Embrace your digital future, D&D players!

Posted on July 31, 2009 by

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As I was working on my campaign with the new Monster Builder something hit me: I’m prepping for D&D, and I haven’t opened one book. This is significant. For years , the game has been played with a stack of books being carried around on a backpack from game to game, and soon, that era will be over.

Sure, some of you will say that PDF’s already made that a reality, but I counter that you had the option to have dead tree material to play with if you so chose. I believe that with DDI, D&D is positioning itself to one day be an all digital game, and that published material will eventually be phased out. Why? Because it makes too much sense.

I don’t see the need for the company to keep publishing books, with the expenses and risk that go along with it, if they can just adopt a subscription based digital model. The door is wide open with DDI, and even though they haven’t released subscription numbers, my guess is they’re doing alright. We haven’t seen a “Try DDI free for a week!” yet, meanwhile KOTS and the quick start rules are available for download on their site.

There’s a lot more money to be made by charging a monthly fee than there is trying to get me to buy the latest book that comes out. I picked up the Eberron Campaign Guide at Border’s and then put it right back on the shelf when I saw the $40 price tag. Yes, I know Amazon is cheaper but that’s not the point. If I’m going to be charged $70 yearly, and I’m going to get the contents of the PHB3, PHB4, PHB5, well guess what? I’m not buying those books. I don’t own the PHB2 for example, but use its classes in my games. It’s fairly obvious to me at least, where my particular game is headed. The Monster Manual I own has become bathroom reading material, to put it crudely.

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Fifteen years ago, nobody would have predicted the fundamental change the music industry has gone through in recent years, or the slow and predictable decline of newspapers. Fifteen years ago I had to put a cartridge in my Super Nintendo to play a game. Today, while yes, the physical media still exists (for now), I can download a game on XBOX Live and never touch a disk to play it. Movies can be ordered On-Demand, take a look at the outlook for Blockbuster Video if you’d like.

I’m no expert, but I think tangible media is slowly dying, and it’s naive to think our hobby’s not a part of that trend. Not now, not in 3 years, but one day in the near future. In my case, I welcome it, and I’m looking forward to the digital tools that are yet to come.

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