Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A new edition, a new start...

If you are reading this, I must assume that you already know that Wizards of the Coast has announced the release of a new edition/iteration of D&D. If you do not, go to The Escapist and get caught up.

As WotC looks to reinvent itself along with the game, I thought it was a good time to revive this blog. Where have I been? The story is tedious, but not long. A long vacation broke my habit of posting. I had nothing clever to say. Work got a little crazy. Then there were holidays. Oh, yeah, and Blogger got blocked by work for a while. See? Tedious, and not long.

Anyway, I am back, and I come back to join the deafening roar of RPG bloggers. I read a huge number of reactions to the news over the last couple of days, preparing for the latest RPG Circus podcast last night. The range of reactions was interesting.
  • Eagerly optimistic, from people who really want to play D&D but have lost interest in 4e. I especially noticed that the bloggers who had been invited out for the playtest fell into this category.
  • Cautiously optimistic, from most people who want to see WotC and D&D succeed, but feel like they've been burned before.
  • Incredibly, vocally, stridently "meh". The amount of energy expended by people trying to prove that they don't care was pretty staggering.
  • Anger, from people who believe that WotC is actively lying, stealing Paizo's ideas (as though they invented and patented open playtesting), and forcing them at gunpoint to buy more books. I suppose it's the unreasoning anger you feel towards an ex. Once love dies, everything that person does is tainted.
  • A strange sense of elation and victory(?) from certain OSR bloggers. As though the death of 4e is somehow an validation of their philosophy.
  • A sense of defeated fatalism. It's like these people see D&D as a beloved family member that has developed cancer. Another doctor has come along and promised a cure, but these people refuse to open their hearts to hope.
  • A rousing cry that 5e, D&D, and WotC don't matter any more. We have found out that there are, *gasp*, other games on the market! Some of this comes from the indie community. Some comes from the OSR community. I saw a few development blogs mention that it doesn't affect their work at all. And, of course, a number of people pointing out that Pathfinder will still be there.
 What do I think? I think this is an indication that certain people at WotC/Hasbro badly misread the market when they were putting together 4e. They also lost sight of the lessons that Ryan Dancey and Lisa Stevens learned from the death of TSR: D&D will only thrive if the community is unified.

I also think that the mechanics of 5e (or Type V, as some people are calling it) are almost irrelevant. I have endless ideas of what they can and should do. But, to repair the damage done to their market share, they need to shore up a lot of other things. They need to get DDI working properly, either dropping the subscription model, or getting the apps up and running to make the subscription a no-brainer. They need to get on board with the ebook revolution. They need to really build up their community (which is the obvious thrust of the open playtesting). They need to fix the licensing (preferably back to the OGL, but at least to something as easy to use as the d20 license). Ideally, they should reach out to Paizo, Green Ronin, and Mongoose and turn them into third-party publishers of D&D material again (I don't have the business savvy to see how WotC could pull this off, but it would be a major coup if they could).

In short, WotC needs to make sure that it has people focusing on the community and distribution channels as much as (or more than) on the actual content of the game. There are a lot of gamers out here who want to support WotC, but don't feel like they are being loved back. There are also a lot of gamers who were really hurt by WotC one way or another. But, just as there is no one as nasty as a former fanboy, there is no one as rabidly positive as a fanboy who has returned to the fold.

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