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As a new DM I am wondering if it would be worth it to me to subscribe to D&D Insider?

What are some of the pros?

What are some of the cons?

Specs: MacBook Pro 13"


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Can you describe your play style and game setup? Especially if your players are using it? – C. Ross Jun 7 '11 at 12:58
To be honest the play style will be casual to begin with until they get a hold of what to do. Once they are able to grasp the rules I hope we will play more often. I am unsure if the players will be using it, I wanted to check it out before telling them to get it or not. – Curtis Miller Jun 7 '11 at 16:12
up vote 9 down vote accepted


It is absolutely worth subscribing to. I use it instead of getting dead-tree books, due to the frequency of updates and content drops.

Pros: easily searchable, pretty convenient compendium. If you have silverlight the character builder offers a far more effective method to build characters than pencil and paper, especially considering the options.

Cons: you'll expect that all the options become available after a while. Silverlight requires multiple database hits every time you click anything, while you can download the pdfs of dragon, you can't keep your compendium access or your characters after you stop subscribing.

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@Brian: Can you have multiple people signed into one D&D Insider account at once? – Curtis Miller Jun 7 '11 at 5:19
::shuffles nervously:: Not... really... It's uh, technically against the terms of Service so I can't say if I've investigated the phenomenon because we can't encourage naughty-bad activity here. – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 7 '11 at 9:09
@Curtis Miller - I will mention that having multiple computers signed into the DDI character builder on the same account can wreak havoc. My wife and I can't work on our chars at the same time... – wax eagle Jun 7 '11 at 11:19
@wax - I see. It probably freaks out when two people are editing character sheets. – Curtis Miller Jun 7 '11 at 15:33
@Curtis Miller - yes it definitely does, even if they are different chars. – wax eagle Jun 7 '11 at 15:56

The subscription is definitely worth it. Let me elaborate a bit on what you get when you subscribe.

  1. DDI character builder. This is along with the DDI compendium are the two most valuable pieces of the package. This allows you to build characters from scratch or from the essentials templates. It has many (not all) of the items in the game and gives you a character sheet you can print or export and use with something like iplay4e. Note: this tool is built in silverlight and is not compatible with Linux's Moonlight plugin at this time.

  2. DDI compendium. this is a searchable database of nearly every concept, creature, item, class, power etc in the game. It could well replace most dead tree books if you are willing to give them up. This also has an out facing API that is integrated into products like iplay4e and InCombat.

  3. Dungeon and Dragon magazines. These two magazines are pretty useful, although they are not the main draw. Dungeon focuses mainly on DM concepts while Dragon focuses on player concepts. One of the cool things they are doing this year is printing the Class Compendium which was intended to be a dead tree publication this year. However, Wizards reduced their publication schedule and now they are releasing a lot of material through the magazines.

  4. Access to current and future DM tools released by Wizards. They currently have several DM tools of varying quality (I haven't used them myself) and are planning to release more as time goes on, subscribers have access to these. Current tools:

    • Monster Builder - a silverlight (same as CB) tool that houses a database of wizards' monsters with tools to level them up or down and re-flavor them.

Just for fun a bit of cost analysis.

Cost of PHB1,DMG,MM1 boxed set - $66 Cost of 1 year DDI subscription - $71.40

With each additional book costing in the neighborhood of $25-30 and there being a lot of books (PHB2, PHB3, MM2, MM3, DMG2, Power books) it seems prudent to save the money, paper and shelf space and just subscribe to DDI.

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You also get access to the Dungeon Master tools as they build them, if I'm not mistaken. – Cthos Jun 7 '11 at 14:30
@Cthos - I believe that is correct. I haven't had a chance to explore much of whats offered on the DM side. I know some of that stuff is old and is in the process of being updated. I would have to guess they will be similar to the CB and be online silverlight stuff. – wax eagle Jun 7 '11 at 14:32
@Cthos: The DM tools is really what I am looking forward to. I have heard about some tools such as Gametable but it seems to run best on windows. I hope that D&D Insider will be the total item for me. – Curtis Miller Jun 10 '11 at 4:58

I found DDI underwhelming. I subscribed for only a month when the character builder was offline.

Buying a copy of the CB was worth $10, since it stuck around after the subscription ended. I'm not sure what to make of the online builder they have up these days. It's caused quite a few headaches for my group, but we're not Windows users. I think the Mac user was able to get Silverlight working eventually without resorting to boot camp. I set up a virtual machine on linux and had some trouble because I didn't expect Silverlight would be a 2gb installation and would fail to let me know if there wasn't enough room on the disk.

The magazines were alright. I skimmed through most of them. I think I would have been happier with them if there was a better way to search for articles. Give an intern a week and each article could be tagged with its relevant topics. That would be a fantastic service.

I liked the compendium a lot, especially as GM. It was searchable, but I'd rather use grep than a web interface. So I wrote a script to have Firefox visit every page in the compendium and then I copied the results out of my cache. I found this to be a whole lot more useful than the interface WotC gave me.

Basically, DDI kept reminding me that WotC was not a software company and I couldn't justify giving them $10 a month for what I considered to be bad software. My group splits a subscription and we all try not to use up the character slots. $10 a month for the whole group seems like a fair price to me.

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On system Operability, The CB should work just fine on Mac natively. On Linux, it will not work in Moonlight (it loads all the resources then crashes), but it will work in a virtual machine presuming you give it enough space (as @valadil notes, it's freaking huge). – Cthos Jun 7 '11 at 14:29
@Cthos 'should' being the important word here. I have no idea why Silverlight didn't install correctly on the first try on my friend's Macbook. However, it's pretty easy to figure out if you can install Silverlight before committing to buying DDI. Regarding the VM, I think it didn't fit in my 8gb disk with XP, so I doubled it and that worked fine. 12gb is probably the right amount for a VM with XP and Silverlight. – valadil Jun 7 '11 at 14:35
Yeah, that does assume the Silverlight installation went okay. MS officially supports Intel-Based Macs, which is why it actually works (most of the time) on them: – Cthos Jun 7 '11 at 14:51

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