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Rule-of-Three: 01/10/12
Rodney Thompson

Y ou've got questions—we've got answers! Here's how it works—each week, our Community Manager will be scouring all available sources to find whatever questions you're asking. We'll pick three of them for R&D to answer, whether about the about the making of the game, the technical workings of our DDI studio, or anything else you care to know about... with some caveats.

There are certain business and legal questions we can't answer (for business and legal reasons). And if you have a specific rules question, we'd rather point you to Customer Service, where representatives are ready and waiting to help guide you through the rules of the game. That said, our goal is provide you with as much information we can—in this and other venues.

Since this is my first Rule of Three column, I thought I'd take a moment to introduce myself. I'm Rodney Thompson, and I'm a designer for Dungeons & Dragons here at Wizards of the Coast. I spent my early design career as a freelancer (a bit more on that below), and came to Wizards of the Coast in early 2007 to lead the design and development of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game Saga Edition, which I saw through the entire run of the game's life. After that I worked on Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game products for a few years, and recently have been very involved in the board games line, including designing the upcoming Lords of Waterdeep game and the upcoming miniatures skirmish board game.

I'll be answering the Rule of Three column for the foreseeable future, and look forward to having a chance to answer your questions directly. The column will continue the same way it has up to this point.

1 How does one get in to D&D R&D?

There are several paths that lead people into D&D R&D, but there's one that is the most common, which is how I ended up here. Probably the best way to get a permanent job in the gaming industry is to start out as a freelancer, writing articles for magazines and books for a variety of publishers. I started freelancing in 2000 for the Star Wars Roleplaying Game line, and then spent the subsequent seven years freelancing for Wizards of the Coast and a variety of other game publishers. Like many of the hard-working freelancers out there, this let me build up enough of a resume that, when the job of leading the Star Wars Roleplaying Game line was posted, I was experienced enough to apply.

Getting started as a freelancer is a matter of putting yourself out there as a designer. One of my favorite pieces of advice came from Michael Stackpole (one of my favorite authors, who I had the good fortune of meeting early in my career), and that is, "If you want to be a writer, then write." If you don't have freelance work, write stuff for yourself or for a blog. Send submissions to DDI during the submissions window, and do it every time. Go to conventions where your favorite publishers are going to be, and speak to editors about getting freelance work (developing a positive relationship with your editors is very important). To hone your skills, play lots of games of all kinds (and especially a game you want to design for). Read books about game design. Like many other professions, game design requires training, practice and critical thinking skills that can only be developed through frequent use.

Now, that's not the only way into D&D R&D, but it seems to be the most common. In addition to me, current R&D members and contractors Mike Mearls, Christopher Perkins, Jeremy Crawford, Peter Lee, James Wyatt, Matt Sernett, Monte Cook, Robert Schwalb, Chris Sims, and Stan! all started their careers as freelancers. This applies to more than just roleplaying games design as well; Chris Dupuis, who we hired last year for our tabletop games team, was a freelance designer on Battleship Galaxies and Risk: Legacy before joining our team.

2 Any plans to support some of the "forgotten classes" such as the shaman, runepriest, seeker, warden, avenger, etc. Perhaps in some scheduled Dragon articles or in future books?

There are plans to provide new material for some of those classes. Our producers inform me that we have material for both the runepriest and the seeker coming up in the first half of this year. If you have ideas for the kind of content you'd like to see for specific classes, I absolutely encourage you to submit article pitches for them when the submissions window is open (remember what I said about putting yourself out there as a designer in my response to the first question?).

Some advice for submissions: in general, we are looking for a strong story and thematic hook for your article far more than we are looking for new game mechanics. If you want your submission to stand a better chance of acceptance, spend some real time developing a compelling story hook for the article. New game mechanics in a vacuum can be very forgettable, but a story that jumps out at a reader is just as likely to jump out at the people responsible for sorting through the submissions.

3 With 4E, the cleric became less necessary because other classes could heal. Do you think this is a direction you'd like to move the game further in the future? Basically, would you like to keep the sacred cow of a party healer, or do you think there's room for a D&D with no healer in the party?

The reduction of a need for a cleric is one of the things I enjoy most about 4th Edition, not because I don't like clerics (actually, I love clerics) but rather because it gives the party a lot more flexibility in building their characters. The advent of the leader role allowed players to fulfill the function of the healer without requiring them to adhere to the story elements that come with being a cleric. Furthermore, when working on Dark Sun the advantages became even clearer, as we could cut out the divine power source without worrying about creating a bad play experience. As a designer, that's very liberating; as a player, a large amount of social and game pressure falls away when no one class is "required" for success.

That said, it raises some interesting questions about the concept of healers, and roles in general. Should the game even ask you to have a leader or healer? For that matter, a defender? A controller? Should any role be necessary, given how liberating the step from cleric to leader felt?

I don't think "requiring someone to be a healer" is a sacred cow, but having healers in the game is. I wouldn't want to see D&D do away with healing, but I don't think there's anything keeping us from exploring a version of D&D where players can simply play anything they want, ignoring concepts like role and function when putting together their party. To do so, we would need to take a serious look at the way player resources are allocated in D&D, and make some adjustments to the assumptions behind the design of everything from adventures to encounters to monsters.

How can I submit a question to the Rule-of-Three?

Instead of a single venue to submit questions, our Community Manager will be selecting questions from our message boards, Twitter feed, and Facebook account. You can also submit questions directly to So, if you'd like to have your question answered in the Rule-of-Three, just continue to participate in our online community—and we may select yours!

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