Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne talks about the upcoming new edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

The big news this week , the announcement that Wizards of the Coast will release Dungeons & Dragons 5.0, 5th Edition or as the company seems to want to call it, either Dungeons & Dragons Next or just plain Dungeons & Dragons.

It's no secret that Paizo Publishing's Pathfinder RPG is either neck and neck with or has supplanted Dungeons & Dragons as the best selling RPG in most stores.  At our store, it easily outsells Dungeons & Dragons 4.0 though out of print 3.5 books still give it a run for the money (We can still steadily sell Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Player's Handbooks whenever we can find them; 3.0 not so much).  Even with no promotional materials provided to the store, Paizo's Pathfinder Society Organized Play games pull in 3 times the number of people that show up for D&D Encounters.  Of course, the fact that we can run Pathfinder Society events on the weekends, as compared to D&D Encounters, which WotC mandates the first session of the week run on Wednesday nights, not exactly the best night of the week to get people into the store for a couple of hours of gaming.

It looks as if WotC may have learned a few things from the 4.0 experience as least from looking at the design team chosen for the project:

-- Mike Mearls, Team Lead  
-- Greg Bilsland, Team Producer  
-- Monte Cook, Design Team Lead  
-- Bruce Cordell, Designer  
-- Robert J. Schwalb, Designer  
-- Jeremy Crawford, Development Team Lead
-- Tom LaPille, Developer  
-- Rodney Thompson, Developer
-- Miranda Horner, Editor

Especially notable are the absence of any of the design team from D&D 4.0, as least none that I recognize are on the list and the presence of Monte Cook , known for his work on D&D 3.0 and 3.5, as Design Team Lead.  That bodes well for a return to something similar to 3.5 in this new edition, as does the player input the company has advertised itself as seeking, especially if you consider that most of the input I have heard of the past several years has been, "Do you have a 3.5 Player's Handbook?" (Funny thing, at least here, people who have only read over 4.0 disliked it, while those who actually played the game found it quite playable and enjoyable).
Players, outside the playtesting groups, will get their first look at the new rules at this month's D&D Experience, where they will play through an adventure apparently based upon the classic Caves of Chaos adventure from the early 80s (once again, as with the Red Box, WotC mines the early years of D&D in hopes of bringing back long lapsed players).  No indication so far as to when the new edition releases but my guess would be winter of 2013.  Development of the game has been underway for some time, as indicated by some of the design team's comments on Google +, and the gathering of media types invited to a December game using the new rules and GMed by team leader Mike Mearles.  Though the invitees had to agree not to leak anything about the new rules, what they have written sounds positive (of course, what got written about 4.0 sounded positive at the time as well).  As I have read vague references to a D&D 5.0 Experience added to Gen Con 2013 as part of the final  playtesting, I don't expect the company to launch the new rules set until sometime after that and the Christmas season would make for some serious sales.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of