A History of Dungeons & Dragons
Part 35: 2008
As the weeks and months of 2008 progressed toward the debut of 4th Edition in June, one thing every third party publisher was waiting for was word on whether the OGL would apply to 4th Edition. Some of them finally chose to stop waiting and move on to other projects. Among them was Paizo, which chose to pursue development of an update to the 3.5 system using their in-house setting. Paizo began a then unprecedented open public playtest of what would become the Pathfinder RPG in the summer of 2008.
When 4th Edition arrived, it came not with an OGL but a GSL, Game System License, which was more limited in scope than the original OGL. Only a few third party publishers signed on, though a few pursued other means of supporting the game via the original OGL.
4th Edition was a complete overhaul of D&D, changing both the game’s mechanics and much of its flavor. Classes were now a mix of a Role (Defender, Striker, Controller, Leader) and a power source (Arcane, Divine, Martial). The initial offering of classes included Cleric (Divine Leader), Fighter (Martial Defender), Paladin (Divine Defender), Ranger (Martial Striker), Rogue (Martial Striker), Warlock (Arcane Striker), Warlord (Martial Leader), and Wizard (Arcane Controller). Each class also offered Paragon Paths, similar in theme to 3.5’s Prestige Classes. Epic Destinies rounded out character progression as PCs approached 30th level (the maximum) and achieved immortality (either literal or figurative depending on the Epic Destiny). The game was now organized into tiers of play, Heroic (levels 1-10), Paragon (11-20), and Epic (21-30). Every class had a variety of powers, At-Will, Encounter, and Daily, to use in combat. Magic items now appeared in the Player’s Handbook as a character building resource. Races included Dragonborn (honorable humanoid dragons), Dwarf, Eladrin (a more fey version of elves), Elf, Half-Elf, Halfling, Human, and Tiefling (descendants of an ancient empire that made pacts with devils). Alignments were simplified from nine to five (Lawful Good, Good, Unaligned, Evil, and Chaotic Evil). The Great Wheel cosmology of prior editions was replaced with the World Axis, introducing new planes like the Feywild and the Shadowfell, and merging the elemental planes into the Elemental Chaos, with the Abyss at its center.
Dungeons & Dragons Insider, aka DDI, debuted alongside 4th Edition, featuring several online tools, though not the full suite originally planned. Dragon and Dungeon Magazine were now digital downloads, supporting the new 4E rules. DDI also offered a downloadable character builder and a searchable Compendium of all 4th Edition rules elements. Other features such as the Virtual Table were delayed while the Character Visualizer would end up being cancelled entirely.
2008 would see only one video game release for D&D, an expansion for Neverwinter Nights 2, Storm of Zehir.
On March 4th, 2008, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons, Gary Gygax, passed away. GM’s Day, a “gamer holiday” that began as a single thread on EN World and which blossomed into an industry wide tradition, would forever after carry a double meaning as a day to commemorate the man who helped provide countless hours of entertainment to millions.
2008 D&D Products
January – Realms of War. An anthology of Forgotten Realms short stories with themes of war and conflict.
January – Red Dragon Codex. An illustrated novella for young adults and follow-up to A Practical Guide to Dragons.
January – War of the Lance, Volume 3: Dragons of Spring. The final licensed Dragonlance product from Margaret Weis Productions, updating the original Dragonlance adventures to the 3.5 rules, specifically Dragons of Dreams, Dragons of Faith, Dragons of Truth, and Dragons of Triumph. The book also introduced a new chapter between Dragons of Dreams and Dragons of Faith, entitled Dragons of Shadows, which replaces the war simulator module Dragons of Glory, taking the player characters out of the nightmare warped Silvanesti and into the Blood Sea of Istar.
January – Wizards Presents: Worlds and Monsters. The second 4th Edition preview product, providing an illustrated behind the scenes look at the development of 4th Edition. The book introduces the “Points of Light” concept for the default D&D 4E setting, a world with pockets of civilization struggling to survive in a hostile, monster-infested world. It also introduces the Feywild and the Shadowfell, light and dark reflections of the material world.
February – Blade of Flame, Volume 3: Sea of Death. An Eberron novel in which an ex-assassin must return to his old ways to stop a powerful lich.
February – City of Stormreach. A 3.5 Eberron supplement covering Stormreach, a frontier city on the continent of Xen’drik. The book provides a tie-in to the MMO, Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach.
March – An Adventurer’s Guide to Eberron. An illustrated, rules-free, “coffee table book” guide to the Eberron setting.
March – DT7: Fane of the Forgotten Gods. A Dungeon Tiles set featuring temple ruins.
March – Haunted Lands, Volume 2: Undead. A Forgotten Realms novel in which the wizard-ruled nation of Thay faces a full scale invasion of undead.
March – The Inquisitives, Volume 4: The Darkwood Mask. An Eberron novel in which a young investigator is brought in to solve the high-profile murder of an aristocrat and his family.
April – Anvil of Time, Volume 1: The Sellsword. A Dragonlance novel in which a troubled mercenary is hired to rescue a nobleman’s daughter from behind enemy lines during the War of the Lance.
April – Citadels, Volume 2: Obsidian Ridge. A Forgotten Realms novel in which a monstrous living citadel controlled by a mad wizard attacks a peaceful kingdom.
April – D&D Miniatures Starter Set. A new starter set for the D&D Minis game, this time with non-randomized mins and an introductory scenario pitting a group of three heroes against a yuan-ti and a green dragon. The revised rules were the first glimpse into 4th Edition’s powers structure.
April – Dungeons of Dread (D&D Miniatures Expansion). The first booster expansion to utilize the 4th Edition style rules revision. Among the figures in the set were several 4th Edition monsters and heroes including an Angel of Valor, Eye of Flame (beholder), Emerald Orb Wizard, Ice Archon, Oni, Tiefling Warlock, and Warforged Infiltrator. The set also introduced new packaging for the boosters.
April – Elements Trilogy, Volume 3: Tempest’s Vow. A young adult Dragonlance novel in which a young mage’s test at the Tower of High Sorcery is interrupted by the theft of a magical artifact.
May – Blades of the Moonsea, Volume 1: Swordmage. The first Forgotten Realms novel set in the 4th Edition era of the Realms, after the Spellplague. A wandering swordmage (a class that would be introduced later in the year in the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide) returns home to find it under siege.
May – Citadels, Volume 3: The Shield of Weeping Ghosts. A Forgotten Realms novel in which the Rashemi return to the ruins of an ancient icebound citadel.
May – Dark Disciple, Volume 3: Amber and Blood. Dragonlance novel in which the dark priestess, Mina, driven insane by the revelation of her true nature, must evade capture while attempting to reach Godshome to fulfill her destiny.
May – H1: Keep on the Shadowfell. The first adventure and first product for 4th Edition, released a month prior to the core rulebooks. The adventure came in a folio style folder containing both the adventure itself and a quickstart guide, briefly explaining the 4th Edition rules and providing pregenerated characters. Player characters arrive in the town of Winterhaven to find it beset by kobolds. While investigating the kobold threat, the player characters stumble upon the dark machinations of Kalarel, who seeks to unleash an even greater evil upon the world.
June – Bronze Dragon Codex. An illustrated novella about a bronze dragon whose thirst for vengeance begins to corrupt him toward evil.
June – Player’s Handbook (4th Edition). The player’s entry point for the 4th Edition version of the D&D game and first of three PHBs released during the 4th Edition era.
June – Dungeon Master’s Guide (4th Edition). The 4th Edition guide to running adventures and campaigns. In addition to the usual advice and guidance on building encounters and running campaigns, the book included a mini gazetteer of the town of Fallcrest, part of the Nentir Vale “Points of Light” setting, as well as a short adventure, Kobold Hall. The first of two DMGs released during the 4th Edition era.
June – Monster Manual (4th Edition). The first of three 4th Edition era Monster Manuals, this volume presented the 4E versions of many classic monsters like the Beholder, Dragons, and Orcs, as well as several reimagined monsters such as Angels and Archons. Also featured was Orcus, who graced the cover of the book.
June – Treasure of Talon Pass. A brief adventure created for Free RPG Day. Player characters must race against other interested parties to be the first to claim a jade chalice.
June – The Draconic Prophecies, Volume 2: Dragon Forge. An Eberron novel in which events begin to spiral toward a new war.
July – Against the Giants (D&D Miniatures Expansion). A new set of random boosters with Huge sized miniatures, including a Blackwood Treant, a Death Titan, an Earth Titan, and a Fire Titan, as well as Elder White and Red Dragons.
July – Character Record Sheets. A new edition, a new set of character sheets.
July – Citadels, Volume 4: Sentinelspire. A Forgotten Realms novel in which a ranger is kidnapped by assassins and then asked to assist in the slaying of their master, the Old Man of the Mountain.
July – DU1: Halls of the Giant Kings. First in a new line of Dungeon Tiles products. This set features a variety of giant sized dungeons with appropriately proportioned furnishings.
July – Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition for Dummies. A new version of the D&D for Dummies book, updated for the 4th Edition rules.
July – H2: Thunderspire Labyrinth. An adventure for the Heroic Tier, set in the Nentir Vale. Thunderspire can be played alone or as a sequel to Keep on the Shadowfell. Player characters must track down a group of slaves, facing minotaurs, duergar, and gnolls along the way, before uncovering a plot to conquer the Nentir Vale. The adventure is contained in a folder style cover and includes two booklets and a poster map.
July – Lady Penitent, Volume 3: Ascendancy of the Last. A Forgotten Realms novel which introduces major changes to the drow pantheon, setting another part of the stage for the 4th Edition version of the Realms.
August – A Practical Guide to Dragon Riding. An illustrated guidebook for young adult readers and followup to A Practical Guide to Dragons.
August – A Practical Guide to Wizardry. An illustrated guidebook for young adult readers, providing a look at what it takes to become a wizard in a D&D style setting.
August – Black Dragon Codex. An illustrated young adult novella in which a black dragon kidnaps a young “snack” only to run afoul of red dragons and transformed into a human boy, forced to ally with his former meal if he wishes to survive.
August – Dungeon Master’s Screen. A new screen for a new edition, constructed from thicker cardstock than previous screens, as well as being shorter, to give the DM a better view of the table, players, and battlemat.
August – Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. A hardcover guide to the Forgotten Realms for Dungeon Masters, introducing the 4th Edition, post-Spellplague era Realms. The Realms were radically altered for 4th Edition, with the Spellplague changing both magic and the geography of the Realms, a new continent, Abeir, appearing where Maztica once was, and a timeline shift of 100 years.
August – H3: Pyramid of Shadows. The third Heroic Tier adventure, and loose sequel to Keep on the Shadowfell and Thunderspire Labyrinth. Player characters must infiltrate a multi-dimensional pyramid used as a prison for a power mad tiefling wizard and either free him or destroy him.
August – Stonetellers, Volume 2: Death March. A Dragonlance novel in which escaped goblin and hobgoblin slaves seek out a place to call home.
August – The Legacy of Dhakaan, Volume 1: The Doom of Kings. An Eberron novel in which a goblin king hires a shifter to seek out the pieces of a scepter that will solidify his rule.
September – Adventurer’s Vault. A hardcover supplement with stats for a variety of weapons, mundane tools, and magic items.
September – Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep, Volume 1: Blackstaff Tower. A Forgotten Realms novel and first in a new series designed to be an entry point for Forgotten Realms novel readers.
September – Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep, Volume 2: Mistshore. A Forgotten Realms novel in which a young girl scarred by the Spellplague must face her powers.
September – Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide. A hardcover supplement providing player character options for the 4th Edition Realms, including a new class, the Swordmage, an Arcane Defender.
September – FR1: Scepter Tower of Spellgard. A Forgotten Realms adventure in which player characters must stop a dark force from taking control of a prophet in an ancient ruin.
September – Heaven’s Bones. First in a new line of Ravenloft novels in which a mourning doctor sculpts angelic figures from the bodies of murdered women.
September – Stone of Tymora, Volume 1: The Stowaway. A Forgotten Realms novel by R.A. Salvatore and his son, Geno Salvatore, in which a young stowaway with a dark secret finds an ally in Drizzt Do’Urden.
October – D&D Roleplaying Game Starter Set. A new introductory boxed set for 4th Edition. The set included quickstart rules, cardboard counters for player characters and monsters, dungeon tiles, and an introductory adventure.
October – Deluxe Player’s Handbook. A premium printing of the 4th Edition Player’s Handbook with a silver foil cover.
October – Deluxe Dungeon Master’s Guide. A premium printing of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide with a silver foil cover.
October – Deluxe Monster Manual. A premium printing of the 4th Edition Monster Manual with a silver foil cover.
October – DU2: Streets of Shadow. A Dungeon Tiles product featuring city streets and sewers.
October – Dwarf Home, Volume 2: The Heir of Kayolin. A Dragonlance novel in which the dwarven nation of Thorbardin fights a brutal civil war.
October – The Lanternlight Files, Volume 2: When Night Falls. An Eberron novel in which a mercenary “fixer” finds himself in the middle of a revolution.
October – Transitions, Volume 2: The Pirate King. A Forgotten Realms novel by R.A. Salvatore in which Drizzt Do’Urden helps an old friend attempt to save the city of Luskan from destruction.
November – Demonweb (D&D Miniatures Expansion). The final miniatures product to support the D&D Minis game (later sets would be designed with only the RPG in mind). The set included a variety of Underdark creatures: Cyclops Hewer, Draegloth Favored One, Drow Demonbinder, Mezzodemon, Thoon Hulk, and Web Golem among other figures.
November – Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons. A hardcover supplement providing extensive details on the five chromatic dragon species: White, Black, Green, Blue, and Red as well as introducing three new chromatic dragon types: Brown, Gray, and Purple.
November – Dungeon Master 4th Edition for Dummies. A 4th Edition update to the original DM for Dummies book.
November – Empyrean Odyssey, Volume 2: The Fractured Sky. A Forgottten Realms novel in which a pair of demons find themselves trapped in Celestia as that plane suffers through upheaval in the wake of the Spellplague.
November – Knights of Myth Drannor, Volume 3: The Sword Never Sleeps. A Forgotten Realms novel by Ed Greenwood which concludes the adventures of one of the Realms’ most famous adventuring companies.
November – Martial Power. A hardcover supplement that provides new character building options for martial characters, including Fighters, Rangers, Rogues, and Warlords.
November – Mithras Court. A Ravenloft novel in which a London widower seeking his wife’s murderer finds himself drawn in to the mists of Ravenloft.
November – Thorn of Breland, Volume 1: The Queen of Stone. An Eberron novel in which a spy infiltrates a nation of monsters.
December – Abolethic Sovereignty, Volume 1: Plague of Spells. A Forgotten Realms novel in which a plaguescarred wizard must thwart the rise of an aberrant horror.
December – Manual of the Planes. A hardcover supplement in the tradition of the 1st Edition and 3rd Edition books of the same name, describing the World Axis planar cosmology.
December – Ogre Titans, Volume 2: The Fire Rose. A Dragonlance novel in which the ruler of a new nation of ogres must claim an ancient artifact to solidify his rule.
December – Twilight War, Volume 3: Shadowrealm. A Forgotten Realms novel in which Erevis Cale has a final confrontation with the Shadovar invading Sembia.