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 2, we learn more about changes to the D&D Encounters program for The Sundering, the associated miniatures, the book schedule, and the T-shirt.  In Part 1, we got a birds-eye view of the event, began to learn how D&D Encounters and mobile gaming will affect the story, and discovered the role that comics will play. 

Turning to Dungeons & Dragons Encounters (for information on how the program is changing, see "Changes to 'D&D' Encounters"), there was some reaction from retailers that the old Encounters program provided play materials that were free as part of the program and now you need to buy specific product in order to run Encounters.  Can you talk about that change and the rationale for making that change?
Schuh:  The Encounters program has always been about providing a great play experience for players and that is still the emphasis and, in fact, what we’ve been able to do by shifting the adventure content out of the kit, is to beef up the contents of those kits and make the in-store experience a very unique and premium experience.  People who play through the adventures at their local Encounters store will get access to augmented items, posters, maps of Baldur’s Gate, some special limited edition dice, all things that really beef up the experience and make it truly the best place to experience the adventure.

By the same token, we’re also making sure that players have access to the adventure even if they don’t have access to an Encounters store.  We know some of our players don’t have nearby stores that they can easily access on a regular basis, and they’ve been asking us since the program started, if they can get their hands on the adventure content so they can play along.  Now we’re able to offer that to players but still keeping the real premium experience at retail. 

So you’re playing the same thing as you’re playing at Encounters, but the Encounters play involves these extra materials?
Schuh:  That’s correct, so for those who want to play it home because they don’t have a store nearby, they still can.  They can participate in these Sundering adventures.  But people who play in an Encounters store, we know that the retailers really provide that extra special experience. 

We’ve heard some reactions that the old Encounters adventures used to be more stand-alone and now players have to be more involved in a more sustained way.  Can you discuss the rationale of involving people in a more engaged way over a longer period, as opposed to more stand-alone?
Schuh:  I think it goes back to the same idea that we’re providing a great entertainment experience and we really want them to enjoy their play at store.  It’s really a whole experience for them to go through week by week. I don’t see a huge change there.

This is the first campaign that we’re aware of that is announced as being compatible with 3.5E, 4E and Next rules.  Can you explain why you expanded the types of rules that can be used with the Encounters program, and are those all in the book or are those in separate materials?
Schuh:  We really wanted to make sure that all D&D players could engage with this great adventure story and so we know that some people are playing with the playtest rules, some are diehard 4th Edition players, and we also wanted to open it up to people who may still be using 3.5 rules.  We think it really expands out the audience and lets all D&D players enjoy the fun. 

A big part of this is shifting our emphasis away from the rules we’re delivering to the great stories that we’re delivering.  This is a great Sundering adventure; it lets people participate in the future of the Forgotten Realms; and for us, whatever rule set is their favorite rule set, that’s great and we don’t want to get in the way of that decision.  We want them to participate in this great story. 

Are the different rules for this in the book itself--Murder in Baldur’s Gate--or are they stand-alone, separate materials?
Schuh:  They can be downloaded from our Website.

You were doing that for the Next rules before, so the change is really the addition of the 3.5 rules?
Schuh:  Yes, just broadening the appeal.

Will there be any interim information available from the Encounters reporting, or is this going to be one big report back to players at the end of the yearlong Sundering event?
Schuh:  We’ll be sharing the results along the way.  I think it’ll be really neat for the D&D community to see what other players are experiencing.  We also have some other great content in there.  We have some wonderful video assets.  We’ll be doing on-going trivia with people.  People can meet and connect with other adventurers and companions and create a profile.  So really it’s this really great ongoing tool to keep people engaged in the campaign through the great content that we’ll be providing.  It’s really a living, breathing tool that we’re hoping that people will want to stay engaged with over the whole course of the campaign, and mostly to connect with other D&D players in the community.

This is for use by every player, not just the dungeon master or a single person for a group, but by each player themselves?
Correct.  We’re hoping that everybody can engage with it.  We’re hoping everybody wants to.  Certainly it’s open to players and dungeon masters and retailers for that matter.   We really just want to hear about people’s adventuring. 

Any other ways The Sundering is going to play out in the marketplace?
Our partner Gale Force 9 (see "'Dungeons & Dragons' Miniatures") is doing a special limited edition run of all The Sundering heroes from the six novels.  They are also doing a limited run of the Isteval character, the paladin that I mentioned earlier.  So the people who really love the hobby of painting their metal miniatures will be able to paint up some of the key heroes from The Sundering adventures and Sundering stories.

When will those come out?
Those will be coming out this fall.  They’ll have a limited number of advance items available at Gen Con, but the products themselves will be launching in conjunction with the novel releases.  The very first one, which is the Drizzt and Guenhwyvar minis series, will be on sale at the end of August.  They’ll do a few presales at Gen Con, but it really launches at the end of August. 

What is the schedule for the novel releases?
It’s about every other month.   Salvatore in August. In October we have Paul Kemp; in December, we have Erin M. Evans; in February Richard Lee Byers; in April we have Troy Denning; and then Ed Greenwood wraps the story up in June of 2014. 

We’re also be debuting a Sundering t-shirt at Gen Con.  This t-shirt will feature Drizzt and Guenhwyvar  from the cover of The Companions, and it has a cool Sundering logo on it.  That will be a t-shirt that carries the whole Sundering campaign through to apparel.  That’s from our partner, Araca.

Click here to go back to Part 1 and the overview of The Sundering.