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Dungeons and Dragons Goes Digital (theregister.co.uk) 76

An anonymous reader writes: Seems like a new digital Dungeons and Dragons will soon be offered. It's not a game in the Baldur's Gate style but rather seems to be about using apps to complement the experience. I wonder if it includes some kind of VOIP facility so the D&D session can be established without everyone being in the same room. From The Register: "The game's publisher, Wizards of the Coast, calls its new effort 'D&D Beyond,' describes it as 'a digital toolset for use with the Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition rules' and has given the service the tagline 'Play with advantage.' Wizards' canned statement says the service will 'take D&D players beyond pen and paper, providing a rules compendium, character builder, digital character sheets, and more -- all populated with official D&D content.' We're also told the service 'aims to make game management easier for both players and Dungeon Masters by providing high-quality tools available on any device.' That repetition of the 'any device' point point suggests this will be a web-based effort, rather than an app. The service will debut in 'summer,' presumably northern hemisphere summer so that folks who play D&D will spend up big on their breaks from school or university." You can watch the promo video here.
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Dungeons and Dragons Goes Digital

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  • by Calydor ( 739835 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @06:07AM (#54049625)

    So it's roll20 and MythWeavers - but only for 5e?

    • Re:Okay then (Score:5, Insightful)

      by luvirini ( 753157 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @06:19AM (#54049651)

      Likely in principle, but given their earlier digital efforts it will likely be:
      -Locked in
      -Full of bugs
      -Stopped after a while.

      • by Barny ( 103770 ) <bakadamage-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Thursday March 16, 2017 @06:55AM (#54049747) Journal

        You are trying to place a Beholder. That will cost $1.99!

        You are trying to place a Wolf. That will cost $0.99!

        You are trying to swap back to roll20. That will cost us your wallet.

      • -Locked in
        -Full of bugs
        -Stopped after a while.

        Sounds like my players!

    • by pr0t0 ( 216378 )

      I did not see anything in the video that would indicate it will have the same kind of shared experience for playing the actual game the way Roll20 does. This instead looks like they have finally created a 5e version of the old Character Builder that was available for $70/year in the 4e days. They've tacked on a compendium as well. It also looks like it has some interactive stuff like tracking death saves, current hit points, and possibly dice rolling (I saw a green plus sign next to the attacks). So it look

      • Roll20 does have a tablet application so if you want a digital character sheet that's a really good option to use. I've been using it to store my character information for a face to face session and it works wonderfully since the r20 sheet calculates various things for me.

  • providing a rules compendium, character builder, digital character sheets, and more

    I'm hoping it will have a free tier, at least for players (I would be OK with only the DM having to pay, but only a very small fee.) If it's too expensive, we'll all just go back to the free options floating around. PCGen [pcgen.org] for charater sheets and overlays, d20 SRD [d20srd.org] for the rules, classes, monsters and items, and our imaginations for the rest.

    • by Barny ( 103770 )

      Bwahahahahahahahah! ...


      Wait, you're serious? Just use 5eSRD and roll20.

  • by Stomper_Stoddard ( 930896 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @06:38AM (#54049697) Journal
    "I wonder if it includes some kind of VOIP facility so the D&D session can be established without everyone being in the same room."

    This has been possible for almost 2 decades, there are several programs and websites dedicated to running games over the internet. Wizards of the Coast already directly support Fantasy Grounds and Roll20.
    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      This. Programs like Skype, TeamSpeak, Discord etc. FOCUS on the VoIP functionality. Having WotC roll their own into a client for something else is going to turn out the same way voice chat in MMOs did: Disabled and replaced with, yes, Skype, TeamSpeak, Discord etc. Even Blizzard, at the height of WoW's popularity, could only make a half-assed VoIP function that no one ever used. That should really tell you something.

  • "Goes" Digital? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

    What do you call Neverwinter? How about DDO? Or hey, let's take a blast from the past, what do you call Hillfar or Poolrad?

    D&D Goes Digital? Who writes these fucking things?

    • if you bothered to read the article instead of just the headline you would have seen that they were talking about digital tools to play the pen and paper game, with a GM and Players, not an MMO or computer game that some programmer in Silicone Valley cooked up... yeah sure you have the forge in NWN to greate your own missions, but you're still limited to the assets available to you that the programmers give you.

      • if you bothered to read the article instead of just the headline you would have seen that they were talking about digital tools to play the pen and paper game,

        That's not the point. The point is that D&D went digital ages ago, with computer games. This is just more digital D&D.

        some programmer in Silicone Valley cooked up...

        No. The silicone valley is substantially further south.

      • Hate to break it to you, but digital tools to enhance the pen and paper game have been around for some years as well. Dungeon creators, mapping tools, random encounter generators, character builders. Again, this is "more digital", but it's hardly just now "going digital".

  • by Aethedor ( 973725 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @07:51AM (#54049907) Homepage

    Watched the introduction movie and think it looks nice, but... more and more I think phones and tablets don't belong at the D&D table. It simply distracts too much. With several friends, I play D&D 4th edition and some of them use tablets for the character sheet. But in many cases they use the tablet to do other stuff, show funny movies, etc. I know we all don't take D&D extremely serious, it's just part of an evening hanging out, but it's one of the main causes we don't achieve much in our campaign. Often we set rules like 'tablets only for the character sheet'. That works for several evenings and allows us to really move forward in our adventure, but after that, the browsing etc slowly comes back.

    Because of the arrival of the 5th edition, I fear the 4th edition online character builder will soon be taken offline. A few months ago, I decided to go back to only use the books. The only thing I really missed was an easy way to deal with the power cards. I made myself an Excel template to solve that. Extra bonus: no more need to cut out all the individual power cards. I hated that after printing out a new version of my character sheet. And although it's less digital, reading and browsing through all the D&D books feels more nerdy. :D

    • Agreed. We went digital-heavy with Pathfinder, all characters in HeroLab (there are so many modifiers in PF beyond a certain level you kinda welcome the help). But then everyone is staring at their screens all night.

      With 5e we've gone back to paper sheets and it's way better. I still use a laptop to help DM but that's it.

      That being said, projector gaming is amazing. What I really want, digitally speaking, from 5e is officially produced PDF versions of adventure modules. Pathfinder had this, which made

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The social contact....

  • No. Just ... no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @08:02AM (#54049945)

    For so many reasons.

    First and foremost, how long do you play your characters? If the answer is "maybe a year or two, tops", it may be ok. If you have characters that date back ten and more years, you might want to consider that your phone or iPod most likely won't last that long. Can you transfer that character sheet at all? What if your phone gets stolen or breaks? Are you prepared to lose a character you've been playing for years and grew attached to because technology croaks?

    And then there's that other aspect. The character sheets that are so old that the sheet itself is already at +2 for the thousands of times you erased HPs and rewrote them, the different pencils used that tell the story and tell even more of the time it took to gain your treasures and equipment and yes, even the various stains the sheet accumulates over the years, where the level of a character can already be deduced by the state the char sheet is in.

    I don't really think I'd want to replace that with a phone app. Not to mention that people fiddling with their phone during RPG night are already annoying as fuck anyway.

    • On one hand, I agree with all this. On the other, I can see a dedicated DM wanting to plug all this stuff into a system that will handle the mechanics for them. I haven't RTFA so I don't even know if anyone knows whether the system will handle this case, but if it doesn't I can't imagine that it will go anywhere.

      • Personally, I'd feel this takes away an important element of the game. Sure, nobody likes playing down endless hours of roll-playing, but rolling those dice and watching them as they land and decide your fate, calculating and hoping that it will eventually come up with enough damage to slay the dragon (and not enough to end your character's life) is part of the whole experience, as is players and GM describing what's happening and finding ways to describe the roll result in game terms.

        Just hacking down a fi

    • From the article: "That repetition of the “any device” point point suggests this will be a web-based effort, rather than an app." This is going to be a web-based platform, probably geared primarily towards browsers but with tablet and phone support. I am assuming your data will be stored and managed on a server somewhere. It would be pretty inept to have any user generated data locked to a specific piece of hardware. I also assume it will be trivial to download a print version of your charac
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      I thought about writing a little helper app for AD&D decades ago, for the old Pison organizers or something. The idea wasn't to completely computerize the game, but to assist the DM with a few useful tools. Silent dice rolls so as not to tip off the players, stat tracking and auto combat rolls/calculations for routine minions that get mown down anyway, that sort of thing. Basically get rid of some of the drudgery so that the DM can concentrate on narrative rather than the boring mechanics, plus some han

      • It's easy to roll dice silently. How? By rolling them constantly. Keep talking and every now and then grab a few dice and roll them. The first 1-2 evenings your players will sit at the edge of their seat, thinking that something important is happening, or they start searching every stone in the dungeon wall whenever you reach for the dice 'cause they think they failed a trap check.

        Just tell them when they ask why you rolled the dice that you felt like it and loved their reaction. They will NEVER EVER get ti

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          I'm the same, when I'm the DM I cheat constantly for dramatic effect. Some of it is just on-the-fly difficulty level adjustment, some of it is just to enhance the sense of danger. Actually sometimes you can just roll the dice for no reason to create tension, or to make the party waste 5 minutes tearing a room apart looking for secret passages while you re-read your notes for the next section.

          I LOL'ed at your assassin story. I'll use that one next time.

      • ... around 1981 or so for the Commodore PET.

        Can't say it was especially useful though as far as I took it. It did dice rolls. I think I included a module that did random dungeon generation and also random treasure generation based on what was in the Gamma World DM guide. I don't think it distracted much -- except a personal computer back then like a PET took up a lot of table space.

        Kind of miss those Commodore days...

        I had donated my Commodore equipment to my local school district long ago.

        I tried a few mon

    • These are valid grievances, but what concerns me more is that is just more of a way for Hasbro to monetize off your gameplay. I'm sure it will be linked to all social media, so as to include free marketing for the game publisher. They can't do that with private pen and paper.
    • If you have characters that date back ten and more years, you might want to consider that your phone or iPod most likely won't last that long.

      Newsflash: There are some apps I've been using for 8+ years. Even though I've had many new phones along the way... do you know what wizardly makes that possible? The magic of system backup and data migration! OOOOOHHH!

      Can you transfer that character sheet at all?

      Why would you NOT be able to???

      What if your phone gets stolen or breaks?

      Restore from backup OOOOOHHHH!

      • I personally despised having to copy character sheets because of the thousands of times things got erased and re-written. Have you no memory of the billions of eraser particles that get everywhere over time???

        This is why, for my games that normally have excessive erasing (Cyberpunk is one of them), I have char. sheets that are laminated or just put a char sheet in a sheet protector and use wet-erase pens to mark down info.

    • I know that the one that was for 4th edition let you save characters on the server tied to your account. Also you could generate PDFs or print, so I presume you're going to be able to do the same
  • by DThorne ( 21879 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @08:48AM (#54050091)

    I played d&d many years ago, more or less when it started, and since lurking on Twitch recently started watching some sessions to see how the old girl's been getting on. It rather bummed me out, tbh. It feels exactly like I remember, except for endlessly elaborate rule addendums. *Exactly*.

    I realize the DM drives the experience but I've watched quite a few different sessions, many of which are clearly popular, and I can't imagine wanting to consume my already limited free time like that. The instant that combat starts, that's 30+ minutes of your life you've lost forever. One of the reasons I've enjoyed licensed rpg computer games is that the tedious rolling and chart lookups is managed automatically. Relying on wetware for this simply escapes me. Useful software for this would literally auto-manage the process apart from quick input from the player, but this seems more like a database reference, replacing a book. Basically, you get to do a search. Call of Cthulhu seems âless about stats and charts, more about story, and seems more appealing.

    I mean, whatever turns your crank. Grognards still exist, too, and while not for me, that's cool. It just seems like what the game needs is to manage the tedious crap.

    • There are quite a few other RPG systems that focus more on the roleplaying and narrative side of things, if that's what you're after. A great gateway into that is Cypher system (Numemera, The Strange) from Monte Cook Games. It's definitely more story-focused than D&D/Pathfinder, but still has some crunchy bits to it for combat.

      Call of Cthulu definitely goes further. There's still a rule set for combat encounters, but it's definitely more investigative than D&D. Fate Core or Fate Accelerated
    • by hipp5 ( 1635263 )

      My friends and I had our first try at D&D with 4th edition (4e). We were having fun until we hit our first combat, which turned into an hour long slog for a relatively basic fight. The combat rules were just so unnecessarily complex and tedious. Our group folded shortly after that.

      5e came out and we decided to give it another go. I've been DMing. The DM guide for 5e is really big on, "do what's fun!" and encourages you to not worry too much about getting every rule perfectly right (assuming your group i

  • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @08:54AM (#54050123)

    How is this news for nerds? What has D&D got to do with nerds? I'm angry! I want my Slashdot back.

    / sarcasm

  • As I grow older I keep on comparing the behaviors of those in their late teens and 20's to my own to best understand how the world, or at least the culture around me, might be changing. "Kids" today take for granted having a personal computer in their pockets at all times. They are not really forced to memorize as much, be quite as creative, or have as much face to face time. I've seen them sitting in the same room staring at their phone texting/instant messaging each other as a form of communication. WotC

  • Its interesting the WotC is doing something, but honestly there have been computerized D&D aids as long as there has been D&D. One of the first real computer programs I conceived, designed, and wrote myself was a TRS-80 BASIC program to quickly create character sheets back in 1979. Back then the official rules (as I read them anyway) said you were supposed to roll for all abilities, and then decide if you wanted to use that set of rolls. It wasn't uncommon to blow an entire gaming session just in ch

  • I've got a set of paper forms that were an anomaly back 'then', when GIFs were a novelty and it took three days to download all 28 pages. Fairly cool at the time, it standardized the process. I worked at an office machine dealer and scanned a set of mimeograph stencils to run them off for bunches of people. Laser printers were too expensive for me, and dot matrix was ugly, but I could enhance the scan original with a few tricks.

    Then I got the worst idea of my young life. Put all this into a dBase III+ data

  • Just Use HeroLab (Score:4, Informative)

    by bigdady92 ( 635263 ) on Thursday March 16, 2017 @10:05AM (#54050513) Homepage
    Worth every damn penny I paid for that product plus add-ons. It's by FAR the best character builder and resource tool that one can use. Their iPad app makes using those characters and playing them a breeze. It's stupidly simple, and it's a single price that gives you everything you need. If you can afford an IOS device you can afford the pittance that is HeroLab to 100% manage your character creation. I haven't used the rest of the tools that HeroLab offers so I can't speak to them.

    WOTC's approach is going to trickle out after a year, no updates, and then vanish into the mists of time. Can you even imagine having WOTC keep a company around long enough with the upgrade cycles of Android and IOS? Never happen. Capcom has a better track record at updates than WOTC.
    • WoTC isn't building DNDBeyond, they are just supplying the ideas and data for it. They have partnered with Curse to build the product. As Curse has been supplying and maintaining one of the largest repositories of WoW mods for at least a decade, I think they are more than capable of keeping up with the upgrade cycle of Android and IOS. Especially seeing as how it's apparently not going to be an app.

    • the only thing that would make it better is if they came out with an android version.
  • Is if they allowed apps to all share the same map and such (like roll20, FG, etc...) so the DM could have detailed maps with character positioning, etc... without them having to do all the busywork of drawing out rooms all the time. Anything that this app can do to cut down on busywork during a game is a win-win.
  • I remember writing a DM assistant in BASIC on my Atari 800 back in the 80s that did many of the tables we frequently used (treasure tables, combat, random weather from a Dragon article, etc.). People have been doing this sort of thing for at least 30 years. My Echo will do arbitrary dice rolls. "Alexa, roll a 17-sided die."

  • There are, in fact, dozens of them, some of the many years old. There are so many, there are guides to choosing the right one [battlegroundsgames.com].

    Some, like Battlegrounds, are extremely good at handling any flavor of d20 systems, and are very, very easy to learn to use. Some, like Roll20, are less versatile, but have free versions, and run in a browser and are thus truly (as) cross-platform (as anything can be). And some, like MapTool, are completely free, with an active support community that is very user friendly, and a macr

  • I'm not a fan of mixing D&D and tech. I don't want to play virtually, and I don't want a bunch of phones and tablets and laptops at the gaming table. I want to get out my AD&D books (1e, of course), papers, pencils, and dice and sit around a table with my friends. No checking facebook or getting text messages or browsing the web. No distractions. Maybe some low-volume Sabbath or Yes on the turntable, but that's about it...

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.