The new edition of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as its current release schedule, have given me something to ponder. While many gnash their teeth loudly at the prospect of a limited release schedule (that is, not releasing new printed material once a month or more), I for one welcome the change. I’ve long thought that an unsupported game is a dead one, and it is evident with such examples as say, Systems Failure and Heavy Gear*.
Firstly, I’d like to further clarify that while I don’t believe that D&D is in any special danger of going away, I am quite worried that it may be mired in mediocrity as a consequence of its fame and influence. What I don’t want to see is an opportunity squandered any more than I’d like to see a good game be marginalized. Mediocrity is a fate worse than obscurity.
But even those faded games can come back, given enough interest generated in the community. The Old School Renaissance (or whatever the kids are calling it) is not just about playing the oldest version of D&D that there is, but building enough of a community and demanding the creation of new material, a goal that it has readily accomplished. In this way, a game that remains organic can also remain viable.
While people will inevitably support any game from Necroscope to Bunnies and Burrows*, there is definitely an effect of diminishing returns to be dealt with. The less a game is supported (least of all being no support), the fewer people there are to know about the game, and fewer still that desire to play it. This is what leads to non-viability.
It’s likely that you might yourself be in love with Big Eyes Small Mouth, Talislanta, or Trinity*. For you it is good, because you can share with others those things about the game that you love, but what it is not good for is the game. That’s not to say that your enjoyment tarnishes it, but its obscurity makes it un-played, akin to a dying language that lives on solely by the will of historians and armchair scholars. What I’m saying here is that old games don’t die, they just fade away.
But with that atrociously plaintive exposition out of the way, I follow it with this; Dungeons and Dragons is not unsupported. It’s a hard stance to take, and many would argue that the scant release schedule is doing harm to the brand. To that I say that the brand is as impervious as “Huggies” or “Duracel”.
I wholeheartedly agree that the game line is suffering from current decisions, and most certainly could benefit from a few tweaks, like reinventing the OGL for the current edition, more prominent licensing to trusted companies, actually being more upfront about future plants, and providing working pdfs, for instance. But what the game is not lacking on is support. That we are even talking about this makes evident the need and desire for these changes, which means that people are not only talking about D&D; they are playing it in earnest.
My circuitous logic is meant simply to clarify the argument. Many seem to be of mind to point out the doom of D&D, and given that it has suffered worse in its lifespan, I’d say that this was small potatoes. However, it merits mentioning that healthy though the brand is, mistakes can still be rectified, and the dissenting voices should at least be heard.I’m not worried about D&D going the way of Mekton Z or Dragon Quest*, because it will eventually be thrust upon the current D&D designers that what they are doing is harmful, and the players at large will effect change.
While I don’t want the usual big company book release schedule, I do see the benefit in something more robust and attentive to player demands. There is a middle ground, and this is not it. And because we do not yet have that change, I hereby openly complain about their practices. Denying the need for pdfs is folly, especially after the granting a digital license to the ridiculously overpriced aberration that is the Fantasy Grounds partnership. I liken this action to CCP games “monoclegate”, given the outrageous nature of the the price gouge plainly inherent.
To this I say loudly; do not insult us, Wizards of the Coast. We’ve bought your cards, your MMOs, your 4th edition, but deny us pdfs in this digital age at your peril. I assure you that those that want pirated copies already have them. Don’t get stuck in the 20th century**. It’s lonely back there.
*You must by now realize that I’m flippantly poking fun at these derelict games. Go ahead, look them up. You might even like one or two of them.
** But you’ll have all these great games to play.