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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

Corpsetaker

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

To be honest, I would really like for them to go back to the type of VTT they had with 4th edition because it was so easy to just log in and join up in a game right then and there. Fantasy Grounds is just way too overpriced and a hassle.

I want to come in from work, log in, and scroll down to see what games are waiting for players and just join in.
 

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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.

This presumes WotC approached Curse vs Curse approaching WotC as Trapdoor did. We don't know WotC reached out.

The difference might literally be the type of companies approaching WotC in 2013 when 5e was still in development vs the type of company approaching WotC in 2015-17 when 5e is a huge hit and getting major media attention.
 

To be honest, I would really like for them to go back to the type of VTT they had with 4th edition because it was so easy to just log in and join up in a game right then and there. Fantasy Grounds is just way too overpriced and a hassle.

I want to come in from work, log in, and scroll down to see what games are waiting for players and just join in.

Try Roll20. The actual site is free.

However, the 4e VTT did require a DDI subscription, so it was $10/month. Which, coincidentally, is also what Fantasy Grounds charges each month for it's ultimate licence. So it's the same price. Less really, since we're looking at 5+ years of inflation...
 

Corpsetaker

First Post
Try Roll20. The actual site is free.

However, the 4e VTT did require a DDI subscription, so it was $10/month. Which, coincidentally, is also what Fantasy Grounds charges each month for it's ultimate licence. So it's the same price. Less really, since we're looking at 5+ years of inflation...

What I liked about the 4th edition VTT was that I could log in and actually see people waiting there live for various games. I could just choose one and start playing.
 

DnDBeyond

First Post
While we are launching with the compendium content, character builder, and digital character sheet, we are committed to building the toolset out comprehensively. Intiative/ combat tracking and what you're describing here is definitely on the roadmap!

Okay, this looks really good. But the thing I want that I'm not seeing yet is networking within a gaming group.

This looks like a handy app to run on your phone. Great. I've wanted an intuitive smartphone character sheet for years. But I want the GM to be able to use a tablet and have all the players at the table feed their status to his master app. Let him track the party's stats in real time. If a monster uses a special ability that is a smidge complicated to handle (like a Medusa's petrification gaze), let him select it and choose 'share with table,' so that all the PCs can see the rules. Or if one PC spots a monster, let the GM 'share with player X' the image from the monster manual.

Maybe that would clutter things. But I hope they've at least tested that sort of interface.

Also, I wonder if in the future we'll see adventures that are directly integrated into this software. The GM buys an app called "ZEITGEIST: The Gears of Revolution - adventure one" and he can read it on his tablet in pseudo-PDF form, or he can toggle to 'gameplay mode' where all the encounters are thumbnailed, and there's an easily-accessed appendix of all the stats, illos, and maps. Heck, have some of the loot available, and if the party finds the "Golden Icon of Urim," the GM can select 'share with player Y' so he immediately gets the item.

I wonder how hard it will be for third parties to work things into this app.

Still, it looks exciting.
 


DnDBeyond

First Post
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.

Yeah, it would rather undermine their VTT licensees if they made one. That wouldn't be a very ethical move.
 
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What I liked about the 4th edition VTT was that I could log in and actually see people waiting there live for various games. I could just choose one and start playing.
How many people are we talking about? Would there be enough people to justify adding that kind of feature? (i.e. a few hundred)
Is there really strong demand for random pick-up groups with strangers?

If you want a "LFG lobby", it's the kind of feature you should request over on the Fantasy Grounds message boards rather than an ENworld topic unrelated to VTTs...

But, really, if you want to play online and that's your thing, wouldn't you have more luck just finding a regular group? A game with people who have a similar play style. It'd be less spontaneous but far, far more consistent.
 

DnDBeyond

First Post
Adam here, product lead for DDB at Curse.

As you can imagine, it's been a busy day for us. We're heading back home tonight through tomorrow, but I have touched base with Morrus and will be happy to shine a little more light on D&D Beyond in the next couple of days.

We're terribly excited to get this into players' hands very soon with the beta. Thanks!
 

Patrick McGill

First Post
Adam here, product lead for DDB at Curse.

As you can imagine, it's been a busy day for us. We're heading back home tonight through tomorrow, but I have touched base with Morrus and will be happy to shine a little more light on D&D Beyond in the next couple of days.

We're terribly excited to get this into players' hands very soon with the beta. Thanks!

Hello Adam!

I'm sure you've been asked and have to keep Mum, but just in case: has a pricing model been set and can you speak about it at all?
 

DnDBeyond

First Post
What I can say for now:

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, but please continue to check dndbeyond.com for the most up-to-date announcements and information!

Headed to grab dinner...it's been quite a ride to get to this point and we're going to hit a little R&R tonight. I'll be able to check back in after I fly home tomorrow!
 


dropbear8mybaby

First Post
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.

I mean, I get it, I understand why that's probably a necessary requirement, but... man, there are so, so, so many subscription services these days, it's becoming a headache to manage them all and they're all becoming a really significant monthly expenditure to the point that I'm not keen on adding any more and, honestly, need to drop several already.
 


Lanliss

Explorer
What I can say for now:

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, but please continue to check dndbeyond.com for the most up-to-date announcements and information!

Headed to grab dinner...it's been quite a ride to get to this point and we're going to hit a little R&R tonight. I'll be able to check back in after I fly home tomorrow!

To start, welcome and thank you. It was a surprise to me during the recent Kobold Press Kickstarter when they actually showed up on these forums to talk about their product, and am happy to see that others will do it as well. Brave move...

One thing I will mention that seems slightly odd about your "model", if it can be called that this early, is that Homebrew is going to be behind the subscription. I do not know about most, but I do not have exactly all the money I would like to throw at D&D, so I have been messing with Homebrewing rather than going on DM guild. I know that people who can pay can Homebrew as well, but for me I homebrew because I cannot pay for other people to do it for me, so not being able to enter my homebrew work would be a slightly more than a minor issue for me (though not so big as a Major issue I think), and probably would have been the main reason for me going in on any price you stuck on this.

On to the actual questions, is it too early to know some of the technical details or workings of the builder? For example, Roll20 has the option to simply click "Bard level 3", and it automatically writes in the skills and spell slots you get at that level. Would this do the same, or would I be hand-typing things like Expertise or Bardic Inspiration?

Will there be an art compendium, or just a way to port in outside pictures for the character sheets, or both? Obviously both would be best, but either works for me, as I can either google pictures or make do with a stock of images in-app.

You mention being able to only buy the fighter stuff. Does that mean that you would be able to only buy "Purple Dragon Knight from: Sword Coast Adventurers Guide" for something like $0.99?
 


dropbear8mybaby

First Post
One thing I will mention that seems slightly odd about your "model", if it can be called that this early, is that Homebrew is going to be behind the subscription.

I hear you on that but can understand why they're going this route. You can pretty much guarantee that if they're going to allow homebrew data sets that someone will build an entire PHB/DMG/MM data set and it'll go up for free somewhere. So they at least still get coin for running the servers even if people go that route.
 

What I can say for now:

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, but please continue to check dndbeyond.com for the most up-to-date announcements and information!

The free SRD sounds great and buying what we need, like if I play a Wizard, I can just buy the Wizard stuff.
The small monthly subscription made me twitch (no pun intended). I don't play MMO's because of that, I get it, it's part of the video gaming world. If that's your model, I'm out as well.

If you have a one time Life-time Subscription cost, like Fantasy Grounds does with their Ultimate license, I'll do that. Pay once and not worry about it. I know I would still have to pay for books I may want to add in the future, I just HATE monthly subscriptions, especially for RPG gaming.
 


L R Ballard

Explorer
What I can say for now:

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.

Free access to the SRD beats looking up information online and calculating and organizing by hand.

Intiative/ combat tracking and what you're describing here is definitely on the roadmap!

Combat tracking is always near the top of my list for character tools. I like being able to set up NPC parties--particularly high-level enemies--and then run them through mock combats against a group of "good guys." The combat tracker becomes a playtester, and there's no need to buy a VTT like Fantasy Grounds just to have access to the combat tracker for playtesting purposes. That's why I bought DM Genie years ago. And that's why, thus far, I haven't bought a subscription to Fantasy Grounds but am writing an adventure using free online resources.

Here's a friendly suggestion for DnD Beyond: Consider pricing access to the combat tracker to make it more affordable than access to similar tools on VTTs. Perhaps make the combat tracker available after a certain dollar amount of data-set purchases. I like the restraint DnD Beyond has shown in not doing a VTT. That decision also shows respect for Fantasy Grounds and Roll20.

However, DnD Beyond will lose market share if it offers a subscription for the combat tracker that costs the same as a Fantasy Grounds subscription. In that hypothetical scenario, why not just subscribe to the VTT and all the slick content already available on Fantasy Grounds?
 

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