Wizards of the Coast: 2010-2011 Preview (Part 1: D&D Essentials)

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on August 9, 2010

Wizards of the Coast shared some highlights of their upcoming release schedule through the next year. Since there is so much coming out over the next 12 months we’re breaking this into two articles. Part 1 focuses on the upcoming D&D Essentials products. Part 2 covers everything else. You may want to bookmark these articles and keep coming back throughout the next year to find out what Wizards is releasing next.

D&D Essentials

This article is going to focus on all of the upcoming releases for the D&D Essentials line. Wizards described their Essentials line as 10 key products that all gaming stores should have on hand at all times.

Note: They said there are 10 products, but only eight were discussed. I suspect that the other two were included in the seminar but perhaps we not exclusive to D&D Essentials and therefor were not packaged in the same way.

They emphasized many times that these will not replace the existing 4e books. The D&D Essentials line is still 4e. It offers new, and in many cases simplified, options. For experienced players looking for lots of choice they can stick with everything that’s already out. But for newer players or those who find the plethora of choice overwhelming, there is D&D Essentials.

Materials from the D&D Essentials line will be available through the normal DDI updates. So Character Builder will let you use the new rules presented in D&D Essentials if you want to. Likewise, the materials in the upcoming Monster Vault will be incorporated into the DDI Monster Builder a month after its release.

All of the books in the D&D Essentials line are softcover, 6×9 digest format and have lay-flat binding for easy use.

Heroes of the Fallen Land

This is the first of two player-oriented books. It provides builds for classic PCs including the Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard. It also provides options for races including Humans, Elf, Eladrin, Dwarf and Halfling.

Coming in September 2010.

Rules Compendium

This is combination of the PHB, DMG and Monster Manual. It’s everything you need in a rules-based supplement if you’re brand new to D&D.

Coming in September 2010.

Dungeon Tile Master Set: The Dungeon

There are going to be three Master Sets release. These will always be in stock and will continue to be reprinted. So unlike the current dungeon tile sets that have a limited print run and then disappear forever, these will be around long-term. Each 2-inch thick box contains 10 sheets of dungeon tiles and the box itself has grids so that you can make multiple levels.

Coming in September 2010.

Dungeon Master’s Kit

This is a boxed set and it’s designed specifically for the DM. It comes with tokens and a DM’s screen. As with the other products in the essentials line it’s designed to get new DMs started easily.

Coming in October 2010.

Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdom

This is the second of two player-oriented books. It provides builds for classic PCs including the Druid, Paladin, Ranger and Warlock. It also provides options for races including Dragonborn, Drow, Half-Elf, Half-Orc and one other that I missed (sorry).

Coming in November 2010.

Monster Vault

This is another boxed set. It’s got a lot of new monsters as well as some old favourites. They said about 25% of the monsters are familiar but have a “classic” new feel. So expect more kobolds but they will be different kobolds then those already in the MM, MM2 and MM3. Ten sheets of monster tokens are provided and they use the art from the book.

One new change to the monster stat block is that they will now include a picture. This change will also be incorporated into the DDI Monster Builder, but it may take a while.

There is also an adventure included in the boxed set that uses the new monsters.

Coming in November 2010.

Dungeon Tile Master Set: The City

This is the second of three Master Sets. This one features city tiles with street scenes on one side and sewers on the other side.

Coming in November 2010.

Dungeon Tile Master Set: The Wilderness

This is the third of three Master Sets. This one features forests and other outdoor goodies.

Coming in December 2010.

That’s all we have on the D&D Essentials. For all the other great D&D materials releasing in the next 12 months check out the 2010-2011 Preview (Part 2) later this afternoon.

Update: It looks like Part 2 won’t be ready until tomorrow (sorry). There is just so much stuff coming out over the next year it’s taking me a lot longer to put it all together than I thought.

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1 mbeacom August 9, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I’m really excited about these products. I wish they would have launched the DM’s kit and the master tiles sets 2 years ago. I want more tokens and tiles (minis are great but expensive and don’t travel well) and I love the idea of using the box as a second level of dungeon. The small size, soft covers and lay flat bindings are the type of attention to detail that I really appreciate. I like the idea of only bringing the compendium to my game for rule checks. No need to haul around multiple large hard bound books.

2 Ceti August 9, 2010 at 1:48 pm

The ninth item is a dice set – so it probably didn’t need promoting. I can’t remember the tenth, but it was mentioned in one of the DDI articles.

3 obryn August 9, 2010 at 1:48 pm

The two “missing” products are:
* Dice, which most D&D players are familiar with by now, and
* The Basic Set, which is awesome but kind of a separate discussion.

I’m thrilled about the lay-flat binding. That was my main concern when Essentials was announced as a softcover line.


4 Suddry August 9, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Wait a second…

“So Character Builder will let you use the new rules presented in D&D Essentials if you want to.”

Did they discuss what any of these rules might be? Are they actually new rules or adjustments to old ones or simply options? Is it a dumbing down..er.. I mean a simplification for new players or simply a money grab?

I like 4E. I also realize that WotC is in the business to make money. However their agressive new product release schedule sometimes sticks in my craw. The 4E rules are not difficult to get your head wrapped around. I’m pretty leary of of sopme of these products that seem to simply be a rehashing of existing material.

That said, I consider myself open-minded enough to reserve a real judgement until I peruse the books at my FLGS. In the meantime I’ll do some digging online.

Thanks for the article guys.

5 mbeacom August 9, 2010 at 3:25 pm


I think it means that the character builder will support the new builds presented in the new essentials materials, which to my understanding, are simplified new builds for the most basic character classes, (fighter, thief, mage, cleric). I think the main difference is way the information is presented and the lack of a daily power but I can’t find where I read that.

I agree that there is a TON of material out there and it does bother me, but only from the perspective of wanting to own it all. You really don’t need anything but the 3 core books to play.

6 Dave August 9, 2010 at 5:31 pm

What confusion for those coming into the game… If I was just starting out in the hobby (and only a few months in I am not far off!) I would be on the look out for core rule books as that is what I always knew D&D to be. Now we have a bunch of products that present an overview of the D&D world but not in a completely similar way to what most people with the core rule books will be using? Am I understanding this right? (Thereby making it harder to get into an already existing game with players using the core books)

7 Wimwick August 9, 2010 at 6:24 pm

@ Suddry
What you would be able to do is check a box that would remove the Essentials options from Character Builder for a certain character. The same way someone making a LFR character would eliminate Eberron options.

Having played a level 1 fighter that used an Essentials build I have to say it wasn’t bad. While I don’t know how that character would look like after 5 or 10 levels at, level one it was easy and simple to play. I really felt like I was playing a fighter from the old D&D Red Box set, but with a few extra options at my disposal.

The Essentials line is a simplification of some of the rule set. It doesn’t bombard a new player with 20 encounter power choices for their fighter at level one. Part of the rational in designing and releasing the Essentials line was lack of availability of core material. If you go into some game retailers there is no PHB1 available, but a new player needs this book as it explains how to build a character and it contains core combat rules. The Essentials line is designed to fix that problem by always being available as the starting point for the game.

The Essentials line will never expand beyond the 10 items listed. Once a player grows beyond the Essentials line they start gaming with the rest of us.

In short, use it if you like it and if you don’t that’s ok to. The Essentials line isn’t aimed at existing D&D players, but the folks at WotC hope you buy it anyway. I think that line was pretty much a quote from the preview.

8 Feeroper August 10, 2010 at 1:17 am

Hey Ameron and Wimwick. I was also at the same presentation you guys were at – infact you both sat in the same row as myself and my group did. I recognized you from 401 and Dueling grounds as we are also Torontonians (I mentioned to them that it was funny the entire row coincidentally wound up being the Toronto row with the exception of that last guy).

Anyways – they were indeed very adamant that this was not a new edition and did not require any conversion or anythig like that. I wont lie, I had been a little nervous about what essentials meant comming into it, but that preview event and my hands on time with the Red Box really put my concerns to rest. As stated above, it really just adds more options to the game, but more in the sense that it welcomes a different type of player, maybe someone who prefers the flavour of the older editions, or someone who doesnt want to be overwhelmed with options from the get-go. They still allow swapping with the old stuff, and the new powers a fully useable in the older builds as well.

So for the time being Im pretty optimistic with the direction they are taking, especially with the other announcements made for 2011. Im just hoping that they keep up their promise and continue to support pre-essentials options as well.

9 Lahrs August 10, 2010 at 12:05 pm

I have never been bothered by new releases, new editions, update to additions or any other book which augments the game, because no matter what, we get to decide if we want to use it or not.

I will definitely take a look at the essentials line before purchase, but I currently do not feel I will pick most of them up. The groups I usually play with consist of a lot of new people, and with some time and patient direction, they pick up the game rather quickly, and I am not sure how the simplified tool-set will be beneficial in the long run.

I definitely want to check out the Rules Compendium, as it sounds like a great supplement. A quick reference guide for rules = awesome.

I have a DM screen of course, as well as plenty of monster tokens from Encounters, but if the new ones are different, I may pick them up.

I could use some new dice, so I think I will see what is coming out before picking up a new set.

All in all, it looks like a good year of supplements.

10 Ameron August 11, 2010 at 12:13 pm

For anyone new to the hobby these are going to be gold. For those with extensive experience I think it will seem too limiting based on what’s already out there. In the end it will help bring new players to D&D and that makes me really excited.

@Ceti & obryn
There are my missing two items. Thank you.

@Suddry & mbeacom
I think Wimwick’s response nicely sums up your inquiries. Let me know if there is anything else you’d like to know and I’ll see if I can answer it.

The new stuff isn’t just an overview, it’s the same rules as 4e but simplified (at least that’s what they keep telling us). Essentials are intended to make the game more accessible for brand new people coming to D&D for the very first time. It’s still 4e but it removes some of the abundance of choice.

I saw a lot of familiar Toronto faces throughout GenCon. I hope that all of those gamers come out to the next SpellStorm convention this winter.

I too was a bit nervous about how Essentials would shape D&D, but this seminar did a lot of clam me down. It’s clear now that the new line isn’t replacing the old line. It’s not 4.5e as some originally feared. It’s all still 4e.

You’re absolutely right. Whether you’re new to D&D old an old pro, there’s plenty of great stuff coming out in 2010 and 2011.

11 Feeroper August 16, 2010 at 1:17 am

I would be interested in SpellStorm, but I never know where it is. Are they recptive to newcomers to the convention? Im a long time D&D player, but have never been to SpellStorm and am largely unaware of what it entails.

Is it all oraganized play like LFR? Where would you sign up for the games?

Do they have any retailers there as well? How big is the turnout normally?

12 Ameron August 17, 2010 at 8:26 am

SpellStorm is very open and accessible for new players. Part of the reason for the con is to introduce new players to D&D and RPGs in general.

This is the SpellStorm sign-up page they used for the 2010 con and then again for the battle interactive this summer. I’m sure they’ll post new information here as it becomes available. We’ll of course post any news about upcoming Toronto cons on Dungeon’s Master.

For more information about gaming in Toronto, here are a few good links.

Sign up to play Living Forgotten Realms (LFR) weekly at either of these two FLGS.

We also play D&D Encounter every Wednesday night at Dueling grounds. There is no online sign-up, just come on out. Games begin at 6:00 p.m.

The Toronto Area Gamers website is also a great resource for local gaming in the GTA.

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