Sunday, May 25, 2014

Peering Into The Tavern's Scrying Pool - What Could Make 5e a Game Changer?

I think most of us can agree - +Mike Mearls is excited that his baby is about to be released to the wilds and yet he can't give us many details about the baby yet. Social media is not something that WotC seems to have mastered a s company, and I'm thankful that EnWorld has put together a 5e info page to keep track of the bit's and pieces we've gotten so far.

So, what could make D&D 5e (as it is apparently referred to as on the back cover of the core books) a "game changer", at least so far as D&D players and possibly even third party publishers are concerned?

We're talking 5e, so I'll list 5 ideas.

- Return of the OGL, or at least a license more permissible that the GSL - Personally, I don't expect a return of the OGL. Wizards let that genie out of the bottle once already. I doubt they wan't a repeat of that. I could see something similar to how Goodman Games licenses the DCC RPG - products must get submitted to WotC for vetting, and approved products would be licensed for use with 5e. It would have to be a free license and the vetting process would have to be free or at a minimal cost for it to be successful IMHO.

- An online SRD - this I pretty much expect upon release or shortly thereafter. The question becomes, will it be free or will there be a one-time or recurring cost. I expect a recurring cost - think DDI. Alright, less game change and more necessity these days.

- Core Books released in a "Bits and Mortars" fashion - Buy the print copy, get a code to DL a free copy of the PDF. I'd love to see this, and I think it could be a game changer and generate loads of goodwill, but historically, WotC has seen PDFs as something that cuts into it's retail sales of print products (not to mention the threat of piracy). Still, WotC has been embracing PDFs for their out of print lines and editions, so this COULD happen.

- Core parts of the Core Books released for free in PDF - we already know that 48 pages of the Player's Handbook is going to be released as a free download, and it will probably include character creation rules that can be used with the D&D Starter Set. If they follow the same trend with the Monster Manual and the Dungeon Master Guide, it would literally mean giving away the "core" of the core books, and one could probably play 5e without ever buying a book, although with limited options. It almost becomes viral marketing for the full core products and other adventures - especially the ones that include a version of the rules and are self contained.

- Making the Starter Set OSR friendly - think. The Starter Set is supposed to introduce new players to RPGs (as well as appeal to lapsed gamers). You are probably not going want to load them up with too many options, feats and the like. I expect it will be a simpler style of ruleset. Which would work well if the "Core of the Core" comes to pass and is culled to support the Starter Set. Will this come to pass? No idea, but it would be nice.

- Conversion Rules for older edition adventures / modules - I fully expect this will be in the DMG. It would be foolish not to include such, especially as WotC is selling the older adventures in PDF. It would open the classic PDF market to a whole new set of players.

- Adventures could be written for a certain "edition style of play" and include all the rules with the adventure - we already know that Tyranny of Dragons is a standalone product. No additional rules needed. Which means, it's written for a default "edition style of play". In effect, it is it's own "sub edition" of 5e. There is no reason different self contained adventures couldn't default to more or less complexities of play - therefore emulating different editions. Star this one, as it really would change the face of D&D as we know it.

Alright, I gave six thoughts (not counting the SRD, which I consider a given). Consider the last one a bonus ;)


  1. I disagree with the notion that the OGL was bad for WotC. Other than the Glory Days of the late 70s & 80s, the days of 3.X were an unqualified success for D&D. Paizo is a product of this and are still going gangbusters via their game which is about 99% freely available.

    If WotC drops the ball on a robust SRD or another OGL (would be better tbh) 5E, they won't put much of a dent into Paizo and Pathfinder. My 2 coppers...

    1. as you said, Paizo is making the OGL work for them - WotC get's nothing for it.

      the OGL was a genie that WotC could not control. The GSL was a failed attempt to put the genie back in the bottle.

      remember, unqualified success for D&D does not necessarily make it a success for WotC - the end game is profit, not play

    2. Hi!

      Agreed. I think many RPG consumers confuse good for them as good for WOTC. The OGL gave WOTC nothing but a competitor. WOTC or more accurately Hasbro will never let that happen again.


    3. I think the point of debate is whether the OGL really created the competitor, or WOTC/Hasbro's failure to give their customers what they want.

      Both seem necessary ingredients.

  2. not sure what you mean by "game changer." does that mean you think D&D will recapture marketplace?

    1. I think it's almost a given they will grab a larger share than they had with 4e. As for knocking Pathfinder off it's perch...

  3. Unless 5e is released with a large magic EMP blast that destroys every game console and computer and increases world literacy at most they might grab a larger share of the dwindling niche market that is pen and pencil RPGs.

    1. But on the other hand, there is a market between the smaller table and the larger computer games: card and board games. I think there's a Mearl's quote that the starter set is geared towards helping a board or card gamer into a dungeon master. That would be smart but difficult.

    2. Jason even with the advent of computers and consoles I don't see the market as dwindling..

    3. The Dave - were you gaming in the 80's? I ask this because the difference between the popularity of RPGs in the 80's and now is at least 1 order of magnitude.

      WotC should have launched 4e as a boardgame.

    4. there is no comparison to D&D in the late 1e, early 2e days of the game.

      you couldn't spit without hitting a gamer. game shops were everywhere it seems, and they were making money off of selling rpgs.

      then MTG exploded on the scene. TSR tried twice, with Spellfire and Dragon Dice, to catch that same wave. They failed, and the RPG hobby has never been the same since.

    5. Yes I was a gamer in the 80s.. I started in 78 actually.. But I still think that the game has a chance to be just as strong just because much of the stigma of being a D&D player AKA The Nerd isn't as heavy. IF anything the problem is the over saturation of the market.. mostly with Retro-Clones..

  4. As a heavy Pathfinder player, I think the one thing that WOTC could do better is in how they structure their modules. I think the PF adventures are a cludgy and unorganized mess, plus they consistently refer you to their other books both for monsters and treasure. If WOTC will stat the creatures and treasure in the module itself, that would be a big win over Paizo. If you take a look at Mines of Madness, one of the adventures given out with the playtest.. To me this is how its done right.. I love the encounter sheets at the end..


Tenkar's Tavern is supported by various affiliate programs, including Amazon, RPGNow,
and Humble Bundle as well as Patreon. Your patronage is appreciated and helps keep the
lights on and the taps flowing. Your Humble Bartender, Tenkar

Blogs of Inspiration & Erudition