posted Sunday, October 19th 2008 by
The fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons has been out for four months now. A significant number of of players have taken up the new edition, but it still seems that a lot of the existing userbase is sticking to third ed, switching to Pathfinder or “graduating” to other RPGs. I think there’s reason behind this other than the inevitable miasma of new edition hate.
Third edition was very “D&D” – arcane, detailed, pages upon pages of rules, lore and obscura. That’s what appealed to me about the game before I ever played. Just reading the books was like poring over an ancient tome, discovering secrets and magic.
Fourth edition loses that for a more gamesy appeal. The target demographic barely reads fantasy novels any more; we watch action movies and play MMOs, and the game has moved to tap that potentially huge market.
I see a big issue with this: D&D 4th ed is still very complex, moreso than any casual board game you will play. It’s still too low-tech for many World of Warcraft players, and still not approachable enough for most casual players. Now, it’s also too dumb for many serious players, and too new for the hardcore players.
Wizards of the Coast has made a game that’s more popular with the modern crowd, but my concern is that they may not have given enough thought to how to attract the modern gamer to a very different sort of game than most of them are used to. Ultimately, I think the game’s success will be the best benchmark.