The Gassy Gnoll: Re-publishing Oddness

It’s a given that there will be some weirdness every day, regardless of whether it’s in the gaming community or not. There are distinct degrees of weirdness in my book… From “They took knives to a gunfight?” to the bizarre “He dressed up as a big rabbit and attended the board meeting…” And it doesn’t matter whether you chuckle, cry out, or let out a sigh of exasperation, you’ll never understand the motivations behind some acts no matter how hard you try.

Case in point… Wizards of the Coast is releasing premium hardcover editions of the 1st edition Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game to honor Gary Gygax‘ work to create the game with Dave Arneson. New pretty copies of the 1st edition Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Master’s Guide are coming out in just a few weeks (July 17). A portion of the sale of each book will help support the Gygax Memorial Fund and its efforts to immortalize Gygax with a statue in Lake Geneva, WI.

Gassy Gnoll

This effort isn’t weird for me (though WotC seems to have left Dave Arneson’s name out of it). It’s actually kind of a nice gesture, though the realist in me wonders how much of each $30-50 book’s price will actually make it into the memorial fund. That said, I think this falls into the “good thing” category.

Contrast that with this week’s announcement from WotC that they’re releasing similar premium reprints of 3.5 Edition books. Same pattern – Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual – are being re-released. And apparently they want to know what other “favorite content from v3.5” that fans would like to see made available again. According to the survey, this includes books like Fiend Folio, Savage Species, Monster Manual III, Spell Compendium and others published between 2003 and 2007 for 3/3.5e.

My inner skeptic is screaming at me, so I must say this seems a bit fishy. What are the motives behind this new effort to re-release expensive hardbound copies of these books? The only reasons I can come up with are… 1) To squeeze more money out of those folks who skipped 4th edition entirely. Or (2) to support the release of D&D Next, which seems to include some concepts from D&D 3.5e again. I’m leaning towards #1 here as the less than forthright reason.

If they were truly re-releasing these products with their customers in mind, why wouldn’t they go the electronic route? D&D fans have been clamoring for years for products to be released in electronic form. And if the reason is to offer more content in support of D&D Next, it would have to be cheaper to release waves of content (not just books, but modules and settings, box set contents, etc) as PDFs so *ALL* fans of the game could benefit equally. Make all the edition wars go away by simply making sure that everything is available eventually.

Not all at once mind you because it is a bit of a process to make sure everything is converted cleanly to electronic form. We don’t want scanned, cruddy PDFs – we want nice crisp, easy to read PDFs. So it would have to be a gradual process…

But why would they go this route if they’re already encouraging fans to try out the NEXT edition of D&D? 1st edition I get. 3.5? It just seems very weird to me.

Wouldn’t re-releasing some of the great modules of old from 2nd edition make more sense?

Anyone else getting that “greedy troll under the bridge” vibe?

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4 comments to The Gassy Gnoll: Re-publishing Oddness

  • Biggest reason that occurs to me (other than the startlingly obvious attempt to wring a few more bucks out of gamers’ pockets) is to try and win back all the Pathfinder fans. It’s a shame that 4th ed wasn’t very successful, especially with people who grew up with D&D and not WoW, but very easy to see why people who weren’t happy with jumped ship to Pathfinder. Trying to get them back at time when the entire gaming community seems to be talking about them (and other places too, there was an article on the BBC news website about the edition wars, for cripes sake) is a sensible move for the business.

    You are very right though, PDFs for all editions seem like something very possible, with only time getting in the way, and something that could finally appease us all. Well, all of us who play D&D that is.

    • Fitz

      @shortymonster – I thought of the Pathfinder competition angle myself, but dismissed it. I can’t imagine that with Paizo dominating that arena at the moment that WotC would try to bully its way back into that market. But maybe not…

  • This is just Hasbro-think. They re-release Monopoly all the time. It is bizarre in the gaming industry because companies rarely have the *option* to do deep reprints of their catalog. If Hasbro owned White Wolf, we’d probably see all of the Old World of Darkness come out as one leather-bound boxed set, instead of the 20th edition celebratory books that are dribbling out.

    But Hasbro has the cash and it’s in their marketing milieu to reprint things.

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