Today Wizards of the Coast and D&D Beyond have announced that they're expanding their Third-Party content to include two major releases from Ghostfire Gaming. Starting today you can obtain Lairs of Etharis and pre-order Dungeons of Drakkenheim marking the second time Third-Party content has been available on the platform.
To mark such a momentous occasion I was able to sit down with the Dungeon Dudes, Monty Martin and Kelly McLaughlin, to talk about Dungeons of Drakkenheim being available on D&D Beyond as well as with Greg Tito, Senior Communications Manager at Wizards of the Coast to talk about this development.
Ghostfire Gaming and D&D Beyond
At first, I wanted to hear from Martin and McLaughlin how long the addition of Dungeons of Drakkenheim to D&D Beyond had been in the works. Martin immediately hopped in to say it had been incredibly sudden to them "I think it was two months ago that we heard that it might be a thing that could happen". The 'might' was heavily stressed.
Martin and McLaughlin had always imagined D&D Beyond as the "White Whale" to be able to see their book appear. They knew that Ghostfire Gaming had been looking for more places to make their adventure available but they hadn't expected something like this.
Martin and McLaughlin both chuckled as they recounted when they first heard stirrings of the possibility of being on D&D Beyond that it might be something that manifested "in a year or two" but today they've been able to announce that Dungeons of Drakkenheim will be available of D&D Beyond in the month of December.
Turning to Greg Tito I wanted to know how long Wizards of the Coast had been seeking out further third-party material. He explained that WOTC had received exceptional feedback from their first third-party offering, Tal'Dorei Campaign Reborn, but that that circumstance was a bit different due to the history of Wizards of the Coast working closely with Critical Role and Darrington Press in the past for releases like the Explorer's Guide to Wildemount and Critical Role: Call of the Netherdeep.
"The experience of fans loving Tal'Dorei Campaign Reborn was another way for us to say 'wow, this is something we should invest in more quickly'" Tito explained
What is the Dungeons of Drakkenheim?
Dungeons of Drakkenheim is a level 1-13 adventure that came from a setting that the Dungeon Dudes created. In this setting, the capital city of Drakkenheim was hit by an eldritch meteorite spreading corruption and creating an inhospitable environment.
As this is such a dangerous place to explore the only people left in this cursed city are those who are there for a purpose. Over the course of the story players will venture into the city to learn more about the corruption and seek out their own personal goals, something players and DMs establish with the help of a fully fleshed-out character creation process.
Once inside the city, they'll encounter five different competing factions, each with their own goals and none on particularly friendly terms with one another. The personal goals of the party might align them with certain parties, while also putting them at odds with other parties.
Each faction has a fully detailed section highlighting their leaders and goals, as well as quests that they might set the players on and even hit squads that they might send after the party if they turn against them.
This adventure is purely driven by the players and both Martin and McLaughlin wanted me to be sure I knew there was "no secret big bad, no god dragon, and no evil cult pulling strings"
Corruption Within The Walls Of Drakkenheim
One feature new to Dungeons of Drakkenheim that D&D players won't be familiar with is the corruption that can take place if you spend too long in Drakkenheim or try to take a long rest within the city walls.
Each time a player accrues Corruption they will need to roll a d6. If it lands on a number below their current Corruption total they'll gain a mutation. These mutations might be "tentacles, a second mouth on your stomach, or even spider-arms out of their backs." Martin shared an experience of a Fighter in their party who obtained spider arms and was able to clamber up walls while taking shots.
It's not all fun and games though as McLaughlen added that if they get to the point of gaining six mutations they'll suffer the fate of a horrific transformation and become a DM-controlled eldritch monster.
At the time of release, the D&D Beyond character sheets won't support the additional character mechanics related to Corruption. In discussions with the developers at D&D Beyond, there was an understanding made that it wasn't something that they could add "yet" but that for something as simple as tracking corruption from one to six or spider-arms the notes feature of the character sheet could be enough.
Tito explained further that unlike the Spells, Sub-Classes, and Magical Items that D&D Beyond already supports building out a system like this would take more time. "Dungeons & Dragons is a game built around exceptions. Once you have the base rules in you then need to program around the exceptions and adding a whole new system adds a lot" Tito explained, along with the disclaimer that he isn't the person to be asking about the programming.
Working With The D&D Beyond Team
Asking Martin and McLaughlin what the process was to integrate Dungeons of Drakkenheim within D&D Beyond they had nothing but positive things to say. Immediately they were connected with those who would be integrating their Adventure into the story to understand the full scope of what would be achieved.
Players will be able to toggle the Dungeons of Drakkenheim option when creating a character and immediately get access to the various Subclasses, Spells, and Magical Items for their character sheet.
On top of that Martin and McLaughlin were able to confirm to me that Dungeons of Drakkenheim would support the newly launched Maps functionality. Within Maps DMs will be able to add any of the monsters from Dungeons of Drakkenheim or other purchased content to a battlefield that all party members can view and interact with to make battles easier than ever.
Dungeons of Drakkenheim Cosmetics
For those who like stylizing their D&D Beyond experience, there are options to change backgrounds, and portraits, and even obtain themed dice. I asked if we should expect any cosmetics related to Dungeons of Drakkenheim or other Ghostfire Gaming products and Tito advised at this time they were focused on the content from the book becoming available.
D&D Beyond Continuing Third-Party Support
Talking more with Tito I wanted to understand D&D Beyond's process for approaching Third-Party Publishers. "That process is really interesting to me because in hindsight it's really obvious but also reliant on 'when things fall into place' then it becomes a quick process."
At this time Tal'Dorei Campaign Reborn was a product of the close relationship between Wizards of the Coast and Critical Role, but with Ghostfire Gaming it's a much larger step into the world of Third-Party publishing.
At the moment D&D Beyond is in the process of reaching out to potential Third Party Publishers. I asked if the future might hold a chance for Third-Party publishers to reach out to D&D Beyond and Wizards of the Coast but Tito laughed while explaining "he's not in those meetings so he's not sure which they'd prefer."
"I think this announcement, because it's a little bit different from the relationship we've had with Critical Role, I think we're going to have tendrils reaching out to all those folks but of course, there may be some that have an audience that even we don't know about like they're really popular in Poland or something. We're watching all the channels, and forums, and social media areas in which D&D fans get their content. I think there is no one way for it to happen and we're seeing how it goes."
"We're excited that this offering here in December leads to more companies wanting to work with us going forward, [Third Party Support] was always there on the whiteboard but it's become a reality much sooner and in the 50th anniversary year of 2024 we're hoping to see much more."
For those who might already own Dungeons of Drakkenheim and may want to pick it up digitally, I did want to know if an a-la-carte option would be offered like there has been for previously released books on D&D Beyond. Tito explained that they would only be selling the book as a single unit, but also brought to my attention that the recently released Book of Many was also only available at a single price.
Previously if you had only wanted a certain class, race, or feature you'd be able to purchase them separately. With this shift it's likely going forward digital book purchases on D&D Beyond will be all or nothing.
In talking about the positive response to Tal'Dorei Campaign Reborn, and the release of Lairs of Etharis and Dungeons of Drakkenheim it's likely that we'll see more and more third-party content coming to D&D Beyond before too long.
D&D Beyond PAX Unplugged Announcements
Knowing that PAX Unplugged is right around the corner I also had to ask whether there is more in store for fans of Dungeons & Dragons as well as users of D&D Beyond.
While Tito didn't say too much he did bring up that there would be a Dungeons & Dragons panel at 3pm on Friday December 1st that will be broadcast live via the PAX Twitch channels with a number of the D&D leadership and that there "might be more hints about products to come for 2024 that have not been fully announced yet.