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Friday, April 17, 2015

"I’m not a hundred percent comfortable right now (with the Digital Tools)" - Nathan Stewart, Brand Director for Dungeons & Dragons at Wizards of the Coast

Yep, another quote from the Forbes article.
Are you comfortable with where you are in terms of digital tools and accessories for the tabletop game? 
I’m not a hundred percent comfortable right now, because I felt like we took a great step backwards. We had a partner who seemed like they were on track to bring out some digital aids that were gonna be good for players, but now we’re looking for different people to bring that forward. We’ve got some opportunities, but I don’t think we have anything concrete right now that serves the main purpose of actually making the tabletop play better. 
One of the missing components that we still need to deliver is technology actually aiding the tabletop play in a way that encourages more eye-to-eye contact. I don’t want the game to be three or four guys sitting at a table looking at their computers and not talking. I want the digital tools help create more talking, more story-telling, more role-playing in the role-playing game. We’ve got a couple different options that we’re looking at right now and we do have some opportunities there but we’re a little behind where I’d like to be in terms of delivering that.
A few things.

You know what digital tool most folks want more than any other?

PDFs of the core rulebooks. Flat out simple. Put them on my tablet and I no longer need to carry a stack of books. This is the digital tool most requested and the one least likely to be seen anytime soon.

You know what digital tool is missing from the answer quoted above?

Fantasy Grounds. Yep, the VTT that got the license to see D&D 5e officially for use with their software. I thought it was fairly big news. I guess I was wrong. Could the article have been written and the interview  done prior to the announcement? Sure, but there is no hint of upcoming excitement in the "digital tool" world in the above answer.

Codename: Morningstar - the remains of the micro transaction virtual printing press that WotC was banking on couldn't even cut it as a Kickstarter, although asking for $425k might have been a bit much. Of course, this is why there are no PDFs for 5e. They were banking on the micro transactions from The Project That Would Become Morningstar, much like 4e was banking on a VTT subscription service to pay it's way.

Interesting how that works out. In the days of 4e, WoW was the king of MMORPGs and folks played a monthly fee to play. These days, most MMORPGs are subscription free - they make their money on micro transactions.


  1. Agree, Fantasy Grounds (FG2) 5e release is pretty big. The improvements in the interface are worth $20 for the Lost Mines adventure. The fact that it isnt even mentioned is odd, not sure when the article was written though. The thing is with FG2, the did create the micro purchase options as well as full offerings for the PHB and MM. If you're a player and only want the warlock, then just get that and you're good to go if you have a DM with a lite liscense. For what it does as a virtual table top, it does it very well.

    from what i've read in the FG2 threads at ENworld a lot people are looking for a tool like the 4e DDI character creator. And dont get that FG2 is a VTT not a character creator, though IMHO it does that well now with drop and drag for the game. WOTC could easily go with HeroLab right now and have within months an excellent tool for character creation, which you can print out or use at the table with a tablet or computer and export to FG2 AND IIRC, d20 Pro. And just like Pathfinder have the data as Microtransactions for HeroLab as well.

  2. Fantasy Grounds is big for online gaming, but he was talking about digital tools for tabletop face-to-face play. I was commenting in another forum myself that Fantasy Grounds, while very useful for online gaming, isn't really doing to do squat for me at my game table since I don't do online gaming like that and find it to be fundamentally less engaging than actual face-to-face gaming.

    I think he's envisioning apps and utilities that you interact with on a tablet or laptop that facilitate play.

    That said, absolutely agree that the top thing they could do right now to help the game table out would be to release PDFs of the core books.

  3. "One of the missing components that we still need to deliver is technology actually aiding the tabletop play in a way that encourages more eye-to-eye contact. I don’t want the game to be three or four guys sitting at a table looking at their computers and not talking."

    A few years ago I was using http://roll20.net/ for my face-to-face game. Each player had a laptop in front of them connected to my game. While having fog of war and dynamic lighting was really cool, I stopped using it. Many of the players and I felt disconnected from each other. So I understand completely where he's coming from.

  4. The original micro transaction at least in gaming terms was the arcade video game machine. Interesting that things have come back to that. Albeit, MMOshave yet to go to the 10 second countdown with "Do you wish to continue add a quarter." In that case it was more impulse buying - gott beat this last boss. I don't know what micro transactions you could have that would be valuable for players in a face to face game. I do use PDFs and I think core rules in that format would be helpful.

    Not sure why they're holding off on that. Not am Insure how that enhances face to face interaction. By keeping back something useful like PDFs. I guess I'm a bit perplexed as to what digital tool will help wih more Eye to Eye contact...

  5. Assume no PDFs because they know book sales will plummet when nerds copy and pirate the game for free. And they're right.

  6. While I agree with Eric that PDFs would be really nice, I understand how much easier a small PDF is able to be pirated (as opposed to movies or other large size media files).

    I can't really blame WotC too much for this hesitation, although I think they could adopt the Paizo model with the way they watermark the PDFs with the buyer's name/email (add credit card number in there and no one would EVER pirate). :)

    1. On the other point, the article responses were almost certainly given before there was an official announcement/contract with Fantasy Grounds, so the brand manager would have been on a strict embargo not to talk about that.

    2. Much as i would prefer pdfs, if their main concern is piracy (too late) i don't understand why they don't use something with more DRM to release them digitally, like Kindle or whatever that cloud-based thing Comixology uses.