Posts tagged RPG Industry

The Next Iteration of D&D

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In October I made predictions about D&D 5e. Not two weeks ago I predicted that Dungeons & Dragons 5e would be announced sometime soon. Honestly, I didn’t imagine that it would be this soon. If you’ve read other gaming blogs, you no doubt already know that Wizards of the Coast made an announcement that they are indeed “developing the next iteration of D&D, and will be looking to the legions of D&D fans to help shape the future of the game along with us.”

Before I give my opinion, I’d like to say that there are two things that strike me about this. One is that they are calling it “the next iteration of D&D,” rather than “D&D 5th Edition.” This suggests to me that it will have some new name. Later in the press release, Mike Mearls states:

We want a game that rises above differences of play styles, campaign settings, and editions, one that takes the fundamental essence of D&D and brings it to the forefront of the game…We seek to reach as many people as possible, from the gamer who just started with D&D last week to the gaming group that has been together since the early-1970s. For this process to work, we want to give a voice to all D&D fans and players of all previous editions of the game.

Given this goal, it makes sense that they would be hesitant to name it D&D 5e, since it would imply that it is next in a serial line of progression that’s one more step removed from your favorite edition. From a psychology standpoint, I think this makes sense because it’s dissociating this next iteration from that serial progression. The only trouble is that we don’t have a definitive name for it yet, although “D&D Next” seems to be the predominant term. The Platinum Warlock has predicted that it will wind up being “D&D Anniversary Edition” because 2014 is the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, but I suppose time will tell.

The second thing is that Wizards of the Coast is getting feedback from the players about the new edition and you can even sign up to get prerelease materials this spring for your home campaign. Moreover, they’re trying to get feedback from players of all editions. I see this as a double-edge sword. It’ll be a good thing because Wizards will get a lot of feedback and be able to fix a lot of issues and complaints before the final product is released. They did this with the hybrid classes that appeared in D&D 4e’s Player’s Handbook 3 and I think that process worked out well.

The trouble is that there are going to be a lot of passionate players with a lot of strong opinions about the best rules for Dungeons & Dragons. There will no doubt be long and heated discussions and rants on the internet. Heck, there already are just based on the initial announcement alone! Still, it’s my sincere hope that the majority of players will be civil about the process and will able to constructively give suggestions.

So what do I think about it all? I’m optimistic. I think that this “best of D&D” mentality combined with crowd feedback will result in a product that will appeal to the majority of D&D players. And let’s not forget that a successful version of D&D and a united D&D playerbase benefits the role-playing game industry as a whole. After all, more D&D players encourages more people to get into the hobby itself, after which many will try different systems. So here’s to an improved next iteration of Dungeons & Dragons!

Savage Worlds Deluxe

Review of Savage Worlds Deluxe, Part 2

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Welcome back! This is part two of my review of Savage Worlds Deluxe. You can read part one here.

New Subsystems

I said in my first review that Savage Worlds Deluxe was truly a deluxe version because it featured a number of supplemental rules. The biggest addition is a number of new subsystems. I’d like to go into a bit more detail about each of them:

Chases

Savage Worlds DeluxeActually, this is an old system, but it’s gotten a complete overhaul. Rather than tracking distances in a chase, each round players are dealt multiple cards that tell them the relative distance of how far away they are from their target and if ranged or melee attacks are possible. It’s a really abstract system that takes getting used to, but it’s fast and works well for chases in situations like a crowded city with lots of traffic, where the participants are dodging in and out of shops and climbing on rooftops.

I think that the chase rules in Explorer’s Edition did a lot better with a more traditional chases, like pursuing a rider on horseback on the open plains, and it would be somewhat unsatisfying to do such a chase with this new system. But there’s no reason that both can’t be used if you identify which is more appropriate for your situation. By the way, Pinnacle has released a PDF of the new chase rules for free here.

Dramatic Tasks

Dramatic Tasks are somewhat like the D&D 4e skill challenge system except that they’re all about trying to get so many successes before time runs out (typically 5 rounds or 5 attempts). For instance, if you’re trying to disarm a bomb, you might have to get five successes (raises count towards this) before five rounds are up or the timer reaches zero. There’s also some advice on making this task happen in the middle of combat for extra tension. Used alone, I’m not sure they’re really all that special, but done in the middle of combat, I think they’ve got a lot of potential.

Interludes

This is a system for when the characters have some downtime and are revealing a bit more about their lives. Each player gets a card and, depending on the suit, shares with the party about a tragedy, victory, love, or desire that they have. I let these be loosely interpreted, so drawing “love” would allow a character to, for instance, share about a cause they are passionate about. As a reward, players get a benny or an adventure card. It’s a nice way to tie in character backstories, although I think having only four options makes it a bit limiting. (Pinnacle has a full release of the text here).

Social Conflict

If you’ve ever wanted to have a courtroom debate or get the players to make a mob stand down, this system is for you. There are three rounds of conversation where characters are trying to rack up more successes on Persuasion rolls than the other team, with bonuses going to especially good points. There’s also extra rules if you’re trying to argue technical points, like legal matters. After these rounds are done, just look at a table describing the outcome based on the margin of victory. All in all, a decent subsystem that, if a bit simplistic, works well for what it tries to do.

Travel

For when you want to have something more interesting happen than “you walk for many days and nights,” there’s this new system. You can calculate how long the journey will take by land, air, or sea and each day you draw from the encounter table to see what happened that day. It’s a simple way to make things more interesting without bogging down the journey, but might need to be customized depending on the style of play. For instance, if you want a Lord of the Rings style journey, you could draw more frequently and customize the encounter table (e.g. as you’re traveling, you get intercepted by a group. Since you’re in Rohan, it’s a group of Rohirrim soldiers).

Some Final Thoughts

All in all, I think it’s a really good book and has some neat additions. It’s not an essential upgrade if you already have the Explorer’s Edition, especially since Pinnacle has released some of the new stuff for free online, but it’s really cool nonetheless.

Being a Savage Worlds fanboy, I preordered Savage Worlds Deluxe at Origins this year. Studio2Publishing had a deal where you could get a CD with the PDF right there at the con and then pick up the hard copy at GenCon or get it mailed to you. I did that and got it signed by Savage Worlds creator Shane Hensley and contributor Clint Black!

Signatures inside Savage Worlds Deluxe

My signed copy of Savage Worlds Deluxe

If you’re a diehard Savage Worlds fan too or you like having a hardbound book in a larger size, I’d recommend getting it. If you’re a GM and think you’ll use the new subsystems or one-sheets, I’d recommend getting it. If you’re a player, it’s really up to you. If you are really intrigued by the new Edges or Powers, you might be interested in it, although if you have at least one copy of the book at the table, you can get them easily enough. Aside from that, I guess it just depends on whether or not you like the larger, hardbound book.

Also it’s worth mentioning that Joel Kinstle, vice-president of Pinnacle, wrote the following on the Pinnacle forums:

Like the two Deadlands core books, you should expect an Explorer’s Edition-sized paperback coming out in about a year [from the August release date] (possibly sooner if all the SWEX evaporate really fast), and then those two core rulebooks will share the shelf and catalog space.

To the best of my knowledge, Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition has been evaporating pretty fast. So I wouldn’t be surprised if by Origins, or GenCon at the latest, we’ll see a new “Explorer’s Edition size” of the Deluxe Edition. I predict that it will be $10-15, but in order to convert the material from 160 big pages to 160 small pages, some things will have to be axed. No doubt that the full page setting ads will go away as well as the “Design Notes” sidebars. My guess is that it will have the rules changes, the new Edges, the new Powers, and either the Races or the new subsystems, but there will only be one one-sheet adventure instead of five.

Well, that’s my review! If you’ve got any questions, comments, or jokes, feel free to share it in the comments!

When Companies Show Fans They Care

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I’m continually impressed by how involved Pinnacle Entertainment, creators of Savage Worlds and Deadlands, gets with their fans. On their online forums, most of the staffers post regularly and there are even two dedicated forums where fans can ask specific rules questions and within a day will get an official answer from a Pinnacle staffer. When I went to GenCon last summer, I went to the Pinnacle Entertainment booth and got the privilege to have a twenty minute conversation with Clint Black, creator of Necessary Evil (a Savage Worlds supervillain campaign I’ve been wanting to run, and he gave me some great tips on running it and talked about his inspiration behind it). I’m continually impressed by their commitment to the fans and I think it goes a long way to not only build public relations with them, but also to get in touch with what the fans, which is an invaluable resource.

Tonight, I decided for the first time to join The Back Room Chat, a weekly chatroom for fans to talk about Savage Worlds and its licensees. There were about 15 users logged in, and surprisingly three of them were Pinnacle staffers: the aforementioned Clint Black, his wife and writer Jodi Black, and Pinnacle Vice-President Joel Kinstle. They were there directly talking with the fans and, in Joel’s case, making terrible puns. I even mentioned Bookery in Fairborn, Ohio at one point, the world’s largest gaming store with buildings on two sides of the street. The Pinnacle staffers they started coming up with all kinds of crazy ideas on how to get from one side to another (including zeppelin rides). Clint even said that the two sides reminded him of West Side Story and said that next time I go there I should sing:

When you’re a Geek,
You’re a Geek all the way.
From your first d8 roll
To your dice rolling tray!

Cover of All for One Régime Diabolique

Quite possibly on my shopping list at Origins this year

Tonight was a special night on the chat room in that Paul “Wiggy” Wade-Williams of Triple Ace Games (who used to work at Pinnacle himself) was on to talk about what his company was doing, such as the upcoming supplements with All for One: Régime Diabolique, a supernatural Three Musketeers-style setting. Just for logging on into the chat, I got a free 25 page PDF from Triple Ace Games about how to use resource management in fantasy campaigns. And later on, they did a drawing for a $60 gift card voucher for their online store and a second drawing for free shipping! I didn’t win either, but I was still incredibly impressed. All this, just to say thank you for being a fan! How awesome is that?

Now I’m not saying that all RPG companies need to start giving away generous gift cards to their fans (although that would be very nice), but I have to say that I feel much more positively about both companies because their employees spend time personally talking with the fans. There are other companies whose products I really like, but I feel they’re rather out of touch with their fans, largely because they do a poor job of communication about their products (does that One Ring a bell?)

As an interesting aside, I’ve heard of many old school gamers fondly remembering Gary Gygax as a person who was fun to be around. Many of their stories are not about the early days of TSR as a company, but of being a player in a game GMed by him or of getting to have a conversation with him personally. Maybe Gary and the Pinnacle staffers know something that other RPG companies have forgotten: there is a tremendous value in having a personal relationship with the fans of your game.

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