D&D Next, also known as Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition but which has been recently officially announced as simply Dungeons & Dragons… will be free.
I’ll let Mike Mearls, Wizards of the Coast employee and senior manager for the D&D research and design team, explain in his own words from his Legends & Lore column (full link here):
“Basic D&D is a PDF that covers the core of the game. It’s the equivalent of the old D&D Rules Cyclopedia, though it doesn’t have quite the same scope (for example, it won’t go into detail on a setting). It runs from levels 1 to 20 and covers the cleric, fighter, rogue, and wizard, presenting what we view as the essential subclass for each. It also provides the dwarf, elf, halfling, and human as race options.”
“At the launch of the D&D Starter Set, Basic D&D will include the material needed to create characters and advance to 20th level. In August, with the release of the Player’s Handbook, Basic D&D will expand to include the essential monsters, magic items, and DM rules needed to run the game, along with the rules for wilderness, dungeon, and urban adventuring. (The Starter Set already covers the aspects of these rules that you need to run the included campaign.)
“As we introduce new storylines like Tyranny of Dragons, we’ll also make available free PDFs that provide all the rules and stats missing from Basic D&D needed to run the adventures tied into the story. The adventures released as part of Tyranny of Dragonsare playable without requiring any of the core rulebooks or the Starter Set. With just the Basic Dungeons & Dragons rules, you can play D&D for years.”
Note: Emphasis added by me, not Mike.
That’s the meat of it. Feel free to check out the full column for more of Mike’s thoughts on the subject.
Also note that the D&D Starter Set is set to release July 15 of this year, so it looks like that’s when we will have access to the Basic D&D PDF if I am understanding correctly.
For my part, I think this is both a cool move to show love to gamers and also a smart marketing move. The healthier D&D is (and RPGs in general) the more physical product sells.
It also puts me in mind of several MMORPGs that have a “free to play” option to attract more players.
Regardless, I’ll be downloading my PDF of Basic D&D as soon as I can get my grubby little mouse on it.