Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Expanded Dungeons and Dragons News from GAMA.

This morning (see Dungeons and Dragons News for more) I posted put out a bit of information coming from the Game Manufacturers Association trade show, or GAMA for short, and I wanted to take a few minutes and expand on what we've learned in the intervening hours and to put some of those points into context.

The Starter Set
"D&D presentation showing off gorgeous D&D starter set box" I'm Board! Games
After reading a few different first hand sources who attended the GAMA show the Starter Set is going to be a White Box. This appears to be a homage to Original Dungeons and Dragons and the 1974 White Box - which is a nice touch. It seems to be part of emerging pattern of behavior from Wizards of the Coast over the last few years.

Previously, Wizards of the Coast seemed to treat older editions of Dungeons and Dragons as though they were something to be ashamed of and forgotten entirely. That changed with the release of the Red Box Starter Set for Fourth Edition. Suddenly we started getting classic products available again in pdf format through the Dungeons and Dragons Classics website. We've seen recent Encounters Series that have been compatible with Third, Fourth, and Fifth edition. The playtest packets even went so far as to make it a point of running classic adventures, such as the Keep on the Boarderlands' Caves of Chaos,  with the new edition rule sets.

In many ways it's as though the people running Wizards of the Coast woke up and realized that one of the great failures of the Fourth Edition was their insistence that old views and products weren't relevant to the game anymore. It created bad blood and drove people away from the game, myself included.

I am encouraged by this change in philosophy and hopeful that it continues as the product launches.
"Opinion: The 5e 'white box' Starter will be more like the 4e Starter Set than the Pathfinder Beginner Box . . ." I'm Board! Games
The Fourth Edition Starter Set has been maligned for a number of reasons (not the least of which was it being part of the Essentials Line), but some of this criticism has been simply because it wasn't what we wanted - whatever that was. I've gotten a couple of questions about what the actual difference between the Pathfinder Box and the D&D Box entail. These two videos should answer all of those questions. First we'll look at the Dungeons and Dragons Red Box:

Contrast the Red Box with this short presentation by Erik Mona and the Pathfinder Beginner's Box:

The Three Books

Wizards of the Coast has confirmed now that there will be a Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual. They still have not announced a release date for any of the books or the Starter Set it seems that the leaked information from Barnes and Noble's website (see Release Date for Next Leaked for more) is shaping up to be pretty accurate at least as far as was shown. 

There has been little information released on the actual look of each of the books as cameras weren't allowed during the presentation but that hasn't stopped some people from doing their best to imagine the covers:

Player's Handbook Cover by @NewbieDM
While that's not necessarily bad I'm hopeful for something more in the vein of the action oriented Advanced Dungeon Master's Guide than the static pose that graced the Forth Edition Player's Handbook. Maybe we'll get lucky and the cover will be somewhere in-between. 
"D&D Presentation: no multiple PH's . . ." I'm Board! Games
In many ways it's a relief to know that there aren't going to be five or six Player's Handbooks being published but in others it doesn't really matter. We all know that more classes, races, backgrounds, feats, spells, and other gaming ephemera are going to come out in the countless supplemental books that will be published after the core grouping. So this isn't really a win or lose statement. 
"Monster Manual. Pretty! "All the iconic monsters are there." I'm Board! Games
By contrast this statement has far more weight in it. When Fourth Edition first came out the Monster Manual was missing several of the old standbys, most notably the metallic dragons. Leaving them out isn't a cardinal sin, but it's a bit like going to see a baseball game and the right fielder is left off the roster. Yeah, you can play, but . . .

One of the major points that keeps coming up in discussing these books is how beautiful the covers are. That was something that was lacking in many Fourth Edition books as the creatures seemed to become far more cartoony than beautiful and as a whole the artistic style just wasn't as inspiring as previous editions (though clearly a three legged hog covered in leprous legions would be more attractive than the Third Edition core book covers).

I'm excited to finally see these covers when the pre-orders start launching. By the way, I'm betting that the pre-orders for the Starter Set will launch by the end of next month and the Player's Handbook will follow by the end of the following month. 

"What would Gary and Dave do?"

It tickles me to see that this is their guiding philosophy, even if it is just lip service, because what that line says to me is: make the game fun first and foremost, the rest will follow.  

Here's hoping they succeed because I'm really looking forward to the launch at this point.

Your thoughts?


  1. I can't believe that they're taking "What Would Gary & Dave Do?" seriously when they're releasing all this metaplot-heavy schlock and railroad fodder. I wonder how many old schoolers will actually fall for this half-hearted marketing ploy?

    1. The meta-plot stuff doesn't bother me as it's really something you can pick up or drop just like you could when they first brought in the Forgotten Realms (not Dragonlance though - that was some serious railroading that was brought in under Gary's watch).

      I can tell you that the whole Sundering thing has been really enjoyable up to this point and if they're going to continue doing things in its vein then I'm not too terribly upset by the prospect.

      "I wonder how many old schoolers will actually fall for this half-hearted marketing ploy?"

      Hard to say at this point.

    2. I respectfully disagree with you on the Sundering, but I'm glad you enjoy it. Personally, I'm actually looking forward to 5e. I'd like to not have to avoid mainstream D&D at cons and game stores.

  2. If they really can live up to the WWGDD? philosophy, then that will be a good thing. However, I am not sure that they will - adventure paths and such are exactly the antithesis of weal^H^H^H^H the type of early gaming scenario design that we see in Gygax and Arneson products. On the other hand, Gygax sort of invented the metaplot when he presented news of the Flanaess, so I'll give it a chance. I am not particularly optimistic, but we'll see.

    1. I'm just glad they're trying - because even if they fail at least they gave enough of a shit to make the effort. That's more than we've been able to say for a lot of companies.

  3. From all appearances, I don't think that the whole WWGDD is lip-service. Everything that's come out from the playtest packets to Mearls and Co. has been based on this philosophy, from my perspective. Story first, mechanics second. The core of the rules really reinforce this. Lots of modifiers? Nope, advantage/disadvantage. Skill list from hell? Nope, a concise skill list with broad and generalized categories, open to DM interpretation. Twenty pages of powers listed for each character class? No way, just a few pages, but all of it pretty useful and cool.

    At least, this is how I've seen it. Third drove me away, and fourth did nothing to bring me back. But what they've been doing so far, I have totally freaking loved.

  4. I'm not sure if your typo in chapter 2 (Perviously) is intentional, but I think it is an appropriate combination of 'previously' and 'perversely' to describe WOTC's attitude to older editions.

    1. That's what I get for typing an entry on my phone.


      I fixed it and a couple of other typos I caught. Thanks for pointing that one out to me. :)


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