Thursday, May 28, 2020

6e? Don't Hold Your Breath

Ran across this bit of 6e D&D prognostication recently.

Ugh… where to begin?

First, I do write for a living, so I totally get the burst of inspiration that combines the need to get something, anything, out and the desire to talk about my latest fascination. But there’s a lot of working-from-false-premises here. So let me lay a truth bomb on y’all:

WotC has no interest in ever publishing a 6th edition.





In a perfect world, they would simply ride on 5e until the end of time. Why? Well, first, there’s the expense of hiring a team to craft the rules, do the writing, create all the art, etc. Second, there’s the risk, and it’s a bad one. According to Ryan Dancey in an interview with Fear the Boot, the publication of 2e basically split the D&D community in half. While a really good edition might bring across more than half to 6e, there will be a noticeable percentage of folks who will simply stay with 5e. (And note that 2e came out before any sort of OGL allowed people to do anything like Pathfinder.)

RPGs generally get a new edition when sales flag badly for the current edition. (Though the early edition changes, from D&D to AD&D to 2e were largely about corporate slapfights; 2e was created in some part to get Gygax’s name off the books.) Sales slump generally when the game gets too complex to easily welcome new players. This is usually the result of new rules that make the material in what’s supposed to be the flagship book (in D&D’s case, the Players’ Handbook) sub-optimal. Power creep leads players to disdain the original options and seek out new race and class combos. Suddenly, a game that once required a $50 book to play now requires two. Or three. As time goes on, the GM and players end up juggling a half-dozen large, coffee-table books to play the game.

But the folks at WotC have worked hard to avoid that fate for D&D. Since the publication of 5e, there have been no official new classes published. Just about all the new sub-classes and spells are in Xanathar’s. New races are in Vollo’s and Mordenkainen’s (and these are generally so simple you don’t need to reference them in the middle of a game.)

This has been a purposeful campaign to prevent the game from acquiring a crust of new rules and complexity that usually leads to sales collapse. Coupled with the explosion of interest in the game, and WotC is even less interested in publishing a new edition. Yeah, it’s been nearly six years since 5e came out, and yes there was only five years between 3.5 and 4th, and only six years between 4th and 5th, but again, the timing is not based on calendars. It’s based on sales.

And sales are still good.

Maybe if sales have collapsed during the Covid lockdowns we might see rumblings about 6e from WotC. But I doubt it. And I don’t doubt for a moment that everyone involved in D&D at WotC has a handful of notes about things they think need to be different in the next edition. But it ain’t happening before ’21.

And if WotC has anything to say about it, it won’t happen before 2025. If ever.