More interesting dungeons is the topic of this week’s episode. Tim joins us to help discuss just what makes a more interesting dungeon.
Now that I’ve detailed two important ways of growing awareness of D&D as a brand that people will want to buy, let’s look at how I think the launch of the fifth edition should be handeled.
D&D needs an intro box AT LAUNCH
It’s no secret that I work in at a Friendly Local Gaming Store, and while that doesn’t give me insight into the inner workings of the RPG business it does give me some experience in how RPG books get bought and sold in a real world environment. Or more specifically, how they’re not.
At least once a month I have someone ask me where they should start with RPGs. I always point them to the Pathfinder Beginner Box and to the D&D Red Box. I personally feel that these are two very important products for their respective lines. RPGs can be daunting to get into. Without an intro product an employee has to explain that an RPG group will need 2-3 books, plus dice to start out with and pray that the customer doesn’t ask why there are all the extra books setting next to the ones that were just suggested. Almost everyone I’ve ever talked to about getting into RPGs looks at the shelf of books and says “I need all of those?” Explaining that you only need three $40 books plus a $6 set of dice at the bare minimum doesn’t exactly entice people. But the beginner box does.
The Pathfinder Beginner Box is a perfect example of an intro product. It has dice, it has the quick start rules right on the character sheets, it has an intro adventure, it has minis, it has a play mat, it has a solo adventure that guides you through how to play, and it has a rule book geared toward younger players that doesn’t condescend at you. It has all of that in a single box that I can point to and go “That’s all you need.” This kind of thing needs to be a launch release. Yes, D&D needs to put out a core book and a campaign setting at the same time, but those products need to be an addition to the intro box, and as we discussed before, it needs to be tied into the cartoon that you’re releasing at the same time.
Speaking of the core book, D&D needs to stick to a single form factor, and I think the form factor should be the one they went with for essentials. They’re smaller and easier to transport if all you need is just the character stuff from that book, they’re easier to shelf in big box stores (an important consideration if you want D&D to become a core Hasbro brand) and they’re cheaper, leading to more sales. While I think you could sell both hard and softcover versions of the core books I personally believe that there is more of a market for a cheaper softcover and would only release the hardcovers later as a premium collector’s edition product. The core book should be everything a player needs to play: The rules, the character classes, the basic equipment. Leave magic items for a later book, they should be an addition th the system, not a core part of it.
So far we have a intro product for those who are just getting started and a core book for players who know what they’re doing and just want to play, now we need game mastering stuff, and there are three products that should exists. The first is a game mastering guide. The 4e guide and the Paizo Gamemastery guide both do an excellent job of filling this role and should be emulated. Don’t but game rules in this book, that’s what the core book is for. This book should be all about advice on running the game and dealing with players of all stripes.
The next thing that should exist at launch is a monster box. Yes, a box. It should have all the pawns or tokens that exist in the included monster book. It gives great value for the dollars spent and is difficult to pirate compared to just a regular monster manual.
The third thing (and honestly the least inportant) is the generic fantasy setting that you want to be the flagship of the line. I aassume it will be Forgotten Realms. Do not release this as a player book and a GM book, that just irritates everyone. Release it as one large book, and keep it as crunch free as possible. There’s no need for a thousand more “=2 to X because you’re from region Y” feats. Just include the good stuff from the setting.
I think that this setup would serve the D&D brand well as an introduction to a new edition.
So, with yesterdays’s really negative post on my part out of the way, I want to have a positive outlook on the 5e of d&d. With that Here’s the first of my Humble Suggestions.
The D&D virtual table top has been a promised product for a long time (it was, in fact, one of the key selling points of the 4e announcement.) Now, from what I understand, one of the major contributing factors to the absence of a real VTT was the death of the designer. That was an unfortunate occurrence, but it shouldn’t have been the end of the VTT. At that point, if they felt that the VTT was going to be a core part of 4e (and to be fair, uniting distant gamers and letting them play from all over the world is an awesome goal) they could have dipped into some of that fat Hasbro cash and just straight up purchased an already successful and developed VTT program like Dundjinni. They didn’t do this, and their reasons will never be known to me, so lets look forward to what they sould do now that they’ve decided to develop a D&D for all seasons.
The D&D Virtual Tabletop needs to be released on not only ALL platforms, but also be CROSS PLATFORM.
They need to develop the VTT not only for the PC, but for the Mac, the iPad, the Wii, the Xbox 360 and the PS3 (sorry linux people, I’m one of you but I have to acknowledge that we’re less than 1% of the market. Hopefully the PC version will have no trouble running under WINE.) They want to bring gamers together, so they should make the D&D VTT as (hardware) system neutral as possible. Imagine being able to play from your couch on your xbox while at the same time someone else is playing on their iPad in a park halfway around the world, while a third person has it up on their PC or Mac on the Moon! (Ok, most likely not the moon. The lag, good god the lag…)
This idea works for a number of reasons. First, it shows that you really are trying to reach out to everyone. No one can go “well, they don’t want my money because they refuse to develop for my system.” No one gets left out, everyone can play. Uniting the hobby one step at a time.
Second, it makes you more money. The only reason there are platform exclusive video games anymore is either because the studio developing is owned by the console manufacturer or they have been paid by the console manufacturer. Look at your own success with Dual of the Planeswalkers. You have that out on xbox, ps3 and steam, and if the promo card giveaway at the FLGS that I work for is any indication then it’s selling like crazy on all three platforms. No one is going to buy a system just for the VTT, so why not try to get it on the systems they already have?
Third, it makes you more money. No, that’s not an accidental repeat. Console gamers and iPad owners are both used to paying for DLC and the VTT is a promise to both the gaming community and your masters at Hasbro of nearly limitless DLC. You want an example? Ok. So the VTT will come with a pack of standard monsters, your orcs, your kobolds, your skeletons, things that every fantasy RPG has in abundance. You can, for example, sell not one, not two, but a minimum of three packs of DLC to the person running the games. Pack 1: Chromatic dragons (these packs will have both 3d models for people on consoles and PCs and awesome 2d artwork for iPad and other users) Pack 2: Metallic Dragons and Pack 3: Great Wyrms! Right there, three packs that you will sell the hell out of, and that’s just dragons.
Some of you may have noticed that I mentioned that you’d be selling monster packs to just the GM. “Well, what about the players?” Simple, Rules packs and character avatar upgrades.
The VTT should, out of the can, support the current edition of D&D, it is after the D&D VTT, but it doesn’t have to stop there. You could, with little effort, support every edition of D&D ever published. You’re trying to win hearts and minds, and what better way than to support everyone. If the rules packs cost everyone who wanted to run or play something easy like 99 cents (app priced) they you have no problem justifying every player and GM has to have the rules set. “But this just supports D&D.” Yes, until you release an SDK and pen it up to other 3rd party developers (you have said that you want 5e to be more open to the third party.) Imagine FATE or Savage Worlds rules sets available for people to purchase, and because they’re using your setup, you still get a cut. That is the definition of Win-Win my friend.
Forth, it puts it right in front of gamers who might have never even thought of playing D&D.
An all-platforms VTT gets D&D in the faces and eyes and minds of the newest generation of gamers. The generation that you not only want, but NEED to keep the game alive. It puts it in the minds of people with proven access to disposable income (they’re on a game console or iPad after all) and it does it in a way that could easily convert them into tabletop gamers that you just can’t replicate with a banner ad. If they play some VTT games they might think about buying the books and playing face to face. If they don’t then they still might enjoy playing on the VTT. You win either way.
Next time I suggest how to broaden the awareness and gets kids hooked all at the same time.
Welcome to the first episode of the new year and the third calendar year of the podcast. We start things right with an actual episode this year (instead of the bonus boardgame review like last January) with a full house discussion of WDR’s old school style Pathfinder campaign. Kat, Freebird and Slacker join WDR, Hooligan and myself in discussing house rules, adventures, and fun gamer stories from the campaign. We also pimp the Tome of Horrors Complete from Frog God Games. This Episode clocks in at one hour and nineteen minutes.
So it’s been a few days since I came back from Gencon (side note, the last Gencon podcast will go up Monday) and I’ve caught the Con fever. No, not Con Crud, I’ve gotten it into my brain that I should run a game at next year’s GenCon. If you don’t count D&D Encounters at the store I’ve never run a con game, and I’m having trouble deciding what I would want to run. I have a few ideas and I’m gonna’ squeeze a blog post out of them. Most of the following would need to be fleshed out in order to be any good, but I have a about a year to come up with something.
Ghostbusters: London vs. Madam Tussauds’ House of Wax
System: d20 modern
This is the first and so far strongest idea that I’ve had for a con game. It’s a scenario that I ran during my first Ghostbusters game and it wouldn’t be too difficult to adapt it to a convention environment. I’d need to create a few pregens (about 8 to give people some options) and a good one-sheet to cover the way that the proton packs work. For ease of gameplay I’d most likely be running it under d20 modern like I did the first time around (My “GURPSbusters” still need far too much work to expose them to people outside of my gaming group) and I’d have the opportunity to prestat all the wax characters encountered this time around instead of having to wing it.
System: Mutants & Masterminds 2e
This is an idea that I’ve had for a while now. It started as a discussion as to how you would build Mario, Samus, Link (the easy one, btw) and other characters in a d20 system and which roles they would have in a party. After an overly long, overly nerdy discussion (the best kind of RPG discussion) ended with the decision that a more superhero based system would be better suited to the mashup (even though we ended up with some really sweet magic items that I’ve been keeping in my pocket for a rainy day) I wanted to work on the idea, but I haven’t done a lot with it because I could never come up with a the time/player interest but as a one shot it could work. The basic idea is that the heroes from the various Nentendo games would come together Justice League style to save a world from the combined forces of Gannon, Motherbrain and Bowser. I love the idea of all-stars of Nentendo together in one party battling their way to the flaying castle/mother ship/command center to do epic battle with the three great Nintendo villains.
Knight of the Living Dead
System: any I’m comfortable with, most likely GURPS
I’ve never understood how you could run a zombie apocalypse as anything more than a two or three session game, and to be honest a straight zombie survival game really doesn’t sound like a game that would work for more than a one-shot without mixing it with something else. The idea would be that a group of knights (I’m leaning towards them being Arthur and the Round Table knights) are escorting some Evil MacGuffin of Evil to be destroyed in the holy [noun] of [placename] when they’re forced to take refuge in the night by a massed army of the dead intent on capturing the MacGuffin. They must deal with the army outside and the people inside slowly being affected by the MacGuffin’s evil.
The rest of the ideas I have haven’t developed farther than simple plot seeds.
- A group of wizard apprentices (one of each magic specialization) must flea for their lives when an enemy of arcane magic attacks and destroys a ceremonial meeting of the greatest mages of the land.
- I’m not sure where I would want to go with this one. It could be a race to the safety of an Arcane freindly kingdom. The apprentices could be looking for a weapon that could defeate the whatever that destroyed their masters.
- A kidnapper is taking people from around the city and the PCs are the investigators trying to unravel the clues to stop him. Then weirdness starts.
- I have a good twist in mind that I want to flesh out a little more, and surprisingly it’s not “the kidnapper is a monster/Lovecraftian horror”.
- Hercules and other great heroes must restore justice to a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
- I really haven’t gone much farther than the high concept on that one.
- Where in the world is Carmen SanDiego
- Exactly what it says on the tin. I loved the game as a kid, I loved both the cartoon and the quiz show. I would love to run this as a one shot. Truth be told I would love to run a campaign, but it would involve a lot more prep work.
That’s about it. I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts.