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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Mike Mearls: No, he was running Dungeonaday.com. I know he's been wanting to break into novels and I think that's been taking up his time. He's the kind of guy where if he emails me and said "I want to work on a book," I'd be like "Great, I'll make room for you." He's a really good guy to work with, too. Very sharp guy. He really knows RPGs, he almost has this intuitive instinct for them and figuring out what D&D players like.

The Escapist: Sort of an RPG Yoda. Let's say I'm an experienced RPGer and I want to start playing 4th edition like Christmas time. Experienced guy, I'm coming from 3rd or I'm coming from other games - Shadowrun, I don't know what. Should I start buying the old 4th edition game material or does it make more sense for me to start with the 4th edition Essentials material?

Mike Mearls: At this point, if you're just getting into it, the Essentials is a better bet, even just for the price point. One of the things we're doing, since it's a smaller format, is a 6x9 soft-cover book. I just got my copy of Heroes of the Fallen Lands. It retails for $20, has levels 1-30 of the classic four classes, Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, Cleric. It's got the classic races. That will be a good place to start from the player's end. The Red Box is really aimed at new players. If you had kids or someone new that you're going to be bringing into the hobby, it might be something good to pick up for them. It also comes with counters and maps. With Essentials, if you started with Heroes of the Fallen Lands and then, as far as adventures, if you are DM material, if you want to just get up and get playing immediately, if you grabbed the Rules Compendium and an adventure like The Slaying Stone that just came out a couple months back, I'm assuming you're a veteran, you already know what you're doing. That should be enough with the basic rules to get you going.

The Escapist: Is Fallen Lands going to be the new setting?

Mike Mearls: That's just one of the things we're doing going forward. It isn't a setting, per se, we just wanted to come up with a title that wasn't just - that was something you could say to someone that didn't know D&D and it would kind of make sense of what they were getting into. A model we're using going forward - I always mess these dates up - because I worked with this much earlier this year. One of the first expansions that we're releasing - "Player Expansion 2011" is Heroes of Shadow. So what we're doing with our title is, instead of something abstract like Player's Handbook 2 or Player's Handbook 3, which doesn't necessarily tell you what's in it, we're moving towards titles that are more descriptive.

Heroes of Fallen Lands is more a generic fantasy term. It does have the subtitle on the cover that does tells you "Create, play clerics, fighters, rogues and wizards." And that's what you'll get with the Essentials books; it'll basically tell you on the cover, here are the character classes you're getting. It's just a more flavorful title. Something more interesting than Player's Handbook 4.

The Escapist: Sure, like what was done with Book of Nine Swords and stuff like that. Tell me a bit about the setting that appears in Red Box. I liked the Chaos Scar.

Mike Mearls: That's something new. It's basically a micro-setting called the Nentir Vale. For 4th Edition, one of the things we did was create this sketchy background world where we could just set elements of D&D in and use that for a backbone and drop in things like a pantheon. It comes in with a payload of a few other gods as a starting point.

It's really meant to be just a very basic - hitting the standard notes of a classic D&D setting. The Nentir Vale has a few villages, a couple iconic dungeon sites. I can't remember in the Red Box, how much description it goes into, but in the DMG for 4th Edition, it had basic descriptions of the town, a few pages of the starting area. It's just a way to tie together adventures in a setting, especially for a new player, it gives you a map. It's almost like Karameikos from the old B series of the modules, where it's the context in which everything else takes place.

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