There are currently two role-playing games that I am involved in, Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. This post will focus on my opinions of the Fifth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, the community associated with it and the publisher of the game. What does this have to do with the subject of this blog? In order to play a role-playing game, you need to read the rule books. In order to referee a role-playing game, you often have to write content for it. And, as for authors, the staff of the companies who produce role-playing game content are writers who publish their work to support the games they sell.
I became involved with Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons and its associated community soon after the rule books were published, by December 2014. I started playing in a Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign soon afterward, sometime in early 2015. My experience with the game has been unsatisfactory. It’s not the rules. The books are well-written in my opinion, with plenty of content. It’s not the Dungeon Master. He is skilled and competent. It’s the other players. Half the group is new to role-playing games and this is their first extended role-playing game campaign. It shows in the design and play of their characters. They did not create characters who are capable of cooperating in a group. Their characters actively try to interfere with other characters’ actions and have sometimes looked down on other characters just because of their chosen character class.
As for the wider Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons community, I have signed up for and participate in a couple associated pages on Facebook, including the publisher’s social media page. I have not had good experiences with the community. Generally, I have been dealing with other participants who have had problems in their games. I have tried to make relevant and supportive comments when I can, because that is how I interact on social media. Mostly I’ve been ignored or a few people in the groups have Liked my posts.
I have actively disliked the marketing strategy for the Dungeons & Dragons brand since the Fourth Edition was released. From my perspective, Wizards of the Coast, the game’s designers and publisher has been influenced in their product decisions by Hasbro, their corporate owners. I noticed with Fourth Edition, the product was less about traditional role-playing and more about a tactical miniatures game. The Fourth Edition rules mimicked Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game mechanics, in what I believe was an attempt to attract players of those games to the brand. To support this, Wizards of the Coast licensed the WizKids company to produce plastic miniatures which could be used with the game. This is where things really started to go south for me. The Fourth Edition miniatures were sold in what to my mind expensive sets.
The trend of expensive books and miniatures continues with the release of the Fifth Edition of the game. The core rule-books are a staggering fifty dollars apiece. The Fifth Edition miniatures are sold in random booster packs of four for an outrageous sixteen dollars apiece. If I were to buy miniatures, I would like to be able to know what I’m buying ahead of time and be able to select the miniatures I want. Wizards of the Coast has supported the Fifth Edition with hardcover adventure book supplements. Again, these are a ridiculous fifty dollars apiece for slim books without much content in them. I have ignored all but two of them. I bought Out of the Abyss because I am interested the demons presented in the adventure and in the Underdark setting. The other one I bought was Curse of Strahd and I only did that because Tracy Hickman didn’t write it. I am interested in horror role-playing game themes and in the Ravenloft setting in particular.
The person or persons in charge of the Dungeons & Dragons social media page on Facebook seems to slant their posting toward new gamers. I have been verbally hammering posts made by the person or persons running the social media page with my open criticism of products and preview material that I do not want. I am not a new gamer. I have been playing role-playing games since 1980. Other than the core rules which are necessary to play the current edition of the game, I have no interest or need for the products that are being marketed for the Dungeons & Dragons brand.