In this episode of the Tome Show Jeff and Tracy are joined by editor Sam Dillon (who didn't edit this episode, so don't blame him) and Icosahedraphelia host, Chris Heard.
And the following is the text of the interview with Mike Mearls:
Year in Review:
Tome Crew: How do you feel about the direction of design for the brand in the last year? What lessons have you learned from it?
Mike Mearls: So far, I think our overall direction is sound. We’ve gotten great feedback on our announcement of the next iteration, and it’s encouraging to see a groundswell of overall interest in D&D. To be honest, I was worried that people might just ignore what we had to say. I think I’ve learned that people love D&D and want to see it succeed. If you give them a chance to help make that happen, they’re more than happy to step up and take part.
TC: I'd like to hear the story of how the decision was made over the last year to revise the game...what brought us up to the announcement?
MM: The big realization was that with each edition, we were creating artificial divides within the D&D fan base. This divide affects the long term health of D&D as a whole because it makes it harder for people to find game groups or even discuss the game with other players. That doesn’t mean that new editions are strictly bad. Instead, it means we need to consider them very carefully and weigh the long term benefits and drawbacks, rather than focus solely on the short term.
When you have a splintered audience, your best bet is to find a way to bring people together. Our central idea is that regardless of what you like about D&D, you can find it in the next iteration. The basic approach is to preserve what’s there and express it in a compact, elegant way, rather than focus on inventing a new way to play D&D.
TC: 2011 was a big year for D&D branching into other mediums (comics, more/new board games, video games, movies, etc.). Has this been a successful movement for the brand?
MM: There’s a lot of interest in D&D out there, and we’ve seen that reflected in the enthusiasm for products outside of the traditional tabletop offerings. The truth is that many people play D&D for a period of time and then move on because life gets in the way. They still love D&D, though, and are willing to delve into it in whatever format fits their lives.
TC: D&D has had some big changes over the last year, could you tell us a bit about why this all came together at once (change in leadership, return of the boxed set, canceling minis and bringing them back, etc.)?
MM: I don’t think any of these things were part of some grand plan. In a lot of ways, the changes in products and such represent a few different attempts to innovate, shake things up, and keep the game fresh.
TC: What was your favorite moment in D&D from 2011?
MM: Running an adventure using some of the basic design principles that are in play for D&D Next. It was good to see a game that included role play, problem solving, investigation, and a couple of fights, fit into less than an hour. A close second would be running and playing five different editions of D&D with members of the R&D team. The thing that stuck out to me was that each edition of the game had its strengths, and in many ways those strengths could complement each other.
TC: What do you anticipate being the process for playtesting of D&D Next?
MM: We’re aiming to reach as many D&D players as possible, while ensuring that we get a good sense of what the players as a whole think. It’s easy to let a few, loud voices guide a playtest process, so we’re taking pains to design a system that gives everyone an equal chance to be heard.
TC: How can we expect the D&D Digital Tools to develop in the next year as Silverlight loses support and 4e enters its twilight?
MM: We’re continuing to support the tools by adding content through the magazines and loading materials from our books to it. In 2011, we made an effort to get feedback on which classes and races need more support, and 2012 is when you’ll see the fruits of those labors.
TC: What D&D product for 2012 are you most excited to get into people’s hands?
MM: I’ve seen some initial layouts and text for Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster’s Forgotten Realms, and that book is an amazing look at the Realms through the eyes of the world’s creator. Every time I have an approval meeting, I want to keep reading the text rather than just approve the layout and move on.
TC: With DDXP going away, what newer and bigger things can we expect from D&D at GenCon next year?
MM: We have some great plans for the show, but nothing we want to announce yet. D&D has always been an important part of GenCon, and this year we definitely want to step things up.
TC: What will your favorite moment in D&D be in 2012?
MM: Definitely GenCon. We have some nifty stuff planned.