I was exhausted and fell asleep last night, so I’m sure by now that everyone is aware that the New York Times broke the story that Wizards of the Coast is working on Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition. Shortly thereafter this was followed by an announcement on the WotC website my Mike Mearls, titled “Charting the Course for D&D: Your Voice, Your Game.” Now, technically, they could be talking about D&D 4.5 or something, but given the phrasing of “developing the next iteration of D&D,” I think it’s safe to assume that we’re talking about 5th edition here.
Like many other gamers, my first reaction was annoyance and anger. 2nd edition D&D was released in 1989, and wasn’t replaced until the year 2000. When third edition was released, it only took three years for them to come out with 3.5, but that was okay. Only the core rulebooks needed to be re purchased, and the update was pretty necessary. But then to completely drop third edition for fourth edition a mere five years later was frustrating. Particularly since I found fourth edition to be a significant step down from third edition. And now, here we are in early 2012, less than four years after the initial release of 4th edition, and we’re already talking about 5th. It won’t be released for a few years yet, but still. It’s far too quick.
I understand that the role playing landscape isn’t the same as it was in the 70s. No edition will ever have the 15 year lifetime that 1st edition had. Increased competition means that games need to keep evolving and improving their rules systems to remain interesting to gamers who have a lot more options than they did thirty years ago. And 4th edition, by all indication, hasn’t been faring very well in the marketplace. Competition has been particularly fierce for Dungeons and Dragons since the release of Pathfinder, which stole a large portion of the D&D 3.5 playerbase, including myself, right out from under Wizard’s Nose.
That’s the point in the stages of anger where I realize that this announcement doesn’t really apply to me anymore. I haven’t purchased a Wizards of the Coast product since 2008. Fourth edition is not a game I found even slightly appealing, and as wiser men have said: I’ve got better games to play.
So with the realization that a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons isn’t the worst thing in the world, lets scrutinize what’s going on here.
That is why we are excited to share with you that starting in Spring 2012, we will be taking this process one step further and conducting ongoing open playtests with the gaming community to gather feedback on the new iteration of the game as we develop it. With your feedback and involvement, we can make D&D better than ever. We seek to build a foundation for the long-term health and growth of D&D, one rooted in the vital traits that make D&D unique and special. We want a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions, one that takes the fundamental essence of D&D and brings it to the forefront of the game. In short, we want a game that is as simple or complex as you please, its action focused on combat, intrigue, and exploration as you desire. We want a game that is unmistakably D&D, but one that can easily become your D&D, the game that you want to run and play.
This sound familiar to anyone?
Paizo Publishing today unveiled the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, a tabletop fantasy roleplaying game that will serve as the anchor for the company’s popular line of Pathfinder adventures, sourcebooks, and campaigns. Today marks the beginning of a year-long Open Playtest of the new rules, which are based upon the popular 3.5 rules available under the Open Game License. The Pathfinder RPG is designed with backward compatibility as one of its primary goals, so players will continue to enjoy their lifelong fantasy gaming hobby without invalidating their entire game library. The first Pathfinder RPG Alpha release is available now as a free 65-page PDF download at paizo.com/pathfinderRPG. Until the finished Pathfinder RPG’s release as a hardcover rulebook in August 2009, all of Paizo’s popular Pathfinder-brand products will continue under the current 3.5 rules set.
That’s an announcement pulled directly from Paizo’s news post on March 18th 2008. I guess Wizards of the Coast has been paying more attention than I gave them credit for.
Tabletop gaming has always been about community and creativity. GM not only create fantastic worlds for their players, but helpful rules to make the game more fun. Players craft their character’s persona as they play. And everyone enjoys the game together. In the age of the Internet, that community has become so much larger. It’s expanded from the small group of people around our gaming tables, or the people we chat with at our friendly local gaming store. Now through forums and blogs, our community covers the world. And it’s only appropriate for Wizards to acknowledge that, and take advantage of it. Honestly, it’s kind of silly they didn’t realize that back in 2008.
We want to be involved in the games we love. As soon as it’s in our hands we’re going to be house-ruling it anyway, so why not see if we can get some of our house rules actually included in the published game? For myself, I’m not sure yet if I’ll be participating in this project. I’ve thrown my lot in with Paizo, and I’ve been happy with their products. Still, I’m sure I’ll look over the first copy of 5th edition I can get my hands on. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be amazing. Maybe I’ll want to be part of making it better.
Time will tell.