Wizards of the Coast is launching Dungeons & Dragons:  The Sundering, a transmedia gaming event that spans game and fiction products, aggressively integrates organized play and mobile gaming into product development, and incorporates a licensing stream tied to the event.  The Sundering was first announced almost a year ago at Gen Con as a storyline for Forgotten Realms that would include six novels by different authors and two game products (see "The 'D&D Next' Keynote").  But as the full scale of the event unfolds, it’s clear that those are only two aspects of a much bigger program leading to the Next edition of Dungeons and Dragons. 
The first product in The Sundering, R. A. Salvatore’s The Companions: The Sundering Book 1, launches today, and the first game product, Murder at Baldur’s Gate, in two weeks on August 20. 
In this exclusive interview with Liz Schuh, Head of Publishing and Licensing for Dungeons & Dragons and Laura Tommervik, Sr. Brand Manager for D&D, we talk about the Sundering event, and in particular how it’s affecting organized play for Dungeons and Dragons, and why.  In Part 1, we get a birds-eye view of the event, begin to learn how D&D Encounters and mobile gaming will affect the story, and find out the role that comics will play.  In Part 2, we learned more about changes to the D&D Encounters program for The Sundering, the associated miniatures, the book schedule, and the T-shirt.

The Sundering has morphed into something bigger than the fiction and role-playing adventures.  Can you tell us about the overall program?
Schuh:  We’ve got a lot of exciting things coming up to support "The Sundering."  For us, most exciting and most current is the release of The Companions: [The Sundering] on August 6, which is the first of The Sundering novels.  It’s also the latest from R.A. Salvatore.  But along with that, we’ve got two great Sundering adventures. We talked about adventures coming last Gen Con, but obviously we have more detail now.  The first is Murder in Baldur’s Gate, and that releases this month.  It’s followed by The Legacy of the Crystal Shard, which releases later this fall, and that adventure is set in and around Ten Towns in Icewind Dale. 

We’re really taking players to iconic locations within the Forgotten Realms and letting them play very exciting adventures that tie to The Sundering, but aren’t directly connected to the events in the novel.  So players don’t have to read the novels; we certainly think they will enjoy the novels and it will give them a very nice overview of everything that’s going on related to The Sundering.  The adventures are stand-alone stories that they can play through and really enjoy as bite-sized stories set in the time and the backdrop of The Sundering events.   

What is The Sundering?
Schuh:  The Sundering is the last of a series of ground-shaking events.  It really affects the whole world of the Forgotten Realms in a major way.  You may remember when the Spell Plagues began, the two worlds of the Forgotten Realms, Abeir and Toril, crashed together.  That created both geographic changes (the map of the Forgotten Realms and Faerun actually changed due to that collision), and also changed the way magic works.  It changed the pantheon of the gods.  The Sundering is all about those two worlds separating--coming apart--and the process of that separation is really the story that we’re telling over the next year.  At the end of this story arc, Abeir and Toril will be separate again, and many of the things that happened when they crashed together will go back to the way they were before.  So magic will be much like it was before the Spell Plague. Markings that marked spell-plagued people and animals will fade and go away. 

It’s really about moving the Forgotten Realms forward, but also about bringing it around to the most beloved and most fondly remembered Forgotten Realms.

What can you tell us about the coordination between fiction and the new game products?
Tommervik:  One of the things that’s really exciting about this campaign is  players are going to have the opportunity to impact and shape the future of The Forgotten Realms and make their stories legend.  And so the way that these products all interact, the players, through their play at D&D Encounters will be able to go in and play and then report back the outcome of their play.  We’re going to be collecting that data over the course of the campaign. 

What does it mean to “report the outcome of their play”?
Tommervik:  We’re providing an online reporting tool, essentially.  It’s called The Sundering Adventurer’s Chronicle.  This tool will be accessible to everyone.  It will provide updates on The Sundering story as we go through the course of this yearlong campaign.  It will also provide players, on a weekly basis, to report what they experience at D&D Encounters, and we’ll share those results with the broader community so people have a sense of how things are evolving.  And at the end of each of the Encounter seasons, we will share with all the players, ultimately, what the results of their aggregate actions were. 

Is it a narrative or a form they fill out to report what happened?
Tommervik:  They’ll be given a series of questions, and it will be very obvious to the players based on the way that we’re posing the questions in terms of what their group experienced.  These adventures are incredible.  They’ve been designed in a special way such that we’re able to track this information and ultimately, at the end of the day, what the most players experienced, world-wide, will become canon.  The results of that play will be reflected in future products and program offerings for Dungeons and Dragons.  So essentially we’re giving the Realms back to the D&D community and allowing players to really shape the future and make their stories part of the legend of Dungeons & Dragons

Schuh:  The stories they tell in their adventures are just as important as what our authors are telling in The Sundering novels, and that some of our other partners are telling in other products that are part of The Sundering launch. 

Mobile gaming and comics are two other categories that were mentioned as being involved with The Sundering.  In the case of the comics, are they going to tell stories that are related to The Sundering?  And what’s going to happen in the mobile games?
Schuh:  I’ll start with the comics.  Our partner, IDW Publishing, is releasing a new series called Thieves of Calimport (a city in The Forgotten Realms) and that series is written by Richard Baker, who’s one of our fan favorite Forgotten Realms authors and game designers.  So he’s got a unique and different perspective on the events of The Sundering that he’ll be telling through those comics.  The series really explores another personal story with the backdrop of The Sundering events.  The interior art will be by Robert Gill, and we’re still working out some of the details.  We’ll be able to announce soon who’s doing the cover art and some of the other details of the release.

When is it launching?
Schuh:  We’re working with IDW to set a launch date, but it will definitely be within the window of Sundering events.

Which is a year?
Schuh:  Yes.

This will be a four or six book miniseries?
Schuh:  Correct. It will be similar to the [Dungeons and Dragons:] Cutter series.

What about the mobile game?
Tommervik:  We’re really excited about it. It’s called Arena of War and this is the first free Dungeons & Dragons game to come to the mobile platform.  It’s going to be a 3-D battle roleplaying game, and it does take place in The Forgotten Realms.  It does reflect all of the current events in The Sundering, and as Liz mentioned, The Sundering happens on many levels all the way from the common adventures to all the way up to the gods, so you have a power struggle between the gods of good and evil in the events of The Sundering.  And players in the mobile game will essentially be fighting on behalf of good.  So they’ll go into the mobile game and be able to customize a powerful warrior and send them into battle.  And because of the platform that Arena of War is on we will, of course, be able to track player’s play and the outcomes and those will also impact the fate of the Realms that will also be reflected in later products including within the mobile experience itself.

Schuh:  So it’s another avenue for players to really get involved in determining the fate of The Forgotten Realms. 

Tommervik:  And you’ll see a key character that we’ll be using throughout this campaign.  His name is Isteval and he is a paladin who acts as a guide through the campaigns.  He guides you through your quests and provides hints and tips in the Arena of War game.  He also appears as an NPC in the tabletop RPG adventures, and you’ll see him popping up in videos and other venues on our Website as well. 

Click here to go to Part 2.