Recently WotC’s Randy Buehler has revealed the plans for the future of DDI. In the near future we’ll no longer get Dungeon and Dragon for free, but we’ll have to pay to be able to access Dungeon, Dragon and the Bonus tools. A one-month-subscription will set you back around 8$ but the monthly price will be reduced to around 5$ if you subscribe for a whole year.
If we were talking about the printed Dragon and Dungeon from earlier (better?) times, I would subscribe at once, no questions asked. But since we are talking about digital magazines, I am more than skeptical. I don’t have any hope that Wizards is going to surprise us with a completely revamped and better website for DDI. And the current D&D website is not only looking outdated but it’s usability is subpar also. A digital magazine isn’t a bad thing in itself, but when you take Wizards’ history of failures in the digital domain into account, the future of Dungeon and Dragon looks grim indeed.
The other features you’ll get for your subscription is the D&D Compendium and the so-called Bonus tools. The latter are minor tools that they should have given us for free. They are nothing I would want to pay money for. The D&D Compendium could be interesting, especially if you plan your adventures on the PC. But like the rest of the D&D website, the Compendium is badly designed and lacks usability. By the way, while I was writing these lines, the Compendium didn’t work but I got the following message:
Server Application Unavailable
The web application you are attempting to access on this web server is currently unavailable. Please hit the “Refresh” button in your web browser to retry your request.
When DDI was first announced I was thrilled, but after the delay of the Character Visualizer, Character- and Dungeon Builder and the D&D Gaming Table and the utter failure of Gleemax, I fear that DDI was a good idea on paper only. Although Randy Buehler is teasing us with Dragon and Dungeon exclusives I am sure that I can resist the temptation. And so will a lot of D&D fans all over the world. To answer my own question: No, DDI is not worth up to 8 bucks per month as long as Wizards doesn’t show us that they can really pull this off.
When I first opened the brand-new FR campaign guide, I was disappointed. I was hoping for new races, new classes but the book did contain almost no crunch, only fluff. Then I remembered that the crunch probably comes with the upcoming FR players guide. When I continued reading I was surprised, since the book starts with the description of the town of Loudwater and an adventure. When I am not mistaken this is the first time in D&D history that a campaign guide starts with an adventure. Since I am not overly interested in published adventures (I prefer to write my own), I skipped a few pages and came to the chapter called “Adventuring”. And from this point on I was starting to love the new book. I don’t want to go into too much detail here. There are quite a few detailed reviews on the net and this is just a first look since I haven’t had the time to completly work through the 280+ pages book.
Wizards of the Coast have really managed to reinvent the Forgotten Realms without destroying the flair. In one of my earlier posts I wrote about my fear of the Realms. Although I like the setting in general, I always preferred other settings as a GM. With the FR you always get the feeling you’re running someone else’s campaign. And with the changes in the 4E version of the setting, Wizards has given the Realms back to the players. And although this was claimed when the 3E version came out, this time it’s true!
Ok, let’s recap what has changed between the two editions:
100 years have passed
Cyric has murdered Mystra, which destroyed the Weave, changed magic, shifted the planes and let part of Abeir merge with Toril.
Gods have died or have been revealed as Exarchs working for more powerful details (which greatly reduces and simplifies the pantheon! This is detailed in the “Pantheon” chapter)
With “Returned Abeir” a new continent appears (bringing Dragonborn with it)
The destruction of the Weave caused the Spellplague that tainted certain areas and created mutations in creatures, effectively creating a new kind of monsters, the “Plaguechanged”
Whole nations have been replaced by areas from Abeir
Ok, this if of course not a complete list of changes (yeah, I am lazy). The important thing is that they’ve changed enough to give us a lot of new stuff to play with. It will still feel like the realms but there are a lot of areas that are new and that not even your Forgotten Realms veteran has ever seen them. High-level NPCs like (in)famous Elminster and the Simbul have more or less retired and there are a lot of opportunities for the players to earn money and fame.
The largest portion of the book is claimed by the “Faerûn and Beyond” chapter which gives detailed information on all the regions of Faerûn and Returned Abeir. Usually every region like “Cormyr”, “The Dalelands” or “Vasaa” consists of two or three pages including a small map and descriptions of the area, lore, settlements and features and adventure sites.
The “Threats” chapter concludes the FR campaign guide with description of monsters, NPCs and organizations that could become enemies or even allies for the player characters.
All in all I really like the direction Wizards has taken with the new Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Perhaps I should mention the artwork before moving to the conclusion. The whole book contains beatiful artwork on par with what we’ve seen in the core rulebooks. The included map is ok, but not as good as the one we got with the 3rd Edition version of the Realms. The cover features a female drow riding a dragon and not Drizzt Do’Urden as shown earlier. This is a welcome change in my book.
I am now eagerly awaiting the upcoming Players’ Guide. From what I’ve read in the campaign guide we’ll get at least one new class: the Swordmage. I am pretty sure that the Drow and perhaps the Gnome will be available as fully detailed player races in the upcoming book. I also would like to see some FR-themed paragon paths like Harper or Purple Knight.
If you were hesitant to run a campaign in the FR before, the 4E iteration of that classic campaign could be interesting to you. The designers made enough changes so that you can regard the updated campaign as a whole new thing much as the 4th Edition of D&D is something like a complete new game in many regards. In any case, you should at least have a look at this great book at you Friendly Neighbourhood Game Store.
Some time ago I stumbled upon “Tiny Adventures“, a Facebook application created by Wizards of the Coast. In Tiny Adentures you choose from a set of different adventurers (the iconic D&D 4E characters), give your new hero (you start at level 1) a name and you’re ready to embark on adventures. I chose the half-elf paladin. He came with some gold, a dagger (WTF?) and a rusty chainmail. Hmm, paladins ain’t what they used to be. When I clicked on the Quest tab, I got a list of several adventures suitable for my level. I chose “Sins of the Saltmarsh” and off I was…
The process of adventuring itself is not very interesting. You wait for a few minute before you can press a button and you get some descriptive text about what had happened (an encounter, fight, whatever) and you get some XP, perhaps some gold and/or equipment. Even while you are on adventure you can go to the shop, buy and sell stuff and you can even equip new armor.
In my opinion this simple game is a pretty nice idea, but it could need a bit more interactivity. Let me make some decisions, give me some customization options and I am happy. But in its current state “Tiny Adventures” is a nice distraction but not a real game.
A Roleplaying Games blog
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