Go Beyond D&D with D&D Beyond

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The next two phases for D&D Beyond were revealed at the Origins Game Fair this weekend.

In addition to the announcements about the Tomb of Annihilation (which included some delicious easter eggs, like the giant dragon turtle that hunts the bay, or a lizardfolk type creature who speaks only through scents), this year’s Origins had some big announcements for the future of D&D Beyond. The WotC-partnered D&D Digital App is gearing up for the next couple of phases which will enable character creation and campaign aide content.

Let’s start with the easiest (and arguably most important one). Character Creation. According to Adam Bradford at the D&D Beyond panel, we should see character creation enabled in the next week or two. Their goal is to have it up and running by June 30th, with support for quick or randomized character builds as well as the carefully crafted min/max monsters your friends keep trying to convince you to let them run. Quick/random characters could be a great tool for Players and GMs alike, helping to fill in the gaps for when the characters decide to take an interest in the random baker that they stopped to buy pies from, and want to know her whole life story.

Following hot on the heels of Phase 2 will be Phase 3, which is all about homebrew and campaign management. Users will be able to share their content across the app, though there was pointedly no mention about sharing DMsGuild content through the app yet, outside of “we’re not ready to announce anything yet.” On the campaign management side of things, it’s pretty much what you’d expect–the DM can invite players to join their campaign, you can track character sheets, see what’s edited when, the GM can meddle with edit the players’ sheets. And on the running side of things, you’ll be able to arrange monsters/other content already included in the first two phases.

Look whatever lets me easily track how many times per encounter I’ve killed the party is fine by me.

And now on to the fun part. Paying for the app–there are two different “subscription tiers” the first is the Hero Tier subscription which is aimed at players, giving them unlimited character slots in the app (presumably users who don’t subscribe will have only a limited number). Then there will be the Master Tier for DM, which allows DMs to purchase content and share it with their players. And since we’re talking about paying for the content–here’s the sticking point. Yes, all the sourcebooks will be available at launch, and that they’ll make a digital version of any new sourcebooks that get released–but you’ll have to pay to have access to that content in the app.

Which does mean you’ll be paying twice for the same material. I’m not a fan of this, in general, but in D&D Beyond’s defense, they did say they’ve been working on a way for it all to make sense and that we’d “be surprised at what they’ve come up with.” Which means it could be something as simple as folding it into a part of the subscription service, or maybe offering up a “season pass” like many video game publishers do for their games. Something like this could allow for players to pay a single (and often lower) price for the content that’s released over the course of a “season.” I could also see them offering up a digital bundle that gives you access to an expanded library for a good rate.

That’s one of the rougher patches that D&D Beyond will have to navigate though. Figuring out the pricing and what services they’ll offer (as well as the quality/ease of use of the app) is going to be important. Especially since there are plenty of other third party apps that let you do what D&D Beyond does that are a) already available and b) free. But D&D Beyond is going to be designed to do things a little differently–it’ll have Twitch Stream integration, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, considering you have to log in to Twitch to access the app–but what it will ultimately come down to is… is it worth it? There’s definitely a need for a digital product like this. I know my players, for instance, all use their own digital spell cards to help keep combat moving. But is this the one we’re waiting for? And more importantly, does it have a 3d-animated intro adventure in the final version, like the pinnacle of digital content, the D&D Core Rules CD-ROM released in 1999.

We’ll be taking a look at the character creator once Phase 2 officially rolls out. So stay tuned for more news.

What do you want out of a digital gaming app? What price would you be willing to pay for it?

  • euansmith

    Mmmm, this sounds really interesting, useful and fu… Twitch?

  • Shawn

    I can agree with everything in this article Jay Arr, except that there really isn’t a need for this kind of software. Is it cool and convenient, sure, but pen and paper work just as good, as well as an old fashioned computer processor.
    “Oh darn fellas, the power at Jimmy’s house went out, so he can’t access his campaign stuff, so tonight’s game is canceled.”
    “No problem. Shawn has all his stuff in notebooks. He can run a game for us, problem solved. Oh, and you don’t need to purchase any apps, neither.”

    • Alexander Azarov

      Tablets and phones and laptops. Bring your stuff to the table and access everything with no need for a suitcase of books and papers. Although both have their pluses and minuses.

    • David Turknett

      I am an old school gamer who has been utilizing the app material since beta release. It is very well done. Once it is complete, it will speed up game play tremendously.