Thursday, February 26, 2015

D&D: Is One Setting Enough?

I've been reading forum discussion regarding a recent comment by D&D brand director Nathan Stewart where he said, "The Forgotten Realms is the universe that we at Wizards of the Coast are focusing our storytelling in for the foreseeable future"

Taken at face value this quote can crush the hopes of a Greyhawk fan looking for new stories and published material in the 5E era. There are conflicting or complimentary statements from other people at Wizards of course but only time will tell if they amount to anything except minor updates. For example, as many of you already know by now, a short PDF document with 5E Eberron material was released in Wizards' Unearthed Arcana column. The blurb seems to indicate more is to come:

"The material presented in Unearthed Arcana will range from mechanics that we expect one day to publish in a supplement to house rules from our home campaigns that we want to share, from core system options such as mass combat to setting-specific material such as the Eberron update included in this article. Once it’s out there, you can expect us to check in with you to see how it’s working out and what we can do to improve it."

A compilation book built off of system articles is nothing new to Wizards, while setting specific compilations would seem quite different to me and I'd like to see one if they are serious about returning to the D&D multiverse. Naturally no compilation could do any one setting justice. In the end it'd all be crunch anyhow and not fluff, which is what Mr. Stewart refers to in his quote. The fluff or, stories are entirely focused on the Realms adventures, league play, novels, video games, etc. Outsourcing aside, and given their tendency to cut employees I don't think Wizards currently has the manpower to do two full time settings if they wanted to. Furthermore, given the status of their greatest competitor why should they?

Paizo's Pathfinder setting has been going strong for more than a few years now. Paizo does one setting in all media formats (usually ahead of the curve). There is no outcry or even suggestion for Paizo to do a whole new campaign world (yet). Obviously Wizards has been trying to play catch up since 4E to the point of replicating Paizo's model. Focusing all their energy on one setting (Forgotten Realms) makes complete sense when you put D&D side by side with Pathfinder. There may simply be no time or room to do more settings.

This post does make me feel like a kind of defeatist (if not realist) but that won't stop me from hoping to see new published stories about Greyhawk (or Dragonlance, Darksun, etc). Yes, outsourcing to 3rd parties may be the white knight we need, but if Wizards does decide to handle it in-house I have a radical idea how it could be approached. More on that another day...

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

One setting isn't really enough, but I'd rather they do that than spread themselves too thin and go under like TSR did. I expect they'll continue to use FR as the "everything goes" setting—I'm actually glad that Greyhawk doesn't have the dubious "honor" of being the core setting this time around. That way it avoids having all the new content shoehorned into it regardless of whether that content is a good fit for the setting, as was the case with 3e.

Rich Trickey said...

Hey Mort,

Regarding Golarion, I think it's fair to say that they are borrowing from AD&D 2e's model with Forgotten Realms. Though 3e-5e material focuses on the core of Faerun, 2nd edition stuff included a few different "mini settings" under the FR umbrella; Maztica, Al Qadim, Kara Tur.

Also, FR, as well as Mystara before it, contains many nations and regions that are distinctly flavored differently than the rest of the setting. Whie Greyhawk has this potential, the pubished material has never really taken advantage of it, with the possible exception of the Chainmail 2k stuff.

Golarion gets expanded on every time they launch a new AP, and from what I've seen, these setting expansions offer pretty new flavor for the setting, letting a GM and players pick the region they like and run with it, or hop from region to region to keep things fresh and new.

Personally, I'm in no hurry to see official GH from WotC again any time soon. I've got enough canon and more than enough homebrew to last the rest of my lifetime, and I'm always conjuring up new ideas, or borrowing them from other settings.

FR is close enough in general theme to GH to easily borrow from it, especially since they've downplayed the spellplague crap in 5e, and the adventures so far feature such D&D icons as Tiamat and the ToEE, easy enough to port back to their original homes in GH.

tom said...

Just admit it. WotC hates Greyhawk as much as post-Gygax TSR did.

They are certainly not above exploiting the fanbase as hard as the market will bear, or mining it for content to use in other settings, The 3rd edition Saltmarsh in the DMG and the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer are the last "official" Greyhawk content you will see published.

Even the RPGA Living Greyhawk material, while "supported" was essentially fan produced, and that is pretty much the maximum effort you will see from WotC other than reprints of classics.

Unless there is a major policy change, the most you can probably expect in the way of support is not prosecuting fans for sharing their own creations (and then claiming anything they think has potential under some twisted interpretation of the fankit license and using it in some other setting).

Mike Bridges said...

Hey Rich always great hearing from ya!

Yeah I see your point about the mini settings. Mystara was definitely ahead of that game I guess FR was just scaled up more (I recall really liking Kara-Tur it was huge). World building aside, Paizo has definitely raised the bar for going into new media directions with PF.

I completely agree we have enough Greyhawk material to go on (and so little time to use it all), it's satisfying not having to buy every damn book and novel each year, yet I do like to see the setting we love at least stay in the gaming consciousness. That's the reason why I continue to do this blog of course. ;)

Yora said...

I don't think the 90s are ever coming back. One setting per game with perhaps two or three books in total seems to be the game now.

We're probably not going to see anything like Dark Sun or Planescape again in the forseeable future, from any company.