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Bringing a Game to Life
Mike Mearls

I t's hard to believe that the Player's Handbook is done. We shipped it off to the printer about a week ago. As we now look to finalizing Basic D&D, the Monster Manual, and the Dungeon Master's Guide, it's easy to forget just how much more stuff is heading your way late summer and fall. Alas, the questions I had planned to ask Rich Baker about the Starter Set adventure are a victim of the final Player's Handbook sprint. We'll get to that next week. For now, I want to write a bit about the Tyranny of Dragons storyline and what it means for Dungeons & Dragons as a whole.

If the fifth edition rules are the framework for the new D&D, the Tyranny of Dragons storyline is the actual content. We spent countless hours pulling together a compelling adventure narrative that we think will impress you in its sheer scope and ambition. All of that work culminated in a massive story bible. Chris Perkins led the team of writers and artists that crafted the overall story of Tyranny of Dragons,and that created the new look for the villains and heroes tied to that story. That story bible then provided the raw material that our creative partners have transformed into some cool books, miniatures, and games.

To start with, we tapped Wolfgang Baur and Kobold Press to create a two-part tabletop RPG adventure to serve as the launch platform for fifth edition. Kobold Press handled everything on the project, from writing and editing to commissioning art and laying out the final books. Having an independent team work on the adventures allowed us to concentrate on the big picture of Tyranny of Dragons and the rules development behind fifth edition. Wolfgang and his team could work without the added burden of needing to produce text for the three core books. This allowed Kobold Press to deliver the kind of adventure we normally wouldn't be able to attempt until well after the work on the core rulebooks had finished, simply because we have all hands on deck with the rules until they're done. We were so pleased with Kobold Press's work that you'll see more collaborations between the R&D team and RPG studios in the future.

Our relationship with Kobold Press is similar to how we work with Cryptic Studios, creators of the Neverwinter MMO RPG. Just like Kobold Press, the writers and designers at Cryptic used the Tyranny of Dragons story bible to build new content for their game. The same plotlines, artifacts, and enemies that appear in the tabletop RPG will also make their debut in a new Neverwinter module this summer. It's pretty cool seeing art and stories that began as a few whiteboard notes or preliminary sketches brought fully to life in a 3D game engine.

Speaking of 3D, the D&D miniatures coming to you from WizKids and Gale Force Nine also draw from the same story bible. Though many of the miniatures were crafted from art drawn from the Monster Manual, we took care to make sure that some of the key monsters and enemies from the Tyranny of Dragons storyline would also appear in the WizKids and Gale Force Nine products. One of the great things about creating a story bible is that it allows us to coordinate with partners simultaneously. We don't need to have Kobold Press's adventure completely locked down before WizKids and Gale Force Nine can make miniatures for key figures in the Cult of the Dragon. Both teams draw from the same creative well, ensuring that everything is coordinated from day one.

The most exciting part about our new approach to stories is what lies ahead. We already have our next story bible completed and partners toiling away on bringing that story to life. By the end of the year, we'll have two more story bibles completed and a third in development. The approach we're taking with Tyranny of Dragons—create a single campaign-style adventure and support it in the TRPG, in our digital games, and in our accessories—is something that will be a key part of D&D going forward. As we diversify to reach new audiences and give you new ways to play D&D, those stories will be the throughlines that bind everything together.

Click here more info on all of the Tyranny of Dragons products.

Mike Mearls
Mike Mearls is the senior manager for the D&D research and design team. He led the design for 5th Edition D&D. His other credits include the Castle Ravenloft board game, Monster Manual 3 for 4th Edition, and Player’s Handbook 2 for 3rd Edition.
Dear WizKids... Please use Fantasy Flights licence and make a dragon aerial fighting game... PLEASE!
Posted By: DokerinZion (6/17/2014 8:38:51 AM)


to clarify, I mean the X-Wing mini licence that you use to make Star Trek Attack Wing.
Posted By: DokerinZion (6/17/2014 8:40:45 AM)


Talk to WizKids, if you put Wizards on this they'll turn height into "advantage" & "disadvantage" with distance being the same, as it is for diagonal movement.
Posted By: RadperT (6/17/2014 11:36:32 AM)


There's also been a lot of fuss over the price of the three core books. I don't know what the price will be here in Oz but I imagine you could add $10-$15 per book. I don't have a problem with it because I'm used to the higher prices and don't have any control over them anyway. Just a fact of life.
Posted By: Maerlius (6/16/2014 11:09:42 PM)


There seems to be a fuss about the use of the word "bible". The word simply means "book" - as in bibliography and bibliophile. It's only when it's used as a proper noun and in certain contexts that it is the name of a collection of religious texts. So no, Christians shouldn't be upset by the use of the word.
Posted By: Maerlius (6/16/2014 8:56:41 PM)


On that subject, I'd love to see a collaboration with Evil Hat on the "narrative module" we've heard about. When it comes to a game with story-driven mechanics, it's hard to top FATE. Traits/flaws/bonds are basically Aspects, anyway.
Posted By: Sailing_Pirate_Ryan (6/16/2014 6:01:00 PM)

an internal reference document that helps ensure consistency in a fictional work.

for example, here's the Series Bible for Battlestar Galactica
Posted By: GrendelDave (6/16/2014 5:07:07 PM)


Christians don't worship the Bible it is ok to call it a" story bible".
Posted By: psgj (6/16/2014 4:35:09 PM)


That is a cool dragon.
Posted By: Prom (6/16/2014 4:23:51 PM)


People are freaking out at this "story bible" terminology. It sounds to me just like a large, overarching guideline. From that guideline, the mini creators, the folks at Kobold Press, the novel writers, and anyone else making a smaller part of the DnD whole would be able to reference stuff to make sure their product is consistent with what everyone else is doing. I don't think this Tyranny Story Bible will ever actually be released... it's probably just a collection of documents detailing what should and should not be done with the new releases related to this story. I, for one, am happy that they're thinking like this, because I like consistency across my game media.
Posted By: JoeyLast (6/16/2014 3:57:40 PM)


I agree. It's just a reference document to coordinate contractors. The Magic the Gathering team does something similar for every setting, so they can tell five different artists things like "this is a type of Sliver creature (see reference)" without getting back five completely different creatures. Similar for costuming, common motifs that they want to work into their worlds, and so on.

Since this is a story bible rather than a , it will probably include things like a villain org chart, must-hit story milestones, features of the towns, people who are disposable, people who have to have some way to escape into the next story arc, that sort of thing.
Posted By: longwinded (6/16/2014 5:43:41 PM)


Yes, exactly. This terminology is used all the time in television. The story bible is a behind-the-scenes reference document so that all the different parties working on different parts of the "transmedia" experience produce a coherent whole.
Posted By: CHeard (6/16/2014 6:21:16 PM)


This was a nice teaser of what might be in a "story bible." Can you elaborate more on whether this will ever become a consumer product? I realize that taking your notes and just throwing them out there might be too underwhelming to be an in print book, so I'd highly suggest making them available to your DnD Insider subscribers.

I've heard of game designers (both tabletop and video game) that use internal wikis to collaborate. Can you comment on if you use such a thing? If so can you provide read-only access to us the community and continue to allow WotC and your subcontractors write access?
Posted By: Nachofan (6/16/2014 3:56:09 PM)


Is a "Story Bible" the same thing as an "Adventure Path"? If so, why a new name? If not, what is different?
Posted By: Neptune0923 (6/16/2014 2:54:50 PM)


I tweeted MMearls and he answered the question directly:

"The story bible is an overview of villains, events, and everything. You'd use it as the basis to then create an adventure path."

I think this is great and needed. My advice is that mods and AP's be released simultaneously with the story bible.
Posted By: Neptune0923 (6/16/2014 5:11:35 PM)


You do realize that the story bible is for internal use by the developers, right? It's not something to be released to the public, any more than the public gets to see the series bible for an ongoing television series.
Posted By: CHeard (6/16/2014 6:18:55 PM)


All the dragons posted were pretty cool, but... are they large or huge?
Posted By: McCauchar (6/16/2014 2:49:57 PM)


I like this approach The rules should be fairly stable and instead of selling splat books, they are selling stories. Not everyone will like the story just as not everyone will like splat books, but at least DMs won't be the gatekeeper of broken rules with an endless stream of splat books coming out.

Great job Wizards!
Posted By: JesterOC (6/16/2014 1:26:25 PM)


"... the Tyranny of Dragons storyline is the actual content."

I'm a pretty big fan of 5e, and like almost everything about it--but this is the most disappointing thing I've heard in a long time.

I really couldn't care less about published adventures, and do not want any of the game rules written around them. Adventures used to be called "modules." You could plug them in to your DnD experience or ignore them and it didn't effect the game itself. They were options available to you--just like the modules we'll see in the DMG.

But this new phrasing makes me think that DnD is being given a metaplot, and ignoring it is basically houseruling. This is *not* what I want to see, and I think you'll find a lot of other people of similar mindset.
Posted By: Sword_of_Spirit (6/16/2014 12:03:44 PM)


I think it's easy to try and fold everything in together and think at the Story Bible and the rules are meant to be exclusive partners. Partners they should be, but not exclusive. The SB is a scenario.
Posted By: Neptune0923 (6/16/2014 5:15:34 PM)


Sounds promising! Any hope of the story bibles being made public at some point after the storyline's conclusion, as a sort of 'behind the scenes' extra?
Posted By: Matthew_L._Martin (6/16/2014 11:54:53 AM)


Will there be any book detailing the state of the Realms post-Sundering other than the Herald nove?
Posted By: Vobeskhan (6/16/2014 11:07:42 AM)


I'm dubious that Kobold Press can even produce a module compatible with Fifth Edition when Wizards is still working on the rules.

"Basic Dungeons & Dragons…is a PDF that covers the core of the game….  It…covers the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard, presenting what we view as the essential subclass for each.  It also provides the dwarf, elf, halfling, and human as race options…. Basic D&D is a free PDF.  Anyone can download it from our website.  We want to put D&D in as many hands as possible, and a free, digital file is the best way to do that."

Mike Mearls, "Basic Dungeons & Dragons" (

Getting some authoritative material out would increase my confidence.
Posted By: RadperT (6/16/2014 9:36:52 AM)


Story bibles sound quite interesting... except for how they seem to be only based on the Forgotten Realms, not my favorite of the dnd worlds. Stories set in Eberron (the best one), Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Birthright and other campaign settings would be great.
Posted By: PaladinNicolas (6/16/2014 9:01:09 AM)


That mini is THE most badass thing I think I have ever seen.
Posted By: SirTrotsalot (6/16/2014 8:46:23 AM)


I'm so glad that the campaign setting for Next is focused on the tabletop game that I'm interested in, not diluted to also serve all sorts of other media. It can really showcase where the game system mechanically supports the setting giving a tight join between the the rules and how things work in the world.

Oh, wait, that's right. The "DnD brand" needs to serve a bunch of masters, it doesn't stand just for the tabletop roleplaying game.
Posted By: Blue23 (6/16/2014 8:20:00 AM)


I would love to see methods for creating STORY/CAMPAIGN BIBLES in the DMG! :)

...cause right now I am making one, and I am using Chris Perkin's Valoreign campaign bible for guidance. It really is a genius idea. This way everyone at the table is on board with the story of an ongoing game. It creates opportunity for players to build characters IN the setting. It also allows help for players who will be looking to create flaws and bonds for the specific campaign world.

I would love to see the campaign bibles released in PDF format to the public :)
Posted By: Sands666 (6/16/2014 4:31:08 AM)


I find that using the Snow Flake Method;

to create a storyline first helps writing your adventure and campaigns quick and easy. It takes a lot of thought to create in depth content that is rich in lore, backstory and NPC agendas. Essentially using this method builds your campaign bible while you flesh out the key players of the campaign.

Posted By: Darkwon (6/16/2014 10:27:17 AM)


Cool dragon!

Glad to hear that WoTC will again partner with Kobold Press for content, its a great collaboration IMO!. Also glad that more ''story bible'' (i hope story bible = world bible) are in the pipeline and hope that the next in line are Greyhawk, Dragonlance and Eberron...
Posted By: Plaguescarred (6/16/2014 4:16:45 AM)


I hope the next storyline doesn't involve Lolth, Orcus or Mystra yet again
Posted By: Cypher2009 (6/16/2014 3:14:09 AM)


Marvelous, awesome, genius!
Posted By: sjap (6/16/2014 2:59:29 AM)


"Also, make a new one. DnD needs a new campaign world. Badly. Maybe something steampunky with lots of water on the world map..."

Like Eberron maybe? Perhaps you missed that setting.

I love the idea of working with another company, and Kobold Press made some good stuff over the last few years. I'm looking forward to seeing what is coming, as well as the conversion guidelines to bring earlier adventures forward.
Posted By: Tulloch (6/16/2014 2:38:49 AM)


Eberron has steampunkish elements. I was thinking more along the line of firearms, more technology, clockwork, floating cities.... Like Attack on Titan, Last Exile, Some Final Fantasy games, etc.
Posted By: seti (6/16/2014 5:15:46 PM)


I like this new direction with the giant story lines! Looking forward to Tyranny of Dragons (already have the first one preordered)!
Posted By: Ramzour (6/16/2014 2:09:35 AM)


Did you say 'story bible' enough?

Oh, the christians aren't going to like that, lmao. ;)

I do really hope 5e delivers with adventures. The last time there were lots of great adventures, TSR was still making the game.

Just don't set them ALL in Forgotten Realms. Please. FR is great for newbies and organized play, but,There are several more interesting campaign settings you guys own. Also, make a new one. DnD needs a new campaign world. Badly. Maybe something steampunky with lots of water on the world map...

Posted By: seti (6/16/2014 1:42:01 AM)


Two more for next year? Sounds like WotC is going down the route of Paizo's Adventure Paths: a big new adventure every six months. Only difference is 2 hardcover books vs. 6 soft-cover books.
Posted By: Alter_Boy (6/16/2014 1:04:43 AM)


Your math might be a bit off. One story bible produced 2 hardcovers. One more is complete which might bring 2 more hardcovers, if the ratio holds. Then 2 more by the end of this year and starting on another which (with the same ratio) would equal 4-6 more hardcovers. Seems like a good approach with lots of outsourcing. Let's see how it goes.
Posted By: Kyndrwyn (6/16/2014 1:42:48 AM)