Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Things I asked Mearls & Crawford

When you’re in charge of making the new Dungeons & Dragons and you offer to do a live chat on the internet, there’s no way you can get to everyone. Thousands of people were tuned in and asking questions, so there was no way to get to everyone. Still, I kept track of the questions I did ask, and decided to post them here, and why I think they’re important.

How do you plan to deal with the five-minute-workday?

This is one of the most important points of Dungeon Crawl games, and it’s something I saw very early in the game. The player characters would play hard for an encounter or two, and then take a four-hour walk back to town, or secure a dungeon room to rest in for the next six hours. With long rests getting you all of your hit points and all of your hit dice back, this gets to be a big pacing problem pretty quickly.

Is there a plan to break up combat pacing mechanically, or will that be largely left to the DM?

Combat in the playtest is monotonous. And I don’t mean that to be harsh, I mean that it hits the same notes over and over again, which may well be the direction they’d prefer. “Move, Attack, Minor Spell, Major Spell,” are pretty much your only options in a fight, which is fine as long as you have a Dungeon Master that’s keeping things interesting in other ways. There are a few outliers (rogues hiding, for instance), but this is how entire combat encounters roll, and while that was certainly enough ‘back in the day,’ it makes for some pretty boring encounters without a way of shaking things up.

My players have lamented the loss of Awesome Daily Powers. Are there plans to include options that will have a much more pronounced “Wow” factor?

The playtest player characters look good, and they don’t lack for interesting, but there isn’t anything on the sheet that made my players go “Holy shit, check this thing out!” The games that do this better than anyone, in my experience, are Warmachine and Magic: The Gathering, and both of those are doing really, really well. It hits one of those psychographic cues that I think is really important in gaming: it’s fucking badass. A 14/14 with flying and trample that costs 12 mana is going to make your face drop. Same with a warcaster that has RoF infinite. There’s something visceral and attention-grabbing about something that’s bigger and cooler than it has any right to be, and as long as it can be generally balanced, there’s no reason to not include more “Wow” factor abilities.

A small point, but I found the concept of Hit Dice was ambiguously worded. At second level, your Hit Dice are 2dX. Does this mean your roll 2dX? If so, how many times can you do this? Or do you roll 1dX and you have two uses? Wouldn’t it make more sense to write that as 1dX (2)?

We played with the latter, but it’s vague.

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