Monday, March 3, 2014

DnD Next: Player's Handbook $50?

There have been several reportings of the next edition of the Player's Handbook for Dungeons and Dragons running $50 at Barnes & Nobles.

I can see why Wizards of the Coast would charge that much. I've heard that the 3rd edition Player's Handbook for example, was a loss leader and that it lost money. Mind you that was short term as it was meant to draw gamer's into the buying of more expensive supplements that came out generally two a month.

In addition, many role playing games have more expensive core books. The Pathfinder core book for example, is running for $33.98 at Amazon, but the cover price is $49.99. Legend of the Five Rings, a game I feel is awesome but am loathe to buy a physical copy to go with my PDF from Drive Thru RPG because my group is flaky, runs $43.32, also from Amazon, from a cover price of $59.99. The PDF from Drive Thru is currently $34.99. I know I bought that on one of the sales. Expensive books yes?

Both are generally all you need to play. Well, not quite. Pathfinder really benefits from a bestiary of some sort, and to be honest, all the supplements I've seen for 4th edition L5R have looked awesome and highly useful.

I'm sure someone could pull up better examples of fairly expensive single role playing books that allow you to start up right away like Call of Cthulhu but I'll leave that to the better minds.

Dungeons and Dragons is and has been for many years, built on a three book foundation of Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual. In the past, some of the books have cost more than others. In more recent times, all have been equal price.

Assuming an equal pricing schedule this time around, this puts the game at a retail of $150 to get started.

I'm not saying that the initial sales won't be good. They might be great. Anyone remember when 4th edition first came out and a certain spokesperson for Wizards of the Coast mentioned how awesome it was doing? Something along the lines of 3rd edition was good, 3.5 was even better and 4th edition doing even better than that? And then Essentials and all sorts of other weirdness with a fairly short shelf life? Initial sales are not long term sales.

While Wizards of the Coast is doing a better job getting non-gamer excitement going, I'm not seeing that level of excitement in my own gaming group. Mind you I fully know that we are a terrible indicator of what's happening. My group is so eclectic in their taste that I don't play half the games they do. I'd rather catch up on painting or do some prep work for running games.

But from looking online, they're not the only ones.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying no one is interested. There are a lot of groups interested in the game. But looking at places like Facebook and other social sites, their interaction with the existing crowd base seems... small. This may be a result of changes Facebook has instituted or something along those lines, but I see a potentially different thing happening.

If to you, Dungeons and Dragons was 3rd edition, you've probably stuck with it or moved onto Pathfinder.

If to you Dungeons and Dragons was 2nd edition or older, you've probably embraced the OSR and it's many clones or used the variety of premium reprints to get yourself back into the game.

If to you Dungeons and Dragons was 4th edition, well... I don't know to be honest. The game is still relatively knew despite it's lack of support so maybe you're still enjoying it. Maybe you've gone onto 13th Age.

And for every player and every game master, maybe you quit playing altogether because you've got better things to do with your money. You don't need to worry about getting a group of people together at the same time to play in person when you've got Diablo 3 or are waiting on Titanfall. You've got whole seasons to go through on Netflix. The movies that have been hitting the theater are taking up all your time. Your online addition to social media leaves no time for actual socialization!

I think that long term, a core trio of books at this price point is the end of Dungeons and Dragons.

We can talk about inflation, but then we have to talk about minimum wage which has essentially never kept up with inflation. We can talk about deep discounts to keep people buying, but then we're not talking about hobby stores at this point as Amazon and other online sites are going to smash brick and mortar retailers. And for a lot of people, all of their transactions are already done at this point and the hobby has continued.

Without seeing the final rules, without knowing what type of 3rd party support via OGL/GSL that Wizards of the Coast is planning, it's hard to get an idea of whats actually going to happen. A lot of variables there.

But, and I've been wrong many a time before, I think that this is going to cause Dungeons and Dragons to fail, after an initial sell through at Gen Con, and after that failure, the role playing game will be shelved and mined for ideas.

And to be honest, Hasbro could do worse. Battleship the movie anyone?