Thursday, July 15, 2010

Softer, Smaller, Cheaper - A look at the new Essentials format

Although we have talked a bit lately about the previews for D&D Essentials, most of the discussion has been centered on the content of the books, with topics like the new design goals and details about class builds. This is the usual thing, after all. But wait, there’s more! Not content with being innovative (and controversial!) in its content, the Essentials line is also making some bold experiments with book format. Look at the following picture, to see what I mean:

That’s right, the new books will be significantly smaller! Oh, and they will have twice the number of pages to compensate, and switch from hardcover to paperback. This will likely bring chaos to our shelves (the books no longer match!) but, on the bright side, it will also cut prices by a good margin. So far, I’m cautiously optimistic about the change, but I’ll have to hold the books in my hands to really know if I like the new format or not. I mean - what will happen with page layout? I don’t think they will be reducing their font size, but it’s hard to see a double column fitting in the smaller page otherwise - and stuff like power writeups and monster stat blocks would look really weird without the stat block. On the other hand, I sure like the new prices...

This pic is a different take on the format comparison:

Like it or not, this new format is here to stay, as it has been confirmed that it will be used on books outside of the Essentials line. So I’m really hoping that they get it right. Anyway, here’s some numbers on the old and new formats, compiled from data in and a report from this year’s D&D Experience product seminar, by Critical Hits:

Size: 11” x 8.4” (27.9 x 21.3 cm)

Player’s Handbook 3
Pages: 224
Price: $35

Martial Power
Pages: 160
Price: $30

Essentials Softcover
Size: 9” x 6” (22.9 cm x 15 cm) -
Note: Total surface is 58% that of a regular hardcover

Player Essentials
Pages: 368 (~184 hardcover pages)
Price: $20

Rules Compendium
Pages: 320 (~160 hardcover pages)
Price: $20


  1. As someone who has bought a lot of smaller press games, I'm pretty used to the digest sized rulebooks. To be honest, for the most part I love them. Big glossy hardbacks look nice, but can be a pain to lug around and to hold to read if you don't have a lot of tablespace.

  2. Books in this format gonna look much better on my tablet. So I hope WotC release them as pdfs. If not - they gonna lose my money.