Wizards of the Coast made big news this week with an announcement for two new books: Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica, which is a new guide for a Magic: The Gathering campaign setting; and Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, a new book that’s now available on the DM’s Guild online store. It brings the swashbuckling campaign setting into Dungeons & Dragons’ 5th Edition (5E) universe.
Merging D&D and Magic is great, and Wizards should do more of this with its two biggest brands. But it’s the return of Eberron that has me the most excited, and it has nothing to do with the campaign setting (I never played it, so I neither care for or dislike it). It’s more about how this unlocks the potential for an easier, more cost-effective way to bring older settings to 5E.
The DM’s Guild is my favorite project from the Dungeons & Dragons team in recent years. It’s not just a storefront — it’s like the D&D team is spreading their arms wide open, encouraging people to create adventures, items, and more for a game they all love. I’ve bought a few dozen modules and supplements over the years, and I’ve even paid a bit extra for hardbound printings of a few excellent books. The Dungeon Masters Adept program, which started with the Tomb of Annihilation storyline, has resulted in other community writers producing official material on the Guild.
We’ve seen how the Guild just expands on the official books. Now, with Eberron, we’re seeing how Wizards can use it to resurrect its past.
Printed books are expensive. You pay for the writing, the editing, the artwork, the printing, the shipment, and the storage of the books. Then, you have to get retailers and your local friendly gaming stores to stock them. With the DM’s Guild, you don’t have to worry about print costs, shipping, or storage. You don’t have to go out and convince others to buy your books. You pay for the writing, the artwork, and the editing.
And it’s already working for Eberron. Wayfinder’s Guide is getting strong reviews, and you can find many DM Guild writers and D&D players talking about it on social media. I bet we’ll see more Eberron material on the Guild soon. But not in bookstores.
And if Eberron does well? Expect Wizards to unleash another old campaign setting. Right now, Guild rules prohibit community members from writing material for Planescape, Spelljammer, Dragonlance, or Greyhawk. Whenever the D&D team talks about the past, you’ll find people talking about these beloved settings. They’re also part of many of D&D’s 5E books in some manner, whether its showing how to fit the info on elves from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes in other settings, additions of species, such as the Giff (the gun-loving hippo mercs of Spelljammer), or dropping a mention or two of Sigil (the centerpiece of Planescape) into books.
Heck, even team members themselves do so.
I have to admit that if we do anything with Spelljammer, we'd have to account for how we treated stars in 4e.
— Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) January 19, 2017
The DM’s Guild gives Wizards a cost-friendly method of opening up the gates to the past. It can conduct some polling on what the community wants on the Guild, when it comes to books for older settings, and then, commission someone to do so. There would be a significant sunken cost — Wizards would need to find someone who’s not just a good writer, who’s not just familiar with these old settings, but is also willing to work under their guidance and within the constraints of the Guild. But again, this remarkable online community has already shown it can provide here, too — just look at the Guild Adepts, putting out fantastic books, such as Xanathar’s Lost Notes to Everything Else (a companion to Xanathar’s Guide to Everything) and modules like Return of the Lizard King (a companion adventure for Tomb of Annihilation).
The Eberron model proves this is possible. My only quibble: Jeremy Crawford said on this week’s Dragontalk podcast that this was about the longtime fans of Eberron. This setting appeared in 2004. That’s 18 years. Fans of Spelljammer (1989) or even Dragonlance (1984) or Greyhawk (1970s) — have been waiting much longer for our beloved worlds to get some love.
Don’t let us down.
The D20 Beat is GamesBeat managing editor Jason Wilson’s column on role-playing games. It covers video games, the digital components of traditional tabletop RPGs, and the rise of RPG streaming. Drop me a line if you have any RPG news, insights, or memories to share … or just want to roll a digital d20 with me.