D&D on the downslide?

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Pathfinder RPGIs the age of Dungeons & Dragons coming to a close?

I’ve asked the question before, and so have many I’ve encountered in gaming hobby circles here in the Valley. Actually, I’m usually asking the question and they’re smiling wanly and probably trying not to pat me on the head while saying emphatically “yes.”

The venerable tabletop RPG’s latest edition (4th) has already undergone a metamorphosis that has many anticipating an inevitable 5th or even “Ultimate” Edition in time for its 40th anniversary in 2014.

And there are major rumblings that Wizards of the Coast, the Hasbro division that acquired the D&D brand from the broke TSR in 1997, could sell it on. Of course, Internet speculation must be taken with a grain of salt — but it’s not inconceivable that in the struggling economic recovery, an iconic brand like Dungeons & Dragons could change hands for a song.

And then there’s this: Through an unthinkable-today quirk of 3rd Edition’s open-source design, the popular 3.5 revision lives on in an updated form as Pathfinder, a roleplaying game published by Paizo (which once ran the official Dragon and Dungeon magazines for Wizards of the Coast). And by anecdotal indications, Pathfinder is giving D&D a run for its money. In fact, if Amazon.com sales charts are reliable, D&D may be getting its teeth kicked in by a golem it helped to create!

I don’t play Pathfinder, though I’m considering it — and I don’t play nearly as much D&D as I’d like, either — but I’ve noticed that Paizo’s books, while pricier, have that “old school” quality that gamer-collectors appreciate, and they’re meatier than Wizards’ latest offerings. Also, the Pathfinder game is more rooted in the traditional tabletop RPG system that D&D made popular before trying to capture a new generation of gamers with video game-style buffs and mechanics and collectible-card-game merchandising. And while D&D has scaled back its presence in the miniatures marketplace, Pathfinder is at least catching up with minis and other accessories of its own, even introducing starter set for beginners modeled after D&D’s box.

I think D&D will always be around in some form, but I’m starting to think it may take another ownership change to restore the brand to its former glory. With Paizo’s rise, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a play for the property one day.

What do you think, gamers? Are you D&D, Pathfinder or something else entirely?

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Jayson Peters

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  • Of course D&D is dying. When you stop being about making a great game and start being about squeezing every last dime from your consumers, you lose people.
    I don’t like and don’t use minis. If I wanted minis I’d play warhammer. So requiring minis and other expensive stuff just to play means I won’t.

    There are too many far more awesome games with better systems and are more affordable usually. Systems where all you need is the core book, some paper, pencils, and dice. Are there supplements and add-ons for those systems? Yes, but you don’t NEED them.
    I’ll stick with the Fate/ Fudge system, the Heroes system, old World of Darkness, and other d20 system games.

  • Of course D&D is dying. When you stop being about making a great game and start being about squeezing every last dime from your consumers, you lose people.
    I don’t like and don’t use minis. If I wanted minis I’d play warhammer. So requiring minis and other expensive stuff just to play means I won’t.

    There are too many far more awesome games with better systems and are more affordable usually. Systems where all you need is the core book, some paper, pencils, and dice. Are there supplements and add-ons for those systems? Yes, but you don’t NEED them.
    I’ll stick with the Fate/ Fudge system, the Heroes system, old World of Darkness, and other d20 system games.

  • When one only looks at “book” sales, Pathfinder dominates. They produce a number of quality books every month. D&D produces/produced only one book a month. D&D has 56,000 DDI subscribers at $7 a month or so, they sold out of the first run of the Ravenloft board game (a large print run btw), and Wrath of Ashardalon sold well also.

    I love 4e, and can play it without miniatures easily…more easily than Pathfinder.

    I’m a fan of both systems, and a huge fan of Paizo’s Golarion IP (IP is where Hasbro dropped the ball big time), but I think that making fiscal comparisons based solely on book sales is Apples to Oranges.

    Come…play in my Encounters group. It keeps growing, and it is a good time.

  • When one only looks at “book” sales, Pathfinder dominates. They produce a number of quality books every month. D&D produces/produced only one book a month. D&D has 56,000 DDI subscribers at $7 a month or so, they sold out of the first run of the Ravenloft board game (a large print run btw), and Wrath of Ashardalon sold well also.

    I love 4e, and can play it without miniatures easily…more easily than Pathfinder.

    I’m a fan of both systems, and a huge fan of Paizo’s Golarion IP (IP is where Hasbro dropped the ball big time), but I think that making fiscal comparisons based solely on book sales is Apples to Oranges.

    Come…play in my Encounters group. It keeps growing, and it is a good time.

  • DnD alienated lots of die hard fans with 4th ed. Pathfinder embraced those disgruntled dice throwers and given them what they want. A revised rule set and solid books coming out to feed the gaming monster.

    Plus a number of us have moved on from the tired fantasy that DnD and Pathfinder offer in favor for far more nuanced and interesting settings such as those offered by Savage Worlds and their licensees. If you haven’t checked them out, you are missing out.

    DnD I believe will live on, as board games. The two games they have put out so far are fun and seemingly profitable as well as popular.

  • DnD alienated lots of die hard fans with 4th ed. Pathfinder embraced those disgruntled dice throwers and given them what they want. A revised rule set and solid books coming out to feed the gaming monster.

    Plus a number of us have moved on from the tired fantasy that DnD and Pathfinder offer in favor for far more nuanced and interesting settings such as those offered by Savage Worlds and their licensees. If you haven’t checked them out, you are missing out.

    DnD I believe will live on, as board games. The two games they have put out so far are fun and seemingly profitable as well as popular.

  • Interesting that I came across this article on Facebook from a documentary page about Dungeons & Dragons and the author appears to be local here in AZ. I’m a D&D lifer and have been running games since I got my first books for my 13th Birthday back in mid-80s. I’ve played ever edition released of D&D, but started with AD&D 1e and on up to the current 4e. I actually love the minis and is what first attracted me to D&D so long ago in a hobby story. I first saw these fantasy minis and then learned they went to a role-playing game. So the two are inseparable for me.

    Being one of the 56,000 DDI subscribed for the past two years now I can say I feel ripped off by Wizards. I was shown through various medias an online method to run and play D&D games through a 3D application. I also greatly approved of the character creator, which at one point appeared to let you create a character and then order a custom mini of that character. What is there today aside from good information, is lame. Nothing a simple PHP site linked to a MySQL database could not have accomplished. Then there is an event recently that took place at one of my former favorite game stores here in the valley. I went over to check out what should have been a newly stocked shelf of D&D 4e manuals and modules only to find they had pushed all the D&D stuff up front and consolidate what was left on just a few shelves. I could tell they weren’t getting new material in and asked the guy behind the counter. The look of disgust on his face when I mentioned Dungeons & Dragons 4e kind of stuck with me. He mentioned that it was pointless to order new stock when you could get the same thing for much less with free shipping from Amazon.com and recommended I go there for my stuff. As a lifetime gamer, I always made it a point and still do pay full retail price for something at my FLGS instead of save money from big box stores to show my support for the local gaming community. That use to be how things were done. Apparently, those feelings are no longer the norm and one does get the feeling that D&D is seeing that last of its days. At least in a form I have grown to love.

    Regardless where the IP goes, Dungeons & Dragons will always be my game of choice. Even if I move on to other systems.

  • Interesting that I came across this article on Facebook from a documentary page about Dungeons & Dragons and the author appears to be local here in AZ. I’m a D&D lifer and have been running games since I got my first books for my 13th Birthday back in mid-80s. I’ve played ever edition released of D&D, but started with AD&D 1e and on up to the current 4e. I actually love the minis and is what first attracted me to D&D so long ago in a hobby story. I first saw these fantasy minis and then learned they went to a role-playing game. So the two are inseparable for me.

    Being one of the 56,000 DDI subscribed for the past two years now I can say I feel ripped off by Wizards. I was shown through various medias an online method to run and play D&D games through a 3D application. I also greatly approved of the character creator, which at one point appeared to let you create a character and then order a custom mini of that character. What is there today aside from good information, is lame. Nothing a simple PHP site linked to a MySQL database could not have accomplished. Then there is an event recently that took place at one of my former favorite game stores here in the valley. I went over to check out what should have been a newly stocked shelf of D&D 4e manuals and modules only to find they had pushed all the D&D stuff up front and consolidate what was left on just a few shelves. I could tell they weren’t getting new material in and asked the guy behind the counter. The look of disgust on his face when I mentioned Dungeons & Dragons 4e kind of stuck with me. He mentioned that it was pointless to order new stock when you could get the same thing for much less with free shipping from Amazon.com and recommended I go there for my stuff. As a lifetime gamer, I always made it a point and still do pay full retail price for something at my FLGS instead of save money from big box stores to show my support for the local gaming community. That use to be how things were done. Apparently, those feelings are no longer the norm and one does get the feeling that D&D is seeing that last of its days. At least in a form I have grown to love.

    Regardless where the IP goes, Dungeons & Dragons will always be my game of choice. Even if I move on to other systems.

  • First off, they destroyed Forgotten Realms, if they wanted to change it that much, why keep it? Just start something new….oh they tried that. Ebberon…boring. The trouble is we got used to the freedom of 3.5 only to have it snatched away and our favorite game world destroyed. The natural course is to take our old books, our old Realm and mix them with the exciting new freedoms in Pathfinder. If I want to play World of Warcraft, I’ll log on and play. Why would I pay a ton of money on books to play the same game without the graphics? RPG’s are what they are because you are free to do whatever you want, as long as you are telling a good story.

  • First off, they destroyed Forgotten Realms, if they wanted to change it that much, why keep it? Just start something new….oh they tried that. Ebberon…boring. The trouble is we got used to the freedom of 3.5 only to have it snatched away and our favorite game world destroyed. The natural course is to take our old books, our old Realm and mix them with the exciting new freedoms in Pathfinder. If I want to play World of Warcraft, I’ll log on and play. Why would I pay a ton of money on books to play the same game without the graphics? RPG’s are what they are because you are free to do whatever you want, as long as you are telling a good story.

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