Friday, May 24, 2013

Thoughts on Dragonspear Castle

So the announcement about the first D&D Next adventure, Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, has hit the blogs, and there is a bit of buzz going on around it. They also seem to be cementing their relationship with Forbes, with a spiffy article all about it.

Erik Tenkar isn't pleased (to say the least) that it's being offered as a GenCon-only offering. Meaning, you can pre-order the adventure, but there is no shipping option. You must be at GenCon this August to pick up your copy. Personally, that doesn't really bother me. It's a marketing decision, and they want to be able to have some sort of big D&D Next presence at the convention besides seminars and presentations, so this is a way to build buzz. I get it. I'm disappointed that I won't be able to get a copy, but I can't say it bothers me.

I'd like to talk about a couple of other things in the announcement, though.

First, it's not just going to be an adventure, but the book will also have a copy of the playtest rules in it. They're marketing this as a sort of yearbook, even with places for folks to sign their copy. It marks a point in time in the design cycle, not just the release of the game itself. I still have those 4E preview books, and they served the same purpose (although they were sold in Barnes & Noble).

Second, I'm a little put off by the notion that it's a "mini-campaign comprised of four thrilling adventures designed to advance characters from 1st level to 10th level." 10 levels in four adventures? Considering the latest playtest rules are 316 pages long, and this book is "over 200 pages" long, even if they smoosh down the rules a lot, there's not a lot of room for the adventures themselves. 10 levels in 50 or 60 pages? It seems a bit much, and doesn't fill me with confidence about the speed with which characters are expected to level up, and thus what the "sweet spot" of PC level is going to be for the game. I prefer a low-level game, and anything over level 20 is for gods and godlike NPCs...

Third, I was hoping that we'd finally have a definitive ruling on what the official name of the game will be, but it seems they're still being coy. The upper-right corner of the cover sports the 4th edition logo, while the lower-right says "Playable with D&D Next rules". And the Forbes story refers to D&D Next as a code-name. So will it be just D&D? D&D 5th Edition? D&D Next? Something else? It seems like we still don't know.

Fourth, I'm intrigued by the announcement of the Candlekeep playtest adventures that will be run at GenCon (from the Forbes article):

All throughout the entire weekend, we’re going to have a constantly running game where you just get in line –if you want to DM, you can DM your friends or we’ll have volunteer DM’s on hand– and you can play through scenes of this climatic battle.”
After each group finishes the adventure, the results of their actions will be collected and tabulated, and used to determine the fate of Candlekeep, which will be announced at the end of the convention. “If you’re told to go behind enemy lines and trash a supply caravan, whether you succeed or fail will tie into the greater results of the entire weekend. Essentially it’s one massive interactive adventure.”
I'm not a fan of having big campaign-impacting decisions decided by a single convention, but I love the idea of different groups of adventurers being sent on different missions associated with the same adventure, all interacting with, or at least impacting, one another.

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Also, please don't forget the Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary Kickstarter going on right now! 900 monsters, suitable for most OSR-type games, all under one cover. Can you help get us to having an illustration for each and every one?