The New Dungeons & Dragons: Mistakes and Masterstrokes

The New Dungeons & Dragons: Mistakes and Masterstrokes

Was the recent reveal of Dungeons & Dragons a coup or a disaster?

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I'm leaning towards disaster, myself. For me, it's the price that's the deal-killer: what incentive do I have to pay 150 dollars for the system when there are other, cheaper systems out there that I'm satisfied with?

By comparison Edge of the Empire cost me something like 85 dollars for the book and two sets of special dice, and that's for a book which has all the features of these three individual books. 4E costs like 90 for all three books and that's on a an absolutely shitty deal - you can get all three books for 70 if you're patient enough. What about this new edition is so amazing that it's supposed to add 60 dollars of value? Am I getting a DM screen with the DMG, tons of tokens with the Monster Manual, and a playmat with the PHB? Because if not, I'd rather stick to what I've got.

It's a terrible deal for existing DND players (who would rather stick with older systems they know then shell out on these exorbitant prices) and it's even worse for new players (who might be duped into buying an expensive system when one of the other games out there could suit their needs).

I honestly don't get the argument that these prices are supposed to be okay, because the top dogs in the industry atm charge half the price for great systems. It reeks of the Games Workshop logic: "Hey, we're the most recognizable brand in the industry, so let's charge our players shit loads of money because we can!"

Yeah, no thanks.

I agree. $150 sounds like a very steep buy in, but most players won't really need all the books to play. I played a ton of 3.5 and never owned a MM or a DMG. It's really only DMs or collectors that should buy in completely.

Another thing that most people don't realize is that the vast majority of D&D's sales don't come from players. It comes from people who like to read RPG manuals. And those people will pay Anything to get their hands on a new D&D.

Greg Tito:
I agree. $150 sounds like a very steep buy in, but most players won't really need all the books to play. I played a ton of 3.5 and never owned a MM or a DMG. It's really only DMs or collectors that should buy in completely.

Another thing that most people don't realize is that the vast majority of D&D's sales don't come from players. It comes from people who like to read RPG manuals. And those people will pay Anything to get their hands on a new D&D.

I dont see whats positive about your last arguments. those might be good for wizards of the coast but not good for customers.

Just because its good for the company doesnt exactly mean its a good thing for customers. If people sheepishly buy into these prices they could set a precedent that the rest of the industry might follow, worst case scenario that is.

Overprized is still overprized especially when there is no added worth for a higher price compared to the competition. Its as scotth266 says: Games workshop mentality... it costs this much because they say so.. not because for actual logical reasons or sensible pricing.

Wow, 150 bucks for a system that's replacing one that's not really that old compared to other D&D editions, you won't have access to all of it's 3 main books right away, and one they say you won't need all 3 to play it anyways? It sounds like an investment with little clarity and if you do get into as an experienced player will be frustrating to wait upon.

Greg Tito:
Another thing that most people don't realize is that the vast majority of D&D's sales don't come from players. It comes from people who like to read RPG manuals.

Really? I thought that was just me (ok, not just me), although not for DnD since 2nd ed. I didn't really think it would be so many people that the vast majority of sales came from people with compulsive RPG buyer's syndrome. I'm not doubting the veracity of what you've said but do you have any info on that? It would be interesting to see, and it'd be nice to have verification that I'm not the lone weirdo spending 100's of 's on books for RPG's he'll never play.

EDIT:

Karadalis:
Its as scotth266 says: Games workshop mentality... it costs this much because they say so.. not because for actual logical reasons or sensible pricing.

H...how can you say that? Our benevolent overlords have clearly done us a massive favour in releasing 2 30 books that cover an army that was previously covered in 1 20 book. You get so much more paper this way. We should be praising them for their generosity.

Zykon TheLich:

Karadalis:
Its as scotth266 says: Games workshop mentality... it costs this much because they say so.. not because for actual logical reasons or sensible pricing.

H...how can you say that? Our benevolent overlords have clearly done us a massive favour in releasing 2 30 books that cover an army that was previously covered in 1 20 book. You get so much more paper this way. We should be praising them for their generosity.

Dont forget... they invented a space marine... inside a space marine!

No this has nothing to do with running out of ideas or to sell new overprized nonsense models that have absolutely no base in the background and where not absolutely pulled out of a CEOs rearend XD

Mike Mearls explained that it's simply very difficult to release three books at once and keep the quality high, and it also spreads the cost out over several months, easing the sting of those $50 books a bit.

It's not that hard to release quality products all at once. The issue is money, as it is with the second bit there. The solution would seem to be "don't make fifty dollar books."

Something I would love to see is a cheap softcover player's book.

D&D actually did this for 3.5. I gave out several of them as gifts, actually. I think it was part of a starter kit, so I paid like 20 bucks for a softcover PHB, dice, and some intro material. I even bought one as a second PHB so there's always be at least two at the table. This never stopped me from buying the hardcover books, though.

It was awesome. *sigh*

I wonder how many of the people complaining the loudest have $300 gaming systems in their living rooms.

I wonder how that translates into something that matters here. It shouldn't even be remotely difficult to understand different products will carry different value. And especially when your competition lists for significantly lower....I mean, even Pathfinder's cost of 50 bucks for the core book is effectively two of those books. The overall cost of a set is almost twice as much as Pathfinder, and in an article that mentions it so much, you'd think this would be more of a thing.

scotth266:

By comparison Edge of the Empire cost me something like 85 dollars for the book and two sets of special dice, and that's for a book which has all the features of these three individual books.

In fairness, they pad this out by EOTE being only one of three "core" books which will all have rules, equipment, aliens, spaceships, etc. I'm not sure I prefer it this way, as they're still asking sixty dollars for the one book list (etailers knock that down some, but will likely do the same for D&D), and there's two more on the horizon.

Greg Tito:

Another thing that most people don't realize is that the vast majority of D&D's sales don't come from players. It comes from people who like to read RPG manuals. And those people will pay Anything to get their hands on a new D&D.

Based on what, exactly? I've known people who do this--I even do this for the occasional book--but I've never seen anything that indicates it's a "vast majority."

Lyvric:
Wow, 150 bucks for a system that's replacing one that's not really that old compared to other D&D editions, you won't have access to all of it's 3 main books right away, and one they say you won't need all 3 to play it anyways? It sounds like an investment with little clarity and if you do get into as an experienced player will be frustrating to wait upon.

The "compared to other editions" thing confuses me. I mean, of course it's not as old, right? It's the fourth, which is the most recent product line. This will always be true.

The frustrating thing about the price point is that there's a much, much better business model, which is to make the books cheap or even free, but charge high for adventure modules, accessories and other add-ons. (Hmm - now I think about it, that's basically the FTP model - but at least it's the good kind!) At these prices they're always going to be selling to a small niche market of keen players but they're going to really struggle to attract anyone new.

I've been playing through some of my old AD&D 2nd Edition modules with my kids and having a great time. I'd be really tempted to try the new edition out, but there is absolutely no way I'd spend that kind of money.

Flatfrog:
The frustrating thing about the price point is that there's a much, much better business model, which is to make the books cheap or even free, but charge high for adventure modules, accessories and other add-ons. (Hmm - now I think about it, that's basically the FTP model - but at least it's the good kind!) At these prices they're always going to be selling to a small niche market of keen players but they're going to really struggle to attract anyone new.

I've been playing through some of my old AD&D 2nd Edition modules with my kids and having a great time. I'd be really tempted to try the new edition out, but there is absolutely no way I'd spend that kind of money.

Do people really buy adventure modules in droves, though? I haven't played one of them since the AD&D (2e) days, but maybe that's just the groups I've been with. I'm not sure that a cheaper entry point would make fewer people create their own campaigns, though. I mean, I could be completely wrong, but....I'd rather just have the tools.

Greg Tito:
It's really only DMs or collectors that should buy in completely.

How is this helping me, as the sucker who has to play the DM part all the time on a very tight budget?

They really should show a kindness and bring some cheap alternatives (black & white, softcover) to the table at the start, not when they are confident they've wrung the most out of the insane $50 versions after several years...

Also, someone wrote that it's fine "because you'll be using the books for many years to come".
The "you use it a lot, so in the end you don't pay THAT much per hour" argument.
But it's BS; 'This dictionary is $100, but I will use it A LOT'. How does that make it OK to be $100, when there are tons of other dictionaries out there that cost much less? You can ALSO use those a lot, and the amount of money spent per hour of usefulness will STILL be much lower!

Do you also never go to the movies? That's like € 17.50 for the evening, and it only offers about 2 hours of fun. You can get a bazillion movies on your TV with Nextflix and whatnot for less than that amount for a full month. So going to a theater is dozens of times worse value for money than a lot of other services. I go to the movies twice a year, when I don't want to wait for it to come out. So the studio makes like 30 euros at best off of me that way. But I spend a LOT more money on Blurays. Same movies, a lot less paid per hour of entertainment by me, and the studios make more in the end too.

Overpricing stuff is just foolish, especially if you want to sell modules and adventures for years to come to a big audience!!!

Zachary Amaranth:

Flatfrog:
The frustrating thing about the price point is that there's a much, much better business model, which is to make the books cheap or even free, but charge high for adventure modules, accessories and other add-ons. (Hmm - now I think about it, that's basically the FTP model - but at least it's the good kind!) At these prices they're always going to be selling to a small niche market of keen players but they're going to really struggle to attract anyone new.

I've been playing through some of my old AD&D 2nd Edition modules with my kids and having a great time. I'd be really tempted to try the new edition out, but there is absolutely no way I'd spend that kind of money.

Do people really buy adventure modules in droves, though? I haven't played one of them since the AD&D (2e) days, but maybe that's just the groups I've been with. I'm not sure that a cheaper entry point would make fewer people create their own campaigns, though. I mean, I could be completely wrong, but....I'd rather just have the tools.

I genuinely have no idea, but I do know that as a DM, while I loved creating my own campaigns it was pretty hard work and using adventure modules was a lot easier. Also, importantly, it's a vital entry point for new DMs.

Not everyone has either the time or the imagination to put together an interesting, well-balanced campaign. If I could get the game books for 20 or 30 all together I'd certainly spend 15-20 at a time on a good game module. And let's not forget all the other stuff (screens, figures, character sheets and all that malarkey)

Zachary Amaranth:
Do people really buy adventure modules in droves, though?

In a roundabout way, this comment gets to my biggest concern about how they are releasing the new edition. The contents of the starter set (no character generation rules or adventure design guidelines) and staggered release of the core rules would seem designed to complicate the creation of home-brewed campaigns and encourage the purchase of their line of modules. I'm sure there will be unofficial guides to cover this stuff -- probably before these books are published -- but that doesn't change where their official strategy seems to be pointing.*

I've been playing since the early 1980s and have still never run a module or pre-packaged adventure of any sort. As the tag-line on the cover of my 1e PHB says, this game is supposed to be "the ideal vehicle of imagination" and not just a means to run through some professional game designer's obstacle course (however well-balanced and interesting that course may be). Even if this encouragement to stick with official modules is aimed primarily at new players, I think Hasbro is doing a disservice to the RPG hobby's future by not engaging them in a creative process from the beginning (even if that process is nothing more than rolling up a character). Dynamic creativity and tinkering need to be encouraged from the start -- if for no other reason than to show how RPGs differ from other games where the status quo is static rule-sets and scenarios.

* Also, I've seen Mearls cryptic tweets about some alternate method of handling these things that doesn't involve the published products already announced; that may be well and good, but that's not a real answer until we have some specifics.

Kenjitsuka:

Do people really buy adventure modules in droves, though? I haven't played one of them since the AD&D (2e) days, but maybe that's just the groups I've been with.

There are some really well-written modules out there, some so good that just reading through them is a joy. I've had fun combining these modules with my own campaigns, using the printed stuff as a starting point or anchor for the rest of the adventures. I know I'm not alone, too, since I've seen this happen before. I've also been in several campaigns where people JUST use printed materials.

So I don't know about droves, really, but there is a market for this kind of thing, especially with some heavy hitters in the writing department.

Flatfrog:
Also, importantly, it's a vital entry point for new DMs.

I get that much, but things like the intro kit seem like the best way in there.

I plan on running the intro campaign for SW: EOTE in a couple weeks, because neither I nor the players have experience with it. I'm not sure modules are necessarily aimed at fledglings--the ones I've seen are certainly not.

Not everyone has either the time or the imagination to put together an interesting, well-balanced campaign. If I could get the game books for 20 or 30 all together I'd certainly spend 15-20 at a time on a good game module. And let's not forget all the other stuff (screens, figures, character sheets and all that malarkey)

I mean, if you want that stuff, AWESOME. I'm just not sure what the market is there. I'm not one for this stuff myself. Never used minis, never felt the need for screens, and you can print character sheets from most games free off their own website.

craddoke:

In a roundabout way, this comment gets to my biggest concern about how they are releasing the new edition. The contents of the starter set (no character generation rules or adventure design guidelines) and staggered release of the core rules would seem designed to complicate the creation of home-brewed campaigns and encourage the purchase of their line of modules. I'm sure there will be unofficial guides to cover this stuff -- probably before these books are published -- but that doesn't change where their official strategy seems to be pointing.*

Yeah, it's been suggested before. I would hope they're not going to go that route, but I really wouldn't be shocked if this was intentional. Fortunately, this only affects early adopters, of which I don't plan to be one.

I've been playing since the early 1980s and have still never run a module or pre-packaged adventure of any sort. As the tag-line on the cover of my 1e PHB says, this game is supposed to be "the ideal vehicle of imagination" and not just a means to run through some professional game designer's obstacle course (however well-balanced and interesting that course may be). Even if this encouragement to stick with official modules is aimed primarily at new players, I think Hasbro is doing a disservice to the RPG hobby's future by not engaging them in a creative process from the beginning (even if that process is nothing more than rolling up a character). Dynamic creativity and tinkering need to be encouraged from the start -- if for no other reason than to show how RPGs differ from other games where the status quo is static rule-sets and scenarios.

And this is really why I like having the toolkit. RPGs are a sandbox for me. And not just for me. I design the encounters, but I have about four other people contributing content. The EOTE bit I mentioned will be the first time I've bothered with such a thing in ages, and even then, I'm not sure we really need it. But hey, I have it (it was two bucks more than a set of dice, and has basic rules).

Modules tend to feel like I'm being short changed.

Zykon TheLich:

Really? I thought that was just me (ok, not just me), although not for DnD since 2nd ed. I didn't really think it would be so many people that the vast majority of sales came from people with compulsive RPG buyer's syndrome. I'm not doubting the veracity of what you've said but do you have any info on that? It would be interesting to see, and it'd be nice to have verification that I'm not the lone weirdo spending 100's of 's on books for RPG's he'll never play.

I heard it from Wizards folks who'd left the company and shared some internal data over beers. Granted, that's circumstantial at best and anecdotal at worst, and trends may have shifted from the 2nd edition/3.5 era that the data was from, but that was a big reason Wizards invested in so many splat books in the 2000s. They knew certain customers would buy ANY book with the logo on the cover.

Of course, that ended up alienating the base and created the beast of Pathfinder ...

I like the $20 base rule set aimed at younger kids, that's great and I might pick it up. I want to open with that because...

Kenjitsuka:

Greg Tito:
It's really only DMs or collectors that should buy in completely.

How is this helping me, as the sucker who has to play the DM part all the time on a very tight budget?

Heya dude sir. I used to be in your position. The answer is don't buy the book. And for the love of Pete don't feel bad about not getting it. Honestly, make sh!t up. That's all the folks on the other end of the book-creation process are doing. They sit around a table, or in front of a computer screen, and make it up. We all know this.

It is _exactly_ what you can do on your own. Buying overpriced rulebooks that are clearly aimed at collectors with full time jobs is a sucker's game. Don't play it.

Sit your ass down, pick up a pencil, write something. Write anything. It'll be great. Get your friends to contribute if you feel like you need to spread the work around, but honestly anyone who games has enough in their own head.

And look, it's not that I'm not sympathetic - I just wish someone had told me and my friends this as bluntly when we were in high school and college. We didn't realize it until after we'd played our games and realized that the best adventures, the best settings, the things we remembered, were the ones we invented. And our books weren't running $50 a pop. What they're doing here, to fans like you, is appalling.

Don't go with it.

Pathfinder format I think is the key. There are reasons why they have done well and I think that is one of them. If TSR was doing so well all this time and really met the needs of their customers why did people move to Paizo and other systems? : )

I feel that Pathfinder has a great starter box with lots of goodies - bang for the buck. As said earlier they released a core book that really gives you all you need. Seeing that book there on the table is a -confidence- builder vs seeing a sliced up version of the rules in one book, two books, oh wait three books, say did anyone see where the other book went?

There is too much Wizards of the coast greed going on here.

Seriously this is a drip feed money making tread mill path that they have deliberately laid out. Release a taste, the starter set, enough to wet the appetite but not enough to do much with.

Next the Players handbook, ok finally something to work with, players start tooling up and end up grabbing the first module available. But wait there is no Dungeons masters guide? TSR says "hey no worries the scenario will provide you with *everything* you need, no DMG needed Honest!" Yeah right, how many players does anyone think will stay on the rail road tracks laid out by the module?

Next released a month later is the monster manual? What? Still no DMG but hey here are lots of targets and *stuff* to interact with in the awesome game world...

Finally another month later the DMG is finally released. The master engineer of the system, all the inner workings and devices finally revealed. What if it sucks? Oh sorry you already purchased the earlier stuff might as well spend the last part to complete the set... wow.

Yes $150 is too damned much for a new system and they know it. So they try to drip feed it to their customer base by trying to obscure the full cost.

Who is the TARGET AUDIENCE? So gamers with jobs that have no problem plonking down the money already? That is fine but I can't think of one of them that would be happy with the staggered release. They are not dumb and they want a complete gaming system up front. It keeps getting said over and over again, where is my DMG and Monster manual? Why can't I make my adventures now? Most of them are seasoned gamers, they want the system up front so they can hit the ground running, not a drip feed of book per month.

Who in command over at Wotc err I mean TSR actually thought this was a good idea? Gaming installment plans?

Lastly, from the article here, using the gambit of a $300 console was a mistake, that console does more that just ONE game right? It even can do more than just stream movies right? So yeah, bad comparison point, should have never went there. : )

Ok summary time: What was the goal of D&D Next? They said they wanted to do a reboot, they said they wanted to really work with their customer base, they said they wanted an open and flexible system, well over all this time they have said a lot of things.

Honestly I do not feel they have followed through much at all. It stared out as heartfelt and sincere but what I am seeing here is corporate bloat and *again* a detachment from their customer base.

The heart of D&D Next is supposed to be about getting back to to their core and from what I am seeing here today that core is not about gamers.

I had the great opportunity of meeting Dave Arneson in person before he passed away. He was fantastic, I was a total stranger yet he openly invited me to sit down with his gaming group already running and join in on the fun. We all had a good time and stayed til it was time to turn the store lights off : ) I wonder what Dave would have to say about what TSR is doing with their new release...

Zachary Amaranth:

In fairness, they pad this out by EOTE being only one of three "core" books which will all have rules, equipment, aliens, spaceships, etc. I'm not sure I prefer it this way, as they're still asking sixty dollars for the one book list (etailers knock that down some, but will likely do the same for D&D), and there's two more on the horizon.

EOTE's book still has the PHB, DMG, and MM of it's system in one book. Yeah, when they release the other two books, you'll have to buy them if you want the extra stuff (more classes, more races, etc), but it doesn't change the fact that you can just buy EOTE right now for 60 dollars and be able to play as both a player and DM. It is a complete system in its own right: the other two books will just be expansion packs.

Meanwhile 5E DND is trying to sell a whole system for 150 dollars - and they're going to try and sell modules as well, considering the whole point of 5E was to be modular.

As a person who's insane enough to play 40K, I find "sticker shock" over 3 $50 books very quaint.

I can't see jumping either my 1.0 campaign or my pathfinder campaigns into the new system... there's not enough to warrant it.

Despite my love of Gygax's stuff, I know that's not universal... but pathfinder seems so very well designed (aside from my personal fetish for FFD20) for the newer players to jump in.

JonB:
What about usability, here? You have to admit that a single nearly 800 page, 8.5 x 11' hardback book is basically useless at a table, while a 360 page book would be way more useable at a table.

But neither is anywhere near as convenient as an electronic version on a tablet. A dedicated app would likely be the best option from a user's point of view, but even just a standard ebook or pdf version would be much better for those people who want the information but don't care about actually having a physical copy. It also solves the price problem, since they could sell it at half the price and still make a profit since there are no production or shipping costs. I know it's not for everyone - not everyone owns a tablet (although with decent ones now under 100 you could probably get one for less than the difference in price between hardcover and ebook versions) and some people just like having a physical book - but it would be absolutely nuts not to offer it as an option at all.

I love the idea of the Starter Box, I think thats very much the way forward for most RPG games; release a cheap basic ruleset system so as to allow your average RPer the chance to grasp his or head noggin around the core concepts and see if they like the system before investing more money into the products that expand upon that knowledge.

Im looking forward to the release (same day as my birthday to boot) and I like to add that I enjoyed this article, great work!

Kahani:

JonB:
What about usability, here? You have to admit that a single nearly 800 page, 8.5 x 11' hardback book is basically useless at a table, while a 360 page book would be way more useable at a table.

But neither is anywhere near as convenient as an electronic version on a tablet. A dedicated app would likely be the best option from a user's point of view, but even just a standard ebook or pdf version would be much better for those people who want the information but don't care about actually having a physical copy. It also solves the price problem, since they could sell it at half the price and still make a profit since there are no production or shipping costs. I know it's not for everyone - not everyone owns a tablet (although with decent ones now under 100 you could probably get one for less than the difference in price between hardcover and ebook versions) and some people just like having a physical book - but it would be absolutely nuts not to offer it as an option at all.

If there's not a hyperlinked PDF of this game I'll eat my hat.

 

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