Last week I hinted on some big news and I imagine most of you already know what it is. I’ve joined the staff over at Paizo. Starting today, I will be part of the Paizo design team, working with Jason Bulmahn, Sean Reynolds to make that already award-winning game the mechanical bee’s knees of RPG fun.
I’m stoked. I’ve known the folks over at Paizo for a long time, have the utmost respect for their abilities, and I’m humbled that they chose me.
But some of you might be confused. How can this be? Don’t you love 4e? Doesn’t that mean you hate Pathfinder? If the two meet, won’t the world explode?
Calm down. It will be okay. The fact is I love Dungeons & Dragons. I haven’t met and incarnation that I didn’t (though I’m not the biggest Spelljammer or Dark Sun fan). And I know you can’t technically call Pathfinder Dungeons & Dragons. It is not part of the D&D brand owned by Hasbro and designed by Wizards of the Coast (please don’t try this at home). But it’s very d&d. Please notice the lower case so as to not cause any brand confusion with D&D.
When I can get a chance to work on a d&d game with a bunch of fantastic people, I jump in it. I did it to work on 4e, I did it here. I’ve loved Pathfinder, albeit sometimes from a distance, for a long time—for as long as I’ve been a subscriber.
Even in the midst of heavy 4e development I would vow, hand over my heart, to my R&D peeps that I would end my subscription. Not because the product wasn’t fantastic. I would steal art and ideas for my home campaign from Pathfinder with gusto. It was because I thought I should for some stupid reason. Mike Mearls used to laugh at me, because he knew I would never end my subscription. I was smitten. I wasn’t the only one.
You see, I’m going to let you in on an industry secret. Come close because I’m going to whisper. Ready? THE EDITIONS WAR IS BULLSHIT!
I don’t mean bullshit like it doesn’t exist. It’s not just some fecal figment of our imagination. I mean bullshit in the, “that’s bullshit!” sense. Tabletop RPGs are the greatest, most immersive, and most challenging form of game, IMO. They are what started the gaming revolution we live through right now, and while their popularity isn’t shrinking, its growth is slowed at best.
There are many reasons for that slow. We live in a period of history that has spawned more games than any time before it. A good number of these games have utilized and innovated new technologies. In comparison analogue games seem quaint. Dice, books, character sheets…to many they went out with hair metal. At least that’s what my often students tell me.
Computer and console games have a stupidly low barrier to entry compared to RPGs. They hypnotize with their movie-like effects. Often, computer games allowed people to be closeted in their geekyness.
But even with a metric ton of games, you have two strong companies selling two editions of the same game. And while you might get the impression that WotC may not be entirely happy with the sales, they are never happy with their D&D sales. It always gets compared to Magic, which is often like printing money.
All of this is true with little advertising, almost no TV presence (except to be the butt of a joke), and a fan base that has a band tendency to ridicule others for their game choices. Imagine you’re an outsider with an interest in playing D&D, only to find a confusing conflict of game choices standing in your way. You’re going to run, maybe go back to playing WoW.
I don’t have enough money to buy any TV spots, but here’s something I think we can do. When someone who wants to learn to play a d&d game approaches us, let’s forget the editions war. Let’s invite them to our game, whatever we run, and have a good time. Pathfinder GMs, find a 4e DM to partner up with, and vice versa for 4e DMs, let the new player play both. Let’s turn the war into a challenge. Wait, didn’t Pepsi do that…nevermind.
Silly idea of a challenge aside, I have found that the 20-something crowed will often like both. Once many of my students get over the fact that they have to imagine the awesome explosions and clash of swords instead of having it digitally rendered for them, many find that they like RPGs. For those students interested in the discipline of game design, it allows them to tinker with and understand a natural language program in play. It often gives them a deeper understanding of resolution, effect, and reaction mechanics, as well as game economies. Others think it is just fucking awesome. These younger gamers are used to juggling different systems. Many who have played both and like both, and don’t understand why there is a war. To them, it’s called modding. To me it’s called a strong future for our hobby.
News flash: The editions war is not a zero-sum game.
Postscript: I will continue NeoGrognard. It’s too much fun to stop now!