Why We Do What We Do

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on April 29, 2009

Wizards of the Coast puts out great materials for 4e D&D, but when looking at the bigger picture they have two significant problems. Addressing these shortcomings and making D&D better was a big reason we created Dungeon’s Master.

We’re coming up on our three month anniversary at Dungeon’s Master and we think we’re on the right track. I know what you’re thinking, Wimwick is about to toot his own horn, and you’re right I am. This is my soap box and I’m going to use it.

Before we launched Dungeon’s Master, Ameron and I both noticed the aforementioned problems Wizards was – and still is – experiencing.

Number one is timeliness. Aside from the hardcover rule books and accessories that Wizards puts out every month, their main communication vehicles are Dungeon magazine and Dragon magazine. These magazines (even in their online format) are still monthly publications. And, as with most monthly publications, they decide weeks or months in advance on which topics they want to write about. This limits Wizard’s ability to post timely articles when a particular topic gets hot.

Number two is cost. In order to read the Dragon magazine, Dungeon magazine and most of Wizards other good stuff you have to be a paying subscriber to Dungeons & Dragons Insider (DDI). Most of the guys in my core gaming group are subscribers, but I know a fair amount of the gaming community either isn’t willing to pay or can’t afford to pay for an online subscription.

We knew that we could reach a sizable audience by recognizing the hurdles Wizards faced and addressing them. So with that in mind we decided to launch this blog. We knew that the key to success was to publish quality content on a regular basis. We publish a minimum of five new articles every week and so far the feedback from our readership has been very positive. The other important decision was to keep Dungeon’s Master free; in fact, we don’t even have ads.

Next, we looked at the gaps. What aspects of the game were people talking about on the forums? What sort of content will gamers find useful? It didn’t take us long to see that many people, including the six at our game table, wanted to know more about the new mechanic called the skill challenge. The biggest void was the lack of generic skill challenge templates that DMs could easily adapt to their own campaign with minimal effort. So we addressed these gaps and set to work.

I knew we were on the right track as I read Mike Mearls’ column, Ruling Skill Challenges in recent issues of Dungeon magazine. In the April issue, #165, there is a great article on Social Skill Challenges. The article focuses on two elements. First it presents a very well laid out skill challenge involving haggling with a merchant. Second, it talks about the use of assisting during skill challenges and how to handle this as a DM. This is a great article and if you’re a DDI subscriber I encourage you to read it.

So, when I read Mike’s article, two thoughts flashed through my head. The first was, “Hey, don’t we have an article on haggling at Dungeon’s Master?” It turns out we don’t (yet), but we have one in development. What we do have are sixteen other skill challenges in our library. The second thought was that we already have two articles on assisting. So this is a good example of Wizards addressing the gaps but not getting around to it for months after the community asks for help.

In our first three months we’ve published two original modules, the third being released tomorrow (Module: The Guardians). We’ve written a slew of skill challenges and skill aides. We’ve talked about the game we all love and provided our input on how to make the 4e D&D experience the best it can be. When I look back at the past three months I know we are hitting the goals we set for ourselves when we started this venture, looking forward and seeing what’s on the docket for the upcoming month I’m equally excited.

My request to everyone who reads this is that you spread the word and tell people about Dungeon’s Master. If you find the content we’ve provided to be of value, then let your gaming group know about us. If there is specific content you’d like to see, let us know. Our contact information is on our About page or you can comment on this article. Thanks again to all our readers, we’re glad you’ve enjoyed us so far, just wait until you see what we have in store next month.

1 Dungeon April 29, 2009 at 9:16 am

Congradulations Wimwick, Ameron, on the 3 months. This is the best blog site i have ever been on (and it’s FREE!). You guys are on the right track. heck, you guys are making the track. the best track ever to run on!
hey, do you think it would be a good idea to have an article about custom creatures and new monsters, all DM and player created? ever wondered if the guy next to you had a better boss for your players than you. if you do this article, people will actually know. that’s my idea for what i’d like to see. 🙂

2 Wyatt April 29, 2009 at 12:45 pm

I’ve been meaning to add you guys to my blogroll, I guess I’ll do it now. I myself run a blog that is about giving free D&D 4e content, so I can definitely appreciate the sentiment on your part to do the same. That’s how you make a game better.

3 Suddry April 29, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Keep up the great work mates!

4 Chase Dagger April 29, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Great Article Wimwick, I’m new to D&D in general and find the site very helpful.

Personally I’d like to see (this stuff might sound silly because I’m a rookie):

Fire: I think fire is something that I’d like to have more of in my campaign. I’d really enjoy an article about Fire as a Trap, and Fire as a Skill Challenge.
What happens when the PCs light a fire in the haunted mansion? I’d like to see fire from a “within encounter” scenario and an “out of encounter” scenario.

Market Place and Economy: I was so disappointed when I first saw that all equipment of the same level had the same price. Why would the Bloodcut Armor be the exact same price as the Wavestrider boots?
My group has adopted rule of roll 1d20, if 10 or greater it’s a discount, 9 or under and it’s an increase. Then roll another d20 to determine the amount to increase or decrease (we add a d20 for amount +1 per item level). I’d like to see other ideas.
This being said, I can’t wait to see the article on “haggling” as you mentioned above. I’d even like to see an article called Skill Challenge – Yard Sale or Flea Market, I think that would be cool too.

Thanks for the great articles and congrats on the anniversary!

5 Wimwick April 29, 2009 at 6:33 pm

@ Dungeon
Thanks for the feedback. The idea of developing custom monsters isn’t one we’ve considered, but we’ll add it to the pile and see what we can come up with!

@ Wyatt
Thanks for the addition to your blog roll. We’ll be sure to return the favour! As you say, it’s all about making the game better for everyone.

@ Suddry
Will do!

@ Chase Dagger
We’re glad that you are finding the content useful! So are you the resident arsonist? I’ll see what I can do to put some fire into some articles for you. I’m not sure when our haggeling article will appear, I really think Mike’s article on the subject was great. Until we can find a way to spin the challenge a little differently we’ll likely leave it and work on other things.

6 Ameron April 30, 2009 at 2:17 pm

@Chase Dagger
Based on your suggestion I’ve started working on a “fire” skill challenge. I’ll see if we can get it up next week for you.

7 Chase Dagger May 1, 2009 at 9:32 am

You guys are the best! I’m very excited to see the challenge. Thanks Ameron. 🙂

@ Wimwick
“So are you the resident arsonist?” Sometimes I will be (I did find a pretty cool fire trap in a D&D adventure from Wizards), but I also mentioned the “Fire” thing, because I’m worried that if the PCs light a fire in a building as DM I may not be prepared to handle it (yano in a fun and exciting way.)
Seeing Ameron’s skill challenge will be a big help.

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