Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Great D&D Schism

Every upgrade to a new version of a roleplaying game tends to create a schism, leaving some diehards who refuse to change from the old to the new. The bigger the changes between versions, the bigger the schism. This has been especially true among D&D fans.

For the most part these diehards get fewer and fewer as time goes on and no new material for their chosen system gets published. The introduction of the original OGL with D&D 3.0 changed this dynamic some by allowing AD&D to legally continue as both HackMaster and Castles & Crusades (and possibly other versions that I am unaware of). It also will allow D&D 3.0/3.5 to continue indefinitely for fans of the system. The only real question before now was how heavily it would continue to be supported.

The answer, according to Paizo at least, is that it will be supported just fine.

Paizo is now in the process of updating the 3.5 rules to produce a new core rulebook that they are calling the Pathfinder RPG, named after the 3.5 setting that they've been developing ever since they stopped publishing Dragon and Dungeon magazines for Wizards of the Coast. They've already uploaded an alpha version for free download and playtesting, with an announced beta version to be released at GenCon, and a 'release' version to be released at GenCon 2009.

Also coming up (albeit only planned for a .pdf release at this point, or through is yet another book from Monte Cook , one of the designers of 3.0 who has been providing both support and tweaks to the system pretty much from day one.

In addition, there's already Green Ronin's True20 which will continue to be supported, and while it is meant to have a broader appeal than just fantasy, it appears to be a big hit among many gamers looking for an updated version of D20 gaming.

In fact, the thing that is most likely to keep 3rd edition D&D from being a serious competitor to 4th edition D&D, and thereby causing a more serious schism within the D&D community, is not that its support is ending, but the fact that it seems to be headed in so many different directions with the support that it will continue to get.

At least one other company not directly involved in this potential mess is also making an effort to take advantage of it. White Wolf's Graduate your Game promotion offers a copy of the Exalted core rulebook in exchange for a 3.5 Players Handbook. I've seen Exalted described as "D&D on steroids" before, so this might just be a good way for them to grab some new players as they consider transitioning out of 3rd edition.

It's really going to come down to just how good 4th edition is. The majority of people I've seen commenting on it say they are going to give it a try, but they are also saying that if it doesn't seem to get the job done after a few months of play, then they are ready to drop it and go back to some version of 3rd edition. Paizo is even getting praise from some for not releasing its version in direct competition with 4th edition for this very reason. If 4th edition proves to be a dud, then Paizo's schedule could put them into a position to pick up people as they give up on it.

At this point the biggest obstacle to the success of 4th edition would seem to be those who have said that it just doesn't "feel like" D&D. If that holds true for a majority, or even a large minority, of players, then the game could be in real trouble for the first time since WotC took it over. Fortunately for them, most people seem to be committed to giving it a serious try, so if it simply takes players a while to get used to the changes, then they should be ok. If not, then it's going to get interesting.


BlackDiamond said...

Excellent post. One minor correction: The Monte Cook "Book of Experimental Might" will remain PDF only. He's semi-retired from the RPG industry and likes to throw in a new PDF product from time to time.

Fulminata said...

Thanks! I didn't notice that when I read about it. I updated the post to point it out.

BlackDiamond said...

You can buy a print version via Lulu. I just ordered one for the store. I'll put it on the shelf at cost as a conversation starter.

Fulminata said...

Now you're just trying to make me update the post ;-)

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