Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Player's Handbook 3 out on July, 2009?

Lots of news today, not all positive, but definitely surprising. First of all, Player's Handbook 3 will be available to play as early as next July. The catch? It will be only for subscribers of D&D Insider, which will see a very convenient price rise (up to $72 for a one-year subscription, from the current $60) that very month. The announcement promises "Complete sections of final, playable material", to be released each month until March, 2010. More importantly, this content will be included in both Character Builder and Compendium, which have become essential in my games. As if to prove that they really mean it, they are also showing the gorgeous cover for PHB3:

What does all of this mean for DDI? Here are my conclusions, including a few reasonable guesses.
  • WoTC thinks DDI is mature enough to start charging full price. Either that, or they can't afford the current subscription fees.
  • An ideal scenario would have the price increase concide with the next software release, recently announced to be a set of *Campaign Tools (since the virtual gaming table is indefinitely postponed). This will probably not be ready for July.
  • They need a new, major feature for DDI to justify the raise, and it MUST come out on July. Since a software release is too risky or unfeasible, this means gaming material. A new Player's Handbook is as major as it gets.
  • Nevertheless, I'd bet that the Campaign Tools, or a subset of them, will be finished sometime this summer. Fans won't be as forgiving for delays, with the new prices.

In addition, we now know the following tidbits about PHB3:
  • Cover art will be the best of any 4E book to date, by far.
  • Power sources will be psionic, divine, and primal. I was expecting another brand new power source in addition to psionic, like Shadow or Elemental. They have to reserve something original for PHB 4 and 5, I guess. It's not difficult to imagine a psionic class for every role (including monk), but I didn think there was so much design space left for Divine and Primal classes.
  • Races will include minotaurs, Gith-something and Gith-the-other, and the previewed Wilden.
  • Before the book comes out, we will have seen 102 of its pages, which should be a bit less than half the total. This averages a dozen pages each month. As a reference, the monk preview from this month is 11 pages and includes half the class. I'm almost certain that the chapter dedicated to hybrid classes will be among the first shown. There's room for 5-6 half classes, or maybe 3 full classes divided in a couple of months each, plus a feats issue and probably another one dedicated to races.
So, what do you think? Is this an improvised cover for their software blunders? I may be too soft on WoTC, but I love the idea, even if I would be willing to pay the increased price just for the current service.

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