Former Dungeons & Dragons designer Mike Mearls admits flaws in the game's Challenge Rating system

In a candid admission on the RPG site EN World, Mike Mearls, former D&D designer, confronts the flaws of the Challenge Rating (CR) system, a tool meant to help Dungeon Masters balance encounters in the game. Mearls, who had a significant role in developing 5th edition, expresses his personal struggles with CR and announces his creation of a more reliable point-based system inspired by Warhammer 40,000. This new approach aims to even the playing field for encounters, ensuring a more balanced experience for players.

From an article on Wargamer:

According to Mearls, while other designers "pushed to do something else," he "locked us into CR because it fit with our timeline and was a tool that our existing DM base already understood." Apparently, the work was constrained by a "small budget" and "tiny team." Now Mearls argues that the decision was correct from the POV of a producer in his position at the time, but "it wasn't a great call from a design point of view."

Many DMs complain that CR is an unreliable yardstick for measuring an encounter's difficulty, and ironically, it looks like Mearls is among them. He's now come up with a new point-based tool that's apparently inspired by Warhammer 40k. The system assigns point values to different characters and monsters, and in a balanced encounter, the points will be the same on either side. It's available on Github for free.


One of many Wizards of the Coast employees let go in the 1,000 Hasbro layoffs that took place in December, Mike Mearls had been at Wizards since 2005 and was a prominent developer on both Fourth and Fifth editions. Now, it seems he's continuing his DnD design work as a third party creator.

"Work I did for WotC is owned by WotC, so I can't take it up and expand on it," Mearls said in response to a question on the forums. "However, there's tons of empty space beyond those bounds that I want to explore."

Read the rest.

Previously in D&D.