Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois.  This week Thorne notes the way the cancellation of the D&D Miniatures line and some D&D releases was handled.

I had planned for this week’s column to look at the feng shui of a business plan when George Vasilakos of Zombie Planet pointed out that WOTC very quietly announced, by the way, the company was discontinuing the D&D Miniatures line, slipping mention of it waaaaay down in the January 12th edition of their online D&D column Ampersand.  If you want to take a look, you will have to scroll past the announcement of a new Dungeons & Dragons movie, appearing soon at the SyFy channel near you.  Go on past the screen shot of the Caverns of Icewind Dale Dungeon Tiles and the pictures of the new Fortune Cards coming out next month.

Just past the discussion of the new D&D Encounters season, March of the Phantom Brigade, there you’ll see it:  "D&D Product Release Updates."  It starts off innocuously enough,  "Despite the best laid plans, sometimes we make changes to the D&D product release schedule," then makes the announcement that Lords of Madness will be the final release of a randomized, ore even pre-set, line of pre-painted miniatures.  WOTC will still release collectors sets, such as last fall’s Beholder set, and include them in boardgames, such as next month’s anticipated Wrath of Ahsardalon.  Oh and almost as an afterthought, the article mentions WOTC is converting the Heroes of Shadow book from trade paperback size to hardback and removing Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, and Hero Builder’s Handbook from the 2011 schedule entirely.  Say what?  Cancellation of an entire product line and three planned releases for the D&D line is something that should get announced to retailers directly, not second or third hand through a buried article on the WOTC website.

I can actually understand the cancellation of the miniatures line.  The rise in oil prices has driven up the price of plastic and the D&D Miniature line is not as hot a seller as it when the company promoted and supported it as a stand-alone product line.  Though sales have remained respectable, with some stores I know reporting sales of several thousand dollars a year of the product line, movement of the product is nowhere near as large as it was two to three years ago.  As far as the publishing side, Paizo’s Pathfinder line appears to have taken a huge chunk of market share away from D&D, with many stores reporting it supplanting 4th edition as their number one seller.  As the publisher, WOTC needs to do whatever it must to remain profitable, whether this means shutting down the miniatures line or canceling announced books.

The problem is the lack of communication.  Retailers did not have any indication of this turn of events.  During WOTC’s presentation at the Alliance Open House last fall, every indication was full steam ahead on the D&D Miniatures line, with a release of a new set of miniatures once a year and a full slate of D&D book releases.  Now, less than four months later, no more miniatures line and a third of the promised D&D books will not hit the shelves until 2012 at least.  This could be a good thing if it increases demand for the scarcer releases, but is also worrisome.

The other thing that concerns me is the mention of additional accessories and digital offerings releasing.  So far, accessory products such as the official D&D Dice and Power Cards appear to have sold poorly; the Dungeon Tiles are the only steady selling accessory the company has released.  When I hear "digital offerings," I hear PDF or online subscriber content, neither of which will bring customers into the store or put an additional dollar in my pocket.  If this is a harbinger of the rest of 2011, I cannot say I look forward to it.

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