Friday, September 6, 2013

D&D Next and Setting Speculation

A week ago over at ENWorld, head honcho Morrus posted this thread in the forums concerning an article at AICN which talked to D&D head honcho Mike Mearls about various things including setting support. Ready, readers? Speculation away!

The main quote from the forums:

"A rumor has been going around that WotC is approaching the various creators of their most iconic game worlds to bring them back in some capacity as the worlds are re-created or re-imagined for the next edition of D&D. Ed Greenwood’s firmly on board, as he’s writing a monthly column on Forgotten Realms. In a Q&A on the #RPGnet IRC chatroom, Margaret Weis has stated she would be willing to work with Wizards of the Coast again (Kender are a subrace of Halfling that only exist in the Dragonlance world), while Keith Baker (creator of Eberron) has stated that he has been in talks with WotC but “they haven't decided what form setting support is going to take yet”. "

So far only three mentioned in the rumor. Three with definite authors still associated with them. We know FR is in, and the latest D&DNext playtest includes Kender and Warforged. Easy enough. Reading on through the thread some comments are worth discussing.

Delericho says: "Sorry, I can't see it happening. WotC know the folly of trying to support too many settings; that's how they came to own D&D in the first place. They also know that their success with any non-FR setting in 4e was... limited.

Unless they're now willing to go down the route of licensing out settings again, I really can't see any non-FR setting getting any support outside of the e-magazines."

I agree with his assessment commercially, though concerning Greyhawk, it DID enjoy years of success through the Living Campaigns and in the pages of both magazines as he states. The assumption most would agree on I'm guessing is that based on Paizo's success a lot of those fans moved on with the writers and old rules-set and are now entrenched in Golarian. Re-releasing something like Greyhawk won't take away from FR's fanbase, it would be to lure people back from Paizo.

frankthedm helps eliminate Darksun with this quote he found:

Timothy Brown today announced that he intends to create a whole new role-playing game world titled Dragon Kings, the ‘spiritual successor’ to his popular design Dark Sun. This new world will be envisioned not only in fiction and art, but in music, as well.

“Dark Sun was innovative because we created the game world and its art simultaneously,” says Brown. “We imagined concepts and asked Brom to draw them, and Brom painted those concepts that we later described in game terms. I’m so pleased that he is collaborating with us on my new Dragon Kings universe. His first cover painting is already finished!”

 The comments go on, largely supporting Greyhawk. It is also mentioned a couple times in the thread that Mike Mearls is a big fan of Greyhawk. Color me surprised if this is true. Much of the Greyhawk love on the e-magazines has been coming from Chris Perkins. Either way they have to be saving Greyhawk and these other settings for a special occasion. Now seems like the perfect time.

Abstruse does some lengthy speculation:

"And that's the important thing: Paying respect. A LOT of players who jumped ship during 4e era did so because they felt the game had moved too far from what they felt D&D was, and that WotC wasn't paying respect to the material. Do they need to go to Ed Greenwood or Keith Baker? No. They own the IP, straight up. They can do whatever they want with it. Same for Dragonlance, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, and every other campaign setting outside the stuff like Star Wars or Wheel of Time that they licensed back in the 3rd Ed era.

What they're doing by bringing back the original creators to work on these settings - even if it's just in a consultation role - is getting validation for the new system. "You didn't like what we did in 4e? I'm sorry, we learned our lesson. Ed Greenwood himself is writing the new novel to fix it. We're also doing this huge open playtest to make sure we get the core system much closer to D&D's original roots. And we're starting to sell all our old back catalog you used to have to spend a lot of time searching for then paying outrageous collectible prices to get. We cool now?"

My gut feeling is that we're going to see Forgotten Realms be the "Default" setting. They'll then release "Themed books", where each book is tied to a genre or campaign style rather than a specific world. Rather than getting a Ravenloft setting book, you get a Horror-themed book with all the rules, class builds, monsters, etc. you'd need to run a horror-themed campaign. Then you'd get a pirate one for sea-based adventures, an urban one, a magitek one, a desert one, a political one, etc. This gives you all the rules you need without branding the rules to a specific setting, avoiding the pitfall of branding issues.

Then they'll release campaign books that are rules-free (similar to the Elminster's Forgotten Realms and Menzoberranzan books from last year) with guides for what additional rulebooks you'd need for each setting. So rather than cramming a bunch of rules in the Ravenloft book, it instead just talks about each of the different demiplanes. This opens up page count to more narrative-based setting books, which allows cross-platform sales so people who play
Pathfinder or an OSR system can still purchase the campaign setting and use it in their system of choice. Want the specific D&D Next stats for Strahd? Check out Dragon Magazine  #whatever (and expect those to switch from a subscription-only model to also allow purchase through the online store of individual issues).

I've got absolutely no solid evidence this is what they're going to do other than my gut feeling and extrapolating from the various interviews and Q&As going on. I don't even think WotC knows how they're going to do it yet since they're still focused on the rules right now. Branding and release schedules will probably get nailed down toward the end of the year or beginning of next year."

I still have high hopes of a Greyhawk resurgence, if only Wizards would put a fraction of the effort into Greyhawk that they put into serializing and promoting FR. Remember, even with so many other D&D outlets now, Greyhawk fans haven't gone away, we're just waiting patiently for Wizards to take our money.


Mystic Scholar said...

Thanks for posting this for us, Mort. Your "condensed" versions are what I prefer. I've lost faith in WotC ever doing anything with or for Greyhawk/fans, so I can't bring myself to pour over the myriad discussions going on.

Frankly, I still don't look for anything Greyhawk. I don't believe that the "imaginative talent" is there, or at the very least, that it's suppressed by those who make the money decisions.

"The Game" was created by those who had a LOVE for the game, but has long since been taken over by those who are only concerned with the money to be made by the game.

And before we get into "money" discussions, the simple truth is that no one NEEDS to make $50 million a year, even though they WANT to.

Love of money has taken over love of the game. So, I don't see it happening.

netlich said...

Indeed - thanks for collating the comments!

I think the rule-less supplements and campaign books would be the optimal solution.

I would not mind buying a new campaign sourcebook on Greyhawk which I can run in Next or any other D&D or D&D-ish version.

Valkaun_Dain said...

I can see this happening as downloadable content in a "phase one" type of release. If sales/downloads are strong, maybe a based on demand/limited print run with some extra goodies as incentive. But it'd have to be golden, and I think most of the guys that would be capable and willing are already working at Paizo.

Scott said...

If they're bringing back Greenwood for Forgotten Realms, why not Kuntz and Ward for Greyhawk?