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[UPDATED!] D&D Beyond: An Official D&D Digital Toolset & Character Builder

D&D Beyond has just been announced! Coming this summer, and billed as "Your digital D&D source", it has a compendium of official content, character builder and manager, the ability to use home-brew content, D&D forums, and is usable on any device. A 1-minute announcement trailer can be seen below. D&D Beyond is produced by a company called Curse Inc, owned by Twitch. Right now, there's a signup for the Beta version. More info as/when it becomes available! [UPDATES: The D&D Beyond folks have offered some more info, which I have included below; I will be chatting with them later this week, with luck!]

"We are excited to announce development of D&D Beyond, an official digital toolset for use with the Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition rules. We have partnered with Curse to 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. D&D Beyond aims to make game management easier for both players and Dungeon Masters by providing high-quality tools available on any device, empowering beginners and veterans alike!" goes the official description.

"D&D Beyond speaks to the way gamers are able to blend digital tools with the fun of storytelling around the table with your friends,”
said Nathan Stewart, Senior Director of Dungeons & Dragons. "These tools represent a way forward for D&D, and we’re excited to get them into the hands of players soon!"

The company, Curse Inc., is owned by Twitch, and is based in San Francisco, with offices in various countries. They produce tools and communities for gamers - up until now, mainly video games. They started as a way to organise the founder's World of Warcraft add-ons about 10 years ago, and grew into a multinational company from there. The company makes a desktop app called the Curse Client, along with community driven wikis, tools, guides, and databases for games like Minecraft, Diablo, Countersrike, Overwatch, and more. In 2016, it was announced that Twitch would acquire Curse.

Features, from the website, include:

  • D&D Compendium with Official Content
  • Create, Browse, & Use Homebrew Content
  • Manage Characters - Build, Progress, & Play
  • D&D News, Articles, Forums, & More
  • Access Anywhere, Anytime, on Any Device
That last item makes it sound like it'll work offline, which will be a popular move. And the home-brew content mention is also important, especially because WotC supports DMs Guild.

UPDATES: I checked with WotC's Greg Tito who confirmed "D&D Beyond will work without an internet connection. That's a big deal for the devs!"

Adam over at D&D Beyond confirmed a little about the pricing model:

"At launch, players will be able to access SRD content and build and view a small number of characters with a free D&D Beyond account.

We don’t have exact pricing nailed down, but you will also be able to buy official digital D&D content for all fifth edition products with flexible purchase options. You can pay only for the D&D content you need. If you only play fighters, for example, you’ll be able to just pick up the stuff you need to track swinging that giant two-handed sword.

A small monthly subscription will be needed to manage more than a handful of characters and to enable more advanced features, like homebrew content integration. At this time, we don’t know exactly how much the subscription will cost."


He also confirmed that the pricing structure is not about microtransactions: "I'm about to get on a plane so I've got to be brief, but I wanted to check in and make it clear that "microtransactions" were not mentioned and are not what the model is about."

And also that D&D Beyond is definitely not a Virtual Game Table (VTT): "D&D Beyond is intended to enhance gameplay around a table (virtual or otherwise) - we intend this to be completely complementary and have no intention of creating a VTT."


[video=youtube;Dn8Kpmm_aJA]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dn8Kpmm_aJA[/video]

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey


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So i've been sort of looking at the video and pausing to look over the pages of the app- i can see buttons that direct you to homebrew things of various categories (the "spells" section has a "homebrew spells" button) and a "create a spell" button, so it seems like there's an in-client way to pull up an entry for homebrew, though knowing curse i do suspect that there'll be a way to import previously prepared data sets.

That latest piece of news though: Available offline is huge, it could also imply that their pricing model isn't a subscription (as you could just sub for a bit, get everything, and then run it offline after canceling) i suspect you might have to pay fees for access to specific datasets (ergo, you have to buy a PHB pack, or a volo's pack, and what not for the content within- with luck, WOTC will put something in place to help us not have to essentially buy books multiple times)
 

Reynard

Legend
No mention of Virtual Table Top was made so I wonder if they are planning on staying away from that first now. It makes sense with the relatively recent licensing deals with Fantasy Grounds and Roll20. If that is in fact the case I hope there is some tool for integration between the two.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
No mention of Virtual Table Top was made so I wonder if they are planning on staying away from that first now. It makes sense with the relatively recent licensing deals with Fantasy Grounds and Roll20.

Yeah, it would rather undermine their VTT licensees if they made one. That wouldn't be a very ethical move.
 

TerraDave

5ever
If they did put out some more official player content (like a book of it) then something like this does become pretty handy.

Just hope it actually works.
 

If they did put out some more official player content (like a book of it) then something like this does become pretty handy.

Just hope it actually works.

Well all of those subclasses being tested in UA, according to Mike Mearls, are for them to figure out what their "First major Content Expansion" will look like, and that should be coming out at some point, ideally later this year. so yeah, big book of player oriented crunch, and this to help us keep track of it, sounds pretty toasty.
 

Remathilis

Legend
So i've been sort of looking at the video and pausing to look over the pages of the app- i can see buttons that direct you to homebrew things of various categories (the "spells" section has a "homebrew spells" button) and a "create a spell" button, so it seems like there's an in-client way to pull up an entry for homebrew, though knowing curse i do suspect that there'll be a way to import previously prepared data sets.

That latest piece of news though: Available offline is huge, it could also imply that their pricing model isn't a subscription (as you could just sub for a bit, get everything, and then run it offline after canceling) i suspect you might have to pay fees for access to specific datasets (ergo, you have to buy a PHB pack, or a volo's pack, and what not for the content within- with luck, WOTC will put something in place to help us not have to essentially buy books multiple times)
Hopefully, it won't be at full book price. Paying $50 for a physical book, $50 for the vtt version, and $50 for d&d-beyond data pack feels a bit like like gouging.
 

DLIMedia

First Post
Good to see that WotC finally got their act together and decided that trying to do this in house would have been a terrible idea.
 


Hopefully, it won't be at full book price. Paying $50 for a physical book, $50 for the vtt version, and $50 for d&d-beyond data pack feels a bit like like gouging.

Agreed, honestly I would probably just buy whatever copy i had to for the digital version, skip the physical copy and settle for my... backup digital copy. But thats sad, because i do like physical books. It would make a lot of sense if the data packs were very cheap, or were at least bundled with future releases of physical books and pdfs.
 

MarkB

Legend
From what I can make out, Curse doesn't just do compendiums etc. - it's a large community platform. It looks like this is what WotC plans as the replacement for their forums, all integrated with the tools, character builder, etc.

I've mainly come across Curse through their mod-management tools for games such as World of Warcraft, which does at least give me some confidence that WotC have managed to pick a software provider with some experience this time.
 



DLIMedia

First Post
They figured that out years ago with Morningstar.

Well I'm not so sure about that... Let's face it; Trapdoor isn't exactly a very established company, and had nowhere near the development chops to take on such an overwhelming task. I'm reasonably sure that Morningstar went to WotC saying "hey, we have an idea! Let us do this!", not the other way around... and WotC went along with it because it wasn't costing them a dime.

Morningstar's doom was that they were choosing to effectively become the Steam of D&D: to become a publishing source, and that would never sit well with WotC. WotC already had plans along those lines with the DM's Guild - where they have much more control over what they publish - and Morningstar would have ended up being a direct competitor to that. So when they went to WotC with this idea, WotC dumped them; that they allowed them to get as far as they did is remarkable, to be honest.

Trapdoor had a staff of no more than ten people and published only one app that was hardly used by anyone on only one device (no Android support to speak of). Curse has five times the staff, has enough backing to take this on themselves without WotC's help (they're owned by Twitch, after all), has written multi-platform apps (iOS, Android and desktop), and has actual tangible experience in developing apps that have a large user base.

Of course, this is all likely a dream that will be destroyed once the absurd pricing model comes to light...
 
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Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Well I'm not so sure about that... Let's face it; Trapdoor isn't exactly a very established company, and had nowhere near the development chops to take on such an overwhelming task. I'm reasonably sure that Morningstar went to WotC saying "hey, we have an idea! Let us do this!", not the other way around... and WotC went along with it because it wasn't costing them a dime.

Morningstar's doom was that they were choosing to effectively become the Steam of D&D: to become a publishing source, and that would never sit well with WotC. WotC already had plans along those lines with the DM's Guild - where they have much more control over what they publish - and Morningstar would have ended up being a direct competitor to that. So when they went to WotC with this idea, WotC dumped them; that they allowed them to get as far as they did is remarkable, to be honest.

Trapdoor had a staff of no more than ten people and published only one app that was hardly used by anyone on only one device (no Android support to speak of). Curse has five times the staff, has enough backing to take this on themselves without WotC's help (they're owned by Twitch, after all), has written multi-platform apps (iOS, Android and desktop), and has actual tangible experience in developing apps that have a large user base.

That's rather moving the goalposts. Trapdoor were not in-house.
 

DLIMedia

First Post
That's rather moving the goalposts. Trapdoor were not in-house.

Yeah, you could say that... But I see a difference between (1) having a company come to WotC with an idea, and WotC stringing them along until the other company does something to conflict with WotC interests, and (2) WotC actively going out and selecting a professional company to do this work for them in an official capacity.
 

Okay, this is a surprise.

First, they got a name company. That's good. They finally partnered with someone who know's their stuff rather than a rookie start-up. (That D&D is getting hella attention probably helps. I doubt Curse would have worked with WotC during 3e/4e.) I'm familiar with Curse from Warcraft, so that inspired confidence: they have to regularly patch and update their add-ons to work with the evolving Warcraft system and its patches. Updating for D&D content should be easy.

That and I imagine the pricing model will probably give people sticker shock. I expect the Basic Rules will be cheap - if not free - but buying each successive book will be expensive. Expect to pay $50 for the PHB data pack.

Still, I don't see this changing things in my game. I might get the Basic Rules so I can reference rules quickly in the event of a question. But I'm uncertain how much use I'd get out of the rest: 5e is easy to manage with paper and pencils. Characters don't need that much tracking or managing. It's not Pathfinder or 4e where you have to juggle and wade through dozens of options each level.
The DM tools might be interesting to see: if it can track initiative or hit points. But that kind of tool management is likely more of a VTT than part of this toolset.
 

Remathilis

Legend
I tried to remember why I have a Curse account already.

Then it hit me, I was a member of MTGSalvation for a while. If D&DB's forums are 1/10th of that, they'll be pretty good.
 

dropbear8mybaby

First Post
Looking forward to see the end product, especially if it's even better than herolabs.
Anything that is remotely competently made will be better than Hero Labs.

I want to be excited but just will remain cautiously smiling.
Wise move.

One thing that I didn't see listed, but consider a must-have for this to be really useful, is an initiative tracker. Ideally, it would have the ability to do full encounter building, in advance, for a whole adventure. I'd take an initiative tracker.
Then I'd need a laptop to replace the seven books, DM screen, and various and sundry other items I have to cart to games.
 

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