On Thursday, the motley crew of college students on NBC’s Community take a magical journey into the realms of Dungeons & Dragons, the classic tabletop fantasy roleplaying game that spawned computer RPGs like World of Warcraft and sparked the imaginations of millions. As Joseph Dilworth Jr. writes on Pop Culture Zoo, the pop-culture-laden sitcom sees Chevy Chase’s character horning in on a gaming group that has been assembled to help a loner on campus.
D&D could use some good PR. After a decade of being literally demonized by the Religious Right, the game regained some traction with its 2nd and 3rd editions. The latest edition, however, turned off many fans with its more video-game-like mechanics and emphasis on collectibles. Pathfinder, a variant based on the open-source core rules of 3rd Edition D&D, has surged; players and employees at game stores I’ve talked to who are involved in organized play events say 4th Edition just can’t compare or keep up with Paizo Publishing’s Pathfinder.
Sales at Hasbro, the parent company of publisher Wizards of the Coast, are declining and the iconic D&D hardcover rulebooks were recently replaced with trade paperbacks. The company has even ended its signature line of game miniatures in favor of cardboard counters. It’s been speculated that Hasbro might sell the brand to a smaller publisher or — perish the thought — shutter it altogether. Wizards of the Coast recently lost the license for the Star Wars RPG — an announcement on a new publisher is forthcoming — and its card game Magic: The Gathering is still pretty popular on the tournament front. As seen at the recent D&D Experience convention, D&D products are still on the lineup, but the future of the brand looks more like board games and card expansions than the traditional RPG. (Just look at the resurrected Gamma World.)
Is the age of D&D as we know it coming to a close?
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