Monday, April 14, 2014

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

Chris Perkins at PAX East
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.  

Zhentarim.

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?

27 comments:

  1. I'm sitting here at 3:30 in the morning, waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, and I just put out my first smoke of the day. Allergies are killing me right now and I couldn't fall back asleep for another hour or two of much needed rest. Sigh. All of this sounds really good. I still think Wizards are doing a good job with their marketing strategy. I'm a little bit disappointed with the makeup of Tyranny of Dragons being a stand-alone product. I get them wanting to make it something that they can distribute out at different outlets to increase exposure, but it puts me in the boat of wanting to buy something that I feel will be incomplete, but almost having to get it because I want the most current set of rules. Not just for me, but for my players as well. When I first heard about ToD, I was pretty much indifferent, because I create my own worlds and adventures. But now it feels like a must buy because of that need for a more complete ruleset. And this kind of annoys me. That may be my tired, allergy-plagued, coffee-deprived self just being obtuse.

    It sounds great that they are going to support all of the settings that everyone loves. I like the thought of maybe running a Dark Sun campaign for my players at some point, and maybe getting some Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk splat books to harvest ideas from, or throw them in to Ravenloft for a bit just to scare the shit out of them.

    All in all, this is some great info Charles. I think I'm just tired of waiting and I want the full goddamn game now instead of August, because I want my players to have the full rules for classes and such. Being impatient is one of the many character flaws I have that I've never been able to overcome. That and smoking. Fucking cigarettes.

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    1. " I think I'm just tired of waiting and I want the full goddamn game now instead of August, because I want my players to have the full rules for classes and such."

      We're kind of at the saturation point on a lot of this because we've been waiting so long and there has been so little concrete information. I think a lot of it will get better once we some firm information.

      "That and smoking. Fucking cigarettes."

      Have you ever listened to the Jack Grace Band song Cigarettes? I think you'd like the hell out of it.

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    2. Shit, I can't find it on Sony Music Unlimited. I'll have to wait til I get home, see if I can find it on Spotify.

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    3. Damn it. He had it up on his website for years but he's changed songs. You can actually listen to it here even if the audio isn't the best.

      Great song.

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    4. Trying to support all those settings was a non trivial part of what killed TSR. While many of those settings were neat, they severely fractured the fanbase. It seems more like Hasbro is trying to get others to do the heavy lifting on that part this time.

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    5. The fractured settings certainly didn't help, but the bigger problem was mismanagement by TSR executives and some major miscalculations in the long game. I'll try and find you a link I was reading about the near death of TSR and the sale to Wizards.

      Really great stuff.

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  2. Your bias is showing. Cartoonish? Really... go fuck yourself.

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    1. My bias?

      I didn't say that cartoonish was bad. Fourth Edition had an incredibly consistent art style that was highly influenced by manga art. To call that art style cartoonish isn't the same thing as calling it bad; rather it's the same thing as saying that Jim Lee has a more cartoonish style than Alex Ross. It's a reflection of reality.

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    2. Either way, Wizards gets some of the best fantasy artists around however they go style-wise and I've always thought the art has been phenomenal, no matter the edition. Hell, even inconsistent art styles don't bother me, IF the art is good.

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    3. No, I think cartoonish is accurate. That doesn't mean bad, but it was closer to stylistic manga than realistic.

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  3. Replies
    1. Thank you for that correction.

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    2. Even if we had kinder kenders, they still all need to be strangled violently and their bodies used as bricking for my castle of hate.

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    3. Are you sure we're not related?

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  4. I look at 5th ed. with no hurry, unlike Jim Haltom, but me too smoke cigarettes. ;)

    I wait to give a very thorough and critical view at rules, this's the minimum after the havoc they do with 4th, imho.

    Instead I am very happy that Ed Greenwood is back with great pomp to take care of FR and I hope he is capable of replace that crap they did with the Spellplague. :)

    For the art, although I am a fan of manga, I prefer a less manga-style, and I hope that the three images in the preview that you've posted are the style that they will use.

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    1. "I hope that the three images in the preview that you've posted are the style that they will use."

      I strongly suspect that it will be as we've seen lots of this style in every product since the Sundering started and in each of the 'previews' we've gotten from Wizards.

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    2. If that's the style they are going with, then it makes me want the damn game even more, because I love it. I'm going to go smoke now.

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    3. "I'm going to go smoke now" is how I used to sneak outside to drink rum with this lesbian I was friends with back in college.

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  5. I honestly don't know how they're going to manage to get this done by GenCon if they're still writing rules four months out. Does this mean that what gets written now isn't going to be playtested?

    There's a rather long tail in terms of production. Editing, layout, printing, shipping... If they're still monkeying with the text at this late date, my optimism for the quality of the final product just ticked down a notch.

    Now, of course they haven't laid out an official date yet (look for that in May/June), but if they miss GenCon it's going to be perceived as a failure even if they can say, "but we never said GenCon!"

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    1. I've thought about it a lot since this first came out and it seems to me that the 97% done is Perkins way of saying we're dotting the i's and crossing the t's. I think that he thought that by saying, "Hey, we've only got 3% left to finish!" that people wouldn't freak out and go off the deep end. Sadly he forgot this is the internet where no innocent statement goes without being over analyzed and blown out of proportion.

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    2. Hopefully, and I'm speculating here, go figure, that maybe all the rules are written and the finished game is at the printers now, and they are waiting for the proofs to come back? Maybe?

      I'll just sit here and tell them to hurry up and take my money and give me my game already!

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    3. Maybe the 3% is just setting information and stuff, not mechanical wordings, and therefore doesn't need playtesting?

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