Saturday, August 18, 2012

D&D Keynote Speech And My Lack of Caring

Apparently there was a big keynote speech.

I didn't watch it.

I'm not that concerned about D&D these days.  Not the "official" version.  To be honest, a while back I would have agreed with those folks that said that D&D has to do well for the hobby to do well, but I'm not so sure about that now.

Not that the hobby is doing gangbusters without them, but that D&D will always be the magic bullet that pulls in new gamers, and thus has to do well in order for the hobby to have a decent influx of new gamers.

I think that if companies like Margaret Weis Productions or Fantasy Flight, companies that have big name licenses, could get some kind of market penetration with their RPGs, selling Marvel Heroic Roleplaying or Star Wars RPGs in Wal Mart would bring a lot more people to the hobby than D&D has a chance to in the future.

I'm not trying to undercut D&D, I'm just saying that I think D&D's name recognition is a blessing and a curse at this point.  People have heard of D&D, but they also "know" that it's an "old thing," and even if it's still around, it's an "old thing" that people "hang onto" not a well known thing that attracts people.

Go ahead and explain to a kid about what the Forgotten Realms is, or even what Paizo's Golarion is.  I'm not making a judgement on the settings, I'm saying, from the "outside," why would someone care?  Sure, the kid might like wizards and dragons and swords . . . but I'm betting if you asked that same kid if he wanted to be the Hulk, Captain America, or a Jedi, you would get an immediate reaction that didn't involved trying to explain a fantasy setting that is swimming in "inside the hobby" tropes that have been stewing for years.

Also, and this is coming from someone who loves the classic version of the setting, I think the Forgotten Realms has become as much of a liability to the gaming side of D&D as it has been a boon to the "tie-in" side of the property.  Making it the focal point of the relaunch . . . well . . . what is it anymore?

It's not the pre-Spellplague version of the setting that managed to be the only thing making money for TSR when the company was awash in bad decisions.

It's not the same to a die hard fan of the fiction that wants Elminster, Erevis Cale, and other powerful NPCs to be the focus of the setting, because for the fiction fans, the books trump the setting as a place for stories.

It's not even the same for people that are mainly fans of Drizzt, because a lot of them barely know what setting their hero runs around it, because his adventures are more important than any historical details or ties to characters created outside of books where he is the star.

I don't blame WOTC for pushing the Realms.  If they are pushing it this hard, they must be making money off of it.  But I'm not sure that what sells novels and non-tabletop RPG games (featuring iconic charactes) is the same thing that sells an open ended land of adventure where your players are the stars.

A few years back I would have railed against the idea that the NPCs are too important and downplay the player's characters.  Now that 5th edition will have yet another massive event featuring the gods and important people saving the Realms and setting the stage for the "little people" to play in once they are done, I'm not so sure that WOTC hasn't made all those years of detractors complaints about the powerful NPCs into a self-fulfilling prophesy.

In fact, the D&D thing I'm most upset about right now is that the D&D comic, set in the 4th edition "default" points of light setting, written by John Rogers, appears to be dead.  I'll poke a hornet's nest on the way out by saying that the Rogers D&D comic had about a 1000% more personality and fun in it's pages than that first issue of the Pathfinder comic.


  1. fully explaining the difference between D&D and Pathfinder at this point is darn near impossible, and for reasons much like you mentioned- it's the same stuff as before, just a different day.

    1. That's why the "level based kitchen sink fantasy" descriptor sticks in my mind these days. However, I will say that although the upcoming 13th Age and Dungeon Crawl Classics are also "level based kitchen sink fantasy," you can call them both LBKSF that doesn't require a map, and amend DCC as the one where you are likely to die horribly or cause your fellow party members to loose their souls if you are a wizard.

      As since you are the resident game owner commenting here, I wanted to take the chance to explain that while I think the hobby needs to get more young, fresh blood (wow, that sounds creepy) by expanding into markets like Wal Mart and Target and the like, I don't see that as a means of supplanting the FLGS.

      When I got into the hobby, I got my books and boxed sets from the book store before I even started wandering into game stores and saw how much more there was to the hobby.

  2. Loq:
    I say it's an upgrade to D&D 3.5. But, at the end of the day, it is overall the same.

    I actually DID watch the keynote, and it was worth my time, if, for no other reason, to listen to Ed Greenwood. What's funny is that their RSE looks an awful lot like something you posted up at Candlekeep when the plague hit. That, and I'm actually interested in the novels they have planned to explain this.

    Yes, I'm still following the news. I agree that D&D is no longer the 500 pound gorilla, it's more of a 250 pound chimpanzee. Watching Pathfinder, MWP's Marvel game, Green Ronin's getting a Star Wars game, and so on. Wizards is getting real competition, and the games are good. It's much like the old days where I played and was interested in so many different games and systems (OWoD, Shadowrun 2e to 3e, etc).

    1. The novel line may be great. I've even heard people say that the Drizzt books are getting readable again because they are killing off everything that he's cared about and his attitude is changing and he's experiencing some character growth.

      I'm just saying that WOTC is really giving the impression that you NEED the novel line to explain the game setting. Heck, even in the 3.5 era WOTC was skewing heavily to having the game books just having stats and PrC and spells and the like and having the majority of the actual lore, the kind of stuff you would have traditionally put in a sourcebook, in the novels.

      In a way, they did the same thing with Star Wars Saga. They would set a rulebook in a given era or genre of Star Wars, but only give really sketchy details on the setting, and basically say "there are plenty of novels and comics that this was based on that you can read to get details."

      I have the feeling, having read the Fantasy Flight Warhammer 40K RPG books, this will not be an issue for Fantasy Flight. They seem to like to intersperse a lot of lore between game stats, they like pretty artwork, and they don't like to leave 30% of the page a blank white space.

      I will say that when I thumbed through the 4th edition Neverwinter sourcebook, WOTC seemed to be more concerned with explaining how the Neverwinter region got from the 3.5 era to the post Spellplague era, but that was a change from the original campaign setting book in 4th that was very much BOOM! Here's what it is now, don't look too hard for details.