6d6 Fireball

D&D 3.5 Resurgent?

There is no doubt that WotC wants to kill off D&D 3.5. Nothing would please them more than to have everyone chuck their old books in the bin and buy every 4e product they can. There is nothing wrong with this and it is exactly the same approach taken by games console makers, car manufacturers and cell phone companies. Everyone wants you to upgrade to the latest model.

Wizards have not been as successful in this as they wanted. Reaction to 4e is mixed and many 3.5 players are simply not interested in upgrading but surely it is just a matter time. Teenagers buying their first game are far more likely to purchase a new copy of 4e then a second-hand version of D&D 3.5. In five years time, 3.5 will only be played by a rump of older players who have a large financial and emotional commitment to the game just like there are a handful of people still playing 2nd edition or original AD&D.

Maybe, maybe not.

There is one good reason that the inevitable victory of 4th edition might not be so inevitable – freedom.

Wizards made one of the boldest commercial decisions ever when they created the D20 system and the Open Game License (OGL). A company with the dominant product in the industry, a brand that is a household name, made it easy for and encouraged other companies to use that brand to make money. This is like Disney saying that it OK for other companies to make and sell cartoons featuring Mickey Mouse. It was either genius or insanity.

Personally I think it is genius. Rather than fighting to protect and grow their existing market share, Wizards decided to grow the market. The OGL and the d20 system reinvigorate a tired brand and a tired industry. Suddenly there were d20 game systems appearing all other the place and a mass of third party products for D&D. WotC gambled that it was better to have 20% of a $100 million market than 30% of a $50 million market.

With the release of 4e, Wizards had a problem. A big corporate like Hasbro wasn’t interested in letting other people use its intellectual property but the cat was out of the bag. They could not simply make 4e proprietary again like the good old days of AD&D and 2nd edition. So Hasbro did what all corporates do in this situation – they used their market dominance. The 4e Game System License (GSL) made little difference the average gamer directly but to the numerous small and self-publishers that had been born thanks to the D&D 3.5 OGL, it was a killer.

The new 4th edition license was a lot more restrictive and most importantly, forced companies to choose between D&D 3.5 and 4e. The idea of throwing out a decade’s worth of product development was off-putting enough for the smaller firms but the new license was subject to change. Unlike the OGL, the GSL could be change or revoked by Wizards at anytime. You won’t find many business school professors who would recommend making the fate of your company dependent on the whim of another company who has no interest in your survival.

Wizards big mistake

If 4e’s license had been as open as 3.5′s then most suppliers would of upgraded as soon as their old stock sold out. Why would a small company produce new products for a shrinking 3.5 market when everyone is buying 4e rule books? But by making companies to choose between D&D 3.5 & 4e, they forced some companies into committing to 3.5 and those people have a real incentive for 3.5 to grow and prosper.

Pathfinder and Dungeon-A-Day are obvious examples of companies committing to D&D 3.5 but there are less obvious example and in many ways more worrying ones for Wizards.

Independently, two websites have appeared targeting exactly the same problem with D&D 3.5 – monster creation. The flexibility of the monster system in 3.5. was brilliant but even creating a mid-level boss was a major task that could take an hour or more. For time pressed or inexperienced GMs this is quite a barrier (and one Wizards addressed in 4e by making monsters a lot simpler).

Dingle’s Games Monster Generator and the more advanced NPC Generator takes a lot of the effort out of creating monsters. The NPC generator even includes magic items and spell selection. As a GM it gives you real power over your monsters and allows you to fine tune them for your party. [ DISCLAIMER: I've been gaming with Paul who runs Dingle's Games for 25 years and I helped him with some aspects of the web site so obviously I'm slightly biased ]. Appearing a few months later, MonsterAdvancer.com is less advanced in its features and less logical to use but it is very slick in its presentation.

Both of these sites represent a massive investment of time and a vote of confidence in a game system that WotC are trying to kill. More importantly, they take a very different route to Wizards when it comes to online tools. Whilst 4e tries to simplify the system for the players overall, the trend with D&D 3.5 (and its derivatives) is to simplify the life of the GM through online tools and content.

The GM is king.

Gamers tend to start playing in their early teens and stop playing in their early twenties when they discover drink, girls, jobs and mortgages. Any product that isn’t attracting young, new players is doomed. Wizards know this and hence 4e is targeted at the young teens market with World of Warcraft like game play and simpler rules. But Wizards have underestimated the power of the GM.

It is people who are willing to GM who drive the games industry. They are mostly likely to buy the books and they are most likely to recruit new people into the game. And why do GMs do it? Because they enjoy being creative. Roleplaying is all about creativity and the GM is the heart of that creativity. A game system that allows GMs to exercise their creativity will always win over one that doesn’t.

D&D 3.5 gives that freedom to create. The growth of sites like Dingle’s Games are both a consequence of that freedom and verhicle for spreading that fredom. This feedback loop of creative freedom enabling more creatively puts 3.5 in a strong position to attract new players and grow.

This does not mean that D&D 3.5 will surpass 4.0 or even survive long-term but it is not going down without a fight.

44 thoughts on “D&D 3.5 Resurgent?

  1. Lurkinggherkin

    Well said! The effect of the OGL on the games community has been much like the impact of Open Source software model, or the growth of the web – copylefting something and giving it away is a surer guarantee that an idea will grow and spread and be taken up by others than trying to restrict, control and own it. Then instead of trying to sell people copies of your idea, you model your business around supporting and providing content based on the idea that you’ve given away freely, which now has a bigger market to satisfy. Hasbro’s antique business practices haven’t caught up with the 21st century yet.

    Most people don’t remember this, but back in the late 80′s/early 90′s, there were other hypertext clients available besides the http/browser model, but they were proprietary, and they didn’t interoperate. Http wiped the floor with them because anyone was allowed to use it for free, so anyone could write a browser that employed it – it ultimately became the standard, despite certain monolithic software companies doing their level best to hijack it…..

    I completely agree that the elimination of the false monster/character dichotomy is one of the great strengths of 3.5e, and that computer-assisted 3.5e/OGL is the way forwards. Those generator apps are fantastic! I’ll still be custom-building my truly important NPCs – because let’s face it, it’s fun anyway, and I’ll want more control and flexibility there – but I can see these saving me a lot of work in quickly creating 2-i-cs or mid-level threats.

    Lurkinggherkin´s last blog post..Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Character Sketch: Snake

  2. Neal Hebert

    I’m kind of confused by your conclusion – as someone who played 3e for a decade and recently made the switch to 4e, I’m not sure exactly where you’re getting the idea that Wizards have “underestimated the GM” with 4e.

    The whole point of 4e is that it’s easier to DM – and interviews with 4e’s designers underscores that this point is the main design goal of the system. This point is the main reason I switched, actually – with the new rule set, it’s much easier for me to homebrew and tinker with things without having to use a calculator to make new monsters.

    The widely-held (and correct) view is that 3e was the player’s dream game (through unlimited multi-classing and PrC’s players can mechanically model anything they want), while 4e is the DM’s dream game (it’s more modular, and monsters design is different and distinct from character creation).

    -neal

  3. admin

    @Lurkinggherkin – The OGL was heavily modeled on the open source software licences andit is no coincidence that it was released in 2000. Right at the peak of the Dot-Com bubble when open source companies were all the rage.

    Chris

  4. admin

    @Neal – With 4e, I think WotC tried to simplify the game for everyone, including GMs. The reduction of spells, powers, feat etc to one or two line descriptions and the introductions of minions are just two examples that help players and GMs alike learn the game.

    Where I think they got it wrong was restricting the GM when they want to take their creativity beyond their own tabletop. Because of 4e licence and WotC enforcement of that license it is very hard for a GM to publish material that extends the system such as new classes or powers in semi-professional way.

    This limits the most creative (and most influencial) GMs will find themselves limited and look to other systems. And when they switch systems, their players switch.

    Chris

  5. Anarkeith

    I’ve gotta go with Neal on this. He sums it up nicely. Whether computer-based tools come of age for 3e before WotC complete their suite of tools remains to be seen. IMHO, the system with the best software tools will win.

    While I think Chris’s complaint that the 4e license makes it tough on GMs who want to publish, I don’t believe that percentage of GMs that want to do that is really that significant. (wanna bet that WotC have researched that?) Again, my opinion…

    For me, 4e is just easier to work with. While I love world-building, I’d rather be at the gaming table confounding my players.

  6. wrathofzombie

    I think that this article is well done. It isn’t a negative jab at 4e, and states the strengths of 3.x. I have played 4e, and there are many things, mechanically, that I do like, but over all, I like 3.x.. I like the customization, I like the mass amounts of characters, etc. I like 3rd party stuff, because there really is some good stuff out there.

    I just had an article on http://newbiedm.com/ about DM mechanics that I took from 4e and added to my 3.x game.

  7. bonemaster

    @Anarkeith – One of the things that I have found very surprising is the increasing number of people that are looking at doing just that. Love or hate, sites like Lulu with print on demand have changed the game a bit. For the small wannabe publisher, OGL is still their best option legally. Of course some are trying to be as system neutral as possible, but I’m not sure about that myself. So personally, I see a growing trend in those that are self-publishing/on demand publishing RPG products.

    bonemaster´s last blog post..Miniatures List Site

  8. admin

    @Anarkeith – ‘the system with the best software tools will win’ – spot on.

    I’m amazed any game system gets released without a online character generator and similar tools. Seems a no brainer to me.

    How many GMs want to be publish? It is difficult to say but I suspect they are the people who drive a game or hobby forward. The same people who want to publish PDFs at places like RPGNow are the same people who want to run blogs or run Gamesday events or go to conventions.

    Chris

  9. admin

    @DaveTheGame – If you need citations, have trawl of Enworld and similar forums for the reaction to the original GSL. It was almost universally negative.

    The changes to the GSL in March came down to removing Section 6 that prevented the sale of 3.5 & 4e material in the same line. This change is an admission that they got it wrong. With publishers planning 12 – 18 months ahead, many companies have already committed to 3.5.

    Plus key issue of the license being changed or revoked at WotC discretion remains.

    So no, the updates did very little to change the situation.

    Chris

  10. admin

    @wrathofzombie – Thanks for your comments. I did not want this to be a 3.5e is better then 4e discussion. Instead it is about the business decisions WotC made and how they have rebounded on them.

    @bonemaster – As one of those self-publishers – I could not agree more.

    Chris

  11. Lurkinggherkin

    @Chris: Very true. However, the thing that a lot of people miss is that open source has been quietly gathering steam and eating into the market share of proprietary software ever since its appearance, boom-bust bubble-hype notwithstanding.

    It’s often that way with a radical new concept – it appears, everyone goes crazy about it for a little while and venture capitalists throw cash at it. Then there’s a crash of disillusionment as people lose patience and the investor herd flee for other pastures, their money made if they got out in time. Meanwhile, as the crowd chatter about the demise of the concept, people who actually generate real wealth, the creative and industrious types, carry on building stuff, quietly, and the concept matures and really starts to deliver something worthwhile. Open source is like that. I’ve started receiving documents in ODT format recently from people who are mainstream, non-techie, IT users, and hardware is being sold in consumer outlets with Linux pre-installed. The LAMP/WAMP stacks are now hugely popular as web application platforms, almost a de facto standard for anyone in the know. Something like 70% of internet traffic is routed now by pieces of open source code. The biggest, most successful dot-coms use open source platforms. Proprietary software still has its noteworthy strongholds but they’re looking more and more like islands these days.

    In the light of this, it may be that we stand at the beginning of the history of OGL rather than its end.

    Lurkinggherkin´s last blog post..Quest For The Hanging Glacier – Character Sketch: Snake

  12. Dave T. Game

    “There is no doubt that WotC wants to kill off D&D 3.5.”

    There are indeed some doubts to that. While the Sr. Brand Manager says he’d love for people to upgrade (that was on ENWorld), there are a number of statements by designers that say they’re OK with things like Pathfinder because it keeps people playing. For example: http://www.critical-hits.com/2008/06/30/mike-mearls-everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-fourth-edition/

    “With the release of 4e, Wizards had a problem. A big corporate like Hasbro wasn’t interested in letting other people use its intellectual property but the cat was out of the bag.”

    You have evidence that this was solely Hasbro-motivated, and not an internal decision? I would like to see that.

    “You won’t find many business school professors who would recommend making the fate of your company dependent on the whim of another company who has no interest in your survival.”

    See other licenses like the Star Wars license where companies do depend on licenses that can be revoked, and I’m sure you could find plenty of business school professors who would agree to that. While I don’t agree with this provision of the GSL, it is not as unknown and horrible as you suggest.

    “Whilst 4e tries to simplify the system for the players overall, the trend with D&D 3.5 (and its derivatives) is to simplify the life of the GM through online tools and content.”

    As you point out a few paragraphs above, 4e also tries to make the life of the DM easier through its online tools and content. Obviously it’s good for both games to have these tools.

    “Wizards know this and hence 4e is targeted at the young teens market with World of Warcraft like game play and simpler rules.”

    Please prove this statement. If you’re implying that simpler rules and WoW-like gameplay automatically mean its targeted at young teens, I recommend at the very least looking at the demographics of WoW players. Additionally, as a game designer with an MA, I can tell you as something resembling an expert that older does not correlate with capacity for more complicated rules.

    Look, I know it may appear that I’m WotC’s best friend when I say stuff like this, but it’s a more multifaceted picture then what is being painted, and as someone who has been studying and covering this stuff for a while, I like to provide a counter-point to some statements that have been presented as “fact” when in fact there’s more to it than that.

    Dave T. Game´s last blog post..Mining the 4E “Eberron Player’s Guide”

  13. admin

    @DaveTheGame -

    “There is no doubt that WotC wants to kill off D&D 3.5.”

    The comments of couple of designers do not represent company policy. Instead look at the smoking gun – the original GSL license that made it difficult for companies to support 3.5 & 4e at the same time. (NOTE: I could not find the original version of the GSL to check what section 6 – the critical part – originally said).

    This plus the commonsense notion that a commercial company would want its customers to buy new books, leaves no doubt that WotC would like to see 3.5 diminish to the point of non-existence.

    “With the release of 4e, Wizards had a problem. A big corporate like Hasbro wasn’t interested in letting other people use its intellectual property but the cat was out of the bag.”

    I have no evidence except the fact that Wizards prior to Hasbro purchased was an active supporter of OGL and fan sites. Since Hasbro purchased WotC, they have taken a much more conservative line. As D&D is a major brand it is inconceivable that senior Hasbro managers ave not been involved in the decisions over the GSL.

    “You won’t find many business school professors who would recommend making the fate of your company dependent on the whim of another company who has no interest in your survival.”

    You are confusing two very different types of licenses.

    A license to use Star Wars or similar brand material is a two-way process. The publisher pays for the license and in return has certain rights to use copyright material. As long as the publisher sticks to the contract, the owner of the material cannot stop its usage without a major legal battle.

    Compare this to the GSL where the owner of the material (Wizards) can withdraw the licence at will, for any or no reason and with no legal comeback.

    These two situations are very different and carry significantly different risks to a business.

    “Wizards know this and hence 4e is targeted at the young teens market with World of Warcraft like game play and simpler rules.”

    This was a cheap shot on my part – a better phrase would been “with game play that works very well on computers and simpler rules”. This computerisation of the rules is / was vital to their ambitions with the digital game table which requires a far more defined and limited set of actions. Actually the sort of limitations you find on World of Warcraft or any other computer game.

    As to rule simplification – look at the original 4e Press Release [ http://ww2.wizards.com/Company/Press/?doc=20070816b ] which talks about “streamlines parts of the D&D game that are too complex”. It is a phrase they repeat several times in original launch as well [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_e5wAUwdmM ].

    This not prove they are targeting young teens but the simple fact is that is the age the majority of people start to play D&D and WotC are not stupid.

    These trend towards targeting young gamers and computerisation are both long running. In the 80s, all the nakedness and other ‘adult’ content was taken out of the games because it caused problems for the young teen player. And one of the stated aims of 3.0 was to make D&D more practical to compurterise [ I'm sure I had a link to the interview with WotC staff saying this but I cannot find it. Sorry my Google-fu has let me down.]

    “I know it may appear that I’m WotC’s best friend ”

    This isn’t about being WotC friend or not but about business and making money.

    Hasbro is a commercial enterprise and does whatever it thinks will benefit it the most. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. I’m running a business here and the only difference is scale, not motivation.

    This article is analysis from a business perspective. Without being on the inside of every meeting, neither myself nor Dave can talk ‘facts’. We can talk about logical conclusions based on corporate history and the market place.

  14. Graham

    “You won’t find many business school professors who would recommend making the fate of your company dependent on the whim of another company who has no interest in your survival.”

    You are confusing two very different types of licenses.

    A license to use Star Wars or similar brand material is a two-way process. The publisher pays for the license and in return has certain rights to use copyright material. As long as the publisher sticks to the contract, the owner of the material cannot stop its usage without a major legal battle.

    False.

    Just like how WotC revoked the publishing license for Dragonlance from Sovereign Press, and the rights to Dragon and Dungeon magazines from Paizo with little warning and no drawn-out legal battle, Lucasfilm could easily revoke the publishing rights to the Star Wars RPG from WotC.

    Most license agreements will contain language that allows the licensor to withdraw the license whenever they choose.

    Graham´s last blog post..Damn you, Dave! You and your… logic…

  15. Dave T. Game

    “he comments of couple of designers do not represent company policy. Instead look at the smoking gun – the original GSL license that made it difficult for companies to support 3.5 & 4e at the same time. (NOTE: I could not find the original version of the GSL to check what section 6 – the critical part – originally said).
    This plus the commonsense notion that a commercial company would want its customers to buy new books, leaves no doubt that WotC would like to see 3.5 diminish to the point of non-existence.”

    That does not imply with 100% certainty that they want to completely kill off 3.5 and obliterate it from existence, as you claim. And if that were true, wouldn’t they have kept that GSL clause in to the revised version?

    And as I’m sure you know, “common sense” isn’t always what you think it is in business. The original OGL points to that: having a healthier gaming culture as a whole is good for business, even if it includes players of older editions (who probably still buy dungeon tiles, minis, and so on). I’m not saying they wouldn’t prefer everyone to be playing 4e- what business wouldn’t?- but to the point of making it a goal to completely stomp it out? That’s conjecture that doesn’t fit the evidence.

    “I have no evidence except the fact that Wizards prior to Hasbro purchased was an active supporter of OGL and fan sites. Since Hasbro purchased WotC, they have taken a much more conservative line. As D&D is a major brand it is inconceivable that senior Hasbro managers ave not been involved in the decisions over the GSL.”

    Hasbro announces its purchase of WotC in 1999/2000: http://boardgames.about.com/library/news/bl990911.htm

    3e came out in 2000, 3.5e came out in 2003. Additionally, if you follow the Hasbro conference calls about earning, they rarely touch on D&D. WotC seems to enjoy more autonomy then other divisions (this is from those conference calls and from statements by Mike Gray, VP of Games at Hasbro).

    “You are confusing two very different types of licenses… These two situations are very different and carry significantly different risks to a business.”

    I believe they are more similar than you think. I would recommend listening to this podcast with Joe Goodman where he discusses the GSL and how it’s similar to other licenses that they work with:
    http://ogrecave.com/2008/07/29/audio-report-joe-goodman-on-dungeon-crawl-classics-for-4e/

    “This was a cheap shot on my part – a better phrase would been “with game play that works very well on computers and simpler rules”. This computerisation of the rules is / was vital to their ambitions with the digital game table which requires a far more defined and limited set of actions. Actually the sort of limitations you find on World of Warcraft or any other computer game.”

    I recommend reading through this thread on ENWorld, going on right now:
    http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/256716-d-d-4th-edition-design-based-around-suite-proposed-d-di-tools-edit-found-quote.html
    About as straightforward as you’re going to get on that subject.

    And I’m not disagreeing that the rules are simpler, I’m arguing that it was for other reasons, and also that it’s not a bad thing, and especially arguing that simpler does not equal stupider.

    “This article is analysis from a business perspective. Without being on the inside of every meeting, neither myself nor Dave can talk ‘facts’. We can talk about logical conclusions based on corporate history and the market place.”

    Yes, I agree, though there are primary sources for these kind of things that you can talk to and other sources you can find. I’m saying not everything here that was asserted as a “logical conclusion” necessarily tracks.

    Dave T. Game´s last blog post..Mining the 4E “Eberron Player’s Guide”

  16. Norman Harman

    @admin “I’m amazed any game system gets released without a online character generator and similar tools. Seems a no brainer to me. ”

    I’m not exactly amazed but I am perplexed by game systems that are so complicated they require online character generators!

    I really think Hasbro is risking D&D’s dominance of RPG market with it’s 4e marketing & licensing. But I don’t think they care cause the RPG market is small and shrinking, while the CCG(still?), Miniature, and computer game markets are growing and total cash cows. Selling information aka books is an industry on the way out.

    Also in similar vein Hasbro’s no pdf rule attempt to squash old school?

    Norman Harman´s last blog post..BuffyPunk – Season One

  17. admin

    @Graham – All contracts have termination clauses, otherwise they would run indefinitely, but there will be minimum timescales. E.g. the contract guarantees 2 years of license but after that date either party can terminate as long as they give a reasonable notice. The length of the license and how much termination notice they have to give will depend on the companies and the context.

    If you read the Sovereign Press announcement about Drgaonlance [ http://www.dragonlance.com/features/articles/10040.aspx ] you will see this is almost exactly what happened. After the initial 5 or 6 years of the agreement, WotC decided not to renew the license.

    This is radically different from WotC being able to cancel the GSL whenever it likes.

    It is not clear about the Paizo contract but given they had the Dragon licence for 5 years so I suspect that it was up for renewal and WotC simply choose not to renew it.

    If WotC had tried to cancel the either of these contracts, say six months after granting them to Paizo / Soverign Press, do think those companies would roll over and say OK?

    Of course not. Contracts like this have guaranteed time spans so that the licence purchaser knows they will have time to recoup their investment. With the 4e GSL, a publish has no such guarantee and thus it represents a very high risk.

  18. admin

    @Dave T. Game

    “That does not imply with 100% certainty…”

    No it doesn’t, but it is a reasonable conclusion given the evidence. Their decision to change the GSL is a sign (or at least can be read as a sign) that they realised their mistake.

    I think the smart thing for WotC to do would of been to release 4e under the OGL. It was a brilliant move for 3e and their failure to do it was a major mistake. However they did not and this can be attributed to one of two possible reasons:

    1) They had financial evidence that the OGL was bad for the company and they thought the GSL would be a more profitable way forward.

    or

    2) They had no evidence and made the GSL based on their market agenda. As the original GSL was highly biased against 3.5 products, it is a logical to assume that this was a deliberate act to kill of 3.5 as quickly as possible.

    “… if you follow the Hasbro conference calls about earning …”

    D&D is a very small brand compared to others Hasbro owns so in 45 minute conference call it is unlikely to get much attention. This does not mean that Hasbro have a hands off approach to WotC.

    “with game play that works very well on computers and simpler rules”.

    A very interesting thread, thank you. Epecially the link [ http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/02/18/1459259 ] and the quote form WotC.

    “… there were things we wanted to do digitally, like the Digital Game Table and the Character builder, it became clear that we should create a new, fully integrated system, with rules that would support our online applications.”

    4e was designed with computer game play in mind. Full stop. End of story.

    “…especially arguing that simpler does not equal stupider.”

    I’m not arguing that either. However it was clearly a definite policy to simplify the rules, the question is why? Simpler games have a wider potential market that wide market includes younger teenagers. Was this an accident or a deliberate attempt to target those people?

    Chris

  19. admin

    @Norman – “I’m not exactly amazed but I am perplexed by game systems that are so complicated they require online character generators!”

    Merging tabletop gaming with online tools make sense for some games. It does allow more a complicated system and that can be better.

    However, my believe that all new RPGs should have online generators is market driven. If you give away character sheets and rule summary PDFs on your web site, does it not make sense to take that next step?

    Whether Hasbro has made a big mistake with 4e / GSL remains to be seen. I think it could of been done better but it probably won’t be fatal. It depends how they react and how soon they bring out 5th edition.

  20. Bartoneus

    I love this paragraph from the post:

    “It is people who are willing to GM who drive the games industry. They are mostly likely to buy the books and they are most likely to recruit new people into the game. And why do GMs do it? Because they enjoy being creative. Roleplaying is all about creativity and the GM is the heart of that creativity. A game system that allows GMs to exercise their creativity will always win over one that doesn’t.”

    However the paragraph that follows it draws the opposite conclusion from what I would. 3.5 allows DMs to be creative? All editions of D&D allow this, but some make it a hell of a lot more of a pain than others. 3.5 vs. 4E? Which one is more like a chore, and which one is easier to DM? Hmmmm.

    I think relating DM creativity to professionally publishing content is a mistake, I bet if you poll the number of people who DM games vs. the number who are publishing content professionally you’ll see the fallacy in that comparison.

    Bartoneus´s last blog post..Mining the 4E “Eberron Player’s Guide”

  21. admin

    @Bartoneus – No argument that the 3.5 system is hard work for the GM when it comes to creating and running monsters. But I wasn’t separating 3.5 from the OGL and those two ingredients make a better recipe for than 4e + GSL ( Note: I haven’t tried writing / running 4e so I cannot be sure. I just know that publishing under 4e is not so attractive ).

    “I think relating DM creativity to professionally publishing content is a mistake …”

    I see creativity & publishing as a pyramid.

    Some players want to be GMs. Some GMs want to write adventures. Some of those GMs want to publish their adventures for fun. Some of those want to do it for a living.

    Actually it is a lot more complex than that as some GMs want to write rule-systems, others want to write software to help them play the game, other like making maps etc etc.

    So creativity is star shaped with the mass of players at the centre and spreading out in different directions towards different aspects of professional or commercial RPG activity.

  22. Thelrain

    I have to agree with the author of the thread. As a DM/player who was out of the RP loop for awhile and picking up 4e for the first time I was very disappointed. To me it seemed they wanted to take the World of Warcraft talent trees and stuff them into a pen and paper game. Computer games have been modeled after P&P games for years and this 4e just seems like a total reversal of that trend. I don’t want to sit down at a table and play a computer game on paper.

    As a player the rigid class structures streamline how I have to play my characters by forcing me to take a handful of ‘powers’ that may not even be appealing to me.

    It forces tabletop play with minatures which seems a revenue builder to me, not a rules option. Rules have always been flexible allowing you to pick and choose or change on the fly. These power’s in 4e force you to use minatures and graphs or map kits where they were suggested in previous versions or you could get by with a descriptive combat.

    Although I haven’t read the DM’s book yet I have little interest. I’ll probably give it a try but when I want to play WOW I’ll just sit in front of my pc instead of playing 4e.

  23. Tetsubo

    The OGL is hands down the greatest thing that has ever happened to the hobby of role-playing games. It grew our hobby in countless ways. Because of it dozens of gaming companies came into being and hundreds of gaming products saw ‘print’. I own dozens of these products and and happy to say that far more of them are hits then misses.

    I am a 3.5 loyalist. I can’t reasonably discuss 4E without being consumed by nerd rage. I’m not proud of this fact. WotC replaced D&D with… something else.

    For those that might not have heard of it, I recommend taking a look at the 3.5 based game Everstone. Possibly the best version of the 3.5 rules I’ve ever read.

    I am also looking forward to the finally release of Pathfinder. I have my copy on preorder from Amazon.

    Speaking of Amazon, I’ve recently found quite a few 3.5 books used and cheap at that site. I picked up an Eberron book for $0.99 two weeks ago.

    Trying to light a 3.5 candle in the 4E darkness.

    Tetsubo´s last blog post..Fear, fear and more fear.

  24. Tom

    I am an avid gamer and I have been playing RPG’s (and GMing) for 20 years.

    I DO NOT LIKE 4.0!

    It is all combat oriented, and the battles are very boring. Each fight is a battle of attrition, and all of the really cool and creative powers have been stripped away.

    The skill list is lacking. Character creation is lame. And spreading the classes through so many different books is a marketing ploy from hell. To top it off, the books have absolutely no reference value outside of the 4.0 game system. I use my 3.5 books and my gurps books as reference material for other game systems, that is how well written those books are. The 4.0 books are worthless and have no utility value outside of 4.0, and they are not even that good within 4.0!

    I really hope 4.0 fails in a huge way. Hasbro deserves to feel some hurt for what they have tried to do.

  25. Oddysen

    I am quite new to the game, but still I’m a 3.5 Resurgent, I am sort of a DM because it is hard enough to get people to play when I DM, also I love being creative and there it is, D&D 4 is to restricting, I will continue to play 3,5 and I will continue to make races, classes and campaigns.
    (Also I love the NPC generator)

  26. Rowland

    I’ve been playing dnd for roughly 24 years, I didn’t like 3.0 when it first came out, neither did the younger players I dmed at the time, but with 3.5 they improved it greatly and we started playing it once a month, till it was all they wanted to play. This took along time. Now we have 4, and I hate it more than I did 3.0, none of my freinds will touch it, let alone play it, none of us have even bought a book. The local shop I and my friends buy our gaming gear from hardly moves any of the books for 4, but still sells 3.5 at a good rate.

    In my area 4 was doomed to fail because it changed far to much. A 3.6 with a few changes to some of the broken (time consuming) rules would have been a wiser choice, instead they got greedy.

  27. Operations

    As a GM of many, many games, I VASTLY prefer 4E to v3.5 as I can actually BE CREATIVE as their are not rules telling me I have to make things specific ways.

    Same reason I like White Wolf games, and Savage Worlds, and the Silhouette system (oh, DP9, when will you return to RPGs… ). I can be creative with minimal work.

    And not all gamers are young. My newest D&D player is 41. He just started with my game.

  28. Valandil

    “As a GM of many, many games, I VASTLY prefer 4E to v3.5 as I can actually BE CREATIVE as their are not rules telling me I have to make things specific ways.”

    The rules are not telling you how to aproach your creative process, they are advising you hoy to do it,and that is a very a different thing. If you want to create a new kind of skeleton,but with less HP,you can use 1d6 instead of 1d12 as hit die. The game is going to work fine anyway,and your Core Books wont spit acid on your face just because you bent the rules to make something “more creative”.

  29. Eldrad

    If you want to try even more freedom than 3.5 or 4th then try Swords and Wizardry. Really lots of fun with almost no rules! It’s a remake using the OGL of the original 1974 D&D.

    The 3.5 system IMHO was a monster to DM. Luckily there were programs to help out DMing but any rule’s lawyer with a few extra supplement books and a few choice magic items could easily be a super character that would imbalance the game. Too many rules.
    BUT it was fun while it lasted.

    4th is all about balance and sadly a fireball is nothing to worry about anymore. Combat takes too long. Still It sometimes feels like the old days of gaming.

    BUT like I said try some old school games as well. Try Swords and Wizardry. It’s free to download and completely customizable.
    .-= Eldrad´s last blog ..Temple of the Monkey God part deux! =-.

  30. Kbobsdaddy

    I played D&D for years as a teen and early 20-something (Boxed D&D, 1e AD&D, 2e AD&D), and then faded out of the scene in the early 90′s as I discovered marriage, kids, and a job.

    Now, at 38, I find myself re-entering the scene and playing/DM-ing every other weekend with a group of friends who range in age from late twenties to late thirties. We play 3.5 and we have no real problems with it. Whatever pros and cons each of us find in the 3.5 system, we agree that the rules are there to serve the story, not the other way around. As was the case when I played “back in the day,” we use our own house rules, which basically take the “canon” rules and just make isolated tweaks to fit our style of play.

    Granted, my rambling isn’t an argument for or against any particular edition, only to say that when discussions of the merits of 3.5 vs.4e come up in our group, the conversation generally ends with, “meh…who cares…we got baddies to kill. Pass the 20-sider!” So regardless of what WotC or Hasbro may or may not have intended, they won’t find any converts to 4e among our humble band of six.

    And regarding the idea of 4e being aimed at computerization, that may be one of the places where WotC bricked their “See the Big Picture” skill check. Granted, I might be an old-school player, but the majority of the appeal of D&D for me is the face to face social interaction that takes place around the table.

    The original post says, “4e is targeted at the young teens market.” If anything, I wonder if the shift to 4e might represent an embracing (or enabling?) of younger generations’ apparent dependence on computers for even the most basic mental tasks (my son’s 3rd grade class is teaching the use of calculators for basic math! In my day, getting caught with a calculator in math class could earn you an F on your test). I passed college math, English and literature classes with scores in the high 90 percentile. Why? Because “old-school” P&P gaming forced you to exercise your grey matter. When you took the x + y = z out of the sterile math textbook and put it in the context of a game, it was a whole new landscape. Playing D&D could expose young minds to vocabulary that you just didn’t find in grade-level texts back then.

    I have not, as of this writing, cracked a 4e book, so I could be talking out of my badoopa here, but from the posts I’ve read, I get the feeling that the 4e rules are oversimplified in some cases. If that’s indeed the case, one could argue that it represents a “dumbing-down” of the material, which could be taken as an insult to the players’ intelligence.

    Anyway, that’s my soapbox moment. Thanks for listening to an old man ramble.

  31. Matt

    I personally signed up for a wotc account and downloaded all of the materials in pdf format. We’ve played the game and didn’t find it to be as fun of an experience. Combat has resorted to using the same abilities over and over again, and isn’t any fun. You can not do creative actions that, as a GM, I hated to try to deal with, but these actions are what kept us interested in RPGing. We’ve completely moved away from D and D now and are using a system that we created by borrowing our favorite features from several different games. We’ll still play the occasional 3.5 D and D game, and we still have a great 3.5 rules Star Wars campaign going on that I don’t see ending any time soon. However, when it comes to fourth edition, we tried to play 3 different campaigns but never formed a desire to continue on with it.

    -My 2 cents

  32. Pete H

    I have to disagree with the concept that on-line tools make things better. I like to design, and find the process most enjoyable when I can work freehand with an A4 pad, just looking up the odd rule when needed. The only time I have ever needed to use a computer when designing was 3.5 – and this was because stat blocks were so complex that whene I had worked them out once I wanted to cut and paste them thereafter. This, was, for me at least, a failing of the system.
    Old school, if I wanted to put an ogre in a scenario, all I had to write was AC5, 4+1HD, 19Hp 1-10 with club – done. Then I could get on with story, descriptive text, character notes etc. Under 3.5 it became the thing I had to spend most time on.
    Even the supposed flexibility of the system was a con. Real flexibility to be creative comes from not imposing a complex system. All too often 3.5 relied on an arcane cocktail of stats to make a foe interesting when a good description, some notes on roleplay and a boisterous DM’ing style was all that was required. I knew 3.5 was reaching its sell by when I saw the number of sites specifying the most powerful character builds. I used to play some Battletech, the original 55 mechs were not balanced, some were dumb designs but had character. As soon as players tried to create their own designs the mechs became predictable and repetitive. Designing a flexible build system which can cope with lots of options and player ingenuity whilst retaining balance is hideously difficult. Whilst at GW I helped with systems to allow the design of vehicles and large creatures – we had to ensure that they all came in less efficient than the list stuff to prevent the rules being abused to create something optimum.
    Role-playing has nothing to do with optimisation and 3.5 was an optimisation engine – granted it didn’t have to be and I am sure plenty of people got on fine with it but that was the way it was pointed.
    4.0 has some issues. The typically american – a fantasy world is just like ours but with magic substituting for technology – is completely lame but can at least be quickly designed away. Superficially it generates a series of combat encounters like a table top skirmish game but that is only at the entry level. Back when I got my original D&D rules in their white box I would have given heartfelt thanks for something simple like that. My early designs were rubbish and a well-balanced series of fights would have been vastly preferable. Once I scratched the surface in 4th and started using it to world build I found the simple guidelines to be utterly liberating. I don’t need to go back to original D&D when I have something just as flexible but way better organised. Now I reference my Book of Names more often than I do the rules and the campaign that I was struggling with in 3.5 is being designed far more efficiently with my time being spent on the things that really matter rather than working out how many skill points a 4th level Kobold Sorcerer has or having to resort to a computer for help.

    At the end of the day though – if 3.5 floats your boat and it works for you, great. I feel no need to wear a 4th ed scarf and sing its songs like some football fan. Greater market share or superior business model is irrelevant to me. Even support material is of dubious value, if you can’t get several years play out of a systems core books then you are becoming dependent on other people being creative for you. I can get excited about real world issues and campaign about them but using game systems as some sort of microcosm just seems to be missing the point. Happy DM’ing to all, irrespective of system.

    1. Chris

      @Pete

      Thanks for taking the time to post such a thoughtful comment.

      There is no doubt that generating creatures in 3.5 is time consuming and it is difficult to get the results you want. The flexibility built into 3.0/3.5 came out of the frustration of 1st & 2nd Ed where there was no options for flexibility. You used the monster’s out of the MM and that was it. This was frustrating as a GM because an orc was an orc was an orc so 3rd Ed’s massive flexibility was a response to this. Just as 4th Ed’s return to a less flexible system is a response to 3rd Ed.

      But there is a constant trade-off between simplicity and complexity in any design that allows flexibility, whether it is a RPG or an operating system or a set of shelves from Ikea.

      The more user-controlled flexibility you allow into a design the more complex the process of using the flexibility becomes. Whether this is a good thing depends on the user’s requirements and, critically, the how well the flexibility is implemented. This is where online tools come in.

      With good tools, a game’s complexity can be managed, allowing the GM to have their cake and eat it. However with 3.5, as good as Dingle Games and other tools are, they are being retro-fitted on a fairly unruly system and this does limit their potential.

      In 3.5, monsters will always be complex but a good tool can reduce the workload significantly to a point where a GM can take advantage of the system flexibility without being weighed down by the system’s complexity.

  33. Pat

    I have played 4.e three times and do not like it. I hate WOW, and I hate 4e. I cannot play tactically anymore, due to the fact that it forces people who have no idea how to play with tactics to use them. It is not the game for me I will not support the product. I have not had fun playing any of the times I tried due to the WOW influence.

  34. begindnd

    Yeah I completely agree that the whole market is largely based on the GM/DMs. I’m a DM and I recruited many friends who suddenly became interested into DnD (originally abit distant from it…because they didn’t want to be seen as geeky!!).

  35. Ace

    I dislike 4e for the same reason you discuss.

    I did buy all the core books of 4e so the little money it costs does not bother me the slightest, it is however a problem that the game is so hard to make -more- advanced.

    Some players, and DMs alike really like to make the fun aspects of the game more advanced, things like magic research, alchemy with new exciting plants with no reference in any book that does minor changes like +2 profession fisherman, or something like that. the game just feels much more alive when you can give the fighter an ability to make armor piercing arrows, hunting arrows, whistle arrows or the like. In 4e you are just “another fighter” with the same (combat) pokemon cards as the rest of the fighters, just like wow, everyone is cookie-cutter.

    The simplicity of “kick down the door” play style of wow is just annoyingly simple, its like Counterstrike with dress up. Me and my players demand more. Yes you -can- make things more advanced with 4e, but it doesn’t exactly facilitate it.

    When it comes to story, people dont even know what that is anymore, people think that story is the annoying videos in diablo you skip because you want to go back to the hacking and slashing. tried playing 4e with someone who played wow, and never tried any other RPG, no red line, no reason behind the adventure, just mindless slaughter from start to finish, didn’t even leave the inn the first session. wow kills creativity, and 4e is made to cash in on that total lack of creativity. Simple as that.

  36. fritz

    I am a teenager who started two years before the shift and I was kind of mad that i had a decent (in my mind) collection of books that would be useless with the new version. As the dm of my group of friends i decided to keep 3.5e since we were having a blast with it. I have bought 4e books since, DMed an adventure from a book, tried to make my own and failed miserably. These are my opinions on both systems from a teenagers point of view.

    I, honestly felt like d&d 3.5 was easier to custimize than 4e. I didn’t even know how to approach building a human scythe weilder that could challenge my players after a couple adventures. I would like to think that a 5th level fighter character and a CR5 human fighter type monster would be made the same way. In version 3.5 knew that a 5HD human fighter got 5bab, 5d10hd, and 6 feats. His scythe did 2d4 + 1.5 times his strength bonus (between 3 and 6) and his weapon might be flaming for 1d6 fire damage. Some details arn’t really cruial for enemies you expect to die in one fight so i didn’t worry about the complicated things like skills or vision types unless they mattered. In 4e i have to design all his powers that he can do in any given day. In that way 3.5 was simpler to me than 4e.

    Also in 4e spellcasters got shortchanged, they get to chose between 3 or 4 spells every time they gain them, in 3.5 i could choose wheather i wanted to shoot fireballs, cast haste on allies, dispel magic, or cast hold person on a drow when i chose third level spells for my sorcerer just to name a few.

    Making classes/prestige classes was eaisier also and much more exciting for me. If i wanted to make a prestige class dedicated to throwing shuriken, i could, it was easy. Now i have to think up a power for each level that classes in general get one, major turn off.

    Also i love the pen and paper aspect, that is why i started, so i wasn’t on my computer doing everything. I love to just sit down with some books, paper, and a pencil and create whatever strikes me at the time. A ninja dojo one day and a junge ruin made of gold the next. The system just felt so right for me.

    I’m about at an end, but would like to include one more comment. I feel the artwork has gone downhill in 4e. It has lost it’s grace and intensity and has become more combat oriented.

    So overall I am a major 3.5e fan, but d&d is about having fun, so if you have fun with 4e go with it and have a blast.

  37. Tom

    I was excited about 4e and brought the books the day they hit shelves. I dove into reading them right away. Where is the ease of GMing? The only ease in GMing is the rules where you can play without a GM. If you are are trying to say that the descriptions of actions makes it easier for you. That’s sad. The game is about imagination. 4e is one step removed from being a card game. It was a horrible experience playing 4e. The only person in my group who enjoyed 4e grew up playing video games, magic the gathering and only knows how to power game. Thank god for Pathfinder! Stop making excuses for Hasbro ruining D&D.

  38. Albert

    I too am on the 3.5 side of the fence. I agree the 4e is more “streamlined”, but i look at it as too simplified for my tastes (another reason i still play 2nd storyteller stuff and D20 star wars over SAGA). I’ve never had any issues with 3.5 ruleset stifling my creativity (unless i played with a rules lawyer- but then it was a person not a book). I learned early one that the golden rule is the DM makes the rules. Modify on the fly as long as the game and story moved smoothly.
    None of the people i game with will touch 4e. Been playing Magic for ages and wow for a good while, but i like to keep my games separate with more variety. When 3. hit the marke with OGL it was like magic. Reminded me of the old palladium system that had a ton of different settings and books.

  39. Rich

    4e epic fail, worthy of a epic fail meme.
    I do dm for 4e for newbies only, its a tool to get there feet wet and get superhero syndrome out of the system.

    Pro’s
    Easier for new players to learn

    Con’s
    Limiting in the ways to create a world.
    op hero vs nerfed villain.
    Custom Classes cost almost three times as much to make equal to another standard class.
    far to focused on board and pieces
    harder to learn for veteran players
    no easy conversion from 4e to 3.5e and 3.5e to 4e, without it hurting the character to the point of being slightly substandard.
    Really shouldnt be called 4.0e (given the previous editions), as it revamped about 80% of game mechanics. Its closer to being a massive warfare game than player baised, given the rules and mechanics.

    Neutral
    Some aspects would be nice to have. But that word some means just that some. Most of it needs to be trashed quickly. 4e is not and upgrade it is a completely different play-style. So I suppose im glad that WotC didnt use the word version vs edition. If they had, 4e(v) would be insult to injury, and be a downgrade to a new 1v.
    Now, on the other hand, 4e is a different play style. As such my bias’ness is baised on preference of play. I personally recommend new players to start out in 4e, till they are able to handle complex game mechanics (that allow the player and the dm, more flexibility).
    So yes, 2.0 to 3.5 (possibly older versions, but i dont have experience with them) is where the men and women play. I would never ask a veteran player to switch to 4e (and dont want them too as it would be considered a huge loss and 4e would be too easy for them, but i would ask a veteran 4e player (not that it has been out long enough) to come to 3.5e and start fresh or just below where the rest of the group is.

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