Remember a few weeks ago where Millie spoke to our local RPG guru Baz, and the chatted about the launch of D&D 5th ed?

(Pssst the show upload is here ) While we love Baz, and he is a font of all knowledge on RPGs, we also wanted to talk to someone at the heart of D&D. Alas time zones, Gen Con, and the release of the 5th Edition D&D all added up to nothing happening for the show. *le Sigh*


HOWEVER … Yeah you’ve seen the title of the post … we did get to send Mr Mike Mearls (“The main dude on the Dungeons & Dragons R&D team” as he says in his Twitter bio ) a few questions and we were very excited to get his reply back.

GoR : What was the  goal for 5th compared to 4th?
Mike : The big thing for fifth edition compared to 4th  edition was to make the game move quicker. We received a lot of feedback that 4th edition was a little too complex and slow in play. We also saw that while people liked the option for tactical combat, 4th focused on it a bit too much to the detriment of other parts of the game. We made improving on those points a big part of fifth edition.
People definitely liked the approach to balancing character options in 4th. They liked the feel that every character class could contribute, and that you weren’t required to choose from a narrow subset of the options the game presented. Preserving that was definitely an important goal for us.

GoR :How many hours play testing went into this edition?

M: It is almost impossible to calculate. We had over 175,000 people download the playtest rules. 
Since we suspect that for most groups the Dungeon Master downloaded the rules and ran them for a group of players, we think that there was anywhere from 350,000 to 700,000 actual playtesters.
Before even adding in our inner circle of hundreds of testers, the game easily saw several million collective hours of play.

Was there anything you really wanted in 5th that just didn’t work?

Most of my personal regrets focus on story material, rather than mechanics. I wish we had a little more time to really flesh out some of the creatures that are less popular, like troglodytes, with some more details and vivid histories and cultural details. It also would’ve been really cool to include a full selection of demon lords and archdevils in the Monster Manual, but the book was already bursting at the seams with critters.

How do you sync the art with the rules & world building?

It’s a very important step that follows one of two processes.
In some cases, we start with a piece of existing art from D&D’s history and focus on bringing out the interesting and unique details it features. In designing the rules for it, whether it’s a monster or a character, we try to make sure that the most important, vivid elements of its story are reflected and made important in the rules.

Other times, we might have a creature that people know about but hasn’t proven popular. In the case, we look at its unique elements and try to find a new twist or take on them that feels authentic. I’m really happy with some of the adjustments we made to the genies in D&D. Each  genie is aligned to one of the four classic elements (air, earth, water, and fire), and I like how the genies aligned to earth and water are much more obviously tied to them than in the past.

The key is that regardless of which approach we take, someone looking at the art gains an insight into the story and mechanics about a creature or character. Based only on that art, a person should be able to understand a creature’s place in the world and its key traits.


Thanks to Mike for taking the time to answer Millie’s questions! We haven’t had the chance to play any 5th Edition … yet! So let us know what you’ve been up to in the comments below or give us a tweet @GeekOnRadio!