D&D Insider?

It’s been awhile since I talked about the Wizards D&D Insider and all the awesome apps you get for making your 4e experience better and enabling you to play online with friends!

That’s because they haven’t delivered.

And it sounds like it’s no longer in development.

If you look around their site, you no longer see COMING SOON banners for the Character Visualizer (or what ever the virtual miniature creator thing was) or the virtual table they had plans for.

Do I feel duped for having bought a one year subscription to this?

Yes and no. I’m disappointed they won’t deliver on one of the tools I thought was going to be great, but looking at the price of what I paid (which amounts to 5$ a month) it’s not a bad deal for two (online) magazine subscriptions; Dragon magazine and Dungeon magazine. Unfortunately, I don’t play 4e and my group has decided against it so both this magazines aren’t going to be used in their given form.

Oh, I will likely nab some ideas or thoughts and read the articles, but I won’t be using them as is because they’re 4e.

The Character Builder is useless to me. It was put together really well and gets some fairly regular updates, but I’m not playing 4e so what good is it?

I should have known better with the failure of their previous attempts at creating (or outsourcing the creation) of software tools.

Ah well. I’ll likely put the 4e books right up next to my games from Turbine CDs.

D&D 4e Character Builder…

This application is now available in all its level 1 to 30 glory to D&D Insider Subscribers (I got a year long subscription for Christmas). For non-subscribers, you can take a look at a trial version that limits you to levels 1 to 3.

I have to admit, it’s a pretty straight forward and simple application. The installation takes a bit of extra elbow grease due to some of the prerequisite software, but the end result is quite straight forward. It’s like they took a look at how video games (i.e. Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights) handled creating characters and said, “Let’s do that!”

Really, it’s step by step with information available per selection you make so you can get an idea of what you’re picking before you look at it. It guides you through building a character and lets you hop back and forth. It also seems to tie into released content, including Dragon Magazine stuff (with a note of where the material comes from if you want to exclude it). It appears to do this by a built in updater – go figure.

Here’s a look of the content it contains:

The current data set available to create characters includes material from:

  • Player’s Handbook
  • Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Monster Manual
  • Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide
  • Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide
  • Adventurer’s Vault
  • Martial Power
  • Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons
  • Manual of the Planes
  • Online Magazines
  • Dragon Issues 364–370
  • Dungeon Issues 155–161
  • Adventures
  • H1 Keep on the Shadowfell
  • H2 Thunderspire Labyrinth
  • H3 Pyramid of Shadows
  • P1 King of the Trollhaunt Warrens
  • P2 Demon Queen’s Enclave
  • FR1 Scepter Tower of Spellgard
  • Preview Content
  • The Artificer, levels 1–30 (to appear in Eberron Player’s Guide)
  • The Barbarian, levels 1–30 (to appear in Player’s Handbook 2)
  • The Bard, levels 1–10 (to appear in Player’s Handbook 2)
  • The Druid, levels 1–3 (to appear in Player’s Handbook 2)
  • The Invoker, levels 1–3 (to appear in Player’s Handbook 2)

You have to admit, that’s a pretty impressive list considering I don’t even own close to half of those books. I was checking up on this to see how things are coming along. I was thinking about it earlier and wondering if my money was wasted since they don’t have all the D&D Insider Tools complete yet but I am happy to see this.

Still in the pipe is the Character Visualizer, Dungeon Builder and the Virtual Table. I’m have to admit I’m excited about the Virtual Table. I wouldn’t use it to replace my existing group (don’t lynch me guys) but it could be cool for bridging the gap between me and some others who might be interested in playing it.

UPDATE – July 10, 2009:

I just wanted to post a minor update to this entry since it seems to be getting a lot of hits. At the moment, the extra projects have been put on hold or have had development suspended for the time being. This happened awhile back and I did mention it in another entry.

If you subscribe to D&D Insider right now you basically get this tool (which does still get content updates including advanced looks at new source book releases), Dragon magazine and Dungeon magazine (in web or PDF format).

I have to admit, I think this is a good move on Wizard’s part.

By the way, the year subscription cost about as much as a PC game off the shelf.

UPDATE: I poked around with this a little more.

I created some characters from Dragon magazine material and from the Martial Powers sourcebook. I went ahead and made another Ranger, with this one being an Orc (Monster Manual rules for creating Orc characters) and I picked a new build from Martial Powers which has the Ranger give up the weapon spec choices (dual wield or ranged) for focusing on working with an animal companion. Martial Powers also adds a fair number of feats and powers suited to this. Very cool.

Here’s a quick character summary generated by the Character Builder:

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&DI Character Builder ======
Karrn, level 1
Orc, Ranger
Build: Beastmaster Ranger
Fighting Style: Beast Mastery
Beast Companion Type: Cat

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 19, Con 14, Dex 15, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 8.

Starting Ability Scores
Str 17, Con 12, Dex 15, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 8.
AC: 15 Fort: 15 Reflex: 13 Will: 10
HP: 26 Surges: 8 Surge Value: 6

TRAINED SKILLS
Nature, Perception, Stealth, Athletics, Endurance.

FEATS
1: Beast Protector

POWERS
1, At-Will: Circling Strike
1, At-Will: Predator Strike
1, Encounter: Enclose the Prey
1, Daily: Partnered Savaging

ITEMS
Raise Beast Companion, Adventurer’s Kit, Hide Armor, Broadsword, Handaxe, Longbow, Arrows (60)
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&DI Character Builder ======

I also poked around with some of the tabs and saw one called “Campaign Settings” under the “Manage” option. Guess what that lets you do? It lets you disable content from other sources. Don’t like Dragon mag content (Darin)? Just disable it. Cool thing is a DM can go in and set all this then export the settings and pass it along to his (or her) players who import it and can make characters to suit these limitations (basically, limit your choices).

Coming from a group where most of the players have also DMed and we all have varying levels or permitted sourcebooks and materials, this is great! (Unfortunately, we’re sticking with 3.5e…)

Other features include a journal (add entries, add images, etc.), an information panel for adding your background or other fleshing out things, a portrait picker and the ability to set XP and level the character up as needed.

It goes beyond just classes, races, powers, feats and builds though, it also includes items, lots of items, for equipping your characters too including the content from the Adventurer’s Vault.

When I bought the source books, there was no where for me to enter any codes or register that I bought these books so all this content comes to you with the subscription – I’m really impressed!

Cutting Costs…

Darren isn’t the only one cutting costs. The company I work for laid off a fair number of people world wide not too long ago. I had heard rumors of this a couple of weeks ago and it was confirmed later in that same  week.

While I knew I wasn’t going to be laid off, just knowing that it was happening took a bit of a toll on my nerves.

Now I’m not new to lay offs, I’ve been through several over the 11 years working here and you’d think it would get easier, but it doesn’t. The longer you’re at the same place, the more you get to know the people. The more you get to know the people, the more you tend to care about them. You get to know them, see they have families, see they have issues that are a lot like your own. You realize you share interests and become friends.

No one I’m close to here was let go. I’m fortunate about that but I was never certain of that. That compounded on top of other issues. I can’t say the same for some of the friends of my friends here. Some of them saw people they’ve worked with for over 10 years let go.

It’s not easy. On anyone involved. And it won’t be easy going forward as the workloads are redistributed to those that are still here.

Where is all this going?

Well, when things get stressful, people can either drown in it, burn out, bottle it up or do something that relieves stress. For me, that’s getting into RPG systems, which is why I’ve been poking around in D&D 4e lately. So you can see where my sudden interest in 4e has come from.

Now, Darren’s cutting costs made me think about my subscriptions. I am, currently, subscribed to World of Warcraft and Wizard 101. I almost decided to cancel Wizard 101 because my son hasn’t shown much interest in it lately, so, of course, he suddenly showed some interest in it yesterday. I’ll be keeping those two subscriptions for quite awhile.

I’m not really subscribed to a whole lot at the moment. My gaming costs are low since I don’t buy nearly as many games as I used to and I’m not chasing technology (I’ve spent about 20k over the last 10 years on PCs – that’s 2k/year). All that to say, I’m thinking I might pick up a year long subscription to D&D Insider soon, even though all the tools aren’t available yet. The cost of it is about what it would cost me to buy a game off the shelf so I think I’m going to go for it and see how it all works.

Or maybe I’ll ask the wife for it for Christmas…

UPDATE: The wife bought me a year long subscription. I’ll take a peek at it when I get home. She might not be a gamer, but she is pretty cool about this sort of stuff (substitute ‘cool’ with ‘patient’).

Whew… I Almost…

… went ahead and tried out LOTRO. I know, I’m waaaay behind the times. I went looking for a trial, just to see what it’s like since Scott seems quite content with it. Fortunately, Turbine has disabled their trial period pending the release of Mines of Moria.

And I won’t buy this game without a trial to ensure it will work fine (unlike DDO).

I also almost picked up a year subscription to D&D Insider. It is reasonably priced if you buy for a year, it’s about the price of any PC Game. However, I’m not sure how that would work out for a number of reasons.

1. How good are the tools?
2. How much time do I have to sink into playing around with it?
3. My D&D group hasn’t bought into 4e so I won’t get added benefit from that.
4. Today was the first day all week where I was able to sit down and play WAR so will I even have time for it?

I’m also wondering if I should fire up WoW again and fiddle around with a Rogue, Mage, Shaman or Paladin. I’m not sure where that is coming from because I’ve no desire to go through TBC again or any of the earlier content yet again. I suspect Blizzard implanted subliminal messages in their sound effects and musical scores. Okay, I don’t really suspect that… but it did come out of the blue.

I’ve even considered giving Vanguard another look since I did enjoy most of it, I just found it leveled to fast to really explore and enjoy a lot of the dungeon content. Maybe I’ll mess around with the trial isle thing. I can just see myself end up playing the Cleric again, getting into raiding and getting burned out or bored of it all.

Which brings me to WAR… two of players in my D&D group commented that I seem to dislike WAR from all the complaining I do about it. That’s an interesting observation that I’ve been reflecting on.

Do I dislike WAR?

I dislike the lack of dungeon content – I’m talking EQ1 style dungeon content where there are always dungeons available. Zipping down into Mount Gunbad was neat and I do like that they’re open dungeons and allow you to go in with a large group/warband because they have PQs inside, but I miss the frequency of them in the game world. Caves/mines/tombs/etc. that take 20 minutes to explore solo, just don’t do it for me.

I dislike the lack of depth to the PVE content. It’s all very solo friendly so I find myself doing it alone even in spite of the fact that there are almost always good guild players to group with. The PVE content seems very directed and witht he built in location spoiler, it is sort of easy. Yeah, I could hop over to another faction (which I may have to do because I’m running out of content on the Avelorn side of things).

I dislike that the scenarios all seem to be the same ones popping. I’m also noticing that the bolstering of rank doesn’t really help that much. If you’re in the bottom half of the tier, you’re still going to get creamed while you’ll feel pretty godly at the upper end of the tier. To me, this just screams for a need to drop bolstering in the Scenarios and divide the tiers in half.

I do like the idea of PQs but I don’t see a lot of people on when I can be on* (more on that bit later) so it ends up being a grind to max out influence for the Chapter without ever actually completing the second step of it.

Open RVR is the best aspect of the game by far. It’s fun, the gameplay is variant, especially when it isn’t taking unguarded keeps. Right now it’s the main thing I look forward to, it’s just too bad there are all these levels in the way of getting to the point where the playing field is even and everyone can participate.

Is that a “the game starts at max level” thought? Ducks and hides from Ysharros Naw, I think its the same underlying hatred for the level mechanic and everything that it comes with.

Really, I enjoy the aspects of playing with others and trying to take keeps, defend keeps, grabbing objectives and having open field fights. It’s really too bad the whole level thing is there.

*Back to the point about time. Last week I spent more time at work than I did getting sleep. It was pretty rough and a big part of it is that the fun part of WAR – open RVR – seems to get happening late in the evening and run until midnight or later. That really hurts because I lose track of time easily and sometimes find myself going to bed around 2am only to get up at 5:30am.

Looking at the things that I like from WAR, it almost seems I’d be better off messing around with FPS games or something. The problem is, I don’t get that sort of feeling from the FPS games.

I’m sticking with WAR for awhile longer.