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Dungeons & Dragons is finally getting a proper digital app (update)

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This is not the first attempt at a digital companion

Art from the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition Player’s Handbook. Adventurers opening a chest. Wizards of the Coast

Dungeons & Dragons is building a modern digital toolset. Called Dungeons & Dragons Beyond, it will feature a mobile companion app for Dungeon Masters and players alike. Scheduled to enter beta release this summer, the tools will be designed and maintained in partnership with Curse, the community-focused communications platform that was purchased by Twitch in August.

In a brief press release issued during last weekend’s PAX East, publisher Wizards of the Coast provided few details. The app will reportedly work on any device, and will be specifically designed for fifth edition rules. It will include a “rules compendium, character builder, digital character sheets, and more.” The ultimate goal of the app is to “make game management easier for both players and Dungeon Masters.”

This is not D&D’s first attempt at a digital companion. The last effort, called D&D Insider, was launched alongside the fourth edition of D&D in 2007. It included a very useful character builder, which drew from every available D&D sourcebook and would output a usable character sheet. There was also a rules compendium, and an Adventure Tools encounter generator. An embedded Monster Builder even allowed DMs to add templates to existing monsters on the fly, flavoring them to meet their needs at the table.

D&D Insider was unfortunately built on Microsoft’s Silverlight platform, and failed to make the transition to mobile platforms like Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. It was effectively shut down in 2012, but is still available online for those with an active account.

A number of alternate digital toolsets grew up alongside D&D Insider. Two of the most popular, Fantasy Grounds and Roll20, have recently become fully licensed by Wizards of the Coast and release new content in a digital format at the same time your friendly local game store gets the latest books.

Fantasy Grounds, which is available via Steam, and Roll20, which is available for both desktop and mobile devices, differentiate themselves from the D&D Beyond project. Both allow for online play, and Roll20 even offers integrated voice chat and video conferencing.

While the Curse platform is certainly capable of supporting online play, as well as voice and video chat, that does not appear to be the focus of the D&D Beyond product at this time. We’ve reached out to Wizards of the Coast for more information.

In the meantime, those looking for digital versions of D&D sourcebooks, fourth edition and earlier, you can head over to DriveThruRPG where they can buy searchable PDFs.

Update: Adam Bradford, project lead for Curse, went to Reddit over the weekend to add some clarity to the press release.

“D&D Beyond is a responsive web application that can work on any device,” he wrote. “Definitely not a desktop client or mobile app only available for iOS or Android. We care a great deal about offline capability, and you'll be able to access your characters, etc. just fine on the terrible WIFI at those conventions.

“The DDB toolset is being developed by Curse Media and is not a directly tied to the former Curse App that was recently shared has become the Twitch App.

“At launch, players will be able to access SRD content and build and view a small number of characters with a free D&D Beyond account. We don’t have exact pricing nailed down, but you will also be able to buy official digital D&D content for all fifth edition products with flexible purchase options. You can pay only for the D&D content you need. If you only play fighters, for example, you’ll be able to just pick up the stuff you need to track swinging that giant two-handed sword. This is NOT a microtransaction model - we aren't forcing anyone to buy the content in small chunks - it can still be bought all at once. It's all just flexibility.”

He added that a small monthly subscription will be needed if users want to manage more than a handful of characters, or enable more advanced features like homebrew content.

Thanks to commenter Imaria for the tip in the comments below.