Friday, February 9, 2024

Ones We Lost Along the Way

I was sad to see the hardcover options for Spec Ops and The Ruin pulled from Drive Thru. This is likely by the author's choice since, in the comments section, he says he can re-enable them for a little while. You can still grab the PDFs, and they are fun little games.

These weren't the definitive games in their genre, but they were fun. It makes me sigh and think of all the cool 5E games we lost along the way and all the dreams shattered by the OGL mess last year. The Ruin was very cool, a tight 5E implementation of an Aftermath-style game (and that is even mentioned in the forward).

And I can't find my Ruin hardcover - somewhere around here. I hate that feeling.

The game felt basic, like it was searching for a game in the concept, but could not quite pinpoint where the fun was. It went metaphysical when it should have stuck to the basics, and ideally, a game like this should look and feel like one of those 'survival manuals' on Amazon. You feel slightly queasy about buying books like this since they feel like 'scary books' to buy.

To me, the fun of an Aftermath game was in the black humor of trying to do the impossible, mainly around the ordinary, such as opening a can of beans. Throw in killer robots, ATMs trying to kill you, a minefield, laser turrets, marauding raiders, diseased giant rats, boobytraps left by nobody you know and for no reason, collapsing rotted floors, and random crossbow attacks by other survivors. You have a fun Aftermath game if you can live to see the Van Camps.

You weren't surviving the adventure; you were surviving the rules.

Again, you need rule rules support to run a survival game, and 5E does not come with batteries included in this regard. Level Up A5E is far better for a post-apocalypse game since it has survival and exploration rules built into the classes and options. 5E needs much work to support other genres; it is not a GURPS and can't do everything out of the box.

Amazing Adventures 5E was another clearance-aisled shortly after release and the OGL mess. There are a few series where a few of the books are missing POD options for their 5E versions, and the cancellation of this was probably related to the mess caused in January 2023. I have seen the PDF of this on DTRPG for 40 cents. The hardcovers are likely out of print forever.

I don't blame Troll Lord for pulling the ejection seat on 5E; Castles & Crusades is fantastic. It is a shame this fun 5E implementation had to end up like this. This was one of the best 3rd party pulp modern 5E games, and it is a shame to see it go.

I was looking at the 5E version of Savage Thule, but one of the books does not have a POD option, and I could never have a complete set on my shelf. Same thing with Esper Genesis; the hardcover for the Master Technicians Guide is MIA, and I doubt that it will ever go back in print. Some of the Lost Lands adventures for 5E are only available in PDF, and the print versions are out of stock.

And many of these 5E OGL books probably never made enough money to make a Creative Commons conversion feasible. What we got was it.

Most everyone left the 5E market or started their own game last year. We have entirely incompatible systems clocking millions of dollars on Kickstarter. Many have walked away from 5E and all the 3rd party 5E publishers. In many places, it looks like a total market collapse.

Even if all you play are Wizards books, this should concern you.

You won't be able to play MCDM RPG or WHFRP game adventures with 5E. Many have moved to the Dragonbane, Cyberpunk, Free League games, Castles & Crusades, and other hobby parts. Many will never return to D&D, myself included.

Tales of the Valiant and A5E? Those adventures can still be played with 5E books, 2014 or 2024. All the Kobold Press content will be cross-compatible. Other publishers are hedging bets with dual-release 5E and PF 2 books, like Roll for Combat - and they make some good stuff.

The mid-market publishers are still holding firm, and the best they can do is make their own Open 5E games, hedge their bets on the most popular, and move forward.

Many 5E players don't want the drama and want to pretend none of this happened.

I get it.

I just want to play a game with dragons and magic. Please don't bring the real world into it.

We didn't. Wall Street did. We can guess what's coming next. I am trying to weave through this mess with a clear conscience and not have to sell a thousand dollars in 5E books. The ultimate end is "I don't care," I sell them all, even A5E and ToV. Goodbye.

I have other games.

I don't need your drama or YouTube telling me that D&D 2024 is inevitable. You know, the people who hate something the most will be the ones that come right back and tell you "how it can be saved." They will "try to find the good in the situation." They get codependent on their enemy. If what they hate disappears, they won't have a channel anymore. Beware of all those gaming and culture channels on that site. They will play that hate-hope game with your emotions and string you along for views.

GURPS has, like, what, 6-7 active YouTubers that are constantly positive? I will play that and enjoy their positivity. I don't care if nobody plays it; I am. I will unsubscribe from all of the 5E channels and join them.

In the end, I did something positive.

But I care about the 3rd party people making a living from great stuff. I can't abandon them with a good conscience. I have done good if my struggles help others through this. Other people have 5E groups, too, and they want to still play with friends and not be forced to sign up and pay monthly fees.

Those people matter, too.

So I stay in the fight.

Many 5E books are being clearance-aisled, taken out of print, and abandoned for a few dollars here and there in PDF sales. And 5E is slowly drifting back into "just" fantasy gaming, and the system is stagnating, feeling that it can't do much else than fantasy. While I am optimistic for Level Up A5E and Tales of the Valiant, I will mourn all the dreams that went down in flames with the 5E market as it was up to 2022.

This is what the OGL mess did. They sucked the life out of the 3rd party 5E market. Unless you are bought in heavily on Tales or A5E and on those trains, the prospects outside that world are bleak. What choices do you have? Pathfinder 2? Shadowdark? MCDM RPG? DCC?

Outside of D&D, it feels better to stay away from 5E entirely. This may be what Wizards wanted. But in reality, this may be what kills the game. Without strong 3rd party support, your game is no longer the market leader; the wave has crested and is breaking on the shore. Nobody is putting a vote of confidence in you. Players are moving on to other games and eventually losing interest.

This reminds me of peak World of Warcraft; people played that game just to be near other people who played. After it peaked, people drifted away and never recovered that 'pop culture mindshare' position ever again. The OGL mess gave people a reason to leave, especially the hardcore players. Once people drift away in that macro sense, you never get them back.

But I have not given up hope on A5E or ToV. These are the future of 5E. An Open 5E. The market will never be as big, but the games, community, and adventures will be unique.

I liked the "also" 5E games, and they were easy ways to get 5E players looking into different genres and experiences. With the D&D VTT clearly fantasy, we are moving into players isolated in one genre only and camps forming dividing us - instead of having a game bring us together.

The Ruin game is an apt metaphor for the 5E market these days. With other systems taking players away, I doubt the market will recover like it was in 2022. Even if the 2024 version is massive (I expect a loss leader strategy, great books, and generous releases), there is still that pressure to monetize hanging over our heads.

Once you buy in, it will be hard to escape being trapped by that website. You and your players. Open 5E is like Linux; it will win in the end. There will be giant "consumer game releases" just like Windows did in the past, but give it 5-10 years. Open 5E will still be here. All my books will still be usable when 6E rolls around. Give it 20 years. Same story when we get the mythical 7E. Open 5E will be here. Like Linux, our distribution may differ, but it will still be open and accessible for distribution and improvement.

B/X and the OSR proved the model. They are already there.

We just need to believe in it for 5E.

People may want to forgive and forget the OGL mess, but if you open your eyes, the destruction and piles of abandoned and failed games litter the gaming landscape.

And it hurts 5E more than any other game.

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