Gen Con 2011: D&D New Products Seminar

As usual, speculation was rampant on what Wizards of the Coast would announce at Gen Con. Given the departure of some high-profile names and based on statements made via the D&D website, the default prediction seemed to be the announcement of D&D 5th edition, or some kind of Basic/Advanced split forked off the current edition of D&D. As it turned out, none of that happened. Sources told me that while that certainly can’t be ruled out for the future (of course), any kind of announcement of that scope will have plenty of advance warning and won’t be conducted in secret (i.e., avoiding the way that D&D 4e was announced.)

That said, there was a major announcement at the end of the D&D New Products Seminar at Gen Con, and it’s one that gamers have been asking for a LONG time. In fact, it’s one that has implications beyond just D&D and to a number of roleplaying games. But will get to that- here’s some of the highlights.

The panel was run by Mike Mearls (announced officially as the head of D&D R&D, or El Jefe), James Wyatt, and Rodney Thompson.

D&D Novels

James Wyatt spoke about all the upcoming D&D novels. A variety of tie-ins are happening with Neverwinter, including the actual book Neverwinter starring Drizzt, followed up by Charon’s Claw. There’s also Brimstone Angels coming in November as an additional tie-in.

The Abyssal Plague cross-world crossover continues as well, with the two origin stories already published, three stories rolling out now as the plague strikes, and then three more stories coming to represent the plague spreading.

Experiments are also happening in the D&D novel publishing arm, including Shadowbane, an ebook only novel packed with what was described as “bonus features.” As well, three classic backlist D&D novels are being released every week, meaning the extensive library of D&D novels are entering the ebook era.

D&D Board Games

Conquest of Nerath was discussed, with the possibility left open of other games using the same game system (maybe this would be the return of Birthright? That’s pure speculation on my part.)

The three adventure system games (Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, and Legend of Drizzt) were discussed as well, with Legend of Drizzt representing the version that is the most finely tuned of all the games in the system. No word on any more games in that system.

The Dungeon of Dread board game that appeared in the Wizards of the Coast catalog was canceled, primarily because it did not meet the quality standards they set. This was discussed more in today’s Rule of Three, but Mike Mearls likened it to all the errata in 4e: evidence that they released products not up to quality standards, and they’re going to try and stop that from happening again.

However, a new game was announced by Rodney Thompson: Lords of Waterdeep, a “euro-style” game set in the famous Forgotten Realms city. Recruit adventurers, put plans into motion, and backstab the other lords on the way to victory. They delved into 2e Forgotten Realms materials for inspiration, including making some of the pieces actually resemble the money of Waterdeep.

Roleplaying Line

The Neverwinter Campaign Setting was available at the show (in fact, I have a copy) and they discussed what they were trying with it beyond the previous campaign settings. While the book is divided into player and DM sections, the two are designed to work together. So what themes the characters pick (and other character creation options) influences how the campaign plays out, while providing plenty of story hooks for the DM to use.

Madness of Gardmore Abbey is the upcoming “deluxe” adventure, a set containing poster maps, a sheet of dungeon tiles, tokens for all the monsters, and a Deck of Many Things. Also new to the format, Madness will contain 4 books of text, with a book never before seen in the folio-style adventures that only contains story hooks, locations, and NPCs. Since the adventure is designed to be open-ended, this book contains plenty of material to fill in any of the gaps between the major events. Many of the encounters were designed specifically to have non-combat resolutions, or in fact, actively discourage combat.

Mordenkainen’s Magical Emporium is back on the schedule as previously discussed, and will be released only through hobby stores (it will still be available online, however, just through those kinds of channels.) As part of the new focus on releasing quality products, it was originally pulled so it could undergo more playtesting so they could get it right the first time out. The book will contain more items under the rarity system, as well as character options, rules for followers and henchmen, new armor types, and basically, anything that you could buy in D&D goes into the book.

D&D Lair Assault organized play program launches in September with Forge of the Dawn Titan. The program focuses more on the combat/puzzle-oriented type of player, whereas Encounters (especially going forward) are more story-focused. Lair Assault is “unabashedly” aimed at power gamers who want to go up against a DM. For DMs, they receive a menu of options to populate a dungeon to make sure that the experience isn’t the same each time and gives the DM his own aspect of encounter design to use.

The Dragon’s Collector’s Set will be packaged like the Beholder Collector’s Set and include 5 chromatic dragon minis.

November brings Heroes of the Feywild, with plenty of options for fey characters. New class builds include a bard based on a wandering skald archetype, new druid build, and a dual-role barbarian that starts as a defender but when he rages turns into a striker. New races include the hamadryad, the satyr, and the pixie (which will be a flying race right from the start.) An Encounters season based on the old Beyond the Crystal Cave modules will accompany its release.

In December, just in time for Christmas, the Book of Vile Darkness. New options for evil characters, but most importantly, plenty of campaign advice on how to get evil and just plain antihero/not-so-good characters work together in an adventuring party.

New dungeon tiles coming, including Shadowghast Manor for haunted house-type pieces, and Cathedrals of Chaos which will feature plenty of diagonal corridors for making non-boxy layouts.

Next year comes Player’s Option: Power of the Plane Below (previously seen named in releases as Heroes of the Elemental Chaos). It will contain an elemental-using monk build, an “Essentialized” version of the sorcerer, a Sha’ir wizard build, and plenty of options for any character that wants to tap into elemental power. There will be no new races in this book. An encounters season based around the Elder Elemental Eye will accompany its release that will focus strongly on investigation (a first for Encounters). While Mike Mearls said that it won’t quite be to the level of a Call of Cthulhu game, it’s definitely different than previous Encounters seasons.

Also next year is an Undermountain “product” (i.e. not sure if it’s a single book, a boxed set, or what) which will contain poster maps, plenty of encounter areas, adventures, and the setting. It will also contain a random dungeon generator for when the PCs go off the map, because mapping all of Undermountain is something of a futile effort and this way provides infinite places to explore.


The Big News: Miniatures Return

Jumping forward a bit, the big product announcement I alluded to earlier was this: the return of miniatures produced by Wizards of the Coast… and this time, no random packaging. For all those gamers who said things like “I just want to be able to buy a box of orcs for my game,” this is for you.

Wizards will be releasing themed boxes of miniatures (like orcs, drow, goblins, elves, etc.) with non-random contents, providing a variety of miniatures in each box. Not only that, but the minis will be useable in a new skirmish game to be developed around the new minis. Each box will contain the stats you need to play with the box you buy, and interlocking terrain used to build the battlefield in interesting ways for each match (that is also fully useable in the RPG.) Additionally, after a few sets are out, you’ll be able to mix and match them in order to build your own armies, not being constrained by what you buy in each box.

The new miniatures skirmish game is notable in two aspects: first, it won’t use any dice. It is designed to be more strategic and less reliant on luck (though there will still be some) and is powered by some kind of action card system. Second, the skirmish game itself will be built on a completely open mass playtest that will appear on the D&D website starting in September. That way, the game will get plenty of testing and come out the best it can be.

Q&A Tidbits

  • This year, the amount of products was purposely pulled back in a bit to focus on putting out only quality books instead of trying to keep up to some schedule.
  • A new campaign-style (whatever that means) book will be released next August, but they’re not ready to discuss it yet. It’s not Dragonlance (though it sounded like they have ideas for that as well) and the new setting, while not answering if it’s an existing setting or something totally new, will have some kind of twist never before seen in D&D.
  • Virtual Table is still in beta and still being tested. Again, they don’t want to release it until it’s perfect.
  • DDI is being used to explore concepts quicker, and more niche. Kara-Tur is coming as a DDI theme in October, and the Runepriest (the least played class in the game) will get a new build there with Kara-Tur flavor. Al Qadim is another possibility for an upcoming DDI theme.
  • In supporting classes, they don’t just want to put out more powers (there are too many of them already), they want to release new options that fit with a story.
  • On Mike’s Legends and Lore columns: he’s examining the history of D&D, and looking on ways to bring D&D fans back to the fold by starting conversations instead of trying to push things on them. He’s examining the game from all its angles by playing all versions, and when he got his job, he read all the 1 star reviews of the PHB he could find as well as all the 5 star reviews.
  • Conquest of Nerath might get another game in its system, but it’s not going to be a mass-battle simulator for D&D. However, they are looking at some options for that.
  • Electronic versions of D&D books (new and old): not ready to announce anything yet, but they really are working hard to make it happen. A panelist did let it slip that some kind of subscription was coming that would be a yearly fee that allowed access to the entirety of the Eberron library.
  • Atari is working on more D&D video games, and there will be more chances for RPG tie-ins. Neverwinter is a good example of this.
Those were all the big ones. No 5e, but still some big news, and I have to say, Mike Mearls taking over as head of the D&D R&D department sounds like one of the best things that has happened to D&D in a while.

If you’d like to listen to the seminar in its entirety, the Tome Show has the full recording.

Here are the rest of the slides from the presentation and some detailed pictures of the Dragon Set:
About Dave

Dave "The Game" Chalker is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Critical Hits. Since 2005, he has been bringing readers game news and advice, as well as editing nearly everything published here. He is the designer of the Origins Award-winning Get Bit!, a freelance designer and developer, son of a science fiction author, and a Master of Arts. He lives in MD with e, their three dogs, and two cats.


  1. I hadn’t thought of it before, but Birthright could make a great concept for a board game. It could cover both large scale warfare and domain management to offer a neat experience. I think a game centered on Eberron’s Last War could be neat too.

    The bit about an Eberron subscription was interesting, and I’m eager to see what they end up offering and what the access fee will be.

    Also, thanks for the live tweeting of the session and congrats on the ENnie win!

  2. ‘For all those gamers who said things like “I just want to be able to buy a box of orcs for my game,” this is for you.’

    I actually don’t know a single person who used the miniatures for actual D&D games who did NOT say this, which is why I assume the revamp occurred. I’m sorta looking forward to the new miniatures. I only say sorta because 4th edition is largely unusable for my group. I have one player who refuses to play it, but the real problem is that when you get above 5 or 6 players it gets absolutely impossible to track the combats effectively without serious computerized help. Specifically I need something to help track the status effects that every single class slaps all over the place willy-nilly. This orc is blind, this one is under the paladin’s challenge, that one is this, this one is that, oh the tiefling can teleport because that one died, and I can get a stay in Bellevue trying to track it all. I’ll stop there before I really start to rant.

  3. Eurogame-style game, huh? I’m curious to see how well they can deliver on that. I’m wondering if they’ll bring an established designer onboard.

    Also glad to hear this trend of “we’re not going to release products if we’re not sure they’re very fine-tuned”. Less errata, more quality product.

  4. Glimm: Oh yeah, X turns until the Mourning would be pretty epic 🙂 And thanks!

    Chris: Mike Mearls said “our research discovered that RPG players don’t like buying random minis” and the room cheered.

    Andy: There were a few preview plays happening of Lords of Waterdeep and all reports were positive, but we’ll have to see when it gets closer to the actual time.

  5. @Chris I hear ya, there certainly can be a lot of conditions out there — particularly as the group moves into paragon tier and above. For my group, I bought a bunch of different colored sheets of thin foam which could be cut into squares with an exacto knife. Each player gets a color and then I as DM get a few colors. When the player throws an effect on a monster, he puts his tile under it. The players are then responsible for remembering what effects they still have up. It actually does a decent job of keeping the players attentive since they want to make sure the other PCs remember all the assorted bonuses they gave out and such. Still though, I wouldn’t want to regularly run more than 6 players at the table, just gets too bogged down.

    @Dave I agree on the minis being big news. This was the part that excited me most. Hopefully they are packaged in a fairly conducive manner (such that I don’t still have to buy 5 packs in order to get my 5 kobolds) but in any event, just knowing what I’ll be getting will make me far more likely to pick them up. I’m also looking forward to seeing how the skirmish game works. I’ve always been interested in the assorted minis games but just don’t have the money, or the time, to invest in them (particularly when consider the time spent painting the minis) so hopefully this will be something more conducive to my budget and schedule.

  6. Did they mention anything about more Gamma World novels?

  7. “A new campaign-style (whatever that means) book will be released next August, but they’re not ready to discuss it yet. It’s not Dragonlance (though it sounded like they have ideas for that as well) and the new setting, while not answering if it’s an existing setting or something totally new, will have some kind of twist never before seen in D&D.”

    Oh, please be Spelljammer. Please be Spelljammer!

  8. DQuartermane says:

    Thanks again for all the coverage. Having really just gotten into board games last year I really need to hit all the D&D board games but I like the premise behind Lords of Waterdeep.

  9. Prepainted D&D minis are coming back? Hooray! This is excellent news (for my game, not for my bank account.)

  10. Re: supporting “Electronic versions of D&D books (new and old)” — was there any sense of how ‘old’ they are talking? In particular, any possibility of supporting 0e/1e edition materials I wonder? Or just some of the most popular 3.0/3.5e materials?

  11. Stan – I asked that exact question, and they definitely are NOT going to be producing material for those editions. Instead, they’ll be working to try and make products fans of all editions would enjoy buying. There’s also the ongoing idea of bringing the older books back in online form.

  12. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the response! Even if they don’t produce _new_ material for 0e/1e did you get any vibe on if they might re-print any of the 0e/1e materials in digital form?

  13. To me it seemed that they were strongly in favor of getting D&D materials of all editions out there in digital form but weren’t quite ready to announce anything yet. However, the slip about the Eberron set may give some clue as to their plans.

  14. Ohhhhh, sorry Wizards! I already promised my miniatures money to Paizo when they promised the return of pre-painted plastic minis just last week.

    You snooze, you lose!

  15. Dave, thanks for the coverage, and the photos! I listened to the Tome’s recording of the seminar before reading your post, but I very much appreciate yours as well!

  16. ohkay, I really like the idea of the themed boxes of miniatures… but how are we to playtest this skirmish game???

    Using round cardboard chits I guess….

    I understand a “beta” test of the online tabletop, the character builder, and heck, even the heroes of the shadows/assassin builds.. but the last thing I expected to be playtesting was a miniatures game without minis!! (or dice for that matter)… interesting idea though. Josh

  17. @Josh I believe they mentioned that the playtest would involve downloading and printing out the cards and then using minis that you may already have. There may be some “This kobold is actually an Orc chieftian” but in principle, it should work.

  18. Are the minis coming out in 2011 or 2012? Excellent article. Many thanks for the post.

  19. I would highly suspect 2012 since the open beta doesn’t begin until September, but as far as I recall, they didn’t announce a specific date.

  20. “Each box will contain the stats you need to play with the box you buy, and interlocking terrain used to build the battlefield in interesting ways for each match (that is also fully useable in the RPG.) ”

    I wonder if the interlocking terrain will be compatible with (or will just plain BE) Heroscape tiles. After all, they own Heroscape and they’ve even released D&D figures for use with the tiles. Getting official rules for using hexes instead of squares in D&D would be quite useful, and this might be the motivation they need to do so..

  21. An interesting idea (and of course the Heroscape pieces were awesome) but from the sounds of it it seemed more like the tiles used in Castle Ravenloft than anything else. Plus construction Heroscape terrain is probably a bit more time-consuming than they’d want to ask people to do before a quick skirmish game.

  22. The Shaggy DM says:

    Freaking excellent news! My group is considering a switch from D&D to Dragon Age or Savage Worlds after our current campaign ends, but I’d still buy the minis to go with whatever system we’re playing. The last set was (IMO) the best in terms of quality sculpts/paint jobs, and I was sad to see the line get cancelled just as they’d gotten it right.

    Also very happy to see renewed digital book efforts. May be too little/too late, but not having DMG2, PHB3, etc in digital format has been a HUGE un-selling point for D&D when I can get all the books I need for other game systems on my iPad and leave the milk crate of reference materials at home.

    Nice to see a book that will add magic items of varying rarity to actually make that system useful. Not too excited about having even more material overload otherwise, but glad to hear they’re focusing more on quality than arbitrary release dates. If done right, it might keep us in the fold, though I’d be far more pleased with efforts to bring the online CB/MB at least on par with their now-“classic” counterparts.

    Finally, more board games…yes, please! Ravenloft, Ashardalon, and Nerath are easily among our three most-played games, and all very well produced. Hope they playtest Drizzt a bit more and don’t leave so many holes in the rulebook, though.


  1. […] leggere un resoconto completo (in inglese) qui, ma se siete pigri ecco un […]

  2. ????? says:


    § [DnD][4e] Gen Con 2011: D&D??????(Gen Con 2011: D&D New Products Seminar) As usual, speculation was rampant on what Wizards of the Coast would announce at Gen Con. Given the departure of some high-profile names and based on statements made vi…

  3. […] seen any of the products I'm talking about. There are plenty of places to get that information. Here's a good one for the WotC seminar. I caught the live tweets of those guys to get the announcements […]

  4. […] the original: Gen Con 2011: D&D New Products Seminar : Critical Hits AKPC_IDS += "6168,";Popularity: unranked […]

  5. […] Wizards of the Coast z panelu, jaki mia? miejsce na GenConie. Ca?o?? mo?na przeczyta? tutaj, ja skoncentruj? si? tylko na rzeczach, które interesuj? mnie […]

  6. […] Critical Hits did a great summary of the Wizards of the Coast New Products seminar.  If you want to know what’s in the […]

  7. […] Source Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  8. […] publishing giant Wizards of the Coast announced Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition's return to the Neverwinter Nights setting (actually a part of the Forgotten Realms) across […]

  9. […] Foto: Dave “The Game” Chalker […]

  10. […] Mais detalhes, fotos e outras informações no Critical Hits. […]

  11. […] no insider knowledge about this: this is solely my speculation based on public statements and the Gen Con seminars I […]