Resurrecting Classic D&D Modules

Released to hobby stores this past weekend and general retailers next week is Tales From the Yawning Portal, a Dungeons & Dragons adventure compendium from Wizards of the Coast. It’s a hardcover volume like the company’s recent adventure products but rather than one extended campaign, its contents are seven classic modules reimagined for 5th Edition rules. Included are: Against the Giants, Dead in Thay, Forge of Fury, Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, Sunless Citadel, Tomb of Horrors, and White Plume Mountain.

Additional classic modules will be coming from a partnership of WOTC and Goodman Games in the form of hardcover Collector’s Editions. The first will ship later this year with an in-depth treatment of TSR’s B series, In Search of the Unknown and The Keep on the Borderlands. Multiple versions of the two modules will be reprinted in the volume, along with historical information, commentary, an interview with the author, complete conversions of both to 5th Edition, and even additional material on the area around the Caves of Chaos (including the Cave of the Unknown).

I’m looking forward to them all but still hoping for Expedition to the Barrier Peaks!

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Official Dungeons & Dragons Digital Tools, Take 2

On its way is D&D Beyond, a new official digital toolset for Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast is partnering on development of the product with Curse Entertainment, a subsidiary of Twitch. D&D Beyond will provide an electronic rules compendium, character builder, character sheets, monster tracking, and other services.

Access to SRD content and the ability to maintain some small number of characters will be possible with a free account. For more than that, Curse says there’ll be “flexible purchase options” allowing users to “pay only for the D&D content you need.” For example, a player might purchase only the options related to particular race and class selections. Alternatively, a monthly subscription will allow broader access, the ability to manage more characters, and the possibility of integrating “homebrew content.”

D&D Beyond is not WOTC’s first go at digital tools for 5th Edition. An earlier project with Trapdoor Technologies, DungeonScape, was cancelled in 2014.

Gale Force Nine has another Dungeons & Dragons board game in the works. Thieves Guild, scheduled for an October release, will see the players as thieves, competing to complete quests, develop renown, and achieve the highest rank in the thieves guild. The game’s action will be set in the Forgotten Realms with the board a map of Baldur’s Gate.

If you can’t wait for October, Gale Force Nine should also have this April two expansion cards sets for Tyrants of the Underdark, Aberrations and Undead.

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Experiment 7 is develop, with license from Wizards of the Coast, a Dungeons & Dragons-themed virtual-reality Chess game. Dungeon Chess (for Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift) will feature animated game-play, a variety of environments (like the Yawning Portal tavern), and iconic D&D monsters as Chess pieces (e.g, dragons as kings, beholders as rooks, drow as pawns, and mind-flayers as bishops).

Remote multiplayer and AI opponents will be available.

Release of Dungeon Chess is planned for later this year.

Magic: The Gathering Archenemy Nicol Bolas

In the first-time promotion of Magic: The Gathering at its Toy Fair showroom, Hasbro had on display Archenemy Nicol Bolas ($60), a boxed set for a format not seen in several years. Archenemy games have three playing against one, though to even the odds, the one player starts with 40 life instead of 20 and is bolstered by a supplementary deck of scheme cards (they turn over one per round).

Archenemy Nicol Bolas will be released June 16th with four 60-card decks, 20 all new scheme cards, and a special double-wheeled life counter for the archenemy (counts 00-99).

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According to Hasbro, gaming as a general trend has seen a 75 percent increase in 3 years, up from 1.2 billion gamers in 2013 to 2.1 billion in 2016.

In its presentation to investors at New York Toy Fair today, Hasbro revealed that 20 percent of its products in 2016 went to consumers 20 years of age and older. The hottest of those products, of course, was Magic: The Gathering, for which the company produced last year 117 million booster packs. In another interesting statistic, 5 million viewers watched 350 million minutes of Magic video online. To keep the trend going, subsidiary Wizards of the Coast will be launching a series of new events in local game stores called “Magic Open House”. At these events will be giveaways and how-to-play sessions for beginner players.

Magic Digital Next was also mentioned but the better information on it comes from a WOTC website article posted today. In it, Jeffrey Steefel described Magic Digital Next as an “internal umbrella term for the entire landscape for Magic: The Gathering experiences around digital games.” This includes:

  • Back-end technology upgrades to support both digital and tabletop play.
  • More and better ways to play Magic digitally.
  • Expanding the Magic experience and setting to “diverse platforms and genres.”

For the first time that I know of, a WOTC CEO participated in the Toy Fair presentation and gave some recognition to Dungeons & Dragons. Chris Cocks said that in 2016, D&D had its best sales in 40 years. He even mentioned that Duel Masters experienced its fastest growth ever last year.

On the board game side, 30 million Hasbro games were manufactured in Longmeadow, Massachusetts last year. The company claims 13 of the top 15 face-to-face games in United States—number 1 was Pie Face and number 2 was Speak Out.

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WOTC Brings Back Magic Nationals

Wizards of the Coast is resurrecting Magic: The Gathering Nationals Tournaments as entry points to the World Magic Cup. In its announcement of the move, WOTC explained that the main reason Nationals were dropped in the first place was a shortage of able local organizers. But now with those organizers having 5 years of experience running World Magic Qualifiers, the company feels that the time is right to bring back what were much appreciated events.

Going forward, national teams at the World Magic Cup will consist of three players, not four. The team captain will be the player who’s earned the most pro points that season, while the others will be the top-two finishers at Nationals.

Another change being made, the World Magic Cup and Nationals will all be Standard events.

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Our initial exposure to Magic Digital Next came a little over a year ago in a presentation by Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner. At that time, we saw it only as a new Magic: The Gathering product, albeit a sophisticated one for a range of players. From a new article posted online by Wizards of the Coast President Chris Cocks, we now learn, though, that Magic Digital Next (though not specifically named in the article) is just one part of a more comprehensive digital strategy update being pursued by WOTC.

Cocks describes “adjustments to and increased investments in our digital teams” as the “biggest move” currently underway at the company. WOTC has created a new Digital Games Studio with significant new outside talent, the existing Magic Online team, and digital art and game design staff.

But these changes don’t pertain just to Magic. Rather, WOTC is looking to apply a digitally integrated experience to all its games (including Dungeons & Dragons), incorporating such elements as augmented-reality games, MMOs, tournament organization, home game management, and other “unexpected settings, genres, and platforms.”

We are reimagining digital versions of Magic and other Wizards games… We will bring our characters and worlds to other games and experiences… We will make your Wizards experiences more efficient, connected, and convenient.

Perhaps we might hear more about this initiative from Hasbro leading in to New York Toy Fair.

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Pinnacle Entertainment Group (Savage Worlds RPG) is recruiting for a part-time Production Assistant, by which the company apparently means they will do a little bit of everything: project management, marketing, sales, customer service, and graphic design. Working remotely is a possibility.

Panda Game Manufacturing needs Account Managers to work with publisher clients, one with an Asia focus, one with a France focus, one with a Germany focus, and one general. Also the company is looking for a Project Manager. Everything is remote.

Asmodee North America (Fantasy Flight Games) is looking for a Legal Assistant, an Application Developer, a Help Desk Support Technician, and people to work in the FFG Games Center. All positions are in Roseville, Minnesota.

In Rhode Island, there’s a Design Manager position available with Hasbro Gaming. Duties involve coordinating between market feasibility, production, licensing relationships, and other aspects of product development.

Hasbro subsidiary, Wizards of the Coast, has a several openings, including Software Developer, Program Manager, and Digital Marketing for MtG in Renton, Washington; Community Coordinator in Spain; and WPN Senior Store Lead in Germany.

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Classic D&D Modules Reincarnated for 5E

Wizards of the Coast’s next Dungeons & Dragons adventure product is to be an anthology of classic modules updated for Fifth Edition. Tales from the Yawning Portal will include in one 248 page hardcover volume:

  • Against the Giants
  • Dead in Thay
  • Forge of Fury
  • Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
  • Sunless Citadel
  • Tomb of Horrors
  • White Plume Mountain

Despite the title’s tie-in to the Forgotten Realms—the Yawning Portal is a tavern in that setting’s city of Waterdeep—also in the book will be tips for placing the various adventures in other classic D&D campaign worlds: Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Eberron.

Tales from the Yawning Portal will hit general retail on April 4th, priced at $50. Hobby game stores should have it a week-and-a-half earlier, on March 24th.

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