Monday, January 9, 2012

Is a 5e D&D Relevant?

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 Much like newspapers against the new media, the idea of a legitimized upper hierarchy in gaming has proven an outdated, badly defeated concept.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?


Writer@Large said...

I certainly agree with your perspective. Ever since the Hasbro takeover, things haven't been the same at WotC. 4E was a colossal pile of steaming feces.

That said, I think the face they're putting forward is a good one. They've rehired Monte Cook, ditched Rob Heinsoo, and are making overtures to the gamer community that they're listening and that they care. If they play their cards right, they'll both put out a good game *and* win back the old guard who abandoned them with 4E.

Gleichman said...

I'm going to agree with you on this one.

WotC can't really go back as that product and market are now (thanks to the OGL) owned by others.

And they can't go forward because that would do nothing for them besides abandon their history to others.

They would need a new product that is simply better than D&D ever was (very possible) and that would be accepted (almost impossible).

For WotC, the OGL was a horrid mistake and I don't see them ever recovering from it.

Yong Kyosunim said...

I agree. Unless Paizo goes belly up, I doubt that anything WotC does will get me to switch to 5e. Pathfinder does it for me just like the various other OSR clones and other D20 games does it for other folks who don't play 4e. I'll get the 5e "core set" (whatever that turns out to be), but I won't consider myself switching.

Zachary Houghton said...

@gleichman: No, that cat is out of the bag, my friend. :)

Anonymous said...




anarchist said...

I think the most important question (on the scale where any of this is important) is whether they have a d20-style open license.

Herb said...

Looking at the Monte Cook hire and the sales numbers we do see I think 5th is clearly aimed at recovering the 3rd edition set when they talk about "old school".

I honestly think the OSR types are secondary. As gamers they might love to get us but as business people it's Pathfinder they're targeting.

So, I do see 5th being very relevant to me.

Dan C. said...

Zachary, you took the words out of my mouth. I wish Wotc no ill will, but I find my D&D elsewhere these days.

killervp said...

A healthy D&D makes a healthy RPG industry. At this point, we all need 5.0 to be a success. I am not a fan of WOTC, or D&D- this is just reality.
Great to see a post from you Zach!

anarchist said...

killervp, I'm not a fan of the industry.

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matt jackson said...

Herb, I think you might be on to something here. All around the net I am seeing comments about WotC hoping to get the entire community together, but I think you might be correct. What if they are aiming for all those people that jumped to Pathfinder rather than trying to get us OSR folks back into the fold...which might be a too high bar to aim for.

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Anonymous said...

Using input from thousands of players to create a better version of D&D is a brilliant idea, and I know it can work! (After all, isn't Pathinder the best-selling RPG right now?)

4e was horrible _as_an_RPG_ (regardless of whether it worked as a miniatures combat game - not that it was that great as a minis game either, only the D&D title kept it alive) and it's going to take a lot to recover from that - especially if they try to somehow combine 3e and 4e into some type of hybrid game. You would have an easier time combining AD&D or 3e with Warhammer (the tabletop game, not the RPG) or HeroClix than combining 3e and 4e - that really says something about how far away from D&D they fell with 4e.

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