D&D 5E Is Monte Cook working on D&D 5th Edition?


True, but there are some significant differences this time around.

4th Edition split the 3.5 Ed market. About half went to Pathfinder, and half went to 4th Ed.

Or, we could say that Paizo split the market. Look, games need new editions. They really do. D&D's top designers felt the game needed to move forward. The market was saying that they had no intention to buy Complete Animal Companion, revenue was dropping, what is an RPG company supposed to do? Is Crafty Games suddenly the evil empire when they announce a new version of Spycraft? Is AEG suddenly Lex Luthor when they announce a new version of the L5R RPG?

Wizards really could not have kept 3.5 going. A version 3.6 would have been a flop. Only an external company (and only possible because of the OGL and because Paizo so intimately knew 3.5), could have made version 3.75/Pathfinder. It helped that 4E's innovations require some time for appreciation and that they were designed to bring in wider audiences. That created an opportunity for criticism and fuel for fires to be burned... the fires still burn today - turning what could be constructive dialogue about what makes for great RPG play into destructive edition wars. 4E is a video game, 4E has no RP, 4E killed my babies, I'm going to pretend I don't see those role-players over there having a blast playing 4E, etc.

Hasbro further limited the support for their line by handcuffing what made 3.5 so popular. They changed the OGL model, making it a very expensive and risky proposition for any publisher to make 4th Ed compatable material.

Without the OGL there would be no current competition in the D&D space. That sounds pretty good for WotC. Pathfinder would not be possible and most people would have transitioned to 4E. There would be no edition wars (none worth mentioning... sorry THACO fans, it's true!).

Put another way, how would you feel if you created a game and then wanted to improve it, but another company came in and used your old version to make money while taking away some of your customers?

I'm not assigning blame here. I'm pointing out that any large RPG company has to really carefully consider what an OGL means. That all those Paizo products can be sold without a dime going to the company owning D&D is an unusual model. (There are benefits to us fans, but not many to WotC).

I absolutely love what Posthuman does with Eclipse Phase. They seed their own torrents! They make "hack packs" for fans to take a part and redistribute product! But I would never suggest either Paizo or WotC use that model.

I believe it was even documented many months ago that Pathfinder sales have surpassed D&D.
I recommend everyone read the ICV2 projections, understand how ICV2 makes money, and understand their limitations in gathering data. In most cases where I can compare apples to apples (such as attendance at cons) D&D blows Pathfinder away. In terms of raw sales, it is very hard to compare since each company has very different production schedules. The safest thing to say is the following:
  • It is extremely hard for RPG companies to be profitable for an extended period of time (3 years or more)
  • Pathfinder is competitive with D&D in many markets
  • Online subscriptions have to be a critical part of the equation and those numbers aren't public or easily confirmed
  • Both companies change their approach constantly (such as around minis) making comparison challenging without public data (which we will never have)

An important question when we talk about profit or revenue is what we are trying to say with these numbers. Revenue and profit are not always good indicators of quality behind an RPG. Many fine RPGs have terrible financials. This is an industry where financials don't prove quality. It is ok to say "I hate FIASCO" or "I love FIASCO", but let's not use financials to try to insinuate the game is good or bad.

So now Hasbro has a product that only has at best 50% of the market it once had, and sales are not significantly increasing significantly (if at all).
Can you quote a source for that? Or is this magical extrapolation from the one-liner in ICV2's table?

Can you tell me what the revenue growth of an average RPG is? How about profit margins? For either WotC or Paizo? For any point in time for either company? For the future? is either Pathfinder or D&D experiencing sustainable growth? Have their editions plateaued revenue-wise? Have they drawn profit? How many new gamers is each company bringing in per month? How many are they losing? What $ in revenue does each gamer contribute per month, on average, to those companies? Is there more revenue in new players than existing? Do new players continue on to buy more, or is the majority in revenue through existing players?

None of us can give those numbers and certainly not in any way that compares between the two companies. There are a few people I would trust on their estimates, but they would be guesses in a moving market and in an industry know for being horrid and for financials not matching quality. Napkin quality estimates suitable for a quote from the movie Spinal Tap.

What I think we can say, separately, is:
  • All of us have a favorite game
  • Pathfinder seems to be competitive with D&D
  • The RPG industry is terrible. Thank goodness these companies don't burn it down and build it as something totally different.

(I say "Pathfinder" and "D&D" because if we say Paizo and WotC we enter a completely different realm. WotC has Magic and the financial comparison will become a joke.)

Now for most gaming companies, the amount of people buying 4th edition still makes the product a viable and profitable market. But we are talking about Hasbro... their management only understands line charts and bar graphs as they relate to profit.
Care to expand on this? What is Hasbro's corporate culture and how does it compare with other large corporations? What are their goals for the D&D product line? What are the numbers of people buying 4E? How about Pathfinder? What are quarterly sales like? What are profit ranges for these companies? Do you really have any understanding here?

Making 5th edition will not help them.
Forgive me, but this reads like it should end with "because I hate WotC."

I agree that if WotC creates a new edition they must consider the effect of any further splintering of the D&D market. However, keep in mind that the licenses do not allow for another company to come along and keep 4E alive in the same way as Paizo with 3E. In the end, I'm not sure this is as big a problem as it can initially appear to be.

As for the rest, look, let's be honest. What do we know? There was a great question at the end of 3.5 where there was no clue, by anyone, as to what the market wanted. Pathfinder is a great system and Paizo was very driven and intelligent with how they approached the market. But it is unclear how many people play Pathfinder because they don't like 4E, because they just like 3E, because they wanted 3E for a bit longer, because they want a different organized play experience... the reasons are very diverse and any individual can have several reasons to stay or to try something new. Loyalty? Not all gamers are sworn to just one RPG. Many play several RPGs over time, including both Pathfinder and 4E. I personally meet many players at any convention that play both games and they will likely try any new edition by either company. Most of us, at some time, tire of a game and move on. New editions bring us back.

Be careful with the use of "Hasbro". As far as I can tell, it has very little meaning. WotC has Magic and several other efforts that deliver great financial results. D&D could be valuable solely as a brand. We simply don't know for sure but the best guess is likely that there is very little pressure from Hasbro to take any particular action with regards to editions or game improvements. I have seen no evidence, ever, that any product decision came from Hasbro instead of someone creative at WotC (a person, you know, that is probably in a home game with someone that works for Paizo). The staff at WotC, just like the staff at Paizo, loves D&D and works hard to make the best game they can for gamers. They all love classic D&D, they all want to protect the game, they all want to work so we have a great time. If you don't believe that, you need to go hang out with these guys at Gen Con of D&DXP and see it for yourself. We are all blessed to have such caring and good people in these companies. That's why SRM, Chris Sims, Monte Cook, and so many others can work for both companies and play both editions. They know there is no evil company - only cool opportunities. Ask them whether new editions are good for RPGs...

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On the thread's topic, I think the Rule of Three makes it clear that Monte Cook is not working on Planescape or something else of that nature. He is clearly working on improving D&D. That may be something similar to Essentials (for example, we could argue that if Essentials is the new way to start the game, and has largely replaced that portion of the PH and DMG, then there could be an Advanced line that could innovate 4E further without being a different edition).

It could also be 5E, and sure, that's most people's guess. But the timeline is uncertain and could be way off. It could be announced at D&DXP 2012, it could be announced at Gen Con, or it could be slated for 2014 for a nice anniversary. That's a pretty big range of options. Many of us approach this topic with some bias. We want company x to do well, we want version y to be the one everyone plays.

If we can step away from that bias, these columns really do provide an amazing insight into the design process. I feel really fortunate that RPG companies have increasingly shared their creative process with fans. The columns can be especially interesting if you try or have tried other RPGs or versions of D&D. Look at the use of "skills" in OD&D, AD&D, 3E, Pathfinder, 4E, Fiasco, Shadowrun, Savage Worlds, LARPs... Even more fun is that these guys, top guys in the RPG industry, are reading the forum comments. You can share your take on the direction of D&D. Whatever Monte is cooking (ahem), it is pretty amazing that we get to be a part of it.


Call of Cthulhu has had SIX editions, and every new edition was pretty much compatible with the previous edition, just a tweak here and a tweak there. Every new edition of D&D was mostly compatible, if not convertible, from its previous edition... all except 4e... this is why Pathfinder did so well. I think the best thing that WotC can do is take a step back and figure out how to make 5e (or whatever they call it) more compatible with previous editions, while keeping some of the innovations of 4e, if not make them reasonably compatible. It ain't gonna be easy, but the first step would be to de-homogenize the classes so basic classes (such as fighters without powers) can be viable classes.

It's obvious that their first task is figuring out skills and other non-combat elements, and bringing it back to the game.

Can the market support two games?

Retreater illustrates beautifully that 4E has devoted fans who have no interest in playing Pathfinder or any resurrected 3E.

I suspect that I'm not alone in my disdain for 4E as a simple paper-based video game, but Retreater points out that it's easier to pick up and play.

The fiddly bits of Pathfinder are my favorite. I like building characters. I run a BoXM/Pathfinder game with gestalt rules and several Arcana Evolved NPCs and I'm not afraid to house rule.

I get that doesn't appeal to everyone.

So - here's my suggestion: perhaps it's time for two games:

Dungeons and Dragons (4E with current errata)
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (5E [Monte Cook's twisted, house-ruled reboot of Pathfinder/OGL])

If WotC only publishes the money-making core rules and licences others to turn out "official" supplements while everyone else publishes under the OGL to support WotC's sales.

I believe that there are already two markets here and I believe the industry has been trying to pretend that there's just one.

Nobody tries to pretend that chess and poker are one game with a common group of players and nobody tries to make poker more like chess to broaden it's appeal. Both game are supported separately even though there's some overlap in the populations.

Kobold Boots

I'd agree with you save for two things:

1. We already have two games with dedicated player bases.
2. Any 5th edition that would drastically pull away from 4E would actually be a third game. Paizo is not going to stop publishing Pathfinder, just because there's a 5E.

On a personal note: While I love the depth of all of the D&D games, I absolutely hate the amount of time spent on character generation these days. I play both 4E and Pathfinder. Without Hero Lab and a DDI subscription, I'd question my ability to do either, simply due to time commitment.

That isn't the formula for a truly successful, player accessible game, I don't care what it is or who publishes it.


First Post
Google has a tool that permit to measure the noise/interest on the web about certain terms. My friend used it to compare 4e, 3.5e and Pathfinder on 2 years, and the result is that 4e peaked early when it was out. 3.5e stay more or less constant, and Pathfinder continuously raised in interest. So at the end of the 2 years Pathfinder had the most interest, followed by 3.5e and 4e behind. So WotC has no choice but to make a new edition. And if you read the articles of Monte, it looks like they want to make a game that is simple but where you can add complexities as you which. At least it looks like it's what he's probing about. They lost a big share of market (3.5 + Pathfinder) that they need to gain back. Can they build from 4e ? I don't think they can, and I hope not.

Kobold Boots

The only way they gain the share back that they lost is to buy out Paizo completely and assume their share.

4E split the D&D market. Hasbro execs are pretty tweaked about it and I doubt they'd sign off on an acquisition given the current state of things without killing the rpg team management at WoTC and replacing them with Mona's crew.


Well, that was fun
Staff member
Google has a tool that permit to measure the noise/interest on the web about certain terms. My friend used it to compare 4e, 3.5e and Pathfinder on 2 years, and the result is that 4e peaked early when it was out. 3.5e stay more or less constant, and Pathfinder continuously raised in interest. So at the end of the 2 years Pathfinder had the most interest, followed by 3.5e

What terms did he search for? 4E, D&D, D&D 4E, 4th Edition, D&D 4th Edition, Dungeons & Dragons, Dungeons and Dragons, Dungeons & Dragons 4E, Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition... OK, I got bored of typing.

Did he, for example, compare "D&D 4E" vs "PFRPG"? If not, I suggest he does so - the result is very different depending on the search terms you choose.

Not that I'm saying either is searched for more than the other - but actually comparing them is a fairly large task.


No search for terms will be accurate. More importantly, online searches will never be a good way to determine play numbers or revenue, let alone what RPG companies should do. D&D has tons of players every week through Encounters and very few of those gamers post online at all. I would expect that fewer than 1 in 6 Encounters gamers would post online about D&D. For example, my local store has had more than 300 gamers go through Encounters and maybe 3-5 of them post online with any measurable frequency (and maybe 10 if you count our internal Yahoo group).

But, I am surprised nonetheless. It seems like there are tons of blogs constantly discussing 4E and fans are often sharing content. Because the math is so clear, 4E really lends itself to fans making monsters, crafting terrain, sharing encounters, creating player options, etc. While I certainly see a lot of 3E discussion, I would not expect it to be as high based on the differences in the games (nothing to do with popularity).

On the subject of whether Wizards _needs_ to do anything, I don't see a particularly high need. 4E releases in the last half of 2011 have been the strongest ever under 4E, being both of really high quality and innovative. I could see an argument that 4E is as strong as it has ever been and as attractive to new or old players as it ever has been.

I can also argue that every RPG should begin work on a new edition of their RPG before it is actually time for that new edition. You don't want a strong down period if you can help it. Everyone in the RPG industry has long suffered from a classic problem: The most revenue comes from your first rulebooks and declines after that. The only consistent solution is to release a new edition. (And most companies lose their shirts on all releases after the core rulebooks, using a new edition to pay debts... companies like Wizards are in a minority to see other releases be profitable).

People have been wrong about both the announcement and release dates for over a year now... and I suspect that will continue.

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