Sunday, February 20, 2011

Legends and Lore

So, I woke up this morning to more than a few emails directing me toward this column by Mike Mearls, who's now the "Group Manager for the D&D Research and Development Team" -- whatever that means -- and asking me to offer my opinion on it. I'm not really sure my opinion means much on this issue, since I haven't bought a WotC D&D product since 2006 (unless you count PDFs of TSR products) and don't expect that to change anytime soon. Still, given that I received five separate emails suggesting I take a look at the column, I did so and I have a few short observations to offer, for whatever they're worth.

1. Flattering as it might be to assume that the old school renaissance has had any effect on WotC's bottom line, I rather suspect that Mr Mearls's paean to D&D unity is in fact directed more towards fans of Paizo's Pathfinder, who, even by conservative estimates, are a sizable number of gamers who are no longer WotC customers. If any group of gamers' dissatisfaction with D&D IV has had a noticeable impact on WotC, it's the 3.0/3.5 holdouts who've now sworn their allegiance to Pathfinder rather than people like me, who abandoned WotC before 4e was even announced. Granted, I am assuming a business motive for the column and perhaps that's cynical of me, but it seems the most logical explanation for the current head honcho of D&D making a public plea for D&D fans to recognize "that there are far more things that tie us together than tear us apart."

2. Ultimately, any appeal for "unity" is meaningless without a show of good faith above and beyond platitudes. If WotC is serious about trying to win back fans of previous editions of D&D, then it'd be nice if they did something to demonstrate that seriousness. A good first step would be making legal PDFs of out of print material again available for purchase. I don't expect that to happen, of course, but, if it did, it'd go some way toward alleviating the skepticism this column elicits in me.

As I said, my interpretation of the column is deeply colored by cynicism. Corporations rarely admit mistakes, preferring instead to leverage brand loyalty to paper over their missteps. That's what I see here. Mearls's suggestion that "Whether you play the original game published in 1974, AD&D in any of its forms, 3rd Edition and its descendents, or 4th Edition, at the end of the day you’re playing D&D" is an appeal to loyalty to a venerable brand without (as yet anyway) any reason for those of us who've abandoned the brand to return to it. Mearls himself even admits that
D&D is the moments in the game, the interplay within a gaming group, the memories formed that last forever. It’s intensely personal. It’s your experience as a group, the stories that you and your friends share to this day. No specific rule, no random opinion, no game concept from an R&D designer, no change to the game’s mechanics can alter that.
Once you've admitted that, what can WotC possibly offer those of us who got off their train years ago (or never got on in the first place)?

61 comments:

  1. Right on the money James. Good post.

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  2. Mearls plays OD&D, but I guess he only does that out of cynicism?

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  3. IF this is motivated by a business decision to somehow leverage "D&D unity" into more sales, then I think I agree. However, I'm not convinced that Mearls's column is motivated by such. I parsed it as him saying "Hey, guys, no need for edition warring; can't we all get along?" It's a reasonable enough sentiment, even if it doesn't translate into anything in terms of WotC bottom line.

    So yeah, I think that you are reading it a wee bit too cynically - but by placing too much value on the intended impact of the column.

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  4. I really don't like what you've had to say here. It's cynical, and assumes a lot as to the motives of the writer.

    That being said, I went and read the actual item in question. I mean no disrespect, and would like to politely disagree with you... but I really ain't sure you're wrong. At all.

    Truth to tell, if the writer really means what he's saying, the ultimate way to show it would be to make the old products available again, either as free downloads or paid PDFs. Hell, they used to have a LOT of stuff available as free downloads... which they largely stopped when they terminated the whole paid PDF license thing.

    The one point I think you missed was the ruckus that still continues on various message boards, both WOTC and others, about the hate for various editions of D&D, particularly 4th. What I am hearing from Mike Mearls is that we're all gamers, and there's more to that than simply bashing a particular edition... and those who favor it.

    ...but once upon a time, TSR supported both basic D&D and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. One wonders why they cannot support multiple editions of the same product, simultaneously, now. I know plenty of old school players who'd jump at the idea of new D&D product directed at them. Same goes for 3.5 players. I can't think of anyone who plays second edition offhand, but how much does it cost to produce PDF reprints anyway?

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  5. As Tom put it, I honestly have no idea why WotC doesn't provide the old pdfs LIKE THEY USED TO DO. They could shove them in a corner of their website, call it "Classic D&D", put a disclaimer saying "These products are no longer supported", and people would buy it even if they offered a ludicrous price. I'm not a businessman but I can't wrap my head around how someone can SIT ON A GOLD MINE and refuse to open it. I can't even see any risks or problems involved with such an action, it's just baffling that they don't want to make any money profiting off of nostalgia which has proven in the entertainment world time and again to be a big seller (just see every movie remake and video game re-release).

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  6. If WotC is serious about trying to win back fans of previous editions of D&D, then it'd be nice if they did something to demonstrate that seriousness. A good first step would be making legal PDFs of out of print material again available for purchase. I don't expect that to happen, of course, but, if it did, it'd go some way toward alleviating the skepticism this column elicits in me.

    Not just PDFs, but quality PDFs -NOT the crappy scans that looked like someone faxed them page by page.

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  7. Much of the criticism of 4ed centered around arguments that it really wasn't D and D at all, but was instead a tactically oriented rpg that was merely called D and D despite the fact that it shared few points of commonality with earlier editions.

    This being the case, it seems likely that this column is intended as a public relations effort, an attempt to paper over the rather obvious fact that 4ed is really a departure from the history of the hobby rather than its next stage.

    Of course there is a commercial intent behind this column, and I don't think its cynical to suggest so. The column is published as part of the WotC website after all.

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  8. Not just PDFs, but print on demand paperbacks. Granted they wouldn't be quite as good as the original thing, but it would stop a lot of the aftermarket. I would much rather get a new paperback of the Rules Compendium for basic then try to pay ebay or amazon used prices for it. Then WotC is making money, not some dude who happened to keep a copy for 20 years...

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  9. I agree with the opinions raised here, especially Bedlam. There is no reason (other than justifying their jobs as game designers) that they can support the various editions, even if it means simply making the .pdfs available online for those interested. I don't play Pathfinder, but I hope it's giving them a run for there money - if only to force change that wouldn't come otherwise.

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  10. This is what happens when corporate bigwigs (Hasbro) who don't give a damn about D&D or Role Playing Games are given the ultimate authority over producing Role Playing Games.

    Hasbro wants to see profits and they'll take a big axe and cut whatever doesn't produce the largest returns. The folks at Wizards may or may not love what they go and the product that they are trying to produce, but their competitors love the games that they produce and will usually put out a better product that gamers will keep on buying.

    I can just see the executive board meeting at Hasbro:

    CEO: Ladies and gentlemen of the board we must take a vote. Shall we produce Dungeons and Dragons (some hands go up) or Pokeman (lots of hands go up).

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  11. Mr. Maliszewski,
    did you thought about the fact that you have enough followers to promote a "class action" to have the PDFs back? I'm not saying that you should sit down on you chair and waste your time in writing a long letter to people at WotCs, but that you could easily have 500 people sending a short standard e-mail within a week. Something that sounds like:

    "Hi, I've read the post about 'unity' and other blah blah by Mike Mearl, and I think that if this really is your way than you should get back the PDFs to us. Thank you,
    sign"

    Not too complex, just that easy peasy. I wouldn't mind to personally write the e-mail, as I guess a lot of people in the community. I'm not saying that you have to do that because of the great number of followers of Grognardia, nor that I would despise you if not doing that. But "with great power, comes great responsibility", you know ^^

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  12. Also, sorry for my poor grammar (I'm not a naturally english speaker).

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  13. I blogged about this article a few days ago, too. http://daddyrolleda1.blogspot.com/2011/02/article-on-d-history-on-wotc-website.html

    Despite not being the biggest Mike Mearls' fan, I actually didn't go the cynical route, and came away thinking that the main point of his article was that gamers have more things in common than not.

    As someone who is currently involved in three games, a straight-up RAW 1st Edition AD&D Game, a Pathfinder Game, and a mash-up of Pathfinder/4E/Savage Worlds, I can honestly agree with Mearls that it's not the rules of the systems that matters. What matters is getting together with your friends to play and have a shared experience of bashing some orcs, finding some treasure, and just having a good time.

    It's really sad that too many people don't see things that way. Reader Joshua got totally lambasted in the comments of this post http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2011/02/motto-for-old-school-d.html when he suggested some of the same thoughts. He was accused of being "jealous" that he didn't experience the Golden Age of RPGs. That's just sad and ridiculous.

    At the end of my blogpost, I noted that if more people spent time actually gaming and less time arguing about why other peoples' preferred editions of D&D suck, that would be a great thing. It is part of Geek DNA to defend one's preferred format of a game (or comic book character, TV show, etc.). But it can be done in a positive way. Instead of saying "[Insert name of Edition of D&D that I don't play] sucks because [insert rules minutiae that I don't like]." It would be much more productive to say "[Inset name of Edition of D&D that I actually currently play] is cool because [insert well-formed argument about something more important than the ascending-versus-descending AC discussion]."

    I guess I should don my +5 plate mail and prepare to be attacked. :)

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  14. That column was pathetic. They know they are losing huge amounts of markets share to Pazio because Pazio is making a better game with better products and a better understanding of, and rapport with, their customer base.

    The constant appeal to brand loyalty just turned my stomach. I don't play D&D, I play Pathfinder, an excellent game built on D&D3.5, an engine WotC abandoned.

    WotC's loss, Pazio's gain.

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  15. I don't think it's really sunk in, but a large multi-national corporation now owns dungeons and dragons. From this acknowledgement all understanding is derived.

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  17. I believe the following:

    Hasbro dropped 15% in sales 4Q

    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/hasbro-profit-down-15-as-toy-sales-lag-2011-02-07

    Hasbro's CEO Discusses Q4 2010 Results - Earnings Call Transcript (mentions sales increases all around but leaves out one product: D&D)

    http://seekingalpha.com/article/251298-hasbro-s-ceo-discusses-q4-2010-results-earnings-call-transcript

    I don't think I need to fill in anymore blanks.

    Now the fans are talking about the shuttering of D&D

    http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/26682845/Plea_to_Hasbro:_Please_just_release_the_DD_franchise?pg=1

    And Mike just wants us all to be friends...

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  18. If he really believes this, then he should find a way to get the company's money where his mouth is. If he wants to strengthen the community around the shared hobby of D&D regardless of edition, then the company should be investing in products and services that build that community regardless of edition.

    Stop relying on selling rulebooks. Stop making up or changing rules. Open up the past vaults of content (via PDF and/or print on demand). Create mechanics-agnostic (or multi-edition) versions of content based on existing IP, and create new IP that is consistent with what's already there. Produce props and minis and virtual tools (like a set of decent iPad apps). Maybe reorient periodical content toward more original stuff submitted by people outside the company, so as to keep a fresh infusion of new ideas. And like the Dragon magazine of old, don't limit it to just one game or edition. This is the place where you could allow people to submit new ideas for rules, and maybe THAT could be repackaged as an annual that would allow the hobby to evolve in an official capacity without demanding that everybody come along with each generation by rejecting all that came before.

    Wizards has actually attempted to do some of this, but it has all been weighed down by their decision to promote new rules. I guess that's because it's where the profit is traditionally, but more than 2 years out from the release of the latest edition, it's clear that traditional isn't working.

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  19. If the D&D business within Wizards/Hasbro is dying, then they need to get that IP out there before it does. Then somebody else can do all the stuff I just mentioned.

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  20. UWS is right on the money. ICV2 put the entire rpg market at $15 million dollars per year or so ( at least that's what I remember from the last report I saw) of which WOTC's share might be half. In Hasbro's eyes this is chump change. Selling PDFs to grognards isn't going to change this. Hasbro will never be happy with it's profits on D&D.
    In my mind 4th edition happened like this; Someone wearing suit and tie and looking at a spreadsheet said "Wait a minute, we make how much off the average D&D book? Oh hell no, let's take that funding and put out a new Monopoly." To which a game designer responds "No, no wait, we can change it, we'll make it like that World of Warcraft, they make what we make off of D&D in a year every day." To which Mr Suit responds "Well all right, but it better make some real money..."

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  21. There's no doubt in my mind that Mearls' column is motivated by commercial concerns, but it is puzzling what the angle is. For reasons that several have already pointed out, it seems unlikely that this will really win back many fans who have already turned their backs on the game.

    It may be the case that Wizards is simply trying to beef up the D and D brand by playing up the sense of tradition associated with it, thereby allowing them to market it as more of a "classic" like Scrabble. Perhaps this is a sort of last ditch attempt to reinvigorate the game before Hasbro drops it.

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  22. One thing WOTC could do would be to follow the lead of Apple's App Store. Let 3rd parties submit PDF content for any edition. WOTC would sell them online, keep ~30%, and give the rest to the author. WOTC would be able to check the items for "acceptability" to avoid potential scandals and porny submissions.

    That would let WOTC support old edition players, and get revenue from products for old editions, without investing too much themselves or taking too much risk.

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  23. James & others make a good point: WotC could make some easy money and win some good will by posting reasonably priced PDFs of stuff from previous editions. Lots of us would prefer safe and legal downloads to buying overpriced used copies or inviting viruses onto our computers by downloading pirated crap.

    However, I think lots of people are being too hard on Mearls. Speculation about his motives does nothing to refute the validity of his argument.

    I think edition wars are bad for the hobby as a whole in the same way that interdenominational squabbles tend to discredit organized religion. In both cases, internal conflicts represent a barrier to entry for newcomers, because sensible people generally don't feel like jumping into the midst of a holy war. We're fragmenting the hobby and conspiring in our own marginalization.

    I have my own preference (AD&D), but I have resorted to playing other versions and other games when they're the only RPG option in town, and I have found that you can achieve the same essential experience even with a rules set as flawed as 4e.

    I wish we'd all try harder to get along.

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  24. Is it possible that Mearls just happens to be someone who loves playing D&D, who works for the company that designs D&D, and is just writing an introduction to his weekly column called "Legends and Lore", the purpose of which is to "write about various topics on D&D’s history, how the game has changed over the years, and where it’s going in the future" ?

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  25. OK, I'll challenge the cynics. Mearls is responsible for the next steps D&D takes. He says "my real purpose is to understand what you think about D&D." Seems reasonable given his role. Because the source of the D&D schism is its past (mis)steps, it is entirely plausible that he would court goodwill of "everyone who has picked up a d20 and ventured into a dungeon" in the context of its history.

    So the question to the cynics is, what would *you* write in *your* post if you were responsible for developing the next version of D&D? Surely you would want to involve the community, yes? Surely you would want to understand their constructive thoughts towards that end, yes? How would you solicit that differently?

    Two rambles to add to that. First, setting aside the fact that as an R&D guy, he has absolutely no power to release PDFs of previous versions, giving away or selling goodies is a petty way of going about soliciting participation in the development process. Second, anyone accusing this guy of "Corporate" motives greatly misunderstands how corporations work. It's synonymous to damning the R&D folks of big pharma. Those R&D people sit in front of computers all day working with physics simulations of proteins folding around small molecules. Do you imagine they're rubbing their hands together, thinking about profits? I think not.

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  26. Brian MacKenzie and Todd Gibson seem to be voices in the darkness here...

    I'm not saying that what James has written holds no water, but I think Todd hit the nail on the head when in a nutshell he said, "Don't shoot the messenger." Mearls is not some evil CEO pulling puppet strings, while looking at the bottom line. No, he's a guy in a job who happens to love RPGs. Kind of like the rest of us really.

    I used to work for a guy who always maintained that bad press is much better than no press, and I tend to think that Mike might be tossing pebbles and looking for the returning ripples in order to see the shape of the lake (market).

    I don't play 4E currently, but I have. I don't like the game personally, but that's my opinion. I know plenty of good gaming folks who do, and I don't think that they're off their rockers. In fact, I don't really much like anything after AD&D, but that's not at all salient to what Mike has written.

    Sure actions are always louder than words, but Mike lives in a bit of a gilded cage and is likely legally bound for obvious reasons. So words are what he has at the moment...It's his first volley, and is probably an attempt to get us to give him a hand. Heck, if I were in his position I certainly know that's what I'd do.

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  27. I don't really think Mearls meant anything more specific in this article than "I hope everyone reads this column, regardless of which edition they play."

    However, what's the purpose of the column as a whole? At first, I took it at face value, but now that I've thought about it, I think the bit about looking at the past, present and future of the game is code for "there's no 5th edition yet, but I want to think about it publicly and ask what you guys want so that I can start developing it."

    I guess we'll know more Tuesday, when the next article is published.

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  28. @ Todd A. Gibson
    To make my point of view clear I don't think Mearls is the problem. Hasbro is the problem. I think Mearls actually cares about D&D. However, as you point out, what we want from WizBro is not in his power to grant us. It is the hands of a large multinational corporation who doesn't give a wererat's *ss about us, the OSR or D&D other than a potential source of profits. So Mearls is in charge of D&D. So what. At the end of the day it's Mr Suit & Spreadsheet who calls the shots.
    I wish Mike the best of luck and I hope he can salvage the brand. It is Hasbro I have no faith in. When I think of Hasbro's handling of D&D I remember the old adage "To predict the behavior of any sufficiently large organization assume it is controlled by a cabal of it's enemies out to discredit it."

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  29. The original post is just sort of silly.

    The genie is long out of the bottle and can't get stuffed back in. Sadly, the edition wars are now part of how D&D gamers do what they do (even absenting from the dialogue, or ignoring edition wars, contributes). Mearls didn't start that, but he did throw oil on the fire with the most recent edition. These people have no one to blame but themselves and a post like that won't earn him any respect. It's too complex an issue now for a simple post.

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  30. Remember this is the guy that green lit the "Wrong Step" and "Act Together" exploits for the Pathfinder paragon path in 4E (4th ed PHB pg.115). Mr. Mearls and his group made some terrible decisions with the supposedly beloved D&D franchise. A plea for unity won't fix it.

    Lately this Mearls guy has been on a real crusade to "unite" the D&D audience. Funny how this same guy was all about tearing apart the D&D audience in the run up to 4th edition. If 4E would have been a runway success no one at Hasbro would be talking about game unity. Now that it has failed and as James mentions Pathfinder has succeed Mr Mearls is desperately trying to put the genie back in the bottle.

    This article seems as much a threat as a plead. When I read between the lines I hear Mr. Mearls saying that if 4th edition continues to tank there will be no "Dungeons and Dragons" and that will impact all D&D audiences. He could not be more wrong in this veiled insinuation.

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  31. Edition wars have been around in one form or another since '81. Ironically, they have always been propagated by TSR/WOTC/Hasbro. Even more ironically, they always end up doing more damage to themselves.

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  32. Meh. "Unity" is meaningless if I don't play 4e, and all WotC does is produce 4e stuff. I couldn't care less if WotC and/or D&D (the brand) go belly up. That's what you get when you bend and twist a game so much that it doesn't resemble the original concept anymore. How could they have believed that ALL of the the previous D&D players would jump on the wagon and play something so distant from what they were used to? More power to Pathfinder, then, which at least still bears some resemblance to D&D (game concept.)

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  33. One of the main things that seems problematic about trying to "unify" the brand is the assumption that the different editions are all really just one game. They bear some similarities, but 4th edition is a DIFFERENT GAME than Ad&D 1e or OD&D or RC D&D.

    If you don't want to break your brand into microcommunities then don't keep changing the rules every ten years. . .

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  34. Mearls is essentially 4e's Development head, responsible for new supplements and content. His hands, from what I understand, are quite tied as far as releasing PDFs. That was Hasbro and WOTC coroporate's decision to make, not his. It's become quite well-known that Mearls means practices what he preaches as much as he can, to the point of a number of old-school campaigns going on at WOTC even as we speak. He should not be a scapegoat for the actions of his greedy employers.

    And I resent the argument that 4e is fundamentally a different game from previous editions of D&D. I don't feel it is any more than Chautaranga is fundamentally different from chess.

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  35. As has been pointed out above, Mearls clearly loves D&D, in all its editions.

    James, what would your post look like if you read Mearls’s column as his personal opinions/wishes, rather than as a corporate mouthpiece?

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  36. I don't mean to disparage 4th ed. when I say that it is a different game. I think ALL of D&D's various editions have good things about them. I like 4th edition, but I also like the Fantasy Trip and Runequest. However, I wouldn't make the mistake that Runequest and D&D are the same game even if they had some mechanical similarities.

    I also think Mike is a great designer, and I recognize he's in a tough spot. Mike isn't responsible for problems with the "brand" or the various "edition wars" whose seeds were planted even before WOTC bought D&D (although they've continued to repeat the mistake of overhauling the rules regularly).

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  37. At the end of my blogpost, I noted that if more people spent time actually gaming and less time arguing about why other peoples' preferred editions of D&D suck, that would be a great thing

    Who's forgoing gaming to argue? I certainly aren't. I've long argued that none of this stuff matters if you're not actually rolling dice with friends on a regular basis. But that doesn't mean we have to agree or like the same things. Frankly, I've never understood why it's so wrong to argue about games, especially if you're regularly playing them.

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  38. The constant appeal to brand loyalty just turned my stomach.

    Mine too. I'm not loyal to Dungeons & Dragons, but to a particular type of fantasy roleplaying game that used to go by that name.

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  39. I don't think it's really sunk in, but a large multi-national corporation now owns dungeons and dragons. From this acknowledgement all understanding is derived.

    This is true. I think it took so long for it to sink in because, speaking for myself anyway, WotC made a very good show in its early days of taking the game and its history seriously.

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  40. So the question to the cynics is, what would *you* write in *your* post if you were responsible for developing the next version of D&D? Surely you would want to involve the community, yes? Surely you would want to understand their constructive thoughts towards that end, yes? How would you solicit that differently?

    If WotC wants to solicit thoughts, constructive or otherwise, about the development of D&D, a column is probably not the best way to do that. They'd be much better served by a wide-ranging survey of some sort, much like WotC did before the launch of 3e.

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  41. I don't really think Mearls meant anything more specific in this article than "I hope everyone reads this column, regardless of which edition they play."

    That seems plausible, but, if that was the intention, I can't say it succeeded, at least for me, but I am notoriously close-minded.

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  42. "Unity" is meaningless if I don't play 4e, and all WotC does is produce 4e stuff.

    Precisely. If WotC is serious about providing a "home" for D&D players regardless of edition, they need to do something more than offer toothless platitudes. Makes those old PDFs available again is my suggestion, but there are other possibilities. But talk is cheap.

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  43. James, what would your post look like if you read Mearls’s column as his personal opinions/wishes, rather than as a corporate mouthpiece?

    Honestly? I'd probably be a lot more harsh. As a PR/marketing move, the column is pretty hamfisted, but I get the point of it. As a "can't we all just get along?" bromide, though, I think it's exceptionally naive, especially coming from one of the architects of a very controversial edition of the game.

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  44. "I think it's exceptionally naive, especially coming from one of the architects of a very controversial edition of the game. "

    A very controversial edition of the game that is, I believe, not doing well sales wise. I still maintain that if 4E were a runaway success and Pathfinder a failure and there were no real interest in OGL stuff Mearls would not care one bit for gamer "unity". He's on the losing end of the edition war so now he wants to call a truce? Uh, not so fast. Sorry. Obviously he is not being genuine. I think it's pretty easy to see that.

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  45. Nothing anyone connected to 4e says is every going to please some people, its as simple as that.

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  46. So the one guy working at WOTC who has publicly talked about playing OD&D...

    http://odd74.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=campaignstories&action=display&thread=543

    ...posts a column on the WOTC site talking about how he is aware of and values the previous editions of the game and he gets piled on by a bunch of people who are supposed to like the older versions? What could he possibly do right at this point? I'm not a big fan of his prior work but jeezus there's a guy in the right place who might actually "get it" and he's actually being derided for saying so?

    This is exactly the kind of stuff I want to hear from the company currently in charge of D&D. Maybe he can't un-publish 4E and he can't release the PDF's but that's not really the subject of his post anyway. I'd like to see the old PDF's back too, but I'm not making that a litmus test for whether the company or the employees are good or evil either.

    The torches and pitchforks really came out on this one. Does working at WOTC mean someone is automatically out of the club and an enemy of the people?

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  47. Blacksteel: No, just working at Hasbro does not mean you are an enemy of the people. However when you usher in the creation of what is the most reviled edition of D&D you might. Is it guilt by association? Maybe. But if Mr. Mearls wants to be embraced by the fans of previous editions of the game maybe he should write about the mistakes made in the current edition and how he would or will go about fixing them. Seems easy enough right?

    This transparent call for gamer unity is unnecessary. People are already united behind their various editions but what Mr. Mearls seems concerned with is that people are NOT united behind HIS edition. He is arguing with himself.

    If Mr. Mearls would like, for instance, the old school audience to support what he is doing with D&D and if he is such a fan of old school D&D well then JUST EXPLAIN how you are going to fix the game to make it more appealing to old school players. Pretty simple stuff.

    The fact that he does not do this shows to me how this is just marketing spin and adds fuel to fire the hatred. I think that's what you are seeing here.

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  48. I don't know if "fixing" the game would be helpful. I think if they wanted to support the Old School community then they should consider republishing earlier editions of the game as "Classic D&D" or something.

    If they want to mix us all up in this melange of editions then they should publish products that service the melange.

    I realize this may not be practical from any kind of real-world business perspective. So it won't ever happen.

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  49. I don't have a thing against Mearls. He has (to my knowledge) never molested any children, raped any widows or orphans, or taken any of my money that I didn't offer up freely for Hasbro product.

    That being said, I think Mearls is a guy who works for a large corporation and knows durn well his bosses are keeping a durn close eye on the D&D website.

    Is he a gamer dood who writes game stuff in his spare time like Maliszewski, for sheer love of the hobby, the genre, and the brain toys? I really don't know, and can therefore not pass any sort of judgment there. But I strongly suspect that what Mearls has said, he has said on company time, and as a company man.

    I don't think he set out to do D&D any harm. Short of those "Bothered About Dungeons And Dragons" wackos, I don't think Hasbro or any of its people sought to do any HARM, here. But the fact remains that what we do here is a NICHE HOBBY, a highly specialized sort of thing that the mainstream is simply never going to go googoo over... and therefore is never going to generate the kind of money that makes Hasbro executives salivate in the Pavlovian sense.

    Magic: The Gathering was a fluke. No other trading card game has ever been so popular and profitable, and I strongly suspect there will never be another like it. However, it did draw a lot of attention to the whole fantasy gaming phenomenon as a market and a moneymaker... and ultimately led to the situation we find ourselves in now: the condition of Dungeons and Dragons as we know it.

    D&D isn't going anywhere. D&D isn't going to die. The Moldvay edition has been out of print for DECADES, boys and girls, and Maliszewski and his spiritual kin still seem to find time for it. And all the materials are still available legally, via Ebay, used bookstores, and other places. It's all still alive, and it isn't going anywhere, and that's not EVEN bringing the issue of piracy into play.

    That being said, I do believe that Hasbro doesn't know what to do with what they've got... and so long as corporate policy is trumps at WotC, I strongly suspect things are going to get worse before they get better.

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  50. "But the fact remains that what we do here is a NICHE HOBBY, a highly specialized sort of thing that the mainstream is simply never going to go googoo over... and therefore is never going to generate the kind of money that makes Hasbro executives salivate in the Pavlovian sense."

    Unless of course someone could figure out a way to put it on a set of networked computers and charge a monthly fee to play it electronically. I think there used to be something called "World of Warcraft" that tried this, not sure how it worked out though ;) Yeah TSR/original WOTC missed that boat big time and they tried to recoup some of it with the 4E "design philosophy".

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  51. I guess Mearls' second post will be interesting to read at any rate.

    Now a related question. Let's assume for a moment that the next D&D version was completely reimagined and captured the essence of old-school gaming. Is it possible for a large company to add value to such a product over a small company?

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  53. Ok, take two on being polite.
    I wasn't going to get involved in all this BUT seeing how many are trying to make nice with a company that has done nothing but belittle the OSR and Paizo. I'll throw my worthless opinion in.

    *Deep breath*

    To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, "He is really not so ugly after all, provided, of course, that one shuts one's eyes, and does not look at him" sums up Mike Mearls appeal for 'Unity' while working for WotC. I could care less.

    Bitter?
    Yeah, but it keeps me young!

    When 4e came out Bill Slavisek proclaimed how we should all stop playing 3e 'cause it was a bad broken game and come play the new 4e 'cause it's the bestest D&D ever! That whole stance and the the whole 'fire the customer and get new one' approach turned me off to 4e or too anything WotC has done/said ever since. Now that Pathfinder outsells D&D 4e the pleading/apologizing starts. Too damn bad!
    Listen to your customers BEFORE a new edition and maybe..just maybe this wouldn't have happened!

    *deep breaths..in and out*

    Ok,lets continue..
    Some may recall when Paizo announced Pathfinder there was outcries from the WotC camp that it was doomed to fail and it would result in division in the hobby and would be the cause of cancer in unicorns and kittens...ok that last one was made up..but if you were around you know what I mean.

    Let D&D die a respectful death or sell it off. Don't let Hasbro market it with EZ Bake Oven or Littlest Pet Shop anymore!

    AND YOU KIDS STAY OFF MY LAWN!!

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  54. cibet said,
    "...if Mr. Mearls wants to be embraced by the fans of previous editions of the game maybe he should write about the mistakes made in the current edition and how he would or will go about fixing them."
    ^This.
    Nothing better can be said about the whole mess.

    cibet said,
    "This transparent call for gamer unity is unnecessary. People are already united behind their various editions but what Mr. Mearls seems concerned with is that people are NOT united behind HIS edition. He is arguing with himself."

    Ok, I stand aside at the behest of such wisdom as this. This...should be the common sense approach to dealing with WotC's appeals. They are sinking and it's apparent.

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  55. I would likely be more optimistic about Mr. Mearl's column if it were a blog post on a neutral gaming site, or disseminated across a number of messageboards. However, what I find most problematic about this "call for unity" is that it is posted on WotC's site.

    Presumably, most of the site traffic for WotC consists of people who currently play one of their games, and as 4E is the only game in town as far as D&D goes over there, he's preaching to the choir.

    I don't play 4E, and therefore don't frequent their site. The only reason I saw this plea for unity is because of James' post. If this is a real attempt at rebuilding bridges to those who play Pathfinder, OD&D, AD&D, etc., it's far short of what it needs to be to reach those target groups.

    As such, I'm pretty sure Mike isn't trying to reach out to the non-4E crowd. He's pandering to the 4E masses.

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  56. Dethand:

    I'v read your post @ WoTC's forums and you are spot on, my friend. Don't let up. Let them see the truth.

    freedfrost:

    interesting point. It does look like he's "preaching to the choir".

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  57. The more I think about it, I'm starting to believe that the article was written for a few reasons:

    -it sounds like an act of desperation on WoTC's part to gain credibility in the RPG community again. In other words, they don't want to appear as the "company that killed D&D" anymore, even though they are.

    -All indications are is that Pathfinder is doing better than they anticipated.

    -D&D 4.0 was a monumental failure of galactic proportions that they're BEGGING for people to come back.

    -they want to kill the OSR, because it's an alternative to what they have....and there cannot be any alternatives as far as WoTC is concerned.

    By bringing everyone under one camp and singing "kum-by-ya" around the campfire, they hope to achieve the points I've outlined.

    IMO, they're desperate: we know it and they know it.

    It's pathetic.

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  58. It makes me sick whenever I hear any of them talking about "The Brand" nowadays... Blithe embracing of Orwellian newspeak designed to distance us from the understanding that D&D is a game, a real game with a real history. Say "The Brand," get punched in the mouth, is my motto.

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  59. Perhaps Mike was on to something when he brought up the coming together thing. The fact that so many people who play different editions or different games still debate about what Hasbro and WoTC are doing with Dungeons and Dragons shows they still care, and that's an indicator that the corporation is doing something right, and they would do well to continue to pay attention to these opinions.

    After all, if no one cared about the game no one would bother to opine. The fact that many people do care is important to the company. How they move forward with those opinions in mind is something only the future can tell.

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  60. @Blackstone.

    Thanks my friend. I shall continue my 'zeitgeist haiku' approach. It needs to be said at a time when the olive branch is extended from a hand that has slapped the OSR often enough.

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