Friday, December 20, 2013

Dungeons and Dragons: Next Summer

By now, I'm sure many of you have seen the news that D&D Next will be released Summer of 2014, very possibly at or around Gen Con. It wouldn't be surprising to see an intro adventure product released beforehand, but I guess we'll have to see what strategy D&D goes with.

As for me, I haven't looked at the more recent documents for D&D Next, though I've tried to look in on its development. I appreciate that D&D is in an almost impossible position--they have legions of fans engaged with Pathfinder and older versions of D&D, and others that still love 4e. They're trying hard to allow for backward compatibility, but it's hard to see just how the game will be received. It could be a decent hit in the wake of 4e, but it has a lot of work to do to reunite a hobby that's as fractured in terms of game play as ever before.

In a sense, that's probably the biggest challenge 5e/Next faces. This isn't 2000, where the scale of print on demand and gaming pdf sales were in their infancy, and more people probably still had land lines than the internet. It isn't even 2008, where there wasn't an OGL and a burgeoning 3.75/previous edition movement. It's 2013, and we have more RPGs than ever before, with more ways to have them released than ever before. The OGL has become a fact of life for multiple game systems, and anyone with a great idea and the ability to sell their concept can have their gaming project funded. Social media networks are full of RPG channels and contacts. In short, it's hard to see how any RPG is going to unify the hobby under a single banner. Present technology, open licenses, and a growing desire not to "settle" for a game when self-publishing has become easier, would seem to work against it. It's chaotic, unpredictable, occasionally frustrating (crowd-funding is dicey), but it's also a lot of fun to see.

On the other hand, Dungeons and Dragons still has something, and there's a chummy crowd that will play whatever WotC puts out, for the sake of being "official". That's not to say that's the motive for everyone who will play Next, but it is a factor, and something Wizards of the Coast has on their side. But I just don't know if that's enough, or even what their benchmarks for success will be when the suits start counting sales.

I'll probably play Next a couple of times, just to check it out. But there's a long line of games I want to run. I'm still going strong on RuneQuest 6, there's a Palladium Fantasy (1e) campaign I've been kicking around, StarCluster 3, my yet-to-be-named Supers campaign for late next year, and a couple other items I'll probably tinker with, but never get around to. The fact of the matter is, Next is going to have to get in line. There's too much other good stuff going on right now.


Ken St. Andre said...

You're right! The days when TSR dominated the rpg market with Dungeons and Dragons are gone forever, and as a member of the disloyal opposition, I'm glad of it. The words Dungeons and Dragons are as generic as Xerox is to describe roleplaying games.

Zachary Houghton said...

I think they can be a sizable part of the hobby, but man, it's never been a tougher audience than it is now.

And you're right--it is a generic descriptor, like Q-Tips, Xerox, or Tylenol (or even Coke!).

Ben Naylor said...

Having play tested Next it is a nice simple system but D&D still brings the worst out of gamers. Min, max, power gaming and dungeon crawl type monster idiocy. Theres enough there to be a good entry level game but it really is a table top minis wargame. I'd play it again but not as a campaign.
So much choice now from more well defined and mature games.

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