Monday, August 20, 2007

Gen Con hints

I've gone and watched all of the video on YouTube posted by GamerZer0, where they're interviewing members of the D&D development team and getting a few bits of information from them before it's posted on the Wizard's website.

One issue mentioned was that 3.0/3.5 currently has a "sweet spot" in a character's development, somewhere in the levels 7-14 range, where gameplay is the most exciting -- before that, it's hard to stay alive, and after that, an encounter gets too cumbersome. I can see what they're saying, though I still find that the low levels are where the biggest challenges lie -- staying alive -- and nothing shows the better than the numerous young corpses we've left scattered around Faerûn. The claim by Andy Collins (the interviewee) was that they're looking for what makes these sweet-spot levels the best, and will try to distribute those features throughout the 30 levels which make up the base range.

Continuous playability was mentioned briefly, specifically the sad tale of the spellcaster that uses up all of his or her spells early on, and is resigned to drawing crossbow or dagger to try and stay helpful. They want to ensure that this isn't necessary -- that a wizard can be a wizard -- which makes me wonder if some spells are going to be considered spell-like abilities, much like the Warlock class in the Complete Arcane. I must admit, this is what appealed to me about the Warlock.

Conversions from 3.5 to 4.0 were briefly discussed, and it was mentioned that attempts to provide conversions from 2.0 to 3.0 failed, and that this time they're just encouraging players to watch the new 4.0 unfold and consider how their character can be created in 4.0. This tells me that the 4.0 rules are going to be quite different, which isn't good to hear for those of us that have a whole library of 3.0/3.5 material. On the other hand, it might just imply that there are so many options available in 4.0 that you'd just rather recreate your character than move it across.

It was pretty much admitted that many of the variant books that have been released lately were beta tests for different design ideas, ones that may or may not be moved into 4.0. At least they admit it, but it feels kind of cheap. Granted, it was always our choice as the players and consumers to buy or not buy a book. I know that some in our group just hated all of the variant types of magic that kept getting introduced (pact magic, etc.) and some feel that psionics should be banished completely. The Book of Nine Swords was mentioned as being "early 4.0" content, which is interesting for those that have read it, to get a feel for the direction of the designers.

Character roles were discussed, where they focused on designing the core classes to specific tasks in a part. One part that struck home was when they said that if someone wanted to play a druid, say, the party had to be such-and-such size, so it had the required roles already filled. We've seen this many times when starting a new campaign -- players will say "if you're not making a rogue, then I will, but then we still need a cleric..." Of course, they're talking about making these lines more defined, which might be contrary to this problem -- will multiclassing be a requirement, now, or vanish?

While discussing designing encounters, they mentioned how monsters will also have roles, such as the upfront fighter against the party, the hide-in-the-shadows foe, etc. They started introducing this in 3.5 with the later books, with the idea of a Tactics section. It sounds like they're focusing on this more to help out the DM in designing encounters, which I think could work well. Of course, it doesn't stop the DM from doing whatever they want with monster, but helps those that might just have everyone charge forward, even when they shouldn't.

One worry from many fans, myself included, was that D&D was becoming more and more miniature-based -- the fact that the books have "feet" as well as "squares" as units of movement started to worry me a bit. We're assured in one interview that the miniatures will be no more needed in 4.0 than they are in 3.5, and that the changes in 4.0 that streamline the rules have a "ripple effect" that means that representing your party with miniatures is less necessary to follow what's going on and determining if you can use this or that ability. I felt this was good news indeed.

That's it for the time being, but it might give a bit of hope... time to go hear about the electronic versions of Dragon and Dungeon magazines, the demise of which really struck a blow with me.

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