Friday, January 13, 2012

A New Front in the Edition War?

Shawn Merwin raised an interesting point today in his Critical Hits blog, "How the Internet Changed a Game." I'd like to expand on it a bit.

D&D Next has set itself two noteworthy goals. The first is to offer something to fans of every D&D edition and get them all to sit down at the same table in one big Dungeons & Dragons inn. The second is to harness the power of fandom and the internet to help build that inn, through public playtesting and open feedback.

Both of those goals are challenging. The first is ultimately the responsibility of the very capable design team. The second places enormous power in the hands of a collective with the capacity to be energetic, enthusiastic, and effective -- but also vindictive, vicious, and downright malicious.

In the months leading up to 4E's release, online forums lit up like a Ukrainian geiger counter with hate for the concept, the art, the cosmology -- for anything new at all, in some cases. Those reactions were met by counter-hate against the haters, and Edition War III was on. (Depending on how you count them, I suppose.) Once the core books were published, the situation only got worse.

It’s fair to say that WotC did a poor job of managing expectations, reactions, and the raging arguments that erupted. But that failure didn't cause the problem. The great irony in the current divided state of D&D fandom is that while WotC created a schism with 4E, as every new edition of D&D inevitably does, it was overzealous, overreacting fans who turned that schism into a religious war complete with fanatics sworn to persecute and destroy the infidels. The validity of someone's opinion doesn't seem to matter; if you can't win an argument with facts, then you can at least drive away your opponents by being louder, more vehement, and more obnoxious.

Most grownups manage their disappointment without spitting on strangers and spray-painting hate onto public buildings. Away from the internet, that type of reaction is considered sociopathic. On the internet, it's commonplace, almost accepted.

As noted above, more than a little responsibility for the fractured state of D&D fandom can be laid at WotC’s doorstep, but the edition warriors can’t duck their share of the blame. To let them do so allows the same sort of dishonesty that lets the wife beater claim “she made me hit her.” No one stood to gain by turning the D&D community against itself; everyone had something to lose, including the people who stirred the pot with the biggest spoons.

Where does that leave us? With this: The next iteration of D&D has given itself the goal of reuniting as many players as possible in the town inn, regardless of whether their currently preferred edition is 4th, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, original, B/X, Pathfinder, or one of the many old-school retro-clones. D&D Next is not going to appeal to everyone, and plenty of people will stick with whichever previous version they know and love. But wouldn't it be grand if those who don’t come to the reunion would at least adopt a live-and-let-live attitude toward those who do and refrain from actively seeking to burn down the inn?



  1. One edition to rule them all... :)

  2. I am looking forward to D&D WhatEverIsComing, I have enjoyed 4e, but the crufting has started to be pretty noticeable. The thing I liked best in 4e was the clarity of writing, a clearly written new edition is fine with me. That said, I am not surprised when fans get rabid, it is the passion of the fans that allows the niche to survive at all. The more invested they get the more hobby rewards them and this combined the 'music was best in my college years' effect locks them into a single sweetspot for games.

    Some gamers get beyond this and love trying new things, but most find that spot and don't want to move. All the company can do is try to reassure them that they haven't been abandoned. They will still be angry and loud, but a bit of careful attention can keep them from becoming rabid.

  3. Yes, I think that not only the edition warriors should let everybody enjoy more peace this time, but the very concept of DnD Next should be the key to this peace. Everybody, even the most fighting hater, should recognize that this new direction is well-aimed at us: all the D&D players. So you, hater: WotC is caring about your thoughts directly. This should at least cast a "Calm" spell on the hot-headed. And for now, I think the spell effect is not being saved. :)

  4. This:

    Also: Bang-on analysis, and i share the same hope. I think beyond the way the Internet naturally tends to turn every argument into a fight, the thing about D&D that no designer can ever forget is how important it is to many of the people who play it. The Edition Wars (past and present) were largely fueled by the overzealousness and intolerance of a small number of semi-professional haters, sure — but for a larger number of more even-keeled folks, D&D isn’t something over which we can simply shrug and say “Yeah, whatever”. As is true for a lot of people, this game changed my life, and there’s a whole lot of emotional energy wrapped up in that kind of relationship.

  5. Shutup Bastard! 7th edition is better!

  6. Are fans of 4e just going to have to sit there for months, contributing, working, hoping that you're right? Because I suspect we won't see the more detailed 'modules' for classes until later, and that means we won't see the real damage until then, either. And frankly, there is likely to be damage.

    And even if things turn out ok, how are people going to feel after that process? I suspect a lot of them won't be jumping at the chance to run cool, new games.

    After all, the devs are going to have to try and keep the grognards happy the whole time. That could get... pretty weird. And this is all assuming, that Monte Cook and Mike Mearls don't actually throw martial characters under the bus.

    I mean... are they working from the feedback they got from L&L? The same L&L most fans of 4e quit reading because it was all sounding so dumb (like Monte Cook "inventing" passive perception)? How many people even answered the exit poll for that thing?

    1. re Del: Maybe there will be damage, maybe there won't. It's too early for anyone outside the halls of WotC to know. Some portion of 4E fans are guaranteed to dislike DDN; some will hate it. But it hurts everyone if their response is to come to an online forum for fans of the new game just to spew bile and pick fights. The same goes for hanging out in the FLGS and talking smack to anyone who enjoys something different. I and most gamers I know enjoy a good debate. We can disagree about the strengths and weaknesses of a game without acting like idiots, and it behooves us to do so if we want the RPG hobby as a whole to thrive.

  7. Can I say ... "Well said Steve!" ... seriously. You can't please everyone all the time and D&D fans of all editions certainly prove this. :-)

    WotC should be praised with this initiative; they are genuinely trying to atone for not including the fans enough when developing 4e.

    I'm really looking forward to D&D Next ... :-)

  8. Great post Steve. I agree. Long live D&D.

  9. As a member of the ever-growing cult of Savage Worlds, I've always felt that the edition war was a bit ludicrous, even when I've taken part in it.

    I think this new edition has potential. Of course, it has to. See, 4th edition split the market, meaning that D&D, while profitable, risks not being profitable enough to satisfy Hasbro. If they can't reunite the two sides with a new edition, D&D may well die entirely.

    So, it's in our best interests to help them in as constructive a manner as possible.

    1. Hurray for Savage Worlds!

      (Not the most constructive of posts, I admit, but gotta show my support) :D

  10. I <3 you so much for writing this, Steve. Thanks!

  11. I agree with this post. As someone who has enjoyed every edition of D&D, I am not scared by change. I like to see what D&D becomes. In the end I still have my books and I can still run games in any edition that I want. The internet allows me to connect and share ideas with people about every edition of the game. It has never been easier to be a fan of any edition of D&D.

    In spite of this, the internet is filled with people who spout angry rhetoric across the internet and even in FLGSs across the country. As an employee of a game store, I have listened to complaints for years. I really enjoy it when someone rants about how bad an edition is, and then they admit that they have never read the rulebook. Someone once told me 4e sucked because they got rid of one of the ability scores.

    I posted a comment on Facebook today on the D&D page and I was disappointed at the comments. The post from Wizards asked what people were excited about doing at D&DXP this year. I am going this year, for the first time, and I wanted to see what people were looking forward to. Almost 90% of the posts were how 4e, 5e or WotC sucked. One comment even started with "I know I am trolling but...". Anytime you start a post that way, it is probably not a post you need to make.

    Sorry if I am kind of ranting here, but I just want to reiterate how much I agree with the points you make in the article.

  12. Great article. I share your focus on taking responsibility for the schism created by The Editions War. Of course, almost everyone I know who fought in that war is now signed up to playtest. D&D Next will not work if we exclude Edition Warriors from the process, in fact in lots of cases they are the key to success (I am looking at YOU, Monte).

    One "issue" I have not seen mentioned a lot is the GAMMA WORLD Experiment. For a few months WotC was putting a ton of Gamma World content. I know a lot of D&D players who felt this was a poor use of design resources. Did the current design team learn anything from this? If so, what? I would like to see Mearls thoughts on that...Are we planning a Gamma World++?

    1. Gamma World was awesome and honestly a big leap forward, and if they used Primary/Secondary mutations as a jumping-off point for DDN, I'll be really happy. I was super-impressed how fun and easy it was to roll up some dudes with people who had not talked about playing GW before that night and be playing within a half-hour.

  13. Good start to the blog, Steve! You're bookmarked now! I look forward to more howling in the future.

  14. While I can agree there is a lot of rude people on the internet, I do not agree they are in any way "largely" responsible for the perceived failure of 4E. I am sure that maybe they effected some small percentage, but certainly not a large one. The largest percentage was simply reality. A lot of people took a look at 4E, and even played it for months, like I did, and left. 4E simply was a game apparently a fair number of people did not find themselves interested in playing. It had very little to do with the internet, it had almost everything to do with the game itself. Hey, at least I got a couple of board games I like out of it!

    1. I think you missed the point of (that part of) the post. It wasn't about placing blame or responsibility for how the sales figures for 4th ed was going or for how good or bad 4th ed was.

      As I read it, it was about why edition discussion on the net usually turns into hatefilled slugfests without any real content (even the ones that start out constructive). And on that, I agree 100 % with Winter on that it is the "edition warriors" who must take the blame for the fact that it can sometimes be impossible to even talk about different editions without being verbally assaulted.

      As a fan of D&D in general (have played all TSR/WotC editions except AD&D 1st), I have no difficulty in seeing how different gaming styles fit better with different editions. I have my personal opinions of which I think is best and worst. But I would never go out of my way to make someone feel stupid or offend someone who prefers a different edition (and I don't get the impression that you would either). An edition warrior would, and as such, they alone bear the responsibiliy for the hostility in edition talks.

    2. it is the "edition warriors" who must take the blame for the fact that it can sometimes be impossible to even talk about different editions without being verbally assaulted.

      Yeah yeah -- but these are the people who are currently leading the D&D Next design, right? I mean we can all agree that Monte Cooke is clearly an Edition Warrior of this ilk, I think.

      To be a bully & then declare a cease fire is not really fair.

      For D&D Next to meet half of it's design goals there must be a lot of faith in the design process & I am not sure it is there--are these really the best designers that WotC has? Are these people good at listening and responding to Community Feedback? What does the track record show?

      An edition warrior would, and as such, they alone bear the responsibiliy for the hostility in edition talks.

      Yeah yeah -- BUT the current design goals NEED to include these Edition Warriors--not just with a shrug, but actively seek out and encourage their participation. I don't get the sense that this is happening at all so far. And I do not think it is a very hard thing to do--make a list of all the demands from every single side, itemize the list, publish the list, record feedback and repeat. If WotC is serious about their design goals then something along these lines needs to be very transparent.

    3. David; I'd disagree entirely with your point that Monte Cook should be lumped in with those causing the problem. Monte has strong opinions about what constitutes good and bad game design and he'll defend those opinions, but AFAIK he's never flamed anyone online or trolled a forum just to cause trouble. I'm not telling people who don't like 4E or who have concerns about DDN to just shut up and take it; I encourage everyone to speak out and make their opinions known. But there's civilized discussion, and there's online vandalism. Too many people seem to feel that being angry is an excuse for breaking things. It's not. Personally, I'd welcome all edition warriors back into the discussion, provided they abide by the ceasefire.

      I'd also like to make it clear that my comments aren't aimed only at those who dislike 4E. There are 4E supporters who are equally guilty of fanning the flames. They ALL need to take a deep breath and think about what happens when the flames get out of control.

    4. Sorry for the length of post!

      First off, I've enjoyed your work in the past, and thanks for your efforts! FRC1: Ruins of Adventure is an awesome module, and I enjoyed Pool of Radiance as well. And of course, Marvel Superheroes is superlative. But I'm sure you've heard all this before. :-)

      I preface this with my dislike of people who belittle those who prefer the newer D&D games.(I.e. those who use terms like '3tard' and '4-on', and claim D&D is a paper MMO now, is 'unrecognizable' as D&D, and such folderol) They need to grow up, along with their brethren(who seem to get a free pass hereabouts in regard to their 'online vandalism'):

      the 4E Edition Warriors, who are generally the loudest of the bunch(quite possibly because of the 4E fanbase's size; proportionally there could be more jerks, right?), in MY experience. Every discussion of the merits of older editions was met with a list of all the (A)D&D stuff that was (subjectively, imo)'broken':(from previous editions that YOU worked on, no less, Mr. Winter :-)) the 'game' not 'allowing' fighters to do more than 'swing their sword', the '15-minute workday', getting killed by one sword stab by an Orc, etc.... Oh, yeah, and how you can finally be a 'hero' now.(Note WOTC's mocking ad campaign leading up to 4th Edition.) 'This ain't your daddy's D&D, we're badass now!' and suchlike.

      No-one in the rabid, flag-waving current Edition camp seems to believe that you can calmly and rationally assess the latest version of a GAME(not a crucial life choice, mind you, but entertainment... It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg if and so on, with appropriate hyperbole...) and reject it in favor of an older design(B/X[Labyrinth Lord]) for various and VALID reasons.(Which I won't go into here.) The reverse of course, is pure logic. Newer=better. Right. :-/

      But the 4E/proto-5E boosters KNOW my reasons without my having ever stated them. Fear of 'change', and of course, Nostalgia(which is a way of subtly insulting someone by suggesting their faculties are clouded by a childish love of days gone by...) Note the comments on this blog post here, for example.

      Huh? I had NEVER played D&D before 4E! (I had an offer for Mentzer in Middle school, and 3E at my local con, but didn't get a chance to get in on either. I've played my own homebrew since '85. But I will play other[and newer] games. So tarring me with the Grognard brush is presumptuous, at best.) My preferred D&D is from 1981, which I had never even SEEN until ~3 years ago. I just changed FROM 4E TO B/X, so what am I fearing again? :-/ How can I be stuck in a past that didn't occur?

    5. Part 2:
      I don't even know why people believe D&D 5 won't sell, as almost all of the fanbase of 4E will upgrade, as the vast majority of (A)D&D players always have.(Gotta have that all-important latest rules tweak and such.) This fear of 'haters' is ludicrous, as only a minority of players will 'cling to their older editions' and the rest will stride forward into what is sight-unseen undoubtedly the best version of the game EVER. Until next time, of course.... The need to all be playing the same current version of the game perplexes me honestly.(As Jeff Grubb points out in his recent blog: D&D has always competed with itself. And both he and I think that's a GOOD thing!) Unless of course D&D = be all and end all of the hobby, which I suspect it DOES to many of you.

      Good on Paizo(and the bugbear of the current edition set, the OSR[Commentators wail: 'stop *listening* to the grognards!' As if Wizbro is beholden to this tiny circle of hobbyists, rather than the MUCH more significant number of Pathfinder fans who used to be D&Ders! :-D]) for stepping up and forcing Wizbro to think more about the next edition and the ramifications of tinkering with it, as well as an attempt to be 'inclusive' of others that disagree with them, but who have money they'd dearly love to have.

      Does this mean I WON'T buy D&D 5.0? Almost certainly, as I play another version of the game, and others beside. But if WOTC comes out with some good supplements, I'll pick them up, as I did with AD&D 2nd Edition, when that system was the Best In The World, according to sales figures. ;-)

      My take on inter-Edition harmony:
      Perhaps WOTC can start releasing great ADVENTURES(with provision for 'old' and 'new' school D&D) again, instead of cycling the rules? No new Editions, no new(and meaningless) Wars.

      Less insulting each other over preferences in play style/favored mechanics would be good, as well.

      In closing, the new game may rock, but older versions are still viable(and fun!). And that's ok, let's just play D&D!

  15. *clears throat*

    Whelp... Guess I'll just leave this right here.

    Awesome blog, by the way. I'm a definite fan. I'll be adding a link to it ASAP.

  16. Great write-up, of course, DnD Next has a HUGE design consideration, plus they want design feedback from the fans, that's a tall order that can either succeed, or fail utterly.

    Joined your blog, I have been covering Monte Cook's Legends & Lore series on my blog.

  17. Thank you.

    I think part of the issue is that gamers are a niche community and almost automatically defensive. A lot of us are too used to getting those funny looks.

    Combine that with the internet and the ability to write what you want with
    (a) relative anonymity and
    (b) no actual voice to give flavour to those words
    and you immediately have a problem. Particularly when the people concerned are looking for reasons to react.

    Personally I like 4e enormously. It's my favourite system as a GM, but I'm really intrigued to know where DDN goes. Mind you, I'm a game whore and I'll happily play anything that lets me kick around in imaginary worlds.

  18. Great post. In the last 25 years I played B/x, 2nd, 3.0, 3.5, Pathfinder and some retroclones. The only edition I dislike is the 4th and that was after checking the rules, the mood and the background. It felt like a different game! I don't take part of any edition war. I do prefer 3-3.5 (and also Pathfinder) by I'm open to the new game so 5th ed annonced is great! My gaming group likes to try as many games as possible, though every player has his or her preferences.
    We were dissapointed with 4th ed but we would play 5th edition cause, after all, is D&D.
    Good luck with your blog!

  19. Great seeing you blogging here Steve! I will be following this one. The wallpaper art alone would be enough to sucker me in :D

    I hope that 5E will be an edition where it is easier to use new supplements with older editions. This is one of the things I liked with 3E and it could help to reduce tensions. :)


  20. Steve, thanks for a very cogent and well-written article. It has been terribly disappointing to see a game and a hobby that has, for me, always brought together so many talented and creative people turn into a destructive Edition War. There are creators and destroyers, and I've always tried to surround myself with creators. Here's hoping that even when being critical of DND Next, we as a gaming community can make our analysis creative rather than destructive.

  21. Well said sir. I'm really digging the blog's background, I immediately recognized it as Mystara having run a D&D 3.x Mystara game for the past three years. Looking for ward to your future blogs. BTW, on a mostly unrelated note, did I help you run an AD&D 2e game with 50+ participants at Gen Con back in the 1990's? After a brief intro, players cooked up 2nd edition characters on the spot, no specialist mages, no tome of magic, no kits, basically the PHB 2e only, stock races, etc., 1st level characters and more or less went on an adventure by committee. Afterwards we broke the mob into chunks of 4-6 players and handed out the brief adventure to DM's who ran the groups through 3-4 encounters.

    1. That was indeed me who hosted the event you described. If you were there, then thanks!


  22. Nicely said Steve. Every time I'd see a positive article about how well D&D is doing- like the great CNN article about all the people enjoying themselves at Encounters- followed immediately by a bunch of comments about how much 4e sucked. You can certainly say many things about D&D 4e, how fans were treated, and whatnot but the kind of behavior I saw on that article only said that you'd rather try and destroy the hobby than accept that other people are enjoying themselves.

  23. Great job, Steve. Nice to see the new blog. I think you hit the nail on the head with the civility aspect of the edition wars. To me, gaming is gaming. I recall the days when those old koot war gamers would snort at the young rpgers at most any convention. Tmes changed. They will change again. I think many of us suffer from nostalgia in our gaming lives. We recall our formative framing years and nothing will ever replace them or be "better." Yet we feel new versions of those games are a violation of our own personal golden age, whatever age that might have been. So we fall into the trap of "hatin" the new kid on the block. And as you so articulately point out, the internet let's some people magnify their voice to levels of anger that in real life are rarely experienced. Looking forward catching more from you down the road. I will add your blog to my site links at my website. All the best and looking forward to seeing you in Texas. Bill Barsh, Pacesetter Games & Simulations.

  24. The day WotC started having its own designers attack 2e (Sean K. Reynolds, for example, claiming he hated designing for 2e) to promote 3e, any expectation of civility from the fans became laughable.

  25. @velaran:

    "Less insulting each other over preferences in play style/favored mechanics would be good, as well."

    I think Wizards of the Coast created the subject of gamer arguments, but didn't create the arguments themselves. In the old days people used to say that Tunnels & Trolls was silly, D&D unrealistic, RuneQuest weird, RoleMaster was 'ChartMaster', and so on.

    1. 'I think Wizards of the Coast created the subject of gamer arguments, but didn't create the arguments themselves.':

      They fired quite a few LARGE salvos in the Wars.(Initially just to show some 'attitude' in an era where this 'confrontational' style was seen as 'cool', from what I can tell. And later on, they seemed to feel that they were being disparaged unjustly.[Which, in some cases, they were.]) WOTC's 'sins' are well known, as thy have occurred largely in an age where information rarely, if ever, disappears.(Though it an be 'spun' to advantage...)


      As to 'creating the Wars':
      TSR struck first, from everything I've seen secondhand/experienced.(They were the progenitors, and they were a bit proud of it!) Then their offspring(Chivalry and Sorcery['more realistic' 'Medieval' D&D], Arduin Grimoire[more wild and brutal D&D], Tunnels and Trolls['less expensive' and 'easier to understand' D&D|actually STATED by Ken St. Andre in his Troll Talk preface to the 1st Edition of the game|], Runequest[more 'mythic' D&D] ; D&D 'editions' all[see the stats in particular; most had levels, hit points, etc....]) proliferated, and TSR attempted to prove they were the Originators and the Imitators(great games all) were unnecessary(when there were GOOD reasons for the simulacra) and/or inferior(which they were not...). With TSR's desire to keep the mantle of The Only Fantasy Roleplaying Game That Mattered(and possibly the only RPG that 'mattered' period), and their fears of 'splitting the market', it was probably inevitable.

      Then there was TSR's(EGG and crew) constant revisions of the game, which resulted in an intra-D&D 'Edition War'(which MIGHT have been avoidable, I don't know.) And of course, that series of suits between TSR and Dave Arneson.

      Also, TSR suing GDW for Gygax's Dangerouous Journeys, buying SPI and essentially burying Dragonquest, falling out with Judge's Guild, trying to shut down Mayfair's RoleAids, etc...

      It's quite depressing, really. TSR AND WOTC(now owned by Hasbro[a company with its own mean streak when it comes to competition]) bear a LOT of that responsibility. As do some of the parent companies of the D&D knockoffs(not the ones who simply defended themselves against TSR's onslaughts), who essentially marketed their games as D&D, but 'better'. And, of course, the fans who constantly harp about which games(and their various versions/revisions) are 'superior'.

      In the old days people used to say that Tunnels & Trolls was silly, D&D unrealistic, RuneQuest weird, RoleMaster was 'ChartMaster', and so on.

      Absolutely true, but since I was responding to a post about the D&D Edition Wars, I didn't see the need to mention the the inter-game rivalries(often amongst closely related RPGs) in the hobby(existing from early on, if you're familiar with RPG history.).

      Thanx for your response!

  26. There is a dark humor in such a well written article calling edition warriors to stop descending into people shouting you down and claiming that the fault lied entirely in 4e and 4e fans, or that "Wizbro" is some sort of sinister evil force that Paizo needs to save us from.

    1. Not to be combative, but:

      Since I'm the only poster who used the term 'Wizbro', I assume this post is aimed at me. Perhaps if you'd re-read my post(which is verbose, and NOT with the intent to shout the inestimable Mr. Winter down[especially on his own blog!], but I stand by its premise that the 4e Edition Warriors clamored the most.[Due to sheer number of 4E players, and MY experience[clearly labelled in my post above]). Also, I don't lay the blame(or 'fault' ENTIRELY on 4E fans(and I don't run down the SYSTEM[which I like in Castle Ravenloft] at all!(Note my preface refencing 'old-Skool' Edition Warriors, please.) Perhaps my listing of specifics(and my sarcastic tone toward 'Editions' period.) the 4E 'Warriors' tend to hurl at fans of older Editions gave the idea I'm a 'Warrior' too. If so, my bad.(As I said, I MIGHT buy 5E, but if the supplements are good, like 2E's I'll buy them!)
      As for my use of 'Wizbro', a common jape at the conglomeration of Wizard and Hasbro, it's kind of like my default usage of Wintel to describe PCs, and nothing more than that. They're hardly 'sinister', they're just Business As Usual.(As was TSR, and most other RPG companies, honestly. The 'point' of my Edition War post. And as for Paizo needing to save the RPG community from anyone or anything, I don't see how I suggested that at all.(I'm not a Pathfinder guy. I like the company's attitude toward the fans, that's all.) I merely mentioned they, along with the Old-School Gamer crowd, made Wizbro stand up and take notice, seemingly resulting in the open playtest and reconciliationist policy of 5E(which is about the money, sure, but also I believe a desire to have that supposed unity off the early 80's era of RPGs.). I ended my post with a call for civility and more adventures from WOTC, 5E or no. I'm fine with buying stuff from them, or Paizo, or Goodman or whoever.

      Thanx again to Mr. Winter for hosting this discussion.

    2. Regarding Wizbro: You have to use words with the context they're given in order to have a meaningful discussion around moderating tone, don't you think?

      I'm just curious what you think the effect is of using terminology like "Wizbro", "Wizard$", "$e" or anything like that is on the discourse or if you even care and are just "japing" away at a process you've already decided is not worth your effort.

    3. I didn't call Hasbro/Wizards "Wizard$" nor did I mention a $e.(I in fact have NEVER used these terms anywhere, actually, these particular nicknames strike my as ridiculous[and derivative. Remember T$R?]), as ALL corporations seek to make money My usage of the term Wizbro reflects the fact that they are essentially ONE company, Wizards being ran by Hasbro, but the portmanteau used here reverses precedence, to my liking!(It sounds quite close to Hasbro, as well.)

      The effect on discourse? Little to none, I'd say.(I don't use it in a pejorative sense, but simply because I'm accustomed to it, and I find it amusing![Corporate entities are Serious Business, with logos and all, I know.. :-)]) Plus, a little mockery never hurts, imo. Keeps perspective.(I regularly make snide remarks about even my favorite edition of D&D[B/X], and its assumptions, for example... How about that 'Thief' class, eh?) I joke around like this a lot IRL, and it spills over online.

      'or if you even care and are just "japing" away at a process you've already decided is not worth your effort.':
      Why would I be posting if I didn't care about the unfolding D&D drama? Unless you think I'm trolling or something? I would hope that my posts make clear that I'm interested in further developments in this latest chapter of D&D. And I don't believe I've given the impression that the process isn't 'worth my effort.'

      Thanx for your reply!

    4. The bottom line, I think, is that words have meanings. You may not mean anything when you use the term wizbro but it has a context and is anchored firmly in a specific type of rhetoric: that is, the narrative of Wizards of the Coast as a corporate shill. This is why it's related to the terms Wizard$ and $e. You may find these terms offensive but they are in the same class as wizbro (whether you mean it that way or not).

    5. Sorry for the double reply. I wanted to add something but couldn't find any way to edit my previous reply:

      I wanted to add that the purpose for the "Corporate Shill" rhetoric that is sometimes argued is to devalue Wizards of the Coast's contributions to the brand as "money grubbing" or otherwise non art (or somehow less "pure" than previous editions of the game).

      In other words: once you "otherized" Wizards of the Coast it becomes a whole lot easier to engage in the sorts of discussions that don't get us anywhere useful.

    6. 'You may find these terms offensive':
      I didn't say I found them 'offensive', but rather 'ridiculous' and 'derivative'.

      'You may not mean anything when you use the term wizbro but it has a context and is anchored firmly in a specific type of rhetoric: that is, the narrative of Wizards of the Coast as a corporate shill.':
      It was coined 'cuz they were taken over by Hasbro(referred to sometimes as Hasborg, for its extensive game catalog.), and it reflects the amalgamation of the two once, separate entities. It's an old, established nickname that has been even used affectionately, I've found. There is a sense that Wizards is a 'mask'
      for Hasbro's policies in certain circles, but that feeling would exist no matter what the company was called. The name T$R or Wizard$ are more in the line of calling the companies out for real or perceived 'money-grubbing'.

      'but they are in the same class as wizbro (whether you mean it that way or not).':
      Only in the sarcastic sense, I'd say.

      'I wanted to add that the purpose for the "Corporate Shill" rhetoric that is sometimes argued is to devalue Wizards of the Coast's contributions to the brand as "money grubbing" or otherwise non art (or somehow less "pure" than previous editions of the game).':
      Yes. And I didn't single out Wizards(or any one company in particular) for greed in my post.(Corporations exist to make money, after all). Also, I don't believe in any 'pure vision' for the game, nor that there ever was one.

      'In other words: once you "otherized" Wizards of the Coast it becomes a whole lot easier to engage in the sorts of discussions that don't get us anywhere useful.':
      Corporations are NOT people. Dehumanization does not apply. And I'm not crusading against Wizbro. Unlike, say, some people who have suggested a 'boycott' of 5E. :-))

  27. Fantastic Article, steve. Cirno is right that Wizards has a near herculean task ahead of it if their goal is to moderate the tone of edition warriors.

    It sort of hits close to home for me personally. I'm a 4e player that is fairly active on a lot of rpg boards including on the Wizards community and while I'd like to think I'm not directly involved in any edition wars per se, I do not have a problem telling people what I think about their (sometimes terrible, ha!) opinions in a very direct way that probably fans the flames more than anything.

    Anyway, take heart. If this article alone is enough to get me to consider moderating my tone, there is no small ammount of hope for DNDNext as a whole.

  28. 'Wizards has a near herculean task ahead of it if their goal is to moderate the tone of edition warriors.':
    I'd say trying to 'moderate the "tone"' of Edition Warriors isn't essential. People get passionate about their game, after all.(And that's ok, as long as no-one's hurling death threats, imo...) I think(and of course, I stated this before[and I hope I'm not coming off like I think I'm having a stroke of genius here, I'm sure some one else has thought this up, too...]) they could produce a way that ALL Edition aficionados can enjoy their products, like adventures and supplements that can be used intra-Edition. And, of course, their 'Core Rules' options would factor into this. With some shared experiences, ala B2 The Keep On The Borderlands, The Sunless Citadel, Keep On the Shadowfell, etc..., enmity between fans of specific 'Editions' would probably simmer down. They'd have something to reminisce about! :-)

    'I do not have a problem telling people what I think about their (sometimes terrible, ha!) opinions in a very direct way that probably fans the flames more than anything.':
    Yeah, that happens.

    My 2¢, again!

    1. I think most edition wars are fairly toxic to our little hobby. I think it drives new players away to no small degree.

      Imagine going into a game shop for instance and being told "No, don't buy that game. 4e is not real Dungeons and Dragons." By the clerk. Do you think this is rare? I've seen it happen.

      Why should a new player care about our dramas? We may be passionate and there's nothing wrong with that but there's a difference between passion and rhetoric and the line is probably analogous to the line between constructive and rude.

    2. This is the chief source of my concern. Imagine a newcomer to D&D, or just a newcomer to 4E (for example), who drops into an RPG forum excited to talk about his new hobby. Assume that he's not attacked for being a noob (hardly a safe assumption but part of a larger conversation than this one about netiquette). If his first impression is that most of the posts are circular, unproductive arguing, then he's not likely to come back. Maybe he'll find a more hospitable community somewhere else. Odds are he'll just go back to his friends and they'll play D&D for a few months or a year until the group breaks up and that's that; half-a-dozen people who might have become lifelong roleplayers are lost. That's damaging to the health and image of the hobby.

    3. @DrNick:
      'I think it drives new players away to no small degree.':
      Since arguing is a favorite pastime in many recreational activities, I kinda doubt it. I think RPGs are just seen as more contentious than say baseball card collectors, for example. Personally, I rarely(if ever) see argumentiveness among the fanbase listed as a reason someone doesn't enter the hobby. 'Studies'/polls/fora questionnaires usually seem to give:
      1)Rules complexity,
      2)the cost of the books/PDFs,
      3)lack of gamers in their area to play with/teach them.

      'Imagine going into a game shop for instance and being told "No, don't buy that game. 4e is not real Dungeons and Dragons." By the clerk. Do you think this is rare? I've seen it happen.':
      Actually, yes, I do think it'd be fairly rare.(And I don't doubt your word, DrNick, btw.[I've read of a similar instance where some *2nd Edition* players, of all things, told a kid that 4E 'sucked' while at a shop. It can go both ways, though: I've heard and read about people who wanted to play older Editions at gaming clubs and were ridiculed for not playing the latest version.] Perhaps your local store[s] have some jerks working there.)

      For two reasons:
      1)Any employee that cost the store sales like that would almost certainly fired!
      2) Until recently 4E was THE dominant RPG, and therefore had priority in the RPG section. What store owner would want to be stuck with all that stock?

      Also: Hasbro would probably be contacted if this practice was more widespread than the random jackhole smarting off, and they would register supreme displeasure, probably visible from space!

      @Mr. Winter:
      (And I hope this doesn't 'sound' 'dismissive' of your concern.)
      Wasn't this acrimony on display during the 3E era as well? 3E did well for quite a few years, despite the 'War', correct?

      'If his first impression is that most of the posts are circular, unproductive arguing, then he's not likely to come back.':
      Always a possibility, I'll admit. But, you see raging like this(if not MUCH worse[No MAI, NO BUY!]) in other fan forums like those for video games, MMOs, CCGs, Pro Wrestlings, etc... among others. Par for the course, I'd say. More calm, reasoned debate is always good, imo. But, things get heated when people enjoy a pastime this much.

      'That's damaging to the health and image of the hobby.':
      The same could be said of the rabid fanbases of any hobby, I'd say! I think strong disagreements will always be a factor in beloved hobbies.

      I do support your call for more understanding on all sides of the 'War', and hope to see you blog more. Especially about your past(and future) experiences in the hobby!


    4. Can you please stop abusing parenthesis? Especially parenthesis inside parenthesis, it seriously undermines your entire post when it looks like a poorly-edited wiki article.

  29. Steve,
    I am 100% behind your post. I am a long time player and long time lurker on tons of the boards. I have not posted to the boards because of the tone. It seems to me like most of the people complaining about an edition are not even playing the edition they complain about.
    So where can we create a forum of civil disagreement that can act as a pipline to the devs? I follow SlyFlourish and Critical Hits and others. I don't always agree with their assessment of the "state of game". But I like that there is a postive message from them and that is less about "who is right" and more about how can I make "x" better by adding fun. Thanks for posting this, I believe you are not alone in your opinion here.

  30. I'm not sure an end to the edition wars will ever happen, but this last round was particularly insufferable, I agree.

    Granted, I'm strongly on the 4e side (I keep my 3.5 books around, though), and was disappointed at so many people rushing to tear down a game that to my mind, was more accessible and easy to run than any edition since the '83 red box (still the gold standard for those things, though it has its quirks and flaws too.) But I do retain the hope that 5th edition can strike a balance. You could retain a lot of mechanical improvements of 4e while dialing back some of the changes and still have a very balanced accessible game.

    I guess it all depends on what this "modularity" thing translates to, if they even retain it.

  31. > I'd welcome all edition warriors
    > back into the discussion, provided
    > they abide by the ceasefire
    Right--but this is part of the problem--the do not need to be 'welcomed back'--they, more then anyone, never ever left.

    Part of my point is that these people are the absolute KEY to DNDN and unless we all get much better at listening & understanding their positions we are doomed to repeat previous errors.

    1. Everyone is abundantly aware that they never left. When I used the word welcome, I meant I'd be glad to see them taking part in mature debate, as opposed to the teeth-grinding I do now when they bang the door off its hinges and knock over everyone's drink before even sitting down.

      I don't necessarily agree, however, that disenfranchised players are MORE important to DDN than current fans. I don't necessarily disagree, either; it's a question that deserves deeper consideration.

    2. In my opinion there's no such thing as a mature debate about role-playing. It's like trying to have a mature debate about what flavour of ice-cream is best. The mature option is not to debate.

  32. Awesome post Steve. I can't agree with you more. The official D&D forums are erupting with edition wars all over again and it makes me ill. There's so much vitriol over something that is supposed to be a fun hobby. Everyone needs to chill out and just play the game the like. BTW, your presence on the forums is greatly missed. - Style75

  33. Great post Steve. I started with 2nd Edition AD&D and (after being dragged kicking and screaming to it) eventually migrated to 3rd Edition D&D.

    I've always thought of rules editions as a game engine and I have always been far far more interested in campaign settings than rules. Rules are just a bunch of mathematics. Campaign settings are fascinating worlds that players can explore with the assistance of a GM.

    When I migrated to 3e, I naturally wanted to see support for my favourite 2e setting (which just happens to be Spelljammer). I discovered the Wizards COMmunity Boards (later Gleemax) and ended up seeing a quite a few hostile/useless comments from 2e fans that thought I would be mad to not play SJ with the "proper rules" or from 3e fans that thought I should only be playing a setting that "was not dead".

    I like to hope that the worst of that sort of negative attitude has gone away. What annoys me about this sort of attitude is that D&D is a game (a stupid game to those that don't like it) and that we are darn lucky to live in countries where we have the ability to waste time and money playing D&D, instead of living in other countries where people - right now - are either working their butts off not to starve to death, or countries where people can get their feet blown off by landmines. D&D is a luxury. We are lucky to be able to play it. Yes, we should all play the edition of D&D we love. We should all play in the campaign setting we love. And we should either help each other, or get out of the way of each other.

    D&D fandom should be about saying: "I like to play D&D this way" - not about saying: "Everyone should play D&D this way".

    I am frustrated by WotC's move to 5e (and I say this as a 3e fan) because, in my opinion 4e just is not finished. I think that WotC have become far to obsessed with churning out the rules and that they have settled on a treadmill model that requires the destruction and recreation of D&D every 5-7 years.

    In my opinion 2e was the best era for D&D, because it had a ton of interesting campaign settings for players to explore. I like the 3e rules, but with Greyhawk getting a minor role and many other campaign settings just not getting republished, I think that 3e was an unfinished job too.

    My concern, as a customer, about 5e is not "can the designers make some cool rules". I'm sure they can do that. My concern is: "are they actually going to *finish* the job this time or are we going to be getting a 6e announcement before I see anything I want to buy?"

    I don't want D&D Next - I want D&D Eternity. I want an edition of D&D that eventually gets updated, but which stays in print. Until WotC agree to make something that is not going to expand and burst (like every other edition of D&D) I might as well stick with the rules I know and cherry-pick any good settings that 5e brings along.

    And before 4e gets wound up I really really really want to see the 4e team put out Nentir Vale as a full blown campaign setting. If 4e does not get to have a single campaign setting of its own, I will be very saddened at it passing into history with nothing to offer non-4e fans.

    I may not personally like 4e, but I am not jumping up and down with glee at its passing.

  34. Given the non-standard alignment system in 4e, I'm not sure how 5e can give 4e players, 1e-3e players and Classic D&D players an alignment system that works for everyone.

    I did find the idea of rebooting campaign settings, to shoehorn in 4e changes a bit frustrating. Perhaps 5e could hand the power balance back to the campaign settings. Perhaps it could create a "default alignment system" and a "default cosmology", but perhaps a 5e Nentir Vale Campaign Setting and a 5e Mystara Campaign Setting could come with an "overide alignment system". Perhaps a 5e Planescape Campaign Setting or a 5e Spelljammer Campaign Setting could come with an "overide cosmology". Perhaps a series of Dragon magazines could show people how they could grab the iconic elements of old D&D campaign settings to overide a number of other core 5e rules.

    More importantly, I hope that 5e is aimed at people that don't want to play the 5e rules. I hope that classic D&D adventures are revisited with sequels that old-school fans can retroconvert (or that the retro-stats are provided as a Web Enhancement for old school fans).

    When 1e fans start to play Eberron games and Classic D&D fans start to play Ghostwalk games, that is when WotC will have won a victory against the Edition Wars for good.

    Why should we have one system and bend campaign settings, when we can instead have settings that bring along the best rules of 4e, 3e, 2e, 1e, BECMI, B/X or whatever? After all, Ghostwalk works because it bends the rules on death.

    For example, I've spoken to people that have said Council of Wyrms would not work as a 3e setting, but if the CoW setting was allowed to bend the rules, then it really should work under any edition of D&D.

    I hope that the 5e era can pull this sort of rabbit out of the hat.

  35. Steve, fan of your work, but must disagree to your placing the blame for edition wars anywhere but the doorstep of WOTC. Although there has been much backpedaling since the early 4E days, recall that they set out to "fire" the D&D fanbase in favour of a cynical marketing ploy to grab an MMORPG audience. Now this hasn't panned out, they've come crawling back.

    This is a company who ignored fans, saying "they'll buy it because it has Forgotten Realms on the cover.". They're just reaping what they've sown, which is a whole pile of marketing theory, brand management bollocks.