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

Shasarak

Banned
Banned
Yeah pretty much. Ford had a ton of money and a product line that does so well that it can provide the profits to cover the losses of the other product line. WotC doesn't have that luxury because of how Hasbro silo's the products. MtG money is MtG money. D&D money is D&D money, and never the two shall meet. Because of this D&D can't split it's own purchasing stock by immediately labeling books as books half the customers don't want by placing them in a specific setting. I mean to my understanding the scag is designed in such a way that I could take elements from it and stand the sword coast up in my homebrew game (hence why it isn't marked as a forgotten realms book).

Not to mention having to pay off two years worth of development fees as well.
 

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Hussar

Legend
/snip

Multiple settings have not much to with cost because I believe Wizards is smart enough to pull it off. The problem is gaining brand identity. At this moment there is really no difference between D&D, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Conan, and many of the other fantasy genres. You can't sell "D&D" to the public without giving it a face or multiple faces. Just like "Marvel" couldn't just sell "Marvel" to the populace, you have to pull specific things from "Marvel" in order to grab peoples attention and those things were Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, etc....

To make it easier for them to gain brand identity they needed to look at the setting that is the most popular and that is Forgotten Realms. It does have an iconic character they could build off of and go from there. Wizards have already said they are thinking long term and they have their sights on something bigger than the RPG down the road. It's not that multiple settings will cause them to lose money, it's that they think there is something down the road that will make them lots more money.

Sorry, but, you are wrong about Marvel. Dropping the Marvel brand on something automatically generates a lot of interest. Why do you think you get a couple of minutes of Marvel branding at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy? Why do you think it's "Marvel's Agents of Shield", "Marvel's Jessica Jones", "Marvel's The Avengers"? The Marvel brand, in and of itself, is extremely valuable.

Very similar actually to the D&D brand. Slapping a D&D logo on any RPG book guarantees additional sales. That's why we had the D20 STL. Being able to use D&D trade dress was seen as extremely valuable. Now, OGL products have largely gotten around that and the STL is gone, but, again, being able to put a D&D logo on something is very, very valuable.

Look at the difference in how various Marvel properties are marketed depending on whether they are being done by Marvel Studios or not. The X-Men movies didn't mention Marvel at all. Nor did the Fantastic Four movies. The Sam Raimi Spider Man movies barely mention Marvel. Compare to any of the actual Marvel Studios production where you have that Marvel Action! clip at the begining. And the fact that it's almost always Marvels:(insert property here).
 

Corpsetaker

First Post
Sorry, but, you are wrong about Marvel. Dropping the Marvel brand on something automatically generates a lot of interest. Why do you think you get a couple of minutes of Marvel branding at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy? Why do you think it's "Marvel's Agents of Shield", "Marvel's Jessica Jones", "Marvel's The Avengers"? The Marvel brand, in and of itself, is extremely valuable.

Very similar actually to the D&D brand. Slapping a D&D logo on any RPG book guarantees additional sales. That's why we had the D20 STL. Being able to use D&D trade dress was seen as extremely valuable. Now, OGL products have largely gotten around that and the STL is gone, but, again, being able to put a D&D logo on something is very, very valuable.

Look at the difference in how various Marvel properties are marketed depending on whether they are being done by Marvel Studios or not. The X-Men movies didn't mention Marvel at all. Nor did the Fantastic Four movies. The Sam Raimi Spider Man movies barely mention Marvel. Compare to any of the actual Marvel Studios production where you have that Marvel Action! clip at the begining. And the fact that it's almost always Marvels:(insert property here).

You don't get what I am saying. "Marvel" on it's own is just the comicbook universe and can't be sold on it's own. It needs the heroes and villains who inhabit the universe to give Marvel something to sell to people.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I don't know if that is true about Marvel. Maybe at one point. But now they're slapping the Marvel label on movies and shows that don't contain the iconic characters. Agents of SHIELD, Guardians of the Galaxy, and most recently Jessica Jones.

So, once the brand was established with Iron Man and then the other Avengers, they then used that brand to branch out with less proven, more risky properties.

So in that sense, it seems like D&D is still establishing their Avengers with Forgotten Realms. Once that's been established, then maybe we'll get some Guardians of the Galaxy or Jeasica Jones in the form of Planescape or Darksun.

How many years was it from Iron Man 1 to Avengers? More than one, that's for sure.
 

Corpsetaker

First Post
I don't know if that is true about Marvel. Maybe at one point. But now they're slapping the Marvel label on movies and shows that don't contain the iconic characters. Agents of SHIELD, Guardians of the Galaxy, and most recently Jessica Jones.

So, once the brand was established with Iron Man and then the other Avengers, they then used that brand to branch out with less proven, more risky properties.

So in that sense, it seems like D&D is still establishing their Avengers with Forgotten Realms. Once that's been established, then maybe we'll get some Guardians of the Galaxy or Jeasica Jones in the form of Planescape or Darksun.

How many years was it from Iron Man 1 to Avengers? More than one, that's for sure.

But those things you mentioned are still the things that give the Marvel universe something tangible.

Do you think you could sell "Marvel" to the public at large without the heroes and villains that populate it?
 

Rygar

Explorer
I don't know if that is true about Marvel. Maybe at one point. But now they're slapping the Marvel label on movies and shows that don't contain the iconic characters. Agents of SHIELD, Guardians of the Galaxy, and most recently Jessica Jones.

So, once the brand was established with Iron Man and then the other Avengers, they then used that brand to branch out with less proven, more risky properties.

So in that sense, it seems like D&D is still establishing their Avengers with Forgotten Realms. Once that's been established, then maybe we'll get some Guardians of the Galaxy or Jeasica Jones in the form of Planescape or Darksun.

How many years was it from Iron Man 1 to Avengers? More than one, that's for sure.

I'll be blunt and say if WOTC's plan is to establish anything with Forgotten Realms they're in deep, deep, trouble. If they wanted an "Avengers" then they should've started out and currently be focused on Dragonlance. If they want the mass appeal of "Avengers" then they need to have a property that isn't largely focused on a "Drow", pretty much no one knows what a "Drow" is outside of D&D players. "Dark elf" is fairly meaningless to most.

Dragonlance is the only D&D property to ever reach beyond the core niche of D&D players, and it is the one property most noteworthy for the fact that the bulk of the people who bought Dragonlance products weren't D&D players at all and never had any interest in playing D&D. Dragonlance is the only D&D property with a proven ability to engage average people.

So if their plan for D&D is "Forgotten Realms" then they've already dropped the ball. They chose to plan for something that has proven to not interest the average person and left the product that sold huge numbers to the average person on the shelf.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
But those things you mentioned are still the things that give the Marvel universe something tangible.

Do you think you could sell "Marvel" to the public at large without the heroes and villains that populate it?

But what would you be selling them then? It's an odd question.

I think you can take a concept that the vast majority of people are not familiar with, even most comic fans, in some cases....and if it had the Marvel logo on it, a good chunk of the audience will give it a try based solely on that.

That's because the brand is established. People have come to expect a certain level of quality from Marvel movies and shows, so they're more willing to try something they don't know because they see it's a Marvel production.

D&D is different in that it is a game, not a shared universe in and of itself. But there are several shared universes at their disposal, so it's not impossible for them to use all of that material to establish their core brand. I think that might be a big part of what they're doing right now.

I'll be blunt and say if WOTC's plan is to establish anything with Forgotten Realms they're in deep, deep, trouble. If they wanted an "Avengers" then they should've started out and currently be focused on Dragonlance. If they want the mass appeal of "Avengers" then they need to have a property that isn't largely focused on a "Drow", pretty much no one knows what a "Drow" is outside of D&D players. "Dark elf" is fairly meaningless to most.

Dragonlance is the only D&D property to ever reach beyond the core niche of D&D players, and it is the one property most noteworthy for the fact that the bulk of the people who bought Dragonlance products weren't D&D players at all and never had any interest in playing D&D. Dragonlance is the only D&D property with a proven ability to engage average people.

So if their plan for D&D is "Forgotten Realms" then they've already dropped the ball. They chose to plan for something that has proven to not interest the average person and left the product that sold huge numbers to the average person on the shelf.

I don't know about that. I know that within the D&D fanbase, Drizzt can be pretty divisive, but I would imagine his 30 novels have reached far more people than the 10 or so Dragonlance books by Weiss and Hickman. Far more.

And I think that there are elements to his story that when handled properly can be pretty compelling and meaningful to modern audiences. Whereas the Dragonlance books are all pretty much just adventure stories with little more to them. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing...but I think Dragonlance would just seem too much like LOTR/Hobbit to most audiences.

As much as I love the early books....Chronicles and Legends...they don't entirely hold up well. Legends more than Chronicles, I'd say, but you can't have Legends without Chronicles coming first.
 

scruffygrognard

Adventurer
I agree that WotC is trying to make Forgotten Realms the de facto setting for the game.

Sadly, I don't care for The Realms and can't see how Greyhawk isn't the default setting. It was the world that served as the crucible for the game, its spells are named after characters from that world, most of its classic adventures are based in that world, and (like Forgotten Realms) it's generic enough to handle all styles of gameplay.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Dragonlance is the only D&D property to ever reach beyond the core niche of D&D players, and it is the one property most noteworthy for the fact that the bulk of the people who bought Dragonlance products weren't D&D players at all and never had any interest in playing D&D. Dragonlance is the only D&D property with a proven ability to engage average people.

Dragonlance has an unfortunate aspect to it that makes it very hard to use as a "generic" setting, and that's huge swaths of "default" material doesn't appear on Krynn. No halflings, half-orcs, dragonborn, tieflings, warlocks, sorcerers (in the WotL era), monks, orcs, or lycanthropes, just to name a few. DL is a cool setting/stories, but its kinda a poor representation of D&D tropes.

Sadly, I don't care for The Realms and can't see how Greyhawk isn't the default setting. It was the world that served as the crucible for the game, its spells are named after characters from that world, most of its classic adventures are based in that world, and (like Forgotten Realms) it's generic enough to handle all styles of gameplay.

Just the opposite. Greyhawk is too generic. Part of its allure has been a "barely detailed" setting, and as a result its barren and lacks much development. Compared to Krynn, Toril, or Eberron, it just doesn't feel as complete. That's great when you're a DM who want a map and some proper nouns, its great. If you want something more detailed, its not the best.
 

scruffygrognard

Adventurer
Just the opposite. Greyhawk is too generic. Part of its allure has been a "barely detailed" setting, and as a result its barren and lacks much development. Compared to Krynn, Toril, or Eberron, it just doesn't feel as complete. That's great when you're a DM who want a map and some proper nouns, its great. If you want something more detailed, its not the best.
That's exactly part of what makes Greyhawk so great. It gives you a skeleton and just enough details to build your own world and stories off of!
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
That's exactly part of what makes Greyhawk so great. It gives you a skeleton and just enough details to build your own world and stories off of!

I think it's great as a setting for a tabletop RPG, for the reasons you said. But for a multimedia representation of the D&D brand, it's probably not the best choice. FR has a couple hundred novels and a dozen or so video games that take place there, and it's seen vast support for the RPG across all editions.

I am not knocking Greyhawk by any means, or any other setting, but I think if you look at it objectively, given the approach that WotC has decided to take (regardless of whether you agree with their approach or not) the only choice for setting is FR.
 

Hussar

Legend
But those things you mentioned are still the things that give the Marvel universe something tangible.

Do you think you could sell "Marvel" to the public at large without the heroes and villains that populate it?

Why are you making a distinction here between Marvel and the characters in the Marvel universe? What's the distinction? Marvel has largely become synonymous with a particular entertainment universe, same as Star Trek and Star Wars. If I see Marvel on the title line, I know what I should be expecting, same as any other property of that nature.

I'll be blunt and say if WOTC's plan is to establish anything with Forgotten Realms they're in deep, deep, trouble. If they wanted an "Avengers" then they should've started out and currently be focused on Dragonlance. If they want the mass appeal of "Avengers" then they need to have a property that isn't largely focused on a "Drow", pretty much no one knows what a "Drow" is outside of D&D players. "Dark elf" is fairly meaningless to most.

Dragonlance is the only D&D property to ever reach beyond the core niche of D&D players, and it is the one property most noteworthy for the fact that the bulk of the people who bought Dragonlance products weren't D&D players at all and never had any interest in playing D&D. Dragonlance is the only D&D property with a proven ability to engage average people.

So if their plan for D&D is "Forgotten Realms" then they've already dropped the ball. They chose to plan for something that has proven to not interest the average person and left the product that sold huge numbers to the average person on the shelf.

I believe you are very, very mistaken here. You don't have thirty years of NYT best selling novels and major, top shelf video games without gaining a fair degree of mainstream awareness. Salvatore is a much, much more household name than Weiss and Hickman's Dragonlance.

Again, when I can find translated Salvatore novels in small towns in Japan, and that D&D Lego thing (I forget the name) branded with Drizz't in Taiwan toy stores, I'm going to say that they have a bit more market penetration than Dragonlance.*

* And I say this having never once read a Salvatore novel and at one point owning every single Dragonlance product produced at that date. All the modules, most of the novels, all sorts of other assorted gewgaws. I LOVE Dragonlance. But, I'm under no illusions as to the relative sizes we're talking about here.
 

Reinhart

First Post
Wow, so this conversation went about 47 pages and eventually managed to come to some sort of reasonable understanding. Well done!

I kinda feel like we should retire this thread now before something goes wrong.
 

Corpsetaker

First Post
Why are you making a distinction here between Marvel and the characters in the Marvel universe? What's the distinction? Marvel has largely become synonymous with a particular entertainment universe, same as Star Trek and Star Wars. If I see Marvel on the title line, I know what I should be expecting, same as any other property of that nature.

Because just like Marvel can't sell itself without it's iconic characters, D&D will need the same thing in order to actually get anywhere with it's multimedia platform. You can't sell D&D so what they decided to do was use the Forgotten Realms as it's D&D defining universe and hopefully present some iconic characters that they can market.
 

Hussar

Legend
Because just like Marvel can't sell itself without it's iconic characters, D&D will need the same thing in order to actually get anywhere with it's multimedia platform. You can't sell D&D so what they decided to do was use the Forgotten Realms as it's D&D defining universe and hopefully present some iconic characters that they can market.

Yes, exactly right.

Wait, what were we arguing about?
 

Quickleaf

Legend
I'll be blunt and say if WOTC's plan is to establish anything with Forgotten Realms they're in deep, deep, trouble. If they wanted an "Avengers" then they should've started out and currently be focused on Dragonlance. If they want the mass appeal of "Avengers" then they need to have a property that isn't largely focused on a "Drow", pretty much no one knows what a "Drow" is outside of D&D players. "Dark elf" is fairly meaningless to most.

I've been wondering about that, actually. I know a lot of decisions they make are marketing data based, and a while ago James Jacobs asserted that drow actually increase product sales... let me search for it...

Ah! It's right on the "Drow" wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drow_(Dungeons_&_Dragons)#cite_note-PF13intro-47

Designer James Jacobs considers the drow to be a rare example of a D&D-invented monster becoming mainstream, with even non-gamers recognizing them.[47]

Drow have been proven to draw additional sales of products which feature them. While Paizo Publishing was printing Dragon and Dungeon, covers featuring drow often sold better than other issues in the same year.[47]

[47] Vaughan, Greg A.; Jacobs, James (2008). "Foreward: ...And I Feel Fine". Pathfinder #13: Shadow in the Sky. Pathfinder Adventure Path. Bellevue, Washington, United States: Paizo Publishing. pp. 4–5. ISBN 978-1-60125-115-2.
 




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