My Fellow Gamers, Stay Classy

Hatorade, Vancian Magic, Tactics, and Other Things

I’m here at DDXP and after yesterday’s Class Design Seminar, the internet has seemed ablaze with irrationality. I’d like to quell this uprising somewhat by pointing out a few key factors. First and foremost please watch the video I just linked to in the sentence prior to this one, and watch the whole thing, not just snippets that get your underwear in a knot. Did you watch it? Okay, now that you’re back allow me to elaborate on some key points that were both expressed during the seminar and to myself personally in conversations with WotC staff.

First And Foremost

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  • This stage of development is PRE-ALPHA, if you don’t know what that means it basically boils down to things scrawled on napkins and then brought to fruition in a word processor. These things can and will change, this is all very very early in the design process.
  • If you don’t like something once the playtest reaches you, give feedback!  Be vocal about it, be respectable, and be constructive, if you have a problem with something – try and have a remedy in mind when submitting feedback (my words, not WotC’s).
  • Regarding 4e “being forgotten”, the modules for other edition compatibility haven’t even begun to be written yet, Schwalb himself says he starts that stuff “next week” during the seminar.
  • Regarding how well 4e will come through into D&DNext, remember that Robert Fucking Schwalbthe guy who has cover credits on half of the books ever published for 4e is the metal loving pirate of awesome that is sailing the 4e tacticls module ship (probaly among many other 4e related things, he loves 4e).

On Vancian Magic

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  • Vancian magic is only being explored as one of many venues that magic will be expressed as within the game.
  • That Vancian magic is being tweaked to accompany a friendlier approach, including new ways to regain spell slots other than long rests, and there was also mention of very at-will like abilities and other things I can’t tell you.
  • At this point it seems only “core” classes are looking at Vancian magic
  • Just because game-centric terms like “Primal Controller” will disappear doesn’t mean D&D won’t be a game.

On Tactics / Edition Compatibility / Tone

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  • As already mentioned above, Rob Schwalb is in charge of the 4e tactics stuff, trust in him (and the rest of the stellar design team) to do a great job bringing these things over.
  • The team hasn’t even begun to write these things yet (to my understanding) and so they in turn do not have solid answers for everyone just yet, this doesn’t mean they have forgotten anyone, are trying to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes, or anything else ridiculous I saw buzzing around the internet yesterday.
  • The tone of these guys may seem very certain as in “this is how we’re doing X in D&DNext” but you have to remember they are designers, they are programmed to feel strongly about their ideas, while they may not even be cemented to anything just yet.
  • Also please, please keep in mind that everything mentioned is a very ‘at this point in time we are exploring doing X’ as opposed to “this is how we’re doing X” even if their tone may have sounded like it. These guys are only human and none of this is rehearsed, cut them a break.

Back Into The Fray!

Well that’s it for me for today guys, going to check out the Lords of Waterdeep board game, get some more interviews for Obsidian Portal, record the next seminar and wander aimlessly for a while. I hope I can help breathe some rationality into a community that is somewhat enflamed at the moment, please give these guys a chance. They are making the next edition of D&D for us, its fans. Hang in there and have some faith.

You can stay updated on all of my DDXP exploits and interviews over on the Obsidian Portal Blog for interviews, videos and more.

It shouldn’t need to be said, but I will anyway in light of recent events: don’t bother posting flametastic comments on this post, I’ll just delete them.


  1. Thanks, Jerry.

    Personally, I am concerned that the design direction isn’t matching what I would like it to, but I am willing to wait to see the playtest documents myself, and am willing to give my own feedback.

    Yesterday… well, yesterday was just stressful for me for other reasons, so my responses were stronger than they normally would have been. As I expected, I am much more tempered about it now.

    Should my fears be right, and the design direction continues as it seems to be, I may or may not play or DM the next edition. But we’ll see that when we actually get more info.

    PS. Your comments, ChattyDM’s comments, and the fact that Schwalb is so prominently featured are the main things giving me hope that my fears are unjustified. Thanks for that.

    • Good to know I could help out Graham, your comments yesterday were pretty mild in comparison to other things so please don’t think I wrote this post directly and directly aimed it at you. Good to know Chatty & everyone else are helping to send good vibes in your direction.

  2. I like Monte Cook said…”vancian system IS DnD”…. I agree it feels a part of DnD just as much as a Beholder does. I have been following his ‘napkin scrawls’ as you call them and I love Cook’s ideas. Robert maybe has his name on almost every 4e book, but Monte has his name on about 4 times more books through out DnD’s history. I certainly feel that development is in good hands. I know they have played many editions of DnD and they are in a good spot to take the best parts of all editions, or fix the worst parts.
    During this alphaish phase I wish there were more open channels for feedback from someone such as myself. I haven’t written published books, but I have a massive amount of experience DMing and creating custom rules material.
    I have to be content that they are at least similar minded to myself.

    • I think they are reigning in feedback to a smaller group during the alpha-ish phase to just reduce the overall amount of pure flak/vitriol they might receive and wait until they have a more fleshed out vision to present these things more publicly. It makes sense, but yeah it definitely sucks for those who are foaming at the mouth to give good honest constructive feedback. Time will pass though and everyone will get to be part of D&D’s history.

  3. I have been telling my players much the same thing: Rob’s on it, Monte’s on it, calm down about anybody “walking away” from 4e’s good parts.

    But in my private thoughts, I don’t know how I’m going to get a fighter interested in “swinging a sword” again, or my Wizard not getting at wills without a feat tax. I remember when 4e came out with very little Vancian magic, I and many friends were like, “thank god”

    • These aren’t really “feats” in the same sense that feats have appeared in previous editions of the game. I don’t see his descriptions as “feat tax” (per 3e/4e) and being seen as a mandatory thing to play, but possibly just a venue for further expanding/customizing your character or adhering to a particular rules/play style that you and your group have chosen to go with.

      Check out the video from today’s last seminar to find out more about what I’m talking about:

  4. Here here!

    Another great post and called shot to the dread eye of the gazebo (aka things gamers are paranoid about when they don’t have all the facts yet)! Hoody hoo.

    Folks roll a perception spot or search check and put insight and sense motive on hold for a bit longer…

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