Friday, January 8, 2016

2015 Gaming Year in Review Part V: Wizards of the Coast

I saved WotC for last because of course it is best, biggest, and also the most scrutinized. Here are a few of the Big Dog's highs and lows for 2015...

High: The first Campaign Guide Arrived

Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide was a much-needed baby step in the right direction. As campaign books go it was more than sufficient for any average Joe to pick up and play with, although hardcore Forgotten Realms fans wanted much, much more. More importantly it expanded character play options, something the game is going to have do more of, and soon, to keep the jaded player base interested.

LOW: Sword Coast Legends Continues to Disappoint

If the Sword Coast got some decent attention in print it's digital analog got the short end of the stick. Wizards of the Coast seems to have lost its ability to leverage the D&D brand into good computer games. What could have been a great return to the world of isometric RPGs instead turned into a buggy, awkward RPG that was clearly aimed at the computer D&D fan market, and not at tabletop gamers. I'll keep checking back and seeing if it improves, but as it stands right now Sword Coast Legends has continued what is now a long line of "so-so's" and "godawfuls" in the world of D&D computer gaming.

HIGH: WotC finally offers some more "gaming oriented" support and a desktop edition of Dragon+

It's a step in the right direction and I can't complain much because free is a hard price point to argue with. But....

LOW: Dragon+ continues to still be the worst sort of marketing shill a zine can be

'Nuff said. Dragon+ is nowhere close to providing the sort of experience older gamers want or wish it would, and I doubt that will ever happen in the internet age, unfortunately.

HIGH: Lots of planned stuff suggested or implied

WotC continues to offer up tantalizing subjects in Unearthed Arcana, and implies cool stuff in the future such as Ravenloft is on the way. They are great at conducting weird surveys and seem to have a fetish for revising the ranger. This all sounds really cool, but there's a low to it all as well:

LOW: WotC's implied promises and results in 2015 were mostly miss.

By this I mean: Dragon+ shows up, but it's like a pale shadow of what we wanted. They strongly implied an OGL was in the works, but here we are in 2016 and nary an OGL in site, with plenty of implications that not only is it not happening, but WotC is happy 3PP are using the old OGL instead to fill gaps in their own publishing schedule. The last part is especially sad...while we are all excited to get Tome of Beasts from Kobold Press, everyone really wants a new Monster Manual or an official rules expansion with some of the implied content. Each year this drags out will only make it worse.

HIGH: Fantasy Grounds Licensed D&D

A good thing! Fantasy Grounds is useful, and efficient. The only downside is the price of the D&D packs are pricey, so you'd better have a lot of vested interest in online gaming to make the purchase. It fills the gap in a reliable digital gaming environment that has plagued WotC.

LOW: No new "good" CRPGs or MMORPGs in D&D's name on the horizon

This isn't so much a "low" as a "no news in this case might be good news." Neverwinter is a nightmare of vaguely 4E-skinned content with a strong in-game cash shop laden with multiple weird currencies and a whole lot of "Perfect World Entertainment wants your money" feel to it, and a lot less "this is anything approaching something you'd identify as D&D." Turbine seems to be winding down or out of the picture as I haven't heard of any expansions on their end, and alas D&D Online is, despite being the best D&D MMO, very, very long in the tooth these days. Sword Coast Legends as mentioned earlier was at best a charismatic failure and for most an utter disappointment. But at least Daggerfall was still worse!!!!

Unfortunately, what we're not seeing is any effort to license the game out to a real Neverwinter Nights 3 expansion that actually replicates the D&D 5E ruleset, or even an effort to produce a robust isometic RPG engine that can compete with Pillars of Eternity.

HIGH: a D&D movie is on the way and it might not suck

Warner Brothers officially wrestled away the rights to the D&D movie and are now in production on one (in theory), with the goal to leverage it in to a blockbuster like Transformers and other toy properties (for better or worse). Is this a good thing? We'll have a better sense of that after the WB-produced Batman v. Superman movie arrives, but frankly the only thing it means for sure is that the next D&D film might be a big budget stinker instead of a low budget syfy special. We'll see.

PREDICTIONS: We'll get 2 more campaign books out of WotC this year and one of them might not be Forgotten Realms. We might see another sourcebook for a setting or characters (possibly with psionics and some ranger stuff), and if we're damned lucky we'll hear talk of a monster manual in the future. But most of what we'll hear will involve board games, miniatures, doomed-to-fail computer games and probably some late-in-year announcement on the film and a possible media tie-in. Dragon+ will continue to suck and offer tasty scraplets on occasion. We will all continue to play D&D 5E because it is fun, but if no sourcebooks are forthcoming this year then I will find renewed interest in playing Pathfinder and 13th Age coming back to my local groups. I will thwart them by running Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures instead.

UPDATE!!! ....AAAAND they just released a shockingly comprehensive OGL and SRD (400 pages!!!) and a complete Dungeon Masters Guild option to publish actual Forgotten Realms based content. Holy cats I think I'll throw all my other predictions for D&D out the door this year right now. All bets are off.

Oh, and we will be in heading in to 2017 and still no OGL.
Well that prediction died quick!!!


  1. I think we'll get 2 campaign books. One of them will be Ravenloft. I also think we will either see a PHB 2 or Unearthed Arcana in the fall.

    1. An Unearthed Arcana/PHB2 would be cool. I am hoping Ravenloft, but suspect it will somehow be framed in/tied to FR...