Wizards of the Coast shows off the future of Dungeons & Dragons by unveiling a preview of the D&D virtual tabletop digital features and gameplay tools.
The Dungeons & Dragons virtual tabletop was first glimpsed during the Wizards Presents livestream presentation in 2022. The new video provides a closer and more in-depth look at what the official standalone virtual tabletop for D&D can offer for fans looking to play Dungeons & Dragons online or enhance the tabletop roleplaying experience.
The Dungeons & Dragons virtual tabletop (VTT) update was shown during the D&D Direct event presented by WotC.
Connect with your friends, play Dungeons & Dragons.
Learn more about our virtual tabletop: https://t.co/3mVYyiwdX4 pic.twitter.com/mcfRKsB3GX
— Dungeons & Dragons (@Wizards_DnD) March 28, 2023
Aside from the Dungeons & Dragons VTT, the event included announcements for other D&D products and partnerships. This included the Minecraft x Dungeons & Dragons crossovers and the Magic: The Gathering Secret Lair which featured cards of the cast of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.
The short video preview of the D&D VTT showcased the Unreal Engine 5 graphics. Miniatures for characters, monsters, and environments were rendered in full 3D, with impressive animation and VFX for the spells and magical abilities. The D&D VTT teaser also revealed how tabletop gameplay staples would look like, such as Dungeons & Dragons character classes, d20 checks and dice rolls, saving throws, initiatives, NPC interactions, and other tools for both players and Dungeon Masters.
On the D&D Beyond website, D&D virtual tabletop Game Director Kale Stutzman provided an overview of the design goals and choices in developing the D&D VTT:
When I first set out to pitch this product with a very small internal team, it was driven by my experiences as a longtime D&D player in a world where getting together in person was harder than it used to be. We wanted a virtual space where we could gather our friends wherever they were—on a computer, phone, console, or even in the same room—and play the game we all love.
To do this effectively, this experience needed to satisfy three core criteria: It had to be Fun, like playing in person, it had to be Convenient for both Dungeon Masters and players, and it had to be Authentic to the rules and how people play the game. Using these keywords as our North Star, we started work on an immersive experience while trying to solve the real-world problems our players were having with learning how to play, connecting with each other, and keeping their groups alive.
But while the preview of the Unreal Engine 5 virtual tabletop looks promising, it is still far from ready. According to Stutzman:
In game development terms, we are in early pre-alpha. You might have also heard this called a vertical slice or a beautiful corner. This means we have built just enough rules, features, and content to package them together for player feedback, which will help us iterate and rapidly improve the experience. However, there are still too many bugs and missing pieces to put the game into the hands of the community, so we have only opened testing to anyone that works at Wizards and their friends and family.
Stutzman continued by relating the tasks that still need a lot of work, including the automation, Dungeon Master controls, D&D Beyond integration, and compatibility with the Fifth Edition rules. They also want to emphasize that the Dungeons & Dragons VTT will be a tool, not a replacement, for face-to-face and traditional tabletop roleplaying.
On that note, Stutzman also addressed what was meant by the marketplace that will be part of the D&D virtual tabletop:
When I said marketplace, I was referring to a shared space for creators to upload and download creations from. Community tools are also a long way off. In the meantime, tell us what you would want out of community sharing.
Dungeons & Dragons fans had expressed concerns about the development of the D&D VTT, particularly with the Open Gaming License controversy. The OGL 1.1 and OGL 1.2 leaks implied that Wizards of the Coast and parent company Hasbro were pushing for unnecessary and predatory changes due to the alleged under-monetized D&D brand. With the announcement of One D&D, fans expressed fears of gatekeeping and microtransactions when the D&D virtual tabletop is implemented.
Although no rollout date was given for the Dungeons & Dragons VTT, the design team is targeting playtest releases through D&D Beyond later in 2023.