The Writers' Room

The Writers' Room
Complete Mike Mearls D&D 4th Edition Essentials Interview

Alexander Macris | 16 Sep 2010 19:00
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The Escapist: I have that experience whenever I play narrative games that in a sense I almost feel like there is less of a feel of a story because I do have to get pulled out and reinterpret what just happened abstractly and explain it as compared to a game where the mechanic or interface is explaining it as it goes.

Mike Mearls: Exactly. It's interesting because if you look at roleplaying games in general, I think you can see narrative games spring up more in what I think of as high-end users, people who have been playing for awhile or have really thought a lot about gaming, and I almost think of narrative games are almost a different hobby, where it really is group world building or literal group storytelling. Not in the sense of "this is the action that is happening and we're going to form a story as we go," but more "let's sit down and when we're done, we're going to have a narrative, we're going to have a story we built together." It's almost like at the end you look back and say "this is what we built," where in a more traditional roleplaying game like D&D, you build it as you go and it's almost like a game of football or some sport where the action arises as you go.

The Escapist: Definitely, it's a sport. I just had this very long discussion with folks about that in my Check for Traps column because I said this focus on story is detracting from the actual challenge of play, which caused a lot of the narrative type guys to declare me public enemy number 2.

Mike Mearls: Who's the number 1?

The Escapist: I think you are.

Mike Mearls: Fair enough, I'll take it.

The Escapist: I was a big fan of your Iron Heroes work that you did with Monte Cook and how you were basically able to take "this guy's a fighter, and this guy's a fighter and this guy's a fighter", but they all played really differently. I had a couple questions there. Do you think there's - down the road - do you think there will be an Iron Heroes-style swords and sorcery Conan-focused update for 4th Edition?

Mike Mearls: It's tricky because whenever you do a new world - if we were going to do something like that, we'd probably look at in terms of setting. The nice thing about Iron Heroes was - for it to really aim at what could be a narrow audience. When I was working on the game, originally it wasn't going to have a spellcaster dude - and Monte just said "look, people are going to want to play Wizards" - as soon as you say Fantasy, someone wants to play the spellcaster. Monte's a sharp guy, so if he's saying this to you - well, first he's my boss, so I have to take him seriously anyways. But he knows gaming really well.

There's such a link between fantasy and magic. Even looking back at the literature, it's so rare - well it happens, but a lot of the iconic characters - fantasy figures - are not wizards or spellcasters. Conan being a great example, or the Lankhmar stories, where magic is an untrustworthy and mysterious power where, if you dabble in it, it's usually a bad sign as far as your moral character goes. But people like the power. From a gaming standpoint, it's like the classic Lord of the Rings thing where those adventurers - of course they would use the ring - that's the first thing you would do - of course you would use the ring. So it's tricky - it's something I always want to do, it's just a matter of finding the right place to do it.

The Escapist: Makes sense. Do you and Monte still collaborate at all? Is he involved at all with Wizards?

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