Sunday, February 6, 2011

DnD Minis Sets Cancellation And 5E

I've been on hiatus for the last six weeks, so I missed this news, about the cancellation of the DnD Minis sets. I'm reprinting the news here, simply because I find these news-content pieces often get moved or archived, and I have a hard time finding them later. This news item is taken whole-cloth from the Examiner.com website, and is credited to Michael Tresca.

Wizards of the Coast has announced that it will no longer release prepainted Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures sets. According to Bill Slavicsek in Dragon #395:

"We have made the decision to depart from prepainted plastic miniatures sets. Lords of Madness stands as the final release under that model. We will continue to release special collector’s sets (such as the Beholder Collector’s Set we released last fall), as well as make use of plastic figures in other product offerings. Check out the Wrath of Ashardalon board game next month for the latest example of this. Moving forward, we will continue to explore more options for players to represent characters and monsters on the tabletop, including Monster Vault and other D&D products that feature monster and character tokens."

Scott Thorne at ICv2 is not entirely surprised:

"I can actually understand the cancellation of the miniatures line. The rise in oil prices has driven up the price of plastic and the D&D Miniature line is not as hot a seller as it when the company promoted and supported it as a stand-alone product line. Though sales have remained respectable, with some stores I know reporting sales of several thousand dollars a year of the product line, movement of the product is nowhere near as large as it was two to three years ago."

What Thorne objects to however is an announcement buried further in Slavcsek's article:

"The Heroes of Shadow product, originally scheduled for March and presented in digest-sized, paperback format, is moving to April to accommodate a change to hardcover format. Additionally, three D&D RPG products have been removed from the 2011 release schedule—Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, and Hero Builder’s Handbook. While this means fewer books, we plan to deliver just as much great content for players this year through other formats, including board games, accessories, and digital offerings. I’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest releases each month as we go along."

"Say what?" asks Thorne:

"Cancellation of an entire product line and three planned releases for the D&D line is something that should get announced to retailers directly, not second or third hand through a buried article on the WOTC website...The problem is the lack of communication. Retailers did not have any indication of this turn of events. During WOTC’s presentation at the Alliance Open House last fall, every indication was full steam ahead on the D&D Miniatures line, with a release of a new set of miniatures once a year and a full slate of D&D book releases. Now, less than 4 months later, no more miniatures line and a third of the promised D&D books will not hit the shelves until 2012 at least. This could be a good thing, if it increases demand for the scarcer releases but is also worrisome."

The new Dungeons & Dragons film was also announced in the Ampersand article:

"We just wrapped up a contest tied to the new Syfy Original Movie Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness. We’ll announce the winner shortly, and that lucky individual will get to play his or her D&D character in the film. Our own Dungeon Master to the Stars, Chris Perkins, has been consulting with screenwriter Brian Rudnick and helping to get the D&D details right."

The drastic change in Wizard of the Coast's production schedule has sparked speculation that the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons is on the horizon. George Strayton, a D&D blogger and closely affiliated with WotC as playtester, and co-writer of the new D&D film mentioned above, speculates that 5th edition will be announced on GenCon this year and released in 2012.
Strayton admits this is largely conjecture, but his opinion carries some weight due to his credentials:

"As for a source, I honestly don’t have one. This is my conjecture based on having worked as the high levels of a big RPG company, the current state of affairs of the hobby (with the splintering of the game), my knowledge of Hasbro (including all my work on the TRANSFORMERS films), the recent announcement by Bill, and my gut feeling."

I'm not shocked by the cancellation of the D&D Miniatures Sets line. The fact that they cancelled the D&D Miniatures game reduced the demand for the miniatures, in the prior blind, collectible format. That was compounded by the subsequent and confusing changes in the delivery method, release delays, a perceived drop in value/quality and increases in price-per-mini. Is it possible they will be re-tooling and selling the minis as themed sets, for specific adventures? That's something I would be interested in seeing, depending on the implementation.

The random painted WOTC D&D minis were convenient, if you could purchase them from re-sellers who broke apart the cases, but there are other minis out there, like the Reaper pre-painted minis line, and unpainted miniatures. This announcement will provide additional impetus to get back to painting my several hundred unpainted minis!

As for speculation that 5E is in the works, i'd like to believe that a system re-boot would be an improvement over 4E, but if the new fortune card-based system is any indication, 5E will be even further removed from the type of Dungeons and Dragons i'm interested in playing. Thank goodness for the OGL and the OSR.

19 comments:

Rob of the North said...

Well if a 5e were pending, I am not totally pessimistic because this time it would be Mike Mearls' baby and he shows some sensibility to 1e AD&D methods.

JB said...

@ Rob: Really? Everything I've read of Mike Mearls has kind of sucked ass.

Barking Alien said...

One would hope (however fleeting that hope) that the mistakes of 4E in both design and marketing would at least give a 5th Edition a fighting chance.

One would hope.

David J. West said...

I remember buying up all of the Chainmail minis I could find back when they cancelled those too.

But yeah- Reaper is where its at for most of my collection.

Johnathan Bingham said...

I think you summed it up nicely with your last sentence. I don't really worry too much what WotC is up to these days because of all the folks out there using the OGL and the folks creating stuff in the OSR are really sparking my imagination far more than WotC has lately.

Kiltedyaksman said...

Oh WotC, tripping from one blunder to the next. If Hasbro wasn't behind them they'd likely be in the gutter with the reverses and types of business decisions they make. They can't get out of their own way, and they only have themselves to blame. Only WotC can bring out an introductory version of the game right at the tail end of an editon.

They aren't going to do any sort of edition roll-back, and I have no confidence in Mearls.

James Maliszewski said...

5E will be even further removed from the type of Dungeons and Dragons i'm interested in playing.

Indeed. My gut tells me that 5e will be even more strongly tied to electronic distribution and delivery, with some type of subscription an important element of its sales. Even if it were to be mechanically and esthetically more in line with earlier editions (which I doubt), I have zero interest in a tabletop game that weds itself too closely to electronic media.

Matt Conlon said...

I think it's safe to say I'll STILL be playing 3.5. :)

Interesting info though, I tweeted it out.

Jay said...

First off, welcome back Paladin!

Secondly, I've been picking up the Reaper painted plastics line when they're released, but that line(sadly) doesn't begin to approach the volume with which Wizards was producing. Here's hoping other manufacturers see a gap that can be filled. The downside is it's a VERY expensive process and Hasbro likely was leveraging vendors they already work with overseas.

As far as 5E goes, I think previous posters are right--we're not looking at a "fixed" 4E. More like rules crippleware, tightly controlled with online suckscriptions. Heck, 4E is already laden with such traps!

OSRIC and the OSR seem to be regarded as non-threats so far, and that's just fine by me!

Dave Cesarano said...

Considering all of the die-hard 4E fans I've encountered, and all of the support that WotC received from so many advocates, including Penny Arcade, it's a bit surprising to see they're having a rough time of it (once you look past the business language in the announcement and read between the lines). I'd suggest scrapping 4E and going to 5E is being done because of the economy, the failure of the introductory sets, and the implosion of the minis line (also a result of the economy).

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Rob of the North said...
Well if a 5e were pending, I am not totally pessimistic because this time it would be Mike Mearls' baby and he shows some sensibility to 1e AD&D methods.

I love your optimism!

JB said...
@ Rob: Really? Everything I've read of Mike Mearls has kind of sucked ass.

I was about to correct you by pointing to a good product of Mearl's, then I went to my hobby collection ... I don't own a single item of his. Perhaps someone can point us to one of his classics.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Barking Alien said...
One would hope (however fleeting that hope) that the mistakes of 4E in both design and marketing would at least give a 5th Edition a fighting chance. One would hope.

In the 'design' of DnD, WOTC is trying to out-Blizzard Blizzard. You simply need to visit the Blizzard site, and read their designers notes on the new Diablo III game, to catch the eerie echoes of DnD 4E design-speak. Problem is, WOTC doesn't have the resources Blizzard has. If I remember my urban legends correctly, Blizzard wanted to make a DnD video game, but was rebuffed, either by TSR or WOTC. Sadly, that opportunity/ship has long since sailed.

DnD, formulated as a PnP WoW emulator, is doomed to fail. Just my opinion, of course!

A Paladin In Citadel said...

David J. West said...
I remember buying up all of the Chainmail minis I could find back when they cancelled those too.

But yeah- Reaper is where its at for most of my collection.


Dang, those Chainmail minis were good! That was just at the end of my DnD hiatus, and I missed out on some great minis.

Reaper is hit and miss, but they have such a HUGE RANGE that it's easy to find ones you like.

I just wish Reaper'd make some "good" yuan-ti and goat-men. I'm not fussy about the ones they've produced so far.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Johnathan Bingham said...
I think you summed it up nicely with your last sentence. I don't really worry too much what WotC is up to these days because of all the folks out there using the OGL and the folks creating stuff in the OSR are really sparking my imagination far more than WotC has lately.

I only worry about WOTC and 4E to the extent that a lot of people are personally vested in the success of 4E, either as players or developers and I hate to see them suffering.

EVERY SINGLE OSR product that I have purchased has given me value far in excess of what I paid for it.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Kiltedyaksman said...
Oh WotC, tripping from one blunder to the next. If Hasbro wasn't behind them they'd likely be in the gutter with the reverses and types of business decisions they make. They can't get out of their own way, and they only have themselves to blame. Only WotC can bring out an introductory version of the game right at the tail end of an editon.

They aren't going to do any sort of edition roll-back, and I have no confidence in Mearls.


Hasbro has royally screwed DnD (again, my opinion!).

Some are suggesting that Red Box, Essentials and Fortune Cards are really test products for the launch of 5E. I'm a little skeptical, but time will tell.

I don't have any confidence that Mearls will turn back the clock on DnD. They have gone too far down the Blizzard-esque, CCG design road for that to happen.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

James Maliszewski said...
Indeed. My gut tells me that 5e will be even more strongly tied to electronic distribution and delivery, with some type of subscription an important element of its sales. Even if it were to be mechanically and esthetically more in line with earlier editions (which I doubt), I have zero interest in a tabletop game that weds itself too closely to electronic media.

Hell, I have a problem with laptops and ipads at the game table. But some swear by it, and the online character-builder tool seems popular with the 4E folks. My issue with the WOTC subscription system is that "my DnD" doesn't require that I pay for content every month, without knowing what i'm paying for in advance.

That's why "back in the day" I always bought my Dragon magazines off the shelf. Some would have one or more good articles. I'd buy those. But I wasn't going to buy a multi-year subscription, not knowing what kind of content I was going to get.

Same goes for the character builder and other on-line tools. I'm not interested in paying $10-a-month for an on-line character-builder that should have been a $0.99 app from the Apple store.

/rant

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Matt Conlon said...
I think it's safe to say I'll STILL be playing 3.5. :) Interesting info though, I tweeted it out.

If I seem anti-4E, I apologize. Original, Basic, AD&D, 2nd Edition, 3rd, 3.5, Pathfinder, 4E, they're all good games, for certain people, with certain expectations. 4E's not my game, but others have a great time playing it.

But as you can probably tell from my preceding rant, I don't like the subscription model! That applies whether it was TSR controlling the DnD franchise or WOTC/Hasbro.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Jay said...
First off, welcome back Paladin!

Thanks, glad to be back! Last 6 weeks have been interesting (in a good way, mostly).

Secondly, I've been picking up the Reaper painted plastics line when they're released, but that line(sadly) doesn't begin to approach the volume with which Wizards was producing. Here's hoping other manufacturers see a gap that can be filled. The downside is it's a VERY expensive process and Hasbro likely was leveraging vendors they already work with overseas.

Reaper's line (to-date) seems to be existing sculpts, and is, as you say, fairly shallow. I have nearly every WOTC mini I need to represent the unique/special monsters, so the cancellation of their line is not crippling, but I was hoping they'd produce even more classic monsters and iconic characters. Plastic pre-painteds were so danged convenient, but at least we've got Otherworld to produce those iconic monsters for us, even if they are metal and unpainted.

As far as 5E goes, I think previous posters are right--we're not looking at a "fixed" 4E. More like rules crippleware, tightly controlled with online suckscriptions. Heck, 4E is already laden with such traps!

I'm afraid you're probably right.

OSRIC and the OSR seem to be regarded as non-threats so far, and that's just fine by me!

Still, i'm amazed at how many new bloggers have appeared in 6 weeks. Glad to see this tiny corner of the blogosphere continues inspiring people.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Dave Cesarano said...
Considering all of the die-hard 4E fans I've encountered, and all of the support that WotC received from so many advocates, including Penny Arcade, it's a bit surprising to see they're having a rough time of it (once you look past the business language in the announcement and read between the lines). I'd suggest scrapping 4E and going to 5E is being done because of the economy, the failure of the introductory sets, and the implosion of the minis line (also a result of the economy).

Perhaps they're making money, just not enough money for their masters at Hasbro. As Mr. Potter would say, "this is not a charity, it's a place of business!" It could be as you suggest. I'm somewhat of a pessimist, in that I think the current model is doomed. Therefore, no matter how they try to retool DnD, the demand for 4E or 5E will continue to shrink. And just watch out when Diablo III hits the shelves.