If you're an RPG (role-playing game) player, even on the fringes of that community, you remember what happened when the fourth edition of Dungeons and Dragons came out a few years ago. It wasn't pretty. A lot of fans didn't like the changes. Now that it's time for the fifth edition, Wizards of the Coast (which owns the game) is asking fans what they want it to look like.
In a post on their site today, WotC wrote, "The game is at its best when it is yours. For that reason, we want your participation." They began with a "Friends & Family playtest," which they will expand during the D&D Experience convention later this month, complete with a first look at the new rules. Open playtesting will begin in the spring.
It's being hailed as a new level of openness for the game--even for gaming as a whole, and a notable enough event for Forbes and The New York Times to cover. But playtesting and incorporating input before a game is released is hardly a new idea. It is, however, more common for completely new games. This is new territory for the 40-year-old granddaddy of the RPG, whose ultimate goal in the crowdsourcing project is to create a universal rule set that brings together players who haven't played since the 1980s with those who first learned on the fourth edition. That's a lot of rule changes to unite, and that's why they need the help.
Most observers agree that RPGs have been on the decline. The early players are aging, and RPG makers have a lot more to compete with now to get new players, from a much broader tabletop gaming selection to a variety of video games, whether it's console or PC, MMO or solo. This is WotC's chance both to try to bring some eyes back to their books and to heal some of the feelings hurt with the previous release.
By working with fans instead of independently from them, WotC hopes to find the best rules of each edition of the years, resulting in something that's customizable by the Dungeon Master (who leads a given game) and familiar to anyone who has ever played.
Sign up to participate in the massive D&D playtest at http://wizards.custhelp.com/ci/documents/detail/2/infosignup.