97% is Still Failing 3% of the Time
|PAX East Exhibit Hall as photographed by Kiko Villasenor|
This weekend PAX East happened and more information about this summer's release of Fifth Edition was revealed, as well as, some really interesting bits on the Tyranny of Dragons program. Now speculation going into this weekend's convention had many observers predicting that not only would the launch date for Fifth Edition's Starter Set and the core books be announced, but that the prices for them would be confirmed (see Release Date for Next Leaked? for more). Neither prediction occurred. Instead we learned a lot about what the Tyranny of Dragons program was, a bit about the current state of Fifth Edition, and a lot about the upcoming art for the program.
Fifth Edition and the Return of the Multiverse
The panel was mostly about the new Tyranny of Dragons program yet some information about the new edition was revealed. The panel was asked about the current state of the new edition and Chris Perkins stated that the game was about 97% done. This number sent some people into a tailspin of despair about the new edition as it seems impossible that 3% of the process could get resolved into a finished product in time for Gen Con on August 14, 2014.
While many commentators lamented the missing 3% from Fifth Edition they missed a huge revelation that has confirmed a rumor that many of us in the hobby have been hoping was true since it first appeared. In August of last year Ain't It Cool News contributor Abstruse reported, ". . . A rumor has been going around that . . . [Wizards of the Coast] is approaching the various creators of their most iconic game worlds to bring them back in some capacity as the worlds are re-created or re-imagined for the next edition of D&D . . ." (AICN Tabletop! A Ton Of Stuff About D&D Next! This Week's RPG Kickstarters! And More!).
The rumor reported by Abstruse in August was given new life when James Wyatt wrote his December 18, 2013 Wandering Monsters column.
". . . Pretty early on, we agreed that the core rules for D&D Next had to acknowledge the existence of all the worlds of D&D—not just the Forgotten Realms we’ve been talking a lot about, but also Greyhawk, Eberron, Krynn, Athas, Mystara, Ravenloft—and, most importantly, the thousands and thousands of worlds created by DMs for their own games. So we’re writing from that perspective, and you’ve seen snippets of it in the playtest materials—for example, the inclusion of the kender and the warforged in the last races document, with explicit mention of the worlds they come from . . ." (Worlds of D&D)
We now have confirmation (see Secrets from the Tyranny of Dragons for more) that all of the key settings are coming back with some major names attached to them. Ed Greenwood, who has been contributing his Forging the Realms column on the Wizards website, is involved in the creation of the new edition's version of the Forgotten Realms. We also know that Keith Baker is back on board and that we'll have more on that soon thanks to Jon Bolding. Then there's Raveloft which was confirmed to be on the way by Forbes.
While Dragonlance has not been confirmed there is strong anecdotal evidence to suggest that this setting will be revived with the new edition as well. Kenders, the iconic Dragonlance race, has been playtested for the new edition. Chris Perkins stated that Dragonlance was not dead, but that they would need a specialist to revive it. Tantalizing bread crumbs but nothing substantial.
What we do know for sure is that of the major settings - Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Eberron, Dragonlance, Mystara, and Ravenloft - three of them are confirmed for the new edition with one that has been strongly hinted at being involved as well. Dark Sun's recent revival with Fourth Edition was really well done so it would not be beyond the pale to assume that it will continue its revival with the new edition. That leaves us with two settings not mentioned publicly since Wyatt's World of D&D article: Greyhawk and Mystara. Will they make a return?
The Art of Fifth Edition
Unlike the art of Fourth Edition, which was highly stylized and manga influenced, the new edition seems to be harkening back towards the realism of Second Edition art while avoiding the foibles of that earlier age. This change in style has been abundantly clear during the Sundering event but many were worried that the art might turn away from this style and back towards the cartoonish art of Fourth Edition - or worse, the hit or miss styling of Third Edition.
Happily that does not appear to be the case.
|Cultist of the Dragon|
|A Harper Bard|
There were many more photos of monsters and of some items but sadly none of the pictures were of very good quality. Hopefully in the coming days Wizards will release more images and I'll be able to post those as well.
The Tyranny of a Stand-alone Product
While many of us were hoping for more concrete news on Fifth Edition, Tyranny of the Dragon was making news of its own. This product, unlike so many others Wizards of the Coast has released, does not require that you own the Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, or Dungeon Master's Guide to play. In fact, ". . . [Tyranny of the Dragon] adventures will be separate from the core system rules coming out this summer, but will be closely tied into those rules, and the first major adventures . . ." (Secrets from the Tyranny of Dragons).
This tied in, yet separate, structure for Tyranny of the Dragon seems to be reinforcing the goal Wizards of the Coast established when they announced that Fifth Edition would be a modular game. It also has led some to speculate that the very nature of Tyranny of the Dragon may make it easier for Wizards to get the game in the big box retailer stores, like Target, Wal-Mart, and Toys 'R' Us.
Wizards of the Coast has done a lot to reinvigorate the game by integrating it in a wider market, however, it has not been their stated goal to get the game in the big box retailers. Instead the company has been focusing on their 'transmedia experience.' With Tyranny of the Dragon we're seeing the fulfillment of a goal established by C.E.O. Greg Leeds (see Greg Leeds, C.E.O. of Wizards of the Coast, On the State of Everything for more) and the continued evolution of their marketing strategies since the release of the Sundering. In September he laid out a vision for how the company would increase the presence of Dungeons and Dragons that included not only the standard novels and splat books that dominated Third and Fourth Editions but would also include video games, organized play events, and more.
That more has always been a tantalizing prospect as we have yet to see it materialize during the Sundering. That more, though, may show up with the Tyranny of Dragons as in the Forbes piece this line sticks out, ". . . We’ll see parts of the story not only in the tabletop RPG, but in the organized play program, in the Neverwinter MMO, and in other outlets Perkins can’t talk about yet . . ." (Secrets from the Tyranny of Dragons).
What other outlets might there be?
Could we expect to see a new comic book? Perhaps we might expect a board game tie-in as we saw with the board games Castle Ravenloft and Lords of Waterdeep. Would it be unreasonable to expect an app of some sort that ties in with the Tyranny of Dragons?
I expect all of those things to be around sooner than later; it only makes sense given what we've seen the company do so far. Still I cannot help wondering, in this day and age when Game of Thrones has millions on the edge of their seats, why are we not hearing about a television series? Why aren't we seeing Hasbro putting some of their best minds to work in developing a series that would capture the imaginations of millions? Why isn't there an HBO deal in the works that will finally break this hobby wide open and show the world how amazing it is?