Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Is WotC Afraid of B/X?

Amazing. All of the major editions of Dungeons & Dragons are now back in print, or will be shortly. Actual, real, material print. Yes, books:

Except one... Notice anything missing? How about the best selling (by far), and many would argue the best, version of D&D ever printed: The 1981 Basic / Expert sets. B/X - only the most popular RPG of all time. A game that sold millions of copies and changed the entire culture of gaming by bringing to a massive popular audience concepts like hit points, levels, character classes, etc. B/X is far and away the most played RPG ever.

It is true that B/X is now available for purchase as a PDF download. And the interesting thing is that it has been the hottest seller at RPG Now for weeks. Obviously there continues to be a hunger for this game.

So why doesn't WotC do a "Premium" print run of B/X for the types of nostalgic geezers that snapped up the AD&D reprints? If WotC wants to move books, surely a B/X reprint would be a no brainer, right? I mean, why in the world would they reprint OD&D before B/X? It doesn't make sense.

Well, there are two possible explanations that immediately come to mind. The more benign one is that WotC wants to do a B/X re-release right, and they are simply taking their time to design a great product.

The second explanation is that WotC is afraid B/X is too good and it will take market share from the 5e Basic Set (and, by extension, 5e Advanced). There are millions of us with B/X backgrounds that could easily jump right into this beautiful game. The two little books - B and X - are all you need for years of gaming. This game is so easy to understand. So well written. For the same reason that Labyrinth Lord is the most popular retroclone, I suspect that new and returning players would be much more attracted to B/X versus OD&D, AD&D, or 2e. And for 3.5 they would just go with Pathfinder.

WotC probably should be afraid of B/X and probably should not print it. And, despite the fact that I desperately love the old 1981 boxed sets, I actually would not be upset if WotC left B/X sitting simply as PDFs. Assuming 5e Basic will essentially be like B/X, but with a few updates like ascending AC and revised encumbrance, I would want it to succeed and to serve as a bridge between younger and older players. B/X is such a powerfully great game, a reprint might only contribute to the edition-driven fracturing between generations.