Tag Archives: d&d

D&D For Free

The 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons is in the process of releasing, and you can download a starter set of rules of the player handbook as a free PDF and check it out!  It’s 100 pages(!).  How is 100 pages a ‘starter’?

The blurb states “…the Basic Rules for Dungeons & Dragons is a PDF (over 100 pages, in fact) that covers the core of the game. It runs from levels 1 to 20 and covers the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard, presenting what we view as the essential subclass for each. It also provides the dwarf, elf, halfling, and human as race options; in addition, the rules contain 120 spells, 5 backgrounds, and character sheets.”


Happy Birthday, Dungeons & Dragons

This year is the 40th anniversary of the release of Dungeons and Dragons, the big daddy of the RPG industry, and rumor has it that this weekend is the actual release date anniversary. It’s been a heck of a ride, lots of editions, the deaths of its creators Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 2008 and 2009 respectively, the formation and ultimate dissolution of Tactical Studies Rules, etc. Lots of water under the bridge, and the river is still flowing strong.

Somewhere I have the original white box release of the game, unfortunately I’m missing one of the three books.

And now for some public sacrilege: I really don’t care much for the game. For me, it was much more complex than it needed to be. I don’t mind complexity in games occasionally, it’s just my personal style is more towards simpler games. And this is especially weird considering that Champions is perhaps my favorite RPG. But to each their own.

I have put in a lot of hours playing D&D in various incarnations, and I have had fun doing it. I think, for me, it really boils down to the GM, or DM if that’s your preference. As in so many games, the GM can make or break the game, and my earliest encounters were with GMs that really broke it for me. My favorite GM is an old friend of over 30 years, and as a rule I will enjoy anything he runs, and he ran a D&D campaign for a while for a small group of us. And we had fun. But you’re not going to find a lot of D&D products in my collections.

Still, Happy Birthday, D&D! Thank you for being instrumental in creating an industry that has brought a lot of fun to millions of people around the world!

Wizards of the Coast announces new version of Dungeons & Dragons

I view this with a great deal of *meh*.  It’s not just that I don’t play D&D, it’s that this seems to me to be a great example of corporate overlordism.  Wizards of the Coast was formed in 1990, bought out TSR, the creators of D&D in 1997, and sold out to Hasbro in 1999.  I’m sure WotC was very appealing to Hasbro because of Magic: The Gathering CCG, and I’m sure the owners of WotC made a lot of money in the transaction.

But now they’re owned by a major corporation.  To quote Wikipedia, Hasbro “… is a Multinational toy and boardgame company … It is one of the largest toy makers in the world.”  They are a component in the Standard & Poor’s Index.  In 2009 they had income of $4 BILLION dollars.  That’s a big company.

Companies have to make profit.  Major companies, such as Hasbro, if they don’t make quarterly profit expectations, they are punished by Wall Street.  They are legally obligated to make profit for their shareholders.  And that means every division within the company needs to be profitable.

This puts WotC in a bind.  They must appease their corporate overlord, the Hasbro Board of Directors.  They have to be profitable.  They have to come out with new editions of product.  Think about Microsoft for a minute.  How often do you buy a new computer/operating system/version of Office?  Did you really need to?  Did the new spiffiness really improve your productivity and life?  Most of the time you really don’t need those upgrades, but we’re conditioned that it contains the latest bug fixes, it’s more reliable, etc.  So we buy them.  And I’m not immune to this, but I am very selective about buying upgrades.  If people held on to their computers for five or more years and did not upgrade their version of Office, Microsoft could be in serious trouble because a major portion of their revenue comes from upgrades and new licenses.  There aren’t that many new users to computers these days, it’s usually people replacing a 3 or 4 year old computer because it’s slowed down, and they could extend the life of that computer for another couple of years by investing $100-200 in it to do some upgrades and cleanups, but a lot of people don’t want to mess with it so they buy a new system.  And that’s money in Microsoft’s pocket.

WotC is in a similar bind.  They need you to buy new rule books, new expansions, new modules.  They want you to buy 5E and forsake all previous editions/expansions/modules because those purchases are not on-going revenue for them.  Unfortunately WotC has made some mistakes over the years, one was releasing new editions too soon, leading to a fractured fan base.  Another was inconsistent product quality and failure to deliver on promises.  Not everything you publish is going to be 100% fantastic and a best-seller, and us a result, Paizo is flourishing with the Pathfinder RPG, which has been the #1 selling RPG for the last two quarters.

So what’s my take on this?  I think game companies need to be very careful releasing new editions, I don’t think they should come out more often than every five years.  And companies need to be exceptionally careful when considering selling out or merging with larger companies.  Smaller companies have more freedom, but also have a lot more financial risk.  If they screw up a big product launch, it can be the end of the company.

One thing that I find very interesting is the Geekdad article says that WotC will be doing open play-testing, they’ll be taking suggestions from pretty much anyone who cares to offer their $0.002 worth.  I think they will discover that down this path lies madness.  In my opinion, a new edition requires a person or a small core group with a vision on how to improve the game.  They produce a revised edition, give it to trusted friends to playtest and provide feedback, do more revision, rinse, repeat, and eventually do a more public beta to reduce problems of confirmation bias and to ensure that you’re not just preaching to the converted.  And Wizards is doing this.  But if you’re going to take input from thousands, perhaps tens of thousands people, that input is going to have to be read and filtered to determine if it’s a crackpot suggestion or if it has genuine merit and should be passed up to the developers.  I pity the fool(s) that have to be these filters.

I wish Wizard of the Coast all the luck with the new edition, they might need it.

Wizards of the Coast Announcement

Wired Geekdad Article

New York Times Article

The Atlas Games/Reverb Gamers Master List for 2012

I have a great admiration for Atlas Games.  They’re one of the bigger companies and release a lot of good product.  On January 1 they released a list of 31 questions about your life as a gamer.  It’s a list to encourage reflection and some exploration and exposition.  And though I’m two days behind with little or no intention of catching up, here’s #1:

What was your first roleplaying experience? Who introduced you to it? How did that introduction shape the gamer you’ve become?

I don’t have a clear memory of my first exposure to gaming.  I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy as a kid, and they were in different sections of the book store at that time, and probably had my first exposure to gaming via Fred Saberhagen’s Berserker books, published in the late 60’s.  He worked with Flying Buffalo which included berserkers in the Star Web play-by-mail game (that’s postal mail, not email).  Though I did not drive at the time, it listed Flying Buffalo as being located in Scottsdale, Arizona, maybe 15 miles or so from my parent’s house.  A friend who had a driver’s license was getting in to this stuff, and we went out there and were amazed.  My initial purchases were TSR’s first edition white box D&D, the one with three books, along with GDW’s Traveller and TSR’s Top Secret.  And, of course, Flying Buffalo’s Tunnels & Trolls.

At that time, in the late 70’s, about the only fantasy role-playing games were D&D and T&T.  I like simplicity (a strange thing to hear from someone who played Champions for 25 years), and I did not like the complexity of D&D.  Too many tables and dice, and flipping through more than one book to play a game just isn’t for me.  T&T was a lot easier and only used d6, but it had one huge advantage: solo dungeons.  Buffalo published A LOT of solitaire adventures over the years, along with several campaigns.  They were a lot of fun because you could buy the box set, which came with a couple of solos, and you didn’t need a group, which was good, because there were no groups in my area.

So I was largely self-introduced to roleplaying.

How did it shape the gamer that I became?  I’ve always been a fan of simple systems, and I think T&T was a major influence in that regard.  I’ve played I don’t know how many games over the years of varying complexity, and I’ve always trended towards simpler systems.  It might be that certain games, and certain styles of games, appeal more to my internal logic, and this lets me make the statement that I think Champions is a simple system.  It’s a very logical structure, and if you understand it, pretty much the only time that you need the rules is to design new characters or gadgets.  It has its problems with physics and the like, but every game system has problems like that.

When I design games, I try to keep them simple, and normally I use a d6.  I try to follow the Cheap Ass Games model of a single sheet of rules (when I can) and everything fitting in a 6×9 envelope.  I know it might not work for every design that I have, but I think it’s a good model.  And following that, d6 are a lot more available than d12’s.


The Reverb Gamers Master List can be found at http://blog.atlas-games.com/2011/12/reverb-gamers-master-list.html and on the Atlas Facebook page.

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