D&D Takes Another Stab at Digitization

Since 1974 with the release of the original Dungeons and Dragons (known to most as D&D), the pen and paper role playing game has enchanted masses untold. Like any long lived product it has ebbed and flowed, gaining and losing popularity as the decades pass. Today, D&D enjoys a surge of popularity as all things nerd and geek dominate pop culture. Thus, it has been brought into modern times. Dungeons and Dragons Beyond is a digital companion tool aimed at bringing D&D to those near, far, and everywhere in between. The tool has been lovingly crafted by Curse, Inc. and now officially has a release date of August 15th.

Upon release, D&D Beyond will feature two subscriber levels along with flexible purchases. This way, a player only needs to buy what they will use. I wouldn’t want the new guy at my table to purchase the Monster Manual or Dungeon Master’s Guide. Heck, he wouldn’t need to purchase anything more than the race and class he wants his first character to be. It even goes deeper than that. Adam Bradford, DDB product lead at Curse, states that, “You can unlock that class and all of its options only. Want to run ‘Tomb of Horrors’ from Tales From the Yawning Portal? Unlock that single adventure.” A sigh of relief is heard through the world at not having to spend fifty dollars for a supplement book just for new feats or a class tucked away therein.

DDB Mobile App Preview Image Source: D&D Beyond

The subscriber tiers are $2.99 and $5.99.  The base tier (called the “Hero Tier”) is aimed at players that allows a person to create characters and home-brew content. The Master Tier looks to be well worth it. On top of the base tier, this DM-aimed subscription allows the user to share any unlocked content with the players of a campaign. Want to play a Tabaxi and the DM (being a Master Tier subscriber, of course) has it? They can share it with you. The druid uses her shape change ability and needs the stats to a brown bear? Check! Stumbled upon a glorious bazaar and want to shop magic items? The DM can share the DMG’s magic item section with their players. No word on Dungeon Master’s Guild integration as of yet.

The greatest feature Curse, Inc. plans to include is Twitch support. D&D Beyond is linked to your Twitch Account. Curse, Inc. was purchased by Amazon a few years ago and placed under their Twitch Interactive umbrella, which they purchased in 2014. Given the explosion in popularity of pen and paper podcasts, streams, and shows (like our own #D8Night), this was a fantastically smart move. Other “digital table top” products use the Google API to allow Hangouts integration, but to stream straight to a channel and have players see each other’s face is something that is needed when you’re all across the globe. Soon, you may see our own daring do-gooders using DDB to bring you tales of magic and adventure! Along with a website, DDB will launch apps on both Android and Apple.

Image Source: D&D Beyond

Dungeons and Dragons Beyond is pretty sleek. Everything is categorized and easily navigable. Your characters are constructed into sheets with context menus and words are hotlinked to the vast DDB database to easily find what a feat, power, or feature does. However, a character is more than numbers and dice. They hold ideals, bonds, and flaws. Curse has ensured the roleplay aspect was not left wanting. A player can give equal weight to their characters person as to their stats.

This looks to be a promising effort for Wizards of the Coast. There is a possible big payoff here, both in potential revenue and in reputation. Wizards of the Coast has long tried to digitize its pen and paper offerings. All attempts failed and even 5th Edition’s first digital tool, Project Morningstar, was canceled halfway through development. Much of this is due to Wizards of the Coast trying to create a digital tool in house. As a subsidiary of Hasbro, they have vast resources to tap into, but the company doesn’t have digital creation experience. This became all too evident with their first attempt at a digital tool package.

Tablet Preview Image Source: D&D Beyond

Master Tools, words that anyone in the early days of 3rd Edition remembers. Probably with a hint of scorn. When 3rd Edition launched in 2000, each Player’s Hand Book had a CD sleeve in the back. Upon it was a disc that contained a demo version of the infamous Master Tools. It was Wizard’s attempt to bring D&D into the digital era. During conventions and in press releases, it was touted as a tool set promising unlimited freedom in crafting characters, worlds, monsters, and mazes. The demo held many captivated at what could be. But it never materialized. It fizzled out and was scrapped. The edition moved on, but third party tools helped keep the idea of a digital tool set alive.

Next came 4th edition and with it D&D Insider Tools. It promised 3D rendered models of characters and dungeon tiles you could use to create worlds and entire campaigns with. Wizards of the Coast had their sights set to the future. A full product allowing users from anywhere in the world hop onto their computers and play Dungeons and Dragons. What we received was nothing short of disappointing. No character rendering or dungeon creator. Wizards did release a decent character creator and compendium that helped weed through the dozens of options a character would receive upon gaining a level. So here we are. Two strikes. Batter up. Can Curse, Inc. and Wizards hit a home run? Personally, I’m all in and can’t wait to play.

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