at GenCon, the possibility of a third edition became more plausible.
Scattered around the convention were signs telling one and all to
come to "The Big Announcement" which promised to reveal
"The Future of Dungeons and Dragons". Needless to say,
this version of the hype would imply a rather fundamental change
to the game system as we know it. The only thing left to do was
to actually attend the announcement and find out what the true chant
I feel I should put something of a disclaimer in front of the remaining
text of this report. As I'm not really a trained journalist and
I'm trying to get this written as fast as I can so I can get back
to the convention, this text is going to be written somewhat stream-of-thought.
That being said, let's stop wasting your time and bandwidth and
get on with it.
IS A REALITY AND IT WILL BE HERE BY GENCON 2000!!
(If you don't
want to know any of the particulars, feel free to jump elsewhere.
If you'd like some more of the inside story, so to speak, read on.)
The Big Announcement
itself was made before a packed auditorium at GenCon. Peter Atkinson
(President/CEO of Wizards of the Coast), Brian Danson (Vice-president
in charge of TSR), and Keith Strohm (Brand Manager for Dungeons
and Dragons) led the more-or-less controlled circus. One of the
first things they did was to introduce the design team: Bill Slaviscek
(Head of Role-playing Research and Development), Ed Stark (Creative
Director of Core Dungeons and Dragons), Jon Tweet (Lead Designer),
Monte Cook (Senior Designer), Skip Williams (Senior Designer), Rich
Baker (Initial Development), and Kim Mohan (Managing Editor).
addition to this fine and impressive selection of folks, TSR had
a couple of very big surprises in store for the audience. The a-number-one
surprise was the appearance of Gary Gygax. When stepping out on
stage, he received a standing ovation and the chanting of his name
from the crowd. After some small talk, a bombshell was dropped on
the crowd - Mr. Gygax has a signed contract with TSR to work on
products for the third edition. The speculation from Mimir.Net is
that he's "only" going to be involved with a few modules.
this bombshell, a smaller one was launched. Dave Arneson was brought
out on stage (to another standing ovation). He was there to be welcomed
publicly back into the TSR family. Apparently whatever legal and
other troubles that he had with the company had finally be resolved.
The two big changes as a result of this are the fact that his name
is now going to be appear in all the credits on the products, and
the game is finally able to be called Dungeons & Dragons again
(dropping the slightly clunky "Advanced" moniker). Oh,
and Mr. Arneson had some explosives of his own - he had just returned
from Prague and participating in the filming of the D&D movie.
(Yes, this is a serious project with Jeremy Irons as the villain.
But more on this later.)
two special guests, the good stuff appeared. Specifically, some
specifics on the setting itself. The first of which was the timing
of the development of Third Edition. It actually began about the
time that second edition was going out the door just over ten years
ago. The project didn't really start to be official until about
four years ago when all the various ideas and suggestions began
to be collected and taken notice of. The purchase of TSR by WotC
and the move to Seattle were the final kick in the pants which began
the true and official work on the project. Beta testing of the new
version of the game actually began last September and involved about
600 people around the world. (Some of these testers were in the
a general discussion of the system's mechanics ensued. Peter Atkinson
assured the audience that the new game would still be true to the
core idea of D&D and wasn't going to experience a radical change
to become "some hip, storytelling thing." Jim Fallone
(Marketing Manager for D&D) likened D&D to being as essential
to the American culture "like bowling." The new system
was promised to keep many "sacred cows" as unchanged as
possible, while improving the mechanics in other areas.
From here on
out, I 'm just going to list all of the specific info I've found.
First, what's staying the same...
- The Planes
(good news for us Planescape fans)
- Six ability
scores in a range of 3-18
- Hit Points
of individual spells
And, here are
some the things that are changing...
- No level
limits for demihumans
- An inherent
critical hit system
- Demons and
Devils (bad news for us Planescape fans)
- New classes
(Monk, Barbarian, Sorcerer)
a T-shirt was handed out to all who attended which listed some other
interesting changes and additions. This list is reproduced below...
barbarian sorcerer = Yes
level limits = No
- Monks &
Assassins = Yes
Skill System = Yes
- Evil gnoll
rangers = Yes
- THAC0 = No
- Rules you
never used anyway = No
- Demons &
Devils = Yes
Hits = Yes
clerical spells = Yes
- Ability score
improvements = Yes
48 = Yes
And, as I expressed
hope for earlier, the dice mechanics are finally going to be consistent.
Everything (from racial abilities to thieving skills to combat)
is based on the d20 and high numbers are always good. As Jon Tweet
said: "D&D is all about rolling that 20!"
There are other
interesting changes as well. While the Forgotten Realms setting
will still be supported as a product line, core D&D will officially
be considered to take place in the World of Greyhawk. The Ravenloft
and Planescape settings are going to be folded into the system and
be part of the core rules. This means that in the long run, the
narrative style and other unique PS elements will be toned down
to the setting changes, there is going to be a whole new look to
the art as well. The art department has been given nearly free reign
to completely redo the look of the game. While they are keeping
a standard fantasy middle ages feel, the artists are doing their
part to make things a touch more gritty, raw, and real. The concept
sketches they showed at the presentation were definitely a good
step towards accomplishing that goal.
The new Player's
Handbook will be released at next year's GenCon. The Dungeon Master's
Guide will appear in September, with the Monster Manual coming in
October. A handy book to convert between second (or first) edition
and third edition will also be made available. In each case, the
books will be full color and cost only $19.95 each.
if all of that weren't enough, hints (and outright statements) were
made as to upcoming third edition products. Some of these were the
expected modules. Bruce Cordell and Bill Ratcliff have been retained
to produce some of them. There are also going to be some "transition"
adventures released. (One of these, currently underdevelopment,
has the working title of "Die, Venca, Die!") Other hints
involved officially licsened products (specifically, computer games).
Unfortunately, there are no plans for any planar products until
at least 2001. (But, there will still be support in DRAGON Magazine.)
The first of
these is "Pools of Radience 2: Ruins of Myth Drannor"
by the SSI company. This will be the first computer game written
to use the new third edition system. Coming soon after that is going
to "Neverwinter Nights" by everyone's favorite software
company, Black Isle (Interplay). In addition to being a third edition
game, it also promises to be more fully multiplayer as well as boasting
a "DM mode".
I know that
in my first article, I stated that I didn't really want to see any
radical changes to the system. Some of the changes that have been
made are fairly radical (the main one being the reworking of AC
and THAC0). However, I think that these changes are indeed going
to be for the best and I look forward to being able to spend money
on this latest product.
For those who
want more information, there are some websites that can be visited.
- The Offical Site of D&D3
- Site for Neverwinter Nights