Ali Rolls for Damage

5E Needs A ‘War Room’

One thing I’ve been vocal about as we head for the 5E public playtest is the need for D&D 5E to be rooted in the 21st century. In other words, for any version of D&D to come out and thrive in 2012 (or 2013, or 2014, depending on whom you ask) it needs to embrace digital delivery and digital technology.

So far, a lot of the conversation about D&D and digital has centered on PDFs. But I’ve also been thinking about something else: smartphones and other mobile devices. And this morning, I saw something that really got my imagination about Digital D&D absolutely churning.

Take a few minutes, if you will, and watch the video on this webpage. It’s for WAR ROOM, a newly announced app being released in March for the tabletop game WARMACHINE. It’s a complete digital game management app for players. Amongst its features of note:

  • A free core download that gives new players basic functionality.
  • Quick-tap rules reference for any ability referenced on a model’s stat card.
  • IAP “add on” modules for different in-game factions. Purchase your faction’s module, get access to all of that factions’ stat cards — both existing and future release — for the life of the ruleset.
  • The app also uploads new errata as it becomes legal.
  • Local sharing of your army’s information with an opponent, and the ability to see each others’ information when you play.

Seriously? D%D 5E needs an app like this. A developed, company-supported, fully functional mobile app that leverages the device that more and more of us are carrying around everywhere, every damn day.

Imagine this: An official, WotC-licensed and supported D&D Digital app. Something that was a free download, that allowed someone to create a “Core” level character and level them for three levels. It also allowed them to share their character with the DM, and allowed for the recording of things like status effects, durations, etc. The app would let them tap abilities to see quick-reference rules related to their character, e.g. tap the Magic Missile spell to get its game-effects on-screen.

Then, there could be purchasable modular add-ons. Want to go beyond 3rd level or use the more complex character creation rules? Buy the PHB module for some set IAP price, and also gain the ability to equip magic items and such. Are you the DM and also want to track your game in the app? Buy the DMG add-on, which lets you load up monster stats, provides you with NPC creation tools, an initiative tracker, and even a “Theatre of the Mind” audio soundboard with things like monster roars and clashing blade SFX. Starting your new adventure in the Forgotten Realms? Consider purchasing the FR module, which will allow you to load up FR-specific classes, themes, and races, and also give you access to a pocket-sized map of Faerun.

And of course, there’s the benefit of updates. Did WotC just put out an errata to the Ranger class, changing how an ability works? A quick app sync later, that rules change is reflected in D&D Digital, with a quick flag for you the next time you open that character, alerting you to the change.

Do you like that image? Yeah, I thought you would.

Digital management apps like WAR ROOM are absolutely where things are heading in the 21st century. The goal isn’t to replace the tabletop here, or to take the game online; it’s to leverage mobile devices to help players and DMs play the game to the fullest. If WotC doesn’t set out to create mobile digital support tools like this — and actually do them, actually develop them, not just promise them like they did with DDI — then they will be setting 5E up for failure.

The future is digital. D&D needs to go digital. Let’s hope WotC understands that.

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