Tuesday, January 17, 2012

DnD Next Part 1 - What Wizards Should Do First!

I knew it was a matter of time before Wizards announced they were working on the next version of the game that started it all. Over the next few months I will be publishing a series of articles about the direction I would like to see Wizards take the game.

I have played every single version of the game from 1979 on and have invested 1000's of hours into planning and playing. I just recently introduced both of my children to the game. Many of the best memories I have have revolved around the game and I am hoping for many more.

Recently I wrote an article about what I thought Wizards needed to do to save Dungeons and Dragons. This series of articles will expand on the points made and I will provide some concrete examples of what needs to be done to improve our game.

I must say, I am cautiously optimistic on the approach Wizards is taking as they prepare the next edition. They are reaching out to the community as a whole and seeking input from players no matter what edition they are playing. Hopefully, the players of older editions are not too bitter about the current version but a quick google search will show you exactly how fractured the Dungeons and Dragons community has become.

So as a starting point in this process I am going to kick my series off with a plea and a starting point for Wizards as they begin the process of building DnD Next.

Firstly, each and every player and dungeon master no matter what edition they play needs to take this opportunity to rally around the Dungeons and Dragons flag. We need to look past our differences and find some common ground. It is safe to say that we play Dungeons and Dragons because we love it...it's not rocket science! We need to tell Wizards exactly what we love about the game...and what we hate about it! Wizards needs our honest opinions. The time for edition bashing is over, everybody lost! If the  edition wars don't end, our game will simply disappear. The bottom line is we play the greatest game ever invented and we need to keep it that way!

If I were Wizards the first thing I would do is to take a serious look at the industry as a whole, paying special attention to what Paizo is doing with Pathfinder. Its obvious Paizo is doing something right. For the last two quarters they have lead sales of all RPGs. I have to admit, Paizo is reminding me more and more like TSR with a careful eye to duplicate the successes all the while being mindful not to repeat their mistakes.

So what are the industry trends as I see them. First and for most, the industry is fuelled by third party developers. Quite frankly, Wizards has started to alienate their core players by the lack of support for new and fresh ideas. This, coupled with the tiny number of official releases has helped propel Pathfinder over Dungeons and Dragons as the number one RPG on the market. In my case, this lack of published materials has caused me to look at the only available source of quality adventures and source materials, Paizo's Pathfinder books. This acerbates Wizards problem. I am forced into spending money with Dungeons and Dragons biggest rival in order to inject some flavour into my personal campaign. So, what does this mean to Wizards. Well, simply put, I have spend about $400 this past year on official sourcebooks and a DDI subscription. My Paizo purchases have amounted to about $500 over the course of that same year. Most of my purchases from Paizo will be converted into my Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

The second industry trend is electronic publishing. Wizards has resisted this trend and for the life of me it makes absolutely no sense. I have heard reasons such as they are afraid ebooks would increase the likelihood of theft and that the local game stores will suffer. Well, a quick google search for PDFs of Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition books will show you theft is already happening. In many cases, people are downloading these PDFs because they can't purchase them. I realize not everyone who downloads PDFs will be willing to purchase them but the ebook market is becoming as vibrant as the other digital media markets. Starting this ebook trend, Wizards could begin to offer PDF sales as a nice add-on the the already excellent Dungeons and Dragons Insider subscription. As for the local stores suffering, I think that is up to the stores to adapt or die. The business model most of the stores follow is rapidly changing from a place where people purchase their materials to a meeting place and a place to play. The first game store I shopped at was a tiny room filled to the ceiling with books for dozens and dozens of games. The game store I shop at now is about 10 times larger and focuses on fewer than a dozen games but has become a place where gamers meet each other and play tabletop games and RPGs. Wizards would be wise to use the marketing power of Hasbro to usher game stores into the future. Events like Encounters and the Lair Assault are fantastic events that breath life into the local stores but its time to take this program farther.

Thirdly, I see Tablets changing the way we play the game. When I DM, I use my iPad to run the encounters. It keeps everything neat and organized. I have a number of apps that I use which every time I play...I will let you know what they are in a future post! I also am a happy Dungeons and Dragons Insider. Unfortunately, Wizards has chosen to develop DDI in Silverlight. Silverlight is not supported on either the iPad, Android or Playbook tablets. The next edition of DDI needs to be developed to take advantage of these powerful RPG tools. This support can be achieved via a rewrite of the current website or by creating some custom apps.

This post focused on changes Wizards needs to make to prepare for the DnD Next. My next posts will get to the nitty gritty of structural changes I would like to see in the next version. I am hoping this post to spark some lively debate. I don't expect you to agree with me and would welcome your comments. What changes in the Wizards business model do you think they need to make to ensure DnD Next survives!

1 comment:

  1. Hello!

    Thanks for the great blog articles. Im about to start my own D&D blog as well in light of the D&D Next announcement. I fieel I have a very similar point of view as you, although I think I am more forgiving towards 4e than you are (thats not meant to be a critisism mind you). I really like the respectful and constructive way you post about 4e. Its a real breath of fresh air with all the edition warring that has been going for the past number of years.

    I also have a long history of playing D&D, although I didnt start until 2e. I have played every edition since that time, and of course tons of different RPG;s, but my absoloute favourite has always been D&D.

    I have really liked what WotC did with 4e, but I also understand the critisisms. While my main gaming group is 4e, I do attend Pathfinder Society games, and would like to also get a PF home game going as well. I have kept up woth PF since it launched on its own due to its connection with 3.5, and I am really impressed at what Paizo has done.

    I do think that now WotC has had a complete re-shuffling of its staff and the open attitude and inclusiveness of their vision (at least what they have stated), there is a very real chance they could accomplish what they are setting out to do. A unified system of D&D that stays true to its roots and has something for everyone. I also think that Paizo now has established a solid base to peacefully co-exist with D&D.

    Im like you, I feel a sense of loyalty to D&D and the memories it has provided me, so thats why I have started to think about doing a D&D blog, to help support my favourite game, and a way to get people in the community talking about it too (Im in Toronto myself). Although I do love 4e, I think this next edition is critical to the success of the D&D brand in the future as its fate lies ultimately in Hasboros hands. WotC is starting it out right with a beta playtest, lets hope they can keep this momentum up. I know that many people have no faith in WotC at the moment, and thats okay. I think the quality of their work will speak for itself when they start with the open playtesting. If they can rebuild faith with the fans of D&D as a whole, and properly carry out this beta test, I think that will go a long way in briniging about this "new golden age of D&D" that Mike Mearls has been talking about.

    Anyways, Im just rambling now. I just really wanted to poke my head in to say hi from one fellow Canadian gamer to another. Ill be keeping an eye on your blog as I really like your writing and ideas.