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Mearls and first edition D&D.


Retired User
This is SO far from what the actual designers of D&D (and other early games) wrote about when they discussed design, and the comments by people who were there, that's it's pretty impossible to respond to in any cohesive fashion.

There was no game design or theory of game design in the earliest RPGs. As OG as said many times, "We made up some shit we thought was fun." If that shit turned out to be unbalanced, incoherent, contradictory, or fun only if you happened to know the mysterious secret fix everyone "knew" you were supposed to use, well, you were expected to be able to fix it yourself.

By the early 1980s, you started getting games which were actually designed, and people started consciously thinking in terms of "I want the game to play like X, so we should try doing Y in the rules to encourage it". D&D, riding pure inertia, didn't actually discover "design" until Third Edition. To quote myself: "D&D 3.0 was designed. Older editions were congealed."
You fail to take into consideration the context. What they were talking about was the further development of the D&D. They didn't know yet what people really wanted D&D to be(come) or how to direct or target the development of its gameplay.

D&D based its mechanical structure on the mechanical structure of wargames. That is a proper design influence that you have there. If not they wouldn't talk about balance or unbalance at all. You can't think of unbalance without thinking of balance and you cant think of balance without thinking of design.


Global Village Grouch
Validated User
I'd actually be interested in what drove you to change your views, too.
Not sure if this is addressed to Medivh or me, but if it's me... actually seeing, and playing, the game in full context, as opposed to the snippets released in the run up and truly atrocious marketing campaign, positioning, and design diaries (can't remember if I ranted on them in this or another thread, sorry).

You base your opinion on whatever facts you have. If you get new facts, you need to review your opinion. If you don't, you're a moron.

Many of the criticisms I made are still correct. They're just not as important as I believed, and the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. I'd still prefer a formal system for background/craft/whatever skills, and I still think the way in which WOTC presents the game and what they choose to focus on misses some aspects of play I consider vital (insert boilerplate worldbuilding rant here). However, there's a big difference between "I wish WOTC would talk about this aspect of the game more" or "I wish WOTC would stop wasting pages on their assumed world and making sure everything they create is cross-linked to everything else" and "You can't do X, Y, or Z". I am running 4e in my own world which is blissfully free of Bael Turath and where Tieflings are aberrant individuals who appear in the best of families due to distant dalliances with demons, where there is no "dawn war", and where not a single god named in the PHB exists. It definitely bothers me that the next generation of DMs is being actively discouraged from grabbing a huge sheet of graph paper and just drawing a world, instead being told to "build up" on the generic "assumed" setting. This isn't an issue with game mechanics, however, and I find it is often easier to do the stuff I need to do w/4e than it was w/3e.

Also, my work on Earth Delta has given me a HUGE amount of respect for what it takes to design playable classes and balanced monsters in 4e.


Validated User
I enjoyed random tables back in the day, and I think you COULD release a set of random encounter tables balanced to levels, but with some options much easier and some options much harder, without making it as completely random as it used to be.
See, when I did random encounters, and rolled something silly-difficult, I'd give the players a heads up. They spot a burning caravan and the dying guards last word was "Dragon..." If they choose to hunt down the dragon, well that's their choice. :) If a person takes a random encounter as a must-fight-this-critter-now situation, then it would be unfun.


Retired User
Yeah, not so much. Sorry.
D&D is a tabletop game. Its rules need to be practically manageable for gameplay.

At its prime, D&D did not have many rules. Or they did not think that it needed to have many rules.

As more rules were added and as they wanted to open space for adding even more rules they saw that it was practically needed to have some overreaching structure to be able to handle the evaluation of the effects of the rules and to be able to easily design rules of abilities of counter-effects, if needed.

It is natural that they did not need such a thing at first place. Plus it is very possible that they did not want to establish such an overreaching structure yet because they were still on heavy experimentation phase.
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