Yesterday morning, I made a point to watch twitter and live-blogging for news from Wizards of the Coast’s product seminar at D&D Experience. After the news in this month’s Ampersand article, the whole D&D community seemed to be expecting big news out of the seminar. Bloggers were predicting everything from shifting the focus of D&D to online play to the death of 4E. The actual seminar ended up having a couple surprises, but nothing that struck me as drastic in any way.
In addition to the products that were left on the schedule after the Ampersand article, a few additional products were described. Some of these were already talked about last year at GenCon, but I hadn’t heard any mention of a few before the seminar.
Conquest of Nerath (June): This board game was mentioned last year, but it is good to see that it hasn’t been cancelled. It will not be an adventure game like Castle Ravenloft, but instead it will be something closer to the Axis & Allies board games. I’m really interested in what this game ends up looking like, and I think it is still think it is the 2011 product that I’m most interested in.
Neverwinter Campaign Setting (August): This sounds like an unusual product because books for the Forgotten Realms have already been released for 4E. This one will focus on the city of Neverwinter and have tie-ins to the Neverwinter MMO presumably released around the same time, but it could be hard to sell the idea of a single city as a campaign setting. I’m not a big Forgotten Realms fan, so this ends up as a maybe.
Madness at Gardmore Abbey (September): A Deck of Many Things seems like the main selling point of this adventure boxed set. Since I don’t generally get much use out of super-adventures, I probably won’t pick this up.
Legend of Driz’zt (October): This is another adventure board game that will be compatible with both Castle Ravenloft and Wrath of Ashardalon. My biggest worry here is that it seems like they might be releasing too many variants of the adventure game rules and end up having poor sales on later releases. Will there be something compelling enough about this game to justify a purchase for someone who already owns one (or both) of the previously released adventure games?
Heroes of the Feywild (November): This is a second book in the Player’s Option series that will be started by Heroes of Shadow. I didn’t see much additional info on this book, but it will presumably have a bunch of new options for fey-themed characters.
Book of Vile Darkness (???): This was mentioned as a tie-in with the Book of Vile Darkness movie that SyFy is working on, and was a surprise since I hadn’t even heard any rumors of it beforehand. It will definitely be interesting to see whether this ends up as a player-focused book to allow evil characters or if it ends up being a DM-focused campaign resource.
Ravenloft (Cancelled): The Ravenloft campaign setting that was mentioned at GenCon last year has apparently been postponed indefinitely.
Beyond the product lineup, there were a few bits of info that seemed newsworthy.
First, it seemed like they didn’t have a good answer to whether or not Essentials was going to be the basis of future releases. That reinforces the impression that Essentials may not have done as well as expected that was left after the product cancellations earlier this month. I had felt that the Class Compendium was an important product to allow Essentials to serve as an entry point to the existing D&D product line (see here), so its cancellation with nothing to fill that gap seems to be a problem.
During the Q&A session, there was also a mention that they are considering putting the board games into stores like Target and Walmart. As I mentioned a while ago, I think that would be a great move so that those games can serve as an introduction to D&D for a new generation of gamers.
Throughout the entire seminar, there seemed to be an emphasis on organized play and including accessories like poster maps and tokens with products. I think this is a nice direction to take to improve face-to-face play, but it would be nice if the miniatures line was still going to be produced.
The release schedule is still pretty light compared to previous years, and there are only a couple products that I’ll definitely purchase. I do like the idea of expanding the D&D brand to board games, and I hope that WotC manages to get those games into major retailers sometime this year. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I’m really excited by any of the core D&D supplements. We’ll see how the year goes, but I expect most of my gaming budget to go towards other games this year.