D&D Direct 2022 Part Two: Everything Else (and Dragonlance)
Spelljammer led off the D&D Direct news, but it wasn’t the only thing that was announced during the event. The other announcements were varied, and I’m probably not going to touch on all of them with the same amount of effort, since I’ve not interacted with all of them equally.
It’s been a while since I logged in and played Neverwinter. It’s not a commentary on its quality, it just isn’t the kind of game where I end up sinking my gaming time. The trailer looks cool, and I know I’ve yoinked some of the cinematics from time to time to show people, because the MMO often touches on the bigger D&D adventures.
That said, it may we worth noting that this isn’t tied to an adventure, though it may be pulling from Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. As not a regular player, it does seem that Neverwinter has moved a bit more from featuring the current hardcover adventure to having its own themes, perhaps because the hardcovers don’t have as much time between them as in the past.
The fact that they gave some time to Neverwinter during a relatively short promotional event does seem to indicate that Neverwinter is still considered important enough to get some time.
The main thrust of this trailer was to announce that 2023 should be the official launch of the game. It’s been in early access for a while, so people have had the opportunity to play the game in bits and pieces. When the time came to decide between this and Solasta, I went with Solasta, because I assumed enough people would be looking at this that I didn’t need to participate in the early access, and I’d catch it when it went “official.”
In the interim, I realized that even in pre-release beta, Baldur’s Gate 3 would have probably choked my computer into submission and then laughed at it. Regardless, knowing that this is coming out in 2023 means I may have time to get a new computer up and running, providing supply chains and assholes making imaginary money in planet-killing server farms don’t keep me from getting what I need to run it.
Not counting mass combat systems that were meant to incorporate into D&D itself as part of the narrative of that game, we’ve seen a few attempts to get D&D up and running as a small unit miniatures combat game. Yes, there is some kind of commentary in them in going back to where D&D came from, etc. but I don’t have the bandwidth to cover all of that in a summary. Basically, we had Chainmail (the 3e era miniatures game, not the original rules on which D&D were based), the D&D miniatures game in 3.5, which tied into the pre-painted plastic miniatures that WotC put out at the time, and Dungeon Command, a late 4e skirmish game using those same miniatures, but released in themed boxed sets.
While Dungeon Command had themed boxed sets, focusing on Cormyr, the Underdark, Orcs or Goblins, this seems to more fully embrace the same concept that a lot of miniatures skirmish games embrace, which is faction-based play. The initial trailer shows the Zhentarim versus the Harpers. It’s interesting to be, since factions, at least as broad, setting wide organizations, seem to be fading from focus in the D&D adventures. Unlike the previous skirmish games, this one is by WizKids, licensed from WotC.
WizKids is doing a lot of hard work to turn plastic into cash, and if they can get a faction-based skirmish game to catch on, I’m sure it will be lucrative. Even larger tabletop miniatures combat games are increasingly releasing smaller skirmish versions of those games. I have no idea if this will catch on. I’ve been out of the loop on tabletop miniatures games for a while.
Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel was announced a few weeks ago, but it got some time during D&D Direct to get some more eyes on the project. I didn’t mention it much on the blog, because, well, I need more time to be able to write things. If only this were my day job.
Anyway, the Radiant Citadel is an adventure anthology that presents a new location in the Ethereal Plane, and the setting and the adventures all feature elements created by creators from marginalized communities. This allows them to present cultures drawn from their personal experiences, from their unique perspectives.
I’m excited to see this, both from the standpoint of seeing more marginalized voices given the time and space to make their mark on D&D, and because a multi-cultural fortress in the Ethereal Plane seems like a fun and interesting addition to the D&D multiverse.
Legends of the Multiverse is a new actual play streaming show with a lot of well-known streamers. The artwork for the character looks awesome, and I’m wondering if there is going to be a rotating cast, because there seem to be a lot of players. Other than that, I can’t say whether I’ll watch this or not, because it’s way easier for me to add an actual play to my queue if it’s in podcast form.
There was a relatively short announcement trailer showing that the D&D movie has an official title (see above), and a release date (3/3/2023). Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley appear briefly to confirm a few things about the movie. It is set in the Forgotten Realms, along the Sword Coast. The image behind them appeared to be a harbor side view of Neverwinter. I like Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez. If this manages a semi-Fafhrd and Mouser style feeling to it, I’ll be happy.
My personal feeling is that the right tone for the Forgotten Realms is a super-position between love for home similar to Middle-earth coupled with the Lankhmar-style adventuring. Other than that, I don’t have a lot more to say about this.
I’m still pretty excited about this even though I’m mainly running all of my games online these days. Campaign cases are a combination of different-sized tokens and interlocking dungeon tiles. One campaign case is for monsters, and the other is for battle at tiles.
Both cases have clings that can be added to the tokens or the tiles. That means you can throw a huge token on the board, and slap a dragon cling to it, and you can throw down some blank tiles, and add some tree and rock clings to make terrain.
I like the tiles + clings approach better than dungeon tiles. I have a bunch of dungeon tiles, but unless you have everything amazingly well organized in a proprietary storage solution, it takes a while to find those really cool tiles. General, it should be easier to find the sheet with a campfire, a pit, or a tree on it.
I’m also a huge fan of having properly sized tokens to stand in for exact miniatures. Again, instead of clawing around for just the right monsters, you can find the right cling, but if it’s not a big, climactic moment, you can also just throw the properly sized token on the board. This is also handy for emergent play, like when the PCs summon a creature or you need to track where their flaming sphere or spiritual weapon is on the map.
There are some third-party solutions similar to this, and I hope people with purchase those as well, but not everyone that plays D&D does a deep dive into alternate resources available. Having officially branded material is likely going to be very helpful to people new to the hobby, and people that want some official D&D artwork to feature in their game.
A while back, there was some legal wrangling between WotC and some of its licensees over translated rulebooks, and this announcement shows the status of translated books now that WotC has taken direct control over the process.
There will be French, Italian, German, and Spanish translations of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Monsters of the Multiverse, Curse of Strahd, and the new Starter Set, with release dates from July through October.
The Starter Set was mentioned, but most of the information we get either came from people in the press rooms, like Brandes Stoddard. According to the press room information, there will be multi-media support for this boxed set, with an emphasis on teaching brand new DMs how to run the game. That includes QR codes for digital content, video tutorials, and interactive demos. The topics will include running encounters, branching narrative, collaborative storytelling, and improvisation.
Some people noticed that some of the characters from the 80s D&D cartoon appear on the cover, and according to the answers given after D&D Direct, this isn’t so much “officially” adding those characters to any setting, so much as using them as iconic artwork for illustration.
There will also be an online D&D Curriculum to support after-school programs, with brackets for 4th-6th grade and 7th-8th grade. Which just happen to be when I was really getting into D&D for the first time. Some of these topics sound kind of daunting, but I’ll be really interested in how well they break larger concepts like branching narratives and collaboration into bite-sized bits. These things can still be challenging for people that have been playing for years.
It was also noted that this Starter Set should “play nice” with the upcoming rules update to the core rules in 2024. I don’t doubt that, but given that this is the third Starter Set/Essentials Set we have seen, if you don’t count the Stranger Things or Rick and Morty themed sets, I wouldn’t be shocked to see another Starter Set come out within a year of the 2024 releases.
One thing that I don’t remember coming up is that this appears to be another Target exclusive set. If this deal is similar to the Essentials Set, that means that it’s only exclusive for a few months, but it does signal that Target seems to still want that exclusive D&D content locked down at launch.
Have I mentioned we were told we couldn’t play in the cafeteria after school, and that I had to run D&D for my Sunday School class to prove to my teachers that it wasn’t Satanic? Hopefully, this is one of those things that progressed that won’t regress in modern culture.
During the announcement video, there were references to Your Digital Library on WotC’s website. These references revolved around a free introductory Spelljammer adventure coming in advance of the setting’s release, the D&D Curriculum material mentioned above, and the rebirth of the Monstrous Compendium.
If you aren’t as old as I am, you should be very happy. Also, the Monstrous Compendium was a product that came out in AD&D 2e instead of the Monster Manual. It was a binder, and each Monstrous Compendium release was meant to go in this binder to expand your monsters. Of course, because not all monsters were dual-sided, you couldn’t mix your compendiums easily, and also, the holes would tear in the individual pages, meaning I had to buy a ton of those stick on circles to repair holes so they would stay. It was a very neat idea that died a quick death.
Anyway, WotC has digital content assigned to your WotC account now, and the first proof of concept of this idea are the Monstrous Compendium pages that are preview monsters from Spelljammer. There are a lot of interesting creatures here, but I’m just going to say I’m fascinated with the Eldritch Lich and leave it at that.
From a marketing standpoint, I don’t really know what this is. If WotC hadn’t bought D&D Beyond, I might see this as them trying to provide a proprietary space for digitally owned material, but that can’t be the purpose of this, unless it was in the works before the paperwork got signed.
Oh, yeah, if you were expecting news on the D&D Beyond deal, you aren’t getting any, because while the deal is going through, we haven’t reached all of the official transfer dates for D&D Beyond to officially belong to WotC. But the Monstrous Compendium pages were released for free to anyone that has a D&D Beyond account as well.
First off, this is narrated by Shohreh Aghdashloo, and she is absolutely amazing. The narration is from the perspective of a weary knight, talking about why she and others continue to fight, as well see armies of dragons and winged dragonfolk charging forward. At the end of the trailer we see two products announced, and neither has finished cover art. Those products are Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen, and Warriors of Krynn. Shadow of the Dragon Queen appears to be a standard hardcover, but Warriors of Krynn is a big old boxed set.
Most of what I have, by way of clarification, comes from Brandes Stoddard’s press reporting from the meeting rooms after the main event. Apparently there was some mix up for some website’s coverage, reporting that Ray Winninger indicated that Anasalon was an unexplored part of Krynn, which seems to be tangling a few different things that he said into a whole other comment.
The adventure is meant to be a tour of Anasalon, during the War of the Lance, from the player character’s perspective, not repeating the experiences of the Heroes of the Lance. This is meant to give the PCs the perspective of fighting in the War of the Lance on their own terms, as the core experience of the setting.
Most of the existing NPCs that will be encountered will likely be in cameos, and will lean heavily towards villains, rather than running into characters like the Heroes of the Lance. The idea is to create a new experience for a new generation to have their own story in Krynn. So far, it appears that Kender and Draconians will be among the playable races. Since Kender aren’t just reskinned halflings, this makes me wonder if Draconians will be significantly different than dragonborn (for example, no breath weapons, limited ability to use wings). Winninger also said that clerics and the return of the Gods of Light would have some part of the overall plot.
That big box from the trailer is going to be a war-themed cooperative board game, which can be used to play out scenarios from the adventure when things shift to mass combat. Winninger also indicated that there will be abstracted rules for mass combat in the adventure, so it will be interesting to see how these flow back and forth. In the original run of Dragonlance adventure, Dragons of Glory was a board-game-style battle simulator, so this is in keeping with the original line of products.
We’ve known this for a few months, but Winninger also confirmed that the new novels by Hickman and Weis are “Classic Dragonlance,” and don’t have any bearing on this adventure and how it presents the setting. Much as I love the original novels, I think some of the collaborative work from other designers on the adventures does get lost in favor of adding additional weight to the novel side of the setting. Winninger himself did some work on the original adventures, and despite the original adventures being collaboratively designed, Hickman and Weis have been resistant to incorporating “multiverse” concepts into the setting before, such as disagreeing with Dragonlance cosmology being linked to D&D cosmology, and resisting the narrative that Lord Soth was a Dark Lord in Ravenloft.
It’s been a while since WotC floated mass combat rules in an Unearthed Arcana. This does make me wonder if either the simplified mass combat resolution from the adventure or the mass combat rules from the board game will see use with later adventures/products. D&D 5e has been much better than many editions at using subsystems that it has introduced, assuming they revisit similar topics (unfortunately most commonly with the sanity rules from the DMG, but hopefully we’ll see more use of Stress from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft).
I love Dragonlance, and I love a lot of the novels. Rereading Chronicles, Legends, and the Huma/Kaz books used to be something I did every summer. It’s an incredibly strong, thematic setting, but I also think to get new people to love it, the core experience does need to be distilled, and players need to feel like they have a place in the world. Given that I don’t expect an entire line of Dragonlance products, I think giving the player characters their own place in such a pivotal moment as the War of the Lance is probably the best way to go.
Directly to the Future
Basically, this D&D Direct presentation really was largely about the summer releases for D&D. In the past, we’ve seen collaborative events with lots of in-person or online participants that also served as an announcement platform, and we’ve also seen primarily online, celebrity-focused events that also served as announcement platforms. In both those cases, announcements were doled out over multiple days. This was one big concentrated hit.
Does that mean we aren’t going to get either a celebrity weekend or a streamed online participatory event? I have no idea. I know there will likely be another set of announcements coming when the D&D Beyond purchase is final to show the direction the website will take now that it’s owned wholly by WotC.
I noticed that despite giving time to Neverwinter, the recent expansion to Dark Alliance, Echoes of the Blood War, didn’t get any screen time. We also didn’t get any information on the Hidden Path open-world game, which probably isn’t too surprising, depending on what stage of development the game is in. I mentioned above that we’re still waiting on D&D Beyond integration news, and we heard nothing about the D&D television project rumblings.
This whole showcase was a half-hour long, and I’m pretty exhausted.