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2017-11-19Hasbro / Wizards of the Coast have mothballed another thing I love

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It doesn't seem like ten years since I was writing "A big fuck you to Wizards of the Coast…" with the announcement that WotC / Hasbro had cancelled Paizo's licence to produce Dragon Magazine, cancelled Dragonlance and were introducing 4th Edition Forgotten Realms, moving the timeline forward by a century and wiping out a majority of the established supporting characters.

Last year, whilst I was too busy to notice (although I did buy several of the books released in the period running up to the it) Hasbro killed off Forgotten Realms fiction: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?492065-Is-R-A-Salvatore-s-quot-Hero-quot-the-last-Forgotten-Realms-book

Which makes me feel bad about supporting Hassenfeld Brothers and their bigger properties such as Transformers, if I'm honest. Despite a typically casual attitude to licensing that includes sale of classic D&D material as PDFs and allowing whole properties to Amazon for use in fanfiction – https://www.cnet.com/news/g-i-joe-and-veronica-mars-fan-fiction-headed-to-amazon/ – there's been nothing similar with FR, some authors banding together as https://www.onderemporium.com/ to create new fictional universes but a whole lot of nothing for fiction set in the TSR game worlds that established many of them. Even a Kindle Worlds style deal would have left the door open to new material, whereas now it seems as though even NYT list mainstays such as R.A. Salvatore have seen support disappear.

Say what you like about the circumstances in which Wizards acquired D&D – sample rant at https://1d4chan.org/wiki/Lorraine_Williams (site comes with a content warning but is often very insightful) – there was always plenty to read; not all gems, and in the case of tightly focused settings such as Dragonlance arguably overdone and distracting, but people had options.

I can't really see some sort of publishing approach not having been pursued by anyone else, which implies that WotC / Hasbro are the blocking party and prefer to let the settings be dormant (in fictional terms; there's been a trickle of gaming material appearing to go with a 5th Ed. D&D) rather than kept in circulation and a cut earned.

Licensing has been looked at for 5E adventure content, presumably for the same reasons newspapers take on interns, except there's a strategy for making it pay for all involved:

http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/news/dungeon-masters-guild-now-open

And I'm not sure how any of this meshes with the more unusual aspects of the contractual agreement Ed Greenwood apparently had, which apparently included things such as anything he said or wrote being canon unless contradicted by other official material, or a reversion clause allowing for the setting to return to him if not given the option of submitting a book in a given year (how it would ever work in practice is anyone's guess – input into gaming materials might be included, and the setting is now the work of dozens if not hundreds of people – even assuming the terms are still in force).

But there doesn't seem to be a lot of hope; from being reduced to points of light it's darker than the Tomb of Horrors (the second link was published only last month);

http://forum.candlekeep.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=21929 http://realms.theedgreenwoodgroup.com/how-to-get-your-forgotten-realms-novel-published/

Don't get me wrong, there are glimmers. In that Candlekeep discussion thread, Elaine Cunningham links https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P252_IFLN9E which 56 minutes into the hour claims non-specific things with fiction are in the pipeline. But it's at odds with series by existing authors such as Erin Evans concluding – and uncertainty is bad for brands, especially when creators are getting the mushroom treatment as well. "Guardedly optimistic" is probably being charitable, unfortunately.

There's http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?597471-The-State-of-D-amp-D-Products-Psionics-Settings-amp-More&p=7272865&viewfull=1#post7272865 which notes their not being set up for novels, making diversification of the DMs Guild concept into fiction a more likely outcome.

So for the moment, shouting into a probable void: fuck Hasbro for spending the last ten years plus running into the ground a franchise that has every bit of the formative importance for many readers as the company's 80s toy advert properties.

In the world today, D&D doesn't have the draw of Magic because it isn't about collecting real items and doesn't involve competition in the same way. World of Warcraft made a better go of combat crunch – although there've been a number of influential D&D video games – and few people have time for role playing the storytelling fluff aspects.

But there's potential for the fiction, not just adventure content, to be unbound as other owned properties have been, whether to a publishing licensor (look at what Paizo did with magazines, or IDW Publishing with comics) or via other arrangements. There's potential for authors to write for whatever era of the Realms (or Ravenloft, or Dark Sun, or the bit of Gord the Rogue that's Greyhawk) takes their fancy, and not be constrained by setting-shaking events. There might even be opportunities to crowd fund advances for established authors to take the reigns again.


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