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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Advance Note: This post assumes you've read this Escapist Bonus Column on EN World by Ryan Dancey. If you're at all interested in D&D/RPGs and you haven't read it, go do it now. It has loads of insider info about D&D 3e/4e and the RPG market. I'm going to be referring to the article throughout this post.

    RPGs as Network Products

    Out of all the stuff Dancey covers, one part that stood out to me as particularly interesting was the market research data. Here's the summary:

    • Tabletop RPGS are network products. The true value of a tabletop RPG isn't the book/box/PDF you buy, it's the network of social connections you share that let you play the game.
    • The less commonality between these social connections and the more segmented the community, the weaker the social network becomes.
    • This means that having lots of different competing game systems can be harmful. If your group can't all agree on a single system to play, there's no game.

    (Aside: this is a lot like languages. If one guy in your group speaks French and another Spanish and another Chinese and another Russian but they all speak a common language like English, then they can all communicate. If they don't have a common language, you've got a problem.)

    Looked at from this perspective, this explains why D&D has been so dominant in the TRPG market for so long: it's the system everyone knows how to play. One guy wants to play Shadowrun, another wants WEG Star Wars, another likes White Wolf, a fourth prefers FATE, but they all know D&D. (Looking at D&D this way isn't exactly a compliment it's the game everyone plays, but not because they want to but it's great for market share). Just as with language, there's a natural tendency for one to become the lingua franca: the unifying system that everyone plays.

    And that was how things were with D&D, until 4e.

    The Edition Wars

    With 4e, WotC managed to do what every competing RPG company had been trying and failing to do for decades: they fractured the market. Edition wars are nothing new, but over the years since 4e's release it's become clear that WotC has lost a lot of their customer base.

    Most of the edition wars have been focused on whether 4e was a better game than 3.5: one side insisting it was objectively better, the other side convinced that it was clearly worse. Looking at it through the lens of the Dancey article, though, I'm starting to think that 4e's biggest problem wasn't mechanics, or presentation, or marketing. 4e's problem was that it was too specialised.

    Generalist vs Specialist

    One of the stated design goals of 4e was to focus on the "sweet spot" covering levels 5-10 or so in 3.5, the idea being that that was the part most players enjoyed. However, 4e went further than that: it focused on a very specific type of game within that level range, where you had 4-6 PCs running through a combat-heavy adventure flowchart with occasional breaks for out-of-combat abilities and skills.

    The advantages of specialising like this are obvious: you get a much greater level of focus on what the game's intended to be about. The downside is that you exclude or minimise everything else. As a result 4e wasn't particularly good at dealing with anything that didn't involve a series of medium-powered party-based sequential combat encounters: simulation of monsters/NPCs, PvP, nonstandard characters, noncombat characters, noncombat activities, very low-power PCs, very high-power PCs, economy-based stuff, and so on. The price of specialisation is versatility.

    Traditionally, the supporters of 4e have made one of two counterarguments to this point:

    1) 4e is versatile and can do just as much as any other D&D edition.

    2) 4e isn't versatile, but it's good at what it does and most people don't care about the things it doesn't deal with anyway.

    I'm not going to deal with 1), except to point out that from a sales perspective there's little practical difference between a system that isn't versatile and a system which is versatile but which the people who want versatility can play for months and still not find what they're looking for. 2), however, is more interesting.

    Argument 2) is interesting because it's right. Most people aren't interested in using the D&D rules to make noncombat characters, or to fight PvP battles, or to try to build an economic empire, or to play low-level rocket tag. For any of those things, there's probably only 5%-10% of the player base who genuinely cares about them.

    However . . . add up six or a dozen of those 5% groups, then all of a sudden you're starting to get a sizeable number, aren't you?

    Now, none of this changes the fact that 4e was successful as a game. It sold plenty and can currently be found spread all over the place. However, WotC wanted more than that: they wanted a unifying system that would become the TRPG standard. They might have succeeded if they hadn't had any competition but as things turned out, they did.

    Pathfinder and Paizo

    Right out of the gate, Pathfinder had several major advantages over 4e. For one thing they had a ready-made customer base in the form of all the disaffected 3.5 players. Paizo also made the smart decision to put practically everything online for free on their PRD, in contrast to WotC's pay-to-play D&D Insider.

    Most of all, though, Pathfinder was more of a generalist system, having the versatility that 4e had chosen to move away from. Not only did it have the full range of the 3.5 engine to draw upon, you could import the vast existing library of 3.5 material into PF with minimal work.

    Now, none of this would have mattered if Pathfinder had remained a niche game but sometime in 2010, the first reports started leaking out of Pathfinder actually outselling D&D, and as 2011 wore on those reports got more and more numerous. As far as I know WotC still hasn't released any sales figures, making hard numbers difficult to compare but it's pretty obvious that WotC has decided that trying to match Pathfinder with 4e isn't working, because they're now bringing out a new edition of D&D instead.

    D&D Next

    Like a lot of members of these boards, I've taken part in the D&D 5e Playtest. And one of the things that WotC seems to keep asking in the questionnaires is whether things "feel like D&D" or are "integral to D&D". Like (I suspect) most people, I've found these questions a bit weird. Why are they asking whether something "feels like D&D"? Shouldn't they be focused on making a good game?

    Looking at it from the perspective of the Dancey article, though, it makes sense. WotC's priority isn't to improve D&D's mechanics their priority is to create a unifying system. They want to make D&D Next the new standard tabletop RPG that everyone knows and everyone plays, and so they're trying to appeal to as broad a range of people as possible.

    The thing about unifying systems, though, is that it only works if there's only one of them. Lots of people like to say that it doesn't matter which system sells better, because more good games is good for the hobby, right? But that's not how it works for Paizo and WotC. They're both (willingly or not) in a competition for the top spot.

    There Can Be Only One!

    So what does this mean?

    • At present the D20 market is split between 4e and Pathfinder, with a sizeable fraction playing versions of 3.5 and a small minority playing older editions. Having a minority playing older editions is normal; having the majority split between two competing systems is not.
    • Under the unifying system theory, there's a natural push towards having one system that everyone plays. Two systems can't share the top spot: one is going to cannibalise the customer base of the other.
    • 4e, having been discontinued, is out of the race. WotC are going to try to transfer the remaining 4e customer base over to 5e.
    • This means that over the coming years, D&D 5e and Pathfinder are going to fight it out. Whoever wins will get to be the "standard" RPG system. There can be only one!

    Which raises the question: who's going to win?

    D&D 5e has the enormous power of the D&D brand behind it. Dungeons and Dragons is still a household name, and that carries a huge amount of weight. People will buy 5e no matter how bad or good it is, just because it's D&D.

    Pathfinder, on the other hand, has momentum on their side. Their market share has been steadily increasing for years, and most importantly they currently have an open market. D&D Next not only isn't out, it doesn't even have a release date. By the time it does hit the shelves Pathfinder will have had a huge head start.

    So what'll happen? I don't know, but it'll be interesting to watch.
    I'm the author of the Alex Verus series of urban fantasy novels. Fated is the first, and Book #10 in the series, Fallen, is out as of September 2019. For updates, check my blog!

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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    The other thing Wizards and D&D next have in their favour of course is all of the associated IP that surrounds D&D. Each edition may reinvent the system but things like the Forgotten realms, Planescape, Beholders etc carry over from one edition to another. Wizards seem to be putting a lot of emphasis recently on making the Forgotten realms central to D&D while simultaneously starting to support all of their past editions. Does this suggest that they are putting in place a contingency for the case that they cannot retake their position as the author of the primary system? If their game isn't the lingua franca of RPGs mechanically speaking then can it be the definitive game in terms of setting lore. You may want to play pathfinder, but the latest book about the forgotten realms will still be published by Wizards of the Coast.
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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Wow, Dancey's got some balls given his involvement in the situation.

    Lessee...

    D&D has always been more specialized than you think. It's never really been about more than heroic, combative, adventuring. Sure, there were rules to do other stuff but they were generally an afterthought to make things run just smoothly enough to get back to the adventure. If they were more complicated than "roll a few checks for me" (which just about any TRPG can and has done) they were often impenetrable to anyone who wasn't an accountant (amateur or professional) and could of course be broken open by said accountants.

    • Simulation of monsters/NPCs: From what I've seen 3E wasn't good about this either. (I'm not nearly as familiar with earlier editions.) Thing is that any NPC only matters to the degree that it interacts with the PCs, directly or otherwise. 3E tries to simulate things and just ends up getting bogged down in minutiae.
    • Noncombat characters: As above, D&D has always been a combat-focused game. Its roots were in wargaming and a significant amount of character options are still combat-only.
    • Very low/high-power PCs: Problem was that low levels were always rather swingy - weapon damage had a not-insignificant chance of turning your lovingly crafted character into so much meat. High levels ended up getting really complicated - if you're going to play something on the order of gods or their immediate lessers Scion, even with its balance issues, does cut out a lot of the bookkeeping that D&D ended up needing.
    • Economy-based stuff: See what I said above - it ended up being either "I'm lost here and I've probably shot myself in the foot" or "another day, another duchy for me to purchase". (This is why I ban item crafting in my games and just peg people to WBL they've chosen.)


    4E wasn't actually the edition that fractured D&D - that was 3E. They released the OGL and it did the exact opposite of what they wanted it to. It was intended to be sort of a loss leader, to drive out other products on the market so that D&D would be standing alone at the top. There wasn't any sort of high-minded "we must protect D&D from the corporations!" rubbish, it was a rather naked profit grab that blew up in their face.

    Don't believe me? Look here. Dancey's own words, mind you. (Paizo also started poisoning the well as early as 2007.)

    Has Pathfinder actually surpassed D&D? Unlikely, given which one's had NYT bestsellers among its products. (To its credit, Pathfinder makes a lot of long-tail money from selling adventure paths.) From all indications WotC is releasing a new edition for the same reason they released 4E - it reached the end of its product line. Sure, they may try making a "unified system", but that's a venture doomed to failure when you consider:
    • The varied elements to unify. Aim for a scope too large and you start to have to marry wildly different game concepts together. (I'm looking at you, d20 Modern and d20 World of Darkness.)
    • The unification process is highly sensitive to the methods and persons involved. One person's sacred cow is another's antiquation.

    Given all of that, I'd still say that the OGL was good for the industry as a whole. Dancey talks about the diminishment of the "TRPG hobby" but I've seen and played a lot of games that were fun and yet not D&D. Many of them were published as a direct result of the OGL failing to make D&D generic. Some of them are even legally free. I may be disappointed by Next (current reports do not excite me) but if I have something else to fill the void, does it matter so much?

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by EccentricCircle View Post
    The other thing Wizards and D&D next have in their favour of course is all of the associated IP that surrounds D&D. Each edition may reinvent the system but things like the Forgotten realms, Planescape, Beholders etc carry over from one edition to another. Wizards seem to be putting a lot of emphasis recently on making the Forgotten realms central to D&D while simultaneously starting to support all of their past editions.
    That's a good point Forgotten Realms especially has a vast amount of history and presence due to the Drizz't books, Baldur's Gate, and so on. I've gotten the impression, though, that much of the old FR fanbase jumped ship when WotC did that hatchet job with the Spellplague. Is there any way they can appeal to the older FR fans without ret-conning all of the 4e FR stuff?

    Quote Originally Posted by NoldorForce View Post
    D&D has always been more specialized than you think.
    Sure, compared to something like GURPS, it absolutely was. That doesn't change the fact that for D&D 1e, 2e, 3e, and 3.5, D&D was the default tabletop RPG. It might have been specialised, but it appealed to a broad enough range of players to be the default system and the conversion rate of older players to new editions was very high. It wasn't until 4e that the base broke.
    I'm the author of the Alex Verus series of urban fantasy novels. Fated is the first, and Book #10 in the series, Fallen, is out as of September 2019. For updates, check my blog!

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    Orc in the Playground
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    Sure, compared to something like GURPS, it absolutely was. That doesn't change the fact that for D&D 1e, 2e, 3e, and 3.5, D&D was the default tabletop RPG. It might have been specialised, but it appealed to a broad enough range of players to be the default system and the conversion rate of older players to new editions was very high. It wasn't until 4e that the base broke.
    But (for all that I loathe him Dancey's right on this point) it was the default TRPG primarily for network reasons, because the base hadn't yet split. (A subtle point: it split around the arrival of 4E, but 4E wasn't as I noted above actually why this happened.) And now that this has happened, you've got a lot of specialist TRPGs that do better at some of the side things D&D did only passably. To its credit, at the time the whole field was untested so a bunch of mechanics were founded on the principle of "maybe this will work?".

    I don't believe D&D really can go back to attempting to generalize. There are other games - relatively well-known ones - that will do much better at the things D&D tried to do. They've already begun encroaching on those various niches you mentioned, and they're not going away. Pathfinder isn't successful because it tries (and like 3E fails) to be a generalist system, but instead because it has the customer base and a whole bunch of marketing fiends at Paizo. (See my comment on poisoning the well early.) If Next wants to do something besides just becoming a backwater like RIFTS it'll have to figure out precisely what it wants to do, and do it well.

    TL/DR: Pandora's box is already open; good luck shutting it.

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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Hm.

    I'm not sure how much I trust that article, if only because coming at it from the White Wolf side suggests that he's not as clear on the externals of the setting as he thinks he is.

    White Wolf isn't in decline right now - quite the opposite. It's in the process of a massive explosion of new books and game lines. They're re-starting every game that ended in the last fifteen years, when things were declining, and completely restructuring their business model to be competitive and functional in a way that doesn't demand full-time hobby stores. They laid off full-time staff because they'd spent years moving increasingly to a freelance model, which frankly (if sadly) makes more sense for any publishing industry.

    Similarly, Indie RPG companies aren't in decline, they're just shifting business models. Look at the results of the FATE RPG Kickstarter. They raised over $400,000 towards a game book - ten thousand people decided that they were going to spend money towards this game. Given that significantly fewer people play a given game than buy it, due to the social networking issues that he did discuss, that implies a very strong player base for a game which isn't even one of the main industry stalwarts (although, yes, it's growing fast). The industry is moving to a more community-driven funding model, where they use fans to spread the word and then use the Internet to spread it farther. Wizards hasn't done this yet, and I think that's going to be a bigger problem than a theoretically contracting market.
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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by NoldorForce View Post
    4E wasn't actually the edition that fractured D&D - that was 3E. They released the OGL and it did the exact opposite of what they wanted it to. It was intended to be sort of a loss leader, to drive out other products on the market so that D&D would be standing alone at the top. There wasn't any sort of high-minded "we must protect D&D from the corporations!" rubbish, it was a rather naked profit grab that blew up in their face.
    Also, keep in mind - when writing this, Dancey had a vested interest in the OGL. While a WotC employee, though, his reasons were basically, "Let's get everyone to play D&D" which is downright chilling, IMO, but probably appealing to his superiors.

    Whether or not you think the OGL was good for the hobby as a whole (I for one am incredibly glad non-d20 games are making a vibrant comeback), it has been downright disastrous for WotC. By creating the OGL they ended up in a unique position - competing with their own deprecated product line, with no incoming licensing fees, when another company took over publication. When 4e was in development, WotC had stopped making enough money on 3.5 to continue with it. Despite making high-quality products, the edition was saturated, and people weren't buying enough to maintain the edition.

    Paizo took the years of development cost, re-packaged it with some rules changes, then started re-releasing the product line. So Dancey basically created WotC's biggest competitor while he was an employee, and now earns a paycheck from it. Completely legal, mind you.

    This is why I'm 99% convinced we'll never see another full OGL game out of WotC. Their business model relies on forced obsolescence and the cessation of new products for a deprecated edition. Because RPGs never really die - they just stop getting new material. And the situation will be interesting indeed whenever Pathfinder 2.0 comes along.

    -O

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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    What this all means, in practice, is this:



    I don't at all believe that the market will consolidate towards one product. For comparison, there is room for both basketball players and football players; as long as the player base is big enough, it's just not likely that all players will gravitate towards one game and abandon the other.
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by NoldorForce View Post
    [*]Very low/high-power PCs: Problem was that low levels were always rather swingy - weapon damage had a not-insignificant chance of turning your lovingly crafted character into so much meat. High levels ended up getting really complicated - if you're going to play something on the order of gods or their immediate lessers Scion, even with its balance issues, does cut out a lot of the bookkeeping that D&D ended up needing.
    The point is that for people that want this option, it is preferable to have a game that has the option even in flawed forrm, to a game that does not.

    In other words, if people have criticism of Game A, then pointing out that Game B sucks isn't much of a counterargument.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    I've gotten the impression, though, that much of the old FR fanbase jumped ship when WotC did that hatchet job with the Spellplague. Is there any way they can appeal to the older FR fans without ret-conning all of the 4e FR stuff?
    Kind of. What they're planning, I believe, is set up a history line and suggest that DMs just play in a time period before the Spellplague. I'm skeptical if this actually works, though; it essentially is a discontinuity effect.
    Guide to the Magus, the Pathfinder Gish class.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by NoldorForce View Post
    I don't believe D&D really can go back to attempting to generalize. There are other games - relatively well-known ones - that will do much better at the things D&D tried to do. They've already begun encroaching on those various niches you mentioned, and they're not going away. Pathfinder isn't successful because it tries (and like 3E fails) to be a generalist system, but instead because it has the customer base and a whole bunch of marketing fiends at Paizo.
    Yeah, I'm not buying it. When Pathfinder came out there was a vocal minority on these forums who claimed exactly the same thing that Pathfinder was based on a crappy system, that it was too generalist, that the more specialist systems were the way to go, that it was just an inferior set of houserules, etc etc. They predicted that Pathfinder was going to be a failure.

    They've been proven spectacularly wrong. Paizo went from nowhere to market leader in an incredibly short space of time. So I'm not very impressed by the "unified generalist systems can't work" arguments, because Pathfinder is succeeding at it just fine.

    Quote Originally Posted by obryn View Post
    Whether or not you think the OGL was good for the hobby as a whole (I for one am incredibly glad non-d20 games are making a vibrant comeback), it has been downright disastrous for WotC. By creating the OGL they ended up in a unique position - competing with their own deprecated product line, with no incoming licensing fees, when another company took over publication.
    Thing is, though, this was an avoidable mistake on WotC's part. All they had to do was create the equivalent of Pathfinder themselves, instead of committing to 4e. The OGL ended up biting them in the rear, but only when they abandoned it.
    Last edited by Saph; 2013-02-11 at 06:13 PM.
    I'm the author of the Alex Verus series of urban fantasy novels. Fated is the first, and Book #10 in the series, Fallen, is out as of September 2019. For updates, check my blog!

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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Pathfinder sold INCREDIBLY well. There's market reports and statistics to back this up. It DID outsell 4e.
    This is because there are more people who WANT 3e to continue. They WANT the generalist system.

    D&D had been getting more expansive in scope since 2e's non-weapon proficiencies. People wanted a system that allowed them to create and populate worlds, to modify monsters, to create the character they wanted to play.
    3.5 did that in a way that 4th doesn't have the ability to. Yes, that means there's trap choices, non-optimal builds, and that you can overspecialize or overgeneralize... but you don't have to be good at "Killing things" in order to contribute.

    Heck, there are folk that think Artificer is underpowered and that Warlocks are broken cheese.
    There are folk who never want to leave town, and would much rather RP how their character feels and thinks going about fantasy life like some kind of sim.

    Pathfinder is STILL selling well. That should tell you something.
    It should tell you that the run on 3.5 wasn't even CLOSE to over when Wizards decided to drop that ball and make 4e.
    Think about it. If 3e was dying or dead, why then does Paizo rake in the lion's share of the market, when Pathfinder is, as stated before, just a repackaging of 3.5 with a few rules tweaks?

    I do agree that 3.5 broke the base. It broke the base because it was the general, lingua franca system that people wanted.
    When Wizards made 4e, the staying power of 3.5 *Shattered* the base and made them pay for their assumptions that they could continue on a planned obsolescence model.

    They're trying to get the market share back with 5e, but honestly coming out of a recession, people don't have money to buy a new system. If they're gonna pick up a book, it's going to be *A* book every couple of months, that adds to an existing system that they already have. Because that's less of a hit to the wallet, and a solid bet.
    Think about it. If Paizo comes out with a book, let's call it "Tieflings of Golaron", and it sucks. That's one book that sucks, and you can still play the rest of the system and ignore it like Star Wars episode 1.

    If a *Whole new system* comes out, you have to buy (By the Wizards model) 3 books, with no gueruntee that they don't suck, and if they DO suck- even if only ONE of the books sucks, that's automatically 1/3rd of the system and no, you can't play around it.

    Add that all up with the way Wizards treated their respective fanbases (Remember the 4e ads that basically called 3e fans retarded grognards?) (Remember how Wizards treated 4e players like criminals?)
    and no, they aren't getting the top spot back, not when they haven't learned their friggin' lesson.

    D&D is *Not* a specialized game. It is not *Supposed* to be a specialized game. They want to know what FEELS like D&D? A game world where I can do *Anything*, and be good at it, with rules to support it.

    For now? That means Paizo keeps the top spot, even if they are just reprinting stuff from 3.5 with some tweaks.
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Pathfinder succeeds because WOTC and many people here are/were in the minority.

    3E is not horribly broken. Players don't give a damn about tiers. Cleric players will heal in combat. Wizard players will cast Fireball. Fighter players take Improved Trip and are happy without worrying about the occasional any iteration of a large four-legged flying creature with 10 ft reach. Spellcasters enjoy buffing the non-spellcasters, and the non-spellcasters enjoy when the spellcasters occasionally save the day with a spell or two. Natural Spell and Gate do not cause hissy fits. If they find some feat or spell or combination of abilities just doesn't work for their taste because it's too weak or too powerful, they house rule to their taste and don't resent doing it.

    For those people who really don't like 3E/Pathfinder, that's fine. They don't have to. For everyone else, we like it. Whatever your issues are with the games, they are not ours. They do not bother us, we do not resent them, or perhaps we consider it a feature instead of a bug.

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    Ettin in the Playground
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    Thing is, though, this was an avoidable mistake on WotC's part. All they had to do was create the equivalent of Pathfinder themselves, instead of committing to 4e. The OGL ended up biting them in the rear, but only when they abandoned it.
    That's not really an enviable position to be in. "Keep doing stuff almost exactly like you are right now or pay the piper" is not where you want to be. It's basically a guarantee against innovation. And like it or hate it, 4e was innovative.

    Also - remember the Mongoose Pocket PHB? I'll bet WotC does...

    This just reinforces that the OGL was a terrible business decision.

    -O
    Last edited by obryn; 2013-02-11 at 07:32 PM.

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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by obryn View Post
    This just reinforces that the OGL was a terrible business decision.
    Maybe, maybe not (I'm leaning towards 'not') but it's a moot point now. The more interesting question (to me) is whether WotC's new edition will be able to successfully compete with Paizo's spin-off of their own system.
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    D&D really is a a specialized game when you look at it.
    • High fantasy
    • High magic
    • Heroic action
    • Combat-focused

    Now let's change three of those descriptors and see what we get.

    • High fantasy Steampunk
    • High magic Medium magic
    • Heroic action Gritty action
    • Combat-focused

    ...and we've got Iron Kingdoms. Sure, it's got an attached setting, but D&D's always assumed a setting (Greyhawk or Points of Light) and Pathfinder certainly didn't change this with Golarion. When you think about it there are a lot of assumptions in playstyle and tone involved in D&D - they're just hidden because it was and still is the public face of gaming.

    D&D tried being generic with the OGL, and look where that got it and WotC. Regardless of merits or shortcomings 3E got to be really big largely because it was the first edition that had come out when the Internet was widespread and it was being managed by a corporation with a lot of money to use on marketing. (The entire TRPG industry probably makes less money than WotC does on its own with Magic.) If what we know as 4E were released instead in 2000, and the OGL were published several years afterwards...we'd probably have the exact same edition split with Pathfinder existing as a clone of that instead. Businesses make various decisions because they believe that they'll get money back by doing so. WotC, Paizo, whoever.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    Maybe, maybe not (I'm leaning towards 'not') but it's a moot point now. The more interesting question (to me) is whether WotC's new edition will be able to successfully compete with Paizo's spin-off of their own system.
    Dunno. Eventually Pathfinder's product cycle will end and they'll have to make a new edition or otherwise do something to get the money train rolling again. It's a normal part of business. When that is, however, I can't forecast. Probably not before 2014, at least, when Next releases, which means they'll have an uphill battle. Then again, like I said D&D is basically funded by the juggernaut of Magic, so as a brand name it's not going to die any time soon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Acanous View Post
    It should tell you that the run on 3.5 wasn't even CLOSE to over when Wizards decided to drop that ball and make 4e.
    Think about it. If 3e was dying or dead, why then does Paizo rake in the lion's share of the market, when Pathfinder is, as stated before, just a repackaging of 3.5 with a few rules tweaks?
    3.5 was well into the long tail of its edition when every book starts selling fewer and fewer copies. Do you think the wonderful "Christmas Layoffs" started post-4e? Nope. The edition was well past stale, and by the marketing numbers, it was time for a new one. As evidence, look at the prices Monster Manual V and Magic Item Compendium fetch. This is because of their small print runs and limited release.

    I'm not disagreeing that a lot of people don't care for 4th; that much is obvious. But Paizo started out in a good spot - they got a well-developed, mature system for free, with zero licensing costs. They started with fan sympathy because of their run with Dungeon and Dragon, and the perceived slight of WotC discontinuing the licenses. Their development cash could be spent on stuff other than rule development - that's huge. Also, they have Lisa Stevens, who's a business genius; probably the smartest person in the whole damn hobby. It's not too hard to say, "You don't like that new stuff, how about coming home to the stuff you already know."

    -O
    Last edited by obryn; 2013-02-11 at 08:12 PM.

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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by obryn View Post
    It's not too hard to say, "You don't like that new stuff, how about coming home to the stuff you already know."
    You would have thought, wouldn't you? But apparently it was too hard for WotC to say, because they didn't.

    Paizo did start out in a good spot. But WotC had everything Paizo had and more (the D&D brand, the D&D settings, the D&D trademarked monsters). There was nothing stopping them from doing the same thing and raking in the same cash that Paizo did.
    Last edited by Saph; 2013-02-11 at 08:18 PM.
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    One small thing I've noticed is that 4e has a lot more stuff to it. It may even be referred to as bloat. It's more substantial, and less malleable from a homebrewer's point of view in that a base class can't be created without a significant time investment. Just look at the homebrew section of these very boards- there's no 4e homebrew. None. In a stark contrast, the plethora of 3.5/PF homebrew keeps people talking and thinking about the system regardless of what is or is not published.
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    You would have thought, wouldn't you? But apparently it was too hard for WotC to say, because they didn't.
    This is the same thing that happens whenever a game company tries to take a risk. This is the same reason that triple-AAA titles pretty much always are sequels that use the same formula as the rest of the series, that there's rarely more than "just enough" innovation in an MMO, and that indie games are made for PC and cost ten dollars. Because risks are gambles, gambles that corporate giants don't need and possibly can't afford to take.

    4e took a risk. 4e lost the gamble. Game devs don't read minds.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    You would have thought, wouldn't you? But apparently it was too hard for WotC to say, because they didn't.

    Paizo did start out in a good spot. But WotC had everything Paizo had and more (the D&D brand, the D&D settings, the D&D trademarked monsters). There was nothing stopping them from doing the same thing and raking in the same cash that Paizo did.
    Sure there was - the OGL itself. WotC needed to get away from the OGL, because otherwise the competitors they already empowered could repackage and re-sell all their core rules, as had been demonstrated by the Mongoose Pocket PHB.

    -O

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jade Dragon View Post
    This is the same thing that happens whenever a game company tries to take a risk. This is the same reason that triple-AAA titles pretty much always are sequels that use the same formula as the rest of the series, that there's rarely more than "just enough" innovation in an MMO, and that indie games are made for PC and cost ten dollars. Because risks are gambles, gambles that corporate giants don't need and possibly can't afford to take.

    4e took a risk. 4e lost the gamble. Game devs don't read minds.
    If 4E were to have "lost" WotC would have cut its losses, folded up its D&D department, and sold off the license to Paizo for a pretty penny. 4E may not have brought in as much as they would have liked but it still "won" in whatever sense the accounting staff chose to measure things.

    Plus, like I said, D&D is chump change next to Magic. It's not a big risk to them like a triple-A title would be to a game developer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by obryn View Post
    3.5 was well into the long tail of its edition when every book starts selling fewer and fewer copies. Do you think the wonderful "Christmas Layoffs" started post-4e? Nope.
    If this is so, then why did Pathfinder outsell 4e? Why are they still publishing new moduals, books and adventure paths, and making sales? Wizards could have done the exact same thing here- they ALSO had the resources, the system was theirs, and they had the brand name. Wouldn't have been difficult for them to pull this off.

    The edition was well past stale, and by the marketing numbers, it was time for a new one. As evidence, look at the prices Monster Manual V and Magic Item Compendium fetch. This is because of their small print runs and limited release.
    If you have two companies that sell the same product with different packaging, and one succeeds while the other failed, it is not the product that is not in demand. You've got a marketing failure on the business end-Wizards' business model was crap, and their marketing was poor.
    I'm not disagreeing that a lot of people don't care for 4th; that much is obvious. But Paizo started out in a good spot - they got a well-developed, mature system for free, with zero licensing costs. They started with fan sympathy because of their run with Dungeon and Dragon, and the perceived slight of WotC discontinuing the licenses. Their development cash could be spent on stuff other than rule development - that's huge. Also, they have Lisa Stevens, who's a business genius; probably the smartest person in the whole damn hobby. It's not too hard to say, "You don't like that new stuff, how about coming home to the stuff you already know."

    -O
    Well, firstly, I never said I don't like 4th, or that it was crappy or badly designed. It does what it does well, and has some good game balance going for it. What it doesn't have, is user-mod ability. You don't get to create worlds and tinker with things in 4e, they made homebrew more difficult, and monsters and PCs don't even use the same rules. So you've got more work to put in for a similar result.

    Secondly, Sunk Cost Fallacy. WoTC had everything Paizo did, and did not have to get off the ground or compete with the D&D franchise.
    So... yeah. Lisa Stevens could have saved WoTC this whole hassle and made them more money with 3.5 had they asked her, but they carried on with the Hasbro method, pulling limited runs of stuff. Which works fine for kids that outgrow the stuff, but not as well with adults, who still remember the merits of the old system.

    The failing was not in 3.5, or in the system. The failure was, objectively and demonstratably, in the business end of WoTC.
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by obryn View Post
    Sure there was - the OGL itself. WotC needed to get away from the OGL, because otherwise the competitors they already empowered could repackage and re-sell all their core rules, as had been demonstrated by the Mongoose Pocket PHB.
    . . . You're not making any sense. If it was possible for Paizo to make money off an OGL product, it was possible for WotC to do the same. In fact, WotC were in a much better position than Paizo, because they had the brand, the settings, the experience, and much more money.

    WotC had everything stacked in their favour, which is why it's really quite amazing that Paizo have managed to beat them at their own game.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Acanous View Post
    If this is so, then why did Pathfinder outsell 4e? Why are they still publishing new moduals, books and adventure paths, and making sales? Wizards could have done the exact same thing here- they ALSO had the resources, the system was theirs, and they had the brand name. Wouldn't have been difficult for them to pull this off.
    Do we actually know this one way or the other? (I've muddied the waters with my NYT Bestseller comment, to be fair.) I've looked, but all the reports that say one thing outsells the other have one of the following flaws:
    • Unsubstantiated.
    • Not a representative sample.
    • Guesswork.

    Neither Paizo nor WotC have ever released actual sales figures, to my knowledge.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Acanous View Post
    If this is so, then why did Pathfinder outsell 4e? Why are they still publishing new moduals, books and adventure paths, and making sales? Wizards could have done the exact same thing here- they ALSO had the resources, the system was theirs, and they had the brand name. Wouldn't have been difficult for them to pull this off.

    If you have two companies that sell the same product with different packaging, and one succeeds while the other failed, it is not the product that is not in demand. You've got a marketing failure on the business end-Wizards' business model was crap, and their marketing was poor.
    It's outselling 4e now because there are no new 4e books. But I can guarantee, early in the edition - probably the first 2 years or so - PF did not outsell 4e. And not taken into profitability discussion is the DDI business model.

    Well, firstly, I never said I don't like 4th, or that it was crappy or badly designed. It does what it does well, and has some good game balance going for it. What it doesn't have, is user-mod ability. You don't get to create worlds and tinker with things in 4e, they made homebrew more difficult, and monsters and PCs don't even use the same rules. So you've got more work to put in for a similar result.

    Secondly, Sunk Cost Fallacy. WoTC had everything Paizo did, and did not have to get off the ground or compete with the D&D franchise.
    So... yeah. Lisa Stevens could have saved WoTC this whole hassle and made them more money with 3.5 had they asked her, but they carried on with the Hasbro method, pulling limited runs of stuff. Which works fine for kids that outgrow the stuff, but not as well with adults, who still remember the merits of the old system.

    The failing was not in 3.5, or in the system. The failure was, objectively and demonstratably, in the business end of WoTC.
    I never said you disliked it. I said people - those being the people who went to play other games, which clearly exist.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saph View Post
    . . . You're not making any sense. If it was possible for Paizo to make money off an OGL product, it was possible for WotC to do the same. In fact, WotC were in a much better position than Paizo, because they had the brand, the settings, the experience, and much more money.

    WotC had everything stacked in their favour, which is why it's really quite amazing that Paizo have managed to beat them at their own game.
    The Mongoose Pocket PHB showed that a company could - and would - repackage and sell the entirety of the rules, at a lower price. I am not saying it is particularly brilliant to worry about this, mind you, but I can almost guarantee the OGL was a big spectre over the development of 4e. Yes, they can sell plenty of books - but those could eat around the margins.

    Paizo is that worst-case scenario, you see.

    -O

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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by NoldorForce View Post
    Do we actually know this one way or the other? (I've muddied the waters with my NYT Bestseller comment, to be fair.) I've looked, but all the reports that say one thing outsells the other have one of the following flaws:
    • Unsubstantiated.
    • Not a representative sample.
    • Guesswork.

    Neither Paizo nor WotC have ever released actual sales figures, to my knowledge.
    Well, Let's check.

    There's a number of different sources, from awards like the ENnies to quotes from Lisa. If you like, you can pull up the stock information for Paizo publishing over the last 3 years and see EXACTLY how well they're doing.

    WoTC, however, has other franchises such as MTG, so that's not a comparible method.

    What it DOES prove, though, is that there's still a market for 3.5, a strong one. Pathfinder is catering to that market, while Wizards alienated them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Acanous View Post
    Lessee, nonrepresentative sample, unsubstantiated, nonrespresentative sample. (ICv2's methodology - informal polls of retailers who use their system - allows for a lot of selection bias. Same issue occurred in XFire's comparison of Diablo 3 and League of Legends.)
    There's a number of different sources, from awards like the ENnies to quotes from Lisa. If you like, you can pull up the stock information for Paizo publishing over the last 3 years and see EXACTLY how well they're doing.
    None of those are actual data, least of all Lisa Stevens. (She claimed that PF outsold 4E, but provided no attribution.) Plus, Paizo's a private corporation - they have to report their taxes to the IRS but don't owe the public squat in that area. (WotC is a corporate subsidiary, so not even the IRS knows direct information about their finances.)

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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    So here's what I don't get about edition wars. What's wrong with playing something out of print? As far as I'm concerned, more editions are a good thing so long as they're mechanically distinct because they give me more games to play. I didn't throw out my 3.5 books when I bought my 4e ones. Just because I have 4e books doesn't mean I'm not interested in Pathfinder. When 5e comes out, I hope to play that too. Hell, I'd even play MERP given half a chance and that's been out of print for almost 15 years.

    As positive as I am about this, it amuses me that the only thing I find disagreeable is WotC's goal. I'd hate for there to be One True RPG, keeping me from playing all the alternatives.
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by NoldorForce View Post
    Lessee, nonrepresentative sample, unsubstantiated, nonrespresentative sample. (ICv2's methodology - informal polls of retailers who use their system - allows for a lot of selection bias. Same issue occurred in XFire's comparison of Diablo 3 and League of Legends.)
    None of those are actual data, least of all Lisa Stevens. (She claimed that PF outsold 4E, but provided no attribution.) Plus, Paizo's a private corporation - they have to report their taxes to the IRS but don't owe the public squat in that area. (WotC is a corporate subsidiary, so not even the IRS knows direct information about their finances.)
    Well, informal polls and nonreprisentitive samples, as well as quotes from the people running the respective shows, are all we have to go on aside from what we see the corporations actually doing.

    With the claims happening, followed by WoTC scrapping 4th and working on 5th, I believe there is enough bayesian evidence to support the case.
    Have you any information that counters the claim? I don't see Wizards issuing a denial, and in the corporate world...
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    Default Re: Pathfinder, Next, and the Future of D&D

    Quote Originally Posted by valadil View Post
    So here's what I don't get about edition wars. What's wrong with playing something out of print? As far as I'm concerned, more editions are a good thing so long as they're mechanically distinct because they give me more games to play. I didn't throw out my 3.5 books when I bought my 4e ones. Just because I have 4e books doesn't mean I'm not interested in Pathfinder. When 5e comes out, I hope to play that too. Hell, I'd even play MERP given half a chance and that's been out of print for almost 15 years.
    Nothing is wrong with it, but with very rare exceptions, it tends to lead to a slow dwindling of the player base. No new books (and more importantly, no new printings of old books) means that new players will never find the game. Kids who are curious about roleplaying go to a store, or check online, and they find the newest version and that's what they pick up to try. Given enough time, as people invariably set aside hobbies or grow old, the game gradually withers and dies...

    Or at least, that was the model. With the rise of internet culture, that may stop being true - and to a certain degree, already has. I never played any D&D older than 2nd Edition, but the rise of various clones such as Legends & Labyrinths mean that I can actually play it to a degree. The re-release of older editions of games by both Wizards and White Wolf means that old players can actually get new fans interested in older versions of their games, and make money selling PDF copies of a game that is now zero investment for them and which does nothing but fund their current games.

    I think what we're likely seeing is a shift towards board-game style RPGs, where a lot of people are going to pick up and try a lot of different games, rather than sticking with a single edition of a single game. I've noticed it starting, but I don't know if that's expressive of the community as a whole.
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