View Full Version : A chat with Mike Mearls on D&D Game Day

2007-11-05, 09:35 AM
Hey all!

I hope everyone had a great D&D Game Day on saturday. On my way to my D&D session, I swung into The Source Comics and Games (http://www.sourcecandg.com/) for some Game Day goodness. I picked up a couple booster packs of minis and The Savage World of Solomon Kane. And I ended up meeting Dave Arneson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Arneson), co-creator of D&D, and had about a couple moments to chat with Mike Mearls, Lead Designer for 4th Edition.

Since Mike is the Lead Designer, I just had to ask him what was he and his team keeping in mind throughout this design process of 4th Edition. He paused for a moment and told me it was they want it to "feel" like D&D, maybe old school D&D as our chat continued. He told me about tossing some 4th edition monsters into a 1st edition dungeon and it just "feeling" the same. He wants it when you're fighting goblins, that you're fighting a bunch of them like the old days.

I told him about the Basic Fantasy RPG and Labyrinth Lords and how they take the d20 system making it old school. I said he'll have to have his team take a look at what the fans of D&D are making for themselves to get his finger on the "pulse" of what we're wanting. He told me he was familiar with Labyrinth Lords, but he didn't want to take rules from other sources. He said they've got an idea of what D&D should be and they're working towards making that happen.

He mentioned 3rd edition having a rule for everything and I got the impression they're going way from that as well. Very consistent with what we've been hearing.

Oh, one more thing before I wrap up. He mentioned swinging a sword at a baddie and it disappearing, kind of making the monsters more mysterious. It would seem he's taking time to get monsters done right. Though the challenge is giving each monster it's own flavor and making them "feel right".

Overall, my impression is this guy loves the game and truly wants it to feel like D&D when they're done. It would seem as well he wants it to feel a little old school too. And one of best things I've heard straight from his mouth is making life for the DM easier and allowing more time for story and flavor of the game.

I'm not a journalist and this "chat" was in no way a formal interview. It was just a gamer (me) asking a couple questions about a game he enjoys. :smallbiggrin:

Thanks for reading!


Rex Blunder
2007-11-05, 01:42 PM
I like Mearls, and I like the philosophy behind his hiring: cherrypicking talented d20 designers who have done good work outside of WOTC, and then give them a chance to shake things up in WOTC.

What's Dave Arneson up to these days?

2007-11-05, 01:46 PM
This leaves my spirits somewhat lifted. I hate the 'rule for everything' in 3rd Ed. If I want to climb up a giant's back, it involves a grapple check that I can't possibly win, followed by a flurry of different options, none of which involve climbing up the giant.

2007-11-05, 01:51 PM
I think Mearls has very good ideas about how a RPG game should work. He wrote Iron Heroes, which is the setting I play right now.
IH has two great mechanics which greatly reduce the amount of rules needed, namely challenges and stunts. A challenge is taking a penalty to one thing and getting a bonus to another. A stunt is combining skills into a heroic action. The DM decides whether a stunt or challenge thought of by a player can work and the book gives numerous examples.
I think Mearls will be using similar ideas in 4e, which I think is great.

2007-11-05, 01:54 PM
Personally, I quite like the large amount of rules, because it means less thinking and more thinking at the same time. I find that when a player wants to be creative (which I love) I just need to modify existing rules, or couple them in odd ways. It's quite rare that when they're being creative that I use normal rules, but I'm not sure how I'd go at having to create rules entirely from scratch...so the large amount of rules, I think, can be a help, not a constraint.

2007-11-05, 02:07 PM
Rex, Arneson is teaching a Game Developer's course out west. And will be coming back to the Twin Cities for his annual D&D session around Christmas time. I did ask him how much fun he had re-writing Blackmoor. It perked him up a bit, he smiled and said he had loads of fun ... until it became work. :smallsmile:

SoD, I can understand the large amount of rules you like having because it creates a more complete baseline for a ruling and that's important. I like a slimmer set of rules to make the adjudication of an encounter go smoother. I like it when my players are creative as well, the rules are there as a guideline as far as I'm concerned. Ultimately, it's about having a good time.

squishycube, I had no idea Mearls wrote Iron Heroes. That lifts me up even more as Spikefightwicky has been lifted. :smallbiggrin: