I want to state right off that this was one of the most difficult blogs I have ever written since I started publishing on my Neuroglyph Games site. I have literally spent several weeks pondering whether or not to take this course of action, and have been greatly concerned that it might be viewed as a discourtesy to the D&D Next design team. While I deeply respect the talented designers and writers devoted to our favorite role-playing game over at Wizards of the Coast, nevertheless, I feel that the current course set by creating a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons is both misguided and potentially dangerous to the future of the game.
Therefore, I feel compelled to take action in the hopes that like-minded gamers will join with me to inform Hasbro/WotC that there is an alternative to simply releasing a new edition of the D&D RPG. This alternative publishing model allows Wizards of the Coast to become a Content-Provider for Dungeons & Dragons which can benefit all D&D gamers everywhere – and for all editions of the game!
A Proposal: Resurrect & Support All Editions!
In an open letter to Wizards of the Coast in May 2012, the UAD&D blog made a well-written and passionate appeal to reconsider the D&D Next project:
Stop trying to tell the people what they want and instead, give them what they want. If people are currently playing four different systems of D&D (and they are: Rules Cyclopedia (including Basic, etc.), AD&D (both editions), 3/3.5 and 4) then obviously what they want is four different systems.
The blogger further urged Hasbro/WotC to reconsider a new publishing model to “…become a content provider”:
Create modules, gadgets, computer programs, games, worlds. Sell monster supplements, new editions of old books with fixed-up artwork, modules, pre-generated characters, maps, rulers, minis, grids, movies, notebooks and lunch boxes.
After reading the UAD&D blog, I pondered the ideas put forth for quite a while – in fact I went back and created a PDF version of the blog and kept it on my desktop for weeks, just so I could re-read sections without having to jump on the web. And the more I read, the more I felt that the author had really come up with a great way to satisfy the question burning in the minds of those running Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast:
“How do we unite the masses of D&D fans, and get them to buy our products again?”
Comparing the two publishing models, one where you simply bring back support for all the editions and publish for every D&D gamer, and the other where you cancel support for yet another edition and create a new game (ie. D&D Next), it’s hard not to get a sense that the former model is far more inclusive than the latter. Presenting old and new material for all D&D fans, regardless of their edition of choice, offers absolutely no risk of alienating fans or to pit them against one another in an edition war. But creating a new system (ie. Next) has the automatic risk that it will not have appeal to some portion of the D&D fan base, and offers the potential for another edition war, even if it is proclaimed as the edition “everyone can play”.
And beyond making old content available again for older editions, the idea of converting content from one edition to others should be an exciting prospect. I myself have lamented that settings like Greyhawk and Dragonlance were never converted to D&D 4E. And as a fan of Planescape, I would have liked to see how that setting could have been fit into 4E’s new cosmology. And many of the more later edition settings might be of interest to gamers of AD&D or 2nd Edition, but unavailable to them because they chose to stick to a rules system they enjoyed best. Considering that there are so many campaign settings and modules that were only published for a single edition, or maybe a couple editions, it seems a shame that fans playing the “wrong” edition might never enjoy playing them.
And then there is the prospect of new content being developed for various editions. Aside from the potential of new campaign settings and new adventure modules which can be written for one edition, and then converted and published for all editions of D&D, there’s even more content that can be developed here. New character classes, spells (or 4E rituals), and magic items can be developed and added to all editions of D&D, converted from one rule set to another with a little effort. For later editions like OGL/3.5 and 4E, new feats, prestige classes/paragon paths, and templates/themes can be developed and added to continuously expand game options.
And obviously, the numerous OGL/3.5 fans and Pathfinder converts who have refused to transition to 4E is a sore spot with Wizards of the Coast, representing a substantial loss of revenue and support for the current edition of D&D. Clearly, WotC wants to appeal to some of those fans lost in the OGL/Pathfinder/4E edition war, but is creating a new edition going to fix the problem?
Again, there is a risk that D&D Next might not be appealing to enough of the OGL/3.5 or the Pathfinder gamers, which means that it has merely created another schism in the fan base and community. On the other hand, if WotC were to offer full support to OGL/3.5 again, offering conversions of older edition products and the promise of new products, how could even the most fickle fan not perceive this as a “good thing”? And considering that Pathfinder is essentially an OGL product, new products released by WotC for OGL/3.5 might end up being purchased by Paizo’s customers, even if they stick with current Pathfinder rules.
And finally, offering a new Gaming License to write content for all D&D editions will be a boon for freelance writers, 3rd Party Publishers, and Wizards of the Coast as well.. Support and licensing for all editions means a true renaissance for the Dungeons & Dragons game, bringing new ideas and products to the gaming community, as well as creating freelancers which can be tapped by WotC to work on new products and supplemental material.
A Petition: Say YES to DUNGEONS & DRAGONS!
After only four years since last edition of Dungeons & Dragons (4E) was released, Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro have made the decision to stop supporting it, despite its popularity with numbers older gamers as well as a noteworthy population of new gamers. As a replacement, it has been decided that a new edition of D&D would be designed for the gaming community, based upon a retro-clone model, despite a glut in the game market of heroic-fantasy-D&D-like retro clones. Furthermore, DDI support features which had been promised for the current retiring edition, such as the Virtual Table Top (VTT), Character Visualizer, and Encounter Builder, have all been postponed indefinitely or cancelled, in a move which was inherently detrimental to brand loyalty.
WotC has made promises that this new ”Next” edition of Dungeons & Dragons will unite “an audience that had been divided by differences in editions and play styles…” by designing “…a version of D&D that all players could experience and enjoy.” (D&D Next: Interview with Mike Mearls at GeekNation, June 2012). While intrinsically this is a worthwhile goal, nevertheless it is hard to deny the probability that if D&D Next fails to unite the fan base, it is destined to fracture the Dungeons & Dragons Community once again, as the release of 4E did by disenfranchising the OGL/3.5 fans.
Poll data released by Wizards of the Coast and EN World have reported that approval ratings by the playtesters of the new edition’s rules are only registering at less than two-thirds (~60%). And this says nothing of those gamers in the D&D Community which show so little interest in D&D Next that they have not even bothered to sign up for the playtest and contribute to the development of the new edition. Further, recent threads on the D&D Community Forums Anyone Else Having Trouble Keeping Players Interested? and EN World Forums Losing Interest & Are You Still Playtesting? suggest that enthusiasm for the proposed Next edition is already waning, and more than a year before its release date.
It appears that retiring yet another “current” edition of D&D in order to make way for a new edition is not the way to unite the Gaming Community behind the Dungeons & Dragons brand and product line. So rather than a new edition, let’s urge Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro to bring back corporate support for ALL EDITIONS of Dungeons & Dragons – D&D, AD&D, 2nd Edition, OGL/3.5, and 4E – and give all D&D fans access to the massive product library from the past, and going forward into the future!
Hasbro/WotC – give D&D fans everything they want from current and past editions, and profit from a new publishing model that doesn’t require a new edition!
Product Suggestions for a Content-Provider Publishing Model:
- Re-publish core rulebook and sourcebooks for all previous editions of D&D.
- Re-publish all old D&D supplemental content such as modules and settings for all editions.
- Re-publish old issues of Dragon and Dungeon Magazine in POD or eBook formats.
- Use POD and eBook formats such as EPUB, PDF, and Kindle to release the vast library of D&D content without stock overhead.
- Convert modules and campaign settings originally published under one edition, and publish them under all other editions.
- Combine all material from the current 4E edition, including errata and Essentials materials, to create more streamlined version of this edition to be re-published.
- Sponsor DDI support for all four editions, including Character Builders, Monster & Encounter Designers, and Rules Compendiums. Allow fans to buy subscriptions to each support program separately, or to subscribe to bundles, or the entirety of DDI support, as desired.
- Implement the use of new technology in all editions of D&D, either through internal development or outsourcing. Publish Player and Dungeon Master apps for palm devices, tablets, and smart phones.
- Release new content for all editions in Dragon and Dungeon Webzine articles, allocating percentage of pages in proportion to DDI subscriptions for each edition.
- License all editions under a new agreement to encourage 3rd Party Publishers to support all editions of the game.
- Design and release of new supplemental content (modules, sourcebooks, campaign settings, etc.) can be published for all editions – one product sells to four consumer groups!
Again, I cannot stress enough that I do not want to offend or disrespect the developers and designers at Wizards of the Coast – they do some amazing work on D&D products, and the hobby has benefitted from their efforts over the past several years. But although I am truly a lifelong fan of D&D, I cannot profess to being a fan of Hasbro/WotC enough to want to buy D&D Next just because it has a Dungeons & Dragons logo on it. I feel quite strongly that the best way to perpetuate Dungeons & Dragons into the future is to support all of the fan base, current and past, and to assure that they are not disenfranchised by removing corporate support and retiring their favorite editions.
So I urge readers here to consider my petition. And if you think it’s worthy, please go to CHANGE.ORG [Wizards of the Coast: Support all current and past editions of Dungeons & Dragons!] to sign and lend your support for a vision of D&D that includes all fans and all editions – past, present, and future!
Supporting ALL D&D EDITIONS means supporting ALL D&D FANS!