The future of D&D

This morning I’ve read gamegrene’s review of D&D 5th Edition. 5th edition, are you kidding me? Yes, 5th Edition. It’s a joke of course, but the scary thing is that it’s not that far from what may really happen. Let’s face it: roleplaying is and will be a niche market and big companies like Hasbro are focussed on reaching the mainstream customer, the “unwashed masses”, if you wish.

I think the game designers at Wizards still understand what pen&paper gaming is about but the company itself is getting more and more restless. DDI is just another try to tap into the MMO market. But D&D is not World of Warcraft and I am pretty sure that most D&D players haven’t even heard of DDI or are not willing to pay a monthly fee to get some crumbs thrown at them.  Aside from the Dungeon and Dragon magazines, crumbs that fell from the table is what you currently get from DDI. A few previews here, a new class in playtest there… The character creation tool is still bugged even though it has been in development (and beta) for a long time and long-awaited features are still missing in action.

Although D&D 4th Edition is still a solid game it’s Hasbro’s try to access bigger markets. Some of the changes made were made to make the game more accessible to non-gamers. A lot of the mechanics that remind us of MMO games have been probably added in hope to get some MMO players to turn off the PC and play D&D. Again, that does not make D&D a bad game per se, but it alienated a lot of old fans.

Even with the revised GSL most third party publisher have decided not to support D&D 4th Edition. Some stick to plain OGL, others will develop for the Pathfinder RPG and the rest will put more effort in their own systems. In a way OGL kickstarted the RPG business and GSL helps to diversify it again, which is a good thing for the hobby. The d20 monoculture was getting a bit creepy at times.

So, what’s the future of D&D? Will it really turn into a GM-less boardgame or a MMO? If people, who don’t understand the hobby, have their say, this is possible. Will the roleplaying games hobby be hurt by this? Probably, but perhaps with the 8000 lbs. gorilla out of the way,  there’s a chance that other roleplaying games will fill that niche.
As I said I don’t think D&D 4th Edition is a bad game. But the outlook for the future is grim and that’s because I think that the company behind D&D does not fully understand the hobby. But perhaps I am too pessimistic right now.

What are your thoughts on the future of D&D? Please let us know in the comments!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

8 thoughts on “The future of D&D”

  1. Good questions.

    I think each edition of D&D causes a ruckus when it comes out with fans sticking with previous editions, threatening to quit altogether and whatnot. Some do, but many also end up playing (and enjoying) the latest edition in the game. I have a few die-harders in my group who loathed Third Edition when it came out, and now they're moaning about 4th Edition and want to keep playing 3e instead. They'll come round, I'm sure – it's the change they're railing against, not the game itself.

    I think the 5th Edition review is scarily accurate, and I'll bet that a fair chunk of what he wrote will come to pass. I've said before that 4e D&D is a transition game between what D&D was, and what it's going to become. I think it'll eventually end up being a board-and-collectable cardgame with role-playing elements tacked on as an afterthought with a strong subscription-based online play element. Heck, we're 90% there already. Sobering, but true.

  2. I think the future of D&D looks bright. I say that because I still own three editions and imagine that I will be playing one of those editions for some time to come.

    While some of the decisions that WotC has made have not been taken well by members of the community, I still feel they are providing a good product. It's a product that is evolving to take advantage of a new medium for play, namely the computer.

    A lot of community members complain about the GSL. While I understand their complaint, the GSL has very little impact on me or my gaming group. We don't tend to buy adventures or third party products. Our DM has historically always created thier own content and set it within an existing game world. The GSL only effects me as we release free modules at Dungeon's Master. I do my best to ensure I comply with the GSL, however the license itself doesn't impact me. I'm not trying to make a profit on my product.

    I have to disagree with you on the DDI. Yes, the features promised were horribly delayed and still aren't released. However, you get Dungeon & Dragon magazines which almost justifies the cost. You also get the Character Builder. Yes, it's buggy. However every month you get all the new content WotC has released for free. That mean in 3 weeks I will get the PHB2 for the cost of my subscription. I will also get every other resource they publish. So long as I can live without the fluff that comes in the book I can save some money.

    Will there be a 5th edition, of course. But I think it's many years in coming.

    <abbr><abbr>Wimwicks last blog post..Overplayed Characters (Part 1)</abbr></abbr>

  3. I agree that things like the GSL doesn't really affect the majority of players. But the changes in D&D 4th Edition and the online components will affect all of us in the long run. And although I still enjoy the dead wood portion of D&D I am not happy about the online subscription part. I agree on that one with Greywulf: D&D 5th Edition will probably be "board-and-collectable cardgame with role-playing elements tacked on as an afterthought with a strong subscription-based online play element". And that's not a thought that's making me happy. But perhaps we are wrong…

  4. Personally I think that pen and paper games will continue to survive, though D&D may not be the game of choice in the future. There are just too many fans who will keep the hobby alive. The industry may shrink drastically, in terms of the number of companies producing product, but some form of P&P RPGs will be around for many years. D&D will probably change, as every one here has predicted, and eventually fail. But some kid in the future will find his dad's or grand dad's D&D books and fall in love with the game. There'll be a renewed interest in this practically forgotten way of gaming and everything old will be new again. After all miniature and board gaming didn't die when P&P RPGs kit the scene. At this future date the D&D franchise may be dead and someone will buy the rights and return the game to what it was. Or not….

    <abbr><abbr>geekgazettes last blog post..ElfQuest Online.</abbr></abbr>

  5. Sure, pen & paper roleplaying will survive even if Hasbro closes WotC for good and let's Atari create D&D-based action and RTS games until the end of time. But I fear the future for the D&D game line is grim.

  6. I tested 4.o for some time. I have a large group 8 in all.

    most of us have played since 1978.

    4.0 seems to do what it was designed to do. feel like an MMO. but an hardened vet knows when you step away form an mmo to role play. which i challenge to you find an mmo where more then 2% of the people on any given serve actually do role play. your not looking for an MMO WHEN YOU SET DOWN TO PLAY d&d. THE FEEL ISN'T d&d,ISH my player and i have forsaken the game though the mechanics are solid it just don't feel D&D and we Have opted with much glee to play pathfinder which we feel is the creation 4th addition should have been. those who enjoy fourth edition are OK by me but from a vet and DM of veteran players its just not for us

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