Last night I started reading through the Mike Mearls Ask Me Anything over at Reddit and quickly found that reading through the entire thing is a dreadful chore. To make it easier to understand everything that was said I've gone through and organized the thing focusing on the questions Mike answered, Mike's answers, and the most interesting follow-up points that came after Mike's response.

A few notes before you start reading. Since many of the people on Reddit tend to use lots of abbreviations and allusions to things that Mike may be perfectly aware of but the causal reader will not I'll often be linking to other sites that were not originally linked and explaining the initial use of the abbreviation in brackets (for example - D&D [Dungeons and Dragons - Charlie]) to make sure everyone understands what is being said. All posts will be linked to their original locations by the name of the person making the comment. Mike's responses will be in bold text to help make him stand out. All questions are divided by topic, which are arranged alphabetically, and the questions will be presented in the order they are asked.

Digital Tools

As a software developer by trade, it might be fun to make some D&D tools in my spare time. But of course, if I'm not very careful, I would end up violating your copyright, WotC will have to send me a C&D. I wish there was an API where I could pull a list of spells, or monsters, or races or classes, and get them back as JSON or XML. And I wish access to that API depended on the user, and not as me as a developer. E.g. the user subscribes to DDi [Dungeons and Dragons Insider - Charlie], gives my app their username/password, and now my app gives them access to the list of monsters. - looneysquash

This would be more or less the perfect way of allowing third party tools to create characters, spellbooks, etc. Let the developers use an API that's linked up to DDi. I'd totally renew my DDi subscription for that. - MatthewRoB

That would be pretty cool, wouldn't it? - Mike Mearls

Mike, it is the pink elephant in the room. What happened with Trapdoor and Dungeonscape? What can you say that will inspire us to have patience and confidence in the WotC team to get digital right after the abysmal 16 year track record teams before you have had with digital? Does Orcus secretly run the digital team? (see what I did there . . . Abysmal . . .) - UrsoLeo

I can't speak to the specifics - like any other business relationship, it's nothing something we talk about in public.

More generally, our approach with digital tools, ebooks, new sourcebooks for D&D, and so on follows a similar path: grow D&D. If we take the time to do something new, it has to reach a new audience or make D&D easier to get into. That might be through product design (a newbie can get into the game easier), press coverage (people talk about and raise D&D's profile), or some other element.

That does have the drawback that we can't rush into things or take half-measures if we want to hit our targets, but I think the short term issue of a lack of clarity is worht the long-term prospect of growing D&D to heights it has never reached. - Mike Mearls

Hi Mike,

I've been writing a little code to apply templates to monster statblocks (mostly so that I can easily generate lots of distinct NPCs for the cities my two (mostly urban) campaigns pass through). It's a lot better to have NPC guards in a high elven city open up combat with a cantrip, say. I'm quite pleased with the code - it's able to intelligently pick languages and (for Half Elves and Variant Humans) proficiencies and stat boosts that compliment the base NPC. It is, of course, implementing a load of material from the PHB and MM, so it's locked down on my VPN - not publicly accessible in any way.

How likely is it that it will ever be possible to make such a thing publicly accessible? I realise the most likely answer is that you can't talk about more open licensing yet, but I figure it can't hurt to ask! :-) - oscarhocklee

That sounds pretty cool - we're definitely aware that people want to make their own tools. It's on our radar, but something we don't have any concrete plans for yet. - Mike Mearls

The reasoning that we had always heard for the lack of a 5E tools license and digital PDFs was that Dungeonscape will take care of both of those. Now that Dungeonscape is no more, what reasoning will there be for why we can't have those? - Glae_Hex

We want to produce both tools and ebooks - we're simply at the stage now of planning out how we want to do that in a way that grows D&D. - Mike Mearls

Forgotten Realms Specific Questions

Hey Mike,

I'm swinging away from 5E questions for a second.

So, you've advanced the timeline of the FR by 100 years. Mirt is still alive (somehow), Khelben is dead, and I assume the rest of the old Lords have either died or retired.
Any plans for an update to the Lords of Waterdeep Boardgame for the Lords in the 1480's? Also, I'm writing a campaign in Waterdeep for 5th. Any hope for some City of Splendors lore for the new era, or is it too soon to even think about it? - TrustMeIAmAGeologist

It's a little too soon for Waterdeep in the RPG, but we are considering it. It's a key part of the Realms.

For Lords of Waterdeep, something like that is more likely to show up in a theoretical expansion than in a re-issue of the core game. I'd be worried that people would feel like we were asking them to buy a game they already owned. - Mike Mearls

General System Questions

Hey, Mr. Mearls, congrats on the launch of 5E! I can say without a doubt that 5th Edition has had the most universally positive reception among my friends and local gamers out of all the RPGs we play, so thanks to you and the team for that!

Which parts of each prior edition would you say had the most influence in the development of 5E (4th ed's AEDU [an acronym developed for Fourth Edition that stood for the At Will, Encounter, Daily, and Utility powers - Charlie] powers and structured feeling, 3.5's variety, etc)? If you were to do another playtest on a similar scale and scope of the D&D Next program, what would you do/approach differently, if anything?

Can you give us any idea/hint/statement that everyone will overanalyse on when WotC might start releasing more info on the "living rules system" program (playtesting optional fixes and rules, I think the ranger might have been mentioned at one point as something that your team was looking at)?

How much of fan homebrew and shop-talk does the D&D team take into account, if any, when deciding what new character options they might want to make? For instance, if a tonne of people make their own homebrews for the Changeling race (hint hint) or a rage-powered sorcerer (hint hint hint), would the team prioritise an Eberron release or some sort of book with lots of sorcerer bloodlines?

Finally, which would you rather fight: 20 kobold-sized tarrasques, or 1 tarrasque-sized kobold?

Thanks for helping to bring in a future for D&D that looks bright and full of promise! - NecronPariah

For influences: * 3e's core mechanics, and the concept of unifying things across the board * 4e's approach to a core math foundation, and emphasis on giving every class something cool and unique (might sounds weird to people due to AEDU, but dud classes were a big issue in 3e that 4e really curtailed) * 1e's emphasis on the DM as arbiter and referee, taking priority over the system * 2e's emphasis on roleplaying and storytelling, along with the 2e DMG's presentation of options and variants for the DM

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.

New character options will be driven by story and setting, but any cool idea is fair game. Homebrewing is also a key part of being a DM, and we want to help make the processes behind making transparent as possible.

I'd rather fight one tarrasque-sized kobold. Bigger beastie = bigger target! - Mike Mearls

Oooh, LRS is sooner than I thought! Looking forward to that!

I'm also really, really excited by the paring of new options with story-driven events (and I loved the idea you mentioned earlier for introducing psionics by releasing a psionics book alongside a psionics-themed adventure). It makes it so each event is something to get really pumped up about, unifies the excitement instead of smaller groups getting excited about different things - DMs get their adventure options, character-focused players get new character stuff, and people who love new tools and options get new mechanical stuff!
It changes those conversations with my friends from:

"Dude, Book 1 is coming out next month! It has Thing 1 + 2 in it!"

"Yeah, I'm not a fan of that - I like Thing 3, which is coming out six months from now"

"And I'd rather see more options for This Other Type of Thing, but they haven't announced support for that."

to something where people can say

"Dude, Event 1 is starting next month! It has Thing 1 + 2 in it!"

"Yeah, and the Event is about Faction 3, which is my favorite!"

"And they're expanding on Area 4 of the world - I've always loved the background behind it!"

Also, I'm really, excited to hear about transparency for homebrewing! One of my biggest worries about the "DMs run it however they want" is that many DMs won't allow homebrew from other groups because they aren't sure about it being balanced. But having transparency in the process of making stuff makes it much more likely that different DMs will accept homebrew (or at least be willing to give it a try). - NecronPariah

Were there any features of DnD that you wanted to remove or heavily alter, but couldn't because they have been grandfathered in for so long? - Abdial

There actually aren't too many traditional pieces I wanted gone. It was more stuff I would've added to the game but couldn't for reasons of time, budget, and priorities.

Probably the only mechanic I'm not crazy about is XP [experience - Charlie] and leveling. If I could, I'd build a system where gaining a new class feature is driven by story-based prereqs [prerequisites - Charlie]. Like, you can't learn to cast fireball until you've defeated a fire elemental and captured its essence, or after slaying the orc king a fighter can master a new battle axe technique.

Here's what I'd do if I designed the game solely for myself.

More dice, fewer static modifiers. I'd use a die in place of the proficiency bonus. I like rolling dice and find it easier to teach that way.

A few more classes and races - goliaths, a fey race that isn't an elf, centaurs dropped to size Medium and made a playable race; for classes, really nail down psionics in a way that makes them fit with fantasy cleanly to the point that they can be in the PHB without confusing people. All this stuff comes down to time and focus - the more you do, the less time you have to polish what's there, so no regrets that it's not there. Just stuff I personally like

I wish the MM [Monster Manual - Charlie] could be an app rather than a book. Working in page counts sucks, to be honest. I would've loved to break out tables of bonds, traits, and flaws for every intelligent creature in the game. Don't get me wrong, I love physical books, but on the digital front there's so much potential in breaking out of physical restriants.

More domains. I love deities in fantasy, and I think I could've put another 12 domains on the list for the cleric.

More backgrounds by culture - delve into a few historical eras and bust out backgrounds to let you adapt the classes to play in fantasy takes on them.  - Mike Mearls

Love 5e. Why did you bind Eldritch Knight so tightly to two schools in the Wizard spellbook? - IWantToFishIt

It's a trade off between getting fighter abilities and going full-fledged caster. The wizard's key with magic is flexibility. Class options that make another class wizard-ly tend to sacrifice that range of options to become good at one thing. We also wanted the eldritch knight to really capture that warrior/mage flavor, hence the focus. Finally, we wanted to ensure that a fighter/wizard multiclass (for people using that system) remained an interesting choice, rather than one that the EK eliminated. The two options had to exist in harmony. - Mike Mearls

What were some of your personal design goals/preferences for 5E that you feel either weren't implemented the way you'd have personally liked, or got cut fro the final release entirely? - Atmosfear2012

I touched on this earlier, but I'll go into more detail here - I'd love get rid of XP and maybe even level benefits and replace it with a system of rewards based on your deeds.

I love how in Elder Scrolls games my character improves at the things I do. If I sneak a lot, I get better at sneaking. I'm not sure there's an elegant way to make that work on a tabletop, but I think it would be cool.

For more noteworthy stuff, I imagine a system that gives you special abilities based on deeds you complete in game. Let's say your fighter manages to wrestle and kill a stone giant. That might earn you big bonus to all checks made for wrestling and a special ability when fighting giants.

It's the kind of system that I think can work for an individual group, but I'm not sure it works as something you create for a mass audience. - Mike Mearls

I'm curious, what made you/the designers decide the the Death domain should be villainous/evil, DMG only material? Especially when the flagship setting for 5th edition has a neutral god of death in Kelemvor? Not to mention the fact that the Necromancer wizard has a far more evil vibe, but was still put in the Player's Handbook instead of held back like the Death domain.

I can understand the whole "undead are evil" thing, but the Death domain doesn't even mess about with undead for the most part (it has animate dead as a domain spell, but that's it... and again, the Necromancer wizard loves undead). Given the wealth of non-evil deities of death, both in the real world and the various D&D settings, what caused that decision? - JRutterbush

Kelemvor is a little bit of an outlier compared to most settings. We wanted it to be available in the core, but felt that making it a default didn't fit the flavor of most campaigns.

While DMs can pick and choose options, we felt that the PHB had to be a selection of material that 90% of DMs would be happy to have in their campaigns. The death domain and the oathbreaker didn't quite hit that level. - Mike Mearls

Mike, gotta say I love 5e. It's my favorite iteration of the d20 system since its inception, mostly because of the flattened math. For years I tried to invent alternate magic systems that used skills, tried to implement a wound system, shift combat over to skills... none of it worked because of the spiraling math of previous editions. With 5e I have a simple enough framework to make those things happen if I want, so thank you.

My last remaining "bugbear" (haha) is the class system. I don't even mind levels so much, but I don't having to force my character idea into one of several predetermined categories, nor the other way, picking one and then building a character concept from there. With the new system it seems easier than ever to have a classless method of character creation. Any chance we could get something like that down the line? - HawaiianBrian

I'd love to do it - probably not in the near future, but it's a system I'd personally like to see.

The tricky thing is that invariably, there is a "correct" build. I think if we went this route, we'd try to balance things as we could but we'd focus more on giving DMs good guidelines to handle balance issues that come up in their games. - Mike Mearls

Is it mathematically possible for 5th edition to model the following situation:

"Two characters of the same level are attempting a reasonably difficult task. One character is sufficiently unskilled that they have almost no chance of success; the other character is an expert, who is experienced enough that they have no chance of failure."

As a concrete example, let's say that both I and a Nobel-laureate mathematician try to derive a complex (but unremarkable) mathematical proof. I have enough knowledge of math that I could take a crack at it, but I'd need many attempts to even come close to a solution. The mathematician would have no trouble solving it on her first attempt.
This is a pretty common thing in everyday life. Most people have no chance of picking even an ordinary lock, while someone with basic training can do it with no trouble. Most people can't deadlift 200 lbs, but most weightlifters would find it trivial. 3rd edition can easily model this with its skills system: if a task has a DC of 25, any character with less than 5 in that skill has no chance of success, while any character with 25 or more has no chance of failure, and it's pretty easy for (say) two 10th level characters to fit that bill.
It seems like this is impossible in 5th edition, because there's a (very small) maximum difference between the skills of any two characters of the same level. If so, why design it this way? Essentially, it seems like in 5e no character can ever be an expert at anything. At least, not compared to other characters of the same level. - m_data

That's only if you define expert as something that excludes a chance of success for other characters. D&D, being focused on heroic fantasy, doesn't follow that line of thinking. D&D errs on the side of giving you at least some chance of success.

That's not a judgment on what is correct for any RPG. It's just what's correct for D&D. - Mike Mearls

General Questions for Mike

Hi Mike!

Big fan. What's the meanest/funniest thing you've done as a DM to a group of players? Not that anything DM's do could be considered mean, they're great. I unconditionally love them and would never want to upset them. All DM's are powerful and good looking. Fact.
Also, what's the meanest/funniest thing you've done as a player to another player or DM? - Eggnpggin

Meanest thing as a DM: It's small, but it's the first thing that comes to mind.

3e Eberron game, the characters are fighting their way through a frost giant outpost high in the mountains. The giants send a pack of dire wolves out to rush the PCs. The halfling player comes up with a fiendish plan. He decides to leap on the back of a dire wolf and attack. The wolves can't bite at him while he's there, he declares. It would be crazy unrealistic for them to risk biting their packmate. Plus, the giants would clearly avoid throwing boulders at the halfling and risk squashing their pet.

I agree with his cogent points.

On the giants' next turn, they use a free action to whistle and ready their actions to ends that are inscrutable to the players. Halfling player is perplexed. On the wolf's next turn, it runs back to its master in response to the whistle. Giant #1 pulls the halfling off the wolf's back. Giants #2-6 pummel the crap out of him. That was the last time he tried riding a giant wolf.

Funniest/meanest thing done to another player - buried a rogue alive, not realizing that the ring of regeneration he stole from the fighter was going to revive him in a few hours. - Mike Mearls

1.) I'm surprised there was so much of a gap between PHB, MM, and the still pending DM guide (especially since the books reference each other). Can you explain why the staggered release?

2.) I got into D&D with 4e (before that I was just a spectator on the sidelines -- and I guess never winter nights 1/2 if that counts). What were some of the disadvantages of the 'at-will / encounter / daily' style of abilities (as opposed to the now minutes / full-rest).
3.) I'm still getting used to D&D 5e. I think having specific skills (e.g. athletics, bluff, etc.) was actually more clear than the 5e system; can you detail the design intent behind the change?

4.) I must admit that while I love D&D, I try my best to avoid the cannon fluff whenever I can. Mostly because I have a really hard time rationalizing things like hoards of treasure waiting to be seized (that would destroy economies), the long-term effects of magic on the development of society (e.g. arcane wind mills / necromantic farmers / any disease or ailment being 'fixable' regardless of what it was), the effect of different planes and 'Gods' directly interfering with mortals, etc. What can you tell me to rationalize this aversion?
Overall, I'm pretty giddy -- I read my PHB every other night as bed-time material. Once the DM guide comes out in December, I'll finally start a game that my friends and I have been planning for several years.

Also, just to reinforce what people have said (and I know you can't talk about it), but the 4e DnD insider tools were some of the best things ever. The entire cost of the subscription was worth it just for the character builder. It was that same character builder that I used to rope so many others into this hobby as well. And now, with so many of my friends being spread all over the globe, having roll20.net is a huge boon.

Edit: Follow up bonus 5.) Here is a link to the last AMA you did 2 years ago. Some notable topics you touched upon: feat support / relevancy of D&D in the future / logistics of large encounters, number mechanics (AC, adv/disadv) / play-testing feedback / caster-fighter balancing. Going back through that AMA now, are there any questions / answers that you think have changed in these 2 years? - saadistic1

It was a hard lesson from 4e. Staggering the release allowed the same core team to work on every book. That improved consistency and solved a lot of quality control issues that plagued us in the past. Short-term pain for people starting campaigns, but worth it for the long term health of the game.

The big disadvantages of AEDU, based on feedback we saw in the playtest, come in two areas.

First, we saw that many players don't want much complexity in combat. They're happy to just attack. AEDU forced everyone to the same level of complexity. Second, making it easy to get back encounter powers made each battle feel too similar. People could easily fall into a script they repeated fight after fight. It was not a result I expected, but pushing the short rest to one hour makes an encounter ability feel more precious. Using it is seen as a real risk now, rather than an automatic choice.

The skills in 5e gave way to a bigger emphasis on ability scores. We found that this approach made the game easier to understand and forced us to adopt a more streamlined system. The skill system used to hide a lot of complexity. By forcing that material into the core system, we had a better feel for the real weight it carried and could take steps in the core to simplify things.

I don't think you need to rationalize it - every DM has a unique approach to D&D. My advice would be to meet it head on - how would you change your campaign setting to account for that? What are the interesting interactions that arise and what do they mean for the world?

Personally, I like how some of that stuff can twist things around and make a setting unique.

Prior AMA - Let me get to some more questions here before I go back through the old one, but it's definitely an interesting idea. - Mike Mearls

Hey Mike,

Just got into tabletop last year and now I'm addicted. Been following you ever since, lapping up the tidbits about D&D 5 leading up to the launch. 2 questions: 1. What's your very best life advice? 2. What exactly does the D&D R&D office look like? I imagine there are vials and bunsen burners?- uberlad

Don't just accept the options that other people give to you. Find your own path. If you don't know what that path is, find a steady job to keep yourself comfortable while you work that out.

Focus on what you really want, not what people tell you you're supposed to want.
People totally underrate jobs like becoming a plumber and look down their noses at it. But when you think about it, being a plumber pays well, you have different challenges every day, and when you get good you can start your own business with it. People will always need toilets and they will always pay lots of money to keep their toilets working. And if your toilet breaks, you can fix it yourself.

The office is like your basic, open cube layout, but features a lot more D&D posters, action figures, board games, and dioramas of ruined castles than most other offices. - Mike Mearls

Great Game Guys

. . . I played my first game of D&D in 1976. I'm 57 & have played EVERY edition. My current campaign has been running for 30 + years & has evolved through 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and now 5th edition. Just wanted to say "Thank You"; I think (as a whole) you guys have done a fantastic job on this edition (of course there's a couple of things I'm not fond of - but I'll just ignore 'em!). Can't wait for the DMG [Dungeon Master's Guide - Charlie] & am looking to the future. Please, DO come up with some sort of digital character manager - DandD76

Thanks! Glad you enjoy the game! - Mike Mearls

Horde of the Dragon Queen

Hi Mike,

I'm currently running the HotDQ [Horde of the Dragon Queen - Charlie] adventure with my party, and we're liking the system a lot. My big issue is that my party has now amassed a lot of money, but have nothing to spend it on. The PHB [Player's Handbook - Charlie] says that only common magic items are sold, so it sounds like they can't buy +1 weapons, etc. What can my party do with all its wealth? - SatsumaOranges

The DMG has guidelines on this, but to tide you over I'd take a look at the final chapter of HotDQ (spoiler - flying castle) and set a price tag on getting that thing repaired and flying again. Stuff like that gets players really excited, because they get a really cool toy that logically needs a lot of cash to keep functional (staff, guards, repairs, etc.) Otherwise, I'd eyeball magic item sales, land and titles, and so on. The key for me as DM is to avoid giving the players a blank check - for magic items, I'd have them create a list of ones they want to buy, then incorporate that into the game as a key event (someone sells them a treasure map to one, someone else will take a bribe to help steal one, etc - keep it fresh rather than making it feel like a trip to the corner store). - Mike Mearls

I hadn't even thought of letting PCs purchase a noble title. That... makes me happy. - darkpsimystic

Iron Heroes

What's your favorite story about/from Iron Heroes? - gradenko_2000

Man, that takes me back. Probably my favorite moments were watching people play the game while I was still designing it. A friend of mine ran a few sessions, and I'd sit and observe his gaming group play. It was interesting watching the game come to life, seeing what worked and what didn't.

I also learned tons about the process behind creating an RPG - the behind the scenes stuff - that came into play during 5th's development. Iron Heroes really needed another year or so to gestate before it was ready for prime time. - Mike Mearls

Open Gaming License

Any idea of when details of the 5th ed. version of the OGL will be released (that is, if there is one)? - DandD76

No news yet, but we plan to announce something within the next couple of months or so - Mike Mearls

Specific System Questions

A couple of questions about passive skills. As I understand it, they are used when someone is passively doing something rather than actively, so passive perception is used as a baseline for how much a character notices when he's not actively looking around.

So if a character with a passive perception of 13 is actively looking around for something that can be seen on a perception DC [Difficulty Class, a measure for determining how difficult a task is in the game - Charlie] of 10, and he rolls a 2, does he not see it? Or should passive perception be considered the minimum possible value for that character?

Passive Investigation is mentioned in the Observant feat, but I have not seen anything else written on how you passively investigate something, or what situations warrant using this skill. Are there other skills that can be done passively? - GunnerMcGrath

Any skill can be used passively - it's up to the DM [Dungeon Master - Charlie] to apply that as needed.

For perception checks, you passive result is always in effect. If you could see soemthing with a DC 10 check and your passive is 11, you see it without rolling.

Keep in mind, though, that a DM might rule otherwise. Passive checks are a tool that groups can use to speed up the game or move past die results that slow things down or lead to a grind. - Mike Mearls

Monk weapons are any simple weapon that aren't heavy or two-handed, and short swords. Quarterstaff and spear fit this criteria, but also have versatile. So can these be used two-handed for 1d8 damage and still benefit from teh martial arts bonus unarmed attack, or can they only get their bonus attack if they use the weapons one-handed?

Related question, can you confirm that unarmed attack can apply to using elbows, knees, feet, and heads? Seems like this would be the most common way to attack unarmed while wielding weapons but just checking. Thanks! - GunerMcGrath

Keeping in mind that Crawford [Jeremy Crawford is credited as co-lead designer of this edition - Charlie] is the official rules expert, these are IME [In my estimation - Charlie] -

Using a d8 weapon with the monk isn't the end of the world. It's 1 point more of damage on average than intended - the system is robust enough that you won't really notice. I allow it in my own games.

Unarmed attacks are the same - I allow head butts and kicks. The monk in my group fights with a staff two-handed and does exactly that. It works fine, especially because she's the group's main melee character - Mike Mearls

Hey Mike, thanks for taking the time to answer questions. I want to preface this by saying overall I love 5e, but my questions are going to be directed at the things I do not love.

1) Why is alignment still a thing? All of the class alignment restrictions have been removed, and pretty much all of the penalties tied to violating alignment are gone, so what function does it serve? Was it kept around just to justify the wholesale slaughter of orcs?

2) Traits, Ideals, Flaws, and Bonds were an incredible introduction to 5e, and I've found they're great at giving starting characters real personality. That said, why don't they have more mechanical support? I really would have liked to see more bonuses for embracing, as well as penalties for ignoring them.

3) As a DM, I really value consistency. I want my players to know what their characters can accomplish, and be confident about those things. When it comes to ability checks though, difficulties for standard activities (climb a wall, swim in a river) seem to be left out entirely. Can we look forward to seeing some guidelines in the DMG?

4) Resting for a night replenishes all of a characters HP, as well as half their hit dice. The full heal seemed to garner a fair bit of criticism during the playtest, so what was the deciding factor in including it? - IronApothecary

1. Alignment is a uniquely D&D thing that people associate with the game and make references to in pop culture. It's also an easy shorthand to describe characters in broad strokes.

It's also a handy tool to describe the basic tendencies of factions in D&D while allowing for conflict between good-aligned groups. That's a subtle thing, but it bakes in the idea that the Harpers and the Order of the Gauntlet don't always get along, because they differ on how they see good as a force in the world.

1. We avoided penalties in the game as much as possible, primarily because we feel that giving people incentives or bonuses to do things is a better motivator. That said, in the playtest and design process we felt that a light touch gave groups more room to determine how important roleplaying out character traits was to the table. If we add too many mechanics, we risk hitting the point where roleplay feels scripted or by the numbers.

2. There are more guidelines for DCs in the DMG, but we are consciously avoiding the concept of a canonical list of DCs. Each DM has a different approach, and we also feel that the spread of DCs is narrow enough that DMs can quickly silo tasks into them.

3. We found that the full heal was the most popular option, but there are alternatives in the DMG. It's definitely a case where groups varied the most in terms of preference, but full healing seemed to make many groups happy while doing the least offense in turning people away. We generally created defaults that are fairly liberal, and then let DMs tone down things. That seems to be a pattern that works well for most DMs. - Mike Mearls

Is the mass combat Battlesystem you posted about in L&L going to be in the DMG? What about material for PC domains? I really want to incorporate that stuff into my campaign as it levels up. - monstermanual

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.

There are rules for domains and managing a realm or business as part of the downtime system. - Mike Mearls

What kinds of guidelines were used when assigning monsters their CRs? Is there a range of values for each rating/level? Coming from 4e with its fairly strict progression I've been having a hard time finding any sort of pattern in monster capabilities. - ImpactVector

It's much 4e, but with a key wrinkle.

The DMG breaks down CR into an offensive and defensive rating, with a range of values for each (attack bonus and damage for offense, AC and hit points for defense). Special abilities can also modify those CRs, and this is where a fair amount of design sense and playtesting comes in to make sure that something is weighed correctly. Once you're done, you simply average out offensive CR and defensive CR to come to your final rating. Again, you might adjust a little in either direction for monsters with weird abilities, but the process is easy if you're making typical monsters. - Mike Mearls

What was your favorite concept from the 5e playtest cycle which got left on the cutting room floor? - Cramulus

I mentioned dice in place of the flat proficiency bonus, but here's another one. At one point, each martial weapon had a special maneuver built into it. It was a cool idea, but it proved too complex at the table.

Were I to do it again, I'd look at using the 4e weapon categories, tying the special maneuvers to those categories, and giving only certain characters access to them (fighters can use any of them, other classes more limited). - Mike Mearls

Hey Mike, can you talk a little bit about the design philosophy behind the PHB crafting rules? Page 187 describes the downtime activities, and the example listed talks about a character having to spend 300 days crafting a single suit of plate armor. That seems unusually long for a blacksmith (though I have admittedly never crafted armor in my life).
Why the 5g max per day forumla?- jeddite

On one hand, it captures the work effort needed to do fairly complex things, like a suit of full, heavy armor. On top of that, you can assume that a smith will have multiple people working on something. From a balance point of view, the idea is to let players make simple objects or items between adventures. - Mike Mearls

You can spend 250 days and 250 gold to learn a new tool or language, why not a skill as well? Why is there no way to add skills except via feat or multiclassing? Do you see any balance issue with allowing this? - GunnerMcGrath

It's definitely a case where it comes down to the group. Since some classes receive more skills than others, we decided to not put that option in there for "soft" balance reasons. By soft, I mean the following - it doesn't break the game, but it might irritate some players. Niche protection is a key part of class design, and a lot of players see skill training as a key part of the rogue and bard. Letting other classes match them in skills might make those classes feel squeezed out.

As a DM, you can use it without issue if you feel that your table will be fine with the change. Like a lot of things in RPGs, you might find an issue that exists for D&D players as whole doesn't affect your group. - Mike Mearls

Hello Mike. I had the pleasure of meeting you at Gen Con. Thanks again for taking your time then and now to answer questions.

Travel Pace (pg 182): Is this a blanket table regardless of the speed of the creatures involved? I know the rules list exceptions for flying creatures and the like, but the table seems to be based on creatures with speed 30. I also note the line about horses going faster over short distances. I'm just having trouble seeing a horse with speed 60, a wagon drawn by draft horses and a dwarf all travelling at the same pace if they are travelling separtely. Is this something that will be more detailed in the DMG? - PFBeginner

This is an area where we erred on the side of ease of use. Someone (maybe Crawford?) did some research on travel times of mounts vs. people on foot, and came to the conclusion that it was pretty exceptional and required a lot of support for mounts to provide a significant, long-term speed boost.

IIRC [If I remember correctly - Charlie], the Pony Express required riders to swap out horses several times per day, and the animals themselves had serious risks of injury. So, for that reason and to keep things simple, we standardized travel times. - Mike Mearls

The PHB says that a paladin who breaks his oath can become an Oathbreaker Paladin or "abandon this class and adopt another." Does this just mean begin mutliclassing as usual? Does a 10th level paladin who breaks his oath and switches to Fighter or Rogue retain all his existing Paladin powers and just become unable to learn new ones, or do some of them go away? I always had the impression that a fallen paladin (who does not become an evil paladin from the DMG) would lose his divine abilities temporarily or permanently. - GunnerMcGrath

It's based on the DM's campaign. You can go two ways - the paladin can multiclass and keep the existing paladin powers, or the paladin rebuilds as a character with levels in a different class (most likely fighter). In the first case, you're saying that paladin is something that people can learn. As you level up in the class, you unlock secrets that you get to keep. In the second, you're saying that once you anger the gods, they take your power away. In a campaign where paladins aren't tied to deities, the first approach makes sense. The second one fits if you see the gods as tightly tied to what makes a paladin a paladin. - Mike Mearls

Does the DMG include wealth by level tables and magic item price for GMs who want to run very high magic games? - PepticBurrito

We give a baseline of how many items are typical for a campaign, plus guidelines for creating higher level characters and their typical gear. There are price ranges based on level for items, plus guidelines for buying and selling items. - Mike Mearls

Would you let a caster with 6 levels in sorcerer (draconic bloodline) and 10 levels of wizard, evocation spec do +int and +cha to their wizard evocation spells of their dragon's element.  - egopunk

Yes, should stack. - Mike Mearls

How do you handle the Assassin's Assassinate feature in conjunction with creatures joining an existing combat? If the Assassin is hidden at the moment they join combat, can the Assassin "surprise" them? - Unsight

I'd say yes. Essentially, surprise occurs when one side is unaware of the other. Once battle is joined, though, I'd allow it only for someone entering the fight for the first time. - Mike Mearls

Why did the Monk's unarmed damage get reduced from 1d6 to 1d4 at first level? - Slutmiko

Believe it was to keep bonus attacks with unarmed strike balanced. - Mike Mearls

Elemental Languages:

PHB lists only Primordial (and it says typical speakers are Elementals)

MM lists Auran, Terran, Ignan, and Aquan. Primordial is not mentioned anywhere

Is this a mistake, or is Primordial supposed to encompass all four of those languages?
edit- Night Hag and Kraken mention Primordial, but not the Elementals. As an aside, love this new edition and enjoyed the playtest. Great work to your team and you!- OkinShield

Page 123 of the PHB, under languages, paragraph 3 touches on this - Terran et al are dialects of Primordial. Some creatures know the root language, others only speak variations of it. - Mike Mearls

Wizards of the Coast Future Plans / Questions

What's the internal WotC perception of the launch of the current edition as compared to previous editions? - cahpahkah

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 - Mike Mearls

Is there the hope and intention to try and get 10-12 years from this edition like 2e and (via pathfinder) v3.5? Kylden_Ar

Yes - that would be ideal. - Mike Mearls

Any tips for people who want to break into game development as a career? Is there any such thing as an "entry-level" game designer / writer / developer in WotC? (Not just thinking of RPGs, but all types of games that WotC is involved in). - EdgeOfDreams

There really aren't entry level positions on staff for D&D. Biggest piece of advice - make your own games. Either self-publish on the cheap, or just walk through the process of making a game to learn what works.

For education, a good mix is useful. Learn a bit of coding, math, history, English. Game design is fundamentally the art of communication. Understanding how to present your ideas and entertain people is key. - Mike Mearls

Will the PDFs of the 5e books be sold? - Nicolascarrillos

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. - Mike Mearls

You've mentioned that you were going to stay away from the splatbook-a-month model of 3.x, and that most of the monetization would come from settings and APs [associated products? - Charlie]. It's also been said that you would expand character options with books on things like psionics. Could you explain in a bit more detail what kind of books we'll see in the future and what kind we won't? Will we see the same kinds of books as in 3.x, but with more time for editing and more care given to avoid bloat? - ademonicspoon

I'll give you an example of a theoretical expansion.

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 compainon 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. - Mike Mearls

Given that 5e's spiritual predecessors are (mainly, as far as I can reckon it) 2E and 3.5E, what do you fell 5E offers those who prefer 4E's style of play? Do you worry about losing the support of 4E's fanbase? - dancey

We actually found in the playtest that people's play preferences don't break down by edition. Support for fifth was equally high across people who expressed an edition preference, regardless of that preference.

That said, we'll have guidelines for miniatures, grids, and tactical combat in the DMG for people who want more detail there. There are character options that offer more round-by-round choice in the PHB. - Mike Mearls

Can you tell us a little bit about anything that is on the official schedule? - zephyrdragoon

We have two things still to come for the 5e launch.

The DMG is out in late November in core stores, early December at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other mass retailers. It covers everything the DM needs to create campaigns and adventures, lots of tools to make a DM's life easier, and plenty of new mechanical options for DMs to tweak the system to suit their needs.

The DM screen comes out in January. It has all the relevant tables, summaries of conditions, and so on. Since 5e is fairly light, it also has room for stuff like random name generators, things that can be handy for a DM to use during a session. - Mike Mearls

It's no secret that WotC's other big property is Magic: The Gathering. It would seem like easy money to make a D&D campaign guide to a Magic setting like Ravnica. So my question is: Is there something preventing this from happening? What about a Magic set in the Spelljammer or Dark Sun?

Also . . . Merfolk as PCs when? I want my Merfolk Paladin in 5e. - CoffeeDave

Merfolk PCs would be cool.

Porting Magic settings to D&D would be cool, but we also have a lot of D&D material to work through first. That's the biggest barrier - we have enough D&D material to last us a long time.

Magic aslo works on a much different schedule than D&D. It would take a fair amount of coordination to get everyone on the same page.

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