The upcoming release of the Dungeons of Dread expansion and revised rules, coinciding with the 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons itself, represents the biggest change yet to the D&D Miniatures game. A revision of such magnitude opens the floodgates, in a manner of speaking. Once that psychological hurdle is cleared, everything looks like fair game, and all sorts of options that would have been unthinkable six months ago are now on the table. As a treat for our dedicated customers, here's a preview of what waits in DDM's future.
Elimination of the 1-inch Grid: Counting movement slows down the game with too little return. The grid can't be eliminated entirely, but it can be simplified. A 6-inch grid seems best. Most miniatures have speed 6 anyway, so that simply becomes speed 1. Stacking is simplified, too -- one space holds as many creatures as players can fit into it. A figure is adjacent to everything else in the same square. Area effects hit everything in the space. This really loosens up play.
Virtual Plastic: The D&D RPG is pushing into new technologies, and D&D Miniatures needs to follow. The online D&D Game Table will revolutionize the way people play D&D. For the skirmish game, we won't be satisfied with just digitized versions of the miniatures that can be used on-screen. We want actual, virtual miniatures that players can hold and push around on their kitchen tables but without all the effort and expense involved in manufacturing and shipping. Picking up one of these virtual miniatures will be a unique experience, because you'll be able to feel its weight and shape in your hand even though the miniature itself doesn't exist as a physical object. We haven't worked out all the kinks on this yet.
Scale Change: Some people have noticed that the miniatures have slowly gotten larger with each new expansion. This is called 'scale creep'. It happens in all successful miniatures lines as part of the natural order. Instead of fighting it, we've decided to embrace it as an integral element of the game. That's why, beginning with Against the Giants, the height and bulk of the figures will increase an average of 10% per set. The miniatures started out at 25mm in 2003; they're up to about 28mm now; they'll be about 31mm in Against the Giants, and 34mm by the end of this year. Within six sets -- that is, around spring 2010 -- a standard human figure will be as big as the Feral Troll is now. Just imagine how cool that will be!
My Little Pony: Being a subsidiary of Hasbro means that Wizards of the Coast has access to many valuable intellectual properties that are being under-exploited. My Little Pony is just one of those, but we think it's the best. Currently, there's little crossover between D&D Miniatures and My Little Pony, but our market research shows that both customer groups like the same things -- magic, castles, unicorns, and imagination! We already have sketches for a Butter Pop mount, and the stats for Pinkie Pie with Mind Flayer Lich Rider are going to blow people away. That will be a must-have piece on the tournament circuit.
Mr. Potato-Head: We don't have plans to use the real Mr. Potato-Head in DDM, because that would be silly. But Mr. Potato-Head technology is a perfect fit. We envision Mr. Regdar-Head with interchangeable limbs, weapons, and armor. This brings two important innovations to the table. First, bookkeeping is eliminated. Players keep track of Mr. Regdar-Head's hit points and special abilities by removing body parts. Second, players can use his expressive eyes and swappable, angry and smiley mouths to show how they feel about the game in progress while keeping their real emotions tightly squeezed into their stomachs.
Edible Miniatures: Rising oil prices and growing consumer awareness of eco-friendly manufacturing techniques are pushing the toy industry to find alternatives for plastics. We believe that the solution lies in food science. Wizards of the Coast Kitchens are currently experimenting with marshmallow, crackers, jelled fruit compote, cheese, tofu, and other types of bean paste. This lends a whole new meaning to "combos" (cheese drow and cracker spider swarms, for example, complement each other nicely). The formed and sculpted miniatures will be painted with food dyes and have their bases textured realistically with candy sprinkles. In addition to the normal alignments (good/evil) and factions (Civilization/Borderlands/the Wild/Underdark), playtesting has begun on a new range of unique distinctions -- flavor, texture, and "crunch." For added fun, miniatures can be artfully microwaved into interesting new shapes (see illustration), and Swallow Whole effects take on a new meaning. Finally, players will have a perfect use for all those noncompetitive Common and Uncommon figures sitting in boxes -- snacking during the game!
Random Pricing: Random packaging was a marketing breakthrough when it first appeared. Customers love it because each booster pack is like a box of chocolates -- you never know what you're going to find inside, and everyone loves surprises. The next logical step is random pricing. Beginning in 2009, the bar code on every D&D Miniatures booster will include a randomizer that adds or subtracts up to 25% of the posted price to or from what you pay at the register. Imagine getting a booster for just $11.25 when the shelf sticker said it would cost $15! How sweet is that? Of course, you could wind up paying $18 or more instead, but that surprise is part of the fun. People love not knowing.
Diceless Combat: From a mathematical viewpoint, D&D Miniatures doesn't really need dice. The cards could replace the dice entirely. Once this change takes effect, instead of creatures' stat cards lying on the table like so many napkins, players will shuffle them into a draw pile and play them from a hand. This allows the two players' stat cards to interact directly in new and exciting ways. Eventually, we foresee removing the miniatures from the game entirely, but that development is at least a few sets in the future. We're not sure people are truly ready for a collectible game that uses only cards.
While some players might consider a few of these options to be too extreme, we think that regular, significant shake-ups are essential to keep the fans interested. As usual, we're glad to hear your feedback. Be sure to visit the D&D Miniatures forum and share your enthusiasm with us and your fellow players.
April Fool's! ... Thanks for being good sports. Wizards of the Coast loves being able to joke around with our fans and we hope you enjoyed it.
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