A History of Dungeons & Dragons
Part 30: 2003
Two major product changes hit D&D in 2003. The year before, the Chainmail game had resurfaced, using a modified d20 system and unpainted metal minis. Set in a previously unexplored section of the Greyhawk world, the game offered detailed factions and skirmish level warfare. The line was retired after only a year, however, as Wizards of the Coast had something new in mind to compete with the new Mage Knight line of prepainted plastic minis from WizKids. The D&D Miniatures game featured prepainted plastic minis in booster boxes containing a random set of minis that could be used for either tabletop roleplaying or to build warbands for the minis game itself. Wizards already had plenty of experience with randomized collectible booster model thanks to Magic: The Gathering. Rather than setting based factions, the game had simplified factions based on D&D’s classic alignment system.
The other major development of 2003 was an overhaul of the 3rd Edition rules based on feedback and playtest experience. A new set of core books, dubbed “3.5” hit store shelves in July. While the System Reference Document that 3rd party companies used was updated accordingly, the revision had the side effect of bursting the d20 bubble. Many of the 3rd party publishers that sprang up in 2000 to take advantage of the d20 system license went out of business and those that survived began to move away from the d20 license and used the OGL instead, tweaking and rearranging the rules into completely new roleplaying games.
However, on the licensing front, White Wolf was continuing to do well with Ravenloft, successfully updating the line to 3.5. Dragonlance would be the next classic world to benefit from licensing, this time with one of its creators, Margaret Weis. Wizards of the Coast produced a hardcover campaign setting product, then licensed the line to Weis’ new company, Sovereign Press. Sovereign Press would eventually morph into Margaret Weis Productions.
The Dungeons & Dragons logo also found itself attached to none other than Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game, published by White Wolf and Sword & Sorcery Studios.
On the video gaming front, Neverwinter Nights received two expansions in 2003, Shadows of Undrentide and Hordes of the Underdark. Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes debuted on the X-Box in 2003 as well. PC gamers were treated to Temple of Elemental Evil, an adaptation of the classic 1st Edition adventure, updated to the 3.5 ruleset. Finally, Scourge of Worlds was an interactive animated DVD featuring the iconics. Viewers/players could select scenes in a manner similar to a “choose your own adventure” style book and thus direct the outcome of the movie.
2003 D&D Products
January – Icewall Trilogy, Volume 3: Winterheim. A Dragonlance novel in which the ogres and humans of Krynn’s frozen wastelands go to war.
January – The Bloody Eye. An iconics novel featuring Alhandra (the paladin), Krusk (the barbarian), and Jozan (the cleric) as they delve into a dungeon to stop Jozan’s former mentor from unleashing an avatar of Gruumsh, deity of the orcs.
February – Savage Species. Released as the 3.5 revision was still being worked on, this hardcover guide to playing monstrous characters utilizes some but not all of the revisions. Savage Species provides templates, feats, spells, prestige classes, and guidelines for playing monstrous player characters. It also featured an appendix with monster progressions – class-like versions of monsters that allowed a player to play a monster from level 1, eventually matching the Monster Manual version of the creature when they finished the class.
February – Van Richten’s Guide to the Walking Dead. A Ravenloft supplement from Sword & Sorcery Studios continuing the popular Van Richten’s Guide line of products, this one focusing on corporeal undead.
March – Races of Faerun. A Forgotten Realms supplement providing in depth details for a variety of races native to Faerun.
March – Sembia Series, Volume 7: Lord of Stormweather. A Forgotten Realms novel and finale to the saga of the Uskreven family.
March – Treachery’s Wake. An iconics novel featuring Lidda (rogue), Krusk (barbarian), and Vadania (Druid) in which they are hired by a wizard to retrieve a magical artifact from a shipwreck.
April – Fiend Folio. A hardcover collection of monsters, borrowing its name from the classic 1st Edition supplement. The monsters were mostly written with the 3.5 revision in mind, but were not 100% compatible with the revised rules. The 3rd Edition version of the Fiend Folio focused on extra-planar monsters, rather than the somewhat zany mish mash of creatures from the original.
April – Ravenloft Gazetteer Volume III. A regional supplement for Ravenloft published by Sword & Sorcery Studios. This volume focuses on the domains of Dementlieu, Richemulot, and Mordent.
April – Windwalker – A Forgotten Realms novel by Elaine Cunningham and sequel to Daughter of the Drow and Tangled Webs (the series now referred to as Starlight and Shadows).
May – The Ergoth Trilogy, Volume 1: A Warrior’s Journey. A Dragonlance novel set before the Cataclysm in the Ergoth Empire as a peasant rises to prominence during a civil war.
May – Plague of Ice. An iconics novel featuring Regdar (fighter), Lidda (rogue), and Hennet (sorcerer) as they investigate the cause of an unnatural winter.
May – The Players of Gilean: Tales from the World of Krynn. A Dragonlance anthology of short stories centered around an immortal troupe of entertainers and performers.
May – War of the Spider Queen, Volume 3: Condemnation. Third in a series of Forgotten Realms novels focused on the drow and their dread deity, Lolth. Menzoberranzan comes under attack as a group of elite drow attempt to discover the reason for Lolth’s silence.
June – The Minotaur Wars, Volume 1: Night of Blood. A Dragonlance novel focusing on the minotaurs shortly after the War of Souls.
June – Young Adult Chronicles, Volume 1: A Rumor of Dragons. A young adult adaptation of the first part of Dragons of Autumn Twilight, first book in the Dragonlance Chronicles.
June – Young Adult Chronicles, Volume 2: Night of the Dragons. A young adult adaptation of the second part of Dragons of Autumn Twilight, first book in the Dragonlance Chronicles.
July – Crossroads, Volume 5: The Middle of Nowhere. A Dragonlance novel in which the farmers of a rural village named Nowhere gather a group of unlikely defenders to help them against a group of bandits.
July – Player’s Handbook (version 3.5). A major revision of the 3rd Edition rules, including changes to most classes, tweaks to the skill list, changes to feats and spells, and a variety of other updates.
July – Dungeon Master’s Guide (version 3.5). A major revision of the 3rd Edition rules, including changes to Prestige Classes and new prestige classes previously presented in other supplements, including the Red Wizard of the Forgotten Realms.
July – Monster Manual (version 3.5). A major revision of the 3rd Edition rules. Monsters were restructured significantly, especially in regards to their skill and feat acquisition, which was changed to be more in line with how player characters acquire skills and feats. Several new to the core rules monsters appear in the book as well, including Githzerai and Githyanki.
July – Ravenloft Dungeon Master’s Guide. A Ravenloft supplement providing a variety of advice and tips on DMing in the domains of dread.
July – The Rogues, Volume 1: The Alabaster Staff. A Forgotten Realms novel in which a street urchin finds herself roped into stealing a powerful artifact.
July – The Sundered Arms. An iconics novel featuring Tordek (dwarven fighter), Vadania (druid), Lidda (rogue), and Devis (bard). The heroes must put an end to the humanoid forces that have occupied an ancient dwarven stronghold.
July – Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game. First in a line of products published by Sword & Sorcery Studios (though the only one to bear the D&D logo) set in the universe of the Warcraft series of strategy games, as well as the immensely popular World of Warcraft MMO.
August – Dungeon Master’s Screen (version 3.5). A revised screen for a revised edition.
August – Dragonlance Campaign Setting. A hardcover setting book providing everything needed to run a 3.5 campaign in the world of Krynn, specifically at the end of the Age of Mortals era (just after the War of Souls), though it also has guidelines for playing in other eras.
August – Erevis Cale Trilogy, Volume 1: Twilight Falling. A Forgotten Realms novel focusing on the Erevis Cale character from the Sembia series of novels. Erevis Cale finds himself working for a new master, a trafficker in souls.
August – Linsha Trilogy, Volume 1: City of the Lost. A Dragonlance novel set shortly after the War of Souls and focusing on Linsha Majere, granddaughter of Hero of the Lance Caramon Majere.
August – Ravenloft Tarokka Deck. A deck of fortune telling cards similar to Tarot, used by the Vistani of the Ravenloft setting. Published by Sword & Sorcery Studios.
September – Age of Mortals. A hardcover Dragonlance campaign setting expansion published by Sovereign Press. Age of Mortals greatly expands the setting details provided in the Campaign Setting product, focusing on the Fifth Age era, shortly after the War of Souls.
September – Miniatures Handbook. A hardcover supplement that splits its content into two sections, one for the D&D Minis game that would debut the following month, and one for the D&D 3.5 rules. The RPG section provides new base classes and other character options with a more tactical focus.
September – The Rogues, Volume 2: The Black Bouquet. A Forgotten Realms novel in which a rogue gets involved in what he thinks is a game but find the stakes more dangerous than he realized.
October – Book of Exalted Deeds. A companion to the Book of Vile Darkness, and the second book to bear a “Mature Audiences Only” label. Book of Exalted Deeds focuses on the concept of good, creatures that epitomize good, and character options for exalted characters.
October – D&D Miniatures Starter Set and Harbinger Boosters. Released simultaneously, the starter set contained the rules needed to play the game, map tiles to set up the battlefield, and an assortment of random minis from the Harbinger set, while the boosters simply contained random minis. Each booster contained a number of common and uncommon minis and a single rare mini. The Harbinger set included 80 miniatures total, including a variety of player character suitable minis (including several of the 3rd Edition iconic characters) and a large variety of classic D&D monsters.
October – Ravenloft Player’s Handbook. A hardcover Ravenloft supplement published by Sword & Sorcery Studios that updates the setting to the 3.5 revision.
October – Return of the Damned. An iconics novel in which Regdar (fighter) attempts to rescue Naull (wizard) from the clutches of death.
October – Young Adult Chronicles, Volume 3: The Nightmare Lands. A young adult adaptation of the first part of Dragons of Winter Night, second book in the original Dragonlance Chronicles.
October – Young Adult Chronicles, Volume 4: To the Gates of Palanthas. A young adult adaptation of the second part of Dragons of Winter Night, second book in the original Dragonlance Chronicles.
November – Age of Mortals, Volume 3: Dark Thane. A Dragonlance novel that focuses on the dwarves during the War of Souls.
November – Best of the Realms, Volume 1. An anthology of Forgotten Realms short stories previously appearing in the “Realms of” series, with one new story by R.A. Salvatore.
November – Draconomicon. A hardcover supplement providing extensive details on dragons, including draconic prestige classes, spells, and equipment, as well as prestige classes and other character building options for dragon hunters.
November – Scions of Arrabar, Volume 1: The Sapphire Crescent. A Forgotten Realms novel focusing on a mercenary society in the city of Arrabar.
November – The Hunter’s Blades, Volume 2: The Lone Drow. A Forgotten Realms novel by R.A. Salvatore in which Drizzt continues his one drow crusade against the orcs while the companions he thought dead and the rest of the North fend off an invasion by those orcs.
December – Complete Warrior. A hardcover class supplement providing feats, prestige classes and other character building options for warrior type characters. The Book also introduces three new base classes: Hexblade, Samurai, and Swashbuckler.
December – Kingpriest Trilogy, Volume 3: Sacred Fire. A Dragonlance novel exploring the Kingpriest of Istar’s role in the Cataclysm.
December – Ravenloft Gazetteer, Volume IV. A Ravenloft setting supplement published Sword & Sorcery Studios detailing the domains of Borca, Invidia, Verbrek, Valachan, and Sithicus.
December – The Death Ray. An iconics novel featuring Regdar and Naull, with Regdar receiving a minor title so that he can become a suitor to a Duke’s daughter whose other suitors are being murdered one by one.
December – The Rogues, Volume 3: The Crimson Gold. A Forgotten Realms novel in which a young rogue and member of the Uskreven family (from the Sembia series) finds herself in Thay.