The Exaggerated Death of 4th Edition

Since the announcement of D&D Next over the past year, we’ve seen Wizards of the Coast steer away from the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Their December product announcements describe not a single 4e-based product. One hasn’t been produced since May of 2012. Their recent holiday gift guide didn’t mention a single 4e product, a fact on which some of us even managed to capitalize. We rarely hear any of D&D’s design and development shop discuss 4e. It isn’t hard to see the logic in some people’s statements that “4e is dead”. Even 1st edition seems to get better support these days.

Committing the Same Mistake Twice

Many long-time fans of Dungeons & Dragons; fans who loved 1st, 2nd, and 3rd editions; felt abandoned when WotC announced the 4th edition of the game back in 2007. They sacrificed sacred cows. They hammered in proud nails. Fighters fought like wizards. Wizards fought like sorcerers. Dragons became a playable race. Clerics got to do things! (relax Cleric fans, I’m only kidding) It was bedlam for many fans of older editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

It seemed like the designers felt they knew better. They’d seen the rough edges of 3.5 and they wanted to polish it down. They saw how well D&D miniatures worked and wanted to take that quick tactical play to the core of the RPG.

While older fans felt betrayed, new fans were born. Thanks much in part to the Penny Arcade podcasts, many new players began their D&D experience with 4th edition. A divide opened up between many of the fans of older editions and the fans of the current, a wound that never healed. Worse, when D&D Essentials came out, a new divide opened up even within 4th edition.

Now it looks like they’re creating a third and even bigger rift. Unscientific studies based on opinions and anecdotal evidence show that many 4th edition fans feel just as abandoned as older edition players felt as they watch WotC turn its focus to D&D Next. A whole new group of D&D fans now feels like WotC turned their backs on a system that worked perfectly well if not for a few of its own rough edges.

It doesn’t need to be this way. While WotC hasn’t produced any dedicated 4e products, many of their recent products work very well in 4th edition. Dungeon Command, the Map Packs, and the Menzoberranzan sourcebook all work well in 4th edition. D&D Insider, WotC’s paid subscription service, still produces a great deal of 4th edition material. It just seems WotC, the designers and developers, and the marketing department all felt like any focus on 4th edition support would take away from their push for D&D Next, a product that doesn’t yet exist and may not for some time.

This change in marketing, a simple decision about how they talk about things has ended up splitting the rift even further between those who love 4e and those who look forward to D&D Next. They wouldn’t have to change a single product to heal this wound. All they need to do is change how they talk about 4e and how they talk about Next.

The Canary in the Cage: the Character Builder

No one can actually kill 4th edition without some sort of invasion of every nerd’s basement and a massive book burning. The decommissioning of the character builder, however, would show WOTC’s complete disregard for 4e. Many feel that we almost require the character builder to build 4e’s more complicated mixes of races, classes, feats, items, powers, backgrounds, and themes.

To WotC, the character builder could, one day, become more of a complication than a benefit. Even if they do take it down, however, a thousand flowers will bloom. Numerous other tools to help players build 4e characters will likely find their way to the net. 4e doesn’t require a computational character builder, but it sure as hell helps. I’ve no doubt that people will find solutions as long as there are enough people still willing to care about it. And if there is not, than few will care anyway.

There’s Room to Love it All

The commitment to this hobby is not so great that we can’t love it all. Pathfinder has a fantastic set of products. Numenera looks great, as do Dungeon World and 13th Age. We are surrounded by the best RPGs ever published written by the most talented writers. There’s no reason we can’t love them all, steal their best ideas, and run any version we wish. Popularity means nothing. As long as we can get a handfull of other people to play, we can run a fully viable entertaining game even if we’re the only six people on the planet who care.

Saying that “4e is dead” may feel good in some overly dramatic way, but those of us who spend a few minutes thinking about it find a comforting truth to the hobby we have chosen.

There’s no such thing as a dead RPG.


  1. Johnny Walker Purple says:

    At the dawn of 4th edition wizards produced a downloadable offline character builder for 4e. Ever since they took that offline there has been a community of people creating ways of using that program with up to date feats/classes/etc. Now, this may or may not be entirely legal, I honestly don’t know.

    However, it shows that this same existing piece of software can be used with the 4e in it’s current state. if Wizards is going to kill the character builder (which given the metric ton of errata is a necessity for creating characters) then they should at least release an updated version of this offline program for a fee. It’s practically free money, they have the software and 4e only players won’t want an insider subscription without the character builder. I see no reason why they shouldn’t release an updated desktop character builder.

    Now, in a perfect world they would just release 4e under OGL and the basic system that so many prefer could flourish in the wild. In a perfect world.

  2. The surest sign that something is dead is people proclaiming that it isn’t. I love 4e, but it’s dead. Long live 4e!

  3. I’ve spent most of 4e’s lifespan using it to introduce new gamers into the roleplaying scene, and the wind down on 4e support, and big push on Next has put me in a quandary… Do I advise people to buy into the dying 4e via the excellent HotFL/HotFK books, or do I advise people with limited or no experience of the hobby to go to a website, sign a dubiously legal contract, download a constantly changing game with limited how to get started information, where the emphasis on the game seems to be more pandering to old school gamers than creating an innovative take on D&D and its rich history thats fun and easy to learn…

    I love 4e and it will remain my favourite system well beyond its imminent demise.

  4. “There’s no such thing as a dead RPG.” Amen, brother.

    As one who went straight from 1e to 4e, truer words were never spoken about the RPG industry – and more specifically D&D.

  5. I disagree Rober. Just because a bunch of folks say 4e is dead does not make it true. With that logic Apple is dead. That is all we heard in the 90’s “Apple is Dead! Long live Apple” and well that did not happen LOL

  6. Frank "Darth Jerod" Foulis says:

    I got back into D&D for the most part because of 4e with playing then running D&D Encounters. It sharpened my GM skills in the fantasy realm where I was always feeling like I lacked credibility as a DM. I never was able to run a long term D&D game in previous editions (I have played and loved them all, still do). I loved essentials as it looks a bit more like older editions in the layout of classes.

    4e helped me get a job as a part-time employee with the store I ran Encounters and my Personal games on the weekends.

    We sold an OK amount of 4e product but once the announcement came the product we did have sat on the shelves. When I ran the game on the weekends, shoppers in the store would make comments like “isn’t 4e dead?” or “Pathfinder is better” even pre-orders for the final bit of 4e products fell to near Zero. Everything sold on Black Friday when we put all RPG products on sale for 40% off.

    I do not run 4e anymore though I still look through it for ideas.

  7. Sadly, the D&D side of Wizards of the Coast has never learned to react; they only over-react. Feedback on the early books said that there were too many broken bits, so suddenly we were buried in errata. People complained about too-frequent errata, and then there was no errata. There were annoying bugs in the (original) Character Builder, so they threw it away and built a new one (with even more bugs, sigh). There was a glut of hardcover books, so Wizards stopped releasing books. 4e had too many options, so we got Essentials and very un-subtle “use only these books from now on” advice. Finally, there were a bunch of people who tired of 4e and switched to other games, so WotC declared 4e `over’ and moved back into the retro-nostalgia market.

    Somehow, we never got *some* errata, nor updated reprints with errata, nor fixes to the oCB, or, really, a steady stream of well-made 4e products. It sure seems like (a) shame to me.

  8. I’m still running my monthly 4e game and we’re having a lot of fun with it. As I wrote in this post - – I still think there’s a market for new 4e books, from WotC and from 3rd party publishers. D&D Next is fun and playable but it’s not finished and I am happy to carry on with 4e until it is.

  9. WotC has made almost no effort to move D&D to a digital format consumable on laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and they continue to cater to their existing, dwindling customers instead of trying to acquire new customers.

    Where is a D&D app for my phone or iPad where I can:
    -Build a character
    -Have a character sheet with updated rules
    -Update my life total, stats, etc. real time
    -Have a virtual tabletop that shows me where I can legally move in an encounter, the range of my abilities, the area of a spell I want to cast, etc.
    -Purchase cheap add-ons for my app like dungeon tiles, new rules books, etc.

    In addition, their video game adaptations have been pretty poor, so there is no way to draw someone who likes a video game into the tabletop game.

    With so many cheap entertainment options at our fingertips, why would someone go out of their way to buy and learn D&D at this point?

    Also, before I get flamed for this, I DO enjoy the tabletop aspect with minis, and tiles, and dice. I like getting together with friends to play, so I am not advocating eliminating that altogether. There are ways to accommodate both tabletop and tablet/smartphone gaming together, either independently or as a hybrid.

  10. Under the OGL it would have been difficult for Wizards to go through and make it difficult for people to build things with their favorite system. The GSL (of which 4e products are released) allows Wizards to do just that. So, while your books might not go up in smoke, Wizards could make your ability to make derivative works (like fan-created character generators) disappear in a puff of cease and desist. I don’t think Wizards would care enough to go after their fans like that, but they did something similar with the d20 logo trademark license which caused many manufacturers to clear out their old stock (and re-print it as 3rd era or just let it go PDF-only).

    Put another way, I doubt there will be a manufacturer like Paizo that will take up the 4e mantle like Pathfinder did with the 3e folks.

  11. Actually Craig, they have done EXACTLY that with GSL. They went after Master Plan because it allowed people to use their APIs in ways that they’d agreed would be OK, but were a bit too good. Understandable but not nothing. They also, more importantly, went right after cbloader, which lets you use the old CB and add some of the newer (or home grown) material to it. There’s neither reason to that one nor even clear legal reasoning (the DDI EULA doesn’t say anything about WotC being able to tell us to stop using those tools, they were advertised as benefits you could keep in fact). Changing parts of a program aren’t illegal etc. Murky but they certainly came after fans with that one.

    Overall I am just not feeling terribly pleased with WotC’s attitude towards 4e and their 4e customers. I’d also note that this is not some newfangled group of customers. Most of us are long-time good customers that have spent 1000’s of dollars over the years on D&D stuff. You’re not serving us well AT ALL right now. The way DDN has been designed, the way it has displaced 4e products in mid-edition, etc are highly disappointing. I no longer have any trust that WotC stands behind its products, frankly. Why should I buy DDN when in 3 years it will be replaced by the pet D&D project of the NEXT head of D&D R&D?

    Honestly though this ship has sailed. WotC indeed seems to overreact to everything when it comes to D&D. I think many of us are simply tired of dealing with you WotC. We want a divorce now. Keep the ring, bye!

  12. @Alhazred: cbloader is probably not in itself illegal, but if it uses the data from any of WotC’s copyrighted materials (which it does), it is very likely to be infringing on copyright in various ways. You almost certainly don’t want to hear about the differences between direct, indirect, vicarious, and contributory infringement; suffice it to say that the people who buy the laws have probably already seen every type of `technically maybe legal’ method you’ve seen, and managed to make most of them illegal and/or expensive.

  13. It all depends on what we call “death”. There are always people playing any game/edition, so in a sense no game/edition dies. But, we can also probably agree that much of that ‘life’ is very small and faint. Even fair movements, such as playing older editions of D&D, are pretty small numerically compared to any actively supported edition.

    In that sense, 4E is undeniably moving from an actively supported edition to one that is only supported through fan action (and without any OGL, which some will decry and others applaud). This ‘death’ seems pretty well timed to me. 4E is a very rich edition with a ton to offer. Thousands of options, monsters, etc. Tons of sourcebooks, detailed campaign settings, exciting ideas. A multitude of adventures (hundreds through Living Forgotten Realms alone) and adventure support. And, at least through January, awesome conventions such as Winter Fantasy where we can play them.

    And yet, many groups have gravitated to playtesting D&D Next and also a few other things. That’s a good thing for the hobby. It creates an awareness of what is out there and of options. Will Numenera be a fun diversion or your new core game? Is 13th Age a cool resource to bring into your game, or the game that will keep you going for years? Will robust but non-core-fantasy games such as Eclipse Phase, Spycraft, and L5R be the next thing? Are Fiasco, light RPGs, and board games what you want for a few years? Will you stick to 4E? Will you find that D&D Next speaks to you, bringing classic approaches and innovation together to keep you a D&D player for years to come?

    The answer will depend on the individual, but we are all made better for having a chance to look around, try things, and make an informed decision that works for us.

  14. There is actually an alternative to the online Character Builder, it use the Offline Character Builder as a base and it’s actually better supported, more stable and with more options than the official Silverlight based one…

    The thing about this happening, was not because of piracy, it was because of boicot, the Offline Character Builder unofficial updates are a boicot against the Silverlight CB and how WotC started to handle DDI services…

    This is another aspect that WotC doesn’t know so far…yeah, 4th edition userbase is usually alot younger than 3.x/PF, and 1e/2eAD&D ones…and the culture and the way to react is alot diferent from us, WotC didn’t expected people not buying source books for instead using the DDI services such as adventure tools, character builder, etc… not only that, but WotC cancelled all kind of digital distribution of books very early into 4th edition because of fear of piracy (wish only created piracy, because for alot of people, piracy became the only way to play 4th edition by refusing to sell by digital distribution). All this and the infamy of 4th edition with the “old guard” made wotc made a big change into the development of 4e and it’s services along with Pathfinder release… They decided to switch to essentials, they also announced it like from that point and on, that would be how all the D&D products and releases would be like…in boicot alot of players just refused to buy D&D books from that point and on…then the DDI change made people boicot DDI subs…

    WotC should understand that, Tabletop Gaming is a niche market, PnP RPGs are a niche inside that niche…Fantasy RPG is a niche inside that even into that niche…and that niche of niche of niche have alot of competence right now. You either try to make that niche market grow or try to take away the market from the competence…4th edition try to made it grow…tragedy struck and the master plan to make it grow was scraped…they make essentials, going for trying to take the market away from the rivals, it didn’t succed and it only alienate and lose it’s current market…

    Sadly, D&DNext is not trying to focus on making the niche market grow, it’s completly focused and as far as i can tell, obsessed to steal the market from the rivals

  15. There is fully functional 3rd party character builder going right now. Hero Lab’s builder works fantastic. right now, folks are adding theme functionality.

    It is a one time 30$ fee for a program that works better then the OCB.

  16. Long live 4e!

  17. As a fan of 2E, who played 3E only reluctantly and finally grew to accept it, I know how those lovers of 4E feel. I wanted nothing to do with 4E simply because I was DONE with WoTC. Done. I can’t think of any good reason to keep rebooting something people love just to make people shell out money to get a whole new series of books.

    I’m glad Paizo and Pathfinder came along. WoTC can’t take away the books you love and raid your Saturday night games.

    Maybe another Paizo-like company will come along and help you guys too when WoTC moves on “better things”.

  18. One of the benefits of playing an edition that has been released several years ago is the amount of great publications to overcome the weaknesses and build on the strengths of the edition. There is a wealth of material out there to make your 4e sessions better than ever. I highly recommend Mike’s new Lazy DM book. It has brought my last few sessions to a new level. I am looking forward to Next but also expect there to be many kinks to work out as with every new release.

  19. Hunterian7 says:

    My biggest issue with WotC is that there will be no more releases of the type that I love. I want more Monster Vaults for 4th edition before it ends officially. I want some epic based material as well. A new DMG for epic play would be awesome. I’d be more on board with D&D Next if they threw us some specific 4th edition bones every once in a freaking while (the edition neutral stuff doesnt do it).

  20. Jim, you wrote “I can’t think of any good reason to keep rebooting something people love just to make people shell out money to get a whole new series of books.”

    If WotC had not launched 3E, there would be no 3E/Pathfinder, which so many enjoy. If they had not launched 4E, then all of those who enjoy it (myself included) would not have had that edition. Heck, we could still be at OD&D! New editions seem like terrible ideas, until tons of people are playing them.

    There is always a spotlight on the biggest gaming company, but they have many valid reasons to create new editions. At the most basic level, all RPG companies are businesses. They have responsibilities to employees, their families, their shareholders, and so on to be a good business. In the RPG industry, there really hasn’t been a model that worked at large scale other than creating new editions. Shadowrun, Spycraft, Arcanis, L5R, etc. all end up with new editions because that is the most successful model there is (and it is still a very risky industry).

    Another reason is that new editions keep the hobby alive. After playing any edition for a number of years fans start to wear out. Around 2005 I was pretty burned out on 3E. If 4E had not come out I would have really lost interest in D&D. 4E kept me in the game. Today there are many signs of older fans wearing out on 4E. It can be argued that the timing is pretty good on D&D Next. After all, what book do you really need, outside of campaign settings? Undead, elementals, fey, planes, horror, underground, etc. are all covered. We have tons of character and DM options. The edition is pretty complete. This isn’t a sob story. The edition is awesome and pretty complete. This is a good time for a new edition and many will benefit from it.

  21. Hunterian7, I hear you. I too would like more monster books. But, realistically, there is no market for it and there probably wasn’t a good one before Next was announced. There was a Chris Perkins DM Experience article where he polled readers (primarily DMs) on what books they most liked. One of the options was to say you didn’t own it. The number of “no opinion/do not own” increased dramatically as time progressed – a classic RPG business problem. While MM had 5.6% do not own, MV was 31.9% and MV2 was 44.6%. And this is a poll of readers of a DM’s column! The numbers would very likely be far worse if we polled the general D&D gaming public.

    And that’s just before D&D Next. Now that Next is announced, the percentage would drop further and it would be a distraction for the D&D team (at least the editorial and developmental staff, even if they used freelancers). It just doesn’t make sense. Especially when many DMs will say they have plenty of monsters. So, while I love monsters and I would buy MV3 in a heartbeat, I completely understand why it doesn’t exist.

  22. Alpha stream:

    “If WotC had not launched 3E, there would be no 3E/Pathfinder, which so many enjoy. If they had not launched 4E, then all of those who enjoy it (myself included) would not have had that edition. Heck, we could still be at OD&D! New editions seem like terrible ideas, until tons of people are playing them.”

    I understand all of that. I really do. And I get that it might be smart business to keep making new additions. But a big piece of me still loves 2E, which was my “first love”, and wishes it were a smart business decision to still support it. I play Pathfinder, and before it 3E, because that is where the games were(are) and the 2E games disappeared. But I’d go back to a 2E game in a heartbeat if I knew of one within driving distance.

    I glad I haven’t been forced to play 4E on a regular basis.

  23. I’m so tired of the efforts required to play this damn game. 5e is yet unplayable for a 4e fan, even if you liked 3e. And as they now abandon 4e you also got that little voice in the back of your head that warns you about WotC shutting down the CB or else, which does not worm with a relaxing gaming experiences. And this shit is really tiring me. I just wanna game, dammit.

    • Jan, I understand your frustration, but I think’s important to remember that 5e is still pretty far from a finished product (which is why it keeps changing). I also sincerely doubt WotC is shutting down the CB anytime soon for the simple reason that DDI can still be a steady source of income even once they stop producing online 4e materials.

      You can game, and you’ll continue to be able to game. You just might not get new stuff very often.

  24. I can live without new material pretty easily, though living without amount of the buzz of the internet discussing about 4e and creating 4e stuff will be harder. Surely this won’t stop soon, but it will diminish significantly. But the buzz about how 4e is being abanded is annoying and prevents my relaxing.

    I, too, don’t think they won’t shut down the CB within the next years. They did even promise to keep it up, tough promises from a company may not be worth that much. But I’m really confident on that matter for now. And for everything else, I’ll just press my thumbs 😉

    There is also another frustration that piled up in my previous comment, which was unfair. It’s the disappointment about what 5e currently seems to become. I’m unhappy with the rules and the process at the moment. Hope that this will clear up soon, though I don’t have much hope for the process.

  25. Thank you mike, I started my 4e game months after Next was announced. I bought the PHB, all the DM stuff and essentials line, and all of the monster manuals. I’m playing with a few old school players and 3 new to TTRPGs players. I started my campaign as a fresh DM and fresh to DnD. I’m not going to say that 4e is dead, just that people like to roleplay and explore, not just fight all the time. I’ve forced myself into 4e knowing it was ideal for combatants and not roleplayers, making me learn quickly how to roleplay IN combat, and do exploration IN combat, preparing me for the future.

    4e already has WAY to many stuff out for it which is why I’ve been selecting what my players may use, and the Dungeon and Dragon Magazines are not on that list. My list right now is the stuff from early on, but after this adventure is over, I’m reverting them back to post-essentials classes (heros of shadow, feywild, elemental chaos, ect.). I am NOT letting them use themes, they can use paragon paths once they get there, but i’m not letting them see everything i can see.

    What I love best about 4e is the modular system for monsters, re-skinning, re-tooling, elites, solos, minions. I don’t know if Next has this system built in yet or not but so far I hate the fact that there’s only one defense and now everything magical is saves

  26. “I’ve forced myself into 4e knowing it was ideal for combatants and not roleplayers.”

    This is fucking bullshit

  27. nice, it’s a ‘let’s remind folks about the back catalogue’ thing

    i wish for like twenty different reasons that this article did not, need not, exist

    it’s actually important, in a bigger-than-D&D way, to remember that **waiting for corporate help so you can play however you want to play** is a recipe for deep unhappiness and eventually, what, global warming? civilizational beshittening? syphilis?

    as always there’s free-to-all brilliance coming from hobbyists all over the place, having nothing to do with WotC’s flavour-by-numbers official material.

    if you’re hungry for other people’s ideas, step one is to stop thinking ‘other people’s ideas == stuff from WotC’

    even in a numbers-heavy game like 4e.

    c’mon now — once you’ve bought and learned the engine, you’re better off letting that be the end of your connection to that company unless they EARN it — spend your money instead on pens and paper and comfortable chairs and haircuts and food and BPA-free sex toys and glassware that’s not crap.
    –> OR even the occasional really cool rpg supplement. (have WotC produced even a *single* classic 4e book, a book where you can mention That One Amazing Thing on Page XX and other gamers will nod and perfectly picture it? i can’t think of one. good, yes. great, memorable…nope. maybe that’s really a comment about videogames though, i dunno.)

    anyone who feels ‘abandoned’ by Hasbro — not mike mearls, not ‘the company that occasionally pays me a few cents per word,’ but GIGANTIC CORPORATE CRAPHOUSE HASBRO — has a much deeper problem than being then only 4e fan in Podunken, New Frobswick. ‘abandoned’ has no meaning here.

  28. FROTH sez: ‘this is fucking bullshit’

    —> eponysterical

  29. Wax Banks, I understand when you say that the game can be better for you if you take the core rules and then just play your own game.

    But, please understand that isn’t true for others. Many gamers want official material. They want more rules, more content, more fiction, more settings, more adventures, more monsters, etc., etc., etc. And they enjoy it when they get it. I’m not alone when I look at my vast 4E bookshelf and dig the vast number of those products. Classics? DMG and DMG2 are classics. Gardmore Abbey is a classic. Dark Sun Campaign Setting and Creature Catalog are classics. And this is in an era where classics are very hard to develop, because we don’t see the same product on shelves for 20+ years.

    And, please understand that companies currently can’t create amazing core books, with art and layout and brilliant designers, without an economic model of supplements and, eventually, new editions. If gamers only bought core books then those books would need to either be incredibly expensive or much lower in quality.

    Abandoned… some people will feel that way. It is a natural reaction for fans to have. I think learning about the RPG industry and why it works the way it does can help. Also, thinking about how your favorite edition came after another one, which in turn caused others then to feel the same way. Just as I can look at 4E with pride, I can also look at my bookshelf and find memorable classics in my shelves for 3E, 2E, 1E, etc. You can be a deep fan and still enjoy the long view. You can dig making a game your own and still support an RPG company. No one path is best, and we can be supportive of the perspective of others.

  30. I think Alphastream has been right on about an underappreciated point here. What else do people want from 4e? We’ve had three Players Handbooks, three Monster Manuals, two DMGs, several Heroes of ____ books, a whole Essentials line, years of extra content from Insider (which is still going), and more. The dearth of content now is at least in large part a problem of WotC’s own making from burning through content during the four years it was actively developed.

    This is a fruitful time for any D&D player. The current and previous edition are complete and available for play at any level you want (and, both the core of 3e and Pathfinder are available for free, thanks to the OGL). There are lots of independent games coming out. The development of the next edition, however mad some people are about it, is unfolding publicly and has already undergone substantial changes in response to player feedback (however mad some people seem to be about that!).

    And yet the mood of the D&D blogosphere is mostly angry, spiteful, antagonistic or morose, and I’m finding it a very stressful time to be involved in any of it. People need to chill.

  31. And, please understand that companies currently can’t create amazing core books, with art and layout and brilliant designers, without an economic model of supplements and, eventually, new editions. If gamers only bought core books then those books would need to either be incredibly expensive or much lower in quality.

    …said WotC freelancer @Alphastream.

    Two immediate responses to this stuff.


    The supplement treadmill is not an economic necessity. Awesome single-volume games do sell and do not require a stream of additional Super-Duper Official Content to be profitable.

    First-point-five: What do you or I care about Hasbro’s profit margins? If they can’t find a way to make D&D profitable they shouldn’t be in business; regardless, they’re not even in the top five most interesting RPG shops right now, and there’ll still be a million versions of D&D if they fold. ‘Loving D&D’ and ‘giving a shit about WotC/Hasbro’ have nothing to do with one another. I hope you see that.

    Second, more importantly, repeating myself!

    of course plenty of gamers eagerly await and devour and enjoy official material. They are Hasbro’s bread and butter, and the bosses see them coming a mile away. Their pleasure is their own, and ultimately none of my business.

    BUT! As I said, I THINK — generously, I devoutly hope — that those guys are better off disconnecting from the publicity hose (not an easy thing for the staff of a site that reviews promotional copies, I admit), picking from WotC’s back catalogue as certain books prove out, and digging into the vast uncharted world of DIY creativity surrounding every edition of D&D, even the balance-uber-alles combat-centric 4e.

    Fetishizing new official stuff, pinning ego-identity to a brand name…it just sucks creative energy and joy out of a joyful creative activity. As someone smart put it: ‘making something up is more fun than looking something up.’

    Y’know, I’m not saying stop buying stuff after the core rules. I’m staying stop treating the supplement treadmill as if it defined the game, as if your game at YOUR table needed ‘official support’ to be all it can be.

  32. @wax banks: I’ll take Alphastream’s side for a second a say this: your points are fine for the subset of people who play almost entirely with a small, closed group of people. That’s a big subset, but it’s far from everyone, and it needlessly cuts out everyone else. Alphastream is saying “All RPG companies have a strong incentive to offer more materials.” You’re saying “I don’t need a steady stream of materials.” These statements aren’t at all contradictory until someone decides that your statement carries an implicit “…and so they shouldn’t be offered.”

    Let’s take MMO’s as an easy analogy. Everquest and WoW teach us that some people like to keep playing the game they have, and some people want a stream of new stuff. Some people fall into both groups, or move between groups, or are in neither group. That’s ok, as far as I can see. Why shouldn’t people (Sony, Blizzard, WotC, Paizo, Igor’s, etc) be allowed to try to provide to either or both groups?

    Let me put it another way: Nobody’s telling you that you must go and buy more materials (well, except maybe some brand and marketing people inside WotC, Paizo, White Wolf, et al). Why does it *seem* like you’re saying that companies shouldn’t offer those products to those of us who want them? (NOTE: the internet makes if more likely to seem like I’m being sarcastic or un-genuine, but that’s not my intent. I actually *am* trying to ask why it seems like you’re saying that.)

  33. Wax Banks, when you say, “…said WotC freelancer @Alphastream.”, I’m also a friend of some staff, and also have consulted for them once, and from time to time I’ve received something for that. But, I spend far more time dedicated to volunteer efforts around the game. I’ve spent countless hours working on Living Greyhawk meta-organizations, for example, all many years before I knew any staff or had earned a dime as a freelancer. I’m also fortunate that I have a good job. My primary benefit from freelancing is a sense of accomplishment, not the pennies/word I receive (which I just about always have used to buy gaming stuff).

    We all have a bias, but I like to think that my love for Wizards has always come from admiring their products and their staff. Similarly, in past years I’ve dedicated myself to Legend of the Five Rings organized play, Shadowrun Missions, Spycraft, and other awesome games. And I think it is easy to see that if I believe in something then I try to promote it.

    This is similar to my answer to your question, “What do you or I care about Hasbro’s profit margins?” I wish Hasbro well, and more-so I wish WotC and all gaming companies well. Why? Because I’m passionate about what they bring to the world. I’m passionate about the managers, designers, developers, editors, playtesters, DMs, you-name-it! Sure, there are duds always. And I can complain about something endlessly too. I have my gripes and preferences. But, I try to keep in mind that these are always real people, with real jobs, with real families, all crafting the games I love. I want them to do well. There is no RPG company upon which I wish anything other than continued prosperity, higher profits, and the ability to craft more product if that’s what they choose.

    (Separately, I don’t think companies need to exist solely to grow. But, I’m okay with whatever an individual company chooses to do. I haven’t met an indie game designer or small RPG company that didn’t want growth, though that would be cool if I did.)

  34. @Alphastream sez — We all have a bias, but I like to think that my love for Wizards has always come from admiring their products and their staff. Similarly, in past years I’ve dedicated myself to Legend of the Five Rings organized play, Shadowrun Missions, Spycraft, and other awesome games. And I think it is easy to see that if I believe in something then I try to promote it.

    Sure! You genuinely like their products. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to roll my eyes when Hasbro freelancers talk about the moral value of supporting Hasbro at a website whose big draw is (p)reviews of complimentary Hasbro products, but your fanstuff is all your own and I don’t wish to take away from that. (BTW the reason I keep saying ‘Hasbro’ is that it underlines the degree to which WotC’s decisions are required to lock in profits for Hasbro shareholders, rather than ‘growing the hobby,’ which ~0% of Hasbro shareholders care about.)

    But this isn’t about liking their products, it’s about the I WOULD ARGUE poisonous idea that ‘official support’ has anything to do with your game at your table — the belief that anyone’s 4e game is affected in a meaningful way by whether Hasbro continues to publish 4e books. I’m glad @Chad mentioned WoW, because it’s absolutely the wrongest possible metaphor for how pen-and-paper RPGs work. Simply put, D&D requires dice and some people. WoW requires millions of dollars of infrastructure. When WoW shuts down there’ll be no servers on which to play, and the player data will presumably be lost, right? Unless someone emulates that functionality. (Same with the PPC-to-Intel switch for MacOS.)

    That’s the opposite of what happens when official 4e support stops. When WotC stops publishing 4e materials, your home game goes on exactly as it did before. Your DDI subscription runs out, maybe, but so what? (If you haven’t figured out how to find a local copy of the DDI Compendium online, you don’t know how to use the Internet.)

    Mike originally said this in his article: A whole new group of D&D fans now feels like WotC turned their backs on a system that worked perfectly well if not for a few of its own rough edges. And my point was, and is, that these fans are upset about nothing at all, which sucks worse for them, long-term, than the actual (very temporary) upset. Better never to have been a position to feel that.

    The end of official support for 4e doesn’t change the game, any more than Tolkien’s death meant Middle-Earth was losing ‘official support.’ D&D isn’t (and never will be) an MMORPG: if you want something new to do with the game, you don’t need WotC to ‘push new content.’ And while I empathize with those who are sad that there won’t be more new 4e thingies for them to play with, I’m absolutely certain that none of those guys have exhausted the possibilities of the game as it stands today, and equally certain that the healthiest response to corporate PR is to shrug and carry on with what you were doing.

    Maybe a shorter way of making the same point is, ‘If you don’t pay attention to Hasbro’s PR, your 4e game will get better, not worse, and so will everything else.’ I don’t fault anyone for wanting cool things, rather for thinking the fun stops when Publisher Daddy says so.


    “Why does it *seem* like you’re saying that companies shouldn’t offer those products to those of us who want them?”

    Because I’m a jerk. Or else because what I’m actually saying, which is that gamers are better off in every way not wanting those products at all, is loopy and difficult to assimilate into an otherwise conventionally buying-is-fun worldview, which I have too, alas.

  35. huh, just missed the editing window on that last comment.

    sorry for coming at this in a high dudgeon. but even if wotc really did ‘abandon’ 4e, that doesn’t mean gamers have to — those who mistakenly think so have deeper problems, i’d say, than needing to buy 4e books secondhand and make up their own scenarios.

    i’m out.


    Having played a bit of 4e myself and being a long time gamer I would be more than happy to say that 4e is dead. However, despite the rift it created it still was a good resource for getting new people into gaming and that’s indeed a worthy cause. I’m optimistic of D&D Next and I hope that it brings back some of the people that abandoned D&D when 4e got it’s chance. But for those that love this system it will never be dead and there’s enough content floating around the net to keep them easily busy for a while.

  37. @ Jason:
    “I think Alphastream has been right on about an underappreciated point here. What else do people want from 4e? We’ve had three Players Handbooks, three Monster Manuals, two DMGs, several Heroes of ____ books, a whole Essentials line, years of extra content from Insider (which is still going), and more. The dearth of content now is at least in large part a problem of WotC’s own making from burning through content during the four years it was actively developed.”

    I can tell you what I want:
    A legitimate and maintained character creator that works as at least as well as the original (offline) did and without the plethora of known issues that plagued both.
    While we’re at it, if my players click “Build a FR character” – I want their option to exclude content from Eberron, Dark Sun, MM, Dragon Magazine, etc etc – like the old creator used to let you.

    The basic economy of mundane items and services vs magic items to be balanced and to scale properly.

    The obsolete material to be either fixed or redacted.
    It doesn’t help me to be told “Oh, all those monsters in MM1&2 are broken using an obsolete damage and health calculation… Why not buy yet ANOTHER book of monsters?” Nor does it help me to be deluged by obsolete monsters in the Compendium when I’m looking up stuff to throw at my players.
    Likewise, it is no good me telling players “Oh, don’t use stuff from PHB1” when they go through the character creator and still accidentally pick the old builds.
    Go back and give all the pre-Essentials loot appropriate rarity values so they’re compatible and coherent.

    The Monster Creator to be fixed. Is it still supported? Last I checked it was left by the way-side and crashed routinely when you wanted to print something out…

    Fix skill challenges, etc – fix “grabbing” so that it isn’t trivially easy to escape from. Fix “ongoing damage” so that a less than 50% chance of doing more than 5 damage isn’t considered to be “as good as dealing a guaranteed 12”. Fix the damage scaling so that exotic weapons don’t become more and more of a wasted feat as ability and attribute bonuses dwarf them. Basic concepts in 4E that really need to be reexamined and worked out.

    Give us a solid alternative ruling for minions so what is potentially 9 of them don’t get 1-shotted by an AOE or consistently underperform a single normal minion because every time they crit it’s wasted.

    A 3rd DMG dealing with campaign building, skill challenges, traps, etc in greater details. Rules covering “travelling across a map using a hex grid”; “reinforcements and wandering monsters”; “how to avoid the 1 encounter per day nova scenario”. DMG 1 is mainly about how to run the game and make encounters; 2 is mainly about how to build the setting and draw players in. We could’ve done with a 3 which focuses on ironing out the creases and making all this come together as a polished and finished product.

    A final “supplement to end all supplements” that makes sure all the content in 4E, including stuff like Seekers (remember them?), get enough treatment to make them as interesting to play as the classes and races and roles that got a lot of love.

    4th edition had so much potential, and even as things were spiralling out of control I was still more than happy with it; but Essentials was handled very badly and was really the first nail in the coffin; with D&DNext being the last, and we’re looking at the short hoist down into the grave now.

    Should’ve just fixed 4E and concentrated on the fundamentals rather than knee-jerk reaction to the glut of supplements around PHB3 and then charging all over again for an “almost fixed 4EE”.


  1. […] Mike Shea @ Critical Hits wonders if in fact the writing truly is on the wall for 4e. Though 4e was a huge departure from 3.5e, it has its own share of fans (including myself, though I came late to the party) even while kicking the 3.5e fans to the curb. (And when that happened, Paizo picked up the 3.5e pieces and created the thriving Pathfinder empire.) There will always be beginnings and endings for games. They can’t live forever trapped in amber. But I hope WotC is smart enough to avoid some of the big potholes by killing 4e before its time… […]

  2. […] the Coast, new editions are both necessary (to keep selling product) and self-destructive (as they kill the market for what’s currently out there). It’s an endless cycle of splintering the fan base as each edition requires a massive new […]

  3. […] Bloggen Critical Hits har lagt merke til noe indiespillene lenge har inkorporert i designfilosofien sin – rollespill er ikke ferdig og over i det det sendes til bokhandelen. Wizards of the Coast har lagt alle kluter til på femteutgaven av Dungeons & Dragons. De har sluttet å publisere produkter til fjerde utgave av D&D; de har sluttet å snakke om fjerdeutgaven, de har sluttet å anbefale produktene som finnes og de har stengt ned en del av onlinesupporten. Men det stopper ikke folk som har investert seg i spillet fra å fortsette å spille det. […]