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Thoughts on D&D Beyond Tiers & Rates

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When this project started I blogged that I thought that this project was dead in the water. I felt that D&D had missed the boat and that it was too late for them to find redemption. When they later went into phase one I blogged I was hesitant but impressed but hopeful.
Well, today the long awaited announcement has come out, no longer do we need to speculate the costs. Here they are.

BADEYE (D&D BEYOND)

I can also now share full details on pricing:
D&D Beyond provides flexible purchase options for both official digital content and subscriptions.
Players will be able to unlock official Dungeons & Dragons content in digital format for a one-time purchase that is integrated into the toolset. Players can also purchase individual game elements or bundled content within any official source. Like to play barbarians? You can unlock that class and all of its options only.
Want to run “Tomb of Horrors” from Tales From the Yawning Portal? Unlock that single adventure. Digital sourcebooks (such as the Player’s Handbook or Volo’s Guide to Monsters) will be available for $29.99, while adventure modules (such as Curse of Strahd or Storm King’s Thunder) will be available for $24.99.

For the first week after launch, the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual will be on sale for $19.99 each!

Players can get the most out their D&D Beyond experience by signing up for one of two subscription tiers.
The Hero Tier at $2.99/ month is intended primarily for players. It removes ads on the site, allows players to create an unlimited number of characters, and add publicly-shared homebrew content to your collection to use within the toolset.
The Master Tier at $5.99/ month is intended primarily for Dungeon Masters and full groups. It grants all the benefits of the Hero Tier, and also allows a DM to share all her unlocked official content with other players within a campaign – so content does not have to be unlocked by every player.
So, let’s walk through my thoughts on what we have been given as of today. So let’s attack this in some bite sized portions, shall we?

Toolsets & Bundles

Players will be able to unlock official Dungeons & Dragons content in digital format for a one-time purchase that is integrated into the toolset. Players can also purchase individual game elements or bundled content within any official source. Like to play barbarians? You can unlock that class and all of its options only.

We still do not have a price on this but I imagine I will make the prediction that it will be between  $2.99-4.99 per bundled element. Thus it will make it more expensive to pick up all of the classes in this format than it would be to just purchase the PHB. It only makes sense that they will want to encourage you to think that the PHB is a deal.

Moving on to the cost of books.

 

Want to run “Tomb of Horrors” from Tales From the Yawning Portal? Unlock that single adventure. Digital sourcebooks (such as the Player’s Handbook or Volo’s Guide to Monsters) will be available for $29.99, while adventure modules (such as Curse of Strahd or Storm King’s Thunder) will be available for $24.99.
For the first week after launch, the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual will be on sale for $19.99 each!
Players can get the most out their D&D Beyond experience by signing up for one of two subscription tiers.
Well looks like we will be asked again to hand out $30 bucks a book for source books. This was met with most including myself with a groan of disgust. Yet there are many people that have been defending the price point. On a note of comparison of costs.

 

Sourcebooks (Using Volo’s Guide for Example)

D&D Beyond: $30.00

Dead Tree book: $49.95

Roll20.Net book: $49.95

Fantasy Ground book: $49.99
D&D Beyond will be giving you a searchable database of the sourcebook you purchase. These are not PDF’s but if you purchase them you will be able to access this content with or without a D&D Beyond subscription.
So we can see that Source book wise D&D Beyond at least is considerably cheaper than the other options. But there are a few things to point out when you look at these prices. First of all, it is a fair assumption that most all of the PHBs that will be sold have already been purchased this deep into the edition. More will sell of course as more players come into the hobby and some players replace used books. But the vast number of books are done being bought.
To compare further the Dead Tree version is not arranged in an online searchable format. But it does have one of the age old time honored search features. The index and table of contents. Arguably if you have the book in hand and you know your way around the book. You can even find rules references in the book before you can look it up on D&D Beyond. ( Fun Fact, Chris Perkins out searched the Program during the Stream of Annihilation.) Down Side, you can’t store your Dead Tree online and unless you have a nice bag you can’t take it with you in the rain. 

As far as both Roll20.net & Fantasy Grounds platforms it is considerably cheaper than both of these formats.  BUT, Each of these platforms currently are the premier Digital RPG platforms for games. They each also include tokens for all creatures contained in the product as well as handouts and maps in some cases. D&D Beyond unless updated once they roll out their Game Platform does not have any of these things.

Modules (Curse of Strahd)
D&D Beyond: $24.99
Dead Tree: $49.95
Roll20.net: $49.95
Fantasy Grounds: $34.99
As of this blog we have no info that I was able to track down on how Modules will be presented in D&D Beyond. I can say I would imagine we will have a Module that would look very similar to a PDF with hyperlinked and searchable content to data on the site as well as maps content. even that is speculation as to how they will be presented.

Edit- D&D Beyond Tweeted me when asked.

@DnDBeyond What feature will be in Modules that you purchase. Will it just be a database of the adventure? Will we have maps w/quick links?

Replying to @RunklePlaysGame

All the tooltipping/ crosslinking that is found throughout the site + all interior art + hi-res maps + all NPCs, monsters, items in listings

Dead Trees we all know how this works. Anyone here reading this likely owns one, has owned one, or has flipped through and given one a look. You get it.
This is where you need to step back and really see the value that Roll.20 and FG are bringing for that extra money. With Roll 20 you will get.
  • Over 350 hours of campaign preparation completed for Roll20 users.
  • Over 30 battle-ready Maps, enhanced with Dynamic Lighting.
  • The High, Common, and Complete Tarokka Decks is included in this purchase and also sold separately.
  • Original Castle Ravenloft maps in top-down format, exclusive to the Roll20 version for easier use with the virtual tabletop.
  • Isometric Castle Ravenloft maps included for reference as player handouts, and also as interactive maps on the tabletop.
  • Rollable Tables of all shapeshifters in the adventure. This means that you can easily click to change Strahd von Zarovich’s tabletop token from his human form to his wolf, bat, or mist form.
  • Rollable Table of the Gothic Trinkets table. Players can make a single click to use this table this during character creation to get a trinket of some special significance.
  • Deck of Illusions as a playable card deck. Players can draw a card from this deck and it will immediately place a token of a random creature on the tabletop!
  • Statted Tokens featuring original artwork from Dungeons & Dragons. Tokens are linked to Character entries in the Journal, with Roll20 5th Edition OGL character sheets and clickable actions.
  • Cross-linked handouts throughout the adventure

That is a lot..

Fantasy Grounds Modules include

  • the entire contents of Curse of Strahd adventure
  • image handouts that can be shared with players collectively or individually
  • maps containing information for the Dungeon Master (DM) only and with all locations pre-linked to story entries which may contain additional DM notes, boxed text, encounters, images and treasure parcels
  • maps with all hidden information removed and resized for use as tactical combat maps. * The maps of the interior of Castle Ravenloft are presented in an isometric format that won’t align with a typical top-down map format.
  • tokens for many of the monsters in the module. When no token is available, a letter token is used to represent the NPC
  • XP for encounters that can be dragged to the party sheet and awarded to the players as they complete them
  • Searchable monster indexes by CR, type and in alphabetical order

Overall my thoughts land that with both Roll20.Net and FG you may be paying more but you are getting a considerable amount of features to use in their respective digital platform. Currently With NO info on the upcoming Twitch Integration for D&D Beyond you are getting a long less for a lot less.

Subscriptions

Subscriptions run in two tiers for D&D Beyond. Hero and Master.

Hero Tier

The Hero Tier at $2.99/ month is intended primarily for players. It removes ads on the site, allows players to create an unlimited number of characters, and add publicly-shared homebrew content to your collection to use within the toolset.

Now at the Hero Tier for $36 a year you are getting a digital home for all of your characters. Additionally, you will be able to any shared Homebrew content to your account. I could see this being a very nice and worthwhile and affordable high-end digital option. If you only use content from the PHB and you jump in on D&D beyond in the first week you would have digital access to all the content you would ever need for D&D as a player for $55 the first year and $36 a year every year after. Or $66 in the first year if you do not get in in the first week of D&D Beyond.

Master Tier

The Master Tier at $5.99/ month is intended primarily for Dungeon Masters and full groups. It grants all the benefits of the Hero Tier, and also allows a DM to share all her unlocked official content with other players within a campaign – so content does not have to be unlocked by every player.

 Okay so for the Master Tier we are looking at $72 a year in subscription costs alone. The reality of for DM is going to be the cost of entry that you will need at least the holy trinity of books to start. The DMG/PHB&MM are going to run you $60 in the first week or $90 after the first week. Taking a look if you are going to get started with D&D Beyond it will run between $66-$96 bucks in your first month.
After that, it will run you $72 a year if you chose not to make any purchases after that. Or if you decide to pick up one adventure a year and one of the 3 other sourcebooks you don’t have yet on your account to begin catching up. ( I think that is a conservative example )  It will run you $127 bucks a YEAR!
Now we could call it $12 bucks a month and say it’s not that bad, call it an MMO. But at 12 bucks a month you still would be missing several books for years to come at that rate.
On the other hand, if you are a completist, up front D&D Beyond is going to cost you…
PHB/MM/DMG=$60/$90
Volo=30
Sword Coast=30
Xanatars=30
Tiamat=25
POA=25
OTA=25
CoS= 25
YP=25
SkT=25
ToA=25
Total cost= $325 on starting week $355 after the first week.
($380 if Tiamat needs to have two books to complete)
 Or  $150- $180 plus sub if you decided as a DM you are only going to stick with the core books. Again followed by the $72 per year sub costs after that or $97 if you buy only 1 adventure a year.
Now, one benefit you will have at this Tier that they speak about is that this is a “Group/DM” Tier. You can share all content of this tier with up to 12 players in your campaign. Additionally, the DM can share this info with free players also.

My Thoughts

Okay, that was a lot and I have taken a long time to think about how I feel about all of this. Overall I think that I will have to roll this into two rankings. One for Hero and one for Master Tier.

I decided to give both Tiers a Ranking on my Runkles Ranking scale. I am basing my score off of WOTC 4E D&D Insider. The D&D insider was a subscription service that in the last months cost $10 a month by month or $6 per month via year sub.
D&DI gave you access to a Character Creator, a Monster Customizer, and a searchable Database of the rules. Additionally, DDI gave you access to both the Dungeon and the Dragon online Mags. Lastly, it is very important to note that with DDI you had access to ALL D&D rulebooks as they were added. They were not required to purchase extra.

Hero Tier Rank, 

I think after taking into account the cost for a year as well as the options and features that this tier offers is a great value. I think that if you pick up a PHB and a year sub this is a 14. on my Ranking scale.

Master Tier Rank, 

There is just so much here that has me concerned. There are just so many costs that add up quickly on the DM end of this project that makes me not nearly as thrilled by the total costs that begin to mothball quickly and no matter how you slice it the costs continue to stay upwards of $100 dollars a year.
For that reason, I think I will give the Master Tier a 9 Ranking. Overall I think the pricing misses the mark for what it offers. The Subscription fee is on target but the overall costs that slowly mothball into a very high price tag will put it out of reach to the casual DM.

GROUPED MASTER TIER

 

Well, I wanted to address this as I have seen multiple comments about just having your group combine spending power to make it all cheaper to buy. I give that idea 5 due issues that I have spoken of in the past. Who gets the Master Account in the event of a Break in the group. If more than one person at the table moves away and joins other groups who get to use the accounts if the account crests over 12 in a campaign. At a rank of 5, that means I just plain think this is a Terrible idea.

Final Thought

I was nearly done with this and I stumbled on something that I find very worrying and that is as sample price breakdown that we will see if you want potentially purchase at the Hero Tier with Ala Carte Bundles. And let me just say WOW… I am not a fan.

This sample was to explain how a bundle package would work to make an Aasimar

So, are you saying that if all I ever wanted to do was to create an Aasimar Paladin with the Oath of Vengeance subclass, with the Purple Dragon Knight Background, equipped with a Dawnbringer and a Blod Stone in his inventory, that I would have to purchase:

  1. Player’s Handbook for $29.99
  2. Dungeon Master’s Guide for $29.99
  3. Volo’s Guide to Monsters for $29.99
  4. Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide for $29.99
  5. Storm King’s Thunder for $24.99
  6. Out of the Abyss for $24.99
  7. In addition, say I subscribed at just the $3/mo for the next 12 months to see if this actually develops into a proper service and add a homebrew magic shield that the DM created to this character

For a grand total of $205.94 

BadEye from D&D Beyond corrected him but I sill find it concerining. 

Quote from BadEye >>

  • Aasimar Race – $2.99
  • Paladin Class (with all PHB options) – $3.99
  • (Purple Dragon Knight is actually a fighter subclass, but let’s assume that you mean some kind of background from SCAG): Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but you will be able to customize a background entirely, so if you don’t mind a little bit of typing, then the cost is $0. If you reallywanted to buy one, then it’s $1.99.
  • The two magic items for $1.99 each

For a total of $12.95.

There will also be other “bundles” that will give you those things and other things like them for a good bit less than your original assessment.

The model has flexibility. Again, this is framed using your words of “if all I ever wanted to do.”

Thanks!

Interesting I will say that I was happy to see that I nailed the class price. But what worries is to see that it seems that they have directed the D&D game into price points. $2 bucks for each Magic Item and $2 for a background… NOT A FAN.

What are your thoughts on what has been announced so far? Like it, love it or hate it? Feel free to comment below!

4 Comments »

  1. Well… I guess D&DBeyond is becoming kind of a Play to Win thing. Like freebie games.
    There is the free version (with ads) and you can pay subscription to remove ads.
    You have basic rules for free or you can pay to extra classes ($2 dollar each). (Or you can buy the SCAG or Volo for $30/each again and have extra classes.)
    You can have common weapons or you can pay for extra magic weapons ($2 each). (And what if your DM doesn’t want the magic item you’ve bought on his game?)

    Well… I didn’t like it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How do you think the service stacks up if you can afford the legendary bundle for 280 instead of the 325 for first week to get all the books. Will that raise the master tier to a 10 or leave it at a 9?

    Like

    • Man, I feel bad that I missed this comment! That said I think if you do not have a stack of physical books on hand and this would be your E-library there is a huge advantage to having come in on the first week and snatched up the Legendary Bundle. So if so I hope that you did. The hardest issue I have about suggesting Legendary Bundles is two-fold.
      1. With each new book, the product gets more and more expensive and I hate to say it but will 5E be around in another decade or will we be looking at 6E? My point being between now and then how many books will come out that will make your discount worth it for upcoming books.
      2. This is directed at both Curse and 5E, sadly when you spend money on this product you are purchasing a right to use, NOT own. These are not official PDF’s So if Curse tanks the program or D&D moves to 6E and Curse tanks the program you walk away with nothing.

      For as awesome as it is the more I think about D&D beyond the more unsure I am to recommend anyone to own more than the PHB+SCQ ATM. I see it as too big of a long-term risk for a DM>

      Like

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