D&D Live 2021: What to expect from Wizards of the Coast’s annual live-play streaming event

The official cover art for Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos. (Wizards of the Coast Image)

Wizards of the Coast, the Renton, Wash.-based publisher behind Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, held a virtual press conference on Monday to discuss what’s coming up this weekend in its annual live-play streaming event, D&D Live.

This includes breakdowns of the next three big sourcebooks for D&D, an unusually star-studded assortment of celebrities who’ll be rolling dice for charity, and further discussion of Wizards’ new partnership with the revived gaming-focused cable network G4.

That includes G4 putting D&D on mainstream TV, via NBC’s Peacock streaming platform; several new crossovers between D&D and Wizards’ collectible card game Magic: The Gathering; hints at more classic D&D campaign worlds coming to 5th edition next year; and how D&D itself is adapting to suit the time sensitivity of a modern audience.

D&D’s still on a roll

According to Nathan Stewart, head of franchise for D&D, the game line is “tracking to another year of growth,” after having its two biggest years to date in 2019 and 2020.

Wizards reported that last year’s sourcebook Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything was a bestseller in November. Tasha’s, a grab-bag of new subclasses, spells, character features, and rules, sold enough copies in the last six weeks of the year that it’s become the single best-selling D&D book that isn’t part of the core ruleset. In other words, it hasn’t outsold the Player’s Handbook or Dungeon Master’s Guide, but it’s done better than just about everything else.

Dragon Talk co-host Greg Tito (top left) interviews Wizards of the Coast’s Liz Schuh (top right), Nathan Stewart (bottom left), and Ray Winninger (bottom right), in advance of this year’s D&D Live show.

This year’s Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, which reintroduced D&D‘s Gothic horror setting to the 5th edition ruleset, has also been met with a reaction that Wizards executive producer Ray Winninger described as “heartwarming,” though no further details were provided.

Three new D&D books have been announced for the last half of 2021. The Wild Beyond the Witchlight by Chris Perkins is a carnival-themed adventure for characters of levels 1 through 8, and is the first official D&D module that’s set primarily in the Feywild.

It also introduces the concept of a “Domain of Delight,” the direct opposite of the “Domains of Dread” within Ravenloft, where an arch-fae rules over a custom-designed pocket dimension within the Feywild. That doesn’t necessarily make it less dangerous, but Perkins has said that “it’s easier to get through this [adventure] with a smile than a sword.” Wild Beyond the Witchlight is due out on Sept. 21.

Now your dragonborn PC can be descended from gem dragons. (Wizards of the Coast Image)

Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, by long-time Wizards designer James Wyatt and actress/songwriter/pro D&D player Amy Vorpahl, is a world-agnostic sourcebook that primarily deals with the “dragons” part of D&D.

Narrated by Fizban the Fabulous, the Treasury contains a full bestiary, introduces new ancestry options for dragonborn characters, includes two new subclasses, and discusses the story of the First World, where dragons were initially created.

It also reintroduces gem dragons to the 5e rules, in case you really want to sic some weird monsters on your players. Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons will ship on Oct. 19.

The most secretive upcoming book is Strixhaven: A Cirriculum of Chaos, by Amanda Hamon and Jeremy Crawford, which adapts Magic: The Gathering‘s wizards’ university to D&D rules. Its exact contents and details are being saved for a presentation during D&D Live 2021. It’s planned for release on Nov. 16.

All three books, as per Wizards’ recent initiatives, will feature both a standard and alternate cover version, with the latter art being exclusive to brick-and-mortar game stores.

Stewart also teased that Wizards’ plans for D&D in 2022 include the reintroduction of two classic settings for the game, though he offered no further information.

Depending on how one chooses to interpret “classic,” Wizards isn’t spoiled for choice here. There are a lot more official D&D campaign worlds than a lot of modern fans realize, and so far, only a few of them have been officially adapted for 5th edition.

Dragonlance is likely a strong contender here, as a new series of tie-in novels are reportedly planned to get a release date at some point this year. The authors, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, quietly settled their related lawsuit against Wizards in January.

Wizards’ Jeremy Crawford also mentioned that the company is exploring the need for “bite-sized adventure content,” which allows D&D fans to get games in over shorter periods of time, or with fewer players, in order to fit more neatly into modern fans’ time constraints. Specific use cases mentioned included parents playing with their kids, or one-on-one games in the spirit of the old Head-to-Head modules from the ’90s.

Magic: The Dungeoneering

Tito interviews designer James Wyatt (top right) and producer Lauren Bond (bottom) about the D&D/Magic crossover set, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.

Wizards of the Coast originally bought TSR, the company that originally created Dungeons & Dragons, in April 1997, when Magic: The Gathering was already four years old.

Since then, the company’s internal policy has been, to quote Wyatt, “the doctrine of never crossing the streams.” It took more than 20 years, somehow, before Wizards ever officially mixed the two franchises together.

That policy was relaxed in 2018 with the release of Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica, a hardcover expansion that adapted one of the trademark Magic settings, a planet-sized city full of feuding guilds, for D&D. Another Magic crossover book, Mythic Odysseys of Theros, followed in 2020.

In 2021, Wizards intends to get rid of that policy altogether with multiple crossovers between the game lines. In addition to the Strixhaven book, as above, Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is scheduled to launch later this month.

Hey, look, it’s a walking nightmare. (Wizards of the Coast Image)

Wizards producer Lauren Bond describes Adventures as a “love letter to both brands, and both settings,” with new mechanics that revolve around the player using Magic to tell a sort of story.

The new cards feature an assortment of characters, items, monsters, and typical events related to D&D. The Adventures cards are already available in virtual form in Magic: The Gathering – Arena, with the physical versions going on sale on July 23.

In September, Wizards will release a new Secret Lair pack of cards for Magic with a theme based on the old 1980s “Dungeons & Dragons” Saturday morning cartoon. Like other cards under the Secret Lair label, these are limited-edition reprints of existing cards, such as Whir of Invention, with new art inspired by the old cartoon.

Rolling dice for charity

This weekend’s D&D Live 2021 show will be airing via the official D&D Twitch and YouTube channels, as well as, in a slight surprise, the NBC-affiliated streaming service Peacock.

According to G4’s Brian Terwilliger, the choice to broadcast the event on Peacock is deliberate, in order to get eyes on the game and “make [D&D] as accessible as possible.”

The gaming-focused G4 cable channel originally ran from 2002 to 2014, with a primary focus on video games and the culture that surrounds them. For its revival this summer, many of the original talent such as Adam Sessler are returning to host revivals of the channel’s original programming, such as “Attack of the Show.” G4’s current parent company, G4 Media, is a joint venture between NBCUniversal and the Dish Network.

As per Terwilliger, D&D and live play will form a big part of the new G4. The channel is building a new 60,000-square foot facility for its programming, and Terwilliger hopes to bring an audience into it for live events, including more shows in the future that will be based around D&D.

Uncle Patton’s taking the kids on an adventure! (Wizards of the Coast Image)

The programming for D&D Live‘s games will play out across five tables, featuring an assortment of celebrity guests being run through different games. Each table is playing to raise money for a different charity via audience donations.

The Lost Odyssey: Last Light table features Kate Welch (Acquisitions Incorporated) running a pirate-themed game on behalf of Extra Life. Her players include Jack Black (one-half of Tenacious D, School of Rock, Jumanji), Kevin Smith (you know, the Clerks guy), Jason Mewes (the other Clerks guy), stand-up comedian Tiffany Haddish, comedian/musician Reggie Watts, and actress/podcaster Lauren Lapkus (Happiest Season).

This year with @G4TV, we bring you The Lost Odyssey: Last Light. @katewelchhhh has returned to lead the band of misfits, @jackblack @reggiewatts @laurenlapkus @thatkevinsmith @jaymewes & a special guest! #DnDLive

D&D Live returns 7/16 & 7/17

More info: https://t.co/MVweN6xbS9 pic.twitter.com/IbyWnf9hAk

— Dungeons & Dragons (@Wizards_DnD) June 16, 2021

The Chaos Carnival table, playing on behalf of Connor’s Cure, features Aabria Iyengar (who is everywhere this summer) running a game for four WWE wrestlers: Xavier Woods, Ember Moon, Mace, and Tyler Breeze.

Amy Vorpahl will run the Flubbybonks and Guzzleshucks table, which Wizards claims was named after running two of their hosts’ names through a “gnomish wizard name generator,” for the Pablove Foundation. Her players include Twitch streamers Dr. Lupo and Negaoryx; G4’s Adam Sessler, Fiona Nova, and Kevin Pererira; and comedian Ify Nwadiwe.

The fourth table, The Palace of the Vampire Queen, benefits Alice’s Kids. It pits Dungeon Master B. Dave Walters against the cast of the NBC/Peacock show “A.P. Bio”: Patton Oswalt, Nick Peine, Marisa Baram, Allisyn Snyder, and Jacob Houston.

The Faster, Purple Worm! Kill! Kill! Table, run by Jon Ciccolini of the Beadle & Grimm’s tabletop accessory company, features Walters, streamer/YouTuber Xander Jeanneret, Deborah Ann Woll (Netflix’s “Daredevil”), and Seth Green (“Robot Chicken”).

The Purple Worm table features a unique gimmick: the players must hunt a monster that will grow more powerful and dangerous in-game in direct proportion to how much money the other tables have been able to raise. If D&D Live 2021 is a success, then it will come at the cost of the final players’ characters.

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