Sylrae's Feedback, Wants, and Hopes for 5e FR.

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So, this isn't a forum I come to much these days, and I'm one of the people who wasn't satisfied with 4e. I also wasn't a fan of the Spellplagued Realms. And the purpose of this thread is not to generate discussion with other forumgoers so much as put this feedback somewhere that the D&D Devs can see it. Now that that's out of the way:

Quality of Content


The new team seems to be listening to customer feedback more, and they seem to be steering this game and its settings in good directions. The content is starting to look much better to me than it has in the past 4 years, and the Forgotten Realms setting is looking like it's going in a hopeful direction.

Menzoberranzan and Elminster's Realms have shown us that the new team can design for the realms in a way that can be quite satisfying. I would say I'm cautiously optimistic about 5e Realms. I'm hoping that the new team can go far enough to fix the setting to make me once again interested in new Forgotten Realms products, and go beyond that, releasing many products I will once again want to use in games.

Quality of Publishing, Printing and Production


However, I'm personally still concerned about the printing. If things continue in the 4e publishing style (low pagecount, high whitespace, big font, (low wordcount), high price, no PDFs), then even if the content is great, I won't shell out for all the setting books, only the ones on topics of special interest to me, and the other ones will be added to my "pick it up if I see it for a good price" list. - Which puts it behind the "2e and 3e books I want that I didn't get when in print - find these on eBay" list. And obviously, they don't profit from that list, because I'm having to buy used.

I *Want* to want to buy them all. But I have that part of my brain that tells me "This product is overpriced! The pagecount is being inflated to try to trick you into thinking its a good amount of content!" At which point I stop seeing things from the perspective of "Ooh! Well written FR content! Buy it all!" and start thinking "Woah now, that's crazy expensive. Do you *REALLY* need that particular book? Look at what it's about and skim it. Is it one of your favorite topics in the Realms? Is it important to your current campaign? If not, you probably don't want it for that price. Check Amazon, or Ebay, or the 'used' shelf downtown, and wait until you see it for like $15." As a result, instead of buying most or all of the products they put out in a year, I'm likely to buy 1-3 products they put out in a year.

I acknowledge that the new team has a better direction, and therefore I'm more likely to want the books, but I do worry that there simply won't be enough content to justify the pricetag, and then they will cut the product line short because they're not making the sales they want.

And I should note: it's not like I'm saying "I will buy no more than $150 in forgotten realms content in a year." It's not a price issue. It's a price/content issue. If the writing is good, the setting interests me again, instead of offending me, and the amount of content in each book for the price is good, I will have no problems dropping $500, or even $1000 a year into getting the content they put out.

If I'm having the reaction mentioned above, I will likely spend no more than $150 a year. But that's not a matter of budget, or a matter of 'is this content capable of profit', it's a matter of 'cutting corners and production costs so much that we're losing alot of sales'.

I suppose $150 a year is more than the $60 or so they've gotten from me in the past 4 years, but its still nothing compared to the $1700 or so that I spent on 3e products ($900 or so being FR content), and the $400 or $500 I have in 2e FR products (which I bought on eBay because WotC wasn't still selling them), and the $200 in PDFs I bought on DTRPG before WotC pulled them all, and (once again not creating any good will) cut access to purchased pdfs to the customers who already paid for them. Most of the 3e stuff I have, I bought back in highschool - when I had much less of a disposable income.

These are the things WotC currently does that largely affect my purchasing of their new stuff.


Low Wordcount/Price


This is what affects my purchase of the hard copies the most. Small Page Counts, with Large Fonts and Big Headers and Too Much Whitespace, all contribute to the feeling that the 128 page book is quite overpriced at $30. Add 100 more pages and the book would be worth $35.

No PDFs


PDFs are what I want to bring to a game. I used to bring a stack of 50 lbs of books to games with me. It was annoying then; it's unreasonable now. I'm basically going to always have my laptop at games if I'm GMing. If I'm a player, I may just have my Tablet. I don't want to carry a stack of books with me across town once a week anymore. It's hard on the books, and quite annoying for me.

PDF search functions save a ton of time during a game, looking things up.

PDF access is basically essential. I know many people who just don't purchase physical books anymore at all.

No Purchaseable PDF+Book Bundles.


When I want a book, I generally want both the hardcopy and the digital copy; though often the prices available for this are outrageous. They charge 1.5x the cost of the book, or in some cases even double, to get the physical and digital copy. Bundle the PDFs with the Books. What would be set you above the other companies: You buy the book, it comes with unlimited access to the PDF. Period. What would be tolerable? 110% cover price for a book/PDF bundle.

Web Subscription


While I don't mind a magazine subscription, the idea of paying monthly to rent access to materials, and have no access to it once my subscription is up, has very little appeal. I want to purchase packets of material, and then have access to the material forever.
Additionally, often games are not at hosted at someone's home, and not everywhere has access to wifi.

What Products Would I Want?


Adventure Paths and Regional books are what I mostly want. With an 80% setting 20% crunch ratio or less (90% setting, 10% crunch would be good too). Menzoberranzan was fantastic. I haven't gotten to read though Elminster's Forgotten Realms yet, but from the quick skimming I have done it looks to be equally good. Neverwinter was too crunch heavy for a setting book.

If they make a new FRCS, I hope its only a 64 or 96 page gazeteer, with broad information covering the races, and maybe a list of gods, but like no real specifics on the individual countries. FRCS3e was just thorough enough that you could run a region without its sourcebook. Don't do that if you want to sell books for individual regions.

Give me a book that's just 'Moonsea'. Another that's just 'The Moonshae Isles', 'The Sea of Fallen Stars', 'Cormanthor', 'The Dalelands', 'The Western Heartlands', 'The Sword Coast', 'Waterdeep', 'Myth Drannor', 'Neverwinter', 'Sshamath', 'Calimport', 'Phlan', 'Silverymoon', 'Skullport'. Much like in 1e/2e. You give me a book for each country and each major city, with a minimum of game mechanics, alot of detail, a map, and covering multiple time periods, and I will likely buy them all.

And give me adventure paths, in the same basic format as the Pathfinder ones, with adventure paths generally sticking to one region, size 8-10 font, a decent amount of material, and only as many maps and statblocks as is actually necessary, and there's a good chance I'll buy many or all of those too.

I'm hopeful about the regional design I've heard a little about, and the fact that they are planning to fix much of the realms. I'm hopeful about the undoing of the retcons introduced in the spellplagued realms. Some of those retcons are a dealbreaker for me. I want Faerunian elves back, and I won't settle for 'Eladrin' fey and Wood Elves. I want my toys back, basically. Half-Dragons, Elves, Dragonkin, countries, gods, etc.

I want the forgotten realms to be a heavily detailed setting once again. One that feels lived-in and alive and vibrant, with things going on in many places, and with a highly detailed history of many regions which I can draw from as a GM. Much like it felt back in 2005

What sort of Release Schedule would I want to see?


It really depends on how relevant my older books are. If the 5e realms are very similar to the 3e, 2e, and 1e realms, and I can easily supplement the available material with 1, 2, and 3e books, then a sparse release schedule (1-2 hardcover books a year, with regular articles) would be sufficient. If the world is still vastly different due to the timejump - and the content I already have doesn't do me much good when running a FR game, that sort of schedule would be nowhere near frequent enough.

A good speed would be like Paizo's Golarion release schedule. A 96-page softcover book each month on something setting related, in addition to modules and adventures, and a hardcover maybe every 3 or 4 months.

The modules can include 16 pages of unique monsters, and 16 page articles. Like articles on a deity, or a town, or a faction.

D&D 5e


I'm not convinced that I will switch to 5e as my ruleset (though I'm still intrigued and curious, and I will probably pick up the core rules, if nothing else), but it's quite possible I will buy the FR books even without any interest in the game system. The more the edition and the setting are separate beasts, the more likely they will be picked up by people who are not using that edition.

Not to mention, it increases the value of the books to the people who only read the novels, or the people I know who are not interested in switching away from Pathfinder, or FATE, or Unisystem, or RuneQuest as their system.

The right approach to settings could open your setting sales to markets outside the D&D5e players.
I agree with most of what Sylrae has posted.  I am a lapsed customer for the same reasons Sylrae is, the same sort of things will bring me back.
Yes, I agree as well. +1 to this.
Truth be told, the "FR" series of accessories in 1/2e were some of the best gameworld content at the time. I would love a set of inexpensive booklets like that brought back. I would also love to see Zakhara (Al Qadim) and Kara Tur get some FR & WotC love in 5e. An actual Toril atlas of the entire planet would kick some major ace as well, especially if it included some of the unexplored lands that were mentioned in the 3e FR setting and Maztica as well.
I prefer 2nd Edition AD&D. But I have played basic, 1E, 2E, 3.5, & 4E, and found all to be fun. IF IT'S D&D, I'LL PLAY IT, NO MATTER THE EDITION. Just roll some dice.
*dusts off the account*

I agree completely with what Sylrae has written. More words per page if keeping the current price or lowering the price would be two main things that would bring me back to buying rulebooks.
Sylrae has written a good article. Critical point are
1) The feeling of having good sourcebook coverage of the realms in the timeperiod one play in. I like lore complexity
2) Undoing the damage of spellplague + timejump, that is
2a) Realm geography there can be recognized and were I can benefit from my huge sourcebook collection
2b) Realms there create feelings of nostalgia for old campaigns
2c) positive atmosphere
2d) I want the gods brought back
3) Believable npc and organisation motivations. (hint: I like complexity and i see the world as consisting of a large amount of graytones from black to white. I do not see it as black or white)

High Frequency Release schedule of regional sourcebooks with high lore content is a need to have if the 5e FR realms is to compete with my huge collection of 1e FR + 2e FR + 3e FR + 3.5e FR
Undoing the damage of spellplague + timejump, that is

They have said they will not be doing a reset FYI, but they are mitigating the damage.
I want the gods brought back

Yeah, the way they mashed the pantheons together was unsatisfying and didn't make that much sense.
Believable npc and organisation motivations. (hint: I like complexity and i see the world as consisting of a large amount of graytones from black to white. I do not see it as black or white)

I hadn't mentioned that, but yes, that's one of the big things that used to be appealing about the Realms.

Realm geography there can be recognized and were I can benefit from my huge sourcebook collection

The Important part of this is "I can benefit from my huge sourcebook collection".
High Frequency Release schedule of regional sourcebooks with high lore content is a need to have if the 5e FR realms is to compete with my huge collection of 1e FR + 2e FR + 3e FR + 3.5e FR

The more I can benefit from my existing sourcebooks, the less frequent their release schedule needs to be and the less they have to be able to compete with my 1e, 2e, 3e, 3.5e FR books. I started with 3.0, but I was interested enough that I hunted down many of the 2e & 1e books on eBay.
There's no way they can compete with it withouth a tremendously fast release schedule. So the less they HAVE to compete with it, likely the better it is for them.

The Forgotten Realms are dead to me.

Nuking them in 4E was a colossal mistake, and throwing another nuke on the crater isn't going to help things.

Reset to 1E or no sale IMO.

I was just going over my 2nd ed FR books as I am running "The Return of Randal Morn" series for one of my 5E platest groups.  Gods those are some good books!  Even the FR campaign book for 3E was good but the sheer amount of info in the 2nd ed books is astonishing.  My favorite book when I was in 8th grade was "Aurora's Whole Realms catalogue".  I just really liked the idea that they took the time to make a Sears and Roebucks for the Realms even if we never used most of it.

In short I agree with OP! 
Excellent post, particularly on product value and setting vs crunch.  Part of me wants to pick up the Feywild & similar books, but there's just so much 4e rules material in them that I won't do it.

I homebrew my own adventures, so adventure paths do nothing for me.  I also homebrew my campaign settting, but I love to read setting books, though there's a balance to be struck between too much and too little.  The 2e FR sourcebooks were good; boxed sets were often too detailed, particularly anything to do with Waterdeep. 
I totally agree!

From my experience if a group wants to play a D&D game all they need is 1 PHB, DMG, and a MM.  Thats only 3 books to play a D&D game.  However if the book is worth its wieght, then most players will buy a PHB, the group will buy the supplements, and maybe even 2-3 sets.  Thats a lot books. 

However if we are nickled and dimed, we can always snag a torrent for the few pages of content that we wanted.