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WotC Wizard's Future Plans Has 3 Big Problems: Ft. The Professor of Tolarion Community College

Parmandur

Book-Friend
That only makes sense if you ignore the first 15 years of WotC publishing D&D. Yes, they reduced the number of settings they gave full support to during the 3E era, but they REALLY supported the ones they had. It isn't until the modern 5E era that they have been treating the settings as one offs. So, that can't be based on their purchase research. Something else changed.
It's not about Settings per se, but Mearls & Co. we're pretty upfront about their findings in 2014: people would be more likely to buy a supplement of any sort, if it only needed the core rules to work. Creating any sort of web of necessity between products I'm 3E-4E was found to depress longterm sales. Therefore, for 5E, all books are designed to stand on their own with the Core rules. It's worked pretty well for them in business terms.
 

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Reynard

Legend
Supporter
It's not about Settings per se, but Mearls & Co. we're pretty upfront about their findings in 2014: people would be more likely to buy a supplement of any sort, if it only needed the core rules to work. Creating any sort of web of necessity between products I'm 3E-4E was found to depress longterm sales. Therefore, for 5E, all books are designed to stand on their own with the Core rules. It's worked pretty well for them in business terms.
Sure, I was just quibbling with the idea that the current 5E strategy is based on the death of 2E.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Sure, I was just quibbling with the idea that the current 5E strategy is based on the death of 2E.
Well, a review of all the previous Editions I thinknwould be fair to say. Ben Riggs does a pretty good job of laying out in Slaying the Dragon how 2E shot itself in the foot by pitching competing lines against each other, and not branding siblings as lines is a descendent of those observations by Dancey and Stevens.
 

Clint_L

Hero
That only makes sense if you ignore the first 15 years of WotC publishing D&D. Yes, they reduced the number of settings they gave full support to during the 3E era, but they REALLY supported the ones they had. It isn't until the modern 5E era that they have been treating the settings as one offs. So, that can't be based on their purchase research. Something else changed.
They didn't support them like they did in 2e, where settings became their own ecosystems with numerous publications just for specific settings. Not even close. There's nothing in 3e or 4e that approaches 2e Dark Sun, for example, in terms of changes to the base game or the publication of additional content. 4e Dark Sun is a pale shadow (heh) of its 2e antecedent.

In 2e those settings effectively became their own game systems.

Edit - consider that there are more than 30 (!!!) TSR publications for Dark Sun, alone, as opposed to 3 from WotC, all for 4e, and all three essentially using the basic 4e rules:
 
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Scribe

Legend
They didn't support them like they did in 2e, where settings became their own ecosystems with numerous publications just for specific settings. Not even close. There's nothing in 3e or 4e that approaches 2e Dark Sun, for example, in terms of changes to the base game or the publication of additional content. 4e Dark Sun is a pale shadow (heh) of its 2e antecedent.

In 2e those settings effectively became their own game systems.

Edit - consider that there are more than 30 (!!!) TSR publications for Dark Sun, alone, as opposed to 3 from WotC, all for 4e, and all three essentially using the basic 4e rules:

And then folks wonder why people look at the current 5e as the 'white bread' of even D&D, let alone RPGs.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
They didn't support them like they did in 2e, where settings became their own ecosystems with numerous publications just for specific settings. Not even close. There's nothing in 3e or 4e that approaches 2e Dark Sun, for example, in terms of changes to the base game or the publication of additional content. 4e Dark Sun is a pale shadow (heh) of its 2e antecedent.

In 2e those settings effectively became their own game systems.

Edit - consider that there are more than 30 (!!!) TSR publications for Dark Sun, alone, as opposed to 3 from WotC, all for 4e, and all three essentially using the basic 4e rules:
My point wasn't that WotC didn't use that information. They certainly did. My point is that it's not the impetus behind their current strategy. If it was, the support for 5E would look more like the support for the 2 previous editions.
 

A lot of people talk about the quality of WotC products.

I really don't feel that it wasn't until Spelljammer that quality finally went off a cliff. And that's because I think that Radiant CItadel marked an increase in quality, one that left me hopeful, as did the new monster designs in Mordenkainen's Monsters of the Multiverse (or w/e its called). Likewise, the Dragonlance book was a pretty decent adventure! Its a railroad, but it is intended to be a railroad, and the adventure has fun epic moments, is greater for beginners and veterans, and presents Dragonlance is a fun, one-off way.

Ultimately, though, Spelljammer denotes something that I think is a little worse, which is, WotC really doesn't like developing new rules. They hate making subsystems, and they hate making additions to their current systems. They do so a little bit, but they are so restrained that you end up with maybe a subclass, some feats at level 1 (this takes no designer skill whatsoever to come up with), and so on.

I don't think the designers of 5E are unskilled by any means. I like 5E's core. I like some of their additional mechanics, especially those in Van Richten's (the survivor and sanity mechanics are favorites of mine). But, the company's design philosophy is to keep to a certain status quo, and only over 10 years begin changing that status quo as they lead up to a new edition. I think this is a little too conservative, and that books that are meant to explore mechanics end up being lesser quality because of it.

Beyond Xanathar's, mechanical additions from WotC have been controversial. The ship fighting rules in Saltmarsh are mediocre and fail to make it into Spelljammer, who instead uses even worse, more controversial rules. Most of the rules in the DMG that are variants never get added to other systems; instead, they get phased out and replaced with more streamlined versions (not all bad, not all good). Many non-controversial options also never get talked about. The evolving magic items in Fizban's, for example, or the aforementioned Survivor rules. Because they don't get talked about, they get forgotten in online discourse, and so the conversation remains that quality is dropping.

But is it? I don't think so. I just think the conservative philosophy of WotC's design process means their end-of-cycle books are weaker. Instead, WotC should have put more effort into making deeper-yet-streamlined mechanics (like evolving items in dragon hoards) instead of phoning it in (like backgrounds in Strixhaven).
I love this post probably because I feel much the same way. 5E is insanely fun to play for me and my group but so much WoTC material feels half done. So conservative that their material lacks flavor and innovation.
 

This is by design.

This issue is discussed at length in Slaying the Dragon, including numerous interviews with WotC's leaders from when they took over D&D. WotC did a deep analysis of TSR's books and discovered that a central problem was that they had been fracturing their brand. During the 2e era, the game relied more and more on generating short term income by churning out various distinct settings and subsystems, to the extent that, as their research showed, people stopped being D&D players and became Dark Sun players or Forgotten Realms players or Planescape players, etc. This is not speculation; WotC ran all the numbers to try to figure out how to avoid TSR's mistakes.

What they discovered was that most of these lines were not profitable and could never be profitable. TSR was effectively competing with itself by dividing its own customer base into rival camps and then selling them expensively produced books that the divided fan base couldn't sustain. The books were just piling up in a warehouse and TSR's debt to Random House grew until the company was doomed.

The lesson WotC took was not to create settings that become separate lines unto themselves. Everything has to work as an extension of the core game, with the idea that any DM could imagine working Spelljammer, Frostmaiden, or whatever into their games. WotC is happy to let 3PP make those separate setting systems while keeping their own focus on the core brand.

That's why you either won't see Dark Sun as an official D&D setting for 5e/One, or if you do, it'll be a very reduced version like Spelljammer.
I do recall this but I wonder if it has backfired to an extent with companies such as Kobold Press taking some of their customers. Customers looking for new settings etc.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle

From DnD Shorts Featuring The Professor of Tolarion Community College.

Now big names in the D&D & MtG Communities are teaming up to give Hasbro & WotC crap.

I do disagree with comparing the D&D release rate to MtG's, but I do agree that quality has been increasingly suffering, with Spelljammer slipcase a key example.
My perception thus far is that most players liked the Spelljammer slipcase, and it was mostly in the circles of folks who have old edition books on their shelves that didn’t like how lore-lite it is and trash it on that basis.

The actual product is quite good, the only content problem I’ve seen was the hadozee, and most groups don’t use lore as written anyway.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This is by design.
Poor design is poor.
This issue is discussed at length in Slaying the Dragon, including numerous interviews with WotC's leaders from when they took over D&D. WotC did a deep analysis of TSR's books and discovered that a central problem was that they had been fracturing their brand. During the 2e era, the game relied more and more on generating short term income by churning out various distinct settings and subsystems, to the extent that, as their research showed, people stopped being D&D players and became Dark Sun players or Forgotten Realms players or Planescape players, etc. This is not speculation; WotC ran all the numbers to try to figure out how to avoid TSR's mistakes.

What they discovered was that most of these lines were not profitable and could never be profitable. TSR was effectively competing with itself by dividing its own customer base into rival camps and then selling them expensively produced books that the divided fan base couldn't sustain. The books were just piling up in a warehouse and TSR's debt to Random House grew until the company was doomed.
3e was profitable with lots of detailed FR books, Eberron books, Ghostwalk, and a few others. There were a number of good 3PP settings as well. The base wasn't split.
 

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