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Tuesday 20 May 2014

Insider Information on the new Edition of Dungeons & Dragons

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.

That's crippleware.

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


  1. The Red Box set for 4e was crippleware, and the buzz beforehand was all about how it would be totally compatible with 4e (a product that was 2 years old at the time).

    So, you'll forgive the public if we just don't believe you.

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

    1. Gotta love America, man. The land where a company, a group, or a person gets ONE SHOT to get it right. After that, you're never, ever to be trusted. Hmm, wonder why the country is slipping in innovation, cooperation, etc.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. If you think that WotC as a company has only had one shot to get it right, then you haven't been paying attention. This is not the only straw-- this is just the most recent and the most obvious comparison product.

      Also: Please don't tell me a "starter box" that doesn't contain any PC creation information is somehow *not* crippleware.

  2. Well, maybe I will read a review before buying but, for twenty bucks? Eh, why not.

  3. Don't believe you, just because where your brass is buttered.

    It's there an OGL-style SRD in the works for this version? I don't think that I will spend a penny on it if there is not.

  4. Dang RPGPundit is working for The Man. :) As a publisher, I too am interested in any OGL/STL/SRD license that might be available.

  5. THANKS for the info! You've convinced me to set aside 20$ (plus shipping to Israel) from my ACKS work payment for the D&D Starter Set. I'll probably keep playing ACKS and D&D 3.5E and Mongoose Traveller rather than D&D 5E, but I'd LOVE to see what the Wizards ahve come up with this time.

  6. Hmm, I would venture to say that WotC, in keeping with the times and current levels of technology (specifically the Internet as it exists today), will be sending DMs and players to the web for "stuff" to fill in some gaps in what the Starter Set will provide. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

    I mean, if it's free resources on the web, that's not bad. But then again, why can't the physical box just contain all the stuff one needs to play? Not to sound old-fashioned (or just plain old), but I'd prefer a complete box, rather than having to run around on the Internet to get stuff or even use an app. Speaking of app, that's another route that WotC might take...again, hopefully at a low price point or even free.

    I dunno. I'm still holding out hope that they get it "right." Meaning, that this edition does bring together both the legacy and spirit of the older editions, with some new twists/options that can spice things up a bit...

  7. Well, the starter set is made for the kids; and a key concern was affordability.

    As far as me "working for the man", keep in mind I've been spitting poison at the stupidity of WoTC's marketing department, in how this whole clusterfuck could have been avoided if they'd just figured out that no, it would not be a really awesome idea to keep the best part about the new D&D release a secret. It should have been the FIRST thing they told gamers, not the last.

    WoTC hired me BECAUSE I don't let anything stop me from saying what I really think. That's the point.

  8. Thanks for this information. I'm planning on buying the starter set when it is released and your post has certain allayed some growing concerns I've been having.

  9. I'm glad for that, mainly I'm glad you found the post helpful!

  10. Who cares about D&D 5E? Where´s the Fantastic Heroes & Witchery review? :)

  11. Victor: Its about 7 reviews away. But my next review will be Carcosa, which I bet will be a barrel of laughs.

  12. A barrel of laughs? Not, it´s going to be WAR!! I'll have my popcorn ready.