Just so folks don't think I'm some anti-Wizard of the Coast gamer (from my last posting), I thought I'd better elaborate on some of the positives. One being: They actually SAVED DUNGEONS and DRAGONS. Plus (from the outside looking in), they've actively kept some semblance of self - sufficiency. When WotC came in and bought TSR, they went into damage control mode, almost immediately. They took on all of the old TSR court cases and tried to turn the tide around. By the mid 90's, old fiction writers were back to work (with a bigger cut of the profits) and they ramped up the D+D computer gaming wing of the company to compete against "DOOM" and "Myst" like video games.
They relaunched old property rights that TSR acquired, but never did much of anything with, like Conan the Barbarian and other fantasy film franchises, essentially 'piggy back riding' their success. And they continue to drum up Christan minded people who played D+D, to give testimonials, assuring the courts that they were not homicidal satanists. And D+D, (like violent video games today), shouldn't bear the full responsibility of a few deranged wackos. Briefly: A lot of this devil worshiping stuff is the unfortunate result of D+D's meticulous record keeping. In the spell section of the Player's Handbook, there are descriptive passages about summoning demons to work on your behalf, and it outlines the rituals (for your miniature figures), which are based on actual middle ages folklore, but some people thought (or wished) it was real.
The problem was compounded in the mid 80's, when an unofficial rule book was published in Spain, by a group of D+D fans, that took it way off the reservation, telling players how to sacrifice babies, goats, and brew death potions (listing real deadly plants and recipes). WotC reminded everyone that the game is a family friendly game, the players are not allowed to play "the bad guys", and edged out the Heavy Metal, Satan loving subset of gamers, writing them off as "provocateurs looking to make a quick buck". They really worked hard, behind the scenes, to make D+D relevant again. But what to do about the game?
By the late 90's it was obvious. D+D needed a face lift. Fast ! A radical new rule set (the d20 system) was put together to actively compete against all of the role playing games that knocked it off it's throne in the first place. And since they were designing new rules, (which were going to give birth to the next generation of games) they put out the OPEN GAMING LICENSE, in order to stay above the legal fray that ended up costing them millions of dollars. They put out the Third Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, which revolved around a new game mechanic involving the d20 die. It was a minor tweak, but enough to win in a court case involving the rules of the game.
By 2005, they released D+D 3.5 ( a newly revised set of rules based on hours of playtesting with normal gamers, thus bridging the older gamer and newer gamers, at convention halls across America and Europe). Third edition and 3.5 edition are sometimes lumped into one edition - just 3.5; because it's a more rounded out series of books. The 3.0 edition is seen as the 'beta' version, and the 3.5 rules are seen as the actual rules to the new and improved D+D game. Suffice to say, you can't please everyone all the time. People who plunked down hundreds of dollars for 3rd edition when it came out, felt more than betrayed about having to disregard those books and buy the 3.5 version, (for hundreds of dollars), two years later. The 3.5 Core Rules had 80-90 pages more, better art, and rule changes. But some saw it as a grab for cold hard cash.
And the problem was hard to over look, because the difference between the editions was great. If you played a 3.0 character in a 3.5 world, he would probably die. No amount of luck will keep him alive. A 3.5 monster will eat you alive. Fact was that only a 3.5 character can survive in a 3.5 world. That said, a 3.5 character will pretty much "own" your 3.0 world in a handful of gaming sessions. It was frustrating. It was the kind of thing that made you want to go 'on line' and sell your own version of The Game, and stick it to WotC. WotC claims they had to make the changes for the "good of the game", if they are going to remain "viable" to Hasbro, (who holds a Sword of Damocles over them, dependent on sales). They said 3.5 was the "final word". Everything, product line wise, was geared for those rules.Period. Four years later, they made D+D 4.0. People went bat$!*&, with the chorus being "Oh No You Didn't" !
So, what can I say? It's been a turbulent time, but WotC has managed to keep clear of things that nearly destroyed TSR...And besides, they have Jason putting his Dungeon Dozen stamp on their website, so they can't all be bad...I mean, they obviously recongnize clever writing when they see it...