5th Edition vs Pathfinder Critique


4th Edition

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My main group isn't going to switch - nobody wants to invest in the cost of the books. Another group that bounces from game to game will, but the GM has a large disposable income and a short attention span. So how long it will last is anybody's guess.


I don't know the details of Darkbridger's summary

Quote:
I remember the mid 1980s, with the increasing growth of the personal computer and computer gaming (Wizardry, Might & Magic, Ultima)... while TSR struggled to grow and remain financially viable with 2e. Then the mid 1990s... the internet explosion... the dot com bubble... TSR finally failing... more computer games (Fallout, Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale)... all leading up to 3.0/3.5. Then there was the early 2000s, punctuated by the PS2, MMOs and the iPhone... and then 4e. Those of us that went through all of that are not concerned with digital competition. We grew up with and evolved with the game. But younger markets that could potentially provide new customers, have grown more competitive with each iteration.

But I've looked and there is a conspicuous absence of talk about how big the TTRPG pie is and what the principle players are trying to do about it. Given how open some of the big shots are on this and other forums, their silence doesn't bode well for the hobby.

Maybe in thirty more years it will be a bunch of hobby-developers handing each other money through an endless cycle of Kickstarter™ campaigns.

All I know is that for the 5E roll out this past summer none of the closest four or five Wizards Store Network locations held anything official to draw people in like they did for 4E (and I assume earlier editions).

Liberty's Edge

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Darkbridger wrote:

*joins the 40somethings*

I think, sadly, a lot of us have forgotten what it was like when we first found the game. Whether it was the booklets, a basic set, or in my case, the coloring album, it was a discovery of something *new*. Sure, we probably introduce our younger children, nieces, nephews, etc to the game now, but even then, we aren't and we shouldn't be, Hasbro's target audience. This exercise in comparison is, ultimately useless.

Hasbro and WotC should not be targeting me as a customer, or any of us. They shouldn't be competing with Paizo or OSRIC or Indie Press either. They really need to be looking for a way to build and market something to the tween crowd. If WotC (or Paizo) doesn't find a way to do that, then this hobby is as good as dead. It will further fracture and shrink until it is no longer profitable, even if it takes another decade to do it. Parents introducing their kids isn't enough in my mind. There needs to be another re-surgence in the youth segment on a larger scale to truely make a difference to this industry.

Honestly, I don't care what they change or how crazy their product ends up being, as long as that is their goal. I have 5 versions of D&D on my shelf at home with an avalanche of material for 4 of them. I'm completely and totally ok with a new generation finally getting one of their own, no matter how foreign it might look to me.

You have to sell products to the audience you have, not the audience you *might* have. You can't be sure you'll make money selling to a potential or theoretical audience.

Everyone is trying to capture the tween market. Everyone. Competition is fierce, and D&D is not big enough for WotC to give the, the resources to seriously move into new markets. Plus, as was show by 4e (and 4e Essentials), you can't entirely bank on new players. They tried to go after the MMO player base, adding their numbers to D&D, and that didn't work out so well as the number of newcomers did not make up for the players leaving.

The best way to grow the game is to get the established gamers playing. They'll do the work of recruiting and spreading the game. If you get your base excited they'll talk and make everyone else excited.


Jester David wrote:
The best way to grow the game is to get the established gamers playing. They'll do the work of recruiting and spreading the game. If you get your base excited they'll talk and make everyone else excited.

No doubt that is the heart of the truth on this matter.

Makes me wonder all the more though why the FLGSs around here didn't hold a party or ten for the 5E roll out.

Liberty's Edge

Quark Blast wrote:
Jester David wrote:
The best way to grow the game is to get the established gamers playing. They'll do the work of recruiting and spreading the game. If you get your base excited they'll talk and make everyone else excited.

No doubt that is the heart of the truth on this matter.

Makes me wonder all the more though why the FLGSs around here didn't hold a party or ten for the 5E roll out.

5e is in the unenviable position of having to win back the fanbase.

4e failed, which was bad for WotC. But it was also bad for retailers who invested in product that likely didn't sell. There's likely a lot of 4e books collecting dust on FLGS shelves or that were moved to discount bins.
And without a strong game, overall sales suffer. Pathfinder eventually became a tentpole game, but that took many years. When PF initially overtook D&D it was likely due more to falling 4e sales than growing PF sales.

I can see a lot of retailers being hesitant, waiting to see the fan response.

Liberty's Edge

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Simplicity… this is a tricky thing. It's very much a double-edged sword. It will either save D&D or kill it for good.

At the risk of establishing a false dichotomy, there are really two times of games: Gamemaster's games and player's games. There are games that put the power and support in the games of the GM and the ones that empower player agency.

Complexity is a factor in this. Complex games tend to favour dedicated player over the GM. Complex games allow optimization, rewarding the people who can master the rules. While GMs can optimize, there will always be more players than GMs so the odds are better a player will be better than the GM. Complex games by their very nature have more rules, which favour players by reducing GM adjudication (read: GM fiat).
However, complex games do not universally reward players. Because they are complex they are harder to learn. There's more reward for learning, but some effort and commitment is required. Complex games also tend to have greater disparity in power level between those with system mastery and those without.
Complex games are harder to GM. Like players you need to learn more rules to start, only there's much more work based on the potential number of player options to learn. Knowing what your players can and cannot do is often tricky. There are more rules to learn and more rules to work around when creating an adventure. Complex systems lead to more compromises in the story, as you have to accommodate the mechanics.

Simpler games favour the Gamemaster and casual players. There's less to memorize and less to learn, and the power disparity between a power gamer and non-PGer is reduced.
The GM can focus more on the story and less on the rules, telling the story they want without having to make it fit a mechanical framework. GMs also have to spend less time learning player options. Fewer rules need to be known as the GM can adjudicate as they see fit, focusing on what makes narrative or logical sense.
However, in simple systems there's less reward for dedicated players, less of an incentive to learn the system and invest in the hobby. And there's less to do between sessions: complex games can be "played' away from the table through theory craft, as you build characters (or monsters).

Complex systems look better on paper. There are 3-6 times as many players than GMs, so focusing on them should make more money. And encouraging dedication means more people interested enough in the hobby to regularly buy books. Complex systems also lend themselves more easily to accessories and expansion, which allowed for regular product.
In practice I wonder. I see a lot of dedicated GMs and casual players. Gaming groups tend to be built around the one big fan who buys all the products and shares their books with everyone. So you have the single person buying books regardless of the number of people at the table. Often that person is tapped to become the GM, because they're the one who knows the rules. I also see a lot more casual players, who don't think about the game away from the table. You know the player: the one who levels up their character at the table and might leave their character sheet behind between games.

I like Pathfinder. Because I liked 3e. But I'd much rather DM 5e than GM PF. Even running from an AP there's a lot of work and prep.
Half my table would like 5e more because they're casual, one likes PF more because they like to optimize, and the final could go either way but just doesn't like learning new rules. But, like most tables, it's arguably my call as the GM. So the game that's easier to run wins.
(Or will win. Once I finish Skull & Shackles and maybe Emerald Spire. )


Jester David wrote:
... However, in simple systems there's less reward for dedicated players, less of an incentive to learn the system and invest in the hobby...

Good post.

One answer to this little part here.

Give your dedicated player more complex character backgrounds or classes.

and/or

Give your dedicated player more PCs to run. No law, outside PFS and the like, against running two or more PCs by one player.


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Quark Blast wrote:
Jester David wrote:
... However, in simple systems there's less reward for dedicated players, less of an incentive to learn the system and invest in the hobby...

Good post.

One answer to this little part here.

Give your dedicated player more complex character backgrounds or classes.

and/or

Give your dedicated player more PCs to run. No law, outside PFS and the like, against running two or more PCs by one player.

There are also dedicated players who are more rewarded by character and world rewards and less by mechanical options. Put the complexity into who their character is and what they're going to do, rather than into what mechanical options they're going to take.

Of course, that doesn't sell books.

Shadow Lodge

Jester David wrote:
... However, in simple systems there's less reward for dedicated players, less of an incentive to learn the system and invest in the hobby...

So essentially what you are saying is that Pathfinder is little more than FATAL for noobs.

Liberty's Edge

thenovalord wrote:


Yep. Cards is the way forward for Paizo, just look at there expanding product range now......to the detriment of (rpg) books I feel. Much wider audience and therefore cash for Card Based Games

IIRC, the card game is being done under license by a different company, so it shouldn't have any effect on the RPG books at all.

Liberty's Edge

Quark Blast wrote:

Give your dedicated player more complex character backgrounds or classes.

and/or

Give your dedicated player more PCs to run. No law, outside PFS and the like, against running two or more PCs by one player.

I definitely think there's room for more complex options in 5e. I'd like to have seen it, but I can understand why they kept those out of the Core books.

That might be a good optional book or ruleset. Or, depending on the planned OGL/GSL, a good 3rd Party product.

5e is pretty modular. You could easily tack on a fatigue maneuver system (like the one planned for Pathfinder Unchained) onto 5e.

thejeff wrote:

There are also dedicated players who are more rewarded by character and world rewards and less by mechanical options. Put the complexity into who their character is and what they're going to do, rather than into what mechanical options they're going to take.

Of course, that doesn't sell books.

That's largely system neutral, as you can have a deep character based on roleplaying in any RPG. Or even non-RPGs. For example, nothing's stopping you from giving Professor Plum a rich backstory in a game of Clue.

So that's separate from complexity/simplicity.

(Seriously though... try breaking out Clue with your gaming group and RPing through a game or two. Great fun.)

Kthulhu wrote:
So essentially what you are saying is that Pathfinder is little more than FATAL for noobs.

Well... in a world where the the only example of "complex" in the gaming spectrum is FATAL then yes.

Thankfully, there are many, many more games than FATAL.
So I'd say Pathfinder is closer to the GURPS/Chainmail end of the RPG spectrum, with the focus on hard crunchy rules.
Ruleless shared storytelling would be on the other end. Fiasco and FATE would be closer to the latter side, 5e would be somewhere in the middle, or leaning to rules lite.


Jester David wrote:
thejeff wrote:

There are also dedicated players who are more rewarded by character and world rewards and less by mechanical options. Put the complexity into who their character is and what they're going to do, rather than into what mechanical options they're going to take.

Of course, that doesn't sell books.

That's largely system neutral, as you can have a deep character based on roleplaying in any RPG. Or even non-RPGs. For example, nothing's stopping you from giving Professor Plum a rich backstory in a game of Clue.

So that's separate from complexity/simplicity.

(Seriously though... try breaking out Clue with your gaming group and RPing through a game or two. Great fun.)

Oh, definitely system neutral. The point was that you don't need mechanical complexity to reward even dedicated players. There's an fallacy among some that lighter systems like 5E are good for beginners or casual players, but serious gamers need more complicated systems. Your earlier post at least hinted in that direction.


Jester David wrote:
Darkbridger wrote:

*joins the 40somethings*

I think, sadly, a lot of us have forgotten what it was like when we first found the game. Whether it was the booklets, a basic set, or in my case, the coloring album, it was a discovery of something *new*. Sure, we probably introduce our younger children, nieces, nephews, etc to the game now, but even then, we aren't and we shouldn't be, Hasbro's target audience. This exercise in comparison is, ultimately useless.

Hasbro and WotC should not be targeting me as a customer, or any of us. They shouldn't be competing with Paizo or OSRIC or Indie Press either. They really need to be looking for a way to build and market something to the tween crowd. If WotC (or Paizo) doesn't find a way to do that, then this hobby is as good as dead. It will further fracture and shrink until it is no longer profitable, even if it takes another decade to do it. Parents introducing their kids isn't enough in my mind. There needs to be another re-surgence in the youth segment on a larger scale to truely make a difference to this industry.

Honestly, I don't care what they change or how crazy their product ends up being, as long as that is their goal. I have 5 versions of D&D on my shelf at home with an avalanche of material for 4 of them. I'm completely and totally ok with a new generation finally getting one of their own, no matter how foreign it might look to me.

You have to sell products to the audience you have, not the audience you *might* have. You can't be sure you'll make money selling to a potential or theoretical audience.

Do you? Because I don't see WotC doing that with 4e (which you even point out below) OR 5e, which doesn't seem to be aimed at their current fanbase (4e). Just because they've failed at the attempt doesn't mean it's not a valid business goal. All sorts of "new" products get marketed all the time toward an audience they *might* have.

Jester David wrote:


Everyone is trying to capture the tween market. Everyone. Competition is fierce, and D&D is not big enough for WotC to give the, the resources to seriously move into new markets. Plus, as was show by 4e (and 4e Essentials), you can't entirely bank on new players. They tried to go after the MMO player base, adding their numbers to D&D, and that didn't work out so well as the number of newcomers did not make up for the players leaving.

I agree that giving up on existing customers to search for new ones is not a sound strategy. That's where multiple product lines would be a better solution, but WotC does not seem inclined to do that anymore. The days of Basic/Advanced are dead and buried it seems. But I stand by the assertion that for the RPG market itself to expand beyond it's current confines, an evolutionary product will be needed. Whether WotC, Paizo, or some other company creates it does not matter. The Adventure Card game might transition some players into RPGers, but I don't see it doing so on a large scale. Facebook and iPhones turned people that had probably never installed or played a PC game in their lives into "gamers". That's the effect that's needed here.

Jester David wrote:


The best way to grow the game is to get the established gamers playing. They'll do the work of recruiting and spreading the game. If you get your base excited they'll talk and make everyone else excited.

And that's the problem. The current players aren't spreading the game (Paizo or WotC) beyond family game nights. Even game stores aren't spreading it. You need the kids themselves to spread it, and for that, the product needs to change. That's what the existing audience of older gamers has forgotten. Our mothers and fathers weren't generally our DMs, nor did we pick up the game from them. We picked it up from each other. It was our own because we discovered it, we DM'd it, and we spread it to our friends.

Liberty's Edge

Jester David wrote:
There's likely a lot of 4e books collecting dust on FLGS shelves or that were moved to discount bins.

If anyone is interested, and from the Houston area, the Half Price Books on Westheimer near Montrose has three shelves of almost brand new looking 4e books, looks like a few of every hardback they put out, all for around $10 - $15 a pop.

Kinda dusty, though.


houstonderek wrote:
Jester David wrote:
There's likely a lot of 4e books collecting dust on FLGS shelves or that were moved to discount bins.

If anyone is interested, and from the Houston area, the Half Price Books on Westheimer near Montrose has three shelves of almost brand new looking 4e books, looks like a few of every hardback they put out, all for around $10 - $15 a pop.

Kinda dusty, though.

You can shop there online too - FYI.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Darkbridger wrote:
Jester David wrote:
Darkbridger wrote:

*joins the 40somethings*

I think, sadly, a lot of us have forgotten what it was like when we first found the game. Whether it was the booklets, a basic set, or in my case, the coloring album, it was a discovery of something *new*. Sure, we probably introduce our younger children, nieces, nephews, etc to the game now, but even then, we aren't and we shouldn't be, Hasbro's target audience. This exercise in comparison is, ultimately useless.

Hasbro and WotC should not be targeting me as a customer, or any of us. They shouldn't be competing with Paizo or OSRIC or Indie Press either. They really need to be looking for a way to build and market something to the tween crowd. If WotC (or Paizo) doesn't find a way to do that, then this hobby is as good as dead. It will further fracture and shrink until it is no longer profitable, even if it takes another decade to do it. Parents introducing their kids isn't enough in my mind. There needs to be another re-surgence in the youth segment on a larger scale to truely make a difference to this industry.

Honestly, I don't care what they change or how crazy their product ends up being, as long as that is their goal. I have 5 versions of D&D on my shelf at home with an avalanche of material for 4 of them. I'm completely and totally ok with a new generation finally getting one of their own, no matter how foreign it might look to me.

You have to sell products to the audience you have, not the audience you *might* have. You can't be sure you'll make money selling to a potential or theoretical audience.

Do you? Because I don't see WotC doing that with 4e (which you even point out below) OR 5e, which doesn't seem to be aimed at their current fanbase (4e). Just because they've failed at the attempt doesn't mean it's not a valid business goal. All sorts of "new" products get marketed all the time toward an audience they *might* have.

Jester David wrote:


Everyone is trying to capture the
...

RPG's have always been, and most likely always will be, a small industry.

There have been a couple of short threads the past few months looking at the ICV2 numbers, which admittedly aren't the entire picture, but do represent a significant amount. They estimate that the gross value of 2013 RPG sales was around $10 million. That doesn't include things like Amazon or Target, but I think it's safe to assume that that figure represents at least 1/2 of all sales.

Barring massive technological breakthroughs and cultural changes, the basic size of the RPG market right now is the highest it will be for the foreseeable future. It's not a popular hobby.

You can see this in the difficulty that nearly every mainstream intellectual property has in becoming a licensed RPG line. Things like Dragon Age and Game of Thrones seem like natural fits for RPG's, but both have struggled to find an audience. Marvel is a pretty big name, but they haven't done well either. Star Wars is probably the most successful, but one company went bankrupt publishing it and it's been dropped by the largest publisher in the industry.

Add in that profits are very slim and most publishers can't sustain multiple lines of products. A company basically can afford to have one RPG line, or do single books for multiple RPG's.

Fantasy Flight tries to publish multiple RPG lines. I live in Minnesota, where they are based. I can tell you, RPG's do NOT dominate their home store. They basically have 2 shelves, one for their stuff, another for a smattering of other books they carry, this takes up maybe 50 sq feet in the store. On the other hand they have several thousand square feet devoted to all their other products.

Facebook and iphones turned people into gamers, but those gamers aren't buying more PC's or consoles. They stick to games on their phones and facebook. It didn't bring new audiences to the older style of game, it just added a new category that counts for the term.

World of Warcraft created a whole new generation of people who played computer roleplaying games, but they didn't really expand out from WoW even, they just counted because they played WoW. Also, in the history of WoW and D&D, more people have played WoW, even though D&D is 30 years older. The cross over from WoW to PnP RPG has been very small.

The Adventure Card game isn't going to change the market. It might sell to non-RPer's, but its only going to turn a very small number of them into RPer's.


Irontruth wrote:

RPG's have always been, and most likely always will be, a small industry.

There have been a couple of short threads the past few months looking at the ICV2 numbers, which admittedly aren't the entire picture, but do represent a significant amount. They estimate that the gross value of 2013 RPG sales was around $10 million. That doesn't include things like Amazon or Target, but I think it's safe to assume that that figure represents at least 1/2 of all sales.

Barring massive technological breakthroughs and cultural changes, the basic size of the RPG market right now is the highest it will be for the foreseeable future. It's not a popular hobby.

You can see this in the difficulty that nearly every mainstream intellectual property has in becoming a licensed RPG line. Things like Dragon Age and Game of Thrones seem like natural fits for RPG's, but both have struggled to find an audience. Marvel is a pretty big name, but they haven't done well either. Star Wars is probably the most successful, but one company went bankrupt publishing it and it's been dropped by the largest publisher in the industry.

Add in that profits are very slim and most publishers can't sustain multiple lines of products. A company basically can afford to have one RPG line, or do single books for multiple RPG's.

Fantasy Flight tries to publish multiple RPG lines. I live in Minnesota, where they are based. I can tell you, RPG's do NOT dominate their home store. They basically have 2 shelves, one for their stuff, another for a smattering of other books they carry, this takes up maybe 50 sq feet in the store. On the other hand they have several thousand square feet devoted to all their other products.

Facebook and iphones turned people into gamers, but those gamers aren't buying more PC's or consoles. They stick to games on their phones and facebook. It didn't bring new audiences to the older style of game, it just added a new category that counts for the term.

World of Warcraft created a whole new generation of people who played computer roleplaying games, but they didn't really expand out from WoW even, they just counted because they played WoW. Also, in the history of WoW and D&D, more people have played WoW, even though D&D is 30 years older. The cross over from WoW to PnP RPG has been very small.

The Adventure Card game isn't going to change the market. It might sell to non-RPer's, but its only going to turn a very small number of them into RPer's.

You commented on the thread I started but didn't address one thought I really wanted to discuss - the notion of 'Kickstarters' and TTRPGs.

so trying again

Since most RPGs have a small fan-base, and since most Kickstarter-type events give the game to the Backers, does this method of funding TTRPG products really help? Do they actually sell anything beyond their Backers?

I can see an occasional "breakout" from this way of marketing these products but mostly doesn't the Kickstarter-type method simply distribute the existing TTRPG money among more products? Or does this method really make a bigger pie by bringing in more money?

Based on what you're saying on this thread it would seem that you would believe that the 'Kickstarter' phenomenon will simply fractionate the already small TTRPG market and not grow it larger. Correct?

Liberty's Edge

Irontruth wrote:
RPG's have always been, and most likely always will be, a small industry.

There was a moment in the early Eighties when TSR was selling literally millions of AD&D Player's Handbooks (the sixth printing of the 1e PHB is probably the largest hardback seller in RPG history) and millions of Basic and Expert sets. It was a huge fad, huge. But, yeah, ever since consoles became decent and MMOs became a thing, it's shrunk to healthy niche.

So, not always. Just thirty five of the forty years the hobby has existed. ;-)


houstonderek wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
RPG's have always been, and most likely always will be, a small industry.

There was a moment in the early Eighties when TSR was selling literally millions of AD&D Player's Handbooks (the sixth printing of the 1e PHB is probably the largest hardback seller in RPG history) and millions of Basic and Expert sets. It was a huge fad, huge. But, yeah, ever since consoles became decent and MMOs became a thing, it's shrunk to healthy niche.

So, not always. Just thirty five of the forty years the hobby has existed. ;-)

It may be a small industry for most rpg publishers, but not for all. Sure, there are only a handful of rpg publishers that qualify as more than just a small industry, but currently D&D is one of them.

From a recent article in the Boston Globe:

When one of the core rule books, the D&D “Player’s Handbook,” was published in August, it climbed to the top of Amazon sales charts and hit number one on both Publisher’s Weekly and Wall Street Journal’s hardcover nonfiction lists.

And this is a sincere question since I do not know the sales history for PRPG or other books, but what other gaming books have done this since the early days of AD&D?


Enevhar Aldarion wrote:
houstonderek wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
RPG's have always been, and most likely always will be, a small industry.

There was a moment in the early Eighties when TSR was selling literally millions of AD&D Player's Handbooks (the sixth printing of the 1e PHB is probably the largest hardback seller in RPG history) and millions of Basic and Expert sets. It was a huge fad, huge. But, yeah, ever since consoles became decent and MMOs became a thing, it's shrunk to healthy niche.

So, not always. Just thirty five of the forty years the hobby has existed. ;-)

It may be a small industry for most rpg publishers, but not for all. Sure, there are only a handful of rpg publishers that qualify as more than just a small industry, but currently D&D is one of them.

From a recent article in the Boston Globe:

When one of the core rule books, the D&D “Player’s Handbook,” was published in August, it climbed to the top of Amazon sales charts and hit number one on both Publisher’s Weekly and Wall Street Journal’s hardcover nonfiction lists.

And this is a sincere question since I do not know the sales history for PRPG or other books, but what other gaming books have done this since the early days of AD&D?

Since the early days? Don't know.

Recently? Go over to CamelCamelCamel.com and answer the question for yourself. :)

[Edit] This won't be "scientific" but it will give you an idea. You also need to factor in the fact that books, like music, are things that people don't really buy anymore (compared to 10+ years ago).

The Exchange

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In my area, the PC games and mmos and platform systems have actually increased the player base.

However, it took me as an experience role payer to show the kids in the area realise how good face to face RPGs are. They love the freedom of the game rather than the fixed pathways of most games on PC or console.

I have started 5 new gaming groups in my area in the last two years. All of them were MMO players or console roleplay gamers to start with. Ey all prefer face to face games now to be honest.

So, if we can get experienced players to tap into the younger generation and show them how it works, then this industry will grow. People still love the style of game, they're just not as aware of it as they were.

Interestingly, I've found the hardcore MMO players like the complexity and build system of pathfinder over 5th ed.

I've found the non MMO players more interested in the story and roleplay aspect that 5 th ed encourages from its books. Mind you, I've only got the one 5 th ed group so that's not a real good depth of data. Just an interesting note from the player base I've got so far.


houstonderek wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
RPG's have always been, and most likely always will be, a small industry.

There was a moment in the early Eighties when TSR was selling literally millions of AD&D Player's Handbooks (the sixth printing of the 1e PHB is probably the largest hardback seller in RPG history) and millions of Basic and Expert sets. It was a huge fad, huge. But, yeah, ever since consoles became decent and MMOs became a thing, it's shrunk to healthy niche.

So, not always. Just thirty five of the forty years the hobby has existed. ;-)

The sales figures are highly debatable, since they don't actually exist as a fact somewhere to reference. At best we have second or third-hand anecdotes about sales figures. There are claims of over 1 million in '89, but that would put us well past NYT best seller category (you can purchase NYT #1 status for around $250,000, which includes buying about 9,000 copies of your own book).

Even at 1.5 million sales, that isn't an extraordinary number of players. While some groups do have just 1 copy at the table, many other groups have 1 copy per player. I would put the high end at roughly 3 players per book, though I think 2.5 might be more accurate.

None the less, it doesn't change the facts that the industry now is quite small. I'd guess the number of full time employees is somewhere around 50. At lot of writers and designers are paid by the project, and a lot of them work for more than one company in this way. I've known some that are involved with 4-5 publishers at the same time. The industry does not pay well either. Only a few people make enough to actually support a family, many rely on spouses to get jobs that provide benefits.

Liberty's Edge

Darkbridger wrote:
Jester David wrote:
You have to sell products to the audience you have, not the audience you *might* have. You can't be sure you'll make money selling to a potential or theoretical audience.
Do you? Because I don't see WotC doing that with 4e (which you even point out below) OR 5e, which doesn't seem to be aimed at their current fanbase (4e). Just because they've failed at the attempt doesn't mean it's not a valid business goal. All sorts of "new" products get marketed all the time toward an audience they *might* have.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing multiple times and expecting different results.

WotC tried to tap into a new audience twice. First when they made classic 4e figuring all their old fans would just follow them into the new edition without question while also assuming MMO players would buy an RPG a little like an MMO. And again with Essentials where they tried to exclusively to reach new people with a version of the game designed for new players.
The first didn't do so well. The second did so poorly that it cost the head of D&D his job, forced WotC to cancel a handful of releases (and delay another in an attempt to release it as a hardcover rather than a softcover).

Trying to capture a theoretical audience a third time just seems silly at this point. They need to reestablish trust with their existing audience and get the game to a stable point where it isn't hemorrhaging players. Then they can worry about growing, and they need to do so without alienating the existing fans. Again.

Darkbridger wrote:


I agree that giving up on existing customers to search for new ones is not a sound strategy. That's where multiple product lines would be a better solution, but WotC does not seem inclined to do that anymore. The days of Basic/Advanced are dead and buried it seems. But I stand by the assertion that for the RPG market itself to expand beyond it's current confines, an evolutionary product will be needed. Whether WotC, Paizo, or some other company creates it does not matter. The Adventure Card game might transition some players into RPGers, but I don't see it doing so on a large scale. Facebook and iPhones turned people that had probably never installed or played a PC game in their lives into "gamers". That's the effect that's needed here.

The Adventure Card Game seems to be doing gangbusters for Paizo, but I also doubt it's bringing *that* many new people into the RPG, just more money into the company and the brand.

D&D is relying on WizKids to branch out. They used to do it themselves, but WotC has shrunk their department down to the point where it's not really possible. So, outsourcing.
There's the minis, the mini game (Attack Wing), and we can expect more board games soon, in the style of Castle Ravenloft or Wrath of Ashardalon.

Two different RPG product lines... that's trickier and bad for business. Because it means you're competing with yourself. Dividing their core audience in two *really* hurt TSR back in the day, as did dividing the fans via campaign settings.
There's a reason Paizo hasn't released a Pathfinder Basic, only a compatible box that feeds people to the main game.

A revolutionary product that grows the RPG line is tricky without losing what makes an RPG what it is. Really, the problem is one of brand awareness and knowledge of what the game is and entails. D&D is just tricky to explain. There's no easy way of doing that.
The best crossover product I can think of is the Evening of Murder boxed sets. Something that brings roleplaying into the homes of non-gamers. But those are also pretty niche.

But, really, what turned everyone into games, the strength of mobile games, is their casual nature and ability to be played at any time when convenient for you. Tabletop RPGs will never have that, because they require coordinating the schedules of multiple people.

Darkbridger wrote:
Jester David wrote:


The best way to grow the game is to get the established gamers playing. They'll do the work of recruiting and spreading the game. If you get your base excited they'll talk and make everyone else excited.
And that's the problem. The current players aren't spreading the game (Paizo or WotC) beyond family game nights. Even game stores aren't spreading it. You need the kids themselves to spread it, and for that, the product needs to change. That's what the existing audience of older gamers has forgotten. Our mothers and fathers weren't generally our DMs, nor did we pick up the game from them. We picked it up from each other. It was our own because we discovered it, we DM'd it, and we spread it to our friends.

I had a teacher that helped introduce me to the game. And I read Dragon in my school library.

From what I've heard from a lot of older gamers were introduced by Uncles. Uncles seemed to be the starting point of the game. The game is gifted and that person brings their friends, who spread it to their friends.

So the best way to spread the game is to make it giftable, to encourage people to give the gift of D&D.
WotC/Paizo could also help by donating product to school and public libraries.


I don't think multiple campaign settings hurt sales overall. The problem is that campaign settings just don't sell as well as core rules. If the company spends too much time/effort in producing campaign settings (regardless of the number of them) then they're wasting time on less lucrative products.

Core books are the primary driver of publisher profits. Adventures can see sales figures as low as 1/20th of core book sales. Paizo might have higher ratios on their adventure paths, because they've worked hard to build their customer base around them, but even that I would be surprised if their average sales broke 1/10th of their corebook sales.

The Exchange

I envision 5th ed being driven more by sales of player options books to be honest. Releasing multiple settings doesn't seem to work. It's the very reason why Paizo has only one setting and they support that one are very well.

WotC has gone for the Realms again. I find it a boring setting but I still have my Eberron stuff so no problem for me.

Providing more backgrounds, giving more roleplay insights, occasional feats, possibly new classes, different ways of achieving and spending inspiration. Anything that can inspire the players to try different things and branch out into new styles is really what they need to release.

It seems they are going to subcontract modules to companies like Kobold Press, who did their first campaign. I'm running that one and it is pretty decent. A good mix of combat, exploring and roleplay. Huge amount of options and variability to be honest.

If WotC treat any setting they release like Paizo treats Golarion, they'll do much better. Maybe they'll release a new setting completely and drive it forwards. I doubt it though. I get the feeling they are trying to bring older groups back into the game with this set of rules. It worked for me, now I'm just trying to convince my players in my pathfinder group to convert too.

I guess time will tell.

Liberty's Edge

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Irontruth wrote:
houstonderek wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
RPG's have always been, and most likely always will be, a small industry.

There was a moment in the early Eighties when TSR was selling literally millions of AD&D Player's Handbooks (the sixth printing of the 1e PHB is probably the largest hardback seller in RPG history) and millions of Basic and Expert sets. It was a huge fad, huge. But, yeah, ever since consoles became decent and MMOs became a thing, it's shrunk to healthy niche.

So, not always. Just thirty five of the forty years the hobby has existed. ;-)

The sales figures are highly debatable, since they don't actually exist as a fact somewhere to reference. At best we have second or third-hand anecdotes about sales figures. There are claims of over 1 million in '89, but that would put us well past NYT best seller category (you can purchase NYT #1 status for around $250,000, which includes buying about 9,000 copies of your own book).

Even at 1.5 million sales, that isn't an extraordinary number of players. While some groups do have just 1 copy at the table, many other groups have 1 copy per player. I would put the high end at roughly 3 players per book, though I think 2.5 might be more accurate.

None the less, it doesn't change the facts that the industry now is quite small. I'd guess the number of full time employees is somewhere around 50. At lot of writers and designers are paid by the project, and a lot of them work for more than one company in this way. I've known some that are involved with 4-5 publishers at the same time. The industry does not pay well either. Only a few people make enough to actually support a family, many rely on spouses to get jobs that provide benefits.

James Jacobs has seen the TSR numbers, he has backed up my assertion on these boards. Do a search, I don't really care enough to do so. AD&D, 1e was a HUGE phenomenon. Nothing else D&D has even come close to selling like AD&D did in the early '80s.

You're right, TTRPG is a small, niche hobby. It wasn't in the early '80s, it was a full blown fad.

Liberty's Edge

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Wrath wrote:

I envision 5th ed being driven more by sales of player options books to be honest. Releasing multiple settings doesn't seem to work. It's the very reason why Paizo has only one setting and they support that one are very well.

WotC has gone for the Realms again. I find it a boring setting but I still have my Eberron stuff so no problem for me.

Providing more backgrounds, giving more roleplay insights, occasional feats, possibly new classes, different ways of achieving and spending inspiration. Anything that can inspire the players to try different things and branch out into new styles is really what they need to release.

It seems they are going to subcontract modules to companies like Kobold Press, who did their first campaign. I'm running that one and it is pretty decent. A good mix of combat, exploring and roleplay. Huge amount of options and variability to be honest.

If WotC treat any setting they release like Paizo treats Golarion, they'll do much better. Maybe they'll release a new setting completely and drive it forwards. I doubt it though. I get the feeling they are trying to bring older groups back into the game with this set of rules. It worked for me, now I'm just trying to convince my players in my pathfinder group to convert too.

I guess time will tell.

How many Eberron novels do they sell? How many FR novels do they sell? One setting is actually known to non-gamers, one is not known to them.

WotC knows what they're doing, at least when it comes to what actually has appeal outside of the gaming world. Why center their game around a setting that only sells books to gamers, when they can promote a setting that even non-TTRPG gamers know through the novels and computer games?

Liberty's Edge

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Irontruth wrote:

I don't think multiple campaign settings hurt sales overall. The problem is that campaign settings just don't sell as well as core rules. If the company spends too much time/effort in producing campaign settings (regardless of the number of them) then they're wasting time on less lucrative products.

Core books are the primary driver of publisher profits. Adventures can see sales figures as low as 1/20th of core book sales. Paizo might have higher ratios on their adventure paths, because they've worked hard to build their customer base around them, but even that I would be surprised if their average sales broke 1/10th of their corebook sales.

The problem was that the idiots who ran TSR when Lorraine was there idiotically though Birthright would sell as many copies as Forgotten Realms, and ordered print runs to match. They didn't understand gamers or the gaming industry at all, which is now why D&D is owned by a multi-national corporation that doesn't care about jack but $$$.

Actually developing the settings didn't hurt them, overprinting all of them like they'd sell as well as their most popular setting was.

You seem quite unsure of things that are generally accepted by people who lived though it and watched TSR crash and burn. You also seem to be a bit unwilling to realize that the TSR numbers aren't some state secret, and a lot of people that worked for TSR have talked about them.

But, you know, you know better than people that worked for TSR, so go on with your bad self.

Liberty's Edge

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Wrath wrote:

I envision 5th ed being driven more by sales of player options books to be honest. Releasing multiple settings doesn't seem to work. It's the very reason why Paizo has only one setting and they support that one are very well.

WotC has gone for the Realms again. I find it a boring setting but I still have my Eberron stuff so no problem for me.

Providing more backgrounds, giving more roleplay insights, occasional feats, possibly new classes, different ways of achieving and spending inspiration. Anything that can inspire the players to try different things and branch out into new styles is really what they need to release.

It seems they are going to subcontract modules to companies like Kobold Press, who did their first campaign. I'm running that one and it is pretty decent. A good mix of combat, exploring and roleplay. Huge amount of options and variability to be honest.

If WotC treat any setting they release like Paizo treats Golarion, they'll do much better. Maybe they'll release a new setting completely and drive it forwards. I doubt it though. I get the feeling they are trying to bring older groups back into the game with this set of rules. It worked for me, now I'm just trying to convince my players in my pathfinder group to convert too.

I guess time will tell.

If they treat any setting like Paizo does Golarion, I'm going to wind up just playing the occasional game of Shadowrun. Golarion isn't a setting, it's a patchwork of tired tropes and fads sewn together to sell APs.


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Golarion is my least favourite thing about Pathfinder

Liberty's Edge

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thenovalord wrote:
Golarion is my least favorite thing about Pathfinder

It's in my bottom three, for sure.

Grand Lodge

houstonderek wrote:
Actually developing the settings didn't hurt them, overprinting all of them like they'd sell as well as their most popular setting was.

It seems it was a combination of both overprinting, and too many settings:

In 2011, The CEO of Paizo wrote:

the splitting of the customer base is the #1 reason why TSR went out of business. It would take me a couple of hours to explain why this was the case, but as the person responsible at WotC for taking the old TSR data and analyzing it to see why they went belly up, the biggest cause that I found was splitting the customer base into segments. Whether it was D&D vs. AD&D. Or Forgotten Realms vs. Ravenloft vs. Greyhawk vs. Dragonlance vs. Birthright vs. Dark Sun vs. Planescape vs. Mystara vs. Al-Qadim vs. Spelljammer vs. Lanhkmar vs. any other setting book that they produced. Splitting the customer base means lower sales on any particular product which means lower profit margins which eventually means going belly up.

Two years later (in 2013), Vic Wertz added:

Vic Wertz wrote:

Some of you might be aware that Lisa was the person tasked at dissecting TSR's business, and she figured out that some of those boxed sets actually cost more to produce than TSR was selling them to distribution for, so sold or unsold, every copy printed lost money. The unsold copies just lost *more* money. The copies that lost the most were the ones that were shipped to the book trade, didn't sell, and were then returned to TSR—which, in addition to extra shipping costs, also generated return fees from the distributor.


1 or 2 hardback a year
3pp adventures
Money earners like cards and minis

If they stick to that will they do well?


So if splitting the customer base was the core sin at TSR...

Isn't that same error now being repeated with the Kickstarter℠ phenomenon?

I've asked this question about half a dozen times now but, taking Digitalelf's last post at face value, that seems to be an affirmative answer.

Funny that people in the industry, like Sean Reynolds, are always promoting Kickstarter℠ campaigns then? Huh?


houstonderek wrote:
James Jacobs has seen the TSR numbers,

TSR had horrible bookkeeping, a lot of the "numbers" don't actually exist. People have made estimates from what does exist and JJ's a smart guy, so his estimates are probably accurate.

That said, there is no accurate data on actual sales numbers for specific products, merely estimates.


Digitalelf wrote:


Two years later (in 2013), Vic Wertz added:

Vic Wertz wrote:

Some of you might be aware that Lisa was the person tasked at dissecting TSR's business, and she figured out that some of those boxed sets actually cost more to produce than TSR was selling them to distribution for, so sold or unsold, every copy printed lost money. The unsold copies just lost *more* money. The copies that lost the most were the ones that were shipped to the book trade, didn't sell, and were then returned to TSR—which, in addition to extra shipping costs, also generated return fees from the distributor.

This is no different than the console gaming business. The consoles cost more to make than they are sold for, except for some of Nintendo's models. The companies make their money on the games and accessories, not the consoles. RPG boxed sets and some hardcover books are notorious for selling at a loss or maybe at break-even at best. The rpg companies make their money on all the cheaper to produce supplements and accessories.


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Quark Blast wrote:

So if splitting the customer base was the core sin at TSR...

Isn't that same error now being repeated with the Kickstarter℠ phenomenon?

I've asked this question about half a dozen times now but, taking Digitalelf's last post at face value, that seems to be an affirmative answer.

Funny that people in the industry, like Sean Reynolds, are always promoting Kickstarter℠ campaigns then? Huh?

No, it's not the same. It's more complicated than just "there were a lot of choices".

TSR split its own customer base and effectively began competing with itself - then continued to produce and price supplements as if the fans were going to buy everything. Most didn't - they bought just forgotten realms, or just planescape. The result was lots of surplus stock (or smaller print runs which drives up the unit cost - some of the boxed sets TSR were selling cost more to produce than they received for selling them).

Multiple options isn't, in itself, a bad thing. In TSR's case it was that they provided so many that there was no longer demand to support many of their individual lines. There also wasn't a lot of thought put into synergy between the lines - it was easy to collect planescape and ignore forgotten realms stuff as the latter didn't add very much to campaigns set in sigil.


Quark Blast wrote:

So if splitting the customer base was the core sin at TSR...

Isn't that same error now being repeated with the Kickstarter℠ phenomenon?

I've asked this question about half a dozen times now but, taking Digitalelf's last post at face value, that seems to be an affirmative answer.

Funny that people in the industry, like Sean Reynolds, are always promoting Kickstarter℠ campaigns then? Huh?

I don't think the splitting customer base was the core of TSR's problems. Bad business practices, taking on too much debt and failing at specific ventures is what ruined them.

In the mid-90's, they tried to take on WotC and GW, through Dragon Dice and Spellfire. Dragon Dice had some initial sales, but quickly fell off and Spellfire never did well if memory serves. They had $40 million in gross revenue in 1996, but a deal with Random House fell through and they had to take back some massive inventory. They didn't have the cash on hand to deal with the issue, so they had to sell the company.

For many years, TSR never had a true "money person", someone who specialized in finances and could manage the companies revenue well. When a money person did take over the company, they essentially hated games (at one point TSR had a company ban on playing games, there were products that were literally never play tested).

I don't think the multiple campaign settings is what drove TSR's death. It did contribute, but it would be possible to manage that business model appropriately. Campaign books don't sell as well as core books, but TSR insisted on making them as big and splashy as possible. Smaller books for the campaigns, less glossy, fewer books and they wouldn't have been an issue.

In general TSR did have a tendency to overproduce products, but they did this with everything, not just campaign settings.


Quark Blast wrote:

So if splitting the customer base was the core sin at TSR...

Isn't that same error now being repeated with the Kickstarter℠ phenomenon?

I've asked this question about half a dozen times now but, taking Digitalelf's last post at face value, that seems to be an affirmative answer.

Funny that people in the industry, like Sean Reynolds, are always promoting Kickstarter℠ campaigns then? Huh?

There's splitting the player base at the source, and there's having an "official" game with lots of supplementary options--even if those options are complete games in and of themselves. There's nothing detrimental to the hobby or the industry about providing people with the material to cherry-pick for their houserules. But that's very different than if PF or D&D decided to try to support two different versions of the same game, or tried to support multiple settings.


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Enevhar Aldarion wrote:
Digitalelf wrote:


Two years later (in 2013), Vic Wertz added:

Vic Wertz wrote:

Some of you might be aware that Lisa was the person tasked at dissecting TSR's business, and she figured out that some of those boxed sets actually cost more to produce than TSR was selling them to distribution for, so sold or unsold, every copy printed lost money. The unsold copies just lost *more* money. The copies that lost the most were the ones that were shipped to the book trade, didn't sell, and were then returned to TSR—which, in addition to extra shipping costs, also generated return fees from the distributor.

This is no different than the console gaming business. The consoles cost more to make than they are sold for, except for some of Nintendo's models. The companies make their money on the games and accessories, not the consoles. RPG boxed sets and some hardcover books are notorious for selling at a loss or maybe at break-even at best. The rpg companies make their money on all the cheaper to produce supplements and accessories.

Many of those boxed sets were the supplements and accessories.

Grand Lodge

Irontruth wrote:
I don't think the splitting customer base was the core of TSR's problems.

So, Lisa Stevens lied about her findings? Told us half-truths? Do you think she is trying to push some agenda? If so, to what end? TSR is dead and gone, and Paizo is making her lots of money...


Steve Geddes wrote:
Enevhar Aldarion wrote:
Digitalelf wrote:
Two years later (in 2013), Vic Wertz added:
Vic Wertz wrote:
Some of you might be aware that Lisa was the person tasked at dissecting TSR's business, and she figured out that some of those boxed sets actually cost more to produce than TSR was selling them to distribution for, so sold or unsold, every copy printed lost money. The unsold copies just lost *more* money. The copies that lost the most were the ones that were shipped to the book trade, didn't sell, and were then returned to TSR—which, in addition to extra shipping costs, also generated return fees from the distributor.
This is no different than the console gaming business. The consoles cost more to make than they are sold for, except for some of Nintendo's models. The companies make their money on the games and accessories, not the consoles. RPG boxed sets and some hardcover books are notorious for selling at a loss or maybe at break-even at best. The rpg companies make their money on all the cheaper to produce supplements and accessories.
Many of those boxed sets were the supplements and accessories.

Right, I saw this with a long-running campaign I was marginally involved in. The one set in Waterdeep. Of all the Forgotten Realms products this group could have bought and used, they spent years (in real-time) adventuring in just Waterdeep and its environs.

But all the game settings are subject to that. One could game (real-time) a decade or more just in Sharn or Stormreach. Ditto for Sigil. Etc.

My thought was that with 5E being rules-light/setting-inclusive, there might be so much splitting of the TTRPG pie that no one would get a slice big enough to live off of; except maybe the hobby game developers.

At least with Golarian the APs and ancillary products all bend back round to the same setting. I think WotC needs to focus on one or, at most, the three least similar settings. Unless the game becomes a fad again (and that just can't happen) they will divide themselves and be insolvent.

They could publish re-skin-your-setting books that allow a Forgotten Realms Campaign to be played like Birthright® setting; or Ravenloft®; or Hollow World®; or Red Steel®;... That way they're still supporting one (or a few) settings while giving the same relative breadth of flavor options they had in the TSR days.

Or maybe they can get a better licensing option that allows low risk (i.e. low cost) entry into 5E, setting specific, product development and pays back to WotC with a stepped scale. Meaning, if the product line takes off, WotC gets proportionally more money. If the product line does only so-so, well, the developer has at least made the investment back and can try again using lessons learned for the next go.

Just throwing this out there. Like I know anything... :)


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It looks to me that they are avoiding the problem by severely restricting the output of TTRPG products and focussing on cross promotional stuff. Ie the Facebook game, the MMO, the comics, novels, etcetera. Presumably board games will reappear as they seemed to be one of the best received products during 4E's run. Back in the early 90s it was really hard to keep up with the release rate - another factor pushing people to just support one campaign world, I suspect.

It's hard to tell, since they're not so open about strategy as paizo are. Nonetheless, from the comments I've seen, they're focus this time around is breadth across many markets, rather than deep penetration of the TTRPG market. I saw a comment by one of the 5E guys along the lines of "We want you to enjoy the tyranny of dragons storyline, but we don't care how you do that. It might be via the computer game, the comics, the minis skirmish game or through the RPG".

That's disappointing to me (I'd like to see a couple of RPG books a month, personally). However with the slower release it may make it easier to spread themselves across several worlds as people may not be in the position of having to choose. I did see mention of other campaign settings besides FR being on the horizon.

I'm hopeful that, given the positive reception of 5E, the release rate will increase beyond that of these early months.

Liberty's Edge

Irontruth wrote:
I don't think multiple campaign settings hurt sales overall. The problem is that campaign settings just don't sell as well as core rules. If the company spends too much time/effort in producing campaign settings (regardless of the number of them) then they're wasting time on less lucrative products.
Irontruth wrote:


I don't think the splitting customer base was the core of TSR's problems. Bad business practices, taking on too much debt and failing at specific ventures is what ruined them.

What you're saying is "I don't think..." but what you mean is "I don't believe..."

Fact of the matter is people have seen the numbers. Educated people whose job following the TSR acquisition was solely to find out why the business failed. They have looked at sales figures and profits and come to the conclusion that becoming your own competition, be it Advanced versus Basic or setting versus setting, was a losing proposition.
While no one factor likely brought down TSR, the self competition did not help and made the effects of other errors worse.

Irontruth wrote:
houstonderek wrote:
James Jacobs has seen the TSR numbers,

TSR had horrible bookkeeping, a lot of the "numbers" don't actually exist. People have made estimates from what does exist and JJ's a smart guy, so his estimates are probably accurate.

That said, there is no accurate data on actual sales numbers for specific products, merely estimates.

The bookkeeping was bad, not nonexistant.

TSR didn't throw out old stock so calculating sales numbers was as easy as comparing the numbers in the warehouse to the numbers ordered. Slow but possible. Making sense of the bookeeeping was literally someone's at WotC's job.

Campaign settings won't split the audience if they're one-and-done products and not entire product lines. Which was the issue during 2e, where Greyhawk fans would not buy a Realms product, even if it was something they could theoretically use like a monster book or an adventure.
But being able to support a campaign setting with monsters, adventures, and the like keeps the products healthy. Not everyone will buy adventures, preferring to write their own content, but fans of the world will buy to keep up on world lore. That increases sales of the adventures. Ditto monster books and splatbooks. And releasing books that are equal parts splatbook and lore book (like most Golarion products) prolongs the edition by reducing the amount of mechanics.

However, releasing one-and-done campaign settings is a losing strategy. The fanbase cannot run campaigns in other settings fast enough to justify buying more than a couple. So sales will steadily drop as people buy fewer and fewer. It's not sustainable.
Focusing on a single setting is easier. We've had new Realms products for 25-years. Sales are steadier since there are always new stories to tell or places to explore. Sales might dip when people reach saturation (like all sales) but that's far slower than for campaign settings.

Books have a set production cost. Writing, editing, art, etc. That needs to be paid before any profit is made. Which means a set number of books have to be sold before the book starts to make money, and the more copies that are sold the more money. Which also means it's better to sell fewer total copies of one book than more total copies of two different books (5000 of book one versus 3000 of book two and 3000 of book three).


Digitalelf wrote:
Irontruth wrote:
I don't think the splitting customer base was the core of TSR's problems.
So, Lisa Stevens lied about her findings? Told us half-truths? Do you think she is trying to push some agenda? If so, to what end? TSR is dead and gone, and Paizo is making her lots of money...

I think he just believes her conclusion was mistaken?

Everything I heard about TSR during those days tells me that 'splitting the customer base' was just one of their many mistakes. Someone who went over what passed for their books says it was the biggest one, and I am inclined to believe that myself since she really has nothing to gain by lying, and as she is currently involved in running a successful company I'd say she is also competent at the job (making me think she is less likely to make a mistake than me, even if I had the benefit of seeing the books).


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Grey Lensman wrote:


Everything I heard about TSR during those days tells me that 'splitting the customer base' was just one of their many mistakes. Someone who went over what passed for their books says it was the biggest one, and I am inclined to believe that myself since she really has nothing to gain by lying, and as she is currently involved in running a successful company I'd say she is also competent at the job (making me think she is less likely to make a mistake than me, even if I had the benefit of seeing the books).

Yeah. It wouldn't have been my first guess (I would have gone for the rise of magic:the gathering combined with the unfortunate consequences of tying their distribution to the book trade distributors, rather than hobby distributors). Nonetheless, there's no more qualified opinion out there.

Lisa was knowledgeable, qualified, motivated to learn the truth and had as excellent information as it was possible to have. Her analysis was also conducted much closer to the events' occurrences than anything done since. There was no need for her to offer an opinion in 2011, so it's hard to impute any dishonesty to her remarks.

I'd need pretty remarkable evidence (like the figures themselves, basically) to gainsay an expert opinion under those circumstances.


Steve Geddes wrote:
It's hard to tell, since they're not so open about strategy as paizo are. Nonetheless, from the comments I've seen, they're focus this time around is breadth across many markets, rather than deep penetration of the TTRPG market. I saw a comment by one of the 5E guys along the lines of "We want you to enjoy the tyranny of dragons storyline, but we don't care how you do that. It might be via the computer game, the comics, the minis skirmish game or through the RPG".

The problem I see is that they've tried that with both of the last editions and nothing ever came of it. Doubling down on a what has proven itself to be a weak/failed strategy may not be any smarter in the long run than pumping out supplements/worlds like they and TSR have in the past.

The Exchange

@Houstonderek, I absolutely know why they went with FR as the setting. It's popular, and is the setting they have the most for already. If the game does take off with a newer audience, it means they have tons of stuff they can rehash for the new audience relatively quickly.

I just personally can't stand FR. I personally love Eberron. I don't think I'll get much Eberron love from WotC though, because my instincts tell me they'll focus on the one setting for some time, to help avoid splitting the player base more.

As for my comments about Paizos model, I was referring to them only focusing on one setting. I'm not a huge fan of Golarion either, but the company has managed to support its one setting by having multiple approaches in the one world.

The Realms has a diversity of climates and cultures as well. They just don't have robots and space ships. Everything else Golarion had in it can be found somewhere in the Realms though.


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Because D&D 5e seems to be focusing on promoting feelings of nostalgia, I would not be surprised if they bring back iconic settings (even as one-offs or licensing deals) and adventures. I believe they are at least considering a strategy like this.


Technotrooper wrote:
Because D&D 5e seems to be focusing on promoting feelings of nostalgia, I would not be surprised if they bring back iconic settings (even as one-offs or licensing deals) and adventures. I believe they are at least considering a strategy like this.

My semi-educated guess (or maybe even less than that) is a two-fold strategy. Nostalgia to pull the old players back, and being simple enough to lure in new ones at the same time. If they do feel that 'splitting the customer base' was one of their mistakes from the TSR days, then we won't see many campaign settings. I'd expect the FR, with maybe one or two more at most, and those aren't likely to be high-fantasy type settings (so Greyhawk and Dragonlance would most likely be out. It sucks for fans of those settings, but IMO those three feel a lot like variations of a theme) but would more likely be something with a completely different feel. Eberron is the top candidate out of what's left. It's reasonably popular, and far enough away from the theme and feel of the other big three to be much less likely to split the customer base.

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