If you follow such things, you may already know that D&D Experience, or DDXP, just finished up yesterday. (If you don't follow such things, DDXP is a 4-day con specifically for D&D, held every year about this time (years back it was called Winter Fantasy). It's fairly small (about 500 people), focuses almost entirely on play (very few other con-style activities), and in recent year html_removed s has been a platform through which WotC announce a lot of D&D news for the year.)
I wasn't able to make it to chilly Ft. Wayne, Indiana this year, but I did get a download on the many bits of news unveiled at the event. Truth be told, I don't think I can do it justice in a single blog post, but I'll do what I can.
Before I get to some pretty eye-opening product news, let me start with D&D Encounters. This is a new OP programme that will kick off in March. It's designed to support short, weekly sessions of D&D play principally in shops; it differs from past programmes in that it should give a better taste of a real D&D experience--you know, with a cohesive plot and character advancement and other things besides random encounters--while still being compatible with a drop-in, drop-out shop OP format. I'll post some more details in a future blog post, but for now I'll just say it looks really intriguing as a way to introduce new players or get a little real D&D play in for the spare-time-challenged.
Now on to some product news. There's been a bit of a sea change in WotC's approach; there's a lot more to report than the details of a few titles.
First up, there's the Essentials line. You might already have heard of the new version of the "basic game": The Red Box. This will seem familiar to anyone who goes back a ways with D&D. Why the retro look? Well, it seems there are a lot of people out there who fell away from D&D over the years and are now interested in coming back; they're looking for an easier way to jump back in than a three-book set for an edition they've never tried.
That's pretty cool, but it doesn't solve a problem that's plagued previous "basic game" versions: Once players are ready to move on, it's straight into the deep end of the pool. There's no clear next move--just a morass of dense, detailed sourcebooks that can be a bit much for the relative newcomer. Enter the "Essentials": a line of products that expand the Red Box with additional options and higher-level play. Already announced for later this year are the Rules Compendium, two Players Essential books, a DMs Kit (a boxed set with books, maps, tokens, a screen, and some Dungeon Tiles), and the Monster Vault (a box full of monsters--tokens as well as text).
Finally, WotC are bringing out new master sets of Dungeon Tiles--each a boxed set with 10 sheets of Dungeon Tiles. These are intended to cover the basics that every collection of Dungeon Tiles should include, so you can get the basic rooms and shapes without having to track down older, out-of-print DT sets. As master sets, these should remain in print indefinitely, being supported by the regular, shorter-term releases of the regular Dungeon Tiles sets. Three are planned, one each for city, wilderness, and dungeon environments, and they're all part of the Essentials line.
The Essentials products are not a new set of rules (not like "Basic D&D" back in the 80s); they're fully compatible with 4E, just presented in a trimmed-down manner that makes the game easier for the newer player to digest. And the books contain new content (powers, builds, etc.), so they have something to offer to the rest of us as well.
Moving on, here's the scoop on minis. The PHB line is being discontinued, so you won't see any more non-randomized player character mini products. However, we are going to see a Huge set this summer, with Lords of Madness in August. On top of that, in July we're getting Orcus. I don't have a lot of details yet, but he's a single mini in his own box, kind of like the Gargantuan and Colossal dragon minis released a few years ago. I've seen an image, and boy howdy he looks pretty cool.
Beyond that, it looks like minis are moving to a new strategy, which will probably see fewer releases per year. If you're anything like me, that's probably OK--I have far more minis than I'll ever need (though I always love getting more, which might be part of my problem!) So maybe it makes sense to make fewer minis that players are more likely to want, rather than more minis for which there is less demand.
Everyone is psyched about the Dark Sun campaign setting, slated for August. I'm told DDXP punters were given a pretty good preview of the setting, but I wasn't one of them, so I have nothing to add. But I think it's going to be pretty darn cool, and I couldn't give a DDXP rundown without at least mentioning it.
You might have heard about the Ravenloft board game coming out this summer. WotC are following that up with the Dungeons of Dragonfire Mountain board game, which looks to be a game of, no surprises, dungeon delving. Like Ravenloft, it comes with 40 or so monsters and characters (unpainted, I'm told) as well as 13 sheets of interlocking tiles to build your scenarios. Along with a couple hundred cards and rules and scenario books, it looks like a hefty box. It can be played solo, or with up to 5 players.
This is all pretty exciting, but I think my favourite bit of news is Gamma World. (I love all things post-apocalyptic--I developed (and wrote a big chunk of) d20 Apocalypse back when I was at WotC, voluntarily and on my own time because I had already left R&D). Gamma World will be a boxed set containing books, poster maps, cards (for powers, mutations, and loot), and tokens. It's a standalone game, not an expansion for 4E, and hits the shops in October. At least two supplements are planned before the end of the year, and they'll include more maps and tokens.
More on all of these as time goes on, but for now I think that's enough for one blog post!
Did anyone actually make it over to DDXP? If so, care to add any details I might have overlooked?