Is it September yet?

How about now? No? September really cannot come quickly enough for me, and all because of three little words: RED BOX D&D! Folks, all memory of what Wizards of the Coast are releasing between now and then has gone from my little brain. This is the single biggest, most significant role-playing release of the year. And I’ll tell you why.

Just look at it. Just look.

This, my friends, is what the D&D Starter Kit should have been. This is the first few levels of D&D, in full, including character generation.  To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with what the Starter Kit included – the 64 page Dungeon Master’s Book is particularly excellent, and all you need for 1st-5th level DM’ing.  But  the lack of character generation was a pretty major failing in an otherwise brilliant product.

From what I understand, Red Box fixes that, and more.

This is Old School, capitalized and in italics for emphasis. There’s just four races – human, elf, dwarf and halfling – and four classes – fighter, rogue, cleric and wizard. There’s a solo adventure in the 32 page Player’s Book, and an adventure in the 64 page Dungeon Master’s Book. There’s dice in the box. I’ll say that again there are dice in the box! You do have to bring your own wax crayon, though, but I’ll forgive them that. Here’s the full product info.

I’ve been banging the “Fourth Edition is old school really” drum for a long, long time now, and this is exactly what I’ve been talking about. I know there will be some die-hard 4e critics out there who will claim that just because it’s dressed up to look like old school doesn’t make it old school, and I’ve just two words for you: You’re Wrong. Look at that box! Look at that Dungeons & Dragons font! Just look at it! This is Wizards of the Coast listening to their customers, and responding. From what I understand of the DDXP announcement, there was barely a mention of D&D Initiative at all around this product other than a mumbled “maybe later”. This is pen-and-paper gaming at it’s finest, with no computer needed.[1. Not, of course, that you need a comuter to play D&D at all. But they’ve been pushing the Initiative subscriber model so much it’s become an ingrained belief.]

I really hope they don’t screw this one up.

Finally, this is a copy of D&D that parents will buy for their kids. That’s something which the game (the whole industry, in fact) has been missing for almost 30 years. Pretty much since the first D&D Red Box, in fact. It’s a complete game that doesn’t need three books just to frickin’ play the game and comes with everything you need to get little minds (and older, bigger minds for that matter) hooked on the game we know and love. Hasbro needs to get this in every toystore in the land with a giant cardboard cutout dragon pointing to it saying “YOU NEED THIS!”. At the risk of sounding apocalyptic, if they don’t do this, the hobby won’t last another generation.

Think I’m being overly dramatic? Then ask yourself this question: how many kids do you know playing D&D, right now? How many gamer groups welcome teenagers into their midst? How many teenagers would spend $100 on the PHB, DMG and MM instead of a shedload of console games? Some, certainly, and I’m sure that folks out there will attest that there’s a bunch o’kids gaming with them regularly, or they’re running games with their own children on a regular basis. But I’ll wager it’s not enough to support an entire hobby financially. Mainly, that’s a problem caused by the culture the majority of us live in where Adults and Kids are being increasingly segregated by media-fueled paranoia about pedophiles living under your bed and other ridiculousness. Yes, pedophiles exist, but to treat every stranger like they are one is a terrible, terrible thing. That’s a whole ‘nuther topic I’m not going to go into though.

The point is this: for whatever reason, kids need to discover the magic of D&D for themselves. Just like we did, in fact.

And it starts with opening a Red Box.

Is it September yet?

30 Comments on “Is it September yet?”

  1. I just want to say that I’m excited for all the stuff Wizards has planned for this year, but nothing has captured my interest like the Red Box. Seeing you describe it makes me really excited about it. I most likely wouldn’t play it, but I’m sure my cousins could use gifts in the near future. :D

  2. I *still* don’t think much of 4th Ed, but if they could, indeed, get this into Wal-Mart that’d be a massive shot in the arm for the hobby.

    Which I don’t think is going to “die” any time soon, no matter whether or not WotC doesn’t mess this one up. But it would be a positive thing.

  3. Three points:

    1. I will buy this – not because I’m going to suddenly abandon my OD&D/S&W/AD&D, but because this is a product I could use to play games in a rules light fashion.

    2. This is not an “old school” product. This is 4e, stripped and respun, but at it’s heart, it’s a much different D&D than 0e/1e. That doesn’t make it bad, that doesn’t mean you can’t do the things you want to do with it but it’s not the D&D that I grew up with. Trying to somehow shoe-horn it in with lots of capital letters doesn’t make it so. Trying to mimic B/X doesn’t make it B/X – it’s 4e. It’s superheroic power rangers scooting around on 1″ squares with power cards.

    3. #2 is not a bad thing. It’s going to be a good product IF they don’t screw it up.

    4. WotC’s record on “not screwing up” is not so good, so I’ll wait and see.
    .-= Chgowiz´s last blog ..More Winter War recaps =-.

  4. @benpop Exactly! I’d love to see this being the surprise hit seller of Christmas 2010. If Hasbro get their act together, it could happen too.

    @David I hope so. That would rock!

    @Pere Ubu At the minimum, it certainly won’t hurt the hobby. At best, it might well save it. We’ll see.

    @Sersa My too!

    @Chgowiz That’s the thing. This is, finally, a copy of 4e that even the people who don’t like Fourth Edition D&D are likely to get for exactly the reasons you cite. I love the description “superheroic power rangers scooting around on 1″ squares with power cards”. Lol! One of these days I’ll pin you down and run through a scenario just so you can see that 4e offers the classical gamer. I think you’ll be pretty impressed.

    @Elton I’m hoping that this is the product which makes a lot of people finally get 4e, my friend.

  5. “One of these days I’ll pin you down and run through a scenario just so you can see that 4e offers the classical gamer. I think you’ll be pretty impressed.” If I may be so bold, just as 0e/1e could be run as the Power Rangers, so too can 4e be run in the vein of how I like my games.

    But see, that’s the exception, not the rule. I would be willing to bet that 99% of the 4e games out there are nothing like you and I would do it… and that most of them follow the canon and philosophy of 4e Power Rangers.

    That’s why you can put pearls on the pig, but it don’t make her a beauty queen. That being said, I will buy the box simply because 1) I’m curious to see how they’ll try to OSR-ify 4e and 2) I’ll have it as a collection thing. It’ll be my only 4e product in my house.
    .-= Chgowiz´s last blog ..More Winter War recaps =-.

  6. Strangely enough, I agree with Chgowiz. All (three?) of us will run 4e differently than what most people and the RPGA run 4e — most of them run it like some bizarre mixture of Superheroes or Power Rangers and fantasy. OR worse yet — American Football in theory.

    So, you can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, but people will still recognize it as a sow’s ear (although Martin the Martian is correct, you can alter the molecular structure of a sow’s ear to turn it into silk — but it wouldn’t be pig skin, now would it?). But I’d like to have it to see how 4e works, and hopefully everything is simplified.
    .-= EltonJ´s last blog ..The problem with Retexturing Hongyu’s Cowgirl =-.

  7. where’s the field of gold coins? where’s the warrior facing the dragon? but most important, will Bargle make his return????

  8. Up until I saw this picture, I was more interested in the Ravenloft boardgame as something I could get my non-RPG friends playing. Right now the only 4e book that I have is the Manual of the Planes and that’s just because Interdimensional stuff is a weakness for me. Unless I purchase the Player’s Handbook 3 (PSIONICS!!!!), this will likely be my first real 4e purchase.

    I have more nostalgia eating away at me but I think this calls for a post of my own.. where is that trackback URL?
    .-= Darktouch´s last blog ..Lady Bee =-.

  9. “It’s superheroic power rangers scooting around on 1″ squares with power cards.”

    God that’s a condescending way to put it. I don’t know if you mean it to come off that way, but that is the aspect of the OSR attitude that sticks in my craw. *sigh*

  10. @justaguy: Well, you’re just going to have to accept that people have their opinions, and that we feel threatened by D&D 4e. We compare it because we feel that something is missing from 4e. The sense of Wonder that earlier products had when Gygax was writing the game.

    Now, D&D 4e feels impersonal, uninspiring. Normal. And we turn to the Old School games to recapture what was lost. The comparison may rub you raw, but that’s how we feel.

    I feel that 4e is a Frankenstein that was created by popular culture. It’s missing some important things we feel that made D&D great. You might think its superficial, but to us – D&D 4e has become superficial in a way.
    .-= EltonJ´s last blog ..The problem with Retexturing Hongyu’s Cowgirl =-.

  11. @Chgowiz :

    Well, I dunno how to say it in a way that doesn’t seems rude, but I’ll try anyway. You say that the majority of the 4th ed people run games in a way that doesn’t suit your taste. My advise? Let them :) We know what we like, you and I. I prefer long term campaign, with plans inside plans inside plans, fleshed out oppenents with their own modus operendi (way of being, or acting), good npc’s. I put the accent on the story, and from what I read, you do too.

    Yeah most of the 4th ed rules centers around powers and combat, but maybe, just maybe, it is because you don’t need rules to actually role play. I’m against diplomacy checks for instance, or bluff ones for instance… At least against them without some role playing involved. It’s just much more satisfying to have the players really talk their way out of a mess of a situation than having them do it by the toss of some dice. At the end the dice will flow, but if my players amused me or impressed me in their role play, they will have a good bonus on their roll, or a malus if they had a poor performance.

    I strongly think the rule edition is not important. If you’re having fun, you could play in 1st, 4th or gazillion edition, that’s not the point :)

    Remember, the rules are just guidelines. What you do with them (or do not do) is up to you :)

    For my part, at first I was skeptical about that red box, for the reason I already bought most of the 4th edition books and it seemed a way to grab more money from me. Now thinking a bit I surely will buy this box too, and the players essentials that comes out after it. (not too sure about the monster vault et dm thingamie though, it will depends if I have the money or not at the time)

  12. I was excited at first. Then angry. The DDI article says the new red box takes you through second level, not fifth. And to top it off they’re releasing a $20 handbook of all the rules for 4e (making that stack of books everyone’s already bought effectively useless). And they are completely aping Pathfinder’s art style (at least for the cover of the “essential” Heroes of the Fallen Lands pictured in the article). I think this is WOTC’s way of subtly confessing that they are out of steam and trying to capitalize on and rein in those who have it, namely Pathfinder and the OSR.

  13. Well, maybe I’m not ANGRY angry. But I do have some serious misgivings and reservations.

    I’ve gone back and forth on how I feel about 4e since I’ve been playing it. 4e is nowhere near as bad as it’s often made out to be and maybe this is the smartest damage control that wizards could execute. They can’t exactly pull the plug on the thing now without making things even worse. All the same, I’m not terribly eager to shell out any more money either and feel a bit cheated that they are (hopefully) finally giving us what they should have been giving all along.

  14. @Gandy – I think you’re overthinking the marketting on this. WotC has stated pretty much from the beginning of 4e that they’ll have a two pronged campaign for 4e.

    Step 1, get out a product for the people already playing D&D. Ok, the people who see superpowered power rangers when they look at the game might disagree but there are a lot of people who enjoy it.

    Step 2, focus on getting in new players. I think they likely had to revise the version that took when it became clear that the starter kit wasn’t doing its job but I don’t think it is a full on OMG Pathfinder! reaction.

  15. I have mixed feelings about the set for a variety of reasons but have to admit the “box set” format is pretty appealing. I so want to like the idea but it seems pretty crippled when you read the details:

    The fact that it only covers levels 1-2 is absolutely ridiculous and makes it seem like a bait & switch product in which you draw people in with the game and then two weeks later tell them “Ah, so you like it… go and buy the whole set of books because this product is now largely useless.” I’m not really sure that’s the message to send to parents and beginners.

    The fact that it includes a solo adventure also baffles me – sure the original Red Box came with a “solo” adventure but it was largely useless and doesn’t do anything but teach you the very basics of the game. It’s also misleading to be advertising it as a game for 1-5: The game is pretty much unplayable with 1 person save for that solo adventure and also misses the point of a tabletop RPG. Put an updated version of B2 in the box and have the box span the first half of the Heroic tier and suddenly you have a real product.

  16. I thought I’d put my point of veiw across on the ‘4e playing style’ thing, as it something I think people forget. I’m 25. That means i picked D&D up in the mid-late stages of 2nd ed and me and my mates played it together in a fashion that when I look back on, I’d be embarassed to play now. It was nothing more than advanced heroe quest that I amde up as I went along with very little in the wya of character and lot sof blood. But you know what? It introduced me to the hobby. And I stuck with it. And I gamed with other people, who were willing to show me HOW to play the game differently and, to my mind, better. I even went out found copies of 1st ed AD&D and played that becuase it felt better than second.
    By the time thrid came out, I was beginning to hate second becuase it attracted a lot of awful power gamey rubbish. When it came out however, I noticed that a lot of new gamers flocked ot the hobby and I took it as my responbisiblity to do as othe rplayers had done before: to show them how to get more out of the game.
    And you know what? The guys I helped teach now are guys who I consider the greatest gamers I’ve ever gamed with and in a list of people that tops out at aorund 100, that’s not bad. They’re better than me in game and RP stakes, upping the ante every time we play.
    And in a couple of weekends time we’re going to play 4th ed and take it to the limit of what can be done. And if we meet any new players, we’re going to show them how to do it OUR way. If we just turn over and say ‘they’re doing it worng, but I don’t want to show them how to get more out of it, I’d rather sit in my castle’ then WE are as much to blame for the death of the hobby (As we see it) as anyone else.
    In my humble opinion.

  17. @chgowiz I can’t comment on how other people play D&D, and frankly I don’t care :D I see the stuff WoTC are releasing right now and it’s imaginitive stuff full of loads of creativity, plot hooks and more. They deserve praise for getting it right. C’mon – Red Box D&D, Ravenloft, Gamma World, Keep on the Borderlands (soon, in Dungoen, if I read correctly), Dark Sun and more. Doesn’t all that feel just a teensy tiny bit old school to you? Dude, you should be cheering this on, not damning it!

    @Elton That sad thing it that the there are a lot of people out there who haven’t sat down and given 4e D&D a proper play. It’s third hand second rate criticism of a game they’ve not even taken time to play. and it REALLY does play better than the PHB reads. Take it from me. If folks say “I tried it and I prefer x instead” that’s one thing, but to critisize without giving it a chance…. not good.

    Don’t know about you, but I feel much more inspired by what’s come out for 4e so far than the endless round of insipid clone splatbooks we ended up with for Third Edition. Suggest you compare and contrast sometime.

    @random_bystander I’m pretty darned sure Bargle will make an appearance at some point :D

    @Darktouch Just grab the URL from your address bar. That’ll do as a trackback just fine!

    @justaguy There’s just no pleasing some OSR folks. Didn’t you know?

    @Ashran Quite so. The thing is that 4e takes nothing away from the whole role-playing experience. The Powers system and combat adds another tactical dynamic to the game, but doesn’t take a thing away. All that lovely role-playing goodness is very much still alive and well :D

    @Gandy Ummmm. The original Red Box only took you to 3rd level. I don’t mind this one taking folks to just 2nd. Granted, advancement was much slower back in the day, but that’s a sign of the high-speed instant gratification modern lifestyle for you. At the end of the day, the speed of advancement is entirely up to the DM. Heck, so long as it’s got character generation the replay value is infinite! For a 3 or 4 kids getting their first taste of the role-playing hobby, this is pure crack. I’m all for that!

    None of what they’re releasing makes anything “obsolete”. Sorry, but you’re talking rubbish. If you don’t want it, don’t buy it. You certainly don’t need it – it’s not food or clothing :D Me, I’m gonna buy it because I think it’s freakin’ awesome, and I support Wizards when they get things right by throwing cash at them. Whether you do or not is up to you.

    @MJ Hamish The Red Box comes with two adventures – a solo one in the Player’s Book which (as far as I understand) walks a new player through key game concepts, and a full one in the Dungeon Master’s Book. I’m hoping that’s more than a quick three encounter delve – much as I like the format, it would be great to see a full keep to explore!

    @x-humed Good words, and thanks for taking time to put them down. You’re entirely right – the future of the game and how it’s played it entirely in our hands.

    On a last note: From hereon anyone who leaves a comment just to badmouth Fourth Edition with no reference to the blogpost or topic at hand will be ridiculed without mercy. No edition wars on my blog! Thanks for listening.

  18. You know, D&D never really took off in Australia but we DO have World of Warcraft…which has led me to want to explore D&D because apparently it’s something like it. Trouble is finding somewhere that sells it but anyway! I think I have a found a few places and I’m going to phone to see if they either stock it or can get it in. Thanks for this post, now I know what to ask them for heh.

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  20. I was really interested in what Wizzos was doing with this when I first saw the post, but then I started looking into it, and I’m not really sure I want to buy a minimal 4e when I already have the core books. Yes, it’d be more portable than book-based 4e, but Microlite20 is more portable yet. Plus, my games are usually ‘theater of the mind’ style, so I wouldn’t need to carry around map tiles and minis anyway. That kind of reduces the allure of having a box.
    Oh, and I have tried 4e, and i prefer 3.5, just so’s you know.
    (By the way, what does OSR mean?)

  21. @random_bystander I give you…. Bargle!

    @KingMudkip OSR stands for Old School Revival. That’s the resurgence in popularity of simpler ways of gaming which includes such products as Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord and the rest. In began (not that it ever really left) as a response to the late Third Edition’s increasing complexity, but has now taken to be a reaction to 4e’s perception as a system influenced by War of Worldcraft and other console games.

    In a nutshell :D

  22. This is a good move, that’s beyond doubt. Obviously WotC won’t please all gamers, all the time but when it comes to an intro product, it’s not FOR existing gamers. Imagine if you were NOT a gamer right now, how on earth would you become one? And don’t forget, for this to be viable for WotC, the method needs to attract many, many newbies. Red Box is it.
    There’ll be things about it that won’t be perfect of course. I’m worried about the potential for level 2 only frex. Also, I hope that this is a genuine basic version of 4e, and not just the first 2 levels of the full game. But that’s another post…
    .-= Baz Stevens´s last blog ..How to Host an RPG =-.

  23. “In began (not that it ever really left) as a response to the late Third Edition’s increasing complexity, but has now taken to be a reaction to 4e’s perception as a system influenced by War of Worldcraft and other console games. In a nutshell :D ”

    I’d prefer to cast it as it really is – an unfettered explosion of creativity in the best DIY tradition that those old farts (who were young farts in 1970s) initiated.

    And why aren’t I cheering this on? Because it’s not the D&D that I like. It’s not the Gamma World that I like. It’s New Coke with the Old Coke labeling. I see so much creativity and usefulness out of the old stuff, I don’t need the Soylent Green repackaged.
    .-= Chgowiz´s last blog ..Straight from the 1930s – Lizard Men city under LA =-.

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