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Rule-of-Three: 01/17/12
Rodney Thompson

Y ou've got questions—we've got answers! Here's how it works—each week, our Community Manager will be scouring all available sources to find whatever questions you're asking. We'll pick three of them for R&D to answer, whether about the about the making of the game, the technical workings of our DDI studio, or anything else you care to know about... with some caveats.

There are certain business and legal questions we can't answer (for business and legal reasons). And if you have a specific rules question, we'd rather point you to Customer Service, where representatives are ready and waiting to help guide you through the rules of the game. That said, our goal is provide you with as much information we can—in this and other venues.

We did get some questions about the focus of Rule of Three going forward, but I didn't think we should take up one of our precious three answers with a meta-question about the column itself. I just want to let everyone know that we're happy to answer questions about topics related to 4th Edition, to the next iteration of D&D, to just about any D&D-related topic within reason. So ask what you want—we can't answer everything as I've said, but we're not going to put any restrictions on what questions you can ask.

1 So we've seen the D&D Next design and development team, but what about the rest of the guys like Rodney, James Wyatt, and Chris Perkins? What are the other people in the office focusing on?

While the next iteration of D&D is going to be a huge project, we've still got a lot of other things in the pipeline for the next few years that need attention. You probably saw my name on the list of people working on D&D the roleplaying game, but I'll also be doing some work on board games. We launch our new miniatures skirmish board game, Dungeon Command, this year, and that takes the attention of several designers. Similarly, while the tabletop games designers will do a lot of work on board games, they'll also be contributing to work on the roleplaying game as well.

The same is true for 4th Edition D&D products that are still coming, D&D Insider, our novels, and so forth. Everyone has their own responsibilities, but the roleplaying game is going to be a big, important project, so everyone in the department will be contributing in some form or another. In fact, by the time you read the credits of the first few products of the next iteration of D&D, you'll see lots of names filling out a variety of roles.

There is also a lot of work that needs to be done to achieve the next iteration of D&D's goals. Designers and developers are just one part of the process. We need people to coordinate the collection of playtest feedback, and direct the playtesting efforts to get good data; we need editors to make sure that everything is clean and coherent; we need art directors to give the game a great look and feel; we need people to design adventures. Everyone in R&D will be contributing in some way, even beyond design and development. It's a team effort, and everyone on the team is excited to do his or her part.

Personally, I'm quite looking forward to Chris Perkins's contribution, which includes being my DM throughout the process. Chris, if you're reading this, get back to work designing our campaign!

2 How much does our opinion and playtest feedback really matter at this point? In other words, how much of the next iteration of D&D has been set in stone, and what do we actually have the ability to change?

It is no exaggeration when I write that your opinion and feedback is one of the most important parts of the process. One of the central goals of the next iteration of D&D is to provide a game that does what you (the players and DMs) want it to do, and in order for us to meet that goal, we need to know from you directly what you want it to do. We're taking our best shot at providing a fantastic game, but if one of our fundamental assumptions proves problematic through playtesting, we have to be ready to adjust those assumptions.

The playtesting process is going to be exciting, but we also know it's going to be a daunting task. We expect the playtesting process to last for many months, allowing us time to gather information and work with your feedback. In order to deal with what is sure to be a lot of potentially conflicting feedback, we need to be able to collect data in meaningful ways. Last year, we experimented with our first open playtest, for the Dungeon Command game. I believe we had a lot of success with that, and have produced a great game, thanks to that playtesting. Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium and Heroes of the Feywild both received extensive, closed playtesting that shaped them into what I believe are some of the best products we've produced.

A final word about gathering feedback: one of the things that has been extremely beneficial to me working on the D&D board games is learning to see beyond the words used in feedback to find the root causes of that feedback. What the expected high volume of feedback should reveal to us is trends in the needs and desires of our players. We might see five hundred different pieces of negative feedback about an individual game element; at that point, our job is not just to respond to each complaint, but to get at the root cause of the complaint and make adjustments. So while we might see feedback that says, "This should be 3d8+2 instead of 2d6+1," what we really need to figure out is whether or not there is a deeper issue causing the element to be underpowered.

3 What kinds of article submissions and article ideas do the editors of Dragon and Dungeon NOT want for online articles?

So I've polled the producers on this, and here are some of the things they came up with:

  • Articles that take a class or race and turn them into something that they are not; for example, don't pitch "I want to design a wizard build that is a striker" or "I want to design a halfling subrace that is geared toward being a fighter." That kind of material is really better suited to the books, and requires a lot of expertise and development time to pull off well.
  • Redesigning something that exists as something else; we're not interested in seeing an "arcane archer" class when we have the seeker, even though there's a power source difference. Something smaller that does something similar—to continue the above example, new material for the bard that focus on songbows—would be better.
  • No articles that reimagine something we've already done in previous editions as their primary goal.
  • Highly scripted adventures are likely to be rejected. If your adventure pitch reads more like a short story, reconsider. The players need to be able to have an impact on the adventure.
  • Articles that require a lot of campaign context to pull off; it's OK to pull ideas from your own campaign, but be aware that articles of that nature sometimes would not work without the context of your own campaign. If it relies on a lot of other elements of your campaign, it probably won't work as an article.
  • Specific beats general; don't pitch an article on "The Astral Sea" but focus on one aspect of the Astral Sea, for example.
  • High-impact story elements; if dropping it into the world has a huge impact, it's harder to use and makes more work for the DM.
  • General advice articles.
  • Unearthed Arcana articles that further complicate or lengthen encounters.
  • Right now we're full up on Bazaar of the Bizarre, Tavern Profiles, and Bestiary articles. Also, don't pitch articles for the "Eye on..." Columns. Those are columns tied to specific authors.

How can I submit a question to the Rule-of-Three?

Instead of a single venue to submit questions, our Community Manager will be selecting questions from our message boards, Twitter feed, and Facebook account. You can also submit questions directly to So, if you'd like to have your question answered in the Rule-of-Three, just continue to participate in our online community—and we may select yours!

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