Is 2013 the ‘Year of the New Edition?’
We’re just a couple of weeks into the new year. It’s a time when the media is still waxing on the year past, and positing what the year ahead holds. Well, not to be outdone, I’m already to prepared to assign 2013 a moniker. It’s the year of the new edition. What does that mean? Find out below the fold.
Table top gamers are intimately familiar with the industry’s regular cycle of revisions and new editions. Rule sets are abstract and imperfect creations, and sometimes the changes required to enhance or fix issues in game play extend beyond the scope of simple errata (Looking at you, Exalted 2nd edition). Some games have “living worlds” that evolve as years pass. Other games leverage new editions to improve art and layout, and otherwise leverage the success of previous edition to enhance and expand the next. And some game exhaust the scope of their source material, and so roll the counter back to zero and start the climb again…
For what ever reason, a number of high profile games have announced the release of new editions for 2013, marking it as the year of the new edition–for better or worse.
No doubt the biggest new edition of the year is Dungeons and Dragons “Next.” Confession before I dive into this one: I played 2nd edition and revised very happily for years (too young for 1st, so I’m anticipating some opprobrium from my elders…), but I joyously embraced 3rd edition and the d20 system. It was “my edition” in a sense, fixing a lot of the dusty awkwardness of 2nd. But 3.5 really torqued me off. It felt like a money grab more than a fix. Consequently, I’m pretty devoted to Pathfinder when I want my generic fantasy/swords & sworcery fix (and yes, I am aware that Pathfinder is totally derived from 3.5. It’s the principle, damnit). Then 4th came out, and I loathed it with every fiber of my being–it really turned me off off the whole brand. I’m not going to go into why, except to say that it was too radical a departure from its fore bearers, done too soon on the heels of 3.5.
All that said, it’s hard not to be a little excited for a new edition of the Ur game. However, my mild excitement is somewhat tempered by what’s gurgling forth from the Wizards of Washington State. All of this talk about the game being whatever you want it to be: whether that’s a highfalutin role playing experience, a tactical miniatures game, or something in between sounds like a load of over promising to me. Time will tell, and it’ll be hard for me NOT to buy the PHB to see just how much they actually deliver on. Whether I look beyond that remains to be seen.
But D&D Next? Really? Call a spade a spade: it’s 5th edition. D&D Next sounds like “Pepsi Clear” to my ears…
Another classic game getting an overhaul this year is Call of Cthulhu, which will be seeing it’s 7th edition. Now, I’ve owned two or three editions of CoC, usually spaced out by an edition or so, and all I can say is: I’ve never noticed a difference… I’m curious if anyone has a different opinion on that, but I’ve been heeding the Call to the same d% rules for nearly two decades now, so the logic behind CoC’s editions seems to be more about keeping the title in print, with a “current” main book, more than anything else. Most vocal Call players hold up the 6th edition as the pinnacle of the game’s evolution (what little there has been), so it’ll be interesting to see how people react to this one.
Now, onto the stuff I’m really excited about.
First up is Catalyst’s announcement of a 5th edition of Shadowrun! I am looking forward to this. I won’t say that 4th edition is a hot mess, but it is definitely a warm pile. That said, I love it. Systemically, it’s decades beyond the first three editions (which speaks volumes about their kludginess). Like many fans, I was initially torn by 4th’s departure from the classic tropes of Shadowrun, and its embrace of trans(meta)humanist themes, but I’ve learned to love it. One of my very favorite elements of Shadowrun has always been how time passes in game at nearly real time speed, and how the metaplot, adventure modules, and source books are constantly pushing the game forward. Passing editions of Shadowrun always culminate in world changing events, and having followed the seeds of 4th’s progress, I think I can see the direction 5th edition is heading… and I love it. This title is high on my excit’o'meter, which I have just decided is a thing.
Incidentally, the folks at Catalyst are calling 2013 the “Year of Shadowrun,” which we will explore in a bit more detail next week. Personally, I think they’re doing to screw with my “Year of the New Edition” moniker, which is dirty pool, IMO…
The other new edition that climbed my radar recently is for one of my other very favorite games: Exalted! That’s right, Exalted is getting a 3rd edition! You read it here, like, 27th or something. Its not exactly new news, really, having first surfaced around October of last year. However, the developers have recently opened up on rpg.net and other outlets to start building anticipation towards a promised Kickstarter (which you better believe we’ll be covering). White Wolf–or Onyx Path, as
their new publishing arm is called, since White Wolf is now a video game company(‘s appendage) the licensee of White Wolf brands–has had a string of really kick-butt projects for ‘Vampire 20′ and ‘Werewolf 20,’ anniversary editions of their seminal goth-punk rpgs, so I’m excited by what the passionate Exalted fan base could bring to a Kickstarter.
For those who aren’t in the know, Exalted is a fascinating take on fantasy games. I suppose I’d call it a blend of Tanith Lee’s “Flat Earth” stories, the Mahabharata and Reg Vedas. Add a liberal dollop of Wuxia (of the Monkey King/Journey to the West variety), and a dash of western myth (pre-Hellenic/Hellenic, to taste), where players assume the roles of semi-divine beings, the titular Exalted. To put it in lay terms, this game is a convention breaking pile of cool.
Exalted has seen two pretty fleshed out editions, both with comprehensive collections of splatbooks. Stylistically, the two editions diverged pretty extensively, towards the middle and end of 2nd edition’s run (and 3rd edition is swinging back towards 1st, which is only a good thing if you liked the description of Exalted’s tone I provided above). However, Exalted’s greatest let down has always been the game’s system. Hanging over the top is a pretty cool, exception-based, card game like system of Charms–magical effects that the Exalted exploit to be awesome. The engine that keeps it running, however, is White Wolf’s classic Storyteller System, which is great if you’re prowling the streets at midnight, looking to score some blow or something, and need to roll to stop from tripping over your katana and trenchcoat, but it broke under the weight of Exalted’s conceptual awesomeness. Well, the committed cabal of freelancers at the core of Exalted’s development team are rebuilding the combat engine for this edition, to ensure that the 3rd edition plays like butter. It’ll still look a lot like the dots and d10′s we know and love, but it will play like the game Exalted should have been all along…
So, paint me purple and call me… purple. I am excited for this one. Keep an eye out for that “I’m a Backer” post to come.
Anyway, those are the new editions that have sparked my interest (or ire). I’ve got a feeling that I missed some (I coulda sworn we were getting a new edition of Cyberpunk this year, but now I can’t find mention of it anywhere. Of course, Cyberpunk 2077 is crowding the scene now…). If I’ve missed any, let me know. I’m always looking for a new money pit–I mean game!