Saturday, May 31, 2014

And a Fifth Horseman Shall Appear and his name shall be Next

I'm going to admit it right up front, I haven't been paying much attention to what's going on with Dungeons and Dragons. When they dropped 4th edition and dropped Dungeon and dropped Dragon, neither of which I'd been subscribing to for a while, I pretty much lost interest.

But lo and behold, the internets are ablaze with the new information about 5th edition. The obvious news? It'll be at Gen Con, or at least, one of the books will. That strikes me as odd since AFAIK, the books are not printed in the United States and any changes that need to be made aren't going to get incorporated into the later books anyway. Live by the China, die by the China.

In addition, the price point for the core set is too high. Mind you, let me be clear, that's my opinion. I also don't think it will hurt initial sales at all. I think that there is every possibility of a sell through at Gen Con. Right now Amazon has the Player's Handbook for just under $30 bones. That's $10 more, at Amazon, than 4th edition.

For those that find that too expensive, there's even a starter box set that's under $13 right now. There are supposed to be some online rules to complement that which allow some further play than just the boxed set itself.

Let me be clear. It's not that I think these are bad values mind you. For $150, if you're only getting the core three books, you can probably get many moons of game play from.

But well, that $150 can buy a tablet. It can buy a few board games. It can buy dozens of supplements for free rule sets of the OSR that are readily available right now.

Mind you, some will point out that Amazon discount brings that down to $90 if you get them all at a heavy discount. But that's now. What happens if Amazon tells Hasbro they want more money like Amazon has done with a different publisher and cuts their deep discounts out? Companies need to stop pricing their books to account for the Amazon discount if they don't want to be beholden to Amazon's pricing.


It's not that it's a bad price, I just think it's a bad price for the core books for Dungeons and Dragons. Pathfinder has a core book that is the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide combined. If $100 for two books is great value, what does that put the Pathfinder system at? Awesome value?

In addition, there is some weirdness going on. Let's look at the adventurers. For many people, the adventurers of a system are what a system lives and dies by. People talk about great campaigns for decades after the games have been run. It doesn't matter what system either. Talk about Warhammer and people will instantly pipe up with The Enemy Within and their favorite parts of that, or even smaller adventurers like The Three Feathers. Others will mention things like the Orient Express for Call of Cthulhu.

Both third and fourth edition didn't necessarily have a lot of great adventures in that vein. Wizards of the Coast has a real weakness when it comes to doing adventure paths. When they lost Paizo, the former caretakers of the print magazines Dungeon and Dragon, they lost the ability to do well regarded adventure paths, which for better or worse, are a standard for Dungeons and Dragons or D&D like games these days.

But the new edition has some starting adventures. In this instance, done by Kobold Press, a company that has supported Pathfinder, 3rd edition and even 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. The first I believe is Hoard of the Dragon Queen, but that strange Amazon pricing comes through as this book is over $25 dollars and only has an 11% discount. Are you going to pay almost as much for a single adventure as you are a core book, with discount?

Strangely enough, despite being done by a third party and published by Wizards of the Coast, indications seem to be that any OGL will not be immediate.

That makes me wonder why then they picked Kobold Press. Let me be clear. It's not that Kobold Press is a bad publisher. They have a wide range of products and a wide range of materials ranging across different editions.

But not everything has gone smoothly.

Take their recent book Deep Magic for example, is a weighty tome available in hardcover and PDF. But right after it came out, there was an addendium. That's not a good sign.

Or how about some of the material that's currently late for their Kickstarter projects? For example, if you backed their adventure anthology, Midgard Tales,  you've been waiting for Freeing Nethus for over a year.

If you backed the kickstarter for the miniatures for the Midgard setting, those were due either a year ago, or just under a year ago.

And Wizards of the Coast chooses them?

I'm sure that they'll pull through and that the various issues that Kobold Press is having with those different aspects are aberrants and of course, not standard practice, but if you've been waiting for either of those and you see their name associated with the new D&D that may not give you the warm fuzzies.

I think that not supporting an OGL right off the bat is potentially disastrous for Wizards of the Coast in terms of longevity of Dungeons and Dragons. Mind you, if they have their character creation software so heavily integrated, it might not matter anyway as that more than the limited third party support 4th edition received, keep players I know from buying material that wasn't in the software.

Why buy Goodman Games or other material that you would have to manually tally when everything else was so fairly well done within the system itself?

If you're a new player and you see Dungeons and Dragons and limited support only through Wizards of the Coast, and you see Paizo and Pathfinder and you see dozens of publishers being actively supported by Paizo, on the companies home page and receiving high praise from many of the people who make Paizo the community it currently is, which company are you going to buy from?

Mind you, there are some people who dropped buying things from Wizards of the Coast when WoTC stopped printing physical copies of Dungeons and Dragons magazines. There are some that stopped when WoTC pulled down the PDF's. There are some who stopped when WoTC dumped 4e and went with Essentials editions. There are some who stopped when WoTC took their character generation from a downloaded software to an online only software.

Here's the thing. Many of those players are NEVER coming back. Either they've fond something that met their fantasy need, ranging from Pathfinder or 13th Age for 'new school' players, or any one of the many OSR products already out and fairly compatible with the hundreds of 1st and 2nd edition products already out in the wild.

Me? I've got the boxed set and Player's Handbook preordered. I'm not a 'D&D' player do or die or anything like that. Those reading the blog on a regular basis know I'm a player in a Warhammer 2nd edition fantasy campaign. And if you look at that, an old system that's not supported and was replaced by Fantasy Flight Games with weird dice and an expensive core book, you might see some potential futures for a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons that doesn't' take into account that not only are they not the only fish in the pond in terms of what people can spend their money, and more importantly, their time on, their not the only Dungeons and Dragons game that people can spend their money and time on.