Friday, November 6, 2009

Dungeons and Dragons: Who will inherit the legacy?

I got an Email from Amazon asking if I wanted to sell any Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 material. I think it highlights the popularity of the d20 system and the failure of the fourth edition. Usually, about now, everyone is dumping their previous version to purchase the new one. The market for 3.5 materials should be flooded with players wanting to upgrade and prices should be depressed. Instead, now that the previous version is out of print, demand is higher than ever. A player’s handbook fetches about $90 new and $60 used. This while the free and remarketed Dungeons and Dragons Online is becoming wildly popular (to the point of server overload) and the entire online system is built on the 3.5 rule set.

Meanwhile, Green Ronin Publishing is pushing hard to replace the D20 system with their True20 system that is built on the 3.5 System Reference Documents that were released by Wizards and published under the Open Gaming License. I have seen their true20 on the shelves of two game stores I have visited in the last month. Clearly they are poised to strike at Wizards weakness and are looking to push True20 in as the real heir to the Dungeons and Dragons gaming legacy. They like to say, “True20 is the latest in generations of adventure roleplaying games that have been around since the 1970s.”

I have two 3.5 player handbooks at my disposal that are shared between two campaign groups. I want players to consider purchasing the books themselves. Should I place a $60-$90 burden on them? I think I could ask them to purchase the True20 players handbook at $30, or at least the PDF version for $9.99.

Hasbro’s downsizing last year saw Wizards of the Coast dump Jonathan Tweet (the main author of the 3.5 handbook). With this behavior you have to wonder what of interest will be coming out of Wizards in the future. Meanwhile a small upstart is attempting to co-opt a legacy.


Unknown said...

Another "heir to the throne" is Paizo Publishing's Pathfinder. Paizo used to hold the license to publish Dragon & Dungeon magazine. When WoTC pulled that in advance of 4.0 Paizo created a new set of campaign modules in a subscription format. Originally it was based on 3.5, but they eventually created their own 3.5-based system.

The Rampant Coyote said...

We're moving to Pathfinder this month, as soon as out 3-year-long campaign (good heavens!!!!) comes to a close later this month (we only play every other week, for about 3ish hours, so it goes slowly).

IMO, it's the closest heir to the throne. But I haven't done more than browsed the True20 system. But Paizo's got a bunch of the old 3.0 / 3.5 crew laid off from Wizards working with them now, and they have money and marketing power to make it happen. They enjoyed STELLAR sales that blew way past their projections and hopes (selling out BEFORE release, even), while 4th edition failed to meet expectations.

Of course, D&D is in a league of its own, so a "dismal failure" for 4E is possibly an order of magnitude above a "stellar success" for someone else. But still. It's hopeful.

And yeah - Pathfinder is basically a re-branding of the OGL. It's designed to be compatible with 3.5 - and where there were some power inflation that took place, it was principally to bring the "core classes" up to the power level of later prestige classes which were also inflated during 3.5's run. So now it's no longer stupid to play a Fighter to 20th level.

I also have Castles & Crusades, which attempted to take the strengths of the OGL / D20 system and make them closer to the old 1st edition experience. So it's kinda like playing 1E with more streamlined rules. I like the system, but I prefer the flexibility of 3.5 / Pathfinder.