Jun 27, 2012

Everything Old is New Again--D&D 3.5 Back on the Shelves

A few months ago, WotC announced the reprint of the first edition D&D books, known back then as AD&D. In a way, it made perfect sense as proceeds from the sale were going to the Gygax Memorial Fund.

Just the other day, WotC announced another reprint. This time they are announcing reprints of the three core 3.5 edition D&D books. Actually these are updates as the books will include the latest 3.5 errata. I first heard about these books several months ago, when an astute fan found the pre-order listings on the Barnes and Noble site and a thread was started on ENWorld.

At the time everyone discounted the listing, and a few days later the listing disappeared off the site.

Even now as I read the announcement, I find myself scratching my head and wondering why? This reprint does not benefit the Gygax fund, or any other charity, it's not the follow up to first edition AD&D (that of course would be 2ed edition), nor is it the current edition of the game.

As WotC embarks on developing D&D Next, and trying to build support for what is supposed to be a game system that would allow for sessions that feel like any edition of D&D, it's interesting that they are restocking the shelves with the next to last version of the game, after a 4 year absence.

There are a couple of reasons why this should not be too much of a surprise.

WotC/TSR have been down the edition road before, and they've learned that once you announce a new edition, sales for the current game drop off, and demand for new product for what is seen as a "lame duck" system dry up.

Since they can't suspend their publishing schedule completely, in the past they've announced certain products as being "compatible" with the next edition, or products that are "edition neutral".

In that regard, it makes sense to fill up their schedule with the 3.5 books, since that version of the game is the root of the very successful Pathfinder system. On the other hand, Pathfinder is a complete game, and they've release enough books that cover and expand on the same content in these books.

Lastly, the publishing technology is probably such that it's relatively inexpensive to reprint these books, even with errata corrections. They probably still have digital files for 3.5 in QuarkXpress or InDesign, and can easily make the necessary changes and hand over the new version to a commercial printer. Unlike 1 and 2e, which probably aren't available in digital format, or if so, they are on some legacy system that commercial printers no longer support.

Overall it's not surprising to see products like this on the schedule. I wonder what more we'll see between now and whenever Next comes along.