Thursday, June 7, 2012

D&D Next: Time For The Dead To Rise

So here I've been sitting, reading numerous blogs, articles and forum threads about the D&D Next open playtest (or those who claim to have been in the prior closed playtest). Up till now I've resisted posting anything speculative about Wizard's future plans, as I had done plenty of that during 4th Edition's emergence (how recent that all seems to me) and it was mostly hot air. But it's a slow week, so here comes that slow and steady drum beat again...

Could the signs point toward a World of Greyhawk content revival?

Consider first: Greyhawk never really got passed up during the last edition, technically. Sure other settings got entire production runs dedicated to them, but how well did they do in truth? How well is Living Forgotten Realms doing? But Greyhawk? Unlike Dragonlance for example, Greyhawk saw consistently frequent nods in the form of borrowing (deities, magic items, iconic dungeons, etc), online content adaptations (For those who were willing to pay for D&D Insider) and organized play homages (D&D Encounters liberally uses Greyhawk themed events). All of this of course is academic. Now onto the speculation.

Love it or hate it, ever since the release of the D&D Essentials rules for 4th Edition, Wizards has been on a clear trajectory towards reliving the past. On their website, you can see it in everything from re-released collectors books to impassioned articles about uniting D&D fans. Wizards desperately wants to appeal to all fans with this next iteration of their rules and so far in the open playtest we've seen a return to classic races, classes and even minor old school elements like ring mail and electrum pieces. Heck, they used the Caves of Chaos. They can rework the rules till the end of time, however at the end of the day people want content to go with their newly bought rules and I think Wizards is going to play it safe. Not safe like putting out Forgotten Realms again, that's a given. I mean tapping on the only setting that spans all editions and fanbases. Yes, it's time for Greyhawk to rise from the dead again.

The timing makes sense. Despite being fractured, the Greyhawk community overall has never gone away. The goal of D&D Next is bringing together all facets of players. What better place to start? Old school, hardcore Greyhawk fans might not fully buy into the "new" rules set, but there should be more than a passing interest in the setting if the original source material is handled with respect (I'm thinking a classic boxed set). Newer players who might be daunted by Greyhawk's extensive past would actually benefit from getting in on the ground floor of a new rules set that compliments a refreshed classic setting. Then there's the host of former Living Greyhawk and Dragon/Dungeon Magazine fans; many whom went over to Pathfinder, due to Paizo's knack for organized play, setting development and adventure paths. Wizards could hardly do worse than trying to lure these fans back by supporting Greyhawk with as much effort. Naturally, this means the Greyhawk setting needs stronger support than they offered game worlds during 4th Edition. A one year run with a few books and online supplements is nice but only in the short term. If it's brought back at all, Greyhawk (and for that matter FR or any other world) should remain actively in print if not updated online indefinitely.

Mind you this doesn't necessarily mean a reboot or timeline advance is the only way forward. The very least they could do is bring back the originals in some fashion. Wizards has shown they are able to reprint old material (1st edition core books coming soon) and there's also been a strong call for them to sell PDFs of their out of print material. Any or all of these things could be done easily and even if people don't use D&D Next rules, there is still nothing to lose and everything to gain. That's enough rambling from me for now. Your thoughts are appreciated.


Greyhawk Grognard said...

I confess I'm of two minds about this.

For the duration of 4E, I was quite relieved that WotC left Greyhawk alone. That way, they couldn't screw it up too much.

I can't make any judgements about a 5E Greyhawk; it would depend entirely on how it was done. Are they going to advance the timeline again? Go back to CY 576? Too many variables to make a statement.

One very faint glimmer of hope came when one of the WotC staff (Trevor Kidd) asked on Twitter what a 5E Greyhawk book should contain.

My reply was: "A full-blown setting that supports play in the three major time-frames of the setting (the Gold Box, From the Ashes, and LGG)."

FWIW, he re-tweeted my reply, which I took as a signal of agreement. Thin gruel, I know, but it's something.

Victor Von Dave said...

I agree with you and think that there is a good chance that Greyhawk will be revisited for 5e. It seems like there is a genuine effort at WOTC to gather together all the elements that have made D&D a classic over the years, and you don't get anymore classic than Greyhawk. Another hopeful sign - the release of Ed Greenwood's Forgotten Realms book. I'm not sure what's in it exactly, but it looks like Wizards have realized they really screwed things up with th 4e version of that setting and are trying to repair some of the damage.

@Joseph - it may be thin gruel, but it warms me just the same :)

Mike Bridges said...

I think a timeline advance is not in the cards because of what we see with FR and Greenwood as you mention. He can still plow forward and the fanbase will accept it. Greyhawk has had way too many cooks in the kitchen and the way they're angling for nostalgia, to me would seem logical that a reboot/reset is in order.

That said, I'm fine with whichever way the pendulum swings, as long as it does! The community has done pretty good keeping the fire alive and whether it be new timeline info or getting a "2nd" chance to do Greyhawk's timeline, we'll all have a great time!

Mystic Scholar said...

Greyhawk fans are the only ones that haven't "gone away." We're still here and still playing our game in our world.

I think WotC might have awakened to that fact -- at long last. Still, I'm apprehensive. I'm not sure I trust the "current people" to mess around with "my" Greyhawk.

I've loved Greyhawk since the late '70s and I don't believe that the "younger" set appreciates it the way we Grognards do.

Still, I guess we'll see what happens.

Mike Bridges said...

Chris Perkins and Bruce Cordell I think can handle a 5e Greyhawk. Otherwise, I don't know anyone else with a foot in the door anymore.