We knew it was coming since 2012 when Wizards of the Coast announced a new version of the venerable RPG was in development. The folks at Wizards also said it would take about two years for the new version to be done and, guess what?, it’s been two years! We have a rundown of the products being offered as a part of this new release, and while we have almost no details on how the new rules will actually play, we have a ton of info on what you will be paying to give this new RPG a roll.
Like I said, this new version has been in dev for a couple of years, and Wizards really reached out to the fans with this one after the marketing mess that was 4th Edition. Fans were promised something new with this version, namely, a combination of the best parts of the old stuff. Now, establishing a definable set of “best parts” from a 40 year old game with at least 4 distinct versions (depending who you ask) is by no means an easy undertaking, but Wizards of the Coast, in a wonderful marketing ploy, put this standard testing in the hands of the gamers themselves. An unheard of amount of game testing went into this new version of Dungeons & Dragons, and while we have hardly any details at all on the actual mechanics of the game, we do know more than we did. What was once known as “Dungeons and Dragons: NEXT” and also as “Dungeons & Dragons: 5th Edition” will now be known simply as “Dungeons & Dragons”, but, honestly, look for gamers to refer to this as 5th Edition, 5E, and maybe even “The New One” before anything that could possibly tarnish the reputation of Gary Gygax. Wizards is being very deliberate with their releases in this version, but there’s definitely a method to their strategy, and it’s one of easing gamers, both new and old, into a new age of pen and paper role-playing games.
On July 15th, gamers will have the chance to buy the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set: Fantasy Roleplaying Fundamentals, a slimmed down, summary version of the core rulebooks, for $19.99 retail. The set includes some rules (but not all the rules, of course), a starter adventure, 5 pre-generated characters, and a set of dice. Everything a group needs to sink their teeth into the new rules-set, without much of an investment at all. 4 or 5 buds throwing in 4 of 5 bucks a piece can get a whole group up to level 5, and that’s more than the average character level for almost every RPG I’ve ever played. This is a great way to get your feet wet, give the new version a go, and not break the bank. The bank breaking comes once you decide to buy the core rulebooks.
Wizards of the Coast isn’t changing the way they deliver this new version at all, and the traditional core rulebooks are all here. On August 19th, just in time for the grand-daddy of all gaming conventions Gencon, the new Player’s Handbook will be available. Checking in at 320 pages, the Player’s Handbook has all the rules players need for character creation, spell selection, equipment, combat, exploration, and everything else the would-be adventurer needs to save the world. But this is not a small investment. At a $49.95 retail price, Wizards is putting your money where their mouths are, and this is going to have to be one hell of a version for the old-school gamers to leave their version of choice (3.5), or for newbies to jump in.
Hoard of the Dragon Queen Adventure
Releasing on August 19th, and weighing in at 96 pages, this new version of D&D gets its first adventure module, and it’s the first of a two-parter.
Fight the War Against Draconic Oppression in this Adventure for the World’s Greatest Roleplaying Game
In an audacious bid for power the Cult of the Dragon, along with its dragon allies and the Red Wizards of Thay, seek to bring Tiamat from her prison in the Nine Hells to Faerun. To this end, they are sweeping from town to town, laying waste to all those who oppose them and gathering a hoard of riches for their dread queen. The threat of annihilation has become so dire that groups as disparate as the Harpers and Zhentarim are banding together in the fight against the cult. Never before has the need for heroes been so desperate.
Hoard of the Dragon Queen will sell for $29.95.
By far my favorite of all the core rulebooks (mostly because of so many pretty pictures), the Monster Manual is an essential resource for any Dungeon Master worth his weight in gold pieces. Mind Flayers, Beholders, Giants, Dragons, of course, and all sorts of other fiendish beasts fill the pages of this tome. Wizards promises that they have taken only the best and most vicious beasts from the storied history of this game, but I’ll bet my newest henchman’s left hand that at least a few fan-favorites will be missing from the menagerie.
What we don’t yet know is how the rules for this new format will impact these creatures gamers have grown to adore and fear. Tons of baddies to beat on is great, but not if the mechanics used to do the beating aren’t fun. Only time will tell, and the proof is in the pudding. We’ll be able to taste that pudding on September 30th, when the 320 page MonMan releases. But that taste will cost you $49.95 retail.
The Rise of Tiamat
October 21st sees the release of part two of Wizards first adventure module, The Rise of Tiamat, a 96 page module continuing the adventure of the Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure. It checks in at $29.95 retail.
The Cult of the Dragon leads the charge in an unholy crusade to bring Tiamat back to the Realms, and the situation grows more perilous for good people with each passing moment. The battle becomes increasingly political as opportunities to gather allies and gain advantage present themselves. From Waterdeep to the Sea of Moving Ice to Thay, it is a race against Evil. Succeed or succumb to the oppression of draconic tyranny. Win or lose, things will never be the same again.
Dungeon Master’s Guide
November 19th sees the release of the 3rd core rulebook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and it seems Wizards is making a statement with these staggered releases. 3 months between the release of the Player’s Handbook and the DM’s Guide suggests that Wizards of the Coast is really looking to push the adventuring modules as a way for players to truly understand the mechanics of the new version of D&D, but could also mean that the publisher is worried that too much of a good thing too soon may lead to confusion and bad press in the early going of the game. Getting “hold your hand” modules out in front of the no holds barred tactics the DM’s Guide presumes, may help Wizards control the news that goes to press. In a less sinister track of thought, I’m sure Wizards simply wants a smooth transition, and holding players’ hands via modules is a great way to do that. 320 pages, and a $49.95 cover price keeps with the trend, however. Man, I hate to be a Dungeon Master on a budget come November.
And the Rest
We’ll see a DM Screen release in January 2015, as well as July release of Miniature sets and blind booster packs to coincide with the Tyranny of Dragons two-part adventure module release. So, everything you need to play this two-part module will be available for some Summer dice-chucking. No price set on the DM Screen as of right now, but starter and booster sets of minis run $19.99 retail, and individual miniatures are bound to show up on the interweb auctions soon after release.
They say you learn more from your mistakes than you do from your successes, and, if that is indeed the case, the launch of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition by Wizards of the Coast should have made for a great learning experience. There’s a formulaic methodology in the works with the release of this new version of the 40 year old RPG, and it’s apparent that Wizards has a plan in place with the new Dungeons & Dragons release. This stirs a lot of confidence that this new version will not suck, but marketing ploys and staggered release strategies do not automatically equate to a solid game. We’ll have to wait until July 15th and the release of the Starter Set to get a true feel of just how good or bad Dungeons & Dragons will be, but, good news, Amazon already has these sets available for pre-order at a great discount rate. Clear you schedules, gamers, call dibs on the pre-gen character of you choice, dice throwers, and get your group ready, Role-players, because D&D is back, and it’s going to be an interesting ride.
Look for a full review of the Starter Set, and all of these other products, as soon as the Outright Geekery Crew gets their grubby little hands on them.