It’s been a while since Dungeons & Dragons made an official appearance at Gen Con, and while this year it wasn’t a very loud or splashy presence, Jeremy Crawford, Greg Tito, and a small crew held court in a private room in Lucas Oil Stadium. I got to sit and chat for a bit with Jeremy before he had to run off to a panel he was on:
MIKE DUNN: It’s been a long time since you guys have had a really significant presence at Gen Con. What is prompting you guys to like get back into the fray at the good old Gen Con again?
JEREMY CRAWFORD: So we have the 50th anniversary coming up next year. We have the core rulebook revision that we’re working on. These spectacular books coming out later this year and we thought this would be a perfect time to come back to the granddaddy of tabletop gaming conventions, talk with people about what’s ahead, since again next year we’ll be celebrating half a century of this amazing game. And on Friday we got to talk to people here hear about what’s ahead in the core books that will start coming out in 2024. And already a lot of we’re seeing a lot of excitement as we delve into here. Here are the new options you’re going to get. And while we share all of that information online, we have found that nothing replaces that in-person experience. And so I always love it when we go to conventions and connect face to face like this.
MD: Well, just anecdotally speaking, I know a lot of people that have missed the presence of D&D at Gen Con, and it’s good to see you guys back. And I imagine next year you guys are going to be here in a big, big way. I can’t imagine you wouldn’t be.
JC: We’ve got a lot of plans for the 50th anniversary, not the least of which are the new core rules revisions.
MD: But before we dip too far into that, I’d like to ask, I know you have some stuff coming out before then, in between, and I know there’s a property that is near and dear to a lot of people’s hearts, and I’m looking at it right over here. Tell us about the Planescape set that’s coming out.
JC: So the Planescape set is an amazing slipcase with three books, a poster map, a Dungeon Master screen, and with all of these pieces, you will be able to not only play through an epic campaign in Planescape, but also have material to build adventures of your own there. This is a product we have been excited to make for years since Planescape really is at the heart of the setting, while also introducing new elements. So in the Bestiary book, for example, you’re going to see creatures that were there in 2nd edition D&D, Planescape, but then you’re also going to see new creatures. In the Sigil in the Outlands book, which is largely the campaign setting book, you’re going to encounter familiar details about the Outlands and the city of Siguld, but then also brand new details. And then the adventure is a tour, essentially, of parts of the Outer Plains and also an opportunity to experience that wondrous planar realm at lower levels, but then also, and I’m not going to spoil why or how, there is a shift where you will also experience them in the same campaign at high level.
MD: So it’s going to be another slip case, like what you guys did with Spelljammer.
JC: Yes, and this is an evolution of what we did there. We were always iterating, we’re always evolving what we do, not only with the rules, but with the storytelling, our visual presentation. is as much as people loved aspects of the Spelljammer product, there was a lot of ask for more. Yeah. And so looking at the books, you can probably tell that two of these three books are bigger than books in the Spelljammer set. So we heard loud and clear that desire for more, and in this product, there is indeed more.
MD: I’m glad you brought that up because it’s something that we noticed at GamingTrend. And knowing how excited we were for Spelljammer, it did have a little bit of a dampening effect about the excitement of it. And knowing that you guys were going to take the same approach with Planescape, I’m glad to hear that you’ve taken that criticism to heart. Because, again, these are very important. I imagine you’re probably going to come out with more Spelljammer stuff at some point down the road to help supplement what already came out.
JC: So we don’t view these necessarily as one-offs. And we hinted at this at D&D Direct, that traveling the multiverse, going to new worlds, returning to familiar ones, that is definitely part of our future. And also, like with the Spelljammer product, we love to experiment. Sometimes our experiments are embraced with tremendous enthusiasm. Sometimes, not as much. And one of the things we were experimenting with in Spelljammer is, what if it’s adventure first? It’s all about just this pulp adventure in space and that’s how you come to experience this setting. We knew it was an experiment and the response we got is well we want more about the setting itself and again in Planescape it’s there. While still having an adventure and even but the adventure even is longer than the adventure was in Spelljammer.
MD: Now that actually brings up an interesting point. That was something that we brought up, we’ve been bringing up since you guys have introduced this multiverse concept to D&D. It feels like you guys are tapping into an overall zeitgeist that we’re having in media. Like, you’ve got the Marvel Universe with their multiverse, it seems like everybody’s talking about multiverse stuff. Everything, Everywhere, All at Once was a movie about multiple universes. It kind of blows my mind that the mainstream is discussing the concept of parallel worlds and parallel universes when I’ve been trying to tell people about it since I was a kid and getting blank stares coming back at me. How is that from your perspective as far as a creator dipping into that kind of zeitgeist that’s happening right now?
JC: Well, I love seeing the zeitgeist dipping into Dungeons & Dragons. So this actually for us is not a response to what’s going on, this is simply a continuing evolution of the exploration we’ve been doing of the multiverse throughout 5th edition. On the very first page of the introduction in the 2014 Player’s Handbook, we tell you right there on the first page that the setting of Dungeons & Dragons is the multiverse. And the word multiverse is even in bold on that page. And so what we’re doing here, it’s sort of like, I love seeing other people catching up.
MD: Everybody’s catching up to us, right? Like, we’ve been talking about this for years. And it’s on everybody’s mind, it’s on what everybody’s watching and what everybody’s buying.
JC: And it’s a powerful part of D&D because the multiverse going all the way back to first edition has been a way to communicate that D&D isn’t about just one world or one style of fantasy or one style of storytelling it’s one of the really amazing ways that D&D in a narrative way is able to express that there are all sorts of storytelling and worlds and sub-genres of fantasy that are a part of D&D. And then even more special, it also gives DMs the sense that the world they create is also a part of this multiverse. And I think that helps create that intimate sense of connection that DMs and players have with D&D. Because there’s almost this sense that they are co-creators.
MD: Yeah, yeah, they have a stake in it.
JC: Yeah, absolutely. And so that’s one of the reasons why the multiversal concept is so important to us. Because it’s not just about making room for Planescape and Ravenloft and the Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk, etc., but also making room for everyone’s home-growth setting.
MD: That’s a great way to approach it. I’ve been watching it evolve over the last few years, and I’ve been basically… I think my question in every briefing that we’ve gotten with you has been, all right, where’s Dragonlance? Where’s Planescape? Where’s Souljammer? That’s the questions I’m getting, right? And boom, boom, boom, here you go. You’ve been doing it, and it’s been fun watching how you’ve managed to make it all connected. Now, speaking of which, you guys have something else coming, I believe it’s coming out before Planescape,
JC: So yeah, we have Bigby Presents, Glory of the Giants, and also Phandelver and Below, the Shattered Heart. And then we have also the Deck of Many Things coming out. We have many treasures ahead of us this year.
MD: Yeah, and now one thing that I keep on hearing from a lot of our readers is concern about how all this will still fit with the upcoming rules revisions. And I feel like you guys have already kind of laid the groundwork for that with what we did with Tasha’s Cauldron and and the follow-up book that came in the set -Monsters of the Multiverse, yes. So like maybe talk a little bit about that. Help me reassure our readers that everything’s going to be okay.
JC: As we work on the rules revision for 2024, we’re looking to add new options. People have seen one example of that in the form of weapon mastery that has been enthusiastically embraced by fans. We’ll transform how half our classes function. We’re also looking at taking things that people haven’t enjoyed as much and making them way more enjoyable, and then also optimizing the things that people already love. In the process of doing that, we are also ensuring that whether it’s a new rule or an optimized old rule, that you can use those rules with the products that you already have, or that you might buy later this year. And the same team that is making Glory of the Giants and Planescape and The Deck of Many Things is making the revised core rulebooks. And so it is on our minds, even as we have finished these books, how to tie them in with the rulebooks coming out next year. And so we consider these books to be connected to those books coming out next year. And and we realize it is Innovative what we’re doing because D&D has never done this before of Revising an edition and then just keeping it going and so we understand that these are great questions and as a part of this innovation where we are both looking ahead to the books that will come out after the core books, but then also prepping the books that come out right before those books to also work with them, and looking backward over the past years, going back to 2014, to ensure that, you know, that that book you bought five years ago, you know, whether it’s Curse of Strahd or something else, is going to work with the Player’s Handbook and other books coming out next year.
MD: Give us some little insight about DMing from your perspective. I think that would be a cool thing to wrap this interview up with.
JC: So one of the things that I love about this current era in D&D is that people can go online and watch streams of different D&D games, whether they’re by me or Matt Mercer or Chris Perkins or many many many others and what they can see in all of these is how different we all are as Dungeon Masters and what I hope that people take away from that is there is not one right way to be a DM. That I think each person who decides to be a Dungeon Master has something special to bring to the DM’s chair. Because since this is a co-op storytelling game, every DM is a different storyteller. And I hope that what people internalize is, be the best version of yourself as a dungeon master. Don’t waste time trying to be like some DM you saw online. Maybe take some inspiration, see, ooh, that’s a cool thing they did, maybe I can do that. But my advice was, even if you take that inspiration, then do it your way. And then also listen to your players, because also each group of players is different. And so while that group online that you saw might love that particular DM style, there’s a good chance that your group of players, they’re hungry for something else. And so I think it’s also important for us as DMs, whatever our style, to be good listeners. To really pay attention to what our players want and create an experience that is tailored to what you’re seeing brings them delight. And that is again one of the powers of D&D. Unlike many other games, each group can have this tailored experience that might not be for the group down the road, but is the thing that your group is just delighted by. And it’s exactly the thing that they’re hungry for. And so really, the short version of that is DMs, just be the best version of yourself as a Dungeon Master and see what brings your players joy.
Mike Dunn is the old man of Gaming Trend, having cut his teeth on Atari consoles and First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons back in the day. His involvement with Gaming Trend dates back to 2003, and he’s done everything from design and code to writing and managing. Now he has come full circle, with a rekindled passion for tabletop gaming and a recent debut as Dungeon Master (nearly forty years after he purchased the original DMG).