Sunday, April 29, 2012

OK, now for some commentary...

So now, if the release of the new edition of the classic Dungeon! game is no longer a hoax, what are the odds that the posting of the Dungeons & Dragons v3.5 "With Errata" Dungeon Masters Guide, Players Handbook, and Monster Manual (i.e., "Provolone") were also a hoax? I'd say slim to none.

I'd say what happened with Barnes & Noble and Amazon was simply the classic "Book Trade gets new product listings six months ahead of time in order to enter them into their database, and adds them not only to their data base but also to their public sales system" slip. The kind of thing that drives the marketing people at the publishers stupid levels of crazy, as it totally messes up the message they are trying to feed to the consumers. Said message being "buy the thing we have out NOW, or at best, TOMORROW or NEXT WEEK, don't worry about six months from now, as that is a wholly different marketing plan."

So the guys at B&N and Amazon start posting the entries for the v3.5 "With Errata" products, people start going gaga over the entries, and the marketing guys at Wizards go, "Aw crap, not again!" and start covering their asses. The whole "It was a hoax" thing seems a bit rushed and heavy handed, the kind of thing to bite them in the ass later on, but then, as they have barely even really paved the way for the proper "exploitation" of the marketing message for the 1st Edition trilogy re-release, they definitely do not want the v3.5 release on people's minds... yet.

And people are now wondering, "why on earth would they re-release the v3.5 books again when they have D&D Next coming out?" Well, that's simple. It's a win-win for sales, and a win-win for D&D Next. See, the basic message about D&D Next is that with this new edition, we are supposed to be able to essentially "build any edition of the game we want." This pick-and-choose your options system is readily easy to develop; hell, that's essentially what 2nd Edition AD&D was like, what with all the different options presented in the PHB and DMG. So, D&D Next is really the "Choose Your Own Dungeons & Dragons Toolkit."

Secondarily, and I take this with a much bigger grain of salt (and to their credit the message has backed away from this a bit), is that with D&D Next, you will be able to "play any edition you want to play, with others playing the editions they want to play, all in the same game, at the same table, at the same time."

In any case, whether element two actually works with the far more realistic element one, every player is going to want not only the core rules of their "favorite" edition, they will also want the core rules of D&D Next, as the "conversion system" at the core of the system will enable them to more easily translate elements from any other editon back to their own "favorite" edition. Playing B/X D&D but find a cool class in a 3P book from the v3.5 era? Why try to do all the conversion yourself when you can simply plug and play using the class conversion system in the D&D Next PHB? Want to plug in unconverted 1E monsters from those old Dragon Magazines into your 4E game? Use the monster conversion rules from the D&D Next Monster Manual.

They are presenting D&D Next as the "one-in-all" system, or to use another's phrase, the "Rosetta Stone of Dungeons & Dragons Editions." So naturally, they are going to want to maximize the use of their existing stock of products... as D&D Next will open up all their backstock of products to all different editions, through the use of the three core D&D Next books. And as we gamers tend to be a lazy lot, why would we want to go around re-creating our "favorite" edition that we will most often use, using the D&D Next books, when we can just pay Wizards more and buy not only the D&D Next books, but also the needful core books for that "favorite" edition.

And then the big announcement... Wizards is releasing its backlist of products as a pay service through their new D&D Online system, accessible through Kindle or Nook or whatever. So now go through their eBook system, maybe even with a subscription service (exclusively direct through Wizards, of course, I forsee no PDFs through DTRPG), you get access to swaths of cool stuff from the backlist... much of which is most readily convertable to your "favorite" system through the use of the logarithms available in the D&D Next books. So every player buys their "favorite" PHB and a D&D Next PHB, every DM buys one each of his "favorite" trilogy and the D&D Next trilogy, and then dives into the extensive backlist... all for the cost of Wizards publishing their "Rosetta Stone" and making available in print the core "favorites." They've already announced the release of 1E and telegraphed the release of v3.5err. It is possible they will do 2E. They have no need to ever take 4E out of print, so to speak. I doubt they'd do BX/BECMI/RC, as I forsee the "core" of D&D Next being essentially similar to that system. So you will have the BX as the "core" or "Basic System" in the new D&D Next, with the building blocks and conversion systems of the other editions available in the D&D Next trilogy, plus core "favorite" editions in print for 1E, 2E, v3.5err, and 4e, and the whole lot of backlist items available in eBook directly and exclusively through Wizards...
Anyway, that's what I see coming up...

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