5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons Freely Downloadable from Wizards of the Coast

Man, can you believe I almost typed “from TSR". Gettin’ old does stuff like that.

The new 5th edition of the legendary role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (DnD) is here. Curious as to what’s in it without popping $50 on one of those beautiful, new rulebooks? Boy, are you in luck! Publisher Wizards of the Coast has made the basic rules for the new system available to anyone with an internet connection and a case of curiosity.

The free PDF version of DnD 5 weighs in at 115 pages and contains all the goodies you need to get going: 20 levels of advancement, four classes with subclasses, four races, and 120 spells. And that’s before you include the free, basic edition of the Dungeon Master’s guide!

So why has WotC decided to release a free e-book version of their rules for gratis? Julian Murdoch of Gamers With Jobs interviewed lead designer Mike Mearls and came back with the answer in GWJ Conference Call #409. Mearls citied both the video game free-to-play business model and the buying habits of decades-old DnD groups as primary reasons. New players expect to get the first taste on the house. As for existing players, we all know that there’s usually only one or two members of any given gaming group who buys the books for everyone to use anyway. Wizards could either go with the flow or fight the winds of change.

Will this new free-to-play model be as successful for a book publisher as it was for MMO and mobile game developers? I guess we’ll see when the 6th edition of DnD is ready for release. In the meantime, Wizards seems genuine about supporting ‘freepers’. Shortly after the release of the DnD 5’s first major adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, an online supplement was made available to ensure compatible with the free editions of the rulebooks. Additionally, WotC is expecting the PDF basic editions to be continuously updated with more information and player suggested rule changes until December of 2014.

Check out all the latest happenings in the world of Dungeons and Dragons at dnd.wizards.com.

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