Kendal

Best Version of DnD?

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I find myself wondering about Basic Sets.

I'm guessing a Player's Handbook doesn't cost fifty bucks to print, considering you can get one for thirty on Amazon. How much does a Basic Box cost? 

Because the more I hear, the more I find that the most people got involved in ANY version of D&D because of a boxed beginner set. And I remember them all. I particularly remember some very NICE starter sets, back in the ancient days of second edition that included standup cardboard figures. The Pathfinder Beginner box included standups. Hell, the Third Edition D&D starter set included plastic prepaints, all that you needed for the introductory adventure! 

The Fifth Edition starter box did NOT include a character generation system. It DID, however, include one of the finest prewritten starter adventures I've seen since the ancient days of "adventure modules," back before all things D&D had to be in a hardback book.

I wonder: would it kill them to introduce more starter sets? The Expert Set? Alternative starter sets with alternative characters and adventures? I can see buying this before I'd really want to sink fifty to two hundred bucks into hardback books...

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If a PHB cost $50 to print, it would retail for $250-350. At a guess (given the paper used, 4-color process throughout, the number of pages, hard cover, quantity printed), I'd put it in the $8-10/copy printing cost. Might be lower if it's printed in China (or wherever), but then you have to pay to manage that process and ship the books across the Pacific.

 

For a boxed set, you're probably looking at $1-2/box, $0.5-1 for cut-down rules, the same for a small scenario, $1/sheet for 4-color cardboard stand-up minis, $0.2 for a couple dozen bases for the figures, $1-2 for a set of dice. Call it $6-ish, which would mean a retail of around $40.

 

Probably makes sense for a bigger company to do one of them, but the more you do, the fewer you will sell of each, which means your economies of scale (including paying to make them) start to drop. At some point, you probably lose money. Possibly more importantly though, you only have a certain number of people to throw at projects and anyone doing a starter set isn't spending that time on anything else. Is a second or third starter set more valuable for the company (and the majority of its customers) than another splatbook?

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RE: Boxed sets.  I remember some discussion on the Paizo forums some years ago about it.  Mainly, boxed sets are very easy to lose money on (as a publisher).  Pathfinder has a beginner set for $35, but I believe it is sold as a loss-leader, intended to get people interested in the game and push on towards the full books.  That price matches what Doug Sundseth says above.  However, that boxed set has to be produced in addition to a full set of rules. 

 

RE: Alignment and choice - There is no "playing your alignment" by just sitting and waiting for something to happen.  That's a player problem, and is something I won't put up with for long.  I'm okay with players not wanting to go on the adventure I've created, but they'd better have an idea of what they do want to do.  I don't let my kids play the "I don't want to do that" game, there's no way I'm letting supposedly mature people do it.

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Ryan Dancey, the former WotC guy I quoted many pages ago about Hasbro, was one of the people who got a look at TSRs financials when the company was purchased by WotC.  He was once asked why TSR went bankrupt, and one of the reasons he gave was the boxed sets.  During the 2E era everyone not TSR wondered how they managed to make any money selling their boxed products.  Turns out they didn't.  According to Dancey the numbers said they lost money on pretty much every boxed set they sold.  If they wanted a "normal" profit margin TSR should have been charging about twice what they did per box.

 

Now you can get away with that pricing if you have one intro box you are using as a loss-leader.  OTOH if you have an general intro box, and each setting gets its own intro box, and certain special adventures get their own box, and they're all losing money you can see how it might be a problem.

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When Grump started the kids game his original plan was to use the Beginner Box. Limited to level 5 and lower.

 

That lasted about a week, I think. Some of the kids not only knew the core rules they OWNED them. They wanted to play Rangers and Witches and things not in the beginner set.

 

But the stuff in the box still saw use, I think he HAS used the battle at and standees a lot.

 

The kids are young, but they weren't NEW players.

 

They sound better at strategy than our group is.

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15 hours ago, Doug's Workshop said:

RE: Boxed sets.  I remember some discussion on the Paizo forums some years ago about it.  Mainly, boxed sets are very easy to lose money on (as a publisher).  Pathfinder has a beginner set for $35, but I believe it is sold as a loss-leader, intended to get people interested in the game and push on towards the full books.  That price matches what Doug Sundseth says above.  However, that boxed set has to be produced in addition to a full set of rules. 

 

RE: Alignment and choice - There is no "playing your alignment" by just sitting and waiting for something to happen.  That's a player problem, and is something I won't put up with for long.  I'm okay with players not wanting to go on the adventure I've created, but they'd better have an idea of what they do want to do.  I don't let my kids play the "I don't want to do that" game, there's no way I'm letting supposedly mature people do it.

Paizo carefully priced the Beginner's Box to break even - so they would not lose money on them - in a weird way they are advertising.

 

And then they put a Tier for the Beginner's Box into their society, so the folks playing with the box could get into organized play early.

 

Good contents in the box, a lot of it will see use long after the players have advanced past level 5.

 

And when they had the Pathfinder Humble Bundle a couple of years ago they had to do a fresh print run of the box - they sold more through the bundle than had been in the latest print run - total.

 

But when I started running the kids game... the PCs hadn't even reached 2nd  level when we went to the Core - we got in two new players that already had their characters from the Core - a pair of rangers, one of them a halfling, not in the Beginner's Box.

 

Maybe because of MORPGs, but the kids have a lot easier time with Attacks of Opportunity than the grown up players did - and do a much better job of not being where the sword is, as a result. ::P:

 

The Auld Grump

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I like what WotC is doing with the pre-written stuff right now. I ran Lost Mines of Phandelver as my first adventure ever (both as a DM or a player) and it was great fun. We didn't take the characters from the set though, but I had them choose from a larger list of pre-fabs.

 

The newer campaign modules now tie in very neatly with LMoP, so if you liked your character a lot, you can just keep going. And it's kind of the logical next step for a new DM as well, not quite as much hand-holding as with LMoP, but still less prep required than with a completly self-written campaign.

 

Having more than one starter set would be kind of pointless imho. I don't think many people would play multiple starter sets in a row. Sure, it's always nice to have multiple storys to choose from, but the intro experience should be something quite simple and straight forward in terms of plot and LMoP already does that nicely.

 

 

I speed painted eight gnolls for my game on Saturday, but we sadly didn't get to them. Two of my players got infected with Zuggtmoy's spores earlier in the campaign (voluntarily taking funny drug spores from myconoids they didn't know. Feel like there is a lesson in there :rolleyes:). For the longest time, they didn't think much of it, doing their saving throws after they woke up, sometimes dancing around weirdly if they failed. And one of them failed a lot. So I progressed his symptoms into general uneasyness and terrible headaches. That player quit our group two months ago to go study abroad and I continued his character as a NPC. The other players did try to diagnose the problem, but purely by mundane means and always came to the conclusion they needed a city and a more skilled healer to deal with the problem. They do have a cleric with 3rd level spells, so they could cast Remove Curse, at this point I would even consider some advantages if they were to cast Lesser Restoration. 

Anyway, after lots of failed saving throws and no real way to cure the issue or hinder it at least, the character now killed himself by trying to carve the part of his head the fungi grew in out while the other players slept. Shock ensued and after looting and burning the infectious corpse they spoke a short prayer and continued to walk in silence, with some of my players pretty choked up, so I ended the session early.

 

I just feel horrible thinking about the other infecter character, since they have been so clueless on what to do with this situation. Plus the place they are walking towards right now is almost certainly going to be very disastrous for his infection status. 

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7 hours ago, TheAuldGrump said:

Paizo carefully priced the Beginner's Box to break even - so they would not lose money on them - in a weird way they are advertising.

 

And then they put a Tier for the Beginner's Box into their society, so the folks playing with the box could get into organized play early.

 

Good contents in the box, a lot of it will see use long after the players have advanced past level 5.

 

And when they had the Pathfinder Humble Bundle a couple of years ago they had to do a fresh print run of the box - they sold more through the bundle than had been in the latest print run - total.

 

But when I started running the kids game... the PCs hadn't even reached 2nd  level when we went to the Core - we got in two new players that already had their characters from the Core - a pair of rangers, one of them a halfling, not in the Beginner's Box.

 

Maybe because of MORPGs, but the kids have a lot easier time with Attacks of Opportunity than the grown up players did - and do a much better job of not being where the sword is, as a result. ::P:

 

The Auld Grump

I ninja-ed you!

 

Hardcovers don't cost much more to make thane paperbacks, so I know why Wizards likes them.

 

The surprise is how many perfect bound paperbacks Paizo makes.

 

They have a LOT more releases than Wizards does, but makes less on a lot of them too.

 

But people also BUY them, they don't sit on the shelf, while BAM still has some of the 4e stuff, gathering dust.

 

5e has been hit or miss, going by Jenny. There is less of it than 4e, but the best seller aside from evergreen products is a third party monster book.

 

Pretty sureba lot of the Paizo adventures are being sold to 5e GMs.

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I know part of the reason why D&D slowed down their releases with 5e and switched over to doing hardcovers only was because of the experiences they had with earlier editions and oversaturating their own market. It was a common thing in the TSR days for that to happen, with multiple splatbooks and modules coming out every month, and it kind of happened in 3.x, but to a lesser degree. Then 4e ended up missing the mark almost entirely and having a lot of stuff in general just sit on shelves, so much so that it could have ended D&D entirely. Hasbro ended up massively downsizing the D&D team and switching to a much slower, much more sparse release schedule than before, and from all accounts D&D is extremely healthy at this point compared to where it was about 5 years ago. I mean, aside from the Core 3, there's only like 12 total books that have been officially released for 5e in 4 years, and the majority of them have been adventures. And from reading them, even though I haven't had a chance to play them, they all seem to be pretty good and the product quality is just great.

 

But I have to admit, lately I've been thinking of picking up some 4e books on the cheap. I just want to actually own the core 3 books for every major edition at some point, so that I can sat that I have the ability to play any edition at any time I want to...

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WotC also outsourced a lot of the writing for non-central parts of their release schedule, getting third party publishers to write some of the books.

 

I am not really paying attention to 5e - I don't hate it or anything, it just does not fill a need for me.

 

Not really surprised that 4e missed the mark though - they concentrated too much on one aspect of the game, then tried to redefine the game as being just that one aspect.

 

Then wondered why people did not agree with that definition. (I'm sorry, but labeling critics as trolls, then releasing a video where a dragon poops on them... not a good way forward, guys.)

 

I don't know if WotC still insists that their designers actually play the game or not.

 

I do know that even the CEO at Paizo plays and runs games. (She even has an adventure in the big mega-dungeon that was released to go with the MORPG that seems to have died.)

 

I think that actually playing the games makes a difference.

 

The Auld Grump

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20 minutes ago, TheAuldGrump said:

WotC also outsourced a lot of the writing for non-central parts of their release schedule, getting third party publishers to write some of the books.

Yeah, early on for adventure modules. Aside from Green Ronin's Out of the Abyss, they're generally agreed to be the weakest modules.
Since Curse of Strahd it's been a lot more in-house with freelance contributors (Pennington Ward of all people helped with Tomb of Annihilation).

 

22 minutes ago, TheAuldGrump said:

I don't know if WotC still insists that their designers actually play the game or not.

I have no idea if it's an insistance but it's been well established that Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford and Chris Perkins all run their own games on the side.

Perkins even streams a weekly one where his players are a bunch of e-lebrities (and the occasional actor guest star).

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Posted (edited)

4 hours ago, BlazingTornado said:

Yeah, early on for adventure modules. Aside from Green Ronin's Out of the Abyss, they're generally agreed to be the weakest modules.
Since Curse of Strahd it's been a lot more in-house with freelance contributors (Pennington Ward of all people helped with Tomb of Annihilation).

 

I have no idea if it's an insistance but it's been well established that Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford and Chris Perkins all run their own games on the side.

Perkins even streams a weekly one where his players are a bunch of e-lebrities (and the occasional actor guest star).

Not to be confused with the podcast 'D&D With Porn Stars'....

 

Glad to hear it, as long as they avoid the Echo Chamber effect that led to 4e being what it was. (If your first response to a playtester pointing out a problem is to throw the playtester out of the game... then you are doing it wrong.)

 

The Auld Grump, gods above and below, I wish I could have used purple for that last remark... but, sadly, that really is how they handled the playtests for 4e.

 

*EDIT* As opposed to 5e, where they borrowed a page from Paizo's playbook, and had an open playtest. :B):

Edited by TheAuldGrump

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1 hour ago, TheAuldGrump said:

The Auld Grump, gods above and below, I wish I could have used purple for that last remark... but, sadly, that really is how they handled the playtests for 4e.

 

*EDIT* As opposed to 5e, where they borrowed a page from Paizo's playbook, and had an open playtest. :B):

 

Playtesting is hard. Very few people are actually good playtesters, and even the good ones are mostly good at identifying only that something is wrong, not how to fix it. (Robin Laws and Ken Hite have a recent podcast discussing this.)

 

The best you can hope for is several comments about some section that indicate both that there is a problem and provide enough detail about what actually happened for the designer to both diagnose the actual problem and build a fix while staying true to his vision of the game.

 

It's a really bad idea to listen too much to your playtesters; that way lies chaos. But it's a worse idea to only pretend to listen to them at all. That way lies

Spoiler

oh heck no I'm not going to name names. ^_^

 

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38 minutes ago, Doug Sundseth said:

 

Playtesting is hard. Very few people are actually good playtesters, and even the good ones are mostly good at identifying only that something is wrong, not how to fix it. (Robin Laws and Ken Hite have a recent podcast discussing this.)

 

The best you can hope for is several comments about some section that indicate both that there is a problem and provide enough detail about what actually happened for the designer to both diagnose the actual problem and build a fix while staying true to his vision of the game.

 

It's a really bad idea to listen too much to your playtesters; that way lies chaos. But it's a worse idea to only pretend to listen to them at all. That way lies

  Reveal hidden contents

oh heck no I'm not going to name names. ^_^

 

Given that they had playtesters complaining about the Skill Challenge DCs from when they first started trying it - and never did bother actually fixing it until the game was in stores.... Seriously, they had to change the DCs of every check in the game....

 

I think that they weren't looking for playtesters, they were looking for adoration.

 

The folks at WotC weren't testing the rules, they were saying 'this is the way it is going to be. What are you gonna do, play something else? Ha!'

'Wait, come back... what do you mean that you are going to play something else?!'

 

One of the reasons for the OGL and the D20 STL was that the main competitor for D&D has always been previous editions of D&D.

 

By opening things up they no longer needed to protect a lot of their IP, and those folks that liked older editions could find material to their liking.

 

With 4e... they forgot that lesson.

 

They were valuing their trademark over their product - a big mistake.

 

***

 

The place where playtesters become invaluable is the double blind playtest - where the person running the game has never played before, and the players are new as well.

 

A game designer knows what he was trying to say - so having somebody that has no clue trying the game tells you whether you managed to convey what you wanted to say.

 

Paizo started their open playtest as a delaying tactic - it was going to take a while to launch their own game, so how to keep their players interested while they were waiting?

 

Then they discovered that *GASP!* they were actually getting useful data from the playtesters. (Shocking, I know.)

 

A playtester cannot substitute for a game designer, but they can destruction test the rules better than the game designer can. Simply because there are more monkeys and more typewriters, banging away. ::P:

 

The Auld Grump

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@TheAuldGrump

 

Yeah, I was a playtester for M:tG early on (starting with Antiquities) and they did everything they could not to listen to their playtesters there, too. To get any comment taken seriously, you had to provide a deck using the card you were complaining about that had beaten 8 (?) different well-tuned and pretty nasty decks (two games each, IIRC) more than half the time. In a matter of a few weeks for a 300 card set. Since it takes at least a few days to tune even one deck, this turns out to be virtually impossible to do if playtesting isn't your life. And they were fairly nasty in the way that they dismissed every other comment. Our group eventually got "fired", which was fine with us.

 

The most valuable sort of playtesting is blind-testing while you're watching anonymously. You can see problems both in the way that the rules are being read and the flow of the game in a way that you can't in any other way. But it's pretty hard to stand there and listen to harsh comments about your intellectual offspring while remaining detached enough for it to be useful. Blind-testing with written reports is just this side of useless, since most people can't write a useful playtest report (it's hard). (If you can find someone who can make a postal blindtest work, he's worth gold.)

 

Playtesting with a local group during development while you're present has a real problem with people (particularly including the designer) remembering which version of the rules currently applies (plus the whole problem of being taught with feedback by the designer, which is nothing like learning to play from a written source.) But that's an integral part of development, unless you're some sort of special unicorn of rules writing that can bring forth a new game fully formed in a single burst of creativity.

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