GenCon 2012 Last Half Highlights: D&D Next Making the Core, The Future Look of D&D, and a Meeting the D&D Brand Team!
My convention companions and I just got in from the drive back from GenCon 2012, and thankfully we had a great day for driving back to Michigan – sunny with a few clouds and not a bit of rain in sight. So before I get too tired and lose the war against exhaustion, I wanted to share some highlights from Saturday and Sunday at the “best four days of gaming”.
D&D Next: Making the Core
On Saturday afternoon, I got a chance to hear from the D&D Next Design Team about their ideas and philosophy behind the creation of the Core Rules. The seminar was paneled by Jeremy Crawford, Mike Mearls, and Rodney Thompson, and what followed was a two hour discussion and Q&A session mainly about Classes and Races in the Core Rules.
As I’ve stated about some of the other seminars, I really want to delve into them in more detail with a focused blog, but there were still some very interesting pieces of information worth sharing. In particular, the idea put forth by Jeremy was that D&D Next is not meant to be a “Frankensteinian monster” made of parts of other editions, but instead is to be more of a “greatest hits” of D&D tropes blended into a “modern version of the game”, combining “advances” with “nostalgia”. I had to admit to myself that this certainly seems like a solid design goal.
Another interesting bit of knowledge to come out of the seminar was about the Playtest numbers. Rodney and Mike mentioned that there are over 75,000 playtesters currently signed up to take part in making D&D Next and that the response to the surveys has been “massive” and “unprecedented”. This got me curious about just what “unprecedented” response meant, so I jumped up at the end of the session to chat quickly with the panelists. Both Mike and Jeremy explained that they were getting more than 30% participation of the playtest group in surveys – which is extreme considering that most “good” responses to survey participation is 5% to 10% of the test group.
So clearly something very special is going on amongst the D&D gaming community, and the size of the playtest group and the number of survey responses demonstrate that very well.
The Future Look of D&D
Following my seminar about the Core Rules, I had the opportunity to see what the art of D&D Next may look like. John Schindehette was joined by Aaron Duchard to discuss the concept art that is being worked on to create the “World Bible” for the Forgotten Realms. As was discussed in the GenCon 2012 Keynote Address, the Forgotten Realms will be first setting introduced with the new edition, and the Creative Studio is hard at work to bring the Realms to life.
The Forgotten Realms World Bible will show every facet of the setting in illustrations and artwork, to give the world a “real” look and to maintain continuity across all media – books, comics, PC games, and more. Already, John and his team have already gathered 60 gigs of concept art since January, and he ran a slideshow of just a small fraction of the artwork already created. While he stressed that nothing we saw in the concept art was “fixed” and could change at any time right up until launch, the images were nevertheless stunning and beautiful to behold! There were images of races in various racial garb, weapons and jewelry made by specific races and ethnicities, and even pictures of architecture. It was a massive blast of fantasy eye-candy, and John assured us that this was only a small fraction of the art already designed – which is only a fraction of what will be needed to complete the world bible for the Realms! It was simply mind-blowing!
I should mention that John is running a weekly column called Dragon’s Eye View in which he will be asking for feedback from the community about a wide range of topics concerning the look and feel of races, classes, monsters, and even architecture, clothing, weapons and gear. Participation in the surveys and discussion does not require a DDI membership, and so I would urge all D&D gamers to check each Wednesday for his articles and let John know what you think about his team’s work!
A Meeting with Laura Tommervik
My final act on Sunday before I got ready to head for home was to have a meeting with the D&D Brand Team, more specifically with the Brand Manager, Laura Tommervik.Those who have read my blogs from last year’s convention might remember I spoke with Laura before about the Neverwinter Campaign Setting and all the other activities surrounding the release. This year, it’s all about the release of the Menzoberranzan setting release, and the wide range of activities that will be revolving around the Rise of the Underdark event.
As with the previous setting release, Rise of the Underdark is more than just the release of the Menzoberranzan setting. It is a complete cross-platform event which includes D&D Encounters, Lair Assault, new products, and even a Dungeons & Dragons Online MMO event.
The D&D Encounters is taking four seasons to cover the event, and Part 3 of the series will start thisWednesday, August 22nd with “A Council of Spiders” – and featuring all Drow pre-generated characters for the players! I got a chance to see the drow character cards, and the artwork for them was fantastic! The new Lair Assault starting on September 1st will also feature all Drow characters as they set off on a deadly mission to “Kill the Wizard”.
To go along with the new events, a set of Fortune Cards specific to the Drow have also been released, and they feature some fairly snarky powers that often help the player while harming fellow Drow in the party. In addition, there is a whole line of IPhone cases with gorgeous artwork for Rise of the Underdark, and a set of molded terrain features by GaleForce Nine to create the “Caverns of the Underdark”.
I also spoke with Laura regarding some concerns I still had about D&D Next, as well as to clarify some of the comments I heard in the Keynote and various seminars. Regarding the release of older D&D game content, Laura explained that waves of old products would be released on electronic format, possibly starting as early as 1st Quarter of 2013. The waves will contain a variety of products – such as modules, supplements, rule books, and possibly settings – all from each edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game. Although she could not speak about a price-point, this is clearly a massive release of content, providing the D&D community with a huge amount of resources regardless of what edition is being played.
In addition, I spoke with Laura about the future of the brand, specifically where it would go after the Next edition of rules is released. Laura said that WotC desires the Next edition of D&D rules to be the “definitive rule set”, and that it would last far longer than the five or so years that has been the standard the past few editions. Once the Core rule set and rule modules are out there for the community to use, WotC would turn to offering more and more content, first focusing on the Realms setting, and later on other settings and content.
Given my previous blogs regarding my concerns about 5E – and the petition I posted a few weeks ago – this seems like a real step in the right direction for Dungeons & Dragons. But only time will tell if it works out that way…
Overall, I think this was one of my best and most memorable GenCon experiences I’ve ever had, and it’s left me with a lot of things to think about with regard to where D&D is going, and what role it will play with me both as a gamer and a blogger. Rest assured, I plan to discuss more of my thoughts about the D&D seminars I attended this past weekend, so please stop back this week to check them out – as well as a lot more convention pics!
So until next blog… I wish you happy gaming!