Friday, March 27, 2009

Can we bring AD&D back to press? And do we want to?

So I've embarked on a preliminary endeavor to see if I can't approach the commercial world to pick up AD&D as an active line again. Sheer folly you cry? Tomfoolery or fool's errand? Well, I'm not so sure myself.

The natural thing to do would be to approach WoTC and find out their reasons for transforming the game in the first place. Was it really just due to waning sales of 2e? Or the oft-cited need to convert the system to WoTC's d20 system? And if the former is the culprit, then it goes a long way to explain why 4e came out. It's nothing but the big business model of creating obseletion in order to keep sales high. We see it in the video game industry all the time. It goes something like this:

1. Create a new system that everyone has to have because it's so cool.
2. Start development on the replacement product.
3. Release new system and charge a lot to cover initial startup and make back your money.
4. Continue to charge a lot for awhile to pile up the coffers and pay for those pricey programmers
5. Come out with a whole slew of new games that cost $50.00 a pop
6. Drop prices as sales wane to bring in the secondary market
7. Finish development on your new toy that is not backwards compatible
8. Advertise the new, better and improved model
9. Release new product, drop support for old product
10. The cycle starts all over again.

Gimme a frackin break. The thing is we are stupid enough to buy into it. Now, the main difference between vid-game systems and RPG's is that the technology actually improves. That is most decidedly NOT the case with RPG's. The mechanics are changed in RPG's but it's usually for the worse.

Now, I'll grant that I could be wrong here. There are probably subtleties I'm missing. But why not continue to support old systems if those systems continue to have a fan-base. Is it the overhead? Or something else entirely?

Well, allow me to put forward a possible suggestions. Run the AD&D division of the company like a small press. Maintain one full time editor, and a few adjuncts as a submission board, and take submissions from part-time writers and designers all over the world. That way you pay a one time writers fee for the submission and viola'! No more overhead. Printing runs could be either kept small, or based on e-book distribution or even print on demand. Focus on world-books and their associated modules and support. Publish novels set in said worlds. As well as more generic world-free books that extend the panoply of magic, spells, etc. etc.

The point is the abandonment of a selling product just doesn't make sense. I do hear quite frequently from gamers sympathetic to the problems of business that we should be thankful there are still game publishing companies still around. The market is so small, they say, that their profit margins are minuscule. We should support whatever they come out with or the entire commercial game industry is likely to die.

Hogwash. We are the market. We dictate what is required. And the fact is we either continue buying or stop buying based on whims more often than calculated rationale--by and large anyway. If we want something the market will provide it.

Okay, now why should we NOT lobby for a resurrection of the commercial AD&D entity? One word: Dragonsfoot. Is that two words? Seriously though, they are doing an excellent job at producing 1st and 2nd ed stuff for free on their site. I'm not sure how they are avoiding violating copyright, but I love it. Maybe the future is a Linux-like grass roots AD&D support system such has Dragonsfoot. They offer an open forum for publishing quality material to any and all who are interested. There has been talk that the future of art may lie in this direction. Which makes on wonder about alot of ethical issues--but noone questions its nobility.

What do you think?

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