How Magic the Gathering Saved Dungeons & Dragons

Posted on Thu 26 March 2015 in Dispatches • 2 min read

Ryan C. Burch has published an interesting piece on Geek Speaker about how Wizards of the Coast used principles from Magic the Gathering to save D&D from itself. His contention is that 2E was inaccessible to most gamers, and that TSR had made management decisions that had seriously hampered future development. When Wizards of the Coast acquired D&D, they took steps to rectify those problems.

Enter Wizards of the Coast.  In 1993, the publication of Magic: the Gathering practically re-invented the gaming industry in 1993.  The game exploded in popularity and Wizards bought D&D in 1997.  Sure, this was meant as a business decision and not a favor to gamers, but it would’ve been easy enough to create their own game–or to buy the license and sit on it until an interested party was willing to pay more for it.   After three years of development, they released D&D 3.0, and it was good.  Regardless of your current opinion of 3e/3.5/Pathfinder, the system redefined the RPG genre.  The introduction of feats and skill points streamlined the game and offered players vast customization options.  More importantly, it paved the way for the revolutionary Open Game License, something that allowed numerous small companies to create d20 compatible RPG products across any genre.   It was like a version of Rifts that didn’t look like it was edited by M.C. Escher.

Ryan C. Burch, System Mastery: Of Dungeons & Dragons & Magic

It’s a fun read both from a game mechanics perspective, as well as for the historical overview of the game. It’s interesting to see the parallels he draws between CCG and RPG mechanics in modern versions of both games.

I find myself craving a bit more detail about this topic. In particular, I’m curious if he has more to say about 5E or other gaming systems, and how they also may have influenced by the changes made by to D&D. Burch does indicate in the title that this is part one of two, and I look forward to reading more when the next article is published.