As many of you may be aware, last week Wizards of the Coast opened up the public playtest for the new iteration of Dungeons & Dragons. This fifth edition of the treasured fantasy role-playing game, referred to by Wizards as "D&D Next", is an attempt by the designers to bring fans of the classic versions of the game, pioneered by the great Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, back to the official D&D brand.
For those who haven't already, you can download the playtest packet for free at the Wizards of the Coast website.
For those who have, what do you think? Are you a 4th Edition fan unsure of this sudden move away from a ruleset that you have barely gotten to know? Or are you an old-school grognard looking forward to a return to the basics? Let's chat about the future of Dungeons & Dragons and discuss the rules in the playtest.
And, please. Keep it civil! Remember, it's ok to not like things, but don't be a d*** about it.
Yeah, the whole "new books" thing is a very tangible argument against another edition. It always is. But in order for a company to continue making role-playing game products, they have to make money. Is the solution a subscription? I think that TSR proved that keeping with one edition and just releasing splatbook after splatbook was not a good business model.
True, but nor is the solution to completely change the rule set, forcing players to buy new books and learn new rule sets.
I wonder what the solution is. Or maybe there is no solution. Maybe the idea that gamers can support a big company like Wizards of the Coast is just outdated?
Well, being a GM for over 30 years, I have quite an opinion on them and how they have killed the game that I've loved for so long. When they took over the brand and came out with the 3rd edition, they made a LOT of promises. Those of us with expansive libraries of 2nd edition books would be able to use them, they were going to make a GM tool to allow you to run an entire game from your computer, so you no longer needed a pile of paper to shuffle thru in order to run, and they would listen to us old-timers for input so that DnD would grow into a community. Problem is... their first 2 promises fell flat, and the site that they gave us to work with them, turned into a board where we complained about them. It was obvious to us... at the time... that they were focusing on their collectable card games and leaving us in the wake. You could even see it at the Cons, like Origins, with those stupid card game tournaments getting pushed to the forefront and all of the RPG games getting stuffed in the back rooms. A lot of us on that board swore we would fall back to 2nd edition... and stay there. I had made the mistake of buying the 3 core books for 3rd edition, and before I knew it... 3.5 came out. I was done with Wizard at that moment.
Mike, the solution is what it has always been. You create a world for the customer, and then you flesh it out using modules. Have you ever seen the number of modules that TSR put out? Have you compared it with how many Wizard has put out? There is a reason for it... there is not a single story teller there. What they call a sourcebook, would have been called a module back in the day. It is very simple why they are floundering... they are simply soaking their base, and that is why this is happening. What are they doing now? Trying to get us old-timers back. How? Hey... buy the books that you already have all over again. Some of the best games have either died or suffered because of them. Problem is... they keep trying to reinvent the wheel instead of supporting what is already there.
Gamers can support a big company. The company just has to give the gamers what they want instead of what they want the gamers to buy.
I think that ironing out "what [gamers] want" is a lot harder than you make it sound, Mike. Just look at you and me. We're both gamers, but you dislike the idea of using a battle map. I like it. Already we're fractured. How does a company support those two playstyles without trying something like D&D Next?
You have to admit that by polling the people who are checking out the playtest, they'll at least get a better and more accurate view of who wants what in their flavor of D&D. They can then try to mold the product around that customer feedback. I'm impressed by this data-driven method of trying to build a better game, as opposed to what they did with the past few editions.
I'm sorry, Mike. I think I misled you. I'm all about mapping. I want the players to be able to see where they are on the map. I want them to be able to se how the enemy is moving. I've played Battletech for decades, so you can guess my love for stategy. In the same breath, players don't always want to stand in the squares. Sometimes they want to take a position where they straddle 2 squares. I know it is nit picky stuff, but I play with some top notch players that have been playing as long as I have. They could support both of us... easily. If they are going to do computer tabletop gaming, they could supply us a mapping system, giving you the option to have "snap to grid", and allow me to turn it off so that I can place pieces anywhere. Really not rocket science. Just that easy, both you and I are happy with mapping.
As I said earlier, they ignore their polling. They had a whole forum of dedicated DMs to poll from and get ideas for their "Master Tools", and it turned from a tabletop system to a handful of generators. You might understand why I'm a little jaded about their ability to actually use their polling with any success. When they put out a version that has a longevity more than a few years, I might consider looking at Wizards as a gaming company, instead of a collectable card game company.
Totally understand. I always have the most fun when I'm playing with a DM (or a group, for that matter) who allows for "in-between the gridlines" play. The grids allow for a codified tactical ruleset, and the DM is there to adjudicate anything that doesn't fall within that ruleset.
When a player says, "I'm going to run up to the ledge and jump off and attempt to grab the chandelier, spinning around, and leaping over to this table!" and the DM says, "No" or "Is that one of your powers?" then, even in 4E, I consider that a DM failure and not a system failure. One of my favorite 4E books is the DMG2, mainly because it discusses these sorts of actions that fall outside of the basic set of rules, and offers up advice for making rulings on them.
I would hope that this current iteration of Wizards of the Coast won't ignore polling this time, considering it's what's driving this entire edition. They've never had a full-scale open playtest like this before, so at least they're trying something new. I might not be as jaded as you, but I agree with the statement about the longevity. I really liked 4E, so I'm very concerned about such a quick push to a new edition. I guess time will tell...
Funny you mention jumping to chandeliers. You wouldn't believe how often one of us in the group either plays a swashbuckler, or someone that is flashy like one. I've always found that the most important part of any game session is the story. If the story isn't any good, the game isn't going to be all that fun. The DM needs the latitude to allow the players to do heroic things, and a rules lawyer isn't going to find that in the "rule book". I think that is the biggest thing they need to do... "give" the game to the players, and then help them make it fun... like they used to. That is how you make your money. :D
Here is the problem. Take a hypothetical average group of 6, one GM and 5 players. It is all about potential sales. If they sell a player resource you have a potential of 5 or 6 sales in the above group. If you sell a GM resource you honestly only have a potential sale of 1 in our above group. Wizards has admitted that they were going to concentrate on publishing player material and have GM material to Dungeon/RPGA outlets.
It is not about what players want it is about what will sell enough to justify the expense of developing and publishing it.
I do agree that in both 3rd and 4th edition their promises for online have fallen on their face. There are 2 things that have to happen for me to buy into D&DNext (Yes I own a large library of all editions up to this point). One online play, and e-Books. I do not buy non digital books to read anymore, why would I want to buy my gaming books in a non-digital format?
That is exactly my point. Why are they focusing on the player? They should be focusing on the DM. Their job is huge in trying to prepare for a party's adventure. It takes me a month to set up my adventures for any of the Cons that I go to. Back in the day, modules were a godsend. Players had it easy. I always had to deal with them coming to me with the latest edition of Dragon, and the crazy classes that were in there.
I hope that you're wrong, Chris. If their focus is the players, then it simply tells me that they haven't learned anything from their 3 prior editions. Sure... there are more players than DMs, but if the DMs don't have the resources... no one is going to be playing the game.
I do love E-books as well. Once my older set of 2nd edition books started falling apart, I scanned them and now have them stored on my tablet. A tablet is a lot easier to carry than a backpack full of books!! :D
I did some hunting, I cannot find where they said it. So I have no link to backup the focus statement, it was for 4e so AFAIK they have yet to make decisions about Next yet. I do agree that making it easier on the GM means that more games of D&D get played, the more playing the more players, the more players the better the hobby as a whole is.
Unfortunately TSR is part of Hasbro which is a publicly traded company, and it is hard to show a justification for creating a low unit sold item vs. a high unit sold item. A 300 page hardback costs the same to produce weather or not it is player or GM material, if you sell 6 player books to 1 GM book what are the stock holders going to say to make. I think the only way for D&D to go back to the "glory" 1E days where most of the published materials are modules, TSR has to return to private hands. Which I do not think Hasbro will ever let it go for cheap enough to make that a possibility. Piazo has taken the business model you suggest with Pathfinder and have been very successful with it by all accounts, so it can be done, I am just not sure it can be done with a publicly traded company.