With the news reaching me today that Wizards of the Coast is planning to release Dungeons & Dragons 5.0, my reaction was pretty unspectacular. Oh, it sounds like they’ve learned some things from the divisive effect of 4th Edition in general and the unqualified success of Pathfinder—an open beta, relevant supporting mechanics for something other than combat, and more player investment in the process overall.
But really, why gamble?
That’s not a knock on Wizards of the Coast, but just the reality. Pathfinder, the various retro-clones, games such as Castles & Crusades—each of these choices for fantasy gaming are also out there. And something’s happened while WotC dickered around and alienated their fanbase with 4e—many of us discovered what the far wiser among us had long known. Holding a trademark doesn’t make Dungeons & Dragons. True D&D is found with the folks still making dungeons with the help of an old Dungeon Master’s Guide. It’s with the folks that have a crazy homebrew incorporating Hackmaster with Swords & Wizardry. And as my time for gaming continues to dwindle as I get older, I’m not going to waste time and money on something that’s far from a certain deal. If I’m going to try something new these days, it’s going to come from a company I trust or have had a good experience with.
Perhaps their new game with be awesome. I hope so, and I hope they find the creative flair that’s been missing. Certainly an open test, if done properly, is a step in the right direction. But I’m not willing to invest in a game produced by a corporation that has a marked history of incomplete products, cash grabs, and unfulfilled promises. The spirit of D&D these days is found elsewhere, at least for me. Others will beg to differ, and that’s fine.
Bottom line, I’ve got my games, I’ve got my gaming companies, and I’ve got gamers I like. Traveller, Castles & Crusades, perhaps a bit of Pathfinder and In Harm’s Way thrown in for good measure. As it becomes increasingly clear I’ll never have enough time to run all the game I want to, the folks I trust will get my business, my time, and my gaming attention.
The biggest thing Wizards of the Coast’s version of Dungeons & Dragons has had going for it for a while now is the concept of sanction, that it was legitimate. Much like newspapers against the new media, the idea of a legitimized upper hierarchy in gaming has proven an outdated, badly defeated concept. It remains to be seen if WotC is among the ranks of those who can adapt to the new reality, or cling to the old ways to the end.
Do you think 5e will be relevant to you? Yes, no, waiting to see what the open test holds?