“5th Edition” D&D: Much needed consolidation or money grab?

Book cover, Dungeon Master's Guide by Wizards ...
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I am a BIG fan of Wizards of the Coast’s Dungeons and Dragons products.  I buy and collect whatever I can because I find them to be aesthetically pleasing and the content much aligned with where I like my idle pursuits to wander. But I receive some passing judgement by others of my ilk that I do not take it seriously enough.  I may not own more books than the next guy, but generally they are in better condition because I do not read or use them as much.  I just like having them.

That puts me in a unique position, I feel.  I like having new product, but I don’t really use it for its intended purpose.  Am I still a D&D gamer, or just a collector with a penchant for Fantasy Gaming?

Earlier today, the New York Times ran an article about Wizards of the Coast and their call for input on the next edition of D&D.  When I saw this, I couldn’t help but hear the imagined voices of all the gamers I know that are still playing 2nd and 3rd edition D&D.  “4E is pointless, 4E is World of Warcraft with dice, 4E sucks . . .” And now we are talking about a 5th Edition?

Well, if that means more art and well presented content, than I’m all for talking about it.

Meanwhile, as pointed out in the article, WotC has suffered a decline in market penetration due to an up-rise in competitive alternative to its product.  A consumer base that for their own reasons have not appreciated the 4th Edition product went elsewhere.

I’ve looked at those alternatives, but they never quite do it for me.  It seems to me that there is always something off-putting about those titles. I generally ask myself, “Are you being elitist?”, but I always answer “No” based on the idea that I often times do not care as greatly as others about text that is printed on the pages. And generally the Art or Presentation of the content is not as pleasing to me as what WotC produces.  So clearly I’m not of the same mind as many other veteran gamers.  For my own purposes, I need new content.  Otherwise, I’ve nothing left to buy or collect.

What ever happens for Wizards of the Coast, I hope they can win back some of the fan base that they have lost.  I think its hard for the fans to remember that WotC is a business and it needs to produce products that people will buy.  And as for input on the next version, perhaps WotC just needs to think about how it has impacted the gaming market in recent years.  Maybe more books, more often is not the approach (as much as that saddens me).  I think your fans WANT to buy your beautiful product, but as an option and not a necessity to keep up with the times.

Comments Welcome!

3 thoughts on ““5th Edition” D&D: Much needed consolidation or money grab?”

  1. John, we’ve played together since the dawn of time it seems, but after 3rd Ed, I just don’t see the point. Is there a serious difference between 3 vs 3.5 vs 4 or is it all about the marketing? Help me to understand, PLEASE!

    1. Ok, so hear is where there is nothing I can do about sounding like a WotC fanboy. but here we go.

      The short answer is yes and no. Yes, versions 3-4 have many differences that can (if you allow it) streamline your game. And no, its still sitting around a table, rolling dice and making believe.

      But here is where I come to WotC’s defense. If we were the only consumers WotC had to worry about, there would be no point to making new versions. Once we set up our game, with the set of rules that was new to us, we didn’t need any new content. Its a game of imagination and we can make up the rest.

      But we are not. There are whole new generations of players that came up after us. And our rules can’t compete with some of the other things they can do with their time. Am I saying 4E was a World of Warcraft rip off? No, but I can see why people would say that. Combat-wise it translates very easily, whether R&D and Game Designers meant to or not. One could also argue that game combat tactics have evolved this way across all platforms.

      Any way you look at it, there will always be a new crowd up and coming. And I doubt they will relate to the D&D that their Dad grew up with.

      I’m a believer in turn-over and change. Yes, it can be bad sometimes. But the bad will always highlight the good and yadda yadda.

      So it is about the marketing. There needs to be a market that the next generation can relate to. Otherwise, we are going to sound pretty ridiculous telling the kids about the days when all I needed to know was the THAC0.

      1. That whole last reply got me thinking about something that happened to me at last years PAX. I volunteered for WotC that weekend running their Board Games tables. It was a blast. One of the coolest sessions I “Judged” was with a Dad and his 6 or 7 year old son (he was smallish, but high functioning). They came to my table where I was showing off the newest version of the D&D Board Game. The kid was completely fascinated by the minis (I think they are pretty awesome too) and the Dad was more than happy to watch his son’s enraptured glee. They played an entire scenario with me. Dad payed lots of attention to how the adventure was unfolding while minding his son. And the boy would play very intently when it was his turn, then go back to playing with some of the other pieces that were not part of the scenario until his turn came back around. You could tell the Dad was loving it. I can imagine that Dad has played D&D all his life and sharing this genre of entertainment with his son was very important to him.

        And now months later, I think about all the kids that are growing up like I did. I found D&D in 6th grade and I knew 2 other kids that knew what it was. We made it all up as we went along, even though we had the Box Set right in front of us. And that only lasted a summer, before we all moved on to 7th Grade where the girls suddenly became so much more important. But the books and dice were always there, and it was increasingly more difficult to find anyone to talk about it with. It wouldn’t be until High School that I would find anyone else like minded enough to geek out over it with.

        And then it was just us, the Gaming group, that could commiserate together the loss of our characters or the victory over the bandit raids. With all the fun that was had, it only existed at that table. I would not come home and relate my adventure to an understanding Father. I’m sure he would have thought it was a complete waste of my time. But I feel good knowing there is a kid out there that will do that, and that it will not only be ok with Dad but that Dad will smile and say something like, “It sounds like you had a good day.”

        Gaahh!! No more kids having to hide their love for RPG Gaming or sitting alone waiting for a Gaming group to come along!! I hope WotC prints new versions forever!

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