Fandom, the global entertainment media brand well-known for its wiki engine, has changed how I feel about RPG books’ digital editions. It all started with D&D Beyond, Fandom’s fully-indexed Dungeons & Dragons marketplace and toolkit. The site allows you to purchase digital versions of every in-print D&D book available and manage character sheets, rolls dice, create encounters, and even publish homebrew content.
Back in early 2020, shortly after COVID quarantining had begun, Wizards of the Coast started distributing free digital entertainment kits for libraries, educators, and non-profits. At the time, I worked part-time in my free hours as a Dungeon Master for kids at a local non-profit in my town. I decided to apply for a kit. I got one.
The kit included some Magic the Gathering: Arena codes to distribute and a D&D Beyond Legendary Bundle. This gave me every single released D&D book in digital form on D&D Beyond’s site, as well as 15% for every future purchase. That meant, at the time, I had everything up to the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount.
Excited, I started to dig into the books and toolset to use them with my groups. What I discovered was a vastly superior way to devour RPGs than a print book or PDF. Normally I’m a huge fan of print books. They’re easy to read, feel great, smell great, and look damn find on a shelf.
On the flip side, I’m not too fond of PDF versions of RPGs. Reading so much text on a screen strains my eyes, and no matter how powerful a device you load them on, there’s always a bit of slowdown and clunkiness with larger books. It’s gotten to the point where I’d rather not accept PDF copies of books for review.
D&D Beyond, however, presents the information very similar to how a wiki does. Everything is broken down, linked, and fully referenceable. Character creation is simple, and every piece is linked to information from the books. Need to know what a spell does? Just click it. Want to search for downtime activities during a Ghosts of Saltmarsh adventure? Just search for it. Every piece of information is at your fingertips.
While not a new idea, the implementation sets D&D Beyond apart from products like Fantasy Grounds. It’s fully web-accessible, with mobile apps for both your digital library and character sheets, making information quick and easy to access just about anywhere. Fandom is always adding new features and making D&D Beyond an invaluable tool for a Dungeon Master.
In September of 2019, Fandom acquired the Cortex RPG rights, a system historically used for in-house RPGs. They would soon Kickstart and release Cortex Prime, a general use RPG system that’s fully modular and focuses on being a toolbox for Game Masters. Not only that, but they created a digital system for Cortex that’s very similar to D&D Beyond.
While not as fleshed out or feature-rich yet, the digital Cortex Prime implementation features all the great search and reference features that its D&D sibling has. Also, every physical purchase of the Cortex Prime Game Handbook comes with a code to unlock the digital edition. There’s no need to purchase the book twice. Personally, I think this is huge, and a step I hope to see more companies take in the near future.
I’m absolutely in love with these digital products, which is saying something considering how much I hate traditional digital RPG releases. Fandom has done something I would never have thought possible. They’ve produced an RPG product that I prefer over physical books. While I’ll never give up my physical editions, I’ll be sure to snap up and support any RPG that either hires Fandom to create their digital products or takes a page out of their book and delivers a similar experience.
Media personality Rob Kalajian has been a staple in the board game world for many years. As a former writer for Purple Pawn and the owner of A Pawn’s Perspective, Rob focuses on board game reviews, events, and news. A self-proclaimed geek, Rob loves all things toys and games and even helps raise his four kids in his spare time.
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