Number 5 is Not Alive

In hopes of maybe getting a few less emails informing me of this news, I feel beholden to post that yes, I am aware that Wizards of the Coast has announced their intent to produce D&D 5.0.  This may surprise you, but no, I do not think that is pertinent news to my interests as expressed in this blog.  Frankly, about the best thing Wizard’s could do for me at this point is to change the name of their product.  Obviously they would never do that, there’s a huge amount of marketing power in that name, but at least it would clear up any confusion about what I’m referring to when I say that I play D&D.

I grant you, there’s some very nice sentiment in that article that clearly acknowledges the rift in the current fan base across the many editions:

We want a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions, one that takes the fundamental essence of D&D and brings it to the forefront of the game. In short, we want a game that is as simple or complex as you please, its action focused on combat, intrigue, and exploration as you desire. We want a game that is unmistakably D&D, but one that can easily become your D&D, the game that you want to run and play.

As I said, it’s a lovely sentiment, but I have to ask one very important question: what’s in it for me?  I mean, seriously, I already have a game that’s my D&D, whose focus and complexity is exactly the level I prefer.  Even if you took every single piece of advice I gave on what would make the game more enjoyable for me personally (which I’m certain would not help your sales), why would I buy it?  I already own that game.

13 thoughts on “Number 5 is Not Alive

  1. What the heck is the above poster trying to say? I keep reading it as he’s calling your Eeyore’s Elf…

    Anyway, I still plan on sending you every article I ever come across about it, just because.

  2. Even if you took every single piece of advice I gave on what would make the game more enjoyable for me personally (which I’m certain would not help your sales), why would I buy it? I already own that game.

    To, perhaps, show support for the industry?

  3. I’m all for showing support with dollars when it comes to stuff like a local gaming store when it adds value other than just the product. For example, a local game store gives me a means of immediate gratification rather than waiting 2+ days for shipment of goods. Also potentially a social outlet for meeting others with similar interests related to the product being sold.

    Support for “the industry” though seems odd to me if the industry is not adding any value beyond the products in question. I mean, why throw dollars at supporting an industry that is not producing anything I’m actually interested in owning? What do they add?

    If the whole roleplaying game industry died, would the hobby likewise suffer? I’m not so sure. I suspect I’ll still be able to find friends to play D&D with even if there’s no company selling D&D. I know I have ample material to run such games from now until I’m 99. Really, what is “the industry” doing for me that they deserve my financial support?

  4. The industry is cultivating new gamers who might not otherwise be reached because they don’t know other gamers – they maybe wander into the local game store, or even their public library, and see that WOTC is running/sponsoring an intro session using their new system – they get sucked in, and a gamer is truly born, providing someone who will come to the nursing home to play D&D with you when you’re 90.

    It’s almost like me saying why should I buy any new books to read, when I have so many at home that I already love.

  5. I feel like I actually called that sometime in that last month or so? 😀

    Anyway, very much agree with the blog’s sentiment, of course. The thing with the “We want a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions” claim is that 4E explicitly took it as a mission statement to break compatibility with what had gone before. They designed it to be non-OGL compatible, to make PC conversion impossible, and specifically to discard existing customer base in favor of switching to a different one. I don’t see how you can make 5E a “big tent” version when the whole design goal of 4E was to make it incompatible with 1st-3rd. In Chron-X I think I called that card the “Poison Pill”. 🙂

    Actually this looks pretty similar to 4E PR in that D&D has some “fundamental essence” apart from the mechanical rules, such that they can break compatibility but act like it doesn’t matter. It does.

  6. @Jenn:
    It is almost like that, but not quite. There’s a reason to prefer old books you’ve already read than new ones, as some level of enjoyment in reading books comes from the novelty of not having read it before. Where-as with D&D, once I know the rules I know the rules. Reprinting what I already have adds no value, where-as adding on directly contradicts my preference for a simple rule base.

    There is something to be said for introducing new blood to the concept at large though. However, I think that’s personally better served by “supporting the hobby” than “supporting the industry”. I’m not sure there’s an easy way to do that though, the only thing I can think of is encouraging the growth of local gaming conventions that focus more on play than on merchandising, but the two do tend to go hand in hand. Or perhaps to spin your example, I could personally go run a game down at the local gaming store or library that’s not endorsed by Wizards of the Coast.


    I can’t believe you just made a Chron-X reference. You win! Also dig the “Big Tent” analogy. I totally agree, I cannot imagine how they intend to write a game that will please every gamer all the time. It’s not possible, we can’t even agree on the singular of the word “dice”.

  7. I wonder how many local gaming stores would be around if it weren’t for the big industry pumping out new products?

  8. To be honest, I’m surprised there are still as many gaming stores as there are, and wonder how many will be left in another decade or two. That said, I think there will always be an outlet: you mentioned libraries for example. Some idiots create their own private clubs for this sort of stuff. Plus, there’s always the internet. Hobbyists alone might not be able to keep the gaming stores open, but I bet we can keep the conventions running.

    You might also enjoy this article. Here’s an interesting excerpt where Ryan Dancy compares our hobby to that of model trains:

    “Kids stopped playing with trains, and the businesses that remained dedicated to hobbyists who got more disposable income as they grew up, until the price of the hobby was out of reach of anyone except those older hobbyists. Eventually, it became a high-end hobby with very expensive products, sold to an ever-decreasing number of hobbyists. As those folks die, the hobby shrinks. That is what is happening to the tabletop RPG business.”

  9. ^ Wow! Without seeing that Dancey quote before, I’ve said the exact same thing in the past. Back in 2006 I made a prediction that WOTC would stop publishing D&D RPG products around 2018, and I still think that’s likely.

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