't a "person of interest" (IE a famous person)... that circle is much smaller. Or more to the point, the people who go looking through your stuff is much more narrow and they probably care a lot less about the stuff you write than people who are "famous" (in whatever form or fashion that could be.)

Now perhaps your place in the media landscape gives you a footprint and a fandom as large (if not larger) than Mearls had. I don't know. But as you said... people sometimes just don't realize how big of a footprint they actually have or just how interested other people are in what they have to say. So I don't blame people for not realizing just how large and how diverse their audience is, nor how exceedingly interested that audience is in everything that they post... so if at some point they "get caught" saying something that angers people (and they come to the conclusion that perhaps social media just isn't worth the time or effort) I don't think it's any wonder they just choose to walk away or no longer engage, nor do I blame them for it.

Quite frankly I think we'd probably all be better off disengaging from social media more often than we do, but I also know that's not really going to happen any time soon.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I said a little risky, not a lot and he's only had the job for a few months.

Let's see what he have by the end of 2021 or even 2022 when he move passed already planned settings and books, and are deeper into the choices Winniger has made for D&D 5e.

Its going to take time to get a full grasp of what Winniger's mark on D&D 5e truely looks like compared to Mike Mearls and who ever had the job during the interm period between them (does anyone who had the job in the interm period?)

Considering that Mearls transitioned, rather than being terminated, there probably wasn't an interim position holder.
 

Sunsword

Adventurer
This just seems like a seriously odd reading of the facts, and really misleading to me (even if it's unintentional). He was part of 4E for a long time (arguably from 3E), got put in charge of it in 2009, kept it going, for what, three or more years before getting started on the road to 5E.

Plus frankly Iron Heroes reads like the inspiration for Tome of Battle and thus 4E in a lot of ways.

But Bill was the boss and I'm sure there was pressure to ride on the success of World of Warcraft and make 4E a bit more like that. I don't think anyone one designer has left that big of a mark since D&D went to WotC. Remember when Monte Cook was on the Next team and his articles hinted at what would probably become Numenera?

Additionally, I don't see Mearls pushing 4E not being OGL. Without the OGL he doesn't get discovered by Monte and WotC. Even with 5E somebody was smart enough to figure out how to do it AND let WotC get a cut of much of it.

Finally, Star Wars Saga was another step in the evolution. 5E still has at will, per encounter and per day mechanics they just use new terms that are more palatable
 

gyor

Legend
I guarantee you he had a few sleepless nights in there after "edgy" humor from a few years back ended up being a problem later on. The fact that it was dredged up by people with a political axe to grind doesn't negate the fact that it was still there to find.

The weekend before my job interview for my current job, I spent several hours combing my Twitter timeline with various tools just to see if anything had been posted that I wouldn't post today. I went a little overboard, zapping tweets with profanity, even if they weren't really problematic. Better safe than sorry.

And I don't have a manager or the financial wherewithal to hire a social media team to do that for me, unlike Hart and Gunn.

What a sad, sorry statement about the world when you feel the need to go through old Twitter posts to censor yourself.
 

Von Ether

Legend
That feels like such a long time ago now, back in 2012. lol

But it was something like separate rules modules you could plug in or remove to make the 5E system play like previous editions of the game.

I thought one of the initial 5e promises was that you could have two players with different build approaches (like narrative vs min/max) and the narrative player wouldn't feel over shadowed by the min/max build.
 

teitan

Legend
DCA was Chris Perkins, not Mike Mearls. I don’t think Mearls had anything to do with DCA. They’ve also started a new show with the same cast minus Holly and Jared and a couple new folks.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Zack S stuff had something to do with Mearls changing positions, but I very much doubt it was WotC forcing a move. More likely, in my opinion, Mearls got tired of all the public scrutiny and decided to start looking for opportunities to make a lateral move within the company away from the public eye.


The DCA stuff is part of that whole toxic community stuff I mentioned in relation to twitter and modern drama. We are so obsessed with what goes on in other people’s bedrooms that what was once just part of human drama is now owned by whole communities who decry it and bring it to the fore in such a way that it can ruin lives. Someone cheated... so what.
 

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