OneDnD The future of edition changes and revisions

Mercurius

Legend
A comment in another thread got me thinking about the nature of edition changes and how they are received. I wanted to tease out a specific element that I haven't heard discussed before, or at least not recently.

If we count major revisions (e.g. 3.5 but not 2E Skills & Powers), the AD&D line, starting in 1977, has had edition changes after 12 years (1989), 11 years (2000), 3 years (2003), 5 years (2008) and 6 years (2014), and possibly another 10 years (2024). The first two, 2E and 3E, were--as far as I remember--widely accepted and even embraced. 1989 had no internet except for a few folks on Usenet, so is hard to compare to the others. But I don't remember any 1Ever folks running around, although I assume there were some. And of course 3E was met with tons of excitement and generally rave reviews, and of course is how some of us discovered site, in the old red-and-black Eric Noah's Third Edition News page.

I do remember a bit of commotion when 3.5 came out, but most seemed to be happy with it. And of course the 4E thing. 5E was also met with general positivity, in a somewhat similar manner to 3E (although less of a "finally, D&D enters the modern era" and more "we're back, baby!").

Which brings me to my point. In every edition change of the past, at least going back to 2E, the D&D community was comparatively small compared to today, and mostly made up of long-term fans. By 1989, the D&D Boom of the early 80s had faded, and those of us who remained were in it for the long-haul. There were still new people coming in, but there was no boom. Even the 2000 boom was relatively small, and much of it was people coming back to the game. Similarly with 2014.

But now we're in uncharted waters. The player base is allegedly north of 30 million worldwide and growing, most of whom started playing within the last five years or so. Meaning, most of those folks never experienced an edition change, and have only ever known 5E - and all that entails, perhaps most especially the relatively small number of products - far closer to the sparse release schedule of 1E than the glut of 2/3/4E.

Or to compare 5E to 2E, assuming no more products than already announced, through 2022--the ninth year of 5E--by my counting, there have been 44 unique products published - counting only books and box-sets, but not DM screens and other accessories. Those 44 products break down as follows:

Core rule books: 3
Starter sets (including licensed): 5
Splat books: 7
Setting books: 8
Adventure books: 18
Luxury products/other: 3

Note: I'm making a couple judgment calls in terms of categorization--e.g. considering Acquisitions a splat--but that is really beside the point; the total count is more important)

44 products in 5 years is a bit less than 5 products a year.

Now consider that at the height of 2E, there were more distinct products published every year. The first few years, 1989-91, had a bit less than that, from about 25 (give or take) in '89 to 35ish in '90 and over 40 in '91. But from 1992-96, there were over 50 products published each year, peaking at about 70 in 1995.

Now granted, many of those products were much smaller (and cheaper) than your typical 5E tome. That includes modules, setting supplements, and other products - a wide range of stuff. And during 2E era, TSR essentially had different product lines within the overall umbrella of D&D, centered around the settings. For instance, in 1995--the year of the 2E revised books, in addition to about 15 core non-setting specific products, there were products published for the Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Planescape, Birthright, Dark Sun, Lankhmar, and even a 2E product for Mystara (by that point, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Spelljammer were fallow) - and as many as 13 different books just for the one setting, in this case, the Realms.

3E and 4E also had a ton of products published, but rather than 60+ of all types, they focused mostly on hardcovers. 3E peaked in 2006 with over two dozen products, and 4E in 2010 with about the same - but the products tended to be longer and more expensive.

So even if we just compare 5E to the previous two editions, we're talking about a fraction of products. 2019 saw the most products published with 8, although three of those were "non-essential" licensed starter sets and the Tyranny of Dragons re-packaging; in actuality, 2022 is the peak so far, with 7 distinct products, or 6 if you don't count the Dragonlance battle game (and that's assuming there's no surprises).

I elaborate all of this because an edition change means something different now than it did in previous eras, for two main reasons:

  1. The player base is different - much larger, younger, and generally more casual.
  2. There are far few products in 5E than in previous editions at a similar point, at least going back to 2E.
So my question, or rather open-ended speculation, is how will WotC handle an edition change/revision differently from in the past, and how will the player base respond? Of course we can't know either for certain, although we can speculate. And as to the first, there are signs of gradual rolling out and transition, from the Monsters of the Multiverse book, to various things like the stuff they publish on their website to new rules additions or revisions in books like Tasha's.

And of course they've said that the 50th anniversary will be backwards compatible, but not only have we heard that one before, but that means different things to different people. Some feel that everything before Tasha's isn't compatible, while others say that the entire 50 years of D&D products is still essentially compatible - or at least usable.

So given all the above, and the various factors that make this era unique or different from previous eras, how do you see WotC handling edition changes and revisions going forward, and how do you think the player base will respond? (With the caveat that all of this, to some extent, assumes that the player base will remain large and casual, rather than shrink back down to a small core of diehards - which only time will tell).

While I'm specifically asking about the above, and thus mostly focused on 5.5 and whatever comes after that, feel free to speculate about how you think the player base might change - if you think this is another boom with an eventual contraction, or whether you think we're in an era of continual expansion. Of course with technological and global considerations, it is hard to think about where we might be in a couple decades, but at least we an speculate on the 2024 revision, and perhaps whatever comes down the pike 5-10 years after.

Alright, enough words from me ;)
 

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Yora

Legend
WotC seems to have abandoned the splatbook assembly line that was such a central feature of 2nd and 3rd edition as a commercial product. I don't even remember how things looked in 4th, 5th edition now follows a very different production strategy.
I am sure that has a major impact on how they approach future revisions.
 



overgeeked

B/X Known World
If we count major revisions (e.g. 3.5 but not 2E Skills & Powers), the AD&D line, starting in 1977, has had edition changes after 12 years (1989), 11 years (2000), 3 years (2003), 5 years (2008) and 6 years (2014), and possibly another 10 years (2024). The first two, 2E and 3E, were--as far as I remember--widely accepted and even embraced. 1989 had no internet except for a few folks on Usenet, so is hard to compare to the others. But I don't remember any 1Ever folks running around, although I assume there were some.
Hello there. We stuck with AD&D when 2E came out...and when 3E came out...and when 3.5 came out. We still play AD&D. But we also played 4E for the entire lifespan of that edition and have played 5E since the playtest.
Which brings me to my point. In every edition change of the past, at least going back to 2E, the D&D community was comparatively small compared to today, and mostly made up of long-term fans. By 1989, the D&D Boom of the early 80s had faded, and those of us who remained were in it for the long-haul. There were still new people coming in, but there was no boom. Even the 2000 boom was relatively small, and much of it was people coming back to the game. Similarly with 2014.

But now we're in uncharted waters. The player base is allegedly north of 30 million worldwide and growing, most of whom started playing within the last five years or so. Meaning, most of those folks never experienced an edition change, and have only ever known 5E - and all that entails, perhaps most especially the relatively small number of products - far closer to the sparse release schedule of 1E than the glut of 2/3/4E...

I elaborate all of this because an edition change means something different now than it did in previous eras, for two main reasons:
  1. The player base is different - much larger, younger, and generally more casual.
  2. There are far few products in 5E than in previous editions at a similar point, at least going back to 2E.
So my question, or rather open-ended speculation, is how will WotC handle an edition change/revision differently from in the past, and how will the player base respond?
Honestly...I think they've learned their lesson with 3X and 4E. They have a winning combination and they're on the absolute top of the heap of the market. They would be stupid to risk that position. The only way they can update the rules and not lose a substantial section of the fanbase is to deliver exactly what they said, a few revisions and tweaks that remain 100% backwards compatible with 2014 5E. Anything like a proper edition change...2E to 3E or 3E to 4E...will cause the fanbase to split in a dramatic way. They still have memory of Pathfinder overtaking the market during 4E. There's no way they'd ever risk that again.

If the changes are small enough, the fans will get over it. They'll either play the original version of 2014 5E or they'll update to 2022 5E...or 50AE...or 5.5...or whatever we're calling it today. If the changes are big, the fanbase will split and there is potential that some other 3PP will swoop in and dominate the market. It's not likely to happen unless the 5E fanbase shatters into several camps. But even a bifurcation with rough parity between the camps would still leave both utterly dominating the RPG market. Looking at the numbers you can see that many older editions of D&D have more players than non-D&D games. It's wild.
 

Frankly, I don't know what the future is going to be. It seems to me that the situation we have here may be equal parts "things are going pretty well" and "we're keeping costs low by keeping staff low and licensing." (I may be beating a dead horse, but taking absolute ages just to get out an extremely simple conversion document because ONE PERSON was on jury duty? Yeah, that doesn't speak to a game that is getting the staff it needs to produce the things it could really use.)

My hope is that, between the pretty open calls for some more options just not as many things as had come out for 3e or 4e, and the pretty significant implied changes from stuff like their talk about adding feats to backgrounds, they're going to slightly increase their publication rate. Something like 6-8 products a year, with one or two being heavy on player-facing options, as opposed to the pretty-much-just-one we've been getting. That, plus the potential to streamline and slightly increase the density of options in the PHB, sounds like it would truly hit the sweet spot for most players--light enough on options to be something most folks can still grasp, but dense enough with options that people can feel there's a richness to what one can choose to play.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Edition changes are messy things. You'll lose some of your customers who aren't willing to buy into the new edition (I intend to be one, when it happens), while you'll have a small percentage who pick it up BECAUSE they heard of it due to the noise volume about an edition change.

If the 50th year books are a MAJOR change, I think it will be a blow to game's popularity. If the changes amount to the level of incorporation of Xanather's changes, Tasha's and Monsters of the Multiverse, there will be some minor grumbling, but the game will keep on.

If anything, I expect this to be on the level of if the 1E UA, Dungeoneers & Wilderness Survival guide info had all been rolled into the original DMG & PHB. Or about the Black book redux of the PHB, DMG & MC for 2E. Or 4E to Essentials. I'm not expecting it to be 3E to 3.5, 3.75 (the 2nd round of Complete, PHB2, DMG2 & To9S) or 3.95 (Pathfinder) level of change.

I'm expecting you will still be able to use the 2014 PHB at the game table, but some of the options won't be as optimal. I think that's been WotC "evergreen" plan for this edition - tweaks here and there, with new additions or ways of doing things that work with the older material, but may be superseded by new, superior content (i.e., Eldritch Knight isn't redone, but the new Sorcerous Blade is clearly a superior way to do a Fighter/Wizard).
 

DarkCrisis

Legend
Every edition (and half edition) from this point on I expect to be advertised as "Fixes the problems of the Previous Ed to try to convinces people to buy it.

Why wouldn't you want 5E but the Classes are so much better and more powerful!?!?!?!? Abd look Critical Role switched to the new hotness!

"Its like 5E but FIXED and BETTER!"

Ooohhh!!! Shells out $150
 

JThursby

Adventurer
  1. The player base is different - much larger, younger, and generally more casual.
  2. There are far few products in 5E than in previous editions at a similar point, at least going back to 2E.
These are two assumptions I want to push back against slightly, if only to highlight some of the nuance in the current D&D scene and why the game is experiencing explosive popularity.

I run 5e professionally for kids sometimes, and I haven't noticed anything casual with their engagement in the game. They like running complex builds and heavily utilize full casters and strange martial combos. These are the same kids that will learn how to master many difficult video games, some of my kids having already conquered Elden Ring for instance. Nor are they casual in the sense that they are only interested in D&D as a peripheral hobby. All of them are pretty heavily invested in the game and have fairly developed opinions about what they like, dislike and want out of the game. There's a trend right now where each younger generation is experiencing more and more difficulty gaining and keeping friends. About 1 in 4 twenty-sometimes in the US report as having no friends whatsoever, and those who report having friends have far fewer than previous generations. As a twenty-something myself I struggled with this when I changed colleges and it was a living hell. My only real in to a friend group was through tabletop roleplaying, and the friends I made that way are the ones I have kept for a number of years now. As chronic loneliness gets worse I imagine more and more people will turn to social games like D&D. It isn't particularly more complicated than most popular video games, and it fulfills an ever more vacant niche.

When it comes to the lack of 5e products this is true...for first party products. The third party publishing scene for D&D 5e is ludicrously expansive. It enjoys the largest and most frequent kickstarters for new projects, and DMs Guild dwarfs other digital publishing venues for third party content. So while the product pool might be shallow when it comes to first party products, the third party publishing scene is going to be a factor in what version of 5e they are ultimately going to play, as few truly play a stock version with no alterations. I would not be surprised if at this point many players decide they do not need a WOTC version of the game and just pick a fan-alteration as their defacto version (ie Morrus' Advanced 5e).
 
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In my humble opinion WotC now is worring more about to create new IPs or reanimate old glories, and then some sourcebooks or modules are something like a "pilot episode", or "hidden pilot episode" of potential spin-off. Witchlight could become a new setting, like the anti-Ravenloft.

Other point is the translation of books to other languanges. This time WotC will not licence but they will publish. In some places the translation arrived a lot of years later, and then for players from other country it would be too soon for a new edition.

And the last years of the edition should be for compilations or to try new ideas, as new game mechanics. A 5.5 Ed is possible, and my theory is 6Ed should be designed to can use the different genres, not only fantasy, but also sci-fi, WWII, Lovecraftian horror, gangsters vs cops, superheroes.. but the softest way could to publish a computer rpg with the new ideas. Like this we could avoid a new edition war.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
I think you misestimate the demographics of many earlier Editions: WotC has said that the main audience reached for 3E and 4E were still teens and twenty somethings (like I was at the time), but spaces like this tend to overrepresnt longetermers. 5E is more successful at brining more people in, but the fluctuating and primarily younger audience was a constant.

I would suggest that thinking about 2014 and 2024 D&D as heirs of AD&D is going to be confusing here, because a better comparison is Basic D&D, the model consistently cited by WotC as their strategy moving forwards. Counting OD&D, Basic saw 6 editions between 1974-1994 prior to being folded into AD&D. I expect thst the 2014 material and the 2024 material will work together like Moldvay B/X, Meltzer BECMi, and Allston Rules Cyclopedia Editions of the game. I will still be able to run a 2024 party through Princes of the Apocalyspe. We already have new Monster and race rules playing right next to the old.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
I think the gamer base will remain the same.

5.1 will be a smaller update than 3.5 was for 3.0. Even those who bought all 5e books would not have spent a fortune and will probably be able to use at least all the adventures and monsters books, so they won't nearly be in the same situation as someone who invested heavily in 3e or 4e and might have decided not to move to the next edition. Younger gamers who haven't seen an edition change/update yet will be more intrigued than worried. Older grognards already know they'll house rules to their taste and care only relatively for "compliance". And there's a massive amount of non-DMing players who buy only the PHB and maybe a little more, but fundamentally do not care about what edition they are playing.

I think as long as the current people are in charge at WotC, the rules will keep evolving slowly and next update will be 5.2 for the 60th. Although, IMHO they have already scraped the barrel a bit with character material so something will change in the typical content of supplements, probably more settings and less generic rulesbook. But only when the current directors will quit or retire and someone else takes charge we will see a 6e.
 

Mercurius

Legend
Teasing out a few things...
WotC seems to have abandoned the splatbook assembly line that was such a central feature of 2nd and 3rd edition as a commercial product. I don't even remember how things looked in 4th, 5th edition now follows a very different production strategy.
I am sure that has a major impact on how they approach future revisions.
Yes, agreed - but how do you see it impacting future revisions?
Hello there. We stuck with AD&D when 2E came out...and when 3E came out...and when 3.5 came out. We still play AD&D. But we also played 4E for the entire lifespan of that edition and have played 5E since the playtest.

Honestly...I think they've learned their lesson with 3X and 4E. They have a winning combination and they're on the absolute top of the heap of the market. They would be stupid to risk that position. The only way they can update the rules and not lose a substantial section of the fanbase is to deliver exactly what they said, a few revisions and tweaks that remain 100% backwards compatible with 2014 5E. Anything like a proper edition change...2E to 3E or 3E to 4E...will cause the fanbase to split in a dramatic way. They still have memory of Pathfinder overtaking the market during 4E. There's no way they'd ever risk that again.
I agree, and don't think they'll risk that. But two things: One, "100% backwards compatible" means different things to different people, as I said in the OP. Two, to follow along from one, even if they only incorporate stuff from Tasha's and Multiverse, not to mention the tonal changes that have been occurring, we're already essentially at "5.2," so to those for whom "100%" means "5.01," there might be backlash. Or not?

As I said elsewhere, I think they'll push the needle as far as they can as far as backwards compatibility is concerned, but it will still end up being something like "5.3" - maybe even "5.4," but definitely shy of "5.5." I think?
If the changes are small enough, the fans will get over it. They'll either play the original version of 2014 5E or they'll update to 2022 5E...or 50AE...or 5.5...or whatever we're calling it today. If the changes are big, the fanbase will split and there is potential that some other 3PP will swoop in and dominate the market. It's not likely to happen unless the 5E fanbase shatters into several camps. But even a bifurcation with rough parity between the camps would still leave both utterly dominating the RPG market. Looking at the numbers you can see that many older editions of D&D have more players than non-D&D games. It's wild.
I actually trust WotC that they'll stop short of doing too much that will split the fan-base, or at least if it happens, it will be minimal. You'll take Volo's from my cold, dead hands!

And as someone said elsewhere, which is part of what got me wondering about this, the newer cohort might be less picky granular about the rules, so backwards compatibility might be less of an issue to 80-90% of the fan-base.
Frankly, I don't know what the future is going to be. It seems to me that the situation we have here may be equal parts "things are going pretty well" and "we're keeping costs low by keeping staff low and licensing." (I may be beating a dead horse, but taking absolute ages just to get out an extremely simple conversion document because ONE PERSON was on jury duty? Yeah, that doesn't speak to a game that is getting the staff it needs to produce the things it could really use.)

My hope is that, between the pretty open calls for some more options just not as many things as had come out for 3e or 4e, and the pretty significant implied changes from stuff like their talk about adding feats to backgrounds, they're going to slightly increase their publication rate. Something like 6-8 products a year, with one or two being heavy on player-facing options, as opposed to the pretty-much-just-one we've been getting. That, plus the potential to streamline and slightly increase the density of options in the PHB, sounds like it would truly hit the sweet spot for most players--light enough on options to be something most folks can still grasp, but dense enough with options that people can feel there's a richness to what one can choose to play.
Yes, this is about what I expect: six core products (splats, settings, adventures) and two special/other/luxury ones ala the Dragonlance Battle Game, new starter sets, and maybe a surprise here and there. But 6+2 seems like a nice sweet-spot between minimalism and glut.
Edition changes are messy things. You'll lose some of your customers who aren't willing to buy into the new edition (I intend to be one, when it happens), while you'll have a small percentage who pick it up BECAUSE they heard of it due to the noise volume about an edition change.

If the 50th year books are a MAJOR change, I think it will be a blow to game's popularity. If the changes amount to the level of incorporation of Xanather's changes, Tasha's and Monsters of the Multiverse, there will be some minor grumbling, but the game will keep on.

If anything, I expect this to be on the level of if the 1E UA, Dungeoneers & Wilderness Survival guide info had all been rolled into the original DMG & PHB. Or about the Black book redux of the PHB, DMG & MC for 2E. Or 4E to Essentials. I'm not expecting it to be 3E to 3.5, 3.75 (the 2nd round of Complete, PHB2, DMG2 & To9S) or 3.95 (Pathfinder) level of change.

I'm expecting you will still be able to use the 2014 PHB at the game table, but some of the options won't be as optimal. I think that's been WotC "evergreen" plan for this edition - tweaks here and there, with new additions or ways of doing things that work with the older material, but may be superseded by new, superior content (i.e., Eldritch Knight isn't redone, but the new Sorcerous Blade is clearly a superior way to do a Fighter/Wizard).
As I said earlier in this post, those changes are probably already a 5.2. If they keep to that and maybe add or subtract or revise a bit more, that's 5.3ish (I keep oscillating between 5.3 and 5.4 in my mind).

But yeah, unless this proves to be a boom, and thus is followed by a crash, we won't see a truly new edition (e.g. 6E) - and presumably that's not for at least five years, and only then if A) there is an impending crash, and B) 50A is poorly received.

On one hand, I think it would be foolish not to expect some contraction, but AFAICT, D&D is still expanding. So it is one thing to contract from 30 million players, quite another to contract from 50-100 million. My suspicion is that it will continue to grow for a few years, get another bump in 2024, and then the novelty for some will start to wane, but that it will contract down to a higher plateau than in previous contracts. So rather than a 5 million strong diehard base, it might be 10-15 million - but even then, I don't see that happening until 5+ years from now.

(Assuming we survive the next five years relatively intact!)

Every edition (and half edition) from this point on I expect to be advertised as "Fixes the problems of the Previous Ed to try to convinces people to buy it.
Why wouldn't you want 5E but the Classes are so much better and more powerful!?!?!?!? Abd look Critical Role switched to the new hotness!

"Its like 5E but FIXED and BETTER!"

Ooohhh!!! Shells out $150
This is something that I meant to highlight in the OP, but forgot: When considering the newer generation, how will they respond to the "new and shiny?" Everyone likes the new and shiny, of course. But there's also the new and novel - meaning, the joy of learning a new version of D&D, which many/most have generally embraced over the decades.

I don't think we'll have that answered in 2024, due to it likely being no more than a 5.3-4 revision, but we might get a glimmer of it.
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Predicting for myself:

I started in '78 and played for nearly 30 years straight until 2007 (with some 3E and d20 SW) when I took a hiatus from playing for a while. I still worked on my content, developing my world, and occasionally got into a game, but nothing regular until about 4 years ago (where has the time gone!?) with 5E and a new group.

Now, I can accept 5E for what it is, but it ain't your Daddy's D&D folks, at least not IMO. But, hey, times (and people) change--and so do editions--I get that.

So, unless WotC makes some serious design changes, which I am not expecting considering the "backwards compatibility" we're likely to see, I will not be embracing another edition of D&D at all.

I might, when finished with my 5E mod, continue to play 5E as long as I can find players willing to play the "mod edition". If I can find old-school players or new players interested in B/X or AD&D , then I will play that. I will continue to play d20 SW if I get players for that. It is IMO the best d20 game--bar none.

For others:

What will the "5E-only" crowd experience with a new edition? Who knows... It will probably be the same many of experienced with every other edition release: some excitement, some anxiety, some relief, some disappointment, some joy.

One thing I can say is this: with the wide-spread exposure of a new release, WotC had better nail it or they could very well suffer some serious setbacks. I can understand why they might be hesitant to do anything drastic in a new release. Some people embrace change, but most don't IME. 🤷‍♂️
 

Every edition (and half edition) from this point on I expect to be advertised as "Fixes the problems of the Previous Ed to try to convinces people to buy it.

Why wouldn't you want 5E but the Classes are so much better and more powerful!?!?!?!? Abd look Critical Role switched to the new hotness!

"Its like 5E but FIXED and BETTER!"

Ooohhh!!! Shells out $150
in my experience this is it exactly...

2e is hard, math doesn't make sense... imagine no more thac0 or weird roll high/low worries...3e fixes it
3e We know that there are problems the ranger stinks haste is broken and the skills cost too much, but 3.5 will fix it
3.5 so your games are turning into rocket tag with caster supremacy, and some rules (grapple) are too hard don't worry 4e will fix it
4e fixed it but you think we fixxed so much it isn't D&D anymore... don't worry 5e is back to basics

I don't know what 6e will fix or break but there is a pattern
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Man, with a post like that, who do you think you are, Snarf? ;)

All kidding aside, I predict we won't see splatbook churn. 2e did, but for all the wrong reasons (borrowing money to pay for current costs)

I think 2024 will be as compatible with 5e as 2e was with 1e. That is, we'll see most changes in character options, but you can easily use a 5e campaign in a post 2024 game system.

I predict the future will be less physical splat book releases, and a lot more focus on digital: VTT and digital books via D&DBeyond
 


Mercurius

Legend
These are two assumptions I want to push back against slightly, if only to highlight some of the nuance in the current D&D scene and why the game is experiencing explosive popularity.

I run 5e professionally for kids sometimes, and I haven't noticed anything casual with their engagement in the game. They like running complex builds and heavily utilize full casters and strange martial combos. These are the same kids that will learn how to master many difficult video games, some of my kids having already conquered Elden Ring for instance. Nor are they casual in the sense that they are only interested in D&D as a peripheral hobby. All of them are pretty heavily invested in the game and have fairly developed opinions about what they like, dislike and want out of the game. There's a trend right now where each younger generation is experiencing more and more difficulty gaining and keeping friends. About 1 in 4 twenty-sometimes in the US report as having no friends whatsoever, and those who report having friends have far fewer than previous generations. As a twenty-something myself I struggled with this when I changed colleges and it was a living hell. My only real in to a friend group was through tabletop roleplaying, and the friends I made that way are the ones I have kept for a number of years now. As chronic loneliness gets worse I imagine more and more people will turn to social games like D&D. It isn't particularly more complicated than most popular video games, and it fulfills an ever more vacant niche.
This is really interesting - thanks for adding this to the mix. I suppose that is part of the larger cultural trends I mentioned, but didn't have the first-hand experience to elaborate on. It is both kind of sad, but also encouraging that some are finding friends through D&D. In fact, it may be that's why D&D has taken off with the "digital natives" - it is something they've been lacking (the social interaction). I'm sure the pandemic plays into this as well.

It does make me wonder, though: how many of the 30 million (or, say 20ish million new players) are serious, like the ones you play with? Meaning, how representative are your players of the incoming cohort? I think this is where we'll eventually see contraction: those who becoming lifelong players, and those for whom it was something they did in their teens and twenties but then "grew up." And of course after that, there's no telling whether the post-Zennials will be drawn to D&D, or to what degree.
When it comes to the lack of 5e products this is true...for first party products. The third party publishing scene for D&D 5e is ludicrously expansive. It enjoys the largest and most frequent kickstarters for new projects, and DMs Guild dwarfs other digital publishing venues for third party content. So while the product pool might be shallow when it comes to first party products, the third party publishing scene is going to be a factor in what version of 5e they are ultimately going to play, as few truly play a stock version with no alterations. I would not be surprised if at this point many players decide they do not need a WOTC version of the game and just pick a fan-alteration as their defacto version (ie Morrus' Advanced 5e).
My assumption is that third party publishers mainly cater to serious/diehard types - that for every Kobold Press hardcover sold, there are dozens--if not hundreds--of WotC hardcovers sold. But I'm just guessing.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
Man, I am sure I am in the minority on this, but with a couple minor changes I could stick with 5e way past 2024.

I was really ready for a new edition after 3.0 and 3.5. We enjoyed the game, but it was time for something new.

I'm not new edition resistant, but I'm not sure I'm close to done with 5e.
I honestly think the changes will be relatively minor.

Start at level 1 with a feat tied to a background
Change the lore of many creatures to be less stereotypical and more customizable.
 

Mercurius

Legend
I think you misestimate the demographics of many earlier Editions: WotC has said that the main audience reached for 3E and 4E were still teens and twenty somethings (like I was at the time), but spaces like this tend to overrepresnt longetermers. 5E is more successful at brining more people in, but the fluctuating and primarily younger audience was a constant.

I would suggest that thinking about 2014 and 2024 D&D as heirs of AD&D is going to be confusing here, because a better comparison is Basic D&D, the model consistently cited by WotC as their strategy moving forwards. Counting OD&D, Basic saw 6 editions between 1974-1994 prior to being folded into AD&D. I expect thst the 2014 material and the 2024 material will work together like Moldvay B/X, Meltzer BECMi, and Allston Rules Cyclopedia Editions of the game. I will still be able to run a 2024 party through Princes of the Apocalyspe. We already have new Monster and race rules playing right next to the old.
OK, fair enough, as far as overestimating long-termers (with the caveat that older long-termers are replaced by younger long-termers...which is why I coined the phrase "quasi-grognard," as someone who started playing D&D before 2014...like you, Parmandur ;)).

But at the least, the current boom is far larger than in past editions, no? Meaning, the percentage of long-termers is much smaller, and the impetus behind edition revisions and changes is different. 5E's main goal was to re-gather the flock - with new players being a bonus. Or rather, I don't think they expected it would be such a huge draw for newbies, and they were very concerned with getting people back that they lost.

So anything going forward will be about keeping and expanding the newer, younger players - and far less about keeping people who started with TSR, although I suppose we won't be forgotten quite yet!

But yeah, good point about Basic/BECMI. I hadn't thought of that.
 

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