To the ninth issue of The Guild Companion. The breadth of our coverage continues to expand with every issue and the number of visitors to our site has grown phenomenally in recent months. Please keep the articles, the reviews and the stories coming in - without your efforts, this magazine would be much diminished.
The big announcement at GenCon'99 was the intention of Wizards of the Coast to release a 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons in 2000. This will actually be a new edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but Wizards of the Coast have wisely decided to drop the "Advanced" part of the name. Many in the industry believe the word "Advanced" has discouraged some potential gamers - after all would you (or your family) have bought a game called Advanced Monopoly or Expert Chess when you were a youngster?
The 3rd Edition will be a revision rather than a wholly new game, and the intention is to ensure that the existing TSR campaign worlds and settings will be usable with a minimum amount of conversion. Nevertheless, there are some changes. Character classes and levels remain in the system but the infuriating racial restrictions on classes and level limits have been removed. A new integrated skill system has been introduced but there are class and level restrictions on what can be learned. The combat system has been simplified with Armor Class going up from AC10 with superior armour rather than going to negative numbers. Psionics have been pulled from the core books. The three initially supported campaign worlds will be Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, and Greyhawk
The 3rd Edition will still be split into Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual. The kicker is that it is intended to price these hardback volumes at $19.95, whilst containing the level of content normally found in today's $30 rulebooks.
In a discussion forum on Pyramid, Ryan Dancey, a Vice President of Wizards of the Coast who is responsible for the Dungeons & Dragons product lines, made a post concerning his views on using price as a weapon.
The aim is to take full advantage of the much larger print runs available to Wizards of the Coast to keep the price of the core 3rd Edition rulebooks as low as possible. The Player's Handbook and the Dungeon Master's Guide will be loss-leaders to entice a much larger proportion of the existing gaming community and new gamers into 3rd Edition. Wizards of the Coast is willing to sacrifice short-term profit in the expectation of regenerating a role-playing game market that will be willing to pay for the supplements which will appear in the future.
That's only part of the story. By selling the core books of 3rd Edition at such a low price, Dancey wants to deal a body blow to the weaker game companies. His belief is that the majority of gamers will be unwilling to fork out more hard cash for games with inferior content (in terms of quality or quantity) in the rulebooks and supplements. The pressure will gradually increase on other companies to reduce their prices or significantly beef up their content. Only the best games supported by properly run companies will survive. If this strategy works, there will be a mass extinction of smaller companies in the next couple of years.
What might this mean for the future of the hobby?
In this future, there will be many fewer supported game systems and the community will largely consolidate around the remaining supported systems. Naturally there will always be diehard fans of the defunct games who will keep them alive, but the casual fans will defect to the surviving systems.
Dungeons & Dragons will dominate the fantasy market, but it will not be the only game. Products addressing different market needs such as White Wolf games, Call of Cthulhu, and Champions, as well as firmly established lines such as GURPS, GURPS Traveller, Hero, Star Trek, Warhammer Fantasy Role-Playing, and Ars Magica to name a few, will remain strong. Rolemaster and Spacemaster may survive.
There'll be fewer unnecessary new game systems as the market will not support them and it will be much more difficult to start a new game company. On the other hand, new ideas will still be realized as new settings. Personally, I would have preferred to have seen Blue Planet and The Babylon Project as worldbooks and product lines for existing games. Given a solid set of game mechanics, it's usually fairly easy to tweak the rules to suit the setting. Very few settings require wholly new systems.
Electronic publication will remain a much cheaper route for the dissemination of new and innovative systems and settings. Creating an impact in the electronic market still requires good products and marketing. The Internet will only grow in importance in the future.
As far as The Guild Companion is concerned, we will be providing articles compatible with 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons in the future, in addition to our ongoing support for Rolemaster, Spacemaster and other first-class role-playing games.
Time for me to stop ranting and for you to start reading. Our next issue will be published in December 1999 and will mark our first anniversary of publication, but until then,
Keep gaming and have fun!
Nicholas HM Caldwell
Co-author Mentalism Companion
All trademarks and copyrights are acknowledged. Please post your thoughts on the hobby's future on the General Discussion Board.