Dungeons and Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast told us that working with Baldur’s Gate III developer Larian Studios has been such a natural fit that it felt like “an extension of our own team.” So much so, as it turns out, that Larian might be inspiring Wizards.
At E3 2019, we caught up again with Larian co-founder Swen Wincke and D&D strategic director Mike Mearls. Naturally, as Baldur’s Gate III is based on the D&D universe, Wizards has had a huge influence on its design. Asked if working with Larian had had an impact in the opposite direction, here’s what Mearls had to say:
“It’s really exciting when a narrative design team takes something and starts adding a story to it. It starts [you] thinking: ‘oh wait, this could feed back into this thing over here, and there’s this thing here’. What comes after Baldur’s Gate III is going to be shaped by the stories told here.
That’s a possible allusion to D&D’s in-universe story, but Larian might have inspired some soul-searching at a mechanical level, too, citing D&D’s spell slots system as an example.
“We’ve gotten some pushback on some game mechanics,” Mearls admits. “You [indicating Vincke] have talked about how spell slots might not be the most intuitive thing. One of the things with Dungeons and Dragons, which I think is very important, is the method by which we do things is not as important for tabletop players as the actual effect on the table.”
So if somebody says spell slots might be something to look at again, “we would not just change it, but maybe we’ll start exploring alternatives, and then seeing – like, in a playtest – do people like them better? Does it get momentum?
“In some ways – especially in tabletop, because we have 45 years of history – it’s kinda fun to have someone smart who’s not you say: ‘you should consider changing this’.”
Mearls acknowledges there were “a lot of unchallenged assumptions” made during the design of fifth edition, which “we just implemented. But this is why it’s fun to be extending out to the gaming audience, growing our audience, getting more perspectives, and new channels of feedback. It’s been pretty exciting.”