D&D Misses a Big Opportunity in Baldur’s Gate 3

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As Baldur’s Gate 3 approaches its second year in early access, this is still a major missed opportunity for Dungeons & Dragons, as the video game does not advance access to the tabletop RPG that spawned it. The original classic Baldur’s Gate PC role-playing games were based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons second edition ruleset. After more than 20 years, the third Baldur’s Gate adapts the current 5e D&D rules. Much of the crossover fandom between tabletop D&D players and Baldur’s Gate video game fans is organic. However, D&D misses the chance to expand its board game by not including a free PDF copy of the D&D 5e Starter Set rules with every purchase of the Baldur’s Gate 3 Early Access edition.

Baldur’s Gate 3 is not the first video game to use the 5e D&D ruleset. Sword Coast Legends was an early example, and Solasta was a near-perfect adaptation of 5e D&D, albeit produced by a third party under the Open Gaming License. Baldur’s Gate 3, based on the success of the latest Divinity series games from developer Larian, is by far the most popular 5e D&D video game to date. Although D&D has seen record growth as a brand, the hobby of tabletop role-playing games is still relatively small compared to the video game market. Baldur’s Gate 3’s official website has links to Wizards of the Coast’s D&D homepage, but there’s still an opportunity to do more to turn video game fans into tabletop role-playing game lovers.

Related: How do Baldur’s Gate 3 Bards differ from D&D

There are many Starter Set boxed sets that are designed to help new players get acquainted with D&D, ranging from a standard set to topics dedicated to media such as “Rick and Morty” or “Very Strange Things”. The Netflix series, in particular, has helped to raise interest in D&D, and “Very Strange Things” may lead to more appearances of Vecna in future D&D adventures. As an officially licensed product, Baldur’s Gate 3 should strive to do more for D&D than for Stranger Things. Enabling the Starter Set rules is the easiest way. Starter kits usually include a simplified version of the rules, and they lack some character creation features, as in this “Player’s Guide” (which helps not to overload new players with too many options and stimulate sales of the full version of the PHB).

Baldur’s Gate 3 Can Do More to Transition Players to Tabletop D&D

The D&D starter kits also include adventure examples for new dungeon masters. A tabletop adventure set in the city of Baldur’s Gate and dealing with some of the same organizations and factions as in the BG3 video game is easy enough to imagine. Such an adventure could allow players to transfer their enthusiasm for a video game into a tabletop experience with friends, or inspire future DMS to tell their own stories in Baldur’s Gate and the Forgotten Realms setting. Recent fixes have updated the spells in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, but the knowledge has remained intact. While WOTC may not want to include the full Sword Coast expansion with Baldur’s Gate 3, a sample book may boost sales interest, but more importantly, it may attract new people to the board role-playing game craze.

To capitalize on both the digital nature of Baldur’s Gate 3 and the purchase of D&D Beyond WOTC, the company could consider providing codes to access starter kits through D&D Beyond’s online storefront instead of just providing PDFs. Beginner-friendly character creation in D&D Beyond may perhaps provide a smoother transition for those who have never played D&D in desktop form before, and it may be easier for the Master to take a laptop with him, rather than a stack of physical books, to a gaming session. Regardless of whether WOTC decides to enable direct download of PDFs with D&D content or access to a digital storefront, any kind of cross-promotion will be better than nothing. A full-fledged release of Baldur’s Gate 3 may take place in the near future, and current hints about the board game, such as the D&D logo on the title screen and a link on the BG3 website, are simply not enough.

There are other video games based on tabletop role-playing game licenses, such as Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, Shadowrun Returns, and many Warhammer-based games. Each of these games should do more to highlight the tabletop role-playing games that inspired them. Although D&D is already a leader in the field of tabletop role-playing games, any efforts to develop this hobby and attract new players are welcome. Wizards of the Coast and Larian may be working together on how Baldur’s Gate 3 can attract more players to board Dungeons & Dragons, but a free starter kit is the easiest answer.

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