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Minecraft Dungeons & Dragons DLC won’t be usable in player worlds, and that’s a shame

The developer called the tabletop RPG crossover project “bespoke and purpose-built”.

Dungeons & Dragons’ recently announced Minecraft DLC repaints the blocky world in shades of high fantasy pastiche, but the developer revealed that players will not be able to use those textures and models outside of the paid experience.

Minecraft developer Mojang has partnered with Everbloom Games on the popular tabletop RPG’s crossover, which also includes a monster compendium for adding Creepers, Endermen and more to campaigns. Frustratingly, that street doesn’t appear to travel both directions.

Mojang senior director Riccardo Lenzi said there are currently no plans to release a resource pack containing the reskinned monsters, environments, weapons, etc. for players to use in their own worlds. Although the experience was constructed using Minecraft’s Adventure mode, which restricts certain systems such as collecting and placing blocks, Everbloom’s more sophisticated engine will reportedly not allow a simple port of the assets.

“This is all purpose-built. What is in this pack stays in this pack. This is all bespoke and self-contained,” Lenzi said during the recent D&D Direct.

The exception to this are 12 player skins based on the core classes outlined in D&D’s Player Handbook. Only four of those classes - Barbarian, Rogue, Wizard and Paladin - come with fully designed combat mechanics, but the rest can be easily added to Minecraft’s built-in skin system.

Lenzi pointed to the dynamic music and sound system as a prime example of the kind of design work that makes the D&D-themed expansion more than a simple mod or add-on. It’s also “optimised with a single player in mind to enjoy the story,” according to Lenzi. While none of this is an explicit knock against the DLC itself, it shows a distinct lack of vision regarding how Minecraft’s still-massive playerbase interacts with the video game.

Resource packs, or texture packs, are separate files that can be easily modded over the base game - referred to as Vanilla Minecraft - to give the simple, blocky textures a new aesthetic. The thousands of available resource packs range from simple shaders and HD remakes to radical shifts in aesthetic and genre. Why not release the textures as a separate resource pack so that players can create and run their own D&D campaigns?

They even show a D&D group in the trailer for the DLC, but WotC doesn't seem interested in letting players live out this fantasy. Image: Wizards of the Coast/Mojang

Greg Tito, senior communications manager for Wizards of the Coast, said that “it would be weird if a Mimic or Gelatinous Cube showed up in the base game of Minecraft.” Ignoring the fact that Minecraft already has its own slimy cube creature, would it really be that strange? It wasn’t a bridge too far to introduce the cubic creatures of Minecraft to the Forgotten Realms, so what happened?

Tom Sargent, a senior producer at Wizards, said they anticipated a much smaller project, at first. Perhaps the Minecraft D&D DLC ballooned in scope and did not allow the development team to extract the art assets for a resource pack. Alternatively, and this is the more cynical view, Wizards of the Coast was not willing to allow their legally protected proper nouns - Beholders, Displacer Beasts, etc. to bleed out of D&D and into another property. Following the OGL debacle earlier this year, trademarked terms and intellectual property may very well be where the legal battle lines are drawn.

Whatever the case, it remains a shame that players can’t use the first official D&D crossover with Minecraft to lovingly sculpt their own worlds to match a homebrew campaign while using Wizards’ official texture packs. If you want to play anything that looks like D&D, its corporate owners want you to pay the price of admission.

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