Tag Archives: 5E

“Elemental Evil” Could Be a Huge Leap Forward for Dungeons & Dragons

Princes of the Apocalypse

As the flagship brand in the  hobby, Dungeons & Dragons (and its publisher, Wizards of the Coast) sets the pace for the industry. The business model really hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years: sell the core books to everyone, sell the splatbooks to players, sell the adventure modules to dungeon masters. Sure, each edition has changed the product mix a bit, but the only major departure was 4th Edition’s introduction of the D&D Insider online tools, which gave online access to all of the published splatbook content for a monthly subscription. 5th Edition looked poised to be the first edition of D&D to offer true “digital copies” of the books through the DungeonScape app (née Codename: Morningstar), but that plan ended after a rocky beta test.

Then, Wizards of the Coast surprised us all by giving away the “Basic Rules” for free online in PDF form in advance of the Player’s Handbook release. Granted, the Basic Rules are extremely basic, but it seemed a step in the right direction for Wizards to lower the barrier to entry into the game and generate interest with a new, younger audience.

With today’s announcement on the product line for the Elemental Evil campaign, though, Wizards has taken the D&D business model in another new direction, scrapping the previously planned Elemental Evil-branded Adventurer’s Guide splatbook, merging it into the Princes of the Apocalypse adventure module, and releasing the player content for free.

Princes of the Apocalypse is available on April 7, 2015 and includes an epic adventure for characters levels 1–15 as well as new elemental spells and the element-touched genasi as a new playable race. In addition, a free download will be available in mid-March that includes more new races plus the player content available in Princes of the Apocalypse

I’ve reached out to Mike Mearls on Twitter to clarify if this approach is unique to the Elemental Evil products, or if it represents their plan going forward. I haven’t heard back I’ve appended the post with his response below, but that won’t stop me from making some assumptions and reckless predictions going forward.

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I Read Some Things: Week of January 12, 2015

I read some things this week. After the jump, you can read them, too.

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Everyone is Writing About the Orr Group Industry Report and I Am Too

A lot of people have written about the Orr Group Industry Report by now. They’ve all written basically the same thing, so take your pick of The Iron Tavern, Examiner, TGN, and Geek Native.  They follow the same basic observations, regurgitated from Orr Group’s press release: Dungeons and Dragons is popular, 5th Edition is growing, and now that players know their profile choices matter, more players are making sure their profile is accurate. In fact, I made the same observations on Saturday, and I didn’t even get a copy of the press release (Orr Group, you know where to find me.)

This report is interesting for the things that it is and the things that it is not, so we’re going to discuss it. To start, here it is:

Orr Group 2014 Q4 Industry Report Summary

Orr Group 2014 Q4 Industry Report Summary

Orr Group also published the detailed version of the report with Other Listed Games expanded, but that full infographic is quite large, so I’ll link to it here.

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I Read Some Things: Week of January 5, 2015

I read some things this week. After the jump, you can read them, too.

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The Most “Interesting” Encounters are Pretty Boring

“Help! My players are bored in combat! How do I make my encounters more interesting?”

DMs ask this question all the time, and the usual answer is always a variation on the same theme: add new things to combat. New monsters (there’s a whole book of ’em!), new skill challenges (the tossing deck of a ship!), new tactical challenges (archers hidden in the trees!) The implication is the same: if your encounter is “You bust down the door and there is a monster in the room. It attacks you!” then it’s boring. If your encounter is “You bust down the door and the room is on fire and a monster attacks you and you step on a pressure plate and the party is sprayed with acid” then it isn’t.

More often than not, these DMs come back later with the same problem:

“Help! I’m doing X, Y, and Z, but my players are still bored in combat!”

It’s not that those wrinkles don’t make for more interesting combat, but that the DM has asked the wrong question. Unless you play D&D as a tactical miniatures game, encounters aren’t “more interesting” because you introduce skill checks or environmental challenges. That’s just a new set of variables and a few more dice rolls that get sorted out quickly and then metagamed in ensuing rounds. You run the risk, if you make the combat unpredictable, that the players feel cheated when they die, because they had no chance to figure out the new variables and metagame them appropriately. The players are left unsatisfied, and the DM doesn’t understand what he needs to do to fix it.

He needs to ask the right question:

“How do I make this combat more important?”

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