Two D&D "Stories" A Year?
  • Two D&D "Stories" A Year?

    The Israeli RPG website interviewed WotC's Mike Mearls recently. Most interesting in that interview was Mearls' comment on the frequency with which we could expect new D&D content. He said that we should expect two storylines per year until 2018. [threadcm][/threadcm]

    We're looking at two storylines a year. Right now, we have plans laid down for stories up through 2018.
    - Mike Mearls

    It's also interesting that the phrase of choice is "storylines" rather than "adventure paths" or "campaigns", or even just "adventures". Partly, this is because of all the cross-media branding tie-ins WotC plans - comics, books, and so on.

    So what form do these storylines take? Mike touched on this in his Reddit AMA the other day, in which he also indicates that we should expect one or two such products per year:

    Let's say we wanted to do psionics. We'd tie that to a campaign you can play, maybe one centered on mind flayers or a similar foe. The psionic sourcebook would be the player's companion to the DM's mind flayer campaign. The sourcebook would have all the info for creating psionic characters, along with world material for players who are creating characters for the mind flayer campaign. The player's book might also have a chapter written from an in-world perspective on psionics and psionic monsters, the kind of information that a character might have access to or have heard. You can expect us to do one or two such products a year, to give people enough time to play through a campaign without overwhelming them with new options.
    - Mike Mearls

    So the model is an adventure (or two) tied to a sourcebook. The sourcebook provides the player material for the adventures, and also covers whatever "concept" is being introduced. We already know about the first such example for 2015, the Princes of the Apocalypse adventure, which is the first in the (presumably two-part) Elemental Evil story arc, which is set for a March 17th release, to be authored by Sasquatch studios. As you know, the current storyline, Tyranny of Dragons, was produced for WotC by Kobold Press. Princes of the Apocalypse is set to be accompanied by the Adventurer's Handbook, which details all sorts of elemental character options. [threadcm][/threadcm]

    Adventurer's Handbook (March 17, 2015; hardcover; $39.95) -- A Dungeons & Dragons Accessory.

    Create Heroic Characters to Conquer the Elements in this Accessory for the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game

    Not inherently evil, elemental power can be mastered by those with both malevolent and benign intentions. The Elemental Evil Adventurer’s Handbook provides everything that players need to build a character that is tied directly into the Elemental Evil story arc, with skills, abilities, and spells meant to augment their play experience throughout the campaign. Additionally, valuable background and story information provides greater depth and immersion.

    An accessory that expands the number of options available for character creation for the Elemental Evil story arc, providing expanded backgrounds, class builds, and races meant specifically for this campaign.

    Provides background and setting information critical to having the greatest chance of success.

    Accessory design and development by Sasquatch Game Studio LLC.

    Princes of the Apolcalypse (March 17, 2015; hardcover; $49.95) -- A Dungeons & Dragons Adventure.

    Abolish an Ancient Evil Threatening Devastation in this Adventure for the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game

    Called by the Elder Elemental Eye to serve, four corrupt prophets have risen from the depths of anonymity to claim mighty weapons with direct links to the power of the elemental princes. Each of these prophets has assembled a cadre of cultists and creatures to serve them in the construction of four elemental temples of lethal design. It is up to adventurers from heroic factions such as the Emerald Enclave and the Order of the Gauntlet to discover where the true power of each prophet lay, and dismantle it before it comes boiling up to obliterate the Realms.

    A super-adventure for the Elemental Evil story arc, Princes of the Apocalypse provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable play experience.

    Fans of the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Roleplaying Game can get a sample of what this product has in store for them through the D&D Encounters(TM) in-store play program.

    Adventure design and development by Sasquatch Game Studio LLC.

    So, this'll happen a couple of times a year. Tyranny of Dragons now, Elemental Evil in March, and presumably something new in Fall 2015. Mearls mentioned in his Reddit AMA that Planescape and Eberron were both "on the radar", Spelljammer "isn't at the front of the line, but it is in line", and that for Forgotten Realms they "want to provide a broad update on the Realms, but nothing to report yet". The storyline/sourcebook model seems like a great way to re-introduce settings, though - especially those with strong flavours.

    That points to a half dozen products per year for the RPG directly (though each 'storyline' will have a bunch of associated branded stuff, too). Four adventures, two sourcebooks, maybe another hardcover a year? That's certainly a very much dialed-down production rate, especially compared to Pathfinder. Of course, despite being owned by Hasbro and having M:tG in the same building, WotC's D&D team is much smaller than Paizo - Paizo has about 50 employees (about 20 directly on the RPG), while WotC's D&D team has about 15 (7 directly on the RPG) - about a third the manpower. "The team as a whole has about fifteen people. About half that are actually working on the RPG right now. The other half are working on other D&D stuff like Neverwinter, iOS games, licensing, or board games."
    One of the reasons for dialing back the production schedule is a fear of system bloat. Mearls' Reddit AMA made it clear that WotC is keenly aware of it, and how it can lead to a new edition earlier than planned if left unchecked. Indeed, he said "we want to avoid splat creep and system bloat. That decision is based on our personal preference plus data we collected via the playtest".

    System bloat is a big concern. It's one of the things that forces us into a new edition and makes the game hard to get into. We're looking at keeping our new mechanics to a minimum and having clear guidelines on the best way to incorporate new material into your campaign.
    - Mike Mearls