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Closer, Closer …
by Bill Slavicsek

Last month, the release of H1: Keep on the Shadowfell, which includes D&D 4th Edition Quick-Start Rules and ready-to-play characters was a big success. Even though we moved the release date of the Player's Handbook to June so that we could release all three core rulebooks at the same time, we still wanted to get people playing 4th Edition in May. With the early release of the adventure, we were able to accomplish that.

As I write these words, we're in the final week of the build-up to the D&D Day, June 6th, when the core rulebooks hit the shelves. Yes, there has been at least one minor slip up by one outlet, and a few books got out early, but in general it looks like most distributors and retailers are holding up to their end of the agreement. We're really looking forward to an amazing rush of eager gamers heading out on Friday, and then participating in one of the many Game Days taking place on Saturday.

This week also sees the start of the roll out of our first full-on 4th Edition issues of Dragon and Dungeon Magazines. I love the updated look of the online magazines, the great content, and the new possibilities that fully tying the physical products to the digital content opens up for all D&D enthusiasts. The ride starts here, and it's going to be exciting!

Digital Horizon

What else is on tap for D&D Insider? Last time, we discussed what was going to be available during the free beta period, including the online magazine content and the D&D Rules Compendium. Now I want to give you a preview about what else we're going to be rolling out in the months to come.

The D&D Character Builder application lets you create a D&D character, manage that character, print a character sheet, and save different versions of that character as you experiment with the various options and build concepts. Once you use this program to create a character, you'll never want to use any other method. Plus, it works directly with the D&D Rules Compendium, so you know you're always pulling from the latest rules material available.

A related but separate application, the D&D Character Visualizer, allows you to give visual form and substance to the character you created with the Builder. No more stick figures or cut-out illustrations for you! With this program, you can customize the look of your character, save it, print it, wallpaper it, and take it to your game to show everyone exactly what your character looks like. Choose your race, gender, armor and weapon sets, hair color, eye color, skin color, and more. We've been playing with this application around the office, and it's so fun to make cool-looking characters that we're all looking for additional games to play in just so we can use them!

The last application I want to preview today is the D&D Game Table. We've been showing this off at conventions and to the press these past few months, and it gets better and better each time I see a new build. This application will really fulfill our promise of D&D play 24/7, because with this you can play private games with your selected gaming friends, or you can look for an open game and play whenever one is available. This application provides all the things you would have at your physical kitchen table -- including dungeon tiles, dice, miniatures, maps, and voice chat -- so that you can play D&D over the Internet. I see this application being used in multiple ways. I see it as a way for old gaming groups, scattered to the four winds, to get back together to play. I see it as a way for D&D fans without a regular gaming group to get to play whenever they want. I see it as a way to expand your D&D play, adding online games to the games you play with your face-to-face group. I see it used as an enhancement to face-to-face play, with elements of the Game Table getting projected onto the wall or the table for everyone in the room to see. And I even see it being used by people playing other game systems, because it will be a great tool for playing any roleplaying game over the Internet.

As these applications become available, we'll roll them out for you to try. More information on these as the summer rolls on.

Start Playing!

This is it! Five more days (from the time I write this), and the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual will be available. I hope you have a gaming group all ready to go. I'm even starting up a second new group this week myself, because just one night of D&D isn't enough. If you haven't ever taken up the mantle of the Dungeon Master, now is probably the best time to do so. We've made DMing easier than ever with 4th Edition, and I hope that inspires a new generation of DMs to arise and set out to create new worlds of action and adventure. I think I'll pick up with that topic next time. Until then, I've got to go and get ready for D&D Game Day!

Keep playing!

--Bill Slavicsek

About the Author

Bill Slavicsek is the R&D Director for Roleplaying Games, Miniatures, and Book Publishing at Wizards of the Coast. All of the game designers, developers, editors, book editors, and D&D Insider content managers working on Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars, and the WotC Publishing Group report into Bill's R&D team.