Sunday, July 12, 2009

The D&D Treadmill

Some people feel very strongly about their chosen edition of D&D and those that have chosen the currently supported ruleset get upset at the implication that a new edition of D&D is released solely to earn corporate revenue. But, reading blog comments today by supporters of 4e angry at comments critical of it, I began thinking sympathetically about how they will be in the position of outsider soon enough.

Briefly, the publishing history since WoTC bought TSR:

2nd Edition 1989
3rd Edition 2000
Edition 3.5 2003
4th Edition 2008

That's 11 years from 2nd to 3rd and 8 years from 3rd to 4th. But, really, WoTC was earning revenue from the revision of 3 to 3.5, so that's 5 years. So, you get a republish of core rulebooks in:

I'll go out on a limb here and predict that 4 Edition Dungeons and Dragons will have the core rule books revised and republished, or a new 5th edition of D&D will be published, within 3 years. Yes, you can throw tomatoes at me if I'm wrong, by 2012 you'll see a major republishing of D&D. That's, of course, barring some major corporate restructuring in our currently apocalyptic economy, or something crazy like the Swords & Wizardry and Labyrinth Lord taking over the market.

I think the downsides to wanting to play an edition not currently supported have been blogged about extensively elsewhere. I'll just say, the biggest seems to be: in a game where it's hard enough to find good players, good luck finding said players that are also interested in a rulesystem from 5+ years ago.

So, regardless of what you think of the 4e rules, these people really like them. And in a few years, playing the D&D they like, will be like swimming upstream. So I sympathize with them. Maybe in ~5 years we'll see a 4e simulacra developed by fans.


  1. I wouldn't be surprised if you're right about 5e coming sooner than most would expect.

  2. I think so. And with the comfort of having a stable ruleset in Swords & Wizardry, I feel I can be an interested onlooker rather than a handwringer :)

  3. Three years later, this is looking pretty prescient!

  4. Heh, yeah. Watch Paizo closely now, see if they feel threatened enough to put out a new edition of some sort.

    Rulesets just don't work well as products. I wish someone would focus more on tools for DMs, and for DMs at different stages of experience. But game designers are bad about forgetting how they learned to play.