I’m really excited by the news that Wizards of the Coast (WotC) will make the core rules of D&D 5th edition (otherwise known as D&D Basic) a free to download/play PDF through their website. This means that people who have been on the fence about trying D&D have a damned good reason to get off the fence and give the RPG system a test drive — AT NO COST!!!
Okay, sorry, I’m done shouting.
I had a lot of fun reviewing the play test materials, and I’m currently running a Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle/D&DNext campaign for a group of teens at one of the branch libraries in San Antonio as a way to interest a new crop of players in one of my all-time favorite hobbies. I can’t wait to unwrap the new rules with them and continue their adventure, and to eventually port my Friday night home game over to the latest edition once all of the new rules books are available and digested by me (which could take a while). Mike Mearls, senior manager for the D&D research and design team, uses the term “extensible” in reference to the new D&D rule system, and that’s something I wish would have been done with D&D a long time ago. I’ve been playing since the early 80’s, and the groups I played in often switched between Basic/Expert D&D rules and AD&D rules which had things in common, but were really two completely different games. Basic/Expert was good for introducing new players to the RPG concepts (that’s how I got my introduction), and then we would expand with AD&D… but for some it was a steep learning curve and even a bit off-putting. The idea of a modular system just makes sense because you can introduce new players via the Starter Set or the free D&D Basic rules and they can get to playing rather than having to save up the cheddar to buy the $50 rule book as an entry to the table. $50 is a big investment in a game you might not end up enjoying (although I can hardly comprehend how that’s possible… I’ve seen it, I just don’t understand it… heh!) or be unable to commit to — because D&D does require a serious commitment of time. I can’t think of a better way to attract new players, and to entice old players to return to the table.
Now, the doubters and haters are going to stay right where they’re at, and that’s fine of course — they should play the version of the game that makes them happiest and that they enjoy the most — but the folks who haven’t played D&D in a long while, or who couldn’t play because it was cost prohibitive for them have no excuses now — on July 15th, when the D&D Starter Set is released, WotC will make the D&D Basic rules available (did I mention, “for free?”) through their site which they will expand and update with even more game information when the Player’s Handbook hits in August. I’ve pre-ordered a Starter Set (heck, they’re only $20… I might buy a couple more when they come out and donate them to the library where I host the D&D program) because I want to see what all is in the kit and judge the quality of the product for myself. The Pathfinder Beginner Box is a sexy kit, so the bar is set high and I hope WotC doesn’t think the price point alone is going to make people choose the D&D Starter Set over the Pathfinder Beginner Box. I’m also planning on buying all the rule books as they are released so I can begin to absorb the new information as it’s available and so I can sweep my critical eye over those products. I may even give my impressions on the rules and the books here, if you all behave yourselves.