By Christopher Helton
The newest announcement coming from Wizards of the Coast this morning is that you will be getting the core of the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons for free. Previously mentioned as something "outside the box" of the Starter Set and being a free "15%" of the core rules, we now know that this PDF will be known as Basic Dungeons & Dragons (in homage to the old "starter sets" of the 70s and 80s, and it will be free and contain all of the basics of character creation.
There is no word yet on page count, or any specifics outside of the name, but "Basic D&D is a PDF that covers the core of the game. It's the equivalent of the old D&D Rules Cyclopedia, though it doesn't have quite the same scope (for example, it won't go into detail on a setting). It runs from levels 1 to 20 and covers the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard, presenting what we view as the essential subclass for each. It also provides the dwarf, elf, halfling, and human as race options."
It gets a little confusing, because it seems that the content of the PDF will change between the release of the Starter Set and the Player's Handbook, which seems like a less than optimal way to do it. According to Wizards of the Coast, "At the launch of the D&D Starter Set, Basic D&D will include the material needed to create characters and advance to 20th level. In August, with the release of the Player's Handbook, Basic D&D will expand to include the essential monsters, magic items, and DM rules needed to run the game, along with the rules for wilderness, dungeon, and urban adventuring. (The Starter Set already covers the aspects of these rules that you need to run the included campaign.)"
Regardless of this little release hiccup, it looks as if gamers will be getting a nice, free core to the Dungeons & Dragons experience. Much like with many contemporary MMOs, this will be a "freemium" experience. You get the core materials for free and then you can upgrade to expanded material at a cost. I wonder how long it will be until there is a print version of Basic Dungeons & Dragons to augment the free PDF? It looks like gamers are already clamoring for it.
Christopher Helton is a blogger, podcaster and tabletop RPG publisher who talks about games and other forms of geekery at the long-running Dorkland! blog. He is also the co-publisher at the ENnie Award winning Battlefield Press, Inc. You can find him on Twitter at @dorkland and on G+ at https://plus.google.com/+ChristopherHelton/ where he will talk your ear off about gaming and comics.
Christopher has a crowdfunding page to help raise money to defray the costs for going to the Gen Con gaming convention and cover it for his Dorkland! blog and Bleeding Cool. Please click here to go to the page and help out.