Not only does it contain a compendium of every official rule, class, subclass, spell monster, magic item, etc., but it also contains every official D&D 5E book published by Wizards of the Coast, including all maps, and crosslinks the contents of those books with the information in the compendium.
Of course, most of this isn’t free, though all the basic rules—everything that WotC released in their free basic PHB and DMG downloads—is available at no cost. In fact, you can create a free account, and with that you are able to create up to 6 characters and manage up to 3 campaigns, though you are limited to the content in the free basic WotC rules.
The best part of the site—in my opinion—is the digital offerings. Yes, you have to pay for them. And from what I’ve seen online, many people are unhappy that if they bought the print books from WotC, they don’t then get a major discount from Curse for the digital versions. If one thinks about this, though, this shouldn’t be remotely surprising, since WotC and Curse are different companies. Curse has paid for a D&D license in order to create these tools, so if they were to give all content away for free, they wouldn’t be around very long.
Now I generally prefer electronic versions of my RPG books over the hardcopies. When running D&D, I often utilize a bunch of the Dwarven Forge terrain pieces that I’ve purchased through the Kickstarters that they’ve launched over the last few years. Between the terrain and the minis (a collection of both official D&D minis and Pathfinder minis), I have a fair bit to carry. If I could combine that with some graph paper, a mechanical pencil, and my iPad, I would be a happy guy.
Lugging around a huge selection of hardcover books is not my idea of a good time.
So I was pretty excited when I fairly recently looked into D&D Beyond and found that I could purchase every WotC book as a digital offering. I own only the core three in hardcopy—Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual—and so I don’t have an issue “buying it all again,” as I’ve seen some people comment regarding the digital offerings.
The other really cool element of this is that there are multiple purchase options for those who don’t want a whole book. For example, if a player wants to play a particular character class that is not in the free basic rules, he or she could purchase just that class out of the PHB offerings. And if he or she later decides to purchase the rest of the PHB, the price will be adjusted down by the amount that was already spent. This flexibility means that people are not forced to buy content that they will never use—each individual can pick and choose which bits to buy from the entire library of content that WotC has published.
The timing for this was excellent, as the guys I run a game for recently agreed to convert our AD&D 2E game over to 5E. That means I’ve got two D&D 5E campaigns going, and I feel that I’ll definitely get my money’s worth out of D&D Beyond.
Aside from the content of the books, there are two subscription tiers. The Hero tier gives you an unlimited number of characters you can create and lets you use publicly-shared homebrew content. The Master tier has the same as the Hero tier, but you can also share any/all of your unlocked official content with players in one of your campaigns. That’s right, a group of players could pool their money and, as long as continue to game together and remain part of the same campaign in the D&D Beyond tool, they all get access to that purchased content.
Finally, D&D Beyond has an app that is still in its early phases. However, I’ve already gotten good use out of it by downloading the core rulebooks and the adventures I’m running into the app. This means that between the app and a browser window accessing the D&D Beyond compendium content, I can run an entire game right off my iPad. And the fact that all the content in the Compendium is crosslinked is amazing. For example, in the description of the Cloak of Arachnida, it mentions that the wearer can cast the web spell once per day. The name of the spell is cross-linked to the spell description in the spells section of the compendium.
There’s a thread in the D&D Beyond forums where people explain how they are using the D&D Beyond tools, and there are some great ideas in there. I’ve noted a number of people using Microsoft OneNote to manage their campaigns, cutting and pasting text from the compendium entries, or dropping in links to specific bits of compendium content. Many people say they don’t use the actual books at all to run their games, doing it all off a laptop or tablet.
So is it worth it?
That’s the question, isn’t it? At the moment, I’ve unlocked the full range of compendium content, but I haven’t sprung for either of the subscriptions. It’s possible that, if my players all decide to jump on D&D Beyond to manage their characters, I may consider getting the Master tier subscription in order to share all the class and spell content with them. But right now I don’t have enough demand to justify the monthly cost (though I would definitely use it and I’d be happy to write a more thorough review if Curse wanted to throw me a freebie to test it out, hint, hint).
Personally, I feel that the digital books are definitely worth the price. Getting the entire collection at once gives a big discount, not only on the current books but the discount also applies on any new books that come out. I’ve already gotten a lot of value out of this package, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to any DM’s out there who like digital tools.
As I mentioned, I’m not yet seeing the full value of the subscriptions, so I’m holding off for now. I’m open to being convinced, of course.
Do you use D&D Beyond, even if only the free stuff? What do you think about it? Have you been happy with your purchased content, if you have any? Tell us about it in the comments.