The Half-Edition Shuffle

The next edition of Dungeons & Dragons is finally on the horizon, but it's not here just yet. So when do publishers makes the shift?

thehalfeditionshuffle.png

A Historical Model​

D&D has been through several editions in recent memory, but few match the recent transition between two compatible editions. Although backwards compatibility is often promised, it's rarely delivered. And there's also the consideration of the thousands of small press publishers created through the Open Game License movement, which didn't exist before Third Edition. Of all the edition shifts, the 3.0 to 3.5 transition seems closest to what D&D is going through right now, so it's a good place to start this thought experiment.

Compatible, Sort Of​

Fifth Edition's transition to Sixth involves tweaks to the game. Those tweaks seemed largely cosmetic, at first. With the release of Mordenkainen's Monsters of the Multiverse, it's clear that the spellcasting section of monsters is going to be significantly changed. In short, while players may find their characters compatible with the latest edition of D&D, DMs may find their monsters aren't. And that's a problem for publishers. But mechanically, all of these issues can be addressed. What really matters is what customers think. And that's often shaped by branding.

What a Half-Edition Means​

The transition between Third Edition and 3.5 was more significant than many publishers were expecting. You can see a list on RPG Stack Exchange, which shows just how much the new edition changed the game.

This did not go unnoticed by consumers. The OGL movement was still developing but it caught many publishers by surprise, including the company I wrote for at the time, Monkeygod Publishing (they're no longer in business). When we released my hardcover book Frost & Fur, the only identifier was the D20 System logo. Little did we know that it was imperative to identify the book as 3.5-compatible (which it was), because stores wouldn't carry it and consumers wouldn't buy it if it wasn't.

There wasn't nearly as much communication from WIzards of the Coast back then as to how to prepare for the edition change, much less columns from the company explaining their strategy. More communication about the upcoming edition may mitigate its impact on third-party publishers.

Between the DM's Guild and DriveThruRPG, there is now an ecosystem that can more readily update itself without taking up shelf space or clogging up inventory. Digital products can be changed, covers can be rebranded, and newsletters can announce the update. Wizards of the Coast has also given considerable lead time on the coming changes by announcing the edition well in advance and updating books piecemeal so developers can see what changed. But there's still one important piece of the puzzle.

What Do Consumers Think?​

One of the ongoing concerns for supporting publishers of Third Edition was how the Open Game License would be updated and, at least as important, how to identify that compatibility.

Updating the OGL enables publishers to ensure their products are compatible. The OGL doesn't specify stat block structure, so it may not even be necessary to update the license much if at all.

Identifying compatibility will be even more critical. At some point, publishers will start identifying their products as Sixth Edition compatible. And that will happen when consumers shift their spending habits.

The Changeover​

But first, WOTC has to declare that Sixth Edition has officially arrived. Wizards was hesitant to put a number on Fifth Edition, preferring instead to indicate it was simply D&D to potentially head off edition controversy. Failure to do that in a timely fashion (or worse, failure to recognize a new edition at all and continue calling it Fifth Edition) will cause potential confusion in the marketplace, with both consumers and publishers.

At some point the tide will turn and consumers will expect compatibility with the new edition. That change is complicated by the fact that Sixth Edition should be largely compatible with Fifth Edition. But only consumers can decide that for sure; if they don't feel it is, there will be a sharp drop off in Fifth Edition buying habits. For smaller publishers, they'll stay close to the market to determine when that shift is happening and how to transition smoothly without harming their business model.

Getting it right can be lucrative. Getting it wrong can sink a company. The market convulsed massively when 3.5 came out, wiping out publishers and game store stock that were unprepared for the change. Here's hoping with enough foresight and planning, we don't have a repeat of the 3.0 transition.
 
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca


log in or register to remove this ad

IMO the issues such people had with 4e weren’t about presentation. Such assertions dismiss their actual stated issues.
The issue I most often heard is: it looks like a video game, it has too many powers, fighters are just like wizards, you automatically get all your abilities after every encounter.

Basically, they didn't like the look of the game so they never tried it. Which has at least something to do with presentation.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
The issue I most often heard is: it looks like a video game, it has too many powers, fighters are just like wizards, you automatically get all your abilities after every encounter.

Basically, they didn't like the look of the game so they never tried it. Which has at least something to do with presentation.
Did you ask them whether they played it or are you just assuming?
 

nevin

Hero
And the presentation is essential for an RPG. If you can sneak in modern game design and pass it as old school, it is gold (as proven by 5e).
As long as you don't introduce too much change at one time. Pf2 is learning this now. It's similar to the uncanny valley affect. People love change till you cross that invisible line and then they irrationally hate it because it was too far for the caveman brain
 

I’ve no idea what’s gotten you so enamored with proficiency bonus being important in balancing short rest and long rest abilities. It’s a terrible design choice as at high level the bonus becomes too high compared to the current system math. That’s true whether it’s prof bonus uses per day or prof bonus short rests per day. It’s just not backwards compatible design.

I could see a change giving you double or triple the number of short rest uses per long rest. But not proficiency bonus. More than likely that would not be a change but a variant rule.

It will happen. Recharge on short rest is more or less out of the game for over a year now.
Also not my design choice, bit the game designers'.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
It will happen. Recharge on short rest is more or less out of the game for over a year now.
Also not my design choice, bit the game designers'.
Creating new content is alot different than updating old content. When they are creating the content they can account for the higher level power difference elsewhere. When they are updating the class - it’d need to be a total redesign.

for example, the Battlemaster probably would need rebalanced to 3 superiority dice times proficiency bonus and the dice to never scale in number or size. (This also helps compensates for more uses of action surge)

whixh is why I don’t think it will happen.
 

eyeheartawk

#1 Enworld Jerk™
right becuse most (not all) hated 4e without trying or understanding it... hateing 4e became a meme... then they pretended 4e was a failure...
I mean, yeah, it did become a common meme. But, I wouldn't lump classifying it as a "failure" in with that behavior. It clearly didn't meet Wizard's expectations its short lifecycle, being outsold by a retroclone of its previous edition for a period of time and Wizard's discontinuing the game line well before they had a new replacement ready tells you everything you need to know on this point. I think this can confidently be believed to be true, even by people who like the game.
 

Oofta

Legend
right becuse most (not all) hated 4e without trying or understanding it... hateing 4e became a meme... then they pretended 4e was a failure...
There are some of us who hate dislike 4E even though we did everything possible to support it. As far as being a failure ... I saw it with my own eyes. I ran or helped run 2 public games in a major metro area. Initially we lost some people at the start but were soon packed. For a while. Then it just slowly but inevitably died as people burned out on it and went to find a Pathfinder game or something else to spend their free time on.

Despite playing and running the game from when 4E was released to when 5E was published I wouldn't play it again. My wife hates it, I just thought it broke down after level 10 or so and burned out on it. It has nothing to do with memes. It's not some vast conspiracy theory. It was just not a popular game long term amongst the dozens of people I played with. Probably around 1 in 20 people expressed interest in continuing to play the version.

This has nothing to to with edition wars, people like what they like. I liked some aspects of the game. But unlike 5E, 4E had a boom and bust cycle similar to previous editions. It had some good ideas but just didn't have broad lasting appeal.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I mean, yeah, it did become a common meme. But, I wouldn't lump classifying it as a "failure" in with that behavior. It clearly didn't meet Wizard's expectations its short lifecycle, being outsold by a retroclone of its previous edition for a period of time and Wizard's discontinuing the game line well before they had a new replacement ready tells you everything you need to know on this point. I think this can confidently be believed to be true, even by people who like the game.
I still think failure is too harsh a word. I like didn’t meet expectations.
 

jayoungr

Legend
Supporter
right becuse most (not all) hated 4e without trying or understanding it... hateing 4e became a meme... then they pretended 4e was a failure...
That's getting really close to edition warring...

(And I say this as someone who didn't hate 4E, although I didn't love it either.)
 

HammerMan

Legend
I mean, yeah, it did become a common meme. But, I wouldn't lump classifying it as a "failure" in with that behavior.
it didn't fail... we had people try to define failure as being the 4th-20th best athlete in the world to describe the 'fail'
It clearly didn't meet Wizard's expectations its short lifecycle,
that one I will give you... Wizards looked at how it was doing and said "we can do better, we can grow more" by every measure 5e is a more successful game then 4e, but by every measure jeff bazos is more a success then the guy who owns the billion dollar company I work for, and he is more successful then my boss's boss's boss who 'only' makes mid 6 figures a year... but calling any of them failures falls flat.
being outsold by a retroclone of its previous edition for a period of time
nope... lie/misunderstanding/meme here... pathfinder didn't outsell 4e until wotc stopped pushing 4e. it DID compete more then any other game did... but it was always at best a close second, never first.

winning a race the day the guy faster then you went on a date instead of running doesn't make you faster.
and Wizard's discontinuing the game line well before they had a new replacement ready tells you everything you need to know on this point.
um that part of there new stratagy was playtesting publicly?

how much time was between the last 2e supplement and 3e, I know there were months of build up to 4e too...

again we get "By this metric that every edition failed"
I think this can confidently be believed to be true, even by people who like the game.
it did not fail
 

HammerMan

Legend
There are some of us who hate dislike 4E even though we did everything possible to support it.
yes there are... and the same is true of every edition. By every metric I can think of 5e is the most successful and this sentince can fit perfectly with 5e as well.
As far as being a failure ... I saw it with my own eyes. I ran or helped run 2 public games in a major metro area. Initially we lost some people at the start but were soon packed. For a while. Then it just slowly but inevitably died as people burned out on it and went to find a Pathfinder game or something else to spend their free time on.
oh okay as long as you have such rigorous scientific data
Despite playing and running the game from when 4E was released to when 5E was published I wouldn't play it again.
I can say almost the same for 3e (I did drop early on that one) I can say that with exception of maybe a 1 time throw away session or 2 it is most likely true for 1e and 2e also for me...
My wife hates it, I just thought it broke down after level 10 or so and burned out on it.
yup some people don't like things... again this board is full of people saying the same about 3e or 5e
It has nothing to do with memes. It's not some vast conspiracy theory.
no it's not a conspiracy (I do have one of those but mods have told me to not talk about it)

it is the way humans think it';s what cinima sins does to movies. Jokes become fake facts
It was just not a popular game long term amongst the dozens of people I played with.
okay and the same can be said of every edition by someone... even 5th
Probably around 1 in 20 people expressed interest in continuing to play the version.
again with your scientific proof
his has nothing to to with edition wars, people like what they like.
it only has to be edition waring when people take what they don't like and express as a fact that it failed... I don't like special K cereal, does that make it afailure?
I liked some aspects of the game. But unlike 5E, 4E had a boom and bust cycle similar to previous editions. It had some good ideas but just didn't have broad lasting appeal.
similar to previus editions... yes, by all metrics 3e, 2e,1e,basic all failed then...
 

HammerMan

Legend
That's getting really close to edition warring...

(And I say this as someone who didn't hate 4E, although I didn't love it either.)
it quisy is... and these discusions often turn into puppet battles for the edition wars... but I notice you single out the pro 4 e not the anti 4e it responded too...

like if someone got punched in the gut and they responded by pushing the person away... yes both were physical, but one didn't start it.
 


HammerMan

Legend
I asked! They never played.
yeah for every "I played and didn't like it" I have found 3-4 "I didn't like it because (insert meme not true) so I didn't play it" and 1-2 "Maybe it would be fine as a stand alone game but I don't want it in my D&D so I didn't try it" and 1-2 "I was going to try but why bother with pathfinder letting me continue 3e"
 

eyeheartawk

#1 Enworld Jerk™
yeah for every "I played and didn't like it" I have found 3-4 "I didn't like it because (insert meme not true) so I didn't play it" and 1-2 "Maybe it would be fine as a stand alone game but I don't want it in my D&D so I didn't try it" and 1-2 "I was going to try but why bother with pathfinder letting me continue 3e"
Okay, we get it. You like 4e and think it's unfairly maligned. Fine.

What would you like to see in the new (half) edition?
 

Okay, we get it. You like 4e and think it's unfairly maligned. Fine.

What would you like to see in the new (half) edition?
Like to see? An overhaul of the classes so that it's easier to build outside the box concepts without making classic archetypes any harder to build, along with fun options for complex martials and simple casters.

Expect to see? Less defined races and a handful of minor tweaks to the rest of the player-facing content, and a new monster statblock format. Mostly good changes, but nothing dramatic (especially to people who were happy to tweak stuff already)
 

Oofta

Legend
yes there are... and the same is true of every edition. By every metric I can think of 5e is the most successful and this sentince can fit perfectly with 5e as well.

oh okay as long as you have such rigorous scientific data

I can say almost the same for 3e (I did drop early on that one) I can say that with exception of maybe a 1 time throw away session or 2 it is most likely true for 1e and 2e also for me...

yup some people don't like things... again this board is full of people saying the same about 3e or 5e

no it's not a conspiracy (I do have one of those but mods have told me to not talk about it)

it is the way humans think it';s what cinima sins does to movies. Jokes become fake facts

okay and the same can be said of every edition by someone... even 5th

again with your scientific proof

it only has to be edition waring when people take what they don't like and express as a fact that it failed... I don't like special K cereal, does that make it afailure?

similar to previus editions... yes, by all metrics 3e, 2e,1e,basic all failed then...
What proof do you have of your conspiracy theories? I base my thoughts on the fact that public gaming in my area went from 60+ individuals to less than a dozen. I'd point to the sales history that shows D&D slipping into second place a year before 5E playtest was announced but you've rejected that as well in the past.

But go ahead. Ignore the fact that many, many people tried it and didn't like it. You liked 4E more than most people did. The fact that it didn't succeed in the long run was not due to some cabal of people out to take away your toys.
 

HammerMan

Legend
What proof do you have of your conspiracy theories?
the conspiracy theory I have been asked not to talk about? You will need to tag a mod and ask them to let me share it... it is mostly circumstantal but I do have some...

or do you mean that it's a meme thing that is not a theory or a conspiracy... just how humans work and I can point to a dozen (accidental or purposeful) uses of the same idea as propaganda.
I base my thoughts on the fact that public gaming in my area went from 60+ individuals to less than a dozen.
okay... still not proof. By that metric my gaming group alone (extended through multi games) was about half that and all of us left D&D entirely before 3e ended before 4e was announced and 4e brought us all back (before we split PF/4e)
I'd point to the sales history that shows D&D slipping into second place a year before 5E playtest was announced but you've rejected that as well in the past.
becuse it wasn't 2nd for a year before the playtest was announced. that is false it fell 2nd 1 quarter that had only 1 book (the last one) for 4e... so it was when 4e stopped competing (or if I were being generous the last time it was given any push)
But go ahead. Ignore the fact that many, many people tried it and didn't like it.
I didn't ignore that any more then I ignore the same is true or 3e, and 5e, and PF and PF2e (and most likely 2e and 1e)
You liked 4E more than most people did. The fact that it didn't succeed in the long run was not due to some cabal of people out to take away your toys.
you are twisting it now... I said many time it was memfication... not 'some cabal'
 

HammerMan

Legend
Okay, we get it. You like 4e and think it's unfairly maligned. Fine.

What would you like to see in the new (half) edition?
thank you for trying to get us back...

I want more balance between the pillars. I want everyclass to have options built in.

in a perfect world I want artificer and warlock to be the main way we build classes (and yes I do see how that is more 4e)
 

Related Articles

Visit Our Sponsor

Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top