WotC's Chris Perkins Talks About... Everything! Upcoming Storylines, Products, Staffing, Other World

WotC's Chris Perkins, Principal Designer for Dungeons & Dragons, was at Gamehole Con a couple of weeks ago. He took part in a panel there in which he covered a lot of things - product schedules, partnerships, other worlds, story flavours, staffing, upcoming storylines, Greyhawk, and so much more. You can listen to the whole (90-minute) audio recording here, but for those who prefer to read it I've quoted the highlights below. It's well worth the read, but if you have the time I strongly recommend you listen to the whole thing.

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[h=4]On Products & Schedules[/h]
My job, and the job of our team going forward, is to try to make sure that anything that we do that ties to D&D is firmly rooted in story first. If we don't have a story to tell, we're not going to release any products to support it. Gone are the days, in 3rd and 4th Edition, when we were bound by the model of having to release a book a month or two books a month, or three books a month. We have no commitment or desire to do that going forward.


And part of that is just driven by business realities, part of it is driven by our knowledge of certain facts that we've obtained through surveys, through talking to people at shows, that there is kind of a certain amount of material that people can actually absorb before the stuff that we're releasing no longer has any value and is no longer serving anybody. A lot of 3rd Edition products, I'm sure, and 4th Edition products, I'm sure, that maybe you've bought or your players have bought are sitting on shelves having never been used, or used precious little. We don't sell products so that 5% of our audience can use 5% of it. We're now trying to sell products that 100% of our audience might use, and they'll use all of it.

The perceived value of D&D goes up, people actually having common shared experiences that they can talk about at cons, with their friends, and our stories actually get out there.

In the olden days when you had the early adventures TSR put out, everybody played Tomb of Horrors, and everybody played Keep on the Borderlands. Everybody played Temple of Elemental Evil. And those stories have transcended the game experience to the point now where people go to a convention and a 13 year old and a 40 year old and a 65 year old can all talk about Tomb of Horrors and know what they're all talking about.

[h=4]On Partnerships[/h]
Our first story that we launched with 5th Edition was Tyranny of Dragons, and we partnered with a number of different companies to tell that story. We partnered with Wolfgang Baur's company, Kobold Press to do a pair of TRPG products, we partnered with Gale Force 9, we partnered with WizKids, we partnered with our folks, Cryptic, the company which produces the Neverwinter MMO; we set up all these partners to tell that story.

[lq]One of the things we are going to be doing in the future is looking out at some of our other worlds[/lq]

[h=4]On Other Worlds[/h]
All these different elements [setting info in the core rulebooks] are contained there so that in future stories we don't have to limit ourselves to one world. And so while Tyranny of Dragons, and Elemental Evil, and Rage of Demons, have all fundamentally been Forgotten Realms based, one of the things we are going to be doing in the future is looking out at some of our other worlds. That doesn't mean we won't come back to the Realms, or have adventures that visit multiple different locations, start in one place and end in another... one of the goals with our stories is to go beyond Forgotten Realms, safe to say.

The other thing that we're driving to with our stories is to, whenever possible, draw upon the past, key elements from the history of the game that have not seen a lot of attention lately.

Sadly we won't be doing any stories round the D&D cartoon, and that's because we don't own the characters! CBS does!


[h=4]On Story Flavours[/h]
The story that follows Rage of Demons is not going to be anywhere near the Underdark, and it will have its own feel, its own flavour, its own atmosphere, its own thing. The story that follows that is going to be very different. It allows us to do things like ... Princes of the Apocalypse and the Elemental Evil story was very dungeon driven; it was a dungeon-based story... in the future we want to maybe do intrigue. What story would we have to tell in D&D that is fundamentally an intrigue story. Would it be like city based? Would it be planar based, where you're basically on some sort of planar hunt for something? And then maybe the story after that is ... [audience member suggests "horror"] ... horror, or something more light-hearted and flaky, or a little off-track, or like Eberron, a little more steampunkish, or Victorian pulpy... making sure every story has a different feel, flavour, making sure we get to visit some of our other worlds, and making sure that we're always going back to the source material and picking the best things out of the last and bringing them forward.

[h=4]On Staffing[/h]
The size of the D&D team at Wizards has changed over the years. I've been there since the TSR acquisition... when we first came to Wizards of the Coast with all the TSR folks, the D&D team numbered just under 50 people. And they were supporting a number of campaign settings that had held over from 2nd Edition, there was a Dragonlance team, there was a Forgotten Realms team, there was a Greyhawk team, every world still had its own team.... now there isn't dedicated teams for worlds, because there just aren't that many worlds that are actively supported any more. And so our team now numbers 15, and not only do we work on TRPG stuff, but we also support our novelists, we also provide support to our business partners working on digital games, miniatures, and game accessories. And we've also got part of our team whose brain space is dedicated to coming up with new ideas, new ways of getting D&D out there in the world. Loot Crate partnerships, for instance. Very, very beneficial for us, because they give us enormous exposure.

My story team consists of me, I have an art director named Richard Witters who I stole from the Magic team, who's brilliant... and I've got a storywriter named Adam Lee, who I also stole from Magic... and we're in the process of hiring a new concept artist.

[h=4]On Upcoming Storylines[/h]
I can't talk about specific storylines that we're working on presently, and at this time we're working on four. We've got two stories to tell next year, and then we've got two more stories in fairly developed states, and we don't even know necessarily when they're going to appear yet.

On the next storyline -- That's a tough one to answer. To a certain extent, obtusely, I've already answered it with the three things I called attention to. Once could speculate based on what I've told you what might happen.... we do have an upcoming story that does go back to a past adventure... doesn't feature dragons, so it won't be anything from the Dragonlance saga... I think it's safe to say if you look at the things we haven't played with yet which are fairly intrinsic to D&D [he asked the audience to suggest D&D monsters, and the vampire is shouted out] ... the vampire has been around in D&D, it's not a unique D&D monster by any stretch, but we would be remiss if we didn't do something with vampires at some point. I can almost assure you that we will get around to doing that. Certainly gothic ... and Victorian, and that sort of feel.. the question is all about timing. When is the time to do it? When is it going to surprise and delight the most people?

[lq]Turns out we can't keep folks excited for a year. There are too many other distractions in the world today.[/lq]

That's another thing about our stories, is that we don't want to be predictable. In fact, we've even changed out release plans so we don't even tell people. Five years ago, Wizards would tell people a year in advance what products we were releasing. Now we don't do it until literally months before it comes out. Part of that is simply Shock and Awe. And because we've evaluated how long we can keep peoples' excitement. Turns out we can't keep folks excited for a year. There are too many other distractions in the world today. Too many entertainment properties competing for peoples' attention. 3, 4 months, perfect window. People can remember and stay excited for 3-4 months about something.

So, yeah, vampire, classic monster, yeah, we'll do a story with vampires... [more classic monster suggestions].. yeah, we'll do a story with giants.

[lq]Yeah, we'll do a story with vampires[/lq]

On codenames -- I'm doing two playtests here at the show. One is for a story codenamed Cloak, and one is for a story codenamed Dagger. All of our stories now have codenames ... it's necessary because we have to submit all of our story names for trademark search... there are a lot of titles in the world out there today, and we often have a title that we like that gets rejected .. because it was the name of a video game that was made in 1979 ... it's getting harder and harder and harder to come up with names. So until we have a name that is actually trademarked, we go with codenames.

Cloak -- ... they were going up into the icy mountains, and this temple under a mountain that's basically become a repository of evil. There was this sect of good-aligned wizards and paladins who were keeping this temple, and all of the evil within it, trapped there, to keep the world from going, you know, crazy. Keep the world safe. But that was 400, 500 years ago. What's in there enow? Well, maybe the wizards have all died off. Maybe they sort of succumbed to the evil there. Who knows? But it's an interesting story, and that's a piece, or a fragment, of a story that is going to be important in the future.

Dagger -- Dagger is a story in which you're going around and pillaging the ancestral mounds of barbarian tribes. And that has a slightly different feel, don't you think? It feels a bit more pulpy, and oh, you're got an airship! Great!

Now, by telling you that, I haven't actually given anything away about the main plots of those stories, I assure you. But it's tantalising...

[h=4]On shorter modular adventures[/h]
We are doing that, but we're doing it now though Adventurer's League. So our shorter module adventures are all Adventurer's League adventures, you can play many of them here, you can also download them. Because we've discovered that because now here stories are these experiences that are meant to last a period of time, our typical stories usually have a marketing plan associated with them that runs for about 4-6 months, we'e discovered that that's actually good for us because it goes enough people the chance to discover it and experience it and then talk about it before they get taken off on the new thing. And part of the goal with the stories is to bring people together with common experiences, and the shorter, more modular things tend to be fleeting, and don't get that resonance The other challenge with them is when it comes to actually selling modules. Their presence on the shelf is significantly less. When they're shelved in, they don't have spines, they disappear and get lost more quickly, the stores that buy them don't give them as much credence or as much weight, whereas when we release a bigger book, or a box or something, that has a little bit of "oomph" behind it, it tends to get the stores and the distributors more excited, and it tends to give us a bigger buildup. People get more energised, they start saving money for it, they know that they won't have to buy six things from us, they can just buy one..and a lot of that is driven by, just like a World of Warcraft model. You can't imagine Blizzard releasing six expansions a year. They don't ... they want to release a mammoth, not a bunch of mice.

[lq]You can't imagine Blizzard releasing six expansions a year. They don't ... they want to release a mammoth, not a bunch of mice.[/lq]


[h=4]Other Assorted Items[/h]
Home-brew vs. published -- A great bulk of those who play D&D run homebrew settings. But of those home-brew campaigns, over half of those homebrewers do pillage from other settings ... 15% or 50% of the world they've created has hawked stuff from other worlds. They're comfortable pillaging our products for ideas. That homebrew number, I can't remember the exact percentage, but I think it's like 55% homebrew. And then it's like 35% Forgotten Realms, and then everything else ... Very few people right now, turns out, running Dark Sun campaigns. A sliver of a sliver. Very few people running Hollow World campaigns. Very few people are running Mystara campaigns. It pretty much goes Homebrew, Forgotten Realms, I think Greyhawk's at 5% ands then everybody else is at 2% or 1%.

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Consultants -- As far as with working with people... it's another change in how we do business at WotC. We never used to do this before. We consult. 5th Edition was very good to us. The company supports us wholeheartedly, they have given us large amounts of money to basically bring people from the outside who have some cachet or who are creative titans in their field, bring them in an actually have them consult with us on our stories. They help us develop the stories. The way it works is we drive a dump truck of money up to their house, and we say "Come with us to Renton, Washington for a week and sit down for a week's worth of meetings to break a story." And we don't even know that we're necessarily going to do this in product yet. We just ant to get these people out here and pick their brains and see what comes out of it. One of our most successful endeavours was Pendleton Ward, the creator of Adventure Time. He came out for a week, spent some time with us in meetings, and a marvellous story came out of that wacky coalition of elements that you'll be seeing in the not too distant future. We've had other consultants as well. For instance on Out of the Abyss we naturally brought in Bob Salvatore. RA Salvatore writes the Drizzt novels, since Drizzt was going to be sort of an anchor for the story, we brought him in to consult on that. But we are looking at bringing in consultants beyond the range, beyond the pale... people that obviously love D&D may not actually have ever worked on a D&D product. Or maybe they have! Who knows? If I could resurrect Gary Gygax I would bring him in as a consultant, certainly. But we have to stick to the living.

[lq]It is incumbent upon WotC to spend some amount of its time, effort, mindspace, and resources to ensuring that the roleplaying hobby and the D&D enthusiast hobby, the gaming hobby, is healthy[/lq]

On inclusiveness and growing the hobby -- We are going to see D&D stories that are fresh, that are going to attract new people to the hobby, and I think it is incumbent on us probably more so than any other company ... it is incumbent upon WotC to spend some amount of its time, effort, mindspace, and resources to ensuring that the roleplaying hobby and the D&D enthusiast hobby, the gaming hobby, is healthy, that people are always coming in, that we have stories that are welcoming to them, that are inclusive, that are going to appeal to more than just middle America white guys, that are showing D&D to people in a whole new light, in a way that's fresh, that's welcoming, in keeping with the age in which we live, and I don't want anybody feeling discriminated against by our D&D stories, by the products that we're releasing. I don't want anybody to feel that they can't play because of some perceived barrier, because their mother told them it was satanists ... D&D has always been safe and fun and smart and friendship-inducing.

Level ranges - Tyranny of Dragons, the TRPG products that were released for it, took you from levels 1-15. Elemental Evil, same, 1-15. Out of the Abyss, our Rage of Demons adventure, 1-15. We're going to be changing up that model in the future. So you may see future stories which are strictly low-level, you may see some that are sort of set in the middle, you may see some that are set strictly high-level. Or you may see a story that can be told at level 3, level 10, and level 15. We're going to change that up for a couple of reasons. 1) We don't want to be boring and predictable. 2) We've discovered that when we give people 4-6 months to play an adventure, they won't necessarily get to the end. Tyranny of Dragons, most games did not make it to the end. Elemental Evil, most games did not make it to the very end. Out of the Abyss remains to be seen. So, for the next one, we're going a little shorter, and for the one after that we're going a little shorter still. That doesn't necessarily mean that the products will be getting tremendously shorter; for instance one of the upcoming products that we're doing it enormously replayable. It's a short adventure, but you can play it 200 times and never have the same adventure twice.

[lq]Tyranny of Dragons, most games did not make it to the end[/lq]

Non-story based products like SCAG - Will we do more of that in the future? Yeah, part of our goal in that is to surprise and delight ... if all we did were big adventure books, that wouldn't be surprising. So the question is "What is the next Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide?" Who knows? I don't know. ... But let's say we did a Greyhawk adventure, Greyhawk has been out of circulation now for how many years? Although you can still ... there's nothing stopping you from running a Greyhawk campaign because everything out there is still there and its still timely. And it remains, as far as I'm concerned it's an open question whether we would even change the timeline. Greyhawk's current timeline is perfectly cromulent. So is its original timeline. So the question then becomes "Is it a better user experience to put all the information you need to know about Greyhawk in the adventure product because it's really for the DN's information, or is it better, and it's going to be better received, if that information is parcelled, divorced from the adventure as a separate thing that you have to buy? That you have to spend money on now."

On Greyhawk -- The other problem that we have with Greyhawk, speaking honestly, is that it's D&D at its most core. The problem is if I were t say that to somebody in an elevator, they'd go "I have no idea what you mean. What the hell do you mean, Greyhawk is like D&D at its core? What is core D&D?" "Oh, it's monsters and magic and wizards!" "Well, you just described The Hobbit. You just described Dragonlance. You just described Forgotten Realms." What makes Greyhawk, Greyhawk? Is it Gary? What else about Greyhawk makes Greyhawk, Greyhawk? Is it low magic? Because you have Mordenkainen - he is not low magic. So it's that magic is more exclusive in Greyhawk? Unless you goto the Valley of the Magi, where it's not. It's got barbarians, a whole lot ... look at the Greyhawk map, there's a whole lot of barbarian territory up there. We don't know a whole lot about them except that they're tigers and... we've got Scarlet Brotherhood which are aryan monastic wanna control the world type organisation, somebody at work, I can't remember it was Mike Mearls or somebody else, described Greyhawk as almost Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser-esque, Fritz Leiber, Lankhmar-esque. That would certainly make sense based on things I heard about what Greyhawk was like when Gary was running it, sort of maybe he felt that way. Certainly Fritz Leiber was a friend of Gary's and the Gygax family, and Gary loved his works according to Empire of the Imagination.

If we were to do a Greyhawk story, one of the things I'd be sorely tempted to do is focus on Iuz. I'm not going to give you a full campaign setting. I'm going to tell you a story about Iuz and all of the **** that he's doing right now and all of the repercussions that are happening because of that... Iuz is going to be the glue that holds this story together.

The full audio is a 90-minute podcast available from Gaming and BS. I've covered the salient points, but there's plenty more there to listen to!

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

Orlax

First Post
Because the D&D team kinda sucks at marketing? Heck, a couple of their brand managers probably have that job title simply because of seniority and a desire to shrink the amount of payroll allocated to game design. But just because WotC is only funding 2-3 books set in the Forgotten Realms each year doesn't mean that's the only thing the D&D team is actually thinking about and playing in their free time. Unearthed Arcana is probably the most off-the-cuff and direct window into the sorts of stuff that they're playing with in their own campaigns. Just ignore the B.S. surveys and don't hold your breath for anything to get actually printed.

Edit: I guess where I disagree is the uncertainty. The D&D team is no longer structured to put out a lot of products and aim at more than one deadline. I'm pretty sure a few years back someone in management "switched their paradigm from waterfall to agile." I'm sorry for those of you who understand that last sentence. They're just not the RPG company they used to be. There is definitely tighter rein on the process and a greater focus on just "the next story," which is always 6 or so months down the road.

I'm not saying you have to like this new business model and I understand if you don't. I just don't think it's really that murky and it's unlikely to change regardless.

I too think they switched over to an agile development schedule. Which isn't bad. It's a different way of going about collaborative writing, but it does seem like they are working on some kind of iterative design schedule. The thing about agile development though is that you can't give release dates out because release dates need to be somewhat fluid, and once you give the release dates out to the fans the release date becomes less fluid and more set in stone. The reason we don't get release dates until about a month or three before release is because by that point they know they don't have a ton of work left and can reliably put out their product, basically the book is with the printer by then.
 

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SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
.....

I will say I'm disheartened to hear the derision directed at Chris Perkins describing his words as (paraphrasing) "meaningless marketing".

When I think of people in the D&D industry who've done the most for the game and the brand, Chris Perkins definitely is in my top 10.

For truth, and justice's sake....
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
Well his words speak for themselves. It clearly isn't meaningless marketing but a man doing what he loves for the love if it. Nothing in this thread has taken that away. He could easily work for a video game company and make much more.

And again...
 

Corpsetaker

First Post
Well his words speak for themselves. It clearly isn't meaningless marketing but a man doing what he loves for the love if it. Nothing in this thread has taken that away. He could easily work for a video game company and make much more.

LOL!!!

I'm sorry but this is funny.

These decisions look nothing like they are made from someone who "loves" the game but "loves" profit.
 


DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
That's the point. They want the D&D brand to be synonymous with the people and places of the Forgotten Realms. Marvel would be nothing without it's iconic superheroes. They want people who have some brand awareness of D&D to explore the "world of D&D" which, for good or bad, right now is Forgotten Realms. When or if the movies and video games reach the masses, they want the new, larger fan base to be able to reference a common setting, not a hodge podge of worlds that have little connection to one another.

My argument is that this won't happen UNTIL something outside our little niche world of games becomes so huge that everyone outside our world uses IT as their touchstone. Forgotten Realms as an entity won't become known to the general non-gaming public UNLESS a 5-star movie gets released and becomes so huge that those FR parts of the movie become the icons and tropes that people associate with the game itself. Forcing all of us within the niche gaming world to only deal with the Realms RIGHT NOW does not do anything outside our world. You need a vehicle outside the world to bring it into the stratosphere first.

I mean look... tropes from Game of Thrones did not enter the cultural landscape until AFTER the tv show became a smash hit. Until that point no one knew anything about it, and no one cared about it. Hell... the violence against women in the books was completely glossed over and ignored by the culture at large UNTIL it appeared onscreen in the tv show and the rest of America actually saw what Martin had written about and they all stood up and said "Wha-- wha-- WHAT?!?" And now it's this huge thing. But without that vehicle outside the niche world of "fantasy novel writers and readers" to illustrate it though? It's never really known or commented on by the general public.

So there is no point in Hasbro or WotC forcing those of us IN the niche gaming circle of D&D to just deal with the Realms in the hopes that the Realms become the universal brand tropes (rather than "D&D" in general)... because we and our game don't impact the culture at large. Once a film or a tv show or something of that nature breaks through though? Then OUR niche gaming world gets impacted HUGE.
 
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Orlax

First Post
I still feel they are holding out on non setting splatbooks because they want to keep most people playing in FR and not their own homebrew games.

I just don't buy into the whole "getting the most out of everybook" spin. The nature of this game is the way it is. Not all people play rogues so they aren't going to buy a "Rogues Handbook" but there are plenty of others who do and who will buy it. The game needs to be created in order to meet different tastes and game groups. It is not the ideal money maker and they knew that and yet they are trying to get the most money out of it which means less for the fans.

When I look back at all the 2nd edition stuff and I here how bad is was for TSR I then say to myself - "Well look at how good it turned out for the fans." I have no problem with making profit and I think Wizards has been a profitable company for a long time, it just stinks when they are most likely being told they aren't making enough profit.

They don't tell us anything because they want to keep us around and waiting.

No they don't tell us anything because that's the development model they are using. They are using an iterative design process that doesn't allow for totally set in stone release dates, and therefore they can't tell us what the release dates are because they don't know the release date until well into a books production. They could be working on ten products right now, and they won't have word on when they are ready for release until they are ready for release. It's this fun way of designing and delivering things where you don't make promises you can't keep.

They aren't trying to force people into using the realms, they in fact know that the bulk of users, especially long time users, run in homebrew settings. At best they are keeping it all in the realms for the new players so they don't have the confusion of a campaign setting change. For us old players, we can take any adventure and slot it into our home brew campaigns and settings. That's what every gaming group I know has done with the adventures.

There isn't some massive conspiracy here it is just agile iterative design, and at beast a wish to keep it simple for the newbies, and of course to make as much money as they can which means selling the best selling setting there is.

Second ed was terrible for the players mainly in the fact that the company making D&D went under. Well in this case there is no one to buy the IP if the D&D division of wizard's fails, because Hasbro won't ever let wizard's let go of the IP it will just stop being made at all. So yes they have to be smarter about what products they spend money on creating, and releasing, because they can't afford to dump thousands into the production of a book that will only sell hundreds of copies. The flood of the second ed era was actually pretty terrible from a business management standpoint, and it nearly killed the game.

These people have a very clear view of what is on the horizon for D&D they just don't feel a need to share about everything on the horizon because some things may fall off that horizon for no other reason than that they decide the product isn't coming together in a way they like it.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
They don't tell us anything because they want to keep us around and waiting.

And if you continue to do so... then whose problem is it, really?

WotC can't "learn their lesson" until folks like you actually stop waiting. But if you don't... then you're proving to them that what they are doing is the right thing. So really, the situation is a fault of your own making. Which I find delightfully ironic.
 

delericho

Legend
Yet when we ask for more options, people ask if we've used all the ones we have already... (Came up once already regarding monsters and MM2 in this thread.)

Well, yes. I was the person who was asked that question.

But here's the thing: random people on the internet asking that question is not the same as WotC holding back the books for that reason. DM Magic is no more responsible for WotC's strategic choices than I am. (Well, unless there's something he's not told us. :) )
 

ZzarkLinux

First Post
If that was the fundamental problem with those books was that the DDI made them obsolete before they were published. 5e doesn't have a DDI, so the lesson isn't applicable.

That's not to say that 5e splatbooks would be a good idea, of course. But using 4e's version as an argument against them would be to build on a faulty foundation.

I agree DDI hurt book sales, but the other point stands too. I think we both agree that WotC lumps settings in with Splat Books. And they have a tight control on splat due to diminishing returns...

They dont think a DrangonLance Setting book will sell well. But maybe if they wait a few years (or cycles), then they might print a "Rise of Krynn" and "Tyrany of the Lance" big adventure book and eek out a profit.

For truth, and justice's sake....
I'm glad he has contributed a lot. But that is technically Appeal to the Author (or some other fallacy) and won't appease the people complaining about the lack of concrete release dates and slow release schedule.

I guess RELEASE SCHEDULE is the next "Warlord" topic that keeps hijacking threads.
Maybe we should petition Morrus to open a "Temporary Release Schedule Subforum" over there with the Warlord :)
Another cellar for all the trolls, gold, and coals on that topic.

Edit: Typos
 
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Corpsetaker

First Post
They dont think a DrangonLance Setting book will sell well.

I don't think it's this. I believe it's "Dragonlance won't sell as well as Forgotten Realms" so we won't put it out. Thing is, nobody knows just how well DL would do because we have never had that setting coupled with this ruleset. It could be a smash hit.

Also, just because something sells less than something else doesn't mean it didn't sell well.
 

Reinhart

First Post
My argument is that this won't happen UNTIL something outside our little niche world of games becomes so huge that everyone outside our world uses IT as their touchstone.

You're not wrong about that, but that "something" almost always springs up from an existing coherent product. You may not see the point of Hasbro "forcing" you to play in the Realms but what they need right now is a consistent setting and some compelling characters and stories that people will remember. And what you're seeing is how they're trying to create it. And it's not just a table-top RPG for Hasbro. You'll notice that the last three D&D board games were set in the Forgotten Realms. Both of the D&D MMO's are now set in the Forgotten Realms, even though one of them started off in Eberron. The only D&D novels being published right now are set in the Forgotten Realms. The recent D&D comic books were set in the Forgotten Realms. Sword Coast Legends, Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights are all named after the Forgotten Realms.

Some of this is just the "accident of history." I'm not claiming this Realms-centered policy is the reason for all of the above. After all, many of those video games predate this change. Regardless, it shows you where the licensing has been happening. And now that WotC is more about contracting and licensing it's no surprise that D&D is growing more and more hitched to one setting. And even though I prefer other D&D settings, the Forgotten Realms is exactly what D&D needs from a brand management perspective. Love them or hate them, Drizz't and Elminster give something consistent for D&D media to be about.

Now, one of the major hurdles that WotC is still struggling with is simply cultivating a sense of authenticity. You want your existing fan-base to be engaged and positive when it comes time to extend your brand into other demographics, and that's hard to do when both your fans and brand are fragmented. The reaction to both 4th Edition D&D and Sword Coast Legends demonstrates that a significant portion of the fan-base have certain expectations and aren't going to accept and endorse something just because it has D&D or Forgotten Realms on the cover. What Hasbro doesn't want is to make a D&D movie and have no one excited for it. That's essentially what happened with Jem and the Holograms, it could well cost them more than everything they've made off of 5th Edition.
 
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Corpsetaker

First Post
No they don't tell us anything because that's the development model they are using. They are using an iterative design process that doesn't allow for totally set in stone release dates, and therefore they can't tell us what the release dates are because they don't know the release date until well into a books production. They could be working on ten products right now, and they won't have word on when they are ready for release until they are ready for release. It's this fun way of designing and delivering things where you don't make promises you can't keep.

They aren't trying to force people into using the realms, they in fact know that the bulk of users, especially long time users, run in homebrew settings. At best they are keeping it all in the realms for the new players so they don't have the confusion of a campaign setting change. For us old players, we can take any adventure and slot it into our home brew campaigns and settings. That's what every gaming group I know has done with the adventures.

There isn't some massive conspiracy here it is just agile iterative design, and at beast a wish to keep it simple for the newbies, and of course to make as much money as they can which means selling the best selling setting there is.

Second ed was terrible for the players mainly in the fact that the company making D&D went under. Well in this case there is no one to buy the IP if the D&D division of wizard's fails, because Hasbro won't ever let wizard's let go of the IP it will just stop being made at all. So yes they have to be smarter about what products they spend money on creating, and releasing, because they can't afford to dump thousands into the production of a book that will only sell hundreds of copies. The flood of the second ed era was actually pretty terrible from a business management standpoint, and it nearly killed the game.

These people have a very clear view of what is on the horizon for D&D they just don't feel a need to share about everything on the horizon because some things may fall off that horizon for no other reason than that they decide the product isn't coming together in a way they like it.

They won't shelve D&D.

They won't do this because what will happen is the game will go on just not with the name D&D and apparently there are a lot of people who don't care if the name is on it. The d20 system is a free for all so other companies could continue to use that system and modify it to their needs. We would also have other 3pp companies still producing stuff so shelving the D&D brand really makes no sense. Also let's not forget the iconic nature of the name itself.

They won't shelve it. I can safely say this won't happen.
 

Corpsetaker

First Post
You're not wrong about that, but that "something" almost always springs up from an existing coherent product. You may not see the point of Hasbro "forcing" you to play in the Realms but what they need right now is a consistent setting and some compelling characters and stories that people will remember. And what you're seeing is how they're trying to create it. And it's not just a table-top RPG for Hasbro. You'll notice that the last three D&D board games were set in the Forgotten Realms. Both of the D&D MMO's are now set in the Forgotten Realms, even though one of them started off in Eberron. The only D&D novels being published right now are set in the Forgotten Realms. The recent D&D comic books were set in the Forgotten Realms. Sword Coast Legends, Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights are all named after the Forgotten Realms.

Some of this is just the "accident of history." I'm not claiming this Realms-centered policy is the reason for all of the above. After all, many of those video games predate this change. Regardless, it shows you where the licensing has been happening. And now that WotC is more about contracting and licensing it's no surprise that D&D is growing more and more hitched to one setting. And even though I prefer other D&D settings, the Forgotten Realms is exactly what D&D needs from a brand management perspective. Love them or hate them, Drizz't and Elminster give something consistent for D&D media to be about.

Now, one of the major hurdles that WotC is still struggling with is simply cultivating a sense of authenticity. You want your existing fan-base to be engaged and positive when it comes time to extend your brand into other demographics, and that's hard to do when both your fans and brand are fragmented. The reaction to both 4th Edition D&D and Sword Coast Legends demonstrates that the a significant portion of the fan-base have certain expectations and aren't going to accept and endorse something just because it has D&D or Forgotten Realms on the cover. What Hasbro doesn't want is to make a D&D movie and have no one excited for it. That's essentially what happened with Jem and the Holograms, it could well cost them more than everything they've made off of 5th Edition.

I would also like to add the fact that you don't see the Forgotten Realms logo on this stuff anymore. This shows that they want FR under the D&D logo instead of having the D&D logo and the FR logo.
 

Orlax

First Post
They won't shelve D&D.

They won't do this because what will happen is the game will go on just not with the name D&D and apparently there are a lot of people who don't care if the name is on it. The d20 system is a free for all so other companies could continue to use that system and modify it to their needs. We would also have other 3pp companies still producing stuff so shelving the D&D brand really makes no sense. Also let's not forget the iconic nature of the name itself.

They won't shelve it. I can safely say this won't happen.

I wouldn't bet on them not shelving it. Especially if it just keeps losing them money. No way they keep the product line going if iy becomes a massive drain on resources. That's why they don't have a giant D&D budget, they probably got some start up capital for getting 5e going and are probably on a 'keep a certain section of your profits, but you still pay the Piper', scenario. They don't have the capital to waste on printing books that won't sell, and if they crumble on their own I don't think Hasbro is coming around to bail them out anymore. At some point you have to cut your losses. They are sink or swim at this point and if they sink, they sink, and D&D dies. So they are being conservative with their budget, and I can't blame them for that. They lose nothing by shelving D&D all they do is sit and make sure no one violates their IP, and when someone does violate their IP they sue the crap out of them. That makes way more money than actually producing anything does. Especially if the team keeps printing crap that won't sell enough to justify the effort going into it.
 

Hussar

Legend
I don't think it's this. I believe it's "Dragonlance won't sell as well as Forgotten Realms" so we won't put it out. Thing is, nobody knows just how well DL would do because we have never had that setting coupled with this ruleset. It could be a smash hit.

Also, just because something sells less than something else doesn't mean it didn't sell well.

We've had a version of Dragonlance for every single edition of the game until 4th. Not once did it manage to do better than Forgotten Realms. It was so sideline by 3e that WotC couldn't even be bothered producing it themselves but farmed out the IP to MWP. Why would you think that DL would suddenly be a breakout hit in 5e?

But, again, you're ignoring the fact that WotC has limited production capablities. They have a choice - leverage a known product, FR, where they have a pretty good idea how much it's going to sell, or bank on a setting that couldn't arouse enough interest during 3e, despite a full line of support - MWP published 10, by my count, 3.5E Dragonlance books, and never even managed to make more than a tiny ripple in the market.

So, again, why would you think that a DL book would be a smash hit?

And that's the problem with all these old settings. Yes, they have a fanbase, but, there just isn't enough of a fanbase to come even close to the level of sales that WotC is looking for.

I mean, I've mentioned this before, but, look at the front page poll. There's just about as many people playing in FR as homebrew. No other setting is even close. We're talking FR having two or three times more players than any other setting. Good grief, DL has almost one TENTH the players that FR has, according to that poll. Who in their right mind would bank on that property becoming a "smash hit"? Ironically, I AM one of those 60 some people who are playing Dragonlance currently.
 

scruffygrognard

Adventurer
Or, if WotC (and Hasbro) find that D&D isn't profitable enough, they could license it out to another company.

At this point, as a D&D player who doesn't care for the support that the game is getting, I'd rather see a company like Cubicle 7 produce the game. My gut tells me that WotC no longer has the resources to develop products like campaign settings or "plug and play" adventures that can be dropped into any setting. Instead they are forced to focus on the Forgotten Realms and story arcs set in The Realms due to personnel and budgetary constraints.
 


Orlax

First Post
Or, if WotC (and Hasbro) find that D&D isn't profitable enough, they could license it out to another company.

At this point, as a D&D player who doesn't care for the support that the game is getting, I'd rather see a company like Cubicle 7 produce the game. My gut tells me that WotC no longer has the resources to develop products like campaign settings or "plug and play" adventures that can be dropped into any setting. Instead they are forced to focus on the Forgotten Realms and story arcs set in The Realms due to personnel and budgetary constraints.

Hasbro will never let D&D off the chain, or they won't ever offer it for a reasonable licencing fee.

Look at it like this, 1 they have a ton of old product up on drive through RPG for PDF, and they can keep selling that with pretty much no investment. 2 they have the licensing back for movies and are already in the works for a dnd movie. 3 they have all the rights for all of the D&D video games and those are still seemingly doing all right. They have done so much with the IP that can carry on and make them money with little to no investment that licencing or selling the IP isn't a thing they will do. WotC running out of money for the tabletop game, and the game top game being shelved because of that is definitely a thing that can happen though.
 

GobiWon

Explorer
I actually wouldn't have a problem with this. I'd miss my Eberron or Ravenloft, but I could live with a "FR = D&D's setting" setup if need be.

I just wish they'd SAY that rather than this half-arsed "multiverse" thing, especially if we're not going to see official support for it.

The people who run D&D are coming from the same place we are. I feel that there is still a lot of love for these different settings among the team. We might get glimpses of them in the coming years but only as they interact with the Forgotten Realms. The realities of business necessitate that they focus on the Realms, but the team is human and I feel that they are working to sneak bits and pieces in when they can.
 

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