Mary Yamato wrote:
The problem that I do have is that I want more fights and other major events between level-up points, as the fast advancement (relative to the number of fights) ruins my grasp on the characters and gameworld. Running pub sessions doesn't give me this. Manipulating EXP doesn't give me this. The AP expects that the PCs will go up 3 levels per adventure, and to our tastes, the adventures are much, much too short for 3 levels to be reasonable. Nothing I do with EXP changes the fact that the PCs were 10th when they went into SotS and needed to be 13th coming out--and my PCs undertook a plan that meant those two points were four hours apart. To me it felt like only two fights (Xaliasa and all of Runeforge, which they did in one continuous raid).
Is this a problem with Pathfinder or with just 3.5 mechanics in general?
D&D 3.5 expects 13.33 encounters at or around average party level will level the party.
This means about 40 encounters per adventure. I don't have a Pathfinder handy, but that seems about right given the way the adventures are broken down into sections.
I understand how skipping a whole dungeon level or encounter section would leave the party light going into the next section, but unless they're drastically underpowerered, this should sort of correct itself by granting more XP for the subsequent encounters.
I didn't mean to solve a problem you didn't have, but I thought the primary complaint was that there wasn't enough real-world time to develop a character's personality.
Given the encounter skipping you describe above, it looks like you should have a few encounters set up on the side just to throw in their way at some point. If they won't go to the fight, perhaps you can bring the fight to them?
I in no way mean to diminish the opinions of others, but there does seem to be a sort of "wanting cake and eating it too" going on.
If the party takes time to RP and doesn't progress further through the dungeons/encounters in a given session, can't you just not give out XP that night? If the focus is on RP, who goes "What, I don't level this week?! What a rip-off!"
This is usually the approach my group takes, and we even look forward to the occasional no-XP hang around the pub session.
In RotRL #3 for example...
When they get the keep, I can see my group having several sessions of logistics management with no XP gain. It's also a perfect time to develop relationships with rescued NPCs, have past NPCs come visit, and craft items, but with no actual XP gain so the rest of the path is fine as-is.
Is this just distasteful to some?
These sessions can also be used to shore up characters that are low on XP (either from replacing a dead party member or from player absence) by having a short XP-worthy encounter that uses just a small subsection of the group that has lagged behind.
I'm telling the same story. I support Paizo with my own money and steer likeminded hobbyists towards their products, but no amount of handselling will compete with the customer-driven sales of new rulebooks.
4E was always an inevitability. It's WOTC's "Trust us, kids. We know what we're doing and it's going to roxxorz your soxxorz!" that pisses me off. They could be building so much hype, but they're only alienating their existing customer base. I see ABSOLUTELY NO buzz outside of the hobby for 4E. Where are these new gamers supposed to come from? Myspace?
If that's the case, then I should see new faces showing up to try D&D for the first time when 4E comes out. Sadly, I lack that level of optimism. I suppose that makes me a grognard who isn't on board for the new online agenda (tm). C'est la vie.
When I first read this, I thought, "Wow, what a juvenile bid for attention."
Now, I'm convinced, since the girl in question actually IS a juvenile.
Given that most of the griping and whining seems directed at Arctaris, I'd be willing to wager that this is the D&D equivalent of the little boy who throws rocks at the girl he actually likes because he doesn't know how to properly display affection. She's at an age where she's looking for your attention, even negative attention. The notion of taking turns while roleplaying implies this as well, since she seems to want her time in the spotlight without the other players interrupting.
In the advice department, I'd say you really need to get her brother involved, but not in presenting a united front against her. Instead, he needs to lay off of goading her. That sort of back-and-forth might be their normal sibling rivalry at home, but it has no place in your game, and you need to hold him accountable for that sort of disruption as well.
Make sure everyone IS getting equal time and that she's not merely getting marginalized because she's the youngest. In a game of adults, I had a player who whined all the time because he never got a say in the party's direction. One of the other players politely pointed out that by the time discussions were made, everyone was already sick of hearing him whine and ignored him out of hand. He got the message and now chimes in where appropriate as opposed to every quiet moment that comes along.
I'd recommend a similar approach here. Reward her good behavior with moments where she can either shine in combat or engage in roleplaying with NPCs that suits her character. Don't punish bad behavior so much as nip it in the bud the moment it happens. "Now isn't the time to discuss the direction of the campaign. See me after the game if you truly think the plot is lame and we'll talk about adjusting it. Right now, it's Stromgald's action, so please be quiet."
A few diplomatic warnings and you can be firmer later, to the point where you can issue the "If you can't be respectful to everyone here, we're going to have to ask you to leave the group." Be sure to make the "we" heard. Make it clear that it's not a case of you disliking her, but of her behavior bothering everyone.
That's all I got. Hope it helps!
It saddens me to see Frankenstein and The Great Gatsby on people's list as I absolutely love those. Different strokes and all.
Classic: The Grapes of Wrath. Reading it feels like crossing the Dust Bowl on hands and knees. I wanted to read about pain and loss, not experience it. Given the book's unwarranted size, it's even a chore to lug around.
Modern: The Rule of Four. I never read The Da Vinci Code, but I'm fairly certain I can write off the entire genre of unlikely conspiracy/intellectual masturbation. I was barely able to finish an entire chapter in one sitting before nodding off.
Honorable Mention: Practical Demonkeeping. It's short, but hardly sweet. I couldn't finish it and threw it under the bed in disgust. I find Christopher Moore's attempts at wit to be lame sauce. I generally don't like an author who writes like he's too cool for school. Not everyone can be Chuck Palahniuk.
Clouds Without Water wrote:
Ditto here. Unlike Erik's tastes, your stuff is right up my alley. I'd love to play in one of your games, but moreso, I'd love to run an adventure with your imagination supplying the source material. And that's what this is all about.
There's a few textual missteps (don't know if they were errors, oversights, or what), but I figure you're already hip to them.
Very, very likely to get my vote. Kudos!
Ace Haven wrote:
I love this game. A buddy of mine has it. It's like a drinking game without the drinking.
It may not come in the box, but we're sure to supply our own liquid refreshment. I'll never forget a friend of mine from the English moors having to pretend he was a Gnome who burnt his cookies for most of the game.
Great fun and highly recommended for those without performance anxiety.
Please, please, please have this be more than just a self-contained little ditty. I'd love to see a good gritty sci-fi adventure that I could springboard a campaign out of. There is a severe lack of that sort of thing on the market. Too many sci-fi adventures are Star Trek first contact style scenarios ("Those were some weird aliens, eh? Back to the ship with our macguffin, then. See y'all next week!").
I want something that'll leave a group that's lukewarm on trying something outside their D&D comfort zone saying "When are we going to play Starships & Saurians again?"
This one SOOO barely missed my top five and, hence, a vote, but rest assured I was mightily impressed, especially by the quality of writing. My biggest gripe was the sheer dour weight of the place. Perfectly appropriate to dwarves, I suppose, but I wanted some sense of hope, of beauty or joy. Instead, I got rusticles.
High marks all around. I would've just liked some balance within the 1000 word limit.
In no particular order:
I guess I just can't get enough of the REH/HPL stuff, which goes a long way towards explaining the shelves of various Conan-y/Cthulhu goodness that fills my apartment.
Honorable mention goes to the Blink Dogs, who nearly yip-yapped their way into my top 5. I could clearly envision evocative Wayne Reynolds covers for the others (I want him to start drawing Her Most Regal Majestrix Sephrilara Bai first thing tomorrow morning! That might win "Sexiest name I've read all year."), and tribal imagery or no, the Dogs just didn't pass muster on that score. Although, now that I think about it, a Kyle Hunter cover perhaps...
I am somewhat gratified to see that barring catastrophe, he'll get through to the next round although I didn't game my votes to account for any of that. I merely voted top 5 and let the chips fall where they may.
However what was really gained by those submitting was the chance to have a look at the thought process of publishers be it objective, subjective, inconsistent or whatever. From my point of view as a first round loser (please dont put that tag next to my name)I would like to have the thread of discussions emailed to me at some stage so I can get some idea where I went wrong. I put this as a low priority public service type thing from Paizo-- but I would appreciate it.
I think a list of common pitfalls would serve better than a transcription of the individual discussion threads. I'm sure many of us first round washouts (yeah, don't want that tag either) could find our place on the list without further prompting (There I am, under "Useless to PCs"... and again under "Poor Pricing Construction."). Of course, even more helpful would be some tips to AVOIDING said pitfalls.
After this round, I'd be eager to see some professional tips on naming, since that seemed to trip up a fair many in the top 32.
I didn't feel that the Judges were in any way inconsistent. I DID however feel a certain apathy set in with me where the third or fourth entry to have strained relations with Dwarven neighbors didn't hit me the same way it did the first time. Same with other recurring themes like Hobgoblins (which I foolishly recommended as overlooked opposition in some of my early criticisms, completely ignorant of the wave of Hobgobby love to follow...) and Bardic insurrectionists.
I still tried to find some good and some bad in each entry and threw my votes at the ones that not only tipped the scales towards the good side, they knocked the damn contraption over.
In a completely unrelated note, I quietly curse Erik Mona for reminding me of White Castles as I sit here typing at 1:27 a.m. in an uncivilized land without 24 hour mini burger chains. Grr.
If the villain has an animal companion, familiar or cohorts through the leadership feat or some such, should they be statted? If so, where?
I would hope so, and I would suggest in a manner similar to the NPC Druid stat block in the DMG. After all, an animal companion or familiar has no CR of its own as it is considered a part of the encounter with its "master", no?
After having read all 31 other entries, I have to say that this one is sadly missing the cut by just the slightest of margins. I DO love it, though, and think Blink in the highest of regards... okay, SIXTH highest. I still intend to flesh out my thoughts on this and recover the analysis I once had written up about it, but I really wanted to make sure I gave everyone a fair shot before coming up against the voting deadline.
Best wishes, Erik, and good luck!
I like the basic concept, with a kingdom that lives OUTSIDE a wall designed to keep the nastiness IN rather than OUT. Still, that Government section is a tough nut to crack, and it really hit a sour note so early in the entry.
The crunch is good, and that Pseudonatural Sickness is nasty with a capital N. It goes a long way toward giving reason for the harsh policies of Iolandis. Still, this losing battle against a rift to Angled Darkness in the wake of Century-Night doesn't bring the dark, pyrrhic vibe that it should. Instead of Lovecraftian, I get a litany of names (Pasther and Machter Tyranny, I'm looking at you...) that sound straight out of fanfic.
There simply isn't enough here to get a vote, and the word count used doesn't just drip with evocative flavor. With 300 words left unused, I can't abide even a single dull paragraph. Thanks for sharing your entry and best wishes!
I was kinda undecided on this one since the godhead vs. nature idea really stuck with me, but there didn't seem to be enough meat to it. Notable in its absence is any crunch. If the godhead still grants spells and powers, it is a dodge to say his domains are lost. I'm okay with name and dogma, but if I'm going to run one of the six most powerful divine spellcasters of this severed head, I need to know domains.
Then I got to DM Secrets, and finally I find some DM Secrets worthy of the heading. That first secret is a doozy, and I'm immediately hit with the situation where the PCs are shown the sleeping head by one of the Divine Council, only to have the head whisper "They won't let me die..." to one of the PCs. Talk about conflict!
With that in mind, and the second secret, I don't see the end of this battle as a foregone conclusion like others do. What happens if the Council gets their hands on some magic metal from Earthmaw Gorge? What happens when the other gods decide to finally finish off the head? Surely not all of the natural forces will get along, with too many predators and not enough prey, perhaps?
This entry has a solid vote from me right now, and it'll take a lot to unseat it. Thanks for sharing your creativity and best wishes!
I am going to try to avoid being harsh, but I'm going to be very straightforward here. This is a competition and every entrant should have brought their best work to the table. The writing ability here is poor and far below what should be expected of an RPG Superstar. Some of the sentences are clunky and confusing, word choice questionable (Is Ikastur actually "newfound", implying that it has been discovered as a ruin or a pre-existing city, or "newly-founded", implying that it is still under construction?), and some typos are unfortunately comical ("marital skills").
That being said, it can be corrected rather easily. This writing needs a pass through a spellchecker first, a scrutinizing read-through second, and a pass through someone else with a good grasp of written English third. I'd recommend that to any writer, actually, on any project, but this entry really shows the dangers of writing and posting in a hurry without solid proofreading.
Content-wise, I sadly don't feel like there's a diamond in the rough waiting to be discovered. I hate the names, such as Qolpeen, which make me chuckle and remind me of The Eye of Argon. I also question whether anyone would want to call themselves a "Fallen Lord". It reminds me of "The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants".
I like seeing crunch in the entries, but it felt too much like an afterthought here. I don't find the Feats compelling, attractive, or tied strongly into the Description (The Waonni can't be that oppressed with a 20% discount on the week's groceries). We get some levels for the Fallen Lords (with the eye-roll-inducing tease of a Fallen Lord prestige class), but nothing to set them apart from each other aside from some summary of where and how they draw power. I want physical and philosophical differences if these guys are going to be major NPCs in the region or at least a hook so evocative that I can see each one vividly in my mind's eye.
A pass on this one for me, but an improvement in writing skills could get more of the obvious creativity out on the page/screen. Thanks for sharing your entry and best wishes!
This one is on the bubble for me, and that reminds me of my biggest issue with it. Steppenland seems to exist in a bubble of its own. There is no discussion of its role in a campaign world. I know this was "design a country" and not design COUNTRIES, but I couldn't help but wonder about imports/exports, conflict with outsiders, and even the presence of other races (tho the Aboleth brood is a step... nay, a giant leap... in the right direction).
The entry is well-written, and the presence of crunch, absent from many of the entries I've read, is to be applauded. The DM Secrets section, in particular, was well done with different levels of secret all based around a given tidbit.
Still, I can't wholeheartedly throw a vote at this one yet since it just feels so plains nomads generic. Slaves and games and horses, and more slaves and games and horses. There's some built-in conflict with family drama and all, but Steppenland itself doesn't feel like either a place IN peril or a place OF peril. It seems like no matter which barbarian is in charge, it'll just keep on truckin' north in the winter and south in the summer until the end of days. I prefer some sense of urgency, some call to action.
Thanks for sharing your entry and best wishes!
This entry is very well written, but I'm just not blown away by the creativity. The core idea is undead menial labor, but I've done that before. It just brings up a "Yeah, duh," reaction from me which is a tad unfair, but even if it's fresh to others, I simply don't see it under a new light here.
The duellist subculture is an interesting touch, but I fail to see how the undeath aspect ties into that. Would grudges span hundreds of years given that some of the duellists must surely be undead or have access to necromancy? I also don't see how this city-state, with much of its energies devoted to maintaining this undead workforce, could stand against a crusade from a zero tolerance threat (paladins, clerics of LG deities, LE humanoids, etc.). Some of that is covered in the DM Secrets, but surely there must be open grumblings as well, known to everyone in the campaign world since the undead gimmick is hardly kept hush-hush.
In all, it feels too Vampire: The Masquerade or World of Warcraft Undead for my tastes, and I'm going to pass. Do know, however, that I found the actual writing to be exemplary and would be happy to read more material from this creator. Thanks for sharing and best wishes!
I like this one a lot. I actually liked the florid prose so much that I read it aloud to my wife in faux Sean Connery voice-over. Of course, she keyed in immediately to the Dragonlance naming conventions.
Still, I like the Dark Ages Britain vibe with woaded Ogres and a migrating king in the country's lore. The evocative language ("Gnawing" at the ley lines) is a big plus. I don't think I could read a whole book written this way, but 1000 words on each country in this style and then some pages of crunch in casual English would suit me just fine.
And that brings me to the ley line criticism. I don't think rules about the ley lines BELONG in this submission, sorry. They should either be in an adventure that focuses on them or in a batch of new feats, or prestige classes, or even magic items. This is about the land, its history, and its role in the campaign. I think this entry earns high marks in that department.
Hell, this could easily be an "enemy of my enemy" campaign with players allying with the Dusk-Wytches (I only hate this spelling because Wiccans typically use it to differentiate "real" wYtches from fictional wItches) or even choosing the least of evils and helping one Rakshasa defeat the others and buy secret allies some time to arrive from abroad.
Like most entries I've read thus far, the DM Secrets are meager, but what is there is pretty darn good. I think you probably should have put some of the material in the main write-up (Flhynn and the Dusk-Wytches, for instance) in this section, but that's not a huge issue. In the end, they're there.
I don't know anything about PHB PSAs and frankly don't care. This one gets into my top 5 at this time based purely on merit. Well done.
Man, I wrote more words on this than on any other entry I've read thus far, and some kind of backtracking error ate it. I'll be back to attempt to retrieve it tomorrow since my tired brain cries for sleep (it's 1:30 a.m. here).
This entry will have to be bumped out of my top 5. It's the first to earn a dedicated spot there. I see logical reasons behind the simple prose and bland naming conventions that not only keep with the theme presented, but reinforce it. Kudos.
Finally, someone using the DM Secrets section! The sahuagin tidbit's a yawner, sad to say. The falling star bit is kind of interesting, but would have been cooler had it been a living thing rather than some alchemical taint that has become overwhelmingly cliche in Warh... some other game. I have no objection to pirates plaguing an atoll and was amused by the clever twist revealed here. Antata's unrest is intriguing, but I'd like more information on Rongelan. Is he native?
The actual writing is only okay and suffers from redundant redundancy. "Serving as servants"? "The largest of these is known as simply as “The Reef” in Common, a beautiful town sculpted in the..." wait for it... "living reef."
Interesting, full of conflict and opportunities for adventure, but perhaps just a little too predictable for me. Right now it falls on the bubble. Thanks for letting me read your work.
Man, why are people just overlooking the DM Secrets section? I would think folks would be editing down from 1000 words in this section alone.
The writing itself is subpar, but that's a mechanics issue and can be easily corrected as can the name. I'm not likely to mark down for those issues unless they're incredibly distracting.
Realistically, this isn't about Cumavea, anyway, it's about the Boiling City and how the surrounding provinces deal with it, which keeps it technically in line with the round's requirements.
I love the Firewalkers, but this may be just because I've been watching "Everest: Beyond the Limit" on Discovery Channel and envision this order of noble and selfless Sherpa-esque monks. I want to play a bad ass like that, so well done there. Some of these points get deducted, however, later on in the DM Secrets when we find that the Firewalkers are covertly recruiting allies to conquer the city. Doesn't sound particularly lawful...
The Ethelin deserve a paragraph of their own or should be cut. They have no business being an afterthought in a paragraph otherwise devoted to banditry.
The Rinji gliders (which are just begging for a cool name) scream Gnome to me and not Halfling. Checking the SRD for average weights, I find Halflings just a weeny bit lighter, but I can't shake the notion of them as pudgy bacon-eaters. I may be suffering from Edition Shock (tm), so I won't argue it too passionately.
In all, a mess technically, but an interesting idea that I wouldn't mind seeing developed further. I place Cumavea on the bubble for now. Thank you for letting me read your work.
My only real gripe is that this feels like it was back-edited, in that once the 1000 word threshold was crossed, the end stuff was the stuff that was cut most severely or left with too little space. The opening paragraph is simply the best work here, and the description of the storms and the land itself the most evocative.
I echo the twin calls for urgency and conflict. Why aren't the storms building in intensity? Or the first drops of precipatation falling? Or strange beings coming from afar to study them? What of pirates or naval threats or even nearby aquatic races? Hobgoblins have an average humanoid intelligence and a lawful evil bent and yet they DON'T know they're an inheritor race? I'd buy it for savage Orcs or even Lizardfolk, but Hobgobby imperialism has to be in their genetics, no?
All of that is quibbling, but it's quibbling born out of not knowing where the true sweet spot of this setting is supposed to be located. Right now it reads like a great place to send the party to vacation, not adventure.
A little too much steak and not enough sizzle. Still, a very worthy effort.
*chuckles* Right back at me, then, I suppose. Touche, good sir, touche.
Methinks you have perchance missed the joke? There's a certain metaphorical source for that Sour W(h)ine...
Call me cynical, but I think most folks want to see comments not to actually learn anything, but for the sense of validation that will come from being told they were "just this close" to making the top 38.
The reality is probably far less encouraging.
Looking at the winning entries, I can piece together why I didn't make the cut. I'm disappointed, sure, but have no regrets, even if the wait for the results was gut-wrenching. I look forward to participating in the voting aspect of this contest and in entering future contests.
I think it's very gracious of Erik to allow us to share our failing efforts on the boards for feedback without fear of violating IP. That should be enough. Let's not harrass the judges to the point that they look back on this as more trouble than it was worth, eh?
I think it works well, even if it is a bit subtle. I haven't run Burnt Offerings yet (I'll probably run the whole AP once all 6 are in my grubby lil' paws), but knowing my group, I can already see where the giant statue head upon which Thistletop is constructed will intrigue some of them.
Sure, the rise of an ancient evil is pretty cliche, but I've always gotten the best mileage out of throwing a new coat of paint on an old standby. Hell, the goblin lair will thrill some of them already simply because it's not the usual "hole-in-the-ground gang".
I'm hella pleased, but would also be interested in seeing a more obvious foe presented from moment one. Something along the lines of "For countless generations, the Frost Giants of Jotungaard have menaced the simple nomadic tribesmen of Sturmheim, but the lack of raids this winter have left the bards and sages outright worried. The white dragons don't flit about the mountaintops any more. A shadow has fallen over the peaks, and prophets tell of an army of the undead amassing in the highlands where fierce battles were once fought. The banner of the Liche Lord Skarskell once again flutters in the wind from atop Rookery Tower."
Just getting to Rookery Tower could be too formidable for low levels, but from moment one, the PCs know they're going to have to go up there and rip Skarskell a new one before tearing down his banner in a reverse Iwo Jima moment.
They need to spend a round to refocus. Even in the best of circumstances, that demographic is a fickle bunch and will be gone in 4 years' time or less.
As a poster in one of the other threads suggested, this has nothing to do with keeping the game going 5+ years. It's all about a spike in sales next year or two and a blurb on the resume/CV, then on to another company to market widgets to the new in-demand demographic. Never mind that D&D withers and curls up into a fetal position to whimper for help from its once-loyal fans.
I don't know the current financial situation at WOTC, but perhaps D&D as we know it is already considered dead by Hasbro and this is just a bit of ceremonial hand-waving before last rites are performed.
Lori B wrote:
Bottom line - Paizo seems to treat the game the way I want to see it treated. Once the 4e rules are out there, if Paizo decides to adopt them, I have a feeling I will like what they do with them. If on the other hand, Pazio sees the new rules and does not think they feel like the D&D we currently know, and decides to stick with 3.5 for the foreseeable future, I have a feeling that will be my reaction to the new rules too.
Wow, this pretty much encapsulates my feelings as a player and DM. It's a much better way to put it than the "Where Paizo goes, I follow" rhetoric.
Vic Wertz wrote:
Need more information. I'm sure we'll give 4th Edition a try, but that experience will go a long way towards whether we continue on through the laborious process of breaking in a new pair of dancing shoes or go back to the old, comfortable, threadbare loafers.
Vic Wertz wrote:
Brilliant. As the owner of 3 FLGS, I find myself in a curious position. On the one hand, I have to sell rulebooks. Rulebooks outsell adventures nearly 10-to-1. It's just the nature of the beast since only GMs need to purchase adventures and some of those don't, choosing to homebrew exclusively.
Unfortunately, the new 4th Ed. initiative seems bound and determined to take customers away from the gaming table and, more importantly to my own bottom line, out of my stores. Now I can't simply bury my head in the sand and pretend 4th Edition isn't necessary. Many who decry its very existance now, will find themselves overtaken by curiosity upon release, but there is a very real chance that this Edition will be spurned by my current gaming market.
When that happened to World of Darkness, Shadowrun, and Spycraft, I was left with little options. Those lines dwindled away and died in my stores because once the older product was gone, the customer base had no interest in the newer product. Some continued to play the older versions, some moved on to different games, some quit the hobby entirely, but it all meant I no longer made money on those lines and quit stocking them.
I think continued support of D&D 3.5-3.75 has a surprisingly good chance of retaining a lot of the current market, but it is CRUCIAL that a rulebook of some kind remain in print. It'll be an uphill climb to get 3.5ers to buy yet ANOTHER edition, but if it is both comprehensive while having enough new content to drive it, it could work, and would certainly be cheaper than going whole-hog into 4th Ed.
It would be truly awesome to see 3.75 outsell 4.0, but I doubt it'll happen. WOTC has a hellacious marketing machine when they choose to use it, and can lock down bookstore chains and other large market entities.
One of the considerations I haven't seen raised is the use of WOTC product identity. Would this mean that Mind Flayers, Kuo-Toa, Yuan-Ti, Githyanki, and Beholders will all be off the table? I suppose they already are, right? We're talking about retaining the traditional vibe of D&D, but we're already missing out on some of its most iconic foes.
Just curious, are you angrier at WotC for murdering the mags or thrashing 3E? Which, in terms of upsetting you the consumer, is the bigger blunder?
It's hard for me to separate the two. It angers me most that they're aggressively pushing this online direction without a solid gameplan. "Yeah, we've been saying for years that there's nothing like sitting around a table with your friends creating a shared world of living, breathing imagination... but the world doesn't want that. It wants phat lewt, and we want their dollars for said phat lewt."
I'd understand if D&D Online was this massive MMO success, but instead, we're going to sacrifice the pen and paper product for a lackluster online experience. I just don't have faith in WOTC to carry this through and make it anything but a half-assed money grab. Sadly, it stands to kill the hobby as many D&Ders I know have already abandoned the game in favor of the convenience of WoW. If the last few grognards have to go online to get a mediocre game going, it's going to die quickly.
Once the 3.5 Ed. books are gone out of print, the only chance they'll have to gain new blood is to try to compete with the WoW market, and I just see that as a recipe for disaster, unless they were going to unveil something awe-inspiring, and a "virtual gaming table" is just not enough.
Not to get all "chicken little", but tabletop RP gaming is quickly becoming an archaic, anachronistic hobby like model railroading, that has a niche market and limited appeal to a conglomerate like Hasbro. D&D will become a videogame license, and the game itself will fall by the wayside.
I was overjoyed to see the D&D presence back in bookstores for 3rd Edition, but now I'm more worried about the presence of BOOKS in bookstores (instead of huge sections of CDs, DVDs, coffee, and calendars). Maybe WOTC just sees the writing on the wall and is trying to get a jump on the cultural curve, but it feels so shoddy and desperate rather than the bold, new initiative they'd like us to believe it is.
Hell, is 4th Edition getting ANY buzz from outside the hobby? Is there any indication that they will achieve their goal of attracting new customers, or are they just risking what few they still have?
I actually see this the opposite way. I agree with the target audience assessment. However, what worked for me when I was 12 or 13 is not going to work for 12 or 13 year olds today. These are children who are likely familiar with Final Fantasy, with The Lord of the Rings, with Harry Potter, with World of Warcraft, etc. It was enough in the moldy-oldy days to tell me I get to roll dice and slay dragons. Now, that's available at the click of a mouse. The limitless creativity of a buch of guys sitting around a gaming table is what still sells D&D. Hell, it's been the style of their marketing for the past year plus, and I suppose they've abandoned it as unsuccessful in favor of "8 Million Online Subscribers Can't Be Wrong!"
Judging only by what little is revealed by Wyatt in his article, I would be more inclined to show how the new game is... well... new. I'd do my best to not only find a place for Tieflings and Eladrin and Warlocks, but show how they can make for a fresh, NEW experience.
Instead, we (and presumably this new net-savvy audience they'd want to attract) get a generic, no-frills setting where he's tentative to use one of the spiff new additions to the basic game.
That simple prehistoric world of Monte Cook's is the height of creativity in comparison. As I recall, he even tried to find a way to do monotheism in D&D, flying in the face of conventional clerical arrangements.
Since it's inception, this game has been about choices. The rules have always been guidelines and players and DM's encouraged to make things up as they go along. No methods of playing were wrong, regardless of what actually happened at the table as long as the DM and players were having fun and telling a good story. Nowhere in any publication regarding this game (and I go waaaaaay back) have I ever read anything so blatantly rude concerning what amounts to a relatively minor personal choice at the gaming table. To think that D&D is in the hands of people with the philosophy that they somehow hold the golden key to game enjoyment and understanding and that anyone that doesn't it see it their way is some kind of dinosaur leaves me with with a feeling I can only describe as nausea.
Apparently not "waaaaaay back" enough.
Dragon (November 1980), p.61: E. Gary Gygax in response to a letter from Eric Robinson questioning EGG's apparent vehemence against individual DMs adapting the game to suit their needs and the inclusion of variant material -
"...you seem to have D&D confused with AD&D. The former promotes alteration and free-wheeling adaptation. The latter absolutely decries it, for the obvious reason that Advanced D&D is a structured and complete game system aimed at uniformity of play world-wide. Either you play AD&D, or you play something else!"
I don't have a reference, unfortunately, but I recall a similar editorial when Dragon became the exclusive magazine for OFFICIAL D&D material, shutting out White Dwarf and other publications of the time.
Yeah, grognard in the gaming context dates back to SSI just a bit before this, and EGG might have been the poster child for grognardism while also pissing off the customer base as a voice of the industry. Still, the antagonistic relationship between D&D and its customer base has a long, storied history that includes TSR wasting a small fortune on shutting down unofficial D&D websites when the term website was reserved exclusively for nerddom. The OGL was a bold move in the wake of this and I assume all here applaud it.
4th Ed. basically boils down to this:
No mention of Gnomes of Half-elves (though I assume they are implied in a town where elves and humans freely mix).
James Wyatt wrote:
Let's say there was such a forest where the elves lived, but some enemy burned the forest down several years ago -- long enough ago to explain any half-elves in town.
Tiefling in, Eladrin in, Half-Orc and Gnome out?
I don't know. I'm more troubled that the new Dungeoncraft is boring and unimaginative. Is this really the best James Wyatt and the new PHB can offer? A farming village next to a chasm with ruins within and an abandoned tower up the road? I'm not expecting China Mieville, but D&D being super-generic doesn't really demonstrate a need for a 4th Edition nor, more importantly, inspire non-players to pick up the hobby.
Gimme more Pathfinder any day.