JP On Gaming

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Predictions of Doom: 4e, RPGA, LFR

I read with some amusement about the apparent demise of 4e, LFR and the RPGA announced on EnWorld and the Paizo Forums. In a rare instance, I will not jump onto the bandwagon of doom. That’s right... Mark your calendars folks! I do not think this is the death of any of the above. Those animals need to be taken separately as to what I predict will happen. This post is bound to include a number of predictions of doomtm.


Ever since the arrival of 4e, WotC re-branded everything: the game, the logos, the presentation, the art. Everything! The common use of RPGA has been disappearing in favor of newer brands and terms. We now have the WPN or Wizards Play Network. I don’t read much into this re-branding, other than WotC’s desire to link people’s minds that D&D = WotC and not D&D = RPGA. My own company does it on an irregular basis: change the logo, bring in a new mission statement, move a few directors around, etc.

I guess the question is: what was the RPGA? Before it got turned into the WPN, I mean.

Starting around 2003, the RPGA began to drop many of its organized play campaigns (such as Living City, Living Jungle, Living Dragonstar and later Living Rokugan, Living Arcanis and Living Force. What remained? Living Greyhawk was the flagship and the D&D Campaigns (Green Regent and Mark of Heroes) supplemented play.

As far back as 2006, I started to consider the RPGA as "just" a marketing tool. A very efficient one at that - so I believe. By the time 4e started in 2008, you had the dying gasps of LG and LFR which was coming on-line. That was it. Came 2009, LG was gone and LFR was what the RPGA offered.

Like many things, brands, names and images have power. How many of us saw the red box, picked it up and said I haven’t seen those in twenty years! NICE! Then you learned it was 4e and either swiftly put it back on the shelf or bought a copy. While some people might have liked or disliked the RPGA, it was one thing you knew you could count on: you would have a seat at a game table.

That said, I think the RPGA, its logos and its presentation is on the way out. WotC will let it sleep for a few years then re-brand it for 5e with new logos, new colors and a big fanfare. With the re-launch of the of the RPGA! the universe will be at peace once again. You heard it here first, folks! That’s my prediction of doom. The RPGA will re-rise like a phoenix with WotC saying that they listened to their fans and brought it back.

I mean when the RPGA was formed, it was to promote play and unification. It was for GAMERS, to provide an umbrella of legitimacy to cons and game events.

Living Forgotten Realms

The news that LFR was getting dumped by WotC hit last summer. I was not overly surprised by it. Being over LFR, my emotional reaction was indifferent. With some time to digest this, I think this might be the best thing that could have happened to the campaign. Yes, I believe that!

Pick your jaw off the floor.

A number of factors contribute to this. First, WotC and its edicts are no longer the only driving force behind the campaign. This should allow the authors and admins to gain additional freedom and putting what WotC refused us in the adventure.

1 - A strong storyline.

2 - Role playing encounters that don’t start and end with Make a Diplomacy check, get some *ROLE*.

3 - More creative adventure writing and formatting.

4 - Interactives. That would be a winner on their part, but seeing blogs from Gregg Marks, I doubt it will happen. Though now it doesn’t matter... I was very happy to see Timmy’s LFR interactive happen this past weekend. It was a huge draw (only problem is that it was all day). Interactives are the one place where they could make some huge gains over Pathfinder Society. Special and unique content brings people to cons and to the table. Like everything in LFR: It doesn’t matter.

5 - Consequences... I make a lot of fun about LFR and saying that the campaign’s motto is It doesn’t matter. But now with them gaining some freedom over the content and story, I truly believe this might change. I HOPE it will change.

6 - Finally I doubt it will die in the blink of an eye. It will die slowly, after a long agony. That is because of the many dedicated fans and volunteers who week-in week-out run the campaign. Those volunteers who spent a lot of energy on 4e want to see it succeed, but I fear it is a losing battle. Denver has a big LFR community that will remain thriving for the coming year or two. As long as Paizo and Pathfinder keep up what they are doing, more and more people will be migrating back to the more stable game system - I don’t see a Pathfinder 2e coming out next year.

7 - Another prediction of doom: Unless there is a big change in Campaign Admin staff, I doubt much will change from what it is now. The campaign directors have been too close for too long to really come up with new ideas.

4e’s Future

Now, I do believe that the 4e ship has come and gone. WotC gambled on the edition war and lost, thinking they could simply dictate what people would like/ play and simply guess wrong. Two and a half years after its release and the community is still heavily divided about 4e. Going back to 2002, the same time after 3e and very few people still played 1e/2e. Most D&D games had moved on to 3e or some variant of 3e.

Will 4e disappear tomorrow? No. Far from it! 4e fans will still enjoy their game. Their numbers will dwindle until only the die-hards remain.

Now no prediction post about the future of 4e would be complete without word of 5e. Ever since 4e was announced, 5e was in people line of sight. With the Essentials/ Red Box being released, which WotC CLEARLY avoided marketing as 4.5 (even though it IS a half-edition). This 4.5 will be around for about another 2 years and at Gencon 2013 - mark your calendar folks...

Gencon 2013

At Gencon 2013, you will be given the chance to experience 5e in all its glory. After all, they will say, 4e lasted 5 years (avoiding all references to 4.5). After all this time the game needed an overhaul. Your 4e stuff will become unusable and obsolete.

Good news: 5e will clean up the game, save the universe, make you a chocolate sundae, tell you when to shower, give you a dream job and provide you with a voucher to make the rain stop! In short, it will be perfect from day one! In those blessed days, 4e will be reviled as the devil itself and proof that gamers in those days were forced to play with sub-optimal and incomplete games...

Ahhh 5e, you will be so perfect that Jesus himself will come down from Heaven a second time to run a game of Eberron using you. Buddha will break his eternal bliss and play a 5e ranger. Mohammed himself will reveal to his people that the 72 virgins in Heaven form 12 tables of 5 5e players, each with their own sets of dice and rulebook. As you can see there will no longer be wars in the world and everything will be right. Oh happy day!

That is, if you drink the Cool-Aid. Remember at Gencon 2007 how bad and horrible they said 3e was? How they spent a full year pointing out problems in the system (many that weren’t)? How obsolete and monstrous 3e had become? How terrible a system it was? How they could not understand how people could play it? How so easy and fun it was? How cluttered the game had become with all the supplements?


Yep, yep, yep.

You’ll hear it again I’m afraid.

WotC missed the point that they simply cannot discard the old-guard and simply focus on new players. Today’s game community has just so many rpgs to play. Assuming your old guard will follow to 5e simply because you said so is simply not realistic.

It was true in 1989 when 2e came out.

Twenty years later, the situation has changed.


4e won’t just go away just yet. It is still supported and has many very loyal fans who will continue to make the game run and have a local presence. While 4e has many issues, that make me recoil in its presence, it’s not dying. Nor will it simply vanishing out of existence.

The RPGA as a brand is being phased out only to rise like a phoenix in a few years’ time. I mean... I’ve been hearing WHAM! Songs on the radio recently... and if that can come back... *Shudders*

And LFR may actually experience a renaissance of sorts. Away from WotC’s stranglehold and by allowing more freedom to authors and administrators, allow ideas from the community to influence and shape the campaign.



  1. Speaking purely from a fan's point of view, I really hope WotC realizes that they can have different versions of the game in print at any given time and not hurt sales. It's like taking classic Risk off the shelves because they came out with Risk 2210. There's room for both, and they're missing an opportunity by pretending older editions don't exist.

  2. This is probably the first post I've ever seen where I agree 100%.

  3. I went to the 4e announcement at Gen Con and even then I was amazed that they would bash 3e like they did. I understand everyone has different preferences and I have nothing against 4e players, but 3e is my favorite edition. Sitting there being told my preferred edition stunk, by the company that published it was one of the craziest things I've ever seen.

  4. That's weird. 3e was my favorite edition before 4e came out, too. And yet, for some weird reason, I didn't feel personally offended by ANY stretch by what I heard during 4e's release. And neither did TONS of other gamers in my same exact shoes.

    I think it might be time to consider that it had nothing to do with the fact that 3e was your favorite edition, and everything to do with the fact that you just didn't like the changes you were being told about.

    The reality (I know, tough to recall with all these inflamed opinions floating around!) of the situation is that you weren't told that 3e stunk (granted, an ADMIRABLE attempt at historical revisionism on your part). You were told that certain portions of 3e were not as fun as they could be. You were told that certain design concepts were outdated. You were told that they'd figured out better ways to do these things.

    And, best of all, you were told all these things BY THE PEOPLE WHO DESIGNED THE GAME IN THE FIRST PLACE, making them more qualified than anyone else to present scathing criticisms of their own game. After all, if the people who WROTE THE GAME thought that something about the game needed work, they're probably right.

    No, what happened was you heard all these things, and you DISAGREED with them. But you, just like the rest of the small horde of nerdraging fans, can't actually handle disagreement. Instead of merely disagreeing with them - and, in the process, coming up with an outlook on the whole thing along the lines of, "Hmm, I don't think these changes will be to my liking, but I will reserve judgment until I have experienced those changes firsthand or have had such experiences related to me by those I trust," - you took the game designers' decisions to criticize portions of THEIR OWN GAME that you liked as a personal offense.

    THAT is one of the craziest things I've ever seen.

    I mean, DANG, 3e fans. If you decided to take the game designer's criticisms of their own game as personal insult because you like that game, imagine how your criticisms of 4e would come across to 4e fans if they shared your same attitude towards looking to be offended. You have even LESS credibility than the game's designers when it comes to being in a position to criticize their game, and yet we see 3e fans telling 4e fans that our edition of choice stinks CONSTANTLY.

    The hypocrisy would be laughable if it weren't for the fact that it has played an enormous part in making the D&D community one of the ugliest fan communities out there. And that's really saying something.

  5. A well considered post, I pretty much agree with everything you say here.

    @Scott - Dude, look at yourself.

  6. @Scott-> I couldn't just reply in a few words... So I did a whole post for you:
    4e is the New Coke

  7. @Scott -> Just watch this video from WOTC and listen how 4th is touted as, for example, "...making character advancement fun and meaningful..."

    Yeah, they TOTALLY never bashed 3rd... o.O

  8. This is interesting. I only starting playing D&D in earnest about a year ago, so I started with 4e and missed the brunt of the edition wars.

    It's often seemed to me that the edition wars consisted of fans of older editions being unhappy with the newer edition, but I never really saw the reverse - fans of the newer edition bashing the old. It sounds like WotC did some of the older edition bashing themselves when they rolled out 4e. I get that they were trying to convince people that the new edition was worth upgrading to, but this seems like a bad way to do it.

    Was there / is there a lot of ill will from fans of 4e toward the older editions? I'm guessing there must be; it wouldn't be much of a war if the animosity only flowed one way.

    Personally, I like 4e, but I also like the older editions from the little exposure I've had to them. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, but as long as you're playing with good people you'll have a good game (at least in my limited experience).

  9. OnlineDM, you are 100% right that most of us 4e-haters are tend to be the ones who go on the offensive.

    As a newcomer to 4e, you come to the game with a fresh new look. In short you are the person WotC wanted to bring in.

    The thing is... What they did for 4e is the same they did for 2e->3e except the 3e conversion was a CLEAR improvement over 2e.

    It is still highly debated whether 4e is a better product to 3e (Pathfinder sales seems to indicate "not really").