WotC Ray Winninger Steps Back From WotC

Former leader of the D&D team Ray Winninger has announced his departure from WotC, having "accomplished the ambitious goals we set". Dan Rawson was announced the new head of D&D earlier this month, leading many to speculate about Winninger's departure.

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"Sorry for the radio silence; I'm in the midst of a SORELY needed Long Rest. I have indeed left WotC, having accomplished the ambitious goals we set when I took over the D&D team.

Shepherding D&D was an honor and a privilege, but I'm looking forward to slowing down and getting back to a list of personal design projects. (Gamers, you haven't seen the last of me!) Most of all, I look forward to following D&D as a fan again.

Proud of the team I left behind; D&D is in very good hands: @JeremyECrawford, @ChrisPerkinsDnD, @DroidsForSale, @dtovar77, Liz Schuh, Kate Irwin, Trish Yochum, @aquelajames, @FWesSchneider, @MakenzieLaneDA, @amandahamon, Emi Tanji, Bree Heiss, @doctorcomics. @justicearman

@RPGRonLundeen, @BillBenham2, Rob Hawkey, Ben Petrisor, @Dan_Dillon_1, @EytanBernstein, Adrian Ng, Janica Carter, @chrislindsay, @TrystanFalcone, @mattchucole, Bob Jordan, @christulach, Natalie Egan, Hilary Ross, Carl Sibley. Thanks for being such great adventuring companions."
 
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Juomari Veren

Adventurer
That's good for a one-time sales bump per player at best.

If the current pace and pricing of releases continues as it has been for the last 10 years, they'll have to triple their consumer base or sell 3x as many products.

Something to consider; The playerbase at 5e's launch was a ghost of what it was today. They repackaged the core rulebooks once in 2018 (to capitalize on those who followed Critical Role all the way through their first campaign and into the second), and I'd wager that a fair share of current players who hopped onto the hobby after 5e launched but before 2022 don't actually own their own core material (ignoring the ease of finding it all online one way or the other, most new players likely borrowed core materials from someone who was teaching them the game, or a game store, or some other reason). If their playerbase (using playtest numbers from D&D Next) has multiplied even tenfold from 2014 to 2022 (175k to 1.75 million; Of course it's much, much higher both ways), and at least one third of the new 90% of players feel compelled to buy the One D&D core set for themsleves, they'll more or less accomplish selling three times as many products.

I'd daresay that digital tools be damned, One D&D's financial success is a foregone conclusion. With how many people I know went from never being interested in D&D to playing it regularly from my own high school alone (I could literally count the D&D players on one hand when I graduated, now they could probably fill an entire gymnasium with them plus the ones that hopped onto the hobby in the years before me), the game's pretty much guaranteed to be a success no matter what bow they wrap it up in and sell it to us with. Is One D&D a necessary rules change? In some ways, yes, and I welcome what I've seen so far give or take 10-15% of it. But there's no way that these new rules don't rake in the cash for at least one quarter of 2024's profits.

We don't, but we do know that he moved on without an announcement and the position wasn't filled immediately. That's highly unusual for someone stepping down voluntarily.

Actually, his position was filled about two-three months before he moved out, as per the info on LinkedIn. All signs point to him training his replacement before he formally stepped down in any way, since there's an overlap that only cedes job title to the new guy because of the start date. Also highly unusual, but in a good way.
 

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Micah Sweet

Legend
I'm ready to jump off if the transition to 1DD isn't good. Either staying with pure 5e, or going back to 3.5 core/E6, or just write my own heartbreaker. I'd make homebrew adjustments to 5e, but really, I don't love it that much.
I'm already on the Level Up train. Just following 6e in case they come up with any good ideas. You never know.
 

Staffan

Legend
For the two VTTs that I am familiar with (Foundry VTT and Roll20) it is pretty trivial to change, add, or remove abilities on magic items.
I've only played Pathfinder 2 on Roll20, and I distinctly remember that making custom things was a bit of a PITA. In particular, I was trying to make an NPC who used bombs and that was not very well supported at the time.
Hey, I bet if the "D&D" brand explodes in popularity, Hasbro will license out the IP to Modiphius or something to create an RPG!
If d20 is good, 2d20 has to be twice as good!
 

Are you cynical, or merely mired in the behavior patterns of an older generation, clinging to physicality (and the price structure of physicality) in an increasingly digital culture?

I don't mean that as an insult, by the way - this is normal human behavior. There are things I lament that I recognize are less about what is actually better, and more about resisting change.
I mean, that's a valid question, but let me respond.

How many physical RPG books do you think I have bought it in the 5 years?

The answer is zero. So it's fair to say I'm not married to the physical. I spent £400 on a very nice flippable Chromebook a few years ago, and have only bought digital RPG products since then. I also quite liked the DDI in 4E, where I didn't have buy books, just sub to the DDI, so I'm absolutely a contributory factor!

My main concern personally is that WotC want to lock people into a subscription-based digital ecology. Not because it'll be more expensive - I think it will be for most people, but not by much (a few whales will spend vastly more), but because it's likely to gradually change D&D into basically becoming something that's not a TTRPG, but first a hybrid game, and then eventually basically just an "entertainment product" that doesn't really feature roleplaying in any meaningful way. Simultaneously, the process will likely end RPGs having much of a place in FLGSes and the like (even Amazon will lose a lot of sales), but that money will go to WotC which will confirm that this is the way to go. The thing is, role-playing doesn't make money and can't be monetized except via things like Critical Role. You can't sell things that make someone a better role-player, or enjoy RPing more. So as with RP-related stuff and RP servers on MMOs and so on, I think it's going to be the most increasingly disregarded part of D&D.

To be clear, I think physical books will continue for decades, but I think they're likely to be increasingly oriented towards being collectibles, and away from being things intended for use. Also I think this process will be gradual rather than catastrophic.

Am I resisting that change? I dunno. But I'm not keen on it, that's for sure. I think it'll mean that people joining "D&D" in 10-15 years will not really be joining an RPG, but just an online entertainment experience, a game I'm sure, but not one that will be like other TTRPGs. And unless some other TTRPG gets real big real fast (which admittedly could happen if WotC balls this up enough, especially if they drop the OGL), I think that'll be the beginning of the end for TTRPGs as we know them - they'll probably essentially stop with Gen Z, just like model trains essentially stopped with, at latest, Gen X.

Will there be fun RPG-like things to do? I'm sure there will, probably AI-driven rather than DM-driven though. And honestly? DMing is the most fun hobby I've ever had, by a significant margin. So I kind of don't want it to go away!

Also maybe I need to change my avatar to Mystic Meg if I'm going to prognosticate this much?
 

I think it'll mean that people joining "D&D" in 10-15 years will not really be joining an RPG, but just an online entertainment experience, a game I'm sure, but not one that will be like other TTRPGs. And unless some other TTRPG gets real big real fast (which admittedly could happen if WotC balls this up enough, especially if they drop the OGL), I think that'll be the beginning of the end for TTRPGs as we know them - they'll probably essentially stop with Gen Z, just like model trains essentially stopped with, at latest, Gen X.

Will there be fun RPG-like things to do? I'm sure there will, probably AI-driven rather than DM-driven though. And honestly? DMing is the most fun hobby I've ever had, by a significant margin. So I kind of don't want it to go away!

This is an interesting concern, and it could very well turn out to be valid. Your observation about the lack of RP in MMOs is pretty chilling. I remember finally jumping into EVE Online and being horrified when I found out that RP was largely ridiculed, except among the faction that were all about enslaving people. Very cool stuff, not troubling at all!

But I think one could—and I imagine many did—make your same prediction about the hobby back when World of Warcraft came out, or during any of the more general spikes in interest in videogames and MMOs specifically. But here were are, with D&D ascendant and the hobby generally doing well.

Also, I can't resist—D&D is terrible for RP anyway! Bad from a mechanical perspective, from a premise perspective, from just about every perspective, compared to lots of other TTRPGs. So if 1D&D does, as you fear, become another dopey, hollowed-out MMO experience, I agree that the hobby could suffer...but it could also mean people who are drawn to these games for the RP seeking out systems and games that actually emphasize and support RP.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
... but because it's likely to gradually change D&D into basically becoming something that's not a TTRPG, but first a hybrid game, and then eventually basically just an "entertainment product" that doesn't really feature roleplaying in any meaningful way.

With all respect, an executive brought up to help drive subscription to a product that directly supports RPG play is not evidence that they are moving away from RPG play.
 

This is an interesting concern, and it could very well turn out to be valid. Your observation about how the lack of RP in MMOs is pretty chilling. I remember finally jumping into EVE Online and being horrified when I found out that RP was largely ridiculed, except among the faction that were all about enslaving people. Very cool stuff, not troubling at all!
With interesting with MMOs is that the vast majority of MMOs, at launch, try to support and encourage RP. And indeed, up to 2005, whilst some people frowned at it, they tended to be frowning at ERP, not more straightforward RP. In 2005, following WoW's launch, a vast number of frankly, young and unpleasant players who didn't know what RP was but very that sure that it was [homosexual slur] and everyone who did it was [combination of homosexual, misogynistic and racist slurs]. Ironically a small number of those same people today are doing stuff like RPing on GTA Online and so on! Some people change, I guess.

Despite good intentions, what companies tend to find is that fighting the twerps who harass RPers requires disproportionate amounts of effort, and often the very same twerps are people who spend a lot of time/money on the game, and further, really supporting RP requires a whole battery of systems to be developed and maintained and improved, all of which may make the game "feel better", but in fairly nebulous and hard-to-prove ways. Whereas you can really hard-track how many people did X raid, or visited Y dungeon (ironically this nearly killed raiding in WoW when they finally worked out how very few people actually did some raids, but that's a whole other post).

Possible evidence against from MMOs though, existed.

FFXIV has sorta-managed to quasi-monetize RP by selling emotes and outfits suitable for RP and which RPers actually want. It's not ideal but it at least gives the devs an incentive.

GTAO wasn't ever intended to be a particularly RP-friendly game, but because it's kind of trying to be a "criminal world simulator", people on PC have modded it and are using it to do RP.

So I think RP will survive. I'm just less sure about TTRPGs as a hobby.

Also, I can't resist—D&D is terrible for RP anyway! Bad from a mechanical perspective, from a premise perspective, from just about every perspective, compared to lots of other TTRPGs. So if 1D&D does, as you fear, becoming another dopey, hollowed-out MMO experience, I agree that the hobby could suffer...but it could also mean people who are drawn to these games for the RP seeking out systems and games that actually emphasize and support RP.
I'd tend to agree, but I think D&D is still the "gateway drug" for RPGs for the most part (lol), and unless another RPG becomes relatively well-known, and showcases RP more, I suspect that element will gradually become deemphasized (as will anything that's not mechanically supported well, including "clever plans").

With all respect, an executive brought up to help drive subscription to a product that directly supports RPG play is not evidence that they are moving away from RPG play.
Oh, sorry, to be clear I agree. It's definitely not hard evidence. I'm prognosticating and this is pure opinion on my part, please do not read as fact (I try to emphasize when I am claiming something is a "fact" and little if any of this is). Feel free to mock! I don't think you're wrong to do so. But I'm looking at what seem to me to be likely longer-term outcomes, when we account for what drives business, and what can be monetized and so on, I think we're going to see WotC gradually move more and more towards the G and away from the RP.

I am aware, as a fan of 4E, that this is exactly what people were concerned about. So it's kind of ironic for me to be concerned about it, yeah? I just thought 4E actually was quite enabling for RP. And maybe 1D&D and so on will be? I just kind of doubt it. Especially if they do it well! That's kind of the thing - the better the job they do, the more successful they make online/digital play, the more it's going to motivate a push towards G and away from RP.

It's certainly also possible they'll end up in a very different space, where they just have a wonderful digital offering that supports tabletop play still with a DM and with homebrew adventures and worlds, and so on. I just think the financial incentives will direct them away from that.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
<On an important side note, please avoid utilizing "slippery slope" arguments in this thread? Slippery Slope arguments are logical fallacies. Slippery Slope arguments are not valid logic. No one can predict cause-and-effect accurately (especially when addressing culture changes). There are too many variables.>

As I usually try to point out, it is almost always unhelpful to just refer to "logical fallacies" as if they were an actual rebuttal to people's concerns.

First, and most importantly, people are almost always discussing informal fallacies, and even if they are doing so correctly, informal fallacies have a place in actual discourse; it is better to address the discussion than to simply blurt out "strawman" or "slippery slope" or whatever you think might be at issue.

Second, slippery slope arguments (technically, these are usually versions of the continuum fallacy) do not have to be fallacious. It has long been recognized that, "it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties," for a reason. Slippery slope arguments are neither necessarily fallacious, nor dispositive, but (like most arguments) have to be analyzed on their own merits.

If concerns are unfounded, then they can be addressed as such. If, however, someone states a valid and reasoned concern that support of A will lead to B, then it is best to address why A will not lead to B*, instead of rubbishing the concern as an "informal fallacy."

*Or why B is not a bad outcome.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Second, slippery slope arguments (technically, these are usually versions of the continuum fallacy) do not have to be fallacious. It has long been recognized that, "it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties," for a reason. Slippery slope arguments are neither necessarily fallacious, nor dispositive, but (like most arguments) have to be analyzed on their own merits.
For anyone interested in reading more about what Snarf is saying here, check out the "non-fallacious usage" section of Wikipedia's slippery slope page.
 

I just thought 4E actually was quite enabling for RP. And maybe 1D&D and so on will be? I just kind of doubt it. Especially if they do it well! That's kind of the thing - the better the job they do, the more successful they make online/digital play, the more it's going to motivate a push towards G and away from RP.

Depressingly insightful point.
 

Danny Prescott

Explorer
Out of curiosity (and I suspect this is my ignorance) does anyone know if any credible research has ever been made public of the number of Online VTTPG players compared to Face to Face players?

I get there's a mass of complications with that seemingly simple query (one set is comparatively easy to count the other extremely hard, there's overlap etc).. Just colour me intrigued on the relative factors like sheer numbers, longevity, demographics etc. Suspect the answer may well be no but no harm in asking.
 





I don't think Wizards will "obsolete" roleplaying if for no other reason than it's free content for them. The more time your customers spend roleplaying, the less time they'll spend expecting to engage with new digital content and assets that are expensive to develop.

Also, RP in MMOs tends to suck for a number of reasons, but the way the game design crushes immersion is the biggest one for me. It's pretty hard to roleplay when your character is out doing the same quests as thousands of other characters so you can go kill Onyxia with your buddies BernieSunders and AxeGape for the hundredth time.

By contrast, VTTs are pretty well named. They're just a digital way to play the same game, the same way. If anything, whether it's the medium or some of the tools available, VTTs in my experience do a better job of supporting roleplaying than in-person does.

My imagination wasn't fully up to the task, but I often daydreamed about something like VTTs back in the early 80s. We really are living in the future. ;)
 

mamba

Hero
One thing that SlyFlourish ignores is that most of his trouble with not being able to get VTT stuff to work with third parties is that he made that choice.

He chooses to not use Shard, or Roll20, or Fantasy Grounds. He could use any of those and use third party stuff. Shard and Kobold Press have a strong partnership, but he prefers OwlBear Rodeo.
His complaint was lack of support from DnDBeyond, he had no issue with Owlbear.

He also acknowledged that it is distinctly a problem he has by sticking with DnDB (because he/his players like it) instead of switching to Roll20 or FG for the campaign. Granted, he did that in the video the following week.
 
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His complaint was lack of support from DnDBeyond, he had no issue with Owlbear.

He also acknowledged that it is distinctly a problem he has by sticking with DnDB (because he/his players like it) instead of switching to Roll20 or FG for the campaign. Granted, he did that in the video the following week.
Right, because OwlBear uses DnDBeyond for all stat stuff
 

His complaint was lack of support from DnDBeyond, he had no issue with Owlbear.

He also acknowledged that it is distinctly a problem he has by sticking with DnDB (because he/his players like it) instead of switching to Roll20 or FG for the campaign. Granted, he did that in the video the following week.
I find the roll20 srd compendium works great... my only complaint is it doesn't save homebrew. Like if I make a spell and put it on a wizard, that spell can't just be ported to the sorcerer it has to be remade... even worse you can't move it from 1 campaign to next.
 

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