Wizard’s Mike Mearls on D&D 5E: All the AMA answers in one place


Mike Mearls, who is leading development on Dungeons & Dragons 5E at Wizards, conducted a Reddit AMA overnight and answered plenty of questions from people about the future of the game, digital development, and so on.

We’ve taken a look through the post, and picked out some of the most important answers for you! Check it out.

PDFs, digital tools and magazines

We’re definitely looking at PDFs, ebooks, and other digital platforms, but no news yet. The goal with anything along those lines will be grow D&D, not just sell ebooks to people who already play the game, so we’re putting a lot of work into figuring out that side of the equation. (source)

We’re evaluating plans for digital tools and publishing as I type this. Nothing to report yet, but when we have news we’ll share it. I know it’s frustrating to not hear, but we want to avoid making announcements that lead nowhere. In the long term, I think that’s worse than delaying things today. (source)

We’re exploring options for the magazines right now. Nothing to announce yet, but we know they’re an important part of D&D’s history.

That said, the magazine business is in rough shape. Subscriptions to them were dropping heavily in their last years in print, and that was six years ago. You can expect anything we do will be delivered digitally. (source)

I touched on this a few times, but the idea is that any moves we make in this direction will be aimed at ensuring they help grow D&D. PDFs are expedient, and they can play a role in our strategy, but we also know that there are platforms and marketplaces that a lot of potential players use that we want to reach. (source)

We definitely want to do tools and ebooks.

Right now, we’re looking at platforms and technology. We want to take an approach similar to what we did with 5e – get to know what people are doing with the game, how they’re doing it, and what value we can offer. It’s not as simple as selling PDFs, in terms of finding a path that grows D&D and creates a big, upward shift in D&D’s accessibility.

That’s probably the trickiest thing we navigate – when we move in a new direction, I always want us to do it in a way that makes D&D more accessible and, whenever possible, opens up things to new audiences. (source)

Living Rules system

This will start early next year. The process will begin with playtest surveys much like the ones we did for the core game, to allow us to see if the game has issues and if so where. (source)

Open Gaming License

No news yet, but we do plan to announce something within the next couple of months or so. (source)

Release plans and system bloat

System bloat is a big concern. It’s one of the things that forces us into a new edition and makes the game hard to get into. We’re looking at keeping our new mechanics to a minimum and having clear guidelines on the best way to incorporate new material into your campaign.

For instance, one guidelines we’re looking at is for DMs to restrict characters to one additional book beyond the PHB when making characters. That keeps things manageable while allowing each campaign to have a distinct flavor. (source)

Let’s say we wanted to do psionics. We’d tie that to a campaign you can play, maybe one centered on mind flayers or a similar foe.

The psionic sourcebook would be the player’s companion to the DM’s mind flayer campaign. The sourcebook would have all the info for creating psionic characters, along with world material for players who are creating characters for the mind flayer campaign. The player’s book might also have a chapter written from an in-world perspective on psionics and psionic monsters, the kind of information that a character might have access to or have heard.

You can expect us to do one or two such products a year, to give people enough time to play through a campaign without overwhelming them with new options. (source)

We definitely have stuff planned for 2015! We are moving away from the monthly model, and you can expect fewer releases overall, but we want to avoid splat creep and system bloat. That decision is based on our personal preference plus data we collected via the playtest. (source)

Game launch and progress

People at WotC are very happy. People are buying lots of copies of the game, playing it, and talking happily about it. We beat our targets across the board.

I think the biggest change in internal perception is that we have a much better sense of managing the game in the long term. With 3e and 4e under our belts, we understand much better what years 1, 2, 3, and so on look like. We have a better handle on what the D&D audience is doing with the game and how we can serve people.

There’s very much a sense that this is the end of the beginning, and that the next phase is just as important as the launch. From here there’s a lot of hard work to be done to keep people engaged and ensure that we sustain interest and happiness. (source)

Maps drive up prices fairly significantly, and we wanted to hit a $20 retail price for the starter set. On a more general level, D&D has always been a game of the imagination and we wanted to encourage that as the default method of play, both to drive home how D&D is unique and to show new players that they don’t have to buy or make maps as a default.

It’s funny, but we did see people who felt like they needed to spend a ton of money, or needed the exact right minis and tiles, to play 4e. (source)

Can’t say (sales numbers) exactly, but D&D is in a very strong, healthy place. (source)

Honestly, I think the better question is why do people think we’re opaque after we spent two years conducting an incredibly open test driven by rigorously collected and analyzed data? I’m really not sure what else we can do.

IMO, a big drawback we face is that when we say we’ll do something, people hold us to it. D&D is an order of magnitude larger than any other tabletop RPG. If we say we’re going to do X and then don’t deliver, we catch far more grief than any other publisher. (source)

Diversity and better representation

Zero stuff (harassment) directed at me personally, only a few things I heard about in passing. Really, the people who oppose diversity and inclusion are so few in number that they have to make death threats to get any attention.
I also have a sense that there’s a generational divide here. People under 30 just expect a diverse cast and kick ass female characters. (source)

Mass combat rules

Mass combat is not in the DMG – we decided that the system needed more playtesting. So, we’ll be conducting open testing of that material and releasing it as part of Basic D&D once it is complete. (source)

Warforged and Kender

They are not in the DMG, but they will be made available. That material, along with a few other things, were squeezed out due to page count limits. However, the writing is done and we want to get it into your hands. (source)

Conversion guidelines

We’ll be rolling out conversion guidelines for prior editions – they are in the works as I type this. (source)

We will update this list if any more super-interesting answers arrive.

Comments (0)

No comments on this article yet. Why not add your own?

You must be logged in to leave a comment.

DM’ing The Dragon Friends: We Interview Dave Harmon

"I get my close friends together and they bully me for two hours."

Dragon Friends: The story behind the best D&D comedy show around

What happens when three improv comedians pick up a Players Handbook...

Dungeons & Dragons Movie will have ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ feel

Ensemble cast, and possible future spin-offs.

D&D 5E represents ‘a new spirit of collaboration’: We speak to Mike Mearls

We talk the DMs guild, D&D movies, and more.

D&D 5E SRD launches from the team behind D20PFSRD

Glorious free rules.

D&D 5E heads back to Ravenloft with the return of Strahd

Strahd 2: Strahd Harder