Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Could WotC support ALL D&D?

There is an interesting post on Wizard's site today where Mike Mearls discusses (basically) gaming style and which version of D&D best fits that style.

It is worth a read and reminds me a bit of the old GNS Theory that was so popular a few years back.

I am not going to get into whether or not X version of Y game fits where on Mearls grid or even Edward's GNS.
I don't particularly care about those sorts of things since they all take a back seat to the more important questions to me: "Is Game X fun?  Will I have fun with Game X?  Do I own Game X so I can find out on my own?"

Which gets me to my random though of the day.

Should WotC support ALL D&D?  

As a business model it is a flawed one, the cost to produce physical products for a game that is 10, 20 or even 30 years out of print is pointless.  But what about using their own electronic distribution?

Recently WotC has seemed open to print 1st and even 2nd and 3rd Edition related material.  Why not take that that a step further and offer a "Classic D&D" subscription.  You pay (or maybe it is part of the DDI) and get new material for your game.

Of course readers of this blog will see the error right away.  There are a ton of blogs out there now, producing for free or very, very cheap, material for those older games.  And thanks to the OGL WotC (unlike TSR in the past) is perfectly happy that we continue to do so.

But what WotC adds to the mix is something we as a group do not have.  Brand recognition.  I can say "my magic hats is for people that ply Basic Era games" (nudge nudge wink wink implied).   Only WotC can say "this is for you people that still love to play Basic Dungeons & Dragons".

Obviously there is cost.  Someone has to write and that someone has to be paid.  Art is a very important part of what WotC can bring to the table that a simple blogger or one-man shop can't do as well or as cheaply.  Of course art is still not cheap.

I am sure that a cost benefit analysis would need to be done.  How much would it cost versus how much return they could get.

So let me throw it all out to you.

Would you pay WotC for regular content for your particular favorite Old School D&D product?
How much would you pay?
Per product or monthly?
What would you want to see to make you seriously consider this?

Now keep in mind this is NOT market research.  You all are not a random sample. You are a sample that is used to get a lot of material free (if not her, then other places) but you are also a sample that is interested in this older games AND a sample that is open to other games.  You read my blog afterall, I talk about a dozen or so different games here and about a half dozen on a regular basis.  You answers are different than those of say the regular reader of Dragonsfoot or Grognardia or ENWorld.

Let me, and the world, know what you think.


Brent Wolke said...

I'd certainly pay a monthly subscription to get regular access to old TSR products, and receive new stuff. Here are my concerns though...

1) Would you have to pay per game? One subscription for Basic D&D, and another for Gamma World, and another for Star Frontiers? That would be a deal breaker fo rme.

2) Which edition of each game? Gamma World 1st, 2nd, 3rd...4th Edition? Holmes or Moldvay? We all have our preferences.

Zachary Houghton said...

I'd buy old TSR product pdfs, but there's no need to have them get involved in a return to classical gaming. They can if they want, but I already have either a free, in-print, and/or well-supported iteration of any prior edition of D&D I choose.

I didn't like the way WotC treated me as a customer back in the day, and have no reason to think they'd do any better. Thanks, but I'll stick with what I've got.

Sully said...

Now this idea I like. We know WotC has a ton of old modules and such in PDF form, that would be a great way for them to make those all available again.

Furthermore, they could really use this as an opportunity to offer an olive branch to the disenchanted folks in the OSR. There's a lot of folks putting out a lot of great material for the old school games. If the subscription service takes off with the addition of old-school support, they really ought to recruit and pay a lot of those folks to write the new material for the old games, and then we'd have a lot more old-school content with significantly higher production values.

John Matthew Stater said...

I don't know whether they still do this or not, but at one point WOTC was selling their books on Lulu.com as print-on-demand. No reason they couldn't do the same for their older games, though they might have to put some work into them to produce something that looked good.

BlUsKrEEm said...

It really depends on what we're talking here. If we are talking D&D Insider occasionally offering up pre-fourth ed content I'd probably pass. (I doubt any fourth fans would be particularly pleased with the idea either.)

Now if on the other hand there were a separate DDI service that only covered pre-fourth ed I'd probably pay $10 a month. If the content were more specific to pre third ed, I could see paying $15 with out much thought.

If they offered PDFs of older modules I'd be there in a heart beat. I started playing older ed games in the 00's, so much of the vintage material has been out of reach for me unless I wan to pay Collectors prices, or resort to piracy. I was a very sad many when Wizards took their PDF's off the market. If they sold them individually, or as a part of a subscription program (maybe another $5 a month added to an existing DDI subscription) they could count on me as a customer.

scottsz said...

I'm torn on this concept:

* As a module fanatic, I'd like to see the old treasures be available to everyone for purchase or as a benefit of a subscription.

* As for official support, I don't think they can do that without calling attention to the incompatibilities between versions... unless they were to sell a supplement that could 'officially' reconcile all editions.

* Part of me wants them to leave the old stuff alone and hopes that things will have trademarks expire, etc. in a natural way. I'm very concerned that this wave of 'support older stuff' is really a curtain to 'refresh' copyrights and trademarks. It's why I'm still against the VTT supporting the older stuff, etc.

In the end, I think they should sell what people want to buy, particularly the PDFs.

It would be great for Mr. Mearls and co. to try to bridge the edition culture gaps, but I think only hobbyists can do that.

christian said...

Why couldn't they do a POD store for everything they've ever produced? Holy hell. Could you imagine being able to buy all those great old modules? I'd love to have new copies of the various Basic D&D Gazetteers. What could be a reason for not doing that? Or, what if you could buy old Dragon mags? That would be so rad.

Rhetorical Gamer said...

I'm kinda with Christian on this one... I'd like to see them make the older TSR content available again and POD is not a bad choice, but I'd be happy even with PDFs.

That said. I'm not interested in a subscription service of any sort for older content. I want a store... I want to be able to go in, buy up the old modules or gazeteers I want -- and be able to direct others to them for purchase -- and just be able to get those materials.

I don't really want WotC back on the developing bus for older editions (even 3.5). Pathfinder is all the 3.x I need and as Thwaak pointed out -- it would be hard for them to hit the spot with older editions anyway.

cibet said...

I would not pay for it in a subscription, no. I just don't believe in the "subscription" RPG model. I buy RPG products as I need them. If my group can't get together for 2,3,4 weeks or months I don't want to be paying a subscription fee for material I am not using or may never use.

However, if WoTC/Hasbro did do this for 3.5 material, and in addition released some new Greyhawk based 3.5 material along the way, I will boldly state that this strategy would cut Paizos customer base in half.

I am sure this is not out of the question for Hasbro and in fact the more popular their competitors get (of any edition) they more likely they will support multiple versions of D&D simultaneously. GO ahead mark my words. ;)

The Jovial Priest said...

No subscription but I would happily pay for PDFs. Happily $5-10 per module. More for the rule books.

Physical copies (POD), maybe, but I'd rather buy collectibles on eBay (they smell more real).

Billiam Babble said...

Just tried to type a long post and it got wiped. Is it possible WotC actually don't have the rights to publish all of the old rules, apart from the occassional Ravenloft PDF?
If they do maybe its just a matter of waiting. We know they back the nostalgia dollar because of the Red Box. There's no evidence that new players don't buy the latest system if older versions are available, they're shinier for a start. I really like the POD idea, but I'd also like to be able to buy Dungeon as a printed magazine. WotC really confuse me, maybe they are so desperate to play everything on a computer that there are embarassed by pen n paper play, especially the really old games. ;)

Geek Gazette said...

Personally I think WotC would be wise to release something like a Rules Compendium for the older editions. They should revise them and include errata. Re-release the '91 RC, then do a 1e AD&D, 2eAD&D and maybe even 3e. Although I think that 3e would be rather pointless as Pathfinder seems to have that audience.
They could look back, see what was most popular and include that in the books. I'm personally interested in the 2e book, so I'd like to have more races (Drow, Goblin, 1/2 Orc) and classes (Ninja, Barbarian, etc) than those in the core PHB. Include the core of the DMG(maybe include some stuff from the DM splatbooks), and an MM section with condensed entries for about 75-100 popular monsters. I'd buy 500-600 page 2e RC book for $50 - $60 in a heartbeat. I'll pre-order it today!
As for digital subscriptions. If they included material for all additions in the DDi I would subscribe. I'd prefer that they just sell the old material and release new material in pdf, but either way, if it means new 2e material, I'm there.

Geek Gazette said...

That was supposed to read "If they included material for all editions in the DDi..."

Geek Gazette said...

They could call the lines "Dungeons & Dragons Classics" and create a whole new line of products under that title.

"Dungeons & Dragons Classics
2nd Edition Rules Compendium"
"Dungeons & Dragons Classics
2nd Edition Revisited "
"Dungeons & Dragons Classics
Revised 2nd Edition"

Man, now I really want that book!

Cross Planes said...

I've thought that selling former editions of D&D, possibly the whole backlist via POD makes the most sense. It allows them to keep the products available, but in a format that's not as easy to pirate as a digital file. Its not 100% secure, but nothing will be. Let's be honest, there poor reaction to piracy allowed the OSR to grow to its current state in many ways.

Gaming Ronin said...

They will not do PDF or electronic version of the current edition. Why would they do older editions?

scottsz said...

@Billiam Babble: The dividing line between having to register copyright and copyright happening 'automatically' (under U.S. Law) is a particular year.

There might be a very understandable reason for them pulling down the PDFs!