Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dungeons and Dragons and Branding

So as I mentioned yesterday I've been following the D&D 4e leaks with slavish nerdevotion. There's a book coming out next month called Wizards Presents: Races and Classes, a 96 page teaser that 'reveals' some information about the (gasp) Classes and Races for 4e. Well it seems that the Hungarians get all the cool toys before we do, because the Races and Classes book is already out in Hungary and thus, the info has been seeping out to the rest of the world.

The biggest of the big news from the R&C book is the identity of the "mystery race" which has stirred no small amount of controversy as nerds all over the internet. The new race are the Dragonborn, who are apparently egg-laying lizard-people (despite laying eggs it seems the lady Dragonborn still have boobs judging from the halters they are wearing in the book art) and ostensibly replace the now-absent Half-Orcs as the Strength boosting race, although the class that they are most suited towards according to the book is the Warlord (which is a post for another time).

This got me thinking about the D&D brand. I'm not one to normally think in such crassly commercial terms (which is largely true) but let's be honest here, commercialism not withstanding, branding is important, it's what separates products and even something as nerdtastic as D&D is ultimately a product. As near as I can tell, so far as fantasy RPGs (and maybe even RPGs in general) go, D&D is the baseline that all others are measured against. I don't know that I'd go so far as to say it's the default but in a way it is, other fantasy RPGs seem to be differentiated chiefly by the ways in which they are different than D&D, different classes, different (usually furry) races, different something. D&D is classic Tolkien-esque fantasy; dwarves have beards, axes, beer and like caves. Elves are poncy fucks with ears and magic.

So how does D&D compete when it ultimately defines its own competition? I think this is one of the reasons we're seeing the Dragonborn race; it's different. It doesn't fit in with the established D&D tropes (ok well it kinda does but they usually reserve something like that for a splatbook a few years into the game) it's distinctly different and, thank the gods, it's not another fucking kind of elf. I'm not wowed by the Dragonblooded myself but I'm not in fanboy rage over them either. Like everything with 4e I'm largely reserving judgement until I see the crunch and fluff side by side. It's not a safe choice, and I applaud that even if it fails, they could have gone with hobgoblins or half-giants or (gods forbid) Drow. Will it work? Maybe, the development team for 4e is truly an excellent group of designers who are really trying to learn from the victories and failures of 3rd Ed and 3.5, and I think they just might pull it off.

An introduction

Well I'll be honest, I'm not entirely certain what I'm getting myself into here. I suppose it's a classic story, guy spends too much damned time on the internet and then *bam!* the internet gets its hooks into you. One minute you're reading a webcomic and the next minute you're blogging. What is the world coming to?

I created the Dice Bag blog (oh god, what e-folly that name is) so that I could have a place to ramble about gaming and other nerdly pursuits and so that I could be cool and a have a blog like all those cool people I read so much about on blogs.

So what sort of gaming am I going to be talking about? Chief on my mind these days is the upcoming D&D 4e, the teasers and leaked info of which have turned me into a drooling fanboy. Seriously, I've even started posting on the 4e forums (although only to make it clear that the apparent exclusion of the Bard from the PHB 1 is a good thing). I'm in one active table top game right now, an Iron Heroes game set in the Warhammer universe that my good friend Rick runs, which has been one of the most engaging and interesting games I've ever played in. I was in two other TT games that are currently on hiatus, one D&D game in a custom setting, the other an Eberron game.

I'm also a LARPer, no not a boffer LARPer, I'm a member (for good or ill) of the Camarilla, the White Wolf fanclub. I don't know that I'll discuss that much here, it's pretty specific and if you're not in the thick of it it's probably a remarkably dull read.

On occasion I indulge in video games as well, not much of a console player these days, but I am a pretty big fan of City of Heroes, even if my account is currently inactive (I'm really hoping that NCSoft gives us a free weekend with the launch of i11). Hopefully I'll be able to get back on CoH soon and will talk about that too.

So there, a proper introduction. Thanks for reading, glad to have you.