Will D&D save, or die?

Maybe it’s just the weather this time of year, but I’m seeing storm clouds up ahead for D&D’s future. I’m going to make a prediction, and hope I’m wrong.

I predict that there’ll be a new edition of D&D at the end of 2010. And it’ll be the last one, ever.

I don’t think I’m alone in this line of thought either, as I’m seeing similar rumbles and ruminations on the Paizo and EN World boards too with the instant cancellation of D&D Minis leaving folks asking whether the same could also happen to D&D istelf; of course it could, and the only thing that would prevent it from happening would be a very healthy profit line. Combine Wizards’ handling of the whole DDI/GSL/OGL/marketing affair with the current economic climate, and…. well, draw your own conclusions.

So why’m I suggesting a 5th Edition so darned soon? Surely it would make more sense, if it’s going to die, do go without another edition on the cards. Well yeh, I reply, but 4e is a transition product – it’s a halfway house between D&D as it was, and D&D as it’s going to be. 5th Edition D&D will cement the product line (as far as I can see it) as a collectable card game slash miniatures game with a strong digital element. 5th Edition D&D will come as a Starter Set with pre-generated characters and two packs of Powers Cards. There’ll be Monster Cards too, replacing the traditional Monster Manual with adventures offering limited-edition Cards and DDI offering encounter and deck building tips.

Then, after 5th Edition, the whole thing will merge with the declining Magic line to create a single Fantasy arm for Hasbro providing collectable card and subscription-based products under some product name which might (or might not) be Dungeons & Dragons.

Not that I’m dissing any of this; evolution is, fundamentally, exciting, and I’d love to see D&D move in brave new directions. The shift from a three-core-book model is (IMHO) long overdue, and the world isn’t 1977 anymore.

It might not be role-playing as we know it, but one thing is for sure.

The next few years is going to see plenty of changes for the game!

18 Comments on “Will D&D save, or die?”

  1. Of course, D&D could be cancelled, but the cancellation of D&D minis is no threat to the main line. TSR has been releasing and cancelling gamelines since – Oh, I don’t know – Gangbusters maybe, or Boot Hill. Everything that TSR/WOTC has ever done has eventually been cancelled. Except for the central pillars of their business – core D&D and MtG . (And I guess Forgotten Realms, and Greyhawk was cancelled and brought back, but then it was cancelled again, and I guess Eberron is supposed to come back soon, but . . . um, where was I?)

  2. Yesterday at RinCon I had three separate, unrelated people tell me that after playing it for a few months now they’re planning on bailing on 4e soon. One person told me that this con was the last. Another told me he was waiting for the final Pathfinder release. And the third told me he was converting his game world to Savage Worlds.

    I know one industry person (whom i will not name) who told me that the more he plays 4e, the less he likes it. I here stories about people like Nuke who playtested 4e with his group and they didn’t like it, so they’re playing something else now.

    I have no idea what the future of D&D is. I think 4e was simply a maneuver on the part of Hasbro to re-establish the brand and take control of the product after the OGL let anyone play in their sandbox. Unfortunately, that genie is out of the bottle now.

    Berin Kinsmans last blog post..RinCon Report: Friday

  3. Oh come off it you gloom and doomer.

    The D&D minis line is getting killed because it is not a Magic the Gathering level of success that the Hasbro Execs have been dreaming about for 15 years.

    In fact, its a GOOD thing since I read many times that some execs were hoping to turn the game into a Collectible minis only game and drop all that roleplaying nonsense.

    D&D will live on. It is a healthy game and still the top dog at the head of an ever changing industry.

    So While I respect your soapbox antics, I think you need to worry less and play more!

    But then again, this is not the first nor last time we’ll disagree on things dear Loup Gris…

    I would so love to spend an evening around a pub table with you my friend, this would be an epic evening of arguments and fun!

  4. @Sean Don’t you just love random avatars? :D You’re right – products come and go, and that’s just the way of the world. Me, I think that D&D is going to change fundamentally over the next few years.

    @Berin I agree. 4e has polarized folks more than 3e ever did. I hope it succeeds in bringing new players to the hobby too though; time will tell.

    @Phil Lol! Nothing like a bit of doom and gloom to stir the pot, eh? The thing is that D&D itself needs to turn a decent profit as well otherwise execs will take the knife to it too. Right now, it’s top dog in a shrinking industry, and that’s not a good place to be. Me, I’m excited about the prospect of a new, evolved and revitalized D&D – not gloomy at all, just stating the facts, ma’am.

    If the game has to change to survive, ce la vie.

  5. If the game has to change so much to survive that it’s no longer recognizable as the same game, has it survived? If it becomes a collectible minis/ccg with online play what exactly has survived except the brand name?

    Joshuas last blog post..What the-?!

  6. @greywulf: I have to disagree with you about polarization — 3e kicked off one hell of a storm when it was released, too. I remember well the internet outrage over changes to things that were just essential to the game, all the people vowing to stick to 2e because the new edition was “not D&D” (sound familiar?).

    It took somewhere over a year to really start to die down, if I recall correctly. And then, once it was more or less laid to rest at last, there was another stir over 3.5e because it was too soon for a revision. That went away faster, though, probably because the core game was the same.

    I was only sporadically online at the time, but I recall something similar happened for the 1e/2e switch as well.

    Any time the core of the system changes, you’ll get people who are invested in the old one complaining, and people who jump wholeheartedly to the new one arguing back. D&D isn’t the only game it happens to — I’ve seen the same thing with HERO. It’s just smaller because HERO changes less of the system between editions, and because HERO is a less popular game to start with, so there are fewer voices among the fray.

    As far as the future of D&D… I don’t think we’ll see a new edition as early as 2010. Hasbro won’t have tapped out the line in 18 months. I’d say 2012 or 2013 would be a better guess.

  7. @Joshua That’s one of those philosophical questions I try to steer clear of :D I think D&D is a-changing. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is entirely down to whether you like the changes or not.

    @Scott Very true. There’s always a resistance to change with every edition; I certainly remember the firestorms online when 3e came out, and in some ways there’s been LESS controversy with 4e, and a lot of folks have been more accepting or it; me included – I expected to dislike it, and instead I’m very pleasantly surprised with it.

    That’s not what I’m talking about though. It’s the direction the game is heading that interests me. I’m not trying to down 4e or the game at all. These are interesting times, and I predict we’re going to see changes (for good or ill) a lot sooner that we’d expect.

  8. Greywulf,

    I suspect that what will happen won’t be so much as a 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons, but instead, a merging of a miniatures line and their Magic the Gathering line. To me, it seems that Dungeons and Dragons will never quite go under, unless the entire industry tanks. It would be like Coca-Cola going out of business. I have no doubts that the industry will get smaller (considering the current economy), but I have a feeling that Dungeons and Dragons will be around as a role-playing game for a long time.

    Dead Orcss last blog post..

  9. I really have to agree with Chatty here. This sort of post and other sorts of rumblings don’t seem very factual or accurate predictions, they just seem like fearmongering. D&D Minis was a cash-in created by Hasbro when they finally got ahold of D&D. It doesn’t have the history or brand power of D&D – it showed, because official skirmish play, the only one Wizard’s can really care about, was dwindling, and the game was only 5 years old. The comparison isn’t incredibly apt in my opinion, and the rumblings just from over-eager people (and people who would rather 4e die). I think, if anything, the death of DDM will allow Wizard’s to make D&D a stronger product, by focusing the D&D brand inward on 4e.

    Wyatts last blog post..Turbulent Thoughts Halloween Update

  10. @Dead Orc I’m surprised that M:tG and D&D haven’t merged already as they’d be a great match for each other. It would take a 4e Campaign Book (and possibly Monster Manual) to pull it all together, and would attract new players to both hobbies. A win all round :D

    @Wyatt One man’s fearmongering is another man’s dispassionate look at the future of the hobby. I’m just saying that it’s not going to survive much longer in it’s current form, and that’s going to mean it has to change and grow beyond being a ‘mere’ role-playing game.

    I’d love Hasbro to seize the idea of D&D as a Brand, and push it through their other lines. Take a look at what they own and tell me you wouldn’t love to see a copy of D&D-Edition Monopoly, or a version of D&D Risk (set in Faerun!). How about a Wizard’s Tower Jenga set? Then there’s the whole Heroscape line……..

    Seriously, D&D has the potential as a Brand to go very far indeed. If it doesn’t, the bosses as Hasbro could cut it as easily as D&D Minis was cut.

  11. I never liked the random mini packs, so no loss there for me. I get minis from venders at cons who sell individual parts of those packs, or from my players who donate them to me.

    I can see the change of the game to something close to Magic with power card packs and no books. As for Save or Die, there is so much info on the Internet for fantasy game play that I don’t think it will ever go away even if Hasbro or whoever drops it. So I predict D&D will Save.

    I am not sure if it was you or another blogger that suggested pdfs of the books as part of the product purchase I would love to have legal electronic rules on a pen drive to help ease the pain of DMing off site or at cons.

  12. @shent_lodge Yep. That was me. I’d love to see books published with a unique serial number than can be entered to “register” your purchase and enable a personalized PDF version of the book. That would be the best of all worlds – a PDF and book package all in one deal.

    @Dave Exactly! Let’s have more D&D branded games like that :D

  13. The last I heard 4E is already in its 3rd reprinting after less than 6 months of age and actually made it into several of the best seller lists (the top 100) which by anyone’s expectations are pretty phenomenal sales #’s for what a “fringe” product. The gift box set is ranked #985, and the PHB is ranked #2,874 on Amazon’s sales charts which are pretty impressive considering the sheer # of book titles amazon sells.

    D&D minis haven’t been canceled – the collectible, randomized miniatures skirmish game has been but the minis themselves will still be around. For the vast majority of people, who were buying those minis for their RPG and not to play a pretty poor miniatures game (IMHO), that is a good thing because it means they can buy what they want rather than ending up using a dozen different minis to represent orcs.

  14. I wouldn’t think that being #2,874th on the Amazon Sales chart means all that much – check out this article about how many books you need to sell to make a bestseller list. It’s sobering. For example, “The Gathering is number five on the list with 334 sales last week”. Just 334 to get 5th place! Ouch!

    Oh course, a lot depends on how everything else sells that week too, and it’s great that it’s on the list at all – sure sign that the hobby, right now, is in a pretty healthy state. But phenomenal? I don’t think so.

    That’s kinda my point. Books don’t sell in the kind of volumes (no pun intended) that’s profitable enough to support a single-brand publisher unless it’s right at the top of the sales list. Which D&D ain’t. So, it either needs to change and diversify, or………….

    Like most folks I’ve heard talking about this, I’m glad that D&D Minis has been cancelled/changed/revised/consolidated (*delete where applicable). The end of totally random minis and a reposition as a part of D&D itself rather and being A.N. Other game is exactly where it needs to be. But then, I already said that, right? :D

  15. Luckily, I’ve become versed in alternate systems in the past few years, so the death of D&D wouldn’t be that traumatic for me and my group.

    Still, it’s harder to explain “I’m playing Savage Burning Wheel of the Century” to people than saying “I play D&D.”

    Micahs last blog post..The Awakening

  16. I can’t get into 4E, I have a long campaign and I like the old magic system. I am really disappointed with the powers system for the classes.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.