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Chris Perkins: Reintroducing Settings in Ways that Surprise People

WotC's D&D Story Manager, Chris Perkins, was the subject of an interview by a chap called Chris "Wacksteven" Iannitti. One of the topics covered is campaign setting books; Perkins says that they want to reintroduce settings in "surprising" ways, and that they're not guaranteed to be books. (thanks to Mistwell for the scoop)

WotC's D&D Story Manager, Chris Perkins, was the subject of an interview by a chap called Chris "Wacksteven" Iannitti. One of the topics covered is campaign setting books; Perkins says that they want to reintroduce settings in "surprising" ways, and that they're not guaranteed to be books. (thanks to Mistwell for the scoop)

The video is below, but if you can't watch it right now, here are the highlights as listed by pukunui on WotC's website:

  • He can't talk about products that haven't been announced yet
  • They value all of their worlds, as each one has "tons of fans"
  • They are focusing on specific areas within settings to detail and "codify" via their story bibles
  • Their goal is to "challenge people's expectations" re: sourcebooks
  • They're "not interested in releasing books for the sake of releasing books anymore"
  • They want book releases to be events that will "surprise and delight people"; they also want to put out books that people will actually use rather than books that will just get put on a shelf to "stay there and slowly rot"
  • "One of our creative challenges is to package [setting] material - reintroduce facts and important details about our worlds - in a way that we know that DMs and players are going to use, that's going to excite them, that's actually going to surprise them. We may get that content out, but I'm not going to guarantee it's going to be a book. I'm not going to guarantee that it's going to be anything that you've seen before. But it will be something."


[video=youtube;alnwC34qUFs]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alnwC34qUFs&feature=youtu.be[/video]
 

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Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
This just isn't good enough for me. Not really sure who they've been speaking with but I wouldn't say it's with the majority of gamers out there. Sounds like they going with what their few employees want and I say it won't have good results.

Guess I will be giving my money to someone else. Shame really.

What is it you think he said that you disagree with? Specifically? Because damn, these kinds of responses are baffling to me. What is not good enough for you?
 

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Swordsage

Explorer
Haven't any one of you noticed as you've read through this thread that PRACTICALLY EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU WANTS SOMETHING DIFFERENT?

That's EXACTLY why WotC isn't going whole-hog on anything right now. Because nobody is looking for the same darned thing! ANYTHING they announce will get 10% of the people here exclaiming "Thank God! They're finally listening to us!", while the other 90% will shout "This company is full of it! Don't they know this thing is absolutely worthless?!?"

One of you wants intricate details of every single piece of the Realms in every single location that has changed following The Sundering. Another one of you wants a dozen pages of one area along with 57 adventure ideas. Another one of you wants that same thing except wants the monster stats included so you don't have to buy or open your Monster Manual. A person over here is happy the events of The Spellplague are not being "completely wiped away", a person over there wants a Realms that is a mirror image of the Grey Box. This guy wants the old Volo's Guides reprinted in paper form with most of the cool information left intact, but only some slight changes to account for the most up-to-date info. That girl wants the Volo's Guides re-done, but only in PDF form because doesn't WotC know this is an online world, and she doesn't want to have to carry her books with her wherever she goes. Over here is the player who is glad the adventure book is generic enough that she can take what she wants out of it and transplant it in the setting of her choice. Over there is the guy who feels it isn't generic ENOUGH, and is mad that he'll have to spend an extra hour of his time wiping away the names of places that don't fit where he's using it. And way over there is the person who doesn't want it *generic*... if it's a Forgotten Realms book, then include really useful Forgotten Realms setting details in it! What a shame that this guy here *also* wants that, but unfortunately what HE thinks are "useful Forgotten Realms setting details" are completely different than what the first guy though were "useful Forgotten Realms setting details".

It's ridiculous. No matter what WotC does or doesn't do, no one is ever going to be happy. And it's for that reason that they are well within their right (and probably completely correct) in ignoring ALL OF US... and just do what they feel like doing and what they think is right.

Because there's NO right answer. None. All they have is what they can feel proud of making at their end of the business working day.

DEFCON has the right of it. There is no pleasing everybody. I think however, right now, WotC aren't even in the pleasing anybody realm.

Pathfinder has seemingly found the right balance between "lore" and "crunch" with their Adventure Paths. Given WotC's superior IP why don't they mimic that model? Sure, they'll cop some flak for that - but if they're selling books, they shouldn't give a goblin's danglers about that. Their current adventure books are a neither here nor there release. In fact they are rather pitiful.

The Swordsage
 

Well, frankly, this all sounds dreadful. No campaign setting in print? I would be surprised if they expected to keep this edition alive with web articles, electronic databases, and mediocre adventure paths. Maybe WOTC can't do the work themselves anymore, that's fine. They should open up the edition to others to keep it alive, if they care about the longevity of it.
 

Swordsage

Explorer
...Which is why I say:
Well, we'd better learn to compromise, because guess what? When it comes to books, we're getting one kind: adventure paths. Personally, I'd prefer it if those paths had something for everyone.

And that's the rub. The gold standard for Adventure Paths are either the ones that Paizo did in Dungeon back in the day (which were somewhat limited by format) or the current Pathfinder APs. Paizo didn't obviously create the concept but refined and fleshed APs out into something more than linked adventures. I'm not a fan of Pathfinder in that I think Paizo too has fallen into the "kitchen sink" style of world building, but what they do get is fans want stuff to read. Lots of stuff. And if it has something for everyone, then most everyone will buy all or some of what they release. Where I think WotC falls down is that they have gone with this "not releasing products for the sake of releasing products" line. If they or anyone could confirm to me the Tyranny of Dragons or the Elemental Evils products are so cutting edge and superior to everything that has gone before that they are flying out the game store doors, then I will gladly applaud their innovative new sales strategy. Because let's be clear, WotC are in the business of making sales. I am an FR fan. I've bought a single 5E product. I wasn't impressed. I've picked up all the rest at my game store and then put them back on the shelf. They are not cutting edge products. They are not innovative products. They are a re-hash of ancient D&D tropes (I'm waiting for their next product in the Realms - "The Crisis of Lolth": drow must be next on the - as I call it - lazy cycle) which haven't been executed in any way that I would consider is ground breaking.

So now is a time for choice. Optimism or pessimism that WotC will do "the right thing". I might just sit on the fence and see how it pans out. By the time the sourcebooks done in a new and wonderfully innovative way are on deck, we should be playtesting 6E.

The Swordsage
 

transtemporal

Explorer
What is it you think he said that you disagree with? Specifically? Because damn, these kinds of responses are baffling to me. What is not good enough for you?

Providing a product I want, providing a product I don't want, not providing a product I want, even not providing a product I don't want and never cared about. All of these things outrage me!

Also, why do ducklings die? Why are there never enough red M&Ms? Where are my left socks? Why do people disagree with me on the internet? Why won't anyone reply to my texts?!?!? :-D
 



sunshadow21

Explorer
A social studies teacher who teaches world history must select topics from a wide range of events that occurred throughout human history. One way to teach such a course after you've picked out what you want to teach (say, industrial revolution for one unit) is to "zoom in" on that era by talking about it in a specific way. Like, for the industrial revolution, you could talk about how it effected London in the 1840s in terms of pollution, ecology, employment, culture, etc...

I mention this because that's how I see the APs going in the future. Instead of producing a setting book which covers the whole world (or at least a lot of it like we're used to), the AP will only "zoom in" on a specific region of that world.

Take Eberron, for example, let's say the next AP takes place in Sharn. The player's guide for that would cover player specific stuff like warforged, new backgrounds, maybe a general overview of Sharn and how it relates to the rest of Eberron, etc... in addition to other races and classes. Then, you could have the adventure book itself with locations in Eberron (Sharn) and NPCs that are relevant to the adventure.

I'm not sure I like this approach but this is how I see it playing out in the future.



I guess the problem I have with this example and WotC's approach thus far is that the social studies teacher still knows the larger picture and how that focus fits into the greater history; even if the focus is on a specific area, the larger picture still impacts the presentation and the details discussed. WotC seems to be trying to do a lot to get a lot of very focused product out there across many mediums, but not much on providing the larger picture of how a particular adventure or product fits into a larger world. Even something like an updated gazetteer that would provide a basis for the world doesn't seem to be on their radar. Relying on older product that may or may not be entirely accurate any more is not a very good strategy if that is indeed what they are doing. As one said already, they seem to be doing the things that should be done on top of the basics, not instead of, with little or no attention being paid to the basics that tie everything else together.

Unfortunately, this isn't a new trend; the biggest reason I've seen WotC stumble on this brand ever since late 3.5 is that they haven't taken care of the basic underlying stuff that really ties everything together so having the same adventure in 3 different formats really isn't going to help them any in selling the next adventure. They have never used the worlds well; even in 3rd edition, FR and Eberron were the only ones to get any notable support at all, and most of Faerun didn't see more than a single chapter in a single book. I'm not going to say that they can't pull off really using the worlds yet, but they better have some really good aces up their sleeves that we haven't seen yet if they intend to do it. So far, we haven't seen anything notable, and the window for a big reveal that a lot of people are going to pay attention to is closing fast.

In the end, I just don't have confidence that WotC has the slightest clue of what they have or how to use it. They have been chasing the same basic strategy with only minor variations since they bought the brand, and it hasn't worked yet. I don't see that many changes to their strategy this time around, and I don't really foresee any better results given the implementation we've seen so far. They may still surprise everyone, but it's becoming less and less unlikely with every interview like this that has lots of promises but not much else.
 

graves3141

First Post
In the end, I just don't have confidence that WotC has the slightest clue of what they have or how to use it. They have been chasing the same basic strategy with only minor variations since they bought the brand, and it hasn't worked yet. I don't see that many changes to their strategy this time around, and I don't really foresee any better results given the implementation we've seen so far. They may still surprise everyone, but it's becoming less and less unlikely with every interview like this that has lots of promises but not much else.

Agreed, these informal interviews give me no confidence for D&D's future. Here's an idea, how about some official statements about what WotC is working on instead of an occasional tweet that says, "No conversion docs for four months. Sorry!"

Seriously, the silence from WotC borders on the ridiculous. The longer it goes on, the more I think they have no idea what they are doing and no overall strategy. This whole lack of traditional setting material greatly disturbs me... but, maybe it wouldn't if I knew what their alternative plan was. The trouble is, I don't think they know what their alternative plan is.
 

Agreed, these informal interviews give me no confidence for D&D's future. Here's an idea, how about some official statements about what WotC is working on instead of an occasional tweet that says, "No conversion docs for four months. Sorry!"

Seriously, the silence from WotC borders on the ridiculous. The longer it goes on, the more I think they have no idea what they are doing and no overall strategy. This whole lack of traditional setting material greatly disturbs me... but, maybe it wouldn't if I knew what their alternative plan was. The trouble is, I don't think they know what their alternative plan is.
I both agree and disagree.

They are super silent and incomunicative. I never feel in the loop with WotC (and haven't since the 3e days really) and the company isn't particularly approachable. They've been teasing their plans for 5e for two years now, and I don't feel more knowledgable and informed now than I did in the early days. Some of this is likely the understanding barrier; they know what they'e talking about, so their statements seem obvious to them, but we don't.

But, on the other hand, the fans have demonstrated themselves as being total dicks to WotC when a product is cancelled or a deadline is missed or a planned idea becomes vapourware. Someone on another thread on this site is *still* bringing up the failed 3e character builder. I can understand the D&D team's reluctance to reveal too much and risk having to blow a deadline or cancel something.

Still, I am getting a "fold or flip" vibe from some of the hype. You can only play the "we have big plans" card so many times before you have to either show your hand or walk away from the table.
They've been teasing how they're doing campaign settings differently for a while now, and so far it seems like "different" means "make it up yourself". It feels like they could have some neat project in the works for settings that may or may not materialize, but they don't have an alternative if that falls through.
 

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