I generally try to avoid business speculation about Wizards of the Coast. It would seem that a large vocal group of D&D players like to second-guess and pontificate about what is and isn’t good for the Dungeons & Dragons business. I don’t care. I’m in this hobby to play the game, not get my MBA. WotC’s business is their own concern, not mine. While the direction of a lot of computer and video games matters quite a bit – we all want the games we play to be something we enjoy – this isn’t as much of a concern for D&D. The game is flexible and modular; I can build the game I want out of the material they provide.
Elitism aside, I still pay attention to what WotC does with Dungeons & Dragons and I still have a desire to see them head in certain directions. I’m just not pompous enough to assume that my ideas are best for their business.
With all of the 2010 predictions going on, I thought it might be fun to look at the five things I’d like to see WotC do with Dungeons & Dragons in 2011. Why 2011 instead of 2010? It’s very likely the WotC production schedule has already fully planned out their line for 2010. Any desires I have will likely have to wait until 2011 to become reality. So I’m skipping 2010, a year filled with Dark Sun, the third set of core books, and lots of other interesting products to focus on the year after.
I will warn you now that these are likely to be contested opinions. I’m guessing every D&D player has a 3×5 note card in their back pocket with things they want WotC to do. But today we’ll simply have to suffer through mine.
Let us begin.
Publish a New Dungeon Delve
I’m a huge fan of the Dungeon Delve sourcebook but it’s quickly losing its value as I play through all of the three-battle scenarios contained within. This book has proved invaluable to me as a source for single-night one-shot adventures as well as quick additions to my own campaign. It’s a great modular book that ends up being far more useful than published full-length adventures. I would actually far prefer WotC publishes delves to DDI instead of full-length adventure paths.
In 2011 I would love to see WotC publish a new Dungeon Delve book in exactly the same format as the first with fresh encounters, fresh environments, and fresh monsters. I would love it to continue using D&D Dungeon Tiles and miniatures available in D&D Miniature boosters. Another book like this would see a lot of use in my game.
Publish a 4e Unearthed Arcana
In 2004, WotC published Unearthed Arcana for the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons. This rules supplement contained piles and piles of house rules one could use to modify the game play of the 3rd edition of D&D. I’d love to see a new version of this book for 4e with supplemental rules to speed up combat, increase monster threats at higher levels, simplify character design, simplify known complexities in 4e, change annoying status effects like stun, and address a lot of the other areas in 4th edition that a lot of us aren’t generally happy with. All of these rules would be optional and, unlike the errata and updated rules we find in the DMG2, they can actually modify or remove rules printed previously.
No doubt this would be politically sensitive. A lot of players might use this to shout about D&D 4.5 but making it an optional supplement would avoid that point of view in more rational thought.
Publish a Monster Manual 1 Redux
I love where WotC has taken the Monster Manual 2 and hearing about the new format for monsters in the Monster Manual 3 from the D&D podcast has sure awakened my interest. That said, it bothers me to no end that the monsters in the first Monster Manual now feel so dated. In particular, I end up having to redo the math for an elite, solo, or minion I want to use in the book by changing defenses, changing hit points, changing damage output, and in the case of solos, coming up with some wild “bloodied” ability if they don’t have it. I’ve ended up re-skinning MM2 monsters more often than using monsters out of the MM1.
There are so many great iconic monsters in the MM1 that it’s a shame to watch them gather dust. In 2011 I’d like to see WotC publish a new updated version of the Monster Manual 1 using the mechanical changes from MM2 and, assuming we like it, the new formatting from the MM3. At the very least, I’d like to see a dungeon article that rebuilds the chromatic dragons using the new mechanics. Better, though, is an entirely updated book.
Flavor Text Everywhere
One trend I would love to see WotC develop is a concept of “flavor text everywhere”. Ideally, any paragraph of fluff text in any of the D&D books should be written so, as a DM, I can read it aloud to my players without having to re-write it. Books like Manual of the Planes and The Plane Below would be a lot more useful to me if I could whip it out and read aloud a description of the City of Brass without Forest Gumping my way through it ad-hoc or having to sit down and write my own prose.
I don’t think it would work everywhere. There has to be SOME DM-focused descriptions that help us tie everything together, but there should be a lot more flavor text throughout any sourcebook that goes into descriptions I’m going to end up having to read aloud.
Make Web Products More Webby
Dave the Game wrote a wonderful article called Changing the Way We Think About Published Adventures. While I don’t share the same point of view across the board, he has one really excellent idea I’d like to see WotC tackle in 2011. Right now it makes very little sense to have a web-based publishing platform like DDI that essentially pumps out .pdf documents I’m going to end up having to print anyway. Instead, I think it would be far more useful if WotC developed a wiki-like spiderweb of mini-adventures and encounters similar to Monte Cook’s Dungeon-a-Day. While any content from this wiki-like campaign should be printable, it might work very well right off of a laptop instead, saving me hundreds of dollars in ink printing those full-color pages. As it stands now, DDI simply passes the cost of printing over to me. Why not instead give me a product that uses the web the way it was designed?
I don’t know that WotC will follow any of this advice and, as I stated earlier, I’m not thinking about it from their business side at all. I have no idea if it would be popular or start some sort of silly RPG revolt or something like that. I only know the sorts of things I really want in new products from WotC. As fans of D&D that’s really the best direction we can head – play the game we love and tell them what we love and hate about it. That’s probably the best way to impact the game we love so much.