Dragon 391 - D&D Play Spotlight: Summer Shows and Gamma World

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Dragon 391
D&D Play Spotlight: Summer Shows and Gamma World
by Chris Tulach

Another excellent convention season for D&D. Two big ones—Gen Con Indy and PAX Prime—just concluded in the past month, and I’d like to take a little time this month to give them a proper wrap-up.

Talk about this Article here.

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"for each season of D&D Encounters, we’ll allow players to use the two Essentials books for character creation, plus one or two other products that we want to spotlight for the season"

So am I reading this correctly?  You will NOT be allowed to use the three core books for D&D Encounters ever again, barring them wanting to spotlight them?

That seems to be the current intent, yes.  

I haven't had a lot of time to talk to Chris in detail lately (he was a hard man to catch at GenCon!) - but keep in mind that the focus for Essentials is to draw in lapsed or casual gamers. 

This, in my opinion, also includes drawing in DMs from the same pool.

By limiting the rules options for new/lapsed/casual players, Essentials also keeps the barrier to play lowered.  A player doesn't need to worry about which one of a few dozen races and classes to play, their options are much more restricted, but with that, also much simpler.

Further, for a DM who may not have time to be familiar with every option, they can pretty quickly learn the difference between what the different fighters can do, what the powers for a Cleric are, etc.

We've been told, previously, by Chris that future D&D Organized Play programs will have a return to "drinking from the firehose" and allow all options - much like Living Forgotten Realms does.

Hope that helps!

Here's a recent forum post from Chris on the matter: http://community.wizards.com/dungeonsanddragons/go/thread/view/91301/25579337/DD_Encounters_(Season_3):_Keep_on_the_Borderlands?post_id=462487281#462487281

(wouldn't link correctly, you'll have to copy/paste).

WolfStar76 Community Advocate (SVCL) for D&D Organized Play, Avalon Hill, and the DCI/WPN LFR Community Manager DDi Guide

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ahh, links.
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Wait, what? The Character Builder doesn't have Essentials Characters so we're just supposed to play with the cards in the meantime? I played a Goliath Barbarian last week because I like to play something I can make with the books and tools I have available and that I would want to play, not what's leftover if I come in later than everyone else. Please tell me this 'rule' has changed since that post.

EDIT: I've just read the end of the article as well as the thread in the Encounters Group on Character Creation Guidelines. Does this mean that I'm okay as long as the DM is okay with it? He'd already approved my character beforehand.

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There is a real balance between being friendly to new players and isolating demographics. I am positive that a perpetual "just Essentials" is going to alienate the gaming community. The incredibly driven and pro-4E LFR/RPGA crowd will increasingly find themselves getting no love from WotC. The natural reaction (which has been playing out since about March/April) is for these players to find alternative living campaigns where they can play the more complex and intricate game.

Chris' post assumes that these other options (LFR, which is not WotC supported) and something in 2011 will be viable options for these players. There is no guarantee. In the meantime, we have a lot of hardcore players that aren't feeling the love. In our area, gamers are going from running an incredible amount of LFR (1-2 per day at a single store) to running 1 LFR adventure a week and then running games from other RPG living campaigns (Shadowrun, Pathfinder, Legend of the Five Rings, etc.) or running home games (Dark Sun, Eclipse Phase, etc.). This truly takes business away from WotC. These gamers are not promoting WotC, are not buying WotC products, are dropping DDI, etc.

Now, maybe that's the plan. Maybe it is from a business standpoint preferable to lose the old grognards and try to build a new community. I disagree with that, however. When I look at the players from both demographics I don't see great differences, other than the LFR crowd being much more driven and capable at running cons, running games, volunteering, promoting, building community, and so on. Those are desirable qualities and I hate to see them move to non-WotC campaigns.

I don't really get the problem with allowing both types in organized play. WotC says it is all one game, so why not promote that? In theory, WotC would want to sell old inventory, would want more game options, all while showcasing Essentials and enticing existing players to transition. This policy makes it sound as if all the old books are being completely dumped and forgotten, and I can't understand a reason for that.

Lastly, Encounters is something relatively new. It would not be shocking to find that numbers would drop after some time or that the lighter play style results in people coming in and out of the program and not being dependable in terms of bringing in revenue. Banking on one demographic at the exclusion of another could be bad for business. Right now you have LFR and home play demographics feeling left out. We are adding core/old 4E players to that list. It isn't too late to chart a different more inclusive course.

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I don't really get the problem with allowing both types in organized play. WotC says it is all one game, so why not promote that?

This is the primary reason I won't be enforcing the Essentials-only rule in my Encounters games. I've heard too many people talking about 4.5E and other nonsense and I'm not going to feed the myth that Essentials-builds are any different than the new Psionics options or making a Beastmaster Ranger.

Plus we've barely been getting more than a table of people for the past month so I'm not going to turn away somebody who wants to play when it's going to mean we won't have enough people to run one group.