20 February 2011

Mike Mearls’ Plea for Unity

Mike Mearls, ‘Group Manager for the D&D Research and Development team,’ has started up a column over at the Wizards of the Coast website entitled ‘Legends & Lore’ (the title is an homage, I assume, to the post-1985 version of the AD&D Deities & Demigods book).

The aim of the column purports to be discussion of “various topics on D&D’s history, how the game has changed over the years, and where it’s going in the future.” You can read the initial post here.

Interestingly, Mearls seems to make some sort of plea for an inter-edition peace, or at least truce, here:

Whether you play the original game published in 1974, AD&D in any of its forms, 3rd Edition and its descendents, or 4th Edition, at the end of the day you’re playing D&D. D&D is what we make of it, and by "we" I mean the DMs, the players, the readers, the bloggers—everyone who has picked up a d20 and ventured into a dungeon

When we look to the past, we learn that there are far more things that tie us together than tear us apart. The fact that we play this bizarre, arcane game puts us on the fringe of normal.

It’s not clear to me why the above claim doesn’t apply to role-playing games generally, and not simply D&D, especially given that the differences between, say, 0e (1974) D&D and 4e D&D are greater than the differences between many role-playing games that go by entirely different names. (Palladium Fantasy and Tunnels and Trolls, I would venture, have more in common with older versions of D&D than 4e D&D does.)

In any case, I share the sentiment expressed by ‘Joe the Lawyer’ here, that if WotC is sincere in wanting to ‘heal the rift’ between WotC and players of older editions, WotC could simply re-release the PDFs of all the out-of-print TSR and WotC material (i.e., the same stuff that was up for sale at RPG.now just a couple of years ago).

Of course, I’m not holding my breath. My suspicion is that the real ‘rift’ that WotC is concerned about is the one with Pathfinder (i.e., the 3.x D&D community), not curmudgeonly old grognrads like myself. (The same suspicion is expressed over at Grognardia.)


  1. Mearls contributed to the rift and now he wants to heal it? Which way will the wind blow tomorrow? Call me skeptical...

  2. The re-release of older edition of PDFs will never happen. That was a business decision and piracy was just an excuse used to keep the older edition from directly competing with 4e.

  3. Even if they persist with the argument that having pdf's available means more pirating, then they could at least make print-on-demand books available (but as 8one6 points out, the pirating excuse was probably just that ...an excuse).

    It would be nice to be proved wrong though :)

  4. @8one6: Yes, I agree that it is extremely unlikely that the OOP PDFs will ever return. *sigh*

  5. The removal of the old PDFs was ridiculous. If the blogs in this corner of the internet tell me anything, it is that "grognard" types are generally disinclined to jump on the 4th edition bandwagon...many of them have stated that they never jumped on the third ed bandwagon. Also, most of the folks I know who like 4th edition have no interest in returning to previous editions. Releasing the PDFs would get WotC some dollars that are now flowing into OSR products or are being lost to PDF piracy or second hand booksellers. I feel comfortable making the general statement that old edition people are old edition people and most of them shall always remain so... keeping those PDFs in the dungeon is just losing out on revenue. Granted, it's probably not going to make a fortune, but I bet they'd get some sales off of it... I know a few old adventures I'd buy on PDF.

    I'm a pretty cynical person, so I believe that this Legends & Lore column is probably a gradual attempt to get us all to stop being such sticks in the mud and buy the new and hawt D&D.

    'course, if I'm wrong about this, I will be quite delighted. :)

  6. I started replying, but it turned into a whole post. Let's say I know a little bit about what this is like... and so I believe what he's saying.


  7. Erik Mona plays in Mike Mearls OD&D game, or did last year.

    I think Mike is sincere. WotC I'm not so sure of.


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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).