Angry Rants: WotC and D&D Encounters

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Is there really any point to ranting about Wizards of the Coast? Probably not. Are people playing D&D Encounters and having fun at it? Definitely. But things don’t get better without criticism and settling for “good enough” isn’t good enough for this particular Angry GM. I work my $&% off to be the best and to run the best game possible. So WotC doesn’t get to phone it in without someone pointing it out.

Read the entire rant at The Mad Adventurers Society…

4 thoughts on “Angry Rants: WotC and D&D Encounters

  1. Agree with pretty much everything.

    Expeditions are actually pretty fun. Our store runs them on Thursday. They are 1 shot style adventures that can be pretty interesting. It’s probably easier for new players too, only problem is that they are fourish hours.

  2. I wish they’d treat expeditions like movie releases. Stores get them exclusive for 6 months say and then they’re available to the general public.

    Stores aren’t the only way to grow the hobby. Most FLGS’s are actually pretty intimidating places unless you’re part of the club.

  3. So, I love this topic. I could rant all day along about it. And I agree with you: ranting isn’t going to change anything, but damn! It feels good.

    I worked in the gaming industry for a short period of time, and having worked with teams publishing and marketing all manner of RPG material, I wanted to add a little to this conversation. My former boss, John Zinser of AEG, one time told me (well, MANY times): “The number one reason why people stop playing a game is because they have no one to play with.” As you know, AEG is not #1 in the industry. Hell, they’re not #2, #3, or #4 for that matter, so THAT’s actually what makes his observation so accurate. We had a history of having games dwindle off and die: Doomtown, 7th Sea, Warlord, etc. If anyone knew about the death of a game, it was John. And you know what? He’s right. Not only is it critical that a gaming company always-be-acquiring new customers, but it’s critical to keep the ones you currently have as well.

    For any gaming company to do this, you need to set up a program. You have to create the carrot. You have to create the excuse for your customer to play the game they bought from you. There’s SO MUCH that competes for their attention (other RPGs, CCGs, board games, video games, school, family, work, life, etc.). It’s not just about putting out a product, it’s about creating a regularly occurring reason for them to play… or they will stop playing.

    When possible, provide an incentive. If affordable, give something back to the community. An in-store program supports: a) the people who have laid out cash to sell your product (distributors and retailers); and b) it shows the customers that you are actively supporting the continued existence of the game they bought so that it won’t die. An RPG or CCG will only live as long as you continue to put out more product (board games are different, they sometimes have different life cycles of their own) and support it on the store level.

    So to this end, D&D Encounters isn’t *just* about bringing new players to the game — although certainly that’s one of its primary missions — it’s also to retain the customers who have bought the product. Not everyone has a group of people that they can play with outside the gaming store. Some people only have time to play for a couple months due to school / work / life schedule. Some people need a place to meet new players so that they can form an offsite group. There are countless needs customers have that make an in-store program critical to the success of the product line.

    Additionally, in-store programs attract more business, which helps out the retailer AND the gaming community itself. People gravitate toward what they observe other people doing. It’s human nature. We’re wired to rubberneck. So when a game store looks busy, and a bunch of people are playing D&D every week, other shoppers (not everyone, but some) will want to give it a try. My end point is: don’t think of the Encounters program as primarily concerned with bringing new players into the game. That may be what WotC tows the line with, but in truth, it serves multiple functions.

    All that being said, I — like others — *completely* agree with you about the design of the Encounter books. They’re jank. While they don’t need to be written for a DM who’s never run a game before, they are certainly not gamestore-program friendly. They require too much DM prep-work, they tend to force players to adhere to the authors’ pre-conceived plot, or they lack the simplicity of what role-playing is supposed to be about in the first place. While they 5e adventure products are progressively getting better, they still fail to serve as a vehicle of what DMs actually need to run the program.

    Now, having worked with designers, writers, and knowing what the objectives are… I’m not gonna lie: making one of these products is t-o-u-g-h. I am sure many words were spilled discussing each passing product, both in development and after they were released. Is criticism from the community necessary? I think so. This is the market leader we’re talking about after all, and we should expect the products to be the very best. We’re paying good money… so… why not?!? But is WotC there yet? Not by a long-shot.

    The problem is, as I see it, no one has bothered to show them how it’s done. I see no other products out there, by anyone, who does a better job. While WotC — and their outside developers — try to set a high bar with each product, there’s no other model that hits the nail on the head. There’s nothing out there (at least, to my knowledge) that stands as the watermark for them to follow. Paizo? Not with their adventure paths! I dare say I think they’re (much) worse. That’s not to say that there aren’t some excellent DMs out in the blogosphere who couldn’t do a formidable job crafting something in this vein, but as of yet, we haven’t seen it. And until someone does, we’re in the unfortunate position to only complain about what has been offered. I’m not trying to give WotC a pass, but until someone shows everyone else how it should be done, we’re just kind of shooting the breeze.

    • That was an interesting and insightful read. Thanks.

      I do not agree with the last paragraph – because I’m not sure what you’re complaining about. It seems you’re focusing only on D&D? I can run a Savage Worlds one sheet every day if I want and in all likelihood I won’t need to prep much and old and new players will probably enjoy it. So, what are you actually shooting for here? (Honestly curious.)

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