Supporting All Previous Editions and Settings

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You know, I feel strongly that WotC should ALWAYS support all previous editions and settings.  I would love to hear your thoughts for some ways to convince WotC that this will be feasible.  Can it really be that hard to write a few new adventures for every old edition EVERY YEAR, plus a few supplements for settings?  I am sure talent can be drawn from the fans to fill EVERY NICHE.  I would suggest doing this under a spirit and marketing plan of "to promote gaming".  Or more specificially, the kind of table-top RPG's these are, which I think the industry should recognize has enough value to be passed down to future generations.  Especially with so much computer gaming now, and in a world of standardization and globalization, D&D is one thing that teaches people creative, independent, and cooperative thinking.  It is invaluable, along with the role-playing skills to be picked up.
I agree they absolutely should. However, there are good business cases as to why this would not be an ideal strategy but more importantly, the MBA suits hate things like this, they always want a streamlined grand vision of product development so it's unlikely this will happen sadly.
Can it really be that hard to write a few new adventures for every old edition EVERY YEAR, plus a few supplements for settings?

I believe it really can be that hard.

I am sure talent can be drawn from the fans to fill EVERY NICHE.

Now that is an excellent idea. There's no reason not to use your fanbase to create (and proof) conversion notes. Thus downloadable stats (for every edition) could be available for all products.

Can it really be that hard to write a few new adventures for every old edition EVERY YEAR, plus a few supplements for settings?

I believe it really can be that hard.

I am sure talent can be drawn from the fans to fill EVERY NICHE.

Now that is an excellent idea. There's no reason not to use your fanbase to create (and proof) conversion notes. Thus downloadable stats (for every edition) could be available for all products.




What do think would make the adventures so hard?  Issuing them in pdf form shouldn't be too difficult, and I know a lot of DM's write many extra adventures every year.
I'm just frustrated that, even though they issued the 2e reprints, they are not advertising them the way that the 1e & 3.5 were. Since they expanded the reprints past the 3 core books for these two editions, I would love to see 2e hardcover reprints of the box set materials for some of the settings that they all seem to agree were one of the best parts of 2e.

Just roll some dice.

 

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They really should be cranking out adventures for all editions, non-stop. Besides rulebooks, people will buy those. Especially if they print them plus PDF distribution.
My personal hope is that wotc decides to convert adventure modules ( 3rd & 4th ed.) to AD&D format and sell them @ D&Dclassics.com as well as produce new material for the Advanced D&D game. Since the systems of AD&D are so backward compatable they would be no real need to convert much between the editions of the AD&D system. A reprint is a nice gesture, production of product though is a surefire way to keep me as a customer as well as others like me who are long time players of the game. I suppose what I am asking for is contunual support for the AD&D game line. Ya, I'm dreaming.. Cry
 
    
I think the problem is (as has been pointed out many times) money. WotC is a corporation that is owned by Hasbro. And no matter how passionately the game designers are about their product, the corporation wants one thing and one thing only: money.

So while it seems like a fantastic thing to have multiple editions supported with adventures and supplements and other things, it doesn't really work within the corporate environment.

D&D has always been a great game. And since I started playing in 1981, I've played through most of the rulesets. I've enjoyed each iteration more than the previous one. But with each, I've seen people decided to stick with the "old" and let the rest go on with the "new" in terms of the game. I have friends that still play 2e regularly. And others that stuck with the 3.x rules. And now, I am sticking with 4E because it is the version of rules that I've enjoyed the most and has given me the best tool set to accomplish what I want in terms of building a world for the characters.

With each edition change, the corporation knows it will lose players. It is inevitable. The "gamble" they take is that the new edition will gain more players that they will lose. But they can typically do this because the new edition is the "official" edition and it is supported by the staff and will have all new kinds of "fun crunchy bits" and it will be supported with all of their branding of products and whatnot. All the people of the "old edition" get is what is already out. No chance of new material of any sort and no support from the staff.

As I look back on each of the major "iterations" of D&D, they all did basically the same thing. There was the initial release of the core products so everyone could start playing. And then adventures were written and released. Then supplements with new classes/races/items/etc. And more new stuff was released that made variations on the core rules. They added and tweaked and gave alternatives and so on. The game built up and up and up with more and more and more "stuff" for it. Then, someone got the idea to make a "new edition" that "fixes" all of the "problems" of the "old edition" simply and cleanly. (I used all of those quotations to emphasise my sarcasm that there aren't necessarily problems that need fixing). This was especially apparent in the release of 3.0 when WotC picked up the game from TSR. But then, 3.5 came along about 3 years later and even that was replaced by 4E in 2008. Some would say that Essentials was "4.5E" or even a completely new game (though I disagree completely) and that was in 2010 (I think...). But with 3.x and 4E you saw the same pattern of "core books", "extra stuff", "revisions", "more stuff", and "replacement with a new version".

The problem that I see is that the corporation is scrambling to keep the licensed product going in a market that is rapidly moving away from non-computer games. I think it bites, but I know that this is where things are going. Consider how long 1e/2e ran (for those that don't know, those editions were largely the same at the core of the rules). In late 2000, 3.0 hit the market. But I was at GenCon in 2007 when they made the official announcement of the release of 4E. So 3.0 only got 8 years total. And that is if you combine the 3.0 and 3.5 versions into one "edition" (lovingly called 3.x by many). So in summer 2008 I'm buying 4E books. And then, about 4 years later, in 2012, the announcement of DnD Next hits the public. There isn't an official release date, but most people guess it will be in 2014 in time for GenCon. So if you are generous and say that 4E ran from 2008 to 2014, that's only 6 years. I see a trend of shorter and shorter "editions" going on.

I realize that I'm rambling in my rant here. Overall, I don't expect DnD Next to last more than 5 or 6 years. I hope I'm wrong, but I would be surprised if I am. And then Next will likely lead into whatever they call 6th edition... Etc, etc. Sadly, I think the best thing that could happen to the D&D game license is that Hasbro decides it is no longer profitable and they drop it, hopefully selling it to a company that can focus on just making it a game again instead of a "marketed brand". I know that the TSR days were not well managed, but they sure kept the game going a lot longer than anyone else has...
Skwyd, Just so you are aware and it is made public to D&D fans TSR lives. Ernie Gygax and Tim Kask have recently rebuilt TSR. Currently the company produces Gygax Magazine and not much else as far as I know. The important thing is TSR is alive and it is the same ole' people thus far. Frank Mentzer and Tim Kask also have a gaming company called Eldrich Enterprises. Larry Elmore is working with Paizo for a production of his Campaign world. Illistrated by Elmore himself. I do not personally believe that TTRPG's have seen the Last of TSR or the legends of The Dungeons and Dragons game. Maybe wotc will put the D&D game back in the hands of it's creators after Hasbro deams it a loss and Niche product. Then the worm will surely turn. Ya, I can dream...
Let's not confuse things. A new company has purchased the TSR name, because Wizards chose to drop ownership of that brand. Even if Ernie and Tim chose to be a part of it, they haven't been a major part of TSR in the past and this isn't the same thing. Right now they have a solid first issue of a magazine that emulates the old paper Dragon magazine. That's it. They could very well do a lot more, but this isn't and won't be the same TSR.

And that's a great thing. Read Shannon Appelcline's great book (soon to be released) on the history of RPGs. There are multiple times when TSR almost went under, for a variety of reasons. Amongst those are reasons linked to the subject of this thread - an attempt to do too much.

The RPG industry is and has always been terrible. It is a labor of love, and the economics don't support much more. You release a core set, usually having borrowed a large amount of money (tens of thousands). The money you bring in covers a little over that debt if you are lucky. You then have fans clamoring for more, but with each release you draw fewer and fewer fans. Part of this is that you necessarily narrow your appeal. A book on undead won't be interesting to everyone. A book for players may not attract DMs, etc. So, you now start going into debt... and the only way out of this is to go further into debt to launch either a new game or release a new edition. That's the RPG cycle. Kickstarter has improved this for small companies, but we still see plenty of funded Kickstarters end up as huge failures for the owner (they run out of money, energy, etc.).

Specific to Wizards, the only thing Hasbro does is force the RPG department to be conscious of its promises and whether it met goals or not. Everything else is upside (such as being able to afford the industry's best marketing, being able to be the keynote at Gen Con, etc.). Being part of the company responsible for Magic is fantastic for them and for us.

Wizards' problem isn't Hasbro, but the industry. Where other companies can flounder and fail (most RPG companies do), Wizards needs to escape that cycle. It therefore experiments with a variety of approaches (such as the 4E experiment of only producing a few books for each setting and spacing the release of settings out to roughly 1 per year).

Releasing products for each edition sounds easy, but it isn't. The best freelancers out there find it hard to turn back to older editions. And it isn't clear the audience is there for it. While a loud minority proclaims its love for older editions, nothing suggests they will grow dramatically in size or that they intend on buying new things. They tend to be, by definition, an opinionated bunch. We can look to the Slavers book as an experiment here. It includes a new A0 adventure, introducing the A-series. Will that make it more attractive? Frankly, I'll be surprised if that new adventure causes sales to be significantly larger than for the other reprints (and I have no idea what those may be).

The truth is: there is no answer here. It is all about experimenting carefully. No doubt they will want to keep most customers on the current path of D&D Next. Providing other things has to be done carefully, so as to not pull away resources into unprofitable side projects.

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For clarification on TSR's identity: gygaxmagazine.com/who-we-are/
      No, There not anyone actually involved with working with the original TSR. It's not like two of these fellows are Gary Gygax sons and orignal playtesters of OD&D. One isn't Melf the iconic Elf whose spells litter the D&D game since the 1970's. And Tim Kask, who is that? No, he's not the original editor of the Dragon, I.E. Dragon magazine, writer of modules, and former employee of TSR. No these people have absolutely no credability with the "old school" D&D fans at all. Their opinons and ideas mean absolutely nothing to the world of TSR D&D. It's not as if one of these people have pages of Q&A posted on the iconic definative TSR D&D Dragonsfoot.org site. Not as if they can be found there this very day as members. Oh wait, yes on all accounts- get off it Alpha stream. " These are not the Droids you are looking for". I disbelieve your illusion.
   As far as old school gamers being highly opinionated by definition I'll grant you that one. We tend to know what we like. But then again- you saw fit to give your opinion as well. I do agree with you that experimentation with older editions should be ventured into carefully with much thought and deliberation. Happy gaming, regardless of your chosen edition.
     Not wishing to edition war with you-Might I also add that obviously when an edition of the game is killed prematurely and 4 years later you are developing a replacement: you have likely put your jocky on a losing horse. ( Note: I do not take issue with  4e. in the least)I do not see it as wise to completely overlook past editions of the game when an entire editions fanbase has Made Mass Exodus for Paizo products which mimic your former edition of D&D. Is print on demand a viable source of long term income for wotc? That I am unsure of. Thus far the pdf's and reprints are selling. Traffic has crashed the D&DClassics site more than once.
There have been tons of employees of TSR and having a few come together (or freelance) doesn't create the same thing. When Wizards hires, lets go, and rehires Steve Winter it doesn't become, cease to become, and re-become TSR. Paizo has hired several TSR employees, but it isn't TSR.

TSR isn't even one thing. It had so many changes over time that it just meant the brand holder for D&D. D&D is now held by Wizards. Gary Gygax at various points was the be-all-end-all and sent off to California. (Let's be clear, I'm not being irreverent. The guy was awesome. Historically, many at TSR at various points did not want him there.) TSR was many different approaches, different leaders, and different products.

TSR is a company that created OD&D and saw fit to create both AD&D and Basic (and further). It created 2E. It created Skills & Powers and other books that gave birth to 3E. It wasn't one thing with one approach. And it certainly would have launched 3E, just as Wizards did, and 4E, as Wizards did, and 120E. That was something TSR created.

We like to think of TSR as being iconic, but it really is used as 'nostalgia'. Gygax magazine certainly tapped into nostalgia, but it isn't what TSR was at any point in time. It can't be just one thing, because no point in time and no edition presents a single viable market. That's why the first issue speaks to every edition and various other games (including AGE and Pathfinder). It can't just be Expert, or just be AD&D, or just be OD&D.

Relevant to the original topic, it remains to be seen whether this new company with the name TSR can remain viable with that approach of speaking to everything. Kobold Quarterly is a fantastic organization (including employees of original TSR, but is of course not TSR) and it tried to speak to both Pathfinder and 4E. In the end it couldn't continue as a magazine (but does continue as a publisher).

For Wizards, the same risk is present, but with far larger costs. What would you want Wizards to do with old editions, and which old editions? Let's say WotC publishes 1 adventure for each edition it ever created... arguably: OD&D, AD&D, one each for BECMI, one for 2E, arguably one for Skills & Powers, one for 3E (let's skip the .5 difference), one for 4E, and one for Next. That's 12 adventures! Would you really think those will sell well?

Let's look at just one adventure, but with conversion sheets for each adventure. That's still 12 conversion sheets... and I'm not sure the conversion effort would ever be profitable.

It is so easy to say "Wizards should do" and throw something out there. It is entirely different to work through the economics of it.

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Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

Thank you for backtracking as to who exactly makes up the employee roster of modern TSR. I can respect a man who knows when he is in error. lol  In the way of Gygax magazine speaking to all genres of gamers I suppose time will tell. Oh as for their basic Advanced model being used this is exactly what D&D Next is built upon. A Basic, Standard, and Advanced model. Ooops. That might be a mistake then?
   To address  your example of The modules for various adventures and products being printed and the cost effecting this: I already see D&DClassics.com as being a valid, cost effective, and easy way to release several versions of the product.  Then let the gamer choose his gaming vehicle to play as he wishes. He can buy module B2 In which ever format he chooses as an example (of which several versions already exsist). I see printing the actual module as costly in whatever format used.  Seems like a win win for wotc and the fans of past editions to go digital download ala' their primary example and stiff competition in the gaming industry Paizo Publishing. I might save the Printing of the books of all editions for Core books only. This cuts costs by quite a bit.
There is no possible way for Wizards to support all previous editions, and settings, as there are just way too many different settings, and editions.  I think that what they are doing now, however, is quite possibly the best way to go, for them.  Reprint all of the basic handbooks, for all editions.  In fact, I don't know why they don't do this themselves, and operate their own warehouse, with a constant supply of these books.  I understand that the 1st edition books were supposed to be limited, for the Gygax Memorial, but you should still be able to buy a version of 1st edition from WOTC.  And, you cannot.  They should make their own website, for their products, under one roof.  Maybe it's too complex, and maybe they can't pay the rent to operate a warehouse, or whatever space necessary is just too much for them.  I am sure they have researched it, and came to the conclusion that they can't afford it.  But, anyway, I just wish they had one website that they could direct people to that would have the following:

Physical reprintings of the Manuals (PH, DMG, MM) of each respective edition (1st, 2nd (2.5), 3rd (3.5), 4th, and D&D Next, along with Basic D&D boxed sets collected into booklet format.  Certain highly sought after books, that they feel would sell well, could also be done this way, such as Unearthed Arcana.

Physical reprintings of the most sought after classic modules, such as Against the Giant, Scourge of the Slavelords, etc.

PDF versions (eventually) of every product ever produced by TSR, and afterward WOTC.  Why is this not possible?  Sure, it's not easy, and you'd have to find copies of these products if you don't have it at WOTC, but...why not do it?  Digital sales of these products are long term moneymakers.  One million people aren't going to buy a digital PDF of the Maztica setting day one, but over time, it adds up.  Along with all of the other products that you have online

PDF versions of past Dragon and Dungeon magazines.

All on one website.

They are, however, coming as close to this as I guess they feel they can.  They are reprinting books, and modules, and releasing PDF's, which is awesome.  I guess, I just feel that it is too disjointed, and not a real cohesive, nostalgic push directed from one website.  But, what do I know, I'm just a long time fan.  I always have, and always will, love this game.  Because, I know that the people making it, love it too.
I have to disagree regarding Hasbro that they are exactly the reason product cycles are getting shorter and in some ways a bit erratic. There's a bottom line, a lot of "business strategy" and "targets" that need to be met. During my tenure almost 7 years at a company that rhymes with "Mee-Yay", I actually was on a few projects that were Hasbro partnerships (none D&D-related). I can tell you firsthand that they indeed have some brilliant people working there, just like "Mee-Yay" does but at the same time, many of them are business folks, they don't really even play the products and product lines they oversee.

So in one sense, it's refreshing to see that Mearls is being given as much rope as he is and at the same time, it's not just the RPG industry, it really is Hasbro in some part. If D&D Next doesn't deliver big - and I'm sure they have some crazy targets - what will they do? Another edition? I doubt it but maybe they'll reconsider supporting the older lines once again. You don't have to hire that many people if any at all to do it. On the other hand, if D&D Next goes huge, you can bet Hasbro will go crazy in the expansions, settings, rules options departments which is good and bad at the same time. 
I see what you're saying. However, if Hasbro doesn't allocate the appropriate levels of cashflow to WotC for a proper marketing strategy, they won't make their goals most likely. And I feel like that has been one of the biggest issues of later versions of the game; where's the advertising in the mundane media (TV ads, etc.)? The tie-ins? The strategy?

Just roll some dice.

 

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I see what you're saying. However, if Hasbro doesn't allocate the appropriate levels of cashflow to WotC for a proper marketing strategy, they won't make their goals most likely. And I feel like that has been one of the biggest issues of later versions of the game; where's the advertising in the mundane media (TV ads, etc.)? The tie-ins? The strategy?



This is an honest question, but do you really think that this hobby is big enough to support TV ads, anymore?  I really don't, and consider P&P RPG's a very tiny community, unfortunately.  I don't think it can support traditional advertising, even with Hasbro's backing, the numbers just aren't there.  It is better for them to come up with a more unique way to advertise, virally, or through Twitter, Facebook (ugh), etc.

I wish it weren't so, though.
I see what you're saying. However, if Hasbro doesn't allocate the appropriate levels of cashflow to WotC for a proper marketing strategy, they won't make their goals most likely. And I feel like that has been one of the biggest issues of later versions of the game; where's the advertising in the mundane media (TV ads, etc.)? The tie-ins? The strategy?



This is an honest question, but do you really think that this hobby is big enough to support TV ads, anymore?  I really don't, and consider P&P RPG's a very tiny community, unfortunately.  I don't think it can support traditional advertising, even with Hasbro's backing, the numbers just aren't there.  It is better for them to come up with a more unique way to advertise, virally, or through Twitter, Facebook (ugh), etc.

I wish it weren't so, though.



Totally understandable. Viral ads and messages through Twitter, Facebook or Youtube would at least be a start, but their presence there right now is weak at best.

Just roll some dice.

 

RADIO FREE BORDERLANDS:

Explore the new D&D podcast that is a celebration of all eras of the game! Discussing the loves, challenges, topics, ideas, and news of this great hobby in both a contemporary and historical view.

http://radiofreeborderlands.libsyn.com/

My personal hope is that wotc decides to convert adventure modules ( 3rd & 4th ed.) to AD&D format and sell them @ D&Dclassics.com as well as produce new material for the Advanced D&D game. Since the systems of AD&D are so backward compatable they would be no real need to convert much between the editions of the AD&D system. A reprint is a nice gesture, production of product though is a surefire way to keep me as a customer as well as others like me who are long time players of the game. I suppose what I am asking for is contunual support for the AD&D game line. Ya, I'm dreaming.. Cry
 
    



Dungeon magazine 3rd ed adventure paths or the Paizo ones converted to AD&D;).

 Fear is the Mind Killer

 

If D&D Next doesn't deliver big - and I'm sure they have some crazy targets - what will they do? Another edition? I doubt it but maybe they'll reconsider supporting the older lines once again. You don't have to hire that many people if any at all to do it. 

The paradigm already came to pass: 4e had some crazy targets that were not met. The current situation is the end result.
Yeah I can see that with 4E the thinking was "let's make D&D for the WoW generation, just think of the crossover appeal between the two, we'll make billions I tell you!" - former Hasbro D&D Product Manager.*














*the above statement is for humor purposes only
I hadn't bought a new WotC product since 2010 until the release of the AD&D books (of which I've bought all).  They would be doing themselves a favor and bringing back old customers if the started producing new material for old systems, even if it's in limited print runs.
I hadn't bought a darn thing from wotc since they took over the company myself. Then this year I spent a fortune on the prior editions premium reprints. So far I have purchased the 1st Edition P.H., D.M.G., M.M., and U. A. as well as the 2nd edition P.H., D.M.G., and M.M. Add that up and you get about $350.00 of revenue just because they re-released the core books of those two systems. I'm waiting to see more and plan to buy the Slavelords  and Gary's modules with TOEE next. Keep it up wotc, you are starting to change my opinion of you as a corperate slave division of Hasbro. Tongue Out
Supporting every single edition and setting may be difficult, especially if support means exactly that. However, during the 4E years, the strategy seemed to be to move away from the expectations of the existing fan base. The result was many new customers gained, but also many people turning towards Pathfinder, OSR games or other alternatives. 

3E was controversial too, but in many ways it paid respect to the older lines. Most TSR era settings were supported either by WotC, lisence holders or through Dragon/Dungeon (the Paizo years).

With 4E, many of us were disappointed when the promise to support one setting per year, effectively meant we got Forgotten Realms, Ebberon and Dark Sun, plus a Raveloft Boardgame. 
 
I think making the Dungeon/Dragon magazines (DDI) more to support older editions and settings is a good way to go. Recent 1st Ed, Greyhawk and Dragonlance articles are a good move, but perhaps too little and too late.  Also, what about Mystara, Planescape, Birthright and Blackmoor? 

4E by its design proved to be difficult to use with older settings which was another reason why many of the older fan base chose not to embrace it. D&DNext may be able to remedy this, but the fact that the Forgotten Realms has been announced as the flagship setting of Next leaves me with a reserved optimism. 



-Havard 
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