Mike Mearls at Gen Con 2015At Gen Con, I participated in a panel discussion with Mike Mearls, lead designer for Dungeons & Dragons. The conversation was mostly about the general development of the 5th edition product line. With two full 15 level campaigns available in the game’s first year, Mike was proud of Wizards of the Coast’s focus on supporting players. This, Mike explained, was the result of WOTC’s public playtest, which gathered feedback not only on game mechanics but also on play modes.

More generic products, like for example a psionics book or a second Players Handbook with new character classes, may be forthcoming but only after the company has put a selection of campaign and setting products on the shelf to support new players. When such supplements do come out, Mike cautions people that for compatibility purposes their development will assume players use only one expansion book at a time. Fortunately, the existing subclasses already provide a great deal of flexibility for players in developing their characters.

With regard to the material already released, Mike Mearls said that people seem to prefer the less linear, more sandbox-type campaigns like Princes of the Apocalypse. He said that WOTC would never use errata to change rules. And he said that the thing he regretted most was the selection of fighter class options.  “They’re empty calories… we whiffed.” The choices players are given aren’t really easy for them to picture. Rather than “champion”, he said that the fighter options should have included things like “gladiator, knight, or berserker.”

On the broad scope and future plans, Mike was emphatic that Hasbro has been extremely supportive of WOTC’s approach, both with regard to the pace of products and the seeking of public input. Over the long term, D&D has been a steady business. Hasbro understands that a product of this type requires the input of fans. Perhaps related to that subject, Mike assured the group that Wizards of the Coast is still actively working on a third-party licensing arrangement.