One? D&D. Only One, Huh?

I can only say what I think of this new edition of D&D. For the record, I don’t love it or hate it more than prior editions. It’s just another edition change.


I’m struggling to stay positive with this “One”

I listened to the Wizards of the Coast announcement of “One D&D.” Okay, I tried. Honestly, I skipped the Magic: the Gathering announcements and some of their other corporate Mcdoublespeak. I like the spokespeople they had for D&D Beyond and the new rules.

I’m not going to talk about everything that I took away from this. I have a couple of main concerns. First, is the supposed retro compatibility. Second is what it sounds like might happen to retailers. Last, aside from their announcements I’m not really keen on all the hype.

I’m very skeptical about the idea that editions are going away.

We’re told by WotC that everything we’ve purchased previously (for FIFTH Edition!) will still be compatible. Okay. Waitaminute. What? Then, someone at WotC went so far as to say “we don’t see things in terms of editions.”

Yeah, because if you acknowledged prior editions, you’d remember there are actually six editions prior to this “One.” Basic/BECMI, First Ed AD&D, Second Ed AD&D, Third Edition, Fourth Edition, and then Fifth Edition. For some unexplained reason, the nice folks at WotC always seem to exclude all of that content prior to Third Ed, unless they can bring it back to make a quick buck or two on it. (Spelljammer, Dragonlance, etc.)

I appreciate what Fifth Edition has done for the hobby.

Some people saw Fourth Ed D&D as basically the “New” Coke for RPGs. For those to young to remember New Coke, it wasn’t very good and it gave Coca Cola an excuse to bring back the old formula and make more money off all of the grateful Coke drinkers. In terms of advertising and marketing, it was brilliant. That said, in terms of being on the consumer end, it sucked. D&D Fourth was sort of the same way.

Fifth Edition is when WotC supposedly started listening to the players and incorporated feedback and merged some of the better concepts from prior editions. That’s true for the most part. But how do they explain the OSR movement?

Fifth Edition also introduced thousands of new players and DMs to the hobby of tabletop role playing games through Critical Role and other actual play podcasts. I think we’re all truly proud and grateful for that. As much as I kinda jab at Matt Mercer occasionally, he did do ALL that, and it’s a genuinely good thing. (And I know Matt would never read my blog. LOL!)

They think they have a solid lock on their demographic.

You know some marketing goobs at WotC sat down and asked, “What does a typical D&D player look like?”

Because that’s how marketing works. Make no mistake, WotC is still part of a very large corporation, HASBRO. Their job is to make their brands profitable. If it ain’t making money? It’s gone.

None of us want to see D&D go away forever. So, they sat down and figured out that their target audience is mostly between the ages of about 14-35, primarily in English speaking countries. They want people who are either completely new to the game or came in during the Fifth Ed craze. They’re also likely assuming the new players are somewhat tech savvy, phone constantly in hand, social media users, and accustomed to virtual play.

They admitted in their announcement video that the game is 50 years old. But they’re really only looking at about half of that demographic. In my opinion, it’s like they’ve completely turned a blind eye to the rest of us. They’re not going for any compatibility beyond Fifth Edition for the most part. What about the OSR crowd?

Then there’s their fancy virtual platform.

Yes, we’ve been asking WotC for years to bundle PDF copies with physical rulebooks. Yet if you go on D&D Beyond currently, you’ll notice they’re still charging print prices for digital products. Want the print book? That’s double the price for both. At least DriveThruRPG sells the PDF and physical book together for the price of the physical copy plus shipping and still gives you the PDF.

I kind of suspect with the recent merger of OneBookShelf and Roll 20 VTT, we might be seeing WotC/Hasbro winding up to buy them both. DMsGuild is a joint venture between WotC and OneBookShelf already. I don’t think it’s going to be a big surprise if they are assimilated. It’s only a theory for now.

What concerns me the most is what the new D&D Beyond platform means for retailers. Right now, if their announcement is to be believed, they will be selling the physical copy and bundle it with the digital copy ONLY if you buy it directly from WotC. They sound to me as if they are going to cut physical retailers out of the process as much as possible and only sell directly from their website. Great for WotC, bad for your Friendly Local Game Store. We’ll see, I suppose.

As a famous rapper once said, “Don’t believe the hype.”

I already see the official/unofficial hype folks on YouTube and Twitter talking about One D&D and the playtest materials. Oh, it’s going to be great. Just listen to what they’re telling us and don’t use any discernment of your own.

WotC has made One D&D an open playtest from now until 2024. You can download the latest playtest materials and read them for yourself. Surveys for the first round were due to open September 1, 2022.

I suspect, much like any survey research, this is being done primarily as a public relations tactic. They want us to feel like we had an opinion to contribute this whole time. However, in the corporate world, that input does not matter for squat and we know it. In all likelihood, they’ve already got this new edition in the can. They’re just appeasing the fan base and making sure they’re reaching their target demographic.

Hey, what do I know? I’ve only been around since 1972 and gaming from 1982 onward. I’m just a guy with a blog, right?

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Keep playing the games you love.

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa always looking for more work. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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