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Why one of D&D's biggest video game devs thinks that tabletop game has lost its way

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Dungeons and Dragons is dear to Feargus Urquhart's heart.

But ask the man behind so many adaptations of D&D video games to ignore his emotions and he'll tell you that the '70s fantasy tabletop role-playing game may have lost its way.

In part, that's why Obsidian Entertainment recently cut a deal with Paizo to create games based not on D&D, but tabletop RPG competitor Pathfinder.

"I think for Pathfinder as a whole it's going to be very interesting over the next 12 months to see what happens," the head of Obsidian told Polygon in a recent interview.

The tumult in the tabletop Dungeons and Dragons space can be traced back to the 2007 release of the 4th edition of the game by Wizards of the Coast. The release, its rules and how the release was handled, fractured the audience and led to previous supports, like Pathfinder, creating direct competitors.

But it was last year's final release of the 5th edition that led some, including Urquhart, to question the tabletop's future.

"The new version of D&D came out last year and people are thinking about what is ultimately going to happen with D&D," he said. "One of the reasons we actually went with Pathfinder was ... how do you say it? I'll just say it: We were having a hard time figuring out how to move forward with Dungeons and Dragons."

And that seems to really bother Urquhart, a long-time fan of the game.

"I love Dungeons and Dragons — this isn't an arrogant thing — but I'm probably one of the people who has one of the most electronic D&D games that they've worked on," he said.

That said, when asked directly if the shift to Pathfinder is permanent, Urquhart says:

"It's hard to say, if you ask my lizard brain, I would say yes," he said. "If you ask my emotional brain, I would say I don't know.

pathfinder

"It's hard to move away from something you love and I love D&D. Pathfinder is an important part of the pen-and-paper role-playing world and I love working with them. They want it to succeed and it's theirs. With D&D it's a little more complicated because they have Hasbro and others involved."

And that's the chief issue, Urquhart says.

"So, I think that this is the difficulty: D&D is a part of Wizards of the Coast and WotC is a part of Hasbro," he said. "Hasbro is a very big company that, let's say makes a billion dollars off of Monopoly each year, I don't know what the number is, but let's just say.

"I think whenever you have that, when you have this company which has this brand which in some weird way is comparable to this evergreen thing like Monopoly, in that it's a board game and it's sold in certain of the same places, it can be difficult.

"D&D is different, it needs a lot more support, it's community driven, it needs conventions and all of this stuff, and it's not going to make a billion dollars."

Urquhart says he thinks that under this system the tabletop game has lost its identity. He also likens it to similar challenges in the video game space.

"Take Activision, they make games like Call of Duty and Destiny," he said. "They have these big tentpole things, it is very hard to then have another thing that is one one-hundredth of the magnitude of those."

And that  is what he says Hasbro struggles with.

"A part of me would love to see D&D be bought by someone and become what it was before," he said. "Become TSR again. TSR did other games, but D&D was their thing, their main focus.

"I think it's different now."