We finished up our live chat with Andy today, and the audience had a lot of great questions. I want to thank everyone who was able to join us or provide questions - we had a lot of great participation and got some insights into Andy's thoughts and the future of D&D.
We'll be doing another one of these in March, and we're looking at having a group of designers/developers for that one. More news on that to come. Until then, here's the transcript for those who missed out on the chat:
WotC_Trevor: From dumas_drift - Who originally came up with Torog, and who decided to make him the most heavy metal deity of all time?
WotC_Andy: Torog--and the rest of the pantheon appearing in the PH--came from a lot of long discussions by the 4E story design team back in 2006 and 2007. James Wyatt, Rich Baker, and many others contributed to his "creation." As far as who made Torog metal... Rob Heinsoo, the lead designer for Underdark, added a lot of detail in writing the book. To the best of my knowledge, Rob is largely responsible for the grislier elements introduced in Underdark.
I wasn't involved in the early design stages of Underdark, so I recognize that my answer is a it vague. Sorry.
(After chat addendum/editorial - Brian R James did an initial write-up for Torog, and I'm certain some of the metalness stems from this man, the greatest of the James brothers)
WotC_Trevor: From DooHickey - Is the rough idea today to go back to the hard cover product line once all the essentials have been released?
WotC_Andy: You'll see familiar-looking hardbacks in 2011 (We're already working on the first ones). That said, we'll never stop experimenting with format. What works one year doesn't necessarily work the next, and we recognize that.
A 160 page textbook isn't always the best way to convey information. Doesn't mean we'll give up on them, but expect variety in approach.
WotC_Trevor: From SlatzG on Twitter - Are Gem Dragons going to be making an appearance soon?
WotC_Andy: We don't have any imminent plans for that batch of dragons, but you never know when somebody here in R&D might come up with an interesting idea for an article or something. I think we still have a bit more to say on catastrophic dragons, but I'm not sure when that might see the light of day.
WotC_Trevor: From Preston_R - The assassin is a flavorful class, but current Ki Implements seem to be more flavored for Monks. Will PH3 or an upcoming Dragon article add Ki Focus flavored for the assassin?
WotC_Andy: I expect you’ll see more love for the assassin via Dragon magazine. PH3 never intended to support the assassin--that's for Dragon to do.
WotC_Trevor: From RyyukaTana - Is there any information we can get on the Shardmind or Runepriest before the PHB3 is released? If not mechanics, what about fluff?
WotC_Andy: Both the shardmind and the runepriest represent brand-new design--they're not based on anything that previously appeared in D&D. I'm not going to say much--"read the book" and all that--but I'll say that the shardmind has a very different feel from any of the other races I've seen us publish recently. The designers came up with some interesting story angles for these guys--they don't just feel like elves or dwarves with a different appearance.
As to the runepriest, the designers and developers really enjoyed coming at a familiar power source-role connection from a slightly different direction. In a way, the runepriest represents a "dip the tone in the water" exploration of spinning a familiar power source to feel a bit different. They also have a mechanic that lets the character adjust his or her powers on the fly, meaning that the same at-will attack might change from one round to the next. It's not as significant as psionics, but it's definitely in the PH3 theme of "versatility."
WotC_Trevor: From Teksura - Item sets seemed to be a really fun idea in AV2, can we expect to see more of them in future books?
WotC_Andy: Absolutely. We put one in the Dragonborn book, and I expect they'll continue to be a tool for designers to add a strong flavor to a related group of items.
WotC_Trevor: From DooHickey - Will PHB3 include hybrid rules for the PHB3 Classes? I ask since CB doesn't have them yet.
WotC_Andy: Yes. PH3 includes hybrid rules for all classes from PH, PH2, PH3, FR, and Eberron. The assassin will get hybrid attention as a Dragon article.
WotC_Trevor: Any fun or surprising things we look forward to from Martial Power 2?
WotC_Andy: How about feats that change some of your powers based on the weapon you use with them? How about the return of the Arcane Trickster?
Feat Example - Martial characters preferring axes, hammers, or maces can learn the Kulkor Battlearm Style, which tweaks certain at-will powers to match the flavor of those weapons. A fighter using the style could further "specialize" with a feat that updates five different encounter powers to allow him to use them while charging (among other benefits).
WotC_Trevor: From DooHickey - How will future power books deal with the expanding selection of classes? For example, will Divine Power 2 cover the Rune Priest?
WotC_Andy: We'll handle new classes the same way we've already been doing it--via book support and online support. For instance, Arcane Power included swordmage support, even though that class wasn't in PH. We're committed to supporting the entire array of classes and races we've published. As long as folks are still reading the articles and buying the books, we'll keep feeding that need.
Thanks to Dragon, it's never been easier for us to support options that would otherwise be "too fringe" to merit a significant chunk of a book. In 3E, for instance, we dabbled in providing book support for fringe characters such as incarnum-wielders, but that player couldn't justify a whole book's purchase for a half-dozen powers. As part of a DDI subscription that also offers tools & such, that issue becomes much less significant.
WotC_Trevor: From pedr - Which, if any, of the "Essentials" line will people who have all the current 4E line get most value from?
WotC_Andy: I'd equate the value of the two player-focused Essential books as being similar to a PH2 or PH3. Somewhat useful for your existing character, and hugely valuable if you're looking to start a new character.
For the DM, the new Dungeon Tile master sets are a great value. The first one is (mostly) from previous sets, but as folks take pains to point out to me, older sets can be hard to get. The other two Master Sets have a larger percentage of new tiles (since we didn't have as many existing wilderness or town tiles to choose from). The Monsters Vault is also full of new monsters. Not new as is "I've never heard of this creature before" but "cool, more orcs and beholders and drow!"
And judging by the acclaim we got from established players when we published the 3E Rules Compendium, I figure the 4E version will be similarly useful as a compilation of the various game rules and the various updates that have been published to them over the past couple of years.
WotC_Trevor: From Wolfstar76 - We've seen a bit of the Battlemind. How do you think it compares to the other defenders? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
WotC_Andy: As with all psionic characters, the battlemind's a bit more complex than other characters. That said, I like the relatively straightforward nature of its defender tech: follow an enemy who shifts, or deal damage to an enemy who attacks your buddy. The class is (obviously) a bit more magical/supernatural than your average fighter, which is also a nice change of pace.
I think it's an excellent class for the player who really loves intricate tactics, who sees combat as a puzzle to be solved. On the other hand, it's not for the player who likes to just stab things. I could see the guy who usually plays the wizard finding this to be a fun defender to play.
WotC_Trevor: From DrOct - Can you tell us a bit about the "story" of Psionics in the PHB3 and how the power source fits into the world?
WotC_Andy: Bart Carroll posted something to that effect in his column today. I like this line: "The Far Realm is a disease and we are its cure." We're positioning that psionics is simultaneously very old and very new to the world of D&D. Old in the sense that it's been living in the dark corners of the world for a long, long time. (Monks, for instance, have a long tradition.) But also new, in that only recently has the power source begun to be noticed widely. I think it's a nice compromise that helps a DM explain who it suddenly "showed up" in the campaign that he or she is running.
WotC_Trevor: From KayusaKing: Will the Player's Handbook Races eventually cover all the races available in 4E?
WotC_Andy: That'll depend on how well the first wave of PHR products do. A 32-page player-focused book is a bit experimental for us--remember how I talked about formats earlier--and we may need to tweak it a bit along the way. We'd love to cover all the races, but realistically I'd look to Dragon first, and expect the books only for the most popular/iconic races. In other words, don't hold your breath for a githzerai book.
WotC_Trevor: From Swordior - When creating races and classes, what ideas do you play around with? What do you try to avoid? What's the hardest part?
WotC_Andy: Wow there's a lot to say on that topic. I'll limit myself to a few thoughts. When thinking about a new class or race, we always ask ourselves whether the game (and the world of D&D) needs it. We don't want to proliferate races and classes for the sake of completism, or to cater to every tiny niche. We want new ideas to resonate with players, to inspire them to start new characters.
When a gamer asks me when we're going to update class X from a previous edition, I always wonder if it's because he or she wants to play it again, or if the person just feels a need to read it. Don't get me wrong, we love folks to want to read our books. But R&D's in the business of making games to be played. We have a whole separate product line of novels, after all.
Seems like we could do a whole chat on class/race design, but in the words of Alton Brown, that's another show.
WotC_Trevor: We're going to get one more question out and then let Andy get back to making games.From Teksura: You mentioned the Arcane Trickster from Martial Power 2 earlier. What can you tell us about the trickster?
WotC_Andy: It's a paragon path for rogues, but all it's powers are Arcane. Having played an arcane trickster in 3E, I'm happy to see the concept reappear, and the path looks fun to play. I mean, who doesn't want to turn invisible when they spend an action point?
WotC_Trevor: Alright, well thanks much Andy. I'm going ot turn off moderation so everyone can thank you for coming out as well!
WotC_Andy: Thanks for all the great questions, gang. Always great to hear what people are curious about!