Free Quick-Start D&D Rules and Adventure from WotC

Wizards of the Coast have released D&D Test Drive, a free get-started downloaded kit for Dungeons & Dragons fourth edition. The kit consists of three parts: a set of Quick Start rules, a free copy of published adventure Keep on the Shadowfell, and a version of the D&D Character Builder limited to level 1-3 characters.

The D&D 4th edition Quick Start Rules is a 27-page PDF covering the basics of gameplay. I’m genuinely impressed; the booklet is refreshingly concise and manages to explain most of D&D’s gameplay extremely well in only fifteen pages. Players new to D&D or to this edition of the game should read this booklet first. Six pre-generated characters are included.

Previously released in hardback, Keep on the Shadowfell is an adventure for D&D fourth edition covering levels one to three. Experienced players may find this kobold-slaying dungeon crawl cliché and uninspired, but as a free introductory adventure it’s not bad. Some tweaks and improvements have been made since the original release.

I haven’t used the D&D Insider Character Builder myself, but several of my players swear by it. It’s a Windows application to help character generation and levelling, which you can use to level up the pre-generated characters or create new ones. The free version works up to level 3, after which you’ll need to subscribe to Wizards’ D&D Insider service if you want to level a character up higher.

If you already own the D&D fourth edition rulebooks, this is an opportunity to get a free copy of Keep on the Shadowfell and a neat booklet you can distribute to online players or use to introduce new people to the game. If you’re not yet a 4E player, this is a free way to give the game a test-drive.

Comments (3)

xero (April 30th, 2009)

Careful, the Character Builder does all sorts of wonky things from time to time.

Last week I rolled a character that it said was carrying an extra 89 pounds.

When you output the character sheet and power cards, often you’ll have irregular duplicates of some or all of your items and powers.

While it’s certainly very helpful in quickly rolling out a new character, it isn’t the be-all end-all of D&D math crunching, because of its many bugs. You should double check everything before use.

D (May 7th, 2009)

Great, I pay over ten dollars for this when it is released, and now it’s free? Seems like a weird way to keep customers loyal.

Stripes (May 7th, 2009)

Well a lot of people payed a bunch for it when it was first released. They got (up to) a years worth of use from it. Which is nice.

Now WOTC has decided that having a free starter kit will yeild more new (or returning) D&D players then charging for it. (I assume the downloadable version is free, and a printed store copy will be $5 to $10 — or have minis and be more like $20).

Sounds like a good deal for WOTC.

Maybe not so good for you, but you have had use of it for a while. When first released it was the only pre-made adventure, so it was probably a nice thing to have (if you like pre-made adventures, which I do). That might be $10 by itself.

If WOTC is right about “free == more new players” then you have more potential players because of it (or more GMs), which should be very nice for you.

Now you can claim “they should have made a NEW adventure free!”, well, maybe, but then they have to take the time to make it, and forgo all the profit from having it, which would mean the cost of making it gets tacked onto any other WOTC product you buy, so really you will pay that $10 one way or another. PLUS it means a “new untested” adventure is the starter, not a “battle tested and tweaked” adventure.

Besides it is pretty common for things to drop in price over time. In the electronics industry things drop in price a lot over time. A year later you can get one “twice as good for half the price”. Software is just as “bad”. It is also not uncommon for a new product to come out with a “Lite” version that is far cheaper (or free) and happens to have all the features you actually use.

Things work out that way, they can either have a modest amount of discontent with folks that “bought early” (may of which are not at all discontented — if they made the PHB downloadable as a PDF for free starting tomorrow I would be happy, despite buying one for me and one for my wife), or they can forgo potentially huge business opportunities just because they didn’t think of them last year (or they didn’t make sense last year).

I would rather a company worry about it’s future then it’s past. It is more likely they will bring out products I like, and stay in business to service things I have already bought them if they obsess on doing what is right for now and the future then defending past actions.

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