3 reasons Tales of the Valiant matters

Fall for the hype

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Tales of the Valiant is a new tabletop roleplaying game, developed by Kobold Press, to replace Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition (5e). Back in December 2022 until January 2023, it was urgent that somebody replaced 5e, because Wizards of the Coast was claiming it had the right to control who could publish or even homebrew content for it. There was a monumental community backlash that forced Wizards of the Coast to back down from that specific course of action, and for many people it felt like the battle was over. The 5e rules remain an irrevocable community asset, so why bother replacing them? The battle isn't over quite yet, and there are 3 good reasons the 5e rules need to be replaced.

1. Games need support

Wizards of the Coast hasn't changed its goal, it's only changed its strategy. Instead of force, they're relying on attrition.

Game rules last basically forever. People still play D&D 2nd Edition right out of the book. It works really well. On the other hand, not everyone plays 2nd Edition. The meta of a game moves on for several reasons, and Wizards of the Coast knows this.

First of all, even a robust game system that everyone loves, like the 5e ruleset, eventually wants an update. Ten years from now, we'll all see something about 5e that we don't like any more, and we'll homebrew a solution, and it'll be fine. Except that when a new player comes to the table, they won't recognise the game. What's written in the SRD will have become outdated based on what the community actually does at the table. That's what it means to have "support" as a game. Somebody needs to be standing by, watching how gamers are playing, and then decide to update the rules to match. Because 5e is now officially in the Creative Commons, anybody can do that, so technically we don't need Tales of the Valiant. Except, we do. When you play an RPG several times a week, you want to have a nice copy of the rulebook for convenience alone if not because you like how it looks on your bookshelf. Kobold Press is an experienced publishing company, and at least for now they're a great candidate to be the centralised source of rule support.

2. Games need community

Wizards of the Coast knows that as long as they abandon 5e and push their sixth edition content, gamers are likely to migrate. As new players find the hobby, they'll naturally buy into Sixth Edition because that'll be the current edition. Wizards claims, for now at least (it's foolish to trust them, at this point), that Sixth Edition will remain compatible with Fifth Edition forever. But the more content they push to their digital platform, the less that's going to matter. To buy an adventure, you'll have to log into their digital platform, and once you're there you may as well just play Sixth Edition.

Wizards expertly engineered a schism in the D&D community when they illegally attempted to revoke the Open Game License, and it's in their interest to split it further. They're designing a community of those who can afford or who are willing to use fancy digital-only gaming resources, and those who cannot or will not. Wizards isn't going to refer to rules and tables as they appear in Fifth Edition, they'll talk in terms of Sixth Edition. They're obviously going to add content and rules to Sixth Edition eventually, and while it may be technically "compatible" with Fifth Edition, it's going to functionally be inaccessible to Fifth Edition players without a purchase of Sixth Edition.

In other words, left to their own devices, Wizards would starve Fifth Edition of content and players until there's just nobody running Fifth Edition games any more. They don't have to take Fifth Edition away from us, like they were trying to do at first, as long as they just let it die while, at the same time, claim that Fifth Edition is still alive in its digital-only Sixth Edition.

3. The company matters

Wizards of the Coast is a business. It's a business I used to want to stay in business, because the company produced a lot of great content that I enjoyed. I spent a lot of money on Fifth Edition because I wanted everyone at Wizards to continue their amazing work. In normal life, like your personal life, that kind of relationship is supposed to mean something. You know somebody, you know their history, and barring any major emergency or crisis, you expect them to continue without any drastic change.

In the multi-million (sorry, billion) dollar business world, though, that's not a relationship. It's a transaction, and it lasts for exactly as long as it takes for the money to change hands. A business has no memory. A business doesn't know what it has done historically, or what its customers expect of it, or even why its customers give it money for a product. This is because any staff member, or even senior executive, can be replaced at any moment and decide to do something totally different than what's been done before. We like to imagine that businesspeople analyze past data and try to meet expectations. We sometimes think they have to do that, or else they'll stop making money. But that's not how it works. If the right person in a business thinks they have a different way to make the same or more money as the business has made in the past, then the business can change course, and it doesn't matter whether you're personally disappointed.

Kobold Press is also business. There's no guarantee that Kobold Press won't change its business practices 10 years from now. In fact, more than likely it will change. That's how things go.

However, in this case the two companies have been running in parallel since the early 2000s. They're pretty easy to compare.

When Wizards of the Coast released D&D 4th Edition under a restrictive anti-consumer and anti-competitive license, Kobold Press published content for Pathfinder under the Open Gaming License.

When it was evident that Pathfinder was getting the lion's share of players, Wizards of the Coast released Fifth Edition in a surprise return to the Open Gaming License. Kobold Press started publishing content for 5e, but continued to support Pathfinder until it was evident that the market had shifted to 5e.

When Wizards of the Coast tried to illegally dismantle the Open Gaming License, Kobold Press joined the ORC initiative and announced Project Black Flag, which became Tales of the Valiant.

Both companies are actually pretty consistent.

Wizards consistently tries to undermine its community with aggressively anti-consumer policies interspersed with hollow enthusiasm for inclusivity and collaboration.

Kobold Press serves its community based on data and feedback. They're funded largely by crowdfunding efforts, so they get direct feedback on what its community wants. They very literally collaborate with the community through design competitions that get included in their products, like Tome of Beasts and the Labyrinth cosmology of Tales of the Valiant.

Life is about change, and anything can happen, but if I'm going to spend my money on something, it's the least I can do to starve the company that's broadcasted, at first overtly and then subversively and then overtly again, its anti-consumer intentions since 2008 (4th Edition). Wizards of the Coast is begging me not to give me their money.

Kobold Press doesn't get any more of my trust than any business, but until they prove themselves unworthy of my support, I'm going to buy Tales of the Valiant and add it to my Kobold Press book collection.

Kickstart it

At the time of writing, Tales of the Valiant still has a couple of days to go on Kickstarter. It's already been funded tenfold, but if you enjoy tabletop roleplaying games that are open for collaboration, throw a few dollars at it.

Project Black Flag art by Kobold Press and used in accordance with its community use policy.

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