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D&D 5E Asking for a bit of recent D&D history

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Another aspect of 5E's success is not trying to lock everyone in to one way of playing. While no game is perfect, it's better balanced (especially at higher levels) than pre-4E versions without going to the extreme "powers" structure of 4E.

I also remember watching a video of people playing 4E as an intro to the game and the best way I can describe it is that the people were simply not having fun. Instead of engaging with the scenario and each other they kept going back to their power cards.

I get that shows like CR get a lot of credit for 5E's success, but I think the emphasis is kind of off. Mercer and company started a home game for a friend using 4E rules but decided they didn't like how the game played so they switched to PathFinder. Once 5E came out they switched back to D&D before they started a stream.

I think about that 4E video stream when I watch streams like CR. I don't see how CR could have worked with 4E, it just lacked a certain natural flow of play.

In any case it's not just 1 thing, it's many. People want a social activity that requires relatively little specialization (a big issue with 3.x) that can also be easily run to fit the desires of the group like 5E does.
 

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Mannahnin

Adventurer
4E achieved its goal of attracting the 'WOW' type of new gamer, but it also alienated a large portion of its predecessors fan base, and fractured the gaming community, with the defectors all heading over to Pathfinnder. Accordingly for the first time in history, an RPG that was NOT DnD (Pathfinder), became the top seller, overtaking DnD in sales.
Very solid post overall, but a quick caveat on this historical point about sales, which a couple of folks have mentioned. To my recollection PF only passed 4E for a year or so, late in 4E's lifecycle when WotC had very few books come out, and the splintering of the players was well-established. Despite PF's definite success, Paizo still wasn't trouncing WotC for most of the PF 1E/ D&D 4E period by any means.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Very solid post overall, but a quick caveat on this historical point about sales, which a couple of folks have mentioned. To my recollection PF only passed 4E for a year or so, late in 4E's lifecycle when WotC had very few books come out, and the splintering of the players was well-established. Despite PF's definite success, Paizo still wasn't trouncing WotC for most of the PF 1E/ D&D 4E period by any means.
I think people forget that PF first achieved parity with WotC the very same time that some of the 4e Essentials were coming out. That's in 2010, just 2 years into 4e's lifespan. It's not just a late 4e phenomenon.
 

darjr

I crit!
5e was a hugely surprising successful launch. It sold out immediately at Amazon, not once, but several times. So much so they redirected the printer to delay other projects to print more PHBs post haste!

it stunned and shocked WotC. Amazon was screaming for more prints.

I think the original print run was supposed to last a year. Gone in mere days.

The streaming was a huge bang for D&D, but remember PAX games and the launch were already HUGE.
Critical Role put it into another whole stratosphere, yes, but D&Ds 5e success was already phenomenal one.
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
I think people forget that PF first achieved parity with WotC the very same time that some of the 4e Essentials were coming out. That's in 2010, just 2 years into 4e's lifespan. It's not just a late 4e phenomenon.
Thanks for the clarification/correction. I was thinking more of the late 2011-2012 period, when WotC put out what, 5 books for 4E? Which seems like a relatively robust schedule now, but was a big dropoff, and that's the period in which I recall Paizo really exceeded WotC's sales.
 

Marc_C

Solo Role Playing
The only thing I'll add is that after playing D&D4e for a while, not wanting to play Pathfinder or Old school Revival games (or prior editions of D&D), I switched to Savage Worlds. No sure what portion of the market I represent but there was a definite shift towards non-D&D fantasy systems during that period.

I returned to D&D with 5e. It is a good edition but I've outgrown D&D. Now I play Fantasy AGE by Green Ronin. I don't see how a 6e would bring me back to D&D.
 

Very solid post overall, but a quick caveat on this historical point about sales, which a couple of folks have mentioned. To my recollection PF only passed 4E for a year or so, late in 4E's lifecycle when WotC had very few books come out, and the splintering of the players was well-established. Despite PF's definite success, Paizo still wasn't trouncing WotC for most of the PF 1E/ D&D 4E period by any means.

Agreed, but that was still a monumental moment in RPG history. PF was the quintessential Fantasy Heartbreaker that actually (for a brief period) not only competed with the elephant in the room in DnD, it actually overtook it.

Nothing else had ever come close before. Back in the day DnD was so synonymous with RPG's that 'playing DnD' was how you used to say 'gaming', even if you were playing a totally different system like Rolemaster or Shadowrun.
 

ardoughter

Adventurer
Supporter
The only thing I'll add is that after playing D&D4e for a while, not wanting to play Pathfinder or Old school Revival games (or prior editions of D&D), I switched to Savage Worlds. No sure what portion of the market I represent but there was a definite shift towards non-D&D fantasy systems during that period.

I returned to D&D with 5e. It is a good edition but I've outgrown D&D. Now I play Fantasy AGE by Green Ronin. I don't see how a 6e would bring me back to D&D.
I think that if D&D Next was not announced when it was I would have tried to persuade my group to try Savage Worlds
 


In any case it's not just 1 thing, it's many. People want a social activity that requires relatively little specialization (a big issue with 3.x) that can also be easily run to fit the desires of the group like 5E does.
It was precisely that specialization or insane amounts of system mastery that was 3.Ps success.

As a former devotee of both systems, I've lost track of the amount of time I spent trawling through the SRD's of each system and slapping together 20 level 'builds' using feat, prc, subsystem, class, trait, race etc options that were 'optimal', and I've also lost track of the number of tables I've sat down at where there was a marked disparity between the classes of the same level (with some guys making the classic rookie mistake of 'playing a Monk' or a Fighter, Samurai, Knight, Soulblade, or similar class, next to some Halruaan Adept/ Incantatrix/ Eldritch theurge or Ruby Knight Vindicator with Divine Metamagic persistent or similar) and the game immediately disintegrating.

In hindsight it was incredibly toxic, and you could almost argue 4E's drastic changes intended to combat that rubbish was the 'recession we had to have.'
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
I think people forget that PF first achieved parity with WotC the very same time that some of the 4e Essentials were coming out. That's in 2010, just 2 years into 4e's lifespan. It's not just a late 4e phenomenon.
I don't wish to relitigate any part of the edition war, but I do think the release of Essentials in 2010 was somewhat enervating to the dedicated 4e fanbase (including myself) and may have contributed to the decline. I know I bought less books after Essentials released.

The worst part about trying to talk about 5e from a historical perspective is that 4e always gets dragged into the conversation.
 

Mercurius

Legend
It probably should be mentioned that 5E's popularity was greatly enhanced by Critical Role (starting in March of 2015) and other online/youtube games, as well as exposure and advocacy from minor celebrities and quasi-celebrities.

The main and notable difference between 5E and the past couple editions is the huge number of new players brought into the fold, mainly younger folks. 3E and 4E brought in new players, but the bulk of the player base remained long-time players. With 5E, it seems as if the majority are new to the game.
 

The worst part about trying to talk about 5e from a historical perspective is that 4e always gets dragged into the conversation.

Considering 5E is the predecessor of 4E, the impact of 4E in fracturing the base (like it or loathe it) and the stated goal of 5E to reunite that base, it's largely inevitable that it gets discussed in that context.

4E is also notable as being the most radically different edition. 1, 2 and 3 were evolutions of the same game. 4E was effectively a completely different game, before 5E went back to the same feel of 1, 2 and 3E.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
4E is also notable as being the most radically different edition. 1, 2 and 3 were evolutions of the same game. 4E was effectively a completely different game, before 5E went back to the same feel of 1, 2 and 3E.
As I said, I have no desire to engage in Edition War discussion, so I'll leave that alone.
 

As I said, I have no desire to engage in Edition War discussion, so I'll leave that alone.

But that's not edition wars. 2E and AD&D were remarkably similar, and 3E was a natural flow on from the Player Option books, with major changes being Feats and a unified D20 mechanic.

4E went a completely new direction, that hasnt been seen before (or notably, since). Both mechanically and fluff wise (rewriting the Planes, key settings via the Spellplague etc).

Im making no assertion as to if it was a good game, or a bad game or if it was better or worse than 3E before it. Only noting the obvious - that it was a radically different game to what had come before it, that was openly seeking to address the busted mess of 3.5.

It achieved that goal mostly, but in the process pushed the optimizers and many Grognards over to the Pathfinder wagon, fracturing the fan base.

5e then retconned the retcon and plays like a successor to 3.5 rather than a successor to 4E. It's largely reunited everyone, while also drawing in a whole swathe of new players of non traditional gaming backgrounds.

That's not edition warring. Thats just edition history.
 

G

Guest 6948803

Guest
Thanks for all the replies.
I am in little different situation, because where I live, D&D was never big, and WFRP occupied place of being "rpg everyone starts with". It leads to several fun side effects (like, dungeons are particularly unpopular play style, and mystery/investigation is actually default I think). Anyway, for me, moving from quickly bloating 3 edition was a necessity (I think half of my players would pass of another 3rd ed campaign) and 4th ed was never an option (to be honest, I think those who say 'with better digital support it would fare better' or "it was released too early" deceive themselves a bit - for a lot of people /myself included/ 4th edition was too far removed from our typical rpg to even consider.) However, maybe because I started with mix od 1st and 2nd edition, and enjoyed 2nd edition for a quite few years, 5e was a hit for me - super easy to run, well supported game with huge sentimental value.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I don't wish to relitigate any part of the edition war, but I do think the release of Essentials in 2010 was somewhat enervating to the dedicated 4e fanbase (including myself) and may have contributed to the decline. I know I bought less books after Essentials released.

The worst part about trying to talk about 5e from a historical perspective is that 4e always gets dragged into the conversation.
It is kind of hard to talk about the success of 5e from a historical perspective without 4e being part of the conversation. It's an inherent factor in the edition shift.

That said, had 4e been Essentials from the get go, I might have actually liked the edition enough to keep playing it. So we are apparently on different sides of the coin.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
However, maybe because I started with mix od 1st and 2nd edition, and enjoyed 2nd edition for a quite few years, 5e was a hit for me - super easy to run, well supported game with huge sentimental value.
I'm pretty sure this is a significant factor in the 5e success mix as well. It's definitely one of the reasons I like 5e as much as I do after years of playing 3e/PF variations. There's a lot less up-front, structural "fuss" and what structure there is easy to manage without getting bogged down.
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
I don't wish to relitigate any part of the edition war, but I do think the release of Essentials in 2010 was somewhat enervating to the dedicated 4e fanbase (including myself) and may have contributed to the decline. I know I bought less books after Essentials released.

The worst part about trying to talk about 5e from a historical perspective is that 4e always gets dragged into the conversation.
Yeah, it's difficult. For my part I had started to get book fatigue before Essentials came out, and Essentials somewhat reinvigorated my interest.
 

It is kind of hard to talk about the success of 5e from a historical perspective without 4e being part of the conversation. It's an inherent factor in the edition shift.

That said, had 4e been Essentials from the get go, I might have actually liked the edition enough to keep playing it. So we are apparently on different sides of the coin.

Tome of Battle (and SWSE) had me really excited for what 4E was going to be. I kept hearing from the devs that they were the basis for the new edition, and I loved both of those games/ sourcebooks and the 'per encounter' manouver system.

Then 4E came out, and it just was miles off what I was expecting. Too radically different, too samey and the even more radical fluff changes were just too much.

I appreciate what they were trying to do, and if it was its own game (and not DnD) I might have appreciated it more.

I guess I was thrown (as a guy who's been playing since 1980) by the fact that DnD was always the 'old faithful fallback' you could play other systems around. It just didnt feel like DnD anymore.

Of course, I was still caught up in the optimisation minigame of 3.P so Pathfinder instantly appealed as well (I shudder at that verson of me as a player).

That was just my personal take, and everyone is different I guess.
 

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