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Demiplane’s new 5E digital toolset drops D&D for independent tabletop RPG publishers

“We have no intent to be partnered with Wizards of the Coast.”

Screenshot from the Demiplane website featuring several of the RPGs it supports with digital tools.
Image credit: Demiplane

Demiplane is working on a new set of digital tools to ease the burden of playing tabletop RPGs online that scrubs as much of Dungeons & Dragons’ recent stink off as possible. Called NEXUS, the toolset trades Wizards of the Coast’s name recognition for shining light on independent publishers.

Chief development officer Adam Bradford announced the news in a recent Twitch livestream where he answered public questions and outlined the proposed rollout plans for Demiplane’s NEXUS toolkit. Like its other digital offerings, NEXUS will provide both players and facilitators a suite of campaign organisation tools, voice chat and streaming video software and access to digital sourcebooks for several RPG titles. What’s different is the broader focus on any non-Wizards of the Coast RPG (for now) built on the System Reference Document 5.1.

The public turn away from Dungeons & Dragons followed the weeks-long community uproar over Wizards’ attempts to update its Open Gaming Licence. After communication snafus, backtracking and apologies from the company, the SRD 5.1 was released into the Creative Commons, effectively allowing anyone to use D&D’s mechanical bones to power their tabletop games and supporting tools.

Bradford was even asked during the stream if Demiplane planned to release digital tools or rules compendiums for official D&D sourcebooks, to which he bluntly said no:

“We have no relationship with Wizards of the Coast. The intent is not to partner with [them] - we have no interest in doing so,” Bradford said before hedging just a little. “‘Never say never’, as the popular saying goes, but providing that open playground is the intent, here.”

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Bradford and an accompanying press release provided to Dicebreaker reinforced NEXUS’ focus on third-party RPG publishers, including Kobold Press’ ongoing efforts to build its own comprehensive rule system with Project Black Flag - effectively filling in SRD 5.1’s gaps to create something akin to D&D with all the trademark violations filed off. Demiplane offers digital tools for Vampire: The Masquerade, Avatar Legends and Mutant: Year Zero, among several others, but Bradford told Dicebreaker via email that the company isn’t quite ready to share any fresh partnerships - expect specific publisher announcements in the coming months.

The toolset will roll out in three extant phases. The first begins today with NEXUS’ pre-launch, allowing anyone using their service to create and search for groups using Demiplane’s “proprietary technology”, which matches individuals based on their schedules, experience, styles and specific RPG interests. Groups can take advantage of this tool even if they choose another virtual tabletop or some other method for actually carrying out the roleplay session.

Early access into the larger suite of tools will begin sometime in the first half of 2023, according to the press release. Demiplane claims it will support “multiple independent publishers” with its digital reader and rules compendium. Both tools allow players to access the text and rules of a system from their phone, computer or tablet and take advantage of added tooltips, dropdown bars, and other ease-of-use features similar to what official competitor D&D Beyond does for Wizards’ first-party sourcebooks.

Demiplane's reveal video for the 5ENEXUS digital RPG toolkit.Watch on YouTube

A dedicated character builder and digital character sheets will reportedly arrive later in 2023, completing the initial roster of NEXUS’ features. Guided creation will ease new players into titles or systems they haven’t tried before, and letting electronic devices handle all that dice maths means more time spent focusing on the shared storytelling.

Bradford says NEXUS has been in development for almost two years - about as long as Demiplane, itself - and is not a direct response to anything Wizards of the Coast recently said or did. The fact that this project was in the works, and that Kobold Press was already a signed partner, reportedly coincided happily with Wizards’ fumbled OGL handling. Regardless of intent, NEXUS is positioned well to capture the digital D&D crowd now looking for a new home after cancelling their D&D Beyond subscription and leaving their walled internet garden.

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