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

Here's my take on what happened at the very high business level:

3.5e was essentially at the end of it's planned product lifecycle. The product roadmap that started when WotC purchased D&D from TSR and started the 3e project, which was then taken over by Hasbro, was coming to an end.

4e was Hasbro's attempt at treating D&D as a subscription service. As everyone has noted, this failed. There are a large number of reasons for this, ranging from game design to technical issues to the fanbase, and everything in between.

Around this time, Hasbro started the switch from being a toy company to "global brand experiences" company. At the upper level, they stopped focusing on direct manufacturing and instead focused primarily on branding and licensing for income. You can read about this in the business news, not the gaming news. The switch started somewhere around 2010 (right around D&D Essentials), and they completed the business crossover in 2015 when they closed two of their last two factories in MA and Ireland (right around D&D 5e's release).

5e, with it's slower release schedule, lighter rules, and planned continuance rather than planned obsolescence, is a direct result of the focus on D&D as a brand rather than a product or a service.
 
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darjr

I crit!
popular public play started with 4e. PAX was packing huge rooms SRO for the penny arcade games. Many with Chris Perkins. Using 4e.

But it didn’t result in a huge influx of 4e players. 5e did. CR was a YouTubes channels attempt to duplicate that, and duplicate Wills boardgame show, for RPGs.
 

G

Guest 6948803

Guest
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.
For anecdotal value, after our first 5e session, one of my player exclaimed "O my, it was great, its RPG FOR OLD PEOPLE!". After going through mathy and messy games systems of late 90's and early 2000's, its fun and relaxing. Not all my players share this sentiment (some prefer less abstract and more grim play style) but like I said, for me and others its closest to 2nd edition and most fun we had in years.

PS My kids love 5e as well. So, for old AND new people:)
 

Mannahnin

Adventurer
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.
Eh. 3E made a lot of pretty radical changes as well, and IME use of the Players Option books in 2E was pretty sporadic. They definitely weren't universally adopted.

In addition to Feats and the unified mechanic, let's not forget skills with skill points, the unified XP chart, the complete change to multiclassing and removal of all race/class limitations, and rationalizing all monsters to use the same rules as PCs (which was one of the biggest headaches and pains for a DM).

That being said, 3E still wasn't quite as radical a shift as 4E, and they made a lot of efforts in playtesting and feedback to appease players' sensibilities about what "feels like" D&D. I was watching an interview with Jonathan Tweet from Sunday, for example, and their first take on Magic Missile for 3E allowed a save for half damage; which of course would also allow save for zero with Evasion. Playtest response was very negative, so they kept it no-save. A number of classic "D&Disms" were kept that way, not all because they were actually great rules.

4E OTOH seemed to set out to deliberately slay sacred cows- Magic Missile becoming a cantrip (at-will power) and rolling to hit(!) for example. (although they later made an auto-hitting variant again). In some ways they really succeeded at making a good new edition with a solid play experience (my groups played five different campaigns up to 30th level or close, though about half those started at Paragon), but for too many folks it just didn't feel like D&D.

I think there's some merit to your thesis that 4E kind of served to clear the palate and get us some space from the baroque CharOp excesses of 3.x (which Pathfinder continued), and set the stage for 5E.
 

4e was Hasbro's attempt at treating D&D as a subscription service. As everyone has noted, this failed. There are a large number of reasons for this, ranging from game design to technical issues to the fanbase, and everything in between.
The wanted to lure in the 'WOW' crowd, and address the broken unbalanced mess of 3.5. Both understandable and reasonable goals.

They just didnt read the room. They would up fracturing the fanbase (that they all but openly acknowledged with 5E) and working against DnDs main strengths (its familiarity to gamers, and its established lore).

DnD stopped being the 'go-to/ fallback' game you played other games around for far too many people.

5e, with it's slower release schedule and planned continuance rather than planned obsolescence, is a direct result of the focus on D&D as a brand rather than a product or a service.
I disagree with you here. The slow release scehdule, lack of splat and related system mastery, and extensive playtesting (via UA) is designed to stop the broken mess of 3.5 from rearing its head again (which alienated vast swathes of casual gamers from 3.P).

It's a smart business move. Casual gamers can pick up and play within minutes, not be overwhelmed by splat and 'experienced' gamers dominating with broken 'builds', or feel let down by 'trap options' and get into the hobby without being intimidated away from it before even really understanding it.

I firmly believe this is why you see a much more diverse gaming culture now, with more 'non traditional' gamers being drawn into the game than ever before.
 




I disagree with you here. The slow release scehdule, lack of splat and related system mastery, and extensive playtesting (via UA) is designed to stop the broken mess of 3.5 from rearing its head again (which alienated vast swathes of casual gamers from 3.P).

I don't think you're actually disagreeing with me (I disagree about our disagreement! Harrumph!).

You say WotC alienated vast swathes of casual gamers and was a broken mess at the end and that 5e had extensive playtesting to stop it. I say that 3.5e was at the end of it's expected lifecycle and publishing exclusionary content focused on the existing customer base, and 5e has more planning to remain in an evergreen state longer, and is marketed to a more general audience. Potato, potatoe. I'm just using the business terms, not the gamer ones.

Edit: changed the wording a bit more than expected, sorry.
 
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You say WotC alienated vast swathes of casual gamers from 3e when they released 4e,
No, all the editions prior to 5E alienated casual gamers in order (worst for newbs to best for newbs) Pathfinder (worst), then 3.5 (not far behind PF) then 4E (next level down), then AD&D (an old school complicated mess that made little sense to outsiders) then 2E (smoothed over and simplified AD&D) then BECMI (best, Basic rules only has 7 classes (3 are races), no race/class combos to fiddle with, no archetypes till you get to 'name' level, no skills, no feats etc).

5E is more newb friendly than any of the above barring BECMI, is faster to learn than any and all of the above (on par with BECMI with more to learn, but a unified system of 'roll a d20 and add a bonus), faster to create a character than any of the above (get up and running in a few minutes) again barring BECMI, faster to play than any and all of the above, and has the least trap options of any of the above.

It's on a par with BECMI for ease of play, while also being able to accommodate moderate optimization on par with early release 3.5 (and without the trap options).

Easy to learn and play, no way to hamstring yourself at 1st level unless you're trying, and plenty of options for optimization via MCing, feats and archetypes as you advance in level. (on par with early 3.5 before the Spat bloat really hit hard) while also being balanced at all levels of play.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
The other thing no one's mentioned.

Edition churn.

3.0 lasted 3 years in print, 3.5 five years, 4E four years (plus limited online support)

I think people over rated 3.5 brokeness online be. I don't think most players played that way or owned the books. 3E was very big at the time.

OSR started in 3E but really picked up in 4E. Two factors.

1. Rejecting 4E burned out on 3E. It was very easy to recruit 3E player (and 4E).

2. Kickstarter. You could download OSRIC or buy early Castles and Crusades but kickstarter funded a lot of OSR games (still does).
 


teitan

Hero
WHat everyone said here. I was excited. I didn't participate in the playtest but I was burnt out on 3.5 that PF didn't appeal to me and 4e made zero sense because it needed so many core rules and the maths were off. The only irony is that people talk about how poorly 4e sold and how well pathfinder sold except... they sold the same. D&D outsold Pathfinder until 4e went into it's end of the line slow down and started releasing products every couple months and then edition neutral materials.
 


guachi

Explorer
5e succeeded because of people like me, someone who completely skipped out on 3e and 4e, saw 5e was coming out, read the free rules before the PHB was even published, thought it looked good, made a thread on another RPG website about 5e from the perspective of someone with zero knowledge of 3e and 4e, got a lot of good response (many because they knew there'd be no edition warring from me), and have been playing on and off ever since.

Yes, 5e is as big as it is currently not because of people like me. But it succeeded initially because it really was good at what it was trying to be - one edition that could satisfy most players (both current and past). The fanbase was there, it just needed rules people could coalesce around.
 
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G

Guest 6948803

Guest
The playtests were a blast. I loved an early one where advantage was something everyone , especially fighters, were dropping left and right. So cool.

To be honest, I DMed one single playtest session (it was first or second playtest packet) but my players, decided they rather want to play 7thSea campaign, we went with that and forgot about D&D for another few years.
However, Advantage mechanics was something we all praised and appreciated. Someone had great idea.
 

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