Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why Crowdsourcing 5e Isn't a Good Idea

At this point, if you haven't seen The Article, you've been living under a rock, or you have no interest in RPGs.  If it's the former, welcome back to the World!  If it's the latter, welcome to the RPG World!

Which is a good segue into my point here.  There is the World, and there is the RPG World.  I think that the blogosphere creates a sort of echo chamber, that allows us to feel as though we are legion, but even in the world of niche hobbyists, we're a niche hobby.  Not quite model trains, but nowhere near Yu-Gi-Oh, either.

By soliciting advice from players, though, the snake is devouring it's own tail and creating something that is less than what already exists because it's not going to be the casual gamers that do the testing, it's not going to be what we really need - new gamers - that do the testing, it's going to be the hardcore gamers.  It's going to be the people that blog about games, that design their own games, people who are passionate about the game already - in short, it will be the people that were already going to buy the game when it came out, regardless of what the product ends up looking like.

WOTC has an opportunity here, to try and bring those elusive wild beasts - new customers - into the fold, by designing a game that doesn't appeal to the fond memories of our childhoods, but rather to the zeitgeist of today, or even better, tomorrow.  Apple hasn't stayed relevant by pushing their desktop line of computers, they push the products people don't know that they want, or even better, need.  RPGs need to do the same - D&D is our gateway drug.  It has the name and brand recognition that gets people in the stores buying the games to begin with.  WOTC need to ignore the blogosphere, they need to ignore the fans, and they need to come up with the Next Big Thing.

D&D, and RPGs in general, will probably never be as big as they were in the 70s and 80s.  Too much of that marketshare has been eaten up by X-Boxes and PS3s, Magic and Pokemon.  But that doesn't mean it can't be relevant, dammit.  In order to do that, though, it needs to be looking outwards and forwards, not backwards and inwards.

So do the industry a favor.  Don't sign up for the playtesting - go outside the RPG World, into the Wrold and find a friend who loves Skyrim or World of Warcraft but has never really roleplayed and get THEM to sign up.  Even if their input means that the game we all want to love is fundamentally changed, increasing it's popularity increases the size of the pond we live in, and eventually some of them will get tired of D&D and move out to the outer banks, asking, "What's this OSR I hear about?"


  1. You can kill my character tonight for revenge, but I'm gonna have to disagree with you. ;)

    I think that this new iteration of D&D definately needs playtesters, both young and old. It's pretty clear that 4e was half-baked when it first came out. The mechanics were not completely thought out, they didn't even have a good enough grip on skill challenges to explain the concept well, and there were errors all over the books - causing WOTC to spend years spewing out pounds and pounds of erratta. When 4e finally came to it's 'end state' - i.e., Essentials, you could look back on it and see what it really was - just a miniatures skirmish game with some standardized role-playing rules grafted on to the side.

    Dungeons and Dragons doesn't need to be some ground-breaking, avant-garde, tour-de-force. As you said, it should be an entry level drug. It needs to have a simple core that you can slap additional optional complexity around to meet certain players need for crunch (and obsessive min-maxing.)

    We've sat down together over the last few years and played through three or four decades of D&D rules theory. It's all there - every single rule or mechanic that you'd ever need. Someone needs to sit down, look at it, and prune away the crap - leaving the CORE of D&D there.

    And that's where the world of playtesters come in. Sure, everyone comes to the D&D table with different needs and wants. But I swear that there is a CORE there - a CORE of D&D that you could start from - then slap sets of optional rules to make it more your own. It would be kind of like a template for house rules - which people are going to do anyway. Why not help them by presenting well-worn options that have been throughouly vetted? You know, kind of like the theory with 2e. :)

    I would love to be able to sit down with the young'uns, playing their hot new version of D&D, and not have the urge to projectile vomit. That's going to take a lot of input from grognards.

    I do understand your desire for a 'Next Big Thing.' I think that is best handled by the independents who are free to think and dream without a big corporate leash hot glued to their necks. WOTC can only do so much - and I think it's best for them to focus on the core of what makes D&D D&D, and leave the fancy flying to the pilots. :)

    Okay, you can kill my character now - but be prepared for her to put up a fight. ;p

    - Ark

  2. Interesting ideas, your character will take only structural damage, but shall live.

    I want to point out, though, that while the execution of 4e might not have been great, the idea was in the right place - WOTC has to put out a product that will get kids to put down the game consoles and pick up a book, and as the publishing industry at large is finding, that is a nigh impossible proposition. I just don't know that brand expansion can be found by looking backward to stuff that was popular in another time. Part of its charm was that it offered something that the entertainment of that time couldn't. THAT'S what drove it to the heights of popularity it enjoyed, not the rules, not the art, just the novelty.

    If D&D is going to expand beyond the niche it's burrowed itself into, it needs to become something that people can't get anywhere else. What that is, I don't know - if I did, I'd be making a whole lot more money than I do. But as long as they try and replicate what is already out there, or worse, what has come before, they're just going to dig themselves deeper into the whole.

  3. I was going to agree with you, purestrainhuman, but then Ark got me first. Damn good points, though.


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