Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ch...Ch...Ch...Changes in WotC Products - My Perspective

Greetings, Readers!

So earlier today, it seems that Wizards of the Coast (makers of Dungeons & Dragons®, Magic The Gathering®, and other games) announced at least three ongoing projects that would see serious changes in the upcoming year.  In no particular order, the three projects that changed were:

  • The D&D Miniatures line is being canceled.  They might release special editions of miniatures (for example the Beholders set we saw last year), or release unpainted miniatures with board game sets (like Shadows of Ashardalon), but otherwise, pre-painted plastic miniatures will no longer be produced.

  • Several book releases have been canceled or changed significantly.  Effected titles include Heroes of Shadow, Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium, Hero Builder's Handbook, and Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword & Spell.

  • Dungeon & Dragon web zines will go away as compiled magazines.  Instead articles that would go into these magazines will be included in columns on the DDI site under those titles.

I hang out a lot on Twitter, and when announcements like these are made, my time line becomes filled with all kinds of chatter.  Some it is useful (links to official sites, etc.) and some of it is rather useless.  I try to jump in and offer my two cents in a respectful way (if at all feasible), but I was locked in many meetings at work, and couldn't really participate in the discussion as it unfolded.  Since I was unable to really offer my perspective there, I decided to this post.

I'm not really going to go into what is being said about WotC in regards to these particular business decisions.  There are plenty of sites around the blogosphere that are doing that.  Instead I thought I'd just offer my own thoughts about these decisions.  So let me just take them on one at a time:

No more miniatures:  Well, not exactly, I guess (see the linked WotC announcement).  Look, I love miniatures, and when WotC started producing inexpensive plastic ones, I was giddy.  Over the years, I've bought many, and have quite a collection.  I never played the Miniatures game, however, and always just used them for role-playing.  Am I sad to see them go?  Sure.  However, I'm hoping this will open up an opportunity for another manufacturer to make something similar.  Reaper Miniatures and Dwarven Forge have plastic miniature offerings, so it's something that will be picked up.  So what if you can't pick up a Mind Flayer.  Maybe they'll offer a "Brain Eater" instead.  In the meantime, look for companies like Litko or Dapper Devil to offer acrylic tools to help you manage your monster tokens.  Tokens, for now, seem to be the approach WotC is using for the table top at this point.  The nice thing about tokens, is that they are easier to DIY.

My prediction?  Expect a glut of third-party offerings soon.  Also, expect the after-market sellers of miniatures to experience a small "gold-rush".  It's a damn certainty, that sealed D&D Miniatures Boosters and Cases will be a sought-after commodity.  Spend your money wisely.

Publication changes:  From my own personal perspective, this one was kind of disappointing on a couple of levels.  The first is that I was really hoping for a book of treasures to augment the new magic item rules set forth by D&D Essentials.  Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium (in a nice digest form) would have been a great addition to that set of books.  Those items are probably sitting on some designer's or editor's shelf yet, and will probably see the light of day in some fashion.  In the meantime, a clear set of rules on how to make Unusual and Rare magic items would be really useful.  I'm happy to make my own, but it would be nice to have a set of guidelines to go by so I don't have to "wing it".

I'm also disappointed that Heroes of Shadow is going to be a hardcover book.  I understand why they probably did that, as some of the classes in that book aren't really Essentials classes, and it makes sense to differentiate that line.  That's a business decision.  I get that.  However, the fan-boy in me is a HUGE fan of the digest format.  The digest format is handier at the table and looks better on my book shelf.  I know that's a personal asthetics thing, but now I'll have this book that really doesn't fit anywhere else.  I'm sure the contents of the book will be fine.  I love the digest though, guys.  Don't give up on that format.  I want to see more of it.

My prediction?   Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium will become a collectible card series like the Fortune Cards currently planned for release.  I think that WotC will use the Gamma World model here.  If you think of Alpha Mutation cards as equal to the Fortune Cards (after a fashion), it's not a big stretch to see a fantasy based set of magic items (The Emporium) modeled after the Omega Tech cards.  Try not to burn down Blogger when responding to this prediction, okay?

Dungeon & Dragon Magazine:  Having played the game of Dungeons & Dragons for over 30 years, I have fond memories of both of these magazines.  I grew up with them, and even maintained a subscription for a couple of years.  Print media of all kinds is being replaced by digital offerings though, so while I can wax nostalgic, I'm not going to fret about it.  My only concern is that the identities of these magazines will become lost if simply placed on the DDI site as articles. If that's they're fate, so be it.  I said my goodbyes a long time ago.

My prediction?  WotC will release Dungeon & Dragon magazine annuals.  They've done this before, and I think it might be worthwhile for them to publish a choice group of a year's articles in a book format once a year.

Well...that's my take on all the angst making news coming out of Seattle.  Like everything a large company does, you have to take things with a grain of salt, and stay posted.  Everything is cyclical, and one thing's for sure, good ideas don't necessarily go away. Call me a fan-boy or whatever, but I continue to expect that WotC will find a way to keep providing great content to its audience.

Until next time...

Game excellently with one another.


  1. Good read! I think your predictions are sound and it'll be interesting to see where the game goes in the next calendar year.

  2. The prediction about Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium is intriguing. It would be a handy way of having magic items at the table.

  3. There seemed to be a higher than usual level of alarmism yesterday. Glad you didn't predict the end of the world :-)

    Similarly sad to see the end of the miniature line but the collectible business model always seemed a poor fit to the RPG market to me. I always wondered why they didn't do more fixed figure sets to accompany specific products or lines (eg all the miniatures you need for this scenario in a box).

    As for canceled book releases - that used to happen all the time back in the TSR days in fact it was expected.

  4. I hadn't thought of magic item cards, and now that you mention it it makes a whole lot of sense. What I'm wondering is if the items on those cards will make their way into the Compendium.

  5. I wouldn't be surprised to see a CCG variant of D&D at some point. We've got D&D-branded board and video games. We've got the tabletop RPG. Why not a CCG? The char-op forum on the WotC website has to be one of the most active. It's the same kind of crew that populates the deckbuilding portion of the MtG forums. It seems foolish not to explore the idea of deck-based characters.

    I think folks have to let go of the idea that D&D is one game. It's a type of game, the way Dragon Age is a tabletop RPG and a video game.

  6. "The digest format is handier at the table and looks better on my book shelf."

    This is where I disagree with you. The hardcovers look great on the bookshelf; they're tall, they're colored, they're color-coded, they sure look good in a block of 30 hardcovers. The paperbacks are short, squat, and off-white. I'm glad Heroes of Shadow will be hardcover -- it's 4e and it'll look like 4e.

  7. Wow! I did not know nothing about the changes of those releases :-(

  8. Soklemon11:08 AM

    I thought it was "Wrath of Ashlaradoon"

    Otherwise, great article! Kind of "nut shell"s it.