Hello gamers, Abstruse here with the week’s dose of gaming news, and of course, we have to talk about the big one first.
In news I can only describe as “fucking FINALLY”, there has been an official announcement on release dates for the new edition of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. And yes, many of the rumors turned out to be true. On July 15, we get the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS STARTER SET at a retail price of $19.99, containing a 32 page rulebook with pregenerated characters, a set of dice, and a 64 page adventure written by none other than Richard Baker. While the product description only mentions that rules for levels 1-5 will be presented, Mike Mearls confirmed on Twitter that there will be character creation rules as well.
In July, WizKids will also release the first set of their miniatures, Icons of the Realm Starter Set. The six prepainted plastic minis include a dwarf cleric, human ranger, Halfling rogue, northlands fighter, elf wizard, and Drizzt Do’Urden because of course it does. This set is non-random in a clear blister pack, unlike the Icons of the Realms Boosters, which are blind boxed for $15.99 including four random miniatures out of a set of 44.
On August 19, we get the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS PLAYER’S HANDBOOK, a 320 page hardcover rulebook for $49.95 and I’m going to go ahead and save you the time in the talkback - yeah, that layout looks kinda lame. The art is amazing, but the new logo looks a little off to me and the overall design looks a little on the cheap side. But I thought the same thing about several other products based on digital mock-ups that looked amazing in print. And dear lord that cover art! I’m sure many prefer the older style art to the newer, more comic influenced style many companies have migrated to over the years, but I’ve got to say I like the new stuff. They’ve dropped “Next” from the title and don’t indicate any edition number anywhere. This is just Dungeons & Dragons, as Mike Mearls said he wanted to do about a year and a half ago.
Also of note is that the Player’s Handbook will be the only rulebook released in August (the only other book coming out that month is the first in the Tyranny of Dragons adventure path, HOARD OF THE DRAGON QUEEN). The MONSTER MANUAL comes out September 30 (320 pages, $49.95) and the DUNGEON MASTER’S GUIDE comes out November 18 (320 pages, $49.95). There hasn’t been any information about digital releases yet.
Everyone is freaking out over this when there shouldn’t be any panic. The problem is many assume that, as it was many years ago, you needed the DMG in order to play the game. Except that hasn’t been the case for years. I’ve run games in 4th Edition and Pathfinder yet have only read a friend’s copy of the 4th Edition DMG once (enough to realize I didn’t need it) and I’ve never seen the Gamemastery Guide for Pathfinder. All the rules you need to play the game will be in the Player’s Handbook, with the Dungeon Master’s Guide containing rules for worldbuilding, optional rules (like advanced combat, advanced social encounters, etc. – the various rules modules they’ve been talking about through the entire playtest), more magic items, and things like that. You know, stuff that’s helpful to have but not necessary to play the game.
The official reason for the split, per Mike Mearls, is a quality issue “a la the 4e errata. Too much work at once.” If this is the case (some speculate there may be more going on behind the scenes), I’m happy to wait to make sure the product I end up with is usable without a massive amount of work updating it.
The other complaint I’ve heard frequently is about the $49.95 price point. This outrage seems strange to me as pretty much every core rulebook on the market (save games like FATE) have the same price point or higher for their core rulebook. PATHFINDER, FIREFLY RPG, and A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE RPG all have that same price point, and NUMENERA, SHADOWRUN, and STAR WARS: EDGE OF THE EMPIRE are ten dollars more expensive. The only major release RPG I can find published in the last five years with a hardcover core rulebook and a lower retail price is 13th AGE, which is $44.95. Printing prices have gone up, especially on glossy full-color hardbacks. For comparison, here’s the cover prices of previous editions of the game, adjusted for inflation:
ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 1st Edition ($15.00 in 1978, 128 pages): $54.54
ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 2nd Edition ($20 in 1989, 256 pages): $38.24
ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 2nd Edition Revised ($25 in 1995, 320 pages): $38.89
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 3rd Edition ($19.95 in 2000, 304 pages): $27.47
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 3.5 Edition ($29.95 in 2003, 320 pages): $38.59
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS 4th Edition ($34.95 in 2008, 320 pages): $38.48
PATHFINDER ($49.99 in 2009, 576 pages): $55.24
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS ($49.95 in 2014, 320 pages): $49.95
Note: 2nd Edition was the first to print on glossy paper, while 3rd Edition was the first to be full-color throughout.
For a little more perspective, he’s the price for core rulebooks for a few other games over the years, also adjusted for inflation:
VAMPIRE: THE MASQUERADE ($25.00 in 1991, 264 pages): $43.52
SHADOWRUN ($25.00 in 1989, 208 pages): $47.80
CALL OF CTHULHU ($20.00 in 1981, 162 pages): $52.16
PARANOIA ($16.95 in 1984, 160 pages): $38.68
DEADLANDS ($30 in 1996, 224 pages): $45.33
There wasn’t much new about the Tyranny of Dragons adventures other than a specific page count, price, and release date. At least not from Wizards of the Coast. It turns out that Kobold Press got the nod to write these adventures, specifically Wolfgang Baur and Steve Winter (both of whom have previously worked for TSR and Wizards of the Coast on earlier editions as well as DRAGON and DUNGEON Magazines). Kobold Press was quick to point out that their work on OGL materials for Pathfinder and 13th Age won’t slow down due to this deal, and they do not yet know if there will be an open license for this edition of D&D.
If you are interested in pre-ordering the new Dungeons and Dragons games, here are some helpful links to Amazon:
That’s not the only big news coming from Wizards of the Coast. They’ve filed suit against Cryptozoic over their massively multiplayer online collectible card game (who knew MMOCCGs were a thing?), HEX: SHARDES OF FATE. The claim is that Cryptozoic copied many elements in the “trade dress” from MAGIC: THE GATHERING including violating patents. After looking at their Kickstarter, WotC has a pretty good case. While the rules are different, the presentation is very similar to MAGIC: THE GATHERING ONLINE and MAGIC: THE GATHERING: DUELS OF THE PLANESWALKER. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep, the text of the lawsuit is online to read, as is US Patent 5 662 332 for MAGIC: THE GATHERING.
So apparently, my fears about being overbooked at GenCon were for nothing. Because pretty much every major event booked solid within minutes of event registration going live. This is the third such incident with this year’s GenCon where they have basically DDoS’d themselves by allowing all the attendees to hit their servers at once. Not only did attendees get slammed by housing issues, but the vendors and companies attending had issues with reservations when their room block opened up.
Game artist Jeff Preston reported that he had his event wishlist pre-built and sent in the second the servers were live, and still ended up over 4000th in queue in the 60 seconds it took the page to load, and many others had longer waits. If you, like I, didn’t get a chance to join the online scrum, the recommendation from many long-time attendees is to purchase several generic tickets. Many events – even popular ones – have people drop out at the last minute.
Moving to the other big gaming convention, the nominees for Spiel, Kennerspiel, and Kinderspiel des Jahres debuted. (Spiel is Game of the Year, Kennerspiel is for games meant for gaming experts, and Kinderspiel for children’s games). The nominees are:
Spiel des Jahres
Honorable Mentions (a list of recommended titles in the category that did not get nominated):
Kennerspiel des Jahres
Kinderspiel des Jahres
Flizz & Miez
Gelster, Gelster, Schatzsuchmelster
Yes, many of these games haven’t been translated and brought to the United States yet, but the ones that have are all linked so you can pick them up yourself. The ones that haven’t, expect to see them very soon as even a mention by the Spiel committee is enough to turn a game into an instant must-have classic. I’m very glad they added their equivalent of an “Honorable Mentions” category, because it seems to be the only way an American-made game can get recognition these days...
While Wizards of the Coast likes doing a long build-up, Games Workshop seems to enjoy ninjaing their new releases, such as the 7th Edition of WARHAMMER 40K. The $85 rules set includes three books: A Galaxy of War on the art of collecting and painting miniatures, Dark Millennium on the history of the 40K universe, and The Rules which have the actual rules for playing. This comes out May 24, and was only announced last week.
Catalyst Game Labs released the Quick Start and a module for their licensed GMless RPG based on the Valiant comic book universe. The system is one I don’t think I’ve seen before. The stats are step-dice based (so your Might is a d8 but your Intellect is a d4). You roll 1d12 plus your relevant stat die and add/subtract modifiers to get your result. You’re rolling against a flat 1d20 roll though, which adds a lot of randomness to the system. I’ve never read any Valiant comics, so I’m not sure how well the mechanics reflect the comics. But you can check it out for yourself for free before the game launches July 5th.
DUNGEON CRAWL CLASSICS: THE CHAINED COFFIN is the newest adventure from Goodman Games in their attempt to revive the classic tropes of fantasy roleplay. This module is inspired by Appendix N. DUNGEON CRAWL CLASSICS itself is an OSR-styled system using the d20 rules under OGL, so it should be very easy to pick up or to adapt to another system if you’d rather. A $7 pledge gets you the PDF, a $10 pledge gets you the softcover version, but a $30 pledge gets you a unique silver-foil embossed spilling wheel puzzle for use in the module. There are also add-ons for most of their in print modules and the rulebook. This Kickstarter is blasting through stretch goals until June 1st.
CODE MONKEY ISLAND is a very simple game where each player has a tribe of monkeys they’re trying to get to Monkey Island first. Do to so, they play cards that move the monkeys forward. Why would I include something this simple? Because of the cards. The logic of the monkey’s movement is based on the same logic used in computer programming. So this is a fun, interactive way to get your kids thinking the way computers do, making later use of programing languages easier and more intuitive. While not for most readers of this column, it’s a great gift for the young ones in your life to help prepare them for their future. The game is available for a $40 pledge, and will work toward a few modest stretch goals until June 6th.
Shane Hensley (of DEADLANDS and SAVAGE WORLDS fame) pulled the guys at 12 to Midnight under their umbrella and are Kickstarting a SW version of EAST TEXAS UNIVERSITY. One of the designers, Preston DuBose, described it as “if all Buffy’s friends left her behind to go to college in East Texas”. Based on their Pinebox setting, this game follows the characters from their Freshman year at ETU through to surviving graduation (literally) as they get involved in various paranormal activities. The Kickstarter is fully-funded, and you can get the PDF plus digital extras for a $20 pledge, $35 for the first sourcebook DEGREES OF HORROR, and $50 for both in dead tree format. The project runs until June 12th.
NOVA PRAXIS is also getting a SAVAGE WORLDS conversion. Originally for FATE, this post-singularity cyberpunk game that I’ve been very interested in for a while but haven’t had a chance to look at. This Kickstarter doesn’t have a lot of information about the setting, so if you’re interested in a hard sci-fi game, I’d suggest checking out the more in-depth description on their original Kickstarter. There’s a little trick to this Kickstarter...you can get the PDF for a $10 pledge, or for $15 you can get in on the PDF and any digital stretch goals. A $20 pledge gets you a print copy, but there’s a catch – you’re not getting the game for free. You still have to pay Drive Thru RPG’s printing and shipping fees for print-on-demand (around $15-30 depending on the style you order). $25 adds the PDF onto the print copy. This project is 2/3 of the way to its goal and runs until June 12th.
That’s it for this week! I’ll be at Comicpalooza this weekend in Houston, TX, along with Nordling (who is hosting the panel for Billy Dee motherfucking Williams) and the host of the Gamer’s Tavern podcast, Ross Watson. Ross and Nordling will be doing panels, and Ross will run games throughout the four day convention May 23-26. I’ll just be hanging around trying to learn what I can to report back to you all the latest from one of Texas’s biggest conventions. I’ll also be recording some things for Gamer’s Tavern, so look forward to that. Speaking of, my podcast just posted a convention survival guide with guests Grady Elliot (Terracide) and Tom Lommel (Bill Cavalier, the Dungeon Bastard)! If you want to know where I’m milling about, you can follow me on Twitter @Abstruse, and you can tell me what games I should be playing and panels I should be attending (as well as your gaming news) by emailing me at email@example.com.