Friday, December 16, 2011

D&D Edition Timeline

In the comments accompanying my previous post about the prospect of 5E being on the horizon, the question of whether or not such a thing would be historically atypical came up. Well, I'm a numbers man, so here are some numbers. I'm deliberately omitting the basic/expert/etc. pathway in the interests of clarity; including them doesn't materially alter the point.
  • 1974: 0E (White box edition)
  • 1977: 1E (Monster Manual first published)
  • 1989: 2E (Core Rulebooks first published)
  • 2000: 3E (Core Rulebooks first published)
  • 2003: 3.5E (Core Rulebooks first published)
  • 2008: 4E (Core Rulebooks first published)
And here's what those dates end up giving us in terms of intervals:
  • 0E - 1E: 3 years
  • 1E - 2E: 12 years
  • 2E - 3E: 11 years
  • 3E - 3.5E: 3 years
  • 3.5E - 4E: 5 years
  • (3E - 4E: 8 years)
  • 4E - now: 3 years
I've got to say, I was pretty shocked by the interval between 3.5 and 4E. I thought it was a LOT longer. 3.5 was only around for 5 years before they came out with 4E? Considering its enormous shadow, that's pretty impressive. First Edition was on top of the heap for the longest period, 12 years, but 2nd edition wasn't too far behind at 11 years.

The average interval between major releases is 6 years or so. A release of 5E in 2012 wouldn't be unheard-of fast*. A 2013 release would be more reasonable, and from a marketing standpoint possibly easier to sell, given that it would tie 3.5's record. That's where I'm placing my bet. Will we see it before Christmas 2014? I think that's a lock.

* Super-duper conspiracy theory: Monte Cook was working on 5E all the time, and was brought on board to polish the design after presenting it to the WotC brass nearly fully-formed, like Athena from the brow of Zeus. Seeing the writing on the wall re: the white elephant that is 4E, they jumped at the chance. Complete speculation on my part. Complete.