6 hours ago
Friday, March 30, 2012
Change for the Sake of Change: More 5e Thoughts
So, this weekend (appropriately on April 1), Google is forcing me and everyone else who blogs using their service to switch to a new interface. In the past, they have invited me to try this new interface and I have found that it does all the things the old interface did, only less efficiently (especially if using a tablet), and have therefore not willingly stuck with the change, preferring the old interface because it works really well for what I want to do. As far as I can tell, the only reason to do this massive change is in order to do a massive change. In the meantime, I have to put up with all the bugs, all the extra button pushes and no guarantees that I will be able to be as effective as I have been since starting this blog.
Call me a grognard, a stick-in-mud or a Luddite, but I live by the adage: If’n it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Change for the sake of change is a recipe for disaster. This got me thinking about the advent of 5e (especially in light of the delay for the arrival of the 1e reprints).
When it comes to RPGs, no one can accuse me of being some kind of reactionary. The whole purpose of this blog is to change the relationship RPGs have with religion. I’ve also done plenty of tinkering with my own game (weapon vs. AC charts anyone?). The reason for these efforts is because I see something that is broken and have endeavored to fiddle to see if anything works better (nothing so far on the weapon vs. AC charts, unfortunately).
Largely, however, I am very satisfied with the game I have been playing for the better part of thirty years — because it works. This is one of the reasons why I have not paid much attention to all the various happenings with 5e, other than here’s to hoping I can be a customer of WotC again when they reissue parts of their library that I’d be interested in purchasing.
It is here that I have to ask the question: Is 5e really necessary? Is WotC changing for the sake of change, or is there really a problem that needs to be fixed?
I will grant that WotC does see a problem — the hobby is very balkanized with plenty of people out there who happily put on the edition warrior helmet. There are also a whole segment of the hobby that is happily spending their money on products not produced by WotC. These problems, however, are not mechanical problems, they are people problems.
As I see it, no amount of mechanical fiddling, or mechanical change for the sake of mechanical change is going to solve the fundamental problem of a balkanized hobby. Rather, what will fix the problem is how WotC treats the people who do this hobby.
This is one of the reasons why I see the reprint of the core 1e rules as a huge step in the right direction (and hope the delay is due to trying to meet a larger demand than expected), even though I am not sure I am going to be able to purchase them myself. With this small act, WotC is officially recognizing the history of the game and acknowledging that there is no one official way that the game must be played.
To my mind, if WotC is interested in bringing our hobby together in one big happy family, then the best way to do that is to make every edition of the game official and make every edition available either through reprints or POD. This game has been successful in every iteration because so many of us have had fun with them — 0e all the way through 4e. Don’t fix what isn’t broken — give us all the freedom to officially play the version that best suits us and purchase those supporting materials that help us play that version.
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"As I see it, no amount of mechanical fiddling, or mechanical change for the sake of mechanical change is going to solve the fundamental problem of a balkanized hobby. Rather, what will fix the problem is how WotC treats the people who do this hobby."
Well said! Thank you for a great post!
I'd love to see all editions of D&D made available again, at least as POD products if nothing else, but I don't expect it to happen. For reasons that elude my un-business-like mind, WotC seems committed to "one edition to rule them all" as a strategy and I think that's doomed to fail, no matter how good their design is. I don't think it's possible to put Humpty Dumpty back together again and it might be better for D&D if WotC simply gave up on thinking otherwise.
Hope Mearls reads this and convinces the suits.
I couldn't agree more - very well said.
It's about money, not about fixing or editing. That's pretty clear.
Amen. The industry needs to stop treating archival material like an inherited 'old shame' and instead treat it as a mine of value.
They are working on the tried and true methodology of generating hype about a new edition, instilling doubt about the validity of an old edition, along with perhaps the idea that many gamers are also collectors and will purchase a new edition for the sake of completeness. The problem is that as the customers we have been down this road many times before and are thus somewhat jaded- fool me once, and so on. As with so much big business these days, it would be nice to see the "let's move into the neighborhood, treat the customers right, and have a working business for life" paradigm, in place of the now universally familiar "heist of the century" paradigm. With the heist approach you can make a killing- problem is no one will ever trust you again...
"Don’t fix what isn’t broken — give us all the freedom to officially play the version that best suits us and purchase those supporting materials that help us play that version."
From your keyboard to God's screen.
"Google is forcing me and everyone else who blogs using their service to switch to a new interface."
They're also forcing changes to their various services, such as GMail. I've resisted (the new design is just fugly and crude-looking), but, eventually, the change will be imposed. As with the versions of D&D, why users of GMail can't have the option of retaining the old interface is beyond me.
I don't think having all editions at the same time would work from an economic point of view. You don't sell the core books only; customers want more than that. Look at how TSR collapsed under its own weight trying to support all those 2e settings. And things could be far worse if they tried to support more than one set of rules. Also, put yourself in the shoes of a newbie who wants to play D&D; how is he supposed to navigate and choose among all the editions, especially when many of them overlap in terms of gaming style and rules? POD could be a service useful for people who already know the game, but then, WotC would be competing against itself when it comes to producing support material. I think the safest move is the one they are pursuing now: try to recapture at least the "feel" of the older editions, to get their players back into the fold, and allow a flexible and expandable framework for newcomers.
Frankly, I don't understand this POV at all. I am part of a segment of the hobby that hasn't spent money on WotC products in years that would potentially put down a whole wad of cash for items in the WotC library. There is a whole segment of 3.5 players who are spending enough money on the retro-clone Pathfinder that make WotC sit up and notice.
If you make the whole library available — with technologies that have very little overhead — you have a brand new revenue stream. Any marketer while half a brain would be able to see that this very library is able to satisfy a whole range of tastes.
For the new player, all they need is a chart comparing styles — trust them to try out the version that best suits their particular need. The cool part? Once they dip their toe, all these styles are still available to the customer who wants to try other kinds of play style — more cash spent on other rulesets.
Currently, there are a number of companies that are successfully selling product for multiple versions of the game. I don't see them collapsing under their own weight — I see them uniting different segments of the hobby under one banner.
WotC, being the owner of the entire D&D library, is the one company out there best situated to duplicate that success and bring back whole segments of this hobby back under their banner.
I suspect you don't understand his point of view because it is based on 'economics', which is itself based upon the faulty notion of infinite growth. Therefore anything built on top of economics shares this fault and is arguably faulty itself. Sort of like a building with wobbly foundations. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to trust just such a building.
Your own point of view, being based upon how you would really act, instead of how a mythical consumer with perfect information would act, is much closer to reality. The only reason it's not a reality is the situation, and the way you think is shared by others. In other words, you are right.
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