Playing with my D&D group yesterday (and doing so in person for once... always a nice touch), we were having a blast. I have to admit, though I'm not entirely sure why, this latest incarnation has me excited about D&D again. While every new playtest draft features tweaks and revisions hinting at any number of possibilities, it feels familiar and refreshingly different at the same time. I'm still in love with the advantage/disadvantage mechanic.
Then a thought occurred to me: what if Wizards of the Coast decided to go back to D&D 3rd edition? My first follow-up question wonders if it was even a consideration during those initial meetings to discuss the possibility of a new edition, but let's assume all those involved in making that call took a look at the situation and felt the best recourse was to return to what brought them so much glory in the previous decade. What if D&D and Pathfinder literally went head to head?
It's a trick question when you think about it. The idea of WotC actually re-launching 3e could create far more consequences and bad PR than anything as many would see it as "giving up" and "caving in." So there would have to be something about this effort to make it a revised edition while staying damn close to the original design of 3e. In a sense, it would be the same as Pathfinder: stick with the basics and tweak the classes, races, and such with your own personal touches. Would WotC reprint the previous rulebooks or redesign them with some minor revisions? If they were to reprint, it would likely be the whole 3.5 mess all over again and based on the fact that they seem to have learned from past mistakes (hence the whole reason for D&D Next), let's assume they simply turn back to supporting 3e again without new rulebooks or supplements for simplicity's sake.
Let's also go with the assumption that while either version would have its differences (in that Pathfinder has it's own modifications), both games would remain basically the same. What would either publisher push as their dominant factor? Paizo would theoretically continue with what's worked for them thus far: adventures, support material (cards, maps), and the occasional option book. Wizards of the Coast, on the other hand, has the benefit of nostalgia on their side. It makes sense to me they would turn to all the classic settings at their disposal and push them like mad. Forgotten Realms would receive the love fans have always wanted, Ravenloft would return with a vengeance, as would Dark Sun and Planescape for certain. Perhaps they'd even take advantage of their work in d20 Modern and create a new cross-genre setting a la Amethyst.
Obviously, all we can do is speculate, but it's a very interesting what if scenario, in my opinion. In short, rather than emphasize what WotC would do, my curiosity leads to what Paizo would do. I've never held back my opinion that Paizo is very good at what they do and know how to work with the material they've gained through the OGL, but I have little confidence (or reason to be confident) on their own original creativity. If you disagree, ask yourself if Paizo would (or could) make Pathfinder 2nd edition. Or better yet, will Paizo ever release their own RPG using their own non-d20 system?
The sad part is that we'll never truly know. All we'll ever have is our speculation. C'est la vie.
Happy New Year!!