By Christopher Helton
Despite the growing popularity of games like Pathfinder or Fate Core, there is one game that wags the tail of tabletop gaming, and that is Dungeons & Dragons from Wizards of the Coast. This summer, at the Gen Con gaming convention, the first book of the new, fifth edition of the game that started everything in this field of gaming is being released.
Today started like this over on Twitter:
So…. Anyone hear any interesting D&D news this morning?
— Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) May 19, 2014
There's a lot that's new to cover.
First off, there will be a Starter Box, probably similar in approach to the D&D 4th Edition Red Box that was released in homage to the old Basic D&D boxed sets from the 70s and 80s. According to Amazon, this boxed set will retail for $19.99 and be the "gateway to action-packed stories of the imagination." While the description say that it "contains the essential rules of the game plus everything you need to play heroic characters on perilous adventures in worlds of fantasy," most likely it will be have enough for a few levels of play and a few monsters.
According to Mike Mearls, the lead of the D&D R&D team at Wizards of the Coast, there will be some form of character creation in the Starter Box. He answered a few questions on Twitter with:
Lots of questions about character creation and the starter set – you will definitely be able to make characters when it comes out.
— Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) May 19, 2014
From that we will see the rollout of the core D&D books will be staggered for "quality reasons." D&D 4th Edition was one of the few where all three of the core books came out at the same time, and there were a number of printing-related quality issues and distribution issues due to stores having to buy a number of copies of all three books at once. The Players Handbook will come out at this summer's Gen Con and then be released into distribution. This allows for buzz to be generated coming out of the convention to lift up sales for the general release.
From the official press release we get: "For players eager to sink their teeth into the Tyranny of Dragons storyline around the gaming table, two new tabletop adventures will also release this year. Hoard of the Dragon Queen (August 19) and The Rise of Tiamat (October 21) will take players into the depths of the dragon's lair, pitting them against Tiamat, the most fearsome dragon in D&D's history." These adventures, filling the gaps between the release of the core books are likely also intended to give gaming groups some monsters to fight against until the September 30th release of the Monster Manual.
What is interesting is that these adventures were not designed in house by the Wizards of the Coast team. In conjunction with Kobold Press, designers Wolfgang Bauer (founder of Kobold Press and former designer and developer for Wizards of the Coast and TSR) and Steve Winter (former editor and designer at Wizards of the Coast and TSR, as well as being one of the creators of the adventure that would become the computer game Pool of Radiance) have done the design work on these adventures for Wizards of the Coast. This bit of news has sparked a lot of conjecture as to the nature of licensing for the new edition of D&D.
If you've been following the ongoing playtest for what Wizards of the Coast had been calling "D&D Next," you already have some idea of what will be in these books. If you haven't been following this along, a quick Google of "D&D Next playtest" will give you much of the information that you will need.
Right now, it seems like much of the online "arguing" is around the staggered release schedule of the books, because gamers tend to want everything now, but it will probably settle back into complaints about the hardcover, full-color books costing too much money (at $50 a piece).
Expect more as we get closer to Gen Con. This is definitely the industries big release of the season, and it will be setting the tone for a lot of what happens over the next year. This is only a gut feeling, based on whispers and rumors, but I think that the biggest fallout that we will see won't be coming from Wizards of the Coast, but when Paizo announces the new edition of Pathfinder at some point next year.
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.