Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Snippet of a Conversation

"I'm kind of excited about the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons," Icarus said.


"Yeah, you know everything you've told me sounds really cool."

I'm with you there. You know it's like they've gone out of their way to address every complaint we've had with them over the last fourteen years. 

"What do you mean?"

Well, it's like this. We bitched about their adventures being crap so they went out and hired some of their favorite adventure designers to make the launch adventures. When we complained that their system wasn't flexible enough to allow us to use all our old shit they put out a system that's able to do just that. When people complained that their art wasn't serious looking enough they brought out some of the best art to be in a game in the last thirty years. 

We said, 'you don't listen to us,' and they put out a public playtest and conducted some of the largest surveys of their consumer base ever - and then did everything they could to address our wants and concerns. Then we said, 'That's nice. Where are my fucking PDFs?' and they said, 'Right fucking here.' When we complained that there wasn't a great starter box at the launch of Fourth, and that when they did launch it that it wasn't worth the paper they printed it on, they said, 'Okay we hear you and we're dropping a boxed set that will make you hard just looking at it.' 

When we complained that many of the indie game developers were letting us play their games for free before we bought them they said, 'valid point. Here's a fucking free version of the game that we're convinced will blow your faces off and get you to buy the Core Books.' To which we said, 'You think you're so clever don't you?'

Honest god, I couldn't imagine too much else that they could do to answer our criticisms.


  1. "Don't reboot the game with a new edition within 15 years."

    2e: "That might be asking too much, let's say 10 years."
    3e: "Er, let's set the bar low. 5 years."
    4e: "Dang."


    1. "Don't reboot the game with a new edition within 15 years."

      Sadly that's never happened.

      I did a post a while ago (A Timeline of Esoteric Importance) where I was able to put each of the editions on their time line. Anyway here's a basic rundown.

      Chainmail 1971 - 79 (eight years)
      OD&D 1974 - 1980 (six years)
      AD&D 1977 - 1989 (twelve years)
      2e 1989 - 1995 (six years)
      2e Players Option (arguably 2.5e) 1995 - 2000 (five years)
      3e 2000 - 2003 (three years)
      3.5e 2003 - 2008 (five years)
      4e 2008 - 2014 (six years)

      If you ignore the .5 editions and just call them 2e and 3e then 2e lasted 11 years and 3e lasted 8 years. Let's not even get started on the Basic editions as some of them didn't even last four years.

    2. Oh! My estimates turned out better than I thought! ;)


    3. You also dropped Essentials (2010), arguably 4.5e.

      That means 2 years between 4e and Essentials, and four years between Essentials and 5e.

    4. I think WotC stopped putting out legit 4e content in 2012 -- Heroes of the Elemental Chaos (Feb. 2012) seemed to be its last gasp.


  2. Most of the naysayers now seem to be people who still play ollder versions. Fortunately, a lot of them are of the mind that, regardless of a any new editions, their old editions still work for them, so they'll just nod and smile. Unfortunately, the more vocal among these Grognards are the ones who are somehow viewing anything as an affront to their old games. They just assume that WotC is operating on the premise of "newer means better" which I disagree with. I see their actions as based on "newer is different." It's a new way to play the game. If you don't like the new way, the old way is still there.

    1. Very true Tom.

      Personally I don't understand the increasing animosity out here on the internet when we don't actually have the final rules in our hands for the new edition. How can anyone know if they like or hate something that they've only seen in playtest form?

    2. Because they are actively looking for things to hate. I've seen negative comments about art, the includion of any skill system, ascending AC, etc. It's kind of annoying, but I try to just nod and smile too.

    3. We live in strange times Tom.

  3. Reminds me of a Simpsons episode--

    Lisa: Thank you, Mr. President.
    Bill Clinton: No, thank you, Lisa, for teaching kids everywhere a valuable lesson: If things don't go your way, just keep complaining until your dreams come true.

  4. Valid points all. There's no doubt that WotC has handled the advent of 5e far better than they did 4e.

    However, that doesn't mean that they have done everything possible to answer our criticisms.

    One of my major criticisms when WotC moved to 4e was the abandonment of the OGL. All of those other concerns? 3pp covered them all for 3e, and could have covered them for 4e, were it not for this major (IMHO) misstep.

    If WotC goes the route of Goodman Games' license, it would be nice to see that appear sooner rather than later. I, for one, am not interested in the DragonPath that WotC apparently sees as a unifying event. Options, early and often, would be nice.

    (One of the problems WotC had with 3e is that 3pp often came out with better materials to fill a particular niche. Licensing like the GG 3pp license can address this, in part, but if I was a publisher, I wouldn't want to gamble against the odds that the license-owner will not be working on a similar project. I really like DCC, but this has arisen in my own experience even so. I am not sure how much it would arise with WotC, and that is a real limitation to me.)

    Also, while they did ask for input, the terms under which they asked were infected with Dread Lawyer-itis. Compared to the Pathfinder or Goodman Games open playtests, WotC comes out third.

    So, yes, definite improvement, and, yes, their inclusion of a free pdf will certainly mean that I examine the rule system. But, if I like what I see, and I feel like writing for it, I really do not want to wait 6 months to a year to be able to do so.

    WotC still has some work to do, in my books.

    1. "One of the problems WotC had with 3e is that 3pp often came out with better materials to fill a particular niche."

      I would argue that while there were some standouts that there were many more who sucked. For every Goodman Games you had a dozen other companies whose names are forgotten to history because they couldn't match GG's quality.

    2. Whoops! Hit enter too soon, sorry.

      "if I like what I see, and I feel like writing for it, I really do not want to wait 6 months to a year to be able to do so."

      I don't know that you will have to wait that long. From what I remember it seems like fan made materials (ie non-profit) will have an answer fairly soon. Now for profit materials are supposed to be later but how much later I honestly don't know.

  5. When one breaks it down on issue for issue like this, as a company with regards to producing a game FOR the community, they melt faces.

    1. I have no idea what that means.

      In any event, WotC made 3e FOR the community; that's why there was an OGL. D&D sold. A lot. Then WotC changed hands, and there was a far greater emphasis on the bottom line, which led to attempts to revise what the OGL was meant to do, and then finally to an abandonment of the OGL altogether.

      Labyrinth Lord is an example of a game made FOR the community: it is an OGL game (and mostly OGC), you can get it for free, and you can create for it for free without any other requirements. You have an idea for a Pathfinder adventure or class? Cool. You can run with it and you do not have to ask anyone's permission.

      In the post-3e world, how you deal with 3pp determines whether or not you are creating a game for the community, or not. WotC is definitely on the right path; they are just not out in front on that path. The best thing that they did (making pdfs or print versions of older material available again) is not even mentioned in the blog post.

      The biggest issue, for me (licensing), with the 4e rollout is also not mentioned in the blog post. You can't break it down issue for issue without addressing it.

    2. This post melts faces. Well... yours, not mine.

    3. Your issue with licensing hasn't been addressed, yet. I believe Mearls has said on a couple of occasions that it will be early 2015 when they begin divulging licensing information. It's still up in the air, and there's only speculation. Considering that the guys at Kobold Press are writing the roll out adventures, it could be good news for 3PP and some form of OGL. Or not. No way of telling right now.

    4. Not that I have a dog in this fight but I just thought I would throw this out there: Hasbro bought Wizards in 1999 and 3e came out in 2000.

    5. Yeah, but there was roll-over within WotC. The people who were responsible for the OGL passed on. There was even some insider talk with the advent of 3.5 about the change in policy and attempts to make new claims about what the OGL was intended for.

      As far as the "many more that sucked", that may be true, but Pathfinder seems to be doing pretty well regardless.

      Either way, the licensing is a big issue for me, and WotC will not have addressed all fan concerns until that is addressed in a meaningful way.

      Like I said, they have taken some good steps down the right road, but they are not out at the forefront, and in a point-by-point comparison, they still have not adequately addressed some points.

    6. If I remember correctly Dancy and crew were let go in 2002, so about a year before 3.5 came out.

      "Pathfinder seems to be doing pretty well regardless"

      Yes, but Paizo would be in that upper echelon of companies alongside Green Ronin, Fantasy Flight, and the like who not only prospered during the d20 boom but made it through the bust.

      "the licensing is a big issue for me, and WotC will not have addressed all fan concerns until that is addressed in a meaningful way. "

      It looks like we may have some of those answers after Origins.

    7. Not sure if the whole Codename: Morningstar will have anything to do with the licensing. It looks like it's going to be their online platform for resources and such, like DDI. I just followed the project's company on my G+ account to see if I can sneak into the beta test for this. Here's their link: https://plus.google.com/105190462370927601736/about

    8. "If I remember correctly Dancy and crew were let go in 2002, so about a year before 3.5 came out."

      They left during the in-house lead-up to 3.5. There was a lot about the reasons behind this on the Internet at the time, but it seems to be hard to locate now. Ryan Dancey, at least, spoke about it. I believe that we heard from Monte Cook as well.

      3.5 was intentionally tied more strongly to the miniatures line, which was then making money (and WotC's market survey showed that people who bought minis spent much, much more on gaming than those who did not).

      This was also the first time that you began to hear that, from "Anyone could use that material to develop a product using that information essentially without restrictions, including the lack of a royalty or a fee paid to Wizards of the Coast" the OGL was only intended to allow 3pp to create content to support D&D.

      In any event, the purposes behind the SRD, OGL, and D20 License were discussed here: http://www.wizards.com/dnd/article.asp?x=dnd/md/md20020228e

      Or you can look here http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2ieov&page=4?Opinions-Mike-Mearls-Has-Open-Gaming-Been-a#157

      We had a song-and-dance around the licensing for 4e as well. At first, it was going to be OGL. Then the GSL was going to be less restrictive than it was. Then we saw the GSL, and it was what it was, and a lot of the good companies (at this time or by this time) decided to do their own thing instead. I remember very well thinking that, since Necromancer Games intended to put out a version of the 4e classes that was more compatible with old school gaming, that 4e might be worth checking out after all. But, of course, that was when we were told the licensing would not be restrictive.

      So, no, until this is answered, I can imagine what they could do to answer our criticisms: Answer the question.

    9. Well said.

      "3.5 was intentionally tied more strongly to the miniatures line, which was then making money (and WotC's market survey showed that people who bought minis spent much, much more on gaming than those who did not). "

      In the last Q&A Mearls and Thompson did they were talking about the industry and how collectables, miniatures, and the rest were up but rpgs were down and that part of the goal of 5e was to turn that trend around. Not really connected to the conversation but your comment reminded me of it and I wanted to see if that was your feeling as well.

    10. I agree, but this is at least in part because the minis market bubble burst.

      I am sure that WotC learned from 4.x. In the case of licensing, though, I don't know if they learned "We should be less restrictive" or "We should not tell anyone how restrictive licensing will be until after they have invested in the system". Investment here, of course, is not just money, but (far more importantly) time and effort.

      Some might consider that "actively looking for things to hate", but I consider that to be actively determining where my time and energy are best invested. I mean that both in terms of published work, and as a gamer.

    11. Talking about this stuff made me look up some old posts about the transition from 3.x to 4e. There were folks making predictions that 4e would last forever (!) as the final edition, and simply be updated through the electronic tools. There were folks suggesting that a successful business could not use the OGL, or be mostly OGC, despite the success of 3e, and predicting Paizo would suffer as a result of making Pathfinder mostly OGC.

      We who have invested ourselves in this hobby want the "D&D" name to mean something that we love. I don't think that we wish it ill.

      Back in 2004, I posted this: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?206483-David-Noonan-on-4E-quot-Cloudwatching-quot-(Added-Dave-s-newest-comment-from-his-blog)/page7&p=3755096&viewfull=1#post3755096

      In order to regain anything like the popularity of 1e, 4e would have to be easy to learn for newcomers, and quick to make characters for old hands, with a lot of added complexity that allows you to tweak the system the way you want, but can be ignored if you prefer to ignore it. You also need flavourful text that pulls you into trying the mechanics, and allows you to visualize it in your head.

      Ultimately, if you want a broadly appealing game, you need to aim for easy play, fast play, and real risks/rewards.

      I also noted that the pendulum was starting to swing in that direction: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?306353-The-quot-We-Can-t-Roleplay-quot-in-4E-Argument/page49&p=5580336&viewfull=1#post5580336

      So, WotC is definitely walking down the path I thought they should, and when I say "Show me the license" I don't mean it as a snide jab. I mean it. Stop equivocating, and show us the license.

    12. +Jim Halton, as far as I can tell, Codename Morningstar is the 5e version of the Digital Initiative.

    13. I often wish that we could actually see the sales numbers for each edition. Instead what we have is half inference and half bravado which adds up to nothing when you combine them. Maybe one day they'll realize that telling us how their sales are doesn't hurt or help them, it just makes it to where we can better understand their decisions.


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