Designer Interview with Rich Baker and Mike Donais
In this month's exclusive interview, designer Rich Baker (with a word or two from designer Mike Donais) discusses the next book in the "Complete" series,Complete Arcane Why do warlocks kick butt? And who are the real gunslingers in the wizard world?
Wizards of the Coast: Overall, what feature of the new book do you think players will find most useful or most exciting?
Rich: My top three picks would be: (1) the warlock, (2) the great new prestige classes, and (3) the interesting new spells!
Wizards: Let's start with the warlock, then. What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages to this new standard character class?
Rich Baker: The warlock's biggest advantage is no real limit on the number of times per day he can use his powers. (He's got a couple of powers with limited uses per day, but 90 percent of his powers have no such restriction.) The thinking here is that in most D&D games, your characters are probably going to be in only 15 to 20 rounds of combat between rests and spell recoveries. So after your spellcaster has a total daily spell allocation of 20 spells or more (say, around 5th level), his real limit is the number of actions he gets per day -- the number of specific opportunities he has to cast a spell. So the warlock is still bound to the same ultimate limit that any moderate-level wizard deals with. Now, it's pretty useful to never run out of attack options, and the warlock can blast you over and over again with his eldritch blast. So what he gives up is spell versatility. The warlock knows only a handful of different tricks. On the bright side, the tricks are all spooky, creepy, and oozing with flavor.
Wizards: Complete Arcane details two other standard character classes: the warmage and the wu jen. What are their origins?
Rich: The wu jen first appeared in Oriental Adventures by James Wyatt. The warmage appeared in the Miniatures Handbook. We included the wu jen in Complete Arcane because we wanted to show off an Asian-influenced spellcaster, and the wu jen did that pretty well. We'd also included the samurai in Complete Warrior and the shugenja in Complete Divine.
Wizards: Of the 19 prestige classes offered in Chapter 2, which are your favorites? (The alienests, who "deal with powers and entities from terrifyingly remote reaches of space and time," seem absolutely awesome to me. I mean, really, who wouldn't want to use Summon Alien pretty much every day?)
Rich: Obviously, we updated a fair number of classes from Tome and Blood. But we also created a number of new prestige classes for this book (that was one of my primary tasks in design), so naturally my favorites are the new ones. In particular, I'm proud of the green star adept (go read Robert E. Howard's The Devil in Iron), the initiate of the Sevenfold Veil (her capstone ability is Kaleidoscopic Doom -- how cool is that?), and the wild mage. I figured out a pretty easy way to handle the wild mage's magic surges and power variations, so it should be a lot easier than the old Tome of Magic class.
Wizards: What's your creative process like in designing and developing all of these prestige classes, arcane feats, new spells, magic items, and monsters? At this point in D&D, do you find it difficult to cover new ground, especially when it comes to magic?
Rich: I don't know if I have any one global process for thinking up new stuff. I can offer a little insight into how I derived some of our new material, though. If you look at the various schools of magic, you'll see that Abjuration really gets short shrift in most of our sourcebooks. So, I was determined to look hard at Abjuration spells and see if I couldn't re-envision the abjurer a little bit to make it cooler. It occurred to me that abjuration was the school of magic manipulating magic (for example, dispel magic) . . . which means that abjurers really ought to be the nastiest spell-duelists out there. If you want to build a wizard who specializes in gunslinging against other wizards, Abjuration should be your specialty. That's a pretty cool take on a school of magic that was formerly a little boring and overlooked, so I ran with it. I created a half-dozen key new Abjuration spells to support that vision, spells that screw with the other wizard's defenses and use your enemy's magic against him.
Wizards: The wu jen and warmage have a pretty broad range of new spells in Complete Arcane. How do you strike the balance between designing new spells and tweaking older ones?
Mike Donais: When developing the spells and choosing which ones needed to be included, I looked through our old products like Tome and Blood and I read our Character Optimization forums that discussed problem spells. I also went through the RPGA lists of banned spells to see which ones could be fixed. Including the warmage in the book meant that we included all of the spells on his list.
Wizards: One of the highlights of the new book is the introduction of effigy creatures. How did their design come about?
Rich: Thanks! However, I can't take full credit for the notion. One of the prestige classes cut from our Frostburn manuscript was a spellcaster who specialized in making simulacra of ice and snow. I liked the basic concept, even though the execution of the class was pretty rough in the first draft. So, I thought about a way to broaden the idea and redesign the class, and I came up with the effigy master. And once you have the effigy master, well, a template for making clockwork/automaton monsters to your heart's content seems natural.
Wizards: Among the other great new ideas, you have things like the "tournaments arcane," various competitions where mages can test their skills and talents against one another, and a variety of schools and colleges, like the Arcane Order. What are some of your favorite new concepts from Complete Arcane?
Rich: I've been itching to do more with spellduels ever since we did Magic of Faerûn. I wanted something that was more spontaneous and less involved, so that PC wizards might make more use of it. So I'm pretty happy with the spellduel rules. One of my particularly favorite notions from the book actually wound up in another book, though. I designed a Fochlucan lyrist prestige class and wrote up the Fochlucan college, but we wound up putting those into Complete Adventurer.
Wizards: Given the way magic grows in the D&D game, do you anticipate a time when you'll need to design a Complete Arcane II? Are there other areas you would like to explore in greater detail in a later supplement?
Rich: It's magic! We're never going to nail it down into a Grand Unified Theory. Sooner or later, we're going to have more to say about magic in the D&D world; it's pretty much inevitable. As far as things that might need attention in the future, I think the School of Illusion could use some help. It's got lots of spells, but the mechanical conceits behind illusion magic could use a lot of examination.