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2007-09-28A big "fuck you" to Wizards of the Coast...

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...to go with the rounds of them that have been coming from the RPG publishing company in question recently. So it's aimed towards Hasbro as well, who own WotC, despite them handling another franchise I like (Transformers) rather better.

The short of it: in the run-up to another set of game rules (labelled fourth edition, but following the original Dungeons & Dragons game in myriad versions and boxsets, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, second edition, 3.0 and 3.5, each new iteration being published with shorter gaps in-between since the game was published in the 70s) the company are killing off the current Forgotten Realms timeline along with Dragon and Dungeon magazines. Oh, and Dragonlance, but I don't much care about that with the exception of an upcoming animated movie: http://www.dragonlance-movie.com/

The two announcements for posterity:

Skipping over my appreciation and mourning for Dragon as a magazine that used to make great travel reading, I like Forgotten Realms. It's a fantasy world setting that's been the basis of novels for almost twenty years. Created by Ed Greenwood (who sold the setting to TSR with some interesting contractual clauses that give him more input into development than most authors, whilst simultaneously making him a freelance writer) it's existed in one form or another with him for about twice that.

Upheaval and change are common enough in this setting, because its creator(s) are interested in a world that lives and breathes in the imagination rather than one in which it's unthinkable that, say, a popular character be killed off. This even extends to cosmology; the pantheon of its world's gods is tied to factors such as scale of worship — with mortals occasionally ascending into it, deities being killed and their responsibilities are taken on by others, etc. But specifics aside, my point is simply that things can — and sometimes do — change in the setting.

It isn't change that's the issue, only the pace of it. WotC's plan for 4E appears to be moving the FR timeline on by a century, which writes out most of the background characters that have been established. So if, like me, you've been reading the novels for ten or fifteen years, they're about to become an endangered species on release schedules — at least ones with storylines that link up with events/people in the rest of the world you know.

The hundred year gap people are responding to is based on some events in R. A. Salvatore's latest novel ("The Orc King") being told from that time-frame. It would seem to be confirmed by Ed Greenwood's recent comment:

(Summary: he has misgivings, but is sticking around to try to mitigate effects.)

Novels and game materials chronicling the changes haven't appeared yet, but other big changes to squeeze the setting into the 4E rule set are already apparent in a current product giving a timeline with notes and illustrations:

http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/4ex/20070911a
http://www.amazon.com/Grand-History-Realms-Forgotten/dp/0786947314/

(The big changes aren't mentioned in either of those links, though the Amazon US page will doubtless fill up with spoiler reviews once it's in wider circulation.)

So WotC are banking on 4E (i.e. changing enough stuff so that people buy new editions of core materials) and online subscription content (replacing the licensed magazines) being profitable revenue streams, but to do it they're alienating existing readers and gamers. By ending Dragon magazine they're also doing so in what's effectively a print media blackout, hoping everyone will remember they exist and follow along on the web.

I'll be buying A Grand History of the Realms at some point, because even though it's not a novel I'm a huge geek for trivia surrounding stories. Whether I pick up anything after that depends on the material linking in to the setting as I already know it. Not gaming myself, with no more Dragon to be bought whilst travelling, I suspect I'm just going to forget about D&D, FR and WotC for longer and longer intervals.

If you want more information about Forgotten Realms, try Wikipedia or there's an apparently decent fan wiki here — there are about two hundred novels tying in, with quality varying from generic to good escapist fiction. Ed Greenwood, Elaine Cunningham and R. A. Salvatore are a few particularly well-known writers for the line.

And an obligatory related swipe: even the worst FR authors aren't as dry as Tolkien...


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