Monday, May 19, 2014

Catching Up on All the D&D News that Happened Today.

A lot of information on the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons was released this morning so I'm going to go through and gather it all in a manageable form for everybody. The goal is to make a lot of this information that's coming from social media, forums, and news sites into a consumable mass that actually makes sense - we'll see how well that goes.

The Announcement

This morning Wizards of the Coast officially announced the release dates, prices, and covers for the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons (read 5th Edition Dates, Prices, and Look Confirmed! Plus New Miniatures! for more). The news was broken by +Russ Morrissey on EN World from a mobile phone, which is pretty amazing considering that he didn't have the advanced notice that CNN, the Escapist, or Kobold Press had. I managed to be the first to break the news on Blogger, though I followed +Stan Shinn on Google+.

The Starter Set

Initially the only versions of any of the images were the small thumbnails that came with the product descriptions on Wizards of the Coast's Dungeons and Dragons Product Page. These images weren't very easy to distinguish anything on so it was excellent when +Russ Morrissey posted these larger pictures. I've seen several sources claim that the image is an homage to the iconic 'Red Box' cover +Larry Elmore made years ago. 

The two are similar in that you have a dragon fighting a warrior with a shield, but then just about any image with a dragon fighting a warrior could be considered similar. Of the two covers I like the new Starter Set dragon best. He just looks far more intimidating than Elmore's version. The artist for each of the new edition's covers, including the Starter Set, appears to be Micheal Komarck

There have been a number of questions about whether character creation rules would be included in the Starter Set. +Mike Mearls responded to a twitter question on this subject saying, "Lots of questions about character creation and the starter set - you will definitely be able to make characters when it comes out." Initially this response seemed to confirm that the character creation rules would be included in the Starter Set, then Mike threw a new wrinkle into things when he wrote, "Lots of Q's about the staggered release: You will not need the MM or DMG to run a campaign. Or the PH or Starter Set to make a character."

What did that last response mean? 

Mike Mearls has not, as of this time, expanded further on the statement but the leading theory is that there will be either an OGL similar to Third Edition's or a more limited GSL similar to Fourth Edition's. In either case the cryptic statement appears to indicate that there will be some form of gaming license available for fans and third party support that will allow the game to be played without purchasing it. Be forewarned: this may just be wishful thinking on a lot of people's parts at this point as there has been no official statement on the matter and more questions have been raised than answered. 

The Starter Set is designed for four to six players and comes with a 64 page adventure book that will have everything the Dungeon Master will need to get started. There's a 32 page rulebook for your players that will help them go from level one to level five. Combined these two booklets have a smaller page count than +Frank Mentzer's basic set (120 pages), which is arguably the most beloved version of the Basic Game. You'll also have some pre-generated characters, reference sheets, and some dice.

The big question at this time is: will the Starter Set integrate seamlessly with the new edition or will it have the sort of problems that caused the Fourth Edition Red Box to become a maligned and discarded product? At this time, indications are that the Starter Set will function without issue in connection with the core game. The lessons from the consumer dissatisfaction with the Fourth Edition Red Box appear to have been learned.

The price for the Starter Set has a suggested retail of $19.99. As of this writing you can pre-order it on Amazon for $16.04 or Barnes and Noble for $17.99.

The Core Set

These are the largest images I've been able to find of the core books and if you click on each of them you'll be able to expand them to a larger size and see more detail. Wizards of the Coast published them on their facebook page where a large group of people have taken it upon themselves to make statements such as, "I'm not dropping another 200 bucks on a set of books for a short-lived edition. Pass," and "Oh look. More versions of D&D I'm not going to buy." It's pretty typical trolling and for every antagonistic statement there are two or three comments in support of the new books. 

That said there is a lot of criticism in regard to the graphic design of the books. Of particular scorn has been the Dungeons and Dragons ribbon and the D&D logo at the top. Some have called the two items amateurish and indistinct. I cannot disagree more strongly but as this is a matter of taste and not something that can have an absolute answer I'll move on to what I like about them.

The new logo is a clear homage towards the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons logo and it appears that the red stripe on the lower left corner is also a homage to the yellow ribbon that graced AD&D's covers. Little touches like these appear to be an attempt by Wizards of the Coast to continue hearkening back to older editions. I like the recognition that this reveals much more than the disparaging of previous editions that took place during Fourth Edition's launch - though 4e players will note that their edition has been much maligned. 

In case you didn't notice the new edition has a banner at the top that just says D&D. This is because the new edition will only be known as Dungeons and Dragons. No edition numbering, no demarcations to distinguish it from all that came before. It's just Dungeons and Dragons. 

The picture above was posted by Trevor Kidd and shows a mock up of what the Dungeons and Dragons books will look like once they're completed. While some glanced at the picture and thought that Wizards was going back towards the SAGA style books due to the small size of the original picture, Kidd was quick to point out that these are actually older edition books with the mock up covers on them so he could show the spines. Which means that while the size of the new edition's books have not been shown they are currently being modeled on the traditional over-sized books. According to Kidd there's going to be more articles coming on each of these books, and when they come out there will be better resolution pictures (and hopefully some details on the way that the books are laid out inside).

The Player's Handbook will have a limited release at GenCon 2014 with a wider release on August 19, 2014. The Monster Manual will be released on September 30, 2014. The Dungeon Master's Guide will be released on November 18, 2014. Each book has a suggest retail price $49.99. None are currently available for pre-order. 

The Adventures

Rise of Tiamat cover without text
Horde of the Dragon Queen without text
In a surprising move Wizards of the Coast chose to have Kobold Press' +Wolfgang Baur and +Steven Winter design the first two adventures released for the new edition. These two veteran designers have been responsible for some of my favorite modules so personally I'm very excited by their involvement. 

"Wolfgang Baur was at the top of our list for a reason,” said Mike Mearls, Senior Manager at Wizards of the Coast. “Between his work on Dungeon magazine in the 1990s and at Kobold Press today, he’s shown a keen eye for adventure design that few can match. What I love about Hoard of the Dragon Queen and The Rise of Tiamat is how Wolfgang and Steve Winter have approached the traditional adventure format. While the episodic structure makes it easy for DMs to trace the campaign’s humble beginnings to its epic conclusion, within those episodes is a level of flexibility and freedom for DMs and players that places this among the great D&D campaigns.” (Kobold Press Designed Tyranny of Dragons Adventures for the New Edition of the Dungeons & Dragons Tabletop Roleplaying Game)
Mike's comments just underline my excitement for having these two designing these adventures. Both adventures will run 96 pages in length and cost $29.95. Neither are available for pre-order as of this writing. 

The Mass Media

CNN wrote a retrospective on the history of the game and it's future titled 40 years later, Dungeons and Dragons still inspiring gamers. The article takes some time to talk about the "Demonic" claims of yesterday and then focuses on it's influence on video games before briefly dealing with the new rule set.

io9 writes up a fairly good overview of the news today in their article Everything You Need to Know about the Dungeons and Dragons Relaunch. The big thing to take out of this article is their recognition of the value in Wizards outsourcing some of their efforts to WizKids and Kobold Press and that they'll be conducting an interview later this week with Kobold Press.

the Escapist covers the news, with their browser hijacking website, in the article Dungeons & Dragons Unveils Full Product Line, Release Dates, and Details - Update. Of the group listed so far this is by far the most direct line on the news announced today. 

Nerdvana covered the story in their article, First look at new D&D Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual, Dungeon Master’s Guide and more. Not much difference between this article and the Escapist one, though the Escapist has a bit more information.

Mashable covered the new logo in their article 'Dungeons & Dragons' Celebrates 40th Anniversary With Fiery New Logo.

The Outhouse gave a cursory examination of the day's events in their article, Next Dungeons and Dragons Release Schedule Revealed

Geeks of Doom does an enjoyable job of talking about the release in their article New Dungeons and Dragons Content this Summer!

Finally Bleeding Cool News covered the story with The Summer Blockbuster Of Tabletop RPGs: D&D Is Back. A good article that covers a bit of the social media goings on that many of the others missed.


  1. Great recap of everything. Limited release at Gencon. Ugh, I'm not one for battling those long lines. Time is too valuable to get the book a few days early and since the MM and DMG are coming out months later.

    1. Personally I don't see why you would when you'll be able to get it cheaper on Amazon or Barnes and Noble - and you won't have to lug it around with you as you go about the convention. By the way, incredibly jealous that you're going. Hopefully I'll get to go in the next couple of years . . .

  2. I think I'm bound to buy the PHB when it drops, just out of curiosity. I'm hoping this is the next really enjoyable D&D, however having not played any of the beta testing or even read any of the articles, I gave up reading beta reviews, I'll be going in blind.
    (so much of the internet has either been 'THIS IS AWESOME!" or "THIS is A pile of After APPLES HORSE TURDS!" too much to sift through.)

    1. I'm looking forward to it. The playtest has really pleased me overall so I've got high hopes for the final product.

  3. I feel like the primary reason for the staggered release schedule is to boost sales of the starter set. I think a lot of people would skip the starter set altogether if they could just go out and pick up all three core books a few weeks after the starter set hit shelves. At $20, or $16 for a pre-order that's a hard deal to pass up. I imagine that several naysayers will be lured in by that low price point, and that they will later be eating their words about shelling out money for another edition of DnD. This scheme will probably work on me. I hadn't planned on going out and spending $150 at once on new books, but I might spend $50 three times over a four month period, as well as spending the $20 for the starter set that I can't imagine needing once I have all the other books. Clever bastards.

    1. I think you could well be right my friend!

  4. Great overview and you managed to get in a couple of pictures I had not seen yet. Thanks! :)


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