When D&D 4e came out, one of their largest pushes was for the traditionally table-top game to take a step into the digital world, in a large way. Dungeon and Dragon, the flagship magazines of role-playing, were taken out of circulation, only to be replaced with online editions as part of something enigmatic known as "D&D Insider". At the announcement, other nebulous features were shown off...a 'virtual miniature' generator, an online table utility with chat functions, a character generator, and several other features.
And it was met, by and large, with a resounding "WTF?!"
As it seemed, people didn't exactly like Wizards of the Coast futzing around with their beloved magazines. And who would need an online game table, when it's much more fun to sit around a real one? And there were tons of character generators out there--why pay for one?
Nerdrage poured forth like a rushing river, as WotC slowly trickled out updates to their "D&D Insider" and Gleemax--their failed attempt at a social networking site--bit the dust. And all of it was free, so every angry geek with a wi-fi connection could dance on the monolithic industry's corpse...or so it seemed to said weaselous buggers.
I'll admit--I wasn't happy when the two magazines went to online-only format, but I was relatively neutral in the wars between pro- and anti-Insider gamer geeks. That is, until recently.
Both L-train and I finally broke down and purchased 1 year memberships to D&D Insider--at just around $5 per month, it cost me approximately $60 for one year of content, which granted me access to the Character Generator software, issues of both online magazines, several online utilities, and all preview articles (only about half of which are accessible to non-Insider visitors).
I came across this somewhat skeptically, as I wasn't sure exactly what I was...wanting. I used HeroForge, primarily, for character generation, and the magazine articles did not seem to increase in quality compared to the days of Paizo.
I'll admit now, I was utterly wrong.
The official character generator--built from the online compendium (another benefit of Insider membership--is updated monthly, and features a database of selectable WotC products, usable by campaign. The generator is intuitive to use, and is graphically smooth, allowing you even to import your own photos to attach to characters. Even without going through any sort of tutorial or help system, I was able to create a 30th level character, complete with level-appropriate gear, in about 20 minutes.
20 minutes?! Hell's bells--I was ecstatic! This sort of thing would take me hours to do by hand, or even in HeroForge. And, what's more, the Generator tells you whether the character is RPGA legal, auto-calculates all of the math for you (which has led to some player-favoring error-solving in L-train's game), and creates a beautifully laid-out character sheet complete with character cards.
While the character generator does lack a "Create a Character of X Level" option, which would make it perfect, the leveling system is of sufficient speed and quality to make it almost unnecessary. Seriously--it's that good.
That alone would be worth my $60, considering that it updates with all WotC products each month, but the magazine articles have seriously been increasing in quality. One of my favorites has been the "Wish Upon A Star" article, beefing Star Pact Warlocks--Ia!--but there are numerous others that bear mentioning.
In all truth, I'm completely satisfied with my Insider subscription, and have no regrets on it whatsoever. I look forward to what comes next very eagerly...surrounding nerdrage notwithstanding.