The official word is that D&DNext is going to require two years to playtest. I don’t know about anyone else but I went to the Keynote Speech at GenCon hoping to hear a release date for D&DNext sometime next year. But Mike Mearls said that the playtest will take about two years at its current pace. I am of two minds on this. First up, I’m glad to see that they are taking the time to playtest the game right. Its no secret that 4e only had serious playtesting at the low levels and they didn’t incorporate much of the feedback they did receive. So it is good to see that the playtesting is going to be done right.
Buuuuut, and this is a big but, two years is a long time to wait. Not to mention that that two years is just for the playtest. Then there is layout, approvals from various departments, printing, soliciting to whatever is left of the mainstream book sellers (since they require a much longer lead time than game stores), and whatever else is involved with a major corporation’s publishing. Then there is writing support material since Wizards is going to want them ready to go so they hit shelves with no delay after the core book is released. Do the math and it is more than likely that we are looking at a release in 2015, with an outside chance of 2016. That is a long time to wait for a game.
As a player I am really excited about D&DNext. The game looks great and I would really like to play it. As a publisher I’ve been cautiously optimistic. The talk I hear coming out of Wizards leads me to believe that if D&DNext were released today, I would be highly surprised if there was no Open Game License (or very, very near-OGL) for publishers like myself to work on it. But a lot can happen in 3-4 years. Just for reference sake: the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game was launched three years ago. It has gone from game stores actively coming on Paizo’s forums telling them they will never carry Pathfinder RPG in their stores to being the #1 RPG in those same stores. A lot can change in three years. Influential people can be hired or leave (or both *cough*Monte*cough*). There can be a change in upper management. And the general public sentiment towards the OGL may change (I really doubt this last one will happen, but you never know). We just don’t know what can happen in that time.
Then there’s the problem of the fickle gamer moving on. A number of once-hard core Forgotten Realms fans I know have moved on to Pathfinder’s setting. Some may return if the new FR is to their liking, but it is impossible to say for sure. Will the new edition be able to capture the hearts and minds of gamers that have been gone from D&D for 6-7 years? That’s hard to guess, but I think it is going to be harder and harder for it to do so the longer gamers are away.
So the short of the long is is that I do not feel I can really wait for D&DNext to be ready. I have to move on for the time being. If the game looks great when it is done, if the gaming public is really looking forward to this game in that time, if there is a quality license, if the stars align properly and the Cult of Cthulhu chants at the proper time, I will decide then.
Dale C. McCoy Jr. is President on Jon Brazer Enterprises. Read Shadowsfall Legends: The Gem That Caught Fire – Kurdag’s Tale, the second story taking place in Shadowsfall, written by Ed Greenwood.