What game Could "Be" D&D, Culturally?

I suspect EPT and probably RQ as-was were too exotic in their extent settings to make that work. With Traveller its always the question of whether an SF game, especially one with the kind of merchants and mercenaries focus Trav had could do it (which doesn't mean it couldn't, just that you can question it). Arduin wasn't really a standalone game system that early. DQ--maybe. It was more complicated than OD&D, but perhaps not any more so than AD&D.
An interesting thought. One aspect is that--while some of these games were attempts at 'my take on the D&D formula, or 'D&D, but with/in _____,' in many ways a lot of these other early games ceded specific ground to D&D. That raises (to me) the question: if D&D had not been, what would ____ have been like? I think quite possibly if D&D hadn't been around, RQ would have had a more 'Tolkien-esque/traditional ren-fair medieval milieu. Likewise, I think if Traveller had caught on big, it quickly could have had licensed Star Wars and Star Trek ports.
 

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An interesting thought. One aspect is that--while some of these games were attempts at 'my take on the D&D formula, or 'D&D, but with/in _____,' in many ways a lot of these other early games ceded specific ground to D&D. That raises (to me) the question: if D&D had not been, what would ____ have been like? I think quite possibly if D&D hadn't been around, RQ would have had a more 'Tolkien-esque/traditional ren-fair medieval milieu. Likewise, I think if Traveller had caught on big, it quickly could have had licensed Star Wars and Star Trek ports.

The latter might be true, but you have to remember RQ was specifically commissioned by Greg Stafford to have a game in his extent Gloranthan world. Nothing about there not being a D&D would have changed that; that was the only reason he was interested in the first place.

Would Steve Perrin come up with something all by his lonesome? Its not impossible, but its impossible to say one way or another now; Steve had certainly been well into D&D fandom by then, so maybe not if that didn't occur.

With Traveller, its an imponderable because of Marc Miller. Would he have been interested in his system being involved in big visual media ports? He seemed very lit-SF focused, but in the end, no one knows but him.
 

innerdude

Legend
So I'm actually going to revise my thoughts on this after re-reading @Reynard 's OP again.

I never really fully addressed the main point he was trying to make around the near-death of TSR / D&D in the late 1990s -- what would alternate history look like, where D&D exists from 1974 to 1997, but dies off in its TSR days, landing in obscurity as a curiosity, a historical artifact of, "Hey, remember that cool thing kids used to do?"

Initially I said Star Wars would supplant it, but that was based on the erroneous theoretical assumption that D&D never existed.

If D&D existed but died in the hands of TSR in 1997, here's what I'd say would have happened instead.

In this alt history, the main hinge point is that Peter Adkison / WotC ultimately decide that D&D is a failed property and not worth purchasing. TSR ultimately cancels all product fulfillment orders, shutters its doors, files for bankruptcy. From this point it only exists in corporate name as a shell/front to pay off any remaining debts, a skeleton crew clearing house / payroll staff for the fiction publishing arm, and a contract-basis legal team to manage copyright protections. It basically becomes a functional equivalent of Harmony Gold in the Robotech/Battletech space --- it only exists to sue people who step on their copyrights.

In this alt history, Obsidian / Black Isle / Bioware never finish Baldur's Gate I, as the game is dead before they can even release it in 1998. Or if it is released, it's seen as a last gasp, the final great moment in D&D gaming history before the entire thing crashes down.


So --- what happens next?

The thing of it is, all of the principal "players" who eventually went on to create and influence D&D 3 and Paizo are now free agents.

Monte Cook. Skip Williams. Jonathan Tweet. Ryan Dancey. Vic Wertz and Lisa Stevens.

I think at some point, some conglomeration of this crew, plus Adkison, plus some other "old school" TSR folks band together and create what we now call Pathfinder, but do it ten years before it actually happened.

Dancey was already flirting with the basic concepts of the OGL in the late '90s. The general legal consensus is that you cannot copyright game mechanics, only the specific intellectual property bits that work within the mechanics.

Imagine, then, if the OGL system was created by some nascent melange of RPG talent culled from both dead TSR and broken off from WotC.

With solid legal footing to stand on, Nu-Paizo sidesteps any legal challenges from defunct TSR to publish its new, "open source" rule set, and releases it as "Pathfinder."

So instead of WotC owning TSR + D&D, Adkison instead jumps on the bandwagon with this plucky group of roleplaying enthusiasts who are certain they can redefine the fantasy RPG space --- with a fresh, revamped/revitalized set of rules that, while based on D&D, re-envisions the core system. It's both uniquely different enough (and better enough) than what came before, while familiar and playable enough to be popular with existing fans. It fits the MAYA (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) principle of product development in the exact sweet spot to take off.

The Pathfinder core rules come out in 1999 or 2000. Then you get the Pathfinder adventure path publishing arm fired up. Within 3-6 months, the Golarion campaign setting and the Rise of the Runelords adventure path are on board.

The OGL publishing glut starts off much more slowly, as it's no longer ingrained with the World's Previously Most Popular Roleplaying Game, but within a year or two it starts to gain traction.

The adventure path subscription model slowly builds momentum. Golarion slowly but surely supplants FR as the "default" fantasy world. By 2005, the enterprise is picking up steam. There's still a few D&D 2 holdouts who haven't moved on, but word on the street is that Pathfinder is the true spiritual successor to the now eight-years-dead D&D.

The OGL publishing stream is now a fully-running faucet. Maybe Nu-Paizo strikes gold with some book publishing deals as well to get broader mainstream appeal, while the bread-and-butter core rules and adventure path subscription model continue to generate revenue.

By 2008 or 2009 --- Pathfinder 1e's actual, real-world release date --- Nu-Paizo is already the established fantasy RPG market leader.

At some point the CRPG side kicks in as well. Instead of "Neverwinter Nights" the CRPG, you have "Angels of Andoran" and "Demons of Cheliax" CRPGs.

With the OGL now well established, Adkison works with Nu-Paizo to develop a M:tG property. The Pathfinder adventure card game is still a "thing," but now is backed by the World's Most Popular Collectible Card Game -- branding, offshoots, spinoffs.

Somewhere in 2006 or 2007 Nu-Paizo acquires a Star Wars license, and something along the lines of Star Wars d20 / Star Wars Saga comes along and pushes the envelope farther.

When Gygax passes away in 2008, Nu-Paizo releases several homage pieces/adventures that hearken back to Keep on the Borderlands, or ToEE, while purposefully maintaining the needed copyright distance. Maybe a collector's edition version of Pathfinder with retro-art, etc. Think of it --- Pathfinder with Larry Elmore, Erol Otus, and Keith Parkinson art instead of Wayne Reynolds.

In 2009, Nu-Paizo doesn't even have to fend off a moribund D&D 4e, because it never existed. By 2010, Pathfinder is the new generonym for fantasy roleplaying.

This might even have an interesting side effect on White Wolf as well --- because suddenly, the early d20 craze isn't quite as frenzied. Maybe in this scenario, White Wolf doesn't try to jump on the new "d20 fad" quite so suddenly and dilute its creative braintrust. I'd bet that White Wolf actually ends up in a moderately stronger position long term, as they're allowed to focus on their own core brands and core systems, rather than having to chase the money from the d20 glut.

In 2009, Pathfinder 1.5 comes out --- which is nearly identical to what Pathfinder 1e actually was, a revamped OGL system that maintains backwards compatibility.

Spurred by another 7-8 year window of compatible content availability, Pathfinder continues to solidify its grip on the tabletop fantasy RPG market. When Critical Role starts streaming in 2015, they're playing Pathfinder.

In our new alternate history, by 2017 D&D is only referenced in historical gaming retrospectives --- "Where are they now?" or "Whatever happened to...?" Netflix specials.
 

StreamMonk

Villager
I suspect EPT and probably RQ as-was were too exotic in their extent settings to make that work. With Traveller its always the question of whether an SF game, especially one with the kind of merchants and mercenaries focus Trav had could do it (which doesn't mean it couldn't, just that you can question it). Arduin wasn't really a standalone game system that early. DQ--maybe. It was more complicated than OD&D, but perhaps not any more so than AD&D.
I generally agree. I would only add that when I was thinking of Traveller, I was supposing that the publisher (as several supplements since have done) might have added a fantasy genre-mod since there would have been that vacuum to fill - clearly this was a possibility (think Worlds Apart or Sword of Cepheus) but even back in the early 80s Chaosium's Thieves World setting included stats for Traveller as well as appropriate stats for all the usual Fantasy Games of the day.
 
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GreyLord

Legend
So I'm actually going to revise my thoughts on this after re-reading @Reynard 's OP again.

I never really fully addressed the main point he was trying to make around the near-death of TSR / D&D in the late 1990s -- what would alternate history look like, where D&D exists from 1974 to 1997, but dies off in its TSR days, landing in obscurity as a curiosity, a historical artifact of, "Hey, remember that cool thing kids used to do?"

Initially I said Star Wars would supplant it, but that was based on the erroneous theoretical assumption that D&D never existed.

If D&D existed but died in the hands of TSR in 1997, here's what I'd say would have happened instead.

In this alt history, the main hinge point is that Peter Adkison / WotC ultimately decide that D&D is a failed property and not worth purchasing. TSR ultimately cancels all product fulfillment orders, shutters its doors, files for bankruptcy. From this point it only exists in corporate name as a shell/front to pay off any remaining debts, a skeleton crew clearing house / payroll staff for the fiction publishing arm, and a contract-basis legal team to manage copyright protections. It basically becomes a functional equivalent of Harmony Gold in the Robotech/Battletech space --- it only exists to sue people who step on their copyrights.

In this alt history, Obsidian / Black Isle / Bioware never finish Baldur's Gate I, as the game is dead before they can even release it in 1998. Or if it is released, it's seen as a last gasp, the final great moment in D&D gaming history before the entire thing crashes down.


So --- what happens next?

The thing of it is, all of the principal "players" who eventually went on to create and influence D&D 3 and Paizo are now free agents.

Monte Cook. Skip Williams. Jonathan Tweet. Ryan Dancey. Vic Wertz and Lisa Stevens.

I think at some point, some conglomeration of this crew, plus Adkison, plus some other "old school" TSR folks band together and create what we now call Pathfinder, but do it ten years before it actually happened.

Dancey was already flirting with the basic concepts of the OGL in the late '90s. The general legal consensus is that you cannot copyright game mechanics, only the specific intellectual property bits that work within the mechanics.

Imagine, then, if the OGL system was created by some nascent melange of RPG talent culled from both dead TSR and broken off from WotC.

With solid legal footing to stand on, Nu-Paizo sidesteps any legal challenges from defunct TSR to publish its new, "open source" rule set, and releases it as "Pathfinder."

So instead of WotC owning TSR + D&D, Adkison instead jumps on the bandwagon with this plucky group of roleplaying enthusiasts who are certain they can redefine the fantasy RPG space --- with a fresh, revamped/revitalized set of rules that, while based on D&D, re-envisions the core system. It's both uniquely different enough (and better enough) than what came before, while familiar and playable enough to be popular with existing fans. It fits the MAYA (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) principle of product development in the exact sweet spot to take off.

The Pathfinder core rules come out in 1999 or 2000. Then you get the Pathfinder adventure path publishing arm fired up. Within 3-6 months, the Golarion campaign setting and the Rise of the Runelords adventure path are on board.

The OGL publishing glut starts off much more slowly, as it's no longer ingrained with the World's Previously Most Popular Roleplaying Game, but within a year or two it starts to gain traction.

The adventure path subscription model slowly builds momentum. Golarion slowly but surely supplants FR as the "default" fantasy world. By 2005, the enterprise is picking up steam. There's still a few D&D 2 holdouts who haven't moved on, but word on the street is that Pathfinder is the true spiritual successor to the now eight-years-dead D&D.

The OGL publishing stream is now a fully-running faucet. Maybe Nu-Paizo strikes gold with some book publishing deals as well to get broader mainstream appeal, while the bread-and-butter core rules and adventure path subscription model continue to generate revenue.

By 2008 or 2009 --- Pathfinder 1e's actual, real-world release date --- Nu-Paizo is already the established fantasy RPG market leader.

At some point the CRPG side kicks in as well. Instead of "Neverwinter Nights" the CRPG, you have "Angels of Andoran" and "Demons of Cheliax" CRPGs.

With the OGL now well established, Adkison works with Nu-Paizo to develop a M:tG property. The Pathfinder adventure card game is still a "thing," but now is backed by the World's Most Popular Collectible Card Game -- branding, offshoots, spinoffs.

Somewhere in 2006 or 2007 Nu-Paizo acquires a Star Wars license, and something along the lines of Star Wars d20 / Star Wars Saga comes along and pushes the envelope farther.

When Gygax passes away in 2008, Nu-Paizo releases several homage pieces/adventures that hearken back to Keep on the Borderlands, or ToEE, while purposefully maintaining the needed copyright distance. Maybe a collector's edition version of Pathfinder with retro-art, etc. Think of it --- Pathfinder with Larry Elmore, Erol Otus, and Keith Parkinson art instead of Wayne Reynolds.

In 2009, Nu-Paizo doesn't even have to fend off a moribund D&D 4e, because it never existed. By 2010, Pathfinder is the new generonym for fantasy roleplaying.

This might even have an interesting side effect on White Wolf as well --- because suddenly, the early d20 craze isn't quite as frenzied. Maybe in this scenario, White Wolf doesn't try to jump on the new "d20 fad" quite so suddenly and dilute its creative braintrust. I'd bet that White Wolf actually ends up in a moderately stronger position long term, as they're allowed to focus on their own core brands and core systems, rather than having to chase the money from the d20 glut.

In 2009, Pathfinder 1.5 comes out --- which is nearly identical to what Pathfinder 1e actually was, a revamped OGL system that maintains backwards compatibility.

Spurred by another 7-8 year window of compatible content availability, Pathfinder continues to solidify its grip on the tabletop fantasy RPG market. When Critical Role starts streaming in 2015, they're playing Pathfinder.

In our new alternate history, by 2017 D&D is only referenced in historical gaming retrospectives --- "Where are they now?" or "Whatever happened to...?" Netflix specials.

I'd say it would be more like, if the copyrights were shown to be open game again, Gary Gygax rises up to try to seize them or Arneson or someone related to them and try a resurrection. The OSR movement would take on a new life greater than it did, but it would still be a niche thing until...probably at least 2010.

Alternatively, Hasbro gets D&D. It could have gotten it before Atkinson did, but TSR was asking a ridiculous price for what they had at the time (though, I suppose it wasn't for WotC). Hasbro didn't get WotC for D&D, it was for Pokemon (ironically, though MtG is the big cow now). If they could have gotten D&D for chump change, you could bet they would have gotten it. It probably would have turned out more a cross between what you saw with 3.5 and 4e, as they sort of took the same slant as WotC did. They really weren't interested in preserving D&D or AD&D. They were more interested in putting out their own version of it of what they felt would sell (though this differed from WotC's original vision which was more of their own houserules of the game and what they felt it should be like...at least IMO).

It probably would have been relegated to the board game section of the company at the time, and been put on shelves near or next to monopoly and not developed as much as it was (WotC put in far more resources than I think Hasbro would have been willing to on it's own, and convinced a lot of people that it should be invested in).

It would be a different "D&D" than what you saw or see today. Probably a LOT simpler than 3e or 3.5. More like what 4e would be like without the powers attached, with some basic abilities for each class and similar in idea to the Striker, Defender, Controller, Leader ideas with 4 basic classes (maybe a 5th tossed in).

It may be that because of those moves and disinterest by Hasbro (interest in keeping it alive, but not investing as WotC did under Hasbro) that Gurps may have actually gotten a lot bigger shot in it's arm (it used to be a thing...for those who remember) or a similar system that was competing for the RPG space back in the early 2000s. It may have been Shadowrun (which looked like it was on the verge of exploding for a while), or maybe Warhammer and the ensuing WH40K systems would have taken a greater foothold of the marketplace with the opening left once VtM started to die.
 


So I'm actually going to revise my thoughts on this after re-reading @Reynard 's OP again.

I never really fully addressed the main point he was trying to make around the near-death of TSR / D&D in the late 1990s -- what would alternate history look like, where D&D exists from 1974 to 1997, but dies off in its TSR days, landing in obscurity as a curiosity, a historical artifact of, "Hey, remember that cool thing kids used to do?"

Initially I said Star Wars would supplant it, but that was based on the erroneous theoretical assumption that D&D never existed.

If D&D existed but died in the hands of TSR in 1997, here's what I'd say would have happened instead.

In this alt history, the main hinge point is that Peter Adkison / WotC ultimately decide that D&D is a failed property and not worth purchasing. TSR ultimately cancels all product fulfillment orders, shutters its doors, files for bankruptcy. From this point it only exists in corporate name as a shell/front to pay off any remaining debts, a skeleton crew clearing house / payroll staff for the fiction publishing arm, and a contract-basis legal team to manage copyright protections. It basically becomes a functional equivalent of Harmony Gold in the Robotech/Battletech space --- it only exists to sue people who step on their copyrights.

In this alt history, Obsidian / Black Isle / Bioware never finish Baldur's Gate I, as the game is dead before they can even release it in 1998. Or if it is released, it's seen as a last gasp, the final great moment in D&D gaming history before the entire thing crashes down.


So --- what happens next?

The thing of it is, all of the principal "players" who eventually went on to create and influence D&D 3 and Paizo are now free agents.

Monte Cook. Skip Williams. Jonathan Tweet. Ryan Dancey. Vic Wertz and Lisa Stevens.

I think at some point, some conglomeration of this crew, plus Adkison, plus some other "old school" TSR folks band together and create what we now call Pathfinder, but do it ten years before it actually happened.

Dancey was already flirting with the basic concepts of the OGL in the late '90s. The general legal consensus is that you cannot copyright game mechanics, only the specific intellectual property bits that work within the mechanics.

Imagine, then, if the OGL system was created by some nascent melange of RPG talent culled from both dead TSR and broken off from WotC.

With solid legal footing to stand on, Nu-Paizo sidesteps any legal challenges from defunct TSR to publish its new, "open source" rule set, and releases it as "Pathfinder."

So instead of WotC owning TSR + D&D, Adkison instead jumps on the bandwagon with this plucky group of roleplaying enthusiasts who are certain they can redefine the fantasy RPG space --- with a fresh, revamped/revitalized set of rules that, while based on D&D, re-envisions the core system. It's both uniquely different enough (and better enough) than what came before, while familiar and playable enough to be popular with existing fans. It fits the MAYA (Most Advanced Yet Acceptable) principle of product development in the exact sweet spot to take off.

The Pathfinder core rules come out in 1999 or 2000. Then you get the Pathfinder adventure path publishing arm fired up. Within 3-6 months, the Golarion campaign setting and the Rise of the Runelords adventure path are on board.

The OGL publishing glut starts off much more slowly, as it's no longer ingrained with the World's Previously Most Popular Roleplaying Game, but within a year or two it starts to gain traction.

The adventure path subscription model slowly builds momentum. Golarion slowly but surely supplants FR as the "default" fantasy world. By 2005, the enterprise is picking up steam. There's still a few D&D 2 holdouts who haven't moved on, but word on the street is that Pathfinder is the true spiritual successor to the now eight-years-dead D&D.

The OGL publishing stream is now a fully-running faucet. Maybe Nu-Paizo strikes gold with some book publishing deals as well to get broader mainstream appeal, while the bread-and-butter core rules and adventure path subscription model continue to generate revenue.

By 2008 or 2009 --- Pathfinder 1e's actual, real-world release date --- Nu-Paizo is already the established fantasy RPG market leader.

At some point the CRPG side kicks in as well. Instead of "Neverwinter Nights" the CRPG, you have "Angels of Andoran" and "Demons of Cheliax" CRPGs.

With the OGL now well established, Adkison works with Nu-Paizo to develop a M:tG property. The Pathfinder adventure card game is still a "thing," but now is backed by the World's Most Popular Collectible Card Game -- branding, offshoots, spinoffs.

Somewhere in 2006 or 2007 Nu-Paizo acquires a Star Wars license, and something along the lines of Star Wars d20 / Star Wars Saga comes along and pushes the envelope farther.

When Gygax passes away in 2008, Nu-Paizo releases several homage pieces/adventures that hearken back to Keep on the Borderlands, or ToEE, while purposefully maintaining the needed copyright distance. Maybe a collector's edition version of Pathfinder with retro-art, etc. Think of it --- Pathfinder with Larry Elmore, Erol Otus, and Keith Parkinson art instead of Wayne Reynolds.

In 2009, Nu-Paizo doesn't even have to fend off a moribund D&D 4e, because it never existed. By 2010, Pathfinder is the new generonym for fantasy roleplaying.

This might even have an interesting side effect on White Wolf as well --- because suddenly, the early d20 craze isn't quite as frenzied. Maybe in this scenario, White Wolf doesn't try to jump on the new "d20 fad" quite so suddenly and dilute its creative braintrust. I'd bet that White Wolf actually ends up in a moderately stronger position long term, as they're allowed to focus on their own core brands and core systems, rather than having to chase the money from the d20 glut.

In 2009, Pathfinder 1.5 comes out --- which is nearly identical to what Pathfinder 1e actually was, a revamped OGL system that maintains backwards compatibility.

Spurred by another 7-8 year window of compatible content availability, Pathfinder continues to solidify its grip on the tabletop fantasy RPG market. When Critical Role starts streaming in 2015, they're playing Pathfinder.

In our new alternate history, by 2017 D&D is only referenced in historical gaming retrospectives --- "Where are they now?" or "Whatever happened to...?" Netflix specials.
I just want to say that this is an extremely well-rendered and convincing alternate history, and I LOVE alternate histories of media stuff, they're surprisingly rare, despite tons of major media/culture things actually hinging on very fragile points (whereas military/conflict stuff tends to be more inevitable and have more inevitable outcomes).

I could easily see that scenario playing out. My group, despite being raised on 2E, was pretty much done with it by the late '90s, and if 3E hadn't come along, together with the BG games, I'm pretty sure we'd have dropped D&D and not even really thought about it.

And yeah, a D&D-like "Pathfinder" seems very plausible - it would probably be significantly different from 3E/PF1, I suspect maybe more like PF2. Yeah again, the model for Adventure Paths was intensely successful in that period, so that all tracks, and Golarion was spot-on for the kind of edgy flashy faux-realist vibe of the '00s, so could easily have become super-popular (even if it's getting a bit outdated now due to excessive edge - I hear Paizo are reigning that in though).

Alternatives I can see:

1) If D&D started to die earlier, and White Wolf had a little more basic common sense, the nWoD might never have happened. That's not a critique of the nWoD, which is kind of cool/awesome, but it clearly lead to less success for WW rather than more (I'd argue Revised being so dark/nerfed/downer didn't help either, even with ostensibly horror games). If, instead of going with the nWoD, they just went with a 4E, and pivoted back to the more "colourful" and broadly-appealing take they had with the 2E WoD, maybe even going a bit more mainstream than that, they might have taken the crown, I think. If we can scroll back a little further and stop Revised from happening, and instead they have a 3E that really goes hard for a more mainstream-friendly approach (which 2E essentially had), I think you could almost guarantee it. Especially with no d20 boom. WW zigged when they should have zagged in real history.

White Wolf also, in this period - the late 1990s - had some close contact with Capcom, and IIRC, there was nearly a Capcom W:tApocalypse game made (no, not Vampire Hunter/Savior). Had WW been riding a bit higher, maybe that would have actually panned out, and we might even have various different "takes" on the World of Darkness being successful.

2) Shadowrun has been mentioned, and I think you have to scroll back to 3E, really, to potentially replace D&D (again assuming D&D self-destructs). If 3E had made the game more accessible/playable, and focused on fun (a thing that 95% of RPGs just did not even consider in the '90s), whilst retaining edgy elements, then it could have taken over. Especially with a few good videogames in, say, the early '00s, if they used a system very close to the tabletop, or were action-y games that didn't need a system, but that really lived in the setting (not like the bizarre Microsoft arena shooter).

3) RIFTS - Siembieda would have to have like, decided to sell the whole RIFTS IP to someone sensible, but if that had happened, and we'd have proper "RIFTS 2E", with vastly improved rules but he same insane profusion of sourcebooks (all new, of course), in say, 1996/1997, and then this putative "Sensible RIFTS owner" managed to get some decent videogames made, or maybe just popularized it generally (but I think videogames matter - I strongly suspect BG1/2 factor in how successful 3E was, because they reignited a lot of people's interest in D&D, or introduced people to it), we could easily see a situation where it became the "default" RPG, especially if they pushed alternate worlds for it and so on. God help people if they say, linked up with Final Fantasy for an Ivalice or FFVII world book or something.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
snip

3) RIFTS - Siembieda would have to have like, decided to sell the whole RIFTS IP to someone sensible, but if that had happened, and we'd have proper "RIFTS 2E", with vastly improved rules but he same insane profusion of sourcebooks (all new, of course), in say, 1996/1997, and then this putative "Sensible RIFTS owner" managed to get some decent videogames made, or maybe just popularized it generally (but I think videogames matter - I strongly suspect BG1/2 factor in how successful 3E was, because they reignited a lot of people's interest in D&D, or introduced people to it), we could easily see a situation where it became the "default" RPG, especially if they pushed alternate worlds for it and so on. God help people if they say, linked up with Final Fantasy for an Ivalice or FFVII world book or something.
I have long believed that a cleaned up Palladium could have done well, not just RIFTS. Kevin Siembieda just could not let go, unfortunately
 

innerdude

Legend
Alternatively, Hasbro gets D&D. It could have gotten it before Atkinson did, but TSR was asking a ridiculous price for what they had at the time (though, I suppose it wasn't for WotC). Hasbro didn't get WotC for D&D, it was for Pokemon (ironically, though MtG is the big cow now). If they could have gotten D&D for chump change, you could bet they would have gotten it. It probably would have turned out more a cross between what you saw with 3.5 and 4e, as they sort of took the same slant as WotC did. They really weren't interested in preserving D&D or AD&D. They were more interested in putting out their own version of it of what they felt would sell (though this differed from WotC's original vision which was more of their own houserules of the game and what they felt it should be like...at least IMO).

.. snip ..

It would be a different "D&D" than what you saw or see today. Probably a LOT simpler than 3e or 3.5. More like what 4e would be like without the powers attached, with some basic abilities for each class and similar in idea to the Striker, Defender, Controller, Leader ideas with 4 basic classes (maybe a 5th tossed in).

This is a pretty good point. It's entirely reasonable to suppose that if Adkison had decided not to pick up D&D, someone, somewhere out in the corporate world would have seriously considered it.

Maybe it's Hasbro. Maybe it's another media company. My best guess, if WotC doesn't pick it up, the most likely alternate suitors would have been video game companies.

Suppose, for example, that Baldur's Gate I comes out, sells enough, and Bioware throws together enough scratch to pick up the entire D&D IP for themselves. Suddenly they already own the IP to the games they're producing and don't have to pay to license it in the first place.

Or maybe Warren Specter --- video game producer for Ion Storm (Deus Ex), Looking Glass Studios (remember Ultima Underworld? System Shock?) decides that they can funnel a cool $50-$60 million to pick D&D off the scrap heap.

Or maybe John Carmack at id Software gets the same idea. Or maybe Bethesda, as the first two Elder Scrolls games are already on the market and reasonably popular in 1997 (Arena and Daggerfall).

The first Tomb Raider came out on Playstation 1 in 1996. Maybe Eidos jumps on the bandwagon and buys another IP to go with its suddenly world-famous Lara Croft.

Or maybe -- with Warcraft I and II already immensely popular, and StarCraft about to hit the market a year later in '98 -- Blizzard software brings the entire fantasy fiction universe full circle and purchases D&D for themselves.

With that in mind, it's probably safe to assume that even if Nu-Paizo gets off the ground in '99 or '00, that there would be an actual Dungeons & Dragons branded re-entry into the RPG market at some point by somebody. If WotC doesn't buy it in '97, it's a safe bet that somebody picks it up sometime in the next 1-3 years after that, and "Warcraft/Morrowind/Ultima/Baldur's Gate the RPG - Powered by Dungeons and Dragons" hits the market sometime around 2002.
 

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