Category Archives: D&D5e

Our Hobby Is Dying!

This is a claim we all have heard before. I am pretty sure that this notion first started just weeks after D&D was first released. For some reason people all over the world see their favorite hobby in decline, while in fact it’s thriving. I don’t really know what caused this but the tabletop roleplaying hobby has always been surrounded by a certain doom and gloom. And of course “our hobby is dying” makes a great clickbaity title.

But if you look more closely on what’s happening right now, you quickly realize that roleplaying games are more popular than ever before. According to Wizards of the Coast, D&D 5th Edition is the most popular edition of D&D ever. If you talk about the popularity of D&D with your regular games, you usually hear about how the 80s were the Golden Age and that after that, everything went to shit. If you only look at D&D there might actually some truth to it, especially with the fall of the industry giant that was TSR in the 1990s.

But the 1990s were also the time when people started to look into new ways to play their favorite hobby. Vampire – The Masquerade was a huge thing back then and it introduced a lot of people to the hobby who wouldn’t have touched D&D with a ten-foot pole. In the early 2000s D&D 3rd Edition renewed the interest in all things D&D and the Open Game License was a huge thing. Suddenly almost everyone converted their games to the d20 System and a lot of third-party publisher appeared on the scene.

At the same time more and more publishers started to release their products digitally on platforms like DriveThruRPG. Eventually Print-On-Demand entered the scene and it further lowered the bar of entry into the RPG industry. Nowadays even fans can create great-looking RPG products and release them in digital and print formats quite easily. If you look at how many new RPG products get released on DriveThruRPG alone every day, it’s really hard to get the notion that the hobby is dying.

But what really helped to give our hobby a hefty push into the mainstream were shows like Critical Role, Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop, and even the popular Netflix series Stranger Things. Especially Stranger Things introduced a larger audience to D&D in its first episode. Heck, the whole thing starts with the main protagonists playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons in a basement. It also didn’t hurt that more and more celebrities talked positively about their experiences with D&D in recent years. Especially Dungeons & Dragons but with it all roleplaying games are slowly moving from the edges more into the limelight. For some reason our favorite past-time turned into something even the mainstream deems cool.

Personally I am extremely excited about this development. If you have told me a couple of years back that thousands of people watch other people playing D&D for hours each week on Twitch and YouTube, I wouldn’t have believed it. Roleplaying games are more popular than ever and the hobby is definitely alive and well. But things have changed tremendously when compared with the 80s. No single company will be as influential as TSR was back then. A lot of people used D&D and roleplaying game synonymously. This has of course changed. The industry and the fans have diversified. Old and new games and concepts can peacefully coexist (more or less). We’re not living in the 1980s anymore, this is not the Golden Age of RPGs, heck, IT’S EVEN BETTER!

What are your thoughts on the matter? Please share your comments below!

5th Edition Session Zero

Yesterday evening my players and I met to speak about D&D 5th Edition, the Tal’Dorei setting, and eventually create their characters. I was actually surprised how much thought the players have already put into their characters. Overall everyone was quite excited and pretty quickly everyone had a solid concept for their characters.

We actually didn’t talk that much about Tal’Dorei, but focused more on the mechanical aspects of the game and what races and classes were available for player characters. Initially I planned to restrict the race choices to what was listed in the Tal’Dorei book, but when someone mentioned their interest in playing a Kenku rogue, I decided to allow it. Overall I have decided to give my players much more leeway when it comes to what was available to them. In the past I have probably been a bit to restrictive and in a way too protective of my vision of the campaign, but this time I wanted to be more open to their ideas. And in the end I am sure it will make them much more invested in the game which is a win for all sides.

After about 3 and a half hours of talking, laughing, number crunching, and character planning we had the following lineup: a dragonborn sorcerer, a tiefling wizard, a kenku rogue, a drow warlock, and a tiefling blood hunter. Oh my! Aside from the dragonborn sorcerer, which is lawful good, the others have more “flexible” morals, but I asked them not to make outright evil characters. One player couldn’t make it yesterday because his car broke down on the weekend, so we have another character to create before the party is complete.

At the moment the party doesn’t have a dedicated healer, so I have to be careful not to cause a TPK in the first session, but if we’re careful this shouldn’t be an issue in the long run. We already scheduled the first real session, which means I have now about one month to come up with their first adventure, prepare handouts, and create any maps needed. We agreed to try to schedule a session every month, which is a pretty relaxed pace, which suits me fine at this moment.

We also talked briefly about the tone of the game. With the character choices they already told me they are interested in a rather dark game, which suits me fine, and we also decided that intrigue and politics may be a thing, but definitely not the focus. Aside from that I can basically throw at them what I wish. At this moment I am cautiously optimistic when it comes to this new campaign. A lot of campaigns have failed in the past, or I have burned out way too quickly. But this time, I am way more relaxed and my players seem to be genuinely invested. Things are looking good!

D&D Beyond

Let’s face it: Wizard of the Coast’s track record when it comes to their digital offerings is – let’s say –  spotty at best. So it was probably a good idea that they let Curse handle D&D Beyond. Over the last few days I’ve extensively used the website and app to look up rules and to play around with the character creation tools. And I have to admit I am impressed.

But let’s get some things out of the way first: D&D Beyond is in my opinion a bit too expensive. If you want to have access to the full rules and perhaps some of the sourcebooks or modules you have to basically buy them a second time – assuming you already owned them in print. I get that WotC doesn’t want to give the materials away for free, but $90 for the digital access to the PHB, DMG, and MM is a bit steep for my tastes. On the other hand, D&D Beyond allows you to share access with your gaming group, so the offer gets quickly more affordable if you split the costs with your players.

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So what does D&D Beyond offer? Even if you don’t want to pay a dime, you get a complete rules compendium including everything the Basic Rules have to offer. This compendium is fully searchable and the display was optimized for the web (or smartphone and tablet via the app). If you buy additional material, you get access to it as well. People who have subscribed to the Master Tier are allowed to share their library with up to 12 people per campaign (up to three). This sets you back about $6/month. There’s also a cheaper Hero Tier which is meant for players (it doesn’t include the sharing feature) which is only $3/month. Free users have limited character slots and can’t use other people’s homebrew material with the character creation tool.

There are also tools for creating characters, magic items, and monsters. From what I’ve read they plan to add more features in the future, but even now, it’s a pretty nice thing to have. You can also share your homebrew materials with other players but I haven’t really looked into this part of the offer.

The app (which is available for both iOS and Android) currently only gives you access to the rules compendium functionality, but this might change at a later date. What I really like is that it allows you to download your purchased content (including the free Basic Rules) to your device, so you don’t need internet access to look stuff up. If you want to read the D&D 5th Edition rules on your commute, then the D&D Beyond app is the way to go!

Aside from the fact that I consider it a tad expensive, D&D Beyond is – to my surprise – pretty impressive and I haven’t even tried every feature. The ability to look up rules, stats, etc. and a device-optimized display alone is worth it. And even if you don’t want to put down any money, the D&D Beyond app with the Basic Rules is a must-have for any serious D&D player!