WotC's Nathan Stewart: "Story, Story, Story"; and IS D&D a Tabletop Game?

Forbes spoke to WotC's Brand Director & Executive Producer for Dungeons & Dragons, who talked about the 5th Edition launch and his vision for D&D's future. The interview is fairly interesting - it confirms or repeats some information we already know, and also delves a little into the topic of D&D as a wider brand, rather than as a tabletop roleplaying game.

In the interview, he reiterates previous statements that this is the biggest D&D launch ever, in terms of both money and units sold.

[lq]We are story, story, story. The story drives everything.[/lq]

He repeats WoTC's emphasis on storylines, confirming the 1-2 stories per year philosphy. "We are story, story, story. The story drives everything. The need for new rules, the new races, new classes is just based on what’s going to really make this adventure, this story, this kind kind of theme happen." He goes on to say that "We’re not interested in putting out more books for books’ sake... there’s zero plans for a Player’s Handbook 2 any time on the horizon."

As for settings, he confirms that "we’re going to stay in the Forgotten Realms for the foreseeable future." That'll disappoint some folks, I'm sure, but it is their biggest setting, commercially.

Stewart is not "a hundred percent comfortable" with the status of digital tools because he felt like "we took a great step backwards."

[lq]Dungeons and Dragons stopped being a tabletop game years or decades ago. [/lq]

His thoughts on D&D's identity are interesting, too. He mentions that "Dungeons and Dragons stopped being a tabletop game years or decades ago". I'm not sure what that means. His view for the future of the brand includes video games, movies, action figures, and more: "This is no secret for anyone here, but the big thing I want to see is just a triple-A RPG video game. I want to see Baldur’s Gate 3, I want to see a huge open-world RPG. I would love movies about Dungeons and Dragons, or better yet, serialized entertainment where we’re doing seasons of D&D stories and things like Forgotten Realms action figures… of course I’d love that, I’m the biggest geek there is. But at the end of the day, the game’s what we’re missing in the portfolio."

You can read the full interview here.
 
Russ Morrissey

Comments

Kramodlog

Adventurer
What I'm hearing is, content that is not what I want isn't content, just redundant stuff to drain your money.
How are spell cards, DM screens or a virtual table top content? Or new content to be more precise. They are platforms for content. Nothing wrong with that, it just isn't a new class, a new monster, details on the sundering or a new setting. Those are content.

Please provide the quote saying that they will not release any more products for D&D. There were a lot about the brand manager, i.e. someone who doesn't actually write the content for WotC, talking about the brand. I don't see anything about book releases except that they won't release a Player's Handbook 2 any time soon.
Wow. Ok. Now I understand.

First, you do not have to write the stuff to know what is coming out. That is especially true when you manage the whole brand. As for the quote here it is. Basically he is saying that splat and campaign books outside of the stories (APs) are going to be a rarety (if we see any)
I wouldn’t be surprised if we do some books here and there that pick up things that the fanbase wants in between stories, because of the feedback we’re hearing. But by and large everything we’re delivering is supporting that annual story –and there’s zero plans for a Player’s Handbook 2 any time on the horizon.
. The PHB 2 is used as an example of splat. Complete Divine could have been used instead. Saying that he won't surprised if stand alone books are made, seems to indicate nothing is in the works or planned so far. I do not know if you read a lot of interviews done by WotC folks, but a lot of what they say is subtext. This interview is the clearest so far and just confirms what a lot of people have understood from previous interviews. Like that the FR are for a long period of time the default setting of D&D.

WotC is going to make 1 or 2 APs a year (do you agree disagree so far?) and it will support that AP with its partners who will make minis, video games that share story elements, comics books, DM screens, etc (do you agree disagree?). That is it. Did yo uunderstand a FR campaign setting or gazetteris in the works? A splatbook? A Manual of the Planes, psionics or a MM2? Please share if you read that. All I saw was stories stories, stories. No more books just for books.

Heck, from his comment about just releasing 1 AP a year because people are starting to make their hoem game, we might not see another book until next year.
Now that we’re seeing more, homebrew campaigns get started, maybe that number goes down to one big story a year.
Nothing else has been announced for this year aside from Sword Coast Legends. And that is not PnP RPG content.

Please provide evidence where the APs are both subpar and niche.
Evidence? Like the negatives reviews of Hoard of the Dragon Queen got on ENworld's review section? Like the people saying they do not buy APs and want splat or campaign settings? This thread is evidence. But this sounds like setting up a barre that cannot be met.

This game has been out for 10 months. Not even Pathfinder had any of that stuff 10 months after release, and they straight up ripped everything from the 3.5 books. Calm down, you're being absurdly fatalistic.
Except Paizo released more stuff after 10 months. PF was being supported. I'm not being fatalistic, I'm being realistic. We get the brand manager saying we'll see one or two stories set in the FR a year and not much else in terms of RPG content. It is pretty clear.

Fortunately, this single message board does not constitute the entire gaming community (not to mention if you actually do read that Jon Brazer thread, there's an outpouring of support for 5E). Purely by myself, I've seen much more enthusiasm with actual play, with people going into gaming stores to buy the books, with Adventurer's League, with new players first starting than I ever did with Pathfinder or 4E. Maybe I wasn't quite into the scene then as I am now, but I don't remember Pathfinder getting the news articles that 5E is on CNN and Forbes.
News articles aren't content for D&D. Liking 5e now doesn't mean you won't get tired of it after a year or two because it became repetitive because of lack of new content. A lot of people have said they bought and played 4e until it just was repetitive. Then they moved on. This time it is a different paradigm at play. It is less about the mechanics and more about the support of the game.

The bottom line is this: The game hasn't been out that long. Wizards is hesitant to build up people's expectations, and have been keeping things very close to their chest. PotA was announced, what, a month and half before release? There's plenty of time for more content to be released. Besides, I'm having a hard time believing that you have already exhausted the contents of the three core books already.
If you refuse to see that in the interview the guy that manages the brand is saying that they won't release content for the RPG aside than APs and some web articles, I can really help you. If I were the only one reading this, you might have a point, but the concensus is pretty clear when you read the other posts. Could we be wrong? Sure, but when you add the other interviews, the picture is pretty clear.

Whether just one or two AP a year is a good thing, that might be up to debate, but that is not what you arguing, sadly. To switch editions there needs to be an incentive bigger than newness. Something new becomes old fast these days. Support keeps it fresh.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
My group was discussing this, last week. There are a couple of us that really, really liked the concept of Dark Sun, but never wanted to use it, long term. A 256 page AP would be an easy sell. Spend a six to twelve months playing on Athas, feel like we've really experienced it, then move on. Ditto for most of the other settings. We all agreed that it'd keep us entertained for years to just have one "campaign in a box" set in each of the existing worlds. Honestly, I'd probably even be up for an honest to goodness, deep and tightly coupled "year of Forgotten Realms" if I knew there was other stuff in the pipe.
That would kind of meet my ideal criteria. It's a little similar to what they did with 4e Dark Sun, which was a pretty big hit with one of my groups. I'm not a big buyer of AP's, but most of that is because I'm a tough sell on stories.

The adventures would have to highlight what is special about the settings, though. 4e DS was fun, but I was a little underwhelmed by how it was 4e with a coat of paint much of the time (it didn't feel different enough). I don't want a "generic" FR, I want an FR adventure that could only and ever be an FR adventure, that highlights what makes FR distinctive.

Actually, I could see where ToD could be the perfect "unhappy medium" of being too Realms-specific for people like me, but not satisfying for true Realms fans. It incorporated enough Realms locations that it was hard to decouple, but it didn't actually seem to dig into anything uniquely Realmsian. Instead, it was a generic foe set against very specific scenery.
Yeah, ToD was the first run at an adventure for 5e, so of course it wasn't exactly all that it could be. I hope one of the lessons from ToD is "If we're going to use FR, lets use the heck out of FR, and not just have a generic adventure and a tour of brand identity."
 

Agamon

Adventurer
Paizo is a much smaller company with small company resources. The difference is that the people in charge of those resources, in addition to making money, care about the tabletop game that their customers enjoy. IMHO what good are mega company resources if they aren't being used to support the things the fans want?
Well, nuts. Here I thought I was a fan, but I like video and board games, as well as RPGs. Sucks that they support gamers instead of "fans".

Driving revenue via "the brand" is corporate talk for we don't really what the product is so long as it makes X profit.
You have to understand that this was the PR guy speaking in a Forbes article, not a forum post in reply to ExploderWizard. Of course it's all corporate talk. But even Mearls and Crawford have been saying since playtest that the idea to keep the game healthy is derive income from the brand instead splat-o-the-month. Profit keeps the lights on, so yeah, it's important.
 

S_Dalsgaard

Villager
Maybe a bit unrelated, but why does WotC get such a hard time from some people for concentrating on one setting, while it doesn't seem to bother the same people, that Paizo only publish one setting?
 
What I find interesting about your comments is that they represent exactly one of the things that caused Paizo to spin off on their own in the first place: that 4E couldn't tell the kind of stories they wanted to tell.
Probably had a lot more to do with losing Dragon/Dungeon, no OGL at launch, and the toxic first version of the GSL. When presented with the choice of either continuing to use the OGL, or never being able to use it again and give WotC the right to torpedo your products at their whim, Paizo made the obvious choice.

WotC's method makes for a particular flavour of D&D and varies in its success, and I don't think there's much chance the company is going to change its approach: they stuck to the formula through 4E and it looks like they're sticking to it now.
4e and 5e are extremely different games, almost diametrically opposed in some ways. But, in spite of that, both are quite capable of being useful in telling a very wide variety of stories. 4e because it's a robust enough system to handle a wide variety of character concepts, parties, challenges, campaign pacing, tones & styles - 5e because it empowers the DM to change the game all he needs to when he wants to deviate from it's default party composition, pacing, tone & style. Contrast that with 3.5, with it's RAW and balance issues constraining what the DM can do with his campaign (not that Paizo hasn't tuned Pathfinder to their style of stories, of course - the OGL gave them the freedom to do that).

Like it or not, their audience is, I think, different than Wizards' in many ways. They can afford to take a few more risks.
No doubt about it. Paizo has banked a lot of good will with their fans.

ICv2 rankings. And I'm not talking about sells, but support. By stillbirth I ment the support the edition gets, not sells,
The AL Encounters, Expeditions & Epics organized play programs seem like support.
 
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Harry Dresden

Villager
Maybe a bit unrelated, but why does WotC get such a hard time from some people for concentrating on one setting, while it doesn't seem to bother the same people, that Paizo only publish one setting?
Well Paizo only created the one setting while Wizards has several that are already established.

There are fans of the other settings and they would like to see them supported.
 
I don't see it that way. It's true, Hasbro has more resources, and it's true, even WotC as a division has more resources than Paizo. But game for game, Paizo has fifty people and D&D has 15, and I don't for a second think those 15 people don't care deeply about the desktop game. I think they do. They aren't corporate robots; they are gamers just like us. One of them is tasked, however, with driving the brand and he's doing the best he can, I think.
I think you missed my earlier clarification. I think the D&D team does care about the game, they are just not the ones making the decisions.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Maybe a bit unrelated, but why does WotC get such a hard time from some people for concentrating on one setting, while it doesn't seem to bother the same people, that Paizo only publish one setting?
Because Paizo only has the one setting. If they had a half-dozen in their pocket but only published for one, I'm sure there would be complaints. But because WotC has 40 years worth of material in their archives, there's always that one person who thinks that one thing they like should be supported, even if it makes no financial or creative sense to do so. And because WotC doesn't... the only reasonable explanation is that "they don't care about their fans" and "they don't want my money". Thus they are a horrible company. But for some reason still important enough that people keep hanging around week after week to chastize them for it, rather than getting on with their gaming lives being happy with the game they do play.
 

tyrlaan

Villager
We are a bunch with a great sense of entitlement. I am not sure if perhaps this sense of entitlement is worse for the hobby than whatever lacking license scheme or production schedule they might have.

How? Well, we spend so much effort complaining and bad-mouthing WotC over how they don't give us whatever the speaker feels we are entitled to - imagine how that looks to folks who are new to the game!
I see what you're saying, entitlement abounds, but there I feel there is a fine line here.

D&D is a product. As a consumer, I think it's very reasonable to expect a certain level of service or content from a product. They have set certain precedents over the years regarding the quality, content, and delivery of their product. Specific to 5e and OGL, they've alluded to an impending license, so it's not unrealistic to expect one. Specific to 5e and options, the game has a strong precedent for providing many, so it's not unrealistic to expect more options to be provided.

My point here is that there's a certain amount of expectation that's completely reasonable. Note, I call it expectation. They don't have to do it and I don't have to like it if they don't.

I'd also argue that someone new to the game isn't coming to forums such as these until some time after adopting the hobby. What's discussed here is often well past entry-level topics. I find it analogous to when I go to the Diablo3 forums and can barely read the posts because of the amount of acronyms and nicknames for terms the community has come up with...and I'm actively playing that game!

I guess what I'm getting at is that our kvetching on this forum is probably unlikely to influence new players.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
D&D is a product. As a consumer, I think it's very reasonable to expect a certain level of service or content from a product. They have set certain precedents over the years regarding the quality, content, and delivery of their product. Specific to 5e and OGL, they've alluded to an impending license, so it's not unrealistic to expect one. Specific to 5e and options, the game has a strong precedent for providing many, so it's not unrealistic to expect more options to be provided..
True. But WotC has made it rather plain what their current paradigm is. It definitely has changed from what they've done in the past, and thus they've been exceedingly up front about it. The issue is that people are unwilling to believe them as to their reason for doing so, or because that reason goes against what they personally want, they levy insults about the character, intelligence, or business acumen about the company. Basically, many people are being real dicks about it. They aren't getting what they want, so they make sure everyone within earshot knows about it.

If all this was people stating preferences with no moral outrage or making value judgments about WotC or the people in the D&D department, we wouldn't be having these conversations.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
I have no issue with a brand focus on D&D. I don't have enough time to buy, play and use every conceivable D&D book. I do have the time to play video games, watch TV and see movies though. I'll ask a question: how many people have bought an Iron Man comic book in the last decade on a regular basis? Did you see Iron Man (and its sequels), The Avengers or plan on seeing Age of Ultron?

The difference between the The Brand and the The Game is the difference between Iron Man as a brand and Iron Man as a comic book. The Brand includes underoos, movies, video games, and more. That doesn't mean that Marvel stops making Iron Man comic books, but it does mean that they have somebody to look after those other things. And saying that Iron Man isn't a comic book anymore isn't wrong either, because if you've never interacted with an Iron Man comic book then the only thing you know about Iron Man is the movie so to you Iron Man is a movie.

Or how about Star Wars? Sure the movies are what people think of, but Star Wars isn't movies and hasn't been in decades. Star Wars is also video games, toys, comics, books, hell anything you stick Darth Vader's face on!

Wanting to apply D&D to more than just a niche game in a niche market isn't a bad thing. It does mean that some guy is going to talk about things other than the TTRPG, because that isn't all D&D is anymore. Don't get me wrong, I'd love more D&D stuff, but the people that run the game aren't stupid. They need to expansion into more than just the game, I mean don't you want to buy t-shirts, or mugs, or kiddies birthday party plates with D&D stuff on them?
 
How are spell cards, DM screens or a virtual table top content? Or new content to be more precise. They are platforms for content. Nothing wrong with that, it just isn't a new class, a new monster, details on the sundering or a new setting. Those are content.
I was talking about the APs to be honest. There's tons of new monsters in those, PotA is basically a new setting, and they've given a bunch of expansion stuff for players out for free already.

First, you do not have to write the stuff to know what is coming out.
No, but you do need permission to talk about that stuff. Do you honestly think that everyone at WotC is just sitting on their hands doing nothing?

WotC is going to make 1 or 2 APs a year (do you agree disagree so far?)
They've said as much, so I agree.

and it will support that AP with its partners who will make minis, video games that share story elements, comics books, DM screens, etc (do you agree disagree?). That is it. Did yo uunderstand a FR campaign setting or gazetteris in the works? A splatbook? A Manual of the Planes, psionics or a MM2? Please share if you read that. All I saw was stories stories, stories. No more books just for books.
I agree with this as well, but I fail to understand how this is a bad thing. People have already proven that they don't want to buy splat books. The failure of 4E over time and the steady decline of Pathfinder has proven that. When people look back at the original D&D, or even 3.5, do they talk about how cool MM3 was, or how awesome that one random pamphlet about the Planes was? No, they talk about the Red Hand of Doom, Castle Ravenloft, Tomb of Horrors. Stories are how D&D thrives.

Heck, from his comment about just releasing 1 AP a year because people are starting to make their hoem game, we might not see another book until next year. Nothing else has been announced for this year aside from Sword Coast Legends. And that is not PnP RPG content.
Like I said, PotA wasn't announced until a month beforehand. Do you really think they're all just sitting on their hands?

Evidence? Like the negatives reviews of Hoard of the Dragon Queen got on ENworld's review section? Like the people saying they do not buy APs and want splat or campaign settings? This thread is evidence. But this sounds like setting up a barre that cannot be met.
Yes, Hoard got bad reviews. Rise of Tiamat got pretty good reviews though, and PotA has gotten great reviews. This one thread does not evidence make, especially since this thread is split about 50/50 towards both sides.

Except Paizo released more stuff after 10 months. PF was being supported. I'm not being fatalistic, I'm being realistic. We get the brand manager saying we'll see one or two stories set in the FR a year and not much else in terms of RPG content. It is pretty clear.
Pathfinder Core Rulebook was released in August 2009. The bestiary was released in November. The next book (that wasn't part of an Adventure Path, since we're apparently disregarding those) was the Game Mastery Guide, released in July of 2010, nearly a full year later (Although to be honest, this shouldn't count because it's really just the DM's guide released much later than it should have been). Also did you actually read the full interview?

"So it’s two stories a year right now. That might go down or up, depending on what the fan base wants." He then says that it might go down since they're seeing more homebrew stories.

"A class would be another example. Mike Mearls and I always like to talk about if we do a pirate adventure, and add a sea-faring class and Swashbuckler this and that."
"I wouldn’t be surprised if we do some books here and there that pick up things that the fanbase wants in between stories, because of the feedback we’re hearing."

He's not talking about not releasing any books at all. He's talking about making sure all of the books and classes and such are tied to the stories that they're telling.

News articles aren't content for D&D. Liking 5e now doesn't mean you won't get tired of it after a year or two because it became repetitive because of lack of new content. A lot of people have said they bought and played 4e until it just was repetitive. Then they moved on. This time it is a different paradigm at play. It is less about the mechanics and more about the support of the game.
Yeah, and 4E had metric craptons of material for it. Obviously that model doesn't work.

If you refuse to see that in the interview the guy that manages the brand is saying that they won't release content for the RPG aside than APs and some web articles
Again, I would love to see some direct quotes from them saying it. Because reading between the lines or looking for the "subtext" is not how discussion works.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Pure speculation!

You have no idea if WotC care more or less for their product, fans or brand than Paizo. Paizo publish books to make money, and do it while enjoying it as well. They aren't a social service catering to every whim of their fan base. WotC is beginning to sound more like a made up Evil Empire by the vocalists on the internet, whom by no means, are those that represent the fan base.
I think it's less a question of beating up on WotC than it is beating up on Hasbro. After all, it was WotC that saved D&D from bankruptcy limbo with its revenues from Magic. It was WotC that lightened up TSR's online policies and offered some good content for free on the web. It's the people at WotC who pushed the OGL that fostered a lot of 3rd party entries into the industry. But as time has marched on and Hasbro has impressed its culture upon WotC, the company seems to be pretty different. I think they've lost a lot of their agility and vision - would WotC be able to stick its neck out for TSR now? I doubt it. Under Hasbro's control, rather than balancing serving the hobby with running a business, they're serving the shareholders who care little for hobby table-top gaming. That's what megacorps do in contrast to entrepreneurs who are passionate for an interest and think they can make a living serving it.
 

Staffan

Adventurer
I am not really sure how. At the moment, they have small-company resources working on the game itself. In a small company, they'd have small-company resources. How would that be better?
Because currently, they have small-company resources shackled by large-company requirements on ROI, decision-making, TPS reports, and so on. It's like something having the strength of a pixie and the dexterity of an ancient dragon.

In a smaller, more focused, company, the boss can say "Sure, my team of 10 people cost a million dollars per year in salary and benefits, but I make 1.1 million off them, so we're good." In a larger, more diversified company there's probably a boss higher up saying "Why should I pay those people a million per year to bring in 1.1 million, when I can put two more people each on My Little Pony and Transformers, which will make me the same 1.1 million extra, and lay the rest off?"
 
Also, I have to encourage everyone to actually read the entire article. The quotes from Morrus are taken somewhat out of context, and the full article gives a much better feel for what he's talking about.
 
Because currently, they have small-company resources shackled by large-company requirements on ROI, decision-making, TPS reports, and so on. It's like something having the strength of a pixie and the dexterity of an ancient dragon.

In a smaller, more focused, company, the boss can say "Sure, my team of 10 people cost a million dollars per year in salary and benefits, but I make 1.1 million off them, so we're good." In a larger, more diversified company there's probably a boss higher up saying "Why should I pay those people a million per year to bring in 1.1 million, when I can put two more people each on My Little Pony and Transformers, which will make me the same 1.1 million extra, and lay the rest off?"
This is exactly right. D&D is a blip to Hasbro, almost not even worth mentioning, so the fact that they're getting as much attention as they are from the press is rather astounding. One Transformers movie has likely made all that D&D has ever made in history.
 

Kramodlog

Adventurer
Maybe a bit unrelated, but why does WotC get such a hard time from some people for concentrating on one setting, while it doesn't seem to bother the same people, that Paizo only publish one setting?
Golarion is new-ish. Plus each AP is generally as its own flavor. Iron God was technology meets fantasy. Jade Regeant was the oriental adventure. Reign of Winter was planet/plane hopping (plus visite Earth!). Carrion Crown was the horror AP. Etc, etc.

So far with the FR APs they've revisited adventures already done and in a generic way.
 

tyrlaan

Villager
True. But WotC has made it rather plain what their current paradigm is. It definitely has changed from what they've done in the past, and thus they've been exceedingly up front about it. The issue is that people are unwilling to believe them as to their reason for doing so, or because that reason goes against what they personally want, they levy insults about the character, intelligence, or business acumen about the company. Basically, many people are being real dicks about it. They aren't getting what they want, so they make sure everyone within earshot knows about it.

If all this was people stating preferences with no moral outrage or making value judgments about WotC or the people in the D&D department, we wouldn't be having these conversations.
Agree with you completely. If my comments came across stronger than intended, my bad.
 

Mercule

Adventurer
True. But WotC has made it rather plain what their current paradigm is.
Actually, they haven't. Maybe I just missed it, though. If so, please help:

- Are they going to do anything besides adventures, for the foreseeable future? (I think they've answered this one.)

- Are the Realms currently exclusive, or just primary, in terms of resource/effort?

- For Realms-based adventures, will they be easily portable to other settings? Will they continue to have conversion guides?

- Are there deliberate plans to support another setting, or are they waiting to let the Realms run its course (which probably means some version of sales dropping)?

- If there are deliberate plans to support another setting, do they know which one? (I expect they don't know which, and am conditionally okay with that.)

- If there are plans to support another setting, is there a rough time frame -- there is a huge difference between "either early or late 2016" and "either 2018 or 2019"?

- How does the D&D "brand" differ from the Forgotten Realms "brand", outside the TTRPG?

- When are rules for psionics going to show up?
 

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