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?
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.
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.
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
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
will be able to go up to 10th level, but we don't have any stand-alone
campaigns on the schedule.
We're expanding on the advancement and adding more spells.
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.
Were there any abilities that were playtested and changed due
to being overpowered?
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.
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.
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
And we're not nearly done with the higher-level models.
How does the spell magic weapon +1 interact with actual magic
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
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.
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?
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.
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"
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
Wow! That sounds pretty severe! Are these types of changes in
the near or distant future?
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
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
How old are your kids?
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.
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.
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
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.
Can the Abyssal Skulker use magic weapons and armor, or was it an
oversight to not forbid this?
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.
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
What are your favorite factions and models to play?
That's easy. Drazen's Horde. My current warband in the in-house
campaign is all goblinoids with some big pigs.
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.
I like Naresh and flexible, mixed-use warbands.
They'll all fall before Mordengard and its dire badgers!
Hah! I stomped all over a Mordengard band with a badger!
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? 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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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?
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.
What's this alternate sculpt that you were referring to earlier?
I'm not sure the Organized Play folks want us giving that away
just yet . . .
Scowlingone: Do you think Monster
will help bring players to Chainmail?
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
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?
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.
What's your opinions on games like Warhammer Fantasy Battle,
Warhammer 40,000 and Mage Knight? Do you play any
I've played Man-O-War and had a blast. Mage Knight
is fast and simple, which is advantageous.
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.
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.
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.
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.