It’s official! It was obvious from all the Mearls/Cook noise from over there in WotC land, but now the New York Times is reporting that Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is planned to be announced by WotC today! They cite the MMO pressure and the split to Pathfinder and muse – as do we all – about whether WotC can bring D&D back together again.
If nothing else, despite its “dwindling market” it’s good news that the NYT considers this part of all the news that’s fit to print!
For those who consider this to be dubious news and part of the Great Media Conspiracy, Mike Mearls has responded on wizards.com to say it’s true and that they’re going to take a big hint from Paizo and do an open playtest of the new rules! You can sign up at that link.
This isn’t really surprising for those who have been watching. The Escapist recently published three articles on D&D’s past, present, & future that inform the landscape behind it very well.
Well, this is good news I think. I’m one of the many who told WotC from the first steps of 4e that they were about to really mess up and fragment the hobby, and look, that’s exactly what happened. This is a big chance, and Mike Mearls and Monte Cook might be the right people, to un-screw up Wizards and D&D. This is a hard task given their corporate setup; here’s an interesting article on ENWorld from insider Ryan Dancey about how the Hasbro financial reporting structure and internal politics has really smacked D&D down hard and basically drove them to their ill-considered “let’s make it all depend on DDI and then not deliver” strategy.
Also, I like the open playtest idea. Now, there are problems with open playtests – with Pathfinder, they got a lot of flack from some folks from not being willing to change too much despite fan feedback. D&D could fall into this trap too, and consider 4e (or 3e, depending how much they’re willing to admit their mistakes) too much of a must-have baseline. But if they take too much “fan input,” you get something designed by committee, which always sucks more than something designed by a small set of skilled artists. But the open playtest is no longer a rarity – Paizo has made sure of that; Goodman Games is using it for their Dungeon Crawl Classics, 6d6 does it routinely, and even those not doing truly open playtests seem to be doing more closed playtests (if the number of invites I get for such things is any guide).
ENWorld has three articles on the new edition: WotC Seeks Unity With a New Edition, The Day Wizards Showed Me 5th Edition, and Bet You Wish Your Workplace Looked Like Wizards of the Coast (this last is the most unlikely, unless you love being laid off). They are also keeping up a 5e Info Page with all reveals to date. Best quote so far is from former D&D Brand Manager Scott Rouse – “4e is broken as a game and business and it needs to go away.” The weirdest thing is all the news coverage it’s getting- from the Huffington Post to PerezHilton.com to HispanicBusiness.com.
Also, there’s an article on Forbes from a playtester – he got to play in an early draft of 5e and liked it.
The blogosphere results are in and there’s a lot of dubiousness. GeekDad from Wired’s article on the new edition is probably a good representative response. I have to admit I’m dubious but hopeful. If they could carry off Pathfinder compatibility, that would be a coup. WotC needs to realize they’re not the 900 lb gorilla any more, Paizo’s been eating their lunch in sales for a year now and is expanding into novels, comics, minis, MMOs… If they could come up with some plan to merge the two instead of leaving them divided, then BOOM goes the dynamite! If they don’t… 5e would have to be super amazingly good to sway me from Pathfinder, and I don’t just mean the rules – all the good content people have (usually after being laid off my Wizards) gone to Paizo, which is why the 4e adventures have reportedly been largely tripe. We’ll see if they can really swallow their pride and unify…
Many people are chiming in with what they want 5e to be like but frankly most strike me as confused and sucky. I really like Zak’s (before the announcement!) ideas on what 5e should be like though…
This is interesting news, but I don’t really think it will surprise anyone. I believe 2012 has been pegged for some time as the year of D&D 5e. I’m very interested to see what comes of this. I’ve completely skipped 4e, but I wouldn’t say that I’ve abandoned D&D or even WotC.
Oh, I agree, I play the current edition Dungeons and Dragons – it’s just called Pathfinder now. A good 5e and I’ll play it. I am somewhat concerned about whether WotC is positioned to create a good 5e – though they have Cook and Mearls, they also just let go their two most senior people remaining from D&D history (Rich Baker and Steve Winter) and the descriptions Dancey gives of Hasbro corporate structure means they have a hard row to hoe. But here’s hoping!
I am glad to see that they are doing the open playtest like Pathfinder. I do wonder just how many people play both systems though. Because if you get predominantly 4e players I’m afraid that would influence the play style a little more than I would like. Going to keep an open mind though and look forward to what they have to say.
The only real issue is how much they listen to people who don’t actually play versus how much they listen to people who are trying out the new system. There are a lot of armchair gamers who haven’t played either Pathfinder or 4E and have commented on both to an alarming degree with no real playtime. So I doubt there is that much cross-pollination between the brands since a large number of people play at most in one gaming group and they aren’t likely to switch systems that often.
I know mxyzplk and I are exceptions to that (I have two gaming groups: a 4E game I run and a many system, rolling DM group that tries OD&D hacks and various other systems depending on what we’re gaming), but there are still a lot of people who only wish they had a gaming group and due to the internet, there’s a chance they’ll have just as much of an anonymous voice as people who legitimately are playtesting.
I do agree with this – one of the things that keeps me off the Paizo boards is all the people who are apparently professional opinion-givers who don’t play the damn game. I mean, I sympathize if you don’t have a regular play group and all, but those people can be very “noisy” and be contributing ideas that sound good in their head but have no bearing on real gameplay.
On the RPG Stack Exchange we use a Stack Exchange-wide philosophy called “Good Subjective, Bad Subjective” for answers of that sort – which basically says if you can’t back it up with real play accounts (personal or backed up with a reference), keep it to yourself. I think that’s a good way to conduct such an activity.
I wonder if 5E will continue the pattern of tactical wargaming hack and slash that 4E emphasized.
I like a good dungeon crawl, and I find Pathfinder (and D&D 3/3.5) good for that. As a system moving forward, I prefer the direction that Paizo is going, and their Adventure Paths and supplemental materials are top notch.
I agree. The best case would be if 5e and Pathfinder were compatible! Either directly, or – Mearls and Cook in their columns seem to be pondering some kind of multi-tiered toolkit approach where you could have a super light Basic D&D/OSR kind of version, a medium Pathfinder kind of version, and then a super tactical fest. (Heck, I’d be happy for a little of the optimization to be removed from the Pathfinder midlevel and pushed towards the UltraHack level so I don’t have to deal with it…)
I think one of WotC’s lessons learned should be how much they relied on the great adventure and game content Paizo did for them with Dungeon and Dragon magazines, and how a lot of their downfall was the departure of that content to Adventure Paths et al. If they’re smart they’ll try to re-fold that in, and it is all Open Game Licensed after all, so they should be able to. Most folks have turned over at WotC and Cook was a big Paizo ally, so if they can tell the Hasbro suits to shut up for a little maybe they can actually work together again (though more as equals this time!).
My own personal speculation is that 5E will probably be a BECMI approach. At the basic level, it will introduce the simplest mechanics so that it’s compatible with as much of the material of past editions and Pathfinder as possible. More complex rules will be introduced in later “sets” (could be rulebooks or could be box sets, who knows).
I’ll get 5e just to add to my collection just like I did with 4e, but it’s highly unlikely that I’ll make the switch from Pathfinder unless Paizo goes belly up.
That could potentially work, but the devil’s in the details. A good time to be hopeful though!
This may be a step in the right direction for WotC, but I’m afraid that they’ve lost too many players to Pathfinder and other games (including me). It would take quite a bit to lure them back
My feeling on WOTC and 5E Dungeons and Dragons are similar to my ex-girl friends; What do I care what they do, our relationship is over and I have moved on.
@Todd and LPJ. Yes, I agree. I think the cat is out of the bag because of the OGL. Everyone who didn’t want to play 4e or abandoned 4e for another game system is pretty much going to be playing that game system if they are happy where they’re at–OSR retros, True 20, Fantasy Craft, Pathfinder and so on are still going to be the game of choice for those guys unless 5e comes across as something truly super awesome fantastic wonderful. Going back to basics isn’t going to be that because if I want super basics, I can play an OSR retro that emulates BECMI (or just play from the Rules Cyclopedia that I own) or play Castles and Crusades which gets support from Troll Lords. Of course, if I want complexity and options, I got Pathfinder for that which is my game of choice. Many players have already made these decisions long ago, so I can’t see much incentive to switch.
Anyways, we’ll see!
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The big issue is really how big a failure this game is going to be. Most gaming is in decline just as most bookstores are in decline. Curse the internet and its evil stepchild, the MMO.
Oh, and kids these days. Don’t forget to curse them.
Then realize that in doing so, you’ve just become the old dude shouting at kids to get off your lawn… and that is the demographic of your average gamer these days. They started gaming in the 80s and are still doing it and a tiny trickle of kids have come in since to be divided amongst the million games that are all niche markets for the 80s crowd.
Or I’m just pessimistic.