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5E A lesson I hope WotC learns from Paizo (with regards to 5E)

Gadget

Explorer
DISCLAIMER: This post makes a number of unfounded assertions based on my understanding of how the RPG market works. If I'm wrong, just remember that I am a delicate snowflake and you need to be gentle.

Another thing: you need a lot of books, but you HAVE to do with without bloat, and it has to still be quality. At my local B&N the Paizo books outnumber the D&D books 3:1, simply because of the sheer number of titles. And these are NOT "advanced" books or somesuch with rules bloat. For the most part these are adventures, GM helpers like the NPC Codex, etc., i.e. things that help GM's start and run a Pathfinder game. Meanwhile, the 4E books are all player options books. Players don't drive your sales, DM's do.

I think the heart of it is this: stop making books for players and start making books for GM's. Adventures, adventures, adventures. Stop putting them on the website and start putting them in binding and battle Paizo for shelf-space. Don't make adventures this add-on afterthought to selling the core rules. Rather, make the core rules just a gateway into the purchase of adventures and modules.

NOTE: I don't buy adventures or modules. I have no care for them at all. As a player, I buy every player options book I can get my hands on. But the fact remains that I am in the vast minority (I think), and I am not one to be catered to. Ever. I'm niche at best.
Well, considering D&D has actually published anything new for quite a while, I don't find it amazing that Pathfinder outnumbers D&D at the local B&N. During most of 4e's run, my local B&N had far more 4e stuff than Pathfinder. And the whole reason we have lots of player focused splats is because there are more players than DMs, so selling to all of them is a potential larger market. As I understand it, the old AD&D style modules were either loss leaders or had razor thin profit margins by the time of 3e's release. It was one of the reasons for the original OGL, to offload a lot of the less cost effective adventure writing to smaller players so WOTC could produce glossy, high quality books for players to trick out their PC's with. And the strategy worked, at least initially. Until the Adventure Path model, largely perfected by Piazo, took hold and filled a gap.

But I agree that that business strategy is no longer the way to go: the market is changing and the pendulum is swinging back a little towards adventures and DM focused products. Ryan Dancy's 'network externalities' argument may apply here. However, one has to consider the size of WOTC, and the income & profits needed to sustain them. I doubt if they will allow D&D to ride on Magic's revenue coattails forever. It may be that they need more hardbacks to justify overhead, or they have to reduct size and have more layoffs ( queue evil mean WOTC thread here). DDI subscriptions seem to be one way they have/are trying to offset this cycle of revenue ups and downs, so it seems they are aware of the problem.
 
I definitely understand this sentiment, but I'm really of two minds about it. If they are going to release fewer sourcebooks, the quality control definitely needs to be very high. With a frequent release schedule, if a title does not appeal enough it is a lot easier for me to skip that book and not feel too bad about it. On the other hand, if it going to be the only book of that type for a couple of months, that would far more disappointing for me. It's a hard call.
Just to clarify, in the OP I wasn't suggesting reducing the number of books published, but reducing the number of hardcovers to maybe one per season. As [MENTION=37579]Jester Canuck[/MENTION] implied, greater pleasure comes from delayed gratification. One really high quality 320-page book every three months is far more desirable than three mediocre 160-page books in that same span, that end up having about the same word-count.

Now maybe WotC has felt, in the past at least, that its better to sell say, 3 million $30 books than 1 million $40 books, but in actually not only will they sell more books if they create higher quality products, but it is more sustainable in the long-term to create higher quality products because it keeps the fan-base healthy.

So I would suggest one hardcover per quarter, plus other products - softcovers, box sets, modules, etc - sprinkled inbetween. You still want at least one new product coming out per month. But the point of the original post was to make hardcovers special again - longer, higher quality, and more meaningful. 4e really lost sight of this.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
The one thing I really don't want is a lot of 300+ page tomes. The PF Core Rulebook is horrible - as someone who needs to transport books some distance to the game, the PF core book is very close to coming apart. 300+ page books? Please, no.
 

Zardnaar

Explorer
The one thing I really don't want is a lot of 300+ page tomes. The PF Core Rulebook is horrible - as someone who needs to transport books some distance to the game, the PF core book is very close to coming apart. 300+ page books? Please, no.
What about PHB? 3.5 and 4th ed both pass 300 pages.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
What about PHB? 3.5 and 4th ed both pass 300 pages.
After playing with a lot of the Essentials books and AD&D of late, I'm quite happy for the PHB to not be that big. :)

Having just one book at 320 pages isn't so bad (the binding is much less of an issue), but when you have a lot of them, it becomes problematic.

Cheers!
 
S

Sunseeker

Guest
This is exactly what I said in another thread. If there are cool, smaller, creative splatbooks, great. I enjoy a lot of those out of Pathfinder and other 3PPs as well, but at the very least the core books should be fairly hefty.
 
This is exactly what I said in another thread. If there are cool, smaller, creative splatbooks, great. I enjoy a lot of those out of Pathfinder and other 3PPs as well, but at the very least the core books should be fairly hefty.
Just remember though, the bigger the core books are, the bigger the entry barrier to new players. Having to read (or at least thinking you have to read) a 300+ page rulebook to learn how to play the game would put quite a few people off giving it a go.
 
S

Sunseeker

Guest
Just remember though, the bigger the core books are, the bigger the entry barrier to new players. Having to read (or at least thinking you have to read) a 300+ page rulebook to learn how to play the game would put quite a few people off giving it a go.
Honestly, I bought the books long after I knew how to play the game. I don't think I've ever actually seen anyone in a gaming store or a book store who went "Huh, what is this D&D thing? I think I'lll drop 40 bucks to find out!"
 
No, but the last time I introduced the game to a bunch of kids, they saw the (3.0e) core rulebooks, asked "do we need to read all of that?", and I watched the interest die in their eyes.

Whether you need to read it or not, the mere existence of those 300+ page rulebooks is a barrier.
 
Honestly, though, I think it would be a mistake for WotC to base their strategy on selling hardback books at all. We're still in the transition period, but electronic publishing is in the process of killing print and taking its stuff. And, as soon as you're unbound from using physical media, then when adding 'bits' to the game (that is, new feats, monsters, spells, etc), an electronic book is probably the worst way to present that information.
 

Tovec

Villager
No, but the last time I introduced the game to a bunch of kids, they saw the (3.0e) core rulebooks, asked "do we need to read all of that?",
To which I'm sure you replied, "No, of course not, you need to worry about your character sheet. I do the heavy lifting as a DM and even I don't need to read all of this." Or I guess not, since..

and I watched the interest die in their eyes.
And thus Christmas was ruined. Because reading is hard.

Whether you need to read it or not, the mere existence of those 300+ page rulebooks is a barrier.
The other way to look at this, for any edition, is that the larger the book the more information you have when you need it. If 3e released a book only 100 pages long, you would constantly have to go looking in other books for spells, items, races, feats, etc.

I think it doesn't matter how big the books are as long as the quality is there. I would probably like smaller books over all, assuming the same cost and quality, if only for the transportation issue but as far as getting into a game; I think what matters most is if the information is there so that when something comes up I can find it instead of having to guess at an inappropriate answer. "The DC to hide behind a barrel? Um... 35? That sounds good, right? I don't have the skills book yet."


And not for nothing but if WotC doesn't sell a hardcover book (resorting to sell only PDFs or some other god awful electronic media format only) then I won't buy their books. I have learned over a series of years that electronics at the table are death. I don't want to FORCE it in order to run a simple game. Give me a physical book please, or I simply will not buy it.
 
To which I'm sure you replied, "No, of course not, you need to worry about your character sheet. I do the heavy lifting as a DM and even I don't need to read all of this." Or I guess not, since..


And thus Christmas was ruined. Because reading is hard.
Yes, of course I told them it wasn't necessary. The point still stands: they were able to play, and to enjoy the game, because I was there and was able to provide the rules interface for them.

But in the absence of an experienced player to get them started, 3e requires that: someone needs to buy three rulebooks ($60 at release, rising to $90 with the third printing); someone needs to read those rulebooks, then either that person needs to explain the rules to the other players, or they too need to read the PHB; everyone needs to create a character, a process that is likely to take a newbie at least half an hour; the DM needs to prepare an adventure (or use a premade one, meaning yet more expense and reading).

And then they get to start having fun.

Faced with that, it's no wonder that most potential players choose WoW instead. Frankly, it's a bloody miracle we're talking about 5e at all.

The barrier to entry for this game is really quite significant - near $100 and 1,000 pages of reading. And that for something you might enjoy. Glib dismissals about reading being hard might be marginally amusing, but they're not even remotely helpful.

(And, yes, the answer to most of those problems is a really good starter set, coupled with a decent migration strategy from there to the 'real' game. We're yet to see one from WotC, despite several attempts.)

And not for nothing but if WotC doesn't sell a hardcover book (resorting to sell only PDFs or some other god awful electronic media format only) then I won't buy their books. I have learned over a series of years that electronics at the table are death. I don't want to FORCE it in order to run a simple game. Give me a physical book please, or I simply will not buy it.
As I said in my previous post, we're still in the transition phase. WotC shouldn't yet be considering abandoning print entirely. And, in particular, there are some products that will essentially always need to be done physically - the aforementioned starter set being being one of them.

But the days of building a strategy around "sell books" are probably done. And I think both WotC and Paizo know it.

(With regard to Paizo: the important distinction there is between selling books and selling subscriptions to book lines. That's the crucial distinction, and what allows them to do what they do. Because they know they have X-thousands of subscribers for their lines, they already know that they can safely print Y-thousands of copies of the "Advanced Class Handbook", safe in the knowledge that they will make a profit. That allows them to plan a strategy years in advance, it allows them to take some risks, and basically gives them a lot of freedom to move. But if every Paizo subscriber were to cancel their subs tomorrow, even if they then bought exactly the same books from their FLGS, the result would be disastrous for Paizo - not because of the loss of the money, but because of the loss of the guaranteed income, and the freedom that that gives them.)
 

the Jester

Legend
I want books that I actually enjoy reading. The 4th edition books were as boring to read as a VCR manual.
YES! With rare exceptions, a 4e book is more like an instruction manual than a tome of eldritch lore- which is exactly wrong.

Honestly, though, I think it would be a mistake for WotC to base their strategy on selling hardback books at all. We're still in the transition period, but electronic publishing is in the process of killing print and taking its stuff. And, as soon as you're unbound from using physical media, then when adding 'bits' to the game (that is, new feats, monsters, spells, etc), an electronic book is probably the worst way to present that information.
The day D&D is not available as a hard copy is the day that I no longer play the newest and shiniest version of the game.
 
The day D&D is not available as a hard copy is the day that I no longer play the newest and shiniest version of the game.
Again, I don't think they should stop producing print material - we're not at that point yet. But I do think they would be making a mistake if they put "sell books" at the heart of their strategy.

It's a question of placing the focus elsewhere, not about outright replacing the books.
 
I've never sat down and read any rpg book from start to finish. The best way to learn to play D&D is to jump in the river and join an already existing group. Barring that - say, with a new edition - I still think you have to learn as you play. No one - or should I say, very few - actually sit down and read the entire book before playing.

I remember when I was starting with 4e in late 2008, I found a web-site (a blog, I think) in which someone gave the "must read" pages in the 4e Player's Handbook in order to start playing. I would suggest that WotC offer something similar - a strong first chapter of the PHB that summarizes the rules, including examples of play.

I also think its a good idea to come out with a beginner's box set before the core rulebooks. In a starting set you can have a "quick start guide" of how to start playing (~12 pages), then a player's guide for character creation and basic rules (~36 pages), and a DM's guide for running the game (~24 pages), plus an adventure to take you up from levels 1-3 (~36 pages). That's about 100 pages, only 12 of which players "must" read (the quick start rules), and then can read through some of the player's guide as they make their characters.
 

Zardnaar

Explorer
Yes, of course I told them it wasn't necessary. The point still stands: they were able to play, and to enjoy the game, because I was there and was able to provide the rules interface for them.

But in the absence of an experienced player to get them started, 3e requires that: someone needs to buy three rulebooks ($60 at release, rising to $90 with the third printing); someone needs to read those rulebooks, then either that person needs to explain the rules to the other players, or they too need to read the PHB; everyone needs to create a character, a process that is likely to take a newbie at least half an hour; the DM needs to prepare an adventure (or use a premade one, meaning yet more expense and reading).

And then they get to start having fun.

Faced with that, it's no wonder that most potential players choose WoW instead. Frankly, it's a bloody miracle we're talking about 5e at all.

The barrier to entry for this game is really quite significant - near $100 and 1,000 pages of reading. And that for something you might enjoy. Glib dismissals about reading being hard might be marginally amusing, but they're not even remotely helpful.

(And, yes, the answer to most of those problems is a really good starter set, coupled with a decent migration strategy from there to the 'real' game. We're yet to see one from WotC, despite several attempts.)



As I said in my previous post, we're still in the transition phase. WotC shouldn't yet be considering abandoning print entirely. And, in particular, there are some products that will essentially always need to be done physically - the aforementioned starter set being being one of them.

But the days of building a strategy around "sell books" are probably done. And I think both WotC and Paizo know it.

(With regard to Paizo: the important distinction there is between selling books and selling subscriptions to book lines. That's the crucial distinction, and what allows them to do what they do. Because they know they have X-thousands of subscribers for their lines, they already know that they can safely print Y-thousands of copies of the "Advanced Class Handbook", safe in the knowledge that they will make a profit. That allows them to plan a strategy years in advance, it allows them to take some risks, and basically gives them a lot of freedom to move. But if every Paizo subscriber were to cancel their subs tomorrow, even if they then bought exactly the same books from their FLGS, the result would be disastrous for Paizo - not because of the loss of the money, but because of the loss of the guaranteed income, and the freedom that that gives them.)
WoTC made a good starter set once and it was sold for $10. It was for AD&D though in 1999 and the silver anniversary.
 

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