D&D Archives07/13/2003

Designer Notes

It's finally here -- the much-anticipated revision of the core D&D rules. Now that you can thumb through the new Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual to your heart's content, let the design team lead you on a behind-the-scenes tour of how the books came together. Read exclusive firsthand accounts of the debates and decisions that mattered most.

Rich Baker

"Bill Slavicsek, director of RPG R&D, asked me to consider the notion of adding high-powered, scarier versions of some common monsters -- something that would put a little fear and excitement back into the players. So we created more than two dozen advanced monsters, such as the mummy lord, the dread wraith, and the aboleth mage. . . ."

Andy Collins

"Thanks in large part to its strong association with popular heroes such as Aragorn, Robin Hood, and Drizzt Do'Urden, the ranger occupies a special place in the hearts of many D&D players. The image of a hardy, self-sufficient wilderness warrior is a strong one, and the class has a long history in D&D. But despite having some cool abilities in 3rd edition, the latest incarnation of the class failed to capture fully the imaginations and hearts of the players. Worse yet, it felt to many like the barbarian's weak cousin, as that class had much more potently captured the image described above. Something had to be done about this."

Gwendolyn Kestrel

"A dark figure stealthily maneuvers along the top of the castle wall and sneaks shadow-quiet into the Chamberlain's bedroom. Thunk! The assassin's bulky backpack knocks over an oil lamp. It crashes to the floor, awakening the Chamberlain. Why would an assassin carry a bulky backpack? His cumbersome spellbook."

Kim Mohan

"In my role as managing editor for the revised D&D core rulebooks, one of the most important jobs I performed was copyfitting -- the art/science of creating a book that contains all the information that needs to be in it and takes up the exact number of pages the book is meant to have. Getting the version 3.5 books to come out to the right number of pages turned out to be not unlike trying to put 10 pounds of stuff in the proverbial 5-pound bag. Even though each book is 320 pages, significantly bigger than its predecessor, we still had a tough time cramming everything we wanted to say into that much space. The Dungeon Master's Guide was the toughest of the three, because the manuscript that came to me was several thousand words longer than the available page space would hold. How did we deal with the problem?"

David Noonan

"Weapons with a mind of their own have long been a staple of sword-and-sorcery tales ("Hellooooo, Elric"). But almost no one was using them in 3rd edition D&D. Two years of play convinced us that intelligent weapons were vanishingly rare, despite the rule in the 3rd edition Dungeon Master's Guide that said 15% of magic weapons were intelligent. Nobody was actually using that rule. Even we weren't using that rule in our games, and we wrote the book."

Ed Stark

"One of the most grueling parts of the whole process was the internal review. External playtesters and internal online discussions are exacting enough -- there's nothing like throwing your work out to be picked at by hundreds of interested people -- but our internal review process for the 3.5 revisions included several steps where the entire RPG R&D group, plus interested parties from around the company, sat in a room and went through the rules chapter by chapter. I have a copy of an early version of the v.3.5 Player's Handbook, for example, that has Post-It® notes on literally every page. . . ."

Skip Williams

"When considering revisions for the Monster Manual, one word leapt to the forefront for us: Utility. Three years of playing the 3rd edition D&D game ourselves, plus many hours talking with dedicated fans of the game, convinced us that players and DMs need a monster book that not only has all the information they need, but makes that information easy to find."

Rich Redman

"One of the key points of revising the Dungeon Master's Guide had to be making it more user-friendly for beginning DMs. I thought reorganizing the book could resolve most the that, and when I presented my outline for the revised Dungeon Master's Guide, everyone agreed. Then began a long process of reviewing material . . ."

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