So, the other day the cover images for the new D&D books came out, and that caused quite the stir. It also continued the stir about the prices of the new core books (at a basic $50 each, that means a $150 investment on the three books; assuming you get them at full price).
What has been less mentioned is the starter set, which will come in just under $20, a much more affordable level. But this has led to rampant speculation that the starter set will be nothing more than 'crippleware', a "for-profit ad for the main books", as more than one commenter suggested. Admittedly, there's good cause to make such speculation, since pretty much all D&D starter sets for the last 20 years of so have amounted to that.
Well, I have a bit of an edge over other bloggers in that I'm actually a Consultant for Wizards of the Coast on the project-formerly-known-as-D&DNext, now mercifully revealed to simply be called, in its final version, the tried and true "Dungeons & Dragons". Being a paid consultant is a double-edged sword, of course, because there are NDA-imposed limits on what I can and can't say. But on the other hand it means that instead of having to wildly guess based on twitter feeds or the like, I can just talk directly with Mike Mearls and find out what's what. Which is precisely what I've done.
So here is my statement, not of Mike's words (much less of some PR hack from WoTC) but of my own personal position on this subject as a gamer, and with information that almost no one else writing about this subject has access to:
I'm willing to say, right here and now, that the Starter set will NOT be "crippleware", not as I consider that term.
I can't get into a lot of specifics here, but as an exercise in contrasts, I will tell you what I WOULD consider 'crippleware'. It would be Crippleware to me, for example, if it was a boxed set that contained some pretty dice and some minis and rules for playing characters at levels 1-2 and after that you're shit out of luck and have to go buy the big-boy books.
The upcoming D&D Starter set, based on current information I have received firsthand as I am presently aware of it, is not that.
I would be skirting the limits of what I'm allowed to say if I were to state that in fact, the Starter set will contain more campaign-level material than pretty much any starter set I've seen, possibly including the original Basic D&D red box.
More importantly, as Mearls recently stated in his twitter account, you will NOT need to buy all of the D&D "core" books to play OR RUN the game. And unless I've been massively lied to, this is not a play on words or a trick; it is exactly what it says it is.
I will finally close with this enigmatic statement: not everything about how the new D&D will work has been revealed to the public yet. Everything will be more clear when certain information is made public in a while. Information, I might add, that I as an advocate of the D&D game being made as accessible as possible to regular and casual gamers rather than just marketing to the hardcore fans am very excited about.
I really wish I could say more, but I can't, not yet. Still, I hope that those of you who know me, and have read me, whether or not you like me as a person or in my positions on gaming, will know that I'm not going to say something that isn't true, or pretend to be positive about something that I don't feel positive about. And I feel quite positive at this point about the direction WoTC is heading in with this new edition of D&D.
Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + H&H's Beverwyck