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Here at DireKraken, we represent a selection of D&D players that have chosen not to play 4th Edition.  We have a fairly good spectrum of opinions about it, ranging from ‘acceptable alternative system’ to ‘like the mechanics, hate the flavor’, or outright ‘dislike, destroy on sight’.  So, to me, this interview (and part 2) from The Escapist about the real motivations behind 4th Edition clarified the major reason — we’re apparently not in the target audience.

From the article:

One thing we certainly saw over the course of 2nd edition was the audience did tend to age along with the game. The game was a very playable, a very entertaining system, but it didn’t necessarily speak to the people who were coming up into the optimal RPG age category through new ways. When we were all playing 1st and 2nd Edition, we didn’t cut our teeth on MMOs or console gaming or Facebook or any of those things. At best, maybe we had experience playing Monopoly or games like that, Risk, so that D&D was a totally foreign thing. That’s just not true anymore.

To me, D&D is a different experience from anything computer-related.  It’s more social.  It’s group storytelling.  That’s fine, if that’s the population that Wizards wants to go after now, but as older, veteran gamers we feel a bit left out.

People today, the young kids today, are coming into exposure from D&D after having playing games that have very similar themes, often have very similar mechanics … they understand the concepts of the game. So in some ways they are much more advanced as potential game players. But in other ways, they are also coming from a background that is short attention span, perhaps, less likely interested in reading the rules of the game before playing.

What he seems to be saying here is that 4th Edition is aimed at the ADHD MMO player.  I’m not an MMO player.  I’ve never played WoW, Everquest, or Guild Wars.  Some players in our group have, but they see it as merely a diversion.  Our D&D world is a different recreational activity.  It’s not that MMO’s aren’t a fun game, but they usually lack the depth that our tabletop games do.

The eladrin is more recognition that the elf race historically in D&D has really been two races - it’s been the sort of super-smart, arcane, Elrond style elf, but it’s also been the primal, woodsy, archer-Legolas type elf. We wanted to make that distinction more apparent to the reader. And for eladrin we had a name and a concept for sort of the super-fey sitting out there and we felt that that was a good one to tweak a little bit and turn into a character race.

This built-in flavor is what annoys me the most about 4th Edition.  We play in our own world, we have our own history, and know where populations of each of the races are.  To have Elves split into two races was really inconvenient for us.  Plus the Eladrin are just kind of silly.  It seems a little specific anyway.  I mean, there are humans that live in cities as nobles, and there are humans that live alone in the mountains.  Both are still human.   I don’t see why Elves have to be different races to fill two different niches.

GT: You guys mentioned D&D Insider, which I do think offers some really great tools for D&D. Wizards has talked for a long time about creating a virtual tabletop - where are you guys with that?

LS: Well I can tell you that it’s still part of our plans, we haven’t announced anything yet, but we will.

AC: We unfortunately learned the hard way that it is often best to wait until you are really, really ready to announce digital offers, so we’re taking the conservative approach.

LS: But it’s definitely still part of our plan.

Yah, I was surprised when they announced the Virtual Tabletop.  I was intrigued to see it, and was aghast at all of the functionality that it was going to have.  Right now, I have to call it like I see it: vaporware.  It’s obviously over-promised and under-delivered.  I know a thing or two about software development, and it’s always better to release a minimal product first, then build on that, rather than promise the panacea to begin with.

AM: There’s been this return to classic D&D in the blogosphere. Do you guys see the old school renaissance as a good or bad thing for 4th edition D&D?

AC: I think anything that has people thinking about D&D, talking about D&D, playing D&D is a good thing. There are an awful lot of those old school experiments that lead to, “Well how would I do this with the new rule set? Or how would I use the new character archetypes in these older adventures?” I know that I ran a whole 4th edition playtest that lasted 6 or 8 months with my home group and all I did was pillage 1st and 2nd edition adventures.

I think the return to ‘classic’ gaming should be noted by Wizards as a referendum on 4th edition.  Many players are tired of  roll-playing over role-playing.  Instead of the mechanical “you do x and y happens,” they long for the older systems where exploration and being in character was rewarded.

AM: The stereotype of the 3rd edition buyer was the teenager from the 1st and 2nd edition who returned with money to spend and just bought a ton of books. Who is the 4th edition buyer? Who do people think the 4th edition buyer is and who is he actually?

LS: I think we see a pretty wide range of buyers. We see some of the people who you’re describing, who have aged through the editions, but we are also seeing new players coming to the game, a lot of them from MMOGs. We see some of that conversion from digital gamers who run through what MMOGs have to offer and they’re looking for something more.

But we’ve also got a new line of what we’re calling Dungeons and Dragons Essentials coming out this fall. Those products are really geared towards the new player… The Red Box actually kicks off those Essentials. The Red Box, being true to the original Red Box, is a complete game experience in a single purchase.

The Red Box sounds like a neat idea, but they seemed to just gloss over the veteran gamer in favor of the new gamer.  That’s what 4th Edition feels like to many of us, a ‘dumbing down’ of the game we’ve known and played for so long.

That said, I do think that 4th Ed could be fun for short, one-shot games.  I respect how easy it is to throw together an encounter and run monsters in 4th Edition.  I might even pick up a Red Box just to have around if we want to throw together a dungeon crawl on a slow night.  But that’s not typically the type of game we play — our games are usually planned out, and tied to a larger storyline.

The conversation about the OGL in the original article is almost a whole different discussion.  I do believe that its abandonment is a mistake, however.

GT: Many gamers are happy with D&D 3.5 and have stated that they’re sticking with Paizo’s continuation of that system. What do you think about Pathfinder?

AC: It’s based on a tremendously well-designed game. [Laughs all around] Obviously, we know all those guys, we worked side-by-side with many of them in years past. It doesn’t surprise me that there are companies out there that are looking to continue to support the third edition of the game. I remember somebody came up to me at one of the last couple Gen-Cons, sort of apologetic that they liked 3.5 better than 4th, and I had to remind them, “You know, I worked on both of those. It doesn’t make me feel bad that you like one game I helped design better than another game I helped design.”

I think they’re both great games, and if they were more similar the hobby would be worse for it. I think it’s better to have games that are more distinct from one another that gives people clear choices. “Well this is the style of game I want to play, or this other one is the style of game I want to play.” Nothing wrong with that. I think the 4th edition has a much greater growth potential than previous iterations of the game, I think it’s friendlier to the audience, I think it’s a little more cognizant of what new generations of gamers are looking for in an experience.

Again, they seem to be focusing on the new player.  That’s fine with me, we’re having fun with Pathfinder.  We’re excited to see what Paizo comes out with in the future.  It’s a better ‘flavor’ for us.

I can see the appeal of an easy-to-grasp edition of D&D for the MMO set.  I can continue to respect Wizards for their decision to go that direction (they are a business, after all).  We’re just not that audience.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 11th, 2010 at 9:24 am and is filed under Fantasy, Other Systems, RPG. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 comments so far


I am a hardcore baseball fan, and frankly baseball doesn’t really market its game to me. There just aren’t enough true hardcore baseball types like me out there to make baseball profitable, and they’ve already got me anyhow, so they try to mass market their appeal instead.

I am assuming Wizards has done their homework and has seen the average age of their playing community trending upwards. At some point they already have the “old folks”, but where are the next generation of D&D players coming from? Are new gamers really simply being syphoned off into the computer gaming world? How can wizards get these players to put down their game controller and instead sit at a table for 2-3 hours with their friends and actually play a pencil and paper game?

It’s a business strategy. They are taking a risk. Some will like it, some won’t, and some will just bitch about it no matter what they do.

So yes, they may not actually be marketing to me or you. And yes, I think they should have stuck with the OGL too, but that’s another topic.

My $.02,


March 11th, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Point taken - except they actually lost their ‘old fans’. We’re not placing our gaming dollars in the D&D revenue stream anymore - they’re going to Pathfinder products. I’d be like if they altered Baseball, but another league started up where they were playing ‘old school’ baseball, and you had a choice which one to spend money on.

I agree with a lot of Avaril’s points. I don’t see why 4th ed is trying to pull in the MMO player. In an MMO, the computer does the math *for you*. Why would I play something else with no graphics where I have to do math? It isn’t like MMO’s are going away or getting worse. I think D&D will struggle to be relevant with a version of the game that is just MMO pen-and-paper.

I have plenty of friends who play 4e, and they seem to enjoy it - bit as Avaril pointed out, we play VERY story-heavy games, while most of these players are hacking through dungeon crawls.

I’ll stick with Pathfinder, thanks. :)

March 21st, 2010 at 6:12 am