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Oh god, the new DnD books have a DLC chart

Wizards of the Coast’s pre-orders for the OneDnD core books come with a confusing DLC chart that’s straight out of videogame marketing.

The bright DnD core books against a backdrop of a gold dragon

Wizards of the Coast has revealed a videogame DLC-style pre-order chart to explain the bundle options fans have when pre-ordering the new Dungeons and Dragons core books, and to emphasise the “savings” available from buying the bigger bundles. But to find the actual price of the bundles, you have to go to the DnD Beyond storefront.

This is going to be a snarky one, reader. While we’re eagerly awaiting the new DnD books on the DnD release schedule, seeing this kind of chart immediately makes us skeptical about the value of the pre-orders, both as consumer advocates, and as industry observers.

DnD core books pre-orde chart

While tabletop roleplaying games are usually a haven away from the digital world, there’s no denying that digital DnD is a big part of the game for many players. Wargamer’s DnD expert Mollie Russell is actually increasingly upbeat about the official DnD virtual tabletop that is supposed to be such a big part of One DnD. But we’re irked that nonsense from the world of videogames has come along with it.

The three pre-order tiers are, in ascending order of content (and cost), a digital only version of the Player’s Handbook ($29.99), a digital and print bundle ($79.98), and a bundle of all three physical and digital books ($179.97). All of them come with some number of digital doodads, like digital DnD dice sets, frames, and backdrops, and early access to content online.

There’s a $20 discount between the digital-only and digital-and-print bundle – or to look at it another way, if you buy the print edition, you can pay a $10 top up to get the digital edition as well. We’re not going to argue that digital goods should be free – they take effort to design, even if they’re almost free to reproduce – but it’s crummy that fans who miss the pre-order window won’t get the same discount.

The bundle of all three core books and digital editions has a $60 discount – so again, you’re paying $10 per digital edition in this bundle. For locking in a $180 pre-order, you’ll also receive three additional digital dice sets, 24 extra frames, 10 extra backdrops, the ‘Dragons of D&D’ digital artbook, and a gold dragon digital mini for the upcoming official DnD virtual tabletop.

An edition chart for Rainbow Six Siege - similar to the new DnD preorder chart

If you were going to pre-order anyway, cool, you get some extra stuff. But is this supposed to be tempting? Would you buy these extras on their own? Or are they more like the digital knicknacks and cheap resin statuettes bolted on to videogames, there partly to inflate the perceived value of the core product, and partly to ensure that the customer cannot determine what the core of the product actually is from the matrix of multiple different launch editions.

This DLC chart for the Player’s Handbook isn’t particularly obnoxious, but as DnD is only going to get more digital, we have to wonder – is this just the start? Will multiple editions and optional extras proliferate?

“Marketing”, in the big sense, means determining a market group of potential customers, producing something that meets their desires or needs, and ensuring they can buy it. It’s a long-term strategy that requires you clarify the value of a product, not hide it, and understands that a customer tricked into buying something won’t stay a customer forever.

The digital shift could be a brilliant thing. The feature in DnD Beyond that allowed you to purchase only those parts of a book that were relevant to your character’s DnD class or DnD race, used digital technology to provide unique a benefit to consumers. But since that feature was removed without explanation by a recent update, permit us a little skepticism about how this is all going to turn out.