Article Header Image
Ask R&D
Design & Development
by Mike Mearls and Chris Sims

On the last morning of this year's D&D Experience 2009, R&D's Chris Sims and Stephen Radney-MacFarland ran the gauntlet of an open Q&A forum. They answered and addressed the questions put forward (at times even agreeing on the answers!), and we've collected and reprinted them here for your edification.

General Philosophies

Was there a reason for a larger release of updates following 4th Edition's release?
As Stephen explains, one of the things 3.5 taught us at Wizards of the Coast was the need for a better update process, in terms of scheduling and assigning people to the task. With 4th Edition, we knew there would be a need for updates, and our new process has helped. We also want players to know that we listen to their concerns, and we incorporate feedback as needed and as best as we can.

Where can we look for rules clarifications?
Some players have expressed an interest in not just updates to the rules, but also clarification of existing rules so that they can understand how these rules should play out during their games. This is a worthwhile request that we'll take into consideration so that we can determine its best implementation. That said, we also need to avoid additive interpretation by players (that is, over-specific language for a rule sometimes trains players to believe there is an exception to that rule when in fact there is not).

Is there a way for RPGA judges to escalate rules questions? Or have its own set of interpretations?
We absolutely do not want the RPGA to install its own separate rules interpretation. (As Chris Tulach noted, that way leads to madness!) However, we absolutely do want RPGA issues and concerns to better inform our future game design and updates. We will look at how rules questions can be better escalated for RPGA judges.

Specific Updates

Why was veteran's armor nerfed (losing its daily power)?
The update team looked at a variety of solutions for the armor's power (which was considered overpowered); the best solution, the team initially felt, was to redesign the power completely. That, however, is not their directive. The truly best solution in this case, in terms of an update, was simply to remove the power.

When it comes to playing warlords, their furious smash at-will power feels underpowered (when compared to a cleric's righteous brand); any thoughts?
The design for this warlord power was to provide your allies with a better chance to hit and deal damage (whereas righteous brand provides only a bonus to hit). Even if it feels shallower than similar types of powers, it can still have its place—but will we ever bring it higher to compensate? No. Updates are reserved for things that really do not work as intended—not for powers that might be slightly over- or under-costed.

Is there any thought to limiting magic items' powers so that they must be possessed for 24 hours before using (in order to limit the abuse of multiple copies of the same magic item providing multiple uses of the same daily power)?
That specific fix is not necessarily a good one, and here's why: Oftentimes magic items are given out in treasure parcels because you (as the DM) want them immediately used by the players in that adventure. That said, though, you might consider implementing a house rule—if you see a need for one in your games. Just as ongoing damage of the same type doesn't stack, you might also create a house rule that states that the same daily power of a magic item can be used only 1/day—even if it's the same daily power but from multiple copies of that item.

Specific Rules Questions and Quandaries

When it comes to playing paladins, what is their radiant charge encounter power meant to achieve?
The design intent for this power was to allow your paladin to reach those pesky flying/hovering creatures at least 2 squares in the air (which tend to appear at high heroic/low paragon tier). Also (as our panelists debated), the effect of flying a number of squares comes in addition to—and is not part of—the movement in your charge.

For the blood mage paragon path, how often can you damage an opponent using the Bolstering Blood feature?
You can damage an opponent once per turn and once per power.

Can you slide a target multiple times (by using a warlock's diabolic grasp or harrowstorm powers) into a wizard's wall of fire for iterative damage?
There are several factors to take into consideration here. First, a target must move into the wall's space—that is, moving into every square of that space does not inflict iterative damage. However, if a target moves into the wall's space, then back out, and then back in again, it will take more damage; but remember, entering each square occupied by the wall costs 3 extra squares of movement (which might be possible with a high-level use of a harrowstorm).

The real issue might be with clarification of the word "move," especially as it interacts with push/pull/slide effects.

When using double weapons, such as a double sword, can you drop a thrown weapon in your other hand as a free action and then gain the defensive benefit of the sword?
Yes, as you can see answered in a previous Sage Advice. You are free to do so, but keep in mind that you'll then need to pick up your dropped second weapon…or an opponent might pick it up as well!

Can a warlock's contagion power spread to invisible enemies within range?
Here's a quick inside look at game development: At times, while developers like to keep out specific language, editors often prefer to keep it in place. This was the case with our recent updates where we added specific language regarding targets that must be seen; this is not a wholesale change to all powers, just language applied where it was specifically felt to have been needed.

When it comes to targeting enemies within line of sight, this requirement makes sense for some powers and abilities such as divine challenge—so that it isn't used as a de facto see invisible ("I target the nearest enemy; now show me where he is!"), since by the rules you know if a power worked or not. For contagion, there seems to be more leeway. As the situation decries, your DM might well allow it to spread to invisible enemies.

On that note, let's conclude with a final thought that is known to all but well worth reiterating. When it comes to the rules and their application, nothing is wrong with DM Fiat. That is, if the DM wants to allow a situation in the game to succeed (or not), if it fits the circumstances and the characters, then it should be left to the DM's adjudication.


Many thanks to everyone attending and participating in the seminars at D&D Experience 2009. As an added bonus, those at the seminar were given a chance to win a free pass to Gen Con Indy 2009 (with one attendee at each seminar winning a pass)—our congratulations to the lucky winner!