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AICN TABLETOP: D&D o' Plenty! D&D Starter set! Deluxe editions! And a BIG Minis announcement!

Hola all. Massawyrm here. So while next month offers us D&D players two big new books – one for players in the MARTIAL POWERS book and one for DMs with the DRACONOMICON – this month gives us the release of two very different CORE products. One is for beginners and only beginners – while the other is only for those with a tremendous love of the game and some serious disposable income on hand.


Okay, when this first came in I glanced at the box and was a little disappointed. The 3.5E version of this box was a two level adventure complete with all the minis you needed to run it. It had several rooms and was a complete self contained adventure designed to teach you the rules by putting you in encounters designed to force you to use them. It was a neat idea. One glance at the box shows you that this new one is nothing like that. But then you open it – and discover that it is instead much, much better. Despite not having a lot of use for this personally it was the single most exciting thing I’d seen since I first flipped through the playtest rulebook. This isn’t a self contained adventure. This is 4E’s version of the old RED BOX Basic Set. You old school guys know what I’m talking about. D&D first began in 1974. By ’77 they had branched into two very distinctly different entities: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and the Basic Set Dungeons & Dragons. By the early 80’s TSR had made a strong push to hook kids young with the cartoon series, digital game, video game and action figures. It worked. Coupled with that they put a larger emphasis on making a simpler, more self contained and easily affordable D&D. The Basic Set. How it worked was simple – Classes and race weren’t separate. Elf and Dwarf were classes. Everyone else was human. And each box had everything you needed to play from one level to another. Basic Set took you from 1-3, Expert set took you from 4-14, Companion 15-25 and then the infamous Master Set black box took you from 25-35 and the dreaded IMMORTALS set white box dare to go to Levels 36+ or, you know, godhood. When I was thirteen, I spent the summer between Middle School and High School ditching swim team practice (which my parents had mystifyingly shanghaied me into) to play Dungeons and Dragons with some friends every morning after his mom left for work. Every workday, from 10am to 4pm we dived into that Red Box and fought all manner of foe, working feverishly towards the mysterious blue box, before he’d slip the box back under his bed and scatter us to the winds before his mom got home. There was something cool about that. And that summer drives my love for the game today. Flipping through this box took me back to that summer – feeling what it was like to thumb through that set, dreaming of what lay in the box beyond it. Well this? This set has everything you need to play levels 1-3. It contains five characters much like Keep on the Shadowfell including level up instructions taking each to third in a 16 page no-secrets-here players book. But the Dungeon Master’s Book is where all the excitement is. It contains a starter adventure and all the rules you need for all the abilities the characters possess. You know, everything I expected from the set. Then there is a section explaining the fundamentals of setting up encounters, how to structure adventures and how to create a dungeon. Which leads to the part that got me giddy. The Monster Manual. 27 pages including every single monster from the standard Monster Manual ranging from levels 1-5 (including all three dragons in that range.) In other words, the box contains EVERYTHING someone would need to play levels 1-3. So who is this for? Anyone who has been thinking of jumping into D&D but finds the 832 pages of Core rule books somewhat daunting. This is 80 pages total – but still everything you need to play enough levels to get the hang of what’s going on. It’s also great for younger players as it gives you the kick start adventure and contains enough leading information to put together some adventures of your own. I know as soon as I’m done typing this up, my copy is getting boxed up and sent off to my 12 yr old nephew who I’ve slowly been feeding geek materials for the better part of the last decade. Hopefully next time I’m up there I can run him through an adventure – or even better, vice versa. So where to next? Well, if you and your gang blow through this and are ready to move on you simply need to pick up the Players Handbook and make your choice between two different options. If you’re comfortable with DMing and creating your own adventures, then the DMG (Dungeon Master’s Guide) and MM (Monster Manual) is where it is at. But if you still are feeling a bit uncomfortable creating it all yourself, simply run them through THUNDERSPIRE LABYRINTH, an adventure that will take them from levels 4-6. After that is PYRAMID OF SHADOWS (my favorite 4E adventure to date) taking them from 7-10. Then it’s either Paragon level adventures or starting from the beginning with scratch built characters rather than Pre-generated ones. Overall the box is an excellent starting point with a Red Box feel and a $16.99 buy in that will make it VERY accessible to teens and first timers. If you’ve been reading my column but still hesitating diving in to D&D Tabletop – this is the box that will get you in.


Okay, this one is only for the hard core, strictly for the headstrong. Are you ready? There’s not really too much to say about the Deluxe Editions. They’re the Core Rulebooks, only souped up unto cool looking display quality books that look great on a bookshelf. If you’re the kind of guy who wants to walk into the gamestore or Gencon looking like you have the most disposable income of anyone there, these are the books you want to slam down on the table. Glossy 3-D effect foil covers with an enlarged section of the original artwork cover about 75% of the front and back of each book while a silver protective spine covers just enough to keep finger prints off the slick, evocative art. All the info, barcodes and reference numbers come on a disposable cardboard sleeve so the book you have says only DUNGEONS & DRAGONS and the title of the book. On a shelf it kind of gives off that old school collectible TIME LIFE BOOKS look. And the paper has a silver edging like that of expensive gift books. The big news is that the boys in charge learned from the mistake of the 3E Leather-bound Deluxe Editions of old and ACTUALLY INCORPERATED ERRATA. Yep, this time when you drop $75 on a rulebook, they actually took the time to fix all the typos and add those necessary passages. While I haven’t gone line by line through the book to check for any misspellings or out of place numbers, I did go through the official updates and noted that all of the relevant passage changes noted there made their way into the Deluxe Editions. So having these books on your table means not needing to look up the errata online or double checking a printed up sheet. These have come in pretty handy this week as I gear up to play my first game of 4E as a PLAYER. My group just wrapped up my long running campaign and WotC freelancer Ari Marmell has taken over duties as DM. So I’ve been twinking out my character and cross-checking rules. Ari has used me for years to help break his stuff, so he’s fully prepared to face the full might of my twinkiness – not that it’s possible right now to do more than crank out a few extra points of damage by optimizing. But I’m gonna see what I can do. Having books on hand with all the errata in them has made my life just a wee bit easier. The long and the short of it is that these are the Deluxe Editions. They’re $75 a pop. You already know whether or not you’ve got the scratch to drop on them. But they sure are pretty.


Okay, this is kind of a big announcement. At first glance it looks just kind of cool – but read all the way to the end and you’ll find a surprise. D&D Minis as we have known it since way back in the Harbinger days is over. It’s changing. After this next set, they will be sold very differently. Randomized 8 figure booster packs will be a thing of the past, replaced by two very different products. D&D HEROES and D&D MONSTERS. It’s pretty self explanatory stuff. PC geared minis will come in one pack of three with all three minis visible. The monster packs will come with 1 visible figure, 1 rare, 1 uncommon and two common – drawn from a set of 40 minis. This is kind of a big deal as FINALLY DMs like me who just need monsters (I have BINS filled with humans, elves and dwarves) can get just monsters. And players can buy just the hero they want to represent them in the game. Here’s the Press release:
October 21, 2008 – Renton, WA – Wizards of the Coast today announced changes to its Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures line that will streamline the buying and collecting experience for D&D players. As a direct response to customer feedback, Wizards of the Coast will be offering miniatures set purchase options that better meet gameplay needs, offering more player character (PC) minis, more large figures and groupings that make it easier for players to find the miniatures they desire for their specific D&D campaigns. “We have received a tremendous amount of feedback from fans regarding the D&D Miniatures line, and have made some exciting changes for 2009,” said Scott Rouse, Senior Brand Manager for Dungeons & Dragons. “As part of our continued dedication to meeting players’ needs and making gameplay more fun, we are changing our approach to our minis product line.” The Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures - Player’s Handbook Heroes and Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures – Monster Manual series will be available starting in Spring 2009. Addressing demand for more PC minis, the D&D Heroes line features high-quality miniatures representing iconic player character races and classes described in the Player’s Handbook and Player’s Handbook 2 core rulebooks, allowing players to find the miniature that best represents their PC. The Monster Manual sets are designed to be what every Dungeon Master or D&D enthusiast needs to create riveting adventures and exciting encounters at all levels of play and will include monsters of various shapes and sizes. Player’s Handbook Heroes · Six different packs with 18 total miniatures · Features Martial Heroes, Arcane Heroes, Divine Heroes and Primal Heroes · Each package contains 3 PC minis (2 males and 1 female) and corresponding power cards featuring new class powers · New packaging makes all three figures visible so players know exactly which set to pick · Releases will be refreshed regularly to continue delivering new PC options to players · MSRP $10.99 Monster Manual: Dangerous Delves · First Monster Manual themed release · 40-miniature set includes medium and large figures · Each booster box contains 5 semi-randomized minis: 1 visible figure, 1 rare figure, 1 uncommon figure and 2 common figures · Each box also includes full-color D&D Dungeon Delve stat cards · Additional themed releases to follow · MSRP $14.99 The new D&D Miniatures offerings will supplant the current miniatures line and Wizards of the Coast will no longer be packaging miniatures in its current configuration of randomized booster packs and huge packs. D&D Miniatures: Demonweb (November 2008) will be the final release sold in fully randomized booster packs.
I love the new direction of this line. It’s been a long time coming and I for one am glad that it’s finally here. Can’t wait to get a look at how this VISIBLE monster is going to work - I'll see if I can get the skinny on that. I’ve got more stuff coming your way shortly now that I’ve had time to catch up from Fantastic Fest and get some reading/playing time in. More to come. Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. Massawyrm
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Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 22, 2008, 10:46 a.m. CST


    by Groothewarrior

    i cast magic the darkness!!!!

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 10:49 a.m. CST

    Oooh 12 sided Dice!

    by Baron Karza

    What about the theoretical 13th side?

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 10:55 a.m. CST

    I put on my robe and wizard hat

    by Xero

    I cast Lvl. 3 Eroticism. You turn into a real beautiful woman.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 11:03 a.m. CST


    by Stereotypical Evil Archer

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 11:13 a.m. CST

    I got an 18 initiative...

    by themasterofnonsense

    I ready my grease spell.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 11:14 a.m. CST

    beginner's set

    by Shigeru

    sounds great, but I already bought Keep on the shadowfell... lol wtf

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 11:31 a.m. CST

    About time

    by jamestewart007

    this topic came back up. I thought it was cancelled or something. And those minis sound awesome! I've been buying a bunch of packs trying to get enough dragonborn and tieflings for my group. This will make it much easier!

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 11:32 a.m. CST


    by enderandrew

    As a kid I had fond memories of D&D because it was the first RPG I played. Then I discovered it was one of the worst and moved on to tons of better games like D6 Star Wars, Toon, Rifts, Shadowrun, L5R, World of Darkness, etc.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 11:39 a.m. CST

    I love 4th Edition!

    by One-Eyed Willy

    I know there are lovers and haters out there, but my group has been having a blast (except the one curmudgeon in the corner) and are almost through with Keep on the Shadowfell. DMing has never been easier, and for the players - they can ACTUALLY work together setting up Combos and dealing some unholy death to the baddies!

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 12:05 p.m. CST

    Oh sweet irony...

    by GunterMonkey

    Geeks making fun of other geeks for enjoying role playing games. Why don't all you haters go watch The Dark Knight for the 86th time and reorganize your blu-ray collection. I mean geez, isn't this the one place where gamers don't have to face ridicule? I for one enjoy the RPG Tabletop news.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 12:08 p.m. CST

    Where does the cool part come in?

    by thedarklinglord

    Seriously? $11 for 3 non-random Hero miniatures as opposed to $15 for EIGHT random miniatures that are a mix of heroes and monsters? And while the visible monster miniature packs sound great in theory, depending on how they go about it, that's a clusterfuck just waiting to happen. It's like Cherry Picking for Dummies. <br> <br> Anyone ever buy/collect McFarlane toys, or, hell, any sort of action figure? Ever have to go to five different stores only to find that the coolest, most popular ones were always sold out, but they had literally dozens of copies of the lamest pieces of shit? So many, in fact, that they ultimately dump them into the 80% Off bin just to get rid of them - and they STILL don't sell? Well, imagine that, but with something that's actually USEFUL in multiples. So, whichever packs have the most desirable D&D monsters - and, let's face it, there's a pretty unified concensus as to which pieces are universally desirable as opposed to the occasional oddball piece that some DMs sport bizarre hard-ons for - will ALWAYS be sold out. Hell, even if you don't need 30 of a given creature, you're going to have douchebags hording them just to resell them on eBay for some ridiculous amount. While randomization sucked, at least it gave everyone an almost equal chance of getting gold or crap. This method just seems seriously flawed. <br> <br> And where the price is concerned, unless there's a radical improvement in quality - both in terms of a more solid, rigid, heavy plastic being used to give the miniatures some heft and sturdiness, as well as greatly improved paint jobs that actually match artistic vision as opposed to mass-produced assembbly line crap - I can't see this more money per mini approach being a good thing. Because if I'm being asked to pay almost $4 for a poorly painted piece of bendy plastic, I'd sooner going to turn toward Reaper and pay that same $4 (or, at most $6) for an unpainted metal miniature. Because I'm fairly certain I can match the half-assed paint job that looks to have been done by a blind, retarded monkey with Parkinson's.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 12:58 p.m. CST

    Foolish of WOC to let go of Ral Partha.

    by Dingbatty

    AD&D was far superior before the card dorks took over.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 1:02 p.m. CST

    Dingbatty...let's be clear

    by Massawyrm 1

    AD&D was in chapter 11 before the card dorks took over...

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Ah, the red Basic set

    by kwisatzhaderach

    happy 80s memories

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 1:13 p.m. CST

    Wasn't the Immortals set Gold, not White?

    by chrth

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 1:20 p.m. CST

    I like the news about the Minis

    by Animation

    I have no interest in D&D 4E whatsoever, and neither do my friends who were beta testers. We decided to pass on the system after trying it. HOWEVER, this announcement about splitting up the miniatures is pretty cool. I can't tell you how much cash I've dropped hoping to get a certain rare figure for my mini in a game, or how much I have dropped trying to get a rare monster. While there may still be "monster" pieces that I would want to use as a PC figure, it will be nice that the bulk of them will simply be available to players. ROCK ON!

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 1:30 p.m. CST

    Based on a Google search, it was Gold

    by chrth

    HA! My Geek-Fu is stronger than Massa's!

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 1:46 p.m. CST

    4E is Garbage

    by Veraxus

    2E had the right idea, but was too needlessly complicated (THAC0? *shudder*). 3E wasn't terrible, and most of my 3E complaints were resolved somewhat in 3.5E. 4E is not only unfun, it sabotages the role-playing in the pursuit of a more munchkin/MMO-esque, combat-oriented feel. My group is going to stick with GURPS and DnD 3.5. 4E can go DIAF.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 2:22 p.m. CST

    4th Edition is a Turd

    by BilboRing

    We tried it and hate it. Will stick with 3.5 instead. My problem is that now all of the novels suck because they are bringing them into 4E rules. 4th Edition is really bad. No fun at all.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 2:29 p.m. CST

    WOTC is ruining our games...

    by Duke of Hurl

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 4:22 p.m. CST

    Star Wars and WOTC

    by STLost

    Duke, that brings to mind the massive overhaul Wizards had done when they bought SW from West End games. Why mess with the perfect system that was D6? Argh! I've never seen a WOTC Star Wars book, and have stuck with my 2nd edition SW books.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 4:23 p.m. CST

    One more thing...

    by STLost

    I still have all the boxes of the basic D&D sets from the 80s. Red, Blue, Green, Black, Gold. Ahhh, the good ol' days.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 4:58 p.m. CST

    My biggest problem is finding players

    by GunterMonkey

    I'm an older gamer who isn't surrounded by school friends anymore...I'd love to give 4th edition a run through, but alas, finding other 30 somethings wanting to pretend they're dwarves and elves might be a problem for me. :(

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 5:01 p.m. CST


    by Mockingbird Girl

    ... you simply need a code phrase to bring all of the closeted D&Ders around you out into the open. Casually mention your "18 Dexterity" in your next random conversation and see who responds. ;-)

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 5:01 p.m. CST

    News on the online tabletop?

    by GunterMonkey

    Speaking of finding other gamers, does anyone know when WOTC is going to have that digital table top up and running?

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 5:04 p.m. CST

    Mockingbird Girl

    by GunterMonkey

    Yeah, I do find folks interested in gaming at the local comic shops, but they are all into Heroclix and other such mini games.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 5:25 p.m. CST

    GunterMonkey . . .

    by One-Eyed Willy

    DDi is slow going. They should be releasing an open beta of the character generator within the next month or so, then I would guess the Character visualizer next year, and THEN the digital tabletop (which is by far the most complex). So you are looking at well into 2009. But no, nothing solid, other than "it's coming")

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 5:29 p.m. CST

    Gunter (again)

    by One-Eyed Willy

    I would look at, where there is a pretty descent representation of the gamer community. Also, on the D&D site there is a forum dedicated to group-seekers

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 5:33 p.m. CST

    i'm so old school, i remember the pre-red box box

    by newc0253<p> good times<p>

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 6:50 p.m. CST

    Am I missing something in 4E?

    by MrD

    I spent a good amount of time reading the new PH the last few days, and I am largely befuddled. I'm guessing I'm in MW's age cohort - I started playing the red box in the early 80s, and within a year had moved up to AD&D. I've played many different RPGs, and owned dozens I never actually played, so I've seen all sorts of rules changes. These just seem overly complicated. When I look back at AD&D, the first was what it was, a good start, but appropriately patchwork and ill-thought out for the long term. 2E took stock of the 1E, streamlined it, corrected many of the old issues, but clearly was stil old AD&D. 3E was more radical, with a shift towards heroism (which we were seeing in other geek media - comics like Kingdom Come and JLA moved comics away from the deconstruction era, and in movies, Jedi and Neo and Shao-Lin monks were on the screen). Now the hot thing IS superheroes (Heroes, Iron Man, etc), and in RPGs, its MMORPGs, and this looks to me like a nod in that direction. With everyone having powers that they can use every turn, it seems like a staggering amount to keep track of. It feels much more like what I get out a computer RPG. Hell, I half expect WOTC to charge a monthly subscription fee (oh wait...). Even though I like many things here (like dropping spell memorization), I don't get MW's excitement. I think it'll be a long time before my group switches over.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 7:30 p.m. CST

    While I still dislike d20...

    by Royston Lodge

    I'm very happy to hear that WotC has started to be way more consumer-friendly with their business practices. A useful "red box" is a great thing for a group like mine where we don't ALL need a copy of the Player's Guide, but we all need SOMETHING to refer back to. (Side benefit for WotC - it might cut down on the number of illegal rulebook downloads). The news about the minis is also VERY welcome. I think WotC thought they were just tapping in the Mage Knight market when they brought out their minis, and didn't realize how many D&D players were going to want to buy them as well. Now instead of cutting into Mage Knight they're cutting into companies like The Foundry.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 7:34 p.m. CST

    That being said, of course...

    by Royston Lodge

    My RPG of choice is still d6 Star Wars. I'll NEVER get rid of THOSE books, and converting d20 Star Wars stats to the d6 rules is a nerdlinger's dream! ;-)

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 9:49 p.m. CST


    by Thrillho77

    comes out firing with an absolutely ACE reference. No "firsts" or "D&D is for virgin dweebs" - but a great reference. Well played, sir.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 9:49 p.m. CST


    by Thrillho77

    comes out firing with an absolutely ACE reference. No "firsts" or "D&D is for virgin dweebs" - but a great reference. Well played, sir.

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 10:37 p.m. CST

    One-Eyed Willy

    by GunterMonkey

    Thanks for the info--I appreciate it. :)

  • Oct. 22, 2008, 10:38 p.m. CST

    Royston Lodge

    by GunterMonkey

    Agreed about SW d6--love that system. Good times.

  • Oct. 23, 2008, 1:12 a.m. CST

    But Does 4E Have.....

    by Wrath4771

    Whelm, Wave and Black Razor?

  • Oct. 23, 2008, 1:36 p.m. CST

    Many reasons for TSR's financial problems,

    by Dingbatty

    mostly due to that woman who owned the Buck Rogers properties, but that doesn't mean that their actual product wasn't far superior to soulless, bastardized trash the debauched jerks at WOC produced.

  • Oct. 23, 2008, 1:45 p.m. CST

    4e is a party of 1st lvl PCs vs 100+ hp boss fights

    by Eyegore

    Yes, seriously, this is what happens in the module (keep on the shadowfell), plus there's a secondard boss and a slew of minions. But the 1st lvl PCs have a few more HP to make up the difference. It's a long way from Gygax's vision.

  • Oct. 23, 2008, 6:58 p.m. CST

    Even the fact that we use words like "boss" . . .

    by Royston Lodge

    . . . in reference to D&D shows exactly what it's become. I don't remember ever referring to villains as "bosses" when I played other games. The modules for games like d6, or Shadowrun, or whatever, were structured more like movies or tv shows (with a beginning, middle, climax, and ending) than like computer games (run, run, run, fight, run run run. fight, run run, puzzle, run, run, run, fight).