I think I must be voyeuristic by nature. It’s likely what pushed me in the direction of becoming a psychologist. With the coming of “Next” it also has me transfixed on the forum boards, mesmerized by the bickering and bile being spewed back and forth. I think what I find most amusing are the cats that hated 4th edition, all puffed up with self-importance, like the coming of “Next” is a validation of their hate and proof that WOTC was wrong and now must grovel at their feet.
I don’t buy it for a second that 4th edition wasn’t financially successful. I also think it helped to significantly grow the hobby in very crowded entertainment environment dominated by video games. People look at the successes of Pathfinder as evidence of 4th edition financially underperforming and the “split” of the player base, but I think that ignores those that have purchased and played both, people like me. Another claim of 4th edition suckage is its short edition cycle. I guess I would counter this with the fact that the business landscape is dramatically different than what the previous editions faced, particularly being a publishing business in the era of digital piracy. When I was involved in D&D Encounters I couldn’t believe the number of virgin players that showed up to pop their d20 cherries, mostly young guns, and I was equally amazed that virtually none of them ever bought a book. Oh they had all the products, usually stored on whatever mobile device they were carrying at the time. I am beginning to believe only old fucktatrds like me buy actual books anymore, although I would gladly purchase a pdf alongside my hardback copy if WOTC is listening. I also think that WOTC had run out of design space in 4th edition. I mean really, I don’t know what else they could have possible sold us at this point. It’s partially a consequence of their diarrhea style release schedule, plus nothing sells quite as good as the core books of a new edition.
I have sniffed around the D&D Next playtest package and I can honestly say that I have no desire to playtest or play that game. It doesn’t look bad, it looks exactly like what it is proposing to be, a very rules light, old school vibe system with some tweaks. It reminds me a lot of Castles and Crusades, particularly in how they handle skills, saving throws, and “contests” which seems to mirror the “SIEGE” engine. I guess for me, if I really want play with old school nostalgia I would just play with the original material or a retro clone. I realize that this is the base core rules and that they are going to hang optional rules modules on it like some kind of giant gaming Christmas tree, so I want to wait and see what some of the more tactical options are before I make a real yeah or nay. My speculation is that the souped up version will look a lot like 3.5/Pathfinder so I am not sure how much that will entice me to throw money at it. I am also curious about the packaging and how they are going to manage these so called “modules”. I mean are they going to be in the core rule book? Or are they going to go with separate books for a lot of these things? If they do that it seems like it might be very confusing for new players and if it costs me more to get the game I want than the previous core books that might seriously give me a case of the old red eye. In the end I am kind of left wondering how long you can continue to re-package rules with some tweakage and survive.
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The king is dead, long live the king. I just picked up my copy of Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook which appears to be the last print product that will contain 4th edition specific crunchy goodness. Everything else in the product catalogue seems to be edition neutral leading up to when D&D Next/5th edition/whatever arrives.
I also checked out this weeks Legends and Lore article by Mr. Mearls which gave me a bit of a chuckle. It was about healing and hit points in the next edition. They seemed to have tweaked healing surges and grognardishly re-named them Hit Dice as not to offend certain delicate sensibilities. This just makes me think that they’re so fucked in a dammed if you do and dammed you don’t manner. So if you hated healing surges and martial healing with white hot nerd rage, well we did too that’s why we changed it do Hit Dice. What you loved healing surges and thought it was the greatest innovation in modern gamming, well us to that’s why these Hit Dice things are essentially just tweaked healing surges. As an aside, given that I am an honorry ”Evil GM” I am all for anything that makes the pc’s less durable. I really just want the designers to say fuck it and stop trying to appease people on either side of the lines and just go balls deep and make the best game they can. Who cares if it implodes in a fiery mess and D&D gets shelved for a bit, dare to be Icarus and fly as close to the sun as you can. Stop getting input from all us jerk wads and neck beards, we can’t agree on crap anyways and there is never any real consensus except that everything is shit if it’s not what I want.
Anyways back to Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook. I haven’t given it a good read yet as I am gearing up for a Dark Sun game and have been voraciously consuming like material. I wanted to post about a really cool section of the book called Infamous Dungeons. The breakdown is that the authors detail several modules from the past editions of D&D. They give a breakdown of the module, ideas to continue the story, and then tie a few character themes to the module. I don’t know what it was but just seeing the pictures of those old modules made me geekasm a little. I love the idea of continuing these adventures, now I just need them too painstakingly and in great detail show me how, as what was presented in the book was like that free first taste of smack that the dealer offers you.
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I have been thinking a lot about D&D Next lately and I find myself awash in a sea of ambivalence. On the one hand I really want Dungeons and Dragons to be successful but every move I get from WOTC these days just plucks my strings, like they have found a raw nerve and are continuously digging a finger in. Now before I go any further in this shooting-from-the-hip soap-box rant I will without a doubt buy next edition and probably find enjoyment in it. Although, in fairness it is not hard to get me to buy an rpg as I will pretty much buy one out of boredom not unlike the emotional eater that inhales bags of chips to settle their nerves.
I have no doubt that they will make a good game, these are some talented designers, but I just have this overwhelming feeling of “who gives a fuck”. This probably has to do with the staggering short turnaround on editions that is the modus operandi for WOTC these days, coupled with their product release style which is the equivalent of dropping trou and shitting out a metric ton of material on their fans. Maybe I am just fatigued by it all, as I really don’t have an edition warrior bone in my body. I am not really for or against any edition or play style, I will play anything, and D&D to me is any edition I am playing and enjoying, not one style over another. I guess I am just against WOTC/Hasbro and their corporate policies.
I have been reading the legends and lore articles, which probably isn’t good for my agita, and it isn’t that I am upset or disagree with what they are doing, or seem to be doing because who really knows until the actually product comes out, but it’s more why are they doing it. The big buzz line is to play any style game you want from 1st edition to 4th edition. Don’t we already have that? Ah but yes they aren’t making any money on that, plus they counter with they are cleaning up the clunky parts of older play styles. Isn’t this what house rules are for? Then they flash the tagline that you can play any style of character at the same table from an early edition character right up to a 4th edition style character. Really, this is what you’re hanging your hat on? I am again left with the feeling of “who gives a fuck”. That sounds like a nightmare to DM, it probably won’t be but you know I am naturally pessimistic. I am just left thinking that D&D Next is really the edition that no one was asking for.
One of the goals of this edition is to end the edition wars, a laudable but ridiculous goal, and a bit of a rope-a –dope. It is really to get money from people who are no longer paying them to play D&D because they already have the game they want and enjoy. I think they underestimate the strength of the OSR/Pathfinder cliques, because they are cliques within a clique which fosters a rabid devotion. WOTC isn’t dumb, they are smart people, and they must have thought extensively about this, I just wonder if it will work out well enough for them. Will they bring enough people back to offset those they might drive away? I don’t know. It might be a wash or worse a deficit. Maybe they are counting on making up lost sales by absolutely punishing the completest by pounding them with modularity. Although, I guess you can never underestimate the power of the new shinny. If they are really interested in curbing edition wars a pretty solid way to reduce them might be to have less editions, but what do I know….pretty much nothing.
End rant…. more positive next time I promise
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“Wars over man. Wormer dropped the big one”……that’s right, Wizards has announced the next iteration of Dungeons and Dragon and their claiming that it will be the edition to end all editions. No more warring or flaming needed. It is said to comprise the best of all editions, with modular madness allowing you to create almost any play style/edition you could dream of, including the elusive snuffleupagus edition, rumoured to be the one “true” D&D but which always seemed too have just finished when you sat down at the table. Talk about shooting for the moon.
I am a little ambivalent about this announcement. On the one hand I want Dungeons and Dragons to be massively successful, so successful that it becomes required curriculum in schools, so successful that is attributed to bringing about world peace. So I hope this next edition of the game is way super awesome. I do worry that when you try and sell it as the answer to all things that you are somewhat inviting disappointment. I am also pretty sure that I will enjoy playing the game just as I have with every other edition of the game with the exception of 2nd edition (these were my Runequest and Champions years).
What sours my excitement about the announcement is that 4 to 5 years for the life of an edition seems somewhat thin to me. Maybe I would feel differently if I started playing when 4th edition first dropped instead of 2 years into the cycle, but now I can better empathize with how some cats felt that were heavily invested in 3.x when they announced 4th edition. As a consumer I just feel fatigued. I look at the metric ton of books I have for this edition (I am still waiting on some items I have ordered) and the thought of starting over next year is a little unsettling. I am going to be smart about it this time and buy less stuff, and only stuff that I think I will use. At least that is the plan but I have talked before about my tendency to impulsively throw money at things, so will see. I also feel that Wizards were just hitting their stride with 4th edition, and were putting out their best books this past year.
What would I like to see in the next iteration of the D&D? Whatever it looks like I hope they keep the ease with which 4th edition made being a Dungeon Master. I also want them to strive for fewer errata, perhaps the big open play test will help with this. One of my biggest disappointments with 4th edition was the required update to monster stats and damage that left me feeling like I couldn’t use a lot of the products I bought without extra work, and you know how I frown on that.
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I have been following the Legends and Lore articles, originally written by Mike Mearls and currently written by Monte Cooke, over at Wizards of the Coast’s website since their inception. The main thrust of the articles is to provide some kind of insight into the thinking and processes that the designers are going through with regards to the future direction of the game. One theme that keeps getting batted around is the concept of modularity and how it may factor into the next iteration of D&D.
So what is this modularity they speak of? Well it seems what they are talking about is having a basic rule set of D&D or chassis if you will, and then you the DM/play group have the option of adding these optional rule sets or modules to create the type of game experience you desire. This is generally couched in level of complexity terms, for example if you want a more complex simulation experience then keep adding modules until your happy and vice versa. My first thought was how much is that going to fucking cost me given that I will of course need to purchase the full monty so I don’t have to live with crippling feelings of inadequacy. I am sure it is going to be more than the equivalent PHB, DMG, MM from previous editions.
Then I had some other ideas (some of them albeit tangential and vaguely sexual which I‘ll not share) around what these modules might include. Now I could be wrong, as I frequently am, but one of the goals of the next edition has to be to reclaim a lot of cats that didn’t make the transition to fourth edition or tried it and jumped ship. What would entice these players back into the WoTC fold? I think one of the modules might just be the Vancian magic system. Is that even possible? I don’t know, I have absolutely no game design skill whatsoever (my modifier would be -15 to any checks) or business acumen (hence psychologist). The way I see it though, at the heart of some individuals rejection of 4th edition, aside from coming to early in order to keep the money machine rolling, is that it didn’t feel like good old D&D to them. This was primarily due to the removal of the Vancian system in favor of the power system and subsequent effect on character progression i.e. multi-classing and balance. So would it even be possible to have the 4th edition power system as a module alongside the Vancian magic system module for people to choose between and place over the basic game rule set? I have no idea whatsoever. All I can say is that Wizards is in a precarious position going forward as any significant change with the current system has the real risk of splitting the customer base yet again without bringing back significant numbers of lapsed players. Definitely between a rock and a hard place, it will be interesting to see what shakes out.
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