Tuesday, June 5, 2012

D&D: The Big Secret and Bigger Problem

I've been spending alot of time looking over feedback to DnD Next, while also keeping up with the Old School Renaissance. I may be in the minority within the OSR, but I really like what I've seen of DnD Next (mind you, I've seen a version of the rules up through level 10).

But in looking over all of the "feedback" to 5E, I've come to my own conclusion to the whole problem Wizards of the Coast is facing.

We all play our own versions of DnD and always have and always will.

The more I think about WotC's troubles, the more I see that they have continued to codify and provide rules for as many situations as possible, to help Dungeon Masters.  It makes sense too, especially reading the old Sage Advice columns in Dragon Magazine.

But that's not what we want.

DM's like house rules, there is always going to be something that doesn't make sense or you don't mind changing because a player asks.  And that is the opposite of what WotC was trying to do with 3.X and 4E.  In fact, I began to realize that my biggest problem with 4E was that I didn't feel there was any room to alter things based on my preferences.  As a game design, it was tight enough, but it didn't feel like a game I could put my mark upon (I've said before if it wasn't called DnD, it would've been the new indie design darling of RPG.net).  This was compounded by the Character Builder, because I'm lazy and don't want to enter house rules into the software and because me or my players could hit a button and have a character in seconds.  And while that was cool, it took my investment out of the game or rather I took my investment of time and interest, out of the game.  WotC just gave me what I though I wanted, in fact the whole "slaughtering of sacred cows" sounded great, until I was served the hamburgers and could only see Bessie's smiling face.

Now, compound the problem of WotC's goals being cross purpose with their customer's desires by adding Ryan Dancey's sabotage of DnD legacy of the the Open Gaming License.

The OGL gives us all us the right to use DnD and publish our version of it.

Mix in, realtime discussion, arguments, marketing, waxing nostalgic and brainstorming on the internet, in forums, and out in the blogosphere and no development team in the world could compete with that.  Especially, when hamstrung by corporate policy.

We all get to celebrate and argue about and publish our version of DnD, on our own terms, 24/7.

Meanwhile, the OSR forms because WotC decides to shut down PDF sales of older lines.  Can you imagine what our OSR would look like if WotC had made everything in their backlist available as a Print On Demand product, even if the PDF wasn't for sale?  How much revenue would that have brought Hasbro?  How much closer would they be to that $100 million dollar product line, they demand of WotC?

One can argue the OSR's growth in the shadow of D&D parallels D&D's growth in the shadow of wargaming.

The long and short of it is that I don't think WotC will ever get off the hot seat.  And further, no D&D pubisher ever has been off said hot seat , even TSR when it was in charge of DnD.  Originally, our RPG industry formed as a reaction to people's problems with DnD.  Now, Post-OGL, without the need to develop new rules systems, our industry is developing DnD alternatives as a reaction to people's problem with DnD.   Which goes to show how much smaller in our industry is right now.  It's actually a huge symptom of a much bigger problem, because there are much fewer of us than a decade a go.  And yet, we're still squabbling and we're still attacking TSR WotC.

Now it's all not doom and gloom, I'm not Ryan Dancey.  Crowdfunding helps get products out to market that wouldn't normally find their niche.  And the OSR is proof what a dedicated minority can achieve.  But I don't think WotC will ever be "well liked" and they shouldn't expect to be.

The point is that we shouldn't expect someone else to publish our perfect version of DnD, because it's different for everyone and some of us have already found it, some of us have already made it, and some of us have already published it.  If I were WotC, aside from the POD solution, I would develop a line of PDF or POD sourcebooks and adventures with a stats for each edition of DnD, tailor printed or downloaded for the consumer's choice of edition.

But, I work in Kentucky not Seattle, so I doubt my "genius" ideas are being considered.
The fools!



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