February 20, 2015

5E Friday - Forgotten Realms

I'm not sure why WotC is sticking with Forgotten Realms as the default setting for 5E*. It doesn't look like there will be any specific Forgotten Realms sourcebook coming out for 5E, so there is no money to be made from the setting itself. Is it because FR is generic enough that they can produce any set of adventures and have them set in FR without any extra work? Is it that they think they can slap the Forgotten Realms name onto a generic product and assume they will get some sales just from the name?

I have a bunch of the FR products all the way back to when it first came out. I like the setting, however...I am tired of WotC always going to FR for their setting. I want something new, something exciting - and changing FR is not the excitement I am looking for. New and fresh is the thing I am looking for.

The most recent new setting was Eberron. Did Eberron not sell as well as FR material? I know there were a lot of books out for the setting, but to me it never seemed to reach the heights of FR. Is putting the FR label on a book more effective for generating sales than putting on an Eberron label?

I know there was much talk about the multitude of 2E settings (FR, Planescape, Ravenloft, Birthright, Dark Sun, Al-Qadim, Greyhawk, Spelljammer) as being a catalyst for the downfall of TSR. They simply couldn't support the lines at a profit - too much customer money was spread over too many lines. Are they worried about diluting the 5E customer money by supporting FR and other settings.

or...are they out of new ideas. Are they incapable of producing a new setting that won't be compared to an earlier setting. If they do a dark, gritty setting will people just say its the 5E version of Dark Sun? If they make it generic will it be "just another Forgotten Realms". They can't make a new horror or kingdom management or arabian or plane-hopping setting without drawing comparisons to their older lines. Can they not come up with a new setting that doesn't remind people of other, previous settings?

Is WotC scared of producing a new setting and having it fail?

I am trying to understand why the Forgotten Realms is the default setting for 5E. Or more to the point, why aren't they producing a completely new setting?

*Recently D&D's brand director, Nathan Stewart stated "The Forgotten Realms is the universe that we at Wizards of the Coast are focusing our storytelling in for the foreseeable future"


Nicholas Bergquist said...

I think we have the audience to thank for this one. Forgotten Realms is what draws the most people, so WotC has been disincentivized from expanding to new turf. Eberron, as good as it was, didn't draw enough new purchasers to give it the sticking power. They did try a new setting for 4E (Nentir Vale) which was actually pretty neat, a sandboxy-sort of setting that was nto done justice by the 4E mechanics (imo), but again I think the products that focused on Nentir Vale didn't get the traction. Now, WotC has such a small staff and by necessity needs to maintain such a small focus that I think they are leveraging FR for all its worth: they are keeping the brand where the novels are (seriously, everey bookstore in town has a shelf of FR novels up) so that they don't diversify. There's only...what...6 or 7 developers on D&D at this point actually working on the tabletop game, so I think they simply lack the resources to expand into new turf, and probablyhave a mandate from above to keep it all profitable....so FR it is.

I can see their point, though. Every old gamer I play with has a thing for the FR these days; it seems to be a setting that has managed to remain contemporary while also pulling the nostalgia strings for a lot of people. This annoys me, if only because as a player I'd rather run around in Greyhawk or Eberron....anywhere else other than FR.

Mike Bridges said...

I agree on the Nentir Vale observation. Eberron was a success albeirt for a short term. The model they need to follow sadly is Pathfinder's Golarion. It's a world created by long term designers with added support from the community in the form of their organized play and RPGSuperstar searches. There is no sign of Golarion slowing down.
Meanwhile, WotC nibbles at the edges of a stale FR for yet another year while leaning on its other properties like Greyhawk for "fresh" ideas.

Charles Akins said...

This post was excellent so I added a link to it in my Best Reads of the Week series. Thank you so much for working on it and putting it out!


Callin said...