Post-Modern Roleplaying: Rebooting D&D

Dear Mr Of The Coast, can you fix it for me to actually be a dragon?

Not 100% relevant to PC gaming, but 1) D&D’s rules have been enormously influential on computer RPGs 2) whatever the new edition ends up doing will almost certainly filter down to a PC game or six at some point 3) your mum.

Wizards of the Coast are taking another pass at Dungeons & Dragons, after the recent fourth edition rules proved more than a little divisive. Divisive = MASSIVE RAGEFEST, of course. On top of that, WOTC reckon vidjagames are taking an increasingly deadly bite out of their side. So, they want to get D&D back on track – and they’re actively looking for the community’s input to do so. Is that you? Ooh, probably.

The New York Times, which is A Big And Important Newspaper, has the story such as it is. And the story, such as it is, is “oh god we’ve right royally screwed this up, what are we going to do? I know, let’s ask the people who are still willing to pay for this what we should do.” Which is possibly the right idea, with the exception that going primarily to the most in-the-know fans risks turning the game even more inwards, rather than increasing its appeal to those who, for one reason or another, avoid it. And, it seems, a lot of people are avoiding it:

“The company does not release sales figures, but analysts and gaming experts agree that sales of the game, and all tabletop role-playing ones, have been dwindling for years. Ryan Scott Dancey, chief executive of the game company Goblinworks and a former vice president at Wizards of the Coast, said the overall market peaked between 1999 and 2003 and has been in steady decline since 2005. “My instincts are it’s slower than ever,” he said.”

It’d be awfully sad to see D&D become little more than a license for videogames and other media, given its vital place in pop-culture heritage and its ongoing influence on game developers. Now does seem like the right time to shoot for a major reboot.

The obvious thing, for me, is to accelerate the long-planned digital version. P&P RPGs are absolutely at their best with a group of folk sat around a table with an assortment of savoury snacks and liver-stressing beverages, but that’s not always possible. I bubble with gentle envy when hearing reports of the Warhammer RPG sessions Kieron hosts for assorted chums-of-RPS in That London. Trains and time keeps me away, though I have am ambient pledge to set something up in Brighton one of these days. Perhaps a digital version of the game, in a loose form unbound from the restrictions of videogames so our imaginations could fire fully, could overcome issues of space and time. Additionally, having permanent online records of your characters and their adventures, instead of rotting, illegible notebooks, is an appealing thing, not to mention how useful more official online resources would be for DMs. And rulebooks surely have to move into the digital age, to Kindles and tablets and smartphones.

Perhaps men clustered around iPads and laptops rather than pens, paper and rulebooks is the future, retaining the traditional social element but bringing in the convenience of digital, or maybe it risks ripping out the game’s scrappy soul. WOTC is committed to keeping D&D a face-to-face game, which probably is necessary to retain its essence and tradition, but if videogames are truly its nemesis the scale of the rethink needs to be immense.

I look forward to seeing what they come up with, I hope they don’t take too long about it, I hope it’s done with half a mind on how it can translate to videogames, and I hope the net result is not just another set of horribly expensive, fat books that I’d feel too self-conscious of to get out in public.

So, feedback is being sought, playtests are being planned and big things are apparently in the offing. This is as good a mission statement as any:

“We want to create a flexible game, rich with options for players and DMs to embrace or reject as they see fit, a game that brings D&D fans together rather than serves as one more category to splinter us apart.”

More details on how to submit your thoughts for the fifth edition of D&D here.


  1. Vexing Vision says:

    After the atrocity that is D&D 4.0, I started playing Pathfinder, which is a lovely overhaul and optimization of 3.5 – and finally makes the rule set really, really good and enjoyable.

    So. Don’t go forward, WoTC. Go back. Or rather, let paizo do it for you, thanks!

    • Hexidecimal says:

      Agreed! My group has used Pathfinder since 4.0 came out. WotC should just buy the company that does PF and turn the AD&D licensing over to them. Pathfinder is the superior system at this point.

    • Leandro says:

      I loved 4th edition because it actually dared to change and improve the game. It was Wizards getting out of their comfort zone and trying to modernize the game, bring new people in, make a more intelligent and balanced design.

      And they accomplished all those things. Except they forgot their audience was largely composed of nostalgic xenophobic people who wanted to play the same niche game until the end of time. For all Wizards’ mistakes, I think they were bold and refreshing with 4th edition, and it was the only edition I ever spent my money on.

      Yeah, keep going forward, Wizards. Never look back.

    • Foosnark says:

      My former group did the same. We gave 4.0 a go, found that we liked it in theory more than in practice, and went to Pathfinder for a while. (Then, because we were all game developers and had busy schedules, the group fell apart again.)

    • Alexander Norris says:

      After the atrocity that is 3.5, I don’t know how you could possibly think Pathfinder is good.

      But you’re totally right, Vexing Vision! WotC should continue to design actually good RPGs, and let Paizo handle reprinting 3.5 with minor edits.

    • MattCaulder says:

      If Paizo is doing what you want, why does Wizards also have to do it? Let WOTC try new things and throw thier Magic money at trying some new and interesting stuff.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      Atrocity? GTFO.

      I mean, ok, you don’t like 4th edition, fine. Even as an old time 2nd edition player and sometimes pathfinder guy I’m completely satisfied with my the 4th edition stuff and have had a great time with it.

      It’s not so much the traditional D&D experience but it’s a perfectly fine and enjoyable game system in it’s own right.

      I’ve had plenty of good fun with 4e and expect to continue to do so.

    • zaphod42 says:

      @Leandro can’t disagree with you enough.

      4th edition did a lot of things well, everybody can heal so you don’t have to have a cleric necessarily, everybody gets more powers, more feats, the game is much easier to learn and to build a character for (now you can print out those handy power sheets that have your dice rolls precalculated…)

      4th is the perfect D&D for somebody whose never played D&D before. Is “my first D&D”. But once you learn, its boring and basic. There’s no real difference between a fighter and a wizard other than some basic flavor, they both get daily powers, at-will powers…

      Everything about 4th edition feels like a videogame. Especially an MMORPG. I’m not roleplaying, I’m pressing little ability buttons on my menu bar. Meh.

      Pathfinder is amazing. My friends just got me into it, and its what 4th should have been. Its 3.5, somewhat simplified (but not throwing the baby out with the bathwater like 4th) and improved.

      That said, I’ve mostly abandoned D&D. Have you heard of White Wolf’s d10 system? Oh my god, LOVE it. Mage: the awakening in particular is the greatest magic system I’ve ever encountered, and is just a complete joy to behold. You’re totally free to be creative and use magic as it should be, not casing “magic missle” or “mordenkaiden’s faithful watchservant” over and over, instead you can make up every spell on the spot and come up with a creative effect that fits the situation. Its more problem solving and creative writing than just min/maxing. I got into d10 because of vampire: the masquerade, which is a solid game, but Mage:TA is just… so good.

      In d10 rules, I can roll a complete character in about 15 minutes (D&D, even with an editor, is going to take awhile for you to look up all your feats and place your skills and plan your character, and if you’re starting above 1st level, forgetaboutit). As a DM, I can come up with a ruling for any situation in seconds (uh, roll presence + persuasion vs his composure? that sounds right) and you’re not shoehorned into classes, you’re free to take your experience and build a character in whatever direction you want, and yet somehow it still seems very balanced. Friendly to new roleplayers and old. And it focuses on the main part: roleplaying. This isn’t a videogame, you’re free to do whatever you like.

    • DK says:

      4th Edition was gigantic step forward in every single respect. It balanced all the classes, made all the classes as fun and action packed as only wizards used to be from level 1 and even shook up the Forgotten Realms in an exciting way.

      By the way, nowhere does it say 3.5 Ed has ceased to exist because 4th came out. If you like imbalance you need to houserule away, and 50% of the classes being utterly boring (Fighter, Barbarian, Monk, etc.) you can still play that way.

      The fact that WotC seems to actually listen to the whining minority does not bode well.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      4th is the perfect D&D for somebody whose never played D&D before. Is “my first D&D”. But once you learn, its boring and basic. There’s no real difference between a fighter and a wizard other than some basic flavor, they both get daily powers, at-will powers…

      This is like saying “there is no real difference between Wizards and Fighters in 3.x, they both have feats and roll d20s to do things.”

    • Lemming says:


      I agree. I played D&D since v3 and I thoroughly enjoyed v4. It was nice to be concentrating on playing and rping instead of everyone shuffling through through rulebooks every five minutes to check what the bloody hell to do.


      The irony there of course, Is that I played WW games before the change versions you’ve ‘discovered’ and I actually think it sucks. Bring back the Masquerade/Ascension/Apocolypse!

    • Leandro says:

      @zaphod42 Actually, Mage The Ascension is the only RPG other than D&D I’ve ever played, and I liked it a lot :)

      On the subject of D&D, I can see the point about the classes in 4th being more similar than before. I think that’s a small price to pay for balance and fun for everyone, though. Also, the new classes introduced in the Essentials line offered an alternative, bringing some of the staples from how the classes used to be before 4th, but keeping these classic elements wrapped in the new rules. Essentials is a good option if you want diversity in 4th edition.

    • Kent says:

      I think people get too focused on the classes. What I think bogs 4th edition down is the fact that the ruleset is very light and that there’s a lot of things the rules don’t cover.

      Also I get the feeling that you cannot customize your characters very well. If I want to play a damage dealing cleric then I have to wait until Paragon tier to do so, at best. It also seems to me that the balance in the game means that you’re always trying to “meet 10” on the d20, because all of the AC and the accuracy of your attacks are more or less on the same level. You cannot be a guy that’s difficult to hit and you cannot really cast magic that you can use in creative ways or do actions that are creative because the ruleset doesn’t include that magic and doesn’t cover those actions.

      I haven’t tried any other rulesets but that seems to be the largest issue with 4th edition. Which is actually a very huge issue. I wanted to get into Pathfinder but with 4th edition I got all sort of third party support for basically everything under the sun. Pathfinder doesn’t have that support and makes it more difficult to get into.

    • Sic says:

      I thought 4th edition was perfectly fine. I’ve played everything from the first edition to the current, and it’s still D&D, the same rather mundane and generic fantasy P&P. Don’t get me wrong, I totally enjoy playing 4, 3.5 and Pathfinder (right now my group has played Pathfinder for a while, and that’s completely fine by me), but if I want to actually roleplay, D&D is not the place. It just simply isn’t. D&D is fun because everyone is arguing over the rules all the time, because we can have fun with fantasy stereotypes, because I can get a proper buzz while playing (and not feel bad); in short, it’s fun because we can dick around. If I want to actually role play, I will play anything but D&D, so I simply cant muster up the energy to be riled up about it. 4th edition rubbish? Not at all. It was a tiny bit different, that’s all. Nothing wrong with that.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Sic: If you wanted to role-play you wouldn’t play with any hard rules at all.

    • vecordae says:

      I’ve played pretty much every version of DnD made and have found 3.5/Pathfinder to the one that really hits the sweet spot for me. AD&D was fun, but its mechanics were inconsistent and needlessly obtuse at time (sometimes you had to roll higher, sometimes lower, wtf THAC0?). 4th edition does a wonderful job of streamlining things and making sure that multiple classes can fill multiple roles, but isn’t as mechanically flexible as I’d like.

      3rd edition’s classes had some serious balancing problems, especially once supplement creep started to run rampant, but the underlying system was a grand thing that provided its players with a great degree of flexibility and customization.

      Oh, and if you haven’t heard of it yet, you can check out interesting OGL-derivative Legend which is currently pay-what-you-want for the next day or so. It is good and it is here: link to

    • Chris D says:


      You’d break the rules when they got in the way, sure, but that doesn’t mean having a decent framework isn’t helpful.

    • Steven Hutton says:


      4th is the perfect D&D for somebody whose never played D&D before. Is “my first D&D”. But once you learn, its boring and basic. There’s no real difference between a fighter and a wizard other than some basic flavor, they both get daily powers, at-will powers…

      That’s kind of true but it’s as much a positive as it is a negative. Fighters who only have at-will powers and wizards who only have daily powers are too different to work well in the same system. Wizards above a certain level being more than capable of overcoming near any challenge with a single spell while fighters right up to max are still limited to “hit it with my sword”.

      @Kent I don’t think your customisation argument holds much water to be honest. I’ve got a handful of fighter builds on my computer at level 7 (I had a new player who wanted to be a fighter so I made a few builds for him to choose between) and they’re radically different. One is a two-handed axe guy with very high damage, one is much more tanky and another is a dual wielder with high accuracy.

      The tanky build has four points higher armour and is roughly three points better in all other defences, he is significantly harder to hit. His abilities are also chosen to reduce enemy accuracy.

      Maybe there wasn’t at launch but these days there’s lots of potential for customisation. You can easily have two of the same class in your session without one of them feeling redundant. Picking an appropriate theme and building from that can lead to very unique builds. Such as a friend of mine who plays a teleport focused character which is wildly fun.

    • NathanH says:

      We never played 4th edition but liked the look of it in theory. It seemed like it would give everyone a fair amount of interesting combat abilities. Although we were always fairly relaxed about rules, and made a lot of stuff up as we went along. If you’re in a more rules-faithful group it could be a bit bland I suppose.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      @Kent: what is it that you want out of a “damage-dealing Cleric?” Is it the ability to deal damage and heal, or the ability to deal damage while having a divine theme? If it’s the latter, there is no reason why you need to play a Cleric; your character’s job isn’t defined by their class-as-written-on-the-sheet (the Avenger is the Divine Striker, so would be what you want to play).

      Although admittedly, if you wanted to be the former, your options are more limited – the Battle Cleric is explicitly there to deal damage and dole out heals, but apart from that you can only really build a Hybrid character.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      It’s not even that hard to build a damage dealing cleric.

      You need to spend feats getting one of the exotic weapons and on accuracy and damage. Then after that just focus on getting items, powers and feats that deal high damage or grant damage bonuses. You’ll never deal ranger level damage but with a couple of smart item choices you can do just fine.

      That’s not to mention the filth that can be accomplished with a radiant damage/vulnerability cheese build.

    • Randomer says:

      Haven’t played Pathfinder, but I think that 4e’s rules as written (RAW) do a better job facilitating exciting, cinematic combat sequences than 3.5. An example of the 4e rules from the DM’s guide: If a character wants to swing from a chandelier to kick an ogre into a fireplace, the DM just looks at a level-appropriate chart and decides if the single check is easy or hard. If the player makes it, the DM assigns level appropriate damage from a second chart of low, medium, and high damages. Done. In 3.5 RAW, first you’d have to make a jump check, then … swinging is probably “use rope”? Then an unarmed attack roll (provoking an attack of opportunity, of course). Provided all these succeed, 3.5 RAW informs you that fire does 1d6 damage. Yay…

      Where 4e fails for me is that the classes and abilities feel balanced to the point of sterility. I think it’s not so much like an MMO as it is like a board game. But I don’t want a board game. I want an epic fantasy life simulator. Also, 4e took 3.5’s abysmally slow combat and made it even slower. The above reasons are why I’m actually tempted to go back to 2e.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Have you heard of White Wolf’s d10 system?

      Yes, and it really is atrocious. In purely mechanical terms – WW did some interesting things in their earlier settings but the system has always been been gash. Roll up to 30 dice to resolve a single attack? Sure, why ever not?

      And to the “system X leads to rules arguments” – this is wrong, being in a shit group leads to rules arguments.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Wizards above a certain level being more than capable of overcoming near any challenge with a single spell while fighters right up to max are still limited to “hit it with my sword”.

      Spell resistance doesn’t work on swords.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      As a DM, I can come up with a ruling for any situation in seconds (uh, roll presence + persuasion vs his composure? that sounds right)

      This is a nonsense argument, to be honest. That’s exactly what games-mastering is about using any system whatsoever. D&D – set a target number for the skill, Cthulu – choose a skill and apply a penalty or bonus, Cyberpunk – chose a stat + skill + difficulty number… its all the same thing/

    • Werthead says:

      “even shook up the Forgotten Realms in an exciting way.”

      Okay, this is the only time I’ve ever seen anyone defend what WotC did to the Realms in 4E. Even people who love the 4E ruleset seem unanimous in their loathing of what WotC did to the setting, over the advice of the fans, the Realms’ creator and almost all of their novel writers. WotC mishandled a lot of things over 4E, but arguably nothing greater than destroying their most popular and profitable fantasy world.

      “The fact that WotC seems to actually listen to the whining minority does not bode well.”

      This is the total inverse of what happened.

      D&D in its ‘unbalanced’ state existed for 34 years before 4th Edition was launched, during which time every edition sold millions of copies and did well. During this time the number of people complaining about a perceived lack of balance (which, more often than not, was actually down to poor DMing or refusing to force magic-users to use rules like spell components and EXP penalties) became louder and louder, until WotC came to the conclusion that this group was actually the majority, and tailored 4E into a ‘balanced’ game. The result of this bold step forward…was the game pretty much bombing after an initial decent start, hence why we’re now getting 5th Edition several years ahead of schedule, as Hasbro have basically ordered WotC to either sort out the mess or drop the game. At the same time, the Pathfinder RPG did extremely well, as have several other companies, so WotC can’t just blame 4E’s commercial under-performance on competition from video games or the overall decline of the PNP market. Something inherent in 4E itself has brought about its failure (and commercially it has been a failure; there is absolutely no way that they would be dropping it and moving to a fifth edition less than five years after the release of the game if it wasn’t).

      This is not to say that 4E is a terrible game – it isn’t – but certainly it was a substantial step away from previous editions of the game and done in a manner that did not take a lot of the fanbase with it.

    • Kent says:

      I think you guys who responded to my comment earlier are missing the point. If I want to customize my character, I want a good character from the get go. A cleric that can deal massive amount of damage regardless of what level he is. Why pick a cleric? Partly because of the heals but also because a cleric can utilize far better armor than avengers do which is where my character concept originates from. Or even just because I want to pick a class which have divine power and is a priest class.

      But the problem is that even if I do have high accuracy magic items and powers that ‘deal damage’. I will still end up far inferior to any Striker class. That’s not okay. Normally I would fix a multiclass to cleric by spending a feat but that would pretty much mean that my character would become another class entirely… and I shouldn’t have to do that.

      Perhaps if the game had more feats and allowed you to pick more feats… like a dozen at 1st level… or had better feats that actually didn’t have stupid feat prerequisites… and better feats in general. Feats are awesome, but most of them suck.

    • Devenger says:

      @Kent The inability to make varied characters with very few class levels (that aren’t going to be mechanically doomed in the long run) seems to me to be a problem with every d20 system game out there. I personally work around this (when running Pathfinder) by starting games at 3rd-5th level; for 4th edition, which I have less experience with, I’m guessing 5th-7th is a better range. (This also frees you up to give PCs enough starting wealth to pick out some magic items that flesh out their role better. It’s wonderful getting players to give their characters backstory, to explain where they got that highly convenient +1 darkwood composite longbow made for a character of their exact Strength score…)

      D&D 3.5 made making unique characters painful, with having slow feat unlocks, some classes with almost no choices within their class-specific features at all, and the terrifying number of ‘prestige classes’ that (to an amateur like me) just made specific character choices appear very, very good indeed (incomparably so). Pathfinder improves things a little with faster feat unlocks, more interesting class-specific features giving more choice, and class ‘variants’ that were significant at much earlier levels than prestige classes (which were still there, but less good by comparison since the base classes were so much more interesting). 4th edition gave players even more feats (due to more levels), ‘paragon paths’ and ‘epic destinies’ that captured the fun of prestige classes but with less headaches, and all the breadth of choice that comes with the at-will/encounter/daily(/utility) power pattern – but I do feel the homogeneity of classes as a result of that last point was too steep a price to pay. (It just had me yearning for systems with no character classes at all, where power choices are mostly just constrained by ability scores and prerequisites – say, White Wolf’s Exalted, were that not plagued with its own problems).

      So I would like 5th edition to keep the 4th edition style of giving players constant small choices in how to make their character their own, but to lose the uniformity of having all characters holding the same ability cooldown clipboard. The choice between wildly different classes that feel very different to each other when played as feels like a valuable part of D&D’s memetic makeup to me. Particularly, I really like juggling different systems of power exhaustion, or the option to make a character who has few supernatural powers, but is inexhaustible and consistent throughout an entire day. And, getting back to who I’m ostensibly replying to – yes, more feats, and right from starting at 1st level, too!

    • jrodman says:

      My actual complaints re: 4.0.

      Too many fiddly modifiers wandering around. Makes play tedious.

      Not enough variation in playstyle of classes. (it’s good, but not good enough).

      No sense of urgency surrounding healing makes healing boring. (some of us found keeping our partymates alive fairly exciting).

      Too videogamey. The grid is both a plus and a minus. It makes encounters organized, and gives some tactical depth to the game, but it really works against imagination. I don’t know how i feel about this precisely.

      I read through pretty much every single prefab class and none of them seemed very exciting to me. I was trying to find a strong healer (targetted heals) who was also a so-so ranged nuker. That fit the image of the character I wanted to play, and the videogamey feel i tend to enjoy. Nope — doesn’t exist. Healing is undervalued in this game entirely. And ranged nukes are a bit meh in general.

      I give it a big Harumph.

    • Wulf says:

      I loved the 4th edition, and the reaction it got from players across the board was something to behold. Let’s face it, 4.0 was a paradigm shift – of the good kind.

      I remember how people who clung to the past complained about every element of it, and balked at the parts that made it more fun. But that reminded me so much of WoW players saying “…b-bu-but…how can an MMORPG be an MMORPG or even fun without the grind? I like the grind!” without even realising that they were a minority. And frankly, they were never tat convincing, either.

      Whenever I listen to someone defend an Everquest-style MMORPG, or 3.5ed D&D, it always sounds like they’re trying to convince themselves rather than me. Because I’ve never really heard anyone speaking confidently about 3.5, and if someone was confident about 3.5 then they wouldn’t see 4.0 as a threat, but that’s the kind of vibe I’m getting, here.

      And sure it’s a threat, yes, I get that. It’s a threat to everything that was, a threat to the Old Ways. But that’s a good thing, darn it. We need paradigm shifts, occasionally. But I find that more and more the old school D&D players are regressive, antisocial, and kind of xenophobic. One of my favourite parts of the backlash was the dragonkin, whom I adored.

      But the old guard of D&D weren’t having any of it, they screamed about the dragonkin being the ‘kool-aid’ of Dungeons & Dragons. But they couldn’t prove that, none of them were forthcoming with evidence as to why this was. They just hated it because it was different. Never before had a race been featured that was so inhuman, and it rocked their tiny little worlds to the core. And that’s what they have to deal with. Wizards, quite frankly, needs to ignore those people.

      They need to keep trying to reinvigoate their game, make it strange, interesting, new, refreshing, AND accessible! That‘s the way forward, that’s victory.

    • Werthead says:

      “I remember how people who clung to the past complained about every element of it, and balked at the parts that made it more fun. But that reminded me so much of WoW players saying “…b-bu-but…how can an MMORPG be an MMORPG or even fun without the grind? I like the grind!” without even realising that they were a minority. And frankly, they were never tat convincing, either.”

      Not backed up by any evidence whatsoever. 1-3E were major commercial successes. 4E has been a commercial failure and is being retired years ahead of schedule as a result. So yeah, the ‘being in a minority’ thing is clearly inaccurate.

      “Never before had a race been featured that was so inhuman, and it rocked their tiny little worlds to the core. And that’s what they have to deal with. Wizards, quite frankly, needs to ignore those people.”

      Strawman non-argument. Unusual, alien PC races have been around for years. Saurials, the ability to actually role-play dragons, illithids and beholders (in various 2E titles), most of the PLANESCAPE setting races. Dragonkin are basically draconians from DRAGONLANCE with a few tweaks. Very few complaints about 4E that I’ve seen have ever even mentioned dragonkin, since including them or not in your campaign world is optional.

      “They need to keep trying to reinvigoate their game, make it strange, interesting, new, refreshing, AND accessible! That‘s the way forward, that’s victory.”

      Oh, I agree. But they didn’t do that with 4E. With 4E they became obssessed with both this ‘balance’ issue (due to a vocal minority of people who had been harping on about if for years and years online) and competing with video games to the exclusion of everything else. The problem is that you can only push D&D so far before it stops being D&D, and with 4E they pushed it over that line for an enormous number of people.

    • zbeeblebrox says:

      @Werthead “4E has been a commercial failure and is being retired years ahead of schedule as a result. So yeah, the ‘being in a minority’ thing is clearly inaccurate.”

      Clearly. But what he said that *was* accurate was his accusation that D&Ders are “regressive, antisocial, and kind of xenophobic”. At least as a community. I happily get involved with small groups if I get to know them first, but large gatherings are consistently hostile and ignorant. Often willfully so. Not just to new players, but to new ideas as well.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Spell resistance doesn’t work on swords.

      Swords don’t work on flying wizards who can make themselves immune to mundane weapons.

      Spell resistance doesn’t work on spells if the caster has any idea what he’s doing whatsoever.

      This is not to say that 4E is a terrible game – it isn’t – but certainly it was a substantial step away from previous editions of the game and done in a manner that did not take a lot of the fanbase with it.

      The vocal minority who rubbish 4E at every turn aren’t “a lot of the fanbase” – they’re a vocal minority.

      I think you guys who responded to my comment earlier are missing the point. If I want to customize my character, I want a good character from the get go. A cleric that can deal massive amount of damage regardless of what level he is. Why pick a cleric? Partly because of the heals but also because a cleric can utilize far better armor than avengers do which is where my character concept originates from. Or even just because I want to pick a class which have divine power and is a priest class.

      You can be a priest without being a Cleric.

      You can play any class and reskin it as a cleric if you want.

      4E is deliberately designed so you cannot build a god-character who can fill in every role, so no, you’re not going to get that. Clerics are Leaders and single-target damage is the Strikers’ job.

      You might have a leg to stand on if you pointed out that there are builds and paragon paths that can give classes a secondary role, but nothing that can really give a Leader secondary to a Striker.

      4E has been a commercial failure and is being retired years ahead of schedule as a result.

      Utter fucking bullshit. D&D is such a tiny fraction of WotC’s revenue, let alone Hasbro’s, that were it not solvent it would have been dumped. There are no accurate sales numbers for either D&D or Pathfinder but all evidence points to the fact that 4E is doing perfectly fine. You’re pulling nonsense out of your ass.

  2. Sp4rkR4t says:

    I’ve heard many a tale of people using Google+’s Hangouts to play D&D remotely and it seems to work a treat.

    • dragonhunter21 says:

      I’m part of a group that plays over Skype. We don’t do video, just audio- we use a program called Maptool to handle maps and characters. Works like a charm, usually. The only issue is, trying to get the Character Builder working with CBLoader is an unholy terror.

    • Skabooga says:

      @Dragonhunter: That’s what I do too! Skype and maptools and four friends in three different timezones. The next best thing to doing it live.

    • arrjayjee says:

      How do you handle showing the map and battlegrid and player locations and all that stuff via Hangouts? Is there a tool available on G+ I don’t know about, or some third party thing?

  3. Drayk says:

    I still play a game of DD 3.5 in the Archipels universe now and then but I heard pathfinder is pretty popular.

  4. sonofsanta says:

    Horribly unrealistic at the moment, given the prohibitive cost of one such shiny toy let alone 5, but a collection of tablets in an ad-hoc WiFi network would be brilliant. Keeping track of stats, sending private messages to players, showing media files (pictures of the enchanted brooch etc.)… some would decry it as the Death of Imagination, but if it doesn’t keep evolving, it will continue to shrivel into irrelevance. Besides, the existence of Shiny New Thing doesn’t remove Old Beloved Thing from the world; otherwise I’d dislike Civ V even more than I already think I do.

    Also: listening to people generally doesn’t end well. I hate to sound all Tory here, but most of the time, the people don’t know what they want. WotC are the professional designers, not the grebs who play; let them design it, not the public.

    • Hexidecimal says:

      Tablet versions of each book that were interactive would be amazing. A couple of us in my group have tablets already and I actually have 2. If they did iOS & Android app versions of each book that could be fantastic.

    • Unaco says:

      Or this…

    • -Spooky- says:

      Well. I play D&D 4E on table and SR4a via MapTools online. It´s “always” the same discussion – in music buisness too. Use the old way or be open minded for all the new digital technology, including the whole experience.

      GM with his stuff on laptop / tablet is a way to handle all the material easier (weight of books etc. etc.)

    • dontnormally says:


      YES, THAT.

  5. pipman3000 says:

    just never listen to the grognards, ever. if you listened to them 5th edition would be even more rapey then FATAL and more complicated then Synnibar.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Personally, I’m hoping 5E takes a leaf from FATE, Lady Blackbird, Burning Wheel and other Forgist games – 4E was already a step forward by including a bit of narrativism (yes, yes, I know GNS is dead; it’s a convenient shorthand) in how some of the powers worked, and in the approach it took to roleplaying rules (i.e. you don’t need anything more than skill rules).

  6. RenegadeRed says:

    Hate to say it, but traditional pen and paper RPGs are pretty much dead. Just look at their declining prevalence, the hobby store closings, and the migration of roleplayers to OpenRPG (a crude online D&D program), forums, MMORPGS and other video games. The convenience of the Internet in terms of time/scheduling, combined with the “magic of 3D”, and the clumsiness of having to read a 500 page nerd tome just to start playing, the awkwardness of memorizing complicated battle mechanics/rules, the social sigma, etc has spelled doom for quite some time…

    However, I believe there is still hope, but only if D&D 5th Edition is purely digital! I envision something akin to an MMORPG, with some players being able to digitally DM within the game, with perhaps some talented DMs being paid for their time. Or even having developers hire storytellers to entertain players, thus making a monthly fee more palatable to a paying customer who feels he/she is getting a “service” in the form of their own personal adventure tale, custom tailored. Surely you’ve noticed that current generation MMORPGs are lagging behind in the RP department? Go to any “RP server” and you’ll see hardly anyone roleplaying unless you go very far out of your way. I believe there is a huge untapped market if D&D 5th Edition is a hardcore RP MMORPG.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      They’re not dead. The industry has never been much more than niche.

    • sinister agent says:

      As the number of them diminishes, the remainder become ever angrier, more irrational, more obsessed, more intractible. It’s the law of conservation of nerd.

    • RenegadeRed says:

      Oh I heartily agree, the industry is very niche. I just fear that PnP roleplaying is becoming so niche that it can’t sustain a profit anymore. I mean WoTC have been shrinking so rapidly, they used to have dozens of product lines. Now their website can be generously described as barren. This may largely be due to, yes, pandering to the hardest of the hardcore – thus leaving themselves with a very tiny market as a direct result of making the game inaccessible/inscrutable to newcomers. Yet, it seems that 4th Edition was a direct stab at that assertion, wasn’t it? Perhaps it wasn’t a bold enough maneuvre to attract the casual RP market. All roads lead to the internet for WoTC, I say. Seriously, nerds love the internet and nerds love D&D – is it so f$^#ing hard to put two and two together, WoTC?

    • dontnormally says:

      There will always be a place for face-to-face gaming.

      Board games / props might take over from strict pen-and-paper-only style, though.

    • Chris D says:

      We are remembering that P&P roleplaying isn’t the same thing as D&D, right?

      Personally, the first thing I look for in an RPG is a setting I want to spend some time in, you can always tweak the rules if it turns out you don’t like them. D&D has always felt a little too generic for my tastes.

      If they can revive D&D’s fortune’s then good for them but equally everything has it’s time and if it’s popularity is fading because people are moving on to other games and systems then that’s not necessarily a bad thing either.

    • DrGonzo says:

      The number has diminished rapidly. It has always been a niche, but now it’s even more so.

      We left long ago when it became about rules and not about a story with your mates. Start again entirely I say, rip out all the rules and start again.

    • Snidesworth says:

      There’s plenty of systems out there that don’t focus on complex mechanics. FATE and ORE are two that come to mind.

      Trouble is that it’s difficult to make a product line out of something light on rules. If a game offers you huge flexibility in how a player can create their character and what they can do with it then you can’t sell them new character options. Setting lore and premade adventures doesn’t shift the same numbers as splat books with new classes, gear and spells do.

      You’re right, though. How good a game is ultimately depends on who you play it with. It’s the rule of co-op all over again; only a truly terrible game won’t be fun if you’re playing with friends, though even then there’s a chance that you can revel in how absurdly broken it is.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      @DrGonzo: do you have sales numbers to back that assertion up? :)

    • Jesse L says:

      Tabletop RPGs are far from dead. Giant toy companies like Hasbro may not be able to make money from them, but if so, that’s fine by me. I didn’t write this, but this blog post and its comments are a great discussion on this subject by a group of players and indie publishers:

      link to

      “I’m sure you can read between the lines, just as I can: the big RPG companies like Wizards of the Coast and White Wolf are dying. They got fat and bloated and have been mostly engaged in the production of horse manure for the past 10 years. QED: tabletop RPGs are dying – the comfortable myth high-ups in those companies can tell themselves rather than face the ugly truth, which is that they’re nothing like as innovative or interesting as they should be. Cognitive dissonance is a funny thing.”

      Also this quote from the comment thread, from “-C”, sums up my experiences:

      “It is *much* easier to find and get a game going at any time in the entire history of my experience playing RPG’s. Nearly everyone in my peer group or younger has played, and I am continually finding out about new gaming groups in the city I’m in.

      “You know, this wasn’t true in the 90’s. And it was more true after 3e, but still not as common today.

      “I can go over to someone’s house and play Dominion, Ravenloft or Arkham Horror, Magic or a pick up RPG and [find that] they would have some experience with gaming. 10 years ago? Not a chance in hell.

      “Comments like the RPG industry dying are a blatant farce, and I don’t know how someone can say something like that with a straight face. There are numerically more gamers and more people gaming now than there ever have been, excepting perhaps the origin days of the hobby. The primary difference being everyone who’s doing it today is better and more serious about it.”

      Say what you will about the ‘grognards’, but they’re happy doing what they like, no one can take it away from them, and their little corner of the web is bustling right now, and getting larger all the time. I’ve spent more on their releases in the past six months than I have on mainstream stuff in years.

  7. Schiraman says:

    I find the MASSIVE RAGEFEST concerning D&D 4th rather puzzling TBH, it’s actually a very well put together game in most regards. In fact, in terms of gameplay, I’d say it’s generally a big step forwards from earlier editions – it’s just that it’s much weaker in terms of simulation and well… role-playing. A great fusion of RPG and board-game, if you will. But no longer a pure RPG.

    Aaaanyway – the big suggestion I’d make is to produce a solid e-book version of all the books for the next edition, and charge a reasonable price for them. And make the character builder, and other such tools, free downloads – to encourage players to get involved, rather than scare them off by requiring expensive books and subs.

    And while we’re at it, how about a standard not-too-expensive piece of software to render battle-maps on your PC instead of having to shell out for tiles and miniatures? Ideally this would allow networking so the DM could share the state of play with players who are playing via webcam or whatever.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      I’ll agree with you that it’s a step forward, and that it eschews “simulationism” – but how exactly is “here’s a broad framework for conflict resolution in case you need it, go forth and roleplay” something that’s “weaker in roleplaying” than “you need charts and DCs and special rules for every conceivable action or else you cannot do it. Didn’t take Profession: Basketweaver? Tough, you can’t weave baskets?”

    • Snargelfargen says:

      I would go so far as to say that 4th edition is primarily a board game. You can try to role-play, but as soon as combat starts up, the role-playing disappears as people start focusing on which of their powers they want to expend and so on. It isn’t even that great of a board game. My group of friends used to play 4th edition quite a bit, but we quickly moved on to better board games.

      @Alexander 3.5’s ridiculous rule set was definitely unnecessary. The good thing is that you were free to ignore the parts you didn’t like, such as the 30 different irrelevant skills.

    • Schiraman says:

      Well, if you want to argue that 3rd. Ed. (or any previous edition for that matter) wasn’t very good at roleplaying either then you’ll get no argument from me ;)

      Personally I find the skill system in 4th overly streamlined, and I do think it makes it harder to really define a well-rounded character – as opposed to just a combat build. For me, that makes a big difference – and not a positive one. But then non-combat roleplaying has never been D&D’s strong point, which is why I still think 4th. is an improvement overall.

      At the end of the day, there are plenty of other games out there – many of which do a better job of handling things like skills or personality traits than any version of D&D – so there are plenty of options for people who are looking for more story or character-focussed roleplaying (as opposed to tactical combat). That said, it’s a bit of a shame D&D has never managed to learn anything much from any of them ;)

    • Alexander Norris says:

      I would go so far as to say that 4th edition is primarily a board game. You can try to role-play, but as soon as combat starts up, the role-playing disappears as people start focusing on which of their powers they want to expend and so on.

      This is a problem common to every single edition of D&D, from day one. It is in no way limited to 4E, and to ascertain that this is somehow a new thing that makes 4E into not-an-RPG when previous editions of D&D were an RPG is pretty silly.

      Personally I find the skill system in 4th overly streamlined, and I do think it makes it harder to really define a well-rounded character – as opposed to just a combat build.

      How so? Pretty much anything you can think of is either covered by a stat or by a skill.

      And yeah – D&D has always been focused on combat, even in the days of Fantasy Vietnam rules. 4E is actually more roleplay-friendly than any edition since OD&D, but that doesn’t suddenly make D&D brilliant at stuff that isn’t focused around thumping things. Since D&D isn’t the only RPG, though, that’s fine! You can just play something else instead, something which was actually designed with non-combat stuff in mind.

    • Snargelfargen says:

      “Personally I find the skill system in 4th overly streamlined, and I do think it makes it harder to really define a well-rounded character – as opposed to just a combat build.”

      This is pretty much it. To expand on your point, in 2nd edition and 3.5, the way your character did things in combat informed their personality. For example, I wanted to play an evil mage, so I chose the spell ray of enfeeblement as my mainstay. His character was developed by simply using one spell that would inadvertently make people in heavy plate drown, or leave people to be torn apart by wild animals, etc… You could choose just about anything and use it as a personality trait.

      In 4th edition, combat abilities are nailed down for balancee purposes. The only thing a player can do is change the description of how they perform an action, and even that is limited because the result will always be the same. Character class, not actions informs your personality, making it quite hard to portray a unique character in the midst of combat.

      I struggled with this a lot when I played 4th edition. The only time I really had fun was when I was able to abuse the rules, creating an insane ranger specializing in archery that only used melee actions. His opening move in a fight was to run at an enemy, stab them with an arrow and then shoot it at someone else. These moments are few and far between in 4th edition. No matter what you do, you are always playing “just another fighter/ranger/whatever”, with an identical set of abilities to anybody else with the same “build”.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Alexander: why not go the whole hog and play Amber?

    • Werthead says:

      The MASSIVE RAGEFEST is basically down to one underlying fact: the underpinning design philosophy of 4E is dramatically different to the previous versions of the game, and is possibly even diametrically opposed.

      The problem is down to ‘balance’ and a player’s perception of it. The question is, do you believe that a character who can bend time and space to his will and conjure fire out of thin air should be inherently more powerful than some bloke who can hit things with a bit of metal? If your answer is yes, than 1-3E is for you. If the answer is no, than 4E is for you.

      Where the RAGEFEST really came from was from the long-standing D&D fans who felt that 4E was simply not D&D because it changed this underpinning design philosophy (as well as getting rid of the magic system that had been around since the very start of the game and a few other things). But then you had other players who felt the change was vital for the game and a major shake-up was required to give the game more life. And of course you also had people who felt that 4E was simply released way too quickly after 3.5E (five years, or less than half the lifespan of 1-2E) and was too obviously a money-grabbing move by WotC. Combine these things and you can see where the conflict comes from: between those who felt their game was being turned into something it was never meant to be and those who felt it was being held back from much-needed updating and evolving.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      @FunkyBadger3: because Amber is a horrible, horrible piece of atrocious un-design?

  8. 0WaxMan0 says:

    never was keen on D&D and D20 pretty much killed my RPG buying for a couple of years with so many systems using OGL. However I love 4th ED polish that and iterate and I may even run a campaign. The RPG world needs to look at what is around a bit more, the worst issue for tabletop RPG’s has to be clutter multi sheet characters rule books counters etc. plus miniatures for those interested and it gets hectic.
    I would live to see tablets, laptops phones etc being leveraged into reducing some of this augmented reality is a big possibility here, but with out an open system that has some major push that benefits gaming as a whole and not a single system we are destined to be slowly falling further behind.

  9. WatchGeek says:

    I was never a D&D player but I played a lot of P&P RPG’s and table-top games (Traveller,Twilight 2000, Car Wars). My all time favourite and still played is ADB’s Star Fleet Battles. The core game is still a table top strategy game but an on-line client (Star Fleet Battles On-Line) is an excellent example of how to bring a traditional game on-line. The client enables players from around the globe (and some games are truly international) to connect and play the game without need to be in the same location. You still need to possess the rule books, but the client allows for better tracking and game administration than you could ever to with pencil and paper.

    WOTC will need to explore methods that expand appeal and opportunity to play while still retaining the traditional book sales.

    If you want to stream line rules for easier/faster game play, then look what ADB did to create Federation Commander. Kids these days don’t have the patience or willingness to learn pages on pages of game rules.

  10. Reapy says:

    I’ve been a long time pc gamer and I’ve never really played d&d in any of its forms, though I’ve tried a few times. When I was younger it was just a hard concept for me to understand what it actually was. Later, around 3.5 times I tried to actually make a push into playing it, I had a group of willing people. Though everything fell on me and I tried slogging through the dm guide and player book, would have had to make a campaign and then instructed everybody how to play.

    Honestly it was just too much damn work. I guess if you’ve done it before it might not be as daunting a task to assemble and teach everybody, but getting started fresh is intimidating. I think I’ve read or looked through most of the master rule books for d&d, played almost every d&d themed computer game that has been out, even read various d&d message boards describing DM ‘funnies’ (a gazeebo?!?!) and tips and tricks, and I still, have no, freaking, clue, how I would actually play d&d on the tabletop with people.

    I think the biggest problem is just barrier to entry is way too high. There are tons of books, filled with pages and pages of rules and situations. Filtering out how to get started and where to begin and what to actually do is somewhat of a daunting task. Fixing this would probably be one of the best things they could do for the franchise.

    Also, as a PC gamer who has recently started diving into boardgames, there becomes a point when a board game gets so overly complex that you are just asking yourself why you aren’t playing it on a pc.

    Most of the better boardgames know how to walk this line just right such that the book keeping is kept to a minimum and you can enjoy moving physical pieces around without getting bogged down. D&D falls well over this line into the ‘should be using a computer for this’ territory, by a long shot.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      Try listening to this pod cast. It’s a nice little example of how a game is played: Scroll down to the bottom and start with episode one. link to

    • Skabooga says:

      Unfortunately, one of the best ways to learn how the play the game and eventually run one of your own is to play under the tutelage of a good DM. And without access to one of those, I’ll admit, the direction in which to proceed would be daunting.

      But it doesn’t need to be so daunting. Just wing it, with the goal of having as much fun as possible. If you make a rules mistake, don’t sweat it, no one is going to call you out on it (because you’re playing with people every bit as inexperienced as you), and if they do, just change the results accordingly (or don’t, because you’re the DM and can do whatever the hell you need to do to make sure everybody’s having a good time).

    • vagabond says:

      I remain unconvinced that anyone has ever started roleplaying cold. Certainly everyone I know that roleplays learned by joining a game run by someone that already knew what they were doing.

      If you’re actually keen to learn from someone else, there are plenty of online resources for finding a gaming group, most Universities and Colleges still have roleplaying clubs, and games stores usually have a noticeboard or something for people to find players. Failing all that, depending on where you live there may be some sort of annual gaming convention where you can play one off games.

      I’d recommend not starting with D&D if you can avoid it:
      a) It is more complicated and harder to pick up and run with than a bunch of other systems.
      b) It offers a particular kind of roleplaying that satisfies some people more than others. You’re probably getting some of what it offers from computer games, and I think there are qualitatively different experiences available with other systems that you may enjoy more.

      Lastly, if you do try it and find it distasteful, it may be worth bearing in mind that it is an inherently social activity and if you are in a bad group the experience will be a bad one. You may want to give it a second chance with different people. (I know people I get along well with, that I have tried roleplaying with and wont again, because they are bad players; just like I know people I wont boardgame with because they are poor losers, and they make playing the game not fun).

    • steviesteveo says:

      Absolutely agreed that people get into role playing because they have a friend or know someone who does role playing who shows them the ropes rather than they get the book off a shelf, absorb it in its entirety and go out and DM. My introduction to tabletop gaming was a club at school.

      I think it’s the same as many things — no one gets into poker cold either. You don’t read a book of all the bits that happen in poker and then go out and play it. You start playing because someone you know plays a couple of hands with you.

  11. Alexander Norris says:

    As an aside, Dancey is in no way an authority on WotC’s sales numbers – he works for Paizo and has every reason to be interested in making people think WotC are doing poorly. Quoting his opinion on their financial performance is like asking Bobby Kotick for a fair and honest appraisal of how EA are doing.

  12. Lobotomist says:

    5th edition !?!?!

    5th Edition !!!!!????


    Why did they make 4th edition ? I didnt buy any book of 4th edition. But some people took the bait and bought it.

    Now they have to be braindead to buy 5th …

    Oh my

    What an incompetent bunch of clowns WOTC is.

    Not to say that – originally 4th edition was supposed to come with online play tool.
    This was only logical thing.
    But the online tool never came to be. Scrapped for mysterious reasons.

    Also it was said that 4th edition was created to be easier for video game conversions. Yet no video game conversions were made since 4th edition came to be. (except that facebook game that doesnt even use 4th edition rules)

    Now big upcomming MMO is using Pathfinder rules, not D&D

    Just a sign D&D is dead thanks to WOTC

    • Kaira- says:

      It’s as if you believe 4th edition and all the supplements become obsolete and unusable now that 5th edition is in the works, and coming down a year or two down the line.

    • Lobotomist says:

      Your have +4 on cynicism roll

    • pegolius says:

      We still play 1e with our original books in our old-timers group. So, just because 5e will come out does not mean the books you’ve bought for 4e will become obsolete.

    • Pajama says:

      Wait… What? You didn’t even read the article, did you? This is probably the single best thing to happen to the D&D license in a long time. Especially since fans can help decide what they want to see get nailed down and what things thrown away. 4TH edition was just too simple with its rules, and was just so radically different from 3.X that it might as well have been a new series of games called ‘A noobs D&D Adventure’ which would be for new people to get into the games.

      Honestly, hardcore fans can ask for something, new guys ask for something, and everybody gets something new in return that they will like. You, as a DM can choose what you want / don’t want from the rule book.

  13. Cinnamon says:

    Just do any old self indulgent crap, shove it out of the door call it a contemporary version of D&D with genuine mass appeal. Get angry with anyone who doesn’t like it saying that they are neckbeards who are standing in the way of D&D moving forward as a medium. Video game levels of success guaranteed.

  14. Kaira- says:

    This is going to be mighty interesting what they’ll come up with. Perhaps dice pools? Perhaps more ways to resolve inter-party conflicts? Social mechanics? Maybe bringing the rules to a more simple form (like they did with 4th edition)? These seem to be the most common things wished from what I’ve followed the discussion on some forums.

  15. Kefren says:

    I still play the second edition. To my mind any decent game is much more about the stories and characters than the rules. As a result I’ve never had a problem with making up rules sometimes, and ignoring them at others, and bringing in things from other RPGs. Dice rolling can be fun but even that can be thrown out sometimes when story demands it.

    As a result, even though I loved D&D since my days of Fighting Fantasy, Manchester Dragonmeets, Games Day in London (1986) and so on, I am not worried what the rules are like really, since they are less important than the stories told. As such, as long as RPGs still exist, I don’t care which ones do well and which don’t – as long as people keep role-playing and creating interactive stories with emotional resonance and personalisation then the world has some nice things in it which I’m happy they exist. The last major game I DM’d was a game of ‘We’re All Going To Die’, which had no dice rolls, minimal character sheets, and only one rule – the player chosen at random at the beginning will survive; all the others will die. Only the GM (me) knew which player that was. The adventure was one of my favourites ever. I ended up using parts of it as the seed idea for my novel Turner (link to for anyone interested).

    • Alexander Norris says:

      To my mind any decent game is much more about the stories and characters than the rules.

      I agree, but mechanics do influence story – if Alice and Bob are both playing but the rules are such that Alice’s character can do all the interesting things and Bob’s is powerless because of the game’s balance, Bob’s not going to be having fun.

      And of course, a good GM can modify the rules so that Bob can have fun – but much like modding a game to go from alright to great, wouldn’t it be better if the GM didn’t have to modify the rules for Bob to have fun because the designer had done his job properly?

    • Kefren says:

      Yes, there’s a huge difference between good basic rules and not-so-good basic rules. I certainly don’t mean to imply that they’re unimportant. Just that a good GM can create a great game with any rulese (providing the players contribute). And a poor GM will probably not do that well even with a good ruleset.

      Also I would favour a system that emphasised good roleplaying. That’s one of the great disappointments for the way RPG is used in games like MMORPG. So often it translates as ‘gain skills and experience to make you fight better’. I watched a family member playing WoW recently, and it seemed to be just continuous battles and aiming to be efficient to the micro-second in exectuting commands (pressing buttons). I tried to explain where the term RPG came from, how it involved creating a character and acting as they would even if it was not the optimal decision; how the best games were those with flawed characters who failed but left a thousand tales behind, rather than those who levelled up the fastest and had the highest chance to hit. The concepts seemed a word away from his experiences.

      Re: Alice and Bob, I can imagine really great games where one player’s character ended up being the one who couldn’t do much except comment and criticise. The concept reminds me vaguely of a skull in Planescape Torment, or even ‘Polito’ in System Shock 2.

    • Soon says:

      I agree about the rule-set not mattering much. Our games were mostly about group interaction and exploring the world where rules weren’t particularly relevant because every encounter tended to be a special case tailored to the group/plot. People didn’t pick a fighter for the bonuses to hit things, but for the knowledge of fighting itself, or being able to intimidate people with their strength easier (though intimidation was still mostly based on how intimidating the player themselves acted).

      So, lore played a bigger role than mechanics for us. A wizard may be able to cast spells, but the reason why is much more interesting.

    • DrGonzo says:

      No, it’s much better when the GM modifies the game for the player. That’s much better, makes you feel more connected. But most importantly keeps the rules down.

      It used to be entirely possible to get into D&D in an evening playing a game with friends.

    • Baines says:

      A good GM can make even a bad RPG good. A bad GM will make a good RPG mediocre at best.

      The big problem is that most GMs range from average to bad.

      The crutch for GMs is to put more rules in the game. The more rules you have, the more things that can be looked up for a definitive answer instead of left to the GM to decide. Also, the more rules there are, the more ideas a GM might get for things that are possible. And the more rules, the more the players can be expected to know to cover what the GM doesn’t know or forgets.

      The more rules you have, the more likely an average/bad GM won’t dip too far below a mediocre game, because the game is doing most of the work for him.

      The flip side is that a lot of rules don’t raise the game for everyone, they just cause everything to drift towards a middle ground. A lot of rules can become restrictive for a good GM and good players. (Although, mind, part of being a good GM is knowing what to ignore, rewrite, or just casually apply.) The main problem here is that even if the rules are good, they aren’t necessarily the rules for every particular group. For some people, stuff like AD&D’s weapon speed chart was what worked for them. For others, it wasn’t. But once the rules are in the books, people feel that they should play them because they are playing the game, and not some homebrew concoction.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      It used to be entirely possible to get into D&D in an evening playing a game with friends.

      By “used to,” do you mean “up until AD&D2 when the rules became so convoluted and arcane (something only made worse by 3.x) that it wasn’t possible anymore, and now it’s possible again thanks to 4E being balanced?” If so, I agree!

    • pertusaria says:

      Alexander Norris says:
      01/09/2012 at 19:21

      >> It used to be entirely possible to get into D&D in an evening playing a game with friends.

      > By “used to,” do you mean “up until AD&D2…”

      Er… I got into D&D in an evening playing AD&D2 with friends. Yes, I did go home and read the manual afterward, but I enjoyed every minute of it, and the hour or so I spent writing my character’s life history because I felt like it.

      I realise this is incredibly nerdy, and of course I accept that I like 2nd Ed mainly because it’s how I got into the game, but don’t assume it’s not newbie-friendly in the hands of a good DM.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      @pertusaria: you’re right – but neither is 4E (in fact, 4E is probably a lot more newbie-friendly than, at the very least, 3.5).

  16. c-Row says:

    They should bring back Planescape. I still have fond memories of our group playing the Modron March campaign every other weekend. *silently weeps* Sorry, there’s something in my eye.

    • InternetBatman says:

      They kept Sigil in 4e, but it doesn’t make a ton of sense given the cosmology.

    • Highstorm says:

      Planescape still exists! I play in a 2e game semi-regularly with 3 friends and we happen to be doing the Modron March.

      Which is making me hate Modrons something fierce…

    • pegolius says:

      There has been quite a nice book written/released in 2004 by the original minds of Planescape. It was released under OGL I think. I bought it and I must say it was a good purchase. link to

  17. InternetBatman says:

    On the one hand I don’t get why people were so angry about 4e. They still have the 3e books, and most DMs make most of their content anyways. On the other hand, those books are freaking expensive, so I can see being annoyed that your investment stops being supported. I would be more annoyed at this than 3e, because they split all their major stuff into 3 parts.

    I’m a relatively new player. I tried a bit of 3e and found it a little too modular, there were so many sources and player books that it was hard for the DM to balance. I’ve tried 4e and find the combat much more satisfying, but two weaknesses stuck out at me: Combat powers need more defined out of combat and terrain uses. Why can’t I use my shaman’s frost powers to freeze a small section of a stream?; I also just have a general problem with the power descriptions. The powers have really good numerical progression, but they don’t have a great source or description progression. This is partly the fault of the awesome level one powers you get, but also a result of power sources being poorly defined.

    Also, everyone should use maptools. It is great.

    • vecordae says:

      Yeah. Supplement creep on 3E got pretty ridiculous. There were something like 40 books just for 3.5, most of which were only interesting for a particular class or feat or monster. Unfortunately, that’s how these kinds of companies have to stay afloat. Each book promises that it might contain something that will make your imaginary elf warlord even more powerful and we lap it up.

      Oh do we lap it up.

  18. Vagrant says:

    2 ideas, the second being derivative of the first:

    1) Develop a great software for people to play online with friends. Make it work on pc, mac, tablets, maybe even phones. Video and voice chat are all but required. They should actively avoid making this too much like a video game.

    2) The same thing, except integrated into a social network.

    • InternetBatman says:

      It would be great if they developed something that included the functions of Maptools and the 4e character creator, with built in macros, voice and maybe video, and didn’t tie it down with a subscription fee and instead supported it with DLC that was basically the Wizard magazine stuff.

      They won’t do it, but all the examples are there if they want to take advantage of it.

  19. Mordsung says:

    I’ll stick with Pathfinder.

    Everytime D&D has changed hands (from TSR to WOTC, from WOTC to Hasbro) the game has gotten worse.

    At least Paizo seems to be a company of gamers making stuff for gamers.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Pathfinder are a company whose entire marketing strategy rests on feeding the edition war and who made Pathfinder a viable product by reprinting OGL content with minimal changes. Their entire mode of functioning is cynical profiteering, and they are most definitely not “a company of gamers making stuff for gamers.”

    • Mordsung says:

      Alexander: You can play PF right now for free. All their info is on the PFSRD, online, for free.

      You do not need to buy a single book to play Pathfinder. They have provided all the mechanics of their entire system online, for free.

      The ONLY thing you’ve had to buy is optional suppliments like the PF campaign setting or adventures. Since a lot of Gms just invent their own campaign settings and adventures anyway, they can use PF FOR FREE, LEGALLY.

      Even the D20 SRD for 3.5 holds back info like exp tables and the like. Not the PFSRD, it has everything, even prestige classes from their supplemental material FOR FREE.

      How can a company who literally gives away their product be profiteering?

    • Alexander Norris says:

      How can a company who literally gives away their product be profiteering?

      a company whose entire marketing strategy rests on feeding the edition war

      Profiteering is a pejorative term for the act of making a profit by methods considered unethical.

    • vecordae says:

      I’m sure if they think really, really hard about it they might find a way.

    • Mordsung says:

      I don’t see how creating a superior version of 3.5 is unethical, especially when they proceed to give it away for free and only make money on selling information related to their own, unique campaign setting.

      And what edition war? 4th lost that war, it’s over, even WOTC is admitting it with their drive for 5th.

      WOTC released a damn near perfect RPG system with 3.5

      Pathfinder fixed the broken parts, rebalanced the classes, made character building more fun, invented hundreds of new feats and then provided all of this for free to the community.

      That’s not profiteering by any stretch of the imagination. They did us a bloody service, one they did for free.

    • vecordae says:


      The Edition War is the thing you are participating in right now by declaring that 4E was a huge screwup and that 3E (your “side” in this war) was a superior product in every single way.

      3E wasn’t perfect and, by the end of its product cycle, was a huge, convoluted mess of splatbooks, supplemental rules, and dragonspawn. It was the one I liked best, but it wasn’t the best ruleset for everyone and I can understand why.

    • Mordsung says:

      Sure, 3 and 3.5 had a lot of unnecessary books, but I am talking about the mechanics of the system.

      You only need judge a system by it’s core books, as that’s all one needs to play. The mechanics of 3.5 were the strongest mechanics put into D&D at the time. They had more form than 2nd, but hadn’t got to the point of 4th where every class felt like the same class as every class basically had “spells”.

      3.75, or Pathfinder, cleaned up the mechanics of 3.5 into a very nice package.

      And, since Paizo has provided all mechanical aspects of Pathfinder for FREE, they’re not profiteering.

      4th was an attempt to completely rewrite the very foundation of D&D, a foundation many of us liked. 3.75 is what 4th should have been. An expansion and tightening of 3.5 rules.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      The mechanics of 3.5 were the strongest mechanics put into D&D at the time.

      You’re right! And that time was from the release of 3.5 to the release of 4E, and ended in 2008.

      They had more form than 2nd, but hadn’t got to the point of 4th where every class felt like the same class as every class basically had “spells”.

      The only way the 4E classes can “all feel the same” is if you literally cannot read. There are huge differences in playstyle from build to build, never mind class to class.

      As an aside, without wanting to edition-war more than necessary: Pathfinder still hasn’t fixed caster supremacy.

      4th was an attempt to completely rewrite the very foundation of D&D, a foundation many of us liked.

      At no point has anyone forced you to stop playing with those foundations, either in the form of 3.5 or Pathfinder, so where exactly is the problem?

  20. Snuffy the Evil says:

    This is a PC gaming site and all, but there are a few people doing something similar on the 3DS.

    link to

  21. Snidesworth says:

    I don’t think D&D can compete without fundamentally changing what it’s about. It’s always been a game where the core theme is “band of adventurers take on evil with spell and sword.” Combat’s a huge part of it, and that combat’s been pretty detailed for some time. That’s what draws most people to it, beyond it being the most common gateway RPG. The thing is that video games do combat heavy adventuring much better than tabletop gaming does. All rolls and calculations are handled by the computer, you have fancy graphics and you’re not restricted by a turn based format (not to say turn based is bad, but the option to go real time is an advantage).

    The advantages of playing a PnP RPG, beyond the tabletop experience, is being able to have your character try to do anything you can imagine and for there to be a story that everyone playing has some control over. D&D doesn’t prohibit this, but its rules are set up both to provide a complex and cohesive set of mechanics to govern play. People even run tournaments, reinforcing the idea that it’s a system of hard rules designed for competitive play rather than a set of mechanics there to provide some framework for what’s essentially a game of pretend. Those who want the former go to video games and those who want the latter tend to steer clear of D&D.

    It doesn’t help that D&D’s basic setting is pretty bland, though it’s largely there to serve as a seed for whatever sort of fantasy adventure the players want. Still, it means that it’s not as good at grabbing the attention of a potential player, especially since generic looking fantasy games are a dime a dozen these days.

    • Lobotomist says:

      Sad but true

      And this is coming from diehard D&D fan.

      What D&D needs is to be left alone. No version or gameplay change will make it more appealing than it is. They should just decide on rule-set and commit to it.

      This is only way to keep it on some kind of life support for core fans

    • vecordae says:

      I’d actually like to see a modular core system with a few basic classes (kind of like the 3.0/3.5 SRD stuff) given away for free and having the company sell self-contained, well written adventures and settings. Most of what you got with 3E and 4E were additional mechanics. We don’t really need that. Give the players and DMs some inspiration with really cool and exotic settings and things to do besides hit stuff with a sword or shoot magic at a demonic pony. DMs like to do their own thing, but things like political intrigue and world building require a real knack and not everyone has it. Giving them some ideas on how to properly structure and frame such things would only help.

  22. Schadenfreude says:

    The best gaming experience of my life was when I used to log onto a weekly campaign built in Neverwinter Nights. The module was custom built and run by a team of three DMs and there were seven or eight of us in the group itself. Obviously not as ‘do what you want’ reactive as tabletop, but pretty damn close, no doubt the DMs were scrabbling every week to keep up with what was happening.

    If WotC released the means to play online I would be on it like a shot and so would many, many others – through in a little video-conferencing softerware and you’re set.

  23. Rahabib says:

    2 things. I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that digital is the way to go.

    1) The proliferation of tablets, cell phones, and even ipods, makes it the future. All this technology will help speed up the game as long as it doesnt hinder the creative aspect of PnP RPGs.

    2) Make the games larger in scope rather than dumbing down the system. I wasn’t much into D&D, but I loved and poured countless hours in MERP/Rolemaster. Its a much heavier realistic RPG, but it also required way too many charts etc. and slowed the game down. If technology can assist in this aspect, then PnP can still survive as a counter to the limited decision and creativity of video game RPGs.

    oh and in the future, dont kill off the good creative video game RPGs that are more akin to the PnP versions like Neverwinter Nights. That, to this day, is still the best video game RPG ever released, and Ill fight anyone who says otherwise!

  24. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    Back in the day, the best pen and paper RPG experiences I ever had relied 99% on the people I was with – not the ruleset. That’s why D&D4 wasn’t really an issue for me – so that 1% of the experience has a few mechanical differences, so what.

    I don’t know, perhaps the earlier editions were slightly better. Who knows. But it didn’t ultimately matter that much if you ask me.

  25. avoidperil says:

    Since I moved to London, I’ve been playing with a 4E group at and really enjoying it. I probably wouldn’t have found a group if it wasn’t for networking sites like that. That’s probably where the future lies – using computers to bring players together. Plus most DMs I know have a rule of NO PCs AT THE GAMING TABLE.

  26. Ovno says:

    They’ve all been bad since 3rd Ed came out, back in Ad&d (or 2nd ed as its otherwise known) you always tried to avoid the fight since it took so long to play out what with thac0 and everything, so you roleplayed instead, once 3rd ed arrived you might as well been playing diablo, especially as you could get a diablo 2 rule book for it…

  27. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    It’s strange to hear that pen and paper (and D&D) are on the decline when in my circle of friends it has become kind of a novelty. We started playing 4E last summer, which for most of us was the first time we’d gamed in 15 years. Another group of my friends also recently started up a different campaign. I’m not really sure what brought us back to it. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s getting to the age where you have to have something to do to justify hanging out with your friends. Either way, we’ve been having a blast.

    By far my biggest turn-off is the fat nerds on the internet telling me that I shouldn’t be having this much fun with 4E, or that the game is getting in the way of the story. As a DM, I’ve really enjoyed the challenge of stringing along the plots of my campaign, and I’ve never felt like the system was getting in my way. On the contrary, so much effort has been put into balance that I can do a whole lot less micromanagement than I thought I would, giving me more time to work on flavor and interesting stories.

    It sounds like WoTC’s solution to lagging sales is to redesign the game. I’m not sure that’s necessarily the best idea though. I think that if they put more effort into programs like Encounters, which bring in new players, they may have a fighting chance. My suggestion would be to provide some free materials to high school and college D&D clubs, and run training seminars for DM’s.

  28. BenLeng says:

    D&D? Pffff. Real nerds play GURPS!

    • tentaclesex says:

      I’d buy GURPS: Dungeons & Dragons

      Joking aside, the GURPS translations of the White Wolf games were terrific, in spite of WW intentionally hindering them.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy is supposedly really good. You might want to check that out.

  29. MythArcana says:

    Wizards of the Coast is a tool of Hasbro who is setting the low standards for us PC gamers. The client for Magic Online is a prime example of the dysfunction within this organization and I wish to Cod they would ask those users how they can improve that train wreck, but never will.

    I’m not really one of the bellyachers regarding the 4th Edition rules and simply see this as yet another one of WotC’s mandatory update cycling routines. New editions equals money train. New MTG card sets equals money train. Keep releasing crap on top of crap equals money train.

    Ars Magica seemed to have reached peak at 5th Edition; perhaps WotC will follow suit? No flippin’ way!!

  30. nickylee says:

    Having played and enjoyed every version of D&D since AD&D 2nd Edition, I for one thoroughly welcomed the streamlined 4th edition reboot. I will be very sad to see it replaced, in fact, since it was accessible enough that my wife, having never roleplayed in her puff, thoroughly enjoyed playing it at our Friendly Local Gaming Store.

    Also I wouldn’t hold your breath for the cool Digital Game Table that was announced what feels like forever ago. I used to be a D&D Insider subscriber on the basis of that announcement and after waiting years we eventually got the crappy web based virtual game table that they now offer. The marketing seemed to make it clear that this was the only offering of it’s like we’d be getting.

  31. robotsneedlove says:

    Seems that people never read forewords to RPG books. I’m pretty sure most of them mention the concept of altering all the rules you don’t like, relaxing and having fun afterwards.

  32. Morph says:

    ‘Pen & Paper RPGs are dying’ is about as accurate as ‘PC Gaming is dying’. Basically it’s impossible to tell and probably not true. RPGs are simply becoming more diverse. D&D sell less, but Pathfinder is selling well. Fantasy Flight are doing great from their 40k games. Meanwhile there are so many indie RPGs out there that are doing well.

  33. Highstorm says:

    As has been mentioned a few times above, MapTool is a great program for playing PnP games online. I’ve been doing so with a core group of friends for the past 6 years or so, in a variety of systems, and we’re getting ready to start our first 4e game soon.

    It’s a powerful tool when you get into working with macros and token properties and such. Like you can put in the stats on your character’s token, then create macro buttons for attacks that automatically call to those values for the roll. It really speeds up combat. There are a lot of community-made frameworks out there for a wide variety of systems from D&D 4e to Shadowrun, etc. And it’s all free!

    link to

  34. Eich says:

    Geez, just use whatever rules were used for Baldurs Gate 2. AD&D or 2.5 or whatever I just don’t know ^^ I long for the times in which magicians couldn’t wear heavy armor and priests couldn’t use pointy things… such great times ^^

  35. aircool says:

    WotC turned D&D into an overblown, overcomplicated, miniature-centric pile of shite.

  36. Bobby Oxygen says:

    D&D mainstream success edition:
    1) All dungeons are now linear corridors. This way noone gets confused about where they need to go next, and eliminates the need to ever look at a map (which is almost as lame as reading a book).
    2) Goblins are now terrorists. The shifty little bastards.
    3) Inventory management consists solely of selecting between your 2 available weapons. Choice is kept at a minimum and the player is never frustrated by being required to think and/or make decisions.
    4) Regenerating HP.
    5) Player interaction is streamlined to only attacking monsters and opening chests. Those are the best bits anyway, noone REALLY wants all that other stuff.
    6) The GM is replaced with a immortal NPC that tells you where to go and what to do. Failure to obey the NPC results in XP loss. Obey the NPC at all times.
    7) Dicerolls are completely removed. Combat and similar events are now resolved by hitting a sensor plate with a stick.
    8) Every 5 hours of play, the player will be given the option to have sex with a hot elf girl with big titties.

    • vecordae says:

      And if you’d rather hit the hot elf chick with a stick and have sex with a sensor plate, there is always World of Darkness.

    • Memph says:

      “4) Regenerating HP.”

      i’ll have some of that tbh. i’m trying oh, so bloody hard to really like baldur’s gate, being a complete dnd newbie, but these fights where i just get shitcanned by a mage and gaggle of other random creatures out of nowhere, swing so hard on my tits. i’m gritting my teeth just to play past the 6867986790th reload. winning fights ‘easily’ for me comes down to nothing but cheese and/or luck, either laying down thick CC and letting the ranged just mop up (yawn), or kiting mobs 1 by 1 onto the screen (itself a process of trial and error with the absolutely abysmal AI and infuriating pathfinding as they run around like bucket-headed chimps into 1-shot melee range, but that’s not dnd specific i guess.).
      one thing my brief experience with CRPGs has me curious of is if the tabletop games are equally as brutal (especially in early game where 1 shot off almost anything drops your so called tank)? sometimes i really wonder how a big game gets going, or is most of that time spent restarting or running the hell away?
      i did enjoy toee’s combat immensely, once it got going, but again the early levels were nothing but an excercise in trial, error, strokes of luck and sweat-soaked, testicular torsioning determination.
      my point being, ahem, that should they return to PC, they should definitely make these things more accessible as a single player game. that may be dumbing down to some, but i haven’t seen one yet where the beginning wasn’t anything but an irritating swing and missathon.

  37. groove1984 says:

    “Ryan Scott Dancey, chief executive of the game company Goblinworks and a former vice president at Wizards of the Coast, said the overall market peaked between 1999 and 2003.”

    So between 1999 and 2003 these PC video games came out : Baldur’s Gate, Planescape Torment, Icewind Dale, Baldur’s Gate 2, Icewind Dale 2, Neverwinter Nights. Plus, obviously, their many expansion packs. A PC RPG golden age driven by Black Isle Studios and BioWare. Now I might be putting two and two together and getting six here but is there any coincidence that at a time when D&D branded PC games were receiving excellent reviews (all of these games bar IwD2 received consistent 90%+ review scores) and good sales (I presume, seeing as they made so many of them) that tabletop D&D sales were also boosted?

    Why view video games as the enemy when it potentially offers a great taster to your pen and paper products to a new set of players? Find a talented studio and get them making great D&D games again. Of all the best fantasy PC RPGs to have come out in more recent years (Olbivion, Skyrim, Dragon Age, Dungeon Siege series etc.) none of them have the D&D logo on them.

  38. PlanetTimmy says:

    To be honest, I wouldn’t mind the red box Basic set. It’s the last version I played.

    • JustOneWay says:

      I still have the original Red Box set (well the books from inside it anyway, the box is long gone). (I have all the follow on sets too). I had a look at them again recently when I moved and was amazed at how succinct they are. The books are short, the text is generously spaced and liberally illustrated and a substantial amount of them is devoted to describing exactly what playing is like. You could certainly read them right through in an evening.
      As an entry point to the hobby I still think they are pretty amazing really.
      I know there was a 4e re-release intended to do the same thing. Was is any good?

  39. Tyshalle says:

    I’ve been doing text-based role playing over chat rooms for well over a decade now. It’s pretty much the only way I’ve ever role played, and while I know it’s entirely a matter of taste, I find it to be far, far superior to face-to-face role playing.

    There’s plenty of software out there that is made specifically for this sort of thing. Look up a program called MapTool. It’s literally a virtual table-top, complete with chat rooms, dice rollers, tokens that can store your entire character sheet on it, programs to keep track of initiative and tons of custom mods and frameworks. And it’s not the only one of its kind out there, either.

    • NathanH says:

      The system ate my comment about text-based roleplaying, so I’ll make it here. I really like it. It’s much more comfortable and convincing to type rather than speak. Everyone seems to play with much more confidence than I’ve ever seen in face to face games.

      When I played text-based roleplaying with some of my Baldur’s Gate 2 friends, we didn’t even need any software for it. The DM handled everything, and it worked quite well. Everyone knew the rules, so knew basically what was going on, but nobody but the DM had to worry about any rules. When I was DM I made all the dice rolls and never told anyone what the rolls were, and everyone was perfectly happy about it (apart from the time when some commoner rolled a 20 on his saving throw and the wizard complained to me about it for weeks :-P)

  40. shoptroll says:

    Oh boy, here we go again….

  41. JackShandy says:

    Just hire Zack Smith. Problem solved.

    link to

  42. Tomhai says:

    Well Hollywood and AD&D raised me, so I’m totally biased then it comes to comparing different D&D systems. But in reality I dont think that the question is which one is better at all. Rather the question is do we really need another D&D sytem? I’d say we dont. WotC face an uphill battle here not really because penandpaper have a hard time competing with vidoegames (althoug this is also true), but because there really is no need for another gamesystem. I mean videogames sell because you get a more or less new product in terms of the setting or story or levels or whatever you want to call it. Not so much because you get a new gamemechanic. If Fallout, Jagged Alliance or Silent Storm had been made on the XCom mechanics it would have been all good with me. I dont mind them havinf different systems, I might even like it, but XCom as a perfect TBS tactical system would have been just fine with a different setting and levels etc. With penandpaper I am even less interested in a new system. For me personally ADD is perfect – just give more sourcebooks and I’m fine. Maybe a lot of folks disliked ADD, but with 3.5 and 4ed, now I think there is something for everybody and even if you make a new system that SOME people will prefer, it will only divide the fanbase even more. So it’s a fundamental issue that relly cant be solved.

  43. radian says:

    1. Bring back Planescape setting.
    2. ???
    3. Profit.

  44. Koraction says:

    The biggest problem with the whole industry is exactly what WOTC is doing. The basic business plan seems to be to 1) release a new edition 2) over saturate the market with supplements and 3) repeat. If an edition works just fine and there is a solid fan base then the only incentive to release a new edition is to make money. But it is the only way they can money and that sucks. If you like the new stuff that’s great but It would be nice if they could release all their old stuff digitally for the folks that they alienated.

    What do we even mean by “moving forward” with a rpg rules? What would WOTC move forward? The only thing that moves forward in the pen and paper RPG industry is the medium in which it is presented. That is pretty much it. WOTC may develop a new idea for how they think their game should work but new doesn’t mean better or that it is progress.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      But it is the only way they can money and that sucks.

      Well, WotC are investigating alternate revenue streams, which is why they have DDI. The whole supplement treadmill is sort of a basic problem of the integration between capitalism and RPGs, though, agreed.

      What do we even mean by “moving forward” with a rpg rules?

      Erm, the same thing we mean when we say “moving forward” with video games? RPG design is not a static art passed down from the ancestors. It is an evolving process, same as video game design.

      You are completely wrong about “the only thing that moves forward” in RPGs – cf. the Forge.

  45. Daniel Klein says:

    [Warning! Controversial RPG theory inc]

    One model of roleplaying holds that, aside from the obvious social reasons, there are three main reasons we enjoy the nerdish delicacies that are RPGs:

    1) Simulationism. The feel of being in a real, OTHER world that makes coherent sense.
    2) Gamism: I’m better than you. We’re better than the DM. Our group is better than this module. There’s an even playing field and I WIN.
    3) Narrativism: We’re making stories happen. Stories are awesome.

    1 and 2 are what trad RPGs are all about: your D&Ds and your GURPSes and your Rolemasters (I’m really showing my age here). Normally it’s all simulationism, with gamism stigmatized as being a munchkin (someone who tweaks in-game stats “abusively” to receive maximum power with no regard for the fiction), but some systems have also embraced gamism to some degree (whenever there’s talk of games being balanced or not, when roll fudging is looked down on etc you’ve got a gamist game).

    Here’s the thing: both 1) and 2) are done much better by computer games. The room for improvement I see here are cool gadgets that take care of the tedious-as-fuck bookkeeping complex gamist/simulationist games demand. Me, I’ve moved on to things that put story front and centre. Some starting points would be “Fiasco” (from Bully Pulpit Games) or “Montsegur 1244” (from Thoughtful Games). Check those out if you like things narrative!

    • Koraction says:

      I’ve always been a fan of the simulation approach to D&D with a good helping of narrative. Once they dumped 2nd ed and all the books that I had purchased became useless, the other thing that drove me crazy was how D&D became overrun with power gamers.

      P.S. My books became useless because the gaming community hear in Seattle (which included my gaming friends) WOTC fanboys to the bone so everything new is always better if it their logo on it.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      I was in the D&D 3rd playtest and my group quit in disgust when they learned that dwarfs could be paladins. Looking back I realize I grew up in a nurturing, racist environment.

    • Banyan says:

      I’d actually disagree with the assertion that computer RPGs are better at dealing with simulationist and gamist players. Player end up sitting around the room for a huge number of reasons – one guy wants to feel like a heroic badass, one guy wants to explore the backstory of his intricately described rogue, the one girl wants to be Arwen, the other guy wants to impress the girl who wants to be Arwen. And then once you figure out why the player is there, the GM gives them a chance to do what they really want. It took me way too long GMing to figure out that my role was not to memorize the rules, but help people have a good time. I’ve never played a computer game that got close to the experience of a good tabletop game.

      D&D has always been incredibly crunchy, so you sometimes get uber-munchkins who think their job is to “beat” the DM (rather than succeed in the obstacle presented to the characters) and whose sole joy in the game was finding a reading of a rule that allowed them to rollplay to advantage. (I use “DM” here because D&D seems to attract a majority of the munchkins though WoD had an issue as well.) Those people tended to avoid me after I described how I ran a campaign.

      I can’t believe you played Rolemaster. Way back in the early 90s my group was so turned off by the insane process of character creation that we just ignored requests to actually play. It made Traveller or Shadowrun character creation look like Fudge.

  46. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I was always more interested in D&D as a source of flavour than as a system. I guess I like 2nd ed. AD&D most because I’m most familiar with it, the fluff is neat (all the class/race handbooks, settings, etc.) and such. 4th ed., in comparison, is more streamlined, but feels like it loses flavour because of it.

    Certainly, stats/rules don’t equal flavour, but they can certainly play a big part depending on how you play.

    In the end, I’m not that interested in a new version of D&D, really, but it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with.

  47. Bart Stewart says:

    I played White Box D&D and 1st ed. AD&D back in the day, and consider subsequent editions to be naked attempts to squeeze more money out of gamers. 1st ed. rules are perfectly playable, thank you, especially considering any competent DM is going to apply his own judgement to running a game, anyway.

    I have not played 4th ed., but from what I have read of the rules it was a heavyhanded attempt to fuse tabletop D&D with most of the already-sterile conventions of certain current popular MMORPGs — you know, to keep it relevant for the kids today. Why should anyone think that was a good idea when if “the kids” want that kind of gameplay they can get it from an actual MMORPG?

    I will grudgingly concede that this and future generations probably aren’t as interested in using, like, you know, books and stuff as a dinosaur like me. But I don’t think the extant hardware is up to the task of supporting the D&D experience as graph paper, pencils, rulebooks and imagination once did. (For that matter, neither is the Artemis Star Trek-like simulator repurposed for fantasy, although it’s probably the closest we can come today to the right toolset.)

    Get back to me on “Digital D&D” when a reasonable number of urbanites have something like a Microsoft Surface in their homes, or when we can beam into other people’s homes per Logan’s Run.

    • pakoito says:

      >Get back to me on “Digital D&D” when a reasonable number of urbanites have something like a Microsoft Surface in their homes, or when we can beam into other people’s homes per Logan’s Run.

      This already exists, it’s called Vassal or the other one people have mentioned.

  48. pakoito says:


  49. piratmonkey says:

    I never had a chance to play AD&D but according to my mom’s stories, it seemed to be quite fun. However, 3.x was just an un-startable clusterfuck towards the end.
    Trying to rope in a new player quickly? Good luck if you have the supplementary books! That’ll just take fucking hours to pick all the cool feats/spells/skills in the dozens of different books.
    I much prefer 4e’s sensible rules which allow me to be a wizard without the “Welp, I ran out of spells for today, guess I’ll just lob rocks at you with a sling. What joy it is, being a low level wizard.”
    I’d love to see some better online tools for PnP roleplaying though. I hate using physical books and a browser dice roller and skype to play Dark Heresy (my space marine punched a daemon so hard in the face with a servo arm HE EXPLODED IN WARP GOO). However, my space marine’s junk was mortally wounded moments later when he took a warp blade to the crotch though…

  50. malkav11 says:

    If videogames are eating their lunch, perhaps they should work with someone to make a proper 4E videogame, not bland actiony hack-n-slash games or absurdly simplified Facebook games.