log in or register to remove this ad

 

5E The Last Edition of D&D?

Changes in Dungeons & Dragons' various editions have ranged from the incremental to the epic, shaking up the game's sales along with its playerbase. There is evidence that Wizards of the Coast is following a new model in which there are no more editions, just updates and backwards compatibility. It's a model long touted by the software industry, and for an idea what the future might hold we can look to the future of video game consoles.

Edition History
To put Fifth Edition's longevity in perspective, it's worth looking back at the lifespan of the earlier editions. These editions lived long after the debut of later editions (and will live on in perpetuity on the Internet):

[EDIT: Alzrius did a much better job of summarizing editions, so I've replaced my timeline with his here, thanks Alzrius!)
  • Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1974 (woodgrain boxed set) through 1976 (Swords & Spells) - 2 years
  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Edition): 1977-1979 (depending on whether you could it as beginning with the release of the Monster Manual in 1977, the Players Handbook in 1978, or the Dungeon Masters Guide in 1979) through 1988 (DL16 World of Krynn) - 11 years
  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd Edition): 1989 (Player's Handbook) through 2000 (Die Vecna Die!) - 11 years
  • Basic Dungeons & Dragons (Holmes): 1978 (the Holmes Basic set) through 1979 (B2 The Keep on the Borderlands) - 2 years
  • Basic Dungeons & Dragons (B/X): 1981 (the Moldvay Basic Set to 1983 (X5 Temple of Death) - 2 years
  • Basic Dungeons & Dragons (BECMI): 1983 (the Mentzer Basic Set to 1993 (Champions of Mystara: Heroes of the Princess Ark) - 10 years
  • Dungeons & Dragons (3.0 Edition): 2000 (Player's Handbook) through 2003 (Ghostwalk) - 3 years
  • Dungeons & Dragons (3.5 Edition): 2003 (Player's Handbook) through 2008 (City of Stormreach) - 5 years
  • Dungeons & Dragons (4th Edition): 2008 (Player's Handbook) through 2012 (Into the Unknown: The Dungeons Survival Handbook) - 4 years
  • Dungeons & Dragons (4th Edition Essentials): 2010 (Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set) through 2011 (Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale) - 1 year
  • Dungeons & Dragons (Next): 2013 (Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle through 2014 (Legacy of the Crystal Shard) - 1 year
  • Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition): 2014 (Starter Set) through Present (Mythic Odysseys of Theros) - 6 years+
Looking at these averages, the lifespan of an edition ranges from as low as a few years to as long as 11 years. At 6 years old, Fifth Edition is now at the beginning of when it might be considered old enough to warrant a new edition—Fourth Edition lasted just four years (if we count Essentials).

No More Editions?
Mike Mearls had this to say about a hypothetical sixth edition:

We’re nowhere near 6th edition D&D, but if we get there this is how I’d like it to play out. Zero disruption to what you’re already doing, just new toys to make your game better.

In an Ask Me Anything on Reddit, Mearls clarified in response to a question about modeling D&D's roll-out after Microsoft's roll-out of Windows 10:

Is the goal of 5e to get all D&D players onto one edition and then to support it for a long time, much like what Microsoft is doing with Windows 10? Should we expect 5e to last longer than the 5-6 year lifespan of the previous several editions?

I think we'd do a new edition only when the warts of the current one are bothersome enough that people want them excised.

The much-touted Microsoft model, itself inspired by the iPhone model, comes up frequently because it minimizes disruption to consumers while ensuring they still benefit from systemic improvements. And there's a good reason for customers and developers looking for another way: A platform change can be devastating to a game's market.

Damaged Edition
As D&D has become more embedded in the Internet ecosystem, it has become increasingly difficult for it to pivot. The Open Game License (OGL) era ushered in by Third Edition, in which many third parties flourished in support of the new game, came to a hard stop with the debut of Fourth Edition. Two planned hardcover supplements I wrote never saw the light of day because the rumors of a new edition spooked the publisher from producing new material. The hint of a new edition was enough to make third party developers change their tactics, and for good reason.

The current D&D ecosystem has only grown larger thanks to the new OGL and the DMs Guild. All the video streamers who are currently buoying interest in the game, the D&D-related Kickstarters launched every week, and market expectations for the brand’s IP as a transmedia franchise suggests that the investment in D&D goes beyond customers and includes small business owners too.

Before a new edition comes out, the existing edition takes a hit: D&D gradually lost market share to Pathfinder, dipping to third place according to ICv2 in 2012 (when Fifth Edition was announced). The drop was not solely attributable to D&D's edition change of course. The issues with Fourth Edition and Pathfinder's popularity certainly had something to do with the shift in positions, but it seems likely the steep drop to third place was accelerated by the edition announcement. We have further data that bears this out in Pathfinder's Second Edition launch, in which Pathfinder First Edition slipped to fifth place in Spring 2019, just before the Summer launch of the new edition.

There's a parallel between an edition of a tabletop game and a video game console, which can have limited backwards compatibility with the games before it. Like the tabletop game industry, the video game industry convulses every six to eight years when a major game development platform (Xbox and Playstation) announces a new system. Developers change their schedules to accommodate and gamers stop buying the current platform as they wait for the new one to debut. This cycle grinds sales of video games to a halt; it can be so devastating that the current down cycle threatens to wipe out GameStop, one of the few remaining brick-and-mortar video game resellers in the United States (GameStop's desperation was on full display during the pandemic).

Something Has to Give
Increasingly, publishers are realizing that although this model produces an uptick in sales and expenditures in the short-term, it's damaging to the wider gaming ecosystem. This is why console producers are moving away from the existing model to one in which continual upgrades are possible while still guaranteeing backwards compatibility. They do this by building in compatibility from the start so that the console can easily run older games, while at the same time releasing more powerful products that consumers can opt-into as they see fit. In a similar fashion, one of Fifth Edition's goals was to be backwards compatible with the editions that came before it.

A longer market window to sell D&D has had some interesting side-effects, most notably that it creates an opportunity for luxury, high-end products. These products wouldn’t be able to flourish in a market where a potential high-end consumer would balk at investing a significant amount of money on something that wouldn’t compatible in a year.

There’s also signs that the old model no longer makes sense. D&D’s older editions never went away—Pathfinder’s success is an important reminder of this fact—and any new edition would have to compete with the five editions before it for digital attention. In the video game industry, downloadable content allows games and platforms to incorporate feedback and update themselves in real time—just like D&D is now doing with its Unearthed Arcana content and surveys.

Will we ever get a new edition of D&D? With Ray Winniger replacing Mearls as head of the D&D team, there may well be a declaration of a Sixth Edition in the near term, but it seems the game will always be backwards compatible … in which case an edition change is more a branding update than a radical change in the game’s rules.
 
Last edited:
Michael Tresca

Comments

Zardnaar

Legend
Then why are the 3.5e books so hard to find now, where 4e books are often dime-a-dozen?
Demand perhaps. Early in 4E 3.5 books spiked in value above the rrp. eBay iirc had them second hand at $30-$50. They were expensive briefly 2008/9.

4E books you kind of have to give them away. At least the core books.

4E initial print run and she's might have been great but collapsed quickly once people figured it out.

I've got 2 4E PHB in great condition. Barely used. IIRC around when 5E launched online tables 3.5 was still being played.

From 2010 it was Pathfinder as well irl. I had American friends who went back to America and they were asking what happened.

Plenty of photos were also posted online with pallets of Pathfinder, gamestores selling PF and not 4E.

Lifetime sales of 4E might be higher because of that sales bump 2008/9. The collapse started first year PF came out though and was mostly complete/,beyond dispute by 2011. 2010 was when the early signs were something wrong was going down beyond the complaining and moaning online.

Hell work on 5E was leaked 2011. Became official early 2012 iirc.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Zardnaar

Legend
Whaaaat? I got mine at a con for $10 at the flea market table a few years ago... And I don't even like Dark Sun but the deal was too good to pass up (and I'm a 4e fan).
Never sell D&D books outside the core rules.

For Star Wars anything involving the force or starships.

They collapse in price when a new edition cones out but spike in prices after.

Some of the rare books start spiking early though and can sometimes be found locally.

It's how I aquired SWSE/D6 Knights of the Old Republic, Star Ships of the Galaxy, Stock Ships, Tales of the Jedi and a few others.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
One easy thing they could do.Cut Feats, cut Multiclassing. Most of the people I know who play avoid even looking at those options, as they find them fiddley and intimidating. Makes room in the PHB, too.
Heck, I'd go further and cut subclasses. You pick Race, Class, and Background, you get all of your core abilities by level 1-2, and then everything you get is an upgrade of your core features. Repackage the core 12 classes with an integrated subclass (not labeled as a subclass, but obviously compatible with old 5e, and also new material as a selling point) and throw in another dozen new classes.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Heck, I'd go further and cut subclasses. You pick Race, Class, and Background, you get all of your core abilities by level 1-2, and then everything you get is an upgrade of your core features. Repackage the core 12 classes with an integrated subclass (not labeled as a subclass, but obviously compatible with old 5e, and also new material as a selling point) and throw in another dozen new classes.
Nah, Subclass, unlike Feats, is a useful tool. It's helped eliminate Class bloat tremendously.
 


TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
Nah, Subclass, unlike Feats, is a useful tool. It's helped eliminate Class bloat tremendously.
If the goal is to simplify, you want to eliminate choices with dependencies as much as possible. Ideally, Background, Race, and Class are siloed as much as possible, and the goal is to promote as much aesthetic and narrative distinction as possible.
 

reelo

Explorer
Nah, Subclass, unlike Feats, is a useful tool. It's helped eliminate Class bloat tremendously.
But subclasses, especially too many of them, increase role-overlap. I'd really have a very limited selection of iconic classes that safely occupy their own niche, than have casting fighters, fighting wizards, shapeshifting barbarians, raging druids etc.
 

darjr

I crit!
Subclasses have multiple goals. Only a few of which are suppressing bloat and min/maxing. And I think simplifying is a laudable goal but not the only or prominent one, at least not in 5e. Also I think subclassing DOES help in suppressing role overlap, new classes have a higher chance of sniping things from other roles, or being super vague in their role. Starting with a class that has a role makes it at least a little more difficult to steal from other roles.
 

For 4e, I ditched everything but the core books and maybe three other books (Open Grave, Manual of the Planes, DMG2). While I've winnowed out a ton of 3e stuff, I still have plenty, especially third party books. I never did anything like that with my 1e and 2e collection, and my 1e materials have only grown in the passing years since.

I sold almost all my 4e books and 3e books but kept more 3e books.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
Subclasses have multiple goals. Only a few of which are suppressing bloat and min/maxing. And I think simplifying is a laudable goal but not the only or prominent one, at least not in 5e. Also I think subclassing DOES help in suppressing role overlap, new classes have a higher chance of sniping things from other roles, or being super vague in their role. Starting with a class that has a role makes it at least a little more difficult to steal from other roles.
Well, to be fair, I'm discussing purely the concept of introducing a newer packaging of 5e, fully compatible with existing 5e, and aimed at the newer audience that is (by our evaluation) less interested in mechanics and more interested in narrative presentation. So I think simplification is a primary criteria for this particular case.

Personally, I think classes help sell aesthetic and narrative conceits better than subclasses do, and they're a little more exciting precisely because they're exclusive with each other.
 


Parmandur

Legend
But subclasses, especially too many of them, increase role-overlap. I'd really have a very limited selection of iconic classes that safely occupy their own niche, than have casting fighters, fighting wizards, shapeshifting barbarians, raging druids etc.
That's where Subclass effectively make Multiclassing unnecessary. It's an easy to understand, and elegant system. It will stay in any subsequent Edition, I'm sure.
 

Parmandur

Legend
If the goal is to simplify, you want to eliminate choices with dependencies as much as possible. Ideally, Background, Race, and Class are siloed as much as possible, and the goal is to promote as much aesthetic and narrative distinction as possible.
Subclasses are baked in as-is, though, to how most people have played D&D now. No new edition will change something that popular.

Feats and Multiclassing, however, are optional variants used by a minority of people. Different situation.
 

Dungeonosophy

Adventurer
The Essentials Kit is pretty close to that, while being 5e compatible - not sure there's much value in going much simpler for an RPG, though maybe a Dungeon! level "baby's first RPG" would work.
Nah, that's not what I'm looking for. The Essentials Kit isn't a complete RPG, and it obviously isn't a testing ground for a new RPG design space. WotC has already released 'baby's first RPG' stuff (the standalone Monster Slayers RPG and the recent Young Adventurers Guides, which tie into 5E).

What I'm looking for is a complete, adult D&D-branded RPG in one smallish book. Like The Black Hack, or Knave, or Tiny Dungeons. But which is set within (and ideally, recapitulates) the D&D Multiverse. A game which is 'aesthetically D&D', but is actually a different RPG system than 5E. I -- and apparently many, many other RPG customers -- just aren't into the gigantic, complex array of bits and bobbles which is known as 5E.

It's great that many people are into 5E. Without sales figures in front of us, neither of us has more than anecdotal evidence as to whether introducing a different, standalone D&D-branded RPG alongside the flagship 5E would be fruitful foray for a Hasbro-sized company or not. And yet, there is obviously some sort of customer base for something vastly streamlined, otherwise all these minimalist RPGs wouldn't exist.

Furthermore, over the years, Mike Mearls has floated some personal opinions along these lines. For example: His righteous rant about how the complexity of D&D turns off many potential players, who aren't gearheads. And his view that D&D advancement should be streamlined to the extent that characters level up at the end of every session. (Which is how the minimalist RPGs usually do it.)
 
Last edited:


Dungeonosophy

Adventurer
Why not? What more do you need?
-Unlimited character advancement. For a complete (if streamlined) set of classes. Like The Black Hack.
-A standablone game which isn't crafted to pull the customer's mind and pocketbook into yet another nearly endless series of $40-$50 rulebooks. I should clarify by saying: "The Essentials Kit might be usable as a nearly complete RPG. But it isn't a standalone RPG."

But my point isn't just about whether The Essentials Kit could be used as a 'complete' RPG by someone. I and my group used the hell out of the Starter Set. Got a year's worth of play from it. But that doesn't mean it's a 'complete' or 'standalone' game. The 5E Basic Rules do offer this, yet that's not my main point.

The point is that I (and many other customers) prefer an rules-set which is even more streamlined than the 5E Basic Rules. And which is also crafted to be a fresh 'standalone' experience, not a 'feeder' into the flagship line.
 
Last edited:


WotC hasn't to change D&D yet, but test the d20 system to allow different genres and styles: investigation, social interaction, managing a post-apocalypse refugee, a warlord and his mercenary band getting ready for the siege against a stronghold, daikaijus vs mechas...
 


reelo

Explorer
That's where Subclass effectively make Multiclassing unnecessary. It's an easy to understand, and elegant system. It will stay in any subsequent Edition, I'm sure.
As I said, ideally I'd have NEITHER subclasses NOR multiclassing, for the sake of niche protection. When you can make a fighty, stealthy, casting and healing "build" out of every class, it's wishy-washy and kinda bland. I'd even cut back the number of classes: all that's really needed are the Big 4 (Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard) and possibly the Barbarian, the Paladin, and the Druid.
 

Advertisement1

Latest threads

In Our Store!

Most Liked Threads

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top