Dungeons and Dragons

Via Tor.com:

2008 saw the release of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Ed., a release that was originally met with some strong vitriol from fans who were bothered by both the relatively small amount of time since the previous major release (3.5, released in 2003) which required a major time/cash investment for core players, and the drastic changes made to the game (ostensibly to make it more welcoming and inviting to new players). As we all know, the Internet has a drastic inability to respond proportionately to issues that bother them and in the four years since its release, fans have cooled down considerably and 4th Ed has fans and detractors in equal proportion.

Now, hoping to head off similar controvery with the next release of the classic Role Playing Game, Wizards of the Coast is looking to its fans for feedback on how they can improve things next time around.

A testing period will be open for a significant amount of time after the new editions is finalized a move the powers at Wizard of the Coast are hoping will assuage any fan fears of over-simplified rules or any other emphasis that might perceive as being wrong. Specifically, this new effort is centered around the notion for face-to-face interaction between gamers in a traditional tabletop play environment. James W. Ward, the former vice president of TSR Inc.

Here’s a suggestion, WoC, how about not asking your fans to spend a few hundred dollars every four years if they want to keep up with your product? How about spending your time and resources on creating great add-on content and adventure modules to keep fans interested in your product? There was 11 years between 2nd Ed. and 3rd Ed., 12 years between AD&D and 2nd Ed. Remember those days? The golden age?

You can find out more information about 5th Ed., along with how you can contribute to the development process, on the official D&D website.

  • James January 9, 2012 at 10:59 am

    My lone investment into fourth edition was the twenty dollar starter kit, which pissed me off to no end because I soon realized that there are two different rule sets in fourth edition: the standard, which comes with the manuals, and essentials, which includes the starter kit and other material. Vast amounts of confusion followed, resulting in me having absolutely no desire to continue on in this edition

    I can believe they are releasing a new edition already. They are probably already making plans for sixth edition. I do wonder what this will mean for the book line though, since new editions usually mean new world events that do terrible things. As far as I know, the transition over to post Spellplague Forgotten Realms is still ongoing. With the slow book a year schedule, I imagine we will finally be settled in just in time for something awful to happen.

  • Adam Whitehead January 9, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I think it is highly speculative to say that 4E has detractors and fans in equal numbers. In fact, it’s the worst-kept secret in the gaming business that 4E has massively underperformed compared to Wizards of the Coast’s expectations and this new edition has been moved several years up the release schedule (they originally had plans for several more years worth of campaign settings and expansion books, but I suspect Hasbro balked at the sales figures). If you take into account the triumphant success of Paizo’s PATHFINDER game – which is a more direct successor to D&D 3/3.5E rules-wise – it appears that many D&D fans preferred to spend their money on continuing the 3/3.5E rules paradigm (flawed as that is) rather than plump for a totally incompatible new edition. 4E certainly has its fans, but clearly they are insufficient to keep the game afloat, hence the new edition being moved up the schedule and Monte Cooke (one of most respected designers in the business and a designer on 3E) being brought in to help shape it as a fan-pleasing move.

    I liked some aspects of 4E, but it definitely moved way too far away from the traditional D&D rules set-up. The question is now do Wizards retreat to a more 3E-like setting, alienating those loyal fans who have stuck by 4E, or try to do something completely different, risking alienating both?

  • aidan January 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    @Adam — Interesting, I’m not close enough to the game to have realized that 4E continued to struggle. From the outside it seems like things had settled down a bit (afterall, nothing was forcing old fans to move from 3.5E to 4E), but it might make a bit more sense for WotC to bail ship and move onto something new. What a clusterfuck, all around.

  • Adam Whitehead January 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Well, the absence of new 3.5E products or any official support for 3.5E was a bit of an incentive ;-) Though of course, they could have moved to Pathfinder instead.

    I suspect Pathfinder hurt 4E much more than Wizards will ever admit. The open gaming licence was a brilliant idea when Wizards unleashed it in 2000, but it definitely came back to bite them by allowing the development of a rival product using the previous edition’s rules, so if people didn’t want to move (and only five years after the last edition, a lot didn’t, even those who’d have given 4E a fairer shake a few years down the line) they had an alternate choice.

    Yes, it was a clusterfuck. Unfortunately, I can’t see a way out for Wizards (short of buying Paizo and re-releasing Pathfinder as 5E, and even that will annoy the 4E fans) that doesn’t end up offending a large chunk of the fanbase.

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  • Locusmortiis January 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm

    Adam is spot on imo. I and my friends didn’t like the look of 4th so we completely ignored it and starting using Pathfinder. Paizo are putting out more product than Wotc and of a higher quality too.

  • Nic January 14, 2012 at 2:32 am

    I turned my back on TSR / WotC products after I recognized that their rule set didn’t fit my vision of a good rpg rule set. I started again after I was beeing talked into Pathfinder which was no bad sys but has all the teething problems then all the older D & D & AD & D products. In my opinion it supports a certain kind of hack & slay gaming. But that is not the problem WotC has right now.

    Imho the rpg market is shrinking. The numbers of rpg players is declining and pen & paper has far more competition then in the 80ties and 90ties. PC-rpgs, mmorpg, television, cinema all are competing for customers.
    New players are hard to win for the product. Why? Because you have to read a lot. If you start a console or pc game there are only a few page you have to read, and if you are lucky then you have a quick start guide in the game. Why should someone bother to read a hundred and more pages to play a game??? Also you have to gather a certain number of players. This is also hard in our mordern times. There are so much distractions and people arn’t reliable any more, at least not the way it was.

    You could also compare it to the car industry. Even the big producers like VW, Daimler, BMW or Toyota did shorten the life cicle of their cars because the pressure of the other competitors is hard and you need to make profit to please your shareholders and run your organisation.
    Don’t make the fault to forget that WotC is owned by Hasbro. And WotC isn’t one of the more succesful and profitable subsidiaries they own. They have to bring positive numbers. The profit has to be good or they are sold or closed…
    If a product doesn’t create profit then you have to bring something new up. And that is what they are doing. That is why they asking their “loyal” fans what they should change.
    Sure they have competitiors like Paizo. But lets hope that Paizo doesn’t make the same error as TSR years before: pumping products into the market in large numbers.
    The people don’t have that much money anymore. There are other hobbies to spend your hard earned cash on: books, games, dvds, cars, and so on.

    For me it’s understandable why they want to publish a new edition of D & D. That’s the only way they will stay in business!!!