D&D (2024) WoTc and TSR... what is D&D

teitan

Legend
I'm going to counter something in the OP, they asked if 1e or 2e still held sway and I am going to argue "yes", especially 1e. 1e is the grand daddy and still iconic as far as the game and its trope go. Its sway is so massive that something the OP misses in his post I will summarize now:

2e was a very imaginative era. Not system. It was still pretty hard 1e era at the core with simplifications and tweaks like customizable thief skills but a lot of what we take for granted AS 2e was a lot of optional rules. The system was cludgy for what they were trying to do in 2e and that was compete in a market that had "left D&D behind". 2e was a Dungeon Crawler/Hex Crawler being bent to try and fit the mold of first, as was popular when it was released, a generic fantasy roleplaying game, possible house system like GURPS, Hero and BRP, which were all very popular games at the time but secondly, and this is where the game got super cludgy and its warts started showing: story oriented games started to really rise shortly after it released with games like Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, Vampire: The Masquerade and the other WOD games becoming extremely popular and TSR scrambled to come up with competing products and even new systems like the Amazing Engine to compete with the changes in the industry. Changes that, as the leader, they should have been at the forefront of.

So we got some great settings in the deal. Planescape, Dark Sun, Ravenloft, even Birthright. The Forgotten Realms was driven by this story game approach as well starting with the Time of Troubles modules but increasingly through the supplements & novels as opposed to adventures. But if you read the comments on forums and BBS back in the day before 3e came out a lot of people talked about how great the settings were but the AD&D system was a bad fit.

So what's your point man? Right? I mean, I am long winded, ask my boss.

As cool as the 2e era was with all those creative settings and especially stand out adventures like Lost Gods and Gates of Firestorm Peaks, Night Below and the like, TSR was really not playing to the strengths of the system. It was a Dungeon/Hex Crawler game.

Sure they would release the occasional adventure meant to evoke those olden days but man, they were so beyond that now, they had Planescape and Ravenloft now man. Man. Man. MAN. RPGs are ART man. Man.

And you know what? Even as cool as 2e was with the settings and as tight as 2e was as a continuation and streamlining of 1e, it never sold as well. It was top of the food chain sure but it wasn't the behemoth that was AD&D 1e or even BX/BECMI. We can't blame that on the Satanic Panic. We can't blame that on poor ideas. We can't blame it on fractured markets. I wouldn't even blame it on the glut of settings fracturing the D&D audience because it didn't hurt White Wolf or other successful companies with multiple lines. It was poor management and I don't mean the woman in charge either. 2e wasn't the longest lasting. 1e lasted longer. 1977-1989, it was actually in print after 2e came out for a handful of products.

It was the best intentions to compete in a changing market. It was Blockbuster trying to compete with Netflix.

So where am I getting at? WOTC buys D&D and saves it. Yep that's it. Kinda.

WHen 3e came out they went back to the source. Anyone else remember the original catchphrase for 3e?

Back to the Dungeon

The designers for 3e took D&D and distilled it back down to what works. They pared down the line to Greyhawk and the Realms and focused the design on what made D&D the top dog in the industry and it shot to the top again. It was a resource management dungeoncrawler. It was an action game. It was adventure. It was tight design with a strong focus. They were able to appeal to the storygame crowd and the waters of the industry rose because of the D20 license. Some of the biggest companies today rode that D20 boom into being successful publishers today with their own house systems, some built on that D20 license. 3.5 came out and tightened the design a bit and got weirder, emphasized the miniatures, bringing depth to the resource management aspects but keeping the story still above board.

You'd think 4e, a heavy resource management game by design, would have been just as impactful and well received. In spite of myths it sold well, kinda like 2e. I think it got away from the core of what made people like D&D though. ON the surface it was a dungeoncrawler but it was too heavy on the resource management, giving the impression of a more in depth Descent or a tabletop version of WoW (weird that both are kind of dated references these days). It fractured the market.

Pathfinder, the OSR clones, Dungeon Crawl Classics, a lot of new games cropped up during 4e and they all kinda had the same message or impetus and it wasn't necessarily rejection of 4e like OSR or even 3e, which was part of what birthed the OSR. Outside of Pathfinder it was for a simpler time with less rules, more rulings. Letting the GM run the game they wanted to run, speed of play and that 1e type of game. 4e was easy to create for but it wasn't rules light, it was confusing in its book cycle and was essentially a false starter with the failed promise of DDI and its obvious gearing towards peripheral products.

So it died. What was 5e? I think 5e has more 1e and 2e in its DNA than newer players want to give credit for. First its very much a continuation of 1e and 2e as if it were a 3e and not a 5e or 4e. Sure it has some elements of 3.x in it but the core, Basic D&D pdf and taking out those optional rules in the actual books? It lines right up with the experience of 1e and 2e aside from the unified XP tables, ASI and changes to the casting system to allow for more flexibility. Adding in the optional elements adds to the game in ways that Players' OPtions: Skills & Powers and the PLayers' Options: Combat & Tactics books did. The skill system is essentially Non-Weapon Proficiencies with thief skills rolled into it. Feats don't really resemble 3.x or 4e style feats.

5e was designed to appeal to a very broad swathe of D&D fans. It was designed to bring back the diehard 1e or 2e era players and the 3.x era players, bringing them to the same table with simple and easy to use rules and play their style of character together. But the essential design of 5e is still AD&D 1e. Its still resource management and dungeon/hex crawling.
 

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Retreater

Legend
I'm curious about this point. I would like to hear you expand on it. I am guessing we have some different philosophies on adventure material.
I've gone into this a bit in the Rime of the Frost Maiden Post Mortem and Orcs on Stairs threads, and don't want to get us too off track here.
I think many adventures aren't designed to be easily usable at a table. Maybe they're made to be read and not played? There's glaring holes, missing vital information, stuff that DMs have to customize (that can't be done on the fly easily.) You have to read and study 200 pages or more, and they aren't easy to just get started.
The exceptions would be the handful of adventure compilations.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
I've gone into this a bit in the Rime of the Frost Maiden Post Mortem and Orcs on Stairs threads, and don't want to get us too off track here.
I think many adventures aren't designed to be easily usable at a table. Maybe they're made to be read and not played? There's glaring holes, missing vital information, stuff that DMs have to customize (that can't be done on the fly easily.) You have to read and study 200 pages or more, and they aren't easy to just get started.
The exceptions would be the handful of adventure compilations.
Gotcha, sounds like you prefer those toss away adventures that can be written on a note card, but you have dozens of them to keep the game going. I suppose that was more common on TSR era.
 


Retreater

Legend
Gotcha, sounds like you prefer those toss away adventures that can be written on a note card, but you have dozens of them to keep the game going. I suppose that was more common on TSR era.
Well, not quite. I think the ideal length is 32 pages. There are others that are a bit longer but are episodic enough to be easier to run (from a story and organization standpoint) - think Red Hand of Doom (128 pages).
But then you have things like Rime of the Frost Maiden which is basically unusable without days (weeks?) of prep.
So TSR era or early WotC era (3.x) I think were the ideal adventure era.
 

payn

I don't believe in the no-win scenario
Well, not quite. I think the ideal length is 32 pages. There are others that are a bit longer but are episodic enough to be easier to run (from a story and organization standpoint) - think Red Hand of Doom (128 pages).
But then you have things like Rime of the Frost Maiden which is basically unusable without days (weeks?) of prep.
So TSR era or early WotC era (3.x) I think were the ideal adventure era.
Gotcha. I think the sticking point for me is when folks try to fault a review objectively, but ultimately the issue is really one of preference for them.
 

Retreater

Legend
Gotcha. I think the sticking point for me is when folks try to fault a review objectively, but ultimately the issue is really one of preference for them.
Yeah, I try to preference all my opinions with "this is just my opinion" but sometimes it's only inferred. I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, so I know only what has worked (or not) for me and other anecdotes I've heard.
 

Well, not quite. I think the ideal length is 32 pages. There are others that are a bit longer but are episodic enough to be easier to run (from a story and organization standpoint) - think Red Hand of Doom (128 pages).
But then you have things like Rime of the Frost Maiden which is basically unusable without days (weeks?) of prep.
So TSR era or early WotC era (3.x) I think were the ideal adventure era.
man a 32 page book seems more beer and pretzels then serious to me... but that doesn't mean I would not try ti
 


I'd prefer to see more 16-32 page self-contained adventures coming out of WotC, but that just isn't going to happen these days. I REALLY wish they hadn't gutted Dungeon - it would have been the perfect place to do such a thing.
what I don't get (I don't really know marketing so there may be a good reason) why they don't at least every few months drop a free 10ish page PDF adventure on the web... I HAVE to imagine that SOME developers are running games (Home and work related) and that they have some notes they could hand to an editior and throw old stock pics with it...

If I were in charge I would atleast 1/month put out an adventure (they don't have to be great) and have those range form 3rd- what ever(I assume they play up through levels imagine what a level 18 chris perkins dungeon looks like)... but I would ALSO atleast twice a year put out a starter 1st level adventure...with pregens

I would also encourage people to post there own level 1-5 adventures for free on the DMsGuild somehow (Maybe every few months see what ones have the most downloads and spot lite them on the front page)
 

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