This month’s Ampersand article on D&D Insider was full of interesting news for the D&D product line:

  • “We have made the decision to depart from prepainted plastic miniatures sets. Lords of Madness stands as the final release under that model.”
  • “The Heroes of Shadow product, originally scheduled for March and presented in digest-sized, paperback format, is moving to April to accommodate a change to hardcover format.”
  • “Three D&D RPG products have been removed from the 2011 release schedule—Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, and Hero Builder’s Handbook.”
  • “Starting this month, we’re just providing the articles. There won’t be any more monthly downloadable compilations.”

I’m pretty disappointed at the cancellation of D&D miniatures.  As I mentioned in my wish list post, I’ve been building a collection of minis in hopes of more in-person gaming.  Even with the cancellation, packs of minis should remain in stores for a while, so hopefully I’ll be able to pick up at least a few more boxes before they become hard to find.

The move to hardcover for Heroes of Shadow is an interesting move.  It seems like WotC may have decided to move away from the idea of lower cost paperback books for future products.  I prefer hardcover game books, but I am curious what motivated the change since just a few months ago the product line appeared to be moving completely towards paperbacks and box sets.

Cancelling three books seems like an odd move given that a lot of the design and development work had probably gone into them already.  A customer service page on the WotC web site says “We felt that the material in these titles would best be presented in other ways and we have plans to make it available in the future.”  That’s pretty vague, so it could mean anything from plans to move the material into other books, publish it through D&DI, or that no firm plans for it exist yet.  Of the three books, I’m most disappointed with the cancellation of the Class Compendium because I felt that it was an important stepping stone between Essentials and the rest of the D&D product line for new players (see here).

The justification for no longer publishing compilation pdfs of Dungeon and Dragon makes sense, but I’ll miss the convenience of a single file per magazine.  While I downloaded individual articles as they were released during the month, I’d replace the “in progress” folder  on my computer with just the compilation pdf once it was released.

The product changes leave the 2011 calendar pretty sparse compared to the past few years.  According to the WotC product catalog, the following are still on the schedule for the first half of the year:

  • Dungeon Tiles:  Caverns of Icewind Dale (Jan)
  • Fortune Cards:  Shadow Over Nentir Vale (Feb)
  • Wrath of Ashardalon (Feb)
  • Accessories:  Deluxe DM’s Screen (Feb)
  • Heroes of Shadow (Apr)
  • The Shadowfell:  Gloomwrought and Beyond (May)
  • Dungeon Tiles:  The Witchlight Fens (Jun)
  • Monster Vault:  Threads to the Nentir Vale (Jun)

That’s only 3 supplements, 1 board game, and some accessories.  Compared to the 1-2 supplements per month that have been released for the past few years, that’s a pretty big change in pace.

Someone on twitter mentioned that the news seems to indicate that the Essentials line might not have gone as well as planned.  The Class Compendium was definitely intended for new players who started 4E with the Essentials books and the biggest selling point on Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium seemed to be its inclusion of items to fill the gaps in the item rarity levels that were introduced with the Essentials rules changes.  That seems like a reasonable conclusion given the changes announced, so it will be interesting to watch what messaging WotC has at D&D Experience later this month and what, if anything, is announced to fill out the 2011 release schedule.

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