Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Design of Dungeons & Dragons
October 8, 2010 1:16 PM   Subscribe

The Design of Dungeons & Dragons: "When D&D 4th Edition came out in 2008, I was so pleased with the new rulebooks that I decided to write up the design of the various editions. Well, I ended up being too busy to do that. But upon seeing one of the even more impressive D&D Essentials books, I had to revive that project. Get ready for some intense nerdery."
posted by jragon (63 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd like to request a rule be made: anything relating to comparing D&D versions is to be posted before 10:00 AM, especially on Fridays. I have to leave work in a half hour and that's not nearly enough time to tell everyone what I think is wrong with whatever this person has to say about Dungeons and Dragons. Not to mention arguing with all of you wrong people about things that you think that are wrong.

This post is sweet and I think AD&D books look like they were laid out by an anthropomorphic spreadsheet.
posted by griphus at 1:26 PM on October 8, 2010 [8 favorites]


(just to let you know if you don't click through, it's page design, not game design)
posted by JHarris at 1:26 PM on October 8, 2010


Print layout AND Dungeons and Dragons?! *swoon*
posted by cavalier at 1:29 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Oh sweet gods of Faerun, did D&D nerdiness just collide with Font Geekery? This is going to cause an implosion of the Dork-o-verse.

An anthropomorphic implosion.
posted by Panjandrum at 1:30 PM on October 8, 2010


Penny Arcade

As far as layout design goes I suppose I agree, but for content and rules... people may as well play a computer game then 4th, it amounts to the same thing.
posted by Shit Parade at 1:32 PM on October 8, 2010 [7 favorites]


Even as a non D&D player, this looks pretty great, but I have to say, given the rest of his introduction:

Get ready for some intense nerdery.

is perhaps the least needed warning ever.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:35 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


NERRRRRRRRRRD
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:38 PM on October 8, 2010


(I have examples of all of these books, by the way. Pot. Kettle. Nice to meet you.)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:39 PM on October 8, 2010


"The script of Macbeth does not need to be bloodstained and spattered with tears; it needs to be legible."

That's a really awesome quote. Nevertheless, I love the 3rd edition books in all their distressed, faux-3D glory.
posted by Squid Voltaire at 1:41 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


maybe it's my computer/set up - but for a blog about design, i can't even really read his font. it looks squished or something.
posted by nadawi at 1:49 PM on October 8, 2010


Haven't played 4th ed. probably never will. After spending a while reading through the DM manual and core rule book it seems they WOWified D&D. As an EVE online player I have to say that WOW isn't my bag baby.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:51 PM on October 8, 2010


The new essentials is interesting.

Somewhere in the middle of Missouri there exists one of the last serious science-fiction, fantasy, and gaming bookstores. I visit it about once every three months or so and have noticed with despair the ever-increasing ranks of the fourth edition books. Last month, I walked into the store, ready to scoop up swaths of books as part of my Customer of Doom routine, then to discuss our mutual disdain of 4e with the owner.

And there it was. A giant display for Essentials. Immediately, the thought appeared, "Is that the same lettering they used for Basic and Expert? I haven't looked at it closely in years but it seems just the way I remembered!"

It was then I realized that I had combined font recognition, nostalgia, and RPG version snobbery into one horrible moment. D&D, you have warped me in ways I have yet to fully understand.

Don't worry, the owner informed me that the new Essentials sucks, anyway.
posted by adipocere at 1:53 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


For a post about page design somebody picked the wrong font or something, I have to zoom way in to make it readable.
posted by MikeMc at 1:55 PM on October 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


This is really awesome, and that D&D Essentials book looks pretty awesome as well.

2nd Edition will always have my heart as far as attractive, clean design goes, but the 4th Edition books do an impressive job of looking as "fun" as the 3rd Edition books while also maintaining readability.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:55 PM on October 8, 2010


MikeMc - i'm so glad it's not just me.
posted by nadawi at 1:56 PM on October 8, 2010


Dungeons and Dragons with Vin Diesel
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:00 PM on October 8, 2010


Wow, that one edition with underlines under every line of body text is crazy bad.
posted by smackfu at 2:01 PM on October 8, 2010


It's readable in Safari, but they missed a golden opportunity to style each section after the version they were describing. That would have been worth bonus XP.
posted by ecurtz at 2:02 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd never seen the design of any of the revisions to the D&D books, having spent all my time with the first edition (I realize now), like 30 years ago. I never had a problem with the Futura-ness of the page design, since I read them all obsessively. You just gotta want it bad enough, nerds!
posted by dammitjim at 2:03 PM on October 8, 2010


This site wields Serif of -1 Readability
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:08 PM on October 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


Wow, that one edition with underlines under every line of body text is crazy bad.

The thing is, I never really noticed that about 3rd edition and 3.5 until this page pointed it out. Maybe it's the lighting and the camera, but I don't think it's as bad in person as the pictures make it seem.
posted by jedicus at 2:08 PM on October 8, 2010


The site looks fine (and quite nice) to me.

I've been playing 4e with my friends. Most if us had played 2e before. It's not the worse thing ever. For starters, 4e got a bunch of us interested in playing D&D again. I like the 2e books the best.
posted by chunking express at 2:16 PM on October 8, 2010


Pfeh. Fuck D&D. Wizards had the cash to figure out how to sell TTRPG's beyond the geek market, and decided to go after a different geek market instead, and in the process close down all the good openness inherent in TT for the streamlined dumbdown of an MMORPG. Colossally stupid. I've moved on to a much better system that doesn't suck.

This post isn't bad, though. Could use some more detail, and exploring more than one book design per edition.
posted by waraw at 2:16 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah EMRJKC'94 -- WTF is up with the site's horrible font? I don't know if I can even try to read it.
posted by symbioid at 2:16 PM on October 8, 2010


Plus I still hold a grudge against Wizards for firing the Everway team right before Christmas one year.
posted by waraw at 2:21 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I like 4E. It works well for my group. We're more about story than combat, and it lets us focus more on that. Character creation's a bit more flexible too.

That said, my favorite rulebook to look at is the Open, Versatile Anime system.
posted by NoraReed at 2:43 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK, for anyone viewing with shit font - at work i had a CRT and switched to LCD, my friend after looking at my screen cap, said I didn't have clearfonts on. I did and it looks MUCH better. Also switching my screen res to the proper res for this monitor helped, too. Just a tip to be able to actually read this site.
posted by symbioid at 2:46 PM on October 8, 2010


I had never connected my flameout experience with 3E with my hate for the damned manuals (which I found unreadable compared to the previous two editions), but now that someone has pointed out how badly designed 3E was from a usability perspective, I'm pretty sure that my "there are too many rules" crankitude was partially the unusability of the books.
posted by immlass at 3:20 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just a tip to be able to actually read this site.

Another tip: Preferences > Content > Fonts & Colors > Advanced > Allow pages to choose their own fonts, instead of my selections above > Unchecked

This is on Firefox, your browser mileage may vary. Using the same font for every web page you visit greatly improves readability.
posted by moonbiter at 3:29 PM on October 8, 2010


I can't wait for 5th edition so when I hear people complain about 4th Edition they can actually talk about it as a game and not just grumblings because it's different than what they grew up with.

"Oh Noes! A game that has a legacy from wargaming is using miniatures?!?" "Wait, you mean people don't like playing characters who die from getting bit by 2 rats and the folks who do go play Nethack instead?" "It's like an MMO, the GM sets up each game to make me want to play for 16 hours straight and I need to get 20 other friends together or we can't raid!"

Yawn.

Essentials looks pretty neat.

I haven't gotten copies yet, but I like the small book format- easy to reference, easy to carry. Definitely a lot better than huge hardcovers. Not only that, but it fits the manga-size book format that's popular these days (which, incidentally, is what a lot of the small-press indie rpg folks figured out a while ago).
posted by yeloson at 4:22 PM on October 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I believe the 3.5 manuals should normally be accessed here. Seriously, I don't even touch the books anymore. And it's legal!
posted by kaibutsu at 4:54 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm on the fence in the debate. I do not believe that I must make a general policy decision choose between either Pathfinder or D&D 4, any more than I must choose between D&D and Vampire. What system I use depends entirely on the style of game I want to run, and the setting I want to run it in. Systems and settings interact. How often players are making dice rolls, and what degree of predictability those dice rolls should have, affects the game.

For a game with a lot of politicking, especially internal group politicking (and especially where PvP is a possibility), a bit of combat, and a great deal of variety between individual PCs and NPCs in the world, I pick Pathfinder and D&D3(.5). It's a great system for describing what characters are in numerical terms, and consequently exactly what they can do. But I don't consider it to be much of a game system. The d20 roll is much too important especially at low levels. Your +2 to whatever means very little compared to whether you roll a 5 or a 15. Pathfinder is a system that needs a great deal more narrative resolution than the typical GM applies, which in turn implies that the games should be fairly combat-light, and discussion-heavy. One of the games I regularly play in is set in Shakespearean Verona, the characters are city guard, and while the GM generally puts in a combat or two per session, the majority of the game is spent getting involved in the city (and national) politics, investigating strange goings-on, talking to NPCs and other PCs, trying to resolve conflicting agendas, etc. The GM's a medieval history buff. There is some magic in the world but it's not directly available to PCs, it's handled with anomalous Da Vinci technology, occasional miracles, dark secrets, and special abilities.

That game would work very badly under D&D4. You just can't do wide varieties of options and free-form game balance under D&D4, which is basically a tactical miniatures wargame. So far I've only played in one D&D4 game for any length of time but I did enjoy it a great deal; it was set in an "Oriental Adventures" type world, similar to the world of Exalted or Avatar: The Last Airbender, where the special abilities of PCs and NPCs were modelled as kung fu powers. PC classes were treated as kung fu styles/schools, and the GM encouraged us to rename and "re-skin" our abilities to suit ourselves. D&D4 explicitly assumes that PCs, with daily powers, are special and distinct from the rest of the population. NPCs are very much not treated the same as PCs by the rules. Accordingly, the GM's setting should take that into account.

I think a lot of "crap game" experiences, and this is especially the case between Pathfinder and D&D4, is due to setting/rules mismatch. A setting must always contain rational explanations for the implications of the rules. PCs and NPCs should do the things that the rules imply that they should do. If they do not, there should be some rational and obvious reason why. PCs should have social roles, they should (usually) be members of social groups beyond their party, and where those roles conflict with their in-game powers, this conflict should be addressed.

D&D4 does owe a lot of its design to MMOs (although it owes more to CCGs in my opinion, especially Magic: the Gathering). This is no problem. OD&D owed a lot of its design to minatures wargaming. You could run a D&D4 game very much like a WoW session, and if WoW were to be made up as a paper RPG, D&D4 would be a far better fit than D&D3 was for it. White Wolf Studios published a WoW setting and system under the d20 OGL but it barely resembled WoW itself at all, and wasn't much of a setting in its own right, so it failed.

But if you did that, you would be missing out on two problems with MMOs as RPGs that D&D4 fixes. Firstly, deviation from optimum behavior, and from the "script", is far less of a barrier to success in D&D4 than in an MMO. Because a human GM is running the game, he/she can provide challenges to the group that take into consideration their individual abilities and resources; conversely, they can use their abilities and resources in ways that cannot be applied in an MMO. In an MMO, you cannot meaningfully deviate from the "script" and if you did, it is highly likely that what you are doing will be destructive to other players' enjoyment. Secondly, history and persistence; once you have completed a quest, the quest-giver does not stand there dumbly awaiting the next PC. The world moves on. You can affect real change in the world. Even if D&D4 somehow managed to exactly model the WoW system, the fact that you could change the world, in itself, would give that hypothetical game enough potential for roleplaying to make it a meaningful separate experience.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:03 PM on October 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Never played D&D, probably never will, but damn did I enjoy watching the video of the Penny Arcade guys at PAX (plus Wil Wheaton and Scott Kurtz).
posted by A dead Quaker at 5:39 PM on October 8, 2010


aeschenkarnos: You should check out some of Gabe's (from Penny Arcade) posts about his D&D experiences. He's totally new to tabletop RPGs, and some of the things he does with his games are really interesting. On one occasion he ran a session with a nod to MMORPGs (second post down).
posted by Ritchie at 5:41 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


waraw: "Pfeh. Fuck D&D. Wizards had the cash to figure out how to sell TTRPG's beyond the geek market, and decided to go after a different geek market instead, and in the process close down all the good openness inherent in TT for the streamlined dumbdown of an MMORPG. Colossally stupid. I've moved on to a much better system that doesn't suck.

This post isn't bad, though. Could use some more detail, and exploring more than one book design per edition
"

Heh, that "doesn't suck" link made me think of the sort of RPG nerds that ran the store I used to go to as a kid. Very excited and wanting to talk about the stuff, but it doesn't feel like they're talking to you, but AT you. And in a video, it's quite fine. I didn't notice until I realized that's how people would talk in personal convos that seemed kinda... weird. Hard to explain? Bah, derail I guess.

That said, I'd love to see this kind of review for White Wolf, because I bought those games just for the design. I rarely got to roleplay so to me it was just seeing the world they built up and the design of the books I really loved compared to D&D (plus, I loved the system much better).
posted by symbioid at 7:18 PM on October 8, 2010


Some of these design comparisons aren't really fair because some editions are pre- or semi-digital. For instance, the ability to choose between a whole bunch of fonts is a recent luxury. Layout was whatever you could manage on a physical board, and offset costs per page were high enough that you didn't want to waste space. The comment about 2000-era metallic effects is astute; renderings will look dated unless they're modified from illustrated and photographic references.

In 2nd Edition's case I always thought early printings of the core book (which are not depicted in this article) were pretty easy to read, though they're now dated. The later printings (red headings) were terrible and cheap.

Changes in production technologies also affect the choice of format. Prior to the mid-late 80s softcovers were very flimsy -- when you bought GURPS you were advised to pre-crack the perfect bound backing. Honestly,even contemporary softcovers will still lose their attractiveness and integrity quickly under heavy use. The reason software manuals use them is because they're subject to frequent revisions and aren't going to be around for half the cover to fall off.

Hardcovers were originally a more durable replacement for smaller saddle-stitched books (D&D was not always letter-sized before Essentials). Quality-wise, AD&D1e is not bad; I have books that are around 30 years old where the shape in the backing is wobbly but every page is solid. The whole "tome" thing is hard to work with, though.

3e was going for a distinctive look suggestive of the lined paper that the nostalgia-driven market remembers from grade school games, and of course what folks called "dungeonpunk" art direction, which I think would have worked better if the books were more evocative.

I suspect interiors were also designed to subtly discourage piracy. At the time, RPG books were pirated via direct scan or OCR, then ported to PDF. That background made OCR difficult for the dumb software of a decade ago, and hard to scroll through on a screen due to hardware limitations. There was already a broad awareness of piracy due to folks like MeFi's James Wallis, who kept an eye on binaries newsgroups back in the day.

(Nowadays piracy starts with watermark-scrubbed pay-to-download PDFs or in the case of 4e, leaked production PDFs.)

I think 4e has some problems. I like the white space but hate the rendered quality of the graphics, which are *already* dated. Title fonts are uninspiring. A plain serif title? Really? I think at this point the game doesn't know what it is, just that it wants to sell itself to somebody -- anybody. Making them look like software manuals is idiotic. D&D should send the message that it's about an experience in direct contrast to the things I do wearing my IT hat. The book design instructs, but it does not evoke any particular experience. That's why I consider it a failure.

BUT! I do not consider the game a failure in terms of its systems. I've played it continuously for two years. I believe WotC is suffering a serious creative crisis, but not in game systems design. The failure has to do with building "soft" aspects of its intellectual property. It has little idea what its D&D worlds mean, why they're interesting or how to build more of them. (I think this is a problem in the company culture, no one individual, since many creative people seem to produce less interesting stuff under WotC supervision.) This does trickle down to things like book design, which will end up being informed by whoever can yell loudest about what D&D is.

I like playing 4e,, though. I like 3e, 2e and 1e (running 1e, playing 4e now). The idea that RPGs can be objectively improved is usually silly.

Really, though, in a couple of years I think we'll be at least 50/50 tablet-reader/physical book, so handwringing about format will get less important. The first company to build a game as a rich HTML5 app wins, basically.
posted by mobunited at 7:22 PM on October 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


White Wolf Studios published a WoW setting and system under the d20 OGL but it barely resembled WoW itself at all, and wasn't much of a setting in its own right, so it failed.

Actually, the Warcraft RPG went through two editions under the Warcraft and WoW names, respectively. The line lasted for six years and produced over a dozen books across both editions -- not really a "failure."

The system is bog-standard D20 in most respects. I've heard that this was actually at the behest of Blizzard/SOE. White Wolf also produced an Everquest RPG that was much more customized to the source -- alternate magic system craft skills and special systems for pets.
posted by mobunited at 7:38 PM on October 8, 2010


I greatly prefer the first set, in all respects. It's mysterious, the way it's written, instead of uniformity between the sections, there are parts which have received greater depth, and they go off on tangents that get the imagination rolling. It's like they're telling old campfire ghost stories, or something. And the design too, in those days that weird font, the small type, it was a very new thing. As they go on it seems to get ordinary to the point of dullness, in my opinion.
posted by nervousfritz at 7:53 PM on October 8, 2010


kaibutsu, I've been using this version for a few years now. (actually, that's probably my favorite thing about 3e: the whole "open source" d20 system.)

I just started a 4e game this last week, and I'm feeling balky about it, honestly, although on the plus side the skills system looks vastly simpler. We'll see. Personally, I'm interested in trying out Pathfinder.

Designwise, I have a soft spot for the Basic and 1st edition stuff, BECAUSE it's so hobbyist. It isn't trying to dress itself up for anybody.
posted by epersonae at 8:20 PM on October 8, 2010


psst, best combat system of all time? Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game. No, really. Thing buzzed and flowed like greased lightning, scads of fun.
posted by waraw at 10:31 PM on October 8, 2010


Wow, I never thought I'd consider switching to 4e, but damn, those Essentials books look so inviting.

The thing is, I never really noticed that about 3rd edition and 3.5 until this page pointed it out. Maybe it's the lighting and the camera, but I don't think it's as bad in person as the pictures make it seem.


I never really noticed it either, or maybe I did but I just ignored it while quietly wondering why the book is so damn difficult to read. The distressed diagrams and pages are really awful, though, and can sometimes make it very difficult to find the information you are looking for. The thing you are looking for might be right under your nose, yet you won't see it because there's just too much visual noise. To make things even worse, the index (which is supposed to help you find things) is completely useless.
posted by daniel_charms at 1:36 AM on October 9, 2010


Are people really mad at 4E because of the miniatures? My group has been playing with minis for years because they're helpful and fun to mod and paint. Our problem is that 4E erased everyone's ability variances. And if the group can't kill the monster with their upper level powers then one simple encounter drags out forever. We quickly reverted to the delightfully insane world of 3.5 as if 4 never happened.

As far as the books go, I feel like layout concerns, while valid, are secondary to providing a thorough and helpful index. That's always been a problem.
posted by heatvision at 5:33 AM on October 9, 2010


Except that this is not D&D being critiqued, but rather Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. Back in the day, being a nerd meant a fanatical attention to minute and trivial details like the year of publication and the correct title.
posted by mfoight at 5:57 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


This review sums up quite a bit of my own difficulties with 4e, and nails it with this:

4th edition is setup to be a game for hack-and-slashing powergaming min-maxers who want to fight really big monsters with tonnes of hit points . . . Granted a person can still play 4th edition and roleplay out events and scenarios, but in practice the rules really discourage any kind of roleplaying activity.

Throwing away the wide variety of options available via multiclass and prestige classes is not encouraging of creativity. But oh look, here are a few paragon paths... but just a few. Sorry, no: variety and openness is better than a few rigidly defined options.

Basically a system has gotta get out of the way of the story, and 4e to me doesn't do that at all. But if it's getting more people to roleplay? Hey, that's a net bonus. Because I have this campaign that's gonna blow your socks off.
posted by waraw at 6:21 AM on October 9, 2010


Since people flagged and got my last comment deleted let me elaborate. 4th ed is bad not because it can't be fun to play, but because it is not AD&D. Period. Class choices have no meaning beyond the writing the class name on your character sheet. The whole system is based upon character builds or planned character progression and doesn't leave any room for, you know, ROLEPLAYING. Maybe your character takes a feat that she won't necessarily need or isn't part of a build but you take it as part of an organic character development, ie you needed it at the time. Cross classing is fucked in 4th edition. Once you start out the game as a Paladin you are pretty much stuck as a Paladin. What if throughout the course of the game your character looses faith and rejects the Paladin path??? To bad your stuck as a Paladin. Sure you can take abilities from another class but you are basically gimping your character at that point.

I could go on and on but that was basically the main thrust of what I said earlier that apparently pissed everyone off-3rd edition to 4th edition is like Morrowind to Oblivion. Actually in retrospect that's a horrible comparison because Oblivion bore some resemblance to Morrowind. 4th edition is D&D in name only, and it sure as hell isn't AD&D.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:37 AM on October 9, 2010


People flagged your comment because nerdly hand-wringing over game systems is dull as fuck. It isn't cute. It isn't quirky. It's just eye-rollingly tedious. D&D 4e was designed and tested by people who in some cases have been table-top roleplaying for over 30 years. It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that the Wizards playtest department has about 200 years worth of accumulated D&D experience across all editions. Will you concede they just might have a clue? And if not, well, maybe 4e just isn't your baby and that's totally okay. But don't go on with this rant about how 4e sucks because you can't play a half-drow/half-halforc paladin/psion/assassin. Because that is just the lamest thing ever, and after 30 years of listening to whining from people who ostensibly share my hobby I will brook no more of this nonsense.

Back to the topic at hand: The 3rd edition volumes pissed me off no end because if I tried photocopying a table (for building a DM screen) it usually took about 3 tries to get a usable copy, and god help you if you tried to scan a page and then run OCR on it.
posted by Ritchie at 8:35 AM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


Since people flagged and got my last comment deleted let me elaborate.

You have not had any comments deleted from this thread.
posted by cortex at 8:58 AM on October 9, 2010 [2 favorites]


People flagged your comment because nerdly hand-wringing over game systems is dull as fuck.

Says the man hand-wringing over game systems.

Notice that I said 4th ed. can be fun to play but that it is not AD&D. But, whatever, to each his own. I will stick with 2nd and 3rd edition. Why? Because I like variety and non-limiting framework. Oh yeah, and I like to roleplay. Not saying that it is impossible to do with 4th ed just that they made it a lot harder for the DM to create that space.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:06 AM on October 9, 2010


You have not had any comments deleted from this thread.

Hmmmm maybe it didn't go through when I hit post last night before I went to bed. I didn't really think it was delete worthy so that makes sense.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:23 AM on October 9, 2010


Back to the topic at hand: The 3rd edition volumes pissed me off no end because if I tried photocopying a table (for building a DM screen) it usually took about 3 tries to get a usable copy, and god help you if you tried to scan a page and then run OCR on it.

I strongly suspect Wizards considered this a feature, possibly an intentional one.
posted by jedicus at 10:09 AM on October 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I love the smell of an edition war in the morning :(

Anyway. I'm truly amazed he likes the 4e books. I play 4e - it's easily my favourite edition of D&D - and the books make excellent reference manuals. They are good for looking things up. But the other purpose of rulebooks is to draw you into the game - and the 4e PHB is an utter failure here. It is as dry and irritating as an instruction manual. (Actually given that font, I'm not sure that I should take anything he says seriously).

Anyway, to try to correct some of the misconceptions.

As far as layout design goes I suppose I agree, but for content and rules... people may as well play a computer game then 4th, it amounts to the same thing.

You mean like Neverwinter Nights, Planescape Torment, or Baldur's Gate. All of which have the rules ported exactly (and Planescape Torment at least is deeper than the majority of tabletop campaigns IMO). There is precisely one edition of D&D that can't have all the NPCs run by computer the vast majority of the time - 4e. That's because you need genuine intelligence behind the monsters in combat as well as out - the marking system used in 4e is the opposite of Aggro (Aggro = mind control. Marking = turn your back on the marker and he's still distracting you and going to hurt you. What are you going to do?)

So yes it amounts to the same thing if by "The same thing" you mean "Has learned lessons from a tremendously popular game and unlike previous editions demonstrates what the tabletop can do better" (anything that requires AI - out of combat and tactical thought).

Pfeh. Fuck D&D. Wizards had the cash to figure out how to sell TTRPG's beyond the geek market, and decided to go after a different geek market instead, and in the process close down all the good openness inherent in TT for the streamlined dumbdown of an MMORPG.

You mean that Wizards hasn't just started getting the basic rules of D&D (the new "Red Box") into Wall-Mart and Target? I guess you'd better call all three companies liars. And as for openness, 4e has some of the most helpful open out of combat DM guidelines it's ever been my pleasure to use. (The Skill Challenge rules although the explanation in the DMG sucks.)

That game would work very badly under D&D4. You just can't do wide varieties of options and free-form game balance under D&D4, which is basically a tactical miniatures wargame.

No. 4e is a two part game. The first part is an intense and flashy combat system for an action movie, granted. The second part is a rules light roleplaying game with some magic and powers - and excellent mechanical DM guidance and a poor explanation how to use this. You can do intrigue games or exploration games pretty easily in 4e - and when I'm running I do.

As for a tactical minatures wargame, if D&D is one then that's because it's come full circle. D&D has its earliest roots in tactical minatures wargaming. This would just be blaming D&D for being D&D. (It's not true - although D&D has learned from tactical minatures wargaming as well as MMORPGs).

4th edition is setup to be a game for hack-and-slashing powergaming min-maxers who want to fight really big monsters with tonnes of hit points . . .

Hardly powergaming when everyone has them. And you want powergaming, try a 3.5 mid-high level druid - nothing in 4e matches that for versatility or power. What 4e is set up for is rules-light roleplaying and large important combats of the sort you'd see in an action movie.

Granted a person can still play 4th edition and roleplay out events and scenarios, but in practice the rules really discourage any kind of roleplaying activity.

Complete nonsense. Which rules discourage roleplaying? (I'd argue the pixelbitching and implied prohibitions in the presence of skills in 3.X ("Use Rope"?) and non-weapon proficiencies in 2e do.

Throwing away the wide variety of options available via multiclass and prestige classes is not encouraging of creativity. But oh look, here are a few paragon paths... but just a few.

For a simple comparison, the 3.5 DMG had, I believe 16 prestige classes (the SRD has only 15 because the Red Wizard is Faerun Specific and so not in the SRD). The 4e PHB has 32 Paragon Paths. Plus Paragon Multiclassing if you really want to (it's generally a bad idea). So there were about twice as many Paragon Paths when 4e launched as Prestige Classes when 3.5 launched (unless you count the 3.0 ones).

A quick Compendium search found 453 Paragon Paths - and that doesn't include Primal Power, Dark Sun, or Essentials. Note that this isn't the bloat that 453 Prestige Classes would be (and were) because you can't dip Paragon Paths so you don't need to worry about how they interact or are front loaded. (And with the Character Builder you are just given a list of the dozen or so you qualify for).

There are also currently 25 classes (excluding Essentials) - and because it's power and exception based, almost all these classes are pretty distinctive (with the exceptions of the Runepriest overlapping with the melee cleric, the Psionic trio, and the mess that is the DDI Assassin (distinctive but weak and confused in this case)). Still want to talk about options and not having enough?

4th ed is bad not because it can't be fun to play, but because it is not AD&D. Period. Class choices have no meaning beyond the writing the class name on your character sheet.

Bwuh? You mean other than the skills you can choose, your powers, which stats are important, how you approach combat, what you can do out of combat that normal people can't? What's left?

The whole system is based upon character builds or planned character progression and doesn't leave any room for, you know, ROLEPLAYING.

*double takes* In AD&D (i.e. 1e or 2e - 3e was technically D&D), you have nothing on your character sheet but planned character progression set in stone at first level. Unless you were a human, had absurd stats, and wanted to restart from level 1.

But it was 3.X where builds reigned supreme. Because the prestige class requirements were so steep you needed to plan them several levels in advance. So builds were all important - especially as there were a lot of character design traps (e.g. the Toughness feat). In 4e you need to be trying to make an inept character rather than just have written "Monk" on the top of your character sheet (unless you have absurd stats).

Maybe your character takes a feat that she won't necessarily need or isn't part of a build but you take it as part of an organic character development, ie you needed it at the time.

And in 3e you may have just locked yourself out of a Prestige class for the next three levels. In 4e you just take the feat and no one really cares.

Cross classing is fucked in 4th edition.

No it isn't. It just represents something different - a little training to pick up something useful rather than fundamentally re-writing your entire approach to the world. If you want fucked cross classing, try playing a core level 7 Mystic Theurge (Wizard 3/Cleric 3/Mystic Theurge 1) in a party with a level 7 wizard and a level 7 cleric. Then get back to me while I bring out my hybrid Wizard/Cleric or just split the difference and play an Invoker or Bard in 4e.

Once you start out the game as a Paladin you are pretty much stuck as a Paladin. What if throughout the course of the game your character looses faith and rejects the Paladin path??? To bad your stuck as a Paladin.

You have been stuck as a paladin in every edition of D&D (with the exception of the corner case of a Paladin falling to become a Blackguard (i.e. anti-Paladin)). But in editions previous to 4th this made you a sucky fighter (and in AD&D it also left you on a nasty experience point track) as your powers ceased to work. In 4e, once the power has been granted it can never be revoked. Which means you don't get the conversation
"My Lord. We think there's a traitor in the order!"

"This shouldn't take more than an hour to clear up. Assemble everyone in the yard and we'll see who can no longer Lay on Hands".
Sure you can take abilities from another class but you are basically gimping your character at that point.

Depends how you do it. Carefully and you should be OK. (And if you were a strength-based Paladin all along you just start grabbing the less overtly divine strength based powers of which there are plenty; it's slightly trickier for a charisma-based paladin especially as they are more obviously divinely empowered.) If you want to talk about gimped characters, try talking about the Paladin who can no longer use the 8 or 9 levels of class abilities he has and has basically become a featless fighter.

4th edition is D&D in name only, and it sure as hell isn't AD&D.

Good. There's something we can agree on. 3.X isn't and never was AD&D either. And it's ironic that almost everything you list other than the Paladin issue (that Paladins in 4e aren't screwed if they lose their faith) was a part of 3.X that was never actually present in AD&D.

(A little background on D&D/AD&D - the purpose of the name change to Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was so Gary Gygax could get Dave Arneson's name off the cover. When WoTC bought TSR, they paid an undesclosed sum to Dave Arneson and went back to calling the game D&D).
posted by Francis at 1:18 PM on October 9, 2010 [7 favorites]


There's a difference between 'learning how to sell beyond the niche geek market' and 'sticking the boxes in Target and WalMart'.

Not unlike the difference between Discussion and Contradiction. Like 4e? Great. I don't. I bought the books, read them, hated them, traded them, bought the Chaosium system I linked above. Enjoy your game!
posted by waraw at 5:14 PM on October 9, 2010


There's a difference between 'learning how to sell beyond the niche geek market' and 'sticking the boxes in Target and WalMart'.

That's a start. Get people to see they don't have to already go into geek establishments to get it.

Not unlike the difference between Discussion and Contradiction.

Yes. When someone has something sensible to say you discuss. When they are flat wrong ("But oh look, here are a few paragon paths... but just a few." - when there are in excess of 450 current Paragon Paths, and about twice as many in the PHB as there are prestige classes in the 3.5 DMG) you contradict. Because unless the premises are at least defensible and bear some resemblance to reality then any discussion is going to be about as useful as discussing what type of green cheese the moon is made out of.

You are free to your own opinions, sir. But you are not free to your own facts. That you enjoy Chaoisium and don't like 4e (I assume you played it rather than just read it? It doesn't read well I agre) is an opinion. And one you are free to. (It's also unsupported so there's nothing really there to discuss).
posted by Francis at 4:33 AM on October 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


Francis -- our gaming group has been on 3.0/3.5 since, like, 2003 and we're currently on the fence as to whether or not our next campaign should be 4E or Pathfinder. I think part of what informs a lot of potentially misguided notions about the limitations of 4E (and misguided us until a friend had set us straight) is that so much of what is 'core' to 4E is spread out across a bunch of different books. Yeah, sure there may be 450 Paragon Paths, 37 base classes and a bazillion feats or powers or whatever the correct word is "for cool stuff you can do" but it's split amongst three Players Handbooks, the Essentials, the Power books and various Campaign world supplements.

That, in and of itself, isn't much different from 3.5 with its two PHBs, Completes, Races, Environment and Campaign splats; but we've been running our 3.5 game as just 'core + Complete first generation +Spell Compendium' and have been perfectly happy with that; but then that was because the 3.5 PHB and Complete books seemed to do their best to be comprehensive for their scope. 11 core classes & dozens of feats within the PHB and 3 more classes +more feats and +prcs in the Completes. Most of our players just own the PHB + whatever Complete goes with their favored character type & Spell Compendium if they're a caster, and they're having a ton of fun. Sure, our builds aren't as insanely min/maxed as what you'd see on various Character Optimization forums, but we don't play around the idea of what ridiculous things we can do at Level 20. We want to play as a certain set of archetypes but want flexibility to customize from game to game (one likes playing different types of rogue, another goes between 2H fighter and dual wielding swashbuckler, etc.)

With 4E, it seems like someone who wants play a barbarian and wants the flexibility of character options that are afforded by the 3.5 PHB + Complete Warrior, has to shell out for two Players Handbooks, two Martial Power books and possibly whatever Essentials related book comes out for that class. The 4E source material seems to be composed entirely around a subscription revenue model which is fine as a business plan, but is offputting to the consumer who wants to have as much fun as possible without shelling a ton of cash. The 4E PHB just gives off this sense that it is, by itself, inadequate and incomplete; and you need to invest in the supplements to get a full range of the experience -- hence the judgements that '4E is limited and restrictive' because most folks just look at the core books and see how thin it is and walk away.

As I said, initially, this is the impression that we as a group had until one of our other friends, who's currently in a 4E campaign, made the same sort of arguments that you just did ie. "it's not that limited if you look at the entirety of the inventory, and hey it's all designed to interlock much better than 3.5, so building a character doesn't feel like you're filling a tax return (HUGE plus, that)" but that then begs the question of "Ok, so what if I don't want to buy all the books, and I just like playing (illusionists/two handed fighters/fantasy Indiana Jones/a redeemed war criminal who found the light of Pelor), how many 4E books do I need to have fun doing that?"
posted by bl1nk at 6:59 AM on October 10, 2010


"Ok, so what if I don't want to buy all the books, and I just like playing (illusionists/two handed fighters/fantasy Indiana Jones/a redeemed war criminal who found the light of Pelor), how many 4E books do I need to have fun doing that?"

Ah, a good question :) There is, however a simple answer. None at all :) (And I don't mean "just borrow the books")

Buy one month of D&D Insider and download the Character builder. (And swear at Wizards if you're using an Apple as it doesn't work on Apples). You'll then be able to keep that (and the Monster Builder and dungeon/dragon PDFs you downloaded). That will currently get you all character build options before Psionic Power, Dark Sun, and Essentials, and none of this will be taken away when your subscription expires.

And the character builder will produce character sheets where most of the math is done for you - the character sheets will sprawl over several pages, but that's because all the powers will be written out for you (it would be the equivalent of printing out almost every spell in your wizards' spell book in previous editions so you almost never need to refer to the rulebooks, just the character sheets). The one place it will be overwhelming at first is that it will display too many feats by half, especially in the generic heroic tier.

Also 4e absolutely rocks if you like archetypes although some of them aren't always quite what they appear - for instance Barbarians are in Primal Power rather than Martial. Also some barbarian options have odd features like being able to let out a mighty roar that does some very minor damage (and causes minions to run in terror) or being able to roar to the heavens and have lightning answer. (Not all Barbarians are this way at all - if you want Barbarians to just be hulking warriors with no supernatural powers beyond those displayed by action movie heroes, those are quite easy to make and the majority of Barbarians I've seen played have been that way).
posted by Francis at 7:33 AM on October 10, 2010 [2 favorites]


One of the reasons I stopped playing AD&D around 1990--having taken the Guinness World Record for endurance AD&D-play four years earlier--was my dislike for the appearance of the AD&D2e books. I didn't like the logo, or the covers, or the layout, or the typeface choices. These were not books I felt like looking at for several hours a week, and of all the RPGs that demand to be used as reference books AD&D is surely at the top of the heap.

I loved the rules design of D&D3e, and I'm proud to call two of the designers friends. Couldn't stand the page design. Ugly.

4e was all right.

A few days ago some friends asked me to run them through their first ever game of D&D, and I said I'd do it as long as long as we could use the new edition of the Red Box. But I've not actually seen a copy of it yet. I will report back.
posted by Hogshead at 7:15 AM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


My friend grabbed the smaller soft cover rules compendium. That thing is nice. I wonder if all the new books will start using the essentials format. It's soft cover though, so it'd probably fall apart sooner.
posted by chunking express at 9:47 AM on October 11, 2010


"Ok, so what if I don't want to buy all the books, and I just like playing (illusionists/two handed fighters/fantasy Indiana Jones/a redeemed war criminal who found the light of Pelor), how many 4E books do I need to have fun doing that?"

One of the smart design lessons they picked up from later Magic the Gathering is this: some people love tooling around and deck building min-maxing their character with every possible option, and a lot of people just want a basic thing they can run with - equivalent to a pre-built Magic deck.

Every character class gives you 2 or 3 "builds" that you can just pick- it tells you what feats and options go with it and you just go. Granted, the options won't include everything from every other book, but you'll have a good character that works well.

4E also picked up from MMO's in one important regard- you can change your character's power and feat choices as you level up, so you're not forced to pre-map 20 levels of choices like you would in 3E (They also realized deliberately putting in crap feat/power options was a bad idea from 3E - it's NOT like Magic in that people are playing card roulette every time they buy a booster pack). Take your basic build and as you play and gain mastery, shift your character around into what you want him or her to be.

So basically, pick a book that has the character class(es) you're into and call it done. If you're an obsessive collector, rest assured, they'll keep churning out books, because they are a business and want to keep selling more products. But you can grab a single PHB and have a good time.
posted by yeloson at 9:11 PM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


As has been noted before, it's worth thinking a bit about the economics of table-top role-playing games to understand why D&D takes the shape that it does. Table-top games have an absurd amount of play value: you get a (hopefully) good social experience wrapped into perhaps hundreds of hours of game play, fed mainly by the imaginations of the players and gamemaster. The game company provides books describing the game that will be played...

WOTC sells books of rules. This is what D&D started as, and how it is done to this day. The basic rules come in a few books, which provide enough rules for a creative GM to run an arbitrarily complicated campaign for hundreds of years. This comes to, say, $100 for the first set of base books, and perhaps another $100 for reference copies of the PHB. And then you never see your customers again, because they're on their way to Mordor and won't get there for about six years. This isn't a viable long-term business model; one needs the customers to keep coming back.

In 2e (and this is no secret) the rules for high-level characters were pretty broken. So TSR kept releasing cool stuff for starting characters, and people kept buying more books so they would have rules for playing as multiclassed pirate-ninjas. TSR also published a lot of setting supplements in this time period: Dragonlance, Ravenloft, and, of course, Forgotten Realms. These books were (mostly) separate from the rules books (Complete Rogue, etc).

With 3e, WOTC published almost exclusively rules supplements, and outsourced the setting creation. Literally, actually; the rights to develop Ravenloft were sold/given to White Wolf. With this move, WOTC put themselves in the position of selling more rules and character classes instead of good game content; the main reason to buy books were a) new ridiculous monsters to throw at the party (kinda a good thing, but without a setting, the monsters were REALLY random), and b) to get the ninja rules so I can build a really cool character. To make the new character types cool (and thus sell books), the new classes were in no way balanced against the classes in the base book. Those who had bought more books had an advantage over those who didn't.

We can contrast this with White Wolf, which has explicitly chosen to create setting content in their supplements. They sell books that are almost entirely ideas for game masters to incorporate into existing games. And they do an awesome job of it, too.

So when we play D&D in my group, we use the 3.5 SRD and nothing else. We add our own spells and make modifications to fit specific character ideas, but it's mainly the vanilla rules. And the occasional Sea Lion from Monster Manual III.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:13 PM on October 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


As has been noted before, it's worth thinking a bit about the economics of table-top role-playing games to understand why D&D takes the shape that it does. Table-top games have an absurd amount of play value: you get a (hopefully) good social experience wrapped into perhaps hundreds of hours of game play, fed mainly by the imaginations of the players and gamemaster. The game company provides books describing the game that will be played...

Absolutely. And what are to my mind some of the best RPGs out there are a single book that will have serious problems ever selling you a second. Highlights here would be Dread, Dogs in the Vineyard, and Spirit of the Century. (Also possibly Burning Wheel and Savage Worlds - I don't actually own either system but they are on my "to buy" list). These will make pocket money but not actually employ anyone. (Especially Dread - only the GM has any use for the rulebook).

In 2e (and this is no secret) the rules for high-level characters were pretty broken. So TSR kept releasing cool stuff for starting characters, and people kept buying more books so they would have rules for playing as multiclassed pirate-ninjas. TSR also published a lot of setting supplements in this time period: Dragonlance, Ravenloft, and, of course, Forgotten Realms. These books were (mostly) separate from the rules books (Complete Rogue, etc).

When WoTC took over TSR, they discovered it was far from clear that TSR had a business model other than what they felt like at the time (and if they did it certainly wasn't by paying attention to what customers wanted to buy).
In all my research into TSR's business, across all the ledgers, notebooks, computer files, and other sources of data, there was one thing I never found - one gaping hole in the mass of data we had available.

No customer profiling information. No feedback. No surveys. No "voice of the customer". TSR, it seems, knew nothing about the people who kept it alive. The management of the company made decisions based on instinct and gut feelings; not data. They didn't know how to listen - as an institution, listening to customers was considered something that other companies had to do - TSR lead, everyone else followed.
- Ryan Dancey on the aquisition of TSR
With 3e, WOTC published almost exclusively rules supplements, and outsourced the setting creation. Literally, actually; the rights to develop Ravenloft were sold/given to White Wolf.

The problem is that settings don't really make money unless the setting is the game (as with White Wolf). The number of people who are going to bother buying Secrets of Sarlonia for a slightly obscure continent in the Eberron setting (to pick one WoTC 3e setting book) is minimal. (And that Secrets of Sarlonia exists should be a rebuttal to the idea that WoTC were out of the settings market)

With this move, WOTC put themselves in the position of selling more rules and character classes instead of good game content;

You say the two as if they are mutually exclusive.

To make the new character types cool (and thus sell books), the new classes were in no way balanced against the classes in the base book. Those who had bought more books had an advantage over those who didn't.

Actually, three of the five most powerful classes in 3e are the Wizard, Cleric, and Druid (with druid right at the top of the tree). All three were printed in the PHB. Yes, the Book of Nine Swords Warblade was better than the fighter and the Swordsage was better than the monk. But that's because both the fighter and especially the monk were right at the bottom of the tree. Neither was as powerful as even a PHB-only druid used effectively.

We can contrast this with White Wolf, which has explicitly chosen to create setting content in their supplements. They sell books that are almost entirely ideas for game masters to incorporate into existing games. And they do an awesome job of it, too.

Indeed we can. And what we need to account for when we do is that, not to put too fine a point on it, White Wolf are dead. They are now owned by an MMO maker - and they are no longer producing print volumes. What happened was predictable; as the game continued the metaplot got bigger until it became overwhelming. At that point the only remaining option was a reboot (which left behind the people who liked the Old World of Darkness and as that was the selling point, the demise of what at one point was the most popular RPG out there (for one month) was inevitable). It was like the one book model of many of the Indy games except written much larger. They got one line and each step needed to be bigger until it collapsed.

This isn't such an issue if you're selling rules because it's easy to demonstrate how a new ruleset is an improvement over what came before. If you're selling world and metaplot, not only do you retcon what existing PCs have done when your story progresses, there's no objective reason the new system is going to be superior to the old one (and to take one trivial example THAC0 was an improvement over a lookup table and ascending AC as the target number was an improvement over THAC0)

So when we play D&D in my group, we use the 3.5 SRD and nothing else. We add our own spells and make modifications to fit specific character ideas, but it's mainly the vanilla rules. And the occasional Sea Lion from Monster Manual III.

Can I recommend Pathfinder to you? When 3.5 went out of print, it couldn't be removed entirely. So Paizo (former publishers of Dragon) produced a version of it to keep it in print. It's been tweaked and cleaned up slightly from 3.5 - but is more or less compatable. But the point is that Paizo are producing some of the best fluff and adventure paths (i.e. linked series of modules) ever written for D&D.

But that brings me on to what WoTC are doing with 4e. What they are primarily selling is content to players rather than to DMs. Each of the classes is an archetype, and on each class there are three or more solid implementations that play something like the way you'd expect.

To take one example, the Warlord class is "Armoured warrior who specialises in leading rather than fighting himself - no magic involved, just skill". Types of Warlord include Inspiring Warlord (high charisma warrior who leads from the front and pulls the best out of people by sheer force of personality), Tactical Warlord (smart warrior who creates and exploits opportunities through assessment and ruthless tactics), Resourceful Warlord (neither as smart as the tactical warlord nor as charismatic as the inspiring warlord, but can come up with something at the drop of a hat), Bravura Warlord (reckless maniac who leads from the front disrupting enemies and creating holes in their defence for allies to exploit - think Leonidas in 300), and Skirmishing Warlord (Archer or small band captain, focussing on mobility). I'm currently playing a Bravura Warlord with more than a few attacks that are more often seen on a Tactical Warlord - he takes a few seconds to assess and let the battle lines unfold before throwing himself in to rearrange the battle with disregard for his own life that isn't anything like as great as it seems - something like a cross between Odysseus and Leonidas.

By giving such a great diversity of playable characters, WoTC enrich the game and sell to the players (who massively outnumber DMs). They also sell tools to DMs - each Monster Manual has been better than the last (which is easier when instead of just one kobold entry you have eight types of kobolds each with fundamentally different approaches to combat reflected in their statblock but all are very distinctively kobolds). They enrich the world by enriching the parts the PCs use and that the PCs can directly interact with. But with something like half of all games being in a homebrew setting, adding metaplot (rather than just worldbooks) is not that useful to most people.

That said, with something approaching 100 archetypes already supported (25 classes, and between two and six types per class*), all approximately balanced with each other (and WoTC is very good at producing errata) I think this approach was drying up which is why they came out with Essentials.

* Does not include such things as the "Lazy Warlord" which manages to never make an attack roll - this isn't one of the big archetypes but is emergent; there are enough Warlord attacks that instead grant your attack to someone else that you can make all your choices as such powers.

That was longer than I'd intended!
posted by Francis at 6:22 AM on October 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


These will make pocket money but not actually employ anyone.

Actually, Burning Wheel provides full time employment for the designer and author. Several of the designers may not have covered full employment, but at least made rent with their sales. Indie games make money on long tail sales based on networks of play - but most only make a few extra thousand a year, for sure.

As has been pointed out- a single game need not ever make more sales. The market is small, and generally not sustainable for actually full-time employment for most folks or entire companies. The second tier publishers have all scaled back to generally only one release a year, if that. (Call of Cthulhu would be the long time master of this level, and recently Whitewolf has scaled back as well).

D&D on the other hand, suffers from the fact that as a business, it's not willing/able to scale back and just reap the benefit of sales. Granted, they have a lot of overhead just in running a giant website, shipping to book chains across the globe, etc. There's probably also some corporate logic in that if you're the #1 guy in the business, you are willing to spend more to KEEP it that way out of fear that someone else will take it away.

All that said, I suspect even D&D is going to have to slow it's roll in the next 2 years.

The supplement treadmill is generally one that has lost companies more money than it makes, by the simple virtue that a supplement at most can sell to the people who've already bought your game, and generally, not everyone who bought the core game will buy the supplements - so it's putting a lot of effort and money into creating something that will hit a smaller market. The move to soft covers and smaller books with Essentials is a good choice from useability and design, but I suspect also a lot more affordable for them in the long run as well.
posted by yeloson at 8:19 AM on October 12, 2010


Actually, Burning Wheel provides full time employment for the designer and author. Several of the designers may not have covered full employment, but at least made rent with their sales.

I didn't know that, thanks :)

D&D on the other hand, suffers from the fact that as a business, it's not willing/able to scale back and just reap the benefit of sales. Granted, they have a lot of overhead just in running a giant website, shipping to book chains across the globe, etc. There's probably also some corporate logic in that if you're the #1 guy in the business, you are willing to spend more to KEEP it that way out of fear that someone else will take it away.

I think so. And it doesn't help that there are two different D&D games in competition at the moment. WoTC's latest is to get the new Red Box into Target and Wall-Mart to try to break out of their niche. Pathfinder are following suit. I'm glad there's at least one big company still going. (GURPS is on a similar light schedule). But I have no idea where D&D is going.
posted by Francis at 9:55 AM on October 12, 2010


And it doesn't help that there are two different D&D games in competition at the moment.

Well, technically D&D is in competition with all 30 years of it's own history. The older gamers can easily walk into any used book store and start finding older editions.

I think Red Box & Essentials are a smart move - the hobby exists on new play groups, and having folks like Penny Arcade boost them doesn't hurt either.
posted by yeloson at 10:36 AM on October 12, 2010


« Older Shared Plates: Keeping it Kosher...  |  A disease called "Perfection."... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments