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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Did the OSR Convince Mearls to Refer to D&D 5e as "Rules Cyclopedia" and "AD&D"?


Possibly. The OSR does have punch for it's size. I don't think any one voice did the convincing tho'. In truth, I think the economics of the new edition won out.

First, it's always easier to add than it is to subtract, so building your free core rules along a "basic" set of guiding principles makes sense. It also fits into recent trends at WotC - market the RPG as if it were a MMORPG.

"Free to Play!" is what you see with most of the new (and older) MMORPGs today. You can play the free game forever, but sooner or later, you'll either want to buy more content, or subscribe to get subscriber's content.

So, give away a free "Basic D&D" in PDF - limited options but a full game from 1 to 20. Offer additional content (expanded rules, adventures, settings and the like) and offer subscription benefits (I'm going to guess this is where the SRD will be).

Now, the OSR is very vocal and is active in playing pre-3x editions of the Dungeons & Dragons heritage of rulesets. What is the definitive ruleset for many of the OD&D, B/X, BECMI gamers? Rules Cyclopedia. What is the definitive ruleset of the AD&D 1e / 2e segment of gamers? AD&D (1e).

Will the new rules play like either of the above? As much as any OSR game variant I suspect, but it's an emotional statement Mike is making - "We heard, and we hear, and we want you back!"

Why the OSR? Because we create, we play, but most of all - we are the demographic with the cash to dispose of on the hobby we love. Why not aim the new edition at the older players? You've already lost the recent ones to Pathfinder, and I doubt many 4e fans are going to find much love in the 5e world of gaming. Want to bring in new players? Free rules may just do that.

Why release the "Basic Rules" for free? To bring in the nay-sayers and allow them to read or even try the rules without spending cash up front.

The OSR shows that there is a market for the adventures themselves - the rules are now and always have been a secondary thought in the OSR. Just about every group runs with their own mongrelized set of hashed together rules. Most often the rules themselves are free.

WotC is now joining the free market, and they are bringing visions of the glory days of TSR. The vision may not come to pass, but I give them points for trying.
"Basic D&D is a PDF that covers the core of the game. It’s the equivalent of the old D&D Rules Cyclopedia, though it doesn’t have quite the same scope (for example, it won’t go into detail on a setting). It runs from levels 1 to 20 and covers the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard, presenting what we view as the essential subclass for each. It also provides the dwarf, elf, halfling, and human as race options. 
But the best part? Basic D&D is a free PDF. Anyone can download it from our website. We want to put D&D in as many hands as possible, and a free, digital file is the best way to do that. 
If Basic D&D is the equivalent of the classic Rules Cyclopedia, then the three core rulebooks are analogous to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Want more character options? Pick up a Player’s Handbook. Looking for more critters for your campaign? The Monster Manual has you covered. Want to sculpt a unique campaign? Pick up the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Still, Basic D&D is the true heart of the game and could easily provide a lifetime of gaming."

20 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. "I doubt many 4e fans are going to find much love in the 5e world of gaming."

    Most of the 4e fans I know used to be 3e fans, and many in turn used to be 2e and older edition fans.

    Just because 4e was different than the earlier editions doesn't mean the fan base didn't adjust to it and won't in turn adjust to new editions.

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    1. you may very well be right.

      i'm getting my reference from 2 different 5e playtest groups I participated in early one - the 4e players were very disappointed

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    2. There's 4E DNA in 5th, but it's so difficult to spot now that yes, 4E hardcore fans will be very disappointed. At least partially because the core conceits of 4E are diametrically opposed to the more old school approach 5E is trying to get back to.

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    3. My experience is that most of the 5e playtesters I've met were 4e players and fans, in some cases "hardcore" fans. The majority of them liked the 5e playtests.

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  3. though 4e taking a sharpish turn managed to ditch a bunch of us.

    They lost me during the crap marketing, when I came to the conclusion they didn't know what they were talking about (it was like listening to South Park's 'Underpants Gnomes': "1. we're doing this thing." okay, tell me more "3. it'll be _awesome!_" so... what's 2? "you're not listening. 1. we're...")

    I have every indication that 4e is a fine game. It's just not one that appeals to me.

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  4. The mystery: Why would I buy a $180 product that is trying to emulate Paizo and OSR? Paizo has a free srd. The OSR supports my fellow gamers and not a multinational company. Economically and ethically...there is a lack of demand for what Hasbro is hocking.

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    1. thus the "Free Basic D&D"

      many, if not most of the OSR would like to see 5e succeed. If it succeeds as a free ruleset, so much the better

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    2. I've spent a lot more than $180 on Paizo books. Why would WotC presume I will spend that on Paizo and not on them, if they offer a better product, and know that I am a fan of their game, and am only engaged with Paizo's product because it's the only other option out there right now on store shelves that gets anywhere near the brand recognition?

      Don't get me wrong: if this is about not liking Hasbro, I can't and won't argue with you. But if it's about comparing WotC to Paizo, they look almost equal to me, with Paizo getting the nod for a Pathfinder SRD, and WotC getting kudos for actually having the game I want to play.

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    3. It might just be generational. I am never spending more than $20 on an rpg book. Not when hundreds of games are released a year and piracy is so easy.

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    4. Mentioning piracy....makes me think its more of a consumer/creator gap. Consumers are fine with piracy because it helps them do what they do best: consume the content created by others, regardless of how that content comes about, the cost in time and effort, or the willingness of that creator to be used or (as with piracy) abused by the consumer.

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    5. I would argue that piracy is the ultimate consumer protection against pricing that is protected by copyright but unreasonable for the value of the final product. I don't care how much work Mike Mearls put into 5e. If they are trying to sell someone $20 of gaming for $180 in 2014...people are going to pirate what the market won't bear.

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  5. I would guess most gamers prefer hardcopy. Free pdf is a nice way to let people taste before shelling out. Also it allows them to claim a high number of downloads which in turn will make adoption seem bigger.

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  6. Has he even read the Rules Cyclopedia. The whole point was that it was encyclopedic -- not just setting, but domain rules, immortality, the whole she-bang. I'd be surprised if the 5e SRD had half the content

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    1. it's the imagery

      sounds better than offering a stripped down BECMI ;)

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  7. TO my knowledge Mearls, is a fan of older editions of D&D and of OSR games (I believe he is in the backer list for ACKS). So while I'm sure the popularity of the OSR encouraged him to use the comparisons he did, those editions and the OSR games/community aren't strange little growths but communities he pays attention to if not something he actively takes part in.

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  8. "Why not aim the new edition at the older players?"

    Honestly, I think they're aiming at the kids of the older players, but know enough to attract the older players too, if they can get them as well.

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    1. I think its our job to make our kids the next generation of RPG players!

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  9. I find this quite heartening, actually. When the announcement came out for the hardcover books release, something seemed missing. This finally fills in the gaping hole at the center of that announcement, and the release strategy now makes sense to me, even if the tactics of the announcements themselves seem odd.

    I'm still left wondering why they didn't just wait and announce the free basic pdf at the same time, or even make that announcement first. Perhaps just to spur conversation and interest, which it undoubtedly has done. Lead with the paying product, get people talking, then reveal the ace in the hole? It's all backward and feels a bit manipulative, just like most corporate communication. That remains a key difference between WotC/Hasbro and anything OSR...

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  10. Personally I think things are looking better than they have since the mid 80s. We successfully dethroned the usurpers. Really, now that the old guard are dying off, it's our responsibility to carry the flag forward and insist on purity over asinine marketing doublespeak and MMO game mechanics.

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