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Rule-of-Three: 05/02/2011
R&D Staff

You’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 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.

1 When will we see character themes that are not setting-specific?

We’ve covered this question in the past, and here’s a good news, bad news update.

Good News: May’s Dragon focuses on a set of themes usable in any campaign.

Bad News: We felt we needed to put some extra work into this material to get it done on time, and that meant the hybrid and multiclassing article supporting Heroes of Shadow and Heroes of the Fallen Kingdoms slipped to June. We had to choose between two things that people have been clamoring for, and we decided to lead with themes.

2 Is the list of feats ever going to get cleaned up (weak options removed or updated, obsolete feats removed)?

This is a contentious issue here in R&D. On one hand, it makes sense to remove options and elements that are weak or obsolete. On the other hand, people have access to those options now and it seems problematic to simply take them away; this might also cause problems for non-optimizers who took these feats and are perfectly happy with them.

For now, we’re content to keep them in place and rely on our lists of suggested feats to guide players to good choices. That’s our best tool to handle the amount of content a player has to navigate when creating a character or leveling up.

3 Are there any mechanics introduced during the history of 4th Edition that you consider failed experiments? If so, what are these and why?

First, keep in mind that this is my personal answer (Mike Mearls, here). One of the important elements of being a professional game designer is always remembering that you’re here to make your audience happy, not make yourself happy. We started columns like this one back in February precisely because we saw a gap between what the audience wanted and saw as important, and what we were dealing with in R&D. We’re not going to bridge that gap overnight, but I think we’ve made steps forward in correcting that.

In any case, I really don’t like the propagation of immediate actions. As a DM and player, I hate when the game’s brought to a screeching halt as someone stops to figure out if they can use an ability, what that ability might mean for the action, and if it’s even worth using at all. In theory, immediate actions are an interesting way to reward players for paying attention and focusing on teamwork, but in my experience they cause tremendous slowdown at the table.

I think pruning back such options and making them all strictly simpler would help a bit. I also think that their triggers should be made more obvious or more important in terms of the game. For instance, an ability that now triggers on a hit might instead trigger on a hit that drops a target. Dropping someone is a bigger event, it’s more important in the game, and it feels OK for it to demand the complexity and resolution time that immediate actions bring to the table.

In other words, it’s OK to make a rare or dramatically important event take longer. It’s irritating if every attack takes longer.

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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