I was surprised to find a package from Oxfam in England today in my mailbox. It turned out to be a copy of The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd ed Games Masters guide which I had won for a pittence on ebay what seems like six months ago. I had actually written that off as lost, but none the less, here it is. Yay.
I had a coffee at my local cafe and read through it, and it got me thinking. What if I was handed the Dungeons & Dragons license right now by the bigwigs at Hasbro with a post it note saying 'sort this mess out'. Now thats a fun mental challenge.
I thought I would share my musings, as its bound to cause an explosion in comments and I do so love comments. I am a comments hog me. Oh, I got to paint some stuff last night, so Kings Minis will be back to putting up pictures of old school minis, but in the mean time....
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS (Dave Edition)
Lets look at the business model, the francise, the fan base, the product line, its competition (pathfinder) and the future.
Firstly I would kick off with a total reboot of the rules. This would involve cutting the rules down to the bone. The model where you need volumes and volumes of books to get all the rules is broken- its a law of deminishing returns... players buy the core rules, then a handful of the hundred or so books published. This means those books are dead stock. They cost just as much to develop, but ultimately will not sell as much as the core books. I would focus on making a DND that cherry picks the best bits of the systems from 0e through to the modern game, streamlining it down to a flexible core system that can be expanded on. This would mean the learning curve, and audience would be wider, and the range of books less threatening to both new players and shop owners. Lets not forget the days of game and book stores are numbered- PDF, POD and book via mail is the future. A DND ruleset you can mail is top priority.
Oh and this would be the cover...
So how to make the money if there are less books? We will get to that.
As an example of the direction I would take, characters are generated from a class initially to give form and direction to the character, but equipment feats, spells and skills are not class restricted- a spell costs a great deal more XP to buy if your a fighter than a wizard, and some spells get a penality modifier if your wearing metal armor. If your strong enough to weild a weapon, you can. This makes the game more about imaginative development of the character, and gives players much more freedom to arm, equip and advance their characters. This also allows feats and spells to be nixed by GMs to suit their campaign world without unbalancing classes.
Thinner rules means less rules to bitch about and less to balance- it also would mean thinner books.
This would place us in a great position versus Paizo's Pathfinder
(which I prefer over 4th edition- great work guys). Paizo sell
BRICKS. To counter this, my thinner books would have less tables
and words, but much, much more art. Rather than new art, I would cherry pick the absolute best art from the history of
DND, lets not forget the wonderful Elmore, Eastley and Brom art (plus
hundreds of other great artists over the years), plus lots of great
Magic: The Gathering art produced that would be under the Wizards IP. I
would using the art to stimulate imagination and really get the juices
going- who needs wordy descriptions of monsters when you can place three
or four great interpretations in images? Of course, reusing old art does not mean its free- the artists get their comission- however it does mean a heddy mix of nostalgia that would attract older players back.
The first books you would see from my DND would be...
Dungeons&Dragons: Your adventure starts here (Based on the original dnd red box, it leads you through solo play into the rules)
DND Players Book: Character generation, equipment lists, Spell lists, Feat lists, Miniature tips
DND Games Masters Book: Art of GMing, Making campaigns, Sample scenarios, Npc generator, the core DND monsters.
DND Tables and Treasures: All the random generator stuff a gm could want, names, items, creatures, fluff and nonesense
DND campaign books: Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Dark Sun, Ravenloft etc.
The campaign books would include the monster manual stuff for each specific setting, as well as the usual fluff, campaign specific spells as well as suggested nixing for core rulebook stuff.
DND adventures 1, 2, 3 etc. Each book containing several adventures that GMs can mix and match content from, as well as having encounter options for different levels of players. These would mainly be available through an automated watermarked PDF download or ebook to registered players on DND website.
DND War: A mass wargame ruleset that actually can stand up to Warhammer. This is free to download.
DND infernal: This would include all the demonic spells, demon classes, Teiflings etc... as a way to make DND more accessable, the overly satanic stuff would be shifted to a seperate book, which is purely optional. Parents can flick through my regular DND books and purely encounter fantasy and mythological imagery. Players who want a slice of the infernal plane can pick this gem up.
The big change I would make to the styling of the game is to make it more roleplaying than ruleplaying, but keep the focus on miniatures. Yep, its all about miniature facing, distances in squares etc. I would leave the world of warcraft MMG complexities for online games, not tabletop games. Let computers do what they do best (number crunching), and GMs do what they do best (imagination and drama). Though I personally prefer loose rpg without the focus on miniatures (we even use paper minis in my games- ironic considering my collection, right?) the business model demands it. So strike a good balance and strip it back to essentials. My DND is a boardgame with a creative, imaginative hobby on top.
Plastic, plastic, plastic.
Okay, with that huge spring cleaning comes the miniatures stuff. Yes, though my DND books would be more about atmosphere and imagination than tables and rules, rules, rules- we have to make money somehow, right? Well, Hasbro is a plastics company, and thats where I would refocus the business model.
Taking a leaf out of GW's huge success, I would relaunch DND as a miniatures kit hobby. Instead of prepainted plastics (which would still be sold under my iron rule until the kits take off), I would focus on small box sets containing plastic sprues with enough components to make several figures with heaps of equipment options. Player packs would be things like human fighter, elf ranger, dwarf warrior, female human fighter, etc. Each player pack contains enough parts for 3 figures, with lots of bits left over.
There would be low level and high level versions, all intermixable. This would allow you to not only assemble a figure that closely matches your idea of your character, but could be magnitised to allow mid game switching. What this means for the business model is simple: Multiple sales for less tooling, less cost as prepainting is not required, players buy multiple kits to get all the bits they need to create their characters.
Players only buy a few miniatures, but it is the GM where my business model kicks in. My DND would actively encourage GMs to collect and build dungeons, taverns and villages and stock them with treasure, scenery and of course, monsters. My business model would be about PLASTIC 3D DUNGEONS.
Hasbro is a toy company. They flog plastic. My DND would be about selling lots of boxes of plastic sprues and paint. Modular plastic dungeon sections, kobolt kits, gnolls, bugbears, orcs, big monsters and all with a focus on mixing, matching and customising. Yes, the rules for monsters would be flexible to allow this. And yes, the wargame rules can then kick in to enourage even more sales of the kits to players as well as GMs.
The modular dungeon parts would have neo-d-magnet holes, be lightweight and stackable for storange.
This model is proven. GW do it. They do it well. Unlike warhammer, where players focus on one, maybe two armies, DND players would be tempted to buy it all. Who wouldnt want a fully stocked dungeon? Dozens of NPCs to pick from? Armies of bugbears, Mindflayers, Githyanki, oh my. What a rich IP to collect and paint!
Who wouldnt want a beholder construction kit? Yep, everything you need to make beholder kin in one box, or go apeshit and custom create something new with the bits.
Ultimately, plastic makes more money then paper. MyDND would be about flogging lots of boxes.
Okay, now the bastard stuff. All business requires some dastardly moves, here are mine. Of course I wouldnt announce this if I was in charge, but this would be my thinking.... ;)
The modular terrain would all be based on 3.3cm square instead of 1 inch. This gives more room for bigger models, as the 1 inch basis was set during the 25mm mini era. This would make it incompatible with other makers of 3d terrain initially and make all the paper encounter stuff redundant. But hey, who cares when the (Daves)DND box terrain sets are cheaper than resin, lighter and much more customiseable, right?
Secondly I would switch to true 30mm for the minis- not heroic 28. Uhg! Yes, it would make older minis look a tad small next to the new ones, and it would mean GW stuff does not fit the DND plastics quite right. The bonus of this is that the models are easier to paint for beginners, can have more detail and look good on the game table at the distance one normally plays dnd.
Encounter kits. Yes some creature or scenery sprues are only available in encounter sets, which inlcude a bunch of regular sprues, like goblins. Mindflayers, for example, come only in an encounter set. These sets encourage you to get into 3d dungeons too, as they have one or two bits. once you have a few bits, you want more. I know I would. ;)
Dear, that Dragons back...
I would reinstate Dragon magazine as a thin, glossy printed mag
to act as an entry way for new, young players much like White Dwarf
does. It would focus mainly on the hobby of collecting, painting and
customising your plastics, but rather than just be a glossy catalogue like white dwarf it would also include some content- not much, but some - these would include scenarios, encounters and
stats for new released monsters, plus encounters to use them in and suggestions for new player feats, skills and spells. Older issues would be available as PDF
downloads once off the shelves and a best of would be published yearly
online to registered members. It would also have room for wizards
collectable card game stuff. The magazine would be a write off, but as
an attractor to the hobby it would be front and centre.
Embracing ebooks, character generation apps and strengthening the old licenses would be a major focus. Remember the DND cartoon and toy range? Those characters would reappear in the modern DND. Old IP legends such as Warduke, Kellek, Ringlerun, Strongheart, Dungeon Master, Drizzt, Goldmoon etc would all find themselves in app games, video games and ultimately a decent film.
IP expansion and condensation would be a major focus for me. A reboot of the tabletop would also mean a reboot of the online MMO. I would also start pushing the reboot DND into war gaming, encouraging tournament style gaming to lift mini sales.
Anyway, thats my two pence.
Nostalgia, streamlined rules, condensed IP and plastic, plastic, plastic.
Love to hear your comments below!