Chat Transcript
The Ghostwind Campaign
Featuring Jonathan Tweet, Jennifer Clarke-Wilkes, and Rob Heinsoo
June 14th, 2002

The following text about The Ghostwind Campaign was transcribed from a special Wizards of the Coast online community chat session. Take a look at what questions the fans asked Jonathan Tweet, Jennifer Clarke-Wilkes, and Rob Heinsoo, and see what these guests answered! Once you're finished, please take a look at the most recent Chainmail updates, including the information about the downloadable Chainmail Comprehensive Rulebook.

wizo_talisman: Come one, come all to Wizards Presents! We'll be talking to Chainmail designers Jonathan Tweet, Rob Heinsoo, and Jennifer Clarke-Wilkes about the upcoming Chainmail campaign setting, Ghostwind. Before we get started, do any of you have anything to say first?

Jennifer: I just wanted to say that working on Ghostwind was challenging and exciting. It was a lot of fun and I'm happy to see that there are several campaigns going on here now.

Jonathan: I guess I'd like to say that in playtesting, we found campaign play to be more fun than we expected, which is why we're currently doing an in-house campaign.

Rob: I have to say that playing campaign-style is the way I want to play most often now. Leveling up commanders, gaining magic items, playing the next game -- it's been great. Let's go to the questions now.

wizo_talisman: Have you started work on more campaigns for the near future?

Jonathan: We have put the campaign rules into the Core Rulebook. [Read more about the Chainmail Comprehensive Rulebook.] Warlords will be able to go up to 10th level, but we don't have any stand-alone campaigns on the schedule.

Jennifer: We're expanding on the advancement and adding more spells.

Rob: The material that is in the rulebook adds up to another campaign, of a slightly different style than the Ghostwind campaign. You can put it together with Ghostwind stuff to make up your own variants. To put together another campaign, the one thing people might need is a different climactic battle. And there's some advice on how to arrange that in the core rulebook. I wouldn't mind putting some more climactic battles into Dragon Magazine, as well, but we'll see.

century: Were there any abilities that were playtested and changed due to being overpowered?

Rob: There's quite a large list. In fact, you could start with spells like darkness -- spells that last a long time in D&D but have chances of going away every round in Chainmail. It was too powerful as a permanent.

Jonathan: Damage reduction is the big ability that we powered down. And we took the dragon-mage warlord's cold blast down, too. When we started the Ghostwind playtest, she got her full cold blast right away. That was too much.

laslo: With things moving toward higher point figures and games, have there been any thoughts to more lower point models that might help round out a warband?Jonathan: So far, our goal has been to fill out the upper level model lists. We wanted to do that first. Once we have the upper-level models in place (such as dragons, medusas, and vampires), then we'll be able to go back and supplement to lower-level model lists.

Jennifer: More goblins!

Rob: And we're not nearly done with the higher-level models.

scowlingone: How does the spell magic weapon +1 interact with actual magic weapons?

Jonathan: Off the top of my head, here's how spells and magic items interact: They stack. The idea was that we wanted to be able to give a model a magic weapon without having to tell the player that the model has a magic weapon or without the player having to care (unless they're playing in a campaign). So we wanted to be able to release "Human Gonzo Fighter" with a +3 flaming sword, and just have the effects of the sword folded into his stats (melee attack, melee damage). We didn't want you to have to know whether the sword was magic before deciding whether to cast magic weapon +1 on him or not. That's too much hassle. So we ruled that magic weapons and spells stack with each other. It doesn't match D&D exactly, but it keeps you from having to worry about magic items your model has unless you're actually in a campaign and getting new models.

Rob: It's one of those interesting places where knowing D&D rules extremely well doesn't help you recall exactly how Chainmail rules play out. It's interesting to us to find out how much trouble rules like this are. They make Chainmail a faster, better game in its own terms, but can be hard to track for long-time D&D players. But since long-time D&D players are the people who are best at keeping track of rules, we hope that it works out fine.

laslo: Are you actually planning for models as high a level as dragons and vampires? If so how well do you feel the rules will stand up to that type of play?

Jonathan: Yes, we're planning on having vampires and dragons. The rules are holding up in playtest, aren't they, Rob? Rob is the guy who runs the playtesting and development team, so he sees these things in play more than I do.Rob: I think I can say a few words about the feel of the game at the high levels. When you have models teleporting around the battlefield, and dragons that can fly and devastate regions of the board with area attacks, and magical spells that have lines of fire and effect that the opponent has to respect, it adds up to very fun maneuvers as you plot your strategy of attack and avenues to avoid the worst the enemy can dish out.

Jonathan: Here's a tweak -- we won't be doing as much "Kill the Leader" in league play. In games with models capable of casting teleport and flying dragons, a weak leader is too much of a soft spot if you're playing this scenario. Since we wanted combat-weak commanders to be feasible, we had to reduce the amount of "Kill the Leader" going on.

Rob: The big high-powered models sometimes feel as if they have a sort of zone of control. It's not control, really, it's more like the area they can affect, like the squares that a bishop can hit on the diagonal in chess. High-powered models have massive damage potential, but so do the models they are fighting, or a big group of smaller guys. So, you fence and then all firestorms and game fire breaks out. And just to let you know, since we removed "Kill the Leader," we've put in new basic scenarios to play in the core rules -- things that will keep players on their toes without letting you gun for the soft-spot leader and win the easy way. Oh yes, a word about tactics with very big models: Eventually, the fear of a broken morale save becomes more of an impediment than the opportunity attack from many models. So tactics change in very curious ways.

laslo: Wow! That sounds pretty severe! Are these types of changes in the near or distant future?

Jonathan: We aren't cleared to release product dates. But if you asked us how far ahead of time we playtest models, we'd say about six months. The more immediate changes are the drow models coming up this summer.

Rob: The drow are extremely fun to play. They also compete in a few different styles, so you can play drow warbands no matter what tactics you have the most fun playing.dndmom: I was wondering if you could tell me what is the minimum age you'd say is good for starting Chainmail. I'm sure you all would be a better judge of this than some "for ages so-and-so" on the package. I'd like to get my kids more into roleplaying and have their friends involved, too, but regular D&D seems a bit over their heads.

Jennifer: How old are your kids?

dndmom: My oldest is ten, but there are friends between eleven and twelve. They are too into video games to sit and read D&D books.

Jonathan: The advantage that Chainmail has over regular D&D is that it's faster and it's more like a regular game. If kids have a grown-up to point them the way, I bet 10-year-olds could handle it. The other element of Chainmail is modeling. An art director here says that his kids (about age 10) could handle most of the modeling. Our more recent models are especially easy to handle.

Jennifer: I've demoed the game to kids of that age, and they seem to get it. As Jonathan says, having someone show you how to play makes it easier.

Rob: I also think playing the campaign style with kids would be fun. They get to play their warlord as a character that gets better, has problems, and gains items.

scowlingone: Can the Abyssal Skulker use magic weapons and armor, or was it an oversight to not forbid this?

Jonathan: We wondered about that one, as it's the only creepy looking thing that's independent. Finally we decided that it wasn't worth an extra rule to prevent it.

Rob: From my perspective, it's fine for the skulker to use magic weapons and armor. It's a little weird, but the point of skulkers is that they're creepy, scary, and sneaking around in the back doing devious things. So letting them use magic items and such is more fun.

laslo: What are your favorite factions and models to play?

Jennifer: That's easy. Drazen's Horde. My current warband in the in-house campaign is all goblinoids with some big pigs.

Rob: In my current campaign warband, I've been having to give all the magic items to my Tiefling Fighter, because they're just not right for my Demonic Gnoll Adept. Giving them to a Skulker would be useful, however. It's maybe a good idea if you don't have another leader other than your warlord. I love playing one or the other type of warband from nearly all the factions, but my personal favorites are some cunning Kilsek warbands with models I can't talk about yet and flexible Mordengard warbands with spellcasting allies. I love playing Drazen's Horde warbands that mix fast attackers and more controllable troops.

Jonathan: I like Naresh and flexible, mixed-use warbands.

wizo_talisman: They'll all fall before Mordengard and its dire badgers!

Jennifer: Hah! I stomped all over a Mordengard band with a badger!

wizo_talisman: Since you have no definitive answer regarding future campaigns, can you give us any indication of how long until we see more of Stratis's weapons?

Jonathan: Stratis's weapons? There's nothing on the schedule about that. I could see more such things in future campaigns or in Dragon Magazine. I guess we wanted to see how folks responded to the Ghostwind weapon before committing to doing more.

laslo: I read on the boards that at one point there it was considered to allow any models to "level" magic, not just commanders and independents. What are your thoughts on this?

Jonathan: When we started the campaign, I insisted that all models in a warband should level up. People told me that it makes sense for just the warlord to level up, but I said that it was very "D&D" to have a 6th-level Glaiver or something. However, once we got into playtests, leveling up all the models became pretty tricky -- the warbands didn't feel focused. It didn't make sense to level up zombie or constructs and to punish you by making them the only models that couldn't level up. We played with weird rules that let you gain extra zombies and constructs when the original ones would "level up," but that was clunky. The rules also made it hard to alter your warband. Once your Glaiver had gained a level, it made no sense to take it out of the warband, so strategic options were limited. Lots of models were already high level, like the Minotaur. Outsider levels are better than animal levels, so that made outsiders better in a campaign and animals worse. Finally we realized that the warbands would have more focus and the campaign would run more smoothly if only the warlords leveled up and we figured that folks who wanted to level up their Owlbears could just use an appropriate advancement table.

Rob: It was also troublesome to balance the game when many winning models leveled up and losing models didn't. But it was bad to let losing models level up, especially when they had died in the skirmish. And once we started playing "warlord only levels," we had so much fun that we knew it was going to be okay.

scowlingone: You mentioned dragons and big critters. Does this mean that we may see base sizes bigger than 40mm?

Jonathan: In D&D, really big guys are still only Large and dragons are really tough well before they become Huge. So, you may see more big guys but there aren't any Huge models on the schedule. The toughest model on the schedule is a special model -- the Drow Queen from the City of the Spider Queen. She's not a bona fide Chainmail model, but she has Chainmail stats, and they're not to be believed.

chriswest: The alternate sculpts have proven to be a very popular item among collectors and die-hard fans. Can you give us any hints as to what alternate sculpts we might get to see from Set 3?

Jonathan: Alt sculpts? I'm not sure. Since they don't require any R&D work, the art guys handle that schedule pretty much. I can't say what's coming up (and I don't know whether they want me to, anyway). I know Rob has the alt sculpt of what's probably our best-selling mini already.

laslo: Chainmail is having a hard time getting a good foothold around my area. What can you suggest that we, as players, should do to help the game? And are there any future plans that Wizards might be taking to help with this issue?

Jonathan: We are working on a demo kit for retailers that should help them show the game to potential players. Also, if the demo kit teaches retailers how to play, that's great. We see that stores where the retailer knows the game have a lot of success with Chainmail. As to what you can do, if you could run a demo in the store and show the retailer how to play, that helps a lot. Running the game at cons also helps because ultimately, all hobby games are regional.

Scowlingone: What's this alternate sculpt that you were referring to earlier?

Jonathan: I'm not sure the Organized Play folks want us giving that away just yet . . .

Scowlingone: Do you think Monster Manual II will help bring players to Chainmail?

Jonathan: It could send some D&D players looking for the abyssal creatures, felldrakes, and automatons that are statted up in it. We hope that it strengthens the connection between the RPG and the minis game.

chriswest: Last year at Gen Con, convention-goers got to demo Chainmail on a really cool gaming table. What sort of convention plans have you got this year? Will there be a new terrain table to be seen?

Jonathan: There is a cool gaming board, but I'm not sure it will be at Gen Con this year. With our sale of Gen Con, Wizards now has less booth space and the details of our presence haven't all been worked out. We will be demoing Chainmail, though, I can tell you that.

iwantminis: What's your opinions on games like Warhammer Fantasy Battle, Warhammer 40,000 and Mage Knight? Do you play any of them?

Jennifer: I've played Man-O-War and had a blast. Mage Knight is fast and simple, which is advantageous.

Jonathan: I've played all the games you've mentioned, plus Mordheim. I like playing them at conventions where someone else has done all the modeling work for me. In the end, though, I'm more inclined toward game play than the panorama of a massive battle. I've had a few really disappointing games where I did a lot of moving my models around and didn't feel as though I'd done much tactically. I have collected and painted models since I was 12, but I've never really wanted to have a dozen of the same model, either.

Jennifer: I think different sorts of games have their own strengths and weaknesses. It's great to play some kind of air war game, where someone has painted and mounted all those lovely planes.

Rob: I enjoy HeroClix with a few rules tweaks. I like ancients mass battle games, but I don't much like the standard Warhammer system. I think that Games Workshop is doing some interesting new things, though.

wizo_talisman: Okay, everyone, I'd like to thank all of our guests: Jonathan Tweet, Jennifer Clarke-Wilkes and Rob Heinsoo. It's always happy to have you here and we hope you'll be back soon.

Don't forget to check out the
"Drow Warlords for the Ghostwind Campaign"
web article by Rob Heinsoo!

Go to the D&D main news page for more articles and news about the new D&D or
check out the D&D message boards for a lively discussion of all aspects of the D&D game.


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