Target Audiences

Posted by davidludwig
Apr 22 2011

Sheya level 14 continued is now up and accessible via the Pages Navigation to the right (that’s getting kind of big, isn’t it? Wonder if there’s some way to make the lists collapseable and expandable?) or via the Niar Saga main story page. Also in honor of reaching 3,000 page views I’ve added a page about Yuki, the family movie I wrote previously mentioned as one of my other works on the About page. So now when we reach 4,000 page views I’ll have to put up a page for another of my stories that I haven’t previously mentioned on this site.

I’m thinking probably either Leona Banisher or Team Neo-Shield Front… Both are series, the first being a fantasy set in Niar (same world as Niar Saga) and the second being more of a sci-fi/fantasy.

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about today was D&D. So if you’re just here for the story go read that instead. If you care about my thoughts on D&D and target audiences though that’s what the rest of this post is going to be.

See, I was really disappointed with D&D 4th Edition when it came out–my opinion has since mellowed but at the time I actually was vehemently opposed to everything it stood for. Now it seems that D&D 4th Edition has shifted over to the 4.5 edition that Wizards of the Coast committed to not doing when 4th Edition first came out. See back in 3rd Edition (my edition of choice, though I also have significant experience with 2nd Edition, and at least have some of the books for 1st Edition though I haven’t played) after the system had been out for a while they found there were a lot of problems with it and things they could have done better. So they re-released the core books in a new 3.5 format that addressed those problems while still being essentially the same edition. I strongly feel the changes there were improvements, and since the new books were released before I switched over to 3rd edition I was able to just start with them. Overall worked quite well for me, but understandably a lot of people were distressed about having the same three core books released over again with rule changes but for practical purposes the same content.

Then we get to 4th Edition and they commit to using websites and errata in the back of new books to keep the rules current instead of doing a 4.5 Edition. Good publicity if nothing else, and I figured they could probably pull it off. But then they release “D&D Essentials”, which seems to in fact be the 4.5 Edition they committed to not doing–granted under a different name. All statements by Wizards say this is not the case, that regular 4th Ed will continue and that Essentials is a purely optional alternate way into D&D. I see no evidence to support that though. The new Heroes of Shadow Book (not marked as an Essentials product) seems to use the Essentials rules, and honestly I couldn’t understand most of it with not being familiar with Essentials, so I picked up some of the Essentials Books.

Bottomline, I think that Essentials actually makes regular 4th Ed look good in comparison–and I still consider regular 4th Ed inferior to 3rd Ed. Having given it a lot of thought I think the issue is that D&D started as a Role-Playing Game, where the rules weren’t always clear and play required imagination from everyone involved. The emphasis was on the Role-Playing, because honestly without that there were probably better games out there. That’s what got me into D&D though, is the superior Role-Playing experience, because I can easily get ahold of other games if I just want a game. The depth of the Role-Playing is what made D&D special.
By 3rd Edition I think it was a Role-Playing Game, where the rules had been fine-tuned and developed to the point that they were an equal part of the game to the Role-Playing. This was the perfect edition for me, because it was fun to play as a game but still left you with the freedom and vagary to really focus on Role-Playing in an environment where it still felt like if you could justify it you could do it–in contrast to say 2nd Edition where in my experience it was more if you could think of it you could do it because the rules were even less defined there. So 3rd Edition (or 3.5 if you want to be specific) was my edition.

Now we’re on the 4th Edition and “Essentials” (aka 4.5), and D&D has become a Role-Playing Game. The rules are so tightly refined and balanced, and your options are so clearly and neatly laid out for you they introduce a mental block to doing anything not covered by the rules, not to mention difficulty running the game knowing it’s addicted to its perfect character balance where some of the crazier ideas I’ve seen implemented in past editions are not only not directly supported by the rules but potentially game-breaking because they would let a character do something that isn’t written on their character sheet. 4th Edition is very approachable, easy to pick up and play, very beginner and busy-individual friendly… But it feels like the Role-Playing is being phased out to make it more of a game. Essentials continues this trend, to where your character is virtually built for you with very little opportunity for customization let alone creative thinking once you get them out on an adventure. It’s still a good game, but is getting closer and closer to something that could be programmed into a video-game and no longer require live players.

Heck, Essentials maybe could work just as well as a video-game. All of this is a valid choice on the part of Wizards of the Coast, but frustrating for me because it’s not what I personally want. They’re drawing in new players (presumably) and making the game more generally accessible, but there’s nothing there anymore for people like me who want a game system that defines how a world works for you then leaves you free to play in it. Anymore the rules seem to have rather little to do with the world, that’s no longer relevant, now they’re just what you can do. A finite, specific, and clear list of what you can do. That’s no longer Role-Playing to me.

So I’ve finally figured out that I’m no longer the target audience for Dungeons and Dragons, they want to draw new players in who aren’t necessarily as into the whole Role-Playing thing. But for us story-tellers and role-players of bygone generations… Well we’re getting old and probably going to die out anyway, so they don’t care if they lose us now or later. It’s a sad truth, but seems to be the case. Still, it’s good to actually know that I’m no longer the target audience for D&D so I can start putting what little money I have toward things that might make me happy.

It does bring into question who the target audience for my writing is though… Because the disappointment with D&D does make me think I need to know who my audience is and take pains not to betray them or their expectations. I’m guessing that my writing probably resonates most with the young adult fantasy/anime crowd, and that by keeping vibrant characters, cool action and attention to plot and character development I can keep my audience happy.

Though please let me know in comments if I do something right or wrong so I can factor that into the ongoing process.

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