DnD Beyond – First Impressions

logoWelcome to the first day of Beta for DnD Beyond.

This is the highly anticipated digital resource for use with the 5th Edition rules for Dungeon and Dragons which began Phase 1 beta today.  Brought to you by Wizards of the Coast and Curse/Twitch.

I had a little difficulty logging in when I had to merge my Twitch and Curse account.  There was a further stall being asked to create a new user name which I didn’t have to do, but it seemed to be wanting it.  Took about 10 minutes to figure out how to actually log in.  I was not the only one who was frustrated with trying to log in but with a little patience’s it was well worth it.  I know they are working through the login bugs.

At a first glance I was very impressed.

This is just Phase 1 and you will access to the Compendium, Spells, Items, Monsters and the of course the Forums.   I going to make this a quick overview so I can get back to exploring this new resource.

welcome screen

Each area is done in an easy searchable fashion which I will do my best to show off.

The Compendium provides with a highly accessible library of rules.  From Adventuring to basic Equipment list.  It is arranged nicely and subjects were easy to find.  I do think it would have been nice to have this area searchable with Key Words.  That was a disappointment.

comp screen

Getting into the Spell section I was struck with the awesome resource this could be.  All your spells were searchable by Name, Level, Spell Tags (Healing, Utility, etc.) and casting time.  You could just click on your favorite class and the complete spell list for that class show up and further organize them by level, name etc.

Spell screen

I was going to show off the magic missile spell but at the last minutes changed my mind.  I’m the DM so I can do that.

Spell example screen

Items takes you to a huge list of Magic Items which can be separated by Potions, Wands or +1 to +3 magic items.  Once again all searchable with ease.  I was a little disappointed I could not search by School of magic.  Otherwise I was left with a positive smile.

Item example screen

Monster selection was my addiction today.  Dungeon Masters love monsters and monster love them. Having a super searchable instance array of beast was awesome.  You can search by CR level which is very handy as well as terrain type made this my favorite area. The only disappointing thing I found here was the lack of pictures or monster art.  I think having that extra visual would have made jump with glee.

monster example screen

I quickly looked the Ancient Black Dragon to see the layout.  Everything you need was there and more.

monster example Black Dragon

Phase 2 they will introducing Character management.  D&D Insider did this very well so they should have an excellent base to work from.

What I really need is a good campaign manager.  Something I can load up encounters and have them at the ready.  I’m looking forward to seeing what comes from this here.

So far I’m impressed with my little tour and please check it.

D&D Beyond

Beyond2This weekend was an exciting weekend with one giant announcement.  D&D Beyond was revealed at PAX this weekend and the news spread like wild fire.    It was exciting news for a lot of fans.

What is D&D Beyond?  From the brief video and official Wizards wording it looks like a 5th Edition version of the past attempt at providing Players and Dungeon Masters with a set of online tools.  Cool right?

Let’s take a step back and look into the past.  When 4th Edition was released they had, as part of the plan to make a virtual playing table.  The virtual tabletop never got to the completion phase.   Through the D&D Insider you could create and maintain your characters and let me tell you it was pretty amazing.  For character creation and maintaining it was incredible how easy it was.  It had everything from spells to abilities, races, and traits by campaign setting all in one easy to manage website.  It also had a few Dungeon Master Tools for building encounters and creating your own super monsters.   All this at the low price of a monthly subscription.   Worth it?  Not really for the approx. $80 USD a year.  That cost can by me 2-3 new source/content books and in the end not really worth it after one year.

home6

What didn’t materialize from this was the Dungeon Builder and Gaming table.

D&D Insider Features and my own personal opinions.

  • Dragon magazine and Dungeon magazine online – Awesome feature.
  • D&D Character Builder – Awesome feature.
  • D&D Compendium – Not worth it since you should have the source books already.
  • D&D Adventure Tools – Never got to the point of being truly useful.
  • Art and Map Galleries – Why pay for what I can google for free.

You can read the “Announcing D&D Beyond” Article on Wizards site, it looks like everything the D&D Insider offered and a bit more.  So far I haven’t seen a lot different, other than being offered on any device and some updated graphics.  Keep in mind I’ve only have the one video I watched and brief blurb so it could be amazing.  Fingers Crossed!

Beyond3

Game Management for Players and Dungeon Masters seems to be the core goal.

I’m trying to remain optimistic about the new official tools but skeptical me looks at the past promises and failings to delivery.  I do understand that there were some underlying circumstances surrounding the D&D Insider not delivering all that was promised and I do truly hope this is all they say it will be.

I’m also left wondering where this could leave Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds which so far do pretty much everything including rolling the dice for you.  This is the Dungeon Builder and Gaming table that D&D Insider should have been.  Before you look at signing up for the beta for D&D Beyond you really need to look at at least one of these applications.

I’ve been playing on Roll20 briefly now and I’m amazed just how easy it is.  Characters are easy to manage, campaign is easy to manage, official content from Wizards is available and a host of other great tools to customize your game.   What’s special about D&D Beyond is still yet to be seen.

Final Vote:  I’m excited is sitting about a 7.9 out 10.

So we wait for the official beta to begin to get a real look at what is to come.

If you want to sign up for the beta you can visit https://www.dndbeyond.com

The NPC

NPC4You walk into the Shining Shield Tavern. An older building with a reddish brick foundation with weathered oak beams and walls.   You approach the bar looking for the barkeep and you notice a very familiar dwarf who looks like and talks like the same retired adventurer from the last inn you were at.  Maybe they are related, right?

This is very common and we are all a little guilty of hauling out a recycled NPC from our box of personalities.  We might have forgotten we just used them in our last session which was two weeks ago. Whoops, embarrassing and unfortunate.

Your goal is to build an environment filled with exciting and vibrant personalities that will interact with the players.   These can include an Inn Keeper, the local guard, or farmer, a prince of the kingdom and my favourite type, the Villain.  Personalities are key.

An awesome NPC can be the heart and soul of your adventure.  They can be the driving force of the adventure or perhaps that caravan master you meet on the road that you will one day meet again.

NPC’s are different in that you already know what they are, or what you want them to be.  You don’t need random stats and some traits you found on a table in whatever guide book you are using for your game.    Bold statement yes, and if you are just making random townsfolk this can work, if not, put the book down and start making your own notes.

We want to create that amazing persona that is going to interact with your player either in a benevolent way or as a dark nemesis trying to thwart the player any chance they get.

Back Story is goal number one.  Why are they where they are?  What is the driving force behind the NPC and their motivation?  I do all this before I even decide the race and sex of my newest addition to the setting.   Please take note that you don’t need to write the entire life of your new NPC if it is not important to the story or the players don’t really need to know.  The time you put into the extra background will only become important to you. NPC3

When picking a race, think about what races are common to the area.   You want to make the encounter(s) seem plausible to the players.  Finding a half orc ruling over a guild of wizards be stretching it just a bit.  I’m not saying that it’s not possible, just perhaps a little hard to swallow depending on your setting.

Deciding a class of you feel your new NPC needs one, can be easy or difficult depending on what you want to accomplish and how the NPC interacts with the players.  Think about how the players are going to interact with this NPC or how this NPC will influence the story.  Maybe it is just a personality and doesn’t need to be assigned a class.  Don’t waste valuable time into something that you’ll never use.

NPC1For NPC’s that your players encounter on a regular basis, like merchants and common folk you can apply one of your sourced personalities but just leave it at a personality.  There is no need to expand on anything more than that, and if you need some numbers just grab the Commoner stats out of your handbook.  The best example I can offer is the players like to pick the pockets of common folk.  There is very little point to writing long drawn out background for someone who will never draw a sword.  Still, it can be fun, so if that’s what you like, do it.

My first rule is that I’m the DM.  I can create, mold and build whatever skills, feats, and abilities I want to fit the needs of the story.  As I mentioned I love making the villain.  Each one is labour of countless hours creating the perfect nefarious foe.  Maybe I just read too many comics as a kid, but a fantasy version of the Green Goblin will be my crowning achievement.  Make what you need.  If you just a need a fighter or wizard that’s easy to do, but I encourage you to let your imagination run wild.

NPC2Using the example of the retired adventure running a Tavern and Inn, do you think the past career might be believable if they were once a druid?  Just think about it for a second.  My famous retired adventurer was never really an adventurer.  He was a middle aged farmer strolling through the fields one day and found the body a real adventurer loaded up with gear and a bag full of shiny coins and gems.    It’s something only I will ever know and not really important to the Players whom he normally only serves drinks with the latest gossip from the lands.

For all my common NPC’s there are plenty of premade options and stats available so when I begin prepping for a new adventure I use these.

My suggestion is that before you invest in that paint brush for your latest batch of minis you’re about to toss at your players you get yourself a notebook or an index card catalogue box complete with cards.  These minor tools will serve you better than any addition you can think to boost your tables play.  Players are going to remember that completely incredible NPC they interacted with long after the memory of that cool paint job you did on a zombie.

DMtip  There are thousands of Character ready to use in books