ot too long ago, I was pulled into a discussion about doing something fun, exciting, and new around an upcoming Game Day and D&D Encounters experience. What came out of those discussions was a way for all those who take part in the D&D in-store play program to join in on the D&D Next playtest. This experience, called Vault of the Dracolich, would allow us to try a few new ideas to see how the community enjoyed them. These ideas include both interactive elements and visual elements, and I’m going to talk about the latter.
So, how do we make visual elements add to the play experience? What would make the play more fun, more immersive, and more visually interesting? Well, remember, I am the art guy. I’m all about visual stuff! So we came up with a few cool new tidbits to add to the play package.
NPC Cards. It's time to get some of the art out of the adventure and into the hands of the players. Creating NPC cards allows the DM to introduce the major nonplayer characters in a new way. Rather than just a verbal description or the DM trying to awkwardly show you a piece of art in the middle of the encounter write-up, we give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with the NPC.
Maps. Why does the DM get all the great maps? Let’s make a map for the players. Make it part of the adventure and make it fun. As usual, Mike Schley came up with something great and gave our maps a new twist. We have some clues and Easter eggs waiting for you, so don’t just write maps off as a piece of visual fluff.
Clings. The concept for clings reminds me a bit of the Colorform vinyl adhesives I played with when I was young, and they make for an interesting addition to the experience because they allow the DM to display a large map and change it as the game progresses. For me, it really added to the strategy, problem solving, and interactivity of the experience. Clings can enhance the new cooperative play element in this adventure.
During the process of working on Vault of the Dracolich, we discovered we had a quandary when it came to the look of the product. We were dealing with something very new and different. It wasn’t the usual 4th Edition Game Day set-up, and yet it wasn’t D&D Next, so we had to do some dancing around for a bit and come up with an intermediate look. Something that said, “Hey, I’m different!” But it had to be something that didn’t try to foreshadow D&D Next, too. What we came up with was a simple treatment that you’ll be seeing a few times in the future—we have a nice framing element with the D&D logo tucked nicely in the corner and a prominent tag that proclaims that this product is playable with the D&D Next rules set.
I hope you enjoyed the quick peek into the product. Make sure you head on over to a participating game store and join in on the local Game Day festivities.
T-Shirt Contest Update
The Araca T-shirt contest has started! You can find details at the contest website.
Jon Schindehette joined Wizards of the Coast in 1997 as the website art director. In the intervening years he has worked as the marketing art director, novels art director, and creative manager. In January of 2009 he moved into the role of senior creative director for D&D. Jon is a long time D&D player (started in 1978), and currently plays in a Tuesday night game and DMs a random pick-up game for younger players. He can be found on Twitter (@ArtOrder) and at theartorder.com.