Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Don't think the OSR makes waves?


Then take a look at that (above).

That's the forthcoming "red box" edition of what's being called "4E Dungeon's and Dragons Essentials". Ostensibly, "Essential D&D" is going to be a stripped-down, basic version of 4E D&D, with its own players', monsters, and DM's guides to follow to augment the new line. Just how stripped-down its going to be, and whether it will be the introduction to a truly more-rules-lite version of the current edition of D&D, remains unclear.

What is clear, is that this whole old-school gaming thing is getting increasingly noticed. While I'm sure its more fashionable to be cynical and decry the whole "Essentials" thing as merely an effort to sell more splats, pre-painted minis, and trading cards, I'm going to opt for optimism and think that someone, somewhere, at WotC has been doing a little research on what made our hobby the accessible and casual-gamer-friendly phenomenon it once was. Not that I'm predicting it will ever attain early-80's level popularity (like the Rubix Cube and Champale, those days are gone), but its not completely impossible that they're taking a step in the right direction.

Coke "Classic" still outsells every other "exciting new!" soda the Coca-cola corp releases, after all...

34 comments:

  1. Like I've commented elsewhere, if they can get it in Walmart it might make a big splash.

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  2. Like it or not, in a few years time when people speak of Red Box D&D, most gamers may think they're refering to this. The psychology behind it is deliciously Orwellian.

    I'd be amazed if it isn't just a re-packaged 4e but if they DO put out a complete but 'stripped' game the effect on the OSR would be very interesting indeed.

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  3. I just had a flashback to Christmas in 1980. They should add a white crayon for the dice, just to make it complete.

    And the price! It's gotten a lot harder to walk into a gaming store and pick a system up on a whim, and now Wizards announces this set for $20.

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  4. On a completely unrelated note:

    Coke "Classic" still outsells every other "exciting new!" soda the Coca-cola corp releases, after all...

    Maybe so, but Vault is dee-lish.

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  5. if they DO put out a complete but 'stripped' game the effect on the OSR would be very interesting indeed.

    I doubt very much it will have an impact beyond perhaps getting some additional bucks from people who will continue to support, publish and play games in the traditional way.

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  6. It probably took the brains at WotC months to come up with this one. Regardless of some people's opinions on the OSR, I feel that WotC feels a little sting and that they do notice what is happening.

    If anything, they probably hate the fact that for the most part we get along in the OSR, don't whine about everything and many people provide product for free!

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  7. bat, half the OSR hate the fact we give away stuff for free too !!!

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  8. 'I doubt very much it will have an impact beyond perhaps getting some additional bucks from people who will continue to support, publish and play games in the traditional way.'

    One of which could be 4e-lite.

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  9. "One of which could be 4e-lite."

    Maybe. But as I said to greywulf on another blog post about the 4eRB:

    This is not an “old school” product. This is 4e, stripped and respun, but at it’s heart, it’s a much different D&D than 0e/1e. That doesn’t make it bad, that doesn’t mean you can’t do the things you want to do with it but it’s not the D&D that I grew up with. Trying to somehow shoe-horn it in with lots of capital letters doesn’t make it so. Trying to mimic B/X doesn’t make it B/X – it’s 4e. It’s superheroic power rangers scooting around on 1″ squares with power cards.

    That doesn't make it a "bad game", but it does mean that it's not going to be my first second or even third choice. I'll run it mainly if my kids insist on it.

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  10. I really, really like where this is going. I'd love to see WotC get their Red Box Set on the shelves at WalMart, Target and Toys R Us along with the D&D expansion for Heroscpape and the new Ravenloft minis game.

    It won't be the 80s all over again, but it won;t hurt.

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  11. 'It’s superheroic power rangers scooting around on 1″ squares with power cards.'

    Or...It's the Jacksonian vision of Gandalf, Aragorn and Legolas. It's what old school D&D becomes at higher levels. I prefer Holmes but I can see the appeal of a sleeker 4e.

    The OSR is more-and-more about selling product, and they can't sell 4e stuff, so I think that is the big stumbling block, however good the game is.

    (Me, I'm waiting for AS&SoH)

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  12. "The OSR is more-and-more about selling product"

    Really? I don't see that. Maybe some of the "big dogs" in the bloggiespheroid are doing that, but man, I think there's so much unbridled free stuff out there, it's more about getting out there and having some fun with this embarassing richness we suddenly have.

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  13. I think that Wizards recognised the Red Box as iconic - yet it seems unlikely to promote OSR play style.
    What I'd like to see is the best of both - the old-school drive to think outside the rules and play in the moment with new-school organisation of information & encounter/challenge structure.
    If it happens, things get very interesting, not just for the OSR but also for D&D as a whole - a lighter, less book-laden rulebase allows the focus to shift on playable content like more than one 1st-level adventure...

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  14. 'Really? I don't see that.'

    Well, snidey PMing seems to have replaced killer DMing, when I'm told free stuff is hurting someone's product.

    satyre, I totally agree

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  15. "Well, snidey PMing seems to have replaced killer DMing, when I'm told free stuff is hurting someone's product."

    Huh? I'm not sure what you mean?

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  16. (Emails from the hatorz of free fun, 'hobbyists' with hungry pockets. I'm not against people charging for stuff, but they shouldn't hassle the freebie makers)

    back to Redbox 4e - I don't think its WOTC researching what made the hobby fun and accessible, it's demographics, a siren call across the niche, it's just repackaging. I doubt it's 4.5 but I'm interested in where this leads.

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  17. Who is "hating" on the people who do free stuff?

    I have to admit, I give away a ton of stuff, and I charge for stuff, and I've never gotten complaints for either.

    I'm really curious about this now.

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  18. @chgowiz - I think Sean's referring to a rash of "hate mail" going around last summer about how the OSR's share-it-for-free ethic was somehow harming small independent RPG publishers. iirc, someone from the Forge was behind it, but I could be remembering that wrong, so apologies if that's the case...

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  19. Re: the new Red Box and Wotc, there's a few reasons they might be doing this:

    1. Third edition had a basic set for introducing new players to the game. Whether or not it succeeded is debatable, but this is a consistent strategy for Wotc.

    2. Lots of people at Wotc play old school games. One of the guys in marketing plays in my red box game whenever he's in town/I visit Seattle. Wotc is a company full of people who love gaming, not a corporate overmind intent on killing the OSR. Sheesh!

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  20. @tehcrOm: I'll try to think of it as a sincere effort to redress the balance after the incomplete 'always 10 on eBay' starter set.

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  21. The new WOTC Red Box, if it get into stores like Walmart, Target, etc. all for the low, low price of $20, could sell quite a bit. Again, the OSR is somewhat isolated. If parents, who may have once played the game in the past and haven't since (and there's plenty of them around) walk into these stores with their kids and see this game sitting on the shelf, with the name Dungeons & dragons, there could be a hook on these parents picking the game up for their kids.

    I doubt very much if this will reignite that late 70's/early 80's explosive peak of interest. Times were very different then. There's no doubt that it could sell to the general store-goer but once these parents read the rules and try to play it with their kids, they'll find that it is indeed, not the same game they once played. And that may send a handful of these people searching for their original spirit of play which may lead them to the OSR.

    At the moment, I don't see anything negative with this at all. WOTC owns the D&D IP and that's the way it is.

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  22. To be honest, I don't really understand all the fuss. IMHO it's not really anything new. It's 4th ed. It's (another) starter set. It now includes char. gen. Definitely an improvement, but.... So, what we're all talking about is a box. A box that looks a helluva lot like the Mentzer red box. Is it cool, visually? Hell yeah. Is it otherwise anything except another 4th ed. starter set? I don't think so. As @tehcr0m said, this one isn't a rip off - bravo WotC.

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  23. Sorry, I was referring to Sean's ebay remarks, not tehcr0m.

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  24. What this needs to do is attract kids. :)

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  25. I'm sad cause I was getting up the gumption to start a Red Box Austin like Red Box NY and Toronto, Calgary ones.. But, now (or in 6mo) the name will mean something totally different.

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  26. The box looks great. In addition, I was *very* excited to see the page counts (player's book: 32p, dungeon master's book: 64p).

    Step one to being rules light is to have less rules (pages).

    Sadly, the follow-up books (players, monsters, dms) are all 200+ pages.

    I, for one, will definitely pick it up.

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  27. My point rings alongside the comment of Norman Harman: Why red?

    This is the point that I believe that WotC is messing with the OSR a little. Why not a purple box, or gold? Silver? Red has been done. White has been done.

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  28. It turns out that the 4e 'Basic' Set only goes up to level 2, so it's yet another piece of 'crippleware' from WotC. How disappointing...

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  29. @Akrasia: Were *our* Red Boxes crippleware? After all, they only went up to level 3. ;)

    The trade dress of that Essentials box really jerks my chain. New school witlessly (or cynically) aping old school. It puts me in mind of some middle-class hipster wearing an 'ironic' Che t-shirt, or the line I once heard about some kid wanting to get a serial number tattooed on his forearm.

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  30. Only 2 levels - I'm disinterested already :(

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  31. BOO URNS!!, Another attempt at repackaging a bad product to capture nostaglia with older gamers. Now if they rerelease a classic D&D basic box set. Now that would be something worth getting excited for.

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  32. I've actually been half expecting WOTC to release some kind of "Anniversary" edition, of the Original Boxed Set. It's the sort of thing a savvy publisher would do. Not necessarily a large print run, but, I'd bet there's quite a few people, who would shell out more than a few dollars, for a nice, collector's edition of the original LBB's. They may be waiting for the OSR to grow just a little bit larger, first. :)

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  33. But selling the out-of-print stuff isn't going to push their feely-heavy 4E game: miniatures, cards, whatever. This is obviously a way to popularize 4E to people who want to try something simpler than full 4E.

    And I agree they should have done levels 1-3 in their 4E Basic Set. But it's possible there are mechanical reasons why they didn't want to give a third level. In the case of 2E, for example, you would only have to include Level 1 spells if you limited the characters to Level 1 and 2.

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