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After Dragon's Delve, Part 1: The Rules

The following was originally posted on the forums, but we figured it was important to put it here, too. If you have comments or questions about this subject, please join in the conversation in the forums.

Owen K.C. Stephens There's not a lot of Dragon's Delve left. It seems weird to say that - I've been working on this one dungeon for almost a year now - but that's the truth. We're nearly halfway through Level 19, and I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say level 20 is the lair of the Dragon Prince, and it's not all that many encounters. Before the end of the month, we'll be moving on to other things.

What other things? Well there's a short-term answer to that, and then a long term answer.

In the short term, we'll be presenting what we've called our "palate-cleanser" dungeon. This is a stand-alone (at least for now) site-based adventure that will run for several weeks. We want to give both the fans and ourselves some time to let the end of Dragon's Delve settle before we start in on another long set of connected adventures, but we don't want to cut back on the daily content level of the site. This interim project lets us all, collectively, take a deep breath and assess where we are.

The "palate-cleaner" is being written by Charles Ryan (who has already produced a lot of material for this site), and we're doing that for a few reasons. First, we've got a new series of connected adventures to plan, and we'll need some time to set up the groundwork for that. Second, Gen Con looms in the near future, and it makes a lot of sense for us to have Charles writing his material NOW (while we're still wrapping up Dragon's Delve), so we'll already have it ready to go when we take a week to go to Indianapolis.

Long term, we're still planning exactly what the next mega-adventure is going to look like. If that planning takes longer than one interim project buys us (which seems likely, to be honest), we have another stand-alone-dungeon-writer in the wings to make sure there's no interruption of our 5-updates-week schedule.

Some things, however, have pretty well been decided. And one of them is a major change.

When Monte started this site back in March 2009, writing the dungeon for the 3.5 rules was an obvious choice. The 4th edition rules had significant restrictions for third-party publishers who wished to use them, and the Pathfinder RPG hadn't been published yet. Monte knew 3.5 very well, so there was no reason for him to look for another game system.

When Super Genius Games came on board in September of 2010, we immediately began getting requests for produce the Delve as a Pathfinder-compatible product. However, it was very clear that a number of existing patrons were strongly invested in running the adventure as a 3.5 game. Those patrons had signed on for a 3.5 game experience, and were already partway through the dungeon. We felt we owed those patrons the rules they started with, so we committed to maintaining 3.5 rules through to the end of Dragon's Delve. To help bring in new players, we eventually began adding in Pathfinder-compatible information as well. It was a lot of work, but it seemed the right thing to do.

Now, however, we're looking at what rules to embrace for our material in the After Dragon's Delve era, and it seems pretty clear the smart thing to do is use the Pathfinder rules exclusively. This isn't a decision we've come to quickly or lightly - after all Stan! and I both did a lot of work in both official and 3pp 3.5 game products. But the extra time and cost involved in producing two sets of rules for everything isn't something we can continue to maintain. We love this site, but it has an unforgiving production schedule. To make sure we have a sustainable business plan, we need to make sure the amount of work required is no more than we can maintain week-after-week, and that we make some money in the process. We've seen what it takes to maintain two sets of rules for every encounter, and that's not something we can sustain long-term.

If we're only going to use one set of rules, Pathfinder is the clear choice. Support for the 3.5 rules has dropped off considerably in the past 2 years, while Pathfinder continues to grow in popularity and breadth. There are a large number of players who simply don't like using rules that aren't receiving ongoing support, and even if you aren't one of them please trust me when I say they exist and are fairly numerous. There are also fewer and fewer freelance writers comfortable with the 3.5 rules, as all the new paying work is for 4e or Pathfinder, and we want to continue to feature other talent in our upcoming releases.

For a lot of you, this isn't going to make much difference. A fair number of players already run in other systems, ranging from Pathfinder to 4e, Hero, E6, and Savage Worlds. Some 3.5 players have noted that Pathfinder is close enough to 3.5 they don't see any problem using it in their games (though yes, you will have to figure out the grapple check of everything). Apparently a fair number of our patrons don't run the encounters we present at all, but just use it as daily reading material with their morning coffee.

All that said, some of you are pure 3.5-gamers, and have neither the interest nor the intent of following us as we move to Pathfinder. I understand, and I'm sorry. I hate the idea I'll be losing anyone over this, but I'm a gamer at heart first and foremost, so I don't intend to try corporate-style spin on this question. Some of our existing patrons are going to leave us over this. That's unfortunate, and I admit it bother me, but there's no other way to go about this. We have to pick a sustainable plan, and that plan needs to include at least *one* of the two-biggest RPGs on the market right now, and it just can't include two sets of rules. We've barely managed that up to this point, and the strain has been showing through.

Lots of other things about the After Dragon's Delve period haven't been settled, and I'll be continuing to talk about them as we go. But I've been talking about the rules question for a few months now, and wanted to give everyone a heads-up. We'll dual-stat the rest of Level 19 and all of Level 20, as we promised nearly a year ago. Then, when the first "palate-cleaner" arrives, we'll be switching to Pathfinder.

--Owen K.C. Stephens
Dungeon Engineer

Copyright 2006-2010 Monte J. Cook; Copyright 2010-2011 Super Genius Games