Wizards of the Coast has Resurrected Dungeons & Dragons!
Posted by docbelmont
I haven’t played Dungeons & Dragons in YEARS. I know, for one who claims to be a lore-master of gaming, this is a pretty damning admission. I’ve moved on to greener pastures. When Wizards of the Coast announced 4th edition, I wasn’t exactly thrilled…when I actually got a copy of 4th edition, I converted to Pathfinder and never looked back. Sure, “DnD Next” is on it’s way, and while they’ve made strides to improve the game for grumpy old wizards like myself, it’s still a long way from being satisfying…but that’s neither here nor there.
Yesterday, Wizards has announced the opening of their new website, “DnD Classics.” This website is devoted to codgers like me who yearn for “the good old days,” and keep shouting at “those new adventurers to get the hell off our lawn.” Essentially, Wizards is releasing the entire back catalog of Dungeons & Dragons products, all the way back to first edition!
That’s right; now you can download any D&D book at your leisure for a fee; core books, supplementals, modules, etc…all with a little history entry for the lore-masters among us! Only about 80 titles are available right now, but everything in the catalogue will eventually be available. These aren’t your “run-of-the-mill” scans, either; These are high-quality watermarked scans that have been indexed for ease of use! As far as “reaching out to old-school players” goes, this is a pretty kingly gesture.
Here’s where things get a bit dicey; at least, for me…
…I hate PDFs.
Yes, I have to be that guy, but I really don’t like digital books in any format. First and foremost, I’m just old-school like that. I like owning physical books. I like the feel of them. I like the look of them. Reading a physical book just FEELS right to me. Reading on a Nook or an iPad feels alien to me…not to mention it kills my eyes. No. I need to feel the cover and the binding in my hands, and thumb through the leaflets of paper. Physical books will always trump digital readers any day of the week with me.
Secondly, what happens if you have a hard drive failure? Well, I guess you aren’t gaming tonight, are you? Even if your computer is working; what if your files get corrupted somehow? Well, it looks like you have to download it again. Sure, I can burn all of my PDFs to a CD or a thumb drive, but isn’t that trading one kind of busy work for another?
I suppose, however, that beggars can’t be choosers. This is pretty awesome, but that leads into my Third concern about downloadable PDFs. This isn’t the first time Wizards of the Coast has had downloadable PDFs available for people to buy. The last time they did this, on April of 2009, they yanked all download availability for books without ANY warning whatsoever, much to PAYING CUSTOMERS’ chagrin. After a forum uproar, they gave a measly 24-hour window to “get your crap before it’s gone for good.” Why did they do this? Simple…
I hate to break it to you, Wizards of the Coast, but piracy is just a fact of life. Pirates have moved from the high seas and ships to the digital waves and downloads. People torrent movies and music. Walk down any street in Korea or China, and they’ll sell you dirt cheap knockoffs with any label you want attached to it. You aren’t going to stop piracy…and for that matter, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act isn’t going to stop piracy, either. The more you TRY to stop it, the smarter the pirates get.
Now, before some of you think that “Doctor Belmont is a dirty pirate and condones theft,” think again. I in NO WAY condone piracy. I want to see all of my favorite game companies thrive. I urge all of my fellow gamers to support our hobby by buying products legally.
I did, however, run into a small issue where I had to pirate something I bought and paid for. It sounds weird, but bear with me. RPGNow.com stopped carrying a PDF I purchased, and after a hard drive crash, I wanted to download it again…it is my right, after all. Unfortunately, due to some licensing agreement with Decipher Games, my sourcebook for the Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game was no longer available. What did I do? Well, I had no choice…I looked for a torrent that had the whole collection of The Lord of the Rings RPG; all books I own in the first place. It included the PDF-only sourcebook I was looking for, so now I have a digital copy AND a backup. Technically, I have already purchased all of these books, but the PDF-only was pirated by necessity. Do I feel bad about it? No…RPGNow has my money, I just sought to replace what I unfortunately couldn’t get back from them.
There’s the rub; is Wizards of the Coast going to pull up the stakes and roll up the tent again just because a few people might be pirating the books? I certainly hope not. Yes, some people are going to steal…but many others are going to shell out a bit of cash for all of their favorite modules. If anyone doubts this, I need only point to Paizo; They offer PDFs of almost every single book they put out, and they’re doing QUITE WELL for themselves. In fact, they’ve been outselling D&D for a few years now.
Wizards of the Coast, I implore you: This is one of the first things you’ve done since 3rd edition D&D that I can totally get behind. Don’t tease gamers by having this wonderful service go live only to cut it off because you feel you’re losing money when some jackass puts up a torrent somewhere and people start leeching it.
Yesterday, your release of these PDFs OVERLOADED THE SERVERS AT RPGNOW.COM! Doesn’t that tell you something? People are willing to pay for older D&D products! If Paizo can make bank with available PDFs of it’s books, you can too.
In closing, Wizards, I think you’re doing a good thing. Regardless of my aversion to PDFs, you’ve made a returning customer out of me! You’ve resurrected a treasure trove of lost memories and impossible-to-find books. Gamers everywhere are indebted to you; veterans can relive old games, and replace lost books, and new gamers can discover this nostalgic magic for the very first time! Something was lost to D&D over the years; that pulp fantasy “soul” that so many of us fondly remember. You’re bringing back what no wizard’s spell could conjure.
Keep it up!
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