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Sunday, 8th January, 2012, 07:00 AM #1
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WotC Seeks Unity with a New Edition
This is one of three articles covering this announcement. The other two articles are Off to See the Wizards: The Day that WotC Showed Me D&D 5th Edition and Bet You Wish Your Workplace Looked Like WotC?
One thing made clear by Mike Mearls and other WotC staff at the "WotC Summit" last year - at which they formally confirmed to us that they were working on a new edition of D&D - is that they intend to do it very differently this time around. The approach to the development of 5th Edition (or whatever it ends up being called - it's referred to by a code name at WotC, or by phrases such as "a new iteration"; there's an implication there that simply calling it a "new edition" may be underselling their goals which appear to be more inclusive of all D&D players and which we hope to be able to share soon) is very specifically planned to be inclusive of fans, with the ultimate goal of having the fans actually help shape the new edition.
They've never done this before - at least, not to this degree; it's a very different process to that used with previous iterations of the game. But it was made clear that they really, really, really want to put out a game that is unifying rather than divisive; that caters - as much as possible - to as many as possible. And which is, ultimately, a game that all D&D players, whatever their preferred flavor, will want to play. And so they intend to engage the community to an unprecedented level.
During a conversation last month, Mike Mearls, head of R&D for Dungeons & Dragons, made this comparison: "D&D is like the wardrobe you use to go to Narnia." I wrote it down so as to remember it. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to do some playtesting for the fledgling 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons with Mike Mearls as the DM and by the end of the event I really felt that is what Wizards was attempting to do with the new edition.
Wizards of the Coast described the goal of the new iteration of D&D in the following way: "The goal of this project is to develop a universal rules system that takes from the best of every edition and get at the soul of what D&D is. What better way to do that than to look to the fans to help us in this effort?" This is more revealing than it looks: WotC has acknowledged publicly that they made mistakes in the buildup to 4E, and has learned important lessons from that period.
That's why the buildup period of the new edition will be far more inclusive than ever before. Fan feedback and public playtests are a core part of WotC's strategy this time around. In their own words, "This is a whole new process for Wizards and we’re excited to enlist the fan base to help shape the future of D&D." They intend to engage the fans in a way they have never done before; and summarize their approach most clearly when they say "this process is an opportunity for fans to help us craft a new edition and help determine how the game is played moving forward." In many ways, this really is an exciting new approach to designing a new edition of the game; and it's exciting for us fans because this time we aren't just spectators waiting for scraps of information - we're going to be part of the process. We're going to have opportunities to take part in playtests (and these very soon - we're not talking months in the future here), and respond to specific questions or concepts. For sure, DDXP is going to be an exciting convention this year for those who are able to attend. There is a new edition playtest called Caves of Chaos at the event, which you can find details about here - "Join the first public playtest of the next iteration of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. The playtest offers players the chance to run pre-generated 1st-level characters through the Caves of Chaos, a four-hour D&D adventure. Wizards of the Coast staff will be running several tables each day. As part of the playtest, participants must sign a special non-dislcosure agreement for playtesters."
You've already seen some preliminary elements of this process in the Legends & Lore columns, although I personally feel it's a mistake to look at those columns and conclude that you know what the new edition is going to shape up like. Those columns aren't previews of what they're doing; they're a way of floating concepts out there and seeing what you think. Some are popular; others less so, and this is important. I feel it's vital not just to find some things that gamers want in their new D&D, but also to discover what they definitely don't want.
WotC also wanted to emphasize its commitment to tabletop face-to-face gaming. There are many, many rumors flying round the web, and much speculation; a lot of this is centered around an expectation of a more digital, online focus. WotC stated clearly "[We are] extremely committed to tabletop gaming and the face to face experiences that D&D brings." There is clear recognition that although digital tools can enhance and supplement a game, the company has not lost sight of the fact that D&D is a tabletop roleplaying game, and not a digital experience.
I encourage you to write them, to post about them, to be active on the message boards here at EN World, the Wizards of the Coast site, and elsewhere (but mainly here). The idea of getting fan feedback to help craft the newest edition of the godfather of role-playing games should excite anyone who plays or has played D&D in the past. Make sure you get signed up for the playtest and keep giving feedback on the Legends & Lore columns. I suggest voicing your opinion in a positive way; if you really want to help shape this game - and you can - please try not to actively alienate the folks who are attempting to engage you. This news will stir up some fervor and Wizards of the Coast expects this. Keep in mind that we are a community and all share a passion for the same hobby. There are no right or wrong answers, just your opinions.
You can expect to see this development process much more clearly very soon. The playtests can already be signed up for (see the link above); DDXP is going to be very exciting; and in the coming months you'll be able to witness - and participate in - something which is new to us, and new to WotC. It's an exciting time to be a D&D player!
NOTE: The "I" in this article is EN World's WotC correspondent, @Gaming Tonic. The article was added to and posted by Morrus.
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