I expect some news will be trickling out about DnDnext come Gencon. Modularity with the rules seems to be the big theme. You have a core set of rules, with optional cogs of details and working gears to slip into the game. It also seems many of the core books will be pushed out sooner, rather than a long rollout of material. I expect other later releases will be more campaign setting-type material (like the Planes, Underdark, and such) rather than another PHB 2.
Still I fret a bit about the new player experience. Dumping 3 tomes of information onto a new person can be daunting. Having a boxed set of basic rules would be a great starting point.
I think that’s something which sort of killed 4E. Much of it seemed for existing D&D players and not much emphasis put towards the newly drafted group of brand new adventurers. You had a basic set, that was redone into an Essentials format, and then an entirely new line of new products (Essentials) that differed in presentation from the core books. It just exploded into this line of products that made things more confusing and diluted the new player experience even more.
I’ll go a bit more on this. I never quite got the focus group for the Red Box. It seemed packaged in a way to draw in the nostalgia of the older crowd that used to play D&D. Like it was to rekindle all those fond memories of gaming in the past. What about the 12 year old kid wandering through the store? Take a moment to track down a few pics and videos of the Pathfinder beginner box. Go ahead, I’ll wait…..
…THAT’S how you design and present an rpg. That is something to spark a kid’s interest to pick up a box and carry it out the store. WotC decided to go the whole retro 80’s deal. A poor decision there.
What would entail this new introductory boxed set? Aside from an introductory document (start here, what is an RPG, a step-by-step way to navigate a character sheet, introduce core game mechanics, etc.) a slimmed down rule set would be peachy. Give us your human, dwarf, elf, halfling races. Give us the fighter, wizard, cleric, and thief classes. Give us a trimmed list of specialties of two options. Give us rules for character generation, not just pre-gen characters to use. More importantly give us rules and material for the DM to get up to level 5.
That’s right, stop it at level 5. Figure a group playing every week, leveling every other week, and you’ve got 2+ months of D&D goodness. A summer of D&D fun. Wet the appetites of new players and get them playing D&D. If they want to take the plunge, there are 3 core books they can buy which open up the game fully.
Hands down, this should be the entry into the world of D&D. You’ve got a ‘basic’ set. A set that has everything you need to play, that allows for new adventures and characters to be created. A boxed set that has everything you ever need to play D&D.
But if that’s not enough, if you really want more options and the means to create a long term campaign with prolonged character progression, buy the ‘advanced’ rules. It’s the same core game just lots more options. And as a marketing strategy something very recognizable to older players. People that you might want to stroke up the fires of nostalgia, a group of folks that might get the desire to pick up the rules and share with their kids, having a ‘basic’ set and the option to pick up ‘advanced’ rules with 3 core books harkens back to AD&D of old.
So if you are a core book person, why buy the beginner boxed set? What would be in it for you? Aside from a decent adventure and a set of dice, how about some other nifty things that could be used? How about a fold out map of a campaign world (along with a simple gazette)? Even better, throw in a ton of monster tokens and character figure flats. While entirely optional, having stand up figure flats might encourage folks to pick up figures from the miniature line.
Notice I didn’t say a battlemat. It’s not needed. However tokens and figure flats go a long way in helping new players visualize the action. Without needing to be played out on a gridded map, it still can keep a firm foot in the ‘theater of the mind’ while still allowing players a way to better imagine what’s happening.
So give us that WotC. Have that beginner’s box ready to go at the launch of DnDnext. Don’t cheap out on the contents. Give it enough meat and goodies to provide a summer of D&D fun. Have it a product that anyone which regularly plays the game can unerringly say to new folks, ‘If you want to play D&D, start with this box.’