The Writers' Room

The Writers' Room
Complete Mike Mearls D&D 4th Edition Essentials Interview

Alexander Macris | 16 Sep 2010 15:00
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The Escapist: We are now being recorded. Thanks so much for agreeing to the interview. It's exciting to talk to you, Mike.

Mike Mearls: Thanks for having me ...

The Escapist: We're doing an entire issue of The Escapist, four feature articles, all about Red Box. One article is an overview of the history of Red Boxes and Starter Sets. We've got some other pieces that are approaching it from different angles, and then my piece is going to be an interview with you. I'm probably the most avid D&D guy here at the office. I've been playing since the original Red Box and running tons of games and I write a column called Check for Traps on the site. I'm also the publisher! Anyway, let's start the interview.

What's your motivation for doing a Red Box for fourth edition?

Mike Mearls: The basic gist of it is to create an easy entry point into D&D. If you look back at the launch of 4th Edition, the game is really aimed at existing D&D players. There is a level of complexity in the game that is - if you don't know a lot of the assumptions of D&D that the game makes, such as making adventures or creating plots, creating your campaign world - D&D covers a lot of that stuff, but it requires a fair amount of work to get through it.

What we wanted to do with the Red Box is just make something that is very pick up and go. In the Red Box, there is a solo adventure you play through to create your character, a lot like the original Frank Mentzer version. The idea is really just to cut down the time between "Hey, I bought this game" and "I'm playing it."

I went to PAX this weekend, I played a demo called Shank, I went home that night, downloaded it and I've already beaten it. That's something that - especially within the past 5 or 10 years - with games being downloadable flash games and stuff - gaming culture is much more focused on when you first interact with a game and you're playing it - that's getting shorter and shorter and shorter. The Red Box all about saying "you buy this box, you take it home, you unwrap it, you're playing within two minutes. You're not reading through 50 pages of combat rules, trying to figure out how it works. There's an immediate entry point.

The Escapist: I can see that from the corporate point of view, but as a designer it seems like you have you been influenced by the old school movement. I read your blog a lot, and you talk about your first edition AD&D campaign and you'll often design 4th Edition modules in OD&D and convert them over. Do you personally feel that you've been influenced by that? If I like Frank Mentzer Red Box, is this a good entry point for me to return to the hobby. Is it going to feel the same, does it have a classic feel? So, less from a business objective, but from a design point of view, how should we be thinking about this game?

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