In this post, I will list the good and the bad aspects of the upcoming Dungeon and Dragons system release and how they will affect both the Wizards of the Coast and the gaming community.
The upcoming 4.0 release of the Dungeon and Dragons game will feature several changes to the game mechanics. The information that has been released by the game developers show an effort to reduce the complexity of the rules, by streamlining combat and providing better management for magical items among other improvements.
All of those improvements are good news, showing that the company that produces and sells Dungeon and Dragons, has a strong commitment to better their products. But the Wizards of the Coast will make other changes from a business perspective that will affect the gamers in a negative way. The company will release only a few basic guidelines to the game mechanics under the Open Gaming License, instead of releasing its bulk as it is the case with the 3.5 rules.
With the 3.5 version of the rules, the players can get away with checking the information available online, only the Game Master needs to buy all the core books. Since most of the information for the upcoming version will be not be openly available, the players will no longer get away with checking only online sources. They will now have to purchase the Players Handbook in order to play.
The online sources that provided the gaming community with the information it needed to create, innovate and extent the system will no longer be available. That means that the only ones working on the system will be the Wizards of the Coast or a license paying third party. No add-ons to the campaigns or software tools will be legally developed by the gaming community for this upcoming release.
The software tools and the add-ons were the reason many, in the hobby, use Dungeon and Dragons since not all systems have that kind of support. The gaming community innovated and helped push the lobby much further than it would otherwise.
The Wizards of the Coast will cease reaping the benefits of that innovation in an effort to extend itself from a publishing and game development house into a software development and magazine company. While there is more money into having full control over the system, there is also a lot more expense into expanding your business in so many different directions in such a short period of time.
The upcoming system will be tied very closely to the success or the failure of the Wizards of the Coast into growing their business. The gamers will be the ones paying for that growth by not only purchasing the books but by limiting themselves to fewer options in software and campaign elements, as well as a weaker support from the gaming community.