Tobold's Blog
Monday, April 14, 2014
Tyranny of Dragons in the marketing department

So 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons will be out this year, and a bit like a World of Warcraft pre-expansion patch there is a huge D&D marketing campaign in the build-up to the release, called Tyranny of Dragons. If you are playing D&D in any sort of "official" setting, you'll be fighting the Cult of the Dragon. So far, so good.

But if you want to see an example of how heavy-handed it can get if you want to move an existing campaign onto the current marketing train, you don't need to go further than PAX East, where Acquisitions Incorporated played their public D&D game. I found the introduction of the Cult of the Dragon rather badly done. The DM had to bend the rules quite a lot to give the enemies a surprise round, because the narrative didn't even talk of an immediate ambush. The heroes walk out of a tavern, there are guys standing there, so from that point on, if a combat breaks out, why would anybody have a surprise round? And don't tell me that the DM didn't fudge dice there to get to that neat situation where everybody but the group leader was down before anybody could act.

So, yes, I understand the requirements of the marketing department to introduce their new material. But they way they did it really wasn't elegant. It sure served the purpose of establishing the Cult as "the enemy", but as I player I would have felt railroaded there.

Huh. I totally came here expecting this to be about how marketing departments seem obligated to use (or obsessed with) high fantasy dragons and elves to pull in customers. There's a whole world of literature and history out there and we just re-plumb Tolkien over and over. Although it's been getting a little better recently.

Except that's not what this post is about, so ... so hey! Yeah. Advertising your pen & paper rpg with heavy-handed railroading is maybe counterproductive.
I'd have been happy with discussion on how dragons ruined everything in marketing, but yes, when you're game demo looks and feels railroady that's always a bad sign.

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