I might have already said this, but I appreciate Mearls entrenching himself into the festering cesspool where the worst of the vocal minority lair, readying piles of vitriolic feces to hurl whenever he dares to open his mouth. Surprisingly this week's thread is pretty tame, but which I mean to say that there is roughly an even mix of actual conversation and thoughtful consideration mixed with the hate, sarcasm, and logical fallacies.
Anyway, here is my thoughts for this week:
Why were craft skills removed from D&D in 4th edition?
Around four years ago WotC released two preview books--Races & Classes and World & Monsters--where they mentioned that craft skills were getting cut. This caused some to complain that WotC was either getting rid of their definition of role-playing, and/or that they used them "all the time". I remember even one of the writers at Paizo claiming that he was writing an adventure where the Profession (butcher) skill could be used to discover a clue, making it the only 3rd Edition adventure that I can recall where a Craft/Profession skill had a direct impact despite the fact that you could not use Profession skills untrained and had to buy each skill individually.
The one time I used a Craft skill--when I was not making a weekly check to gain gold due to an abnormal duration of downtime--was when we were constructing a raft to try and make it easier to wade into a swamp. We all, took 10, stacked a bunch of Aid Another bonuses, and waited for the DM to declare the arbitrary length of time it would take to build it and get on with something actually interesting. Using Craft was never really "dangerous" when you could take 10 to auto-succeed at a task. If you had to roll then your only risk was potentially losing out on some cash and/or materials.
While I think it is thoughtful of Mearls to admit that maybe they could have added in a sidebar recommending you to add in a pre-adventuring job if you wanted to, it is kind of sad that players needed permission in the first place, especially those that claimed to play in older editions where such skills did not even exist (not that my character couldn't have a work history involving work in 3rd Edition despite not burning skill points on Profession skills).
Many players have a problem with the idea of a feat tax—feats like the expertise feats that address a deficit that all characters have. Are you looking at ways to fix issues without adding more feat tax or ways of fixing the feat tax issue in general?
"Many" in this case probably translates into "more than a few". One poster stated something that I think is true; a minority of the gaming community is even aware of a "math error" when it comes to character attack bonuses and monster defenses. Of that group, only a minority give two shits. Case in point I know that people online bitch about math issues and feat taxes, but few players in my group (or at Encounters) ever pick up either Expertise feats or defense boosters, and things progress just fine.
It is because of this I actually like Mearls's response: if you do not like it, then houserule in a bonus to attack rolls and defenses (or reduce the attack rolls and defenses of the monsters if you do not want to do that). I mean if there is actual communication going on with your group, then this should honestly not even be an issue, though I expect more than a handful will continue to make it an issue.
Combat can take a long time. The new monster math has helped speed things up, but are you working on anything else to encourage speedy combat while keeping it fun? Do you have any tips for keeping combat moving swiftly?
Whether a combat challenge takes a long time is going to vary from encounter to encounter and from group to group, so I was not expecting a "hard" solution. Even still the tips are definitely good things to know, especially for newer DMs. I recall a fight from an actual adventure that involved a bunch of grells with a dazing aura. I could see this being an issue in a "normal" party, but with a group of three and only one striker? Drag city. In my games I am only too happy to just end a fight if it is blatantly one-sided, or to have intelligent creatures surrender and/or run away, I just wish some of my players would remember that Intimidate can be handy to force it.