And so here we've come to the end of 2012, and with it another full year of bringing you the latest announcements, organized play and playtest information, and Dragon and Dungeon magazine material, all courtesy of dungeonsanddragons.com! It's been a tremendously rewarding year, and it remains an enormous privilege to be a part of our collectively cherished game, Dungeons & Dragons.
Before we look ahead at 2013, I wanted to take a moment to look back at some of the events that took place throughout the year as far as the website is concerned.
First and foremost, D&D Next was announced back at the beginning of the year: January 9th, to be exact. Mike Mearls elaborated on the New York Times story in his Legends & Lore column that day: Charting the Course for D&D. Shortly thereafter, we created the D&D Next Playtest page of the website, along with the D&D Next community group. At the end of May, the playtest itself opened for public participation, and we've been thrilled with your response, feedback, and activity.
As we move into the new year, the playtest page will continue to assemble the news and columns from around the website concerning D&D Next—and of course offer you a quick and easy link to sign up for the playtest itself (if you haven't already done so!) and sign-in for the latest playtest packets. As of this writing, information is available for levels 1-10 (for the fighter, wizard, cleric, rogue, and monk), along with magic items, adventures (including the Isle of Dread), and everything needed to run a D&D Next playtest with your gaming group.
Earlier in the year, we made some adjustments to the website layout (discussed in the very first In the Works column of the year. We wanted to provide a broader homepage experience for newer visitors, along with a deeper, content-rich Daily D&D page for returning users.
Since these initial revisions, we've continued to adjust the website as various needs and user experiences have dictated. In coming days, we'll also be adding a content panel to the homepage that presents the Daily D&D headline of the day. Doing this will hopefully provide a more dynamic element to the homepage without overwhelming new users. We've also taken a look at the Daily D&D page. With Dragon and Dungeon magazines shifting to a compilation formation, there's less need to keep the Dragon and Dungeon article panels near the top of the page. Instead, we're opting to move Dragon and Dungeon into the right-hand navigation. Our hope is that this brings more of the daily content above the fold, and still provides quick and obvious links to the magazines. Look for these changes in the coming days.
And finally, we're launching our mobile version of the website, which will be available on many smartphones. This is new territory for us (we will not, for instance, be on all smartphone operating systems), with the goal of making browsing the website a much more mobile-friendly experience. On your phone, you need the site to load quickly and provide immediate access to content, which we hope we'll help achieve in this iteration of the mobile site.
So what lies ahead?
I look forward to continuing the discussion of the D&D website in much greater detail in the coming months—and, just as it is with the D&D Next playtest, your feedback is extremely valued when it comes to the future of this site. Ultimately, it is here to serve you—to inform, to entertain, and to celebrate D&D and the gaming culture—and I want to know how to best make that happen. As ever, questions, comments, and concerns can be sent to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some 2012 Highlights
What else took place around the website in the past year?
Ah, April Fool's Day. One of our favorite days of the year for publishing content. In addition to the new line of D&D Minis (papercraft versions . . . which actually appeared at Gen Con) and fictitious submission guidelines, we also ran the latest in Jared von Hindman's Stupid Monsters series. Well played, Jared. Well played.
For Halloween, we also offered some treats—this year with the (much delayed!) winner of the Hybrid Creature Competition: the Displacer Cube. We also released the latest D&D Crossword Puzzle (designed by R&D's Chris Perkins), as well as an old school Adventure Quiz (in the spirit of last year's pole arm quiz). We hope you enjoyed these.
We've appreciated Jared's cartoons (many of which appear in his D&D Outsider articles), and look forward to more in the future. This year, we've also had the pleasure to run Aaron Williams' Epic Campain in conjunction with D&D Encounters, and most recently Jason Thompson's Keep on 16th and Valencia along with D&D Lair Assaults. Thanks for all the smiles, guys!
The Rise of the Underdark
This year, it's definitely been about the drow. They've made their incursions into the world with D&D Encounters: Web of the Spider Queen. Then you were able to try out their evil machinations and house intrigues for yourself in Council of Spiders. And now you must overcome the entire drow scheme to darken the world, in War of Everlasting Darkness. As the Rise of the Underdark campaign has been underway, the “drow hub” contained the products and events surrounding it—as well as the 13-week Puzzle Hunt, offering special previews for anyone who could solve our clues (deviously generated by Forgotten Realms guru, Brian James).
Our Ongoing Weekly Columns
We've rearranged some of our columns as the year has progressed. Legends & Lore, penned by Mike Mearls, continues to anchor the week on Mondays. We've also started three new columns this year: Wandering Monsters, by James Wyatt, moved into the Tuesday slot (with Rule-of-Three moved into more of a periodic Q&A format hosted in the community). Dragon's-Eye View now runs on Wednesdays, offering Jon Schindehette's take on the visual aspects of the game. And Ed Greenwood's Forging the Realms, our newest weekly column, has come in to fill the Friday slot.
Thursdays continues to run Chris Perkins' DM Experience, as fine a column on the art of Dungeon Mastering as I believe you'll find, and it gives you a look inside his own personal campaign world of Iomandra.
Content, and Still More Content!
As a fan and reader of his blog (Grognardia.com), I was thrilled to have James Maliszewski contribute to the D&D Alumni column—including his interview on Halloween with the Dungeon! board game creator, Dave Magerry.
In addition, Tracy Hurley (Sarah Darkmagic) continues to scour the community for sites and articles of interest in Joining the Party. And Jason Sholtis (of The Dungeon Dozen) has added his d12 Appendix tables for DMs looking for creative dungeon dressings.
And as expected, one of our favorite things to post this year was the PAX Prime D&D Live Game. Acquisitions Inc. (Jerry Holkins, Mike Krahulik, Scott Kurtz, Wil Wheaton) along with Dungeon Master Chris Perkins played two hours of D&D Next—and for anyone who may have missed the experience, we've embedded the video archives below!
So that's some of what's taken place with the website this year. Here's a glimpse of what else is in store at the start of 2013.
Books and eNovels
By Erin Evans
Mere weeks after escaping Neverwinter, Farideh’s dreams are still haunted by Lorcan, the cambion devil whose power fuels her own. One of only four known descendants of the original Brimstone Angel, Farideh has no regrets about the pact she made with the devil. But no one in the Hells knows that she has a twin—an impulsive eager sister, just waiting to be corrupted. At least as long as Lorcan can keep her secret.
Determined to protect her sister, Farideh searches for a ritual that could call Lorcan out of the Hells. But in the midst of her hunt, she’s drawn into an assignment for the secret society the Harpers, an assignment that leads her and a ragtag group of allies to an ancient Netherese library deep underground. While the group combs the site, dodging ghosts and magical traps, Farideh discovers a magical book whose pronouncements throw into question everything she thought she knew about herself and her sister.
The more the Book gives up its macabre secrets, the more one thing becomes clear—a traitor lurks among them.
Lorcan ought to have counted himself lucky. Bound from knees to chest in a chain devil’s restraints, dragged across the hungry nightmare landscape of the Sixth Layer of the Hells—still, the half-devil son of Fallen Invadiah was not dead.
He was not dead, and he would soon be locked away in his sister’s newly claimed domain, far from their vengeful mother’s weakened reach, far from the notice of the archdevils, and farthest of all from those mortals who knew better than to let Lorcan slip the noose, after what had happened in Neverwinter. Lucky, indeed.
By R.A. Salvatore
Looking down across the miles to mist-covered Neverwinter, Drizzt Do'Urden has never felt more lost. His lover, Dahlia Sin'felle, can speak of nothing but the moment she will face the Netherese lord Herzgo Alegni once again.
Drizzt has already followed a trail of vengeance beside Dahlia. Can he justify one more battle to settle a grudge he does not understand?
Artemis Entreri too seeks vengeance. He offers to aid Dahlia in her mission to destroy Alegni. But Charon's Claw, Alegni's sentient sword, dominates Entreri's movements--if not his mind. And then there's the way Entreri looks at Dahlia. Can Drizzt trust his old foe?
Dark elves emerge from Menzoberranzan on a quest for their own form of freedom. Will Drizzt be drawn back into a world he once struggled to escape?
Drizzt doesn't know where he stands. And so he does what he knows: He fights. On the side of Dahlia, whose secrets intrigue him. On the side of Artemis Entreri, whose secrets plague him. With twin scimitars in hand, Drizzt fights, hoping that in the heat of battle, truth will be found.
Now in paperback, follow the epic adventure of the world’s most famous drow, Drizzt Do’Urden, as he draws his scimitars once more to aid a new friend and an old foe in this action-packed third book of the New York Times best-selling Neverwinter Saga.
By Richard Lee Byers
Lord of the Eminence of Araunt, Lod masterminds the undead of Rashemen to begin a series of rituals that will corrupt the Urlingwood, the spiritual heart of the land and the closest in all of Faerûn to the Feywild. Their intent is to shift the fundamental balance of forces in this special land so that the undead can conquer and rule, establishing a beachhead from the Deathways for the Eminence of Araunt to spread its influence across the continent.
With this backdrop of terror unreeling, the unscrupulous mercenary Mario Bez and his company return to the capital, falsely claiming to have won the battle in the north, and try to take a pride of wild griffons as their reward. The griffons don't cooperate, though, and Yhelbruna--the witch, who brought them out of the mountains with the help of the berserker Vandar--says that the griffons' refusal shows the spirits haven't favored the Halruaans to take possession. Without another course of action, Bez had no choice but to wait for the judgment of the Masked Witches with the threat that his murderous perfidy in the north will become known.
In the north, Vandar learns that Jet, the hero Aoth's black griffon steed, and the shadow sorcerer Dai Shan did survive the duplicitous attack led by Bez. Jet, Dai Shan, and Vandar realize that, despite their differences, they must join forces to survive in the wintery north, as they find themselves the object of the malevolent attentions of a motley band of monsters that covets Vandar's magical weapons.
Of the remaining cast of characters, Aoth strives to get out of Thay and back to Rashemen before he's recognized and brought before his old enemy Szass Tam. In the Deathways, Jhesrhi and Cera meet a demonic entity named Sarshethrian who revealed Lod, architect of the Eminence of Araunt, a well of knowledge surrounding the necromantic arts, for which Lod thanked him with betrayal. Now, Sarshethrian wants revenge, but needs Jhesrhi and Cera to help him attack the undead reinforcements the Eminence is moving through the Deathways to Rashemen. And they need him to get back to Rashemen. Thus a deal is struck. Eventually, all our heroes overcome their obstacles to return to Rashemen. But will it be too late to stop the horrible plots of the Eminence of Araunt? If the heroes are to win they must seek unlikely allies.
The latest faction pack for the Dungeon Command game releases, bringing such new minis to your warbands (and tabletop gaming) as orc archers, barbarians, and chieftains--not to mention such brutish allies as ogres, boars, and the famed owlbear! Order cards also include help for Strength- and Constitution-based creatures, and they include such things as Charge, Stomp, and Hurl Rock (these are orcs after all; their orders are often straightforward and brutal).
Let's take a look at the first mini from this faction: the Wereboar!
"A compendium of new ideas and new discoveries for AD&D game campaigns, of benefit to players and Dungeon Masters alike."
Originally released in 1985, Unearthed Arcana was the first hardcover rules supplement for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game that contained new character options for players and official rules updates for Dungeon Masters, including material gathered from articles published in Dragon magazine. Like the 1st Edition core rulebooks released earlier this year, this is a premium reprint of the original, with errata.
From the book's foreword by Gary Gygax:
As the original volumes of the game system (Monster Manual, Players Handbook, and Dungeon Masters Guide) have altered from their first editions, so the game has changed in form and substance. This new material grew from my own campaign, articles published in Dragon Magazine, and input from many Dungeon Masters and players also. The book has a single purpose: Unearthed Arcana brings new dimensions to the AD&D game system. The compiled material which lies herein offers fresh new approaches to play without materially affecting any ongoing campaign adversely. This work does not alter former “laws of the multiverse,” but it does open insights and vistas beyond those previously understood and seen. . . .
Every Dungeon Master who has created a campaign milieu out of whole cloth, so to speak, can certainly understand that the more one learns, the more one comes to understand how little he knows. So too the multiverse of this game system. The farther afield one goes in exploration and discovery, the greater the realization of how vast is the realm of unknown knowledge which awaits discovery, as it were. However, such as with our actual world, the expanses of the game multiverse will always have frontiers and unexplored territories. This fact, indeed, is what makes the AD&D game system so wonderful and appealing.
Added to our product catalog, here's a hardcover collection of four classic, stand-alone Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules -- S1: Tomb of Horrors, S2: White Plume Mountain, S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, and S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth -- complete with original black-and-white interior art.
If you've never played through the origins, here's what adventures you've been missing:
S1: Tomb of Horrors: In the far reaches of the world, under a lost and lonely hill, lies the sinister Tomb of Horrors. This labyrinthine crypt is filled with terrible traps, strange and ferocious monsters, rich and magical treasures. Somewhere within rests the evil Demi-Lich.
S2: White Plume Mountain: It has always been a subject of superstitious awe to the neighboring villagers. People still travel many miles to gaze upon this natural wonder, though few will approach it closely, as it is reputed to be the haunt of various demons and devils. The occasional disappearance of those who stray too close to the Plume reinforces this belief. Now, the former owners of Wave, Whelm, and Blackrazor are outfitting a group of intrepid heroes to take up the challenge of recovering these magic weapons from White Plume Mountain.
S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks: From the preface by Gary Gygax: "This module was begun early in 1976 when TSR was contemplating publication of a science fantasy role playing game. Jim Ward had already shown us some rough notes on Metamorphosis Alpha. I thought it would be a splendid idea to introduce Jim’s game at Origins II, and introduce the concept to D&DO players by means of the tournament scenario. I laid out the tournament from old “Greyhawk Castle” campaign material involving a spaceship, and Rob Kuntz helped me to populate the ruined vessel."
S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth: In the Yatil Mountains south of Perrenland there is rumored to be a magical hoard of unsurpassed value, a treasure of such fame that scores of adventurers have perished in search of it. Find the perilous Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth and you may gain the hidden wealth of the long-dead arch-mage—if you live!
(As a side note on White Plume Mountain: you can fiund the 4th Edition Blackrazor stats from our past contest right here.)
Likewise, Against the Slave Lords is a hardcover collection of four classic Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules that form a series -- A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity, A2: Secret of the Slavers Stockade, A3: Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords, and A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords -- complete with original black-and-white interior art.
Added to the collection is an all-new fifth adventure -- A0: Danger at Darkshelf Quarry -- that you can use to kick off an AD&D campaign that pits a group of adventurers against the evil Slave Lords! Module A0, designed for levels 1-3, sets the stage for events that unfold throughout the remainder of the "A" series.
A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity: It is time to put a stop to the marauders! For years the coastal towns have been burned and looted by the forces of evil. You and your fellow adventurers have been recruited to root out and destroy the source of these raids—as hundreds of good men and women have been taken by the slavers and have never been seen or heard from again!
A2: Secret of the Slavers Stockade: The battle against the slavers continues! You and your fellow adventurers have defeated the slavers of Highport, but you have learned of the existence of another slaver stronghold, and you have decided to continue the attack. But beware! Only the most fearless of adventurers could challenge the slavers on their own ground, and live to tell of it!
A3: Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords: Into the Drachengrab Mountains! Hot on the trail of the marauding slavers, you and your fellow adventurers plunge deep into hostile Hills. Spurred on by your past success, you now seek the heart of the slaver conspiracy. But hurry! You must move quickly before the slavers recover from your previous forays and attack!
A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords: Trapped in the dungeons of the Slave Lords! The hardy adventurers must find a way out, with only their wits and courage to help them. But can they do it before everything is destroyed by the dreaded Earth Dragon?
That's it for this month—and this year, folks! Here's looking forward to 2013!
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll).