Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Hey, Mike Mearls...

...what the fuck happened to Basic D&D?

I know I spent the last couple months doing a lot of holiday traveling and whatnot, but I distinctly remember this celebration of Wizards of the Coast because they were so awesome as to release the Basic Rules as a free PDF. Does anyone else remember that?

Remember how I said, 'hey people: this isn't a complete game?' To which everyone pointed me to the articles on WotC's web site stating that the game was going to be released in installments/updates (along with the hardcover "advanced" 5E volumes) until the end of the year? People around here remember that, yeah?

In fact, what I remember specifically is this quote:
For the D&D basic rules, our initial release will include character creation. It features the human, elf, dwarf, and halfling for races along with the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard classes, all from 1st level to 20th level. As the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master's Guide near completion, we'll add to the basic rules with more material to grow into a complete game. Our goal is to continue to make updates to the basic rules for D&D until the end of the year, at which point it will be feature complete.
- from Mike Mearls 6/30/2014 (emphasis added by me)

Yes, I remember also an earlier article (from May 27th) that said the Basic PDF would be expanded in August to include "the DM rules needed to run the game along with the rules for wilderness, dungeon, and urban adventuring." But I figure the June article's later "end o year" timeline was an update to a more realistic release date. That's why we like updates, yeah?

So WTF happened?

I can say this for sure: the last "Basic Rules" update occurred 11/3/2014 and added two new magic items to the "Basic DMG" (Keoughtom's ointment and cloak of elvenkind for those who are curious). We're now in 2015 and there's still no information on how to run a game or build adventures. 

At the beginning of December, Mearls announced the end of his Legends & Lore articles, stating that "the process is complete, for the time being," and that "the process of launching fifth edition is over." There is no mention of the Basic Rules or any future updates intended for the PDFs. Nor do I find any other articles or news items on the web site discussing forthcoming changes or new push backed timeframes for the Basic Rules to become a complete game. In fact, other than the additional two magic items added with the 3rd update of the DMG, the main difference I find is the removable of the sidebars that say "Works in Progress!" Apparently, these are no longer WIPs. They're not complete, but it doesn't appear any further progress is going to be made.

Hey! Remember when Mike Mearls wrote:

"With just the Basic Dungeons & Dragons rules, you can play D&D for years."

Fuck you, Mearls. No you can't.

It would appear that I was right when I said this whole thing was a bunch of bullshit, a PR move designed to get a bunch of positive press for a company that was on the ropes, and an enticement to the rubes to shell out yet more money for yet another edition of Dungeons & Dragons. The whole puffery of wanting to get the core game into the hands of as many people as possible...for free!...growing the hobby with a new generation of fans was simply a huge, steaming pile. You can't play Dungeons & Dragons with these PDFs; they have less information on creating and running a game then the original white box edition.

[that's information, by the way...not "word count." For all the lack of real info in the PDF, it's no slack in the extra wordiness department]

But, hey...I realize I may not be the demographic WotC is trying to win over here (the "sucker" demographic?). In fact, I know I'm not, judging by how much new D&D product I've purchased since 2002 ($0 unless you're counting the AD&D reprints which aren't actually "new" product)...if I am their target, then they are really shit at appealing to my wallet.

All right...well, it's good to see I'll be as irritable in 2015 as I was last year. Jeez, JB. I'm going to go take a nap (I'm still a bit under the weather). Hopefully cheerier posting later.
; )


  1. Hm, it looks like my comment went missing so I'll try again. If it appears twice, sorry.

    Anyway, I defended Wizards at the time but it seems you were right. They've just announced a web version of the rules but it's the same content as the basic pdf so I don't know what the big deal is. They're also making a big fuss about an open gaming licence but seeing as third parties are already producing stuff it's a bit late.

    I don't think they have any idea what they're doing and we're lucky that they've managed to produce anything at all, let alone anything half decent.

  2. I'm shocked, shocked to find the WOTC deceiving their customers in this manner!

    Ooo, winnings.

  3. Oh well. Even if they gave it to you, all you'd have is WotC D&D anyway. "Free" isn't low enough a price for the shit they produce.

    1. Have you checked out their recent products? If you have and still think they are crap then that is fine...but if you haven't then you are a fool.

    2. I love this answer of Callin's.

      Thing is, if it looks like crap, smells like crap and sits in the bottom of the bowl like crap, I'm biologically compelled to treat is as something that will make me feel ill. Granted, yes, I haven't tried it, but there are limits to the sort of personal experimentation I'm willing to consider.

    3. Then your opinion lacks any backing and can be safely ignored.

    4. Whew, that's a good thing. I don't want anyone dangerously ignoring me. I would never forgive myself.

    5. "Have you checked out their recent products?"

      Have you wondered what the next level is beyond, "Fool me twice, shame on me?"

  4. The current Basic Rules are more than enough to run a game of 5E D&D. You want them to add everything from the PH, MM and DMG to make it "complete" and get a free game. Cheapskate. Go out buy the books or play the Basic game which is more than enough to run a game with.

    1. There, JB. It doesn't matter what the WOTC said or what things it failed to do. The whole problem clearly lies in you, daring to consider paying money for things from a company as something you have a right not to do. Cheapskate.

    2. Obviously viewpoints differ, but I see the Basic Rules as being complete for a free game. Also obviously, some do not.

  5. And really why do any you even care? You've already decided (some without even looking at it) that 5E and WotC is a failure. Is this some form of vindication of your hatred for their past mistakes? Is it soothing?

    1. Yes, why? It's only a company that's lied about its intentions! It's not like that's important to people who play a game the company is responsible for. Damn, it's like this game matters to you people or something!

      What's wrong with you?

    2. but they didn't lie. I also happen to like the new game as do my players. The difference here is that I actually took a look at it. Do I like everything about the new game? Not at all - I could write a long list of why their first big adventure was a pile of crap.
      But again, they didn't lie to me...I didn't expect (or even hope for) more than it was.

    3. See, JB? They didn't lie to Callie. So everything is fine.

      Just don't lie to Callie.

    4. Callin: thx for your relaxed answers. I like a good rant - but readers who hate boos they haven't read? It's just like some of the reviewers on amazon who give 1 out of 5 stars because they don't like the content of a book or hate the author or whatever... but never even took the time to read through the first chapters.

  6. I half agree with you.

    On the one hand, yeah, there's stuff missing. On the other hand, it *is* playable as-is, if you already know how older D&D works.

    WotC did deliver what was promised. Mearls said at some point that the "Basic Game" was never intended as an introductory game -- that would be the starter set -- but as something for experienced players of previous editions and beginners who want to move beyond the starter set. So, no "how to play the game" section. Who needs that? No "how to design an adventure", although there's a "how to design an encounter" section, which also ties into the WotC concept of "adventure" as a series of combat encounters.

    So, it's a complete game, from a WotC viewpoint of what D&D is really about. That just happens to be a bad viewpoint, from your perspective and mine.

  7. There's too much ink spilled that I have not yet read on OD&D for me to pick up another new edition ^_^

  8. I don't get the anger. If you don't like 5e then why do you want basic 5e? If you do want it, why fault WotC for not completely given away something they spent years working on? I agree Mearl's comments made it sound like they were going to put more into basic than they have but personally I'm glad they have started supporting old school DnD, with the cheap PDFs, the reprints. Short of reprinting B/X I can't really imagine how they could support old school gaming more actually.

    1. It's not that WotC didn't release the game for free, it's that they didn't make due on their promises. Had they not told people "Hey, we're releasing this free product and it's gonna have all these features," then he wouldn't be complaining. Hell, I doubt JB would even care that much if they did but everyone else saw through them like he did. Probably would've left things at the "bullshit" post and left it at that. This post is about WotC deceiving people and getting away with it

    2. Getting away with what? They put some of the rules for the new game out there for free. No, it's not Moldvay Basic. It wasn't supposed to be, Talysman summarized that well.

      Look, JB, when you write about game stuff I tend to enjoy it and I won't let a player at my table finish char gen without rolling for their headgear and I have you to thank for that but I think this anger is silly and the personal attack against Mearl's is rude and misplaced.

    3. "Getting away with what?"

      Getting away with releasing a pile of World of Warcraft/Magic the Gathering shit and calling it D&D. Three times.

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    1. @ Antonio:

      I appreciate your candor...and your past support.

  10. I don't quite get the anger here. I have been playing this game (D&D) and many, many others since the 70s.

    I have played and ran every version of D&D there is.
    You know what?

    There isn't a damn thing wrong with 5e. In fact it is a fine game.

    I have been playing it now for a while and it's a lot of fun. It is right up there with 1st Ed AD&D and Moldvay Basic.

    If you want to stick with the game you like. Great. Wonderful. More power to you!

    But if you have actually played this game then how do you know anything about it?

    Now topic at hand. The Basic Rules. Come on. Really? This is what we are going to complain about. "Oh noes! A company spokeperson has fallen slightly short of my expectations of them."

    The game is out there and it's free.
    They may add more in the future. Or they may not.

    But honestly between it and the Starter set I was able to run plenty of games all summer long.

    Here is the tl;dr from an old-school gamer.
    - D&D 5 is fun.
    - The Basic set is a great place to start with it.

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  12. I miss reading about B/X D&D on your blog

    1. @ Ghost:

      I know how you feel. At least this was SOMEWHAT game related and not just another post about football or Paraguay.

  13. I dunno. I think people are getting their panties in a bunch over relatively minor issues.

    Mearls may have mislead, or he may have given what he thought was accurate information at the time. Either way, "Meh". I'm not sure it really matters.

    I agree it would be nice to have a more complete set of rules for novices, especially on the DMing front. I've written several blog posts of my own on that topic.

    But... for players who have familiarity with the D&D genre already, the Basic Rules PDFs actually do give you enough content to run a campaign, because it gives you the information you need to kit-bash using OSR resources, or your own home brew stuff.

    So, for an experienced DM,the PDFs are fairly sufficient and comments to the contrary are mostly over-reactive nerd rage.

    Would it be good to have more? Yes, absolutely... I even advocate that position.

    But the enhancements desired are not worth frothing at the mouth.