Friday, November 20, 2009, 7:55 AM
I have just got my hands on the new Player's Handbook Collection, and it's pretty slick. I don't normally use this blog to stump product releases, but this is such a cool deal I thought I'd mention it.
What is it? Basically it's just a bundle: The PHB and PHB 2. What makes it interesting is, first of all, the price--RRP £19.99, the normal cost of either of those books. So basically, it's a buy-one-get-one-free deal. But then it adds in a really nice, sturdy slipcover to hold the two books. And a $12 off coupon for DDI. That's quite a bit better than buy-one-get-one-free!
Here's a picture of it sitting on my desk. (I have a shiny new one-pound coin for the first person who can correctly identify either of those two drawings behind the phone.)
Now, if you're like me, you may already have both of these books. Conveniently, WotC have made this deal available just in time for the festive gift-giving season. You probably have someone in your group who "keeps meaning" to buy his or her own PHB--or better yet, know someone who doesn't play D&D but is thinking about taking the plunge.
Alternatively, if you haven't gotten around to buying the PHB 2 (or worse yet, you're the one who "keeps meaning" to buy your own PHB), maybe you should give yourself a little gift. There's no time like the, erm, present. So to speak.
The collection is only being released in limited quantities--a few hundred went out to game shops this week, with a few hundred more going out in weeks to come. After that, it's gone--so don't dawdle!
Friday, November 6, 2009, 3:38 AM
Hi, all, sorry for the terribly long time since my last post. I've had a bit of business travel and some other bits and bobs, but it's back to a more routine life for a while at least.
Also, welcome to all our new group members! We've had over 100 new members join the group in the past week or so (this surge is due principally to a notice about the group on the D&D web site, I think). Hope you all find the group fun and useful--please visit the group page often!
So, on to the topic of this post. You're probably aware that there have been two D&D movies released over the past decade. You probably also know that they are . . . how to put this charitably? . . . not exactly critically acclaimed. Or fan favourites. Or, frankly, very good. By any standard.
The history behind these movies is a rather sordid tale, but the short version is this: The movie rights to D&D were sold off (not licensed, but sold--as in, permanently) by TSR many, many moons ago. So WotC doesn't actually control whether or when a D&D movie gets made, who makes it, or how well it's made. I say all this not to rumour-monger or draw fans into the intricacies of business decisions, but to point out that, if you think the two previous movies don't live up to D&D's potential, you aren't the only one. We'd all love to see something better, but it's in Hollywood's hands now.
Which brings me (finally!) to my point: Word on the street is that a third (and maybe even a fourth) movie is in the works. According to this article, the company that's currently distributing the cult hit Paranormal Activity is signing on to distribute D&D 3 and 4. That's good news given the success they've made out of Paranormal Activity. But it's bad news in that their specialty lies in low-budget films, which means that Silver Pictures (the company that produced the second D&D movie and has the rights for future films) probably isn't planning to give a D&D movie much of a budget. Silver Pictures is most famous for The Matrix, so they have some history with higher-end productions.
Through other channels, I've heard that location scouts have been all over the UK, checking out potential filming sites. That's still a rumour at this stage, and even if true they might not choose any UK sites. But I'll keep my ear to the ground and let you know if anything firms up.
Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but I can't help but be excited by this news. Perhaps the third time will be the charm. Perhaps I'll have a new movie to add to the list of favourites on my profile page. Perhaps new standards will be set for fantasy filmmaking!
Or perhaps not. What do you think?
Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 2:21 AM
The new WotC community has been up and running for about two months now, and in that time the D&D UK group has grown nicely. As of this morning, we have 140 members, and we seem to be adding 10 or 15 new members each week. That's great.
But the real value of a community hub like this grows with the number of members. A great example lies in the gamers-seeking-gamers posts on the group message boards: If there are only a few dozen people visiting those boards, the odds of a request posted there resulting in a connection are pretty slim. But if hundreds of people visit the group every day, the odds are a lot better. The whole purpose of this group is to help strengthen the UK D&D community, so the more, well, the merrier.
I figure this group will really hit its stride when the membership approaches 1,000. That's an arbitrary figure, to be sure, but I think it's a closer to the critical mass than the current 140. At our current rate of growth, we should hit the 1,000 mark sometime in, oh, 2011.
I don't know about you, but I'm not keen to wait that long.
So I'm asking you to help spread the word. Start with your gaming group: Have your mates heard about D&D UK? Are they members of the group? If not, maybe you could mention it to them. If you're active at a local con, your FLGS, or the RPGA, maybe you could spread the word there a bit. No need for a hard sell--we just want people to know the group is here, and that any UK D&D fan might find it interesting.
I'll probably return to this topic once or twice in the months to come, because I think this group will really become useful once the membership numbers climb. In the mean time, does anyone have any other ideas for getting the word out?
Thursday, October 8, 2009, 4:00 AM
The DMG (and DMG 2) is a great source of advice for DMs of all experience levels, but no book (er, books) can cover every situation for every gaming group. So this week WotC announced its first-ever DM Hotline. For just a few days (Thursday through Sunday), DMs can call in for advice on their own particular issues or problems (preferably D&D-related) and get great advice from great DMs. You can get the full scoop here: www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4...
WotC has always maintained an in-house customer service staff on hand to answer rules questions and clarify game issues. What makes this different is that other WotC staff--particularly R&D staffers, and particularly those known in-house as excellent DMs--will be manning the phones. The intent isn't to field more rules questions, but to help DMs run better games and have an easier time doing it. A bespoke service for expert DMing advice.
Unfortunately, there's a not-so-silver lining for UK gamers: This service is only being offered to the US. For this initial trial, WotC has only set up toll-free service within the US (even Canadians aren't in the catchment). Furthermore, the timing isn't brilliant: 2PM to 6PM WotC time, which is 10PM to 2AM our time.
So what's a Brit to do? Well, you can call in, but it's not a freephone number for us--you'll be paying normal rates for an overseas call. And be warned: you might have to wait on hold for a while, so it could cost a bit. All that assumes, of course, that you're up and in the mood for a phone call at that late hour. (You can find the number in the article linked above.)
Now here's the good news (such as it is): First, this week I've been scrambling to get a UK freephone number set up that would redirect to the US number. I was hoping to use this blog entry to tell you all about that, but sadly it doesn't look like I'm going to be successful. If that changes in the next few hours, I'll let you know!
Second, it looks like this is just a trial. If WotC is happy with the results, they may repeat it, and hopefully expand it internationally. (And even if they don't, I'll have more opportunity to pursue my freephone plan.)
So what do you think? Good idea? Will you give it a try? Would you if the UK freephone was up and running? Leave a comment, and it'll give me an idea of how much value this idea has to us UK gamers!
Friday, September 25, 2009, 4:20 AM
I was in a meeting with the guys at WotC responsible for D&D across Europe a few weeks ago, and they mentioned that DDI (D&D Insider, for the uninitiated) subscription rates, as a percentage of players overall, was quite a bit lower here in the UK than in many other territories, particularly the US. This struck me as odd, since the service is every bit as incredible here as it is in the States.
I've been using DDI since the time it launched, and frankly--taking off my marketer hat and talking purely as a gamer--I think it's the coolest thing out there for D&D.
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I've just uploaded a video that gives you a tour of DDI. (Anyone remember the video WotC circulated about a year before 4E? Ze game rhemains ze zame! Chris Perkins was the DM in that one.) In a nutshell, DDI is a suite of amazing tools that save you time and energy while making it easy to indulge your D&D creativity, along with a bunch of monthly content, much of which is released well before it makes it into books (or is never released anywhere else at all). It's a subscription service, but you can have it for as little as about $6 US (about £4) a month.
Personally, my favourite bits are the tools.
For players, the Character Builder is pure awesome. That's all there is to it. In one of the campaigns I play, our characters have been leveling up about once a month. I recently levelled up to 9th level. I had every option in the game--from every book and every issue of Dragon magazine--at my fingertips, and the whole process took maybe 5 minutes. I printed out a crisp, clean, complete, mechanically correct character sheet, along with power cards. That alone is frankly worth £4 to me.
For GMs, the Compendium is pure awesome. All the rules, all the stat blocks, everything from every source, all in a quick searchable database. A brilliant way to look up new monsters and flesh out encounters, as well as quickly look up powers and rules. I've used the heck out of it (although I promise there is still a little heck left in it for you). Again, worth the price of admission right there.
And WotC have just added the Monster Builder. Level any monster up or down. Add, modify, or delete powers. Create new monsters. All with quick drag-and-drop functionality that lets you spend your time coming up with creative ideas instead of grinding through stat blocks. Again, the software does all the work so you know it's right, and at the end it gives you a clean, complete stat block just like you'd get in a book.
And then there are the magazines: Dragon and Dungeon. 120 pages of content--almost as much as a print sourcebook--every month. Some of that material previews content in major upcoming products, often months ahead. Some of it is exclusive to DDI, and you'll never get it in a print product. All of it goes into the Compendium (and Character and Monster Builder) almost immediately.
(Here's a little aside about the mags: They've always been great, but for the past decade or two they've been produced by either a separate department within WotC, or by an outside licensee. Nowadays, their staff is part of R&D--the same guys who bring us the rest of D&D. So the content is every bit as robust and relevant as every other official D&D product.)
There are a handful of other tools, and WotC are adding new things all the time. It's just an incredible deal.
If you're a DDI subscriber, why don't you drop a comment on what you get out of it?
And if you aren't, why not?