We're hoping this column becomes your window into roleplaying design and development—or at least the way we approach these things here at Wizards of the Coast. We'll handle a wide range of topics in weeks to come, from frank discussions about over- or underpowered material, to the design goals of a certain supplement, to what we think are the next big ideas for the Dungeons & Dragons game. All of this comes bundled with a healthy look at the people and events that are roleplaying R&D.
To continue our look back at the past year, we wanted to highlight some of the features you may have missed in 2006. The D&D website produces a lot of content—a deluge of content—and individual articles often rotate off the front page within a day… so if you didn’t know to look for them, you might have missed a special feature.
Which brings us to the following tangent. The website largely follows the following publication schedule:
That’s the general schedule, but there are exceptions. Design & Development and the D&D Podcast are meant for all camps; as such, they’re published on Fridays in order to keep them on the front page for the longest amount of time, through the weekend.
In addition, individual features not part of a regular column are often placed when our schedule allows: wherever there’s an open slot, regardless of the day of the week. And, as mentioned, some of these can slip through the cracks… and so, we feel, merit a second look.
Presenting: 2006’s Top 10 Features You May Have Missed!
Our April Fool’s content included the tongue-in-cheek (Here Come the Ponies—our announcement of a My Little Ponies RPG—remains the most viewed Design & Development article of all time), as well as the serious. Creature Incarnation’s Creatures That Cannot Be statted out monsters that break normal templating rules, and Robert Wiese’s Potion Miscibility article resurrected an old feature from the 1st edition DMG, warning against the dangers of combining potions. The 1st edition DMG has plenty of miscellaneous material to mine: the reputed magical properties of gems (pg. 26), the damage table for lycanthropes shapechanging while in armor (pg. 23), and the effects on alcohol (pg. 82). Its potion miscibility table also offered a quick quirk to convert to today’s edition.
With d20 Modern’s Future Tech release, William Canavan offered ways to introduce a bit of science-fiction into your fantasy. This has been done before, of course—namely, in 1st edition’s famed Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. William converted several items to help DMs looking to recreate this adventure on their own, as well as provided D&D stats for Future Tech mechs—including a conversion of the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o. (For even more Greyhawk, keep an eye out for 2007’s super-adventure, Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk.)
Not a full conversion of the original Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, although that module is a larger project we’ve tentatively added to next year’s website schedule. For more sci-fi adventure, also look for a return to 1st edition Greyhawk’s Temple of the Frog.
Downloadable adventures remain an important feature of the website, and in 2006 we released this promised adventure starring our first Creature Competition’s Succubus Paladin. Almost every other competitor made a cameo appearance as well, including the gelatinous cube, kobold, stone giant paladin, marilith dervish—and even the tarrasque!
Another adventure feature, Outside the Mountain provided a follow-up to the 3.5 White Plume Mountain conversion. Here, Robert Wiese examined the tantalizing map of those strange lands surrounding the mountain, converting material presented in 2nd edition’s Return to White Plume Mountain—including the fourth legendary weapon, frostrazor, as well as Dragotha the Dracolich.
This popular series continued this year, with topics of adventure design, proud nails, and the conclusion of our You Craft the Creature feature; it even expanded into D&D Minis territory. Some topics of note include Designing Your Own Vestige, with Matthew Sernett walking through the design process of a custom Tome of Magic vestige, and Monster Makeover, with Mike Mearls taking a new development pass over the game’s more iconic creatures.
One article we’d especially like to highlight is James Wyatt’s overview of the new stat block format. We wished we’d covered this topic before releasing the stat block in the sourcebooks; the website would have made an excellent venue to preview it, explain what changes were made, and stat out some existing monsters for folks to try out the format ahead of time. We miscued on the timing, but still feel James’ article is well worth the read.
Wolfgang Baur’s 6-part mini-series walked DMs through the ins and outs of designing their first (or their latest) adventure. Along the way, it offered a tremendous amount of good advice, from mistakes to avoid, to creating terrain, to hiding the treasure—a good tutorial, for any DM.
This year, the D&D Minis website brought out a number of handy features, including downloadable stat cards for past sets, and an epic stat card for fan-favorite Drizzt. The one article that really got us to smile, however, may have been the interview with a certain figure known as Snig. In addition, the one article that really answered the question we’ve all been asking (dude, where’s my gelatinous cube?) was Matthew Sernett’s recent Intro to Design.
Website developer Mark Jindra produces more online tools and features than we’d ever think he has time for. This year, R&D specifically requested a tool that would feature the new dungeon tiles: perhaps a way for folks to try them out online. Mark came through yet again, working with a design from Randal Meyer to create the tile mapper.
Brothers Andy Collins (RPG R&D) and Greg Collins (magicthegathering.com) butt heads once a month and offer their contribution to this Tactics & Tips series. More a back-and-forth between a player and his DM, the column has covered issues on both sides of the table in very entertaining ways—both brothers have DMed for one another for a good long time (and the collective body count of each other’s characters continues to rise).
Top of our list this year are the D&D podcasts, helped in large part again by Greg Collins and his work on magicthergathering.com, along with our recording guru Corey Macourek. Design & Development’s Dave Noonan and Mike Mearls were enlisted to host the podcasts, which have quickly developed into their current format: a look at the monthly releases, but mainly as touchstones to launch into wider conversations of the gaming industry. Whether it’s Mike and Andy Collins debating the importance (or lack thereof) of standard equipment, Dave taking the hot seat to answer the unanswerable rules questions, or R.A. Salvatore visiting the studio to discuss the art of writing, if you haven’t listened yet we’d highly recommend subscribing to the podcast. (Well, of course we would! We made them after all!)
The Website’s Secret Door
There’s one more feature of the website this year that may have slipped your notice. At some point, Mark Jindra added a little “easter egg”: a hidden link that calls up a random page from the website’s endless archive. Have you found the secret door?
As stated in the Online Year in Review, our thanks for visiting the D&D website. Knowing your preferences helps us better tailor the website to your interests—and, as always, you can send us your thoughts and opinions directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.