coming Friday, August 6 1999, TSR is going
to be making "the Big Announcement" at GenCon. Based on the
text in the registration booklet ("This is your chance to say `I
was there when...` "), the company is implying that is going to
be some earthshaking event in the history of the company, if not
the gaming industry. I suspect that is safe to say that it won`t
be something along the lines of TSR closing its doors forever, nor
simply ending the D&D series of products.
Both of these
would have a lot more somber press surrounding them as well as most
likely be announced before GenCon in order draw more people in to
buy up the final run of products. It`s pretty safe to say that it
is going to be something new; but whether it`ll be something brand
new, or just a major revamping is hard to say at this point. (Although,
the registration book has a green "family" seal printed next to
the announcement. This implies that the announcement is going to
be something of general interest to everyone.)
popular rumor is that this announcement will deal with the official
and impending release of a third edition for the Dungeons & Dragons
role-playing game system. However, there is no real way to confirm
these rumors short of either kidnapping those who are holding the
forum, or else breaking in and stealing the press kits. So, a few
days before the fact, I`m going to speculate on the possibility
of a third edition, and then I`ll attend this forum and see how
close I was to the mark.
The first thing to do would to look and see if it would be feasible
for a new edition from a business standpoint. The number one issue
to look at would be the cost of investing in the printing of a whole
new line of products.
setup at a printer`s for brand new art, typeface, text, binding,
paper, etc. can be pretty large. However, TSR essentially does this
cost every time it publishes a new adventure or source book anyway.
From a pure cash output perspective, a third edition is nothing
different from, say, another Player`s Option book. But the cost
is also measured in the long run; that is, will TSR get back enough
money from sales of a third edition to make it worth the cost of
printing a whole new run of core materials? The answer to this seems
a bit more chancy that my first question of cost.
third edition would have to be something really spectacular in order
for us members of the "old guard" to buy it. Heck, second edition
has been out for about a decade (maybe less) and there are STILL
people who are staunchly sticking to first edition rules. Unless
it`s a complete revamping, a third edition would not be aimed at
those of us who are already fans and players of the game. A third
edition would have to be aimed at new people, those who are not
currently players of D&D. In my opinion, the gaming market is so
flooded with systems as it is that a third edition of D&D isn`t
going to gather enough new members (or converts from other systems)
to make it truly feasible from a cost standpoint.
In spite of the possible cost issue,
TSR has done a few things which could be considered testing the
waters for a third edition. The most obvious of these would be the
Player`s Option series of books.
The concept of a point-based system for character creation is a
fairly radical one given the past history of D&D. The introduction
of character points went a long way
towards putting D&D a step towards competing with nearly every other
game system out there. (A vast majority use a point-based system.)
hint could be the introduction of the Fast Play rules and supplements;
products designed for those who have never played the game before.
(Essentially, just the latest reincarnation of Basic
D&D from all those years ago.) This could the way towards a new
edition simply because
those of us who`ve played the game for any length of time know just
how hard it is to trim down the rules for newbies. (Admittedly,
I haven`t actually read any of these supplements, so I don`t exactly
what they`ve done to make D&D into a fast play game.)
A third hint is how the company itself refers to the product. If
you`ve noticed, I`ve been saying D&D throughout this article when
referring to what all of us have been calling AD&D for years. I`m
doing this because I just noticed that TSR itself has done this
in its online catalog. By dropping the "Advanced" label, the company
has subtly positioned itself such that it could release a new edition
without too much trouble. Sure, its mainly mental semantics, but
I`ve seen stranger things.
implication towards a third edition and what it might be like is
the relative success of TSR`s newest system - ALTERNITY for modern
and sci-fi games. I`m fairly big fan of this system as well as D&D.
In reading the ALTERNITY rules, I can see that it does have D&D
at its core, but it`s much evolved, improved, and more consistent
than its inspiration.
ALTERNITY system is a point-based system that is very well done
- somewhat surprising given the long history of D&D. It also lends
itself very well to being a much more "modular" system than D&D
- that is, it is a lot easier to ignore the presence of certain
rules if you don`t want to use them in your game. The rules aren`t
quite as tied into each other as in D&D. This system would be a
good model to use if a third edition was going to be a radical departure
from the first and second ones.
final hint could be the recent marketing/packaging trend for the
settings of D&D. Specifically, the marketing of some of the separate
systems as just another part of the core material. The first system
to see this treatment was the third edition of Ravenloft. Instead
of being in a boxed set, the core rules for this system were printed
as a hard cover book. The book also did not have the specific Ravenloft
banner printed on the cover. Instead, it followed the "black border"
cover scheme of core books such as the PHB and DMG. Planescape is
also starting to receive such treatment with the release of the
"Warriors of Heaven" supplement - something many fans of the setting
consider a bad move as the new format will lack much of the signature
Planescape flavor. Also along these lines is the re-release of older
settings in a book format. The first of these is going to be a revamped
version of the Council of Wyrms setting. The addition of such alternate
settings to the core of the system is a pretty big change all on
there are also a couple hints AGAINST a third edition coming out.
These being the recently completed Wizard`s Spell Compendium series
and the recently started Priest`s Spell Compendium series. It would
seem to be a great waste of time and effort to get all of these
spells in one place, updated and balanced for second edition, when
a third edition is right around the corner. Of course, all this
really does is imply that a third edition would see no major changes
to the mechanics of magic.
WOULD THIRD EDITION LOOK LIKE?
Answering this question is about as hard as answering the question
if a new version of the game is going to exist in the first place.
All that I can do at this point is offer my opinion of what I`d
like to see in a new edition after playing the system for about
most people, their views on the subject are firmly in one of two
camps. Either the "Oh no, not again!" group, who actively oppose
anything new, or else the "It`s about time!" group, who feel that
the system is badly in need of an upgrade. I`m definitely not in
the first group, but I don`t think I quite fit into the second group
either. (Hey, it`s my article - I can do that.) Actually, about
the only thing I`d care to see in the D&D system is a lot more consistency.
One main thing would be a consistent system of rolling dice to determine
success. For example, when rolling attack rolls or saving throws
high is a good number. On the other hand, ability and proficiency
checks call for low numbers. It`d be much simpler to say that one
number or the other is always good.
might be a good thing if the character point system from the PO
books was made core and official. There`s a lot more flexibility
in creating characters, and it`s a touch more understandable to
the newbie than flipping through a lot of archaic tables like we
currently do. Of course, the present implementation of the CP system
has wide, gaping holes through which major amounts of abusing the
system can be performed. Some refinement in this area is needed.
A third edition might also be good from the standpoint of TSR being
once more able to compile all of its rules in one (or two) places
again. The prime example of this is all of the proficiencies that
are available for the game.
just to keep with the Rule of Threes, I should state something that
I would not like to see in a third edition. I`m going to sound like
an old fart by saying this, but I don`t really want to see anything
that is truly a major and radical overhaul of the system. Somehow,
that feels like it would no longer be D&D. Sure, there`s nothing
stopping me from continuing to play with my old second edition materials
- look at all those first edition holdouts. Of course, all of the
above is simply speculation and opinion. I could be completely wrong
about what the Big Announcement is. We`ll just have to wait and
see. I`ll be writing a second half of this article once the time
has come and gone. Until then...