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.

Zero.

Zip.

Nada.

Zilch.

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.

25 comments:

JB said...

Mmm. Mmm-mmmm.

Anything with more than 3 or 4 editions is pretty much a parody of itself, in my opinion: a blatant, disrespectful gasp for more cash from a company with no other ideas for a way to bilk the fans out of more money.

Looking at YOU, Warhammer 40K.

It's sad that D&D has chosen to go down that road but, you know, whatever.

I have to say that the linked article's analysis of what the fans "want" and "worry" about make me cringe. Like really, REALY cringe. And this is something like the 4th or 5th really terrible, hate producing article I've read in the last two days (i.e. producing hatred, disgust, and general bile-rising in ME). Where do you people continue to find this stuff?!

daveb said...

I generally like to run only the core book(s) when I GM. There is too much scope for power creep, feature bloat, and unintended consequences/synergies that additional stuff add. This stuff is usually seized on by munchkins and powergamers anyway, so if it's a turnoff only to use core books then I'm probably better off without that person at the table....

HDA said...

Honestly I'm shocked anyone made it to the end of that article, let alone wrote a blog post in response. That was just atrocious clickbait nonsense.

Yora said...

With 4th edition, the writing was all over the wall after just three years. We had an interesting discussion about that subject back in 2011, six months before 5th edition was announced: https://forums.giantitp.com/showthread.php?207470

- The Essentials revision came out very soon after 4th edition had just started.
- Shortly after, many announced books were canceled.
- Some books had gone out of print already.
- There had been layoffs in the D&D team.
- And the D&D website was running a series of articles on "what D&D is really about".

Clearly 4th edition was a commercial failure and something drastic had to be done soon. We don't have anything like this right now. It really makes no sense to have even a revised edition of 5th right now, and even less to do a full out 6th edition.

The business model of D&D is very different today than it was with 2nd, 3rd, and 4th edition. All the supplements that are out for 5th edition by now would have been the lineup for one or two months back in the 90s and 2000s. They no longer crank supplement printer at full speed until the current edition collapses under the bloat to start the whole cycle again. The publishing cycles that D&D went through in the past simply don't apply anymore, so they are no longer relevant for predicting what will come in the future.

Yora said...

Only checked the source now: Ah yes, CBR. That site has been a completely joke in the comic book scene for quite a while now. It's really nothing but a clickbait mill.

Yes, someone made it to the end and wrote a blog post about it. But it did take him three weeks. ;)

Jack Badelaire said...

Another thing not mentioned above is that with the DM's Guild, the OGL, and other "indie" outlets, the amount of creative content generated for 5E over the last few years has been nothing short of gigantic. WOTC gets a cut of the DM's Guild sales, and on that money alone they can set 5E on cruise control and just let hobbyists create new content for them for the foreseeable future. Why should they bother generating 2E-style "splat books" when hobbyists are doing that for them?

Anonymous said...

6e will happen, because money.

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