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The Douchey DM » RPG Industry BS » Edition War: Good for the Hobby

Edition War: Good for the Hobby

The Pre-OGL World

It’s the 1980s. There are hundreds of table-top role-playing games, but one stands above all others: Dungeons and Dragons. DnD has a sales market share of perhaps 60% — maybe more. How many people play DnD compared to other RPGs? No one can say for sure, but looking at the average convention game list, it seems pretty clear that DnD books sit on the majority of gaming tables.

Not only does TSR hold the fate of the hobby in they hands, they’ve got the hobby by the balls. Why?

If someone decides to try out this strange RPG hobby, they are very likely to try DnD — even more so if they don’t know any other role-players. When we describe our hobby to people, it usually ends with the epiphanic statement, “Oh, you mean like DnD!”


I think most people would agree that two things created the environment necessary for a real edition war: the OGL, and 4th Ed’s major departure from the previous edition.

Without the OGL, no single company could gain enough traction to take away any significant mark share from WotC. Without the major changes in 4th Ed, there wouldn’t have been a schism.

The OGL allowed the previous edition to continue to grow and flourish, and MANY players opted for this re-vamped version.  By some estimates, WotC’s previous market share is now split between DnD4E and Pathfinder.

Spoils of War

So a bunch of malcontents who insisted on clinging to the old edition groused and complained. They filled forums with flame wars about how much 4th Ed sucks. They were mad. They were pissed off. They hated what WotC did to the game — so much so, they flocked to Pathfinder.

We now have two companies that work for your business, rather than one company that expects your business.

If the edition war didn’t play out the way it did, if the grumpy old men playing 3.5 Ed. had just sat back quietly and not caused a fuss, what would the hobby look like today?








Written by

Stu Venable is the producer of Happy Jacks RPG Podcast and writer and editor of He is founder and director of the Poxy Boggards and a member of Celtic Squall. He holds a degree in Journalism and Public Relations from California State University, Long Beach. He is a husband and a father. He hates puppies.

Filed under: RPG Industry BS

7 Responses to "Edition War: Good for the Hobby"

  1. SirGuidoNo Gravatar says:

    You make some excellent points Stu. I really think that spreading the wealth across the gaming spectrum will always be a good idea.

  2. MarkNo Gravatar says:

    I do agree the schism between 3.5 resulted in a better environment for the consumer. More choices are always better. I still wonder how much gnashing of teeth would have occurred into today’s environment when TSR launched AD&D and again expanded the game in 2E. I’m certain there would have been major griping if the public resources had been available back then.

    Great point on the OGL. Opening the door is going to have substantial, on going ramifications.

  3. Dyson LogosNo Gravatar says:

    Seriously? We had huge edition wars back in the old days. Yelling matches at the gaming stores about 1e vs 2e vs 0e.

    And prior to the OGL, White Wolf scored a huge piece of the market share for a few years, supposedly even outselling D&D at one point according to the industry publications.

  4. ScottNo Gravatar says:

    The fact that we now have some real competition in the market doesn’t excuse the ugly behavior that brought it about. And it certainly doesn’t excuse the continued ugly behavior that we observe years after the fact.

  5. PackofGnollsNo Gravatar says:

    The ugly behavior is unavoidable. A lot of people are not receptive to change. A lot of people just like to argue. A lot of people like to think that they know what’s best for everyone. It was only called a “War” because the internet allowed the shrillest voices to amplify and organize and drown out the majority, who are really just people who like to play make-believe games every now and then.

  6. StuNo Gravatar says:

    @Dyson — The 3.5 v. 4 argument was amplified by the web — so much so, it was difficult not to notice. I personally don’t recall any actual arguments between AD&D players and 2nd ed players. That’s not to say they didn’t happen. Folks always gripe about the next edition — it’s human nature. But the severe reaction to the change — combined with the OGL — did something I don’t think anyone could have anticipated.

    I predict that the breaking of the DnD near monopoly — even if it is just different flavors of the D20 system — is going to have significant long-term effects on the hobby.

    WotC now has to work harder for their market share. I can’t see how that won’t benefit the consumer.

    As far as “ugly behavior” goes, I dunno, it’s not like anyone got shot or beat up. People call each other name, throw the word “Hitler” around, threaten to sue each other. It’s the internet. Whatever.

  7. JazzIsBluesNo Gravatar says:

    Excellent article as always Stu, very good points. As long as we’ve been gaming we’ve argued over what game was better than the other, which version was better, which subset of the rules was better the whole nine yards. All of which discussion if VERY good for the hobby and for all of us gamers.


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