A review of Wizards of the Coast
As posted on their facebook page.

Comments made as part of my Facebook review of WotC. I gave them two out of five stars.

Hey, that’s up from the review I would have given them 10 years ago.

In regards to MtG, I’ve been burned by WotC too many times before with cards being banned from common tournaments, reprinted, or constantly supplanted by other cards. It is impossible to build a quality deck without constantly investing in cards. And if you think WotC is concerned with the secondary card market at all you are sorely mistaken. As long as they make their money off the game they have met their goals.

In regards to D&D, I like that, after what I saw as years of version churn, who’s only purpose seemed to be to generate revenue by re-releasing the same manuals over and over for different editions, they finally seem to have a relatively decent and stable product line. I hope that they continue to make the effort to release original content for the system. While retreading “classic” content is welcome it should not be the primary focus.

In regards to the Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition rules themselves. It goes a great way towards being very accommodating to players, removing most of the restrictions and penalties involved in player choices. Ongoing rule clarifications and errata are welcome but these are often reinforce the permissive attitude of the rules and in my opinion results in characters that can do everything and do everything well.

While these rules tend to be kindly received by new and/or younger players and lend themselves well to short to moderate length campaigns, more experienced players often find them lacking in internal consistency, detail, and common sense restrictions. The result is, after even a short campaign, it is not unusual to become so powerful that it creates difficulty for DM’s to create scenarios that are consistent with the rules, challenging to the players, and still make enough sense that they are engaging.

Fifth Edition is also probably the mechanically simplest edition of D&D released since the basic boxes of the 70’s and 80’s. It equals and and some cases bests the simplicity of those earlier versions while still providing rules for starting through high level play.

While Fifth edition is an easy system to like it is also an easy system for hard-core gamers to dismiss. As mentioned earlier, there are very few restrictions during character creation and it is fairly easy to create characters that fill a variety of roles. In addition the skill system has evolved to the point that many obstacles that would have been considered challenges for the players to evaluate and overcome are now simply surmounted by the character having the appropriate skill and making a roll. In addition the skill system is very permissive. Not having a skill in something does not make it impossible, just a little less likely to be successful. The result is the game no longer feels like a tool that rewards creative problem solving and instead has evolved into a tool that promotes the creation of collaborative fiction.

The current big endeavor in the D&D space is DNDBeyond. Because this product is in early beta my thoughts on it can be summarized thusly; “High Hopes” and “Finally”

Early and abortive attempts were made by TSR/WotC in this space in conjunction with the third edition (TSR’s CD-Rom product) and the poorly received fourth edition. “Finally” is because, while early indications are WotC is putting significant effort into DNDBeyond, players have been demanding the convenience of an electronic reference since before 5e was released. WotC’s failure to have an electronic strategy in place since 5e’s inception has helped piracy and unlicensed apps thrive and has resulted in a loss of good will when WotC acts to shutdown or limit what the player base sees as useful tools.

I have “High Hopes” for DND Beyond as it seems to be slowly and methodically adding content and tools so it will become a quality collection of both.

My biggest concern for DNDBeyond is the cost model it eventually decides to implement. If you look at the existing electronic products that use official licenses, Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds, you will see tools built around the SRD with content from WotC’s published products available within those system at full retail cost. Many players, myself included, feel that when they buy the physical books they are in essence “buying the game.” They then obtain a small feature set from Roll20 or FG for free or an expanded feature set for a subscription. However if they want the convenience of accessing the content from the books within the context of Roll20 or FG they must again “buy the game” by again paying full retail for the books. DNDBeyond is adding a fourth platform to the mix which it seems will again require buying the books at full retail in order to have that content readily accessible and incorporated into the platform.

In my opinion “The rules of the Game” meaning the content of the published books should be platform agnostic. Subscriptions to the various only tools should cover the tools. The content, once purchased (either online or physically) should be able to be activated on the various platforms as a convenience fee. ($10 activation for a $50 book, $5 activation for a $30 book). The current system punishes users who want the play the game over a wide variety of platforms by almost requiring them to purchase the same content over and over again.

Stop punishing your customers for your own lack of a digital strategy. I truly believe this, but it is subject to change as DNDBeyond moves out of Beta and becomes an actual product. I hope they use it as a tool to serve and grow the player base and not as a money grab which will only further fracture the player base and drive off players.

I have no knowledge of the Duel Masters brand and will not comment on it.

In regards to Avalon Hill, I have played and thoroughly enjoy “Betrayal at House on the Hill.” I have also played several of their other games but in previous incarnations and will not comment on them as I do not know if they have changed. I will say I used to enjoy playing several Avalon Hill titles that are not currently available. I would love to see them re-released but do not doubt WotC’s concern about the size of the market. Many of the more complicated wargames work better (are more convenient) as electronic products.

They receive a 2.6 rating by glassdoor dot com with most concerns being about the managment skills of low to mid level managers and the leadership abilities of upper management. It should be noted that their parent company, Hasbro, has a 3.8 rating from glassdoor, indicating the problems are within WotC itself and not baggage from on high.

I do not and have not worked at WotC nor at any of their competitors.

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