By Jesse Decker
Lead Designer Jonathan Tweet, Game Designer Skaff Elias, and Creative Director Chris Pramas answer the biggest question about the upcoming D&D Chainmail game: How does it work with D&D? Learn what's in and what's out of the new miniatures game.
Wizards of the Coast: The new D&D game has a great tactical feel. What gameplay elements did you specifically want to preserve in the miniatures game?
Jonathan Tweet: Fast combat, tactical options (such as charges), clearly defined spells, and the core system (the d20 and how to use it).
Chris Pramas: We also wanted to preserve the roles of the character classes. When you see that a figure is a paladin, for instance, you have certain expectations of that fig's abilities if you are a D&D player. We wanted to make sure those roles translated seamlessly from adventuring party to battlefield.
Wizards: What did you want to keep but find unworkable?
Jonathan: There isn't anything cool that I really wanted to see in the game that got left out. We don't use the concepts of domain spells for clerics or holding a charge with a touch spell, but the game plays faster without those details, so I never really wanted them in the game in the first place.
Chris: We had to standardize Difficulty Classes for spells, because having that sort of thing vary from model to model was too difficult to keep track of.
Wizards: What do you think is the coolest idea that didn't make the final version of the game?
Skaff: The inability of most units to move unless commanded. It added a lot of strategy to the game, but made players too annoyed when they couldn't act.
Wizards: What game mechanics were invented just for D&D Chainmail?
Skaff: The initiative system was probably the biggest departure from previous miniatures games.
Jonathan: We developed a new, tactically interesting initiative system suited for skirmish level play. To simulate the fog of war, we put restrictions on troops' choices. (These restrictions improve the tactical depth of the game.) We also invented the command mechanic, which allows commanders to improve their warbands' performance.
Chris: The command mechanic is a great system that allows each leader figure to direct other figures in complex actions. It adds a whole new level to the play experience.
Jonathan: The last system we added was morale, measuring how brave the troops are and determining when they break and run.
Skaff: We also changed the hit point system a little to make it easier to keep track of multiple figures.
Wizards: What will D&D Chainmail offer players who currently play only D&D? Jonathan: D&D players can play D&D Chainmail for a change of pace or as part of a normal D&D session. In addition to offering some new creatures (beyond the standard creatures from the Monster Manual), D&D Chainmail offers the new rules that we mentioned, and most could easily be incorporated into a D&D game. The DM can run a D&D Chainmail warband by these rules instead of deciding subjectively how smart and brave the enemies are.
Chris: I think the coolest thing about D&D Chainmail for D&D players is that it'll let them have a D&D experience with as few as two people. If your whole roleplaying group can't get together, you and your friend can still have a good time playing D&D Chainmail. It also lets you have fun playing the bad guys for a change, since half of our factions are evil.
It'll be pretty easy to switch characters from one game to the other. Also, the Sundered Empire setting is rife with roleplaying possibilities. DMs could take their parties on a visit to the Sundered Empire or even set a campaign there.
Wizards: How easy will it be to integrate D&D Chainmail battles into the existing storyline of a D&D campaign?
Skaff: D&D Chainmail was designed to integrate into D&D campaigns very easily. It gives players a way of simulating larger skirmishes in less time than D&D does. It also provides a rules system that handles the difficult task of commanding NPC troops.
Jonathan: The Starter Game offers advice on various ways to combine the miniatures game and the roleplaying game, including just dropping your PCs right onto the tabletop.
Wizards: What was your favorite miniatures gaming experience?
Skaff: Running a series of battles at Princecon, a gaming convention in New Jersey, for players to progress through.
Jonathan: Destroying a human paladin and her warband, including an arcane automaton, with a relentless barrage of arrows from a trio of gnoll rangers. I've always liked gnoll rangers. You'll find one in an adventure I wrote for an upcoming issue of Dungeon Magazine, and I'm the one who suggested that ranger should be the gnolls' favored class in the Monster Manual.
Chris: I played minis games with a great group of friends in college. We'd play once a week, sometimes not starting battles until 1 a.m. Last Gen Con, most of this group reunited for a big battle in the off hours that my friend Bill organized. It wasn't about getting all competitive; it was just old friends having fun together. We had such a good time that we're trying to do it again this year.
Wizards: What advice would you give to a roleplayer who's interested in branching out into miniatures play?
Jonathan: Understand that D&D Chainmail is designed first and foremost to reward tactical play. It's even more tactical than the new edition of D&D. Play it on its own terms a few times to get a feel for how it's different from a roleplaying game. Then decide how you want to combine roleplaying and miniature gaming.
Chris: Don't be put off by the hobby aspect of minis gaming. While it's great to paint your minis, you can have plenty of fun playing D&D Chainmail with unpainted figs. Once you get into the game, you'll probably find that you really want to paint and personalize them. Until then, just enjoy the gameplay.