Saturday, July 7, 2012

D&D 6e

I've written about this before, but I was reading an interview with Monte Cook that not only brought it to mind again but also confirmed some of my worst suspicions about editions of D&D under WoTC. The article was lamenting the early and in their opinion unnecessary release of 3.5.

What Monte says is that 3.5 was released way too early. He says 3.5 was scheduled to be released in 2005. And that is when it hit me. 2005?! That was only 5 years after D&D 3e! And they were already planning on releasing a new edition. The interview also says that the basic model follows a thought that once they release all of the core books and available splat books, it's time for a new edition. They didn't follow this model with 3e and they assume, it is because they didn't want to revise everything in the planned 3.5 release.

Now I know that some of this interview can be ascribed to bitterness on the part of Monte, that his edition wasn't given a fair shake. That the new edition was released too soon. But even so the official plans were a max run of 5 years! Which means right from the start there was a five year business model for producing D&D editions.

So check it out:

2000: D&D 3e
2003: D&D 3.5
2005: scheduled release of 3.5
2007: D&D 4e is announced
2008: D&D 4e (Note that this is 5 years after 3.5)
2010: D&D Essentials is released
2012: D&D Next is announced
2013: D&D Next due at at GenCon (5 years after 4e)

Which means that D&D 6e is due out in 2018. and if I want to be really prophetic I would say that some major modification to 5e is due out about 2015/2016.

Yeah, you know I really don't care what they are saying about this will be the edition to unite all editions either. When asked directly if this would spell an end to edition making Mike Mearls really refused to answer directly. 6e will be out by 2018. You can bet money on it. And if you are gonna play D&D you will be paying that money directly to WoTC.

You may ask why I'm choosing to bring this up. I mean I've written similar rants before and this is pretty much common knowledge. Well, let me tell you. 5e is just a little bit alluring to me. It looks, well, somewhat interesting. And I'm just gullible enough to buy some of the rhetoric involved in this new edition. But even if it is a decent new game, and it will be a new game regardless of the rhetoric, I don't relish the idea of buying into a game that is only planning on being supported for a max of five years. Sorry Wizards of the Coast, that business model just lost me.


Hamel™ said...

So far, the biggest gap belongs to AD&D: Cook's PHB has been published 11 years after Gygax's PHB.

Every other edition (0e, Holmes, B/X, BECMI) has not a so different gap compared to WotC's editions.

Chris said...

Well, that's a bit less clear really, but I get your reasoning. The LBB were introduced in 1974, and the follow up supplements really didn't change the game too much. The Monster Manual is released in 1977, but you can't really start playing AD&D until 1978 when the PHB is released and then you get the complete game by 1979 with the release of the DMG. However, Gary was planning on the release of the game as early as 1975.

The key here is that when AD&D is released Gary determines it to be THE game. It's the end product, the Summa of D&D. True, he was thinking about a second edition in the 1980's but the changes he would have made were minimal at best. There was no five year business model.

Basic and the BECMI line follows a different trajectory, but in reality this development arc was for a different game. 0e had been rewritten and made into the Holmes set early on (1977) and intended as an intro to the Advanced game. But when it became clear that Gary was taking AD&D in different directions from 0e they decided that the basic line would become a separate game.

The Basic line went through several revisions, and changes along the way, so you could argue that they changed editions as much as every 4 years on average, AD&D was different. It stayed true for, as you say over a decade.

It was with the exodus of Gary and the advent of the "new and improved TSR" that we begin to see a five year model. 1989 saw 2e and 1995 saw 2e Options (2.5 if you will).

The curious thing is that a guy could still play AD&D during the 2e era and still buy and use 2e products. Everything still fit, more or less.

3e, while arguably inspired by 2e was a different ball of wax. And their inspirations really came from the 2.5 ethos of D&D--not a widely played version of the game. Conversions from the 2e era to 3.0 were onerous to say the least. And this made sense as 3e and it's bastard cousin 3.5 were that different from what had come before.

So to now have it made clear that WoTC is operating under a de Facto 5 year production model--and that each of their games is so different from what came before (3rd from 4th to now 5th) I have a hard time investing my gaming energy in the company, knowing that I will have to not only buy all new books, but change my whole gaming mindset too.

That's kind of where I was headed with this.

Now, having said this I want to make it clear. Each of their games have been really good games. And each of them have made ardent fans. 3rd spawned the entire Paizo Empire, which is now dominating the gaming world, 4th has such dedicated young fans that the notion of a 5th edition has been cause for a whole new edition war. And as I said I find 5e to be very alluring, even so much that I really like some of the design decision they are making. But if I dive into 5e to make it my go to game of choice, to make it the foundational game of my club I am going to have to resign myself to the fact that in five years 6e will be out, 5e will be unsupported and I'll have to start all over again.

Brendan said...

Is "being supported" really important though? I mean, I get that it can help with finding players, but other than that it's not that important. And as long as there is an Internet, there will be communities of players for whatever edition you want to play.

Personally, I would categorize D&D into three groups: TSR D&D, 3E, and 4E. 3E and 3.5 are really the same game, unless you are the kind of player that follows all the errata and participates in tournaments or organized play. All TSR D&D is broadly compatible (with the exception perhaps of late-era Skills & Powers 2E). And 4E and Essentials are the same game (though Essentials provided optional simplified chargen and improved some of the monster math). So really the phases were:

1974 - 2000: TSR
2000 - 2008: 3E
2008 - 2013: 4E

If 5E ends up being the perfect game (something I doubt, but like you I am intrigued by many aspects of it), who cares what the company says? We can play it forever once we have the books. There's no reason anyone needs to walk on a product treadmill that is not providing them with value.

ironboundtome said...

Having a planned roadmap for releases which is communicated to the community will generally get negative feedback. Nobody likes to know that their new shiny material will be outdated in the future. I get that.
That aside, knowing and recognising that the game needs to grow and revise itself is a very mature approach. Yes, 6e and 7e will be released eventually, but this does not dilute the appeal of 5e (or the others) at all. Many other rpgs could do with a revision, but do not have the market to sustain the work needed. Dnd has a luxury in that they can afford to periodically update themselves.
5 years is certainly long enough between editions for players to get good gameplay from it (how much value for money do you get from the books?). And if the players cannot get good gameplay then it indicates an issue or change might be needed, and then how long do the devs wait?
Play what you love.

Chris said...

Very good points guys, thanks you for dropping by. As I've said previously--my rant based rhetoric is often reactionary. I "reacted" to an old interview of Monte, as I was looking for stuff on what he was doing post WoTC job II. Fact is I may give 5e a whirl. I was planning a playtest, but it sort of fell through and I lost motivation. Even though, at heart I'm an AD&D man through and through. At least it's the gaming beach I like to surf at the most.

Anywho it's all good. I'm the first to admit lots of games on the market (even editions) are better than less. However, I am still baffled by the need to revise so often--and I'm not alone in that regard. But am i really complaining? Heck I've played every edition of D&D made--except 0e, and not alot of B/X.

Keep brining it on and I'm hooked. I'm just glad that the D&D name lives on.

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