On the 5th Edition Release

By now, most of you have probably already heard about the listing for the D&D 5th Edition Players Handbook (and starter set) that were put up, seemingly accidentally, on Barnes and Nobel’s website, and taken down soon thereafter. I happen to think this was a genuine mistake (it’s happened before with WotC) and not a deliberate goof being played on the fans (like the recent release of the track listing for the Captain America Winter Soldier soundtrack – don’t click on the link if you want to avoid a possible spoiler, but I don’t think it’s real).

First, the timing. I think that the date listed, August 19th, makes absolute perfect sense. WotC already said summer 2014 was the release time-frame, and I said last year that a GenCon release is going to be the way WotC goes, and having the core rulebooks available to the public the Tuesday after GenCon would only be logical. Which also means that, if my calculations are correct, the rules are done by now (or 99%) and the book is moving into editing and layout in order to have books for the booth at GenCon and in the distributors’ warehouses in August.

Second, it’s good to see that they won’t be calling it “D&D Next” any more. It’s just plain D&D. So I guess that means it’s safe to start calling it 5th Edition now. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Finally, the price. A lot of people have been… um, expressing their opinions… on the retail price point of $49.95 for the Player’s Handbook. Presumably the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide will be the same. While that is definitely more expensive than the $34.95 retail price of the core books for 4th edition, it actually doesn’t compare too unfavorably with the buy-in price of the original AD&D books in 1979, once you account for inflation – $125 in today’s dollars.

Add to that the fact that there will inevitably be discounts at places like Amazon and B&N. Just look at the screencap from B&N to the left – 25% off. And Amazon will probably go even lower. Now, there’s no denying whatsoever that the availability of online discounts is going to hurt brick and mortar game stores. But that seems to be less of a problem with the retail price than it is with the existence of online discounts in the first place; people who are price-conscious are going to go online whether the retail price is $49.95 or $39.95. And most of the ones who are willing to spend the extra money just to patronize their FLGS are going to be willing to spend an extra $10 as well.

Plus there will almost certainly be a pdf version of the rulebooks available, now that WotC has decided to re-embrace ebooks through DNDClassics.com. Although you never know about that – they might get it in their heads that the books will be pirated if they offer a pdf. Because, you know, not releasing pdfs yourself is a sure-fire way to make sure they never get put onto Bittorrent.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

10 thoughts on “On the 5th Edition Release

  1. "there will almost certainly be a pdf version of the rulebooks available"

    I think that's some serious wishful thinking.

    They don't even have the rulebooks for AD&D 1e and 2e up in PDF.

  2. Amazon often lists products on their site way early as well.

    For the price…people will complain, no question. Keep in mind, people don't look at gas and say "well, compared to 1979 and inflation it really isn't that bad" just sayin. 🙂

    It will be interesting if they go pdf. While they are releasing back/current catalog via pdf on a custom drivethrurpg.com site, I still wonder if they'll refrain from launching the core books in pdf.

  3. I paid $50 for "Star Wars: Edge of the Empire," and if the D&D PHB is heavy and well illustrated like that one, the price doesn't bother me.

    But I still won't buy the book. The rules feel too much like 3E to me. Personally I was hoping that 5E would turn out to be the Rules Cyclopedia with updated cover art. : )

  4. I think release will be simultaneous with Gen Con, as was done with 3.0's Player's Handbook. Don't be surprised to see the DMG & Monster Manual be staggered over a few months.

    I doubt we will get a PDF, as WotC has held back the sale of PDF's for the other editions.

  5. Judging by postings I've seen about this news, most players aren't terribly put off by the price. If WOTC was just trying to gauge the market with an "accidental" pre-release, they must be pleased. Most gamers must be very excited for this version as well.

    The real question is: will anybody who isn't an RPG gamer be interested in ponying up over $100 for a DIY game? This version isn't being tailored to attract WOW or miniatures players. Certainly WOTC is unlikely to release cheaper and new player-friendly PDF versions of the rulebooks until long after they've soaked the existing player base.

  6. Existing D&D fans may not be put off by the price, but any non-fans will balk at a $150 buy in. It's not just one book, it's three, presumably.

    And for all the talk of inflation, you could also talk about wages, how much money people can spare, etc. There's a reason video games don't cost $180 these days, and consoles $800, even though that would be more in line with inflation…same reason music doesn't cost $50 an album.

  7. Jeremy, I think the intended option for newcomers is the much cheaper Starter Box, coming in at $20. Once they hook you with that, then you'd be more likely to drop the $50 on a Player's Handbook, and so on up the chain. At least, I think that's their thinking; not saying it'd necessarily work that way in practice.

  8. I believe that the $20 Starter Box is where most of the new players will come from for this edition. I'm hopeful that it will be as well done as the Basic series was.

  9. Do we have any idea what would be in the Starter Box? I assumed it would be a couple of pre-gens, a basic module, and a very stripped down version of the rules. Do we have any reason to hope it will be an actual, playable game?

  10. Well, I got hooked into D&D with the old Holmes Box, 3 levels and let's just call it a "breezy" set of rules. But that was back in the early 80's, and also it wasn't a couple of years after a failed major new release of D&D. I just don't know if this "Back to the Future" marketing is going to work again.

    On the plus side, Community is scheduled to have another D&D episode this season, Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. There's some promotion.

Comments are closed.