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Dungeons & Dragons Finally Gives Up On Steampunk, Doubles Down on High Fantasy

Wizards of the Coast has announced the setting of its newest Dungeons & Dragons living campaign series, which, for those of you don’t know, allows thousands of gamers to participate in related tabletop events at gaming stores across the country. Is it set in Greyhawk, the original D&D setting from 1980? Or Eberron, the quasi-steampunk setting of questionable necessity?

Nope! It’s set in the Forgotten Realms, the 90s-era warhorse you might remember from Baldur’s Gate. And, um, Baldur’s Gate II. And several New York Times bestsellers about orcs.

Whereas the period from the apogee of TSR in the mid-80s to the release of the 3rd edition rules under Wizards of the Coast was marked by the rollout of literally dozens of campaign settings, recent years have been marked by their reliance on the old reliables of the WotC stable.

Putting on our industry-analyst eyeshade-hats for a moment: this represents a fairly large bet on independent brick-and-mortar locations for WotC. Whyever might the company being going in this direction?

Well, the free-to-play flatlining of D&D Online represented a bloody nose for the company’s digital plans; in addition, BioWare’s use of Dragon Age (its own IP!) for their next generation of mass-market CRPG (rather than the traditional D&D settings of Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights) means that the company might be turning back to real, live hobby gamers as its primary income stream.

So now that that’s established: Maybe they’ll bring back Planescape! Or Spelljammer! It would probably be a bit much, however, to  hope for a resurrection of the WotC retail empire of yore.

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