The State of D&D: Products, Psionics, Settings, & More
  • The State of D&D: Products, Psionics, Settings, & More


    At Game Hole Con, WotC hosted a "State of the Industry" panel, featuring Chris Perkins and Mike Mearls. Nerds on Earth was there to record the audio (listen to that here). Amongst other things, they hinted at the next FOUR products, mentioned that the Mystic, Artificer and Revised Ranger were upcoming, and indicated that D&D is now the most popular it has ever been since the 1980s. They also mention the release schedule, settings, novels, and more.



    EN World member Mistwell took the time to listen to the audio and list the highlights!

    A lot of good info in there.

    Xanathar's Guide comes out at the point where in prior editions they were working on or coming out with the next edition of the game. Instead they put that level of effort into making this the first big expansion of the game. (They say later they don't anticipate a new edition until 10 years as gone by in most likelihood, if feedback continues as it is - and 6th edition would be highly likely to be backwards compatible with 5e).

    The playtest had HALF A MILLION playtesters. Wow.

    The next big expansion is mystic (Psion) and artificer and revised ranger. They will come out, but need more testing and refinement. Ranger also needs to be free rather than a paid product. It will be a free download.

    Every product being released in 2018 has either been written, or is being written. One is at the tail end of the editing/layout process. Another is in the playtest phase. A third is in the finalizing development phase. And a fourth Mearls won't talk about at all. So, looks like four major products for 2018.

    There will be a balance between rules crunch and adventures/story in the products. They are trying to very carefully manage and curate the rules balance aspect. Adventures get about 300 playtester groups. Rules get a whole lot more.

    They are very pleased with the 10 person collaborative DMsGuild group producing content and adventure related stuff on DMsGuild for them right now. That team will also be coming out with their own subclasses and such for Xanathars for example. They will be looked at internally by WOTC but are for home game use only and are not nearly as highly playtested as official content. But it's very good content and does get a sweep of review from WOTC.

    The team feels D&D overall is in a very good place right now. They've seen an enormous positive reaction to the game. They think probably only the early 80s matches the level of popularity of the game, and that it is more popular that probably any other time in the history of the game other than being matched by the early 80s.

    They're very happy with the slowed release schedule as it gives them so much more time to focus on what they put out and the future. The most important aspect of that is their ability to plan out the future properly. In prior editions they worked on, the focus was always on getting the next book out. But with 5e they can spend a lot more time planning the game out into the future rather than just on the next product. Right now they are focusing mostly on 2019, spending a lot of time thinking about the entire year's experience and putting it all together cohesively and to build D&D in a planned way which brings more people into the hobby and make them feel welcomed. They didn't have a lot of time to ask those questions and plan them out in prior editions. They also think the slowed release schedule has allowed them to get a lot more new players as one of the barriers to entry (the quantity of rule books) is no longer there.

    On Psionics, they re-read the Darksun books a lot. A lot of the thinking they do these days is thinking of D&D as a multiverse, and as Darksun being part of the prime material plane with greyhawk and forgotten realms in one big shared multiverse. And they asked why in a devastated world Psionics is prominent. They are very focused on what psionics is, why it exists in this universe. They felt in prior editions D&D focused on very specific things, and less about the myths about those things and why things did what they did and how they related to the rest of the cosmos and the things in it. As an example, the Draconomicon focused a lot on the anatomy of dragons, but little about why dragons in relation to who they are, why they do what they do, how they related to the rest of the cosmos.

    Specific to Psionics and that topic, Mind Flayers used to rule most of the material plane, so what was going on with the Gods for those years, and how does that relate to the psionic powers of the Mind Flayers? Mind Flayers had no Gods, so what did it mean for the Gods when the Mind Flayers ruled, and what happened with the Gods when the Mind Flayers fell? Those are the kinds of questions they are asking, along with where Psionics comes from and how it works.

    On Settings (with a lot specific to Eberron). One challenge D&D had in the 90s was the settings were competing with each other. But now that they are thinking of settings as a "genre" as opposed to a "place" it twists a bit what they can do with a setting, so it does not necessarily have to compete anymore. They need to focus on what role a setting places in the larger game. So "typical D&D" looks a lot like Forgotten Realms. Dark Sun is "Post-Apocalyptic D&D". Ravenloft is "Gothic-Horror D&D". Eberron is either "Film Noir D&D" or "Pulp D&D". Genre becomes the focus, as a means of changing what the feel of D&D will be for a game, and as a means of explaining that setting to a new player. They have an idea of what they want to do with Eberron, but a lot of it just comes down to doing it right, so they take the time to make sure that when it comes out it will feel like a definitive book. They don't want it to be a "product line". They never want you to buy a book and need anything more than the core three books to use it. So if they ever put out one Eberron book and then a second one, the second one would not assume you owned the first one. And they always want you to use most of a book they put out, rather than just a small part of it. And they want you to be able to pick up a setting book and use it right away rather than spend a lot of time on preparation.

    [This marks the half way point of the session]

    Big survey coming out next week on Adventurers League. They want to bring the League into the 21st century and more friendly to a new audience.

    On Forgotten Realms novels: They feel the novel business is very tricky, and they are a game company. They're not necessarily good at novels business. They don't have a good plan for novels, and they do not have a novel publishing expert on their team right now. It's not something they say they will never do again, it's just not their focus this year. They would consider a partnership, but they're not looking for it.

    On Planescape and the other settings: They have a rough draft cosmological ties for how all the settings could come back and fit together and have products, including even Spelljammer and Dark Sun and Eberron and Greyhawk. They want to make sure for each setting product, they assume this is the first time you're seeing that setting, and not require prior knowledge of it.

    In terms of story lines, they don't plan on doing a story line that lasts multiple products like Tiamat did, at least not right now. They didn't have the product mix down pat during the Tiamat two book adventures. They have a better sense now of how long it takes a DM to get trough content. They also found two adventure big books a year was too much, and many DMs were not keeping up. The Adventurer's League content is intended to expanding the Adventure content for those minority number of groups that can absorb two big adventures a year or more.

    [This marks the 45 min mark]

    Subclass feats are likely not in the future from the WOTC team, as it's took fine a level of detail. New subclasses are in the future, and new classes and races probably well.

    The PHB is selling so well they're afraid to make any changes to the PHB...not even changing the index or footers which they want to badly do and know needs to be done. They would consider posting a better Index online though for people to print.
    Comments 182 Comments
    1. Demetrios1453's Avatar
      Demetrios1453 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mistwell View Post
      Every product being released in 2018 has either been written, or is being written. One is at the tail end of the editing/layout process. Another is in the playtest phase. A third is in the finalizing development phase. And a fourth Mearls won't talk about at all. So, looks like four major products for 2018.
      If that's not just Mearls mistakenly referencing a 2019 product, or making a lesser product seem to be a major one, this is HUGE news. I've always thought they could ramp up to quarterly releases without seriously causing bloat, and it appears that they may now be going that route. Combined with what you say later about campaign settings, as well as campaign settings being mentioned in the recent WotC job posting, makes me wonder if we'll be seeing a campaign setting book later in 2018 as the fourth yearly product. I'm guessing (should this all pan out), that a four releases a year schedule will continue to have the September release be the big adventure path, with the other two being rules supplements (I wouldn't be surprised if one of these we see a continuation of Volo's-type monster books for dragons, fiends, undead, etc. as one of the yearly releases), and the fourth yearly release being a campaign setting book, quite possibly tied to the yearly adventure release.

      (My guess for the first setting would be Planescape, as it would allow them to test the waters without it being fully committing to a completely different setting than the Realms/generic D&D, as the planes are built into duch settings by default. The planes would also function as a bridge to other settings).
    1. Parmandur's Avatar
      Parmandur -
      Quote Originally Posted by Demetrios1453 View Post
      If that's not just Mearls mistakenly referencing a 2019 product, or making a lesser product seem to be a major one, this is HUGE news. I've always thought they could ramp up to quarterly releases without seriously causing bloat, and it appears that they may now be going that route. Combined with what you say later about campaign settings, as well as campaign settings being mentioned in the recent WotC job posting, makes me wonder if we'll be seeing a campaign setting book later in 2018 as the fourth yearly product. I'm guessing (should this all pan out), that a four releases a year schedule will continue to have the September release be the big adventure path, with the other two being rules supplements (I wouldn't be surprised if one of these we see a continuation of Volo's-type monster books for dragons, fiends, undead, etc. as one of the yearly releases), and the fourth yearly release being a campaign setting book, quite possibly tied to the yearly adventure release.

      (My guess for the first setting would be Planescape, as it would allow them to test the waters without it being fully committing to a completely different setting than the Realms/generic D&D, as the planes are built into duch settings by default. The planes would also function as a bridge to other settings).
      The key to that might be what they say about settings as "themes": a Gothic Horror book, more than a Ravenloft straight gazeeter?
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      There's a lot of good stuff in there! Thanks Mistwell!

      I was curious about this-

      "The team feels D&D overall is in a very good place right now. They've seen an enormous positive reaction to the game. They think probably only the early 80s matches the level of popularity of the game, and that it is more popular that probably any other time in the history of the game other than being matched by the early 80s."

      I wonder how they measure popularity. Is that in terms of a general feeling? Sales numbers? Revenue? Adjusted for inflation and/or population growth? Core rulebooks only or supplements?

      I know, I know, I agree that D&D is doing better than it has for a long time (or at least, appears to be), but I'm curious how they do historical comparisons.

      (I also really like the stuff in there about settings as genre ... which means they probably aren't touching Greyhawk)
    1. Mortellan's Avatar
      Mortellan -
      Well not touching Greyhawk or if they do it will be distilled somehow because they said they don't want new fans burdened by prior knowledge in these setting treatments.
    1. Coroc's Avatar
      Coroc -
      @Mortellan the only Setting not needing anything 5e specific than maybe an themed adventure imho is greyhawk.

      The other Settings like DS Eberron lack more, specifically game mechanics in how to do certain things and be 5E conform.
      That is especially psionics which might be resolved in a more General way but also some campaign sepcific rulings which are in no way simple to convert from 2e / 3,5e / 4e and which are no Problem at all for greyhawk or FR or even plansescape.
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Coroc View Post
      @Mortellan the only Setting not needing anything 5e specific than maybe an themed adventure imho is greyhawk.

      The other Settings like DS Eberron lack more, specifically game mechanics in how to do certain things and be 5E conform.
      That is especially psionics which might be resolved in a more General way but also some campaign sepcific rulings which are in no way simple to convert from 2e / 3,5e / 4e and which are no Problem at all for greyhawk or FR or even plansescape.
      I don't think that is quite right. Let me explain.

      If they aren't doing settings as campaigns worlds (as indicated) but, instead, settings as genres, then they don't need Greyhawk. Because they have the FR. I suppose you could argue that Greyhawk is more S&S than FR, but that's neither here nor there.

      As listed in the OP, many of the other settings can be established as genre entries. Just like they did with Ravenloft. Put in a bit of crunch, and otherwise do it as a straight-forward AP.

      Will this be unsatisfying for people who want, for example, a full Eberron (or Dark Sun, or whatever) experience? Yes. But, on the plus side, more people will play it, gain exposure to it, and there will be some rules for fans of those settings to further explore.

      (My two cents are that a Planescape "setting" will be incredibly unlikely in the near, 1-2 year, future.)
    1. kenmarable's Avatar
      kenmarable -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mortellan View Post
      Well not touching Greyhawk or if they do it will be distilled somehow because they said they don't want new fans burdened by prior knowledge in these setting treatments.
      Given how much setting information exists in prior editions, I think it would be great if they included even just a single page of “For more information on X part of this world, check out this pdf on DMsGuild” etc. with a couple sentences about some useful prior edition PDFs. It shouldn’t be hard to have a standard disclaimer of “The rules are for a different edition of the game, but the locations, NPCs, and events can serve as inspiration for more adventures in this world.” or something to avoid confusion for new players.

      I can understand not wanting to require prior knowledge of the setting for a new book (and agree entirely) but it can definitely be a great way to concretely introduce newer players to these settings to help enrich their games. I know page space can be at a premium, but even a half page of call outs to specific older edition titles would be wonderful.
    1. dropbear8mybaby's Avatar
      dropbear8mybaby -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mistwell View Post
      The PHB is selling so well they're afraid to make any changes to the PHB...not even changing the index or footers which they want to badly do and know needs to be done. They would consider posting a better Index online though for people to print.
      This seriously irritates me. This is the exact same logic they used for not fixing 4e. The CharOp forums had easy fixes that could easily be implemented with only a few changes to the books but WotC insisted that changing anything in the game would annoy too many people.

      This is not a smart strategy in my opinion. There are some desperately needed updates and fixes. You can't just lock the edition in stasis, flaws and all, and expect it to have longevity. An update, at some point, has to come.
    1. kenmarable's Avatar
      kenmarable -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      (My two cents are that a Planescape "setting" will be incredibly unlikely in the near, 1-2 year, future.)
      When they do Planescape, my personal guess is what Volo’s Guide is to the Monster Manual, that book would be to the Manual of the Planes. It will fill the same sort of role, but in a reimagined and heavily flavored way. Which I would be overjoyed with, so maybe there’s some wishful thinking.
    1. ChapolimX's Avatar
      ChapolimX -
      In the audio they mentioned something I couldn't understand about new classes beyond the artificer and the mystic. Does someone know what classes they possibly mentioned?
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by dropbear8mybaby View Post

      This is not a smart strategy in my opinion. There are some desperately needed updates and fixes. You can't just lock the edition in stasis, flaws and all, and expect it to have longevity. An update, at some point, has to come.
      In 1978, the PHB was released.

      In 1989, the Second Edition was released, streamlining the rules.

      That's 11 years. Worked out pretty well.

      There's a balance between stability, and fixes. Especially when it comes to core rules. You don't want people playing with different versions of the same core rules, especially given the longevity* of hardcover books.

      In other words, you can't assume every player and DM is an engaged with the game as all of us are. And so there has to be allowances for all sorts, and you want to ensure that they are all playing with the same rules.


      *Um, well, assumed longevity. Actual longevity may vary depending on use, and the quality of your PHB. Ahem.
    1. Coroc's Avatar
      Coroc -
      @lowkey13 i did write the same in other words. FR as well as Greyhawk are pretty close to the standard rules. The only thing interesting for these settingsare new adventures which can be quite generic. The official lore for FR is continued of course, but that also happens with the novels.

      On your other Point: I is not about genre. You can do a FR or GHK campign as a Pulp or noire style. That is not the Problem

      It is really about crunch in this case game mechanics. DS and Eberron is lacking a Ppsionic System 1-20 which i wrote could be resolved in with general rules for psionics, but DS also needs some mechanics for statting of some races otherwise you would have to leave them out as playable races (kreen / Halfgiants, they break the established race scheme no matter how you look on this), some rules for inferior weapons (and eventually armor), some rule about preserving / defiling and templars maybe being some Kind of warlocks or priests.

      There are some nice threads on this Forum with houserules trying to resolve These things but no official clarification not even in form of UA.
    1. SharnDM's Avatar
      SharnDM -
      I love the energy and optimism I'm seeing from WotC these days. Slow playing things, taking some real time to produce quality content has been working very well for the company and every book I review for them has earned some truly high marks from me.

      Waiting this long to produce a quality supplement book (re: Xanathar's Guide), one that was playtested through Unearthed Arcana, was very well handled.

      I may not always get exactly what I want from WotC because I want Eberron and I want it fully realized in the 5th edition, but I'm not even all that bent out of shape about how they are handling settings like Eberron. They are producing super quality stuff so I feel like when they tack a crack at Eberron in the future, and it looks like they will, I'm probably going to like it.

      In any event, I'm loving what I see from them right now. I do wish they'd come back to GenCon though (personal preference). Hell, I just love the apparent enthusiasm for the game that is obviously buzzing through their team!
    1. lowkey13's Avatar
      lowkey13 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Coroc View Post
      @lowkey13 i did write the same in other words. FR as well as Greyhawk are pretty close to the standard rules. The only thing interesting for these settingsare new adventures which can be quite generic. The official lore for FR is continued of course, but that also happens with the novels.

      On your other Point: I is not about genre. You can do a FR or GHK campign as a Pulp or noire style. That is not the Problem

      It is really about crunch in this case game mechanics. DS and Eberron is lacking a Ppsionic System 1-20 which i wrote could be resolved in with general rules for psionics, but DS also needs some mechanics for statting of some races otherwise you would have to leave them out as playable races (kreen / Halfgiants, they break the established race scheme no matter how you look on this), some rules for inferior weapons (and eventually armor), some rule about preserving / defiling and templars maybe being some Kind of warlocks or priests.

      There are some nice threads on this Forum with houserules trying to resolve These things but no official clarification not even in form of UA.
      I don't disagree with you; I am only extrapolating based on the OP.

      "On Settings (with a lot specific to Eberron). One challenge D&D had in the 90s was the settings were competing with each other. But now that they are thinking of settings as a "genre" as opposed to a "place" it twists a bit what they can do with a setting, so it does not necessarily have to compete anymore. They need to focus on what role a setting places in the larger game. So "typical D&D" looks a lot like Forgotten Realms. Dark Sun is "Post-Apocalyptic D&D". Ravenloft is "Gothic-Horror D&D". Eberron is either "Film Noir D&D" or "Pulp D&D". Genre becomes the focus, as a means of changing what the feel of D&D will be for a game, and as a means of explaining that setting to a new player. They have an idea of what they want to do with Eberron, but a lot of it just comes down to doing it right, so they take the time to make sure that when it comes out it will feel like a definitive book. They don't want it to be a "product line". They never want you to buy a book and need anything more than the core three books to use it."

      I can't speak to what they will, or can, or should do. All I can say is that based on this, it looks like they view other settings as genre, and that you will not need more than the core rulebooks to run an adventure in that genre (perhaps with some additional, "genre specific" rules). As such, I can see them publishing APs set in a post-apocalyptic (Dark Sun) setting, but I don't see why they would publish a Greyhawk AP, since they already are using FR as the default.
    1. Bolares's Avatar
      Bolares -
      well, they have beeing publishing Greyhawk APs... In FR. A lot of inspiration for the APs comes from Greyhawk, but the setting is "genre interchangeable" with FR, and by waht they say they don't want the setting to compete for the audiences interest.
    1. Polyhedral Columbia's Avatar
      Polyhedral Columbia -
      Cool.
      As a historical aside, I think I may have invented the word "Psion." Back on the old WotC message boards, back in the run-up to 3E, back when Ryan Dancey was posting a lot...in those conversations I posted a list of core classes I'd like to see for 3E. At that time, I assumed that the 2E "class groups" (Priest, Rogue, Warrior, Wizard, Psionicist) would continue in 3E. In my chart of proposed classes, I introduced "Psion" as the name of the class group. I felt the "-icist" was not essential to the name. Soon after that, "Psion" entered the discourse.

      Of course this more succinct name could have been readily intuited/invented by others, and it would be hard to prove, without looking back at the msg board archives and interviewing the designers from back then. Anyway, it's just a little detail within the D&D Multiverse. And, off hand, I don't even remember my msg board handle from that time. But a bit of speculative history.
    1. TwoSix -
      Quote Originally Posted by lowkey13 View Post
      I can't speak to what they will, or can, or should do. All I can say is that based on this, it looks like they view other settings as genre, and that you will not need more than the core rulebooks to run an adventure in that genre (perhaps with some additional, "genre specific" rules). As such, I can see them publishing APs set in a post-apocalyptic (Dark Sun) setting, but I don't see why they would publish a Greyhawk AP, since they already are using FR as the default.
      Yep. Putting out settings to be primarily vehicles for deploying crunch that supports the vision of previous editions is not something that's a major, or even a minor, priority for them. They're going to use the recognizable brand names of the settings as a backdrop to developing different "flavors" of D&D, but with a focus on keeping a coherent multiverse and overall D&D feel. I'm pretty sure that means the settings with really different flavors will be more of a focus, to diversify the offerings. Dark Sun and Planescape would be obvious candidates (and Planescape would have the guidelines as to how all these settings connect and can be used together.)
    1. AriochQ's Avatar
      AriochQ -
      With all the talk about psionics, my guess is Darksun will be the next setting they will introduce. No chance I would move my home game, but I wouldn't mind playing/running some Adventurer's League content in that setting.
    1. Eltab's Avatar
      Eltab -
      There is a thread somewhere on EnWorld that has an improved PHB Index. The D&D team could ask the author (and Morrus) for permission to use IT, with appropriate credit (and royalties of course).
    1. Dragonblade -
      I agree that changing the PHB significantly would be bad juju now. But you can incorporate errata and a new index. That won't disrupt anyone's game.
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