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!