PAX East 2012: Part 2 – Picking the Brains of Wizards and My Tolkien Obsession Pays Off!

So, from my last article, you might be thinking that all I did at PAX East was play D&D. And you’d almost be right.
I did find time to cruise around the Expo Hall a couple of times, most memorably when I walked up to the Turbine booth just as someone said, “So who here thinks they know some Lord of the Rings trivia?”

Long story short, I walked away with a state-of-the-art Dolby 5.1 set of gaming headphones. Thank you, Professor!

Another notable exception was when I had a chance to sit down with some of the folks from Wizards of the Coast in another interview. This time I got to pow-wow with one of WotC’s many men named Chris (I’m pretty sure it was Chris Sims. Chris, if I’m wrong, I certainly apologize!) and uniquely named Shelley Mazzanoble!

For about 30 minutes we traded talk of gaming geekery. I told them about how the Playtest had gone Friday night and about how my husband had built me a custom gaming table (as promised, Shelley, I told him how cool he was. ;) )

They also answered lots of my questions about D&D, specifically about the upcoming Rise of the Underdark event and the future of D&D branching into D&D Next. Here’s what I jotted down as we spoke.

Drow, Drow Everywhere…

The big “Crossover event” as it might be termed, is Rise of the Underdark. I was already aware that the Drow and the Underdark were big this year. After all, I’d already been menaced by Lolth just to get this far! This event begins with “Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook”. This book for players and DMs is coming in May and has lots of new options, including new powers, themes, equipment, and the development of the goblin and the kobold into fully supported player races in 4E. This book is meant to prep DMs and players to handle the dangers of the Underdark and the difficulties of running an Underdark campaign. Hmm. I think I wrote an article about this myself!

Two new products will be coming out this year to support DMs from mapping out an Underdark game: In June, the Urban Underdark Dungeon Tiles set will bring us tiles to help one build a sprawling Drow city or other Underdark dwelling. Then Vaults of the Underdark will arrive in July, a map pack of 3 full color, double-sided maps detailing the bizarre, alien landscape of the Night Below.

And if you have tiles and maps, you’re going to want awesome figures, so get ready for July’s “Sting of Lolth, a Drow-themed minis set for the Dungeon Command game. And Gale Force 9 is bringing out even more fun stuff with maps and sculpted stalagmite pieces to make your games amazing!

If you play D&D Encounter, be ready to face the perils of The Council of Spiders and enjoy new Encounter Cards: Drow Treachery! Yes, the Drow are slipping into the weekly organized play, too, but in a rather surprising way that ties into the piece that I’m most looking forward to.

A ways back, when asked if they had a new campaign setting coming out in August, WotC said, essentially, sort of. I remember it being said that the setting wasn’t necessarily new, but it would be a new way to play D&D. Shortly thereafter, Amazon spilled the beans and announced Menzoberranzen, City of Intrigue. I remember a lot of grumbling online. How was this new? Menzoberranzen had been part of the Forgotten Realms for ages!

Well, the setting may not be new, but the concept is. In this campaign setting, you play drow (and presumably other Underdark denizens) who don’t necessarily have each others’ best interests in mind. Have your players been wanting an evil campaign? Well, here’s a really intriguing opportunity. And I gather that Council of Spiders is tied into this concept. Get ready for some back-stabbing fun!

Beyond this, the action is crossing over into novels, the comic book, the Heroes of Neverwinter Facxebook game, and more. And did you think that the fact that Dungeons & Dragons Online was set in Eberron would keep them safe from Lolth’s plans? Ha! For the first time ever, DDO is going to be crossing into the Forgotten Realms, as the greatest heroes of Eberron are called on to help deal with the machinations of the Demon Queen of Spiders herself. Gonna be a bit of a culture shock from all those scorpion-worshipping Xendrik drow.

Looking to the Future

Whew! With all that Dark Elfy stuff, did we talk about anything else? Why yes, we did. We chatted about two of my favorite subjects: Miniatures and What Comes Next.

Last PAX East, Chris Perkins told me there was a plan for miniatures, and now that plan is coming to fruition. We talked a fair amount about Dungeon Command. It’s being released in themed sets. For example, I mentioned Sting of Lolth above. There are also sets like Tyranny of Goblins, Curse of Undeath, and Heart of Cormyr. Each set contains 12 non-random minis, including one Large figure, revolving around the central theme. If you’re like me, you’ll use them as PCs and monsters for your D&D game, but they also represent a game on their own. This game is diceless, with command cards used to move and take actions. There are also stat cards included to use the monsters with the Adventure Game sets like Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, and Legend of Drizzt. They also include tabbed tiles, similar to the ones from those games to build a board with. This seems like an amazingly flexible and useful product for folks who love fantasy minis.

I had to ask, on behalf of the guy who plays a Shardmind in my game. What about figures for players who want to play the more unusual races in the game? Was there any hope for them? Indeed, I was told. They were starting with the basics…goblins, orcs, drow, undead, etc. Heroes of Cormyr should have a lot that players would find useful, and other sets would be following if these proved popular. I suspect these will be a big hit.

We also chatted a bit about D&D Next, though of course there was very little they could tell me that I didn’t already know. After trying (and failing) to find an avenue we could follow, I told them what I’d been telling people about it: Don’t worry. It’s still D&D. There will be things you’ll find familiar and things that’re new, but it’s still going to be the game we all love. They seemed to like that, and they added that the one thing they want to say to everyone is that the best thing to do is to get involved with the upcoming open playtest and give feedback. The more open playtest is coming “Soon”. Everyone related to WotC that I asked would smile a little smile and say “The open playtest is coming soon.” I have a feeling it’s coming along very quickly indeed.

How important is it to take part? Well, I know changes are coming due to the playtests and feedback, because I’d managed to hear a few details that had changed from the 1.5 version of the rules my playtest was with to the new version that WotC’s designers are already trying out, and the changes had been made directly because of the feedback they’d received.

So get involved, people! No whining if you don’t do the playtest and then don’t like the game!

Your Turn

Are you looking forward to the big Rise of the Underdark event? Will you get involved with the new Menzoberranzen campaign setting and betray your friends? Will you be getting into the playtest? Let us all know.

About GGG

Andy/GGG is a gay geek guy for sure. He's been playing D&D since he was 10, and he equates reading Tolkien with religion to some degree. He's a writer/developer for a Live Action RPG called The Isles, and he writes a comic called Circles, a gay, furry slice-of-life piece that comes out way too infrequently.

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