The State of D&D: Products, Psionics, Settings, & More

At Game Hole Con, WotC hosted a "State of the Industry" panel, featuring Chris Perkins and Mike Mearls. Nerds on Earth was there to record the audio (listen to that here). Amongst other things, they hinted at the next FOUR products, mentioned that the Mystic, Artificer and Revised Ranger were upcoming, and indicated that D&D is now the most popular it has ever been since the 1980s. They also mention the release schedule, settings, novels, and more.


EN World member Mistwell took the time to listen to the audio and list the highlights!

A lot of good info in there.

Xanathar's Guide comes out at the point where in prior editions they were working on or coming out with the next edition of the game. Instead they put that level of effort into making this the first big expansion of the game. (They say later they don't anticipate a new edition until 10 years as gone by in most likelihood, if feedback continues as it is - and 6th edition would be highly likely to be backwards compatible with 5e).

The playtest had HALF A MILLION playtesters. Wow.

The next big expansion is mystic (Psion) and artificer and revised ranger. They will come out, but need more testing and refinement. Ranger also needs to be free rather than a paid product. It will be a free download.

Every product being released in 2018 has either been written, or is being written. One is at the tail end of the editing/layout process. Another is in the playtest phase. A third is in the finalizing development phase. And a fourth Mearls won't talk about at all. So, looks like four major products for 2018.

There will be a balance between rules crunch and adventures/story in the products. They are trying to very carefully manage and curate the rules balance aspect. Adventures get about 300 playtester groups. Rules get a whole lot more.

They are very pleased with the 10 person collaborative DMsGuild group producing content and adventure related stuff on DMsGuild for them right now. That team will also be coming out with their own subclasses and such for Xanathars for example. They will be looked at internally by WOTC but are for home game use only and are not nearly as highly playtested as official content. But it's very good content and does get a sweep of review from WOTC.

The team feels D&D overall is in a very good place right now. They've seen an enormous positive reaction to the game. They think probably only the early 80s matches the level of popularity of the game, and that it is more popular that probably any other time in the history of the game other than being matched by the early 80s.

They're very happy with the slowed release schedule as it gives them so much more time to focus on what they put out and the future. The most important aspect of that is their ability to plan out the future properly. In prior editions they worked on, the focus was always on getting the next book out. But with 5e they can spend a lot more time planning the game out into the future rather than just on the next product. Right now they are focusing mostly on 2019, spending a lot of time thinking about the entire year's experience and putting it all together cohesively and to build D&D in a planned way which brings more people into the hobby and make them feel welcomed. They didn't have a lot of time to ask those questions and plan them out in prior editions. They also think the slowed release schedule has allowed them to get a lot more new players as one of the barriers to entry (the quantity of rule books) is no longer there.

On Psionics, they re-read the Darksun books a lot. A lot of the thinking they do these days is thinking of D&D as a multiverse, and as Darksun being part of the prime material plane with greyhawk and forgotten realms in one big shared multiverse. And they asked why in a devastated world Psionics is prominent. They are very focused on what psionics is, why it exists in this universe. They felt in prior editions D&D focused on very specific things, and less about the myths about those things and why things did what they did and how they related to the rest of the cosmos and the things in it. As an example, the Draconomicon focused a lot on the anatomy of dragons, but little about why dragons in relation to who they are, why they do what they do, how they related to the rest of the cosmos.

Specific to Psionics and that topic, Mind Flayers used to rule most of the material plane, so what was going on with the Gods for those years, and how does that relate to the psionic powers of the Mind Flayers? Mind Flayers had no Gods, so what did it mean for the Gods when the Mind Flayers ruled, and what happened with the Gods when the Mind Flayers fell? Those are the kinds of questions they are asking, along with where Psionics comes from and how it works.

On Settings (with a lot specific to Eberron). One challenge D&D had in the 90s was the settings were competing with each other. But now that they are thinking of settings as a "genre" as opposed to a "place" it twists a bit what they can do with a setting, so it does not necessarily have to compete anymore. They need to focus on what role a setting places in the larger game. So "typical D&D" looks a lot like Forgotten Realms. Dark Sun is "Post-Apocalyptic D&D". Ravenloft is "Gothic-Horror D&D". Eberron is either "Film Noir D&D" or "Pulp D&D". Genre becomes the focus, as a means of changing what the feel of D&D will be for a game, and as a means of explaining that setting to a new player. They have an idea of what they want to do with Eberron, but a lot of it just comes down to doing it right, so they take the time to make sure that when it comes out it will feel like a definitive book. They don't want it to be a "product line". They never want you to buy a book and need anything more than the core three books to use it. So if they ever put out one Eberron book and then a second one, the second one would not assume you owned the first one. And they always want you to use most of a book they put out, rather than just a small part of it. And they want you to be able to pick up a setting book and use it right away rather than spend a lot of time on preparation.

[This marks the half way point of the session]

Big survey coming out next week on Adventurers League. They want to bring the League into the 21st century and more friendly to a new audience.

On Forgotten Realms novels: They feel the novel business is very tricky, and they are a game company. They're not necessarily good at novels business. They don't have a good plan for novels, and they do not have a novel publishing expert on their team right now. It's not something they say they will never do again, it's just not their focus this year. They would consider a partnership, but they're not looking for it.

On Planescape and the other settings: They have a rough draft cosmological ties for how all the settings could come back and fit together and have products, including even Spelljammer and Dark Sun and Eberron and Greyhawk. They want to make sure for each setting product, they assume this is the first time you're seeing that setting, and not require prior knowledge of it.

In terms of story lines, they don't plan on doing a story line that lasts multiple products like Tiamat did, at least not right now. They didn't have the product mix down pat during the Tiamat two book adventures. They have a better sense now of how long it takes a DM to get trough content. They also found two adventure big books a year was too much, and many DMs were not keeping up. The Adventurer's League content is intended to expanding the Adventure content for those minority number of groups that can absorb two big adventures a year or more.

[This marks the 45 min mark]

Subclass feats are likely not in the future from the WOTC team, as it's took fine a level of detail. New subclasses are in the future, and new classes and races probably well.

The PHB is selling so well they're afraid to make any changes to the PHB...not even changing the index or footers which they want to badly do and know needs to be done. They would consider posting a better Index online though for people to print.

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In the audio they mentioned something I couldn't understand about new classes beyond the artificer and the mystic. Does someone know what classes they possibly mentioned?

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[MENTION=6799753]lowkey13[/MENTION] i did write the same in other words. FR as well as Greyhawk are pretty close to the standard rules. The only thing interesting for these settingsare new adventures which can be quite generic. The official lore for FR is continued of course, but that also happens with the novels.

On your other Point: I is not about genre. You can do a FR or GHK campign as a Pulp or noire style. That is not the Problem

It is really about crunch in this case game mechanics. DS and Eberron is lacking a Ppsionic System 1-20 which i wrote could be resolved in with general rules for psionics, but DS also needs some mechanics for statting of some races otherwise you would have to leave them out as playable races (kreen / Halfgiants, they break the established race scheme no matter how you look on this), some rules for inferior weapons (and eventually armor), some rule about preserving / defiling and templars maybe being some Kind of warlocks or priests.

There are some nice threads on this Forum with houserules trying to resolve These things but no official clarification not even in form of UA.


I love the energy and optimism I'm seeing from WotC these days. Slow playing things, taking some real time to produce quality content has been working very well for the company and every book I review for them has earned some truly high marks from me.

Waiting this long to produce a quality supplement book (re: Xanathar's Guide), one that was playtested through Unearthed Arcana, was very well handled.

I may not always get exactly what I want from WotC because I want Eberron and I want it fully realized in the 5th edition, but I'm not even all that bent out of shape about how they are handling settings like Eberron. They are producing super quality stuff so I feel like when they tack a crack at Eberron in the future, and it looks like they will, I'm probably going to like it.

In any event, I'm loving what I see from them right now. I do wish they'd come back to GenCon though (personal preference). Hell, I just love the apparent enthusiasm for the game that is obviously buzzing through their team!


well, they have beeing publishing Greyhawk APs... In FR. A lot of inspiration for the APs comes from Greyhawk, but the setting is "genre interchangeable" with FR, and by waht they say they don't want the setting to compete for the audiences interest.

As a historical aside, I think I may have invented the word "Psion." Back on the old WotC message boards, back in the run-up to 3E, back when Ryan Dancey was posting a those conversations I posted a list of core classes I'd like to see for 3E. At that time, I assumed that the 2E "class groups" (Priest, Rogue, Warrior, Wizard, Psionicist) would continue in 3E. In my chart of proposed classes, I introduced "Psion" as the name of the class group. I felt the "-icist" was not essential to the name. Soon after that, "Psion" entered the discourse.

Of course this more succinct name could have been readily intuited/invented by others, and it would be hard to prove, without looking back at the msg board archives and interviewing the designers from back then. Anyway, it's just a little detail within the D&D Multiverse. And, off hand, I don't even remember my msg board handle from that time. But a bit of speculative history. :)
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Uncomfortably diegetic
I can't speak to what they will, or can, or should do. All I can say is that based on this, it looks like they view other settings as genre, and that you will not need more than the core rulebooks to run an adventure in that genre (perhaps with some additional, "genre specific" rules). As such, I can see them publishing APs set in a post-apocalyptic (Dark Sun) setting, but I don't see why they would publish a Greyhawk AP, since they already are using FR as the default.

Yep. Putting out settings to be primarily vehicles for deploying crunch that supports the vision of previous editions is not something that's a major, or even a minor, priority for them. They're going to use the recognizable brand names of the settings as a backdrop to developing different "flavors" of D&D, but with a focus on keeping a coherent multiverse and overall D&D feel. I'm pretty sure that means the settings with really different flavors will be more of a focus, to diversify the offerings. Dark Sun and Planescape would be obvious candidates (and Planescape would have the guidelines as to how all these settings connect and can be used together.)


With all the talk about psionics, my guess is Darksun will be the next setting they will introduce. No chance I would move my home game, but I wouldn't mind playing/running some Adventurer's League content in that setting.


Lord of the Hidden Layer
There is a thread somewhere on EnWorld that has an improved PHB Index. The D&D team could ask the author (and Morrus) for permission to use IT, with appropriate credit (and royalties of course).

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