Why Isn’t There More Digital 5E?

A few events in my life over the last week inspired me to write this blog post. First off, I took my daughter to Books-A-Million on Saturday to replace a book that she left in Las Vegas. While she perused the children’s book section I took the opportunity to check out the small RPG section in the store. Two products drew my interest: the 5th Edition Shadowrun Core Rulebook and the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. I was seriously thinking about picking them up, but ultimately decided not to. A few days after passing up on those books I finally downloaded all of the Torg content that I had purchased from the Bundle of Holding sale. It ended up being nineteen different PDFs that were included in that bundle. I put all of these documents directly on to my tablet with the other RPG downloads that I have.

So why does it matter that I passed up on buying one of the other RPG books, but I had no problem spending the same amount of money on the Torg material. The reason I didn’t buy either of the physical books was simply because they were huge volumes of pages that weighed a ton. RPGs are a big part of my life, but I find myself having to sacrifice more and more space to other things. This is why I have been gradually moving more towards buying strictly digital products.

It hasn’t been an easy transition since I am a tactile person. I enjoy the feel of flipping through pages much more than I enjoy sliding my finger along a touchscreen. There is also something to be said about the smell of new books and the sound that the binding makes when you crack them open for the first time. But, the reality is that these books aren’t working for me anymore. I don’t want to carry around these books everywhere I go. I travel and want to take RPGs with me, but there is no way I’m hauling along more than a few of the heavy hardcover books. Digital products provide all of the information contained in these same books without the weight and size. I added all of the Torg products to my tablet and it got no heavier.

So it was slightly disappointing when Wizards of the Coast didn’t offer any of the three core rulebooks for 5E in digital format. I had no problem buying the physical books for the new edition, but why couldn’t WotC offer a download code for a digital copy? That would provide players and DMs with the best of both worlds. I know that they offered up the Basic Rules as a digital download before the Starter Set was released and I know that there are other digital products available on their website. Those things are nice, but they aren’t the big three (It could be said that most of the digital content is information that was omitted from the core books). Even worse was the dissolution of the partnership between Wizards of the Coast and Trapdoor Technologies, makers of DungeonScape. It seemed that the rumored next version of the digital tabletop aid would not be coming anytime soon.

5E was billed as the next big thing in Dungeons & Dragons. This wasn’t going to be your grandparent’s D&D. It was going to pull the game out of the basements and put it right in the hands of a new generation of gamers. The problem with that assertion is that the next generation of gamers is much more tech savvy than any previous generation. They grew up with the video games consoles that have always been propped up as the natural enemy of tabletop games. What makes Wizards of the Coast think that handing these players a hardcover book is going to drag them away from their PlayStation now when it didn’t work half a decade ago? The first question they are going to ask about D&D is if there’s an app for it. Obviously I don’t know what the digital future holds for Wizards of the Coast and Dungeons & Dragons. There could be digital rulebooks on the horizon for 5E. The issue is that in the 21st century a major RPG publisher seems content to ignore current technology trends.

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