If you were like me during the heyday of the Dungeons & Dragons website during 3rd Edition, then you would have loyally downloaded (and printed) every bit of free content they put out.
The amount of free adventures, monsters, classes, spells, and lore that they put out in the 2000s was amazing — and it supplemented whatever book they happened to be publishing at the time.
There was so much additional psionics content that Wizards of the Coast eventually just compiled everything into a PDF for everyone to download. As a lover of psionics, this was glorious.
It looks like they're trying to do that again with the Monstrous Compendium series, which is a PDF series that promises to bring you new (free) monsters — as long as you sign up for an account on the official D&D site.
Oh, and if you already have a D&D Beyond account, you can log in with that too. It's a veiled attempt to garner more sign-ups, since Wizards of the Coast bought over D&D Beyond and is clearly trying to build a larger audience as they leverage on the digital toolsets available to players today.
All this was revealed at the first D&D Direct session on 22 April, which laid out the plans for D&D in 2022 and beyond.
Are they critical hits? Are they failed saving throws (since 5th Edition doesn't quite have critical misses or failures)? Or are they somewhere in between? Here's a rundown of what you should look out for in 2022.
The first critical hit is the Monstrous Compendium series mentioned at the beginning, and to me this new initiative taps into a huge sense of nostalgia.
The whole idea of being able to print out and file different sets of (free) monsters every so often entices me — I print out selected Unearthed Arcana PDFs (like all the psionics ones), so I'm exactly the right target that Wizards of the Coast is targeting.
This comes alongside the digital toolset that D&D Beyond provides, and I'm sure the Monstrous Compendium material will also appear there.
I feel this is probably the best way to appeal to both older (through PDFs) and younger (through D&D Beyond) segments of the audience.
We also get the return of not one, but two beloved campaign settings in the form of Spelljammer and Dragonlance!
These are not the traditional campaign books that we've gotten so far. Rather, Spelljammer: Adventures in Space is coming in the form of a boxed set with a map, DM screen (thank you for the DM love!), and three books — Astral Adventurer's Guide (with new character options), Boo's Astral Menagerie (a monster book), and Light of Xarxis (an adventure).
No doubt the bulk of the reworked Spelljammer setting (which, as the title of the boxed set implies, is about D&D in space) will be in the Astral Adventurer's Guide. It's an interesting approach to take, and a new DM screen is always welcome.
As for Dragonlance, we'll be getting a new adventure book titled Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen and a board game called Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn.
The adventure will probably revolve around Dragonlance's version of Tiamat, called Takhisis, and with its title so similar to Hoard of the Dragon Queen (the first D&D adventure book for 5th Edition), it is likely that there will be some ties to that adventure.
Dragonlance: Warriors of Krynn looks similar to the Adventure System board games like Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, but since it's meant to recreate epic battles in Dragonlance, it might be an entirely different system altogether.
To support the new Spelljammer campaign, Wizkids has a new type of 2-in-1 miniature — the example provided was Prince Xeleth being able to mount on a Solar Dragon (with the help of a riding saddle accessory).
This brings the miniatures closer to the realm of action figures — something I'm greatly in support of. I loved the D&D Kreons back in the day because they were sized nicely enough to interact with regular miniatures, but you could customise their look with different weapons and accessories from the Kre-O line (or other construction block lines).
Failed saving throws
Some products were clear examples of failed saving throws.
Wizards of the Coast premiered their Campaign Case line of DM aids, which look underwhelming.
There's the Creatures set, which gives you flat tokens of different creature sizes... and a bunch of reusable stickers (called "clings") that allow you to transform the tokens into any monster (that they have provided for you).
To be honest, it's not like the cost of actually printing out flat monster tokens is all that prohibitive (and this product certainly doesn't look cheap).
The stickers, sorry, clings look like they'll wear out very quickly. And there are no monster names on the clings either — why leave out such information?
Frankly, there are better options, like the Pathfinder Pawns series. Those give you sturdy cardboard tokens that you can stand upright in pawn bases, giving a more 3D visualisation of the battles you are fighting.
And since most of their monsters in their Bestiaries (Pathfinder's monster books) come from D&D anyway, and they have a Pawn collection for each Bestiary that has been published... that's probably the superior option.
Nay to the Campaign Case: Creatures weird tokens-with-stickers concept.
The Terrain is set is only infinitesimally better.
It comes with dungeon tiles that allow you to assemble any map you like, just like the D&D Dungeon Tiles set. If you've ever owned any Dungeon Tiles set, they are amazing for homebrew adventures, but not for adventure books (because none of the adventures have maps that can be recreated with Dungeon Tiles).
You can't draw on these tiles (and what's the point anyway, drawing over with erasable markers just destroys the verisimilitude offered by the tiles and you might as well get a dry-erase mat) so really, they're great for homebrews but nothing else, since there's no integration into D&D products.
Ah, but these come with clings that can replicate furniture, you say! I'm pretty sure you'll forget those clings are there after a session and they'll go missing soon enough.
This new version of D&D Dungeon Tiles doesn't excite.
Weal or Woe?
However, there were some announcements that even an augury spell couldn't reveal much of.
One is the new D&D Starter Set: Dragons of Stormwreck Isle.
It includes options for digital onboarding (again, a push to bring in more members for the Dungeons & Dragon website) and a claim that it's more streamlined for newer players (always a good thing!).
But without miniatures or a more visual accessories (you do get a set of dice though), will this really be the better option for new players?
Wizkids will also be producing ship scale miniatures for vehicular combat in Spelljammer.
I'm not entirely sold on this, since it seems like an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the Star Wars: Armada miniatures game, which involves vehicular combat in the Star Wars universe.
Personally, I'd rather that Wizkids focus their efforts on their Archdevils and Demon Princes miniatures – we have an Orcus miniature but the current Demogorgon miniature is tiny in comparison, and there's no Asmodeus miniature.
Dungeons & Dragons: Onslaught is tactical skirmish miniatures game which looks a lot like the Chainmail game of yore.
It looks like a reason to create a new line of miniatures, with various factions that come from the Forgotten Realms setting, like the Zhentarim and Harpers.
While it looks like the new miniatures could be exciting, I sure hope there's some backwards compatibility for existing miniatures.
And finally, a new anthology of adventures in the form of Journeys Through The Radiant Citadel is also slated for a 2022 release and it promises a focus on diversity and inclusion.
Given that Candlekeep Mysteries featured a male antagonist with the female Chinese name of Bak Mei and Storm King's Thunder featured a female character with the male Chinese name of Zi Liang, I certainly hope the diversity is better researched.
There's an adventure based on the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday, a Caribbean-themed adventure, and an adventure that involves the Far Realm.
The connective tissue between adventures seems to be that the Radiant Citadel leads to different lands — could this be a precursor to the return of the Planescape setting?
2022 certainly looks like an exciting year for both DMs and players (but more so for DMs), as the D&D brand continues to thrive.
The new product formats also seem to dovetail nicely with the new edition/evolution of the D&D ruleset that will arrive in 2024.
But for psionics fans that want a dedicated sourcebook (like myself), and those who have been clamouring for updated campaign settings for Dark Sun, Planescape, Birthright, Al-Qadim, and Mystara, we'll just have to wait for 2023.
Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for "Lion Mums", "Crimewatch", "Police & Thief", and "Incredible Tales". He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site.