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 contemplates why Wizards of the Coast hasn't released some of the classic Dungeons & Dragons worlds for 5E and offers a possible method to their book release schedule.

I have seen some recent discussion on the slew of products Wizards of the Coast has released over the past couple of years to tie into Dungeons & Dragons, including D&D starter sets featuring Stranger Things and Rick and Morty, as well as sourcebooks adapting Penny Arcade’s Acquisitions Incorporated and WotC’s own Magic: The Gathering setting Ravnica. Even Joe Manganiello's Arkhan the Cruel character as well as his followers made it into the Dungeons & Dragons: Descent Into Avernus campaign book as well as the D&D Icons of the Realms: Descent into Avernus: Arkhan the Cruel and The Dark Order Figure Set.  Later this spring will see the release of the Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, based on the setting of the Critical Role web series.

Given all this product coming out and the amount of interest currently generated by D&D with the number of podcasts and online programs focused on talking about D&D or allowing people to listen to or watch other people, some famous, some Internet-famous, play in campaigns or one-shot games, one would think that long time D&D players would love all of the attention focused on their hobby and the influx of new players into the game.  Even our local college newspaper has set up a YouTube channel featuring staff members playing a weekly session of D&D.  Personally, I think what is happening is great but some  players are wondering why WotC is focusing almost all of its attention on these new media tie-in settings and world books when the company still has loads of great material it could update to D&D 5E from its back catalog.  The complaint is that the new campaign books appeal to the new fans of the game while WotC lets its older campaign settings, with the exceptions of Eberron and the Forgotten Realms, languish.  Given all this interest, why cannot Wizards revive old settings like Spelljammer, Ravenloft, Mystara, and Greyhawk with updated rules to convert them to 5E?  Given that Wizards' plans appear to involve releasing about three to four books per year (rather than swamping the market as happened in the days of editions 3.0 and 3.5), why not make one of those releases an update of one of the older settings.

I can think of a couple of reasons for WotC to continue following the strategic plan they have adopted for their book release schedule:

  1. It is what the market wants.  Most of the new web series utilize homegrown campaign settings, rather than the classic ones WotC published during the 80s and 90s.  Just as viewers always want more background detail and information about favorite television shows and movies (just look at the number of sourcebooks and blueprint sets out for Star Wars, Star Trek and Buffy The Vampire Slayer), viewers of these series want to see more background detail on what they are currently watching, rather than what came out years ago (try selling a Buffy sourcebook in today’s market) and WotC is providing it.
  2. WotC is not a huge fan of bringing back older material.  I have asked the company for years to update  and reprint some of the older titles in its Avalon Hill catalog but to no avail.  WotC prefers to focus on developing next generation materials, rather than bringing back older ones.

Still, there is nothing to stop a player with a love of the old D&D settings to update them and run a campaign based on them.  Create your own web series based on it and, if it becomes popular, WotC will likely update the setting officially.

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