I’m going to talk about the next edition of D&D below so, a couple of points to begin with...
- Yes, “D&D Next” is a terrible name. That’s because it’s a project name. The real name will be decided (I assume) by actual marketing people when the project gets closer to becoming products.
- I will reiterate that Wizards should make clear on the books what edition of the game it is. There’s already enough confusion for non-collectors looking at D&D books and not being able to tell what edition they are.
OK, now on to the thinking aloud...
First, we have what Mike Mearls wrote in “Legends and Lore: D&D Next Goals, Part Two”. I like what he says under the head “The Basic Rules”. This is what I want the the D&D brand to be doing for the hobby. And what’s good for the hobby is good for Wizards. By attracting more than just the people who like a single style, they will build a market they can sell lots of different RPGs to.
Which, I think, is the real answer to the fragmentation problem, which Next has the potential to exacerbate. Instead of trying to get everyone playing the same game, you “narrowcast” with multiple games. Especially since a lot of those customers will buy more than one of those games.
(I know that goes against the conventional wisdom of what TSR’s downfall was, but TSR had many and bigger problems.)
On a side note, I saw the question, “Why do you want more people to play D&D?” What I want is for everyone that would enjoy D&D or the hobby in general to be able to find it. For good or ill, most people’s first contact with the hobby will be D&D. So, if D&D is too heavily focused on a certain style of play, it gives lots of people the impression that it is representative of the hobby when its not. While a basic D&D may not be the game for everyone, it is more likely to send those who don’t like it looking for an RPG that they do like than to send them away thinking there is nothing in the hobby for them.
I don’t like some of the stuff under the head “Current Design Goals” in that Legends and Lore column, though.
Second, we have dndclassics.com. Good quality PDFs of older edition material with no DRM with text that is searchable through RPGNow (and DriveThruRPG). They even have the 1981 Basic booklet that is my favorite but which had never been offered in PDF in the past. I am happy to say that I am a Wizards of the Coast customer again.