On Sunday of Gen Con I got to sit down with a member of the Wizards of the Coast team to chat about their latest Dungeons & Dragons campaign, D&D Next as well as their use of multiple forms of entertainment to tell their story, something I think they do better than most folks out there. You could tell walking into their booth the Wizards team was buzzing coming off of the first keynote address of Gen Con (which you can watch below). The booth again was a draw with a giant model creature blending a woman with spider loomed over all who entered.
First up in the discussion was D&D Next, the still in production next version of the classic roleplaying game. Playtesting began in May 2012 and there’s currently around 75,000 individuals signed up on the official website helping to put together this cornerstone product. While most games have playtesting as part of the creation process, I can’t remember such a high profile project turning to crowd sourcing and being open to anyone. This was definitely the biggest playtesting for Wizards.
But, that seems appropriate for the community as D&D in the whole is a fan driven product and property. The staff of Wizards play the game, and listen to what the greater community says. I got the sense that this is a company that takes their role as a “keeper” of the history seriously. The company sees the fans think of D&D campaigns as “theirs,” unlike how one would describe a board game. It’s “my” D&D campaign, unlike “my” game of Monopoly. In that sense of community Wizards is focused on what the community wants and second on their mind is the expansion and bringing in the next generation of D&D players. This all culminates with giving current fans a say into what D&D is, as you can see with D&D Next.
But D&D as a whole is a shared experience. It’s broken past the restriction of just being a roleplaying game, but instead you can find the property in books, comics, video games, Facebook games, board games and more. Smartly, Wizards keeps the focus of the products to each other, for example this latest campaign, Rise of the Underdark, the story is being told through numerous entertainment mediums.
In this year’s Rise of the Underdark campaign, Dungeons & Dragons® invites players to explore the notorious drow race and venture into a world of darkness and danger. Mystra, the goddess of arcane magic, is dead and Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders, is making her bid to seize control. The drow invasion has begun, and adventurers are needed to help stop Lolth from bringing about everlasting darkness to the surface world. With a robust suite of offerings focused on the drow race, D&D® players get a deep-dive into the events surrounding the Rise of the Underdark and gain access into the minds and lives of the popular race like never before.
This campaign sees Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival, the board game Dungeon Command, the book Charon’s Claw, RPG Supplement and Fortune Cards and accessories, Dungeons & Dragons Online and more all explore it’s setting.
You can enjoy each on their own, but together they create a richer world and story. Can you say you saw this planned cross promotion/synergy with any comic book movie launched this summer? This shared experience takes years of planning, which means the next campaign is well underway allowing for communication, collaboration and continuity.
Walking away, I really got the sense this was really about the community and coordination and planning that allows that community to tell fun stories together.