D&D Archives11/02/2003


D&D 3.5 Designer's Post Gen Con Chat
Featuring Rich Baker, Andy Collins, Dave Noonan, Rich Redman, and Ed Stark



wotc_mel: Come one and all to the D&D 3.5 Designer's Post-Gen Con Chat! Find out how the biggest gaming con of the year went for the designers now that 3.5 is in wide distribution. First, let me thank Andy Collins, Dave Noonan, Ed Stark, Rich Redman, and Rich Baker for taking the time out of their busy schedules to join us here this evening. Now, before we start, would any of you like to say a few words?

Rich Redman: Thanks for coming out tonight to chat with us. Why don't we go ahead and get into some questions?

tsrblke: I was just wondering why the Quickened spell feat wasn't extended to help sorcerers? I can understand bards, but why not sorcerers?

Andy Collins: We didn't want to tinker significantly with the metamagic system in 3.5. That said, we're looking at ways to add that functionality for spontaneous casters in future products.

dragon_child: Why the power up for shapechange? It was already one of the most powerful 9th-level spells, and allowing it access to Supernatural abilities gave it many abilities that were far too powerful. For example, the barghest's feed ability, the phoenix's immolation, and powerful dragon breath weapons (which are also stronger then spell guidelines for 9th-level spells). What was the reasoning behind giving out these abilities in shapechange?

Andy: We felt it was important to add supernatural powers to the top-level spells. We are looking at some of the corner-case effects of that now to see if they need addressing.

mikalwannabeking: How would you respond to the critics who say that 3.5 is the start of a cycle of revisions that could turn D&D into nothing but a cycle of "patches," such as what occurs with many computer programs?

Andy: I'd say they're wrong. That's not our plan. We don't want to do it, and we don't expect to do it. Version 3.0 was a massive system shift from the earlier version. It's only natural that after a few years of heavy playing (more than any edition of D&D has ever had), we'd need some course corrections.

Dave Noonan: I'd add that we've personally been playing out of three-ring binders for months now, and it's outrageously great to have real books again.

Ed Stark: I agree with Andy, but I will say we want to keep ahead of the design curve. I don't anticipate doing this sort of thing too often, but we felt we needed to do some clean-up, and a lot of people seemed to agree.

kegdrainer: What changes are there going to be with the new Forgotten Realms? Is Forgotten Realms now going to the back burner like Greyhawk did when Forgotten Realms came out?

Andy: I don't see that 3.5 means any changes for Forgotten Realms. The Realms is a vibrant, powerful setting and we don't have any intentions of changing that.

Rich Redman: Considering the popularity of Forgotten Realms electronic products, I don't think we'll be putting Forgotten Realms on the back-burner any time soon.

Andy: Eberron (our new setting, due out next summer) can stand alongside Forgotten Realms as its own unique setting. Neither one has to crowd the other out.

wizo_negathael: What was the rational behind making the paladin's divine grace and aura of courage abilities supernatural, rather than leaving them as they were? It just seems to make the paladin very easy to scare in an antimagic field.

Andy: Aura of courage was always a "partially" supernatural ability. Making it only one type makes the game easier to run. Divine grace seemed pretty clearly "supernatural" -- that is, not natural -- so clarifying that in the Player's Handbook was pretty straightforward.

dragon_child: Why did you allow the base attack bonus to Sense Motive to resist Bluff attempts?

Andy: Because characters good at combat should be able to sense a feint better than a low-ranking diplomat. If a fighter wants to spend cross-class skill points on Sense Motive, I say go for it -- he has just increased his resistance to a relatively uncommon tactic.

Rich Baker: If you were playing a 10th-level fighter, and the DM told you that the 2nd-level goblin rogue just feinted you again, you'd be kind of upset and wondering why the heck your fighter kept getting fooled by that guy. So yes, it's just to suit our sensibilities.

tsrblke: You say uncommon, but with the new Improved Feint feat, I expect to see it more often.

Andy: More often yes, but still uncommon in the larger scheme of combat. The vast majority of opponents (95%+) won't use the tactic.

mikalwannabeking: Will there be a 3.5 version of the Deities and Demigods book that incorporates epic-level rules into the designing of deities? Also, will there be errata for the multitudes of feats and prestige classes from books such as Sword and Fist and Defenders of the Faith?

Dave: We have a .pdf on the Wizards Sitethat updates Deities and Demigods to the new version. As for Sword and Fist and the like, some of those feats and prestige classes will indeed find their way into future products, but we aren't re-doing the books as such.

Andy: We certainly don't intend to produce something that puts Deities and Demigods and the Epic Level Handbook into a blender -- we don't make products like that (because the audience gets way too small).

Ed: We are putting out a book called Complete Warrior. It will incorporate some prestige class revisions from a variety of books (not just Sword and Fist), plus a lot of new stuff.

talinthas: I was disappointed that the new books didn't have more in the way of new art.

Andy: That's intentional, actually. We wanted people to feel like they were still reading the same books. There is a fair amount of new art in there (particularly in the Monster Manual), even so.

marikt: From a design standpoint, why isn't there a separate sorcerer spell list? A spontaneous caster with limited spells known such as the sorcerer selects his spells very differently than a wizard. The bard has a separate spell list and it works quite nicely.

Andy: That kind of change goes way beyond the realm of "revision" into a major design shift. We'd have had to playtest it thoroughly, and frankly we didn't see a significant need for it at this time.

mikalwannabeking: How exactly will magic item creation rules work for some "common" player created items, such as a amulet of true strike and wands ofcure light wounds? While I have not gone over 3.5 in depth, for 3.0 there were several schools of thought, some popular, some not, which stated that these items could be made, and rather cheaply at that. The utility of these items far outweighed their cost in creation, according to those who think this way.

Andy: As always, the magic item pricing guidelines are there to help the DM. There are always going to be exceptions that don't fit the guidelines, and DMs will have to adjudicate those on a case-by-case basis. DMs who don't feel comfortable with such decision-making should restrict their campaigns to the items that appear in the Dungeon Master's Guide. The book holds more than enough for a whole campaign.

Rich Redman: I agree with Andy. If you, as the DM, think something is too cheap, increase the price -- especially if it damages your campaign.

fade_13: Is there anything that you wanted to put into this revision that you didn't get to because of time or space restrictions?

Dave: We did a web enhancementfor the DMG that included a section on fantasy city construction that there wasn't room for in the print DMG.

Andy: We considered a lot of changes or additions that ended up seeming inappropriate for the revision. My favorites included a new way of using metamagic (which appeared recently in Dragon Magazine) and variant item creation feat rules (which are appearing in Unearthed Arcana next spring).

Rich Baker: We wanted ready-to-play stat blocks for all the "orc sergeants" in the Monster Manual. So, every place it says you run across 10 orc warriors and a 2nd-level sergeant, we would have liked to give you a 2nd-level orc ready to play.

Ed: Time was certainly more of a factor than space in most places. We wanted to make sure all changes were playtested and discussed. Certainly, we could have put more magic items, more spells, and more monsters in the revision and that would have pushed space limitations, too.

wizo_dabus: It would have been great to have round-by-round combat tactics for all the monsters as well.

Ed: That was more a space consideration than anything. That's the sort of thing you'll see on the website, I bet.

talinthas: Could you explain the reasoning behind giving sorcerers and wizards all these cool creation and metamagic feats, and then not giving them nearly enough slots to use them? Also, could you provide an explanation as to why the alchemical DCs are astronomically high? I can't even see a common alchemist NPC being able to make those items.

Andy: Feat selection is tough -- not every character can hope to get every feat that interests him. That's a feature, not a bug -- it means that character choice serves to differentiate them. Wizards can afford to take a fair number of those feats thanks to their bonus feats, but most wouldn't really want to take more than a couple metamagic and a couple item creation feats. As for sorcerers, few get much bang from taking item creation feats (because of their limited list of spells known). Picking up a metamagic feat or two is easy, though. As for alchemical DCs -- most are DC 20 or 25. A 1st-level expert can get +10 if he focuses on it (4 ranks, +1 Int, +2 for masterwork tools, and +3 for Skill Focus). That means that DC 20 is only a "Take 10" away.

Ed: Anyone who thinks a sorcerer is underpowered should watch Rich Baker play his walking (or more often, flying, even under the new rules) artillery piece. What was his name again, Rich?

Rich Baker: Uhlwe, the Spawn of Talos. Of course, I have 10 levels in elemental savant now. It's amazing how many things turn out to be lightning-proof, once you decide that lightning is your thing.

kegdrainer: Do sure striking weapons work as if there was no damage reduction?

Andy: As I see it, the "sure striking" ability has no place in 3.5as written. Personally, I'd simply strike it from your game (allowing the character to replace it with another +1 property, such as keen).

mikalwannabeking: What was the reasoning behind humans not receiving weapon familiarity as an ability? I can see a human having it for, say, a one-handed bastard sword.

Andy: Because there aren't any "human" weapons. A human combat character can use his bonus feat to pick up any exotic weapon he wants, after all.

Ed: Yep. Humans are pretty darn good, and that bonus feat is great.

kegdrainer: That makes the wizard with stoneskin less of a target for the rogue if they do not have an adamantine weapon handy.

Andy: Sneak attack is a great weapon against the new damage reduction, thanks in part to the lowered values overall.

dragon_traner_2000: Don't you think the fighters should have gotten more of a boost like the new barbarian and ranger?

Andy: I guess the obvious answer is "no," otherwise we would have changed them. But seriously, we're pretty happy with the fighter. The class gained a few more bonus feat options, but in general we didn't think the class needed any help.

Rich Redman: In my opinion, the fighter is one of those classes that's right the way it is. Other classes needed a boost to catch up!

Ed: Fighters have so many feats that they can build themselves into just about anything they want.

Dave: One of the things we've found in testing is that the fighter stacks up well against his +1 base attack bonus counterparts -- and multiclass guys -- when it comes to smacking down appropriate bad guys.

wizo_negathael: Okay, any closing comments? Perhaps something from Gen Con you want to mention?

Rich Redman: Only my favorite closing comment: Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water! And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Anybody who hangs around The Game Mechanicschat room knows exactly what I'm quoting.

Dave: Indy was fantastic, I got to play a flaming metric ton of D&D. And Rich, you're weird.

Andy: A flute with no holes is not a flute. A donut without a hole . . . is a danish. Indy was indeed fantastic. I can't wait to go back, and next time I'm taking a couple extra days to look around the city. Thanks, all, for joining us tonight. I hope everyone get years of enjoyment from your 3.5 rulebooks.

Ed: The only closing comment I have is I hope you like what we've been doing with the game -- not just over the revision, but over the past several years. We hope to keep doing a lot of cool stuff and we hope you'll enjoy it.

wizo_dabus: Thanks very much to each and every one of you for coming here tonight!

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