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D&D on the downslide?

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 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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