4e as Lame Duck

Wizards announced D&D Next about a month and a half ago now, back on Monday 09 January 2012. The Gamer Assembly has been keeping track of some of the reactions throughout the blogosphere. The fever has kicked up a notch with the various invitation-only playtests out there.

And 4e content on blogs dries up like Serengeti lakes under a summer sun.

This happened with the 3.5-to-4e transition as well, but it feels more pronounced this time. Maybe all the companies hooked to the 3.5 OGL refused to let that edition go since they had so much in the pipeline. Maybe it's much more pronounced to me since I've been curating the Weekly Assembly and actively gathering gaming links. Maybe it's the "I'd much rather write about stuff under NDA so I'm not interested in writing about 4e" attitude for those who have participated in the D&D Next playtest.

In any case, 4e feels like the lame duck of the gaming world. Because it is. People wait for the Next big thing with bated breath and a lull settles over the gaming world.

Maybe that's not so bad. Wizards admitted they messed up with many aspects of 4e. There are a few revisions within 4e if you count Essentials and the new monster math that came out with Monster Manual 3, and each have their advocates. From what I've heard from friends more connected than I and from the Legends and Lore column on the Wizards site, I think they're trying to address these issues, and they're doing it in a much more public and fan-accessible way.

I had a post in my head all lined up about how Next needs to streamline and pare down to a real startup mentality, where Discovery and Creation rule the day and to the Abyss with the baggage of past editions. I may still write that up and argue for Wizards getting investors and startup capital to free themselves from the corporate mindset of Hasbro. But that's a fight for a different day.

I'd rather say this: 4e is still out there. People still play it, or Gamma World, and Gamer Assembly is working on a 4e Modern hack. 4e does some things absolutely right, and it missed the boat on other things. It's different, but that's OK.

The point is, 4e is still here and that's not going to change. We can't unmake an edition no matter how hard some people wish for it. The gaming industry landscape has a new shape because of 4e's influence. Let's examine where we are and figure out which edges of the map haven't been explored yet.

Above all, keep writing. Keep dreaming new things up. Keep communicating. Industries are built on communication, doubly so with tabletop RPGs.

It'll be a while before the Next open playtest comes out. Let's not kill the conversation as we lock ourselves in our rooms to wait for it, OK?

Thanks for reading!


  1. Interesting post; I hadn't really thought about a decline in bloggers writing about 4e. Personally, I was writing about 4e before the Next announcement, and I'm still doing so now. But then, I'm not in the Friends and Family playtest so I'm still playing 4e!

    What that says to me is that people will write about what they're actually playing. And that means that I think 4e content will be likely to dry up further in the spring when the open playtest for Next begins. I know that I personally will be interested in trying out the new system, and I'll be able to write about it openly then, too. I'm sure I won't be alone in that.

  2. Agreed. You're still playing 4e, so you write about your experience. But you're still writing. What kills me is the people who stop gaming to "be ready" for Next and who withdraw into pure speculation. I'm all for speculation and living in your own head, but it gets toxic when you put more value on the Could Be in your head rather than what actually exists. That's where edition wars start, and some people are already posturing and fighting over Next even though it doesn't exist yet in any useful form.

    I'm all for creating something useful, but pure speculation has limited usefulness unless you're on the design team.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

  3. Lately I've been finding myself trying to wrap my head around what I've liked and not about older editions. Mostly when it comes to 4e, I've decided that that the only real problem I had with the game was the lack of integrated fluff.

    But that's all hypothetical, in practice I'm gearing up for starting a new Pathfinder campaign right after Easter.

  4. "I find your lack of fluff disturbing..."

    I agree with that. I like the stripped-down approach of 4e Gamma World. It's only a little more fluff, but they cut the crunch way back so the ratio is much more balanced. Hm. I may have to pull together a Gamma World game at some point.

    Good to hear you're jumping into a new campaign, Bill. Whatever your game is, game the heck on.