D&D 4E Ben Riggs' "What the Heck Happened with 4th Edition?" seminar at Gen Con 2023

overgeeked

B/X Known World
While true, Hasbro's influence over (or some might say, meddling with) what WotC was doing took until about 2002-ish to really make itself felt.
That’s an assumption not supported by what we know about the development of D&D at the time, from the people working on the development of D&D at the time.
 

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Hussar

Legend
Really the million dollar question is more how long WotC would have flown under the radar? At some point would Hasbro not have just mothballed the whole thing?
 


Alzrius

The EN World kitten
There was a good article somewhere on the web about how WotC changed from basically a bunch of hobbyists to a professional business and the change in culture than entailed.

Death to the Minotaur
I also recommend reading Rick Marshall's comments in the Grognardia post below, as he addresses a lot of points Wizards of the Coast corporate culture around that time.


I personally find the following comment the most insightful, as it addresses why the WotC execs sold the company to Hasbro to begin with:

There are two main reasons.

First, the truth is that the company was thriving, but the principals weren't. Everyone went deeply into debt to launch Wizards, and further to try to survive through the lean times of the lawsuit. Magic: The Gathering almost didn't happen at all. Friends and family teamed up to help people make rent and car payments to they wouldn't go bankrupt before the game could be released. We thought Magic was a blast to play, and the art for it looked gorgeous, so we hoped everyone would like it, but we didn't really know. It was an enormous gamble, and everyone put everything on the line.

When Magic hit it big, it was an exhilarating roller coaster and hugely gratifying, but we were all still broke. We got into this weird state where the company was thriving but the principals weren't. The new employees were fine, because they were being paid and weren't trying to dig out of deep personal debt, but the principals were drowning.

Wizards tried to address this problem by doing a stock buy-back some time before the Hasbro deal, and it did help a great deal, but mainly it put most of us back on track with where we would have been if we had normal paying careers and hadn't bet everything on Wizards. Most of the principals were still carrying some debt.

In the end, the principals were tired of being broke.

Second, and this was a critique I discussed repeatedly with some of the principals at the time long before things reached the breaking point, Wizards began with a startup culture of working long, hard hours, sacrificing like crazy to try to get things moving and to do a good job on them. As anyone who's been through a startup knows, this is both exciting and exhausting. At some point a company needs to transition out of the startup mode to avoid burning out its employees.

Wizards never did.

Several of us saw this problem coming. Everyone worked so hard for so long that they were burning themselves out even while they were having a blast. Houses fell into disrepair, people put on lots of weight and got sick a lot, marriages fell apart, and more, all while Wizards itself was thriving and everyone was having a blast working on something they loved.

Workaholism was epidemic at Wizards. Wizards invested in an exercise room, classes, great offices, and everything they could to make it a blast to work there, but that only made people not want to go home to the lives they'd been neglecting. The problem with working for your favorite company in the world is that you never go home. At least one person stopped going home and had to be told he wasn't allowed to live at work. More than anyone else, the principals were happy but exhausted and needed to stop trying to go go go at 110% all the time unless they wanted to die young.

In the end, the broke and burned out principals pretty much all needed the sale in order to get their lives back into order and stop being broke.

After leaving Wizards, more than one of the principals lost a bunch of weight and got their health back. Some rescued marriages while others moved on to new relationships. Some sold off neglected houses at a loss and bought new ones they committed to taking care of properly. The money itself spread far and wide, used to start new, more sustainable game companies; for healthcare and college funds for family members; and into retirement funds for parents and grandparents whose early loans made the company's survival possible during the lean times. A couple spent everything they made just getting back to break even. There are a few small piles of money here and there, but over half of it has gone back into the community that made it all possible.

In short, they had to sell the company to survive as individuals.
 


Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
...The PH/DMG 3s that were planned but never executed.

I would have liked a book with an essentials warlord. I believe there was a dragon article or something online but it was not really on my radar screen.

I like the Pathfinder alchemist class as a class concept, and gunslingers are fun. I never got PH3 and the psionic stuff directly, was there a soulblade/soulknife type class? That was a lot of fun in 3.5/Pathfinder and could have been better in 4e.

...

Dragon and Dungeon were pretty good with specific Ravenloft things, but a whole book to really do the setting would have been nice.
For the record they did have a PH3, and the Skald from Heroes of the Feywild was pretty much an Essentials-style take on a Warlord. I played one in the last 4E game I played in, a few years ago.

Also played a gunslinging Bard in another 4E game at one point, but that involved more house rules. :)

Oh, and one of my other late 4E characters was a Blackguard who went Darklord (of Ravenloft) for his Epic Destiny. I agree that doing more with Ravenloft would have been cool.

An epic level focused book.

Their modules got better as they went, that would have been nice to continue on that quality track.
Agreed.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I also recommend reading Rick Marshall's comments in the Grognardia post below, as he addresses a lot of points Wizards of the Coast corporate culture around that time.


I personally find the following comment the most insightful, as it addresses why the WotC execs sold the company to Hasbro to begin with:
Yep. Rick has a ton more details and stories on his blog, too. Lots of nitty-gritty insights. I would imagine Ben Riggs must be reaching out to or have reached out to him for research on his next book.


I think we'd have eventually seen what amounts to a 3.5e, similar in nature to 1e's Unearthed Arcana as an update to an existing edition; but it wouldn't have come so quickly and would - one hopes - have been more thorough both in its review of baseline 3e and in its playtesting.
Rick talked about this as well, as I recall. That they originally knew or expected that there would be an update to 3rd eventually, but that the nature and extent of it changed.
 

Voadam

Legend
For the record they did have a PH3, and the Skald from Heroes of the Feywild was pretty much an Essentials-style take on a Warlord. I played one in the last 4E game I played in, a few years ago.
Doh, yes there was a PH 3, which I even reference later in the same post. :blush:
 

Red Castle

Adventurer
An epic level focused book. The PH/DMG 3s that were planned but never executed.

I would have liked a book with an essentials warlord. I believe there was a dragon article or something online but it was not really on my radar screen.

I like the Pathfinder alchemist class as a class concept, and gunslingers are fun. I never got PH3 and the psionic stuff directly, was there a soulblade/soulknife type class? That was a lot of fun in 3.5/Pathfinder and could have been better in 4e.

They had Gamma World but no 4e d20 Modern or sci fi stuff.

Dragon and Dungeon were pretty good with specific Ravenloft things, but a whole book to really do the setting would have been nice.

Their modules got better as they went, that would have been nice to continue on that quality track.
Meh, a third DMG focussing more on Epic Level could have been nice, but what would it have really included that wasn’t already covered in the multiple of other sourcebook and magazines? We’re talking about 200+ pages book. I feel like if it was something worth producing, we would have gotten it in 2010, same year they released the PH3 and Monster Manual 3 (focusing more on Epic monsters).

As for even more classes, at what point doesn’t it get just repetitive? When they started reworking the classes for essentials, I felt like we pretty much went full circle. To be honest, I don’t really know about the soulblade class (didn’t dig deep into 3e), but as for a gunslinger we made one for a character in my current campaign by using the hunter style ranger (start with the Fast Draw feat) and use guns instead (gave them the same stats as a longbow for balance) and it works perfectly. As for alchemist, if I remember correctly, that’s pretty much what a 4e Artificer is.

Regarding more settings, like I said before, I don’t see these books as tied to any edition. If you want to play in Ravenloft, you can easily take the Ravenloft source book from ADnD2, 3e or even 5e… the important part is the lore and it is not tied to rules.

As for Modules, sure more adventure would probably be nice… I don’t know, I don’t use them (never bought any except for Keep on the Shadowfell).
 

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