Sage Advice Live! Featuring Skip Williams, Dragon Magazine’s “The Sage” Sun. March 26, 2000

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Sage Advice Live!

Featuring Skip Williams, Dragon Magazine’s “The Sage”

Sun. March 26, 2000

WizO_Zugran: Come one, come all, to Wizards Presents, Sage Advice Live! with Skip Williams. Ask your D&D Questions! Think you can stump the Sage with your questions about the D&D, Alternity, and Marvel roleplaying games? It's tougher than you think! Now you don't have to wait for the next issue of Dragon Magazine to hear the Sage's words of gaming wisdom. Thank you for participating.
TheSage: Hiya Uni! Hi All!
WizO_Zugran: Skip, can you give us an opening comment/statement and then we’ll jump into the Q&A of AD&D, and so on, and Welcome again.
TheSage: Happy to be here. The Sage is ready to go.
LordAlcarius: Are any base rules changing with 3rd edition?
TheSage: I suppose that depends on what you mean by “base rules.”
LordAlcarius: Abilities, combat, and so on.
TheSage: Characters will still have six stats, and you'll still roll d20 for combat, saves, etc. Your character still will have a level and class. There are hundreds of small changes, however. If you're a Dragon reader, you've already gotten a taste of them. For example, Armor Class starts at 10 and goes up. Things have been changed so that wherever to you a d20, you'll want to roll high (in fact, "high is good" is kind of an unwritten rule in the new game).
WizO_Zugran: Very true, that loaded d20 is worth its weight in gold in 3rd edition.

TheSage: In short, you'll immediately recognize the game as D&D, but you'll note the changes just as quickly.

DunginsMaster: Is Wizards of the Coast going to be making a Middle Earth campaign setting for A D&D?
TheSage: Could be. As I understand it, the Middle Earth RPG rights are available and Wizards of the Coast certainly is interested in them. How close the company is to getting them and what it will do if it gets them, I couldn't say with making some pure speculations. I know I sure could have some fun playing around with Middle Earth as a designer. Mapping out Moria, that would be a trip!
Hemflit: In the spirit of cooperation with Blizzard (D&D - Diablo, Alternity, Starcraft) any chance we get to see Warcraft as a D&D world?
TheSage: Again, could be. Wizards of the Coast's business partnerships aren't my strong suit.
DunginsMaster: Is there a chance that Ravenloft is going to be re-released in 3rd edition?
TheSage: Right now, the only IPs that are definitely getting the 3E treatment are Greyhawk (I just finished working on a Greyhawk
3E product) and Forgotten Realms (I've just begun working on an FR 3E product). Exactly how many of our other worlds get developed and supported will depend on a host of factors. I do my best to avoid learning too much about it (business jargon is 10 times worse than gaming jargon).
LordAlcarius: Any plans on re-making the Birthright campaign setting to bring it back out?
TheSage: All right, no more questions about product plans, please. I don't know.
WizO_Zugran: Skip, very true. Folks, this is Sage Q&A time; there must be some burning question you have about current products.

SeaChanter: Are you going to be writing any more tournaments for conventions?

TheSage: Oh yes. My wife, Penny, and I are cooking up a little one-rounder right now. It's for the new 3rd edition game and features a couple of characters who really only could have been created under the new rules.
Beetle: I don't mean to sound suspicious or accusing, but when Planescape, Birthright, and Ravenloft were canceled, TSR employees working on these products went to the mailing lists and said they were not going to be canceled up until the day they were. Did they know ahead of time and withheld the information on company policy not to tell of the cancellation, or did TSR/Wizards of the Coast literally spring this information on game setting designers at the last minute?

TheSage: Well, Beetle, I wasn't one of those people, so I can't speak for them. The truth is, Wizards of the Coast is a big place and it's hard to know what's going on. In general, people who know the answers tend not to give them for a variety of reasons, including: A desire to avoid making current and near future products crash and burn; A desire to make sure folks like distributors, retailers, and freelances get the skinny first so they don't get blindsided by new developments; and, very often, A heartfelt desire to keep a favorite line floating at all costs. There's a lot of passion in this building. Planescape is good illustration of how Wizards of the Coast works. The line has not been cancelled at all. The current plan is to make planar adventures an integral part of the core, and we'll be using what we learned from Planescape to make that happen. In the meantime, any number of things could give Planescape new life. Fan interest is one. There's always the RPGA and Dungeon adventures, too. But, getting back to the nub of your question. Wizards of the Coast employees have an obligation to keep confidential information confidential. Mostly this is because very few of us ever know the whole story. When someone with a Wizards of the Coast screen name starts blabbing, you can pretty much bet that person doesn't really know what he or she is talking about (Ryan Dancey, our VP of RPGs, is an exception). You'll notice that I start talking in generalities whenever people start asking about the future. That's because I know things can change faster than I can keep track of them. If you want to know what's up at Wizards of the Coast, look at the catalog and look at the press releases on the website. Don't ask people to speculate.

LordAlcarius: Are there any new classes in 3rd edition? If so what are they?
TheSage: Hee hee! Sorry. We're keeping that little tidbit under wraps. Let's just say you'll see the old standbys, plus the return of some very old favorites from 1st edition, and something brand new.
Lirad: My DM and I want to know...can shadows fly? His 2nd edition Monster Manual doesn't say they can and we both thought they could.
TheSage: If you mean, the undead shadow, technically the answer is no, because they don’t have a flying movement rate. On the other hand, shadows aren't corporeal, so they really don't walk or run. I recommend giving them a flying movement rate, such as 30(B), just like a spectre.
Croaker1: A game play question now. Evil clerics can create skeletons and zombies, but who creates Ghouls and Ghosts? If a cleric, can they control them and give them commands? If not, who or what creates them?
TheSage: Ghouls and ghosts are created by other ghouls and ghosts (where the first one came from is anyone's guess). It sure would be possible to create a spell that let you create greater undead such as ghouls, mummies, or vampires (last time I looked, there was such a spell in 3E). Evil clerics can control ghouls or ghosts as noted in the turning rules.
Croaker1: Which spell creates them?
TheSage: Croaker, I don't know of one in the current game, but it would be possible to research one.
SeaChanter: How will the art look in the 3rd edition? Has the look been updated at all?

TheSage: There's lots of sample art on the website, go to the 3rd edition page and poke around. The design team has been working with the artists to create a whole new look, and also a series of reference drawings that will establish what everything looks like.

LordAlcarius: What book was the cartoon (a character on the phone saying "Dungeon master, I would like to report a change of alignment") in? I saw this cartoon in the 1st DMG so I thought, but could never find it again. This disappearing cartoon has haunted me for 15 years. Please help me so I can sleep again.
TheSage: Wow, I don't recall that one in the DMG, but I do remember it. I'd put my money on Dragon
Magazine. Perhaps someone with a copy of the Dragon Archive can dig it out for you.
LordAlcarius: It was a hardback.
TheSage: Really? That rules out a magazine, or even one of the art books. I suppose it's possible that it could have been swapped out between printing (how many of you remember the PHB that featured a dwarf sitting on a six-sided die?), but I don't recall being around when it happened.
Croaker1: I remember that drawing--shows my age huh? In Baldur’s Gate, (I know it was a CRPG) when you cast Animate Dead, skeletons would just appear; however, to clarify, the spell normally must be cast on the remains of dead creatures, correct?

TheSage: Croaker1, yes. Animate dead must be cast on fairly intact remains. CRPG designers often resort to any number of "house rules" to make their games work (and Wizards of the Coast gives them leeway to do so). One of the goals for the new edition was to make the game easier to render on a computer so (keep your fingers crossed) you should see a more true-to-the rules play experience in future D&D computer products. I suppose it’s also worthwhile to point out here that the CRPG designers who work on D&D computer products serve as absentee DMs, so each one will bring a different perspective to their games.

Croaker1: That dwarf on the dice is the on the first page of all 1st edition books I have.
TheSage: Cool. It's not on all the 1st edition books ever printed.
WizO_Zugran: Skip, it is almost that time. Any last questions, folks? Then we will wrap this chat up.
Croaker1: I just picked up a 1st edition DMG which is NOT "revised". Do you know what was revised? They look the same to me.
TheSage: In the DMG, there was some swapping around in the appendixes at the back of the book. You might check the list of monsters for new entries. And you might look for rules on creating parties at the spur of the moment. There were also any number of typo corrections and additions in the main text.
Beetle: I wonder. How do you determine the speed and damage when designing new weapons?
TheSage: Appendix P, I think.
Hemflit: You were probably disappointed with the questions tonight - they weren't the kind that generally fall into Sage Advice, most of us seem not to have prepared any tough ones that bothered us, so sorry if we've disappointed you.
TheSage: No problem, I just thought it wise to redirect things. I only have a few ways of saying "I don’t know, and if I did I wouldn't tell you anyway."
Beetle: I wonder, how do you determine the speed and damage when designing new weapons? Any hints?

TheSage: Start by looking at whatever combat rules you're using and take a look at what's already there. If there's a weapon that resembles what you've got in mind, you've got a starting point. As a general rule, the bigger and heavier the weapon, the more damage it will inflict and the slower it will be. You should take care to avoid adding a new weapon that makes all the old ones obsolete. If you’re playing 1st or 2nd edition, don't ignore the damage by target size. Things that aren't long and pointy usually do less damage against large opponents. Things that are long and pointy do better against large opponents.

Beetle: I found a couple weapons on the Internet to make stats for, but their damage is specialized (cutting bone and such), so that compounds issues.
TheSage: Very difficult to account for special effects.
WizO_Zugran: Skip, many thanks for your time and the same to all who asked questions.
Croaker1: I’ve only recently started playing D&D again after 15 years, so I didn’t have too many questions other than some ones that bugged me back in the 1st edition, so thanks for being here!
TheSage: As I said at the start, happy to be here, Zug.
WizO_Unicorn: Thank you, Skip! And thanks to all who attended.
WizO_Zugran: Cool, Skip see you again soon methinks.
Beetle: Thanks, Sage. I appreciated your help in answering our questions.
LordAlcarius: Sorry I didn't have better questions.
TheSage: LA, you've got a month or more to save up some good ones.
LordAlcarius: I played for 20 years so ran out of questions long ago.
WizO_Zugran: Lord, 22 years this summer...but there is always a question or two.
LordAlcarius: I'll think of something.
TheSage: Lucky you. Every time I play, I come up with some--and I have to answer them myself!
LordAlcarius: That's how I solved all mine.
WizO_Zugran: The big “what if” question...can a lightning bolt be cast in any direction?
WizO_Zugran: But that one is for next time.
Hemflit: Well, good luck to you all and good night!
LordAlcarius: That cartoon still bugs me though!

TheSage: Well, I expect the WizO would appreciate it if we took our butts out of here. So long all!

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