The next iteration of DnD is coming to open play test soon. Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford held a chat Q&A earlier today. I put a transcript on our forum. It’s not making me excited about the product, which happens to be the gateway drug to one of my favorite hobbies.
This is mostly because of the questions they chose to answer (or maybe it was the only questions they got). Some of them were typical procedural questions about the play test, what materials it will include, what’s changed since the demos over the past few months, etc. The rest of the questions pretty much had to do with combat. It was either, “what cool stuff are you including for the class I like to play?” or “are you getting rid of this rule I hate.” (I’m paraphrasing)
Let me step back for a moment and unfairly generalize about those who play DnD exclusively (at least assuming the questioners in the Q&A are representative): You are a bunch of min-maxing twinks, and it shows in your questions. The fact that WotC is using your input to develop the next rules set terrifies and depresses me.
I have to wonder if this “we’ll make the game you want” approach is a good design philosophy. I get the whole “give the customer what he wants” attitude, I really do. But what you’re getting are the angst-ridden min-maxers who want to make sure their favorite class is as powerful as they think it should be. You’re getting the most VOCAL enthusiasts, and as we all know, the “most vocal” aren’t representative of the whole.
Or at least I hope they aren’t. I would like to think that most DnD players (and Pathfinder players too) run awesome games with lots of role-playing, awesome stories, interpersonal conflict, drama and epic success and failure. I would like to think that most of the stories collaborated around most tables are more that “we kill it and take its treasure.”
The story, the character development, the conflicts and friendships of the characters are more than just window dressing between the combat encounters, right?
Who knows, maybe most people play DnD games that are structured like porn movies. “Yeah, we’ll throw in a little dialogue here, then we get to the next sex scene.” But in this case it’s a combat encounter.
Regardless of my opinions, assumptions or questions about the average DnD player, it sure seems like the lowest common denominator of the RPG hobby is providing the most input. And that, at least to me, doesn’t bode well.
Mearls mentioned something about an “advantage and disadvantage” mechanic. Questions about that? What it means? Nope. More questions about “tanking” instead. Are these character advantages and flaws? Ways to turn a stat block into a character with depth? I hope so. I’ll find out when the play test packets go out, I suppose.
This whole “we’ll make the game you want thing” gives me pause, though. WotC has some damned creative people working there. Seriously creative people. I know this because some of their 4e fluff books were awesome, and and stole stuff from them liberally for my own games.
But what’s it like to be compelled to take the game you’re designing, and have it bent to the wills of a bunch of loud min-maxers?
Makes you wonder if that might be the reason Monte Cook left.
When we interviewed Steven S. Long, the guy behind Hero System 5th and 6th editions, we asked him a question about min-maxing and Hero.
For those who don’t know, min-maxing in Hero is as easy as pie. It’s not even a challenge. It’s probably the easiest system there is to min-max.
Steven’s answer? (I’m paraphrasing again) “We don’t design the game for them. They don’t get it.” By this he meant that the char gen rules were incredibly flexible so you could turn literally any character concept into a game representation of the character, without shoe-horning or compromising your concept. This also made the game incredibly susceptible to min-maxing.
So what happens when a company hands those min-maxers the reins of game design? How do the creative people in the game design department feel about that? Do they still feel like they have ownership of the design? How enthusiastic would you feel if your project got turned over to a committee of these folks?
I hope someone from WotC reads this. I really do. I WILL give DnD another try — at this point, only because there are some glimmers of hope for me: the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic, a move away from the slavish “game balance” of 4e. Who knows? It might rock. I hope it does.
On our podcast, we have tons of listeners who write in saying “I started with DnD, then moved on to X system.” There are a lot of us out here who started with the game you inherited. We left for various reasons: some mechanical, some because of genre, some because of design flaws.
If you hold out any hope of winning us back — if you even want us back — you might wan to temper the feedback from the min-maxing splat book addicts with some feed back from some of us.