I consider this a public service, since there’s tons of confusion about the issue (and for that I can place the blame solely on Wizards of the Coast.) With the advertisement in the back of every core book, it seems like the service launched, but that’s not the case. I’ve been asked lots of questions about what you can and cannot do with D&D Insider right now, and the answer is not much, though the first real bit has come out today.
For those who totally are unaware, D&D Insider was planned to be the new digital component of 4e D&D, a suite of tools designed to complement playing. The big elements that were being pushed were:
- Online play via the Game Table
- Character Generator
- Rules Compendium (one application that is supposed to contain all the rules, like a more robust version of 3e’s online SRDs)
- Social networking to find and connect with other gamers
- Dungeon & Dragon online magazines
The first, online play, is probably the most highly anticipated. As of the D&D Experience in February, they were still in “pre-alpha”, making it increasingly unlikely that the product would launch anywhere close to 4e’s release. As it stands, Wizards has taken a “it’ll be ready when it’s ready” approach, and given no time line.
Likewise, the character generator (and the accompanying “character visualizer”) has no ETA. Though it has been shown off to several news organizations, there is no word when it will be ready, even for a beta release.
The Rules Compendium launched in limited form today. Surprisingly, there appears to be no limit to who can use it – you don’t even need to be signed in to the website, unlike many other features. The Rules Compendium contains only information from the PHB at the moment, although some users have noticed that there appears to be ADDITIONAL content not present in the book. It also does not contain the core rules, just information on how to make a character.
Social networking is not there yet, though Gleemax is up in some form, and has been for a while. Even the Wizards staff who used it to blog agree that it’s not there yet. Confusion between it, the other parts of D&D Insider, and the message boards have engendered quite a lot of vocal opposition to the whole idea. The bottom line is the piece launched too soon for everything they wanted it to do, and many are not happy about it.
Dungeon & Dragon magazines have had regular content added, which can be downloaded for free from the site by signing in. This month has seen some quality content: expanded Warforged race (for those wanting to play Eberron in 4e ASAP), some Mearls kobold goodness, and even a new adventure. Though it caused a large outcry when the licenses were pulled from Paizo, the two magazines are probably the only piece of D&D Insider that not only launched on time but delivered what was promised. (Mostly.)
So, the bottom line is that D&D Insider is not here yet, though you wouldn’t know it from Wizards site or by looking at all the ads they placed in the core books. Had the digital piece been a later addition, and not something promised to be tightly integrated with fourth edition, Wizards could have avoided a lot of the negativity they are experiencing right now.
EDIT: A statement has been put up about the Rules Compendium, in a horrendous tiny window without a visible scrollbar.